You are in Love: Fire Emblem 3H Fanfiction (Ferdibert)

Word count: 4800 (8 to 30 minutes) | Rating: K+ | Note: Spoilers, Ferdibert, and mentions of Edelgard x Dorothea | Characters: Hubert von Vestra, Edelgard von Hresvelg, Ferdinand von Aegir, and mentions of Dorothea


Part 1: Her Blessing

Never before had Hubert lingered at Edelgard’s door, uncertain and adjusting his gloves needlessly. He stared at her door before he forced himself to knock rather than wasting another moment.

Purposeful steps approached from beyond the door, and she opened it just a bit before her expression softened. Opening the door the rest of the way, Edelgard stood aside in her nightgown that was, of course, still effective for combat. “Ah, Hubert.”

“You must be more cautious, Your Majesty.” He stepped inside at her gesture of invitation all the same, turning over his shoulder to continue. “If all an assassin has to do is knock—”

“The war is over now, Hubert,” she chastised playfully, her smile at him coming readily. They were the only family each other had for years now and their bond had been forged in that timeless fondness, empathy, and understanding. So, of course, it was only natural that she noticed he was not quite himself. “…But something is troubling you. If there is anything I can do to help, you have only to name it, my friend.”

She closed the door behind her, following him further into the room. Hubert was satisfied to hear that she had locked the door as well. Peace time or not, precaution was the difference between life and death in many cases.

“You are too kind,” he praised her both genuinely and partly to postpone what he came here to do. Hubert had planned it out in his mind, readied himself for the simple question he had to pose before he moved ahead with the next steps of his plan. His ridiculous, absurd plan. In a way, it may even be a mercy if Edelgard refused him so Hubert could avoid the embarrassment of rejection. Or worse, and admittedly more likely, acceptance.

Sensing his discomfort again, she took a seat in a well-loved reading chair and gestured to the one opposite her that had a tea table between them. A familiar and fond place where he often passed the time with her over one of various strategy games. Edelgard was one of his few true rivals for strategic thinking, so he took delight in their games whether he won or learned a new tactic.

But that was not why he was here.

Hubert had already lingered too long after her invitation to sit, and he felt especially out of place as he lowered himself into the reading chair across from her and the table.

In silence. He set his palms on his knees, staring at the ornate weavings of the rug before him. Hubert leaned back against the chair but still felt the tension knotted between his shoulder blades. This was ridiculous and he knew it, and yet…

“You can trust me with anything.” Edelgard sat forward, her eyes searching his for the faith she knew he had in her.

“I’ve never had any doubt,” he answered, as sure as the sun would set. Perhaps inspired by such a comfortable state of being, Hubert found himself somewhat calmer. He took advantage of that and began to speak before he could question himself further. “There is something I need to ask you.”

Edelgard only nodded to encourage him without giving him an out in her reply. She knew him too well to provide such an opportunity.

“There is… someone I would like to…” He trailed off into a scowl, his grip tightening on his own knees. Something about the pressure was grounding and forced Hubert out of his own way. Edelgard was one he trusted with his life, including matters of the heart—however laughable that very phrase felt to him as her wicked shadow. If he could not even ask the question, he did not deserve the role or the object of his affections.

“Has someone upset you, Hubert?” Her voice was tender, but there was an edge to it as well, a darkness below the gentleness that instilled pride in Hubert. Just when he thought he could not possibly have any more respect for his Emperor, there was always more to found.

“No,” he chuckled. “I would handle that myself with pride, Your Majesty. In this matter… I must consult you before I act.”

Her eyebrows raised as her eyes widened and she took in a sharp breath. Surprised, was she? Well. At least she was not alone in that sentiment, he thought with a wry smile. “How unlike you, Hubert. What could it possibly take for you to hesitate? I’ve no suitors, I trust.”

“None. Your relationship with Dorothea is well-known at this point, and it would take a fool to challenge it.”

That was diversion enough. Edelgard smiled fondly, her hand going absently to a loose strand of her hair. “Too true. So it’s not a suitor of mine you must handle, but you feel you have to check with me. I can guess all night if I must, Hubert, but wouldn’t it be easier to simply ask?”

“So one would think,” he answered drily and sighed, shoulders relaxing at last—though in resignation. Practiced words, carefully rehearsed for every situation from putting her worries at ease to voicing his own, simply fled at the very sight of her door. At least he could spare himself the foolishness of rehearsing his confession to a certain prime minister. Not that he would. Even the thought of going without a plan entirely, even if that plan were to leave his mind the moment he needed it most, churned his stomach where little else could.

Edelgard blinked pensively for a moment, and then the realization dawned on her like the flare of candlelight in her eyes. A realization, in any case. “Oh! Hubert!”

“Hm?” His guard was difficult to get past, but she managed with that elated tone. Edelgard leaned forward even more, resting on the arm of the chair in a most casual manner he didn’t often see now that she was Emperor.

“You are in love!”

Hubert recoiled only slightly but was betrayed by a blush, making a choking sound rather than a comprehensible reply.

“I am so happy for you, my good friend!” Her smile could not get any wider, and he felt his face could not be any warmer.

“I would hold back on your celebration until you hear who it is, Your Majesty.”

“Oh, enough of titles,” she waved that off, settling back into her relaxed posture. “Please, I simply must know who has caught your exacting attention. They must be special indeed.”

Hubert sighed heavily through his nose, feeling the blush recede bit by excruciating bit. What could he tell her? She’d seen him bicker with Ferdinand endlessly over the years, their relationship tempering into a push-and-pull where both had grown. Indeed, continued to grow.

Their courtship was happening in subtle gestures now, no matter how he tried to resist it. There was something captivating about Ferdinand that Hubert ultimately found he could not deny in any regard. And since he could not help but continue rising to his witty, teasing banter and invitations to share coffee and tea together… Hubert straightened his posture and steeled himself. As her closest confidant, he had to get Her Majesty’s approval before their relationship developed too far.

“…Fer…” He sighed again, the embarrassment at the confession overcoming him. The lives he’d claimed, the horrors he unflinchingly committed—and this was where Hubert hesitated, of all things.

