A Dark Duty Upheld | FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 4800 (10 to 38 minutes) | Rating: T | Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers| Characters: Hubert von Vestra and the Black Eagles Students (and minor OCs)

Alister had always been among the slighter boys of the Hresvelg line. His twin, Armida, shared more of Lady Edelgard’s constitution than he did. Their comparison was only made simpler by the one year between the twins and the younger Edelgard. Somehow, Alister had outlasted his twin sister in the experiments regardless. Hubert waited by the cell door, watching his diminished, pale form asleep on the cot. His hair was nearly indistinguishable from his skin even in the dim cell.

The inhuman creatures who invaded the Enbarr palace undercroft and warped it for their sinister ends had decreed that Alister was no longer useful for experimentation. His identity had eroded way to a meaningless swirl of his own recollections and the past evidently stored within the Crest they forced upon him. They told Hubert very little directly, but he had excelled in espionage for many years by then. He rarely required telling to know.

Therefore, when he uncovered their plans to dispose of Alister as indifferently as one would with expired supplies, Hubert inserted himself into the plan. His father refused the very thought but was outmatched by Solon. His conclusion was that it would be beneficial for Hubert to execute a child of House Hresvelg. Whether for mockery, leverage, or simply to cause him pain, Hubert couldn’t say. Neither did it much matter. He achieved what he aimed to: a merciful passing for a descendent of the Imperial throne from someone who knew him well.

Alister’s sleep was not restful if his breathing was any indication, yet it was better than none at all. Hubert could afford to allow him that much. For what must be done next, any amount of waiting was acceptable.

And wait he did. The poison had already dissolved into the warm Hresvelg blend tea, and cooling would not reverse that. Beside that plain porcelain teacup was a sweet bun, which Hubert had been careful to instruct the palace cooks in making for Lady Edelgard. The recipe came from Faerghus through Hubert’s burgeoning network. Knowing Alister’s sweet tooth as he did and being confident it was unchanged, he was certain he would enjoy the light meal as his last. No sense in making him nauseous from overeating in his final moments.

“Ngh,” Alister groaned, tensing in his sleep. There was no pillow and merely a sparse sheet beneath him to clutch in the thralls of whatever plagued his dreams. Illness claimed Armida; madness had come for Alister. Twisting to face Hubert and drawing his legs in, he forced out a breath as if he’d been kicked. “No, ah—”

He startled awake, panting for a while until his breathing steadied. Only then did he squint into the shadows beyond the bars and see Hubert with the silver serving tray.

“Who…? Ah, yes.” Alister’s shoulders gradually fell, and he took a minute to get himself seated at the cot’s edge. He lifted his head to examine him as a familiar stranger. “Hu…bert…?” He was unsure. Inquiring. Still, it was the most lucid he’d been in days. A fortunate state of mind for the arbitrary day of execution chosen by his captors.

“Yes. You must be hungry,” he ventured, lifting the tray as a gesture. There was little chance he wasn’t, but that wasn’t the true question. Hubert had to be sure his clarity was lasting before he entered the cell with him. In his bouts of madness, Alister was inhumanly strong and blindly aggressive. Hubert could manage that but preferred a comfortable end for him. Failing in his defense of Lady Edelgard’s family… The least he could deliver was a peaceful and painless death.

“And you snuck food down here for me? You must be very quiet.” Alister was quiet himself, lowering his gaze to the floor. “Did you get some to the others?”

“Of course.” He had, in some cases. At least recently, although not tonight.

“How is she? That girl who shared my birthday?” Armida’s name was lost to him while her connection to him endured in the barest sense. Considering their closeness as twins, that lapse in memory proved the devastation that blood reconstruction surgery could visit upon the psyche. Not for Lady Edelgard, of course. She retained perfect awareness throughout this depraved cruelty. That outcome being the better of the two was telling.

“As well as could be expected.” He’d been informed of Armida’s passing twice before to unmatched despair, at which time Hubert resolved to omit that fact in future inquiries. Twice was too many as it was.

“I don’t suppose you have the keys?”

“I do.” Hubert held open his cloak to reveal the black keys on his belt. Normally, they were not so accessible. It scarcely mattered when he was visiting the cells of the undercroft. He was the sole person there with restricted access.

Kronya meant to make his acquisition of the keys into a game of some sort, as she derived the most amusement from tormenting him, but Thales had strictly forbid it. Not that the vile creature himself was present at the time. Solon enforced the decree more from impatience than any true loyalty. Even slight devotion couldn’t be expected from these twisted beasts.

“You do?” Raising his head again at last, Alister appeared almost hopeful. An ache stirred distantly in the depths of Hubert’s heart at the sight. With a deliberate breath, he quelled that sentiment. There would be time for remorse when the deed was done. It was one matter to wait so Alister could rest and another to give Solon a chance to reverse his decision while Hubert labored over his feelings. “No point in escaping, is there?”

“…I’m afraid not.” The disorientation and lapses in his own memories caused by the experimentation did not lend him strong stability even within his own cell. Alister would likely be overcome by madness in this very hallway even if he were released. Or worse, slaughtered in his escape attempt by the very same despicable creatures that Hubert shielded him from.

His thoughtful pause was brief, and he held his gaze on Hubert by coincidence alone. He may as well have been a stretch of wall for the exhaustion in Alister’s eyes.

“Could you come in with me? Stay while I eat?”

“Gladly.” He steadied the tray with practiced skill as he turned the key in the lock. It moved smoothly, well-maintained in its misuse against the Hresvelg heirs. There was no table in the cell, not with the lone overturned crate acting as a seat for Alister’s impromptu guest. Even necessities such as that were at the silent insistence of Hubert. There was no one else with access to these cells that would move any semblance of furniture into them.

“Thank you,” Alister sighed, scooting back to rest against the wall. His haggard state left him with little energy when he was consumed by the power of the Crest rewritten in his blood. Unlike his twin sister, his symptoms were understated aside from his colorless hair. Closer examination showed he struggled to keep his eyes open, and his nails were especially brittle. He was less fit than he had been — hardly a surprise on account of the twins never keeping still for long — but he retained some of his usual bearing as he crossed his legs and smirked.

“The honor is mine.” Hubert knew his company didn’t have enough memory of him to recognize that as stiffly formal, even by his standards. That presented him the opportunity to express anything to Alister he might wish to say before there was no other chance to. Hubert sat on the crate and set the tray down on his legs for convenience. Barely into his teenage years, his height was more awkward than useful as of yet. It had its moments, such as long legs serving for a stable surface. The bun from the platter was sticky to the touch from its honeyed glaze as he passed it to Alister with instructions. “Eat this slowly.”

“What is it?” True to his core nature, Alister accepted the offering anyway, seeming to test the spongy texture not typical of denser Adrestian pastries.

“It’s sweet. I don’t care for it.”

“I can take it off your hands, then,” he flashed a weak grin and took a small bite. “Mm. It’s a light flavor.” Encouraged by that, Alister bit off more.

“You’ll make yourself sick.”

He wouldn’t be able to come back another time to lay Alister to rest. Solon gave him this date, and Hubert knew better than to expect an extension in light of their wrongful prisoner’s sensitive stomach.

Alister rolled his eyes despite doing as he was told and picking off a smaller bite. He rolled the piece between his fingers for a time, slipping into another distant stare.

“I keep seeing these memories… over and over when I sleep. There’s a canyon, red and rich with life until it just rips apart with blood. People are screaming. When it’s quiet, I hear the echoes.” He brought the denser bit of bun to his mouth as though it were bitter. Hubert held his tongue, although he was one of few who knew of the event. “And it just—it breaks me. They’re people I know. My people, I can feel it.” Pushing the flat of his palm against his chest, Alister grimaced. He and Armida alike had been ruled by their hearts. Even corrupted by experimentation, that remained.

By happenstance, Alister returned to the present to dwell on Hubert with glassy eyes and a trembling sigh.

“I get these other visions, and they feel real, but they’re not mine. They’re not me.” This time, he broke to tear off another piece of the bun and ate it almost from spite. This pace was better for him, even if he’d finished nearly half already. “I can half see their faces, catch a few words… I’d have dinner at this—”

With a frown, he glanced to the ceiling to remember his dreams. Hubert was well aware of what he was going to describe. He knew the table and family dinners better than he knew the various methods to kill an enemy in the dark.

