Chapter 1: Perfect Tea Time
"Thank you for inviting me, Professor. This month has already been especially busy, so this is a welcomed change of pace." Dimitri's smile grows as the aroma of the tea reaches his nose, "Oh, this smell. This one is delightful. I should know what tea this is, but I seldom enjoy such things outside of your invitations."
Byleth returns the smile, though it is much subtler in comparison, "It's chamomile. I make sure to always have plenty, you always smile the most when I prepare it for you."
Dimitri pauses, eyes widening, as he stares at the cup in his hand, "You are quite attentive, Professor, and also kind." Dimitri's face softens, "Taking the time to figure out my favorite tea while I don't even know myself. I... appreciate it greatly."
Byleth sips his tea and places it back on its saucer, "It's the least I could do, Dimitri. I could never thank you enough for everything you've done for me and helped me with, so I do my best to brighten your day whenever I can. If there is ever anything I can assist you with or if you are ever troubled, I'll gladly be there for you."
Dimitri tries to hide his face in his tea cup, hoping Byleth doesn't notice the pink dusting his cheeks and grin spreading across his face, "You don't need to worry about me, but thank you. If only I could help you with the White Heron Cup. We'd be doomed if I have any part in that. Have you decided who will be representing our house yet?"
"I have, though I have not told them yet." Byleth smirks.
Dimirti's eyes squint and sets down his tea. He knows that smirk. He rarely sees it, but, whenever he does, he sees a side of Byleth he hates yet also can't get enough of. "Well then, who, pray tell, have you decided on?"
"You, Dimitri." Byleth states and drinks from his tea, smirk still plastered on his face.
Dimirti gasps, "I asked- No! I begged you not to pick me! I will accept, of course, but I hope you know there is no chance of me winning."
"I wouldn't say that." Byleth's gaze meets Dimitri's, "You will do just fine. If I didn't think you'd win, I wouldn't have chosen you."
Dimitri can feel his face burn, but he doesn't dare pick up his cup. He would certainly shatter it if he tried. "Hmph, it almost seems as if you're deliberately trying to humiliate me." Dimitri glares back.
Byleth chuckles softly, "Humiliate you? No. Embarrass you? Hmm, maybe. But, can you blame me?"
"I can and will blame you when this ends in disaster." Dimitri sighs and relaxes his shoulders, which were apparently strained, "Is it really that entertaining to humiliate- oh wait, embarrass me, as you would phrase it."
Byleth gently smiles at Dimitri as he rests his chin on the back of his hand, "What can I say? You are incredibly adorable when you're flustered."
Dimitri's face is not turning red. He is not pouting and, he is not refusing to look back at Byleth. "You are mistaken, Professor. I am far from 'adorable.'"
"Say what you will." Byleth takes a sip, "You've already proven yourself wrong."
"Are you sure you're in the right mind? For someone usually so astute, I wouldn't expect you to say such delusional things. And making me the representative for the White Heron Cup, your head cannot be in the right place." Dimitri takes a deep breath in and sighs, finally bringing his cup back up to his lips again, though the tips of his ears still remain pink.
Byleth watches him for a moment and then chuckles faintly. Curse his professor, once so stoic and difficult to read, but now, whenever Byleth is with Dimitri, his emotions shine through. Dimitri can't help but feel honored, even when Byleth's smile is from finding enjoyment in teasing him.
"Will you at least help me prepare, Professor?" Dimitri pleads, "If I must battle, I will, but I could really use assistance with this."
"I promised that I'll be there for you whenever you need me." Byleth finishes off what little remains of his tea and smiles, "Though, you may end up dancing like a mercenary by the end of it."
Chapter 2: Practice Makes Perfect
Byleth helps Dimitri practice his dancing skills.
Dimitri should have declined being his house's representative for the White Heron Cup. Annette and Ashe have wished him luck, so has Ingrid, though there was an understanding pity in her words. Mercedes and Dedue gave encouraging words to help with his nerves, though they only reminded him how terrified he was. Sylvain wouldn't stop teasing him and Felix would snicker whenever Dimitri's dancing skills were mentioned. This will surely end in disaster, so why hadn't he declined?
