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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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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Hellfire Ch. 12: The Collar Unseen | DA2 Fanfiction

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Approx. 2100 words (5 to 17 minutes) | Rating: M | Dragon Age 2 Spoilers | Characters: Orsino, Garrett Hawke, Meredith Stannard, Carver Hawke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re very sweet,” Garrett teased.

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

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

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


Mature content available on AO3 only.


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

“Alrik, my good friend,” he rasped.

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

No, not like this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m sorry.

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

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


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Always | FFXV Fanfiction

Word count: 1100 (2 to 9 minutes) | Rating: G | Final Fantasy XV Fanfiction | Characters: Ignis Scientia and Noctis Lucis Caelum


Visiting Noctis’ separate residence on occasion after Ignis had tended to his duties was simply habit. The crown prince expressly stated he wished to live alone for greater independence, but regular visits had revealed that very little self-reliance was taking place. Dishes accrued over Ignis’ absence and on more productive weeks, the clean laundry still sat wrinkling in the basket.

Inside, the lights were off today despite the hour—merely 6 o’clock, a more appropriate time for dinner than resting as Noctis no doubt was. His shoes were present by the entrance, after all. Ignis paused to straighten those after removing his own, walking deeper into the apartment by the light of his cellphone.

Noctis was not quite ready yet perhaps, but Ignis was there to support him. When he was prepared, Ignis was confident that the prince would step into his role as the heir to the Lucian throne. Until then, Ignis himself had duties to uphold and a dear friend to look after. With his spare key, he let himself into the apartment monitored at a respectful distance by the Crownsguard.

The main room was slightly cleaner and more orderly than usual, a sure sign that Prompto had visited recently. Noctis’ newest friend had made both Gladio and Ignis wary until they met the nervous blond in person and taken time to know him, whereupon they had no choice but to acknowledge that he was a good influence on Noct. Up until his friendship, Noctis had no peers that he considered even acquaintances. He went to school, to his part-time job if he had a shift, and traveled directly home only to repeat the process the next day.

Once Prompto reached out to him, Ignis was fortunate enough to see more of the young boy he first served start to return. On several visits, he would arrive to Prompto and Noctis laughing in an apartment not entirely covered in piled up garbage bags and empty bottles, takeout containers, haphazardly stacked books, and scattered clothes or papers. Noctis was recovering, and Ignis could only be grateful.

“Noct?” He whispered into the shadows, grocery bags in each hand. He knew better than to expect any usable ingredients to be in the prince’s fridge. At the silence, Ignis set the bags down on the counter and approached a familiar silhouette on the sofa. His eyes adjusted to distinguish the sight of Noctis asleep beside a history book he likely knew inside and out. At the very least, he grades suggested as much.

Despite the knowledge that Noctis was unlikely to wake easily, Ignis was careful to approach the linen closet quietly to retrieve a blanket. The addition of a pillow would awake even the prince, but surely the simple comfort of a blanket would be welcome when his nap was done with. The dishes would be cleaned, and any trash would be cleared away. His laundry would be complete and put away. All evidence of Ignis’ care and attention for Noctis, a young man he valued as his own family and as his king.

Unfolding the blanket and draping it over the teenager that would one day lead the nation, Ignis smiled to himself in the dark.

Gladio would have lectured him on coddling Noct, though he was just as aware as Ignis that the prince they both served could be resolutely obstinate when he wished to be. In a manner, Ignis supposed there was merit to his claims. But Gladio had not known Noct as long as Ignis had, did not play an integral role in raising him from his toddler years like Ignis—who was a boy himself at the time and yet that bond made all the difference.

Prepping the ingredients for meals designed to conceal vegetables, Ignis began to cook. He would later divide out lunches for easy portioning, but for now, Ignis permitted his mind to wander. Meal preparation came to him instinctively enough by that point that it hardly called for his undivided attention, and there was something of a comfort in reminiscing while still seeing to Noctis’ wellbeing.

Ignis would admit that Noctis was prone to despair and resignation at the most inopportune times, but it was no obligation to serve him in his darkest hours while he sought out the strength Ignis knew he had. When the weight of the crown and the impending passing of his father bore down on Noctis, there was always Ignis at his side. Noct did not need to say a word to communicate to Ignis, and rarely felt inclined to, but it was a given that he could at any time. As it had always been.

If Noctis was not yet ready to face the calling ahead of him, he had Ignis’ support. When he needed someone to listen, he had Ignis’ willing ear. When he required company and silence all at once, he had Ignis’ quiet presence. Whatever the burden or obstacle, Ignis was a safe haven and loyal aide to Noctis.

Perhaps he did enable his less-than-regal behavior from time to time, as Gladio accused him of doing, but there were so few people that a prince could entrust his truest self to. And to Ignis, he would always be the young child who, with a smile, silently took his hand in friendship from the moment he became the prince’s retainer.

Gladio was his Shield and inspired him to push to greater heights. Prompto was his friend and encouraged him to enjoy all the fond memories that a standard high school experience could offer, just as King Regis had hoped for his son.

Each of them was essential to the prince’s contentment, but one fact would never change: Noct could rely on Ignis in all matters. He would indulge his desire to nap while Ignis drove or delegate more tedious tasks to him so Noct might write to Lady Lunafreya or make plans with Prompto. Was that not the sort of unsung sacrifice Ignis was meant to make both as his retainer and his oldest friend?

Ignis did also take the time to remind Noct he would one day have to see to these tasks unaided, which was an equally valuable part of his service. Yet that time would come one day in the future, only when Prince Noctis was prepared to accept his responsibilities as royal heir. The privilege of witnessing Noct rise to all he could be was well worth the possibly lenient service to him now.


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Hellfire Ch. 11: Offered and Lost | DA2 Fanfiction

Read the previous chapter. | Read it on AO3.
Approx. 3900 words (9 to 30 minutes) | Rating: M | Dragon Age 2 Spoilers | Characters: Cullen Rutherford, Anders, Garrett Hawke, Varric Tethras, Meredith Stannard

That settled it, Circle life was every bit as awful as he’d heard it would be. Meredith kept her promise about the interrogation being extensive, but she didn’t make it clear how much waiting featured in her schemes. On the odd nights that he was actually in his room and not the interrogation cell, Hawke waited to fall asleep only to be woken up every couple hours by the guards posted outside.

