Web of Love | Claude Edition Ch. 5: An Impromptu Date

Word count: 4500 (10 to 36 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Claude, Ferdinand, Lorenz, and Hubert

Read the previous chapter.

Although he would adamantly refuse to admit it to Claude, today was a rather nice afternoon for a horseback ride. Flayn had recently been rescued, although she was never in any grave danger herself. Only he and Lady Edelgard knew as much, and it was far from certain. Her involvement was strategic. She was of no use to anyone if she was dead—at least not at this stage. Regardless, with her return, tensions at the monastery dissipated. Claude, among others, was in a state of mind to smile at the full clouds drifting overhead. The light, crisp fragrance signifying the approach of autumn carried in the air. Now out in droves, hunters would arrive at the monastery with more game soon. Another cause for celebration and a suitable diversion from the war yet to begin.

“What did I tell you, Hubert?” His companion began his teasing boast. Hubert didn’t even need to look to know he was smirking. “I knew you’d be glad I convinced you to take a quick break with me.”

The speckled grey mare that Ferdinand chose for his training seemed to scoff on Hubert’s behalf. She was well-selected. Experienced, reliable, and with a stern disposition, the two of them did cooperate quite well together. If only thanking Ferdinand for his attentiveness was so simple.

“I didn’t say I was.”

“With a friendship this close? You don’t have to say a word,” Claude continued his playful jabs. Obviously, he didn’t know Hubert even half as well as he assumed. A glance at the Golden Deer House leader revealed that he was, in fact, grinning. He may as well enjoy his carefree days while he still could. “Besides, if Lorenz heard that I neglected to invite such a treasured friend to join me for a horseback ride, he’d have my hide!”

“How odd,” Hubert feigned ignorance with a smirk of his own. They led their horses down the familiar path further from the monastery to a quiet field where they could speak freely on various subjects the Church disapproved of. They would make their way back shortly before the hardy variety of bugs emerged to claim the night as their own. “Since when did you become so invested in his opinion?”

“Oh, since he mysteriously ended up running into me in random circumstances with unknown origins. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”

“Not at all. As you recall, I’ve been trying to study despite your best efforts.”

“Sure, sure,” Claude dismissed that shameless evasion somewhat too readily. Surely, there would be something he wished to pursue right behind it. Hubert peered at him, but he could be difficult to read when he chose to be. That would undoubtedly prove useful in leading the Alliance. Claude leaned over with the reins loose in his hand, so casual that he appeared to have forgotten he was on a horse altogether. “So, are you going to show off all the stately, cavalier form that Ferdinand’s shown you?”

“No.” Hubert urged his horse ahead, but his travel companion was not easily dissuaded.

“Oh, come on!” Even his horse appeared to have a merry little jaunt to its trot as he caught up with Hubert, that grin immovable from his face. “You can say I paid you to, if it’s your sinister aura you’re worried about.”

Hubert grimaced in return, exhaling heavily. Would that he could convince Claude to discuss alternative governing structures, compelling strategies with battalions, or even guessing the ages of different monastery staff if he felt so inclined. Any topic but his determination to act the matchmaker, however well-founded his judgment turned out to be.

“Claude! Hubert!”

Hubert straightened in his saddle, turning to look after Claude had already done so. The vibrant warmth of that voice was enough to identify Ferdinand, but he was obligated to at least look at him. Regardless of whether his timing was exceptionally poor or not, he supposed.

“Well, look who’s here, Hubert!” Claude stopped his horse, waving Hubert down like he wasn’t beside him as it was.

“I can see them,” Hubert answered, glancing to Lorenz meaningfully as they approached. If nothing else, he wouldn’t be ensnared in this trap on his own. By Claude’s account, it was only expected of Hubert to reciprocate his ‘favor’.

“Imagine seeing you both out here!”

“Yes, quite the coincidence,” Lorenz agreed with Ferdinand, however skeptical he was through those manners. His proud steed drew up beside his friend’s with impeccable grace. One had to wonder if the horse was well-trained or Lorenz simply had that effect. After all, his presence alone was enough to get Claude to eat with some extent of decorum. Or perhaps that was simply Claude’s response now that he’d been on the receiving end of his own romantically inspired scheming.

“I see what you’re hinting at, Lorenz, say no more.” Claude seemed perfectly at ease, twisting in his saddle to face the two noblemen’s sons. Hubert would rather turn his horse, but they unfortunately lacked the space in that area of the path. “You followed us out here to seek out our company, didn’t you?”

“What? No!” Indignant, Lorenz insisted somewhat too intensely, sparing a glance to Ferdinand for support and earning a quick nod. The two were childhood friends, and that simple act likely signified something to Lorenz that neither of the other two present would have any chance of guessing accurately. It served as encouragement of some sort, clearly, as Lorenz continued more calmly. “We often go for a stroll at this time. I was suggesting quite the opposite.”

“Ah, so we followed you out here before you left,” Hubert proposed, following his suggested reasoning with a cold smile. Lorenz had much in common with Ferdinand, including the simplicity of stirring him to ire. “Yes, that sounds sensible.”

Before Lorenz could get too far into his tirade, elegantly shaped eyebrows raised in offense, Ferdinand rested a gentle touch on his forearm. To think, Lorenz would emerge his mocking encounter with Hubert as the fortunate one.

“Come now,” Ferdinand smoothed over the tension, an effortless smile at the ready. Lorenz huffed, but let it fall with a final sneer. Even that was poised for appearances. Ferdinand accepted it even so, holding his reins in both hands again and turning that expression to Hubert. “Perhaps this was simply serendipitous! I, for one, would be delighted to have your company.”

“Be that as it may,” Hubert stalled in his answer, feeling a nameless sensation course through him at having Ferdinand’s direct attention, and with such a remark! In a weak attempt to distract him, Hubert nodded to the road stretching out towards the fields and town ahead. “The path only accommodates two horses side by side.”

“I’ve got an idea!” Claude’s ideas were, in a word, horrendous. Artfully thought out and clever, yes, but often resulted in landing in some plot of his. True to form, he was undeterred by Hubert’s eye roll. “Let’s shake things up a little! Hubert here can go with Ferdinand, and I’ll ride with our noble Lorenz. What do you say?”

Lorenz flushed pink, complementing his lilac hair in a way—a fact Claude seemed intent on noticing with a lingering gaze like the one he bore. That victory of Hubert’s own schemes to draw Claude’s amorous feelings into the light was difficult to celebrate, what with Ferdinand’s blush framing a hopeful, fragile smile.

“A fine idea, Claude!”

“Ah.” Hubert caught Lorenz’s eye, however fleetingly. They seemed to be the only two who were aware of the emotions charging this discussion. Despite that, the brief glance proved neither of them could place or settle those sentiments. With a short nod to Ferdinand, he surrendered. “I see no issue with it.”

“Then it’s settled,” Lorenz rushed out, guiding his horse to move closer to Claude, who had already started ahead at a lackadaisical pace. “We shall see you upon our return.”

“Y-yes, indeed!” Ferdinand winced so slightly, it could easily be overlooked. By someone less keenly aware of his every move, perhaps.

Hubert ushered his horse to go ahead at a pace to put distance between them and the pair up ahead. If Claude insisted on his romantic machinations, it was only fair that he would be caught up in them as well.

He suspected the socially adroit House Leader of Golden Deer would fare far better than Hubert himself, whose gloves were already gathering a light layer of sweat in the palms as Ferdinand’s horse sauntered up in pursuit.


The silence is stretched taut between them, but not with anger. Such a far cry from where they began their connection. No, this was something Hubert was much less capable of recognizing. Ferdinand and Hubert had gone on countless horse rides, spent hours in the kitchen together, and worked on assorted weekly tasks numerous times. What could possibly have changed?

Hubert must have offended him in some way.

“I enjoy all horse rides,” Ferdinand started, kind enough to fill the quiet hovering between them like smothering fog. “But today’s is especially lovely.”

“Oh?” Glancing to Ferdinand from the edge of his vision, Hubert truly could not think of anything further to say. He looked much less like the prime minister’s son and more the son of some well-off merchant, at least in physical appearance alone. His outfit suited horseback riding more than noble presentation, although it managed to appear stately. That may have more to do with his bearing than any concrete attribute of button-down shirts and equestrian pants.

His hair was curled into the style he commonly preferred, whether natural or requiring attention and care. Both, as the case may be. Hubert had idly wondered what it might call for, and if perhaps he might know how to do so for Ferdinand. He saw to certain aspects of hair care for Lady Edelgard for years. How different could it be? What would he speak of in the morning, still yawning with having just woken?

