Nate Saito: Bittersweet 16th

Word count: 650 (1 to 5 minutes) | Rating: G | Original Fiction | Note: absent parent

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The trolley didn’t stop outside his house, which was set back from the main streets on the edge of a not-great neighborhood. They managed just fine in the city anyway. Nate marched up the slight hill, opening the front door and dropping his shoes and bag just inside on the racks for each.

“I’m home, Mom,” he raised his voice while he locked the door behind him and smiled at the smell from dinner tonight. Spices and the warmth from the oven spread through the pagoda—one of the benefits of a small house. “Tom threw a sci-fi comic at me when I got to his place. I think that’s my birthday present…?”

He liked the beginning of it, anyway. Something about a rough-and-tumble rogue type getting caught up in a plot involving the survival of the galaxy. Not original, maybe, but pretty cool. Nate heard his mom pacing around and clacking a spoon against a pan in the kitchen, so why didn’t she answer him? He eased towards the kitchen, leaning to peek around the hallway’s corner. “Mom…?”

He jumped when she tossed confetti in the air, grinning. “Happy 16th, Nathaniel!” 

The light laugh forced its way out of him, and he flicked some confetti from his hair. A couple years back exactly, she helped him bleach the tips and style it in a faux hawk. Nate didn’t ask for anything that involved this year, since he’d learned to manage that on his own. He was happy enough getting tech and tools to make more things. Sometimes presents for her, so it was a little circular, but Nate didn’t mind. When you got down to it, that was the least he could do.

“Putting the botvac to the test, huh?”

She chuckled, pointing behind her to the cake on the table with letter candles sticking out to spell ‘Happy Birthday’. “Oh, sweetie. That already happened once I made that.”

Nate glanced from it to her, smirking and raising his eyebrows to ask the question he had in mind. She nodded with a sly smile, a strand of black hair falling loose from her bun into her face. “Raspberry cream, just like you asked.”

Of course, that meant he had to take a test taste, jogging over to swipe a fingertip of frosting from the top. Reflexively, she smacked his shoulder playfully once she caught up.

“You get one pass, birthday boy!” She passed him to the heart of the kitchen, taking out two plates from the cabinets and forks from the drawer. 

“Yeah, yeah,” he teased.  Closing the drawer with a bump of her hip, she circled back around to meet him by the seat he chose at the table. Nate shifted uncomfortably and traced  the dappled pattern on the tablecloth with his finger. Like that would make the real question  any easier when he had no choice but to ask about it. He could be direct or indirect, it didn’t matter. Nate knew the answer already anyway. “Did you, uhh, get the mail? Today?”

Of course she sighed. Quiet, just a breath like any other, but he heard it all too clear. Almost deafening and definitely crushing. “Honey,” she started and the sympathy hanging in her words confirmed what he knew to begin with.

“Nah, forget I asked.” Nate waved it off, resting back and tapping the table in front of him. If he just managed to look alright, the rest would come after. It had to. “Let’s just have the cake, okay? It’s fine, really.”

She put both plates in front of him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders with the back of the chair wedged awkwardly between them—not that he cared. Nate buried his face in her arms, the ones that carried him, helped him learn to ride a bike, held him, always there—always there. His breath hitched even when he tried to hold it back.

“All we need’s right here, baby,” she whispered, her voice thick too. “I’ll always love you.”


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Hellfire Ch. 13: Prime Suspect | DA2 Fanfiction

Read the previous chapter. | Read it on AO3.
Approx. 1900 words (4 to 16 minutes) | Rating: M | Dragon Age 2 Spoilers | Characters: Garrett Hawke, Varric Tethras, Aveline Vallen, Fenris

One of the city guardsmen caused enough of a fuss to get Aveline marching up to the Circle in person to demand Hawke’s assistance from Meredith herself, and to the surprise of absolutely no one in Kirkwall, she got what she wanted. Hawke would have to thank Emeric for embarrassing the City Guard later. Subtly, if he could manage it.

Then again, it also led to a mad chase with demons and blood magic and captured, helpless women. Plus a crazy Orlesian, and Garrett didn’t even like the sane ones.

It only made sense to have some wine at Fenris’ mansion after that, although he really had to wonder what the appeal was in keeping it derelict. As long as it made Fenris feel like he’d claimed it as his own, Hawke supposed it didn’t really matter. It definitely made it easier for him to live there unnoticed. They sat in the usual spot where Fenris entertained his few guests: huddled around the fireplace on benches and chairs with alcohol to spare (no matter how many bottles were thrown at the wall, strangely).

It was familiar, or it ought to be, but the lack of overall lighting and flickering shadows from the firelight were not doing Hawke any favors. Even during the fighting in the DuPuis mansion, he felt separated from his body somehow. The present company carried him through battles more than usual, and it seemed as though he missed every sneak attack and kept losing track of all the doors in that place. His wit was as sharp as ever, so that was something. Earned himself a laugh from Varric at least once!

Across from Hawke on the bench beside Fenris, the dashing author and entrepreneur himself reached out with his cup of Tevinter wine. “Before I forget, Daisy sends her regards.”

Hawke took a moment to process that, wondering who Daisy was, before it dawned on him. The nicknames were harder to keep track of when he wasn’t around so often. Holding onto that casual smile, Hawke still kept that appearance up. “And how is our darling Merrill?”

“She’s fine out in the wilderness. Doesn’t even need her ball of yarn to find her way around anymore,” Varric said, finishing on a high note with a satisfied smile—if unconvinced by Garrett. She was raised Dalish, so it made sense she’d get her bearings better where everything looked different in the way nature usually did. But that didn’t mean she’d be perfectly happy out there. Escaping the Circle was a definite improvement, of course, but she couldn’t go to her clan and she couldn’t stay in Kirkwall either. It had to be lonely for her.

“If anyone goes to visit, we can’t expect to see them back until nightfall,” Fenris mumbled, clearly familiar with the pseudo-plight himself. He wasn’t fond of mages, especially blood mages, but Merrill just wormed her way into your heart like that.

“It’s got to be lonesome, staying out there by herself.” Aveline, ever the maternal figure, made an excellent point. Not just because it was Hawke was thinking, either. They rarely had the same thought besides. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything Hawke could do about it. Poor Carver could write her, but he definitely couldn’t visit. A Templar, off visiting an apostate? He’d be lucky to just be kicked from the Order.

“Whether it was her clan or the alienage, she’s never really been alone,” Hawke mumbled, staring down into his drink. There had to be a better way than all this. He could almost hear that in Anders’ voice, honestly. They got her out of the Circle, but now what? She’d spend her life on the run.

“Then she shouldn’t have gotten caught,” Fenris bit back, scowling at Hawke in all his outrage. “It’s thanks to her you’re trapped with that nightmare of a woman.”

Was it the alcohol, or did the dark spaces of Fenris’ stolen mansion grow darker? With eyes? Worse than that, Hawke knew the place was safe with all of them present. Andraste’s flaming knickers, even if there some horrific creatures waiting to strike, they’d faced down worse. He had quite literally nothing to be afraid of.

Not here, anyway.

“I wonder who that could be, with a charming title like that.” Hawke tossed out in the stiff silence. The fierce animosity from Fenris already gave away that Varric did more than just tell Carver about their last little quest together. So he didn’t really need the sympathetic ‘I did what I had to but I’m sorry’ stare from his friend across the way, but there they were. In the most awkward second of eye contact they’d had yet. Or at least in the top five. Maybe even three.

“Junior’s keeping us updated,” Varric explained, or perhaps he was seeking forgiveness. Did it matter? Garrett could never hope to stay cross with that lovable dwarf.

“She keeps you isolated and denies your meals,” Fenris offered his unsolicited details. It did answer the question of what exactly these updates contained. “I’m willing to bet she hounds your rest remorselessly. This Knight-Commander is little better than a slaver.”

“Anders did try to warn you,” Hawke pointed out, hiding a practiced smirk behind his drink. Hardly anything got him fired up like the mention of freedom-fighting Anders and his glowy plus one, and the feeling was mutual when the roles were reversed. Basically, it was an excellent distraction for Garrett.

Fenris just scoffed, leaving behind a much larger expanse of quiet than Hawke was hoping for. Did a man have to avoid prying questions all on his own these days? Leave Kirkwall alone for a while, and the etiquette of emotional evasion just goes to pieces.

“She’s using her standing against you, Hawke.” Well, Fenris went in a very different direction than he’d hoped. He took a gulp of wine and kept on anyway. “We are powerless to stop her, and she knows it. I’ve said we should just kill her and let that Knight Captain replace her, but the others don’t agree.”

A fact he was not convinced of and quite apparently not happy about at all. That was flattering, really! Fenris wasn’t the kind to advocate killing corrupt Templars and liberating mages, but exceptions did exist. One or two.

“You would only be killed,” Aveline insisted, driving home that this was a conversation had so often as to challenge even her patience. Looking out for Fenris when he had a vengeance campaign in mind was just as tiring as it sounded.

“Maybe you figured this out, Broody,” Varric broke it up before the fight really got started, “but we’d like to have you around for a good long while.”

“It would be a waste of a perfectly handsome elf,” Hawke teased Fenris, trying again for that upward turn in the conversation.

“How long has it been since we last spoke?” Aveline interrupted with a hard-set stare and frown you didn’t say no to. That just about dashed his dreams of not talking about the Circle or Meredith or anything related to either.

But no one ever got anywhere in life giving up when good sense said to. Or however that saying actually went. Hawke frowned pensively and patted himself down with his wine-free hand. “How embarrassing! Would you believe I left my calendar in my other Circle robes?”

“Told you again,” Varric talked to Aveline like no one else could hear them, a lightless smirk darkening his features. Strangely, she was the only one who didn’t seem to notice that at all in favor of focusing in on Hawke.

“Take a guess.”

“Say, Aveline, have you done something with your hair?”

“You truly have no idea?” Fenris brought the subject back this time, his usually sexy, stoic scowl traded out for something that looked almost like he was worried. Now that was really something to be worried about. They struggled to get Fenris to smile as it stood, and then this? Isabela could only convince him to loosen up and allow himself to have fun so many times.

“I don’t know what you’ve heard, but we don’t have schedules to keep in the Circle.” Hawke said through a chuckle that no one was believing. The three faces in front of him ranged from sympathetic to skeptical, nothing he really wanted to see all directed at him. “If you’ve got your hearts set on talking about this, I’ll need more of this.” Gestures with his cup

Fenris passed a bottle over, his silent vote in favor of having the ugly truth spelled out for him. You’d think that someone who had his dark, weighty history would know better, but then again… That same past was probably he was so ready with the wine. Aveline expressed her clear disapproval of that choice with a tsk, but there was always the last bit of Varric’s smile still hanging on that Hawke could cling to for some stability.

