A Union of Kings | FE3H Fanfiction

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.”

“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.


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Saving Ourselves: Ch. 5: Honesty


Dira Bae

At the edge of his consciousness, Dira felt a motion like a carriage rocking. The paths surrounding the forest were all beaten down by people instead of paving, after all. He shouldn’t have been surprised, then, when they hit a ditch and he slammed his against the wooden wall. He groaned and reached up to rub at the sore spot only to find both hands came up. Because they were tied together at the wrist. The same went for the second set of arms, and the only reason his feet were free was probably because they ran out of rope.

“You deserved that.” Noyo’s voice came from a sliver at the top of the carriage near where the driver sat. At least this driver talked to him, not like the last time he was kidnapped. Earlier that same day. Did it count for something that it seemed personal with his current captor? Dira doubted that.

Distrust was a survival tool for Noyo, no different than a magic staff or armor. He never even got the opportunity to fumble and break that trust himself before he was written off. But he could see there was more to it than he caught at first glance. Most people were like picture books without words. Enough guessing, and you could figure the rough outline of their story.

To start with, Noyo probably went by ‘they’ from that ambiguous elven haircut, woman’s shirt, and man’s coat. He wasn’t in a good spot to ask. Dark elf culture held the identity of the spirit above the limits of a physical vessel, so it would have been plenty acceptable for them to identify that way. All the exact beliefs around that concept differed from dark elves to the chiali like Dira, but they were the same at heart. Noyo also had to be one of the few and damaged Garres City survivors with a shrewd mentality like theirs. It was honest fact that anyone could be cunning, no catalyst of a world-altering disaster needed. You did lose that one-of-a-kind shared trauma if you were naturally sharp, though. The two of them might have found other tragedies to bond over if Noyo didn’t commit to suspecting him of anything they could get to stick.

He was prepared to gripe about that. Ignoring the ache spreading across his head, Dira slid along the cart’s floor to be closer to the window slot. It wasn’t that far from him on account of his height. He could see the braid meeting in a thin ponytail at the back of Noyo’s head and some of the thick smoke past their protective ward.

“Because you don’t like me? Seems harsh.”

“You knew you’d react like that to the harvest,” they presented a point, although not an especially good one.

“If I knew I’d fall on poor Loren and then some ferns, I wouldn’t have stayed,” Dira explained and threw his hands up in exasperation, knowing it was wasted. They couldn’t see him but could possibly hear his frustration. Maybe that was enough to rile them up? Even he didn’t believe that. Tapping his knuckles on the cart’s back wall, he tried for it anyway. “That was your doing, while we’re on about this.”

“You knew Loren’s brother, Stefan.” Noyo’s continued argument was as blunt as ever. They weren’t taking any of the reasons he gave to dislike him, just the ones that weren’t on offer. Dira clicked his tongue and sighed. If only Noyo would let themselves be distracted from his… unique condition.

He felt a pitch in the cart floor that suggested a western turn deeper into the dense smog and towards Brook Mills at the heart of it. So the plan was unchanged since he passed out, and that gave Dira something to work with. They had to find who or what still existed from their home city-state in order to be rescued and rescue them right back. The ward sigils for Loren and Noyo wouldn’t have lasted the distance to any other city-state.

“Ah, that’s a restrainable offense.”

“We shall see once I have the truth about both.”

Dira nodded to himself in the cart, familiar with this stunt of implying he wouldn’t be released until he gave them what they wanted. It happened from time to time. But it was hard to buy when there was a sweet sapling like Loren in tow. He couldn’t imagine her being so mad that she’d agree to using force or anything too messy to get answers. Could be that Noyo meant to wait him out and see if he tried to escape, giving them a reason to break out those darker tactics.

Better for Noyo not to know he could untie himself in that case. His tail was dexterous enough that he could manage, even if it took a while thanks to the hair along it, the dark, and the pitted road. If he did get the ropes loose right then, there was nowhere to go. The narrow windows in the cart walls showed only heavy smog on all sides. With his smaller aura of safety, some of it got into the carriage to claw at the glowing border of it. Dira had less of plan than they did.

He learned from hitting his head before and stopped himself from resting against the wall before turning to the sliver where Noyo sat.

“I didn’t know they were related, Noyo. Promise.”

The glare over their shoulder was immediate, and he wondered for a moment if they were watching the road ahead. Then he remembered there wasn’t much to see in the shroud.

“How did you know my name?”

“Loren used it after we killed those Union mages.” If there was one pattern Dira had memorized, it was that giving honest answers whenever you could made it easier to slip lies through like contraband nestled in with daily essentials.

“And she gave you hers.” He wasn’t being asked. Noyo was barely speaking to him, facing forward again with a frown in their tone. Dira waited for some kind of sign that they realized their mistake in making that assumption and when he got none, he held to his idea of being truthful.

“You did.” Silence as a response for his trouble came as less of a shock. He stood on shaky feet, moving to one thin slot on the side and tried to look for another barrier in the swirling smoke. Loren had to steer the other cart with him tied up in the back of this one. There was no leaving it behind if they wanted to help the Brook Mills survivors, and she wasn’t up with Noyo. He wasn’t sure what he expected to see by squinting into the inky black-violet abyss outside that seemed to move with intent. Dira braced against the rocking of the carriage and looked to Noyo before asking what he had on his mind. “Is she upset?”

“Don’t.” That harsh edge marked the single word as a firm warning. Sometimes, he could press those. Now wasn’t one of those chances. Dira sat down and moved to the center with legs crossed to wait instead. “You got what you were after. We’re stuck with you for now.”

He had to scoff and shrug in real disbelief at that. Noyo was direly overestimating how much time he spent scheming against two people he’d never met before. “You think I, what, planned this?”

“The alternative is that you met us by coincidence.” Noyo was quiet for a beat while the cart tilted at an angle. They were on a hill leading down into the valley where the city-state would be. If they found the barrier generators quickly, with villagers huddled up by it or not, they were saved. If not… Maybe Noyo was paying attention when Union mages recharged sigils and could use their abandoned tools. A Union outpost was easier to find in a city-state than a dead generator. Perhaps they wouldn’t die out there. “That answer it for you?”

The plan had changed slightly in that sense. Dira would stay tied up while they did what they had to at Brook Mills and took anyone they could to safety with the newly charged generators. Ideally. The next stop had to be finding refuge in Genoa Falls, since there weren’t many other city-states in range of what they harvested into the tank. When something did go wrong between Brook Mills and Genoa, all four of his hands were literally tied.

“Lovely.”