“For…?” Edelgard tilted her head, trying once more to catch his attention while he turned away.

“Ferdinand.”

“I… Is that right?” He turned back just in time to catch her smile, one of a cat who ate the canary. Hubert sighed again, rolling his eyes.

“Of course it is. Surely, you have noticed by now.”

“I don’t know what you could possibly mean,” she dismissed, resuming her regal posture for the sole purpose of his mockery, it seemed. “The flower he had in his lapel only after his meeting with you paired with an especially radiant smile, perhaps, or the frequent visits you both share in the tea garden, maybe. Oh, or could you mean—”

“You have made my point,” he teased back, though he did feel his heart quicken at her joking. Her observations meant that Ferdinand’s returned feelings were not in his own imagination, since Edelgard herself had perceived his joy at the flower. But if she knew that he had explained its meaning to Ferdinand as well and the glorious blush that blossomed over his freckled cheeks at the revelation… Hubert may very well sink into the floorboards. “And now, I would like your opinion.”

“My opinion?”

“We are both closely connected to the throne, Your Majesty. If anything were to go wrong between us,” he explained, letting the implication hang for her to continue on her own.

“We will handle that if the time comes.” She reached out across the table to him and in a rare moment of vulnerability, Hubert took her offered hand. Edelgard squeezed his hand gently, sharing a soft smile with him. “But you should follow your heart, Hubert. I am confident he is as in love with you as you are with him.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, but… Why?” He looked at her analytically, studying for a telltale sign of how she could be so certain. “You are not especially close with Ferdinand outside of our obligations to the Empire.”

“No, but Dorothea is. And she is a good friend of yours as well, so it is only natural that Ferdinand should seek advice from his dear friend about his potential lover.” Ah, a mirror of their current situation. How clever of Edelgard to call attention to that so Hubert could not even mock the decision properly. “Is it not?”

“I do wish you wouldn’t phrase it quite like that,” he dodged instead of answering, that damned blush returning.

Edelgard laughed, a bright spot all its own. “You have nothing to be shy about, Hubert. Please, be happy! There is no one who deserves it more.” She clasped her other hand over his and he discovered he could not resist the softening of his smirk. “You have my support in this, as in all you do for yourself. It is high time you did.”

The lamps surrounding them cast a warm glow on everything in the room as a stark contrast to the harsh moonlight washing the landscape beyond her window. In the shadows of flickering light, he spotted traces of a more domestic life in Edelgard’s room. A coat rack held cloaks for herself as well as Dorothea, and her war boots were not left out any longer. Instead, they’d been replaced by riding boots for travelling to nearby towns or anywhere the Emperor was needed by the people.

A vase of Dorothea’s favorite flowers on the desk of her room.

Edelgard found someone to share her life that was beyond what Hubert could provide… And seeing her now, spending her scant free time to offer him encouragement, he knew she would not begrudge him doing the same for himself. That alone cut through his skin-crawling discomfort at the notion of allowing himself to aspire for something that was solely for his benefit.

“Thank you, Edelgard.”

She patted his hand gently before returning hers to her lap, a fond smile reaching her eyes. “Anytime, Hubert.”


Part 2: His Confession

And now that he had her approval, Hubert had only to face an even greater difficulty. Planning out how to confess his feelings for Ferdinand to the prime minister himself was a snarl of logistics and emotion.

Hubert decided it should be at their typical social call in the gardens for tea and coffee initially, but then that was too public a place where anyone might come along at any moment. If Ferdinand did reject him, he would prefer it to be in private where he could safely pretend the incident never occurred.

But to take him off in a secluded location in broad daylight would introduce rumors. While that never bothered Hubert to any extent, such scandal could potentially affect Ferdinand—who was far more socially connected and attuned and therefore, more susceptible to the impacts of defamation.

And to isolate him in the dead of night would only be a social threat if they were caught without a purpose for being together alone so late into the evening. Therefore, he waited until their last meeting of the day to pull Ferdinand aside and make up some excuse or another about a late-night meeting in the underground areas of the Enbarr palace to seal off compromised secret passages and plan new ones in their stead. This was a task best handled when their concealment in darkness could be seen firsthand, after all.

“Ferdinand,” he simply said his name as greeting, and the prime minister responded with a torturously bright smile followed by a cascade of copper hair as he turned to Hubert. They were underground now with only torches to the light the way, and he somehow managed to be perfectly captivating.

“Hubert,” he answered as if receiving excellent news by his mere presence. “Today was remarkably productive, was it not? With the war behind us, progress has come swiftly.”

“That it has,” Hubert agreed, a distant smile on his face. Suddenly, he felt vulnerable and exposed from the very subject on his mind.

“You know how I adore planning ahead, Hubert,” he answered with his name once again, as if he could not get enough of saying it. Hubert’s imagination, however limited, was determined to be overactive at the most inconvenient time. “But secret passages are admittedly your area of expertise. Before I can coordinate the supplies required, please tell me—what did you have in mind?”

Always in need of an excuse to spend time alongside Ferdinand, Hubert outlined his plans to the prime minister so they could work out the details together at another point. Securing the materials and disguising them among the supplies ordered for other projects, finding workers who could guard the covert nature of their tasks, and so on. Tasks best divided between them with a cohesive understanding.

At the last pathway marked, far from any staff in the castle who might come across them on their evening duties, Hubert turned to Ferdinand. This was the opportunity he had been working toward all night and he could not afford to waste it. Tired as Ferdinand seemed, he did his best to maintain his attentiveness and energy throughout their journey. Truthfully, he was the better suited between them for a march through the corridors of the castle’s basements. Hubert was stronger than he seemed and more so than most would expect of a mage, but he did not even come close to rivaling Ferdinand’s stamina as a horseback rider.

“Are you tired, Hubert? You have been staring at me in silence for some time now,” Ferdinand teased, only a twinge of something undetectable in his tone with his smirk visible even in the low light.

“Not at all,” he confessed. The night was his ally in many regards, and he was more comfortable in the late hours of darkness than the early hours of daylight. “I actually… Have a personal matter to discuss. With you.”

