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in the woods somewhere

Chapter Text

If Dorothea had been there, she would've definitely chided him, Caspar thinks to himself as he walks deeper and deeper into the forest , bow in hand as he searches for something to hit . He's lucky enough to know this forest like the palm of his hand , for he's been exloring it for hours on end ever since he was a child . He sees birds and squirrels all around - they're too small to make a proper meal, which probably for the best , given that he doesn't have it in his heart to kill them.

He walks through the abundance of greenery , listening to nature's music all around him , vines embracing the trees and thick roots peeking through the soft soil . He walks quietly, gently, without the brazenness of a hunter, for he does not wish to scare the beings away - after all, there is no need to do more harm than necessary.

As he dives deeper and deeper, he stumbles upon a clearing , a clear pond reflecting the rays of light scarcely shining through the leaves.

... Been a while since he's had fish for dinner . And so , he takes his seat by the water , watching it as it ripples occasionally , his eye on the occasional flashes of silver and gold underneath. He readies his bow and arrow , and just when the carp is closest to the water , he shoots his arrow .

Had Lady Shamir been there , she would've praised him for the perfect shot . He pulled the fish out of the water and let it wiggle right next to him while he readied his bow and arrow once again .

... All while being absolutely oblivious to the creature asleep on the boulder to his right , stealthily covered in moss and all sorts of bugs and birds . One would have to actively searching for it , if they wished to distinguish its alabaster skin from the mere rock , not to mention its long, green hair that was so very reminiscent of vines .

So when that being sat up , Caspar flinched and jolted like the fish he had caught , a yelp escaping his mouth .

He aimed his arrow right at the being.

The being looked back at him through thick, long lashes with confused emeralds of eyes , a light muted green where humans' eyes would've been white . It didn't lunge at him, didn't claw at him , didn't bite, didn't do anything of the sort . It merely stared with large, curious eyes , and Caspar wearily lowered his bow .

The being neared him , and Caspar assumed it was a He , if his square shoulders, flat chest and sharp jaw were any indication . And truly, what a beautiful sight he was, long, green hair all over his shoulders, antlers stretching out wide enough for little birds and bees to take a seat on them, flowers growing in his hair where hummingbirds where drinking nectar and all sorts of bugs wandered , moss all over his skin , and dark blue markings adorning his pale cheeks .

He was nothing sort of gorgeous, and though Caspar was still very much wary , he couldn't help but admit that the creature was nothing sort of breathtaking.

"... Hello ?" He murmured, voice strained . " Who are you? What do you want?"

The creature eyed him curiously.

" Lin...hardt," he murmured , pointing at himself . Then, he pointed a finger covered in moss at Caspar .

" Who... you?"

" Caspar," he responded . He set his bow down. " I'm Caspar ."

" Cas-par," Linhardt repeated, his voice gentle and only slightly sounding like windblown leaves . He pointed at the pile of fish.

" Food...?"

" Hm?" Caspar murmured, offering him a carp . " Here . You can have one."

Linhardt took it in his hands and stared at it before he set it down on his boulder .

... And then he dashed away .

Caspar was as confused as ever - had the sight of the dead fish scared Linhardt off? He asked himself that and other, similar questions when Linhardt returned , clutching something...s in his palms . He plopped down next to Caspar and opened them to reveal an assortment of nuts, berries and ...flowers?

Caspar eyed him confusedly .
" ... For me?" He asked , and Linhardt nodded with a smile, happy that Caspar understood him. He passed him the gifts and tugged a water lilly off his long locks to tuck it behind Caspar's ear. Caspar flushed just a little at that , munching on an unripe , green almond .

In response , Linhardt retrieved his fish off his boulder and started eating it with his hands , offering Caspar a toothy smile as juices and blood trickled down his chin . Caspar tried to reciprocate as he threw what he hoped to be an edible berry in his mouth.

"... Linhardt?" Caspar asked after a second .

" Mm?" He murmured, mouth full and cheeks puffing .

" If you're not human...what are you?"

" Linhardt!" He beamed proudly . He pointed at Caspar . " Linhardt...friend . "

" O-Oh," he chuckled . " Yeah . You're my friend."