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A Dark Duty Upheld | FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 4800 (10 to 38 minutes) | Rating: T | Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers| Characters: Hubert von Vestra and the Black Eagles Students (and minor OCs)


Alister had always been among the slighter boys of the Hresvelg line. His twin, Armida, shared more of Lady Edelgard’s constitution than he did. Their comparison was only made simpler by the one year between the twins and the younger Edelgard. Somehow, Alister had outlasted his twin sister in the experiments regardless. Hubert waited by the cell door, watching his diminished, pale form asleep on the cot. His hair was nearly indistinguishable from his skin even in the dim cell.

The inhuman creatures who invaded the Enbarr palace undercroft and warped it for their sinister ends had decreed that Alister was no longer useful for experimentation. His identity had eroded way to a meaningless swirl of his own recollections and the past evidently stored within the Crest they forced upon him. They told Hubert very little directly, but he had excelled in espionage for many years by then. He rarely required telling to know.

Therefore, when he uncovered their plans to dispose of Alister as indifferently as one would with expired supplies, Hubert inserted himself into the plan. His father refused the very thought but was outmatched by Solon. His conclusion was that it would be beneficial for Hubert to execute a child of House Hresvelg. Whether for mockery, leverage, or simply to cause him pain, Hubert couldn’t say. Neither did it much matter. He achieved what he aimed to: a merciful passing for a descendent of the Imperial throne from someone who knew him well.

Alister’s sleep was not restful if his breathing was any indication, yet it was better than none at all. Hubert could afford to allow him that much. For what must be done next, any amount of waiting was acceptable.

And wait he did. The poison had already dissolved into the warm Hresvelg blend tea, and cooling would not reverse that. Beside that plain porcelain teacup was a sweet bun, which Hubert had been careful to instruct the palace cooks in making for Lady Edelgard. The recipe came from Faerghus through Hubert’s burgeoning network. Knowing Alister’s sweet tooth as he did and being confident it was unchanged, he was certain he would enjoy the light meal as his last. No sense in making him nauseous from overeating in his final moments.

“Ngh,” Alister groaned, tensing in his sleep. There was no pillow and merely a sparse sheet beneath him to clutch in the thralls of whatever plagued his dreams. Illness claimed Armida; madness had come for Alister. Twisting to face Hubert and drawing his legs in, he forced out a breath as if he’d been kicked. “No, ah—”

He startled awake, panting for a while until his breathing steadied. Only then did he squint into the shadows beyond the bars and see Hubert with the silver serving tray.

“Who…? Ah, yes.” Alister’s shoulders gradually fell, and he took a minute to get himself seated at the cot’s edge. He lifted his head to examine him as a familiar stranger. “Hu…bert…?” He was unsure. Inquiring. Still, it was the most lucid he’d been in days. A fortunate state of mind for the arbitrary day of execution chosen by his captors.

“Yes. You must be hungry,” he ventured, lifting the tray as a gesture. There was little chance he wasn’t, but that wasn’t the true question. Hubert had to be sure his clarity was lasting before he entered the cell with him. In his bouts of madness, Alister was inhumanly strong and blindly aggressive. Hubert could manage that but preferred a comfortable end for him. Failing in his defense of Lady Edelgard’s family… The least he could deliver was a peaceful and painless death.

“And you snuck food down here for me? You must be very quiet.” Alister was quiet himself, lowering his gaze to the floor. “Did you get some to the others?”

“Of course.” He had, in some cases. At least recently, although not tonight.

“How is she? That girl who shared my birthday?” Armida’s name was lost to him while her connection to him endured in the barest sense. Considering their closeness as twins, that lapse in memory proved the devastation that blood reconstruction surgery could visit upon the psyche. Not for Lady Edelgard, of course. She retained perfect awareness throughout this depraved cruelty. That outcome being the better of the two was telling.

“As well as could be expected.” He’d been informed of Armida’s passing twice before to unmatched despair, at which time Hubert resolved to omit that fact in future inquiries. Twice was too many as it was.

“I don’t suppose you have the keys?”

“I do.” Hubert held open his cloak to reveal the black keys on his belt. Normally, they were not so accessible. It scarcely mattered when he was visiting the cells of the undercroft. He was the sole person there with restricted access.

Kronya meant to make his acquisition of the keys into a game of some sort, as she derived the most amusement from tormenting him, but Thales had strictly forbid it. Not that the vile creature himself was present at the time. Solon enforced the decree more from impatience than any true loyalty. Even slight devotion couldn’t be expected from these twisted beasts.

“You do?” Raising his head again at last, Alister appeared almost hopeful. An ache stirred distantly in the depths of Hubert’s heart at the sight. With a deliberate breath, he quelled that sentiment. There would be time for remorse when the deed was done. It was one matter to wait so Alister could rest and another to give Solon a chance to reverse his decision while Hubert labored over his feelings. “No point in escaping, is there?”

“…I’m afraid not.” The disorientation and lapses in his own memories caused by the experimentation did not lend him strong stability even within his own cell. Alister would likely be overcome by madness in this very hallway even if he were released. Or worse, slaughtered in his escape attempt by the very same despicable creatures that Hubert shielded him from.

His thoughtful pause was brief, and he held his gaze on Hubert by coincidence alone. He may as well have been a stretch of wall for the exhaustion in Alister’s eyes.

“Could you come in with me? Stay while I eat?”

“Gladly.” He steadied the tray with practiced skill as he turned the key in the lock. It moved smoothly, well-maintained in its misuse against the Hresvelg heirs. There was no table in the cell, not with the lone overturned crate acting as a seat for Alister’s impromptu guest. Even necessities such as that were at the silent insistence of Hubert. There was no one else with access to these cells that would move any semblance of furniture into them.

“Thank you,” Alister sighed, scooting back to rest against the wall. His haggard state left him with little energy when he was consumed by the power of the Crest rewritten in his blood. Unlike his twin sister, his symptoms were understated aside from his colorless hair. Closer examination showed he struggled to keep his eyes open, and his nails were especially brittle. He was less fit than he had been — hardly a surprise on account of the twins never keeping still for long — but he retained some of his usual bearing as he crossed his legs and smirked.

“The honor is mine.” Hubert knew his company didn’t have enough memory of him to recognize that as stiffly formal, even by his standards. That presented him the opportunity to express anything to Alister he might wish to say before there was no other chance to. Hubert sat on the crate and set the tray down on his legs for convenience. Barely into his teenage years, his height was more awkward than useful as of yet. It had its moments, such as long legs serving for a stable surface. The bun from the platter was sticky to the touch from its honeyed glaze as he passed it to Alister with instructions. “Eat this slowly.”

