Actions

Work Header

Broken Smiles, Broken Teeth

Chapter Text

“Cat! Come on, move your ass!” There was a hand under her arm, then a second much larger one under the other.

“What…” Catherine’s senses started to return to normal as she was hefted up, and she saw two of her men carrying her up the halls of the barracks. “Joseph? Fredrique? What...what the hell are you doing?”

“Saving your ass, what does it look like?” Fredrique’s voice was a harsh whisper. Joe looked around a corner, and seeing no one he signalled to Fredrique for the three to move down that segment of hallway.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Catherine asked.

“We’re talking about the Captain being fuming pissed at you. I don’t know what you did to piss him off, Catherine, but missy you fucked up big time.” Joseph whispered. “We’re gonna stash you in our quarters for a few hours, see if things calm down, and come up with a good excuse for where you were. Hopefully a little time will help the old man calm down and we can talk this all out.” Joseph was more thinking aloud by that point.

“You calling someone old? That’s rich.” Fredrique said, throwing open the door to their quarters as they slid in, closing and locking it behind them.

“Hey, I may be old but Jeralt was captain of the guard back when I was a student here in the Academy.” Joseph pointed a finger at Fredrique, taunting the smaller redhead.

“Shut up!” Catherine clutched at the sides of her head. She felt like her mind was breaking in two, the pain was so bad.

“You good, Cat?” Joe asked.

“No...no i’m not.” The most intense part of the headache passed, and as Catherine replied she sat onto one of the two beds occupying the room, her elbows resting on her knees. The mattress was uncomfortable, stiff, as if it hadn’t been slept on in years.

“You want to talk about it?” Joe asked, sliding one of the two footlockers that sat at the end of the other bed over so he could sit in front of her.

“I...I don’t know, man.” Catherine ran her hands through her hair, but that didn’t help like it usually did. As she spoke on her words grew less and less intelligible underneath her tears. “I...I talked to Shamir, and she told me about everything that happened last year, and I just can’t believe it man. Why would I say those things? I didn’t think that! I ain’t like that! Shamir’s a good fighter, she’s a good woman, she didn’t need me for shit. I knew her last partner wasn’t her fault! I knew man! I would’ve never said that shit!” She looked up from the spot on the floor she had been staring at as she rambled, looking between the two men. “Y...you guys know me, right? I’m not like that! I don’t do that shit!” Catherine buried her face in her hands, and felt the leather of her gloves digging into the already raw flesh of her cheeks.

“Catherine, did you get hit in the head or something? What in the hell are you talking about?” Fredrique asked, looking as if she had lost all sense. In all honesty, she likely had. “What do you mean Shamir told you about ‘what happened last year’? Do you mean your split?”

“Cat, do you know why Jeralt is after you?” Joe asked. She nodded weakly.

“I think...I think I have a good idea.” Catherine almost laughed.

“....Well?!” Fredrique was beyond done with this dancing around the point. He fucking hated dancing.

“I… I was a bitch to Letty, Byleth, Professor Eisner.” Catherine had to correct herself twice as she saw a bit of confusion on both men’s faces. “I totally vanished, and when she came to see me apparently I said some terrible shit. He must have found out.” Joseph sighed and shook his head.

“Fucking hell, Catherine. Are you insane? What the fuck were you thinking!?” Fredrique asked. Joe was about to tell him to shut up when he saw a flash of cream colored fabric and blonde hair. Before he knew what was what, Catherine had her hands grasping at Freddy’s shirt, practically strangling him as she pinned him to the wall.

“Are you not hearing me!? I wasn’t!” She screamed in his face, spit flying from her mouth and spattering against it. She shook her head a bit, looking at her hands and then Fredrique, letting him go and backing away slowly, horror in her eyes. “I...I’m sorry…” Joseph saw Catherine’s usually steady hands shaking like leaves.

“Cat, come on.” Joseph stepped up, resting a hand on her shoulder. “Sit down. You’re ok, we’re going to get this figured out. What do you mean you weren’t thinking? Were you drunk?” She’d never been a mean drunk, quite the opposite in fact. But she wasn’t really making sense, nothing had as of late, so anything was possible.

“No….Goddess, no. You know I’m not like that, man!” Catherine’s voice implied more desperation than certainty. “...I don’t think I am?” She grabbed at her head again, the headache coming back as she tried to remember the night before last. It felt like pulling a jagged shard of stained glass from the inside of her mind. Joseph tried to help her stay upright as she clutched her head. Had he not been so focused on helping her stand, then he might have heard the thudding footsteps before they were in front of the door.

However by the time he realized something was wrong, the door knob was jiggling, and as he moved to try and find a way to hide Catherine, the door seemed to shift back and forth, before finally swinging in like an axe blade. Jeralt Eisner, their Captain and commanding officer, stood in the doorway with rage written across his face like Joseph had never seen before.

Joseph moved , trying to stand between his superior and the blonde woman who was, as far as he could tell, too focused on her head to realize how much worse the situation had gotten.

“Sir Joseph, stand aside. This doesn’t concern you.” Jeralt ordered. Joe didn’t move.

“The hell it doesn’t, sir.”

“Joe.” Catherine said weakly, nudging him to the side. The old knight looked to see one of Catherine’s eyes closed and the other half open, as if the light hurt her. “Don’t stick your neck out and get it slit for my sake.”

“You sure, Cat?” Joseph asked, worry evident in the way his creased, aged face grew even more scrunched together.

“Yeah. You two go. Whatever beating the Captain has in store for me, I’m sure I deserve it.” Catherine stood up as straight as she could, still holding a hand to the side of her head. Jeralt took a step forward, and there was a brief moment where he and Joseph stared each other down.

Fredrique was worried, Joe not being one to give in lightly, but he was able to breathe easily when he finally stepped aside. Jeralt shook his head slowly, there was almost a kind of understanding between the two of them, at least Jeralt thought there was. Joseph may not have been Catherine’s father, but he was ready to protect her as if she were his blood without a moment of hesitation. Jeralt walked forward, standing barely a few inches from the bleary-eyed blonde, and already he could tell something was truly wrong in the shaking that racked her body as she stood.

“I’m not going to beat you, you jackass.” Jeralt said, grabing a fistfull of her tunic and pulling her close, practically lifting her off the ground as he glared her down. “But, you better start talking. What in the hell is wrong with you!?” He shook her like she weighed nothing, his voice growing more akin to a growl. “I told you not to hurt my daughter, and now I have to find out from some little girl in her class that you and her are fighting?! In the middle of the damned barracks no less!? What in the hell was going through your head?!” Jeralt shook her again, and while he knew he was getting a bit more aggressive and personal than was proper for his station and this situation, this woman had been the one to decide to forgo professional separation and start fraternizing with his little girl.

