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“Ah, Teach! What are you up so late into the night?”

“Ah, Claude. Why are you roaming around past curfew?” She sets her quill down, glancing to the door lazily. The newly born teacher in her said to scold, but honestly, she knew she would just be a hypocrite if she told him off.

“Nothing dangerous!” He lacks sincerity in his tone.

“Claude…” She warns, and he only grins at her.

“Aw, teach, I’m serious! You know I only scheme on the battlefield.” She looks at him. “ Most of the time.” He chuckles, leaning against the doorframe. The candlelight leaked out of her room into the courtyard, so she sighed.

“Come in, close the door. I don’t want to wake anyone else up.” She murmurs, and Claude does so happily.

“You never answered my question, by the way.” He says, leaning against the shut door. Byleth lets her shoulders untense, stretching in her seat. How long had she been sitting here?

“Marking.” She bluntly answers, and Claude frowns. He steps towards her, leaning over the back of her chair to peak at the assignments. The warmth of the contact allows Byleth to relax a bit. Something about the Golden Deer was calming to her.

“Why? You never do paper assignments, just lectures. Unless these aren’t your assignments.” He theorizes, and Byleth nods.

“Bingo. Manuela had a date, so I told her I would mark them for her… didn’t realize it would eat my night away to do so.” She admits. No matter how stoic she was, she was kind to people who showed the same to her. “She’s probably done the date already.”

“Professor Manuela’s probably heartbroken in her room right now, knowing her.” Claude says, plucking an assignment half marked off of the desk. Reading it over his eyes brighten.

“Most likely. She would have never had them marked no matter how the date went.” Byleth sighs, before picking her quill up.

“You know, I was serious about helping. If you have an extra quill I can mark this easy…” Claude admits, and Byleth stares at him. To be honest, she already marked Claude’s, and he did get a very good grade on it… perhaps, she could trust him. Not that she doesn’t, hell, she trusts the Deer’s leader more than anyone else in this school.

She blinks, before offering her quill out to him. He takes it, and she splits the remaining work in half, and he takes it, sitting on the floor to mark. Grabbing an extra candle, she lights it with magic before setting it on the floor beside him. 

“I will owe you a favour or two for this, Claude.” She thanks, and Claude laughs.

“All in due time will I cash those in, Teach.” He winks, and Byleth smiles at him. Her rare smiles were usually towards her jokey friend. They mark in silence for a few minutes, Byleth using an older quill to mark. The repetitive scritching of quill to paper makes her speak up again.

“Mind telling me what you were doing this late, anyway?” She asks, and Claude looks up from marking temporarily, before going back to it.

“I felt restless tonight. My mind keeps racing, with all that’s going on.” He admits. “Plus, I was in the library doing some more research on Crests. I can’t help but feel we’re not seeing the big picture with these topics.” Claude’s voice grows serious, tactical. Byleth knew his voice suited his mood. 

“Something isn’t right with this church, I’ll be the first to admit. I know there’s a reason my father left here all those years ago.” She marks off another wrong question, before going to the next assignment. “When I first came here, he told me to watch out for Rhea.” 

“Really?” Claude’s quill had stopped scritching, and he looked up at her with surprise. She had never confided this information to him.

“It was strange. My father… he always kept me away from religion. I can’t help but think Rhea is the reason for that, but…” Byleth sighs. “We’re missing the big picture, like you said.” The two both fell quiet, before Claude laughs.

“It’s like all we can do is conspire together, hm?” He chuckles, and Byleth smiles again.

“Perhaps. But, it’s nice to share my thoughts with someone. I’ve never had anyone to talk to about topics like these.” She hums, and Claude goes quiet. A few more marks on paper, and she realizes she’s done marking her share, and she looks to Claude.

His cheeks have a pink tint to them, and he smiles as he marks.

“I’m finished my portion.” She says, looking down on him with a smile. 

“Feel free to sleep, then. I can leave when I finish.” Claude suggests, and Byleth shakes her head.

“No, I don’t think I will quite yet. Can I bend your ear for a while, Claude?” She asks, and Claude glances up at her, smile still present.

“You can always rely on me to listen to you chatter, Teach.” His face lit in the candlelight and nothing more made his skin glow. She smiles at him, her half-lidded eyes focused on him.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a friend close to my age before.” Byleth recalls her past, from what she can remember, and nothing comes to mind. Mercenaries travel, never settling. “It’s curious to think that I’m only a year older than you, and yet…” 

“You are a teacher and I am a student? It is curious.” Claude finishes her thought. “Who would’ve known a year and plenty of battle expertise would have qualified you to be a teacher, right?” 

“Exactly my thoughts. I do not exactly feel mature either, yet to be entrusted with educating people… it is scary to me.” She studies him again as he marks, almost envious of him being a student. He was always so reliable and ready to do what was right. How was she considered more mature than him?

“Teach, are you telling me to include you in more of my shenanigans? Because that’s what I’m hearing with this maturity talk.” He jokes. “Sounds like you need a little fun to bring you down to your own age again.” Byleth shrugs.

“I would not be against shenanigans… so long as that I don’t get in too much trouble.”

“Like I would let us get caught. ” He sets the quill up on the desk, and stands up with the papers. “I’m all done, by the way.” The assignments plunk down on the desk she sits at, and Claude towers over her standing. She hums, before blowing out her own candle and fetching the one Claude was using. 

“Thank you very much, Claude. I would have been here for a few more hours if not for you showing up at my room late at night.” She says, thanking him outright for being mischievous. He shrugs. 

“Like you said before, I will cash in on those favours soon, Teach.” An easy grin takes his face, and he winks. “Though, I suppose I should make my way back to my room. I’ll keep in mind the words we shared tonight for my next late night endeavor.” 

“Oh, please, there’s no need. I was just rambling about my own issues.” She waves her insecurities off like they’re nothing. She stands up and wipes her legs of nonexistent dust.

“You aren’t the type to ramble , Teach, so I can tell that it’s actually bothering you.” His green eyes stared into her own blue eyes. He had always been good at reading people, especially when they bear themselves to the world with their words. “No, not Teach— Byleth.” He tries out her name. He seems almost flustered to say it out loud, she notes.

“Claude…” She murmurs, smiling to herself. It was nice to know that he listened. Maybe he could help her with her insecurities. 

“Byleth… It’s so weird to say on my tongue, but I will.” He strongly states, before flushing again. “Of course, only when it’s us. I wouldn’t want any rumors to spread…” He laughs, scratching the back of his head.

“Claude,” She pauses, “Thank you.” She thanks him earnestly, and he looks at her gently. His soft gaze at her is complimented by a shy smile. 

“Anytime, Byleth.” He says, opening the door up. “I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?” His easy grin returns to his face as he looks at her.

“Yes! Goodnight, Claude.” She tells him goodbye, and he winks as he turns and walks into the darkness. As she closes the door, she lets her thoughts invade.

If our situation was different, switched around, would we still be friends?