“What is it?” True to his core nature, Alister accepted the offering anyway, seeming to test the spongy texture not typical of denser Adrestian pastries.

“It’s sweet. I don’t care for it.”

“I can take it off your hands, then,” he flashed a weak grin and took a small bite. “Mm. It’s a light flavor.” Encouraged by that, Alister bit off more.

“You’ll make yourself sick.”

He wouldn’t be able to come back another time to lay Alister to rest. Solon gave him this date, and Hubert knew better than to expect an extension in light of their wrongful prisoner’s sensitive stomach.

Alister rolled his eyes despite doing as he was told and picking off a smaller bite. He rolled the piece between his fingers for a time, slipping into another distant stare.

“I keep seeing these memories… over and over when I sleep. There’s a canyon, red and rich with life until it just rips apart with blood. People are screaming. When it’s quiet, I hear the echoes.” He brought the denser bit of bun to his mouth as though it were bitter. Hubert held his tongue, although he was one of few who knew of the event. “And it just—it breaks me. They’re people I know. My people, I can feel it.” Pushing the flat of his palm against his chest, Alister grimaced. He and Armida alike had been ruled by their hearts. Even corrupted by experimentation, that remained.

By happenstance, Alister returned to the present to dwell on Hubert with glassy eyes and a trembling sigh.

“I get these other visions, and they feel real, but they’re not mine. They’re not me.” This time, he broke to tear off another piece of the bun and ate it almost from spite. This pace was better for him, even if he’d finished nearly half already. “I can half see their faces, catch a few words… I’d have dinner at this—”

With a frown, he glanced to the ceiling to remember his dreams. Hubert was well aware of what he was going to describe. He knew the table and family dinners better than he knew the various methods to kill an enemy in the dark.

Marius and Verona, the youngest and with common interests if contrasting personalities, talked among themselves when they failed to assert themselves in conversations of the older Hresvelg children. Edelgard was not so content to be overlooked and devotedly spoke with the two eldest, Laverna and Edmund. The twins riled up Berwyn and Reynard, who scarcely needed the provocation to act out in tandem. Lady Anselma and Emperor Ionius IX took turns reigning in whoever required it. Henrietta, the most inclined to maternal instinct, occasionally intervened where her parents did not. Margaretta reliably kept out of the mess altogether, however, she could be persuaded to converse now and again.

Hubert sat near Edelgard as always. The Hresvelg family was vast and loving, full of character without an ounce of seditious ambition.

He would never see them all gathered there again.

Hubert set his jaw and gripped the tray ever so slightly tighter as his permissible tell in Alister’s company. He noticed nothing, naturally. Gesturing with his hands to show the size of the table they both envisioned, he continued.

“This long table, and every seat was full. At least ten people all gathered around for a meal. It feels like—that was home too. It can’t be, it just can’t.”

Alister groaned, pressing the knuckles of his free hand to his forehead as his legs bent closer to his chest from primitive fear. Conflicting identities warred in his skull, and he was inevitably the victim of their feud. That fate could only be staved off with fleeting distraction.

“No need to trouble yourself with them, then.” Hubert kept his voice measured in his reply. He’d trained in doing so for years, and the earlier leniency afforded him more discipline where he needed it most. It would be a disgrace if he couldn’t speak with the necessary finality to imply there was no other choice but that which he gave.

“How…” Alister stalled by eating another piece, larger than the last but still of a suitable size. Equally tenuous and distraught, his brow staying furrowed while he chewed. Pain flickered across his eyes with a wince when he did elect to look at Hubert once more. “How can you be so sure?”

“Do you have any doubt the canyon is your home?”

Biting his lip, he turned the bun over in his hands and carefully examined it—a random inquisitive habit that influenced Hubert’s prior decision not to lace the bun with poison.

“…No.” Hesitation aside, he spoke with conviction and appeared to relax. Enough to take a small bite directly from the bun without comment from Hubert, even.

“Then it is.”

“But why can’t I remember it all?” He took out his aggression on the bun with a fierce bite, however aptly sized. Again, Hubert did not advise him to slow down. There wasn’t much bun left to prevent him from eating and to do so would only be stalling for his own benefit. “I can feel something hidden in my mind. I’m not imagining it.”

Alister had no way to know the missing information wasn’t in his mind, but his forced Crest, and it was rapidly driving him insane. Unstable. Hubert looked to the innocent-looking tea on the tray set on his lap. The surface was steady. It did not reflect the insidious tremor of regret and remorse already laying siege to his resolve. But there was no way to save Alister. No cure for his ailment. None but what lurked in the depths of that plain porcelain teacup. Hubert would do what he must to support the Hresvelg line, however abhorrent or deplorable. He swore that in the cell his father had hurled him into when he was captured after his attempt to flee to Fhirdiad. Regardless of if he wished there were another course of action, Hubert von Vestra would take on any task to best serve this family he held as his own.

“You’ve been through an ordeal, and you’re not finished with it yet.” He lifted the teacup and saucer from the tray, calm and sympathetic to the fracture in Alister’s psyche. The reassurance was vaguely worded so as to prevent another metaphorical collision in his brain. “It’s expected for there to be consequences.”

Reaching for the cup and leaving the saucer behind, Alister thought nothing of taking a sip straight away. The bun was light but doubtless better with a beverage to wash it down.

His mouth twisted into a disappointed pout. “Mm. A bit cold.”

“Forgive me.” Whether for the temperature of the tea or the present circumstances, the necessity of what he’d done… Hubert alone knew. He would bring that to his grave with the same tenacity that he upheld his fealty to the Hresvelgs in all matters. To include the courtesy of a humane death the survivors need never know the cause of.

Polishing off the bun, Alister examined the hall beyond Hubert thoughtfully. He seemed most like his former self with a renewed glimmer to his eyes. Truth be told, Hubert was glad for the parting glimpse. He didn’t want to remember another Hresvelg as he did Armida and the others claimed by these atrocities.

“It’s strange. Not the tea,” he added, fortunately not realizing how incorrect that addition was, “but these memories that aren’t mine and those that are missing.”

“Did you want to discuss it?” Hubert was all too aware that he would be at eternal rest before he finished. It was, as they said, the thought that counted. Whatever Alister wished to do, he would assent.

“No. I feel like I shouldn’t.” He offered an empty smile, washing that away with tea. A hard stare took its place and Hubert braced in preparation. The shift was subtle yet informative.

This was not how the memory of that evening went. Alister had drifted off with ease, his head falling against his chest mid-sentence. Hubert caught the cup before it shattered and returned everything where it belonged in the kitchen to leave no trace of what he’d done. What he’d been forced to do. He contained his grief to his quarters, long since capable of silencing his sorrow.

