Actions

Work Header

Time to take out the trash

Chapter Text

Jakob was not usually a jealous man.

Wrathful, perhaps. Spiteful, for certain.

But he did not consider himself so lowly as to be jealous.

He was most certainly not jealous of that man that had appeared suddenly, nearly as unaffected by the cold as himself, his hair the color of snow and his lone blue eye the color of ice that shimmered with sadistic glee at the idea of taking down those who opposed the kingdom of Nohr. He was not jealous of the way his muscles were so clearly defined under those clothes that were altogether a bit too tight. He was not jealous of how he had discovered that this man could get what he wanted with a smirk and a few dirty words. He was not jealous of how he could bring people in, to spill their darkest desires, yet keep them at an arm’s length- how that man could know everything about someone after a night of heat and pleasure yet they would know nothing about him. He was not jealous about how he could seem outwardly pleasant- if lewd- yet have others stay far, far away.

And he was certainly not jealous about his dear mistress’s sudden fascination with this scoundrel of a man.

He watched in frustration as Corrin hurried right to him at almost all times, and Niles, with that smirk on his face, would take the place by the second princess’s side- Jakob’s place, where he was supposed to stand, at her right side and three steps back. But Niles had the nerve, the gall to stand right next to her, so sickeningly close he was certain that that outlaw had the sweet, rose-scented perfume that she wore wafting into his nose with every breath. And who should he see leaving her quarters when he delivered her tea but Niles, a smirk on his face, absentmindedly twirling a ring of keys around his finger.

“Busy as usual, Mister J?” He asked with a grin, and Jakob merely responded with a grunt of annoyance that swiftly turned into a yelp when he felt a sharp smack on his rear. He was about to yell in fury at that fool of a man for doing something so lewd in plain sight, for daring to try to distract him from his duty, for surprising him and almost making him spill the tea he had painstakingly crafted for his dear Mistress Corrin. But Niles was already gone, headed off to go take care of something else- likely to pester his liege or bother some prisoners or something.

It wasn’t until Jakob reached the steps going into Corrin’s quarters that he realized his initial reaction to the contact wasn’t that the other had touched him,
much less that he had touched him where he had- rather, he was more angry at the fact he’d done that in public.

He frowned, continuing up the stairs with renewed fervor. He was above such things. Romance and whatnot never once trifled him- though he had to admit his heart did tend to flutter around his Mistress Corrin. She was flawless, beauty incarnate in his eyes. Red eyes that were more gorgeous than any ruby, skin as clear and bright as a pearl, ivory hair that spilled down her back like a cascade of silk.

He made himself stop there. It would not do to have improper thoughts about her. She was his liege, he her servant and retainer. To have a thought of desiring to possess her beauty, to make her his own… Why, he would consider it to be nigh-treason.
He shoved those thoughts aside, finally reaching Corrin’s door. He knocked twice before entering as he always did, placing the tray on her table and pouring her a cup.

“I have prepared your usual favorite, Lady Corrin.”

The second princess smiled, placing a bookmark in her book and walking over to him, smiling widely as she accepted the cup. He thought he saw a light blush on her face for just a moment- but he attributed that to the steam from the cup.

“I have also prepared cake for you for your snack, and dessert after dinner tonight. I trust this is satisfactory?”

“It always is, Jakob. Thank you so much.”

She took a sip, the smile not once leaving her face.

“I-if you will excuse me,” Jakob said after a moment, smiling politely, “I do have a bit of work to do before dinner.”

“Oh, there is one thing I want to ask of you.”

“Yes?” Why did he have a sinking feeling about this?

“I would like you and Niles to fight together in the next battle.”

His heart sank even more. He froze, though he forced a smile. “… If my Lady demands it… Then I shall gladly withstand anything.”

Chapter Text

“So it seems that Lady Corrin wishes for us to spend more time around one another,” Niles said, leaning against a wall in a fashion that would be casual if it were not so sickeningly stereotypical.

“It seems that it is indeed so,” Jakob replied with a sigh, folding his own arms and practically glaring at the outlaw. “I can’t fathom why.”

“Well, did it not occur to you perhaps I asked a favor of our dear, lovely friend?” He stood up, striding over to him- he was taller, his single blue eye trained on him, a smirk on his lips. “I must admit, even though I can discover nearly anything I want about you, I’d much rather hear it from your lips.”

