Edelgard knew no one would believe her if she was to tell them that Hubert von Vestra did not like to be alone. Not in a romantic sense, but simply that he often required the presence of another human being. He also would never admit to this. She puzzled over this bizarre contradiction of a man as he sat at her writing desk metaphorically pulling his hair out over a letter. He'd done this before. Not the letter writing, but simply coming into her room with little to no explanation and silently working through whatever it was that was vexing him. She'd gotten used to it over the years.
"Care to tell me what has you so concerned?"
Hubert crumpled up the parchment and threw it over his shoulder to join its previously discarded brethren. He did not respond.
"Very well," she said, approaching the pile. "I'll just have to see for myself."
He froze. He whipped his head around to look at her, his face panicked. "Wait, Lady Edelgard, I-"
Too late. She already held an uncrumpled letter in her hand. "Dear...Ferdinand? Hubert are you..." she read more of the letter. "You are. Hubert, is this a love letter?"
"It is none of your concern."
"It most certainly is! You both are my most trusted advisors! How long has this been going on?" She gasped. "Is this why I found him drinking coffee?"
"Nothing is going on. Not..." he blushed and turned back to his page. 'Not yet. I am doubtful it ever will."
"I am pleased you both have been getting along more as of late. You used to hate each other. I honestly thought he'd turn up 'accidently' dead one day."
"He is a capable person who I initially misjudged."
She sat on the edge of her bed. "I think we all did. So. When did he catch your fancy?"
Hubert knew exactly when. It was when his fantasies about pinning him to a wall to slit his throat turned to kissing him instead and his imagining Ferdinand begging for his life became him begging for something entirely different. He remembered laying awake in bed, eyes wide, unable to sleep for hours. He shook his head. "It's hard to say. One day he just...looked different than he had before and I was pleased to see him. That feeling has not left me since."
"You should put that in your letter."
He shook his head. "No, I cannot."
"Why not? What are you trying to tell him?”
Hubert groaned. "I'm not even sure anymore. He frustrates me. I finally get the nerve to tell him how I feel about him and he calls it unsettling. He then immediately requested it in writing."
"Did you do that thing that you do?" She asked as she looked through his discarded drafts.
"I’m not sure what you mean."
"Your compliments are hardly...warm. They're sincere and I do love that you're giving them to more people than just me but honestly, Hubert,” she held one his letters up so he could see it. “You addressed this one "To Whom It May Concern""
He frowned. "...it concerns him."
She smiled gently as she watched him return to his work. She stood behind him and placed her hand gently on his shoulder. "He means a lot to you, doesn't he?"
"Then tell him as much. It shouldn’t be so hard. Pick something about him you like and go from there.”
“You’re right, as always, Lady Edelgard. Thank you.”
Once his letter was completed, Hubert left Edelgard’s room and headed toward Ferdinand’s. His heart pounded harder with each step closer. He wasn’t sure how Ferdinand would even react to his letter. Would he like it? Laugh at it? Give an awkward smile and thanks? Oh his smile. Not an awkward one, but Ferdinand’s pure, genuine smile. It used to annoy Hubert to the point of wanting to punch it off of his stupid face, never mind the fact that Ferdinand could take him easily in a physical fight. Now he couldn’t stop looking away from it.
He stared at Ferdinand’s door as he arrived. He raised his fist to knock but stopped just short of doing so. He swallowed hard. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t face Ferdinand with his heart on his sleeve, or rather in writing. He looked down at the letter in his hand and back to the door. He thought about incinerating the letter in his hand. No one would see it. No one would have to read it. Most importantly, he could easily lie to Edelgard about having delivered it and pass it off as Ferdinand being disinterested in anything but their newfound friendship. All problems solved. Who was he kidding? She’d see right through that. Still, he felt he couldn’t look Ferdinand in the eyes. There was only one solution. He took a deep breath, slid the letter under Ferdinand’s door and took off down the hallway towards his, eternally thankful he was only a few doors down.
The next morning, as every morning, Hubert accompanied Edelgard to the dining hall for breakfast. Normally he had some bread with his coffee, but today he didn’t feel he could stomach it. The bread. Not the coffee. He needed the coffee.
“Well someone looks pleased,” Edelgard mentioned as she nodded her toward Ferdinand, who had just entered the hall.
Hubert’s breath caught in his throat. There was Ferdinand, smiling broadly and walking with his head held high. He caught Hubert’s eye and his grin grew. He waved as he approached them. "Edelgard, Hubert, good morning," Ferdinand greeted, his voice as bright as his smile.
"To you as well, Prime Minister. You seem in good spirits today."
Hubert simply nodded in his direction. He couldn't bring himself to say a word, though Ferdinand’s chipper mood was typical, Hubert couldn't be sure of if it was due to his letter or not.
"I am.” He sat across from them. “You will not believe it. The most wonderful-" He stopped as his gaze went past Edelgard's shoulder. "Dorothea!" he waved her over. "Please, join us. You will want to hear this."
The songstress excused herself from the people she was with and sat next to Ferdinand. "Well good morning to you all as well. Edie," she smirked in Edelgard's direction and Hubert swore she blushed mildly. "What has you so excited, Ferdie?"
Ferdinand reached into his breast pocket and produced an envelope. "I have received a letter."
Hubert froze and tried not to choke on his coffee. Ferdinand was going to show everyone? Didn't he understand Hubert was a man who kept his personal affairs as personal as he could? He calmed as Edelgard discreetly placed her hand gently on his thigh, shooting him a quick look. It spoke volumes and he'd seen it before. A simple look that told him all would be fine. She quickly shifted her gaze to Ferdinand. "Good news I hope."
"Ah, yes, well, I think it is good.” His cheeks turned lightly red as he looked at the envelope. “I, Ferdinand von Aegir, have an admirer."
Hubert wanted to sink slowly into the ground and disappear forever. Instead he remained still, and silent, thankful of his ability to maintain a stoic calm under the utmost pressure.
"Oh, Ferdie, that's wonderful. Who is it?"
"I have no idea!" he responded, beaming.
"What!?" Edelgard and Hubert exclaimed in unison.
Ferdinand laughed. "I know! A secret admirer. Romantic, is it not?"
"Oh, how exciting!” Dorothea said, clapping in delight. “What does it say?"
"Allow me to read it! Dearest Fer-"
"That is not necessary," Hubert interrupted and quickly found all eyes upon him. "Surely you would save us from such sickening frivolities."
Ferdinand laughed. "Hubert, please. It's fairly short."
Dorothea waved him off. "Come on, Hubie, let him have this."
Hubert exhaled from his nose. “If you must.”
Seeing you is the brightest part of my day. I cannot tell if you notice me or how I cannot help but watch you the moment you enter into a room. I find myself in awe of your brilliant radiance as if I have seen the sun take human form. I never wish to look away.”
With every word Hubert slumped further into his chair. He should have incinerated it. How could he even think to write something so utterly embarrassing? He looked over to Edelgard next to him who was very clearly trying not to laugh.
“And that is it!” Ferdinand said as he folded the letter and tucked it safely back in its envelope. “No signature, no hints at all as to who it may be from.” He sighed and smiled as he rested his chin on his hands. “I really wish I knew who it was so I may properly thank them.”
Dorothea elbowed him in the side. “And just how would you do that, Ferdie? Just say thanks and a friendly handshake?”
He chuckled and tucked his hair behind his ear as he blushed. “In all honesty, I would probably kiss them.”
Hubert felt as if his face was on fire. Edelgard kicked him under the table and he scrambled to sit up straight. “Say something!” she whispered harshly to him.
Hubert nodded and cleared his throat. “Ferdinand, I… “
Ferdinand gasped and reached across the table to grasp Hubert’s hands, his long hair cascading in front of his shoulder. “Hubert, you are brilliant!”
He nodded, enthusiastically. “Of course! Who better to find someone than the Emperor’s own spymaster! You will help me, will you not? It certainly will not be a difficult task for a man of your talents.”
Hubert scoffed. “My targets typically wind up dead, I’ll have you know.”
Ferdinand laughed. “Oh, you terrible man, how I hate you.” Hubert smiled at that. The phrase had become common from Ferdinand recently, developed as a playful jab in response to anyone questioning their newfound friendship. It quickly became the primary way Ferdinand expressed his friendly affection. Hubert found it endearing and often shot back how much he hated him in return. “You will not kill this particular target.” He looked over at Edelgard. “I assume the Emperor does not mind me using the Minister of the Imperial Household in such a manner?”
“Far from it, Prime Minister. Use him as you see fit,” she responded with a mischievous smile on her face. Dorothea could not contain her laughter.
Hubert, very certain his face was as red as the Empire’s banner, simply nodded. “Very well. I shall report to you any findings.”
Ferdinand nodded and stood. “Thank you. I shall begin my search as well.”
Dorothea stood and linked her arm with Ferdinand’s. “I think I’ll come with you, Ferdie. Maybe I can help too.”
Hubert and Edelgard sat in silence after Dorothea and Ferdinand left. Edelgard sipped at her tea. “That letter was terrible.”
“I am aware,” he said with a nod.
"You also forgot to sign it."
"So it would seem."
"You agreed to help him find his 'secret admirer."
"I fear I did, yes."
She set her teacup down on its saucer with a gentle clink. "You could resolve this simply, you know."
"It is not simple."
"It very much is. Tell him before you get in too far."
"It would break his heart. Do you see how happy he is?” Hubert rested his chin on the back of his hand as he watched Ferdinand flit around showing off his letter to anyone who would listen. He couldn’t help but smile. “It’s cute.”
“Cute, hm? Never thought I would hear you say that word.”
“There isn’t a better one. Either way, I can’t ruin this.”
“What do you intend to do?”
He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “I suppose keep writing. He’ll figure it out eventually.”
“And if he doesn’t?”
“Then I’ll have said all I’ve needed to say and will have gotten away with it.”
“Ferdinand is right. You are terrible.”
Writing the second letter was far easier than the first. Hubert found he was able to focus more on what he wanted to say now that he knew Ferdinand was pleased by prospect of a secret admirer. It was even easier to slide the letter under the door and quickly return to his own room. He pressed his back against the inside of his door and smiled at the pure exhilaration of it all.
The next morning occurred just like the first, with Ferdinand seemingly walking on air as he joined Edelgard and Hubert at their table. He gushed about his newest letter, this one focused more on his smile, than his overall presence "They mentioned seeing me in here yesterday, so they are close. They have to be," he said with a fierce and confident look in his eyes as he scanned the room. It reminded Hubert of the times they stood beside each other on the battlefield. Ferdinand sitting proud atop his mount, surveying the scene before valiantly leading the charge, Hubert following behind to finish off whatever Ferdinand and his battalion couldn't. At first, Hubert thought the professor mad to make them work in such proximity, but they had thrived in battle together and Hubert could easily mark it as the start of the end to their animosity for each other. Battles turned to conversation, turned to tea times turned to Hubert unable to ignore the things he felt for Ferdinand. He knew what his next letter would be about.
The next day, Ferdinand wore a look of befuddlement as he walked in reading his latest letter over and over again. He took what he clearly assumed to be his permanent seat now across from Hubert and Hubert grew increasingly nervous in the lingering silence. Perhaps waxing romantic about someone's abilities in combat was not the stuff of love letters, no matter how honest it was.
"This is the most wonderful thing anyone has ever written about me," Ferdinand said at last, his tone far less bombastic than in previous days.
"Oh?" Edelgard asked leaning in. "Care to read this one aloud too? Let me guess, they’re gushing about your eyes this time?"
Ferdinand shook his head. "No, it is..." his smile slowly grew. "It is recognizing my accomplishments and prowess in battle. I was wrong about all of this. It is not some playful infatuation to flatter me with. These are genuine emotions." He locked eyes with Hubert. "Please," he all but begged and it reminded Hubert uncomfortably of his dreams. "You have to help me find who it is."
Hubert nodded once. "That is what I said I would do." He felt Edelgard's hand lightly smack his leg.
“Another letter!” Ferdinand exclaimed as he approached Hubert in the library the next afternoon. Hubert had decided to shake things up and left his letter while Ferdinand was training.
“Good for you,” Hubert said, trying his best to sound like himself. Without Edelgard around to deflect, he now had to respond to Ferdinand directly and that was still somewhat terrifying.
“You know, you are supposed to be helping me,” he said as he leaned against the bookshelf.
“I didn’t agree to read the letters. Just to find who is writing them.”
“I wish you would read them. They are lovely.” Ferdinand crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Perhaps the letters can provide clues. I mean, I have received more. We already know it is someone who has been on the battlefield with me.”
“Clues from the ramblings of a lovesick fool? Unlikely.”
“Then what do you intend to do? Post guard at my door? Then I will never receive another one.”
