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A Story From Me to You

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Bernadetta sighed and rubbed her eyes. This was it, she could not find any errors, the formatting was good, the tags updated. It was time to finally release the chapter into the world. She pressed the button and the couple seconds wait for the chapter to be submitted was agony.

Thankfully it went through no problem and she quickly checked it over on the site to make sure everything looked good.

She sighed in relief and looked at the clock on the wall. Ten AM.  She had gotten up early to get some homework done but decided to release the latest chapter of her fanfiction instead. She knew her readers would understand but she liked being punctual with her updated, Fluffyteddybear48 had a reputation to uphold after all!

Well she had a few hours until her first class of the day, her creative writing class. She had to type up a one thousand word story about a falling leaf. Not really her usual cup of tea as someone who loved writing daring tales and spicy romances and her latest fic, A Long Lasting Dream, set in the world of Awakening, a popular video game, had plenty of that to go around.

She cracked her fingers and opened a new document. “Focus Bernie,” she murmured before beginning to type away.

***

Sylvain let out a long yawn and scrolled through his feed as he waited for Professor Hanneman’s class to begin. The coffee he had this morning was not helping with the long night he had yesterday. Well, a long fun night. He couldn’t remember the name of the girl but her breasts were quite large.

“Here, take one of these and shut that mouth of yours.” Felix tossed an energy shot bottle and it was only Sylvain’s fast reflexes that prevented him from being smacked in the head with it.

“Always can count on you to have one of these on you at all times.” Sylvain saluted Felix before downing the whole thing. “You better not tell Ingrid I had one of these.”

Felix smirked. “And not see the show? I’m letting her know.”

“Oh come on Felix, I had a good night yesterday. I want to have a good morning too!”

Felix made a face. “I really didn’t need to know that.”

Sylvain shrugged and looked down at his phone as he saw a notification go off. An email for a fanfiction site. His eyes widen as he quickly opened the email and gasped.  “Fluffyteddybear48 updated their fic!?”

 Felix stared at him with palatable unamusment.  “I thought you weren’t in that fandom?”

Sylvain shook his head as he tapped the link to the new chapter. “You don’t understand. This is Fluffyteddybear48! Their stuff is amazing. You can take notes for me right? Oh man, it’s so long.” It had to be close to 10k if anything! He checked the word count at the top of the page. Yup. 10k.

“Seriously? You don’t have to read it right away.”

“I have to. Their work is amazing and deserves it!”

Felix shook his head. “Suit yourself. Also do you really have to keep repeating that username?”

“Well duh.” Sylvain set up his notebook and textbook so it blocked the view of his phone sitting on the table. “Tell me when class is done or if the Professor is looking at me okay?”

Felix groaned but Sylvain wasn’t worried. Despite his complaining and bluntness, they had known each other since they were children, Felix would go through hell and back for him and Sylvain would do the same. And well, Ingrid would be waiting for them at the entrance, ready to pull them both by the ear for doing something so stupid. And Dimitri, well he could go either way really, it really depended on the day.

Sylvain was only a few paragraphs in when he heard Professor Hanneman clear his throat. Looking up, he saw the professor standing at the podium, a young woman next to him. “Hello everyone, I think it is time we get started. I guess first we should start with introductions.” He gestured to Byleth. “This is Byleth, the TA for the class. She was supposed to start in the beginning of the year but there was a slight mishap but she is here now. She will have her own office hours and able to tutor anyone that needs help in my class.”

Out of habit, Sylvain gave the new TA a once over. Blue hair, an ample chest, a narrow waist. She was pretty he had to admit and very much his type. Although for some reason, the more he stared at her, the more he didn’t want to think of her in that way. Weird.

“But before we get into today’s lesson, a pop quiz.” Hanneman gestured to Byleth.

Sylvain cursed under his breath. “I’m nowhere near done,” he muttered.

“Take the dang quiz and then get back to it idiot,” grumbled Felix.

True, but Robin was currently contemplating her feelings for Chrom! Sylvain had to know if this was the chapter they were finally going to get together or not!

Sylvain shoved his phone into his pocket as Byleth came up to their row and handed the quizzes to the person on the end of the row of desks. He grabbed one off the pile and handed it to Felix before giving it a once over. Last week’s lesson about the year of 1412. With a roll of his eyes, Sylvain twirled his pen and flew through the answers as fast as he could. A few times he paused, deciding to go with the “wrong” answer. His goal was to coast by college on a B average. His father always complained about Sylvain not applying himself but his future had already been decided for him, why should he bother putting in more effort than he needed to?

Once finished with his B-average quiz, Sylvain gave it a once over to make sure everything looked right before getting up and racing over to Byleth who was waiting in the front of the classroom. In a normal situation, he would have given the TA a wink and a flirtatious smile but Sylvain really wanted to know what was going to happen next  between Robin and Chrom so he just shoved the quiz in her hands before racing back to his seat.

He carefully pulled his phone out and rested it on the table, his books blocking it from view of the professor podium. It was a big risk to read it on his phone now so he waited impatiently until everyone turned in their quizzes. Felix was one of the last and Sylvain had to glare as Felix returned to his seat after handing it in to Byleth.

“Keep glaring like that and I won’t give you my notes,” Felix replied curtly.

Fair point.

Thankfully the lecture began soon after and Sylvain was free to read through the chapter. Like always, Fluffyteddybear48 had a way with words. They seemed to always be able to convey what the characters were feeling in a way that made Sylvain happy or worried or sacred or angry for the characters. And the descriptions! Fluffyteddybear48 always described the scenery in such vivid detail that he was always able to picture where the scene was happening.

By the time the class ended Sylvain had finished up the chapter. While the others packed up, he had to take a moment to take the chapter in. It had started great, Robin was complementing her feelings for Chrom and was consulting Lissa on what to do about it. About halfway through she had gone to Chrom, Sylvain had leaned forward in his seat, so ready for the confession. This was a slow burn fic, the couple dancing around each other for the past twelve chapters. Sylvain had never played the source material, his only knowledge of the game was through Fluffyteddybear48’s fic so he didn’t know if this was the same in the game itself(he doubt it since it was marked an AU fic), but they had always given enough detail that Sylvain had never felt lost or confused although if there was a game term he didn’t know, he made sure to look it up. 

Well anyway, Robin was building up to confess her feelings and Chrom was being dense like always. Well, Robin was dense too when Chrom made advances on her, they were both so dense and normally that would annoy Sylvain but Fluffyteddybear48 wrote it so well that he didn’t care and he was invested in these two characters getting together. Right before she could confess, the Grimleal army attacked and Validar had cast a spell on Chrom and Robin. The spell didn’t seem to do anything and the duo had led the army to push back the Grimleal. After defeating them, Chrom had asked Robin what she wanted to say before and Robin had confessed her feelings. Sylvain wanted to get up and cheer but then Chrom had a pained look on his face and clutched his chest before collapsing in front of Robin, the chapter ending right then and there.

He needed the next chapter now! He had to know if Chrom was alright and what his response would be to Robin’s confession. Oh Seiros, he so hoped Chrom didn’t die but who knows! Only Fluffyteddybear48 knew where they were going with the story.

As the rest of the students got up to leave the classroom, Sylvain shoved his books away and threw his bag over his shoulder before focusing on writing his review as he walked down the steps to leave the classroom.  “Gotta write the best review ever…it was so good…” he mumbled under his breath.

He felt a tug on the back of his collar and noticed Felix had grabbed him before he could barrel into another student. He muttered a thanks before getting back to work on his review, making sure to compliment all the great sentences and all the events in the chapter and what he was looking forward to in the next one. He also had to compliment them on releasing such a long chapter barely a week after the release of the previous one. How fast could Fluffyteddybear48 write!?

Now finished with the review, and after making sure it went through, Sylvain shoved his phone in his pocket and saw Felix checking his phone. “Ingrid said her and Annette can meet up with us for lunch.”

Sylvain grinned. “I’ll keep Ingrid busy for you.” He was really not sure how it happened but one day Felix was listening to one of Annette’s little songs and the next they were dating. Sylvain was still not sure what Felix did that drew Annette to him but they seemed happy enough.

Felix glared at him. “Don’t bother. And the boar said he would try to join us later too, if he could get out of a meeting early. Which you would know if you checked the group chat.”

“Well sorry for dealing with the biggest revelation ever! Chrom is currently unconscious because of what I suspect is something Validar did and Robin is going to worry so much in the next chapter. I have a lot on my mind okay!? Oh and when we have lunch I can have your notes right?”

Sighing, Felix held out the notebook. “Don’t get any stains on it.”

“That only happened once!”

Chapter Text

          Bernadetta sighed and stepped out of the locker room with her bow over a shoulder. Like always, she was done changing early for archery club. Not wanting to be on the field too early, she sat down on the bench outside the locker room and went on her phone. A few fics she was following had updates recently and she decided to read a few.

           She sighed after she finished one. The writing was so good, miles better than hers. The plotting was also so much better, the plot twists coming out of nowhere but made sense with all the clues presented. If only she could write like that. Although A Long Lasting Dream was doing great, it was still not doing as well as some of her previous fics. Was it because it was her first longer than a one-shot fic in the Awakening fandom? Or was her writing just not that good compared to the others writing for this ship(a very popular one)?

            She pulled up the reviews for her own fic and had to smile a little at FTBbiggestfan’s review on her latest chapter. Without fail they always put a smile on her face with their in depth reviews on her chapters as well as the screeching about what happened in the chapter itself. She knew they were going to freak out about Chrom collapsing at the end of the chapter, they had been gunning for Chrom and Robin to get together since chapter one.

            She didn’t know how but they managed to always be the first or second review on a fic of hers and have been for almost two years at this point. She had noticed them right away due to their username, the first review for a fic she did in the Pokemon fandom. An older work but they had said they had been reading her stories for a while and finally had the courage to make an account and let her know. Since then, no matter what, they always left a review for every story she released and all of them were long and highly detailed. She didn’t even know anyone could write so much about a quick drabble but FTBbiggestfan had proved her wrong with a review that was twice the length of the drabble she had put out.

             “Hey Bernie.”

              Bernadetta let out a small screech of surprise, her arms flailing at the sudden voice. Claude, thankfully, had good reflexes and was able to get out of the way in time.

               “Oh Claude….Hi.” She clutched her phone to her chest.

               “Coach wants you on the field. She knew you lost track of time again.”

                “R…right.” Bernadetta mentally cursed herself for losing track of the time again. This always seemed to happen, no matter how careful she was to keep track of time. She meekly followed behind Claude to the archery field.  “Is Coach Shamir really mad?”

               “No more than usual.”

                She grimanced. Coach Shamir could be tough at times and Bernadetta sometimes had to focus really hard to not start crying or get very upset when Coach Shamir reprimanded her.  Today was already off to a bad start.

                As they reached the field, oddly enough Claude slowed to a stop, his eyes widening. Following his line of sight, she saw the head of sports, Jeralt, talking to Shamir. Next to the duo was a young woman with blue hair. It took Bernadetta a moment to place her. Byleth, the new TA for Professor Hanneman’s class. Bernadetta looked from Byleth, to Claude and back at Byleth. Maybe it was all the fanfiction she had read recently that made her think it could be something a little more. Either way, it surprised her that Claude of all people would be taken aback by the sight of a girl.

             “Ah there you are.” Shamir’s eyes glinted dangerously. “Bernadetta, you’re late.”

               “Sorry! So sorry!” squeaked Bernadetta.

               “Stop saying it’s fine and get to practice.”

               “Of course, right away ma’am!” Bernadetta hurried over to the training range and took up her usual spot and began practicing firing arrows. It took her a moment before she got back into the swing of things, her shots always tried and true. Although her usual preferred activities were writing and crafting, she had to admit, she really did enjoy archery. There was something about being able to focus on a single pinprick point and shoot an arrow with the strength of her own arms. Although they were on a team, it was a solo sport and the only thing she could really rely on was herself.

                Once practice was over and everything put away, Bernadetta met Ashe outside the locker rooms and they walked to the student center for dinner together. Usually she would take her food up to her room and eat there but after practice, it was nice to eat together with someone. Especially someone like Ashe who had similar interests to her. Small talk wasn’t really her thing.

                “So, I finally got to read a few more chapters in the Sword of Kyphon. I should be able to finish it by this weekend.”

                Bernadetta smiled. “That’s great. Did you get to the part with the tree?”

                Ashe’s eyes widen. “I did! You were right, it was as crazy as you warned me it would be. I really didn’t want to put it done but we had class today and I really had to pay attention. I wish I was like you Bernie and able to read super-fast.”

                “It’s just practice, that’s all,” she murmured.      

                It was a surprising friendship between the two of them. Last year, Bernadetta was walking through the shelves of the Garreg Mach library when she had stumbled upon Ashe standing in front of a shelf looking confused and lost. She had recognized the book in his hand as the first book in the Loog series. Knowing exactly what the problem was and with a tiny bout of courage(probably helped that they were in the enclosed space of a library), Bernadetta had spoken up, asking if Ashe was having trouble figuring out which book he was supposed to read next. The Loog series was original printed over two hundred years ago and went through numerous reprints and revisions and there were even some retellings and additions to the series over the years. Due to that, depending on which version one started with, it could sometimes be super difficult in figuring out what the next book in the series was. 

                Ashe was shocked and excited to see another fan of the Loog series and since they were in archery club together, it had not taken long for the two to become friends.

                Reaching the student center, Bernadetta had to wince as she saw how many students were already here. Club had run a little late today so they ended up getting here later than normal.

                “Oh man, I don’t think we’re going to find a table at this rate.” Ashe shook his head. “Hmm, what to do.”

                “I just remembered I have some leftovers in my dorm room. I think I’ll eat that for tonight,” Bernadetta said quickly.

                Ashe frowned. “Are you talking about those instant meals? Bernie that stuff isn’t good for you.”

                “It’s fine, really! I have some food from last night I completely forgot about!”

                “If you say so Bernie but…”

                “It’s okay! Great!” The murmur of the student center was grating on her ears. It was just so loud! She gave Ashe a final pained smile before hurrying away. As she was trying to walk out of the student center, she almost bumped into a group of people walking in.

                “Whoa, hello there!” A voice having a slight purr to it.

                Dread filled her stomach, the boy she had almost crashed into was super tall, the way his brown eyes looked at her made her super uncomfortable.

                “Stop it!” Ingrid whacked his arm before smiling at Bernadetta. “The copy of Loog and the Maiden of the Lake finally came in. Thanks so much for sending me the links Bernadetta.”

                “No problem,” she murmured, her eyes darting to her shoes. Normally she would had never interacted with someone as pretty as Ingrid but Ashe knew her and found out a couple months ago that Ingrid was also a fan of the Loog series but was having trouble finding books. Ashe had asked Bernadetta for help and since then, they had maintained an odd acquaintance-level of friendship.

                “Uh, if you need more help, just let me know. Uh, I have to go, uh bye.” Bernadaetta was glad she didn’t scream as she sidestepped the group and practically ran back to her dorm room. As soon as she shut her door, she sighed in relief as she took in her large collection of stuffed animals, plants, and arts and crafts projects. Thankfully she didn’t have a roommate so she didn’t have to worry about sharing her space.

                Sighing, she dropped her backpack by the door before collapsing face first on her bed, grabbing the closest stuffed animal(a teddy bear) and cuddling it against her chest. Her ears were ringing slightly as she tried to calm down her pounding heart. It was way, way too loud in there.

                “Darn it Bernie, you were doing so good,” she murmured. She was doing so good this semester with not going to the counseling services on campus but maybe she needed to make another appointment? “Remember to use your coping skills, you didn’t have an anxiety attack….” She sat up and pulled her laptop off her bed and opened it.

                The half-finished next chapter of A Long Lasting Dream looked back at her. Sighing, she pulled up her browser to go onto the game wiki to make sure what she was writing somewhat still fit into canon. Mid-terms were coming up incredibly fast and she had a lot of work to get done but she really wanted to make sure this chapter was out before she went on her midterm hiatus.

Chapter Text

   “So, I totally think Fluffyteddybear48 goes to our college.” Sylvain looked to his left, at Felix in confirmation.

                Felix let out a long sigh and massaged the bridge of his nose. “What makes you say that?”

   “Well because they said they’re going to take a hiatus for a few weeks because they have midterms. And before you say, ‘well all colleges have midterms around this time’, they also mentioned having a big history midterm to do. And Garreg Mach’s big thing is the history midterm.”

               “I guess but I think you’re really stretching it.”

              Was he though? He remembered the past two semesters, Flufyteddybear48 had done the same thing, the midterms and finals hiatuses always lining up with Garreg Mach academy’s. “Would it be too forward to ask them?” asked Sylvain. “I mean we have been interacting for almost two years now…”

                Sadly Felix couldn’t answer as Professor Hanneman cleared his throat, signaling the beginning of history class. Sylvain rested his head in his hand and half paid attention as he took notes while turning over the thought over and over in his mind. Maybe he was looking way too hard into it but he did have more evidence to support the theory than just the hiatus schedule. Since he had been interacting with their fics for the past two years, they’ve had a lot of side conversations on the side. Nothing too deep, usually surface-level stuff like talking about the work Fluffyteddybear48’s fic was based on or just random events that occurred like how going to the store inspired the newest chapter.

                One of their fics two years ago, in the author comments, they mentioned that they had gotten into college and would be pursuing an English degree. Sylvain had private messaged them, congratulating them and also revealed he would be going to college as well, business as per his family’s wishes. Neither had mentioned the college they were going to by name, but Sylvain was able to extrapolate from all the information over the years that they had to be around the same age.

                Oh man, what would he do if he found out Fluffyteddybear48 went to the same school as him? That they were breathing the same air? What would they even look like? Fluffyteddybear48 gave no indication of gender online or any hint to physical appearance so Sylvain had nothing to go on. What if he had passed by them on campus or bumped into them in the student center and didn’t even know it?

                What in the world would he even say if he met them in person?

                “Thanks for helping me through a dark time with my brother. He was physically abusing me and then got involved with drugs, thus putting a tremendous amount of stress on me at the time. I stumbled upon your fics one day when I was wandering around the internet and they were a great source of happiness and strength for me during that difficult time?” Yeah, that probably wouldn’t go over well. It also felt like it was a little late to bring up something so deep like that, especially unprompted.

                Sylvain felt Felix’s foot nudge against his. Glancing at his friend, Felix was gesturing with his eyes to the front of the room. While Professor Hanneman was lecturing away, Byleth was looking right at him. Without thinking, he gave her a wave and a wink back.

                She turned her head and focused back on Professor Hanneman’s lecture. Man, she was a tough one. He had tried to strike up a conversation with her after class but she had kept the conversation, civil and cordial, seemingly unphased by his ninety-five success rate charm. Some girls just didn’t know what they were missing.

                After class was over, Sylvain headed for the student center on his own, Felix having fencing club today. Another reason why Sylvain was so confused Annette and Felix got together as Felix always said he was more comfortable holding a sword than a girl’s hand.

                Deciding today was a sushi sort of day(Garreg Mach had a huge selection of food items), Sylvain ordered a mixed platter with all types and while he waited, he flirted with the girls on line behind him. Like always, he got a few more numbers and would most likely be going on a few dates over the next couple of days.

                He saw a couple tables occupied with girls he was acquaint with, but considering he was still mulling over asking Fluffyteddybear48 if they went to Garreg Mach or not, and not wanting to hear them yap in his ears about trivial topics, he took his lunch and left the cafeteria portion of the student center. The building was large with many facilities including the school store, offices for various departments, and, one of Sylvain’s favorites, lounge areas with comfortable chairs and couches for students to relax at. Due to the time of day, his favorite lounge area with the best chairs and tables was empty and he set up his lunch in a corner.

                While he ate the sushi pieces with his chopsticks, he began pulling together a message for Fluffyteddybear48. “No…that’s too forward. No, that might be too subtle….” Ugh. He was usually so good with words when talking to girls but why was it so difficult to come up with a way to ask Fluffyteddybear48 about going to the same college? It was a simple yes or no question for crying out loud!

                “You seem deep in thought for once.”

                Sylvain looked up. “Oh, hi Dimitri.”

 Like always the vice president of the student body was dressed pristine as ever. Dedue, like always was a few steps behind him, trying to look relaxed but poised to strike if needed. With Dimitri being the heir to a billion dollar company, the Blaiddyd Conglomerate, his family had insisted Dimitri bring a bodyguard with him to the academy. Sylvain thought it was ridiculous since more than half of the student population at this school came from the upper class but whatever. It was times like these that Sylvain was happy his family didn’t have as much to their name, most of his family’s wealth coming out of the fact his family worked directly under Dimitri’s. And the way the family was planning it, Sylvain would end up working under Dimtiri along with Felix. Only Ingrid would get away from that fate although she was betrothed to Glenn so her hands were tied as well.

                “Just trying to figure out how to ask a question to someone.” He offered up his sushi and Dimitri nodded in thanks and took one.

                “You are having trouble asking a question?” Dimitri looked at him in disbelief.

                “It’s Fluffyteddybear48.”

                Dmitri blinked, his brow furrowed and then he nodded in understanding. “Ah yes, that writer you follow. I thought you two were pretty open with each other.”

                “We are but this is…different.”  Sylvain frowned as he tried to think of how he could explain this to Dimitri. He was the least technologically inclined out of the childhood quartet. “I’m asking them if they go to Garreg Mach too. It’s a silent rule that we don’t really go into detail about our personal lives but just based on context clues, I think they go here too.”

                “I still don’t understand why you are having trouble. Just write it like you would normally. Oh, perhaps like an email?”

                Sylvain didn’t even bother correcting Dimitri. This was nothing like a business email.

                “Sir, your meeting with Edelgard is in ten minutes.”

                “Yes, of course, thank you Dedue.”

                Sylvain waved goodbye to his friend before focusing on his half written message. Alright, back to the drawing board for this.

***

                Bernadetta walked out of her Medieval and Early Modern Literature class, her head swimming slightly.  Her professor was passionate about her work but at the same time she wasn’t the best at teaching it. She pulled out her phone as she headed for her room to drop off her bookbag and grab her bow for archery practice.

                A private message from FTBbiggestfan. She wondered what that was about. They had commented on the latest chapter, telling her to take her time even though they were super worried about Chrom. This chapter wasn’t as long as the previous one, the main focus of it was Robin scrambling to figure out what was wrong with Chrom. Bernadetta was pulling a few ideas from Sleeping Beauty for this part of the story.

                Opening the message, she stopped and had to stare at it.

                “This might be super forward of me and I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable and you don’t have to answer me if you don’t want to, but by any chance do you go to Garreg Mach Academy? I’m a student at the college and I noticed whenever you talk about midterms and finals, it always lines up with the college’s. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to but I just wanted to throw it out there! It would be super cool if we went to the same school and possibly passed by each other!”

                No way. What were the odds of something like this? She looked up at the students passing her by. Any one of them could be FTBbiggestfan.  Oh Seiros, what was she supposed to do, how was she supposed to answer this!? Her thoughts spun around and around as reached the locker room, changed for practice and headed down to the field.

                She barely was able to register Shamir talking to her, her brain still whirling over the message over and over. What was she supposed to about this!? She was practicing hitting the targets when she heard Claude speak up from the spot next to her.

              “Hey Bernie?”

               Bernadetta startled and almost dropped an arrow. “Yes?”

               “How in the world did you manage to get so good at archery?” Claude absentmindedly flipped an arrow as he regarded her.

               “Oh, just practice, lots of practice. My family made sure I practiced since I was a child so…” Bernadetta grimanced as she remembered some of the “practice” sessions when she was a child with her father. He had not been very happy when Bernadetta made mistakes. He would also remind her over and over that the Varley legacy was doomed thanks to her incompetence. When her mother finally stepped in and got Bernadetta an actual archery instructor, the lessons had gone much, much better.

                Wait a moment. Claude was very friendly and sociable and was a very dependable member of the club. She had also noticed how he tried to encourage the club members during competitions and he was very good at it. Perhaps he could give her some advice?

               “Hey Claude, can I ask you something?”

               “You want to ask me something?” He looked at her in disbelief.

               Bernadetta let out a small squeal. “It’s nothing, nothing at all!” She mentally cursed herself. So stupid! Always so stupid.

               “Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have put it like that, it was a bit harsh I will admit. Seriously, what’s up though?”

               “Well uh, oh, this is going to sound so weird.” Since she was holding an arrow, she fired it just to do something with her hands and give her a bit more courage to ask what she wanted to ask him.

               “I’ve heard some weird things, trust me.” He slung his bow over a shoulder.

               “Well, uh so I wrote a thing and posted it online right? And this one reader of mine somehow managed to figure out from my context clues that I go here to Garreg Mach.”

               Claude frowned. “Are you worried they’re stalking you or something?”

               “Nothing like that!” She waved her free hand wildly. “No, they said they go to Garreg Mach too and was just wondering about it. I didn’t confirm either way yet though, since I was trying to figure out how to.”

               “Would you want to meet them though?”

               “Well uh, I’m not sure.” She ran her fingers along the bowstring. “I mean, they really like my work and always leave compliments but I’m way different in person that online so… I thought maybe you could give some advice Claude? You seem like the type who’s the same off and online.”

               “I guess. The advice I would give is if you’re comfortable doing so? Like meet in a public place and stuff if anything. But if you don’t, then just deny it? I mean, if you’re just talking in private messages, it would be easy to lie right?”

               “True…” Bernadetta frowned and looked at the target in front of her. That was right, wasn’t it? It would be easy for her to lie but at the same time this was FTBbiggestfan. They had been talking for about two years at this point. It would be cool to finally get a name to a face, like she was a real author!  However Claude was right. Safety was important, especially since they went to the same school.

She gave Claude a small grateful smile.  “Thanks Claude, I’ll think about it.”

               “Happy to help.”

               “And uh, if you want some advice, adjust your posture a little, it will help with pulling the bowstring faster.” She demonstrated what she meant.

               Claude watched her closely and adjusted his own stance as best he could and fired the arrow. This time it hit closer to the bullseye. He couldn’t help but smile. “Thanks a lot Bernadetta! I hope everything goes well with this internet person.”

                Bernadetta smiled back. She hoped so too.

Chapter Text

Where in the world were his pants?

                Sylvain squinted as he looked around for the missing pants. It was still early, the light peeking in through the blinds not strong enough to give him a good view of the floor. Ugh, his phone was in his pants too so he couldn’t even use that to help him out.

                He heard stirring behind him. “Do you have to go already?” asked a girl, her voice raspy with sleep.

                Sylvain glanced back at her, her name eluding him. “I have class.”

                “I never expected you to actually care about going to class.” She giggled.

                “Well, you have to have good grades or you’ll fail out of the academy.” Sylvain shrugged. “Don’t want to waste the tuition cost.”

                The girl’s laugh was grating on the ears.

                Ah, there it was. Sylvain quickly put on his pants and pulled his phone out and used the flashlight app to locate the rest of his clothing and school supplies. From experience, he had brought everything for class today with him so he didn’t need to run back to his room to get it.

                “I’ll possibly see you later?” A hopeful edge to her voice.

                “Maybe,” replied Sylvain. He rested his hand on the back of his neck. “I’ll text you.” The lie slid easily off his tongue as he left her room. She was way too talkative. After a quick stop in the boys bathroom to make sure his hair was in order, he headed to Professor Hanneman’s class.

                The class itself was a bore like always but hey, at least Byleth was cute. When class was over, he followed Felix out. Ingrid was waiting for them outside, dressed in a light coat. Since they were from the northern part of Fodlan, the winters much worse up there than here. Up there, there was a guaranteed blizzard every year. Here, they might get one snowfall and even then the chance of it sticking was slim at best.

                “Dimitri said he would try to meet up with us for lunch for a couple of minutes,” said Ingrid.

                “The boar is always so busy,” grumbled Felix.     

                “Felix, you know, you can sound a little happy that Dimitri has managed to make some time for us. For a club, the student council sure does a lot.” Sylvain pulled his phone out, feeling his text tone go off. A message from the same girl as this morning. He was about to put his phone back when he saw he had gotten an email notification from the fanfiction website.

                Fluffyteddybear48!?

                He quickly opened it and saw it was a private message. Sylvain’s heart began pounding in his chest. This had to be their response to his last message. After sending it, he was sure he had scared Fluffyteddybear48 off.

                “You go to Garreg Mach? What a surprise, I do as well! Maybe we have passed by each other, that would have been so cool(and so weird!).”

                “Holy crap! They do go here!” Sylvain stopped in his tracks and his friends stopped and looked back at him annoyed.

                “Seriously what are you going on about?” asked Ingrid.

                Felix sighed. “It’s the author he likes.”

                “Guys, this is amazing news!” Why couldn’t they understand how big this was!? He went to the same school as Fluffyteddybar48! He gasped and his eyes widen as he realized something. “They’re breathing the same air as me right now!” He suck in a deep breath.

                “I’ve actually never seen you this excited about anything.” Ingrid looked at him in amusement.

                “How should I reply….I should try to sound cool about it…hey Ingrid, you’re good at this kind of stuff, what should I say without making it sound like I’m super incredibly excited about it?”

                Ingrid peered over to see what Sylvain was typing. “Well don’t have that many exclamation points for starters.”

                Sylvain quickly erased them. “So you think I should ask for more details or like talk about the weather or something?”

                Felix rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Great, this is all we’re going to hear over lunch.”

                Ingrid shrugged. “Well at least he’s excited over something that isn’t a girl?”

***

                Berndaetta checked her phone for probably the ninth time that hour. No response yet from FTBbiggestfan. Maybe they were in class and that’s why they weren’t responding. Or maybe her message wasn’t that great? It was probably not. She didn’t want to seem too eager so she kept it as neutral as possible.

                She entered the library and winced at the amount of students already scrambling to get midterms done. Way too many people, the library louder than a library had any right to be. The librarians didn’t seem to mind the noise but maybe there was nothing that could be done with the amount of students here.

                She went to the main desk and the woman behind the counter smiled. “Your usual quiet room is open and ready for you.”

                Bernadetta gave the woman a small smile back and headed for the back of the library. The further she walked from the entrance, the quieter it was until all she could hear was a hushed whisper here and there. The quiet rooms had glass doors leading into the small space with a whiteboard, a semi-large table and a minimum of five chairs. She spotted a few were filled, some with students working alone and others with students working on group projects or tutoring.

                Her usual room had one side pressed against a wall and it was smaller than the other rooms. Berndaetta slipped inside and set up her laptop on the table, the charger connected to the outlet. Shoes off, she sat cross legged in the chair as she opened her laptop and pulled up her half completed history paper. Her notebook and books for the paper sat next to the laptop, ready to use at a moment’s notice.

                Before starting, she picked up her phone, ready to put it on silent and noticed there was an email alert. FTBbiggestfan!

                Gulping, she opened the site and went directly to her DMs.

                “Oh wow, that’s so funny! Small world, haha. I assume you have Professor Hanneman for history. Did you finish your paper yet?”

                Oh thank Seiros, they did not find her response weird. She quickly typed up a response. “I’m actually working on it now. I’m about halfway done with mine. How are you doing on yours?”

                She put down her phone and looked at her paper. Alright, first off she needed to check her notes for her outline. As she grabbed her notebook, she saw a response from FTBbiggestfan.

                “Good luck! I finished mine a few days ago. I’ll talk to you later then! I don’t want to disturb you.”

                FTBbiggestfan was already done with their paper!? That was ridiculously fast. Was FTBbiggestfan a super good student or something?  Or maybe they were smart and didn’t procrastinate. Well, either way, they were right. She needed to talk to them later, for now she had a paper to write.

Chapter Text

Over the next three weeks, Sylvain enjoyed talking with Fluffyteddybear48. They talked about the best places to eat on campus, places they liked to hang out and even discussed some of the weird statues found in the unlikeliest of places. Sylvain even took a few pictures and sent it to them, the weirdest of the weird. Despite the fact they went to the same school, it was like an unspoken rule that they avoided mentioning anything that would identify them. They never mentioned to the other the exact classes they were in or where they lived in campus. And any pictures they sent to the other would always be from the front facing camera. Although, Sylvain was able to extrapolate that Fluffyteddybear48 had to be shorter than him based on the angle of the pictures. It was weird to admit but he went searching for the artwork Fluffyteddtbear48 took pictures of and compared the height of where the pictures were taken to how tall he was.

                He was sitting on a bench outside, the nippy cold not bothering him,  waiting for Ingrid to be done with her shower/changing after “horse” club(as he liked to put it).  She wanted to go shopping for presents to bring back home for Glenn and her family over winter break and wanted Sylvain to go with her to carry the bags. He had loudly complained about it like she was expecting him to before “giving in” and asking when they were going to meet up to do this.

                He didn’t really mind this much as he used the time to buy small gifts, like lipstick and tiny bottles of perfumes to give to the girls he really liked spending time with. Yes, he would need to hear Ingrid competing about how shallow he was for treating girls like this but honestly, those girls came to him knowing he was like this. He was just obliging them and giving them what they wanted. That’s all.

                He opened the fanfiction site and opened the DMs with Fluffyteddybear48. They had been talking about the ball at the end of the month. Garreg Mach’s annual ball, a glorified party for the students and faculty.  He had asked if they were ready and Fluffyteddybear48 mentioned they had gotten their outfit for it already but was nervous to go since they did not like large crowds. Apparently last year they had only been able to stay for half an hour before leaving.

                He debated on asking the question. Would it be super forward? Confirming that Fluffyteddybear48 went to the same school was one thing. Asking this would totally move their online relationship in another direction. However the ball would be the best place to meet them. Surrounded by students and professors in a neutral environment. It made sense that this was the direction their relationship should go.

                However would Fluffyteddybear48 want to do something like that? Well, it couldn’t hurt to try right?

                But what if they said no? What if they stopped responding to Sylvain’s messages because that crossed an invisible line and they were grossed out because he said something like that? What in the world was he going to do if that happened!?

                “Gotcha!” Ingrid seemed to come out of nowhere, her hands clasping onto Sylvain’s shoulders. He jumped, his thumb hitting the button to submit the message.

                Curses spewed out of his mouth as he stared down at his phone in horror. He didn’t want to send that!

                “Sylvain!”

                “I didn’t want to send that Ingrid! Seiros, what if Fluffyteddybear48 hates me now!? What if they don’t talk to me ever again!? This is your fault Ingrid!”

