"Don' wanna go sleep!"
Ah, the terrible toddler years. Hubert had heard tales of this dreadful time. Never in his life did he think he'd experience the horror firsthand. Aria had too much energy to spare, which meant she wanted to stay up and have more fun. Unfortunately for her, Hubert was not someone she could easily sway with her puppy-dog eyes and wild tantrums. He'd let her scream and whine on the floor, sometimes getting some disapproving looks from strangers who weren't parents. Hubert could pick out those people at a glance. They didn't have eternal bags under their eyes because they actually maintained a normal sleeping schedule.
"Are you finished?" He'd always ask when her cries died down to hiccups. "Good. Now come along or I'm leaving you here."
That usually shut her up instantly, her eyes filled with fear as she clung to his hand for dear life. However, this tactic did not work at home, which left Hubert scrambling to find some sort of solution to her restlessness.
Hubert heard a knock on the door, which caught Aria's attention as well as Hubert’s. Ferdinand stood there, a beaming smile on his face as he looked at both of them. Aria squealed with glee upon seeing her other father. She jumped off the bed, unintentionally slapping Hubert in the face from her flailing arms. She sprinted over to Ferdinand, crashing into his legs and hugging one as much as she her little arms would allow her to. With a laugh, Ferdinand picked her up and rubbed his nose against hers. She giggled at the feeling, tiny hands digging into the red fabric of his uniform.
"Welcome home," Hubert grumped, rubbing the pulsing red splotch on his chin.
“It is good to be home!” Ferdinand replied, unfazed by the grouchy welcome. "I see you're having some trouble getting Aria to sleep."
"Oh, I'd have no trouble putting someone to sleep if it were anyone else but her."
Ferdinand frowned. "Must you be so morbid?"
"Yes. You don't want to know what kind of day I've had."
“I can only imagine.”
"Papa! Papa, play!" Aria cheered, tugging on his long orange locks.
"No, Aria. It's bedtime for Papa and Daddy both. You need to go to sleep."
"But I don' wanna!"
"Aw. That's too bad." Ferdiand dramatically placed a hand to his forehead, as if he was an actor in an opera. "What a shame! I came here because I wanted to sing you to sleep, but it seems you don't want that."
Aria's eyes went wide with awe. "Papa sings?"
"I do. But only for good little girls who listen to their parents, especially when it's those girls' bedtime."
"I a good girl, Papa! I a good girl!"
"If you are, then say you're sorry to Daddy. Don't think that I didn't see you hit him while trying to get to me."
Ferdinand placed her down. She then hobbled over to Hubert, tugging on his pant leg. She looked up at him, looking remorseful. Hubert was impressed that a child so young could understand that she was in the wrong. Of course that child would be his and Ferdinand's.
"Sorry, Daddy," she apologized. "Kiss-kiss boo-boo?"
"That won't be necessary," Hubert answered. Why Ferdinand gave her the idea that kissing a bruise will make the pain disappear, Hubert will never know. But it stopped her from crying most of the time, so he couldn't complain too much even if the solution was illogical..
"Good job, Aria. Now get into bed."
Aria nodded at Ferdinand. "Okie-dokie, Papa!"
Hubert stared as the child willingly crawled into the same bed Hubert had been trying to tuck her in to for the past 15 minutes. She slipped under the covers, holding the stuffed bunny that Dorothea had gotten Aria for her birthday. She eagerly waited as Ferdinand walked over to her bedside, sitting down next to her. He ran his fingers through her hair, looking like the sappy, loving father he was.
Ferdinand began vocalizing to her, a sweet melody that Aria took an instant liking to. Hubert recognized it as one of the pieces to some romantic opera Ferdinand was a fan of. She leaned into Ferdinand's side, enraptured by the sound of his voice despite her drooping eyelids.
"Papa pretty voice," she mumbled. "I wanna sing like Papa."
Ferdinand wrapped her in a one-armed hug. "Really?"
"Auntie 'Thea sings pretty. Papa sings pretty. I wanna sing pretty too. Can I, Papa?"
