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A Valentine's Duel

Chapter Text

D’Artagnan knows there is something up the moment he sees Porthos with his legs crossed on the floor, cutting up a paper heart made out of red-coloured paper.

Usually, D’Artagnan would be the first among the club members to arrive in their assigned clubroom, but today is different: Porthos, the member who’s always known to be fashionably (or rather, drunkenly) late is the first to arrive - and he was already doing something too! This can only mean one thing.

“Valentine’s Day, huh,” D’Artagnan muses, arms crossed on his chest.

Porthos almost bolts up in surprise at the sound of D’Artagnan’s voice, which causes the half-done paper heart to be sliced right in the middle.

“Aw dude, look what you’ve done!” Porthos sighs, exasperated as he picks up the failed paper heart and shoves it into his nearby trash bin. “Athos wanted to start decorating the room so I’m helping.”

Then, the curly haired brunette gestures to a pile of more paper hearts behind him. D’Artagnan chuckles lightly.

“And where is Athos?” asks D’Artagnan, as he slips off his denim jacket.

“Says he’s coming,” answers Porthos, his eyes occupied on a new piece of paper for a heart before flicking them over to D’Artagnan. “He also has something to announce apparently.”

“I bet my lunch money that it’s about Valentine’s Day,” D’Artagnan grins.

Porthos grins back. “Wouldn’t wanna do that if I were you, bro.”

Suddenly, they hear the sound of the doorknob being twisted open. The door creaks slightly as it opens, and then Athos emerges from behind it, his expression as stoic and calm as ever. He smiles a little at Porthos first, then to D’Artagnan.

“Good afternoon,” Athos greets.

“What’s with the formalities, chief!” Porthos bounces over to the older man, slinging an arm around his shoulder.

Athos tilts the edge of his lips in the slightest impression of a smile, before moving Porthos’s arm away from his shoulder. Porthos gives a confused look and waits for an explanation.

Before Athos can speak, the rest of the members come flooding in. First is Aramis, who strides into the room with the air of roses around him. Next to arrive are the rest of their team members: the siblings, Louis and Georges plus the three others.

Bonne après-midi! ” Aramis greets them all, before settling himself down on a chair. Then, he takes a look around the room and notices Porthos’s handiwork. “Oh, yes. The month of love is approaching.”

“What we got planned for this year, chief?” asks D’Artagnan, trying to hide his excitement.

Athos is about to speak when he is again interrupted.

The door is slammed open - which causes everyone in the room to wince. The door had been under repairs for months now and they have been especially careful not to abuse it lest the hinges pop off.

Standing at the doorway is a boy with curly black hair and similarly coloured clothing that D’Artagnan was all too familiar with. Their eyes meet for a few seconds and they give each other knowing smiles, like cats that have found their prey. The boy invites himself in with his possé following behind, and everyone else in the room started to wonder why they were there.

“...Bernardo,” Athos acknowledges him with a nod.

“Hello,” Bernardo croons, before taking a seat on a nearby desk. The rest of his cronies follow suit. Louis and Marie-Louise flash a small smile at each other before the latter girl takes a seat on Bernardo’s side.

“What are they doing here?” asks Porthos first, which broke the awkward silence. He tries to hide his pile of paper hearts from the eyes of the visitors with his arms.

“Beaufort and Mazarin wanted a joint event between the two teams,” Athos starts, hoping he won’t be interrupted this time, “but they thought that a fencing event would only wreck the rooms, like what happened last time –” he gives a pointed look to D’Artagnan, and then Bernardo – “so they thought of a … get-together.”

Aramis is the first to chime in. “So… a party?”

“That’s right.”

“I don’t mind,” Philippe pipes up. “What’s the catch? I mean if it’s uncle who thought this up, there’s bound to be a catch.”

“Your uncle and Sir Beaufort,” Athos corrects him, “no catch. They just want us to ‘build rapport,’ as they say. So on the night of Valentine’s Day, we will have a party, for both of our teams.”

A swarm of whispers surrounds the room, some displeased, some excited. D’Artagnan finds himself looking at Bernardo, who seems to him a little bit satisfied. He and Bernardo lock eyes for a good few seconds, and then Bernardo playfully flicks his eyes over to Athos, silently telling D’Artagnan to pay attention.

He tries - but instead, his mind floats to other things. D’Artagnan and Bernardo had been rivalling the moment they started playing for their respective teams. Some say they were evenly matched in the art of fencing, while others would say otherwise. Every time he and Bernardo would have a match, it would guarantee the total destruction of any room they were fighting in, due to them jumping on tables or chairs and toppling everything that was perched up on top of them. (And sometimes Bernardo would end up on top of him …)

It wasn’t long until his teammates started drawing strange conclusions as if two people who wanted to fight each other every moment they meet would begin something romantic. Louis opened it up to him first, that maybe Bernardo, who was her childhood friend, had a crush on him. Soon, everyone else began to agree with her. D’Artagnan couldn’t agree less. (Though… he did find Bernardo very pretty… and fun to be with, if they were not fighting.)

The rest of the meeting is spent on talking about committees, who would take care of the food, the decorations, the music, the logistics, and everything else. D’Artagnan was part of the food committee, which Porthos headed. Bernardo was with his sister, on the decorations committee.

 

When the meeting was adjourned and most of the occupants in the room had exited one by one, D’Artagnan, with a cheeky grin, steps in between Bernardo and the door before the curly haired boy could leave. D’Artagan closes it behind him.

“What is it, D’Artagnan?” Bernardo tries to hide a smile.

“You looked excited earlier,” D’Artagnan says. “Any plans for hearts’ day?”

“No? Now, let me go, I have a class…”

“Since when have you cared about being on time?”

“Since now because you’re bugging the hell out of me!”

Bernardo side steps to the door in a rush, dodging the bigger man, when in one swift motion, D’Artagnan traps the smaller with his arm between himself and the door. Their bodies were close, only this time this wasn’t during a duel.

“Are you out of your mind?” Bernardo exclaims, trying to wiggle out of D’Artagnan’s body.

D’Artagnan keeps his arm on the door firm, his face getting a little bit too close for comfort. “I wanna pose a challenge.”

“A challenge?!?” Bernardo’s face is red, possibly from embarrassment.

“Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I want you to give your crush a gift on that day in front of me.”

With a surge of strength, Bernardo shoves D’Artagnan’s away from him. Then he pretends to dust himself off and then scrunches his nose.

“Never do that again – you’ll make me smell like you,” Bernardo notes as he pinches his nose. “Okay, I’ll accept your challenge. Does that mean I have to bring my crush as a date?” D’Artagnan nods. “And if I succeed?”

“I’ll stop wearing denim for a week.”

Two weeks.”

“Deal!”

D’Artagnan holds his hand out for Bernardo to shake it, and the other boy returns the gesture. For a moment, D’Artagnan could feel his heart skip (maybe it’s the thrill of the challenge.) He wonders briefly if he has any non-denim clothes in his closet that would suffice for two weeks… well, he supposes there would still be those red leather outfits he had kept for last Halloween.