That was his best guess for a timeline, at least. Not like he had any way to tell time when he was either in his room or in an even worse cell, bound to a chair and blindfolded in almost total silence. He could hear people outside the cell, others shuffling in the room above, whatever it was, and that was it. Didn’t seem like torture until he started imagining full-on conversations in his head to stave off the boredom.

He’d resorted to singing a couple times, one very inappropriate song and then a misremembered hymn. Both ended up with beatings, so Hawke could only assume that all his Lothering friends lied when they said he had a good singing voice.

Hawke chuckled to no one. Was it a bad sign to laugh at jokes made to yourself?

Guards also came to feed him once in a while, but not often enough—plus, it was pretty tricky to eat off a spoon you couldn’t see held by someone who didn’t like you very much. Other times, they were just there to wear him down.

Garrett underestimated just how smart they were about this; he’d have to admit that. The beatings were careful, and since he couldn’t see or move, there was no risk they’d hit him in a way they didn’t mean to. Any bruises that did turn up were planned out so they wouldn’t show if anyone did see him that shouldn’t. That hadn’t happened since this whole mess started, though. A few other mages saw him, but it was always on purpose so no one would report not seeing him and kicking off an inconvenient investigation.

Not that they had much love for Hawke anyway. Word traveled fast that he was in Meredith’s pocket as her favorite mage, so the other mages avoided him at pretty much any cost.

But there was no Orsino, no Cullen, and no Carver either. Basically, no one saw him who wouldn’t approve or might snitch.

Hawke was a tool of the Circle too, so they did have to be ready if he was called on by anyone who needed something done and wanted Hawke to do it.

Knowing Kirkwall like he did, he was sure that’d be any day now. It was just that kind of thinking that helped him keep quiet about the escape route. It was always just one more day, one more hour, one more beating, and he’d get a break. The Templars couldn’t go forever, but Hawke? Hawke could keep this up for as long as he had to. Would be a bit easier if he could stretch his legs, though.

The point was that if he gave up the escape route, it’d trap him here along with every other mage who didn’t want to be in the same spot. Whatever happened to these mages if Garrett ratted them out, it would be his fault. He had more than his share of guilt these days, thank you very much.

Besides, he was actually getting good at this not seeing thing.

The cell door slammed open with just a hair too much force, scraping against the stone floor, and armored footsteps got closer to him with intent precision. Only one person was that aggressive and obsessed.

“Meredith, I’ve missed you,” Hawke greeted, clearing his throat. Been a while since the last round of water. “I’m not much of a host at the moment, but—”

“Quiet.” She tore the blindfold off, not giving him even a moment to adjust before kicking the chair back and catching the front of his shirt to spare his head slamming into the stone ground. A bleeding skull was hard to hide.

Pulling him toward her, Meredith straddled the chair and scowled at him. Maker, how he must look up close… Worse, smell. He’d been rinsed off like cattle last night, but that was hardly a thorough bathing. Then again, a sponge bath by Templars would probably be worse somehow.

For a second, with her honey-gold hair and piercing glower taking up all he could see, Hawke swore his ears were ringing. That couldn’t be right. His smartass grin dropped to confusion, not that Meredith cared about the difference.

Hawke didn’t hit his head, and it hadn’t been that long without food or water. Long enough to be uncomfortable, not faint. Maybe the sudden falling back, but would that rush of dizziness typically sound like a distant orchestra…?

All this friendly questioning might be driving him insane.

“The Viscount calls for you again, mage.” One-handed, she hauled him and the chair upright, clattering to settle in place as she skulked off to circle behind him where, once again, he couldn’t see. Seemed she enjoyed denying him that. “And he won’t even explain what it’s for. Political matters, or so he claims.”

He felt her hand in his hair before he could react to her closing in, yanking his head back to meet her gaze one more time. The back of the chair pressed against the back of his neck as she examined him. For signs of treachery, blood magic, having opinions she didn’t like. Who even knew anymore?

Garrett wondered what her sister, Amelia, might’ve thought about all this. What Bethany might’ve. Proud and worried for him, maybe. Or maybe she’d think he was an idiot for coming up with this plan in to begin with. Well, who was she to point fingers about quick solutions involving major and irreversible sacrifice?

Hawke’s grimace had absolutely nothing to do with Meredith tugging sharply on his hair to get his attention.

“Do you have ties to him too? Are you and your blood mages corrupting every corner of this city?!”

“You know what,” he rasped, smirking at the thought of a certain Rivaini pirate who would enjoy this particular diversion far too much. “You have pretty eyes.”

“Your charms will not work on me,” she growled, tossing his head forward. He was an awkward mix of uneasy and very faintly flattered at that accusation. Or was it a compliment? A threat? Hostile flirting? He could never tell with Knight Commander Crazy.

“And though I must release you at his demand, his power can only exceed my own for a short time.” She undid his shackles, wrists and ankles, as her lecture wore on. “Then you will be back with me, where you belong. There is no escape from me, Hawke.”

By Andraste’s dirty socks, she resorted to his name. He really was in trouble.

“Even if there was, my darling Meredith,” he started, pushing himself up on the arms of the chair and stretching out carefully once he stood, “I don’t think I’d get far like this. You’re really holding up the Templars’ calling here; I feel very protected from the outside world.”

“Don’t even think of using this punishment as an excuse to slack off. You will serve this city as the Viscount commands,” she ordered as if she hadn’t just trash talked the man a moment ago. “And you will accept the fitting penalty for your crimes in the Circle when you return.”

Turning around to lead him out personally, he guessed, she tossed another nasty remark in for the fun of it. “You have no one to blame for this treatment but yourself. Had you been loyal and behaved, I could have made your time here worthwhile.”

Worthwhile… What could that mean in her twisted world? He’d be shackled no matter how he acted in this place. Probably literally. She was on a roll, though, and Maker, he really did not want to ask for details. Just following after her down the narrow halls and upward-sloping stairwells was enough of a chore.

“Never forget that the fault for this torment lies only with you.” Her voice echoed down the stairwell leading to civilization within the Circle. It was kind of mocking him when he thought about it.