" Friend!" Linny beamed , as he gulped the fish's spine down. Caspar offered his friend another one, which the creature put on his boulder for later consumption .

"... I gotta go home," Caspar murmured, and Linhardt must've noticed the shift in tone , because his pointed ears drooped .

" Friend...stay?"

" No," Caspar shook his head ." Sorry , Lin . But I'll be back next week, okay?"

Linhardt took a serious expression.

" Promise."

" I promise," Caspar smiled , putting a hand on his chest . He wrapped a loincloth around the pile of fish and stood up as he finished eating Linhardt's gifts .

" I'll see you ?"

Linny nodded. " See-you!'

Chapter Text

Caspar returns to the forest precisely a week later , just as promised . He wonders if the creature remembers him . He walks through the forest with gentle steps, careful not to startle his friend's home . He's brought a sketchbook with him this time - he was never as good an artist as Ignatz, but he was fairly good at it regardless . He's also brought lunch with himself , since he wouldn't like to make Linhardt watch as he hunts and kills.

It takes him a bit of searching, but he manages to find the clearing once again.

... And Linhardt's boulder is empty ( he makes sure to look closely ) , and , truly, he's quite disappointed . He's readying himself to go back to the Academy , trying to convince himself he's not disappointed - except the being was so very fascinating...

And Linhardt, sweet Linny, gets up from his hiding spot and sneaks up to him by poking his ribs with a green finger .

" Wh-What the fuck-?" Caspar chokes, practically jumping in the air , eyes wide as he unsheathes his dagger . He turns around, and it's only when he sees that it's merely his friend's that teasing that he relaxes.
" Oh, oh, it's just you, hey there, hey..."

"... Fuck?" Linny mimicks him confusedly .

" Oh, no, no, Linny, that's a bad word!"

" Fuck!" Linhardt beams , flashing him a smile of sharp teeth.

" NO!" Caspar yells back, and Linhardt pouts at that, cheeks puffing .

He blinks at that, his sad expression.
" Sorry," Linhardt murmurs under his breath . " Make you angry."

" No, no , hey, it's alright..." He murmurs , rubbing his shoulder . " I'm not angry, see? I'm happy to see you!" He flashes a smile at him.

" Happy...also!" Linhardt smiles .

" You're also happy?" Caspar asks .

" I... I'm also happy!" Linhardt flushes , his first full sentence . " That ...right?"

" Yeah, that's right," Caspar responds with a fond smile . He sits down and motions for Linhardt to sit down with him .

Linhardt points at his bag curiously .
"... This?"

" That's my bag," Caspar explains .

" Ba-ag..." Linhardt echoes . He watches Caspar curiously as he retrieves four sandwiches from inside , two for himself and two for Linhardt . Manuela had made enough to feed all three houses , so when Caspar asked her if he could take some for his friend she nodded excitedly .

" This is a sandwich," Caspar explained ." It's food ."

" Sandwich?" Linny asked.

" Yeah."

Linhardt pointed a long finger at Caspar's bag.
" ... Bag," he murmured in concentration, then at their food ." Sandwich."

" Yeah!" Caspar smiled . A quick learner .

Then, the long , green finger was pointed at him.
" Friend!" Linhardt exclaimed with a smile, and Caspar nodded, cheeks pink .

" Friend," he repeated , pointing at Lin .
" Eat, now."

Linhardt took a large, eager bite out of the sandwich . His ears perked up happily .
" Sandwich is good!"

" It is!" Caspar agreed, taking a smaller bite himself .

Two fawns neared them curiously . One sat on Linhardt's lap, nuzzling his knee as the other started sniffing at his food curiously, looking at him with large eyes .

Linhardt looked back at it , and when he opened his mouth , he spoke a language Caspar had never heard of before , its sound like water splashing on pebbles in a windy forest. Then, he broke his sandwich in half and started feeding the little fawn with gentle hands . He passed the other half to Caspar and pointed at the other fawn.
" ... Hungry ," he explained , and Caspar caught on , his movements slow so as not to startle the small creature. Halfway through , it stood up and walked over to sit on Caspar's lap, enjoying how he was caring for it. Once it was well fed , it closed its big eyes and went to sleep . Caspar eyed it ... curiously yet tenderly - it was so small and trusting.

