“I don’t want to wake him!” Ignatz protested, though he was already sat across the table, charcoal in hand. He had the sinking feeling that there was no backing out of this frankly terribly stupid idea.
“Please,” said Hilda, winding a strand of hair around her finger. “Have you ever seen this guy awake?”
Ignatz considered it.
“Only at meals, I think. And the archery range. You know, he’s a crack shot, you wouldn’t want to make him angry--”
“Live a little, Iggy. See?” She leaned in, snapping her fingers about an inch from Linhardt’s eyes. “He’s comatose. Go on, it’ll be funny!”
Well. It probably would be funny. And getting into shenanigans like this would probably piss his parents off, if they knew...
“Eh, why not?”
Hilda laughed. “Thaaaaaank you, Iggy.”
“If you don’t call me Iggy anymore.”
“Ooh, I don’t know.”
Ignatz calculated exactly how much dignity he could leverage out of this. “For two weeks.”
Hilda held out her pinky, as if inviting him to make it official. “Deal!”
He left her hanging, though, and got to work.
Linhardt woke with a groan, eyes completely unprepared for the... was that morning sunlight? Gods, how long had he been sleeping?
He lifted his head, only to find it stuck to the page of his latest tome on crests. Ugh. He’d been told off before about drooling on the books... he’d just have to hope Tomas didn’t find out.
After unsticking himself, it occurred to him that he might do well to check the time. Linhardt fumbled for his pocket-watch-- Seiros’ teeth!
He was late for lecture again. And it was Byleth’s, the only professor who ever managed to be interesting and-- He groped frantic for his things, shoving them into his bag without any real regard for organization or whether the cap to his inkwell was screwed on properly or what that random paper was...
What was that paper?
He flipped it over-- it was probably just some note, there was really no other way of communicating with him while he was sleeping.
On the other side of the parchment was a charcoal sketch, quickly but artfully done. It was... it was a drawing of him, face smushed into the book. The artist had quite thoughtfully rendered the drool. Beside the drawing, a note in an unfamiliar hand read “good luck studying!”
It was unsigned.
It was one thing for Linhardt to stumble into class twenty minutes late, but Byleth gave him the eye for laughing.
“Yeah, Lin, I know. You can borrow my notes, but I swear on my mother this is the last time.”
“No, I-- well, thanks, but-- Look!” He presented the drawing, smudged and crumpled thought it was. “I found this when I woke up.”
Caspar examined the parchment quizzically, then laughed so hard he very nearly burst a blood vessel.
“You-- you look... exactly... like that... when you sleep! Lin!”
“Really? It’s not all that flattering.” His eyes were narrowed, but there was no lack of laughter in them.
“No, it’s perfect! Lin-- you gotta find out who did this!”
“Clearly... so I can get you to beat them up.”
“Iggy!” Hilda sang, flouncing into her seat at the table.
“Thought we had a deal.”
“You didn’t pinky swear on it. It’s not legally binding.”
“You specifically told me that you agreed!”
A familiar clearing-of-the-throat-- Claude piped up from the head of the table. “Verbal agreements aren’t contracts. Pinky swears are law.”
Ignatz smiled in spite of himself. “You’re children.”
Hilda simply preened, taking a dainty sip of tea. “Wisdom comes from the mouths of babes. Now, I was going to tell you... I saw Linhardt and Caspar after first period. They were about to riot over how much they loved your picture. You should totally do it again.”
From the end of the table: “What picture?” Ignatz sighed, explained the situation as maturely as he possibly could.
Claude nearly snorted coffee out of his nose.
“Hilda, Hilda! Make him do it again. Give him whatever he wants. I see great potential in this venture.”
Ignatz rolled his eyes. “You don’t get to call me Iggy for a month.”
She pinky swore.
Linhardt woke up on a stone bench in the garden with an almighty kink in his neck. A folded piece of parchment stuck out of his bag.
He got charcoal on his fingers in his haste to look at it. It was another skillful drawing, this time seemingly a study of the way his hair flopped over his face as he slept. Thoughtfully, he pulled a few strands from his mouth. It was peerless in its imitation of life.
Scribbled across the top, in the same rushed, loopy handwriting, were the words “That can’t be comfortable!”