Now the butler was confused instead of annoyed. Niles could get nearly anything he wanted, and if he could get that information from files or from others, what good was hearing about him from himself?

“Surely you’d have more fun gathering intelligence regarding me from one of your trysts. And I do hope you realize I am not one of your easily-seduced—”

“Oh, no, I wasn’t wanting this to be easy. And I’m certain this is going to be much more fun.”

Jakob would have snapped a retort back if Niles hadn’t suddenly grabbed his hand. He could feel the warmth through his glove, and something about his
touch wasn’t as annoying or uncomfortable as he’d thought it’d be. His grip was loose enough that if Jakob wanted to wrench his hand away, he could. Niles’s grin even softened for the slightest of moments, as though he was trying to put the other at ease.

“… I do wish to get to know you. Even if I don’t find out anything.”

Jakob felt a blush spreading across his cheeks.

“I wasn’t aware you would get to want to know anyone aside from in the biblical sense.”

“I am capable of that, believe it or not.” He sounded almost offended, but he didn’t let go of his hand. “Regardless of your assumptions, Lady Corrin has requested we spend the day together.”

Jakob sighed in defeat- his lady demanded it, and he would gladly carry out whatever she asked.

Though he had to admit an order to drop dead on the spot seemed easier at the moment.

“Alright, alright. What’s first on the list?”

“… I haven’t eaten breakfast yet.”

“It’s almost nine in the morning, what is wrong with you?!”

“Says Mister Ray of Sunshine himself.”

“Though I despise early mornings, serving Lady Corrin is motivation enough to rise at any hour.”

“Are you questioning my loyalty to Lord Leo?”

“I am merely saying that for my mistress, I could overcome anything.” Jakob folded his arms, forcing Niles to let go of his hand. Niles crossed his arms over
his chest as well, looking annoyed.

“You realize that Lord Leo gave me a reason to live?”

“Lady Corrin gave me a reason to become competent. Perhaps you might follow my example.”

“Perhaps you’re as blind as you are prickly. I perform my duties with such care and readiness that, despite that oh-so-lovely stoic expression, you can practically see the ecstatic glint in milord’s eyes when he looks over my work. Not to mention as of late Lady Corrin has been preferring my company as well.”

“Excuse me?!”

“Oh, yes. Is that a hint of jealousy I hear?”

“I… I am not jealous. I merely believe that Lady Corrin should be associating with people other than a self-proclaimed urchin.”

“Well if you’re not jealous, I bet you won’t mind if I tell you how soft her hair is.”

“I brush it daily, taking care to carefully remove any tangles. I am well aware of its pleasant texture.”

“I bet you won’t mind if I tell you how soft her lips are.”

Jakob faltered. “H-how dare you defile Lady Corrin in such a way?!”

“Hey, she started it. Wanted to thank me for blocking that attack that would’ve killed her otherwise. Reached up, pulled me in, gave me a very nice kiss.”

“I-I doubt your story. Greatly. Lady Corrin does not give out kisses as rewards!”

“What, you didn’t lie to me, did you? You’re jealous? Well, well, if it’s any consolation, Mister J, it was just a little peck. But it was certainly quite nice.”

He was practically fuming at that. “I refuse to believe it. I will go ask her at once.”

“Nuh-uh-uh. Can’t let you do that.”

He grabbed his hand again, and Jakob froze. Why did his hand have to feel so warm?

“You have to follow her orders, right? As her retainer and her servant? My, my, what a precarious position you’re in…”

“I believe to determine whether this slander is true or not she would not mind.”

“… Sorry!”

Click.

Jakob began to walk away, only to suddenly stop, feeling his arm sticking out behind him and something metal poking him through the fabric of his shirt sleeve. He froze, then slowly turned around to look at Niles, pure, unfettered rage in his expression, which only drew a joyful smirk from Niles.

“… You did not just handcuff us together.”

“Consider it a ‘friendship bracelet’.”

Chapter Text

Silence had followed Niles’s comment about their “friendship bracelet”. Both men simply stared at one another before Jakob finally sighed.

“… What the hell, Niles.” He said softly, as though he was having difficulty processing that turn of events.

