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Long Time Coming

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Sounds stir Byleth from her slumber. Something knocking, she thinks. On wood— no, a door.

She opens her eyes.

Dimitri’s sleeping face greets her, inches from her own. His hair covers his bad eye, fluttering with every exhale.

The knocking comes again, this time followed by words.

“Your Highness? Your Highness, are you awake?”

Dedue, come to prepare Dimitri for the morning. Byleth starts to sit up, but the warm weight of Dimitri’s arm around her keeps her in place.

More knocking comes.

Byleth sighs and pushes at Dimitri’s arm, lifting it enough so that she can sit up against the headboard. Fog clings to her vision, and Byleth rubs at her eyes, trying to clear the remnants of sleep from them.

“Your Highness, I’m coming in now.”

The door opens. Dedue takes two steps into the room, then stops. His gaze goes from Byleth, to Dimitri’s sleeping form, then Byleth again, before he pointedly looks at the floor.

A faint blush colors his dark skin.

“My— My apologies, Professor. I— I will wait outside.”

He leaves.

Byleth stares at the closed door, confused.

Then she realizes. Neither she nor Dimitri had bothered to get dressed before falling asleep last night, and the blanket had slid to her waist when she’d sat up.

“Oh,” Byleth breaths, looking down at her bare chest. Heat rises in her cheeks. “Oh.

Better Dedue than Sylvain, she thinks, absurdly. But really, the thought of any of her former students seeing her half naked makes her want to slip back under the covers. Dimitri isn’t helping matters either. Even asleep, he clings to her, his arm curling around her waist. His palm settles on her hip, and Byleth remembers it resting there last night, when he’d—

Byleth moves Dimitri’s arm before the thought has a chance to fully form and slips out of bed. Dimitri immediately stretches into the empty space, grumbling something, but he doesn’t wake. Byleth smiles fondly at him, the urge to run her fingers through his mused hair rising within her. She tamps it down. Clothes. She needs to find clothes, and she needs to go talk to Dedue.

Her own clothes are nowhere in sight, but she finds Dimitri’s tunic and his mantle, and shrugs both on. As tall as Dimitri is, the tunic well passed her hips, enough that she won’t scandalize Dedue anymore than she already has.

By the time Byleth opens the door, Dedue’s blush has died down. He bows when he sees her.

“Forgive me, Professor. I did not realize you would be with His Highness.”

“You’ve nothing to apologize for. You had no way of knowing,” Byleth says. “Was there something you needed?”

“Ah yes. I came to fetch His Highness for the strategy meeting this morning.”

“Strategy meeting. . .” Byleth glances at the windows beyond Dedue. Light pours into the hallway. “Oh. We overslept, didn’t we?”

“It would seem so, yes.”

“I’ll wake Dimitri, then. Tell them we’ll be there soon.”

Dedue bows and walks away.

Byleth shuts the door behind her a bit louder than necessary, hoping the sound will stir Dimitri. No such luck. He doesn’t stir when she sits down on the bed next to him, either. He slumbers on, dead to the world, face peaceful in a way that Byleth hasn’t seen since their Academy days. No, wait, he was never at peace, even back then. He was just better at hiding it.

Now, though. . . Now, Byleth wishes she could let him sleep. But the war still rages around them, and they need to finalize the plans to take back Fhirdiad.

She sighs, resigned, and runs her fingers through Dimitri’s hair.

After. After all this is over, she will let him sleep.

“Dimitri? Dimitri, love, it’s time to wake up.”

*

The meeting room when Dedue arrives is much the same as when he left. The various members of His Highness’ inner circle lounge around the large table, half-finished breakfast plates in front of them. Excluding the professor and His Highness, Annette is the only one missing; she had gone to look for the professor a few minutes before Dedue left wake his charge.

“His Highness will be along shortly,” he says.

Dedue remembers all the gossip about His Highness’ feelings for the professor back when they were all at the Officers Academy, to say nothing of the renewed rumors after they all reunited. If the couple wants to tell the others of their relationship, then that is their prerogative. Dedue will say nothing.