He started to pour the wine and force out details.

“There are no windows where I usually sleep.” Generously put, to say the least. “There’s not even really a mattress, and I don’t always make it to every meal of the day. I hate to disappoint, but there’s just no way for me to keep track of time.” With a shrug and a swig of wine, Garrett put that nail in the coffin and hoped to the Maker it stayed shut. He only brushed the surface of what he was up against, true. That was how Garrett planned it all to be from the start. As it was, the wine tasted like mud in his mouth after that. Grape-y mud, though, and enough of it would get the job done.

“I’ll talk to Anders.” Aveline pushed ahead, showing him some mercy at last. She even squeezed his shoulder gently for morale. “Whatever it takes, we’ll get you out in two weeks’ time.”

“There’s no need to rush. I’m not going anywhere,” Hawke said to absolutely no response whatsoever. He took a drink while he waited and still, not one chuckle or roll of the eyes. “Alright, that joke was in bad taste.”

“You think so, Chuckles?” When Varric sounded a little exasperated, you knew it was looking grim. The last time he was this no-nonsense was the Deep Roads, and they could still joke around down there.

“I already said it was bad,” Hawke agreed, chuckling since no one else would. He tossed back another drink of wine that was large enough to get him halfway down the cup. Nothing yet but that warm feeling of alcohol in his stomach. Maybe they didn’t know how to make wine in Tevinter, just widespread misery. Resting his elbows on his knees, Hawke could only hope they’d actually listen to this request. “Just don’t tell Mother. I don’t know that her heart can take it.”

It was bad enough Carver saw. Even worse that Mother was so stressed about him being in the Circle after a lifetime spent on the run and mostly in poverty trying to keep him and Bethany out of that death trap. Now one of them was dead and the other was in what was probably the worst Circle in Kirkwall. “Maker knows I’ve disappointed her enough already.”


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Saving Ourselves: Mari Character Introduction

Word count: 1600 (3 to 13 minutes) | Rating: T | Original Fiction: Saving Ourselves | Note: Fantasy races (common and original), magic, post-apocalyptic setting

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The Blossoming of Year 185: Dawn’s Strike Era

The streets of Garres were like veins, carrying goods and people wherever they needed to go in the city. Sometimes, to places they’d rather not be. Reliable and chaotic, the contradictory way life worked anywhere else. It made the cobblestone streets easy to map in her mind, especially with practice. Anyone could tell the sunbaked almshouse walls from the lofty towers of the governmental district, but only a local could get from one to the other without being late or lost.

Exactly why living in one place for years wasn’t so bad.

Mari knew the routes and schedules of most carriages there. Not to mention basically everyone who kept the city’s blood pumping. Not that any of them really saw her. She was known for her ties to the Union. Only the half-elf who ran their errands and did their chores. Beyond that, she was no more than one of the strangers outside. And it was incredible, the things people let you see and hear when you were invisible.

But if there was one skill she had mastered, it had to be knowing when to wait for the right moment.

The morning mail coach came soaring down the road, and everyone knew they had the run of the road. Stopping one meant paying a fine—even if you did it by mistake. Mari was in a hurry too, poised to hop across the street on the raised steppingstones the moment it went by. She was close enough to feel it rush past, and a small splash from puddles of yesterday’s rain hit her boots. Nothing that wouldn’t dry. Especially if she ran, and she always did.

Her boots barely tapped against each roughly circular stone that kept people above the water, waste, and manure, then she was on the other side. The poor ladies and gentlemen serving the country from its capital couldn’t do that in their fine heeled shoes and fluffy wigs. Their jobs seemed important with all the shouting, but pretty stifling. So long as she did hers to avoid getting yelled at herself, it didn’t matter.

Darting around frantic storeroom maids in the center of the market square, Mari made her way to the weapons and armor marketplace. The heavy smell of molten metal and coal from smithies burned her nostrils before she even saw the magic shops. All the stores there were more like workshops where you could buy goods, not like the tents and stalls of most other places. Maybe the merchants of magical wares didn’t quite belong there, but there they were. No one really wanted to see them while they picked out a new suit before the festival season or resupplied on early summer vegetables and wines.

Pulling the empty satchel up her shoulder, Mari kept her eyes up and stuck close to the wall. The only people around the weapons shops were assistants to the Guard Captain, hunters, and mercenaries. They covered the whole nation’s people: dwarves, elves, people with mixed descent like her, and even the lone chiali now and again. None of them were gifted with patience for anything that didn’t apply to their work, or none that Mari knew. All she had to be was fast and out of their way. She had to move quickly anyway since it would be hot and muggy soon, and Mari wouldn’t be up to as much running.

She ducked into the open rounded doorway of the mages’ goods shop soon enough. Could have done it with her eyes closed, but it was better that she didn’t.

“Hm?” The shopkeep frowned over the counter, glaring down at her from his stool. That sternness was just part of his expression, she learned that shortly after they first met years ago. He was framed by jars of all kinds of magical goods, some open and easy to reach and others sealed and locked on the top shelves behind the front counter. His thick, black moustache with flecks of grey twitched with his ‘tsk’. Fat fingers tied off the thin rope around some gathered stems of faintly glowing thistles that she didn’t recognize. Not yet. The dwarf was no mage, but he knew more than she’d ever forget about magic in the wild—and he liked to remind anyone who came in of that. “Just you, is it?”

“Yeah,” she said with a nod, dropping the rolled parchment on the counter. The Union’s crest was emblazoned on the outside beside the ribbon holding it closed—a precaution for all their parchment in case something important was lost, supposedly. “Got the whole Union order here.”

He kept that surprising delicate touch from the flowers when he swept up the scroll, pulling the ribbon loose to unroll it. From habit, he muttered it out loud as his dull blue eyes moved down the list.

That week’s resupply trip called for more of what Mari recognized. No Union storeroom run was complete without basic healing herbs, but this one included various roots and powders to carve into protective sigils on armor and shields. Plus some fake-sounding items like will-‘o-the-wisp dust. Mari read about them in the Union’s in-house library when most people were asleep, and she doubted they gave off anything like dust. If finding your way back to your original spot after getting tricked by a will-‘o-the-wisp only meant following a dust trail, why did people stay lost?

But if the Union mages asked for it, it had to be real. Maybe it wasn’t literal. Like sprigs of baby’s breath.

“The glass is new,” she interrupted his mumbling and pointed to the windows. Usually, just fancy clothes and jewelry stores had glass windows, but they had gotten more common in other shops with decent sales. Having the Union buying through him most of the time would do that for his profits. She heard him stomping down the ladder from his stool while she leaned to check for outside hinges through the window. “Kept the shutters. Smart.”

“Mmhm. Wait here.”

Wait, he said, like it ever took him long. Mari was barely taller than him when she did her first supply run for the Union, and she was amazed at how quickly he measured and packaged everything. While he worked, she put her satchel up on the counter and flipped it open for him just in time for him to nestle the first bag of herbs in.

“Walk gently,” he ordered as he pat down a box of packed powder.

“Understood.”

“Not how you usually dart around here.” He pierced her with another glare, tossing the tired leather flap over her bag to close it.

“Yes, sir.”

“I mean it.” Punctuating that with a calloused fingertip pointed at her, he moved the bag over to her open hands at the counter’s edge.

“I said yes,” she repeated with an uneasy grimace, not sure what else he wanted. Mari raised the shoulder strap over her head for the steadier carrying it obviously needed.

“And this.” Less gently, he brought a package up onto the smooth wooden countertop and pushed it over to her. The wrapping job wasn’t like his usual. No practical plain paper held in place with twine, but deep slate blue paper with thick silver ribbon adorning it. The contents were clearly a book. Mari softened her grimace but didn’t reach for it. In all the years she knew him, he didn’t adorn anything. If someone wanted to get a gift to a member of the Mages’ Union, they wouldn’t go through him and definitely not her. Even a surprise gift would be better off handled by actual delivery people.

“What’s this?”

“For you.” Glancing back down to it and again to him, Mari closed her hand around the strap over her chest. This just got more and more confusing. Who would give her something? Mari didn’t talk to anyone she didn’t have to, so there was no one to send her an unexpected present.

“What for?”

“A gift,” he observed, being his usual blunt self, but without any of clarity that usually came with it. He must have read something in her glance at the present because he muttered something before offering something she could hear. “If you get your mind set on working at that place ‘til you’re grey, you need to be serious about educating yourself. Before you get killed.”

“Alright,” she asked, as bewildered as ever. No one got a nice shop with glass windows and shutters because they gave out gifts to the spry little stray running tasks for the Union. Still, she picked up the package. It was heavier than she guessed it would be… Probably two books, then. Trading the grimace for a level stare, Mari thanked the stars she was talking to someone who didn’t waste words. “But what’s that to you?”

The long hairs of his moustache ruffled in his scoff as he settled back up onto his stool. Leaning over the counter, he almost looked like he was smirking. “You have a birthday, don’t you?”

“Suppose I do.” Giving him a shrug, she continued her answer. “Not sure when it is, though.”

“In that case, doesn’t matter when you get a present.” Nodding to the book, he scooched back into his seat and reached for another bundle of glowing thistle. “There’s your gift.”

“From?” He quirked an eyebrow, clearly at his limit for questions. She should have figured it was straight from him anyway. The people who knew about her and magic and also apparently had a reason to present her with a new book… Well, there weren’t a lot of them. “Right. Thanks.”

“Mmhm. Don’t die.”


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Saving Ourselves: Noyo Character Introduction

Word count: 1800 (5 to 15 minutes) | Rating: T | Original Fiction: Saving Ourselves | Note: Fantasy races (common and original), magic, post-apocalyptic setting

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Sun’s Tears of Year 1: Shrouded Era

Next to Garres, this farming town was small. Central buildings were stone or brick, but most homes were logs or timber beaten down by rain. It was a matter of resources, and Noyo knew that before crossing the fence bordering the town with smoke and nightmares not far behind. One pressing in closer than the other. Chaos filled in the size difference, spreading through the group of survivors from the capital like an illness. They’d felt the danger had passed as they made beds and chairs out of anything that would work in this makeshift medical space. It was alright to panic now, at least in their minds. 

That was never true.

Still, some people cried while others called for people they couldn’t find and may never again. Noyo guessed it was some kind of closure to know there was no reason to look for the people they’d lost.

“Hey,” a tanned man interrupted their thoughts. Stout and built under a layer of padding from age rather than a lack of activity, they guessed he was the kind who built places like the hall they were in. He was certainly old enough to be their father despite their starkly different lifespans. His dark, fine hair was cut close, excluding his long stubble, and his deep-set eyes seemed weary despite their sharpness. From Noyo’s place on the bench against the wall, he looked taller than he truly was. “Fekhi’s ready to see you.”