Linhardt smiled softly at the sight.
" Likes you," he murmured , caressing the fawn on his own lap with gentle hands.

"... Really?" Caspar flushed ." I'm kinda surprised, usually they avoid me..."

" Likes you... because I like you, " Linhardt explains softly as he starts munching on the other sandwich.

Caspar goes beet red at that .
" Oh! I like you too," he smiles . He pulls his sketchbook out and starts doodling Linhardt's features with quick hands . He doesn't want to forget him - he's too beautiful to forget.

Linhardt looks over at the sketchbook curiously .

"... Me!" He points out, and Caspar nods .
" You."

He watches him tug at his pen timidly .
" Can ... I also?"

" Of course!" Caspar nods, passing the sketchbook over .

Linhardt starts sketching furiously , eyebrows scrunched together, tongue sticking out of his lips cutely . He passes it back to Caspar after twenty minutes , pointing at a circle that he assumes to be his face, with some bizarre lines that are meant to be ... His eyes? His nose?

" You!" Linhardt explains .

" I love it," Caspar murmurs . " Thank you."

Β 

They chat for a few more hours contently as Caspar continues to teach him words ( the fawns have left by now ).

When it's time to go, Linhardt hugs Caspar , which startles him.

" Humans...hug, right?" Linny asks shyly .

" Yeah. We hug," Caspar murmurs as he gently squeezes him .

" ... Meet again ... one week, friend?" He asks .

" Of course ," Caspar smiles ." Same time next week , yeah? See you!"

" See you!" Linhardt beams , already laying on his boulder to go back to sleep.

Chapter Text

Same time next week, he'd promised Linhardt, and he stays true to his promise . Just as a friend should .

... Only , he hears pained wails from miles away, and that's when he starts walking faster . He hears them again and that's when he starts running, because the wails sound like the wind howling through the woods - they sound like Linhardt.

The sight he finds when he reaches the clearing is nothing sort of heartbreaking. It's Linhardt, sweet, beautiful Linhardt , wailing in pain, his arms wrapped around himself as he twitches in pain on the ground . There are tears of resin dripping down his face .

" Linny? Hey, Linny? Hey, what's up ?" He gently whispers. He examines his body quickly - there doesn't seem to be any physical harm done, yet Linhardt is screaming from the pain all the same . He gently gathers him in his arms as he tries to comfort him .
" What happened? Who hurt you?" He murmurs , concerned as he runs gentle fingers through his hair , but he only gets sobs in response .

" Please..." He whispers , " please , let me help..."

"Fire," Linhardt finally squeezes out ." Hurt forest . Hurt me.'

" Shh, shh, shh..." Caspar murmurs. " I'm here . It's okay," he whispers, kissing his head .
" I'm here, okay?"

"... Yes," Linhardt nods through sobs ." You... warm," he whispers, pressing closer to Caspar , his hands grabbing needy fistfuls of his shirt . Why would anyone ever hurt someone so pure? Caspar thinks to himself. What a crime it is .

" Shh, just let it out," he murmurs , letting him grieve . They linger like that until the sun almost sets, and it's only then that Linhardt manages to recover .

" Sorry," he whispers .

" Please, don't be..." Caspar responds. " You were in pain. It's okay."

" Caspar?" He softly asked .
" Come again... before one week?"

"... I'll see when I can, alright?" Caspar softly murmured.

" Okay," Linhardt nodded , hugging his friend gently .

" See-you."

" See you.".

Β 

He doesn't get the thought of Linhardt off his mind at all for the next few days . He comes back to him three days later, bringing him his favourite sandwiches and hoping he's in less pain , as well as tiny succulent in a pot . Hopefully it'll cheer Linny up.

When he does see him, it's clear he's still sickly - but it's not the sheer torture Linhardt had been put through last time. He's sunning himself, Caspar realises , the golden rays reflected upon his skin , his eyes contently closed and his lean body filled with flecks of sun upon dark green. He's so wonderfully peaceful, the wildlife finding a place to rest upon him , for he is familiar , warm and so beautifully soft.

