Sleep… You must sleep, so that they may live, Byleth….
You must stay with me...For a while.
I will coddle you no more, get on your feet, now!
Light suddenly assaulted Byleth’s senses, forcing her eyes open just as the man who'd found her leaped back in surprise, not having expected the ‘corpse’ to move. He’d thought she was dead, he’d said. He held out his hand to her and helped her up. By Sothis, her back was killing her, she thought ruefully as she stood there.
“What are you doing here? Are you sure you’re alright? I could have sworn you had no heartbeat… You were on the shore of the river.”
If only he knew. “I’m fine. Tell me, where am I?”
“Why, you don’t know? You’re not far from Garreg Mach Monastery. That place was abandoned by the Church of Seiros - the Imperial Army has taken over now.”
“Wha -- but, they don’t just let anyone in! They’ll kill you!”
“It’s not your concern.” She said, more sharply than she’d probably spoken in recent memory… The man looked perturbed. Byleth turned briskly away with the Relic sword in her grip, ignoring his pleas to stop and his resignation soon followed, grumbling something about his responsibility not being over her life.
Her reunion with Edelgard was beyond anything she could have hoped for, immediate acceptance from her beloved student was more than she felt she deserved. A bloom of relief filled her at the realization that all was well with Edelgard, tension washing away with the tide of time. It was the year 1185, she had slumbered for the last 5 years, remembering nothing from it. The slumber felt like a blink for her, but clearly felt more like an eternity for all she had left, all she had lost.
And for him.
As the rest of her remaining students filed out of the room - the Black Eagle house, Ferdinand, Ignatz, and the other Professors too - Byleth stood alone with the black-clad, imposing figure of Hubert.
His piercing bright green eyes stabbed directly through her. His expression was almost unreadable, but she could see the fury within him. The Warlock looked broader and more chiseled than she remembered, his hair was different, too. Not quite so unruly - more mature. She didn’t often feel so uncomfortable, but his gaze became even more steely before he spoke.
“Where have you been Professor, truly?” His tone barely remained neutral, yet somewhat challenging.
“I wasn’t lying to Edelgard, I was asleep. I remember nothing, and as soon as I woke I came here.” She replied carefully. “Hubert, I--”
“Don’t waste my time, Professor.” The facade began to crack before her. His fists clenched.
She reached out to him, hoping he'd meet her halfway. “Please, I will tell you all I remember, though truthfully it is not much… That, and I would like to spend some time with you after being away for so long.”
“Professor, I am not the same man you knew 5 years ago.” Hubert said coldly, his composure crumbling to dust before her. He half-turned, looking sidelong at her from his one visible eye, away from her grasp. “You abandoned us, whether you meant to or not is irrelevant. You know me to be a reasonable man, but this? ” He swept an elegant hand, gesturing at her harshly. “Do you know how much time I had to spend picking up the broken pieces of Her Highness’ heart? How many times I had to pretend to agree with her when she said she knew you were alive, even though I couldn’t believe it?"
“ No .” He snarled. “No, Professor, I do not wish to spend time with you - for who is to say that you will not abandon us once more? And I swear, if you do this to Lady Edelgard again, I will make sure that you do not come back!”
When she couldn't find the words to say - the next mask cracked, his tone softened, raw with emotion, unlike anything she had ever seen in him before. "I had just grown used to the idea that you were dead, it was easier to believe that I would lose you to a force that even I cannot fight. It was easier than the idea of you abandoning us when we… when I... needed you most."
He moved to walk away and she caught his arm. It wasn't until he turned to face her that she could see tears, unshed, welling in his eyes.
Byleth was never one much for emotions, but this shocked her - even if she felt incapable of showing much. "Hubert." She said his name softly, eyes wide as she pulled him into a gentle embrace. He stiffened, but slowly relaxed and wrapped his arms around her waist. His touch was whisper-soft and so careful that remembering this detail about him awakened a need within her that she had nearly forgotten. He smelled the same as before, perhaps a changed man - but he was still the man she’d fallen in love with 5 years ago.
"Professor… I need time." Hubert’s voice was strained before silence fell over them. This time, she didn’t want to let go. This time, she didn’t want to disappear.
Had she wanted to disappear before?
She could not remember.
3 Weeks later
Byleth sat alone in the dining hall of the monastery, picking tiredly at her food. She’d been training rather intensively with Petra and Ferdinand, working hard to build her stamina back up - it had turned out that some rust needed to be shaken off from her time slumbering. Her power was still alive and well, but her body… She sighed.
“Professor, you’re not looking well - do you need me to carry you to your quarters?” The smooth voice of Sylvain drifted to her ears. He sauntered over with an easy grin before it faded as he really got a look at her. “Seriously, Professor… Are you okay?”
She realized she had let her guard down, assuming she was alone. “I will be fine, please do not worry about me, Sylvain.”
He didn’t look convinced. “I won’t tell anyone if you need help, I can quietly find Manuela and it need not be a fuss.”
“Truly, dear student.” She said, a bit more firmly. He took the seat across from her.
“If you are fine, then you would not mind some company, right?” He grinned again.
