Ashe certainly didn’t want to be spending the night in Felix’s room, but he was, and it was all thanks to Sylvain. He had helped Sylvain out a few times when he asked for safety from whatever poor girl he had offended, and eventually those girls had caught on that Ashe’s room was the secondary location for Sylvain to be hiding in, and now his room was too much of a hot zone to stay in safely, let alone sleep. Just last night a girl had been banging on his door, demanding to see Sylvain, while the guilty party had already been in town, likely with an entirely different girl.
So the girl they were fleeing from now, who was different from that last one, had been pretty threatening to Sylvain, and Ashe got caught up in it when he offered his room as a bit of a safe haven, which prompted Sylvain to call on Felix for some help, who only begrudgingly agreed because he owed Sylvain for some secret that Ashe wasn’t allowed to hear about and well--
It was a mess and a headache and Ashe just really wanted to sleep.
“You’re lucky I don’t leave you right outside the front door,” Felix said as he gathered extra pillows and blankets from his closet for Ashe and Sylvain to sleep on. He turned his glare on Ashe. “And you. Learn to tell him off once in a while.”
Sylvain put his hand on Ashe’s shoulder. “It’s a mutual exchange! I help Ashe with something, he helps me, no backing out for either of us!”
Felix rolled his eyes and shove the blankets at them. “Idiots, the both of you.”
“Sorry,” Ashe said, feeling genuinely guilty as he and Sylvain set up their sleeping arrangements on the floor.
“Man, I hate sleeping on the floor,” Sylvain said as Felix settled down into his bed. “I bet if you moved over we could both fit--”
“Shut up,” Felix said. “It’s your fault you’re in here.”
Ashe had slept on enough floors and in enough uncomfortable places to be less perturbed by the situation, but he had gotten rather used to the plush monastery beds.
“It was worth it,” Sylvain said, smiling.
“I’m not sure it was,” Ashe said as he propped his pillow up a bit.
“You two just don’t appreciate the thrill of it all.”
“I don’t see what’s so thrilling about it,” Ashe admitted in a haze of sleepiness.
“Come on, you gotta know what it’s like, just a little. You know, to see someone and be like ‘wow, I just have to tell them, regardless of consequences’ and all that stuff.”
Felix snorted, staring up at his ceiling. “Like it’s that deep.”
“No, I’ve never really felt like that,” Ashe admitted.
“Too shy for that?” Sylvain said.
“I’m not shy.”
“Well then, there’s gotta be someone you like here at the monastery. Is it Annette? She’s a cutie.”
Ashe could feel himself start to blush. “N-no, I don’t have a crush on Annette.”
“You sure?” Sylvain said with a mischievous glint in his eyes. “You’re getting all red~”
“I did not let the both of you in here to keep yapping away,” Felix groaned.
“But this is like, super important,” Sylvain said. “Maybe you like Petra? I saw you two talking at the market the other day.”
“I was just helping her out with some pricing issues,” Ashe said. “We’re just friends.”
“Just friends,” Sylvain mocked. “It always starts like that. Fine, fine, not Petra. Maybe you like a girl with a bit more grit. Oooh, Edelgard!”
“No!” Ashe quickly protested. There was a list of reasons why he wouldn’t have a crush on Edelgard, the top two being that she was intimidating and /royalty/.
“Okay, okay. No grit. You probably couldn’t handle her anyway,” he said dismissively.
Felix sat up and glared at the two of them. “Shut. Up.”
“Sorry,” Ashe said.
Sylvain at this point was either ignoring Felix because he liked the sound of his own voice or because he intentionally wanted to bother his childhood friend. Probably both. “Maybe someone like Linhardt is more your pace,” he mused.
If it was even possible, Ashe’s blush darkened. He didn’t know how such a thought came to Sylvain’s mind, but it left him grasping for words to say, and he really wished Felix would chime in right about now or something.
“Did I nail it?” Sylvain asked smugly.
“N-not at all! I barely talk to Linhardt,” Ashe finally managed.
Somehow, he felt like those were the wrong words, because Sylvain looked like he had heard the right answer. “So you just barely talk to him, huh?”
