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One day we'll meet trouble halfway

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Felix doesn’t know why he’s going back to Garreg Mach.

Maybe it’s because Sylvain is going – because of course Sylvain is going. He’d been better about keeping in touch with Claude than Felix had been, but that didn’t matter, because Sylvain told Felix everything in Claude's letters anyway.

Despite the five years of fighting, things are relatively calm in Gautier and Fraldarius territories at the moment, although they both know that won't last. Felix still isn’t sure at the wisdom of leaving but, well… he’s also sick of being around his father. His father who remains more concerned about a dead prince than about his own son.

So maybe that’s why he goes back to Garreg Mach with minimal complaining.

He isn’t expecting to find anything there except for a Claude who’ll have to face a harsh reality. His belief that the Professor is still alive and would return to them is pathetic, as is his insistence of keeping to a juvenile promise they’d made five years ago to meet up on this date. Sentimental and foolish. They’ve left behind their schooldays and now there is only death and war. This is an unnecessary distraction – and Claude, as the leader of the Alliance, should know better.

Felix had looked for Dimitri, and the Professor. Eventually he knew he was just searching for their bodies.

And yet despite it all, here is is, riding alongside Sylvain as they make good time on the road to Garreg Mach.

Once there, Felix expects to find a disappointed Claude and a run down monastery.

Only one of those predictions turns out to be true.

.

She is alive.

Byleth is alive and standing in front of him with her eyes tracing his face like she’s noting everything that’s changed in him in the last five years. And yet she herself looks untouched by time. Looking at her, it's easy to think that it might only have been yesterday she had been teaching them tactics in the classroom.

When she says his name, Felix turns away.

.

It’s not that he isn’t relieved that she’s alive. He is – he’s very genuinely happy she’s here. But it’s tinged with something else, something far more selfish, because she’s been gone for five years and everyone is smiling and hugging her like they haven’t all been through hell since she’d disappeared. She’d left them.

And he’s angry. Relieved that she’s here to be angry with, but still. Angry.

And Felix has forgotten just how exuberant the Golden Deer can be. It seems not even war can change that. He watches them embrace their former professor, loudly chattering, smiles across every face as Byleth hugs each of them in turn. Something coils in his stomach.

Claude is beaming from his position beside the Professor, and Felix realises with a jolt that Claude's faith had been well placed. He had always said Byleth would return to them – not once had he wavered on that – and he’d been right.

Felix feels guilty he didn’t have such faith in her himself.

He meets Byleth’s eyes again, and she gives him that little smile that he was always so pleased to earn back when he’d been a student. Between that and the presence of his former classmates, it’s easy to think they’ve gone back in time. She's even still wearing the same damn armour. Perhaps that’s why his heart still beats so quickly at the sight of her, and he curses himself for not being over a schoolboy fancy from long ago.

.

Being back in his old room is strange. It’s eerie, really, knowing exactly which rooms are occupied and which aren’t and why that is.

Rolling onto his back, Felix stares up at the rafters in the dark. He can’t sleep. Being back here is dredging up too many memories. Too many feelings, both good and bad.

And it’s more difficult than he expects, to be here without Ingrid and the boar. He keeps turning a corner, expecting to meet Dimitri’s bright blue eyes, or to go into the dining hall and see Ingrid enjoying her food.

He shifts onto his side again, facing the wall and sighing.

At least Ingrid is still alive. Whatever ghosts may haunt this monastery, she isn’t one of them. And Sylvain is here. Felix would never say it out loud, but he's glad for that.

His thoughts drift back to the Professor, as they so often embarrassingly do.

I was sleeping, she’d said, so deadpan that if it had been anyone else, everyone would have taken it as a joke. An absolutely ridiculous excuse for disappearing for five years and yet also so very typically Byleth. Felix had been there when she’d cut through the sky with the Sword of the Creator and returned to them, changed. He can think her answer absurd even if he believes it.

His anger still lingers, joining the litany of grievances that are always bubbling just under his skin.

But he’s glad she’s here. More glad than he really wants to admit to himself, because that would mean acknowledging something he’d rather avoid at the moment.

