It had been a good week so far. Granted, it was Tuesday, and Felix was not one to be positive. But in general,the young duke had no complaints. The peace accords with Sreng were progressing and while the leaders didn't respect grand speeches and tokens, they did respect a man that could crack bones and shatter swords with his bare hands. Hilda had, somehow, miraculously, gotten the nobles in the former Alliance territory to talk to each other without trying to lodge daggers in each other's backs. Annette had gotten her teacher's license at Garreg Mach and had celebrated by writing him a new song.
Dimitri had even, right on time, made their afternoon sparring session. Which was good, because it was the only thing that settled the itch that always lurked under Felix's skin. And no matter how many others, from all around Fodlan and beyond, he crossed swords with, Dimitri was still the only one that made his blood roar.
“You're late,” Felix grumbled. Which was only a slight lie; the swordsman was early because financial reports were dull and far better delegated to Ingrid who knew how to account down to the very last coin. And having extra time before the sparring session meant more time to loosen his muscles after a day of meetings. Any advantage he could use against the king was valuable.
“My apologies,” Dimitri answered completely sincere, “Duke Ragnell wished for a brief word.” The king shut the door and began to strip out of his royal vestments.
Felix blanched. “Did he bring his daughters?”
Dimitri hummed in tacit agreement, “And a cousin this time too. You are invited to a private after-dinner appointment, if you are so interested.”
Ugh. It was becoming more and more common, and far more irritating, that the new noble pasttime seemed to be introducing their daughters to the king of the continent in some vain hope of being the father of the queen. As though their children deserved to be pieces of meat, paraded around like breeding stock. As though Dimitri was nothing more than a prize to be won by the one who would flatter him enough.
Said blonde had taken off everything but his pants, revealing a torso mottled in scars. Not that Felix cared; he'd cataloged most of them before and knew too many stories of how Dimitri had received them.
“Bold of you to think I'm going to hold back today.”
“Hardly,” Dimitri reached for a padded vest that he kept near the weapons rack. “You would rather cut your own throat than hold back, I believe.”
“Heh,” Felix's lips curved upwards, just slightly. “My throat is too valuable for that.”
Dimitri selected a thick iron sword with cloth tied carefully on its end. Surprising, but Felix had been complaining about how disappointing the new recruits had been lately. “Let's go.”
Gilbert had drilled his formal style into Dimitri since they were children. Unlike Felix's wide, offensive strikes, the king relied on quick jabs and defensive parries that belied his strength. It meant it wasn't a game of who could hit who, but more if Felix could outlast Dimitri's focus.
“I would prefer if you do join us tonight. I do value your opinion, you know.” Dimitri thrust forward and Felix stepped to the left, raising his sword to switch positions.
“My opinion is to not give them – any of them – the time of day.” Felix countered. He dodged another blow and ducked down, trying to get closer into Dimitri's space. The brute was too big, but it also meant he had far more area to hit than Felix's.
“Felix,” Dimitri said in that voice, like Felix was being the unreasonable one. “It's not their fault their fathers are being...”
“Tch,” Felix swung out, using his elbow to feint so he could swipe close at Dimitri's stomach. The king didn't fall for it. “Their fathers are treating them like chattel.”
“Yes.” Dimitri had the audacity to sound sad over it. As if he wasn't the king. “I do not wish to show them further disrespect.”
“You're giving them false hope instead.” Felix blocked another quick strike and struck downwards, Dimitri reacting just in time. It changed the angle though, and Felix followed the strike up with a twist, forcing an opening. Dimitri barely dodged, but it was enough to force him into mistakes. Felix reached up, avoiding another strike as he bodily slammed into Dimitri.
Dimitri went still, acknowledging the strike. He nodded, allowing Felix to step back and get back into position. “They don't have a choice, Felix.”
Damn his kindness.
“If you win three of five, I might consider it.” Felix raised his blade, “If you win.”
Goddess, this was painful.
Felix loathed battlefields. He hated the blood, the pointless death. He'd probably have nightmares over it for the rest of his life.
But this? Sitting next to Dimitri in the small meeting room while three young women stared at the two of them while an old, crusty noble who spoke like a goose prattled on and on about how impressive their army had been, and how loyal he was to the new king...
He would prefer the bloody death on a pathetic field over this torture.
