The first letter arrived after a week.
Seven days, but Ferdinand was still buzzing with an odd sort of energy from his and Hubert’s first amicable tea break. Their precarious waltz, five years running, seemed to have finally ended, and Ferdinand was nothing but relieved. Ferdinand had never hated Hubert, only pitied him as one would a flea-bitten dog at its master’s feet. The Alliance tea leaves in Hubert’s fist was an olive branch, as were the coffee beans in his. They’d sat down for tea and hardly exchanged a single verbal blow for the first time since they’d crossed paths.
It was wondrous. Ferdinand was vibrating on a frequency he hadn’t known existed until then. Hubert von Vestra, who he’d thought was the loyal pet of Edelgard von Hrelsveg for the better part of half a decade, was pleasant company and a surprisingly soft smile. Hubert was human.
And he’d agreed to tea/coffee, again, this week.
Ferdinand found himself at his desk one week later, fingertip loosening the kerchief around his neck with a heavy sigh, but still in a better mood than he’d been since the war ended. The meeting with the delegates from Brigid had been a rousing success and Hubert had pulled him aside afterwards, asking him if there was still space in Ferdinand’s schedule for a thirty-minute tea. Of course there was, yes, and Ferdinand couldn’t help but feel like it was the best Friday of many past Fridays.
There was a crisp knock at his door. “Prime Minister, letter for you.”
Ferdinand stopped mid-kerchief-loosening. Midday? “Come in,” he said.
The Imperial courier was no doubt hired by Hubert, because he came and went with the flash of a man possessed by the hereditary von Vestran poltergeist; in his stead, he’d dropped a letter on Ferdinand’s desk. The parchment was clean, white, the only blot of color being the black wax seal folding the lip—the letter V, the ends curling downward like a wicked scowl.
Ferdinand had seen the seal of von Vestra a thousand times, but this was the first that he felt a knot of something in his stomach.
He popped the seal.
From what I recall from our conversation earlier this moon, you requested that if I had the audacity to compliment you again, I put it in a letter to you. I am aware that we are to meet for afternoon tea within the hour; be that as it may, I’m certain that you know that my proclivity for self-expression does not lie in the spoken word, unlike yourself.
I wanted to tell you that I was spellbound by your stunning display of diplomacy this afternoon to the Brigid delegation. You speak with such warmth and gravity that you command all the sunlight in the room to your fingertips.
Ferdinand resumed loosening his kerchief. He didn’t know why, he’d have to re-tie it soon to meet with Hubert. He found he couldn’t swallow.
When Lady Edelgard informed me at the end of the war that she intended to appoint you to Prime Minister, just as your father had been to hers, I will admit that I was skeptical at first. However, I realize now that she chose right. Your charisma is unparalleled in terms of negotiation, Ferdinand. This snake is singing an aria, but it is in good faith to recognize your talents.
Briefly, Ferdinand looked behind his shoulder to the window. It was overcast outside. The winter months were approaching. Why was he feeling so warm? The fireplace was roaring in the corner—that must have been it.
Your contribution to Lady Edelgard’s vision for a better future for Fódlan is deeply appreciated. I look forward to our weekly afternoon tea very shortly.
Marquis Hubert von Vestra, Minister of the Imperial Household
Ferdinand chose to choke the fire in the office hearth before he left for tea.
Hubert received Ferdinand in his quarters with another warm smile that Ferdinand still felt entirely ill-adjusted to seeing and a pot of Ferdinand’s favorite tea steeping. They were two cups of tea and coffee in before Ferdinand found the courage to mention the letter—“That was a kind letter, Hubert. I appreciate your recognition of my work. Unnecessary, but appreciated.”
Hubert smiled into his coffee, not meeting Ferdinand’s gaze. “Of course,” he said. “Now. Have you read the latest draft of Bernadetta’s newest book? It’s gripping, she’s outdone herself this time.”
And that was it. Ferdinand’s kerchief felt tight again.
The second letter landed on Ferdinand’s desk two days later.