As Dimitri stepped into the courtyard, dusk was settling, and Byleth's warm, soft smile greeted him. Ah, that's why. Byleth. Dimitri cannot help himself from trying to do everything in his power to see Byleth pleased with him. When Dimitri would say 'no,' it would always turn into a 'yes' if it was Byleth who asked him. Curse his professor.
"I'm not surprised that you'd insist on practicing at this time of day, well night, but you do know you will have to perform in front of people." Byleth comments as Dimitri steps closer.
"Yes, I know that, I just- I would rather improve away from the eyes of others." Dimitri can already feel heat beginning to rise in his cheeks.
Byleth crosses his arms, "It's good the guards have taken a liking to me at least. Well, we shouldn't waste time. Show me what you can do."
Dimitri can feel his shoulders tighten as he straightens his posture, "I- Now?"
Byleth nods, "I assume you can hum whatever song you've heard at previous balls."
Dimitri sighs but then takes the stance he learned years ago, arm settling on the waist of an imaginary partner. He knows no melody fully from memory, but bits and pieces he's danced to before come to mind. His humming is far from in tune but it is passable, just like the steps he displays. He never excelled when it came to dancing, he simply did his best to be adequate, to not step on anyone's toes. Dimitri honestly finds it easier to dance in a ballroom full of others dancing along with him. Everyone's focus would be on their partners, he could simply focus on not bumping into anyone. He didn't have to worry about all of their eyes watching him and his every move and misstep. But during the White Heron Cup, so much attention would be on him. This shouldn't bother him. He is a prince and will someday be a king, he can speak in confidence, he has stared death in the face, yet he cannot stop the churning in his stomach and drying of his mouth when he thinks of performing with all of his peers studying his every stride.
Dimitri froze, his dancing coming to a halt, when he feels warmth grip his outstretched palm, a hand sliding to his shoulder. Dimitri's partner is no longer imaginary, Byleth stands looking up at him. "You're too rigid." Byleth states with ease, as if their closeness is not something to take note of. The hand on Dimitri's shoulder slowly runs down his arm. "Relax, Dimitri." Has Byleth's voice always been this soothing? Dimitri can feel the tension leave his muscles, but his face burns. Having Byleth here like this feels so natural. But strain quickly returns to his form when he can hear footsteps from around the corner. He pulls himself away from Byleth. The guard rounds the corner, only glancing at the two for a moment as she continues past them until she is fully out of sight.
"Is something wrong?" Byleth asks, there's a concern in his voice Dimitri never wants to hear again.
Dimitri takes a deep breath, he needs to remain calm, no one saw what happened. "My apologies, Professor, but that was... inappropriate."
Byleth raises an eyebrow, "Are professors not allowed to dance with their students? Manuela would not stop saying how much she was looking forward to-"
"It is improper for men to dance together." Dimitri is surprised by how suddenly his voice turned firm.
Byleth is silent, eyes wide. His face falls, but it isn't long for him to recompose himself, "Oh, I see... I should be the one apologizing then."
Dimitri's heart sinks into his gut, "It's alright. You clearly didn't know the implications."
"Still, I'm sorry." Byleth steps away from Dimitri and takes his stance. "You'll have to watch me." While it is similar to Dimitri's, Byleth's is calm, his form isn't the definition of formality, but it was also far from coarse. Byleth doesn't hum but, from the timing of his movements, it's clear he has a rhythm he's following in his head. Each step is precise but carries no strain or stress. Byleth seems so free. Dimitri cannot take his eyes off him. So confident but unrestrained, this dance isn't to impress others, yet it impresses Dimitri nonetheless. It is simply a dance to enjoy himself, a dance without worry, a dance that was unburdened.
Byleth lets his arms fall as the dance comes to an end. He looks to Dimitri, "What can you take from that and apply to yourself?"
Dimitri snaps out of his trance, "Like you said, I need to relax. Though, I'm afraid my nerves won't allow that."
Byleth's kind smile returns to his face, "You're a strong man, Dimitri. I've seen you overcome many things. I know you can do this, and do this well. I promise I will be there every step of the way."
If Byleth believes in him this much, then Dimitri may actually have a chance at winning. "Thank you, Professor."