Marius and Verona, the youngest and with common interests if contrasting personalities, talked among themselves when they failed to assert themselves in conversations of the older Hresvelg children. Edelgard was not so content to be overlooked and devotedly spoke with the two eldest, Laverna and Edmund. The twins riled up Berwyn and Reynard, who scarcely needed the provocation to act out in tandem. Lady Anselma and Emperor Ionius IX took turns reigning in whoever required it. Henrietta, the most inclined to maternal instinct, occasionally intervened where her parents did not. Margaretta reliably kept out of the mess altogether, however, she could be persuaded to converse now and again.

Hubert sat near Edelgard as always. The Hresvelg family was vast and loving, full of character without an ounce of seditious ambition.

He would never see them all gathered there again.

Hubert set his jaw and gripped the tray ever so slightly tighter as his permissible tell in Alister’s company. He noticed nothing, naturally. Gesturing with his hands to show the size of the table they both envisioned, he continued.

“This long table, and every seat was full. At least ten people all gathered around for a meal. It feels like—that was home too. It can’t be, it just can’t.”

Alister groaned, pressing the knuckles of his free hand to his forehead as his legs bent closer to his chest from primitive fear. Conflicting identities warred in his skull, and he was inevitably the victim of their feud. That fate could only be staved off with fleeting distraction.

“No need to trouble yourself with them, then.” Hubert kept his voice measured in his reply. He’d trained in doing so for years, and the earlier leniency afforded him more discipline where he needed it most. It would be a disgrace if he couldn’t speak with the necessary finality to imply there was no other choice but that which he gave.

“How…” Alister stalled by eating another piece, larger than the last but still of a suitable size. Equally tenuous and distraught, his brow staying furrowed while he chewed. Pain flickered across his eyes with a wince when he did elect to look at Hubert once more. “How can you be so sure?”

“Do you have any doubt the canyon is your home?”

Biting his lip, he turned the bun over in his hands and carefully examined it—a random inquisitive habit that influenced Hubert’s prior decision not to lace the bun with poison.

“…No.” Hesitation aside, he spoke with conviction and appeared to relax. Enough to take a small bite directly from the bun without comment from Hubert, even.

“Then it is.”

“But why can’t I remember it all?” He took out his aggression on the bun with a fierce bite, however aptly sized. Again, Hubert did not advise him to slow down. There wasn’t much bun left to prevent him from eating and to do so would only be stalling for his own benefit. “I can feel something hidden in my mind. I’m not imagining it.”

Alister had no way to know the missing information wasn’t in his mind, but his forced Crest, and it was rapidly driving him insane. Unstable. Hubert looked to the innocent-looking tea on the tray set on his lap. The surface was steady. It did not reflect the insidious tremor of regret and remorse already laying siege to his resolve. But there was no way to save Alister. No cure for his ailment. None but what lurked in the depths of that plain porcelain teacup. Hubert would do what he must to support the Hresvelg line, however abhorrent or deplorable. He swore that in the cell his father had hurled him into when he was captured after his attempt to flee to Fhirdiad. Regardless of if he wished there were another course of action, Hubert von Vestra would take on any task to best serve this family he held as his own.

“You’ve been through an ordeal, and you’re not finished with it yet.” He lifted the teacup and saucer from the tray, calm and sympathetic to the fracture in Alister’s psyche. The reassurance was vaguely worded so as to prevent another metaphorical collision in his brain. “It’s expected for there to be consequences.”

Reaching for the cup and leaving the saucer behind, Alister thought nothing of taking a sip straight away. The bun was light but doubtless better with a beverage to wash it down.

His mouth twisted into a disappointed pout. “Mm. A bit cold.”

“Forgive me.” Whether for the temperature of the tea or the present circumstances, the necessity of what he’d done… Hubert alone knew. He would bring that to his grave with the same tenacity that he upheld his fealty to the Hresvelgs in all matters. To include the courtesy of a humane death the survivors need never know the cause of.

Polishing off the bun, Alister examined the hall beyond Hubert thoughtfully. He seemed most like his former self with a renewed glimmer to his eyes. Truth be told, Hubert was glad for the parting glimpse. He didn’t want to remember another Hresvelg as he did Armida and the others claimed by these atrocities.

“It’s strange. Not the tea,” he added, fortunately not realizing how incorrect that addition was, “but these memories that aren’t mine and those that are missing.”

“Did you want to discuss it?” Hubert was all too aware that he would be at eternal rest before he finished. It was, as they said, the thought that counted. Whatever Alister wished to do, he would assent.

“No. I feel like I shouldn’t.” He offered an empty smile, washing that away with tea. A hard stare took its place and Hubert braced in preparation. The shift was subtle yet informative.

This was not how the memory of that evening went. Alister had drifted off with ease, his head falling against his chest mid-sentence. Hubert caught the cup before it shattered and returned everything where it belonged in the kitchen to leave no trace of what he’d done. What he’d been forced to do. He contained his grief to his quarters, long since capable of silencing his sorrow.

“I should be asking why you would kill me.”

“Hm?” An insipid chill entwined with his ribs, seeping into his chest, but he refused to let it show on his face. This was where the dream would turn to nightmare; Hubert knew that. None of this was real. He could exert his will on it by extension. That tactic hadn’t worked to date, and still, he never failed to reach for it.

The smooth stone cell warped as its edges, consumed by invasive clouds of a nameless black entity one could dismiss as shadows. Not Hubert, feeling his head begin to spin from the precognitive panic, but surely someone could.

Alister’s irises vanished to solid white eyes reminiscent of Thales, and black sludge bled jaggedly from the corners like scars. Hubert tried to command his legs to move, to stand and take him away from this cell to anywhere else in the confines of this familiar nightmare. It would change nothing. That Hubert refused to surrender to his fate acted a testimony to his character rather than any effective undertaking. Despite it all, he stayed locked in his seat on that crate with a useless tray in his frozen hands.

Why? I barely knew your name,” Alister’s voice layered with one that was assuredly not his own, an experience as horrific as watching Tomas dissolve into Solon in Remire. Yet a nightmare remembered within a nightmare was still not enough to free Hubert from his own mind. “But I trusted you. You made me feel safe, and you used that to murder me.”

He clutched at Hubert’s collar, dissolving any reasonable chance at evasion. The faint scent of sweet buns lingered on those hands and churned his stomach.

“They would have—”

“Killed me anyway? Is that what you’ve told yourself?” He threw the teacup at the unforgiving floor, scattering porcelain among dirt and who knew what else. A recognizable dark energy swirled around him to engulf them both and further trap Hubert. His breath came in short bursts of harsh gasps or thin mockeries of air. This lack of discipline was doubtless reflected in real life as he continued to sleep within heinous dream he deserved. “You enjoyed it. To defeat the monsters in the shadows, you made yourself even worse than them.”

“You don’t understand.” Fear, so foreign and distant to Hubert, fringed the edges of his words in whispers. He felt the tears on his skin in the dream—nothing more—as his heart was pincered between dread and remorse. He had to wake up. There were Dagdan techniques to simply will it and wake. It had been done. Hubert just swallowed hard and found himself talking to this false vision of Alister against his better judgment. “I had to.”

With a sharp, distorted laugh, the nightmare’s Alister began to fall apart. Hubert could hear his teeth creaking as they extended to fangs in his mouth, and strips of human skin fell away with sickeningly wet sounds as they hit the floor. Taut black sinew and hard bone plating sat exposed beneath that layer of shed humanity. Viscous strings of inky substance hung from his new form. Hubert could do nothing as he was reduced to nothing but a demonic beast in the shape of a teenage boy he once knew as well as his every breath. Alister, who loved the turn of spring to summer most of all, who feared water and little else, who favored angelica tea, mocked by this travesty that his mind conjured for Hubert’s warranted anguish.

He blinked away another tear and felt his equilibrium reeling in spite of his remaining immobile.

“Had to, he says!” Alister hissed in his face with the cloying sick smell of poison and decay. “You may fool everyone else, but we know the truth, you and I.”

Releasing his collar to smack the tray aside, smashing the cup saucer and empty plate that sat on it, Alister grabbed onto Hubert’s arms. Only then did he come to his senses and try to wrench free—too late though it was. Slick black essence bubbled down Alister’s arms and up Hubert’s own, carrying abject horror with them. In the span of a blink, it spread under his rolled-up sleeves and out of sight. Hubert knew best that honest fear was at its strongest when unseen. His training as the heir to House Vestra rendered him resistant rather than immune to its effects.

