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Cold

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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.

xxx

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.
-Christophe

"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.

Chapter Text

The clock chimed nine'o clock. The sun had long since gone down and the palace was slowly quieting. Everyone retiring to their rooms, well, all but Dimitri and Dedue. Dimitri was going over the reports that Hubert had surrendered to him in exchange for their lives. He was grateful for them too, gave the army an edge they didn't have before. Now, they know Edelgard's plans and can be ten steps ahead of her.

Dimitri looked at the clock and then back at the report rubbing his face and looked at Dedue who was busying himself making a new stratgey based off this information. Dimitri felt his lips quirk. Dedue was loyal to a fault and probably Dimitri's closest friend. He really didn't know what he'd do without him.

"Dedue," he said quietly. "You can leave you know? I'd hate to keep you from Ashe," he said. "I can finish up," he said. Dedue looked at him, brows furrowing. Uh-oh, Dimitri hated that look.

"Shouldn't you retire to your own bed as well, Highness?" Dedue asked. Dimitri sighed softly and looked at the papers littering his desk. "I'm sure Claude would appreciate it too," he said.

"I've still got a lot of work that needs to be done," Dimitri said. "Some of it can't wait until morning," he said. Dedue sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "Why the sudden concern for Claude anyway? What have you heard?" he asked suddenly reminded of the cough Claude had earlier. It was unnerving, but if Claude wasn't worried about it, neither would Dimitri. There was no point.

"I heard Lorenz talking to Mercedes about 'Claude's tonic.' I didn't think anything of it, but they were slipping it into his tea. I investigated of course, he is the Queen and I am as responsible for him as I am for you," he said.

"And what did Mercedes say?" Dimitri asked his voice lowering.

"It's a cold medicine, nothing more. But Claude is stubborn and refuses to take it unless they slip it into something," he said. Dimitri hummed a little at the answer but waved it off none the less.

"Mercedes can be trusted, she is our healer. If she says it's for a cold I believe her," he said. Dedue bit his lip. He did not like the fact that Dimitri wasn't more worried. The last time Ashe got sick he used up any time he could doting on his lover, and when he couldn't Marianne looked after him.

Now Claude...he never got sick. At least, not normally. He didn't get sick last winter, didn't get sick at Garreg Mach. Dedue actually can't remember a time where he did get sick. Then for him to suddenly get sick...something was wrong.

"I still think you should at least go sleep in your own bed," Dedue said. "You're looking a little rough, and this couch cannot be comfortable long term."

"I'll take your concern into consideration, in the meantime, you're dismissed. I'll see you in the morning," Dimitri said through gritted teeth. Dedue wanted to push a little more but it wasn't worth it. He bowed lowly and exited the office leaving Dimitri hunched over his desk.

His room was in the same hall as Claude and Dimitri's, he had to walk past it to get to his and Ashe's room. So when he got to the door he chanced a little peek inside, just to check on Claude and make sure no harm came to his queen.

He was greeted by the sounds of rough coughs. Claude was sitting up in bed, his hand over his mouth with Lorenz sitting on the edge of the bed holding a cup of tea in his hand.

"Please," Lorenz pleaded with him gently. "Claude please drink this, it'll help you sleep. This isn't just going to go away," he said. Claude shook his head while he sucked in a shuddering breath through his trembling lips.

"I don't need it, it's nothing," he said roughly. Lorenz sighed in exasperation and looked at Claude sternly.

"Either you take it and get some rest or I pull Raphael out of his bed to hold you down and I force it down your throat with a funnel. And don't you think for one moment we won't do it," Lorenz snapped. Claude gave a few more rough coughs and then sighed taking the teacup and drank it slowly. Lorenz sighed in relief and a small smile came to his lips.
"Thank you," he said.

"Yeah yeah," Claude said looking into the cup. "It's weird, last month wasn't nearly this bad," he said.

Last month? Dedue thought. How many times has Claude been sick?!

"You really need to talk to Dimitri about this," Lorenz said. "This all started when he started throwing himself into his work and he's-"

"He's doing his duty to his people as King. This has nothing to do with it Lorenz and you know it," Claude snapped.

"Claude, Marianne said these are classic signs of Broken Heart Syndrome! Sooner or later it's going to take a toll on you and I won't be able to stand it if you die because he's neglecting you!"

"I'm not going to die, Lorenz," Claude said. He took Lorenz's hand in his own and smiled at him encourgingly. "Things are tough, with the war and everything. I knew what I was getting into when I married him. I promise, I'm going to be fine. He's just busy. Am I lonely? Yes. Am I sad? Yes. But I know that at the end of this, everything will go back to being as they were a year ago," he said.

"I just-" Lorenz looked at Claude. "I don't want to lose my best friend," he said.

"And you won't. I promise," he said. He downed the rest of the tea handing the cup back to Lorenz and smacked his tongue a little a bitter look on his face. "There, I took it. Now Lorenz, go to bed," he said. Lorenz chuckled and nodded standing up. Dedue took that as a sign and closed the door silently before making his way to his room.

Claude is sick. He's been getting sick. He has a special medicine to soothe the cough. And what is Heart Break Syndrome and what does it have to do with Dimitri?

All of these thoughts were running through his head until he got to his door and entered it quietly. He didn't' want to wake Ashe up if he was already sleeping. He was somewhat relieved to see Ashe still awake sitting in one of the plush chairs in their room sideways, his legs kicking slowly over the arm of the chair a large book in his hands.

"Hello my little one," he said. Ashe's mint green eyes looked up and a wide smile and he closed the book in his hands getting up. "You didn't wait up for me did you?" Dedue asked. Ashe huffed a laugh while he helped Dedue take off his uniform with ease.

"What kind of question is that Dedue?" Ashe said a coy smile on his lips. Dedue smiled down at him and shrugged off his coat with a groan when his shoulder popped. "Are you tense? I'll get the salve and give you a back rub," Ashe said hanging the coat up.

"No need, just a little stiff. Dimitri's been a bear recently," he said. "But I am grateful for the offer," Dedue said.

"Felix said that Dimitri's been more stressed than usual this month. Sylvain well...I won't repeat what Sylvain said," Ashe said. "Something about him and Claude," Dedue huffed a little and rolled his eyes.

"Don't listen to Sylvain, he's vulgar. How Felix puts up with him is beyond me," Dedue said while he stripped off his shirt his other shoulder popping at the movement. This pop caused him to wince and let out a short groan.

"Dedue, please lay down on the bed. I'm getting the salve, I can practically see how tense you are," he said. Dedue looked at Ashe, his arms crossed over his chest, a firm look in his eyes. When he looked like that Dedue couldn't refuse him, then again, there weren't many things Dedue would refuse Ashe.

"Yes dear," he said. Ashe smiled and turned towards the dresser while Dedue finished undressing until he was down to his small clothes and laid on the bed on his stomach hugging his pillow. Ashe was humming quietly while he moved around the room, it was only a few moments before he felt Ashe's weight on his lower back and the smell of lavander and wintergreen.

"I got to talk to Linhardt and Caspar today," Ashe said taking some of the salve into his hands rubbing them together to warm it up before he started rubbing Dedue's strong back. Dedue gave a soft groan sinking further into the bed. Ashe's touch did wonders for him.

"You must've been happy to see them," he said.

"Mh-hm, it was nice catching up. Despite the situation they were in, turns out they were the first to be recruited when Hubert and Ferdinand pitched the idea. Everyone else took a little more time, but all the same I'm glad they're here," he said.

"I'm not fond of Ferdinand or Hubert, but it takes courage to do what they did. I only hope this doesn't come back to bite them, or us," he said. Ashe hummed again focusing on a large knot underneath one of Dedue's shoulder blades working at it until he felt it give and a satisfied groan left Dedue's mouth.

Even under Ashe's hands, which normally left Dedue's mind blank his mind wandered back to what he witnessed in Claude's room and the same questions popping into his mind. He wasn't too familiar with Fodland's illnesses except for the common colds that Ashe gets sometimes so he saw no harm in asking.

"Ashe, have you ever heard of something called Heart Break Syndrome?" he asked. Ashe's hands paused for a second and Dedue swore he heard Ashe take in a sharp breath. It was a few heartbeats before Ashe started rubbing his back again.

"Why do you ask?" he asked. "Are you broken-hearted?" he asked.

"No, but...I think I know someone who is. They keep getting sick, and their friends think that it's because they're being neglected in their relationship. I was wondering if you knew anything about it," he said. Ashe hummed lowly in his chest and then sighed.

"It's a terrible thing to happen, normally it's because someone close to them has died. But neglect can cause it too, esspecially in the long term. They start by getting sick, just mild at first, easily remidied but then it happens more and more become more severe until finally they just kind of...give up. The other side of the coin is, you can't just tell the person, it needs to be genuine, from the heart. So whoever hurt this person is...well, I hope whoever hurt them realizes their mistake before it's too late," he said. "Whoever you know that's suffering from this ailment Dedue, I hope you find some way to help them. Broken Heart Syndrome is a terrible thing," he said.

"We don't have it in Duscur, when two people love each other it's for life. You're loyal to your partner whomever that may be, you love them with your heart and your soul," he got up on his hands and rolled over making Ashe fall on top of his chest. Ashe smiled a little and looked at Dedue affectionately. The larger man smiled back and slid his hand up Ashe's back slowly reveling in the feeling of the soft warm skin under his rougher one.

"I mean it though Dedue," Ashe said sliding up his lover's body to press a kiss to his jaw. "I hope you find a way to help whoever is suffering. I've never heard of a better cure for the sickness than a little tender love and care," he said.

"I will try, my little one. But for now, I think I know someone else who needs a little tender love and care," he said. Ashe grinned at him leaning closer.

"Oh?" he asked.

"Yeah...and that person is right here," Dedue said placing his lips against Ashe's lovingly. Ashe smiled against his lips and wrapped his arms around Dedue while the other man rolled them over so Ashe was below him and pulled the blanket over them to shield them from the winter's chill. He made a promise to Ashe long ago that he'd never let him go to bed cold, and he intended to keep that promise.

The next morning, Dedue woke up before sunrise as he always did. He was blissfully sated and relaxed new marks adorning his collarbone and chest from Ashe's mouth. He turned his head to the side to gaze at Ashe sleeping peacefully against his chest. There was a small smile on his lips, and marks littered across that pale neck and torso and even more were hidden under the blanket between Ashe's thighs. But those marks were only for him to know about.

Dedue smiled leaning down a little to press a kiss to Ashe's forehead before he slipped himself out from under Ashe. He pulled the blankets over Ashe's freckled shoulder and looked down at him tenderly, for a moment he felt the pull to join him back in their bed but forced himself to stand up and get ready for the morning.

When he was dressed and he had laid out Ashe's clothes for the day he went back to the bed petting his hair back slowly and kissed his forehead.

"Little one," he whispered. Ashe groaned quietly, eyes blinking up at him sleepily. "Good morning, I'm heading out," he said. Ashe smiled sleepily and nodded. He leaned up to kiss Dedue's lips in a quick peck and laid back down.

"'ave a g'd d'y," Ashe muttered sleepily.

"You too," Dedue whispered. He tucked Ashe in a little tighter and waited until he was asleep before he made his way to the door closing it with a soft sound. Walking down the hall he passed by Claude and Dimitri's room. He peeked in a little to make sure Claude was actually sleeping.

He was, thankfully. His breathing was even, and deep, no other sounds of rasp or cough. A good sign, for now at least. That medicine must've worked. The only troubling thing was the fact that Claude's hand was gripping onto Dimitri's pillow tightly. Even in sleep, he was searching.

"Spying on our 'Queen' now?" Dedue jumped a little and closed the door quietly and turned around. Sylvain stood there with his arms crossed and his brow quirked. "Thought that was Raphael's job."

"It is all of our duty to look after the royal family," Dedue said. "What are you doing here anyway? Thought you'd still be asleep?" he asked. Sylvain sighed and rolled his shoulder.

"I pulled a night watch. Felix has done it every night this week. He's starting to look a little pale," he said.

"I see. You two have been busy as of late," he said.

"Yeah, between all of Felix's night shifts and my early mornings training the new riders well...things could be better. But luckily we both have today off, so at least we both get some rest," he looked at Dedue. "And with the Black Eagles here, I'm hoping to get a little more extra help," he said. "But back to the matter at hand, why are you spying?" he asked.

"I wasn't spying, I was simply checking on him. He had a rough cough last night, I wanted to make sure he was getting adequate rest," Dedue said simply.

"Claude's sick?" Sylvain asked blinking at him curiously. "Claude. Healthy as a horse Claude is sick?"

"It seems so. Lorenz seems to be on top of it though, but I am still concerned," Dedue looked back at the door.

"I'm sure it's nothing too serious. Claude's tough, whatever this is he'll beat it," Sylvain said cheerfully. "And with Lorenz looking after him, well I'm sure he'll make a quick recovery."

"I hope you're right, but I digress. I've kept you from your bed, and Felix long enough," Dedue said.

"Yeah, I better get going. Felix gets grouchy in the morning if I don't give him his daily dose of cuddles," Sylvain said with a grin. "See ya around Dedue," he said waving. Dedue waved back before making his way towards the office again. The guardsmen were switching their shifts, and a few servants were wandering about going for their breakfast. Dedue had hoped that he'd get Dimitri to eat today. He'd already missed several meals this week he prayed today would be different.

xxxx

Dimitri had passed out on his desk again. Quill in his hand, papers scattered around him half hazardly. Dedue sighed heavily, the idiot didn't even make it to the couch. Dedue closed the door harder than was probably necessary but it did the trick. Dimitri jumped awake nearly tipping his chair before he caught himself.

"Dedue! What the hell?" he groaned holding his head. He had a splitting headache, and he swore he had one when he passed out. What time was that again? He can't remember.

"It's morning and you haven't been to bed yet," Dedue scolded and crossed the room to open the curtains where the first rays of sunlight were starting to peak on the horizon. Dimitri groaned a little holding his head and ran his fingers through his hair scratching at his scalp. "You need a bath and to get proper sleep. Take a break, go see Claude," he said.

"Don't tell me what to do," Dimitri growled then he sighed. "But you're right." Dedue felt a spark of hope light up in his chest. Dimitri looked at the clock, it was just after six. "I need a bath and a coffee. Hubert and I are going over some papers today, and..."

"Why don't you want to see your husband?" Dedue asked bluntly giving Dimitri pause.

"Beg pardon?" he asked. Dedue leaned his hip on the table crossing his arms over his chest.

"You haven't been in the same bed with him in a month, actually the only times I've seen you two in the same room is when you're going over the war plans and even then you barely spare him a glance. So either you're avoiding him because you had a fight, or you're bored of him and I really hope this is all because of the latter," he said.

"What goes on in my marriage is none of your concern. Claude knew what was going to happen when the war started. He knew what he was getting into," Dimitri said. "He knows his place." Dedue opened his mouth to tell him what he had heard the night before but he remembers Ashe's words. Can't force it. Dedue took a soothing breath and tried to reign in his anger.

"His place is at the right hand of the King, you. And your place-"

"Do not presume to tell me my place Dedue! You may be my friend but you are a commoner! And you will not talk to me in that way!" Dimitri yelled. "Claude knows where he stands! He knows his duty! I am the King and I take no orders from anyone! And I bow to no one!"

The two men glared at each other and Dimitri straightened up his stance. "I'm going to take a bath, take the rest of the day off. I won't be needing your help today," he said. Dedue huffed and bowned turning on his heel heading for the door. He needs to punch something, that something might just be Dimitri's jaw if he didn't leave.

"A King bows to no one except his Queen," Dedue said quietly making Dimitri pause. "I am not asking you to bend the knee, but I am asking you to remember who your queen is. Remember your vows, and remember how much he means to you. Because one day... when you wake up from a nightmare alone in the dark you will find that he is no longer there to comfort you. And only on that day will you realize what you're putting him through," he said.

"Do you bend to Ashe, Dedue?" he asked quietly. "Do you bow to him?" he asked.

"In my world, he is my queen. I bend the knee. I protect him just as I would you. I love him with all that I am," Dedue answered bluntly before closing the door with a snap. Dimitri was left alone in his office looking down at his hands. He mulled over Dedue's words but then shook his head slowly. What did he know anyway?

Chapter Text

Claude's fingers were numb today, he fumbled with the buttons and clasps on his outfit. Luckily Lorenz was too busy going over the days' schedule to notice. He really couldn't handle Lorenz's pity. His heart was in the right place but Claude didn't want it to become a daily thing. A cough erupted from his chest, still dry and rough. Speaking of daily things. This cough, it was becoming more and more frequent. Even with the medicine. He'd have to talk to Marianne to make him a higher dose of his tonic.

"Take your medicine, you have a full schedule today," Lorenz said from where he sat on the couch. "Wouldn't do to have you break into another fit like last night," he said.

"Yes mother," Claude said cheekily. "What's on the roster for today?" he asked popping the cork of the bottle and downed the contents with a gulp and a shudder. He hated this stuff. Maybe Marianne could make him one that tasted better.

"Well first, you have a meeting with Ferdinand at eight. Then a meeting with Lord and Lady Lowe at ten, they just want to discuss their concerns for their territory. Then lunch with Lady Marian something about taxes and whatnot. And then a meeting with," Lorenz shuddered. "General McIntire." Claude shuddered at the name feeling a sick feeling overtake him. General McIntire was a letch, several times in the past he's made very obvious advances towards Claude. Luckily, Dimitri was usually nearby and would put the fear of the Goddess into him.

"Do I have to meet with him?" Claude asked.

"He has been requesting audiences with you for weeks. I have of course refused on your behalf and told him to defer to the King. But this time he's come in person and refuses to leave until he's met with you. I am sorry, Claude," Lorenz said. Claude sighed dejectedly and looked at himself in the mirror. Not even up for an hour and his day's already ruined.

"Send for Leonie, I want her and Raphael present for that meeting. Inform General McIntire we will meet in the throne room at four this evening," he said standing up. "I am going to ask if Dimitri will attend as well. I'll feel a little safer if he were close at hand," he said.

"Do you think he'll do it?" Lorenz asked.

"If he's still the man I married, yes," Claude said adjusting the cloak around him fumbling with the clasp. Lorenz rose from his seat with a sigh and went over to Claude. He took the clasp in his hands fitting it together and took Claude's hands. He gasped, they were like ice, his fingertips were red.

"Your hands-"

"They're fine," Claude said. "I'm going to go see Dimitri, just do as I asked and I'll meet you in the library to meet with Ferdinand," he said. Lorenz swallowed and looked at Claude uncertainly and nodded.

"Of course, Claude," he said. Claude smiled and stood up grabbing a pair of gloves to cover his hands. Maybe it would help. Meanwhile Lorenz stood in the room biting his lip. He needed to get Leonie, there was still time before the meeting he'd stop by and see Marianne.

xxx

"You're certain that she'll move here?" Dimitri asked looking down at the map. The war map, the center of Dimitri's world as of late. Constantly moving pieces, trying to find ways to get ahead and win the war. The sooner this was all over, the better.

"I planned this route myself," Hubert said. "The plan was to move our forces here and here then take the main city when the weather turned. It was planned to reduce civilian deaths, but with the way things have been..." Hubert shook his head. "Edelgard will not allow for survivors. She wants you dead as well as any members of your former house," he said. "Except Claude."

"What does that mean?" Dimitri asked firmly his eye going up to Hubert darkly. If there was a plot against Claude, Dimitri would see it end. The other man sighed heavily and shook his head. "Hubert..." he growled when the other man didn't answer him. Hubert picked his eyes up to looked at Dimitri shivering at the dark look in that one eye of his.

"She was going to capture Claude, make him watch you die, all of you. Then she was going to break him, severely. I'll spare you the details. When he was broken she was going to force him to abdicate the throne to her as well as the Alliance. He would then be exiled, but I don't think she would've kept that promise," he said. Dimitri's fists clenched against the map. Over my dead body, he thought. When he got his hands on Edelgard, he was going to destroy her.