“A… personal matter?” His breath hitched in a way that was either disgusted or hopeful. Those two sentiments should not be as close together as they apparently were, Hubert thought with an exasperated sigh. He brushed his bangs from his face pointlessly, a rare meaningless gesture. It seemed his mind was now at war with itself and determined to sabotage every step.

“That is what I said,” Hubert taunted, though there was no malice to his voice as there might have been in their schooldays. “Unless you are too tired, of course.” Hubert was not so blind to his own flaws that he didn’t realize what he was doing to himself. Here he was, trying to rationalize why Ferdinand was not up for this tonight so he could postpone the question that his blackened heart hinged upon.

“I don’t have your gift for persevering through long nights at work,” Ferdinand admitted and stifled a yawn, demonstrating his own personal growth in an ability to admit that he did not excel in every little thing he did. However unreliable that ability did prove at times, Hubert remarked to himself with an amused smirk. “But for you, Hubert, I can make an exception.”

His tone was bright, welcoming, and yet it seemed so utterly the same as the kindness he showed to every soul that crossed his path off the battlefield. Even on it, at times. He was there when they pardoned Claude and allowed his survival. Ensured it, in fact. Hubert himself would not have shown such mercy, but it turned out to be in their best interest in the end.

“How… Very kind of you,” Hubert answered, resenting the hesitation in his own voice. He had trained nearly his entire life for subterfuge and political strategy, foreseeing assassinations, seeing to it that the right bribes reached the right people (or the wrong ones), and all manner of dark, horrid deeds. Confessing love had never made it into his studies and it had him fumbling over his words with a mind as blank as a new moon. “I had wondered what your plans were for future romantic pursuits.”

“Romantic pursuits?” A squeak bled through his response; one Hubert struggled not to laugh at. “Hubert, I cannot see what this has to do with our work for the Empire.”

“Very well. I shall explain it to you.” Hubert smirked, piercing him with a challenging stare that turned out fonder than he intended. This was their routine, and he had the upper hand for the time being. “Were your heart to belong to a dubious individual, it would compromise the security of the Empire.”

“And you think that I, Ferdinand von Aegir, would have such ignobly low standards?” Hubert had long since learned that ‘noble’ to Ferdinand had its own definition of decency and propriety rather than titles. And his mock offense was just as hollow as Hubert’s mockery. This dance between them was familiar, even comforting. “I would have you know that any partner of mine would only be dubious in the finest of manners.”

Hubert could not help a laugh at that, catching a look of admiration in Ferdinand’s eyes. Or had he imagined that too?

“And what manners might those be?”

“W-well,” he began shakily, though he did not withdraw from Hubert even as he bowed his head and caused those perfectly burnt golden locks to fall forward over broad shoulders. “They would be devoted, utterly and entirely, to all they held dear. Their protection would know no bounds, and there would be no sacrifice they would not make for those they lo-love.”

The word was a difficult for Ferdinand to say as it was for Hubert to hear. At what point had he begun holding his breath as if this were a covert operation that could be uncovered at the slightest sound?

“And I would be their guardian in return. We could serve as protectors of… One another. Hypothetically, of course.” Ferdinand’s shoulders had risen just enough to be noticeable—in self-consciousness or discomfort?

“I… see.” Was it possible Ferdinand had foreseen his plan already? Dorothea and Edelgard spoke daily. Perhaps Dorothea had given him the information in advance? No, Edelgard would never breach his confidence that way. Hubert cleared his throat, awkwardly pushing forward. “Well, it seems you have a very specific person in mind.” And what if it was not Hubert? What if he read too much into it? He couldn’t go on like this.

“Oh, no, I,” Ferdinand trailed off in a frustrated sigh, his hand running through the comparably short bangs across his forehead. “I suppose I do. But I assure you, this person is someone you and Edelgard trust entirely!”

“Oh?” His mind continued ahead without him unbidden once more. Who could that be? The professor? It must be so. Here he was, heart in hand, and Ferdinand belonged to another. His mouth was dry suddenly, and Hubert felt his pulse in even his fingertips. “And have you made your intentions known?”

“Hubert, I… That is,” Ferdinand began, uncharacteristically stumbling for words. “…I have not.”

“Good,” Hubert answered, his motivation returning to him in one thrumming rush not unlike a second wave during an intense battle. “Then I request you consider my offer.”

“Offer? What—”

“To be frank, I—love you.” There, it was done. Hubert felt a chill worse than the embrace of any dark magic he’d channeled, and he was certain some vital function of his body was about to end or at least suffer a brief, crushing interruption. But it was done, and he could put this behind him at last. No matter the answer or who Hubert would be compared to for Ferdinand’s affections.

“Pardon? You love… me?”

“I am as surprised as you are. I have already spoken to Lady Edelgard, however, and she has encouraged me to pursue my feelings… for you.” As if he has not made that clear enough as it was. He shook his head at his own foolishness and yet continued.

“It would seem you have her outmatched in more ways than I originally anticipated. A flaw in my assessment of you I will not repeat,” he ventured a joke but came across too serious. Gifts and flattery were forever cursed to be his failings, weren’t they? “I swear to you, Ferdinand, should you return these feelings, my devotion to Lady Edelgard will in no way lessen or compare to my affection for you. You will know no want—”

“Hubert,” Ferdinand interrupted with a bubbling laugh like a burst of sun breaking through a dull, overcast morning. “You have not even let me answer!”

“Ah. Forgive me,” Hubert requested, antsy once again. And grateful for his foresight for choosing a secluded area where no one would witness that Hubert von Vestra got emotional and lost control. No one save Ferdinand.

“You are not alone in your feelings, Hubert. In the new world we have built, where crests do not rule our society… We are free to take partners without concern for bloodline. In short,” he almost whispered in hopeful reverence like this was a chapel, closing the distance between him and Hubert to tentatively take a gloved hand in his. “I am free to choose you. And the world is a more a beautiful place than ever for it!”

