AN: School has been… rough. Very rough since we finally hit that period right after the first (or is it second?) quarter. I'll admit to also have been sucked into red dead redemption. My dad plays it too and I don't see him often since he lives pretty far away while I live with my mother. We're planning to play together a bit when it goes online. It's not quite an excuse that you all want but that's what happened.

There is, however, a somewhat larger issue. I've finally run out of pre-made chapters.

That is a pretty big problem for me. I think I know how I want this story to end since leaving it open-ended at this point right before the climax of the story would just plain suck as a person but I really want these last few chapters to be great. With that said they're going to take awhile to make properly.

Some people might get a bit mad about the delay but that's just how the cookie crumbles (Ruby cries out in the background over her dying cookie). I've got a lot of questions that need answering as far as the plot goes though. Essence and Salem, the monster in the mansion and his connection to Salem, the future and how it changes, and so on.

I hope you all can be understanding and I'll try to lay off video games and focus more on this book now that it's actually hit the point where it's disrupted my writing schedule. It might take… I dunno, a week? Two? Probably about that much time before I get the chapter out, which hopefully will be good rather than the quantity versus quality deal I have going on.

|-\\/-|

Grimm souls chapter 31

The before

The next week after the games were… nice. Dexter and Lyra sparred a lot, which led to her indulging in her… kink more often. That, of course, led to Dexter and her finding a private space more often. Definitely a nice time.

Sadly, though, all good things come to an end.

"High alert?" Dexter murmured to himself. A letter from the general of the Mistralian army had sent the letter to Lyra. He and Lyra were reading through the missives and letters in their daily paperwork session.

Lyra reached over and plucked the letter from his hands. She scanned over it hastily. "Oh no…" She said grimly. "Me and my clan are being called to the army. The Valean army and the Mistralian army finally ran into each other through their main forces. Skirmishes just ramped up extremely. A stalemate in two small parties and the main forces were summoned. It's not an all out attack yet… that's tomorrow. Today there's a mass extermination from Mistral in the kingdom's controlled territory. No-man's land is going to be hunted out and a charge tomorrow morning…"

"So you'll be heading out immediately to sweep the battlefield and tomorrow…" Dexter looked at the letter hostilely. Lyra nodded with a small frown.

"Well… you should go." Dexter sighed and leaned across the dest to kiss her slowly.

"If I see you on the battlefield I'll try to capture you by the way." Lyra smirked. "I'm tempted to just capture you here but…" Lyra shrugged.

"It's an odd situation." Dexter agreed. "We're sort of like independently acting delegates… who happen to be engaged." Lyra said with a small smile.

"I'll probably see you tomorrow. Or at least you'll be seeing me. Remember, treat me like an enemy. I'll do the same. Let's just try to not keep grudges after this."

Lyra smiled softly. "I know you're… well not really an enemy but more like a third party that's contracted to Vale." Dexter nodded.

"... When I say you'll be seeing me tomorrow I mean you'll almost certainly be seeing me tomorrow. And Laura for the first time… it's not going to be pretty."

Lyra winced slightly. Laura would have a serious bone to pick with her and an angry huntress with immense power was a bad thing for her health. "You should go now… stay alive. It might be selfish but try to not kill members of my clan."

"Try not to kill my friends. White armor and the Arc clan symbol will help you see Joan. Rella won't be on the battlefield but she makes golems so just don't kill the golem maker if you can. As for Laura… you'll see her. Brown cloak. Besides that you'll know. She's S class."

Lyra winced again. Harder this time since the idea of two S classes would definitely be a large event. In all likelihood everyone would just run away from them, letting them have their own little arena to fight in. "What are your friend's rankings?" Dexter, despite the fact that he probably shouldn't, smiled a little. "Joan's A+ class but he might be bumped up to S- when he reveals his trump card. Rella's a solid B- since she isn't great at fighting but her golems are rather strong now. Mancer, though you won't see him, was at the lower ends of the B+ rank. Laura is sort of the mass destruction type. Without her semblance she's a very low A-. Mass destruction is her forte."

Lyra looked thoughtfully at her desk's papers, though she wasn't reading them. "I'll try but your friends will be high priority targets. Besides Rella. The only one I can promise is Rella. My Valkyries are going to be on the middle and front lines. We won't see anyone in the back."

"I'll be on the front lines."

"I know. You're too valuable to be placed otherwise. I'll certainly be fighting in the thickest. We'll see each other."

