The season started innocuously enough. Ignatz very politely asked Marianne if she would do him the honor of attending prom with him. Linhardt had heard that he gave a rather moving speech. Dorothea had been tearing up just recounting it.
“Who knew the little bowlcut had it in him?” she’d said, with a waver in her voice. She’d graciously accepted Ferdinand’s tissue afterwards. It must have been really something to give Dorothea that sort of reaction. Or perhaps she was simply being dramatic.
Either way, Marianne had agreed.
That was it for a week. But Linhardt knew it was simply the calm before the storm. Senior prom at Garreg Mach High School was an event (with a capital E, as Dorothea might say). Linhardt had seen older generations ramp up for the big day with increasingly elaborate stunts. They often got to the point where they blocked hallways or interrupted classes. It was a last hurrah before they entered the mystical realm of adulthood. Or so they said.
Linhardt, personally, didn’t get it. So much effort for such a little thing.
“Linhardt!” Caspar yelled as he burst into the library. He was immediately shushed by everyone, and he responded with a sheepish laugh that got another round of shushing. Linhardt didn’t look up from his book. This was a regular occurrence. Caspar just never learned.
Freed from his reprimanding, Caspar took the seat beside Linhardt, leaning his cheek on one hand. “Linhardt. Guess who just got asked out.”
“Hilda,” Linhardt answered. It was a safe enough bet. The girl got asked out every day. He turned a page in his book.
“Nope!” Caspar said gleefully. “Guess again!”
“You?” Linhardt guessed this time. He ignored the twist in his stomach at the thought. He turned another page in the book. He hadn’t read a single word since Caspar sat down next to him, but Caspar didn’t need to know that.
“Don’t be stupid,” Caspar laughed, too loudly. Linhardt shushed him, ignoring the immediate relief he felt, and Caspar obligingly lowered his voice as he continued. “It was Annette! Mercedes baked her a huge cake, like bigger than an oven! I dunno how she made it. Ingrid had to help her carry it. And it had the question written on it in frosting!”
“Ah,” Linhardt said. “Lovely. Why are you telling me this?”
“Come on, Linhardt, take a guess,” Caspar snorted, reaching into his backpack. “It’s because Annette let me have a slice. I thought you’d want some.”
A tupperware container that had probably once held Caspar’s usual turkey sandwich was thrust under Linhardt’s nose. He blinked at it. Sure enough, there now seemed to be a slice of cake inside. And if it was really from Mercedes, it was probably quite good. Straightening his shoulders and closing his book, he accepted it from Caspar and pried the lid off. “That was rather thoughtful of you.”
“Yeah, well, you’ve been here all lunch, so I figure you forgot to eat,” Caspar said. He held out a plastic fork for Linhardt to take. “Plus you were up all night. I woke up and saw your light still on at four in the morning. Get some sugar in your blood.”
“That’s not really how that works,” Linhardt mumbled around a bite of the cake. It was even better than he’d expected. He hummed his approval under his breath.
It took another couple of bites for him to realize that Caspar had gone quiet. Linhardt glanced over to find him staring at Linhardt intensely. He had his thinking face on. As Linhardt continued to look back at him patiently, he slowly came out of it, blinking a few times. The expression was replaced with a sheepish smile. “Sorry! I was just thinking that I like this season!"
“You do? Why?” asked Linhardt.
“Well, everybody gets to show each other how much they care, you know?” Caspar said. “Like bam, whoa, love!”
He shouted this last part and threw his hands out dramatically to the sides. Nobody shushed him this time, apparently seeing the futility in it. The shout lingered in the air for a few moments, then Caspar started, his eyes widening like he'd made a mistake.
“I mean, it’s not for everyone!” Caspar tacked on hastily, looking panicked. He waved his hands in front of his face. “The simple stuff is just as good too! Don’t worry!”
Linhardt squinted. “I wasn’t worrying?”
Caspar sighed in relief. Linhardt wondered if he was missing something.
“Anyway, you can give me the tupperware back at the end of the day,” Caspar said, slinging his backpack over his shoulder. He leaned in, pulling Linhardt to his chest for a quick, one-armed hug. “See ya later, Lin!”
Linhardt watched him go, a hand coming up to press against his rapidly beating heart.