Standing, they were at eye level with him. He led the way to a hall on his left and presumably toward Fekhi, their impromptu mayor. Leaders manifested in a crisis, often without even trying. Who knew what Fekhi was before? Now she was overseeing a town and more people than they likely ever had as guests. So far, she was managing. The lanterns dotting the halls showed the place was well-kept, if worn, and the occasional vase or landscape painting added some life to it. Before people fled to their village, it would be quaint. But they acted fast and on good advice. That was a promising sign that Noyo stood a chance of being listened to.

“I’m Enis,” he started, polite but clearly leading towards something. He turned a corner and held close to the wall while two mages passed in a hurry. Probably more survivors. The town was sizable to some, that was true. But they were running low on space as it was, and crowding would lead to desperation.

“Noyo,” they offered all the same. There was only one thing he could want from them, and it would be painful to mention no matter how they went about it. Given the choice, Noyo preferred the faster route. “You know someone in the capital?”

He looked away, focused on the path ahead with shoulders squared. “My son. Haven’t seen him among the survivors.”

“I’m sorry.” What else was there to say? If he wanted answers, he would ask for them and give a description. Approaching a plain oak door with a carved flower mounted in the center, he did exactly none of that.

“So am I.” With two knuckles, he rapped on the office door and nodded for Noyo to enter. “Head on in.”

Turning the doorknob and stepping inside, Noyo was instantly crowded out by crates, bags, and stacks of supplies piled wherever they would fit. A tower of bins leaned ominously against the wall beyond the open door and they had toe a tied off bag aside on the way to the burdened desk where Fekhi stood staunch. Making a casual, sweeping gesture past piles of parchment and a half-filled tankard, the dwarven woman in charge extended her invitation.

“Take a seat if you can find one.”

A rich auburn braid threaded with grey hairs hung over her shoulder, and she offered a tired smile with her hospitality.

“I’m fine.”

“Suit yourself.” Having a long drink to polish off the tankard, she sighed and stared out a window Noyo couldn’t fully see through past a different stack of crates. Not that there was much to see but watching the horizon get swallowed up in the spreading shroud, hour by hour. Days away from this place, which was not much of a comfort.

“Damn it all. Just about every soul that fled Garres is half out of their wits,” she said, as if that much wasn’t clear already, “So it all comes down to you.” Setting down the tankard with a hearty clank, Fekhi got to the point. “What happened?”

“I’m not certain on the details,” Noyo admitted. Honesty would get them further than fabrication, and they needed her trust. Sometimes, that meant delivering bad news. “I came across a Union member before that smoke reached us, and he gave me the equipment your people took from me.”

“And you’ll get your mask back when our Union is done figuring it out.”

A flat stare and slight tilt of their head said all Noyo had to. Anything that was taken in secret while they were treated by healers wasn’t likely to come back, and they both knew better.

“You’re with the Mages’ Union, I take it?”

Strange, to ask a question so pointless. Even if Noyo hadn’t been, any mage outside the Union would never be so reckless as to confess to it. “I am.”

“Then trust them if you can’t trust me.” In that short sentence, it was clear why her people did trust her. Willingness to meet Noyo in the middle, or what she thought was the middle, was an impressive gesture considering Noyo wasn’t one of her own. “You know that was the only thing protecting you from whatever’s out there. We need to find out how it works to make more.”

“You’ve got barriers,” Noyo observed, not prepared to yield regardless. This conversation would uncover where Fekhi’s limits were for patience. A promising start meant nothing for the future. “It’s only those, but smaller.”

“That’s not the point.” Exasperation bled into her voice with a breathy hiss, and Noyo expected that small shake of her head would be the end of it. “Listen,” Fekhi began, working her way around the desk to plant herself in front of Noyo with only some difficulty. “I promise you’ll get it back. First, here and now, you need to tell me what’s out there.”

Tilting her head back to make eye contact took away some of the effect, but Fekhi deserved credit for crossing her arms and continuing anyway. And Noyo did find themselves believing in her integrity. Taking a seat on a crate after all, they nodded.

Quirking a brighter smile, she nodded back to Noyo. Some of her bangs fell loose from the braid, a fact that went ignored. “Good.”

“The smoke is changing people. Some faster than others.” That was putting it lightly. Some people preferred that to the gruesome reality, although they’d all find out soon enough what Noyo meant. Still, they had to begin somewhere.

“Changing them how?”

“Their skin looks badly bruised at first. They get scared, and it gets worse. Then they get violent.” Another understatement. It would do. “Some get sick too, and their body changes. Claws, horns, fangs…” Tapering off, Noyo took a moment to close their eyes and gather their thoughts. The danger hadn’t passed yet. Now was not the time to get lost in unimportant details. Fekhi waited in silence while they took a slow, steadying breath and opened their eyes again. “It’s not consistent. It’s like magic, but nothing I’ve found in my studies.”

Muttering some harsh dwarven phrase, Fekhi flicked the braid over her shoulder and set her hands on her hips. “Will the fences hold?”

“No.” It was only the truth of the matter, and part of the whole reason Noyo asked to speak to Fekhi to start with. “But the foundation is there for something that will.”

“Oh, no you don’t,” she said through a chuckle and wagging her finger like Noyo was an errant child. As a fraction of Fekhi’s age, Noyo supposed they were little more than that to the mayor. “You’re barely an adult by elven standards; you leave this to us.”

“Building it up will take days. You’ll need help.”

Brushing that off with her whole hand this time, Fekhi got more insistent rather than less. “We’ve got the barrier—”

“To keep smoke out, not those who transformed.” The implication weighed heavy between the two of them, between the violence and the distortions made for tearing, biting, and piercing. Even as a mage, Noyo knew there was a limit to what magic alone could achieve.

“I know that.”

“Then you know there’s no time to argue,” they offered in agreement. Fekhi had centuries of knowledge and an effortless command, and Noyo was one of few survivors with a clear mind thanks to that mask. Together, they could turn Brook Mills into a haven and an example for other settlements to follow.

Fekhi rubbed her chin and weighed the options she had, which were not many with no guarantees among them. Clicking her tongue, she made her decision. “Tell me your plans, and we’ll bring it to the Union, see how it works with the barriers.”

Noyo frowned, casting yellow eyes to the worn floor. The Union shouldn’t be trusted just yet. Why did they have barriers ready to activate before the smog even appeared in Brook Mills? How did they have that so soon, but claimed not to know about the protective masks from the capital? Too many questions, and never enough answers. Anywhere it went, the Mages’ Union never looked kindly upon people asking questions.

“What is it?”

Looking to her again, Noyo studied Fekhi for a moment. And again, she was patient. Noyo’s options outside of the mayor didn’t amount to much either. In a way, that made them the best choice for each other to achieve what they wanted. “We should meet with them now.” 

Fekhi barked a laugh, clapping a hand against her chest. “You’ve got initiative, I’ll give you that.” Snatching up her tankard and a stack of papers, the mayor marched back to the hall ahead of Noyo. “You got a name, miss? Sir?”

“Noyo,” they introduced themselves, quietly glad Fekhi asked at the end once the business side of their discussion was handled. They didn’t have much reason for happiness after the people they lost in Garres, so it was nice to have what little they could. “I don’t go by miss. Or sir. Just Noyo.”

Dark elven culture allowed for a spectrum of genders, but not everyone had the same concepts in their upbringing. Yet Fekhi just shrugged and took a left out of the room, walking deeper into the building. “Noyo it is.”


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Saving Ourselves: Dira Character Introduction

Word count: 2750 (6 to 22 minutes) | Rating: T | Original Fiction: Saving Ourselves | Note: Fantasy races (common and original), magic, post-apocalyptic setting

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The Darkening of Year 3: Shrouded Era

Some kind of music usually filled the streets of Genoa Falls, half-named for the mossy lake and waterfalls of the hills the city-state was nestled into. Candle and post lanterns lit the streets, which were worn grassless and a bit lumpy by horses, goats, and a slew of kids. Cabins sat wedged in together and even leaned against each other in some cases, but the people did what they could with what they had.

Who didn’t, with the infectious smog smothering everywhere beyond the barriers? Couldn’t be outside the walls without gear for a couple hours, or you’d lose your mind and get badly disfigured. Definitely put a damper on long, moonlit strolls. But it wasn’t the walls keeping people safe as much as protection provided by the grace and courtesy of the Mages’ Union, of course. Never could resist a chance to act the saint in a time of crisis.

Didn’t do much for them in Genoa, but every other city-state had its own story and take on the Union. Just so happened that Genoa’s ideals were closest to Dira’s. And like a favorite dog-eared book, the city-state called Dira back in over and over.

The people were resourceful, and the lands were gorgeous. Their floating gardens in the lake were immune to smog and safe outside the walls, keeping the people fed and giving the farmer types something to do. Rustling up the gear to go outside to farm was the easy part, it was getting their hands magic lamps to post out there that got tough. The smog was a threat in more ways than one, filtering out sunlight like it did.

Still, they made it work. The farmers were preparing for the fall crop these days, if Dira remembered right. As for the adventurous folks, there was always food to be imported from other city-states. All it took was signing on to join the caravanners who were trained and equipped for smog protection by, of course, the Mages’ Union.

More importantly to Dira, everyone in Genoa just plain knew how to have fun.

And the Eldin family knew it the best. Their litter of kids, anywhere from 5 to 9, were the true experts in wonder and awe. Even after hours of being in town, they circled around Dira. The littlest ones tailed him because his four arms made them easy to toss and carry, but the kids closer to 10 years old were probably there to show their migrant honorary uncle that they were big kids now. Dwarf, human, or elf, everyone was always in a hurry to grow up.

Maybe it was different for chiali, and that’s why Dira wasn’t that interested in adulthood. It’s not like there were many left of his people that he could ask. Being grown up felt mostly like he wandered into a fancy party he wasn’t invited to and didn’t want to be at, but he was stuck once he got there.

Following the swarm of four littles up the faded porch to the Eldin’s cabin, he flicked his tail idly and smiled at the two lovely women kind enough to take in orphaned kids to raise like they were blood. To say nothing of the strays like Dira, coming and going whenever he wanted to.

“Careful,” Kalghi shouted after them, answered with a tumble of giggles and apologies from the spiral stairs to the kids’ floor. Most of them would be taller than their adoptive dwarf mother someday, but few would ever be stronger than her. She huffed as the laughter died off, planting a wide, scarred hand on the railing as she leaned over to be heard wherever they’d gone off to. “And don’t you forget to thank Dira for spending all day with you!”

