He opens his eyes slowly.
It takes a lot of effort because, aside from the fact that his body feels numb, one thing he's certain of is his eyelids feel inexplicably heavy, as if they were being dragged down to close by some unforeseen force. Very grating, but he isn't really opposed to sleeping longer.
Another thing he is made aware of is the splitting headache he's sporting. A kind of throbbing that makes him want to just crack his head wide open. Twisted, but that would stop the pain for sure.
The last thing he notices through the haze that is his vision is that there is a man by his bedside.
His form is slumped, messy bangs covering a good part of his face, arms crossed over the inky blackness of his clothes. A stark contrast to how white the rest of what seemed to be an infirmary looked. He is snoring quietly, yet somehow managing to look agitated as he did so.
He does not know this man, yet, strangely, he does not feel threatened.
To his surprise, the man stirs, slowly focusing his eyes and posture straightening at the sight of him.
"You're awake," the man's voice is low, pleasant to the ears if you took out the dry scratchiness of it. Hoarse, he realizes then with a start. The man's voice is very hoarse. Now that he has a good look of his face he also realizes that the man is quite handsom-
"Ferdinand, you insufferable fool."
He blinks. For several reasons. One prominent one being he does not know who Ferdinand is and another at being insulted in no less than five minutes from waking up from a deep slumber.
"Do I know you?" He asks.
It does not seem like the right thing to say.
Because in the next instant the rueful smile that had started forming across the man's face vanishes, replaced by a look of appall. His eyes light up in understanding before his brows furrow together as if he'd been wounded. His posture is now tense.
The man looks extremely pained.
It's the last thing he thinks before he can no longer keep his eyes open and sleep sinks its claws back into him.
"I am Ferdinand von Aegir. Pleased to make your acquaintance," he says warmly, arm extended for a handshake. He hopes his smile looks genuine.
He's lying of course. He knows who he's talking to. The Vestra heir. Edelgard's lapdog who has done nothing but glare daggers at him since they entered the classroom. Ferdinand has always made it a point to be polite when encountering someone for the first time, yet he doesn't think he can do that in this case. Not when he's already been treated with such animosity for simply breathing.
The man looks at his hand in disgust.
"Hubert von Vestra," is all he says, voice dripping with distaste before turning around and striding back to Edelgard's seat.
Ferdinand stares after him, smile frozen on his face and arm left hanging. No one sees the affronted look in his eyes.
It's established then that Ferdinand does not like Hubert.
His name is Ferdinand von Aegir.
The one who tells him this is a wom- Dorothea, she'd introduced herself after Ferdinand had made it clear that he'd had absolutely no idea who she was upon waking up. She'd reacted quickly light flickering out in her eyes, words dying in her throat, and mouth suddenly smashed into a thin line.
She'd left him to fetch someone called Manuela for a bit, but she'd come back with more than just one person.
There is a petite woman dressed in bright red, a fidgety woman looking at him with unease, another one with a tattoo underneath her eye, a bulky armor-clad man, and another that is lanky and green-haired. They look at Ferdinand, varying levels of concern etched onto their features.
He does not recognize any of them.
"So I am the..." He trails off.
"Prime Minister," the empe- Edelgard supplies helpfully, somehow managing to look friendly and mournful at the same time.
Ferdinand has had to process a lot of information during the past hour. A lot of which seems very unreal to him. He's 25, the Prime Minister of Fódlan apparently, and one of the most eligible bachelors in Adrestia, Dorothea had jokingly added (The smile did not reach her eyes.) He owned about 10 horses in the royal stables, had an unhealthy love for tea, and he'd gone to school with all the people currently in the room.
Another thing he's told is that there’s chance he won’t ever recover his memories.
"Never?" He asks Manuela, eyes wide as his shoulders go rigid.
A part of him finds it unusual that he's mourning for a life he does not remember having, but it's overshadowed by the larger part of him that feels extremely off-kilter now that he knows how much he's lost.
25 years of living. Gone in an instant. Not likely to come back.
How is he supposed to be ok with that?
Manuela shakes her head sadly. "There's a big chance of that, I'm afraid. I'm sorry, Ferdinand."
"Can't we do something to help?" Caspar inquires, disgruntled. Ferdinand had found himself surprised at first, that he'd been able to befriend such a tough-looking man.
Manuela's brows furrow. "The things is we've yet to identify the cause of his amnesia. From what you've told me, it could have either been the magic or the fact that he took a 10 foot fall and landed headfirst."
Ferdinand winced at that. To know he'd been through such a thing doesn't bode well with him. Though he's glad he has an explanation to the headache at least.
"If it's the latter then there's nothing we can do but wait to see if it's permanent."
"What are the chances that it is temporary?" Petra questions, head cocked to the side. (Brigid. She's from Brigid, he'd learned. He thinks that's fascinating.)
Manuela bites her lip. "I would say 50-50, but you can never be entirely sure in these cases." She grimaces. "Then there's the matter of whether this is magic's doing."
"In that case, that means he would've been cursed, right?" Linhardt pipes up. He looks bored, but Ferdinand has a keen eye so he's able to see the layer of worry underneath it all.
“Most probably. In that case, it’s possible to manufacture a cure should we be unable to track down the mage that did this to him. I have to admit one option is easier than the other.”
Edelgard nods solemnly. “Hubert’s already begun tracking them down and I believe he’s already set some mages to the task of creating an alternative cure.” She turns to Dorothea and Linhardt. “Could you bot-“
“You don’t even need to ask, Edie.”
“It will be a handful but sure.”
She smiles, still sad, but pleased nonetheless. “Good. I hope you don’t mind waiting then, Ferdinand. You’ll be back to normal in no time,” she says to him, trying and failing only a little bit to sound optimistic.
He does not answer.
His mind had stopped working at the mention of a Hubert.
“Excuse me, but...” Ferdinand’s mouth is moving, but his mind feels numb. The name had struck a chord for some reason. Hubert. What was so... familiar about it?
“Who is Hubert?”
Edelgard sighs. Dorothea bites her lip. Bernadetta’s expression turns sour. Petra winces. Caspar’s mouth hangs open and Linhardt mutters a quiet “damn.”
“Another friend of ours,” Dorothea finally manages to say, a sad grin on her face. “Your... I’d say your closest actually.”
It makes sense, but, at the same time, doesn’t at all.
“Why is he not here then?” He continues.
He hears a sharp intake of breath. It’s from Edelgard and when Ferdinand turns to her she suddenly looks much older.
“He has his reasons, but I’m sure he’ll find the time to visit soon,” she lets out a small laugh, “I’ll order him to if I have to.”
He nods slowly. The words placate him even if he’s certain they’re meant as a joke.
“Thank you,” Ferdinand says quietly and everyone smiles.
Whether they recover his memories or not, he thinks he’ll be fine if he has them all.
They absolutely hate each other.
Ferdinand cannot say a single word without Hubert reacting negatively. A scoff, a sneer, a look of disgust. It is absolutely infuriating.
In proper fashion, Ferdinand retaliates. Tells Hubert he is nothing but a mindless dog with no will of his own. Tells Hubert he is nothing without his liege, that he should simply shut his mouth when he had nothing good to say. Ferdinand tells him in the most flowery words to piss off.
It’s a frustrating game of back and forth, nearly always ending up leaving a sour taste in Ferdinand's mouth and the inexplicable urge to punch Hubert in the face.