“I hear that a lot,” he half-joked, knowing too well she’d never care enough to realize there was some truth to that. “Well, not that exactly. But it’s close enough that you’re probably right.”

Somehow, that kept her quiet all the way to meeting up with Cullen. He spared the Knight Captain a smile and got a look back that went straight through Hawke to see bruises and interrupted rest. Based on the positively lackadaisical pace he set for escorting Hawke to Aveline, it was possible that Cullen had finally figured out that mages were people like him after all.

Like all people everywhere, Hawke would just have to grin through the pain, make the most of the hand he was dealt this round, and hope that relative strangers like Cullen took it easy on him in the meantime. What else could either of them do?

Unless there was a city-wide uprising against Templars, both their hands were tied. Hawke was a mage in the Circle under suspicion, and that summed his situation up neatly. And if Cullen spoke up, he could be kicked out of the Order and cut off from lyrium, ending up begging on the streets like Samson. That would leave Hawke in the same bind but down one friendly face. The setup now wasn’t great, but it was much better than that disaster.

Once they’d finally met up with Aveline in the entrance to the Gallows, Cullen traded a farewell out for generic advice that didn’t quite fit the situation.

“Be careful, Sirrah Hawke.”


Nothing ever came easy in this place, Hawke swore. Why wouldn’t his first trip out of the Circle after intense questioning under duress with Meredith’s goons be a wild goose chase? A visit to Seneschal Bran turned up that this was about a missing Qunari delegation that the Viscount was trying to keep quiet, and that meant Hawke had to tell the Arishok himself straight away unless they wanted to piss him off. Aveline praised him for that judgment call, probably the first time in a year or maybe more, so that was a highlight.

And next came a visit to The Hanged Man, just like they all knew it would be. Seneschal Bran could pretend to be ignorant of the place all he wanted; everyone knew this would be the spot to start. So there he was again, in his favorite haunt from before the Circle with Anders, Aveline, and Varric as company this time. Really was too damned easy to pretend he didn’t have to go back when he was in this place.

“Think we can get food while we wait for—what was his name?”

“Orwald,” Aveline reminded him, quirking an eyebrow at him at the same time. “You hate the food here.”

“I said it tasted like a wet dog smells, not that I hated it,” Hawke corrected, falling right into old habits. Did him good, to be honest, seeing that the Circle wasn’t taking as much out of him as he thought it was. “I say that about the ale too, but it doesn’t stop me.”

“It really doesn’t,” Varric complimented him, setting his arms on the table with that roguish grin he did. “The real question is what’re they doing to you in there that you’d actually want the food in this place?”

“What? Nothing.” He dismissed the idea too quickly, Hawke could tell that just from their faces. Which said something if Varric couldn’t or didn’t bother hiding his concern. The piercing chill to his core threw him off, that was it. Varric was only joking and he didn’t realize it until he’d put his Circle-issued boot in his mouth.

“Nothing they don’t do to anyone else, anyway,” Garrett shrugged it off. And it was true, though that wasn’t really a comfort. “Hey, if I’m the only one that’s hungry, I’ll spring for it.”

“Spring for it with what?” Aveline smiled with her voice, not her face. There was something else lurking beneath the playful side to her that felt distinctly ‘big sister Aveline knows you’re up to something’-like, and he did not like where that was headed. “You don’t have money when you’re in the Circle.”

“You’re focused on the wrong part of that, Aveline,” Anders came in with his serious Manifesto tone, squinting at Hawke. Yeah, this was definitely not going how Hawke pictured it. He was only winding up on a speech, which Hawke usually could sift through for the truth among the enraged bitterness. As the subject of it? He wouldn’t bet on himself if this was a gambling thing.

“The things they do to anyone in the Gallows are horrific and inhumane, Hawke. If they are torturing you—”

And now Garrett knew, he hated being the center of his latest tirade.

“Right, so that’s a no from Anders. Varric, what’s a good friend have to do to eat around here?”

Varric chuckled, raising a hand to Corff across the bar to wordlessly summon some kind of food, and Hawke wasn’t about to question what he’d even asked for. Hardly mattered what it was. “Third time’s the charm.”

“Carver’s worried sick about you, you know,” Aveline pulled him right back on topic while Anders seemed to think if he just stared hard enough, he could read Hawke’s mind for answers. Actually, with Justice, maybe he could sneak into his dreams or something. Spirits never played fair and deflecting with humor usually went clear over their heads. “Last time we talked, he said he hadn’t seen you in a while.”

“Tell him not to worry about me,” Hawke dismissed, or tried to, but he eased up on that insistence just a hair too late. In Hawke’s defense, it was more important that Carver paid attention to watching his back than Garrett’s. He had a plan to get himself out (sort of), but Carver didn’t. “The suspicion will die down eventually, and I can handle whatever comes ‘til then. You’ve all seen it for yourselves, you know.”

“I’ve seen you grit your teeth and dig in your heels, if that’s what you mean,” Aveline answered drily, sounding suspiciously like she wasn’t going to let this drop. If Orwald could show himself in the group of people at the Hanged Man now to give her someone else to direct her mom stare to, Hawke would be very grateful for the distraction.

“You forgot making light of it, so no one pays attention,” Varric chimed in unhelpfully. Being on his home ground only made him more himself, but that was usually fun. Hawke would rather walk in on one of his exaggerated tales about him to the tavern’s regulars than keep running into this ‘truth’ thing.

“There he goes, pot calling the kettle black,” Anders said just what Hawke was thinking, and they shared a smirk over that line.

True, part of that smile was because the food was here, a platter of rather sad-looking sandwiches dropped between them before the waitress was off again in a blur. Still, Garrett was glad at least Anders was willing to toss him a bone.

“Now, now, this isn’t about my irresistibly secretive ways, Blondie.”

“Varric, you find secretiveness irresistible?” Plucking a soggy sandwich off the platter, Hawke cracked a grin at him. “I knew you had a thing for me.”

He barely tasted it, and what he did told him that was a rare spot of luck.

“And there you go,” Anders chastised, watching him reach for another sandwich. “However you’re being mistreated by Templars, we need to know.”

