Alone Together | Dragon Age Fanfiction

Word count: 2200 (5 to 18 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Dragon Age Spoilers | Characters: Dorian Pavus, Garrett Hawke, Varric Tethras, Cole


The Inquisitor was wise to bring Dorian along on this little errand with Cole, Varric, and the dwarf’s friend. Even to this forsaken spit of land. Hawke had fought Corypheus before and suspected the Grey Wardens were vulnerable to the wretch’s influence. His instincts ought to be conceivably better than his ability to kill darkspawn. The cruelly attractive Champion of Kirkwall had connections to shed some light on the situation, and having an experienced mage in Dorian who also knew what modern amenities were made a world of difference. Or it would, once they got to the spiky and dour affair that was Adamant Fortress. Its one benefit over Weisshaupt was not being stubbornly wedged into a frigid mountain.

Until then, Dorian had to contend with the ill-dressed Cole and his barbed good intentions.

“I’m hurting you, Dorian. Words, winding, wanting, wounding. You said I could ask,” he asked, confused. Of all the times Cole insisted on prying into his life, now was particularly horrid. A handsome, talented man was in their company! Then Dorian was in the position of having to field questions about his estranged father. Hard to make that look sexy no matter how desirable the man.

“I know I did,” he acknowledged, spiteful at the tremor in his words. Trying to be patient through the pain was testing the very essence of his soul. Navigating a craggy stretch of desert with their group all pretending to be stricken deaf to awkward conversations, Dorian tried to steer Cole away from the heart of it. “The things you ask are just—very personal.”

“But… It hurts.” He tilted his head, that ridiculous hat flopping from the movement. “I want to help, but it’s all tangled with the love. I can’t tug it loose without tearing it.” The Inquisitor looked over her shoulder to them to gauge Dorian’s agony and unwittingly added to it. He only grimaced and stared off to some rubble while Cole carried on. “You hold him so tightly. You let it keep hurting because you think hurting is who you are. Why would you do… Oh. You are not alone.”

Wait. He wasn’t?

That caught his attention. Turning to follow Cole’s gaze, with Varric doing the same, they both settled their stare on Hawke’s back. The easy smile on his face that he always had confirmed he hadn’t been warned at how nosy Cole could be. Open emotional wounds and helping to mend them were irresistible to their friend from the Fade, and the rumors suggested Hawke was essentially a walking bastion of emotional torment.

“What? Please tell me I didn’t fall backward into some unsavory stain again.” Hawke’s optimism might have worked as a shield or diversion any other time. No such luck with Cole. Something about a person rooting around in your head, it left you utterly defenseless.

“Her bloodied body on the soil, cradled by Mother one last time. ‘How could you let her charge off like that?’ Says nothing when only I return and not my brother, how could I let him die? She falls to her knees and sobs, shattered, sorrowful, scarred. My fault.”

Piece by fragile piece, that beautiful smile came apart to a truly haunted facsimile. The shame was that he remained quite attractive through it. When he also slowed to a stop, the rest of them did the same without a word of protest. What else could anyone do? The situation had caught everyone rather off guard.

Cole hadn’t said enough to make the painful memories perfectly apparent. It was oddly a comfort for Dorian to know that, from the outside, the inner workings of the mind and private history were not laid so horrifically bare as it felt. It was only due to Varric’s novel that he knew the finer details at all. But that comfort was small and guilt-riddled next to the recognition furrowing Varric’s brow. As if Hawke looking so near to cheerily shattering wasn’t agonizing enough.

“Her eyes clouded with death like starlight; she is dying, always my fault. I’ll be fine, I lie, and she lies back, but her last words mean the world.”

“Cole—” Varric started, soft with him as always. He’d taken a shine to Cole and didn’t have the heart to stop him from getting carried away.

In that ethereal quality his voice took on when recounting memories, he forged on. “My little boy has become so strong. I love you. You’ve always made me so proud.” The silence hung thick as they all waited. Cole shook his head again, worrying his hands. At last, he made eye contact with Hawke and seemed all too aware of how much he’d hurt them both. “But she wasn’t lying. Why do you both choose—”

“Kid, uh…” Varric walked over to Cole and patted his arm. He’d become quite the father, that tender-hearted storyteller. “Why don’t you take it down a notch?”

Cole glanced from Varric to Dorian to Hawke and back to Varric again. Whether or not he learned a single thing from that visual trek, they’d find out soon enough if Cole asked more invasive questions. More likely when he did. The boy was a curious delight and part of the ragtag family of the Inquisition, but he was not tactful. Which had to be a grave state of indiscretion indeed if Dorian said so.

”I’m sorry. I keep making it worse.”

“No,” Dorian half-whispered, emotionally exhausted. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” Hawke agreed, then walked ahead alone.


The return to Skyhold after that unmitigated disaster of a mission was honestly a relief. Dorian didn’t complain once about the cold or that swill at the Herald’s Rest! A trip to the Fade in person was momentous and he would never stop being enthralled by all he saw there—well, most of what he saw. Could have done without the nightmare spider part. All the same, the sight of those frostbitten peaks encasing an unsightly collection of boxes these people called a fort was a genuine improvement.

When he did clean up and set out for the Skyhold tavern, Dorian was surprised to see Hawke still there. He had to set out for Weisshaupt. There had to be an overwhelming list of tasks to undertake first, and he assumed Hawke would want to spend as much personal time as possible with his dear friend from Kirkwall. How two men of such arguable taste lived in such a shithole and held fond memories of it was a mystery… Although not as enigmatic as Hawke’s presence there. He had a difficult day to say the least. His Warden friend sacrificed his life in the Fade for them. The remaining Wardens had been absorbed into the Inquisition. Cole had rifled about in his mind before one of the single worst adventures the so-called Herald of Andraste brought them on. And, to finish it all off, he’d have to leave Varric again shortly to go to a place notably less pleasant than Skyhold.

Dorian shuddered to think how all those serious Wardens would drag Hawke down. Normally, he was a right ray of sunshine! There was a reason Varric called him Chuckles. He did have a way with nicknames, however begrudgingly Dorian had to admit that. He deserved better than an icy mountainous lair for terminally somber Wardens.

“You going to stand there all night?” Krem’s lighthearted jab took Dorian from his thoughts, where he had apparently stopped immediately in the doorway.