He only notices how long he and Bernardo have been holding hands when the bell rings and they had not pulled away yet.

“I, uh, I gotta go,” says Bernardo, a little awkwardly, before bolting out of the room to his next class.

“Y-yeah, sure,” D’Artagnan says to the air.

Since D’Artagnan had been the last to leave the club room, he thought to do some cleaning to it. He arranges the chairs and the desks and then turns off the lights before he leaves for the day. Luckily, he has no other classes for the day. He decides to go straight to his dorm to rest.

The walk to his dorm isn’t a long one. It’s conveniently close to the club room so he can drop by there wherever he wanted to. There is a number of people he passed by on the way back: first was the sunny Georges, who had a makeshift sword in hand for theatre club, and Aramis, who was hiding from a woman again. D’Artagnan was all too used to sights like this, and he found comfort in the familiar. Of course, he is always open to new things, and new discoveries.

His dorm was a quaint one within the campus, not too rowdy and just the right amount of noisy when there was something to celebrate. D’Artagnan had considered living with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis in their shared apartment, which did not seem like a bad idea - but D’Artagnan wanted a room to himself.

He takes the elevator up to his floor, his hand fidgeting with the dorm keys in his pocket. Since it is early, there still aren’t a lot of people inside the dormitory itself, so D’Artagnan appreciates the silence - it could help him work. With a ding! from the elevator, he takes that as his signal to come out. He turns a corner to his door and lets himself inside.

D’Artagnan thinks he is lucky to have been able to snag a room that was big enough for himself … and his creations. His friends from his team would always pester him about why he never invites him up to his place and the reason he gives is that their places are probably bigger and better. In truth, however, it was because D’Artagnan hid a collection of his crafts in his dorm.

When he opens his door, he is greeted by his organized entire mess of yarn and felt. D’Artagnan has never felt so at home. He slips off his shoes and puts on his slippers before settling himself down on his fluffy rug. He takes a look around his room:

On the desk to his right is an unfinished scarf he had been making for his mother in Gascony, and on the couch are a line of felt animals dressed in miniature clothing and handmade mini-berets for his Instagram account that was made purely to exhibit his projects. Slapped onto one of two dining chairs is the sweater that he made for himself last Christmas (which made it to his Instagram, but with his face obscured.) He even built his own shelf just to store his little creations that he does not want to discard.

D’Artagnan knits sweaters and scarves and hats – and only he knows about it. He does not know why he just does not say it to his friends – perhaps a part of him was afraid to reveal this aspect of himself to them because they might think he has the hobbies of a grandma, or because they might think he isn’t as suave and debonair as he presents himself to be. Then again, his friends do not really have to know about such a mundane hobby.

Instead, he presents himself as the anonymous “knittinghero” on Instagram, where people can admire his works and leave likes. The account had been up for over a year since he moved to Paris and now he has about three thousand followers (a count that he did not expect at all!) D’Artagnan knows, however, that these three thousand or so followers were not anyone of his friends, since none of them was into knitting.

Holding his phone, D’Artagnan snaps a photo of the line of mini-animals in knitted sweaters and berets on his couch for a new entry on his account. It had been an achievement of his, after all, to have made those small animals and small clothes. It takes a nimble hand, so he has to show it off.

After taking the picture, he adds a little bit of a filter, plus some adjustments to fix the lighting of the picture to make it look homey and pleasing to the eyes. He was about to post the picture when suddenly a notification makes him drop his phone.

Chapter Text

Bernardo grins at the phone screen rested in his lap. There are people around him since he is supposed to be listening to a lecture, but he barely has any awareness of them. More important things are in the making than what some may call “learning.” He is fully focused on one thing. And one thing only.

Even worse, he is unable to hold back a self-indulgent cackle as he’s watching the three dots appear and then disappear again several times. The shock. The struggle. The horror D’Artagnan must feel right now!

How incredibly ingenious of him… How sneaky… How brilliant!

This is how it’s done.

He found D’Artagnan a few weeks before. Through some mindless late-night browsing for sure, but it definitely felt like fate at that time. Sleepless, and scrolling into oblivion in one second, then being hit by the sudden discovery, a familiar turn of phrase, and a little more than that.

It’s absolutely adorable how D’Artagnan can even begin to think that his “secret” account does not undeniably stink of his own handiwork. Starting from the way he writes, through the angles he takes pictures from, to the emoji he uses. And then let’s not even mention that he would sometimes include pictures of his own hands in his posts! While thinking he’s fooling anyone. It really is adorable.

Bernardo could recognize those hands out of a thousand. Ten thousand, actually.

Not that he would care.

Deep inside he always hoped he would be able to use this little knitting habit of D’Artagnan against him, one way or another, and hopefully without having to reveal it to the whole world that he, in fact, knows about its existence. (Because then, again, this question emerges. Darling Bernardo, how come you know about his anonymous knitting account anyway?)

((Well! You see. You see! You only need to be able to read the clues well.))

And on top of all this, for this foolish bumpkin to offer up the opportunity on a silver plate himself! Sometimes, as his uncle taught him, Bernardo would put his hands together and give a small word of thanks for all the thoughtless and irrational creatures in the world who, without thinking about it twice, furthered his cause, while he did not even have to lift his little finger.

D’Artagnan does not answer for at least the next half an hour, although, since Bernardo keeps a close eye on his messages, he can clearly see the three little dots appear and disappear for a few moments as he is writing, then re-writing his answer.

Finally, a buzz.

 

 

Now it is Bernardo’s turn to stare blankly at his screen for long, uncomfortable minutes. Just what is D’Artagnan clowning about with proper punctuation and Capitalization? Everyone knows that he probably can’t even spell to save his life – and this is his mother tongue!

Bernardo briefly thinks of the worst, too. That he is just as stupid as Philippe would always imply, and one way or another, mistook a random stranger for D’Artagnan. But that cannot be. He would know those hands out of ten thousand, remember?

After a moment of stupor, he makes his mind up. There is no space for hesitation right now.

Now Louis, otherwise known as just another regular little snake, has been busy with spreading all sorts of falsities about Bernardo in the past. Things like – incredible things -, he has the biggest crush on D’Artagnan. Mostly only things like he has a crush on D’Artagnan, truth to be told. But she spread that one rumour often, and well.  

“You just don’t understand man’s need for an adversary, Princess,” Bernardo would always tell her, as an explanation, which started to sound more like a desperate excuse each time.  

Her answer would be very simple, and all the more frightening.

“No, Bernardo. You don’t understand man’s need for affection.”

And when Louis speaks, people will listen, sooner or later. And when people listen, information gets carried wide and far, until it reaches the ears of this given denim demon, this D’Artagnan. Which is uncalled for. Tragic, in fact. That he should hear about these lies and believe them to be true.