“The weather, that is!” Ferdinand broke through his revelry, and Hubert turned away with the return of that damnable feeling under his skin. Almost like an anxiousness. That response was beneath him, trained out of him by his wretched father. And yet, it persisted. Just as it did with Ferdinand, laughing tightly. “It’s perfect, is it not?”

“Yes. Yes, of course.” Again, the silence returned. Of course, that was what occurred when one did nothing to further a conversation. Hubert exhaled through his nose. He was entirely fed up with his own uselessness already, and they had only reached the first fork towards a small forested area outside Garreg Mach. If the simplest, most vapid noble of Enbarr could manage small talk, so could Hubert von Vestra. Clearing his throat and, with more effort and to a lesser extent, his mind, he offered his best attempt. “Lorenz said you routinely go on horseback rides together?”

“Ah, that we do! I join Lorenz at least once a week.” Ferdinand was grateful in instant, brightening on the spot. Seeing him then, it was impossible to remember what it was that so inspired hatred in Hubert at the sight of the future prime minister—particularly when content, as he was now. The honeyed depths of his eyes took on an ever-more vibrant presence, incapable of being ignored or denied. Freckles scattered over the light pink enduring on his face, and something in his tenuously pleased grin endeared him.

“You must know the area well.” Shared observations were working thus far. Hubert saw no reason to change that particular strategy, not with his inner thoughts as they were.

“I could easily navigate this area blindfolded!” Ferdie beamed with familiar self-satisfied pride as their path sloped downward and closer to the clustered trees. Where once that would send Hubert into a cutting remark that earned him a scowl, he merely chuckled.

“Dramatic as always. I was only asking for a recommendation as to where we might stop for tea.” The seasoned scarlet oak tree Hubert favored would be developing its trademark blazing color, and it would be a fine place to rest with—company. Regrettably, they were nowhere near it. “My favorite coffee drinking spot happens to be on the other side of the monastery.”

“You have coffee and tea with you, Hubert? And a tea set?” Surprised, but not displeased, Ferdinand looked to him in wide-eyed curiosity. Much better than a scowl, as it so happened.

“It’s a metal set, and I have only tea. But yes. Why else would I mention it?”

“Right! Of course,” Ferdinand answered, that nervous laugh coming again. Hubert frowned and cursed whatever fickle whim of the universe that decided he would respond to social awkwardness with more of the same. “There is a clearing nearby that is both charming and secluded. Assuming you wish for privacy, that is. Because I know how much that means to you.”

“Thank you.”

The knowledge that Ferdinand had been observing him in turn, and even learned that his brusque demeanor served more than one purpose, materialized against all odds. Truthfully, Hubert had not the slightest as to how to proceed from there.

“Then I shall lead the way!” Inclined to mercy, Ferdinand did precisely that so Hubert could follow without having to speak to imagined feelings. There was no chance that they were anything but. Hubert prepared for the eventuality that such emotions did exist between them, yes. Lady Edelgard knew of the budding affections he held for Ferdinand. She was delighted by them, even. Yet he knew better than to hope.

And somehow… Still, his heart raced as he did nothing more taxing than kneeling at the center of the clearing Ferdinand brought them to.

Hubert had no ability to summon a fire spell worthy of being an attack, but he could warm the metal kettle using only the low flame in his hands. The water from his canteen had originally been for Claude and Hubert to share, so it was slightly less than he would have brought had he planned for Ferdinand. Another manner in which this trip did not go according to Claude’s impulsive idea. He would just have to drink less to compensate. All in all, it really should have been rather simple. But the unidentifiable sensation from when they first split off carried over even so long after.

When he glanced to Ferdinand tying off their horses, their gazes brushed and fled from one another insuppressibly. That atmosphere rendered both of them distracted and inefficient with their tasks. The water should have been ready by then, and Ferdinand took far longer than usual to secure the reins to a sturdy branch.

“There,” Ferdinand said with no particular need to do so. Noise for the sake of noise—a hallmark sign that his colleague was ill at ease. He took the time to pet one of the creatures on the nose, affectionate and gentle as he dallied. “Do behave now.”

“Damn,” Hubert hissed, dropping the kettle onto the flat stone he’d set beneath it earlier. Watching Ferdinand robbed him of his focus, causing the fire to flare higher than he intended. Not enough to burn through his gloves or anything drastic, but enough to convince him to let it go abruptly before he faced the consequences.

“Are you alright?” Ferdinand darted over, his hand positioned over Hubert’s shoulder as concern pierced every syllable.

“Yes. Of course.” Being the focus of his concern especially was foreign to Hubert. He managed not to withdraw from his touch, a success in itself. “I misjudged the heat required, so we’ll have to wait longer for it to cool.”

“Oh. I see.” Settling down in the grass across from him, Ferdinand leaned back with a relieved breath. The first few buttons of his shirt were undone, so a portion of his skin was visible there. Tanned skin, indicating that Ferdinand was without his shirt in the sun often enough to maintain that. It was new intelligence on his habits, nothing more, but Hubert was even less in control of his mind than before. All of these effects had never happened to him before. Not with men or women in the capital, and certainly not with Ferdinand von Aegir. At least until Claude’s interference.

Or was the reverse true? It hardly seemed to matter in that private space within those woods.

“This is a—”

“Hubert, I—”

Just as they spoke at once, they both halted simultaneously. Ferdinand let out a small chuckle and bowed his head to Hubert, extending a hand in a hypothetical offer. “My apologies. You can speak first.”

“I was only admiring our surroundings. They are—” He looked away from Ferdinand at the final moment, unsure what had come over him. Taking courage in Lady Edelgard’s encouragement when they’d discussed this possibility, Hubert pushed himself to conclude as planned. He looked to Ferdinand once more and finished his sentence. “Truly lovely.”

After a short pause—neither reassuring nor disquieting, but plainly being—Ferdinand smiled anew. “I must confess, I sincerely hoped you would think so.”

“But you had something to say as well?” Rather than avoiding a momentary lapse in his typically stern mannerisms, Hubert circled back to Ferdinand out of honest interest. As he waited, he held his hand near the kettle’s side and deemed it the proper warmth to pour over the tea in their respective cups.

“Right! So I did.” As Hubert lifted the kettle, Ferdinand fussed with his cravat to no apparent end. “I have just been thinking as of late that I feel immensely grateful. For our evolution from bitter enemies to,” he hesitated yet again, clasping his hands in front of him. He assumed it was an endeavor to steady them that was mostly effective. “Well, I’m not sure what, exactly. All I can say for certain is that I am grateful for you.”

Hubert’s vital organs took that as a cue to collectively forget their purpose. Holding his breath as his stomach seemed unwilling to settle, his heart pounded while he searched that familiar face. How strange, to see his own uncertainties and hopes reflected back at him. It couldn’t be that he…? Hm.

He abandoned the thought of pouring his own water, setting the kettle down the flat stone between their cups.

“Forgive me if I misheard you; did you say for me?”

“I did, yes.” Ferdinand beamed, holding his own hands tighter. These mixed signals would be the death of one or both of them, surely. “After all of our lengthy disputes and the utterly horrid manners I’ve shown you, I came to be disappointed that we may never be comfortable with one another. That even the barest civility would be an unexpected turn of events for us,” he clarified when Hubert remained still and stared in abject disbelief.

“As such,” he pushed ahead, moving at last to reach for his cup, seemingly oblivious to the gaze trained on him exclusively. “I was very much pleased to find we have become what I am sure is quite a bit more than colleagues finding it difficult to even be civil.”

There had to be a gesture or tell of some kind that would reveal this for what it was. Something fancifully misread on Hubert’s part, no doubt, soon to be exposed as a friendly expression and nothing further. He felt that his face must rival the kettle itself in warmth by then, but there was only the one method to know his meaning for certain. No significant information was ever gained without risk or sacrifice.

“It seems I still don’t understand. There is a generous range beyond forced civility.”

Ferdinand flushed pink, smiling shyly and confirming Hubert’s suspicions. The discovery made his heart soar on the one hand and snuck in a trembling in his chest on the other. Emotions were as ruthless a tool as any weapon, he decided, but… With the proper application, any tool could be turned to his favor.

“Please, Hubert! I know social matters are not to your liking, but I beg of you, please do not make me say it outright.”

“So that I might instead?” Hubert suggested with a smirk and willed that unsettled feeling within to stop. He met with some limited success.

Only to realize that Ferdinand looked deeply uncomfortable. The vibrant hope once shining from him noticeably was eclipsed by a darkness he knew far better than he ever should have, likely a cruel courtesy of Ludwig von Aegir: self-doubt. “Have I—Oh, I have misread your—Forgive me, Hubert. Please, forget everything I have just said.”