A knock on the door broke Dimitri out of his dark thoughts. He glared at it and looked at Annette who had been helping him with paperwork since Ingrid wanted the day off to spend with Dorothea. He was glad to oblige her in this.

"Annette, get the door," he snapped. He looked back at Hubert with that dark look again. "When?" he growled.

"Next week is what was planned, if we move soon we can make it to the border before they do and ensure that her vision does not come to pass."

 

Annette was the last person Claude expected to answer the door to Dimitri's office. In fact, he was quite shocked. Normally it was Dedue, or Ingrid, or Dimitri's terse reply of 'Enter'. To see Annette was a surprise, and not really a pleasant one. They never really saw eye to eye, they got along, but it was formal. Very formal.

"Good morning your majesty, can I help you?" she asked.

"I need to speak with the King on a very specific matter," he said. Annette bit her lip and looked behind her where Dimitri and Hubert were talking over the war table.

"I'm sorry highness, he's a bit-"

"Busy, I know but this is urgent," he said. He pushed his way through despite Annette's stuttering. Claude made his way over to the war table and stood by Dimitri's side. Hubert paused in his sentence and bowed to Claude.

"Highness," he said.

"Just Claude is fine. Dimitri, I need to talk to you," he said grabbing onto his arm.

"Is the Imperial Army on our doorstep?" Dimitri asked.

"No, but-"

"Then it can wait," Dimitri said. Claude growled a little and gripped his sleeve tighter.

"This can't just listen please?" he pleaded gently. Dimitri looked at Claude an angry flash in his sapphire eye. Claude felt a shiver but didn't let it show as he met Dimitri's gaze. Dimitri huffed and sat up walking over to the window with Claude following him.

"What is it Claude?" he asked.

"General McIntire is here, he wants to have a private meeting with me at four this evening in the throne room. You and I both know how I feel about him, I simply want to know if you'll be there. I'd feel a little safer knowing that you're right there," he said. Dimitri sighed heavily and pinched the bridge of his nose.

"You can't just get Leonie and Raphael?" he asked.

"I already have them both coming, but there's still no guarantee that he won't try something," he said gripping onto Dimitri's arms. "If you're there then at least I know he'll be well...less of a letch than normal."

"I don't have time for this!" Dimitri whispered harshly. "You are perfectly able to deal with this! And with Leonie and Raphael you are very well protected!" Claude winced a little at the tone, he hadn't meant to show it but Dimitri's words stung. A year ago he would've been marching down the hall to find whoever made Claude uncomfortable and put the fear of the Goddess into them. What happened to that Dimitri? Where was his husband?

Dimitri for his part, seeing the wince made his heart pang a little. He hated being harsh with Claude. He had important work to do though and he couldn't afford any distractions, but then again...Claude's never looked at him this desperately. He sighed heavily and relented a little.

"Look. I know how much you hate him, I hate him too but I can't be pulled away right now. Edelgard's forces are moving against us sooner than I thought. I need to plan this battle before it reaches our doorstep," he said his voice a little softer. He couldn't tell Claude what was really going on, he promised to keep him as far away from it as possible. If he told him about Edelgard's plan. No. He wouldn't."But I promise, he tries anything, you tell me and I will cut him down," he said. It was enough to make Claude soften his gaze and his shoulders sagged a little. Claude smiled a little and nodded.

"Thank you," Claude said relief flooding through him. Dimitri pat his gloved hand and a warm sensation filled Claude's numb fingers. The touch was fleeting though, just like the one in the throne room during his fit and just like that his fingers were numb again. Claude pulled away and made his way over to the door. Dimitri was already back talking to Hubert. He turned away and marched through the door without passing a look at Annette.

The meeting with Ferdinand turned out to be less about diplomatic alliances and more about catching up. Claude would admit, it was like a breath of fresh air. Like he was able to take the crown off for a short while and relax. He doesn't think he's laughed so much since leaving Garreg Mach, he had forgotton how much he liked talking to Ferdinand. It really took his mind off of his problems of state and to a lesser extent the ache in his heart. At least until he brought it up.

"How are you and Dimitri doing? I noticed he seemed oddly...distant," Ferdinand said. Claude hummed a little and shrugged.

"We're okay, at least I think we're okay," he said. "He's been busy mobilizing our forces, fighting, and running the Kingdom at the same time. Meanwhile, I've been meeting with concerned Nobles, forging alliances, and seeing to the peoples' needs," he said and smiled at Ferdinand. "Doesn't leave much time for each other, does it?" he asked.

"No, it doesn't sound like it. Hubie and I never had that problem, then again, we shouldered the burden together. You two seem at odds with your responsibilities. Dimitri handles the war the Kingdom where you have to handle the fallout and speak to the people," he said. Claude huffed a laugh at that sipping his tea.

"It was his idea. I told him to stop being stubborn and at least let me help, but he said he didn't want me near the front, something about ensuring one of us survives. Not like we can have any heirs," he said. "None legitimate, but Annette has voiced she'd gladly serve as a surrogate." The last part he said was bitter, his eyes hardening a little.

"Ah, she's still holding a torch is she?"

"Like you wouldn't believe. Dimitri won't lay with her though, at least I don't think he has," he said.

"You don't know? Don't you two share a bed? Surely you'd know if he had a mistress," Ferdinand said. Claude sighed and rubbed his face leaning his elbows on the table. He never considered the thought that Dimitri would be unfaithful. That's not his style, he's always been loyal to a fault. That's what makes him such a good king and he applies that to their marriage. But now that he's thinking about it it makes sense that he might have someone else on the side.

"He hasn't shared our bed in a month, hasn't touched me in three...maybe they're fucking. I just don't know," he said there was that pain in his chest again and that pressure in his chest. "I've barely seen him." Ferdinand reached over and touched Claude's arm. "I shouldn't even be telling you this, you're still considered the enemy but..."

"We were friends once," Ferdinand said. "Not so long ago you and I were having meals and tea together and just talking like this. You helped me get through to Hubert and damn it I'm going to help you get through to Dimitri," he said firmly. Claude smiled and swallowed thickly, there was a tickle in his throat. Not again. He went to clear his throat a little but ended up coughing hard into his arm. It was wet this time, but nothing would come up. "Claude?" Ferdinand asked getting up to kneel in front of he was about to call for Raphael when Claude seemed to come out of it.

"I'm-" Claude gasped out. "I'm fine, been fighting a cold, my medicine wore off," he said clenching his hand in his lap. Too soon, it's too soon. That medicine should be working all day.

"You should go get some rest," Ferdinand said standing up and taking Claude's elbow. "Come on, I'll take you to Raphael," he said gently. Claude nodded and stood up letting Ferdinand guide him out of the library. When he been passed off to Raphael and said their goodbyes for the day Claude looked back into his hand. He felt the sick feeling return when he saw ruby blood staining his glove.

Shit.

Chapter Text

"Blood? You're certain?" Marianne asked urgently looking up at Raphael. When he had dropped Claude off in his room to rest before he next meeting he made a beeline for the infirmary. Though Claude tried to hide it, Raphael saw just a glimpse of blood on Claude's glove and he was certain he heard a coughing fit just moments before.

"It was a small amount, but I know blood when I see it," he said. Marianne twisted her hands a little and turned to her table and started flipping through the book. "What's wrong with him?" Raphael asked.

"I had a theory," Marianne said. "But I had prayed that it wasn't true but now I fear it is," she said until she found the page. "It's the second stage of Broken Heart Syndrome," she turned to look at Raphael sadly. "Did he and Dimitri have a fight? Threatened divorce? Has he been under any trauma emotionally?" she asked.

"Well..." Raphael rubbed the back of his neck. "You know that Dimitri has been busy but they haven't slept in the same bed for like a month. And Dimitri's been holed up in his office and in one of the other bedrooms. They haven't even eaten meals together. Nothing," he looked at Marianne. "Claude's been lonely I think, a few nights I've heard him crying in their room. Last month I found him crying in the library. Guess he misses Dimitri," he said.

"Oh dear..." Marianne said. "We can't force this either and the only known cure is for the person who's being affected to receive the proper comfort from the person that hurt them. Or at least a resolution of some sort that brings the same comfort. If that doesn't happen, then..."

"Claude will die won't he?" Raphael asked grimly. Marianne looked up at him sadly and then nodded. "Then we gotta make sure that they start spending time together!" Raphael said, determination in his voice.

"It's not that easy, it's a matter of the heart. It's got to be genuine. Dimitri needs to go to Claude himself," Marianne said.
"And it's hard to even get him out of his office most days unless it was something big," she said.

"Big huh?" Raphael rubbed his jaw thoughtfully then snapped his fingers. "A party!"

"W-What?!" Marianne squeaked. "Dimitri would never sign off on a party!"

"We don't need him to! We can get Claude to do it! It won't be very big either! Just the three houses! Like a class reunion! Dimitri would have to take a break then! And he and Claude would both be in the same room and boom! Problem solved!" he said grinning broadly.

"Uh...I suppose..." Marianne said.

"Great! I'm gonna go pitch the idea to Claude now!" Raphael said turning towards the door.

"Wait!" Marianne said making Raphael turn and look down at her. She handed him a small wooden box. "Claude's medicine, I made it a little stronger. Should last him a while," she said.

"Oh right! Thanks, Marianne you're the best!" Raphael said happily. Marianne watched him leave and sighed.

"That man...where does he get that optimism from?" she looked back at the book sadly. "Goddess, keep Claude within your gaze. He's going to need you now more than ever for the difficulties ahead."

xxx

Hubert groaned quietly while he rolled his shoulder trying to get all the tension out. He knew that Dimitri would want to talk to him about the reports, but he didn't' know he would be spending every waking moment in that damned office with him. If he wanted to do that, he would've just stayed with-no. Not even going to go there. This was the plan.

He headed to his room for a much-needed nap, maybe screw Ferdinand into the mattress to blow off some steam. Lord knows that's all Caspar and Linhardt had been doing since they got here. Then again, he can't really blame them, Caspar had been out in the field for months before they left. He just wishes they were quieter, Linhardt was a screamer and in this castle, it echoes.

But moans weren't the only thing that echoed. Any sound echoed, footsteps, doors, yelling. Wait...yelling? Curiosity getting the better of him, Hubert made his way down the hall listening closely at the yelling. He couldn't pick up much, and what he could pick up was lots of cursing followed by the sound of things being thrown.

The more he went down the hall, the louder it got until he paused by the door that was slightly ajar. Hubert peeked in and saw two men, one with red hair the other with black hair. The black-haired male looked furious.

"You unbelievable bastard!" he yelled. "You letch! You- you-!"

"Felix, sweetheart, just calm down and let me explain!" Ah...yes, Hubert remembers now. Felix and Sylvain. He's seen them on the battlefield quite a few times, a formidable force, and a skilled team. They never strayed too far from one another and expertly synced their fighting styles into dangerous combinations. He's lost many men to them.

"Explain what?! How I caught you getting cozy with that girl?! Her lipstick was on your cheek, Sylvain!" Felix screamed. Ah...so they were an item too. "She was all over you! And if you don't mind me saying you looked pretty comfortable with it!"

"Will you just- Felix listen!" Sylvain yelled. Felix rushed him and there was a short struggle until Sylvain pressed Felix into the wall, hands on his wrists pinning them near his head. "Stop!" There was no other sound for a moment except heavy breathing. "Felix, it wasn't what it looked like. She came on to me, okay? I promise. I'm a changed man now, you know that," he said.

"Do I?" Felix's voice was dripping with venom followed by a rough cough. "Do I Sylvain?"

"Felix, I would never, ever hurt you. Not now, okay?" Sylvain took Felix's face in his hands gently. "I made my vows to you at the Goddess Tower. Remember? You were my wish, Felix. And I got it, and I'm never letting you go." There was silence, just the two men their eyes locked with each other. As Hubert was about to turn to leave until he heard more coughs and then Sylvain's voice again. "Hey...hey...shh, come on sweetheart, let's get you to bed," he said. Hubert chanced another look inside, Felix had his arms on Sylvain's shoulders, head hung low as he coughed.

"This is all your fault...made me relapse...bastard," Felix gasped between coughs. "Stupid hearts. Too damn fragile," Felix coughed again while Sylvain brought him over to the bed. "Stupid sickness. Stupid emotions."

"Shh...take your medicine, and I'll take a nap with you," Sylvain cooed. Hubert finally pulled himself away from the door and headed down the hall back to his room. Ferdinand would be waiting for him, he had to talk to him. They needed a new plan. Now.

xxx

"A party?!" Lorenz yelled. "Are you out of your mind? Claude he's got to be out of his mind. We're in the middle of a war and your idea is to throw a party?" Claude was laying on the bed with his eyes closed and a cool rag on his head. The last fit gave him a migraine, and he couldn't seem to get rid of it and Lorenz's yelling wasn't helping either.

"It'll boost morale. Things have been too uptight around here and no one's had any time for each other. I haven't really seen Ignatz in like a week because of conflicting schedules. And it doesn't have to be fancy, at all. Just something for the three houses. A way for us to come together and rekindle our friendships. Gives Claude and Dimitri a break too," he said looking at Claude hopefully.

"Dimitri taking a break? That's almost laughable," Claude said and groaned a little when a rough cough hit him. "But Raphael's right, it's a good idea," he said and smiled. "Just a small get together, for all of us. You have my blessing," he said.

"Alright!" Raphael cheered. Claude grinned a little and closed his eyes again sinking deeper into the bed. The pressure in his chest had disappeared, but

"Lorenz cancel-"

"They're already cancelled. Well, except the one with General McIntire. He's still insisting, actually he wanted me to move it up a tad. Seeing as you had the afternoon free, he's already waiting in the throne room. I told him it might be a wait, he said he didn't mind. I don't know who's more stubborn, him, you, or Dimitri," he said shaking his head. Claude chuckled dryly cracking his eyes open again.

"McIntire, hands down," he said and groaned when he sat up holding the cloth to his head a little longer and laid back down when the nausea got worse. A full-body shiver ran through him, he just took his medicine why wasn't it working?

"I really wish you would just blow this off," Lorenz said.

"I can't, you know I can't," he said. He swallowed thickly waiting for the nausea to pass and finally sat up. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, so far so good. He stood up swaying a little but he steadied himself. "Let's get this over with. I really don't want to be there long," he said.

"Of course," Lorenz said. He helped Claude straighten his clothes and hair and replaced the crown on top of his head.
"There," he said. "Presentable."

"Thank you mother," Claude said earning him a flick on the forehead from Lorenz.

"Enough of that or I'll start dragging you to meetings you don't want to go to by your ear," he said. Claude laughed, a low raspy sound, not like him at all but he was able to laugh and that was enough to bring Lorenz some comfort even if Claude looked like he was going to pass out. "Come on, let's go to that meeting. I can't wait to hear what the good General has to say," he said.

xxx

General William McIntire was a handsome man, even Claude could admit that. He was tall, broadly built, short red hair, square jaw with a finely trimmed beard, lovely dark green eyes, strong, loyal. A true credit to the Alliance. Oh and that voice, a deep baritone with a slight brogue. If it wasn't for the fact he was a complete and utter pervert, Claude would melt just as the sight of him.

But unfortunately, he was. And he had a nasty habit on crossing lines that shouldn't be crossed, like trying to grope the Queen of the Kingdom in plain view of the King that one time. Dimitri nearly took his hand off then.

Claude waited for a second taking a deep breath, he looked over his shoulders at Leonie, Raphael, and Lorenz. His closest friend and his most trusted protectors. He'd be fine, and if Claudius managed to get to close, well, Claude always had his dagger.

Entering the throne room, sunlight streaming into the stained glass behind the thrones Claude took a seat. Lamenting the empty one next to him only for a moment before he laid eyes on the General in full armor kneeling at the bottom of the steps, behind him his mage bodyguard. Not like he needed one, but he always used to say, they're useful.

"General, forgive the delay. I was caught up in some personal matters," he said.

"Nothing to forgive, highness. I am just happy to see that you are healthy, there had been rumors," William said rising to his feet.

"Rumors?" Claude asked.

"Yes. The courtiers have been whispering and those whispers reached me and I can't tell you the joy that fills my heart that they weren't true," he taking a step towards the throne. Leonie stepped forward hand on her hilt. Claude put his hand up to ease her.

"Speak plainly or leave, General. I don't have time for this," Claude said sharply.

"Of course, highness. The rumors say that you and the King were ah...not doing well. And that you have been repeatedly falling ill. I of course feared the worst and came here hoping to see your radiance and I see they were just rumors," he said.
"If I may approach further?"

"You may not," Claude said. "If this is really the case for your visit, to dispell rumors then consider them dispelled. I am in perfect health," Claude rose from his throne quickly. He gasped a little when the dizziness hit him and he fell back into his throne holding his head. Was his vision tricking him or was the room moving to fast?

McIntire blinked at him and a slow grin came to his lips. Before Leonie, Raphael, and Lorenz could get to Claude's side the McIntire snapped his fingers. The mage behind him raised her hand, freezing them in place. Chuckling McIntyre went up and knelt in front of the throne while Claude tried to stop the world from spinning. What was wrong with him? Never had this much trouble before?

"Perfect health hm?" he asked. Claude glared at him from the corner of his eye. "Yes, I see this plain. You have the sickness of the heart don't you?" McIntire reached up to swipe a brazen finger against Claude's cheek making him shudder, for once it wasn't out of a chill. "My poor Queen, the King hasn't been paying any attention to you has he?" He tsked a little and leaned closer to whisper in his ear. "I could give you the attention you crave, all you have to do is take off that crown and run away with me," he said his hand sliding down to Claude's knee sliding up his leg. "We'd be so good together."

Claude growled reaching for his dagger when a blade came out of nowhere pointing straight at McIntire's throat. Claude sighed in relief, he recognized the blade, Dedue. McIntire growled looking up at Dedue then he caught sight of a bow and arrow pointed at his mage. Before he could move back he felt a second blade at the back of his neck.

"Take it off, or I take off your head," Dimitri snarled. McIntire froze at the sound, but slowly removed his hands holding them up in surrender. "On your feet," Dimitri growled. When he stood the blade was pointed straight into his back clinking against his armor. "Tell your mage to release them." A snap of the General's fingers the mage released Leonie, Raphael, and Lorenz. "Good," he looked at Dedue and nodded. Sheathing his blade Dedue grabbed a strong hold on McIntire dragging him down the stairs. "Take him to the dungeons, Leonie grab the mage. I'll deal with them later," he growled.

"Sire," Leonie said tilting her head. When McIntire and the mage were gone Dimitri looked back at Claude. Pale and shivering, a light sheen of sweat on his brow. Dimitri frowned and scooped Claude into his arms.

"Strained your lungs in a screaming match? Hmph," he scolded. "When were you going to tell me you were sick?" he asked.

"Didn't think it was that bad," Claude muttered. Dimitri sighed heavily and looked at the others. "Double security, make sure anyone bearing McIntire's colors does not have access to the palace. I don't want any wars in my own home," he said.

"Sire!" The others echoed. Dimitri looked at Claude who was still shivering rather violently, pressing his face into his shoulder.

"Let's get you to bed," he said leaving the throne room heading towards their bedroom.

"You came," Claude said smiling tiredly resting against Dimitri's shoulder.

"I was passing by the throne room and I heard your voice," Dimitri said. "Now hush up and get some rest. I'll get you to bed and grab Marianne," he said.

"Stay?" Claude asked weakly with a cough.

"We'll see," Dimitri said.

Chapter Text

Wow, just wow. Words cannot Express how wonderfully warm and fuzzy I am right now. Really.

First of a huge shout out to all of you who have read, left, kudos and comments. Thank you! You guys are the real MVP. Never, in my life was I expecting this to take off as much as it did. Thank you! If I could I'd give you all hugs.

Secondly, I'm going to be busy from 11am to about 7pm EST so I will not be posting anything until later but I will be keeping an eye on my inbox. When I get home I will be getting to work on the next few parts. My goal is to be finished before I go back to work on Monday.