Catherine’s head hung limply down, and Jeralt couldn’t see her face through the curtain of thick hair. He heard a noise that he could’ve sworn was a laugh, and saw the woman in his grasp look up at him, only lifting her head as high as she absolutely needed too. Exhaustion was written across her face like a map to the gates of hell itself.

“I don’t know...” Catherine muttered, too tired to try and fight. For all she knew, this wasn’t even real. She could forget all about it, or find out later that she was raving madly at her men and her Captain.

Jeralt had no idea how to respond, this was nothing like how he’d expected this to go. The echoing of the halls had made it easy for him to hear her screaming in rage as he was walking through the barracks. He had been going to check her quarters again, but that had set him on edge. He had worried that she might try to fight, that perhaps that Dorothea girl was right and something worse than just mean spirited arguments had been going on. But now this woman, this soldier, this battle-hardened warrior, was hanging in his hands like a scared dog, and all he could think was he’d let his emotions get the better of him and made the whole situation worse. Jeralt kept his grip on Catherine, but turned to look to Joseph. The man’s eyes said everything, there was something big missing. Jeralt felt a bit like an ass as he turned back to Catherine and saw her clutching at her head again, eyes clenched shut.

“Catherine...what is going on?” Jeralt let her down, just a bit, so she was planted firmly on her feet. He would have let her go completely, but he felt that, if he had, she’d have collapsed to the ground. She opened her eyes and looked up at him, tears slowly spilling down her face.

“I...I don’t know, Sir...and I’m scared…” That hit all three of the men in the room like a ton of bricks. Catherine wasn’t a person who got scared. Catherine was a woman who spit in the eye of the grim reaper for the sake of a laugh. She threw herself into the heat of battle without hesitation. Jeralt had seen her as one of his best, and yet here she was, sobbing in front of him, looking like a deer with an arrow in her side.

Joseph and Fredrique had seen Catherine scared, they’d seen her crack before. The last time being at the battle against Miklan after the professor had been injured, but for her to say it, to give it a name and admit it, was more terrifying than anything.

 

A matter of hours later, the four of them were in Jeralt’s office, door closed and locked tight. They had had to wait a bit, to allow Catherine time to gain some composure before they could walk there from the barracks, but Jeralt trusted this room much more than he trusted the echoey, thin-walled halls of the barracks. Catherine sat in a chair across from Jeralt, the same spot she had sat in not two months prior when he’d finally verified that his suspicions were correct. She seemed so much smaller now, shoulders slouched, leaned forward with her elbows on her knees.

She had just finished explaining everything. What had happened between her and Byleth, or rather what Byleth had told her had happened between the two of them the night before last, and even then she said her memories of what she had been told were starting to fade as well. Catherine repeated what Shamir had told her, as well as her own recollection of events. She said she had no memory of ever taking a mission without the woman, and Jeralt also couldn’t seem to find any record of a mission in that timeframe that was marked as completed by Catherine alone.

“I don’t get it! I swear, I remember being at the monastery the whole time! I even remember going out and grabbing food with Joe.” She turned to the man. “I remember us going out to that dingy old tavern in town, outside the Market. You insisted on splitting a bottle of whiskey, we got shitfaced and I had a hangover for three days!” Joe only returned the look with confusion, his arm wrapped around Fredrique’s shoulder.

“Cat, I don’t drink whiskey. I’m allergic to rye and barley, remember?” Joseph pointed out. Catherine shook her head, looking down and she realized she couldn’t remember a single other time he’d done so. He’d always been the type to drink wine when they went out. She tried to remember more about that night, but the headache came back, and she couldn’t take it.

“What’s happening to me?” Catherine asked, looking up at her Captain as if he would have all the answers. Jeralt was standing on the other side of his desk, hands flat against the counter on either side as he looked down over the half-dozen or so files splayed out.

“I don’t know, kid.” Jeralt said, reaching up and rubbing the bridge of his nose. He heard Catherine chuckle, and looked up to see her looking at him with the slightest hint of a smile. “What’s so funny?”

“N...nothing sir. Just dejavu.” Catherine looked away, running her hands through her hair, trying to calm herself down.

They continued pouring over the details of Catherine’s memory, or lack-there-of, but all they found were more questions, more gaps, more memories that they either couldn’t verify or were mostly right but seemed to be missing details or wrong somehow. But the biggest thing that troubled Jeralt was how Catherine had managed to go several weeks without being assigned a mission. The way the filing worked, when a team was out on a job, Jeralt would hand that team's file off to lord Seteth or whichever Lord was the overseeing faculty on said mission. It ensured he didn’t assign one team two missions. However, he had no memory of giving Catherine’s folder to Seteth, and when checked for, it was curiously absent, alongside his daughter’s.

After several hours of pouring over every detail, Catherine managed to calm down. It felt less and less like she was losing her mind, but instead was now simply another piece in some sinister puzzle at play around her. Joseph and Fredrique had fallen asleep, the former sat up on one of the three cushions of a small couch tucked away in the corner of the room, while the latter was snoring quietly, sprawled across the other two cushions with his head laying in Joseph’s lap.

As the sun started to set, they saw a small cloud of dust gathering on the horizon, right where the trail leading to the front gate would be. Jeralt heaved a heavy sigh as he looked out the window, a faint smile finding its way to his lips.

“Looks like the battle was a quick one this year.” He said, looking down at the even larger pile of folders, records, and notes.

“Bet you I know who won.” Catherine muttered from her chair, chuckling as the day weighed heavily on her eyelids. That actually got a laugh from Jeralt, and Catherine felt good about that.

“I’m no gambling man, and a bet that shitty isn’t likely to change that any time soon.” Jeralt joked. Before closing the assembled folders Jeralt retrieved a fresh one, adding to it his notes and records on the subject. He set those files in another drawer, one that held the file of his other ongoing investigation, the mysterious group which had seemed to be stalking the school for several months now. He slammed the drawer closed. This sent the two men on his couch shooting up in their seats.

“I think that’s enough for one day. I’ll take some time to review in a day or two, see if I can find anything new, and we’ll go from there. Joseph, Fredrique, get out.” The last point was not up for debate, and the two men stood and looked to Catherine, who suddenly felt very tense, but nodded for the two of them to go along. She knew she wasn’t likely getting out of this no matter what. They left, and after a long moment of silence Jeralt walked over to Catherine, resting his hand on her shoulder. “You look like hell, let’s take a walk. Some fresh air could do you good before you see Byleth. ” Jeralt patted her shoulder, and moved for the door. Catherine was confused, as she had expected some sort of ass chewing, but the day wasn’t over just yet.

Together they walked out of the administrative building, taking the long winding route around the school as they spoke.

“What’s your gut telling you about all this, sir?” Catherine asked, hating the uneasy silence between them, Jeralt shook his head and stopped, looking out over the fishing pond.