Linhardt had realized that he loved Caspar at age seven when he’d had a sudden bout of sleepiness while they were playing pirates in the yard together and passed out. He’d woken up in his bed, tucked in, surrounded by stuffed animals that weren’t his own. Caspar must have gone next door to grab them out of his own room. At the foot of the bed lay Caspar himself, curled up around Linhardt’s feet like a puppy. Linhardt had never been so content before. He’d crawled down and kissed Caspar on the cheek in that easy way that only children can manage.
Linhardt had realized he was attracted to Caspar at age fifteen. They’d both just hit puberty. It had brought an awkward, painful growth spurt for Linhardt and a cracking, uneven voice for Caspar. Neither of them were particularly attractive, objectively speaking. But Caspar had been irrationally proud of the new hair growing everywhere, and he’d stripped his shirt off in Linhardt’s room one day to point them out. Linhardt’s brain hadn’t been able to do anything but think collarbones . Caspar had thought that his blushing cheeks were from jealousy, reassuring him that he’d grow chest hair soon enough. Linhardt hadn’t corrected him.
Linhardt had realized that he was in love with Caspar at age seventeen when Caspar had seen his light still on at one in the morning and snuck over to take him stargazing. They lay in the grass of Linhardt’s backyard, and Caspar had made up pretend constellations for Linhardt to pretend to be impressed with. They’d agreed to go get frozen yogurt the next day. Caspar had been irrationally preoccupied with frozen yogurt for as long as Linhardt had known him, a fascination Linhardt had never shared and hardly ever indulged. But this time, perhaps because it was late or because he was happy, Linhardt had agreed, and Caspar had gleefully shouted “I love you!” in celebration. And then he’d immediately fallen asleep, mouth open, snoring loudly, and Linhardt hadn’t been able to stop looking at him, not until he’d fallen asleep as well. They’d gotten in so much trouble the next morning when their parents found them still out there.
It had been almost six months since then, and Linhardt had chosen to keep his mouth shut about it.
It wasn’t worth bringing up. It wasn’t as if Caspar would abandon him if he didn’t feel the same way, but it’d make things tiresome and stiff for a while. It wasn’t worth it.
“You’re just too good to be true…”
Linhardt refocused. He was lounging in his favorite place on school grounds, underneath the tree by the soccer field. It was shady there, and the breeze hit it just right. The perfect place to sleep. Whenever there wasn’t mysterious singing, that was. Rubbing his eyes, he scanned around, trying to find the voice.
“I can’t take my eyes off of you…”
There was tinny music playing too, he realized, from a boombox. Ashe was standing near it, looking sheet white. He wasn’t the one singing, so far as Linhardt could tell.
“You’d be like heaven to touch..”
The soccer players had come to a stop. Most of them were also scanning the area, trying to find the singer. Everyone except for Dimitri, who had put his head in his hands like he already knew.
“I wanna hold you so much…”
“What are you doing, Ashe?” Felix yelled, rolling a ball back and forth underneath his foot. Dimitri made a whimpering noise, loud enough to be audible to Linhardt. It sounded like laughter. Felix shot him a look. “Shut up, boar, what’s your problem?”
“I’m really sorry about this!” Ashe yelled back. The singing was still continuing. “I told him it was a bad idea!”
There was a loud bang from the entrance to the school building as a door flew open, right on cue with the music picking up. It was far away, but the shock of red hair was enough to identify the singer.
“I love you, baby! And if it’s quite alright, I need you, baby!”
Dimitri was in hysterics now, despite a clear attempt to pull himself together. Felix, meanwhile, had frozen entirely, foot still balanced on the soccer ball. A horrible blush was starting to build its way up his neck as he watched Sylvain do his frankly appalling dance across the bleachers, still crooning into the microphone.
“At least his voice isn’t half-bad,” Linhardt mused to himself.
It took another few lines, but eventually Felix snapped out of it. “Sylvain, I’m gonna kill you!”
He took off at a sprint towards the bleachers. Sylvain let out a nervous yelp before returning to the song, running around the bleachers to keep away from Felix. Ashe was long gone, the boombox abandoned. Dimitri was leaning on Dedue, having burst into fresh peals of laughter again. Dedue, for his part, was blinking down at the boy on his shoulder in something uncomfortably like amazement.
“ Oh pretty baby! Don’t bring me down, I pra -aaah! Felix, I’m trying to-” Sylvain ran diagonally up the bleachers, Felix in hot pursuit. “Uh... now that I’ve found you stay! Felix, it’s from a movie!” he dodged Felix’s attempt to grab his waist. “ Let me love yooo --whoa!”