“… I panicked, okay? You should know by know I’m excellent at thinking under pressure.”

“We’ve been together for all of an hour and fifteen minutes. And most of that hour was spent last night fighting off Faceless.”

“Yes, and we killed about twenty of them. Didn’t Lady Corrin praise you for it?”

“Yes, she did.”

Jakob sighed, looking up at him almost in defeat.

“… You still need food, do you not?” He grumbled for a moment. “I simply cannot believe that Lady Corrin would choose to have some random woman—”

“Excuse me, her name is Maryann, she is a very kind young woman.”

“Fine, that Lady Corrin would choose to have Maryann do my work. I should be the one attending to her throne and books and crystal ball. Not someone she barely knows!”

“… Maybe she just wants you to take some time for yourself once in a while?”

“Nonsense! I am her servant. My duty is to be at her beck and call.”

“Well, today… I guess you can consider it a day off. Don’t worry, I’ll help you relax.”

“Somehow, that’s not very comforting.” Jakob sighed, rubbing the sides of the bridge of his nose. Already a headache was surfacing. “Regardless, it is my turn to cook for today. What would you like to eat for breakfast?”

“Just bread’s fine, Mister J.”

“Would you quit with the Mister J?!”

“You don’t like it?”

Jakob was not expecting that tone- sounding almost genuinely upset. And when he looked up, Niles almost looked like he would cry.
The butler found himself even more annoyed than before with the outlaw. For a man who got on every one of his nerves, he knew how to make him feel bad.

“… I suppose I will get used to it with time… Come along. I’ll make you something to eat.”

Jakob strode towards the mess hall- his only duty for the day. Typically everyone opted to eat at the regular mealtimes- a duty Peri was taking on for today- so the place was typically empty unless Lady Corrin stopped in and requested a meal for the army. But today was just a march, so it was unlikely anyone wanted anything particular.

Jakob immediately set to work preparing the bread, Niles watching intently, sitting surprisingly quietly as he watched it bake.

“How do you make it cook so fast?”

“It’s a special recipe I developed. I found that when Lady Corrin is hungry, ordinary bread will not easily sate her hunger. So I developed a type of bread that is not only more filling, but also bakes much faster. Much more efficient.”

“Impressive. Maybe I should work something like that out for sorting Lord Leo’s books.”

“How do you currently sort them?”

“By author and subject. Odin’s been quite the help in that regard, since he can memorize where a book goes in seconds.”

“I never took you for the literary type.”

“Oh, I do enjoy reading. In particular, notes on everyone’s private lives.”

Jakob frowned.

“I didn’t always, though. Couldn’t even read when Lord Leo first took me in. He started me off with the biggest book I’d ever seen. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. The next morning though, he took it back, and handed me a much smaller one, a book of fables. I finished the whole thing in an hour. He said that’s how he himself learned.”

Jakob’s brow furrowed. Sometimes he forgot not everyone had the strict parents that demanded excellence. He sometimes forgot that the punishment for failure that everyone once faced was not a strike across the face. He sometimes forgot that not everyone had been dumped on the castle doorstep after one too many of those failures.

The timer on the oven dinged, and Jakob carefully removed it, Niles cracking a quiet joke about getting burned by the oven. The butler removed the bread from the pan and cut a slice, placing some butter on it and pouring two cups of tea before leading Niles to one of the tables. He placed the bread on Niles’s side of the table, gesturing to it.

“Go ahead and eat it before it gets cold.”

Chapter Text

Niles had immediately began to eat the bread, almost like he hadn’t seen food in days. Memory served that Niles always ate in that manner, and Jakob scowled.

“You keep that up and your face’ll freeze. It’d be a shame.” His mouth had been full of food when he started, but after the second sentence he swallowed. “I do love seeing all those expressions you can make.”

He immediately resumed eating, and Jakob grumbled. “You’re absolutely medieval.”

Niles, however, paid him little attention. He’d begun making quiet noises as he ate, which Jakob soon identified as moans.
He took another bite, and let out one that bordered on ecstatic. Jakob felt his cheeks starting to burn as he saw Niles’s eye roll back. However, after Niles opened his eye again, he swallowed and continued eating, much more quietly, though the occasional whine did seep through.

“… You stopped.”

