Word count: 840 (2 to 7 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Hubert and Claude
“Hubert, my friend,” Claude greeted, striding into the makeshift poisons lab he and Hubert carved out of one of the abandoned ruins dotting the vast Garreg Mach monastery grounds. Getting supplies from the greenhouse and making poisons in his room just wasn’t cutting it anymore… Seteth almost caught him last time, and that’d be a big mess to pick up, even for Claude.
The self-sacrificing servant to Edelgard barely glanced up from his workstation, where he was mixing some elements or another together at a safe distance.
“Claude,” Hubert acknowledged, returning to the task before him. He ran a tight ship, that Vestra. Compared to Claude’s intuitive chaos system, Hubert kept everything in order even in the neglected remains of a modest chapel. All supplies were sorted, labelled in code, and stored for easy concealment from wild animals and nosy explorers alike. Never knew when Ignatz would pick this place as the site of his next painting for the divine goddess herself, after all.
The ride by horseback to the workshop wasn’t long, sadly, so that was all the more reason to be cautious. Claude would just have to set aside time for leisurely rides on his own later. Really, he should be grateful for how close it was since the summer rains of Fódlan were just getting started at the turn of the Verdant Rain moon.
And because it would have to rain fire before Hubert considered not concocting new poisons for his sinister inventory, Claude had to make it out there somehow.
“Dutiful as ever, I’ll give you that.” He took off his cloak and after a couple good shakes, he hung it from an outcropping in the wall to dry for his ride back. Who knows what it used to be in its glory, but it made a good coat hanger in the present!
“So, how do you manage to get here before me when I never see your tracks on the way or a horse of yours nearby?”
“I am certain you would love to know,” Hubert taunted and gave not a hint or a clue, as usual of Edelgard’s most devoted.
“Oh, come on!” Claude went over to his table opposite Hubert’s, set up a good distance away for safety. Even guys as familiar with poisons as them had to be careful. “Our regular retreats for whipping up poisons have gone on for weeks now—your brews being quite a bit more deadly than mine most days, I might add—and we’ve even taken breaks for those board games you’re so fond of. Don’t I get a little hint?”
Claude grinned across the gap, packed with uneven rocks, stragglers from cleared rubble, and warm torchlight. And on the other side of the divide, a certain pale-eyed shadow peered at him, of course.
“Not a chance. You will simply have to employ that strategic mind of yours if you want to find out so badly.”
“Testing the limits of my skills, huh? I’m on to you,” Claude teased, picking out the bottles of mushrooms and crushed plants he needed for the mildly debilitating mixtures he had in mind. Hubert barely touched the low-grade stuff like that, and if it bothered him that Claude was hogging it, he didn’t say anything. And if he wanted to, Hubert would volley his absolute worst criticisms at Claude. He did, in fact. Often. So, anyway, it was probably fine.
“I very much doubt that.”
“Said like someone who doesn’t know just how close I am!”
“Is that so?” Ah, that got a rise out of him. Hubert stood back from his work, crossing his arms and sneering in that way he did when an argument struck his fancy. Or an appealing target, that too. “Tell me, what have you uncovered about me?”
“For starters, I can tell from your chats with Ferdinand outside the Officer’s Academy classrooms that your sour view of him is starting to turn sweet. Or is it spicy?”
Got him again.
Hubert fumbled his practiced scornful smirk, barely covering it with a scoff.
“What a ridiculous suggestion,” Hubert tried to recover, but it was too late. Claude was just as perceptive as Vestra himself, and his guard wasn’t as perfect as he thought. Supposed that was true of both them now, since they’d been cataloguing each other’s tells anytime they were together.
“Right, of course,” Claude agreed mockingly. He measured out the right amount of ingredients as easily as always, getting to work as he kept taunting Hubert. “How silly of me! I’ll drop the notion straight away, sir.”
“Be quiet,” Hubert hissed, digging back into his work too. The smell was foul, even at that distance, and Claude had to wonder how Hubert managed not to even cough a little.
Yeah, he was going to need help if he was ever going to capture the attention of the unstoppable sunbeam that was Ferdinand von Aegir. Lucky for Hubert that he had such a caring and invested friend in Claude!