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Dissimulation

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The unity between the Blue Lions and the Golden Deer had been a shock to most but to Dimitri, it was the more likely option that would get him closer to Edelgard. With Claude acting as a leader as well as the professor, he could focus more on his personal goal while also playing his role as leader of Faerghus. 

What he neglected to remember, was Claude’s curious nature.

The first time Claude had approached him with a deal to unit their parties in an effort to gain an upper hand against Edelgard, Dimitri had been skeptic and sneered at Claude that he would only betray him as so many others have. But after some carefully chosen words from Claude and the mention that they had Byleth back, Dimitri had reluctantly agreed to the unity.

Every day since then, Dimitri had chosen to stay in the cathedral, standing or kneeling among the pile of rubble, in deep thought. Every day since then, Dimitri felt a pair of eyes watching him, heard footsteps that always stopped a few feet from him but then slowly grew fainter and fainter.

He ate in the mess hall with an occasional fellow Blue Lion accompanying him (mostly Dedue), or with Byleth who asked him many questions of what he did in the past five years, and on a few rare occasions, a couple Golden Deers who warily asked how he was. Each time he entered the mess hall, Claude would be walking out and he would pass Dimitri with a wink and a cheerful ‘Good morning.’

And so went the norm.

But the ghosts never quieted. The voices never stopped. Sleep came rarely. His appetite left him.

And eventually, he stopped talking to people. 

Eventually, he heard others speak ill of him. Of how he changed. How he lingers like the ghosts he sees.

Eventually, he tuned those voices out.

Eventually, he stopped going to the mess hall. 

Eventually, he stopped trying to sleep.

Eventually, he stopped trying.

But the eyes never stopped watching him. The footsteps kept coming.

And so went the norm…

“You shouldn’t listen to the hateful rumours, you know. It’s strange; they say you’re cruel because of your behaviour, but what they don’t know is that you’re actually quite the endearing romantic, like something out of a story than anything that ever graced the printed page. If I could write a heart-rendingly beautiful song about you, if I would but I’m afraid I’m not gifted in the art of music.”

Dimitri didn’t need to turn around to know who it was that had spoken to him. He knew very well who was standing there and it was this knowledge that prevented him from turning around. Still, the words had brought a sad smile to his lips.

“Claude,” began Dimitri, looking down as he spoke. “What have you come here for?”

“Only to check on you, your highness. I haven’t seen you move from this spot in a while.”

Dimitri frowned. “There is no need to check on me. You should worry about yourself.”

 

He heard Claude walk over to him, bending his knees to kneel beside him on the floor. Dimitri looked up at Claude then and saw those unwavering green eyes watching the pile of rubble Dimitri was standing in front of.

 

“I’m fine,” Claude smiled, but it was sad and held a hint of bitterness in it. “But others are worse off than I am. Like you.” Claude turns to Dimitri, fixing him with an intent stare as if he was searching for something in his gaze, something that he could not find, his lips slightly parted. “How are you, Dimiti?”

 

Dimitri is not okay. If he were to be completely honest with Claude, he would tell him that he spends his days cursing those who have wronged him. He would tell Claude that he wishes desperately for the voices of the ghosts in his head to silence themselves at least for a few hours so that he can sleep. He would tell Claude about the struggle he goes through daily just to get up and force himself to walk among the people who he sees as his friends but is deathly scared that they will betray him just as Edelgard had. And speaking of, he would tell Claude about the burning hatred he harbours for Edelgard. Of how he will rid the world of her, scrape her legacy off the face of this world.

 

He would tell Claude all of this if he were honest. But he does not.

 

“There’s no point in asking me that.” Dimitri says instead and he brings his cape to cover himself, allows himself to hide into the warmth of it.

 

Claude reaches over, running his hand through the fur on his cape before adjusting it so it sits on Dimitri’s shoulders more comfortably. “I see a point in it,” he says gently. “I wouldn’t try so hard if I didn’t.”

 

“And I suppose this point is you care for me?” 

 

Bitter. Why was he so bitter to someone who was only trying to help him? 

 

“Perhaps it is,” Claude says slowly.

 

Dimitri remains silent, not surprised at this revelation considering their past romance together. But that was the past and the present is far more different than they ever thought it would be.

 

There is a shuffle of clothing and then Claude is handing Dimitri a bag. Dimitri doesn’t take it but Claude doesn’t look upset about it— looks like he had expected it—  and he places the bag on the ground in front of Dimitri.

 

“At least remember to go back to your room. You look worse than usual.”

 

When Dimitri opens the bag, long after Claude has left, he’s not surprised to see the bread, cheese, and bottle of water, but the note is a surprise. He opens it when he makes his way back to his room after eating the food and drinking the water late at night and opens the notes.

