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Moon & Golden You

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When Felix arrives home he doesn't check the time. He sets his cell phone facedown on his dining room table and opens his laptop next to it, allowing it time to boot up while he prepares his dinner. He dumps pre-portioned vegetables and meat into a frying pan, heating it up for a few minutes, and he transfers his dinner to a white plate. A quick thorough scrub of the pan while his dinner cools completes his evening ritual, after which he's able to sit down in front of his laptop and catch up on journals and articles published after his lunch time.

And so goes every evening. His strict scheduling and thorough preparedness have helped propel him to success in his field. When he doesn't have to think about dinner, evening plans, and timeliness, he can focus all his energy on learning and understanding. On his research and deadlines and when his colleagues' papers are scheduled to be published. He's been this way for years. It's easy. It's known. It doesn't allow time to think of his father and brother, of lost love. It doesn't allow time to think of regrets and friendships long past.

But he isn't thinking about any of these things. He's opening articles in different tabs to read through this evening.

A coworker was recently interviewed. Felix reads the transcription and wonders why the interviewer asked such inane questions and why his coworker even agreed to the interview in the first place. He skims a paper a colleague hundreds of kilometers away wrote on the spread of white nose syndrome in her region. Article after paper after article after paper until he knows what's going on in his tight sphere. He sighs as he closes the last tab and casts a glance to the bottom right of his screen, displaying 20:03, and he resigns himself to a boring evening. He picks up his phone for the first time in hours and is somewhat surprised to see a text notification from a coworker.

EDWARD S
dude. apparently this guy just makes videos about animals and he's got a MASSIVE following. p sure you went to the same university. u know him? hit him up, this kind of publicity for us would be unreal

Underneath the message is a link to a video. Without checking Felix replies, Don't know him. Sorry.

When he actually clicks on the video he feels a sharp pang of what he assumes must be anger.

Gesturing animatedly from his phone screen is the painfully familiar, strikingly handsome, stupid face of Sylvain Gautier. Felix's world stops. He stares at a face he didn't imagine he'd see again, watching the way the corners of his eyes crinkle when he smiles and the way his forearms flex as he gently raises a gloved hand to show the camera the little brown bat he's apparently been so excited about. Felix blinks. Last he'd heard Sylvain was taking over his father's company, a multi-million dollar tech enterprise. Was he making videos about animals to put on the internet for fun?

"— and wouldn't you know it, this little dude's gotta go! Here you are—" he hands the bat to another gloved hand, which takes the bat offscreen "— that's it for today! As always, thanks for watchin', hit that subscribe button if you wanna see more content like this, you can keep up with me at the links below, and again," he winks at the camera, "thanks for comin'."

Sylvain just called a bat little dude. He actually called a bat little dude. What kind of unprofessional—

Felix clicks the channel name. Edward mentioned a massive following, but there's no way someone casually going to a wildlife sanctuary for a three minute video could possibly have as many followers as he was led to believe.

He blinks at the number on the screen.

2,722,650 subscribers.


When Felix arrives home he nervously checks the clock on his microwave and then on his phone for good measure. 17:36. He sets his cell phone face up on his dining room table and opens his laptop next to it, allowing it time to boot up while he rummages through his fridge. He still has meals prepped from the weekend but he's not in the mood for any of them. He groans and resigns himself to delivery. He sits down in front of his laptop and orders samosas and naan and vindaloo from his phone. Hungry and unfocused, he browses for journals and articles published during the day, and he can't bring himself to give a shit about any of them.

Sylvain's cheerful voice swims to the front of his consciousness and he curses. In the years he knew Sylvain he never saw him study unless he personally forced him to sit with Ingrid and himself, and even as they quizzed each other in a circle Sylvain's gaze would drift to the girl a few tables down with the long brown hair draped over a textbook, or to the girl laughing with her friends across the room. He hated it. The man couldn't focus to improve his future or himself, he just skated through life without a care and everything fell into place around him. Seems like it still does.

Felix gulps, remembering the last conversation they had. It's been three years since he sold his late father's company and left everyone he knew behind. He couldn't stand them anymore. Ingrid, who brought up his brother at any opportunity. Dimitri, who would apologize for his father's and brother's deaths whenever possible. Sylvain, who... He shakes his head. He can't think about that. He forces his thoughts forward. It's been three years since he left. He got a new phone and a new number, deleted his social media, abandoned his email, didn't tell anyone where he was going or why. He'd been planning his escape for months. He thought he'd never see them again. Planned for it. But now, seeing Sylvain's stupid face and hearing Sylvain's stupid voice, remembering the unrestrained hurt in his eyes when Felix said he hated him, he can feel the regret pool in his stomach. He thought it was the best way. He thought if he could make Sylvain hate him that his disappearance would hurt that much less. But, hell, he'd be lying if he said he didn't cry over it. He'd be lying if he said he didn't want to apologize right now. But Sylvain looked so happy, so excited to be alive in that video, and you know what? The asshole went and waltzed into fame by doing jack shit and all Felix has to show for years and years of busting his ass is a few published papers in scientific journals.

A message alert pops up on his phone. His heart leaps and he foolishly wonders if it's Sylvain.

Your delivery driver is outside, enjoy!

He isn't sure why he's so fucking stupid.

Several minutes later, food in hand and with a bottle of whiskey he kept in the back of his fridge, he sits in front of his laptop and because he's a fucking masochist he watches more of Sylvain's videos while he eats his dinner and sips his booze. The damn videos are so short and he feels more pathetic with each one he watches. By the time he thinks to check the clock (22:42) there's a quarter bottle of whiskey left and he's thinking of the old phone with all his contacts deep in his desk.

He should see if those contacts are still saved. Yeah. Never know when you might need it. He forces his phone in his pocket and stands, lurching forward treacherously, catching himself on the table and the keyboard. He curses and tries to pick up the keys that popped off and gives up when he can't quite catch them. He glares across to the living room where his desk stands and grumbles as he begins the journey. He stumbles. He finds his balance. He uses the small couch for support. He makes it. He sinks into the shitty office chair he found by the side of the road and reaches out for the single shallow drawer. He misses. He reaches again. He hits. He pulls. The meticulously organized contents wait expectantly and he lifts the organizer tray too forcefully, throwing pens and tacks and paperclips into the air and onto the floor, and lying in wait is his old phone. He turns it on. It doesn't turn on.

"Fuck," he grumbles. He picks it up and shuffles around his drawer for the right charger. Damn phone people changed the damn charging port. Can't just use the fucking charger he already has plugged in. Fuck. He finds the right cord in the very back of the drawer and stabs it into the USB charger on his desk, cursing again when it's the wrong way. He flips it and stabs again. It's still the wrong way. He curses louder. It goes in the third time. He gets the other end in the phone and waits. The screen flashes 0%. No shit. He stares. It reaches 1%. He turns it on. It works.

Long since disconnected from any carrier or phone number the phone doesn't light up with notifications of missed calls or messages, it simply sits emotionless in his hand, displaying the applications he installed years ago. He clumsily thumbs at the contacts icon and scrolls down to S. Sylvain's name isn't there. His brain short circuits and then, in a stroke of genius, he checks the Gs. And there he is. Sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] Gautier. Sylvain put the emojis there. Felix scoffs. Stupid. Doesn't stop him from selecting the share contact option, though.

His other phone— wait, no, his current phone— lights up, asking to confirm the shared contact. He selects yes. He selects send message. He gracefully types.

Hey. It's Frlix. I'm sorfry

Satisfied, he unplugs his old phone and thrusts it back in the desk, gripping his current phone in his hand as he stalks his way to his bedroom. To the bathroom. Wait, shit, does he have to piss? He probably should. The bed sounds nice right now, though. His bed, the soft covers, his— what in the HELL.

His phone is buzzing in his hand. He stares at it, dumbfounded.

Sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] Gautier

He presses answer. "What?" he forces out.

A familiar voice answers. "Wh— Felix? Is this really Felix? Dude? Are you okay?"

Felix grumbles. "What the FUCK do you want?" The words are hard to get out. They're probably slurring together.

"Felix! Where are you? Are you drunk? What the hell are you doing?" Felix can faintly tell that Sylvain is yelling into the phone. He can't tell if it's anger or worry.

"I'm going to my fucking bed." Felix hangs up and lands face down on his pillow, his phone face down next to him. He sleeps through a stream of vibrations.

Chapter Text

The default alarm tone rips through Felix's head, assaulting his ears and tearing his skull in half. He fumbles with his phone, trying desperately to deactivate the alarm, but even the lowest screen brightness burns his eyes.

"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" he fucking screams, giving up and burying his phone under a pillow. It doesn't help. He groans in pain and covers his eyes with his hand, leaving only a sliver of space to look at the screen through, and he sighs in relief when he successfully hits stop and the ringing ends. Slowly, carefully, he eases himself onto his knees. Fuck, his head is fucking pounding. His thoughts are barely coming together, locked behind a haze of who knows what. He stumbles out of bed and takes the longest piss of his life. It's when he's washing his hands that the nausea hits.

After what feels like forever spent leaning over the toilet he begrudgingly admits he still feels like shit. He thinks getting delivery was a mistake. He leans back against the bathroom wall and tries to remember what all he ate. The samosas and naan didn't have meat, but the vindaloo had chicken. He could've gotten food poisoning from that. He groans, making a mental note not to order from that place again. His hand grips the bathroom counter and he hauls himself to his feet, carefully making his way back to his bed where his phone waits, holding his head the entire journey. He dully notes a stack of notifications and a red dot over his messages app before pulling up his boss's contact.

I have food poisoning, I can't come into work today. He writes. He groans. He's never called out of work, but there's nothing to be done about it. He hopes his boss doesn't think he's trying to score a three day weekend. While he waits for a response, he checks his notifications. He squints. That can't be...

He jolts upright, causing his head to throb. He rubs his temples, cursing, as it slowly trickles back. The whiskey— fuck, this is a hangover— and the videos, the regret, the... he can't remember what else. Fuck, he seriously spent last night watching Sylvain's videos and getting shitfaced. Fucking pathetic. He left that shit behind for a fucking reason. How did Sylvain even get his number? And why the hell are there still fucking eggplant emojis in his contact name?!

Okay, he can deal with this. He'll open the conversation, he'll delete it, and he'll move on. The notifications will be cleared and he won't have to deal with any of this ever again.

His breath catches in his throat when he reads the most recent message.

fufck man i just miss you. i miiss you. pleasre talk to mee. pelase

It does not escape Felix's notice that Sylvain still has auto-capitalization turned off. What a stupid way to look nonchalant. He scrolls to the beginning of the conversation against his better judgement.

me: Hey. It's Frlix. I'm sorfry

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: dude! what the fuck!! you can't text me at nearly midnight and apologize, i thought you were in trouble! are you ok??

it's been three fucking years dude

are you there? did you seriously go to sleep already?

dude

i've been trying to get ahold of you for three years, please don't disappear on me again. please talk to me in the morning

i know shit got hardm man. i hope you'r edoing well

[heart emoji]

shiit. so much has happenedf man. life is crazyy

plase talk to me

just. dudde just come to my aarment. we can talk. primrosee highrise #1621

shit if your'e nearby at lest. or call me

fufck man i just miss you. pleasre talk to mee. pelase

Reflexively, Felix raises a hand to his face and he's surprised to find tears. His thumb hovers over the option to delete the messages, and he just. He can't. He reads through Sylvain's messages again noticing how, as his spelling got worse, the messages got more spaced out. He notices with a jolt that the most recent message is from only 45 minutes ago.

His phone buzzes and the screen changes.

Incoming Call: Sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] Gautier

He stares at the name on his phone as it buzzes away, urging him to answer. The buzzing stops and the screen goes dark. He breathes out a sigh of relief. His phone buzzes again.

Incoming FaceTime Call: Sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] Gautier

He stares at the name on his phone until it times out. Again. He curses when it rings a third time and rejects the call. He checks his missed calls. 22. He checks his voicemails. 6.

A glance over his mailbox shows the first three have decent transcriptions— an incredible invention, by the way— and the last three are nonsense. Sylvain must have been pretty drunk at that point. He decides to torture himself and opens each transcription one by one. The first few are short. "Seriously, are you okay? You can't fuckin' text someone an apology at fuckin' midnight man, are you okay? Call me back." "I'm sorry, I just, you scared me, man. I didn't know if you were dying or what. I didn't mean to freak out. Call me back." "Just... call me back." The transcriptions become a mess after this. He plays the voicemails on speakerphone. A lump forms in his throat as he listens.

"Listen, man," Sylvain's voice slurs through his phone. It's more personal than those stupid videos and Felix hates it. "I just... I fuckin' miss you, man. We didn't know if you died or what. We didn't know if you were alive for months. Ingrid searched you up every d—" Felix deletes this voicemail.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry." Sylvain's words are melding together. Felix hopes he didn't fuck Sylvain up with his stupid drunk text, but he also feels kind of... what's the word, fulfilled? Appreciated? Loved? Not loved. "I'm sorry. Please let me tell you sorry in person. I'll say it as many times as you want. I'm sorry."

He stops listening to the next one almost immediately. "I think I loved y—"

There's one more. It must be from the call he rejected. The transcription on this one is unreadable, too. He plays it.

"Shit, I'm sorry, I must've woke you up," Sylvain's voice is quiet and he's having trouble getting the words out. Felix holds the phone closer to his ear. He wonders why he's doing this to himself while gazing at the small light of hope that shines from his phone screen. "I'm sorry. I'll stop. I should sleep. Fuck." Sylvain coughs. "I'm sorry. I fucked up. I fucked it all up and you left and didn't tell anybody and I miss you every fuckin' day. I have so much to tell you. I want to hear about where your life has gone. Please. I'm sorry."

The voicemail ends and Felix sits in his bed, completely still, continuing to hold his phone to his ear as if it'll tell him how not to give a fuck and move on. After several minutes his phone buzzes and his heart beats faster. Frantically, he opens the newest notification. It's from his boss. Ok.

Because he's a dumbass he opens the conversation with Sylvain and reads it again. His apartment building is in the same city, which is weird. He was pleading. He misses him. Felix taps to reply.

Ok.

He isn't sure what he said ok to.


Why the fuck is he doing this.

His hangover takes hours to deal with. He spends the morning drinking water until he can crawl to the convenience store and buy four bottles of gatorade, and then he spends the rest of the morning drinking said gatorade and eating his leftovers from the night before. He dresses himself in a form-fitting black turtleneck and a black blazer and navy pressed pants. He can't wrap his head around replacing the keys on his keyboard that he apparently smashed so he leaves them in a small baggie on top of his laptop. He tries not to think about how the keys he popped off were 6 and 9. Sylvain would think it was hilarious. He won't tell him.

Felix has to take an hour and a half train ride across the city to get there. He asks the lady at the flower shop if she could help him choose an apology bouquet. He scowls when she asks who it's for. For reasons he refuses to admit to himself he chooses a small arrangement of hydrangea. "This says 'thank you for understanding me!'" she tells him. "It's not really an apology, per se, but—" she must see the look on his face, because she cuts herself off and simply says, "Let me ring you up, then!"

And now here he is, standing outside apartment #1621 with the first bouquet he's ever bought in his life gripped in one fist and a plastic bag with two more bottles of gatorade in the other. It's early in the afternoon. His phone displays 13:55 and no notifications for messages or missed calls. It's barely been seven hours since Sylvain's last voicemail and, if he hasn't changed, he'll be sleeping for at least another three. Emboldened at the thought of Sylvain not answering he knocks on the door.

His stomach tightens with anxiety immediately. He thinks about leaving the bouquet in front of the door and running as fast as he can to the stairwell and taking the elevator from a different floor. He hears shuffling from inside. He freezes. A million thoughts run through his mind: Sylvain's fame from his stupid shallow videos, Sylvain's pleading voice, Sylvain's soft eyes, Sylvain's perfectly tousled hair. The shuffling stops and he's still standing there. He knocks again, this time with more purpose. He puts his hands on his hips, squishing the bouquet against himself. Why did he knock again. Why didn't he just leave the stupid flowers on the ground and run while he still had a shred of dignity.

He hears heavy footsteps approach the door. He holds his breath when the deadbolt slides. He goes red and stares at the ground when Sylvain's tired face appears. His eyes are pink. Felix goes even redder when he realizes Sylvain had been crying.

"Wh— Felix?"

"Just— just take this," Felix growls, shoving the bouquet into Sylvain's bewildered arms. He turns to make his great escape and is stopped by the lightest touch on his shoulder.

"Please. Come inside." Sylvain's voice is soft and quiet. The bright light in the hallway clearly hurts his eyes.

Because he can never say no to Sylvain, he turns back and pushes through the door with a huff. Sylvain locks the door behind him and they're plunged into darkness, only the sun peeking out behind the curtains offers any light. Felix stands, silent. The apartment is so... small. He's standing on tiled floor with a bathroom to his left and a kitchen to his right, and at the end of a narrow hallway a single room with wooden floors and stark white walls holds a bed that's entirely too big for the space, a massive desk with piles of cords and video equipment and three monitors, and tucked into the corner is a tiny table with two folding chairs. Felix can't help but notice the number of empty beer bottles on the kitchen counter.

"So, uh," Sylvain sounds like he's still half asleep. He sounds small, like in the last voicemail he left at 6:30 in the morning. His voice cracks. "You came."

"You asked me to." Felix hates that he can't refuse Sylvain.

"Yeah, I guess I did."

They stand like that for a few more minutes until Felix reaches into his bag and wordlessly hands a bottle of gatorade to Sylvain, who looks up from the flowers and cracks a smile.

"You always were the smart one," he mutters before downing half the bottle. "Damn, you remembered my favorite flavor."

"I remember your father threatening that you'd piss blue if you drank any more of that shit," Felix corrects.

"Did he really say that? I don't even remember." Sylvain chugs the rest of the bottle and Felix hands him the second one before walking into the kitchen and putting the empty beer bottles in the bag. The clink of glass on glass fills the silence.

"You don't have to do that," Sylvain says, voice a little stronger after he finishes the second bottle.

"Tch." Felix doesn't stop until the counter is cleared. When he turns to face Sylvain he's squinting at his phone. Sylvain looks up when he notices Felix is staring at him.

"You put some thought into these, huh?"

Felix looks away. "The florist helped me."

"It means a lot."

Silence falls between them again. Sylvain's approval causes warmth to bloom in his chest and he almost smiles. Almost. Sylvain is, again, the one to break the tension.

"I need some caffeine. Like really, really need it," he grabs a tea kettle and leans much too close to Felix as he fills it, "I'll make some extra. We can sit and talk."

"I don't drink caffeine," Felix says stiffly.

"You don't drink caffeine anymore?"

"No. I never did."

"But you drank tea with me all the time."

"Tea doesn't have caffeine, idiot."

"Uh, it does. At least black tea does, which you drank with me."

"It what?" Felix sputters.

Sylvain laughs in earnest, now. He sets the kettle on its plate and hits start and, through what might be the most comforting laughter Felix has ever heard he says, "You know, for someone with his nose in a book at all hours you're a bit of a dumbass."

"That's it, I'm leaving."

"No!"