“Well, my first instinct is split. The first instinct I have is that you’re full of shit, and this whole deal is you just digging yourself deeper and deeper to try and get out of getting your ass kicked by your girlfriends dad.” Catherine was going to interject, but didn’t think now was the best time to play particular about what she and Byleth were. Hell, she didn’t even know what they really were anymore. “However, the part of me I think is right says that you somehow managed to get caught up in something much bigger than yourself, and either it’s been messing with your head, or everyone else’s.”

“For what little it probably counts, I don’t think I'm creative enough to come up with this level of bullshit, sir.” Jeralt looked at her for a minute, his eyes blank until he began laughing.

“You know what, Catherine, I don’t think so either.” Jeralt heaved in a deep breath of the cool night air, the sun long gone. Cheers could be heard from the dining hall as they stood there. “Just know that we’ll figure out what’s going on. Ok?”

“I know we will, sir. I just don’t want Letty getting caught up in all of it.” Catherine lamented. The two had stopped walking, and both were looking at the doors to the dining hall from quite a ways away, but Catherine had one question for the Captain. “‘Something bigger’, what do you mean by that??”

Jeralt shook his head. “I have an idea, but nothing solid. I’ve been investigating the strange occurrences around campus, Flayn and all that, and the group that appears to be behind them, and I just can’t shake the feeling that they’re related. I think I’ve got a lead, so hopefully if that pulls through, I can get you more answers, but I still just don’t see where you would fit into things yet.”

“Wait, I thought Morice and his team were in charge of that investigation?” Catherine asked.

“They were, until the entire crew turned up dead.” Jeralt’s deadpan delivery set Catherine on edge.

“Shit…”

“Yeah, It wasn’t pretty. The way it looked, there were five distinct blade marks, which means at least three assailants. They must have been fast, too. Morice and his team’s weapons weren’t even out of their scabbards. But besides that, we got nothing.”

“One more damned mystery to throw onto the fire.” Catherine muttered.

“Couldn’t have said it better myself...and Catherine?”

“Yes, sir?” she asked, looking over. His voice had grown so suddenly somber. His face matched.

“I’m not talking to you as your captain, I’m talking to you as Byleth’s father…” He sighed, clearly uncomfortable. “If something...happens to me, like what happened to Morice’s team, please, look after her. Byleth, I mean.”

“Yeah, I… I knew what you meant. And of course, Jeralt. But don’t talk like that, you’re old but I’m not going to let you keel over that easily. I gotta at least beat you once in a sparring match before you go.” Catherine joked, shoving Jeralt’s shoulder.

“Don’t push it.”

“Yes, sir.” Catherine said, formally.

“Come on, let’s get some food.”

 

The night ended well. Catherine was greeted to roukous cheers when the Eagles saw her and Jeralt approaching, along with a soft smile from Byleth. Catherine congratulated them on their victory, and the night dragged on for several more hours as they chanted, cheered and celebrated. Jeralt at one point taught the class an old sea shanty he’d learned from a former sailor in the Brigade, and the dining hall was full of poorly sung, out of tune officers in training belting it out at the top of their lungs. Poor Dorothea looked as if she were in hell itself.

Catherine asked about the bruising around Byleth’s ear and temple, and was given some quick reply about having been blindsided by the Golden Deer during the battle. Dorothea seemed to giggle at this, but looked away when Catherine tried to give her an inquisitive look. She did notice that things seemed a bit tense between Byleth and Edelgard, but that seemed to be every other week at this point. She could guess what exactly they were so tense about. She wasn’t blind, and had caught Edelgard staring at Byleth between rounds of sparring enough times to put two and two together. She really did wish they’d just talk and figure their shit out, or screw and get it over with at this point. The will-they-won’t-they shit was getting to such ridiculous levels that it was almost funny.

Catherine didn’t resent the girl for it. She knew how attractive Byleth was, and being territorial wasn’t exactly her style, even if she did care very much about Letty. She knew there was an easier way to say that, one word she could say, but for some reason something seemed to make it impossible for her to say it, or even think it, it felt like. She was shaken from her thoughts by Ashe, who sat in the seat next to her. Catherine looked and saw the student fidgeting a bit awkwardly, seemingly prodded along by an orange haired girl nearby.

“I… I need to talk to you. After the meal. If that’s ok.” Leonie smashed her elbow into Ashe’s ribs, even Catherine noticed it. “I… just talk to me after everyone leaves.”

“Uhh, Ok. Yeah, just hang back and we can chat after the food.” Catherine said, eyeing up the rather strange duo. Was anyone in this damned class normal?

 

Byleth took a bite from the massive platter of meat in front of her when she heard a familiar, cheery voice from nearby.

“Professor!” Flayn called, scampering over from the Blue Lions’ table with a tall blonde woman in two. Flayn threw her arms around Byleth’s neck without even a moment’s hesitation, and for a moment Byleth simply went rigid. She hadn’t realized her and Flayn were that close, but apparently they were, she guessed. Finally Flayn stood back, smiling from ear to ear, a large bruise visible on her cheek from the battle. “Congratulations on your victory! It was wonderful getting to fight against your class today!” Mercedes smiled as well, waving, a bit awkwardly, from behind Flayn.

“T, thank you, Flayn. It was good to see how your joining the blue lions this last month has already helped you grow.” Byleth replied. “Miss Mercedes.” Byleth acknowledged the taller woman with a nod.

“Hello professor. You student’s really were formidable opponents today.” Mercedes complimented, hands clasped together in front of her.

“What up, girls, just come over here to brown nose, or were you wanting to join us here for dinner?” Catherine asked through a mouth full of steak, which made Mercedes a bit concerned, but Flayn absolutely lit up.

“Can we?” Flayn asked. Byleth shrugged, why in the hell not?

“Go right ahead.” Byleth said, gesturing to a few unoccupied chairs. The two girls sat beside each other, quickly joining in with the others as they bantered back and forth.

“So, Mercedes, I don’t see you around the campus too often, what brought you over here?” Dorothea asked, only with the most sincere of intentions, of course. Flayn, however, spoke up before Mercedes could.

“ Oh! Mercy has been helping me adjust to life here as a student. My first few days were, well, rather chaotic and she showed me how to navigate classes and course work. She’s been really wonderful in helping me with my studies with healing magic as well. I have grown rather rusty, and it’s been wonderful to have Mercy’s help!”

“Oh, wow, ‘Mercy’ that really is so very sweet of you.” Dorothea commented, grinning evilly as she noted the slightest creeping of red on the girl’s cheeks. Goddess above, between what Claude had told her and this? If she wasn’t having to listen to Caspar, Ferdinand, and Leonie’s terrible rendition of “Drunken Sailor” this would be heaven.

