Web of Love | Claude Edition Ch. 4: Lesson Learned

Word count: 1218 (2 to 10 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Claude, Ferdinand, and Hubert

Read the previous chapter.

On most occasions, Hubert could travel the length of the monastery campus without anyone disrupting him. He was not a friendly individual. Few found him approachable. Therefore, his travels were often more efficient than his peers.

Though not always.

“Hey, Hubert!” Hubert stopped, turning to the voice and unsurprised to see Claude waving him over to the stables. “Come over here.”

Unshockingly, he was with Ferdinand. Hubert clearly expected too much of the Golden Deer House leader when he anticipated he would eventually realize the futility of his latest scheme. It crossed his mind to simply continue on as he had been, but with both Ferdinand and Claude present, his odds of a successful escape were rather slim. Simply turning and approaching, he let that action speak on his behalf.

“So, Ferdinand and I were talking, and we had this fantastic idea,” Claude stated with a grin that guaranteed it was a horrible idea Hubert would despise. “Why don’t you learn horseback riding from Ferdinand?”

“Why?” He leveled a piercing glare at Claude to little effect from either him or Ferdinand. Few people could regard him without fear or even apprehension, and it was notable that they all ranked among those he encountered most often. Any correlation would need to be investigated at another time.

“Hear me out, okay?” Claude met his stare with one of his falsely disarming smiles, discovering as much success as Hubert had prior. Having realized the uselessness of the effort, Claude continued regardless with a rolling gesture of his hand. “You’ve been eyeing that Dark Knight certification, and he’s the best with horses in your house… Makes sense, yeah?”

He didn’t bother to conceal his scoff. “Not in the slightest. We are both too often unwilling to compromise in our assigned tasks when we are assigned with one another.” Any acknowledgement of this shortcoming typically came after they ran out of time for their task and saw it was done less capably than they could have achieved had they not spent quite as much time on bickering. That was less common recently, but that was not a fact Claude required. “Why would training together be any different?”

“Well,” Ferdinand began, an uncertain edge to his smile that troubled Hubert more than it should have, “Because we have learned to be less stubborn during our weekly tasks, or at least only behave stubbornly for good reason.” And there it was, the intelligence that Claude had sought and Hubert preferred to conceal. He was bound to discover it eventually, but that smug look of imitated surprise was insufferable.

Ferdinand found more of his characteristic confidence and kept his attention on Hubert, as though Claude was not there at all. Hubert rarely held anyone’s attention, much less Ferdinand’s. That was notable on its own, although it would have to wait when he wasn’t under observation by the Golden Deer house leader. “Surely, you have noticed that we do not argue nearly as intensely as we used to since your cooking lessons, and our performance has improved greatly.”

“I had,” he agreed, however exasperatedly. He did not want Claude to hear about that agreement either for reasons Ferdinand also could not be allowed to understand.

“Aw, look at you two!” Claude interrupted, pointing that self-satisfied grin to Hubert while he leaned back and folded his hands behind his head. “Like peas in a pod.”

“You are looking too much into it, Claude,” he spoke before Ferdinand could, bearing his sinister smile at an angle that frightened even certain allies. Hubert’s height over Claude was a marked advantage to that end. “That is your greatest weakness, and it is dangerous to let it go unchecked.”

“To be honest, I was hoping you might consider the offer.” Naturally, Ferdinand approached the matter like a territory negotiation between noble houses rather than a training agreement. The confidence that gave him restored his smile and proud posture to their usual radiance, a phrasing presented by Hubert’s traitorous mind. “I have not properly shown my gratitude for those gauntlets you chose for me! And then you were kind enough to teach me that recipe too. I would be honored to assist you as a gesture of my thanks.”

“And while it is also very honorable of you to think of my safety, Hubert,” Claude interjected himself where he was not wanted, earning a scowl from Hubert, “What’s this about free one-on-one cooking lessons?”

Heaving a sigh, Hubert overtly ignored Claude. They were comparable to friends, and he knew well that Claude would distort anything he said to fit his vision for Ferdinand and Hubert regardless of his intended meaning. “Fine. Very well. Since you feel so indebted, I will accept your offer.”

