Word count: 2000 (4 to 16 minutes) | Rating: T | Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers| Characters: Ferdinand von Aegir and Hubert von Vestra (Ferdibert)
His partner was many things, some that contradicted and most that inspired. Among his unwavering traits was Ferdinand’s expressiveness. It wasn’t limited to his face by any stretch. There was a way that he rolled his shoulders when he was stressed that Hubert could identify without even looking, not least of all for the light sigh that typically accompanied it. The tired smile distinguished itself from the barely restrained variety, and so on. Ferdinand contained multitudes, and Hubert cataloged them dutifully.
Which was precisely why he woke on instinct—something wasn’t right with Ferdinand. As consciousness came to him completely, Hubert realized his partner’s breath came in sharp inhales and shaky exhales.
“Ferdinand,” he called softly as he sat up, not wanting to add to the alarm of a bad dream. It wasn’t near dawn yet, based on the dim moonlight in their quarters. That was enough light to see his jaw was clenched and a thin sweat clung to his skin. As confirmation of his suspicions, he could hear Ferdinand rustling under the sheets as he struggled in his sleep. Hubert rested a hand on his chest, discovering that the linen nightshirt he favored was damp with sweat. “Wake up, Ferdinand. You’re safe.”
The shift of pressure as Hubert moved closer awakened Ferdinand with a start, tensing and searching in the dark until he saw Hubert beside him. Fear dissolved to sadness and a raw vulnerability that took roost in his own heart. Before their relationship developed over five long years, nearly six, Hubert had been told routinely by Dorothea that, in a truly loving couple, one feels their partner’s suffering as their own. He pointed out then that he hardly needed to feel romantic affection to experience empathy, thinking to dismantle her argument only to find himself teased for his ‘incessant mother henning’ being a unique Hubert special. He knew it was flattery then but let her have the final word. As a generosity.
Yet he couldn’t argue that it weighed on him to see Ferdinand so affected by whatever his nightmares held. Where countless battles and challenges failed, the simple act of sleeping was posing a threat. One Hubert could not fight. Having expressly sworn to protect him only amplified the regret of his inability to make good on that. Resting his hand over Hubert’s blackened fingertips, Ferdinand propped himself up on an elbow and drew sleep-mussed curls behind him.
“I’m here,” he answered only to be immediately embraced, Ferdinand’s arms and solid build pulling them both down to the pillows again. Hubert barely had time to register the change before he noticed Ferdinand was—shaking. His breath hitched and another shiver ran across his shoulders, signaling that he was in tears before the first drops absorbed into Hubert’s sleeve. He repositioned to get his arm out from between them and around Ferdinand, settling in with his hand behind his head. “You’re alright.”
“I keep—” He started, cut off by a broken sob only to try again. Sometimes, very selectively, that persistence of his was more of a hindrance than a help. “Going back, I—”
Of course, the same interruption took the sentence from him once more. Force of will only got one so far. Even for the Empire’s Two Jewels. Hubert ran his hand over his hair to encourage him to relax.
“You can tell me in a moment. Let yourself grieve.” He knew the hypocrisy of it. But Ferdinand had been waking up in tears more often in the moons that followed the destruction of Shambhala. As Hubert’s own workload lessened relatively, Ferdinand’s increased. Nobles scrambled to retain some semblance of power in Her Majesty’s united Fódlan. Claude corresponded with Lorenz over the border of Almyra, and he often received updates on a potential treaty on that front. Petra returned to Brigid as its leader and acted as a representative between her home nation and the new Fódlan, with Ferdinand as her contact.
The time had come for all the dreams he had envisioned, complete with a public education system to ensure all children received the necessary tools to succeed. The finest among them would be provided additional education appropriate to their capabilities as a replacement of what the noble class should have been. First, buildings needed to be established for them across Fódlan, and professors needed to be gathered, interviewed, and selected. That process had to be overseen closely to ensure the institution remained securely in place for future generations. Furthermore, their design must resist corruption so these academies were not simply overrun by similar oppressors as the Church or abuses comparable to those of the former nobility.
He was proud to do it, naturally. Ferdinand von Aegir was destined for greatness, and this was his time to substantiate that claim with action. But the strain was taking its toll.
Ferdinand, with a deep breath, wound down from restrained sobs to idle tears.
“There,” Hubert reassured him, pressing a kiss to his temple. “Would you like some water?” The pitcher waited on the nightstand with a washcloth and tankard at its side. As the nightmares increased in frequency, Hubert took care to bring them in for easy access in the night. Cool water was refreshing after sweating through a horrific dream, and that was one comfort. But drinking water steadied breath intuitively. The human body wouldn’t simply let itself drown, so the introduction of water would force calmer breathing no matter what frenzy the mind had stirred up. A genuine feeling of at least physical peace often followed.
“In a moment,” Ferdinand said, curling closer to Hubert still.
He permitted the silence to speak for him. Words were unnecessary at this point in their relationship. Ferdinand understood, slipping his foot between Hubert’s and draping an arm over him in a loose hug. Being shorter allowed Ferdinand to nestle into him as though he belonged there. Their shared opinion was that he did, clearly. Even so, his comparable strength to Hubert was obvious. He still had his horseback ride at dawn routinely, and it showed in his thighs. Hubert’s longer, lean limbs could not resemble a mage’s more by their direct comparison to his partner’s cavalryman build. They had slept much like this on the evening after Shambhala fell and the Black Eagle Strike Force emerged alive. That recollection of the first in many nights to come only brought a slow smile to Hubert.