Finally, if anyone wants content on the background ships that have been mentioned this far let me know! I know I've got someone who wants a stand alone already! When I've finished with the main story I will start working on those.

Thank you everyone again! Couldn't have made it this far without you!

Regards,
S

Chapter Text

"You want to what?" Ferdinand asked trying to keep his voice down. He and Hubert were in their room, tucked away in their bed blisfully bare and sated. When Hubert came back earlier to talk to his husband he was greeted by a most...distracting sight. He deemed the talk could wait until they were both sated and in a better mood. What he wasn't expecting was going all night, and well into the morning. "Hubert, we can't just change the plan. Edelgard will kill us," he said.

"She's not going to do anything," Hubert scoffed sliding his fingers down Ferdinand's back. "She's still regrouping from the loss at Gaspard. It'll be weeks before she gets here, in the mean time Dimitri will be out in the field with his most powerful fighters and all that will be left will be the weaklings. Felix had a relapse, he's not going anywhere."

"And if my analysis on Claude is true, he'll be dead before then. The Kingdom will be in mourning and the King-"

"Will be so emotonally compromised that he'll just lead all of his men into a slaughter, and the castle will be ripe for the taking," Hubert said. Ferdinand hummed a little and laid his head back down on Hubert's chest over his heart. He looked at the far wall, his stomach twisting painfully. He knew the plan, of course he did, he's the one that thought it up. But after seeing Claude so...so fragile. It made him want to reconsider, but under pain of death, he had no choice. Edelgard was expecting results, and she was going to get those results. But on the other side of the coin-Ferdinand jumped a little when there was a clatter outside the door.

"Shift change," Hubert soothed. "They're loud as hell in the morning too," he said. Ferdinand hummed a little and laid back down and silence lapsed between them but that gut-twisting feeling never left.

"Hubie," Ferdinand said quietly. "We-we can't do this can we?" Ferdinand asked. Hubert closed his eyes twisting his fingers through Ferdinand's hair slowly when he opened them again his husband was looking at him sadly.

"What choice do we have my sweet?" he asked.

"We could stop it right now, you can go back to Dimitri and tell him you just had a report come in from a mole and tell him exactly where the troops were mobilizing. Tell him to leave now and they might have a chance in winning," he said. Hubert sighed deeply and fell back against the bed. "Hubert-"

"I'll go first thing in the morning," he said. "I promise." Ferdinand smiled brightly leaning over to press his lips against Hubert's lovingly.

"Thank you Hubie," he said against his lips. Hubert smiled, a small fragile thing, but a true one none the less.

xxx

Ever since the incident with McIntire the day before, all Claude has been doing is sleeping. Lorenz supposed it was a good thing, but Marianne wasn't quite as happy about it. He should be resting, but he's been sleeping deeply, getting harder to wake up, and when he is awake it's never for longer than an hour.

She expressed her concerns with Hilda, Leonie, and Lysithea over tea. They tried to have 'girl time' every day. Some days it didn't happen with schedule conflicts but Marianne was happy to have it today. Claude's illness, it was starting to weigh on her.

"He's probably exhausted!" Lysithea said. "War is hard, and if he was sick the entire time his body is probably just crashing! Just you wait, he'll be back to normal Claude in a few days he'll be back to harassing all of us and I can finally get revenge for that stink bomb he planted in my lab!"

"I'm surprised he still pulls those tricks, you'd think being 'Queen' would've been enough to stop him," Hilda said.

"Claude will always be Claude, no crown will stop him from scheming," Leonie then she frowned. "But it's been a while since his last prank, I'll admit," she said. "Guess it's hard when the person you want to prank more than anyone is too busy fighting a war and running a kingdom," she said.

"Wait he pranked Dimitri? I didn't think ol' cyclops had it in him to enjoy a prank let alone one of Claude's schemes," Hilda said.

"Hilda! He's our King you can't talk about him like that!" Marianne said in a whisper.

"Who's gonna tell him?" She asked. "Besides, before he married Claude we didn't have a King. Didn't need one, don't see why we need one now," she said.

"If you're unhappy you could leave," Leonie said sharply. "You didn't have to join us when we all moved to the palace," she said.

"I wasn't about to say no to Claude when he asked me to come to lead the frontline forces," she said.

"Then stop bitching, Claude and Dimitri are our King and Queen. Show some respect," Lysithea snapped. Before anyone could say anything else the door to the infirmary burst open and Ashe stood there panting.

"Meeting. King's office. Deer and Lions only. Now," he panted. The girls didn't need to be told twice before they were up and following Ashe.

Dimitri was hunched over the war table, eye closed, head hung low between hunched shoulders. The rest of the houses were there looking at their King with wide eyes at the information they had just processed. The Black Eagles were moles? They were sent there for an internal attack. Ingrid swallowed thickly wiping her eyes. Dorothea would never do that. She couldn't...could she? If the information was right yes, she could.

"Where is the Queen?" Dimitri asked roughly not picking his head up but everyone knew who he was talking to.

"Resting in your quarters my lord," Lorenz said. "Tabitha and Clyde are guarding him as we speak," he said.

"Good. Ignatz, Raphael, Leonie, Ashe, Hilda, I have called for more troops from the Alliance. Lady Judith will be arriving in two days be sure that you see to the troops and assign them to areas around the city."

"Sire," they all said slowly.

"Lysithea, you said you were fooling around with some sort of explosive?" he asked.

"Yes sir, it's still in it's testing stages but it should be ready to go by the time we're ready to move." Dimitri nodded.

"Felix are you well enough to fight?" he asked.

"What kind of question is that?" Felix snapped. "Of course I'm well enough."

"Fine, you and Sylvain are going to the front lines where I sent the army to head off Edelgard. Bring them back, and hide them in the forest region. We'll think of a plan then. You should leave tonight so that we're not caught with our backs to the wall."

"Sire!"

"Mercedes, Marianne, how are we doing on supplies?" he asked.

"We're stocked on potions highness, but we need bandages and antitoxins," Marianne said.

"I can make antitoxins," Ingrid said smiling. "They won't be that powerful, but they'll be better than nothing."

"And I know someone in the village that can make bandages, how many do you need?"

"As many as you can get." Dimitri smiled a little, a small fragile thing. A swell of pride in his chest. His and Claude's houses were the best around when they got their heads together. They were the best team he could ever hope for. He was damn proud of them.

"Dedue, double security around the Black Eagles. We can't trust them," he said.

"What of Ferdinand and Hubert?" Dedue asked.

"We play along," he finally looked up at the others. "We pretend we never had this discussion. We go about our days like we don't know anything. But be on your guard and say nothing about the plans. We won't be blindsided," he said. The others nodded and Dimitri looked at Ignatz, he nodded his head a little. "Thank you, Ignatz for bringing this to my attention. You just saved a lot of lives," he said.

"J-Just doing my duty," Ignatz said. Raphael wrapped his hand on the back of Ignatz' neck rubbing it slowly with his thumb. They looked at each other and smiled.

"Everyone's dismissed, Lorenz you stay," he said. "Just for a moment." When everyone left to hurry to their respected jobs. The only ones left were Dimitri and Lorenz. Dimitri sighed running his fingers through his hair going over to sit on the couch. He motioned for Lorenz to sit next to him. When they were seated shoulder to shoulder silence filled the room. And for the first time, it was comfortable. They had their problems in the past, but Dimitri knows deep down it's because Lorenz had been looking out for Claude's best interest.

"What a damn mess," Dimitri sighed.

"It certainly is, thank the Goddess Ignatz was in the right place at the right time," he said.

"He'll be rewarded for it, just going to have to wait until after we prepare," Lorenz nodded and looked at the fire in front of them but Dimitri could see the twist in his hands.
"How's Claude?" he asked. "Has he...has he woken up?" he asked.

"Yes, and no. He drifts in and out, Marianne said the stress is making him shut down so that his body can heal. But this afternoon, it was harder to wake him to give him his medicine." Dimitri swallowed thickly.

"H-how long has he been sick Lorenz?" he asked. Lorenz sighed deeply and looked up at the ceiling. There was no point in lying to him now.

"This would make it the sixth time this winter," he said. "But this is the most severe," he said.

"Six? He's been sick six times and I'm only learning about this now?!" Dimitri barked.

"It's not like you've been around! You're either in here or out on the battlefield! There was no middle ground! Nor had there been a great time to tell you since whenever I did try to talk to you you'd throw me out!"

"You try running a Kingdom and managing a war!"

"I've been tending to Claude and seeing to his needs for months! I have even done his job when he was too sick to do it! Yet I still make time for personal relations!" Lorenz yelled back standing up getting into Dimitri's face. "The same could be said about any other person here! Leonie makes time for Lysithea despite the fact the two of them are busy round the clock! Ignatz and Raphael make time for each other! I see them have meals together all the time! And Ashe and Dedue too, when Ashe has a day off and Dedue is doing your bidding and they pass in the hall Ashe follows Dedue around like a puppy if only to have a few precious moments with him! And don't even get me started on Felix and Sylvain my room is next to theirs and I have to listen to them every single night before one of them goes on a night watch! In fact the only person out of the two houses who haven't made time with his lover, his Queen might I add is you!" Lorenz was panting harshly by the end of his rant eyes sharp and face red.

Dimitri however just sat there and took it. He could've stopped Lorenz at any point, but he was shocked. He stood there watching Lorenz and then he felt his shoulders sag and he fell back to the couch holding his head in his hands. Lorenz felt himself calm a little and got on his knees in front of Dimitri.

"Listen," Lorenz said calmly. "I can't imagine what you go through on the daily being King, but a year ago you and Claude were on an equal level. I never saw either one of you without the other, you were happier, and you both shared the burden. Then the war started and you started pushing Claude away, keeping him away from war meetings, made him more of a diplomat to soothe the masses. You did what you always do when you're trying to keep him safe, you push him behind your back and you keep him there until the threat has been taken care of." Dimitri could only nod. "And that's all well and good, you're doing your duty, but somewhere along the way Dimitri you've forgotten how special Claude is. Not just as your spouse but as a fighter, a tactician, he was the best at what he did. And now, well, now he needs you. Now more than anything, he needs you to take the crown off, hang up the sword, even for just a day and just be with him."

"Won't make him better," Dimitri whispered.

"You'd be surprised what a little tender love and care will do to cure the ones we love," Lorenz said. Dimitri sniffed and wiped his eye, when had he started crying?

"What should I do Lorenz?" he asked.

"Well first take a bath, relax, have some you time. Then get your butt to your quarters and get in bed with your husband and take a nap. You need sleep, in a real bed. And when you're in bed just hold him close. He needs that, I can only do so much for him, but you...you can make him feel a thousand times better with a single touch."

"Okay..." he whispered. Lorenz smiled patting his shoulder rising to his feet. When he got to the door Dimitri called out to him. "Lorenz, when everyone is done doing what they need to do, give them tomorrow off. Felix and Sylvain will have to get theirs when they come back. You included pass on to Captain Miller that he's to take over the reports in my stead. The nobles can wait another day for you or Claude if he's feeling better. And Lorenz...thank you, for kicking me in the ass." Lorenz grinned at him kindly and bowed low.

"It is my duty to look after Claude and his needs sire, but it's also my duty to look after yours as well. Have a good day," he said.

"You too," Dimitri said.

Chapter Text

Dimitri took Lorenz's advice to heart and took a bath letting himself sink into the hot water with an appreciative groan. His joints ached, his back was full of knots, he had an old wound in his knee that was starting to make itself known again. He laughed at himself, he was only in his mid-twenties, he shouldn't feel this old. But, he supposed, the weight of the crown takes it's toll no matter how young you are. Dimitri leaned his head back and looked at the painted ceiling.

It was a complete star chart. He had it painted for Claude specifically because when the sky was too cloudy, or the winters too harsh he missed the stars. There were some nights he and Claude would be right in this tub, lounging against one another and Claude would look up and he'd talk about the stars and how they moved, or the planets, the moon, and the sun. How the heavens above moved, and changed above them without really realizing it.

Claude was so smart, smarter than he lets on. A master tactician. One of the best archers in the Kingdom. A stunning diplomat. He was patient when Dimitri was impatient. Cunning where Dimitri was forward. Soft where Dimitri was hard. Quiet when Dimitri was loud. He was everything Dimitri wasn't, and he truly was his better half.

When had Dimitri forgotten that? When had Dimitri forgotten just how amazing Claude was? When had he started treating him less than who he was? Dimitri felt a pang in his heart, guilt. Lorenz was right. When Dimitri saw a threat to Claude he'd push him behind his back, hand on his hilt the other hand on Claude to keep him there. It was one of the many duties of the King to always protect his Queen. But Claude was more than that. He was so much more.

Through thick and thin, war and peace, hurt and comfort. I vow to always be at your right hand whenever you need me. You don't need to ask, beg, or bribe. I will always be there, ready, willing, and able. This I do so swear.

Claude's vows to him on their wedding day. He whispered them to him at the altar while he slipped his ring on his hand. He kept his vows, he always did. No questions asked, a true man of his word. Dimitri adored him for that. He was always there when Dimitri needed him, always ready to comfort him when things got hard. Always there to share the burdens.

Now Claude needed him and Dimitri has kept him waiting long enough.

xxx

"I'm sorry, we're doing what now?" Caspar asked. Hubert sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. He'd had the same conversation with the others earlier. He looked behind him at Ferdinand who looked equally exhasperated.

"We're defecting, for real," Ferdinand said.

"But I thought the plan-" Caspar started.

"The plan has changed. Edelgard is becoming brazen, in my last report, there were nearly three hundred unnecessary civilian casualties. She no longer cares who gets caught in her crossfire, even us. In the end, we are pawns to be used and disposed of, nothing more," Hubert said. "All she wants is to win. No matter who gets hurt in the long run."
Caspar bit his lip looking down at the floor. He didn't like the idea in the beginning even if was a lie, he wanted to serve the Empire he loved endlessly. But to do it for real...
"Let me ask you something," Ferdinand said making Caspar looked up. "Look at Linhardt, what is he doing?" Caspar looked back onto the bed he'd been sharing with Lin, his lover was sleeping. As he normally did in the afternoon.

"Sleeping, your point?" he asked.

"How much would you give to ensure that he had a safe place to lay his head at night?" Ferdinand asked. The question made Caspar tense and he looked at Linhardt closely. "How much would you give to keep him safe in general? What would you do if you lost him?"

Caspar was quiet for a long moment while he considered those questions. He swallowed a little and looked at his pack in the corner where a small box was hidden deep inside and inside that box a future. A future that could never happen if Edelgard wasn't brought to heel. He looked back at Ferdinand and Hubert, Ferdinand was holding Hubert's arm gently while they waited for his answer.

"I would give my life to ensure he was safe," he said. "And I would take my own life if I lost him. Okay, I get what you're saying. It's for the best right? To ensure we can continue to live our lives to the fullest and be with the ones who help make our lives full. I get it," he said.

"Good, now no more talking about this. Fill Linhardt in when he wakes up, and remember, no one in the house is to speak about this to anyone. I'm planning on asking for an audience with the King tomorrow. I'll come clean, to a point, but until then. Keep your mouths shut," Hubert snapped.

"Yes sir," Caspar said.

xxx

Lorenz let out a deep, tired sigh. He was worn out, but he was finally able to rest. With Dimitri going to Claude for the day. The others going about their duties, and the nobles taken care of, for the time being, he could take a break. He made his way back to his room, ignoring the sounds that came from next door from Sylvain and Felix's room. Sounds like they were having one more romp in the sheets before they left. But he really didn't want to hear it now.

Turning around he made a beeline for the library. There were a few books there he wanted to get caught up on, maybe he'll have a cup of tea and spend the rest of the day there. Yes, that sounded lovely.

Lorenz was so caught up in his thoughts he didn't see someone coming out of the infirmary door until he crashed into them sending them both to the floor. "Oh! I am sorry I'm afraid I was-Marianne?" The woman looked up at him from where she had been knocked down. "Oh my dear I am so sorry," Lorenz said holding out his hands to help her up. "I hope you aren't hurt," he said.

"No, I'm fine Lorenz really," she said smiling up at him. Lorenz blushed a little but smiled back.

"Good, I'm glad. I am sorry about that, I was lost in thought that I just didn't see you," he said.

"It's alright really," Marianne said. "You must have a lot on your mind though, with everything happening," she said. Lorenz sighed a little a frown tugging on his lips.

"Yes, it's quite a burden but I managed to give Dimitri a swift kick," he said. Marianne's eyes widened and Lorenz felt her small hands squeeze his own al little.

"You didn't tell him it was-"

"Calm yourself, my dear, I didn't tell him, I just gave him a little shove. Told him the truth without really telling him the truth. He should be in bed with Claude as we speak and our Queen will be up to snuff in a few days," he said.

"Goddess willing. I'm glad, thank you Lorenz," she said.

"No need to thank me, Marianne. Simply doing my duty is all," he said grinning. Marianne smiled brightly, the sight making Lorenz's knees feel a little weak. She was truly a stunning woman in her own right and he'd love to see that smile every day. "Say, Marianne, if you're not busy would you care to join me in the library? I've been reading a very interesting book that I think you'd appreciate," he said. Marianne blushed brightly but the smile never left her lips.

"I-I'd love to!" she said. Lorenz grinned holding out his arm to her and they walked closely together towards the library chatting ever so quietly, but the smiles never left their faces.

xxx

"So much for that party," Ignatz said poking at his food. Raphael looked at him for a moment still chewing on a bite of food. Ignatz was still poking at his own before he shoved it over to Raphael. Raphael frowned when he swallowed and looked at Ignatz who just sipped at his tea. Raphael hated seeing him like this, hated seeing him down and out.

"Hey, we can still have it! It'll just have to wait until we win this war!" Raphael said cheerfully.

"If we even do win, what if we lose?" he asked. Raphael hummed a little rubbing his chin then placed an arm around Ignatz's waist pulling him into his lap. "Wha- Raphael!"

"Now you listen here," Raphael said firmly. "We have the most kick-ass team on this side of the Kingdom. Everyone is doing their part, and Dimitri's got to have a battle plan in the works. We go this!" he said grinning brightly tapping Ignatz on the nose. "Just have faith," he said.

Ignatz couldn't help the burning blush that came to his face nor the resulting smile. Raphael had a way with words, and he had a way of making him feel better. All he could do was a nod and bury his face into his chest.

"Okay," he said.

"Good, now you need to eat! You're not gonna get strong if you don't!"

xxx

Ashe was walking along the battlements going over placements in his head. He'd need to go over a few things with his men but he wanted a solid plan first. He looked out in the main valley where the battle was to be held, the flying cavalry was out an about giving their steeds a nice workout. With the recent weather, they'd been cooped up way too long, must be nice to stretch out their wings.

Ashe took a deep breath of the cool afternoon air. He didn't mind winter, not in the slightest. The air was cleaner, the cold was refreshing, and it made it perfect cuddling weather. He smiled to himself at the thought and leaned against the wall just looking out and enjoying the view.

"There you are," Dedue's voice was rough in his ear and strong arms wrapped around him. Ashe smiled and leaned into his embrace easily. "I've been looking for you, what are you doing out here?" he asked.

"Working out the formation for my archers. Then I got distracted by the view," he said. Dedue hummed resting his chin on Ashe's shoulder. "It's beautiful isn't it?" he asked.

"Yes, but you even more so," Dedue said kissing the spot behind Ashe's ear. Ashe gave a breathy laugh sighing happily.

"You said you were looking for me, what's wrong?" he asked. Dedue peppered a few more kisses behind his ear and nipped on his lobe making him yelp happily. "Dedue!" he giggled.

"Come with me," he said taking Ashe's hand. "I have to show you something," he said tugging him away gently off the battlements. "It can't wait," he said.
The palace greenhouse was one of their favorite spots, it reminded them of their time at Garreg Mach. This one was different though, it was bigger, more space to grow, it was their special place.