“Perfect!” It served Hubert right to be met with an enthusiastic, beaming grin after assuming that Ferdinand could not be more animated. The topic was equestrian, so it only followed that Ferdinand would embrace it wholeheartedly. “I will begin drawing up the plans for your instruction promptly. Tell me, when was the last time you went horseback riding?”

“When we arrived at Garreg Mach.”

“Since our arrival?” His surprise was obvious in a wide-eyed stare. With his daily horse rides in addition to any taken when he was sufficiently frustrated, that response was to be expected by anyone who knew Ferdinand well. Or, perhaps, had monitored him to isolate proof of seditious intent and came up empty time and again. “I would miss the horses if I went so long without. Still, I will factor that into your lessons.”

“Good luck, you too! Remember to watch where you’re going!”

Claude claimed not to enjoy facing poor odds of success in their mock scenarios in class, but his continual provocation of Hubert suggested otherwise.

“I have a schedule to keep,” Hubert insisted, which Claude only answered by raising his eyebrows and smirking.

“Oh, yes, of course! Until next time, Claude,” Ferdinand dismissed himself as the very model of politeness.

“You got it.”

Ferdinand strode brightly into the stables, heedless to the tension between Claude and Hubert—or respectfully overlooking it, more accurately. He was perceptive in the social sphere and knew about Hubert’s skepticism of Claude’s behavior from their discussion in the monastery kitchens as well. Either way, Hubert was grateful for the opportunity.

“Stop this immediately.”

Tilting his head so his braid swung away from him, Claude kept up his thin innocent act. “Hm? Whatever could you possibly mean?”

“Hubert!” Ferdinand called from inside the stables, somewhere just out of view. Easily done when Hubert held Claude in a withering stare despite its ineffectiveness on someone who came to seek out his company freely. “Come, let us find a horse you get along with!”

Claude nodded to the stables, hands in his pockets and a glint in his eyes. “Aren’t you on a schedule?”

“I can always make time for such a good friend.” He clearly hadn’t meant that literally, but Claude’s faux flattered expression showed he was set on pretending otherwise. “I have not yet thought of a suitable way to repay you, but I assure you I will.” Following Ferdinand at last, Hubert began devising the initial steps of his plan. If Claude enjoyed his little game of matchmaker so much, Hubert was obligated to return the favor.


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Hellfire Ch. 12: The Collar Unseen | DA2 Fanfiction

Read the previous chapter. | Read it on AO3.
Approx. 2100 words (5 to 17 minutes) | Rating: M | Dragon Age 2 Spoilers | Characters: Orsino, Garrett Hawke, Meredith Stannard, Carver Hawke

What with the ‘there is no escape’ angle from the day before, Hawke expected more Templar-themed disaster after patching things up with the Qunari on the Viscount’s orders. But instead of dragging Garrett off to the old cell again for a new round of aggressive silent treatment, his assigned Templar friends led Hawke to the dining hall for breakfast with his fellow mage prisoners. Not that anyone looked too pleased to see him after his latest vanishing spell, but was anyone ever happy in this place? Hawke didn’t see a reason to take that personally.

With Templars posted around the room between thin windows, it wasn’t the most relaxing place to eat. They had lanterns and wrought iron chandeliers to light the room at all hours, on account of its size and having no sunlight, and the gathered mages all ate with their heads down. A few spoke to each other softly, only barely looking up. Not seeming completely crushed on a spiritual level was an invitation for the Templars of the Circle to try harder. The Tranquil mages sat on their own, of course.

“Morning,” Hawke greeted a mage getting food from the Tranquil mage on serving duty, picking up a plate for himself. “Lucky us, we’re just in time for the stale bread.”

Alright, so it was a bit strange that the person he just spoke to walked away without a word, but he was willing to write that off as not being a morning person. The Gallows wasn’t a great place to start with, but imagine being woken up every day at your least favorite hour by people who probably wanted you dead or worse? Anyone’d be crabby. So, breakfast in hand, Hawke tried again with mages already sitting together. No one who sought out a crowd was in a bad mood, right?