“Please do accept my deepest apologies,” Dorian joked back, stepping aside in the direction of the bar. “I sometimes succeed in my willful amnesia of this place, and I must suffer anew its subpar existence.”

“You arse,” his companion answered with a chuckle and washed that down with a swig from his tankard.

That freed Dorian to approach Hawke. His idle smile made a half-hearted appearance to what he recognized as an attempt to cleanse pain with enough alcohol. Cleanse or drown out, whichever happened first, really.

Dorian set himself down on the unforgiving imitation of a stool beside Hawke and offered his finest grin for the lovely friend Varric had been hiding. After all, what made misery seem further away than a profile as gorgeous as his?

“Care for company?”

“That depends on the company,” Hawke teased, waving the barkeep down for a drink regardless. It had to be for Dorian based on the fact that the one in his hand was presently full. And that precious discovery did add some sincerity to his grin. Somewhere in that embarrassing march to Adamant, Dorian had endeared himself to the Champion.

“I plan on getting rather drunk tonight, and I detest doing so alone,” he presented a small fib. Who was keeping track between them? If that night went as planned, there would be far more important events to remember. Presuming they recalled anything whatsoever. “So I am choosing to take your answer as a yes.”

“It’s that or I intend to drink with a tankard in each hand. I’d say you’ve made the right choice,” Hawke said with a wink and raised his drink in a toast for Dorian. Special attention was always a short path to Dorian showing off that silk dance he so loved, and he had to admire Hawke’s astute initiative in extending it so swiftly. Before taking a long gulp of his drink to get the night of drunken stupor started, of course.


His plan to wrap himself up in Hawke, a rare athletic mage with his own roguish charms, had gone swimmingly. Dorian was so fortunate as to have a clear memory of the highlights, as it were.

Hawke had an arm around Dorian as they rested naked beneath the sheets in the late nighttime hours. Perhaps early morning. How relevant was that when Hawke was warm and welcoming long after they’d both had their pleasure? More than once, in fact. They enjoyed themselves so thoroughly that they’d had to stop once to put the drapes out. Pesky fire magic had a way of intruding at the most inopportune occasions.

Much like Dorian’s decidedly unsexy insecurities invaded his mind post-coitus. That was how he ended up voicing unnecessary questions while he lounged against the firm pectoral of one Garrett Hawke.

“Do you suppose Cole was right?”

“Hm?” Hawke’s hum rumbled in his chest, a dangerously soothing sensation for Dorian. There happened to be a certain domestic quality to it that reminded him of what it meant to hope for a real love. A fool’s errand, more often than not.

Too late to retreat from it now, Dorian figured.

“That we’re not alone?”

He frowned when Hawke laughed, turning to place a kiss to his head between impish chortles. Why, oh why, was he always drawn to the mischievous ones? What ever became of ‘opposites attract’?

“Well, you’re here, I’m here,” he listed, the smile obvious in his bright tone. That made it markedly more difficult to be cross with him for treating this so lightly. “I think he may be on to something.”

“Oh, ha ha,” he deadpanned, sitting up. Hawke propped himself up on an elbow, watching him with something dangerously like affection. Arousal, Dorian could handle! There was no blaming him for that when he had the honor of witnessing his sculpted form in glowing candlelight. “You know what I meant.”

“Most places I go, people want to kill me or have me kill something for them. That’s basically all it’s been since Kirkwall.” For a second, Dorian kicked himself mentally for introducing a subject that detracted from the honeyed bliss of Hawke after many rounds of exceptional intercourse. Worse, it unveiled another common ground they shared. Dorian was only too familiar with the double-edged homesickness that made Hawke’s smirk wane. “I didn’t realize how miserable I was until I met up with Varric again. And then there’s you.”

Dorian’s heart did this strange flop and stutter as he was transfixed by Hawke reaching for his hand with a tender squeeze. His stay in Skyhold had been brief. The Inquisitor’s marvelous ability to stretch herself thin to serve the myriad crises across the land delayed him long enough to enamor Dorian, it seemed.

“Sinfully attractive,” Hawke flattered him, “with that sexy, tortured look that gets me weak in the knees.”

“Oh, please,” he made a flimsy attempt to dismiss what he knew to be feelings. Dorian decided against taking his hand away even so. The callouses on the Champion’s palms against the back of his properly moisturized hands felt entirely new. He would miss it when he departed. “Your knees haven’t been weak a day in your life.”

“Maybe not,” Hawke yielded with a one-armed shrug. “But if that dark day did ever come to pass, it’s good to know someone would understand.”

Oh. When reading Tale of the Champion in haste, Dorian attributed the suave style of Hawke’s dialogue to Varric. A wordsmith and a liar who obviously bore great love for his friend, Varric did strike him as likely to twist reality in his companion’s favor. Then Hawke had to go and make a sappy remark like that.

Dorian laid back down beside him, partly to cozy up to him for more warmth, but also to avoid meeting those fond eyes. He could only contend with so much sincere love and empathy in one night.

“You make the whole nasty business less awful for me too.”


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Where Ages Meet: Ch. 2: Changing Course

  • Word count: 2100 (4 to 17 minutes) | Rating: T
  • Read chapter 1
  • Available on Patreon and Wattpad
  • Note: Slight blood, magic, historic elements.
  • ©2021 Jam Blute

“Mr. Oliver,” Rick muttered, regretting his moment of impulse already. Oliver seemed close to his age, even if he was short, and that was where their common ground ended. Following him anywhere made Rick a crazy person. “I gave up my room for this.”

That was only the short version. He re-packed his belongings, haggled for some of his money back from that hotel, and carted them both to the arena. Setting up the horse and carriage for the night was another task and a half. Finding one of the few spaces still there took up most of his time, since most stables were turned into parking for cars. Paying for it used up the last of his boarding money. Hands in his pockets, Rick sighed and stared ahead at the building, circular with high walls and towering spires that he’d never been allowed past. Didn’t look like that was going to change today either.

“It’ll be alright, I promise!” Oliver scrambled, hand over his heart like he wasn’t making all this up as he went. This should’ve been the drop that overfilled the glass for Rick. He could still cut his losses and get home to the Lucky Stables in Drizero. But there was something about the eagerness and desperation in Oliver’s green eyes, or maybe the childlike expressiveness on that freckled face he sometimes wished he’d never seen at the stables … Or Rick could be mature and admit that learning magic sounded like the first real adventure he’d ever been on in his life. He exhaled again and waited for the rest of his excuse.

