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“Really? A pick-up line?”

Balthus shrugs, folding his arms behind his head. “Why not? Always worked for me before! ‘Sides, aren’t you proud of how, uh, suave and charismatic you are? This shouldn’t even be a problem for you.”

Yuri huffs, leaning back against his seat. “Always worked for you? Tell that to every man and woman who up and left as soon as you opened your mouth.” He pointedly ignores the latter part of Balthus’ statement, because… well, that’s his entire problem right now.

He and Byleth may have kissed a little—okay, a lot—on that night, but afterwards business had gotten in the way of any more time they may have been able to spend together. Yuri’s had to deal with mediating turf wars, taming particularly hard-to-handle new recruits, and a plethora of other problems that he doesn’t even want to list down, lest he revisit the headaches that had come with them. As for Byleth’s end, certification exams season has descended upon his class, which Yuri is pretty sure is just as headache-inducing.

And now Yuri’s starting to wonder if that night had been a one-time thing, because maybe Byleth had just gotten caught up in the heat of the moment.

It’s illogical, unreasonable, and Yuri’s sure if he told anyone about this they’d tell him he was being ridiculous, but he can’t help it. Not when the same thing had happened before, too many times for Yuri to afford carelessness again.

“Listen, I’m sure you don’t need to,” Balthus eventually says, “but if you really wanna go for it, then a pick-up line is the best way to go! Even if you screw up, it might still be funny!”

The thought of Byleth laughing cheers Yuri up, for all of one second, because then he realizes Byleth would be laughing at him. “Not very reassuring. But thanks, Balthus. I’ll give it a try.”

The next time Yuri finds himself with some free time, he scampers up to the surface and does his best to act as casual as possible when he catches the curious glances of more than a few people—most of them know who he is by now, considering, well, everything that had gone down with Aelric and company, but he still gets odd looks sent his way whenever he does come up here. No big deal, but Yuri wishes they’d quit it already. Then again, he supposes it’s only his own fault if they can’t seem to get tired of him.

Finding Byleth is another ordeal altogether. Visiting the classrooms of the different Houses usually never went wrong, at least in the few times Yuri had managed to find time to come up, but today’s the weekend and most of the students are out and about the monastery, leaving the classrooms empty.

This is going to be a bit harder than expected. What the heck does Byleth do in his free time?

Yuri tries the fishing pond, since he knows enough about the other man to know he’s a fish aficionado (a-fish-ionado, if you will), but he only finds a few students he doesn’t recognize and no mop of dark blue hair in sight. Next he tries poking around in the various courtyards, since the weather is just right for a nice walk under the sun or whatever it is surface-dwellers do, but all he achieves is feeling annoyingly bitter about seeing couples walk hand-in-hand together.

At this point he’s starting to sweat from both the sun and running around looking for Byleth, so he ducks into the greenhouse for some mild relief. It’s dreadfully warm, but at least there aren’t as many people here to give him strange looks, and it’s also been a while since Yuri has seen trees and plants this carefully tended to. Whenever he goes out on missions there’s hardly any time to admire his surroundings, after all, on account of there being people trying to kill him.

He crouches slightly to peer at a particularly lovely clump of flowers, their petals a soft sky-blue and golden pollen dotting their centers. That reminds him, Byleth had given him a bouquet of violets before, hadn’t he? He’d prepared it because someone had told him he couldn’t go wrong with flower bouquets when going on a date, but afterwards Yuri just felt bad for having tricked him. Really, he hadn’t known Byleth would take him that seriously…

Well, the violets had been pretty while they lasted. Constance wouldn’t stop cooing over how romantic a gift it was, and she’d even tried experimenting on them with her magic to make them live longer after they started wilting. Yuri sighs—hopefully he doesn’t end up the same as them, needing to be resuscitated after going so long without Byleth…

“Yuri? Is that you?”

“Ah!” Yuri straightens, tamping down the brief alarm in his chest, but can’t quite control the (probably stupid-looking) grin that rises to his face when he turns to see the man of the hour, watering can in one hand and seed packets in the other, standing by a tree. “Byleth! Just who I was looking for…”

…Wait! He’d gone all the way up here to seduce Byleth, hadn’t he? But he’d ended up completely forgetting about Balthus’ suggestion and hadn’t prepared a single pick-up line! Shit. This isn’t like him at all. Normally Yuri can rely on his Suaveness and Charisma to get out of anything, but seeing Byleth’s little, pleasantly surprised smile wipes all coherent thought from his head; seeing Byleth walking towards him isn’t making things any better either! What the heck is Yuri supposed to do now?