“Hello there,” he said, catching the attention of some mages sitting at a table with room for at least one more. Gesturing to an open spot, he went for the polite approach just in case. His luck hadn’t exactly been in good shape lately. “Alright if I join you?”

They looked at each other, then at him. Not a fuzzy warm expression among them. “We were just leaving.”

And like that, they picked up their plates (with plenty of food still on them, he noticed) and sat at another table. Well, something was not right here. He usually had to do something first for people to avoid him so intently. Hawke wasn’t necessarily popular anywhere they lived, being a mage on the run and all, but he made friends pretty easily. Some people hated him because of his smart mouth or natural talent for ending up at the center of a big mess, and of course, the Templars hating him for his magic. But for the mages to join in on it? That was plain rude. Where was the section on that in Anders’ manifesto?

“Good morning, Hawke,” Orsino announced his presence like he was about to bring another awful errand to Garrett, having a seat with the same foreboding gravity. Seemed like having breakfast was the only thing that would go right for Hawke today. “Did you get any rest?”

Well, that phrasing was odd. Hawke gave Orsino a sideways look, smirking.

“I managed. And you, First Enchanter? I figure the perpetual accusations of world-shattering conspiracies make it hard to catch a good night’s sleep.”

He had no idea how old Orsino was, or how old elves could get, but the stress he was under all the time wasn’t doing Orsino any favors. The only people that haggard were apostates and former Templars left high and dry by the order. Not looking great for Orsino either way.

“You jest about the strangest things,” he answered, definitely not wrong, and sighed down at the table. No platter of breakfast for Orsino, just tea—or maybe he had a fancy First Enchanter’s breakfast earlier. That job had to come with more than office and the scorn of all Templars, or who would keep it? “But I am not the only one accused of deeds I did not do.”

“Oh?” He wanted help with something, Hawke assumed. It was unlikely he’d be able to do much, since Meredith was merrily taking up all his time with one-on-one torment, but Garrett would figure something out. Probably. “Who’s the unlucky bastard?”

His eyes softened as he settled for looking at Garrett, and boy, did that make him want to go back to his holding cell and lock the door himself. “You, I’m afraid.”

“That does sound like something that would happen to me before I’ve even finished breakfast.” Grabbing a piece of what passed as bread when you were magical and wrong, Garrett gestured toward Orsino with it. Wasn’t good for much else, though he’d try to eat it afterwards anyway. “Do I get to know my own juicy gossip?”

“I owe you that much.” He sipped at the cold, over-steeped tea that came with breakfast while Hawke tried to tear a piece off the bread with his teeth. Took a bit of effort, but he got it with a couple extra tugs thrown in. “Word has travelled of your connection to Knight Commander Meredith, and the mages in the Gallows were already wary of the implications.”

Right, so that was trouble. Hawke just figured everyone was shy or had the worst case of indigestion every day. No surprise with food like this, right? Should’ve figured it was actually all his fault instead, that really was a pattern going back for years.

“And then that got worse somehow, yeah?” Dipping the bread into the runny eggs in an attempt to soften it up a bit, Hawke shrugged.

Orsino had to work on that bad omen look of his, but for that, someone had to tell him. Hawke had enough going on for three people at the moment, and a positivity makeover was just one chore too many. Through a somber stare, the First Enchanter finished up the bad news (hopefully). “Once word had spread that she asked you to watch us on her behalf and report anyone suspicious, our people decided with near unanimity that you are not to be trusted.”

“Oh, let me guess,” he joked, letting the soaked bread drip dry for a second, “Telling them I’m not on her side would just confirm their deepest, darkest fears?”

“Regrettably, they have made up their minds.” Orsino just shook his head, the frown he was always sporting firmly in place. Maybe his face was just stuck that way. He loved this mess of a city-state, but Kirkwall could have that effect on someone on its own, never mind the Gallows. “I know you are not against us, Hawke, but even that is not enough to reassure them. Not with your long disappearances and freedom to come and go.”

What could he do to that but snort a laugh? And try to pull off another piece of yolk-sodden bread, that was important. Next to the other mages here, Hawke had to admit that he did have more liberties than they ever would. A scary thought, actually. Since he entered the Circle, he’d left a handful of times when most people held in the Circle didn’t have a single memory of life outside. They came in once, and they’d probably only leave when they were dead.