“I’m sure they’re just—talking. You see, she,” Oliver stopped and pointed to the well-dressed woman with long, black hair speaking to the new guards posted at the gate. The ones stationed there when he dropped off Oliver were nowhere to be seen. “She’s Cyrille of Silon, one of the leaders of the Mage Council and a family friend. I’ll go speak with her, and you’ll see how very alright everything is.”

“And the other three?” Two women and a man, from what he could see, stood together behind this Cyrille. That was more or less the end of their common ground.

“Oh, the other leaders? They’re not family friends, no.” Before Rick could stop him, Oliver patted his back and trotted off to what was plainly a tense conversation he wouldn’t be welcome in.

He had to learn sometime. The present was as good a time as any.

While Oliver got involved in the mess right in front of him, Rick just scratched at his stubble and thought about the mess he’d made of everything else.

This was a mistake. When Rick got home late and underpaid, his uncle would scold him until he couldn’t breathe. Then his father would take over if he was even home. But the excitable mage didn’t exactly force him into this. More like begged him, and he caved. That was on Rick.

A warm glow from the setting sun gave the tan walls of the capital arena an orange look, and the spring nighttime chill was closing in with it. At least he could sleep in his carriage if he had to. That was only fair for giving up his room for something stupid like this. It’s what Rick’s uncle would say, anyway.

He didn’t even notice the woman in glasses that met Oliver in the middle and walked him back, not until they were almost in front of him. A neat braid swept over her broad shoulders, and a scar on her right eyebrow showed she wasn’t the stereotypical delicate mage despite the pin in her collar. He didn’t know exactly what the swirling shape and rich stone meant for her in the Council. Still, he recognized it as a mage’s bauble. Everyone in Drizero knew the basics from the chatty sailors docking in their port at the Rauthia-Mucann border.

What she wore was more expensive than the mystical-looking gem set in Oliver’s stone pendant hanging on loose rawhide around his neck. He could tell that much by looking.

“It’s official Council business,” Oliver explained, smiling up at him as he absently tightened his messy bun. Like that made a difference in how scruffy he looked.

“I’m so reassured.”

If the sarcasm was lost on Oliver, and he had a feeling it was, she definitely caught it. Closer up, he realized the woman was younger than the Council leaders but older than the both of them. Maybe it would’ve been better if he’d put stock in his first impression instead of his frustration… Which was why he always drove the carriages and his uncle did the important work.

“My name is Sidonie. You are his aide, I see?” Her accent lingered on vowels and harder letters, and he quietly thought it was beautiful. Shaking the hand she offered, Rick nodded.

“Yes.” He was surprised how easy that was to say. Mistake or not, it appeared he didn’t have any regrets after all. That shock had to show on his face as he blinked it away.

“The training is—” She rolled her hands, frowning while she searched for the word. That and a smile came to her with a snap of her fingers. He half-expected them to spark. “Difficult, is it not?”

A blank glance to Oliver didn’t help much. He brightened and waved Rick on like they’d done anything for training. The one-sided conversations about spells and magical contests from the ride to Aethia did not count here. He saw Oliver animate a steamer trunk once, that was pretty difficult to wrap his head around. Rick looked at her and nodded again. “Yes.”

Sidonie chuckled, crossing her arms and giving him an approving look. “I like you.”

“Good eye as always, Sidonie!” Oliver introduced her at last. He was even worse with people than Rick. Blind to it all, Oliver grinned at him. “I find Rick here exceptionally likable.”

“And that’s enough of that,” Rick muttered. Driving a carriage kept him separate from people most of the time. It became a routine, driving and talking only to the horse when he didn’t have noisy passengers like Oliver. Then he’d stay the night alone if he had to and drive back to pick up another customer. Sometimes, he found someone to pay for the trip to the Drizero docks. Rick didn’t expect to discover that he was unused to attention by having two people say they liked him after barely knowing him.

Luckily, he was saved by Cyrille of Silon stepping up behind his new and unlikely magic teacher.

“Oliver,” Cyrille greeted him with a lighter accent than Sidonie, and he went in for an odd hug where they left airy kisses on each other’s cheeks.

This family friend of his looked every bit like a mage. Willowy and graceful with intricate tattoos on her olive skin, plus shining black hair pulled back in rows of small ponytails, she carried herself with the posture of someone who knew all there was to know about this world and the next. Even when she curled some stray hairs pointlessly behind his ear and asked, “How was the boat?”

“Oh, fine, fine,” he said through a laughed and looked away. Oliver really was a horrible liar.

Cyrille raised her eyebrows as Sidonie walked over to stand by Rick. It occurred to him then that she was probably Cyrille’s aide. Or whatever that was called when her teacher was a Council leader and not a barely held-together wandering mage.

“I might’ve gotten seasick,” Oliver finally gave up with a sheepish smile, scratching at his neck. Working his real magic, he swapped back to beaming in an actual blink of an eye. “But I kept up my practice!”

Resting her hand on his shoulder, Cyrille answered. “Of course. You are never discouraged.”

“Oh. Oh no.” He clasped his hands and stared up at her. Flicking his gaze from one eye to the other like something would change, Oliver actually looked like he was starting to sweat. “You’ve got bad news.”

Rick couldn’t get a read on Cyrille, neutral and patient as she was. He turned to Sidonie instead. She simply shook her head with a slow blink. Not for the first time, he found himself feeling bad for the guy. All that nervous hope and for what? Rick honestly had no idea how he held that up.

“The Aethia arena won’t be holding the Mage Trials.”

Oliver stayed perfectly still for once. He just took deep, quick breaths and stared. “It has to.”

“It doesn’t.” Cyrille said it as reassuringly as she could, bringing up her other hand to his opposite shoulder. Past her arm, he could see Oliver holding his hands together so tight that he was almost shaking.

“But it does!”

Out of nowhere, all his desperation to get to Aethia as soon as he could made more sense. Rick guessed this messy, talkative young man in the carriage wanted nothing but fame and fortune like so many people going to the capital. Oliver implied he’d even put his life in danger for it and at the time, Rick figured he’d die without getting there like every other idiot before. Only standing outside the arena with genuine fear in his voice did Rick realize something bigger was at stake.