Bernardo is sure that the boy must have all sorts of wild misconceptions about his so-called “feelings” towards him. This must be the only reason why he posed this stupid challenge. So he can feed his own ego, by coaxing some cheesy present out of Bernardo, and then show off, making a fool of the boy and his feelings.

But oh no! Oh, he will not catch Bernardo this easily! Firstly, because there is nothing to catch him for. Secondly, because Bernardo comes with an absolutely fool-proof plan, that will wipe that self-indulgent, ugly little smile off of D’Artagnan’s face for once and all.

His confidence is disgusting. His posture is disgusting too. Then, his skill with the sword, his turn of phrase, his crooked nose, his earthy smell. Disgusting. Repelling! Makes Bernardo’s blood boil.

The moment he sees denim, he blacks out, time stops to exist and then comes to himself on top of someone else, or with a few bruises here and there. Sometimes both.

So, if D’Artagnan ever thought that those were the bruises of love and affection and adoration, well then now he will trample all that false confidence he had down until Valentine’s Day.

Hearts’ day, huh? He is a heartless, inhuman swordsman, or… whatever. Fencer. He has no heart to spare. Especially not on D’Artagnan.

And… there’s the bait, Bernardo thinks, biting a smile into his lower lip as he types, without having any care for the world. D’Artagnan must think of all the rumours he has heard about Bernardo now, crush and all, expecting him to confess his love to who he believes a stranger.

And that is where Bernardo will destroy his pride.

For someone who talks naturally little to strangers and adversaries, he finds it way too easy to get lost in the role of this “different” Bernardo, spilling unnecessary information onto a person he should have no way of knowing. He laughs all the way through. It is so easy to admit his feelings when they are non-existent and only act as a plot device! Perhaps a little too easy.

At first his description should be vague enough for D’Artagnan to be sure that it’s about him, and then whoops !

It’s not you, D’Artagnan, but thank you for playing.

And, for sure, Claude would not mind getting a tiny bit involved in this farce. It is not even necessary to mention the name itself, because nobody would give out detailed information as such to perfect strangers. Not even Bernardo, who is in the process of oversharing, only for the kicks…

Something enters his periphery. It’s Louis, waving her palm about his eyes, trying to get his attention. She even snaps her finger.

“Bernardo! The lecture is over. It’s been over for the past five minutes. What are you making that face for? …. Who’s texting you?”

“D’Artagnan…” Bernardo mutters, still unable to wipe the self-indulgent smile off of his face. Then, without thinking, he adds. “I mean, nobody.”

Louis nods, suddenly understanding everything. Well, suddenly believing that she has all the facts when in reality, she has no idea. Oh, she has no idea.

“Are you using the pretext of being in the same committee with him to text?” Louis teases.

“We are in different committees.”

But it’s not a bad idea… Since Marie-Louise and Bernardo are supposed to be in charge for the decorations, he could easily make D’Artagnan knit an armful of little black bats and then goodbye hearts’ day! More like Halloween the second. (Or the first, depending on where you look at it from.)

Distracted by Valentine’s Bats and the likes, he walks home, thoughts occupied by the decorations for the rest of the day. Marie Louise will surely not agree on anything too drastic. For sure, she loved her glitter and pink equal amounts.  

By the time he gets home, she is already in the kitchen with a cup of freshly brewed tea, browsing several online shops for ideas. Bernardo steps behind her and peeks over her shoulder, to measure his chances with the tiny black bats. There’s everything from giant hanging heart swirls, through heart-shaped balloons, to the more inexplicable. Heart-patterned buckets, for instance… Or.

“Why would anyone buy shot glasses that say ‘I <3 U’?” he asks.

Five seconds of uncomfortable silence. “Those are candles.”

Oh .”

To tell the truth, candles made even less sense to him. He whips his computer out as well and sits down next to Marie-Louise, starting to browse Halloween decorations. The girl only takes a glance at his screen.

“Now, whatever sort of eyeball-orbs you are planning to order, Bernardo, please know that I will stop you. With violence, if needed.”

“What about a tasteful realistic heart? It’s classic Valentine’s Day.”

Marie-Louise turns towards him, cupping his cheeks in a motherly manner with both palms. Quietly and calmly, she says. “Just try once, Bernardo. Just try.”

Then, she smiles and asks him to look at her order so far: confetti, balloons, window-stickers, in the tackiest colours and shapes. If it is the last thing he does, he tries to at least talk her out of the party hats.

“If you survived the Santa hats, you will survive this,” Marie-Louise decides without any compassion or mercy and clicks the order button.

Bernardo goes to bed with knitted bats, realistic hearts, some skull-less eyeballs, and fake blood on his mind, so for once, he completely forgets to check his phone. He only realizes the next morning that his litany about the unnamed, but surely recognizable Claude did incite a reply from D’Artagnan, after all. Still bothering with grammatical correctness and all, he inquires whether his crush is “aware.”

Forgetting that it is even before seven in the am, Bernardo answers him immediately. He doesn’t even need to think about the reply, it all comes way too naturally. Surely, if someone had a crush on Claude, no matter how close they were, they would be hesitant to admit. It is so hard to tell what that man thinks, he tells D’Artagnan, and for this reason, he has no way of knowing how he would react. And besides, Bernardo doesn’t even know if he thinks he’s cute…

He waits for a reply all through breakfast, and then while walking to campus as well, only realizing there that D’Artagnan is still possibly asleep in his room, blissfully unaware of any messages waiting for him in his inbox.

They only see each other in the canteen during lunch break. Well, Bernardo sees him, sitting with his friends, and without thinking, he calls out to him immediately. “D’Artagnan! D’Artagnan!”

The boy lifts his head up, clearly looking for the source of the voice, but he cannot find him. Shaking his head, he goes back to talking and then checks his phone as he spaces out from the conversation. By the time he finally reaches their table, Bernardo can feel the buzzing of a notification in his pocket.

“D’Artagnan,” he repeats himself, with an annoyed edge in his voice and slams his palms down on the table.

Everyone quiets down. A sheepish smile on D’Artagnan’s face. “Oh, Bernardo. Hey.”

“… hi.” He flicks his eyes at his other friends. Some of them are trying not to breathe, as if that was enough to avoid a scuffle. “You and Redhead are on the food committee, yes?”

“Why, we are.”

Bernardo explains that he has a request to make. Some others at the table finally suck some air in, relieved. D’Artagnan only nods along. “Can you buy a set of those shot glasses that say ‘I <3 U’ on them? I want them.”

In the momentary confusion, while they try to figure out what exactly Bernardo is talking about, he finally has some time to check his messages. It’s from D’Artagnan, of course. He finally gave up or forgot about Capitalization.

Bernardo’s neck disappears between his shoulders, and the corners of his lips unwittingly turn upwards. How do you even know? He texts back.

“Bernardo? Hey. Are you still listening to me? Can you explain what exactly you’re on about?” D’Artagnan asks, in a rather gentle voice. Then, when he notices his smile. “Who are you talking to?”

He quickly snaps out of it. “My crush!”