 

It was well after Jeralt and Catherine had walked into the dining hall that ‘Monica’ stepped out of the shadows, licking her lips hungrily with a tongue that was much too long.

So, the old bastard had a lead on them, did he? She would have to pass that along to Thales, and see how she was to rectify it. That would show the damned girl not to go threatening those above her station. It was such a shame they needed her, as Kronya so very much desired to teach her that lesson personally.

 

That next sunday, Ashe sighed to herself as she tugged at the collar of her uniform, the heavy cotton of the mens jacket scratching at the damp, irritated skin around her neck. The weather wasn’t why she was sweating, it was in fact rather frigid, which was not very surprising considering the time of year. What was making her sweat was the stress building in her as she walked closer and closer to the training field of the Black Eagles.

As she approached, Ashe saw the tall blonde figure she was dreading waiting for her beside one of the meanest looking Wyverns she had ever seen in her life. Why in the name of the goddess had she done this?

Oh, that’s right, because Leonie had bullied her into it. She had spent hours harassing her to speak to Catherine ever since she’d heard about the offer Catherine had made to Edelgard and her the night before the tower. Who in the world had even told her?

‘How could you forget an offer like that?!’ she’d asked. She went on to talk about how much trouble Ashe had been having sticking to her Wyvern in training, as if she wasn’t dealing with the bruises and sore muscles from those falls every afternoon already and needed to have humiliation thrown on top of it. What did she even know? She could barely hold her bow while on horseback, let alone fire it accurately.

Ashe took a deep breath, trying to steady herself. She knew it wasn’t Leonie she was upset at. Leonie was just trying to be a good friend, to help her take an opportunity to improve her skills where she was sorely lacking. She was always trying to be a good friend to Ashe.

It was honestly kind of bewildering how much Leonie did to try and help her, even in her own little ways. On Ashe’s bad days, where the grief from Lonato was just too much, Leonie would bring Ashe her notes from the day’s lecture and let her copy them, even explaining some when Ashe couldn’t quite understand.

She chuckled a bit as she remembered the first time it had happened, when she’d accidentally flipped past the last page of notes for that day and saw the notes from the lecture before. Those notes seemed to be of significantly lower quality, in fact most of the page seemed dominated by doodles. There was one that was clearly of Petra, the long braids were a dead giveaway. Another had long curling hair with a hat placed at a jaunty angle, of course, it was Dorothea. There was one other thing Ashe noticed before Leonie slammed the notebook shut and took it back. It was a doodle of her, of Ashe, that seemed to have much more detail than the rest. What really stuck out to Ashe was the mixture of details. She had been looking away, as if paying attention to the lecture, making it seem like Leonie had just drawn her how she was at that moment, but the difference was in her clothing. The uniform jacket was slightly undone, and the collar of what appeared to be a floral patterned shirt was sticking out of it.

They had both pretty quickly made some mumbled excuse for needing to end that session, and had either thought to actually look at the other person; they may have noticed that their faces were both a pretty similar shade of red. Then again, they were at a military officers academy, not an academy for emotional maturity and tact.

“Hey, kid, you good?”

Ashe came plummeting back to solid ground from the lofty heights of her absentminded pondering, to see she was standing in front of Catherine.

“Yeah, just lost in thought, I guess.” Ashe mumbled, earning a weak chuckle from Catherine. Even Ashe could tell it was forced.

“No problem, just wanted to make sure you had your head in the game for today.” Catherine gestured to the Wyvern, and Ashe swore the thing sniffed as if sizing up it’s next meal.

“Wouldn’t make much sense for me to ask you to do this just to show up not ready to try, would it?”

“Kid, I’ll be honest, so little about my life lately has made sense that I’ve learned to not take anything for granted. You asked me to help train you, so I’m here. Are you ready to do this?” Ashe nodded. “Wonderful. This is Seteth.” She said patting the wyvern, who seemed to nuzzle into her hand. “She’s a big, strong, nasty bitch of a Wyvern who some dumb punk squire thought it’d be funny to name after Lady Rhea’s right hand man. She’ll be your training partner for today’s lesson. Now, you two get friendly.” Catherine stepped away, gesturing for Ashe to approach the beast.

Ashe took a hesitant step forward, offering a hand as she looked into the slit-pupiled eyes of the massive scaled beast. It must have been twice the size of the Wyverns Byleth had them training on, and it looked as if it were ready to eat her alive at any moment. Seteth sniffed at the limb, before clasping her mouth around Ashe’s wrist, making the student scream in terror.

Catherine sighed as she knew it was going to be a very long day before moving the pry the Wyvern’s mouth off of the screaming student’s wrist. She knew Seteth wouldn’t hurt Ashe, this was just how she played, but goddess she could not stand the screaming.

 

Jeralt heard a knock at the entrance to his office, and quickly slid the pile of papers and folders he was examining into his desk drawer, loose and unsorted. The door opened before he even said to enter, and Lord Seteth stepped into his office clutching a small pile of documents. Assignment sheets, wonderful.

“Sir Eisner.” Seteth greeted, dropping the papers onto the desk. “We have need of a team to travel to Remire Village and address the reports of a strange illness that seems to be coming in from the area. Please assign it to one of the classes, and ensure it is handled properly.”

“Will do, Lord Seteth.” Jeralt affirmed, taking a moment to double check the available team files. “It appears the Deer are heading out on patrol the day after tomorrow, while the Blue Lions are already preparing to battle some beasts in the forests up north, so I’ll assign the Eagles and personally accompany them to ensure this matter is handled. Remire was my brigade’s home for several years, I would like to personally ensure the village is protected.” Seteth nodded, a bit disgruntled by the mention of the Black Eagles, but when Jeralt handed him the large folder inscribed with the Eagle’s emblem, he took it and put it under his arm none-the-less.

“Well enough. I shall trust you to ensure it is addressed properly.” With that, Seteth turned to leave, but Jeralt had something more weighing on his mind.

“Lord Seteth, if you have a moment, I had a question about something related.” Jeralt asked pointedly, stopping the green haired man in his tracks. Seteth turned slowly and faced Jeralt again.

“Yes, Sir Eisner?”

“I seem to be missing a file for one team under my command. Team Charon, under Catherine, has been back from a mission for almost a month now, and they’ve been completely without work as I was never given their assignment folder back. Would you be aware of where that folder has gone?” Seteth looked so perplexed that Jeralt knew the answer wasn’t going to help.

“Sir Eisner, Catherine Charon and her team have been on assignment in Brigid for almost three weeks. They aren’t slated to return for another week.” Seteth could not believe that the captain would forget such an important assignment, especially given the fact his daughter and Sir Catherine had seemed rather chummy.