                Ingrid frowned and gave Sylvain a no-nonsense look. “What in the world are you even talking about? I didn’t make you send it.”

                “You startled me and made me push the send button,” he protested. However, he knew that despite all his complaining it was clear that Ingrid didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. “It was a message to Fluffyteddybear48. I was debating on asking them if we could meet at the ball at the end of the month.

                Ingrid winced.

                “Oh man, if you think it was too much to ask then it has to be too much.” Sylvain ran his fingers through his hair and tried to not panic.

                “Well maybe they will be open to the idea?” she said weakly.

                “Or they’ll hate me,” mumbled Sylvain.

                “I don’t think they’ll hate you from just that one comment.”

                “Well they might think I’m creepy for wanting to meet with them. What’s with that look Ingrid?”

                “Oh, nothing, it’s just…shocking to see you like this. Usually you’re much more put together, even when you mess up with your relationship to those girls you keep seeing.”

                Sylvain caught the hidden barb in the words. Ingrid had never approved of Sylvain’s antics with women. “This is Fluffyteddybear48. It’s different with them.”

                Ingrid sighed. “Fine, fine, it’s different. But I still think this won’t scare Fluffy-whatever away. Have some faith in the relationship you’ve built up over the past few years.”

                “Right…yeah, you’re right about that Ingrid.” And besides, all Fluffyteddybear48 had to do was say no and then Sylvain wouldn’t bring it up again. At least, that’s what he hoped would happen.

***

                Bernadetta finished changing for archery practice and noticed she had gotten a notification. A message from FTBbiggestfan! She smiled, wondering what they would be sending her today. The past few days they had been running around campus sending her pictures of the weirdest statues they could find on campus. Bernadetta had not known of the weird fish sculpture behind the math building but it was really funny with the bright colors and bug eyes.

                “Weird question but I thought I might as well ask. Want to meet up in person at the Garreg Mach Ball at the end of the month?”

                Bernadetta froze and stared at her phone. Meet up? Actually meet up with FTBbiggestfan?  In person!? What, why how!? Questions flooded through her mind. Why did they want to meet up? Ack? Did they know who she was? Or maybe they just wanted to be friends in person? Well it made sense since they had been talking to each other for so long but why did they want to meet at the ball?

                Thankfully she couldn’t dwell on her thoughts too much as archery practice began for the day. Her aim wasn’t as true as it usually was and Shamir had quickly taken notice. Bernadetta managed to stammer out an excuse of not getting enough sleep last night. Shamir thankfully seemed to buy the excuse as she went to correct a few of the other students on their form.

                Once practice was finished, Shamir pulled the struggling students to the side for an extra lesson. Including Ashe much to Bernadetta’s dismay. She wanted to bring it up with him to ask what to do about this ridiculous situation.

                As she debated on what to do, she spotted Claude nearby, packing up his bow for the night. He had given her such good advice before, maybe he could help her out with this? She approached him and waited for him to notice her, not wanting to bother him.

                 “What’s up Bernie?” Claude looked at her in confusion.

                “Oh, uh, just wanted to uh, tell you something if you aren’t too busy.”

                “Well practice just ended so I would say I’m pretty free for the most part.”  He put his supplies over a shoulder and the duo began walking back to the locker room. “What’s up?”

                “So uh, remember the advice I asked you about a few weeks ago?”

                Claude cursed and she jumped back in surprise. “Sorry Bernie, it’s not you, I just remembered I was supposed to tell you a while ago. I think I figured out who your fan is.”

                “Really?” she squeaked. “Well that’s great. We’re planning on meeting in person. Most likely at the ball at the end of the month.”

                Claude frowned and Bernadetta could feel her stomach sink. “You think it’s a horrible idea?” she asked.

                “Well, not horrible per say.” Claude scratched the back of his head, seemingly deep in thought. “So, the person I think it is, he’s in my history class. He mentioned a few times about reading stuff from Fluffyteddybear…something or other. There were numbers there.”

                Bernadetta’s eyes widen. “That’s my username. Who is it?”

                “Do you know who Sylvain is? Uh, I think his last name is Gauiter. Red hair, pretty tall.”

                She thought for a moment but could not place a name to a face. “What kind of person are they?”

                “Uh, well, just be careful Bernadetta, just be on your guard a bit. He’s a bit of a player. I doubt he would do anything to you but just be aware of it alright?”

                “A player?” Her eyes widen.

               “But like I said, he can be nice sometimes too, he probably won’t try to hit on you or anything since he really enjoys your stories.”

                “Yeah, maybe…” She frowned and looked down at her bow.

                “Maybe I said too much,” said Claude with a wince.

                “No, it’s okay. I understand you’re looking out for me Claude.” They reached the locker room and she gave him a nod. “Thanks for the information. It is very helpful for me to know that.” She could see Claude was thinking of saying more, but she quickly excused herself and after changing, headed back to her room at a fast pace.

                While dinner was heating up in the microwave, she opened her laptop and went on social media. It took a few tries and different spellings but she was able to locate one Sylvain Gautier that went to Garreg Mach Academy.

                Based on his profile picture alone, it was obvious he was the playboy type. Mirror selfie,  Shirt off, expression a wry grin, one of his fingers looped through the belt of his pants, pulling it down slightly.

                This was the guy that was reading her fanfiction and interacting with her the past few years!?

                Somehow she had always pictured them similar to her, a quiet, soft-spoken person that didn’t interact much. Not…this.

                Now filled with morbid curiosity, she began looking through his feed. Lots and lots of pictures with girls. If there weren’t any girls in the pictures, he took selfies that were obviously meant to show off his body. This was the guy that squealed about ships with her and commented how much he loved the slow burn between Robin and Chrom and wanted them to get together and be happy so bad? This was the person that sent her cute pictures of the statues around campus with funny captions!? It was like night and day, the person she had been talking to online and the person she was seeing in front of her.

                Wait a moment.

                Bernadetta was a girl.

                What would happen if he met her in person? Based on how handsy he was on the girls in the pictures, would he try something with her? Had he figured out she was a girl and that’s why he asked her if she wanted to meet up with him at the ball? Was he trying to get with her!?

                “Calm down Bernie, stop catastrophizing” she told herself. There was a high chance that he didn’t know she was a girl. She was always careful in her pictures and made no indication of gender online. Maybe he was just suggesting it, not thinking it could be taken that way. Heck, maybe he thought she was a boy. There were so many possibilities that it could be that thinking of the what-ifs was overwhelming.

                How was she going to respond to this?

                The microwave went off, signaling her dinner was ready. She dropped her phone on her meal and retrieved the meal, pasta with vegetables. She sat at her desk and ate as she checked her planner. There were still some assignments she needed to get done and she really did want to get the next chapter of A Long Lasting Dream started.

                She grimaced at her phone and then looked at all she needed to do. Maybe for now it would be best to focus on those things and respond to Sylvain’s message to her tomorrow.

***

                Sylvain’s nerves were on edge. It had been over twelve hours and Fluffyteddybear48 had not responded to the message. Crap, crap, crap, everything was ruined wasn’t it? He could never comment on Fluffyteddybear48’s fics again and all he could do was lurk on their stories from afar. No wait, maybe he no longer deserved that. All because of Ingrid decided to scare him and make him send that message.

                “I swear, if you check your phone again, I’m taking it,” growled Felix.

                “Felix, I told you what Ingrid did, Fluffyteddybear48 probably hates me now.”

                Felix let out a long drawn out sigh and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Sylvain could tell right away that Felix was regretting coming to class early and sitting next to Sylvain. Sylvain had been so on edge that he ended up cancelling spending the night with a girl and was miserable and worried in his room.

                He almost jumped out of his seat as a notification came in. He had never opened a message so fast, his hands shaking to hold his phone straight so he could read it.

                “I will admit your message surprised me, sorry it took me so long to respond, I had to think over what I was going to say. It threw me for such a loop that I asked a friend of mine for advice and well, they told me something that makes me…less inclined to meet you in person.

                Oh, I’m not good at messages like this but my friend had overheard you talking about a Fluffyteddybear48 multiple times and well, they managed to put two and two together. So uh, your name is Sylvain right? I’m not trying to be creepy about it, that’s what my friend told me!

                And well, my friend also told me a bit of your personality…like how you’re a player and I went on your profile…

                Sorry about that but I’m just…not comfortable with the idea of meeting in person, I’m super sorry about that. :(“

                Sylvain stared at his phone and read the message again. And again. And again. “Damn, how did they find out!?” he managed to get out.

Felix rolled his eyes, the boredom leaking from every pore.  “What now?”

“Fluffyteddybear48 found out I was and I quote ‘a player’ so they’re worried about meeting me at the ball.” Sylvain looked at Felix in pure distress.

“Wow, I’m quite impressed with them for figuring out who you were. I wonder how that happened.”

Ugh, Felix didn’t sound worried at all by this revelation.

“It’s horrible!” insisted Sylvain. “I mean, I am totally not going to hit on Fluffybear48. It’s Fluffyteddybear48, it wouldn’t be right!” Girls were just…girls and Fluffyteddybar48 was above them in every way. An angel sent from above to write the most beautiful words and create the most wonderful stories. Flirting or making a move on them was the last thing on is mind.

“Please stop saying that name over and over again. It’s not helping your case at all.” Felix shook his head.

Wait, hang on, why would Fluffyteddybear48 be worried about that? Unless, was Fluffyteddybear48 a girl? Holy crap, if Fluffyteddybear48 was a girl and she saw his profile… He winced, as he thought of the pictures he had on there and his profile picture. Ingrid and Annette and even Mercedes(since she was best friends with Annette), knew that Sylvain was not like the person he presented on social media. But Fluffyteddybear48 didn’t know him and that was what she found when she looked him up, no wonder she would be worried meeting him in person! But how in the world could he tell her he wasn’t like that to girls he actually cared about!?

Sylvain turned to Felix. “You gotta help me come up with things to say to them!”

Felix looked like Sylvain had insulted his grandmother. “Wait, why do I have to?”

“You’re right, you’re not going to be able to give me anything useful. Maybe Ingrid can help. Oh! Maybe Dimtiri. We should have an emergency meeting after class.” Sylvain’s fingers flew across his phone as he typed a message in the group chat for them to meet during lunch and it was vital everyone was there.

“Are you seriously calling one over something like this?” Felix rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“Duh.” Sylvain finished the message and sent it out.

Felix glanced at his phone and rolled his eyes. “Did you have to write ‘emergency’ in all caps?”

“It’s an emergency! The biggest emergency ever.”

Felix rolled his eyes and quickly typed a response in the chat just as Professor Hanneman walked into the classroom. Curiously Byleth was not with him but Sylvain had not paid attention to the reason given as he read Felix’s message.

“Really, did you have to put it as a problem with my bear-friend?” he hissed under his breath.

“I didn’t want them to be worried and think something serious had actually happened.”

                “But this is serious!”

                Sadly Felix was unable to respond as Professor Hanneman began the lesson for the day.

***

                As soon as class was done, Sylvain led the way to the student center, taking the initiative and bought a large sushi boat for the quartet to share and took it to the lounge area where they would be able to talk without having to worry about other students paying them much mind.

                “So what’s happening with this bear-friend?” asked Ingrid. Her hand hovered over the sushi boat for a couple seconds before she decided on a tuna roll.

                “Well, this is all your fault Ingrid. If you didn’t surprise me and made me send that message, we wouldn’t be in this situation right now!” snapped Sylvain.

                Ingrid glared at him. “What in the world are you talking about?”

                “Perhaps you can back up a little and explain the situation from the beginning?” asked Dimitri. “Dedue, you can come over and have some as well, no need to sit so far.”

                Dedue glanced at Sylvain who just nodded in response and gestured to the boat. “Take whatever you want.”

                Ingrid scooted over so Dedue could pull up a chair and join their little circle.

                “Thank you,” said Dedue.

                “What’s going on is that Sylvain here sent a message to that teddybear author he likes reading about meting them in person at the ball at the end of the month and apparently they managed to find out who Sylvain was and looked on his social media,” explained Felix.

                Nods of understanding passed through the group.

                “Well you can’t blame them for not wanting to have anything to do with you after seeing that,” said Ingrid.

                “Your choice of what you put online is….questionable at best,” said Dimitri.

                “And considering what you do in your spare time…”put in Felix.

                “Alright, alright I get it!” grumbled Sylvain. He looked at Dedue. “You want to add anything to the bully Sylvain circle?”

                Dedue shook his head. “I think everything has already been said. But if I might ask, why would this teddybear person not want to meet you based on your profile and how you are in real life?”

                Sylvain rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, I’m thinking its because Fluffyteddybear48 is a girl, and worried I’ll hit on her.”

                “That is a logical deduction,” commented Dimitri.

                “Well I think Fluffy is smart then,” said Felix. “Best for her to stay away from you.”

                “I’m not going to hit on her! I would never hit on her! She’s Fluffyteddybear48! Anyway, I wanted to have this meeting to figure out how to respond to the message!” He pulled up the message on his phone and put it in the middle of the table next to the sushi boat so everyone could read it. “I was thinking about it but I wasn’t going to suggest meeting at the ball.”

                Ingrid, thankfully, had enough shame to wince. “Yes, that is a bit…” She sighed. “Sorry about that Sylvain.”

                “Well, she was very elegant about her words. I wonder which friend of hers was able to tell her that you were who she was talking to,” said Dimitri.

                “Does that really matter right now?” asked Felix. “Sylvain talks about her all the time, of course someone probably overheard him. I think what we need to be focusing on right now is coming up with a response that doesn’t make Sylvain sound more like an asshole than he already is.”

                Dimitri checked the time on his gold wristwatch. “Well, I can probably spare another fifteen minutes, let’s get this message figured out.”

                Ingrid pulled out a sheet of paper from her bag. “Time to start drafting.”

***

                Was Bernadetta too harsh in her DM? Maybe. It had almost been a couple hours and Sylvain had not answered her message. Usually he would respond by now. Or maybe he was not talking to her anymore because she realized what kind of person he was. Well good riddance then!

                Although at the same time she felt sad about that. Who knew a friendship built up over two years would cumulated in something like this? Or maybe she shouldn’t be surprised. Her mother had warned Bernadetta that there would be boys like that at the academy. She just didn’t expect it to come from FTBbiggestfan of all places.

                She sighed and looked around the student center and took a bite of her sandwich. It was a little bit after the usual lunch rush so she didn’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of students having their meal.  It was weird but she felt bad about writing what she did to Sylvain but at the same time what was she supposed to do? There was no way meeting someone like that would go over well.

                She finished her meal and tossed out her trash. There was still some time before her afternoon writing class. She could get started on putting together stuff for her finals or she could get to work on the next A Long Lasting Dream chapter. Yeah, that would be more fun!

                She had not brought her laptop with her so she headed for the exit of the student center and froze as she saw a group of students walking out of another hallway that connected to the exit. One was Ingrid and she was obviously in the middle of the story. Next to her was a blond boy, Dimitri Bernadetta recognized, the vice president of the student council. The third one that she recognized was not one she had seen in person, just in those pictures online.

                Sylvain.

                He was really tall in person, towering above his friends. He rolled his eyes and made a comment. Ingrid looked at him annoyed and hit him in the arm. The blue-haired boy next to Sylvain let out a long sigh and shook his head. He then paused and looked in Bernadetta’s direction, as if sensing her stare.

                Bernadetta dropped her eyes and took out her phone, pretending that she got a message so they wouldn’t think she was staring. Oh! She had gotten a message, from FTBbiggestfan.

                Dreading it, she opened the message while at the same time keeping an eye on what Sylvain and his group were doing.

                “Your friend must be a detective! But yes, my name is Sylvain and well, I’m sorry you had to discover my online presence like that. But believe me, I would never dream of thinking of you that way! I was just asking from a friendship point and nothing more. Although I can totally get why you’re worried about it. I do act differently in real life than online but trust me, both sides are still me. I’m like this with my friends, talkative like this I mean. But anyway, we can keep talking online, that’s fine! I wouldn’t want the friendship(does this count as friendship? I think so!) to end because of something like this, although I totally get if you want to break it off. I’ll understand and there won’t be any hard feelings on my end.

                But anyway, in terms of the ball, if you feel comfortable enough, you can approach me since you know who I am. If not, then that’s fine. I don’t mind just talking to you online like this and talking more about your stories and stuff. But yeah, like I said before if you want to not talk to me again, totally understand.”

                Bernadetta looked up and saw Sylvain and his little group of friends were hanging around near the sliding doors.  Sure she could go around but it looked like they were going their sperate ways soon as Dimtri and the white-haired boy split off and went back into the student center.

                While she was waiting, she decided to reply to Sylvain’s message.

                “Oh, it’s okay. It’s just, that kind of stuff makes me a bit nervous. But I will admit it was surprising since you seemed much different from our conversations. I don’t mind continuing to have conversations online like this though.

                “As for the ball, I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks for giving me the option! And uh, I’m planning on working on the next chapter of A Long Lasting Dream today so I should have the next chapter up soon!”

                She sighed and sent the message and looked up, hoping they would have moved by now.

                Ingrid said something before leaving and Sylvain was left alone with the blue-haired one. Sylvain reached into his pocket and took out his phone. His expression brightened and he hit the blue-haired boy in the arm and gestured wildly to his phone.

                No way. He couldn’t be that excited by her message right? No way. Well, with Ingrid gone, the other two didn’t know her. Bernadetta put her phone away and put down her head and walked past them.

                As she walked by, she heard Sylvain loudly exclaim. “It’s from Fluffyteddybear48 Felix! She doesn’t hate me after all!”

                It took all of her willpower to not squeal in surprise as she walked past. Sylvain had sounded more like she expected him to, not like the person she had seen online. Maybe he was telling the truth about him being both persons. And if he was telling the truth about that, then was it actually safe for them to meet in person after all?

Chapter Text

 Of course the semester seemed to be coming to an end at a breakneck speed. With finals on the horizon, Bernadetta had to put her story back on hiatus to keep up all the work that was piling up on her. She did keep up with messaging Sylvain though and the two continued to share messages regularly over the next couple of weeks.

Mostly to complain about all the work they had to get done but Sylvain regularly sent random pictures of statues and other weird things he saw on campus, like the campus cat. A mangy old thing that many on campus were convinced was a ghost while the other half treated it like an unofficial mascot. Sylvain also sent her selfies with him making funny expressions or pretending to be memes. It was such a contrast to how he looked in his profile that Bernadetta was starting to be convinced they had to be different people.

However as she turned in her last paper and left her final class of the semester, she realized what was next was the ball at the end of the week. She grimanced at the thought of it. She had to go, as a Varley it was important for her to show her face, even for a little while and play nice but she really did not like being in a loud room for long periods of time.

Although there was still the matter of Sylvain…

Talking with him over the past few weeks, despite this profile(which had a few more additions of shirtless pics and him with girls), otherwise he seemed very genuine and kind. Also what kind of guy would go out of his way to take silly selfies like that and send it to her who also wanted to maintain that other kind of presence online? Especially since they went to the same school.

Maybe they could…

What was she thinking?

“Bernie? You okay?” Ashe looked over at her in concern. It was the end of the year cleanup for club facilities. Shamir was very particular and wanted the students cleaning it. Something about how it would give them a better appreciation of the sport and all that went into it. Thankfully most of the work was completed, and many of the students had left. Ashe and Bernadetta had taken over cleaning out the trophy shelf. There were a lot of trophies in it but Bernadetta would take this over having to clean the field. At least with the trophies, she could just sit in place.

“I was just thinking of the ball.”

“Oh yeah, that’s coming up.” Ashe sighed. “I’m always so nervous at these things.”

“Really?”

Ashe nodded. “Well, I’m going as a representative of my adoptive father.”

Ah, Bernadetta remembered Ashe mentioning him and his siblings were adopted into the Gaspard family. “I know that feeling,” she replied with a small smile.

“Please tell me it gets easier the more you do it,” Ashe sighed.

“I’m not a fan of these big events. I’m probably only going to be there for a little bit of the time. Say hi and then go.”

“That sounds nice,” Ashe sighed. “Maybe I’ll do that too. My adopted father also gave me a few people to talk to. Just to introduce myself and whatnot. Does your dad make you do that?”

Bernadetta flinched at the mention of her dad. The last time they had spoken was over the summer when she was home. The conversation was brief, just him asking her what day she would be going back to the academy.  “No, he doesn’t.” After a moment of awkward silence she added quickly, “But I might have to meet someone myself.”

“Meet someone?”

“Uh, his name is Sylvain. Sylvain Gautier.”

“Sylvain?” Ashe frowned.

Bernadetta’s eyes widen. “You know him?”

“I’ve heard of him. My adoptive father works with his family so I’ve heard things here and there. He’s…Bernadetta you better be really careful around him. He as a certain reputation with girls.”

“Oh I know,” she said quickly. “It’s nothing related to that. And he’s not going to be like that with me…at least I think so.”

“What makes you so sure he won’t? Wait, it sounds like you’ve talked to him before?”

“Just online. It’s a long story.”

“What kind of story?” Ashe began picking up all the used rags.

Bernadetta hesitated for a moment before deciding to go into it. Ashe had been nothing but kind to her the past year, always inviting her to do things even though he probably realized by now Bernadetta was not into it.  He had also told her stories of his family, his siblings while she rarely gave him anything in return. Maybe it was time to put a little trust in him like he did her?

The two had finished putting away all the supplies and were heading to the student center for dinner when Bernadetta finished up the story. “So, I’m debating about actually meeting him in person at the ball, just to say hi?”

“That’s…wow Bernie.” Ashe shook his head. “I wouldn’t expect that from Sylvain to be honest.”

“I didn’t expect it either to be honest,” admitted Bernadetta. “But he’s been super nice and kind to me and super accommodating and I was thinking…maybe…”

“Well I think you should go for it Bernie.” Ashe nodded. “It’ll be like Loog and the Witch’s Brew! You know, when he had to approach the witch and finds out she was the one that was guiding him the whole time and the guy that wanted her dead was the real villain!”

“I hope I don’t have to fight anyone,” sighed Bernadetta. Although that blue-haired friend of his looked very scary.

“That was a figure of speech. I think everything will be fine Bernie! I mean do you want me to be there when you do it?”

“That will be nice but I think this is something I want to do on my own.” If she was going to meet a fan of her own work, it was going to be through her own merit!

“Gotcha. Well no matter what, I’ll be in your corner.” He frowned. “And if he tries something…I’ll do something! Not sure yet, but I’ll do something!”

Bernadetta had to giggle at the thought of Ashe trying to fight tall Sylvain. It was a nice thought though, she didn’t know many people that would go out of their way for her like that.

“You want to get dinner together Bernie? I think they’re having special lobster from the coast and I have way too much money on my meal plan. We can find somewhere else to sit if it’s too loud for you.”

Bernadetta probably shouldn’t have been surprised at this point that Ashe had noticed her dislike of crowds. “That would be great, thanks.”

***

Sylvain was giddy as he followed his friends into the large hall. The chandeliers shone overhead, the bright decorations capturing the essence of the time long ago. Or, at least that’s how the Garreg Mach Ball was advertised to incoming students.  Students and professors mingled freely, everyone dressed up in their finery. A food table took up almost one wall and a few students were already helping themselves to the many, many treats.

“It’s so pretty,” gasped Annette.

“Uh huh,” agreed Felix, his attention more on Annette than the decorations around them.

Sylvain looked to his other side where Ingrid stood by herself. She had invited Glenn but he was busy with a business deal so he wasn’t able to come. Being the awesome friend he was, Sylvain had offered to be her “date” for the night. She had agreed, just probably to save face. Or it could have been Sylvain begging for her to accept because then he had a valid excuse to not take one of the girls he had slept with. So many of them had showered him with hints and a few had asked him outright but he turned them all down. This was a night of celebration, Sylvain wanted to act more like himself than have to spend time worrying about the girl he was with.

Well, there was one girl he was dying to meet tonight.

“I’m off to spend time at the cake tables.”

“Remember to be nice to Fluffy,” said Ingrid.

Sylvain let out a long dramatic gasp. “I didn’t think you cared so much.”

“We just don’t want to hear you crying about it later about her rejecting you or something,” put in Felix.

“Good luck Sylvain, I’m sure it will go well. Oh! You want me to sing one of my songs to give you some luck?”

“No, that’s okay Annette,” Sylvain said quickly. He had caught Felix singing a song under his breath about “creepy crawlies” once. That was weird. He gestured to the dance floor. “Why don’t you and Felix dance for a bit?”

“Oh I just recently learned the waltz! This’ll be fun!” She grabbed Felix’s arm and began tugging him towards the dance floor.

“I don’t dance,” he grumbled but he didn’t resist her dragging him along.

“Wow, she has him wrapped around his thumb, never thought I would see the day,” commented Ingrid with a shake of her head. She shooed Sylvain with a hand. “Go on, go see Fluffy, I’ll be fine. I think I see Dimitri over there, let me give him some backup, that crowd is getting super large.”

Sylvain gave her a dramatic salute before heading over to the cake section of the table. Two days ago he couldn’t believe the message he received from Fluffyteddybear48. She was willing to meet with Sylvain at the ball! He didn’t know what had changed but he was going to take it! Remembering that Fluffyteddybear48 had mentioned a love for sweets, he replied back he would stand near the dessert/cake section of the food tables for her for the first half an hour of the night since she had also mentioned she did not stay for very long. She had responded back she didn’t want to trouble him but he told her it was no trouble at all.

Finding the table, he stood next to it and adjusted the cuff links of his expensive suit jacket. Oh man, this was more nerve-wracking than going on a date with a girl…even if it was kind of like he was meeting a girl. But Fluffyteddybear48 was not just any girl! He picked up one of the small cakes and took a bite. Oh, lemon flavored.

***

It was way too noisy.

Bernadetta had only been here for five minutes and she already wanted to leave.

“There’s Dimitri, I’m supposed to talk to him a little bit,” spoke up Ashe.

Bernadetta smiled. “Go ahead Ashe. I’ll just be heading to the cake table. You know…”

Ashe nodded, his eyes bright. “It’s going to be fine Bernie, I just know it!” He saluted as Loog did in the books and Bernadetta responded with the same salute.

While Ashe went to speak with Dimitri, Bernadetta navigated through the crowd and made her way over to the cake table.

Sylvain was easy to spot, he was incredibly tall after all. The suit he wore was black and slimming on him, obviously designer and well fitted, his hair slicked back. He was talking to a girl, leaning into her as she spoke with a flirtatious grin on.

“And that’s who you have to talk to Bernie?” Bernadetta gulped and tried to remember all of the nice things he had said about her and the funny selfies. Despite him acting like that, he was also the boy in the selfies…right?

“If Loog could face an entire army with a stick then you can do this,” she murmured. Of course Loog’s stick ended up turning into a sword but it was the thought that counted right? Taking a deep breath, she began walking towards him.

***

Ugh, why didn’t he think of meeting someplace less crowded and not in the middle of the ballroom? Girls came up to him left and right, some wanting to flirt with him, others asking to dance and some were even wondering if he would come back to their rooms later. Thankfully he was going home in two days so he had a limited amount of time to spend with these girls so a few would sadly have to go without his presence.

“Uh…hello.”

Sylvain let out a long sigh and turned to the soft, gentle voice, his charm back on. This girl was short, her purple hair accented by a barrette, her dress modest. He didn’t remember sleeping with this one, she looked too skittish but maybe it was a one time thing. Sometimes the quiet ones were the most surprising in bed.

“Why hello there,” he purred. “Unfortunately I’m booked out for the next two nights, but perhaps we can meet up when spring semester starts?”

Her eyes widen. “Wait…what…”

He stepped closer to her. “Or were you looking for a dance? Or perhaps…” He leaned in close to her face.

She stumbled backwards, her eyes wide. “S…sorry. Thought you were someone else.”

He shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck as the girl turned and fled. Odd. He looked around the ballroom but no one seemed to be paying attention to what happened. Guess that girl wasn’t dared to talk to him by one of her friends. Oh, maybe she had a crush on him? That happened a lot. Best to break her heart now.

He took another cake from the table. Where in the world was Fluffyteddybear48?

***

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Bernadetta was so stupid. She had managed to keep the tears from overflowing when he was talking to her but now they were free-flowing down her face. Why did she expect this would go any different in person? She should have expected this, of course he would be like that because she was a girl.

She stepped out of the ballroom and relished in the cool night air.

Chapter Text

“No luck?” Ingrid walked over and reached behind Sylvain for one of the little cakes.

Sylvain sighed. “Nope. I think Fluffyteddybear48 chickened out or got overwhelmed. I wouldn’t blame her, there is a lot of people here.”

Ingrid patted his arm. “Well it’s almost been half an hour right? You want to give up now? You haven’t moved from this spot.”

“I’ll give her a couple more minutes.” He grinned at her. “And then can I get a dance from you? For Glenn of course.”

Ingrid rolled her eyes. “I’m surprised you don’t have girls lining up to dance for you.”

He shrugged. “Well a few I scared away since I did tell them I was waiting for someone.”

“I really hope they didn’t think you were waiting for me.”

Sylvain shuddered at the thought. “I hope not.” As he looked out into the crowds, he spotted Claude run past with a frantic look on his face. Odd. He wondered if something had happened between him and Byleth. Seeing them dance earlier, even from here, Sylvain got the vibes there was something more going on there than TA and student. Perhaps that was a scandal waiting to happen?

“Excuse me, have you see Bernie?”

Sylvain snapped to the present to see Ingrid talking to a boy with white hair and freckles across the nose.

“Sorry Ashe I haven’t. I didn’t even know she was here.”

“Odd, I can’t find her anywhere…”

“She might have left? She doesn’t like crowds right?”

“Bernie told me she would let me know before she leaves. That is…” He frowned and glared at Sylvain.

“Whoa, hang on, I didn’t do anything!” Sylvain put his hands in surrender but he wasn’t sure why.

“Well have you seen her? She was trying to talk to you. Purple hair? Short? In a dark blue dress?”

“Wait, why does she want to talk to Sylvain of all people?” Ingrid looked at Ashe in disbelief.

It took Sylvain a coupe moments to place the description to the mousey girl that tried talking to him and then freaked out when he flirted back with her.

“Well because he’s a fan of her work.”

Wait what. Sylvain snapped to the conversation. “Whoa hang on, what?”

Ingrid’s eyes widen and her hands went to her mouth. “She’s a writer. I forgot about that.”

“Wait guys, catch me up, you didn’t mean what I think you meant right?”

Ashe frowned at him. “She told me her username is Fluffyteddybear? There’s some numbers but I forgot.”

“Fluffyteddybear48,” whispered Sylvain. He wished he had the power to rewind time in that moment. “Oh Seiros, I flirted with Fluffyteddybear48….”

“You did what!?” Ingrid glared at him. “Sylvain, what the heck!?”

Ashe looked pissed as well. “You flirted with her!? She thought you wouldn’t do that!”

“I didn’t know it was her! I thought it was one of the usual girls that want to get with me. Oh Seiros….” He began pacing back and forth in place. No wonder she had bolted as soon as he stared flirting. And he promised her he wouldn’t do that! “Oh Seiros, I’m an asshole.”

“Yeah, we know that already,” snapped Ingrid.

“I have to find her, I need to set this right.” This was worse than the time Miklan threw him down a well. He needed to fix this!

“Well she’s not in the ballroom, I’ve looked everywhere,” said Ashe.

“Then outside maybe. Ingrid, if you see her in here, text me?” Sylvain didn’t wait for a response as he ran out of the ballroom and into the cool air. Where in the world could she have gone? Back to the dorms? He was about to take off in that direction when he remembered there were multiple dorm buildings on campus, a few on the opposite end of the others. The chance of him picking the right one was slim to none.

Think, Sylvain, think! He had already messed up once tonight. Sure he could message her but why would she believe him if he acted like that to her in person? He should have erred on the side of caution when talking to girls but first couple had been some of his regulars and he had slipped back to his usual habit without meaning to.

Wait, habit.

He turned and was practically running. In one of her messages, she had brought up a tree she liked to sit under when it was warm, a picture attached to the message. The tree was in the middle of one of the courtyards, the branches long and bowing and in the summer, the leaves would hide anyone sitting at the base from the outside world.

Thankfully it was winter now.

The campus was brightly lit from street lights, making it easy for him to spot the figure sitting under the large willow tree.

He slowed to a walk and carefully made his way closer.

There she was, the mousey girl that tried to talk to him. Fluffyteddybear48 who tried to talk to him. She had her knees pulled up to her chest, her head buried in them.

“Uh, hi.”

She startled and lifted her head. Sylvain winced, seeing her red puffy eyes.

“Don’t run, I’m not going to bite…or flirt with you.” He stopped a distance away from her and sat down on the grass, making sure to sit in a spot where he could not see up her skirt. He took a deep breath. “I, I didn’t know it was you. I really thought you were just one of the other girls so I treated you as such. I really shouldn’t have, especially since I knew you were worried about that. But I really didn’t mean to flirt with you.” He grimanced and rubbed the back of his neck. “Damn it, I wanted our first meeting in person to be cool and stuff and this didn’t end up like that at all.”

She didn’t say anything.

Sylvain grimanced. “But really, I truly mean it, I don’t flirt with girls I care about. Like Ingrid, we’re childhood friends and I would do anything for her. Annette too since she’s dating Felix and I guess Mercedes since she’s close friends with Annette.” He didn’t know how else he could say it.  How else he could explain it to her in a way that made sense. He only flirted and gave himself physically to girls that didn’t know him and didn’t want to know him. All they saw was the Gautier name. Fluffyteddybear48 was nowhere near that.

“Well…how would you have wanted our first meeting to go?” she asked softly.

“How?” He leaned back, bracing himself with his hands and looked up at the sky. The lights were a little bright so he could only make out a few stars. Taking a deep breath, he sat upright and gave her a warm, genuine smile, nothing like the one he showed to those girls. “It’s nice to meet you, I’ve been a fan of your works for so long and I’m glad to finally get to see you in person. I adore your stories so much and they really mean a lot to me and I’m glad I could find them. Oh and my name is Sylvain but I guess you already knew that.”

“Bernadetta.”

“Huh?”

“That’s my name. Bernadetta. But everyone calls me Bernie.”

“Bernie.” He repeated it and grinned.  “I’ll remember that Bernie. And I swear any other conversation we have is going to go so much better than this one.”