It is D’Artagnan’s turn to grin, and then to bury himself in his phone. In the meanwhile, Porthos and Athos make a joint effort in trying to figure out what exactly Bernardo wants them to acquire for the party. Bernardo tries everything: from explaining to trying to draw the thing on a napkin, but they only look at him with empty, glossy eyes. His phone buzzes.

Once again, it’s D’Artagnan, reminding him that since his profile is public, he is able to see any of his selfies. Right… he forgot about that for a second. And, he assures Bernardo again, he’s definitely lovely enough for his tall, dark, broody crush. Bernardo bites the inside of his mouth.

Then, he has an idea. Which, at that moment seems ingenious. More! Flawless. 

 

He watches D’Artagnan reading the message, tilting his head, halfway between a smile and something else. His leg is crossed over the other, leaning on the back of the canteen chair with one elbow.

“Yeah, why not, Bernardo,” he says then.

Suddenly something flashes through him as if someone poured cold water on him from above. A cold sting, thinking that he’s been caught. Then, hot flames spreading all over his face.

“Huh?”

“… your shot glasses. We’ll find you the shot glasses you asked for.”

Chapter Text

Oh, Bernardo, D’Artagnan thinks.

Sneaky little Bernardo whose dimples D’Artagnan had always found so charming. D’Artagnan finds himself in bed, lying down amongst his handmade knitted animals as he chats Bernardo up in the direct messaging section of Instagram. One tap on the little paper airplane, and he’s brought to his ongoing conversation with Bernardo, who most likely has absolutely no idea who he is. He probably thinks that knittinghero is just some random guy from Paris who knits - and he’s gonna get the surprise of his life once he finds out that it’s actually D’Artagnan - his rival. Every time there’s a small number perched on top of the airplane, D’Artagnan immediately starts hoping it’s Bernardo. Not that he’s invested or anything.

At that time, Bernardo has not texted him yet, and D’Artagnan was internally debating on whether to text him first or not. He types… and then nothing… types... and then deletes it a few moments later. Then, finally, after two hours of internal debate - he finally does text Bernardo first.

D’Artagnan quickly slams his phone on the counter, screen down, trying to offset how embarrassed he was by the text he just sent. He grabs himself a glass of water as he paces around the room in an attempt to distract himself on whether Bernardo will reply or not. Then, without warning, his phone buzzed. His heart pounds rapidly, slightly hoping it was Bernardo. He gently peeks at his phone screen, and he nearly leapt when it was indeed, berncat.

D’Artagnan stares at his phone, dumbfounded.

D’Artagnan only realizes that he was smiling from cheek to cheek when he noticed how much they ached the moment he stopped smiling. Bernardo has said his goodnights and then went to bed, so D’Artagnan is left to ponder by all himself, staring right up at the ceiling, then at his screen thinking of the texts that he and his rival have exchanged over the past hour. He finds himself scrolling up and re-reading the messages over and over. He still hasn’t replied, so he types in the chatbox one last time for the night.

He shuts his lights off, pats the top of each of his knitted animals’ head before curling himself up in his blanket to go to sleep, thinking of cats and cats with “bern” attached before their name, to be specific. D’Artagnan had brought this upon himself, this time, for challenging Bern that day. What he didn’t expect was softening to Bernardo, even if it’s just a tiny tidbit of him.
The next morning, the first thing D’Artagnan involuntarily does is get ahold of his phone to text the berncat, who already one-upped him.

Despite the total blandness of the delivery in his message, D’Artagnan’s little heart felt like fluttering.

On the way to his morning classes, he keeps on chatting with Bernardo, giggling at how natural the flow of their conversation is. Sometimes Bernardo would sneak in a small anecdote about Claude - how tall and handsome he was. D’Artagnan would reply positively to support him, but a small part hidden deep in his heart wondered what it would be like if Bernardo was gushing about him instead. He quickly shakes the thought away, though. He cannot be selfish...
D’Artagnan decides to take a different, longer route from his usual to grab some breakfast from a new coffee shop that had just opened up shop a few weeks ago (and so that he can keep on chatting with Bernardo) - after all what is a good breakfast if not for some nice bread and coffee? D’Artagnan pushes the glass door of the cafe when suddenly he finds a familiar figure sitting alone in one corner. He can recognize that feathered hat anywhere.
He steps toward him, mindlessly.
“Hi, kit--”
Then, he suddenly remembers that Bernardo does not know that he is knittinghero. Bernardo darts his head up from his phone, an expression of bewilderment quickly turning into a scowl.
“D’Artagnan,” Bernardo sighs, “what are you doing here!”

D’Artagnan’s phone buzzes in the back pocket of his denim jeans. He checks it, and sees Bernardo texted him! About him! The boy really has no clue! D’Artagnan cannot resist, and texts back.

“I’m getting breakfast,” says D’Artagnan, innocently, “am I intruding?”
“I wanted to start my morning without repulsive denim, thank you,” Bernardo replies as he takes a sip from his tea.
“Well, I’m not going to leave…”
D’Artagnan takes a look around the café for some empty seats, but being a small café there were only a handful of tables and they were all occupied. He had planned initially to take out some bread plus coffee and eat back to the dorm since has a bit of time, but there is a seat right in front of Bernardo.
“Are you waiting for someone or,” D’Artagnan starts, a little hesitant.
“Why…?”
“Can I sit here?” He points to the empty chair.
Bernardo shrugs and leans back in his chair, proceeding to ignore D’Artagnan by scrolling through his phone. As D’Artagnan lines up to order some coffee, he senses a buzz in his phone.

D’Artagnan stares at the screen for a bit, wondering what indeed he’ll give his crush on Valentine’s Day. No one in his real life knows that he is into knitting, so perhaps knitting isn’t a good choice to give unless he pretends that he didn’t knit it. Does he even have a crush!

Yes, good answer. After all, he is not answering as D’Artagnan, but as knittinghero.

D’Artagnan had not even noticed that it was his turn to order before the barista started calling for him. Once he is done, he strolls back to Bernardo’s table as he waits to be called. Bernardo hasn’t looked up from his phone, ignoring D’Artagnan for … D’Artagnan.

Their online conversation was cut short when D’Artagnan was called by the barista to come to the counter. He comes back, tray in hand, carrying his cup of coffee and his bread roll. They both smell absolutely delicious, D’Artagnan thinks. Bernardo, in the meanwhile, stares at him as if he had ordered human flesh.

 

“No way your name is Charles,” Bernardo remarks, staring at the handwritten name on the back of D’Artagnan’s cup. “Maybe you got mixed up with someone.”


“My name is Charles,” D’Artagnan grins, enjoying the disbelief in Bernardo’s face.

“No way,” Bernardo shakes his head.

“Did you actually think my first name is D’Artagnan?”

Bernardo looks to the side, then to the floor, then to D’Artagnan. “N...no?”

“Good,” he sets his breakfast down on the table. “I’m Charles D’Artagnan, but… everyone just calls me D’Artagnan.”