Ferdinand’s thighs were still aching from the wild bucking of the young stallion his cavalry had captured in the woods—a rogue Gautier fjord horse by the looks of it, stocky with muscular flanks that could throw an uninitiated equestrian within seconds. When Ferdinand had watched the way the horse had thrashed its way into the corral with wild eyes, tossing Ferdinand’s best handlers from his leads like bags of straw, he knew that he couldn’t let his men break this one.
Hours of the sting of his riding crop and several falls into the mud later, Ferdinand had managed to quell the raging spirit of their newest wild mount. Ferdinand’s stablehands had taken the stallion back to the stables on shaking legs. Ferdinand was satisfied, but sore. He felt like he had a permanent calloused imprint of the neck of the riding crop on the palm of his hand.
The letter on his desk, stamped once more with the seal of von Vestra, didn’t feel like a welcome reprieve this time. Ferdinand groaned as he opened it, expecting some sort of paperwork or dull follow up request, but instead—
Lady Edelgard told me about the newest wild horse that your men had captured and that you were training him yourself. She told me that it was rare to see you on the back of a horse yourself throughout the breaking process and encouraged me to watch you. I have seen you ride your mount into battle ten thousand times, so I did not expect this particular scene to be of any interest.
When had Hubert come, Ferdinand wondered? Had he been so absorbed in breaking the horse that he hadn’t noticed Hubert watching him? When had Edelgard see him breaking a steed? Ferdinand flushed a bit, perhaps in embarrassment, perhaps not.
It seems that once again, my expectations were dashed. Seeing you work your mastery of the steed was mesmerizing—it is clear that not only are you a gifted orator, but you are also a skilled rider. Your perseverance in breaking that stallion was admirable; no matter how many times you were thrown, you dusted yourself off and rose to the challenge once more until you found the results you desired.
Really I am jealous of the horse
Ferdinand, I feel that I am discovering more about you as our friendship grows. I am fortunate to work alongside someone with the gumption and work ethic that you do at the right hand of Lady Edelgard. Together, we are supporting her in becoming the most influential leader that Fódlan has ever seen.
Your response is not required, but is always welcomed.
Marquis Hubert von Vestra, Minister of the Imperial Household
Ferdinand noticed the specter of a sentence, furiously erased and stricken through, midway through the second paragraph. He squinted, rubbed his thumb over the imprint—yet he could not read it. He snorted—it was likely some other compliment that Hubert was too embarrassed to write.
This time, the hearth was cold and built up in ashes—Ferdinand could not blame the fire for the warmth he felt as he folded up Hubert’s letter and tucked it into his breast pocket.
He could, however, blame himself for tearing a piece of parchment out of his notebook, dipping his quill in ink, and furiously scribbling a response.
For the third time in a month, Hubert was smiling that shockingly cheerful smile when Ferdinand came to him for their scheduled tea later that week. He had already begun without Ferdinand, a mug of steaming coffee in one hand and reading an open letter in the other. Ferdinand noticed the glint of the namesake of his orange-red wax seal at the lip—
His steps stuttered for a moment.
“You say you are fortunate for having me at your side,” Hubert read aloud. “But it is I who is lucky to have a colleague so diligent in his loyalty to the Empire.”
“I sent that to you days ago, Hubert,” Ferdinand scoffed as he sat down at the table.
“I know,” Hubert chuckled, folding the letter and placing it face-down beside him. “I am just chuffed to know that Ferdinand von Aegir calls me ‘good teatime company.’”
“This is the second complimenting letter you’ve sent!” Ferdinand protested. “I have to return the favor somehow.”
With a smirk, Hubert poured Ferdinand a cup of the Saints blend tea he’d already had steeping. “I suppose you do,” he said mirthfully.
Ferdinand did not even have to tell Hubert—one sugar cube, two teaspoons milk—because he was already preparing the tea just how Ferdinand liked.
The third letter arrived on a Saturday morning.
Ferdinand didn’t know why Edelgard insisted on having Black Eagles Strike Force meetings a the crack of dawn on a weekend—but Ferdinand wasn’t in charge, he just rattled the chains a bit. The sun had already begun breaching the horizon when Ferdinand woke with a start, flustered and realizing that he was going to be late to Edelgard’s damned Saturday morning meeting.