Not a bad escape plan, now that he thought of it. Maybe he’d pretend to be dead and make this easier on everyone (once they got done being mad that he faked his death with no warning, anyway).

“I could certainly do worse than having a friend in the First Enchanter.”

“I admit, I find your optimism reassuring. And to think I was worried you would be distraught.” He stood, looking down at Hawke with some sort of something, alright. Part forced smile, part pity, part crushing despair. He’d have to remember not to invite Orsino to Wicked Grace night before he sorted out his whole rain cloud of eternal despair bit. “I must return to my office, but please know that I am on your side even if our people cannot see why just yet.”

“You’re very sweet,” Garrett teased.

And with minimal fluster, Orsino dismissed himself so Hawke could finish his breakfast at the gradual pace advised by Aveline. Not much changed for him with the latest ugly news, really. He spent most of his time in one cell or the other under Templar watch. Any time he had out and about was usually cleaning up after someone in Kirkwall. It’s not like he had Circle friends beside Merrill, and he wasn’t going to stick around to make some either.

Hawke only barely decided to go to the library and read one of the books he was halfway to memorizing when Ser Alrik arrived with a different suggestion from Meredith. An order, actually. Leading Hawke down familiar halls and staircases in the irritable silence of a man who hadn’t ripped the soul out of any mages lately, Alrik dropped him off at the much-less-pleasant cell number two.

On the bright side, one thing had gone right so far: Hawke had a proper breakfast.


Mature content available on AO3 only.


Meredith put him back together when she ran out of patience or stamina, and Hawke let her go through the motions. Just enough done to cover her tracks for anyone to witness him. He had no idea how long it was before he heard Templars re-open the cell door, a radiating ache around the cut on his face making itself known as he lifted his head. Pointlessly, since the blindfold stayed on through it all.

“Alrik, my good friend,” he rasped.

“Not exactly,” Carver answered flatly. Hawke’s heart sank and the bile rose in his throat again.

No, not like this.

There were two sets of footsteps, so they weren’t alone together either. His little brother had to see him like this and pretend not to care while they undid the restraints—it had to be pretending, even Carver didn’t hate him that much, right?—and Garrett lowered his head back down. He really screwed this up now. How could he let Carver see this? There had to be a choice he could’ve made differently, something to learn for next time. Hawke should’ve fought off Alrik sooner or put up a fight right in the cafeteria. Whatever it was, Hawke had no one to blame for it but himself.

The other Templar grumbled through the process of lifting Hawke from the chair—so that wasn’t Cullen—and soon, Carver pulled Garrett’s arm over his shoulder. “Right, let’s get you on your feet.”

Carver didn’t have to hold Hawke’s hand once his arm was over his back and on the opposite side of his little brother’s neck. His wrist would have been just fine to support him, if he needed anything at all. Garrett closed his hand around his brother’s, hissing at the pain that ran down his arm. Must’ve been a bad angle for his shoulder while Meredith went about her business. Leaning forward to push himself up clued him in that his legs didn’t feel much better about it.

Standing sounded downright miserable. “Sounds fun,” he tried to joke. “Why not?”

The trip back to his room was a bit touch and go, but they made it, and Hawke was probably asleep before they even put him on the bed. If they passed anyone else, he didn’t remember them. And judging by the birds that woke him up, he slept through until dawn or close enough to it.

Stiffly and very aware of every sore spot, Garrett turned on his side and slipped his hand beneath the pillow for the illusion of fluff. Imagine his surprise when he found a half-crumpled, half-folded note there. Resting his back against the wall, Hawke read the message by the low flame in his other hand.

The others warned me about what happened in the tavern, but nothing as bad as this. We’re moving faster now. Hang in there.

At the bottom, another line had been scrawled on at a rushed angle.

I’m sorry.

Same as last time, he burned it up without a trace.

Slumped into the corner, Hawke dropped his hands to his lap and just sat there listening to birds. He was sorry too. Carver never should have had to see him in that state, half out of it with fresh injuries on his face and Maker knew what else. Hawke never wanted this weight on his younger brother’s shoulders. And next time, it’d be different.


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