Sylvain's hand shoots out and wraps around Felix's bicep. He must be feeling better because this time he's actually gripping him. "Please, stay." Felix scoffs but doesn't try to shake his grip. Slowly, as if he expects Felix to bolt, Sylvain lets go. The tea kettle clicks and Sylvain grabs two mismatched mugs, retrieves two tea bags from a container on his counter— with a jolt Felix realizes it's a fucking t-rex shaped cookie jar— and pours the hot water directly over the bags. He keeps glancing at Felix out of the corner of his eye, as if he expects him to disappear. Felix watches him impassively, trying very hard not to think about the voicemails he listened to this morning or the strong grip that left a feeling of longing and warmth behind.

Sylvain picks up both mugs and gestures for Felix to follow him. He leads them to the small table, which Felix now sees also folds up, and sets the mugs down. "Hold on," he instructs when Felix goes to sit down. He grabs a flat cushion from the swivel chair in front of his desk and tosses it to the chair, and fist pumps when it lands perfectly. Felix snorts and sits, pretending not to notice Sylvain's face light up. Instead he picks up the mug in front of him. In bold black text it says BLOOD OF MY ENEMIES. Stupid. They drink from their mugs at the same time and Felix pretends to drink a little longer so they don't set down their mugs at the same time, too.

"So, uh," Sylvain starts, "I really mean it. I'm sorry."

Felix rolls his eyes. "You have nothing to be sorry for."

"Wh— you left! You said you hated me and you skipped town the next day! Whatever it is—"

"I said," Felix cuts him off, voice dangerously low, "You have nothing to be sorry for."

They drink their tea in silence once more. Nearing the end of his cup Felix asks, "What kind of tea is this? This isn't what you used to make."

"Oh, that's a chai blend," Sylvain smiles at him, "I wouldn't call it spicy, but it's got more spice to it than regular black tea. D'you like it?"

"Yes," he replies stiffly. Of course Sylvain would magically know what tea Felix likes, even if Felix himself doesn't know. Asshole.

"Good! 'Cause I bought it on accident and I don't actually like it that much. Now I can make someone else drink it." Sylvain winks and Felix's stomach flips.

"Tch." Felix is really, really thankful it's so dark in Sylvain's apartment. He numbed himself to this stupid crush when they saw each other every day, but that was years ago. He's gotten rusty. He looks away from Sylvain and his eyes settle on a pen cup on his cluttered desk that has a lot more than pens in it. His eyes are drawn to a small flag sticking out. Even in the darkness he can see how bright the colors are.

"What the fuck is that flag for?" he asks. Sylvain turns to follow his eye.

"Oh, right, you've been gone a long time," Sylvain responds, "It's a pride flag, that one's for pan."

"What the fuck is pan?"

"Man, do you live under a rock?"

Felix scowls.

Sylvain rubs the back of his neck. "Man, how do I explain this. It's like, there's straight and gay, right?" Felix's breath gets caught in his throat. Sylvain doesn't seem to notice and continues. "And there's also bi, pan, and ace. Pan is like, pan is when gender doesn't like, affect whether you're into someone. Like, I don't care if someone's a dude or a girl or neither or both."

Felix is holding his empty mug tensely, looking into it with a furrowed brow. Sylvain does notice.

"Look, dude, if that's not cool—"

"I just, I never told any of you I'm gay. That's all." Felix lets the words settle between them.

His eyes slowly slide up to meet Sylvain's. "Oh," is all he can say.

Felix releases the death grip on his mug. "I should go," he says. His throat is tight, the words are difficult to get out. "Thanks for the tea."

Felix stands and Sylvain stands with him. "Felix, I, hold on." Felix doesn't stop and when he turns toward the door Sylvain firmly grips his arm again. An involuntary gasp escapes Felix's mouth and he feels himself get hard.

"Don't." Felix's voice is shaking.

Sylvain lets go.

Felix makes to leave and, as he's halfway out the door, he turns to see Sylvain's hurt face gazing after him like a hurt puppy. He wishes he hadn't seen that. "Bye."

The train ride home is really, really long.

Chapter Text

Felix doesn't check the messages Sylvain sends until he's home and showered. He decides on this schedule during the train ride back. After he deals with those messages he's going to cook one of his pre-portioned meals for dinner, then he's going to repair his keyboard, then he's going to catch up on today's published research and articles, and then he'll go to bed. He needs to get his life back under control. Seeing Sylvain was a mistake; a step backwards on his path. He mentally crafts the message he'll send in response. It's nothing you did. I have to move on with my life. I wish you the best. It's concise. It doesn't allow Sylvain to blame himself. They can both move on in their own directions, their paths diverging further and further apart, never to cross again.

What Felix forgets to account for is that he's a fucking moron.

He remembers this on the floor of his shower, covered in his own come, dick softening in his hand. The memory of Sylvain's firm hand and the fantasy of pissing him off just a little more. Making him a little more desperate. Desperate enough to shove him against a wall, to get in his face, to scream and beg and plead, to get so close he feels Felix's erection. Then Sylvain would press their bodies together and, shit, what was the scenario his horned up thoughts made again? He doesn't want to think about it. He's already rewriting the message he so carefully developed. He grabs a washcloth and wipes himself off, throwing it directly in the hamper before he takes one final rinse. He's not dealing with the security deposit if his pipes are fucked because he can't fucking control himself.

He opens Sylvain's messages while wrapped in a towel on his bed like a damn teenager.

look dude, i'm not really sure what to say. i think i pissed you off and i'm sorry. i really wanna be friends again

things have changed so much. for both of us. i didn't have a chance to ask what you're up to and you have no idea what i'm doing. can we get lunch or something this weekend?

thanks for the flowers, btw

There's a picture of the hydrangeas in a glass vase. He put them at his desk, next to his pen cup. Felix is surprised by how bright his desk looks with the curtains pulled back. He hates how happy this makes him feel.

shit, i'm gonna send you 500 messages haha

anyway, you looked really nice

Felix blushes despite himself. Here's Sylvain, carefree as ever, sending him text after text after text, not a care in the world if he seems like he's desperate. Acting like he's perfectly happy as he is. He probably is. He probably is perfectly happy complimenting Felix and thanking him and apologizing and trying to make up for something he didn't do.

Sorry. Let's meet this weekend. I actually do know what you're up to, a colleague sent me one of your videos. Thanks.

He hits send and tosses his phone onto the bed. He thinks about the meal he prepared last weekend waiting to be heated up in his fridge and he feels disgusted. His schedule's fucked.

His phone lights up. He snatches it and reads the message immediately.

oh haha that's really embarrassing

His phone vibrates in his hands as another message comes in. He chews his lip; seems this is an annoying habit Sylvain's picked up in the last few years.

anyway

yea, ok, let's get lunch or something!

45 minutes later and they've agreed to meet at a cafe by Sylvain's apartment. Sylvain claims it has the best patio and, though Felix doesn't care for bugs flying around his head while he eats, it does sound nice.


The train ride to the cafe is just as long as the train ride to Sylvain's apartment. Felix takes the time to catch up on articles from his phone. He's not sure why he hasn't thought to do this before; it's very efficient.

Felix gets to the cafe and has to ask a server how to get to the patio. At the mention of "stupid red hair" she lights up and leads him straight out the back. Sylvain cracks a smile when he sees Felix and he stands. Felix tries not to think about how good he looks in his denim jacket and hoodie or about the server who jumped at the opportunity to chat with Sylvain, instead he looks around at the patio Sylvain insisted was gorgeous and, frankly, he was right. A wooden trellis overhead is laced with vines, largely blocking out the mid-afternoon sun, and string lights cross from one end of the patio to the other. There's a handful of hanging plants on the wall and, though the patio itself is quite small, they've managed to fit several small tables without it feeling crowded. Sylvain bids the server goodbye and gestures for Felix to sit. He does, and he notices—

"This is the same table you have at your apartment," Felix says flatly.

Sylvain laughs. "Yeah, when I moved to town I asked if they had any trashed tables I could take. The one they gave me just needed a coat of paint. Not sure why they gave it away but, hey, I guess it's just my charm." He winks and Felix scowls. "But no, this place makes their own bread every day. It's great. Get a sandwich, dude."

Felix looks at the menu Sylvain pushes in front of him. "What the fuck is a beet sandwich?" he mutters to nobody in particular. Sylvain chuckles.

"Sounds like a sandwich with beets."

"Shut up."

Sylvain doesn't respond, but he does hum along with the music. It's a song Felix has never heard. He thinks he likes it.

"Are you ready to order?"

Felix jumps at the sudden interruption and rushes to choose something. When the humming stops he realizes the song doesn't sound as good without Sylvain.

"Yeah!" Sylvain says, "Can I get the grilled dijon salmon sandwich with extra dijon and cracked pepper?"

Felix forgets he was looking at the menu and stares at Sylvain. "That sounds disgusting."

"And they say I'm the charming one." His eyes sparkle as he speaks. Some things never change.

"I'll— shit, I'll take the beet sandwich I guess," Felix grumbles, looking away.

"Great! I'll put that in for you," the server sounds chipper. Felix notes they're different from the woman who brought him back earlier.

Sylvain snickers after the server walks away. "I guess we'll find out what the beet sandwich is, then."

"Guess so."

Felix hates that he can't keep the conversation going. Maybe it's for the best. Sylvain was always the charismatic one; meanwhile Felix has a severe case of foot-in-mouth syndrome.

Sylvain takes a sip of water before reviving the conversation. "So! What are you up to these days? Why did your colleague send you, uh," he rubs the back of his neck, "You know."

"I work in conservation," Felix can't help but notice Sylvain is now leaning over the table, genuinely intrigued. He clears the lump in his throat. "I analyze data related to threatened species. Migration patterns and population shifts, disease, habitat loss, that sort of thing."

"Damn, dude, that's cool as hell. What do you do with that?"

"With what, the data?"

Sylvain laughs. "Yeah, the data."

Felix rolls his eyes. "I write papers, mostly. Sometimes I help with proposals and grant applications. Right now I'm compiling data on the spread of a disease that's destroying bat populations, supposedly a colleague wants to use that information to lobby against amateur cavers."

"Huh." Sylvain looks thoughtful. It suits him. "Did your uh, your colleague send you my bat video, then?"

Felix nods. "Yeah, that's the one."

"What'd you think of it? I want your expert opinion."

Felix struggles to remember the actual content of the video. "It was shallow," is all he comes up with.

Sylvain looks disappointed. Maybe even hurt. Felix struggles to explain himself.

"It just— look, any amateur can search bat facts and come up with that stuff." He's not making this any better and he can't stop. "There's not any knowledge being spread, even a child knows about echolocation! There's all sorts of more interesting things to talk about! They're the slowest reproducing mammal in the world! There's research being done to see if microbats and megabats even belong in the same order! They're extremely important pollinators—"

"Felix."

"They can spread disease at an incredible rate—"

"Felix."

"They've been around since the Eocene epoch—"

"Felix!"

"What?" He realizes he's been talking much louder than he meant to. He goes pink.

"Felix, dude, nobody wants to watch a video about how slow bats reproduce."

"What!?"

"My videos, they— I make them for amateurs. Amateurs are the ones watching my videos. If someone wants to know as much as you they'll do research on their own." Sylvain looks so earnest, almost like he's pleading with Felix. "You gotta understand, dude, you're not exactly my target audience."

Felix scoffs.

"I— ugh," Sylvain pauses and rubs his temples. Felix's stomach sinks at the rare display of frustration. "I don't know, man. I've been thinking about like, collaborating with an expert or something, I just haven't had time to reach out to anyone. Editing takes time and it's only me..." His voice trails off. Felix opens his mouth to respond to the silence when a plate is set down in front of him. He blinks. He forgot they ordered food. Sylvain thanks the server and, with practiced ease, takes a big ass bite. Mustard is dripping all over his plate. It's as disgusting as Felix imagined.

Felix picks up his own sandwich. It's, well, it's definitely got beets. There's some green stuff, onions, cheese. He shrugs and takes a bite.

Apparently Felix had forgotten food can taste good.

"Holy shit," he mutters, staring at his sandwich. Sylvain snorts.

"Man, when's the last time you had decent food?"

Felix shrugs. "I don't have time to get decent food. I make enough food for the week on Sunday and I just heat it up every day."

"You do that every week?"

"You're talking with your mouth full."

Sylvain swallows. "You do that every week? Every day?"

"Yes," Felix rolls his eyes, "I'm very busy. I have to keep up with the research that comes out every day in my field and I don't have time to do that at the office."

"You get paid for that?"

Felix blinks. Well, no. After a pause he asks, "Do you get paid for your videos?"

Sylvain licks the remnants of mustard off his fingers. Felix tries to wipe that image from his brain. "Well, yeah," Sylvain responds, "I mean, the money isn't great since ad revenue got restructured, but I have merch and stuff and that's been picking up the last few months." He looks at Felix meaningfully. "You don't get paid for that, do you?"

Felix's lips tighten. He shakes his head.

"Man, that sucks."

There's a pause while Felix finishes his sandwich. He's grateful for the quiet. Now he gets to get pissed about something new.

The server comes by and takes their empty plates, dropping the check off as he leaves. Sylvain bolts to grab it before Felix can even think. "My idea, my treat," he says, smiling at Felix and putting cash down. "Say, I've been meaning to ask, how do you get your hair to do that?"

Felix stares blankly. "Do what?"

"You know," Sylvain mimics Felix's bangs with his hand. "It's all, like," and now his hands are in Felix's hair. He freezes, eyes locked on Sylvain who's tongue is sticking out just a smidge as he thinks. "Ah, well, I can't get it to do that thing again and your hair's all fucked up. Sorry."

Without a thought, Felix runs his hand through his hair and Sylvain is awestruck. "Dude you just put it back so easily. How?!"

"It's just my hair, it's not that hard."

"Shit. Well, anyway, uh, I'm serious when I say I was thinking of collaborating with an expert. And there's an expert right here in front of me," he gestures to Felix, "Do you wanna talk about bats?"

"I thought nobody wanted to watch a video on how slow bats reproduce."

"It can be for a niche audience," Sylvain still has that stupid, happy grin on his face. "What do you say? You're already here and my apartment's just a couple blocks that way, we can brainstorm what to talk about."

Felix sighs. He would love for more folks to have an interest in wildlife conservation, but Sylvain was so insistent that amateurs watch his videos. People without a vested interest. This sounds like a complete waste of time.

"Pleeeeease?" Sylvain puts on his puppy dog face.

"Fine."

"Great!" Sylvain stands up a little too quickly, almost knocking his chair over. "Let's go! Man, I'm pumped."

Felix stands and straightens his peacoat. "Yeah, let's go," he says, and as Sylvain passes him to leave he feels their hands brush and firmly puts his hands in his pockets.

Chapter Text

"Welcome back!" Sylvain's arms are spread wide, embracing the grandeur of his studio apartment. "I got two chairs and a toilet, make yourself at home! I, for one, am gonna change into my PJs."

"Bit early for that," Felix retorts, completely unsurprised.

"Never too early to be comfy!"

Sylvain disappears through a set of accordion doors and Felix takes a seat on one of his folding chairs. He notes it's extremely uncomfortable without the shitty cushion.

"Hey!" Felix calls, "Why don't you just buy decent chairs?"

"Huh? Oh," Sylvain emerges from the closet, now wearing a pair of ratty sweatpants and a t-shirt, "I don't really have the money for that right now. Or a ride."

Felix's eyes snap up from the sliver of skin exposed at his hip. Sylvain looks sheepish. "What happened?" he asks.

There's a pause while Sylvain looks thoughtful, during which Felix's brain works overtime trying to fill in the gaps. Did his family's company go under? Was he disowned, just like Miklan? Felix can't remember why Miklan was disowned, but he doubts it was just because Miklan was a grade A jackass. Did Sylvain run away?

"A lot's happened in the last few years," Sylvain finally says, "I wouldn't even know where to start. But hey, let's not worry about that, tell me more about this whole bat reproduction thing." Sylvain throws himself in the chair opposite Felix and grabs a notebook off the floor. Felix closes his eyes and tries not to think too hard about what the hell happened that caused Sylvain to not have fifteen bucks for a cheap bookshelf.

"Are you sure about this?" Felix asks as he rests his chin on his hand, "I thought you said nobody cares about this kind of thing."

Felix hears the scratch of a pen and opens his eyes. He tries to read Sylvain's atrocious handwriting upside-down. Nobody cares about this kind of thing.

"Hey!" Felix swats at Sylvain's pen, "You said you wanted to do this!"

"I just thought it'd be a good opening line!"

Felix scowls. "Doesn't sound like any of your other opening lines."

"Well it's not, but this video— wait," Sylvain looks quizically at Felix, "How do you know what my opening lines usually sound like?"

Felix blushes and looks away. "Shut up."

"No! Holy shit, how many did you watch?" Sylvain is clearly trying to hold back a laugh.

"I don't know! Do you know how much I drank that night?"

"Wait, wait, hold on, wait," Sylvain has to collect himself before continuing. His entire face is pink from the effort of totally not laughing. "That night? So you're telling me, when you texted me at ass o'clock piss drunk, it was after you watched who knows how many of my videos?"

"Shut. Up."

Sylvain can't hold it in anymore. He throws down his pen and doubles over laughing, arms clutching his stomach, barely staying on his chair. "Holy shit, dude," he wheezes out, "That's so—"

"Do you want my help or not?" Felix's voice comes out much sharper than he intended. His face gets even pinker, with his blush reaching his ears and his neck.

"No, dude, that's not it," Sylvain is trying to get himself back under control. After each deep breath he manages to take he starts snickering again. "I— shit— I just, nobody else has bothered to watch any of my videos."

Despite his utter humiliation, Felix has nothing to say to that. It's just fucking sad. Once Sylvain's calmed down enough Felix asks quietly, "Why don't they?"

"Huh? Oh, I mean," Sylvain picks his up his pen and scribbles across the top of the page absentmindedly, "I guess it's just not their thing. It's not like Dimitri has time and, well, Ingrid helped in the beginning, holding the camera and stuff, but that was a couple years ago and I don't think she actually watched any of them..."

Felix tightens his hand into a fist and his knuckles turn white. He really, really doesn't want to talk about their old friends but, hell. "That's just like them," he mutters.

"Aw, it's not their fault. You know they've both got a lot going on."

"We're talking about bat reproduction, right?"

"Right! Right," Sylvain scratches down the words bat reproduction and stares at Felix expectantly. "So, uh, how do bats reproduce?"

"Like any other mammal."

"So they, like, they fuck?"

Felix drags a hand down his face. "Yes, Sylvain. They fuck."

Sylvain writes they fuck.

"They— ugh, different bats mate differently. What species are we talking about." It's a question, but it comes out like a statement.

"Uh, hm," Sylvain scratches his chin with the pen, "Yeah, there's an asston of bat species, huh."

"Yes, there is approximately an asston of bat species."

"What were the bats that lived in the woods behind your house?"

Felix blinks. "I think those were little brown bats. Myotis lucifugus, they only have one pup each year—"

"Wait, how do you spell that?" Sylvain asks. Felix looks at his attempt and scoffs.

"Didn't you take latin?"

"I don't remember anything from that class! Well, I remember Dorothea, but how could I forget Doro—"

Felix rips the pen out of Sylvain's hand and throws it at his face.

"Do you only think about girls?" Felix hisses.