“I’m afraid I can’t.” Hubert rushed to answer before Ferdinand could bury his face into his hands. The anxiety of the moment was beyond Hubert’s reach. But shame? He would do anything to keep that from plaguing Ferdinand’s thoughts. Fortunately, in that case, it was quite simple—or so it seemed. “My sentiments on you go beyond what one would consider professional or even merely companionable.”

Reaching for the kettle again, Hubert poured the water over his own tea and kept to his misleading sense of calm. It was wasted on Ferdinand, perhaps, but it brought him some small comfort all the same.

“So you see, now that you have suggested your inclinations towards me may be likewise favorable, I couldn’t possibly put that from my mind.”

“Truly?!” The proper air for Ferdinand had been restored, it seemed. It was, admittedly, rather rewarding to see his smile return as relief washed over him in a breathless laugh. “Does that mean you have sensed this change between us as well?”

“I have,” Hubert confirmed, utterly neglecting his tea just as Ferdinand was. It did lend this space a pleasant aroma, the warm fragrances of steeped tea and autumn leaves blended into one. It had been said that scent was closely associated with memory. He hoped it proved true so he would always have that marker to remind himself of this moment. Even in it presently, he hardly believed it was true.

“Furthermore, I have told Lady Edelgard about it. Despite all her responsibilities as Emperor with all that is yet to come, she has encouraged me to go where my heart leads me.” His instinct was to reach for Ferdinand, and yet, he couldn’t quite bring himself to. Perhaps it was all an elaborate illusion, as realistic as his dreams often were. This was one to linger in. Hubert rested his hand against his chin, letting his expression relax into a smile. “I suspect that would be to you.”

Ferdinand, with impressive speed, threw himself at Hubert. Entirely unprepared, he fell back with Ferdinand over him. A handful of ways to disarm or imbalance him flashed through Hubert’s mind. And yet, nothing could outshine Ferdinand’s laughter in his ear—with his own layered beneath it.

This was not part of the plan with their time at Garreg Mach. He would need to discuss their secret plots with Lady Edelgard to determine if they should involve Ferdinand. And if so, to what extent. He had her blessing for the relationship, yes, but that didn’t cover Ferdinand’s knowledge of what must be done to dismantle the current nobility in Adrestia as well as the false Church of Seiros.

For that once, Hubert immersed himself in the moment. The smell of drying autumn grass and leaves, the fragrance of the steeping tea drifting over to where they laid together, the warmth and presence of Ferdinand smiling down at him—him. If the worst came to pass, as it so enjoyed doing, Hubert intended to capture this memory. A window into the carefree as well as a potential glimpse of the future.

“Ah, I cannot possibly contain my joy! All the world is full of song and wonder, as magical as any operatic performance!” Almost wild with delight, Ferdinand clearly meant it. When did he not?

His arms rested around Hubert’s neck, who placed a single hand on his back. It was tempting to surrender to the comfort of his closeness, after so long spent resisting, then longing. Hubert persisted, of course. He had his brief peace. As always, reality had to be let in.

“Before you get ahead of yourself, you must understand,” he began, knowing how near he would be to losing Ferdinand at any time in the coming moons. Perhaps whether he told him or not, but there was something to be said for a warning. However devoid of details. “I have a role in the Empire that requires a great deal of secrecy. Even from those closest to me, if not especially so.”

“How like you, to be so practical in an occasion so momentous,” Ferdinand teased, shifting to lay beside Hubert with a broad smile. “That is one of many upstanding attributes I have grown to love in you.”

The merciless march of his flush advanced down his neck, and still, he kept eye contact with him. His suitor now, he supposed. Witnessing the color to his skin was part of the experience, should unreasonably popular tales of romance be any guide on the topic.

“I’m serious, Ferdinand.”

“As am I! As the Minister to the Imperial Household and the heir to House Vestra, there are secrets you must keep. That is one of the several remarkable traits I respect in you, not tolerate in desolation.” Shuffling closer on the grass, running the risk of stubborn stains, Ferdinand placed a kiss to his lips before Hubert could react.

In truth, he very well could have. He should have. But he only froze, eyes widening just so. When it was done, he took in a sharp breath—and remained lost in the expanse of his eyes, the fondness of his tender smile.

That had been Hubert’s first kiss.

Ferdinand would be beside himself with joy for even longer if made aware of it. As though he couldn’t guess from his immobile awe.

“To be considered among your closest companions, one of those you hold dearest to your heart, is an honor beyond measure.” Seeking out his hand, Ferdinand intertwined their fingers among the grass. “And from now on, secrets or no, we will have each other.”

“Although I know you cannot comprehend the enormity of what you’ve promised,” Hubert began, bringing his other hand up to pull a leaf from Ferdinand’s hair. He could be so careless when swept up in sentiment like this. It was safe to assume Hubert looked much the same for his tumble back into the grass. “I find myself helpless not to believe you. Therefore, as futile as it may be, I will strive to be worthy of you.”


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

Nightmare: Ferdibert Week 2020 FE3H Fanfiction

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Darling?”

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

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

“I’m aware,” Hubert answered.

“And yet you are not in bed.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Shouldn’t I be thanking you?”

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

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

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


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Recovery: Ferdibert Week 2020 FE3H Fanfiction

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


Day 1:

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

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

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

Day 5:

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

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

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

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

Day 7:

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

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

Day 12:

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

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

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

Day 19:

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

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

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

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

Day 23:

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

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

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

Which, at present, is shamefully little.

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

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

Day 25:

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

Day 28:

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

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

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

Day 35:

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

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

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

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

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


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Fears: Ferdibert Week 2020 FE3H Fanfiction

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hubert? What is—?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And now for you!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I meant you shouldn’t distract me!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you think I’m not trying?!”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Ferdinand von Aegir from Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Confessions: Ferdibert Week 2020 FE3H Fanfiction

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, Hubert?”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Read the previous chapter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Web of Love | Claude Edition Ch. 4: Lesson Learned

Word count: 1218 (2 to 10 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Claude, Ferdinand, and Hubert

Read the previous chapter.

On most occasions, Hubert could travel the length of the monastery campus without anyone disrupting him. He was not a friendly individual. Few found him approachable. Therefore, his travels were often more efficient than his peers.

Though not always.

“Hey, Hubert!” Hubert stopped, turning to the voice and unsurprised to see Claude waving him over to the stables. “Come over here.”

Unshockingly, he was with Ferdinand. Hubert clearly expected too much of the Golden Deer House leader when he anticipated he would eventually realize the futility of his latest scheme. It crossed his mind to simply continue on as he had been, but with both Ferdinand and Claude present, his odds of a successful escape were rather slim. Simply turning and approaching, he let that action speak on his behalf.

“So, Ferdinand and I were talking, and we had this fantastic idea,” Claude stated with a grin that guaranteed it was a horrible idea Hubert would despise. “Why don’t you learn horseback riding from Ferdinand?”

“Why?” He leveled a piercing glare at Claude to little effect from either him or Ferdinand. Few people could regard him without fear or even apprehension, and it was notable that they all ranked among those he encountered most often. Any correlation would need to be investigated at another time.

“Hear me out, okay?” Claude met his stare with one of his falsely disarming smiles, discovering as much success as Hubert had prior. Having realized the uselessness of the effort, Claude continued regardless with a rolling gesture of his hand. “You’ve been eyeing that Dark Knight certification, and he’s the best with horses in your house… Makes sense, yeah?”

He didn’t bother to conceal his scoff. “Not in the slightest. We are both too often unwilling to compromise in our assigned tasks when we are assigned with one another.” Any acknowledgement of this shortcoming typically came after they ran out of time for their task and saw it was done less capably than they could have achieved had they not spent quite as much time on bickering. That was less common recently, but that was not a fact Claude required. “Why would training together be any different?”

“Well,” Ferdinand began, an uncertain edge to his smile that troubled Hubert more than it should have, “Because we have learned to be less stubborn during our weekly tasks, or at least only behave stubbornly for good reason.” And there it was, the intelligence that Claude had sought and Hubert preferred to conceal. He was bound to discover it eventually, but that smug look of imitated surprise was insufferable.

Ferdinand found more of his characteristic confidence and kept his attention on Hubert, as though Claude was not there at all. Hubert rarely held anyone’s attention, much less Ferdinand’s. That was notable on its own, although it would have to wait when he wasn’t under observation by the Golden Deer house leader. “Surely, you have noticed that we do not argue nearly as intensely as we used to since your cooking lessons, and our performance has improved greatly.”