But he never does of course. That would be ignoble of Ferdinand.
So he holds back. Only ever lets himself loose when they’re pitted together to spar or participate in informal class debates that always leave Edelgard pinching the bridge of her nose, Dorothea rolling her eyes, and Caspar getting confused.
It doesn’t mean the urge ever goes away.
He’s kept in the infirmary for the next few days. For the rest of his body to heal and for the mages and medics to monitor his condition. Ferdinand has no qualms with this. He doesn’t think he could be of use anyway. What good would he be as Prime Minister without his memories?
A Black Eagle or two is always present with him. He thinks that’s on purpose, but he’s not complaining. It’s fun to read with Bernadetta. To listen to Dorothea sing. To relearn Brigid with Petra. To listen to Caspar’s tales. Even watching Linhardt gradually fall asleep in the middle of conversations is entertaining.
Edelgard comes by the least. Too busy running a country most of the time. (He’d apologized for being incapacitated and she’d blinked and told him that’s probably what he would’ve said if he’d still had his memories.) They have tea when she comes. Which is nice. It’s quiet, pleasant, enjoyable. But it always feels like it’s missing something.
Edelgard had laughed when he’d told her.
“Most likely because you’d always insist on turning things into a competition back when we used to do this.”
Strangely, the answer made sense to him.
They give him daily updates about the progress of the cure and the search for the guilty mage who’d inflicted this upon Ferdinand. All efforts lead by Hubert, he’s constantly reminded.
But the man never does show himself in the infirmary.
“He’ll visit soon, Ferdie, I’m sure,” Dorothea tells him after he asks her about him for the third time on the fourth day, “he’s just been occupied with spearheading your recovery efforts is all.”
Ferdinand looks down at his hands. “Is he always so busy?”
She sighs. “Unnecessarily so. These days he busies himself with even the most mundane of tasks. I can’t say I’m surprised though,” she gets a look in her eyes, “he admitted not being used to peacetime once.”
Oh yeah, they’d told him of a war. A war they’d won. A war he’d apparently played a major role in. It’s a shame he can’t remember it.
“Can he not do anything else with his time?”
“...All his free time is spent with you, Ferdie,” she tells him softly, “and when he overworks himself, you’re the one who gets him away from his desk.”
Once again, oh. “Oh.”
He’d never really considered the weight of the words Dorothea had first spoken to him about Hubert.
“Another friend of ours. Your... I’d say your closest actually.”
That entailed a lot of contact then, didn’t it? He’s been told they’d had teatimes frequently. Morning rides together, sat next to each other during meetings. Even each other’s dates to formal events, he’d been surprised to learn.
“You and Hubie agreed to it,” Dorothea informs him with a delighted twinkle in her eyes, “said it was easier to just go with each other rather than have to reject all your suitors and scare away anyone brave enough to ask him. Which was a lot surprisingly.” She laughs into her hand. “I’m actually proud of him for amassing so much admirers.”
He doesn’t laugh. He’s too puzzled to. 25 is a good age to marry, isn’t it?
“Why did I never entertain any suitors?”
Dorothea bites her lip and looks like she’s pondering deeply about her answer.
“You... You told me you were too busy for those kinds of things, Ferdie.” Her smile is strained. “You said you wanted to focus on reconstructing Fódlan before anything else.”
It’s another thing that makes sense to him, yet somehow still feels off.
The answer looks like it comes easier this time. “Hubie’s only ever placed Edie and her ideals first. I don’t think he plans on settling down anytime soon, not when there’s still so much that can be done with the country.”
He nods slowly. “...I see.” Understandable. He’s Edelgard’s vassal after all. And the Minister of Imperial Affairs. And the country’s best spymaster. It makes perfect sense for the man to be entirely too busy to engage in romantic affairs.
...Dorothea’s words tug at his heart anyway. Although he cannot for the life of him figure out why.
With Byleth’s arrival comes an odd twist to the group task assignments.
That is to say, Ferdinand suddenly finds himself paired up with Hubert at nearly everything.
“Why is it always you?” He whines as he plucks at the weeds. Usually a job he had no problem executing well, but the present company left much to be desired.
“I am just as clueless as you,” Hubert drawls from his spot, pulling at a weed particularly hard, “but an assignment is an assignment. I’m sure even you can quell your ego to see the task through.”
Ferdinand hadn’t responded to that, just plucked the weeds a little stronger than necessary.
It’s the same for stable duty and sky watch. Not particularly hard things to do, but when someone who was practically your worst enemy was your partner?
Not a pleasant experience.
Ferdinand wants to succumb to his urges sometimes. Just. A swift right hook directed at Hubert’s face. See where it gets them.
“How about this,” Hubert grits out once, after weeks of having to deal with each other in such close proximity, “What do you say about putting our differences aside everytime we’re paired together for these tasks?”
Ferdinand had scoffed. “My, Hubert. The sun must be getting to you. Are you sure you are up for sky watch today? I can always do all the work.” He’d always noticed the man’s discomfort when they were up in the sky.
Hubert’s expression turns agitated. “Nothing of the sort,” he says, venom dripping in his voice, “I just think it would be logical for us to actually start working together since these tasks are assigned to us specifically to better our teamwork.”
“And to improve some skil-“
“Their main purpose is to better our teamwork,” Hubert cuts him off, unimpressed.
Ferdinand had huffed. As much as he hated to admit it, the man had a valid point.
...Would it really hurt to get along with him? For just a few hours every now and then?
“...Fine,” Ferdinand finally says, “I do not see why we cannot do that. I will not take anything else from you though.”
A raised eyebrow. “What are you talking about now?”
Ferdinand stares at him sternly. “We will not exchange harsh words. In addition to that, I also expect you not to taunt me nonverbally.”
“I’m sorry, do I do that a lot?”
Ferdinand pouts. In a dignified manner of course. “I will have you know the excessive use of sarcasm is very unbecoming of you, von Vestra.”
“My apologies. You were saying, von Aegir?”
“No scoffs. No sneers. No mocking stares or poisonous scowls and,” Ferdinand extends his hand (much like the first time they’d met), “we have a deal.”
Hubert sighs heavily. Ferdinand makes a mental note to add that to the list.
“I suppose we have a deal then,” Hubert finally relents, taking Ferdinand’s hand and shaking it.
And, to both their surprise, things actually get better after that.
They can talk like civil people now. Hearing each other out and taking the other’s ideas into account when accomplishing tasks. They can have conversations without wanting to kill each other. Even exchange a few jokes and, to Ferdinand’s infinite amazement, compliments of all things. It’s nice. Not wanting to punch Hubert in the face. Being treated as an equal. As it happens, it bleeds into the classroom, much to the astonishment of the rest of their class.
...Would Ferdinand call them friends? No, not by a long shot.
But they’re getting there.
A week after his accident and they’ve finally allowed Ferdinand to roam the palace freely. With company of course. He’s thankful for it. If he’s being completely honest, he’d been waiting for a chance to stretch his legs. Exploring the palace he’d heard so much about was only a plus.
Bernadetta and Petra bring him to the stables where he proceeds to reacquaint himself with all 14 of his steeds.
“You said I only had about 10!” Ferdinand exclaims in the middle of what one could only call a horse circle.
“Did we say that?” Bernadetta giggles. “I thought for sure we said 14,” she tells Petra.
Petra laughs. “Well 14 and ‘about 10’ are not so far off from each other, are they, Ferdinand?”