He shrugged, feeling awkward. “It’s not like we have the same interests.”
“Oh no, I get it. I didn’t really think you were into him anyway.”
“Then why did you ask?”
“Sylvain,” Felix said, his level of annoyance reaching its threshold. “I swear to the goddess if I step a foot off this bed I am ending you. Right here, right now.”
And then Felix was off his bed and suddenly there was a whole lot more movement and shouting than before and Ashe was still trying to process their conversation because why ask about /Linhardt/ of all people, only to be interrupted by a knock on the door. Sylvain and Felix paused in their scuffle so Felix could answer it.
“Oh, joy,” he said dryly. “It’s you.”
Dimitri was standing at the door, looking between Ashe on the floor with the blankets and pillows and Sylvain back in a corner with the collar of his shirt loosened and ruffled.
“I, um, came to see what all the noise was about,” Dimitri said.
Ashe immediately shot to his feet, feeling it improper that he would lying about on the ground in front of the prince. He always felt flustered under Dimitri’s pale eyes, something he chalked up to their different social statuses, and now especially so. Well, at least he didn’t look too mad.
“Nothing I can’t handle,” Felix said.
Dimitri blinked at him. “May I ask what’s happening?”
“We’re sharing dirty secrets,” Sylvain said. “Wanna join?”
Dimitri’s face reddened slightly. It was subtle and somehow hard to look away from. “I’m afraid I’ll have to pass.”
“What’s this about dirty secrets?” came Claude’s voice as he joined Dimitri in the doorway, hair messed up from a clearly interrupted night of sleeping. He rested his arm on Dimitri’s shoulder casually. “Is that what all the noise is about?”
“Mostly,” Sylvain said.
“Well, all that sharing can wait until the morning, can’t it?”
“Claude’s right,” Dimitri said. “We have a full day of classes tomorrow.”
“We already know that,” Felix growled.
“We’ll keep it down,” Sylvain promised.
Ashe felt bad for waking the both of them up, but at least Sylvain seemed resigned to silence and finally letting them fall asleep. It took Ashe longer than usual to fall asleep, but he chalked that up to Sylvain snoring next to him and Felix constantly tossing and turning in his bed like he was fighting off bad dreams. It definitely had nothing to do with the conversation about crushes. Not at all.
When he woke up Felix was long gone and Sylvain had stolen all the blankets from him to become a monstrous cocoon of warmth, leaving him cold and feeling a little ill. Well, the ill part probably wasn’t Sylvain’s fault. But it made the trip to breakfast a little worse and staying awake through classes a real struggle.
He had stable duty too, and Ingrid had opted out because of some previous commitment, so Professor Byleth had asked Dimitri fill in for her. That would all be fine and well if Ashe wasn’t still hung up on Sylvain’s words.
“You seem a little distracted,” Dimitri said as they brushed the long fur of the horse between them. “Is it because of last night? Do you mind me asking what that was all about?”
Ashe didn’t like to concern Dimitri with his problems, but it did involve Sylvain, so it was probably safe to tell him. “Sylvain got into a bit of trouble, and I got dragged into it, so Felix was helping us out for a bit. It’s not anything dangerous, though.”
Dimitri frowned. “The sort of trouble Sylvain gets up to… I can’t possibly see how you might be dragged into it, if I’m being honest.”
“Oh, no, I wasn’t like, trying to, um, join him or anything like that.”
“Well, if he keeps causing problems for you, you can just come to me and I’ll sort him out.”
His smile was so genuine and playful that for a moment Ashe felt frozen to the spot. Was it weird to want to stare at someone’s smile for hours? It was probably weird.
“Is there something wrong?” Dimitri asked when the silence hung on for too long.
“Sorry, no! Just tired is all.”
“You can leave early if you want,” he said. “I can take care of the rest.”
Ashe shook his head. “I can’t leave this all to you, Your Highness!” He was mortified by the thought of someone as important as a prince taking over his simple school duties. What would Lonato think?
“Come now, it’s not your fault that you had a rocky rest.” He walked over to Ashe and gently took the brush out of his hands. Ashe was startled by how cold Dimitri’s hands were, and that the hands of a prince could be so rough and callous. From a distance they always looked so delicate and warm. Great, now he was thinking about hands too much. Definitely weird for him.