“I had,” he agreed, however exasperatedly. He did not want Claude to hear about that agreement either for reasons Ferdinand also could not be allowed to understand.

“Aw, look at you two!” Claude interrupted, pointing that self-satisfied grin to Hubert while he leaned back and folded his hands behind his head. “Like peas in a pod.”

“You are looking too much into it, Claude,” he spoke before Ferdinand could, bearing his sinister smile at an angle that frightened even certain allies. Hubert’s height over Claude was a marked advantage to that end. “That is your greatest weakness, and it is dangerous to let it go unchecked.”

“To be honest, I was hoping you might consider the offer.” Naturally, Ferdinand approached the matter like a territory negotiation between noble houses rather than a training agreement. The confidence that gave him restored his smile and proud posture to their usual radiance, a phrasing presented by Hubert’s traitorous mind. “I have not properly shown my gratitude for those gauntlets you chose for me! And then you were kind enough to teach me that recipe too. I would be honored to assist you as a gesture of my thanks.”

“And while it is also very honorable of you to think of my safety, Hubert,” Claude interjected himself where he was not wanted, earning a scowl from Hubert, “What’s this about free one-on-one cooking lessons?”

Heaving a sigh, Hubert overtly ignored Claude. They were comparable to friends, and he knew well that Claude would distort anything he said to fit his vision for Ferdinand and Hubert regardless of his intended meaning. “Fine. Very well. Since you feel so indebted, I will accept your offer.”

“Perfect!” It served Hubert right to be met with an enthusiastic, beaming grin after assuming that Ferdinand could not be more animated. The topic was equestrian, so it only followed that Ferdinand would embrace it wholeheartedly. “I will begin drawing up the plans for your instruction promptly. Tell me, when was the last time you went horseback riding?”

“When we arrived at Garreg Mach.”

“Since our arrival?” His surprise was obvious in a wide-eyed stare. With his daily horse rides in addition to any taken when he was sufficiently frustrated, that response was to be expected by anyone who knew Ferdinand well. Or, perhaps, had monitored him to isolate proof of seditious intent and came up empty time and again. “I would miss the horses if I went so long without. Still, I will factor that into your lessons.”

“Good luck, you too! Remember to watch where you’re going!”

Claude claimed not to enjoy facing poor odds of success in their mock scenarios in class, but his continual provocation of Hubert suggested otherwise.

“I have a schedule to keep,” Hubert insisted, which Claude only answered by raising his eyebrows and smirking.

“Oh, yes, of course! Until next time, Claude,” Ferdinand dismissed himself as the very model of politeness.

“You got it.”

Ferdinand strode brightly into the stables, heedless to the tension between Claude and Hubert—or respectfully overlooking it, more accurately. He was perceptive in the social sphere and knew about Hubert’s skepticism of Claude’s behavior from their discussion in the monastery kitchens as well. Either way, Hubert was grateful for the opportunity.

“Stop this immediately.”

Tilting his head so his braid swung away from him, Claude kept up his thin innocent act. “Hm? Whatever could you possibly mean?”

“Hubert!” Ferdinand called from inside the stables, somewhere just out of view. Easily done when Hubert held Claude in a withering stare despite its ineffectiveness on someone who came to seek out his company freely. “Come, let us find a horse you get along with!”

Claude nodded to the stables, hands in his pockets and a glint in his eyes. “Aren’t you on a schedule?”

“I can always make time for such a good friend.” He clearly hadn’t meant that literally, but Claude’s faux flattered expression showed he was set on pretending otherwise. “I have not yet thought of a suitable way to repay you, but I assure you I will.” Following Ferdinand at last, Hubert began devising the initial steps of his plan. If Claude enjoyed his little game of matchmaker so much, Hubert was obligated to return the favor.


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You Will Live Ch. 7: To Ashes | FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 3275 (7 to 26 minutes) | Rating: M | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Count Bergliez, Ferdinand, and Hubert

Trigger Warning: Thoughts of an Honorable Death/Martyrdom

Read the previous chapter.

Her Majesty’s cremation had been arranged that same day through the finest of Hubert’s remaining agents—all of whom he’d had to disclose to Shamir, naturally. In the state of Fódlan following the fall on Enbarr, it would be safest for them to be monitored by the allies of King Dimitri. If any rebellious factions existed within the new rule, clear communication between the Empire and the Kingdom would accelerate their demise should they act against one power or the other.

All things considered, Adrestia’s ongoing integration into the surrounding nations of Fódlan led by King Dimitri was sudden but painless. There was none of the rampant violence against the losing party and political plundering that typically marked such shifts in power. Of course, Hubert had been stripped of his title and was effectively penniless and homeless without the current support he was permitted from King Dimitri. His court was not comprised of fools, and that act was no mistake. Hubert was in no position to bite the hand that fed him.

And he was well fed in that hypothetical sense.

The most loyal of Dimitri’s men was assigned to Her Majesty’s travel alongside Hubert’s own agents, a gesture of impressive goodwill. Still, that did not discourage Hubert from going as well. Serving Her Majesty was his sworn purpose and he would oversee her care even now.

Affixing his travelling robe in his quarters for that trip, Hubert was interrupted by a short knock.

“Enter,” he allowed, knowing that regardless of who it was, he likely did not have enough sway in the new regime quite yet to turn them away.

“Good morning, Hubert!” Ferdinand greeted, his smile every bit as bright as it should be, but the faint wrinkle in his brow revealed that he was moderately worried. Years spent watching him and learning his tells rewarded Hubert with near-perfect clarity into Ferdinand’s mental state that was likely not one-sided.

Naturally, or why would Ferdinand be concerned? He chose the side that won the war, achieving his standing both in history and close to the newly established government. Recent events were in his favor. The solitary unpredictable aspect of his life was Hubert himself.

“You are preparing to head out, I take it. Where are you headed so early?”

Hubert was well past trying to confine himself to viewing Ferdinand as a captor or bitter former friend—bawling in front of him like an infant and grasping for his hand to completely expose his fragility saw to that. Now, Ferdinand was only an awkward reminder of Hubert’s own shameful weakness and instability.

He did not look at Ferdinand to respond, checking on clasps on his robe instead that did not particularly need to be checked. “I have been up for hours, Ferdinand. There is business I must attend to.”

“Ah, of course.” The careful pause there essentially guaranteed Ferdinand was acutely aware that Hubert was withholding something. Gracious as ever, he did not mention it but simply stood in the doorway of his room. “If there is anything I can assist you with, I would be more than happy to contribute my support.”

“And I am grateful, but this matter is one I must handle personally.” He turned from the mirror, his black and red cloak sweeping with the motion, and waited for Ferdinand to move aside as he approached. When that did not happen, Hubert frowned and crossed his arms to make his stance on this even clearer. “Urgently.”

“It is for Edelgard, then?”

Tight silence pierced the space between them. Whether from true irritation or grief and the irrational sentiments accompanying it, Hubert did not know and didn’t care to find out when he did have a timeline to keep.

“I apologize,” Ferdinand offered in contrition, shaking his head. From how carefully he was put together today, one never would have guessed he had been in combat with the same man he spoke to only yesterday. Subtle traces of cologne hovered about Ferdinand as though he were a walking garden, pleasant but not overpowering. His hair shone with what Hubert recognized as the hair oil commonly used in Brigid (a gift from Petra, then).

In place of his ornate combat gear was an expertly tailored crimson jacket accompanied by a white silken cravat secured with a black crow pin. Next to Ferdinand’s usual aesthetics, it seemed somewhat out of place, but it hardly came as a surprise that he had to make do during a time of widespread war.

“I did not mean to open any wounds, Hubert. I thought you may wish to talk about it, nothing more.” Awkwardness replaced the tension as Ferdinand stepped aside, continuing the conversation heedlessly. Hubert could have communicated as much by walking away before he was done, but—

It did not matter why he remained, only that he did. He could muster that much.

“To be honest, I came only to invite you to afternoon tea,” his voice lightened, smile widening. “The rain will keep us from the gardens, but there are covered awnings by the dance hall that will serve nicely for privacy and a splendid view.”

“While that is thoughtful of you,” he answered flatly, stepped out into the hall with the confidence Ferdinand would not take advantage of his absence to rifle through his quarters (especially when both the Alliance and Kingdom guards had already done so). Pausing to glance back, he gave Ferdinand advice he would hopefully be wise enough to take. Any affiliation between them was not only uncomfortable for Hubert but unwise for Ferdinand. “I have far too much to consider at present. You might invite Dorothea in my stead. I am certain she would be delighted.”