His answer is drowned out by the neighs of the horses.
He’s not complaining actually. The creatures are beautiful and well-behaved. Each having a unique glint in their eyes. He’d been told he had one for every occasion and he’d thought that had been excessive at first but now?
He brings his forehead to rest on one of hi- Abercrombie’s head and it’s great, welcoming, familiar even.
He praises himself for being quite the equestrian.
Petra and Bernadetta’s laughter grows louder as the rest of his horses crowd around him, demanding the same treatment.
They bring him to his study next.
Ferdinand marvels at the room as soon as he enters it. Despite the rather gloomy interior of the imperial palace, his study is surprisingly very ornate and... regal. Decorated with a lot of personal belongings and fancy trinkets. It’s significantly more well-lit than the other rooms and it housed a sizable window behind his desk.
“Hubert told you not to pick this room,” Bernadetta pipes up behind him, sounding amused, “He said having such a big window behind you would kill you. Assassins and all.”
“Or you could fall backwards,” Petra informs him factually.
He laughs, ignoring the way his insides twist at another mention of his elusive best friend, Hubert.
He steps further into the room, running his hands along the surface of his shelves and couches. They’re nice to touch, sure, but there is a part of him that hopes the contact will somehow spark a memory within him.
He gets to his desk and proceeds to sit on his chair. Comfy, he thinks. He’s sure he got a lot of work done here. He gives the girls a satisfied little smile and they grin at him fondly.
He lets his eyes graze over the photos littering his desk. A photo of him, decked out in his riding gear with all his horses by the stables. Another of him and Dorothea at what looked like an opera house, smiling ear-to-ear and holding a bouquet up together. There’s also one with Bernadetta and him in front of a bookstore somewhere, holding up the same hardcover.
“M- My book signing,” Bernadetta says shyly when she sees where he’s looking, “you were the first one there so we took a picture.”
Ferdinand beams at her. “That was nice of me.”
Bernadetta smiles softly. “You’re just a nice person in general.”
The words are nice to hear.
His eyes go back to the photographs. One with him, Caspar, and Linhardt on some sort of mountain trail. Another with him and Petra grinning at the helm of a ship on a port with unfamiliar buildings. The last one is one of him and Edelgard, smiles formal yet genuine as they stood next to each other, a gleaming crown atop the girl’s head.
He’d smiled so brightly in these pictures. Looked so happy and unburdened.
He so badly wants to remember.
Instead of getting emotional though he decides to question the others about something he’d observed instead. (He’s already an amnesiac. He doesn’t want to be an amnesiac crybaby.)
“Are- Do I not have any pictures with Hubert?” Ferdinand asks the girls, brows furrowed.
Petra and Bernadetta exchange a look he can’t quite decipher.
“Hubert doesn’t like being photographed,” Petra tells him sadly, “he is very private.”
Bernadetta fidgets.”...We thought he’d make an exception for you though,” she says quietly, as if he isn’t supposed to hear it, but he does.
“I see,” he tries not to sound too disappointed. “Thank you for telling me.”
The girls nod at him and he decides to rummage through the contents of his desk.
Drawer one, the biggest, is unfortunately locked. He makes a mental note to ask someone for a key later. He goes to open the second one where he find a few unused teabags. Ferdinand lets out an amused huff at the sight. He had been told he was quite the tea-drinker. He moves to the next one.
...It’s coffee beans. And quite a lot of them.
Ferdinand is confused.
He goes to the next drawer. More coffee beans. Then to the last and, lo and behold, even more coffee beans.
“Er- I thought you said I was an avid tea lover,” he stares at the bags of beans, confused.
Petra gets up and walks over to him. “You are. Why do you- oh,” she stops at the sight of all the... coffee drawers. That’s what Ferdinand would call them. She chews at her lip nervously before beckoning Bernadetta over. The girl reacts much the same, letting out a startled little gasp and staring at Petra with uncertainty.
Ferdinand clears his throat. “Would you mind explaining?”
“...Hubert’s the coffee drinker among us,” Bernadetta finally explains, “you... you must’ve stashed some coffee beans for when you guys would do overtime or have uh... coffee slash tea parties together.”
“And how often is that?”
“Everyday,” the women answer in unison.
...Ferdinand isn’t even surprised by the information anymore, but the gut twisting is back and it does not feel pleasant at all. He wants to laugh, albeit mirthlessly.
For all the talk about how close he and Hubert were, there was hardly any evidence of that now.
“Are you okay, Ferdinand?” Petra asks, concerned.
By default, he nods his head, forcing a smile onto his face.
“I am fine,” he lies.
“I must say,” Ferdinand startles at the voice, “it’s interesting to find you here. I would’ve thought a noble like you would rather spend his time dancing the night away what with the ball in full swing.
He lets out at an amused snort as he turns to face Hubert. “All danced out, it seems. I figured some air would not hurt.”
Hubert arches an eyebrow as he walks closer. “At this height?”
Ferdinand shrugs. “This place has been rather a hot topic as of late. I figured it would be nice to see what all the fuss was all about.”
In truth, all the rumors about the Goddess Tower had always piqued Ferdinand’s interest. He’d always been somewhat of a romantic at heart. He’d figured it wouldn’t hurt to investigate it himself.
“And are you satisfied?”
“It remains to be seen. I have not had the pleasure of seeing anyone else up here yet. Until now.” He nods at Hubert.
“Probably because you’re occupying the area,” Hubert remarks, amused. “I hardly think any couple would see it fitting to make... intimate promises with an audience.”
Ferdinand huffs. “How did you even find me?”
“It’s hard not to notice a head of bright orange hair exiting the room and disappearing into a tower against the darkness of the night.”
Ferdinand chuckles. “A rather flowery description. You could have just said you saw me leave.”
“I fear your flair for the dramatic has rubbed off on me.”
A companionable silence settles over them then. Ferdinand doesn't feel particularly inclined to break it. Like he said before, it's nice to finally be able to enjoy things with the other man. To not want to punch him across the face.
Unexpectedly, it is Hubert that interrupts the silence. "Do you believe in the rumors?"
"It depends on which one you are speaking of," Ferdinand answers. He personally knows of five different versions of the Goddess Tower story. He wonders which Hubert has heard.
"I'm well aware that various versions of the story exist, but I find one in particular to be the most believable," he steps forward before continuing, so that they are beside each other now, "'Two people make a promise here together and it will come true.'"
Ferdinand cannot help the startled sound he makes. "That is the most simple one."
Hubert shrugs. "Which means it has a greater chance of being true, don't you think? All those specifications about gender and pre-rituals make those versions seem rather unbelievable."
Ferdinand blinks. "You... You have a point."
"I'm glad you see it."
Before Ferdinand can think better of what he's going to say, the words are already out of his mouth.
"Care to test it, Hubert?"
Hubert blinks. Ferdinand relishes in the very rare sight of a startled Hubert von Vestra. "What?"
Might as well commit to it, Ferdinand thinks. "You heard me. How about we make a promise right now?"
"You're joking." Hubert's voice is deadpan.
Ferdinand shakes his head. "I really am not."
The other man is silent then, looking as if he is in deep thought.
"What would a promise between us even entail, von Aegir?"
Ferdinand grins. "How about we promise not to kill each other?"
Hubert rolls his eyes. A common gesture for him. "It seems my animosity has rubbed off on you as well."