Sylvain gestures to the pride flag on his desk next to the bouquet Felix brought him and raises an eyebrow. Felix picks up the pen and throws it at him again.

"Ah, come on, it's not like you don't think about that stuff!" Sylvain laughs.

Felix reached peak blush several minutes ago. He groans and puts his face in his hands. "Shut up."

"Aw, Felix!" He feels Sylvain's hands messing up his hair. He absolutely will not admit how nice it feels to have someone else's hands against his scalp, nor will he admit that this tiny amount of contact turned him on a bit. Shit.

"Do you have any beer?" Felix slams his hands down on the table more forcefully than he intended and he winces. "Please."

"Hell yeah, dude! PJ time is beer time!" Sylvain ruffles up Felix's hair one last time as he goes to the fridge, and when he returns (with alcohol!) he pulls Felix's hair band out and whistles as it falls.

"Why?!" Felix snaps.

"Your hair's gotten so long!" Sylvain says, setting a beer down on the table in front of Sylvain. Felix scowls but Sylvain cheerfully ignores him, instead opening his beer on the edge of the table.

"Where's your bottle opener?" Felix asks as he looks at the cap.

"Huh? Oh, here." Sylvain takes the bottle out of his hands and notches it on the edge of the table. He taps it with his hand and the cap pops off. "Here you go!"

Felix takes the bottle back and stares at it before taking a swig. It's not good.

"Okay! So, what do we have so far?" Sylvain looks down at his notes after drinking half his bottle in one go. "Bats fuck. L.B. bats—"

"L.B? You can't just write little brown?"

"We're gonna be writing a lot!" Sylvain whines. "So after that I have myot, uh, how did you spell that again?"

Felix rolls his eyes and spells the latin name out for him. Sylvain writes it down letter by letter and looks up at Felix again.

Felix takes another sip before continuing, but he's interrupted by Sylvain.

"Come on, man, you can drink quicker than that!"

Felix stares Sylvain dead in the eye as he tips the bottle up, up, up, and downs the whole thing in one go. Sylvain cheers and returns the gesture, banging his empty bottle down on the table.

"Another!" he declares before running off and returning with four bottles. He sets two on the table and opens two. "Let's go, it's easier to come up with ideas when you're drunk. We can edit later."

Felix isn't about to complain; he's been edging closer and closer to spontaneous combustion with every hair ruffle and meaningful glance. He's pathetic.

"Let's see," Felix says after chugging another bottle, "They only have one pup a year, little brown bats, and that can screw with— shit— that can negatively impact population regrowth if there's a collapse. Are you writing any of this down?"

Sylvain looks like he's snapped out of a trance and Felix realizes he was staring at his hair again. "Oh! Right, right," he looks down to his notebook where he has not, in fact, written any of this down. "What did you say again?"

"You can't focus on anything, can you." There's no venom in Felix's voice. He picks up another bottle and tries to imitate whatever Sylvain did on the edge of the table and fails horribly. He grimaces at the awful sound it makes when the cap slides against the metal of the table. Sylvain rips the bottle from his hands.

"You have to do it like this," he explains, popping the cap off successfully. Felix has no idea how he's supposed to do it.

"Whatever, thanks," he growls as he takes it back and takes a swig. He notices Sylvain has zoned out again, staring directly at him.

"What?"

"Your hair..." Sylvain reaches across the table and Felix tenses up as he wraps a tendril around his finger. "It's gotten so long."

Felix's head jerks down and yes, he supposes his hair has gotten pretty long. The parts that reach down several inches below his collarbone curl in a bit at the ends. His eyes follow Sylvain's finger as he gently twists his hair around his fingers.

"You've only had one beer, Sylvain," Felix says, gesturing to Sylvain's untouched second beer.

Sylvain removes his hand from Felix's hair and drinks the entire bottle. "No, I've had two!"

The two continue to bicker over the table, occasionally remembering they're supposed to be working. By the time the sun is starting to set they're each four beers in and having trouble keeping focus on the conversation at hand.

"No, I— I don't do any lab work," Felix explains to a very confused Sylvain, "I work in a lab, but I don't touch any equipment or animals. I just go over reports from people who do touch equipment or animals."

Sylvain blinks slowly.

"So there's— okay, so there's the lab techs, right?" Felix is counting off on his fingers, "There's the lab techs and the grad students, and—"

"Man, I'm starving," Sylvain interrupts, stretching his arms out above his head, "Let's order a pizza or something."

"You don't have the money for chairs but you have the money to eat out twice in one day."

"Hey! I told you I also don't have a ride!" Sylvain has already pulled his phone out and is looking through a menu. "I won't hear any arguments from you, Fraldarius. We're getting greasy pizza and a 2-liter."

Felix groans. "Fine. But I'm taking you to buy some damn chairs."

Sylvain raises an eyebrow. "You have a car?"

"Yes."

"Why do you take the train here?"

"Do you know how much of a nightmare it is to drive in this city? Let alone park?!"

Sylvain nods. "Fair, fair. So I've got two pizzas, one for me and one with an asston of peppers for you, a couple 2-liters, breadsticks, cheese bread, and a couple slices of cake. Am I forgetting anything?"

"Wh—" Felix grabs the phone and looks over it, "Why are you ordering so much food? We're only two people!"

"I'm hungry!" Sylvain swipes the phone back and presses order before Felix can take anything off.

Felix throws his hands up. "Fine!" he declares, "You've bought food twice today, I'm forever in your debt, whatever, I'll buy you chairs. Comfortable ones. I can't sit in these all night again."

Sylvain grins, "So you're gonna hang out with me all night? Tonight? And again later?"

"Shut up."

Sylvain chuckles and plays around on his phone. Felix pulls his own out and to his complete unsurprise, there's no notifications. There's silence between them while Felix reads through an article on a conservation lab a few towns over and his thoughts are interrupted.

"Huh, Ingrid just texted me," Sylvain says, brows furrowd as he looks at his phone.

"Don't tell her I'm here."

"Huh? Why n—"

It's then that Sylvain's phone rings. Felix's heart sinks.

"Oh shit, that's the pizza!" Sylvain jumps up and Felix relaxes. "I'll be right back!"

"Don't you want help?" Felix calls after him as the door slams shut. He rolls his eyes to noone and goes back to his article.

Sylvain's gone for awhile; long enough for Felix to finish this article and wonder where the hell he went. He should've helped. But he didn't, and now he's sitting here, alone, being a shitty friend. Some things never change.

The front door finally opens and Sylvain comes in laden with food. Felix lifts an eyebrow at him because, frankly, he's handling this massive dinner order just fine, but he's out of breath and looks terrified.

"Dude," he says after setting the food on the floor (disgusting, now Felix has to buy him a table as well), "I'm sorry. You know I can't lie to Ingrid."

Felix stares, in shock. Slowly, he can feel the anger bubbling up inside until it explodes through his icy facade.

"YOU WHAT?!" he screams, standing from his seat, "YOU FUCKING TOLD HER? HOW DID THIS EVEN COME UP THAT YOU WOULD'VE HAD TO LIE?!"

"You know how she is!" Sylvain looks distraught and so, so guilty. "She called me and she could tell something was up and she kept grilling me! If I hadn't told her she would've just shown up!"

"And now that she knows I'm here she's going to grill you for my number or something!" Felix runs his hands through his hair, pulling it back and out of his face. "And then what are you gonna do?! I'll have to change my number or she'll call me to talk about Glenn again!"

"What? What does Glenn have to do with anything?"

"Glenn has to do with everything!" Felix can tell his emotions are getting the better of him. He can also tell this isn't the best conversation to be having after four beers if he wants to keep any shred of dignity, but when has he had dignity since drunk texting Sylvain? "Everyone wants to talk about Glenn as if his death was a great sacrifice, as if he was so strong, as if I didn't lose my fucking brother! It's bullsh— don't fucking look at me like that!"

Sylvain does not stop fucking looking at him like that. He doesn't stop looking at him with his sad, understanding eyes. Felix roars and Sylvain steps forward to take him into a tight, inescapable hug.

"Why didn't you say anything?" Sylvain says into Felix's hair, ignoring his futile attempts for freedom. "I'm sure if she knew, she would've stopped."

Felix stops trying to push away and yells into Sylvain's chest. Sylvain runs a soothing hand through his hair; ever patient, ever caring, ever solid. Felix hates it. He's too hot. Too angry. He wants to run, fight, anything. "This sucks," he grunts out, voice muffled against Sylvain.

"I know, I know," Sylvain says softly, squeezing him tighter once more before letting him go. He rests his hands on Felix's shoulders and says, "Let's just eat and catch up. Shoot the shit. We don't have to talk about this."

Felix nods and Sylvain drops cross-legged to the ground. Felix watches, dumbfounded, as he arranges the boxes of food and bottles of soda in front of him directly on the fucking floor. Once he seems satisfied he pats a spot on the floor next to him. "Join me!"

Reluctantly, Felix joins him. "This can't be sanitary."

"None of it's touching the floor!" Sylvain unscrews a two liter and takes a swig. Felix grimaces.

"Do you not have cups?!"

"Dishes, dude!"

"You know what, I think you're in more danger than me if Ingrid shows up," Felix mutters as he picks up a slice of the greasiest fucking pizza he's ever seen, "I can only imagine her disgust."

Sylvain snorts. "Yeah, that's why I didn't give her my address."

Felix, with half a slice of pizza stuffed in his mouth, gives Sylvain a look.

"You're not the only one who needed to get away," Sylvain responds as if it's the most obvious thing in the world, "I just didn't go as nuclear as you did. Parents won't talk to me, though."

"Why did you have to leave?"

"Dude, there's something fucking wrong with my family," Sylvain shakes his head and looks at the wall, "I didn't see it before. Well, I kind of did, but I guess I just ignored it. I think Miklan had it better if I'm being honest even if, well, you know."

"What do I know?"

"Oh, I suppose you don't actually know. Miklan's dead."

Felix nearly chokes on his pizza. "What?!"

"Yeah, he got caught up in some shady shit. I'm not super clear on what happened." Sylvain's keeping his voice even, but Felix notices his eyes don't have their usual sparkle. "I packed up when I heard that. Stayed with Ingrid for a bit while I looked for an apartment. Mom's distraught, apparently. Dad tried to threaten me into going back for awhile, but he stopped. I've reached out to them since then but, well, I think I've been disowned, too."

Felix is quiet for a moment, trying to come up with something comforting. Something Sylvain would say. All he can come up with is, "That sucks."

Sylvain nods and the saddest, most heartwrenching smile crosses his face. "I really wished you were still around, you know?"

Felix's heart absolutely fucking shatters.

"...I'm sorry," Felix whispers. Suddenly he's very aware of his body; very aware of his bony ass directly on the wooden floor, of his hair that he never put back up, of the stupid way he's holding his arms so he doesn't get grease on his clothes. "I should've been there."

"Yeah," Sylvain shrugs, "But I guess you're here now."

Felix has lost his appetite. Guilt's taking up the space in his gut, curled up and growling, threatening to rip its way out. "Fuck," he whispers, looking anywhere but at Sylvain, who he knows is looking at him.

"Don't think about it too hard. You can't change what you did. What matter's is that you're here now."

"But it matters!" Felix's voice is slowly rising again, "It matters that I wasn't there when you needed me! I fucking let you down—"

He stops because Sylvain is very suddenly touching him. Sylvain's hand is very suddenly on the back of his head. Sylvain is very suddenly leaning towards Felix and pulling Felix toward him. Sylvain is very suddenly pressing their lips together. Felix's heart stops and then restarts, beating so fast he's worried it might burst. He softens into Sylvain's lips and kisses him back. Shit, this is such a bad idea, but consequences are so far away and Sylvain's lips are so close. He sighs into their kiss and feels Sylvain adjust his position and feels his hand on his thigh—

Felix breaks the kiss to stare at Sylvain incredulously. "Do you know how greasy my hands are?!"

"Wipe them off on my shirt. Or my pants. See if I care," he says with a smile before leaning back in.

"You're disgusting." There's no bite to his words and he meets Sylvain in the middle, taking his time to gently pull Sylvain's lip between his own. He reaches up and wipes his nasty greasy fingers on Sylvain's shirt before he grabs around the neckline and pulls him into the kiss. Sylvain's hand squeezes on his thigh and Felix's cock twitches and his breath shudders into Sylvain's mouth.

"Oh noooo," Sylvain whines into Felix's lips, "My shirt's all greasy now! I'm gonna get grease all over your nice sweater!" He removes his hands from Felix's body and climbs into his lap. "I guess I have to take it off!"

Felix punches Sylvain's shoulder, who laughs and pulls his shirt off over his head. Once removed he looks at Felix, face radiant and golden. Felix notices the sparkle is back in his eyes. He looks away.

"This is a bad idea," Felix states. His heart isn't in it.

Sylvain sits directly down into Felix's lap, who squawks.

"Sylvain! Do you have any idea how heavy your ass is and how hard this floor is?"

"Not as hard as—"

"Shut up!"

Sylvain adjusts himself in Felix's lap so he's sitting between his legs, rather than on top of them. "You just got that sad look again. Like something really far off has absolutely crushed you." He lifts a hand to Felix's cheek, who leans into the touch despite himself. "I hate that look on you. I always have."

When Felix doesn't respond he continues.

"I'll stop! Just give me the word and I'll stop."

Felix does not give him the word. He swallows and feels Sylvain's thumb slowly run up the column of his neck. His eyes raise and Sylvain's eyes are trained on his throat and he can feel what little dignity he has left melting away as he licks his lips and pulls Sylvain down by the hair.

Chapter Text

Their lips slot together and Sylvain guides Felix down onto his back, pressing their bodies together. When he nips at Felix's bottom lip, eliciting a most unholy whine, his dick gets hard against Felix's thigh and at this moment Felix is thankful for two things: that he's wearing proper trousers, and that Sylvain is wearing sweatpants.

"Fuck," Sylvain breathes into his mouth, "Fuck, Felix..."

Sylvain's hand runs under Felix's sweater and up his torso, pulling it and his undershirt with it. Felix knows Sylvain has big hands; he's seen them against his own and even imagined them wrapped together during desperate moments, but something about feeling Sylvain's hand wrap around his side and grope at his bare skin renders him breathless. He gasps for air and Sylvain's lips trail across his jaw and down his neck. Sylvain stops when he gets to his collar.

"So is this where most of your collars stop?" he asks, teething the edge of his crewneck.

"What? Why?"

"The one you wore the other day went up a little higher."

"I guess? Why?"

"Good," Sylvain smiles against his skin and pulls his collar down. Felix realizes a moment too late what's about to happen.

"Hey— ah!" Felix's words are lost in his throat as Sylvain bites down just above his collarbone. His back arches, pushing his body into Sylvain's, and when Sylvain lets go he runs a firm hand down Felix's back and swiftly pulls his sweater and undershirt off, leaving his chest bare and heaving. Sylvain's eyes hungrily rake over Felix's body, taking in the mark he left near his shoulder and the line of dark hair trailing from his torso down under his waistband and, when he descends again, he wraps a hand behind Felix's head and leaves another mark, further down from the one before.

Felix throws an arm around Sylvain's neck and holds them close, his other hand grasping at Sylvain's waist. Sylvain's hand runs down the inside of Felix's thigh, squeezing through the thick material of his pants. He groans and pulls at Sylvain's hair. Fuck.

"Fuck, babe, you're so sensitive," Sylvain breathes over Felix's cheek, who jerks into him.

"Sh— nngh— Shut up." Felix is squirming into Sylvain's hand, creeping back up closer and closer to his dick.

"Fuck, just look at y—"

"No, shut up!" Felix pushes Sylvain off him, panting for breath, hair absolutely fucked. "Don't talk to me like that!" he hisses.

"O-oh, okay," Sylvain says, face flushed, holding himself off Felix's body. "I—"

"No! Just— just let me pretend I'm not some shitty hookup or mistake or whatever. I don't want that. I don't want to feel like that."

Felix's eyes are shut as he catches his breath, but he can feel Sylvain ease himself to lay by Felix's side, keeping an arm draped over his chest. He's cold without Sylvain's body against him. As he grounds himself he's painfully aware of the hard floor pressing into his back.

Felix's breath has largely evened out before Sylvain speaks again.

"That's... you were never a hookup," Sylvain whispers, "Shit, I drank too much. I fucked it all up."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Felix turns to look at Sylvain, who's leaning on his elbow and looking just beyond him.

The words come out slowly, as if Sylvain is choosing his words very carefully and having a hell of a time with it. "I... Man, this is embarrassing, where do I even start. When did you know you were gay?"

"What does that have to do with anything."

"Just humor me, man, I have a lot to explain."

Felix squeezes his eyes shut in concentration. "I think... I guess I always knew. I didn't even know it was weird until..." He swallows, recalling all the times during their teenage years when Sylvain talked about nothing but girls, Ingrid occasionally talked about boys, and Felix didn't talk. "Until later."

"What made you realize, though?"

You.

"I don't know."

"Hm." Felix opens his eyes and looks at Sylvain, who's still looking off, deep in thought. Sylvain continues, "I didn't know it was an option. Does that make sense? Nobody told me. My parents talked about girlfriends and wives and, well, you know puberty hit me hard. I knew I liked girls and I knew I was supposed to like girls. I knew some people were gay and I even knew some people were bi. I didn't think it was bad, but like, I didn't even consider that it might apply to me."

Felix is silent, eyes on Sylvain.

"When you left, man, that fucked with me," Sylvain forces out a choked laugh and Felix's heart drops, "But I still didn't fucking realize... I didn't realize until Dimitri and Dedue announced their engagement that the way I missed you, it wasn't like I was missing a friend or a brother. It's like I was missing half of myself."

Felix is struggling to keep up; Dimitri and Dedue? Since when had Dimitri liked men?

Sylvain's voice cracks, "I was too fucking stupid to realize I was in love with you."

The words settle between them, rolling out of Sylvain like fog through the mountains, coming to rest on the floor where they lay and where Sylvain's hand remains on Felix's chest. There's silence. Sylvain isn't looking at Felix and Felix's brain is still trying to catch up.

After what feels like an eternity Felix speaks. "I wish I fucking knew that."

"I wasn't trying to keep it from y—"

"That's not what I said."

"Oh."

Felix sighs and rubs his temples, trying to come up with the words. "Things just would've gone differently if I knew that. Maybe I wouldn't have left at all. Maybe I would've invited you. Made it real fucking romantic, start a new life together or something. I— it wasn't all about Glenn and my father. If we're gonna have fucking confession hour on your nasty floor, which is disgusting, by the way," Felix pushes an empty pizza box away from them. Sylvain's eyes follow his hand. "I couldn't keep watching you hit on girls and I couldn't keep listening to you talk about them. It fucking hurt." Felix's voice drops to a whisper, "I couldn't get over you. All I could think about when you went off with some girl was how much better I'd be for you. I was so angry that you couldn't just see that."

I was in love with you, too.

Sylvain's hand glides up from Felix's chest to his cheek. His thumb catches a tear Felix didn't even realize had escaped. "You should've told me."

Felix snorts. "How?!"

Sylvain's gaze finally meets Felix's and he smiles, his eyes shining with joy and what Felix realizes are tears he's been trying to hold back. "Like this."