"As long as you behave, then Daddy and I will think about it. That means listening to what your Daddy tells you to do, going to bed when it's your bedtime, and eating your greens even if you don't like them. Do you understand, Aria?"
A soft whine. "I understand, Papa…"
"That's my girl." He placed a kiss on the top of her head. "Sweet dreams, Aria."
She nodded as her eyes slid shut, still humming the lullaby to herself as she sunk below the covers. Ferdinand then blew put the candle that had been lighting up the room. Taking the holder, he and Hubert both exited the room. Ferdinand took great care in closing the door so that it clicked softly when it was finally shut. The Prime Minister then blinked at the perplexed expression on his husband's face. Hubert hummed, his brows furrowing as they usually did whenever he was deep in thought.
"Is something wrong, Hubert?" asked Ferdinand, curious as what was going on through the Imperial Minister's mind.
"Did you know that was all it would take?" Hubert questioned him, his eyes narrowing to deadly slits. "Some pretty sounds and a potential promise for singing lessons? I've been struggling to get her into bed on time for weeks while you were away."
Ferdinand could feel a bead of sweat dripping down his neck. "Well, I might have...had an inkling…just based on how excited she always got whenever Dorothea and the opera were mentioned. I did not know she was giving you such a hard time. I apologize for putting you through that ordeal while I was away in the Kingdom. I'll make it up to you. Noble's promise, I swear."
Hubert glared at him. "I hate you so much right now."
"I know. I'm sorry," Ferdinand replied with a wince. "But you know, she's only fussy with you because she wants to spend more time with you and doesn't know how else to get you to stay. Honestly, I feel the same way. I hardly see you even when I'm not swamped with work. Whenever I return from a diplomatic mission, you disappear without warning. It worries me..."
A sigh, annoyance being replaced by remorse. "I have no choice. In order for her and you to live in a world without strife, I must eliminate the threat that continues to slither in the dark. I don't know when or where they'll strike next. They must pay the ultimate price for what they have done. I will not rest until I see every one of them dead."
“Regardless of how you feel, it is because of them that Aria exists.” Ferdinand gave Hubert a worried look. "I can never hope to understand the pain and trauma caused by those people. But for now, I’d rather you take a moment to relax and enjoy what you have before you. You work yourself too hard. You can fight those who slither another day. Right now, I just want to enjoy the rest of the evening with the love of my life. I've been away from you for far too long."
Hubert laughed. "Ever a hopeless romantic. Disgusting."
Ferdinand went over to Hubert, wrapping his arms around his waist and resting his chin on Hubert's shoulder. "Yet you still said yes when I asked for your hand."
Hands snaked their way up Ferdinand's back, threading through orange strands of hair along the way before settling right over his spine. "I'm still debating on who's the bigger idiot: you for asking the question or me for actually accepting your proposal."
"Well, you made this fool the happiest man in Fódlan. I'll gladly bear that title if it means I can share the rest of my life with you."
His grip tightened. "Yes, love?"
“Any particular reason why you’re spouting out this nonsense? You are well aware that I do not care for it.”
Ferdinand was silent for a few moments, simply breathing in the scent of earth and coffee that always seemed to cling to Hubert. One of his hands cupped Hubert’s head, bringing the mage even closer to him. Ferdinand took a shaky breath before he finally found his words.
“I had a nightmare while I was away…” the Prime Minister explained. “I dreamt that I...killed you with my own hands.”
Of all the things Ferdinand could have possibly said, Hubert wasn’t expecting that.
“We were on opposing sides. I felt my sword pierce through you, your blood trailing down my arm, hearing your gurgled breaths in my ear. I just left you there to die and I didn’t feel anything at all. When I awoke and you weren’t there by my side, I truly thought that I had killed the very person I swore I would protect with my life.” Ferdinand voice hitched. “I nearly lost you once before and there was nothing I could do to help you. I wanted nothing more than to return home and hold you in my arms. If I let go, sometimes I fear that it might be the last time I ever get to do so.”
“Ferdinand, it was only a dream. A mere fantasy.”
“Forgive me, but...can we stay like this for a while longer?”
A smile, only meant for one. “Take as much time as you need. I’m still here. I always will be. I promise.”