Chapter 1: Can't Wait Until Tomorrow
Ashe nervously looked around the classroom before the lesson was set to begin. The professor had mentioned that they were getting a new student, and he was brimming with curiosity over who it might be joining their house. The foreign princess Petra, perhaps? Or maybe the genius Lysithea? He stood near the entryway as he mulled over the possibilities.
Another recent addition, Flayn, bobbed her head towards him as she noticed him looking past her towards the doorway. "Whatever are you so nervous about, Ashe?"
"Oh, uh, well I heard the Blue Lions were getting another new student today. I was just wondering who it might be. I'm eager to make them feel welcome here," Ashe replied, a little embarassed to have been caught.
"It is awfully convenient for this new student to join our house right before the Battle of the Eagle and Lion!" Flayn pondered in a suspicious tone, striking a dramatic pose very similar to that which the professor was known to make as she was thinking. "Clearly they want to be on the winning team!"
Ashe frowned at the implication. "I don't know Flayn, perhaps they hope they can get better guidance from the professor?"
Flayn shrugged, sitting down on the bench he intended to sit at, next to Annette, absorbed in a book. He sat down on the bench across the aisle from her, nearest the doorway, intending to keep an eye out. However, Mercedes breezed by and smiled at him, clearly having heard his conversation with Flayn. "You don't have to wonder anymore, Ashe. The new student is Marianne from the Golden Deer. I overheard her approach the professor the other day."
"Marianne? I confess, I don't know too much about her," he said, thinking. He knew her face, but he didn't seem to recall her ever speaking.
Mercedes nodded. "She's very shy from what I understand." Her eyes drifted to the seat next to Annette, where Flayn had plopped herself down. With a smile and a shake of her head, Mercedes gave a little wave to Ashe and headed to seat herself at the bench in front of her best friend, next to Dedue.
Left to his own devices, he did not have much time to prepare himself a small speech to greet the shy Marianne, as he noticed her enter the room. She gave the room a once over, settling her eyes on the spot closest to the door, the seat right next to Ashe. Approaching timidly, she met his eyes and said something so quietly he could not even hear her.
"I'm sorry?" he prompted, feeling bad for not hearing her. She seemed to take a breath, before shakily trying again.
"Um, is it alright if I sit down here?"
"Oh! Of course!" Ashe hastily moved his book so she had room to set her things down, and scooted close to the edge of the bench to give her extra space. Or at least, he hoped it came off that way. It wouldn't do any good to seem repulsed by her! As she sat herself down, he took the opportunity to attempt the welcome he was so keen to deliver. "I'm Ashe, you're Marianne, right?"
"Yes," she replied somewhat warily. She kept her head down somewhat, and he recognized it as an attempt to not draw too much attention to herself. Unfortunately for Marianne, Ashe could tell that most of the Blue Lions seemed pretty intrigued by her presence.
"Welcome to the Blue Lions! We're happy to have you here in our class," he continued warmly. "Out of curiosity, what made you join us?"
"The professor," Marianne stated, twiddling with her quill. "I feel comfortable around her."
"We all look up to her," Ashe said in response, looking towards the podium where the young woman in question was about to start lecturing for the day. "I hope you can be as comfortable with the rest of us too."
Ashe sighed in frustration. Marianne had approached him all on her own for the first time since she had joined the Blue Lions a month ago and he had mistaken her for a ghost! How utterly foolish of him!
Not to mention, he seemed to have offended her by telling her to smile. Or perhaps it was implying that she looked scary... but actually he thought she was really cute!
He paced his dorm room, thinking about how he could apologize to her in the morning. He really didn't want her to misunderstand the situation and have hurt feelings, after all.
Or perhaps it was his overwhelming desire to talk to her. She always seemed so shy and so sad, and he yearned to see her smile. There was a small, selfish part of him that compelled him to suggest she smile just because he wanted to see it so badly.
He knew she did not interact much with the others, even though Sylvain certainly had tried hitting on her. Annette had told him that when the girls invited her to have tea with them, Marianne was very quiet the whole time. He was fairly certain it would only be a matter of time before she opened up some more with the rest of the class, but he intended to try to socialize with her more often.
