Early Harvest

Summary: "It's like fruit," Pascal explains the next morning, through a mouthful of angel food cake, "ya gotta wait and pick it at just the right time. When it's juiciest."

AN: I don't even know what this is, other than utter crack. I don't even really ship Richard and Asbel, so I have no excuses.

"Wanna practice on mecha Asbel?"

Pascal tips up her chair on its back legs and balances precariously. Normally, Hubert makes sure all four legs are kept firmly on the ground, but he's too busy choking on a teacake that one of Richard's servants had placed on a tray.

"Pascal!" he starts, coughing and taking a large swig of boiling hot tea. It scalds on the way down.

Richard, seated across the table, ignores Hubert's fit and turns to Pascal.

"Do you…really think that would work?"

"Pascal!" Hubert, esophagus now free of debris, tries again.

She ignores Hubert completely, stuffing another cake in his mouth. "Of course not, Richard. Mecha Asbel's not soft enough. We gotta get ya to practice on the real deal. Enough of this theoretical simulation stuff."

Richard's first attempt occurs in the throne room at Barona Castle, and Hubert has no idea why he's even there. Other than Pascal waiting until the last minute before Asbel shows up and resorting to cowering behind Richard's throne, a death grip of Hubert's arm.

"Oops, bad time management," she says by way of apology, but Hubert calls bullshit on that one.

"Yeah, right."

Pascal's grip is near-painful, and gets progressively worse as Richard gets closer to Asbel. "Just like we talked about, Richard, you can do this!"

It's almost a stage whisper, but not loud enough to be of any help to Richard, aside from alerting Asbel that two people are stuffed behind Richard's throne. He claps a hand over Pascal's mouth and tries not to jerk away when she licks it.

The throne room has impossibly bad acoustics for such a large space. Richard and Asbel's conversation is hard to make out, but Hubert doesn't miss the way Richard casually slides a hand up Asbel's arm, stopping to encircle it with his fingers just below the shoulder.

"Stare deeply into his eyes!" Pascal instructs, at least Hubert thinks that what she says through a mouthful of his hand.

Richard has his back to the throne, but there's a long pause wherein Asbel looks perplexed, so Hubert assumes Richard is trying to beam some sort of carnal desire or visions of picnics in fields of butterflies into Asbel's mind.

It's clearly not working.

A second later, Richard gives the arm a squeeze, and says, much louder than before, "Hmm, not quite there yet."

"It's like fruit," Pascal explains the next morning, through a mouthful of angel food cake, "ya gotta wait and pick it at just the right time. When it's juiciest."

Pascal has Richard completely enraptured with her seduction tactics. Hubert just sighs and buries his head in his hands. Well, at least the two idiots were perfect for one another.

"With Asbel, you need to be direct—" Hubert tries to add a voice of reason to the madness, but Pascal interrupts him.

"Next time, try something more up close and personal."

Asbel is just back from running errands when Richard attempts phase two of the plan. Pascal hides behind a door to one of the adjoining corridors in the castle's foyer. For a split second, Hubert allows himself a sigh of relief—the corridor has another exit; he won't be subjected to Richard's doe eyes and Asbel's dead fish impression.

Everything goes to hell when Pascal wraps an arm around his neck in a chokehold and leans against the door so she can peer through the crack.

"Pascal! Let me go! I've no wish to witness—"

She replies by whispering something so darkly perverse into his ear that Hubert stills completely.

"Good boy."

This time, Asbel and Richard are standing a few feet apart, and Hubert can see them both in profile. Richard hasn't spoken yet; he's still looking at Asbel with the same dewy expression. Richard takes three long strides to close the distance between them, and Pascal tightens her grip and squeals into Hubert's ear.

"Asbel," Richard starts, and Hubert realizes unfortunately that he is completely within earshot this time, "I've been thinking this for a while now, and I've been meaning to tell you, but…"

Richard rests a hand on Asbel's shoulder this time, bringing his face closer. Hubert could've happily lived out his days without ever, ever—Pascal was practically drooling, wasn't she? Richard's lips are only inches from Asbel's and Pascal shakes him excitedly.

