Felix and Sylvain weren’t doing anything more illicit than sitting beside one another on Felix’s bed when Ingrid burst into the room, but Sylvain still scrambled away on reflexes honed by Academy Dimitri ‘checking in’ on him. Both men watched as Ingrid shut the bedroom door and began to pace before it. They looked at each other with matching expressions of confusion.
“You’re up late,” Felix said by way of greeting. He wanted to berate her for barging into his room without permission but instead asked, “Are you alright?”
Ingrid glanced up at them, still pacing, biting the nails on her left hand in a habit not seen since childhood. When she didn’t answer, Felix and Sylvain looked at each other again, since they could think of nothing better to do.
Sylvain took a step forward. “Ingrid? What’s wrong?”
She finally stopped and turned to them. Her face was pink, which surprised Felix enough that he got up from the bed too. “I need…” Ingrid’s eyes lowered and she played with a lock that had come free from her short braids. “I need… guy advice.”
A statement like that would typically be followed by stunned silence but Sylvain had been waiting half his life for Ingrid to say something to this effect and so skipped right to letting out a celebratory “WHOOP!” that was perhaps inappropriate for the late hour.
He surged forward and pulled Ingrid into a hug. “I’m so happy for you!” He cried. Against his shoulder, Ingrid’s light blush committed to a dark red across her face.
Felix wasn’t usually one for tradition but since no one else was filling the role he opened and closed his mouth a few times like a gasping fish. “Advice?” He settled on, voice cracking in a very preteen way he would deny later. “Yeah— don’t bother with romance in the middle of a war! They’re more important things to be worrying about!”
Ingrid turned panicked eyes on Felix and pushed away from Sylvain. “N-No!” She stammered. “It’s not like that! We weren’t—I mean, I wasn’t— He was just—” The stammering continued until Sylvain took pity on his poor friend.
With all the care of a gentle yet gossipy grandmother, Sylvain lead Ingrid over to Felix’s bed and sat her down on it. “Deep breaths,” he instructed, seemingly unable to stop smiling. Part of Felix wanted to demand they take this out of his bedroom, of all places, but he was honestly curious too.
Ingrid’s hands were curled into fists as she followed Sylvain’s advice. Once she seemed calm, Felix sat beside her. “Start from the beginning.”
Ferdinand was not usually one for staying up late. He enjoyed a good night’s rest and waking up early to watch the way the sun painted Garreg Mach gold. It was also not a good idea to operate on little sleep while fighting a war, least a rival army decided a thousand-year-old monastery was an asset worth sieging for.
So it was not normal for Ferdinand von Aegir to be awake in the library at this hour. But here he was nonetheless, tiding up a stack of papers he had been sorting through and stifling a yawn. That was when Hubert came in.
Hubert blinked at the sight of Ferdinand. Ferdinand simply blinked back. Then Hubert shook his head, muttered something Ferdinand couldn’t hear, and turned to leave again. He had scarcely made it three strides before reentering the library and shutting the doors behind him with a curse. “You will do,” Hubert said. Ominously, in Ferdinand’s opinion.
“…Do for what?” Ferdinand asked, putting down the papers. He knew better than to ask what Hubert was doing up so late. The man seemed to subsist on shadows and moonlight. And coffee.
“I need to speak with you on a… personal matter.”
“I see.” Ferdinand briefly wondered if he had fallen asleep at the library’s table and was experiencing a strange dream. It was temping to pinch his cheeks for confirmation but real/dream Hubert probably wouldn’t appreciate that. “Then please, have a seat.” Ferdinand sat down and gestured to the chair before him.
Hubert locked the library doors and filled the offered seat. He then proceeded to say nothing at all. Ferdinand waited patiently, observing the way Hubert sat perfectly still, as if afraid to display a nervous tick that would give him away. “Is it so personal that you have no wish to supply me with details?” Ferdinand joked after a moment.
Hubert scoffed. “I am still going over the details myself.”
“Take all the time you need. Just know that I am here when you are ready for my words of wisdom.”
That got a chuckle from Hubert, which made Ferdinand relax somewhat. “I must be truly desperate to find comfort in that.”
Ferdinand scooted his chair closer so their knees were brushing. “Now I am most curious.”
Hubert crossed his arms and reclined, actually reclined, in his chair. Rarely was Hubert so casual with him. “This evening I was tailing someone who has been going around taverns in town asking questions he should not be.” His tone was that of giving a report; not personal in the slightest. But Ferdinand listened diligently. “He visited three taverns in the space of an hour, meeting with seemingly random individuals. At the third place, I came across Ingrid.”