“I can hardly believe this,” Hubert breathed his answer, alight in this moment. It was so clear now. The description that Ferdinand gave and how he vouched for the person he fancied—that was how he viewed Hubert. Not only did Ferdinand look upon his actions with pride, but with love. For him. Unable to meet his gaze, Hubert stared down at their barely clasped hands. “But I am truly happy in ways I never thought possible.”

“And I am happy to be the reason.”

Hubert chuckled, finding his steely resolve back in its proper place at the opportunity to tease Ferdinand. “Eager to jump to that conclusion, are we?”

“Is there competition I should be aware of, my love?” Already reaching for pet names? He would not be Ferdinand if he didn’t. Hubert was embarrassed to admit to even himself the surge of joy that gave him now, in a private moment between them. At tomorrow’s meeting hall may be another story entirely. Hubert would simply have to make do. Ferdinand lived in the light of the world. Center stage was where he belonged, and now he had Hubert beside him.

“None at all,” he promised, taking Ferdinand’s hand up to his lips and placing a firm, tender kiss to the back. “Thank you, Ferdinand.”

“Do not go thanking me just yet! Our courtship has only begun,” Ferdinand said, thinking this to be a cause for celebration. Though he helped forged a new future, Ferdinand was a true romantic and would want to follow every last fanciful dream he’d envisioned over his many years of reading poetry and romantic novels. For Hubert, that led to mixed feelings of elated anticipation and beneath that, a thin but poisonous layer of dread.

“I can only imagine how excessive this process will be with you at the helm,” Hubert drawled, sighing as he lowered their hands. Ferdinand led them back to the main castle area, a smile evident in his voice alone.

“You will not have to imagine for long, Hubert,” he boasted. “You are a man who deserves to be properly loved and courted beyond measure, so excess is simply not possible. I shall see to it that everyone knows the depth of my love for you. It shall ring across the land like a thousand bells!”

“Ferdinand, that is a bit dramatic,” Hubert stuttered, led along like the shadow he was while his newly titled boyfriend continued undaunted. The hallways sloped upward and indicated their return to the main body of the capital palace. Against all odds, Hubert hoped Ferdinand could contain his excitement for decent waking hours if nothing else.

“None of that, Hubert. You do your finest work where none can witness your efforts, and I love you for it. But I will declare my feelings in a way that will leave you with not a single trace of doubt.”

“Who said I had any doubts?” He managed to capture guarded skepticism only once tonight, and this timing was perfect.

Ferdinand stopped at that. He set the lamp down in a convenient alcove recessed into the stone wall and reached for Hubert’s other hand. The intimacy and tenderness of even that had Hubert on a razor-thin edge of overwhelming emotion. He was, perhaps, not as prepared to be romanced as he anticipated.

“I have come to know you very well, Hubert. The meaning behind every incisive stare, every discontented hum. You may not feel doubt now, but there will come a time that you do.” Ferdinand kept his eyes locked on Hubert’s, steady and open and trusting. It was like witnessing his own vivisection even as Hubert cherished that such a look was directed at him from the man he had come to love. “And I will chase that feeling away before it has any chance to take root in your heart!”

His hand found its way to Hubert’s chest as emphasis. Or an expression of his sentiments. Hubert could not place the feelings of himself, much less Ferdinand.

“Ferdinand,” he sighed so warmly, he scarcely recognized his own voice. “Only you would say such a foolish, innocent thing with certainty and not be subject to my most cutting observations.”

Loathe as he was to admit it, Ferdinand did know him. And he was not immune to self-doubt as he led so many to believe. How he could have his heart and soul laid bare before Ferdinand and feel loved rather than at great risk… That was a mystery in itself. “I will give my all to you. I will be worthy of such unwavering support from none other than Ferdinand von Aegir.”

Through the emotional state of his confession, Hubert reached for Ferdinand’s hands to earn himself some distance to recharge for the next onslaught of affection—only to discover that Ferdinand was trembling. “You are… shaking.”

“Yes! Yes, I am.” He nodded, eager as ever, almost as if Hubert had simply observed the state of his cloak or the color of his eyes. “With joy, of course!” The uneven laugh did Ferdinand in completely, his words elated and breathy. “I am overcome with it, even. I… may faint.”

“Please don’t. I could carry you, but I would rather not.” A facetious lie in the face of the very real possibility that the prime minister and he supposed, his boyfriend, might actually fall unconscious in the paths to the lower levels of the Enbarr castle and force Hubert to explain what caused it.

“And you will not have to! From now on, we walk together, Hubert. I simply… need a moment to catch my breath. You had me holding it for much of your roundabout confession.” He rested his forehead against Hubert’s chest with a shaky breath, relaxing into him. Hubert took advantage of his height and their solitude to place an arm around Ferdinand in a loose hug. It was all either could withstand at the moment, he suspected.

“Take all the time you need. I will be here.”


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Hellfire Chapter 7: Good Graces — Dragon Age Fanfiction

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Approx. 1360 words (2 to 10 minutes)

The next week in the Circle was uneventful. Truly, it had to be. Merrill’s escape was in a few weeks and Hawke needed to keep just enough attention on him to have it off her—same as since he walked into the Gallows, but it was hard work to not draw attention when he was… himself.

Mother wrote him about the stress of running the estate and how she couldn’t trust Gamlen to help considering how poorly he’d managed last time. Of course, she was worried about how this affecting Carver and his relationship to Garrett too. And naturally, she chastised him for his recklessness and wasting the effort they put into protecting him all those years. The most surprising thing about the letter was that it reached him at all. Really, that was just more proof for Hawke that being from Hightown did give him the advantage even inside the Circle.

As long as that kept up after his good friend mysteriously vanished from the Circle before she was discovered as a blood mage, Hawke would be very grateful for his rare good luck.

“Hawke,” Merrill’s chipper tone drew his attention from the book in front of him. He got more reading done locked away than he ever did at home, what were the odds of that? He flashed Merrill a smile, less warmly than he normally would thanks to all the blasted Templars posted in the library, of all places. Not like someone was going to use blood magic to turn a page. “Sorry, I should really keep my distance, but,” she trailed off to sit down and opened up a book on Kirkwall’s magic history. A bloody mess, that book. “You just look so lonely, is all.”