This kiss is different. It's slow, deliberate. It acknowledges and embraces the confessions hanging between them, absorbing into their chests and bodies and filling them up without swallowing them whole. Felix runs a hand through Sylvain's hair and lightly runs his nails against his scalp, pulling a sigh from Sylvain's lips. When they part Felix feels dizzy, having to blink several times to make sense of his surroundings, and Sylvain looks dazed.

"That wasn't smooth, that was fucking cheesy," Felix mumbles, "And that was some of the worst shit that's ever come out of my mouth."

"But you meant it, right?"

Felix rolls his eyes. "Why would I lie about that."

Sylvain chuckles and gives Felix a peck on the cheek before pushing himself up off the ground. He reaches a hand out to Felix, "Ingrid's gonna be so pissed."

Felix takes his hand and when he stands Sylvain pulls him into his arms. "Add it to my tab," he growls. He rests his chin on Sylvain's shoulder and catches a glimpse of the time—

"Fuck!" Sylvain jumps and Felix cringes, immediately regretting yelling directly next to Sylvain's ear. "Sorry, sorry, I didn't— it's fucking three in the morning. The train stopped hours ago and there's not gonna be any fucking cabs out at this hour."

Sylvain shrugs. "Oh darn! Oh no! Whatever will we do!" He picks up a struggling Felix effortlessly and throws him onto his bed. "Oh nooo! You'll have to stay the night!" He continues this while he throws his comforter over Felix, who's bright red and sputtering, and doesn't stop when he turns off the lights and crawls into bed. "This is just awful! I sure wish you had kept better track of the time! You fool!"

"Knock it off!" Felix grunts as he's pulled into Sylvain, who clearly intends to snuggle him into submission, "I can walk home!"

"That's a stupid idea," Sylvain responds. He's adjusted himself so he's half on top of him, one leg between both of Felix's and his arm draped across. "You wanna know a good idea? Sleep."

Felix doesn't disagree.


Felix wakes up freezing cold several hours later. Groggily he blinks his eyes open and processes his surroundings; the drapes are open, revealing the first rays of the morning sun. It smells like pizza. He turns his head and sees the empty delivery boxes scattered across the floor.

"What the fuck," he mumbles, and when he goes to sit up he realizes there's a weight across his torso holding him down. He cranes his neck to see Sylvain, wrapped up in his entire comforter with only his head and arm exposed.

Scowling, he pulls a section of blanket out from under Sylvain, who doesn't move. It's... not a lot, but Sylvain's a solid fucking log and, try as he might, he can't pull any more blanket out. Defeated, he curls up into Sylvain (with as much blanket as he can get), who pulls him closer in his sleep and nuzzles into the top of his head. He doesn't remember falling back asleep.


Felix's desk is situated a floor above the lab in a large, open room with worn carpet tiles and stark white walls. In some horrible, misguided attempt at modernity, the manager had done away with cubicle walls shortly before Felix's arrival, insisting open concept offices improve productivity and coworker relations. The pointed way Felix and his coworkers avoid eye contact tells another story entirely.

A benefit to his rekindled friendship— relationship?— with Sylvain is he has something other than his desk to stare at between reports while restoring brain power.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: u get home safe?

me: Yes. I can ride a train by myself.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: haha got u

so i think i got the outline done, what do u think

There's a picture of some lined paper covered with Sylvain's horrendous handwriting.

me: I'm sure that's fine. Are you still doing that?

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: yea dude we spent all that time planning it, ofc i'm gonna do it

or did you think that was just an excuse to see u ;)

i can come up with better excuses than that

Felix hovers longer than he'll admit over the next photo in their message log.

me: Ugh.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: aww u love it ;)

when do u wanna film

me: My next day off is Saturday.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: man that's so long. ok, let's do saturday

hey do u wanna come over on like, tuesday?

i'll make dinner

it'll be all romantic

me: I have a job, Sylvan. I can't go out on weeknights.

Sylvain*

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: aww i'll get u home before curfew

me: No you won't.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: haha yeah no i won't

but come over friday

and stay the weekend

me: Fine.

Felix pushes down a small smile forming on his lips and glances back up to the report he's been working on for the better part of two days. He needs to focus on his work; he knows he does. But his mind keeps going to this stupid video he agreed to. He's positive it's going to be a waste of time and effort. The data in front of him, he assures himself, is not a waste of time and effort, and requires his full attention. He shakes head and tries to work.

Over the last two days he and Sylvain have been texting far, far more than he's ever texted before. Sylvain seems to particularly enjoy sending photos of his food, his work, and himself wearing very little clothing. Felix had tried to reciprocate but got flustered with Sylvain's immediate response.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: uh oh! ur hickies are fading! gotta refresh

Disgusting.

Is what Felix tells himself every time he rereads the message.

Chapter Text

When Felix arrives at Sylvain's apartment on Friday he's immediately greeted with a kiss.

"Dude, I'm so glad you're here. I gotta—"

Felix grabs Sylvain's wrist as he turns to walk deeper into his apartment. "Nope. You're coming with me."

"Huh?"

"Get your keys."

"Oh, okay," Sylvain says, clearly thrown off his game. Felix breathes a sigh of relief that Sylvain's wearing normal clothes. "Where are we going?"

"I'll show you when you get your damn keys."

Sylvain is already next to Felix, locking his door as he speaks. He looks at Felix expectantly.

"Well, let's go! Sweep me off my feet!"

Felix rolls his eyes and leads the way, down the elevator, past the front office ("Get me a visitor's parking pass.") and out to his car. Sylvain whistles.

"Damn, Felix! A mid-grade sedan in black!"

"Just get in the fucking car," he growls as he throws himself into the driver's seat. After making sure his parking pass is set up, and that Sylvain is wearing his damn seatbelt, he starts the car. He's barely out of the parking lot when Sylvain starts talking.

"So where are we going?"

"You'll know in twenty minutes."

He can hear the smile in Sylvain's voice. "Ohh, a mystery. Is it a romantic dinner?"

"No."

"Are you proposing?"

"No."

"Are you gonna murder me?"

"Yes."

"I knew it."

Felix's driving is smooth; calculated. After living here for three years he knows these roads by heart and is accustomed to the drivers. Rush hour traffic, while slow, doesn't phase him whatsoever. However, it's clearly stressing Sylvain out. He's sunk down in his seat and is fucking around on his phone. When Felix slams on his brakes Sylvain nearly chokes.

"It's fine," Felix states. He leaves no room for argument.

Sylvain breathes shakily. "Uh-huh. Hey, Ingrid's asking about you again. She wants to talk to you."

"I don't want to talk to her," Felix responds. His knuckles turn white around the steering wheel and there's an edge of finality to his voice.

"Yeah, I thought so," Sylvain sighs, "Can I just tell her what you're up to? It might make her chill."

Felix shrugs. "Whatever, it's not like I'm ever gonna see her again."

"Uhh, you're definitely gonna see her again," Sylvain says slowly, "You're my plus one to Dimitri and Dedue's wedding, you're gonna see everyone again."

A blush creeps up Felix's cheeks. "I'm what?"

"What, did you think I wasn't gonna take you as my date?"

Felix mutters something that sounds suspiciously like "Fuck that."

"Yeah, good luck getting out of this one, bud. You're my plus one."

"I'll be sure to fuck it up before then."

Felix doesn't tell Sylvain about the warm feeling he gets when he's referred to as his date. He focuses on the SUV ahead of him and tries to cool off. As always, Sylvain's voice brings him right back to his seat.

Sylvain narrates his message as he writes it. "I'm in... Felix's car... He's taking me... To get murdered... Send."

Felix is too focused on the road to roll his eyes at that. A white pickup nearly merges into his car. He hits his breaks to let them in front and Sylvain whines.

"Calm down, I'm an excellent driver."

"Whatever you say, dude," Sylvain says shakily, clearly unconvinced.

"We're almost at the exit. If there wasn't any traffic we'd literally be a minute away."

"Why didn't we go when there wasn't any traffic?"

"I have a normal people job, Sylvain."

Sylvain doesn't respond. Felix listens to his shaky breathing and reaches over to rest a reassuring hand on his leg. Sylvain laces their fingers together and, while his grip is tight, his breathing evens out. The drive continues in silence for several minutes, until—

"Oh, uh, Ingrid's facetiming me."

"No."

"Hey Ingrid!" Felix scowls at Sylvain's chipper greeting. Lovely. This is just lovely.

"Sylvain! What the hell is going on!" Ingrid's voice not-quite-yells through Sylvain's speakerphone. "And sit up when you're in the car, what if you get in an accident?"

Sylvain straightens up with a grimace. Out of the corner of his eye Felix can see Ingrid's face on the screen. He hopes she can't see him.

"I told you! Felix is taking me somewhere to get murdered," he replies easily, "Don't you listen?"

"No, Sylvain, what's going on with Felix? None of us hear from him for years and now you're spending your weekends with him? Are you holding hands?"

Felix retracts his hand and takes a deep breath. He can keep his cool. He knows he can. He takes the exit and focuses really, really hard on finding the next turn.

"Oh, Felix is good!" He can hear the nerves return to Sylvain's voice. "Yeah, he's good! He's just drivin', worked all week, you know how it goes."

Ingrid's heavy sigh comes through the phone. "You know what I mean."

The turn's coming up. Four blocks, he thinks. Then it's a few minutes down the next road, then they park, and then Sylvain will have no choice but to end the conversation.

"Uh, I do not know what you mean."

"Felix!" Ingrid is projecting her voice, "What the fuck?"

Felix does not respond.

"Ingrid, he's driving!"

"What, can't talk and drive?"

Felix decides that he cannot, in fact, talk and drive.

"Hey, Ingrid!" Sylvain's trying a distraction tactic. Good. "Did you know Felix is gay?"

"Sylvain! what the fuck!" Felix snaps.

"What? Was that a secret?"

"Color me shocked," Ingrid says in an exasperated tone, "Sylvain, I think you're the only one who didn't know that."

Felix swears under his breath as he takes the next turn. Just a few more minutes. They're almost there.

"Well! Now that we've established Felix can talk and drive," Ingrid continues, "What the fuck?"

"Can't hear you." Felix responds quietly so she can't hear. He can tell Sylvain has shifted his phone to include both of them in the frame. He ignores this new development.

"You have bangs."

Felix says nothing. They're so close. Just a few more blocks.

"We all miss you, you know." She says softly. Felix shoves that sentiment right up his icy—

"He already knows, I already told him," Sylvain sighs, "Look, he already told me what happened. It's complicated."

"You know, Felix, if you opened up once in awhile instead of just running away—"

"I didn't run away," Felix cuts her off.

"What do you call this?!"

"Moving on with my life. Unlike the rest of you."

"Ah, uh," Sylvain adjusts himself and Felix breathes a sigh of relief with the camera is no longer on him, "You know what? Felix is still driving! Can't talk and drive!"

"I swear to—"

Felix and Sylvain don't hear what Ingrid swears to as Felix turns into the parking garage and the call drops. Sylvain swears.

"Shit, she's gonna think I hung up on her," he says, frantically typing on his phone, "I just gotta... Sorry... Parking garage..."

"Do you really need to narrate your texts out loud."

"I think quicker if I do it out loud!"

Felix doesn't respond. Instead, he parks and removes the keys from the ignition.

"Let's go," he says. Sylvain lets himself out and stretches.

"Man, I hate when anyone else drives," he mutters. "Where are we, anyway?"

"We're getting you some fucking chairs."


The store is huge. A set of escalators brings them to the main showroom where what must have been an entire team of designers have set up room after room after room of configurations, showing off the functionality and style of the store's furniture. Felix is looking over the store map, trying to determine the quickest route to the dining furniture, when Sylvain grabs his hand and drags him to a living room display.

"Dude, look at this." Sylvain leads them to an enormous shelf unit hanging from a false wall. Felix watches, entirely unimpressed, as Sylvain slides the shelves aside to display a hidden television. "What is this? This is cool as hell!"

"That's kind of the point of this store," Felix points out, "They make a lot of multifunctional furniture. It's supposed to be geared towards people who live in shoeboxes, like you."

"Wow..."

Felix shakes his head and drags Sylvain on. This task proves to be much more intensive than he expected, with Sylvain dragging him off to look at every sofa bed and coffee table he finds even remotely interesting.

"Sylvain. We only have a few hours. Please stop," Felix groans while Sylvain inspects a self-watering planter. He pouts but relents, though when he moves to set the planter down Felix snatches it from his hands. "You're getting a plant, anyway."

"What? You're buying me a plant?"

"Your desk looks better with a plant on it and those flowers will die."

Sylvain shrugs and lets Felix drag him around, though he can't help pointing out every little thing.

"Hey, Felix! That kitchen is as big as my entire apartment!"

"Felix! That couch is just a mattress folded in half! Wild!"

"Is that a flower or a light? Felix?!"

And when Felix turns the corner and Sylvain sees an entire wall covered floor to ceiling in chairs his jaw drops. He pulls out his phone and grabs Felix around the shoulders, forcing him into frame for the most absurd selfie in existence.

"Shit, my followers are gonna love this," Sylvain mutters as he types furiously on his phone.

"Will Ingrid?"

"Oh, good point, I should send a photo to Ingrid so she knows I wasn't lying."

Felix rolls his eyes. "Stupid," he mutters, returning his attention to hundreds of fucking chairs in front of him. He's looking for something simple, a lighter wood to match Sylvain's desk, cushioned. Sylvain seems to just be looking.

"Hey I like this one! It's blue!" Sylvain declares. Felix looks over to see Sylvain very closely inspecting a blue acrylic chair.

"That won't match your apartment," Felix retorts, "And look at the price."

Sylvain picks up the tag and chokes.

"I don't like this one anymore."

A small smile sneaks across Felix's face. Sylvain looks like... He looks like so many things. He looks like an excited puppy; like he's having the time of his life surrounded by home furnishings. It's domestic. It's almost innocent in a way, even if innocent is the last word Felix would use to describe him. It's earnest.

"What're you smiling at, hm? Like what you see?" Sylvain says with a sly grin. Felix shakes his head, clearing his non-chair related thoughts.

"What do you think of this one?" Felix gestures to a simple ladderback chair, stained honey with a light grey cushion.

Sylvain whistles. "Looks like a chair!"

"Is that good enough for your delicate sensibilities?"

"I dunno, I kinda want you to design my entire apartment now. What do you think, Mr. Sensible?" Sylvain asks with a wink.

Felix takes a photo of the item's name and warehouse location and turns to look at Sylvain. "I definitely have better taste than you."

Sylvain chuckles. "Always have. Where do we get these? Do we need a cart?"

"We get them in the warehouse on the way out, now let's pick out a table."

"Whoa, whoa! I was joking about designing my entire apartment, you don't need to do that!"

"I said pick out a table. I'm not letting you put your food on the fucking floor again."


Night has long since fallen by the time they make it back to Sylvain's apartment, laden with flat box furniture and knick knacks. Sylvain had insisted all this stuff wouldn't fit in Felix's small car right up until Felix, while maintaining eye contact, folded his backseat down. Now Sylvain's apartment is full of cardboard and discarded packaging materials. Felix sits amongst bits of wood and metal, scowling as he attempts to screw a piece in with a keyring.

"I cannot believe you don't own a screwdriver," he grunts, trying to get the screw down the last tiny bit.

"I didn't need one!" Sylvain whines as he attempts to twist a screw in with his bare hands. "Who just has a screwdriver lying around?"

"An adult!" Felix exclaims, exhausted. He gestures to the coins and meat tenderizer scattered on the floor between then. "Adults have a toolbox! With basic tools!"

"Nobody told me!"

Felix sets the finished chair he was working on upright, next to the folding leaf table they managed to assemble without killing each other. "I'm telling you right now."

"That you are, Fraldarius." He makes one more twist and flips the chair he was working on to match Felix's. "Let's get a screwdriver tomorrow, two chairs and a table is enough for dinner."

"Tell me you're not ordering pizza again."

Sylvain winks. "Not tonight! It's time for chef Sylvain." He takes a moment to snap a photo of his new furniture before damn near skipping to the kitchen. Felix, now highly suspicious, follows behind him.

"Since when do you cook?" Felix asks, eyeing Sylvain as he pulls out cookware and noodles and shrimp. "I'm not sure I trust you with seafood."

"Have a little faith!"

Felix does not have a little faith. Though it was several years ago, seeing Sylvain stand in front of a stove brings back memories of grease fires and charred pancakes. He watches, paying attention to every detail, as Sylvain manages to boil water, melt butter, and season (season!) the shrimp. He grimaces, ready for disaster as Sylvain, master of fucking up, pours the shrimp into a pan with a thin layer of oil.

"I told you it would be fine," Sylvain turns to see Felix's lingering look of fear, "You can learn anything on the internet. I mean anything."

Though Sylvain has managed to avoid disaster, Felix still isn't convinced. He's not convinced when the burners are off, he's not convinced when the food makes it to a plate instead of to the floor, and he's not convinced sitting in front of it at the table they just put together.

He is, however, convinced when he takes a hesitant bite.

"If I get parasites from this, I'll kill you," Felix finally says halfway through his plate.

Sylvain grins. "It's good though, isn't it?"

He answers by taking an enormous bite while maintaining steady, unblinking eye contact.

"Oh yeah," Sylvain snorts, "This video's gonna go great."

"You don't sound very confident."

"With the power of editing, I can have all the confidence in the world!"

Felix rolls his eyes. He tries to hide his repressed nervousness. "Where are we going for that, anyway?"

"Oh, I thought we'd just do it here."

Felix raises an eyebrow.

"What, you think I had time to set something up with a rescue? Nah, we're just gonna have a conversation at this amazing table my, uh, what should I call you?"

Felix swallows and this time his nerves come through. "Wh-what do you want to call me?"

His heart skips a beat at the soft smile that crosses Sylvain's face. Radiant, joyful, all the things Felix is not. All the things he told himself he couldn't have. All the things he threw himself into his work to forget about and move past.

"Can I call you my boyfriend?"

Felix's answer gets caught in his throat. He looks at the floor and gathers all his strength and slowly, hesitantly, he nods.

The familiar weight of Sylvain's hands clasp on his shoulders and he says lowly, "This amazing table my boyfriend bought me."

Chapter Text

"And, as always, thanks for comin'."

"You've recorded that four times!" Felix throws his hands up, "Do you really have to say that again?!"

Ever the cheeky asshole, Sylvain turns to Felix and gives him the same exaggerated wink he gave to the camera. Felix pushes his face away.

They've finally started wrapping up the video after spending the better part of the morning and early afternoon talking about the science behind bat conservation and making stupid quips back and forth. While recording, Sylvain took no less than sixteen selfies and videos ("You gotta post this stuff to build hype! Trust me."), allowed them to get off topic for at least two hours of footage ("Blooper reel and outtakes, dude."), and took no less than three breaks for tea and snacks ("Gotta keep the mind sharp!"). Much to Felix's dismay, Sylvain had insisted on recording the whole thing as a conversation to see how it's received. He's exhausted, fed up, and dreading putting his face on the internet.

"I can't believe two interns already saw your stupid posts," Felix grumbles, throwing his phone facedown on the table. "I'm gonna get an earful on Monday."

"Aww, I'm famous at your office!"

