Paperwork. While it isn't the main reason Jeralt left the monastery, he was glad he didn't have to do anymore when he became a mercenary. He sighs as he looks down at the stack of paper in front of him. What he would give to have an excuse to ignore it for five minutes. Apparently, the Goddess heard his plea.
Jeralt raises his head when he hears a knock at the door, "Come in." When Byleth enters, Jeralt's eyes widen, but soon his shock turns into content smirk. "What's the occasion? You only ever stop by my office during the weekends."
"I wanted to ask you something, about the ball." Byleth has become more expressive with his time at the monastery. Jeralt was glad to see his son smile more, but now, he could see pain in those eyes.
"I'm not sure I'm the best person to ask, kid. You may want to go to Seteh or even one of the other professors for that." Jeralt rubs the back of his neck. Great, his son comes to him and he probably won't be able to help him at all.
"I want to ask you. Not.." Byleth's gaze is burrowing into the floor, "I don't want to ask anyone else."
Jeralt tries to not let worry show on his face, "I'll do my best to answer then."
Byleth is quiet for a while, looking across the floor as if it could give him the words to say. Finally he speaks, "Would it be... Would it be wrong for me to dance with another man at the ball?"
Silence follows, but, after a time, Jeralt breaks it, "I don't think it's wrong, but... Other people here don't share the same sentiment."
Byleth's shoulders fall, "As I thought... I should've figured it out sooner."
"No, kid." Jeralt stands and walks towards his son, "I should've told you. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I don't blame you." Byleth whispers, "I should've assumed that's how they'd think. Most do. So many mercenaries were abandoned by their families because of the same thing."
"I remember when you were younger, you asked another boy to dance with you." Jeralt cherishes that moment fondly, his son's awkward attempts at dancing as he swayed with the music, stepping on the other poor boy's feet multiple times. "There was no worry for what others would think of you. Men were dancing with men and women were dancing with women. It was normal for our mercenary group. I wanted you to stay in that kind of world. But, then we were dragged here, and I couldn't tear you away from your students when I saw how close you've grown to them."
"It's both funny and sad in a way." Before this, there was never a time Byleth wanted to return to his mercenary days. But now, a part of him wishes he never left his old life. "It's the mercenaries who are the most accepting people I know."
"You know I will always support you. If anyone ever gives you shit, I'll be there to shut them up." Jeralt embraces his son, he can feel Byleth sink in his arms, "I promise to always be here for you, kid. I love you."
Byleth returns the hug, "I love you too, dad."
-- -- -- --
Curse his professor. Dimitri must have spent hours in his room by now practicing for the White Heron Cup. He needs to relax, his form is still stiff. Yet, for some reason, when he rehearses with Byleth, he can feel his tension melt away. Byleth's praises are all he worries about when Byleth's there, just him noticing Dimitri's small improvements makes him feel light. Dimitri spins in place, swaying with his steps. The image of Byleth in his arms comes back to him. Byleth's touch on him was unshakable, truly the hands of a great swordsman, but there was a gentleness Dimitri cannot purge from his mind. So delicate, so caring, there ready to support and follow Dimitri. What would it be like to dance with Byleth? Dimitri can feel his muscles loosen. What would it be like to have those fearless strides move with him? Dimitri can feel Byleth's confidence, the surety his has for him. When the song hits its final crescendo, what would it be like to hold Byleth as they dip? What would it be like to hold Byleth in his arms, for their foreheads to touch, for Byleth's hand on Dimitri's cheek with their lips almost close enough to-
Dimitri yelps, stumbling to a stop. That was- No, he shouldn't- Byleth is a man! These kinds of thoughts are highly inappropriate! Dimitri should know better than this, he should act better than this! Dimitri rubs his temple. When did he- Why did his mind wander to something like that? And, why did... When he thought about dancing with Byleth, why did he feel so free? Why did it feel so natural? His dancing was finally carefree and calm. All when he imagined himself dancing with Byleth.
But, he has a battle he must win, even if his methods are tasteless.
-- -- -- --
"Ladies and gentlemen! My sincerest apologies for the wait! Thank you for gathering here on the eve of the highly anticipated ball to bear witness to... The academy-wide dance competition! Welcome to the White Heron Cup!" Alois, with his arms thrown wide, bellows to the audience.
Dimitri takes in a deep breath. He can do this. He has been preparing and improving for this. He has rehearsed with Byleth's guidance, he has rehearsed on his own. He will perform to the best of his abilities. His professor believes in him and he will deliver.
"And with that, will the representatives of each house please make their way to the stage!" Alois calls to the contestants.
Dimitri steps out with the others. The judges are in front of him and the audiences eyes are all focused on the stage. Dimitri gulps.
Alois smiles brightly at them, "Contestants! Are you ready to dance? And is the band prepared to play? Very well... BEGIN!"
Dimitri closes his eyes, Byleth believes in him, he takes his first step. He imagines Byleth's hand in his, Byleth's grip on his shoulder. The only eyes on him are a soft blue, the reassuring gaze of his professor. The audience and judges slip away as the music causes his body to sway. His strides are light, his gait is free, his turns carry a purpose because his arms hold Byleth close to him. Every step Byleth follows him, every step Byleth is there for him, every step Byleth is smiling because of him. Dimitri takes his last step as the song comes to a finish. He opens his eyes, he's back on stage with the other contestants. Now to hear the results.
First, Manuela speaks, "Oh my, let's see. I suppose I have no choice but to vote for... The Golden Deer House."
Dimitri feels chest tighten. It's alright. There are still the other judges to state their choices.
Then Shamir, "I vote for... The Blue Lions House."
Dimitri takes a deep breath. He's pleased with the fact he got a single vote at all, but this isn't over yet.
Finally, Alois, "Well then, let's see... Factoring my own humble opinion... Yes! We have a winner! And I will announce who it is...right now! Without any delay! The winner of this year's White Heron Cup is... The Blue Lions House!"
Dimitri can't help the smile spreading across his face, "I... I won." The audience cheers, but Dimitri's gaze is on his smiling professor.