Hawke had gone back to reading, but that earned her a wry smile and raised eyebrows. “Can’t see how I’d be lonely with friends assigned to watch over me all night.”

She hummed, her distinct accent shining through even without words. And in that second, he hated that she wasn’t wrong. Reading together casually like this brought Hawke back to the estate, muttering her name in mock disapproval as he stared at bare footprints on the second floor handrail, getting a note that she’d watered his plants again, and of course reading together in the library with that creepy wall art Fenris resented so much.

But she’d be leaving soon, she had to. And Hawke would get out eventually somehow. Even if he was lonely, and Garrett wasn’t thinking he was, what good would that do? He’d be back out in the fresh, free air soon enough one way or another.

“Oh, that’s not the same, Hawke,” she half-reprimanded and half-teased. “They’re not actually your friends… Oh. You knew that. Right.” Jokes were always on the difficult side for her, but she did figure that one out without Hawke dropping hints. Isabela would be proud! “Do you think you’ll be alright?”

She snuck a peek at him as another couple mages slunk by them for new books, though they were probably old to them. Everything was old to them by the looks of things. Both strangers moved like the air was water and seemed permanently afflicted by a desire to be much, much smaller than they really were. Right, they definitely weren’t being beaten by Templars at least once a week. Anders had that part right too, as extreme as he could be: if a mage was being hurt, everyone else turned a blind eye.

“Relax, Merrill,” he brushed off her worries with a wave. “You’ve seen for yourself what I can deal with. If spirits, the Blight, and the undead didn’t get me, a few Templars won’t stand a chance.”

Whatever she was going to say dropped off once the sound of clanking armor got closer. Merrill stared at her book, shoulders tense in defiance more than fear. Come to think of it, Hawke wasn’t even sure what Merrill looked like afraid—only cripplingly nervous or guilty. He turned his attention to the Templar, probably because he recognized those footsteps anywhere.

“Carver,” he greeted far too fondly, which was really just right. Closing the book, Garrett rested forward on the table with a smirk. “My dear brother! Should I assume that dour look on your face is for me?”

“You’ve been called by the Knight-Commander,” he informed him. “On your feet.”

“Anything for you, baby brother.” Out of spite, Hawke left the book behind on the table. More likely, Merrill would pick it up to put away before any Templar did, but he could pretend it inconvenienced one of them.

Talking on the way was out of the question now. Templars were out in droves during the day and from how Carver stared straight ahead the entire time, apparently even looking at Garrett was a risk he couldn’t take. That’s what he was choosing to think, anyway. Carver stopped outside Meredith’s door and nodded him in.

“Go on, mage.”

“Mage?” He scoffed but went with it and walked into Meredith’s office. It was all an act… And a very convincing one. Was it luck that he had bigger issues to think about than the strained relationship with his little brother? “Knight-Commander, what a pleasure.”

And for a moment, he thought he caught a smirk from Meredith. A wry one, yes, but still. He had to have imagined it from being overworked and sleep deprived off and on since he landed in his Circle cell.

“Sirrah Hawke. The Knight-Captain tells me you’ve been doing great work on behalf of the Circle.” Ah, so that was her motive. He’d been shown the stick and now it was time for the carrot. Should be an uplifting change of pace, not that it would change much for Hawke. “And his praise is not easily earned.”

Maybe there was something weighing on Cullen’s conscious from the Circle in Fereldan after all… Or maybe it was guilt from telling Hawke mages weren’t people. Whatever he said to Meredith would’ve decided Hawke’s life from then on out. Well, more like his quality of life. Being Tranquil was technically not murder as far as the Chantry or anyone cared, but—there were better thoughts to have. More relevant ones too. Garrett quirked a smile to Meredith too, figuring that one simple gesture like that couldn’t hurt his odds in the long run. Every bit of leverage counted towards Merrill’s escape just a few weeks out.

“Oh, he’s certainly a tough one. I’ll have to remember to write him a thank you letter later.”

“As a reward for this model behavior,” she began and stood, cutting an intimidating figure looming over her staunch desk. “I’ll allow you to assist your business partner in the mines.”

The mines? It took a moment for Hawke to remember the Hightown market hawkers and the one who talked down about Fereldans. Hubert, if he guessed right. Always something with him, wasn’t it? The more pressing observation was that he hadn’t taken a seat yet and wasn’t being forced into one this time. Could it be that the heartless Knight Commander actually saw worth in a measly mage? Maker’s breath, that’d be his finest achievement yet.

“To be clear—” Meredith interrupted, her familiar hard expression returning, “This is only being offered to you as a condition of your cooperation and high standing in Kirkwall.”

“Those high society types sure know how to whine, don’t they?” Garrett leaned on the back of one of the chairs, pushing his luck to see how far it would go. Whatever this discovery was with Meredith, he’d need it when Meredith was out safe and sound. He flashed her an easy smile, letting his hands hang loosely over the chair. “Tell me, was it the neighbors to the south or the northeast?”

“Both,” she answered drily, but with a slight, almost imperceptible bright edge to her voice. And Hawke knew he had to have gone mad by then. Meredith, returning his sarcasm at even a fragment of its strength? Maybe he was too good at getting her guard down; this was uncanny.


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The Distraction: Ignis’ Birthday FFXV Fanfiction

Prompto’s in on a surprise party for Ignis, and he’s been tasked with being the distraction. It’s harder than he thought, but he won’t let the guys down!
(Forgive the Promnis vibes, I’m trash for them.)

Words: 3073 words (10-25 minutes) | Chocobros

cplCF7B


This was it, the big day for their surprise party for Specs… Prompto was in charge of being a distraction, probably the hardest job of the whole thing. He tried telling the others that, but they swore up and down that he could do it, no problem. Riding in the passenger seat next to Iggy like usual, Prompto figured out that was probably because they didn’t wanna do it. Not ‘cause hanging with Iggy was bad or anything, but keeping him distracted when he was designed for laser-like focus was gonna be the hardest thing he’s ever done in his life.