“I should be asking why you would kill me.”

“Hm?” An insipid chill entwined with his ribs, seeping into his chest, but he refused to let it show on his face. This was where the dream would turn to nightmare; Hubert knew that. None of this was real. He could exert his will on it by extension. That tactic hadn’t worked to date, and still, he never failed to reach for it.

The smooth stone cell warped as its edges, consumed by invasive clouds of a nameless black entity one could dismiss as shadows. Not Hubert, feeling his head begin to spin from the precognitive panic, but surely someone could.

Alister’s irises vanished to solid white eyes reminiscent of Thales, and black sludge bled jaggedly from the corners like scars. Hubert tried to command his legs to move, to stand and take him away from this cell to anywhere else in the confines of this familiar nightmare. It would change nothing. That Hubert refused to surrender to his fate acted a testimony to his character rather than any effective undertaking. Despite it all, he stayed locked in his seat on that crate with a useless tray in his frozen hands.

Why? I barely knew your name,” Alister’s voice layered with one that was assuredly not his own, an experience as horrific as watching Tomas dissolve into Solon in Remire. Yet a nightmare remembered within a nightmare was still not enough to free Hubert from his own mind. “But I trusted you. You made me feel safe, and you used that to murder me.”

He clutched at Hubert’s collar, dissolving any reasonable chance at evasion. The faint scent of sweet buns lingered on those hands and churned his stomach.

“They would have—”

“Killed me anyway? Is that what you’ve told yourself?” He threw the teacup at the unforgiving floor, scattering porcelain among dirt and who knew what else. A recognizable dark energy swirled around him to engulf them both and further trap Hubert. His breath came in short bursts of harsh gasps or thin mockeries of air. This lack of discipline was doubtless reflected in real life as he continued to sleep within heinous dream he deserved. “You enjoyed it. To defeat the monsters in the shadows, you made yourself even worse than them.”

“You don’t understand.” Fear, so foreign and distant to Hubert, fringed the edges of his words in whispers. He felt the tears on his skin in the dream—nothing more—as his heart was pincered between dread and remorse. He had to wake up. There were Dagdan techniques to simply will it and wake. It had been done. Hubert just swallowed hard and found himself talking to this false vision of Alister against his better judgment. “I had to.”

With a sharp, distorted laugh, the nightmare’s Alister began to fall apart. Hubert could hear his teeth creaking as they extended to fangs in his mouth, and strips of human skin fell away with sickeningly wet sounds as they hit the floor. Taut black sinew and hard bone plating sat exposed beneath that layer of shed humanity. Viscous strings of inky substance hung from his new form. Hubert could do nothing as he was reduced to nothing but a demonic beast in the shape of a teenage boy he once knew as well as his every breath. Alister, who loved the turn of spring to summer most of all, who feared water and little else, who favored angelica tea, mocked by this travesty that his mind conjured for Hubert’s warranted anguish.

He blinked away another tear and felt his equilibrium reeling in spite of his remaining immobile.

“Had to, he says!” Alister hissed in his face with the cloying sick smell of poison and decay. “You may fool everyone else, but we know the truth, you and I.”

Releasing his collar to smack the tray aside, smashing the cup saucer and empty plate that sat on it, Alister grabbed onto Hubert’s arms. Only then did he come to his senses and try to wrench free—too late though it was. Slick black essence bubbled down Alister’s arms and up Hubert’s own, carrying abject horror with them. In the span of a blink, it spread under his rolled-up sleeves and out of sight. Hubert knew best that honest fear was at its strongest when unseen. His training as the heir to House Vestra rendered him resistant rather than immune to its effects.

He pulled his arms inward and twisted to break his grasp, even pushing back with his feet for additional leverage. Alister held firm. The monstrous procedures gave him a strength betrayed by his relatively frail stature. It was simply a matter of seconds before that toxin reached Hubert’s chest and corroded its way into his heart.

“You call them wicked and wretched when you didthis to us.”

———-

Hubert woke sharply, panic spilling over into consciousness. He laid with a thin sheet coiled around his legs, effectively trapping his sleeping self. He rested his head back onto the pillow and exhaled in disappointment. Points to his subconscious for creativity, then.

“Finally,” Linhardt drawled, yawning. “You had me worried.”

He snapped his eyes open once again, and the dark surroundings dawned on him. Linhardt looked perfectly prepared for sleep aside from watching Hubert with a surprisingly attentive stare. An evening chill hung in the air, neither close to dusk nor dawn. Canvas walls hung around him over sturdy posts. They were stationed in the field, and a nearby river unexpectedly flooded their intended camping site. Not all of the tents could be put up as a result. In light of that, the generals of the Strike Force agreed to sleep in the same one that night. Linhardt chose to set up his bedroll near him because Hubert was quiet and still. Tonight notwithstanding.

And if he was awake… Hubert sat up and scanned the tent to see his former Black Eagle classmates, now generals, in various states of alertness and all with concern on their expressions.

“You—” He began unwinding the sheets from his legs to preoccupy his attention. Anything not to see the pity in their eyes. “Should have woken me.”

“We tried,” Dorothea answered from her place by the tent’s opening with Petra. Perhaps it was habit or exhaustion that gave her words a vaguely melodic lilt. “Your nightmares are even more stubborn than you are.”

She’d intended to tease him in their usual way, but it made a poor mask for her worry. Over him. Hubert waited in tense silence and frowned at the wrinkled sheet now laid flat across his legs. Briefly, the was reminded of the tray and the sweet bun. That smell associated with the end of the dream. By sheer willpower, Hubert buried that nauseated sensation in response.

“Hey, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We all get ‘em sometimes.” Caspar chimed in and stretched, no different in tone than if he’d gotten a full night’s rest. Nothing short of an ambush boxing in their forces could feasibly exhaust Caspar. Naturally, he set up his spot on the opposite side of Linhardt.

“It—it’s true.” Resolute regardless of her volume or lack thereof, Bernadetta contributed to his defense as well from her comparatively secluded bedroll.

An addition to a process he despised entirely. None of it was necessary. All of his allies should have been sleeping for the journey ahead and battles to come, not waiting in the night for his moment of weakness to pass. He curled his hands into fists against his legs. Hubert never should have permitted them to be burdened in such a way.

“No one thinks less of you, Hubert.” Edelgard reached out gently for his hand, blackened by sustained use of dark magic. Not so far as to travel up his arms, mercifully. Her hand over his was admittedly calming. He relaxed somewhat and unfurled his hands.