“That’s…good to know. Uh, I’m working on the next chapter right now.”

“Oh Seiros are you!? Is Chrom going to get better or is he going to sleep forever? Will Robin find the antidote? Wait, don’t tell me I want to read it for myself but gah, I don’t want to wait, I want to know now!”

“Well I was planning on making it have a happy ending.”

Sylvain sighed in relief. “Thank Seiros. After that one-shot you did I don’t think I can handle Robin dying again.” The wind picked up and he noticed Bernie shiver slightly. Without thinking he shrugged out of his suit jacket. “Here, it’s a bit cold out here.”

“But what about you?”

“I’m from the north, a little wind like this is nothing. In fact I will admit I was warm with it on. Go on.” He got up from his spot and held it out to her.

Bernadetta got to her feet and slowly made her way closer to him. She tentatively took the jacket from him and put it on. Immediately the shivers that were starting overtake her subsided. “It’s really warm.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty warm blooded. If you need some heat, I’ll be there. In a friend sort of way,” he added quickly. “Like friendship hugs. Nothing, like, you know, okay, I’m going to shut up now about this.”

She giggled. “You really are like how you are online.”

“I would hope so, I was trying to be as real as possible. Well, you know a different kind of real I guess.” He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his pants. “So, we should probably get back to the ball. I’m sure Ashe is worried about you.”

Bernadetta gasped. “I forgot about Ashe. Oh no Bernie, he’s probably super worried. Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

Sylvain was taken aback by the amount of self-loathing she managed to get out with that one comment. Maybe they were two peas in a pod after all.

As they two walked back, Sylvain slowed his step so he was keeping pace with her. She was super short and tiny. How could this girl make some of the best stories he had ever read. It was kind of amazing to be honest.

“Uh? S…Sylvain?”

“Oh, sorry.” He took a huge step to the side so they were walking more parallel than side by side. Dang it Sylvain, he had to make sure she was comfortable. She didn’t know him well enough to know when he was flirting and when he wasn’t. “Hey look, that’s the statue you sent me…was it last week?” He pointed to a silver abstract sculpture of pounded metal in a helix shape. “

She nodded. “Yeah. I still can’t figure out what it is supposed to be.”

“Probably to represent our hard working spirit or something or something else corny like that.” Sylvain shrugged.

“Probably,” she replied with a laugh.

As they approached the ballroom, he noticed Bernadetta slowing “You want me to tell Ashe that I found you and everything is cool?”

She shook her head. “No, I should go in and tell him myself.” She shrugged out of his jacket and held it out to him.

He took it from her and put it on. He debated on buttoning it up but decided against it. It made him look more dashing this way.  He paused, realizing how bad it might look for the two of them to walk in together. Ingrid could handle herself but Bernie? They would eat her up and spit out her bones!

“Uh…Sylvain?”

“You go first. I’ll join you in a couple minutes.”

***

Bernadetta had barely taken ten steps into the ballroom when Ashe was upon her, his green eyes wide with worry. “There you are Bernie!” He dropped his voice to a whisper. “Are you okay? Did he do anything weird?”

 “Huh? Uh no. Everything is fine,” she said quickly. “S…Sorry for leaving you behind without saying anything.”

Ashe sighed. “It’s alright, I’m just glad to know you’re safe.”

“Bernie!” Ingrid hurried over and gave her a once over. “Everyone okay? Sylvain didn’t do anything right?” Her expression turned fierce. “I’ll kick his ass.”

"Seriously, you think the worst of me.”

Bernadetta turned to see Sylvain come up behind her, looking as laid back as ever. It was fascinating to her how he seemed to be a completely different person than the one that spoke to her under the tree. He seemed more aloof, seeming to look down on people while at the same time not having a care in the world. How did he somehow manage to turn that charm on and off like that?

Ingrid crossed her arms. “Well I can never be sure with you.” She turned back to Bernadetta. “Tell me straight, was he civil?”

Bernadetta nodded. “It…it was fine.”

“Yeah, you see? Everything was fine!”

“Oh you found her!” A girl with orange hair hurried over, her blue eyes bright and shining. The blue-haired boy Bernadetta had seen with Sylvain before a couple steps behind, with a frown on his face.

“Nice to see you’re in one piece after dealing with him,” commented the boy.

Bernadetta’s head was starting to spin from all this attention. The crowds in the ballroom was already getting on her nerves, having all these people looking and interacting on top of that was throwing her for a major loop.

“Whoa, come on guys, you’re crowding her too much, give her space.” Sylvain stepped in front of Bernadetta and made a shooing gesture. “Away with you!”

Ingrid’s glare was so strong Bernadetta worried Ingrid was going to punch Sylvain in the stomach.

“It’s fine, I’m fine,” Bernadetta spoke up quickly. “I…I’m probably going to head out. I just wanted to check in with you Ashe before I did so you knew I was okay.” She nodded to him.

“If you say so.”

It took a bit of coaxing and a couple more times insisting she was alright before she was able to extract herself from the small group and head back to the safety of her dorm room. She wasn’t too worried about walking on the campus at night, it was a fenced off and everything was brightly lit.

Once she got back to her room, her shoulders slumped as she was finally able to relax. It had taken her about an hour to get ready but it took her less than ten minutes to change into comfortable clothes and get all of the makeup off.

She opened her computer to surf the internet for a bit and saw there was a message waiting for her in the DM section of her fanfiction account. A message from FTBbiggestfan-no Sylvain.

“Just wanted to check in to make sure you got back to your room fine! It was very nice meeting you in person and I hope we can hang out more in the future! Also here’s my number! It’s probably faster to reach me this way! Of course you don’t have to text me if you don’t want to!”

Bernadetta picked up her phone and after debating for a moment, she responded that she has gotten back to her room fine and she hoped he was having fun at the ball. Finished with the text, she sent it to the number given in the DM.

Less that five minutes later, she got a response with a picture attached. The picture was of Sylvain with his hand up in a “v” pose. Ingrid was behind him, waving at the camera.

“Glad to hear that Bernie! And I’ve saved your number in my phone if that’s okay! I’ll see you next semester if that’s okay with you?”

Oh yeah, after the ball, students would be leaving the campus for winter break. She dropped her phone on her bed before curling up in front of her computer, ready to have a nice, relaxed evening.            

Chapter Text

                “Mr. Gautier, if you don’t mind, I need to clean your room and your father wants to speak with you.”

                Sylvain sighed in annoyance at the maid standing in his doorway, a vacuum cleaner at the ready. He had barely been home for two weeks and he already didn’t want to have anything to do with this place. Whenever his father caught sight of him, he would breathe down Sylvain’s neck, demanding to know why Sylvain’s grades weren’t where they needed to be or why Sylvain was an embarrassment to the Gautier family.  Sylvain wasn’t sure how he could be an embarrassment when Miklan was the bigger one but the last time Sylvain pointed it out, it led to a long winded lecture that Sylvain mentally checked out five minutes in.

                He rubbed the back of his neck and grabbed his phone and left his room with his car keys.

                “Sir?”

                “Tell my father I suddenly remembered an errand I had to do and I’m going out.”

                “But Mr. Gautier….”

                Sylvain ignored the rest of the maid’s plea as he made his way through the Gautier manor, using the back hallways to avoid meeting with anyone he didn’t want to meet, aka his father or anyone closely associated with him. These hallways had been his friend when he was younger, the cabinets, and lesser used rooms the best places to hide from his brother.

                Like always, he managed to get out without too much issue and he hurried down the long driveway to his car, which he usually parked on the street, right outside the manor grounds. Yes, it got dirty from the elements but not having to worry about his father waiting for him in the garage was great.

                As he drove away, he wondered where he should go. Usually with things like this, he would call up one of his friends and hang out with them. However, he knew Ingrid was over at Felix’s house today to spend time with Glenn and Felix was most likely around due to it being a family event. Hmmm, what about Dimitri? He was usually busy with something or other, even during the breaks but there have been times in the past where he had been able to get away for an hour or two to just hang out like they did when they were children.

                Sylvain pulled into the parking lot of the local coffee shop and while he was getting a drink(a frappe with an expresso shot), he sent a text to Dimitri asking if he was free that afternoon.

                While waiting for a response, he took over a table in the back and began looking through his girl contacts folder in case Dimitri didn’t respond. Did any of them live in the area? He could barely remember, most of his contacts now were on Garreg Mach’s campus and he generally found that girls to be a much better time than the ones here as many here his father had gotten in contact with many of them to cut off their ties to Sylvain. His father did way too much work to try to mold Sylvain into the son he’s always wanted but was never going to get.

                Sylvain took a sip from his frappe and almost dropped the cup as an email came in. A notification that Fluffyteddybear48 updated her story.

                He slammed the cup down and opened the link. The next chapter of A Long Lasting Dream! Finally! Holy crap, it was so long too! Her little author’s note at the top stated she was sorry for the wait and wanted to put out an incredibly long chapter in terms of an apology.

                “You don’t have to apologize Bernie, take your time!” Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a few people sitting at the other tables glanced in his direction but he ignored them.

                This chapter was all about Robin’s quest to save Chrom from the spell he was under. She traveled to far away lands with her friends by her side(Lissa had to stay behind to act as a proxy ruler). Apparently the spell was foreign, from another land entirely. Sylvain paused to do a goggle search and apparently Bernadetta had made up a whole new country for this story that wasn’t in the original game!

                The middle of the chapter was all treaty talk, and there were many a moments that Sylvain was worried Robin might say the wrong thing and start a war with this nation. Sure Ylisse had Robin but without Chrom, how would Ylisse be able to defend itself!?

                He reached for his frappe and took a sip, paused and realized it was empty. Dang it, he had been slowly sipping at it while reading. He needed more refreshments and possibly a brownie. He got up from his chair and raced back to the counter to order another frappe and a brownie. He wasn’t one to stress eat but right now he really needed to stress eat. What if Robin messed up and there was a war and she could never see Chrom again!? Wait, Bernie said it would be a happy ending but that didn’t mean it would be a struggle to get there.

                 He remembered a fic she wrote a year ago that technically did have a happy ending but there was so much angst and struggle in between that all Sylvain wanted to do was to break into the story and save them from Fluffyteddybear48’s clutches. But because of everything the characters went through, the ending was so satisfying and perfect.

               As he was waiting for his frappe to be made, he saw a response from Dimitri. Whoops, it was from twenty minutes ago.  Apparently Dimitri could hang out in about an hour and a half. Well, better than nothing! He quickly responded back, saying that was fine and gave the name of the coffee shop as a possible place to meet.

              Perfect, he got a new chapter by Bernie and he could hang out with a friend, today was going to be a good day!

              Hearing his name being called, he went up to pick up his frappe, this one with some sugary syrup in it. If he was going to stress eat, he was going to do it right!

             “Sylvain? Is that you?”

             He was halfway to his table when he turned to the voice. A girl with dark hair looked at him with hopeful eyes. Sylvain blinked at her. “Yes?”

            “Sylvain, it’s me? We…it was a couple months ago…”

            Ah crap, one of his quickies that he met at the local club. “I’m a bit busy now so if we can pick this up later, that’ll be great. Or never, that works too.”

            Her eyes widen, her expression falling to one of hurt and for a moment Sylvain feared she was going to cry. Please no, he already had enough emotions to deal with from Robin talking to the queen of another nation to save her husband. Sylvain really didn’t need this right now.

            He felt a little bad as she walked away but not bad enough to chase after her. Honestly, he made it pretty clear that it was supposed to be a one time deal with no strings attached. At least this one didn’t slap him for it.

             Well, enough about that! He got settled back in his seat and continued with the chapter. After a lot of nail biting negotiation, they had finally come to an agreement. Robin would complete a task for them and that country’s best mages would do everything in their power to help Chrom. The chapter ended with the queen of that country getting ready to tell Robin her task.

             Gah! Sylvain wanted to know what was going to happen now! “What a cliffhanger…” Out of habit, he began typing up a long comment, stating his feelings on the chapter as a whole and of course everything he loved about it.

            After finishing that and posting it, he pulled up his text message chat with Bernie.  The last thing he sent her was two weeks ago when he was driving home for break. He had stopped for gas and the gas station had one of those children rides that cost quarters. Ingrid was carpooling with him, and he forced her to take a picture of him sitting in the fire truck, his legs way too long for it to the point he was worried about getting out after the picture. Bernie had sent him a laughing emoji of a dog and she actually did ask if he had trouble getting out.

            Of course Sylvain had to make himself sound cool and say he got out with no problem. Well, with Ingrid’s help.

             “I just finished the chapter Bernie! It was so good! I’m so worried about Robin being able to complete the task but from how you wrote her, I think she can do it! Especially since she has all of her friends with her. I did have to look up what Grima was since the queen made comments about it and I had zero context for that and holy crap, I didn’t realize Robin had that thing in her. And I totally know you are going to bring it up later in the story and it’s going to make things more angsty and I’m so excited for that. But anyway, I hope you’re doing well over break! :)”

                Sylvain sent the text, looked up and startled, a few curses spewing out of his mouth. “Holy crap Dimitri, how long have you been standing there!?”

               “For about fifteen minutes. I was curious to see how long it would take for you to notice.”

               “Sheesh, you could have said something,” grumbled Sylvain. He kicked out the other chair with his foot. “You getting something? The frappes here are great.”

               “Dedue is taking care of that.” Dimitri gestured to the counter.

                “Doesn’t he ever get off?” Sylvain shook his head in disbelief.

                “He does,” Dimitri said quickly. “He has off all break but he insisted on coming with for this rather than my father saddle me with a few bodyguards.”

                Okay, Sylvain could see why that would be beneficial. Having Dimitri’s bodyguards take over the coffee shop would be a ridiculous sight.

                “I’ve brought you a hot chocolate.” Dedue handed Dimitri the cup. Sylvain kicked out another chair but Dedue shook his head. “I’ll sit over there. I’m sure you two have some things to discuss as friends.”

                “Sheesh, you think after sharing a sushi boat he would be more open with us.” Sylvain rolled his eyes.

                “Dedue is…Dedue. Anyway, why the sudden wish to meet Sylvain? Unless…” Dimitri frowned. “Are you avoiding talking to your father again? Sylvain, don’t roll your eyes, this stuff is important. What if he wants to impart more wisdom on you about the Gautier household?”

                “Then he can send it to me in a text or email. Besides, I know how this meeting is going to go. He’s going to talk about my grades and how I am a ‘shame to the family’ and that Gautiers need to get ‘exceptional’ grades.  I mean, sure whatever, but we all know a Gautier that isn’t like that at all so obviously the brains doesn’t run in the family.”

                “Sylvain, your father didn’t mean it like that…”

                “Yeah, cause disowned Gautiers don’t count apparently.”

                Dimitri grimaced. “Has he gotten in contact with you recently?”

                “Nope, and I don’t think he’s tried to talk to my parents either.” Sylvain leaned back, and rested his hands behind his head. “Maybe he finally figured out that our parents aren’t willing to give him handouts.”

                “Maybe but he is your brother…”

                Sylvain was about to made another snide comment when he heard his text tone go off. A response from Bernie!

                “I’m glad you liked the chapter! It was a lot of work and I was worried how everyone would take it. And break has been going well for me, it’s super quiet and I love it! I hope your break is going well too.”

                Sylvain sighed. If only. Spending time at home was torture but it had to be done.

                “I am quite surprised with how genuine you can be with a girl that isn’t Ingrid.”

                “What does that mean?”

                “I mean no disrespect by it Sylvain, it’s just that you have the smile on your face that you only show us, not the fake one you have on when you speak to…any other girl really.”

                Sylvain rolled his eyes. “Thanks, I think?”

                “I think it’s good for you to broaden your horizons.”

                “Says the guy that struggles to talk to any girl. Do I need to remind you of the time you gifted a dagger to a girl?”

                Dimitri winced. “I was trying to forget about that.”

                Sylvain shrugged. “Just accept it, you aren’t going to live it down. Anyway, there’s an arcade down the street. Let’s play for a bit.”

***

               Garreg Mach Academy was very quiet over winter break. The only people left on campus were enough staff to keep the place running along with international students that couldn’t go home for the one month break until the start of the next semester. Well, and Bernadetta.

                When she discovered she could stay on campus over the break last year, she took the opportunity to do just that. It was one of the best times of her life.  Having a month to herself to just relax without having to worry about completing school assignments was great. She could focus on her writing and spend hours in the library without having to worry about someone stumbling upon her being a gremlin in the back corner. Sure the food situation was limited, the student center only open at certain hours but Bernadetta knew how to make do. She had take-out menus for everything nearby and her small room fridge was stuffed with instant meals.

                The one thing that was different than last year was the communication she had with Sylvain. There was nothing too deep like how their first real conversation went but it was pleasant enough. It surprised her how many memes Sylvain managed to send her in the past three weeks.

                His latest text was today, letting her know he would be back on campus, two days before the start of the next semester and he thought they should hang out tomorrow. As friends of course. After debating about it for a minute she decided, why not? Besides going to archery practice(practice had started a week before) and talking to the various workers on campus, her social interaction this break had been almost zero.

                Maybe interacting with a boy she barely knew in person was a stretch(especially one like Sylvain) but hey, they had to start somewhere right? Also Ingrid had messaged Bernadetta telling her to let Ingrid know if Sylvain tried anything and she would “throw him into next week”.

                She was broken out of her thoughts as a knock came from her door. Odd, it was three in the afternoon, the RA meeting was supposed to be at five today. Maybe it was moved up? Wouldn’t be the first time that happened.

                Bernadetta hopped off her bed and headed for her door, thinking of every excuse to avoid the meeting. Maybe she could say she was sick? No, she used that excuse last time. Her period was giving her bad cramps? No, she couldn’t fake that well enough.

                Sighing, she opened the door, bracing herself for her chirpy RA to let her know about the meeting being pushed up.

                A towering man in a black suit and dark sunglasses looked down at her. “Ms. Varley, if you would come with me please.”

Chapter Text

“I’ve never seen you this excited to spend time with a girl before,” Felix said in disbelief.

                Sylvain gave Felix a deadpan look but he couldn’t stop the slight skip in his step as they walked back to the dorms. It was still a bit chilly despite being almost the end of winter but it was nothing compared to the cold weather of the north and Sylvain and Felix were only in light jackets. “I’m sorry for being excited to spend some friendship time with Bernie tomorrow. When you get to spend time with a famous fencer or whatever, you’ll understand!”

                “She’s not even famous. You just like her work.”

                “Well she should be famous!” Feeling his phone vibrate, he saw it was a message from one of his usual girls. Ah, she was on campus already and wanted him to stop by for a bit. Hmmm, well besides getting dinner with the childhood quartet, he wasn’t doing much. Perfect!

                “Hey, isn’t that Bernie?”

                Sylvain was about to send a response but he looked up at Felix’s comment and frowned as he took in the scene.

                A tall burly man in a black suit was dragging poor Bernadetta out of one of the dorm buildings. She was obviously not wanting to go with him as her heels were digging into the ground but he was much stronger than her and pulling her along with no issue.

                Sylvain shoved his phone into his pocket before taking off towards them. He heard Felix call out but Sylvain ignored him. As he got closer, he saw Bernadetta looked terrified as she kept trying to pull away from him.

                “No, no, I don’t want to go!”

                Without needing to think about it, Sylvain came upon them, closed his hands into a fist and clocked the man in the face. He released Bernadetta in surprise and reeled back, obviously not expecting the punch.

                “Come on!” Sylvain grabbed Bernadetta’s hand and began running.

                “Of course, you’re leaving this mess to me!” yelled Felix after them but he cracked his knuckles as he approached the man.

                Sylvain saluted to Felix before focusing on getting away. He didn’t know how good her stamina was but she was shorter than him so he decided hiding was probably better than trying to outrun the guy. “In here!” Sylvain pushed open the door to the math building and after a quick glance to make sure the man was nowhere in sight(thank you Felix), he pulled Bernadetta inside and tried the door to one of the classrooms. Sighing in relief that it was unlocked, he led her inside and then slammed the door shut and sat on the floor in front of the door.

                “If we sit right here, he can’t see us through the window if he does come in.” Although Sylvain doubted the man would come this far. There were so many buildings on campus and the chance of him going to this exact one was slim at best, especially with Felix keeping him distracted.

                Bernadetta sat down next to him. “Thank you Sylvain.”

                “No problem Bernie. But seriously, I would love to give that guy a piece of my mind.” Sylvain punched his fist into his open palm. “We should let public safety know.” Wait, since he had dragged Bernadetta out of a dorm building, was that where Bernie’s dorm was? Ugh, then that guy probably knew where she lived. Maybe it would be safer for her to go somewhere else? Would Ingrid let Bernie stay with her until this was cleared up?

                “Uh, but, well uh.”

                “Don’t worry about it Bernie, we’ll make sure that creep doesn’t bother you anymore.”

                “He works for my dad!”

                Sylvain paused in mid-text and looked at Bernadetta. “Huh?”

                She fidgeted in place. “He, uh, works for my dad. He was trying to get me to go see my dad. My dad’s in town and wanted to get dinner with me but I really didn’t want to see him and I know it probably looked bad but oh Bernie, you probably messed everything up and now everyone else is going to get in trouble cause you’re so stupid.”

                Sylvain opened and shut his mouth. Oh boy. “So, uh, is there a reason you don’t want to see your dad?”

                “Well the last time he wanted to have a meal with me he brought a boy with him for me to meet. It was so awkward and I ended up hiding under the table and my dad was so mad about it afterwards.”

                Sylvain frowned, noting how Bernadetta’s fidgeting got worse as she brought up the incident with her dad, her eyes darting here and there. “Why did he bring a boy for you to meet?”

                “Oh to uh, as a possible suitor I mean. My dad is very…pushy about me marrying well. He’s very focused on making sure I will be a good wife. He’s totally going to make sure I go to this meeting…”

                Sylvain was really not liking this guy. He leaned back against the door. “Well, what if I go with you?”

                “Huh?”

                “Like as a friend. A male friend. To get your dad off your back.”

                “Sylvain, you don’t have to…”

                “If this gives you peace of mind I’ll do it.” He shrugged. “It’s not like my reputation can take a hit anyway from something like this.” If anything, he already destroyed it with all of his relations with girls. “Besides, you said he won’t leave you alone right until you end up going?”

                “Yeah…”

                “So then I’ll help you to make sure he does leave you alone!” He looked down at his outfit. He usually dressed well and up to date with the fashion trends but this was a situation that called for something a little more extreme. “Hmmm, I should probably change.”

                “You don’t have to do that much!”

                “Don’t worry about it.” Sylvain looked down at his phone and saw Felix was calling. “Hey Felix.”

                “Apparently that guy works for Bernie’s dad.”

                “Yeah, I know that. I’m going to help her out regarding this whole thing. Can you stay with her until I can get changed and stuff? Or is Ingrid busy? She’s in horse club right now right?”

                “Of course you’re going to help her out,” grumbled Felix. “Yeah, I’ll keep an eye on her. I think Annette is on campus now too so I’ll ask her if she’s willing to come over and help.”

                “That’ll be awesome. And you didn’t get beaten up too bad right?”

                “Didn’t even get hit. I had a conversation with the guy. I just let him know my friend was an idiot and he’s searching the campus for you guys.”

                Great, that was something Sylvain was going to have to keep an eye on when he went back up to his room. After coordinating where to meet up and whatnot, Sylvain hung up and turned to Bernadetta. “Felix and hopefully Annette will be here soon to stay with you while I get all ready to go for this thing.” He grinned at her. “Don’t look so worried Bernie, we’ll get this all sorted out, trust me on this one!”

                After a moment hesitation she nodded. “O…okay Sylvain. If you say so.”

***

                Bernadetta fidgeted in place and then stopped, thinking it might annoy Felix and then started again because she couldn’t sit still. They were waiting for Sylvain inside the math building, sitting at the desks in one of the classrooms. Felix had his arms crossed and he slouched low in his seat, staring at the blackboard like it had offended him.

                “Annette couldn’t come, she’s busy.”

                Bernadetta almost jumped out of her seat, Felix sounded so grumpy and annoyed.

                “Sylvain can be an idiot at times but he’s good at stuff like this, he’ll help you out.”

                Felix still sounded ticked off but was he trying to encourage her? It was hard to tell based on his tone of voice and the set of those eyebrows. Or was that just how his face was? She knew some people couldn’t help looking mean. Like Hubert. Maybe.

                “But seriously, who hires a guy to drag his daughter to a meeting? That’s a bit much,” grumbled Felix.

                “Did he, uh hurt you?” Bernadetta whispered. Felix had no visible injuries but she knew her dad always hired the best when it came down to these sort of situations. Sylvain had probably taken him by surprise to even get the punch in.

                Felix shrugged. “It wasn’t a big deal, I just pretended to check if he was okay and distract him long enough until you had gotten away. Didn’t even have to physically injure him although I was very tempted to do so…”

                “Uh, I’m glad you didn’t. I mean, you could probably handle it but he would probably hurt you really bad. They’re really good at their job I mean.”

                “Yeah but attacking a Fraldarius would not go well for him.”

                Bernadetta’s eyes widen. Thanks to her dad, she was forced to memorize the names of families with a high amount of wealth in order to get close to them and possibly marry them for their money. The Fraldarius was a part of the Blaiddyd Conglomerate. In fact, now that she was thinking about it, so were Sylvain’s family, the Gautiers.

                Felix’s phone went off and he pulled it out to check it. Bernadetta couldn’t help but show her surprise at the cute chibi dog charm hanging off it. “Annette wanted us to have matching charms,” grumbled Felix but his eyes softened slightly as he looked at it.

                Maybe he wasn’t as scary as Bernadetta thought.

                “Sylvain says he’s ready to go. He’s waiting for us outside. He said to hurry in case your friend spots him.”

                Bernadetta meekly followed Felix out of the building and had to stop and stare. Sylvain looked like the guy she had seen in his social media. His clothes the high-end of fashion, and a little tight so it showed off how toned he was, hair carefully set in a way that made him seem pompous. The gold watch on his wrist seemed to catch every bit of sunlight and seemed to be yelling at everyone to look at him. He looked like the type of guy that would have nothing to do with someone like Bernadetta and as he approached, she feared he was going to start flirting with her like he did on their first meeting.

                “I hope you weren’t mean to Bernie!” Sylvain gave Felix a warning look.

                Felix rolled his eyes. “Was I mean to you?”

                Bernadetta had to resist the urge to yelp as Felix looked at her with that annoyed expression. “Uh, no, it…he was fine.”

                Based on the way Sylvain was frowning, it was obvious Bernadetta wasn’t doing a good job of selling the fact.

                “Well, I’ll deal with you later about that Felix!”

                Felix rolled his eyes again. “Well, you better get going.”

                Sylvain nodded. “Right. Okay, leave everything to me Bernie, I’ll fix this problem in no time!”

Chapter Text

This had to be the most awkward situation Bernadetta had ever been in. She shifted in place and looked out the car window. Finding her dad’s “friend” was the easy part. Sylvain had sauntered up to him and explained that he would be going with Bernadetta as her friend. He really did stress the friend part. After a couple of moments where Bernadetta was worried he was going to punch Sylvain, he shrugged and gestured for them to follow.

                So now here they were, in a car, driving to wherever her father had wanted to meet her.

                Feeling her phone vibrate, she took it out and saw it was a text from Sylvain. She looked over in confusion as he was sitting right next to her. Well, sitting was probably not how she would describe it. It was more like lounging. He was half slouched, his elbow resting on the side rest as he looked out the window, looking incredibly bored.  He was tapping his thigh with his other hand, the pinnacle of a bored rich boy who lived off his parents money.

                Noticing she was looking at him, he gestured with his eyes to her phone. Looking down, she read his text.

                “Everything will be okay Bernie! I know what I’m doing so you don’t have to worry!” The amount of cute stickers and emojis trailing after it, all with the theme of “Don’t give up” was ridiculous and so extra that she couldn’t help but crack a small smile.

                Glancing up, she saw Sylvain wink at her before focusing out the window.

                Before long the car pulled up to one of the most expensive restaurants in town. It was so expensive and exclusive that reservations needed to be made a year and sometimes more in advance and everything on the menu were high double-digits and most more than that.

                The man in the suit got out of the car first and roughly opened the door on Sylvain’s side. “We’re here,” he grumbled.

                Sylvain saluted as he got out. As Bernadetta went to slid out from the same side, Sylvain stopped her with a hand gesture before hurrying to the other side of the car and opened the door on her side. “My lady.” He held out a hand.

                Gulping, she took it and got out of the car.

                “Your father is waiting for you inside. This way Miss Varley…and Mr. Gautier.”

                “Sheesh, you punch a guy once and he holds a grudge forever. It’s not my fault, he’s not good at his job. Also Bernie, you can let up a little, I can’t feel my fingers…”

                “Oh! I’m sorry Sylvain!” She released him and rubbed her hands together. Stupid Bernie, what if she broke Sylvain’s hand? Well, she probably couldn’t, she wasn’t that strong but still! She could sprain it. Wait, could a hand be sprained from clutching it too hard!?

                Her thoughts swirled around and around as she followed her dad’s man and Sylvain into the restaurant. The lighting was dim, the interior modern and a live jazz band was playing in a corner of the room. Everyone was dressed up and Bernadetta felt like she was really out of place in her sweatshirt and comfy pajama pants, her hair frazzled and messy. Why didn’t she think to change like Sylvain did!? She could feel everyone looking at her, probably judging and wondering why a girl like her was in a place like this.

                They were led to the back of the restaurant, into a private room. Her father’s man positioned himself outside the door probably set there so if Bernadetta tried to run, he could stop her. That had happened once. She had made it halfway down the block before anyone thought of chasing after her.

                “Go on,” he growled, gesturing for them to go on.

                “Don’t mind if we do,” Sylvain said smoothly, leading the way inside.

                A single table was set up in the large private room, obviously set aside for parties. Bernadetta’s father, Henrick Varley was waiting for them at the table. Dressed up in a suit and tie, his disgust and disappointment seeing Bernadetta was so evident and strong that she wanted to hide under the table like last time. Thankfully this time, there was no boy in sight.

                “Took you long enough to get here Bernadetta. And you are?”

                Sylvain confidently walked over to the table and pulled out a seat, pointedly ignoring Henrick’s question. Realizing he was waiting for her, Bernadetta hurried over and took the seat. After making sure she was settled, Sylvain sat next to her, shifting his seat over slightly so he was closer to her than Henrick. The waiter came by to fill up their water glasses and handed out menus.

                “What are you in the mood for Bernie? The lobster sounds good. Wait, do you have any food allergies? I don’t think I ever asked you.”

                “Uh, I don’t have any allergies…” Bernadetta glanced at her father and then at the menu. It was a good thing that Henrick did not have the power to burn people with his eyes because Sylvain would have been a pile of ashes by now.

                “Then I’ll go with the beef tenderloin!” Sylvain handed his menu to the waiter.

                Bernadetta noticed that was the most expensive thing on the menu, cooked in a very expensive wine and saffron and truffles. “I’ll have the crab cakes,” she stammered.

                “And for your meal?” asked the waiter.

                Crap, the crab cakes was an appetizer. “T…that’s fine! I don’t need anything else.” Who knew how much she would eat right now anyway?

                “Get an extra plate, we’ll share if she isn’t full from the crab cakes.” Sylvain winked and leaned back in his chair.

                “Of course sir.” The waiter took the menu from Bernadetta and left the large room.

                Sylvain took a sip of water before finally nodding to Henrick. “I realized I haven’t introduced myself. Sylvain Gautier.”

                “Gautier,” repeated Henrick. Bernadetta could tell his mind was whirling as he placed the name to the family in question. The slight twitch of the eyes and Bernadetta could tell he had placed it and Henrick immediately relaxed, the eyes softening. “What are you to my daughter?”

                “Isn’t it obvious?” Sylvain shrugged.

                Henrick looked at Bernadetta and then back at him and then back to her. “So Bernadetta?”

                Bernadetta couldn’t meet his eye and she looked down at the white tablecloth and started counting each individual strand of fabric.

                “Bernadetta!”

                She winced and felt herself drawing inward, the steely tone in Henrick’s voice taking her back to when she lived at home and he was demanding something or other from her. Feeling warmth against her hand, she looked down to see Sylvain had reached over under the table and grasped her hand. He gave her a small squeeze before letting go, leaning forward slightly.

                “Why don’t we keep today pleasant? I’m sure you know Bernie is a quiet one.” Sylvain’s expression was dark, his eyes cold.

                Henrick examined Sylvain for a moment and then looked at Bernadetta before pulling out his phone. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a quick call to make.”

                “Of course. Go on, I know how important business can be.”

                Henrick got up from the table and left the room.

                Bernadetta let out a long sigh and her tense shoulder slumped.

                “Really hope I’m not overstepping here Bernie,” spoke up Sylvain. He fiddled with his gold watch and looked at her nervously, almost no trace of the confident boy from earlier on his face.  

                “Huh?”

                “I mean, I’m implying that we’re…you know. Of course I don’t think like that at all Bernie! We’re totally not like that and it’s cool but I thought it would be the best way to quickly get your dad off your back since he seems like the type that cares a lot about this kind of stuff but I don’t want to put you in an awkward position…” Sylvain sighed and picked up his water glass and downed it one long gulp.

                She had to crack a small smile at Sylvain’s antics. “It’s…it’s okay Sylvain. I get it and it’s uh, fine.”

                “Are you sure?” He frowned.

                She nodded. “It’s not like he pays much attention to me after these kinds of things anyway.” Although would he pay attention more now that Sylvain has declared he was her….nope, she couldn’t even think of him like that, it was too weird.

                “He doesn’t pay that much attention to you?” Sylvain frowned.

                Before Bernadetta could respond, Henrick walked back into the room. Immediately Sylvain slipped back into his role and Bernadetta resumed her usual behavior of staring at the table.

                “Sorry about leaving like that, work can be quite hectic at times, I am sure you are aware of that as well Sylvain Gauiter.”

                Sylvain nodded. “Of course. I’m going into the business field myself, I’m inheriting my family’s fortune after all.”

                “Oh, are you now?”

                Bernadetta could hear the hopeful edge in her father’s voice. Could he be any more desperate?

                “Well, that is smart of you to do so and your family must be proud to continue your family’s legacy.”