 

Good night, Dima. I’ll see you in the morning.

 

It’s short but Dimitri can tell this was no hastily scribbled note. Claude must have planned for Dimitri  to return to his room late after their talk, meaning Claude must have given this thought.

 

Dimitri carefully folded the note and set it on his desk. He went to sleep. The nightmares return.

 

 

Dimitri got up from his bed as he usually did but unlike all the other mornings, he stared at the note on the desk and wondered if Claude would give him any more notes then thought to thank Claude for the note. And so he dressed with the intention to find Claude and thank him.

 

After spending some time walking around, ignoring the stares from others at seeing the reclusive prince wander about freely, he found Claude standing beside the docks, bent down to pet one of the dogs that roamed around.

 

When Claude spotted Dimitri making his way towards him, he straightened up and smiled brightly. “I take it you got my message?” 

 

Dimitri nods, glances at the dog then back at Claude. “Thank you,” he starts. “And… I apologize if my behavior was rude.”

 

“That’s alright. I know there’s not much to be happy for nowadays but it’s the little things that get us through. Sometimes even a note will help brighten our days.”

 

Dimitri was not quite sure what to say to this, but Claude was looking at him intently, as if patiently waiting for his reaction to this. His features were softer than they had ever been despite the quiet, serious intensity that he had been carrying with him for the past week, and Dimitri had to remind himself that he was not the only one who had people to lead, to protect.

“Even so,” he replied at last. “You were only showing me kindness.”

Claude smiles and nudges Dimitri to follow him. “I’ll only accept your apology if you eat some breakfast with me.”

Dimitri allowed himself to be led in the direction of the mess hall, allowing a small smile to grace his lips.

The next day, Claude sits at the pew closest to Dimitri’s spot in front of the rubble. Dimitri feels his eyes on him and then he hears him leave only for him to come back some time later. He waits for Claude to do something, focuses on his breathing instead of the voices in his head. 

Eventually, Claude walks over and places a plate of Gautier cheese Gratin in front of him then sets down a cup of water. Dimitri looks up in time to see Claude smile at him, his hand running over the fur of his cape before he leaves.

Dimitri listens to Claude’s footsteps disappear then he stares at the food before finally deciding to drink the water. The food is cold by the time the guilt finally makes Dimitri eat it. He can’t taste it anyways but the thought of Claude getting it for him spurs him into eating all of it.

When he returns to his room after returning his plate and cup, he undresses and finds a note stuffed in his cape. He blinks in surprise, he had not expected another note from Claude. He carefully opens it.

Good night, Dima. We should take a walk around the monastery tomorrow. That is if you’re up for it, it’s okay if you aren’t. I’ll see you in the morning.

Dimitri feels another smile grace his lips. He folds the note and places it with the other. He goes to sleep.

The nightmares return.

The sun rises and Claude returns to his usual spot. Dimitri has not moved and Claude brings him breakfast. He sits beside Dimitri and stares at the rubble. 

It’s Dimitri who speaks first, when the sun is beginning to set and Claude has not moved from his spot.

“Maybe we could go for that walk now,” Dimitri offers quietly, two blotches of colour beginning to show, high on his pale cheekbones.

Claude is already getting up from his spot, dusting his clothes then offering a hand to Dimitri. Dimitri takes it and gets to his feet. There’s barely anyone out since they are most likely eating in the mess hall or have already retired to their rooms, but they make the walk around the monastery together. The few people that are out give them odd stares. Dimitri feels their stares and tries not to think too much on it, instead choosing to enjoy this time with Claude.

He peeks over at the other and sees him staring at the ground, seemingly lost in thought, but when he feels Dimitri’s stare, he smiles up at him.

“I’m glad there’s not many people out,” Claude reveals quietly. “It makes the walk more enjoyable.”

“I agree.”

They walk on but it’s Claude who is leading them places so when they end up at Dimitri’s room, Dimitri can’t help but feel like Claude planned this as well. He doesn’t mind.

“I’ll be going now.” He reaches into his pocket and brings out another note. Dimitri takes it. “Sleep tight.”

Dimitri watches him go then goes in his room and sits on the edge of his bed, unfolding the note.

Good night, Dima. We should eat dinner tomorrow. I’ll see you in the morning.

Dimitri flops on his bed and rereads the note. This is all just one of Claude’s plans to get him out and about again, he knows this. But he doesn’t mind.

He closes his eye and sleeps.

The nightmares return.

 

 

Dimitri hears Claude sit beside him with a plate for him again. He doesn’t touch it. He’s not hungry. And Claude doesn’t ask him to eat, only waits with him. 

Claude gets up to leave a couple of times and Byleth comes by in his absence. The professor is just as he was five years ago. He tells Dimitri of a deep sleep and when he first met up with Claude. 