“...Thank you, lord Seteth. I apologize, I must simply be growing forgetful in my old age.” Jeralth said, earning a small chuckle from the Lord.

“See that it does not happen again, Sir Eisner. I would hate to see your career on such rocky ground as your daughters. But, I would not call yourself old just yet, you’ve got another few centuries before that sets in.” Seteth taunted as he walked away. Humans were such fragile creatures.

Jeralt sighed and leaned back in his chair, a headache forming in the center of his forehead. Whatever was happening, Seteth was as much of a pawn as any of them. That did not bode well.

 

Ashe didn’t even have the energy to scream again as she hit the ground with a dull thud for what must have been the thousandth time that morning. The sun was barely to the top of the sky, so it couldn’t be past noon, and yet every inch of her body ached from the repeated collision with the earth. Why had she decided to waste her sunday on this? She could be sparring with Leonie, or talking to Bernadetta assuming she wasn’t latched onto Petra and Dorothea. But no, she was instead being thrown around like a ragdoll by a scaled-hide beast while a woman who had all but killed her brother watched and criticized. Why had she let Leonie talk her into this? At this point she would rather fail her Certification exam again.

Seteth stamped over to her, the rush of air from her nostrils rustling Ashe’s hair as the Wyvern’s long forked tongue lapped at her face. Ashe swatted her away with a grunt of annoyance, but Seteth simply backed away and lunged back forward, lapping at her bruised face like a playful puppy. Ashe couldn’t help but laugh after a few seconds of the onslaught, and instead took to petting the Wyvern’s neck. A noise that could almost be called a purr echoed through it’s throat, and a few minutes later, Seteth backed away to allow Ashe up.

She saw Catherine offering a hand, the look on her face clearly showing she felt about as awkward about this whole ordeal as Ashe did. But Ashe didn’t care, and swatted the hand away.

“I’m fine.” Ashe muttered, standing up and dusting off her uniform. Catherine looked away and sighed.

“Listen, I know I’m not exactly as great an instructor as Byleth, but I can tell you aren’t listening to me when I speak. I’ve told you six times now, grasp with your knees, stabilize with your ankles, and yet you continue to try holding on with your ankles and hands. How do you expect to fight like that, even if you could stay on?” Ashe scoffed.

“ I am trying my best. You’re the one who decided it was wise to put a new rider on the back of this absolute monster!” Ashe gestured towards Seteth, who was standing right behind her. The wyvern looked at Ashe, confused, before licking her face again. Catherine chuckled.

“Yeah, she is a real feral beast.” Catherine said, hands on her hips. “If you are going to ignore everything I say, why did you even ask for my help? Edelgard seems to have caught on fine. Ask her.”

“I didn’t even want to! It was Leonie’s idea in the first place!” Ashe yelled, stepping closer as if trying to intimidate, but all it did was show exactly how much shorter she was than Catherine.

“Oh, so you just do whatever your girlfriend tells you to do, huh?” Catherine shot back, knowing it was probably not the smartest decision to get into a screaming match with a student, but at this point it was just nice to have a vent for the awkward tension that had sat on the training field all morning.

“She’s not my girlfriend!” Ashe pointed out, pushing Catherine.

“Well doesn’t that just make it even sadder.” Catherine said, smacking Ashe’s hands away.

“You’re one to talk! Isn’t that exactly what you did when you betrayed my brother?” With that, Ashe charged forward, shoving her hands into Catherine’s stomach and pushing her to the ground. Had Ashe’s words not already hit Catherine like a ton of bricks, , she likely wouldn’t even have budged. But it’s amazing how easy it is to knock someone over when they are completely dumbstruck.

She hit the ground with a heavy thud, much like Ashe had a hundred times before, only this time accompanied by the clang armor. Ashe stood over her, panting angrily, tears stinging her eyes as she tried to hold her composure. She wouldn’t let this woman see her as some weakling, but Catherine just looked up, shame, anger and doubt ringing through her mind.

“Don’t just lay there, get up! Say something, damnit!” Ashe yelled, the rage in her heart feeling as if it might cook her from the inside. She hadn’t realized how much hatred she had held in her until that moment, when it all seemed to be pouring out of her.

“I... What do you want me to say, Ashe?”

“Something! Anything! Don’t just sit there and gawk at me, you coward!” Catherine stood hurriedly, pushing off of the dirt and looking down at Ashe.

“Fine! What do you want from me Ashe? An apology? That won’t bring Cristophe back. Do you want me to say I regret what I did? I don’t! I was doing my job. I am a knight of Serios, I am sworn to protect Lady Rhea, and Christophe let himself be dragged into a scheme to kill her. I did what I thought was right! There, are you happy?”

“No. You still don’t get it! How could you betray a friend so easily? Turn him over to the hangman’s gallows without even a second thought when he saved you!”

“You sound just like Lonato. Do you even know what Cristophe did to save me?” Catherine asked. Her first few words left Ashe in a shocked stupor, but only for a moment.

“Do you?” Ashe spat back, Catherine grit her teeth as she looked away. “Did you ever even bother to try and find out?”

“I did” Catherine whispered weakly, collapsing back, sitting on the now-slumbering Wyvern. “I did.” Ashe stared at her for several silent minutes.

“Well?!”

“He, when my class was preparing for graduation, we were raided by bandits. They killed almost everyone in my class. I was the first to go down, but they only knocked me out. My lamp fell, and it broke and...Cristophe pulled me from the fire. He helped me get back to the Monastery…” Catherine explained. She was so very tired of crying. She felt as if she’d done enough of it a week to last her a lifetime.

“And yet when the time came you threw him to the wolves without a moment's doubt.” Ashe spit the words with such venom Catherine visibly flinched.

“It’s not like that, Ashe...I did doubt...I agonized over it. I had no idea what to do, and it only got worse as time went on.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“No. I just want to make sure you know I’m not some callous monster. I have had to tell myself over and over, every single day that this is the right thing to do. That I’m on the right path. I did it when they came to take him, and I still do it now. I have so much that I've built since then, trying to make up for that day. If I regretted what happened, truly regretted it, I’d have no choice but to leave, walk away and discard everything I’ve done, everything I built. Then he will have died for nothing… and I'll have lived for nothing.” Catherine shuddered, her breathing ragged as she tried to contain herself. “I...I don’t blame you for not trusting me, Ashe. I don’t trust me either, not anymore.”

“Catherine, I…” Ashe breathed a heavy sigh. “That doesn’t make it better, just to say you did what was right, because it was right.”