“He’s here,” Aveline interrupted, nodding to Orwald. Getting up from her seat at the table, she stopped on her way to the guy ordering a whole bottle of whatever to put a hand on Hawke’s shoulder. “Slow down, Hawke. If you eat too quickly on an empty stomach, you’ll make yourself sick.”

Then she was off, shoulders squared as she went to give her man the worst talking to he’s ever had. Varric had Aveline on that point—she could scare good behavior into anyone.

Meanwhile, Hawke swallowed his third sandwich past some tightness in his throat. Alright, he did make it obvious shoveling food in his face like that. He took the hint to slow down, not making eye contact with the two friends still at the table. The pitying look was very much not a thing Hawke wanted to see. Rather have the sexy, tortured look over that any day.

“You don’t deserve this,” Anders soothed, trying to catch Garrett’s eye. Maker’s breath, this was what he wanted to avoid: the worried glances, the desperate reworking of their hardly-a-plan-to-begin-with plan, all topped off with that sinking realization they could only watch for now.

He joked about everyone in Kirkwall going Hawke this, Hawke that, but that was his better than—this. They were counting on Garrett and he wouldn’t disappoint. He couldn’t, really. They were too far into it now, and the important step was already behind them. Merrill was the actual blood mage; she was the one in real danger until she got out. The aftermath of her freedom was Hawke’s to deal with. Once that was done, Anders would whip up a rescue for Hawke too. Why worry anyone else about how he took care of the messy middle part?

Anders, that stubborn harbinger of righteousness, just wouldn’t let it go.

“It’s bad enough that they’re hurting you for being a mage, you don’t have to do the work of hiding it for them too.”

“Come on, we knew when this started that they’d pick on me once Merrill got out.” Taking one bite from the sandwich, finally learning his lesson, Hawke talked around the food anyway. With Aveline’s track record, they didn’t have a lot of time before she was back with results, and manners would just have to wait. “I’m a big boy, so try not to worry or you’ll go grey. Just think, what will Varric use for your nickname after that?”

“I’d think of something,” Varric promised, waving that away with natural ease. “But in a rare moment of honesty for me, I have to tell you: I won’t be hiding this from Junior.”

“Hiding is such a nasty word for it.”

“Call it what you want, Hawke,” Anders refused to let the topic wander, but at least he’d dropped the sympathetic bit. “Your brother is the only one on your side in there with any power to help you. He needs to know what’s happening.”

So that’s how he saw it? Carver didn’t have any more power than either of them did, just better access to watching. It was their call if they wanted to know how bad the situation was when no one could change it, but Hawke’d like it if they’d leave his baby brother out of it.

The real pressing question Hawke had on his mind was whether either of them wanted that last sandwich. Tossing his glance between them staring at him, he was going to guess no, but Garrett was still on good(ish) behavior and pacing himself like Aveline instructed. Odds were, he already pushed it and scarfing that down now really would make him sick. Nothing new to the tables in this bar, but he’d just as soon not add to the stains.

Varric caught on to his train of thought, probably, because he nudged the platter Hawke’s way.

“All I’ve got now is speculation, and I am known to wildly embellish when a story is left to my imagination.” That dirty, caring blackmailing con artist with a heart of gold… Damn, his best friend was good. “How’s about it, Hawke? I went first, so now it’s your turn to tell the truth.”

Aveline came to save him, knowing it or not, resting a gauntlet on the table beside Anders. “I didn’t get a name, but they convinced Orwald to leave his post using The Grand Cleric’s seal.”

“And now we walk to the Chantry. Lucky me, I’ll get a grand tour of Kirkwall all in one day.” Hawke snagged the last sandwich, not leaving that behind if he was paid to, and stood up. Once they got moving, they could drop this ugly business in favor of helping people by killing people. Only until next time if the pattern Garrett was seeing in his friends meant anything.

“Don’t think you’re off the hook for whatever they asked you,” Aveline warned, falling in step with him and Anders as Hawke headed for the door. A clank of coin on the table behind him suggested Varric paid for the food. Living there like he did, he couldn’t exactly get away with stiffing them on a bill.

“You’re in trouble now,” Varric teased, not too far behind.

Looking over his shoulder with a grin, Hawke answered the only way he could. “When am I not?”

Beside him, Aveline heaved a sigh.


Night had fallen once Hawke buttoned up the last of the cleanup for the Viscount. The whole debacle packed every bit of something that could go wrong in Kirkwall, just like last time. Another heavy dose of nostalgia before the next crisis that only Hawke could solve, he figured.

Armed with self-righteous racism, Petrice denied any and all involvement with the Qunari incident, sending Hawke after Varnell to do her dirty work. She had that in common with the general population of Kirkwall, at least, what with being unable to muster having a heart, soul, or any common decency like the rest of everyone.

Mostly everyone.

Next, Hawke and his merry band alerted Grand Cleric Elthina to the abuse of her seal. That part went better than he thought, which should’ve warned him that things were about to get much, much worse. All that fighting to find the Qunari, and they were being tortured in the undercity. The Viscount didn’t mean anything by it when he suggested burning their bodies; he couldn’t have known Hawke was in the same position as them. Even if he found out, the man believed in Hawke enough to call on him for this. There was no chance he’d believe such an allegation or however fancy politicians denied reports on bad news. Hawke wasn’t fast enough to save the Qunari, but at least he convinced Viscount Dumar to let their bodies be returned as they were. They deserved that much.

Anders and Aveline were so proud of striking down Varnell as retribution for the Qunari, but that was something they could do. If any of his friends knew the gritty details of the bind he was in with Meredith, that wouldn’t change that they were powerless to stop it. He’d been in that spot before, and it was not pretty, so he kept quiet. They told the Arishok the truth, anyway. Surely one honest deed cancelled out the lie?

Back in the Circle and in his room for a change, Garrett fell asleep way too fast to spare any time thinking about the answer to that question.


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Hellfire Ch. 10: Blackpowder Courtesy | DA2 Fanfiction

Read the previous chapter.
Approx. 2300 words (5 to 26 minutes) | Rating: M | Dragon Age 2 Spoilers | Characters: Carver Hawke, Garrett Hawke, Varric Tethras, Fenris, Meredith Stannard

Waking up the morning following Merrill’s escape felt like any other, really. No one stormed his door, and the guards didn’t harass him any more than usual. Cullen was especially dour in the fleeting moment Hawke spotted him leaving the Gallows—that man could certainly move quickly in a full suit of armor—but he didn’t even look Hawke’s way, never mind lecture him.

