The monastery was a place he didn’t like and had never liked. He also didn’t have the intention of ever liking the place, this much was obvious: it was cold, so cold, and it was a prison he had been confined to. Yeah, sure, as if that was going to motivate it to become some kind of king over a kingdom.
Being forced to remain in just one room of that monastery just made things worse.
It was all because of the weather that never knew what it wanted and the monastery’s absolutely garbage isolation. It was always cold, in that damn thing: stone didn’t protect them from the outside temperatures as much as these people thought it did. Spend more than a week in this place without falling sick, he dared the sky above: even a god couldn’t withstand the shifts in temperatures and the rain that kept pouring at the wrong moments.
Curse that thing, and curse having to live with an ailment of any kind. That wasn’t fun, that wasn’t the way he wanted to live his life! Being stuck in this place wasn’t enough, did they have to add on top of everything sicknesses?
Nobody had ever been served better than by themselves, so Claude did as he usually did: feign normalcy and continue on with his day as … “less worse” than possible. It shouldn’t have been this hard to ignore a lingering headache and slightly stiff limbs. After all, they were all warriors in the making, post-training hours always felt sore.
Classes sored them dry, at times, too, but he minded them less. Well, he still minded them enough to skip on some of them from time to time, but it was the lesser evil of the monastery’s lifestyle. Attribute that to the teacher: she was gorgeous, quirky and always there for them. If there was one other person he’d have trusted with his life, aside from his parents, it’d have been her; and he was grateful for her to be with the Golden Deers.
He may have also had the tiniest crush on her, but that was a mere detail.
The illness didn’t subdue, to his misfortune. As if the world was out to get him, the lingering feeling had turned into a full-blown headache and he could only describe himself as “intensely lethargic”, if the mess his mind was in had allowed for clear words. Instead, putting together a full sentence and not wanting to immediately sleep for three days was close to impossible, so skipping class it was: he’d just pretend he had been concocting poisons or something in the meantime.
He didn’t like skipping the opportunity to show off to his classmates, but what could he do about it? It wasn’t like he’d be able to pull out anything extraordinary with the pitiful condition he was in. A sneezing archer was ridiculous, he’d only get laughed at, or worried over, and he wanted neither of these options.
But the Professor had her eyes everywhere. She had hands and feet in every room of the monastery, even if she wasn’t conscious of it, and he felt disappointed in himself not to be relied on by her.
And there began a paradox. He missed her company, her eyes, her words, her scent; but he couldn’t let himself be seen by her. In a world where he could only really trust her, he didn’t want to her get concerned over him and call someone else because she was no doctor. He was much better off taking care of this on his own with what knowledge he had and compose with bits and pieces he could gather, and just showing up for her classes. Sitting on a chair and listening to someone couldn’t be a chore, right?
Wrong. As it turned out, he wasn’t made to be a cleric, and everything felt blurry around him. It was weird, fuzzy feeling: the faces of his comrades were unclear, their voices muffled and more and more distant, and his vision was severely hindered. Keeping up the façade and nosing around weren’t options anymore: he had to focus just to remain afloat, it was no time to be sneaking around trying to find new information he had never heard of before.
And he knew his façade had been shattered when the professor asked him to stay behind after a class he was regretting attending.
He was, either lucky or the polar opposite, to have seen the world spin around him in unimaginable speeds, spots invading his sight, passing out right before she could tell him anything.
Not that coming to hadn’t been a bad decision all in itself afterwards. He had managed to get himself landed in the very room he had been avoiding for an entire week: the infirmary. His head was still felt with lead, lolling on a pillow, as his eyes tried to focus on whatever the hell was around him. The summer sunlight passing through the window was doing no wonder to his shivering skin, but that discomfort had nothing on the humiliation that washed over him when he noticed Byleth was sitting next to the bed.
It couldn’t possibly get worse, and she looked pensive, almost lost in thoughts. If he didn’t know better, he’d have supposed she had fallen asleep sitting there all alone, perhaps speaking to a wall. He cleared his throat as to get back into the swift of things and still look cool (there was no way he was letting the situation slip away from him entirely).
“Didn’t see you there, Teach,” he greeted her with a hoarse voice that hurt to use and the least pitiful smile he could pull off. It helped that it was Byleth gracing his eyes and not anyone else, truth be told.
“Ah, you’re awake, Claude,” she broke out of her daydreaming, face obviously bothered by something, undoubtedly him. “How you’re feeling?”
“Take a guess,” he avoided the question with.