He nodded, drinking some of the tea.

“Habit.” He downed the entire glass, and Jakob rolled his eyes as he poured him more.

“I thought that ceasing that sort of thing was impossible for you.”

“I have to think about it. Like I said. Habit.”

He finished the bread, though he didn’t make a movement to get up. Instead, he simply looked at Jakob expectantly.

“… You said something earlier. That’s why I’m trying to stop.”

“And what might that be?”

“You’re not telling me something.”

“Well, why don’t you consult your files?!”

“What I want to know is why a noble like you is in the same position as me.”

Jakob froze for the umpteenth time that morning.

“Does it have anything to do with when you said that Lady Corrin gave you a reason to be competent?”

“… Yes. Albeit that is not the whole truth.”

“Well, out with it. You can tell me…”

“I don’t believe I can.”

“Try me.”

“I know nothing of you. How can I be certain that you won’t make this all resurface?”

“… Tell me, and I’ll tell you something.”

“About what?”

Niles remained silent, instead he reached up the hand that tethered them together and tapped on his eyepatch. Jakob swallowed, and took a deep breath.

“… I had noble parents, yes. But they were not good ones. They did not love me, nor one another. My… earliest memory is of being scolded and struck.” His gaze lowered to the table. “I do not even recall what caused my mother’s anger. But I knew it was not the first time, nor the last. Eventually, she had enough, and I was abandoned on the castle doorstep. I was lucky enough to be taken in as a servant. Ah…” He looked back up, a slight smile on his face. “Imagine Felicia.”

“Alright, I’m imagining.”

“Imagine two Felicias, now.”

“Alright…?”

“Now imagine that if you took both those Felicias, and put them back into one tiny, bruised little boy. All that clumsiness in a scarcely two foot tall frame.”

“… Jeez.”

“They were going to kick me out onto the streets if I failed once more. But I heard a girl’s voice. She told them to keep letting me try. She smiled at me. She… She was the first person to be truly kind to me. So I decided that for her, I would become the greatest butler that Nohr had ever seen. And I believe I have fulfilled that destiny.”

“… I think you have, Jakob.”

Another brief moment of genuineness that stunned him.

“I knew there was more to you than just that prickliness.”

“Well, yes. Now you know. I don’t know why I told you this, I doubt you’re going to—”

“Awww, still don’t believe in me?” Niles said, frowning. “You know, my past is painful to me, too. I can’t even remember all of it.”

“… I wish I had that problem…”

“Oh, it’s unpleasant… Remembering only bits and pieces. My earliest memory is… Well, memories, really. A bloody brick. A man with his skull crushed. A bag of money. Iron in my mouth. The second earliest memory I have… a man standing over me, with a face like mine. Blood on his hands, and a knife, and a little round thing in his other hand. Pain, far too much to be enjoyable. Screams that I guess were mine.”

Jakob had visibly paled. Niles still had that smirk on his face, though he seemed clearly pained talking about it.

His hand was shaking.

“Let’s go for a walk, yeah? Come on. Let’s go. Right now. Let’s just leave the dishes and go.”

“I-I have to clean them.”

“Leave them. Let’s go.”

Niles was speaking quickly, shakily, as though something was coming to the mess hall and they did not want to be there when it arrived. He bolted up from the seat and started walking, dragging Jakob along behind him.

Chapter Text

Niles had bolted from the mess hall with little rhyme or reason, opting to practically jog around the castle grounds, keeping Jakob practically sprinting to keep up with Niles’s much longer stride- he didn't wish to be dragged about by his wrist. Finally, Niles stopped in the shadow of one of the castle walls, leaning against it and closing his eye, slowly sliding down it to sit. It was a quiet area, away from the busier areas of the grounds.

“… S-say something. Anything.”

“What the blazes do you want me to say?!”

“Just… Start talking. Please.”

“About what?!”

“Anything! Just talk.”

Jakob sighed, sensing the urgency in Niles’s voice. He sat down too, sighing once more in defeat, training his eyes on the ground. The words were spilling out of his mouth before he could stop them.