He glances down, eyes catching on the pretty blue flowers—one of them sticks out more than the rest, its stem visibly bent.

A lantern lights up in Yuri’s head. He reaches down to pluck the flower off, lifting it up to present it to a bemused Byleth. “Nice timing, friend. I was just telling this flower how beautiful you are.” The blue petals even match his hair! Ha. Yuri’s a genius. He totally hadn’t been panicking just now.

Byleth blinks at him, slowly, then sets the watering can and seed packets down so he can take the flower in both hands. Is he not saying anything because he’s flustered? Yuri allows himself a second to preen. Okay, granted, the silence is a bit awkward, but Byleth in general isn’t the best with romance anyway, so some things are bound to be more awkward than they should be.

Then, kindly, “The flowers will die if you pick them.”

Silence.

“Uh,” is all Yuri manages for a good second. “What?”

Byleth nods at the rest of the flowers. “Blue poppies. Apparently they’re notoriously hard to take care of compared to their red and white counterparts, so the head gardener is always getting mad at students who pick them without thinking.”

“Oh,” Yuri says. “Uh. I. Sorry?”

“It’s alright.” Byleth looks down at the flower with that unnerving, soul-staring gaze of his—it had taken Yuri a while to understand he doesn’t do it on purpose, he legitimately just looks like that all the time—before suddenly reaching up to, of all things, tuck Yuri’s hair behind his ear and doing the same with the flower, its petals tickling the side of Yuri’s face. Byleth smiles again, a small, shy thing. “It looks better here anyway.”

Before Yuri can fully process what just happened in the past minute, Byleth draws back and picks his gardening tools back up again. “I still have chores to take care of here,” he says, sounding genuinely regretful about it. “If you need my help with a mission, let me just finish up the last corner in the greenhouse. It shouldn’t take too long.” Then he turns away, ducking behind a tree and disappearing from sight, though his footsteps echo a while longer in the distance.

Yuri has never been so at a loss for words in his life.

“I—I’ll be fine! Actually, I have to get going too!” he shouts, once he’s pulled himself back together and realized that if he sticks around here any longer, he’s going to have to face Byleth again. “Uh, see you next time! Bye!”

Then he scrambles out of the greenhouse and back down to Abyss as fast as his legs can take him.

Yuri slumps against the wall as soon as he closes his room door behind him. Damn it! Damn it, damn it, damn it, what had that been all about? He wanted to… to, well, embarrass Byleth a little, but also make him laugh a bit, and then maybe they could have spent some time together outside of helping each other in missions and battles, and actually, why didn’t Yuri just stay in the greenhouse and help Byleth with his chores? Not like he knows much about gardening, to be fair, but watering plants can’t be that hard, right? But no! He’d gone and panicked and ran down here like an idiot and a coward and…

The door opens, and Yuri jolts to attention, schooling whatever awful expression he’d probably been making just now into his typical calm visage. Even in the midst of beating himself up, he can at least still pretend he hadn’t been doing just that in the space of under a second. “Oh, hey, Yuri,” Balthus greets. He looks like he’s just come from the shower. “What’s up? I thought I saw you leave for the surface earlier. Back so soon?”

“Oh. You.” Yuri jabs a finger in his chest. It would probably be strong enough for anyone else to at least stumble back a little, but Balthus just stares blankly down at him. “You, you! This is all your fault. I am going to have my revenge on you, mark my words.”

Balthus doesn’t even blink. “Sure. Can that wait ‘til at least tomorrow, though? I just showered, I don’t wanna have to shower again.”

Ugh.” Yuri takes three wide steps just to flop onto his bed. The mattress is worn and thin enough that it feels like throwing himself onto bare pavement, but Yuri’s slept on worse surfaces in worse places. “Guess what! I tried out what you suggested—”

“Are you serious? You actually used a pick-up line?” Balthus whistles, dropping down to sit on the edge of his bed. “Wow, you’re down bad.