Dira chuckled next, closing the door behind him. They hadn’t started making dinner just yet, so the only aroma in the kitchen was from the fire warming up the stove and the vase of wildflowers on the far end of the counter. Past that was the long dining table with an extra chair right in the middle on one side, where they always set Dira up without even asking. The ladies of the house never had to, luckily for him, because he wouldn’t ask. Maybe it was a maternal ability or a skill gained as a friend of a couple years, but they just sensed his muted, half-formed loneliness.

A couple years wasn’t a lot to most folks, but that made them Dira’s oldest friends. Out of the ones he could talk to and actually have them answer, anyway. 

He cracked a grin, nodding toward the staircase. “Think nothing of it. Your ducklings are a delight, my dear Kalghi.”

“Because they got manners,” she insisted, frowning fondly up to the retreating footsteps of her kids. She’d been a caravanner herself once, and living behind the barriers with Jia, her wife, didn’t take all that gruff warrior business out of her. Even with a floral towel tossed over her broad shoulder, an apron on in place of tunic armor, Kalghi carried herself like the battle-hardened rogue she always would be.

Actually… Dira hid a laugh behind a cough, but not well. It was a fun thought that she wasn’t exactly as combat ready as she used to be. In a good way, of course. Still, he’d be better off keeping that to himself unless he wanted her to punch him in the leg.

“What’re you laughing at?” Kalghi turned on that watchful frown on him, breaking form only to blow her wayward dark red hair out of her face. Well, try to.

Folding two arms behind his back, he shrugged with the upper pair. It was just easier that way, even with more accepting folks like the Eldins. Two sets of arms were too much to keep track of sometimes. “Their manners aren’t what I come back for, is all.”

“Well,” Jia jumped in with a teasing smile and her arms full of ingredients. Having never been outside the walls since the smog first started its spread, Jia was the master of domestic life in their marriage. She was familiar with a knife in a totally different practice than Kalghi. If his guess was right, she’d bring all those ingredients together into a delicious medley of pan-fried veggies and chicken with seasonings he knew next to nothing about.

But first, that impish little cat’s grin on her round, heart-shaped face said there was a lighthearted joke at his expense to come before any of that happened. She put the greens and meat down on the counter where she’d prep it all, a knowing sparkle in her deep brown eyes as she tucked her black bangs behind perfectly curved, hairless ears. Always struck him with something a little like awe that other people could do that without getting caught up on tufted, pointed ears like his. “We both know manners don’t mean a thing to you.”

“Oomph, harsh,” Dira chuckled through his answer, curling his tail. Offering up his finest wounded acting, he pressed a hand against his side over his imaginary injury.

“Oh, don’t be a baby,” she lightly chastised, pulling a knife from the block to dice the vegetables with quick, familiar chops on a worn cutting board. “I’m still glad you watched the kids today. They love you, you know.”

“Yeah, well,” he tapered off, taking a seat on the counter and playing with the tufted end of his ear before just leaving it at that. Probably wasn’t polite to say kids didn’t know any better. Had to be a smoother way to recover from that diversion than silence. “Anything good for Genoa’s good for me.”

That little stall got him just enough time to think of something better that put a playful smirk on his face. Leaning toward Jia with a wink, Dira went ahead with his plan to avoid more tricky sentimental talk. “Though I’m partial to helping you two ladies out.”

“Because we save your hide constantly?” Kalghi was not one to miss out on an opportunity to tease Dira, and her smug grin as she sauntered over to where they stood showed just how much joy she took in it. That’s what he got for having a friend as bratty as he was. The dishes were done and the table was clear, so Kalghi had a few spare moments to let him know she cared by giving him a hard time.

“Ah, my darling Kalghi, your pointedness is all part of your charm.” Turning to Jia, he traded mischief for mischief by drawing her wife into the antics. “It’s painfully clear why you love her so devotedly.”

Not even looking up from her work, Jia pushed aside the peppers into a bowl and began cutting the summer squash into evenly sliced circles. “Who do you think saves her when she puts her foot in her mouth?”

“And you had to tell him that?” Any disapproval that was there was easily erased by a quick kiss through matching smiles. These two were so in love, like the stuff of storybooks, that Dira barely knew how to handle it sometimes. For real, it had a way of making him feel jittery to see love that honest existed for anyone.

He made himself smile when Kalghi drew back from their kiss and gave her attention to him again. If he could make his tail stop flicking, curling and uncurling, she might’ve even been convinced.

“Got a question for you, actually.”

“That right?”

The beat of silence filled with the steady rhythm of Jia’s chopping was worse than nearly any question Kalghi could ask.

“You were gone an awful long time.”

Hidden questions, his least favorite kind. Dira sighed, his hand finding the back of his neck while his tail wrapped around his leg. They cared, that was why she asked, but that knowledge didn’t make the situation any less uncomfortable.

“None of that. Someone’s got to keep you safe.” Kalghi pulled the towel off her shoulder to smack it against his knee, and a chorus of giggles from upstairs confirmed that that particular noise carried up to the kids.

“Yeah, that’s my job.” Double teamed by worried Mom looks from just four words, all Dira could do was laugh. “You’re really good at that! The coordination gave me chills.”

“We can’t stop you, Dira.” Jia always took care to remind him the choice was his, that he was here and part of them but minded his freedom too. Like she knew how hypocritical his heart could be, pushing them away even as it wanted him to belong. At least he never had to say something so pathetic, right? His smile turned to a grimace as he wounded himself on the thought anyway. “But you are like family to us. You’re out longer each time, and your visits are so short.”

She’d stopped working on dinner, and Kalghi stepped up to put her calloused hand on his knee. He swallowed and took a deep, deep breath. Being thought of fondly was, in a lot of ways, the hardest thing he’d ever done. Not guarding all the secrets he had, dodging all the threats from the Union and the smog and people who hated him for what his ancestors did, but the one thing everyone else seemed ready to do like breathing.

Dira had obviously gone wrong somewhere, but there wasn’t any going back. That would’ve made it a ton easier.

“We can’t help worrying.” Kalghi’s smaller, light green eyes sought out his own oval silvery ones — just one more thing to set him apart. Her eyebrows furrowed while he willed his troubled look away to at least a sad smile. They would know something was upsetting him no matter what he did, but at least they didn’t have to worry about it anymore if he put on a good enough front.

“I get it,” he admitted, crossing his upper set of arms over his chest and flipping his tail into his lap. Never did like staying still long. “But I made this promise, you know? And it’s all out there.”

“Whatever you promised, do you think your friend would be thrilled with you putting yourself in danger like this? All the time?” Jia wouldn’t count herself out of the conversation, but he was glad she’d moved on to getting the chicken ready next. He was a fan of a hearty dinner, not a late one because the chef was busy babying him.

“Enh, you’re not wrong about that.”

“Just be more careful, Dira,” Kalghi took over seamlessly, patting his knee before moving away to gather up the silverware from a drawer beside him. “It’s risky enough out there with people taken by the smog.”

She hesitated, clicking her tongue and staring up at him. Kalghi never minced words, and probably thought that kind of behavior was dishonest, but even she thought some things might cross a line. That little habit of hers was her tell that she was thinking just that.

“Not to mention you being chiali.”

It wouldn’t have been hard to tell her that his race was one of his easier obstacles, but would it have made her feel better? Obviously not, and that was reason enough to keep quiet. Sure, Dira didn’t have anything to do with the war his people didn’t quite win generations ago, not that it changed him being mostly unwelcome anywhere. That prejudice didn’t give him half the trouble that his own mistakes brought to his door. Metaphorically.

“Genoa’s safe for you. We barely even have a Union post here, so there’s no one to single you out for unsanctioned magic. And everyone here adores you.” Gesturing to the door symbolically with a fistful of forks, Kalghi finished up her roster of very good points—for someone who didn’t know the whole story. And couldn’t. “What do these trips do that you can’t get done here?”

“This place’s home to me and all,” he agreed, and he wasn’t lying. When he was sleeping in roll hidden in an alcove of the woods or a hill, all rigged up with security measures, Dira would rather be with the Eldins in Genoa over even the showiest manor of other city-states. “But my promise is also a secret. And there’re people out there who need a wandering hero sometimes.”

“Oh, right, like you’ve got to be a rogue rescuer to caravanners.” And Kalghi was back with her snide smirk, rolling her eyes as she marched off to the dining room and talking over her shoulder. “You don’t have to save the world.”

“And if I don’t, who will?” He didn’t even need to use his signature smirk to disarm their suspicions first—Jia and Kalghi both thought he wasn’t serious. Who would think he was really taking on a task that extreme? It was a lost cause at best, and if he somehow pulled it off, he’d probably die before he saw the clear sky again.

Getting down from the counter, Dira finally decided it was time he pitched in here and now. Kalghi had the silverware out and Jia’d been cooking for a while, so that left the plates to him. Times like that, four arms came in handy. Stacking modest ceramic plates into the lower set of his arms using the upper set, Dira started on a task he could actually finish tonight.

By the stove, Jia flashed him a smile that showed the storm had passed. “Will you be staying the night?”

“Hm.” He gave the idea of curling up on a bed some thought, complete with a cheerfully patterned quilt light enough for the end of summer, but it left this itchy feeling in his chest. “Mind if I camp out on your roof?”

“We have a cot in the den if the kids are keeping you up.”

“Nah, I’m a sucker for stars and sunrise,” he answered as he walked by to the dining room, setting down the first two plates down and starting work his way around the table.

“No leaving before breakfast this time,” she shouted to be heard, “and you have a deal.”

Kalghi nodded firmly, so there was no question he’d be in trouble next time if he dared do that again. Laughing, Dira shook his head and accepted his fate of breakfast with the family.

“Yes, ma’am.”


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Hubert von Vestra from Fire Emblem looking down and to the side

Nightmare: Ferdibert Week 2020 FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 2100 (5 to 17 minutes) | Rating: T (Referenced child death in the context of the nightmare and intrusive thoughts)| Fire Emblem: Three Houses Fanfiction | Characters: Ferdinand von Aegir and Hubert von Vestra


The war was over. Had been for years. Ferdinand was even better suited to peacetime than he was to war, clad in polished armor and his stately ministerial uniform and charging proudly into battle. Now he spent his days in the latest Adrestian fashions, penning letters to Lorenz and diplomats from territories outside of Fódlan. He championed the educational system he discussed at length with Linhardt and Edelgard, where several of their allies now taught—Hubert included.

He was far less equipped for peace, however. The strongholds of the Agarthans were destroyed, and any useful information was distributed to the person most suited to designing constructive inventions from it. Hubert maintained his network and his vigilance, but that demanded far less from him than active warfare with two nations and a religious power over the course of six years or so.