“I know. Believe me, I know. It doesn’t make it any better to live with, either. But, what else am I supposed to do, Ashe? Walk away? Quit being a knight and go walk off into the sunset? That’s not how the world works, Ashe. Not outside of the books. There’s no walking away from being a knight. Even if I were to quit, any one of the dozens of bandit clans I fought, the church factions I defeated, the noblemen whose petty squabbles I ended, would send a blade after me in an instant if they found out. I can’t farm, and my family would cast me out in an instant if I abandoned the church. I, I have no choice, Ashe. Maybe I never did. What I did has to be the right thing. If it isn't...What else is there? ”

Ashe had thought that if she gave her anger a voice she might finally find some sort of peace, or at least feel better. But no, now all she had was this conflicting mixture of shame for her outburst, sympathy for the woman before her, and anger at herself for feeling either of the two prior. She felt like an ass for having lost control of her emotions, but justified in her anger in the first place. Everything felt so complicated, she didn’t know if she was the one in the right or the one in the wrong, or if there even really was such simple categories in this sort of thing.

 

The two stayed there, Ashe stood, Catherine sat on Seteth, for a very long time. They both could only sit in their own thoughts, trying to find something to pull themselves together. After a while, Seteth piped up from her place on the ground. Lifting her head and licking Catherine’s face jovially. Catherine couldn’t help but laugh as she pet the creature.

“It...she seems to like you.” Ashe remarked, not quite a joke, but more than just a comment.

“Hahaha, I would hope so…” Catherine said as the creature nuzzled against her head. “I’ve known Seteth since she was born.”

“You were the squire, weren’t you?” Ashe asked.

“Yup. I was on stable duty the day that this big bitch popped into the world, and was lucky enough to get to name her. Lady Rhea was... less than ecstatic at the name, but by then everyone was calling her Seteth, so she couldn’t really make us change it.” Catherine smiled as she remembered that time oh so long ago. It felt like centuries. “It’s getting a bit late, why don’t we call it good for the day?” Catherine suggested, pushing herself up.

“Not yet. I’m not done.” Ashe remarked cooly. Catherine gave a nod and stood aside. She figured the kid had earned that much. Ashe wasn’t yelling at her anymore, but she could tell they were suddenly best friends. But, progress was progress.

 

After several more failed attempts, they called it a day. Catherine noticed Ashe actually listening to her feedback now, if not enthusiastically, and that made her a bit proud. Maybe she was cut out for this whole teaching gig.

“So, same time next week.” Ashe said as they walked Seteth back to the Wyvern stable. It struck Catherine out of nowhere, and she looked at the student a bit shocked. She had expected this to be a one and done session after everything that had happened. Even if they were better then they had been during their little incident, things still felt tense.

“I mean, sure, if you wanted to. But don’t expect me to go easy on you like I did today. “ Catherine taunted, it did not seem very funny to Ashe..

“That was you going easy?”

“Yup. You’re in for a world of pain next week, little man.” Catherine continued, only to see Ashe’s face drop a bit from a neutral expression to a frown. Shit, had she gone too far? “Hey, hey kid, come on I was just teasing you. It’ll be just like today, I promise.”

“It’s fine..” Ashe said, but she could tell that wasn’t true. The look on the kid’s face was way too familiar to Catherine, like looking into a mirror.

Was Ashe… like her?

 

Edelgard awoke that Sunday morning to find Kronya nowhere to be found. She was rather shocked at first, as the ‘girl’ was always at her door by the crack of dawn, regardless of the day Yet, when she awoke the sun was already above the treeline. Edelgard thought perhaps she should search for her, but that idea died quickly, she didn’t care what that damned monster did as long as it was away from her.

When she remembered what day it was, she felt a rush and moved quickly to bathe and get dressed. If she was lucky, then the Professor would currently be doing her preparations for the week’s lectures, and may be able to actually enjoy tea with her teacher for the first time in almost a month and a half.

As she was dressing for the day, she thought about how nice it would be to actually enjoy her day off for once in what had felt like an eternity. She tried to remember the last time she had actually had tea with her Professor. There wasn’t a time over the entirety of the month they spent preparing for the Battle of Eagle and Lion, due to ‘Monica’ and her constant bothersome meddling. That meant the last time would have been that afternoon when Caspar had come screaming about Manuela. That thought brought Edelgard’s mind slamming back to what exactly had been happening when Caspar had interrupted them. The past several weeks had been so stressful that she had managed to completely forget about the rather significant incident. What in the hell had she been thinking!?

The pure and simple answer was she hadn’t been. Not during their tea, and not during that small conversation in the middle of the battle. Well, she’d been thinking. But not about the proper things, such as her strategy for finally attaining the crest stones they needed to continue their plan of attack against the church, nor her studies, nor her preparations to take the title of emperor. No, she’d been completely distracted by trivial thoughts such as a curiosity about what exactly her professor’s lips would feel like pressed against her own. Would it feel like it had in her dreams?

She started to wonder if perhaps the dreams she had been dealing with the past few months had been something other than the ‘shock’ she had written them off as. Was there something more to them? To all of the strange thoughts she had been struck with as of late? She’d never really had any opportunity to consider feelings of that nature. How could she? She had been set on a path of war against the church, against the entirety of Fodlan, since she was but a child. There was little time in that life for friendship, let alone anything more.

Hubert was the closest thing to any kind of friend she had ever had before her time here at the academy, but he was more akin to her brother than any sort of companion. Yet she seemed to be infatuated with the Professor she had known for less than a year, certain beyond denial. She sat on the edge of her bed as she tried to think.

What in the Goddesses name was she going to do? This could only complicate things further, and if there was one thing she needed absolutely no more of, it was complications. The Professor was not only currently in a relationship, however strange it seemed from the outside, but she was also an educator under the employ of the church. That same church which Edelgard had full intentions to tear from her motherland by the roots.

The thought of Catherine made her stomach turn a bit. Not in an unpleasant way, but it didn’t help her current issue. She ignored that, pushing it aside. She needed no more new complications, and right now she was stuck on the Professor.

There was so much that was doomed to fail in these thoughts. Perhaps that is what the horrifying endings to these dreams had been, her mind trying to warn her that the things her heart was wanting could only ever end in pain, for all of those involved.

“Hey, El.” ‘Monica’s’ voice startled Edelgard from her thoughts, and she saw the monster, in her same human ‘suit’ as she so loved to call it, standing in her doorway. Edelgard looked up to the clock on the wall to see nearly an hour and a half had passed since she’d woken up. It was almost noon now. She had let her worries distract her, and now her chance was gone. The use of that name, that damned name, was an insult on top of injury.

“Where have you been?” Edelgard’s voice made the red haired monster chuckle.

“Oh, just simply submitting my report to your beloved uncle. I hope my absence wasn’t missed too terribly.”

“Not at all. In fact being free of your inane drivel was quite a treat.” Edelgard said, standing up from her bed.

“Oh, El you better be careful. That sharp tongue of yours may just slip and cut your head off in the process if you aren’t careful.” ‘Monica’ said, and the malice in her voice made Edelgard shiver. She stood and began walking out, heading to the dining room, where she expected the most people to be. She didn’t feel safe around this thing alone.