“I had been going around taverns to find this one kind of liquor for Manuela. Her birthday is coming up and she’s been so nice to us so I thought I would try and get her some,” Ingrid said to an enthralled Sylvain and an attempting-to-look-indifferent Felix. “It might be something you can only get in Adrestia because no one had heard of it. I should have asked Hanneman first, he would have more information on that sort of thing.”
“Guy advice,” Sylvain reminded her.
“Yes, apologies.” Ingrid gulped. “Well, it was getting late and I had started to head back here when I ran into Hubert. He said he was following someone so I offered to help.”
“After some convincing I agreed to her help. I thought a pair wandering about town at this hour would attract less attention than someone on their own.”
Ferdinand couldn’t help but speak his thoughts. “Ingrid? Stealthy? I would never have accused her of such. Perhaps I associate her too much with her Pegasus. I have a hard time picturing her moving silently.”
Huber glared. “She did well and I’ll thank you to not interrupt.”
“Yes, of course, go on.”
“We observed him at one more tavern before he began making his way out of town.”
Ingrid was having a harder time talking now, which made Sylvain practically giddy. The payoff had to be close. It took a lot to get Ingrid this out of sorts. He should know.
“Did you corner him?” Felix asked impatiently.
“The point wasn’t to catch him,” Ingrid explained. “We just wanted to know who he might be reporting to. When Hubert realized the man was leaving town, we took a shortcut to get to the gate first so we could get the best vantage point.”
“Only he took a different path than we were counting on.” Hubert’s eyes had been gradually leaving Ferdinand’s as the story went on. Now he seemed fixated on a bookshelf far off to Ferdinand’s left. Ferdinand felt the strangest urge to take Hubert by the chin and turn his head so he could better observe Hubert’s expression when the story reached its apparently personal conclusion.
“You were in plain view,” Ferdinand surmised, pushing away the impulse.
Hubert nodded. “As soon as the man came around the corner he was going to see us. Before I could come up with something that would hide both of us, Ingrid grabbed my collar and…”
The sudden silence in the library was broken only by the creak of Ferdinand’s chair as he shifted ever closer. A blushing Hubert was something to marvel at up close. Ferdinand wanted so badly to interrupt again, to beg for the plot to progress.
“She kissed me.” The ‘delivering a report’ tone was back, which Ferdinand was quickly realizing might be Hubert’s default way of coping with uncomfortable emotion. “She pulled me back so we were against the wall, so the man wouldn’t see either of our faces well, and he passed by without so much as a misstep.”
“I kissed him,” Ingrid said. She addressed the floorboards between her boots because Felix’s look of dawning realization and Sylvain’s gleeful grin were making her face turn red again. “The man went right by us. I doubt he took notice of us, thinking we were occupied.”
“Did you use tongue?”
Ingrid now did raise her head to level a glare at Sylvain. “That is not important.”
Sylvain shrugged, still grinning. “It could be.”
Ingrid looked up at Felix for support. He shrugged as well. “It could be.”
With a groan, Ingrid’s face fell back into her palms. Sylvain shook her shoulder. “Don’t stop now! What happened after that?”
Hubert finally looked Ferdinand in the eye again to glare with such ferocity that Ferdinand, if he had not been giggling madly, would have feared for his life. “Are you quite done?”
The answer was plainly ‘no’ but in summoning enough presence of mind to speak, Ferdinand calmed down slightly. “Y-Yes,” he was able to say. “P-Please, go on. After she kissed you—”
“Once the man passed, we followed him out the gate,” Hubert went on. “The person he met with was not familiar to either of us but I was able to observe his features accurately and—”
“Yes, yes, very good.” Ferdinand waved the mission details aside for the nonce. “After your sneaking around was over, what happened?”
Hubert was speaking to the bookshelf again. So much for holding in his tells. “We made our way back up here in silence. Just before we arrived, she apologized for acting so rashly. I assured her I felt no ill will towards her; that it was a valid tactic I hadn’t considered and it worked in our favor.” Hubert swallowed. “I also mentioned, perhaps against my better judgement…”
“… that it was his first kiss.” As soon as the words were out of Ingrid’s mouth, she wanted to swat them down like flies. Not only was that not the type of secret you told other people, it was not the type of secret you told Sylvain. “And that doesn’t leave this room!” Ingrid declared quickly.