"Oh, hush. Let me think of something else then." Ferdinand hums thoughtfully, bringing a hand to his chin.
What could they promise each other? Ferdinand wonders. They were both of noble birth, so wealth was surely out of the question. He knows Hubert's grades are just as good as his, so anything related to academics is eliminated. Should it be something emotional then? ...An emotional promise with Hubert von Vestra? Was there even such a th-
Ferdinand slams his fist into his palm. "I've got it!" He's facing Hubert in an instant, eyes blazing with determination and the tiniest hint of amusement.
"Hubert von Vestra, I promise to never forget you."
Hubert stares. And stares. And stares. And st-
"That's all you could come up with? Horribly cheesy-"
"Well, can you think of anything better?"
Hubert is quiet. Ferdinand takes it as an answer.
"See, it is not so easy!"
"Fine then," Hubert heaves a sigh before pinching the bridge of his nose and facing Ferdinand fully. " I suppose we might as well."
"Ferdinand von Aegir," he begins deliberately, "I promise to never forget you."
Ferdinand walks around unattended one day.
He hadn’t meant to obviously. Caspar and Linhardt had simply walked too fast for him to keep up, too entranced by the paintings along the walls of the palace corridors.
It’s how he finds himself in front of a particularly intriguing door.
It's hardly different from any of the others. What makes it unique is the little sign plastered on it. "Do Not Disturb," it reads in black block letters. Ferdinand knows it's supposed to serve as a warning, but he personally finds it funny how this door is different in this specific way.
He also knows it would probably be for the best that he not go any further. Find Caspar and Linhardt and settle for asking them about the door instead. It's the safer, more respectful choice.
But Ferdinand had somehow managed to fall from 10 feet, so he thinks he's not in the pattern of making good decisions anyway.
Something strange happens as soon as he makes contact with the knob though. He feels a painful little sting before removing his hand from the thing as fast as possible. It crackled with ominous purple sparks, emanating a dark aura.
Magic, he concludes. The door had been guarded with magic. What could possibly be behind it?
Luckily (or not), it seems like he doesn't need to wait any longer for the answer. He stiffens as he hears footsteps approach the door from the inside.
It opens with a big swing.
"Can you not re-"
The words die in the man's throat. In an instant, the aggressive stance he'd adopted relaxes into something weaker. His scowl disappears in favor of an astonished look, eye blown wide and mouth hanging open.
He looks like he's just seen a ghost.
Ferdinand shuffles under the intensity of his gaze. It does not help that he also finds the man attractive. "Er- hello! I am Ferdinand von Aegir," he blurts on instinct before his hand flies to his mouth. Blast, the man probably knew that. Ferdinand is the Prime Minister. Why is he so nervous? What was-
"Ferdinand," the man finally says, voice unreadable. A wry smile makes its way on his face and Ferdinand has half the mind to tell him to keep it that way forever. It made him look much more approachable. "I knew that."
Ferdinand reddens. "I figured," he responds awkwardly.
The man looks past him, at the rest of the hallway before facing Ferdinand again. It's then when he realizes that the man isn't looking directly at him. "Where are Caspar and Linhardt?"
Ferdinand blinks. Did... Did everyone know he was supposed to be with them today?
"We got separated. I..." He trails off, almost too embarrassed to say it. Almost. "I was busy looking at the paintings to notice they had walked ahead."
The man lets out an amused snort before an undecipherable look crosses his eyes.
"Of course you were," he says under his breath.
Ferdinand furrows his brows. "Pardon?"
"...Nevermind," the man says dismissively, stepping out of his... Ferdinand would guess office? "I'll inform them of the situation. Let me escort you back to the infirmary."
Ferdinand is a little stunned by the sudden softness of his last words. It's strangely endearing. Perhaps that's why he feels so inclined to trust the stranger.
Ferdinand nods dumbly. "Ok."
The man nods slowly and, once he's closed his door, they're off. Walking the halls quietly.
Ferdinand is normally talkative whenever someone tours him around the palace. It's not something he can help. He always just has so many questions. Who painted this painting? Who chose the carpet for this room? How did this door get chipped?
Ferdinand cannot find it in himself to start a conversation now though.
His companion doesn't seem bothered by the silence. Simply striding forward towards the infirmary without a single glance back. Ferdinand thinks he's walking fast on purpose if only to avoid looking at him directly.
He wonders why he reacted the way he did earlier.
Before Ferdinand knows it, they are suddenly standing in front of their destination. The red cross on the door glaring angrily in contrast to the wood.
"Thank you," he blurts out immediately, flustered, now that they have to face each other.
"...Don't mention it," the man says stiffly before turning back in the direction they'd come from. He looks about ready to bolt. Like a bat out of he-
"Oh, Hubert! You found him!"
Ferdinand flinches at the sound of Caspar's booming voice.
So does Hubert.
Caspar runs up to them, Linhardt trailing behind him. (Ferdinand does not miss the way his eyes had widened at the sight of them. At Ferdinand and Hubert.)
"Damn, Lin and I were looking everywhere for you, Ferdinand! Where'd you run off to?"
"My apologies," Ferdinand manages to sputter out, "I got distracted and found myself in front of... Hubert's door."
It's barely noticeable, the wince Hubert makes when Ferdinand says his name. But, again, Ferdinand has keen eyes. Did hearing his name roll off of Ferdinand's tongue bother him so? If he were a more petty man, Ferdinand would say it over and over again to incite the reaction. Hubert. Hubert. Hubert.
He'd been in front of Hubert's door. It had been Hubert who'd walked him back to the infirmary. Hubert, who'd looked at him at Ferdinand as if he were a ghost.
Hubert who was supposed to be his closest friend. Hubert who has not made an effort to seem him even once.
He is standing just a mere few meters away from Ferdinand right now.
...Ferdinand wants to punch him.
Caspar grins. "Oh, that's cool. Isn't this the firs-"
Ferdinand whips around to stare at Hubert. "Why have you never visited me?"
(Caspar mutters a little "oh, shit" behind them and it's supported by Linhardt's own exclamation of "here we go.")
"I understand that you're leading the search for the mage who hypothetically did this to me and the research into creating a cure and I greatly appreciate it, you have no idea, but to not visit even once?"
Hubert looks away from him, one hand clutching at his arm. It only serves to fuel Ferdinand's frustration even more. Now the man couldn't even look at him?
He's so emotional that he does not notice how Edelgard and Dorothea have appeared at the end of the corridor, mouths opening in shock at the sight of them. Caspar makes a shushing motion.
"I have been told by almost everyone about how close we supposedly are, you know? They tell me we spend all our time together and that we know each other best! You're somehow ingrained in every part of my daily life, yet I have only just met you now and even that had been pure coincidence!" Ferdinand clenches his fists before looking to the floor. "Am I no good to you without my memories? Was our friendship really so fragile that you could not even bare to try to reconstruct it?"
"Did I mean so little to you?"
"Was I that bad a friend?"
"Did we have a falling out-"
He stops talking.
Hubert is red. Adorably so. The sight makes Ferdinand turn red himself. He's still angry though. Hubert did not get a free pass just for being attractive.
Hubert sighs before he speaks. "I have been busy with my duties and looking into ways to heal you, but...you're right, those aren't acceptable excuses. Considering that even the emperor has had enough time to linger by your side, it only serves to further support the fact that my behavior has been inexcusable." His gaze hardens. "I'm sorry."