"... Linny?" Caspar murmurs, and he's only slightly short of breath. Linhardt's ears perk up happily as he sits up , his movements slow and comfortable . There is the slightest hint of tiredness under his eyes.

"... Hi," He softly smiles at Caspar, standing up .
"Caspar remembered I asked," he gently murmurs.

" Of course!" Caspar smiles. " How are you? Are you better?"

" ... A little," Linhardt admits ." But tired ."

" It's alright," Caspar responds as he searches in his bag to pull the pot out of it . Bernie would have definitely scolded him for carrying it in a bag, but it's a succulent! Those are supposed to be hardy bastards!

" I brought you a gift ," He murmurs with a smile , and Linhardt brightens up at that.
" Gift ?" He flushes, and Caspar nods as he pulls the succulent out of the bag - it's a tiny cactus .

" Oh!" Linhardt beams , throwing the pot around the plant on the ground as he takes it, soil and roots and all, in his palms. He smiles at Caspar so widely he shines, and something about that smile makes his heart soar.

" It's plant!" He beams , looking at it intently .

" ... The fire took many plants away from you , so I wanted to give you one," Caspar whispers, and Linny's face softens at that as he turns around to give Caspar a soft glance.

" ... Beautiful plant . From beautiful human," he flushes .

" A-Ah, don't mention it!" Caspar chuckles , red all over .

Linhardt gently kneels down on the soft soil .
" ... Plant needs hole," he murmurs ." Open hole?" He would, but his hands are full .

"... Oh! Yeah, I can do that!" Caspar eagerly responds as he pulls some of the soil out of the ground, slowly forming it with his palms.
" I think this is good enough?" He asks, and Linhardt places the little succulent in the ground with gentle hands , filling the gaps around it with soil before he gently caresses its little leaves . Something sparkles within them, just for a second, and then it's gone . Maybe it's the nymph's blessing, Caspar thinks to himself .

When Linhardt is done, he takes Caspar in this gentle hug, filling his back with dirt and maybe a maggot or two .
"... Thank you," he murmurs ." You are first friend . Only friend . Like you a lot," he admits, and Caspar squeezes him gently, and is Linhardt...purring? He can definitely feel it, the little rumbling coming from his body now that they're so close.

"... I like you a lot , too . " Caspar admits . " You're like nothing I've ever met, so... Unique . In a good way!"

" Good way!" Linhardt echoes , and Caspar nods eagerly .

" Absolutely . Hey, remember the sandwiches we ate?"

" Sandwich!" Linhardt beams , ears wiggling happily.

They eat in comfortable silence . When Linhardt presses himself closer to Caspar, Caspar doesn't protest . If anything, he presses back .

His chest is warm all over .

He wonders if Linhardt's chest is warm the way his own is. Maybe 'wonders' is the wrong word, though . Maybe 'hopes' fits better .

Maybe .

Just maybe.

Chapter Text

He comes back before one week has passed. Saying Linhardt is happy to see him is an understatement, for he flings himself in Caspar's arms and squeezes him so tight he manages to lift the smaller boy up in the air.

" Linny, hey, woah there!" Caspar laughs ." Someone's excited!"

" I... Am happy!" Linhardt responds, clumsily piecing the sentence right.

" I'm happy to see you too, Linny," Caspar chuckles, smiling softly. Linhardt tugs at his hand once Caspar's feet are on the ground.

" Will show you a thing!" He beams , and he starts running, dragging Caspar behind him .

" When left," he explains, " opened hole else . Come see!" He giggles , and he drags Caspar to a tiny opening between thick oak trees that leads to a tiny clearing, a little paradise.

There are more birds here. It's greener, warmer , and though no sunlight reaches it , bugs and hummingbirds and flowers are shining with a wonderful , gentle glow , illuminating the clearing . Caspar is faced with plants he's never seen, new colours, new scents , everything is new , magical and otherworldly like that wonderful being that's... Still holding his hand .