"You know I haven't ever gone completely all out sparring you, right?"

"Obviously."

Dexter smiled and abruptly shifted and flew out of the window. Lyra reached for him but pulled her hand back. A glance behind him showed her staring sadly at the letter. He could feel his instincts murmuring at him of bad things to come. He didn't need to know that though. He already figured that out himself. Either way, this was just about it in the war for him.

|-\\/-|

"I'm back." Joan's hand immediately sprang towards his weapon but he stilled himself before it was fully out. He wasn't looking well. Nothing along the lines of darkened eyes but a sort of twitchy energy and a tense seriousness in his eyes. He exhaled when he saw Dexter though and sat down on the couch.

"Oh… you heard then? We've been expecting you since yesterday." Joan seemed to force himself to relax and it sort of worked. He still kept his sword on the coffee table. What had made him like this? The thing?

"I just heard an hour ago." Dexter explained. "I came as soon as I heard." An understanding look passed over Joan's face.

"We've been preparing a full out assault for a few days. We were planning one for today and I'm expecting a call to arms any minute."

"Is that why you look like a guard dog on high alert?"

A stiff laugh forced it's way out of Joan's mouth. "No. That's because the king is meeting with Laura." He pointed a finger to the one bedroom they had. Normally Joan took the couch and Dexter his hammock and Rella the bed. Laura shared the bed when she arrived.

"... What's it about?" Dexter said with the same stiffness Joan had.

"Whether or not you're a traitor, a grimm, Laura's pet, a citizen of Vale, a huntsman, a wanderer… you get the point." Dexter blinked.

"Then why are you so tense if it's about me?"

"Because the whole team might be considered traitors for not turning you in. We didn't think anything about you turning into a grimm or anything by the way. We still don't. But the king… well he's kind of freaking out."

Just as Joan finished a bang sounded from the room. Yelling followed it. Laura and the King, from the voices. Dexter couldn't hear through the walls. It was too blurred from them talking at once as well.

"... I see." Dexter said solemnly. "I didn't expect this." Joan chuckled a little less nervously this time.

"It was pretty sudden. How's Lyra? We never really talked about it."

"I love her." Joan seemed to short circuit for a moment, blinking a few times and just getting that thought through his head.

"I-oh. Well… good for you? That was a, um, rather quick romance."

"Thank you. I'm sorry it made things awkward with the team. In all fairness I didn't expect to get betrothed while sneaking behind enemy lines. Or during a war. I didn't expect to be IN a war."

"Things have been happening quickly lately."

"Mmmm. You got the trump card down, right?" Joan smiled viciously.

"Absolutely. I've got it down to a science."

Dexter had the same grin on his face. "I've started incorporating dust into my fighting style. I can't incorporate it into my semblance weapons though. Bone doesn't really hold dust well. For a temporary boost it's fine but long term it's not good." Joan smiled and relaxed a little more. The small talk was reaching him and calming him down.

"Yeah. You know that some people can actually merge dust into their body, right? They're rare and it's super painful, and I mean like torturous, but it makes you stronger through your aura. Dust and aura make super strong aura apparently." Dexter smiled in an easygoing manner.

"I'll look into it."

"I'm actually proud of you, you know? You've come a long way from when we first met." Dexter tilted his head.

"What do you mean? I thought you've come along the most."

Joan shook his head. "I still read all the time and though you haven't seen it as much lately I still avoid people whenever possible. You and the others just got to me through. You, though, have changed immensely."

"You used to be so much more withdrawn and brooding. You would tune out conversations, didn't emote much, and left the others to do their own thing under the impression that you would just follow Laura and the rest of us would just pass on. Kind of like a really focused teenager. Also, though you never outwardly said it, you had a pack mentality. Laura first, you second, and the rest of us were beneath notice. Not in a cruel way but in a sort of understanding that that was the way it was."

"Now? You actually have a facial expression other than pure neutrality, you're a way better fighter, you're not quite charismatic but you're better than most people, and most of all you're actually willing to open up to people. It's such an absurdly different picture from who you were just four years ago. You've grown up into your own person."

Dexter held a fond smile and he realized that… Joan was right. Before he would have been fine just being a dog and not communicating at all. Now… he couldn't imagine not talking to anybody for more than a few days. He was so much more social now. It was incredible really. How had he spent twenty years alone… he had barely matured at all in that time, huh? He hadn't really grown stronger then. He had just gotten some aura and a feel for battle. That wasn't strength.