“Yes. I understand.” The crestfallen falter of his posture and smile indicated otherwise, bearing an unsettling pressure down on Hubert’s chest. That dejection was how Hubert thanked him for his consolation last night when no one else offered. Or even potentially could have—Hubert was a forbidding man on a pleasant day. “Well, if your schedule changes—”

“You will be the first to know.”

By then, the pressing need to be away from that conversation overpowered Hubert, who departed without so much as a goodbye. He descended the staircase and left through the palace foyer entrance, not once turning back. A step in the right direction to his reputed strength of will no matter the crushing darkness surrounding him. The sooner Ferdinand accepted it, the better off both of them would be.


Their destination was at the edge of the capital’s market district, isolated enough to make anyone who should not be there stand out easily, but populated enough as to not leave room for a close-quarters ambush. The woman overseeing the cremation of Her Majesty was a long-time friend of the Hresvelg line, sharing a similar lineage as House Vestra. His agents and the Kingdom’s reinforcements were placed in formation to ensure a swift response in the event of an attack en route.

The recent rain left a metallic trace in the air and made certain pathways slicker than usual, but any damage from combat had been primarily contained to the portion of the city between the invading armies and the palace. Headed in the opposite direction, they had no cause for concern. Enbarr was a resilient city with stout buildings that did not fall easily. As the citizens came back now that the evacuation orders preceding the siege had lifted, the capital’s routine was returning to normal. Whatever else might occur, the Adrestian people would not be severely hindered by their loss.

Strategically, the resulting environment was a challenging one for moving her body. With citizens and foreign powers settling in, it was all too easy for a malicious entity to sneak past unnoticed. Therefore, every aspect of Her Majesty’s transit, down to the carriage transporting her from the palace to the crematorium, had been carefully planned and reviewed to the fullest in the short time Hubert had to prepare it.

Hubert himself took up the rear guard so he could secure their safe passage by delaying pursuers if necessary. His recovery was far enough along that if he didn’t sustain any direct attacks, he would be more than capable of handling several opponents. Linhardt was not awake before he departed, so that was Hubert’s best assessment. The alternative had been to ask Dorothea and he could not risk the chance that she’d want to socialize or question him, refusing to take no for an answer as only the former opera singer could.

There were other healers, of course, but… Hubert would just as soon not speak to anyone who was not of the Black Eagle House if he could avoid it. There was no sense in potentially stirring up animosity at such an uncertain time.

The beginning of their voyage was unremarkable. A glance was sufficient to determine their agenda—what else but funerary plans would bring the Imperial Minister out accompanied by Kingdom guards?—but the residents of Enbarr had their own business to attend to. The city did need repairs, and the Alliance soldiers were lending aid to that end. Shops were re-opening and families returned to their homes. Life continued on.

It wasn’t until they reached the less populated region of the city, nearing the crematory, that Hubert fully realized they were being tailed. He suspected as much before then, since these were hardly professionals with any nation or the Agarthans. But their flanking formation once they reached the outskirts of the market was all the confirmation that they were certainly targeting them.

More accurately, they were looking to isolate one person from the rest: Hubert himself.

Very well. If that is what they want, they will have it.

With a gesture pre-established with his agents, Hubert ordered them to go ahead while he lingered further back. His team coordinated the new formation with Dimitri’s soldiers, as expected, and they obeyed to best represent their king. The quiet that fell as the carriage and entourage went ahead without him was as brief as it was taut.

Seeing their opportunity or realizing they’d been made, the people tailing them closed in on Hubert almost immediately after the carriage was out of view. A close-range cast of Miasma rushed through him, and the first attacker died swiftly in the blast. Seamlessly, he conjured an outwardly aimed Dark Spikes that either wounded or slaughtered a handful of the others drawing close. He was alone, but hardly an easy mark.

Still, other than his magic, Hubert was unarmed. In the magically charged lapse following his initial defense, he stole a spear from the corpse closest to him, turning in time to skewer one of the enemies who survived that attack. Over his shoulder, he blindly cast another charge of Miasma and based on the wailing behind him, he hit his mark.

“Traitor,” the man pierced by spear fought out, grunting. Hubert had missed his lungs, then. “You traitor!”

Hit by a nauseating sense of freefall, crushing despite its distance in his mind, Hubert kept his outward calm. This was a battlefield, city or not. But the very idea that he had betrayed Her Majesty was so widespread a rumor so soon after her passing—

In the short time following the fall of Enbarr, enough like-minded citizens from Adrestia believed Hubert to be a conspirator against Lady Edelgard that they could gather and piece together a plan that made this ambush possible.

“You fool.” Hubert could afford derision when he was dealing with the last enemy currently capable of standing. The remaining were still assessing their injuries or laying deathly still in the dirt or on the stone streets. Did it matter which? Revulsion at their assumption blended with dread at being stripped of his legendary devotion to Her Majesty by her very own people, their people, and Hubert sneered at the pierced man in front of him. “I remain alive on her ord—”

An arrow pierced his left shoulder, killing the rest of his sentence with the sudden pain. The spear remained steady in his hands, but he would have to choose between that and casting a spell at the overlooked archer.

Sloppy.

The assailants previously held back by the magic spikes had recovered, as much as they were going to, and they were advancing once more. The archer, wherever they were, would be nocking another arrow.

Hubert drove the spear through the man before him, pushing his inevitable corpse away to call upon Mire for its greater range. This area was too narrow for a spell broader than that dark magic raining down on them, but it would have to suffice. Hubert would not survive the assault if they all reached him at once. Before he could crush it, the thought occurred to him that a fate such as that might not be so terrible. He could die in Enbarr, defending Her Majesty just as he originally intended.

Regardless, it would not be by surrender.

The next arrow to fly landed in the leg of an enemy, dropping her to the stone street and scattering the others as they tried to identify the source. They only encountered another wave of guards blocking their retreat, whose armor was marked with the sigil of House Bergliez. Hubert barely had time to dismiss the next spell he’d been calling on before the head of that house approached from the opposite direction.

Of course Count Bergliez had known where he would be. He knew that Her Majesty perished in the battle, and he knew where the Imperial crematorium was. And there was no doubting he’d be certain that Hubert would attend. He might have worried that he was present for the same reason as the original attackers if his guards weren’t blocking them in. No, he was here strictly to defend Hubert in an unsurprising moment of foresight (that Hubert was ashamed not to have shared). Much like Caspar, Count Bergliez was not especially intellectual, but he possessed exceptional instincts along with an innate understanding of the people.

“Hubert, my boy,” he began, a chastising lecture waiting in that boisterous greeting. Despite his ranking, Caspar’s father was all too likely to treat Hubert as an honorary son rather than an Imperial minister. “The Empire loses a leader yesterday, and you try to follow her into the dark, is that it? Not sure what else you’re trying for, wounded and fighting alone out here.”

“Count Bergliez,” he answered, winded. “Good morning.”

That booming laugh he got in response really did remind Hubert of Caspar. No wonder the two were on relatively good terms despite the situation that led Caspar to enroll at Garreg Mach monastery. A shame his eldest son was such an indolent, avaricious fool. “Good morning, he says! For a mage, you really know how to work through pain.”

“Call it a gift,” he dismissed, not sharing in his good humor. Count Bergliez was a good man—there was a reason he had not been displaced during Her Majesty’s reign—but Hubert was short on patience. “Now, I must attend to Her Majesty’s—”

“Oh no,” Count Bergliez essentially forbid, pressing a hand to Hubert’s lower back to steer him while staying well clear of the arrow buried in his shoulder. “We’re going to heal you up, then send you back to the palace.”

“No, I—”

“If any of you are Adrestian,” a wounded woman interrupted hoarsely from the blood-stained street, “you’ll kill that bloody traitor!”

“Wait your damn turn,” Count Bergliez ordered as if she was just another of his many children being demanding. Waving someone over from beyond his line of guards, he went ahead with his own agenda. “Healer! Get over here.”

Placing another hand in front of Hubert’s shoulder, framing the site of the injury from the arrow, Count Bergliez looked Hubert in the eye. The worst was yet to come. The initial shock of the wound had passed to an aching throb, but that would change shortly. “Ready?”

“By all means.”

He grimaced as the shaft of the arrow shifted with the force Count Bergliez had to exert in breaking off the fletching. The easiest way for the arrow to be removed was the way it was intended to work in the first place—the point leading out. Splinters would be minimal and work themselves out over the course of a few days.

“One more to go,” Count Bergliez needlessly pointed out, polite in his own gruff manner. With a swift yank, he pulled the arrow out with a small grunt from Hubert, and the healer was on him in instant to cast faith magic and close the wound. He would be sore, but still operable for their journey to Shambhala.