And in the center , the little succulent he gave Linny only five days ago has grown more than tenfold its size, thick leaves stretching all over as colors swirl upon its surface .

" Linny... This is mine?" Caspar gasps .

" Yes," Linhardt nods with a smile ." Gift was nice , so...took care of gift. Because love gift."

" Oh..." Caspar flushes . He doesn't let go of Linhardt's hand . He sits down, gentle , curious as he examines the strange beings in this minute fraction of an alternate world.

"... Cas-par?" Linhardt asks , face red.

" ... Mm? What is it, Linny?" Caspar murmurs as a squirrel nuzzles his palms .

" What is... kiss? Heard humans kiss?"

" Oh?" Caspar flushes, turning around to face him .
" Yes, Linny, humans give kisses. "

" But why?"

" Well, you see..." Caspar murmurs ." Kisses are a way of showing love ! Parents can kiss their children's cheeks, or heads , because they are so important to them... And later on in life, you'll see friends kiss each other's cheeks , though that's mostly something girls do. " Marianne and Hilda came to mind .
" But..." He murmurs , turning red.
" When you kiss someone else's lips, that means you love the other very much, the kind of love couples share between them . That make sense?"

Linny nods softly .

" Cas-par?" He shyly asks , looking down .

" Yeah? What's up?"

" Can I k-"

Loud voices, and an arrow shot right next to his face.

Caspar barely has time to process what has happened before another arrow finds its way above Linhardt's head . Instinctively, he shields Linny with his small , sturdy body. An arrow finds his knee and he whimpers, then another one-

And then everything darkens .

One would assume that means the arrows found his heart or head, and truly, so does Caspar . He barely manages to spot a band of armed men looking at Linhardt like the most valuable of prizes before he hears an inhuman roar echo through the forest , loud and low , and strangely enough, Caspar knows exactly who the roar belongs to .

As his eyesight adjusts to the darkness , he realises there is bark all around him, thick and heavy . Just a ray of light or two peek through the top , and Caspar recognises the bars overhead his head as fingers .

He hears the roar again , and another arrow flinging , and the familiar sound of arrowheads bent against surfaces too hard for them to be able to pierce . Then, he hears voices , and the voices slowly fade away , and the men's footsteps through the thick grass also fade away . He feels himself being lowered to the ground as the gigantic hand opens up.

And Caspar is faced with nothing sort of the living, breathing forest itself , and that forest is holding his friend's face , huge , green eyes on his bark face and hair of weeping willow down his shoulders and chest , his breathing slow, gentle wind . It's...ethereal, Caspar thinks, it's like being faced with something too big for humans to comprehend - yet Caspar feels perfectly in touch with it , their breaths synchronised as he wraps his palms around Linny's giant thumb .

" Thank you," he whispers, and Linhardt's face twists into a smile .

He sets him down on the ground , slowly reverting back to his original form . It's only then that he notices Caspar's bleeding wounds.

" They hurt you-!" He gasps, kneeling down to look at the wounds .

" What...who were they?" Caspar gasps .

" Wanted hunt me," Linhardt explains. " Because I'm... rare."

"... Oh," Caspar murmurs, watching Linhardt's hands glow with healing magic as they gently heal the bleeding flesh .

" There . Good now," Linhardt smiles , and Caspar gets up on his feet again, as if the injuries were never there .

" ... I should go home," Caspar whispers . " I'll come back when I'm able to, okay?"

" O-Okay!" Linny nods , and he hugs him so tightly.
" Thank you for protect me..."

" Hey, don't mention it . You're my friend , of course I will . Okay?"

"Yeah!" Linhardt smiles. " See-you!"

Chapter Text

And he cannot stop thinking about that sweet man .

He spends night after night, his mind on how scary his friend got when his life was put in danger, yet ever so gentle when it came to Caspar himself . His kind smile, his warm eyes... He could not speak all that well, sure , but he was such a kind and compassionate being , and it showed in the way the forest fluttered and shimmered with him .

And how beautiful he was . His lean body, his gentle hands, and, oh, that hair...

Maybe Caspar had a little crush. Just a tiny one .