Hubert scoffed as he took his selections to an empty table. “Write back.”
“How will I do such a thing when I have no recipient?” he asked, following Hubert and sitting next to him.
“How are the letters delivered?” he asked while thumbing through the book's pages.
“They are slid underneath my door. By the time I notice, whoever left it is gone.”
“Leave a letter outside your door.”
“That is…” Ferdinand grinned. “That is a brilliant idea. What should I say? What would you say?”
“The same thing I’ve told the others. I am not interested.”
“Others?" If Hubert wasn't focused on his book, he would have seen the mischievous expression Ferdinand wore. He leaned against Hubert's shoulder. "Hubert, have you had love letters? I am quite jealous.”
Hubert rolled his eyes and groaned. “I never have opened one. Nor accepted any gifts. Not interested.”
Ferdinand sat up straight, his playful expression changing to one of shock. “That is…that is not true.”
“Yes, it is.”
“You accepted my gift,” he said gently as he tucked his hair behind his ear. “The coffee beans, remember? I hope you enjoyed them. You gave me that wonderful tea in kind. I am sad to say I am almost out.”
Hubert blushed and tried to remain focused on his book. “That is different.”
“How is it different? You asked if it was…”
“It was not that type of gift.”
“No…no, I suppose it was not.” He stood from the table. “If you will excuse me, I think I shall try your idea.”
Hubert’s breath hitched as Ferdinand stood. That wasn't what he meant. He'd meant to say previous gifts were impersonal, from people with only a superficial, passing, hormonal attraction to him. They meant nothing. Ferdinand's was so personal, welcome and thoughtful. It was different because it meant everything. “Ferdinand,” he called.
“Yes?” he asked as he stopped in the doorway.
“That coffee was some of the best I have ever had. You have exquisite taste, even if you do not care for the drink itself.”
“On the contrary,” he looked over his shoulder at Hubert with a small smile. “I have found myself growing rather fond of it.”
Hubert watched him go and returned to his work. Walking back to his room later in the evening, he found himself taking the path in front of Ferdinand's door. He didn't intend to stop- he hadn't had time to write a letter today, but the small roll of paper caught his attention. He smiled as he realized Ferdinand had listened to his advice. It one smooth motion, he picked the note up and tucked it in his pocket as he continued walking down the hall. Once he was in his room he looked to see what Ferdinand's response could possibly be.
My dear admirer,
I hope it is all right I address you as such. I hope I do not frighten you by addressing you. I wish I knew who you were as your letters have become a welcome sight. I am flattered and dare I say humbled by your beautiful words. You notice me, and not on the superficial level many think I am obsessed with. Please continue to write. It makes me feel appreciated and is giving me a delightful mystery to solve. I look forward to reading more from you soon. Perhaps you could tell me a little about yourself? Not so much as to reveal your identity, of course. But enough so our affair of correspondence is not one sided. Conversations go both ways, after all.
Ferdinand von Aegir
Hubert could not help but smile as he read Ferdinand’s response. He knew this would happen eventually and had been looking forward to it. Talking to Ferdinand was generally easy, except for his mistake earlier today. How he wished there was some sort of magic that could turn back the hands of time to fix idiotic mistakes. How useful that could prove.
He looked over to his writing desk and made the decision to give Ferdinand two letters in one day. It may not be the direct apology he deserved for being subjected to Hubert’s carelessness, but at least it would make him smile.
My dearest Ferdinand,
I knew this day would come. I nearly did not pick up your note, fearing it may not have been for me. But I knew it was. I knew. You're not the type to stay silent. It is an endearing quality of yours, although I imagine some would find it an acquired taste. You are intelligent and capable and certainly gifted in the art of conversation. Myself, not so much. While I find irony, implications and double meanings to be absolutely delicious tools, I find that I often say the wrong thing. I did today, and I worry I hurt the feelings of a close friend.
That was far more solemn a fact than you were imagining I'm certain so I will leave you with a different one. When I was young, I wanted to be a pegasus knight. There are a number of reasons this dream did not come true, but that is a story for another time, I'm sure.
I look forward to hearing from you as well.
In the morning, he met with Edelgard briefly before escorting her to breakfast. “I have him responding to the notes I am leaving,” he informed her.
“I’m surprised he wasn’t already.”
He nodded. “He would have eventually. Though I was worried he would begin to question how whoever was writing him was always able to discern his reactions.”
“You should probably tell him soon,” she chided.
“Out of the question.” He offered his arm to her. She accepted and they started to walk down the hall.
“Just be careful,” she said. “The both of you are stubborn as can be. I don’t want this to backfire for either of you.”
Hubert gave a thoughtful hum. Edelgard was right as always. Ferdinand would be relentless in his pursuit and Hubert, fearing being found out, would absolutely not let him win. At the end of it all, he realized would have to confess to what was going on and he dreaded that day. He dreaded the rejection that was sure to come. “I will take that under advisement, Lady Edelgard.”
“Oh look,” she said, cheerfully as they saw Ferdinand emerge from his room. “Here is your opportunity to come clean.”
“Lady Edelgard,” he whispered harshly through gritted teeth.
Ferdinand spotted them and waved. He left something at his door and waited for them to approach him. “Emperor, Hubert, good morning.”
“Good morning, Ferdinand.” She looked down to the small roll of parchment at his door. “What’s this?”
Ferdinand smiled. “Oh, well, I have started to write my admirer back. No sense in them thinking I am ignoring them, is there? It was Hubert’s idea, actually.”
Hubert scoffed. “At least you’ve finally learned to take my advice.”
Ferdinand laughed. “At least you have started to give some that is good. I distinctly remember you once advising me to go quote ‘sit at the bottom of the fishing pond and breathe deeply.’”
Hubert nodded. “In retrospect, it’s good you didn’t.”
Edelgard rolled her eyes and tugged on Hubert’s arm. “Come on, boys. You can bicker later. Plenty of time in the day.” She led them down the hall, entertaining Ferdinand reminiscing about their days at the academy for a moment before stopping abruptly. “Oh dear,” she said, concern growing in her voice.
Hubert’s full attention turned to her. “Lady Edelgard, what’s wrong?”
“These gloves have a stain,” she said, removing the offending garment and offering Hubert a smile that meant she was very much up to something. “Could you please go get my other set of gloves, Hubert? They should be in my writing desk,” she said, placing the gloves she had been wearing into his hands. “Ferdinand will escort me the rest of the way.”
He bowed. “As you wish, Lady Edelgard.” He smirked as he turned around to return to her room, picking up Ferdinand’s response along the way. He carried it in his hand to Edelgard’s room and sat at her desk to read Ferdinand’s letter and pen his response.
Damn you, you sneaky thing. I did not even hear footsteps! Such a quick response. You must be closer than I thought.
I would not worry too hard about your friend. If you are as close as you feel you are, an apology should set things right. There are many ways to show you are sorry aside from words, if you have trouble expressing yourself with them. Although I cannot see how you would have difficulty putting what you want to say in writing. I find so far you have said nothing but the right things.
As for the story, I look forward to hearing it someday, though I am sorry you were not able to achieve that which you wanted. Perhaps we can go on a flight someday, or take a sky patrol shift together.
Ferdinand von Aegir
“Oh, no no no no,” he said to himself as he remembered the last time he had been given a sky patrol shift. He remembered having to calmly explain to the professor that he would greatly appreciate never having to do such a chore ever again so long as he lived all while Edelgard attempted to not laugh from behind him.
He wrote his response, thanking Ferdinand for the kind words and promising to work on an apology, as well as informing him that a flight together was perhaps not the best idea. He placed his short note in an envelope and grabbed another pair of Edelgard’s gloves. He went to drop off his latest correspondence, sliding it under the door as he normally did. As he stood, he froze, quickly realizing there was a reason he did this at night. There, standing shortly down the hall, eyes wide with fear, hands covering her mouth as she trembled, stood Bernadetta.
Hello! Sorry chapter 2 took longer than I intended it to, despite it being dialogue heavy. I've been sort of accidentally writing this backwards. At least I know where I'm going! So that's fun.
Thank you for reading and I hope you continue to enjoy where I'm taking this. I'm having a blast writing it, for sure.
Feel free to follow me on twitter @schupuff It'd be cool to have some people gush idiotically about Fire Emblem with!
I know I said updates would be quicker and I have failed you. I'mma try to promise it again, because most everything from here out is already written.
In this chapter: The boys are dumb and are lucky they have friends.
"Edelgard, may I ask you something. As friends?" Ferdinand asked as he walked with Edelgard toward the dining hall.
"Oh? This is rare. What is it?" she asked.
He glanced behind them as they walked. She had only asked for replacement gloves. He expected such a task to be quick and perhaps for Hubert to somehow slink out of the shadows next to them as if he’d never left. He was taking an awfully long time. Was replacement gloves code for ‘go do a murder’? He thought he heard someone scream. He looked back to her, concern apparent on his face. "Is...is something bothering Hubert?"
"What makes you say that?"
"He has been acting out of sorts, is all. It is slight, but I notice it. I could be reading too much into things. That is why I decided to ask you. You would be the one to know.”
"You're concerned for him."
"Of course! We work in such close proximity and we are good friends. It is only natural to be concerned. Unfortunately, he is hard to read." He couldn’t help but look back towards where they had left him again.
"So, you are still in love with him." She did not ask this, but stated it with a sly smile.
Ferdinand’s perfect posture slumped for a moment, and he looked to Edelgard with pleading eyes. He’d all but forgotten she knew. "Oh Goddess, you did not tell him, did you?"
She shook her head. "Of course not. You trusted me. You were drunk off your ass, but you were coherent enough to make me promise. What was it you said?"
Ferdinand winced. He remembered a diplomatic event, a party, in which he drank too much champagne on an empty stomach. He had been watching Hubert silently move along the edges of the party from across the room. There was something about the way Hubert held himself, the way he looked slightly obscured in shadow, even the sound of his voice that made something flare inside Ferdinand and cause his mind to wander to indecent places no noble would admit to. He found he could no longer ignore it. Lost in his own mind and the fuzzy haze of drink, he voiced his thoughts out loud, not realizing Edelgard had approached him. One day, I will absolutely wreck that man. Edelgard nearly dropped her wine. He desperately swore her to secrecy and nothing was said of it since. Until now. “Edelgard, please, you do not need to repeat my vulgarities.”
She smiled gently at him and linked their arms. "A word of advice, Ferdinand. I have been dealing with Hubert forever. He is not as difficult as he seems on the surface. If you want to get in his head, tell him you need something. That's how he expresses himself."
Ferdinand shook his head. "Edelgard, I cannot use him like that! Making demands on him as if he is in my service."
"The way I treat him, you mean?"
He smiled an apologetic half-smile. "In not so many words, yes. He needs to be his own man."
"He is. And he has decided he is at his best when meeting another's needs. Has he ever denied you? I mean, he didn’t even fight you when you asked him to track down whoever is writing those letters you love so much."
"He...” Ferdinand furrowed his brow as he thought. All the times he had Hubert had fought over the years, he could not recall any time when Hubert had actively opposed him. “But he hated me..."
"You frustrated him. There is a distinct difference. I believe he saw us in opposition with each other enough that he worried his loyalty to me would waver. That you would get in the way of his work."
"Yes, but he adores you. I would dare to say loves you."
She nodded. "He does. In his own way. "
"He is my best friend and most loyal aide. Of course I love him. He's all the family I have left." Before he could comment, she continued. “Listen, Ferdinand, all I'm saying is if you want to ever figure out what is bothering him, give him a task. Show him you need his assistance. After a while, he’ll start to open up. He will never tell you everything. He doesn't even afford me that luxury, but it will be a start."
He nodded. "Thank you, Edelgard."
“You are most welcome.” She squeezed his arm gently. "Now it's your turn. What kind of tea does Dorothea prefer?"
Hubert's breath was slow and steady as he stood perfectly still, remaining in a half crouch. Bernadetta trembled before him like a frightened deer, her eyes darting around the narrow hallway looking for escape. He took note of all the variables of his situation. Bernadetta startled easily and would take off running at the first sign of danger. She only remained still now because she was likely trying to convince herself that Hubert was a friend and would not hurt her. This was entirely true. He kept the ebroidered flower in his pocket for such situations, but given the abject terror she was staring at him with, any move to get it would cause her to flee. She couldn't run for very long and was not particularly fast, so he could likely catch her, but her screams may alert others. Maybe he could talk her down. "Bernadetta," he said slowly, trying to be calm. It instead came out as a gravely growl.
"Eep!" she squeaked, leaning away from him.
Damn, talking wasn't going to work. He would have to be quick. He grabbed her arm, twisting it behind her back while clamping his other hand over her mouth to muffle her screams. He'd done this manuver before and it was alarmingly second nature. "Bernadetta," he said calmly as she struggled against his grip. "Calm down. I-" She licked his palm. He looked down at her in disbelief. What was she, a child? "Are you trying to get me to let go?"