“...I know that,” Bernardo says, still a little confused, “but Charles? I thought you would be a … Levi or something.” (The twin dimples peek out from Bernardo’s cheek.)

D’Artagnan turns his butt a little to look at the tag on his denim pants… then his jacket… and his shirt.

He sighs. “Funny.”

Bernardo smiles proudly to himself, his dimples showing themselves on his cheek. D’Artagnan digs into his bread with a knife and for a little while he eats in silence. It is when he takes the first sip of his coffee that he initiates a conversation with Bernardo, who is too deep in his phone to even look at D’Artagnan.

“So…” D’Artagnan starts, “how are the decorations going?”

Bernardo doesn’t look up. “My sister already ordered the stuff that we would need for decorations online.”

“And my challenge?”

And that’s what makes Bernardo glance at him, his face lighting up. “On the process.”

“Good.” D’Artagnan takes another sip from his coffee, to hide the knowing grin on his face, “And the shot glasses?”

“The “I <3 U” shot glasses?”

“Yes, those.”

“We can look for them in the department store nearby? After classes? I’ll just meet you there?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

For a brief moment, the two seem to be … genuinely friendly with each other as they smile at each other, before going back to their business. D’Artagnan still had half an hour until his classes start to finish his breakfast and run all the way to the next building so he wouldn’t be late. He quickly downs all his coffee and says goodbye to Bernardo, wondering for a bit how long the boy would be staying in that cafe. Well, he had no time to ponder on that since he was in a great hurry.
And yet! As soon as he arrives in the classroom since the lecture room was a big one, he immediately pops his phone out, trying to be discreet, as he reads the texts berncat has sent him when he was busy walking or having breakfast (in front of Bernardo, too.)

Berncat starts to insult D’Artagnan’s denim, which -- being the denim-lover that he is -- stung, but as knittinghero he has to pretend as if he does not know that Bernardo hates denim. They bicker a little more about denim-coloured bats, and how D’Artagnan, for a moment, considered making them but berncat quickly turned the idea down.

D’Artagnan stops texting when the professor calls his attention for what seems like the fifth time. Instead of actually listening however, he stares at the board blankly, wondering how he can make denim-coloured bats with yarn and string. Those would be the most adorable things ever, even if it’s only for D’Artagnan, but he has to remind himself that he’s doing commissions for berncat and not himself, and berncat hates denim.

The bell finally rings and D’Artagnan rushes out of the lecture room. Porthos sends him a text to check the supermarket if there are all of the ingredients for his special punch there, and to check the prices to see if they are still staying on budget. D’Artagnan can do that after the shot glass search since the supermarket is just near to the department store.

He presumes that Bernardo is already there, looking at the kitchenware section of the department store, and that’s where he first looks. It would be easier if he had Bernardo’s actual number so he could contact him, and he couldn’t just contact berncat because then that would reveal himself. So, he looks. He is hoping Bernardo has his little feathered hat on so it wouldn’t be too hard to find him. Then, much to his amusement, he sees a figure donning a black feathered hat looking at the glass area of the kitchenware section.

“Hi,” D’Artagnan says, which makes Bernardo jump.

“Oh my, D’Artagnan!” Bernardo exclaims, unamused, with a hand on his chest. “Ever heard of not giving people heart attacks?”

“Sorry!” D’Artagnan grins, apologetic but at the same time not, “have you found the shot glasses?”

“No… but I just got here, so maybe we can search together?”

D’Artagnan agrees with him.

The rest of the hour is spent walking along aisles together. There were tall glasses and short glasses, glasses tinted green and glasses tinted black (which Bernardo fancied, but they were not what he was looking for.) They found shot glasses, but none of those with the inscription that Bernardo wants in particular. Bummed, they end up in the food court, to have lunch. Together.

They are sitting across each other on the table, like in breakfast, and D’Artagnan avoided stretching his legs too much lest the tip of his shoe accidentally brushes up against the bottom of Bernardo’s pants. D’Artagnan has a taco in front of him, ready to eat, and Bernardo has a burger.

“No luck with the shot glasses, huh,” D’Artagnan cuts the silence.

“Maybe I can only get them online...” Bernardo notes as he unwraps his burger to take the first bite. (Even as he’s chewing, his dimples would peek out.)

“I can look for them in the supermarket? I have some stuff to do for the food committee after this, so maybe I can check?”

“...Why are you going out of your way to help me?”

“Because I said I would?”

Bernardo blinks twice, then goes back to eating his burger as he ignores D’Artagnan by using his phone again. D’Artagnan uses his phone as well and looks up shot glasses with “I <3 U’s” on them, but all he found were candles. Is it possible that Bernardo mistook candles for shot glasses... He shows what he finds to Bernardo.

“Are these what you’re looking for?”

“No… those are candles.”

D’Artagnan stares back at his phone and then gives the search for the shot glasses a rest for the moment as he chows down on his taco. Bernardo initiates the conversation this time after he wipes the sides of his mouth clean with a facial tissue.
“Do you want me to come with you?”

D’Artagnan, mouth full of lettuce, replies, “Huh?”

“God, don’t talk with your mouth full, you pig,” Bernardo scrunches his nose. D’Artagnan apologizes silently and swallows his food. “...To the supermarket. Just to check.”

“Okay, sure!”

The walk to the supermarket is a short one. They come across a stray cat on the street and immediately Bernardo points at it, excited. Since the cat was black with white spots, D’Artagnan remarks that the cat looked like him. He receives a punch on the arm in retaliation. Instead of being offended, D’Artagnan giggles and Bernardo looks away, flustered.

Finally, they arrive at the nearby supermarket, where the air smells of lemon-scented freshener. D’Artagnan checks the list of the ingredients for the Valentine’s Day punch that Porthos gave him, which consisted of mostly juice, syrup and …

“Vodka?!?” Bernardo exclaims as he takes a (hopefully accidental) glance of D’Artagnan’s phone, “does the redhead want us all to die during the party?”

D’Artagnan chuckles, shaking his head. “You clearly haven’t attended a party with Porthos in charge of the food and drinks. He goes hard.”

“Yeah, no kidding. I’m more of a wine person, though,” Bernardo says as they stroll by the wine aisle.

“You look like a wine person. I’m more of a beer person though.”

“Clearly, with all that denim,” Bernardo jests, a bit playfully. Then he gasps and walks toward a particular bottle of wine. He picks it up and shows D’Artagnan.

“Pinot Noir!” They say in unison. Then in their surprise, end up laughing as if they both had heard the funniest joke.

“Oh, Louis loves this,” D’Artagnan remarks, pointing at the label on the bottle.

“She does. You should see her during Christmas dinners, she downs this thing from the bottle and doesn’t spare Marie Louise a drop,” Bernardo says, sighing. “Marie Louise has a soft spot for her, anyway, so she doesn’t get angry. But if I drink up all the wine --”

“What happens?” D’Artagnan smiles.