Coming back to the forest was quite the task - thankfully, Garreg Mach had realised how eager he was to go "hunting" into the forest and assigned him hunting duty ever few days. He considered himself quite lucky . And if the succulents from the garden had been slowly disappearing, that was most certainly not his business .

This time, he had the cutest little plant in hand , all thick , green leaves and the tiniest flower on top . Linny would like that one, Caspar could feel it. There was this giddy, almost goofy smile on his face as he trotted through the woods, getting closer and closer to Linny. His body was a little tingly with excitement .

Linny was awake for once, his long, gentle fingers on an oak tree's trunk . His big, green eyes were fixed on it in intense concentration , his forehead against it as if they were having a conversation. His lips were moving gently, breathing even as he spoke to the tree . Caspar neared him, his hand warm as he trapped Linhardt's shoulder ever so gently . He watched Linhardt's head snap towards him , a smile on his face .
" Caspar!" He beamed , and Caspar flashed him a smile .
" Hey there, Linny . What's up."

" Was just talking to tree," Linhardt explains, patting its trunk . " Has heard humans speak , and I want learn how to speak like Caspar . "

" Huh? That's so good, Linny! You've improved so much!" Caspar smirks , patting his shoulder.
" Look, I got you something!" He showed him the little succulent .

" Oh!" Linhardt's entire face lit up, a smile gracing it as he took the plant in his palms .
" It has flower! Thank you, Caspar! Let's go put in the ground!"

Caspar knew exactly which place Linhardt was referring to and he followed him as they entered that strange clearing once more . A firefly fearlessly landed in his palm as they entered, and Cas gave it a sweet look before he noticed how tall his gift had grown . It was now about twice his size, thick leaves all over and all sorts of animals nestled in them in a tiny ecosystem of its own . Bernie would've loved to see that, Cas thinks .

" Help me!" Linhardt murmured, tugging at his sleeve as Caspar opened a hole in the soil next to the gigantic succulent . How beautiful Linhardt was in there, the soft green and blue light illuminating his face . It made Caspar feels emotions he couldn't quite name , but he knew he liked them. To think he had the honour to be so close to him...

" Cas-par?" Linhardt murmured. " What's wrong?"

Oh .

He had been staring, huh...?

" N-N-Nothing!" Caspar gasped, face red ." You're just pretty, that's all..."

" Oh ..." Linhardt blushed, too, a dark green colour. " Really?"

" Yeah !" Caspar nodded ." You're so pretty, and I'm really happy I got to know y-"

Caspar's reflexes, according to many, were pretty damn good . Better than Hubert's , according to Edelgard, but you shouldn't tell him that, he's more sensitive than he seems .

Even so, no reflexes could've prepared him to kiss back the pair of lips on his , or the soft , green hands on his face cupping it . Linny pulled away, face flushed .

" Did... I do wrong?"

" W-What was that?" Caspar gasped , unable to process what had just happened.

" I learnt that when humans have a special human... They kiss him . You told me that!"

" Oh..." Caspar flushed , fiddling with the hem of his shirt.
" You think I'm... special?"

Linhardt took his hand .
" Of course I do! You're my special human!"

" I-I..." Caspar muttered, a smile cracking through his shocked, flustered face .
" You're very special to me, too . Can you kiss me again, properly this time?"

" I don't... Really know..."

" I'll show you."

Linhardt slotted himself between Caspar's legs as he cupped his face and kissed him again, and Caspar kissed back this time, his hands rubbing circles on Linhardt's waist . They parted for breath, and then Caspar's hand was pulling Linny's head close to his once again as they relaxed into a gentle, slow pace, breathing softly as they moved together, Caspar gently guiding him through it . He was so careful in his movements, for he didn't want to take advantage of Linhardt - this was his first kiss, after all .

When they parted, Linhardt flashed Caspar the smallest smile that was so very shy and cute .

"... Did you like that?" Caspar gently whispered.

" Yeah," Linhardt nodded ." You?"

" I liked that. I... Like you."

" Me too," Linhardt blushed, gently tangling their fingers together. " I am...fond of you? Did I say that correct?"