Sylvain tripped over a bleacher, whacking his head and dropping his microphone. He sat up and turned around, hand pressing to his forehead, just as Felix got to him. Linhardt was too far away to hear them, but a few words were exchanged and then Felix whacked Sylvain upside the head, seized his collar, and kissed him roughly.
“Aw, I missed it.”
Linhardt looked away from the scene to find Caspar sliding down the tree to sit beside him. He was grinning. “They’re really kinda fun, huh?”
“A bit too violent for my taste,” Linhardt gestured back to the spectacle.
“He said yes!” Sylvain said loudly, having retrieved the microphone from somewhere. Felix smacked him again, grabbing him by the wrist, the mic catching something about going to the nurse.
“Ashe told me about this beforehand,” Caspar said, a small pout in his voice. “I thought I’d come watch, but I guess I was too late!”
Linhardt hummed, resettling against the tree and using Caspar’s shoulder as a pillow. Might as well, as long as he was there. They sat quietly for a while, surrounded by the sounds of the soccer players and birds in the trees. It was a little too hot. Caspar had always run warm. But Linhardt couldn’t be bothered to move.
“You planning on going?” Caspar asked suddenly.
“Where?” Linhardt asked. It came out as more of a grunt.
“Prom,” Caspar clarified. Linhardt sat up for that, squinting at Caspar in question. “I mean, I’m totally down for just hanging out in your room if it’s too much for you. I know you don’t like crowds.”
Linhardt thought about it for a bit, ignoring the warmth in his chest as the implied ‘we.’ Finally though, he heaved a sigh. “Should probably put in an appearance. It’s an ‘Event’ after all.”
“Okay! I’ll buy tickets!” Caspar said, moving to stand up. Linhardt stopped him.
“I can buy my own ticket,” he protested. Caspar shook his head.
“I’m the one who asked! You can pay for me some other time.”
He went to stand up again, but Linhardt stopped him once more. “Well, do it when I’m not napping.”
“Right…sorry!” Caspar settled back against the tree with a smile. “You shouldn’t nap so much though!”
At least Linhardt didn’t have to worry about Caspar accepting any other prom offers. At least they’d go together, even if they weren’t going together . Small mercies, Linhardt supposed. He didn’t want to think about having to be happy for Caspar, having to congratulate him for getting a date.
He drifted off to the sound of Caspar humming that inane song under his breath, out of tune.
“Hubert!” Ferdinand called out.
Linhardt cracked open an eye from where he was laying on a bench by the front entrance to the school. It was two days since the whole song and dance on the bleachers, and Linhardt hadn’t slept since that nap with Caspar, too preoccupied with the book he was reading. He’d been trying to sneak some shut-eye before classes, but Ferdinand had been pacing back and forth for ten minutes, holding two paper cups and muttering under his breath. It had been very distracting. Now Linhardt knew why he’d been acting strange. Ferdinand hurried over to the other boy coming through the door, grinning ear to ear. “Good morning!”
“Good morning…” Hubert answered, suspiciously. He cast an eye down at the two cups consideringly. “I smell coffee.”
“Yes!” Ferdinand held out the cup in his right hand, too precisely. Linhardt could see black letters in sharpie creeping around the side of it. He was holding it out for Hubert to look at. “I decided to pick some up for you when I got my tea. So. Here you are!”
Unfortunately, Hubert was already looking back at Ferdinand. He reached out for the coffee, his hand obscuring whatever was written on the cup without seeing it. “Well. Thank you.”
“Uh-huh!” Ferdinand squeaked, glancing between the cup and Hubert’s face. Hubert squinted at him. There was a long, incredibly uncomfortable pause. Linhardt was, frankly, mortified for both of them. “Um, well. Don’t let me keep you!”
“I’ll see you in homeroom then,” Hubert nodded, passing Ferdinand on his way into the school. As soon as he rounded the corner, Ferdinand fell to the ground on his knees, clutching his cup of tea too tight.
“I think he thought you poisoned it,” Linhardt said.
“He’s got to see it eventually, right?” Ferdinand asked. He didn’t sound terribly sure. “I mean, he’ll put it down and he’ll see it? Right?
Linhardt just closed his eyes again until Caspar arrived, right before the bell as usual, and threw him over his shoulder. They both always made it to class on time.