"A bite is more effect... You know what? Never mind." He shook his head and started dragging her toward his room as she flailed. Opening the door was more of a struggle than he wanted it to be. Normally people he held like this were unconscious by now. But no, his training ran deep. No, Hubert, we don't chloroform our allies. He shoved her inside and pressed his back against the inside of the door, blocking her escape. She cowered, whimpering pathetically. "Bernadetta, if you would just..."
"Oh, Goddess this is it," she whined only half paying attention to him. "This is death. This is where I leave this mortal coil. Woe is Bernie, her time has come."
"Bernadetta..."he groaned as he dug in his pocket for her flower. He pinned it to his chest.
"AAAAAAH!!!!” She screamed as she saw him reach in his pocket. She clenched her eyes shut. “Make it quick! I'm too scared to suffer! I'd be terrible at being tortured!"
"BERNADETTA! That is quite enough!" He pointed to the flower. "There! Does that help?"
She looked from the flower to his eyes back to the flower and her body relaxed. "Kinda..."
He nodded and held his hands out in front of her like he was taming a wild animal. "Good. I'm going to back away from the door and you are not to run, do you understand?" She nodded. "All right. Now what did you see?"
"Is this about those letters you're writing to Ferdie? I figured it was you, but now I saw it so…"
He trembled, startled at the revelation that she already knew. He scrambled for how to ask her more. "I...what? No. I mean...how did you..."
She nervously shrugged. "It's pretty obvious. Your syntax and diction is all over them"
"How many people know?"
She bit her lower lip as she thought and then began to speak. "You, me... there's no way you would keep it from Edelgard. And if Edelgard knows, Dorothea knows then she'll keep it a secret until it's amusing...Linhardt if he's read it. He's smart. He wouldn't tell though...oh unless you made him mad. Then he'd tell Caspar. And there's no way he'd keep quiet about anything. Why?"
Hubert trudged to his bed, needing a moment to sit. He steepled his hands in front of his mouth as he pondered a way out of all of this. When no quick solution presented itself, he sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "I should have never..."
"I think it's sweet," Bernadetta said before she giggled.
She nodded and sat next to him. "He's your complete opposite. He's so bright and optimistic and charming and then you…” her voice trailed off. She looked down to her hands in her lap.
She offered a nervous smile. “Well, you can be scary. Like, really, really scary. But I'm glad we're friends." She nodded to the embroidery on his chest. "Because I think when someone becomes friends with you, they find out you're not that scary at all. You're sweet and caring and sometimes, I guess, you can be just as scared as I am all the time. Still kind of think you're going to kill me one day. You're good at killing people."
"Odd choice of compliment, but thank you. You're not as afraid as you used to be. You've worked hard."
"Thanks. I’m glad you think so.” She tentatively leaned against him. “I promise not to tell Ferdie if you don't want me to. I know I'd be mortified if everyone found out my deepest darkest secrets and desires."
He frowned as a feeling of dread grew within him at the thought of literally everyone knowing before Ferdinand. Mortified. That was the perfect word for it.
"Do you want my help? With the letters? People keep saying I'm a good writer.”
“You would do that?”
She perked up and smiled brightly. “Sure! It’ll be fun. Ferdie really seems to like them and you really seem to like Ferdie. So I can help make sure you don’t run out of ideas. I mean, the ones you already wrote were all right, but…”
Hubert nodded. “All right. Should I need your help, I will ask for it.”
She nudged him with her shoulder. “Just don’t try to abduct me again, okay?”
“Very well.” He sighed. “I have taken too long. They will be wondering where I am.”
“Probably thinking you’re killing someone.”
“Hm, perhaps I will on the way.” He shrugged, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “I have a little time.”
She cowered. “…what? Hubert, you’re joking right? Do you joke?”
He chuckled darkly as he walked out, Bernadetta trailing behind him.
In this chapter: Ferdinand make a list and a guess
Over the next week, and with Bernadetta’s surprisingly enthusiastic help, Hubert’s letters continued. He’d met with her each day with a different excuse. Helping her train, gardening, cooking lesson and lastly tea. Though their meeting for tea was less of a hurried excuse and more prompted by Ferdinand’s letter. Hubert was honestly shocked it had taken the man so long to ask what kind of tea his admirer preferred.
“Just say you like coffee,” Bernadetta said as Hubert rejected the fifth variety of tea they had tried.
He shook his head. “No, he’ll know it’s me.”
She took a bite of a biscuit before finally asking the question she wanted the answer to. It was affecting her ability to assist him. “…don’t you…don’t you want him to know it’s you? Figure it out, I mean?”
Hubert frowned. Of course he did, but at the same time, he could not possibly make it easy for him. Instead of thinking more on this and answering her properly, he looked through the tea sampler and made another selection. “Let’s try the cinnamon tea.”
“…or just ignore me. That’s fine.” She ate more of her cookie and slumped in her chair.
"I'm not ignoring you I simply don't want to answer," he said, not looking to her but rather water he was pouring from the kettle.
"Look, Hubert, I know I said I'd help you and I don't want you to get mad or anything, but don’t you think this is going too far?"
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"Well we are sitting in my room drinking tea because he wants to know what kind you like. And you hate tea. Don't you think you should just...” she shrugged, “be you and not...you know...lie to him?"
Hubert frowned before taking a sip of the cinnamon tea. He held it in his mouth for a moment before swallowing. He looked at the cup. "I...did not hate that. Cinnamon blend tea. Now I'm not lying to him."
She sighed and wrote down his tea preference. "All right. So we have a tea. Hope you weren't lying to me to get me to back down because you know he'll be giving you some. So what else do you want to put in here and if you say anything about the sun, I quit."
She dramatically slumped in her seat. "That's the only thing you ever compare him to! I can only make so many sun metaphors."
Hubert finished his tea. "If he would stop being so damn radiant all the time, then I wouldn't. Until then, what do I have to compare him to but the brightest, most brilliant thing in the sky?"
She sighed and couldn’t help but smile a little. "Look, I know that’s really romantic, but please. Literally anything else. I'm begging you."
Hubert nodded. He had been pushing her rather hard lately. He couldn’t help it. He wanted to make sure every word was perfect. But it was still unfair to her. She was owed a break at least. "Bernadetta, if you don’t want to help, I-"
She groaned, sad up and started to write furiously. "Look, I'm sorry ok? This is why no one likes me. I don't like people and you've been dragging me out every day this week. I need some me time!"
"…that is not what I was going to say but you can go if you wish.”
"We're in my room! Here!" She shoved the paper she’d been working on into his hands. "There's a rough draft. Leave me alone!"
Hubert looked at Bernadetta's writing as she shoved him out of her room, door slamming behind him.
I can be tempted to drink a cinnamon blend on occasion. I’m also kind of dumb and can’t tell you how I feel.
PS Just figure something out, ok? I didn’t think you’d make me do one every day! ~ Bernie
Hubert chuckled as he read her draft. Addressing Ferdinand as ‘Sunlight’? He wondered why he hadn’t thought of it before. He returned to his room to rewrite it and then deliver it to its intended recipient.
The next morning after breakfast, Hubert accompanied Edelgard and Dorothea to the marketplace. He hadn’t been asked to and really, it wasn’t so much accompanying rather than watching from a safe distance to make sure Edelgard was all right. “Hubert!” he heard his name called and turned to see Ferdiand excitedly approaching him, waving a roll of parchment. “I have a list!” Ferdinand announced as he approached Hubert in the marketplace, holding the roll out to him.
“Yes. Possible suspects I would like you to investigate.”
Hubert took the parchment from Ferdinand and unrolled it. “I would like to hear your justifications.” He looked closely at the list. “Especially Dorothea.”
“Well, that one is a stretch, yes, but she has seemingly warmed up to me as of late and…”
“She has her sights set elsewhere. Trust me.”
Hubert only glared at Ferdinand, daring him with expression to question further. Dorothea and Edelgard were browsing a market stall and were well within both of their sights, failing to be discreet about holding hands.
Realization dawned on Ferdinand's face exhaled a sigh of relief. “Oh! Well, that is nice.”
“And you honestly expect Caspar to be able to write his name let alone a letter?”
Ferdinand shrugged. “A good mystery ends with the culprit being who you would least suspect.”
“Ferdinand, it’s a love letter, not a crime. Honestly, you wrote down everyone’s name.” He looked closer. There was one glaring omission. “I’m…I’m not on here. We at last become friends and you won’t even consider me among your potential suitors. Harsh.”
Ferdinand nodded. “It cannot possibly be you.”
Hubert tried not to look upset. “Why not?”
Ferdinand laughed and looked away, tucking some of his hair behind his ear. “You are going to say you may have agreed to help to throw me off your trail. But if that were the case, why write a love letter? One does not write a letter of that nature and not want to be found. You also told me you were not interested in such things. So…so it cannot be you.”
“Quite the deduction,” Hubert said. “Still, I feel a bit left out.”
“I did not mean to make you feel that way. I will make it up to you, I promise.”
“I am not sure, but I swear I will. A noble does not go back on his word.”
“Very well, but answer me something.”
“Who do you want it to be?”
“Oh, from the list? Well if I had to choose…” he reached for his list
“Who do you want it to be?” he repeated, firmer in his words.
They stared at each other in silence as Ferdinand’s jaw went slack. “Well…I suppose I would-“
Hubert leaned in closer.
“-like to think on it.” He turned away from Hubert. “Forgive me. I have been so focused on finding out who it is that I did not stop to think of who I would accept such affections from. Perhaps I should pare down my list.”
Hubert frowned and held the list away from Ferdinand. “No need. I’ll take care of it.”
“Take care of…” Ferdinand playfully gasped. “Hubert! You promised not to kill anyone!”
“I promised not to kill your admirer I said nothing about anyone else.”
“You terrible man,” Ferdinand said through his laugh. “Very well. I trust your investigation to be thorough. Now are you going to stay at a reasonable stalking distance all day or will you give those two some privacy?”
“Stalking,” he said as he watched Edelgard lace her fingers with Dorothea. “I worry.”
“I believe her majesty knows what she’s doing. Either way, I need to find some cinnamon tea. Care to join me?”
Hubert shook his head. “I’m afraid I must decline. You know I don’t like tea.”
Ferdinand gave a sigh. “I’ll fix that one day, I’m certain. If I can enjoy coffee, there must be a tea you like.”
Hubert smirked. “Best of luck to you.”
Hubert returned to his room, still clutching Ferdinand's list tight in his grasp. How could he not even be a thought? Sure, he did expressly tell Ferdinand he wasn't interested in being courted and had perhaps not made his point about Ferdinand's gift clear, but still! He listed everyone! Even people whose names he didn’t know. It hurt more than Hubert wanted to admit. He laid down on his bed and uncrumpled Ferdinand’s list. Hubert’s next order of business was to figure out who among names written was who Ferdinand wanted. And then loathe them for the rest of his days.
He sat up as a knock came to his door. “Hubert!” he heard Ferdinand’s voice call. “Are you in there? It’s about my list.”
Hubert pulled himself from his bed and went to open the door. It hadn’t been long since they’d left the market. “What’s wrong? I only have had your list for an hour. I haven’t begun to investigate.
Ferdinand shook his head. “No need. I’ve figured it out. It was all so obvious!” He was practically bouncing with energy.
Hubert’s heart pounded in his chest. He figured it out? “And yet you’re… happy?”
Ferdinand nodded. “All the pieces just fit so well. It really is someone I didn’t expect. I should have seen it coming.”
Hubert smiled. Ferdinand knew. He knew and he was happy about it and had come to him and Hubert felt what he could only describe as ecstatic. He began to reach for Ferdinand’s hand. “Ferdinand, I…”
“To think I let Lorenz get away with it for as long as I did.”
Hubert’s smile dropped and he pulled his hand away. “Lorenz?”
He nodded. “Yes, Lorenz. He has a flair for the dramatic, a love of poetic comparisons…this is the exact sort of thing he would do.”
Hubert frowned as his actions were being compared to that of Lorenz. Of all people. Sure, he’d defected to their side ages ago, thanks to the professor and he was certainly was a useful asset to the Empire, but Hubert put him high on the list of people he found the most annoying. “How can you be so sure?”
Ferdinand laughed. “I know him well. We have been close friends for years.” He sighed and looked wistfully at the letter. “He was the first person at the academy to really go out of their way to be kind to me. I know I was annoying. No one liked me until recently, so it was nice to have someone like Lorenz to speak with. I am glad he is on our side. I would not have liked to have faced him on the battlefield.”