Kicking his blanket off him, suddenly feeling too warm, Felix feels even more restless when he thinks about the Professor and his days at the Academy.

He had transferred to the Golden Deer once he’d realised how powerful Byleth was. He could learn so much more from her than he could from Professor Hanneman.

Sylvain had already transferred by then, of course. Felix had seen him trying to charm Professor Byleth in her second week of teaching. He’d sidled up to her with that ingratiating fake smile plastered across his face, shirt unbuttoned almost to his damn navel with his hair artfully tossed. Then he’d called Byleth beautiful and asked to transfer into her class.

Felix had almost laughed out loud at the look Byleth had given Sylvain. She wasn’t very expressive back then, but she had a mean stink eye. Her tone was impeccably cool as she told Sylvain to speak to Professor Hanneman first and to set up a meeting for the three of them, and then her voice had hardened when she told him that if he transferred, he’d better be prepared to work hard.

In truth, Felix thought Sylvain might have regretted his decision to transfer at first. No matter how pretty she was, Professor Byleth was far tougher than Hanneman, stricter with their training, and impossible to sweet talk.

But that – and because someone had to keep Sylvain out of trouble – was exactly why Felix transferred, and he’d never once regretted it, not even when Ingrid’s face fell when he told her he was moving to the Golden Deer. He still saw her all the time, and it was only for a year. They’d both be returning to Faerghus afterwards.

Felix had never bothered to tell the boar. He assumed Sylvain or Ingrid informed him.

His decision to transfer had quickly borne fruit. Byleth always made time to spar with him, and then they’d quickly fallen into a good partnership on the battlefield.

And then she’d somehow convinced him to enter the White Heron Cup.

It will help your footwork and dexterity, she’d said.

Felix had hated every second of that dancing nonsense, even if he could quickly see that Byleth was right about it helping him. But then she’d touch him, lifting his arm just so, nudging his feet slightly wider, and his stomach would clench with nerves and anticipation.

Alright so maybe he didn't hate every second.

“Where did a mercenary even learn to do this?” He’d groused after one long practice session, in which she seemed to touch him constantly.

Byleth had only given him an enigmatic smile in response.

Felix had won the dancing competition, of course. He'd even worn the damn costume.

And Byleth had been right. Five years later and he still used some of the techniques he’d learned by dancing on the battlefield. He could see how it made it movements quicker; more fluid. Possibly kept him alive.

.

He continues to toss and turn for a while, fruitlessly seeking rest. There are no curtains on the window anymore, either stolen or lost to ruin in the last few years. It’s a clear night, and the moon is shining, bright and almost full.

It reminds him a little too much of another clear, cold night with a full moon.

And a cold wave washes over Felix as he remembers a conversation he’d had with Byleth on the night of the ball, not long after the White Heron Cup.

That particular conversation is not something he’s thought about in some time. Occasionally the memory would rear up like an old adversary, ready to attack and force him to remember what an idiot he’d acted like. It was painful to recall – at first because he’d made a fool out of himself in front of her, and then later because she was gone and all memories with her were painful, too edged with grief and a sickening longing he couldn’t understand.

But now, that conversation is forefront in his mind, and that old adversary is back and making him recall it all in excruciating detail.

.

The ball had been stuffy and hot. He had danced with Ingrid, and while it hadn’t been completely terrible, he’d decided one dance would be enough. Felix could see other people eyeing him, and he didn’t want to give any of them a chance to try and ask him for a dance.

He hadn’t quite succeeded; really, he should have known Sylvain would bodily drag him onto the dance floor and spin him around.

“Why did you enter a dancing competition if you don’t want to dance?”

Felix had hissed at him like an angry cat, face flushed from the heat of the ballroom and the indignity of Sylvain manhandling him. “It was a form of training.”

Sylvain had laughed, and the only reason Felix hadn’t punched him was because it had been his real laugh – the laugh of his friend – and not that infuriating false one. “If you say so.” A pause as they had another grapple over who should be leading – that Felix won. And then Sylvain had waggled his eyebrows and said coyly, “Did you enjoy all that alone time with the lovely Professor?”