Once he was settled in at his desk, Linhardt tossed a glance towards Hubert. The coffee cup was gone. Ferdinand, next to Linhardt, had his face smushed against his desk. Hubert, for his part, seemed somewhat bemused by Ferdinand’s less-than-chipper attitude. Bemusement was not an emotion Linhardt had ever expected to see from Hubert. He leaned over to whisper in Ferdinand’s ear, “I think he thinks that you’re disappointed the poison didn’t kill him.”
Ferdinand let out a whimper, smacking his forehead against his desk once. Hubert narrowed his eyes at Linhardt. Linhardt suppressed the instinct to stick out his tongue.
The next day, Ferdinand was waiting by the front door again, holding out the coffee determinedly in front of Hubert’s face. Unfortunately, Hubert was rubbing his eyes as he took the cup. The next day, Ferdinand dropped it everywhere before Hubert even arrived and took off with only the cup, leaving the coffee to stink up the whole front hall. It was only Linhardt considerately calling out that kept Hubert from stepping right in the puddle.
“He’s been acting strangely,” Hubert mused. Linhardt rolled his eyes.
“I thought you were supposed to be observant.”
Hubert gave him the stink eye again.
The next day, Ferdinand was still there.
“Fourth time’s the charm,” he mumbled under his breath, pacing back and forth. “Fourth time’s the charm.”
“He’s done this four times?” asked Caspar incredulously. He’d actually gotten to school early today, dragging Linhardt out of his room at seven in the morning with a coffee and a pastry, apparently on a whim. Now Linhardt was dozing against his back, the caffeine not quite kicking in.
“Please no comments from the peanut gallery!” Ferdinand requested, his voice a touch too high. His hair was all out of sorts too, and there were shadows under his eyes like he’d gotten about as much sleep as Linhardt himself. If it hadn’t been so funny, Linhardt might have felt sorry for him. Unfortunately, it was hilarious.
“Careful, don’t drop it again,” he murmured. He doubted Ferdinand could hear him, since his face was turned into Caspar’s neck. Caspar, however, shivered. Strange. It wasn't that cold in the building.
“No comments!” Ferdinand hissed, spinning around to give them a wild-eyed look that was scarier than anything Hubert could have ever managed. Apparently he had heard it. Caspar put an arm out in front of Linhardt protectively.
With his back turned, Ferdinand didn’t notice Hubert coming up behind him until the other boy was saying, “Good morning.”
Ferdinand shrieked in surprise, jolting around and throwing out his arms as if to defend himself. The cups smashed into Hubert’s chest, lids popping off, tea and coffee spilling out, all over the front of Hubert’s black button down shirt.
There was a long, silent moment. Hubert blinked down at the mess on his shirt with that bemused expression. At least he didn’t seem to be in any pain. Ferdinand’s shoulders slumped.
“I’ll...I’ll buy you a new shirt,” he said.
“That...won’t be necessary,” said Hubert. That only succeeded in making Ferdinand look even dejected. Hubert peered at him. “I will say that I thought you had outgrown this kind of childish behavior. What is it you are trying to accomplish here?”
“Oof,” said Linhardt. Caspar flicked the top of his head.
“Oh, never mind!” Ferdinand burst out, throwing the cups to the ground where the remaining liquid splashed all across the floor. He took off down the hallway at a determined clip, hands clenched into fists at his sides. Hubert sighed, pulling at his shirt.
“Did he pick these up hours ago?” he muttered to himself. “It’s ice cold.”
“He probably did, he was waiting even before we got here today,” Linhardt drawled, barely suppressing his smile. “Haven’t you looked at any of the cups?”
Hubert frowned, leaning down to gingerly pick up the cups at his feet. He squinted at them uncertainly. Linhardt snapped his fingers. So that was the problem. “Ah! You finish them before you get out your reading glasses for homeroom, don’t you? Rather careless of Ferdinand to forget that.”
Hubert frowned even deeper, but he fished out his reading glasses from his front pocket and put them on. He gazed at the letters on the cup for a long time. Ferdinand really had written too small. Probably to make it fancy. After a moment, Hubert took off at a brisk clip in the same direction as Ferdinand. Linhardt clicked his tongue. They’d left a mess again. He sighed deeply, and Caspar shivered again. “They’re both idiots, aren’t they?”
Caspar laughed, the sound vibrating against Linhardt’s back. “I’m glad we’re not like that.”