"I wanted to show you something," Dedue said giving his arm to Ashe as they walked through the greenhouse. "In the fall, I acquired a single seed from a merchant. He didn't know what it was, so I planted it here. After careful care and a lot of love, and a gentle hand it finally grew and it's in full bloom," he said.

"What is it?" Ashe asked. Dedue smiled and brought him to the back of the greenhouse into a little back room. Their own secret garden, every plant, and flower has been carefully grown, cultivated, and well-loved by either Ashe or Dedue. They moved further back into a lonely little corner and Dedue motioned to a small pot on top of a table with a single flower growing out of it.

Ashe gasped at the sight, it was stunning. That's not even the proper word for it. It was beyond stunning. It looked like a single rose with beautiful rainbow petals. On the sides of the stem, it looked like it might grow a few more blossoms given enough time and love.

"Dedue...it's-" He turned around to stare at his lover only to find him on his knee in front of him holding out a ring. "Dedue...a-are you?"

"We have been together for quite some time, and I'm not good at words but to be blunt. I love you, I will never love another and I don't want anyone else. Ashe Duran, my little one, will you marry me?" he asked.

Ashe was trembling, his mouth hanging open, and his eyes were watering. He swallowed hard finally finding his voice. "Yes...yes!" he yelled nearly tackling Dedue to the ground wrapping his arms around Dedue's neck. Dedue smiled brightly and sat back so Ashe was sitting in his lap. He took Ashe's hand slipping the silver band on his finger. Ashe sobbed happily looking at the ring and Dedue brought his head up to place a kiss to Ashe's lips. Ashe kissed back, tears of joy still slipping down his face.

xxx

"You sure you'll be warm enough?" Sylvain asked while Felix saddled his horse. Felix rolled his eyes looking at Sylvain.

"That is the fourth time you've asked, yes I'll be warm enough," he said and coughed a little bit. "This will go away in a few days," he said. Sylvain bit his lip a little and went behind Felix wrapping his arms around him tightly. "Sylvain, we don't have time-"

"I love you," Sylvain said kissing the side of his neck. Felix sighed softly and turned around to look at Sylvain sliding his hand against his chest lovingly.

"Hey, I'm fine. It's just a little cough, and I know that you weren't doing anything. I just overreacted. And I'm sorry about that, you didn't do this," Felix said taking Sylvain's hand pressing it against his chest where his heart was. Sylvain closed his eyes leaning forward to press their foreheads together. "Feel that?"

"Yeah..." Sylvain said.

"What is it?" Felix asked.

"Your heartbeat."

"Yes, my heartbeat. And it belongs to you, just like this," Felix said pressing his own hand against Sylvain's chest. "Belongs to me," he said. Sylvain huffed a laugh hugging Felix tighter to his body. Felix closed his eyes wrapping his arms around Sylvain burying his face into his neck taking in his scent.

"I love you," Sylvain said again.

"I know," Felix said. "Now come on, we've got work to do and not a hell of a lot of time to do it," he said.

"Right," Sylvain said with a smile.

xxx

Claude was dreaming of sunshine and warm sand under his feet, gentle waves, and a sea breeze. The sky was blue, a beautiful blue and everything was perfect. Warm arms wrapped around him from behind, a kiss was placed on his sun-warmed skin and heat radiated through his body.

"You're here," Claude said leaning into the warm body behind him.

"I'm here," Dimitri's voice was soft in his ear. "I'm here now and I'm not leaving. I promise," he said.

"You did leave though," Claude said. "You left me for so long," he said.

"I'm not leaving again, but you need to do something for me," Dimitri said against his ear.

"What's that?" Claude asked.

"Wake up sweetheart." Dimitri's voice sounded distant now when Claude turned out he was alone and the landscape faded.

"Huh? Dimitri?!" he called.

"Please...wake up Claude. Wake up," Dimitri's voice echoed in his head. Claude groaned a little turning his head on his pillow. He felt something next to him move and warm hands on his face. "Claude?" Dimitri asked urgently. "Claude? Come on sweetheart, open your eyes, let me see those pretty green eyes," he said. Claude groaned again and slowly opened his eyes and was met with a beautiful sight.

"Dimi?" he asked, voice slurred by sleep. Dimitri smiled at him rubbing his cheeks with his thumbs lovingly. "You're here?" he asked reaching up to hold Dimitri's hand against his face.

"Yes love, I'm here. I'm sorry it took so long," he said. Claude smiled tiredly leaning into the touch.

"Dedue finally kick your butt?" he asked. Dimitri chuckled pressing a kiss to Claude's forehead before settling back next to him still holding his hand.

"It was Lorenz actually," he said. "He screamed at me, a lot. Told me my shortcomings as a husband and well...it put a lot in perspective."

"Good old Lorenz," Claude said and coughed a little with a wince. His chest hurt a bit, but the pressure had eased up quite a bit. "He's good for an ass-kicking when you need it," he said. Dimitri nodded and leaned over pressing a kiss to Claude's cheek. Claude smiled and turned on his side looking over his shoulder at Dimitri. The King smiled and they moved together until Claude was pressed against Dimitri's chest and Dimitri's arms were wrapped around him securely. They laid like that, for the first time in so long, they just laid in bed holding each other.

"I have so much to apologize for," Dimitri whispered into Claude's ear. Claude reached up patting Dimitri's arm gently and rubbed it lovingly.

"We'll talk about all of that later, okay? For now, just tell me you love me and hold on to me," he said. Dimitri buried his face into Claude's hair pressing his lips to Claude's ear.

"I love you more than I can ever say. To think that you've been suffering this whole time and I ignored it, it's unforgivable. I'm going to make this right, starting now love. A King's place is forever by his Queen. I failed in that, but I'm going to try hard to do right by you. I promise," he said.

Claude smiled and for the first time in a long time, he was warm. He held Dimitri's arm tight and tangled their legs together. He snuggled further into the embrace sighing happily. "Tell me something nice Dimi," he said. Dimitri huffed a laugh clutching him as tight as he dared and proceeded to whisper into Claude's ear every way he loved him. The afternoon sun slowly turning to dusk, and he would have all day tomorrow. He'd help Claude get better, just a little tender love and care.

Chapter Text

Hey guys!

So quick update, I have been working my hot little tush off typing up the next couple of chapters of Cold. On top of that I have also been working extra hours at my job because staffing has been an issue. This is also on top of meetings, family obligations and personal obligations.

I am planning a mass update to hopefully finish this fic and start work on a sequel. Haven't worked out the details but it's coming. I have also planned out a few stand alone fics for some of the pairings. If you have any thoughts, requests, or ideas let me know.

Thank you!

S

Chapter Text

The royal wedding between Dimitri Alexander Bladdyd and Claude von Reigan had been the talk of the Kingdom and the Alliance since their intentions had been announced six months prior. The two had told the people that through this union, the Kingdom and the Alliance would now be called The New Unified Kingdom. It took a lot of getting used to, but the people seemed thrilled with this turn of events. There had been the talk of war, to know that both countries were unifying together put a lot of people at ease.

The alliance took a lot longer, but after being assured that it changed nothing except Claude's title from Leader of the Alliance to 'Queen' of the New Kingdom things settled pretty easy. At the end of the day, no one could say anything completely horrible about the marriage in the whole with the exception that they could not naturally produce heirs, but that would come later down the line if they even wanted children.

"This is so much fabric," Claude groaned looking himself in the mirror. He was wearing a gold and black suit, the colors of the alliance. He had a stag embroidered on the right breast of the shirt, and the Bladdyd symbol on the left. It was heavier than he would've liked, and there as a lot more fabric than what he was used to, but he'd live. It was his wedding day after all.

"You look so handsome!" Marianne said cheerfully.

"I'm almost jealous!" Hilda said with a wink. "Now get over here so I can do your hair!"

"Just keep it simple okay?" Claude asked going over to the vanity and sitting down. "No scissors!" he said when she tried to reach for the scissors. Hilda rolled her eyes and started doing his braid deftly.

"I can't believe you and Dimitri are getting married!" Ignatz said from where he sat on Raphael's lap. "Are you nervous?" he asked. Claude took a deep breath and looked at them in the mirror flashing a nervous grin.

"To be honest? I'm scared shitless right now. No battle, no competition, not even when I was told I was going to inherit my grandfather's position scared me as much as I am now," he said.

"You're marrying your best friend!" Lysithea said from the couch. "What's scary about that?" she asked. Claude sighed again, the smile disappearing while he looked at himself in the mirror.

"It's not just the fact that I'm marrying Dimitri, it's everything that comes along with it. We're signing more than just the marriage certificate. We're signing a treaty for the complete unification of the Alliance and Faerghus. It's going to be one big kingdom, and I'm...well..." he shook his head a little. "I have no idea how to rule a kingdom. I'm supposed to be his 'queen'. His right hand. I don't know how to do any of that. Lorenz and I have been researching for months and preparing for my new role and title but I still don't know anything," he said. "Dimitri has been groomed for this. Who am I? I'm just..."

"The man I love." Everyone jumped at Dimitri's voice and turned towards the King who was smiling at the door a large square box in his hands. "Could we have a moment?" he asked looking at the Golden Deer. The others nodded slowly, Hilda muttering something about bad luck.

When it was just Dimitri and Claude, the door shutting with a soft click, Claude rose from the vanity smiling at his husband to be wearing dark blue and silver, the same symbols adorning the breasts of his jacket. His hair was styled in such a way that showed off his bright, blue, sapphire eyes. And the crown of gold with the lion's face in the middle with sapphire gemstones for the eyes. The Lionheart of Faerghus.

"Isn't it bad luck to see the 'bride' before the ceremony?" Claude asked with a stiff chuckle.

"I've never been known to stand on ceremony," Dimitri said placing the box down next to Claude and held his hands gently in his own. "Let me look at you," he said pulling back to look at Claude up and down. Claude blushed a little under the scrutiny, but that grin that Dimitri gave was more than enough. "You look amazing, the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," he said.

"Not looking so bad yourself," Claude said grinning up at him. Dimitri huffed a laugh and Claude moved closer to brush a stray hair from Dimitri's face. "You clean up nice Dimi," he said.

"I try, but with you...I think there's something missing," he said. Claude's brows furrowed a little his head tilting over to the side.

"What?" he asked. Dimitri smiled at him pressing kisses to his hands and let them go. He went over to the box he brought in and slowly opened it. He looked up at Claude before he lifted the contents of the box out. "Dimitri..." Claude breathed. "Is-is that?" Claude reached out to run his finger over the smooth metal of the crown. It wasn't nearly as big as Dimitri's, a thick band with a deer's face, and antlers on the side and shining topaz eyes and an onyx stone for the nose.

"It is custom in Faerghus for a King to design a crown for his queen. Normally you would've gotten this when I proposed but we were still in Garreg Mach," he said.

"It's beautiful," Claude breathed.

"But pales in comparison to you," Dimitri said and gently placed the crown on Claude's head. "My queen." Claude swallowed a little and looked up at Dimitri who just looked down at him like he was the most precious thing in the world. "Claude," Dimitri started taking a hand in both of his own rubbing it slowly. "Listen...I know you're scared. This is new to you, everything about this but I'm here. We're going to shoulder every burden, and if you ever don't know what to do, just look to me and I will help you. If I don't know, then we'll figure it out together," he said and kissed his hand. "Together, until death do us part," he breathed.

Claude smiled brightly, a lone tear slipping down his face that Dimitri caught with his thumb wiping it away slowly. He leaned forward pressing a warm kiss to Claude's forehead and held out his right arm.

"Come on," he said. "We've got a wedding to get to." Claude laughed wrapping his arm into Dimitri's and let himself get lead away. He was still scared, but with Dimitri at his side, he'd find the courage he needed.

The wedding was beautiful. The church was decorated in gold and blue, white roses were everywhere. There was a touch too many people in attendance for Claude's liking, but he was thankful that both of their old houses stood at their sides. When their hands were wrapped and tied with a white ribbon, Claude's eyes were locked with Dimitri's and their smiles were soft.

Their vows were their own, whispered to each other's ears, hands tightening around its partner. When Dimitri whispered his own vows to Claude, he stumbled over the words, he forgot half of them, but it was romantic and beautiful. A few tears slipped down Claude's cheeks, a smile on his face.
Dimitri's reaction to Claude's vows were a bit more surprising. Dimitri actually let a sob, pressing his lips against Claude's temple. A few tears slipping from his own eyes, but there was a wide grin on his lips.

Their kiss was perfect, it was soft, loving, passionate. It was more than just a press of lips, it was the finalization of their union. Perfect. When their hands were untied, Dimitri held the sides of Claude's neck gently, his thumbs rubbing against his jaw when he kissed him again their smiles pressing together. The cheers than rang out was almost deafening, but neither one noticed. They pulled apart emerald and sapphire eyes locking on each other.

"Until death do us part, you are mine, and I am yours. My queen," Dimitri whispered.

"Forever and always, I remain by your side. My king," Claude whispered back pressing their foreheads together.

The afterparty wasn't just confined to the palace. The whole city was celebrating. It wasn't often they saw a royal wedding, nor one that created an alliance with such an impact. Citizens of the Kingdom and of the Alliance were dancing in the streets, while the nobles and members of the Golden Deer and Blue Lion houses gathered at the palace.
Dimitri and Claude were inseparable. Claude always on Dimitri's right arm, twin smiles on their faces while they received the many blessings and congratulations of the people in attendance. Though it wasn't long before Claude had enough of the party and a little scheme came into his head. It was his wedding night, and he really wanted to celebrate it... alone... with his husband.

When they had their dance is when he decided to put his scheme into motion. He was pressed close to Dimitri. His hand on the king's shoulder, the other in Dimitri's larger hand. He smiled coyly at him, a clear sign he was up to something. Dimitri met it with an amused look. Claude moved closer, putting his lips to the king's ear. To everyone, it would look like he was whispering sweet nothings, typical things, but what he really said was far from sweet nothings.

"Wanna ditch?" he whispered.

"What did you have in mind?" Dimitri asked.

"I want to get you upstairs into our room, tear off these suits so I can have you between my thighs and pounding my ass on every surface of it. I don't want to walk for days when you're through with me," he purred. Dimitri shivered moving his face into Claude's temple. A tender gesture, but he was trying to hide the effect of Claude's words. "And the crown stays on so I'm reminded who is fucking me," Claude finished.

"Then you keep your crown on too," Dimitri said, voice rough and heated. The very sound of it making Claude's legs tremble, if it wasn't for Dimitri's arm around his waist he would've faltered. "So I can be reminded of who I've got screaming my name under me."

"Deal," Claude breathed.

Leaving the party was easy thanks to a few choice whispers into Hilda's and Sylvain's ears. They created a distraction in the ballroom in the form of a mesmerizing dance, while Dedue covered their escape upstairs with a little wink. The rest of the way was clear and they were like two giggling teenagers sneaking off without their parents knowing.
They started unbuttoning clothes in the hallway, stopping every few feet to kiss each other senseless. They didn't leave a trail but they wanted to save some time before they got to the bedroom. Claude was actually surprised when Dimitri had him pinned to a wall, his legs wrapped around the blonde's waist while Dimitri was undoing his belt, in the middle of the hallway, where anyone could see them. A few short years ago while they were Garreg Mach, Dimitri would never, ever have done anything like this in public.

Must've been the perks of being the King. No one but his Queen could tell him what to do.

They made it to their bedroom, Dimitri kicking the door behind him and slamming Claude on to it making him moan loudly. Dimitri was attacking his neck with kisses, licks, and bites that would bruise in the morning. But that was okay, Claude had no intention of leaving the bedroom for at least two or three days.

Claude slid his hands over Dimitri's shoulders sliding off his coat, vest and shirt at the same time letting it fall to the floor with a thud. He was free to completely explore the scarred, strong body underneath. Warm, calloused fingertips slid down Dimitri's chest slowly, teasingly brushing against his nipples. Dimitri gasped quietly and took Claude's hands pinning them to the door by his head.

Their eyes met, both gasping and panting. Dimitri's eyes were hazed over with lust, pupils were blown wide so that all that was left was a sliver of blue. Claude smirked and leaned forward pressing a bruising kiss to Dimitri's lips pushing him back using just his body since Dimitri had a firm grip on his wrists still.

They moved back until Dimitri fell to the bed, the crown slipping from its place. "Ah ah ah..." Claude whispered. He moved away from Dimitri a small sultry smirk on his face.
"That won't do," he said. "Move up to the head of the bed dear," he said. Dimitri's brow quirked up but he did as he was told kicking off his boots at the same time.
When he was resting against the headboard of their bed Claude had already taken off his clothes, everything except for the crown, and his wedding band. Dimitri hummed appreciatively while Claude climbed onto the bed, picking up Dimitri's crown and placed it back on his head.

"There," he purred. He pecked Dimitri's lips pulling away before the King could pull him closer. Claude grinned at him and moved his lips down Dimitri's chest, stomach, dipping his tongue into the dip of his hips making Dimitri squirm. Claude let out a small hum, his hands sliding to the waistband of Dimitri's pants and pulled them down slowly with his small clothes.

It was no surprise to Claude that Dimitri was already hard, his cock already dripping. When Dimitri's pants were off completely Claude slid back onto the bed between Dimitri's thighs and gave an experimental lick to the head reveling in the taste. Salty, a little bitter, but Claude loved it. He smiled up at his husband, a small little smirk before he slid his mouth over the head sucking it gently and pulling away with a soft pop.

"Fuck!" Dimitri gasped gripping onto the bedspread.

"In a minute dear," Claude said licking up from the base back to the tip in one stroke making Dimitri moan. He licked him again before taking him back completely in his mouth sucking hard. Dimitri let out another curse tilting his head back, but his eyes never left Claude.

Claude was good with his mouth, whether it was talking to nobles, planning battle strategies, or talking himself out of trouble. But Dimitri and only Dimitri knew how good his Queen was when his mouth was around a cock.

Those clever lips moving gracefully over his shaft, that silver tongue laving attention on to him. And those scheming eyes, looking up at him so innocently despite the fact his clever mouth was doing something so lewd. Oh yes, his Queen knew how to use his mouth in more ways than one.
Dimitri had to resist gripping onto Claude's hair when the brunette hummed around him making a shiver run down Dimitri's body. He didn't want to move that crown from his head. He wanted to be reminded that it was his Queen... HIS Queen, between his legs sucking him off.

"Claude..." He growled out. Claude responded with another hum, his hands sliding up Dimitri's thighs, then his nails slid down them. Dimitri hissed a little and reached over to the nightstand where he knew he kept a vial of oil and grabbed it. Slowly coating his fingers with it he leaned over Claude holding his clean hand against the back of Claude's neck, the other slipping down to press into Claude's waiting hole. Claude pulled his mouth away to moan and moved his hips back into Dimitri's fingers.

"Ah! Yes!" he moaned out.

"Keep sucking me Claude," Dimitri snarled sliding his fingers deeper making Claude nearly scream. "Get me nice and wet, then you can ride me," Claude nodded and went back to sucking Dimitri. "That's it, good boy." A full-body shiver ran down Claude's body making Dimitri smirk, Claude loved being praised. "So good for me, so obedient, so beautiful," he purred making Claude groan and deep throat his cock making Dimitri hiss. "Fuck... Claude, I'm going to cum," he growled withdrawing his fingers. Claude pulled away with a pop and pulled away wiping his mouth a little.

Those swollen lips smirked at him and he crawled up Dimitri's body until he was straddling the King. "Not yet," Claude purred wrapping his arms around Dimitri's neck. "I want you deep inside me when you do."

Dimitri pulled Claude into a rough kiss, sliding his hands down to his husband's hips gripping them tightly to bruise. Claude moaned into the kiss moving his hips back until Dimitri's cock was pressed against his ass. Moving a hand back he carefully guided it to his hole and slid down slowly Dimitri helping him ease into it.

"Shit..." Claude breathed breaking away from the kiss. No matter how many times they have done this, he often forgets how big Dimitri is. The familiar stretch he felt, followed by the feeling of being absolutely full. "Dimitri..." he moaned tilting his head back.