“Shut up. I tried out what you suggested, and Byleth completely ignored it.” Yuri buries his face in his hands. “I can’t even tell if it was because he hated it that much that he decided to just, like, pretend he didn’t hear it at all, or if he thought I was embarrassed right after saying it and decided to… also pretend he didn’t hear it at all! Saints, I’m losing my mind. When was the last time you’ve ever seen me in such a wrecked state, Balthus? This is terrible. Awful. We need to invest in a fainting couch around here, because it would have been extremely helpful a while ago.”

Balthus gives him a long look, dark eyes narrowed and squinting. Just as Yuri is about to ask what his problem is, Balthus asks, “So, uh, where’d the flower come from?”

“The…?”

Oh, right. Yuri groans as he reaches up to (carefully) take the flower out from his hair. It’s a little ragged—he hadn’t exactly done his best to keep it safe while he was racing through the monastery like a madman—but still more or less intact, still a bright sky-blue. Gods, it probably looked awful with his own hair, what had Byleth been thinking? Had he been thinking at all when he did that? Yuri’s heart is still beating a mile a minute because of it.

He’d gone up to try and charm Byleth, but he’d ended up being the one getting flustered instead. Yuri sighs, but gets up to see if there’s anything he can use in Abyss’ trash heap as a makeshift vase.

 

Constance looks at him like she can’t believe he’s the most intelligent man she knows. “A pick-up line? Really, Yuri? Just how low have you sunk to listen to something Balthus said?”

Yuri cautiously picks at his nails. They’ve just dried from the little manicure Constance gave him, and thankfully she doesn’t hiss at him like a territorial cat anymore, which is how he knows it’s safe to move his hands around again. “No need to look down on me that much, at least I know not to do it again.” Probably. Desperate times, desperate measures, all that. “And that’s exactly why I’m talking to you about this, not to Balthus.”

Constance raises an eyebrow.

“…Because, of course, you are most knowledgeable in the field of romance and I trust no one else but you and your excellent judgment to suggest,” Yuri says, pausing here to take a breath, “what I should do to get Byleth’s attention.”

Just like that, Constance beams. Yuri indulges her far too much. “Oh, you flatter me!”

“I know I do.”

“If you ask me, I think there’s nothing wrong with having some conversation over tea,” she says, turning to let Yuri fix a knot in her hair. It’s been getting longer recently, although she did mention wanting to grow it out, for a change of pace. “I mean, you two already talked plenty during the whole Aelfric situation, didn’t you?”

Yuri chews on his lower lip. “Well, sure, but it’s been a while since then…”

“That sounds perfect.” Constance nods, looking terribly pleased with herself. “What better way to catch up and hear about what he’s been up to, then? I’ll even provide the tea myself! Why, just the other day I finally perfected my latest magical experiment, wherein I managed to make tea entirely out of sewer water—”

“Haha. Ahem. No, Constance, it’s fine, thank you, I can handle this myself.”

Later that day, after Yuri procures himself a pair of tea bags and a sufficient amount of confectionaries, he traipses back up to the surface with newfound resolve to not fuck up. It’s been a little over a week since his stupid attempt with the flower (which is now sitting nice and watered in a wine bottle on his dresser), and despite the utter failure that had been, Yuri is the farthest thing from a quitter. He is, at the very least, not going to take this lying down.

It starts out pretty well—Yuri finds Byleth at the fishing pond this time, tossing one of his catches to a group of stray cats Yuri makes sure to stay far away from. “Yuri,” Byleth greets, when he looks up to see Yuri probably looking like a moron trying to dance out of the cats’ reach. “You’re back. You left so abruptly last time…”

“Ah, that, well. I was in a bit of a hurry,” Yuri says, dusting his clothes off.

“In a hurry?” Byleth stares at him. “You were looking at flowers.”

“…Anyway, I happened upon some of these down in Abyss,” Yuri coughs, holding up the teabags and small basket of snacks and sweets for Byleth to peer at, “and thought we could share them! You like tea, don’t you, Byleth? I haven’t tried this kind before, but I’m sure it’s—”

“Yuri,” Byleth gently interrupts, closing his hand over Yuri’s, “these have gone bad.”

Yuri blinks. Stares. “What?”

“You can tell. They smell bad.” Byleth draws his hand away from Yuri’s, the lingering warmth from his palm more distracting than it should be, and takes the tea bags with him. “It’s usually safe to have these even after the best-before date, but then they hardly ever taste as good, and some with weaker stomachs are likely to suffer later on. You didn’t have one, right? Good.”