“As long as it slits your throat first, dear Monica, I’ll consider that a victory.” Edelgard replied in such a sickly-sweet tone that Kronya could only laugh.

“You’re much more fun than I thought you’d be. Though I see your sense of humor clearly died with all your brat siblings.” Kronya cooed, her teeth glinting as she followed behind the princess.

Edelgard sighed, silently despising herself for losing her opportunity to her own worrying and internal debate. Those thoughts would have to wait until later, it seemed, as would her time with her Professor.

 

“Damn. How long?” Byleth asked, reading through the reports as she sat in her father’s office.

“Three weeks, at most. I sent a scouting team down, and they should be back in about a week and a half, a few days longer if something happens. Given the time it’ll take to travel there, and the reports we’re hearing, it’ll need to be before then. Manuela and some others will be accompanying us to provide medical aid to the sick, and we’ll be responsible for providing protection to medical crew there and back.” Jeralt explained, taking a drink from a glass of water. Byleth shook her head, sighing as she tossed the folder back onto the desk before throwing one leg over the other, relaxing back into her own chair.

“No rest for the wicked, it seems.” Byleth mused, running her hand through her hair, and Jeralt chuckled as he saw the familiar gesture. It looked a bit more ridiculous on Byleth, with her short shaggy blue hair than it did with a certain troubled blonde’s longer hairstyle.

“You’re telling me, kid. Seems like the whole damn school is running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I swear, they’re gonna work me into an early grave at this rate.” The glare he received told him rather patently that the joke was not appreciated. He thought it wise to change the subject. “So, how are your kids taking to their training? Their certifications are getting rather intense from what I hear.”

“They’re doing well. Shockingly so, at times. A few of them seem to be struggling with some aspects, but I've been able to find assistance in regards to outside help to boost them where I am lacking. Ashe is actually working with Catherine this morning. Poor boy hasn’t been able to stay on his mount, let alone fight on it.”

“I’m sure he’ll do fine. He’s a good kid. However I’d...worry about pairing him and Catherine. I know there’s plenty of tension there, old and new.” Jeralt warned, but Byleth waved him off.

“I think that’s exactly why they should work together.” Byleth said, a small smile creeping onto their lips.

“How do you mean?”

“Well, those two haven’t sparred once since Catherine has begun training with the class. No fighting, they barely if ever speak to one another. It just sits there stewing. If they are forced to actually communicate with each other, to interact under stress…”

“They blow up and try to kill each other.” Jeralt offered, pointing out the gaping hole in his daughter’s plan.

“Well, yes. But assuming they blow up and manage not to murder one another, then perhaps that relieved tension will give some path forward. They don’t need to like each other, but their tension was bad for teamwork and morale. And frankly, I was tired of their bullshit.”

“Heh, I guess that’s a good point. Not bad kiddo.” Jeralt said.

“Thanks, dad.” Byleth said, hearing her say that still made him smile.

“How in the goddess’s name did you manage to get Catherine to agree to that so quickly? The training, I mean. You two have only been speaking again for, what, a few days now?”

“Well, it’s actually been something I had set up for prior to our… issue.” Byleth still wasn’t sure what to call it. Catherine had talked to her about the rather insane day that had preceded their return from the battle after dinner, and it only made matters more confusing for both of them, though she did feel better knowing she wasn’t dating some masterful abusive con artist. Was dating the proper word? They’d never really discussed any formal transition from ‘comrades blowing off steam’ to anything more, but had it not done that already? “I had let it slip during one conversation during a sparring match with Leonie a few weeks ago, just prior to the search for Flayn, that I’d heard from Edelgard about an offer Catherine had made to her and Ashe regarding Wyvern lessons. That girl and Ashe have been rather close for some time now, and I know that Ashe is hard pressed to say no to her. So, all I had to do after that was wait. I would guess that Leonie saw Catherine dining with us last night and pressured Ashe to finally ask her.” Jeralt’s brow arched as he looked proudly at his daughter.

“Damn, that's not bad, kid. Good on you.” He took another sip of his water and chuckled. His little girl really had grown so much in such a short amount of time.

“Thanks, dad.” And again, hearing those words, that last one in particular, drew a smile to Jeralts lips that he just couldn’t hide. It was contagious, as Byleth couldn’t help the feeling of her own lips pulling up. Jeralt seemed to look at her for a moment, as if he was seeing a ghost.

“You…” he played with the cup of water in his hands a bit as if he simply needed anything else but her to look at in that moment. “You look so much like your mother, kiddo. I know, if she could see you now she’d be damn proud of the woman you’ve become. Even if your life is much...stranger than I think we’d have wanted.” His mind flashed back to the rather lively chit chat he had overheard on his way from dinner the night before between one Dorothea and a young mister Claude.

They had been discussing an ‘incident’ during the battle earlier that day between his daughter and, from what he gathered, Lady Edelgard. He had pondered broaching the subject with her, but, to put it bluntly his daughter’s love life was already taking up too damned much of his time, so he was happy enough to let that be a topic his daughter raised first, not him.

“That... I’m glad. She sounds like a really wonderful woman.” Byleth said.

“She was.” The words seemed more of a whisper as they left her father’s lips. She could see his lower jaw trembling just a bit, and were he not refusing to look her in the eye she knew there’d likely be tears preparing to fall. “She really was the kindest woman I had ever met.”

“...Dad, why did you lie about mom to the Archbishop? About her dying back in Remire?” The discussion of Remire potentially being hit by a new plague had reminded her of what his dad had said all those months ago, and the question just burned in her. This drew a look of shame from the man before her, and Jeralt looked down at his half-drank glass of water.

“I don’t suppose you’d want to finish this off?” He asked, seemingly ignoring her question as he offered the water. Byleth looked to him, confused, and shook her head, he shrugged. “I just hate to waste clean water.” He said, standing and dumping the glass in the pot of a large plant in one corner of his office, before walking over to a small ice chest and proceeding to pour himself a drink. He sat back down in his chair, taking a long pull from his glass before he continued speaking. “I lied because I don’t trust Rhea. I never have, and I've been plenty open about that, at least with you.” He said, taking another drink.

“Then… why are we still here?” Byleth asked, gesturing to the church around her. “Why serve someone we don’t trust?”

“Because I know if we try to leave again, there’s no way she’ll let us. I only managed to get you out the first time by nearly burning this all to the ground. She knows that you’re your mother’s daughter, I had just hoped we could find some way out if we bid our time.” Jeralt admitted. He was afraid. Afraid that he’d call down the wrath of the entire Church down on their heads, but at the same time afraid of what his daughter might endure if they didn’t.

“Why? Why don’t you trust her?”