“I’ve always been jealous of you. I say ‘always’ but it’s been… two months? Maybe? Not long at all. I know so little about you yet I… I’m jealous. You… You’re your true self yet wearing a mask at the same time. You push people away and they stay away. Your true self and your mask are the same yet so different. You’re strong and Lady Corrin clearly fancies you. I see how they eye you. People desire you. Yet everyone stays away. You can get whatever you want with just a few words, never mind that you’re a retainer, and practically an urchin at that. You remember fragments, n-not entire pieces, when you remember those awful things it’s just details, the entire damn scene doesn’t play in your head!”

He hadn’t realized he was raising his voice until it broke, and immediately he slapped his unchained hand over his mouth, biting his lip and squeezing his eyes shut. His hand dropped into his lap, and quietly he spoke again.

“… Truth be told, I’ve only been so bitter because of that. I… I suppose part of me knows how similar we are, in the end.” He swallowed hard, his voice was shaking, he was certain his eyes were watering. But the words were tumbling out before he could stop them, he couldn’t slow them down, they were falling all over the place like squirrels dropping acorns out of trees. “I love her. I… I have feelings for Lady Corrin. But I’m confused. I… I don’t know what’s going on with me. I can’t be in love with her. If I am, I-I lose all semblance of capability of my job. I will have to retire from that work and find another job. But I want to be selfish and remain by her side. But now I’ve gotten close to you and I’m feeling things and I don’t understand it, I… I don’t understand it one bit.”

His voice broke again, and he couldn’t speak anymore. He closed his mouth, biting his lip, closing his eyes, and balled his hand into a fist in frustration.

“… Jealous? Of me?” Niles’s voice was quiet, cracked.

“You’re jealous… Of me,” he repeated.

It was quiet.

“I’m jealous of you, Jakob. You… people worry about you. Maybe I don’t want people to worry about me. But I… I just… I want someone to care about me, you know? Like Lord Leo does. E-even just a little. You push people away and they come right back. But I… I can’t do that. I see people that just… Just don’t have any sadness, you know? And it makes me so mad… I… I want to see them suffer, for just a moment. And then they’re gone. And part of me is glad for that! Those people that just… just can’t stand me… Good riddance, you know? But… you kept coming back. That’s… Only happened twice.”

There was another long pause.

“… I’m broken. I can’t be fixed. It doesn’t matter who I have feelings for. Y-you and Lady Corrin and Lord Leo would just be imagining those feelings anyway.”

It was silent for a bit longer.

The silence was broken not by a sound, but by an action. Jakob’s hand reached for Niles’s, curling around it protectively. He squeezed it tight.

He wasn’t certain what it meant anymore. He wasn’t certain if it was a gesture of support between comrades, a show of concern between friends, or if it was confirmation of something more.

Quietly, he reached his arm over and prodded Niles’s arm with the tip of his finger, ensuring the sharp claw of his gauntlet poked him. The outlaw hissed in surprise, pain, and confusion, looking at him, trying to pretend that no, his eye wasn’t wet.

“… Did you imagine that?”

“No.”

“… Then I… am certainly not imagining… whatever I’m feeling.”

This time it was Jakob’s turn to smile.

Chapter Text

Jakob frowned as Niles looked at him- a short time ago they’d both had tears in their eyes, but now Niles had that old smirk on his face.

“I don’t think you could have said that any cheesier,” he said, laughter in his voice. “We’re going to talk to Lady Corrin about our feelings? You couldn’t have worded that any better?”

“Oh, come on. You would’ve said it in some crude manner. I think I worded it fairly well.”

“I thought it was cheesy as hell, but I didn’t say it was bad.”

“But do you think we should? This was likely not the end result, and… well, whatever… we’ve worked out, the fact is that we both still have…” Jakob’s voice petered out, ending in something that sounded like a choke.

“Get ahold of yourself.” Niles sighed.

Why did he get so attached to those who showed him kindness despite his typical manner? First it had been Leo (and to a lesser, later degree, Odin), who had spared his worthless life, given him reason to live. Given him someone to care about aside from himself for once. He’d never admit that he was the one who’d stay awake with him until his liege fell asleep at his desk, then gently wake him and help him get to bed. He’d refuse to admit that he was the one that ensured that even when all that surrounded him got the best of him, the second prince was still in the best shape, the one that helped him onto his horse and back off when his legs fell asleep, the one that brought him tomatoes when he was sad and made sure he didn’t just live off those fruits… vegetables… whatever.