"Don't remind me."

Sylvain is up and fiddling with the camera, carefully unplugging cords and removing it from its tripod. "You're gonna be sooo popular. Everyone's gonna wanna talk to you."

"I'm leaving," Felix says, making no movement to leave.

Sylvain pauses what he's doing to pout at Felix. "But we're having a weekend getaway!"

"We are absolutely not having a weekend getaway."

"It counts."

Felix watches Sylvain as he digs around his desk, fumbling through the mass of tangled cords, knocking everything else around in his search, until he finally finds a cord that fits into the camera. When he sits down in front of his computer Felix remembers, belatedly, that he brought his own laptop to try and get some work done. In the time it takes his laptop to boot up Sylvain has returned to the chair across the table.

"So, uh," Sylvain points to Felix's keyboard, "What happened to your six and nine keys?"

Felix blushes. "I can't figure out how to get them back on."

"Just the uh, the sixty-nine keys?"

"Shut up, that's all that fell off."

"How did they fall off?"

Felix grumbles and looks away. "I drank a lot that night."

Sylvain snorts. "That same night?"

"A lot happened that night!"

"I want a play by play."

"Absolutely not."

"Please?" Sylvain attempts to pout but fails to hold back his laughter. Felix looks back at him and has to look away immediately when he's struck by Sylvain's unmasked joy.

"Don't make that face at me," he growls and Sylvain claps him on the shoulder.

"Whatever you say, boss!" Sylvain stands and leans over the table to place a kiss on Felix's head. "You know, that footage is gonna take forever to sync, let's do something fun."

Felix sighs and pushes his laptop to the side. "Fine. What exactly do you have in mind."

"I'll show you!" Sylvain leaps over the table and picks up Felix bridal style— "No! Put me down!"— and leaps into the bed with him in his arms.

"We've got a lot of time before that's ready," Sylvain says lowly against Felix's cheek. He shudders. "I know what I wanna do. What do you wanna do?"

Felix tries to adjust himself against Sylvain and instead gets held tighter. "This cannot be comfortable for you," he replies, avoiding the question.

"Hm? Sorry, I didn't quite hear what you wanna do."

Felix looks up to glare at Sylvain and is caught completely off-guard by the way he's looking at him. There's a hunger in his eyes, a hot determination that strikes through Felix's nerves and straight into his heart and his dick. Felix swallows; he can feel a blush rising and whatever retort he had has been lost. He hardly registers his silence until Sylvain brings him back.

"Hey, you alright? Was that too much?"

Sylvain's gaze has gone from hungry to concerned. Felix wants it to go back.

He kisses Sylvain.

He kisses Sylvain, needy and aggressive. He runs a hand up Sylvain's throat and around to his neck and into his hair. Sylvain's kissing him back, sucking at his bottom lip, and when he loosens his hold for only a moment Felix whines and then yelps when he flips them over so Felix's back is against the bed and Sylvain's hand is pulling his ponytail out while the other grasps at his thigh.

They've kissed before. They've kissed and gotten handsy and intense, but with Sylvain's hand wrapped around his thigh, pulling them together at the hips, and with his warm body pressing him into the mattress, something snaps. Felix grinds into Sylvain and grins in blushing satisfaction when he can feel the other's erection pressing against his jeans. Sylvain's hand on his leg grips him tighter and Felix groans at the pressure. He hopes there's finger-shaped bruises left behind and wonders what filthy shit Sylvain will say when he sends a photo of the fading marks come Monday.

"Felix," Sylvain gasps against his lips, "Felix, I want you. I want you."

"Then shut up and do it," Felix replies. He can feel, rather than hear, Sylvain's sharp intake of breath immediately before he dives down to suck at Felix's neck.

"Hey! I have a— ah!— I have a job, asshole!" Sylvain nips at the same spot before yanking Felix's shirt over his head and working the skin just above his collarbone. His hands press into Felix's waist and back and he arches into Sylvain's touch, breath ghosting over his ear with his hands tangled in red hair and pulling at his denim waistband.

Then Sylvain's hand makes its way down, his fingertips pressing into Felix's body as he traces a path down his waist, over his hip. He follows the seam across his waistband and when he finally, finally runs his thumb up his dick Felix grinds into his hand, pulling Sylvain as close as he can by the hips, trapping his hand between them. Sylvain kisses back up Felix's neck and when their lips meet again he squeezes Felix through his pants.

Sylvain is, unsurprisingly, good with his hands. Felix is warm and soft underneath him, a stark contrast to his typical glacial demeanor, his body pulsing and on fire as Sylvain works him through layers of clothing. His own hands make deft work of Sylvain's jeans, who helps by kicking them off when Felix can't reach to push them down further. Sylvain reaches up with one hand and pulls his shirt over his head. Felix's hips raise to follow his hand when he has to let go to finish undressing. When Sylvain's hand returns to him it's needier, clumsier, and Felix is distinctly aware Sylvain is completely undressed over him while his stupid fucking pants stay.

"Take them off," Felix demands. Sylvain smiles against him.

"I suppose, since you asked so nicely," he says as he's already unzipping Felix and running his fingers underneath his clothing. He leans forward to Felix's ear and whispers, "Actually, I kinda like you like this. I love a little mystery."

Sylvain lets go of Felix's dick and rubs his own. He presses his hips forward so Felix can feel his hand moving against his torso. Felix can't stand it; he can't stand the way Sylvain bites his own lip as he strokes himself and he absolutely can't stand the look in Sylvain's eyes, like he knows exactly what he's doing to him. With a huff he slides his own damn pants down.


Sylvain's body is shaking against his, his hands still trying to hold Felix close but unable to keep a firm grip in his post-orgasm haze. His breath is labored into Felix's neck, which is flushed red and sporting a very clear mark.

"Shit," Sylvain breathes, "We could've been doing this for so long."

Felix would roll his eyes if he had any energy left in his body. "No, we couldn't have. You were a disgusting horndog all through puberty. I would've killed you."

"Heh, I suppose that's true." Sylvain shudders as he strains to roll off of Felix and onto his back. "You always knew, huh?"

Felix doesn't respond. Instead, he turns his head to look at Sylvain, who's gazing at him with soft eyes and a small, earnest smile.

They lay like this for awhile, hands providing an anchor with one another as they come down. Sylvain's eyes drift shut and, as his breathing slows, he pulls Felix's knuckles over and presses his lips against them. He smiles.

"You're sticky."

Felix grimaces. "Then get a rag."

"Nah," Sylvain says as he sits up with great effort, "I have a better idea."

Sylvain doesn't have the strength to carry Felix, and Felix doesn't have the strength to fight back. He takes Felix's hand and leads him into the bathroom and into the shower.


When Felix walks through the front door to his apartment Sunday evening he expects to feel relieved to be in his own apartment; instead, he feels lonely. He sets his bag down in an empty chair next to his dining table, crosses his arms, and looks around at the place he's called home the last three years. He was lucky, really, that he managed to land a cheap apartment so close to his job immediately. The property management is absent, the street traffic is loud, and the parking garage is insecure, but he can't hear his neighbors and the air conditioning works. As far as he's concerned he has the best apartment in the city.

Although it definitely isn't big enough for two beds. He'd get rid of his and bring in Sylvain's. Sylvain has a comfortable mattress.

He'd have to move stuff around in his living room for Sylvain's monster of a desk. He doesn't use his own, much preferring to work at his dining table. He won't miss it; he'll toss it this week.

Hell, his dining table and chairs were picked up at a resale store for cheap. One of the chairs busted a few weeks after and he's had to be gentle with them ever since. He's been meaning to replace the whole set but never got around to it. If he were to replace it, he'd probably get exactly what he got for Sylvain.

The rest of his furniture would be fine; it's not like Sylvain even has a couch or a television—

Wait.

He shakes his head.

He throws out his desk anyway.


me: You are so lucky I already wear turtlenecks.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: hm? what ever do you mean?

i did nothing. i claim innocence.

me: Six interns have asked me why I was in your stories. What does that mean.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: don't worry about it

me: Sylvain.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: i said don't worry about it!!

anyway

video's going up tomorrow ;)

wanna come over and celebrate?

me: It wasn't already up? We did that four days ago.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: yea bb editing takes tiiiiime

but it's ready and u should be proud

i got it under 10 minutes

me: Another intern wants your number.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: sux to be them

come over tomorrow

me: I work the day after. I'll come over Friday.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: what if i come over

me: Fine.

Chapter Text

The next day Felix wishes he never agreed to the stupid video.

"You said you didn't know him!" his coworker, Edward S, whines at his desk. "How did you get in with him so fast?"

"Our parents were friends," Felix grumbles back. Edward S is very clearly taken aback; Felix doesn't talk about his personal life, it must be surprising to learn Felix even has a personal life.

"So you did know him!"

"I hadn't seen in him years. I basically didn't know him."

Unfortunately for Felix, these conversations don't end at the interns and Edward S; in fact, by the end of the day, it seems everyone in the lab is at least aware Felix allowed a video camera to record his face. More than one person has shown him comments declaring the two a great couple and, despite his best attempts to mask his reaction, his blush is a dead giveaway and now the entire fucking building knows.

He wastes no time telling Sylvain how big a mistake this was.

"I'm not kidding!" he sputters out to a very amused Sylvain, "Within an hour of posting that stupid video I had interns crawling over my desk and asking stupid questions!"

"That comes with the territory," Sylvain responds before stuffing a massive bite of pizza in his mouth.

As suggested by Sylvain, the pair is spending the evening at Felix's apartment, where they have such amenities as a couch and a separate room for the bed. The coffee table in front of them holds an obscene amount of delivery, half of which has already been devoured, leaving behind empty grease traps and crumbs.

"Apparently like, a bunch of conservation group shared it, you know," Sylvain says, mouth still half full of food, "I got a couple emails, too. Places thanking me, you know? It's only been up for a few hours and people are already submitting volunteer applications. It's wild."

"We'll see if anyone follows through," Felix mutters.

"Always the pessimist! Besides, I think if one person wants to make a difference because of you, then it was worth it."

Felix's face warms and he can feel the blush reaching to the tips of his ears. "I hardly did anything."

Sylvain finishes the slice he's working on and wraps his arms around Felix's torso, leaning his head against his waist. "Nah, you did all the hard work. I just have a camera and a dashing smile."

Felix doesn't respond. He considers Sylvain's words, grappling with the dichotomy between the slow, tedious, but trackable difference he's able to make working behind a computer screen and stacks of paper, and the nebulous concept of, what, inspiring a difference? He much prefers his own approach.

Though he can't deny the warm feeling bubbling up inside him.

"It's fulfilling, isn't it?" Sylvain asks. Felix glances at him and finds Sylvain has been watching his face.

"I guess," he scoffs.


sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: felix

feeeelix

feeeeeeeeeeliiiiiiiiiixxxxxxxxxx

me: What.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: what are u gonna wear to dimitri and dedue's wedding

me: I don't care.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: ok cool so i can get you a pink leopard print tux

thanks bb

me: Absolutely not.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: cmooonnnnnn

pink suits u

it brings out ur blush

me: I can no longer make it. You have to find someone else.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: :o

was that.... A JOKE???????

me: No. I'm serious.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: :(

me: No.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: :((((((((

feliiixxxxx

Felix rolls his eyes at the photo that pops up next. Sylvain took a photo of his pouting face and added fake tears, some of which are sparkling.

me: No.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: uggghhhhhhh fiiiiiiine we can wear whatever you want.....

me: We?!

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: well yeah, duh, we gotta match

ur my DATE

me: That's stupid.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: ;)

Trying not to think about returning to a life he left behind matching with the only person he wanted to keep, Felix returns his phone to its position next to his keyboard and turns his attention back to his report. He manages to get through a few more lines before another interruption.

"Felix! Felix," the lab manager who's soft face belies her sharp tongue approaches his desk and sets down several binders and a stack of paper, "I have a project for you."

He eyes the stack of shit placed on his desk and doesn't respond.

"Great," she continues, "This sort of thing will be good for your career, though I don't need to tell you that. Here's research from the past two years. A few labs have submitted data and reports. It's very thorough. We're presenting a proposal for more funding in the region. You know how important that is."

He waits for her to explain why this is any different from the proposals he's drafted the last three years. She doesn't disappoint.

"I need this to be presentable by next Wednesday."

And there it is. He closes his eyes and draws in a deep breath before responding. "Is there any particular reason a team isn't being assigned to this?"

"Ah, Felix, you know we're understaffed!" They're always understaffed. "Besides, don't you want your name on something like this? It would open all sorts of doors for you."

That much is undeniable; he knows damn well the only way to move up in this lab through securing the grants and funding they need to pay, and a promotion means more control over both lab and field research. More control over lab and field research means he can focus on topics that actually make a difference. These kinds of independent projects, time consuming as they are, are an excellent opportunity to prove himself.

"Of course," he sighs. He picks up the stack of papers and thumbs through, ignoring the lab manager's beaming.

"Excellent, I'm thrilled to hear it! Wrap up what you're working on here and pass it off to an intern, I want you to focus on this."

Mind buzzing and manager leaving, Felix turns back to his computer. Out of the corner of his eye he sees his phone screen go dark. He sighs and allows himself one more distraction before he gets back to work. When he reads the first message his stomach turns.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: so ingrid's coming down for a few days

i know ur not happy with her

but

i think u two should talk

me: I thought you didn't give her your address for a reason.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: yea the reason is my apartment is a tiny nightmare

she found a cheap place to stay nearby and we're gonna kick it

me: Have fun.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: pleeeeeease hang out

if u don't then i won't see u for three whole days :(

me: You won't see me this week anyway. I was assigned to a big project. It's going to take up all my time.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: whaaaat!!!!!

i mean congrats and all but :( no time???? :(

me: Sorry. This is a big deal, I have to focus on it.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: :(!!!!

can i just come over tonight and be lowkey. we can both work

me: Ok.

He places his phone facedown on the desk.


"So you definitely, definitely don't have time?"

Felix looks between the thoroughly marked up documents on the table and his laptop before responding. "I definitely, absolutely, do not have time."

He doesn't look up to see Sylvain's familiar, disappointed face.

"This suuuuucks," he whines, resting his head in his arms, "I miss you."

"I'm right here."

"Yeah, but you're working! And I won't get to see you all weekend!" Sylvain sighs, "Ugh, Ingrid chose the worst time to visit."

"No, she chose the perfect time to visit."

Felix hasn't been shy about his avoidance of Ingrid. He's held strong avoiding her's and Sylvain's conversations and staunchly refusing to allow his number to be shared or added to any fucking awful group chats. He's exhausted from the late nights and long hours he's pulling to finish this proposal on time, but he can admit to himself that he's thankful for the timing. He hates telling Sylvain no, hates the genuinely sad look on his face that's completely distinct from his fake pout. At the very least he can blame this on his job and put off having to face his old life so soon.

"Look, I know the wedding isn't for a few moons, but you should probably talk to her before then."

Felix hums noncommittally.

"Can you make time for one lunch this weekend? Please?"

Felix rubs the bridge of his nose and sighs. "Maybe. We'll see," he concedes, "I'm serious when I say this is taking up all my time. I'm working on it at work, too."

Sylvain groans. "That sucks! Is this a normal thing you have to do?"

"It will be if I do a good enough job."

"Wait, you want this?"

"This is how normal jobs work," Felix responds sharply, "You work your ass off, you get a promotion. If you'd ever worked you would know this."

There's a pause. Felix briefly wonders if he went too far.

"Normal jobs give you time to live your life, dude."

"Excuse me?"

"It's just—" Sylvain drags his hands down his face and sighs, "For as long as I've known you your entire life has been about work! When you weren't studying you were running or reading or whatever, but it's like— it's like you don't even know there's more. There's so much more! You've been like this ever since Glenn died and it got even worse after your fath—"

"My father and Glenn have nothing to do with this." Felix has frozen, his tone icy. He stares at Sylvain over his laptop and the pity clearly visible in his eyes stabs at his heart and his back. "I've worked— you have no idea how hard I've worked to get here. This is my dream—"

"Your dream is to never stop working? Your dream is to never see me?"

"This isn't about you!"

"No, it's about you." Sylvain closes his eyes but the pity doesn't leave his face. "Nevermind. Just forget it."

Felix narrows his eyes. "No, tell me. Say it."

He sighs. "It just seems pointless if you don't even get to enjoy your life."

Felix's cold facade is boiling over. He isn't sure what he expected from his old friend-turned-lover. Understanding, maybe? The type of quiet acceptance he can only receive from someone who knows every detail about him? The aching pity he's being given, Sylvain's selfish perspective and desires, he wants nothing of it.

"If you're going to sit there and feel sorry for me, get out."

Sylvain's eyes snap open. "Felix?"

"I said get out!"

Felix's voice is raising. He's shaking. "If you don't want to understand, if you don't want to respect me, then just leave! I have work to do."

Sylvain stares blankly. At least the pity's been wiped from his face.

"Felix, that's not—"

"Get out!"

Felix can feel the tears starting to come. Forgetting to be careful, he shoves his chair back to the sound of one of the legs cracking and stands to retrieve Sylvain's things. He shoves his bag into his very bewildered arms.

"Get out!"


sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: hey i'm not really sure what happened

i didn't mean to make you mad

i'm just worried about you. and i miss you

i want you to be happy

i guess if i'm gonna be selfish, i want you to be happy with me

can we talk about this?

ingrid's getting here tomorrow but i can tell her to fuck off for a half hour

please

id on't want to lose you alreadyy

plerse

Felix pretends he doesn't see the very revealing photo Sylvain sends, just as he pretends he doesn't see Sylvain's progressively drunker and drunker texts.. He's covered it in little hearts and crying faces.

imiss u ;(

shit i drank way too much last night. sorry about that

are u up? can we talk?

ingrid's gonna be here in like two hours, i really wanna talk dude

please?

i'm sorry

Chapter Text

SYLVAIN

Shit.

Sylvain sets his phone down and runs a hand through his hair. It's been a long, long time since he got Felix pissed. He would always calm down a few hours or days later, but that was then and this is now. Now they're in a precarious position; between their developing relationship and renewed contact, he wonders if he really, honestly fucked it up this time. The heavy feeling in his chest tells him maybe, but he won't give up without a fight.

He doesn't know how long he sits alone with this thoughts, wondering if there's anything else he can say now or if he should let Felix finish his proposal and just show up at his apartment Wednesday evening, but he's pulled out of his thoughts by his phone ringing. For a wild moment he's expecting Felix's name and he can't help but feel disappointed when his phone displays ingrid.

"Hey, you here?" Sylvain projects his regular cheery voice. After these last few weeks with Felix the disingenuous tone tastes like poison.

"Yes! Yes, I'm out front," Ingrid's familiar voice says through the phone.

"Cool, gimme a sec, I'll be right down." He hangs up and runs a hand through his hair one last time. He can't help but feel a bit like a dumbass; Felix is at work. Even if he wasn't pissed he wouldn't call him in the middle of the day. He's still disappointed.

He takes his time getting to the front entrance and by the time he's facing Ingrid he's calm, composed, and cheery.

"Ingrid, hey!" He greets and she smiles back, "It's been awhile!"

"Eight months, I believe," she replies fondly, "What took so long? What changed your mind?"