Dimitri was also standing very /close/ to him and he was afraid his mind would start wandering a little too much. Luckily, Byleth was walking by to take both of their attention. She had been looking frazzled all day.
“Hello Professor,” Dimitri said, keeping the brush he took from Ashe out of his reach.
“Ashe,” she said, cutting right to whatever she wanted to talk about.
“Y-yes?” Had he done something wrong?
“Please, do something about the people who keep banging on your door all day.” He had completely forgotten that there was only one room between his and the professor’s. “And Dimitri, tell Sylvain to keep whatever he’s doing quiet.” Right, and her room was right below Sylvain’s.
“I’m sorry,” Ashe said.
“I’ll talk to him,” Dimitri promised.
At least the tension of the moment was gone now, and when she left Ashe quickly made a move to steal the brush back from Dimitri while he was distracted.
Or at least, he thought he was distracted, but all it took was a firm hand on his shoulder for Dimitri to hold him back. His strength took him by surprise.
“Really Ashe,” Dimitri said. “I can handle this. You’re starting to look a little flush, too, and I don’t want you straining yourself if you don’t have to.”
“It’d be wrong to leave all this work to you, Your Highness!” he protested.
“I promise I can handle one day of stable duty by myself. If you insist on staying any longer, I’ll be forced to carry you back to your room.”
Now /that/ was a truly terrifying thought. Him, some commoner, being carried by the crown prince of Faerghus all the way across the monastery. He would never show his face again! Dimitri’s lax smile made it impossible to tell if he was teasing or not, and he didn’t want to wait around to find out.
“I-I’ll go,” Ashe finally conceded. “But if you need any help, please come get me.”
Dimitri nodded, satisfied that he had won the argument. The prince really was too kind for his own good. It was something Ashe really admired about him, like the way knights were kind to the people they protected, but he wished he understood a little more why Ashe tried to treat him with more formality than the rest. He deserved the utmost respect for the burdens he carried and Ashe wanted nothing more than to show him the appreciation he deserved.
The Dimitri he knew from their school days was very, very unlike the one he met during the war.
Maybe Ashe should have given Felix’s comments more credit. He could see Dimitri standing far in the cathedral by the rubble from where he was at the entrance, his shoulders hunched and back turned to the world. He had only remembered him fondly, as someone he looked up to and respected, and now he could only see a shell of what had been. Back then, he didn’t want to consider what Felix had been saying about Dimitri. Was it willful ignorance? Was he okay to now be a tool for the prince, whose heart was set on Enbarr instead of Fhirdiad? Was the old Dimitri really gone?
His heart ached, but he fought on. Byleth would lead them to victory, and hopefully peace so that they could begin the grueling process of healing Faerghus. The smell of blood and the cries of fallen soldiers sickened him and followed into his dreams; he was exhausted. He wanted it to end already.
It was pretty impossible to be anywhere near Dimitri on the battlefield. He always rushed ahead, and Ashe was primarily an archer, he didn’t need to be up there in the vanguard. Typically, Mercedes or Annette had his back at any given moment since they too hung in the back, but he had lost sight of them among the battle. The thick treeline was making it impossible to see who was moving about, and the rapid beat of his own heart seemed to drown out any footsteps.
Something rustled behind him and he turned too late, too slow, and the enemy’s sword impaled itself sharply into his side before his arrow could be knocked. He had felt the sting of steel before, but it never got any easier to bear and he cried out both in shock and pain. If he could just pull out his own close ranged weapon he might be able to get away from the skirmish in one piece.
Neither he nor his enemy had a chance to react before Areadbhar came flying through the air at full force and impale the man. Ashe fell back onto the ground in surprise, the sword sickeningly being drawn from his body as the man fell dead to the ground. He looked up to see Dimitri’s imposing form, a wild look in his eye and his pale skin marred with blood. He drew Areadbhar from the man’s body as if it were a knife from butter before looking to Ashe, who was starting to feel dizzy and lightheaded.