“In Brigid, it is common to be keeping bad dreams far away by… Your people aren’t having a word for it.” Petra stopped to consider her options in the limited lexicon of Fódlan, tapping her chin. “With togetherness.”

“Ah, an excellent suggestion!” Ferdinand maintained enthusiasm at impressive levels, as ever. His place of choice was with Petra and Dorothea, no doubt in an attempt to provide reinforcements by the tent’s entrance if need be. His eagerness to be of use in all possible circumstances had only amplified with time. “We are already in one tent. There is space yet to sleep closer together.”

“I’m—not sure what to make of that.” He’d never even slept in his parents’ bed as a child. Starting that with his fellow generals now as an adult… Hubert meant no offense to her customs, but he couldn’t be sure how effective that proposed strategy might be. Although the thought didn’t unsettle him as much as he estimated that it could. Looking to her, he finished his explanation. “I don’t typically permit others to be close.”

“Come on, Hubert, it’s just us!” As usual, Caspar made an excellent point Hubert hadn’t considered. There wasn’t anyone else he would even entertain testing this particular theory with. His grin was palpable in the atmosphere more than seen and some motion in the dark suggested he was pointing to Linhardt. “When I can’t sleep, I always go to Lin’s room and end up sleeping like a baby.”

“Mm,” Linhardt agreed, already dragging his bedroll closer to Hubert’s with as little effort as possible. His hair was in a loose bun to keep it out of his way while he slept and made the unplanned journey simpler, to his credit. Hubert found he was marginally uneasy with the closeness for reasons he couldn’t define. A greater portion of his thoughts were on Edelgard’s hand on his while Linhardt settled into his newfound spot. They weren’t touching, but his presence was close enough to sense and distinguish from the others on instinct. There was an aspect of that familiarity that Hubert confessed to himself was something of a consolation.

“You don’t have to, but…” Bernadetta trailed off, staying put for her own comfort. She had matured enough to establish her own boundaries while acknowledging that others’ laid elsewhere. He could not see her clearly at that distance but would be willing to guess that she had a timid smile for him. “Maybe it’ll help?”

“There is only one way to be sure,” Ferdinand encouraged, his ponytail thrown over his shoulder as he brought his roll closer as well. If Linhardt could do so, Hubert certainly wasn’t stopping any of the rest.

“You are always ready to be protecting us, Hubert.” Petra added as she made her trek across the tent’s floor to the circle swiftly forming around Hubert. “Now, will you let us be keeping you safe?”

There was nothing to be gained from denying the unspoken decision he’d made. Any apprehension he may have felt could be attributed to a lack of experience, as any uncertainty tended not to agree with him. But the predominant sentiment towards their togetherness, as Petra phrased it, was one of comfort. These were people he knew since their time at the monastery. They had saved his life, and he had done the same as well. Any one of them would fight to the very end for the better life they dreamed of. Most of all, for one another.

Hubert took a bracing breath and laid back down on his roll in the midst of his closest companions. “I suppose it’s worth the attempt.”

“There’s our Hubie,” Dorothea half-sang, settling into her bedroll within their new formation.

“Sweet dreams, Hubert.” With that wish, Edelgard gave his hand a soft pat and withdrew it to her own space.

The mixture of their combined presence and some extent of personal space did have a soothing influence. He felt the hazy draw of sleep resurfacing, and this time, without the customary threat of another nightmare lurking beneath.

“Thank you.” The gratitude he felt was beyond the scope of those paltry words. If he was fortunate, the next dream would grant him a chance to devise suitable means of expressing that appreciation to his colleagues in turn.


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To the Path Ahead | FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 2300 (5 to 17 minutes) | Rating: T | Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers| Characters: Ferdinand von Aegir and Hubert von Vestra (Ferdibert)


Hubert was willing to agree to a large ceremony befitting of Ferdinand’s opulence, but he was surprised to find his soon-to-be husband agreed to the relatively small affair. Even Bernadetta accepted once she saw the short guest list. The wedding was held in Aegir territory, naturally. He wanted to give his vows on the shores where he grew up, running barefoot in the sand. It was also convenient for Her Majesty to attend as a member of their combined marital party, standing alongside Dorothea, Petra, Lorenz, and Caspar. Linhardt thanked them soundly for not involving him in that much standing.

All in all, the event went as anticipated. Hanneman wept as they exchanged their vows, likely pushed on by Manuela’s own sentimental display. Shamir and Byleth refrained, expressing their support instead with faint smiles. Preferable to Hilda’s animated cheering that Mercedes felt inspired to support for whatever reason. From the Ashen Wolves, a gift arrived by messenger on account of the sunny shores not agreeing with Constance and the timing not agreeing with Yuri’s schedule. No reason was given for Hapi, who insisted on referring to him by her nickname for him, and Hubert was too generally relieved that Balthus didn’t come to be troubled by it.

By the time everyone had retired for the night, Ferdinand still had energy enough to grin at Hubert while they walked to the marital suite. The Aegir estate had changed drastically since Ferdinand resided there as a child, mainly by becoming more open in its design at the behest of the new Prime Minister. Smothering extravagance was gradually replaced with inviting décor featuring large windows that could be opened to allow in ocean air. What was now the suite had once been for hosting political guests before it was repurposed as a private residence within the surrounding estate.

Hubert gave him a smirk, hand already in his from the moment they started walking. “And what’s that look for?”

“Could it be that I am overjoyed to have you to myself at last, my darling husband?” Ferdinand stepped closer to Hubert, his ribboned braid swaying with him.

The color schemes of their outfits were shared, of course, but it was simple fact that Ferdinand wore it better. Gold trim lined the length of his black pants that matched his gold gloves. On his white blazer, gossamer fabric draped from his shoulders and floated behind him ethereally. He left the front undone hours ago, and wisps of his curly hair had freed themselves from the braid. Even so, he carried an air of easy elegance that permeated the lantern-lit halls. Such was Ferdinand.

Hubert chuckled and, this once, let himself have the unfettered lightness in his chest with a tender smile. If he couldn’t treat himself at his own wedding, well, when could he? “Eager to break in the new title, I see.”

“How could I ever not be?” With an unambiguous heat in his stare not unlike the first touch of sunrise, Ferdinand neglected to watch where he was walking in favor of affecting Hubert with that look. His success left both of them carelessly striding forward. “Aren’t you?”