He frowned, glaring at the smooth sidewalk. Maybe Oliver was a better liar than he thought. He knew enough to hide when something mattered to him, although he wasn’t experienced enough to not have anything matter to him to begin with. That’s what his uncle would tell him as he went to pieces over a silly trial. And what did he have to show for that? The man was allergic to hope. A nervous sort was better than nothing.

Looking at Sidonie, he saw her biting a corner of her lip. He took a page from Cyrille’s book and reached over to put a hand on her shoulder too. She moved her hand over his, which did suggest that was the right thing to do.

“An automobile show offered more for the space,” Cyrille explained, moving one hand to rest on Oliver’s chest. It seemed to help him steady off his breathing a little. “The arena accepted.”

“That’s—can they do that?” Dropping his hands and relaxing his death grip, it had to be progress of some kind that Oliver was closer to disappointed than panicked.

“In the Kingdom of Rauthia, yes.” That clipped delivery for her words revealed how upset Cyrille was or might be. It didn’t show in her expression at all. “Master Firuze will find another way.”

“But no, no, the Trials’ve been held in Aethia for generations, ever since Clair Roydon-Frye forged a pact with Duke Gord of Ghadog over a clever bet. It’s—” Whirling to face Rick so fast, Oliver actually reeled but somehow managed to talk anyway. “This isn’t me in a good light. Are you going to lose all respect for me?”

Rick was caught by surprise, pointing to himself as if he was gawking at anyone else like a lost puppy. He didn’t really respect Oliver any more or less than anyone else he hardly knew. Saying that would make the night worse for his new teacher and probably ruin his chances of being taught at all. Rick told him something else that was mostly true.

“Not possible, Mr. Oliver.”

“Good, very good.” He let out a long breath, possibly his longest since Cyrille joined them. “I’m happy you—oh no.”

It was good she still had a hand on his shoulder, because he needed the support throwing his head back like that. Rick and Sidonie both rushed over, catching the first glimpse of blood coming from Oliver’s nose before his close family friend had a handkerchief over it.

“Hold that there.” Cyrille ordered, taking her hand away from the scalloped black cloth while he took over like he was told. Gold embroidery trimmed the edges in a style he didn’t recognize as magic-inspired. Maybe from Silon? Old habits of figuring out if customers had money to tip well died hard. “You overexerted yourself.”

“Me?” His voice was muffled behind the dark fabric. A cheeky smile could be heard in it anyway, which wasn’t as endearing as Oliver must’ve believed. “What horrid slander. I would never, madame.”

“Sidonie,” Cyrille ignored him, a wise decision on her part. Sidonie took another step forward with a little bow that Rick hoped he’d never have to do for Oliver. “Call a car. Let’s get to the hotel.”


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Web of Love | Claude Edition Ch. 6: Lover’s Dance

Word count: 2000 (4 to 16 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Claude, Ferdinand, Lorenz, and Hubert

Read the previous chapter.

Sitting on the grass close enough to a bench to seem ridiculous, Ferdinand and Claude took advantage of the winter weather to lounge by the gazebo and chat when not many people were around. Piling up what remained of the pink flower petals in various shades, Claude smirked at Ferdinand. He’d been happier than usual ever since he started getting closer to Hubert all on his own with only some nudging from Claude. But nothing touched how thrilled he was after their little horse ride. Or almost nothing.

Word of Ferdinand being chosen to compete in the White Heron Cup carried on the breeze, and if that wasn’t enough, he danced whenever he could from that moment on.

“Congratulations are in order, from what I hear.” He topped the flower tower off with another pinch of petals and a bit of grass. For garnish. “You’re in the running to be the official Garreg Mach dancer!”

With a grin from Ferdinand blooming like that, it was good the flowers weren’t at their peak. Wouldn’t want nature getting envious! Ferdinand didn’t pay any heed to his white gloves as he plucked up some petals to add to the stack. Waves of bright orange hair fell into his face while he looked over the results of their teamwork and once again, Claude had to give it to Hubert—his crush made sense. He had such a discerning eye, just like the heir to House Aegir himself said those moons ago.

“Truth be told, I am quite nervous. I talked myself up to the professor, and I attended practice with them, but still,” He sat up to sigh, being considerate to the heap of petals. “I cannot shake this feeling.”

“Huh.” Claude leaned on one knee to prop his head on a hand more easily. Not like Lorenz was around to get flustered and correct him in that endearingly nagging way of his. “Did you try dancing with someone?”

“Oh, no,” he admitted in a hurry, “we are to be tested on our own skill.”

“Ferdinand, Ferdinand,” Claude teased, straightening up and brushing his gold cape off to the side again. Lying around wasn’t as easy as he wished it was. “It’s not cheating when leading someone in a dance is all part of the art.” With a half-shrug, he added, “Besides, what can you focus on when you’ve got no one in your arms? Probably just how worried you are.”

Ferdinand gave it a moment and stared thoughtfully at him. Before long, that trademark cheeriness was back in full force. If Ferdinand wasn’t such an overachiever making everyone else look downright lazy, his expressiveness would be his real claim to greatness.

“You present a good argument, Claude.”

Perfectly timed, if he thought so himself, Claude answered that compliment with a wink. “Of course I do. What you need is a partner!” He might’ve been too ready to look to the arched entrance by the gazebo, though. It helped that he knew what was coming. More accurately, who. “And who should wander over but just the man we need? Hubert!”

Hubert never believed in coincidences, but that squint as Claude waved him and Lorenz over showed exactly how skeptical he was of this one in particular. Didn’t help that Claude only called out to him either. The time to be subtle was long gone now that the academy’s latest couple shared their first kiss. Lorenz swore himself to secrecy on any details from Ferdinand outside of that, sure, but he knew better than to bother trying to hide the kiss from Claude. A match well-made like that? He’d never have rested until he knew how it panned out.

They walked up to join them and for a second, Ferdinand glanced bashfully to the flowers. A fact Hubert missed by quirking an eyebrow at Claude. Which he ignored, true to form. If he let every grumpy or off-putting thing Hubert did bother him, well, Claude couldn’t be his friend. That wasn’t worth missing out on. Gesturing to Ferdinand, he put his idea out there.

“You up for a dance with our dashing Ferdinand? He’s got a case of the nerves before the White Heron Cup.”

“Isn’t that to your benefit? We are competing, after all.”