Ashe had tried a few times already. After the Battle of the Eagle and Lion, he attempted to make conversation about her performance. "You were very helpful out there today! It's thanks to you and your white magic that I was able to keep going!" he had said to her in his most encouraging tone, approaching the corner she was trying to isolate herself to, away from a bulk of the group.
"I really didn't do that much, you were only hurt because you took that hit for me," she had replied modestly, staring into her cup. Every once in a while she would sneak a glance at the Golden Deer, some of them looking her way as well. She seemed very uncomfortable with the festivities in general, and quickly had left for the room after a little while more. He should have expected her modesty, to be honest, but more than anything, she seemed uncomfortable to be under so much scrutiny, so he did not make much progress on that count.
Another time, for a lance exam he offered her some advice on the movement they were working on. Personally, he considered that a win, as she seemed to follow it, though she did not say as much as he had hoped, merely acknowledging and thanking him for his help. He could tell she was talented with it, though, she just had not realized it yet.
"Tomorrow," he mumbled to himself, as he plopped down onto his bed. "Tomorrow I will apologize to Marianne, and hopefully talk to her a little bit more. I will say that I am so sorry for mistaking her for a ghost..." Trailing off, he considered what was appropriate to say. "And maybe that I hope to make it up to her? No no, that the more I see her the less ghost-like..? No, that won't do either."
He did not wish to spook her with his curiosity, but he could not help wanting to know her better. Marianne seemed like she could use some friends, and Ashe had always liked to help those in need. He owed his very life to kindness, after all, and friendship was a kindness that was beneficial to both parties. Without a support system in place, he may have crumbled earlier in the year when they'd had to face Lonato in battle. Sylvain had acted fine in the face of Miklan's terrible fate, but Ashe knew for a fact that he relied on his friends to help him too, after he'd seen Ingrid looking after him. The Blue Lions were tightly knit in this way, and he just wanted Marianne to open up and feel accepted.
Despite his selfish motives, he truly hoped that the Blue Lions could help her to be happier. "I'll get to know her better," he whispered into the dark room as he got under the covers. Nodding off, he continued to think about finding her and apologizing first thing in the morning.
In his dreams, she beamed at him, and it was as bright and beautiful as a ray of sunshine.
Chapter 2: If only we could understand each other
Marianne was the only recruit I had in my Blue Lions run because I'm trying to limit recruitment for maximum angst. So she is the only one in this fic as well (besides Flayn).
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Marianne watched as Ashe hurriedly sorted through several papers he had just found in his investigation of the Western Church. Though the protection of Lady Rhea was successful, it was obvious there was more at stake for her classmate. She could tell by the grim glances the other students, and especially the knight Catherine, that this was the case.
Even as a Golden Deer student, she had heard of the traumatic way that the Blue Lions had had to put down Lord Lonato's rebellion against the church. Despite this horrible experience, Ashe clearly retained a cheerful demeanor and hope for the future that she could not hold onto herself.
Mindlessly, she started walking towards where the others were gathering, stopping in her tracks as some papers fell at her feet. Quickly, she gathered them and looked up to see Ashe had dropped his stack of documents. "Are these yours?" she asked, grabbing a few more and holding them out for him.
He smiled at her in relief. "Yes, thank you, Marianne. I promise I won't mistake you for a ghost this time." Ah. Yes. He had apologized endlessly for that mishap 3 weeks ago over breakfast. Sylvain had guffawed at the sight, and even Mercedes laughed about it.
"There's no need to feel bad about it still," she said, grabbing another two or three papers off the ground as he collected the rest. She was vaguely curious about what these documents were, but did not want to pry. He caught her staring at one anyway.
"I'm sure you heard about my adoptive father, Lord Lonato," Ashe said in a quiet voice. "I took these from the Western Church hoping to get a better idea of what happened. Why Lonato...did what he did?"
"Sometimes we don't like the answers we find," Marianne replied with a frown before she could help herself. She stood abruptly and turned, wishing to leave him alone with his grief.
"That may be true," Ashe conceded, stopping her in her tracks. "But I still cannot wrap my head around what happened. I lay awake at night sometimes asking myself why. I'm hoping this may give me some peace, even if it is disappointing."