He pulled his arms inward and twisted to break his grasp, even pushing back with his feet for additional leverage. Alister held firm. The monstrous procedures gave him a strength betrayed by his relatively frail stature. It was simply a matter of seconds before that toxin reached Hubert’s chest and corroded its way into his heart.

“You call them wicked and wretched when you didthis to us.”


Hubert woke sharply, panic spilling over into consciousness. He laid with a thin sheet coiled around his legs, effectively trapping his sleeping self. He rested his head back onto the pillow and exhaled in disappointment. Points to his subconscious for creativity, then.

“Finally,” Linhardt drawled, yawning. “You had me worried.”

He snapped his eyes open once again, and the dark surroundings dawned on him. Linhardt looked perfectly prepared for sleep aside from watching Hubert with a surprisingly attentive stare. An evening chill hung in the air, neither close to dusk nor dawn. Canvas walls hung around him over sturdy posts. They were stationed in the field, and a nearby river unexpectedly flooded their intended camping site. Not all of the tents could be put up as a result. In light of that, the generals of the Strike Force agreed to sleep in the same one that night. Linhardt chose to set up his bedroll near him because Hubert was quiet and still. Tonight notwithstanding.

And if he was awake… Hubert sat up and scanned the tent to see his former Black Eagle classmates, now generals, in various states of alertness and all with concern on their expressions.

“You—” He began unwinding the sheets from his legs to preoccupy his attention. Anything not to see the pity in their eyes. “Should have woken me.”

“We tried,” Dorothea answered from her place by the tent’s opening with Petra. Perhaps it was habit or exhaustion that gave her words a vaguely melodic lilt. “Your nightmares are even more stubborn than you are.”

She’d intended to tease him in their usual way, but it made a poor mask for her worry. Over him. Hubert waited in tense silence and frowned at the wrinkled sheet now laid flat across his legs. Briefly, the was reminded of the tray and the sweet bun. That smell associated with the end of the dream. By sheer willpower, Hubert buried that nauseated sensation in response.

“Hey, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We all get ‘em sometimes.” Caspar chimed in and stretched, no different in tone than if he’d gotten a full night’s rest. Nothing short of an ambush boxing in their forces could feasibly exhaust Caspar. Naturally, he set up his spot on the opposite side of Linhardt.

“It—it’s true.” Resolute regardless of her volume or lack thereof, Bernadetta contributed to his defense as well from her comparatively secluded bedroll.

An addition to a process he despised entirely. None of it was necessary. All of his allies should have been sleeping for the journey ahead and battles to come, not waiting in the night for his moment of weakness to pass. He curled his hands into fists against his legs. Hubert never should have permitted them to be burdened in such a way.

“No one thinks less of you, Hubert.” Edelgard reached out gently for his hand, blackened by sustained use of dark magic. Not so far as to travel up his arms, mercifully. Her hand over his was admittedly calming. He relaxed somewhat and unfurled his hands.

“In Brigid, it is common to be keeping bad dreams far away by… Your people aren’t having a word for it.” Petra stopped to consider her options in the limited lexicon of Fódlan, tapping her chin. “With togetherness.”

“Ah, an excellent suggestion!” Ferdinand maintained enthusiasm at impressive levels, as ever. His place of choice was with Petra and Dorothea, no doubt in an attempt to provide reinforcements by the tent’s entrance if need be. His eagerness to be of use in all possible circumstances had only amplified with time. “We are already in one tent. There is space yet to sleep closer together.”

“I’m—not sure what to make of that.” He’d never even slept in his parents’ bed as a child. Starting that with his fellow generals now as an adult… Hubert meant no offense to her customs, but he couldn’t be sure how effective that proposed strategy might be. Although the thought didn’t unsettle him as much as he estimated that it could. Looking to her, he finished his explanation. “I don’t typically permit others to be close.”

“Come on, Hubert, it’s just us!” As usual, Caspar made an excellent point Hubert hadn’t considered. There wasn’t anyone else he would even entertain testing this particular theory with. His grin was palpable in the atmosphere more than seen and some motion in the dark suggested he was pointing to Linhardt. “When I can’t sleep, I always go to Lin’s room and end up sleeping like a baby.”

“Mm,” Linhardt agreed, already dragging his bedroll closer to Hubert’s with as little effort as possible. His hair was in a loose bun to keep it out of his way while he slept and made the unplanned journey simpler, to his credit. Hubert found he was marginally uneasy with the closeness for reasons he couldn’t define. A greater portion of his thoughts were on Edelgard’s hand on his while Linhardt settled into his newfound spot. They weren’t touching, but his presence was close enough to sense and distinguish from the others on instinct. There was an aspect of that familiarity that Hubert confessed to himself was something of a consolation.

“You don’t have to, but…” Bernadetta trailed off, staying put for her own comfort. She had matured enough to establish her own boundaries while acknowledging that others’ laid elsewhere. He could not see her clearly at that distance but would be willing to guess that she had a timid smile for him. “Maybe it’ll help?”

“There is only one way to be sure,” Ferdinand encouraged, his ponytail thrown over his shoulder as he brought his roll closer as well. If Linhardt could do so, Hubert certainly wasn’t stopping any of the rest.

“You are always ready to be protecting us, Hubert.” Petra added as she made her trek across the tent’s floor to the circle swiftly forming around Hubert. “Now, will you let us be keeping you safe?”

There was nothing to be gained from denying the unspoken decision he’d made. Any apprehension he may have felt could be attributed to a lack of experience, as any uncertainty tended not to agree with him. But the predominant sentiment towards their togetherness, as Petra phrased it, was one of comfort. These were people he knew since their time at the monastery. They had saved his life, and he had done the same as well. Any one of them would fight to the very end for the better life they dreamed of. Most of all, for one another.

Hubert took a bracing breath and laid back down on his roll in the midst of his closest companions. “I suppose it’s worth the attempt.”

“There’s our Hubie,” Dorothea half-sang, settling into her bedroll within their new formation.

“Sweet dreams, Hubert.” With that wish, Edelgard gave his hand a soft pat and withdrew it to her own space.

The mixture of their combined presence and some extent of personal space did have a soothing influence. He felt the hazy draw of sleep resurfacing, and this time, without the customary threat of another nightmare lurking beneath.

“Thank you.” The gratitude he felt was beyond the scope of those paltry words. If he was fortunate, the next dream would grant him a chance to devise suitable means of expressing that appreciation to his colleagues in turn.

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Surprise Feline | FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 800 (1 to 6 minutes) | Rating: G | Characters: Hubert von Vestra

He believed himself to be an adaptable person, at least in the logical sense. Strategizing in the field necessitated it, and Hubert had refined that talent with ruthless dedication over the course of his life and education. What that did not include was preparation for one of his more sentimental agents delivering a stray kitten in a box along with his report. While unprecedented deliveries did occur from time to time, they were typically of a more practical and less feline nature.

The small creature stumbled about its box, mewling as it had been since he walked with it to his quarters. He stood at the bedside in his nightclothes and stared down at it blinking slowly at him. Perhaps it was tired. But why make so much noise, then?

The decision to keep it in his room was strictly rational. He could hardly release a stray white kitten onto the monastery grounds unmonitored, where any of the current strays may decide they didn’t appreciate the newest addition to their ranks. The unreasonable hour meant he couldn’t simply pass the creature off to someone who was more nurturing by disposition, regrettably. Hubert had never owned pets before. A cat was one of few to hold his interest, and he researched their care extensively to prove his readiness for the task. His father claimed they were impractical and a distraction, and Hubert was focused on the path he would carve out for Edelgard not long after. His skills were best applied to the ongoing war for Her Majesty—not the safekeeping of a young cat whose head was overly large for its body.

“Do you intend to do this all night?” The moment he spoke to the clearly uncomprehending kitten, he felt foolish for doing so. Still, that bought him a moment of silence as if the kitten was reflecting on a response. It wasn’t, of course. Meeting his green eyes with its own, it offered yet another soft meow. Its teeth were thin and clearly sharp, not yet ready for the birds and rodents than an adult cat might hunt.

“Very well,” he relented with a sigh. “Let’s have a look at you, shall we?”

He thought it may be an injury causing its distress, but it seemed to be in good health. Not injured or ill. Closer examination confirmed that it was likely female. All her teeth had come in, and she stared up at him curiously. The common perception of cats as inquisitive held truth, apparently. Linhardt might be the better option for her future caregiver in that case. They could take cat naps in the sun and investigate frivolous matters together. Seemingly sensing the invitation to cause mischief, the kitten slipped from his hand and climbed up his sleeve with impressive balance and speed to settle onto his shoulder.