Felix slightly resented her giving such orders in his bedroom but joined her in giving Sylvain a meaningful look nonetheless. Sylvain put up his hands in surrender. “Alright, you have my word. So? What did you say to that?”
“I apologized again but he said it wasn’t important. Then he thanked me for my help, bid me good night, and we went our separate ways.”
“And you thought the next logical thing to do would be to visit my room,” Felix finished for her. She could only nod. He scoffed. “What advice do you need? Sounds like things ended well for you both.”
“I agree,” Sylvain said. He looped an arm around her shoulders, poking Felix on Ingrid’s left side just because he could. “You might be overthinking this. It looks like everything turned out fine. And he said your plan was good! He’s never said a nice thing about me!”
In a sure sign that she really had been distressed about this, Ingrid actually relaxed in Sylvain’s side. “You may be right. It is Hubert after all. Surely a thing like this wouldn’t weigh on his mind.”
“Although,” Felix said slowly, scooting away from her a fraction so Sylvain would stop poking him, “if Hubert was bothered by this, it would be easy for him get revenge without anyone tracing it back to him.”
A bolt of panic shot through Ingrid and her wide eyes turned to the door as if Hubert himself was about to break it down and blast her with magic. Sylvain tightened his hold on her and aimed a kick past her legs to hit Felix in the shin.
Wondering when he became the adult in the room, Sylvain stated calmly, “Like Felix said earlier, there’s a war going on. Hubert has more important things to worry about than who stole his first kiss. I mean,” he went on in that way people do right before they’re about to be proven wrong, “it was just a diversion! It’s not like you feel that way towards him, right?”
Ingrid shifted uncomfortably. Felix stood from the bed altogether so he could properly stare at her at disbelief. Sylvain was starting to understand why she had arrived to the dorms in a daze. “Ingrid…” Sylvain began in a somewhat terrified tone.
“It won’t come to anything!” She blurted out. Felix covered his face with both hands and made a noise of disgust. “Stop that! It will pass. I am sure it will!”
“Hubert?!” Felix shrieked. “Of all people?!”
Ingrid jumped to her feet and clamped a hand over his mouth. “Keep your voice down!” She hissed. With Felix still in her grasp, she turned to Sylvain who had been distressingly quiet. “Well?” She prompted.
He was staring into space thoughtfully. “Hang on. I’m picturing it.”
Felix made another, slightly muffled noise to express how revolting he found such an idea. Ingrid did not let go. “I wish you wouldn’t.”
“Why? Have you been doing it enough for the both of us?”
“I must say, I am surprised,” Ferdinand said, chin in hand as he absorbed the end of Hubert’s story.
Hubert raised an eyebrow. “By which part?”
“That was truly your first kiss?”
“Of all the things I have said thus far, that is the detail you’re struggling with?”
Ignoring Hubert’s unimpressed tone, Ferdinand nodded. “How is it no one has kissed you yet?” Ferdinand muttered, more to himself than the subject of his musings. “That cannot be. How has no one thought to do so yet? You are loyal and hardworking, your sense of style is unique and eye catching, your hair is soft, your voice is a pleasure to listen to no matter the subject—”
“Ferdinand I say this more often than anything else in my life but heed me just this once and stop talking.”
Ferdinand’s mouth snapped shut as he realized just what he had been saying to whom. Hubert’s face was tinted again and Ferdinand felt his wasn’t doing any better. He cleared his throat to indicate without words that they should both forget he had spoken. “Regardless, it seems you and Ingrid parted on fine terms. So what is causing you distress?”
“Distress is putting it dramatically,” Hubert objected. “But simply put, I do not know what to say to her tomorrow.”
“Why must you say anything?”
Ferdinand leaned back in his chair, confident that he had a simple solution. “You are both adults. Unless you wish to pursue a relationship with her, there is no reason to dwell on what happened. I am not saying you should ignore it,” he continued when Hubert opened his mouth, “but do not make a big deal out of it. It was just part of the mission. Nothing more.”
Hubert nodded. Then he nodded again just in case. Ferdinand smiled as he watched him. Hubert was sitting straight as a lance again, which was a sure sign that he was nervous again. “What if—” Hubert began. It sounded to Ferdinand like they were finally getting to the core of the issue. “What if it meant something to her? What if Ingrid expects something to change now?”
“Would you like them to?”
