Title: the waiting room

A/N: For the Fódlan Winds Zine! I really like writing Claude/Edelgard/Dimitri, I think in a softer world they would have been good friends.

Summary: This was it. The final countdown before the big battle. There were only 5 people between Claude and his goal: becoming a Pokemon Master. He had prepared for this and yet, he felt oddly nervous. Fortunately, Dimitri and Edelgard, his fellow challengers, were there to soothe his nerves.

"If everyone could get to their seats, the match will start in ten minutes."

Claude looked up as the announcement sounded through the P.A. system, the voice echoing through the small waiting room. He'd heard those words many times before, as a kid coming with his parents. The warning had been barely audible over the din of the crowd, the ruckus of hundreds of people scrambling to find their seat before the battles had started. And then when the challengers had come out—

Well, to call it a roar would be putting it mildly.

Today, the audience was just as loud as it had been back then, their cheers penetrating through layers of concrete—and this time, the cheers were for him.

Claude always had a big imagination, but none of those daydreams could match his feelings now as he counted down the minutes. Antsy, he got up and started to pace, his body filled with too much energy to just sit and patiently wait. "This is surreal," he muttered.

"What is?" A cool, crisp voice cut through his nerves and he looked up to find Edelgard watching him from her seat. As usual, she looked elegant and unruffled, as though she was seated in a fancy restaurant and not in the Pokémon Stadium.

At least Dimitri looked affected by what was about to happen. Next to her, he was crouched on the ground, his big hands nervously smoothening over his Luxray's dark fur. He peered up at them, keeping quiet as he watched.

"This." Claude gestured around him, at the assorted chairs in the waiting room. "We're about to fight the Elite Four. We're about to fight Rhea and become Pokémon Masters."

Edelgard raised a brow, having the gall to look utterly unimpressed. "That's what we were aiming for, weren't we?"

"Well, yeah." Sometimes, he worried about her. "But it's been, what, a year since we started adventuring on our own? I didn't think we'd get here this fast."

"Me neither," Dimitri admitted quietly, smiling softly as he stroked his Luxray. She whined and pushed herself closer to his hand, aiming her head so he could scratch the right spot. "I thought it would take years."

Claude snorted. "You trained with Ingrid and Felix. I don't think they know the meaning of rest." He paused, glancing around the waiting room, empty save for the three of them. "Actually, why aren't they here too? Didn't they get a gym badge before the rest of us?"

"They're really amazing," Dimitri agreed, his expression brightening as he thought of his friends. "But Felix didn't get his last badge yet and Ingrid wanted to train a little more before taking on Rhea."

"Ingrid said that?" Claude blanched. Well, if he hadn't been nervous before, he was now. "It's not too late to back out now, is it?" he asked, only half-joking.

"Claude." Edelgard rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "You got here, you're ready. There's no need to get worked up." She glanced at Dimitri. "That goes for you too."

"Aww, were you worried about us? I'm touched." Claude chuckled, but he could feel his tension easing. There was just something calming about Edelgard, despite her icy exterior. He'd never admit it aloud.

"There's nothing to worry about," she answered flatly and he blinked, surprised by how she didn't deny his teasing. "Not with all the training Byleth gave us."

Well, it had been a year. He'd changed too. For the better, hopefully. Crossing his arms behind his head, Claude leaned back and pondered. "Teach? You know, I wonder where she came from. How did no one hear about someone as amazing as her?"

"It is strange." Dimitri rubbed his chin, frowning. "And she helped us without wanting anything in exchange."

"Exactly!" Claude nodded his head eagerly. "That's weird, right?"

"I suppose so, but Fódlan is filled with weird things." Edelgard grimaced. "I still do not understand how Manuela of all people is in charge of our Poké Centers. I found her hungover and asleep the other day, with Seteth scolding her and no one taking care of our Pokémon."

"That's just…" There were things Claude could say—Manuela was surprisingly good at her job or that she was friendly. None of them could negate the fact that Edelgard was right; it really made no sense how she kept her job.

"Maybe Flayn and Mercedes could take over," Dimitri suggested, his expression softening. "They've helped me a lot. Not just with my Pokémon, but with myself."

"Ohhh?" Claude noted Dimitri's expression for later. He hadn't heard anything about this and nothing bothered him as much as missing info. "That'll be helpful when you take over your gym."

"And did you learn anything that'd help with your gym?" Edelgard asked, looking at him doubtfully.

"Ouch." There were many things he could show off; his past year was full of new experiences just like theirs. But even telling them something as simple as his chat with Hilda would give them far more information than was comfortable with. Leaning forward, Claude smirked. "Wouldn't you like to know?"

Cross, Edelgard opened her mouth to reply, but the PA system crackled to life once more. "Are you ready? Let's greet our challengers!"

Claude grinned as he straightened. "Oh, too bad, looks like we don't have time!"

Edelgard gave him a dour look but stood up. "Very well. But don't think you can escape me forever."

"Wouldn't dream of it." Claude held out a hand, smiling broadly. "What do you say, for old times sake?"

Dimitri stood now and covered Claude's hand with his own. "This feels rather nostalgic," he laughed, scratching his cheek with his free hand.

She glanced at their hands, then at their faces before sighing and holding out her own hand. "I suppose so." Lowering her eyes, she stared at their hands. "I will admit, I did not think all three of us would make it here at the same time. It's…comforting."

That could almost be construed as weakness. Claude stared at her. Really, he didn't like getting surprised like this. After this was over, he was going to question them until he knew every little misadventure.

For now, though, he had a battle ahead of him. Five battles, because he didn't intend to stop until he beat Rhea. When he had met these two a year ago, pouring over a worn map as they planned every leg of their adventure, he had hoped it would end like this, but never really believed it. There weren't many who got to this stage, after all.

But they had done it. Somehow, they had all done it.

"We got this!" he said, for once putting his earnest feelings into his voice. Claude smiled, because over the nervousness and fear, he was happy. He was in the Pokémon Stadium, about to become a Pokémon Master.

He was living the dream and nothing could top this.