With less to apply his mind to, his intellect evidently chose to turn on him directly.

He was not the only one, of course. Manuela had opened an institution of healing through words commonly referred to as counseling, which Hubert had determined was a less private version of the advice box. Caspar went regularly, as did Linhardt. Most of the Strike Force, in fact. Even if Hubert wanted to go, and he didn’t, he simply could not bring himself to disclose his most vulnerable moments to either a perfect stranger or someone he knew professionally.

So when the nightmares crept in, he sat in the reading chair in the central room of their house and waited for dawn. This seat was more familiar with their two children, watching him intently as he read through Bernadetta’s latest children’s story. The last stretch of summer sunlight peeked through arched windows and across the ornate rug depicting some legend of old beneath a thin coat of Aegir hound fur.

But tonight, even though smiled faintly in the dark, it was his security post. Only bugs waited outside at present and he knew that as an unmovable fact. In the heart of Enbarr, there was no chance of an attack on the ministers’ estate. That changed nothing. Only when the first staff members came in to see to the first tasks of their day, Hubert would retire for a few hours of sleep. Lately, he’d awakened Ferdinand on his return, and he knew the conversation about where he was all night was not far off.

The candle on the engraved table beside the worn seat flickered weakly as Hubert wove thin traces of dark magic through his fingers. He opened and closed his hand around it, prepared for whatever may come in the night to threaten the peace he’d carved out for himself. There, in the late hours of the evening or early hours of morning, it meant nothing that Hubert did not have any right to the idyllic domesticity of his life. It was his, given to him by the man he loved and the children they adopted who found it in their hearts to see past his many layers to find a suitable father. He fought this far for it, and he would fight again if ever the need arose.

“Darling?”

A sensation not unlike nausea roiled in his stomach, but Hubert gradually brought himself to look at Ferdinand waiting at the edge of the candle’s light. His hair was in a loose ponytail, curls falling free to frame his face. He still had a healthy tan and a light dusting of freckles that always intensified in the summer. Perhaps he wasn’t quite as sculpted as he was when he was a general in field rather than a minister at his desk for the majority of his day… But his was a beauty only enhanced by the passage of time. His loose nightgown swept around him while he approached, resting a warm hand on Hubert’s forearm.

“My love, it’s late.” The flames danced in his eyes, melding with the open concern there. Even in Hubert’s peripheral, he could see the furrow of his brow. Even before the gentle, reassuring squeeze on his arm, he sensed that distress as if it were his own. Such was the effect of falling in love, he supposed.

“I’m aware,” Hubert answered.

“And yet you are not in bed.”

“No,” he agreed. Conversations about Hubert’s emotional state always began like this: roundabout and simple statements of fact as Ferdinand endeavored to find his way to the heart of the matter.

Correctly interpreting Hubert’s stillness as permission, Ferdinand moved closer and slid his hand up his arm and around his shoulder to have a seat on the sturdy arm of the chair. They purposefully chose it to support the children plus one of them, and as a result, it supported the two of them at once with ease. And in the gravity of moments such as these, that was invaluable. Hubert shifted closer to lean into Ferdinand’s embrace, take in the scent of him. Tea and sleep and that herbal soap Dorothea introduced him to. Of course, there was the unshakable traces of hay and horses as well. His ponytail rested over his shoulder and between them, the culprit for every stray orange strand he found on his black blazers and cloaks.

“Is there no way I can persuade you to bed, my love?”

Patient as always, Ferdinand waited in the pensive silence Hubert left. It took time to assess his mental state, determine the path he wished to take from there, and gather his words in his mind to communicate that effectively. Hubert spent years training himself to ignore the ghoulish recollections that haunted the chambers of his heart, forging ahead at any cost to himself. The safe path was meaningless to him if it endangered Her Majesty and those who allied themselves with her when she made her stand in the Holy Tomb. It was as though that was a separate lifetime, as distinct and severed from the rest as his childhood before the incident that tore Lady Edelgard from his side.

It could very well be that was where the problem found its origins.

“As a child,” he began, snaking an arm around Ferdinand as well to rest on his waist. “I dreaded the notion that the goddess would punish me for any misdeed. Failing to better protect Lady Edelgard. Disappointing my father and all the Vestras who served before me.” The very mention of such an abhorrent creature as the late Lord Vestra set him on edge. With a bracing breath, Hubert did manage to continue regardless. “Even when that was behind me in the later portion of my childhood, I feared what grudges the dead might hold.” There was no need to elaborate from there. Ferdinand knew well that Hubert was quite young when he claimed his first life.

“But now, when there are few situations to speak of that could strike noteworthy fear in me, I encounter it merely by existing.” Hubert had done nothing exceptional that day to invite that nightmare into his dreams. There was no cloaked assignment to stir up memories of contacts and agents murdered in service to Hubert, or the lives he’d cruelly cut short in the name of Her Majesty.

All those who survived them may bear him ill will and the easiest, most sensible target was his family. It would be very tactical and efficiently done. They had a routine, like most families, and discovering it was an effortless task. Hubert ordered his favorite coffee from the same merchant as always, their preferred housekeeping staff had been the same since the war ended, the children had school nearly every day of the week with schedules that were readily accessible simply by pretending to be a parent. With no warning or reason to it, all Hubert could see on certain days was the various ways he could one day come home to their dead bodies—or worse.

Ferdinand would die defending their children. Against the right soldiers or simply outnumbered, he would fall. They were all out of practice and for the sake of their happiness, they should remain so. But that meant leaving an obvious risk of being outmatched by even a single well-trained assassin striking from the shadows. The children would never stand a chance.

All in all, that horrific possibility distorted to a certain, inevitable reality on those occasions when Hubert could not clear the weighted fog from his thoughts.

“Zealots and grudges of the living. If those led to my death, it would simply be reaping what I have sown.” He wouldn’t lay down and accept it, not with his family waiting for him to return safely each day, but Hubert would prefer it to the cursed visions his sleeping mind conjured for him. Tightening his grip on Ferdinand, his voice strained taut while tears pricked at his eyes. Fatherhood had made him soft. “But if anything were to happen to you or the children, I—”

He brought a hand stained by dark magic to his mouth reflexively, biting back tears as Ferdinand gently shushed him.

“My dear, it’s alright to be afraid.” This was a reminder he was familiar with. Hubert had found Ferdinand furiously maintaining retired weapons on more than one occasion, or having tea go cold in his hands as a far-off look took hold of his normally sunny husband. They all had ghosts left behind from the war, but Hubert could not just choose to see himself in the same light as the others. As if reading his thoughts, Ferdinand offered another practiced reminder with as much affection as the first time he shared it. “You don’t need to bear this burden alone any longer.”

He placed a delicate kiss to the top of his head, the curls of his ponytail brushing against Hubert’s shoulder as he did. He closed his eyes in an effort to center all his attention on only Ferdinand there alongside him. “We shall check on our little ones and the defenses of our home, and we can retire to bed when you’ve seen all is well for yourself.”

Drifting his eyes open once more, he was greeted by Ferdinand smiling down at him. Even weary from partial rest, the man was a beacon of light and warmth. That smile reached his eyes as visibly as the reflected candlelight from the table opposite him.

“Well? It’s a promising plan, is it not?”

“It is,” Hubert relented. He’d done as much himself twice that night already, but together, it may be different. There was certainly nothing better he could be doing with his evening. His eyes seared with exhaustion and now, remnants of tears that didn’t quite fall. “I’m very tired.”

“I know,” he acknowledged, sympathetic as ever while he smoothed his hair. Hubert chose to grow it out somewhat after the war and parted it to show both of his eyes at the behest of Ferdinand and Edelgard. Or more of his face, at least. Progress was progress, and they accepted his compromise gladly. “Tomorrow, we can discuss arranging a meeting with Manuela. She can help you find a counselor you can trust if you so choose.”

He almost laughed. Trust was eternally a battle for Hubert. But Ferdinand simply wanted to help him and if nothing else, he could humor the chance that such a task was possible. “Perhaps.”

“Thank you, Hubert.” He stood, drawing his arm away to trail his hand back down to Hubert’s with the goal of leading him to stand. A rather successful method, considering he took Ferdinand’s hand in his and essentially guaranteed that outcome with that gesture.

“Shouldn’t I be thanking you?”

Gently, Ferdinand pulled Hubert to his feet and bestowed another kiss onto Hubert with soft lips on the back of his marred hand. With enough repetition, the sight inspired a sense of peace in Hubert at last instead of the previous crawling apprehension.

“The highest form of gratitude I could ever hope for is your presence beside me throughout the night, side by side as we are in our hearts.”

That did earn him a breathed chuckle from Hubert. “So dramatic. But if you wish it, then… For you, I will do it gladly.”


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Recovery: Ferdibert Week 2020 FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 2000 (4 to 16 minutes) | Rating: T | Fire Emblem: Three Houses Fanfiction | Characters: Ferdinand von Aegir, Edelgard Hresvelg, Dorothea Arnault, Linhardt von Hevring, and Hubert von Vestra


Day 1:

Hubert is still unresponsive. He never was especially fond of Lord Arundel, so I cannot help but be suspicious of this secretive procedure he performed at Edelgard’s request to save his life. She’s assured me that his white hair is a normal side effect and I should not be alarmed, but how can I not be? Hubert in such anguish, yet every inch as stubborn as usual. He clung to consciousness to order me about as though we are not both ministers to Edelgard and as such, we are equals.

I had no interest in what he had to say about the event of his death. I insisted that he would be fine as always. Hubert has overcome more injuries and adversaries than most full battalions ever will, and that is based only on what I am permitted to know. None of us ever imagined he would fall in battle. It just did not seem possible. And then he was lifeless, stained with his own blood for—

But he is alright now. Linhardt and Dorothea are both seeing to him now, and this time, there is a life left to restore. I should be grateful.

Day 5:

Excellent news! Hubert has begun reacting to his environment! Dorothea was all smiles and even hugged me as she relayed the update to me. True, it is only a glance or a nod, and he does not speak still. But he is present in the moment! He even rolled his eyes when I arrived with a full bouquet to wish him well and bizarrely, I was thrilled with that reaction.

There may have been a trace of a smile there as well. Or perhaps I had only imagined it in my eagerness to see him well, giving orders to his agents, having his morning coffee in the meeting room, even hearing that foreboding laugh of his in the halls… I have missed him terribly. I simply wish to tell him as much, whether he scolds me to be less theatrical or maybe something kinder. Over the course of the war, I have seen glimpses of his compassionate nature that is as hidden and enigmatic as the rest of that infuriatingly enthralling man.