And, to Ferdinand's surprise, the man actually bows to him, bending at the waist and covering his face. Now that's he's hunched over, Ferdinand can see Edelgard staring at the both of them approvingly and Dorothea giving him a wink and a thumbs up.
Ferdinand reddens even more.
"F- Fix your posture, Hubert. I will not have you apologize to me this way."
Hubert looks up at him, puzzled. "What would you have me do then?"
Ferdinand doesn't even hesitate.
"Visit me from now on. I don't care if it is not everyday. Just..." Ferdinand looks away from him. "Don't pretend I do not exist." His last words come out quieter than the rest.
Hubert looks pained as he seems to consider the words, face focused back on the floor as his eyebrows scrunched together.
Would he... really considering saying no? Goodness, was he going to confirm Ferdinand's fears? Was he going to-
"Fine," Hubert finally says, tone relenting, still not meeting his eyes, "I'll make sure to visit every now and then. Does that satisfy you?"
It does actually. Very much so.
"Yes," he tells Hubert plainly, "it does."
The battle of Garreg Mach is perhaps the hardest fight Ferdinand's ever had to fight in.
There is nothing nice about going against classmates, friends. Nothing pleasant about being given the order to kill them and therefore be targeted in return.
It's makes him weary. Makes him want to just throw in the towel and call it quits. He couldn't do this. He really couldn-
Hubert places a hand on his shoulder.
"Stay focused," he tells Ferdinand, "we cannot afford to lose y- this."
...Ferdinand will tell him that of course he knew that and Hubert will leave him to attend to other troops or return to Edelgard's side at the helm.
Ferdinand will think about that slip of the tongue as he stabs through enemy forces and screams his name to the the heavens.
Ferdinand will stand atop a pile of dead bodies with Hubert's voice ringing in his ears.
True to his word, Hubert visits the next day with a tray of tea in hand.
He'd raised a brow. It's not unusual for Ferdinand to be gifted with tea, but the fact that Hubert is bringing some to him during his first visit piques his interest.
Upon his questioning gaze, Hubert shrugs.
"Your favorite," he says simply as he takes the seat next to his bed. "I believe the others have already done a nice job of preparing this for you, but..." Hubert trails off, "but you always said you enjoyed how I made it."
"Oh," Ferdinand both thinks and voices. Oh, yet somehow he isn't so surprised anymore.
Hubert leans over to help slide the tray onto Ferdinand's lap and the proximity makes his heart pound for some reason. It doesn't help that Hubert is smiling at him so gently.
"Thank you, Hubert," he says quietly before reaching for the cup and bringing it to his lips. It's easier than having to keep staring so unabashedly.
The tea... is extremely good. He's aware his eyes light up when his tongue comes into contact with the liquid. He'd had a variety of Southern Fruit Blends during the past few days, even downing a particularly bad brew courtesy of Caspar.
This by far has been the most enjoyable.
"I am glad I said it then," he tells Hubert (unaware of just how intensely the other man had been staring at him), "this is exquisite. Thank you again."
"Don't mention it," Hubert responds gruffly, but there is softness in his gaze (laced with a sort of grief Ferdinand doesn't want to think about, so he doesn't.)
Ferdinand wonders if Hubert had looked at him like this before his accident.
"Hubert, can I make another selfish request?"
The man snorts quietly. "The first one was hardly selfish. You were right, I owed it to you. I'm sure if you still had your memories, you'd have reacted much the same."
They tell him this a lot. That Ferdinand still manages to act himself even without his memories. The need to remind them that memories are the only things he's lost and not his personality had dissipated over the course of the week, but he feels the need now more than ever to inform Hubert of that. If only to coax him into visiting more often.
"Right. It is just me affirming my earlier request actually."
Hubert arches an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"I know you are busy, but... I really would appreciate it if you visited more often," Ferdinand says bashfully, not quite meeting his eyes, "I would like to get to know you more considering how close we were."
Something... complicated flickers in Hubert's eyes then. Much like it had when Ferdinand had first requested his company just yesterday. He so badly wants to know what the look entails, but he thinks he's crossed enough lines for now.
Hopefully, Hubert will tell him himself.
"I suppose I can do that," the man finally manages to respond and Ferdinand feels his muscles relax and the tension that'd been building disappear.
He tries for a smile. "Good."
Hubert grins back hesitantly.
This is enough. For now.
Reconstruction is a long, arduous process.
There is much to be done in a country so heavily corrupted by evil. There are conflicts to settle. Territories to conquer. Battles to win. Fires to put out.
Through it all, Ferdinand finds himself spending more and more time with Hubert. No malicious intent to be had. They are friends now, friends that are burdened with two hefty positions second only to Edelgard's. Working together is a must and Ferdinand finds himself thankful for the afternoon Hubert had first offered to set their differences aside.
They talk, have tea, pour through an endless amount of paperwork, scout, and go on morning rides together more often that not. He's even coaxed Hubert into drinking tea now, albeit only a select few blends. In turn, he gives coffee a chance and finds himself pleasantly surprised by the kinds Hubert introduces him to, relieved that they actually agree with his tastebuds.
They have a reputation now. The bright and bubbly Prime Minister and the dark, brooding Minister of Imperial Affairs, inseparable. The two stones that ground her majesty and the rest of Fódlan (well, most of it. They've yet to seize the Alliance.) Ferdinand had laughed at that. Dark and brooding are the perfect words to describe Hubert.
There are more Ferdinand can think of. Intimidating, fear-inducing, strict, stern, driven, passionate, determined, gentle, awe-inspiring, loyal, hardworking, witty, pleasant, handso-
Five years into Edelgard's reign and he finally points it out. "We are quite good friends now, aren't we, Hubert?"
Hubert stared up from his paperwork, gaze unimpressed. The effect is ruined by the fatigue in his eyes. "Are we? I hadn't noticed."
Ferdinand pouts. "Truly unbecoming of you to joke about such matters, but I am serious. It has been nice fostering this relationship with you."
Hubert had stilled then, expression unreadable for just a split second before it reigns itself into something more amicable, more casual.
Hubert laughs, short and sincere. "I suppose I can't deny that. I agree," his eyes turn soft, "being your friend has been nice."
And if Ferdinand's heart clenches at the word "friend" then that is only for him to know.
Hubert's visits are frequent and, at the same time, not.
Sometimes, he will come see Ferdinand everyday of the week before disappearing on him for just as long, only to return as if nothing had ever happened. Ferdinand never asks. He doesn't think he's in the place to, but his concern is evident anyway.
"He's probably just been getting frantic," Edelgard tells him without meeting his eyes, "I've been told that he and his men established a lead in the investigation and the cure-making. He's likely just been dedicating himself to it. It's been a month and a half after all."
Ah, yes, a month and a half since Ferdinand's lost his memories. A month and a half of being treated like some innocent child constantly needing guidance. A month and a half of watching everyone around him work themselves to the brink to help him recover his memories and run the country without him. A month and a half of idle he so desperately wants to be free of.
A month and a half of his heart acting strangely at even the mention of Hubert.
Ferdinand has had ample time to reacquaint himself with his friends. Ample enough time to reorient himself with Dorothea's wit, Linhardt's sarcasm, Bernadetta's outbursts, Petra's stories, Caspar's volume, and Edelgard's propriety. They feel familiar. In a haunting way, as if he's meeting them for the first time, yet as if he's known them his whole life.
But Hubert still remains a mystery.