“Oh, you don’t want to know,” Bernardo tells him with big bright eyes, then mimes a headlock.

D’Artagnan isn’t able to hold back his giggle. “I can definitely see her doing that. I think the only person who isn’t scared of her is Louis.”

“And me!” Bernardo adds, lifting his chin proudly.

Instead of actually searching for the ingredients that Porthos had asked for, D’Artagnan and Bernardo spend their time in the supermarket making jokes about the drinks that they find there, what would be appropriate for a party, and what isn’t… The search for the shot glasses is forgotten under the number of jokes and anecdotes that they shared together. Then, their fun was cut short when suddenly a catchy tone rang in Bernardo’s pocket. He pulls his phone out and frowns.

“I gotta go,” Bernardo tells him, “class.”

“Okay,” D’Artagnan says, a little sad.

“See you later.”

“Take care, Bernardo,” he waves the boy goodbye before he briskly walks out of the supermarket all the way back to their university, which was a long walk, but Bernardo can make it.
While he is still there at the supermarket, he checks all of the items that Porthos had listed down, and then he strolls around looking for the shot glasses that Bernardo wants so much. He stumbles upon a special Valentine’s section in the supermarket, and finds the said shot glasses. (They were, indeed, candles… but D’Artagnan could find a way.)

That’s the first thing he texts berncat as soon as he gets home from the supermarket. He doesn’t except Bernardo to reply right away since he was in class, so he sets his phone beside him as he lies down. Almost instantly, his phone buzzes.
Is Bernardo not paying attention to class because of him? D’Artagnan thinks.

They continue talking about D’Artagnan’s secret crush, and D’Artagnan tells the little berncat that he will tell him on Valentines’ Day. Bernardo virtually pouts at him, calling him a little tease, which D’Artagnan tries to counter with the knitted bats as a ransom.

D’Artagnan isn’t even sure if what he felt was “crush,” exactly. It was Bernardo, the person he’d been rivals with since they stepped into their respective fencing teams. The Bernardo that hated him so much for being a show-off and for the denim that he wears every day. The Bernardo who unknowingly employed his help for the challenge that he posed to him. Maybe he was just… growing fond of Bernardo (and those dimples.)

The weeks nearing the big heart’s day were filled with preparation. Porthos and the food committee finally started testing the punch recipes that their leader had thought up. They all decided that ice cream would be perfect to top it all off to make it even sweeter. Next, they tested out the cookies and food that they would serve during the party. Some cookies, some hors-d'oeuvres. So, the food committee was successful with their endeavours, at least as far as D’Artagnan could say.

During all this, he was also finishing the commission berncat had for him… as well as the shot glasses that Bernardo wanted. His texts with berncat were getting exceedingly… friendly as well.
He takes a picture of the finished product and sends it to the boy.

Then, they instantly launch into the conversation about D’Artagnan’s secret crush. D’Artagnan persists that he will tell him on Valentines’ Day, but Bernardo wishes for even the slightest clue: he asks what D’Artagnan’s type is. D’Artagnan blushes before he sends the first thing that comes to mind.

He wonders if he’s being too obvious. Then again, Bernardo would probably think that he’s a guy from a different school who’s disinterested in fencing and would not even know who Bernardo is. The only thing he knows from knittinghero is that he likes knitting, and that’s about it. Plus, Bernardo likes someone else. He has a very small chance.

Instead of wallowing in his sadness, however, he decides to sublimate his feelings into a new knitting project to use the excess bats with. The I <3 U shot glasses are sitting on his bed stand. He has to wrap those up too. But that’s fine, because he still has a whole night before Valentine’s Day.

Chapter Text

Bernardo hasn’t been sleeping well. Mostly, because the past two weeks he’s been up until unreasonable hours of the night, texting a guy he is not supposed to know, text, or … like.

Tonight is different, though.

Tonight, in particular, he is not sleeping well because the Valentine’s Day party is tomorrow, and he is everything but mentally prepared.

How foolish! How thoughtless! How incompetent!

This is absolutely not how it is done.

It seems like a fun thing, at first, to crush D’Artagnan’s pride, and with it, his soul, by pretending that he is head over heels in love with Claude. Then, as quickly as fun comes, doubt seeps under, too. What seemed to be only an innocent prank before turned out to be a one-way road to shame by now, where his only option is to confess. To a guy, he does not even care about. And make a tit of himself in front of half of his family. And D’Artagnan.

Somehow, in all his careful planning, he never really got to Valentine’s Day. All these days, he was too busy talking to knittinghero to worry about this. But tonight… tonight even his knittinghero cannot make him forget.

They say goodnight hours before, but Bernardo is still sleepless, tossing and turning in his sheets. It’s overwhelming. When he checks his phone, a message awaits from knittinghero, sent a while ago.

Unable to hold it back, he pours all his feelings on this should-be perfect stranger, who he knows exactly to be, D’Artagnan.

He sends “I don’t know what to do” three consecutive times, with barely a few seconds of difference between the texts. It does not take long for D’Artagnan to answer, he most likely finds it hard to sleep as well. Or, he naturally goes to bed later.

D’Artagnan’s answer is immediate, teasing him: he believed that this guy was the person of Bernardo’s dreams. What is there to be afraid of?

Well? Apart from everything?

He cannot come clean about his worries without revealing everything to D’Artagnan first, and it is not something he would plan to do anyway. Still, there is truth in what he tells the boy.

D’Artagnan replies with an abundance of emoticons first.

From generally insisting that he would die soon, Bernardo turns towards practically begging for any sort of advice that D’Artagnan could spare on him. How would he like to be confessed to? What is the best way not to make a complete fool out of himself? How would HE propose to anyone else? There is really no pride when one’s in such vicious despair.

The person who posed the challenge to him, Bernardo claims, will make sure to humiliate him, no matter how he handles the confession. He cannot chicken out now, because he gave his word. But confessing is so full of shame, too! Everyone will laugh at him.

What sort of stupid advice is this, Bernardo thinks. For starters, he cannot even be honest to Claude without also revealing that he could not care less about him. Then, he also cannot just go forward and be honest to D’Artagnan, telling him that he is the one who keeps him up at night… Could you imagine what his friends would say? What Bernardo’s friends would say? Yeah. Exactly.

What is a little loss of face compared to D’Artagnan’s destroyed pride? He asks himself once again, two weeks after the fact.

Bernardo slaps himself in the face.

When he reminds himself that this is all D’Artagnan’s fault, to begin with, he feels slightly better. He was not the one going about and daring other people to ruin their own lives. (Confessing to someone is basically like shooting yourself in the leg.)

((If someone asked him he would gladly shoot himself in the leg instead, right at this moment.))

D’Artagnan tells him to go to sleep before his “Big Day,” and he reluctantly obeys, switching his phone off for the night. Or, more like: for the early hours of the morning. He takes one last look at the tiny knitted bat, which was already shipped to their house a few days before.