Out of all the things Byleth had just said, Yuri chooses to respond to the last one. “Come on, I don’t have a weak stomach. How do you think I survived all those attempts on my life via poison?”

Byleth’s eyes narrow. “All those what?”

“Never mind.” Yuri sighs. How the hell had Byleth caught a bad smell from these? Well, admittedly, Yuri had thought they smelled a little iffy, but down in Abyss most if not all things end up smelling a little iffy no matter how well you took care of them. “Okay, well, these have got to be fine, though, right?” he asks, holding up the sweets. They’re from his own secret stash, they have to be fine.

“I think so.” Byleth pokes curiously at a muffin, still wrapped in the packaging paper it had come with. “Will you give me a moment, then? Just wait here.”

“What?”

But Byleth’s already turned around to leave, his pace faster than usual, leaving Yuri standing by the edge of the fishing hole and looking like an idiot, as has apparently become the norm. One of the cats looks up at him, fish bits around its mouth, and meows. Somehow it sounds like it’s making fun of him.

Before Yuri can begin the process of wallowing in self-pity once again, Byleth returns, carrying what looks like an armful of… something. When he gets closer Yuri shakes his head at the sight of a pile of tea bags. “Byleth—really, you didn’t have to. And why so many?”

“I have a lot,” Byleth says. He sounds just slightly out of breath. Did he run all the way from here to the dorms, where his room is, and then back? Yuri feels both touched and frustrated at how much better Byleth is at this whole boyfriend thing than he is. (Wait, are they, like, actually boyfriends? Did either of them ever specify? Saints, what if they’ve just been friends this whole time—) “Which ones do you like from here?”

Sifting through this pile would undoubtedly lead to them standing here until the sun sets, and while Yuri would very much like to see Byleth at night, now is not the time. “What do you think I’d like?” he asks instead.

He can’t quite resist a grin at the owlish blink Byleth responds with, and the way he slowly looks down at his armful. “Ah… hm… let me think.”

Yuri half-expects him to just select his own personal favorite, or maybe one of the more expensive brands, or literally do anything other than actually, well, think. Yuri doesn’t think he’s ever seen Byleth quite as focused as right now, staring intently at the tea bags as if he can deduce the answer through that alone. “Ahem. Byleth?” Yuri eventually says, clearing his throat. “I was kidding, really, we can just—”

“I got it.” Byleth somehow manages to move all the tea bags to just one of his arms, using his free hand to fish a pair out from the pile. “Honeyed-Fruit Blend.”

…Yuri certainly hadn’t been expecting that. “What?” he laughs. “Wow, lucky guess, much?” He’s certainly impartial to it, for reasons that should be obvious, but then maybe Byleth had just picked something sweet out without thinking too much about it?

Byleth smiles, looking pleased he’d been right. “It’s the same blend from that night.”

Yuri feels his heart do a stupid little loop-de-loop in his chest. “You… remember?”

“Of course?” Byleth sounds confused, as if wondering how he could possibly forget. “You looked like you liked it when you tried it, and you said you rarely get good tea down in Abyss, so I made sure to remember. It’s not hard to buy from the merchants every now and then.” He looks down at the rest of the tea bags, a contemplative look on his face. “I think you might like Albinean Berry Blend too. And, ah, Seiros Tea? I haven’t tried it, but it must be costly for a reason. Next time I go down to the market,” Byleth says, tilting his head just so in what, Yuri realizes, must be a small excited tic, “would you like to come with me? We can buy tea together. And other things you need that might be hard to find in Abyss.”

“Ah…” Yuri swallows, taking one of the tea bags Byleth offers. This one certainly looks newer, better, and more taken care of than the ones Yuri had scrounged up in Abyss’ pantry, and the thought that Byleth had remembered something as small as the type of blend they’d shared on that night together is… “You know,” he mumbles, “you really are a strange one.”

Byleth shrugs. “So I’ve heard.”

Okay, so Yuri’s tea bags may have been thrown into the gutter, but not all hope is lost, right? After Byleth returns to his room both to prepare the tea and to stow away the rest of his pile (where does he even have space for that in such a small dorm room?), they clean up a spot by the fishing hole to sit down on. It’s easy, then, to just talk about whatever comes to mind—in between popping sweets in his mouth Yuri rambles on about the latest deals with his gang, the situation down in Abyss, what stupid thing Balthus got up to the other day…

“You know, you can talk,” Yuri says, when he realizes all Byleth’s been doing for the past few minutes is stare at his face. Not that Yuri feels that unnerved whenever Byleth does that anymore—after a while his seemingly-blank eyes start looking a little endearing—but he feels bad about dominating the conversation now. “I didn’t come up here to listen to my own voice.”