Dimitri wasn't being helpful in the least. He'd smile his practiced, pointless smile and nod at appropriate times with appropriate “Yes's,” and “How interesting's,” which made Felix consider kicking him beneath the table. Instead, the duke had decided to entertain himself by toying with a butter knife, and that was quickly becoming tiring too. The only mercy was that with a king in sight, he'd been spared from any matchmaking himself.
The girls themselves were too quiet. Too demure. The brute would snap them in half if he even touched them, and hardly the type that would keep Dimitri interested. Even Marianne had shown more spine than these three, and Goddess knew she was as shy as a Winterstone Rabbit.
The whole affair finally – mercifully – ended when Dedue entered with a letter.
Ragnell looked up, and Felix didn't miss the disgusted twist of his mouth.
Dimitri didn't either.
“Is this your slave?” the old man asked conversationally.
“This is my dear friend, actually.” And there it was – the bite in Dimitri's voice that made Felix's irritation settle into a proud hum. “Although if you have issues with anyone from Duscur, you are most certainly welcome to leave.” That was his king, finally demanding respect.
“I well...” Duke Ragnell stuttered, glancing at Dedue, then Dimitri, and then the three young women who looked positively relieved. “I meant no offense. Merely...”
“As king, I will give you one order.” Dimitri stood up, and Felix followed suit. “Your daughters and niece are free to marry and pursue whoever and whatever they desire. Now... if you will excuse me.” he bowed his head and turned, leaving the man to his own indignant sputtering.
Felix smirked. He glanced to Dedue, who followed wordlessly as they exited into the private corridor.
There, Dimitri turned, scowling. It was far more welcome than the empty smiles. Felix reached out on impulse, lightly bumping their hands together.
“I am truly sorry. To both of you. Especially you Dedue. You should not come back and face such disdain.” Dimitri let out a breathless huff and brushed his bangs away from his good eye. “I should not...”
“You don't need to do anything.” Dedue answered softly. “It will take time for people to get over their hatred, even now. Besides, I've brought news of the reconstruction of my village.”
“Oh. Good. And...”
“And that as well.”
“Thank you.” Dimitri reached out, briefly embracing the taller man. Felix bristled. “Tomorrow, we will catch up.”
“Tomorrow.” Dedue promised. He bowed his head and slid the letter into Dimitri's fingers. “Goodnight, Duke.”
Felix nodded. He watched Dedue retreat to his chambers, mildly surprised that he hadn't stayed around to make sure Dimitri was properly tucked in.
“Well... I admit that wasn't my best meeting.” Dimitri crossed his arms. “Thank you. For being present.”
“I told you. The meetings are a waste of your time.” And by extension, mine. Felix didn't add that part.
“Still. I know Gilbert is eager to... ah, see the royal line secured. I can't put this off forever.”
“That ox...” Felix ground his teeth, trying to tamp down the streak of disdain. “Has better things to do than try to turn you into a stud horse. We have better things to do.”
Dimitri hummed, tilting his head just so. “Have I told you today how grateful I am for your guidance?”
“You didn't. But you should tell me every day.” Felix yawned. “I'll see you in the morning, Dimitri. Don't you dare let me catch you in your study.”
“Good night Felix. And thank you.” Dimitri smiled again, and it was a genuine one. “In the morning then.”
Mornings in Fhirdiad were cold, even in summer. Felix always started the day out huddled in furs, going through a few exercises to warm his blood before he met Dimitri to go over daily affairs. Breakfast was served precisely at seven, usually a strong blend of tea that Felix enjoyed and thick pastries and cheese that the king would nibble on as he sorted through the day's agenda. With crises beginning to settle down throughout Faerghus, more and more was starting to be delegated to trusted friends and allies, It was alarmingly complex, but getting easier to manage with each day.
“You didn't sleep last night.” Felix grumbled, holding his mug close to his face.
“I had a great deal on my mind.” Dimitri answered honestly, still staring down at a yellowed manuscript. Something about Claude and the Almyrans, but Felix preferred not to strain his eyes this early. “Are the pastries to your liking?”
Felix grunted. The danishes were fine, actually. Not too sweet, and still warm from whatever oven they'd came from.
“I..” the king paused, setting his paper down to awkwardly look at his adviser. “This is...”
“With your permission, I was going to ask Mercedes to marry me.”
There was a loud crack and Felix felt hot tea explode all over his fingers.