He found another one the next day, after a nap in one of the pews in the chapel. Dorothea loomed over him, one sharp stroke forming the scowl on her face. His own mouth was wide, a speech bubble indicating he’d been snoring. The caption this time read simply “Choir practice.”
That evening in the common room, Dorothea wouldn’t tell him who’d drawn the picture no matter how he threatened her.
It was the greatest inside joke in the Monastery, and perhaps the best the three houses had ever worked together on anything. There wasn’t a crack in their defenses-- everyone oohed and aahed over the latest pictures, but nobody breathed a word.
Not even the cute boy at the archery range-- the short one, blond, with the glasses like saucers. Absolutely deadeye aim. They’d banter back and forth, sometimes, and for all the guy went on about Linhardt’s accuracy, he’d have thought the man was on his side.
Or, you know, he’d have hoped. But he’d just looked over the latest drawing, suppressed a laugh.
“Do you know who made this? It’s driving me up the wall! Nobody will tell me!”
“Is that so? I’m afraid Claude would eat me alive, if I told you.”
Linhardt narrowed his eyes.
“That is!” Ignatz corrected, a blush coming over the bridge of his nose. “If I knew.”
“That’s crap,” Linhardt whined, but didn’t keep from laughing.
She started in her seat, spilling nail varnish all over the common room sofa. “Fuck!” she yelped, “Lorenz is gonna have my head for that. What?”
“I ran into Linhardt at the range and I swear he’s onto me.”
“Get me a goddamn towel, will you?”
“Oh-- right.” He dashed into the bathroom off the common area, brought her a wet towel. “Here.” He didn’t say anything about how it was probably her fault for painting her nails on the couch, even if it absolutely was.
“Thanks,” she muttered, wiping it up the best she could. “I’ll make Marianne magic it later. Now what were you saying, Iggy dear?”
“You promised not to call me that! You... you pinky swore!”
“Hilda lies, get used to it!” It was Claude, sitting unbearably smugly in the back of the room.
“Now, what was it?”
Ignatz rolled his eyes. “Linhardt. I swear he’s gonna figure it out.”
Hilda scoffed. “No, he’s not. He sleeps half the day, he doesn’t have any time to think about it!”
“Okay, that’s a valid point. I still don’t know how he never wakes up when I’m sitting right there staring at him. But I swear-- I talked to him at the range and I was being so obvious... I was blushing, Hilda, right in his face!”
Hilda sat stock-still for a moment, eyes piercing Ignatz’s face. She didn’t say anything, nobody in the room said anything.
“Iggy,” she said, in a stage whisper. “Are you sure you don’t like Linhardt?”
It was a damn good question.
Gods, Ignatz was never gonna live this down.
“What? I’m a little busy!”
Busy was one word for it. He had his new spiked gauntlets on, and was in the process of absolutely shredding a training dummy. Shamir was gonna be terribly proud of him, once she got over being pissed at having to replace the thing.
“I’m going crazy over here. I gotta find out who’s been doing this!”
“What,” punch “are you kidding?” Punch. “It’s hilarious.” Punch. The dummy’s head, hanging only by a few shreds of burlap, listed sickly forward.
“Okay, fair. But I’m paranoid, Cas! For a second I even thought it was that cute guy at the shooting range. Unless it’s you, I’m fairly sure it’s you. You would. Bastard. Why am I talking to you about this?”
Caspar parsed all of this, gashing the dummy’s torso to help him think. “Firstly, you’re going to have to tell me about this cute guy, since this is the first I’ve heard of him. I will not take no for an answer on this.”
Linhardt felt himself blushing, and took a sharp breath to protest, but Caspar cut him off.
“Later. Secondly, if you wanna know so bad-- well, I think Dorothea would kill me if I told you, so I won’t.”
“You know? Bastard!”
“If I knew.” One of the dummy’s legs came hurtling off, as if to punctuate. “If you really wanna find out, set a trap.”
Linhardt’s brow furrowed. “Sneaky, coming from you.”
“Nah, just smart. Just pretend to be asleep, then pop up as soon as you hear him.”
“Them! Them! I said nothing!”
Linhardt drank two cups of coffee, then snuck into the library. Curled up in an ancient leather armchair... and waited.
“Claude, you know I hate it when Hilda calls me that--”
“Okay, fine, I thought it’d be funny. Anyway, Sylvain told me to tell you that Linhardt’s asleep in the library.”