“Well done,” Caspar’s father praised, a hearty smack to his back that caused Hubert to stagger in catching himself. “Now let’s see what this young lady has to say, hm?”

Of course, that is when the injured women on the ground chose to shrink away and fall silent. She tried and failed to pull herself up, a hopeless effort with an arrow in her leg and the rush of battle long behind them. “I won’t give you any names.”

“What the hell would I want names for?” Count Bergliez laughed, kneeling down to the woman. She was certainly Adrestian, light brown hair matted to her face with blood from her fall after that arrow pierced her thigh. If she got help soon, she’d recover within a week. “I just want you to finish your little speech. And don’t get smart about it, no one wants this to get messy. So, what’ll it be?”

Hubert barely glanced her way, feigning disinterest even as he direly needed her insight to piece together how far this perception of him betraying Her Majesty had spread. If it had taken root in the whole nation or spread swiftly enough, it may as well be an official exile. But to where? Adrestia was his home and where Her Majesty would be laid to rest. The sooner Hubert discovered the severity of this rumor, the sooner he could devise a strategy to counter it.

Keeping her attention on the count, she bit her lip and weighed her options. “He… he’s a turncoat and an impostor. House Vestra protects the emperor, but the moment she died, he’s working with the Beast King,” she spat through a snarl, finding her courage again despite the tremble in her hands. “He doesn’t deserve to live!”

In combat, Hubert had internally all but agreed with her. He glanced away from her, staring instead at her peers in shackles provided by the Bergliez Guard. They covered a range of people within the Empire, although some were in better condition than others. The degree of their tans or scarring helped Hubert place if they worked indoors or out, primarily with their hands or with their minds. Most of them stared straight ahead, an unyielding resolve in the face of failure that pointed to a powerful belief in their cause.

The thought sickened him once again, and Hubert scowled on instinct. There were a few who glared back at him, but that made no difference to him. Him, Hubert von Vestra, betraying Lady Edelgard? It was difficult to distinguish the indignant rage at the accusation from the genuine fear that the rumor was strong enough to be viewed as fact. He did not care that he lost his title and all his holdings, but to lose his reputation as her unwaveringly devoted minister? That was the one part of him that mattered most to Hubert. If she were alive to stand beside him, it would not have mattered nearly as much. All he needed was for her to believe.

But she was not here. Only he was. That was what she wanted for him. He was following her will. That consolation next to such a loss was as far-removed as seeing light from the bottom of a well.

“Right,” Count Bergliez dismissed her behind him, his disbelief obvious. “Acting fast only works if you think, you know that?” Standing up to the sound of his armor plates moving together, he strode forward to appear in Hubert’s vision and gesture to his available guards. “Round up the wounded and take them to the cells of the palace. We’ll sort this blasted mess out once we clean up the street.”

Putting a guiding hand on Hubert’s ‘good’ shoulder, Count Bergliez pulled him in. “And you stick with me until you’re inside palace walls. You always did get a little stupid without Lady Edelgard around.”

Hubert scoffed, but there was no effective method to telling Caspar’s father no. Besides, he would know all too well what Hubert became without Lady Edelgard. As one of few who got through to Hubert during Her Majesty’s absence in their youth, Count Bergliez was uniquely qualified.


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Web of Love | Claude Edition Ch. 3: Cooking Duty

Word count: 2450 (6 to 20 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Claude, Petra, Caspar, Linhardt, Petra, Edelgard, Dorothea, Ferdinand, and Hubert

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Cooking duties in the dining hall were scheduled on rotation, as most tasks delegated to the students were, and shared among the houses to encourage inter-house companionship. Hubert was not convinced that was the true reason, as that goal was rarely met with such half-hearted efforts.

But that is what caused Claude to receive an assignment for cooking alongside Ferdinand, only to feign illness well enough to have someone stand in his stead. And who did he recommend, of course, but Hubert? He could have declined if his pride would allow it, a fact Claude clearly considered when devising this scheme.

Setting foot into the kitchen where Ferdinand was already waiting, there was no debating it: Claude was determined to put Hubert and Ferdinand alone in the same space wherever possible. He labored under the impression that an irritating degree of persistence would make his romantic visions for Hubert materialize.

“Hubert?” The cooking had not even begun yet, and Ferdinand’s smile was tight with the pressure he put on himself to be perfect at every little task. Ingredients sat on the counter beside the stovetop and a recipe book sat out on the opposite side. He arrived ahead of time as demanded of his station and had nothing to show for it. Unless having stressed himself out counted as getting results, Hubert supposed.

“I thought I was to cook with Claude today.”

“He claims he is ill,” Hubert explained, glancing to the recipe book and gathered ingredients. Tomatoes, cabbage, other vegetables, some assorted seasonings and bottles, a block of cheese, and chicken. There were a few recipes that combination could be for.

“Claims?” Ferdinand frowned, winding up for some speech on nobility, no doubt. “You ought to be more trusting of your classmates. It is only noble to lead by example of having faith in your peers where it is due, and Claude has never given us reason to doubt him.”

As predicted, his fixation on the proper course of actions due to his standing endured. His expectations of himself were not wrong, although excessive, but the principles he built them around were absurd. As if a title had ever determined the quality of a man.

“Anyone deserving of doubt will not give you a reason to, Ferdinand. Therefore, my opinion is unchanged: his ailment is a fabrication and nothing more.”

With that advice given, Hubert walked over to the open recipe book only for Ferdinand to rush over and pick it up. He clutched it to his chest like a rare treasure, not a worn book, and Hubert’s brief surprise turned to a sharp smirk. Did the young noble Aegir wish to prove himself superior by cooking? Hubert was the vassal here, not Ferdinand, and his skills would vastly outpace anything the Prime Minister’s son had ever been required to do.

“And how would Claude benefit from lying about sickness to avoid such a simple task, and one he takes to so passionately at that?”

Hubert grimaced. It was far too easy to forget that Ferdinand was more intelligent than his tactlessness conveyed, and he let that get his guard down on more than one occasion.

“Perhaps he is avoiding you.” Removing his gloves and rolling up his sleeves to a rapt audience of one orange-haired classmate with the worst emotional guard in Fódlan, Hubert brought the subject back to their assigned task. “Regardless, we have more important matters to attend to. What is the recipe?”

Clearing his throat, Ferdinand lowered the book to look at the recipe he left it on. “Garreg Mach meat pie. The recipe is a tough one, but I believe I can do it.”

“Don’t trouble yourself,” Hubert stated, gathering a knife and a cutting board. This meal was a staple, even in Enbarr, and a personal favorite of his. Though Hubert was not at the same caliber of the palace’s cooking staff, this recipe was one he was confident in preparing. “You can leave this to me.”

“Hubert, that is unnecessarily dismissive. I am assigned to this task as well, and I have every intention of doing my part.” Pointedly placing the book on the opposite side of the stove from Hubert, Ferdinand beamed with pride. Hubert clenched his jaw at the surge of warmth he felt at that reaction—a desire to impress Hubert, or so he deluded himself into thinking. They had work to do. “Why don’t you step back and allow me to show you how a proper Adrestian noble gets this done?”

“They would call on their servants, I imagine.” He moved the chicken to the cutting board, chopping it into cubes with a soothing familiarity. “Do you even know where to begin?”

“As we are companions, I will graciously pretend not to have heard the doubt in your tone.” And not doing an especially good job of it by calling attention to the remark, Hubert thought of commenting. But again—they had work to do. Their combined tasks often suffered in performance due to mutual stubbornness, acting as further evidence that Claude was delusional if he believed Hubert and Ferdinand spending time together would lead to anything but an argument.

“And just as I have demonstrated the appropriate manners, I will prove my cooking ability to you as well. I may not look it, but I do know how to cook!” Ferdinand was adamant in his overeager grinning, and Hubert resolved simply not to look. Yes, that ought to be a simple task. “I am inexperienced, but the only remedy to that is hard work.”

“Your determination is admirable, and I have no doubt you would cook the recipe over and over, heedless to failure, until it was perfect or the chefs tossed you out.” Praise like that tended to silence Ferdinand, which is why he resorted to it then. He would need him to listen for once if they were to produce an edible meal for their classmates.

“But since we are on a timeline, might I suggest the more experienced cook between us cook the meal?” That was not a true question, a fact Ferdinand realized a second too late and closed his mouth rather than answering Hubert’s jab. “Unlike you, I am practiced with cooking meats. That prior knowledge means I am better suited to the task.”

“Whereas I would benefit most from learning,” he insisted, undaunted as Hubert should have known he would be. When did Ferdinand ever merely give up? “As such, I propose that I cook while you instruct me in how the recipe should be prepared.”