She looked back at him, and gave a nod. "Then good luck," she said, meaning it more than her simple words could express. Truly, not everyone could tackle their pain so head on. She certainly could not.
The class seemed to have broken into smaller groups, each discussing the situation grimly. The professor gave her a small smile and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Thanks for helping him," the professor said kindly. Marianne merely nodded, feeling like she had not really helped at all.
A little over a week later, and Marianne found herself standing in a group of her other female classmates at the Monastery's ball. Annette's kindly gaze turned to her, and she gave one of her usual easy smiles. "I can't believe you didn't want any makeup, Marianne! You're so pretty it'd make everyone here fall over themselves over you," she chirped.
"That...doesn't sound like much fun," Marianne said, looking down. Ingrid placed a hand on her shoulder in perceived solidarity.
"Not everyone likes makeup, Annette. You and Mercedes definitely forced it on me!"
Mercedes chuckled. "Oh but you were quite taken with yourself after we were done!" Ingrid turned her head away to conceal a blush. It seemed she wanted to be above all the frivolity.
"You do look great, Ingrid, I'm surprised nobody's asked you to dance yet!" Annette chimed in, surveying the dancefloor like a general may survey a battlefield. "Though, by my estimate, Sylvain will probably make a pass in about twenty minutes."
"Ten," Mercedes disagreed.
Marianne saw the vibrant red hair making it's way across the room and secretly disagreed on that count too, as he was quickly closing in. However, before she could say anything, Annette had already moved on to another topic.
"Have you heard about the Goddess Tower? There's a rumor that if a boy and girl visit it together and pray that their wish will come true!"
"Hmm. I doubt it'd work for me," Ingrid mused bitterly. "I expect my father will have found me a husband before I could get out of it."
"What if it was someone you liked?" Annette pressed the other girl. "Not even any of your childhood friends?"
"Why Annie!" Mercedes exclaimed. "What a forward question!" Marianne could only watch as Ingrid's affirmative response was cut off by the older girl's mischievous change in tone. "But really, nobody?"
"Of course not! Those three are all idiots! You know I don't have much say in the matter, anyway," Ingrid huffed. "What about you, huh?"
Mercedes eyes took on a twinkle. "Oh, I don't know. Dedue is pretty cute, don't you think? And Annie has a big crush but she won't tell me for who."
Annette spluttered indignantly as the teasing turned to her. "I don't! Even if I did, it's not like I'll get asked to dance or anything!"
"Now, why couldn't you ask him? Will he say no?"
"Why, hello ladies," Sylvain's voice cut in. It had only taken five minutes, after all. "You're all looking lovely tonight! Ingrid, are you wearing makeup?"
The blonde girl rolled her eyes. "Yes, Mercedes and Annette insisted I wear some."
"You look nice. Care to dance?" He offered her his hand, which she took begrudgingly after a moment of deliberation. She shot a look back to the other girls, who giggled endlessly.
"Is there someone you're hoping to dance with, Marianne?" Mercedes asked, surprising the girl.
"N-no, I'd prefer not to dance," she responded hastily, averting her eyes from the other girls' expectant ones.
"Not at all? But it's so much fun!" Annette said.
"I just don't like it too much," she said, not confessing the myriad of reasons she'd prefer not to let somebody too close. "Um, if you'll excuse me, I'm a little thirsty."
Quickly, she walked away, not seeing the quirked eyebrows Annette and Mercedes exchanged in worry. She exited the hot ballroom, stepping into the cool night air.
Having made her escape, she decided to go pray before retreating to her room.
Curiosity got the best of her as she stood there, the Goddess Tower so close by. In an unusual moment of whimsy, she decided to visit, even if to dispel a myth. It wasn't a far walk, and when she happened upon some pigeons, she was struck with a silly idea. "Maybe a boy pigeon?" she whispered, coaxing one into her hand and softly stroking his feathers in the gentle way she had with animals. She shared a secret smile with the moon, and shuffled the few feet into the open tower room, quietly talking to her pigeon.
