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A Cracked Jewel

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They drag him into the cellar, the wound on his side blistering and festering and bleeding. 

 

They haul him up, shackle him to the wall like some kind of rabid animal. His arms are held above his head and his feet do not touch the ground. After the secure him in, they put a blindfold on him. He shakes his head but is far too weak to do much more. 

 

“You don’t seem so mighty now, Ferdinand Von Aegir.”

 

Ferdinand stays silent. He is tired and sore. 

 

This is evidently the wrong response because the pain on his side suddenly erupts and he is left gasping for breath, waiting for the agony to recede.

 

“Your friends won’t ever find you here, Empire scum.” The words are spat on his face, he can feel the spit and the hot breath. 

 

It disgusts him. 

 

He hears the latch open and close, but he does not know if he is alone. He strains himself to listen for someone else in the room, but through all his efforts he can only hear the pounding of his heartbeat. 

 

Ferdinand decides to test his luck. Grimacing, he flexes his arms in the shackles, testing their strength. They creak, but they are strong. He is no Prince Dimitri, he has no inhuman strength to save him. All he can do is wait.  

 

---

 

He does not know how much time has passed. 

 

There is a squeak as the hatch is opened and someone comes to join his prison for the first time since his capture. In his heart, he hopes for Hubert. In his head, he knows it isn’t.

 

“Where are your supply camps?”

 

“I will not give up my secrets so easily.” He responds. 

 

The punch to his face, admittedly, should not have caught him by surprise. Ferdinand heaves, wrists and shoulders aching from supporting his weight and the blood trickling from his now broken nose itches. 

 

“You will save yourself a world of pain if you tell us what we wish to know.”

 

Ferdinand disagrees. “I disagree.” Hubert had always said he had been too honest. Too open. 

 

He is punched again. If there had been no blindfold and his eyes were open, he would find himself unable to open one of them. 

 

“What are your plans? Where will the Strikeforce hit next?”

 

He spits on them or at least hopes he spits on them. He can’t really tell where they are. 

 

Ferdinand braces himself for another punch, maybe something a little worse, but it doesn’t come. The room is silent except for his heavy breathing and his heavy heart. 

 

He is alone again. 

 

---

“Take him down.”

 

For a split second, he can imagine that being Hubert, telling their friends to finally release him from this damned wall. But it is not Hubert and the ones undoing his bindings are not his friends. 

 

“If you are so reluctant to comply, we will have to punish you.” There seems to be only one guard in charge of his torture. Perhaps he is sick in the head, he sounds like he enjoys it, Ferdinand muses. 

 

“Tie his wrists with rope while I get the whip.”

 

Ferdinand jerks in their hold, “No!” He shouts. “No, do not-!” They shove him onto the ground, face first and bind his hands. 

 

---

 

The whip burns hotter and brighter and hurts more than anything else he has ever endured. 

 

---

 

Ferdinand is a very optimistic person, many of his friends could tell you that. Ferdinand is aware of this, mostly because Hubert has always told him that it was sickening and disgusting. Hubert had also told him, with a smile, he might add, that his optimism was one of his greatest strengths. 

 

Unfortunately, there are limits to even Ferdinand’s cheery outlook. 

 

He knows not how long he has been kept, he can’t remember how many times they had him flogged, how many punches, questions, sneers he has endured in his imprisonment. 

 

Perhaps they were right,  He thinks,  They are not coming for me . They are still waging a war, after all. Spending so much time trying to find one man is, well, frankly it’s quite ridiculous. Even if he is one high-ranking individual, they will have their priorities. 

 

Ferdinand knows he is not one of them. 

 

Somehow, this thought stings him even worse than what they have done to his body. 

 

---

 

“It’s been 3 months.” The man says to him in place of a greeting. 

 

His stomach and heart and everything important plummets in his chest.  3 months?  He wonders at.  Could it have truly been 3 months?

 

“They all think you have died. And you will, you will die here alone and your friends will have no idea what you have gone through.”

 

“For all I know, you could be lying.” He says, well aware that his voice is shaky. 

 

His keeper laughs at him, “You are right, I could be. But what could I have to gain from lying to a prisoner that has no hope of escape?”

 

“Sick amusement? You seem to take joy in beating me senseless. I fail to see how this is different.”

 

“Hmm.” The man hums, sounding terribly pleased by the situation. “That is a good reason. I was lying. It hasn’t been 3 months.”