“Fine, if that will get us started sooner.” Dinner would be shortly, and they had wasted enough time already. Putting the cutting board aside for Ferdinand, Hubert outlined the first step. “Heat some oil in the pan and begin cooking the chicken as the recipe instructs.”

In truth, that included seasoning and that did not play to Hubert’s strengths. The vagueness of his direction was intentional in that regard, but the other steps were defined with far more precision. Still, Ferdinand struggled. Monitoring the vegetables while cooking the meat for efficiency’s sake proved to be a challenge, but still he did not ask for Hubert to step in.

The recipe would not be too diminished by that oversight, and so Hubert allowed himself the opportunity to observe Ferdinand’s tells. For intelligence purposes, of course. He had an endearing habit of worrying at his lower lip when the simultaneous steps overwhelmed him. Routinely, he referred to the book in place of requesting clarification from the man beside him, his eyebrows furrowing with obvious concern.

“Ah, this is a difficult recipe,” he mumbled, perhaps as an indirect request. Hubert would not yield so easily to that. Then Ferdinand added the cooking wine, jumping and overpouring at the resulting sizzling noise. “Whoa! Oh, rats…”

Stepping closer, reaching for the bottle, Hubert could no longer resist the urge to offer aid. “If you would allow me—”

“No, I can do it!” The tightness in his voice, rising from his duress, spoke to his mindset more than any words or gestures ever could. Ever eager to please, Ferdinand was unwilling to admit defeat.

It fell to Hubert to provide him with an out that did not wound his pride, a creature that somehow managed to be delicate and unshakable. Letting out a terse sigh, Hubert did what he could to extend that opportunity.

“Ferdinand, how are you with seasoning?”

“Hm?” His glance flicked up to Hubert for but a second, darting back to the two pans before him. “I am proficient. Why do you ask?”

“If I might trade places with you, I am more comfortable at the stove than I am with spices.” The true intent behind the offer did not escape Ferdinand, whose shoulders sank alongside his expression. “There is nothing wrong with doing what we are already good at, Ferdinand.”

“But if I do not work at what I am not good at, I will never improve.” Staring dejectedly at the vegetables swirling about in too much white wine, Ferdinand appeared more as someone who had been asked to surrender their lands to an invading force.

“You never quit, do you?” The question was hypothetical; they both knew the truth. Pausing to consider other options, Hubert settled on the one most likely to succeed. “As a compromise, I will teach you to cook this recipe another time. With dinner for our peers on the line, now is not the time to be adventurous.”

Swinging to the opposite end of that emotional spectrum, Ferdinand brightened intensely. His grin threatened to overtake them both while the cooking wine bubbled ominously. “You will give me lessons? Is that a promise?”

Keeping his eye on both pans rather than his colleague, Hubert give an impatient reply. “If you need me to pledge it to you, then yes. I swear on my honor as Lady Edelgard’s vassal that I will teach you this one recipe. Later.”

“Thank you, Hubert! I was getting very overwh—oh no,” he struggled to reduce the heat on the vegetable pan, flipping the chicken over in the other, and Hubert deftly stepped in to take his place.

“Spices, Ferdinand.” Skillfully handling the meal, he issued a reminder for Ferdinand to remain on task. The temptation to watch and learn would be great, but they were short on time as it was. Fortunately, this meal was second nature to Hubert from his time supporting the kitchen staff while Edelgard was in Faerghus. Not a fond memory, of course, but a very useful ability.

“Yes, the spices! Of course.”


“I am enjoying this dish,” Petra commented, cutting through another portion of golden crust. The egg wash Ferdinand prepared under Hubert’s guidance helped it reach the perfect golden brown without darkening the thinner crust at the edges too much.

They did make a passable team when urgency pushed them, Hubert thought with a very faint smile.

“Yeah, this is amazing!” Caspar seemed to find it difficult to stay in his seat with such a discovery, despite being halfway through his second pie. “Why aren’t you guys on cooking duty more often?!”

“Caspar, slow down. How can you even taste it when you shovel it down like that?” Linhardt wasted his breath in the same manner at nearly every meal, somehow always finding the energy to try again at the next one. Hubert shook his head, wishing he could draw on that persistence in more important matters as well. Such as getting to class on time and staying awake through the lecture.

Ferdinand, of course, was basking in the praise. Chatting excitedly to Petra, he had hardly touched the food himself in favor of responding to every compliment. “The meal is that much more rewarding for the assistance I had in its making. Hubert is quite capable as a cook, and I learned a great deal by watching him work!”

Focusing his attention on cutting into the pie in front of him, Hubert delayed in replying to that. Clearly, he was expected to say something, but the question was what? It was not often that Hubert was the subject of overt praise and least of all by Ferdinand. Feeling the pressure to speak increasing, Hubert resigned himself to deflection back to Ferdinand.

“It would simply have been cooked without your aid. A spice rack is something of a mystery to me, so your extensive knowledge of seasonings was invaluable.”

“What’s this now?” Dorothea teased, a song-like quality to her voice even when she only spoke. Resting her arms on the table and presenting an inquisitive smile, she pressed on. “Ferdinand and Hubert praising one another?”

“It was only an observation,” Hubert discouraged her with a scowl, or tried to. Her need for gossip was insatiable, likely an effect of her life in the opera. “Don’t read into it.”

“That was kind of you to say, even so. Truthfully, I had worried I was only in your way with you at the stove doing the actual cooking.” Ferdinand trailed off with a sheepish laugh, reaching for his glass as if he might leap out of his seat otherwise.

“You have nothing to worry about.” Truly, Ferdinand concerned himself too much with approval of others. Himself and Dorothea counting highest among them, in fact, so it seemed that he only dug his heels in more the more he was disliked. A foolish, idealistic habit to have. If someone did not watch him carefully, Ferdinand might even be taken advantage of as a result. “If you were in the way, I would have told you to leave.”

“True, you are nothing if not honest! That is one of your many admirable traits.”

Hubert hesitated in his next bite of the meal, blinking quickly as he regained his composure. If Dorothea saw that reaction, he’d pay for it with hearing her ballads to unrequited love for a month. Still, he would prefer that to Claude witnessing it.

“I am quite pleased to see you two getting along. Should I assume we have Claude to thank for this?” Lady Edelgard, astute as ever, cut straight to the heart of Hubert’s concerns. “He seems awfully energetic for someone feeling too sick for kitchen duty.”

“As I heard it, he even recommended Hubert for his turn.” And with that remark from Dorothea, he could be certain about having to endure that thinly veiled ballad.

As the final nail in the currently proverbial coffin, Hubert glanced away from his classmates for a moment’s reprieve only to catch Claude’s eye. Without even a hint of remorse, he winked at Hubert from across the hall.


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Web of Love | Claude Edition Ch. 2: Double-Surprise Gift

Word count: 2140 (5 to 18 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Claude, Ferdinand, and Hubert

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After Raphael’s little helper-to-all stunt that caused him to eat all their newly purchased food supplies, Claude figured it was only right to volunteer to go with the next student to do the monastery’s supply run. As fortune would have it, that was Hubert. Shrewd and intimidating, even to seasoned old merchants, Hubert managed to get their double portions to catch up at a steal. Their luck carried over into the weather, which wasn’t stormy or about to be. Yet, anyway.

It stopped there, though. Everyone else in the Garreg Mach town had the same idea and packed into the streets for their much-needed wares. Claude brought a horse to help carry the load, but having her along slowed them down as they fought their way through the swarms of people. For Hubert, who didn’t like people when they were all out of arm’s reach, being sandwiched between a crowd and a horse was probably not fun.

“One would think you had prepared to actually help rather than hinder when you offered to come along.” A mind reader, that Hubert. His one showing eye glared over his shoulder and down at Claude.

“Ouch! You wound me.” The dramatic hand to his chest was all for show, and Claude laughed off his bad mood. He gave the horse a couple firm pats on the saddle and smiled to Hubert’s scowl. “This wonderful horse is doing all she can.”

“Yes, well, when she reaches her limits, you will pick up the slack.” Like that, Hubert looked away and back out to the crowd. If he was giving anyone out there the look he gave Claude, he was seriously going to ruin someone’s day. Random strangers had no way to know his menacing expressions were just the prickly outside of Hubert. Granted, most acquaintances didn’t either. Some friends too.

“What did I do to earn such callous treatment?”

And he just kept staring out into the crowd. Following his gaze as it seemed to be locked on something, Claude came up empty. Just a couple shops in a sea of faces, and he could be looking at either shop. But being ignored by Hubert was kind of a curious thing to happen. If he wanted quiet, he just said so.