And whether the statement is excessive in his eyes or not, his brush with death and subsequent absence while Edelgard’s uncle saw to this mysterious treatment has it made it very apparent how much I rely on him. How much we all have come to.

Not that the Empire has been greatly hindered. His agents are presently carrying out various contingency plans to uphold the network and their own assignments from Hubert while he is in recovery. How ever does he manage such far-reaching foresight? Someday soon, I hope to ask him myself.

Day 7:

As expected, Hubert is progressing well on his recovery! He is speaking articulately but unable to recall anyone, not even Edelgard. Although his personality does appear to be intact… He did try to conceal his lack of awareness as long as possible. Even asked directly, Hubert claimed to know who was present and did know the titles of those in his company. But he could not offer even a single birthday!

We have all been receiving small gifts and calligraphed cards discreetly on our birthdays for years. Typically, it was an item we had needed for some time and put off acquiring or was unattainable through all available to channels—to us, at least. Who else could have kept track of all that and a war while observing us to select gifts we would all appreciate? Still, no one expected him to be completely recovered within a week of his return. There is time yet!

Day 12:

Hubert was concealing more than the disconcerting state of not remembering the people dearest to him, which I suppose I should have anticipated. While he does recognize his fellow Black Eagles now, he doesn’t acknowledge his own name. He understood that people said Hubert in application to him and consciously chose to respond to it rather than recognizing it instinctively.

The discovery came gradually in several mundane events, such as when he was called out to while reading and did not even answer. No one could accuse him of being particularly friendly, but even Hubert was above purposefully ignoring someone for no cause whatsoever. Of course, he held to this ruse as long as possible as well.

When he could not any longer, he admitted to Edelgard that it was because we all seemed distressed enough as it was. Even without his memories at his disposal, Hubert adamantly placed the needs of others above his own while he remains confined to a cot. As concerning as his condition is, I’m finding myself impressed at the breadth and depth of his attentiveness to those around him. Come what may, I know now that Hubert will always be just as I remember him. And admire him, truly.

Day 19:

In a week’s time, Hubert has made remarkable progress yet again! He greeted me today before I even spoke to him, and so fondly at that. The sharp perception of his eyes has returned, and his smirk is perfectly done. This, I am confident, is no ruse! He is no longer confused by people he was close to, although he seems generally disoriented in areas too far removed from his usual places now that he can go for walks. While supervised by an upstanding ally, naturally.

We can visit the library and the specific table we usually occupied for our tea breaks, although I refuse to bring him to his office lest he be tempted to overexert himself, but the fishing pond or the stables leaves him staring at me for guidance. Or he may be hoping to ground himself in seeing a familiar face? I didn’t dare ask and risk his recuperation.

As it is, he is acting unusually despite his persistent sacrificial character. Why, just at tea today, he apologized to me! In broad daylight and plain sight and earshot of our peers! Hubert expressed his remorse for a perceived failing as a minister to serve alongside me and lead Edelgard together. He even referred to us a couplet. A couplet! I was disgracefully flustered into a broken answer to reassure him, but it did seem to do him some good.

…Then again… Oh, dear. Perhaps that was not enough. I shall just have to work harder to prove that taking time to restore his health is no failure! And when he is ready to return, we shall move forward as impressively as ever—together.

Day 23:

Abruptly, today did not go well for Hubert. Linhardt explained that magical procedures may sometimes regress sharply like that, but there was a weariness in his eyes that suggested he was despairing at this turn of events. From what I have heard, he experienced some kind of hallucination and forgot himself entirely. It must have been a horrid vision to inspire him to attack a medic working under Linhardt in a grand, if misguided, attempt to escape the palace.

He’s been restrained to his cot now, of course, and he is being kept asleep magically in the hopes that this will put his mind at ease.

Healing is a long, difficult path, and I knew this before he returned to us. I wish I understood more of what he was suffering through. The stripped clean white of his hair, the tormented hallucinations that plague him, his displacement in his own life and mind, I just… I desire nothing more than to reach out and hold him. Considering where we began at the academy, it is a relatively new impulse to protect Hubert, but how could I not? He has always been so capable and logical, regardless of how viciously we fought in our youth. Now that he is in need, it is all I can do to be at his side however I am able.

Which, at present, is shamefully little.

Linhardt theorized that his Crest’s power flared due to a weather event or celestial change beyond our understanding, something conditional like with the Crests of Lysithea or Catherine. It is Linhardt’s belief his mind is trying to reconcile the new existence of the Crest. Should that be the case, that would mean memories are stored within Crests as well, but they go unnoticed to those born with them while potentially causing madness in those granted them.

I can think of nothing more horrific than Hubert von Vestra losing his mind due to a risk we took without his knowledge or approval. Did Edelgard truly make the right choice by sending him away with Lord Arundel? Did I, by remaining silent?

Day 25:

Yesterday, Hubert was utterly vacant, and the entire medical wing of the palace had the atmosphere of a crypt. But the update that he was non-verbal and responding to friends anew has broken through that gloom like a vibrant parade. …My heart is simply not in characteristically poetic analogies just yet, but I am grateful for the joy others have found in this. All I feel is terror that we will be trapped in this loop of restoration and loss forever as punishment for our decision.

Day 28:

I went to visit today, and Hubert was extraordinarily cross at being restrained. How strange, that his glower made me beam with delight. Just to witness it reinforced my faith that he would be himself again for good this time around. The process of helping him drink coffee went more smoothly than I expected, and he did seem soothed by my reading of the latest heroic tale from my favorite author. He claimed he would rather hear the reports from his agents, of course. That soft look in his eyes spoke to the truth of the matter, however!

I dreaded that he would hate us for our choice to save him by any means. Instead, it may very well be that we are closer than ever.

…Focus, Ferdinand! Now is not the time for flightful fantasies of the heart.

Day 35:

I ran into Hubert unattended in the halls today! He dismissed an agent for assignment and greeted me with the warmest smile I have ever seen grace his expression. We walked together to the stables, and he went out of his way to confess he had no business whatsoever there but to be with me.

We spoke of how Linhardt noted that it was remarkable how quickly Hubert has adapted since the last jarring episode. There is no evidence yet to confirm if it’s the Crest acclimating to his body and vice versa or Hubert being “too smart and stubborn”.

Vastly inspiring as that is, the true miracle is what came next.

When we were alone in the stables, Hubert stood so close to me that I imagined I felt his heartbeat syncing with my own. Those piercing green eyes lingered on me in a way that revealed such devotion and admiration that I was locked in place as though I was a statue. He brushed my hair from my face so tenderly, bringing his slightly chapped lips to rest against my cheek with such lightness that I barely know if it happened or I dreamt it from moons of longing for that very act.

But I could never forget the brush of his breath against my ear as he whispered his gratitude for my support before withdrawing in a sweep of his black cloak to Goddess knows where. Saints, my face blazes just to write it out! Wherever our journey takes us next, my heart swells with pride that we will see it through together, hand-in-hand, shining for all the world to see. If our love for one another is the only deed of mine that is ever documented, I will be honored beyond measure.


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Fears: Ferdibert Week 2020 FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 1800 (3 to 15 minutes) | Rating: T | Fire Emblem: Three Houses Fanfiction | Characters: Ferdinand von Aegir and Hubert von Vestra


At the initial assault on Garreg Mach following the Holy Tomb, Hubert’s carefully laid strategy built on the full Black Eagle house joining their ranks moved smoothly. It would have been just as successful without them, of course, but at a steeper cost. Bernadetta and Dorothea devastated enemies from afar while Petra and Caspar tore through their front lines. Linhardt kept everyone well enough to move their troops forward, pressing onward to where Edelgard and the Professor would challenge the head of the Church of Seiros in a blaze of legendary glory.

As always, in every strategy reviewed by Her Majesty, Ferdinand and Hubert were placed close together. They were accustomed to one another’s fighting styles due to it and remained vigilant for the areas where their ally was habitually less than attentive. Even Hubert had his blind spots, and of course, his strategic weaknesses. Ferdinand knew many of them, but there were still those he remained fortunately ignorant of. It was one matter for Byleth to know about Hubert’s aversion to heights through the advice box at the monastery, but Ferdinand?

Conjuring another spell, Hubert took out an archer aiming for Ferdinand and smirked. No, it was better he didn’t know. Their friendship had grown out of intense animosity to something perhaps defined as more than friendship… Particularly after talking out numerous personal matters in private when they returned to their base of operations. Throughout the evening after the retreat from the Holy Tomb, they remained in one another’s company over the last meal before the siege on Garreg Mach.

At present, they focused their joint efforts on clearing the area surrounding them of enemies, and Ferdinand strode up to him with energy to spare despite the long battle. His horse was likely behind the front lines for safety—he spoiled that beast rotten in Hubert’s opinion.

“Hubert,” he called unnecessarily, but it was a relief to hear something other than his own orders and the cries of the battlefield for a moment. “Have you seen Edelgard? Or the Professor?”

“They’ve led the attack on the archbishop ahead.” For them, that was communication enough. They made their way to the heart of the monastery, where Byleth and Edelgard fought alongside one another to defeat the leader of this false religion.

They only barely arrived in time to see a flash of green light, which Hubert recognized solely from studying forbidden books on the Immaculate One. “She’s about to change form,” he explained to Ferdinand, harsh and curt. There was no time for anything else, and already, the demands of battle were making themselves known through the invigorating haze of adrenaline.

Raising up her long, serpentine neck, the Immaculate One reared up. Her voice, distorted by her new form, resonated in his chest and shook the stone around them. “You will not be forgiven!”

“Hubert? What is—?”

“Professor!” Edelgard cut off Ferdinand unknowingly, reaching out for Byleth as the first stones began to fall. “Look out!”

“The castle is crumbling,” a soldier cried out, pushing his helmet down over his head further as if that would spare him as he fled. “We must escape!”

“Everyone, take cover!” Hubert ordered, lamenting the debris already piled up between him and where the Professor stood with Her Majesty. They would have to fend for themselves, and knowing they were perfectly capable of that did little to comfort Hubert as he grabbed Ferdinand’s forearm to pull him into a west-facing archway of the monastery.

“Professor!” Edelgard’s desperate shout followed him as if chastising his choice. A true vassal to the Imperial throne would find a way through, over, or around the debris. He knew that was foolish. Hubert likely would’ve died trying something so brazen, but still, his grip on Ferdinand tightened while he followed his tactical retreat.

Abruptly, their roles of leader and follower changed. He felt Ferdinand stop short and pull Hubert back before the rocks above tore apart the stone bridge in front of them leading to safety. “Be careful,” Ferdinand did chastise him, frowning. “I have told you before, you are too quick to put yourself in harm’s way.”