They’d been flirting all along, obviously. Ferdinand insisted on spending the night before apart and admittedly, it had brought them back to the stage of their courtship consisting largely of teasing banter. When challenged to kiss one another over stacked sweet buns without toppling them, a ridiculous time-honored custom of Adrestia, Ferdinand paused beforehand to whisper that his white blazer looked dashing—and easier to remove than his usual Imperial attire. Hubert had primarily his height to thank for not knocking over the buns by accident from his reaction. Neither had abandoned the competition since then.

“Without a doubt,” he agreed, an almost foreign levity in his tone. Relatively. “Perhaps with less embellishment. I typically leave such theatrics in more talented hands.”

The innuendo didn’t elude Ferdinand, ducking his head as if he hadn’t demonstrated those talents for Hubert personally on several occasions prior. Had his hair not be tied up in red ribbon, Hubert was confident his husband would be playing with it to disperse that eager energy. His fluster and fervor over intimate acts were often evenly matched, another feat that was seemingly impossible until Ferdinand. And in fairness, Hubert himself. To a lesser extent.

That concluded their trip to the suite, or it should have. Abruptly after Hubert opened the double doors, Ferdinand threw an arm out in front of their path. A renewed gleam in his eyes indicated that the cause of it mattered to him a great deal.

“I almost forgot! There is a good luck custom in Aegir for newly married couples.” In the utmost seriousness, Ferdinand put himself between Hubert and the open doors to the suite. “I must carry you.”

“Pardon?” He chuckled at the thought—him, bridal style in Ferdinand’s arms and attempting not to be too awkward to hold—but he knew that determined look from much farther off than directly in his face. His chances of evading the amorous suggestion were slim. He had to continue reminding himself that there was nothing to gain from escaping these offers to begin with. “I can walk, Ferdinand.”

“For good fortune,” he persisted, enthusiastic as he always was with his fancifully romantic imaginings, “one partner must carry the other across the threshold of their quarters on the night of the wedding.”

“You believed you would carry me.” Angling his expression to convey dry amusement was second nature to Hubert, as commonplace as drinking water. He assumed that consistent presence caused it to be entirely ineffective against Ferdinand.

“But of course! Please, Hubert,” he bargained, dipping into a tone design to appeal to Hubert’s affections. That and putting his hands on Hubert’s were the decisive moves that secured his victory. “I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a boy.”

Not one to disappoint Ferdinand with an easy triumph, Hubert looked down on him with quite possibly the softest smirk he had delivered since he was a boy.

“What, no effusive praise for my role as your husband? I’m not sure now that you deserve it.”

That Ferdinand smirked in response, his excitement melding with his competitiveness, was a testament to how far they had come since they met at the monastery. He did not bristle at Hubert’s mockery, but flourished from his taunt.

Cradling rather than covering Hubert’s hands, Ferdinand followed the underside of his arms with his open hands. The gesture brought him chest to chest with Hubert as he traced the length of his spine. Experience proved that as a weakness of his available to Ferdinand alone. Dull threads of pleasure weaved under those fingers on his back, and Hubert kept his expression level. Pointlessly, considering his breath was actually audible then.

“Very well,” he answered, his voice nesting between them. “You’ve convinced me.”

“As I knew I would!” He took advantage of their proximity to dart up for a quick kiss before wrapping an arm around Hubert to support his back.

“You’ve settled into this rather quickly,” he noted, putting his own arm around Ferdinand to do his part. Ferdinand focused on his task over replying. Bending down to place his arm behind Hubert’s knees, he lifted him with no more strain than a stack of papers. In general, Hubert disliked it when his feet left the ground. Yet—there was a distinct quality to the experience when being picked up by the man he’d chosen to spend the rest of his days with. Particularly with such ease. He put a hand to Ferdinand’s chest, hoping in vain to determine if his was the only slightly elevated heart rate.

Those sun-washed amber eyes fixed on his, smiling radiantly, and Hubert found himself grateful to be off his feet in the face of a combination of steadily drinking all night and his partner’s charms.

“Are you ready, handsome husband of mine?”

“You’re absurd,” he teased, shaking his head. But there truly was no containing him once he was swept up in his dramatics. But Hubert had already decided to let himself enjoy that night. Stopping at the entrance of their suite seemed foolish. “Yes. I trust you.”

That was the finishing touch. Ferdinand sighed blissfully, the way he typically reserved for happy endings at the opera or a novel closed with a kiss. He glided through the open entryway with his rapt attention on Hubert held in his arms. He’d been held there plenty, of course. Not quite like this. Not on their wedding night either.

Hubert didn’t dwell on thoughts of his marriage much as a child like Ferdinand had. He pictured it as a political ceremony above all. Certainly nothing as transformative and sincerely magical as this. Even the activities they’d done time and again glowed at the edges, aloft with the promise of a full future ahead. He was undeniably self-conscious in a removed sense. Hubert, the Minister to the Imperial Household, carried across the threshold of their marital suite by his husband. Laughable. It didn’t suit a sinister figure such as him. With Ferdinand beaming at him like he was, it hardly mattered.

“I love you,” Ferdinand reminded him, in the event he had forgotten in the short time that had passed since they made their vows. He strode ahead levelly despite carrying Hubert.

“How convenient, then, that we’re married.”

“Hubert!” As opposed to the exasperated delight he expected, Hubert was met with pleased surprise. “There are flower petals on the bed!”

Ah, yes. He remembered it now. The servants were discreetly given additional flower petals over what Ferdinand had ordered for the decorations, and they scattered them on the sheets during the wedding. White apple blossom petals speckled the rich navy sheets on the poster bed overrun with pillows and a chiffon canopy. Before tonight, Hubert had often been regaled on the quality of Aegir apples and the tree blossoms on tea breaks with Ferdinand. Whether he had his keen memory or not, Hubert never would have forgotten something so crucial to arranging a thoughtful present for his spouse.

“Are there? Unexpected.” That wry tone and smirk intentionally betrayed the truth.

“To think you believe you are not romantic,” Ferdinand complimented him, always prepared with a kind remark about him. Of all people. One would anticipate he’d run out of material soon enough if they didn’t know him better.

Proceeding with his effortless stride, Ferdinand brought him to the bed heedless of his insistence only on crossing the threshold. Hubert elected not to remind him of that and permitted himself to be lowered onto the bed. An act Ferdinand do well not to get used to, true, but it was a special occasion. Perhaps they would revisit it on anniversaries. He kept his own shoes above the sheets, swinging them over the bed’s edge to remove them as he felt Ferdinand climb on the mattress behind him.

He wasted no time tracing kisses along Hubert’s neck and shoulders in the same manner as one might scatter dandelion seeds on their breath. Warm hands brushed against his back while Hubert unlaced and removed his shoes. The former made the latter marginally more difficult than usual.