Strength wasn't something like battle experience. It was more than that. It was a willingness to stick to your ideals. A power in you to bend to the will of others but never to break and never so serve.

It was so strange… he wasn't the same person he once was. A hollowness spread throughout Dexter's chest. Would his mother be proud that he had come into his own? Would she recognize him? Would she want him?

Did he need her?...

He had come so far. So very far. He had fought his kinsmen so much. But was he really a grimm anymore? He had feelings. He felt joy, fear, camaraderie, love, had hopes and dreams and desires. Was he…

"Hello… kinsman… "

Dexter's head jerked upwards. No. He was something else. Something neither grimm nor human. He was like his mother. He was alone in the world with only his mother beside him but he was by no means alone in full.

He had people around him. Friends. A love. No matter if Laura pined strongly for him or Lyra and he fell too quickly or if he had to leave his squad for a time… he was never truly alone.

He had first followed Laura for strength. Power. But that was such an immature thing to strive for. Really if power was what he wanted he had achieved it. He was a wild animal then. A being with no mind or heart for any but itself. No community to call it's own. Really he had nothing and no-one.

Laura had saved him in her own way. She was lonely too. She was barely hanging onto what made her human.

His mother was lonely. Incredibly so. Just a dog was no way to live. Not in the slightest… he had to help her…

He was ready to return to his mother. Every part of him finally agreed. Every time he wondered if he should return he thought he wasn't strong enough. Not worldly enough. Not different at all from who he was. For the first time just now every single part of him was in agreement. He no longer had his mother's purpose. He had no reason to wander. No reason to fight. Only to return to his mother. Because he was ready. Finally after more than twenty four years he finally understood what strength was and how she had meant her words.

"Wander the world. Return should you become strong. Return if I order you to do so."

For so long he had assumed that she had meant strength as the ability to kill. But it wasn't. Not at all. He was finally strong in a real way. He was finally… finally strong.

Dexter felt his body tremble and something leapt in him. He felt something on his face and he slammed his hand onto it. He pulled away and it came away wet. "Tears?" He said softly in a shaky voice.

"You're… crying?" Joan said in some wonder and surprise. "Not once have I ever seen you cry. Strange. We've been through a lot together, though. I understand. Looking back and finally realizing all you've been through… it's a lot, huh? I've done the same. A few times."

Scenes flashed through Dexter's mind. The first time Laura had kissed him. Meeting the squad for real the first time. Throwing himself in front of the fiend for Joan. His first aura technique. He had forgotten that one. That final exhilarating moment when he had found a home in his squad and made one with them. All the fun times he had had with them. His first drink. Even just last week. HIs first time with Lyra. His first kiss with her just a few days prior to that. So many memories.

Dexter sniffled. Damnit. His body just naturally made normal faunus bodily fluids from mimicking their biology. He had figured this out long ago but never really thought about it. He suppressed normal bodily functions like the need to drink and eat and pee and all. He had never needed to directly control his tear ducts though. Or his throat muscles.

"I… I'm going to sit down. I never realized that I changed so much."

"I understand. Rella hasn't really changed. She's still strict as ever. I suppose she's just like that. Well, actually she's a bit more tender now. Less strict. Laura's more powerful now. Definitely lives up to the S rank she has. She loves you, obviously, but she's a little more mature now. More mellow. Also a way better leader than before. Mancer got a bit less grumpy too. And far more deadly. I need to send a letter to him. See how he's doing. Oh, I got an arranged marriage from my family by the way."

"Huh?" Dexter said. He was still kind of out of it. He locked down on his emotions a bit and focused more on Joan's talking.

"Yeah. A childhood friend of mine. She's rich and my clan is mighty and honorable but that doesn't bring cash. I don't really mind. An arranged marriage is fine for me. We're going to be sending a few letters and I'll probably just be settled down after the war. I've served my part well enough already in a war zone. I've done more killing than my old man ever has. I'm tired of it already. I'm ready to just lie down on a bed somewhere and live watching kids run around. It sounds weirdly nice now. I'm only twenty seven and I'm sounding like my old man."

"I've never thought about kids before." Dexter muttered. Joan laughed.

"You're twenty four. Wait until you're twenty six. Then it hits you. I'll be seeing you when I'm old."

