Claude hated to admit it, but it was becoming normal for him to wake up cold in winter mornings. A year ago, he would've been warm, safe, in the arms of the man he loved. A year ago the war hadn't even started. A year ago, he still had his husband.
Dimitri had been working himself to the brink of exhaustion every day fighting this war against Edelgard and the Empire. It left Claude to deal with relations between the Old Kingdom and the Alliance. It wasn't hard work, but it did leave him quite out of the loop when it came to what was actually going on in regards to the war.
Judith tries to keep him updated, but she's normally out in the field with Dimitri or Dedue fighting alongside them. Claude, as the King's husband and the 'Queen', was pretty much forced to stay behind to secure the home front. It was lonely, but he thanked whatever God was out there for his Golden Deer classmates.
When they had left Garreg Mach and gotten married, the rest of the Golden Deer came together to help him with his new role. Raphael had pretty much become his chief bodyguard, Lorenz his advisor. Marianne had started working with Mercedes in the infirmary, but more often than not she's being sent out in the field with the armies as a healer. Hilda and Ignatz have also been going into battles. Leonie and Lysithea usually are around in the palace. Lysithea can usually be found in her tower practicing her magic and Leonie had been named the captain of the Golden Stag Guard. Claude's own personal honor guard for when he leaves the palace.
Then, of course, was the rest of Dimitri's Blue Lion house. Most of which follow him into the field, well, except Ashe. The smaller archer is head of the Lion's Brigade. An elite archery squad that serves as guardians of the palace and it's walls. He stays on the homefront, mostly due to Dedue's insistence. Felix and Sylvain are two of Dimitri's most important generals and one is often not seen without the other.
Luckily though, for the moment everyone, even Dimitri was in the palace. With that knowledge, it hurt more than Claude woke up cold and alone. Even amongst his closest friends and allies, Claude was still lonely. He woke up cold, went to bed cold, during the day he was cold. Everything was cold.
This morning was no different. He woke up to a knock on his door and the sound of Lorenz's voice. "Good morning!" Came that sing-song voice that Claude was becoming more and more accustomed to.
"Mornin'," he grumbled and looked next to him at the empty spot in the bed. He ran his hand along it frowning a little. Cold. Lorenz frowned at him and then sighed while he went to the closet and pulled out Claude's clothes.
"You'd best get ready," he said trying not to draw attention to the pained look in Claude's eyes. "You've already slept through breakfast and you have a meeting in an hour with Lord Blithe," he said. Claude nodded and slipped out of bed grabbing the clothes as they were tossed on the bed. He sneezed loudly making Lorenz jump and look at him.
"Bless you," he said gently. "You're not getting ill again are you?" he asked. "That would make what, the fifth or sixth time this winter alone?"
"Nah, just cold," Claude said while he put his clothes on. "Too damn cold," he muttered. Lorenz frowned a little and went to pull a cloak out for Claude to wear. The man was like a delicate desert flower and needed to be warm constantly. He grabbed Claude's signature yellow cloak but then saw a fur-lined blue one in the back. He touched it and felt the heavy fabric. It was warm, but he wasn't sure if he should even grab it.
"That's Dimitri's," Claude said reaching by Lorenz to grab it. "He doesn't use this one much anymore," he said and put it over his shoulders clipping it. It was huge for him, but it was warm, like a hug. The added bonus was that it Dimitri's and it had his scent all over it. Claude turned his head into the fur taking in the scent and sighed softly. "Right..." he said and looked at Lorenz. "Meeting right?" he asked.
"Yes, but they can wait. Let's get you a warm breakfast to help fight off that chill first. Wouldn't do if you got sick," he said smiling gently. Claude smiled and nodded slowly before he started to walk towards the door the fur-lined cloak flowing behind him.
A quick breakfast and a short briefing from Lorenz had Claude heading towards the conference room. He felt a little better with his belly full and Lorenz's and Raphael's company, but there was still that empty place in his heart. And the pressure in his chest, Claude paused and let out a dry cough into his sleeve.