He hadn’t expected the prince to save him. What was he even doing here? He also expected to immediately dash off to the next fight, not stare down at him and wait for some sort of confirmation that he was okay.
Ashe drew his hand to his bleeding wound, knowing he wouldn’t be able to get up easily with it. “I-I’m fine,” he assured, lied.
“Get up,” Dimitri said, looking impatient.
He tried, but the pain was immense. He didn’t know he could lose so much blood. “Byleth needs you on the front lines, doesn’t she? I’ll be okay, just go.”
He winced when Dimitri got closer and kneeled in front of him. With a single arm he hoisted Ashe up and over his shoulder like a bag of flour. His strength was both startling and flustering, and unfair memories of having stable duty together flooded his weakened mind.
“Where is Mercedes?” Dimitri asked with little patience in his voice.
“Not sure…” Ashe admitted.
“Don’t close your eyes,” Dimitri said as he searched for their healer.
Was this a dream? Had Ashe already bled out and died on the forest floor? Or was he really being carried through the forest over the shoulder of a prince like some poor winded maiden? His sight was mostly blocked by the fluff of Dimitri’s cape, so he couldn’t see where they were walking or what was happening, but he found himself suddenly concerned with bleeding all over the prince’s cape.
The Dimitri he knew five years ago wouldn’t hesitate to save him, and the Dimitri now hadn’t either. Deep down, he was still the same person, wasn’t he? He stomach coiled with guilt. Or maybe that was the slow feeling of death creeping on him. He wanted to heed Dimitri’s words and not close his eyes, but he was so tired and still didn’t know when they were going to find Mercedes.
That was the last thing he remembered, because when he woke up it was at the safety of the monastery in infirmary with Mercedes tending over him.
Her smile was a welcome comfort. “I thought you’d be awake soon,” she said.
He felt the dull ache of his injury as he sat up. “His Highness…”
“He’s okay,” she said. “Everyone made it out okay.”
He noticed Sylvain standing nearby. “You really took a blow,” he said.
“I wasn’t as aware as I could have been,” Ashe admitted. “Thank the goddess that his Highness was there.”
“Indeed,” said Mercedes. “When I saw him running at me with you draped over his shoulder unresponsive… I feared the worse.”
Ashe looked down at his hands curled in his lap. “I didn’t mean to inconvenience you all like that.”
“It’s no big deal,” Sylvain said with a shrug.
“I should thank His Highness then.”
“Be careful,” Mercedes said as he got out of the bed. Everything felt awful and sore. “You really should rest longer.”
“I’ll be okay. Where is he?”
“Where he always is,” Sylvain supplied. Of course. The cathedral.
Ashe found him in the same spot he always took these past few months. His footsteps felt monstrously loud as they echoed off the damaged walls and Dimitri did not turn around to greet him.
“Um,” he said, hoping to grab his attention. Dimitri turned ever so slightly to side eye him, his arms crossed in that usual, cold gesture. “I wanted to thank you. For saving me.”
He didn’t know what to make of the expression on Dimitri’s face. “I need everyone if we’re to march on Enbarr,” he said, his voice deep and gravelly. Ah, right. Of course. That was it. Ashe made sure to not let his hurt show because he still appreciated being saved at all, for whatever reason it was.
“Thank you all the same. I’m glad to continue as an ally by your side.” And he meant it. For all Dimitri had changed, he still held onto the elation of learning the prince was alive. He didn’t know what the prince thought of his words, but he felt satisfied by the interaction and left.
It was a month later that Rodrigue died and Dimitri seemed to change back to what Ashe remembered him to be. He was still sullen and driven, but now he acknowledged the people around him with more humanity. Still, Ashe gave him his space.
He was awoken from a nap under a tree in the courtyard by footsteps, and was startled to see it was Dimitri approaching him. He had taken off his armor and cape for once, as if to say he finally felt safe and comfortable around his inner circle.
“Are you alright?” Dimitri asked. The concern on his face was enough to make Ashe’s heart skip beats.
“U-um, yes, I was just napping is all,” he said, standing up.
“I don’t often find you napping around here,” Dimitri said.