“Claude has changed,” Byleth says with a faraway look in his eye.

Dimitri thinks of the burden Claude now carries as leader of the Leicester Alliance, of making sure the Golden Deer make it back home to their families, and of how Claude now probably believes the Blue Lions are also somewhat his responsibility.

“Yes,” Dimitri sighs. “He has.”

When Claude comes back, Byleth takes his leave and Claude settles beside Dimitri. They sit until dinner time.

Dimitri waits for Claude to bring up his plans for dinner from the note but he makes no move to speak.  So Dimitri waits. And he waits. And waits.

“I am getting a little hungry,” Dimitri finds himself blurting. “Would you care to join me?” 

Claude smile is radiant. “I would be honored, your highness.”

They walk to the mess hall together and take a seat at the empty seats. They spot Byleth at one of the tables with Hilda and Mercedes. He waves and brings over a candle, setting it in front of the two since the table they chose to sit at has no candles. 

“Enjoy your meal,” Byleth smiles and rushes back to Hilda and Mercedes.

Claude puts the candle between the two and when they have their food in front of them, they eat together. Although Dimitri cannot taste the food, he enjoys it. He thinks that is also Claude’s doing. And later that night when Claude walks him to his room, he hands Dimitri the note and takes his leave. He opens the note as soon as he sees Claude turn the corner.

Good night, Dima. You should really take a bathe— not that you stink. You actually smell quite earthly but it might help some. Just a thought. I’ll see you in the morning.

Dimitri undresses and contemplates the idea.

The nightmares return. 

They taunt him.

A band of thieves invade a village near the monastery and Dimitri witnesses the change in Claude’s fighting. He’s stronger, bolder, but more reckless. Whether that be because he has a plan already or not, Dimitri doesn’t know. 

After the bandits have been taken care of, he spends some time wiping blood from Areadbhar before heading to his usual spot.

Claude is waiting for him at his usual spot. He stands beside him and clears his throat, getting Claude’s attention.

“Earthly?”

Claude snorts and nods. “That’s right,” he grins. “It’s not a bad scent.”

Dimitri closes his eyes with a sigh. “I suppose I should bathe after that battle.”

Claude is silent for a moment and when he speaks, it’s not at all what Dimitri expected to hear.

“Can I wash your hair?”

The question takes Dimitri off guard and when he looks at Claude, he finds that Claude is serious about his question.

“My hair?” Dimitri blinks and unconsciously touches his blonde locks.

Claude nods and reaches out to twirl a strand around his finger. 

“I…” Dimitri did not know what to say but he supposes it should be okay. “Very well.”

And so, after some time of getting the hot water ready, Dimitri undresses and gets in, sighing when his whole body is submerged. He isn’t ashamed when Claude walks in with a bucket, towel and some hair product but his cheeks flush when he spots Claude staring with a grin.

“Just as beautiful as I remember,” Claude comments with a wink, the comment makes Dimitri’s cheeks flush deeper and he hides behind his hair. He pulls up a wooden stool and takes a seat behind Dimitri’s head. 

Claude washes his hair in silence.

Dimitri closes his eye and enjoys the feeling of Claude’s fingers in his hair, massaging his scalp and taking the knots out. His eye opens when he feels Claude finger the tie to his eyepatch.

He pulls back and snarls at Claude. “Don’t.” he warns.

Claude raises his hands in the air, covered in bubbles and soaking wet. “Okay but it doesn’t make it any easier to wash your hair.” Dimitri doesn’t move and Claude’s voice dropped to a near whisper. “I won’t look. I promise.”

A tense silence follows but Dimitri slowly turns around and sits back so Claude has access to the tie. Claude unties it, and Dimitri removes the patch, placing it on the floor for easy access. It’s been awhile since he’s untied the patch. He prefers the familiar weight to what he feels now.

Claude’s hands begin to massage again and Dimitri closes his eyes, focusing on the feeling of Claude’s hands instead of the missing weight. It works and Dimitri can feel himself drift off until Claude’s hands are suddenly gone and he is beginning to leave.

Dimitri wants to glance at him but doesn’t want to risk him seeing his eye.

He lets Claude walk out.

And he regrets.

He doesn’t see Claude the rest of the day but when he returns to his room, there is a note that was slid under. He opens it and smiles.

Good night, Dima. You look so much better. And now you smell like me. I’ll see you in the morning.

Dimitri sets the note down with the others and goes to bed.

The nightmares return.

They’re loud.

 

 

Gronder fields. Edelgard is here. Dimitri can see her on the hill beside her soldiers. He recognizes some of the other Black Eagles but pays them no mind. His eyes are set on Edelgard. 

