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Fifty Ways to Love Your Partner

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The monastery grounds are quiet, yet somehow abuzz at the same time. Certifications week put everyone on edge. If you ventured out of your room or the library at any point during the week, it was common to find more students than usual taking naps in the courtyard, passed out on thick tactical textbooks with their notes strewn about them. The halls are, for the most part, silent, save for the occasional hymns drifting across the bridge.

The dining hall is the only place that is, largely, untouched by the chaos. The tension and bubbling excitement is familiar, even if it is exam driven. Those who have already taken, and presumably passed, Certifications are the loudest. Everyone else is just trying to let off a little steam. Dimitri honestly doesn’t have the time to join them, but Ingrid and Sylvain had all but dragged him away from the training grounds to get some food. They are right, he needs the food for energy later, but part of him can’t help but feel guilty for every second he spends away from his studies. If he wants to pass his swordsmanship Certifications, his time is best spent back at the training grounds. He isn’t entirely a lost cause, or so he likes to think. He can hold his own with a sword, but Felix has bested him one too many times recently, putting him on edge. He piles food haphazardly onto his plate, rationalizing that, if he eats quickly, he’ll probably have enough time to get in a couple more training sessions before his Certification—

“Looking forward to your certifications this evening,” a voice cuts into his thoughts. The Professor. She rests a tray of food lazily across her arms, her face expressionless as usual, but her eyes alight with excitement.

“Ah, as am I,” he lies, bowing slightly, if only to hide the heat growing at his cheeks.

“You seem nervous,” she observes, tilting her head.

“Ah, well, you know as well as I do that swordsmanship isn’t my strong suit,” he keeps his eyes on the ground.

“Only because the skills you do have are unparalleled,” she offers a small smile. “And don’t sell yourself short- you’re quite capable with a sword. You have nothing to worry about.”

“You’re far too generous, professor. I will do my best to live up to expectations,” he laughs nervously.

“You never cease to impress,” she gently squeezes his arm before walking to join Jeralt, who was waiting for her at a far entrance to the dining hall.

You never cease to impress.

The Professor’s compliment rings in his ears. She was always vocal with her praise of her students, something for which they were all certainly grateful. Still, her compliment did raise his spirits slightly. Dimitri makes his way across the dining hall, settling into the bench across from Sylvain and Ingrid and offering up a smile. The two of them are chatting and he absentmindedly listens in to the conversation, picking away at the food he’d barely noticed piling onto his plate. Sylvain shoves his fourth sweet bun of the afternoon into his mouth and Ingrid throws him a look.

“You’re going to choke.”

“Ahm wavenuff,” Sylvain replies, “Ah haven a’ o’ slep in free days,” he holds up three fingers to further illustrate his point, as though anyone had any idea what he was saying in the first place, before swallowing loudly. “I’ve been living off coffee, I swear.

“Coffee is not a meal,” Ingrid groans.

“Well, when you pass your certification exam you can judge my stress management skills,” he elbows Ingrid playfully. “In the meantime, if you need an energy boost, Dedue brews a mean coffee.”

“That is true,” Dimitri agrees, only half intending to join in the conversation. Ingrid rounds on him.

“You’ve hardly touched your food,” she observes softly. “Not that Sylvain’s table manners have fostered an enticing dining environment.” Sylvain snorts and Ingrid grins into her soup.

“I suppose I’m just a little nervous,” Dimitri laughs, wiping his sweaty hands against his pants, as if to prove a point.

“What are you nervous for? We saw you chatting up the professor,” Sylvain winks. The flush returns to Dimitri’s face. “She was smiling at you. There’s no way she’s going to fail you.”

“We merely ran into each other by chance,” he sputters. Goddess, it’s hot in the dining hall suddenly. “And she certainly would fail me if I deserved it.”

“Sure,” Sylvain laughs. “Honestly, I don’t know why you don’t use the whole teacher’s pet thing to your advantage more often. Despite all my charms, she doesn’t compliment me half as much as she compliments you.”

Dimitri opens and closes his mouth, no retort coming to mind. He looks to Ingrid for assistance, but she only raises her eyebrows and fights a smile, suddenly very interested in her now empty soup bowl.

“Oh don’t tell me you agree with him,” Dimitri whines.

“She does give you a lot of compliments,” Ingrid shrugs, still smiling. “Not that the praise isn’t deserved,” she backtracks slightly. “You train more than Sylvain. But she does seem to like praising you.”

“I suppose I haven’t noticed it. Though, I still maintain you’re exaggerating,” he can feel the tips of his ears burning now. Perhaps he ought to pay more mind to the compliments the Professor doled out. She’s not one for flattery, so she must really mean it. It seems odd, that of all his classmates, she would praise him so frequently. Not that he wasn’t grateful for the attention. Truth be told, hearing that she complimented him more than the others made him feel… happy somehow.

He smiles into his lunch.