“Ah, well.” He didn’t really want to explain that Sylvain was up to his old shenanigans, this time irritating female soldiers who were very well trained in combat. “It can get pretty noisy in my room at night. I don’t want to be too tired for a battle, though.”
Dimitri’s smile was nervous, as if he were trying it out for the first time in a long time. Goddess, Ashe felt as if he would do anything to keep that smile there. But that was a perfectly normal thing to think of his friend, wasn’t it? Or future king. He probably shouldn’t think of Dimitri as anything so casual. Great, he was so distracted by his smile that he entirely missed what he said that made him smile in the first place.
“Sorry, what was that?” Ashe asked.
Dimitri tilted his head. “I said that if you’re having problems, you could always spend the night with me. Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”
He felt his face heat up and for a solid minute his brain seemed to stop working, unable to supply words for him to say. Spend the night? With /Dimitri/? His heart was beating so fast he was sure everyone in the monastery could hear it. He was simply stuck, staring at Dimitri’s (beautiful) face, unsure of how to break out of his trance.
“Ashe,” Dimitri said, and he said it with such concern that he felt even more flustered. “Do I have to carry you to the infirmary? If you’re not feeling well--”
“I’m okay!” Ashe finally managed. “I-I’m just okay, thank you for the offer.” He was surprised by Dimitri’s light chuckle. “Did I say something wrong?”
“Nothing, it just… it only reminded me of our school days. When you were ill after that night in Felix’s room with Sylvain.”
Ashe blinked owlishly. “I’m surprised you remember that.” Personally, it was a memory he held dear, but he didn’t see why Dimitri would recall it at all. It couldn’t have been that special to him.
Dimitri looked nostalgic. “Well, I do. Don’t be too stubborn to seek help if you need it, Ashe. I’ll talk to you later.”
Those words were rich coming from Dimitri, but his concern lingered in Ashe’s mind, and when night finally came he found himself once more harassed by Sylvain’s failed love interests. Rather than try to persuade the righteously angry, he found himself walking to the rooms upstairs where Dimitri was. It was a bad idea, it really was, and yet he couldn’t stop thinking it. Maybe he was starting to see why Sylvain had asked him if he liked Linhardt all those years ago.
He knocked softly on the door, ready to bolt if it took more than a second to open. But Dimitri was standing there, looking down on him with a small, pleased smile.
“Having trouble?” he asked in a teasing tone that he had no right to be taking.
“Just a little,” Ashe said.
Dimitri let him step into the room and closed the door behind him. He could already tell this was a mistake, but leaving so soon would look both foolish and rude, and he did his best to avoid both.
“Am I allowed to ask what’s been haunting your room?” Dimitri pulled his desk chair closer to his bed and gestured for Ashe to sit in it, which he did.
“Heartbreak, I’m afraid,” Ashe said, watching as he settled down into his own bed.
Dimitri looked surprised, maybe even a little upset. He rubbed at the palm of his hand. “Er, I didn’t realize you were occupied like that.”
“No, I mean Sylvain is up to his same old tricks.”
Dimitri instantly lightened up. “Some things never change I suppose.”
“I suppose they don’t.”
The fondness left Dimitri’s gaze. “I owe you an apology,” he said.
Ashe tilted his head. “For what?”
“For everything, of course. The way I’ve acted. The way I’ve mistreated.”
“It’s okay,” Ashe said, and those words were easier than expected, because it somehow was okay. He had feared that the Dimitri he knew really did die all those years ago, and somewhere along the way he had gained his faith in him back. No, he knew when that faith came back. “You saved my life before. You could have forgotten about me, but you didn’t. I knew, deep down, you were still the same person that I put my future in. I still want to serve as a knight for you. It hasn’t changed.”
Dimitri glanced away. “...Thank you. I promise I’ll do right by you. By everyone who is fighting for Faerghus.”
“I know you will,” Ashe said confidently. He watched the way Dimitri kept pressing at the palm of his hand, and instinctively he reached for those hands, finding them as cold and calloused as he remembered. No, they were a little different. Stiffer. Rougher. He paused, registering what he was doing, while Dimitri looked up at him curiously.