And then there’d been Corrin, who had smiled at him- taken his sadism in stride, questioned about his past, her mind open and smile patient. Her kindness never once faltered, and there was something- just something- that made him hesitant. He couldn’t speak the way he normally did around her. Something in her manner, in her eyes, her posture, the way she’d reach for his hand, the way she’d grab his arm when he was in position to attack, the way she’d drag him around the field with that determined look in her eyes, beautiful as the color of blood. The way she orchestrated such controlled violence. Something had confused him at first, however- when he saw her sad, when he saw her in pain- that night she’d called him up to her room after the events in Cheve, and she’d tried to smile but eventually found herself sobbing into his chest- he couldn’t bear it. He was a man that thrived off the suffering of others. But now she was on the list of those that he could tease, yes- but when the tears were genuine ones of grief and pain, all bets were off. Almost sheepishly he’d held her close as she cried, wrapping his arms carefully so his hands rested on his own arms to avoid touching her, not wanting her to shy away, fearing the idea of harming her more in this already vulnerable state. That’s when she’d kissed him, not just because he’d helped her in combat, but a tiny thank you for listening.

So had he lied to protect Jakob, then? He knew a bit about him already, of course. Knew he was from a noble family that had abandoned him, but never knew why. Corrin had ordered they spend time together, and he soon figured out more about him during the brief times they spent around one another on the field and off, culminating in the morning’s events and heart to heart. When had he begun to care so deeply? Was it when he’d caught the butler quietly cursing over the slightly bent dagger after a fight? Was it when he’d ran into Jakob in the canteen late at night while he was trying to make tea, and Jakob, even in his half-asleep stupor, aided him in his endeavors? When had he began to look at the other not as a fellow fighter, not as a potential bedmate, but… something more? The same way he felt about two other very, very important people in his life? One of whom could never know?

“… We’ll figure something out,” he murmured, nerves welling in his stomach as he walked up the stairs to Corrin’s room with Jakob at his side. “Admittedly, I’m not entirely sure what… we are right now. But… I’m fine with whatever comes of this. I… I never thought anyone would love me.”

He could tell Jakob was resisting the urge to respond “me neither”, judging by the smug, annoyed look on his face. But when he responded with those same words, genuine, hesitant. Almost terrified.

They reached the top step and froze, hearing another voice inside the room with Corrin.

“… I’d j-just tell them how I felt!”

“I wish it was that easy, Felicia. I… I don’t think they like one another much. And I’m sure that… that everyone would want me to just pick one. And I bet they’d want me to pick neither. A princess… marrying her butler? That’d be a scandal… A-and… I couldn’t be with him, either. They all… look at him like a rogue. Like someone hopeless. Someone better off dead.”

“Oh, I don’t think they’d think that! You know how much everyone cares about you here. E-especially your family! I bet Lady Camilla would be really happy for you! And I bet you Lord Leo would love to see him with someone! I-if Gunter were here, I bet you he’d give you both his blessing, too…”

“I was hoping that if they got to know one another better, if I could watch, I’d… be able to decide. Or maybe they’d just hate one another so much that it’d be easier to decide. Or that maybe, just maybe, they’d grow to like one another…”

“… Do you want my honest opinion, Lady Corrin?”

“Of course.”

“I think that you might be closer to getting what you want than you think! L-like having your ice cream and eating it too! I… I’m not exactly on Jakob’s good side, but… he and Niles spent the whole day together. Without much fighting at all! S-so… it’s worth a try…”

“… Thank you, Felicia. I… I’ll talk to them. I’ll work something out. You can go whenever you’re ready.”

“Oh, okay! Please, let me know what happens, okay?”

Both men looked at one another in fear- there was nowhere to hide on the path here. They couldn’t let Corrin know they were eavesdropping!

But it was too late. The maid had opened the door, with both of them still pressing their ears to it- and into the princess’s room they both fell.

Chapter Text

Felicia’s hands flew to her mouth as she gasped when the two men fell through the doorway, landing rather unceremoniously on the floor of Corrin’s room. The white-haired lord on the other side of the room, however, was merely dumbfounded, her ruby-hued eyes wide as she looked them both over. She ended up staring at the cuffs binding the two of them together for a moment or two, her cheeks reddening, but she closed her eyes, squeezing them shut, and shook her head, clearing any sort of… inappropriate thought from her mind.