Hubert was only half listening. Of course it was Lorenz. Of course it was someone gentle and romantic and annoying and perfectly noble. They were perfect for each other and Ferdinand was right, there had never been any animosity between them. “It sounds like you truly care for him.”
“I have never thought about him that way, to be honest. But if the possibility exists, I cannot ignore it.” He grinned. “He asked me to tea this afternoon just after I received a response stating what tea they like best. It can’t be a coincidence and I imagine he is to tell me he is behind it all. I am not going to tell him I know. I will drop hints from his letters where I can. Make him squirm a little.” Ferdinand laughed at his own cleverness and Hubert’s chest felt tight. How he wanted to confess it all, but all it would do was ruin Ferdinand’s apparent happiness. He could never do such a thing.
Instead, he offered a small smile. “How devious.” He chuckled when Ferdinand nodded in agreement. As hurt as Hubert was, Ferdinad’s enthusiasm was infectious. “You’ve spent too much time around me.”
“Not enough, my friend,” Ferdinand said, his voice and actions calming. “Not enough.”
“It has been too long since we’ve taken tea together, Ferdinand,” Lorenz said as Ferdinand joined him in the tea garden. “You seem awfully popular these days.”
“What can I say? It seems some have warmed up to my sunny disposition.” Ferdinand grinned at the word ‘sunny’ and looked expectantly at Lorenz. All of his letters had compared him to the sun. It was only appropriate to lead with it.
Lorenz hummed and gestured to the teapot. “I found this rose petal tea I’ve been obsessed with lately and…”
"Not cinnamon?” Ferdinand questioned. “I would have thought that you would have brewed some, but I guess you are full of surprises."
Lorenz raised his eyebrow in confusion. "I..um...don't particularly care for cinnamon. Did I imply as much? Perhaps you misheard me."
"I…hmm" Ferdinand looked away and pondered how he could have read a letter wrong. He shook his head and smiled at Lorenz. “I must have. So! I saw you taking a sky patrol shift. Working on conquering that fear of heights you have?”
“What are you talking about?” Lorenz shook his head and stared at Ferdinand as if he were a stranger. “Ferdinand, you are acting quite unlike yourself," Lorenz said as he took a sip from his cup, eyeing Ferdinand cautiously. “Are you feeling all right? Did you hit your head?”
"Lorenz," Ferdinand groaned. "Do you really have no idea what I am talking about?"
He shook his head. "I do not."
"You did not write these?" Ferdinand handed the stack of letters he'd brought with him to Lorenz.
Lorenz took the letters and skimmed the first one. "My handwriting is not this...utilitarian. Come now, Ferdinand."
"But the words... they are so poetic and beautiful. I thought..."
Lorenz’s face contorted into a look of disgust as he continued to read. "If you think my poetry reads like this, I should feel insulted."
Ferdinand's shoulders slumped. "So it is not you who is writing me such things?"
"I am afraid not." He turned to the next page and continued to read. "Well, this one’s better at least. Listen, Ferdie, I am indeed flattered that you would consider me and I value our friendship, I truly do. Just not in that way."
Ferdinand bowed his head as he felt his face grow warm. "Thank you, Lorenz. I do as well."
"I will say whoever wrote this has it bad. Any other candidates in mind?"
Ferdinand looked off into the distance in thought. He certainly did, but he couldn’t tell Lorenz that. Lorenz's opinion of Hubert wasn't exactly positive. He couldn’t admit it to himself either. Every moment he spent with Hubert he felt them growing closer and despite evidence in favor of it being him, the evidence otherwise was convincing. Hubert had made it somewhat clear that he was not interested. If it wasn't Lorenz and he convinced himself it wasn't Hubert, who could it be? "I cannot think of any, no."
Lorenz looked at Ferdinand from just over the page. "Does this mean you're over you know who?"
"Lorenz! I just said I valued your friendship, do not make me regret it," he groaned. "And no, it is not him."
Ferdinand nodded. "He agreed to help me find who it is, however. So far his investigation has not turned up much."
Lorenz hummed. "Maybe he'll turn up in the river, that's a thought," he muttered under his breath.
"What was that?"
"Nothing." Lorenz frowned as he finished reading. He folded the letter and handed stack of them back to Ferdinand. "Quite the mystery. Keep me updated on your findings, will you?"
Ferdinand nodded and avoided looking at Lorenz. How embarrassing. He took his letters back, mumbled some combination of thanks and apology and left giving a halfhearted excuse about needing to check on his horse. Maybe a ride would clear his head.
Lorenz continued to drink his tea as he watched him go. “Be careful,” he said.
“Well hello, Lorenz!”
Lorenz turned to see Dorothea approaching his table. He smiled and waved her over. “Hello, Dorothea! Care to join me? My previous company appears to have something on his mind.”
She looked to catch a glimpse of Ferdinand walking away and smirked. “I can’t stay long, but I would be glad to sit with you a little. Indulge me, Lorenz. What seems to have Ferdie all riled up?"
Lorenz rolled his eyes as he set his teacup down and reached for the teapot. "Oh, it's that whole ordeal with his mystery love letters. He was convinced I was writing them."
"Oh, yes, his secret admirer!” she cooed as she sat across from him. “How scandalous."
"Indeed,” he said as he poured her a cup.
She took a drink of the tea as she looked over to where Ferdinand had left. "You know it’s Hubie, right?"
"Oh, most certainly."
Hubert tries to find a distraction.
Hubert von Vestra was not fond of distractions. He needed to be alert and ready at all times for his Emperor and distractions hindered that ability. He realized now that this was why he hated Ferdinand so much when they were younger. He was nothing but a distraction. His face, his mannerisms, his brilliant presence, his everything could easily distract him from his duties to Edelgard. There for it felt uncomfortably odd that Hubert was now seeking a distraction from said distraction. Currently Ferdinand von Aegir was out with Lorenz Hellman Gloucester and Hubert desperately needed to not think about that at all.
He attempted to spend the rest of his day buried in work, but still found his mind wandering to the Prime Minister. It started innocently enough, simply noting where he would want Ferdinand’s opinion on something. After that, he found himself having to reference a map of Alliance territory that only served to remind him of Lorenz. Ferdinand clearly had opinions about Lorenz. Unable to focus, he willed himself to procure some coffee and eat a simple meal.
As evening rolled around, he realized the only way to truly distract himself was to not be alone. He needed to talk about his damned feelings. There was only one place he could accomplish both. He knocked on Edelgard’s door. “Lady Edelgard? If you’ll permit me to…”
He heard a gasp, followed by a hushed whisper. The hair on the back of his neck bristled. Was something wrong? He’d left her alone and now someone was in her room and doing who knows what and-
“Not now, Hubert!” he heard Edelgard command from the other side of the door.
“Lady Edelgard, are you all right?”
He heard her exasperated groan and she opened the door only slightly, the look in her eyes showing how annoyed she was. “I’m fine, Hubert.”
He relaxed. “That is a relief. Now, if I may-“ he moved to enter the room, but she did not open the door further.
“You may not. I’m… busy.”
He was taken aback by her statement. Busy? She had not informed him of any plans for tonight. He had not said why he was here, but she knew him. Couldn’t she tell that he absolutely needed her ear right now? "But, Lady Edelgard, it is urgent that I-"
"Not. Tonight. Hubert," she said firmly.
"But I..." he stopped as he heard a small, muffled giggle he leaned a little to peer further inside as he saw dark reddish-brown hair duck out of view. "Is that...?"
She stood on her toes in an attempt to block his view. "None of your concern? Correct. Good night, Hubert." She closed the door and said nothing further.
"Lady Edelgard!" He huffed as she did not respond and trudged toward his room. He thought about calling upon Bernadetta, her ‘Me Time’ be damned, but was distracted from this thought when he heard his name called.
"Hubert!" Ferdinand waved at him from down the hall. His smile faded. "Is everything all right?"
Hubert didn’t know what to say. Even though it was the evening, he fully expected Ferdinand to still be out with Lorenz. It was a good match, he’d convinced himself, and the smile he’d glimpsed did nothing to betray the outcome of their meeting. He didn’t want to hear if it had gone well. However, as he saw Ferdinand stand strong in the hallway, looking concerned and waiting for a response, he realized he absolutely would appreciate Ferdinand’s company. He said nothing and walked toward him.
"Oh," Ferdinand said as Hubert approached him, seemingly startled that he was able to summon him so easily. "Edelgard is unavailable tonight, is she?"
Hubert furrowed his brow. That sounded absurdly sexual. "Please don't word it like that."
"You know I did not mean it that way. Would you like some coffee? I have some."
Hubert smiled softly, remembering the first time Ferdinand had offered him coffee and appreciative that he did not need to ask for his company. Only Edelgard had ever understood him on that level. "Coffee? Is it another gift?"
Ferdinand shrugged. “Somewhat. I consider it practice."
"Practice? For what?"
Ferdinand blushed. "I suppose there is no use trying to lie to you. It is your birthday soon. I would like to make you coffee to show you how I have improved my technique. I doubt anyone would appreciate it as much as you. And it is for you that I have learned.”
"For me? Th-thank you. I would like that very much. But not at this moment. I'd be up all night." He chuckled.
Ferdinand beckoned him closer. "I would still prefer you come in. There is something troubling you, I can tell."
Hubert slumped in his posture. Was he really that obvious? "It is not your concern."
"You do not have to tell me the details. I only wish to help you relax. Get your mind off of it."
Hubert nodded. "It is appreciated," he said as he followed Ferdinand into his room, standing awkwardly as he wasn’t quite sure where to sit.
“You are welcome. Although I will admit, I am glad I saw you. I wanted to speak with you if I am to be completely honest.”
Ferdinand huffed and shrugged. “Well it is not Lorenz," Ferdinand said as he sat at his desk and picked up his hairbrush.
Hubert crossed his arms. "I am unable to tell if you're upset or relieved."
Ferdinand shook his head, smirking. "Oh, relieved, I think. I truly would prefer to only remain friends. He’s not my type. Too...” he moved his wrist, slightly twirling the hairbrush as he looked for the word he wanted. “…flowery."
Hubert scoffed. "Oh? I would have thought you would grow weak in the knees for such saccharine sentiments and lavish displays of affection."
Ferdinand chuckled. "Hardly. I feel I would prefer quiet shows of devotion. I suppose that is why this has me so flustered. I had never received a love letter before now. I had always wanted one." He gave Hubert a sidelong glance.
Hubert felt as if his heart was going to burst from his chest. “Well now you are drowning in them. Be careful what you wish for.”
Ferdinand rolled his eyes and started to work his brush through his hair. “You seem amused by my predicament.”
Hubert nodded. “Watching the Prime Minister fall all over himself like a school girl with a crush is fairly amusing, I must admit.”
“You terrible man, how I hate you,” Ferdinand said with a laugh, grinning ear to ear.
“My nemesis, it will always be mutual.” Hubert couldn’t help but focus on Ferdinand’s hairbrush, his smirk turning into a look of irritation. Ferdinand had no rhyme or reason as to how he was tackling the task of brushing his long, luxurious hair and Hubert cringed as the brush got caught in a small tangle. Ferdinand was pulling far too hard. “Ferdinand…”
“Yes?” He noticed where Hubert’s eyes were. "Oh. Yes, I apologize. I feel compelled to brush it more lately. They say they like my hair so now I am very aware of how it looks."
"Do you always brush it that way? It is a miracle you aren't as bald as your father.”
Ferdinand abruptly stopped and glared at Hubert, something resembling anger flaring in his bright eyes. "How dare you mention him?"
Hubert returned the stare. He was not intimidated by anyone, least of all Ferdinand von Aegir. As much as his affection for the man had changed, that did not. "Don't rip your hair out and I won't."
Ferdinand stood firm in his expression. "Hubert, I am not joking. Never mention him in my presence."
Hubert had no choice but to respect that. No matter how much he hated the late Duke Aegir, Ferdinand’s expression told him he had gone too far. Hubert knew he would have much the same, if not more violent reaction if anyone used his own father to mock him. He nodded. "I overstepped. I apologize." Ferdinand didn't respond and instead went back to trying to force the knot out of his hair. Hubert sighed and remembered Ferdinand’s letter. There was more than one way to apologize. "Give me your brush. Let me show you." Hubert rolled his eyes as Ferdinand stared at him in disbelief. "Come now, Ferdinand. I have been doing Lady Edelgard's hair since I was 7."
That caught Ferdinand's attention. "Even the..." He motioned to the sides of his head, miming Edelgard's elaborate hairstyle.
"Wow. Consider me impressed. You are a man of many talents."
"I try. It allows me to serve to the best of my ability."
"I see. Well, if she trusts you with her hair, then I have no reason to not." He laid his hairbrush in Hubert's open palm and sat with his back to him.