Bernardo is almost properly asleep when he suddenly remembers that D’Artagnan likes dimples, and he presses his face deep into his pillow until it feels like he’s suffocating to death. How can he just say something like that to him and then expecting him to act sane about it! How!

In the morning, D’Artagnan is quicker to message him. (The text sits in his inbox by the time he struggles himself out of bed.) A thousand of kissy faces and one “GOOD LUCK! DON’T TELL ME I WORKED FOR NOTHING ONCE THE DAY IS DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Bernardo smiles at the screen, forgetting the severity of the situation before he is taken by a certain kind of melancholy instead. Truth to be told, knittinghero did work for absolutely nothing.

On his way downstairs to the kitchen, he picks up a red ribbon Marie-Louise ordered as decoration and ties it around the tiny bat’s neck. Perfect. Very festive. If anything, the day ahead of him fills him with the sort of existential dread one feels before a duel they know they were bound to lose.

The solution is easy. Do not pick on enemies who you know to be stronger than you. Bernardo happened to challenge his own Fate to a duel, and now he is getting the bitter end of it. But, as ever in life, it is much easier to be smart after the fact and be blissfully reckless before.

He almost forgets to reply, then types up a half-hearted message, between stuffing his face with some sweet pastries for breakfast. (People should use the opportunity to have a free pass at eating sugary things in the morning.)

Is what he decides to say.

The answer comes within seconds, but it is only a heart. Oh. If D’Artagnan had any idea that he knew who it was on the other side… he wouldn’t be bothering with all this affection.

Would he?

On the way to campus, he thinks of something and makes a detour, to a stationery shop. Overwhelmed by the amount of Valentine’s Day cards, he spends a good ten minutes in there, staring from one to the other. In the end, he leaves with exactly what he had in mind. If not a thousand times better.

He meets Porthos on the way, who is wearing a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses. Even the lenses have a rose-gold hue. If he did not look twelve before, now he surely does not look above ten. He’s unable to wipe an ugly grin off of his face and tries to wrap at least a red scarf around Athos’s neck, in the name of St Valentine.

“He wouldn’t allow anything else,” he explains to anyone who would listen. “Even though it’s Valentine’s Day!”

“You can celebrate Valentine’s Day without looking like a clown,” Athos retorts. If he is bothered, it does not show on his face.

“But Athos! I always look like a clown, no matter what.” He ducks his head between his shoulders and displays an even wider grin. “… might as well.”

Porthos waves at him, and almost knocks the glasses off his ears. “Bernardo! Where are you headed?”
Slightly alarmed after this scene, thinking that he might be attacked with a heart-patterned scarf or worse, he tries to shoot off in the other direction.

“I have classes to attend!” He lies, not very proficiently, as he flees the scene. “See you later.”

On his way, he also passes by D’Artagnan, who seemingly wants to have a word, but he has none of it. Not today, not when the disaster is steadily approaching, and he has not yet made up his mind about what exact way he is going to ruin his life. At this point, it is about how much damage he can avoid, and how much he needs to suffer.

Instead of talking to the real one, he tries to calm himself by texting knittinghero. D’Artagnan would surely make fun of him and try to assert his dominance in the hour of need. It is his duty as the valiant knittinghero to console his friend, however.

Later… later! He is probably playing at never having to tell him anything, knowing full well that a little later Bernardo WILL DIE and that will be the end of everything.

Annoyed by the lack of attention, he presses the issue.

Knittinghero leaves him on read, and half an hour later he goes to his lecture while still red in the face – from rejection, and from being completely overlooked, too. Perhaps he should have said hi to the real D’Artagnan, after all.
Bernardo refuses to check his phone for the rest of the day: zero messages cannot bother him as long as he pretends to be too busy to even check.

Later in the afternoon he meets up with Marie-Louise and they proceed to the venue they booked for the evening: to begin decorating. The more hearts they hang around the room, the more his spirit is crushed.

The only thing in his mind is Claude, but more importantly: D’Artagnan. How will he possibly satisfy his challenge without losing face? Even more so, knowing that the challenge itself was tailored just so Bernardo would make a fool of himself in front of a crowd. A crowd that will never forget.

Marie-Louise lines out the party hats she personally picked for all the members, while Bernardo is trying to sneak a few spider webs here and there, to make Valentine’s Day at least a little spookier. His sister either does not notice or decides to humour him this time, as the cobwebs all stay at their respective places. Even though the room is grey and soulless, somehow Marie-Louise’s hand makes it closer to festive. They aren’t finished yet, when Porthos enters loudly, with two heavy boxes on his arms, and the pink sunglasses still on his nose.

“You’re welcome guys!” he yells as he drops the boxes on a nearby table.

Marie-Louise’s voice sounds like a death sentence as she says. “Hello, Porthos.”

He reveals a wide range of refreshments, starting from his special punch, through canned beer to Calpis soda for the less adventurous.

D’Artagnan also appears behind his friend, bringing in some food, carefully covered with a plastic lid. Forgetting that he’s coldly left him on read, Bernardo calls out to him.

“Hey, cowboy.”

At first D’Artagnan blanks him, then he realizes that he is the one the boy called out to. With a smile bitten deep into his lower lip, he replies.
“Hello, kitten.”

“What?!”

“What.” He puts the food down on the table and unfolds it. There are countless cupcakes and muffins under the lid, all decorated with a pleasantly weak pink colour. “I thought we were calling each other names.”

Bernardo wonders if they both ended up giving each other a scare: after all, D’Artagnan has no idea that he is fully aware who he has been texting for the past two weeks, entering into a very supportive and passionate friendship.

He asks, attempting to distract D’Artagnan instead. “Don’t tell me you baked these.”

“Oh, but we did.”

He proudly shows off what they did, explaining which tastes like vanilla, where the strawberry cream came from, and how Porthos came across the edible glitter. They beckon Bernardo to try one, in secret, before the rest of the guests arrive, but he turns them down with a sour expression. In fact, remembering that the other guests would arrive soon only makes him want to throw up. Teamed up with Maire-Louise, Porthos hands out massive, plastic accessories (they probably got these in some toy shop), from heart-shaped earrings to fake diamond rings, bigger than Bernardo’s fist.

“Get one of the rings,” D’Artagnan teases him. “You will need it later anyway.”

Bernardo puffs his cheeks up, offended. “Only if you get one too.”

Proudly, D’Artagnan slips one on his finger, even though it looks even more ridiculous with the denim. In the meanwhile, in addition to the sunglasses, Porthos clips on a pair of earrings, tries on five rings for each finger, and hangs a chunky necklace around his neck. It is unclear whether he is drunk already, or this all just comes naturally to him.

Bernardo’s face grows pale when Claude also arrives, walking beside Robert. He looks as disgusted with the event as possible. If it wasn’t both The Maz and Bernardo who beckoned him to come, he would have most likely stayed home with an obvious excuse. Or, even worse, he would have said: I didn’t want to go.