“My hand has been sore,” he explained. Ashe could imagine that years spent clutching Areadbhar like a lifeline had taken their toll on him. Part of his brain was yelling at him for reaching out for the prince like that, and the other part just wanted to rub some warmth into these poor hands.
The latter part won out. “You’re always so cold,” Ashe said.
“Am I?” Dimitri mused.
“Um, I mean, if your hand is hurting you, you should talk to Mercedes.”
“It’s not that bad,” he said, watching Ashe’s thumb rub circles along his palm. He sounded distant, like he was thinking about something else. “I’ve been meaning to ask how your own recovery is going.”
“It aches sometimes,” Ashe admitted. Even talking about it made him want to wince and check his side to see if it healed properly. He finally brought himself to look up from the hands he was holding. Had Dimitri’s face always been this close?
Dimitri slipped his hands out of Ashe’s, and he quickly yearned for them back until Dimitri brought a hand to cup the side of Ashe’s face. He had nowhere to look but at his pale blue eye. It glimmered much the way it had when they were teenagers.
“How is it you can go through so much and not be tainted by darkness?” Dimitri murmured. The soft lilt of his voice drew Ashe in like a bee to honey.
“I struggle too, you know,” Ashe said. It wouldn’t be fair to think of him as some strong hearted soldier with a pure heart. He had messed up in the past, and despite his best efforts, he would probably mess up in the future.
Ashe could feel Dimitri’s warm breath on his face. “Well, I hope to make a future in which neither of us struggle.”
“I’d like to help you with that future,” Ashe said, not really sure if he was allowed to say such things.
He should have known it was leading to a kiss, but he was completely caught off guard by Dimitri leaning forward even more to kiss him, using the hand on his cheek to tilt his head slightly. Unlike his hands, his lips were warm and smooth and they moved with a delicacy he didn’t think Dimitri was capable of. He really, /really/ should be thinking twice about kissing a prince. His soon to be king. The man who would knight him one day, if they ever lived long enough to see the end of this war.
When Dimitri pulled away, Ashe felt a little lightheaded, and he was grateful that Dimitri didn’t pull his hand away from his face. It was grounding, if nothing else, because this all felt like some dream he would have had as a teenager.
“Should I have done that?” Dimitri asked as if suddenly aware of his actions.
“I-I’m not sure,” Ashe admitted. He had to admit, it was worth it to see the blush on Dimitri’s cheeks. “Dimitri, I’m not… really someone you should do this with.” For so many reasons.
“But I want to,” he said. He blinked as if surprised by his own words. “I do,” he reaffirmed. “I don’t know how this war will end. But right now, I want this.”
Ashe couldn’t very well tell him no, not when he himself agreed. “And after this war?”
“You wish to serve as a knight. As long as you are close, I’m sure we can figure it out from there. If you wish to stay close to me at all, that is. I’d like it, if nothing more than to hear you call me by my name.”
He hadn’t even noticed he had called him Dimitri earlier. He really was letting himself slip, wasn’t he? “I promise I’ll stay as close as you need me.”
“And you? You can’t do this just for me -- it has to be for you, too.”
He was starting to feel a little giddy about this all of a sudden. Vaguely, he wondered if Sylvain had known this had been his crush all along. And if he knew how deeply the feelings ran.
“It is,” Ashe said. “It’s for both of us.”
“I totally called this shit years ago,” Sylvain said to Felix and Ingrid who stood by his side as they watched Dimitri knight Ashe. There were a few other soldiers from the war that were also there for their knighting ceremony, but they weren’t as important.
“What are you talking about?” Felix grumbled.
Ingrid tilted her head. “Wasn’t Ashe always going to become a knight?”
“Nah, not the knight thing. The *them* thing.”
“You’ve lost me,” she said.
“You know. His Majesty and Ashe,” Sylvain supplied.
“If you’re going to be vague about it then you can shut up,” Felix said as he crossed his arms.
Fine, whatever. If they didn’t see it now, they would eventually. It would be hard to miss the way they looked at each other. He was sure theirs would be a tale like the knight stories Ashe loved so much, and he was pretty proud to be a background player to their tale.
Ashe was beaming as he finally stood up after kneeling. Finally, a knight.