 

Ferdinand sags in his bonds, relief flooding his system until-

 

“It’s been 6.”

 

---

 

Ferdinand knows that, logically, his torturer very well could be lying about the whole 6 months, but he has had no concept of time and when you are left by yourself for days on end, you get to thinking. 

 

You  overthink  things. 

 

Things that used to be facts become questions. Those questions get confused with  other  questions you think of. Anxiety riddles it all over in your head, you can’t sequence things correctly anymore, you forget things that you swore to remember. 

 

How long was a day? A week? He was underground, there was no light source. They did not feed him frequently enough for him to cobble together a schedule, and if they did, he does not think he would even be able to remember that at this point. 

 

He desperately wants to believe that it hasn’t been 6 months, but he is hurt and confused. 

 

He wants to believe Hubert wouldn’t have left him to this, but he knows that Hubert would always be dedicated to Edelgard first and foremost.

 

If they had decided to leave Ferdinand to his fate or thought he was dead, then they would not waste time looking for him. He would be thought of, but not searched for. 

 

Remembered, but mourned. 

 

Perhaps that is all Ferdinand is to his friends now, a dead man.

 

The more he thinks on this, and he doesn’t know how much time he devotes to obsessing over this, the more it makes sense. 6 months is nothing in a war that has already lasted 5 years. People die, loved ones move on. 

 

Ferdinand begins to accept that he’s been left behind. 

 

And every moment that passes, that optimism he had once been praised for is chipped away and steadily destroyed.  

 

---

 

He fantasizes about his friends-  his   family-  coming down into his little home and taking him away. 

 

Hubert will take his blindfold off, tell him he’s an idiot and hug him. He will smell like coffee and tea and the air around him will have the faint taste of magic. Dorothea would help him down from the cursed wall, soft hands gentle as healing magic poured forth. Edelgard, his rival, and friend would tell him that they missed him, that they  needed  him. 

 

Well, he did say they were fantasies. 

 

He knows this won’t happen. 

 

How long has he been here? A year? 2 months? 7 months? He has no idea.

 

Ferdinand finds he no longer cares about how long he’s been here. If Edelgard came down right now and told him it hadn’t even been a day, he can’t say if he could find it in himself to care. All he knows is that he’s suffered. 

 

He doesn’t know if his legs even work anymore. He has not walked once since he was placed here. His arms have supported all his weight, they ache and he can feel how his wrists are swollen. He thinks his hair has grown if the tickling near his thighs is any indication

 

---

 

He is whipped for maybe the first time, maybe the hundredth time. 

 

Ferdinand cannot remember.

 

---

 

Ferdinand thinks he hears someone say his name, but the tone is wrong. It is gentle, and it is a woman’s voice. 

 

Maybe he has finally gone mad. 

 

The voice says something again, his name, shortened. Something his friends used to call him. He refuses to respond. 

 

He will  not  respond to any hallucinations he has. He refuses. 

 

And then, it is  his  voice. “Ferdinand?”

 

Something touches him, and he reacts violently, twitching in his shackles. Curling and twisting away from the contact, heavily breathing. He feels very much like an animal. 

 

Whatever had touched him has receded, and so he stops. 

 

“Ferdinand, it’s me.” Ungloved hands cup his face, but he cannot see. 

 

“H..Hubert?” He manages to get out between chapped and broken lips. “You…”

 

“Shhh.” Hubert has never sounded so small, so quiet before. “You are safe now.”

 

The blindfold his taken off, but a bright light forces him to close his eyes and a whimper escapes his lips. 

 

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Ferdie!”  Dorothea ! “Here, I didn’t think that- I’m sorry.” The light isn’t fully extinguished, but it has been lessened enough to where he can crack open his eyes. Hubert is slightly below him, due to his position on the wall. He looks angry, but his expression as he looks upon Ferdinand - Ferdinand! - is gentle. 

 

He says something to Ferdinand, but he has a hard time focusing on listening when he can finally see. The thumbs resting under his eyes start stroking soothing motions, and he groans. 

 

Dorothea unlocks the shackles and Hubert catches him, long arms wrapping around him. 

 

“Hubert.” He breathes into his neck. He smells like coffee and the thought stirs a memory, though he couldn't grasp it. “Hubert.” He says again. 