“Ah...” Dimitri awkwardly reached over, hastily applying a napkin to the boiling mess. “I thought that mug was unbreakable...”
The young man collided with the ground with a rattling thump. His sword clattered to the side, and Felix's scowl grew even harsher.
“Get up.” he ordered coldly as his opponent fumbled to his knees. “Do it again.”
The young man nodded frantically and tried to look more prepared. He raised his weapon, holding it like an amateur as he braced himself...
Felix knocked him down in less than a minute.
Around them, the other new recruits muttered and looked anxiously at the two fighters. Felix glowered, daring them to speak up. It would give him an excuse for more punishment, at least.
“Your footwork is pathetic.” He pointed to his previous opponent standing several feet away and still rubbing at a probably-bruised shoulder. “Get with that one and do something to make yourselves less embarrassing.”
At the war's end, quite a few soldiers that had survived unscathed had made the trip to Fhirdiad in an attempt to join with the Knights. Even commoners had declared they deserved a chance, and Dimitri had not turned them away, claiming they needed all the shields they could get to protect a united Fodlan.
Whatever that damned ox was teaching this group of recruits though... well, Felix would have words with him later. If he didn't choose instead to exile him to another continent altogether.
“Which one of you wants to fail next?” he asked, sweeping his gaze along the recruits. “Impress me.”
“Actually... how about we take a break?” a voice asked from near the exit. “Maybe they aren't quite ready for the legendary Shield just yet?”
Felix clenched his fingers into a tight fist as he bit back an annoyed tch. “There are worse things than me to face, Sylvain.”
“Still...” Sylain sauntered closer and slung an arm around Felix's shoulders, “Let's not use these poor kids at training dummies, huh?”
Kids. You weren't kids after a war. “...Fine. But all of you will train harder.”
“Yeah, yeah. Come on, Duke Fraldarius.” Sylvain tugged him gently away. “I think they get the point.”
“Why are you even here?” Felix growled. Sylvain had dragged him to the stableyard for some reason, and the redhead was currently brushing down his beast of a horse.
“Ingrid and I had some things to talk about with His Majesty. Mostly about Sreng, but I think Ingrid wanted to personally thank Dedue too. Whatever weird plant he brought in is doing really well growing in Galatea soil.”
Dedue had been noticeably in and out, but Felix didn't ask questions. It was better for the taller man to not be constantly shadowing Dimitri like some wolfhound. “So why are you dragging me around instead of talking to the boar?”
“You want to tell me why you're so angry right now?”
Felix pinched the bridge of his nose. Sothis's damned toes, Sylvain was a pain sometimes. “I'm not angry.”
“I found you terrifying the Goddess out of those recruits. You're angry. Trouble in paradise?”
Dimitri let things drop. Too easily, sometimes, but at least he gave Felix some damned privacy. Sylvain asked too many questions. Assumed too many things. “I don't know what you mean.”
“You know, it's okay to talk about things now.” Sylvain gave his horse a gentle pat on its muzzle. “Really. I won't call you a crybaby or anything. Did Dimitri...?”
“He's getting married.” Probably. Definitely. Felix hadn't said a word after that breakfast, and Dimitri hadn't broached the subject again. But it wasn't like the king needed to get permission anyway. And it was Mercedes, who was too nice and gentle for the boar. Dimitri needed a deft hand to keep him from wandering into dark places when you weren't looking. And a firm hand to drag him back, if
“Oh.” Sylvain paused, blinking. He reached back, rubbing at his neck. “Really? I... huh. So you two...”
“I had nothing to do with it,” Felix crossed his arms and leaned back against the stable wall.
“You're still... Felix,” Sylvain sighed. “Even I'm not that dense.”
“You could have fooled me.” Felix rubbed at the bridge of his nose again. “Ugh. This is giving me a headache.”
“I don't have to meet with His Majesty until dinner. Do you want to go riding in the meantime?”
“...Fine.” It might do him well, to get away for a while.
Riding felt better, without the chaos of battle and the screams of pain around him. He and Dimitri would venture out some days, when Gilbert wasn't looking, just to get some fresh air and break the monotony of deskwork. Felix preferred the training halls still, but he was finally starting to enjoy this again.
It didn't hurt like it used to, thinking about Glenn and the long hours he'd spend with Felix- it won't hurt you as long as you're calm. Don't cry if you fall off, just get back on it and keep going.