Byleth couldn’t help but smile a little. “You are always welcome at my table.” She reached out and patted his upper arm. “I know you gave up much to stay here.” She said softly. “I want you to know that we’re doing the right thing, supporting Lady Edelgard. You saw what Rhea was, and I hope we can convince the other students who aren’t here as well.”
He shifted in his seat before he told a serving girl his order. “It is quite an adjustment, but Edelgard has taken good care of us while you were gone. She did her best to fill your shoes, though it was hard to do that and be the Emperor.”
She nodded solemnly. “I never intended to put such a burden upon her. Upon you all.”
“Can you tell me what happened?” Sylvain put his drink down, the full attention of his amber eyes on her.
“Well,” the Professor began, “I remember what happened with Rhea, and I remember the building beginning to collapse. And then...I remember waking up a few weeks ago, a villager found me. Aside from that, I remember nothing. It felt like seconds passed between the collapse and my waking up elsewhere. The villager said I washed up on the riverbank, supposedly dead- but I obviously was not.”
His brow furrowed. “What could that mean?”
“Perhaps the Goddess needed me to stay asleep, or perhaps my body shut down.” She shrugged. “I am as confused by it as you are.”
When Byleth looked up, she caught movement off to the side of the room - Hubert had walked in but was briskly walking towards the kitchen and away from them.
Sylvain followed her gaze. “You care about him a great deal, don’t you?” He sounded almost disappointed.
“I… I do.” The Professor said almost too quietly. She and Sylvain had also grown closer, though not in the same way she felt about Hubert. Byleth could see it in Sylvain’s eyes that he wanted more from her - but she simply couldn’t see herself chasing after the Skirt Chaser for the rest of her life. He had his moments of sincerity but needed to work on himself much more, he needed to grow up more. She wondered if the war would finally do that for him.
They finished their meal, and Byleth found herself wandering the halls of the Monastery into the night. She’d slept for 5 years and at this point, she had no desire to go back to sleep despite the toll it was taking on her to sleep as little as possible. The halls grew dim into the night as she made her rounds, wandering almost aimlessly throughout the monastery before finding herself standing amongst the rubble in the Cathedral.
“Nice place, isn’t it, Professor? Standing here, you can almost feel the goddess’s absence.” Hubert seemed to materialize in the dark from behind her, his silken voice sending a chill up her spine. “Discounting what dwells within you, of course.” He took a step ahead, looking up toward the ceiling.
She stood there in silence. Surely, he had a point to this or he wouldn’t be speaking to her.
“Do you think,” He said, “that some punishment would rain down from the sky if this Monastery were to be destroyed?” He turned to her, smirking somewhat. “Of course not. Even if the so-called Immaculate One came back here for revenge, that would only be the result of this war and not a deity.”
“And do you hate the Goddess, then?” She managed, almost shakily. Why did she feel so tired?
“If it is between love and hate, then I would choose the latter. The Goddess failed to properly govern this world.” He looked up again, crossing his arms. “That is why it is necessary for Lady Edelgard to become the supreme leader of Fódlan. Those with power must use it wisely. Is that not a teaching of the Church of Seiros?” He shielded his mouth with a hand, as though to conceal a smile, stepping closer to her. “It’s absurd to preach to others what you cannot practice yourself.”
“You’re absolutely right.” Byleth replied, staying still. She was frozen, in his snare.
“Yes. It is our humanity that pushes us to step up and take lead should the need arise. That is not so for inhuman creatures who live beyond us - we must fight to preserve what makes us human…” He stepped forward, guiding her slowly back and away from where they had stood, until her back was to the column opposite to where she’d been.
His hands rested against the column behind her, trapping her there. “You are the one closest to the enemy. I wonder...if you will be able to maintain your humanity to the end?” she could feel his breath against her lips, the familiar scent of him - faint but clean - washed over her senses.
“If I am unable to, I…”
His lips, so pale and smooth, and so close, nearly brushed her as he spoke, bright eyes boring into hers. “So honest, and yet you understand that I would do what I must. You must trust me a great deal…” Byleth trembled, though he didn’t touch her. Before she knew it, a sinister-sounding chuckle escaped him. “I’ve already dedicated my life to Lady Edelgard, so to throw my lot in with you is inconceivable...But, if I had two lives to give - I might devote one of them to you.” He touched her cheek. “We could be a couplet of birds, flying alongside the sovereign of Black Eagles…”
Then, he kissed her.
It was the first time, in the time they spent together, that they had ever been this intimate aside from their hug after her awakening. His firm lips capturing hers roughly, making her knees go weak as she struggled in her tired state to stand, to respond, but she only found herself leaning harder against the column behind her.
Hubert closed in on her, his lean body against hers as a trembling, strangled sound escaped her. His gloved fingers tangled roughly in her hair. His teeth grazed her bottom lip as he pulled away. The room seemed to spin around them. What was this?
It wasn’t until she could see the clear concern in his eyes that she realized she was losing consciousness. “Hubert…” She said weakly, the world was growing dim. “I need…”
She could faintly hear Hubert cursing as everything slipped away from her again. “Professor..? No.. Damn it! Byleth!”
Everything went black.