It probably wouldn't work, she mused. However, on the off chance that it would, her wish might come true and that small kernel of hope had buried itself in her heart in a most unusual way. Perhaps the Goddess could grant her the respite she so truly desired? Upon entering the room, she let her pigeon friend fly up to the rafters, heading taking a glance inside the hallowed space and feeling a sense of calm. She bent her head to confess, but heard the echoing footsteps of another person traipsing in and turned to see Ashe in the doorway, looking a little struck.
"Oh, hello, Marianne!" he said with a smile, clearly not expecting to see her there. "Am I disturbing you?"
"No, I was only testing the rumor with my friend," she explained with a little embarrassment. The boy seemed confused, not seeing anyone else here with her. She rushed to explain, feeling even more embarassed. "He's a pigeon."
"Oh! You mean the rumor if a boy and girl pray together that their wish will come true?" he asked, looking towards the rafters at the pigeon. "I'm not sure that he can express a wish."
Marianne frowned. "You're probably right, I just wanted to try."
"Well, here, how about I help you?" Ashe offered with a smile. She blinked at him as she considered it. On one hand, her wish had a higher chance of coming true, but on the other, there seemed to be something inherently romantic to the rumor and...well, that was a little much for her to consider. She would only be a burden on somebody's heart.
"Don't you have your own wish, though?" she asked, not wanting to focus on hers.
He shrugged. "I only came here to escape the dance. I was stepping on girls' toes and I felt out of place."
She could relate. Maybe it was this common understanding that found her agreeing to his offer. He came to stand next to her, prompting her with his eyes to continue.
"Dear Goddess," she started, now incredibly unsure. "Please grant our turbulent hearts peace," she continued, before Ashe chimed in.
"And allow us to know true happiness again," he finished, filling in her thoughtful pause. She was surprised at this addition, but he smiled. "Thanks, Marianne. I hope our wish comes true."
"I hope so too," she said, hopeful and anxious all at once. What could be the result of this prayer? Her emotions seemed to wage war in her heart, and he paused, looking a little embarassed.
"Would you like to dance?" he asked cautiously, looking down at the ground.
"Dance?" She felt very inarticulate all of a sudden.
"I didn't see you dance at all today, and I just thought you might like to at least once? Though I'm not a very good dance partner, I confess," he explained, somewhat less confidently than he normally would.
"Oh, I don't know," she started, looking down at her feet herself. "The ballroom is so crowded..."
He gave a short laugh. "This is true! We could always dance here?"
She felt the blood creep to her face at the thought. He rushed to placate her. "Of course, you don't have to!"
"No no, we can have a dance," she said, not exactly sure why she was agreeing. He seemed nervous too as he brought her close enough to dance, placing his hands on her waist. He was focusing very hard on not stepping on her feet, and he even started to hum a little song.
She swayed along with him, looking around the tower and at him fleetingly. The closeness to another person was unusual for her, but when it was over and he pulled away, she found herself noticing the winter's chill more than usual. He gave her a small smile and a tiny bow. "Thank you."
She could not help the small smile that escaped her as she nodded in response. She could have sworn she saw his face heat up at that, but it was hard to tell in the dark, and he left quickly after that, leaving her alone. "Bye, Marianne! Th-thank you again!"
She looked up to the rafter, seeing a pigeon stare at her. She would like to imagine he was amused by watching that whole scenario.
I kind of cobbled together their two Goddess tower events? I didn't want it to be exactly the same, but I hope it was enjoyable regardless.
Chapter 3: All of the hate in my mind
A great big thank you to everyone enjoying! I am a little rusty on writing, but I love Three Houses so much I cannot resist myself.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ashe zoned out of Ingrid's book discussion as soon as Marianne entered the dining hall. Inwardly, he cursed at himself. He had the opportunity to speak with her again after their dance together, seeing her pray again, and what had he done? He blew it, again! He had possibly offended her even worse than before, but instead of implying she was ghost, he had asked her about her Crest. This...was a mistake, to say the least.
His eyes followed her form, as she sat down at the end of the long table alone. Ashe briefly considered getting up to sit with her, but quickly stamped down the urge. Her eye met his, and she quickly turned away. His heart ached at the thought of her purposefully secluding herself from the team again. Ingrid waved a hand in his face.