“So that girl from the Alliance..” Sylvain started. “The one with the wyvern stock.”
“What about her?”
“You like her?”
Felix glanced at Sylvain, then swept his gaze back to the path in front of them. Fhirdiad had plenty of roads leading inwards, but they branched and darted through forested pathways. In the winter, it was truly beautiful but required skilled travelers to navigate. “She wanted to bring her prized wyverns to live here.”
“And that noble girl from Embarr?”
“Probably an Imperial loyalist. She'd kill the king in his sleep and rule the whole country in his stead.”
“That guy's daughter – the church bishop? The one with the...” Sylvain took a right turn, heading towards one of the lakes that bordered an old, crumbling waypost. “The one with the cat?”
“Dimitri's afraid of cats.” Well, he liked them fine. They just didn't like him. Even when Dimitri fed them strips of meat in the morning, he was bound to end up with a scratch or two and looking like he'd just had battle with a lion itself. He was getting better at rubbing ears the right way, but it was a work in progress, like everything related to the boar.
“You know Felix, I'm starting to think the problem isn't with them.” Sylvan's voice lowered, knowingly. “You know I know a really nice girl from our Academy days, she turned me down a few times but she did have a crush on...”
“Don't bother. Your taste in women is atrocious.” There was the lake, in all its glory. The surface had the thinnest layer of ice over it, and he could see a few silver-white fish suspended below.
There were spears sticking out near the edges of the west bank. And a piece of one of that snake's strange mechanical creatures.
Felix gripped tight to his reins to pivot away from the sight.
He was fine.
They were all fine.
“And what about you, Felix?” Sylvain asked, and Felix was certain there was a hint of melancholy in his voice this time.
“About me what?”
“Who would you marry, if you have the choice?”
At some point, when they were very young, they'd talked about it in hushed whispers. When Glenn was alive and the heir to everything. Dimitri had looked at him and in a secretive voice, promised a horrified Felix didn't have to marry anyone, and could just be a swordsman if he wanted to. The moment had been broken when Ingrid started swatting Sylvain for talking about marrying Ingrid's grandmother and it had all ended, somehow, with Felix awkwardly tying a ring to an ornamental sword in the weapons room.
“I'm where I need to be.”
Sylvain sighed. “You're hopeless. Hey, you remember that time with the ring..”
Felix spurred his horse into a run.
It was much later, when they finally returned to the castle proper and even later once they'd finished tending to their mounts. Felix had discarded his fur cloak, for once enjoying the slight chill of night settling in.
He felt... a little less taut. Activity had always made him feel better, and Sylvain was a good target for whatever ire Felix was generating. Not that Sylvain needed to know that. Sylvain had enough bad habits that needed correcting.
Dimitri, Dedue, and Ingrid were already in the smaller dining room tucked away in the east wing. It was far less formal than it had any right to be, with thick wooden furniture and no heraldry to remind one they were in the presence of royalty.
Dimitri glanced at him and stood up, hastily coming over to greet Felix. He hesitated, just a moment, and then reached up to rest his hand against the back of Felix's neck. An odd thing that he'd started doing near the end of the war, whenever they were separated for longer than two days.
And Felix, outside of official duties, had been avoiding him for four.
Felix sighed and reached up to curl his fingers over Dimitri's slender wrist. It was warm, even through the thick blue fabric of his shirt.
“Later... would you be willing to talk?” the king asked, sounding more like an over-eager pup.
Dimitri's thumb brushed over the bump in his neck as he withdrew his hand. The loss of warmth tingled unpleasantly, and Felix suddenly regretted not bringing his furs.
“Hello Felix.” Ingrid was next, firmly squeezing his hands. She looked good. Tired, but the callouses on her fingers were firm enough that Felix was mildly impressed. “Sylvain said you were terrifying new recruits today.”
“Sylvain says a lot of nonsense. Felix settled into his chair to Dimitri's right, as always. “Sorry you have to deal with his chatter regularly.”
“It truly is a burden.” she said back with a smile.
“When you two are done talking about me while I'm here,” Sylvain huffed. “We did want to tell you...”
“Ah... yes,” Ingrid sat up a little straighter. “With your permission, I intend to open a Pegasus Knight's Academy in Galatea. House Gautier will help provide funding but...”