It wasn’t until the end of breakfast that her escape came back to bite Garrett like he knew it would. Ser Alrik, the Templar with a frankly disturbing obsession for making mages Tranquil, came to personally collect him. Not a great way to start the day, but at least it wasn’t on an empty stomach. Alrik was rougher than he needed to be, and Hawke was snarkier back. Being on perfect good boy behavior now would just make him look more guilty anyway, from how the Templars saw it, and Garrett figured he was in hot water no matter what. Might as well have fun with it.

“Charming escort you’ve sent, Meredith,” Hawke teased the moment Alrik dragged him into Meredith’s office. “Threatened to make me Tranquil twice on the way over. Really, I can’t imagine why he doesn’t have any friends.”

Alrik answered that by smacking Hawke upside the head, sharp and harsh, but not enough to leave a mark. Got to be careful with the rich one, he guessed, but that was also way more sense than he thought Alrik was capable of.

“Leave us,” Meredith barked, not taking her stern glare off Hawke for even a second. “Close the door behind you.”

By Andraste’s holy knickers, not this again.

Meredith closed in on him like a rogue going into flanking formation, as natural and effortless as a dog barking. Hawke turned to her on instinct and she took that opportunity to press her hand on his throat. Nothing serious, but it could be, and the gauntleted hand with just a hair too much pressure on his neck got that message across just fine. Kind of rude, to be honest. Not very Blessed-be-the-Maker-like at all.

“I know you helped that elf mage escape,” she growled, searching him for even a glimpse of whatever it was power-crazed, paranoid Knight Commanders looked for in their captive victims. In her case, Garrett figured it was her sister and for a painful second, almost felt… bad. For her. While she held him in a chokehold and threatened him. Maker’s breath, Hawke really did have a soft spot for crazy.

“I will prove it, and you will pay for your crimes and hers.”

“Well, I probably should’ve guessed you’d be into punishment.” He could feel his windpipe against her palm, a bit uncomfortable, but nothing he couldn’t work through for the chance to shove his foot in his mouth. Probably, anyway. Hawke did have a talent for that. “I usually go on a date or something before it gets this far, but you don’t seem like a romantic type.”

She grunted, shoving him off as a way of letting go before skulking off behind her desk. Meredith scowled at the papers there like they were personally responsible for the existence of magic. Or of Hawke.

“But first, the Viscount has requested you. Demanded, actually, since he overpowers even the Chantry.” Well, she did not sound happy about that last part. The first part is what had Hawke.

“The Viscount?”

“Yes, I just said that,” she snapped, ready to jump on any chance to yell at him, apparently. “The Arishok mentioned you by name, evidently in connection to a portion of Kirkwall that the city guard has sealed off, and he refuses to speak to any save you.”

“Of course he does,” Hawke answered in a sarcastically chipper tone, as if that was the best news he’d gotten all day. Actually, it was. That did not bode well for the day because he really didn’t get fuzzy warm feelings being so admired by the Arishok. He wasn’t even really sure admiration was the right word, since it was more like he hated Hawke the least out of everyone else in Kirkwall.

“Don’t sound put out. You find your way to the center of everything, just as I know you were key to that blood mage’s breakout.”

Accusing anything that moves of being a blood mage like she does, Meredith had to be right eventually.

Leaning over her desk, pinning him down with a look like he was prized game, Meredith was thoughtful enough to give him one last threat to his health and happiness for the road. Couldn’t have him missing the sense of oppression and objectivation for too long.

“And when this job is done, you will be back in my Circle and I will uncover your involvement in this mess. You are mine.

If those words count leap over that desk and get to Hawke, he was sure he wouldn’t like what they might do. Lucky for Garrett, danger was more or less a constant presence in his life since running from Lothering, so this was just another day. The Arishok dragging him into some mess by order of the Viscount and when that was behind him, a mess at the Circle to mop up.

If Carver was still jealous, Garrett was open to trading places.

“Right, because that’s not unnerving at all.”

“It was not meant to comfort you, mage.” She pointed to the door, giving another order. “You are dismissed. The Templar posted outside will see you to the Viscount.”

“More quality time with Alrik?” Hawke stood, glad to leave but miserable at the thought of dealing with another tirade about how fun life as a husk would be. “I can hardly wait.”

Meredith smirked and sure, it wasn’t an awful look for her—but it definitely was for Hawke. Nothing good ever came from a happy Templar Knight Commander.

“Not quite. But you do know him.”

If Aveline wasn’t up to her eyes in damage control from the saar-qamek gas, she’d put her boot up their collective ass for dropping by The Hanged Man before going back to the Circle. But there was a deadly gas attack on Kirkwall, so the mice got a chance to play. Just a bit, since one mouse was as sourpuss: turned out, Carver was his Templar escort.

“So, she’s on to you already, Hawke?” Varric smiled over a dented tankard, fitting right in at the same time as standing out among drunk regulars and stained walls.

“What can I say? I am irresistibly charming.”

Fenris scoffed, taking a big drink to hide what might’ve been a smile.

“Brother, do you think you could be serious just once? I’m the one she suspects as your inside man.”

True, Hawke didn’t enjoy Carver being under suspicion like that. He had a way of saying just the wrong thing at the right time to make a complete disaster of a minor problem. Like agreeing to visit The Hanged Man only to talk about the reason Garrett needed a stiff drink in the first place.

His little brother was one of the Templars, but that only meant he was surrounded by enemies all the time. Hawke could always chat with a mage in the library or at mealtimes, or even the Circle Chantry if he got desperate, but it was all ‘magic is made to serve man, never to rule over him’ for Carver. With him actually being a mole, that had to get pretty dicey. Maybe it would’ve been better if Hawke had just taken Carver along to the Deep Roads… No going back on it now, though.

“You’re the one who suggested The Hanged Man, Carver,” he teased, nudging him to get the perfect eyeroll from Carver. “Should I look more dour while you shirk off your duties?”

He gave his best forlorn-mage-in-captivity pout, and that dragged a snort from Carver.