Vaguely, he makes out Byleth speaking to him and he listens long enough to know Claude has taken the other side with his house and that Byleth is here with him because Claude was worried about him and wanted him to be safe but Dimitri tunes out his other words. Whatever strategy Byleth and Claude had, Dimitri would allow them to follow through, but Edelgard was his to kill. 

They take their places and Dimitri faces Edelgard, watching her and already planning how to get closer to her.

Kill every last one of them! ” he snarls and rushes ahead with his men.

He doesn’t remember how many people he hacks through, he doesn’t remember the blood or the screams. He doesn’t remember ever passing by Byleth or Claude but he must have at some point. What he does remember is the feeling of taking a life, the feeling of adding more ghosts to his long list. He remembers the adrenaline, the rage. He remembers getting closer and closer to Edelgard but he is stopped by a female whom he recognizes as Petra.

“Out of my way!” he yells, his lance ready to cut her down should she stand in his way.

She doesn’t move, choosing to stand her ground to guard her leader. Dimitri respects her loyalty but he has a goal to complete.

Dimitri thrust his sword forward.

The female blocked it easily, and re-balanced herself. Dimitri brought Areadbhar up once more and thrust his weapon, trying to throw the sword out of his opponent's grasp. Petra was too quick for him. She pulled back and let Dimitri’s own momentum pull her forward. She shoved Dimitri, causing him to stumble momentarily but long enough for Petra to thrust her blade and impale Dimitri’s shoulder. Dimitri grits his teeth and swings Areadbhar, forcing Petra to move back.

Dimitri righted himself, anger written on his face, and he flung himself fully into the fight that lay before him, ignoring the pain in favor of fury. He swings and is intercepted by her sword again. He yells and swings harder, aiming to run his lance through her gut but before he could reach her an arrow intercepts Areadbhar and Petra is able to leap back in time.

The interruption caused both Perta and Dimitri to turn to the owner of the arrow. Dimitri’s eye narrowed when he saw Claude riding his way with Failnaught aimed.

“Petra, hurry and get out of here!” Claude yells among the loud cries of battle. 

Petra glances at Dimitri then to Claude. She nods solemnly and turns tail. 

Dimitri attempts to go after her but an arrow lands at his feet, dangerously close to hitting him. He turns to Claude who is still atop his Wyvern, blue eye raging, raw anger shot through. This was a battle! How dare Claude protect the enemy!

“Claude!” Dimitri bites out, turning to take a few steps towards the other. “What is the meaning of this?!” 

But as Dimitri sought Claude’s eyes, Dimitri’s feet were compelled to halt, as he stared above, confounded and tense. The two eyes that always had beaming glints embellished on every corner. The two eyes that always extended beyond the serene greenery— those two eyes had darkened, the glints Dimitri had always been familiar with faded one by one. He witnessed the serene greenery scatter away as if by a formidable blaze. Two peculiar eyes scrutinized him, they were pitch black, and unfamiliar now. 

Dimitri felt his fingertips slightly tremble, almost as if he saw his own reflection, almost as if he saw his own rage… no it was despair in those eyes he saw.

But Dimitri felt more confused than ever. He did not know what intimidated him the most, was it because he almost saw a resemblance, or was it because the blaze in Claude’s eyes were far worse than his own.

“You’re reckless and hurt.” Claude states, looking at the wound Petra had dealt during their skirmish. 

Dimitri watches Claude leap from his Wyvern, approaching Dimitri as if there were not a raging battle going on around them. The archer checks the wound, pushing Areadbhar away from Dimitri’s chest to get a better view. Dimitri allows it, still thinking about the look he had seen in Claude’s eyes. He wonders what had caused that look and thinks to ask about it once the haze of rage fades away. 

 

But Claude leaves his side after he checks the wound, and Dimitri is left with a bitter taste in his mouth.

Dimitri watches Claude approach the Golden Deer and the Blue Lions, checking to see if they are okay. All except Dimitri. And Dimitri can’t help but feel tossed aside. 

Byleth approaches him, asks about his wound, and Dimitri brushes him off. He doesn’t want to be rude to the professor but he so very confused and hurt. The wound did not bother him but Claude’s actions had.

“He’s worried about you,” Mercedes says while she is patching Dimitri up. “Claude, that is—”

“I know who you speak of.”

Mercedes is quiet, her hands working carefully. “You should seek him out.”

Dimitri doesn’t. 

He goes to his room without eating and lights a candle. He doesn’t sleep. He can’t sleep. He doesn’t want to sleep.

The note slips under the door when the candle is halfway burned.

Dimitri can see the shadow of the person behind the door. They stand there for awhile and Dimitri almost wishes he would hear a knock. 

There is no knock.

There is a deep sigh, tired and pained, and then footsteps.