“That just leaves the professor, then,” Ingrid says. “I wonder if Annette found her.”

As if summoned by the mention of her name, Annette runs into the room a second later.

“You guys, I can’t find Byleth anywhere!” she cries. “I checked her room and the garden and even the chapel. I don’t know where she is!”

“His Highness late and the professor missing. . .” Sylvain muses. He chuckles. “I wonder if they’re together.”

“Sylvain,” Ingrid groans.

“This is no laughing matter,” Seteth says from across the room. “Annette, are you sure you checked everywhere?”

“Well, everywhere I could think of. Then I thought maybe I just missed her, and she came back here, but. . .” She waves a hand around the room.

“If she’s truly missing, then we’ll have to go look for her,” Seteth says. “Gilbert, can you—”

Dedue clears his throat.

“There will be no need for that,” he says. “I spoke to Professor Byleth on my way to see His Highness. She will be along shortly as well.”

“Oh, well, that’s a relief,” Annette says. She takes a seat beside Mercedes.

“If you knew where she was, why didn’t you say something earlier?” Seteth asks.

Mercedes frowns. “But Dedue, I thought you went straight to Dimitri’s room,” she says slowly. “If you found Byleth, then wouldn’t that mean. . .”

“Holy shit,” Sylvain says. “Dedue, you know something, don’t you? You gotta tell us.”

“Did you see then together?” Ashe asks.

They all stare at him. Dedue meets their gazes unflinchingly. He will not betray the professor’s or His Highness’ trust in such a manner.

“Come on, Dedue, please—” Sylvain starts, but any further questions are halted by the sound of approaching footsteps. His Highness’, rushed, and behind them, the gentle clack of the professor’s heels.

“Apologies for our lateness,” His Highness starts. “It appears we both overslept, and. . .”

He trails off when he realizes that all those in the room are staring at him and the professor, differing levels of shock on all their faces. Dedue can see why. Both His Highness and the professor are dressed (thank the gods), the professor in yesterday’s rumbled clothes, and His Highness in a simple shirt and pants. The last two buttons on His Highness’ collar are undone, revealing a suspiciously shaped bruise on his neck.

Silence reigns in the room. And then. . .

“Finally!” Sylvain cheers, jumping from his seat.

“Sylvain,” Ingrid says, though the reproach is halfhearted at best.

“No. How long have we been waiting for something like this to happen? Five, six years?” Sylvain throws his hands out to gesture wildly at the two. “Finally!”

His Highness blinks. “Now, what are you. . .”

“It has been a long time coming,” Ashe says sheepishly.

Mercedes smiles. “I’m so happy for you two!”

“Professor, is it true?” Annette asks.

All attention turns to the professor. She smiles and looks up at His Highness, a faint blush on her cheeks.

She takes his hand.

The room erupts into cheers.

“Oh,” His Highness says, now blushing as well. “Oh, that’s what you all—” He cuts off and coughs into his free hand.

“Yes, well. Profe—Byleth and I are. . . in a relationship now, if that’s what you all are referring to.”

“Hah! Pay up Felix!” Sylvain crows.

The man in question slams a hand down on the table. “Damn boar. You couldn’t have waited until after this war was over?”

“Felix! You two had a bet over—”

“Come on Ingrid! How’s this any different than the bet we all had going during our Academy days?”

“You had a bet going on back then? About the two of us?!” His Highness says, indignation rising in his voice. And then, “I knew those doors didn’t locked on their own!”

“Eh-hem,” Gilbert’s voice cuts through the chatter with all the authority of a seasoned knight. “This is all well and good, but if we could get to the matter at hand? We are here for a strategy meeting, after all.”

The mood sobers immediately. Despite the levity, none have forgotten the war. Sylvain takes his seat once more, while the others sit up at attention.

The professor and His Highness share a quick look before untangling their hands. She moves to her customary seat at the head of the table, His Highness half a step behind her.

Both of them smile at Dedue as they pass.