He always brings Ferdinand tea, coffee once when Ferdinand had inquired and Hubert had looked away when he'd made a pleased face at the brew Hubert had prepared for him.
They talk. About progress updates, Ferdinand's favorite music, the current state of the country, Ferdinand's hobbies, the latest shipments, Ferdinand's tendencies, etcetera.
They never talk about Hubert. A month and a half and his supposed closest friend still remains an enigma. Ferdinand's starting to think he's being mysterious on purpose. And that simply can't do.
The whole point of him forcing Hubert's hand was to get to know him better. Just spending time with him didn't count. (Even if Ferdinand is certain he memorizes the contours of Hubert's face now, the way his smile forms, and committed the fullness of his laugh into his memory. Even if he's familiar with the softness of his eyes and his wit-)
"Your visiting hours are rather odd," he finally points out one day. It had taken a lot of courage to form the words.
Hubert looks up from the paperwork he'd brought in with him. (Ferdinand's fault really. He'd insisted it was fine.) "I'm surprised you noticed," he says, not sounding surprised at all.
"It was hard not to," he decides to tread lightly, "why is that?"
Hubert looks down contemplatively. "I'm rather busy. I see you as much as I can."
"No, you do not." Ferdinand had seen him out the window simply strolling once, on a day he hadn't shown in the infirmary. Bernadetta also telling him later that Hubert had chosen to accompany her to the crafts shop when he didn't need to and offering Linhardt assistance with the gathering of materials for the library.
Hubert sighs. "Did someone tell you that?"
Ferdinand shrugs, brings his cup back to his lips, "I will never say."
The other man raises an amused eyebrow. "You always did like playing coy."
"And you always change the subject," Ferdinand accuses, staring straight at Hubert. He's not getting away this time.
Hubert pauses, seemingly taken aback by his forwardness. Ferdinand could relate. He's surprised himself too. "An undesirable trait," the man finally concedes, "I'm sorry. What did you want to know?"
Success at long last. "Your schedule. Why... Why is it the way it is?"
"...You won't like the answer."
Ferdinand's gaze hardens. He's not going to chicken out now.
"Tell me anyway."
Hubert returns his gaze. "...I can't stand to look at you sometimes."
Ferdinand feels winded by the words, feels as if he'd just been punched in the gut. Although some part of him has always expected the answer, there is still a sting. A sting that hurts.
"Why?" He manages to choke out.
Hubert looks away, unintentionally supporting his own words and therefore hurting Ferdinand even more.
"Do you know how you lost your memory?"
Ferdinand blinks. Confusion distracts him from the hurt. "I fell."
"No, you didn't," Hubert says through gritted teeth, Ferdinand finds himself taken aback by the sudden harshness of his words, "You're far too capable for such a careless mistake."
"You took a spell for me, pushed me out of the way, so it would hit you instead, you chivalrous buffoon," Ferdinand holds his tongue at the insult, "you didn't expect the force of it. I saw the surprise in your eyes just as... just as you fell over the edge."
"Ferdinand, I though you had died."
He shuts his mouth. His words are stuck in his throat.
"And in a way, you have," Hubert continues, voice sounding pained as he did, "Your memories are gone. No assurance that they will ever be returned and that's my fault." He runs a hand through his hair. "I should've been more alert. I should have incinerated the man when I had the chance. You told me of his existence, the mage hidden in the bushes and I'd ignored it. I- I should have listened to you. I should have-"
Ferdinand hugs him. Hubert freezes in his arms. Ferdinand cannot take much more of this, of Hubert looking so crushed and guilty. It doesn't suit him. Any expression that involves Hubert looking so downcast does not suit him at all in Ferdinand's opinion.
"Are you the one who pushed me?"
Hubert's muscles relax the slightest bit. "...No."
"Are you the one that sent a spell at me?"
Ferdinand pulls away a short distance to look at Hubert. They're so close now and it's a view Ferdinand does not mind. His heart is pounding like crazy, but he needs to tell Hubert, tell him something important.
"Then I do not blame you. It was not your fault, Hubert. I saw a comrade in trouble and rushed to their aid." He pats the man's back soothingly. "I would do it again if given the chance."
Hubert fists his hand in Ferdinand's hair, taking caring not to hurt him. He sighs.
They stay like that for a while, no words, just... in each other's arms. It's the most at ease Ferdinand has ever been since he woke up with no recollection of the past 25 years. He hopes it offers Hubert the same sort of relief. It's not a lot to go on, but he feels like he has a better understanding of him now. And of their relationship.
(Or lack thereof.)
Dimitri resurfaces and Ferdinand has never seen Hubert run himself so ragged.
"We're so close, Ferdinand," he tells him amidst various mugs of coffee and paperwork strewn haphazardly across his desk, "We cannot afford to lose now."
And maybe it's the desperation in Hubert's voice or the sight of him so stressed and inexplicably tired that Ferdinand nods, keeps nodding, and does his absolute best to win every fight he's sent to lead. Every fire he's sent to put out. Every disaster he's sent to fix.
Ferdinand is doing it for the empire, for the country Edelgard and the rest of them have so ardently fought for. (Even if it had robbed Ferdinand of the one thing he'd always had faith in-) Ferdinand is doing it for the people who have been wronged by the system. Doing it for those who only seek to better the state of the world, for the ones who work tirelessly to establish a peace that actually benefits all.
Ferdinand is doing it for the man he's seen carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. Ferdinand is doing it for the man who inspires him so, the man who never ceases to make his heart race and fill his insides with warmth.
Ferdinand is doing it for Hubert.
"Dorothea, did I love him?"
The woman freezes, nearly dropping the apple she'd been peeling for him. She looks as if Ferdinand has just asked her to stab him.
"Tell me. Please." He needs to know.
Dorothea sighs, suddenly looking older and far more tired.
"...You did. Very much so."
Ferdinand swallows. "Does he love me?"
She looks away. "I can't say. I'm sorry, Ferdie."
That answer is one of three things. Either Dorothea does not actually know or she does and this is her telling him very gently that, no, Hubert does not love him. That would be absurd. Beyond belief. Ridiculous. Surely a man as wonderful as Hubert deserved mor-
He will not distract himself with this line of thinking.
The only other thing Dorothea could mean by responding like that is that (somehow, for some reasons beyond him,) Hubert actually loves him.
He's not quite sure what to do with that logic yet, but it makes him happy, delighted even, the prospect of being subjected to Hubert's love. To be held by him, to be looked at so tenderly by the man, to have the pleasure of hugging him freely, to...
Ferdinand really needs to distract himself.
"Can we go for a stroll?" He asks Dorothea, face red.
She smiles gently and takes his hand. "Sure."
They have a sort of a route now. Even other occupants of the palace are familiar with it. They wave at Ferdinand and Dorothea amicably, despite being aware of the Prime Minister's state. He's glad they're so welcoming. He always makes sure to wave back with the same enthusiasm.
His eyes linger on Hubert's office door when they walk past it.
"He's not in there today," Dorothea tells him apologetically. "Hard at work in the lab. He says there's been a lot of progress with the cure."
Ferdinand nods, a bit bashful that he'd been caught staring. "He has updated me with the situation, yes. Should you not be working with him too?" He teases, if only to get the conversation away from Hubert.
Dorothea pouts. "If this is your way of telling me you prefer Hubie's company over mine, you can just be outright with it, you know, Ferdie."
That had backfired significantly.