Oh, Hubert and his natural pessimism. He worried about the guy living like that. Before he could say that, Ferdinand stood and took matters into his own hands.

“All the same, I—” He stopped, clearing his throat when he really didn’t need to, proving that poor Ferdinand wasn’t immune to nervousness. Even if it didn’t do much more than stall him at best. “I would very much enjoy a dance with you, I think. If you are as well, of course! It would be ungentlemanly to—”

Hubert forgot himself long enough to chuckle, softening his frown. “Take a breath, Ferdinand.”

What a world it was when Ferdinand did just that on nothing but Hubert’s advice. He took a careful breath in, letting that exhale out slowly—after which Hubert offered his hand. Claude gave a not-so-subtle thumbs up to Lorenz when he saw that happen. He expected the Empire’s scariest shadow to make an attempt to boss them both out of the gazebo area, but he had his priorities straight. Lorenz, of course, was too much of a romantic to do anything other than beam at Claude over the suave display. To think how far he’d come from how he reacted to the gauntlet present!

“I would be delighted,” Hubert assured Ferdinand like not another soul was there.

“Perfect!” Leaping to his feet, Claude ducked behind the nearly barren tree to produce a lute. He skipped back out in no time to ask Lorenz, “Did you bring the piccolo?”

Pressing the tips of his fingers to his chest, Lorenz radiated that principled pride he loved to reach for. “But of course!”


A full 13 centimeters taller than Ferdinand, his dance partner stood over him at the ideal height. It was not that he required a taller partner or that it made leading him particularly easy… But Ferdinand found he had an appreciation for those green eyes looking down at him so much more warmly than he ever would have believed before. All that was behind them. In place of that tension and bickering were new memories of kisses in that cozy clearing.

“Hubert,” he tried to speak only to him as Claude and Lorenz coordinated their song for what they quite clearly knew to expect. “Did you plan this?”

“Our musicians did, I believe.” They got situated with an ease Ferdinand did and did not feel. His right hand rested on the lower part of Hubert’s pronounced shoulder blade as though it belonged there. Their hands clasped with a balanced give that would permit them to communicate without speaking as dancers were expected to. They had not taken a single step and already, Ferdinand’s heart began beating somewhat faster!

“Lorenz lured me here by saying you had asked for me at the gazebo,” Hubert began, that hushed quality to his voice striking him as intimate all of a sudden, “which didn’t appear overly suspicious. Meanwhile, Claude kept you here for our arrival.” Unsurprisingly, it was easier to collect himself when Hubert faced away to their companions. “Either one could have kept you company, but I would be notably less suspicious of your childhood friend relaying a message than this trickster masquerading as house leader.”

Claude waved, indifferent to having been there all along. “You’re welcome, Hubert!”

That gold bead in his hair caught a glimmer of late sunlight while he grinned. Ferdinand had to confess, a surge of gratitude swelled in his chest at all the effort he must have put into this. For their benefit! He would have to bake him some sweet treats to express how thankful he was.

The music started especially for the two of them, and more innately than he thought he might, Ferdinand led his partner in the dance. Hubert complied with his silent directions smoothly. A gentle pressure against his back encouraged him to move into the turn with Ferdinand as the gazebo garden colored the world behind them. It could have been a grand ballroom for all the warmth and light burning his heart! More than all his precious, fragile daydreams as a boy of one day having a love no house of nobility would approve felt entirely within reach. He had to repeat a mantra in his mind that this was an altogether inappropriate time to tear up over a dream realized.

At the final stage, he did hesitate. “I—I am not certain I can dip you.”

“Not yet,” Hubert encouraged him in two simple words. When had that become so natural and right? “I’ve a substitute until then.”

Taking his hand from Ferdinand’s arm, he guided him to tilt his head back with only a single finger bent beneath his chin. It was Ferdinand who then let himself be led to what he had longed for since that one teatime kiss. Hubert’s lips were precisely as warm as he recalled them being. No opera or hopeless dreaming could ever live up to an experience so tender and magical as Hubert, who once was his harshest critic, choosing to share this beautiful wonder with him. With the approval of their friends, no less! Their clasped hands naturally came apart so they could hold one another, and another kiss followed with a whistle from Claude.

They took this as a reasonable sign to stop the music. Ferdinand didn’t know if this practice dance would soothe him at the competition or make him blush. Frankly, he did not care in the slightest when it meant he could feasibly share kisses with Hubert more often! An eternal moment passed with only smiles shared between them and still, he could not convince his heart to do anything less than flutter and soar.

“I love you,” he said on a breath and instantly felt a heat rise in his cheeks. “Oh! I had not intended… That was too soon, was it not?”

“No.” Hubert brushed his hand through the shorter side of Ferdinand’s hair and kept his heart in the balance of that silence. “I love you as well.”

“Lorenz,” Claude questioned from where they sat together, “are you crying?”

As one, they turned to their friends and held hands with fingers intertwined so lightly as to feel imagined. Ferdinand was there with Hubert’s hand in his, and he could barely believe it! The change did allow him to see firsthand that his childhood friend from the Alliance was moved to tears. For easily the hundredth time, he did wonder why Lorenz felt compelled to conceal his poetic pastimes when he was so in tune with the finer moments of the heart.

“What else could be expected of me? They are so affectionate and doting,” Lorenz explained with a dignified sniff and dabbed his eyes with a rose embroidered kerchief.

“We benefitted very much from the involvement of our beloved friends,” Ferdinand said from the bottom of his heart. Their devotion to bringing them together was unnoticed in certain aspects, that was true, but he would never suffer them thinking it went unappreciated!

“Hear that, Hubert?” Unconventional in most regards, Claude sat on the back of the bench beside Lorenz and planted his feet on the seat of it. “I did good work.”

As a close second to their first semi-public kiss, the noticeable smile that got from Hubert would remain captured for all eternity in Ferdinand’s soul. That emotional honesty, so novel and meaningful, had more value than any and all secrets his role as Imperial minister contained.

“That you did,” he agreed with such impact as only Hubert could deliver in so few words.


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Where Ages Meet: Ch. 1: Paths Crossed

  • Word count: 1900 (4 to 17 minutes) | Rating: T
  • Available on Patreon and Wattpad
  • Note: Magic, historic elements.
  • ©2021 Jam Blute

The carriage ricketed down the path, rocking from side to side not too unlike the boat Oliver left behind a few days ago. Honestly, he should’ve puked up his entire stomach by then. If not from the motion, from the anxiety, if not from those, from the excessive spellcasting and all-nighters, and if not from all of that, from the fact that everyone he met was tired of him already.