“Aside from your mother’s death, I have little evidence… it’s intuition, mostly. I just can’t get over the way she looks at people. It’s like how a chess player looks at their pieces. Cold, calculating… I swear, I’ve never seen something not go that damned woman’s way. Every argument I’ve ever seen her in, she won. Every dispute, a meeting later she’s the unflinching victor. No one is that lucky. No one is that skilled a negotiator or politician. I swear some days it’s like she has everyone on strings…” Jeralt suddenly got very quiet, the glass in his hand nearly slipping from his grip.

“Dad?” Byleth’s voice snapped him from his thoughts, goddess knows how long after the candle had finally lit above his head. “Are you ok?”

“I’m fine. I just realized I have a mission team coming in to be briefed for assignment in less than an hour. Sorry to cut things short, kiddo, but I need to prepare.” He said, briskly standing up and just-shy-of-shoving her to the door. Byleth’s protests were ignored, and the door quickly closed in her face. Jeralt leaned against the door, eyes wide as he tried to pull himself together.

Could it have been staring him in the face this entire time? Nearly 2 days he’d thought, researched and tried to find an answer. But could it really be? What did it mean if it was? Not just for Catherine, but for him, Byleth, the students, everyone.

Why, goddess, why did it always have to be so damned complicated? He had to be discreet about his searching from now on. She had to know he was looking into it by now, the only question was whether or not he would figure out what to do before she could . One thing was certain, he wasn’t going to let that snake sink her teeth into Byleth and Catherine’s lives the way she had his. He would be certain of that.

 

“Hey Letty, how was the day?” Catherine asked, sitting at Byleth’s desk in her dormitory, polishing a sword with a clearly well-used set of oil, rags and whetstones laid out in front of her.

“Interesting, to say the least. Looks like me and the Eagle’s will be shipped off in a little over a week to go back to Remire.” Byleth threw the pile of papers onto her desk, nearly knocking over the bottle of oil.

“Hey! Careful!” Catherine slid the oil away and peaked over the cover page as she rubbed the rag against the surface of her blade. “Remire, huh? Isn’t that where you come from?”

“Yes. Dad and I called it home with the Brigade for quite a long time. Apparently they’re being hit with a rather intense illness, potentially even a plague. We’ll be guarding a medical team there and then back. Likely to be several weeks, at least.”

“Shit, a multi-week assignment so close after coming back from the Battle of Eagle and Lion?” Catherine was astounded. That was a heavy workload for any class. But she knew Letty’s class would handle it without a problem.

“No rest for the wicked, I guess.” Byleth shrugged, undoing her armor.

“You ever thought about leaving the armor off when you’re just here in the Monastery, Letty?” Catherine asked, leaning back and kicking her feet up on the desk as she honed the edges of her blade. The several prongs along either side made it a slow, detailed process, but she enjoyed it. It gave her something to focus on, and she found it shockingly easy to lose entire days to honing her blade.

“I had considered it, but the business with Flayn last month has me thinking otherwise.” Byleth said, dropping her platemail to the ground and stretching out her shoulders.

“What, planning to give Lord Seteth another cracked skull?” Catherine grinned at the slight glare that comment earned her.

“I meant the business of having an emergency battle beneath Jeritza’s chambers. There’s no telling what other dangers lurk around this campus.” Byleth muttered, dropping her gauntlets onto the floor.

Catherine, while entranced by the honing, could still see the tension in her partner’s shoulders. She stood and rested the blade on the desk, walking quietly up behind Byleth and wrapping her arms around her midsection. Byleth jumped a bit at the touch at first, but calmed as she remembered who was in the room with her. Catherine pecked her way up Byleth’s neck, finishing the long trail with a kiss on her cheek.

“You’re ok, Letty. It’s ok to relax.”

To think, things had changed so much in so little time, and yet they seemed to just fall back into each other's lives as if they never left. She sighed, resting a hand on Catherine’s as they gripped her midsection and rested back, allowing Catherine’s arms to support some of her weight as she felt just how much her muscles seemed to ache.

“I know. I just... are you serious?” Byleth asked, feeling something prodding her in the back. Catherine blushed and laughed awkwardly.

“I swear, I started this with only the most wholesome intentions.” Catherine assured. Byleth laughed and rolled her eyes, but didn’t break the hug.

“You are ridiculous.”

“Hey, I don’t control that thing. Leave me out of it.” Catherine acted offended, but could barely hold back her laughter as she let go of the hug. Byleth went over to her bed and sat down, undoing her boots, a little bit more relaxed. Catherine returned to her honing.

“So, how did Wyvern training go?” Byleth got a pretty good answer by the immediate blanching Catherine did at the words. “That bad?”

“No, not bad. It was rough towards the end, but... I think I made some progress with him...er...well…”

“What?”

“Nothing. Just something caught my eye when we were walking back to the stables. It might have just been my imagination, but Ashe had a look that, well, reminded me of myself at that age.” Catherine said, dragging the stone along the blade.

“Do you think Ashe is... like you?”

“Fuck, Letty, I don’t know. Maybe? It’s not very likely, I mean I’ve only ever met one other woman like me before, and that didn’t exactly go very well.” Catherine mumbled, memories of what Shamir had said running through her head. “I don’t know. But, we have another session next week.”

“Maybe ask then?” Byleth offered.

“How the hell am I supposed to ask about that? Like ‘hey kid, you seem depressed, ever thought maybe you’re a chick? Been there, done that.’?” Catherine laughed and shook her head. “I’m barely making any progress with the kid as is. I think I’ll just try and focus on that. If Ashe tries to talk to me about gender shit, I’ll be there, but that’s something he...that’s something Ashe’ll need to bring up.”

“So, if you’re having another session, I guess it couldn’t have gone too badly.”

“I mean, Ashe called me a coward and shoved me onto the ground.”

“I never said it went well.” Byleth specified, Catherine had to put the sword down, how hard she began laughing at that.

 

Across the campus, Manuela sat at her desk flipping through her several overflowing piles of paperwork. Lord Seteth had been adamant about her keeping better documentation of the various injuries she tended to, and now she was playing backlog, at least until a familiar knock came from her door. Happy to have an excuse to ignore the papers, Manuela walked to the door and opener it, seeing Jeralt stood, rather awkwardly, in the hall outside of her medical bay.

“Oh, Captain, are you in need of treatment?” She asked. The man didn’t seem injured, although he did look a bit strange.

“No, actually. I’m fine. I just wondered if, well, you might be free tonight... for a drink.” Jeralt said. Manuela’s smile was a wide and devious one.

“Absolutely. Let me grab my things, and I’ll be right back out.” She said,knowing she’d be cursing herself for putting off the paperwork tomorrow, but knowing it was better than cursing herself for doing it today.