Dimitri waits awhile before picking up the note.

Good night, Dima. I hope you’re okay. I’ll see you in the morning.

Dimitri grips the note so hard it tears. He sets it on his table with the others.

The nightmares do not come because he does not sleep.

But the ghosts are always there.

 

 

The ghosts are still there when he stands in the cathedral. He ignores them in favor of staring at a crack in the floor.

He hears Claude come in and take a seat on the pews. 

Dimitri ignores him.

Claude leaves.

Dimitri tries to ignore the ghosts but they are looming ever closer. They taunt and laugh and scream and cry. He begs the goddess for silence but it never comes.

Eventually, Claude comes back with food and stands beside him. He offers the plate.

Dimitri smacks it out of his hands.

“Get away from me.” 

It’s not what he wants to say but the words tumble from his lips.

Claude doesn’t look bothered by his words. He leans down and starts to clean up the mess.

Dimitri watches and then in a fit of sudden anger, he steps on the bread Claude was about to pick up.

“Are you going to clean it up then?” Claude asks, unbothered. It bothers Dimitri.

“Go away,” he snarls.

“I can’t.”

“Why?”

Claude doesn’t answer. He picks up the meat and the cheese and the fruit. The bread is still under Dimitri’s boot. The plate is still miraculously in one piece so Claude puts all the food back on the plate. And when he is done, he stands up.

“I guess you weren’t hungry for that, huh?” Claude’s voice is cheery and so out of place among the voices of the dead.

Dimitri glares and reaches for the plate. He throws it to the ground where it shatters between their feet. Claude stares and then leans down to clean it up.

Dimitri moves fast and grabs Claude by the front of his shirt, he lifts him back to his feet and uses his height to tower over him.

“Go. Away.”

Claude blinks, searches his face, then nods. Dimitri shoves him away and turns to stare at the floor again. He lets Claude slip a note in his hand and when Claude is walking away, he rips the note in pieces and throws it on the floor with the food.

Later that night, when he is in his room, he can’t sleep.

He goes back to find the note still among the mess of food.

He kneels on the floor and puts the pieces back together.

Good night, Dima. I hope I haven’t disappointed you. I’ll see you in the morning.

Dimitri stays there the whole night.

He can’t sleep.

Claude returns in the early dawn and Dimitri wonders why he wakes up so early.

The archer takes his place on the pew and waits.

Dimitri has stuffed the note pieces in his armour for safe keeping but the food is still on the ground. It bothers him now.

He cleans it up but Claude doesn’t help him.

He never moves from his spot.

Dimitri wishes he did.

Dimitri notices something; in all their time being allies in this war, he has never seen Claude eat unless it’s with him. Even then it is scarce. Claude would normally watch him eat but he never brought food for himself.

 “Did you eat?” Dimitri asks, still facing away from Claude.

Claude takes a moment before replying. “I did.”

Dimitri doesn’t believe him.

Dimitri follows Claude when he leaves. He makes sure to stay a good distance behind.

Claude walks past the mess hall, heading straight to the library it seems.

Dimitri doesn’t go in. He waits for Claude to come out and when he doesn’t, he returns to his spot in the cathedral.

Claude returns with a plate of food.

Dimitri takes the plate.

Claude doesn’t stay.

“Why don’t you get some rest?”

“Professor...”

“It will do you some good.”

“Professor.”

Claude is standing beside him. This hasn’t happened in some time and Dimitri is far worse than he has been in some time.

“The imperials will be attacking Derdriu,” Claude starts. “They’ll need my help.”

Dimitri is silent.

“I’m leaving tomorrow.”

Dimitri turns away.

“I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

Dimitri hopes soon.

Dimitri finds a letter slipped under his door.

Good night, Dima. I’m sorry I’m leaving but this is something I have to do. You’ll be fine without me. You won’t have a nuisance hanging around you for some time now. That’s gotta be a plus, right? I won’t see you in the morning this time. I’m sorry. 

And then hastily scribbled at the bottom as if Claude had added it last minute it read:

I love you.

Dimitri rereads the note again and again.

Claude is no nuisance. Claude is his light. He doesn’t want Claude to leave.

“Claude is no nuisance,” Dimitri tells the ghosts who stare at him with disapproving and hateful glares. They speak ill of Claude, mock him, slander his name. Dimitri ignores them and focuses on those last three words.

He manages to sleep.

Claude is gone.

Claude is gone. Claude is gone. Claude is gone.

He left to Derdriu without a goodbye.

Byleth and Sylvain come by and drag him from the cathedral. They force him to eat something, drink water, walk in the sunshine. Dimitri lets them do as they please.

The ghosts are still there.

The voices never quiet.

He sleeps to not disappoint Claude.

No word from Claude.