“…. I am not sure.”
Ferdinand held in his knee-jerk reaction which was to let his jaw drop to the floor at the implication that Hubert could consider Ingrid Brandl Galatea in a romantic context. Instead, he nodded and said, “Then you tell her that.”
Hubert scoffed. “I’m no expert on these matters but surely it is not as easy as that.”
“You are adults,” Ferdinand repeated. “It most certainly can be as easy as that. You are brutally honest with everyone else in our lives. Why should Ingrid be any different?”
This seemed like news to Hubert so Ferdinand was quiet for a moment to let it sink in. In truth, he needed a moment as well. Hubert having his first kiss stolen in the name of staying hidden was very in-character, though it still struck Ferdinand as tragic and perplexing. A match between Ingrid and Hubert… the thought was not as far-fetched as it should have been.
“Perhaps you are right.” Hubert’s voice grabbed Ferdinand’s attention, as it often did. “If she wishes to speak on it further, I will make my thoughts clear.” He stood, placed a hand over his chest, and bowed to Ferdinand. “Thank you for your help.”
Ferdinand stood as well. “Anytime. All I ask is that you tell me of any future developments.” He winked and Hubert rolled his eyes. “Why did you seek my help, anyway?”
“I did not,” Hubert said, pushing in his chair. “I just wanted a deserted place to clear my head. But you are one of the few people I trust with matters of the heart so I thought I should speak with you. As adept as I am in manipulating others, emotions are… harder to predict.”
At the phrase “matters of the heart”, Ferdinand had spaced out. Just for a moment. He came back to earth in time to deliver an intelligent response. “Emotions are hard.”
Hubert tilted his head at Ferdinand. “…Indeed.” He turned for the door. “Good night, Ferdinand.”
Hubert unlocked the door and Ferdinand listened to his footsteps as they faded down the hall. Then Ferdinand slumped back into his chair. So much for getting to bed on time.
Sylvain, still sitting on the bed, held the cloth Felix had given him under his nose. “I was just trying to lighten the mood!” He said for the dozenth time. Ingrid was back to pacing. Felix felt passing Sylvain the scrap of cloth was as far as his hospitality was willing to stretch and was now lying on his bed watching Ingrid.
“It was not appreciated,” Ingrid snapped.
“Got that. Look, you’re allowed to like whoever you want—”
Ingrid stopped to glare at Sylvain daringly. “But?”
“But nothing,” Sylvain wrinkled his tender nose. “You can like whoever you want. On paper, there’s nothing wrong with Hubert.”
Felix wanted to re-bloody his nose. “What are you talking about?!”
Sylvain waved the spotted cloth in the vague direction of Hubert’s room, not knowing it was still empty. “He’s a noble in good standing, assuming we win the war. He’s close to the Emperor, powerful, and… uh…” He waved the cloth around some more as if it would summon for him a habitual third thing to list. “And… tall.”
That finally made Ingrid chuckle. “You think I have feelings for Hubert because he’s tall?”
“There are worse reasons to fall for someone so I wouldn’t blame you.”
Not liking that they were now on the subject of height, Felix said, “So? Feel better? Or are you still dreading seeing him tomorrow?”
“I think I will manage,” Ingrid said confidently. “We are allies after all. If he felt any ill will towards me, he could’ve done something before we went our separate ways tonight.”
Felix hummed in thought. “Unless he’s trying to lure you into a false sense of security.”
Sylvain tossed the soaked cloth at his face. “I’m banning you from talking for the rest of the night.”
“This is my room!” Felix peeled off the cloth and aimed a kick at Sylvain’s nose, which Sylvain avoided by sliding off the bed.
“It’s okay, Sylvain,” Ingrid smiled. “I think I should be going anyway. It’s late.” She bowed to them. “Thank you both for calming me down. I appreciate the support.”
Sylvain got to his feet and pulled her into another hug. “No need to thank us. What else are friends for?” He made a ‘get over here’ motion to Felix with one hand, which Felix ignored.
Ingrid did not seem to mind his lack of participation. She squeezed Sylvain tight, offered them each one last grateful smile, and left.
Then she poked her head back into the room again. “Out of curiosity, Sylvain, what were you doing in here in the first place?”
While Felix contemplated the benefits of melding into the floor, Sylvain answered as casually as possible. “Eh, just came in to say good night and got to chatting. No real reason.”
