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As crown prince, no one seems to have considered teaching Dimitri how to cook. Yes, of course, they had servants to do the work, but well. It's getting increasingly uncomfortable to see his people insist he do nothing. What was the point of being their liege if he cannot do simple chores? He's supposed to lessen their burden.

 

It is in this conflicted state Dedue finds Dimitri in, fretting outside the academy's kitchen windows. Dedue can see the new professor stirring up a storm with the Riegan heir, with the occasional food item or two flying through the air. He frowns deeply. Food is not meant to be played with, but the two of them are clearly having fun. The normally stoic teacher almost looks strange with a wide smile across his face. 

 

"Your Highness," he begins. Dimitri seems to launch himself several feet into the air. Ah, so he was not noticed.

 

"D-Dedue!" he stammers, brushing down his cape and coughs. He clears his throat. "I was thinking of a way to ask the professor to teach me how to cook."

 

Dimitri confesses his weakness easily to Dedue, in hopes his friend would open more readily to him. Unfortunately, he's too stuck in strict ways of conduct, so he'll take what he can get.

 

Dedue frowns once more. Dimitri can sense he wants to offer his assistance, but thinks it might be too informal. He has never seen anyone more rigid in the Kingdom, Seiros help him. "I would gladly take your guidance, Dedue. Even simple meals would be excellent to start with. Think of it as training," he says, quickly, before the man changes his mind.

 

"As you wish," he acquices.

 

"Whatcha guys doing out there?"

 

Dedue can tell Dimitri is clearly taken aback, but the Blue Lions head very quickly smooths his expression over. "Claude, it's rude to listen in to people's private conversations."

 

"'s not that private," he points out, a grin forming on his face. "Wanna try what Teach and I made? We boiled out all the poisons-"

 

He gets interrupted by Byleth tugging his collar. "You say one more word and you're coming for remedial classes."

 

"Hey, more one on one time with my favourite Teach, right?" he winks exaggeratedly.

 

Byleth flushes red. "That makes it a failing grade," his tone is clipped, the joviality from earlier wiped from his face. He turns on his heel and leaves, followed by Claude's protests.

 

Dimitri blinks. "That happened."

 

"The kitchen is free," Dedue points out, somewhat redundantly.

 

"Yes, of course."

 

Dedue himself doesn’t wear gloves, but his liege seems somewhat pained to remove his gauntlets. He sighs and wraps them carefully in the House cape, setting it aside. The prince looks somewhat more approachable without the finery, if Dedue can afford himself a thought out of line. Had he not known him as his future king first, perhaps, this lone Duscur man could have allowed himself to stand much closer to Dimitri. Dedue puts away this feeling far into his heart, as he retempers his fealty towards the man before him.

 

“Where do we begin?” Dimitri tries to tuck his blond bangs away, but they’re too short to properly hang behind his ear, yet also clearly bothering him. Having pins on his person is unfortunately not a contingency Dedue has prepared for. He makes a note of it for next time.

 

“Do you have a meal you would like to prepare?”

 

Byleth had suggested Dimitri had no particular preference for food, and thus no favourite dish. It was a reasonable response, but Dedue can’t help but feel like he failed in that respect.

 

“How about something you like to eat?” 

 

Meat and cheese sandwiches should be easy enough for him to learn. Unfortunately for the duo, they had grossly underestimated Dimitri’s lack of awareness of his strength, as they quietly observe a sliced chopping board and bent knife.

 

“I… I thought I had it fine with Mercedes. I stopped bending needles,” he whispers, somewhat horrified. 

 

A smile threatens to tug on Dedue’s lips. Dimitri’s heart feels warm, even as he embarrasses himself. Belying his large frame, Dedue is always so gentle, so careful. Please , Dimitri wishes to himself, please do see us as equals some day

 

Dedue ends up doing everything else, much to Dimitri’s chagrin. This time of calm would be a far off cherished memory, as they hurtle towards fates unknown.

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Dedue always wakes first. He makes sure Dimitri is asleep, carefully sweeping strands of blond off his face. The scar on his right eye never fails to make his heart jump, as he remembers those days, where Dimitri was simply a beast possessed by revenge. He sends a quiet thanks to Byleth as always. He realizes, now, that following blindly had failed them both, but he has no regrets. Should his liege charge on a whim once more, he too, would do it all over again.

It is simply because that the war is over he has the ability to express his gratitude.

Byleth hasn’t remained in Fodlan, preferring to be in Almyra with its new monarch. It’s quite helpful in regards to diplomacy, all things considered. The same courtesy was unfortunately unable to be extended to Edelgard, the price of the war they paid. Dedue understood that pride of hers too well. Till death did their convictions part.