He convinced Ignis to take him along to the Crown City mall half by saying he wanted to check out some places and half by saying he should learn what Ignis does for Noct, so he could be a backup if he needs it. And that only worked by stocking up Iggy points with little favors to make his job easier. Y’know, to prove he could be a good backup!

Which was kinda part of his day-to-day anyway. Iggy worked so hard doing stuff for them all the time, and Gladio and Noct didn’t really do that whole ‘helping with dinner’ thing. But hey, that’s what made it such a good cover story!

“We’ve arrived,” Ignis announced and the doors automatically locked once he put the car in park. The morning sun gave a little extra warmth to the winter air, but he couldn’t complain about the cold when it meant Ignis broke out his sharp, double-breasted wool peacoat. All his friends were supermodels, but he had to give it to Ig, he looked extra good dressed for cold weather. Like the Six knew it when they set his birthday in stone.

“Gotcha,” Prompto answered, springing out of the car with his camera around his neck. Just in case! Never know when you’ll see a shot you just got to take, and it was a great reason to draw out their trip if he had to. Ignis always stopped to wait when Prompto wanted to take pictures, and he was pretty patient about it too.

And really, Prompto was banking on that. They still had to decorate, put the gifts together, make a cake… And they hadn’t even started wrapping yet. Leaving all that to Noct and the big guy felt like a recipe for disaster, but all he could do now was his part. Going at a light jog to keep up with Iggy’s longer, purposeful stride, Prompto followed him into the Crown City mall.

“So! What’s our first stop?” There wasn’t much of a crowd, since it was mid-week. No luck there. Just made Prompto think about how he wished there was more color in their uniform.

“We’ll be visiting just the one shop: a specialty dining store,” Ignis answered and led the way. “There are certain cooking instruments designed for the road that will prove essential on our journey.”

“Hey, Iggy!” Prompto raced ahead of him, eager to get started ‘cause this was gonna eat up hours. …Okay, maybe one hour. For his first distraction, Prompto picked up a cup-like thing with a little curve for pouring, some weird plunger thing, and measuring lines on the side. Turning around with a bounce in his step, he showed the tool to Ignis. “What’s this gadget do?”

“Hm?” Ignis strode over to the table Prompto picked out. Even here, he did the driving and pushed the cart along too. There was a lotta stuff here he didn’t recognize, so Prompto had plenty of ammo to keep his attention. “Ah, that is a milk frother, primarily used for lattes and other such beverages where foam is a key part of the experience.”

“Right, right. Y’know, I’ve never had a latte.” He put the frother down by the others, twisting it so it’d match its family of frothers before he took off after Ignis. “Think you could use it in hot chocolate?”

“You certainly can. I’ll show you sometime.” Ignis had a hint of a smile as he wound artfully through the rows and rows of cooking stuff that was either high-end normal stuff or specialty stuff.

“That’d be real sweet of you,” Prompto shot back a pun, giggling while he followed after Ignis.

Maybe if he wasn’t so caught up looking at grills, Iggy might’ve given as good as he got. Probably better, he did a lot more reading than Prom and that gave him more material to work with. Comparing little portable grills to each other with wordless hums and silent notetaking on his phone, Prompto was pretty sure he could do a dance and get nothing from the royal advisor. Or just a quick glance, anyway.

“Hey, uh, Igster,” Prompto ventured an interruption when he looked just about done. “Isn’t this thing just a slab of salt?” He held up a swirled dark and light pink rectangle about two or three inches thick labelled with just ‘mineral salt block’ on the side.

“It is far more than that.” Ignis finished up a note on his phone, picking up a boxed version of the grill he settled on and putting it in the cart. “That is for grilling or stovetop cooking for the right stove, and it imparts a lightly salty flavor with the various health benefits of its mineral composition to—” Ignis sighed, picking up on the overwhelmed look on Prompto’s face. Probably. “It’s good for the food and for those who eat it.”

“Ah, gotcha. So Noct’d hate it, huh? Too healthy.” He put the block down, smiling at Ignis’ laugh.

“It doesn’t feature the same textural concerns Noct has with beans, but… I suspect you may be correct.”

Of course Prom got a text right then, and he hoped it was Gladio or Noct saying everything was fine and ready to go. Pulling his phone out of his pocket with only a little extra flair, he brought up the message from Noctis.

Need more time.

Only one way to answer that. Tossing in an exasperated emoji, he sent back just what he thought of that.

y tho

And the picture he got from Noct was so depressing, it was truly a loss for mankind. What was once gold cake was a bit more brown-and-black-ish, and big chunks of it were still stuck on the pan while the rest was somewhere off-frame. Uh, he hoped.

Noooooct

Thank Gladio.

smh how much time u need

A few seconds turned to a minute and Prompto kept checking his screen every few minutes before Ignis finally spoke up.

“Prompto, do pay attention,” he advised.

“Right, gotcha.” He pocketed his phone for the last time. Maybe. Still, left on read by Noct! If it wasn’t for Iggy’s birthday, he’d be in for a parade of emojis until Prompto got an answer. Or maybe not, but it sounded kinda fun to do. Trotting to catch up to Ignis again, he started up conversation. “So, you do all this by yourself?”

“Typically, yes,” he answered, though he sounded pleased rather than put out. Even looked the part smirking like that when he pushed up his glasses. “Gladio has little patience for it and Noctis has other responsibilities. It’s only natural this should be entrusted to me.”

“Yeah, but on your birthday?” Oops. He was so not supposed to say that, and Prompto’s stilted laugh when he figured out his slip-up didn’t do anything to throw Ignis off his scent. He even stopped to look at Prompto, examining him for answers. Or maybe it just felt like that and Prompto was worrying too much! He just to chill like Noct said to. Yeah, just… chill.

“I didn’t realize you knew.”