                As her father spoke, the waiter came out with their meals and Bernadetta became hyper focused on eating her crab cakes. Each word felt like a pin was being pushed into her stomach.

                “Tell me Sylvain Gautier, I am curious, what about my daughter has caught your eye? She is a very….” Henrick paused for a moment. “…quiet girl.”

                “Well, it was her writing. It is very articulate and well done and well that was what attracted me to her,” Sylvain replied smoothly.

                “Her writing,” Henrick’s nose wrinkled like he had just eaten something sour. “You’re still writing that trifle? Honestly, I know you want to become an editor of all things but you should focus more on applying and looking for internships.”

                Bernadetta winced, her food not having any taste anymore.

                Sylvain put down his utensils, his eyes cold. “Sir Varley, I greatly enjoy your daughter’s work and you should be proud you have a daughter with as much skill as she does.”

                Bernadetta could tell a conversation had passed in the silent stare down between Henrick and Sylvain. Henrick was the first to look away and he focused on his meal, the room suddenly quiet.

                The rest of the meal passed by in almost silence, Sylvain and Henrick painfully pleasant to each other. When the dessert menu was brought out, Bernadetta shook her head, the crab cakes already not sitting well in her stomach. Sylvain passed as well and stood. “Well, it’s probably time for the two of us to get back to campus. Come on Bernie.”

                Bernadetta scrambled to her feet and after a murmured goodbye, she followed Sylvain out. Her father’s man was waiting for them and he brought the car out front and took them back to campus.  Sylvain saluted to him as they got out.

                “Finally,” he said with a sigh after the car pulled away and they were walking in the direction of the dorms. He removed the watch from his wrist and shoved it into his pocket and ruffled his hair.

                “I’m sorry you had to do all that for me,” she mumbled.

                “It was no problem at all Bernie! Seriously, if he comes by again doing stupid stuff like this, let me know, I will be over in a minute to help you out! But honestly, I can understand why you didn’t want to meet him, he’s obviously a piece of work…oh sorry Bernie.”

                She shook her head. “No, it’s true, you can say it.” She gave him a pained smile. It had obviously gone so well since Sylvain was of the Gautier family. Henrick had probably seen the dollar signs. “But thank you Sylvain. He’ll probably leave me alone about that kind of stuff for now.”

                “Well I’m glad about that at least. What are your plans after this?”

                “I’m probably going to go up to my room and write or something. Today was a long day…”

                “I totally get you. Oh, are we going to hang out tomorrow though right? I was looking up stuff in the area and I found this really cute and quaint used bookstore on the other end of town. We don’t have to but I thought it would be fun and there’s apparently a local ice cream parlor just down the street from it. Wait, do you eat ice cream in the winter?” He paused. “Or we don’t have to do that at all if you don’t want to, I just wanted to suggest it so we don’t have to hang around campus-but if you want to, that’s fine too!”

                Bernadetta shook her head. “No, I like that idea. Sounds good.”

                “Awesome! I’ll see you tomorrow then! Oh do you want me to walk you back to your dorm or you good?”

                “I think I’ll be fine, thanks Sylvain.”

                “No problem. I’ll see you tomorrow then Bernie!”

                Bernadetta waved goodbye before heading back to her own room. As she took the stairs up, she suddenly remembered the floor meeting was supposed to be at five. Looking at her phone, she groaned, it was six. Her RA was definitely going to chew her out for missing it. Well, might as well get it over with so she could get back to work on the next fanfiction chapter.

Chapter Text

Bernadetta looked at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She had gone with one of her long-sleeved shirts, over a baggy sweatshirt coupled with a pair of jeans. Was this enough to wear for a day out with Sylvain? Usually she wouldn’t care about this kind of stuff but he had dressed up to help her out yesterday, the least she could do was not look like a bum. She didn’t know if the clothes sold it but, at least, her hair was free of knots as she had run a brush through it so it didn’t look like a rat’s nest.

                She returned to her room and grabbed her phone and her purse(a limited edition one of a character’s face from one of her favorite anime). As she headed out, she noticed an email from her mother. Her mother for some reason had never gotten texting down and opening it, the first half was filled with her usual pleasantries but the second half was where the real meat of the conversation was. Aka, her mother had found out from her father about Bernadetta “dating” the heir to the Gautier fortune.

                “Dad didn’t wait long about that did he…” Bernadetta sighed. She composed a quick email back to her mother, responding to all the questions posed and making it clear that Sylvain was just a friend helping her out. She wasn’t worried about her mother telling on her. Despite her mother’s reluctance to stand up to Henrick to his face, her mother was able to work in the shadows, having her own little rebellions here and there. It was only due to her influence that Bernadetta ended up being able to go to Garreg Mach in the first place despite her father wanting her to stay at home and continue to train to “be a good wife”.

                She finished with the email and stuffed her phone in the pocket of her hoodie. The weather was definitely heading towards spring and she wasn’t shivering. Since it was the day before classes, many students were milling around the pathways and some had taken over the outdoor benches and sat under the trees. It always took Bernadetta  a few days to get used to the sudden shift in the school atmosphere overnight.

                Getting close to the student parking lot, she slowed and pulled out her phone to recheck the meeting location. It was around here right? She wasn’t sure if Sylvain was the type of person to come on time or late so she had hurried over, not wanting him to have to wait more than he had to.

                Although perhaps she should not have worried. Sylvain was casually leaning against the railing that separated the parking lot from the school grounds. A pair of girls were talking to him, their gestures and the way they casually ran their fingers along his arms…

                Well, Bernadetta wasn’t very versed in relationship stuff outside of what she read and watched and wrote herself but it was quite obvious why Sylvain was talking to them. The boy in question was giving them the same signals, his demeanor laid back, his expression having a flirty edge. He would reach out and twirl a finger around the hair of one of the girls’ or he would give them a wink or a smile. It was incredibly fascinating to watch and Bernadetta started taking mental notes. It might not be useful for her current fic but a future fic with any flirty character? This would be perfect!

                As if sensing her stare, Sylvain glanced in her direction. Startled, Bernadetta jumped slightly and gave him an awkward wave. For a moment, his eyes brightened to the boy that she knew before he reverted to the flirty persona and he turned back to the girls. After a moment of conversation, he walked away from them and hurried over to her.

                “Sorry about that Bernie! They saw me while I was waiting for you.”

                “It’s okay,” she said quickly. “I hope I wasn’t too late.”

                “It’s fine, I wanted to come by early.” He gestured to his car, a high end convertible. “It was pretty cold last night so I wanted to auto start it so it would be warm and toasty inside. I even made sure the seat warmers were turned on!”

                Bernadetta opened the passenger side and climbed in. Beautiful leather interior and the car had the distinct new car smell. It was also surprisingly clean but maybe that made sense considering the kind of person he was when he did not have the flirty persona. It was also incredibly warm in here to the point she was debating on taking off her sweatshirt.

                “You can adjust the temperature however you like,” Sylvain said as he got in. He pulled out his phone and set it in the phone holder that sat in his cupholder. “I use my phone to play music, anything in particular you like?”

                “No, I’m good with anything really.” She did lower the temperature a bit and turn off the seat warmer. Fainting in his car from overheating would probably not be a good look.

                “Hmmm, oh how about the Awakening soundtrack? I took a listen to it after you mentioned how you listened to a few of the tracks while writing certain scenes. The ‘future of despair’ track is really cool.”

                Bernadetta nodded. “It really does help, especially since I’ve played the game so I can visualize stuff with the music since I associate it with the game. Sometimes scenes are really hard to write and having the music really helps me get into the writing mindset.”

                “That makes sense. Ingrid says she’ll visualize what she wants to do beforehand if she’s having trouble with a jump or trick or something in horse club.”

                “Horse club?”

                “Oh, right, the equestrian team it’s called I think? I just call it horse club. They are just riding horses after all, although some of the fancy tricks she does on it is really cool. Of course don’t tell her I said that, I have a reputation to uphold!”

                Bernadetta looked out the city as the city passed them by. It was very cool that Sylvain had a car on campus. She never bothered with it, the college’s bus line good enough to get her any place she wanted to go off campus which usually was to go to the grocery store to restock her fridge or the mall.

                “So, how did the writing go yesterday?”

                “Huh? Oh, it went fine. I’m about halfway through the chapter. Robin is fighting a dragon by herself.”

                “She’s fighting a dragon by herself!? Where’s everyone else!? Oh man was this the task sent by the queen? Wait, don’t tell me, I’ll figure it out when the chapter comes out. Oh but I want to know now. Gah this is such a struggle!”

                Bernadetta had to crack a smile as Sylvain freaked out. It was one thing to see it in written form but to actually see someone talk about her work like this in person was something else entirely!

                Before long, Sylvain pulled the car up in front of a quaint little bookshop with bright red painted walls. “Oh wow, it looked a lot bigger in the pictures,” he commented.

                “They’re usually like this.” Bernadetta got out of the car and walked up to the door. The little bell on top of the door jangled as she opened it and a smile lit up her face as the sweet vanilla scent of old books invaded her nose.

***

                What was that saying? A bull in a china shop? Yeah, that was it. Sylvain felt like a bull in a china shop.

                The book store was cramped. The shelves were close together, packed tight with books, the singular walkway in between the shelves barely enough room for a person to walk through. Sylvain was scared if he stretched his arm out too far he was going to knock books off a shelf. Bernadetta didn’t seem to have the same kind of worry. As soon as she stepped in, she had zoomed away faster than Sylvain thought possible, weaving through the shelves like she had done it hundreds of times before.

                It took him almost five minutes to find her in the back of the store, her eyes shining as she looked into a glass case. Wait, why did a bookstore have a glass case anyway!? Going closer, he saw it was a glass case displaying books. Old books by the looks of it, the covers filigreed in gold.

                “What’s up Bernie?”

                “They have a first edition copy of Loog and the Blue Knight!

                Sylvain stared at her blankly, not understanding why this was such a big deal. Oh wait, didn’t Ingrid like these Loog books? Curiously, he peered over her shoulder and he looked at the price tag in disbelief. “Why is it so expensive!?”

                “It’s a first edition copy. They only made around two hundred of them I think?” She sighed. “It was so nice being able to see it. I’m going to check out the reference books if you don’t mind Sylvain.”

                “Go ahead Bernie, take your time.”

                As she disappeared into the depths of the store, Sylvain looked back to the glass case. There were a few other books there but the Loog book was the most impressive. Thinking, he pulled out his phone and did a few searches online.

***

                “I’m sorry I took so long!” Bernadetta got into Sylvain’s car, a bag of books in hand. Stupid, stupid, she was so stupid! She had gotten so focused on looking at books that she had not seen Sylvain’s text about waiting in the car for her until thirty minutes afterwards.

                “It’s cool, don’t worry about it Bernie.” Sylvain put his phone in the cup holder. “Good book haul?”

                “I found a couple reference books that would help with writing and a few others in series I’m collecting.”

                “Cool, cool. You up for ice cream now?”

                “Yes, let’s go get some.” Truthfully she wasn’t too big on ice cream in the winter but she felt bad for making Sylvain wait so long and he seemed really into getting some.

                “Great! Oh wait, before we get going, random question but when’s your birthday?”

                “My birthday? Ethereal Moon, twelfth. Why do you ask?”

                “Well, I guess this is a belated birthday present then.” Sylvain reached into the back seat of the car and pulled out a small wrapped package.

                Bernadetta’s eyes widen as she stared at the package like it would bite her. “Sylvain you didn’t have to…”

                “It’s okay! I did it because I wanted to. Open it!”

                Bernadetta accepted the package and carefully removed the brown wrapping paper. The copy of the Loog and the Blue Knight looked up at her. She stared at it flabbergasted and then looked at Sylvain. “I can’t…I can’t accept this,” she stammered.

                “It’s fine Bernie! Really.”

                “N…No, I’ll pay for part of it!” This book would burn through two months of her monthly allowance. And Sylvain just bought it for her!?

                “Put your money away Bernie, I don’t want it. It’s a birthday present! You don’t pay for your birthday present.”

                “But, this is…”

                “It’s okay! Really.” He smiled gently at her. “If I didn’t want to do it I wouldn’t have. It’s yours now Bernie, no take backs!”

                She had the feeling that even if she insisted, Sylvain would not give in on this matter. She clutched the book to her chest. “Thank you,” she murmured. “When’s your birthday by the way?”

                “Garland Moon, fifth.”

                She nodded and looked out the window as Sylvain began the trip over to the ice cream parlor. There was enough time between now and then. She had to get something for him that rivaled this book.

***

                “So, how did your date go?”

                Sylvain looked at Felix in annoyance before grabbing the tuna roll Felix was going for in retaliation. “It wasn’t a date!”

                “You were hanging out with a girl, it was a date.” Felix rolled his eyes.

                “I agree with Sylvain on this one,” said Dimitri. “Based on how Sylvain defines a date, it probably wasn’t a date.”

                “You didn’t do anything weird to Bernie right?” Ingrid glared at him.

                “I didn’t!” Sylvain grabbed another roll from the sushi boat in protest. The quartet(plus Dedue) had their traditional sushi boat dinner the day before classes started. Sylvain had invited Bernadetta to join them but she refused, stating she wanted to get some writing done before class tomorrow.

                “We just went to a used book store and got ice cream afterwards. Bernie looked like she was having fun!”

                “Well I’m going to check with her later.” Ingrid’s threatening glare made it clear that if Sylvain wasn’t telling the truth, there would be hell to pay.     

                “Fine, you do that,” grumbled Sylvain. “Oh! Since you are going to talk to her, can you make her feel better about me buying a book for her? It was a book she wanted to get!” he added in protest as everyone looked at him. Sheesh, why did they always think the worst of him?

                “Okay…” said Ingrid.

                “It was a first edition copy of Loog and the Blue Knight.”

                “A first…” Ingrid stared at Sylvain. “What!?”

                “What is the matter?” asked Dimitri with a frown.

                “It’s…Sylvain, you dropped that much money for her!?” Ingrid whipped out her phone and typed something into it and showed Dimitri and Felix. Both of them looked at the screen and their eyes widen and they looked at Sylvain.

                “Are you sure you don’t want to sleep with her?” Felix asked with a frown.

                “No I don’t!”

                “I believe him, Sylvain doesn’t put this much effort and money into girls he wants to have…those kinds of relations with,” said Dimitri.

                “Thanks...I think.”

                Ingrid looked at him curiously. “Why did you buy her the book anyway?”

                “Because she wanted it? Seriously, can’t I do a nice thing for a friend?”

                “Well you can but this…”

                Sylvain focused on the sushi boat and contemplated the next piece of sushi to eat. He couldn’t tell them why Bernadetta’s stories meant so much to him and why he owed a lot to her. So what if it cost a lot? Seeing that happy expression on her face as she carefully flipped through the pages was worth it, especially with the events of the previous day and everything that happened with her dad.

                “I will say, Sylvain was being a good friend and I think this relationship should be encouraged and not ridiculed for it,” spoke up Dedue.

                Sylvain looked at Dedue in shock.

                “I’m only stating the truth. May I have an avocado roll?”

                Sylvain handed one over. That’s it, Dedue was definitely getting a birthday present from him this year.

                “I guess but it’s a still a little much.” Ingrid shook her head. “Well I’ll talk to Bernie later about it.”

Chapter Text

                 Sylvain smiled and took the picture. Perfect. The angle was perfect, the use of the ruler to show the size just added a little extra detail to the shot. He was totally going to have a good night because of this! He threw his phone on his bed and put his pants back on. Now which shirt would he go with today…

                As he was digging through a drawer, he heard his phone go off. A text from Bernadetta!  They hadn’t been able to hang out since classes started two weeks ago. Between the assignments and club activities(for Bernie at least), there just was no time. Although she did manage to release the next chapter of the fanfiction and Sylvain wanted to die inside after reading it. Robin had been sent on a quest to defeat a monstrous dragon that was terrorizing the country. After a harrowing battle that had Sylvain on the edge of his seat, Robin had defeated it and crawled back to the queen bleeding and wounded. The chapter ended with Robin collapsing before the queen and although Sylvain knew Robin was going to be alright, he still worried that maybe Bernadetta had changed her mind about the story having a happy ending.

                Checking the text, he sighed. Apparently Bernadetta had an archery competition this weekend. Oh wait. He texted her back asking if it was a home or away game(did archery competitions even use those terms?).  How cool would it be to go and cheer Bernie on? Apparently she was super good at it too! Maybe he could rope in the others in cheering her on too!

                He threw down his phone and put a shirt on before going back to his phone. Time to send that picture! He quickly attached it and sent it out right as a text came in from Bernadetta below it. Sylvain spat out every curse he knew. He hadn’t been paying attention and accidently sent the picture to Bernadetta.

                This was bad! Really bad! He slammed the call button and put the phone up to his ear, his heart pounding. Please, please, please, let her not have seen it!

                He heard a click and Bernadetta’s soft confused voice, “Uh hello?”

                “Bernie, did you see my latest text?”

                “No, hang on I’ll look at it now.”

                “NO!”

                She let out a small shriek.

                Sylvain felt bad but this was a matter of life and death. “Listen to my Bernie, don’t open our text chain. Delete the whole thing without looking.”

                “But…”

                “I’ll resend you all the meme pics and stuff, just whatever you do don’t open our text chat! I’m serious! Don’t open it. Delete it right now.”

                “Uh, okay.” After a moment of silence she spoke up. “Okay, I deleted it.”

                Sylvain let out a long, drawn out sigh in relief. “Thanks Bernie.”

                “What did you send me?”

                “Oh, it was nothing important. Just sent something to you by mistake but since it’s deleted right now, everything is cool!”

                “Uh…okay?”

                Sylvain felt really bad, Bernadetta sounded so confused but their friendship was on the line! She wasn’t Ingrid, who was used to Sylvain’s antics since they were children and was able to just shrug something like this off. “A…anyway, if you don’t mind, I’ll come cheer you on for your archery thing this weekend! I’ve never seen you in action before and it’ll be cool to see!”

                “That’s fine. Uh, I’ll see you then.”

                “I’ll see you then Bernie!” Sylvain hung out and let out another long sigh of relief. That was way too close. He was so emotionally wrecked and he didn’t want to send the picture to the planned recipient. However he wanted to have a fun night, so he sent it to the intended recipient after double checking the text chat.

***

                Bernadetta stared at her phone, not really sure how to take that conversation she just had with Sylvain. What in the world was that? What did he send her that he really did not want her to see? She had been curious but she did delete the whole text chat as per his insistence. But that was all so strange…

                She pulled open the text chat with Ingrid. About two weeks ago, Ingrid had contacted her after finding out about the Loog book. She made it clear that her chat was always open to Bernadetta, especially for things involving Sylvain.  That had led to Bernadetta being included in the group chat with their whole friend group. In the beginning of the school year, she would have never imagined herself being in a group chat with the heir of the Blaiddyd Conglomerate, his childhood friends, along with Dedue, Annette and Mercedes. It was a casual chat, mostly filled with memes and plans to hang out. Bernadetta had only posted once to introduce herself and then lurked for the rest of the time. They were a very friendly, fun group and she felt like she was learning more sides to Felix out of everyone else in the group chat. He used so many cute emojis.

                “Hey Ingrid, if you don’t mind I have a question for you? It involves Sylvain.”

                “What did he do!? Do I need to go over there and teach him a lesson for you?” An emoji of a fist was at the end of the message.

                “No, no, it wasn’t anything that bad. At least I don’t think so. He texted me something but before I could look at it, he called me, frantic about me deleting the text. Like it was kind of scary how frantic he was. I was just wondering what that was about?”

                A long pause. 

                Was Ingrid in class now? Bernadetta checked the clock on the wall and realized she should probably start getting ready for her next class. As she threw on a hoodie, she heard her phone go off with a response.

                “Don’t worry about it, Sylvain was just being an idiot. Be glad he caught you in time before you saw it. I’ve gotten many a pictures by accident and let’s just say, I know way too much about him. There was one time he accidently put a pic up in our group chat. Be glad you weren’t around for that!”

                Wait what? Was there a code to this or something? “I don’t get it?”

                “He sends pictures to those girls he…spends the night with. Yeah, let’s go with that.”

                Oh. OH.

                Bernadetta made a face. She had definitely dodged a bullet there. Well, she knew Sylvain was that kind of person but sometimes she forgot considering how he talked and treated her and she didn’t follow him on social media.

                “He definitely did it on accident to you though so don’t worry too much! If he didn’t care about you seeing it, he wouldn’t have called you right away to fix it.”

                She could tell Ingrid was trying to make her feel better but it was super weird to think about. She shivered and focused on the Loog book currently in a glass case on top of her dresser. She had bought the case the same day she had gotten the book. There was no way she could leave it out and exposed to the elements! That was the Sylvain she knew and had to keep reminding herself of that. Especially since he was apparently coming to cheer her on during the archery competition this weekend.

                “Don’t make things weird Bernie,” she reminded herself, as she grabbed her bookbag and headed for class.

Chapter Text

                Bernadetta was so cool. Sylvain had never been to an archery competition before so he didn’t know how exciting it was to watch people hit targets. Especially Bernie! It was like she became someone else as she lined up her shots and aimed for the targets. No fear, no hesitation, it was so different than the Bernadetta Sylvain had gotten to know over the past few months and it was cool seeing her like that. Every time she hit the target he wanted to get up and yell and cheer but it seemed like archery was like golf and everyone stayed super quiet.

                He also couldn’t share the moment with anyone as all of his friends were busy with their own sports. Why did everyone have to have games and competitions over the weekend!? Bernadetta glanced in his direction and Sylvain gave her an over the top wave and a thumbs up. He didn’t understand how the point system worked but it seemed like Garreg Mach was winning so that meant Bernadetta was doing well right?

                She gave him a small nod back before focusing back on the matter at hand.

                Sylvain sighed and slumped slightly in his seat. He knew it was his fault but it still bummed him out. Ever since he accidently sent that pic to Bernie, her responses to his texts had been short and sweet. She had been using periods at the end of her sentences for crying out loud! It didn’t take much for Sylvain to surmise that Ingrid had probably informed Bernadetta of what the picture had been.

                He had tried to patch it up later with a few texts telling her it was one hundred percent an accident and he didn’t mean it at all but he knew that this kind of stuff was super damaging, especially if sent to a girl that didn’t ask for it. Well at least Bernie was still talking to him but at the same time it wasn’t the fun, happy, go lucky conversation they had before.  How in the world was he going to fix this…

                Maybe with another one of those rare Loog books? However he didn’t know if she owned any of the other ones and he really did not want to buy her a duplicate. Some writing related thing? A fancy pen? Did she even write with a pen or did she only type up her works? Gah! He had known her for months and he didn’t know what to get her? What kind of friend was he!?

                His thoughts spun in circles as the competition carried on. Between Bernadetta and Claude, Garreg Mach won with plenty of points to spare.

 Sylvain got up from his seat and hurried down to the floor as the teams were walking to the locker rooms. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Claude hurrying over to talk with Byleth. Well that was weird, he didn’t know Claude talked with the TA outside of class. Although she wasn’t the TA for Professor Hanneman’s class anymore.

                Wait, why did any of that matter?

                “Bernie! Hang on a moment!”

                The girl in question was halfway across the field and she turned to him as he hurried over. “Oh, hi Sylvain,” she squeaked, clutching her bow.

                Sylvain plastered on a bright smile. “You were so cool today Bernie! I knew you were a super good archer but you’re really good!”

                “Thank you so much,” she whispered.

                Sylvain dropped his voice to a whisper. “I know I wrote it in a message but I’m really sorry about what happened Bernie. I didn’t mean to do it on purpose and I’m glad I was able to catch you in time. If you talk to Ingrid, I’m sure she’ll tell you that I’ve done it to her too. Completely on accident. I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future.”

                “Okay,” she murmured, looking at the ground.

                Sylvain winced. “No, I really, really mean it. Never again. Our friendship is worth so much more than stuff like that!”

                Bernadetta looked up and gave him a small smile. “I get it. It’s okay Sylvain, I know you didn’t mean it.” After a moment of silence, she glanced back to the locker room. “I should probably get going. Coach Shamir likes to have a meeting after competitions to debrief and stuff.”

                “Oh, right I shouldn’t keep you.” He rubbed the back of his neck.

                “But if you aren’t busy tomorrow, I need to go to the mall. A game I want came out-”

                “Sure, I’ll come with. We can take my car. Oh, and the mall has this really cute crepe shop on the first floor. Have you been there? It’s tucked in a corner and not many people seem to know about it.” It was so out of the way that Sylvain had gotten handsy with girls a few times there but Bernadetta didn’t need to know that. She probably already thought lowly of him.

                “We can go there too.” Her smile was much wider this time and happier, more in line with the girl Sylvain knew.

                “Great! Eleven good? Ack, we can talk later, online, you should probably get going. I’ll see you later Bernie.”

***

                Originally Bernadetta was planning on going to the mall by herself but Sylvain had looked so sad and dejected that she couldn’t help but invite him to come along. She knew he was nervous and upset because of what had happened earlier in the week. Based on the desperate sounding messages and increase in meme material, he was definitely feeling horrible about what happened. Well, he was partly like that because of her. It was just weird to think about and acting normal after something like that, even if she didn’t see anything!

                Maybe that was the real reason she invited him along, they could try to go back to the friendship they had before. Hopefully. Bernadetta really wished she could see her therapist before this but alas their session was next Thursday. She was just going to have to manage it on her own and remember her therapist’s words.

                “Your brain is hitting the panic switch more than it needs to,” she murmured.

                “What was that Bernie?”

                She looked up at Sylvain and shook her head. “Nothing, just reminding myself of stuff. Uh, it’s on the second floor.” She gestured to the nearby escalator. Since it was the weekend, the mall was jam packed. Thankfully not as much as it would be yesterday but there was still a lot of people, including high schoolers and people from the college division. She never really understood how people could spend all day in a mall going window shopping. She was more of the get in, get out sort of person.

                Sylvain nodded. “Lead the way Bernie. What kind of game are you buying anyway?”

                “Tokyo Mirage Session. Actually, Chrom is in it.”

                Sylvain’s eyes widen. “Wait what?”

                “It’s a crossover between two series. Chrom looks super edgy.” Bernadetta took out her phone and pulled up a picture and showed him.

                Sylvain took her phone and stared at the picture in disbelief. “Wait…what? Is this canon? How? Does Robin know about this!?”

                She giggled and took her phone back. “It’s an alternative world thing. It might take a while to explain since I assume you know nothing about SMT?”

                “Are you just stringing letters together?”

                “Nope! It’s another series. It’s a crossover work.”

                “A crossover huh?” Sylvain seemed to think it over. “Oh wait, is this going to play a role in A Long Lasting Dream?!”

                “Probably not. I just wanted to buy it.” She made a face as they reached the game store. The store itself was on the smaller side and it was packed with people. Children convincing their parents to buy games for them, young adults and teens hanging around browsing and looking at the merchandise wall.

                “You want me to buy it for you?” asked Sylvain.

                “No…I…I got it.”

                “Alright, I’ll wait for you out here then. You can do it Bernie!” He gave her a thumbs up.

                She had to giggle and gave him a thumbs up in return as she headed into the shop. Since she had it on preorder all she had to do was navigate the crowd and get on line for checkout. Thankfully that went by quickly and she got up to the front with no problem.

                “Hi, I’m here to pick up Tokyo Mirage Session,” she murmured. “I have it on preorder.”

                The transaction was thankfully smooth and quick and she walked out with the game in hand. Her shoulders slumped as she left the store, it was way too crowded and loud in there. After taking a few deep breaths to try to return herself to baseline she looked around for Sylvain.

                It took her a couple seconds but she spotted him nearby, chatting to a girl, his flirty demeanor on in full swing. Like always it was fascinating to watch Sylvain when he was like this. Everything about him was different, from the way he held himself to his expressions. It was kind of like he was two different people-

                Oh wait, that would be a cool story idea!

                She pulled a small notebook out of her purse and quickly jotted it down. Probably for something original, this wouldn’t work for any of her current ships and fandoms. Although maybe she could figure something out…. Hmmm, it would probably be best not to, A Long Lasting Dream was already keeping her busy, especially since it was reaching the end.

                She put the notebook away and wasn’t sure what to do next. Sylvain seemed to be really into his conversation with that girl. For a moment she had to wonder if this was the girl Sylvain was trying to send that picture to. Did girls even like that stuff? Hmm, maybe she should incorporate something like that in a future work?

                Bernadetta edged closer, not really sure of where to go. Would it be rude to just go up to them? Or maybe she should wait here? Oh, why did she ask her therapist what to do in situations like this!?

                Sylvain looked in her direction and did a double take. He looked down at the girl and said something before hurrying over to her. “Sorry, sorry! Were you waiting long Bernie? Did you get the game?”

                She pulled the game box out of the bag to show him.

                “Cool! Wait, the characters look so modern!”

                “The story takes place in modern times.” Glancing behind Sylvain, she noticed the girl was watching them with an expression of confusion. “Uh, is everything okay with your…” How in the world was she supposed to put this? “…friend?” she said finally.

                “Huh? Yeah, everything’s fine.” Sylvain rolled his eyes. “Sometimes they just get so clingy afterwards.” He paused and winced. “Sorry, sorry Bernie, didn’t mean to make it come out like that.”

                “It…it’s okay,” she said quickly. “I…I get what you mean.”

                “Oh, okay…cool.” Sylvain rubbed the back of his neck. “Let’s go get crepes?”

                She nodded. “Yeah, let’s do that.” As she followed Sylvain down the escalator to the first floor, she added quietly, “You don’t have to try and like, hide that stuff from me. I know that you do those kinds of things.” From what she was able to gather in her conversations with Ingrid, Sylvain was typically very open about this kind of stuff. It was sweet of him to try and tone it down for her but at the same time it was kind of annoying that he thought of her as more innocent than what she was. Sure she had no real life experience but her fanfiction reading history told another story entirely.

                “Okay, I just didn’t want you to feel so weird about it.”

                “It’s okay, really. Just…I don’t really want the details though.”

                “Understandable. It’s right over there!” Sylvain pointed out the crepe shop. He had been right about it being out of the way. This area of the mall was almost devoid of people except for a few stragglers. How this little shop stayed in business, Bernadetta had no idea.  A few tables were set up outside the shop and a couple people were eating crepes.

                “I know it looks weird but their crepes are super good! Do you have a preference? My treat.”

                “Sylvain, you don’t have to!”

                “I want to, it’s okay. Let me make it up to you for…you know.”

                “Okay…”

                “Cool! Anyway, you can go sit, I’ll get the crepes. Any flavor fine?”

                Bernadetta nodded and sat down at the table farthest from the other occupied ones. Not really knowing what else to do while waiting for the crepes, she took out her phone, ready to just look around the internet while she waited.

                “Excuse me,” said a rough, gravely voice.

                She let out a small yelp and looked up to see a man towering over her. His red hair was messy and unkept, a long scar trailing across his face. His clothes seemed old and worn. “Uh…hello,” she stammered.

                He held out an envelope. “Do you mind giving this to that friend of yours?”

                She looked down at the envelope and saw Sylvain’s name on it. She looked up at him in confusion. “But…”

                “He won’t take it from me. We don’t have a…let’s say positive relationship.” He dropped the envelope on the table before Bernadetta could say anymore and walked away quickly. What in the world was that?

                She picked up the envelope turned it over. It wasn’t sealed and there seemed to be a letter inside. For a moment she debated on looking at it but thought against it. Whoever that person was, they obviously knew Sylvain.

                “Sorry for the wait Bernie!” Sylvain hurried over with a tray with two crepes. Two ridiculous crepes with countless amounts of syrups, sauces and candy sticking out of it. The amount of sugar that was probably in it was already making her teeth ache.

                “Those are…uh…” Bernadetta tried to think of an adjective to describe what she was seeing but wasn’t really able to come up with anything.

                “I know, they’re crazy! And pretty cheap too for the price!” He sat down and gestured to the envelope on the table. “What’s that?”

                “Oh, someone came up to me and told me to give it to you.” She held it out to him.

                “Really? It’s not a girl right?” He frowned as he took in how his name was written on the front and he turned it around and pulled out the letter that was inside.

                “No, some guy  with red hair and a scar across his face. He looked kind of scary…” Bernadetta trailed off as she noticed how Sylvain’s face darkened as he read the letter. “Sylvain?”

                “Huh? Sorry.” He shoved the letter in his pocket.

                “Is everything okay?”

                “Everything is fine!”

                Bernadetta frowned. Sylvain’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. It was more like the plastered, fake smile he put on for those girls he hung out with.

                “Try the crepe Bernie! I want to see how much you like it.”

                It didn’t feel right to just let it go but she knew there were things that one didn’t want others to know. Perhaps they were not close enough friends for him to tell her what was going on. That had to be it, not because she wasn’t trustworthy or good enough or because she was stupid-

                She shook her head to try to clear those bad ruminating thoughts away and took a bite out of the crepe. “It’s…not as sweet?”

                “I know right! It’s so weird how despite everything they put on it, they manage to make it not teeth rotting sweet!” Sylvain’s voice had a fake hollow ring to it that kept up for the rest of the afternoon. Even when he was driving them home, his usual banter sounded off to Bernadetta’s ears. She didn’t want to push it though since he seemed so unwilling to tell her.

                “Do you need to me to walk you back to your dorm?” he offered once they pulled up to the college,

                Bernadetta shook her head. “No, it’s fine.” She opened her door and got out. Before she shut it, she looked at him. “Uhh, if you want, you can come over next weekend to play Tokyo Mirage Session. I played the original version so it shouldn’t take me too long to get far in the game so it’ll be interesting.”

                “Sounds good Bernie!” He gave her a thumbs up. “We’ll chat to figure out the details later?”

                Bernadetta nodded. “Sounds good.”

                As she watched him drive to the parking lot, she shook her head and headed for her room, game in hand. Maybe it was something he just needed to take care of and by next weekend Sylvain would be back to normal.

Chapter Text

               Sylvain laid on his bed and stared up at his ceiling. Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. The letter was crumpled in his hand, the words on it memorized from reading it over and over again.

                Hello little brother. Glad to see you’re still being a goody two shoe like always. I’m going to need a bit of money from you and if you could get me some, especially from daddy-dearest, that would be swell. Oh and don’t think you can just ignore this message, I know where you go to school, little brother.