It would be the Great Tree Moon soon, and the frogs by the pond beyond their walls signaled the approach of warm weather. Between that and the comfort of their proximity, Hubert felt Ferdinand’s breathing level off further. Almost to where he thought he might fall asleep again.
“I still hear them,” Ferdinand revealed his waking state. “The people in battle.” He brushed his fingers through the hairs at the nape of Hubert’s neck, looking distantly at the ceiling as he continued. “I always discover I am on the Tailtean Plains, where Dimitri fell.”
Ah. That would do it. In their monastery days, before Ferdinand knew what was to come, he had grown rather close with Dimitri. Hubert hadn’t thought anything of it before, but he honestly should have. Ferdinand’s natural disposition was to befriend others where possible, and he didn’t have the necessary knowledge not to seek companionship with those he might meet on a battlefield later. While Hubert had the fortune to see all of the Black Eagles stand with Her Majesty, Ferdinand had friends on all sides of the war. Lorenz was the only friend of his that Hubert gave consideration to, and his territory’s proximity to their borders had guaranteed his fealty to the Empire.
“Had he lived, do you think he could be happy?”
Reports showed that Dimitri had died in Dedue’s arms, as close to happiness as the late King of Faerghus was going to be—and had been in many years. In hindsight, it was only logical that Ferdinand took an interest in him. He carried himself in the refined fashion Ferdinand aspired in his youth, and he had a troubled nature that the Imperial Prime Minister obviously found alluring. Hubert had not been so well acquainted with Dimitri. He had intelligence on the Kingdom’s heir, but that was scarcely interchangeable with personal familiarity.
“I didn’t know him well,” Hubert admitted, well beyond trying to seem all-knowing in Ferdinand’s eyes. “But I do know his opposition to Lady Edelgard was manipulated.”
Coordinated by Those Who Slither in the Dark with the hopes of mutual destruction for two veritable opponents, Dimitri’s hatred of Edelgard was not a willful one on account of the misinformation behind it. That left only one conclusion. Hubert would have preferred to make eye contact when delivering his answer, but he compromised on staying as they were. “If he would have believed that Her Majesty was not involved in the Tragedy of Duscur, I believe he could have found a place for himself here.”
An unsteady inhale indicated that the revelation was hard on Ferdinand, bringing him back to tears rather than away from them. Hubert kissed his forehead lightly as he felt Ferdinand hold tighter onto his nightshirt.
“Is it wrong to mourn him? To miss him so horribly when he stood firmly against us to the very end?”
“Not at all.” His response came without hesitation, not least of all because the thick sorrow in Ferdinand’s voice was difficult to bear. To be trusted with emotions outside of his usual optimism was an honor Hubert was proud of. Still, he felt compelled to lessen his pain wherever possible. “He was dear to Lady Edelgard as well. In no small way, he set her on the path she walked to unite Fódlan. That it ultimately claimed his life…” Ferdinand sniffled against Hubert, collecting himself amid reassurances that his grief was far from a character flaw. “Remorse for his loss is only natural. Perhaps you would like to memorialize him?”
“Hm?” His grip loosened, and Ferdinand drew back to get a better look at Hubert in the relative darkness of their bedroom. He could see his partner was red-eyed from crying, which led him to reach for his face to wipe away stray tears. Yet Hubert also recognized the curiosity brightening in his eyes through the despair.
“A memorial to King Dimitri of Faerghus might provide some closure to you and others who mourn him.” As he spoke to him, Ferdinand put his own hand over Hubert’s and leaned into his touch. He was very tactile and with that, Hubert found he wasn’t so different himself. Not with the people he cared most about. He ran his thumb over Ferdinand’s cheek and smiled at the quiet hum of contentment that earned him. “I should think Her Majesty would be rather receptive, in light of their bond as children.”
“It is a beautiful thought.” Ferdinand admitted, clearly with more on his mind than he was saying. His hand gradually slid down Hubert’s arm as those heavy thoughts weighed on his brow. “But with all my work, I—”
“Let me handle negotiations with Claude and Petra going forward. Your well-being has value, Ferdinand.”
Ferdinand chuckled, amused more than anything else, although a twinge of sadness still endured below that warmth. “That should be my remark to you.”
“It has been, which is why I can tell you it now.” Hubert used his free hand to sit up alongside Ferdinand, moving to hold his hand in the process. It didn’t feel nearly as confidence-inducing to recount his reasons for the exchange of duties while he lounged in bed. “The removal of ruined Agarthan bases and magical sites is proceeding smoothly. I receive notices on their progress, and that is the extent of my involvement.” Cupping his face once more, Hubert held his attention with the goal of swaying his usually stalwart resolve. “Please leave this to me. Confer with Her Majesty and give your grief the attention it requires.”
Or he feared it would hound his nightmares forever. That, Hubert was familiar with, and he would not wish it on as vibrant and loving a man as the one he’d chosen to spend his life with.
“Thank you, my beloved,” Ferdinand whispered, perhaps tearing up again as he squeezed his hand fondly. They were happy tears this time, he trusted. Hubert moved closer to sit with Ferdinand resting against him and their hands clasped between.