Felix’s stoic expression was so forced that one look would have been a dead giveaway. Luckily, Ingrid took Sylvain at his word. With a nod, she left once again.
Both men waited a few beats to make sure she was truly gone before Sylvain turned to Felix with an expression of absolute glee. He opened his mouth.
“Go away,” Felix said quickly.
“My two best friends in all of Fódlan—”
“Sylvain, shut your mouth.”
“— and both have fallen for the Empire boys.”
Felix picked up his pillow with every intention of inflicting soft yet incessant bodily harm. Instead, he pulled the pillow over his own face and groaned. Laughing, Sylvain reclaimed his spot on the bed. “If it makes you feel better, Ferdinand is much easier to read. And less scary.”
The muffled reply from Felix was most definitely a curse but Sylvain just chuckled again and got ready to dispense more glorious advice.
In the cold, sobering light of morning, Hubert felt his actions last night were ridiculous. Why worry to the point where he went to Ferdinand, Ferdinand, for advice? Hubert was not one for spur of the moment decisions and it was true that he valued Ferdinand’s perspective; but speaking to him last night had been the very definition of ‘spur of the moment’.
And why let Ingrid tag along with him at all? The dead of night was Hubert’s domain. He could have completed his mission with minimal fuss.
But, he reminded himself, the way things had been going he may not have caught a glimpse of whom the man was meeting. If it weren’t for Ingrid’s quick thinking, Hubert would have had to employ other methods of hiding that might have made him unable to sneak back to the gate in time.
So many variables. There was no way to know if Ingrid had helped or hindered. Hubert left his dorm room and tried to give off the impression of someone who had not had their first kiss just the night before. Whatever that looked like.
This proved difficult when he descended the stairs and found Ingrid outside the greenhouse. There was nothing extraordinary about how she looked. In fact, she looked much the same as the night before. But Hubert still found himself staring.
Luckily she was facing away from him so Hubert allowed a purely human wave of panic to wash over him before he summoned his long-honed ‘repress that’ skills. As Ferdinand had pointed out, they were both adults.
Hubert approached her without hurry, letting his footsteps announce his arrival. She turned to him and a smile lit her face. It reminded him why he had said yes to her company last night.
“Good morning,” he greeted.
“Good morning,” she returned brightly. “Sleep well?”
He moved to keep walking, hoping/assuming their interaction was done, but her voice drew him back. “I’m glad I caught you, actually. I wanted to ask you something.”
Ah, here it was, then. Going by her suddenly bashful body language, his worst fear was about to be realized. Hubert had spent around a hour last night thinking up replies; wondering if there was a short way to say “Yes I have thought of you that way but I’m not entirely sure if I’m ready to start a relationship and you need to understand that no matter what Lady Edelgard will always come first and anyway we are in the middle of a war and sure we could be dead tomorrow but that’s no reason make rash decisions’.
To no one’s surprise, there wasn’t a great way to state all that in one breath.
“I was wondering,” Ingrid said, voice like a death knoll to Hubert, “if you would like to have breakfast together.”
Hubert gave himself a beat to readjust. Ferdinand’s flare for the dramatic had clearly clogged his head last night. Of course Ingrid would not jump to such things. Hubert should have trusted his own judgment of character first. Curse his beating heart.
Ingrid looked like someone expecting an answer, which reminded Hubert that he should probably supply one. Fortunately this was a much easier question that the one he had been dreading. “Yes,” he said curtly. Then he cleared his throat and tried again. “I would like that.”
Her smile grew as he offered her his arm. Later Hubert would mentally claim that it was a lack of coffee which lead to him not having a clear mind which lead to him smiling back warmly. The pair made their way to the dining hall.
Hubert ignored the stares that met them as they entered. The only ones who didn’t seem surprised were Ferdinand, who lifted his cup of tea at Hubert with a grin, and, bizarrely, Sylvain, who winked at Ingrid. Felix watched them walk in and, with the purposefully movement of one acting on spite, marched over to Ferdinand’s table and sat down almost belligerently beside him. Ferdinand seemed taken aback but softened when he saw the intense, pinkish scowl on Felix’s face. Sylvain turned away and badly hid his laughter.
A glance at Ingrid revealed that she was just as confounded as Hubert. They rolled their eyes at their friends’ antics, and went to get breakfast.
And if Hubert missed her warmth when they separated to grab their food, well, he kept that to himself.
And if Ingrid was practically bursting with happiness and nerves as they sat across from one another, she kept that to herself.