“Cut it out,” Carver chastised, scooting away from Garrett in a mock show of irritability. Or maybe it was a show for any Templars that might come through and remember anything after getting blackout drunk? That’d be the day, Carver thinking ahead. Not really a Hawke family trait.

“Come on, one drink before you go,” Varric interrupted, toasting to the untouched cup in front of Carver. “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”

There was just enough of a pause from Carver to suggest he was thinking about it, and not a second longer, before he pulled the tankard close. “Just one,” he insisted.

“You’re the best little brother,” Hawke praised, clanking his cup to Carver’s and grinning.

“Thank me by not drawing attention to yourself for once.”

“I can try, but I don’t think I’m very good at it.”

“How is it?” Fenris interrupted, watchful pale hazel eyes peeking out at him through messy white bangs. If Garrett didn’t know better, he’d think he was worried! Especially with him guarding his tankard by holding it close. Body language was a huge tell for Fenris, which was why the poor bastard barely ever won anything during Wicked Grace.

Hawke raised his cup and turned the conversation to a safe, reliable subject: alcohol. “As piss poor as ever, just how I remember it.”

“No. The Circle,” Fenris corrected. A bit impatiently, Garrett noticed.

Well, shit. Even when he wasn’t stored in his cell at the Gallows, there was no escaping the damn place. Hawke set his tankard down and shrugged.

“When did I give you the idea I have the run of the place? Carver sees more of it than I do, ask him.”

“Keeping secrets, Hawke?” Varric made light, but Garrett knew when he was being double-teamed. “Now I want to know the story more.”

“Sorry, Varric, you’ll have to get your next bestseller somewhere else. My life’s early curfews and rotating guards at my door for weeks.”

“Meredith is determined to prove you were behind this last stunt,” Carver added for their benefit more than Garrett’s, or that’d better be what he was thinking. Hawke knew exactly how determined she was to trap him in this scheme. Kind of hard to ignore the Knight Commander’s seething hatred when she half-choked him in her off time. “It will only get worse from here, Brother.”

“Should we break you out sooner?”

“Fenris, I’m honored!”

Fenris scowled, shaking his head. “You are not like other mages, Hawke. This is different.”

“Oh, it’s definitely different.” Varric leapt at the chance to joke with their beloved slayer of slavers, giving his best sage-like nod and sarcastic delivery. He didn’t lose sight of his intended target for long, though. “But I mean it, Hawke—the first sign of trouble, you tell us, and we’ll get you out of there. Whatever it takes.”

That was half-advice and half-warning, and the rare serious edge to his words made it clear that ‘whatever it takes’ really meant they’d actually do anything. Honestly, that made Hawke want to tell them less. Reckless acts of heroism with unpredictable chances for success were his specialty, and they’d just have to get their own.

He leaned on the table and smiled over his tankard at Varric.

“And what should I do if I’m the troublemaker?”

Fenris sighed as a fight broke out at the bar by the entrance in classic Hanged Man style.

“Watch him,” he ordered Carver and downed the rest of his drink rather than going through the trouble of acknowledging Hawke directly.

“When I’m not being watched,” Carver agreed with a grimace, not happy about that particular limitation. Being a double agent in the Templar force was hard, especially when the Maker was always watching. And by the Maker, Hawke meant the particularly unstable Templar leadership spearheaded by a crazy woman.

The bottom of his tankard came too soon, and the farewells went by too quickly. The worst part? Hawke wasn’t even close to drunk enough for his little reunion with Meredith.

He expected Meredith to make good on her threats as soon as her schedule for tormenting mages had an opening, but not the same-night treatment he got. Before he was sent to his cell for an even earlier curfew than before Merrill’s disappearance, she had him report in at her office. As anyone could’ve guessed, she cared less about the dealings of the Arishok than every last scrap of what Hawke himself did that day.

Meredith pressed him for details and tested them time and again for any holes in his story, but that trap was nothing new to Hawke. Any apostate still living had to know how to lie to Templars. Like Varric would’ve said: always tell them a story. It’s more believable than the truth most of the time anyway.

Laying on his slab of a bed, Hawke went over one particularly menacing message she threw at him.

“This is not over, Hawke.” She’d glowered at him like she might choke him for real this time, but barely decided against it. Another not-good sign, like he needed more of those for his life in Kirkwall. “I will organize an extensive interrogation for you in the coming days, weeks, or however long it takes for you to crack and reveal her avenue of escape.”

He’d promised to leave his schedule open, just for her, but she didn’t appreciate his humor. Almost as much as he didn’t appreciate how awful these next weeks or months would turn out to be. With no word from Anders or Isabela yet on when his escape would be, Hawke would just have to figure something out with whatever he had on-hand. And isn’t that what he did best?


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You Will Live Ch. 2: Wonder | Ferdibert FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 2920 (6 to 24 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Main Characters: Ferdinand, Hubert, and former Black Eagle students

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The Kingdom and Alliance troops were celebrating their victory over the Empire. The somber work of collecting bodies and identifying them was likely left to Shamir and her agents while lackeys for the Church of Seiros searched for Rhea. Meanwhile, Hubert stood shackled in the great hall of the capital’s castle under the guard of Caspar and Ferdinand, waiting for anyone in power to remember he existed.

Until then, he removed himself from his grief. He could sense it behind the dam built up in his mind, bleak and roiling and vast. But Hubert would suffer endless torture before he gave the combined enemy armies the satisfaction of seeing him broken down in the castle where Her Majesty made her last stand. It was injury enough that several of the Black Eagles who turned on Lady Edelgard had witnessed the break in his armor.

To preoccupy him instead, Hubert had Her Majesty’s agenda to consider. The final step in her vision for Fódlan: to defeat Those Who Slither in the Dark once and for all. He would require substantially powerful allies to achieve that goal, though there were not many in the wake of such an extensive war. In fact, the only forces of that caliber were also his captors.

He examined the metal cuffs around his wrists, a thick chain dangling between them. Too short to be used for effective strangulation, and a sure sign that their distrust of him would be his greatest obstacle in joining with them against the final threat they weren’t even aware of.

But the fact that Ferdinand and Caspar were assigned to watch over him rather than someone impartial or even openly hostile suggested there was someone in a position of political clout who looked on him with compassion.