Byleth smiles around his cup. “But I did.”

“…Now that’s just cheesy,” Yuri huffs, in a weak effort to tamp down the blush he knows must be rising to his face. He’s heard better lines before, so why is it that everything Byleth says makes him want to hide in a hole? “But seriously, don’t tell me nothing’s been going on with you? I mean, you said the whole thing with Aelfric was just a regular day for you here, so…”

Byleth taps his chin in thought. “I’m not sure. I don’t really pay attention to these sorts of things. Well… the other day we did find out the head librarian has been dead this whole time and it had been a dark mage impersonating him, though?”

Yuri stares at him. “What the fuck?”

“It could have been worse,” Byleth reasons. “At least he didn’t turn into an Umbral Beast.” He pauses. “Yet. Anything could happen, I suppose.”

Before Yuri can say much of anything—he hadn’t had anything in mind aside for another ‘what the fuck’—something brushes up against his arm, and Byleth breaks into a little smile. “Oh, look. She likes you,” he says, digging around in their assortment of snacks to retrieve a biscuit, cracking a piece off to toss it at the ground. “The ones here are usually hissy at people. They only like me because I feed them.”

…Ah. Yuri has a bad feeling about this.

“Byleth,” he says, sweetly, “is that… a cat beside me?”

“What? Yes,” Byleth says, still breaking biscuit pieces off. Yuri catches the hint of a black furry tail in the corner of his eye, and it takes everything in him not to shoot up to his feet and make a break for the infirmary. “Um, Yuri? Are you alright? You look very… tense.” He frowns, the look in his eyes changing immediately. In a much lower whisper, soft enough that probably even the cat wouldn’t have heard him, “Is there an enemy nearby?”

Yuri coughs out one short laugh. He sounds slightly hysterical. “Haha. Well. Something interesting about me, Byleth, it’s—”

He cuts himself off with a sneeze. “It’s that I’m—” And then another. “I’m deathly—” And another. And another, this one strong enough his entire body convulses.

Byleth is at his side in a moment. “Yuri! What’s wrong? Have you been poisoned?” he exclaims, catching Yuri in his next full-body sneeze and holding him steady in his arms. Yuri would be enjoying this quite a lot more if he could think outside of the terrible itch in his nose. “I’ve never heard of a poison that induces sneezes… did someone tamper with the tea somehow? Wait, hold on, let me get you to Manuela—”

“No, just—” Yuri has to keep himself from wiping his nose on Byleth’s shirt; that sounds like it would do the exact opposite of charming him. “I’ll just have to make a quick trip down to Abyss—” His usual medicine should still be down there, and if they run into Constance and her restorative magic along the way, all the better.

Byleth frowns. “No, you need help. Come on.” And without so much as a warning, he lifts Yuri up in his arms and marches off towards where Yuri assumes the infirmary must be.

Yuri sees his life flash before his eyes. This is it. This is how he goes. Dying of cat allergies in Byleth’s arms. He has to admit that it could have been worse—he could be dying of cat allergies in some random person’s arms, after all—but if he doesn’t die of cat hair first, he is most certainly going to die of embarrassment then. “Put—me—down,” he wheezes, unintentionally emphasizing each word with a cough. “I can walk, Byleth—” is as far as he gets before dissolving into another round of sneezing.

Needless to say, Yuri does not think he looks particularly charming like this.

 

Hapi stares at him over her shot glass. “Your first mistake was listening to Balthus.” She downs her shot. “Your second mistake was listening to Constance.” She fills her glass up again.

“Is my third mistake going to be listening to you?”

“No. It’ll be you not listening to me.” She downs her glass again, fills it up again. Her motions are so practiced, watching her is almost hypnotic, like watching a snake charmer do their thing. “Yuri-bird, didn’t you kiss the guy already? What’s the point in trying to get his attention like this? It’s not like you completely skipped the courtship stage and went straight to a confession or anything.”

Yuri considers his own glass of alcohol. He’s thrown back enough to feel slightly tipsy but not quite about to fall off the edge of his chair just yet. “Well. About that.”