He reached back and took Linhardt’s hand. He’d been doing that a lot over the past few months. Linhardt hadn’t been able to pinpoint the reason for it. Nerves about graduating? Something he'd picked up from a TV show? But Linhardt still took the chance to thread his fingers through Caspar’s, closing his eyes again.
“We must...match?” Petra asked, bemusedly. “But you have been saying wearing the same dress is…”
“Oh, I don’t mean exactly the same,” Dorothea explained, paging through the magazine in front of her. “I mean, like, we should coordinate colors! So we look good when we stand next to each other.”
“Dorothea is always looking good,” Petra said, still apparently confused. Dorothea squealed, throwing her arms around her girlfriend.
“Petra, you always look good too!” she cried, peppering kisses on the side of Petra’s head to make her laugh.
Linhardt watched the display with an unimpressed expression. It had been cute for the first few months of their relationship, but that had been back in sophomore year. It was as if they had never left the newly-dating phase. He stole one of Caspar’s chips, crunching on it loudly. Dorothea broke away from Petra for long enough to furrow her brow dramatically at him.
“What will you be wearing, Linhardt?” Petra asked him. He thought about it.
“I have a...black suit. And a...blue? Yes, blue tie.”
“Why are you so uncertain about that?” Dorothea laughed. “It makes it sound weirdly ominous. Is it blue? Or is it something...else!”
On the last word, she jabbed Petra in the side who retaliated by trying to tickle her.
“Light blue or dark blue?” Caspar asked. He was tapping at something on his phone, tongue sticking out the side of his mouth slightly like it did when he was focusing. Linhardt tried to remember. He knew he had a suit and tie, but it’d been a year or so since he’d worn it. Thankfully, it had still been post-growth spurt. It should still fit. Well enough at least.
“Dark blue? Well, sort of medium blue.”
“Colors...that go...with…” Caspar muttered to himself, still tapping on his phone.
“Go for a suit in that color, then a bright color for your vest and a black tie,” Dorothea advised. She pointed a finger at Linhardt. “Send Caspar a picture of your tie so he can see the color for himself. No being lazy about it!”
“Why do we need to match?” Linhardt whined petulantly. Taking a photo would mean fishing it out of the closet...
“Ah, well. I guess we don’t have to,” Caspar said slowly, lowering his phone. His eyes stayed cast to the side, but Linhardt could see the way his cheeks were puffing out slightly. Dorothea and Petra were both giving him a look. He blinked in confusion. He felt like he was missing something here. That feeling was becoming more common recently. “If you don’t want to then…”
“It’s fine,” Linhardt said. He could manage to put in a bit of effort if it was this big of a deal. “I just didn’t want to go searching around in my closet before I had to.”
“Oh!” Caspar brightened again instantly, his phone tapping resuming with renewed vigor. “In that case, I’ll come over and find it for you!”
“You two are in for the pre-party at my house, right?” Dorothea asked, paging through the magazine again. “Just our homeroom! Well, our homeroom and also Raphael since he’s going with Bernie.”
“Why is it a pre-party again?” Linhardt asked.
“Because all you old ladies would be asleep if it was an after-party!” Dorothea laughed. Petra nodded in agreement. “It’d just be me and Caspar starting to come down from a sugar rush. And Hubert, since he’s nocturnal. And that’s just not a party."
She wasn't wrong, Linhardt had to admit.
"But I wanted to do something with all of you, so pre-party it is!”
“You okay going, Lin?” Caspar asked.
Linhardt heaved a sigh. “I suppose.”
“Great!” Dorothea clapped her hands together in excitement. “So it’ll be nine of us including Raphael. Edie’s the only one going stag, her girlfriend won’t be back from college yet. So we’ve got to make sure to include her! No being too coupley.”
Something about that statement struck Linhardt as odd, but Dorothea was already back to the magazine in full force. “Ooh, what about this color, Petra? It’d look lovely with your hair!”
Linhardt looked over to Caspar, but he was humming that cheesy song under his breath again, swiping at something on his phone. Deciding to ignore it, he reached out to steal another chip instead.
Prom seemed to arrive fast after that, in a week full of proposals. Claude and Hilda asked each other at the same time in what seemed to be a pre-rehearsed routine. Ashe showed up in a knight’s costume from some Halloween store to ask Ingrid, and she’d said yes through her hysterical laughter. Lysithea screamed through the intercom that Cyril “made her very bappy,” which had caused the boy to go scarlet red and hide his face in his hands. Leonie innocently and grinningly agreed to go with Lorenz since “they were friends now!” Lorenz, meanwhile, had looked like he wanted the floor to open up and swallow him whole as he had muttered, “Right, we’re friends! Best friends…” under his breath. Dedue had asked Dimitri with something more like a marriage proposal, down on one knee and everything.