 

“O-oh Gods, I-I’m so sorry, I…!” Felicia panicked, and finally Corrin truly reacted, a smile spreading across her lips. It took a moment, and then she burst out with laughter, doubling over for a slight moment as she two men tried to help one another to their feet to little avail. Felicia joined their effort to stand up only to tumble to the ground herself, and all the while Corrin couldn’t help but laugh, herself.

 

If it was anyone else, Jakob would be furious. Were it anyone else, Niles would have had a quip or a lewd retort to keep them in their place.

 

But to them, Corrin’s laugh was music to their ears. Finally, she stood up, a few more giggles on her lips that she muffled with a fist, then wiped the tears from her eyes and strode over to the heap of pure, unadulterated clumsiness that’d found its way into her room. One by one she helped them all up, and Felicia gave her liege an encouraging thumbs-up before running out of the room.

 

“I… I was actually hoping to see the both of you,” she said, laughing again, wiping a tear from her eye once more. Jakob’s gaze shot over to Niles, and he noticed the outlaw’s hand twitch almost involuntarily, noticing that the other’s blue eye was trained on the spot where the tear had sprung forth. He couldn’t hide the smile when he realized that he, too, had had the urge to dry his lady’s tears.

 

Corrin gestured for the two of them to have a seat, and given their forced proximity they settled onto her bed (after she’d told Jakob it was okay, of course- Niles just sort of flopped down) while she sat down on a chair at the desk. She moved it over to the bed, and during the brief time her back was turned, Niles felt the clawed tip of Jakob’s gauntlets tapping on his hand, and in the time it took him to think oh what the hell why not he’d taken the butler’s hand.

 

When Corrin’s attention returned to the both of them, she seemed surprised- pleased, even. Her eyes fell to their clasped hands and smiled, though that smile soon fell.

 

“I… have something to discuss with the both of you. I… well, this is a bit more difficult to talk about than I thought it’d be. You see, I… have feelings for you. Both of you. And I’m… worried that I will have to choose.”

 

Much to Corrin’s confusion, a sigh of relief was heard from both of her companions.

 

“W-wait, what?”

 

“Lady Corrin, if… if I may,” Jakob said, nervously avoiding her gaze. He suddenly felt as though he was moreso getting her blessing for their relationship as opposed to discussing the rather complicated feelings between the three of them.

 

But really, the more he thought about it, the simpler it was.

 

“If I… understand correctly. I… share those feelings for you, my lady,” he confessed, cheeks burning. “It is… incredibly unprofessional. I… I can no longer be your butler.” He sighed, almost in defeat this time. Niles nudged him hard in the ribs, not letting go of his hand. Jakob grunted in indignation. “Wh-what the blazes was that for?!”

 

“Your job as a butler is to take care of her. If you’ve loved her for as long as it seems like, well, it shouldn’t be that much of an issue, huh?”

 

Corrin nodded happily, and Jakob seemed contented by that news. It was pleasantly quiet for a few moments before Jakob spoke up again.

 

“However, I have… realized part of why I found myself disliking this…” he paused, looking at Niles for a moment. His usual insults (which included such gems as “filthy mongrel”, “absolute nitwit”, and “lemon-thieving slattern”) no longer seemed appropriate. “… Annoyingly handsome pervert—” Niles nodded in appreciation— “was that I was… jealous.” He hated to admit that. He was not a jealous man. He refused to acknowledge that any other time but now.

 

“At first I believed I was merely jealous of how kindly you treated him. Though you have always treated me with such kindness, I… suppose I, initially, wanted that affection all to myself. But soon enough, I… realized perhaps I was a bit jealous of you as well. I… I wanted to spend time with him as well. Though at first I was disgusted by him, wanted nothing to do with him, I… realized we are similar in some ways. And aside from that, he is… good-looking.” Jakob cut off towards the end of the sentence, his face going a deep red. He covered his face with his free hand, eliciting almost embarrassed laughter from Niles and another short, happy giggle from Corrin.

 

Niles spoke up next, his own gaze flickering shyly about the room. “I never thought I’d feel this way about anyone. And then to have these feelings all at once, it’s… strange. But… I like it.” Neither expected more from him. Even in such an intimate moment, Niles was not one to share too much.