There's a long, awkward moment where no one moves; Richard poised to kiss a very confused Asbel, who at least, Hubert realizes, has the innate sense to close his eyes and lean in. Instead of kissing him, Richard slides a hand up to Asbel's cheek and gives it a friendly pat before walking away. Hubert has to admit that Asbel's embarrassed flush is quite amusing.

Behind him, Pascal snickers, "Looks like we're in for an early harvest."

It's time for an intervention.

Hubert stared at the inky darkness of the ceiling for a long time the night prior, trying to decide if bludgeoning Asbel would make Richard angry if the end result was the two of them making out in a palatial-sized broom cupboard. Then he realized how Pascal-like that logic was, and promptly rolled over and went to sleep.

Nevertheless, Hubert finds Asbel in town the next day, eating his feelings by way of a large plate of curry. "Hubert," Asbel greets him, voice muffled by a mouthful of rice.


Sitting down across from his older brother, Hubert tries to channel Pascal's way of broaching awkward topics. The only issue is Pascal broaches awkward topics the same as non-awkward topics—by blurting it out.

"Stop this senseless dance of unresolved sexual tension with King Richard."

Hmm. Not bad; Pascal might have gone with a brasher approach, but Hubert is satisfied.

Asbel chokes and downs an entire glass of water before even trying to speak. Hubert becomes increasingly more pleased with himself.

"H—Hubert, it's not—Richard and I aren't…"

"Are you really so obtuse?" Hubert replies rhetorically. Asbel doesn't need to answer that.

"We're just friends! I mean, it was kinda weird, the other day—when Richard—"

Pascal's covert seduction tactics are rapidly dying, but Hubert can't stand to watch this dance any longer.

"Richard has been trying to" Hubert falters, social propriety warring with his frustration, "seduce you, for lack of a finer term, for days now. You are going to kill me, literally kill me, if you don't do something. Pascal is driving me insane."

His brother looks so confused that Hubert almost pities him, but not quite.

"Why would Pascal even…"

"She has been instructing Richard on how best to…woo you."

Finally, clarity dawns on Asbel; Hubert's mind fills with inane sunrise metaphors, or the clouds parting after rain. Or maybe it's just hope for his future.

Hubert manages to get Pascal to avoid Richard for the rest of the afternoon, although he can't fathom the damage done while he was out being Asbel's life coach. Pascal's distraction involved a criminally expensive dinner with lots of bananas.

Which is why Hubert can't fathom how he ended up awkwardly crouched behind a bush with Pascal; they are watching yet another interlude between his brother and Richard, this time in one of the castle's many gardens at twilight.

The setting would be romantic if Hubert didn't want to punch everyone for being so difficult.

Pascal rocks back and forth on the balls of her feet in anticipation. Hubert stills her, not wanting to make their presence known.

"This is it!"

Hubert shushes her, but knows better than to clap a hand over her mouth again.

Asbel approaches Richard this time, the afternoon's conversation gave him some clarity. Richard looks confused this time, and Hubert chuckles

"I-I'm sorry, Richard," Asbel starts, "Hubert told me this afternoon."

Richard freezes, except for the soft breeze blowing his bangs around. Hubert hates how detail-oriented he is.

"Hubert told you…?"

"…That you want to have sex with me."

Hubert's strangled cry of indignation makes Richard glance toward the bushes, but thankfully Asbel's admission holds his focus. This time Pascal claps a hand over Hubert's mouth, expression screaming beautiful, beautiful retribution. Hubert will hear about this for days.

"I—I…" Richard at a loss for words is an unprecedented sight for Hubert. Pascal must think so, too, because she looks about ready to jump up and down. "…Yes," Richard finally finishes, and Hubert feels a proxy blush coloring his cheeks.

Then Richard closes the distance between them, buries a hand in Asbel's hair, and kisses him. Asbel's eyes stay open for a moment too long, and begrudgingly Hubert is reminded of the first time Pascal kissed him. It was an utter surprise and his eyes had stayed open much too long. Not a brotherly similarity they will be discussing anytime soon.

Oh heavens, they are still kissing.

Thankfully, Asbel and Richard are too distracted to notice Pascal standing up and screaming, "Asbel's finally ripe!"