Dexter was silent. Growing old… he trusted Joan more than anything. More than Lyra or Laura or even himself. Joan was smart and kind… yes. He could tell him. "Joan I've got something to tell you. Something serious. It's… it's about my mother. I'll try to tell you after the battle. Or tonight if I get a chance in private. You might have actually connected the dots yourself. Or not."

Joan's nostalgic smile fell a little and he looked to Dexter. "Dexter.. What's so impor-" but he didn't get to finish.

The door to the bedroom slammed open with such force that it actually somewhat tore the hinges off the doorframe. Dexter didn't have a choice but to see the aura of the man that strided out. It was monstrously large. More than that though it was old. Older than the stars in the sky and far more wise than the oldest elder.

More than those pronounced traits was a subtle movement that struck a small fear into Dexter. It was just a little bit angry. Just the smallest stirring in it of agitation. Barely a swirl of aura out of an ocean of calm and rationality held in a vice grip of control. But it was this tiny sliver of anger that spoke of so much danger from the whole scheme of things. To bring things to a worse light, though, was a spark of fear fueling the anger. Just a fantastically small spark of pure fear.

Normally Dexter couldn't sense emotions from others. People's auras spoke of fear and anger and greed and other emotions in different ways. A sort of shaking wave or swirl for anger. A shiver for fear. A shivering wave for anger born of fear, which was more pronounced than normal anger. A swelling and pulsing in it for greed. An expanding lightness of color for happiness. A strange multi-layered swishing for lust. Some other ones as well.

This feeling, though, was pure. It wasn't just some anger. It wasn't just some fear. It was absolutely white hot fury and a fear so intense a hardened warrior would faint and die of a heart attack.

And all of it; every single bit of this petrifying fear and roaring anger; was pushed into a tiny corner of the aura as fuel for a stoic and calculating rationality and calm that pervaded the aura.

The man's physical appearance was surprisingly normal. His clothing was of light leather armor with green and gold decorations and embroidering. It wouldn't look out of place on a huntsman or a noble. It was deceptively functional as well, as all huntsman attire was.

The man was also surprisingly young. Not entirely unexpected in practice but in person it was very jarring to see such power and an attitude as such in one so young. He was maybe in his early forties or late thirties with a regal face and a muscled frame. What an odd combination for a king. He had the feel of one though. That air demanding respect and expressing power.

The monster in a man's skin looked towards him with an act of fury. It was fake but played so well. "You!" He yelled hotly. "You are Dexter Frost?"

"Yes sir." Dexter said calmly. Internally he was trying to calm his instincts, which screamed to run. It was hard but he got them under control rather quickly.

The man's gaze scoured him. Especially around his eyes. He must have come to some sort of verdict already because his aura had calmed from fear and anger so quickly it might have seemed false. Relief shuddered throughout his very soul. He basked in it. The facade of anger was still in place though. Such an odd disparity in emote and emotion was dizzying to Dexter. He still had to act the part of a terrified huntsman though.

"Where were you in the past week?" He growled, coming to loom over Dexter sitting in his chair.

"I was with my fiance, Lyra Frost." He responded in that same calmness.

"A fiance in Mistral?! Are you loyal to Vale?" The man's eyes narrowed. His aura was still mostly relieved. He really didn't care whatsoever if Dexter was loyal or not. He probably was just going to throw him at Laura to secure her loyalty and toss a few threats around to show he was the authority. Well, all of that in the most kingly manner he could do it.

"I am loyal to Lyra, Laura, and myself sir." Dexter said. The king cracked a small grin and a huff of what might be called respect if he wasn't dead to his emotions.

"...Interesting." The stoic monster said. "Have you any desire to defect?" The man's eyes pierced into Dexter. It was an uncomfortable sensation. He really was judging him even if a verdict had been decided.

"No sir. I merely wish to be with my beloved. I hold no sensitive information on Vale anyways. I am an outlying party to the war. I intend to settle after the war ends." The king nodded and looked to Joan.

"Sir Arc. Does he speak the truth? Does he know of any sensitive information to the war?" Joan looked pale.

"N-no sir. He knows only that the battle commences tomorrow. His official position is as Laura's aid as designated by her. Before that time he was indeed a third party to our squad posted in the eastern islands. He was more of a fifth member in practice, however."

The king looked to consider the words for a moment. "Very well… Dexter Frost, are you truly Frost or did Lady Frost designate that name to you?"

