Word count: 1500 (3 to 12 minutes) | Rating: T | Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd and Claude von Riegan (Dimiclaude)
Residing at Fódlan’s Locket for the summit with Almyra, it was easy to forget what brought the fortress into being. It was well-regarded as a bulwark, Dimitri knew, yet he could only find beauty in the surrounding landscape. Even the rocky cliffs that added to its natural defenses also contributed to its serene aesthetic. Wooden bridges provided breathtaking views and a calm sway that unnerved some, but soothed Dimitri. As sole king of a newly united nation, he had been told much about what to expect from the Almyran party sent to negotiate peace with Fódlan. Their customs, what they deemed offensive, how they dressed, all down to the tea they liked despite the dining menu not being his to oversee. His advisors and close companions would leave nothing to chance in the name of avoiding more war in their lifetime.
No one, of course, was expecting their old classmate Claude. The last they’d seen of him was in Derdriu. At the close of his particularly optimistic plan, if one could call it that, he had the typical brazen levity to call them soft-hearted suckers for coming to his aid. Then he proceeded to disband the Leicester Alliance with nearly as much aplomb. Dimitri smiled at the memory, crossing a bridge with Claude as a chance to stretch their legs during a rare break in negotiations.
“I vowed I would not let you die that day in the Aquatic Capital,” Dimitri interrupted their silence, speech being every bit as comfortable as quiet between them. Claude glanced his way, a new helix hoop piercing catching waning sunlight as he turned. “And as I recall, you chastised me for my lateness. Yet I was so relieved to find you were safe.”
“Hey, no one made you drag your feet to snatch me from the jaws of death! Hilda really let me have it for leaving her to defend the bridge,” Claude shook his head and answered in plainly false despair. Their unbreakable bond was legend in the former Alliance. He was very likely to be the only individual in all of Fódlan and beyond who could get Hilda Valentine Goneril to stand as a second to last line of defense in a risky battle.
He stopped on the bridge and Dimitri did as well, looking over the lush valley as Claude raised a hand to hold the rope at the bridge’s edge.
“When you left that day…” He sighed, stepping forward to be at Claude’s side. Perhaps it was strange, but the edge of that sentence brought more apprehension to him than the precipice so close to his feet. “I thought I might never see you again.”
Another rarity graced Dimitri as he faced Claude, watching him as he came forward. His smile warmed and reached all the way to his eyes at last. He’d been grinning, smirking, smiling, and trading out expressions in that vein all meeting long without exhaustion, and not one had been sincere until then. The light of it was more of a comfort than any cloudless afternoon he ever encountered.
“Oh, come on, Your Majesty! Like I could leave you to run Fódlan all by yourself.” Almost together, Claude and Dimitri looked out past the mossy stones and dirt paths winding through the grounds of Fódlan’s Locket. Much like the two of them, the people of Fódlan’s party and that of Almyra mingled to mixed effect. Peace took time. The others present did not share the understanding Dimitri and Claude did as former classmates. Here, on the bridge together, there were no princes or kings present. All that was missing was Claude’s braid from his youth, although there was no polite way to mention that he missed it. “And you have my loyalty. No matter what happens in our future.”
Royalty often referred to themselves in the plural first person, representing their nation in the very pronoun “we”. Claude had never done so before. It struck him as unusual to begin the tradition during their time alone together. But what else could he mean?
“I’d like to unite Almyra with Fódlan.” He rested another hand on the rope, bringing that smile to bear on Dimitri once more. Claude gave no sign that he knew how impactful that expression was. But who ever could say what the Master Tactician chose to show or not? “For that, I need you.”
“You are—” This must be it for his mind. After hours of debate and negotiation and returning to debate to re-negotiate, Dimitri was obviously burnt out beyond reason. But he could not dismiss the idea that Claude was recommending a unification of a whole new kind. “You can’t be proposing…?”
“Even I can’t answer a question that doesn’t have an end.” That wink broke through his defenses as accurately as Failnaught itself. Wherever he went, there were aspects of Claude that did not change, at least. It was very hard on Dimitri that it happened to be the habits that melted his knees outright.
“Ah, no. Never mind.”
“Oh? Oh,” he pitched that second one higher in recognition. Dimitri hoped vainly that his fluster was invisible to the man beside him, an impossible wish. Claude rested a hand on his hip and gave an appraising stare in his direction. “Huh. That would be the fastest way to go about it. I didn’t think you’d be interested.”
“I apologize, Claude, I read into your meaning and I should not have. Please, you are under no obligation.”
The insistence might have been firmer if Dimitri weren’t straining to look as though he were pitiable enough to show mercy to. Truly, he did not know if he could take it should anyone but them at the negotiation table became aware of this moment. All he could hope for was that Claude would forget this talk altogether and never mention it to anyone. Why did this keep happening to Dimitri, no matter how he grew?
“I’m glad you did. How else would I know that you’re interested in marrying me?”
“Claude,” he pleaded, embarrassed already. Burying his face in his hands would not remedy that and that was the only reason he didn’t resort to it.
“There’s nothing to be shy about, Dimitri.” Strategic as always, Claude knew precisely what to say to restore his confidence in the exchange. He had wanted the titles and formality gone long ago, he supposed. But it meant more that his companion chose this exact time to do away with all the forms of address that came with the throne. “In fact, you should be proud! You’re realizing two of my dreams in one fell swoop.”
Taking his hand from the rope, Claude offered it instead to Dimitri. The hearth-like glow of the late afternoon sun caught the richer browns in his hair, lighting the depths of green eyes more precious than jade with greater life in them than entire valleys and glades.
“If that could prove true,” he began, resting his gloved hand in Claude’s own. Secretly, Dimitri hoped he may one day do so more directly. “It would be my pleasure.”
“And speaking of pleasure,” Claude started and summoned an impish smirk that Dimitri recognized only too much. His shock was at the eagerness he felt at the sight rather than nervousness over what was to come. He reached up with his other hand to cup Dimitri’s face, brushing a thumb over the cheek below his eyepatch. A twinge of regret twisted in his stomach only to be drowned out in elation. “Might I have this kiss?”
In a peaceful oasis so vast, Dimitri truly believed he would never find its limits, he discovered the strength to speak his honest feelings.
“Yes. Of course.”
A new side to Claude appeared again, fond and almost fragile in his hope, as he closed the distance between them until their lips were only just out of reach. Suddenly, all of Sylvain’s silly romance novels carried renewed meaning. Those scant centimeters were impossibly large and entranced him utterly.
“I’ll need you to lean down, Dimitri.”
As surely as he’d been struck, Dimitri jumped. How could he be so foolish? At least Sylvain would never come to hear of it. He had his ammunition with the dagger incident.
“Ah! Yes. My apol—”
Once he’d done as he agreed to, Claude pressed a tender kiss to his lips. He felt his own scars across Claude’s and closed his eyes to cling to this new terrain. Perhaps… The remainder of these negotiations would not need as much of his undivided attention. Dimitri suspected a certain Almyran king would be distracting him periodically when they reconvened—whether he meant to or not.