“Of course.” Dimiri smiled, excited. “Whatever you need. We are a little strapped with repairs, but I can add it to the docket for the next gathering. We are set to all meet at Garreg Mach in roughly three week's time and I am certain the Archbishop will be happy as well.”
Felix was content to let them discuss things in between bites of pheasant and thick potatoes with gravy. Dedue's cooking, considering the spices. And one of Felix's favorites given the time of year. Dimitri wouldn't really taste it, but inevitably there was a red glaze to his cheeks that generally meant even if the boar wasn't reacting, his body was. It would have been slightly amusing, if Felix didn't have to deal with the boar's awkward wheezing later. Dimitri, Felix learned, would rather set his own lungs on fire than criticize Dedue's cooking.
Instead he quietly poured more cold milk into Dimitri's glass before the king had a chance to question. He didn't need wine anyway. Dimitri broke things when drunk. Like a perfectly acceptable wall.
On his third attempt at refilling the king's goblet, he had to stop because there were three sets of eyes staring at him.
“So...” Sylvain cleared his throat dramatically. “Felix said you had some big news, your Majesty?”
“Ah... did he?” Dimitri glanced to Felix, then back to Sylvain, then back to an annoyed Felix, then back to Sylvain. Almost comical, if Felix wasn't considering digging Sylvain's grave right then and there. “No? Do I... have news, Felix?”
Goddess. A toddler was a better liar than the brute. The whole thing was a farce, and Felix could feel his calm starting to wear out.
“Ashe found an interesting book. I apologize. He requested I bring it to you, Ingrid.” Dedue said, as smooth and calm as a stream.
“Oh! Thank you! How is Ashe?” Ingrid asked, switching topics. “I keep meaning to visit his inn...”
Just like that, the matter was dropped. Felix ignored that Dimitri was still watching him.
Felix was bent over, sorting through letters when Dimitri knocked on his door. Felix grunted, looking up as the taller man slowly opened the door.
“You're the king you know. You can go into whatever room you like.” the swordsman grumbled, sitting up.
“You know how I feel about hierarchy.” Dimitri glanced to the red velvet chair opposite Felix. His old man's, and one of the few pieces of furniture he'd brought from his own territory. “May I...?”
“I won't stop you.” Felix tapped his quill against his desk.
The king sat down, and Felix noted not for the first time how ironic it was how such a large beast of a man could suddenly look so small, when the mood struck him. Even dressed down, he was still broad and Felix knew from far too many sparring sessions just how much muscle was hidden beneath the fabrics.
In another life, maybe, he would be the spitting image of a dashing prince in one of Bernadetta's novels. Shirtless, his hair flying freely, holding a woman close...
Felix blanched. Breathed. “You wanted to talk?”
“I... apologize. For distressing you so. I handled the question poorly.” Dimitri awkwardly crossed his arms. Fiddled with a small thread on the old chair. “Felix...”
“What does it matter if you want to marry or not?” Felix sniffed disdainfully. “I'm not your keeper.”
“But it does matter to you.” Dimitri countered, sounding vexed. “You hate when I even bring up the topic.”
“Because you're not some piece of meat to be nibbled on by some ambitious stranger. They don't...” Felix could feel it. Dancing around, and he hated it. He wasn't stupid. He wasn't ever uncertain of himself. But some truths, well, they were better left buried like all the dead that they'd left in their wake as they marched onwards. He'd finally gotten Dimitri back, not his Dimitr, the one in his idyllic childhood memory, but the broken, stitched together, still-repairing remnants that was somehow more real, even when Felix wanted him to choke on his own too-earnest tongue.
“They don't fit your high standards?”
“They don't know you.” Goddess, he shouldn't have said that. The room felt entirely too small and Felix was certain he'd be crushed by the walls.
“Is that true for even Mercedes?”
“She doesn't deserve to be tied to a boar.”
“True. She is too kind, and too sweet. And too driven to reach out to those impoverished and orphaned. She would have equal voice as a Church envoy. And the nobles will collectively be horrified at a king that marries a commoner.”
Felix bristled. Bit back the retort bubbling in his throat. It made sense. The whole thing made perfect sense.
And he still hated it.
“If I said no...would you still go through with asking her?”
“No. I would drop the matter and not pursue it again.”
“If I told you to abandon the kingship, would you?”