As he gently strokes Dimitri’s head, the man himself wakes up. His face is slightly worn, but the dark clouds have long departed. Dedue smiles slightly, continuing his motions. Dimitri huffs, as though in protest, but he doesn’t get up.

Their marriage was a quiet affair. The survivors assembled for a small ceremony at the monastery. Both Dimitri and Dedue are by habit, men of few words. A chaste kiss and Claude contributing a few sentences - his insistence when they refused to hold a feast and they vetoed various other bombastic suggestions - and it was done.

They themselves would need to attend Claude’s and Byleth’s own wedding in the months to come, when they’re ready for the extravagant celebration they were promised.

Dimitri reaches out and lazily traces the various scars that mark Dedue’s skin. Every line, every gash, was all in service for his king. Dedue had escaped certain death thanks to his Duscur brethren, and the recovery period almost drove the man mad. Even if he would cast aside his life for Dimitri, he was still aware enough to be patient. The darkness settled in Dedue’s heart just like it had for Dimitri, and he wishes it was he who could have pulled his liege out of the depths.

They were much too alike, however, Dedue and Dimitri. They both needed the outside influence.

Dimitri sits up, runs his fingers through Dedue’s short ashen hair. Dimitri kisses several of the scars upon Dedue’s face. This is a habit both of them would love to keep, stealing their few quiet moments in the day, before tending to their duties.

It makes the price they had to pay just a little more worth it.

Chapter Text

Dimitri’s hand trembles as he takes the cup from the barista. You could have assumed it was the barista’s stoic stare to be the source of the blond man’s nervousness, but no. See, if you had stopped by just yesterday at the Mittlefrank Seasons Cafe, this man named Dimitri had spectacularly squeezed the plastic and sprayed java all over the counter. It was a normal order of iced coffee that made Claude’s life infinitely more exciting. The offer of “hey why not stop by for free coffee day” had never been more mortifying to Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd. 

 

Dedue Molinaro nods, maybe reassuringly, that no, this cup is not going to promptly explode. His co-worker, the aforementioned Claude, isn’t present today. Dimitri is suspicious that the cup yesterday may have been sabotaged, but the guy usually doesn’t do that in more public spaces. He’s unexpectedly shrewd and considerate, reputation of being sneaky notwithstanding.

 

He’d definitely be trusting Dedue with his order if he can, regardless.

 

Getting coffee isn’t something he normally thinks of doing, mostly only strung along by his friends or coursemates. Today’s coffee is an apology for the mess yesterday, and he’d gotten toast to go with. The cheese toast is unexpectedly wonderful for such a simple thing. If he’d been told about the snacks, Dimitri would’ve been more inclined to come. Maybe work part time to learn how to make his own too. He’s almost 20 and not knowing how to cook is something he should promptly rectify. He’s still green to the whole dorm situation and has been expressly threatened not to enter the kitchen by his childhood friend and roommate, Felix. 

 

“Dedue, does this cafe need workers?” 

 

The man frowns. “I believe so.”

 

Dedue disappears into the back briefly. When he returns, he’s joined by the proprietress’ head peeking out from the kitchen door. “This is Manuela, our manager,” Dedue says, completely deadpan. “She went out drinking late again.”

 

From what he can see of her hair and somewhat haggard face, Dimitri is suddenly extremely concerned about the state of affairs of the cafe. She merely gives him a look, raises a weak thumbs-up, and retreats back into wherever she came from.

 

“You’re hired.”

 

Dimitri spends the next week learning the ropes. He assigns himself Dedue as his mentor. Dorothea and Claude seem to often conspire with each other, and he’d quite like someone steady before he gets used to the shenanigans. He learns that Dedue grows the flowers set at the cafe tables, and is an excellent cook. The large man - larger than himself, even - mentions these things off-handedly, and Dimitri is honestly interested to know more about him. He somewhat surprises himself by how curious he is, which he chalks down to Dedue being a comforting presence in the chaos the cafe can get into. 

 

He learns Dedue studies part-time, working at the cafe full time for some job experience before getting a degree. It’s easy for Dimitri to get shifts with him, and each time, they offer a little bit more information about themselves. They’re both the same age, but differing degrees (Dedue’s doing biology, Dimitri’s studying law). Between them they quite enjoy the comfortable silence, realizing they don’t have to keep the conversation going. Dimitri successfully makes cheese toast without bending or otherwise breaking anything and the fond smile on Dedue’s normally taciturn face makes his heart flutter.

 

Manuela accosts him one day after his shift is done. “Boy, ask Dedue on a date,” she states, tapping his chest with a manicured finger.

 

He stares at her blankly. “Excuse me?”

 

She cuts an imposing figure, even if sometimes she looked like she dragged herself back from hell. “You two clearly adore each other to some degree, and I cannot sit idly by,” she sniffs. “Young people are so lucky, so on top of their work life balance.”