“You’d best not be wearing your shoes in our bed.” Devoid of any severity, that warning was described better as a fond request. Two thuds as they dropped to the floor from the bedside served as his confirmation.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Ferdinand mumbled next to his skin, every syllable coursing over Hubert’s skin.

“Mm.” That hum was equal parts amusement and pleasure, rolling into a sigh when Ferdinand moved up to press kisses to the shell of his ear. “I missed you.”

“One night apart,” Ferdinand uttered between kisses, “felt terribly long. Did it not?”

Leaning back into his stalwart husband, Hubert turned to look at him. This situation and his affectionate expression were familiar. It wasn’t unheard of for them to review their reports and duties for the day together, curled up together much like they were then. A single evening made the hollowed chasm of its absence in his routine only too apparent.

“Excruciatingly so.” He brought a hand to graze Ferdinand’s cheek and placed a kiss to his cheek, sturdy against him. “My husband.”

Ferdinand blushed, yet had nowhere to hide his reaction in that instance. His barely restrained smile fell on the cusp of between hopeful and elated. “Could you… Say that again?”

“Anything for you,” Hubert promised and sat up to face him properly. With a sultry gaze of his own, he curled a loose strand of hair behind Ferdinand’s ear and leaned in to speak in the feathered tone he most enjoyed. “My husband.”

The unintelligible noise of glee from Ferdinand was its own reward. One that left Hubert with a smug smirk and Ferdinand still flushed and grinning. He braced his hands on his knees, a steady stare locked on his newly vowed husband.

“You make me so extraordinarily happy, I—might faint.”

“On our wedding night?” Hubert feigned surprise, undoing his red tie and tossing it off the bed. For tonight. It could be sorted out in the morning. “I suppose I could undress myself while you refrain from passing out.”

“No,” Ferdinand corrected hurriedly, reaching for the collar of Hubert’s blazer. “No, I’m quite alright.”

“Heh.” Putting his hands over Ferdinand’s and mirroring the stunt he pulled on him by the door, Hubert granted him what he sought. “I’m glad to hear of your swift recovery.”

He couldn’t be entirely certain Ferdinand didn’t merely rip the button off in his haste to take that blazer off, not with him meeting Hubert in an impassioned kiss as well. Even pulling his own arms from the sleeves was done with urgency, sating a desire for more of this, of them. At last—at long last—Hubert abandoned the baseless notion that he did not deserve his place in Ferdinand’s heart to instead devote himself wholly to remaining forever at his side.


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Lives Lost for Futures Found | FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 2000 (4 to 16 minutes) | Rating: T | Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers| Characters: Ferdinand von Aegir and Hubert von Vestra (Ferdibert)


His partner was many things, some that contradicted and most that inspired. Among his unwavering traits was Ferdinand’s expressiveness. It wasn’t limited to his face by any stretch. There was a way that he rolled his shoulders when he was stressed that Hubert could identify without even looking, not least of all for the light sigh that typically accompanied it. The tired smile distinguished itself from the barely restrained variety, and so on. Ferdinand contained multitudes, and Hubert cataloged them dutifully.

Which was precisely why he woke on instinct—something wasn’t right with Ferdinand. As consciousness came to him completely, Hubert realized his partner’s breath came in sharp inhales and shaky exhales.

“Ferdinand,” he called softly as he sat up, not wanting to add to the alarm of a bad dream. It wasn’t near dawn yet, based on the dim moonlight in their quarters. That was enough light to see his jaw was clenched and a thin sweat clung to his skin. As confirmation of his suspicions, he could hear Ferdinand rustling under the sheets as he struggled in his sleep. Hubert rested a hand on his chest, discovering that the linen nightshirt he favored was damp with sweat. “Wake up, Ferdinand. You’re safe.”

The shift of pressure as Hubert moved closer awakened Ferdinand with a start, tensing and searching in the dark until he saw Hubert beside him. Fear dissolved to sadness and a raw vulnerability that took roost in his own heart. Before their relationship developed over five long years, nearly six, Hubert had been told routinely by Dorothea that, in a truly loving couple, one feels their partner’s suffering as their own. He pointed out then that he hardly needed to feel romantic affection to experience empathy, thinking to dismantle her argument only to find himself teased for his ‘incessant mother henning’ being a unique Hubert special. He knew it was flattery then but let her have the final word. As a generosity.

Yet he couldn’t argue that it weighed on him to see Ferdinand so affected by whatever his nightmares held. Where countless battles and challenges failed, the simple act of sleeping was posing a threat. One Hubert could not fight. Having expressly sworn to protect him only amplified the regret of his inability to make good on that. Resting his hand over Hubert’s blackened fingertips, Ferdinand propped himself up on an elbow and drew sleep-mussed curls behind him.

“Hu… Hubert?”

“I’m here,” he answered only to be immediately embraced, Ferdinand’s arms and solid build pulling them both down to the pillows again. Hubert barely had time to register the change before he noticed Ferdinand was—shaking. His breath hitched and another shiver ran across his shoulders, signaling that he was in tears before the first drops absorbed into Hubert’s sleeve. He repositioned to get his arm out from between them and around Ferdinand, settling in with his hand behind his head. “You’re alright.”

“I keep—” He started, cut off by a broken sob only to try again. Sometimes, very selectively, that persistence of his was more of a hindrance than a help. “Going back, I—”

Of course, the same interruption took the sentence from him once more. Force of will only got one so far. Even for the Empire’s Two Jewels. Hubert ran his hand over his hair to encourage him to relax.

“You can tell me in a moment. Let yourself grieve.” He knew the hypocrisy of it. But Ferdinand had been waking up in tears more often in the moons that followed the destruction of Shambhala. As Hubert’s own workload lessened relatively, Ferdinand’s increased. Nobles scrambled to retain some semblance of power in Her Majesty’s united Fódlan. Claude corresponded with Lorenz over the border of Almyra, and he often received updates on a potential treaty on that front. Petra returned to Brigid as its leader and acted as a representative between her home nation and the new Fódlan, with Ferdinand as her contact.

The time had come for all the dreams he had envisioned, complete with a public education system to ensure all children received the necessary tools to succeed. The finest among them would be provided additional education appropriate to their capabilities as a replacement of what the noble class should have been. First, buildings needed to be established for them across Fódlan, and professors needed to be gathered, interviewed, and selected. That process had to be overseen closely to ensure the institution remained securely in place for future generations. Furthermore, their design must resist corruption so these academies were not simply overrun by similar oppressors as the Church or abuses comparable to those of the former nobility.