“You would have made it,” Hubert insisted flatly, keeping his distance from the crumbling ledge to examine the gap. With each roar from inside, more fell away. They would have to jump, and they were running out of time. He had scarcely turned to Ferdinand to say as much when the blur of brilliant reds, golds, and long curls of orange hair blurred past Hubert to the other side with a solid thump. He spun on a heel, grinning and arms open wide.

“And now for you!”

“Yes,” he agreed, swallowing. “Now for me.” He slid his foot out towards the ledge, careful not to lift it and place it anywhere that might be unstable. His feet should be positioned shoulder-width apart for stability. The distance he had to jump was just shy of two meters, nothing to be concerned with. Hubert could jump up to two and half with a running start, which he didn’t need. All he had to do was make the leap.

“Yes, now would be delightful,” Ferdinand encouraged, the unspoken question dappling in his eyes like sunlight across a pond. Hubert noted that he should read less poetry, regardless of what Ferdinand insisted upon.

“I’m simply preparing,” Hubert spoke over another distant roar that shook the nearby window, rattling through his legs unhelpfully. He must have blanched at it because the next response he saw from Ferdinand was realization. Eyebrow-raising, surprised discovery that Hubert, the cunning spymaster with a sinister reputation shrouded in shadows, was afraid of heights.

“Well, I advise you to use that brilliant mind of yours to prepare faster, Hubert,” he aimed for keeping the mood light, mixing paralytic dread with an unsolicited compliment that merely served to make his heart pound faster.

“Not now, Ferdinand,” he hissed, analyzing the gap again. All he had to do was push off and prepare himself to land uninjured on the opposite side. Locking his legs or freezing up mid-jump would almost surely lead to a sprain or worse, and Linhardt would never let him hear the end of it.

“Actually, now is the perfect time,” Ferdinand answered, somewhat strained and entirely missing the point.

“I meant you shouldn’t distract me!”

The silence that earned him was promising, but it didn’t last. Not due to the falling stones or the dragon within the castle they were attempting to escape, but—of course—Ferdinand.

“Is it distracting when I compliment you, Hubert?”

Lifting his attention from the gap to the smiling prime minister in front of him, Hubert thought the phrase don’t you dare with such intensity that he was certain it would be conveyed directly to Ferdinand. Sadly, that wasn’t so.

“Then perhaps you should use those long, graceful legs of yours to cross this gap to safety.”

The strangled noise that came from him was both embarrassing and indignant, but at least it got Hubert to move again. Moving to where the gap was smaller and out of the reach of any new rocks that might fall, Hubert bent his knees and—planned. Ignoring Ferdinand, he did his best to focus on the best method to safely cross that distance rather than the grinning man holding his arms open from a safe place.

“Surely, you must know I am very capable of catching you as you leap into my arms! Your impressive height is exceptionally attractive, I will grant you that,” he said lightly, but his faint, enduring blush suggested there was more honesty to it than he meant to share. Which only intensified the effect it had on Hubert’s ability to think. “But I’m certain my considerable strength will be more than enough to support you.”

Ferdinand,” he scolded, or tried to, but it was difficult to take himself seriously when he felt warmth creeping into his face to replace the dank chill of fear.

“What is it, Hubert? I am only eager to assist you. After all, I could never allow harm to befall someone as beloved to me as you!”

“That’s quite enough of your mockery,” he attempted to enforce his prior stance, but it felt strained and disjointed even in his own mind. The one fear he could never shake, and the one bright-eyed noble he could never fully resent no matter how venomous their arguments, and now Hubert had to contend with both. Once more for good measure, Hubert cursed the goddess for her wanton cruelty.

“It’s no mockery,” he corrected, smiling as though they weren’t on a crumbling bridge and every second Hubert wasted was another when they were all in danger. “But if you truly wish me to stop, you must jump, Hubert.”

“Do you think I’m not trying?!”

“I know you are, as you apply yourself with all that you have to every task you undertake,” he praised freely while an ominous crack carried through the stone wall running alongside the former bridge, bringing down a cloud of dust behind Ferdinand. “And I know I’ll have you in my arms, safe and sound, not a moment too late.”

At last, the discomfort of his very sentimental, dramatic, and very public proclamations overpowered the fear of falling. It didn’t even matter that there was no one in sight but them to hear it. Hubert ran ahead, pushing off as the stone gave way beneath him and he stumbled into Ferdinand’s steady arms. For a second, they simply stared at one another, Ferdinand with his arm behind Hubert’s back for support and Hubert with his hand using Ferdinand’s shoulder for balance.

“Now you see how insightful I am,” Ferdinand masked his relief poorly, the concern fading from his marigold eyes and smoothing out his wrinkled brow. “Don’t I get a reward for rescuing such a handso—”

“The castle is still falling,” Hubert interrupted, rushed and repositioning to stand on his own.

“And I must insist you follow me to safety!”

Allowing Ferdinand to take his gloved hand with his gauntled one, Hubert went along with his heroics. He did rescue him, after all. But that would be reward enough. If he wanted more than that from Hubert, Ferdinand would no doubt find a way to those results with his usual persistent optimism. As for Hubert trailing after him, hand-in-hand down unstable staircases and over a notably sturdier bridge into war-torn fields, he was rewarded by the knowledge that he’d been correct about overcoming his fear of heights in one regard. The view was certainly something to behold.


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Ferdinand von Aegir from Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Confessions: Ferdibert Week 2020 FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 1800 (3 to 15 minutes) | Rating: T | Fire Emblem: Three Houses Fanfiction | Characters: Ferdinand von Aegir and Hubert von Vestra


There was a war on, and Hubert was very much preoccupied with all that entailed. Security for the monastery grounds. Close correspondence with his agents acting against Those Who Slither in the Dark. Protection for the members of the Black Eagle Strike Force when the professor travelled with them to address minor issues that came up seemingly every week.

Byleth took over managing the supplies for Her Majesty’s forces and the strategy for the Strike Force, and at first, Hubert was somewhat disquieted by that. But when that had passed, silent gratitude took its place. That spare time afforded him the ability to take a clandestine trip to a secured but abandoned chapel near the monastery grounds, where he could rehearse a vital speech in private.

This was his third time through that evening, but there could not be enough repetition. Past experience with the Adrestian prime minister suggested that Hubert was likely to forget the true nature of his sentiments when the subject of his affections was in front of him—he would either say nothing at all or something else entirely. Ferdinand deserved better from him, and if Hubert could not muster the focus to accomplish that, then Ferdinand had many other prospects to consider.

Turning to pace down the space between the pews again, Hubert continued his rehearsal. “I had hoped to wait until the war had ended, but it seems my heart will not allow it. And Her Majesty has urged me to follow that impulse—to you.” He held a gloved hand out to the open space in front of him, dark and cast in colored moonlight through dusty stained glass. Sighing, he ran that hand through his hair. “This is foolish.”

The unsteady nervousness disappeared once Hubert saw motion in the shrubs outside the window, conjuring a molten dark spell in his palm. “Who’s there? Name yourself.” They would come forward or they would attempt to flee. Regardless, Hubert would have the culprit and answers for how they got so close without him realizing their approach.

“Hubert, wait! It’s only me.” The tension of battle readiness fell away as he dismissed the spell, and a sickening twist of dread at Ferdinand in the open doorway took its place. How much had he heard? How long had he been there? Hubert heard about his solitary escapade into enemy territory on behalf of Mercedes, and Ferdinand heard at great length precisely what the Adrestian spymaster thought of such an excursion, but it never once occurred to him that Ferdinand could sneak up on even him.

“…Ferdinand. What are you doing out here at this hour?”

Smiling sheepishly, he ducked his head and scratched at his cheek absently. Every little thought that went through his intrepid mind played out in each gesture, every expression. They always had, but Hubert had taken years to see past his disdain to the truth of his colleague’s nature. Hubert didn’t believe in any deity, but the present situation certainly felt like divine retribution for how he’d originally treated Ferdinand.

“I confess, sleep eluded me. I was on a walk with my horse when I saw someone in the abandoned chapel.”

Looking out the window to his favorite horse secured to a tree branch, Hubert only nodded numbly. He was not an easy man to frighten, but his heartbeat refused to slow even though there had never been any danger to start with. “I see.”

“And I feel it is only fair to admit that I heard you as well.” That snapped Hubert’s attention back to Ferdinand, looking repentant but not particularly in favor or disgusted either way beyond that. So much for that awareness of Ferdinand’s thoughts and feelings… Something so inconsistent truly felt devised to torment Hubert.

Ferdinand continued in the coiled silence that followed his announcement, either undaunted or ignorant of the concerns competing for Hubert’s attention. “The portion of your confession I heard was exceptionally romantic, Hubert. I’m sure whoever has captured your heart will be delighted.” Although… Now it was Ferdinand who sounded stiff and rehearsed. His typically outgoing behavior, which was even tactless at times, could only be dispelled due to awkwardness or obligation. Neither boded well.

“No. It’s not—” Hubert exhaled through his nose, closing his eyes. How would he recover from this? It was simply a matter of strategy, which cleared a path to an honest response. Looking to Ferdinand and crossing his arms, Hubert took pride in the level tone of his reply. “It’s not ready yet.”

“Oh, so you are practicing? A wise decision,” Ferdinand praised, still somewhat forced but more sincere than the previous remark. He looked towards Hubert directly, at least, and that had to be considered a success. “Would you prefer to speak to—someone?”

The offer took a moment to reach Hubert, who studied him in silence and dimly lit shadow. “Pardon?”

“I mean, you could rehearse your confession with someone willing to help. With me. If that is agreeable to you,” he tacked on, smiling and uncertainty obvious in his eyes even at their distance.

If this were a strategy game, this would be a timed turn. An embarrassing parallel, to be sure, but none but Hubert had to know about it. This was not an obliged reply, and far more than what one would expect even a close friend to offer. Awkwardness would have encouraged him to end the conversation as soon as possible, not continue further into the subject matter that caused the discomfort to begin with.

“Very well. I accept,” Hubert said more calmly than he felt. He was less distressed than when he first discovered Ferdinand, but he still had no concrete evidence to suggest he was in familiar emotional territory.

“You do? Ah, yes,” Ferdinand regained his footing in the conversation, drawing himself up and joining Hubert between the rows of abandoned pews for a false religion they had already begun to dismantle with this war. Whatever came of the evening, there was potentially a measure of symbolism in this. Confessing his feelings to Ferdinand, whether he knew it or not, in the forgotten chapel of a derelict religion they were helping destroy… It did appeal to him. “I am ready whenever you are.”