They walk past his study and he tugs Dorothea towards it upon remembering the locked drawer.
"Oh, that one," Dorothea says thoughtfully before rummaging through her dress pockets and, to Ferdinand's happiness, brandishing a key, "I know Hubert is the only other person you gave a duplicate to."
Ferdinand takes the key in wonder. "Do you know what is inside?"
Dorothea shrugs. "You never told me. Just said that it contained... I think you called it 'sensitive material'? You told me not to open it unless you explicitly allowed me to or if you'd died." She giggles into her hand.
Ferdinand lets out an amused snort as he takes his seat behind the desk. "Rather dramatic of me. Do you think I should be opening it then?"
"Well, you are still Ferdinand von Aegir. And, really, dramatic's kind of always been your thing, Ferdie."
He slots the key neatly into the drawer, pleased that it turns with ease. He pulls the drawer open, curiosity bubbling ov-
His face turns a deep shade of red.
"Ferdie? Are you alright?"
A choking sound is his only answer.
There are documents, sure, Ferdinand had expected those. What he did not expect however is the sheer amount of Hubert in the drawer.
There are photos. Plenty of him and Hubert. Smiling next to each other outside an opera house, arms locked at some sort of ball where they're decked out in formal wear, another one of them at the stables where Hubert looks particularly uncomfortable atop a pegasus. Hubert, Hubert, Hubert.
There are letters too. They date all the way back seven years ago, the latest being one from three months ago. All written for Ferdinand in Hubert's neat penmanship. Ferdinand had saved every single one.
Then there are boxes. A box containing an elegant pin. One with a set of ornate hair accessories. Riding gloves, a little horse figurine, a pocket mirror. When he sees the the cards in the corner of the drawer, he finally realizes that they are gifts. From Hubert to Ferdinand spanning across the years.
Dorothea is quiet as she stands next to him. Eyes wide in shock and the glint that accompanies it is both of delight and grief.
"I really loved him," he says quietly.
Dorothea takes him in her arms.
"You really did."
Ferdinand nearly dies at Myrrdin.
He is brought back to Enbarr in the worst state he's ever been. Beaten within an inch of his life, broken, battered, bruised, and bleeding all over. It was a horrible defeat where they'd lost plenty of good people and Ferdinand is absolutely ashamed of himself for the utter failure.
Along with the troops he'd failed, Ferdinand should have died on that bridge.
He'd sincerely hoped that Hubert wouldn't see him like this, but he is the first person Ferdinand sees when he opens his eyes in the infirmary.
He pales at the sight of him. He almost wishes it were Edelgard instead. Almost. "Hubert," he croaks out, voice dry and scratchy, "I'm sor-"
"Be quiet," the man snaps.
Unexpectedly, Hubert takes his hand swiftly and, if he weren't incapacitated, Ferdinand would grasp it back tightly on instinct.
"You did well," Hubert says softly.
Ferdinand chokes. "No-"
"Rest," Hubert says in a tone that warrants no argument.
Then Ferdinand rests.
"There has been a breakthrough with the cure!"
Ferdinand perks up when Petra bursts in with the news. Beside him, Dorothea rises from her chair, smile blinding and eyes shining with hope.
"What has happened?"
"Hubert has finally found the last component he needed for the magic cure!" Petra exclaims, joyfully, "He sent me to fetch you, Ferdinand! If you're up for it, that is. The others are already gathered in the labs."
Ferdinand gets up from his bed with no hesitation. "Then let us not keep them waiting."
The labs are a quiet place. Filled with plenty of chemicals and gadgets Ferdinand has no clue how to operate. Since first waking up two months ago, Ferdinand has only ever been there once, under Hubert's supervision.
("What is this-"
"Don't touch that."
"Don't touch that either."
"Can I touch anything?"
"Ferdinand," Edelgard greets as they enter. She's standing beside Hubert who's hunched over a desk, casting sparks at a beaker of liquid. The cure, Ferdinand realizes with a start.
"Is that it?" He points at the glass.
"Sure is!" Caspar pipes up excitedly. "You're going to have your memories back in a flash."
"Don't get his hopes up," Hubert hisses and Caspar instantly straightens, "we've no assurance that this will work."
Ferdinand's face falls at the remark and Hubert looks guilty when he notices. Edelgard places a hand on his shoulder. "Now, Hubert. Let's be optimistic," she says with an encouraging smile, "this is the product of all your best efforts for the past two months. I'm sure things will work in our favor."
"Definitely," Dorothea agrees, "I worked on that thing myself. It will definitely work this time."
Bernadetta pauses from staring at all the different vials littered on the table. "This time?"
Linhardt yawns before answering. "It took quite a lot of tries to perfect something that wouldn't kill the recipient instantly."
Both Bernadetta and Ferdinand pale.
Petra punches Linhardt's shoulder. "But it is ok now, isn't it?"
Hubert exhales noisily. "It's the best we can hope for."
Edelgard turns to Ferdinand then, question in her eyes.
"Are you ready to take it?"
Ferdinand blinks. Stares at all the other people in the room. At Hubert in particular.
He wants to remember what it feels like. Loving Hubert von Vestra.
"I am ready."
It is dark in Hubert's office. This is something Ferdinand has grown accustomed to over the years, but something about it now seems darker.
Ferdinand breaks the quiet. "What do you want to do once we win?"
Hubert snorts. "Rather confident, aren't you?"
Ferdinand shrugs across him, sipping his coffee before answering. "Should we not be? Don't tell me you have no faith in our strength. I would think you of all people would believe in it so strongly."
Hubert runs a finger along the saucer underneath his teacup. "You have a point."
Ferdinand knows he does. "It all ends tomorrow, can you believe it, Hubert?"
Hubert chuckles darkly. "The battle never ends. Even if- when we win, there is still the matter of reforming the country. Something extremely hindered by this whole... charade," he says distastefully.
"It will be for a good cause," Ferdinand tries to encourage.
"I suppose," Hubert responds before taking a sip of tea.
"You did not answer the question."
Hubert raises an eyebrow. "I told you I nee-"
Ferdinand raises a hand, leaning forward to get closer. "Hubert, I asked you what you wanted," he stares into his eyes, "not what you needed."
Hubert lets out a mirthless laugh, leaning forward as well. "I am not allowed to want things."
"Who said that?"
Ferdinand snorts. "That is ridiculous, you know? Everyone is allowed to want things. Take me for instance," he chuckles to himself, "when this is all over, I would like to have a cross country ride. A little journey to decompress after all that has happened."
Hubert rolls his eyes, a fond smile settling on his mouth. "Why am I not surprised it involves horses?"
Ferdinand grins. "Because you know me too well."
He's glad for that. Glad that Hubert knows him as much as he does. Glad that he knows Hubert just as well.
"Truly a curse," Hubert drawls and Ferdinand tries to hit him.
"So what is it then? Something you want?" Ferdinand asks softly.
Hubert stares at him quietly, looking deep in thought. It had escaped Ferdinand, how close they were now, noses just a few inches away. He can see it all from here. The furrow of Hubert's brows, the twinkle in his eyes.
The dryness of his lips.
Ferdinand had asked for a reason. He'd asked because he wanted him to be the answer. Ferdinand so desperately wants to hear Hubert say he wanted him. Needed him even. Ferdinand hopes, Ferdinand prays, Ferdinand yearns.
Ferdinand so desperately wants.