"That's it love, nice and slow. So good...you're doing so good," Dimitri whispered until he was hilted inside Claude. They sat like that gasping, exchanging slow kisses before Claude looked into Dimitri's eyes and slowly raised his hips, sinking back down making them gasp.

"Yes..." Claude hissed. He repeated the motion, sliding more and more off of Dimitri's cock keeping the pace even until Dimitri thrusts his hips up making Claude cry out gripping the King's shoulders. "Dimitri!"

"That's it, sweetheart, scream my name," he snarled moving Claude's hips in time with his own thrusting deep into his husband. "Scream it nice and loud until you can't scream anymore. Then just moan for me."

And Claude did just that, screaming Dimitri's name loudly while he bounced happily on top of him, moving his hips trying to find that spot that would make him see stars but it seemed Dimitri was trying to keep him from doing so. Trying to prolong their lovemaking as much as possible. It was their wedding night, after all, the first time as husbands, why not make it as memorable as possible?

"Dimitri! Please! Please! Oh, fuck! So big...so good! You fuck me so good!" Claude cried out. "I love your cock! Oh, fuck yes!"

"So tight," Dimitri gasped moving his forehead to rest on Claude's feeling those fingers slid up to the back of his head holding him there. "Love fucking this tight ass of yours, going to fuck my shape into you, Claude. Make sure you remember who you belong to, who is that Claude?" he asked snapping hard into his husband finally hitting that spot inside of him that makes him yowl.

"You! I belong to you!" Claude cried out.

"What's my name?" Dimitri asked. He could feel that tightening in his stomach again. He was close, but he wasn't going to cum until Claude did first. He fought the feeling moving Claude a little faster, a little harder still hitting that spot. "What's my name?" he growled out again through gritted teeth.

"Dimitri!" Claude screamed his orgam hitting him hard his seed falling between their stomach. Dimitri wrapped his arms around Claude his hips snapping up one more time before he released deep inside Claude with a groan of his name.

They sat like that, both trembling and panting. Sweat cooling on their bodies, Dimitri held Claude close to his chest and slid the crown off Claude's head putting it on the nightstand so he could kiss his head. He ran his fingers through Claude's hair slowly letting him come down on his own with whispers of 'I'm here, shh, I'm here.'

By the time they had come down, Dimitri had already slipped out of Claude on his own and gently moved Claude to lay next to him. He was still trembling and shivering, and Dimitri couldn't help the small growl that left his lips at the sight of his release slipping out of Claude. Removing his own crown setting it besides its partner, Dimitri got up slowly to grab a rag. He went over to Claude and gently rolled him on his back and spread his legs so he could clean him up pressing soft kisses onto his quivering thighs. "Shh..." he cooed when Claude whimpered. "Come on down baby, I'm here," he said reaching up to brush dark hair from those hazy emerald eyes. When they were both clean, Dimitri tossed the cloth to the far side of the room and got into bed next to Claude covering them both up tightly.

He wrapped his arms around Claude pulling him close to his chest. Claude's head fell over his heart, sliding his fingers over Dimitri's chest slowly. Dimitri sighed contently burying his face into Claude's hair breathing in his scent. "I love you," he whispered.

"I love you too," Claude said groggily. He looked up at Dimitri and they shared one last kiss before settling back in for sleep. They had a long day, a long night, and it's going to be even longer for the next few days. Dimitri smiled slowly while his eyes drifted shut, for the first time in a long time, he was happy. He was finally happy.

Chapter Text

Dimitri and Claude had spent the better part of the night talking. Dimitri got him all caught up on the important factors of the war, things that Claude should've really already known about. Gaspard, the latest battles, the Black Eagles problem. Claude listened to everything taking in every detail until he finally dozed off into Dimitri's arms.
It was late in the morning and the servants were making more trips past the royal chambers. A few of them pressing their ears to the door. Normally they would never do something as low as eavesdrop on their lords but for the first time in months, instead of Claude's harsh coughing or gasping breaths on the nights he struggled to breathe or just silence, they heard a beautiful sound. Laughter. The King's deep laugh that was heard only on the rarest occasions, and the Queen's laughter, returned to his full force.

"R-Remember the first time we sparred?" Claude laughed wiping his eye. He and Dimitri were sitting on the floor near their fireplace, Dimitri stretched out with Claude between his legs his back against Dimitri's chest. Both of them were shirtless, they needed the skin to skin contact. "You pinned me to the ground, and you had this look in your eyes. I didn't know whether you were going to kill me, kiss me, or fuck me," he said. Dimitri laughed deeply tilting his head back against the couch.

"I think it was the third option. I admit I had been pining for you before that time, so when I had you on the ground below me the thought did cross my mind to just fuck you senseless."

"Why didn't you?" Claude asked tilting his head back to look at Dimitri. "I would've let you," he said.

"I wasn't going to have our first time in the training room, I wanted it to be romantic, intimate, something we'd both remember," Dimitri said.

"If I remember correctly, you and I had our first time in Goddess' Tower. I was against the wall and we almost got caught by Seteth," Claude laughed. "And you didn't stop! You covered my mouth with your hand and just kept going!"

"Romantic, intimate, something we'd both remember," Dimitri repeated getting a loud laugh to come from Claude. The laughter stayed before a rough, dry cough escaped Claude's lips. Then another, then another, until a fit started. Dimitri frowned and slowly stood up not taking his hand off Claude's back and knelt back down in front of him while he gasped and coughed. "What can I do?" he asked. Claude gasped out pointing towards a small box on the dresser.

"B-Blue..." he gasped. Dimitri nodded and got up going over to the box and flipped it open. It was full of different vials, green, blue, red, two or three yellow ones what were all of these? He didn't really have time to consider it when he heard Claude's strangled sounds. Grabbing a blue vial he went back over to Claude who was leaned back a little when he tried to breathe.

"Here," Dimitri said uncorking the vial. Claude took it and drank it quickly with a gasp. Dimitri watched him slowly start breathing normally again, his larger hands holding his face. "Claude? Talk to me sweetheart," he said. He'd never admit it, but his heart was hammering in his chest, he'd seen this before at Garreg Mach, Felix used to have breathing trouble too. But that was because he had- oh no... oh no...

"That was a rough one," Claude coughed. "Thanks for getting my medicine," he said. Dimitri swallowed thickly, his eye blurring over with tears. He reached over and pulled Claude into his arms tightly.

"I'm sorry," Dimitri said gripping the back of his head tangling his fingers through his hair. "Oh Goddess above I'm sorry," he whispered. "I didn't know, I didn't know..." he said a sob escaping his lips.

"H-Hey...it's okay, I'm fine," Claude said bringing a hand up to rub at Dimitri's back slowly.

"No...no it's not okay, oh Claude my Queen I'm so sorry," Dimitri pulled back holding Claude's head in both of his hands. "I thought it was just a cold, but I can see the signs now. Broken Heart Syndrome?" Claude closed his eyes slowly and held his hands gently placing a kiss to each one of Dimitri's rough palms.

"I was told that's what it was, but I didn't really want to put too much stock in it. You know? It was just cold symptoms starting at the end of fall start of winter. Thought it was just the change of seasons, and then you know how I can't stand the cold," Dimitri nodded slowly. "Well it just got worse, I really didn't think your absence was affecting me that much. Then," he paused and looked at his hands. "I started getting cold, even by fire or other heat sources, no matter how bundled up I was it was always cold. My hands started going numb, the breathing was getting worse, then the migraines and the nausea, the dizziness. Then I started sleeping more..."

Dimitri swallowed again and sat down next to Claude gently dragging his body into his lap holding him tightly. He buried his face into Claude's hair taking in his scent. He knew this sickness so well, he remembers helping Felix through many rough nights until Sylvain finally got his head out of his ass. He remembers the sleeping, it was the final stage. Several times Felix had stopped breathing and Manuela had to bring him back. But the illness was so severe that when he came out of it he still had fits when he undergoes extreme emotional stress. Bad stress. He still coughs, still has the breathing trouble, still has to rely on that medicine when the trouble started.

The medicine.

"What were the vials in that box? The blue's for breathing right? What about the others?" he asked rubbing Claude's arm. Claude gave a small cough and leaned into Dimitri's chest taking in his warmth.

"The blue is for the breathing. The red is for fevers, I had a lot of them at the beginning of the season. The green is for sleep. The yellow was for the migraines and nausea," he let out a slow breath. "I owe Marianne so much for making me the medicine," he said.

So do I, Dimitri thought kissing the top of Claude's head. They sat like that for a while, Claude's breathing had evened out again, while he rested against Dimitri's chest. He was playing with the King's hand until he paused his brow furrowing a little. He brought Dimitri's hand up to his eyes and he looked up at Dimitri.

"Where's your ring?" he asked.

"I had to take it off, it kept getting pinched in my gauntlets," he said. "The last time it actually got stuck, I had to get the gauntlet cut off to save the ring. It got damaged so I sent it out to get repaired. It's now tucked away in my office. I haven't put it on again because..."

"Never know when you're going to be called out to battle," Claude finished. "It's okay," he said smiling up at him. "I get it." Dimitri sighed in relief and nuzzled Claude's temple lacing their fingers together.

Their peace was short-lived when a knock sounded at the door. Dimitri snarled a little gripping the blanket from the couch wrapping it around Claude snuggly. Claude gave a chuckle while he was lifted up and put on the couch gently and Dimitri walked over to the door. "I thought I told you all that the Queen and I were not to be-oh, Dedue, forgive me I didn't realize it was you," he said.

"Forgive the intrusion, but McIntire is awake," he said. Dimitri's hand tightened on the door handle nearly bending it.

"I see," he said. "Get anything useful?" he asked.

"No, he said he'd only talk to you. And...the Queen must be present," he said.

"Over my dead body!" Dimitri barked.

"Hey..." Claude whispered putting a hand to the center of Dimitri's back keeping the blanket close to his body. He may only be shirtless, but Dimitri had this thing about other people besides Lorenz or Marianne seeing him in any state of undress. Even Dedue. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Nothing to concern yourself with my love, but I have some business to attend too," Dimitri said. "Dedue, go down there and loosen his tongue, make him scream if you must. I'll be down in a moment," he said.

"Highness," Dedue said with a bow. Dimitri closed the door a little harder than he meant to and went over to the wardrobe to pull on a set of casual clothes. Well, as casual as the King could get.

"It's McIntire isn't it?" Claude asked walking over to him. "Thought you already took out the trash?"

"No, Dedue knocked him senseless when he was brought to the cell. The mage killed herself, set herself on fire I think," Claude shivered a little and shook his head.

"Senseless," he whispered. "Now what was that over your dead body?"

"McIntire wants to talk to me, but he said he'd only talk if you were in attendance," Dimitri said. "I am not going to let him have his way. He'll talk if I have to pull out all of his teeth or cut off all his fingers. He'll talk," he said with a low growl. Claude chewed his lip before he dropped the blanket on the couch and started to pull out his own clothes putting them on. "What are you doing?" Dimitri asked.

"Do you trust me?" Claude asked. Dimitri's brow quirked a little but he nodded wordlessly. "Then trust me, I got a plan," he said with a wink and that cheeky grin. Oh did Dimitri know that look, it was a look that he hasn't seen in so long. Claude's scheming. He's back.

xxx

McIntire coughed roughly, his hands clenching in unclenching in the restraints on his wrists. He was naked save for his small clothes, blood was running down his face from open wounds caused by Dedue's fists. He spat out a mouthful of blood, he swore a tooth came out too clattering to the floor.

"When I get out here," McIntire rasped out looking up at Dedue's face. "I'm going to kill you first, but not before you watch me while I fuck that pretty little whore of yours. What's his name? Ashe?" Dedue punched him again harder this time more blood sprayed from the former knight's mouth.

"Do not speak his name dog, we both know you're not getting out alive once the King gets down here," he growled.

"Ah yes...the cyclops, he sure is taking his sweet time getting down here," McIntire said dryly. "Rude of him to keep a man waiting."

"That's because it's not the King that came down," Claude's voice rang out his heeled boots clicking against the stone floor. "You'll forgive me for the wait Claudius I was primping a little," he said.

"Highness," Dedue said with a bow, he looked behind Claude for any sign of Dimitri, he saw a shadow slink down the stairs and hide in a darkened corner, the only reason he knew it was Dimitri was that the King flashed him the golden hilt of his sword. McIntire's eyes went from a hardened glare to a soft look.

"Such a lovely sight you make as well, have you come to pardon me your grace?" he asked trying to use that sickeningly sweet voice that never failed to send revulsion down Claude's spine.

"Not quite, I was informed you had some information for the King," Claude said standing before McIntire crossing his arms over his chest. "I would gladly pass it on to him, so long as it's reliable," he said.

"O-Of course highness," McIntire said and coughed a little. "During my incarceration, before your brute here knocked me out, I remember being at court and hearing a rumor," he said.

"Another rumor?" Claude scoffed. "I don't take much stock in rumors, so I hope you have facts to back it up."

"Of course. I was at court about two maybe three weeks ago, where I saw a most curious sight. Ferdinand von Vestra was speaking with a couple of Empire Nobles. Namely, Linhardt and Caspar," he said. Claude looked at Dedue through a side-eye and then back and nodded for him to continue. "I heard that he and his husband were planning an internal attack within your house, disguising it as a defect," he said.

"Yes, we already know this. Do you have a point?" Claude asked.

"Well, I did some digging into the internal affairs in the kingdom via one of my spies. News that had reached my ears just a single day before you threw me in here."

"What's that?" Claude asked getting impatient.

"Edelgard has disavowed them all," he said. Claude's brow's perked up a little and he stepped a little closer.

"What?"

"She has her own 'man' on the inside, her little pet," McIntire said. "And they're going to blow this whole mission sky high." He laughed.

"Shit...Dedue secure Bernadetta. Nevermind the others, get her secure before she has any time to send a message to Edelgard and then bring Ferdinand and Hubert to the King's office," he said.

"Highness I should really stay and..."

"That wasn't a suggestion Dedue! That was a direct order from your Queen! Go!" Dedue nodded and quickly left the dungeons. "You better not be lying," Claude said.

"What would I get out of lying to you? I simply want to be released," he said.

"And you will be," Claude looked up. "Right after you receive proper punishment," he said.

"Punishment?" McIntire asked. Dimitri melted out of the shadows slowly, his sapphire eye gleaming dangerously in the dim torchlight. "K-King Dimitri," he stuttered. "When did you-?"

"You honestly didn't think I'd let my Queen come down here by himself did you?" Dimitri asked. He unclasped his cloak and wrapped it around Claude's shoulders gently pushing him back against the wall. "Even with Dedue here, well, he doesn't have sanction to do to you what I can," Dimitri said unsheathing his blade slowly the sound of the blade scraping against the scabbard made Claude shiver and hopped up on the table to watch him with an eager gaze.

He didn't really like a lot of bloodshed, but for this he'd make an exception. He loved watching Dimitri scare his enemies like this, he didn't have to really lift a finger. His voice lowered, his eye had a dangerous gleam. He practically purred when Dimitri ran the blunt side of his blade against McIntire's throat.

"Are you sure you want to witness this my sweet?" Dimitri asked voice still low, dangerous it made Claude shiver again.

"Normally I would just let you have fun without me, but this, I want to watch. I only wish I brought snacks for this show," he said. "But do make it fast, Dimitri, we have a very important meeting to get to," he said.

"Right...where to start though," Dimitri circled his victim again and pointed the tip of his blade against McIntire's groin. "Here?"

"Nah, he'd bleed out before he suffered. Artery. Do the hand first, the left one is what he touched me with," he said.

"Good point," Dimitri said. He moved back a little and continued to circle the chair. It was quiet for a moment before sound of the blade slicing the air came followed by McIntire's scream of agony while his hand was sliced off. Claude winced a little, the sight making him a little queasy, but it was somewhat satisfying.

"Nice cut Dimi," he said hopping down off the table. "Now stop playing with your prey my lion, we need to go."

"As my Queen wishes," Dimitri said standing behind McIntire and grabbed him by the chin pushing his head back making him bite his tongue hard. "You may think that you're indiscretion doesn't warrent a death sentence but I'm going to let you in on a little secret," he said. He pointed the blade in Claude's direction. "That man is my Queen. Mine. You dared laid your hand upon him without consent and in such a familiar way. A way only I am allowed to touch him," Dimitri growled and brought the blade against McIntire's throat. "Take a good look at him, because it's the last thing you're ever going to see. That is the only comfort you have from me is that I am allowing you to stare at him while you die." He finished his sentence pressing the blade against the man's throat and slowly slid it against it listening to him gurgle and choke, before he finally died. Dimitri spat on him while he cleaned his blade off.

"Good riddance," Claude said holding the cloak close to his body. Dimitri snarled a little bit but calmed only slightly when he wrapped his arm around Claude's shoulders. He would've liked to have taken his time with it, but duty called. Claude took one last look at McIntire before he leaned more into his King while they walked out of the dungeons. Good riddance indeed.

Chapter Text

"Are you okay?" Dimitri asked rubbing Claude's cold hands that rested on his arm. Claude had been leaning quite heavily on him since leaving the dungeon, his face a little pale. "I should've told you to leave," he said.

"No, I wanted to watch that. I don't think I would've been able to sleep at night without knowing if he was alive or dead," Claude said shivering a little.

"Rest assured my love, if you weren't there I would've destroyed him slowly. There would've been nothing left of him when I was done," he said. "I killed him quickly more for your benefit, and so we could make this meeting," Dimitri finished bringing one of Claude's hands up to his lips. When they got to his office Dimitri pulled Claude back and held his face in his hands looking into his eyes. "Do you want to go back and rest? I can take care of this," he said.

"No, we're doing this together. Like we should've been from the start. No more pushing me away Dimi," he said running his fingers through Dimitri's hair.

"Okay," Dimitri breathed leaning into Claude's hand kissing the inside of his wrist. Claude smiled and opened the door to the office walking in with his fingers laced with Dimitri's. The Black Eagles, minus Bernadetta looked up and bowed slightly as they entered. Dimitri guided Claude over to the table pulling out his chair and allowing him to sit before he sat at the head of the table. "Please," he said motioning to the chairs. When they were all seated, Dimitri took a deep steadying breath put his elbows on the table resting his lips against his laced fingers. "We have a big problem," he said.

"What kind of a problem?" Ferdinand asked.

"We're not going to beat around the bush here, we know you're infiltrators. We know that your plan to defect was just so you could attack us from the inside," Claude said. Everyone tensed a little and Hubert went to speak but Claude held up his hand. "But, that's not the problem. We have information that just came to light about another plan, one you all weren't in on. Edelgard has disavowed you. Completely. She was going to kill you all, except for one," he said. "Bernadetta."

"Bernie?" Dorothea gasped. "But...she wouldn't..."

"She was the only one closer to Edelgard than myself or Ferdinand. It is quite possible she was acting on different orders," Hubert said.

"This, of course, gives you all a great opportunity," Dimitri said. "Either you surrender now, bend the knee for real," he glared at them. "Completely defect from the Empire, and recognize me and Claude as the true crowns. Or I throw you all in cells as prisoners of war where you may or may not face life sentences or hanging from a noose. The choice is yours," Dimitri said.

The Black Eagles looked at each other, Claude saw Ferdinand take Hubert's hand looking at him sadly before he looked up at Claude and Dimitri. "We already had the plan to do so, we talked about it, but if Edelgard has disavowed us. Left us for dead, well, it seems the choice was made long before then," he said. "We'll bend the knee, forsake Edelgard. We are yours to command my lords, for real this time," he said.

"Good choice," Dimitri said standing up.

"Where is Bernadetta?" Hubert asked quietly.

"Dedue should be taking care of it now," Dimitri said holding his hand out for Claude to take.

"With your permission, I want to take care of her myself. Betrayal is not something I tolerate, and she's one of my people." Dimitri stared Hubert down for a moment but a gentle hand from Claude made him turn to his Queen. Claude nodded slowly, his brow furrowing. There weren't any words that needed to be shared between them. The face said it all.
It's not just your burden. Share the load.