Seeing death on Claude’s face, Philippe is quick to bring him a plastic glass of Porthos’s magical brew. Instead of an umbrella, a little heart is peeking out of the brim, sparkling cheekily.

“It is supposed to lift your spirits,” he explains. After catching a glimpse of Bernardo’s aghast expression, he brings one to him as well, without any delay. “Look at you. Show us some dimples!”

Bernardo decides to take the punch after some consideration. He does not want to be tipsy when he makes a fool of himself, one way or another, but he also needs some courage. (Not that he would be a coward! Not at all! And yet.)

Someone puts on music too, just enough to annoy him but to blend into the background for anyone else present. He feels his inner pocket for the tiny bat, and the card, and makes sure that everything is still in place. Then, goes to the table and tries to stuff three cupcakes into his mouth at the same time, while also getting another cup of Porthos’s sweet poison.

“Bernardo,” someone calls him from behind, and he turns with his mouth full, sugar stuck to the corner of his lips.

“Oh my,” he tries to say between chewing, although it is barely articulate. “D’Artagnan.”

He laughs and motions towards his own lips, trying to let Bernardo know about the sugar. There is something he wants to say, but afraid of whatever it might be, Bernardo interjects as soon as he opens his mouth.

“I have something for you.”

D’Artagnan’s eyes flicker with a light he has never seen before. They disappear as soon as Bernardo fishes the card out of his pocket, and unceremoniously places it in his hands.

“There,” he says.

When D’Artagnan asks if he can open it now, he graciously allows him. He takes the card out of the simple, white envelope (it came with the purchase) and looks at the writing.

“Get well soon,” he reads and shoots a questioning look at Bernardo. “I… am not sick?”

“Yeah… but you do suck, so I thought in the name of Saint Valentine...”

If at first D’Artagnan was disappointed, now his bitter feelings are all gone. He presses a hand at his chest and smiles his warmest smile. His shoulders are slightly trembling from the laughter he tries so hard to keep in. He’s touched by Bernardo’s caring insolence.

“I haven’t seen you give your gift to your crush yet,” D’Artagnan claims, accidentally revealing that he is aware that Bernardo was supposed to give something else to his crush in question.

“Yes that’s because… I was not… The time is… Actually…”

D’Artagnan stops him. “It’s better this way. There is something I wanted you to know before you would confess. Don’t ask me why… I just think it would be fair, if you knew. But you’re not checking your messages.”

Bernardo gives him a pair of glossy, startled eyes.

“Actually, it’s not just one thing. Several things. Let’s start from the first one: … I’m knittinghero.”

“Oh, I know that!” Bernardo rolls his eyes.

D’Artagnan is seemingly too focused on the things he wants to say to understand what Bernardo says or to give him a reaction. He continues.

“I actually think you are very lovely, and well, selfish as it is, I sometimes hoped you would like me instead of Claude in the end.” He continues without even taking a breath, possibly to avoid any tragedy that might ensue from what he just said. Instead, he takes something out from his (denim) bag and places it on Bernardo’s open palm. “Also, these were most definitely not shot glasses, but I did what I could.”

Bernardo looks down and reads the writing on the three candle-converted-shot glasses.

“I … less than three you.”

“I love you,” D’Artagnan says, patiently.

“Ha?”

“They say: I love you.”

Oh.”

Bernardo pretends that his heart did not just skip a beat and nods along. Indeed. They seem to be saying that, having looked at the text for a second time. Then, in an attempt to avoid further awkwardness, D’Artagnan thrusts his entire denim bag on him.

“I figured you would like some of those bats for yourself, too. So, there you are. This is my gift to you.” It is strange, to watch D’Artagnan’s retreating back. “Good luck with your crush, Bernardo. Don’t let me have had worked for nothing.”

Bernardo has a feeling that he was expected to say something and missed his cue. He surely did. D’Artagnan should have known already that his reaction time is appalling in the worst times. Even during a duel. Excuse. Even during a fencing match, they would allow themselves to have every now and then, time would stop, and he would only be a moment late. Then, on the floor. He isn’t on the floor this time, but even so, it feels like one of his greatest failures.

He remembers that D’Artagnan said something about the messages and takes his phone out. Enabling data, messages start flooding his inbox. From knittinghero…

The first message came a little after Bernardo’s own.

Then, a single long message was added a few hours later. With proper capitalization. Bernardo holds the bagful of tiny bats to himself as he reads on.

By the time he finishes reading, his head starts hurting a little. Without thinking, he bellows, aiming his words only at D’Artagnan and forgetting that they have company.

“I don’t like Claude!”

Claude and D’Artagnan turn towards him at the same time.

“I just made that up to annoy you! Unfortunately, I never actually liked Claude and never will. I just wanted to teach you a lesson because I think you are annoying and disgusting and I wanted to wipe that stupid smile off your face. You’re not that great, D’Artagnan. Not everyone’s in love with you! But, unfortunately, I like you.” He sniffles, and then adds, a little louder than he intended. “So, get well soon, D’Artagnan.”

There is nothing, only the cheesy background music for the next few seconds until everyone gets to digest whatever just happened. Slowly, Bernardo also gathers some awareness of his surroundings: namely, all the people who heard his stupid little speech.

“Well… that was a lot for one night,” Porthos remarks, trying to laugh it off. “Who wants some shots?”

Avoiding Claude’s eyes, Bernardo decides to retire to one corner of the room and pretend that he is one with the shadows. He stares out of the window, looking at the orange lights of the city under them. With this, he fulfilled the challenge. He gave a gift to his crush, and he confessed, too, in front of everyone. D’Artagnan must be satisfied.

A hand slides into his, fingers intertwining with fingers.

“So you knew it was me the whole time, huh?” D’Artagnan asks, in an unusually quiet tone.

“Your hands were on the pictures, only a fool wouldn’t know it’s you. Idiot.”

Seeing their reflection on the window somehow makes him too conscious of everything. The room around them, the smile on D’Artagnan’s face, that they are standing hand in hand, that they have a physical body… His cheeks flush red, although he tries to talk himself out of blushing.

“Thanks for the card,” D’Artagnan continues, still amused. “It’s very thoughtful.”

With his free hand, he takes the bat, ribbon and all, out of his inner pocket and shoves it into D’Artagnan’s.

“I suppose you need to have a bat, too,” he explains. “Merry Valentine’s.”

Trying to draw D’Artagnan’s attention from how cheesy their conversation was getting, he quickly added. “I hope you have enough clothes to wear for two weeks that aren’t denim.”

D’Artagnan gives him a cheeky grin, and his double-chin is showing. He wonders if the boy would even admit that Bernardo won, after all. (He did win! You know!)

“I have faux leather.” His eyes light up for a moment, but only until he finishes. “In red.”

When Bernardo starts making gagging sounds, trying to keep his laughter in at the same time, he leans forward and presses a kiss on his temple.

Bernardo’s neck disappears between his shoulders, lips curling upwards. “Disgusting,” he murmurs. And then, a little louder. “Do it again.”