Everybody was pairing up until the very last day. And then it was the night of the prom itself.
Linhardt wiped his sweating palms on his pants. He wasn’t sure why he was so nervous. It was just a night with friends. Perhaps he was already anticipating the exhaustion that was sure to follow being around so many others for so long.
Caspar was driving them both over to Dorothea’s. He had insisted on coming over to Linhardt’s house next door to pick him up for whatever reason, instead of just letting Linhardt walk over. But now there were five minutes until he was supposed to be there, and Linhardt was doing nothing but click on and off his phone to check the time.
With four minutes left, Linhardt determinedly stood up. Caspar was probably going to be late anyway, there was no harm in walking over. He pulled open the door to the house, too hard.
Caspar was standing on the front stoop, phone in one hand, his eyes wide like he’d been caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to. He looked handsome. Linhardt had to catch his breath. His hair was gelled up, and the suit made him look elegant in a way that was entirely uncharacteristic of him. It was bringing out the color of his eyes. Linhardt was unable to look away from them.
“Y-you look really good,” Caspar forced out, sounding like he had something stuck in his throat. He stuffed his phone into his pocket. There was red on his cheeks. Linhardt felt himself flushing in response, and he brought a hand up to cover it as he cleared his throat.
“You too,” he said, and Caspar beamed, blush glowing on his face. “Did you just get here?”
“Ah, well, a couple of minutes ago. I didn’t want to rush you…” Caspar trailed off, barely stopping himself from rubbing a hand over the back of his head and messing up his own hair. His eyes lit up suddenly, and he stuck his hand into one of his pockets, coming up with two slightly crumpled matching boutonnieres of white and dark red flowers. “I got these for us!”
Linhardt took one of them when Caspar held it out to him then held his breath as Caspar, tongue sticking out the side of his mouth, affixed the other one to Linhardt’s suit. Apparently matching really had been important to him. Although Linhardt still couldn’t figure out why. He put on Caspar’s carefully. Caspar was still beaming. “I figured you’d forget about these, so I went ahead and got it for both of us! Wasn’t that forward-thinking of me?”
“Very,” Linhardt said, unable to keep himself from smiling at the way Caspar puffed up with pride.
Something was nagging at Linhardt though. Caspar opened the car door for him as he got in and out. When they arrived at Dorothea’s, Petra commented that their suits paired well together. When they were taking photos, Dorothea insisted that the couples stay separated, pushing Linhardt to the opposite side of the group as Caspar and whispering that it was so Edelgard didn’t feel left out. Caspar took his hand once they were at the dance and sat at a table in the corner with him, only leaving to fetch snacks and drinks. It wasn’t that Linhardt wasn’t having fun, as exhausting as this whole affair was. It was just that he couldn’t help feeling like he was missing something. Like he had been overlooking something for awhile. But his brain was refusing to put the pieces together.
Linhardt resurfaced from his thoughts. “What?”
“We don’t have to if you don’t want to!” Caspar was quick to assure him. “But this one’s a slow song! Not too much work. You can even stand on my toes if you want.”
“I’d break your feet,” Linhardt snorted. He looked out towards the dance floor. There were only couples out there. Dorothea and Petra were laughing, their foreheads touching. Felix was pushing at Sylvain’s face with one hand, but the other one was around his waist. Ashe and Ingrid were doing a legitimate waltz.
But Caspar looked so eager, he might as well have had a wagging tail. And it wasn’t like...it wasn’t like Linhardt didn’t want to dance with him. And so, he pushed back his chair, standing up and letting Caspar seize his hand and drag him along.
He figured they would just be doing something like Lysithea and Cyril, awkwardly rocking back with their hands on each other’s shoulders, but Caspar immediately reached up to hook his arms around Linhardt’s neck. With nowhere else to put them, Linhardt placed his own hands on Caspar’s waist. Their chests were brushing. Caspar’s nose touched his bare neck. Linhardt had loosened his tie half an hour ago, and he was regretting it now. This close, Caspar might ask why his heart rate had suddenly picked up.
Caspar stepped closer. Linhardt swallowed.
“I love you, you know?” said Caspar.