“Let’s count all those times you danced around him when you first met as the courtship stage,” Hapi graciously indulges, though she rolls her eyes hard enough that her head must hurt afterwards. “Anyway, he obviously likes you, right? If you ask me, I think you’re thinking too hard about this. Just, like, be yourself or whatever.” And she downs her glass again.

But that’s the thing, Yuri doesn’t say. Would Byleth like him if he acted like himself? Yuri doesn’t think he’s never hiding behind at least two masks at once, and taking them off just feels like making himself vulnerable enough to be dangerous. What if Byleth only likes Yuri because Yuri has been acting the way Byleth wants him to this whole time? What if this thing between them, their unlabeled relationship, falls apart because Yuri had slipped up?

Hapi pokes his arm, although she does it so strongly that it feels more like a jab. “Ow,” Yuri complains. “What?”

“You had your thinking face on,” Hapi tells him. “I don’t like it when you think.”

“Now that’s just insulting. I think all the time. What am I if not brains and beauty?”

Ignoring Yuri’s question, Hapi says, “If you’re thinking ‘ooh, I have to act all suave and charismatic so Mr. Chatterbox will like me,’ isn’t that sort of missing the whole point of having someone like you?” She shakes her head and does away with the glass entirely, choosing to drink straight from the bottle instead. Yuri briefly laments the loss of the drink—he’d at least wanted one more glass after this one. “Anyway, whatever. Just know that I’m right about this one.”

“Of course you are,” Yuri sighs. Fine, maybe she is right—having Byleth only like him for the masks he wears is the same as Byleth not liking him at all. “But the point remains,” he insists, “that it’s hard to… to get his attention! You know what I mean? It’s, like, I want to get him to like me more, but I keep fucking up—actually, this is stupid.” He gulps down his drink and stands up from the bar stool, the sudden movement spinning his head. Hapi blinks blandly up at him. “I can’t whine about this to you guys forever. I should… I should…”

“Whine about it to him instead?” Hapi suggests.

Yes! That! I’m outta here. Stay right there, Hapi, I’ll be back to let you know what happens!”

“No, take your time. I don’t need to know.”

Up on the surface, the cool evening air is refreshing on Yuri’s alcohol-warm face—the darkness of the night does nothing to deter him and his trained night vision, and after a bit of running around he catches Byleth just as the other man is entering his room. “Byleth!” Yuri calls, maybe a bit too loud—Byleth startles and nearly drops a small stack of books in his arms. “There you are!”

“Hello, Yuri,” Byleth greets. He looks… fond, which is an expression Yuri hadn’t thought would ever be directed his way in this life. “What are you doing up so late? Are you going out on a mission?”

“No, no, I’m just…” Yuri holds the door to Byleth’s room open for him, and Byleth smiles as thanks. “I wanted to, uh. Tell you something.”

Byleth blinks. “Okay. Come in.”

No, wait. Yuri hadn’t thought this through at all. Just what is he supposed to say? ‘I want to get your attention, but I don’t know how to do it at all?’ ‘I can’t tell if you actually like me or if we’re just friends who, like, kissed that one time?’ ‘I want you to like me more, because I have crippling self-esteem issues and I keep thinking you might actually hate me if I stop acting and be more like myself?’ None of those options look at all good, and the rest of the ones that pop up in Yuri’s head don’t sound any better either. Why did he do this again? He should have just stayed down in Abyss and drink his life away while whining about this to anyone who would listen—

“Yuri?” Byleth prompts, sounding both confused and concerned. He’s deposited his books atop his desk and has sat down on the edge of his bed, head cocked in inquiry. It occurs to Yuri that they are, once again, alone together in his room at night, and if his thoughts aren’t already in disarray that realization would have thrown them into complete and utter chaos. “Are you alright?”

Yuri jolts back to attention. “Yeah! Yeah, I just…”

There’s just no good way of asking this, is there? Yuri wracks his head a little longer, but still nothing comes to mind. Maybe he should just make something up and pretend that had been what he’d wanted to ask the whole time? But surely Byleth would see right through a half-baked lie, even if Yuri is a master at that craft…

He’s drawn out of his thoughts by a hand on his wrist, touch so gentle Yuri almost doesn’t notice it, and he looks up from the floor to meet Byleth’s eyes, as impossibly blue as always. “If you need help with something,” Byleth says, his gaze a mix of determination and worry, “I hope you know you can, ah… trust me with it. With anything, actually. I—” and here he pauses, cheeks tinged pink for a moment—“really like you, Yuri, so I want to… do my best… um, I don’t know how to say things like these,” he stammers, “but I… you understand, right?”