Hubert tentatively brushed his gloved fingers through Ferdinand's hair. He wanted to gauge its thickness, which was bordering on impossible with the gloves in his way. How long had he wondered how soft it would feel against his skin? He removed his gloves from his trembling hands and reached to comb his fingers through Ferdinand’s bright orange locks. Whatever he had been imagining, reality was softer. "Your hair is fairly thick."
Ferdinand sighed as Hubert’s fingertips lightly brushed against his scalp. "Is that a problem?"
"No. Mine is as well so I know how to deal with it."
"You cut yours."
That made Ferdinand laugh. "Honestly, I do not know how I let it get away from me so."
"Your hair? This wasn't on purpose?" Hubert made a small humming noise at the realization. He gathered Ferdinand’s hair and started to brush from the bottom up, and starting to separate it into more easily brushable sections.
"I have been too busy to cut it. Or at least to have any want to. Very low on my priorities. I was going to soon, I swear, but now..."
"Because someone who can’t even look you in the eyes said they liked it?"
Ferdinand craned his neck back, grinning up at Hubert. "Shimmers in sunlight, were the exact words," he said with a hint of pride in his voice. "But yes." Hubert smirked and rolled his eyes while he pushed Ferdinand’s head back into an easier position to brush. “They wrote a whole letter about it.”
"It suits you," Hubert said as he brushed the first section of hair its full length, letting his free hand follow the path this brush made. He could not get enough of the texture. He was also fully aware of his position, unable to look Ferdinand in the eyes.
"Oh, you think so too?"
Ferdinand didn't respond to that. He sat perfectly still and upright as Hubert continued to brush his hair. He sighed as Hubert made another long stroke. "It is very relaxing having someone do this. Here I was saying I would help you unwind.”
Hubert shook his head. “It’s quite all right. In all honesty, I find it calming to do,” he said remembering times when Edelgard asked him to brush her hair when they were clearly both stressed.
Ferdinand’s shoulders relaxed as Hubert continued to brush the full length of his hair. "I apologize for being short with you."
"Don't apologize. I started it. I did not mean to hurt you. “
“I know,” he said, quietly. “I can still regret my reaction. You always know how to agitate me. I should be used to not overreacting by now. I should not be constantly at odds with you.”
“You wouldn’t be you otherwise.” Hubert answered as he set the brush aside. He continued combing his fingers through Ferdinand’s hair and started to lightly massage his scalp. Edelgard often requested it, claiming it did wonders for tension. He paused as he realized how absurdly intimate an action it was and pulled his hands away. “I’m sorry, that is a little too…”
“No, don’t,” Ferdinand said, voice barely above a whisper. “It felt nice. Please, continue.”
He didn’t respond, unable to tear his eyes away from the bright orange of Ferdinand’s hair. He cautiously reached for him taking a lock of Ferdinand’s hair between his fingers, considering. He shook his head as he inwardly cursed his inability to deny this man.
Ferdinand quietly moaned as Hubert began to massage the top of his head and leaned back into his fingertips. “You know, Hubert, for a man of your skills, you have a gentle touch.”
“Don’t tell anyone. My reputation will be ruined,” he said, finishing the scalp massage and running his fingers down through his hair one last time and gathered the majority of it in his palm. Now that he knew what it felt like, he didn’t want to let it go. “Shall I braid it for you?” he asked, looking for any way to prolong this moment between them.
“Some other time, perhaps,” he said as he leaned forward and reached for a ribbon on his desk. “You can tie it back, however.”
Hubert nodded and gathered Ferdinand’s hair back, tying it into a loose ponytail at the base of his neck. "There. How’s that?
“Wonderful. Thank you, Hubert." He looked at himself in the mirror. "Shame it is the evening. My hair has not looked this good in a while. I should like to show it off."
Hubert smiled gently at him in the mirror’s reflection. He was so excited about a simple ponytail. "I doubt there will be people to show it off to, but we could go on a walk."
Ferdinand perked up instantly and turned to face Hubert directly, beaming. "Excellent idea. Perhaps a letter will be waiting for me when I return. Maybe we will catch them in the act."
“I wouldn’t count on it. They are very good at being discreet.”
“Oh, you are no fun,” Ferdinand said as he stood from his chair. Hubert held the door open for him and closed it behind them. “Well then, the evening air awaits us.”
The boys go on a walk.
“You know, we have never done anything like this,” Ferdinand said as they stepped into the cool night air, his gaze drawn to the stars in the sky.
“Walk? I assure you we have walked before.”
Ferdinand laughed. “Not like this. Not together as friends. We only ever take tea, or eat together or chat between meetings. We do not…we do not spend time together. Not enough.”
Hubert cleared his throat. “Well, with a war on and my duties to the Empire my time to spend peaceful moments with anyone is rare, really.”
“Would you want to?”
Hubert frowned as he thought. Who wouldn’t want spent time in leisurely peace? Hubert realized that he perhaps didn’t know what that even meant. All he knew was in the quiet of the night, he was finding warmth in Ferdinand’s presence. If he could devote all of his time to this, he would. “I think I may find time for such things, if you’ll have me.”
“Of course. We are friends, are we not? Even if things go well with my mysterious suitor, I promise I will make time for you. You are important to me.”
Ferdinand laughed. “Of course you are. Who else has offered to braid my hair? Who else would I let?"
The continued to walk through the monastery grounds, and Hubert noticed Ferdinand walking a little closer to him than usual. He wanted to reach for his hand, but refused to act on the urge. He couldn’t help but think of how Ferdinand had mentioned his mystery admirer and ‘things going well.’ Was he starting to feel jealous? Of himself? "You know, you never told me who you wanted it to be. You said you needed to think about it."
Ferdinand said nothing and the smile on his lips didn't give Hubert any sort of clue. "Come this way," he said at last. “I would like to see the bridge at night. I never have.”
“You don’t go out much at night, do you?”
He shook his head. “It seems to be your domain, however.”
Hubert nodded. “The calm is soothing. It is also far easier to make people ‘disappear’ under cover of darkness.”
Ferdinand shivered. “You do not have to be so morbid.”
Hubert smirked. “I would not be me otherwise.”
Ferdinand chuckled and shook his head. “No, I suppose not.”
They walked together in silence only briefly before Hubert heard Ferdinand begin to hum a tune. He did not interrupt him and enjoyed the peaceful melody all while wondering when the last time he had heard Ferdinand sing was. He used to sing often, Hubert recalled, typically when he thought no one was around. He wondered if he still did.
Ferdinand stopped abruptly as he noticed Hubert staring at him. “Ah, forgive me.”
“You were not.”
Ferdinand shook his head. “I was distracted with a song in my head. I did not mean to be.”
“It is all right. That was from an opera, was it not? Unfortunately, the title escapes me.”
“Oh, yes. One of my favorites. I saw Professor Manuela perform it when I was younger. Do you like the opera, Hubert?”
Hubert nodded. “I only attended when Lady Edelgard did, but I did enjoy myself.” Typically he was on guard during the performances, so he was unable to immerse himself fully in it, but they were always pleasant evenings.
He smiled enthusiastically at Hubert. “Well, if Mittelfrank rises to prominence again, we should all attend. You, me and her Majesty. I think that would be a delight. Perhaps Dorothea would return to the stage. She is a phenomenal performer and-”
“You should sing more,” he interrupted.
Ferdinand politely chuckled, and in the dim light of the evening, Hubert was unsure if he was blushing. “What? Hubert, no, I do not have a great singing voice and I –“
“Don’t lie to me. You sing perfectly well.”
Ferdinand laughed. “Hubert, stop. When have you heard me sing?”
“You used to attend choir practice with the professor, on occasion,” he said. He smiled wistfully. “Sometimes I would hear you when you were tending to the horses. I used to find it grating.”
Ferdinand scoffed. “See? I am not good.”
“Now I miss it,” he finished.
Ferdinand stopped walking. “Hubert,” he said, softly as he reached for his arm, tugging gently on his sleeve.
Ferdinand looked away from Hubert’s gaze. “Dance with me,” he said simply, not letting go of his sleeve.
Hubert furrowed his brow. Ferdinand was an incredible dancer and Hubert was honestly certain he would have won the White Heron Cup for their house if the professor had not selected Dorothea to compete instead. Why in Fódlan would he want to dance with Hubert? “I…I am not a dancer.”
Ferdinand smiled gently as he looked up to meet Hubert’s eyes. “You can dance as well as I can sing. I have seen you before. With Edelgard, I mean. You were graceful. Beautiful, even.”
Hubert was certain his face was as bright as a beacon. No one had dared call any action associated with him graceful, much less beautiful. He was Hubert von Vestra, Minister of the Imperial Household, the right hand of the Emperor, a man who performed unspeakable deeds while he lurked in the shadows. Any grace or beauty anyone perceived was clearly a reflection of Her Majesty. He shook his head. “I am afraid that is all her.”
“No, that is not the case,” he said stepping closer to him. He looked up at Hubert while he tucked a stray lock of hair behind his ear. “While your methods in battle are less direct than mine, your magic requires a sort of grace. I have seen you move and I believe there is a dancer hidden within you. Dance with me so I can know for certain.”
“There is no music.”
“I will sing it.” He offered his hand to Hubert as one would at a ball.
Hubert stared at his outstretched hand, considering it. What if someone were to see them? What if he was truly a terrible dancer? What if a million things he ignored entirely as he accepted Ferdinand’s hand. “So if I want to hear you sing, I have to dance, is that it?”
“Exactly. An equal exchange.” He rested his other hand on Hubert’s waist, his eyes asking him for permission to continue. “Is it all right if I lead?”
“Why not?” he responded, placing his hand on Ferdinand's shoulder. He felt his heart pounding in his chest as Ferdinand smiled brightly at him, his eyes seemingly shining. For all the times he’d compared the man to the sun and its light, it never had felt so real and so warm. He fought the urge to laugh as Ferdinand enthusiastically swept him into a waltz, singing some beautiful song, the lyrics of which Hubert was unable to focus on. As they danced beneath the stars and moonlight, waltzing in the shadow of the ruined cathedral to the gods they killed, Hubert had never felt so alive. He gasped and held his breath as Ferdinand dipped him, a fluid motion entirely unlike the shaky attempts Hubert had made before with Edelgard. His fingers dug into Ferdinand’s shoulder. The sensation of being dipped was rather like falling and it caused only the briefest panic before he realized Ferdinand was holding him steady. Ferdinand was not going to let him fall. Ferdinand's strength made one thing abundantly clear: he was not to be underestimated. Anyone who did so would pay dearly. Many fools had lost their lives to Ferdinand von Aegir, Hubert had lost his heart.
"See? I told you, you could dance," Ferdinand said, voice low, face showing the unshakable confidence that had irked Hubert so much when they were younger.
Hubert couldn't help his amused smirk as he rolled his eyes. "Shut up, Ferdinand. That was all you."
Ferdinand laughed and pulled them both back upright. "No, it is truly about having the right partner." He looked away from Hubert's gaze and focused on the hand he was still holding. He lifted it gently to his lips, kissing Hubert's gloved knuckles. "Thank you for allowing me the pleasure." He released Hubert’s waist but remained holding his hand.
"We should..." Hubert swallowed as a thousand endings to that sentence coursed through his mind, all of them what he wanted to say, none of them what he did. Dance again. Spend more time together. Kiss. Retire to one of our rooms and discuss this and most definitely kiss. Talk. "Go back inside. It is late."
Ferdinand huffed like a disappointed child as he let Hubert’s hand down. "You are right, as usual. Nothing lasts forever, does it?"
Their conversation turned comfortable and light as they walked back, reminiscing about times spent at the academy and wondering how different things would have been had they gotten along sooner. Hubert had to stop himself from reaching for his hand. This night had been an all too brief glimpse at a life he wanted. He had never been so certain of anything and it made his chest feel tight. After all, he had not gotten an answer from Ferdinand as to who he wanted his admirer to be.
“That was fun,” Ferdinand said as they reached his door. “I hope to have been adequate company.”
“You have been more than adequate, Ferdinand. Thank you. I needed that.”
“Feel free to call on me anytime you can. Perhaps next time I will let you lead.”
“Yes, I would like that.”
Ferdinand paused before opening his door, looking over to Hubert briefly as if there was something more to be said and Hubert lingered, waiting to hear it. Ferdinand opened the door and stepped inside while Hubert resisted every urge that was telling him to follow. Instead he waited to be properly dismissed.
Ferdinand turned to face him. “Good night, Hubert.”
Hubert slightly bowed. “Sleep well.”
Ferdinand began to close the door, pausing momentarily to shoot Hubert a small, gentle smile, similar to the smirk on his face when they had been dancing. The pause was brief and Hubert entertained pushing his way through the door and shoving Ferdinand to the bed. He could feel Ferdinand's gaze practically begging for it, but dismissed it as his imagination getting out of control. Yes, that had to be it. There was no way Ferdinand had just suggestively nodded toward the interior of his room as if he could read Hubert's mind. Hubert prided himself on his control and so he stayed still. Ferdinand’s smile faltered. He gave a slight nod and closed his door.