In his haste, Ferdinand didn’t have time to put a comb through his hair—instead, he finagled a sloppy loose braid and tossed it over his shoulder as he hurried out of his chambers. He was really and truly tardy, because everyone was already in the conference room—including Lindhardt, despite the fact that he was using his book as a pillow. Edelgard’s smile was patient, but Hubert’s glare was withering and not one Ferdinand had been subject to in a while.
The meeting was short, thankfully, and Ferdinand trudged back to his bedchamber wondering if it would have been worthwhile to just skip the meeting entirely. Edelgard might have tutted at him a bit and Hubert would have been properly angry, but Ferdinand was tired. His thighs were still sore from the steed last week.
As if summoned like an unwelcome demon, Ferdinand was shocked to see another Vestra-pressed letter sitting unceremoniously on the desk of his vanity. How had the courier even gotten in? “I locked the damn door,” Ferdinand muttered as he sat down on the stool before the mirror.
When had Hubert even found the time to write a letter between the morning meeting and now? Ferdinand had seen Hubert scrawling something down with wild abandon during Edelgard’s droning report, but Ferdinand had assumed that he’d been taking minutes—his penmanship in this letter, Ferdinand noticed, was hastier but still elegant—
Allow me first take the time to chastise you for your late arrival to this morning’s strike force meeting. It has been moons since Lady Edelgard set the schedule and yet this the first time that you stumbled in tardy. It is not very becoming of a Prime Minister to address affairs of the state so carelessly—and with such a lack of physical decorum as well. Still, I find myself unable to remain silent about said physical decorum.
Hurt, Ferdinand reached back and touched his braid. Was Hubert calling him messy? Hadn’t Hubert woken up disgruntled and exhausted at a moment’s notice before? The man had fought in a war. Ferdinand frowned—hadn’t their friendship come so far? Was this the moment where all the work they’d done together, their last three lovely teatimes, came unraveled? A pit of dread sank in Ferdinand’s stomach.
I am stunned at how ethereal you manage to look so quickly after rising in the morning.
The pit had somehow worked its way up to the base of Ferdinand’s throat.
I am so accustomed to seeing your hair down—lovely as it is, those bewitching copper locks that I can tell you spend so much time caring for.
Lovely? Bewitching? Ferdinand felt like he was choking. The pit was fully wedged in his throat now.
But seeing your braid, loose and haphazard, still so beautiful despite the fact that you were clearly in a rush this morning, kept me awestruck today. I am writing this now during Lady Edelgard’s report and yet I cannot bring myself to take notes on her words. For once, my attention is elsewhere, to your fascinating head of hair and those arresting eyes of yours behind your bangs, sleepy and unfocused as they are. If I may be so bold, it feels as if I am beholding you after a long, sleepless night, and I am envious of any man who has seen it before me.
Please forgive the forwardness of this letter—if you do read it, as I am uncertain if I will even send this at all. But if I cannot record my feelings somehow, I fear they will crest at a most inappropriate time.
Everything about the letter—from the rushed scrawl of Hubert’s handwriting, to Hubert’s seldom-seen shorthand signature, to I am envious of any man who has seen it before me—had Ferdinand wondering why the hell he hadn’t bothered to purchase another set of smelling salts because Goddess, he felt faint. Ferdinand fumbled for an invisible kerchief around his neck, checked the empty hearth, but there was no mistaking how Hubert’s words made him feel.
This wasn’t playful banter anymore, Ferdinand realized. It was flirting. Hubert von Vestra was flirting with him, Ferdinand von Aegir. And he, in Hubert tradition, couldn’t even do it in person. He had to flirt with these cryptic letters instead, sending his couriers back and forth to deliver missives that were shorting Ferdinand’s lifespan as if they were state secrets.
Well. Hubert was no orator. Ferdinand was embarrassed for him. Ferdinand was also embarrassed, perhaps, for himself—embarrassed how the warmth inside him was now an inferno.
Ferdinand rolled up his shirtsleeves. He ripped out a second piece of parchment. He dipped his quill in ink. He lit a candle and prepared the stick of sealing wax.