Felix hadn’t punched Sylvain, but he had shoved him away. Unfortunately he managed to shove him straight into Claude, who took it in good stride and caught him, making it almost look like a dance move, instead of just letting that idiot fall on his ass to the floor.

And then Felix had made his escape from the ballroom.

He wasn’t even sure what had brought him to the Goddess Tower. He’d just wanted some fresh air and some quiet, and he could have gotten that anywhere outside. But for some reason, he’d gone to that Tower and climbed the steps to reach the top of it.

And then the Professor had turned up, apparently having a similar need for air and quiet like Felix, and he’d remembered what Sylvain had said and gotten annoyed all over again, because Sylvain had been right. Felix had enjoyed being alone with the Professor, getting special lessons and her undivided attention.

And now she was here and he was here, and there was that that stupid legend about a man and woman meeting at the Goddess Tower and Felix had… gotten flustered and gone on a rant about wanting to surpass her.

It hadn’t been the first time he’d expressed such a sentiment, and Byleth had never minded. She'd encouraged it, really. But this time he’d gone a little overboard.

“I’ll surpass your technique, your skill with a sword, and your cunning as a warrior. Then I will make you taste defeat!”

He remembers her reaction, small as it had been, very well. Byleth’s mouth had downturned a fraction and her eyebrows had furrowed. When she spoke, it was rather mildly and with no inflection – he had no idea what she’d really been thinking. “That seems extreme.”

.

In his old academy room, five years after this conversation, Felix turns his head into his pillow, cringing at the memory. It wasn’t that he hadn’t wanted to surpass her – he still does – but it had been a bit much, even for him. They’d spent enough time together sparring or practising his dancing; she must have wondered at the sudden over-zealousness he’d displayed.

But she’d looked so very pretty under the moonlight, and it had been strange to be alone with her in such a setting.

And apparently that was all it took for him to make a fool out of himself.

He groans as he remembers what he’d said next.

.

“What a disappointment. If you’re looking for a passionate affair, you’ve got the wrong man. Go find someone else.”

He’d been arrogant and haughty, and out of the corner of his eye, Felix could see her looking at him in increasing bewilderment. When she’d opened her mouth to say something, Felix had just kept on talking.

Like an idiot.

“I’ve spent my life avoiding love and romance. They’re distractions.”

“O-kay?”

“Blades, blood, and battle. That’s what I’m made of and nothing else.”

He remembers how he’d folded his arms and regarded her as she’d peered back at him, baffled. He’d stuck his nose in the air and said, “If someone saw us, however, this may look like an amorous meeting.”

Byleth had frowned at that, glancing around like she was expecting someone to leap out of the shadows.

“You’ll have to settle for being mistaken as my lover.”

.

Why had he said that? What had possessed him to vomit all those stupid words like he was… like he was some kind of anti-Sylvain, determined to make women run away inside of closer?

Felix rolls onto his front, curls his knees under him, and presses the heels of his hands into his forehead, wanting to bang his head against the pillow.

.

She’d looked at him then, with a confused expression that was, admittedly, rather cute. “But that’s nonsense.”

Felix had shrugged, turning his gaze away, trying to ignore the hammering of his heart and a flicker of hurt at her dismissing it so easily. With effort, he’d kept his tone casual. “It’s time I went back to training. I’ll always be more comfortable holding a sword than a woman’s hand.”

.

Thinking back on it now, Felix realises that he’d never seen Byleth more expressive than he had during that one sided conversation.

When he’d said that, her lips had pursed and now he thinks that she’d been trying not to laugh.

He groans into his pillow again.

Of course she’d been trying not to laugh. The Professor was and is a nice person and wouldn’t want to make him feel bad, even if he was making an absolute moron of himself in front of her. And at least she’d never told anyone.

If Sylvain knew…

.

And then Felix had finished the conversation in as spectacular a fashion as he’d started it. Turning his body away from her, he’d placed his hand on the pommel of his sword, ready to leave. “Try not to catch a cold up here. I’d hate for such a good sparring partner to be out of commission. Goodbye.”