Hubert exhaled a breath he felt like he’d been holding for hours. He stood still, silent, listening. He waited until he heard the sound of rustling sheets, a gentle creak of a bedframe before silently retreating to his room.
Ferdinand writes two letters.
“So let me see if I understand you correctly,” Edelgard said as she sat cross legged on her bed, Dorothea leaning lazily against her. “You went to his room.”
Hubert exhaled loudly. He thought he already explained himself. He also did not appreciate Dorothea being here as well. It was making things start to feel like an interrogation. At least Edelgard had let him in. “Yes.”
“You brushed his hair”
“You went for an evening stroll.”
“He sang for you and you danced together.”
“And you did not disclose to him you’re his ‘dearest admirer’!?”
“I did not, no.”
She groaned and looked for something soft to throw at him, settling on her bed pillow which Dorothea handed to her. He caught it easily. “Sometimes you are completely daft, Hubert.”
“I didn’t feel like it was the right the right time,” he said, gently handing the pillow back.
“Didn’t feel like the…Hubert, you're my spymaster! How are you so bad at this? What you described..."
"Is nothing out of the ordinary for Ferdinand!" Hubert countered.
Dorothea scoffed. "Hubie, I have been in operas, romance operas, mind you, that were less romantic than the evening you’ve described. When, pray tell, is going to be the ‘right time’? When he’s on his knees asking you to marry him?”
Hubert frowned. “He wouldn’t ask me.”
“Wouldn’t he?" Dorothea pressed.
"Of course not," he said. "Who would?"
Dorothea sat back, her eyes wide in surprise. "Oh," she said quietly. She looked to Edelgard to continue. She was far better suited to dealing with him, clearly.
Edelgard rolled her eyes. "Hubert you're being ridiculous. The things you've seen and done in your life and talking to Ferdinand von Aegir of all people causes you to tremble."
"It is difficult for me, Lady Edelgard, especially after everything I've written. He's built up his expectations of the one writing to him as this big romantic who could give him everything he wants and deserves and be wholly devoted to him, but what he will get is me. Who wouldn't be disappointed?"
Dorothea shrugged. "I could name a few. Lots of people like a dark, brooding partner."
He couldn’t help but smirk at that. "Miss Arnault, there is no need to flatter me. I know my appearance is frightening. My work more so. And above that,” he looked to Edelgard and bowed his head, “my duty to you, Lady Edelgard, will always come first. These are things I cannot change about myself nor would I want to. I'm not a catch, as it were. Certainly not what he deserves. Certainly not who is writing him."
Edelgard shook her head. "Hubert, you do remember that the one writing him and courting him through letters is in fact you, correct? "
He nodded. "I just," he sighed "I've imagined his rejection so many times and I still don't think I could handle it occurring in reality."
Edelgard groaned. "Hubert von Vestra, I have known you my whole life. You have been nothing but an excellent companion. I don't just mean as my retainer. I value your friendship. I mean it when I say I love you and you are an incredible man. Do not discount yourself. If the Ferdinands of the world would reject you then that is their issue not yours. Speak with him. His actions last night do not strike me as the actions of someone who would reject you. But the more you delay, the worse it will be. Tell him how you feel for him at the very least.”
He exhaled in frustration. “That is what I’ve been doing.”
“In person. I am ordering you to go speak with him. Now.”
He frowned as he considered her demand. Speaking with Ferdinand was the absolute last thing he wanted to do. She needed to reconsider. “But Lady Edelgard, it is still morning and we have not had breakfast yet and I-“
She crossed her arms. “And I will be dining with Dorothea today. Alone.”
“Hubert, please. If you were me and she were Ferdinand, wouldn’t you wish the same?”
He glared at Dorothea, who shrugged, offering an apologetic smile as she mouthed the words “Her idea, not mine.”
He sighed, defeated, before standing and bowing. Rejected. “As you wish.”
Ferdinand von Aegir woke up alone. This was not unusual, however it had not been his intent. He exhaled as he opened his eyes and saw he was, in fact alone in his bed. He squeezed the pillow he held when he slept. It should have been Hubert instead, but clearly that was not to be. As far as Ferdinand was concerned, last night had been Hubert's last chance.
"Maybe I should have kissed you," he whispered to himself as he thought through last night's events, remembering the look upon Hubert's face when he dipped him. He'd never seen the man look so dumbfounded. "Perhaps I should have been more clear," he sunk into his blankets. "Damn you, Hubert. Why do you confuse me so?" Damn himself for speaking aloud as if he were talking to him. Still in love with him, that’s what Edelgard said. Still. The word lingered with a dull ache. Still in love. Pitifully, hopelessly still in love with Hubert von Vestra.
He sat up in his bed and stretched his arms in front of him. He looked over to see an envelope just beneath his door. He smiled gently at it. He hadn’t left a response at all yesterday, so he wasn’t sure if he should be surprised by his admirer reaching out. Although he found himself less enthusiastic about it. Contained in the letter was sure to be more praise, more empty words from someone he didn’t even know, someone who did not truly know him. He dragged himself out of bed and retrieved his newest message, opening to see what would be said.
My dearest sunlight,
I hope you are well. As much as I wished to have seen a letter from you before writing again, I understand if there was not much to say. After all, I only responded with a favorite type of tea.
I find your passion for such simple things as tea endearing. Even in the midst of everything you do, you find time to indulge in that which brings you joy. It is admirable and clearly why you are beloved by so many. I hope to one day see your face light up in the same way when you look at me.
Ferdinand frowned. Why was he hearing the letter in Hubert's voice? Had he read them all that way? He sighed. If only. He set his admirer’s letter down on his writing desk and pondered how to respond as he dressed himself. How desperately he wanted it to be Hubert. How painful that it wasn't. He cursed himself for not answering Hubert as to who he wanted it be, although he thought their moonlight dance and serenade would have put all doubts to rest. And what about his room? Certainly, he shouldn't have to ask someone directly if they wanted to share his bed with him. Where would the excitement be in that? The romance? Besides, Hubert wasn't one for bold declarations. He was quiet, reserved and of course he'd be embarrassed by such things. He'd been so dismissive about hearing the letters. Why would he want to hear Ferdinand declare to the world how much he loved him? Hubert had said it before. He was clearly not interested.
He sat at his desk and read the letter again, and the one previous and the one before that. All of them echoed in his mind in Hubert's voice. Ferdinand groaned. "I must be going mad," he said as he realized there was no one else in his heart. As infatuated as he was with the non-stop recognition and flattery the letters provided, he needed more. It needed to stop. He needed to end it. Damn Hubert and damn admirers. He scrawled out a message in response.
My dearest admirer,
I need to speak with you. In person.
Ferdinand von Aegir
He looked at the note. It felt so different, so cold. How unfair it was to someone who felt such things for him, even if he now wanted their affections to end. Still, it seemed awfully cruel of him, no matter how necessary it seemed. As he rolled the letter and sealed it, he couldn’t help but wonder what he would be writing if it were Hubert. He looked to his admirer’s letter. Hubert was so attentive when Ferdinand would speak of his interests, even if they were not shared. Hubert had never cared for tea, yet went out of his way to take tea breaks with him whenever asked. Hubert had once asked for his help in learning to use a lance and he was surprisingly good at it. Hubert had danced with him. He had requested Ferdinand to sing. Ferdinand inhaled an unsteady breath. What would he do if these were the love letters he had desired from him? He let his imagination run rampant for a moment, imagining this was all some coy act. That it was Hubert, of course it was Hubert, and acting like it wasn’t was just some game they were both playing. He reached for more parchment and started to write, his smile growing and heart filling with each word. He took a deep breath as he reread it. If only. He rolled the parchment and sealed it, placing it to the left of the other note and entertaining the thought of perhaps one day reading it again when he felt nostalgic.
A knock came at his door. “One moment!” He straightened his cravat and went to answer. He found Hubert standing there, looking somewhat exhausted. He did his best to smile. “What’s this? Someone has yet to have their first cup of coffee, I see.”
Hubert’s gloomy expression did not change. “May I come in?”
Ferdinand glared at him sardonically. Now? Honestly? After everything that happened last night, he wanted to come into his room now? He could have stayed in the first place and cut out these extra agonizing steps. He thought to say something immature and cutting, but stopped himself as he saw the look in Hubert’s visible eye. He wasn’t even looking directly at Ferdinand, his expression eerily blank. “Of course you may,” he said, stepping aside to allow him to enter. “I am still getting ready to face the day. I hope you do not mind.”
Hubert shook his head as he entered. “I do not. Thank you, Ferdinand.”
Ferdinand closed the door and took a deep breath. Hubert obviously needed someone’s ear and Ferdinand needed to provide that for him. Hubert didn’t have many others. He turned to find him examining his writing desk, holding his letters in his hand. “Do you mind?” Ferdinand said. “Those are private.”
“Why two?” Hubert asked as he held the two rolls up to him. “Is there some other correspondence you’re keeping from me?”
“Personal affairs, Hubert,” Ferdinand said firmly.
“Yes, if you must know.”
Hubert’s shoulders slumped as he placed the letters back on the desk. “Very well.” As if in a daze, he wandered to Ferdinand’s bed and unceremoniously sat, leaning back and fixing his gaze on the ceiling.
Ferdinand frowned. Hubert typically held himself with such poise and composure that seeing him do otherwise was maddening. As upset with him as he was, Hubert was still his friend above it all and what kind of friend would let theirs remain in such a state? “Hubert?”
“Yes?” he asked as he slowly looked to Ferdinand.
“You are acting odd.”
“Yes. You look like death. And not in the way you do normally. I will say I am surprised you’re not with Edelgard on your way to breakfast. You rarely leave her side in the mornings.”
Hubert sharply looked away. “She did not require my services this morning. And I am concerned she will require them far less.”
“You sound afraid.”
Hubert stared at Ferdinand from the corner of his eye. “I am,” he admitted at last. “She has chosen to spend her time in Dorothea’s company.”
Ferdinand scoffed. “Dorothea is our friend, Hubert. Surely there is nothing horrifying about that.”
He shook his head. “Of course not. I’ve been observing them for days. Lady Edelgard is happier than I have seen her when she’s with Miss Arnault and I am happy for her. What is eating at me is how I’ve spent a lifetime devoted to Lady Edelgard and now suddenly she no longer needs me.” He shook his head. “I knew this day would come and I’ve dreaded it. I have never seen a life for my outside of my duties. What am I without her?” Ferdinand’s look softened and he sat next to Hubert on the bed. He didn’t say a word as Hubert hid his face in his hands. “Am I just the lapdog they say I am?”
Ferdinand leaned on him, putting his arm around his shoulder. He wasn’t sure what he had been expecting to hear Hubert say, but it definitely wasn’t that. "Hubert, of course not,” he said gently. “You may be melancholy, merciless, and frightening, but I know who you truly are. You are dedicated, loyal, and the cleverest person I know. You are not being replaced. You are irreplaceable. Not just to her, but to me as well. I would never doubt she needs you. Who is the Emperor without her shadow? Who carved that path for her? She will never abandon you. Neither will I.”
Hubert shook his head. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”
“I am not. A noble does not go back on his word.” He nudged him in the side. “How many times must I tell you that?”
Hubert scoffed and looked to Ferdinand with a smirk. “You’ve told me so many times, I fear my ears will bleed if you utter those words again.”
“And have I ever been wrong?”
“You? Never. It is by far your most irritating quality.”
Ferdinand chuckled. “You terrible man. “ He leaned in and held Hubert’s bangs back to look him in both eyes. He smiled warmly. “There he is. There is my Hubert.”
Hubert’s breath hitched as his eyes met Ferdinand’s. “Ferdinand…”
Ferdinand sighed, content as he kept his gaze on Hubert. It was rare he caught a glimpse of his other eye. He had insisted on keeping hidden behind his hair for as long as he could remember. Shame. He was truly handsome and he shouldn’t have to hide it. Though he supposed Hubert’s hairstyle made him look mysterious and brooding and there certainly was something to be said for that. With his entire face exposed, he looked surprisingly vulnerable. Ferdinand wondered how many people outside of Edelgard had seen him so raw. It was an honor to be allowed that same level of trust. “Thank you,” he said, quietly, letting his hand fall away from Hubert’s hair.
“For what am I deserving of your thanks? You’ve been the one to comfort me."
"For trusting me. And helping me."
"Yet I have not delivered on our arrangement.”