Chapter 3: Crisis after Crisis
Jeralt is a supportive dad, Dimitri has a gay crisis, and the competition. Really these were all too small for one chapter so I put them all together.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
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.
I maybe cried a bit when writing Jeralt because of what happens to him in chapter 9.
Chapter 4: The Real Reason I Chose You
The night of the ball
Five years from now. They all promised five years from now they would reunite and see each other again. Dimitri, his classmates, his friends, and his professor. Byleth promised he'd be there. Everyone was happy to see him smiling. But for some reason, even with that soft smile, Dimitri saw a longing sadness in Byleth's eyes. A sadness no one else seemed to notice. Before he had the chance to ask Byleth what was wrong, Dimitri was swept away to the ball.
"Congrats, Your Highness!" Sylvain's hand slaps Dimitri's back, "I didn't know you had those dance moves in you. You're gonna have a whole line of ladies wanting to dance with you."
"I will won't I." Dimitri sighs.
"Oh, come on Your Highness, this is the perfect chance for you to get with a girl! Don't be all sad about it." Sylvain gives him a nudge, "But, if you need help taking some off your hands, I wouldn't mind-"
"I doubt I'll be the only one in demand, Sylvain." Dimitri cuts his friend off and cringes at the words that just came from his mouth, while he's used to the attention by now it doesn't mean he enjoys it.
"That's true." Sylvain groans, "Now I have to compete with you and the professor! You two are really going mess up my game tonight."
Once the music begins, it isn't long for the first woman to ask Dimitri to dance. Partner after partner dance with him, from students he doesn't know the names of to his friends and classmates. Each woman in his arms as they waltz grins at him, but he struggles to keep his focus on them. Every time he sees Byleth in the corner of his eye, he can't help but to gaze at him. He has to constantly keep himself in check to bring his focus back to his dance partner. Dimitri has no idea how long it is until he's able to excuse himself to have a break. He peers across the crowd. Now that he thinks back, he hasn't seen Byleth dance at all tonight. In fact, Dimitri can't even find him now. Last he saw of Byleth was briefly when he caught a glimpse of Claude dragging him towards the dance floor.
"Ah, Claude, may I have a moment of your time?" Dimitri asks as soon as he finds the young man.
"Oh Your Princeliness, how can I be of service?" Claude smirks as be places one hand on his hip while he raises his glass in the other.
"Do you know where the professor is? I last saw him with you."
Claude nods, "Yeah, sorry. I think I scared him away."
"'Scared him away?'" Dimitri raises an eyebrow, "What are you on about?"
"He was just standing alone because all the women who wanted to dance with him were to afraid to make the first move, so I tried to drag him over to them and get them to ask him." Claude chuckles, "I wasn't expecting your dear professor to turn them down though."
"He turned them down?" Dimitri frowns slightly, that isn't like Byleth at all.
Claude shrugs, "He apologized and ran off. Turns out he doesn't know how to dance, but I guess even he can't be skilled at everything." He gestures to one of the doorways leading outside, "He went that was last I saw him."
Dimitri bows to Claude, thanking him, and then steps outside and sees Byleth, standing alone and staring at the stars in the sky.
"Professor? What are you doing here?" Dimitri steps towards Byleth, catching the other man's attention.
"Aren't you going to dance with Edelgard?" Byleth's face is neutral and his voice monotone, much like when Dimitri first met him.
Dimitri sighs, "No, I should think not. Actually... Before I came to Garreg Mach, I was friends with Edelgard. We were just children, but she is the one who taught me the basics of how to dance."
Dimitri isn't sure why he goes on rambling about his childhood with Edelgard, but, as Dimitri goes on, Byleth's face loosens. His eyes widening in surprise, his lips upturned with such a heartfelt smile. Away from the ball, away from the people, Byleth truly shines. While it's selfish of him, Dimitri wants this to last all the more longer.
"Professor... Will you join me for a bit? You must be getting a bit tired of the ball by now." Dimitri asks.
"When it's just the two of us, Byleth is fine. And, yes, I'd love that." Byleth nods, practically beaming in his own way. In reality it isn't as apparent as it would be for most people, but Dimitri can tell that Byleth is truly elated. He isn't sure what possesses him, but Dimitri guides Byleth to the Goddess Tower. He isn't surprised that his professor hasn't heard about the legend concerning it.