Sylvain gestures for her to follow while they continue their conversation. "Honestly? I got a table and chairs."

"Really? That's it?"

Sylvain grins. "You can ask Felix, he said you'd be more pissed at me than at him if you saw the state of my apartment before."

"How's he doing, by the way?"

"Oh, he's really busy with work and, uh, he's really mad at me," Sylvain finishes sheepishly, "I was kind of hoping to work it out before you got here but he's like, really mad."

Ingrid's eyebrows raise and she opens her mouth to respond, though at that moment Sylvain grabs her hand and leads her into a cafe. The very same cafe he took Felix the second time they saw each other. Sylvain swallows. He hadn't thought this through and it's too late to back out now; if Felix wasn't constantly on his mind before he certainly would be now.

Once settled at a table Sylvain attempts to move the conversation forward. "So how've things been—"

"Nope. Nope, you aren't gonna change the subject," Ingrid interrupts. Her eyes have that familiar piercing look, like she can see his each and every thought. "What happened with Felix?"

"Oh, uh, he said he wanted to get a fresh start, you know?"

"Sylvain."

"What? That's what he told me!"

Ingrid shakes her head. "Believe me, Sylvain, when I convince him to talk to me I'll get those answers myself. You're not the most reliable messenger."

"What are you asking about, then?" Sylvain asks, knowing exactly what she's asking about.

"Why is Felix mad?"

"Well, you see, I don't really know." Sylvain looks to the side, to his hands, anywhere but Ingrid. "He yelled at me and hasn't answered any of my texts."

"Okay, but Sylvain, why did he yell at you? If he's anything like he was before he left then this sounds normal. What makes it so serious?"

"I don't know!" Sylvain takes a deep breath before continuing, "I don't know. I was at his place and he was working, I said it's bullshit that he has to work so much and can't enjoy life, and he kicked me out."

Sylvain is still avoiding Ingrid's gaze, but he can feel her staring holes into his soul. When she speaks her words come out slowly and sharply.

"So let me get this straight," her tone sends chills down his spine, "You told Felix he works too much. Felix. This is the same Felix that chastised you for not working hard enough, right? You didn't meet a different Felix?"

Sylvain doesn't respond. He picks up a menu for anything else to look at.

"What, exactly, were you expecting?"

Silence stretches between them. A server brings water and Ingrid very politely orders a cup of tea. Sylvain, never actually having tried the tea, orders a cup for himself. When the server leaves and the silence continues, Sylvain concedes his defeat.

"I was kind of expecting him to spend time with me," he mutters sheepishly.

He chances a glance at Ingrid. She looks exhausted.

"Sylvain, I can't keep cleaning up your messes. Felix won't talk to me, even if I wanted to I wouldn't be able to fix this."

"I'm not—" Sylvain sputters, "I'm not expecting you to fix this!"

"Then why am I holding your hand through it?"

Sylvain can't come up with a good response. Their server returns and sets their tea in front of them, including a pot in the middle of the table. After they order their food Ingrid takes a sip, appearing deep in thought.

"Don't get me wrong, Sylvain," she says slowly, "I'm not happy with him. But you're my friend, and you're a mess. I want you to be happy and, well, this is clearly bothering you. Stop being obtuse and really think about what happened, I can't very easily help if I don't know what happened."

He runs a hand through his hair and sighs. Reluctantly, he tells her about Felix reading research papers on the train, about Felix writing up reports after work, about Felix's proposal that he's been working on morning 'til night with seemingly no breaks. Ingrid listens, quiet and patient, nodding along. The story takes surprisingly long to get through, and as he's wrapping up their food is placed before them.

"And he just— he told me to get out! He shoved my stuff in my hands and told me to get out! I don't get it!" He finishes, throwing his hands up. "He's so mad at me, Ingrid, and I didn't even do anything."

Ingrid, who started eating while Sylvain was speaking, swallows her mouthful of food before responding. "Sylvain, working has always been important to Felix. He's always worked far more than he needs to, even when it wasn't healthy."

"Yeah, and that's the problem!"

"Does he think it's a problem?"

"Clearly not," Sylvain says bitterly. Ingrid blinks at him. "I just— he doesn't even get paid for it!"

Ingrid nods. "Sounds like a salary job that's not afraid to take advantage of their employees."

"It's fucked up!"

"Do you really have to talk like that?"

"But it is!"

"Nobody's arguing that," she sighs. "Sylvain, did you explain this to him? Or did you just say he shouldn't work so much?"

"I mean, I told him there's more to life than work."

"Do I really have to spell this out for you?"

Sylvain blinks at her. "Spell what out for me?"

She shakes her head. "Working too much has always been important to him. Felix has always strived for perfection. Remember when he did his homework on the treadmill because he wanted to stay in shape and didn't want to lose any study time?"

Sylvain snorts. "Yeah, and he looked like a moron taking notes in the gym."

"What I'm saying is you insulted one of the most important things to him."

There's silence as Sylvain's stomach sinks.

"...Shit."

Ingrid nods.

"I was an ass."

Ingrid nods.

"He hates me, now."

Ingrid shrugs.

Sylvain sighs and pulls out his phone.

me: hey, i'm really sorry


FELIX

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: hey, i'm really sorry

i didn't mean to insult you or anything, i'm just worried

it kinda seems like your job's taking advantage of you and i hate that

and i miss you. guilty

ngl ingrid gave me a talking to. i feel like an idiot

i guess i shouldn't be surprised that she has a better read on you than i do lol

sorry, you probably don't wanna hear about that

please let me apologize in person? i'll go to your place just to say sorry and go back home. i don't even care

please, felix, you're really important to me

manpl erse tlak to me

i msis u ;(

Felix stares blankly at the foggy mirror photo Sylvain sent while drunk. Despite being able to see absolutely nothing, a blush creeps up his cheeks.

He sets his phone back to its position facedown on the table and sighs, rubbing his temples. He's managed to finish his outline, complete with very thorough citations, but he lost track of time and now the clock reads 2:03. He's exhausted and, if he's being honest with himself, he's fucking sad. It was nice having Sylvain around to keep him company. And yet, he can't get his fucking words out of his head.

It just seems pointless if you don't even get to enjoy your life.

Everything's fucking pointless.


SYLVAIN

Sylvain wakes up with a jolt the following morning, the sunlight peeking around his curtains causing a searing pain to fly through his skull. He groans and pulls his blanket over his head and nearly falls back asleep until he hears a sharp knock at his door. He sighs and gathers his strength. He fails.

"Sylvain!" He recognizes Ingrid's muffled voice. "Sylvain, open the door. I brought breakfast and painkillers."

This wonderful news gives him the strength he needs. He scrambles to get up as fast as his pounding head will allow him and opens the door, standing aside for Ingrid to enter. She shoves a gatorade and a small bottle of painkillers in Sylvain's hands and sits down at the table, damn near tossing the food down.

"We drank too much," she says simply.

Sylvain nods as he takes a seat across from her. "I feel like shit."

"Yeah."

They eat in silence. Sylvain doesn't ask how Ingrid procured these perfect, greasy breakfast sandwiches. He's pretty sure she's an angel.

Ingrid's voice cuts through his wonder. "Did Felix ever respond?"

Sylvain shrugs.

"Dunno. My phone's all the way over there." He waves a hand toward his bed. Ingrid rolls her eyes and gets his phone.

"Thanks," he grunts. No response from Felix. He opens up their messages and immediately pales.

"Oh no," Ingrid groans, "What?"

"...I drunk texted him."

"Sylvain, no!"

He sinks down in his chair. "Why did I do that?!"

Ingrid lays her head on the table. "We could bring out drunk Sylvain and ask."

Sylvain doesn't respond. His thumb hovers over the keyboard.

me: shit, i'm so sorry, i don't even remember sending that

and i'm still sorry for being a dick

He tosses his phone down on the table and Ingrid's head shoots up, startled.

"Sorry," he mutters. She lays her head back down and nearly yelps when Sylvain scrambles to pick his phone back up.

felix: Ok.

Chapter Text

me: Ok.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: dude you scared the shit out of me

when can i apologize. i'll come over now if that's what u want

or later

i can wait until ur proposal is done. i can come over wednesday that's ok

i'm gonna make it up to u just let me know

Felix reads the messages as they come in. He bites his lip and looks at the document he's working on; the bulk of the work is, frankly, finished. He's already polished several pages of his outline to a professional level. If he has minimal distractions and eats quick meals...

me: I'll be finished tonight.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: whoa holy shit

i thought u said wednesday???

not that i'm complaining but

me: I don't put important things off until the last minute.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: lol i guess i walked into that one

so can i apologize tomorrow

me: Yes.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: ok i'll do that

in the meantime sorry!!!!!!!!!!! sorry i was an asshole!!!!!!!!!!!!

what if i come over in the morning and we talk and then we get lunch with ingrid. is that ok

me: Maybe.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: aww what convinced u

it was the nude wasn't it ;)

He sets his phone down.

Is he even mad anymore?


He's finished by dinner time.

Not that he's going to tell Sylvain that. Getting drunk with Ingrid is the last thing he needs right now.

He picks up his phone and just... stares at it. There's a stack of notifications from Sylvain that he doesn't want to deal with. He sighs and sets his phone back down and tries to think.

The sounds of the city outside pierce his thoughts; people yelling to one another, sirens, he thinks he hears a car accident. He sinks down in his chair and groans. Maybe he should go to the gym. Is his membership even still valid? Where are his running shoes? Maybe he should read. Read what? More articles? He needs a break from work, that's out of the question. He thinks back. What did he do when he needed to clear his head years ago?

He throws on a jacket and goes to his car.

He drives for the longest he's driven in three years. He leaves the city, passes by strip malls and convenience stores in various states of decay as he crosses through suburbs, and as the sun paints the sky with the pinks and purples of dusk he reaches thick, forested hills with nothing except road signs and mile markers to hint at civilization less than an hour behind him. His thoughts buzz dully, floating half-formed underneath his focus. Up ahead he sees a sign for a county road and, fuck it, he takes it. The road is rougher than the interstate, the lanes are thinner, the turns sharper and the inclines steeper. He takes a deep breath in and out.

He slows down and finds a spot to pull off. His headlights illuminate a small creek through the trees, and when he turns off the car and the lights go out he can faintly hear the water. He checks his phone. No changes.

He locks his car behind him and walks up to the water. The remaining daylight and the bright moon overhead provide plenty of visibility. He takes in the scenery. The creek itself appears to be shallow; rocks poke out of the water all the way across, offering the perfect opportunity to explore the other side. He smiles, remembering when he, Sylvain, Ingrid, and Dimitri would explore these types of places, spending all day trekking through the uncharted wilderness around his childhood home until one of their parents yelled for them to come for dinner. Glenn would sometimes be sent to retrieve them. They stopped exploring like this when he died.

Felix sits down on one of the rocks with his feet in the water. He rests his elbows on his knees and listens to the sounds of the night. Frogs and crickets, water running and splashing up against stone, the distant chirping of bats.

He turns his head and, sure enough, he can see the tiny shadows of bats taking flight from under a small bridge. He stays in this position for a long time, stewing in his nostalgic melancholy, watching the hardly visible shadows flit about, silhouetted by the moon and stars above. He marvels at the versatility of nature; many species of bats have found homes under bridges and overpasses, allowing them to find homes in more urban areas. He wonders if this colony has been affected by disease, or if they've been left relatively undisturbed, avoiding illness spread by humans and animals who love to explore caves and abandoned buildings.

Nights like this, nights when they all came together and managed to stay out late, they were always a welcome respite. After his brother died Dimitri and Ingrid stopped joining him, leaving Felix and Sylvain to wander with only one another. When they were older and Sylvain left for university Felix found himself with only the occasional company of Ingrid, otherwise he would go out alone. He'd stay out for hours, watching the moon travel overhead, often waking up with dew on his eyelashes and in his hair. Through the chaos of death, of losing friends to distance and tragedy, he could find his peace.

And yet, he hasn't taken the time to find this peace in three long years. Maybe longer.

And it's been lonely.

He sighs. Maybe Sylvain's not as dense as he acts. That fucker has always been able to see through him in the most infuriating way, and he's fucking right. Without the distraction of constant work and study and schedules he can see, quite clearly, that he hasn't felt this in years. He huffs. His whole schedule has gone to shit these past few weeks with Sylvain and he doesn't even care. It's been nice. Freeing. And Sylvain fucking knew it. He said it in the most annoying, pitying way possible, but he fucking knew it.

He pulls out his phone.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: probably not the time! sorry

but uh, let me know

do you want a grand apology in public? i'll do it. romcon style baby

good luck finishing ur thing

i'm excited to see you

His heart has the audacity to thump against his ribcage. He's excited to see Sylvain, too. This would be so much easier if he could just be pissed.

He takes a picture of the creek, barely illuminated by moonlight, and sends it to Sylvain.

me: Stop apologizing. Just come by in the morning.

On the drive home he lets his mind wander. He thinks about how passionate Sylvain gets about his stupid videos. How grounding this trip has been. How he built his entire life on a crumbling foundation of memories he wants to forget. He thinks about how fulfilling it's been to spend time with Sylvain and wonders if maybe Ingrid's grown as much as he has. He wonders if he hates his job and, well, he doesn't. He's good at his job. His job helps and it makes a difference. Perhaps he just hates his life.


Felix is standing in his kitchen trying to find the expiration date on a questionably aged box of cereal when there's a knock on the door. It's early. Much too early for Sylvain to be out of bed, let alone across town.

Fuck it.

He opens the door.

Apparently it's not too early for Sylvain to be across town.

"It's 8:30."

Sylvain looks exhausted. He's barely able to keep his eyes open. He cracks a soft smile and it looks great on him.

In the softest voice Felix has ever heard him use he says, "I'm sorry."

Felix grabs him by the lapel of his denim jacket and pulls him, stumbling, through the door. It falls shut behind him and Felix presses him up against it in a heated kiss while Sylvain mumbles apologies against his mouth.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

"Shut up," Felix mumbles with no bite to his words. Sylvain shakes his head and breaks the kiss, holding Felix by the shoulders and looking him in the eye.

"No, I won't. I'm sorry." His words are almost pleading. It pisses Felix off.

"You have nothing to be sorry for." Felix has to look away from Sylvain's soft, understanding gaze.

"Yes, I do!" Sylvain gently places a hand on Felix's face and he leans into the touch but continues to look at shoulder. "I was a dick! I was selfish! I rushed over here and didn't even get you flowers!"

"I don't want flowers."

"But you brought me flowers and they... I loved them."

Felix swallows and glances back up at Sylvain before looking away again. "You were an ass, but you were right." He doesn't realize he's whispering until the very end.

He runs a hand through Felix's hair that he hasn't bothered putting up yet. "Well, I'm not apologizing about being right," he jokes. Felix looks up at him and his smile widens. "But I'm sorry I was an ass."

"I went on a drive last night," Felix says abruptly. Sylvain runs his thumb across his cheek and he continues, "It made me remember, you know, when we were kids and we'd fuck around in the woods."

Sylvain chuckles. "I don't remember much fucking in those woods." Felix punches him playfully. He leans forward into Sylvain's chest and Sylvain's arms wrap around him.

"I guess I miss that."

Sylvain pulls him closer and kisses the top of his head. He whispers, "I do, too."

They stand like that for some time, pressed up against each other, each enjoying the other's warmth. Sylvain is the first to break the peaceful silence.

"Ingrid told me off," he says into Felix's hair, who smirks.

"She's always been good at that."

"She made me practice my apology on the drive over."

Felix leans back to look at Sylvain. "She drove you over?"

Sylvain nods.

"I'm surprised she didn't come up with you," Felix mutters, earning a laugh from Sylvain.

"I'm not gonna deny she's pissed at you, but you know she only wants what's best for her friends."

Felix rolls his eyes. "Yeah, but it's annoying as hell."

"Not gonna deny that, either."

Felix opens his mouth to respond but Sylvain holds a finger up to his lips.

"Wait! I have more apology! I didn't practice for nothing."

Felix stares expectantly.

"Okay! Okay. Felix Hugo Fraldarius," Sylvain straightens his posture and takes both of Felix's hands, "I, Sylvain Jose Gautier, was an asshole. I ignored your defining characteristic of being perfect at literally everything. I, Sylvain, did not effectively communicate my concerns. However, I was not wrong, and you can't make me say I was."

"We already agreed you were right."

"Do you accept my apology?"

Felix sighs. "Yes, Sylvain, I accept your stupid apology."

"Good! 'Cause I'm starving."

"You're always starving."

"Let's get breakfast!"

Felix looks over to the box of cereal abandoned on the counter and back to Sylvain. "Alright."

"And, uh," Sylvain looks away nervously, "Did you decide if you're cool to see Ingrid?"

"Why."

"Well, uh, you can say no and we can get breakfast just us, but I told her to stick around in case we all wanted to get breakfast. She's outside."

Felix closes his eyes and he can feel Sylvain tighten up. He takes a deep breath, in and out, squeezes Sylvain's hands, and says, "Let me get changed."

Several minutes later Felix is dressed, they exit to the parking lot, Sylvain waves to a hatchback Felix has never seen before, and Ingrid emerges with a warm smile and greets a very stiff Felix with a hug.


"You know, you could've just said something," Ingrid says between bites, "You didn't have to go completely nuclear."

Felix just so happens to take a massive bite at that moment, rendering him unable to respond.

The three of them have found themselves at a small diner a few blocks from Felix's apartment. It's a modest place with only a handful of booths and a breakfast bar, as well as the best omelettes Felix has managed to find in the city. Ingrid sits across from Felix and Sylvain and the table is laden with massive plates of food. Just as she always has, Ingrid is reaching her fork across the table to sample everyone's food, as well as absolutely annihilating her own meal.

"Yeah, dude. I mean, we've already talked about it and all, but everyone misses you. Ashe asks how you're doing anytime he comes around."

Felix nearly chokes at that. "Ashe? Really?"

Ingrid and Sylvain both nod. "He was always fond of you," Ingrid says, "That's just how he is."

"Well now I feel bad," Felix mutters.

"Really?" Sylvain laughs, "That's what did it? We should've sent Ashe after you a long time ago."

"And how would he have found him?" Ingrid chides.

"Look, Ashe just knows things," says Sylvain, "I forgot my password to an old email and he managed to log in in like, twenty minutes."

"Please don't sic Ashe on me."

Sylvain winks. "Next time, buddy."

Chapter Text

Pinks and purples of dusk filter through the trees, casting the woods behind the Fraldarius estate in familiar shadows. The sounds of nature are nearly booming in their ears as frogs and crickets serenade the trees. The four of them— Felix, Sylvain, Ingrid, and Dimitri— are meant to stay nearby while they’re exploring, but tonight, as with every night the four are together, they’ve crossed the stream to explore deeper in the woods, seeking out a clearing where they can lay among the ferns and look up at the stars. The trees get more densely packed as they trek on until, just as Felix is about to suggest they go back, Sylvain turns to his friends and waves for them to follow.

“I told you I could find it again!” he declares, “None of you ever believe me!”

He stands triumphantly, hands on his hips, while the other three children walk to the middle of the clearing. For once in his life, Sylvain is right; there’s a clear view of the sky, and they can even see the first few stars of the night.