“You can’t sleep there,” he informed her again, knowing the fruitlessness of it as much as ever. In the privacy of his own quarters for a single night, it could be best for Hubert to embrace the unfortunate habit. Come morning, someone would surely take her off his hands. There’d be no need to concern himself with trivialities such as that afterwards. Reaching up to her and scooping her gently, Hubert nested her in the crook of his arm and turned to bed. “But I believe there’s ample space to share this for the night.”

The mother cat’s litter must have simply been too large for her to support, and she’d been forced to make a choice: sacrifice the one for the good of the many. Or perhaps it was the correct time for the kitten to strike out on her own. Given the ongoing war, she was not alone in searching for shelter during challenging times. Whatever the reason for her appearance near Garreg Mach for his agent to uncover, the young cat would require physical and emotional contact with humans to develop into a properly socialized kitten. The ally who chose to care for her would undoubtedly be grateful for his pragmatic foresight.

Therefore, she remained nestled in his arm as Hubert went under the sheets, placing them over himself and the kitten alike. A quiet purr began as she took short steps to sleep on his chest instead.

“No need to worry,” he assured the kitten, talking softly due to the time of night. Relative to her size as well, he supposed. “You are scarcely the first here to experience hardship. You will be in good company, Elpis.”

A name would make discussing her with potential owners simpler, after all.

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Web of Love | Claude Edition Ch. 5: An Impromptu Date

Word count: 4500 (10 to 36 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Claude, Ferdinand, Lorenz, and Hubert

Read the previous chapter.

Although he would adamantly refuse to admit it to Claude, today was a rather nice afternoon for a horseback ride. Flayn had recently been rescued, although she was never in any grave danger herself. Only he and Lady Edelgard knew as much, and it was far from certain. Her involvement was strategic. She was of no use to anyone if she was dead—at least not at this stage. Regardless, with her return, tensions at the monastery dissipated. Claude, among others, was in a state of mind to smile at the full clouds drifting overhead. The light, crisp fragrance signifying the approach of autumn carried in the air. Now out in droves, hunters would arrive at the monastery with more game soon. Another cause for celebration and a suitable diversion from the war yet to begin.

“What did I tell you, Hubert?” His companion began his teasing boast. Hubert didn’t even need to look to know he was smirking. “I knew you’d be glad I convinced you to take a quick break with me.”

The speckled grey mare that Ferdinand chose for his training seemed to scoff on Hubert’s behalf. She was well-selected. Experienced, reliable, and with a stern disposition, the two of them did cooperate quite well together. If only thanking Ferdinand for his attentiveness was so simple.

“I didn’t say I was.”

“With a friendship this close? You don’t have to say a word,” Claude continued his playful jabs. Obviously, he didn’t know Hubert even half as well as he assumed. A glance at the Golden Deer House leader revealed that he was, in fact, grinning. He may as well enjoy his carefree days while he still could. “Besides, if Lorenz heard that I neglected to invite such a treasured friend to join me for a horseback ride, he’d have my hide!”

“How odd,” Hubert feigned ignorance with a smirk of his own. They led their horses down the familiar path further from the monastery to a quiet field where they could speak freely on various subjects the Church disapproved of. They would make their way back shortly before the hardy variety of bugs emerged to claim the night as their own. “Since when did you become so invested in his opinion?”

“Oh, since he mysteriously ended up running into me in random circumstances with unknown origins. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”

“Not at all. As you recall, I’ve been trying to study despite your best efforts.”

“Sure, sure,” Claude dismissed that shameless evasion somewhat too readily. Surely, there would be something he wished to pursue right behind it. Hubert peered at him, but he could be difficult to read when he chose to be. That would undoubtedly prove useful in leading the Alliance. Claude leaned over with the reins loose in his hand, so casual that he appeared to have forgotten he was on a horse altogether. “So, are you going to show off all the stately, cavalier form that Ferdinand’s shown you?”

“No.” Hubert urged his horse ahead, but his travel companion was not easily dissuaded.

“Oh, come on!” Even his horse appeared to have a merry little jaunt to its trot as he caught up with Hubert, that grin immovable from his face. “You can say I paid you to, if it’s your sinister aura you’re worried about.”

Hubert grimaced in return, exhaling heavily. Would that he could convince Claude to discuss alternative governing structures, compelling strategies with battalions, or even guessing the ages of different monastery staff if he felt so inclined. Any topic but his determination to act the matchmaker, however well-founded his judgment turned out to be.

“Claude! Hubert!”

Hubert straightened in his saddle, turning to look after Claude had already done so. The vibrant warmth of that voice was enough to identify Ferdinand, but he was obligated to at least look at him. Regardless of whether his timing was exceptionally poor or not, he supposed.

“Well, look who’s here, Hubert!” Claude stopped his horse, waving Hubert down like he wasn’t beside him as it was.

“I can see them,” Hubert answered, glancing to Lorenz meaningfully as they approached. If nothing else, he wouldn’t be ensnared in this trap on his own. By Claude’s account, it was only expected of Hubert to reciprocate his ‘favor’.

“Imagine seeing you both out here!”

“Yes, quite the coincidence,” Lorenz agreed with Ferdinand, however skeptical he was through those manners. His proud steed drew up beside his friend’s with impeccable grace. One had to wonder if the horse was well-trained or Lorenz simply had that effect. After all, his presence alone was enough to get Claude to eat with some extent of decorum. Or perhaps that was simply Claude’s response now that he’d been on the receiving end of his own romantically inspired scheming.

“I see what you’re hinting at, Lorenz, say no more.” Claude seemed perfectly at ease, twisting in his saddle to face the two noblemen’s sons. Hubert would rather turn his horse, but they unfortunately lacked the space in that area of the path. “You followed us out here to seek out our company, didn’t you?”

“What? No!” Indignant, Lorenz insisted somewhat too intensely, sparing a glance to Ferdinand for support and earning a quick nod. The two were childhood friends, and that simple act likely signified something to Lorenz that neither of the other two present would have any chance of guessing accurately. It served as encouragement of some sort, clearly, as Lorenz continued more calmly. “We often go for a stroll at this time. I was suggesting quite the opposite.”

“Ah, so we followed you out here before you left,” Hubert proposed, following his suggested reasoning with a cold smile. Lorenz had much in common with Ferdinand, including the simplicity of stirring him to ire. “Yes, that sounds sensible.”

Before Lorenz could get too far into his tirade, elegantly shaped eyebrows raised in offense, Ferdinand rested a gentle touch on his forearm. To think, Lorenz would emerge his mocking encounter with Hubert as the fortunate one.

“Come now,” Ferdinand smoothed over the tension, an effortless smile at the ready. Lorenz huffed, but let it fall with a final sneer. Even that was poised for appearances. Ferdinand accepted it even so, holding his reins in both hands again and turning that expression to Hubert. “Perhaps this was simply serendipitous! I, for one, would be delighted to have your company.”

“Be that as it may,” Hubert stalled in his answer, feeling a nameless sensation course through him at having Ferdinand’s direct attention, and with such a remark! In a weak attempt to distract him, Hubert nodded to the road stretching out towards the fields and town ahead. “The path only accommodates two horses side by side.”

“I’ve got an idea!” Claude’s ideas were, in a word, horrendous. Artfully thought out and clever, yes, but often resulted in landing in some plot of his. True to form, he was undeterred by Hubert’s eye roll. “Let’s shake things up a little! Hubert here can go with Ferdinand, and I’ll ride with our noble Lorenz. What do you say?”

Lorenz flushed pink, complementing his lilac hair in a way—a fact Claude seemed intent on noticing with a lingering gaze like the one he bore. That victory of Hubert’s own schemes to draw Claude’s amorous feelings into the light was difficult to celebrate, what with Ferdinand’s blush framing a hopeful, fragile smile.

“A fine idea, Claude!”

“Ah.” Hubert caught Lorenz’s eye, however fleetingly. They seemed to be the only two who were aware of the emotions charging this discussion. Despite that, the brief glance proved neither of them could place or settle those sentiments. With a short nod to Ferdinand, he surrendered. “I see no issue with it.”

“Then it’s settled,” Lorenz rushed out, guiding his horse to move closer to Claude, who had already started ahead at a lackadaisical pace. “We shall see you upon our return.”

“Y-yes, indeed!” Ferdinand winced so slightly, it could easily be overlooked. By someone less keenly aware of his every move, perhaps.