Dimitri worries.

Dimitri eats because Claude would want him to. It doesn’t like anything but he thinks Claude would enjoy it.

He sits in the sun because he knows Claude is under the same sky.

No word from Claude.

Dimitri worries some more.

It’s raining. 

Dimitri doesn’t move from his seat.

He misses Claude then thinks Claude would hate him being in the rain.

He moves.

Dimitri rereads all the letters and there is an aching feeling in his chest. He feels the need to embrace Claude, to hold him close and…

And what?

He forgets to sleep.

Word comes from Claude in the form of a messenger. The poor guy nearly passes out but he gasps out that Claude is in trouble.

They leave immediately.

Dimitri can see Claude fighting for his life. He’s fighting alone and Dimitri’s heart races.

He cuts through people, completely ignoring the possibility that Edelgard could be nearby because the only person he is worrying about is Claude.

Claude needs help.

Claude is in danger.

Claude is alone. 

Claude sees Dimitri amidst the sea of men and those green eyes are so filled with relief and… love. Yes. Dimitri sees love. 

Dimitri smiles for the first time in awhile. 

He has to get closer.

He’s almost there.

So close.

He’s...

Too late.

Claude is watching Dimitri’s back while trying to watch his own. It’s his downfall.

An arrow pierces his shoulder and he nearly falls off his wyvern.

Dimitri yells Claude’s name but the sound is drowned by the sounds of battle.

Another arrow hits Claude in the gut and his wyvern struggles to keep him balanced so Claude doesn’t fall to the ground.

Dimitri hears someone screaming. Only when his throat burns does he realize it’s himself.

Byleth is yelling at him to get to Claude. He will provide cover for him.

Another arrow to Claude’s arm.

Dimitri can hear his heart beating.

Felix and Sylvain are rushing ahead to help clear a path for Dimitri.

Dimitri can hear some imperials cheering at having brought down the great archer. His blood boils.

Dedue helps Dimitri get closer.

Ingrid and Ashe are fighting side by side.

Mercedes and Annette are using their magic to keep enemies from Claude and his weakened wyvern.

Dimitri takes off in a run.

The wyvern flies lower, tired and worn out but still trying. 

Claude tips over.

Dimitri drops Areadbhar and holds his hands out. Claude is a welcomed weight in his arms and he holds his precious bundle close.

“Claude?!” Dimitri holds him steady, careful of the arrows.

Claude’s eyes are a maelstrom of pain and yet he keeps his eyes on Dimitri. There’s a lot of blood and when Mercedes reaches them, she immediately gets to work. She never asks Dimitri to let go and Dimitri is grateful. He doesn’t think he could let go even if he wanted to.

Claude passes out.

The healers are working hard to keep Claude stable but they’re having trouble.

When Dimitri demands to know why Claude is not healing fast enough Marianne is the one who gives the answer.

“He’s malnourished and sleep deprived.”

Dimitri loathes himself. He loathes himself more than he ever has because he had a feeling. He knew something was wrong with Claude and he did nothing. Claude had been taking care of him this whole time but had been neglecting himself.

Dimitri doesn’t realize he was squeezing Claude’s hand until Claude let out a pained gasp.

He lets go as though he had been burned and steps away, allowing the healers to continue their work.

Byleth leads him out.

Time passes.

Dimitri waits for Claude to wake up.

He confesses to Claude one night when the ghosts were oddly quiet but Claude doesn’t respond.

Claude is stable.

Dimitri nearly weeps.

Nearly.

For the first time, Dimitri notices the heavy bags under Claude’s eyes. He notices how pale he looks. How worn out Claude truly looks.

Dimitri loathes himself.

He can’t sleep.

How could he?

Claude wakes up sooner than anyone expected. Dimitri is the first person he sees and the first person he smiles at.

Dimitri can’t bring himself to return the smile.

“You are malnourished,” Dimitri says when Claude has made a good enough recovery to where he can get up and move around again. 

They’re eating oranges, Dimitri is peeling them and handing a slice to Claude.

Claude takes the orange and pops it in his mouth. “I’m fine.” 

Dimitri knows he isn’t.

“You are sleep deprived,” Dimitri says when he finds Claude sitting under the stars.

Claude sighs. “I’m fine.”

Dimitri knows he isn’t.

“You are tired,” Dimitri says when he sees Claude looking over map after map, going over strategy after strategy  to see which one will save the most lives and end the war the quickest.

Claude doesn’t answer right away. He looks at the maps and his shoulders slump.  “I’m fine.”

“No, you are not.”

Claude laughs, a short painful sound. He looks at Dimitri and Oh he looks so tired.

“I’m not.”

Claude goes to the cathedral where Dimitri was waiting for him on the pews. 