“Excuse me, yes, pardon me,” he began, possibly out of desperation for some social aspect to break up the blur of practice and half-sleep, “Hypothetical question for you,” he said through the small window to the carriage driver. Rick was his name, just a dull-eyed teen who didn’t turn or acknowledge him in any fashion.

“If you were heading toward a massive contest, or at least formerly massive, that would earn you possible worldwide renown and a great portion of your material desires for the rest of your life, even if it would put that life in certain danger of an abrupt and humiliating end– Would you still go?” He waited. A jerk of the reins brought the horses on a steady turn and the driver scratched at his stubble.

“Just wondering. Purely hypothetical.”

“…No, sir. I believe I would not.” Ah, he did speak. Truth be told, the mage wished he would speak more. There was a certain rustic eloquence in his flowing tones and raspy voice. It matched his weathered appearance, skinny though he was, draped in rough clothes and leather packs. “But I’ve little use for fame or material things.”

“Really. That is interesting.” Oliver never could tell a convincing lie. Perhaps that was the source of his societal shortcomings and those evident traits that allowed him to become a mage in the first place. “Well now. Thank you, thank you very kindly. That will be all.”

And they didn’t speak again until the sun eased its way down and the moon slid its way up. Rick originally turned the horse onto a path to the miserable village of Kendon. That was before Oliver got him to swear to turn the carriage around, drive through the night no matter the threat, and travel to Aethia, the (waning) magical capital of the world. Rick made some money off the vow.

He woke up not to Rick, like he expected, but to Aethia’s bubbling morning bustle and the accompanying distant bird calls. The ocean was off by a day or so, but the sea birds still graced the city with caws and droppings. Even that early, six or maybe seven in the morning, people moved about the streets and brought the carriage’s pace to a patient amble. Fortunately for them, there were few of the new “automobiles” about…

Still, they made it to the arena at the city’s approximate center before noon and that was all that mattered. Even if that was when the driver got the other half of his payment, Oliver was thrilled to finally arrive, to look at the vaulted stone spires and rows of pointed arch windows.

Oh, to take it all in firsthand… As Rick unloaded the mage’s two carpet bags onto the limestone path and eventually stared at the stout steamer trunk on the rear luggage rack. Oliver was so fixed on the arena, imagining his way through corridors to his assigned and truly unremarkable room (though it would impress him to no end), that it took the carriage boy speaking to get his attention.

“Sir, the trunk.”

“Oh, of course, right,” he corrected himself, joining an unimpressed Rick at the back of the carriage and pulling up his sleeves. “I’ll handle this.”

With a whispered incantation, his eyes closed, he missed Rick’s muted expression of shock and revulsion as the trunk rocked. Sticks of cedar jutted out from its side, the wood cracking in the strain even as the process left no marks in the trunk or the leather straps. Oliver kept his eyes closed, muttering the made-up language while the sticks bent as if they had an elbow, coming out further until they ended in square hands. They had no form, looking like thumbless mittens even as they closed and opened.

It got up on its rangy haunches, shook the new arms and legs as if their stiffness could be fixed that way, and clambered down the side of the carriage to pick up the waiting bags.

“Well, thank you for all your help, kind sir.” Oliver took Rick’s hand in his, shaking it and leaving a small sack of money in the driver’s palm. “I expect my gratitude will cover your homeward expenses.”

“Sure,” he said, seeming a little concerned about something. It had to be one of their mental states. But he put the sack in his pocket and returned to the carriage led by the chestnut horse with stunted ears and eerily large eyes. Riding inside the whole time, the mage didn’t notice until now just how unsettling they were.

The two turned their separate ways and that brought Oliver to the arena’s gate, guarded by security officials in navy blue uniforms with glinting silver trims almost outshone by the spotless black of their shoes and for some, the badges on their uniforms. Naturally, only two of the ten officials would talk to him.

He went through unsurprising questions without much trouble. What sort of mage are you? How long have you been practicing? Have you ever been detained or arrested by the Mages’ Council for any purpose? Passing that test, they moved on to the practical portion of the exam. Cast any spell for us, okay, that’s great, now use another to unlock this chest no wider than a tankard and get your Trialist Charm. Great, you did that, now…

“Where’s your aide?”

“Hm?” Oliver looked up at the stern woman’s face, finally over the scar at her left jaw line and not staring at it instead of her eyes anymore. His new fixation had been on the opalesque gem in the center of the stone charm. He was in the middle of wondering if everything at the arena was made of stone when she interrupted him. “Excuse me?”

“Your aide. Where are they?” Aide. Aide. Why hadn’t he heard of this before? Oh no, not good… They were starting to question his hesitation.

“Oh, my aide, you meant them. Well, they’re off looking after the horse. Chestnut, a real dear. Well, no, she’s a horse, but…” He trailed off and sensed that they had lost their patience. “I’ll go and get him, she’ll be alright.”

He didn’t even ask if he could join without an aide since he already had the Trialist Charm and all. He just left the trunk behind to wait, running past the landscaped woods towards central Aethia. If he could find Rick at the stables, if any remained, offer him yet more money, which he was running out of, and convince him to be his aide, learn some magic… Well, that shouldn’t be hard. Wasn’t that everyone’s dream?

Panting, Oliver stopped in the first motel he came across and began the search. He wouldn’t leave the city that day because he hadn’t slept the night before, which left that night and the next morning to find him. “Excuse me, pardon, if it’s not too much trouble,” he paused for a gasp of air, “Did a young man come in here named Rick? To stay the night?”

They said no in that place and demanded to know who was asking in the second one, assuring that he wasn’t there mostly because Oliver didn’t want to argue. So the hunt went until the fourth place of lodging, where the staunch doorman told him what he so wanted to hear. If the horse and carriage outside weren’t obvious clues. “Yeah, a few hours ago. A real lanky thing he was. Looked like he hadn’t slept in a day.”

“Oh, that’s him,” Oliver sighed, daring to smile now that he had the news he wanted. “Which room is he in?”

He got a leery look, a once-over to see if maybe he looked the sort who would kill someone in their rented room and cause a huge mess for the owner. Another few coins lost, but the room’s location gained, he went upstairs to the third door on the left and banged an open hand on the door.

