It’s not like they did actually plan this; it was something done out of necessity more than anything: Astrid was tired of people trying to gain her favor for her social status – even though now she’s simply a Knight of Crimea, her noble lineage is still appealing to the people whose only interest is social gain – and Makalov… well, Makalov knew that there was no way he could get anyone else, and this was a way to at least secure his position, so what else could they do? They got married.
Everyone was surprised – shocked even – at the news, and Makalov couldn’t blame them: he was still recovering from that as well.
He knows he’s not a good person – he’s an outright piece of trash – and he knows he doesn’t deserve Astrid.
He likes her, a lot even – she’s probably the only person who cuts him some slack after all – but… not in that way.
He thought she had some feelings from him by how she acted, but any infatuation she had for him seemed to have passed after the war, still she kept being kind to him nonetheless.
One thing is being good friends… another is getting married.
What else can he do however? Astrid asked him if he could do her this favor.
He could say no, of course he could, but… What else is he good for? If he does this to her, at least he could say that he did one right thing in his life.
- Why me? -, he asked once.
They were about to leave for a scouting mission, but Makalov needed to know or else he wouldn’t have been able to think about anything else.
- Because I trust you -, is all Astrid said, as if it was the most natural thing to reply with, before she hopped on the horse, ready to go.
Makalov was so shocked that he just let her go without asking for further explanations.
How can anyone trust him?
Even he knows that he is the least trustworthy person of the Knights – if not of the entire country – and yet there’s something about him that has made Astrid trust him.
He has no idea what this is, but there’s something poking at a corner of his head, a thought that will make itself bigger as times goes on: he should do something to actually become worthy of her trust.
The ceremony is small, as per Astrid’s requests, and if he has to be honest, Makalov is glad: there is only a certain number of “how did this happen?”, “is she crazy?”, “he doesn’t deserve her” whispered between the guests that he can handle. He knows they’re right, but hearing them constantly only lessens what little strength he’s managed to gather to face this day.
Astrid looks radiant – way more than she should for this event – and Makalov can’t help to return the smile she throws his way, although more timidly.
At least she seems happy, that’s the most important thing. On the other hand he is… well, not unhappy, but it’s still weird for him and he has no idea if he’ll ever get used to this.
Oh well, he should get what he can while fate seems to be too busy with others to make him suffer, right?
During the celebrations, he gets wasted.
When has this become a habit of his exactly? He doesn’t remember anymore. What he does remember is being in a tavern, young – maybe too young to be there – and having people cheering on him to keep drinking, keep drinking until he passed out… and then he woke up with no money left on his person.
He felt awful when he woke up – never felt this sick in his entire life – but also… being drunk felt strangely liberating; he could let go any inhibitions and do whatever he wanted. He wouldn’t be thinking, he wouldn’t be sad, and thus he repeated the experience again and again and again, until he could quit no more.
When he wakes up, he doesn’t remember anything that happened while he was drunk, but he does remember the familiar feeling that comes to him every times this happens: he’s never been more disappointed in himself.
This time, however, it feels even worse, because now he’s a husband and he should be better than this.
Oh, Astrid made a big mistake.
Now that they’re married, Elincia has given them a small property to live in. This would be everything Makalov has ever hoped for, if not for the weird circumstances by which it happened.
He does his best to keep it in order. He had to pick up certain skills as he was constantly travelling on his own, and this seems like a good moment to put them to use.
Sure, he might not be the best at doing these things, but Astrid seems to appreciate his efforts a lot anyways, and yet why does he still feel bad? It’s still not enough, that’s why. It will never be.
But Makalov can sure try to get as close to it as possible.
There are days in which he lacks motivation, in which he feels more like the old Makalov than the “new and improved” one, but he perseveres at best of his abilities, even if sometimes the temptation to leave everything behind and run away gets almost too strong to ignore.
He doesn’t belong to this kind of life, he knows it, so why did he try to fit in?