"She foisted the name upon me as we were filling out the documents registering me as her aide roughly two weeks ago. I hold no personal relationship to Laura other than a friend currently."

"She has pined after you after you rejected her advances, have you not?"

"Yes." Dexter said in a smaller voice than he would actually do. That he knew that the King already had a verdict ready really drew the tension out of his harsh questioning. He wasn't actually in any danger. He would either be killed or something else. There was no way of changing the verdict to his knowledge. Unless he yelled surprise and turned into a grimm and went full throttle on the king or something stupid like that that is… luckily he wasn't stupid.

The king growled. Not very kingly of him. He reminded Dexter more of a gang boss than a king. Maybe he was different in court. That was probably it. His true personality was already known as inhumanely calculative but that wasn't what he was acting as so it didn't really matter.

"I see. Laura still wishes to be wed to you, however she does not wish you happiness. She doesn't know what it is she wants. As I won't wed two people when neither truly want to be wed… well, I need my soldier back." The king reached into a pocket and dropped a letter on the coffee table. It wasn't wrinkled, surprisingly.

"The orders for Laura. I brought a copy based on your described abilities. You'll fufill them tomorrow and I'll hope to have no trouble from you again." The man's tone said differently. He expected no trouble. His aura said yet a different tone. He knew he would cause no trouble.

"Fix her. I don't care how. Find you have some as yet hidden feeling for her, show her to be independent like an adult - and believe me I tried this myself and it didn't work - , or even give her some kind of revelation. Do something. You're her friend. Fix her as I am unable to. Be there tomorrow for the battle."

With that the man strided off from the apartment…

Dexter really didn't like him.

"I don't like him." He said out loud.

"Nobody does." Joan groaned as he slumped in his seat.

"... Joan? Could you grab some gin for me?"

"In a few minutes. I just need to… stop working for a while." Joan threw his feet up on the couch and laid down with a groan. Dexter sympathised. The king was a bastard outside and a monster inside.

Fucker.

|-\\/-|

Laura never came out if her room that night. Dexter set up his hammock and Joan slept on the couch. Rella was apparently staying with a friend of her sister's. Sleeping next to Laura was a bit too crowded for her.

Between the two of them they drank a good half of the liquor in the apartment (mostly Dexter. Joan drank like two beers). Dexter would have drank more but Joan didn't want him hungover for the battle. Not that he could get drunk…

Eventually Dexter peeked in on Laura. He would get her ready for the day tomorrow properly and get his talk in.

The king was an ass in every bad sense of the word but he was right in that Laura wasn't going to get better by herself. The two weeks with Lyra had proven this.

Laura was out cold. He would be getting her a warm bath tomorrow morning. That would probably help.

With Laura out, Rella gone, Joan mostly lucid and only buzzed heavily, and Mancer an ocean away there really wasn't an excuse. He wanted to tell somebody at least what he was.

It wasn't so much a need as an intense desire. Joan had stood by him since the beginning. He had so often placed trust in Dexter in missions. Nothing really made trust like trusting your safety and having it paid off.

"So Joan…" Dexter started. "About that thing I was telling you about earlier."

"The thing about your mother?" He asked. Dexter nodded with a frown he had been frowning a lot more lately.

"... Look, I come from a very important family. More important than the king's in many fashions but simultaneously more and less public. I'm only one of many of my mother's children but I'm really the only one in line for the head of the…" Kingdom? No. Clan? No. Horde? Derogatory. Brood is close enough but not really the impression he wanted to make…

"Family." Dexter decided. He just had a bunch of very stupid cousins, many of which he's killed because he needed to get better at killing. It didn't take a genius to wonder if family was the best word for it but that was what Dexter was going for.

Joan didn't respond but nodded in understanding that he was still with him.

"Twenty four years ago I was cast from my mother's side after my aura unlocked. Seeing potential she sent me to gain strength and return to her side or return to her side when she summons me. That's not really an issue though. I'll return when I feel like it or when she summons me, which would likely take a while."

"I'm telling you this because you seem like the only person except perhaps Lyra that won't have an extreme reaction. Lyra and my relationship is still new, though."

"So Joan… how do you account for all the abilities I have? My glare. My shapeshifting. My weapons. Have you noticed that my appearance hasn't changed at all since we first met?"

Joan looked thoughtful as he peered at Dexter. His lips pressed together when he realized that no he hadn't seen Dexter's appearance change at all.