Hubert ushered his horse to go ahead at a pace to put distance between them and the pair up ahead. If Claude insisted on his romantic machinations, it was only fair that he would be caught up in them as well.

He suspected the socially adroit House Leader of Golden Deer would fare far better than Hubert himself, whose gloves were already gathering a light layer of sweat in the palms as Ferdinand’s horse sauntered up in pursuit.

The silence is stretched taut between them, but not with anger. Such a far cry from where they began their connection. No, this was something Hubert was much less capable of recognizing. Ferdinand and Hubert had gone on countless horse rides, spent hours in the kitchen together, and worked on assorted weekly tasks numerous times. What could possibly have changed?

Hubert must have offended him in some way.

“I enjoy all horse rides,” Ferdinand started, kind enough to fill the quiet hovering between them like smothering fog. “But today’s is especially lovely.”

“Oh?” Glancing to Ferdinand from the edge of his vision, Hubert truly could not think of anything further to say. He looked much less like the prime minister’s son and more the son of some well-off merchant, at least in physical appearance alone. His outfit suited horseback riding more than noble presentation, although it managed to appear stately. That may have more to do with his bearing than any concrete attribute of button-down shirts and equestrian pants.

His hair was curled into the style he commonly preferred, whether natural or requiring attention and care. Both, as the case may be. Hubert had idly wondered what it might call for, and if perhaps he might know how to do so for Ferdinand. He saw to certain aspects of hair care for Lady Edelgard for years. How different could it be? What would he speak of in the morning, still yawning with having just woken?

“The weather, that is!” Ferdinand broke through his revelry, and Hubert turned away with the return of that damnable feeling under his skin. Almost like an anxiousness. That response was beneath him, trained out of him by his wretched father. And yet, it persisted. Just as it did with Ferdinand, laughing tightly. “It’s perfect, is it not?”

“Yes. Yes, of course.” Again, the silence returned. Of course, that was what occurred when one did nothing to further a conversation. Hubert exhaled through his nose. He was entirely fed up with his own uselessness already, and they had only reached the first fork towards a small forested area outside Garreg Mach. If the simplest, most vapid noble of Enbarr could manage small talk, so could Hubert von Vestra. Clearing his throat and, with more effort and to a lesser extent, his mind, he offered his best attempt. “Lorenz said you routinely go on horseback rides together?”

“Ah, that we do! I join Lorenz at least once a week.” Ferdinand was grateful in instant, brightening on the spot. Seeing him then, it was impossible to remember what it was that so inspired hatred in Hubert at the sight of the future prime minister—particularly when content, as he was now. The honeyed depths of his eyes took on an ever-more vibrant presence, incapable of being ignored or denied. Freckles scattered over the light pink enduring on his face, and something in his tenuously pleased grin endeared him.

“You must know the area well.” Shared observations were working thus far. Hubert saw no reason to change that particular strategy, not with his inner thoughts as they were.

“I could easily navigate this area blindfolded!” Ferdie beamed with familiar self-satisfied pride as their path sloped downward and closer to the clustered trees. Where once that would send Hubert into a cutting remark that earned him a scowl, he merely chuckled.

“Dramatic as always. I was only asking for a recommendation as to where we might stop for tea.” The seasoned scarlet oak tree Hubert favored would be developing its trademark blazing color, and it would be a fine place to rest with—company. Regrettably, they were nowhere near it. “My favorite coffee drinking spot happens to be on the other side of the monastery.”

“You have coffee and tea with you, Hubert? And a tea set?” Surprised, but not displeased, Ferdinand looked to him in wide-eyed curiosity. Much better than a scowl, as it so happened.

“It’s a metal set, and I have only tea. But yes. Why else would I mention it?”

“Right! Of course,” Ferdinand answered, that nervous laugh coming again. Hubert frowned and cursed whatever fickle whim of the universe that decided he would respond to social awkwardness with more of the same. “There is a clearing nearby that is both charming and secluded. Assuming you wish for privacy, that is. Because I know how much that means to you.”

“Thank you.”

The knowledge that Ferdinand had been observing him in turn, and even learned that his brusque demeanor served more than one purpose, materialized against all odds. Truthfully, Hubert had not the slightest as to how to proceed from there.

“Then I shall lead the way!” Inclined to mercy, Ferdinand did precisely that so Hubert could follow without having to speak to imagined feelings. There was no chance that they were anything but. Hubert prepared for the eventuality that such emotions did exist between them, yes. Lady Edelgard knew of the budding affections he held for Ferdinand. She was delighted by them, even. Yet he knew better than to hope.

And somehow… Still, his heart raced as he did nothing more taxing than kneeling at the center of the clearing Ferdinand brought them to.

Hubert had no ability to summon a fire spell worthy of being an attack, but he could warm the metal kettle using only the low flame in his hands. The water from his canteen had originally been for Claude and Hubert to share, so it was slightly less than he would have brought had he planned for Ferdinand. Another manner in which this trip did not go according to Claude’s impulsive idea. He would just have to drink less to compensate. All in all, it really should have been rather simple. But the unidentifiable sensation from when they first split off carried over even so long after.

When he glanced to Ferdinand tying off their horses, their gazes brushed and fled from one another insuppressibly. That atmosphere rendered both of them distracted and inefficient with their tasks. The water should have been ready by then, and Ferdinand took far longer than usual to secure the reins to a sturdy branch.

“There,” Ferdinand said with no particular need to do so. Noise for the sake of noise—a hallmark sign that his colleague was ill at ease. He took the time to pet one of the creatures on the nose, affectionate and gentle as he dallied. “Do behave now.”

“Damn,” Hubert hissed, dropping the kettle onto the flat stone he’d set beneath it earlier. Watching Ferdinand robbed him of his focus, causing the fire to flare higher than he intended. Not enough to burn through his gloves or anything drastic, but enough to convince him to let it go abruptly before he faced the consequences.

“Are you alright?” Ferdinand darted over, his hand positioned over Hubert’s shoulder as concern pierced every syllable.

“Yes. Of course.” Being the focus of his concern especially was foreign to Hubert. He managed not to withdraw from his touch, a success in itself. “I misjudged the heat required, so we’ll have to wait longer for it to cool.”

“Oh. I see.” Settling down in the grass across from him, Ferdinand leaned back with a relieved breath. The first few buttons of his shirt were undone, so a portion of his skin was visible there. Tanned skin, indicating that Ferdinand was without his shirt in the sun often enough to maintain that. It was new intelligence on his habits, nothing more, but Hubert was even less in control of his mind than before. All of these effects had never happened to him before. Not with men or women in the capital, and certainly not with Ferdinand von Aegir. At least until Claude’s interference.

Or was the reverse true? It hardly seemed to matter in that private space within those woods.

“This is a—”

“Hubert, I—”

Just as they spoke at once, they both halted simultaneously. Ferdinand let out a small chuckle and bowed his head to Hubert, extending a hand in a hypothetical offer. “My apologies. You can speak first.”

“I was only admiring our surroundings. They are—” He looked away from Ferdinand at the final moment, unsure what had come over him. Taking courage in Lady Edelgard’s encouragement when they’d discussed this possibility, Hubert pushed himself to conclude as planned. He looked to Ferdinand once more and finished his sentence. “Truly lovely.”

After a short pause—neither reassuring nor disquieting, but plainly being—Ferdinand smiled anew. “I must confess, I sincerely hoped you would think so.”

“But you had something to say as well?” Rather than avoiding a momentary lapse in his typically stern mannerisms, Hubert circled back to Ferdinand out of honest interest. As he waited, he held his hand near the kettle’s side and deemed it the proper warmth to pour over the tea in their respective cups.

“Right! So I did.” As Hubert lifted the kettle, Ferdinand fussed with his cravat to no apparent end. “I have just been thinking as of late that I feel immensely grateful. For our evolution from bitter enemies to,” he hesitated yet again, clasping his hands in front of him. He assumed it was an endeavor to steady them that was mostly effective. “Well, I’m not sure what, exactly. All I can say for certain is that I am grateful for you.”

Hubert’s vital organs took that as a cue to collectively forget their purpose. Holding his breath as his stomach seemed unwilling to settle, his heart pounded while he searched that familiar face. How strange, to see his own uncertainties and hopes reflected back at him. It couldn’t be that he…? Hm.

He abandoned the thought of pouring his own water, setting the kettle down the flat stone between their cups.

“Forgive me if I misheard you; did you say for me?”