"Granted," Dimitri said. "Now all we have to do is wait for Felix and Sylvain and-" The door burst open jumping everyone in the room and Mercedes came in panting hard. "Mercedes?"

"L-Lady Judith is here, she brought our troops back. Sylvain is wounded and Felix is missing!" she said. Dimitri turned to look at Claude who just leaned up kissing his lips.

"Go see Sylvain, I'll talk to Judith," Claude said. Dimitri nodded kissing Claude's hands and followed Mercedes out of his office towards the infirmary. "The rest of you, go help the others organize the troops!" he said. They nodded and everyone rushed out. "Hubert! Ferdinand hold up," he said. The other two looked at him while Claude approached speaking quietly. "I need you two to do something for me before anything else, the King cannot know about this," he said quietly. Hubert and Ferdinand looked at each other and then nodded.

xxx

Dimitri's heart was pounding in his chest, how he maintained his cool on his way to the infirmary he'd never know. "How is he?" he asked while he and Mercedes walked down the hall.

"Hurt. Cut against his chest and face, blunt force trauma against his head. Left leg's broke. All easily fixed, except the one to his face. We're going to try to save the eye but he doesn't want to do anything until he reports to you," she said. "Guess it was pretty grisly out there," she said.

"War usually is," Dimitri said. When they got to the infirmary Dimitri took in a sharp breath at the sight of one of his oldest friends. Sylvain was laid up in the bed, head, chest, and half of his face bandaged up. He was pale, and his body was wracked with quakes and dry sobs. Dimitri knew him better than to assume it was from his wounds. Losing Felix was greater pain than any wound, at least to the redhead. "Sylvain..." Dimitri whispered kneeling by the bed.

"Hey boss," Sylvain croaked reaching his hand out. "You're looking better," Sylvain laughed dryly. "Finally get laid?" he asked. Dimitri laughed taking Sylvain's hand.

"At least your sense of humor is intact," he said and gripped it tightly when a cough wracked through Sylvain's body making him cry out. "Shh... what happened? Make it quick, I want you better."

"We...we were ambushed on the way back. Edelgard's forces they caught us by surprise like they were already mobilizing towards the city," he coughed a little. "If it wasn't for Lady Judith finding us none of us would be alive," he said.

"What happened to Felix, did he fall?"

"Felix and I got separated and I...I..." he turned his head away, his hand clenching next to him. "I lost him," he said. "Judith said she couldn't find a body but..." A sob broke out of Sylvain's throat.

"Edelgard doesn't take prisoners, there's a chance he's still alive. Don't worry, we'll find him," he said placing a hand on Sylvain's wrist. "We'll bring him home to you. I promise. You two have a promise to keep," he said.

"Yeah," Sylvain said brokenly. "Yeah..."

"Sylvain one more question, how much time do we have before Edelgard's forces are at our doorstep?" he asked.

"T-They took heavy casualties, they're going to have to regroup, two days...three at the most," he said. "Please boss, kick their asses for me. And if I die-"

"Shut up, you're not going to die," he said.

"If I die," Sylvain said a little firmer. "Just promise me you'll bring him home safe, take care of him, and tell him I love him. And tell him to check my nightstand, there's something there for him. Promise?" he asked. Dimitri swallowed thickly and nodded.

"I promise," Dimitri said. Sylvain smiled, his eye slowly closing and he sighed happily.

"Thanks, boss," he slurred. When he finally passed out, Dimitri checked his pulse to just put his mind and ease and looked at the girls.

"Do what you can, just keep him alive," he said standing up.

"Don't need to tell us twice Sire," Mercedes said. "Our redhead isn't going anywhere." Dimitri smiled and nodded patting Mercedes on the shoulder before exiting the infirmary. He had a war to plan, and it was coming along faster than he wanted.

xxx

"Three days," Claude hummed rubbing his chin. "That doesn't give us a lot of time, and with Felix missing and Sylvain out of commission," he shook his head. He only hoped Ferdinand and Hubert could get what he needed them to do done.

"It's a right mess," Judith said crossing her arms. She looked up at the throne and smiled a little. Claude has come so far since he was a boy, her little lord has finally grown into a man. A man she was more than proud of. Even if he did marry someone she really doesn't like, but Dimitri seemed to be treating him well.

"Judith?" Claude asked making her break from her thoughts.

"Sorry," she said with a light blush. "Just thinking about how much you've grown," she said. Claude laughed rising from the throne and walked down the steps.

"Being a 'Queen' really puts things in perspective, but we're not here to reminisce. Judith, how many men do we have from home?" he asked walking past her.

"About ten thousand," she said. That gave Claude pause and he turned to her with a raised brow. She shrugged. "After your marriage, everyone wanted a chance to fight for you," she said with a wink. "I brought five thousand with me, the others will be right behind us in a day," she said. "They'll be taking the other route though, away from the main army. But they'll be here before the battle."

"Good, we'll need to have a meeting with the others. In the meantime, there's a room upstairs for you and a bath. Make yourself comfortable, don't worry about your men. My guys may lack some discipline but they're good people," he said.

"I would expect nothing left from you Claude," she said. Claude smiled and bowed his head to her when she bowed to take her leave. When it was just him in the throne room Claude let out a heavy sigh running his fingers through his hair. These were going to be a long three days.

Chapter Text

Felix struggled weakly against the rope cutting into his wrists. He was on his side in a tent, in the middle of an Imperial camp. Where he's been for nearly two days. They were only a few short hours away from the Kingdom, and Edelgard's reserve forces had already arrived. They were going to move tomorrow. Tomorrow was the day hell would break loose and he was stuck here!

He only prayed to any God that would listen that Sylvain made it home okay, that he was alive, safe. He groaned weakly trying hard to break through, what he wouldn't give to have that boar king's strength right now.

"No use trying to break out of that boy," his guard said. Felix scoffed and continued to try to break free. "Even if you do, you won't last long with me around and if you happen to slip me, well," the guard took a sip from his flask. "You won't get through the other guards."

"I've gotten out of worse situations," Felix snapped rolling on to his stomach trying to wriggle his arms. They're not even loosening!

"The welp giving you trouble?" Another guard asked coming into the tent.

"Nah, just amusing to watch him squirm," the first one said. The second guard laughed and put his hand on top of Felix's head pulling him up by his hair. Felix yelped a little when he was forced to get up on his knees. He struggled futilely against the grip while he was dragged up the rest of the way until the second guard tossed him over his shoulder. "Oi, where you going with him? We got orders to not kill him," he said.

"I'm not going to kill him," the second guard said slapping Felix's ass making the smaller man roar. "Just going to blow off a little steam, that's all. I'll bring him back in one piece and probably a little quieter," the man said. The first guard just rolled his eyes while the other left with a struggling Felix on his shoulder. They walked to the other side of the camp into a tent where Felix was tossed onto the bed roughly.

"When I get out of this I'm going to cut off your cock and shove it so far up your own ass-"

"Easy kid, I'm not going to do shit," the man said. "Actually I'm a friend," he said.

"Bull shit! A friend in that armor, it's laughable," Felix said laughing bitterly.

"Just listen, I have ordered from Lord Von Vestra. Your Queen has a plan," he said. Felix froze and blinked at him. "Not every man here is willing to die for Edelgard."

"I need proof," he said. The guard nodded and took out a folded piece of paper and showed him the bottom with the Queen's insignia, a stag, at the bottom in yellow wax. "I'm listening," he said.

xxx

For the first time ever, every member of all three houses was gathered around a single war table. With the exception of Sylvain, Felix, and Edelgard. It was a proud moment, and Dimitri was nearly bursting with pride, especially with his Queen at the helm of the planning.

"We can't bring the fight to them," Dedue said. "They'll have the field advantage, they're already hiding. If we go after them, they'll be ready for us even with their numbers thinned.

"Then we need to get them into the fields," Claude said. "Make them come to us, they'll be full strength but we'll have the advantage. We'll bring them to the main fields here," he said pointing to the empty space on the map that showed the very edge of the kingdom walls and the forest line. One thousand yards of empty space. "That's our no man's land."

"What?!" Judith yelled. "That's bringing them dangerously close to the walls!"

"Yes, I know but listen! Here's what we do, send out the winged calvary and riders to the fields to take care of the first wave. They'll have a greater chance with the open spaces and they'll easily thin the numbers. Meanwhile," Claude took the map of the city flipping it over the war map. "We'll send out the lancers and footmen to guard the main gates but only on the side within the city. Anyone that escapes the winged calvary and the riders will either run away or they'll run here," he said tapping the map. "It's here we'll use a choke to trap them between the bulkheads by closing off the innermost gate. From there the archers will strike from above here and it'll be like fish in a barrel. If they get through, the mages and the reserves forces will be waiting for them. But I don't think that will be a problem if everyone does their part."

"Meanwhile the main army along with Judith's forces will be scattered throughout the forest regions here, here and here to take care of the rest of the imperial forces that retreat or come through but it is imperative they don't strike too soon. Doing so will only cause problems. Judith, send up a signal when the troops have completely passed through, Ashe will then send up a signal when all of the imperials in the field, remember, the entire army must be within your sights. Ashe's signal will be the call to advance into the fields and create a wall on all sides to flank them. If we play our cards right and do this, the Imperials will be trapped and will either have to face death from behind or death at the main gate. Either way, we can win." He said.

Everyone blinked at Claude with wide eyes then slowly smiles started to appear, he was back. "I love you," Dimitri said dumbly making Claude huff a laugh followed by scattered chuckles around the table. Dimitri looked at everyone with a firm gaze. "You heard the plan. Prepare your forces and get some rest," he said. "We got until tomorrow. Make sure we're prepared!"

"Yes, sire!" they all said before running out of the war room leaving the two royals by themselves. When Dimitri turned to Claude his husband who was still looking down at the maps, his lips were moving but no sound was coming out. He was thinking of back up plans, escape routes. Everything all at once, his head going a mile a minute.

"Claude?" he called gently. The other man looked up at him, that scheming look in his eyes, that was the man he fell in love with. The man that for months he forgot existed behind those emerald eyes. "You are the most beautiful thing I've seen in a long time," Dimitri said.

"Oh yeah?" Claude asked tucking his braid behind his ear. He looked back at the war table a smile on his lips. "You're not looking so bad yourself your Kinglyness," he said and turned to him a little winking at him. "Though I think you'd look better between my legs," he said. Dimitri's eye widened a little.

"A-Are you well enough for that?" Claude smiled coyly and moved the maps away and hopped up on the table pulling Dimitri by his cloak until the King was between his legs.

"I haven't felt your touch in months," Claude said quietly, "I want this. But if you're so worried about my health, well," he leaned up pressing his lips to Dimitri's chastely. "Just take it nice and slow," he said. Dimitri groaned quietly and pushed Claude down on to the table kissing him hard. He didn't worry about the fact the door was unlocked, he didn't worry about the fact there were two guards outside that could hear them. He wanted everyone in this damn castle to hear them. He had his Queen back right where he wanted him. Underneath him, and screaming his name.

xxx

Dedue's chest swelled with pride while he watched Ashe talk to his archers explaining the plan to them. Ignatz was going through and making sure everyone's gear was ready and in good condition. Further down the courtyard, he could hear Raphael rallying the heavy armor troops and their responding cheers. And beyond that, he could hear Lysithea and the mages cheering, but his eyes were always on Ashe.

His little one never raised his voice often, but when it counted he spoke volumes. Dedue could see it in the archers' faces, hope, smiles, and it looked like they were a little lighter in the shoulders. Ashe would be a great leader, no, he is a great leader. When Ashe finished followed by a cheer from the archers he stepped away smiling at Dedue brightly.
"I hope I did some good," he said. Dedue nodded and put his hand on Ashe's shoulder turning him around to watch the archers while they went about their business. Laughter echoing around them.

"You did more than some good. You gave them hope, you gave them a purpose. They're going to look to you for guidance and I don't know anyone better for the job except you," he said leaning down to Ashe's ear and squeeze his shoulders. "I'm so proud of you my little one," he said. Ashe smiled and brought a hand up to touch Dedue's, his ring glinting in the soft light. Dedue leaned down to kiss the ring and then kissed Ashe's head.

"Sylvain!" Ashe and Dedue turned around at the sound of Mercedes' and Ingrid's voices. Sylvain was hobbling down the steps, lance in his hand, armor on half hazard and the look of death on his face and sporting a new eye patch on his right eye. Annette, Ingrid, and Mercedes were chasing him trying to talk him down from wherever his head was at.
"Sylvain you need to be in bed! You're still not healed!"

"I'm getting him back!" Sylvain yelled. "I am not leaving him at the mercy of those bastards!" Dedue left Ashe's side and moved towards Sylvain stopping his path.

"Do you want to die?" Dedue asked calmly. "Because that's what will happen if you go out there in your condition," he said.

"Out of my way Dedue! I'm bringing him home!" Sylvain screamed.

"No, you're not!" Dedue barked moving closer to Sylvain. "The King has already said he would do anything and everything to bring him home to you! Believe in him!"

"What would you be doing if it were Ashe?!" Sylvain screamed back tears sliding from his good eye. "What would you being right now if it were him out there?!"

"I would save my energy to fight against the enemy who dared to take him from me," Dedue said his voice lowering. "I am not the enemy Sylvain, so do not fight me," he said. Sylvain was trembling, his good eyes still hardened before a sob slipped from his lips. Then another. He fell to his knees the lance clattering beside him.

"I want him back!" Sylvain sobbed. Dedue fell to his knees pulling Sylvain into a hug. Ashe joined in hugging Sylvain's side. Mercedes, Annette, and Ingrid soon joined in crushing Sylvain into a warm embrace.

The Lions were able to finally get Sylvain back to the infirmary to rest, they all decided to spend the rest of the day there with him. Comforting him, and in the midst each other. They were soon joined in by the Black Eagles, minus Hubert and Ferdinand who Caspar said were busy 'having maritals'.

"We brought wine," Dorothea said grinning holding up a few bottles of wine.

It wasn't long after and a couple of bottles of wine later when the rest of the Golden Deer house gathered in with more wine and food. "Looks like we're having our party!" Raphael cheered.

"A party before a war, I don't think the King would approve," Marianne said joining Lorenz at one of the tables while he poured her a glass of wine.

"It's good for morale and it's not like the troops aren't doing the same thing," Lorenz said sipping at his wine.

"Speaking of the King, where are he and Claude?" Leonie asked. Everyone fell silent and looked at the King and Queen's respective retainers.

"Ah...they're busy," Raphael said sipping a bottle of wine handing it down to Ignatz. "I checked on them in the war room and...well..." he blushed uncomfortably.

"Looks like Ferdie and Hubie aren't the only ones having maritals," Dorothea said giggling. Everyone fell into a fit of laughter, even Sylvain even though his laugh was weak his smile was still somewhat bright.

"I'm surprised we couldn't hear Claude," Sylvain said. "Remember their wedding night?"

"Oh, Goddess above yes!" Lorenz laughed. "I didn't think they were ever going to stop! Three hours! That's with naps between rounds!"

"I don't think anyone got any sleep that night," Dedue said taking a sip of wine holding Ashe close on his lap.

"Hubert and Ferdinand were loud as well," Petra said curling up with Annette.

"Very loud, Ferdie's a screamer," Dorothea said leaning into Ingrid. "When they got married, no one got any sleep for like a week. Thought Petra here was going to slaughter them both," she said tapping Petra with her foot.

"It was close," she said.

"Earplugs," Sylvain said. "That's how we got through a lot of those nights," he said.

"I still use them," Lorenz said glaring half-heartedly at Sylvain who just chuckled and shrugged.

"Well, you need not worry about that when Ashe and I are wed," Dedue said. Everyone froze and looked at Dedue and Ashe curled up on one of the infirmary's beds. Ashe blushed darkly and showed off his ring making the girls squeal loudly and the boys to cover their ears.

"Finally!" Hilda said. "Dibs on hair!"

"I got the cake!" Mercedes said.

"I'll do the flowers!" Annette said.

"Ashe you're going to make a beautiful bride!" Marianne said. Ashe somehow blushed even darker turning to bury his face in Dedue's chest groaning quietly while the girls all started talking about wedding plans.

The rest of the evening fell into easy conversation with the three houses and for a short time, everything seemed to be okay.

xxx

"Hubert, come in, it's freezing out," Ferdinand called from their room. Hubert had wandered out to the balcony in nothing but a pair of pants and an open housecoat. He couldn't feel the cold though, he couldn't feel much of anything at the moment.

His whole life up until today had been in service of Edelgard and the Empire. He had been her retainer for years and years. Her betrayal has left him feeling numb. Now he was expected to fight against her. He wouldn't be able to focus. He couldn't even really focus when he and Ferdinand were making love. Even when his husband was riding him where his beauty would leave him breathless he couldn't focus.

"Hubie?" Ferdinand called from the door. "Dear?" he reached out to touch Hubert with a gentle hand on his arm. Hubert tensed at the touch and he looked down at Ferdinand who just looked at him with such concern. "Come to bed," he said gently.

"I won't be able to sleep," he said quietly. "You go on my sweet," he said kissing Ferdinand's forehead. "Get some rest."

"No," he said. "Hubert talk to me, I know when there's something wrong," he said holding Hubert's hands shivering at the cold. "You're like ice," he said.

"I can't feel it," Hubert said. "Nor your touch." Ferdinand's eyes widened when he looked up at Hubert. "I can't feel much of anything except," he placed his hand over his heart.
"This...it hurts," he said.

"Get inside," Ferdinand said dragging Hubert into the bedroom and sat him on the couch by the place while he closed the doors and grabbed an oversized blanket. He wrapped it around Hubert and pulled him into his arms tightly.

"Ferdie," Hubert grumbled.

"Shut up," Ferdinand said tears burning his eyes while he ran his fingers through Hubert's hair holding him tighter. "Just shut up," he said again. "Damn Edelgard, breaking your damn heart," he said roughly. "Not on my watch," he said.

"Ferdinand..." Hubert said pulling away from his husbands embrace and looked at him tiredly. "Ferdie I'll be okay," he said.

"Until you end up like Claude and coughing up blood, while I have to watch you die!" Ferdinand snapped. He held Hubert's face in his hands making their eyes meet. "Do not make me watch that!" he begged tears slipping out of his eyes.

Hubert's heart fluttered in his chest and he sighed softly taking Ferdinand's hands in his own. "My sweet, it's not that. I promise it's just pain...I'm in pain. I've lost everything in mere days, the only thing I feel like I haven't lost is my dignity and you. My heart hurts, but it's still beating ever so strongly. The only thing that will make it stop is if I ever lose you," he brought Ferdinand's hand to his chest.

"Hubie..." Ferdinand swallowed and fell into his chest crying softly.

"Shh my love, shh...like all pain it is temporary. As long as I have you, the pain will lessen. It's just going to take time," Hubert said against Ferdinand's head. "You're the only thing that can truly break my heart," he whispered.

"And I will never do that," he said through his tears.

"I know, nor will I ever break yours," Hubert said kissing his head. They stayed like that for a long time, resting against each other wrapped up in each other's arms drying each others tears. Hubert's heart was still broken, but it was warm.

xxx

Claude sighed contently while he and Dimitri laid on the floor near the fireplace in the war room. Dimitri's cloak wrapped around their naked forms, Claude resting on top of his chest while Dimitri played with his hair.

"Was it good for you too?" Claude asked making Dimitri laugh.

"More than," Dimitri said. "I don't think we've fucked like that since our wedding night," he said. Claude laughed kissing the center of Dimitri's chest and looked up at him lovingly.

"That was an amazing night, but tonight after not having you for months was definitely better," Claude purred. Dimitri beamed down at him and rolled them over kissing him lovingly. "Dimitri," he giggled.

"Shh," Dimitri cooed slipping between his legs again. "I'm trying to seduce you," he said kissing down his neck. Claude laughed breathlessly wrapping his arms around his neck pulling him closer with his legs.