Ferdinand nodded and pulled his hair in front of his left shoulder. “Yes, but you are giving it your all. And for that I thank you.” He laughed as he fought to recall a time where Hubert was anything but a treasured presence in his life. “To think I used to abhor being in the same room as you and now I willingly invite you into mine. Honestly, I am glad I was made Prime Minister.”
“Well I should hope you would be. It was what you wanted.”
Ferdinand smiled as he felt his face grow warmer. “Yes, but it means I get to work alongside you every day for the rest of my life. That is truly a gift. One that I thank you for.” He took Hubert’s hand in his and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“There is no need to thank me,” Hubert said as he looked to their hands. “I enjoy working with you as well. We complement each other. A younger me would rather die than admit as much.” He slid his hand free of Ferdinand's grip. "I hope to solve your mystery soon.”
"Nothing new. But whoever he is, he is a fool to string you along so."
Ferdinand's smile faltered. He couldn’t tell Hubert he was giving up on his admirer. He tossed his hair back behind his shoulder. "Well that is very kind of you to say and...wait...” What did Hubert just say? He? “How do you know my admirer is a he?” His grinned and leaned forward. “Hubert, do you know who it is? Please, tell me." Despite his earlier resolve to end the infatuation, he still could not wait for the identity to be revealed. He hadn’t wanted to lose or give up. That wasn’t his way.
Hubert paused, startled by Ferdinand’s intensity and eventually, he shook his head. "He's a coward and he does not deserve you. That is all I know."
Ferdinand backed away. His first real clue had just been a rare slip of the tongue. Still, it was something of a beautiful compliment and Ferdinand couldn’t help but continue to smile, first down at his feet and then at Hubert directly. "Thank you for that." He averted his eyes and laughed. "I asked you to put such things in writing, I recall."
Hubert nodded. "You did. I'm sorry it appears I could not keep that promise."
Ferdinand shook his head and continued to avoid Hubert's eyes. "No, it is all right. Being the recipient of such letters, I find that I may just prefer direct conversation." Slowly, he looked to Hubert again, unable to smile at his fullest. His heart ached for this man who clearly held some emotion and admiration for him, chaste as it was. "Thank you, Hubert. You have become a very dear friend to me."
Hubert could only nod. "And you as well. I shall continue in my search for your anonymous flatterer."
Ferdinand shook his head. “There is no need. At this point and I think I need to handle this on my own."
“Very well. I do wish to remain updated.” He stood and respectfully bowed to Ferdinand. “I apologize to have burdened you with my insecurities.”
Ferdinand chuckled. “No need to apologize. I thank you for trusting me with them. Come join me for breakfast. We’ll sit separate from Her Majesty and Dorothea. Treat it like an early tea time. Some coffee will do you good.”
Hubert nodded, the barest of smiles appearing on his face. “You are right, Ferdinand. As always.”
“I try.” Ferdinand said as he stopped by his desk. He picked up the rightmost letter and left it at his door before walking beside Hubert toward the dining hall. If he could not have him as a lover, he at least could have this. This comfortable, easy friendship built on comradery and trust that he would fight to hold onto as long as he lived.
Ferdinand did not get back to his room until the sun began to set. He exhaled in relief as he noticed his message had been picked up. Now all there was to do was wait to see if he wanted to meet. He was not looking forward to having to end their correspondence, but with his ever-present feelings for Hubert, it was a necessity. He truly hoped they would remain friends, whoever it was.
He looked to the remaining letter on his desk and took it into his hands. It was relieving to have written it, to pretend for a moment that this was some silly game of affections. He broke the seal, wanting to read his own words again and feel that rush of affection once more. After Hubert’s emotional crisis today, perhaps he could rework it to something more comforting to actually give him. As he unrolled the note he gasped and dropped it. This was not his heartfelt letter to Hubert. It was a short, cold demand for a meeting.
"Oh wow," Bernadetta said as she read Ferdinand's letter. "That's good." She looked over to Hubert who was laying on his bed with his back to her. "So, what do you want to say?"
"This is your fault," he grumbled.
"Not the most romantic response."
"You were too good in your letters. Now he has feelings and..."
"Didn't you want that?"
"I don't know." He remembered the night previous. He remembered the looks Ferdinand had given him and the feel of his hands on him as they danced. He recalled how soft his hair was. He longed for Ferdinand’s gentle touch brushing his bangs aside as he did this morning. And yet he had feelings for another. "This has gotten absurdly complicated."
Bernadetta sat on the bed her back to his. "You could tell him?"
He groaned. "You've been spending time with Edelgard."
"A little. But...but I think you should tell him. Worst he'll say is no and he'll be sad for a little and never forgive you."
Hubert turned to face her, glaring. "I am beginning to regret my decision to actively not frighten you."
"Hubert, I was joking. He wouldn't do that. But,” she looked to the letter and again smiled sheepishly at him, “I think maybe you're on your own for this one. This is way too easy to mess up and you would never let me live if I blew your chance with him. I'd...I'd tell him how you feel."
"That's what I have been doing."
"In person! I mean, I don't like people at all, but you should probably tell him. But I know you’re not going to. So if you want to write him, make sure it has all of your emotions. Everything you want to say. And I can't help you with that. It's got to be you."
Hubert snatched the letter away from her and read it again.
My dearest admirer,
I was reflecting on all of our letters and remembered you claim to adore my hair. Would you assist me in brushing it? There is nothing quite so calming, I have found. It makes me feel as though letting it grow long was not some accident. Having someone whom I care for tend to it makes me feel cherished.
I took a walk last night and a thought occurred to me. You constantly compare me to the sun. I am not complaining, but simply stating. It has been hard to respond in kind as I feel such a response would be better stated in person. Oh, how I wish you were brave enough to reveal yourself to me.
Until then, allow me to attempt to return your affection. If I am the sun, you are the moon. Like the new moon, you are shrouded in darkness, unable to be seen. Yet through your words, I know you are there. How beautiful it will be when you are here in full.
How could he even begin to respond to such beautiful and poetic words? They were not even intended for him, as much he wanted them to be. Technically, they were, but Ferdinand was not aware of it. Ferdinand had fallen for someone else, someone more romantic, more attentive, more willing to lay his emotions in the open, someone who Hubert was afraid he could never be without a veil of anonymity. He was a man who lived in shadow and that apparently was true for every aspect of his life. He didn’t deserve to step into the sunlight, as much as he desired it, as much as he wanted to feel its warmth. How apt a comparison, he thought as he looked to Ferdinand’s letter once more. The sun and moon. Opposites, yet somehow able to exist in the same sky. A shiver went through his body as he realized what he needed to say. He sat up straight and reached for the parchment Bernadetta was holding out to him. He wrote the letter he knew he had to and without showing it to her, went to deliver it. It contained what he'd wanted to say last night, this morning and for longer than he would care to admit. The envelope felt heavy as lead in his hands and he almost missed the tight window he had to slide it under the door. He exhaled, his deed done and for a moment, lingered, hoping in that instance, Ferdinand would finally want to give chase. He'd open the door, see Hubert there and that would explain it all. They would smile and laugh and then....And then Hubert turned and fled.
Ferdinand could feel his heart pounding when he saw the envelope slide under the door. He had half a mind to try to chase down whoever was writing them, but decided against it. Trembling, he reached for it and scrambled to tear it open, even though he was afraid to read how his words were received. Upon seeing his the response, he felt lightheaded. He kept his eyes glued to the paper as he reached for purchase on his bed, reading the letter over and over to make sure he was reading it right.
The moon cannot glow without the sun's light.
I love you.
Hubert spent the following afternoon in something of a daze. Ferdinand’s latest letter had puzzled him like nothing else. Here Hubert was having provided a declaration of love and Ferdinand had not given any hint as to how it was received. All his response contained was a demand to meet. Hubert wasn’t sure what it meant and he did not want to admit it scared him. He left a note in response setting a time and place for their meeting. In two days. At noon.
“Why not tomorrow? Why not, oh I don’t know, now?” Edelgard asked after he tacked on his latest romantic update to his list of more pressing Imperial matters.
He shook his head. “He would not agree to tomorrow.”
She winced. “Your birthday. Hubert, I apologize, I forgot it was so soon…”
“Lady Edelgard, there is no need to apologize. You know I am not one for celebrations and I don’t think any less of you for forgetting. You will recall I have forgotten it myself before.”
“Yet you are meeting with Ferdinand, are you not?”
Hubert fought and lost against the small smile coming to his face. “He insists. He is preparing coffee for me and has been hard at work perfecting it. I cannot deny him that.”
“No, I suppose not. Hubert, it pleases me to see you so happy when you speak of him. See that it continues.”
“As you wish, Lady Edelgard.”
Hubert stood outside Ferdinand’s door before knocking. He inhaled deeply, taking in the rich aroma of what had to be dark roast Dagdan coffee. A personal favorite. He couldn’t help but smile. He’s only mentioned his favorite type of beans once or twice and it felt wonderful to have Ferdinand remember his preferences. He knocked.
“There you are!” Ferdinand exclaimed as he enthusiastically opened his door. “Happy Birthday! Please come in.”
Hubert nodded and entered. “You did not have to go to the trouble,” he said. “I don’t often celebrate my birthday.”
“Nonsense,” he said, waving off Hubert’s concern. “You are my friend. My incredibly hard working, dedicated friend who absolutely deserves a moment to relax on his birthday. Obliging him his favorite drink is the least I can do. Please, sit.”
“I appreciate it,” he sat in a chair next to a small table Ferdinand had set up. He looked to see a mug and saucer awaiting him. “What’s this?” he asked as he examined the mug. It didn’t look like any Ferdinand owned. It wasn’t his style at all. It was black porcelain, a band of dark purple around the rim of the mug as well as the saucer.
“Do you like it?” Ferdinand asked as he finished preparing the coffee pot. “I had it made custom for you. Seeing you drink from white and floral teacups always seemed strange. They never suited you, so I thought you-“
Ferdinand nodded. “Yes. You did not think I was merely brewing coffee for you, did you?”
Hubert fought for words to say. “Ferdinand, I…it’s not to say I don’t like it, I do, but I did not expect to recieve…” He shook his head. “I do not have anything for you and I…”
“Shush. It is a birthday present.” He said as he poured Hubert a cup of coffee. “But if you insist, you have slightly less than two weeks to reciprocate.”
Hubert nodded. “Of course.” He took a sip of the coffee and could not suppress a delighted hum as he savored it. “You were correct. You have indeed improved.”
“Thank you. I am glad to hear it,” he said as he poured a cup for himself and sat opposite Hubert.
Hubert looked at him curiously. “Strange. I thought you didn’t care for the taste.”
Ferdinand chuckled. “Well, I admit I have grown accustomed to its charms. The aroma became far too pleasant. I had to give it another try. Besides, what is coffee but a form of tea?”
Hubert nodded a small smile coming to his lips, remembering a time when Ferdinand couldn’t help but list all the things he detested about coffee. That he learned to make and enjoy it made Hubert feel warm inside and reminded him that he had done much the same. “A fair assessment. I’ll have you know I’ve gained an appreciation for cinnamon tea.”
“Cinnamon tea,” Ferdinand repeated, wistfully. His eyes flicked briefly to the stack of letters on his writing desk. He shook his head. “Well, I am glad to hear you are expanding your tea horizons.”
Hubert chuckled. “What is tea but coffee made from leaves?” They laughed over that for a moment before settling into comfortable small talk that Hubert thought they were beyond as friends. He was not going to let their relationship stagnate, not when he was to be outted tomorrow. What if this was the last chance he had to bask in his company? “You seem in a particularly good mood, Ferdinand. Albeit mildly distracted. I assume news from your stalker?”
“No, it is entirely due to your company.” Ferdinand frowned before biting his lower lip. “I am afraid to be meeting my admirer tomorrow," he said, his voice steady and calm.
"I thought you would be more excited about such a momentous occasion. Getting cold feet?"
Ferdinand shook his head. "No. That's not it at all. I...I demanded this meeting to end things."
Hubert nearly dropped his cup. End things? Hadn’t he written about wanting to know who his admirer was? How beautiful it would be when they were together? What had changed? "That is unexpected. I would have sworn you were infatuated.”
Ferdinand nodded, staring wistfully at his coffee, seemingly unable to find Hubert’s eyes. "I was at first, I think. Flattered, really. No one had ever expressed interest in me or praised me so openly. I used to want nothing more than the attention.” He chuckled. “I was a complete little shit back in school, wasn’t I?”
Hubert smirked. “Oh definitely.”
He laughed, finally looking up to smile at Hubert. “The truth of it is, I do not feel the same for my admirer as they do for me and unfortunately, they believe I do. The last letter they received from me was not intended for them. I asked to meet so I could set the record straight in person. I owe them that much. Still, I am going to break the heart of someone who claims to love me tomorrow and I am not looking forward to it."