                A number was under it, a different one than Miklan’s old number. Sylvain had that blocked two years ago.  Why was his older brother here!? Last Sylvain heard, Miklan was causing trouble on the other side of the country. Did he come here because he knew Sylvain was going to school here?

Sylvain grimanced. Of course Miklan knew Sylvain was attending Garreg Mach. It was tradition for the Gautier family to send their kids here.

                It was bad enough that Miklan had found Sylvain, what was worse was that he had given the letter to Bernie to give to him. Was Miklan waiting in the mall for Sylvain to show up? How long was he in town?

                Damn it.

                What in the world was he supposed to do? Based on his childhood there was no way Miklan was going to let this go. It might be best to just give him the money and get it over with.

                He sat up and ran his fingers through his hair before putting the number into his phone and texting his brother. How much and where did they want to meet. Getting this over as soon as possible would be for the better and he was willing to skip class to make sure it was done and everything could go back to normal.

                A knock on the door.

                Glancing at the time, he cursed. Already dinner time? Felix was waiting outside to head down. Sylvain jumped off his bed and checked his reflection in his mirror, taking the extra minute to school his expression to its usual playful smirk before heading out.

***

                “I’m shocked that a goody twoshoe like you would miss class over something like this,” chuckled Miklan.

                Sylvain stuffed his hands in his pockets and glanced around the parking lot of the grocery store. Mlklan had picked this location to meet up, which Sylvain was okay with since it was on the other end of town. The chance of anyone from Garreg Mach seeing him here was slim at best and even moreso since technically he was supposed to be in one of his classes right now.

                “Let’s just get this done and over with Miklan.” He pulled out the envelope of cash and held it out. “Take it and go.”

                Miklan took the envelope, and opened it. With a smile, he began looking through the bills on the inside. “This is why you’re such a good younger brother.”

                Sylvain gritted his teeth, hating how his heart rate sped up and his thoughts ran back to times when he was a child. Miklan said that kind of stuff all the time before punching or kicking Sylvain. “We’re done here right?”

                “But little brother, I’ll be in town for a good while yet, and I’m going to be relying on your help for a little while longer.”

                Sylvain narrowed his eyes.

                Miklan chuckled. “Oh, don’t look at me like that Sylvain. We’re brothers after all and I know you would never abandon family.”

                “You messed up Miklan. I gave you the money so just leave.” Sylvain curled his hands into fists, hating how despite the fact it had been two years since he saw Miklan, he was still frightened of his older brother.

                “A minor setback.” Seemingly satisfied by the money, Miklan put into his pocket. “I have to say though, I wasn’t expecting you to be into girls like that. Your taste has evolved a bit since I last saw you.”

                Sylvain’s eyes narrowed and he took a  threatening step forward. “Keep away from Bernie,” he growled.

                “Bernie? You know her name?”

                Sylvain inwardly cursed. He should have just made her seem like one of his flings. Sylvain the flirt didn’t care about girls, he only cared about sleeping with them. However, just thinking about Miklan getting his grubby hands on sweet, innocent Bernie set Sylvain on edge.

                “Interesting.” Miklan chuckled.

                Sylvain glared at him. “Don’t you get any ideas Miklan.”

                Miklan chuckled. “I wouldn’t even dream of it. Now run along, good little boys go to their classes don’t they? I’ll call you if I need more.”

                Sylvain didn’t move from his spot as he watched Miklan get into an old sedan and drive off.

               Once Miklan was out of sight, Sylvain walked back to his car. Once he was inside, he smacked his fists on the steering wheel, every curse he could think of coming out of his mouth. Damn it, why did Miklan have to show up now and why did it have to be when Sylvain was hanging out with Bernie!? He thought he was finally getting everything together and then this had to happen!

                There was no way he was going to be able to go to school and function in class for the rest of the day. He pulled out his phone and went into his contacts, looking for one of the girls listed in his contacts with a “plus” on the end of their names. What he needed right now was something physical to take his mind off of what happened.

***

                Bernadetta was halfway through writing the next chapter of A Long Lasting Dream when the thought suddenly hit her. Sylvain was going to be in her room in three days. She looked around at her assortment of stuffed animals, craft projects and plants along her windowsill. When was the last time she dusted!? Should she clean the floors!? What did people do when they had friends over?

                 Panic flooded her. What in the world was she doing? This was no time to be writing fanfiction. She needed to prepare. Should she buy snacks? Would Sylvain bring snacks? Her fridge was stocked with a few things but probably nothing Sylvain liked. Hang on, what did he like snack wise? How did she not know this!

               “You’re such a terrible friend Bernie,” she mumbled. Maybe she could ask Ingrid about it and get some. As she took out her phone she paused. Wait, was she supposed to buy things or was Sylvain going to bring it? What about drinks? Should she get tea? Coffee? Something else entirely. Wait, did Sylvain drink alcohol? Based on the pictures on his profile, he did but maybe he only drank when he was hanging around those girls. She didn’t drink alcohol herself and didn’t know what kind Sylvain liked. That was another thing to ask Ingrid.

              She closed her laptop and dug out her collection of cleaning supplies from under the bed and got to work on removing all traces of dust from her room. As she straightened her stuffed animals, it really hit her that she was going to have a boy in her room.

             She dropped a teddy bear and let out a panicked squeal. A boy! She was going to have a boy in her room! Her! Bernadetta Varley who was terrible at social interaction was going to have a boy in her room! And now just any boy but Sylvain! What if he thought her stuff was lame!? Should she hide her stuffed animal collection?

              No, he knew she liked that kind of stuff and she had sent him a few pictures of her sewing projects. Ugh. Why did she have to offer him to come over to play TMS!? Sure, she thought it would be cool to show him that she was actually good at something besides writing and give him a better context to the world her stories took place in since he didn’t seem to play video games himself but him, in her room!?

            “Calm down Bernie, deep breathes.” She took a few slow, deep breathes and quickly turned on her song playlist specially made for combating panic attacks. After a few tracks, she finally felt comfortable enough to turn off the music and focus on the task at hand. She also had a therapy appointment tomorrow which was honestly perfect timing. This was definitely something to talk to her therapist about.

            For now, she might as well clear out the dust bunnies and vacuum the rug.

Chapter Text

         Sylvain yawned and slapped himself lightly on the cheeks. Focus Sylvain! Today was the big day, he was going to spend the day playing video games with Bernie! Well, after a quick trip to the student center to get some coffee. Last night was an intense one, the girl having a drive that almost matched his own. Which was great and all until Sylvain realized if he didn’t get any sleep, he was going to fall asleep on Bernie.

           There was no way in hell he was going to fall asleep on her and risk her thinking he was bored, especially since they had just recovered from the picture disaster.  She seemed fine in their messages, but reading in between the lines and punctuation(and a comment from Ingrid), she was incredibly nervous about today. Well, Sylvain was going to make sure she had a fun time and just the thought of seeing the room where Bernie created the stories he loved was exciting in and of itself.

             He downed the coffee as he headed for the dorms. After a quick check of social media and the group chats, he set his phone on silent and shoved it in his pocket. His friends were aware he was spending the day with Bernie and if any of his girls contacted him, well they weren’t important right now.

             He dropped the now empty cup in the trashcan before walking into her dorm building and heading up to the fifth floor by the elevator. This was one of the older buildings on campus, the carpet slightly faded, the paint on the walls dull. It would probably get a fresh coat of paint and a touch up over the summer. Nothing at Garreg Mach stayed dull and drab for long.

              Stopping in front of her door, he took a deep breath to calm his own nerves. This was probably the first time(besides visiting Ingrid) that he would be in a girl’s room without having the motive to get in bed with her.

               After taking another deep breath, he knocked on her door.

                A moment later, Bernie opened it. “Hi Sylvain,” she squeaked.

                Oh boy, just based on how much she was fidgeting, it was obvious she was nervous about this too. Should he just offer to cancel? No, she probably wouldn’t take that well either. He put on his easy-going smile. “Hey Bernie, hope I’m not too late.”

                “No, it’s fine.” She shifted to the side to let him in.

                Stepping into her room, he saw it was incredibly cute. Her various art projects, stuffed animals and plants lined the top of her desk, dresser and even the windowsill. Her bed had a colorful quilt on top of it and he bet it was something that she probably made. He noticed the Loog book he bought her was sitting on her dresser in a glass case. Oh crap, he didn’t think of that. It was a rare book so exposing it to the elements probably wasn’t good. Damn it Sylvain, he should have realized that was the case so she didn’t have to buy a case for it.

 The floor was covered in a fluffy rug and he kicked off his shoes even though she protested that it was alright. Bernadetta was barefoot, her shoes lined up nicely near the door. He was coming into her space, the least he could do was follow her rules of the room.

                “So, let’s do this! I want to see how edgy Chrom came to be!” He grabbed her desk chair and swiveled it around so he could see the TV mounted in the wall. He glanced at her desk and had to invoke every fiber of his being to resist getting too excited. This was probably where Bernie wrote all of her stories! Her laptop was sitting there and he was wondering if there was a half-finished draft of the next chapter on there. She also had a few post-it notes hung up as well and he had to turn away as he noticed one was for A Long Lasting Dream. There was no way he was going to be spoiled for the next chapter!

                “Okay. Uh, I have snacks and stuff under the desk. And some drinks in the fridge.” She turned her switch on and grabbed a controller before hopping onto her bed and booting up the game.

***

                This wasn’t as bad as Bernie thought it would be.

                Her therapist had said the same thing when she had brought up in her session. Based on how Sylvain treated her, the chance of him acting up was slim and Ingrid had agreed with that statement. Despite not playing video games that often, she gave him the controller for a bit and had to direct him on what to do and when to do it. In the back of her mind she wondered how Sylvain would manage a real-time game. He was already incredibly flustered making choices in a turn-based game.

                While she played, they also chatted. Nothing of real substance, just about classes, the funny things their friends did and they even talked about A Long Lasting Dream. Sylvain had been shocked to find out that the next chapter would be the last one.

                “I wasn’t expecting it to end so soon.” He shook his head. “Look out Bernie! That monster is going to run into you-oh well.”

                “It’s fine, the experience is good. Being overleveled in this game I mean.” Bernadetta quickly put in the commands for the round. “Well, the last chapter is going to be a long one.” She had finished most of the first draft over the past couple of days. Just the epilogue needed to be completed but it wouldn’t take her long at all.

                Sylvain leaned back and rested his hands on the plush carpet. Before long, they had migrated to sitting on the carpet. It made it easier to share the bags of chips and other foods this way and pass the controller back and forth.  “It’s still kind of sad, I’m really going to miss Robin and Chrom but I get it. Are you planning on writing anything else for them?”

                “Maybe a couple one-shots. I have another idea that is going to take a bit of time.”

                “Oh? Do tell! And nice, Tsubasa leveled up!”       

                Bernadetta nodded and pulled up the map. This dungeon was a pain in the butt the first time she played through it and having to play it again was reminding her of how much she hated it. Especially the boss. She was definitely going to spend the time grinding out some levels.

                “Well, the one-shot ideas will be quick, AUs and whatnot. I have an original project I want to work on…”

                “An original project!?” Sylvain’s eyes widen. “You also write original stuff?”

                “Sometimes,” she stammered.

                “You’re so talented Bernie! Wow, creating works based on something already existing is hard but also making stuff all of your own, that’s super cool Bernie! If you don’t mind me asking, what about?”

                “I’m not too sure yet,” she stammered. “It’s still a plot bunny more or less but it’ll be about a margrave boy at a high end academy to teach him how to be a good knight and his relationship with a reclusive count girl that never leaves her room.”

                “Oh, a love story!”

                “I’m not sure on that yet but I think it’ll be a nice story. It’s going to have a lot of drama and action.”

                “I can’t wait to read it then! I mean, if you’ll let me read it. No pressure though.”

                “I’ll let you read it when I’m done,” she stammered. Well, she was aiming to have it done by Sylvain’s birthday. It was funny that when she started drafting, so many ideas came to her. The final scene was going to be super intense and she was nervous about getting it written right. Especially since the girl would be stuck in the middle of a burning hill and the boy would need to save her on horseback. There was definitely a lot of research to be done.

                “Well I can’t wait to read it then!” Sylvain looked up at the clock. “Oh man, that late already?”

                She glanced over and surprised to see it was already close to six. It felt like no time at all had passed since he had arrived earlier today.

                “You planning on getting dinner in the student center?”

                She shook her head. “No, I have some food in my fridge.”

                Sylvain frowned. “Bernie, you need to eat better than processed food all the time.”

                “I know,” she said quickly. “But uh, it’s fine.” How was she supposed to explain that her social battery was super low. Sure the day had been great but she had been panicking before he arrived. There was no way she could manage the student center crowds anytime soon.

                “If you say so Bernie. But that was fun and we should do something like this again at some point. Seriously, this game is ridiculous. I need to know what happens next.”

                “I had fun too.” She thought for a moment and added, “Well, I can save it for the next time you come over.”

                “Bernie, you don’t have to…”

                “I’ve played this game before, this is the updated re-release so I know what happens. It’s uh, fun seeing your reactions to stuff.” She looked down and flexed her toes into the fluffy carpet. That was a stupid idea and she knew it.

                “Sure, I’m up for that.”

                She looked up in surprise. “Really?” she squealed.

                “Yeah, let’s do it.” Sylvain walked to the door and pulled out his phone. His expression darkened.

                “Sylvain?”

                He looked up at her with a bright smile. “Sorry, just thought I read something weird. I’ll see you later Bernie.”

                “See you later.” As the door shut, Bernadetta couldn’t help but wonder about Sylvain’s smile. It was incredibly fake, the one he used for the girls he hung out with. She hoped everything was okay. Although maybe it wasn’t any of her business. They hadn’t known each other for long after all and there was a bunch of things she had not told him, especially about her father. Whatever it was, Sylvain would be able to handle it…right?

Chapter Text

               “Sylvain, we need to talk.”

                Sylvain looked up at Ingrid, who stared down at him with her hands on her hips. Next to her, stood Felix, arms crossed. “About?” he asked. He decided to eat lunch in the small lounge area(today was a burger) and get some work done. He was not expecting Ingrid and Felix to approach him like it was an intervention. Oh wait.

                He looked around but Dimitri was nowhere in sight.

                “Dimitri would have come but he’s busy,” said Felix. He grabbed a chair and sat across from Sylvain while Ingrid took the chair to Sylvain’s right.

                “Uh…okay then…” Sylvain put down his burger and wiped his hands. “Can we make this quick? I have class in an hour and I really want to get this done.”

                Ingrid leaned forward. “Why are you sleeping with girls every night?”

                Sylvain looked at Ingrid flabbergasted. “Excuse me?”

                “You heard her. What’s going on? You are never this extreme unless something is bothering you,” commented Felix. “You haven’t been sleeping in your dorm room in almost two weeks.”

                “Why are you keeping tabs on me?” Sylvain looked at Felix in disbelief.

                “I’ve lost days of sleep because of you.” Felix glared at him.

                “We’re worried about you Sylvain. What’s going on?” Ingrid gave him a once-over in concern.

                Well that was a loaded question wasn’t it? Miklan was sending him texts and asking for money and the sudden resurgence of his brother was bringing up a lot of feelings and emotions he didn’t want to deal with. The only way he was able to handle it was not thinking about it and although it was much easier in the daytime, at night, when he was in his dorm room alone, those thoughts and memories would swirl in and around itself over and over again. The only way he was able to manage it was spending time with his girls. They were happy to oblige and it was quite easy to shut them up if they tried to talk to him about feelings and whatnot.

               Sylvain put on his easy-going smile. “Nothing’s going on. A guy’s gotta get it out right?”

               “Sylvain…that’s not…” Ingrid’s look of concern was reminding him of the times when they were children. When he would show up to their playdates with bruises and bumps caused by Miklan but he would lie and say he fell or he was play fighting a little too rough with his brother. It was her, “I don’t think you are telling the truth but I can’t figure out what you are lying about” face.

              “I really don’t get what you two are worried about, I’m just me.” He rolled his eyes.

              Felix’s hands curled into fists. “Damn it, for once just tell us what’s going on, we’re your friends.”

             “Like I said, nothing is going on, you’re just over reacting,” Sylvain replied patiently.

            “BS.” Felix glared at him.

             Sylvain replied by eating one of his fries.  “You guys are seriously overreacting. Everything is fine, I’m just having a little more fun than usual.”

              “Sylvain, you-”

              “Stop Felix, I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere with this.” Ingrid’s shoulders slumped as she stood. Felix cursed as he followed her lead. “We’ll leave you alone for now but remember this Sylvain, we’re your friends and we know something in is going on. Let us hold some of the burden okay?”

                “If something is going on, I’ll do that.”

                For a moment Sylvain thought she was going to slap him, but she turned and walked away in a huff. Felix gave him one final glare before following her.  As soon as they were out of sight, he sighed and looked down at his half-eaten burger. He was going to need to figure out what to do about this sooner or later. There was no way he was going to keep giving Miklan money like this and with Ingrid’s level of snooping, she will figure it out before long.

                He looked away from his burger in disgust and pulled out his phone to find another contact. The first thing he noticed was a message from Bernadetta, a response to the last weird statue he had found in campus.

                “I didn’t know we have a statue of a fish on campus! That’s so cool! Look at this weird double helix I found behind the science building!”

                He had to smile at the awkward angle she took it at. Obviously she was trying to get the whole statue in one pic. He felt bad because she had invited him to have another video game day but he spent the past two weekends with his girls.  Once this Miklan thing was figured out, then everything would go back to normal, yeah, that’s what he believed.

***

                Bernadetta was in the middle of working on her paper for her medieval literature class when she heard a knock on the door of the library study room. She looked up and saw Ingrid on the other side of the glass door. Ingrid gave her a small wave before entering.

                “You have a cute little nook here,” commented Ingrid as she took in the space.

                Bernadetta nodded. “Sometimes I don’t want to work on stuff in my room so I come here. It’s really quiet when it’s not during finals or midterms.”

                “Makes sense.” Ingrid grimaced and took the chair across from Bernadetta. “Sorry to bother you but I’m glad you were willing to meet up on short notice.”

                “Well I was here…” Bernadetta was also wondering what it was about. Ingrid had sent Bernadetta a message asking if she was free and that it was important. Of course that set off Bernadetta’s anxiety tenfold and she offered to meet up with Ingrid right away just to get it done and over it.

                Ingrid pushed a few strands of hair behind an ear and leaned forward. “Have you been talking to Sylvain?”

                “Through text.”

                “Not in person then?”

                “He said he was super busy recently. Classes and stuff.” Bernadetta was sad she didn’t get to play farther in TMS but she didn’t want to play without Sylvain. Well, at least it meant she could use her free time to work on her perfect Awakening run.

                “How did he sound over texts?”

                Bernadetta shook her head. “He sounds…off.” Sure he was answering her but there were sometimes incredibly long breaks between him answering her and some of his responses were short and concise. He also wasn’t sending as many memes as he had been in the past.

                Ingrid sighed. “Sounds like he’s doing the same to you as he is to us.”

                “He’s what?” Bernadetta’s eyes widen. “Is he okay?”

                “We’re-and I mean me, Felix and Dimitri, aren’t sure. We think there’s something going on with him that he’s not telling us and we’re honestly worried about him. He’s a skirt chaser and we know that but he’s at extreme levels right now, I don’t think he’s ever in his room and whenever he is, he always has a girl with him. Usually he only gets like this when something is really bothering him.”

                Bernadetta looked down at her hands. What kind of friend was she that she didn’t know something like that?

                “Anyway, I didn’t want to talk to you about this to make you feel bad, I was wondering if you could possibly talk to him?”

                “Me?” she squeaked.

                “Felix and I tried but he wasn’t willing to talk about it with us. Maybe he’ll talk about it with you?”

                “What? Why would he?” she stammered.

                Ingrid looked at her in disbelief. “Seriously Bernie? He trusts you a lot.”

                “He does!?” She didn’t realize her voice could go so high.

                Ingrid let out a long sigh. “He does. It’s obvious he cares about your opinion. So as his childhood friend, I’m hoping you could maybe talk to him about it? See if he opens up to you?”

                Bernadetta wanted to protest that she couldn’t do anything like that but now she was starting to worry about him. And she was well aware of how having a person to talk to could really help make a situation not as scary. “I…I can try,” she relented.

                Ingrid sighed. “Thanks so much Bernie. I know you’ll be able to get something out of him.”

                Bernadetta really hoped she could live up to Ingrid’s expectation of her.

Chapter Text

             Bernadetta stood outside Sylvain’s dorm room on a Saturday morning, wondering why the heck she was out here.  Well, technically, she did know why. Despite her inviting him to hang out in her room to play video games this weekend, Sylvain had refused, citing homework as an excuse. Since Felix was in almost all of the same classes, he called BS on Sylvain’s sudden interest in homework. Also, to further Bernadetta’s worry, over the course of the week, Sylvain responded less and less to her to the point it had almost been twenty-four hours since his last text to her. Last night, Felix had noticed Sylvain going into his room and told Bernadetta to try to catch him in the morning to have a talk.

                It was weird enough to know where Sylvain’s dorm room was without him knowing that she knew and it was even weirder to be visiting him to demand to know what was going on. Well, she was worried about him and so were the rest of his friends. She had a feeling that if she couldn’t get anything out of him, it would be a lost cause. No pressure right?

                Gulping, she clasped her hands together to stop them from shaking. Since it was a Saturday the hall was quiet and she hoped the other people on this floor were out and not sleeping in their rooms. It was so embarrassing to be standing out here, especially since it was a boys-only floor. At least she knew Felix had the room just down the hall. He said if anything went wrong, to just knock on his door. Despite how his face looked, Felix seemed to be a nice guy…

                She needed to stop stalling.

                With an audible gulp, she lifted a shaky hand and knocked a few times.

                After a couple seconds, she heard some rustling from inside. The door opened and a girl in skimpy lingerie opened it. She looked down at Bernadetta in distain as she leaned against the door. “Yes?”

                “Oh, uh, I’m here to see Sylvain,” she murmured. Crap. This was probably not a good time at all.

                “You? See Sylvain?”

The once-over the girl gave Bernadetta made her want to crawl into a ball and not come out for a week. However they were counting on her! And she was worried about him too. She nodded. “Yes, I’m here to see him.”

The girl laughed. “Seriously, what-”

“Bernie?” Sylvain poked his head out and looked at her in disbelief. Even from the limited view she had, it was quite clear he wasn’t wearing a shirt and he had tell-tale hickeys on his neck.

“Hi,” she mumbled, dropping her eyes to the floor. Well, this was super awkward. “Uh…I was hoping…we…could talk…”

“Give me a few minutes.”

                She looked up in surprise, not expecting him to agree so easily. “Oh, uh, sure.”

                He gave her a small smile before shutting the door. Even from her spot in the hallway, she could hear the girl’s raised voice and Sylvain’s low murmur. After a minute, the girl stormed out, now fully dressed and slammed the door shut behind her.

                “I’m uh, I just want to talk to him? We’re not…we’re not like that,” stammered Bernadetta.

                That did nothing to abate the girl’s glare as she stormed to the elevator.

                Bernadetta shuffled in place, not really sure what to do with herself. The girl had soured her mood and she wondered if this was even a good idea. Should she just bail? No, Sylvain was expecting her to be out here when he opened the door. He would probably be sad and disappointed if she left.

                After a couple more awkward minutes, Sylvain(thankfully now full dressed), opened the door. “Sorry for the wait Bernie, just wanted to tidy a bit.” He paused. “Unless you wanted to go out?”

                “No, this is fine. It might be easier to just talk in your room…”

                Sylvain nodded and stepped to the side.

                As Bernadetta stepped into the room, she realized this was her first time in a boy’s dorm room. Her internal screaming was back in full swing as she shuffled into his space. It was surprisingly neat, and tidy nothing like the boys room she saw on the TV shows. All of his books were neatly lined up on his desk, the laundry put away. The only thing that didn’t really fit the feel of the room was the bed with its rumpled sheets and Bernadetta had to avert her eyes before she really started thinking about the reason the bed was probably like that. Well that and the large box of condoms  half-peeking out from under the bed.

                “Is it too cold? Should I close the window?” He pulled out his desk chair and offered it to her.

                She shook her head. “I’m okay for now.” She didn’t even realize the window was open until he said it. It was a warm spring day, the breeze a bit welcoming and she hoped it would help her not overheat from panic. At least sitting there was a greater chance to make it through this conversation without freaking out.

                “I don’t think I have any snacks or drinks…” Sylvain looked around the room, seemingly a little lost in his own space.

                “It’s okay…” She set her hands in her lap and really hoped her pounding heart would not lead into a panic attack. She was terrible with these kinds of conversations. “Uh, she seems…nice?”

                Sylvain rolled his eyes. “Not really. I mean, she’s good at…” He stopped. “At uh, you know. Can’t complain about that,” he finished.

                “Uh yeah, I thought so.” Bernadetta gulped.

                Sylvain leaned against his dresser. “So? Let me guess…did Ingrid put you up to this?”

                She winced. “Uh, well…”

                He let out a long annoyed sigh and rubbed the back of his neck. “Damn it Ingrid, I’m fine, she’s just over-reacting.”

                Bernadetta shook her head. “I don’t think you are Sylvain. You are even acting a bit…weird around me too. Your texts aren’t the same…”

                Sylvain’s long sigh and ‘tsk’ sound made her wince. “I’m fine, I don’t get why all of you are getting on my case about this.”

                He sounded so mad. Maybe they were wrong, maybe Sylvain was fine after all and they were making a big deal out of nothing. That was probably it. She didn’t know him well enough at all, maybe she just ruined his morning. Maybe he found her boring to be around now and this was his way of telling her to go away.

                Her breathes were coming out in short, quick gasps, her heart pounding painfully in her ribcage, her hands trembling. She was warm, unnaturally so, her body heating up to the point she felt like she was on fire. The world seemed to spin in and of itself and suddenly everything seemed so unreal and out of place.

                “Bernie! Hey Bernie! Are you okay? What’s wrong!?” Sylvain was suddenly in front of her, his eyes wide with panic. His hands were reaching towards her but stopped before he touched her.

                “Panic attack,” she managed to get out in between her hyperventilated breathes. She quickly began using her grounding techniques to help calm herself down quicker. Since she didn’t bring her purse she didn’t have her kit so she began slowly counting the objects in his room, continuingly reminding herself that despite how long it felt, the panic attacks never lasted as long as it felt like it did, only a few minutes, tops.

Like always, it lasted for the span of five minutes, exhaustion taking over her muscles as the majority of the physical symptoms faded, but she had to work on getting her breathing back to normal and not have the tightness in her chest.

                Sweat made strands of hair stick to her face as she pushed it away with shaky hands. She shivered as her body was sweating profusely to reduce the sudden increase in her internal temperature. She hated hot flashes and cold sweats so much.

                It took her a moment to realize Sylvain was still hovering over her. “You…you okay?” he asked uncertainly.

                She nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine. I have them sometimes.” She shivered as a breeze came in through the window. Before it was nice but now it just made her colder.

                Sylvain stood and walked over to the window and shut it. “You still cold?”

                “A little but it’s okay, I just sometimes get a hot flash and a cold sweat afterwards. It happens. I’ll be okay soon.” She rubbed her arms, trying to get some warmth back in them.

                He looked to his bed and grimaced before walking to the closet. After a bit of searching, he pulled out a sweatshirt and held it out to her.  “Here. I recently washed it and haven’t worn it.”

                “It’s okay,” she said quickly. “I’m sweating a lot right now, I’ll get it dirty.”

                He shook his head. “It’s fine, take it Bernie, you’re still shivering.”

                She wanted to protest further but he looked so upset that she ended up accepting it. He was much taller than her that she felt like she was swimming in it, her hands not reaching the end of the sleeves. “Thanks,” she mumbled.

                “It’s no problem at all.” He sat down on the carpeted floor across from her. “Did you have the panic attack because of me?”

                “No, no, that kind of happens every once in a while, it’s okay. My brain is just overreacting like it does. My therapist said it’s my brain clicking the panic switch when it doesn’t have to…” She trailed off as she realized she was rambling away.

                “It doesn’t look it’s a fun experience.”

                She shook her head. “Not at all but I’m used to it.”

                Silence descended upon them and Bernadetta played with a hem of a sleeve. “Everyone is worried about you Sylvain,” she said softly.

                Sylvain let out a long sigh, although this sounded defeated rather than annoyed. “My brother contacted me for the first time in two years.”

                “Your brother?” Bernadetta couldn’t help the surprise in her voice. “I didn’t know you had a brother.”

                “You met him. He was the one that gave you the letter to give to me in the mall.”

                Oh. The guy with the scar. Now that Bernadetta thought back on it, they did have a similar shade of red hair.  “I remember him.”

                “He’s…well, Ingrid and the others are aware but he’s not a good guy. He got disowned from the family two years ago.”

                “Disowned? What did he do? I mean, if you want to tell me,” she added quickly.

                Sylvain shrugged. “It’s not really a big deal but he was getting involved in gangs and drugs. My parents found out when he came home one day, high as a kite, and well, they were livid. Originally it was supposed to be an empty threat but my brother never got better and turned his life around so he was disowned for real.”

                “That’s…”

                “Don’t feel sorry for him, he never was a good person.”

                Bernadetta paused, the look Sylvain had in his eyes and the tone of his voice made it clear there was much more that he wasn’t telling. Maybe it was her jumping ahead a little but she had a feeling there was much more to this than a brother that made a mistake once or twice. “So, what is he asking of you right now?”

                “Money. Lots of it. He’s been contacting me on the regular about it.”

                “And you’ve been giving him the money?” That surprised her. It was obvious Sylvain wasn’t the type of person to do something he didn’t want to do, especially in a situation like this.

                He smirked. “I know, stupid right. I know the more money I give him, the more he’s going to come back, he’s that kind of person.”

                Bernadetta slipped off the chair and crawled over to Sylvain. Usually she would never do something like this but her panic attack had exhausted her and Sylvain looked so lost and alone that she couldn’t help but give him a hug. He stiffened and she wondered if she did the right thing but before she could pull back, he put his arms around her in a tight hug, his face buried in her shoulder.

                After about a minute, Sylvain was the first to pull away. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

                “It’s okay,” she said quickly. “I was the one that offered the hug…” She set her hands on her lap.

                Sylvain ran his fingers through his hair. “My brother threatened to hurt you.”

                “Huh?”

                “I messed up and dropped your name when I met him the first time. He realized you were more important to me than, well, most of the girls I hang out with. And he…what’s that look for Bernie?”

                “Oh, I just thought it was something more than that.”

                “Huh?” Now it was his turn to stare at her in disbelief.

                “I mean, I thought he had some deep dark secret on you and stuff. Not that he was threatening me.”

                “Why are you not worried about this?”

                “Sylvain…I’m a Varley…I can ask my mom to give me bodyguards and Garreg Mach is known to have really good security for these kinds of stuff. I mean logically him being able to do anything to me is slim at best.” Bernadetta realized her therapist would be so proud of her of listing the logical reasons and possible outcomes to something that would have caused her to catastrophize in the past.

                Sylvain blinked slowly and then burst out laughing.  “What…why didn’t I think of that? Holy crap, it really was an empty threat.”

                “It’s okay Sylvain, sometimes when you get so caught up in your head, you can’t think logically.” As those words left her mouth, she began wondering if his increased time with the girls was the result of him trying to manage all these emotions.

                “Apparently not.” He shook his head. “Seriously, I forgot you were a Varley.”

                “It’s okay, sometimes I forget too.” She bit her lip. “Will you be able to say no to him though?”

                Sylvain sighed. “That’s the question isn’t it? I would like to think so, but personally I tend to freeze up when I actually meet him.”

                “Then maybe don’t? Just talk to him over text? Tell him you’re not going to give him money anymore.”

                “Maybe…I don’t know how he will take that though…”

                “Why does it matter how he’ll take it?”

                He winced. “I guess it doesn’t matter but…” His expression darkened and Bernadetta could tell he was slipping into a memory.

                She reached out and grasped his hand and gave it a small squeeze to bring him back to the present. “It will be fine Sylvain. And I think if you talk to Ingrid and the others, they can help too, they know what your brother is like right?”

                “To a certain extent.” Sylvain chuckled without any warmth. “ Dimitri could probably destroy him with just his connections alone.”

                “Why haven’t you told them then?”

                “I’ve just never told them about him. What kind of person he was. I’m sure they suspected, especially Ingrid but I’ve never outright gave them details. They were aware of him being disowned though.” He shifted in place. “They were worried about me after that happened, always checking up on me. I wasn’t really in a good headspace myself back then and I kind of, I guess started doing stuff like this now, until well, I found something online that helped me get out of that mindset.”

                “What was it?” Bernadetta tilted her head slightly.

                He chuckled, reached over and ruffled her hair. “Your stories silly.”

                “Huh?” She stared in disbelief. “What do you? What?”

                “I was just scrolling through social media and I saw a post talking about your work and how it made them feel better when they felt sad. And well, I didn’t have much to do so I clicked on it and well, it all went downhill from there, well I guess uphill is the better way to put it.”

                Bernadetta’s eyes widen. “My writing couldn’t do something like that.”

                “It did Bernie. Your stories gave me what I needed. I loved reading every single one of them and when I was done, I just read them again until you posted more. So yeah, I owe a lot to you Bernie. You helped me out of that hole I had dug for myself so thank you.”

                She blushed and looked away. “You…you’re welcome,” she stammered. She cringed as she remembered the stories she wrote back then. Her writing was not as refined, the word and grammar use atrocious.

                “I hope this didn’t make things weird,” he frowned. “Cause I like you way more than just for your stories. In a friend way I mean,” he added quickly.

                She smiled. “I know. In a friend way.” Her expression sobered. “What are you going to do about him?”

                “I’ll probably talk to Dimitri and the others. They’ll help…” He grimanced.

                “Do you want me to come with you?”

                He shook his head. “No, I got it. At least I think so. How about I have you on speed dial, just in case I need a pep talk?”

                “I can do that.”

                “And you better stay on campus until we can get this sorted out okay? I know there’s a high chance he can’t do anything but just in case…”

                “Don’t worry, I’ll be a recluse in my room like I usually am. Have my perfect Awakening run to do.”

                “What happened to TMS?”

                “I was waiting for us to have another video game day to continue.”

                “What? You were? Damn.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I really messed everything up didn’t I?”