"They say that wishes made in this tower will come true. I wonder who came up with such a silly notion." Dimitri softly chuckles to himself.
"You don't believe it?" Byleth prods.
"Legends are legends, nothing more. I doubt there are many who really believe that wishes can be granted. The goddess just watches over us from above... That is all. No matter how hard someone begs to be saved, she would never so much as offer her hand. And even if she did, we lack the means to reach out and grasp it." Dimitri calms his voice as he realizes how serious he's getting. "That's how I feel about her. In any case... I suppose there's no harm in passing the time with silly legends. What do you say? Care to make a wish? We are here on the night of the ball. Why don't you try wishing for something?"
"After you." Byleth requests.
"A wish of my own." Dimitri pauses to think. "I suppose my wish is... for a world in which no one would ever be unjustly taken from us. Or, something along those lines."
Byleth smiles at his response, "That's a great wish. I'll wish for the same."
"Thank you, Profe- I mean, Byleth." Dimtri grins, "Although, at a time like this... Perhaps it would make more sense for me to wish that we'll be together forever. What do you think?"
Byleth stares back at him, mouth fallen agape slightly. It may be Dimitri's imagination, but he thinks he may see a flush in Byleth's cheeks.
Dimitri bursts out laughing, "Well now, Professor! You must admit I've improved in the art of joke telling."
Byleth's eyebrows lower as his face falls, "That's cruel, Dimitri."
Dimitri did not expect to hear such a hurt tone from the other man, "I'm sorry, I guess that was rather thoughtless of me." Why must he be like this? "Honestly, I do regret saying such a thing. Please, think nothing of it. I've blurted out irresponsible things like that to my classmates, promises that we'll see each other again and the like. I have no business making such promises for the future. There are certain things that I must accomplish, even if it means risking my life. I may not even have a future to promise to someone."
"Dimitri," Byleth's eyes meet his, "Whatever your goals may be, I can help you. Whatever you need from me I will make happen. All you have to do is ask, and I'll gladly be by your side. If you don't have a future you can promise, I will promise my future to you."
Dimitri gasps, "Professor, I- Byleth, You can't mean that. What about the church and your role here?"
"All things I would happily leave for you." Byleth's stare is determined and unmoving, burrowing deep into Dimitri.
"Why?" Dimitri can't explain the emotions washing over him. "Why would throw all of this away? And why for me?"
"Dimitri, you," Byleth looks away for a moment, trying to find what to say. "Do you know why I chose you for the White Heron Cup?"
Dimitri's eyebrows furrow and he crosses his arms, "Yes, you wanted to embarrass me, Professor. What does that have to do with this?"
Byleth shakes his head, "That wasn't the main reason. Really, I just- I wanted an excuse to dance with you."
"You- What?" Dimitri falters.
Byleth takes a breath and looks Dimitri in the eyes, "I know that there are things I don't know about you and that there are things I have yet to understand. But, what I do know is that you have a kind heart, you want to protect everyone close to you, and you are the most selfless person I know. You have your flaws, you have your weaknesses, yet you are truly strong like no other, both in body and demeanor. You continuously support and guide me, and I know I could never express my gratitude to you, and," Byleth's gaze falls again, "I could never express how much you mean to me, Dimitri. I just- I thought if you'd win it would... I would have an excuse to..."
Dimitri doesn't respond as Byleth's words turn to silence. Such praises coming from his professor, form Byleth, he suddenly feels a strange warmth encompass his chest. Dimitri doesn't know how to respond, what to say. In the distance, the music from the ball can still be heard. A slow, fanciful song begins to play.
Dimitri offers his hand, "May I have this dance?"
Byleth steps back in shock, "Wha- Dimitri, you said it was- Don't feel like you have to do this."
"I was..." For a moment, Dimitri wants to withdraw his hand, but he presses on, stumbling over , "When it's the two of us, I- Byleth, I want to dance with you."
Byleth's face widens with awe, but that's soon replaced with a smile Dimitri feels his face flush over. A smile of joy and adoration, and it's all for Dimitri. Byleth takes Dimitri's hand and their dance beings.