Yuri’s brain feels like it’s been hit with a Thunder spell. “You… like me?”

Byleth looks mildly distressed. “I thought the whole kissing thing made that clear?”

“I mean, yes, but—you’ve seen me at my absolute worst,” Yuri groans. Technically, dying of cat hair isn’t the worst way to go out, but when Yuri is trying to charm someone… “How can you really say you like me?”

“Do you mean when you had an allergic attack from the cats and—”

“I really don’t know what else I could mean, yeah.”

“I wouldn’t say that was your absolute worst,” Byleth says, kindly. “I was happy to help. Everyone has allergies.”

Yuri shoots him a look. “Do you?”

Silence. “If I do,” Byleth slowly murmurs, “I’m… afraid… I don’t know what they are… but,” he says, quickly, before Yuri can get any huffier than he already is, “that’s not important. I mean that I like you for you, Yuri. You don’t have to worry about… I don’t know, being unlikable or something. I would have liked you no matter what.”

The words are really far too touching for someone who’s normally so awkward all the time. “Bold thing to say, friend,” Yuri sighs, leaning closer towards Byleth anyway. He’s warm, comfortably so. Had he really been worrying for nothing after all? Byleth doesn’t seem like the type to exaggerate, and he’s being so sincere it’s almost painful for Yuri, who hasn’t had to deal with sincerity like this in a long, long while. “Are you sure you want to commit to that?”

Byleth’s stare is perfectly blank for a few long seconds, before he whirls around to dig through his drawers. “Hold on. One second. I have a ring.”

Yuri feels like a bit of his soul left his body just now. “You what?

“Just wait, I know it’s somewhere around here—”

“No, no, I didn’t mean that much commitment!” Yuri squawks, leaping forward to drag Byleth away from his desk before he can actually find this ring of his. “We’ve barely been together for a few months, really, you’re ridiculous—”

Byleth lets Yuri pull him away from his table, if only because he now looks pleasantly surprised. “So we are together?”

“I—I mean—what else would we be!” Yuri splutters.

“I thought you were having doubts. Because you were worried about me… not liking you or something?” Byleth frowns. “I don’t want you to worry. But if you do, just tell me.”

Yuri’s voice may or may not crack. “Tell you if I’m, what, having self-esteem issues again?”

Byleth nods. “So I can tell you I like you. Until you don’t forget.”

“It’s… It’s not a matter of me forgetting…” But Yuri can’t bring himself to say anything else. Just why does Byleth have to be so… nice? He can’t remember the last time anyone was this genuine and earnest and just so, well, sincere, and Yuri can’t stop thinking about how this has to be some sort of trick, a ploy to get him to lower his guard so Byleth can betray him right when Yuri had just started to believe this might finally be the day someone likes him for him.

Yuri inhales, exhales. “You know what.”

“What?”

“We may be together, but we sure haven’t done much of this in a while,” Yuri says, and kisses him.

It feels just as good as the first time around, when they had been in this same room, although it had taken place on the bed after both of them had nearly died. There’s no sense of urgency now, just something slow and soft and so very warm, even more so when (after the initial small, surprised noise Byleth made) Byleth reaches up to hold Yuri’s face in his hands. His palms are rough with sword calluses, and something about that has Yuri shivering ever so slightly, tilting his head to the side to slide their lips together. The low, shaky breath Byleth lets out sends Yuri’s heart beating a mile a minute.

“Okay,” Yuri says, when he draws back, probably with a stupid grin on his face. Byleth looks adorably dazed, like he can’t quite believe that had just happened. “I believe you.”

“Huh?” is all Byleth seems capable of offering.

Yuri takes his wrist and pulls him to his own bed. “You definitely like me. Anyone else would have dropped me in a second after that stupid line with the flower.”

“Oh, that,” Byleth says, sounding almost cheerful. “I thought it was cute.”

“You’re impossible,” Yuri tells him.

“But you definitely like me too,” Byleth returns. He lets Yuri push him down against the sheets, and Yuri feels a little thrill run down his spine at the realization they hadn’t locked the door. “Right?”

Yuri leans down to press his lips against Byleth’s neck, and whispers, “Right,” against his skin.