“I did, yes.” Ferdinand beamed, holding his own hands tighter. These mixed signals would be the death of one or both of them, surely. “After all of our lengthy disputes and the utterly horrid manners I’ve shown you, I came to be disappointed that we may never be comfortable with one another. That even the barest civility would be an unexpected turn of events for us,” he clarified when Hubert remained still and stared in abject disbelief.

“As such,” he pushed ahead, moving at last to reach for his cup, seemingly oblivious to the gaze trained on him exclusively. “I was very much pleased to find we have become what I am sure is quite a bit more than colleagues finding it difficult to even be civil.”

There had to be a gesture or tell of some kind that would reveal this for what it was. Something fancifully misread on Hubert’s part, no doubt, soon to be exposed as a friendly expression and nothing further. He felt that his face must rival the kettle itself in warmth by then, but there was only the one method to know his meaning for certain. No significant information was ever gained without risk or sacrifice.

“It seems I still don’t understand. There is a generous range beyond forced civility.”

Ferdinand flushed pink, smiling shyly and confirming Hubert’s suspicions. The discovery made his heart soar on the one hand and snuck in a trembling in his chest on the other. Emotions were as ruthless a tool as any weapon, he decided, but… With the proper application, any tool could be turned to his favor.

“Please, Hubert! I know social matters are not to your liking, but I beg of you, please do not make me say it outright.”

“So that I might instead?” Hubert suggested with a smirk and willed that unsettled feeling within to stop. He met with some limited success.

Only to realize that Ferdinand looked deeply uncomfortable. The vibrant hope once shining from him noticeably was eclipsed by a darkness he knew far better than he ever should have, likely a cruel courtesy of Ludwig von Aegir: self-doubt. “Have I—Oh, I have misread your—Forgive me, Hubert. Please, forget everything I have just said.”

“I’m afraid I can’t.” Hubert rushed to answer before Ferdinand could bury his face into his hands. The anxiety of the moment was beyond Hubert’s reach. But shame? He would do anything to keep that from plaguing Ferdinand’s thoughts. Fortunately, in that case, it was quite simple—or so it seemed. “My sentiments on you go beyond what one would consider professional or even merely companionable.”

Reaching for the kettle again, Hubert poured the water over his own tea and kept to his misleading sense of calm. It was wasted on Ferdinand, perhaps, but it brought him some small comfort all the same.

“So you see, now that you have suggested your inclinations towards me may be likewise favorable, I couldn’t possibly put that from my mind.”

“Truly?!” The proper air for Ferdinand had been restored, it seemed. It was, admittedly, rather rewarding to see his smile return as relief washed over him in a breathless laugh. “Does that mean you have sensed this change between us as well?”

“I have,” Hubert confirmed, utterly neglecting his tea just as Ferdinand was. It did lend this space a pleasant aroma, the warm fragrances of steeped tea and autumn leaves blended into one. It had been said that scent was closely associated with memory. He hoped it proved true so he would always have that marker to remind himself of this moment. Even in it presently, he hardly believed it was true.

“Furthermore, I have told Lady Edelgard about it. Despite all her responsibilities as Emperor with all that is yet to come, she has encouraged me to go where my heart leads me.” His instinct was to reach for Ferdinand, and yet, he couldn’t quite bring himself to. Perhaps it was all an elaborate illusion, as realistic as his dreams often were. This was one to linger in. Hubert rested his hand against his chin, letting his expression relax into a smile. “I suspect that would be to you.”

Ferdinand, with impressive speed, threw himself at Hubert. Entirely unprepared, he fell back with Ferdinand over him. A handful of ways to disarm or imbalance him flashed through Hubert’s mind. And yet, nothing could outshine Ferdinand’s laughter in his ear—with his own layered beneath it.

This was not part of the plan with their time at Garreg Mach. He would need to discuss their secret plots with Lady Edelgard to determine if they should involve Ferdinand. And if so, to what extent. He had her blessing for the relationship, yes, but that didn’t cover Ferdinand’s knowledge of what must be done to dismantle the current nobility in Adrestia as well as the false Church of Seiros.

For that once, Hubert immersed himself in the moment. The smell of drying autumn grass and leaves, the fragrance of the steeping tea drifting over to where they laid together, the warmth and presence of Ferdinand smiling down at him—him. If the worst came to pass, as it so enjoyed doing, Hubert intended to capture this memory. A window into the carefree as well as a potential glimpse of the future.

“Ah, I cannot possibly contain my joy! All the world is full of song and wonder, as magical as any operatic performance!” Almost wild with delight, Ferdinand clearly meant it. When did he not?

His arms rested around Hubert’s neck, who placed a single hand on his back. It was tempting to surrender to the comfort of his closeness, after so long spent resisting, then longing. Hubert persisted, of course. He had his brief peace. As always, reality had to be let in.

“Before you get ahead of yourself, you must understand,” he began, knowing how near he would be to losing Ferdinand at any time in the coming moons. Perhaps whether he told him or not, but there was something to be said for a warning. However devoid of details. “I have a role in the Empire that requires a great deal of secrecy. Even from those closest to me, if not especially so.”

“How like you, to be so practical in an occasion so momentous,” Ferdinand teased, shifting to lay beside Hubert with a broad smile. “That is one of many upstanding attributes I have grown to love in you.”

The merciless march of his flush advanced down his neck, and still, he kept eye contact with him. His suitor now, he supposed. Witnessing the color to his skin was part of the experience, should unreasonably popular tales of romance be any guide on the topic.

“I’m serious, Ferdinand.”

“As am I! As the Minister to the Imperial Household and the heir to House Vestra, there are secrets you must keep. That is one of the several remarkable traits I respect in you, not tolerate in desolation.” Shuffling closer on the grass, running the risk of stubborn stains, Ferdinand placed a kiss to his lips before Hubert could react.

In truth, he very well could have. He should have. But he only froze, eyes widening just so. When it was done, he took in a sharp breath—and remained lost in the expanse of his eyes, the fondness of his tender smile.

That had been Hubert’s first kiss.

Ferdinand would be beside himself with joy for even longer if made aware of it. As though he couldn’t guess from his immobile awe.

“To be considered among your closest companions, one of those you hold dearest to your heart, is an honor beyond measure.” Seeking out his hand, Ferdinand intertwined their fingers among the grass. “And from now on, secrets or no, we will have each other.”

“Although I know you cannot comprehend the enormity of what you’ve promised,” Hubert began, bringing his other hand up to pull a leaf from Ferdinand’s hair. He could be so careless when swept up in sentiment like this. It was safe to assume Hubert looked much the same for his tumble back into the grass. “I find myself helpless not to believe you. Therefore, as futile as it may be, I will strive to be worthy of you.”

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Hubert von Vestra from Fire Emblem looking down and to the side

Nightmare: Ferdibert Week 2020 FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 2100 (5 to 17 minutes) | Rating: T (Referenced child death in the context of the nightmare and intrusive thoughts)| Fire Emblem: Three Houses Fanfiction | Characters: Ferdinand von Aegir and Hubert von Vestra

The war was over. Had been for years. Ferdinand was even better suited to peacetime than he was to war, clad in polished armor and his stately ministerial uniform and charging proudly into battle. Now he spent his days in the latest Adrestian fashions, penning letters to Lorenz and diplomats from territories outside of Fódlan. He championed the educational system he discussed at length with Linhardt and Edelgard, where several of their allies now taught—Hubert included.

He was far less equipped for peace, however. The strongholds of the Agarthans were destroyed, and any useful information was distributed to the person most suited to designing constructive inventions from it. Hubert maintained his network and his vigilance, but that demanded far less from him than active warfare with two nations and a religious power over the course of six years or so.

With less to apply his mind to, his intellect evidently chose to turn on him directly.

He was not the only one, of course. Manuela had opened an institution of healing through words commonly referred to as counseling, which Hubert had determined was a less private version of the advice box. Caspar went regularly, as did Linhardt. Most of the Strike Force, in fact. Even if Hubert wanted to go, and he didn’t, he simply could not bring himself to disclose his most vulnerable moments to either a perfect stranger or someone he knew professionally.

So when the nightmares crept in, he sat in the reading chair in the central room of their house and waited for dawn. This seat was more familiar with their two children, watching him intently as he read through Bernadetta’s latest children’s story. The last stretch of summer sunlight peeked through arched windows and across the ornate rug depicting some legend of old beneath a thin coat of Aegir hound fur.