“Rick, open up,” he called, staring down at the knob and forcing himself to not go in anyway. “I have another favor that needs doing. I wouldn’t trust anyone else with it, of course, so I came to give you the first chance. Extra money, Rick, I can promise you that if you’ll help out with this one favor.”

Oliver jumped at the thump inside the room, maybe something slamming against the wall or onto the floor. He waited, biting his lip and biding his time. “Rick,” he ventured after a few seconds without another sound. “How is everything in there? Are you alright?” Soft rhythmic creaks got louder and then the door opened just a crack. Rick looked worse now than before, a lot worse.

“What is it.” Eyes half shut and the look on his face just begging Oliver to give him a reason to punch the mage, Rick wasn’t in any mood for politeness and Oliver wasn’t crazy enough to demand it.

“Can I come in and talk?”

“No.”

Well then. Alright, Oliver could work with that. Running both hands through his hair, taking a deep breath, he started up with his explanation.

“Remember that probably massive contest?” And his future aide’s eyes shut even more. He lost some ground there, granted, but it would be won back as soon as he got to tell the story. “Well, to be in it for real, I need an aide.”

“I’m not it.”

“Hey, hear me out,” he bargained, stopping the door with his hand only because Rick didn’t slam his hand in it. If he really wanted to, he could. Being a carriage driver made him a lot stronger. “There’s a lot in it for you, Rick, I promise. I’ll pay you twice what you made as a driver,” Oliver said, counting the benefits on one hand and watching the driver’s interest pique as his eyes almost nearly opened.

“I thought magic was dying off,” he answered, but he was swaying, Oliver could just feel it. Or perhaps that was the numb, light feeling of lacking oxygen.

“And isn’t carriage driving? Look, I’ll teach you magic, and that in itself is an experience to behold. Plus, you can stay at the arena with me and a ton of other mages and their aides, and the Council will take care everyone completely free of charge! What do you say?”

And then there was the wait. He kind of hated looking at Rick leaning against the doorframe, thinking, wondering if this was worth it. When that smirk finally came, it brought a flood of relief with it and Oliver smiled back. Wasn’t often that both of them felt happy for the same reason. “Alright, Mr. Oliver,” he agreed and held out his hand that wasn’t on the doorknob of his side of the door. “You’ve got a deal.”


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On a Whim | FE3H Huleth Fanfiction

Word count: 2200 (3 to 17 minutes) | Rating: G | Fire Emblem: Three Houses | Characters: Hubert von Vestra and Byleth Eisner (Huleth)


The professor should have said no. It would have been wise. Someone with more charm would be better suited to represent the Black Eagles in the White Heron Cup. True, he would be in the student uniform for the competition, and he only had to concern himself with the dancer attire in the rare and unlikely event that he won. But it would be ordeal enough to be paraded about a dance floor to demonstrate skills he developed only as much as was strictly necessary. For the courtly duties associated with his rank, Hubert was capable of dancing without injuring his partner inadvertently and little else.

Yet the professor was adamant that he be their representative. If Hubert were to be honest with himself, he didn’t offer much resistance. He even agreed to practice with instruction from the professor in the same sunny field as the other White Heron representatives. Had it been left up to him, he could list at least three secure and private locations where he might make a fool of himself without commentary from his peers at Garreg Mach. Somehow, he recommended not one of them and instead walked from his quarters to the agreed upon location for dance practice as instructed.

“To think I’d be rehearsing dance moves, of all things,” Hubert said in lieu of a more standard greeting, joining Byleth by the small field neighboring the hall where the White Heron Ball would be hosted. He remained unsure how to feel about being witnessed in such a frivolous practice, but… He agreed to shoulder this burden. A shame that the pressure of giving orders in combat did nothing to prepare one for scrutiny, real and imagined, from other students. The one convenience was that the grounds were unseasonably warm for winter.

“You must have some advice, Professor?”

“Slight stretching will help if you’ve been still for a long time.” He had just been studying in his quarters, in a manner of speaking. What he was researching was not for any class Garreg Mach would dare to host, but it was a study session nonetheless. He would call it uncanny insight if it wasn’t so reasonable an assumption for her to make of his habits. “Watch and learn.”

Bending into a partial lunge, she raised her hands palm out and nodded to him.

Ah. He was to mirror her, then. Surely, he could do that much.

Hubert planted one foot behind him as Byleth had and bent his knee somewhat as he did so. More than the professor, of course, given she was shorter than him. His gloved hands met some resistance in hers to mimic the communicative resistance found in partner dancing. Not that any student on the field had someone dancing with them.

She watched him, something unknown hidden in the recesses of her cerulean eyes. He felt strongly that this suggested duality within her nature was one he could not trust, but also one that intrigued him. What did Lady Edelgard see in their professor that he could not place? There had to be value there to encourage her interest. It wouldn’t be the first circumstance where Edelgard sensed something more acutely than Hubert had, and it was the not knowing that was proving to be a source of frustration for him.

“The other foot now,” Byleth noted, and they both stood to switch with innate synchronization.

Irritated though Hubert might be, he had to admit that they coordinated well. That contributed to his unease at times, in fact. Few understood him well no matter how much time they were granted to do so. To be so clearly read in less than a year after their first meeting… Hubert frowned.

“Don’t overthink it.” An absence of expression made his professor rather difficult to read. To make matters worse, an especially unhelpful layer of sweat had gathered in the palm of his glove. The way the human body reacted to social stress for maximum inefficiency both mystified and exasperated Hubert. Did he not have enough to consider as it was? He corrected his expression to neutrality even so.

“I will be sure to reflect on that.”

After a few repetitions, they ended their stretches so as to avoid doing too much before he was limber enough not to risk injury. Hubert aimed to avoid a tragic accident during the contest, not arrange for one during the much-needed lessons. However tempting it might be when he considered dancing in front of the judges alongside Lorenz and Mercedes.

“Very good. Ready to start?”

“I know I agreed to do what I can,” Hubert ventured, suddenly plagued by the old ghosts of self-consciousness more common in his childhood. He looked out at his other practicing classmates and reasoned he could be no worse than any of them. Feasibly. “But I must warn you that my dancing skills are rudimentary. I learned only what was required of me as a noble.”