“Yeah, well, y’know.” Crap, he was very un-chill right now. Prompto shrugged, eyeing the shelves next to him for a way out of this conversation. “Noct brought it up, and I guess it stuck.” Gotta find a distraction and quick. It’d just buy time, Iggy’d never forget a slip-up like that, but time was all he needed. Prompto snatched up a waffle iron at the end of a really long stick from a display by the camping stuff. “Oh em gee, check this out! Waffles at camp, can you imagine?”

“If you’re willing to make them one at a time,” he teased with that slight smile, turning back to push the cart ahead. That’s right, Iggy, focus on the to-do list and forget that little blunder from Prompto.

“Aw, I’d never keep up with the big guy,” he mourned, dejectedly returning the specialty cookware to its box and catching up to the birthday guy again.

“Indeed not.”

After gathering the rest of their supplies in preparation for the coming trip in the warmer weather, Ignis checked off the final item in his phone.

“And that concludes our shopping for the time being.” The cart was expertly packed just so everything fit in and was even sorted for putting on the belt in an orderly fashion at checkout. Seriously, Ignis’ brain should be melting from all the stuff he thought ahead on. But Prompto was keeping up with him for now, anyway—maybe he really could be halfway-decent at this back-up thing.

“Really? You do a ton, but you really make it look easy. And that’s not just flattery to distract you, I mean it!” Dammit, he was getting bad at this. Thankfully, Ignis pretended not to notice it. Probably. He doubted he really didn’t realize. Ignis, miss something? Next, it’d rain ice cream!

“I should thank you.” With the last item rung through checkout (Prompto didn’t even dare to look at the total), it was as good a time as any, but so weird. Yeah, Prompto got it, he’d do the same if he were Iggy, but… He laughed, shrugging it off. Like always, Ignis kept going undaunted. “As much as I don’t anticipate I’ll need a substitute for my duty to Noctis, it never hurts to be prepared.”

“Hey, uh. No problem! Least I can do, really.” Prompto was spared being even more awkward somehow when Ignis gave his attention to checkout. Plus, it got him a second to text Noct without spectacles maybe seeing what he was up to if he didn’t figure it out yet.

omw home

Not yet.

Prompto let out a groan, slumping in defeat. The shopping trip was over, Noct! What now?

“Stocking the cart might go more smoothly if your hands were free.” Uh oh, that was the informative warning tone. Ignis was audio-coded to hint at what he was thinking and Prompto was getting a code yellow.

“Uh, right.” Putting his phone away, he helped moved the grill and cooking stuff he didn’t exactly recognize into the cart. They were almost done and Prompto blurted out his only idea before he had a chance to think about it enough to stop. “Actually, wanna go someplace cool after this?”

“Pardon?”

“Y’know, ‘cause it’s your birthday! There’s guys who can take this stuff back to the castle, yeah?” He really hoped Ignis would buy this. He couldn’t be the one who screwed up and ruined the surprise, the guys were counting on him! “Isn’t there a place you’ve always wanted to check out, but never got to?”

“Not especially,” Ignis answered after a brief pause. That mildly wide-eyed look was way too caught off guard… Could it be Iggy never thought about stuff he wanted to do before? Seriously? Prompto wanted to not believe it, but with all the stuff he’s always doing for everyone else under the sun, it’s, y’know… Possible. If not super likely.

“Then I’ll show you around. C’mon, it’s just one day, not even. Two hours.” Ignis pulled the cart to the side and out of the way, which wasn’t a yes but it wasn’t a no yet either. He could still get away with this! Prompto flashed the smile that usually worked on Noct, tossing in an eager bounce to cover his bases. “Birthday trip? Birthday trip!”

“There’s snow outside, Prompto.” This answer was just a little bit weaker, not reinforced with the typical Ignis brand crisp certainty that came with every sentence. And what kinda sharpshooter would he be if he didn’t take this opening?

“So? We’ve got boots.” Prompto bent his knee and held one foot up like he needed to demonstrate. Paired with the grin, he could tell—he was winning this round.

“I have to return to the castle for dinner preparation.” Ignis’ gaze darted to the shop windows and the city guard posted outside. The ones that could take all this back to the castle for them and buy the guys some time before Iggy came back.

“How’s this—you go on the birthday trip you so deserve, let me take a couple cool shoots to remember it by, and I’ll help make dinner.” He offered his hand to Ignis, leaning into his field of vision to get his attention. “Deal?”

With a sigh and a signal the guards outside, Ignis gave in. “Very well.”

“Woohoo! You’re not gonna regret it.”


After their side trip, they had to get someone to give them a ride and man, was it weird to have Ignis riding in the back seat of a car next to Prompto in calm quiet. Not a bad, awkward quiet—he was so used to those—but chill. He was usually in front too so Gladio could get the extra leg room, so at least being next to Iggy was just like always. Prompto dug out his phone again, sending one last warning text. They’d gotten another hour or hour and a half outta this, he hoped they figured it out.

omw 4 real

“When you said cool pictures, I hadn’t thought you meant literally on the ice.” Ignis only just glanced his way, his face still slightly red from spending time in the cold February air.

“Hey, that pond is a prime photo op!” He slipped his phone into his pocket, swapping it out for his camera. “Check it out,” he offered, bringing up a photo of Ignis in the light, warm glow of the late afternoon winter sun glittering off the ice, a faint plume of his breath in front of him and a delicate blush to his cheeks. Say what you want about the royal advisor, but it’d better be a compliment—he was gorgeous. “My best one yet.”

“Oh, so you collect them?”

“Ah, well, y’see, I—” Shoot. The car was slowing down and he caught a peek of the castle entrance. Thank the Six! “I take pictures of all you guys, yeah? Hey, look, we’re here!” Shuffling out his side, half-stumbling out, Prompto fled to safety. Almost over, this was the home stretch!


“They keep falling!”

“And whose fault is that?” Familiar voices reached Ignis and Prompto as they worked their way back to one of the smaller, casual family dining rooms in the castle.

“The tape.” Ah, classic Noct. Ignis turned to Prompto with a questioning brow and he just smiled back, nodding him to go first. Nothing left to hide now! Ignis pulled the door open and stepped into the room, which… kinda looked like elementary schoolers decorated it, but hey. Not everyone was a perfect party coordinator like Iggy.