“Okay, I’ll go.”
“You’re a man of honor. Hey, do you really hate it when people call you Iggy?”
“...It’s what my mom calls me.”
“Ouch. I’ll make Hilda stop.”
“Say no more.”
He was sound asleep, curled knees to nose in a soft armchair. He’d even taken the liberty of removing his shoes and jacket, and they sat in a heap on the floor. One of the monastery cats had wandered into the library, and was curled up purring by his side. His breath was soft, tidal, and though his hair fell over his face, Ignatz couldn’t shake the feeling that his expression must have been serene.
He sketched quickly, suddenly conscious of himself. With shaking hands, he tore the page loose from his sketchbook, hoping the noise didn’t wake him.
Ignatz scrawled a brief message across the top of the drawing, folded it neatly, and left it in Linhardt’s breast pocket.
Okay. Okay. It was a pretty cute drawing. He hadn’t even realized that a cat had come to visit him... but, upon closer inspection, there was cream-colored hair all over his slacks.
The message, this time, read “Try staying up all night to reset your body clock! It always works for me.”
Well. Desperate times...
“Caspar, this is suffering.”
“It’s only one in the morning. You stay up way later than this reading all the time.”
“Yeah, but that’s different!”
“Well... why don’t you tell me everything you know about the crests.”
“Ugh, no. I can’t even think about studying.”
“Then you can tell me all about that cute boy, instead.”
“So we have records of the crests dating back thousands of years...”
The following day would have been horrible on its own, but Caspar and Edelgard following him around making sure he didn’t doze off made it worse.
He fell into bed at ten that night, and the cool sheets felt like religion.
In the morning, he was a man made new.
Linhardt found himself in the library again the following Saturday afternoon, three hours deep into a book on the major crests of Faerghus. It was dry stuff, and so convoluted that he swore his brain was trying to shake loose from his skull. Being an academic didn’t have to mean having terrible writing skills, he thought, but so often it did.
He’d just put his head down for a few minutes and breathe. Think about other things, like the cat he’d seen that morning or the dream he’d had last night, or his plans to go and shoot some targets after finishing this chapter.
Maybe that guy would be there, and they could have a little contest. Though maybe that wouldn’t be such a good idea... He’d sworn he’d seen that guy split an arrow once.
There was a creaking of wood on the other side of the table.
He whipped his head up-- the guilty party!
“Archery boy? It was you?”
Ignatz’s face was bright red. He couldn’t hide the sketchbook, nor the charcoal pencil in his hand.
Linhardt laughed so hard he could have sworn he’d strained something. “Sorry? For what? Playing the greatest prank of the century? Gods, you’re a genius. And really-- really good at drawing? Where’d you learn to draw like that?”
Ignatz stared intently at a scratch in the table. “Um, I dunno. I practiced. Uh-- it’s Ignatz.”
“Ignatz. You’re full of surprises, aren’t you! You shoot like a champ, too, and I can’t believe you got everyone to keep quiet on the whole thing for so long.”
“I can’t really believe it, either! Gosh, I swore you were gonna be mad at me.”
“No, no, it’s hilarious! But tell me something.”
“Yes?” Gods--something like ‘what kind of weirdo are you, watching me while I sleep,’ or ‘who do you think you are?’
“Do I really drool that much?”
Oh. Ignatz adjusted his glasses, tried to be cool. Make the sort of face that someone like Claude would make, in this situation. It was, he feared, really not working. “Yeah, unfortunately. But it’s okay! You’ve got a really symmetrical face!”
Linhardt blanched, then turned positively fuschia. “Thanks! You-- you’re really symmetrical too!”
In his bed that night, sleep deserted him. How could he possibly have said that? Archery boy--Ignatz--must have thought he was a total dip.
Halfway across the monastery, Ignatz was up, having almost exactly the same train of thought.
When Ignatz woke, there was a slip of paper on the floor. Curious--someone must have slid it under his door while he slept. Probably it was Hilda. She’d probably heard what a fool he’d made of himself.
Groggily, he flipped it over.
It bore a crude little drawing, only recognizable as himself because of the glasses and what he assumed was supposed to be his bow.
Above the drawing was a little note, scratched spiky and rushed in an unfamiliar hand.
“Want to get tea sometime? -Lin”