Hubert tried to think of anyone he’d seen Ferdinand with or heard him mention. He thought to his list of potential suitors and not one name stood out. "Who was it for?"
"The letter you sent in error. Who was it for?"
Ferdinand’s mouth opened to respond. His lips trembled momentarily before he shook his head. "It does not matter. The feelings I have are unrequited and the letter was not meant to reach anyone’s eyes but my own.” He shrugged. “I suppose I deserve this."
"You do not."
"How kind of you to say when I have been so cruel."
Hubert set his coffee down. "Ferdinand you may be many things, but you are not cruel."
Ferdinand smiled gently and corrected his posture. "Oh? Tell me,” he said with a sly grin. “what am I?"
Hubert rolled his eyes. "You are a damn peacock for one, you’re correct about that having not changed. "
Ferdinand laughed and tucked some of his hair behind his ear and rested his chin on his hand. "Terrible."
"But you are more than that. You are strong," Hubert continued. "You are compassionate, kind, determined, warm. Anyone who captured your heart would be immensely lucky. You shine like the sun, Ferdinand. You are beautiful.” Hubert’s eyes went wide and he held his breath after realizing what he had just said. Ferdinand looked similarly stunned.
Silence hung heavy in the air between them and Hubert felt as if he was going to combust on the spot. He exhaled as he watched Ferdinand’s posture relax and the smile fade from his face.
“I see,” he said, staring down into his cup before setting it gently on its saucer. He traced its rim with his fingers. “Hubert, may I ask you something?”
Ferdinand sharply glared at Hubert, tears gathering in his eyes. “Why did you wait so long to tell me this? Why did you not say it before when I wanted you to so badly?"
“I have complimented you before.”
“You have never called me beautiful! If I am a peacock as you claim, why have you never noticed that I preen for you?”
Hubert remained silent.
“Answer me,” Ferdinand said.
Hubert said nothing and instead finished his coffee. He stood and set the cup aside and calmly, quietly walked to the door. “I must take my leave,” he said, doing his best to hide the tremor in his voice.
He bowed politely. “I thank you for the coffee,” he said before leaving Ferdinand alone, cursing himself as a coward before retreating to his room, now more unsure than ever as to how Ferdinand would accept the truth.
Hubert sat waiting in the tea garden shortly before noon. He was alone at his table, his black hair and his dark clothing causing him to stand out among the brighter and more colorful people present. He stared at the teapot on the table and exhaled loudly as he turned his focus to the pile of Ferdinand’s letters in his hand. He was not a man who feared much. Heights mostly. But fear of Ferdinand’s rejection terrified him the most.
And then he saw him. He was dressed as if he was preparing to go on a casual ride later in the day, tan vest over a white shirt. It was simple yet he looked stunning. He always looked stunning. Hubert watched as he scanned the garden looking for someone whose face he didn’t know he was looking for. His eyes settled on Hubert and his shoulders slumped. He began to approach the table, his face contorting to a look of worry. “Hubert,” he said, “do you mind if I sit here for a moment?”
“Not at all,” he said, gesturing to the open chair. “I could pour you some tea, if you’d like.”
He shook his head. “No that is quite all right. I am…well you know why it is that I am here." He sighed. "I am sorry about yesterday,” he said as he looked Hubert directly in the eyes, an apologetic half-smile on his lips. “On your birthday no less. Putting you on the spot like that was unfair and I feel like a failure of a friend."
Hubert shook his head. "There is no need for apologies. I deserved it."
“You did not.” He cleared his throat. “Although when I am done here, I do want to discuss what was said yesterday. There is a tension between us that apparently neither of us wants to address.”
Hubert’s heart thudded so loudly in his chest, he was surprised Ferdinand could not hear it as well. “I think you need to deal with your admirer first.”
Ferdinand groaned. “I agree. They appear to be late, unfortunately.” He sighed. “I do not understand. They agreed to meet me! They were more than happy to do so today. They could not have forgotten. They wrote that…” he inhaled a staggered breath. “They wrote that they loved me. I do not feel the same, but…it was nice to hear.”
Hubert felt his jaw go slack. “Ferdinand, I…”
He groaned and tucked some of his hair behind his ear. “Do let me know if you see someone who appears to be looking for me.” He frowned briefly before turning back to Hubert. He nodded to the papers Hubert held. “What are you working on? It cannot be so clandestine that you are doing so in the open.”
Hubert pursed his lips and looked from Ferdinand’s beautiful letters to the beautiful man himself. Without a word, he laid them face up on the table and gestured for Ferdinand to look.
“Fiend,” he teased, picking up the pile, “tricking me into working on such an important day for me.” His easy smirk faded as he read his own words. He flicked through the pages in disbelief. “Hubert? How did you get these? These are…” His face turned angry. “Hubert, these are private. I know I trusted you to assist, but stealing these…that is low, even for you.” He dropped the letters on the table and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Who was it? What did you do to them?”
“Are you implying that I…”
“I do not need to imply it! I cannot believe that you…you…” Ferdinand ran his hand through his hair as he stared at his letters in disbelief. "How could you?" He reached for the letters again, his hand trembling.
“Ferdinand, look at me.” He leaned over the table. “Ferdinand.” He reached for his hand, but Ferdinand snatched it away. “Ferdinand…I did not do anything.”
“Then how did you get these?”
Hubert sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. “I am allowed to read my own letters, am I not?”
Ferdinand huffed. “Of course you are but I don’t see how-“ he abruptly stopped as realization spread across his face. He turned pale as he shook his head. “No, no that is not possible. This entire time…”
“It was me, yes.”
Ferdinand’s lip quivered. “Why?”
“Because,” he inhaled a staggered breath, “you told me to put any compliments into writing.”
Ferdinand’s eyes were filling with tears. “I asked you directly if you knew who was writing such beautiful things to me. And you lied. You…you terrible man.” Ferdinand stood from the table and stormed away.
“Ferdinand!” He followed behind, following Ferdinand out of the tea garden ignoring the stares of the other people there. He trailed Ferdinand through the halls and courtyards of the monastery, toward what Hubert could only assume was the stables.
Ferdinand's fists clenched at he continued to walk. “Stop following me. I have nothing to say to you, von Vestra.”
Hubert had never heard Ferdinand sound so serious and it shook him to his core. Had he broken him hard enough to cause his bright optimism to fade away? “Ferdinand, please, wait."
Ferdinand stopped and turned to face him, tears staining his cheeks. “Why? So you can further make a fool of me? Do you have any idea how those letters made me feel? I felt loved and admired and wanted. Now I find it was all some sort of cruel joke played on me by someone I trusted? By someone I called my friend. By someone I-”
“No! It was not a joke. It was not supposed to be like this, Ferdinand. It got out of hand.”
Ferdinand scoffed. “Out of hand? I believed you would never lie to me. You know I trusted you as much.”
“Do you think I was lying?”
“Of course! All the times before when I tried to speak with you, to let you know how I felt, you brushed me off.”
“What? When did I ever brush you off?” He tried to recall any time he’d been recently dismissive of Ferdinand and nothing was coming to mind.
“For goodness sake, Hubert.” Ferdinand took a deep breath. “I bought you coffee beans. You asked me if they were for someone I fancied and I told you precisely who they were for. I never denied it. Do you know how overjoyed I was to see you had something for me as well? Then nothing. Goddess, Hubert. What was I supposed to think? You talked about your dismissal of love letters and shows of affection and you directly told me you were not interested when I brought it up.” He ran his hand through his hair. "But you would keep looking at me. And I kept stupidly trying to get close to you because I wanted you so badly, kept giving you every opportunity to claim me but you kept me at arm's length. Could you not see my heart breaking? If you truly meant what you wrote, why could you never tell me?"
“Ferdinand,” he sighed, stepping closer. “It's complicated...”
He rolled his eyes. “Yes, I know. Lady Edelgard. I understand.”
Hubert shook his head. “No. She has given me the freedom to pursue whomever I choose.”
“How delightful for you, I’m sure.”
“Ferdinand, please. I…”
“You had every opportunity to tell me. How could you not?”
“Because I was afraid you would reject me!” Hubert said at last. He paused, waiting for Ferdinand to respond. When he said nothing, Hubert continued. “You’ve become so treasured to me, the risk of losing you was too great. I did not want to return to how things used to be between us.”
“So your brilliant plan was an anonymous letter you lied to me about? Yes, I see why you are regarded as a master tactician, you clever man.”
Hubert winced. “I didn’t intend for that. I meant to sign my name to the first letter. That’s how this all started. I meant to sign my name and did not.”
Ferdinand quirked his eyebrow. “You honestly expect me to believe you simply forgot to sign your name?”
“Yes!” He frowned and shook his head. “No! Of course it sounds preposterous.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed before breathing deeply to collect himself. He exhaled and looked Ferdinand directly in the eyes. “Ferdinand, I was trying to compliment you in writing. A love letter.” He reached forward and brushed some of Ferdinand’s hair back. “As you once requested of me.” He couldn’t fight the small smile on his face as he remembered the morning Ferdinand had found his first letter. “You were so delighted I was too embarrassed to admit what had occurred. I didn’t want to see the disappointment on your face when you realized it had been just me. I only wanted to see you smile so…I kept writing. I kept seeing you fill with joy with each letter and your responses…” he chuckled. “At one point, I was jealous of myself. This braver, more eloquent me who you were smitten with, who made you shine so brightly.” He clenched his eyes shut and bowed his head. “And now it’s all gone wrong. I won't blame you if you can't forgive me."
Ferdinand gently placed his hand on the one Hubert had in his hair. "All of this because you believed I would not accept such affections from you?" he asked quietly, his voice turning soft and gentle.
Hubert looked down, unable to meet Ferdinand's eyes and nodded. It was too painful to look into the eyes he adored and see them not filled with radiance and joy.
“Hubert…” he sighed, reaching to tilt Hubert's chin back up to look at him. "How dare you think such a thing of me?"
Hubert swallowed hard as he looked into Ferdinand’s amber eyes. He had nothing to say to the radiant man before him whose presence he did not deserve to be in.
“You asked me who I wanted it to be.” Ferdinand’s lip quivered and he lunged forward, engulfing Hubert in the biggest hug he’d ever received. “I wanted it to be you. From the first words I read, I wanted it to be you. Who else could I want? And I should have said it then, but just the same, I could not bear to hear you say no.” He sighed, contentedly as Hubert timidly returned the hug. "You terrible man, how I love you."
Hubert exhaled, finding relief in Ferdinand’s embrace, still unable to believe he’d heard him correctly. What a fool he’d been. "You're not mad?"
Ferdinand laughed against his shoulder. "Oh I am very, very mad. But I will not turn away the person I have longed for just because he is an idiot. Answer me honestly, Hubert. Do you want to be with me?"
"More than I have wanted anything for myself. I cannot express how much I regret putting you through this. I love you, my sunlight."
He squeezed Hubert tight against him. "Then, my dearest admirer, I am yours."
"Ferdinand," he said, kissing the soft hair on top of his head. "I do not deserve you."
Ferdinand pulled away from the hug and glared at Hubert. “Stop that.” He cupped Hubert's face in his hands and forced their eyes to meet. “I am Ferdinand von Aegir," he said, "and I am the only one who will decide who is good enough for me.” He pulled Hubert in and kissed him. Hubert found much to his delight that Ferdinand kissed much like he did everything else; fierce, confident, strong and Hubert felt he was going to melt in his warmth. He tasted sweet, like the fruit flavored tea he was so fond of and Hubert found himself appreciating the flavor’s appeal. Far too soon, Ferdinand pulled away, started to laugh and easily, with no warning, lifted Hubert in the air.
Often Hubert forgot how strong Ferdinand was. Not metaphorically. He should not have been surprised at how easily Ferdinand could hoist him up. However, he had no time to be in awe of his physical prowess. He was off the ground. And that was terrible. He wanted to calmly ask to be lowered, but all that came out was panicked “Down!"
Ferdinand returned him to the beautiful and safe ground. “Sorry,” he chuckled.
Hubert ran his hand through his hair. “Please never do that again."
“Oh, very well,” he said. He jabbed Hubert in the chest with his forefinger. “You are still in trouble, I will have you know. I believe we have a lot to address if we are going to make this work."
"Of course, sunlight, anything."
He threw his arms around Hubert’s shoulders and pulled himself in by the nape of his neck. “To start, I believe I deserve an apology,” he demanded.
Hubert narrowed his eyes in confusion. “I have already said I…”
Ferdinand's smirk was bold, confident and his eyes shone bright. “In writing.”
Thank you for reading this! I'm truly glad that so many of you have enjoyed it and I hope you're satisfied with the ending! They're so hard to do. Big shout out to the discord, y'all nuts. This fandom is incredible and has brought me back to a place creatively where I'm happy to be.
I'll see you all next time.