“You would not ask, and I would never offer.” Dimitri replied, calm and confident.
Felix's chest couldn't seem to expand. “Dimitri...”
“I truly do value you, Felix. More than I can express. You choosing to remain by my side is... a blessing no man deserves, least of all myself.”
“I hate when you do that. Believe you don't deserve things. Life isn't fair. No one gets what they deserve, least of all some divine punishment.” Felix glanced to the thick window, at the grey clouds drifting along that mottled out the stars. “We're not saints, boar.”
Dimitri's lips quirked upwards, in a half-smile. “No, I suppose we are not. How perceptive you are.”
“You're mocking me.”
“No. I can assure I am serious.” Dimitri reached out, curling their hands together. Goddess, his fingers were long. Another injustice of life. “Felix... “
“What?” He had to look away, because right now... he needed to do something. Anything.
“You do not need to keep anything from me, you know.”
“I know.” Felix didn't pull his hands away. He swallowed a breath, struggling against something too real and too wild. That Dimitri's warm hands would be ripped away, just like in Duscur. Just like the rebellion. Just like the start of that damn fool war. “Is Mercedes... does she...?”
Dimitri's smile faded, just slightly. Felix felt like he'd parried too clumsily and lost some battle he didn't realize he was fighting.
“She is not marrying me for love, Felix. She and her beloved have... already made an arrangement Thee are things she and I wish to see out, and this is a way we can accomplish our goals.”
“Do you think so?” Felix's fingers twitched as Dimitri's thumb brushed up against the bones of his wrist. “I am truly a lucky man to have you. All of you. I could not imagine ruling a kingdom alone, without so many that care about both me and the people of Fodlan.”
Felix's chest felt like it had been twisted into a vice, “If you get any more sentimental boar, you might burst.”
“I might.” Dimitri leaned forward, and Felix felt his heart stutter as the king placed a gentle kiss to both his hands. “Goodnight then.”
Felix watched Dimitri leave, his mind stuck in a horrifying loop of realization.
Mercedes arrived one week later. Supposedly to report on the orphanage situation near Garreg Mach, but Felix wasn't naive enough to believe there were going to be discussions shortly.
Lots of discussions.
The kind of discussions that had kept him from sleeping well at night.
Not that anyone else had noticed. He and Dimitri worked as they always did, sparred like things were normal enough. But Felix felt off-balance, watching each and every reaction the boar had, and if Dimitri noticed the intense focus, he was polite enough not to comment.
Felix felt at a standstill. There were times in his life where he felt as though he was trudging through thick mud, unable to move forward, dragged back by something undefinable. His response had always been to push through, get stronger, leave whatever regrets he had behind.
He knew he was tapping his elbow as Mercedes entered the grand hallway, flanked by new pegasus knights that were too eager and jittery.
Felix opened his mouth to speak but Mercedes was faster, pulling her into a tight hug full of warmth and affection.
No matter how much his pride stewed, Felix couldn't resist wrapping his hands around her waist and pulling her close, nuzzling against her soft coat. She always smelled like a warm kitchen and safety.
“It's good to see you so well, Felix,” she said, with that knowing smile she always had.
“You too.” And it wasn't a lie. At all.
“Let's talk later, all right?” She gently kissed his cheek and withdrew. “I'd like to catch up.”
“Tonight.” It would give him time, to get his thoughts in order. To brace for Dimitri's announcement.
Mercedes smiled, and Felix's stomach churned.
“We're going to announce it at the next gathering at Garreg Mach.” Mercedes had an interesting way of drinking tea; one handed and dainty and yet she would take long sips, as though the boiling drink had zero effect on her. “I think Dimitri wants to make sure I'm really all right with it, and that way any nobles that protest will also have the Archbishop to contend with.”
“And you still want to go through with it?” Felix couldn't drink. Could barely keep his energy restrained. He'd sparred with Dimitri earlier, and it had ended with them both panting and slightly wild.
He was losing his grip around the damned boar, and sooner or later something would give.
Goddess, Felix wasn't prepared for this.
“I think I can help a lot of people if I'm a queen, don't you?”
“It's a lot less glamorous than you think. The ruling part.” Felix sniffed derisively. “I spent an entire day listening to two nobles argue over the best way to deal with geese in their territories. Geese.”
Mercedes politely put her hand up as she laughed. “What happened?”