As he suspected, much of his lengthy speech vanished from his mind now that he was here to give it. What he could manage, he shared. “I appreciate you taking the time to answer my summons. I’m well aware that we both have extensive obligations to tend to,” he acknowledged, gesturing to Ferdinand, who stood equally uneasy and eager. “Therefore, I will keep this brief. My original intention was to discuss this matter with you after we brought an end to the war, but it would seem my heart will simply not allow it.”

The unsettled wavering warred with Ferdinand’s bright-eyed optimism right before Hubert, leaving them both to struggle making eye contact. All at once, Hubert realized there was a potential scenario that Ferdinand had asked to practice with Hubert because he wanted to hear what it was like to have him confess those feelings. Which he would only want for mockery or to play out a personal daydream, and Ferdinand would never resort to such low conduct as taunting him for emotional vulnerability. He’d had ample opportunities before this if he were interested in doing so.

And if Hubert was mistaken, that would be easily forgiven and forgotten. He had done so much worse to Ferdinand and with intention behind it at that. This was nothing next to his extensive history of cruel indifference to Ferdinand’s feelings.

Taking another step forward until they were barely a hand length apart, Hubert finished the part of his declaration that he recalled. “After bringing this to Her Majesty, she has urged me to follow that impulse—to you. And I believe you may suspect this already, but I love you—” A moment of hesitant breathlessness suspended between the two of them as weighty and charged as any spell. And was it not a certain kind of magic that they’d evolved from vehement hatred in their academy days to this instance, where Hubert could bring himself to take a risk offering only a marginal chance for positive results? “Ferdinand von Aegir.”

Staying put, Ferdinand answered with a shaky laugh that pulled Hubert’s heart down through his ribs. He had mistaken the atmosphere and his motive after all. “Yes, that—that was very touching, Hubert.” Fussing with his cravat, he could barely hold his gaze on Hubert for more than a second at a time. How had he gone from so rapt to so ashamed? Was he genuinely that repulsed by the prospect? “I, for one, am impressed. Quite so. She is fortunate. Or he. Whoever they are.”

“Ferdinand,” he tried again, more desperate now than hopeful as he was prior. But what was there to lose now that he’d already made a fool of himself? The last effort he could give was to make it painfully clear what the truth was.

“Yes, Hubert?”

“It’s you. The confession is for you.”

Wide-eyed with a frozen smile, Ferdinand simply stood there as if actually encased in ice. The change from that paralytic state to lifting Hubert up with built, powerful arms was so abrupt that Hubert scarcely had time to brace himself on Ferdinand’s forearms. Just as suddenly, Ferdinand spun them in a circle and dropped Hubert down in the opposite place from where he began. Hands still on his hips, Ferdinand laughed light and free as a bird on the wing.

“I could not help myself!” A poor apology and ingenuine, but the most Hubert could expect. He didn’t enjoy the unannounced aspect of it, but the demonstration of Ferdinand’s strength and enthusiasm did serve him well. “All of that was for me? Sincerely?”

“Y-yes.” Hubert rested his hands on Ferdinand’s arms still as well, unsure of if or where to move them. Everything had changed in more ways than he could account for.

“I thought someone as exacting as you, and someone I have fought so bitterly over the years, that you would never—but I am rambling.” Shaking his head, Ferdinand relaxed his grip on Hubert but did not release him. By then, it would be preferred that he didn’t. “You hold romantic feelings for me, and I do for you as well!” Leaning in and tilting his head up, Ferdinand placed a gentle kiss that lingered on his cheek. Soft and unsure but heartfelt, and their first. What else did the kiss need to be for it to be treasured? “I love you, Hubert. I have for many moons now.”

“Moons, you say,” he teased, resting his forehead to Ferdinand’s with a weightless smile. “Then I have you beaten there.”


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You Will Live Ch. 8: The Vote | FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 1426 (4 to 15 minutes) | Rating: M | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Count Bergliez, Ferdinand, Claude, Dedue, Dimitri, Byleth, Dorothea, Hanneman, Linhardt, Caspar, and Hubert

Read the previous chapter.

The great hall of the castle was far too public for a lecture for Hubert’s preferences, but he’d lost the right to correct errors of that nature when the Empire lost. Count Bergliez remained adamantly unhelpful with an impish smirk and more silence than he’d ever known the man to display. Various allies had already gathered, most from the former Black Eagle house, and they’d already summoned His Highness and Byleth to join them shortly.

Hanneman, of course, led the scolding due to his misguided and unwanted endeavor to be paternal with Hubert. If that habit wasn’t so irritating, Hubert it would almost have been impressed that he’d held onto it for so many years. “Why would you not retreat to the palace? We might have defended you here, my boy.”

Hubert didn’t hesitate in his barbed, methodical response. Since they insisted on dressing him down publicly, he would return that favor. “And bring assassins straight to the gates? Never.”

Next in line was evidently Dorothea, who was markedly more likely to give as good as she got. Stepping into his space and jabbing a finger on his chest, she took her turn with the expected determination. “They were obviously not willing to attack directly, Hubie,” she observed, pouting in such a way that was designed for devastating effect—despite her awareness that these effects were meaningless against Hubert. Just as his intimidating frown glanced off her to no avail. “They waited for you to leave, so coming back would have kept you safe.”

“Hardly.” He was used to having to explain himself and strategy alike, so this conversation had taken a very slightly easier turn. “Once they realized where I was headed, my pursuers would have only become desperate to finish the job before I entered the palace walls.” Caspar looked worriedly at Linhardt for confirmation, who simply shrugged permissibly. At least he had the logical disposition to realize Hubert was speaking to reason. Crossing his arms and adamantly not looking at Ferdinand, he concluded, “Worse, if they believed they were identified, it could push them to act rashly when they had nothing to lose. What if they had aimed for more than only my life?”

Never one to be ignored, Ferdinand burst through to Dorothea’s side with a fire in his eyes. “Only?!”

The shift was subtle but instantaneous, and Dorothea quirked an eyebrow as she glanced between them. Hubert tensed the moment Ferdinand approached, attempting to draw his guard up only to find it faltering. Something had changed since Ferdinand sat beside him and Her Majesty, perhaps irredeemably, and now Dorothea had sensed it. She was a good woman with a caring heart despite her burdens, but she was also insufferably nosy and horrid gossip.

This was precisely why lectures did not take place in the great hall.

“He’s correct,” Dedue interceded, possibly unaware of the surrounding circumstances. King Dimitri, Byleth, Seteth, and Claude arrived with him, although Hubert supposed it was more accurate to state they arrived with His Highness.

“That he is,” Claude nodded, confident and smiling as if the idea were his. He probably would have done the same. “Not that there were many left to come after you.”

Praise or criticism, it scarcely mattered to Hubert. Whatever they wanted to discuss, he would have preferred to be looking after Her Majesty rather than drawn into it. Count Bergliez was popular enough with the people to dispel any misconceptions of his fealty to Lady Edelgard. Furthermore, the victors of the war had more to contend with than assassins hunting down the vassal to the fallen enemy leader. In a way, allowing it to go unchecked would do them a favor.

“Perhaps we should consider the contributions Hubert can make to our cause,” Seteth remarked as they made their approach. He wore a mask of neutrality, but the cold undertone of his voice revealed his true agenda. Seteth wanted Hubert removed from the strike team laying siege to Shambhala. “Now that he is a target for treason, he will draw unwanted attention.”

Before Hubert could utter a syllable about where Seteth would find himself if he tried to stop him, Lord Bergliez let out a single, boisterous laugh reserved for jokes that are more offensive than they are entertaining.

“Look at you, talking like a proper big fish. We all know the Church doesn’t have enough power to tell a peasant where to put his chamber pot,” he barked in a characteristically brusque manner, grinning up at Seteth like he’d just won his house in a bet. “If you think you’ve got the might to force the issue, I invite you to go for it. I could personally defeat what remains of your knights before it was time for lunch. Show some of that sagely wisdom you project and bear that in mind next time you get the brilliant idea to open your mouth.”

Seteth took the advice and kept quiet, allowing everyone to hear Caspar loudly whispering to Linhardt. “Ooh, my father got him good!”

No doubt intent on playing peacekeeper, Byleth broke the silence. “We should decide by vote.”

“An excellent suggestion,” Ferdinand agreed, more serious than usual regardless of his steady smile. There was a grounded quality to his voice that was an unmistakable sign that he was sharing an idea he’d given extensive consideration to. Gesturing to King Dimitri, he made his case. “As well, it would benefit us to restore the Empire’s trust in Hubert. Peace is built on stability, and Adrestia is at turning point in history. With this much change, providing more certainty by addressing these concerns is better than allowing rumors to spread.”

“You’ve both done exceptional work here,” Dimitri spared the time to commend them. “Let us move forward with both.”


The council session was comprised of representatives to best capture the current political terrain of Fódlan: two for the Alliance, two for the Empire, one for the Church, one for the Kingdom (at Dimitri’s insistence) and one for Brigid with Petra’s recent arrival.

Hubert was not permitted attendance, of course. He was under review as a potential security risk and his presence with the committee was evidently a hazard. By which, Hubert knew they meant he would frighten dishonest votes out of the representatives merely by being in the room. It was something of a compliment despite its profound inconvenience.

With no duty to occupy his time aside from his final commitment to Her Majesty, which he had no direct oversight of, Hubert preoccupied himself with assessing the likelihood of his success in a random study of the Enbarr palace. His office was no longer his, naturally. Hubert was not to be told who was taking vote, but the conference hall was closed, and the process of elimination made quick work of determining some of the representatives for himself.

Petra was obviously voting. Her return from her home country with reinforcements came earlier than expected and led to the inclusion of Brigid in the vote to begin with. Ungratefulness to Her Majesty aside, Petra had a sort of friendship with Hubert before the war began. But then again, there was the fact that Petra had declined Lady Edelgard’s personal invitation to their side of the fight. With a sip of coffee cold from neglect, Hubert resigned himself to the reality that her vote could go either way.

Next were Lorenz and Claude, whose votes would negate each other if the past was any indication. Lorenz was almost guaranteed to vote against him, and Claude’s tactical side would encourage him to vote in favor of Hubert.

He was unable to determine the Empire or Kingdom representatives, since everyone he initially assumed was either tasked with various duties and therefore not guaranteed to be in the conference hall or so far removed from the leading officials that Hubert hadn’t considered them. With Seteth’s clear disdain taken into account, that left him with narrow odds of success. While Hubert was well-acquainted with those, his influence over the odds was usually more direct.

Even if they voted that he should remain behind, Hubert decided he would personally ensure the downfall of the Agarthans regardless. That was the very last service he would ever see to for Her Majesty, and Hubert could not possibly recover from permitting anyone to carry it out without him. The path to that end would certainly be easier if they accepted his role in this, but since when had the temptation of an easy path held any sway over Hubert?


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