"You okay boss?" Raphael asked placing a large hand on Claude's back. A few more coughs wracked through Claude's body roughly. When the fit subsided he nodded putting his hand on Raphael's arm.
"Fine, just a little tickle," he said trying to sound reassuring. "Really, I'm fine," he said with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.
"You sure you don't want to reschedule?" Lorenz asked.
"No, Lord Blithe is a great ally to the alliance, I wouldn't want to be rude. Even if he's a giant prick. I promise I'll rest after the meeting, okay?" he said looking at both of them. Lorenz hummed a little and pulled the cloak a little closer to Claude.
"Fine, but stay bundled up. You need to stay warm," he said. Claude laughed a little and nodded waving Lorenz off. "Good, now you go on. I'll be in presently, I just need to have a word with Raphael," he said. Claude nodded and went on ahead when he was out of earshot he turned towards Raphael looking at him tiredly. "I don't need to tell you, but I will anyway, keep an eye on him. I think we're going to see a rather violent repeat of last month," he said.
"You got it, Lorenz, you think it's just a cold?" he asked. Lorenz hummed again and looked down the hall when he heard Claude's cheerful greeting to Blithe.
"No, I have to do a little research, but until I figure it out. I'm counting on you to keep an eye on him," he said.
"It's my job, don't worry. He's safe with me," Raphael said grinning broadly. Lorenz smiled and pat his arm.
"That he is," he winced when he heard Lord Blithe start yelling. "Oh dear, best get in there before they slaughter each other. I remember that they really don't like each other," he said as they hurried to the conference room.
The meeting was loud, between Claude and Blithe and their yells echoing even down the hall making passing servants scurry off. When the meeting was over Claude was somewhat relieved, he could go without seeing Lord Blithe for a lifetime after that screaming match. It was also enough to agitate his cough, but lucky he swallowed it until the lord saw himself out.
When the door closed, Claude fell back into his chair coughing violently. It didn't take long for Lorenz to hand him a glass of water. When the fit had passed, leaving Claude gasping for breath he leaned back in his chair nodding at Lorenz.
"I'm alright, just agitated," he said. Lorenz bit his lip and looked at Raphael who was nearly out the door, probably to go after Marianne.
"Perhaps, we should go see Marianne. Get you that breathing tonic," Lorenz suggested.
"No need," Claude said smiling. "I'll be fine after a cup of tea," he said and pat Lorenz's hand that was on his shoulder during the fit. Lorenz sighed deeply and nodded slowly.
"As you wish," he said. Claude grinned that cheesy grin of his and stood up gathering his papers.
"Well, that's one meeting. Who else do I have to scream at today?" he asked. Before Lorenz could speak the door opened and one of the guards stepped in clearing his throat.
"Highness, I'm sorry but Hubert and Ferdinand Von Vestra are here wanting to speak with you and the King," he said.
"I'm sorry?" Claude asked. "Did you just say Hubert and Ferdinand Von Vestra?"
"Surely it's a ploy," Lorenz said coming up to Claude's side. "Those two would never be caught dead outside of the Empire."
"No m' lord. They're here, along with a few others, the Black Eagle House. They said they want to defect from the Empire," he said. Claude looked at Lorenz and Raphael before he nodded slowly.
"Lorenz get the King, Raphael get the rest of the houses together in the throne room. We're going to have a little class reunion," he said.
Dimitri was neck-deep in paperwork. Between the letters from the front lines that are asking for assistance, the casualty list, the letters from worried parents and spouses, and spy reports he was for lack of a better word. Overwhelmed. Ingrid has been taking on a lot of the letters to families, letters of condolences, and the like. Thank the goddess for her. He and Ingrid have been spending a lot of time together as of late with all this paperwork, really besides Dedue, she's the only one Dimitri sees regularly.
Ingrid sighed heavily while she tied up another stack of letters running her fingers through her hair. "There, I'll send the courier tomorrow morning when the snow is cleared," she said.