" Yeah!" Caspar nodded ." That was good, Lin .

" Oh! Good!" Linhardt smiled , pecking Caspar's cheek . His lips tasted like water from a pond, Cas thought to himself.
"... I have been fond of you, as well," Caspar added , and Linny took him in a gentle hug , sighing into his warmth as they lingered in each other's arms .

The rest of the day was spent like that, as well as the rest of the next weeks , the next months, the next years - sometimes it was more than just kissing, and Caspar guided Linhardt through that as well, other times it was just time spent next to each other .

And Caspar couldn't be more grateful for the strange , wonderful lover he had found.

Chapter Text

" Cas-par?" Linhardt whispers one day , their hands tightly linked together .

" What is it?"

" I was... Thinking."

" Hm? What of it?"

Linhardt was leaning against his shoulder - one would think Caspar would've gained an inch or two within the decade they had met, but Caspar was as tiny as ever . Linhardt seemed to like it, though . In his words, Caspar was " more a bush than a tree ." Oh, but he'd improved within those years ! His speaking had vastly improved , and he rarely made any errors anymore.

" ... I was thinking about... How lonely I was before you," Linny sighs . " You were my first friend ."

Caspar rubs circles on his palm encouragingly.

"... And I'm so grateful for you," Linhardt continues . His smile is warm .
" But I think I've stayed in this forest for too long ."

" But... This is your home?" Caspar whispers ." Linny, what're you saying?"

"... This is hard for me to put in words," Linhardt admits . " I... Am an extension of forest. I am part of it . It breathes and lives with me," Linhardt explains ." And so long as it's breathing, I will."

"... You're immortal . I know that," Caspar nods .

" But I don't want to live in here anymore . I want to live with you," Linhardt flushes .
" And for that to happen... I'd need to leave."

" You want ... To live with me?" Caspar chokes ." Lin, I'd be honored , but ... I don't want to take you away from your home."

" Let me finish," Linhardt murmurs.
"... I'd have to give up my immortality ."

" Oh..." Caspar gasps, a stunned sigh. " You'll...die."

" But I don't mind ." Linhardt smiles at him, tracing his cheek with his thumb .
" I never knew what time was before I met you, Caspar. It only started running the day we met . You were the one who showed me . It's only right that I give it back to you."

" L-Linny..." Caspar whispers . How wonderful it'd be . They'd wander around ports , they'd wake up next to each other, they'd grow old and gray together... Caspar wondered how Linhardt's beautiful face would age . Beautifully, no doubt.

" What do you think?" Linhardt murmurs ." You could show me all the places you've told me about, and your books , and your friends!"

" And we could... We could travel the world together, Linhardt," Caspar smiles . " The two of us ."

" The two of us!" Linhardt beams, and he kisses him enthusiastically.

Β 

And whatever it was that made Linhardt otherworldly... slowly parts his body . Caspar notices the markings on his face slowly fade away, or how the moss covering his body diminishes day by day, or how strands of hair start growing in the place of long weeping willow . His antlers start wilting - and it's a shame, but Linhardt doesn't seem to mind .

The day they fall to the ground, he suddenly isn't all that ethereal anymore, not that Caspar would ever see him as anything but the most beautiful being on this earth . He clothes him and he takes his hand as they exit the forest.

Linhardt meeting the outside world...is honestly adorable. Learning very much consists of Linhardt pointing at random people and/or things ( the people stare, the buildings don't ) and Caspar explaining what they are to him in the gentlest of voices.

... And they disappear one day , learning together , learning about what it feels to truly belong to someone so foreign, or how it feels so right.

Time passes , and they inhabit homes all around the world , and suddenly they're not alone , they're holding their children's hands.

Time passes again, and they're old and gray and so very happy . The birds have left their nest , so they're alone together once again .

Linhardt understands the passing of time very well . When it's time to go , he knows.

" ... Cas."

"... Oh . Is it time?"

" It's time."

They return to their forest once again , and they lay down on that clearing they'd met each other in when they were just young boys . Mellow hands find each other as they lean against each other and let the forest take back what it gave them.