“Oh, the agony! To be spurned so by a friend so dear!” He amped up the volume to shake Hubert loose from whatever trance he was in. If that didn’t work, next up was “tripping” into him. A risky move, but so worth it if he found out what had him so captivated.

“Hm.”

“That’s it? That’s all you have for me?” He clicked his tongue in mock offense, looking further into those two shops. They weren’t going anywhere fast with the group here and he had time to spend staring into shops. Looked like a bakery and an armory side by side, and knowing how Hubert detested sugary sweets like he did, that left the armory.

Not that he was a weapons and armor guy either. The lance was his backup at best, and he focused his efforts on magic studies. Some of which the Church definitely did not approve of, but who was Claude to judge about that? Heck, he was just as bad in his research.

“Pardon? I was reviewing—something.” Ooh, that stall spoke volumes. He didn’t even look at Claude that long before turning his attention back to the shop.

“Something, hm? What something?” Finally, a few mercenary types stepped away from the armory and he saw what Hubert’s height let him see in the first place: two gauntlets, shiny and new, as practical as they were ornate. Two things about them were suspiciously not Hubert. For one, they were not his colors at all, and for two, he was indeed not an armor guy. Magic and gauntlets didn’t really mix.

“I hate to bring bad news, but I think those are too much for you. Can you even lift those gauntlets, Hubert?”

“They are not for me,” Hubert corrected, his mind clearly on who or what they were for since his tone wasn’t as scathing as it could’ve been. “Ferdinand has been studying heavy armor as of late, and he lacks the proper equipment to excel in the field.”

“Oh? And when did you get so invested in the success of Ferdinand von Aegir?” Claude chuckled again, noting the tension in Hubert’s shoulders. A sensitive subject? There weren’t many of those for young Lord Vestra. “Could it be that you care?”

“Ugh, this again,” he complained, but he couldn’t glare back at Claude this time since they finally got to move forward more than a couple steps. The coveted gauntlets for Ferdinand were still within view, but guess who wouldn’t even spare them a glance now? Claude grinned at how equally obvious and oblivious Hubert could be about things like this. “His success reflects well on Lady Edelgard as house leader, that is all.”

“True, you’ve got a point,” he had to agree there. Hubert usually picked good defenses and deflections to keep people guessing—but only people who didn’t know better. “But would that be enough to break the focus of the ever-perceptive Hubert of the Shadows?”

“I have merely learned to tune out your meaningless prattle. Speaking of which, enough is enough. The crowd has thinned. We ought to return to the monastery swiftly.”

“Oh, sure thing. I’ll be right behind you.”

The horse gave an impatient huff, and someone more attuned to the feelings of animals might’ve been suspicious. She knew Claude was lying, but Hubert stayed just as suspicious as always—no more, no less—and that meant Claude was in the clear as long as he didn’t dally.

Hubert sighed. “Do keep your curious nature in check.”


“Phew!” Claude stretched, rolling his shoulders in turn. The stacked supplies sat just inside the foyer on the way to the dining hall. Even getting that far had been a hassle with the stairs. Getting the horse back to stables so she could rest was the quickest part of the trip, and that struck Claude as just wrong. “I thought we’d never get these supplies in before the skies opened up for no reason.”

“See to it that your house doesn’t cause more trouble if you wish to avoid such a nuisance in the future.”

Shaking his head, Claude gave him an exaggerated shrug. Hubert didn’t go around provoking people because he didn’t want a show, he figured.

“You’re really never going to let that go, are you? Oh, hey, would you look at that—” Behind Hubert came a certain bright-haired noble of House Aegir, cravat swaying with his descent down the stairs to join them.

And if Hubert’s guard went up any faster, he might be wearing actual armor. His expression settled somewhere between ‘I don’t hate you’ and ‘I’m chronically annoyed’, and he crossed his arms as Ferdinand approached.

“Claude! Hubert,” he added on a touch less warmly, giving a polite nod to his classmate. No surprise there, since the entire monastery knew how these two fought like cats and dogs over a scrap of meat. If that scrap was the value and role of Adrestian nobility.

He glanced to Claude to continue, but he couldn’t help but realize that Ferdinand’s eyes drifted back to Hubert as if by their own will.

Well, well. Maybe all that fighting finds its home in certain unresolved tensions.

“I heard that you had arrived with supplies for our food stores, and I am here to assist with their delivery to the kitchen. I am not too late, am I?”

“Not at all!” He thumbed to the gathered food beside him. “We were just getting started. First things first, though.”

He had both of their undivided attention as he dug into his stealthy satchel and drew out a secret package wrapped up at an armory Hubert might have recognized. If he wasn’t going to make a move on his own, and there was zero chance an overthinker like Hubert would, Claude would help get him started.

“Hubert here got you a little something for the trouble he knew you’d go to for us.”

“I—Is that so?” Oh no, he was cute! Ferdinand’s eyes lit up with his smile, hands clasped hopefully in front of him, but there was still this layer of insecurity in ever so faintly raised shoulders. Bold and self-assured Ferdinand, not-so-subtly needing someone to reaffirm what he was so confident in all the time? Yep, it’s no wonder Hubert warmed up to him whether he wanted to or not.

“Claude—” And there he was, ready to expose the scheme if Claude let him.

“I know, I know,” Claude brushed it off, easy grin at the ready. “You wanted to wait. But I just love to uncover secrets, and secret presents are my favorite.”

“A secret present, you say?”

He could practically hear Hubert mentally noting that Ferdinand liked surprise presents. Also planning out Claude’s sudden murder and/or disappearance, but what are friends for?

“Yep! Spotted through a crowd just for you.” He held the gift out to Ferdinand, who almost started unwrapping it before Claude took his hands off.

Hubert couldn’t seem to make up his mind if he was going to glare at Claude, watch Ferdinand, or scan the few people in the area to see if any of them were witnessing this exchange. Can’t have anyone spreading rumors that Hubert von Vestra got Ferdinand von Aegir a present! Never mind that he’d probably wear the gauntlets anywhere he could and even end up flaunting them. Claude smirked the whole way through and let himself take pride in a double-surprise like this one.

“Ah, they are so artfully crafted!” Ferdinand turned the gauntlets over, wide eyes taking in each and every detail that held Hubert’s attention through a packed marketplace. From arm guard to hand guards, he examined it a few times over and almost beamed at Hubert. “I should not be surprised that such a discerning eye would settle for no less.”

Hubert, dear Hubert, nodded numbly. Undaunted, Ferdinand pulled the gauntlets on and looked them over again, this time in their proper place just as Claude predicted he would. Sort of. He didn’t think he’d put them on right away, but he really should’ve.

“My current course of study with the professor will benefit greatly from this, although I assume you knew as much already.”

Ferdinand was really laying it on thick, but Claude turned to see Hubert just nodding at him one more time for good measure. That praise would have to get some kind of sentence to form in Hubert’s brain, and he was running out of time to say it.

“I had not expected a gift, but I am deeply grateful that you thought of me, Hubert.”

“Of course. Your success reflects well on the Black Eagle House.” Right, Hubert was going to snub a perfectly good opportunity instead. Claude sighed before he even finished, kicking himself for not guessing that would happen too. “If you are quite finished, our task here is not yet done.”

“And I will work with twice the fervor with my spirits lifted by such a considerate surprise!”

And he was not kidding. Ferdinand scooped up almost as much as Raphael could carry and marched off like it was a feather pillow. Heavy armor training really did pay off, huh.

“Wow. He sure is enthusiastic,” Claude commented, trying to get Hubert to come out of that shell of his while they picked up what they could of the supplies.

“I will pay you back for that.”

“Perish the thought!” He chuckled, having already made up his mind on that when he bought the gauntlets. “I had the money, and you seemed to need the push.”

“I did not mean strictly in the monetary sense.” The bone-chilling grin he was so known for had no right to be as effective as it was when Hubert was carrying a watermelon, but there it was, making Claude think of the few moments of peace before being dragged along by his father’s horse. He knew the trick to it, yeah, but still.

Anyway, that was his secret.

“Ooh, spooky! I’ll have to be extra careful at night.”

It was Hubert’s turn to chuckle, startling a few students in the dining hall as they followed where Ferdinand had dashed off.

“Just because House Vestra is at its most dangerous in the shadow does not mean you are safe in the light.” Hubert’s grin fell to his watchful resting glare, searching the hall for any sign of the Black Eagles’ obligatory helpful-to-everyone student. “But we should catch up to him.”

“Setting the bar high, aren’t you? Worth a try, I guess.”


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