Whoever it was, they outranked Ferdinand as a general in the enemy forces, a fact that reduced the possibilities greatly. Perhaps subconsciously, Hubert’s gaze drifted to the very man beside him. Ferdinand stood watchful and resolute, but there was a tension in his posture that betrayed his mental state: he was thinking tirelessly on a matter that vexed him.

You and I both. A shame neither of us have someone to turn to.

Once, they may have turned to each other.

Hubert looked back to the cuffs with an especially foul grimace. His line of reasoning led him to believe his sympathizer was one of few people with enough power: Seteth, Byleth, Claude, or Dimitri. Seteth was a ridiculous prospect, considering that the Death Knight kidnapped Flayn on behalf of Those Who Slither in the Dark. That act guaranteed he would never view Hubert with any honest compassion.

Well-informed rumors had it that Byleth did believe the Flame Emperor about their lack of involvement in Remire Village and by indirect extension, the death of Jeralt, but that still only left her in neutral territory at best. Claude likely held moral quandaries with their methods combined with a healthy skepticism of Hubert that contributed to the restraints. But that perspective would certainly not have any role in allowing his former classmates who just saved his life to stand as his guards.

Lastly, there was Dimitri. Chivalrous Dimitri, who had become rather shrewd over his five years in exile, but remained a long-time friend of Edelgard’s in his sentiments (if nothing further). He had been forgotten in name alone as she treasured the dagger that he gifted to her and all it represented.

Dimitri’s meeting with her to discuss their options aside from warfare felt as removed as Hubert’s report to Her Majesty earlier that morning, but it did serve as confirmation that His Highness was the source of the perceived kindness extended to Hubert. If there was anyone he would speak to about the Agarthans, it had to be King Dimitri in order to improve his odds of successful negotiation. But in truth, His Highness’ most probable intentions in allowing Ferdinand and Caspar to guard their previous classmate was simply to provide some measure of comfort in an especially trying time.

Yet all three of them stood in a weighty silence. Even Caspar’s brow wrinkled with worry as he restlessly shifted weight from one leg to the other, crossing and uncrossing his arms without reason. It was almost as if thinking generated even more energy that forced Caspar to channel it into any motion whatsoever.

Hubert knew they were not responsible for Her Majesty’s death. She accepted that her chosen path could claim her life and made her peace with that before even first appearing as the Flame Emperor. In war, there were no murderers. If anyone was to blame, it would be the fool who swore to protect her with his life and failed.

Even so, standing beside two people he once considered friends, Hubert was completely without anything to say. He did not hate them or long to return to their time bickering in hallways or at the training grounds. Hubert felt nothing, in fact. He reached into the dark well of insidious disdain in his heart and came up empty. He would have settled for what they had previously referred to as his persistent nagging, but still, there was nothing.

In their absence, her voice rang clear with another final order for him as if the communication spell remained in an echo:

All I need from you now is to know that although I will fall here today, you will live your own life.

How? Hubert could not even muster a word to two people who knew him—well enough, he supposed. Better than most andamong the few who could claim to be anything of a friend to Hubert. The iron against his wrists faintly warmed from contact with his skin and grounded him in a manner that nothing else in the din of the great hall could.

Their new allies seemed to view them as invisible for standing beside Hubert. Every soldier and servant in the great hall moved past the three men as efficiently and indifferently as ants around a pebble. Supplies and the wounded had to be ferried into the castle before nightfall, beginning its repurposing into their fortress.

“So.”

Of course Caspar would yield first; it was in his nature to being completely unable to read the atmosphere. Pale blue eyes peered at him from the edge of his vision, his overthinking expression still very much the same despite having grown otherwise. Count Bergliez was a fearsome warrior that must be intimidating to be compared to, but Caspar was well on his way to standing on equal footing.

“I’m glad you made it, you know.”

“That would make one of us.” Hubert’s typical clipped delivery, dripping with venom, was apparently instinctive even as it came across somewhat hollow. He was not alone in noticing it lacked credibility, since Caspar appeared more concerned than offended. The conflicted, sorrowful gaze that had lingered on Petra and Shamir in his academy days now directed itself at Hubert. It made his skin crawl, forcing him to worry his fingers against his own palms in the hopes of ridding himself of the first sensation. To even consider Caspar might feel compelled to look after Hubert filled him with disgust at being so pitied.

Ferdinand’s sympathetic sigh failed to be a suitable diversion. His stern, tender look with those damned amber eyes threatened to crack the dam Hubert constructed. He must hold the despair back until he was alone, where no one could gain more emotional blackmail against him. Never mind that they had enough to go on already and never used it, not once; Hubert had to keep his guard up. That was a critical aspect of his sworn duty. “Hubert, you—”

“If you truly felt as much, would I be restrained?”

Whatever sentence he intended to say, it would end poorly for Hubert. Few could get under his skin and make him say more than he meant to like Ferdinand von Aegir. Better that he interrupted him and preserve what remained of his dignity.

“Hey,” Caspar stepped in, the ideal diversion where Ferdinand fell short. “If anybody saw you just standing around, they’d probably just attack you even with us here. You’re in no shape for that.”

Hubert chuckled, low and dark, and discovered he hit that familiar tone precisely. What else was there to say to that?

“The restraints will not be forever, Hubert.” Ferdinand appeared to have taken the hint or perhaps reconsidered his first remark to return to at another time. The latter was the far more probable of the two scenarios. He did try to look at Hubert directly, searching for—who knew what? But Hubert levelled his cold stare at a point somewhere beyond him as the noble continued. “I promise that we will sort this out properly once our forces are settled and the wounded have been treated.”

…And that pierced him as well as any blade. However quietly, Hubert’s next breath wavered. Easily dismissed as residual pain from the injury and that was the excuse Hubert chose to believe for himself as well. To complete the next task he assigned to himself in the name of Her Majesty, Hubert would need to deceive his own mind for as long as he was able.

Do not give me your promises and look at me with devotion, Ferdinand. I cannot bear it.

“Yes, I remember the fickle nature of your promises.” Still, Hubert could not draw on the full strength of his cutting words—he merely sounded exhausted to his own ears—but even a dull edge to his voice could land some damage and keep Ferdinand at a manageable distance. “They are easily broken when it serves you to do so.”