“I finally told Ashe to go out and murder the lot of the damned birds.”
“I have a lot to learn then.” Mercedes picked up a cookie – one from a batch she'd made a few hours ago – and ran her hand along the edge. “Felix... it's all right to tell him how you feel.”
Distantly, Felix knew she'd find out. Mercedes always saw through people. He breathed in and out, looked down at the dish of sweets and bitter-cremed pastries that Dimitri always requested for him.
All the little touches around their space that had nothing to do with what Dimitri enjoyed, and entirely to indulge the Duke and Right Hand. He'd just never acknowledged it.
“I spent years resenting him. A decade, even. And he was...” Broken. Sliding into an abyss that Felix had looked away from. Because he'd been young, and angry, and hadn't understood the depths of Dimitri's pain while Felix was so fixated on his own. “I don't want to lose this. I can't again. ”
“But don't you want more?” Mercedes tilted her head, just so. “Don't you think he feels the same?”
And that was it, wasn't it? Felix could lie to himself about his reasons all day. Call each want-to-be bride not good enough, disregard all the times Dimitri was waiting for him to say yes, now...
Felix let out a shuddering breath. “If it all goes wrong..”
“Then we all pick each other up and carry on.”
“I'm doomed, aren't I?” It didn't matter. He'd chosen this path. Had chosen it the second he'd first met Dimitri and gripped his hand, declaring eternal loyalty that had seemed so simple and noble as an innocent child.
“I'd like to think you'll make each other very happy. Like Annie and I are”
“That song about baking cookies...”
Mercedes hummed, but didn't deny it.
Dimitri's quarters, as befitting a king, were far too big and grandiose. Even after the fucking snake had looted most of the finery, it was still too big and too much. Thick fabrics decorated the walls and bed in lieu of genuine finery, and a few treasures Dimitri had gathered and hoarded with all his might. Figurines crafted from Duscur. Books that Ashe had collected in their travels. A stuffed bear that had Mercedes' careful touch all over it.
The Sword of Zoltan, hanging proudly near the window.
“Ah, hello Felix.” Dimitri yawned as he held the door open. “It's late. Is something the matter?”
“Are you doing paperwork?” They'd had this argument before. Many times. Too many, perhaps.
“I'm reading letters. From Marianne and one from Flayn.” Dimitri went back to a large stuffed sofa near the window. “Flayn wishes for me to sample her eggs and toast when we next visit.”
“I don't have a death wish.” He didn't want to sit down. Not so close. Not... “Boar... Dimitri...” He closed the door and collected himself. Battles, battles were easy. Even now, as much as he loathed them, Felix knew he could enter the battlefield and cut down his enemies as easy as breathing. “I am not your kept wife.”
“I'm sorry?” Dimitri looked up, clearly puzzled. “Are there rumors?”
“I...” Felix pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled. He was doing this all wrong. Too complicated.
Go forward. Prove through your actions.
He leaned down, resting his hand against Dimitri's jaw. Dimitri looked up at him, blue eye unblinking and clear.
Their lips met.
Felix was certain there would have been relief. Or mortification. Or an Immaculate One crashing through the ceiling and tearing everything around to shreds.
Mostly, it was just a little dry.
“Oh...” Dimitri breathed, looking positively stunned. Goddess. He was going to make this romantic, wasn't he? “Oh Felix...”
“I understand, you oaf.” Felix didn't resist as Dimitri's hands slid up his arms, resting uneasily against his shoulders. “But you could have said it.”
“I thought... you may not be interested.” Dimitri leaned forward, meeting him for another hesitant kiss. “We're really not good at this, are we?”
They'd been mourning, and fighting, and repairing a whole continent. “Don't put me on your level of clumsiness, Dimitri.”
“My mistake.” Dimitri smiled and it was genuine. It was Felix's smile, that none of those wretched girls or irate nobles or anyone else got to see. “Allow me the opportunity to atone for it.”
The third kiss was much better.
The wedding was as gaudy and overblown and ornate as Felix dreaded. Nobles were aghast, commoners celebrated, and Gilbert cried like a child. (Felix was still going to exile that ox later.) Annette sang, and Mercedes acted as gracefully as any queen would.
Felix rested his hand above his chest, where he kept Dimitri's family ring tied on a simple chain.
Things would be fine.
They were fine.