Linhardt frowned and nodded. Caspar had said that pretty often since they were children, easily and in response to the smallest of things, from helping him tie his shoelaces to agreeing to get frozen yogurt with him. No need for his heart to make a big deal of it. His heart wasn't listening. “Yeah, I know.”
Caspar’s arms tightened around his neck. His body shifted against Linhardt’s as he went up on his tip toes. And suddenly, his face was very close-
Linhardt reared back out of more instinct than anything. Caspar froze. There was a very awkward pause where they just stared at each other, until Caspar lowered himself down again. “Sorry, was that too fast?”
“I talked to Dorothea about it when we’d been dating three months, and she said everybody has their own pace,” Caspar continued. Linhardt felt like he was having an out of body experience. “And it’s totally okay if you never want to, too! I just...I got caught up in the moment.”
“We’re...dating?” Linhardt repeated. The missing pieces had arrived, but they still weren't fitting in the picture. There was another awkward pause.
“Uh. Yeah?” Caspar answered finally.
“Since when!?” Linhardt shrieked, immediately clapping a hand over his mouth. He had never been so loud in his life. Everybody glanced their way. He'd forgotten that they were in public. Without thinking, he grabbed Caspar’s wrist, dragging him along until they were out of the dance hall, standing in the cool night air. Again, quieter, he asked, “Since when?”
“When I asked you to go to frozen yogurt that night we went stargazing,” Caspar said. He had an awful expression on his face, like he was about to cry. “That was our first date.”
“How was I supposed to know frozen yogurt was a date?” Linhardt demanded. “You always want to go to frozen yogurt!”
“I...told you I loved you.”
“You say that all the time, too!”
"And then you passed out right afterwards."
"I was nervous! All the adrenaline was gone!"
Linhardt put a hand to his head. Everything was suddenly making sense. “So when you were asking me about prom…””
“I was asking you to prom. I didn’t think you’d want me to make it a whole thing. That's why I didn't make a big deal about anniversaries too.”
"And you kept holding my hand..."
"That's what people who date do! Why did you think I was doing it?"
“And Dorothea was keeping us apart in the pictures, because…”
“I told her when we started dating. When I thought we started dating. So she thought we were dating,” Caspar huffed. “Look, Linhardt, if you’re going to tell me that you don’t wanna be dating, could you just-"
Linhardt surged forward and kissed him.
It was a little uncomfortable. Caspar was flat-footed, and his head had been angled down, looking at his feet, so Linhardt was bent half over. One hand pressed down hard on Caspar’s shoulder to keep himself from falling over. The other had landed awkwardly over Caspar’s ear. But when Linhardt was about to retreat, his mind catching up to his instincts, Caspar followed. His hands went back around Linhardt’s neck, and Linhardt moved his own back around Caspar’s waist. He was very warm. Or maybe that was Linhardt.
Finally, reluctantly, they pulled back.
“Sorry,” said Linhardt, when he had caught his breath. “I just needed a minute to process how stupid I am.”
“Hey, it’s okay!” said Caspar, grinned. “I’m pretty stupid too!”
“I already knew that part.”
He had a feeling that Dorothea was going to be making fun of him for the rest of his life. And he kind of felt like he owed Ferdinand and Hubert an apology. But he couldn't bring himself to care in that moment, laughing at Caspar's indignation, swaying together despite the lack of music.
“Caspar,” Linhardt said, the last remnants of laughter lingering in his voice. He rested his cheek on top of Caspar’s head. “Would you like to go get frozen yogurt tomorrow?”
He could feel Caspar smiling against his neck. “It's a date!”
"Yes, yes, I understand this time."
"Just gotta make sure!"
six months ago
“And that’s the constellation...uh...Ashen Demon! You can see their cold, expressionless eyes, can’t you?”
"And that one's...The Fell Star! Don't look at it directly, Lin, it'll consume you!"
"Oh no, we wouldn't want that."
“Out of constellations?”
“Hey, Lin, do you...um...do you want to go get frozen yogurt? Tomorrow? T-together?”
“Hm. You know what? Sure.”
“Wow! That’s-! I’m so happy!”
“You really love that stuff.”
“No! I mean, yes, but-! Even more than that, I-! I love you, Lin!”
“Right, right. Tell me another constellation.”
“Okay! That one...um...that...one...”
“Did you fall asleep?”
“How on earth did you fall asleep that fast? Already snoring, too. Honestly, I can’t believe I’m in love with someone as graceless as you.”