 

So, both Corrin and Jakob were shocked when he continued to speak.

 

“The only time I ever saw people showing affection to one another before I found Lord Leo… it was the illusion of love. Where one would pay another for a little bit of time that one might call ‘love’. I grew up thinking I’d never feel that way for anyone. The stories talked of love at first sight. And even when I saw the both of you, I never thought that. I never once thought I’d fall for either of you. But then you… you both listened to me. Opened up to me. You came back over and over, even when I tried to push you away. Maybe you, Jakob, not so much on your own part, but… still. You listened. You cared. You looked after me. And before I knew it… Well. The rest is history.”

 

Now it was his turn to try to hide his face- but instead he simply yanked the hood of his cape up over his face, and though it hid his eyes from view, the dumb, dorky grin and heavily blushing cheeks were still easily seen.

 

Corrin looked at the two blushing bachelors for a moment before her eyes lit up with realization.

 

Perhaps this is what Felicia meant…? But what will everyone else think?

 

No. Screw everyone else. This happiness… I won’t let it go for anything.

 

 

“… Would the two of you be opposed to… all three of us… being together? As lovers?” The words almost felt strange on her lips, but at the same time, it felt right. She felt as though she’d taken a step out into the cold, but it wasn’t the unpleasant cold that had almost taken her life near the Ice Tribe’s village. Instead, it was a beautiful, crisp night, the moon shining down from above and the stars glittering. The feeling was exhilarating and just a little scary.

 

It took a moment, but both of them looked back up at her. Jakob sputtered a few things before he finally took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and then opened them again.

 

“I would not be opposed in the least.”

 

“And it’d… be great,” Niles responded. It took all of five seconds for the dumb grin to reappear on his face. Corrin could almost hear his heart pounding.

 

And when she, joyfully, wrapped her arms around them and pulled them close, she could hear it for certain- and she was sure that they could hear hers, too.

Chapter Text

The dock was quiet, the water of the lake undisturbed save for the gentle ripples coming from the three sitting on the edge of the pier, their feet dangling into the water below. Both Niles and Jakob had their heads resting on Corrin’s shoulders, the Nohrian princess’s hands clasped in either of theirs, their other hands holding one another’s behind her.

Finally, peace was back in the world. After so much sacrifice, so many tears shed, so much loss- the world was at peace.

Niles knew how heavy the weight of her actions was as it rested on her shoulders. Jakob recognized the look of pain in her eyes whenever she looked to the east. And they both knew better than to mention Azura. Whenever Corrin even so much as thought of the woman who had become such a dear friend to her, it wouldn’t take long for the tears to start to flow. Too often they’d been awoken in the middle of the night by the sound of her crying, trying to muffle the sound best she could.

The war was hard on the both of them as well, but for someone as kind, as innocent as Corrin, they knew how heavily it could affect her. All the innocent lives taken, all the family she’d lost.

They knew that if she could do it over again, she’d make a different choice. One that might separate them at first, but one that would be for the best in the end. She never said it, but they could tell- the way she’d look down at her hands and clench them into fists, as though they were still stained with the crimson blood of her brother when she held his cold body close, crying tears that begged forgiveness to a soul that had already forgiven her.

Xander was a fine king, Camilla a fine mother, Leo a fine advisor, Elise a fine magistrate. Corrin was free to do as she wished, and it wasn’t as though Niles’s duties as Leo’s retainer ended. Regardless, his lord had given him more time to spend with Corrin.

The royal family’s reactions to their relationship were surprisingly positive. Elise was the most excited, glad that the problem of who’d be with who resolved itself happily. Leo couldn’t keep the grin off his face when he looked at Niles, who almost seemed ready to cry tears of happiness when Jakob and Corrin embraced him. Camilla was kind but her silky smile hid a threat of steel should they be unfit lovers for her dear little sister. Xander was accepting but concerned- he didn’t want anything to happen that might make things bad for them around court. However, they’d all already accepted there could be circumstances, and he offered them all his best wishes and made sure everyone involved was happy.

In the end, none of them were certain whether it was a good or a bad ending to what had happened at all- perhaps bittersweet was the best word to describe it.