When Hubert became close to someone, he memorized the finer details about them. And so, when he grew closer to Ferdinand, he took great care to remember every important fact. His favorite tea. The name of his first beloved Aegir hound. The time of day he preferred to go on a leisurely ride on horseback. Which flowers he preferred over others. And of course, what every single expression written all over his face indicated for his state of mind. Because while Ferdinand did ever try to present a strong front, he had his vulnerabilities like anyone else.

He flinched back, a curled strand of hair falling forward with the motion, but the flicker of hurt feelings dissipated almost instantly into flaring, prideful indignance that turned those amber eyes into a fiery bronze. “I swore to serve the ideals that Edelgard said she would uphold, and when that was no longer the case—”

Too soon, the realization that he was bickering with Hubert while their Emperor lay cold in another room dawned on Ferdinand and like that, the fire was out. His shoulders dropped and he sighed once again.

And Hubert laughed, wordlessly urging him to finish the counterargument he had prepared.

“Are you pretending that holding back is another noble display of mercy?” That was closer to the right inflection, but still not quite. Hubert sneered down at Ferdinand regardless. Let this be like old times when he could provoke them with just a few short words, let Ferdinand hurt him in return, and it would make this so much easier to endure—or so he imagined. “First, you preserve my life so that I might have the privilege of living with Her Majesty’s death, and now you hope to conceal your obvious disdain for everything she stood for? I suppose it serves me right for expecting better of you, Ferdinand.”

“I understand you well, Hubert.” He kept calm, more certain now than when he first appeared on the battlefield. Hubert’s sneer fell to a heatless scowl that held more from habit than any true disdain. “And because I do, I will forgive what you have just said since I know you are only trying to keep me from coming to your aid now that you need it most. You never were one to accept support with any manner of ease, as you prefer to be in the role of providing rather than being cared for.”

Hubert scoffed and pried his attention away from the absurdity going on beside him. Naturally, Ferdinand continued undaunted while Caspar pretended badly with a half-stifled smirk not to notice Hubert’s discomfort. He, of course, could not know the reason as well Ferdinand claimed to.

‘When I see you at the monastery, studying with the others… It makes me wonder what kind of life you might’ve had without me.’

It was Edelgard’s idle thought, not his own, and from their first year at Garreg Mach. Hubert might pretend he had no notion as to why that memory came to him now, unbidden and fraught with conflicted sentiments, but he knew better than that. Attempting to deceive himself had been a fool’s errand. He was without her now and there were two former Black Eagle students with him at present. This was the foundation of the life she saw for Hubert that made her wonder what could have been.

“Truly, you ought to know better by now.” Ferdinand’s playful wit bled into his false chastising. “An exceptionally harsh critic once confirmed that my relentless optimism is my greatest attribute. Where others may become discouraged and abandon their path, I never yield. Ferdinand von Aegir is, indeed, unmatched in that particular quality.”

Assured pride practically radiated off Ferdinand as surely and powerfully as summer sunlight, all with him grinning and drawing himself up. Always so sure of his success on the grounds that he would never quit… But there was no time to form a response to Ferdinand quoting Hubert to himself, not when Catherine stormed over to their group and stopped short in front of Hubert. “Enough is enough. Where is Lady Rhea.”

He squared his shoulders, piercing her with an aloof smile. “I wondered when you would overcome your pride and seek my help.” Strategically, Hubert should seize this opportunity to prove that he can be trusted not to slight them, at least, and lead her to Rhea without delay. But while grief could be withheld, spite was another matter entirely. “She is here. Perhaps you simply aren’t looking hard enough. Would you like a hint?”

“You—” She scowled, closing the distance with a fist in his collar, yanking him down and pulling a sharp breath from him in the same motion. He endured worse pain than that in his initial resilience training as Her Majesty’s vassal. That reaction should be the last she saw from him.

“Enough,” Ferdinand implored, a firm hand on Catherine’s arm as the true warning that this was not a request but an order. “We are above resorting to aggression to have our way, Catherine.”

“I don’t have to.” She released his collar and shook off Ferdinand’s hand, stepping back. How unusual for a Knight of Seiros to pass down the chance to beat the defenseless… Her immediate aversion to using more force could have been due to Caspar’s presence, given how he so admired her. “Taunt us however you like, you sick bastard. Lady Rhea is alive, and we will find her.”

Ah. Another blow directly to the dam. To her, Hubert betrayed nothing of the sort. “I suppose with enough hours wasted, you will eventually have no choice but to succeed.” He trailed off into an exasperated sigh. “Truth be told, Rhea may not have that kind of time. Very well, I will show you the way.”

That had her attention and that of a few nearby soldiers for the Church as well. Traffic in the great hall had slowed marginally, but they were far from alone.

“You stay here. Tell me where I can find her.”

Hubert chuckled again, this time feeling it in his ribs more than he ought to. Evidently, Catherine didn’t need to beat him—merely shoving him would be enough to aggravate his recently healed wounds. “This isn’t a matter of turning in the correct direction at a conveniently placed statue. You are asking for a spoken guide to winding, secret passageways meant to mislead any who enter.”

“Caspar and I will accompany you, Catherine,” Ferdinand offered, moving his hand to rest on Hubert’s upper arm as if to guide him. Hubert glanced to his hand, then to Ferdinand, but he was fully a general at the moment and spared not even a glance to the prisoner. “Hubert will pose no threat.”

Ah, that was Hubert’s order. An easy one to follow considering he had to if he was to convince the victors of his reliability as an ally so soon after his defeat.

“Of course. I have no reason left to fight.” The tension returned at that remark more than Catherine’s mild display of force, and Hubert let it stand. Those who despised Hubert most, like the wielder of Thunderbrand, had to hear the literal words from his mouth that he would not harm them. One step further, he would help them. “More pressingly, I have valuable intel to secure the future of Fódlan. But first, we must attend to Rhea.”

Her scowl softened to hopeful skepticism, a narrowed glare that suggested she was turning over his phrase in her mind. Catherine was as intelligent as she was capable—she would eventually piece together that he was leveraging a treaty of sorts. ”…Fine.” She nodded down to the other end of the great hall where the main passage to the undercroft waited. “Let’s go.”


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