He does his best not to touch alcohol. He has lost count of how many times he promised to himself and to others that he would stop drinking, but that sickening obsession always dragged him back no matter how much progress he made – which, to be fair, was never much.
He hopes that this time it will be different, that maybe Astrid’s closeness will be enough to make his will stronger, but of course that alone isn’t enough.
As if someone like him could ever keep his promises…
He still hasn’t opened his eyes and he groans already; his head hurts, and Makalov knows that if he opens his eyes now, it will all start to spin.
He knows these symptoms well, and he can’t help but to curse himself; just as he thought that it was going to be better for him, he couldn’t resist to the temptation and he drank again. How typical.
… Maybe it was just a glass. Maybe it wasn’t much.
C’mon, why must he always think in the negatives?
Then he opens his eyes, and his worst fear comes to life.
He’s fallen asleep on the kitchen, and it’s a mess: bottles and dishes thrown on the floor, chairs on the ground, everything in disorder.
He made this mess; nobody else could’ve had.
… Did Astrid see this already?
She must’ve, but Makalov hopes that she hasn’t, that nobody has.
There is no need to panic, he can put everything back in order, he can clean up in a matter of seconds, and everything will be back to normal.
Then why can’t his hands stop trembling?
Then why does he feel his vision obscured by tears he’s not strong enough to fight?
Why can’t he get better? Why does it always come to this?
All he can do now is to cower and cry all his shame.
Weirdly enough, after that, it does get better.
Maybe that episode scared him so much that he hasn’t touched alcohol ever since, even when the temptation is so much that he almost gives in, but he doesn’t.
He has no idea why it was that moment of his life specifically to have done it, but he doesn’t want to repeat that experience.
He’ll come clean, this time for real.
Still, he believes he should make it official.
Both he and Astrid are lying in bed.
They could’ve gone for two separate rooms, but they’ve decided that it would’ve been useless. Besides, during winter it’s nice having someone with whom exchange warmth.
To be honest, Makalov expected it to be more awkward, but sharing a bed with a friend isn’t so bad – he actually enjoys it much more than being sad and alone.
He feels a bit bad that he’s not listening to what Astrid’s saying, but he’s rehearsing the speech he had come up with, but now most of the words defy him.
- Makalov… is everything alright? -, Astrid asks, noticing that his friend seems pretty absent.
That manage to bring Makalov back to reality, and after realizing what is happening, he slightly shakes his head.
At this point he should just improvise.
- I think so -, he begins, because he doesn’t want to make Astrid worry more than he already did, - I’ve made up my mind -.
- What do you mean? -.
He raises himself on one elbow, holding Astrid’s hand with his free one.
- I want you to throw away all the alcohol we have. I… I don’t want to drink anymore -.
Astrid’s about to question him. What’s gotten into him so suddenly?
And yet… his eyes…
She’s never seen him so determined.
Although it’s true that it wouldn’t be the first time Makalov swears he would change, this time she has the hunch that he’ll be successful. She doesn’t exactly know why she would think that, but Makalov has asked for her help and she won’t deny him, not if this will help him become a better person.
- I’m proud of you, Makalov -, she says, smiling at his companion, who nervously looks away.
He’s never been good with compliments and such; dealing with insults is easier for him, but he never knows how to respond when someone says something positive about him.
- D-don’t say that -, he mutters in fact, something that makes Astrid giggle.
- But you’re putting some effort into it, yes? Therefore, I’m proud of you -, she replies, amused by the other’s reaction.
- Save it for later, this can still end up badly -, Makalov continues, but Astrid’s happiness is influencing his own, so much that he can’t help but to close his arms around Astrid, giving her a hug.
- Thank you so much for putting up with me -, he says then, - I’ll do my best to repay you for all this -.
- I’m sure you’ll do great -, Astrid mutters, and for now, this is all Makalov needs to hear.
Yes, he can become a better person. He’ll do it.