He was proud to do it, naturally. Ferdinand von Aegir was destined for greatness, and this was his time to substantiate that claim with action. But the strain was taking its toll.

Ferdinand, with a deep breath, wound down from restrained sobs to idle tears.

“There,” Hubert reassured him, pressing a kiss to his temple. “Would you like some water?” The pitcher waited on the nightstand with a washcloth and tankard at its side. As the nightmares increased in frequency, Hubert took care to bring them in for easy access in the night. Cool water was refreshing after sweating through a horrific dream, and that was one comfort. But drinking water steadied breath intuitively. The human body wouldn’t simply let itself drown, so the introduction of water would force calmer breathing no matter what frenzy the mind had stirred up. A genuine feeling of at least physical peace often followed.

“In a moment,” Ferdinand said, curling closer to Hubert still.

He permitted the silence to speak for him. Words were unnecessary at this point in their relationship. Ferdinand understood, slipping his foot between Hubert’s and draping an arm over him in a loose hug. Being shorter allowed Ferdinand to nestle into him as though he belonged there. Their shared opinion was that he did, clearly. Even so, his comparable strength to Hubert was obvious. He still had his horseback ride at dawn routinely, and it showed in his thighs. Hubert’s longer, lean limbs could not resemble a mage’s more by their direct comparison to his partner’s cavalryman build. They had slept much like this on the evening after Shambhala fell and the Black Eagle Strike Force emerged alive. That recollection of the first in many nights to come only brought a slow smile to Hubert.

It would be the Great Tree Moon soon, and the frogs by the pond beyond their walls signaled the approach of warm weather. Between that and the comfort of their proximity, Hubert felt Ferdinand’s breathing level off further. Almost to where he thought he might fall asleep again.

“I still hear them,” Ferdinand revealed his waking state. “The people in battle.” He brushed his fingers through the hairs at the nape of Hubert’s neck, looking distantly at the ceiling as he continued. “I always discover I am on the Tailtean Plains, where Dimitri fell.”

Ah. That would do it. In their monastery days, before Ferdinand knew what was to come, he had grown rather close with Dimitri. Hubert hadn’t thought anything of it before, but he honestly should have. Ferdinand’s natural disposition was to befriend others where possible, and he didn’t have the necessary knowledge not to seek companionship with those he might meet on a battlefield later. While Hubert had the fortune to see all of the Black Eagles stand with Her Majesty, Ferdinand had friends on all sides of the war. Lorenz was the only friend of his that Hubert gave consideration to, and his territory’s proximity to their borders had guaranteed his fealty to the Empire.

“Had he lived, do you think he could be happy?”

Reports showed that Dimitri had died in Dedue’s arms, as close to happiness as the late King of Faerghus was going to be—and had been in many years. In hindsight, it was only logical that Ferdinand took an interest in him. He carried himself in the refined fashion Ferdinand aspired in his youth, and he had a troubled nature that the Imperial Prime Minister obviously found alluring. Hubert had not been so well acquainted with Dimitri. He had intelligence on the Kingdom’s heir, but that was scarcely interchangeable with personal familiarity.

“I didn’t know him well,” Hubert admitted, well beyond trying to seem all-knowing in Ferdinand’s eyes. “But I do know his opposition to Lady Edelgard was manipulated.”

Coordinated by Those Who Slither in the Dark with the hopes of mutual destruction for two veritable opponents, Dimitri’s hatred of Edelgard was not a willful one on account of the misinformation behind it. That left only one conclusion. Hubert would have preferred to make eye contact when delivering his answer, but he compromised on staying as they were. “If he would have believed that Her Majesty was not involved in the Tragedy of Duscur, I believe he could have found a place for himself here.”

An unsteady inhale indicated that the revelation was hard on Ferdinand, bringing him back to tears rather than away from them. Hubert kissed his forehead lightly as he felt Ferdinand hold tighter onto his nightshirt.

“Is it wrong to mourn him? To miss him so horribly when he stood firmly against us to the very end?”

 “Not at all.” His response came without hesitation, not least of all because the thick sorrow in Ferdinand’s voice was difficult to bear. To be trusted with emotions outside of his usual optimism was an honor Hubert was proud of. Still, he felt compelled to lessen his pain wherever possible. “He was dear to Lady Edelgard as well. In no small way, he set her on the path she walked to unite Fódlan. That it ultimately claimed his life…” Ferdinand sniffled against Hubert, collecting himself amid reassurances that his grief was far from a character flaw. “Remorse for his loss is only natural. Perhaps you would like to memorialize him?”

“Hm?” His grip loosened, and Ferdinand drew back to get a better look at Hubert in the relative darkness of their bedroom. He could see his partner was red-eyed from crying, which led him to reach for his face to wipe away stray tears. Yet Hubert also recognized the curiosity brightening in his eyes through the despair.

“A memorial to King Dimitri of Faerghus might provide some closure to you and others who mourn him.” As he spoke to him, Ferdinand put his own hand over Hubert’s and leaned into his touch. He was very tactile and with that, Hubert found he wasn’t so different himself. Not with the people he cared most about. He ran his thumb over Ferdinand’s cheek and smiled at the quiet hum of contentment that earned him. “I should think Her Majesty would be rather receptive, in light of their bond as children.”

“It is a beautiful thought.” Ferdinand admitted, clearly with more on his mind than he was saying. His hand gradually slid down Hubert’s arm as those heavy thoughts weighed on his brow. “But with all my work, I—”

“Let me handle negotiations with Claude and Petra going forward. Your well-being has value, Ferdinand.”

Ferdinand chuckled, amused more than anything else, although a twinge of sadness still endured below that warmth. “That should be my remark to you.”

“It has been, which is why I can tell you it now.” Hubert used his free hand to sit up alongside Ferdinand, moving to hold his hand in the process. It didn’t feel nearly as confidence-inducing to recount his reasons for the exchange of duties while he lounged in bed. “The removal of ruined Agarthan bases and magical sites is proceeding smoothly. I receive notices on their progress, and that is the extent of my involvement.” Cupping his face once more, Hubert held his attention with the goal of swaying his usually stalwart resolve. “Please leave this to me. Confer with Her Majesty and give your grief the attention it requires.”

Or he feared it would hound his nightmares forever. That, Hubert was familiar with, and he would not wish it on as vibrant and loving a man as the one he’d chosen to spend his life with.

“Thank you, my beloved,” Ferdinand whispered, perhaps tearing up again as he squeezed his hand fondly. They were happy tears this time, he trusted. Hubert moved closer to sit with Ferdinand resting against him and their hands clasped between.

“Always.”


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