                “You were hurting Sylvain and you were trying to make yourself feel better the one way you knew how.”

                “Yeah,” he said softly. He glanced over at his desk where his phone sat. “I better send a text.”

                Realizing it was her cue, she stood. “I better get going. I still have a paper or two to write and a half of a book to analyze for class. And well, the final chapter of A Long Lasting Dream needs a good edit or two.”

                “Oh man, you’re almost ready to release it? It’s probably super long for you to take this long to release it.”

                “It is and I hope the ending is worth it.”

                “I know your writing, it will be.” Sylvain stood and opened the door for her. “Thanks Bernie,” he murmured.

                “Anytime. Uh, do you want to have a TMS day next Saturday?”

                “Sure, you have me all day Saturday. Gotta make up for making you wait. We’ll, well I guess you’ll play until you can’t anymore.”

                She giggled. “Sure but you’re going to have to play a little too.”

                Sylvain shivered. “I think you like watching me panic as I run away from the monsters.”

                “Maybe a little. Anyway, I won’t keep you any longer.”

                He sighed. “Darn, I wanted to hold it off a while longer. But really, thanks Bernie.” His smile was genuine and soft.

                She headed for the elevator and saw Felix’s door open and he peeked his head out. He seemed taken aback by Bernadetta for a moment. She gave him a thumbs up and gestured to her phone.

                Felix nodded and shut his door as quietly as he opened it.

                Bernadetta didn’t realize until she was back in her room that she was still wearing Sylvain’s sweatshirt.

Chapter Text

                For a guy, trained in giving public speeches, Sylvain’s stomach was churning as he stood before Ingrid, Dimitri and Felix. It shocked him how fast they had assembled after he mentioned he wanted to talk with them.

                Less than two hours after his talk with Bernie, the four of them were gathered in Dimitri’s dorm room. Since Dimitri was the heir to the Blaiddyd Conglomerate, it came with a lot of perks, such as a huge penthouse room on the top floor. Well, penthouse level for a dorm room, which meant enough space that he had an actual dining room table and a small personal kitchen. Dedue had his own room and space here too since he was Dimitri’s bodyguard but he was out at the moment which Sylvain suspected was purposeful.

                “So,” he began.

                “So?” echoed Felix. He crossed his arms and regarded Sylvain with an expression that could be taken as a glare but it was Felix’s resting face.

                Sylvain looked down at the carpeted floor. The words were lodged in his throat and refused to come out. For years he had protected his friends from knowing what kind of person Miklan was. However, he knew he had to tell them, not for his sake but for Bernie. Sure she said she would be okay, but he had to make sure. He didn’t know if Miklan was still affiliated with those gangs but if they got their hands on Bernie…

                “Miklan connected me a few weeks ago,” he managed to get out.

                “Miklan.” Dimitri’s eyes widen in disbelief.

                “What, wasn’t he on the other side of the country?” asked Ingrid.

                “Well obviously he moved over here.” Felix sighed. “Let me guess, he was trying to swindle some money out of you? Or has he gotten money for you?”

                “He’s gotten some money out of me and he’s asking for more.”

                “Seriously?” Ingrid frowned. “Why are you giving him money like that? He messed up right?”

                “Ingrid, I’m sure it is more complicated than that,” said Dimitri.

                Sylvain grimaced and nodded. “He threatened to hurt Bernie. Okay, I know, you guys don’t have to look at me like that, she pointed it out too.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I just…wasn’t thinking.”

                “I get it. Sometimes your siblings makes you think of things illogically,” put in Felix. “Even if it did take this long for you to finally open up with us.”

                Sylvain winced. Honestly if Bernie hadn’t spoken with him, he probably wouldn’t be here right now talking to them about it. And even then he had to fight the urge to laugh it off and say it was all a joke and try to get them to move on from worrying about him.

                “Well, at least he is now.” Ingrid looked to Dimitri. “This’ll be easy for you to take care of right?”

                Dimitri nodded. “Of course but do you want it to go that way Sylvain? He is your brother after all and any method I go with won’t go well for him since he does have a record.”

                Sylvain nodded. “I’m…sure. Honestly, I could live without seeing him again. Dimitri, I really didn’t want to use our friendship for something like this…”

                “It’s the least I can do for a friend. Especially since you do not rely on us as much as we rely on you.” Dimitri took out his phone. “Would you want to speak with him before?”

                Sylvain shook his head. It wouldn’t do any good to meet his brother, he knew that. Any meeting they had would deteriorate quickly and Sylvain felt like he would revert back to the boy that was frightened of his brother.

                Felix stood and patted Sylvain on the back. “Let’s go get a sushi boat while Dimitri gets it all sorted out. Ingrid, you want to come?”

                “Sure.” She stood and they led Sylvain out of the dorm room, Dimitri deep in a phone call.

***

                Bernadetta sighed as she did one final check over. This was it, the final chapter of  A Long Lasting Dream. It was a doozy, a ten thousand word piece that went over Chrom waking from the dream and telling Robin that he dreamt about her the whole time he was asleep. Of course she left the ending ambiguous, them looking off into the sunset, an implication of the Grima plotline was yet to come. Sure, she could have probably written more but she could sense her interest in this story was waning and she had her other project to do.

                She glanced at the Loog book on her dresser. Yes, she needed to get started on that project if she hoped to get anywhere near done in time for his birthday.

                She was about to submit the chapter when her phone went off. A text from Sylvain asking her if she was in her room and if she had a few minutes for a chat. She replied she was free and barely a second had passed after she sent it that she heard a knock on her door.

                Yelping in surprise, she scrambled to the door. “Sylvain?” she squeaked.

                “Sorry for the short notice,” he said meekly. His hands were shoved in his pockets and he looked more like a kid that was out in the rain rather than the confident boy she was used to.

                “It’s okay.” Bernadetta let him in. “You really don’t have to take your shoes off,” she said quickly as he chucked them off before stepping onto her plus carpet.

                “It’s okay. You weren’t too busy right? I probably should have waited a bit…”

                “No, it’s fine.” Bernadetta walked back over to her bed where her laptop sat. “I was going to submit the final chapter of the fic today.”

                “You were!?” The Sylvain she knew peeked out and his eyes brightened. “Oh man, I’m here to witness history!”

                “It isn’t that much of a big deal,” she protested.

                “For me it is and you know it.” He winced and sighed. “Well, I guess I shouldn’t beat around the bush too much. I talked to everyone yesterday.”

                Bernadetta’s eyes widen. That was fast! She really thought it would take him a day or two to go through with it but he managed to do it after their talk yesterday?

                “They’re…Dimitri’s going to take care of him. Miklan. Well, he might have already been taken care of.”

                “Oh.”

                He rubbed the back of his neck. “I also told Dimitri to not tell me. I don’t think knowing would do any good. But he won’t be a problem anymore Bernie.”

                “Are you okay about it?”

                “I…I don’t know to be honest. It’s a lot to unpack and figure out. There was a lot of bad blood between us and it just being over just like that…I feel weird about it mostly.”

                “Maybe you need someone to talk to about it?” she asked gently.

                “What do you mean?”

                “Like a therapist? Mine really helps with untangling my thoughts. I mean, it could be a short term thing to you but I think it’ll help you out a lot.”

                “Maybe,” he murmured. His seemed to be looking at something that wasn’t there. “Maybe I should…”

                “The school has a great counseling department,” she said quickly. “I’m sure you’ll like it.”

                “Maybe…I’ll look into it, thanks Bernie.”

                She nodded. “Great.” After a moment of pause she asked, “Did you come here to tell me that?”

                “Oh, yeah, I felt like this was something I needed to tell you in person rather than over text. Ingrid and Felix wouldn’t leave me alone yesterday otherwise I would have done it then. Sorry for bothering you over something like this.”

                “No, no, it’s okay, it’s important to you,” she put in quickly. “I just wanted to make sure you got out everything you wanted to.”

                “Yeah, that’s everything.” He chuckled. “Who knew all of that childhood trauma could be fixed with a single conversation to Dimitri. Well, the actual root of the problem not everything that happened. Okay, time to stop being morbid about this.” He shook his head. “Anyway, you said you were almost done with the final chapter?”

                “It’s just about.” She gestured to her laptop. “You want to read it?”

                His eyes widen and then he shook his head. “Tempting but I’ll wait until you upload it! I have to read the final chapter legit! It was the story that let us be friends after all!”

                She had to giggle. That was true, wasn’t it? “Give me five minutes then.” She hopped onto her bed and set her laptop onto her lap. Sylvain sat at her desk, and seemed to be browsing something on his phone while he waited.

                “And done!” Bernadetta was going to offer him her laptop to read the fic on but he somehow already had her fic up on his phone.

                “Oh man, it’s so long Bernie! Do you mind if I read it here? It’s going to be so good, I can feel it!”

                “S…Sure,” she stammered.

                Sylvain looked at her in concern. “You okay? If it’s not okay, you can tell me.”

                “No, it’s fine. It’s just, I’m not used to people reading my works in front of me. It’s just…nerve-wracking.”

                “Should I turn around or leave the room or something?”

                “No, it’s fine, you can read it here. I’ll just focus on working on taking notes on one of the books I have to read for class.”

                Although she said that, it was so hard to not pay attention to Sylvain’s responses as he read it. He was very expressive. He squealed, gasped and said ‘daw’ more times than Bernadetta thought possible for the one little chapter she wrote.

                “Holy crap, Bernie, that ending, this whole chapter!” His thumbs began flying across the phone screen. “Gotta write you the best comment.”

                “You’re writing me a comment? But I’m right here!”

                “I know but you can read the comment later and always have it with you and stuff! But it was so good Bernie! The ending was kind of melancholic and I felt like you were hinting at so many future problems, which I guess is the stuff from the game-don’t look at me like that, I read the wiki! But the fact that Chrom woke up and said he was dreaming about Robin the whole time, so cute! And she did so much for him too. Gah, the romance in it was perfect! There!”

                Sylvain put down his phone. “Seriously, I loved every second of that story!”

                “It wasn’t…” Bernadetta blushed. “It was okay.”

                “It was anything but just ‘okay’! Your writing is great!” He rested a hand over his heart. “I gotta recover from that! Are you going to be writing anything else for the ship soon?”

                She shook her head. “No, I have another project in the works. Something original.” She had to resist the urge to look at the Loog book.

                “Oh right, you mentioned that before. I hope I can read it someday.”

                “Maybe,” she said with a smile.

                “Yes. Can’t wait for that.” Sylvain checked the time on his phone. “Anyway, I really should get going, you look like you have a lot to do for class and I kind of have stuff to do myself. With everything that was going on with Miklan, I kind of fell behind in my school work. I’ll see you later Bernie?”

                “I’ll see you later. Next week right?”

                “Oh yeah! TMS next week! Yup, I’ll see you then.”

                Sylvain left like the boy she had known him to be. She really hoped he would end up seeing a therapist, she really thought it would help him figure out everything that was related to his brother. “All you can be right now is a good support for him,” she reminded herself before focusing back on the book she had to read for class. She still had over two hundred pages to go.

                She was halfway through her reading when she suddenly remembered that she didn’t give him the hoodie back. Argh!

                Well he was coming by next weekend, she could give it to him then.

Chapter Text

                “Sylvain, you really should be using sessions so you can do more damage.”

                “I know but how do you remember all this!?” Sylvian practically threw the controller into Bernadetta’s lap and she had to fumble and catch it before it fell into the bowl of salsa. “Please beat this boss for me, oh wise Bernie.”

                She giggled and set the bowl of salsa next to her before reloading the save. Playing through the game with Sylvain was a lot of fun and it made going through all of the tedious parts more tolerable. Also being able to watch Sylvain react in surprise or horror depending on the story. His reaction when Bernadetta explained the original context of Tsubasa struggling to do a certain type of modeling was incredibly funny, especially since she had a feeling Sylvain read those kinds of magazines.

                “Seriously, how do you just do it so fast,” he grumbled as Bernadetta began fighting her way through the enemies to get back to the boss.

                The two were sitting on the floor of her bedroom, right next to each other. It made it easier to pass the controller back and forth and get to all the snacks strew around them. At first they had sat further apart and gradually got closer as the day went on but now that has been a few weeks since they started doing this weekly, they sat next to each other from the getgo.

                Sylvain probably thought nothing of it but Bernadetta felt like it was a big deal for her! Little, overthinking Bernie, sitting next to a boy and being comfortable about it. It was actually kind of amazing.

                Also Sylvain seemed to be enjoying his time in therapy, at least from what Bernadetta was able to gather from him from the few times he shared his experience. She was glad he was finally able to process everything and give him support so soon after…well, whatever happened to Miklan.

                “So, do you have any plans for spring break next week?” Sylvain reached over Bernadetta’s lap to grab the bag of chips.

                She shook her head. “Not really. I’ll be on campus.” Probably working on Sylvain’s birthday present. It felt like the more she worked on it, the longer it got.

                “Oh, okay.”

                Bernadetta glanced over at him. He rubbed the back of his neck and his eyes were shifting around nervously. “What’s wrong?”

                “I…okay, this is going to sound super weird but you want to come home with me?”

                She looked at him blankly. “Huh?”

                “I mean, come to my place. Where my parents live.” He winced. “Okay, that did not make it sound any better.” He sighed. “So I was talking to my therapist about the fact Miklan threw me into a well when we were kids.”

                “He threw you into a well!?” she squeaked. Holy crap, she figured Miklan wasn’t a good older brother but purposefully throwing a kid down a well? That was ridiculous.

                “Yeah, it wasn’t a good time. Thankfully it was a dried up well so there was no water on the bottom but I did sprain my ankle from the fall. And I was stuck down there for a few hours, which was terrifying, anyway, I’m getting off the point. So the well is actually on my parents property and I’ve avoided that area since then. My therapist said I should try to go to it to see if I could approach it, you know, as a way to help process everything that’s happened with Miklan. And he said if I had trouble doing it alone, I could bring someone that was willing to go with me…”

                “Oh, uh, sure I wouldn’t mind. Ummm, why didn’t you ask Felix or Ingrid?”

                “They know about my brother but the same time they don’t really know. I…” He blushed and looked away. “I think it would go the best if you were there Bernie. No pressure or anything,” he added quickly. “I know it’s a weird thing to ask and very last minute too so…”

                “I’ll do it,” she said quickly.

                “Really?” He looked at her in disbelief. “Are you sure? You don’t need to force yourself.”

                “It’s okay.” She grabbed a cookie from another container and munched on it. “To be honest, it might be better for me to be off campus. My dad does like to attempt to have me go on blind dates and such over the longer breaks.”

                “I thought we took care of that after…you know.”

                “True but just in case right?” Besides based on what Sylvain was telling her, this was super important for him to face and she couldn’t just leave a friend alone when he needed her help right? “Will your parents get mad though?”

                “Naw, they’re going to be out of town on a business trip. But don’t worry, there’s a lot of staff to keep the place running so we won’t be alone. Oh and since Felix, Ingrid and Dimitri will be home too, we can do stuff with them. Do you want to meet Glenn?”

                “Oh, sure.” Bernadetta remembered Ingrid mentioning her fiancé a few times and she had seen a picture. They looked cute together and it was funny how similar Felix and Glenn looked, right down to the angry eyebrows and perpetual frown.

                “Awesome! Thanks so much Bernie! Really, I’ll owe you big time for this!”

***

                The Bernadetta from the beginning of the school year would never believe what was happening right now. Here she was, little Bernie, in a boy’s car, going to his house over spring break. Faerghus county was far from Garreg Mach, almost a seven hour drive. Despite the distance, it was a fun road trip. Sylvain had packed the car with snacks and they listened to random songs and sang along. Sylvain even stopped at the rest stop where he had taken a picture with the children’s firetruck ride. Due to his insistence, she sat in it and Sylvain had gotten a picture. Based on how she struggled to get out, she assumed Sylvain had a harder time with his longer legs, which he outright denied.

                It was almost nightfall on the first day of their spring break when they finally reached his mansion. Bernadetta was no stranger to huge homes, hers was really big, but her home was like an apartment compared to the sprawling acres of land that made up Sylvain’s home. His house looked triple the size of hers, the driveway double the length with carefully pruned topiaries lining it.

                Sylvain drove up to the front door and parked right outside of it. As they got out, an older man dressed in a uniform hurried out and seemed taken aback by Sylvain and Bernadetta standing there.

                “Park my car in the garage.” Sylvain tossed him the keys.

                “Of course sir,” he said quickly.

                “Uh…” Bernadetta stammered.

                “Don’t worry, it’s me, not you.” Sylvain pulled their bags out of the back seat. “I don’t usually bring my car up front like this so that probably threw him off. I did give the heads up you were coming.”

                “Oh, okay…” She took her backpack and slung it over her shoulders.

                The inside made it clear the Gautiers was an old family. Family heirlooms sat next to modern décor, and she didn’t doubt that everything here carried a high price tag. Sylvain led her up the grand staircase and to the guest room she would be using for the duration of the stay.

                “I can ask the chef to prepare a meal for us tonight or do you want to eat out? There’s a really good Dagda restaurant in town.”

                “Whatever is easier,” she stammered, already feeling the dread of having to make a choice of where to eat. “I mean you did drive for seven hours.”

                “I mean, we can always get it delivered so it’s not a big deal.”

                “Uh, well, it uh…” Damn it, why did Sylvain have to give the choice to her!?

                Sylvain pulled out his phone. “Let’s order for tonight. We can eat-in tomorrow.” He glanced out the nearest window.

                Curiously, Bernadetta looked out as well and saw a collection of trees. Was the well beyond that? “We could wait a few days until you’re ready?”

                He shook his head. “No, I want to get it done and over with so the rest of this break can be a ton of fun. There’s a lot of cool stuff to do around here and I want you to see as much of it as we can get to Bernie!”

                “Okay but don’t push yourself Sylvain. Sometimes it’s okay to wait if you aren’t ready yet.”

                “I get it but I think with you here, I’m definitely ready for it.”

***

                The next morning, after breakfast, Sylvain led Bernadetta out into the woods behind the property. This was not a well-kept woods for the sake of appearance but a true wild thing of nature, the few human trails barely functionable.

                When Bernadetta asked, Sylvain replied, “It’s a holdover from the old days. Apparently my family did a lot of hunting a few generations ago and having your own land to hunt game is a big deal around these parts. Felix, Ingrid and Dimitri all have pieces of woods on their property too. And what we have today is only a fraction of the land that the families used to own. Most of it was sold to build other things or turned into conservation fields.”

                “Oh, that’s cool, it’s like you have your own magical woods in your backyard.”

                “True but I rarely did go in here. I was not an adventurous sort of kid.”

                Glancing at him, Bernadetta could tell the woods were not filled with pleasant memories for him. She really hoped he would be okay, she had the sense he was pushing himself to do this more than he was ready for it.

                She yelped as a root caught her foot and she stumbled forward, almost faceplanting into the dirt if Sylvain didn’t grab her arm to steady her. “Should have given you a heads up that it’s not really maintained that well out here. You okay?”

                “Yeah.” She took a deep breath. That scared her more than it should have. “In case you couldn’t tell, I’m not big on nature either.”

                “But you have plants in your dorm room!”

                “Those are indoor plants. That’s different from…this.” She gestured to the nature all around them. Her plants didn’t run the risk of tripping her, or being poisonous or whatever else wild plants did.

                “If you say so,” he said with a chuckle.

                As they got closer, she noticed Sylvain’s steps were slowing and he seemed more unsure of himself.

                “You really don’t have to do it today if you can’t. It’s okay to try again tomorrow.”

                “No, I’ll do it. I feel like if I don’t, I’ll avoid doing it for the rest of today.” He still seemed so unsure and nervous though as if he didn’t believe it himself.

                However he kept pushing forward and Bernadetta diligently followed him. This was the easy part, she had a feeling once he got to the well and saw it, he was going to be even more stressed out and worried.

                Another five minutes passed before Sylvain’s steps slowed to a stop. Glancing around him, Bernadetta saw a well sitting in the middle of a small clearing. Moss grew along the sides and between the stones. It was a small thing, maybe one day long ago it was functional, but now it seemed to be a part of the forest itself.

                “Sylvain? You okay?”

                He nodded slowly, his jaw clenched. “Yeah. Fine.” He shook his head and took a few steps closer to the well. “Miklan told me he wanted to show me something cool. This was back when I still found him a little cool and was seeking his approval. I was so happy that he wanted to do something with me.

                “He led me out here, saying it was something he wanted to show me for a long time. I was excited, the stupid kid I was. We came out here and then we got to the well and he told me to look into it. When I did…he pushed me in.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “I should have known better.”

                “You were a kid Sylvain, it wasn’t your fault.” Bernadetta hesitated for a moment before tightly grasping Sylvain’s hand with both of hers. She hoped he was not too far gone in his memories that he would be unable to see her in the present. “You were a kid, you didn’t know and it was Miklan’s choice to push you in.”

                Sylvain blinked and focused on her and then looked at his hand clasped in hers. “It’s hard Bernie,” he whispered. “I remember every moment, every scrap and bump from falling into the well and I was lying there for so long.”

                “You’re doing a good job so far Sylvain,” she said softly. “If this is too much, we can go back now?”

                He shook his head. “I think I have to go look into the well itself.”

                “Sylvain…”

                “Please Bernie…I have to. I don’t think I can come back here after this.”

                “Okay.” She released his hand but much to her surprise, he made a grab for her hand, and tightly wound his fingers around hers, the grip borderline bone-crushing

                “Just…sorry…”

                “It’s okay. Let’s go,” she said gently.

                Sylvain approached the well, Bernadetta by his side. Peering down into it, she saw it had dried up a long time. Dirt and decaying leaves covered the bottom. It was surprisingly shallower than Bernadetta expected it would be. If she fell into it, with a jump and a bit of scrambling, she would be able to get out without issue. However she could picture how alarming it would seem for a small child.

                She looked at him in concern. “You okay?”

                He stared down into the well and a small laugh escaped his lips. “It’s so…I could pull myself out of that with no problem now.” He rested his free hand on the stone. “It’s…I can’t believe I thought of this as a threat.”

                “Sylvain, your last memory of this well was when you were a child. It’s okay if you were scared but you did it Sylvain! You were able to face it.”            

                He smiled weakly. “I did, didn’t I?” He took a step back. “Oh, sorry Bernie.” He released her hand and she instinctively flexed her fingers to try and get feeling back.

                “It’s okay Sylvain. You feeling alright?” She frowned, knowing how hard this kind of stuff can be. She leaned against the well to help take the weight off her feet. Her endurance was quite crappy and she had to keep up with Sylvain’s fast gait on the walk here.

                “Honestly, I don’t know. It’s just…a mess in my head right now.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m ready to go back.”

                “Okay,”” she said softly.

                Feeling something shift behind her, she glanced back in confusion just as the rock wall of the well give way and she barely had time to scream as she fell backwards into the well.

Chapter Text

            What just happened?

             One moment Bernadetta was there and the next she wasn’t, the side of the well caved in. Fear thudded through Sylvain, the memories of what happened when he was a child burning through him. The child stuck at the bottom of the well, looking up to the circle of sky. His brother looking down at him with a wide smirk before leaving him there for hours.

             For hours and hours he was down there. He tried to climb out but it was impossible with his sprained ankle. He feared he would be stuck there forever, until he was just bones and everyone would forget about him. Felix, Ingrid and Dimitri would move on with their lives and no one would remember him.

              He snapped back to the present, hearing a scraping noise. For a moment Bernie’s head peeked up the broken section of the well before she yelped and disappeared again.

              Holy crap, Bernie was in the well right now!

                “Bernie! Are you okay!?”” He ran over to it, careful to not touch the stone. Who knew how sturdy the rest of it was.

                 “I’m fine Sylvain, I got lucky.” She stood at the bottom of the well and gestured to the broken pieces of stone around her. “Well I got a few scrapes and bruises but other than that, I’m okay.”

                He sighed in relief. “Okay, here, take my hand.”

                She reached up and grasped his hand and scrambled to pull herself up with the tiny footholds in the stone wall. Maybe it was the adrenaline but Sylvain barely felt her weight as he helped pull her out.

                “I wasn’t expecting that at all to be honest…” She dusted off her pants and looked down at her scraped palms and grimaced.   

                Sylvain really stared at Bernie. Her clothes were dirty, twigs and decaying leaves stuck out of her messier hair. And that probably wasn’t counting all of the scrapes and bruises she probably had from her tumble. It was his fault that had happened, his fault that she was even out here to begin with.

                “Sylvain?” She took a step towards him, her eyes bright with concern.

                He wrapped his arms around her, drawing her to his chest, his face buried in her hair.

                “Sylvain!” she squeaked.

                He tightened his grip on her. If she had fallen wrong, she could have broken her leg or worse, her neck. She had come out here because he had insisted on it. What would he had done if he had lost her? He couldn’t imagine not seeing her cute smile or the way she pouted when an enemy got a crit on her in a video game.

                “Sylvain! I can’t breathe!”

                Realizing what he was doing, he startled and released her. “Sorry, sorry.” He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “It’s…I…I don’t know what came over me there.” He looked at the well and hated the shiver that went up his spine. Now he had another negative memory associated with it.

                “Uh, it’s okay,” she stammered. She ran her fingers through her hair and pulled out a few of the twigs. As she did, her sweatshirt rode up and Sylvain could see bruises on her arm, she probably had landed on it when she had fell.

                He grimaced. “Why don’t we head back to the house so we can make sure you’re okay?”

                “I’m fine Sylvain, like I said, just a few bumps here and there but besides that, I’m doing okay!”

                “That’s…good to hear…” He looked at the well. “I just…don’t want to stay here any longer.”

                Her expression softened and she nodded. “Okay, let’s head back.”

                Sylvain walked slowly, his attention fixated on making sure Bernie was fine. Was he imaging it or did she have a slight limp? Did she hit her leg on the way down too!? Damn it, this was his fault. If only he didn’t suggest they do this. Why did he have to go back to the well? He wondered if any of his girls were free today for a quickie. The emotional turmoil in him needed a place to go and sometimes being with someone sexually was the only way he could handle it.

                No, he couldn’t do that! That would mean he would need to leave Bernie behind at his house and what kind of host would he be if he left the girl he invited over just so he could have fun with someone else? Well, fun in a different way.

                “Sylvain, it’s not your fault,” she said softly. “I leaned against the well and it couldn’t handle my weight, it’s an old well.”

                “But…”

                She shook her head stubbornly. “It’s not your fault Sylvain. That one was mine. You don’t need to blame yourself. I was just a little clumsy, that’s all. And I’m fine, well a little dusty and I really want to wash my hair because who knows what got in there but other than that, I’m okay, and that’s all that matters right? Right?” she repeated while giving him a warning look.

                “Right,” he relented. “But, if it really hurts…let me know okay?”

                “It’s nothing bad, I’ve had worse in archery. One time I cut my palm with my bowstring, that was more traumatizing than this.”

                Sylvain was taken aback by the casual tone. “I didn’t realize archery was a dangerous sport.”

                “Oh, there’s a lot of ways to hurt yourself if you aren’t careful. Maybe I can tell you some over lunch?”

                He nodded in agreement. Now that the adrenaline was wearing off, he was beginning to be aware of his stomach rumbling and asking for food. “Well, there’s a good pizza joint, we can go there for lunch and you can tell me some of these crazy stories? After you get cleaned up of course.”

                She smiled at him. “Sure.”

***

                Bernadetta could tell the events by the well bothered him. For the rest of the day, he was a little off, his smile not as bright as it usually was, his reactions a bit slower. She understood though, it took time, especially after facing a traumatic event of the past, even moreso that she was an idiot and leaned against the old well.

                After pizza, they had driven around the neighborhood, Sylvain pointing out all of the places he frequented and Bernadetta tried to respond as enthusiastically as possible. Dinner was at the local Brigid restaurant before they returned to the house. With the crazy day that was had, they decided it would be for the best to retire early for the night and Bernadetta went to her room to do a little writing before bed.

                Before she fell asleep, she realized the call of nature was a little too strong at the moment, and she got up and tiptoed into the hall. It took her a moment to orient herself, all the lights were off, dark shadows being cast from the moonlight coming in through the windows. She focused on her goal, knowing if she stood here and thought too much, she would start seeing monsters in the dark, one of the curses of having an overactive imagination.

                The bathroom was close to the kitchen and she noted there was a glow in there. Odd. Based on what Sylvain told her, the staff had gone home by this time. Was one of Sylvain’s parents home? Should she introduce herself? Would that be weird?

                She crept over and peered around the corner. Sylvain sat at the kitchen counter, the island light on with one elbow on the counter, his head in his hand. He was on his phone, scrolling through something, his mouth twisted to a slight frown. Like always, he seemed to be able to tell when she was staring at him as he looked up and startled as if surprised to see her standing there.

***

                Holy crap, he hugged Bernie.

                That thought ran through Sylvain’s mind over and over for the rest of the day. He was able to ignore it for most of the day, they had been busy doing one thing or another and he wanted to make sure she had a good time. Well, it also meant he didn’t have to focus on the swirling emotional turmoil inside of him.

                However, once she retired to her room for the night, those thoughts came back in full force. The exhaustion and memories associated with his brother and the well along with hugging Bernie. Knowing that sleeping was not an option, he headed for the kitchen and sat at the island and tried to go through his social media feed to try to control his thoughts.

                He hugged Bernie.

                He only hugged girls he was sleeping with and that was usually because they wanted to hug him. He definitely didn’t want to sleep with Bernie, just having that thought made him feel gross. However, everything that happened was so overwhelming and just the idea of Bernie getting severely hurt because of him made him want to hold her tight and protect her from everything.

                What was going on here?

                This was not him at all. He had worked so hard to make it clear that his relationship was Bernie was similar to the one he had with Ingrid. They weren’t like the girls he spent time with for their bodies, he liked them for the type of person they were. Even then it was different. Ingrid was cool and all, but he never had the urge to hug her tight or spend copious amounts of time with her. What was wrong with him?

                He felt a prickle on the back of his neck, the feeling of being watched. He looked up and startled, almost dropping his phone as he saw Bernie standing in the doorway of the kitchen in an old anime t-shirt with pajama pants.

                “Sorry,” she said quietly.

                “It’s fine Bernie.” He put down his phone, the sweat prickling on the back of his neck. Thank Seiros she wasn’t a mind-reader. “What’s up?”

                “I was just going to the bathroom and saw the light on and I was just curious.”

                “Oh yeah, that makes sense.”

                An awkward silence descended upon them.

                Bernie shifted in place. “Are you feeling okay?”

                “Huh?” A slight blush tinted his cheeks. Crap, was he saying what he was thinking out loud?

                “About everything that happened today. At the well?”

                “I didn’t mean to hug you, I’m sorry,” he said quickly. “It won’t happen again.”

                She seemed taken aback by his words. “Uh, I was referring to everything else. With what your brother did.”

                “Oh, that…” He rubbed the back of his neck. Damn it, of course she would be referring to that! It didn’t seem like she was making a big deal out of this whole hug thing at all. Even right after he did it and apologized, she didn’t seem too distressed about it. “I’m doing okay.”

                Bernie stepped into the kitchen and sat across from him on the island. “You sure?” Her gray eyes stared at him intently, as if she was trying to see through him. “It’s not good to hold this stuff back.”

                “Yeah, I’m sure.” He sighed and his shoulders slumped. “It is there in the back of my mind. When I close my eyes, I just see the well and the hole of light I saw then. And Miklan there, laughing at me.” He shook his head. “I really thought it would all be over if I just faced that damned well.”

                “You took a step forward and that’s what matters!” She reached over and took his hand and squeezed it tight between hers. “You tried your best Sylvain and you are on your way of healing. Be kinder to yourself, it won’t happen overnight.”

                He had to chuckle. “Have you ever thought of being a therapist?”

                She blushed and looked to the side. “No, of course not. I’ve just been in therapy for a long time so I’ve picked up on a few sayings and stuff, that’s all.” She released his hand and set her hands in her lap. “I think you were very brave today Sylvain.”

                “Thanks,” he murmured.

                After a moment of silence, she stood. “I brought my switch with me. Sometimes playing a bit helps me feel better.”

                “Sure why not?” There was no way he was going to be able to sleep tonight anyway. Usually at a time like this, he would contact one of his girls and spend the night with them to take his mind off everything.

                After a quick stop to the bathroom, they returned to the guest room. While Bernadetta set up the switch dock, Sylvain looked around the room, already seeing a problem. There were no chairs.  The only place to sit besides the floor was the huge bed. And the way the room was set up, to watch TV comfortably, one needed to be sitting on the bed, the floor in front of the TV way too close.

                Bernadetta hopped onto the bed and crossed her legs. She held out the controller. “You want to play first?”

                He shook his head. Honestly, it was just a bed. He plopped down next to her and took the controller. “Alright, Itsuki. Let’s see what craziness you get into!”

Chapter Text

                Bernadetta could barely keep her eyes open.

                It was getting close to three in the morning and her body was exhausted. The aches and pains from her tumble in the well was coming back, her body yelling her to sleep so she could rest and recover. She was worried about Sylvain though. He looked tired but it was like he was forcing himself to play, as if he was doing everything he could to avoid going to sleep.

                She let out another long yawn.

                He looked to her. “You sleepy Bernie?”

                “Well it is almost three,” she pointed out.

                “Wait, what?” Sylvain looked down at his phone. “Huh, I guess it is. Sorry, we should probably stop for now.”

                “It’s okay.” Bernadetta took the controller from him and hopped off the bed to turn off the switch. She yawned again, her head aching slightly as she begged for sleep.

                “Well, I guess I should leave so you can get some sleep.” Sylvain was obviously trying to put on a smile for her.

                “Are you sure you’ll be okay?” she asked softly. “What do you do when you can’t sleep normally?”

                He seemed to freeze for a moment, a slight flush taking his cheeks. “Well, uh, I would usually spend the night with someone.”

                With someone? What did he-oh. Well, she did tell him to be more open with her about this kind of thing. Hang on. “Did you not go because I’m here?”

                “I’m going to abandon you for the evening and night because I want to…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Anyway, it’s okay.” He stood and yawned.

                Maybe it was because of how late it was and how tired she was but she gestured to the bed. “We could share the bed? I mean, just regular sleeping, nothing…like that.”