Dimitri gets up and they take a walk.

“How are you feeling?” Claude asks but Dimitri had wanted to ask Claude first.

“I feel alright.”

“You look a lot better.”

Dimitri looks up from his seat at the mess hall. Claude is walking up to him with a bowl of soup. He takes a seat beside Dimitri, close enough that their thighs touch.

“Yes,” Dimitri says. “It’s thanks to your help.”

Claude smiles and eats some of his soup. “I may have helped a little but you made the decisions yourself.”

Dimitri nods and enjoys his food with Claude in silence. He’s overjoyed to see Claude eating but he worries Claude doesn’t sleep.

Dimitri watches Claude. 

He eats with him daily but they always part ways at night.

Dimitri watches Claude.

Claude had the greenest eyes he has ever seen.

Dimitri watches Claude.

He doesn’t mind if Claude catches him staring. 

Claude stares back.

“Do you sleep at night?”

“No.”

One day Claude follows Dimitri to his room.

Dimitri remembers the notes on his desk and rushes to hide them but Claude has already seen them.

“I’m surprised you kept them.” Is all he says.

Dimitri would never throw them away.

Claude doesn’t stay.

He comes back the next night with two cups of tea.

“Do you like the tea?”

“Yes. Thank you, Claude.”

Claude doesn’t stay.

“Stay.”

Claude watches him and then takes his boots off. 

They lay down facing each other and Dimitri boldy cups Claude’s cheek, runs his thumb over the beard.

Claude watches him.

 

They join Byleth when he goes down to fish. The professor is an expert and Dimitri barely gets one fish. Claude laughs and Dimitri thinks it’s the most beautiful sound.

The battles never get easier but Claude now stays close to Dimitri after them.

It’s nice.

Claude is back in his bed. His eyes are watching him again.

“Did you mean it?” he asks.

Dimitri knows what he means. He’s not ready for this conversation.

“Get some sleep, Claude.”

Claude doesn’t sleep.

Dimitri’s hand twitches, wanting to rest on the small of Claude’s back as they walk side by side.

He hides his hands in his cape instead.

“Did you mean it?” Claude asks again when they are facing each other.

Dimitri’s eye is focused on the spot above Claude’s head. The ghost is watching him.

Claude shuffles closer, grabs Dimitri’s arms and puts them around him. 

“They can’t hurt you.”

Dimitri wakes up with Claude in his arms. He tightens his grip and savours this moment.

The ghosts are silent.

 

“Did you mean it?” 

Dimitri doesn’t answer.

“I meant it,” Dimitri says with tears in his eye. “With all my heart.”

Claude is sleeping.

“Do you ever think about your future?”  Claude says during tea time while Dimitri was staring at Claude again. He doesn’t get to answer because Claude looks away and snorts. “Of course you,” he answered himself. “You’re the future king. You’ll have to worry about all sorts of things. Like politics and marriage.”

Dimitri watches that sad smile and accidentally breaks his cup.

“That was Teach’s cup.” 

Dimitri watches Claude put distance between them.

He hates it.

Claude moves towards him closer than usual. His hand snakes around Dimitri’s waist and he sighs contentedly against his chest.

Dimitri hears someone talk about Claude. He doesn’t know who they are and he doesn’t know why he follows him but he listens to their conversation. He doesn’t hear everything but he hears enough.

Claude. Lust. Bend over. Fuck.

Dimitri sees red and has the man pinned to the wall, feet dangling in the air.

The man’s eyes are wide in fear.

You,” Dimitri growls and the man claws at his hands, gasping for air. Whoever was with the man has run away in fear.

Dimitri’s hands tighten around the man’s neck. The man is turning purple. He can’t breathe. Dimitri knows he needs to stop.

“Dimitri!” 

The man drops to the floor, coughing violently and scrambling away from Dimitri.

Dimitri watches his hands in horror.

Claude is there. He’s dragging him away, to Claude’s room. The door closes. 

Dimitri sees blood on his hands. 

The ghosts are loud.

Claude takes his hands. Why is there no blood smearing on his? He forces Dimitri to meet his emerald eyes.

“They can’t hurt you.”

Dimitri pushes him against the wall and claims him lips as his own. Claude welcomes the kiss but stops Dimitri when he reaches for his clothes. Dimitri doesn’t push, takes what is being offered.

It’s enough.

“You should tell him.” Byleth sits across from him, a new tea cup to replace the old one.

 

“I do not know what you speak of.”

 

Byleth nods and sips his tea.

 

“You both will be a lot happier together.”

 

Claude is laying in his arms. He’s awake.

 

“The professor believes we will be happier together.”

 

Claude hums.

 

“Teach is right.”

 

 

Edelgard is defeated. 