 

“I’m here.” Hair is brushed away from his back, the scars on his back exposed to cold air. “I’m here now, sunshine. I’m here. I’m sorry, sweetheart.” There is a kiss pressed to the side of his head. Hubert rocks him gently back and forth, the ministrations are so sweet and so different from what he has grown accustomed to that Ferdinand cannot help himself. He cries, sobs echoing in the quiet room, shoulders that were once aching from holding him up now hurting from the wracks of his tears. 

 

---

 

Hubert puts him on a medical carriage and sits in the back with him, holding his hand. 

 

His gloves are still off. 

 

“Hubert.” He says the only thing he can say, the only thing that matters. “Hubert.”

 

“What is it?” Hubert leans over him, clutching his hand even tighter. Their palms are sweaty but neither of them seems to care. “What do you need?”

 

Ferdinand can only stare. 

 

“Sweetheart,” Hubert sounds desperate, something he has never sounded like before. He also has never used nicknames with Ferdinand before. He briefly wonders if he was even talking to Ferdinand. “I need you to tell me what you need.”

 

Ferdinand doesn’t need to think about his answer. “You.” If he were in his right mind, like he had been so long ago, he would not have said that. As it were, he’s not entirely sure this is even happening. 

 

Hubert’s face is full of such tenderness that tears are once more in Ferdinand’s eyes. Hubert’s free hand comes up and cups his face, wiping away the tears. 

 

“Are you hurt?” He asks, expression open and raw. “Why are you crying?”

 

Ferdinand raises his own hand to cover Hubert’s, smiling up at the dark-haired man. “You showed up.” 

 

Hubert’s face crumples. “Of course I did, did you think I wouldn’t?”

 

Ferdinand shuts his eyes, too tired to keep them open. He is too tired to respond and hums. 

 

“Ferdinand.” His voice is more urgent now, but still soft. “Did you truly think I wouldn’t come for you?”

 

He is not able to answer as he falls asleep. 

 

---

When he wakes up, he is not back to hanging on a wall but is in the infirmary of Garreg Mach Monastery. The only other person with him is still Hubert, still holding his hand. 

 

Ferdinand feels slightly more like himself. Thanks to this, he also feels ashamed and embarrassed by how he behaved. Holding Hubert’s hand, telling him that all he needed was him, sobbing into his shoulder.

 

His movement, unfortunately, wakes up Hubert, who looks relieved to see him awake. 

 

“Ferdinand.” The other man says, scooting his chair closer to his bed. “Are you feeling better?”

 

Ferdinand laughs, although there is no enjoyment in it. “Better?” He stares up at the ceiling, refusing to meet Hubert’s eyes. “I have made a complete and utter fool of myself since you have found me. I feel  horrible .”

 

“I do not think you have made a fool of yourself,” Hubert says, thumb stroking the back of Ferdinand’s hand.

 

He wants to tear it out of his grip. 

 

He knows he would have never felt that way before his imprisonment. 

 

“Hubert.” He starts, tone flat. “How long was I gone?”

 

Hubert looks ashamed when he answers. “4 months.”

 

Ferdinand stares up at the ceiling.

 

4 months. 

 

“4 months.” He says. 

 

“Yes. I’m sorry it took so long. Words cannot express how upset I am that it took so long.”

 

“I thought it might have been a year,” Ferdinand says, he sees the sharp turn of Hubert’s head in the corner of his vision. 

 

“You thought we had left you for an entire  year?

 

“I thought that maybe you all thought me dead. So I didn’t place much hope in you coming in and saving me.”

 

“I assumed your shock at seeing us rescue you was because of your captivity, but it seems you actually thought I would give up on you.” Hubert’s grip is tight on his hand. “I have made a grievous error with you if you thought this. I must once again apologize.”

 

“No.” Ferdinand sighs and turns his face away from Hubert. “The fault is mine, I should have never given up.”

 

“We- I search  endlessly  for you.” Hubert’s using that quiet voice, the one where he’s being really vulnerable with you. Ferdinand feels dirty hearing it. “Every day, every week that passed, I could only imagine what they had done to you, what they were doing and what they were planning on doing to you.”

 

“Did you hurt them?” Ferdinand asks abruptly. “Did you kill them, Hubert?”

 

“Yes.” He sounds as angry and vengeful as Ferdinand feels. “They suffered for what they did.”

 

“I know it’s unlike me but I am glad.” He says. “Thank you.”

 

“Of course,” Hubert says. Then there is a hand on his cheek and gently turning his head to face the dark mage. “I would do anything for you, Ferdinand.”