"I don't need to go to the bathroom and I have, and I'll just say this now, infinite stamina. I don't sweat or smell when I work hard at all… my odd fixation with the grimm." Something clicked for Joan and his eyes widened in some realization. Dexter smiled without any real happiness. Though it wasn't actually possible his mouth felt dry.

"The first human I actually met was Laura. I knew my mother of course. But she's not human. Or faunus. I'm sure you've figured it out already. I'm a grimm. I call myself a high grimm as a sort of placeholder term for whenever I learn the actual name."

Joan didn't speak. Dexter could practically hear the gears cranking furiously in his head. "Here. Why don't I show you what my mother looks like. Or a caricature of her at least."

Dexter didn't have to try hard to remember his mother. Pale skin, bun-like hair with sort of mini-buns spiking back. Thin figure bordering emancipation, red lines coursing over her body almost like veins… and the dress of course. Black like silk.

Dexter opened his eyes and looked at himself. Not bad really. The dress wasn't well done but how she did that he had no idea. The hair was well done. The frame as well… the vein like structure was wrong but it was close enough.

Joan looked pale and gripped his chair hard. Dexter rolled his eyes and shifted back to normal. Joan looked at him seriously. "... You're a grimm that can appear as a human. Not a human that appears as a grimm at times." Dexter's fake smile turned a little mournful. More like a half-breed of a human soul and a grimm's body.

"This is my standard form now. My most comfortable one. Also my most deadly in many aspects."

"... fine. Assuming that this… absurdity is all true… what do you want?" Joan said with somewhat frightened eyes. Probably imagining what havoc Dexter could cause if he decided to overthrow the kingdom. He probably could. Not kill the king but ruin the kingdom? Absolutely. And nobody would believe Joan of course. Even if they did what would they do? He could change forms. Appear as anybody. He could appear as Laura, Lyra, Joan, or some random guy. He had aura too… he could be anyone anywhere.

"I don't want anything for the moment. Just to marry Lyra sometime soon enough. Perhaps a half a year. To get everybody out of this war safely. That will be hard but it's possible. To meet again with my mother for answers. To collect more loot for my little hoard. To crack the code on becoming a dragon, which I simply can't do for some reason. Nothing else I can think of off the top of my head. Oh, heal Laura's mental state."

"So… but… but why not the destruction of remnant?" Joan asked with caution. Dexter gave him his best 'are you stupid' look.

"What would the destruction of Remnant do for me? Humanity is far more interesting alive than dead. And believe me, my mother could have destroyed Remnant if she so cared to. She commands ALL grimm with some focus. They are her creations after all. Well… mostly. There's more to it than I know but nothing to do about it. But my mother is powerful. She barely works at all you know. Just plotting in her castle and doing as she pleases. It's ironic really. She doesn't want to destroy you all. She wants something else. I don't know what though."

Joan scowled. "... fine. Just fine." Dexter shook his head.

"I'm still the same person I've always been you realize. You don't have to do anything with this information. Joan took a shaky breath and a shakier sigh.

"Damnit… I believe you. You're right. It doesn't make sense." Dexter nodded.

"Any questions?" Dexter asked.

Joan stared at him for a moment. "Why can you do these things? Mimic a person so perfectly when in all we know the grimm are the polar opposites of humanity? Shift as you do? Hell, how you have an aura in the first place?!"

Dexter smiled faintly. "I have thoughts, emotions, and feelings just like a person. Polar opposites is a stretch. My mother isn't that different from a human, you know? I don't know how I can shift but I assume it's some sort of racial power such as is with glare. I have an aura for some unknown reason but I know what caused it."

"My mother happened across a strange soul one day. She picked it up and couldn't figure out any real use for it so she did what she felt like doing. She tossed to me, who was her pet at the time, and I ate it and changed. I gained my purpled eye, an aura that doesn't shield me, and most importantly, I gained sentience."

Joan groaned. "I'd love to ask more questions but… dust below Dexter… I need sleep. Right before the first real battle we've been in is not the time to drop things like this on me. A queen of grimm? You're a prince? Of Grimm of all things?! Ugh… sleep first." Dexter shrugged.

"We'll talk more about this after." Without waiting for a reply Dexter walked off towards his hammock and rested. Just in case he kept his ears open for Joan to try to kill him or something. He was inebriated and just had a massive veil opened from his eyes.