"Wow!" Ingrid marvels, her steps slow, "Sylvain, this is perfect! How did you find it?"

Sylvain smiles, showing off his braces with the blue bands he was so excited for. "You guys didn't believe me, so I'm not tellin'!"

"But it's my backyard!" Felix huffs.

"Okay, I'll tell Felix, but none of you get to know."

A bubble of pride and glee forms in Felix's chest and he runs to Sylvain to take him in a hug. Sylvain hit a growth spurt recently; Felix barely comes up to his chest. He can't wait to catch up with his best friend.

Sylvain laughs and guides Felix, still in his arms, to the center where Dimitri and Ingrid are standing. They sit down together, Felix sitting much closer to Sylvain than anyone else.

"This really is incredible," Dimitri says in his stiff, proper way. If he weren't so tiny and shy Felix thinks he could be mistaken for much older than eleven. "Thank you for showing us, Sylvain."

"Anything for my best friends!" Sylvain rests his hands behind his head, "This can be our secret spot, together."


sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: welcome to the group chat.... FROM HELL

unknown number: How is this any different from our regular group chat?

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: ;)

unknown number: I don't understand...

ingrid: Ugh, Sylvain's trying to be coy

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: ;))))

you'll see....

me: Sylvain, you're the only one here with auto-caps turned off. Why.

unknown number: Oh? Who's this?

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: ;)))))))))))

ingrid: Ugh

unknown number: What???

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: you'll seeeeeeeee

unknown number: ?? Are you seeing someone? Is this Sylvain's PARTNER??

me: Ugh.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: well, yeah, but you'll seeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

unknown number: :o Congratulations!

ingrid: Dimitri. It's Felix

dimitri: FELIX?????????????

dimitri: Hold on, I have to add Dedue.

unknown number was added to the chat

dimitri: Dedue! Guess what!

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: ;)

ingrid: You all talk too much

me: This is the first time I've had to mute my phone in three years.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: that's cuz you don't have any friends

dedue: What is it

dimitri: Guess who's in this chat!

dedue: Hm. I would guess, based on the area code of this unknown number, that it's Felix

me: HOW DID YOU KNOW WHERE I WAS

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: yea wtf

dimitri: :o

ingrid: Why didn't you say something? Dedue??

dedue: Ashe told me. He also told me to say nothing

me: WTF

Felix locks his phone and sets it facedown with a scowl. Agreeing to this whole group chat thing is sure to be a mistake. He should remove himself before there's a catastrophe.

"Felix! Man of the hour."

He closes his eyes as he realize the catastrophe is standing directly behind him.

"Yes?" He sighs, angling his head so he can see the lab manager out of the corner of his eye. She takes this as a welcome and approaches his desk, a stack of binders in hand.

"You did such lovely work on that proposal!" She declares. Her voice is dripping with honey and it leaves a sour taste in his mouth. "I expect to hear back about it within a few weeks. I just knew you were the man for the job."

He hates the sense of pride that bubbles in his chest against his will. This is a trap. This is the same damn trap he walked into last week. "Thanks," is all he can think to say.

"No, no, thank you!"

He turns back to his computer and tries not to show the smug expression trying to claw its way onto his face. "Hm. You're welcome."

She laughs and he's sure the sound has led many men to their doom. It's strange; Sylvain somehow pulled back the curtain on his life and now he can see his salary, his workload, and his managers as the wizard they really are. He wonders, just as he's wondered many times over the last week, whether he would've noticed on his own.

"Ah, Felix, you have such a charm about you," she says in a fond voice before turning much more serious, "I did come over for a reason, though. I must ask you something."

He lifts an eyebrow. "Hm?"

"How did you like your little project? Would you be interested in, say, taking on more?"

He turns to look at her again. Her mask really is impeccable; if he hadn't personally been fucked over he might believe the warm look on her face.

"Truthfully? I spent far too much of my personal time on it. That kind of deadline requires a team."

"Hm," she muses, looking thoughtful. "I must admit, that's not what I expected from you! You're usually such a hard worker."

There's a pang in his gut. He swallows.

"And here I thought you wanted to move up!" Her voice has lost none of its friendly cadence. She could be responding as if he told her she had his favorite color wrong. An inconsequential misunderstanding. "Well, I suppose it can't be helped. If you're happy where you are, who am I to expect more?"

He finds himself on the defensive. "I work harder than anyone here. I worked on that proposal for a week straight, at work and at home. Nobody else would've done that." As soon as the words tumble out he curses himself internally. He knew this was a trap and yet he walked directly into its snare.

"Oh?" Fuck. "My, that's quite impressive! You're so driven, Felix."

He bites his tongue. He won't get wrapped up further in her web.

She sets the binders she's carrying on his desk. He can't help but notice these are significantly thicker than last time.

"Now this, Felix, would be an article for publication," she purrs, "You've been published a handful of times, yes?"

He nods slowly.

"I thought so! Such informative papers." She opens the top binder and he can see in big, bold letters, the research kept in it includes data going back twenty-something years. "This would be for publication in two months' time; of course, it would need to be submitted for editing and review much, much sooner than that."

He stares as the information processes and, with a sinking feeling in his stomach, realizes exactly what that means.

Next week.

He would need to sort through twenty years' worth of data, by himself, and write about it by next week.

"What do you think, dear? Are you ready to be published yet again?"

"I... I'll think about it."

She clicks her tongue. "This is on quite the deadline, Felix! We're relying on you!"

He nods and very quickly realizes his mistake. "Just give me a few days to think about it."

She closes the binder and pats the top of the stack. "Take the weekend to think about it, then. Please, make your decision by Monday. If you're unable to commit then, well, I'll just have to find someone else who can."

He eyes the binders and responds, "I'll do that."


"Hey, who's that guy with Dimitri?"

Felix crosses his arms and turns his nose up. "Don't know. Don't care."

Sylvain grabs his sleeve. "You don't care? Dimitri's our friend!"

Felix wrenches his sleeve out of Sylvain's hand and storms off. He can feel the tears threatening to fall and quickens his pace. He has to be better than this. He has to control himself. When he hears Sylvain's foosteps hurry to catch up to him he clenches his hands into fists, and when he feels a familiar hand on his shoulder he pushes him away.

"I don't need your pity," his voice cracks with emotion through gritted teeth, "Leave me alone."

"No, Felix! You need a friend," Sylvain says. He doesn't move to touch Felix again, instead walking alongside him. "Dimitri has, I dunno, whoever that guy is. Ingrid's mom is putting her in therapy 'cause she won't come out of her room. But who do you have to talk to? You lost your—"

"Shut up."

"No! I won't shut up and I never will! You lost your brother and—"

"I said shut up!" Felix swings an arm at Sylvain who catches it easily. They stand frozen in the hallway at the Fraldarius estate, Felix's wrist caught in Sylvain's hand, until the walls Felix is building around himself crack and he starts shaking.

"I told you to leave me alone," he whispers. He doesn't think he can speak any louder.

"I won't," Sylvain whispers back. He pulls Felix toward him and wraps his arms around his torso. "I won't ever leave you alone."

Felix hates himself. He hates himself for collapsing into Sylvain's arms and outright sobbing. He hates himself for allowing Sylvain to pick him up and carry him to the quiet and privacy of his bedroom. He hates himself for being too weak to stand strong like Glenn would if he were here. If he wasn't...

"Why did he have to die?" Felix whispers into Sylvain's shoulder, "Everyone but Dimitri, and he doesn't even want to be our friend anymore... Why?"

Sylvain's hand runs slowly up and down Felix's back and he doesn't say anything. Felix isn't sure he wants him to.

He promises himself that, after this, he'll be strong.


The train ride to Sylvain's apartment on Friday evenings is always the same. Commuters, like Felix, file on and off evenly and consistently. Teenagers and college kids laugh amongst themselves and, to Felix's disgust, occasionally break out in song. At least three people drink totally-not-booze from paper bags. He's gotten skilled at tuning out the noise or, as anyone else would put it, turning his music up really really loud until he can't hear anything else. It gives him an opportunity to really think.

What the fuck does he want to do?

If he's being honest, he wants to do a good job. He wants to be thorough, precise; he wants to be the best.

His time in academia and the professional world have taught him that being the best requires working at all hours, knowing everything, and doing everything that must be done. His time collaborating with others has taught him if he wants the job done right, he must be the one to do it. The lab manager has told him, repeatedly now, that if he's to move forward and upward he must take on work that monopolizes his personal time. He looks down at his phone and sees several notifications. He has to choose. For the last three years he's chosen work and study time and time again, but these past few weeks— months?— have stirred something in him he'd long forgotten.

His life has gone from an automated, emotionless get-shit-done machine to, well, a bit of a mess, but a mess he enjoys.

His phone lights up with a new notification and he decides to open it.

GROUP CHAT FROM HELL

ingrid: WTF how does Ashe know everything? All the time??

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: boy has sources......

dedue: He has suggested I not worry about it

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: that's not suspicious

dimitri: You would be suspicious of Ashe? :o

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: i'm just sayin! that's totally not suspicious at all!!

dimitri: :o

ingrid: Felix, what do you have to say about Ashe knowing everything about you

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: ya i'm curious

dimitri: As am I.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: felix? feeeeliiiixxxxxx????

dimitri: Felix?

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: shit where'd he go

dimitri: Felix? :(

ingrid: You guys are gonna scare him away again

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: noooo he promised he'd come over today :(

me: I have a job.

Maybe he should choose work again. This is absurd.

GROUP CHAT FROM HELL

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: HE IS RISEN

dimitri: He is risen! :o

ingrid: Ugh

me: You know, for once in my life I agree with Ingrid.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: i'm hurt!

ingrid: Felix you didn't answer my question

me: Ashe and Annette are the only two people on this planet allowed to know my location at any given point in time.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: aww i love annette

ingrid: Anyone who doesn't love Annette is banned from this chat

me: I hate Annette.

ingrid: >:o

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: >:o

dimitri: >:o


Felix finally finds Sylvain, deep in the woods behind the Fraldarius estate, sitting among the ferns in the center of a clearing, their clearing, looking up at the stars.

He doesn't even like Miklan. Sylvain shouldn't even like Miklan. So why is it like this?

"Sylvain."

Sylvain sighs and Felix watches as he tries to force a smile on. He stomps up and flicks Sylvain's nose.

"Don't do that."

Sylvain rubs his nose with the back of his hand. "Why'd you do that?"

"Don't fake smile around me. It's stupid." He sits down next to Sylvain, pushing leaves aside and seating himself directly on the dirt, and looks over to his friend. The pain is evident on his face.

"Hmph." Sylvain leans on Felix's shoulder and Felix freezes, his heart beating faster. "Thanks for coming here. I'll be fine."

"I know you'll be fine," he scoffs, but there's no edge to his words. "I don't know why you're upset, Miklan sucks. But you can lean on me, I guess."

"Heh, yeah. Hey, Felix?"

"What."

"I love you, man."

His heart stops.

I love you, too.

He doesn't mean it in the same way.

I love you, too.

He'll never mean it in the same way.

I love you, too.

"Tch," he says instead.

Chapter Text

"Yeah, no, that's shit."

Felix sits across from Sylvain at the table they managed to assemble without killing each other with his laptop open in front of him and a half drunk beer to the side. Sylvain's brainstorming in a notebook with his completely illegible handwriting. Felix wonders how the hell he reads any of it.

"I know it is," Felix groans as he rubs his temples, "I don't know why everybody else can't pull their own weight. Am I the only one who takes this job seriously?"

Sylvain considers his words for a moment before his face lights up. "I've got it!"

Felix stares blankly. "What."

"You're too reliable!" Sylvain's looks real fucking pleased with himself at this realisation and Felix scowls. "You just gotta let them down!"

"Sylvain."

"I'm a genius, I know."

Felix rips the pen out of Sylvain's hand and throws it at his face. "I refuse to fail, on purpose or not."

Sylvain leans down to grab the pen that bounced off his cheek and onto the floor, chuckling. "Yeah, I should've guessed. They're taking advantage of you, though, you know."

"I know! I— augh!" He pulls at his hair, trying desperately to relieve the tension headache he can feel forming. "I know! I know they are, I know if they assign someone else they'll do a shit job and next time there's budget cuts I'll be first in line to get cut and everything— everything I've worked for will be in the garbage."

His words settle between them in silence, punctuated only by Felix's ragged breathing. He stares at the blank tabletop waiting for his thoughts to form anything resembling coherent sentences and grows even more frustrated when nothing falls into place. With a furious shout he throws his face against the wood, relishing in the cool pressure on his forehead. He can't bring himself to protest when he feels Sylvain tug his hair out of its ponytail, and even leans into the touch of his fingertips caressing his scalp. He huffs into the table.

"Maybe I'll finally go to grad school," he mumbles, "It's a miracle I got this job in the first place without it."

"You know what that sounds like?" Sylvain asks.

"What?"

"Hell."

Felix groans as he lifts his head off the table and looks at Sylvain. "Sometimes sacrifices must be made," he says dryly, "Like grad school. Or group chats."

"Felix!" Sylvain exclaims in mock outrage, "Did you just make a joke?!"

"No," he says, completely flat. A devilish smile crosses Sylvain's face and, without breaking eye contact, he pulls out his phone and starts typing.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: felix made s joje

me: Look at your fucking phone when you're typing.

ingrid: Joje

dimitri: :o

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: it is i, sylvain joje gautier

dimitri: Dedue says the name fits you.

Felix looks from his phone back to Sylvain and raises an eyebrow. "I was under the impression your middle name was two eggplant emojis," he says, turning his phone to show Sylvain's contact card as evidence. Sylvain leans forward and, as recognition dawns across his face, he loses his absolute. Fucking. Mind.

"Holy fuck, dude!" He chokes out through laughter, "Give me your phone! Give me your fucking phone!"

"Absolutely not," he snaps, jerking his phone back.

"No, please! Please! I have to take a screenshot and show everyone!"

"Fuck no!"

"Fine! I'll just tell everyone myself!"

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: ok so like not to live text my extremely romantic weekend with felix

me: Shut the fuck up.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: but felix, the man of the hour

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: my name. in his phone

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: has two eggplant emojis

ingrid: I didn't need to know that

me: You put those there.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: i most definitely did NOT

me: I distinctly remember you taking my phone and putting them there like four years ago.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: bro you do NOT have the same phone as you did four years ago

ingrid: Do you have the same phone???

ingrid: Oh

me: I still have that phone. How do you think I got your number.

dimitri: I thought you got my number from the group chat?

me: Not you.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: did u just? copy it over letter by letter???

me: No, dumbass. I shared the contact card with myself.

ingrid: Oh my god

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: bro it probably would've been easier to copy the number over i can never get the contact card shit to work

me: I don't know how many times I have to remind you just how drunk I was. Copying anything was out of the question.

"Why are we texting?! We're sitting next to each other!" Felix shouts, throwing his phone down on the table.

Sylvain pouts. "Don't you wanna include our friends?"

"I very specifically do not want to do that."

"Fiiiine," Sylvain rolls his eyes, though there's an amused smile on his face. To Felix's absolute horror he twists around and takes a very blurry selfie with Felix in the background and finally, after typing a bit more, he sets his phone down and clasps his hands together.

"So... hell," Sylvain continues their conversation.

"I do believe that's what we were discussing."

"What the fuck are you gonna do?"

"Fuck," Felix groans, "I don't fucking know! Apply to a doctorate program and pray a government job opens up, I guess."

"Now, here's a thought," Sylvain leans back in his chair. He's scratching his chin with the capped end of his pen. "Why don't you just work with me?"

"Making asinine videos? No."

"Hey, why not? I'm not rolling in the dough or anything, but it's fun!"

Felix blinks at him and Sylvain continues.

"Your major was like, wildlife bio or whatever, right? You didn't major in bats."

"Yes, my major was like, wildlife bio or whatever," Felix says dryly, "With a minor in environmental sciences. I got this job through a professor. I distinctly remember you thought she was hot."

"Right, but what I'm saying is you know all sorts of stuff! You wouldn't have to be in every video, you could just like, research or whatever."

"That sounds awful."

"You don't wanna spend all day with meee?"

"Absolutely not."

Sylvain laughs at that. "Come on! I know I told you a bunch of sanctuaries and shit got got a spike of volunteers. That's big, dude! That makes a huge difference!"

Felix scoffs. "Funding and grants make a huge difference, and they don't stop showing up after three shifts."

"Wouldn't you get more funding if there was more awareness?"

"That— that has nothing to do with this!" Felix snaps.

Sylvain's silent for a beat. When he continues his voice is much softer. "Does your manager even know about that video and what it did?"

Felix shrugs. "I don't know. The woman assigning these projects isn't my manager, anyway, she's the lab manager."

"What?" Sylvain says, confused, "Why's she managing you if she's not even your manager?!"

"Have you ever had a real job? That wasn't at your father's company?"

Sylvain shakes his head.

"That's just how it is, Sylvain. Especially at jobs like mine."

"I don't see why you can't just stop answering to her."

"Sylvain. That's not how this works."

Sylvain sighs. "Can your actual manager get you a different project? You can be like oh no, sorry, I'm busy!"

Felix speaks very slowly, enunciating every word. "What the fuck kind of special project could I possibly do that wouldn't take up just as much time?"

Their conversation falls silent again. Felix stares at Sylvain, watching him as he comes to the inevitable realization that he's right.

Unfortunately, Sylvain says, "Actually..."

"No."

"Listen!" He whines, "What if there's some weird data paper you could write that would raise awareness or attract more volunteers? Don't look at me like that! Good press can do a lot! Hell, I bet you could get volunteers to write grant applications."

Felix's eyes narrow. "That's your thing. I'm not in PR."

"No, dude! I'm not explaining this well," Sylvain bites his lip before he continues, "A volunteer program would be way too much work forever— holy shit, Felix, I got it."

Felix raises an eyebrow.

"Two words, man: Scholarship. Fund."

Felix closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. When he opens them again he doesn't feel any calmer. "With. What. Money."

"Isn't your whole thing applying for grants? Get some of your data or whatever and apply for a grant!"

"There are no grants for scholarships!" He's barely containing his volume at this point.

"Funding, then!" Sylvain is matching his volume in excitement, "Felix, look, a scholarship fund for kids who can like, raise awareness or volunteer a lot or whatever—"

"That will never, ever, be approved."

"—could make a huge difference! It might even be cheaper than hiring the staff you clearly need, I bet you could figure out how to do that."

The rebuttal Felix is forming stops in his throat. He furrows his brow.

Sylvain takes his hand.

"Look, you helped me," he says, his earnest eyes connecting with Felix's, "Add my people brain to your numbers brain. I know we can do this. Let me help you."

Felix stares at Sylvain, dumbfounded. "You really should be using your brain for something other than videos."

"Don't wanna. Except in this very particular case."

"If this is denied I'll definitely be let go."

"Is grad school really worse than this shitty job?"

"Hmph."

"And what happens if it's approved? What if it's a success?"

Felix pauses. "I could probably make a case that I should be in charge of it."

"And..?"

"And," he swallows, "I'd have a group of teenagers and college students fucking everything up."

"Pretty sure you'd have a group of teenagers and college students trying to bolster their resumes and willing to work hard for it. Make them highlight shit in those binders you had all over your place."