 

Dimitri wishes she would have joined them. He wishes she were still with them.

 

“You did the right thing,” Byleth says. It’s meant to comfort him. It doesn’t.

 

Claude is waiting for them with a few wounds that are bleeding freely.

 

He doesn’t smile at them. He knows what happened and sorrow clouds over his eyes.

 

“We won,” Dimitri states blankly.

 

Claude gives him an incredulous look. “You might feel like you won,” he says. “But I’ve lost.”

 

Dimitri watches Claude rush inside. He watches Claude kneel beside the fallen Black Eagles, watches him cup Edelgard’s bloody cheek. He whispers something and then closes her eyes.

 

He helps Claude bury them all in silence.



 

He wants to comfort Claude but he doesn’t know how to.

 

He watches.

 

 

“I thought things would be better.” Dimitri confides in Byleth because Claude is distant.

 

Byleth looks torn. “He is mourning. It’s hard but don’t leave him alone.”

 

 

Dimitri gives Claude time.

 

Claude doesn’t sleep anymore but at least he’s eating.

 

 

Claude is broken but Dimitri still thinks he’s beautiful.

 

 

Claude is broken but Dimitri still thinks his laugh is music.

 

 

Claude is broken but Dimitri still love him.

 

 

“I meant it,” Dimitri finally tells Claude. “You have always owned my heart.”

 

For the first time since Dimitri has known Claude, Claude cries.

 

Dimitri holds him and later, kisses his tears away.

 

 

Claude kisses him in public for the first time. People gasp, some cheer, others hate.

 

Dimitri doesn’t care. He thinks this is what happiness feels like and kisses Claude back.

 

 

Byleth hugs them both and there are tears shining in his eyes. He wishes them happiness because goddess knows they deserve it.

 

 

Claude is a responsive lover, Dimitri finds out later that night. He shivers at nearly every touch and voices his desire for Dimitri openly. Dimitri is humbled by it and gives Claude everything he wants and more.

 

They do not leave a single pieces of furniture untouched and Claude laughs that they will have one hell of a mess to clean up in the morning.

 

Dimitri is too busy marking every part of Claude’s body to answer.

 

By the end of it, Claude is an overstimulated mess and Dimitri stays inside of him all night.

 

 

The morning after is spent cleaning the room and then another round on the desk.

 

Byleth stops by later to drop off some letters from neighboring villages. He sets them down on the desk and watches Dimitri open a window.

 

Dimitri is glad Byleth doesn’t mention anything about the smell of sex that lingers.

 

Claude is asleep in bed, worn out but very content. Dimitri tucks the blankets around his lover and then turns to Byleth. His eye widens when he sees Byleth lean on the desk.

 

“Uh professor!” Dimitri exclaims so loud that Claude jolts awake.

 

Byleth looks confused but when Claude starts laughing, realization dawns on him and he takes three steps away from the desk.

 

Dimitri’s face is beet red and Claude had buried his face in the pillow to hide the laughter.

 

“Right,” Byleth says and dismisses himself.

 

 

Dimitri and Claude apologize to Byleth by making him some food.

 

It does the trick.

 

 

The ghosts are quiet.

 

 

Dimitri feels safe for the first time in a very long time.

 

He feels like he has finally found his happiness in the world.

 

He wants Claude to know how much he loves him but he doesn’t think ‘I love you’ will suffice. There must be a way to show him his worth to Dimitri. He thinks about it for an entire day. He thinks about it when he finally places his hand on the small of Claude’s back. He thinks about it when he kisses Claude against the wall because his smile looked especially bright. He thinks about it when he tells Claude that he is it for him and that there will never be anyone else. He thinks about it when Claude cries his name in ecstasy as he slips into that velvety heat. He thinks about it when they are laying in bed in the aftermath. 

 

He doesn’t know how to express his love.

 

Until it finally dawns on him.

 

“Claude?”

 

Claude peeks up from his spot pressed against his chest. His hair is standing up in odd places and his eyes are a little hazy from nearly falling asleep. 

 

He is Dimitri’s everything.

 

“I’ve had trouble thinking of a way to tell you what you mean to me. I feel the words ‘I love you’ are not enough. My love for you runs so much deeper. But now I think I know how to tell you.” He watches Claude’s eyes become more alert and he continues. “In the past, I did not care if I lived or died. Most of the time I would have preferred death but Claude…”

 

Dimitri lifts his hand to move a strand of hair behind Claude’s ears and he smiles.

 

“You make me want to live.”

 

Claude is speechless. The only thing he can manage is a kiss that both try to pour every ounce of love they have for the other in, but there is far too much to do so. And when they settle down for sleep, Dimitri holds Claude close, never wanting to let go.

 

Dimitri sleeps.

 

The ghosts never bother him.