That extent of knowledge was only right. Lady Edelgard could not be seen with an incompetent servant in any regard.

“I disagree.”

With no notable inflection or shift in her stare once he did glance back to her, Hubert had no way to know what she meant by that. He knew well that her selection of him as the White Heron contestant wasn’t due to no one else desiring the role—Ferdinand was practically making pamphlets to plead for his aspirations—but Hubert never put stock in the idea that she might have true faith in his ability to excel here. With his eyebrows raised, he had no option but to ask for more information from Byleth.

“Excuse me?”

“Mages need dexterity to cast spells. It’s not so different with dance.” The explanation she offered was logically sound. Hubert had no objection to it, and she evidently took that silence as agreement. Stepping back to observe from the stone path beside the field, the professor gestured for him to begin his rehearsal. “Practice the steps you know.”

Hubert took a deep breath and raised his arms to the proper placement: one hand poised as if holding another’s in it and the other, resting at the imaginary shoulder blade of his partner. He felt distinctly ridiculous. Years of training in extracting information from unwilling sources and striking fear into the hearts of adversaries by mere name made for a poor foundation in warding off this brand of anxiety. Drawing up his posture, he stepped out with a solid position for his foot and trailed the other with practiced routine. Not artful, perhaps, but workable. It was all he needed for the time being. Dipping his imagined partner, he bent one knee and straightened the other. All while feeling her gaze on him as surely as if the Luna spell loomed over him.

That smothering stare added to how strangely difficult the mock dance was while staring at patches of grass and gravel. Particularly so as other students also carried out their dance steps to best represent their classes. Or simply to be part of the experience, he supposed, for those students who went through the motions alone. Two nosy children in his peripheral stood by the professor and watched him as well, leaving Hubert with an audience of three that made the hair on his neck stand up from the observation.

When he straightened again, he met Byleth’s eyes and furrowed his brow. She looked as steady as ever—yet he felt an unspoken understanding had been conveyed.

“Would a partner help you get the hang of this, Hubert?”

“Yes, undoubtedly,” he answered without hesitation or realizing his mistake until she stepped into the place of that imagined person.

He had to adjust his pose. She was 24 centimeters shorter than him, although approximately the same height as the person he imagined. A fact he didn’t care to introspect on too closely. Her hand slipped into his with as much effortlessness as his hand fit against her shoulder blade beneath her cape. Why his hand had guided itself under that layer, he could only wonder at. Meanwhile, the tension in his chest clamped down for entirely separate reasons from beforehand.

Hubert futilely wished those children would be called away to their tasks by whoever they worked for at Garreg Mach.

Before anything so merciful could take place, Byleth put her hand on his shoulder. He had his cue to begin the dance anew. His pulse pounded in his temples but memory through repetition came to his rescue. Having a dance partner did smooth out his process as well. His steps were crisper, and the need to direct his professor with light pressure between their clasped hands and against her back gave him a purpose to center his focus on. One that was not the distinct magnetism of a partner who moved with him more smoothly than any other noble he had been forced to endure at various Imperial celebrations.

“You’re graceful.”

Her voice nearly startled him on account of being so mired in thought himself. And here Hubert was recently warned not to overthink matters. They went into another turn—he decided against the dip in light of his inability to remain unaffected—as he formed his miserable excuse of an answer.

“I deliver better results in my work that way.”

“Stay out of your head,” Byleth cut to the quick of the situation and he scowled once again. What ever became of that legendary ability to conceal his innermost thoughts? They stood in the starting position of the dance by chance with Hubert thinking only of the various places they touched.

Now, at 20 years old, he was fixated on the closeness to someone he found maddeningly compelling. Like he was nothing more than a fickle teenager ruled by his whims. As he let out another impatient sigh, the professor did afford him a shadow of a smile.

“Father once said a dance is a conversation.”

“Did he now?” In his skepticism was the implication that choice of wording was unusual for a seasoned former captain in the Knights of Seiros and hardened mercenary.

“He was drunk.”

“How illuminating.” That did get a smirk from him. It did sound markedly more like the severely indebted Blade Breaker, leaving staggering unpaid balances at taverns in his wake. Alois truly needed to leave this grown man to handle his own issues.

“I think he had a point,” Byleth returned to the subject she had in mind. He may finally have lost any semblance of control of his faculties, but he swore he could see an almost indistinguishable trace of pink to her cheeks. “Talk with me.”

He swallowed thickly and began wordlessly. Hubert could not speak. There was no telling what he might say, if anything, were he to try. Where prolonged eye contact would normally be something to weaponize against an unwanted presence near Lady Edelgard, there was an unplaceable comfort and intimacy to it between himself and the professor. One that stayed his heart at last despite the riots breaking out in his mind.

Every logical argument he’d employed against trusting the professor buckled under the overwhelming strength of their instinctive synergy. He had absolutely no capacity to prevent himself from lowering her into the dip that time, layered hair brushing past her shoulders to give him a clear view of the white buttoned collar against a slender, scarred neck. By archer’s bow or unfortunate mishap, he could not know without confessing to the lingering stare she must have noticed.

The professor’s astute perceptions of him all but guaranteed he had been discovered. Yet she did not object or appear horrified. Hubert did not have the advantage of her insight and therefore, had no knowledge on her reaction whatsoever. The reasons that did not sit well with him were admittedly not what they should have been. He longed to know not solely for greater security or intelligence on their enigmatic professor. No, he wished to know merely because it was her.

In the moment they straightened to their starting pose again, the dance was finished and his opportunity, gone. She removed her hand from his and he suppressed the twinge of regret as he withdrew his own hands to hang uselessly at his side. Leaving her gauntleted hand on his shoulder, Byleth gave it an affirming squeeze Hubert had not expected.

“I enjoyed our chat.”

He blinked. The chat? It was shameful, honestly, how long it took him to realize she referred to the ‘talk’ that was their dance. Worse, to have it sink in what she must have heard from him if her father’s description of a dance was at all accurate.

“Yes. Yes, I—” Hubert stalled, feeling warmth rising to his cheeks as the final curse against him and this entirely unbelievable circumstance he found himself in. Clearing his throat in a failed recovery, he cast his eyes to the grass at their feet and gave one iota of honesty. There would be no disguising it no matter what the tactical choice might be. “As did I.”


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If you enjoyed this story, you might also like the bittersweet fluff of The Boy Forgotten short story.

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