Joan did no such betrayal. He slumped to his bed, pulled a blanket over him, and was out like a blown candle. Idly Dexter wondered if he would remember this. Probably. He wasn't that tipsy. Just tired and stressed and inebriated.

|-\\/-|

"Up!" Dexter said sternly. A sharp poke in Joan's side immediately followed. Joan twitched and curled in on himself to escape the unpleasantness but a hand grabbed his left arm and pulled him up. Immediately Joan's eyes locked onto the… beautiful coffee…

Not a word of complaint was uttered as Joan reached out and grasped the Vacuan coffee. A groan of appreciation escaped him as he woke up quickly. Dexter huffed as Joan finally got up. About time. He had let him sleep extra but eight was late enough. The king might get angry if they were later than ten. That was as far as Dexter was willing to push it since the army was already assembled. Huntsmen were expected to join the battle at their own pace. Free reign was given, as it so often was for the Valean huntsmen.

Normally Dexter wouldn't be cooking breakfast or buying coffee for Joan even if they were a little late but Joan had been drinking last night. He would have a small headache that would clear up soon enough. Some coffee, breakfast, and rest would do the trick. A battle where adrenaline was king would snap him right out of any funk that really persisted.

Laura was already taking a bath as Joan woke up. Some ice and fire in a tub and done. Joan would take his later.

As Dexter was spreading jam on some toast that was just a little undercooked Laura walked a little unsteadily into the living room. Dexter had woken her up with far less intensity than Joan. A gentle shake of the shoulder had woken her and a little talking had made her draw the bath.

It was a little worrying whether Laura was depressed or not. He needed to spend some time with her. She could get over her heartbreak with time. Dexter was certain of it. She wasn't pursuing him now at least. That was… probably good. Right? Dexter didn't know in all honesty. He was just hoping that time, friendship, and kindness could heal her but she had been rejected hard.

Just after she had been confident enough to attempt to marry him he had immediately gone off and married somebody else. An enemy of all things. She had waited for so long patiently, making her intentions clear and just letting him take his time coming to her.

He had been clear, sure, but she could probably have gotten one date out of him. Actually, she and he had gone on a sort of date back right before the squad, hadn't they? And then nothing for so long but the hints and small attempts until the four years ended. Dexter hadn't actually realized that it was a date back then. He had no idea Laura was romantically interested at all.

It brought to light just how naiive he had been. He had had no manners either. Granted, knowing which fork was for the salad and which was for fish was just a bit much but he could at least have a formal tone or stop messing with Laura.

A shuffle of the pan and Dexter flipped the egg well. He let it sit for another minute while Laura snatched the other coffee from the counter and sipped from it.

Silently Dexter smiled as he finished the eggs and put them on a plate. A little hash as well and he passed it to Laura, where it was immediately eaten almost robotically. That's not a good sign.

Soon enough Joan came out of the bath and Dexter handed him his eggs, scrambled this time, and he dug in with the same efficiency as Laura. He just didn't want to eat since he still had some alcohol in him but he knew he would need the breakfast. Battles made you hungry.

Dexter washed the plates and set them aside to dry. The alcohol remaining at the apartment could stay. They would need it when everyone survived.

Some coddling on Dexter's part and his groggy team eventually got to lucidity around nine forty.

There really wasn't delaying anything. They had a kind to report to and a battle to take place in. If they were lucky they would all make it out alive.

Omake:

"Joan." Dexter asked. Joan's reaction was slower than normal but fast enough to think. Perhaps he should have held back on their now empty liquor cabinet. "Yeah?"

"If I was a Grimm in faunus form and I was actually a beowolf faunus rather than a wolf faunus… Well that wouldn't be it. My mother would also be the queen of Grimm who has some sort of probably bad plans for humanity. Maybe I would remember some freaky flashes of a previous life just to spice it up a little…"

"Anyways… would you be angry?"

Joan looked at him blearily. "How's that different from normal? Weird super semblance, crazy isolated mother, unnaturally fluffy faunus, and some soul memories that really don't matter… So why should I care? What makes that different than normal?"

Dexter paused. "We'll it's just hypothetical but good to know your opinion won't change based on these completely fabricated ideas."

"Mrbl…" Joan groaned.

Dexter stood around awkwardly for a moment. This really wasn't as planned.

Wait… Unnaturally fluffy ears? Dexter reached up and petted his ears. His floor stomped the ground a little. He growled. One day he would be able to pet his ears without turning into a mess.