 

He hands her a tissue, which she blows inelegantly into. “Anyway, do think about it,” she says, somewhat threateningly, and disappearing into her office (?) once more. What is that anyway? He is afraid to know. 

 

 Her words must have bothered him more than expected when he accidentally snaps quite a few of the plastic stirrers. Chastened, he takes a break, feeling guilty he’s leaving Dedue, and Sylvain - the man had swung by and charmed Manuela into giving him a job - on their own. He’s done his coursework and his distraction is driving him up the wall. 

 

“Hey, Dimitri, Dedue, can we talk for a bit?” The customers served, Sylvain gestures to the kitchen.

 

The moment the door is closed, Sylvain, clasps his hands, takes a deep breath, and goes, “Look, everyone here is fond of you guys so just go and try a date. Here, tickets to the butterfly park, there’s gonna be nice plants to admire, just go.”

 

They are unceremoniously shoved out of the back door when a couple of other staff - Dimitri hadn’t noticed he spent so many of his shifts with Dedue he realizes he’s not sure who they are - join in to move two men over twice their size. 

 

There is momentary silence, as the tickets are clutched in hand. 

 

“... shall we?” Dedue asks, hesitantly.

 

“... yeah,” he bashfully holds out his hand, and the other man takes it without fuss. Like it was meant to be.

 

Where this will go, they don’t know yet, but hey. It’ll be alright.

Chapter Text

Some raw feeling narrowly leapt out from the depths of Dimitri’s soul when he saw Dedue. The wails of the dead were, for a brief, blissful moment, silenced. Somewhere within him, he didn’t want to believe Dedue was dead. He refused to listen out for his familiar low tone. He understood, in some way, he didn’t want the whisperings of souls long gone to drown those of the living. He had begrudgingly accepted Byleth as a living specter. That accursed man without a heartbeat.

 

But.

 

But, for Dedue, he wanted so, so desperately to forget the feeling of the warmth dripping between his fingers. Dedue, larger than even he himself, could not possibly be

 

“YOUR HIGHNESS!”

 

His voice bellowed, carrying itself across the Mryddin Bridge. 

 

He could feel the fog lift from his eyes ever so slightly. Ah, what was this feeling? He had forgotten a beast could once be human. 

 

The battle was not yet won, but they were now here. Together, once more. He raises his sword again, and unleashed an unearthly howl. The boar king was matched by Dedue’s own battle cry, and the formidable duo descended on the hapless Imperial soldiers with reckless abandon, as one.

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Why aren't you dead?

 

A voice whispers into Dimitri's ear, as he pierces yet another faceless soldier to death on the battlefield. He's not sure which voice that is. They kind of blend together at a point. He sees them clearer when he closes his eyes.

 

He does wonder why he isn't dead already. You'd think his rampage few months prior would've seen him skewered ten times over for all the lives he had taken. Many of them believed in King and Country, many were "just doing what they thought was right". What right does he have to play reaper?

 

All in the name of stopping El, once and for all. She would take his hand, but it wouldn't erase the blood already spilled.

 

Why aren't you dead?

 

Byleth is called away to aid the Leicester Alliance. Their forces bolstered, those of the Kingdom are afforded rest in the form of smaller skirmishes. That's a lie of course. They're moving to recapture Arianhod with a smaller strike team. While Byleth, as the face of the rebellion, diverts attention to Merceus, to Enbarr, they can reclaim more of Faerghus.

 

It's a gamble, because they're pretty sure El and Hubert will realize. Whatever it is, they'll keep cutting swathes through flesh and bone, to bring the stalemate to a checkmate.

 

Before the voice repeats its question, a hand rests firmly on Dimitri's shoulder. He doesn't need to turn to know its Dedue, the singular presence who could truly silence the din of the departed. 

 

There’s still some part of him who thinks his professor a mirage, unassailable and unreal. That man only feels mortal when with someone else. It’s a strange, detached feeling, when comparing to Dedue.

 

Somehow, Dedue has always seemed larger than life, than Dimitri himself; an anchor to, once and for all, keep Dimitri living, a reason for him to stay alive. Someone he could wholeheartedly dedicate his entire being to, and to fall together with.

 

“We should make camp,” is all he says, taking his place silently beside his liege.

 

The sky is dyed orange, and soon it’ll turn a red hue, and finally black, like the life draining out of the bodies left to rot on the ground. Some have had at least some sense of preservation to surrender, and they’ll be provided for, for now. He’ll expect to stick a blade in their backs anytime, quite the far cry from his teen self who was willing to trust.