But tonight, even though smiled faintly in the dark, it was his security post. Only bugs waited outside at present and he knew that as an unmovable fact. In the heart of Enbarr, there was no chance of an attack on the ministers’ estate. That changed nothing. Only when the first staff members came in to see to the first tasks of their day, Hubert would retire for a few hours of sleep. Lately, he’d awakened Ferdinand on his return, and he knew the conversation about where he was all night was not far off.

The candle on the engraved table beside the worn seat flickered weakly as Hubert wove thin traces of dark magic through his fingers. He opened and closed his hand around it, prepared for whatever may come in the night to threaten the peace he’d carved out for himself. There, in the late hours of the evening or early hours of morning, it meant nothing that Hubert did not have any right to the idyllic domesticity of his life. It was his, given to him by the man he loved and the children they adopted who found it in their hearts to see past his many layers to find a suitable father. He fought this far for it, and he would fight again if ever the need arose.


A sensation not unlike nausea roiled in his stomach, but Hubert gradually brought himself to look at Ferdinand waiting at the edge of the candle’s light. His hair was in a loose ponytail, curls falling free to frame his face. He still had a healthy tan and a light dusting of freckles that always intensified in the summer. Perhaps he wasn’t quite as sculpted as he was when he was a general in field rather than a minister at his desk for the majority of his day… But his was a beauty only enhanced by the passage of time. His loose nightgown swept around him while he approached, resting a warm hand on Hubert’s forearm.

“My love, it’s late.” The flames danced in his eyes, melding with the open concern there. Even in Hubert’s peripheral, he could see the furrow of his brow. Even before the gentle, reassuring squeeze on his arm, he sensed that distress as if it were his own. Such was the effect of falling in love, he supposed.

“I’m aware,” Hubert answered.

“And yet you are not in bed.”

“No,” he agreed. Conversations about Hubert’s emotional state always began like this: roundabout and simple statements of fact as Ferdinand endeavored to find his way to the heart of the matter.

Correctly interpreting Hubert’s stillness as permission, Ferdinand moved closer and slid his hand up his arm and around his shoulder to have a seat on the sturdy arm of the chair. They purposefully chose it to support the children plus one of them, and as a result, it supported the two of them at once with ease. And in the gravity of moments such as these, that was invaluable. Hubert shifted closer to lean into Ferdinand’s embrace, take in the scent of him. Tea and sleep and that herbal soap Dorothea introduced him to. Of course, there was the unshakable traces of hay and horses as well. His ponytail rested over his shoulder and between them, the culprit for every stray orange strand he found on his black blazers and cloaks.

“Is there no way I can persuade you to bed, my love?”

Patient as always, Ferdinand waited in the pensive silence Hubert left. It took time to assess his mental state, determine the path he wished to take from there, and gather his words in his mind to communicate that effectively. Hubert spent years training himself to ignore the ghoulish recollections that haunted the chambers of his heart, forging ahead at any cost to himself. The safe path was meaningless to him if it endangered Her Majesty and those who allied themselves with her when she made her stand in the Holy Tomb. It was as though that was a separate lifetime, as distinct and severed from the rest as his childhood before the incident that tore Lady Edelgard from his side.

It could very well be that was where the problem found its origins.

“As a child,” he began, snaking an arm around Ferdinand as well to rest on his waist. “I dreaded the notion that the goddess would punish me for any misdeed. Failing to better protect Lady Edelgard. Disappointing my father and all the Vestras who served before me.” The very mention of such an abhorrent creature as the late Lord Vestra set him on edge. With a bracing breath, Hubert did manage to continue regardless. “Even when that was behind me in the later portion of my childhood, I feared what grudges the dead might hold.” There was no need to elaborate from there. Ferdinand knew well that Hubert was quite young when he claimed his first life.

“But now, when there are few situations to speak of that could strike noteworthy fear in me, I encounter it merely by existing.” Hubert had done nothing exceptional that day to invite that nightmare into his dreams. There was no cloaked assignment to stir up memories of contacts and agents murdered in service to Hubert, or the lives he’d cruelly cut short in the name of Her Majesty.

All those who survived them may bear him ill will and the easiest, most sensible target was his family. It would be very tactical and efficiently done. They had a routine, like most families, and discovering it was an effortless task. Hubert ordered his favorite coffee from the same merchant as always, their preferred housekeeping staff had been the same since the war ended, the children had school nearly every day of the week with schedules that were readily accessible simply by pretending to be a parent. With no warning or reason to it, all Hubert could see on certain days was the various ways he could one day come home to their dead bodies—or worse.

Ferdinand would die defending their children. Against the right soldiers or simply outnumbered, he would fall. They were all out of practice and for the sake of their happiness, they should remain so. But that meant leaving an obvious risk of being outmatched by even a single well-trained assassin striking from the shadows. The children would never stand a chance.

All in all, that horrific possibility distorted to a certain, inevitable reality on those occasions when Hubert could not clear the weighted fog from his thoughts.

“Zealots and grudges of the living. If those led to my death, it would simply be reaping what I have sown.” He wouldn’t lay down and accept it, not with his family waiting for him to return safely each day, but Hubert would prefer it to the cursed visions his sleeping mind conjured for him. Tightening his grip on Ferdinand, his voice strained taut while tears pricked at his eyes. Fatherhood had made him soft. “But if anything were to happen to you or the children, I—”

He brought a hand stained by dark magic to his mouth reflexively, biting back tears as Ferdinand gently shushed him.

“My dear, it’s alright to be afraid.” This was a reminder he was familiar with. Hubert had found Ferdinand furiously maintaining retired weapons on more than one occasion, or having tea go cold in his hands as a far-off look took hold of his normally sunny husband. They all had ghosts left behind from the war, but Hubert could not just choose to see himself in the same light as the others. As if reading his thoughts, Ferdinand offered another practiced reminder with as much affection as the first time he shared it. “You don’t need to bear this burden alone any longer.”

He placed a delicate kiss to the top of his head, the curls of his ponytail brushing against Hubert’s shoulder as he did. He closed his eyes in an effort to center all his attention on only Ferdinand there alongside him. “We shall check on our little ones and the defenses of our home, and we can retire to bed when you’ve seen all is well for yourself.”

Drifting his eyes open once more, he was greeted by Ferdinand smiling down at him. Even weary from partial rest, the man was a beacon of light and warmth. That smile reached his eyes as visibly as the reflected candlelight from the table opposite him.

“Well? It’s a promising plan, is it not?”

“It is,” Hubert relented. He’d done as much himself twice that night already, but together, it may be different. There was certainly nothing better he could be doing with his evening. His eyes seared with exhaustion and now, remnants of tears that didn’t quite fall. “I’m very tired.”

“I know,” he acknowledged, sympathetic as ever while he smoothed his hair. Hubert chose to grow it out somewhat after the war and parted it to show both of his eyes at the behest of Ferdinand and Edelgard. Or more of his face, at least. Progress was progress, and they accepted his compromise gladly. “Tomorrow, we can discuss arranging a meeting with Manuela. She can help you find a counselor you can trust if you so choose.”

He almost laughed. Trust was eternally a battle for Hubert. But Ferdinand simply wanted to help him and if nothing else, he could humor the chance that such a task was possible. “Perhaps.”

“Thank you, Hubert.” He stood, drawing his arm away to trail his hand back down to Hubert’s with the goal of leading him to stand. A rather successful method, considering he took Ferdinand’s hand in his and essentially guaranteed that outcome with that gesture.

“Shouldn’t I be thanking you?”

Gently, Ferdinand pulled Hubert to his feet and bestowed another kiss onto Hubert with soft lips on the back of his marred hand. With enough repetition, the sight inspired a sense of peace in Hubert at last instead of the previous crawling apprehension.

“The highest form of gratitude I could ever hope for is your presence beside me throughout the night, side by side as we are in our hearts.”

That did earn him a breathed chuckle from Hubert. “So dramatic. But if you wish it, then… For you, I will do it gladly.”

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Recovery: Ferdibert Week 2020 FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 2000 (4 to 16 minutes) | Rating: T | Fire Emblem: Three Houses Fanfiction | Characters: Ferdinand von Aegir, Edelgard Hresvelg, Dorothea Arnault, Linhardt von Hevring, and Hubert von Vestra

Day 1:

Hubert is still unresponsive. He never was especially fond of Lord Arundel, so I cannot help but be suspicious of this secretive procedure he performed at Edelgard’s request to save his life. She’s assured me that his white hair is a normal side effect and I should not be alarmed, but how can I not be? Hubert in such anguish, yet every inch as stubborn as usual. He clung to consciousness to order me about as though we are not both ministers to Edelgard and as such, we are equals.