"Um, Ashe? You ok?"
"Huh? Oh. Sorry, I just zoned out." He flushed a bit, having been caught distracted. Normally their discussions on books were extremely interesting to him. Sylvain chortled from Ingrid's side, leaning in towards Ashe.
"Someone catch your eye, Ashe?" Sylvain asked with a grin. The heir of Gautier seemed incredibly pleased with his observation. Ingrid frowned at her childhood friend.
"Sylvain, not everything is about girls," she chided, stabbing a piece of meat with her fork a little more aggressively than usual. Sylvain shrugged, still smirking like he was onto a joke she was not.
"This one is, Ingrid. This one is."
"Really, I'm sorry," Ashe said. "I just remembered I forgot to do an assignment for the professor is all."
"Do you need some help with it?" Ingrid offered.
"No, but he might need Marianne's," Sylvain chimed in, still determined to have his fun. Ashe flushed again. Sylvain was pretty laid back, and even a helpful sort, but when faced with the possibility of someone needing help with girls, he became quite smug.
"Will you stop it?" Ingrid hissed in Sylvain's face. "Ashe doesn't need this heckling."
"There's nothing shameful about it, Ashe," Sylvain carried on, though Ingrid fumed. "Marianne is a very pretty girl, and she could use someone to make her smile. It is a very nice smile, mind you."
Ashe instinctively glanced at her, giving himself away, but ignored the sound of the older boy's gloating in the background. Dimitri suddenly was sitting with Marianne, and they seemed deep in discussion. She even gave a tiny laugh! What was happening?
Ashe looked down at his plate. Ingrid and Sylvain's eyes met, and the two decided to stay silent. He really did not want to be jealous, Dimitri and Marianne were both troubled individuals, if anything he was happy they seemed to get along. Both of them seemed to carry a degree of self loathing that he could not exactly wrap his head around. Not that he didn't understand to an extent, he had confessed to her as much with his background in thievery. And that small smile she had given him indeed was as lovely as Sylvain had said.
He had just built up a hope of being there for Marianne, and he really was messing that all up. Their secret dance in the Goddess Tower last month had felt like a step forward in his mind. However, he still had much to understand about her. She seemed to hate her Crest, herself even, and didnt want to get too close to the others. He had a feeling she was a very lonely person, despite isolating herself.
He stood from the table with his half eaten plate, needing to leave and clear his head. Sylvain and Ingrid gave him half hearted waves, and he decided to go to the training grounds, itching for activity. At least Felix would not try to talk to him much.
His halfhearted meandering caused him to bump into someone, and he looked up to see that it was Dimitri, also leaving in the same direction. "Oh, uh, sorry!" he said, quite flustered. Dimitri appeared unruffled.
"It is nothing. Are you alright, Ashe? You seem lost in thought," Dimitri asked, voice full of concern.
"Oh, no. Just lost in my thoughts, I suppose," he answered, now walking the path with the prince. The blonde man sighed deeply.
"Is it the professor? I'm very worried about her, too. She, well, she used to seem unfazed by everything. I was mistaken, after her father's death she has taken on an aura of melancholy," he said, eyes dark and sad. "It is quite upsetting to see her like this. I intend to do everything I can to see Sir Jeralt avenged by her."
Ashe sighed deeply. Dimitri had been rather...intense, as of late, and he especially was at this moment. "I feel for her. I know..." he faltered, not desiring to bring up Lonato, or even the late King Lambert. "I know how difficult this must be, and I want to help her."
Had the Blue Lions not suffered enough this year? Apparently not, and Ashe tried to stay optimistic in the face of wondering what more could possibly go wrong. His intense worry compelled words to his throat before he could even stop himself. "Is..is Marianne alright?"
Dimitri gave a nod. "Marianne. She has a very interesting view of her place in the world. Not terribly unlike my own. She grieves deeply, and the dead weigh heavily upon her."
"I have tried to speak with her, but I think I mess it up a lot," Ashe confessed. He was not exactly sure why he was saying all this to him, but it was too late to stop.
"You are a kind soul, Ashe. I don't think there is anyone you could not be friends with," Dimitri said earnestly. Ashe shook his head as Catherine and her role in the death of Christophe came to mind.