 

Ferdinand swallows, feeling shy when faced with the look in Hubert’s eyes. “I…”

 

“You must know how I feel at this point. I imagine it is fairly obvious.” Hubert winces a little before giving a hesitant smile. “I… slipped a couple times, called you pet names. I must know if you feel the same way.”

 

“You are cruel to make me answer that.” Tears leak from his eyes and he flushes. “I’ve loved you for months.”

 

Hubert looks surprised, honest shock on his face. “Truly?” A smile curls around his lips, chuckles escaping him. “You love me?”

 

Ferdinand tries to turn his face away, but the hand holding his moves to hold his face still. He closes his eyes, feeling like a coward. 

 

“Sweetheart, don’t turn away from me. Not when I finally have you.”

 

“Why do you call me such things?” Ferdinand demands, mouth twisting unhappily. “It feels- Are you mocking me?”

 

“Please look at me.”

 

Slowly opening his eyes, he saw Hubert. 

 

He was grinning, a full smile stretching his lips, showing dimples that Ferdinand would never have guessed he had. In wonder, he reached up and traced a dimple, staring in amazement. 

 

“I love you.” He rested his forehead against Ferdinand’s, who could only keep staring dumbly up at him. “And you love me.”

 

“I thought you loved Edelgard.” Ferdinand said, like an idiot. 

 

“I do. Like my family. You are far more precious to me.” 

 

“I-I,” Ferdinand stutters, trying very hard to feel like his world had just completely changed, “How long?”

 

“Years.”

 

“Years?” He knows his voice is a little incredulous. “But-” He is cut off by a kiss, one that Hubert pulls back from slowly, blinking down at him. 

 

“I have wanted to do that for a very,” He laughs and Ferdinand feels it fan across his face, hair moving in the air. “Very long time.”

 

“Do it again.” His voice is breathless. “Hubert. Kiss me again.”

 

Hubert does as he asks, but this time it’s deeper. He’s being pressed into the bed, Hubert’s hands moving down from his face to bracing next to his head so he can cover over him. After a few moments, Ferdinand pulls Hubert away, taking deep breaths. 

 

“Are you alright?” Hubert asks, “I know you’re still recovering, but I can’t help myself. You’re beautiful.” 

 

Ferdinand’s knew his face had turned completely red by now, he wanted to hide his face but Hubert loomed over him, so close enough to where they were tasting the same air. “You are saying such romantic things. I feel faint.”

 

“It’s a good thing you’re lying down then.” Hubert sounds smug. “Although if you feel faint every time I say such a thing, I may have to get used to carrying you.”

 

“I thought the teasing would stop.” Ferdinand grumbles. 

 

“Ah, not if you blush so prettily every time, sunshine.” Hubert cooes at him, rubbing his nose against his. “The teasing will continue just so you look like this.”

 

Ferdinand pouted up at him, about to say something back but Hubert beats him to it with another kiss. Ferdinand sighs into it, wrapping his arms around the man’s neck and fingers toying with his hair. He slowly sat up, Hubert’s arms moving to support him. In the new position, Hubert had taken a seat on the side of the bed, hands resting on Ferdinand’s hips. 

 

He pulled away from Hubert once more, taken aback by the frustrated look on Hubert’s face. 

 

“I’m trying to kiss you.”

 

“We shouldn’t be doing this in the infirmary.”

 

“Then I’ll move you to my room.”

 

“Hubert!”

 

“Don’t act like you don’t like the idea.”

 

Dammit, if Hubert was going to be like this Ferdinand would never be able to say no. “Oh alright, fine. It  is  appealing.”

 

“It is.” Hubert looks unbearably happy at the thought. “I’ll take care of you and we’ll have the privacy that you so desperately need.”

 

“Its common decency not to kiss in the infirmary like teenagers, Hubert.”

 

Hubert shrugs, unconcerned. “Either way, the problem will be eliminated.” In a swift motion, he’s standing with Ferdinand in a bridal hold. “You know,” Hubert begins, “I held you like when I carried you out of that prison.” His words were dark when he said the last word. “I’m glad I have the opportunity to do it once more under better circumstances.”

 

“Well, I can say that I’m enjoying it. Immensely.”

 

Hubert hums and presses a kiss onto Ferdinand’s forehead, cheerfully moving past confused soldiers. 

 

Ferdinand sighs and leans into the man’s chest. 

 

He’s home.