                “Bernie, I couldn’t…”

                “It’s big enough for the both of us.” She could stretch out and she barely took up half the bed. If she slept on one end and Sylvain on the other, there wasn’t any risk of them touching. This wasn’t weird right?

                Maybe Sylvain just needed someone sleeping close to him rather than  needing the physical touch?

                He yawned and looked like he was going to protest but saw her expression and sighed. “I’m too tired to fight. Okay.” He crawled to one side of the bed and dropped his phone on the bedside table.

                Bernadetta slipped under the covers on the other side. There was at least a double sized bed of space between them. Maybe it was how tired she was or how crazy the day had been, but despite the fact it usually took her forever to fall asleep, she was asleep in seconds.

***

                Bernadetta jerked awake, not really sure what awoke her. The room was dark and her phone clock said it was five in the morning. She had only gotten two hours of sleep. Damn it, her inability to sleep the whole night in a new environment.

                She heard a sniffle and a groan and she froze, what was that? Was there someone in the room with her?

                A moment later she remembered she had offered Sylvain to sleep in the same bed as her. Turning over, she could barely make out Sylvain’s still form on the other end of the bed. The noises were coming from him and he was obviously twitching.

                “Sylvain?” she whispered.

                No response.

                Was he dreaming?

                She shifted closer until she was in almost touching distance. He was murmuring something under his breath and then reaction with a groan or a yelp. Was he dreaming about something? She really hoped he wasn’t having nightmares about what happened with Miklan. It also probably didn’t help she fell into the same well that triggered those horrible memories.

                “I’m sorry Sylvain,” she whispered. She reached out and gently touched his back.

                Oddly enough, his twitching seemed to subside although he was still murmuring a bit. She was beginning to wonder if it was less the act of having sex but having the physical presence next to him that helped keep him grounded.

                She shifted closer to him and awkwardly put her arm around him from behind. He seemed to relax into her, the nightmares seeming to fade from him as he quieted. Well, now what? She wasn’t sure how this worked. Should she move back to her original spot? But what if the nightmares started again? Staying here though seemed so awkward. How in the world was she supposed to explain this?

                She was so close to him now, her head right up against his back, her arm around his waist. She pulled her arm back and carefully shifted back but Sylvain began murmuring again, his body tensing up. When she positioned herself back in the same place as before, he relaxed.

                This was fascinating and she noted it for a future story and hoped she would remember it in the morning to write it down since there was no way she was going to be able to do that now.

                For now, she really hoped she would be able to fall asleep like this.

***

                Sylvain opened his eyes and at first was confused to where he was. That was not his bedroom wall. Hang on, why did his back feel so warm and why was there an arm around his waist? He glanced over his shoulder in confusion and had to clamp back a curse as he saw Bernie sleeping peacefully behind him. Spooning him to be more precise.

                Crap, crap, crap. He ran through his memories of last night. They didn’t do anything right? Holy crap, he was an emotional mess, barely holding it together. Normally he would call up one of his girls and spend the night with them but Bernie was here and he couldn’t leave her behind to go do that. And it was sweet of her to pick up that he couldn’t sleep and offered to play more TMS with him, even to the point it looked like she was going to fall asleep on him.

                Ugh, did he do something after that? He definitely wouldn’t forgive himself if that was the case.

               Sure they had slept in the same bed, but he tried to think of it like how he and Ingrid shared a bed when they were kids(well, Dimitri and Felix were there too). There was so much space and he didn’t move much in his sleep that he was sure nothing would happen. Was Bernie someone that moved a lot in her sleep? But to perfectly get in this position, it had to be deliberate.

               No, he didn’t remember anything odd. He had fallen asleep and this was the first time he woke up.

               He felt her stir behind him and he froze. What in the world was he supposed to do now!? How was he going to explain this when he had no idea what had happened? He glanced over his shoulder and startled to see Bernie looking up at him.

              “Oh, you’re awake…”  She pulled her arm back.

             “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”  He sat up and looked down at her.

             She frowned and sat up. “What are you sorry about?”

             Sylvain shifted back as far as he could go without falling off the bed, which was sadly not far at all. “For uh, you know, the spooning? Listen, I didn’t mean anything by it.”

             She stared at him in confusion “Wait, hang on, are you apologizing for me hugging you in your sleep?”

              “Well, uh yeah?” Now it was his turn to look confused. “Wait, you were hugging me?”

                She looked down and played with the edge of the blanket. “I woke up and you looked like you were having a nightmare. I got closer to make sure you were okay and I touched your back and you quieted so I was thinking how perhaps you didn’t need the sex portion of your time with the girls but more the intimacy part so I put an arm around you and well, you quieted down after that.”

             Panic was beginning to set on her face. “I mean, I was super tired when I did it so I wasn’t thinking straight myself and I think I was feeling guilty because it was partly my fault since you went out to the well cause I was here and then I fell into the well but you couldn’t use your usual coping skill cause I was here and oh, Bernie, you’re always so stupid.”

            “Hey now, enough of putting yourself down.” He rubbed the back of his neck, really not sure how to proceed here. “Thanks,” he said clumsily. “For uh doing that. I think I was able to get some sleep because of you.”

          “Oh, you’re welcome.” After a moment of silence she said quickly, “I wonder what time it is, we went to bed super late after all.”

          Sylvain grabbed his phone. “It’s a little past noon.” Damn, he must have been really comfortable, normally his internal clock would wake him at eleven at the latest. And this was even if he was spending the night with a girl.

         “Oh wow, I hope this didn’t mess up the plans for today,” she said with a frown.

          Sylvain shook his head. “Naw, the gardens is open late, we’ll be fine.” Since Bernie loved plants, he knew he had to take her to the botanical gardens just outside the city. He had gone there a few times when he was on “dates” with a few of his girls but he never really paid attention to the greenery, his focus on catching kisses whenever he could.  “I think they do brunch too so we can get ready and head over there?”

          She nodded. “Sounds good.”

          He got up from the bed and stuffed his phone in his pocket. “Thanks Bernie, really.”

          “Uh, no problem Sylvain.”

          He left her room and shut the door behind him, noticing a maid was dusting nearby. “It wasn’t like that,” he protested, noting her look. “We were playing video games late and I fell asleep on her bed.”

         “Of course sir,” said the maid politely but he could tell it was obvious that she did not one hundred percent believe what he said.

           He winced, knowing whatever he said would not make this look any better. His own reputation used against him. Well, they probably already thought the worst of him since Bernie was staying at the house and the only girls that he had over where the type that he slept with.

         Thankfully they were discrete enough to not act weird around Bernie. For now, all he had to focus on was getting ready to go.

Chapter Text

            Sylvain didn’t realize how much fun it could be to just look at plants. The botanical gardens itself was separated into many areas, each area housing a particular theme, may it be color, or type of plant or even a walkway of tulips. One area had fountains arranged in a semi-circle and apparently at certain times of day, there was a water show. One of the coolest things had to be the large greenhouse that housed plants from all over the world. This had to be the first time he was ever excited walking through a desert biome filled with cactus.

              “Holy crap, that cactus is almost going through the ceiling!” Sylvain craned his head back and marveled at how large the cactus was.

               Bernie giggled. “It’s like you’ve never seen pictures of wild cacti before.”

               “Okay, I’ve seen pics online but it’s nothing like how they are in person! Dang, those spines are so long!” For a moment he had the morbid urge to touch them but he resisted. Getting that stuck in his finger did not sound pleasant and there was a strict ‘no-touching’ policy in the gardens.

                He followed Bernie into the next area and was taken aback by the large crowd. Apparently this was where the orchids were kept and everyone was here to marvel at the newest additions to the exhibit.

                “Oh man, are we going to even be able to get through this…” Sylvian rubbed the back of his neck as he regarded the crowd.  Oh wait, wasn’t Bernie not good with crowds? Glancing at the girl in question, she had her hands clasped tightly around the strap of her purse, her eyes slightly wide and was he imagining it or was she shaking a little?

                “You okay?” He lightly nudged her with an elbow.

                “Huh? Uh yeah,” she stammered.

                Realizing that people were waiting behind them since they were blocking the pathway, Sylvain gestured behind them. “Want to head back the way we came?”

                She wrung her hands together. “N...No, I want to see what’s ahead. I heard the venus flytraps are past this…”

                Sylvain was worried she was going to have a panic attack while they stood here. “Why don’t we just push through to the next area?” he suggested.

                “Okay…”

                It was easier said than done. The crowd was not moving for the most part, many people had stopped to marvel and take pictures of the flowers. There was a lot of “excuse mes” and Sylvain felt like he was only halfway through the area.

                “How you doing Bernie?” He glanced to his right and didn’t see the messy purple hair anywhere. “Bernie!?” He looked around in a panic and saw she was a few feet back, having a little harder time than him to get through the crowd. Her face also looked dangerously pale.

                He hurried back to her. “Hey, you okay Bernie?”

                “Fine,” she stammered.

                She looked anything but fine but this was probably not the best place to have that conversation. But at the same time he was worried about walking too fast and leaving her behind again. After a moment of hesitation and getting bumped by the crowd, he held out a hand. “Here, I think it’ll be easier if we hold hands?” As soon as the words were out of his mouth he wanted to take them back. Why did he suggest that? She could just hold onto his sleeve or something, she didn’t-

                Without hesitation, she grabbed his hand, her grip incredibly strong for someone so small. This crowd must really be messing with her anxiety.

                He weaved through the crowd, Bernie a couple steps behind him. Once they passed through the orchid area and into the next one, the crowd thinned to almost nonexistent.

                “Damn, it’s like people have never seen orchids before or something.” He rolled his eyes. Checking on Bernie, he startled and saw she looked as miserable and exhausted as she did in the crowd. “You okay Bernie!?”

                “Give me a moment,” she said, her voice detached and slightly cold.

                “Oh, sure.”

                She pulled away and hurried to the closest bench. After sitting down, she pulled out her phone along with a pair of earbuds. After placing the earbuds in her ears, she became hyper focused on whatever she was looking at.

                Awkwardly Sylvain looked at the nearest vine-like plants, his hands stuffed in his pockets. She had never spoken to him like that before. Did he do something wrong? Crap, maybe he shouldn’t have offered to hold hands? He rubbed the back of his neck. Or maybe it was because of what happened this morning? How in the world was he supposed to take Bernie cuddling him to make him feel better? Sure it did help him sleep, but for him cuddling meant…

              He shivered and felt grossed out at the thought. No way he wanted to do anything like that with Bernie.  But he had to admit, the cuddling was nice now that he was really thinking about it. But was it normal to cuddle with someone that you weren’t with sexually? Holy crap, did this meant he actually had to talk to Ingrid about something like this?

            “Sorry for the wait…” Bernie walked over. “It was very loud so I was trying to ground myself and I was feeling some sensory overload so I needed a few minutes.”

            It’s okay,” he said cheerfully. Thank Seiros it wasn’t because of him. “Anyway, shall we go find those venus fly traps?”

***

             Bernie had to hold back a laugh as Sylvain threw the controller at her lap as he died for the fourth time against the boss. “That’s it, I’m done. Please win for me Bernie.”

             She picked up the controller. “You have to use sessions Sylvain.”

             “I know that and you saw me, I was using them! It’s not my fault the boss hits so hard!”

            “I don’t know how you are going to beat the final boss at this rate Sylvain…” Bernie shook her head in mock disappointment.

              “Wait, I have to do the final boss? Come on Bernie, be reasonable here!”

                “How about I tell you what to do while you play?”

                “Okay, that I can do!” He gave her a deadpan look as she sped through the boss fight. “Okay, you’re just showing off aren’t you?”

                “Maybe?”

                He sighed and checked his phone. “Damn, should probably turn in soon. They’re expecting us by eleven tomorrow.”

                Bernadetta nodded and saved the game. Tomorrow the plan was to go to Felix’s house and meet Glenn for the first time and hang out with Dimitri, Ingrid and Felix. She hopped off the bed and put away her switch. “Are you going to be okay tonight?” she asked.

                “Huh? Oh, yeah, I should be fine.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s been a day, so it’s a bit better…”

                “If you say so…”

                “I know so. So uh, good night Bernie.”

                “Night.”

                After Sylvain left, she hopped on the bed and opened her laptop. She hadn’t written in a few days and the itch was starting to become unbearable. Also she really needed to get some work done on this story. An hour or two of writing wouldn’t hurt.

***

                Sylvain stared at his ceiling.

                He couldn’t sleep.

                He tried for the past hour and a half, tossing and turning in bed, his mind whirling and going over the events of two days ago. It wasn’t as intrusive but it was still there, Miklan’s voice reminding him of the failure he was. All he wanted to do was grab his phone and call someone, anyone to get his mind off of this. Well, if he left their house early…

                No way he could do that!

                Bernie was a guest, he couldn’t just leave to have a quickie and come back, it wouldn’t be right!

                However that still didn’t help the fact he couldn’t sleep right now.

                Giving up, he climbed out of bed and almost knocked over the small cactus on his bedside table on the quest to locate his phone. A surprise present from Bernie from the gardens gift shop. Apparently it was incredibly easy to take care of, even for a plant-challenged guy like Sylvain. Well, he was going to need to do a lot of research on cacti so he didn’t kill it!

                He headed for the kitchen. He knew his mother kept some sleeping pills hidden in the back of one of the cabinets. She probably wouldn’t mind him taking a few to sleep. He frowned, noticing the light was on in the room. Did one of the staff leave the light on? That was careless of them.

                Much to his surprise, Bernie was sitting at the kitchen island, sipping out of a cup. She was also going through her phone, obviously reading something.

                “You’re still up?”

                She squealed and flinched as she turned to him. “Oh! Hi Sylvian.”

                “Sorry about that.” He winced.

                “No problem.” She looked down at her mug and then at him. “Sorry for helping myself to the stuff in your kitchen.”

                “No, it’s okay.” He walked over to the cabinet and began looking around for the pill bottle. “What are you still doing up? Couldn’t sleep?”

                “No, I haven’t gone to sleep yet.”

                He paused in his searching and looked at her confused.

                “I was writing. I lost track of time a little.” She lifted her cup.  “I made some hot chocolate to help myself fall asleep.”

                “Dang, you were writing for so long.” He located the bottle and pulled it out.

                “Are you having trouble sleeping?” She frowned.

                “It’s okay, that’s what these are for.” He shook the bottle. “Don’t like using them but you do what you have to do right?”

                Bernie’s concerned look set his heart on edge. “Sylvain…if you want…we could…” She bit her lip.

                “We could what?” he prompted. “Seriously, you can be open with me Bernie, nothing you can will be weird.” Did she want to make him a cup of hot chocolate? That would be sweet but he knew he would refuse. It was already super late after all.

                “We could sleep together?” She winced at Sylvain’s look of horror. “I meant actually sleep! In the same bed! Not like that.  Oh Bernie, you’re ruining everything,” she mumbled.

                Sylvain rubbed the back of his neck, trying to process what she just said. “You didn’t ruin anything Bernie.” Just gave him a heart attack. “That’s just…”

                “It seemed to help you last night,” she stammered. “With sleeping. And like I said, it seems like you need someone physically sleeping next to you than doing anything like that.” She fell silent and seemed to shrink in herself as she stared at her hot chocolate.

                “But Bernie…that would mean…” He grimaced, hating how his emotions seemed to be swirling weirdly in him right now. The worst was that a part of him wanted to sleep in the same bed as Bernie, the idea of cuddling with her was super cute and tempting. She was small enough and looked like she would fit perfectly in his arms.

                He banished that mental image.

                He was Sylvain Gautier. He only cuddled after having sex with a girl and that’s just because the girl wanted it. Bernie was another level compared to those girls. There was no way he wanted to pull her down to that level. That was why he had been careful with touching her too. Sure, shoulders touching was fine along with light taps on the arm but hugs when she wasn’t the one to initiate? No way. Even holding hands earlier today to get through the crowd was a little closer to what he did with those girls for his liking. He wanted her to know that he thought of her as different from them, he didn’t want her for a quick night of fun, he cared about her for who she was as a person.

                “I think these will do for the night.” He shook the bottle of sleeping pills. “Good night Bernie, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

                “Night,” she said softly.

                He winced, her voice sounded so off and defeated. Damn it, they had an amazing day today and it had to end on a sour note. However what could he do about it? There was no way he could agree to sleeping in the same bed as her again!

                Well, hopefully things would be better in the morning.

Chapter Text

                Bernadetta was an idiot.

                She stared out the window and watched the various mansions pass them by. The tension in the car was so loud that it was ringing in her ears. Inwardly she kept cursing herself. Why did she have to offer to sleep in the same bed as Sylvain last night? Of course he was going to react like that, it was weird! Sure he did it once before but it was super late and the same day as him facing his past. He was emotionally vulnerable and wasn’t thinking straight.

                Stupid, she was so stupid!

                This morning had been just as bad as last night, they barely saying a word to the other. Why did she have to say anything!?

                Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Sylvain drive. Obviously the sleeping pills did help him fall asleep but his eyes looked tired, like he had not rested enough.

                “There’s Felix’s house on the left,” he said.

                Looking out the window, she should not have been surprised that Felix’s family home had a similar set up to Sylvain’s. A long driveway, a well-kept huge lawn, a house that could probably house triple the amount of people that actually lived there.

                Sylvain parked the car near the entrance. As they got out, the front door opened and Felix stood there.

                “Saw you guys pull up,” he said in his usual gruff manner.

                “Awwww, nice to know you’re rolling out the red carpet,” said Sylvain with a laugh, like he had not been sullen in the car a few moments before.

                As they stepped into the grand foyer, Bernadetta saw Dimitri and Ingrid in the living room to her left, along with a man she had not met before. He looked to be a spitting, older version of Felix, his dark blue hair also in a ponytail. He looked up at Bernie and grinned.

                “Damn Sylvain, when I heard you were bringing a girl, I wasn’t expecting her to look like that.”

                “Glenn!” Ingrid elbowed him hard in the side. “I told you to be nice!”

                “Ow. Come on Ingrid, you could hold back a little there!”

                “I agree with Ingrid, that was uncalled for,” said Dimitri.

                “Damn, you guys are no fun,” grumbled Glenn.

                “Ignore him Bernie, sometimes I think he has rocks for a brain,” sighed Ingrid.

                “Uh, okay,” she stammered.

                “You’ll learn really quick that he doesn’t mean half of the things he says. Or maybe he does, it’s hard to tell,” said Felix.

                “You wound me brother.” Glenn put a hand on his heart dramatically.

                Felix rolled his eyes. “You’ll get over it.”

                “Sylvain hasn’t been weird to you right?” asked Ingrid.

                “Hey now, I can be a gentleman if I want to be!” he protested.

                “It’s been fine,” she said softly. “He wasn’t weird.” Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a slight twitch in Sylvain’s expression. Probably thinking about the same thing she was.

                “Why don’t we get this little party started?” Sylvain said quickly.

***

                “Here, I’ll help you with the snacks.”

Sylvain got up and followed Ingrid into the kitchen. Behind them, Glenn, Felix, Dimitri and Bernie were deep in a game of cards. Well, Glenn, Felix and Bernie was. Dimitri seemed to never have good luck with this sort of thing as he was always the first one out. He was watching the game intently in an attempt to pick up pointers on how to be better at it. Sylvain had been impressed by how unnaturally good Bernie was. She always seemed to get the right card at the right time. She said it had something to do with her gacha luck…whatever that meant.

                All Sylvain cared about was the fact that she seemed to be having a good time, especially after what happened last night.

                “Get the bowl from that drawer. The fancy looking one with the separate compartments.” Ingrid went into the pantry like she lived here and began pulling out bags of chips and other party snacks.

                “Hey Ingrid, can I ask you something?”

                “I knew there was a reason you wanted to help out.” She handed him a bag of chips to open while she opened a bag of pretzels.

                “Oh come on, I help…sometimes.”

                She rolled her eyes. “Usually Dimitri would be helping out but you offered so fast he couldn’t even say anything. What’s going on?” She went over to the fridge and pulled out a jar of salsa. “It’s something to do with Bernie I assume?”

                “How did you know that?”

                She gave him a deadpan look. “What else do you ask advice on?”

                He opened and then shut his mouth. Good point. He sighed and put down the half empty bag of chips. “This is going to sound so weird and stupid. But uh, Bernie asked to cuddle last night.”

                Ingrid almost dropped the jar of salsa. “Wait, what? Context please.”

                Sylvain went through a quick rundown of the events of the past couple of nights, making sure to gloss over how it was related to Miklan.

                Ingrid leaned against the counter and crossed her arms. “Alright, from what it sounds like, she was asking you to cuddle because it seemed to help you sleep.”

                “Yeah, I’m not really sure how to take that.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s been an awkward morning to say in the least.”

                “Ah, that explains the tension between you two. Oh come on Sylvain, normally you’re always sitting close to her or hovering near her. You also minimally acknowledged her today. It doesn’t take much to figure out something is going there.”

                Damn, he didn’t realize how obvious it was. Or maybe it was just obvious to Ingrid. She was very observant.  “So what should I do?”

                “Cuddle with her? Seriously I didn’t think I would have to spell it out for you.”

                “What? No, I can’t do that!”

                She frowned. “Why not? You want to, right?”

                Sylvain blushed. “I do but she’s….she’s Bernie. I can’t cuddle with her, I don’t want to do anything like that with her.”

                “Anything like what?”

                “Ingrid, I can’t even think about it, saying it would make it grosser okay?”

                “I’m so lost.” She rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Please talk like a normal person for once, please?”

                He wrinkled his nose. Just even having those words on the tip of his tongue made his stomach curl into itself. He leaned in close to Ingrid and whispered under his breath. “Have sex with Bernie.”

                Ingrid stared at him with a blank expression. “Huh?”

                “I said it and I am not repeating it. Ugh, I feel like I need to soap out my mouth after saying that.” He looked at the dish soap by the sink. “You that will be safe to gargle my mouth with?”

                “Don’t do it Sylvain, I really don’t want to have to take you to ER for being an idiot.” She rubbed the bridge of her nose. “I’m just….okay, that’s a lot to process. But from what I can gather…Sylvain, do you really think you can only cuddle if you have sex with someone?”

                “I mean, yeah? A couple girls want to do it after the fact? Okay, you asked, you can’t make that face!”

                “I did walk into that one. But let me give you some wisdom. You don’t need to have sex with a girl to cuddle with her. You can do it platonically, just for the sake of cuddling. Same thing with hugging. If the intent is clear, she won’t take it the wrong way. And from what I know with how you and Bernie interact, she won’t take it that way. This is all on you. It’s because you have associated cuddling with sexual intimacy that you’re in this mess.”

                Sylvain opened and then shut his mouth. Wait, that…happened? “So…the fact that I want to just cuddle with her isn’t odd?”

                Ingrid shook her head. “You just want to be physically affectionate with her, that’s all. There’s nothing wrong with that. And if both of you are in agreement just do it?”

                Sylvain leaned against the counter, turning this revelation over and over again in his mind. “Do…do people really, really just do that Ingrid? You aren’t pulling my leg right?”

                Ingrid sighed. “I’m not, Sylvain, really. You can be affectionate to a girl without wanting to have sex with her.” She thought for a moment. “It’s like how I sometimes will grab Felix or Dimitri’s arm or lean over them. It’s the same thing. Do you think I want to do anything with them?”

                “Of course not.” He had seen how Ingrid was around Glenn as compared to those two. Despite how similar the touches were, there was a different vibe whenever she interacted with Glenn compared to Dimitri and Felix.  “Wait, how come you are never like that with me.”

                Ingrid raised an eyebrow. “You hit on my poor grandmother when we were kids! Of course I wasn’t going to be physically affectionate with you.” She sighed. “Although maybe if I was you wouldn’t be in this mess so I guess it’s partly my fault.”

                “It’s okay Ingrid.” Sylvain shoved his hands in his pockets, still mulling over everything she said. That was a lot to think about. “Thanks for giving me some advice.”

                “No problem. Now, let’s get these snacks out there before they start wondering where we’ve been.”

***

                By the time Sylvain and Bernie went back to his home, it was incredibly late, close to midnight. It had been a fun day filled with games and random conversations about school. Bernie was quiet like usual but he could tell she was having a good time by the way she responded whenever a question was asked of her. It also seemed like she caught onto Glenn’s abrasive nature before long, as she rolled her eyes and ignored him if he said anything too out of place.

                “I guess it’s best to not attempt to get farther in TMS tonight,” said Bernie. “The next section is going to take a while.”

                “Is it? Darn.” Sylvain sighed. They were nearing the end of the game, all the plot points finally coming together. He really wanted to see where it would go next but it looked like that would have to wait until tomorrow if anything.

                “So uh, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then,” she said as they stopped in front of her room.

                “Yeah, tomorrow.” He rubbed the back of his neck and stared at the oak door of Bernie’s room and thought of his conversation with Ingrid. For the rest of the day he had mulled over her words in the back of his mind. It was okay, right? “Uh, Bernie? I know this’ll be weird to ask, especially after yesterday but I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep well tonight and I really don’t like taking sleeping pills two days in a row.”

                “Oh, okay.” She looked at him nervously.

                Damn, he was such a smooth talker with any girl but Bernie! “So uh,” he stammered, “I was wondering if we could share a bed? That should help me sleep. No pressure on you though! None at all! I just wanted to offer.”

                “Uh, sure…if you want to?” Despite her words, she looked incredibly hesitant.

                “I don’t want to make you feel weird about it and you don’t have to accept if you don’t want to,” he said quickly. “I just thought that maybe we could try it tonight…” He groaned. “I’m doing this whole conversation wrong.”

                He took a deep breath before speaking. “I was an ass yesterday and I’m sorry Bernie. I was just thinking about it a little too much and putting too much into it.” He sighed, his cheeks turning red as he looked at the ground and murmured. “I really want to cuddle tonight Bernie.”

                Gah, he never realized how embarrassing saying that could be!  Him, who could say raunchy things to girls without batting an eye was blushing in embarrassment asking Bernie to cuddle! What kind of parallel universe was this!?

                “Uh, sure.” He looked up in surprise. Bernie was staring down at her own feet, her own face slightly red.  “We…should probably get ready for bed first…”

                “Oh, yeah. That’ll make sense.” He cleared his throat. “I’ll be over soon then?”

                She nodded. “Okay…”

                Almost robotically, Sylvain hurried to his room. Holy crap, what in the world was he doing? What was happening!? He quickly jumped into the shower to get off the stink of the day. Crap, what should he wear? The pants were the easy part but he was definitely going to wear a shirt, like the other time he spent in her bed. No need to make this more confusing for him(although he did cuddle those other girls naked anyway).  In the end, he went with one of his old t-shirts, one that felt soft to his fingers, he wanted her to be comfortable after all.

                Ugh. Should he do anything else? He ran his fingers through his hair and checked to make sure everything was in place in the mirror. Cologne? No way, they were going to be cuddling in bed and going to sleep, that’s all.

                “Remember, cuddling doesn’t have to be connected to sex,” he reminded his mirror self.

                Knowing he couldn’t keep her waiting forever, he left his room and walked down to hers and knocked on the door. “Bernie?”

                “Come in!” came her muffled voice through the door.

                He took a deep breath and opened it. Bernie was sitting on the bed, her laptop in her lap and her fingers were flying across the keyboard. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “Just want to get this scene done.”

                “Sure.” He awkwardly sat on the other end of the bed and watched her out of the corner of his eye. This was his first time seeing her write and it was interesting to see that her facial expression shift as she wrote. Apparently It was something serious as her eyes widen one moment and then shift to a frown the next and then change to one of horror.

                She sighed and stopped typing furiously and clicked the save shortcut a few times. “Sorry about that Sylvain, it just wanted to come out and I don’t want to let it pass.”

                “It’s cool, don’t worry about it Bernie.”

                She set the laptop on the bedside table and turned to him. “Uh, so…how should we?”

                “I thought you had a plan?” He looked at her in disbelief.

                She looked down at her lap. “Well, that was my first time doing anything like that…when I did it last time I mean.”

                Oh.

               He cleared his throat and pushed back the covers and laid down after turning off the light next to him. “Come here. If this is too weird, we can totally stop.”

              “It’s okay if it helps you sleep…” she murmured as she crawled over to him.

              All he could think of was how awkward it was to put his arms around her and pull her to his chest. However then he thought about how right he had been. She fit perfectly. Small enough that her head rested comfortably on his chest and he could keep his arms around her without touching any place he shouldn’t be.

              “You okay?” he murmured into the top of her head.

              “Fine,” she whispered back. “You’re really warm Sylvain.”

               “Apparently I’m very warm blooded,” he said with a laugh. “When we were younger, my friends would huddle around me for warmth in the winter. It can get really cold. I can let go if it’s too warm?”

             He felt rather than saw her shake her head. “It’s fine.”

             He shifted slightly in place but after the initial awkward period passed, it was strangely comforting. They didn’t talk, it didn’t seem like they had to. After a couple moments of debating, he carefully lifted a hand and rested it on the back of Bernie’s head, gentling running his fingers through her hair.

             Before long, his eyes began to close, Bernie’s warmth seeping into him and sleep overtook him quickly for the first time in a couple of days.

Chapter Text

Bernadetta expected Sylvain to fall asleep quickly, just not that quickly. They had to have been cuddling for only fifteen minutes top and his breath had already evened out and a quick glance up at his face and a squint in the darkness, she could make out that he most likely had his eyes closed.

Sure Sylvain was like sleeping on a warm heater and she was one of those people that liked being warm while asleep but it would take her way longer to fall asleep in general, especially since her brain never really liked to shut up.

She was happy that he was able to sleep quickly but his sudden shift in wanting to do it was odd. Maybe he talked to one of his friends when they were over there?  Well either way, she was still shocked that she managed to agree to this and end up cuddling with Sylvain without freaking out. But he had been courtesy and it was just so comfy and warm here…

Her eyes closed as sleep overtook her.

***

The dream began with Bernadetta in the middle of a burning hill. She clutched her bow tightly in hand, her clothing purple and accented in gold. Her hair was also sleeker and long in the back. She coughed, the smoke getting into her lungs, the fires nipping on her heels. A trap that had been sprung by her.

Lure a portion of the  enemy army to this hill and then set it aflame. A brilliant strategy that Bernadetta didn't like being on the receiving end of.

She coughed again and fell to her knees. She needed to get moving. Either the smoke or the fire would get her. There was a single path that was a bit clear and she stumbled to her feet and began heading in that direction. Her head was starting to spin, the air way too hot.

A neigh from in front of her and she squinted, barely able to make out a rider on horseback approaching. It was too smokey to tell what banner the rider had on the side of the horse.

With an unsteady hand, she pulled an arrow from the quiver and rested it on her bow. She needed to lift up her hands and aim it at the rider. She coughed again, the smoke definitely permeating her lungs.

“Bernie?”

The rider was upon her and he looked down at her with wide, shocked  brown eyes. Sylvain. Like her, he looked different, his red hair arranged in a different style, and he was clad in silver armor.

Thank Seiros it was him.

She let out another hacking cough, falling to her knees.

Sylvain let out a few curses and jumped off his horse.  “Hold on Bernie!” He gently picked her up and set her on the horse before climbing up behind her. He had one arm around her, her head leaning against his chest armor as he turned the horse around and headed down and away from the hill.

She looked up at his face and blinked slowly, her vision blurring on the edges. He looked different than the Sylvain she knew when she was awake. There were a few faint scars, his eyes holding weight and horror.

“Bernie, hey, stay with me okay!?” Every couple of seconds he looked down at her, panic and fear clear in his expression. And was that desperation as well? Maybe, her brain wasn’t working as fast as it usually did.  “You’re going to be okay but you need to stay awake. Mercedes can heal you.”

She coughed, her lungs hurting. He was definitely still talking but the words just wouldn’t register. His armor was cool against the side of her face, nothing like the burning in her sides and feet. Maybe she could just a take little nap. She would definitely feel better when she woke up.

***

Bernadetta jerked out of the dream with a shocked gasp. Her heart pounded hard against her ribcage and her breathes came out in short ragged gasps. Her body also seemed to be drenched in sweat, her hands shaking. She could barely breathe and she pulled away from Sylvain and sat upright, her hands over her mouth to try and silence her loud wheezing.

The dream felt so real, unnaturally so, to the point that it felt like she could still feel the heat from those flames and how it scorched her lungs. Her sides and feet ached from phantom burns.

“Bernie!?” Sylvain seemed to have woken up  from her wheezing. For a moment, sleep glazed his eyes but then next he was alert and he sat upright, concern etched in his expression. “Hey, you okay? Okay, that was a dumb question, obviously not. What do you need?”

She shook her head and tried to focus on getting her breathing under control. Her grounding exercises weren’t working, she could barely string two thoughts together to even do them.

He reached for her, hesitated a moment and then shook his head and put his arm around her in a side hug and began gently rubbing her arm.

She leaned into his side and continued to struggle through the panic attack. The fear of dying was flaring in her. What if she never got her breathe under control? What if she had a heart attack here and now?  What if? What if?

However Sylvain was warm, his touch comforting. It didn’t do much to abate the symptoms but the fact that he was here, holding her, gave her a small sense of safety.

Like all her panic attacks, her breathing finally seemed to slow back to normal, her body barely able to hold herself upright as the adrenaline rush finally crashed. Realizing that she was leaning her weight into Sylvain, she shifted upright and pulled away slightly. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “I probably woke you.”

He shook his head. “It’s okay. How are you doing though? That sounded…” He paused and seemed to be searching for a word.

“Bad? Yeah, I haven’t had one that bad in a long time. Especially nighttime panic attacks.”  She rubbed her eyes and checked her phone for the time. Eight in the morning. Well, a reasonable time to get up at least since there was probably no way she was going to be able to sleep after that.

“Do you have nighttime panic attacks often?” He frowned.

She shook her head. “Not really. I think it happened because of my dream…”

“A dream? What kind of dream? I mean you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

“I can barely remember it right now. It was something with a fire.” And she had the distinct impression that Sylvain was in it, although he looked different. Older. She could clearly picturing her looking up at him, his expression full of panic and fear. That was incredibly strange that it stuck with her of all things. Also weird that she was dreaming of an older version of Sylvain.

“A fire? Well that sounds scary.” He rubbed her arm a few more times. “You okay now though? You need anything? Should we go get some breakfast?”

Her stomach was a little out of sorts that she really didn’t know if she would be able to eat but she knew she had to get some sort of substance in her body. “Yeah, some food should help.”