Fortunately for you, only about four men have seen me in such a state as this morning. However, consider the opening of this letter to be an invitation for you to be the fifth…
In typical fashion, they didn’t talk about the letters.
Ferdinand felt as if he were going mad. The tone of his and Hubert’s weekly tea was hardly any different—except it was, in a sense, because Hubert was leaning forward in his chair, listening to Ferdinand ramble about Sylvain and Felix’s wedding reception with rapt attention. And Hubert had guided him out of his chambers with his hand on the small of Ferdinand’s back and had dug his thumbs in there, at the base of his spine, and Ferdinand nearly collapsed as soon as the door was shut behind him.
This week, Ferdinand was not late to the Saturday morning Black Eagles Strike Force meeting. In fact, he’d even risen early that morning, combing his hair thoroughly and dabbing some cologne on the inside of his wrist—ridiculous for a morning meeting, really, but Hubert’s emerald stare was smoldering nonetheless.
Caspar was presenting this week, something about reinforcing battlements on the border between the Empire and Faerghus—Ferdinand didn’t really care today, because Hubert was writing something down again. Ferdinand knew for a fact that Hubert especially didn’t care about battlements and would never take notes. The tips of Ferdinad’s toes tingled in excitement as he made his way back to his rooms after the meeting.
That odd energy from that first week of their friendship was back and Ferdinand was positively vibrating, right out of his shoes.
And Ferdinand almost didn’t have time to shuck said shoes at the door to his bedroom when he saw that familiar ink-black seal stamped on the back of a brand-new letter on his vanity, because he was falling over himself to get there. Ferdinand nearly tore the paper in his hurry to pop the seal, breath quickening.
Hubert’s normally practiced calligraphy was downright slovenly today, rushed and slipshod, the urgency of the way Ferdinand saw him writing in the meeting loud and clear.
You are a tempting little minx, arriving in rare form to the meeting this morning, so coiffed and poised for a Saturday morning. From where I am sitting right now, I can smell your cologne. Seeing your hair tied back, breathing in your intoxicating perfume… I fear that I cannot contain myself any longer; this is that inappropriate moment that I mentioned in my last letter to you. I simply must tell you how fucking gorgeous you are before it drives me to insanity.
Last weekend, Ferdinand hadn’t touched himself reading Hubert’s previous letter—he’d saved that shameful display for that evening, alone in his washroom, imagining black magic-marred fingers threaded in his hair and green eyes taking him apart, piece by piece. But today, with the sensual fervency in Hubert’s words and that curse—oh, that curse, Ferdinand could only imagine Hubert’s deep, liquid-gold voice murmuring fuck, Ferdinand in the shell of his ear—had him whining and reaching for the drawstring of his breeches.
Hubert wasn’t finished.
I can hardly think of where to begin to tell you the things I want to do to you. I want to fill my hands with your hair and yank it back, bite down into your neck, hear you cry out and beg me for more. I want to see what you look like, shaking and wet, taking three of my fingers down to the knuckle in your tight ass. I want to know what you feel like as I fuck into you from behind and pull on that beautiful head of hair of yours.
Ferdinand pulled out his cock, barely having the wherewithal to remember to spit into his palm before he slicked his hand over himself. Ferdinand managed to catch his lower lip between his teeth before he moaned, loudly, and probably had every servant in this side of the palace come running in concern.
I think often about what your cock looks like, Ferdinand. I wonder if it becomes flushed and red at the tip when hard. In my fantasies, I imagine that it’s long and nestled in a thatch of red curls, with a sensitive little spot right around the tip. I’d tease that spot with my tongue and hold your thighs down until I had you spending down my throat. Daydreams notwithstanding, I know that when I get to see it in person someday, I shan’t be disappointed.
The image of Hubert on his knees in front of Ferdinand, his length buried in Hubert’s mouth, calculating gaze fixed on Ferdinand as a clever tongue wrapped itself around his shaft, made Ferdinand whimper and buck into his hand. He found himself stroking faster, spurned by the thought of fucking into the mouth of one such Marquis von Vestra.