"Your majesties!" A muffled voice came from the other side of the door. Dimitri groaned softly. At least he had the thought to lock the door after they made it to the floor. "I'm sorry to bother you it's urgent!" Dimitri sighed and Claude pat his cheek.

"Better go see what he wants, wouldn't be bothering us if it wasn't an emergency," he said.

"Yeah, you, stay," he said making sure Claude was covered completely before getting up completely. He found his pants pulling them on loosely before opening the door to look at the guard. "What?" he asked.

"It's that girl, Bernadetta! She escaped!"

Chapter Text

"How does a grown woman escape these cells?" Dimitri asked dangerously while Claude was standing at his side pinching the bridge of his nose. "And I thought you," Dimitri growled turning to Hubert with a hard glare. "Were going to take care of it!"

"I was going to use her as leverage against Edelgard! Maybe you should be looking at your own guards! They obviously let her slip out of the cell!"

"Using her wasn't part of the plan!" Dimitri barked. "You were supposed to kill her!"

"You try killing one of your own!" Hubert barked back standing close to Dimitri.

"I killed one of my own generals for touching my Queen! I cut his hand off and cut his throat and if you don't think I'd do it again-"

"ENOUGH!" Claude yelled making them stop. "Fighting each other is exactly what they want us to do! She's gone! There's nothing we can do and I am not wasting the manpower on searching for her! She is not a threat! She will not stay in the place where she'll be killed on the spot so let's leave it and stop pointing blame at each other!" Claude was seething at this point, his head hurt, and was that a knot in his back? When did that get there? "Everyone get to bed, Dedue double up night security just in case she is here," he said sharply.

"Yes sire," Dedue said backing away slowly. Hubert quickly followed leaving Dimitri and Claude alone.

"Claude," Dimitri said but was interrupted by a set of coughs from Claude. Dimitri winced and gently picked Claude up. He winced when he started shivering. "Medicine then bed," he said. Claude nodded between coughs. Even though he wasn't gasping for breath like he was before he was clearly still suffering. Dimitri hated it, and he hated himself for making Claude like this. He kissed his forehead and made a beeline upstairs. "I'm going to take care of you. I promise," he said into Claude's ear. "I promise."

xxxx

"So how many men do we have ready to leave the ranks?" Felix asked quietly. He was still tied up, but at least he was calm.

"Five hundred," the guard, Nicola said.

"Not a lot but...it's something. How do you plan on not being confused by my side?" Felix asked.

"We have a banner, courtesy of your Queen. And I changed the roster of those willing to leave as the backup reserves. We have our orders to meet up with Lady Judith in the tree line with you at its head," he said. Felix nodded and sighed heavily. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Don't suppose there's a report on the condition of Sylvain Gautier is there?" he asked. Nicola frowned and shook his head slowly. "Yeah, didn't think so," he said.

"Is he your lover?" he asked.

"More than that, he's," Felix laughed dryly. "My soulmate, I guess you could say. We made a promise years ago we'd die together and...well, I just hope he wasn't laying on that field where we had our skirmish," he said.

"What did he look like? We passed by there to help bury the dead," he said. Felix swallowed a little roughly.

"Light skin, shoulder-length red hair that slightly curls, and big beautiful brown eyes," Felix laughed again. "He ah, he has this little scar on his forehead from when I hit him with a training sword too hard." Nicola laughed a little as well.

"You'll be happy to know we didn't find any handsome devil like that amongst the dead," Nicola said.

"Never tell him that, he knows. Don't inflate his ego any more than it already is," they shared another laugh and Felix looked at Nicola. "Why are you all doing this? Surely you care about the glory of the empire?"

"The empire's glory is tainted with the blood of innocent civilians. The Emperor doesn't care and to outright betray her old team..." he shook his head. "I can't follow that," he said.

"Agreed. Dimitri maybe a boar, but he's loyal to his people and his men," he said.

"You call your King a boar?" Nicola asked.

"Yeah, we've known each other long enough it's almost an affectionate name. If I really wanted to offend him I'd call him Cyclops, or you know King One Eye," he cleared his throat. "Never do that, ever."

"Noted," Nicola said. "Now, I think it's time I took you back to the other tent, people might get suspicious. I uh...need to take your hair out and rumple your clothes a little," he said.

"Don't lose my ribbon and keep your hands off my fucking belt," Felix snapped. "And if you so much as touch my ass..."

"I got it I got it," Nicola said and undid Felix's hair letting it fall down his face and gently untucked his shirt and undid a few buttons. "There, at least it looks like I took advantage, just be docile until morning," he said.

"Yeah, yeah," Felix said letting himself be lifted up again. Just a few more hours Sylvain, wait for me, he thought.

xxx

Gray eyes sparkled dangerously while a small figure snuck around the palace gardens. The guards have already made their rounds, it would be another fifteen minutes before they'd be around again. The figure pulled their cloak further over their face and went to the back gate opening it slowly and closed it.

"Were you followed?" A voice asked making the cloaked figure jump their hood falling away revealing dark purple hair.

"No," Bernadetta said. "But they're looking for me. I don't have much time, I have a hiding spot picked. I just need my orders," she said. Violet eyes sparkled in the darkness and another woman stepped into the light silver hair sleek against the firelight.

"What is Claude's condition?" Edelgard asked.

"He is sick, but he's getting stronger," Bernadetta said.

"The Black Eagles? Has the feral king disposed of them?" she asked.

"No my lady, he let them join. But we have a bargaining chip, Felix is at the camp and Sylvain is out of commission for now," she said.

"Good, but we can do better. We only took out two major players, we need them decimated. Take out the head of the viper and the rest will fall," Edelgard said. "You need to kill Claude. I don't care how you do it, but get it done. Take out the Queen, the King will fall, the rest is mine," she said. "Well, ours," Edelgard said smiling.

"Yes majesty," Bernadetta said. Edelgard's smile widened while she slid a finger under Bernadetta's chin pecking her lips lightly. She backed Bernadetta into the wall her other hand hovering over her body slowly and stroked her thigh making Bernadetta shiver.

"Don't fail me pet," she said quietly. "Or find yourself in Claude's place."

"Y-Yes, I understand." Edelgard's smile softened and she pecked Bernadetta's lips one more time before turning and disappearing. Bernadetta stayed there for a moment and swallowed thickly before she pulled her hood back on and entered the gardens again. Her hand on the dagger she was planning on using. She only needed to get close to Claude.

xxx

Claude was finally calmed and resting in their bed, Dimitri laying next to him just watching him sleep. He reached over brushing Claude's hair from his face and kissed his cheek softly before resting back down on the pillows and his hand went to Claude's chest then to his hand where his wedding ring was.

"When this is over..." Dimitri whispered. "I'm never taking mine off again. I promise." He looked at Claude's sleeping face and smiled. "I love you, my beautiful Queen. No matter what, the enemies that fall to me tomorrow will fall in your name," he said. He kissed Claude's cheek one more time and settled into sleep his hand never leaving Claude's.

xxx

"I'm scared," Ashe whispered curling in close to Dedue's chest their legs tangled underneath the covers, sweat cooling on their bodies.

"War is scary, but don't worry. You'll be safe where you are," Dedue said rubbing Ashe's back slowly his eyes never leaving his lovers. Ashe swallowed thickly and he nodded a little. Dedue wiped Ashe's eyes before tears could fall. "Don't cry little one, we're going to be just fine. I promise," he said.

"I don't want to lose you," Ashe whimpered.

"Shh..." Dedue cooed kissing his trembling lips. "You won't, I'm not going anywhere little one. I promise," he said holding out his pinky. Ashe smiled bringing his pinky up to link around Dedue's. "Good, now get some rest little violet, you're going to need all your strength." Ashe nodded again tucking his head into Dedue's neck taking a deep breath of his scent and slowly drifted off with Dedue's hand in his hair. Dedue laid awake a little longer, a lone tear slipping down his cheek. "No one will harm you my little one, not while I live and breathe. I promise," he swore.

xxx

Sylvain had snuck out of the infirmary, lance in hand while he went to the training grounds. His body was healed enough, but he needed to be sure he could fight with just one eye. With every swipe, jab, and twirl all he could think about was fighting the enemy to get Felix back. He'd slaughter every last Imperial until Felix was either back in his arms, or he was carrying back a corpse. Either way, Felix was coming home.

"Hang on sweetheart, just wait for me," he panted jabbing again. "You're coming home." He grunted hitting the dummy hard enough it shattered. "I won't rest until you're back in my arms."

xxx

Raphael was rocking his hips lazily into Igantz, their eyes locked onto each other while they savored each other. Both panting, a fresh sheen of sweat on their bodies, Ignatz's thighs quivering on Raphael's hips. The larger man stroked his thighs and rested their lips together lovingly. No sweet words needed to be spoken, none were needed. The only word was Ignatz's whisper of 'again' while he tightened himself making Raphael groan quietly and picked up the pace. No one would complain tonight if Ignatz screamed his pleasure. Everyone else was doing the same thing.

They were all savoring what could be their last moments with their lovers. A mix of love, tears, and tenderness. They were all celebrating and grieving in their own way, dreading the dawn that was approaching too quickly. At dawn, the war would begin, at dawn hell would start. At dawn, their world would be cast into flames and bloodshed.

Chapter Text

Claude had grown very accustomed to helping Dimitri put on his armor. He knew every clasp, every buckle, every snap. Knew how tight or how loose certain pieces had to be to allow for optimal protection, and movement. It wouldn't be a mistake to say that Claude knew Dimitri's armor almost as well as he knew the King's body. He was finally finished when he clasped Dimitri's cloak around his chest his fingers sliding over the lion's head clasp.

"There," he said smiling up at him green eyes sparkling brightly, behind that sparkle though, was heavy anxiety. "Perfect," he said. Dimitri brought a hand up twisting Claude's braid around a gauntleted finger while his eyes swept up and down his body.

Claude was wearing light armor, his bow and quiver attached to his back. Dimitri still didn't like the idea of Claude fighting, not when he was still so...frail looking. He was still thin, tired, pale looking. He was still sick, even if the coughing was subsiding, the effects of the illness, the illness that Dimitri caused in his lover was still present.

"Did you take your medicine?" Dimitri asked.

"Yes dear," Claude said smiling.

"You're going to be flying, is Asphodel prepped?"

"Yes dear."

"Do you have enough arrows? And your bow is in good condition?" Dimitri asked.

"Yes and yes. Dimitri, it's okay, everything is going to be okay!" Claude took Dimitri's hands in his own gazing up at him. "Just...just relax alright?" Claude raised a hand to Dimitri's chin rubbing his thumb against it. Dimitri was a little scruffy there, he hadn't shaved in a few days. It's a good look on him.

"I'm...it's..." Dimitri sighed a little and looked to the floor. "You're still unwell, I would prefer it if you didn't fight but..."

"I'd go out there with or without your approval and you know it," Claude said chuckling. "I'm not a delicate flower Dimi. I look it, but I can still fight. I will fight to ensure that our people, our home is safe. Remember what I said about sharing the burden?" He got up on his tiptoes to nose at Dimitri's chin. "Let me help you," he whispered.

"Yeah...yeah," Dimitri whispered wrapping his arms around Claude's waist tightly. He held him close while he could until a soft knock came to their door and it opened a little. Lorenz poked his head in smiling at them a little sadly.

"My lords, it's time. The armies are gathered in the main courtyard by the gate," he said. Dimitri looked back at Claude that clever smile on his lips. He placed a hand on Dimitri's chest and kissed his lips in a sweet peck and took his hand pulling him towards the door. Dimitri followed his Queen, his hand holding tight.

xxx

"Be safe," Ashe whispered. "Please." Dedue held Ashe's hands in his own pressing a kiss to his knuckles.

"I promise," he said against his knuckles. "I have you at my back. I'm not worried." Ashe smiled, worriedly and wrapped his arms around Dedue's waist holding him tightly. Dedue leaned down to kiss his hair rubbing his back soothingly. "You must promise me the same thing," Dedue said closing his eyes. "To lose you...it would break me," he whispered.

"I'll be careful, I promise," Ashe said squeezing tighter. Dedue nodded slowly kissing his head again keeping his lips pressed there. He never wanted to let go of Ashe. He was safe when he was in his arms. Where Dedue could protect him, keep him close, keep him warm.

They pulled away slowly and Dedue pressed a warm kiss to Ashe's lips holding his face in his hands. Ashe kissed back holding his wrists tightly, they pulled away slowly and bumped their foreheads together.

"I love you," Ashe said bumping their noses together.

"I love you too. So much, my little one," Dedue whispered.

"Sir Ashe!" An archer called from on top of the wall. "We're in position!" Ashe pulled away slowly and nodded up to the archer and looked at Dedue. They shared one more kiss before Ashe started walking away his hand sliding from Dedue's. Their fingers hooking a little at the end before separating completely. Dedue swallowed thickly watching his little lover disappear into the tower leading up to the wall before he himself turned to join the rest of the foot troops.

xxx

Hubert's heart was heavy while he helped Ferdinand mount his horse. He hated that he was being held back with the rest of the mages while his lover rode off with the first wave. His only comfort was that Ingrid, Leonie, Sylvain, and Claude were going to be out there with him. They'd protect him. They'd better.

"Hey," Ferdinand said taking Hubert's chin into his hand leaning down to press his lips to the mage's. "Don't look so morbid, it'll be okay," he said grinning.

"Just don't die on me, if it gets too hairy retreat. I don't care if we win or lose. I can't lose you out there," he said.

"I promise love. I'll return to you in one piece or my name isn't Ferdinand von Vestra," he said with a wink. Hubert huffed a laugh taking Ferdinand's hand placing it on his cheek. He denies it, but he was scared. Scared of this whole damn war. Scared of losing Ferdinand. Scared of facing Edelgard and the rest of his kinsmen. He leaned into the hand kissing his lover's gauntleted palm.

"Sorry to interrupt..." Hubert pulled away to look at Sylvain who was looking quite sheepish. "We need to start heading out Ferdinand," he said.

"Of course," Ferdinand nodded and looked down at Hubert. "Be safe my moon."

"Be safe my sun," Hubert let go of his hand slowly. "I love you." Ferdinand's eyes softened and he sighed happily.

"I love you too," he said. Their hands parted and Ferdinand kicked his horse forward. Hubert turned to fix Sylvain with a glare. Do not let him die. Sylvain just nodded in acknowledgment before he followed Ferdinand out to the gate.

xxx

Raphael had Ignatz scooped up in his arms, holding him tightly. Their foreheads were pressed together just committing the feeling of each other's warmth to memory. Ignatz was trembling while he racked his fingers through Raphael's hair. The larger man was going to be out at the front while Ignatz stayed behind. They'd never been that far apart in battle before, but Ignatz was no rider or footman. There would be no opportunity for range out there on the main field.

Raphael's hand slid down Ignatz's arm slowly and they shared a few lazy kisses between them. A few tears escaped Ignatz's eyes making his lips tremble. Raphael held him tighter cooing quietly.

"It's okay Iggy. Don't be scared, it's okay," he cooed. Ignatz wrapped his arms tight around Raphael's neck hugging him tightly. He wanted to stay there, but he knew better. Their home was being threatened and he needed to be brave, now more than ever. He squeezed Raphael one more time and patted his chest letting him know he wanted to go down.
Raphael gently set him on his feet and held his face in his hands kissing him one more time. Fierce, passionate, wet with their tears. Ignatz held Raphael's face wiping the tears away.

"I'll be strong," Ignatz whispered. "As long as you are. We're strong together, even if we're apart." Raphael smiled widely against his lips and nodded.

"That's my boy," Raphael said. They parted slowly, Raphael laying a kiss on Ignatz's forehead before he secured his knuckles on his gauntlets and smiled brightly at Ignatz. "I'll see you after the battle Iggy!" he said happily.

"Y-Yeah..." Ignatz said smiling up at him. Raphael grinned broadly while he turned and made his way to the front gate meeting up with Dedue. Ignatz sighed heavily adjusting his bow on his back he made his way up to the wall. He stood next to Ashe who was twisting his engagement ring looking down at Dedue. Ignatz put his hand on Ashe's shoulder squeezing comfortingly.

"They'll be okay," he said. Ashe nodded and turned around to look out at what would be the battlefield a heavy winter wind in the air. He looked up at the sky and saw crows circling above. This was going to be a blood bath.

xxx

"Don't leave me alone," Linhardt begged quietly clutching onto Caspar's cloak tightly. "You come back to me okay? Don't be stupid and don't be reckless. Do you hear me? If you leave me in this goddess forsaken cold..."

"Lin! I'm going to be fine. You're going to be fine. Everyone is going to be fine!" Caspar said smiling while he held Linhardt's shoulders. "Relax! And if you're so worried about being cold," he paused and took his cloak tearing off a long strip and got onto his knees.

"Caspar..." Linhardt breathed when Caspar moved Linhardt's robes out of the way to reach his thigh underneath. He kissed the clothed thigh and brought the strip of his cloak around it tying it securely.

"Keep me close to your thighs," Caspar whispered kissing the inside of it. "The thought will keep you warm, no matter what happens." Linhardt was blushing brightly when Caspar rose he pulled Linhardt close for a fierce kiss. "I love you, Lin," he whispered against his lips. "In this life and the afterlife, I will always love you. And when this is over, I'm going to marry you," he said kissing his hands lovingly.

Linhardt couldn't respond, a fierce blush on his face. He opened his mouth to finally say something, only for a long sounding horn to echo along the courtyard. Caspar squeezed his hands for a long moment a charming smile on his face. "I'll see you when this is all over with," he said and pulled away completely. Linhardt reached for him a single tear slipping down his face.

"Be safe..." he whispered.

xxx

Felix looked up when he heard the war horn from across the battlefield from the tree line. He saw the riders taking to the skies and running through the gate and the foot soldiers filing out behind them. He swallowed and tried hard to find Sylvain amidst the riders but he couldn't make him out.

"Don't worry," Nikola whispered in his ear a little too close for Felix's liking. "We'll get you back to your man," he said.

"I'm not worried, the moment they charge cut my bonds and give me a fucking sword," he said sharply. Nikola took a sharp breath and nodded a little stepping back a little to look at the five others that were helping lead the five hundred men who chose to leave the ranks.

"You know the plan. Stick to it. Felix is in charge. We wait until the signal arrow is fired from the wall and we join in Lady Judith's forces in the forest." They nodded slowly and Nikola turned to Felix the red-eyed man was staring off into the distance.

I'm coming home, Sylvain. I'm coming home.

xxx

Dimitri saw Claude off first before he went to join his men at the front. Eyes were on him, their King, their leader. Dimitri looked at the sky watching the crows. He hated crows. He took a deep breath and moved his way to the front standing between Raphael and Dedue. He looked at the field and slowly the Imperial forces started coming out of the tree line. Dimitri turned towards his men raising his lance.

"This is it! Our final stand is here! We will not let the mad Emperor torment us any longer! She has taken everything from many of you! You don't fight for me today! You fight for your lives! Your homes! Your husbands, wives, sons, and daughters!" he looked up at the sky seeing Claude smiling down at him. Dimitri smiled back and turned back towards his men. "We fight for Faerghus! For the Alliance!" he turned around raising his lance. "For a free Fodlan!" he cried. The army cheered loudly behind him. "Slay them all! Show no mercy! Charge!"

Like two waves, the two armies ran towards each other meeting in the middle. Dimitri met Edlegard's eyes across the battlefield when they met her blade crossing with his lance.
"I didn't want it to end this way," she said.

"Then you would've never invaded," Dimitri said. "This is on you. And I'll take your head!" Edelgard pushed him back swinging again. Dimitri blocked it the sound of metal on metal rang in the air.

"I'd like to see you try," she said. Dimitri snarled pushing back again.

"So be it."

Chapter Text

Hey guys! Just a little update. I am feeling much better now and updates should resume. Tonight after I get out of work I will be finishing "Cold" and moving on with either a sequel or prequel. I haven't decided which way I am going first.

However I will be adding a bonus chapter at the end of the week for the 300 kudo mark because you guys rock. I will tally votes on Friday and add it on.