"...I don't know," Hubert finally says, but Ferdinand believes he is lying. If him staring at Ferdinand's mouth is anything to go by. (He feels like his heart will burst.)
They spring apart instantly, tea set clattering as Ferdinand accidentally knees the table. Ouch. Hubert is quick to catch the saucer that nearly shatters on the floor.
Edelgard stares. From Ferdinand to Hubert. From Hubert to Ferdinand. Then again from Ferdinand to Hu-
"Did you need something, your highness?" Hubert finally manages to ask, only looking slightly awkward.
Edelgard sends Ferdinand a regretful look. "I wanted to go over some back-up strategies for tomorrow, but if you're occu-"
"Nonsense," Ferdinand steps in, smile strained, "Hubert is never too busy to assist you, Edelgard." He turns to Hubert. "I shall take my leave then."
He's out of the room before either of them can say a word.
"Why is it that you wanted to talk to me in private?" Hubert asks curiously, the slightest bit of apprehension lurking in his tone.
They are back at the infirmary, alone after Ferdinand asked to have a word with Hubert. He'd simply meant for them to talk outside in the hallway, but the others were strangely fast in reacting and ushering themselves out of the room without another word. Ferdinand had seen Dorothea give him a thumbs up behind Hubert's back as the door shut.
He needed that.
Ferdinand takes a deep breath. Here we go. "Just... listen to me, alright? To everything I have to say before you answer."
Hubert nods cautiously, eyes searching his for any hint of what he's about to say next.
"Hubert, I love you."
The searching eyes turn into wide saucers in an instant.
Despite his burning face, Ferdinand raises a hand to stop him. "You said I could finish."
Hubert clamps his mouth shut, looking as if he's just been scolded and, at the same time, like he's been slapped. Hard, judging by the redness of his cheeks.
"You are going to say that I'm not thinking straight. That I am not in the proper state to, but let me remind you that my memories are what I have lost, not my observational skills or the other higher functions of my brain." He stares up at Hubert defiantly. "I have seen all the evidence, I have enough to go on to know that I love you."
Everyone's words. The letters. The photos. The presents. His own feelings seemingly sparked by haunting familiarity. It's all so obvious. He'd been so blind.
"Why are you telling me this?" Hubert asks quietly, breaking the charged silence. He sounds choked and he's looking at Ferdinand like he's something he's never seen before.
Ferdinand shuts his eyes. "Because I have seen enough. I have come to the conclusion that I love you too much to simply stand by and do nothing. Memories or not, I know I am a coward, Hubert. And once I recover them, I know I will be too scared to tell you anything and if there is one thing I have learned about myself through all of this is that I am horrible at keeping my feelings for you a secret. Everyone knows, were you aware of that? Why do you think they left so-"
"-easily? They know. I suspect they have always known-"
"-and how could they not? When it came to you, it seems I have always been hor-"
Hubert holds him by the shoulders.
Ferdinand shuts his mouth.
He realizes then that Hubert's breathing is shaky.
"Hubert, are you-"
Ferdinand shuts his mouth again.
They stand like that for a while. Ferdinand hyperaware of Hubert's grip on his shoulders and Hubert seeming to collect himself. Ferdinand is nervous. No, that's an understatement. Ferdinand is terrified.
Had he ruined everything?
"How?" Hubert finally asks.
Ferdinand blinks. "How?"
"How could you let yourself fall for someone like me?"
Oh, goddess, Ferdinand thinks. Hubert didn't know.
"I think that is a question better answered when I get my memories, but I will tell you this," he gazes at Hubert determinedly as he speaks, "in the two months I have gotten to know you, I have come to harbor a crush on you, you know that? Not because I had known I loved you, but because you are smart, loyal, driven, handsome," he takes Hubert's face in his hands as he continues, "hardworking, kindhearted... Hubert, I can go on for longer."
Hubert is avoiding his eyes, but his face is deeply flushed and Ferdinand can feel him shaking under his touch.
He takes a chance.
"Hubert, I know it may not be the time, but is there a chance that... that you might love me too?"
A beat. A very tense beat wherein Ferdinand can practically hear his heartbeat in his ears.
Ferdinand wants to throw himself off a cliff. Again.
Hubert's eyes widen at his own response. "I mean no, I won't be telling you of my feelings now. Not when you don't remember how they could even have come to develop."
Ferdinand feels his breath catch. Did that mean?
"Does that mean-"
"It means nothing now," Hubert cuts him off, still looking away from him. "You've been brave, but this is as far as you'll go. I will tell you my response when you wake up with 25 years of memories back in your mind."
Ferdinand nods vigorously and when Hubert dettaches himself from the man to call in the others, he all but jumps back into his bed, poised and ready to ingest the cure. He hopes it works. He so badly wants it to work.
"Are you ready for this, Ferdie?" Dorothea asks sweetly, a glass in her hands.
He takes it before nodding jerkily. "As I'll ever be." He turns to address everyone in the room. "Thank you all for being so patient with me and helping me through this. I appreciate it greatly and I hope you all know I plan to return the favor when I regain my memories."
"If," Hubert warns. Edelgard hits him and Dorothea sticks out her tongue at him.
"When," Ferdinand counters, gaze defiant.
Linhardt snorts. "See, they're already back to normal."
The room shares a laugh.
Ferdinand stares at the glass. "Well, here goes."
He downs it all in one gulp before blacking out.
They win the war.
There are bodies everywhere. Some familiar, some not. Blood and weapons litter the battlefield and the smell of rain is prominent.
Dimitri's corpse lays in front of Edelgard, broken and lifeless. There is pain in her eyes as she gazes down at him, but it is overshadowed by the triumph that shines in them minutes later.
Amidst it all, Ferdinand rides Abercrombie towards the south end of the battlefield, heart racing and hope building.
Hubert. Hubert. Hubert. Hubert. Hubert.
He nearly falls off his horse in a mad dash to run towards the figure spattered in red and black, clutching at a wound on his arm. Ferdinand hugs Hubert tightly when he finally reaches him and, ugh, he can already feel tears forming in his eyes.
They'd did it. They'd won. It was over. And they were both alive.
"You know," Hubert says out of the blue, stiffly returning the hug, "a cross country ride would be nice."
He loves this man so much it hurts.
Ferdinand opens his eyes slowly.
Seven faces stare back at him anxiously. Edelgard with her gaze hard and searching. Dorothea chewing on her lip. Bernadetta twiddling her thumbs nervously. Caspar, one fist clenched in anticipation and another grasping Petra's hand as she did the same. Linhardt awaits his words, paper and quill at ready.
Hubert's eyes shine with terrible hope, the kind that is fragile and desperate.
Ferdinand grins. "Did I break our promise at the Goddess Tower with that little stunt?"
The rest of the room looks confused, but Hubert's eyes light up and, really, that's all that matters.
In three quick strides, he is by Ferdinand's side, expression a mix of so much emotions. Relief, joy, anger, shyness, nervousness. Ferdinand loves them all.
"You insufferable fool."
He laughs. "That is exactly what you said the first time I woke up. It was you, was it not? The first one I saw, not Dorothea."
At the words, Edelgard and Dorothea's eyes light up in recognition and, within a few seconds, the room is celebrating, whooping enthusiastically and hugging each other. Ferdinand will get to them later, he swears.
"Can I hear them now?" He asks Hubert softly.
Hubert looks at him tenderly before leaning down.
"I love you too," he whispers.
And all is right with the world.