“Gladio? Noctis.” Was that disbelief or patient warnings at the sight of lopsided streamers hanging all the way over to Noctis, who stood on a chair taping the last corner up. For the millionth time, from the sounds of it. Mostly decently wrapped presents sat on one end of the elegant dining table and at the other were three whole separate two-layer cakes and enough fancy takeout for a family of six. “What is…?”

“Happy birthday, Specs,” Noctis said, smiling as he stepped down from the chair and came over with Gladio.

“Didn’t think we forgot, did you?” Gladio clapped his hand on Ignis’ shoulder, his too-perfect smile coming as naturally as ever. Maybe a little more, even.

“I… Suppose this was what the escapades were all about,” he remarked, glancing back at Prompto.

“Whoa, three cakes?!” Gotta change that subject, Ignis, they didn’t know about any escapades! It was just supposed to be errands. But it was their fault he had to draw it out, wasn’t it? Chill, Prompto—chill. “All this food… I’m just gonna have to run more tomorrow.”

“After running around all day today too,” Gladio joked, thankfully getting the hint. Probably.

“What’s this about escapades?” Noct was not so merciful, and that is why Gladio got all the ladies, Prompto thought to himself. Okay, yeah, it was always great to see him smile, just—not at Prompto’s expense!

“Hey, you guys told me to keep him busy!”

“And you did very well. I haven’t been ice skating since Noctis was a boy and that pond was rather scenic.” Ignis to the rescue even on his birthday, what a saint. He did fall into a thoughtful silence, looking like he was trying to find life’s answers in the present pile. “Though I had figured you out by then, of course. I am curious why you kept me preoccupied for so much longer than necessary.”

“Gladio wrecked the cake.”

“Okay, Princess,” he dismissed. “Told you to set the timer.”

“And I told you I was busy.”

“Never heard you.”

“Getting old already,” Noctis said like he was in mourning, giving as good as he got and ducking out of a headlock from Gladio by just a hair. He’d better be faster than Gladio after all that childhood of training with him.

“Regardless of the kitchen mishaps I’ll contend with later,” Ignis got their attention back. “Thank you. I admit, I am at a loss for what else I might say.”

“No big deal,” Noctis answered, obviously proud of himself. “You could start by having dinner. I’m dying to try these skewers,” he suggested, leading the way to the meal.

“Speaking of that, I do believe Prompto owes me a standing offer to help with dinner.” Ignis picked up his own plate and shot Prompto a smile. “An awfully easy suggestion when you know there’s takeout on the table, hm?”

“You don’t have to resort to birthday blackmail, dude. I got your back,” Prompto promised. And snagged a plate of his own, he had to get to this food before the big guy got it all. “Still, though. Uh, happy birthday, Ignis.”

full moon through a window on a cloudy night

A Way Forward: Kingdom Hearts Fanfiction

Word count: 679 (2 to 6 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Spoilers, nightmares, scarring, and canon character death | Characters: Ienzo, Axel, and Riku Replica


“He’s as good a place to start as any.”

He didn’t need a heart to feel the fear cut into him. “You can’t do this,” Zexion insisted, barely able to stand upright, never mind fight back. And yet he tried as the Riku replica slammed him into the wall as easily as if he were a paper doll. The magic channeled between them was searing and numbing all at once as the hand closed around his throat.

An exact recreation of the person he just fought and nearly lost to stared at him, smirking as darkness ate the edge of Zexion’s vision—and his form. His hands grabbed at the replica’s arm holding him above the floor and tightening on his neck as the magic continued eroding his body. Zexion could calculate the very rate of the energy transfer from his heartless body to that of the Riku replica, and he did not have long now. Yet his greatest fear was in not knowing what was to come after.

Would he be with Lexaeus and Vexen? Would this distant, aching pain endure into that next life? Smoke billowed around his hands, and his grip failed. Zexion could only barely make out Axel watching him die on his deceptive suggestion, eyelids fluttering shut while the last of him transferred to the replica.

Deplorable. What of the ties that held us together, Axel?

Ienzo jolted from sleep with a gasp, keenly aware of the cold Radiant Garden castle air. Perhaps because the faded navy blanket was on the floor and his grey sheets were tangled around his legs. Certainly, the sweat soaking his long-sleeved turtleneck sleep shirt didn’t help the matter.

“Just a dream,” he breathed, reassuring himself against the tingling, burning sensation around the scar on his neck and trying to slow the thundering heartbeat in his chest. How interesting that the sleeping world could follow him into the real one so intensely.

The first order of business was to free his legs, getting up from the bed to change his shirt. Whatever he chose to do next, he wouldn’t be comfortable in that. He paused for only a moment to calm himself further and took a moment to appreciate the silver-blue glow of moonlight washing over his familiar bedroom.

This room had been his before the Organization and fall of Radiant Garden, though all but the furniture was new. Well, aside from the bed. He didn’t grow to be tall, but he had indeed grown since he was a little boy.

Peeling his shirt off and into the hamper, Ienzo took a towel from his armoire drawers to dry off the residual sweat. He tossed that in the hamper as well and paused again, this time by the mirror. Even in the late evening light—or was it early morning?—the scars were too visible. Ienzo traced the path from his neck scar to the Lichtenberg-like scarring splintering out and down his torso and arms.

He had some muscle definition now, at least. Perhaps because he was slight as it was, but he preferred to credit the short exercise routine that Aeleus and Dilan devised for him at his request. Still, he did not look well. Pale with tired eyes, Ienzo felt only a glance would betray how truly fragile he felt in this life. And he resented that fact completely.

Everyone was recovering. He didn’t need to match their pace, but he refused to slow them down. Ienzo picked up his latest book from the nightstand along with his gummi phone, leaving his bedroom to warm up water for tea. Returning to sleep was not an option, not after a nightmare like that one. He had tried in the past with little success. More often, he was greeted with another nightmare if sleep came at all.

He would overcome this too, in time. He had to. There was too much on the line and more still to make up for. Ienzo may be haunted by the past, but he would find the path to this future in those mistakes.