 

A long time ago, El had challenged his view of her during that battle oh so long ago. With a clearer sense of self, Dimitri still thinks it to be true. Families have all been torn apart, and he would like to extend his hand to her. It was the least he could do; a poor mimicry of Byleth no doubt, but one he wants to try. 

 

He leans into Dedue. There must be so much to say between them, with hardly a ‘right’ occasion to voice them out. Dedue in turn rests his head on Dimitri’s. This is the weight of the living, the understanding that the battle will continue on so long as they are alive. 

 

On this land, they will think of those lost, and they’ll do it all over again, until the war ends.

Chapter Text

The nightmares leave him breathless, as he awakes on the cold stone floor, gasping. Dimitri has accidentally broken bedframes in his fits, and picking out the splinters have been excruciating. The bundles of warm cloth have all been strewn across the room, so he gets to work to collecting them. It would be a small wish to ask these throes would stop after the war, but he's not holding out for it.

 

It wouldn't likely end so soon. The raw pain from Rodrigue's death would not be passing that quickly. Yet another name crossing to the other side, one more to add to his list of sins. He would likely not sleep anymore tonight.

 

He leaves the room, his room from 5 years ago. He wanders into the others where the doors have been left open. He absently trails a finger on the dusty counters, grimly acknowledging some of these people would never be coming back. In a way, perhaps, they had all died before the war began proper.

 

He leaves the dorms. He doesn’t want to hear the echoes of the past again, not tonight. He makes his way to the Goddess Tower, it being the one place he knows no one would hear him. He unleashes a feral scream, all the pent up feelings and regrets in one shot. Rodrigue didn’t have to die if he had broken out of despair earlier. He didn’t have to hurt anyone else while he wallowed. Everyone else was going through the same pain too. Everyone was just trying to survive the best they could. Felix must absolutely loathe him right now, and he can only take that hate head on. No more hiding, no more excuses.

 

Dimitri pants, not fully recovered from the nightmare. He almost sinks to his knees, but someone holds him up. He’d once heard some people scathingly call Dedue his shadow, but he’d rather see that in a positive light. Without his shadow, Dimitri as himself did not exist, simply some beast with overwhelming darkness. A shadow meant some light could actually grace Dimitri.

 

“How did you know I was here?” he asks.

 

“It is my duty,” is Dedue’s non-answer. Dimitri is too tired to pry more out of him. 

 

"Should I yell, too?" Dedue asks softly, Dimitri's eye snapping open at his voice. 

 

"Perhaps," Dimitri replies, trying to read the other man's expression. 

 

He cracks a tiny smile. Dedue whistles instead, a tune Dimitri doesn't recognise. It feels heavy with mourning, a Duscur eulogy perhaps. 

 

"Please sleep, Your Highness. We will all be there for you tomorrow." 

 

"... yes, you will." 

 

Dimitri relents, and soon he sinks once more into unconsciousness. Tomorrow would be another day, another chance, and he cannot let it go this time. 

Chapter Text

Dedue does not ask about Dimitri's fingers. They look almost mummified with how they're bound, individually wrapped by Ashe, no doubt. Dedue knows there is something Dimitri is hiding, able to read the minute, slightly guilty looks his husband gives him trying to explain his injuries. Dedue assures him it is fine, as he settles down to take his share of work. They are both aware of the upcoming occasion, and thus there really is no need for secrecy. Regardless, it is a charade they keep up. Dedue has to hide smiles during meetings when the thought of Dimitri enters his mind, doing whatever he's trying to do and hiding it terribly.

 

On the day of the event, Dedue finds himself alone in bed. He sits up for a bit, patting the space where his husband would normally be. They typically wake together, except on occasions like these. He leisurely goes through the motions of refreshing and dressing himself. Their retainers know the rituals by now, and will be fielding everything today.

 

Still he takes his time, stopping at every individual cluster of flowers growing on the trellis leading to his destination. The shades of blue sometimes bloom a shock of white, breaking up the pattern. He'd grown almost all of these, and these specifically were strictly under his sole care.

 

After so many years, he's finally used to the lightness of his clothes, able to let go of the security of armour for just three days of the year. They both can.

 

Finally, he can see the gazebo, an almost identical replica of the one back at the monastery. The engravings and patterns are those of flowers, with the centerpiece being two sleeping lions, hidden among the unmoving petals.

 

He steps up to the table and seats himself. He merely gazes into the eye of the person before him, blond hair beginning to turn white to match Dedue's own. A pot of tea and a high tray of terribly misshapen biscuits are laid out on the table. Dedue sighs, the sound closer to a chuckle to his companion's ears.

 

"Happy birthday, Dedue." 

 

"Thank you," Dedue says, simply. The wrinkles in the corner of his eyes become more pronounced.

 

That really is all that has to be.