And then he’d walked away, and behind him he’d heard the Professor say in a wavering voice, “Goodnight, Felix,” and now, five years later he knows that she had definitely been laughing at him.

.

He curls into a ball on his bed, still pressing his hands to his head. She must think him an idiot.

He is an idiot.

.

It takes him forever to finally fall asleep.

.

Sylvain looks at him slyly the next morning, stepping out into the hall as soon as Felix leaves his room. Felix thinks he must have been waiting for him, and then wonders at just what Sylvain is doing in the room next to him. That’s Dimitri’s room. “Sleep well?” Sylvain asks.

Too tired to bother to verbally respond, Felix simply glares at Sylvain before taking off down the hallway towards the stairs. Sylvain keeps pace easily. “It’s just that you sounded a little… frustrated.”

Felix spins around, turning the intensity of his glare up. “Why are you in the boar’s old room?”

“Maybe I just wanted to be closer to you.” Sylvain has that stupid, insincere smile on his face, the one that Felix can’t stand.

“Ugh.” He turns away again.

“I’m joking, Felix.” Sylvain’s voice becomes more sombre, and more genuine. “Part of the roof is damaged in my old room, it’s pretty damp in there.” A shadow crosses his face. “I didn’t really feel right about it but Leonie had fixed it up. I don’t think she knew it was Dimitri’s room. And I didn’t want to sleep in the stables.”

“Mm.” Felix keeps walking. It doesn’t matter that Sylvain slept in Dimitri’s room. Dimitri is dead.

It shouldn’t matter.

So instead he tries to push the matter aside, intent on finding some breakfast. They make their way down the stairs, and Sylvain brightens up, obviously not wanting to talk about Dimitri either.

“So I heard your little moans and groans last night. I thought at first you weren’t alone, that maybe you’d finally told the Prof– Professor!”

Like Sylvain’s words have summoned her, Byleth appears in front of them at the foot of the steps. She gives them a small smile, eyes darting curiously from Felix to Sylvain.

Felix is just glad Sylvain has shut up because otherwise he would have maimed him. As it is Sylvain lets out a nervous laugh, obviously wondering if Byleth had heard anything he’s said. He should be nervous, Felix thinks… And now the Professor is here, still looking a bit sleepy and pretty and ugh, he wonders if he should tell her that he missed her, because he has. And he hasn’t really spoken to her at all since she’s been back, but–

She speaks. “I’m heading to the dining hall – Hilda assures me there’s some breakfast to be found. Would you both like to join me?” Byleth tilts her head to the side as she talks and it’s so annoyingly cute that Felix grunts.

“I have to train,” he says snappishly, but his stomach decides at that moment to rebel at that idea, rumbling loudly.

Byleth has the decency to not mention it, and her face remains smooth, but Sylvain, of course Sylvain can’t ignore it. He laughs, obnoxiously, and another voice rings out behind them and Felix wonders, not for the first time, why on Fódlan he’d ever transferred to the Golden Deer House.

“Morning all,” Claude cheerily says as he descends the stairs. “Felix, I’m pretty sure they heard that in Almyra.”

Felix can feel himself going red. “I’ll train before I eat,” he mutters, making his way down the last few flights of steps, very aware of everyone's eyes on him.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Felix,” Byleth says gently. “Have some breakfast before training.”

He pauses but doesn’t look at her, conflicting emotions warring inside him. Instead he says, bitingly, “I know you’ve been gone a long time Professor, so you may not realise this. But we’re at war.”

“I’m aware,” she replies quietly before there’s a swish of fabric and Felix sees her turn away from the corner of his eye. She gives Claude and Sylvain a small wave. “Perhaps I’ll see you two at breakfast.”

“Later, Teach,” Claude says with an easy smile that drops as soon as Byleth is gone. Then he turns a cool look on Felix who, despite himself, is still standing there watching Byleth stride off into the distance. He’s already mentally kicking himself for the way he’d spoken to her.