"Thank you, Ingrid. I appreciate the help," Dimitri said hand in his hair while he looked at another document.
Situation controlled. Empire chased out of Gaspard. Please pass regards to my brother.
"Good news," he said and looked at Dedue. "Pass on to Ashe that his homeland is safe and his brother is well," he said.
"I shall Highness," he said with a short bow but there was a relieved smile on his face. Dimitri put the letter away and was just about to grab another form when a knock sounded.
"Come!" Dimitri called rubbing his face. If this was another noble looking for Claude...
"Your highness," Dimitri sighed heavily at the familiar voice.
"Lorenz," he said looking up at him sharply. "I assume you have a reason for not being in the meeting with Lord Edmond?" he asked. Lorenz huffed a laugh waving him off a little.
"I'm surprised you even knew about that," he said. "Since that's part of Claude's job," he said.
"Get to the point," Dimitri snapped. He didn't really like Lorenz, he liked to take liberties with him. He blames Claude for not putting him in his place, but he was also Claude's closest friend. That was the only thing that saved him from a cell.
"I came to inform you that the Black Eagles, minus Edelgard, of course, are waiting in the throne room. They wish to have an audience with you and Claude about defecting from the empire," he said. "It seems Hubert and Ferdinand might be the de facto leaders in this little rebellion."
"It's a trap!" Ingrid said. "They wouldn't betray Edelgard."
"But if they are serious about it it can prove to be a great alliance. Edelgard's forces will be completely destroyed without any of her generals," Dedue said. Dimitri looked down at the desk in thought. "We should hear them out, gauge how sincere they are," he said. Dimitri nodded and looked up at Lorenz.
"Claude?" he asked.
"Already in the throne room. Raphael is gathering the rest of the original houses together on his order," he said. "A class reunion I believe he put it," he said.
"Light way of putting it, alright. Let's go," he said getting up.
The throne room, Hubert noticed was just as big as Edelgards if not better decorated. The banners of both Fearghus and the Alliance hung on either side of the room and behind two thrones. The two thrones he was going to bend the knee to because really it was the only way to keep him and his little 'family' safe.
He looked behind him at the others. His old classmates were huddled up a little closer. They were all tired, hungry and overall distressed. They had all traveled a very long way to be here. Petra was very nearly holding up Dorothea and Bernadetta on each arm. Caspar was pressed close to Linhardt and Ferdinand was trying to comfort them as much as he could in soft whispers.
His lovely husband, Hubert doesn't know what he would've done if he didn't have Ferdinand at his side. His beautiful rose was the mastermind behind this. He planned everything, from the day they would leave to the travel route. Everything. It was all his idea. He started over when a short fanfare played making him look towards the thrones. On either end of the room, two doors opened and Claude came out of one door, Dimitri the other. They didn't even look at each other before they sat down after their introductions.
Behind the two Kings though the rest of the old Golden Deer house and Blue Lion's house filed in. He admitted he was surprised to see all of them in the room. All that was missing was Edelgard and it would've been completed, but this was not the time for sentimentality, not when the eyes of the Kings were upon him.
"My lords," Hubert said bowing low. The others followed suit moving to stand by Hubert.
"Hubert von Vestra," Dimitri called, voice firm. "You have a lot of nerve showing up here," he said. Hubert wanted to wince at the tone, but Ferdinand's hand on his arm kept him from doing so.
"I realize how this must look, my lords, but I promise that my reason for being here is genuine," he said.
"We were informed it was because you wished to defect from the Empire," Claude spoke up. "Why would you do that?" he asked.
"Again I realize how this must look, but allow me to explain," he said. He waited until he got the okay from both of them before he spoke. "The Emperor has become ruthless. We no longer give quarter to unarmed civilians or soldiers who surrender," he said. "We separate families, leave nothing but complete destruction in the wake for a cause that would never cause this much damage. On top of it, she's been making threats against all of us on pain of death. For my sake and my family," he said and motioned behind him at the other Black Eagles. "I beg you allow us to swear ourselves to both of you, let us help you kill Edelgard and put an end to all of this," he bent down on his knee in front of them the others following slowly. "We are yours, to do with what you will," he said.
