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“Thank you, Subaki.”

The ponytailed pegasus knight frustratedly held his head in his palm, stealing a glance at her between the slit he created with his fingers. It would eat him alive if his clarification he prepared himself to say would make her dreamy grin and red hue from her cheeks fade.

“I’m,” he huffed, swallowing his anxious thoughts. “I’m not complimenting you, Setsuna.” He bit down on his lip, drawing blood as he made a mental note of how long it was going to take to heal, dammit.

“Oh.” The archer brushed her bangs and Subaki wanted to pound his fist on a table because he’d spent enough time with her to learn that was a reflex she’d do when she was embarrassed or something was upsetting her. On another note he was enchanted with how flawless her hair always looked with little to no effort on her part.

“Wait, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”

“No, it’s okay…” For once he was gladdened to be cut off mid-sentence. He wasn’t sure if he knew how to finish where he was going with it anyway.

There was a pause between them. The flier ran his hand through the hair on his scalp and pretended that her eyes weren’t lingering on him with that cute, innocent smile she had when she was thinking about whatever went on in her head. Maybe she was imagining the next time she would fall in a trap, and how accurate he fit her description of a shiny (and attractive) knight, swooping in and rescuing her just as she was starting to go hungry. He wanted to be her hero, the one to ask her out for lunch or dinner atop his airborne mount, and he wanted to hear her laugh before saying yes as she wrapped her arms securely around his waist or she’d fall off in a heartbeat. He envied Silas every time he taunted him with another story of him discovering Setsuna firing her arrows out of a pit, and grew disgusted by Jakob who found her in the same disadvantage but didn’t care less if she began to rot. It infuriated him so to the point that he would excuse himself from rooms if the two-faced butler walked in.

Whatever the cause of her brief escape from reality evaporated, and the female retainer darted her focus to a tree far from where they stood. Subaki, cluelessly mimicking her behavior, whipped his head around, feeling dumber by the second when nothing out of the ordinary was visible. His ‘perfect’ image was cracking in front of the only girl he wanted to be the embodiment of perfection around.

“I know what you’re thinking,” the archer started, picking up from where she lost what she was trying to say. The redhead turned back to face her, giving her his undivided attention. “Anybody can tell why you were picked to train the recruits. They must have written my name by accident...I'm going to step down from helping.”

“What!?” He couldn’t get any other words to form. His chance to finally have a reason to get close to his airheaded crush was slipping away from him, as fast as the opportunity greeted him out of nowhere. He’d sit awkwardly in silence for years with Sakura, too flustered and nervous to ask her about her sister’s retainers, specifically the one who was always a beat behind everyone, or constantly being a victim of traps. Sakura would tug at her lips, wondering why he was hiding anything from his liege, and he would huff, telling himself he was fussing over nothing. He wasn’t about to let her go so easily.

Setsuna blinked, perhaps surprised by how verbal he expressed his astonishment. “I thought that was what you wanted? I can’t do anything right like you, Subaki.”

“So what!?” So what if he pranced around like he was better than everyone at anything? So what if it held true, while the woman in front of him was good at using her yumi, and nothing else? So what if the others believed he was miles out of her league, and never in a million lifetimes would there ever be a chance for her? The pegasus knight didn’t care that she was irritatingly flawed, and he never would. He wanted to be her golden example to lean on and reference when the right moment came for her to self-improve. He adored her flaws even, especially the one where she was fully reliant on Lady Hinoka, and he hoped that maybe one day in the future, she could rely on him to take care of her instead.

“...I'm sorry?” Her brow was furrowed and she brushed her bangs again. Subaki instantly regretted raising his voice at her and allowing his demeanor to grow irrational. He sucked in air through his mouth to regain his unwavered composure.

“I'm sorry, Setsuna. You don’t...you don’t have to be perfect to work with me.” You don’t have to be perfect to date me, either.. he mused, if she was even willing to give a closet cornball like him a shot.

The archer’s dopey smile returned, making his stomach churn in unison with uncomfortable heat flashes. “I don’t..?” He couldn’t tell if she was asking him or herself. This was going to be a challenge.

“Of course!” He cleared his throat, waiting as patiently as he could for her to soak in what he had just said.

“Oh. Okay.” She stared at the ground, drawing circles and lines and patterns in the dirt with her boots. Their conversation died for the second time, and Subaki panicked to resuscitate it.

“I really enjoy the time we’ve gotten to spend with each other, even if it’s been spent, uh, doing work.”

“Really?” Setsuna held her hands behind her back, swaying them like she was a six year old that wasn’t afraid of cooties. It was oddly endearing, and a habit he could get used to.

“Y-yeah, I’ve been meaning to let you know that. I wish I told you sooner, so you wouldn't have to doubt yourself and your abilities.” Her girlish giggle that followed almost set him on fire. He made it a mental note to do whatever it took to hear that giggle at least once a day.

“So, um,” the sky knight scratched his nose to keep his anxiousness at bay. “if I asked you if you wanted to go and get some food sometime, would you say no?”

“No, I think I would be happy and say yes.”

Subaki was still holding his breath from when he brought up his silly suggestion. “What if I asked you just now?” She still shied away from looking him in the eyes.

“I would love to, Subaki.”