“I wouldn’t have used that word,” he replied as he learned his back against the wall behind it, “but not too far, I suppose.”
“That’s what I thought.”
Byleth closed the book she had held in her hands all along, before putting it aside and tensing suddenly. At least, it seemed sudden: truth be told, his swimming vision and sudden wave of dizziness didn’t help him decipher her body language more accurately than a soldier bleeding to death trying to guess where he was hitting with a desperate sword.
“You’re still burning,” she mumbled under her breath, sounding further than she should have.
“That’s just because I’m hot,” he tried boasting, without any success, and what he could see of her face only confirmed his wittiness wasn’t at its best today.
Sucked to be there, sucked even more to be stuck there.
Right as he tried to muster an argument to let him escape from the infirmary when he knew he was doomed to stay there, he got a glimpse of his mother’s concerned face, before the vision broke off and he was left with his teacher again, his heart having missed a beat and a tear wanting to take shape.
“Is there something wrong?” She asked.”
“No… Nothing, Teach.”
“It… better be that way.”
Her hands nervously grabbed the book back, fingers clutch around it. Typical Byleth, he thought as he felt a small smirk appear on his face, but he coughed before he could even try telling himself he felt better.
“You’re on bed rest for the days to come,” she told him without making eye contact. “Take that as an order from your teacher, please.”
“You’ve noticed?” Nobody would have cared before if he was sick or not.
“Of course I have. I may not be the best professor, but I’m trying. You’re the one who told me a teacher was supposed to be invested in their students, aren’t you?”
A butchered giggle got out of him as he remembered the conversation. “That’s… actually right.”
Byleth crossed her arms, finally facing him again. Her cheeks were a little red, the expression not letting go of its sternness by much.
“The class kind of freaked out when you fainted. I’d appreciate it if you never did that again.”
“Huh… Same,” it was his turn to look away. “That wasn’t an ideal experience.”
“I’d also like it if you took this more seriously… You don’t know how concerned I got for the past week.”
“I know, I know, not that glorious for a future leader, huh?” He coughed again, case on point. “I promise I’ll be a better student, or at least try. I don’t like to see you with such a long face, Teach.”
Almost as much as being confined to bed because of some silly cold.
“…how many days am I supposed to stay here, Teach?”
“I’m not sure, I’d say a couple days… Just the time to see how you’ll be holding up, I also guess.”
“You don’t have actual information?”
She gritted her teeth on the inside, her fingers clutching the book harder.
“I really don’t, Claude. I don’t decide how long people spend in an infirmary.”
She sighed back, as if to respond to his earlier one.
“Moreover, I don’t think we should have this conversation right now. You look exhausted, you should be sleeping. I promise nothing’s going to happen to you here.”
“Yeah, I’m sure of that…”
He felt faint.
“On second thought,” he picked himself back up, “I’m not entirely against this idea… Does it need to be here.”
“I’m afraid that yes.”
Resigned by the circumstances, he shrivelled back into the bed, trying to make the most of what was offered to him (at least, it could only be better than dying on a battlefield without having the occasion to see the end of his project coming to fruition, right?). There was a feeling that he couldn’t win that fight, at least not when he felt this weak (a disgusting thought), so he cancelled on his plans.
Not when he could see the face of his mother on that of his teacher’s just because she happened to glance at him when he was doing less than superb, not when he was aware of how sensitive he’d get at the first opportunity given. That was unsightly to say the least.
Yet, his entire character shifted when he saw Byleth get up. Before he knew it, before he could keep himself from doing such an embarrassing thing, his hand grabbed her wrist and he looked at her with all the intensity he could muster in his eyes. Must have been quite the sight…
“What’s wrong?” She asked in this shy, soft voice of hers that never failed to sooth him.
“Could you… stay?” It hurt to get out of his already sore throat. I think I need to… discuss some things with you…” Wow, even lying was failing on him now! What the hell was he doing!
“I suppose I can always grade papers in this room… It’ll be calmer than the library, in a way.”
The smile she gave him made it sound less like an excuse and more like her intentions.
“I simply would have never expected you to ask that from me, Claude.”
Now was a chance to redeem his credibility.
“I’m always unpredictable,” he proudly tried to state before coughing.
“I also believe you should be resting, instead of, huh… Talking to me.”
Still, she sat back down, and he had a feeling of safety that had been missing from the air around them until now.
“If it takes me being here for you not to pull this again, then I have no choice, don’t I?”
Everything turned to black again, and the voices Byleth told him at last didn’t make it to his ears, but they sounded nice nonetheless.
He was out like a candle blown by the wind.