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things in threes

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Byleth hadn't thought much on the apparent ghost in their midst beyond a vague sense of relief that someone was watching Dimitri's blind side, but when the dust settled and the former Blue Lions class got a good look at the man—

Well.

What was the saying? Good things come in threes? Granted, Dimitri was currently a howling, bloody wreckage of a man and Byleth had missed the past five years in a death-like sleep and was stuck catching up to everyone's terrible news, but Glenn…

Honestly there was something going on there as well, something that they were putting on hold until someone could send for Rodrigue, but Glenn was in remarkably good shape for a fellow dead man, given the circumstances he'd supposedly died in. Remarkably good humor as well, considering the number of screaming fights and/or tearful reunions witnessed in the past day or so. He was perched on a pew in the cathedral, knees drawn up to his chest under a familiar blue cloak and a chipped, steaming mug in his hand. His gaze was on Dimitri but he tipped his head as Byleth approached, a faint smile on his lips. His short black hair was streaked with white, matching the fur around his shoulders, and maybe it was just Felix's voice still ringing in their ears, but Glenn really did remind Byleth of a dog—a herding dog to Dimitri's wild boar.

For all the good that did, Felix might say. A dog that couldn’t even manage the job he was born for: to keep Dimitri safe, to keep him from falling to whatever he was now. Glenn could glare and shout and push all he liked, standing in Dimitri’s way and demanding acknowledgement, but Dimitri could only be moved so far by one man.

"Need something, professor? It's a bit late to be out and about, isn't it?" Glenn's eyes flicked to the side, meeting Byleth's, and he barked a laugh at whatever he saw there. "Sorry, sorry, everyone calls you that. Felt like I might as well give it a try."

Byleth shrugged, coming to stand next to him with their arms crossed over their chest. "I wanted to check on the two of you since I was awake. When I last saw him," before things went even further to hell, what happened while they were gone, Goddess, "Dimitri wasn't doing well but…"

Glenn was quiet for a long moment. From this distance, they couldn't quite make out what Dimitri was saying, but they could hear the low rumble of his voice rising and falling. Every now and then Dimitri would turn towards them and Glenn would straighten his back, slouching again when it was clear Dimitri was still talking to his ghosts. Eventually, Glenn took a sip from his mug and said, "It's been a good day, honestly. He seems convinced I'm alive, at least—when it was just the two of us, even with all the ways I've changed since, since Duscur, sometimes he just…" Glenn shrugged, set his drink onto the floor, and withdrew into Dimitri's cloak. "He's a stubborn guy, His Highness."

"Felix asked me to do something about him."

Glenn looked at them, mouth twitching upwards. "Yeah? Did he say it like an asshole?" Byleth inclined their head and Glenn’s expression twisted in a grimace before evening out. "I wish I could say I was surprised at the way my sweet baby brother talks these days, but I'm more surprised he uses that sharp tongue on Dimitri, now." He sank in his seat, feet sliding onto the floor. “Or maybe surprised is the wrong word.”

Silence fell, broken by the faint sounds of the night watch and Dimitri, pacing and muttering to himself. His black armor made him just another shadow cast against the rubble, pale hair flickering as he passed in and out of the light. Glenn started to laugh, a rough, scraped-out sound, and when Byleth made a questioning noise he hitched his shoulders higher, hiding his face in Dimitri’s cloak. “When I look at them I keep thinking, ‘damn, their eyes are up there now.’ They’re so tall.” Glenn's voice was odd, strained around the edges. “You’d think running after Dimitri would be enough to get used to time passing, but I.” His shoulders rose and fell, inhale, exhale. Glenn pushed himself upright, giving himself a firm shake. “I guess it must be even more strange for you. You just got back to the land of the living, didn’t you?”

Byleth hummed. “It’s been a long day.” Between the river and their meeting with Dimitri and Glenn at the Goddess Tower, and the bandits and the class reunion and the knights returning and Gilbert, and every other person saying that the three of them had been presumed dead, as if they couldn’t guess, and then demanding to know where any of them were all these years as if Byleth ought to know when for Byleth 1180 was just yesterday...if Byleth’s students didn’t need their help, they would say that they could sleep for another five years at least.

“I’ll bet.” Glenn bent to scoop up his drink and turned, offering the mug to Byleth. “Here. It’s mostly tea, but you sound like you could use something.”

It was awful, awful tea, sharp in Byleth’s nose and burning down their throat. They swallowed, and swallowed again, and thought that one year of teaching shouldn’t have been enough to spoil their tolerance for shitty tea, but it was really, truly, amazingly terrible, leaving aside whatever Glenn had spiked it with. Ferdinand and Lorenz would cry, maybe. Byleth was faintly impressed.

“You—” Byleth cleared their throat, trying not to cough. “You could wake the dead with this.”

“Exactly! Good morning, professor.” Glenn smiled crookedly, his eyes bright in the faint moonlight filtering through the clouds. Byleth stared him down, and took another mouthful, and Glenn laughed as they squinted into the distance, struggling not to press their eyes shut. Glenn took his drink back, still snickering as he held it up in a toast. “Good morning to you, and me, and His Highness, if he ever slept in the first place.” He drained the rest in one go, sighing as he brought the empty mug down to rest against his knee.

Byleth watched as Glenn fiddled with it, carefully turning the mug around and around with his hand. The other arm was gone, neatly sliced away at the elbow and scored by ragged marks of dark magic. Glenn had shoved the stump in Felix’s face during one of their many arguments throughout the day. They were glad to see each other, Byleth was pretty sure, but that didn't stop the snapping and snarling. Where had Glenn been all this time? Why didn't Glenn come to Fraldarius as soon as he could, why let them think he was dead, why didn't he send word?

Who would have believed he survived, when he had no proof of his identity and couldn't even write in his own hand? Who would he have trusted with a message, when he'd escaped his captors and found himself in the middle of a war? Who would watch Dimitri's back as the man roved the land, listening to no one but his ghosts? If Glenn had left him there was no guarantee that Glenn could find him again, and trying to get through to Dimitri in the state he was in, well. Seemingly there was a reason Felix kept calling Dimitri a boar.

Felix had looked away first, red-faced, fists trembling. For all his scathing words, Byleth remembered Felix as a student: nipping at Dimitri's heels, sneering at his recklessness or reminding him to eat, so casually that he could pretend he didn’t care. Even as they worked to settle into Garreg Mach for the long haul, Felix found the time to lurk in the cathedral, staying just out of sight as he watched Dimitri from a distance.

They really were alike, Byleth thought, world-weary but somehow young. Perhaps that was why Byleth thought nothing of reaching over to ruffle Glenn’s hair. Glenn startled but didn’t shake them off, so Byleth kept it up for a little longer, pushing his curls this way and that.

“Uh—”

“Good things come in threes,” Byleth said, giving his head a final pat. "So everything will be fine. They’ll come around." Probably. Eventually. It wasn’t every day that friends came back from the dead, especially not all at once. Everyone just needed time and luck, and if the day’s revelations were anything to go by—it was not the best luck, perhaps, but they had just enough to work with. It would do.