***

 Sylvain kept one eye on the eggs cooking on the stove and the other on Bernie. She sat at the kitchen island, a steaming cup of hot chocolate in hand. While he felt well rested, Bernie looked like she had not slept in days, her shoulders slumped as if the weight of the world was on her.

Although maybe he should not be surprised. When he had woken up and saw her sitting there, wheezing with wide eyes, he was frightened that she was having a heart attack or something else that was life-threatening. At first he wasn’t going to hug her but he remembered Ingrid’s words and how it was okay to do so and she wouldn’t get the wrong idea. He didn’t know if it helped but he hoped that the comfort did help her calm down faster.

“Oh yeah, I never asked you, how do you like your eggs?”

“Scrambled is fine.”

“Scrambled it is then! Toast good too?” He grabbed the bread out of the fridge and popped two into the toaster.

“I never expected you to be good at cooking,” she commented.

“Hey now, I have some life skills, I’m not that pathetic!”

“Oh, I didn’t mean…”

He waved her concern away. “I didn’t mean anything by it, it was a joke.” Truthfully, he learned how to cook basic things to impress the ladies. Plus being able to drop the “how do you like your eggs?” in the morning and actually go through with making the eggs made a couple of them more willing to sleep with him again.

Hang on, the fact that he was making eggs for Bernie along that line of thought was incredibly weird.

He put the eggs and toast on a plate and put it in front of Bernie along with the basket of jams and jellies. “One Sylvain breakfast special. You can eat right away, you don’t need to wait for me.” He cracked two more eggs and threw it into the pan for himself.

“It’s okay, I’ll wait.”

Once Sylvain got his plate of food cooked up, he joined her on the island. As he put strawberry jam on his toast, he kept an eye on her. As she was eating, it looked like the color was coming back to her face. Good.

“So, what’s the plan for today? Some TMS?” He caught her slight twitch at the mention of playing the game. “We don’t have to do that if you don’t want to. There’s plenty of things to do around town.”

“Huh? Oh, no, TMS is fine…”

Sylvain frowned. She didn’t sound that convincing.  “Bernie, if you don’t want to play, we don’t have to play. We can do something else? What do you usually do after something…like that?”

She poked her eggs with the fork. “Well, I usually hermit for a few hours…”

Hermit? “Oh, so you want to be left alone?”

Bernie’s eyes widen. “It’s not like it’s not fun hanging around you Sylvain. I didn’t mean…”

He waved her concern away. “It’s fine. Felix gets that way sometimes too. And I guess we have been around each other twenty-four seven almost all break. If you want to hermit, that’s fine too! I can go out and run errands and stuff. The chef should be in for lunch so you can get food if you want.”

“I’m sorry Sylvain,” she murmured.

“It’s fine Bernie! Really. But if you need anything, text me okay?”

“Okay. Umm, we could play TMS tonight though? Late afternoon? Around five?”

Sylvain nodded and gave her a wide smile. “Sure. Let’s do that.”

She mirrored his smile and her shoulders seemed to relax slightly. “We…we should be able to finish the game tonight if all goes well.”

“Seriously? Well I can’t wait then! Hang on, are you going to make me fight the final boss?”

“Maybe?”

“Why must you enjoy watching me suffer?” He playfully shook his head.

After breakfast was finished up, and Bernie insisted on washing the dishes(since Sylvain cooked), she retreated to her room and Sylvain wandered into the living room, wondering what the heck he was going to do with himself for the next couple of hours. Unlike Bernie, he thrived being around people.

Pulling out his phone, he began wandering through his “special” contacts. Usually he hit up one or two of them when he was home and he did have a couple hours to himself. And he was feeling much better after cuddling with Bernie so it wasn’t like this would be a way to suppress and cope with his emotions.

Shrugging, he texted one to see if she was free for a bit. She replied almost instantly that she was and if she could come over to his place if his parents weren’t around.

Heck no.

He texted back he would come to her and headed for his room to get ready. He wondered if it would be better to knock on Bernie’s door and tell her he was going out or if it was better to text her. Probably texting. He didn’t know how Bernie hermitted but she probably didn’t want any human interaction at all right now.

Before he headed out, he sent her a text to let her know he would be gone and if she wanted him to pick up anything while he was out. She texted back to acknowledge she saw it and said she didn’t need anything.

Chapter Text

              Bernadetta’s fingers were starting to cramp from the amount of typing she had done in a short period of time. She paused for a moment and cracked her fingers as she stared at words that flew out of her head and onto the page.

              At first she spent her time alone watching random videos but the itch to write in the back of her mind became too great and her fingers tingled, begging her to put the words on the page. She gave in and opened the doc with her current project and began typing at a furious pace. Why inspiration hit her now, she had no idea but she was going to take it.  Maybe it was the dream from last night. She didn’t remember too much about the context but the idea of margrave Silvanus saving count Bernarde from a fire really added a dramatic element to the story.

              After rolling her shoulders, she quickly got back to work. Silavnus might have saved Bernarde from the fire but she was severely injured and needed to see a healer otherwise her life was in danger. It was time to write in a lot of angst.

***

              Sylvain walked into the house with two boxes of pizza along with a container of breadsticks and a box of chicken wings. The house was surprisingly dark, he had told the house staff to go home early today. If they were going to finish Tokyo Mirage Session tonight, he wanted to celebrate and use the biggest TV in the house, the one in the family room. Also his parents wouldn’t get mad if they ate food in there.

              He entered the kitchen and set everything on the island for the moment before flicking on the light. A plate of sandwiches sat on the counter, wrapped in saran wrap. He frowned as he stared at it. It was obviously the chef’s food, most likely what was made for Bernie to eat for lunch. Did she not eat?

               He walked to her room, turning on all the lights as he went. Her door was shut tight and from the crack under the door, the room was dark. He frowned, fear slowly creeping to the back of his mind. He knocked on the door a few times. “Bernie?”

                No response.

                His heart rate started to speed up and he remembered how she wheezed for air this morning. What if something happened? What if it wasn’t a panic attack at all but something else, something even more serious? What if she collapsed in her room and that’s why she hadn’t left her room all day?

                “Bernie?” He tried the doorknob and sighed in relief that it wasn’t locked.

                The room was dark except for the backlight of her laptop. Bernie’s face was illuminated in it, the furious tapping of her fingers on the keyboard incredibly loud in the silent room.

                “Bernie?” he tried again, this time much louder.

                She paused and looked in his direction and a small shriek left her mouth.

                It was so loud and jarring that Sylvain had to look behind him to make sure there wasn’t an axe murderer standing back there. “It’s only me Bernie!”

                “Oh, Sylvain? You’re back already? Wow…my room is really dark.”

                “Yes it is. You know you really shouldn’t have the light off when you are at your laptop. Close your eyes, I’ll turn on the light.” After giving her a moment, he flicked on the light switch.

                Bernie had her hands over her eyes and she slowly pulled them away as her eyes adjusted to the light in the room.

                “Were you really writing for the past eight hours?” He approached the bed.

                She stiffly moved. “Maybe a bit.” She rubbed her eyes and then paused. “Wait, eight hours?” She glanced at her phone. “Holy crap, it’s already seven?!”

                “Yeah, it’s already seven.” Sylvain rolled his eyes. “I texted you to let you know I got pizza for dinner. Thought we could play in the family room to celebrate the end of TMS?” He frowned. “Although you were staring at a screen all day…”

                “It’ll be fine. Wow, I’m starving.”

                “Yeah, lunch was untouched. What in the world were you writing that you lost focus on everything?” He went to peer at her screen.

                She let out a loud screech and covered the screen with her hands. “Don’t look Sylvain!”

                He backed up, shocked by her tone.

                “S…sorry, it’s not ready yet,” she stammered, closing her laptop. “It’s an original work, I’m more picky with it and it’s only the first draft and I haven’t done the first round of editing yet and it’s probably super bad…”

                “No, it’s okay. I get it.” He awkwardly rested his hand on the back of his neck. “My fault for trying to look at it too soon. But I know it’ll be great once you’re done with it.”

                “I hope so,” she murmured. She smiled and hopped off the bed. “I’ll get the switch and dock. I’m also starving…”

                “I wonder why.” He rolled his eyes. “Anyway, I got a veggie lover all for you and cheese for myself. You can take some of my pizza if you want. Also got chicken wings and breadsticks.”

                “That’s a lot of food for the two of us.”

                “Well, if you’re going to make me fight the final boss, it’s going to take a while, so I thought we would need enough food to last us the night.”

                Bernie giggled as she followed him into the family room. While she set up the dock and switch, he went to bring the food into the family room along with different types of organic juices and sodas from the fridge. “It’s like we have our own mini party.”

                “Kind of, yeah.” Watching Bernie turn on the game and load up the file, he had to smile. She seemed to be back to the Bernie he knew. Despite the fact she had been writing for eight hours, she didn’t seem tired, in fact she seemed even more energized.

                She sat down on the floor next to him and handed him the controller before grabbing two slices of pizza for herself. “Good luck Sylvain.”

                He rolled his eyes and squared his shoulders. “Let’s do this.”

***

                “So?” asked Bernadetta as the credits rolled.

                “That was…I was not expecting them to have a musical number at the end to be honest. And that boss fight…” He shook his head. “It was so hard! I told you that you should have just done it for me Bernie! We could have saved a whole hour of me struggling.”

                “It was funny though,” she pointed out.

                Sylvain pouted. “Maybe for you but I was suffering over here. But other than that, it was a good ending! Although I like how they never really explained why Chrom became so edgy in this world. Maybe his Robin left him or something.” He got up and grabbed the pizza boxes. There were a few slices left along with a lone breadstick. “Guess we have lunch for tomorrow.”

                “I guess so.” Bernadetta followed him into the kitchen with the cups and drinks.

                After everything was cleaned up and put away, Sylvain looked at the large clock on the wall. “It’s only ten. You want to watch a movie or something? My family has every single streaming platform under the sun.”

                Bernadetta nodded. “Sure.”

                “Cool. I’ll get the popcorn ready!”

                “We’re going to have popcorn after all that food?” She had to giggle at the look of disbelief he gave her.

                “I mean, you can’t watch a movie without popcorn? Let’s see, we got movie theater style, regular, kettle, extra butter…”

                “Extra butter sounds good.”

                “Extra butter it is.” Sylvain put in the microwave and turned it on.

                “I’m sorry for having to hermit today Sylvain.” Bernadetta looked down at the wood floor and shuffled her feet. “We only have two days left until we have to go back and I made us waste a day.”

                “It’s fine, really Bernie. Like I said before, I get it. And besides, it looks like you were really into writing there.”

                “Uh yeah.” She blushed and looked to the side. “Sometimes I just get the urge to write and when that happens it’s best to just give in and write.”

                He looked at her curiously. “What do you mean by an urge?”

                She shoved him her hands. “I get a weird tingly feeling on my fingers but it’s not really tingly. It’s like there’s phantom limbs there, and it aches until I write, oh it’s hard to explain. But it happens when I’m super inspired and my brain can’t ignore the idea so I have to write it otherwise it’s just stuck in my head and it’s really hard for me to focus on anything else.”

                “That sounds cool, yet annoying at the same time.”

                “Sort of. What did you do all day Sylvain? Besides getting pizza I mean.”

                “Oh, just out,” he said. “Visited a friend in town for a few hours, nothing big.”

                “Oh, I’m sorry Sylvain.”

                “For what?” Sylvain opened the microwave as it dinged. He opened the bag and poured the popcorn into a large bowl.

                “That you aren’t able to see your friends in town because of me.” Bernie looked to the ground.

                “What? No. It’s fine. Really Bernie. The friends I really care about besides you are Ingrid, Felix and Dimitri and I see them at school all the time. Anyone else here isn’t…that important.”

                “Are you sure?”

                “Positive. Now come on, we have a movie to watch!”

                Back in the living room, Sylvain sat on the couch, the popcorn in his lap and Bernie sat next to him, her legs curled under her.

                “So? What are we in the mood for? Action? Drama? Romcom?”

                “Why don’t you pick?” offered Bernadetta. “We did TMS, which was my game so you can pick what movie to watch.”

                “Okay, but you get the final say Bernie. Oh look, didn’t know the latest Swift and the Enraged was on here. Want to go with that?”

                “Sure.” Bernadetta hadn’t seen the other ones but from what she knew apparently this series didn’t have much of a plot and had more explosions and racing? Sylvain appeared to really want to see it and that was fine with her.

                She reached over and grabbed some of the popcorn from the bowl before settling back in her spot to enjoy the movie.

 Sylvain rested his arm on the back of the couch as the movie began. Bernadetta had zero context for anything, she barely knew the actors in this movie to begin with. Sylvain seemed to be enjoying it though, as his eyes brightened and sparkled and he let out a gasp as a plot twist happened early on in the movie that was related to the previous movie.

                It was cute and adorable and she felt like she didn’t see much of this side of him. From what she was able to gather of his personality, it seemed like he was used to catering his interests to others rather than letting his interests shine through. If he felt safe enough to show off his interests to Bernadetta, well she needed to nurture that right? Even if she had no idea why the characters were racing cars near a train and why in the world were there explosions!?

                As the movie went on, she shifted closer to Sylvain, mostly to get to the popcorn but soon enough she was leaning against his side, her head resting on his shoulder. He moved his arm from the back of the couch and put it around her.

                She sniffed, getting a different scent from Sylvain. “Wait, why do you smell like lavender?”

                She felt him flinch. “Well, that’s…”

                She glanced up at him, wondering why he was stuttering so much. Oh wait, maybe it was weird that she commented on it? “I didn’t mean to make it sound weird. It’s just from cuddling yesterday and the day before you smelled different?” Sylvain always seemed to have a distinct warm wood-like smell to him and this was throwing her off slightly. “I mean, you were out so I guess that makes sense but…”

                “I was out to see a girl,” he said quietly.

                She blinked. “A girl?” What did seeing a girl have to do with anything-oh wait.  “So you went to sleep with a girl,” she corrected.

                “Yeah. I showered at her place afterwards. Didn’t want to come back here with…” He cleared his throat. “Well, I showered there so I had to use her stuff. You aren’t mad right?” he asked quietly.

                “Why would I be mad? We’re friends Sylvian. It’s not like it’s insulting to me? That’s just the kind of person you are.” She shrugged. “I’ve told you before that it doesn’t matter to me?”

                She yelped as Sylvain put his other arm around her and squeezed her tight while resting his head on top of hers. “And this is why you’re awesome Bernie.”

                “Sylvain, you’re squeezing so tight! And the popcorn is going to fall on the floor!”

                He released her but kept the same arm around her shoulders as before. “But really, thanks Bernie,” he said softly. “For accepting the kind of person I am.”

                “Well yeah, we are friends after all.” She leaned against him and tried to figure out what in the world was happening in the movie.

***

                Bernie was awesome.

                There was no other way Sylvain could put it. Sure Ingrid didn’t care too much about his antics but she was a childhood friend, she was different. Bernie was a friend he made less than a year ago and she was definitely like none of the girls he normally hung out with. Those girls would flip out if they caught scent of another girl’s stuff on him. There was a reason why he usually carried cologne with him.

                She just accepted it and stayed cuddled next to him, obviously putting her full trust in him. He really didn’t deserve to have a friend like her.

                She shifted slightly and Sylvain glanced down to make sure she was able to get into a comfortable position and noticed her eyes were closed and her breathing regular.

                No way, she had fallen asleep!? But the movie was getting good! It had finally gotten to the crazy helicopter scene from the trailers! Well, maybe he couldn’t blame her. She did wake up early this morning and she had been writing all day. That had to have exhausted her, right?

                He quickly shifted her position as she was starting to dangerously tether forward. “Bernie, your warm pillow is right here,” he murmured. He knew he would need to wake her in a bit so she could sleep in her bed but there was still half an hour of the movie left. He could let her sleep for a little longer.

Chapter Text

                Bernadetta fired an arrow and had to smile as it hit dead-center on the distant target.

                “You’re always so good Bernie,” sighed Ashe from next to her. “Are you sure you weren’t practicing over spring break?”

                She shook her head. “No, I was out of town, no time for archery practice.” Unless axe throwing counted.

The last full day they had, Sylvain took her to an axe throwing place. Axes were slightly different than arrows but she got the hang out of it quickly while Sylvain’s throws were not as great, even by the end of it.. They had also started a drama that evening and Bernadetta didn’t realize how much fun it could be to make fun of the characters and the ridiculousness of the plot.  The plan was to continue it the next time they hung out.

                After practice, and the field cleaned up, Ashe and Bernadetta headed for the student center to have dinner. Or at least that was the plan until a man dressed in a suit approached them.

                “Ms. Varley, if you would come with me please, your father has requested you join him for dinner.”

                Bernadetta froze. What in the world was this? Henrick had never done this before.

                Ashe sighed. “Darn, maybe we can get dinner another time Bernie. After Thursday’s practice maybe?”

                “Uh huh…” She wrung her hands together. How could she get out of this?

                “Your father wants to meet with you alone,” corrected the man.

                Alone? What was going on here? If she was alone in her room, she would have attempted to escape but they were in public and if she made a scene, everyone would stare at her and Ashe might think of her as a weirdo. So she did the only thing she could do.

                She meekly followed him to the car.

***

                Bernadetta took a bite of her salmon, the buttery sauce barely registering on her tongue. Like always, Henrick wanted to meet her at a high end restaurant. Thankfully, he chose to get a private room but she had to endure all the stares on the way here. Just coming out of archery practice, she was definitely not dressed for a fancy place like this.

                “I’ve heard you spent spring break at the Gautier home.”

                Bernadetta froze. “Ummm, I…”

                He rolled his eyes and Bernadetta could feel the disappointment radiating off him.  “I do not care if you chose to spend your time with that Gautier boy. In fact, it’s probably better that you keep him hooked….somehow.”

                Oh crap. She had almost forgotten that they were “dating”, at least in Henrick’s eyes.

                “However, I feel like I must warn you Bernadetta. This boy is slightly…unsavory.”

                Unsavory? What in the world did he mean by that?

                Snapping his fingers, one of Henrick’s men stepped forward with a manilla envelope. He took out a few pieces of paper and showed it to Bernadetta. Glancing at them, she saw it was pictures from Sylvain’s social media. Ones with him showing off his body or posing seductively or one where he had his arm around a girl.

                “He is the type of man that appears to not care about the…company he keeps or his presentation online. I would rather not my daughter be subjected to this man’s whims and then tossed on the side when he’s done with you.” Henrick’s eyes narrowed. “He has also continued to post pictures like this after our meeting last time.”

                “I’m… uh aware,” she stammered.

                “You’re what? You were aware of this behavior and yet you still remain with that boy?” Henrick rubbed the bridge of his nose. “You’re a Varley for crying out loud, have some dignity in yourself. Just because a boy pays you attention for the first time in your life, you don’t have to stick with him.” He scoffed. “I do not want to get a phone call that you ended up pregnant and he abandoned you and I’m stuck cleaning up that mess.”

                Bernadetta’s face burned. She was well aware that Sylvain was very careful with using protection so nothing like that would happen. Just from their conversations, it seemed like kids was not something he was dying to have anytime soon. And the idea of her having kids was just weird in general. Especially Sylvain? No way. There was no way that was ever going to happen and it was gross to even think about.

                “He…he wouldn’t,” she managed to get out, knowing it wasn’t much of an excuse.

                “For the love of Seiros, why must you defend that boy like this? I’ve seen his type before, they do not care about anyone but themselves and they just jump from one relationship to the next. I’m surprised he somehow managed to keep you around for so long but it is probably because you are ignoring the facts in front of you. That boy isn’t loyal and he will never be. Get out of this relationship. I’ll set you up with more reputable men.”

                She shook her head. “N…No, I want to…”

                Henrick  glared at her. “How in the world did I end up with a spineless daughter like you? First you want to be an editor, which fine, it’s something, at least you can fend for yourself but you end up with a boy that will use you and toss you to the side when he’s done. How far do you want our reputation to drop!?”

                Bernadetta stared at her food miserably, not really able to think of anything to say against it.

                Henrick let out a long sigh. “Anyway, give me an update on your coursework.  Have you signed up for classes next semester? When is payment due?”

***

                Bernadetta opened the door to her dorm room, misery seeping off her. Like always, her dad never seemed to get that she couldn’t quickly switch tactics from one thing to the next, her brain continuing to go over the fact that he had wanted her to stop hanging out with Sylvain. Well, date Sylvain, which wasn’t what they were doing in the first place but she couldn’t tell him that.

                She rested her phone on the bedside table, noting that she had a few unread messages but she ignored them as she crawled into bed and hid under her covers.

Chapter Text

               “Has Bernie been responding to any of your messages?” asked Sylvain.

                Felix looked at him annoyed. “Huh?”

                “She didn’t reply to the text I sent her last night and it’s almost been eighteen hours…”

                “Maybe she’s busy?”

                “Maybe but she usually will tell me ahead of time if so.” Sylvain looked at his last message in their text chat in concern. He had found another weird statue on campus, this one of a crazy bull and he had Dimitri take a picture of Sylvain being “impaled” on one of the horns. It was cute and funny and Dimitri’s shaky camerawork just added to the effect. He knew she would have loved it but she hadn’t sent a reply, not even a “lol”. It really wasn’t like her.

                “You think it would be weird to text her again?”

                “Probably not?” Felix rolled his eyes. “What kind of parallel world are we in that I need to give you advice on how to talk to a girl? Isn’t this something to ask Ingrid?”

                “I could but she’s busy today. There’s a horse club thing going on!” Noticing the professor was walking into the classroom, he quickly sent a text to Bernie asking if she got the previous message and if not, he’ll send it again.

                It was a business class and boring like always. Sylvain had read ahead in the textbook so he already knew what the professor was droning on about. What worried him was he didn’t feel his phone go off at any point during class. Weird since he knew Bernie didn’t have class right now or club and she would always respond right away.

                “Why don’t you stop by her room or something if you’re so worried,” put in Felix when class ended.

                “Would it be weird for me to do that?”

                Felix shrugged. “I mean, I visit Annette all the time and sometimes drop by unannounced. She doesn’t seem to mind.”

                Getting Felix’s blessing, Sylvain headed for Bernie’s dorm building after sending her a quick text that he was coming over just to check up on her since she didn’t respond to his previous texts.

                There was no response to that text either.

                This was really not like Bernie.

                The elevator dinged to say he was on the correct floor and he walked out into the familiar hallway. Ah, the doors were now decorated with spring themed flowers. How cute. He stopped in front of Bernie’s door and knocked.

                No response.

                He knocked again.

                Maybe she wasn’t in her room? Where could she be though? He heard something shuffle inside. Oh! Maybe she was in her room after all.

                His usual bright smile slipped as Bernie opened the door a crack, barely enough room for him to make out her face. Her room was dark, the curtains closed tight. Her quilt was around her shoulders and it was half dragging on the ground. Her hair was a frazzled mess, dark circles under puffy eyes.

                “Sylvain…” she said, her voice hoarse.

                He held up his phone. “You weren’t responding to my texts, I was worried.”

                “Oh. Right.” She turned to look at something behind her, her movement so slow and deliberate. “I had my phone on silent.”

                “Bernie, did you go to class today?”

                “Class? Oh, right, there were classes today. I…I didn’t feel like it. There were too many people.”

                “Can I come in?” He realized that it was probably best to not have this conversation in the hallway.

                “Oh, right…” She backed up a few steps and Sylvain walked into the room and shut the door tight behind him.

                “You mind if I turn on the light? It’s pretty dark in here.”

                “Sure.”

                Sylvain flicked on the light switch and it just exasperated Bernie’s dark circles. She also seemed to be sinking into herself, the quilt looking like it was going to consume her on a moment’s notice.

                After kicking off his shoes, he sat on the fluffy rug and gestured for Bernie to sit next to him. Thankfully she complied and he put his arms around her, quilt and all and rested his head on top of hers. For a moment she didn’t move but the next, she shifted and buried her face into Sylvain’s chest, her hands clutching at his shirt.

                It took him a moment to find her back under the quilt  and he rubbed lazy circles as she cried. “Sorry,” she mumbled after her sobs subsided. “Your shirt is a mess now…”

                Sylvain shrugged. “It’s whatever. You okay though?”

                “I guess…” she murmured. “I had dinner with my dad yesterday.”

                Sylvain had to temper back his anger as Bernie explained everything that happened. That son of a bitch, why would he say stuff like that to her!? Sure, he could see where the comments about Sylvain’s reputation were coming from but to insult Bernie on top of it!? How could he say that kind of stuff to her!?

                “Bernie, you aren’t spineless, you are one of the bravest, kindest people I know and if he doesn’t see that, it’s his loss. Although I know how much words can hurt and I hope one day you’ll be able to ignore his words and see yourself for what you actually are.”

                “Maybe…” she murmured.

                “You will, I know it. I’ll bet my family name on it.”

                She looked up at him and a hint of her usual smile crossed her face. “Thank you Sylvain.”

                He grinned down at her. “What are friends for? You want me to get you some dinner? When was the last time you ate?”

                “I had a few granola bars this morning,” she mumbled.

                He bit back a comment on how she needed to eat better. This was not the time for something like that. “Alright, it sounds like you need some actual food. I’ll go bring you some. What are you in the mood for?”

                She shook her head. “Nothing really.”

                “Nothing at all?” He frowned. “You gotta give me something otherwise I’m coming back with two gallons of ice cream.”

                “You wouldn’t.”

                He rolled his eyes. “You want to try me?” He released her and wrapped the quilt tight around her so she looked like a cute Bernie burrito. A Berrito. He had to smile at the thought. “I’ll figure something out, I’ll be right back okay?”

                The Berrito nodded to him. “Okay,” she whispered.

***

                Bernie stayed curled up on the floor where Sylvain had left her. Her thoughts had been a massive dark cloud that hung over her mind, pressing down on her limbs and head. The words Henrick had said repeated over and over again, each time getting bigger and bigger, the words getting harsher and harsher. If it was anyone else but her dad she was able to handle these words. Him though, it always seemed to bring out the worst, his words always making her feel like she was drowning.

                Sylvain had helped a lot. With his bright smile and that warm tight hug, for a moment she felt like everything was going to be okay. Well, he was able to get her out of that thought spiral at least. She pulled the quilt tight around her and hoped he would be back soon.

                Wait, it was a weekday. What if he had plans before this but he cancelled them to hang out with her? What if he had to do homework? Crap, she had missed a day of classes too.

                She shuffled over to her laptop and sent emails to her professors, apologizing for not being in class and asking for what she missed. Thankfully she was the type that always went to class and turned her work in. Being the teacher’s pet really helped in situations like this.

                Now that that was taken care of, she grabbed her phone from her desk and saw it was dead. She hadn’t bothered setting it on the charger last night. After plugging it in, she opened her messages and saw the picture Sylvain had sent her yesterday. She couldn’t help but giggle at the dramatic face he was making. She was also ninety-five percent sure Dimitri took the picture based on how shaky it was. For a guy that probably had access to every piece of technology under the sun before it came out to the public, he wasn’t really good at using it.

                Under it were two more texts from Sylvain. One asking if the previous one had gone through and the other that he was coming by to check on her. She pressed her phone to her chest. Sylvain was so nice to her. He always seemed to be looking out for her and seemed to go out of his way to make her feel comfortable. Her father said he would tire of her, but based on the way he treated her, it didn’t look like that would happen? But maybe she was reading him wrong…

                Bernadetta shook her head. No! She couldn’t think like that. That’s what got her into this thought spiral in the first place. She returned to the spot on the floor and wandered the internet until she heard a knock on the door.

                She shuffled over and opened it to see Sylvain standing there with a large pizza and a small carton of ice cream on top of it.

                “You have a fridge right? Want to throw the ice cream in before it melts.”

                “You didn’t have to get ice cream,” she murmured. It was also aptly named “chocolate therapy”.

                “Nonsense, you need it.” Sylvain sat on the shag rug with the pizza box in front of him. “You got plates? I mean we don’t need them but I would be scared to drop oil or something on your rug.”

                After thinking a moment, she remembered where she kept them and pulled them out from under her bed along with two bottles of cane sugar soda from her fridge.

                “You didn’t have to get a whole veggie lover pizza,” she said in surprise.

                “Nonsense, tonight is a cheer Bernie up day!” He gestured to the TV. “That’s an internet TV right? Should I log into my account so we can continue that drama?”

                “That would be nice,” she said softly and then frowned. “What about class tomorrow?”

                “We’ll be fine if it’s only a few hours.”

                “Okay…” She grabbed the remote and handed it over before settling herself next to him with a slice of pizza. She ate slowly, she didn’t feel like eating but she knew she had to, the taste barely there. Having Sylvain against her back, overly dramatically reacting to the drama was comforting.

                “Seriously? I can’t believe he turned out to be her long lost brother. That’s gotta be awkward once that CEO boyfriend of hers finds out,” he said with a shake of his head as they got to the end of another episode.

                “Well, apparently he’s in the next three seasons so I think she gets over it somehow?”

                “Holy crap, how many seasons are in this drama!?” Sylvain went into the menu to check. “Seven!?”

                “With another one currently being filmed.”

                “How much drama can one girl have, sheesh.” Sylvain rolled his eyes. “Anyway, what time is it? Oh crap, it’s already eleven thirty!?”

                Bernadetta flinched. It was getting late and he probably had class in the morning. “I’m sorry Sylvain.”

                “It’s okay, not your fault, I should have kept better track of time.” He released her and stood. After taking a moment to crack his back, he grabbed the empty pizza box and empty soda bottles and after setting her deadbolt to prevent the door from shutting all the way, he slipped out of her room to throw out the garbage in the big bin by the elevator.

                He returned and after setting her door back to normal, he turned to her and rubbed the back of his neck. “You’ll be okay now?”

                She stared down at the shag rug and buried her toes into it. “I think so,” she said quietly. “I mean, I’m feeling better right now at least.” Truthfully she was worried about falling asleep once Sylvain left. She would be left alone with her thoughts with nothing to distract her.

                As if guessing what she was thinking, he glanced at her bed. “It’ll be a bit tight, especially with all the stuffed animals but I don’t mind staying the night to help you sleep.”

                Bernadetta’s eyes widen. “You don’t have to Sylvain.”

                “Will you be able to fall asleep after I leave?”

                She looked down at the ground. “I don’t know…”

                “I’ll stay then. I’m just going to step out to go to the bathroom, I’ve gotta pee real bad.”

                She giggled as he bolted out of her room. Since this was a girls only floor, the bathrooms were for, well, girls only. Sylvain would need to go to a different floor to use a bathroom. Speaking of bathroom…

                Looking down at her clothes, she wrinkled her nose, realizing that she had not taken a shower since yesterday. Ugh, she probably stunk. After a moment of debating, she decided a quick shower was better than nothing so she gathered her stuff and headed for the bathroom. She sent a quick text to Sylvain to let him know what she was doing and left her door with the deadbolt out to prevent the door from closing all the way. She wasn’t too worried about anyone taking her things. It was generally a quiet floor on the weekdays and everyone was most likely asleep at this point. Besides, Sylvain would be back soon.

                When she got out, she was surprised to see Sylvain was not back yet. Checking her phone, he said he would run back to his room to get his things so he could go straight to class tomorrow from her room.

                Wait a second. She was going to have a boy in her room all night.

                Her internal screaming panic came back at full force. What was she supposed to do!? Should she clean? No, that didn’t make any sense. Oh wait, her bed could use a fluffing at least. Ack, when was the last time she washed her sheets!?

                She moved a few of her stuffed animals from the bed to her desk so there would be more room on the bed itself.

                Hearing a knock on the door, she opened it and Sylvain stood there, a backpack over one shoulder, his hair slightly damp.

                “Thought I would shower too since we’re going to be sleeping together,” he commented. He paused and shivered. “Okay, we need to find a better word to call this. Also cute bear pajamas by the way.”

                She looked down her cartoon bear pajama pants and shuffled her feet in place. “Thanks,” she murmured.

                He dropped his backpack near the door and walked over to her bed. “Hmm, you want to be closer to the wall or not?”

                “Closer to the wall is fine.” Realizing that meant she had to get into the bed first, she climbed up and laid down under the covers, facing the wall. Without thinking, she grabbed one of the teddy bears still on her bed and clutched it against her chest.

                After turning off the light, she felt Sylvain get in bed behind her. His arms wrapped loosely around her waist and she felt his legs press against the back of hers. “Okay?” he asked.

                She nodded and then realized he probably couldn’t see it. “Yeah,” she murmured.

                After a couple minutes, she could feel his breathe even out and his grip relaxed slightly on her. It was incredible how fast he could fall asleep. However, she could feel herself relaxing as well and before long sleep overtook her, her dreams peaceful and quiet.    

***

                Sylvain had a really good internal clock and he awoke around eight in the morning, his usual time to get up for his class at ten. Man, it was crazy how well he slept when he was cuddling Bernie. Glancing down, the girl in question was still asleep but she had turned over, her head leaning against his chest, a teddy bear clutched tightly in her arms.

                Only with Bernie he would end up spooning with a teddy bear along with a girl.  It was so cute! Oh, that would be a cute present to buy her. A teddy bear holding a pen or a book or something. A Bernie Bear! He was definitely going to need to look that up later.

                He pushed a few strands of hair out of her face, hoping she was feeling okay now. Or at least better than before. Her dad was a real piece of work saying those kinds of things to her. He really wanted to go over there and punch the guy’s lights out.

                Alas, even though he was a prick, he was still a wealthy man and burning bridges like that would not go over well. All he could really do was support Bernie, the best way he could.

                Sighing, he knew he needed to get out of bed to get ready for class.  He carefully pulled his arms back, trying not to wake her but she shifted and cracked open her eyes. “Sylvain?” she muttered.

                “Sorry, I gotta get going if I want to make it to class on time. You going to be okay?”

                She nodded, still obviously half asleep. “See you later….and thanks…Sylvain.”

                He had to smile as her eyes closed and she fell back asleep. So cute. He blinked in surprise at the feeling of protectiveness he had over her. He never felt anything like that before but at the same time it was familiar and right,  like this was how it was supposed to be.

                Weird.

                Knowing he had to get going if he was going to be ready in time for class, he grabbed his backpack, threw on his shoes and left her room, careful to slowly close the door so it wouldn’t wake her.