On that note I am planning spin offs for a few of the pairings. I already have a request for a couple of them and I am tacking them onto the to do list. If anyone has anything specific they want whether it connects to the AU or not drop me a line and I'll see what I can do.

With that being said I have forgotten I have a tumblr and discovered a full mailbox. I will be working on those requests as well. If you want to follow me on tumblr my tag is ladyazelas.

I also have discord but I have a few bugs that I'm working out of that. I'll drop the name when I'm done.

That's all I got for you kids! Thanks for reading! Your support means the world to me!

Warmest regards,
S

Chapter Text

Asphodel was dead, laying on her side. Claude was trapped underneath her, his leg broken and the side of his head bleeding. He felt disoriented, the loudness of the battle turning dull around him aside from the ringing in his ears.

"Claude!" he heard Lorenz's muffled voice. Claude blinked numbly and he felt the pressure in his leg release when Asphodel's body was moved. "Come on! We got to get you out of here!" Lorenz said his face in front of Claude's now. He was cut up too, bleeding everywhere. Scratches all over his face and body. "Come on!" Lorenz said again. He helped Claude up the green-eyed man screaming in agony at the pain in his leg.

Lorenz heaved Claude's arm over his shoulder guiding him over to his horse. He had to get Claude out of here. He couldn't fight like this. There was no way. Claude blinked again and swore he saw someone, a cloaked figure weaving in and out of the battle a dagger in their hand. Claude blinked again and the person's hood fell off their head reveal purple hair. They were just a few steps closer.

"Lorenz!" Claude pushed him away gasping when he felt the blade pierce his sternum up into his lungs. He raised his eyes to meet Bernadetta's and he grabbed her arm tightly.

"Claude!" Lorenz screamed in horror. Claude cried out holding the arm tighter the blade going deeper. He closed his eyes a couple of tears slipping down his face there was a burning feeling running through his body. Poison. Shit.

"You're not destroying my home..." Claude choked out blood pooling from his mouth. He gripped on to her harder as the poison burned through him. "You took their Queen and I'm taking you down with me."

"You fool! Do you think you can stop me?" Bernadetta snarled. Claude smiled, teeth stained with blood.

"I already did," Claude said motioning his eyes down. She looked down and he saw steam coming off the dagger that had been lodged into her side Claude's hand still on it. "My own design, it's going to melt you from the inside out slowly. It's already paralyzed you. Just give it a minute and you'll be screaming in agony," he coughed more blood out of his throat. "

"No! NO!" Bernadetta screamed trying to pull away but only managed to fall to her knees her fingers leaving the dagger still embedded in Claude's body. Claude was soon to follow and he let go of her arm to yank the dagger out of his side tossing it to the ground holding his side with a hiss. He looked at Bernadetta who laid dead, eyes wide, lips blue skin pale.

"Checkmate, bitch," he choked before he fell over onto the cold ground. Claude looked up at the sky, the beautiful autumn sky. It was under this sky he first fell in love with Dimitri. So long ago now it seems. He smiled to himself.

"Dimitri..." he breathed out like a prayer. "Be strong my lion, always be strong..." he coughed.

"CLAUDE!" Lorenz's voice echoed through the battlefield. He fell by Claude putting the Queen's head in his lap petting his hair back. "Claude! It's okay it's going to be okay!" Lorenz said pressing his hand against Claude's side. "Just stay with us!"

"L-Lorenz, take care of him yeah?" he asked. Lorenz nodded slowly tears streaming down his face. "And take care of Marianne. You'd make a cute couple."

"Of course," he breathed. Claude smiled brightly turning his head towards Lorenz burying his face into his stomach.

"Tell Mit'ya that I love him...tell him to not let grief break him down. He's strong. Stronger than he thinks," Claude sighed slowly his eyes slipping closed. "And I love you too Lorenz, you were my best friend. It wasn't always like that but I couldn't ask for better. Take care of yourself, Lorenz." He looked up at him a tear slowly dripping from eye and down his temple. He took another strong breath letting it out slowly and he let himself fade. "I'm...sorry," he whispered his eyes closing.

Lorenz watched as Claude slowly faded, the light in his eyes dimming, his blood-covered lips turning blue, his face turning gray. Lorenz sobbed hard holding him tightly in the middle of the battlefield, yet somehow people seemed to be ignoring them. Leaving the advisor to mourn his queen and his best friend.

xxx

"Ignatz is down!" Someone screamed near him. Ashe looked down the wall and sure enough, saw Ignatz on the ground an arrow through his throat.

"Get him help! NOW!" he yelled firing off a few more arrows. "Damn it, Judith," he muttered to himself. "Send up the damned signal!" Ashe scanned the tree line again waiting for the arrow to exit. It was already early evening! How many fucking men did Edelgard have?!

"ASHE!" Someone screamed. Before Ashe could react a shooting pain erupted into his chest. He looked down and saw an arrow lodged in his heart, then another hit him in his sternum, then a third in his stomach. Ashe gasped in pain, but the shock kept him upright. And just as the rider above him was about to fire off a fourth arrow, Ashe finally saw it, a flaming arrow in the sky. Smiling to himself he pulled one of the arrows out of his body and put it in the fire near him shooting it upwards. At the same time, the rider had fired a final shot into Ashe in his throat.

Ashe choked out, the world around him turning to white noise while he fell back choking on his own blood. He coughed wetly and managed to raise his hand a little to look at the ring on his finger. He smiled at it and closed his eyes while he let himself drift off to happier times. Times with his family and Dedue. It was with Dedue's face in his mind, his smile, that Ashe finally let go. His duty was done.

xxx

Dimitri would've been relieved when he finally heard Judith's forces entering the battle. He would've been if he wasn't still fighting tooth and nail with Edelgard. He ducked out of her ax's reach his lance spinning in his hand while he struck at her their weapons crossing. "You've lost Edelgard! Stop fighting and surrender!" he yelled pushing her back.

"I will never surrender! Not to you! Not to anyone!" she yelled back. "I didn't start this war to surrender!"

"No! You started this war because you were afraid! Afraid we'd annex you! Afraid that I'd strip you of all of your titles! You were afraid so you decided that you had to one-up me!"

"You would've taken everything from me!" Edelgard twirled aiming for Dimitri's head. "You and your bitch Queen!"

"We had no intention of doing anything for you! You're paranoid!"

"You would've killed me before now!" Edelgard screamed jumping back.

"You were my friend! I would've never harmed you!" Dimitri screamed back. Edelgard froze a little her ax dropping a little. "You were my closest friend, Edelgard. My family, what we lack in blood ties, we make up for in bond! I loved you! But you just had to attack us, you killed so many innocent people...I can't let that stand," he said.

"Then why don't you kill me?" she asked. Just as the words exited her mouth she felt a blade in her back and a voice in her ear.

"You hurt Hubert," Ferdinand whispered in her ear. "You made him cry, you broke his heart. He who gave everything, every damn thing of himself to your service. To your happiness, and you betrayed him. Put a knife in my back, I'll forgive you, but a knife in his back...I put one in yours." Edelgard gasped and looked back at Dimitri while she fell to her knees before him. The King looked down at her sadly.

"Looks like I win this time, El," he said. Edelgard smiled bitterly and raised her chin her eyes closing.

"Then finish me," she said. Dimitri sucked in a deep breath and picked up his lance. He pressed it to her chest before pushing it in quickly then pulled it back out. She opened her eyes slowly, her smile softening before she fell forward. Just like that, Edelgard was dead, the war was finally over.

Dimitri sighed in relief, a genuine smile on his face as it seemed all the Imperials were finally either running or dead. He scanned the battlefield and skies for Claude. He wanted to embrace him, kiss him, celebrate their victory. "Claude!" He called over the screams of victory. "Claude!" he called again.

"Highness..." Dedue said holding his shoulder. Dimitri looked at him the other man pointed not so far away from where Asphodel laid motionless and not too far away from that Lorenz on the ground cradling something, a yellow cloak was the only thing Dimitri could see.

"No...no!"

Dimitri felt his heart shatter in his chest, the world around him seemed to freeze, any noise around him turned to static while he approached Lorenz. His feet felt like lead, his hands were trembling, and he just felt so cold.

He looked at the figures carefully, Bernadetta was on the ground face frozen in agony, a golden hilted dagger in her side. Claude had his head in Lorenz's lap, unmoving no sign of life. He looked at his Queen falling to his knees, his fingers trembling while he held Claude's face in his hands. It was cold, unfeeling, no trace of any warmth. Claude was cold. His desert flower should never be cold.

"Claude?" he choked out. "We won baby, we won..." he whimpered. He choked out a sob while he gathered Claude into his arms holding him to his chest rocking him slowly.
"Claude, please...don't leave me," he whispered.

"It's my fault," Lorenz said through his sobs. Dimitri looked at him, his eye softening. "I should've seen it coming. I was trying to get him out..." Lorenz fell into another fit of sobs.

"That bitch...she killed him."

Dimitri swallowed hard and took his cloak off. Wrapping Claude up Dimitri slowly picked him up ignoring the whispers around him and the cries of pain. Dimitri slowly made his way through the field and towards the main gate. To home. But it would never be home again, not to him.
His Queen was dead.

xxx

"Felix!" Sylvain screamed amidst the carnage. The battle was over for now, but there was still no sign of his lover. "FELIX!" he screamed again a little more desperate. His heart was hammering in his chest, his lungs heaving with anxiety. "FELIX!"

"Sylvain!" The redhead turned around quickly meeting Felix's crimson eyes. The black-haired man was leaning heavily on an Imperial holding his side. They stood there staring at each other, nothing but the wind between them. The clatter of a lance was the first sound amidst the empty field followed by the sound of heavy footsteps when Sylvain took off running. Felix pulled away from the Imperial and started limping towards Sylvain until the redhead's arms were around him and their lips met passionately all tongue and teeth and tears.

"You're alive," Sylvain said between kisses. "Goddess you're alive," Felix held Sylvain's face in his hands looking at him closely. He ran his thumb under the eye patch brushing against the small amount of the scar that peeked out from under the patch.

"Sylvain...your eye..." he frowned for a moment his heart sinking a little. He took a better look at Sylvain and smiled wetly. "I think you look even more dashing than before," he said giving a half sobbed laugh. The same sound escaped Sylvain's lips and he pulled Felix into a tight hug tangling his fingers into his hair.

Nikola smiled softly crossing his arms over his chest. His eyes drifting down to Felix's ribbon still tied to his wrist. His eyes softened and he looked back at the couple still caught in each other's embrace. They parted slowly smiles on their faces. Felix looked over at Nikola and beckoned him closer.

Sylvain looked at him warily, his grip tightening on Felix when Nikola approached. "Calm down Sylvain," he said kissing his jaw and pulled away holding his arm gently. "This is the man that helped me escape, Nikola this is Sylvain. Sylvain this is Nikola." Sylvain looked at Nikola, eyes fixed. Slowly he raised his hand up towards the Nikola. Nikola looked at Sylvain and down to his hand and took it shaking it firmly an easy smile on his face.

"It's nice to finally meet the man that has Felix's heart," he said dropping his hand. "It's a pleasure," he said.

"The pleasure is all mine. Thank you for looking out for him in my stead," he said. "I appreciate it."

"Ah, he didn't need me. He can look after himself," he said looking at Felix fondly. "He's pretty, but he is no damsel." Felix huffed a little burying his face into Sylvain's shoulder. Sylvain's eyes flashed momentarily but a tug on his arm turned his attention back to Felix.

"I'm tired Sylv, let's go home," he said. Sylvain smiled and nodded slowly his eyes going back to Nikola. He whistled low calling Morgan over and helped Felix onto her back. He rubbed his leg a little.

"Go on ahead babe. I'm gonna grab my lance, be sure to check in with Ingrid. She's been worried sick," he said. Felix nodded and pat Sylvain's face gently. "I love you," he said.

"Love you too, don't keep me waiting," Felix said.

"Wouldn't dream about it," he said kissing Felix's hand warmly. When they pulled away Felix kicked Morgan into a walk heading towards the main gate. Sylvain sighed happily, his body finally feeling warm.

"He's a fierce fighter," Nikola said making Sylvain close his eyes. "Never thought someone could be that pretty and fight so well," he said. Sylvain's fist close and he turned around punching him against his cheek sending him to the ground.

"You go anywhere near him again without me present, I will run you through with my fucking lance," he snarled. "I owe you big time which is why you're still standing but I know that look in your eye. He's taken," Their eyes locked with each other Sylvain's eye blazing. "You should tend to your own men, Felix can take care of himself. You said it yourself, he's pretty but he is no damsel." Sylvain turned away and went over to gather his lance. When he went back to the gate, he looked at Nikola again. "Stay the fuck away from him," he said and entered the city he had a lover to take care of.

Nikola growled low in his throat and jumped up wiping the blood off his lower lip. He reached for his belt taking out a small knife coated with silver liquid. He went up behind Sylvain grabbing hold of his shoulder shoving the knife in between his ribs. Making him yell out.

"Sorry mate, all part of the grand plan. You understand, don't worry though..." he breathed into Sylvain's ear. "Your lover will be with you soon, see?" he nodded towards Felix who had turned to look at them. They heard Felix cry out Sylvain's name and started running towards them. "Sorry again mate," he whispered pushing Sylvain away from him. Sylvain fell to his knees while Nikola ran off. Felix was still screaming Sylvain's name and he slid to his knees reaching out to hold his face.

"Felix..." he gasped. "I'm sorry." Sylvain leaned into the touch sighing happily. "Your hands are warm...it's nice."

"Shut the fuck up!" Felix said pressing his lips to Sylvain's fiercely. "I just got you back! I'm not losing you!" Felix pulled Sylvain into his arms and Sylvain held him back tucking his face into his neck. "Remember our promise! We die together!" Felix said firmly. Sylvain nodded holding Felix tighter bringing a hand to his belt thumbing at a knife he had there his eyes closing. "Make it quick," Felix whispered. Sylvain nodded and kissed Felix's temple.

"I love you," he breathed. Felix sobbed holding him tighter taking in his scent as much as he could to comfort him.

"I love you too," he breathed. Sylvain smiled sadly bringing the knife in between Felix's ribs hitting his heart. It was almost instant, Felix tensed for a moment and slowly a breath escaped him and he fell limp in Sylvain's arms. Sylvain held him tighter as the poison ran through his system. It felt like forever until he finally faded away too still holding Felix. He'd always hold him. In this life or the next, because to him, there was no life without his soulmate.

xxx

"Caspar!" Petra put her hands on Caspar's chest holding him back. She had found him searching for Linhardt, she didn't' have the heart to tell him his lover's fate and now he was stalking his way towards the medical tent. "You should not see this," she said.

"Let me see him Petra! He needs me!" Caspar cried. "Lin! I'm here it's gonna be okay!" he screamed. "Petra! Let me see him damn it!" Caspar shoved her out of the way barging into the tent. His face paled at the sight of the full medical tent, too many wounded, too many dead. Caspar felt a shiver go down his spine and he met Mercedes' eyes. She nodded her head towards the back of the tent her eyes looking sad.

Caspar took a deep breath and followed the direction trying not to look at the beds. Ignatz was being healed by an exhausted-looking Marianne while Raphael stood vigil, he was too quiet, so dark looking. He didn't even look like Raphael anymore.

Leonie was seated by a covered body, head in her hands, it didn't take a genius to know that Lysithea was gone. Dorothea was next getting patched up by a few healers, Ingrid must've been busy in the field still. She picked her head up to meet his eyes and then hung her head sadly. That was not a good sign. When he finally made it to the last bed, where Linhardt laid. Caspar stood at the foot of the bed looking at him sadly. His hair was undone, his torso covered in bloody bandages, his face too pale, his eyes closed lightly, hands on his stomach.

Caspar swallowed hard ignoring the tears in his eyes. He's just sleeping, yeah... he always conks out after a big fight. He made his way over to the side of the bed and sat down on the stool placing his hand ever so gently on Linhardt's chest shaking him a little.

"L-Lin," he choked. "Lin it's time to wake up. We won babe," he said. Linhardt gave no response, his eyes didn't flutter open, no sounds came from his lips. "Linhardt, come on this isn't funny. It's time to wake up," he said a little firmer shaking him a little harder. Still no response. Tears started falling from his eyes but he didn't wipe them away. "Lin come on! This is no time to play a joke on me! Wake up, Lin! Wake up!" he said a little more desperately still shaking him. "Lin! Wake up!" he was sobbing at this point trying to wake his lover up.

Petra made her way over to him while he tried in vain to wake Linhardt up and wrapped her arms around his shoulders holding him tightly. Caspar wailed and gripped onto Linhardt burying his face into his chest sobbing hard.

"I am so sorry, Caspar," she whispered holding him a little tighter.

"We were gonna get married," Caspar sobbed. "Startup a new life together, traveling, we had it all planned out. We were gonna be together forever!" He bit his lip looking at Linhardt's face. "You were my everything! Why'd you have to go and die?!" he reached up and ran his fingers through his hair slowly. His fingers brushed against the loose ribbon still in his hair and he tugged it loose. He held the ribbon close and looked down at Linhardt's face, his tears dripping down on to Linhard's cheeks. He wiped them away placing a warm kiss to Linhardt's lips.

"I love you. I love you. I love you," he said between kisses.

xxx

In the palace, Dimitri was prowling around his office slowly. His eye was dark, while he ran his fingers over the hardwood of his desk. He went around pulling open a drawer a small box sat alone in the drawer. Picking it up he flicked it open and pulled out his golden band. A promise was a promise, he thought as he slid the ring onto his finger. He looked at it sadly and fell into his chair. He was tired of crying, he was so tired of it, so instead of sobbing his heart out, he screamed. And he didn't stop screaming until a rather frazzled looking Lorenz came into his office and took him into his arms. He continued to scream into Lorenz's shoulder until his screams finally turned into sobs. Together they mourned for all they had lost. A Queen, a lover, a best friend.

Somewhere in the distance, they could hear Ingrid's wails for her best friends while they were burned together on their pyres. Dedue's sobs were quiet while he buried Ashe in their garden laying him to rest amid a bed of violets. Caspar's screams for Linhardt to wake up while Petra held him tightly as he was buried. They were all broken, and Dimitri saw no signs of it healing anytime soon.

"If only we could turn back the clock..." Dimitri mumbled in Lorenz's shoulder. Lorenz ran his fingers through Dimitri's hair, his own tears slipping into the blonde strands.

"If only," he whispered.

xxx

"Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!" A woman screamed stomping her foot multiple times. "We've run through this scenario two times and Claude, Ashe, Linhardt, and Sylvain all fucking die!" she screamed turning towards a young-looking man who just looked down at the pool of water in front of them while they watched the scenes play out. "And now Felix, Ignatz, and Lysithea too! Byleth! Are you listening to me?!"

"Calm down Sothis, maybe we need to go a little earlier this time," he said evenly. "Maybe...maybe we need to go back to before all of this. Before the union of Dimitri and Claude. Before Edelgard started this war...maybe we can stop it at its root before it has time to begin," he said and looked at her. "As long as Claude and Dimitri end up married and unify the Alliance and Faerghus everything else will fall into place," he said. "We need to fix the damage we created, the whole reason that we started doing this. We need to figure out where we went wrong..." he muttered. "Doing nothing has proven that more people die. The last time we interfered, Claude perished from his broken heart syndrome..."

"I never want to hear Dimitri's screams again," Sothis shivered. She looked at him while Byleth turned away from the pool and paced around the dark room slowly. "How far back were you thinking? Childhood?"

"Too far, maybe Garreg Mach...yes, yes that'll work," he smiled snapping his fingers. "I'll pose as a professor so I can keep an eye on all three houses," he turned to Sothis still grinning. "What do you say?" he asked holding out his hand. "Third time's the charm," he said. Sothis sighed and looked at Byleth wearily.

"If this doesn't work, I'm smiting all of them. You hear me?" she asked.

"Duly noted, now, divine pulse us five years should be adequate," he said.