Claude gasped softly and looked at Dimitri. The blonde was still looking ahead at them before he stood up. Claude rose as well reaching out to Dimitri touching his arm gently. Dimitri looked at him for a moment, it was the first time he'd felt Claude's touch in some time.
"Don't do anything too harsh, this could be an advantage," Claude whispered. Dimitri scoffed pulling his arm away before making his way down the steps to look down at the Black Eagles. He took in each and every single one individually.
"You are welcome to stay, on one condition," he said. Hubert looked up at him expectantly. "You all will remain on house arrest for two weeks, you are not to leave the palace or it's grounds. You will have guards watch your every move until I deem you safe enough and trustworthy. Any sign of treachery and you all die, understood?" he asked.
"Yes, highness, that is fair," Hubert said.
"Then rise, and embrace me as a friend," Dimitri said. Hubert smiled and rose slowly letting Dimitri hug him gently. "Good, we'll have a few servants make up rooms for you."
"You have our gratitude," Hubert said.
"Right, we'll see you all accommodated accordingly, just follow Dedue and he'll see that you're fed properly," he said. With another bow the Black Eagles all gathered back up, feeling a little lighter than when they arrived in the city. They had a roof, a warm meal, and warm beds, that would be enough for them for now. When everyone had left except for Dimitri, Claude, and Raphael the blonde King sighed and turned to look at his husband who was beaming at him. Dimitri felt a soft tug at his lips until he realized something. Claude was wearing a cloak, a familiar blue cloak.
"Is that my cloak?" Dimitri asked. Claude cleared his throat and pulled the cloak tighter around himself. Even Dimitri couldn't deny it was kind of cute. The cloak was way too big for Claude, but the way he buried his face into the fur lining was endearing.
"I was cold this morning, my cloak isn't warm enough for these winters," he said. Oh, goddess, there was that tickle again. No, he wouldn't let Dimitri hear him cough. Dimitri hummed a little.
"I'll have a tailor make you a warmer one in yellow. Blue is not your color," he said. Claude smiled at that, a light blush on his cheek. Before he could thank Dimitri a cough slipped out, then another until he was having a full-on fit. "Claude?" Dimitri asked. Claude waved him off trying to suck in a breath to calm the cough. He had to sit down again still coughing violently. He didn't notice Dimitri falling to his knees in front of him until he calmed down and felt warm hands on his face. "How long have you had this?" he asked.
"It's nothing. I had a screaming match with Blithe, must've agitated my lungs," he said sucking in breaths. Dimitri's brow furrowed, but he seemed to accept that answer.
Dimitri slowly stood up his hands sliding from Claude's face. Oh, how he wanted them back, Dimitri's hands were so warm and he still felt so cold. He wanted to reach out and bring Dimitri's hands back to his face, or his shoulders or even just hold them in his own. He just wanted to hold Dimitri and feel his touch again. "I'm going to see to the arrangements for the Black Eagles," he said.
"W-Will I see you tonight?" Claude asked clearing his throat.
"No," Dimitri sighed. "With these new details the time table has shortened," he said. "Might be mobilizing sooner rather than later. I'll be staying in my office for the night," he said and looked over at Raphael. "See that he doesn't scream at any more nobles," he said. He took one last look at Claude, indifference in his eye before he turned on his heel and headed back towards his office. Claude watched his husband go with sad eyes. His heart ached for his touch again. He hasn't so much as kissed his husband in a month, or has it been longer. It was hard to tell now just how long he had gone without Dimitri's touch and this last one was so fleeting. Like he didn't even have time anymore.
"You okay boss?" Raphael asked. Claude nodded still looking where Dimitri disappeared to. He wanted to chase after him, hug him, touch him, just be around him but- Claude sighed standing up and slid his crown off his head. He let it dangle in his fingertips while he walked past Raphael, head hung low. He was in for another lonely night. And somehow, he felt even colder than before.