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nothin' without you

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He vividly remembered the day she shook the monastery-goers with her presence. Whispers flowed to and from, rounding corners and inciting a new sort of excitement and curiosity for this unknown...person. As gatekeeper, it wasn’t his job to get sucked into baseless rumors, but he genuinely couldn’t help himself. Though he was unable to leave his post, wandering merchants down in the marketplace often paid him a visit, sharing with him the newest of the monastery rumors. 


Back then, there was a blossoming excitement to meet this new mercenary who he heard had taken position as a professor. According to others, she was a radiant beauty with deep blue hair matching dark eyes of an endless depth. He had figured she’d be making her rounds soon enough, and he was looking forward to just sneaking a glimpse of her. 


The day he first got to see her for himself, it was overcast, the brightness of the sun dulled by the looming gray clouds. The cool spring air carried a bite with it, but fortunately for him, his duties were restricted to the inside of the Entrance Hall doors. His shift had actually been over for almost an hour, but he was requested to extend it as long as possible. The gatekeeper who was supposed to take over for him fell ill that morning. Working a double shift wasn’t exactly something to look forward to, but he didn’t mind it. Had he gone home, he simply would have trained or kept to himself the rest of the day. 


Auburn eyes habitually scanned the entrance hall, ready to take a stance against intruders at any given moment. The monastery had employed him many years prior, so it comforted him to think he was fairly familiar with the looks and mannerisms of most of the people who came and went. That was why, when he noticed an unfamiliar silhouette wordlessly approach him out of his peripheral, his shoulders tensed minutely. Fully ready to conduct an interrogation, he turned to her, and the words he had planned out in his mind died out in the back of his throat. 


Those captivating eyes held his gaze with intent as she greeted him with the slightly bow of her head. Years of building up a decent level of self-restraint crumbled down as he blubbered his obligatory greeting. 


“Greetings, Professor! Nothing to report!” 


A hint of amusement sparkled in her eyes as they conversed, and he found out her name was Byleth. What an interesting name. A beautiful name. 


As their time at the monastery continued on, the highlight of his day became the days Byleth would visit him. Every Saturday as she made her rounds, she would stop by for a short bout of conversation. It was like clockwork. With each visit, he grew more comfortable talking to her and sharing different parts about himself. He still knew next to nothing about her, but he supposed that was the same for herself. According to her, she had almost no memory of her time growing up. His heart ached for her, but she never seemed upset when she spoke of it. He liked to think they were perhaps...growing closer? She seemed to grow more comfortable with him as well, sharing short anecdotes about her mischievous Blue Lions students. 


Then one day, it was all snatched from his fingertips.


One moment Byleth was there in all her radiant glory, chuckling softly at one of his meaningless jokes, and the next, war was among them and she had vanished into a crater in the Earth. He watched with remorse as the Imperial army infiltrated his beloved monastery, stripping it down to nothing but rubble and the echoes of long forgotten memories. 


Five long years passed in solitude as he fought to keep thieves and the like from invading the broken remnants of Garreg Mach. It was to no avail; eventually, he was chased out with a blood-stained blade pressed uncomfortably against his throat and the angry face of an Imperial soldier spitting horrid falsities mere centimeters from his own face. 


With that, he had wandered away somewhere downstream, spirit shattered and heart aching. He always promised her he would keep the monastery safe - that he would keep outsiders from claiming it as their own. 


As he made his way aimlessly through a nearby town, he overheard a conversation between an exasperated villager and his companion. The exaggerated tale would never have caught his interest had it not been for his description of the girl in his story: mint green hair and eyes of the same color. That sounded an awful lot like Byleth’s description shortly before his disappearance. The frustrated villager mentioned that she was heading back up to Garreg Mach - something about her students waiting for her. 


That struck a chord within him. He vaguely remembered Byleth once telling him about a promise she had made with her students to return to the monastery for the Millenium Festival. Quickly, almost frantically, he backtracked to figure out exactly which day and which moon they were currently under. 


Indeed, it was the day of the Millenium Festival. 