I had no interest in what he had to say about the event of his death. I insisted that he would be fine as always. Hubert has overcome more injuries and adversaries than most full battalions ever will, and that is based only on what I am permitted to know. None of us ever imagined he would fall in battle. It just did not seem possible. And then he was lifeless, stained with his own blood for—

But he is alright now. Linhardt and Dorothea are both seeing to him now, and this time, there is a life left to restore. I should be grateful.

Day 5:

Excellent news! Hubert has begun reacting to his environment! Dorothea was all smiles and even hugged me as she relayed the update to me. True, it is only a glance or a nod, and he does not speak still. But he is present in the moment! He even rolled his eyes when I arrived with a full bouquet to wish him well and bizarrely, I was thrilled with that reaction.

There may have been a trace of a smile there as well. Or perhaps I had only imagined it in my eagerness to see him well, giving orders to his agents, having his morning coffee in the meeting room, even hearing that foreboding laugh of his in the halls… I have missed him terribly. I simply wish to tell him as much, whether he scolds me to be less theatrical or maybe something kinder. Over the course of the war, I have seen glimpses of his compassionate nature that is as hidden and enigmatic as the rest of that infuriatingly enthralling man.

And whether the statement is excessive in his eyes or not, his brush with death and subsequent absence while Edelgard’s uncle saw to this mysterious treatment has it made it very apparent how much I rely on him. How much we all have come to.

Not that the Empire has been greatly hindered. His agents are presently carrying out various contingency plans to uphold the network and their own assignments from Hubert while he is in recovery. How ever does he manage such far-reaching foresight? Someday soon, I hope to ask him myself.

Day 7:

As expected, Hubert is progressing well on his recovery! He is speaking articulately but unable to recall anyone, not even Edelgard. Although his personality does appear to be intact… He did try to conceal his lack of awareness as long as possible. Even asked directly, Hubert claimed to know who was present and did know the titles of those in his company. But he could not offer even a single birthday!

We have all been receiving small gifts and calligraphed cards discreetly on our birthdays for years. Typically, it was an item we had needed for some time and put off acquiring or was unattainable through all available to channels—to us, at least. Who else could have kept track of all that and a war while observing us to select gifts we would all appreciate? Still, no one expected him to be completely recovered within a week of his return. There is time yet!

Day 12:

Hubert was concealing more than the disconcerting state of not remembering the people dearest to him, which I suppose I should have anticipated. While he does recognize his fellow Black Eagles now, he doesn’t acknowledge his own name. He understood that people said Hubert in application to him and consciously chose to respond to it rather than recognizing it instinctively.

The discovery came gradually in several mundane events, such as when he was called out to while reading and did not even answer. No one could accuse him of being particularly friendly, but even Hubert was above purposefully ignoring someone for no cause whatsoever. Of course, he held to this ruse as long as possible as well.

When he could not any longer, he admitted to Edelgard that it was because we all seemed distressed enough as it was. Even without his memories at his disposal, Hubert adamantly placed the needs of others above his own while he remains confined to a cot. As concerning as his condition is, I’m finding myself impressed at the breadth and depth of his attentiveness to those around him. Come what may, I know now that Hubert will always be just as I remember him. And admire him, truly.

Day 19:

In a week’s time, Hubert has made remarkable progress yet again! He greeted me today before I even spoke to him, and so fondly at that. The sharp perception of his eyes has returned, and his smirk is perfectly done. This, I am confident, is no ruse! He is no longer confused by people he was close to, although he seems generally disoriented in areas too far removed from his usual places now that he can go for walks. While supervised by an upstanding ally, naturally.

We can visit the library and the specific table we usually occupied for our tea breaks, although I refuse to bring him to his office lest he be tempted to overexert himself, but the fishing pond or the stables leaves him staring at me for guidance. Or he may be hoping to ground himself in seeing a familiar face? I didn’t dare ask and risk his recuperation.

As it is, he is acting unusually despite his persistent sacrificial character. Why, just at tea today, he apologized to me! In broad daylight and plain sight and earshot of our peers! Hubert expressed his remorse for a perceived failing as a minister to serve alongside me and lead Edelgard together. He even referred to us a couplet. A couplet! I was disgracefully flustered into a broken answer to reassure him, but it did seem to do him some good.

…Then again… Oh, dear. Perhaps that was not enough. I shall just have to work harder to prove that taking time to restore his health is no failure! And when he is ready to return, we shall move forward as impressively as ever—together.

Day 23:

Abruptly, today did not go well for Hubert. Linhardt explained that magical procedures may sometimes regress sharply like that, but there was a weariness in his eyes that suggested he was despairing at this turn of events. From what I have heard, he experienced some kind of hallucination and forgot himself entirely. It must have been a horrid vision to inspire him to attack a medic working under Linhardt in a grand, if misguided, attempt to escape the palace.

He’s been restrained to his cot now, of course, and he is being kept asleep magically in the hopes that this will put his mind at ease.

Healing is a long, difficult path, and I knew this before he returned to us. I wish I understood more of what he was suffering through. The stripped clean white of his hair, the tormented hallucinations that plague him, his displacement in his own life and mind, I just… I desire nothing more than to reach out and hold him. Considering where we began at the academy, it is a relatively new impulse to protect Hubert, but how could I not? He has always been so capable and logical, regardless of how viciously we fought in our youth. Now that he is in need, it is all I can do to be at his side however I am able.

Which, at present, is shamefully little.

Linhardt theorized that his Crest’s power flared due to a weather event or celestial change beyond our understanding, something conditional like with the Crests of Lysithea or Catherine. It is Linhardt’s belief his mind is trying to reconcile the new existence of the Crest. Should that be the case, that would mean memories are stored within Crests as well, but they go unnoticed to those born with them while potentially causing madness in those granted them.

I can think of nothing more horrific than Hubert von Vestra losing his mind due to a risk we took without his knowledge or approval. Did Edelgard truly make the right choice by sending him away with Lord Arundel? Did I, by remaining silent?

Day 25:

Yesterday, Hubert was utterly vacant, and the entire medical wing of the palace had the atmosphere of a crypt. But the update that he was non-verbal and responding to friends anew has broken through that gloom like a vibrant parade. …My heart is simply not in characteristically poetic analogies just yet, but I am grateful for the joy others have found in this. All I feel is terror that we will be trapped in this loop of restoration and loss forever as punishment for our decision.

Day 28:

I went to visit today, and Hubert was extraordinarily cross at being restrained. How strange, that his glower made me beam with delight. Just to witness it reinforced my faith that he would be himself again for good this time around. The process of helping him drink coffee went more smoothly than I expected, and he did seem soothed by my reading of the latest heroic tale from my favorite author. He claimed he would rather hear the reports from his agents, of course. That soft look in his eyes spoke to the truth of the matter, however!

I dreaded that he would hate us for our choice to save him by any means. Instead, it may very well be that we are closer than ever.

…Focus, Ferdinand! Now is not the time for flightful fantasies of the heart.

Day 35:

I ran into Hubert unattended in the halls today! He dismissed an agent for assignment and greeted me with the warmest smile I have ever seen grace his expression. We walked together to the stables, and he went out of his way to confess he had no business whatsoever there but to be with me.

We spoke of how Linhardt noted that it was remarkable how quickly Hubert has adapted since the last jarring episode. There is no evidence yet to confirm if it’s the Crest acclimating to his body and vice versa or Hubert being “too smart and stubborn”.

Vastly inspiring as that is, the true miracle is what came next.

When we were alone in the stables, Hubert stood so close to me that I imagined I felt his heartbeat syncing with my own. Those piercing green eyes lingered on me in a way that revealed such devotion and admiration that I was locked in place as though I was a statue. He brushed my hair from my face so tenderly, bringing his slightly chapped lips to rest against my cheek with such lightness that I barely know if it happened or I dreamt it from moons of longing for that very act.

But I could never forget the brush of his breath against my ear as he whispered his gratitude for my support before withdrawing in a sweep of his black cloak to Goddess knows where. Saints, my face blazes just to write it out! Wherever our journey takes us next, my heart swells with pride that we will see it through together, hand-in-hand, shining for all the world to see. If our love for one another is the only deed of mine that is ever documented, I will be honored beyond measure.

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