"I try my best, but I am not perfect. I fear I have greatly offended Marianne."
"She is...skittish. But I wouldn't be too concerned. Sometimes people need time to bring themselves to accept help." Dimitri's voice felt far away, like he wasn't talking about only Marianne anymore. Ashe frowned, hoping he had enough time to set things straight before graduation.
"Spar with me?" Dimitri asked, now that they faced the entrance to the training ground. Ashe nodded, knowing he would likely lose.
It turned out, there was not much time to set things right. Things had gone as badly as Ashe had feared, and over the last couple of months the status quo of the monastery had irrevocably changed. First, the professor had been sucked into a void of darkness, and emerged with a glowing sword and hair of a glowing green color. According to her she had been blessed by the Goddess. This led to Lady Rhea insisting upon a ceremony to connect the professor to the Goddess even further, and it was ruined by the appearance of the Flame Emperor. The Flame Emperor, who was in fact, Edelgard von Hresvelg, Imperial Princess of the Adrestian Empire.
Well, not anymore. Now, she was the Emperor. But the confrontation between her and Dimitri had been frightening to say the least. Ashe had even had a couple of nightmares, seeing how furious Dimitri had become that he mowed through Imperial soldiers with his bare hands.
And now the Empire had declared war on the church, and was invading the Kingdom and the Alliance. The haze of the final days of Gareg Mach was a blur of intense emotion and strife. Overwhelming battle. The dragon that appeared to protect the monastery. The disappearance of the professor.
The Blue Lions had finally given up searching for her after 3 days. Dimitri had wanted to continue, he swore to tear down every stone to find her, and he believed him when he said it. However, Dedue and Gilbert forced him to stop. To return home to Fhirdiad, which would soon be in very great danger and needed them home. They were all gathered, a couple miles from the monastery where they thought it may be safe to all start their journeys to their respective homes.
Ashe glanced around at the faces of his classmates. Everyone seemed exhausted and dejected, nobody more so than Dimitri, who seemed just plain haunted. The prince had been seemingly unhinged for the past month, especially so in the past few days. He had seen the looks of desperate worry on even the professor's face.
Ashe found Marianne amongst the sullen gathering, where the students discussed their next movements in low whispers. "Where will you go?" he asked quietly. Her face was grim, skin paler than normal, the bags under her eyes darker if possible.
"Home to Edmund," she said, looking at her skirts. "I have nowhere else to go but there."
"Ah. Mercedes, she um, she reminded me that she and everyone else still want to reunite in five years. Hopefully the professor will be back by then," he said, fumbling with his words. Five years was a long time, and he wasn't so naive to think this mess will have blown over by then. Or that the professor might not be dead.
"I hope so too," Marianne practically whispered, sounding extremely upset.
"Anyway, I hope that you will come too. You are a valued member of the Blue Lions as much as the rest of us," he said, forcing himself to maintain eye contact as he spoke, noticing the tiny widening of her eyes. "I know that it is a long time, but Goddess willing, I will definitely be there, and I will look for you to be there too."
She wiped at her most eyes. "I..I will do my best to be there. I promise."
He felt a small spark of hope in that moment. Hope that they all might find each other again one day, and that the war would be over. Knowing that she wanted to reunite with the rest of them, it assured him that she did care for them in her own way. Small gestures were possibly the only way she knew how to express this affection.
"Where will you go?" she asked, looking at the road, a sense of reluctance across her features.
"I'm not sure. Castle Gaspard was subservient to House Rowe, so maybe I will work for them? I have always wanted to be a knight. I suspect I'll be needed on the war front."
They stood there in silence, before the final calls for goodbye were given. And then everyone went their own way, heading out with uncertainty in every footstep, and a sense of fear hanging over their heads.
He gave one last look at her as she set off. She noticed him from atop her horse, and gave a small smile before leaving in the direction of the Alliance. He would savor that smile the way home.
Ashe was observing Dimitri and Marianne's B support occurring. They have a really great support chain, and I considered pairing them, but then I swooned over Dimitri and so Ashe and Marianne became a pleasant surprise!