"Hm."

"Come on, Felix. Let's try."

He sighs. "I'd have to have it ready by Monday, before I'm supposed to take that project."

"We can spend the weekend working on it! There's two of us, I bet we can do it."

Felix takes a moment to weigh the positives and negatives and, ultimately, grad school doesn't sound so bad when compared to 80-hour projects every other week.

"Fine. Fine, why not."

"That's the spirit!" Sylvain pumps his fist and Felix regrets everything. "Okay, so like, what do we actually do."

Felix wonders where he went wrong to be so easily convinced by everything Sylvain says as he explains the incredibly boring process funding applications have to go through. Because he can't leave a job half done he explains the entire pipeline, the leanings of the current decisionmakers, and projections for the future. By this point Sylvain would typically be glossy-eyed, but he seems to be hanging onto every word.

"Why are you so focused? It's weird."

"What are you talking about?"

Felix narrows his eyes. "I'm talking about how you never pay attention to this shit."

Sylvain tilts his head and it's almost endearing. "I'm helping you, of course I'm paying attention."

He takes a moment to fully process Sylvain's words. He's come to recognize what the full feeling in his chest represents, but for it to manifest now is... unexpected. He shakes his head to clear his thoughts and barrels on.


At some point, at Sylvain's insistence, the two have migrated from the table to Sylvain's much more comfortable bed. Felix's laptop is on his lap and, though he complains about feeling cramped and uncomfortable, he feels quite at home with Sylvain's legs tangled in his. Sylvain's head leans against Felix's arm. He mutters something unintelligible to himself and crosses out something equally unintelligible in his notebook.

The both of them are, frankly, exhausted. They spent the remainder of Friday evening tossing thoughts and ideas back and forth, with Sylvain scribbling notes down and Felix throwing bulleted lists together, outlining major points and highlighting holes in his own knowledge. They fall asleep late and, when Felix wakes up early as he does every day, the clicking of his keyboard wakes Sylvain not long after. The weekend crawls by in a haze of coffee, takeout, numbers, and sleep deprivation.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: ugh i'm fucking exhausted

ingrid: Congrats

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: i'm dying... help me...

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: remember me as i was......

dimitri: What's troubling you? Have you gotten enough sleep?

ingrid: Wait. This is a trap

dimitri: ???

ingrid: Felix is over this weekend. Sylvain's gonna overshare. I'm leaving

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: oh hell no felix would actually kill me

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: he'd slam me over the head with his laptop and the last thing i'd see are his missing 6 & 9 keys

dimitri: Why is he missing his 6 and 9 keys?

ingrid: Don't answer that

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: he just keeps saying he was drunk

ingrid: How much does Felix drink??

me: I'm right here.

dimitri: I'm getting worried about you.

me: I drank a lot one night and made a lot of mistakes. Leave it.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: can confirm he texted me the same night he lost his 6 & 9 keys

ingrid: EW

dimitri: Why are you exhausted, Sylvain?

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: i'm helping felix with some work thing and it's taking all weekend :(

me: You insisted.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: i knoooowwww

dimitri: What work thing? :o

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: some proposal thing

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: for a scholarship fund

me: "Some proposal thing" As if you didn't come up with the idea and force me into it.

dimitri: Oh, a scholarship fund? That sounds lovely. Best of luck!

dedue: Yes, best of luck

ingrid: I FORGOT YOU WERE IN THIS CHAT

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: omg same

dedue: I am in this chat

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: thanks for the reminder buddy

ingrid: Anyway, a scholarship fund? Really?

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: yeah it's to try and like

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: get kids to volunteer or whatever

ingrid: That's. Unexpected?

me: Rude.

ingrid: IDK I guess I'm just surprised Sylvain gives a shit

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: hey! i give so many shits

ingrid: I'm also surprised Felix gives a shit

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: he works in... conservation...

ingrid: I guess??

me: Sylvain. We have so much work to do if this is going to get done by Monday.

sylvain [eggplant emoji] [eggplant emoji] gautier: oh right byyyyeeeee

Felix glances to the top of Sylvain's head. "You didn't have to do this, you know."

Sylvain looks up at Felix, brows furrowed. "I already did, though."

"Hmph."

"And I don't regret it. I'm glad I get to help you."

"...Whatever."

Sylvain turns his head and kisses Felix's arm. "We're almost done, Felix. We can get out of town next weekend to make up for this."

"Hm. Fine."


Felix leaves a stack of white papers on his manager's desk upon his arrival Monday morning and informs the lab manager he won't be taking on her project. He knows the way her eyes ice over is a calculated threat. He doesn't care.

Chapter Text

"Damn, we look good," Sylvain says. Felix glances up and he continues, "What would you have ever worn without me?"

"I wouldn't have been forced to come without you," he mumbles.

"And then we wouldn't have matched," Sylvain sighs wistfully.

This isn't the worst, Felix supposes. He's not wearing anything different from what he normally wears; in fact, his outfit is incredibly similar to what he wore the first time he saw Sylvain again, though the turtleneck under his blazer is a deep navy blue instead of gray. The most frustrating part of this is now that he knows how Sylvain looks in something other than a t-shirt or a hoodie.

Good. He looks good.

"We're not even matching, dumbass," Felix says. He reaches up and smoothes out the collar on Sylvain's tailored shirt only to pull him down, screwing up the collar again.

This kiss is quick and, when they part and Felix smoothes his collar back down Sylvain says, "Sure we are, we're both blue!"

"Shut up."

Sylvain grabs Felix by the hips and pulls their bodies together. "Make me," he whispers against Felix's mouth. Felix wraps a hand around the back of Sylvain's neck and bites Sylvain's lip— hard— pulling a sound out of him that is most definitely not shutting up. Felix moans in response; distantly he considers whether they should be doing this minutes before they're supposed to leave for the reception, but the thought is drowned out by Sylvain's tongue against his lip. One of Sylvain's hands runs under Felix's sweater to the warm skin underneath and the other grabs at the roots of Felix's hair, loosening his ponytail, and—

"I just did that," Felix groans into their kiss.

"I know," Sylvain nips his lower lip, "That's the fun part."

Felix huffs and is about to reply with a very witty and cutting remark when there's a sharp knock at the door.

"Are you two ready?" Comes Ingrid's muffled voice. Felix curses under his breath and steps away to smooth out his sweater.

"Yeah, just a sec!" Sylvain calls back. He looks down at Felix with a golden fondness shared with nobody else that continues to render him speechless, even after months of basking in it. "Let me fix your hair."

Felix allows Sylvain to step behind him and pull his hair out. He untangles Felix's hair with impossibly gentle fingers, laying kiss after kiss along the side of Felix's neck and the back of his ear.

"I love you," he whispers after he finishes tying off Felix's ponytail. Felix fixes his bangs— a skill Sylvain hasn't quite mastered— and grabs Sylvain's hand.

"Let's go," he says and, with a quick squeeze of his hand, pulls Sylvain to the door.

Ingrid's awaiting them on the other side, her hair pulled up into a braided crown, laced with small flowers that match her mint green dress. The color suits her.

"Well! Aren't you two just..." She claps a hand to her mouth to block what's clearly a laugh, "Adorable." Felix rolls his eyes.

"We are! Thank you for noticing," Sylvain winks and pulls out his phone, "You know what that means!"

Felix sighs exasperatedly and Ingrid sighs fondly as Sylvain pulls the three of them together and snaps a photo. Felix is scowling, Ingrid is sticking her tongue out, and Sylvain is all smiles. Some things never change.

"Okay, enough of that. They're gonna start serving food soon, let's go," Ingrid gestures for them to follow her and moves at a brisk pace down the hallway to the elevator. Sylvain grabs Felix's hand and follows close behind, with Felix taking up the rear, wondering if Ingrid walks this quickly for anything other than food.

When they're in the elevator he decides to ask.

"Do you walk that quickly for anything other than food?"

She rolls her eyes. "I think about things other than food, Felix."

"...Right."

The walk to the ballroom is short and brisk. Felix watches the sidewalk as they make their way towards the reception. His hand is warm in Sylvain's. His mind is racing; everybody here, save for the two he's currently with, are people he hasn't seen in years. He doesn't really care if they're angry with him, but he does care about the scene that could create.

Sylvain pulls him closer and lets go of his hand to wrap an arm around his waist. It's grounding.

"You're tense." It's not a question.

Felix swallows. He nods.

"Everything's gonna be fine," Sylvain tells him, "Trust me."

He doesn't, but his anxiety settles a little bit anyway.

"See? They're happy to see you."

Felix jerks his head up and immediately goes red. Waving to them from the entrance to the reception is Ashe, Annette, and Mercedes, each of them looking older than he remembers. Annette seems to be vibrating, though he's not sure whether it's from excitement or the spring breeze.

"Hurry up, you guys!" Annette calls as they approach, "I wanna get good seats!"

They're too far away to hear what Mercedes says in response, but Annette's reaction carries easily.

"Of course there's good seats at a reception! Honestly!"

The six of them converge and, despite their separation, everyone seems to fall into step easily. Felix pointedly avoids eye contact while they greet one another, his extended absence heavy in his mind. He's starting to wonder if maybe he should slip away. It was easier with Ingrid, he had perfectly good reasons for separating himself from her. These three were victims of circumstance, cut off simply because he didn't want Ingrid or Dimitri knowing anything about his life or his whereabouts. They have every right to be pissed. He makes up his mind to slip out of Sylvain's grasp and return to the hotel room when an unexpected touch on his free arm makes him jump.

"Felix!" He looks to his right and meets Ashe's eyes for a split second before he looks back down. He never did get used to Ashe's growth spurt, which put them at the same height. "It's been quite some time! I hope you're doing well."

Sylvain must have noticed his apprehension because his hand squeezes reassuringly on his waist. Felix nods.

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm doing fine," he says when he finally finds his voice. Ashe hooks his arm around Felix's and he can see him smile out of the corner of his eye.

"I'm very glad to hear that! I saw you were published a few times—"

"Whaat! Is this a Felix sandwich!" Annette interrupts. Felix fails to keep a blush down as he realizes what a spectacle he must be, held between Sylvain and Ashe as they walk through a rather crowded, noisy hall. He hates this. He tries not to focus on the noise and fails.

"This was a mistake," he mutters to himself. Unfortunately for him, Ashe hears.

"It's okay, Felix!" He says, optimistic as always. "Just stay between Sylvain and myself. We're almost there."

"It'll be alright." Felix turns his head at the sound of Sylvain's voice and meets his warm gaze. "There's a lot more space in the ballroom, it'll be way less crowded."

"...Ballroom?"

"Felix, it's a wedding reception!" He can practically hear Ingrid rolling her eyes. "Of course there's a ballroom!"

"You'll save a dance for me, right?" Sylvain asks. He's using his light, airy, I-don't-care tone. The fake one. The one he uses when it matters a lot to him. Felix squirms uncomfortably.

"I don't want to dance," he says.

"Please? Just one?"

Felix doesn't respond and Sylvain takes that as a success. He's right. He can never fucking say no to Sylvain.

The girls turn through a set of propped open, ornate doors, and Sylvain steers Felix and Ashe to follow. Finally, mercifully, they enter the ballroom and Felix's shoulders relax, if only a little bit. Sylvain was right; the ballroom is much larger and, at least for now, much less crowded. Annette runs to an empty table and hesitates. When she turns around there's a bright blush on her face.

"Heh, seems there's assigned seating," she says.

Ingrid laughs. "Of course there is. Let's find our table."

Annette, Ingrid, Mercedes, and Ashe, who drops Felix's arm, spread out in different directions, checking place cards as they go. Felix, however, attempts to sink into the floor. When he fails he attempts to sink into Sylvain, instead.

"Told you everyone would be happy to see you," he tells Felix, who huffs.

"Whatever."

"Found us!" Annette's voice rings out and they make their way to her, Ingrid and Ashe weaving through the tables. Each seat has one of their names on it. Felix wonders just how much work went into this whole thing.

"Isn't this just so beautiful?" Annette sighs.

"It really is," Mercedes responds, "Oh! A lot of people are coming in now."

Felix sits silently while everyone else catches up and other guests file in around them. Sylvain rests a reassuring hand on Felix's thigh. He wonders just how much longer this can go on when a different set of doors open and servers file out, bringing plates of food to the tables. Ingrid bounces her leg until her dinner is placed in front of her, though she has the self restraint to wait for everyone else to receive their food before she starts eating.

Between bites Ingrid asks, "How did that proposal go? I know it was months ago, but you never gave us any updates."

Felix can feel Sylvain's eyes on him. He ignores it. Instead, he takes his time chewing his food before he responds. "It was accepted. I got news a few weeks ago."

"Yeah! Now Felix has his own position!" Sylvain practically explodes. Ingrid's jaw drops and Annette claps, even though she has no idea what they're referring to.

"Felix! That's incredible!" Ingrid says, "How do you like it so far?"

Felix rolls his eyes. "Teenagers are fucking annoying. I don't know why I did this."

"Nah, you love it," Sylvain teases.

Felix opens his mouth to respond but is cut off by Mercedes. "Oh? What proposal? This all sounds so exciting."

Sylvain jumps at the opportunity to share the project they worked on together, gesticulating with such enthusiastic energy that he nearly topples over a wine glass. Felix watches him go on with a warmth in the pit of his stomach; Sylvain's eyes are sparkling and the smile on his face is just so—

"Annette? What are you staring at?" Ashe's voice interrupts Sylvain's explanation and Felix's thoughts. Felix turns to look at Annette, who's flushed a deep, deep red.

"Oh! It's nothing!" She says, putting up her hands in front of her.

"Nothing?" Mercedes laughs, "Annette, you looked positively shocked!"

"No! I mean— it's just—" she sighs and slams both her hands down on the table, brows furrowed together. "Have you ever seen Felix look so soft?!"

Felix chokes.

"Don't—"

"Friends! Thank you, truly, I'm so glad to see you all." Felix jumps and quickly masks a scowl at the sound of the voice behind him. He agreed to one night, as a favor to Sylvain and as his date, to tolerate Dimitri. Apparently he's better now. He wouldn't know. Text conversations can only convey so much and he's not entirely sure he trusts Sylvain's judgement on the matter.

Annette leaps from her seat and Felix hears a soft collision behind him.

"Dimitri! I'm sooo happy for you!" She squeals, earning a soft laugh from him.

"Yes! Wow, you two look stunning!" Ashe stands up and is followed by Ingrid and Mercedes. Sylvain squeezes Felix's hand in a silent request and, sighing, he stands as well, turning with Sylvain to see Dimitri and Dedue engulfed in hugs by their friends. Dimitri looks up, eye sparkling, and smiles at Felix.

"It's been a long time, Felix. I missed you." His voice is soft and it pisses him off. He looks at the ground and takes a deep breath.

"Yeah. Uh, congrats," he says, and he hopes it was loud enough to be heard.

"Thank you, Felix. It means a lot." Sylvain squeezes his hand again and he looks up just in time to see Dimitri peck Dedue on the cheek. He notices Dedue's blush.

"So!" Dimitri continues, "When are you two getting married?"

"Um."

"What!" Sylvain sputters out, "Why do married couples always ask that!" Ingrid is absolutely cackling at them, holding onto a giggling Mercedes for support.

"Oh, dear. Was that..." Dimitri's blushing. Good, Felix thinks. "I didn't mean— I'm so sorry, I just assumed—"

"It's fine," Felix says sharply. Dimitri nods.

"Yes. Well, good." He smiles again, but it's more forced than before. "Well, ah, I do hope you have a lovely night. We must prepare for our first dance."

"Yes! Get ready for your first dance! Go!" Annette waves them off and they leave, bidding goodbye. Ingrid is still laughing as everyone returns to their seats.

"Oh, wow, he can be really clueless sometimes," she says, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye. Felix scowls.

"Oh! Oh! There they go!" Annette sits on her knees in her chair to get a better look. Felix and Sylvain turn around and watch as Dimitri and Dedue make their way to the middle of the ballroom, which has been left free of any seating or tables. The music starts and they fall into step with one another, Dedue stiff and formal and Dimitri, well, just as stiff and formal, but more confident in his steps. Felix looks down at his hands. The few weddings he's attended have been so awkward, and this certainly was no exception.

The music fades and Felix looks up just in time to see the two kiss. Someone starts clapping and applause ripples throughout the ballroom. Dimitri flushes even pinker, his grin widening to a point where Felix thinks it must be painful. The applause fades, the music begins again, and they fall in step once more. A handful of couples join them and their boldness breaks a dam as the dance floor fills. Sylvain reaches for Felix's hand.

"You did promise me a dance," he says.

Felix rolls his eyes. "Fine. Let's get this over with."

Sylvain grins and pulls Felix to the dance floor. With their hands joined and Sylvain's hand on Felix's waist and Felix's hand on Sylvain's shoulder, they fall into step with the music. Felix is silently grateful to his father for forcing him into dancing lessons.

The world could melt away like this. Their bodies together, skin on fire where they connect. He follows Sylvain's lead and, for just a few minutes, forgets about a world outside the two of them.

Then the song dies down, and Felix remembers where they are and just how many people can see them, and he blushes.

Sylvain pulls Felix closer and leans down to whisper in his ear, "Let's step outside." Felix swallows and nods.

The balcony off the ballroom overlooks a forested river, lit silver by the moon overhead. The air feels sharp, fresh, and a cool breeze ghosts over them. It's empty, he notes, which is both a relief and a shame. They walk hand-in-hand to the railing and lean, silent, each enjoying the other's company. It's a welcome respite. The music is dull out here, the atmosphere lighter. It's like a different world. He takes a deep breath in, and a deep breath out.

"Feel better?" Sylvain asks quietly. A small smile crosses his lips.

"Yeah." Felix licks his lips. "This is nice. Out here."

Sylvain nods. "Yeah, it is."

They stay like this for a few minutes before Sylvain speaks up again.

"I do wanna get married, you know. Eventually."

Felix stares.

"Not like, right now! Ah, I'm fucking it up," Sylvain laughs nervously and rests his free hand on the back of his neck. "I'm not proposing. I'm just telling you."

"Right," Felix starts slowly, watching Sylvain's face carefully, "We just started talking again."

Sylvain nods.

"And work's crazy. Your whole... video thing is crazy."

"I know! I know," Sylvain sighs. He releases Felix's hand and rests his hands on Felix's shoulders. There's something soft and warm in his eyes and body language. "I mean it, though. Eventually. You're it, Felix. You've been it for, I dunno, forever. I know that now."

"I— yeah. Me, too."

"You too, what?"

Felix tries to shrug but the weight of Sylvain's hands on his shoulders keeps him still. "Fine. Whatever, we can get married eventually."

"Fine? Just fine? You don't wanna stand on a stage and declare our love in front of everyone we know?" Sylvain pouts.

"I definitely do not want to do that."

"Pleease?"

Felix throws his arms up as best he can. "Fine! Fine, yes, I want to marry you. Are you happy?"

The smile that grows on Sylvain's face is unlike any he's seen before. It's radiant, loving, and whole. The shape of the moon dances in his eyes, lighting Felix's heart on fire. He wonders if these overwhelming feelings will ever calm.

"Yes," Sylvain whispers, taking Felix's chin in his hand, "I'm so, so happy."