Heart surging, he bolted off as fast as his lungs would carry him the few miles distance it would take to reach the monastery. Just a glimpse. He needed to know she was alive. He didn’t know if she would be the same as before - if she would even remember him, but he just needed to see her. 


By the time he made it to the monastery, night had fallen and plunged him into darkness. A few torches were lit around what was once the entrance hall - a hopeful sign. That meant there was at least one person inhabiting the monastery. Unsure of where to check first, he ran off in the direction of Byleth’s chambers. Never had he been bold enough to enter before, but this time he flung the door open, only to have sheer disappointment wash over him when he saw its state of neglect. 


It would be foolish to give up so soon. 


He grabbed one of the lit torches lining the dormitory area and briskly headed toward the marketplace. Perhaps it was self-centered to think she would be waiting near his old station, but it wouldn’t hurt to check. 


As he rounded the corner of the Entrance Hall and made his way toward the Marketplace doors - one of which was barely hanging on by its remaining hinges - he caught a glimpse of mint. 


Invigorated, his heart pumped faster as his feet drew him closer and closer to the one person he wanted to see most in the world. 


A distant part of his brain reminded him this could be interpreted as an ambush to her. He continued on anyways, and as he stepped through those Marketplace doorways, his world came to a still. She was there. Byleth was there. She stood tall with her back to him, staring out at the remains of the merchant’s tents. 


He opened his mouth to speak but only found words failed him. 


Byleth turned to look over her shoulder, leveling him with a cool expression. As she took in his features, her expression relaxed into one of familiarity and she turned to fully face him. 


“It’s been a while, Mr. Gatekeeper,” Byleth spoke, voice even and neutral. 


“That hasn’t been my job in a long while, Professor,” he replied, almost embarrassed by the raw emotion causing an unwelcome tremor in his voice.


“And I haven’t been a professor in a long while,” she retorted, lips just barely curving upward. 


The silence between them stretched out longer than he would have liked, but he just couldn’t find the right words to say. Instead, he took a tentative step forward. When she made no move to retreat, he crossed the rest of the way to her and wrapped his arms around her body, pulling her close. Instantly, her arms were winding around his neck, the sheer strength of her embrace enough to convince him that it was real.  


“I-I missed you so much,” he whispered against her hair, his heart skipping a beat once he realized she was smiling against his neck. 


“Though it was only a short period of time for me, I missed you as well,” Byleth responded, fingers running through his grown-out hair. She pulled back with a smile on her lips, seemingly searching his eyes. “You know, this is the first time I’m seeing you without all the armor on." 


He glanced down and grimaced when he realized he was dressed in some villager’s clothes he borrowed from the next town over. “I would have dressed better, but my mind was so overtaken by you...I needed to see you to know you were okay first before anything else.”


Byleth chuckled gently, the sound almost musical. Her arms remained around his neck and her fingers continued to thread through his hair. “I didn’t know you felt so strongly about me.”


He raised both brows. “Are you kidding? I’ve been in love with you practically since we met.”


The words were a little too honest for his liking and had apparently bypassed the filter in his mind. Perhaps it was worth it for the soft pink that painted Byleth’s cheeks. 


“You have...grown on me as well,” Byleth replied, tone light and teasing. 


Heat rushed to his cheeks, and he shook his head. “I can’t believe you’d fall for a little ol’ gatekeeper such as myself.”


Byleth laughed, eyes crinkling at the corners as she truly, genuinely laughed. “Call me a fool, if you will.”


His heart warmed as he watched the remnants of laughter linger on her features, and he gathered the courage to cradle her face with both hands. With a grin, he leaned down and brushed his lips against hers, cheeks flushing and butterflies continuously assaulting the walls of his stomach. Byleth returned the kiss with enthusiasm, holding him as close as she physically could. 


When they parted, Byleth chuckled again. 


“What’s so funny?” he asked, committing her cheerful expressions to memory. 


“I don’t know your true name,” she replied, fingers tracing along his jaw. 


He gave a short laugh and shook his head in disbelief. “All this time later…! I suppose it’s time you found out, though.”


Byleth peered up at him with those beautiful eyes as she anticipated his next words. 


“Greetings, Byleth. My name is….”