Should I find the courage to come calling at your bedchamber someday, I will ensure that I have a proper Silence spell prepared; I know the walls of your part of the castle are particularly thin. With as blustery as you are in your professional demeanor, I’d imagine that you are also noisy in bed. My goal will be to make you moan and scream louder than those four men you mentioned previously ever did.
Ferdinand was so hard that he was leaking, his hand a poor substitute for what he really wanted—Hubert sidling casually into his bedroom, locking the door behind him, casting Silence with a flick of his wrist, and approaching him with a predatory glint in his eyes. Ferdinand reached down to cup at his balls with his other hand, willing himself not to come so quickly. There was still more left to read and Hubert was a cruel, cruel man.
Still, though, I do enjoy the thought of fucking you so thoroughly that everyone can hear what a mess I’m making out of you. Fuck, Ferdinand—you look so bored there, across the table. It would be a delight to bend you over right now and fill your whorish little hole in the middle of Caspar’s presentation. Have everybody in this damn conference room know that I want to make you mine. I’m so hard—for once, I cannot wait for this meeting to be over so that I can tend to myself in my rooms to thoughts of you.
Ferdinand’s hope to hang on for just a moment longer, just to savor these last words, were dashed at the realization that Hubert was doing the exact same thing, right now. Hubert was probably sitting at his own vanity, erection in hand, stroking himself to completion. To Ferdinand von Aegir. To him.
His orgasm hit him with the force of a battleaxe. Ferdinand let out a cry as white-hot pleasure coursed through him, come splattering the front of his pressed shirt with a stutter of his hips. Ferdinand quivered as he came, thoughts of Hubert bleeding into euphoria.
Ferdinand gave himself a moment to recover before he glanced down at himself. What a mess, he thought—come-stained shirt, breeches undone, cock softening in his hand. Sighing, Ferdinand dried himself off with the front of his shirt. “So much for wearing this today,” he muttered.
Caspar seems to be wrapping things up now. I’ve got to hurry and seal this letter and get it off to my courier before you get back to your rooms.
We’ll discuss this over tea and coffee as usual this week.
Ferdinand made sure to get a change of clothes together before he tore out the third piece of paper from his notebook.
When the Imperial courier came to Ferdinand’s office the next afternoon, Ferdinand nearly sprang from his seat to receive him—only to find that his newest delivery was not marked with the seal of Vestra, but instead with red wax, the design of the Imperial Eagle pressed with focused precision.
“From the desk of the Emperor,” the courier said helpfully, as if that weren’t already obvious.
“I know,” Ferdinand sighed. He knew his disappointment wasn’t masked and he didn’t care that the courier arched an eyebrow at him. “Thank you. You’re dismissed.”
As the courier departed, Ferdinand begrudgingly opened the letter. He’d just had an audience with Edelgard to discuss his next diplomatic mission to Alliance territory—what could she have possibly forgotten? And it was in her handwriting, too—not her secretary’s. This wasn’t official Empire business, but a personal matter. Ferdinand went from disgruntled to concerned.
Until he started reading.
It has come to my attention that you and my Minister of the Imperial Household, Marquis von Vestra, have become good friends. Let me first commend you two on sorting out your differences. It was not in the best interest of the Empire to have the two hands of the Emperor at each other’s throats; harmony among my staff, especially ones that hold such important offices, is always appreciated.
However, it is my duty as your Emperor and therefore your superior to remind you that the Imperial courier is for official use only. The frequency at which you and the Marquis have been utilizing his services for your… correspondences is a waste of resources. In the future, I would advise for you two to deliver your letters to one another in person unless the contents of such are for Imperial business.
Thank you for your understanding in this matter. I have written the Marquis a similar request.
Her Imperial Majesty Edelgard von Hresvelg
P S—as your friend? Congratulations. Hubert hasn’t stopped smiling for weeks now.
That Friday, when Ferdinand arrived at Hubert’s room for their regular afternoon tea, there was no tea.
Just Hubert, sitting at the table, hands folded in front of him and a predatory gleam in his emerald eyes.
The fire in the corner was crackling, and it was warm.