Sylvain sighs. “You’re too old to still be acting mean towards girls you like, Felix.”

Felix colours. “I’m not–“

“Wow, look at that blush.” Claude leans forward like he’s trying to see it better, and Felix turns his head away. “Right up to his ears.”

Sylvain leans lazily against the wall like he’s posing for a painting, artfully dishevelled. “If you want tips–“

“You’re the last person I’d go to for advice about this,” Felix snarls.

“Oh?” says Claude with a calculating look and a sharpness to his voice. “So there is a this?”

“Ugh, both of you are annoying. I still don’t know why I joined your stupid house.”

“Sure you do.” Claude smirks. “Because of Teach.”

Sylvain laughs.

Felix narrows his eyes. Enough of this. “I’m leaving.” He makes himself walk away, head held high. But he’s still very aware of his flushed face and ears. At least soon he’ll have the excuse of exercise to explain it away.

.

It’s early enough that the training grounds are empty. Felix storms through the doors, making a beeline for the training swords, stacked neatly in a rack in the corner. It’s only when he picks one up does he pause, the last few minutes catching up with him.

He leans forward and rests his head against the rough stone wall of the training grounds. And groans.

Why did he talk to the Professor like that? All she’d done was ask them to breakfast.

Now all he could hope was that Claude and Sylvain wouldn’t keep going on about it.

.

Claude and Sylvain keep going on about it.

In different ways, of course. Sylvain is upfront about it, with his teasing and stupid comments and awful advice. He at least only does it when they’re alone, probably knowing Felix wouldn’t forgive him if he brought up his crush on the Professor in front of everyone else.

Because that’s what it is, of course, a stupid, inconvenient crush that will go away if he stabs something enough.

Claude’s more subtle about it, but probably not as subtle as he thinks. He makes offhand remarks to Felix in the Professor’s presence.

“Felix, isn’t Teach looking especially radiant today?” And then he smiles beatifically, like he’s a saint bestowing gifts and not a scheming troublemaker. Sometimes Felix has to remind himself that this is the leader of the Alliance and their hope, along with Byleth, to win this war.

Except Claude quickly stops that tactic, because the Professor just gives him her stink eye and tells Felix to ignore him and goes back to checking a list of requisitions. Claude’s left pouting a little at her non-response, before turning a sly look on Felix and dropping an arm casually over Byleth’s shoulders, leaning in as if he’s reading the list alongside her.

Felix’s hands form into fists. Not because of Claude’s touch, necessarily. Maybe a little. But mostly because the Professor seems so comfortable with it. It’s not the first time Claude has casually touched her and been so close to her.

And stupidly, it bothers Felix. It shouldn’t, he knows. He has no claim on Byleth – he hardly even speaks to her because every time he does he says something so damn idiotic he wants to die.

But it does bother him. She smiles at Claude and they lean their heads together to work, looking so cosy and comfortable together as they make their plans and tactics to win this war.

So Felix stalks away, finding Raphael and convincing him to to train. He spends the afternoon brawling with Raphael until it feels like he's just one giant bruise. It’s Raphael who forces him to stop, partially because he wants to go and get dinner, but also because he’s concerned.

“You really do push yourself too hard,” he says in that annoying jovial tone of voice as he stretches out some of those ridiculous muscles.

Felix winces as he stretches too, brooding over his losses. Brawling isn’t his specialty, and Raphael is much larger than him, but still. He needs to get stronger. Losing stings.

“Hey.” A concerned look crosses Raphael’s face. “Are you hurt? I’m real sorry. Let’s go get Marianne, she’ll be able to fix you right up.”

“I’m fine,” Felix snaps, rolling his shoulders. “If you’re done, just leave.”

“You should take a break, too, Felix.” Raphael still has that concerned look on his face, so Felix turns away.

“I will, later.”

"Are you sure I can't even bring you some food?" Why, thinks Felix, is he being so annoyingly persistent?

"I'm sure," Felix responds with a bite of impatience in his voice. "As I said, I'll eat later."

A pause. “If you say so.” He doesn’t sound convinced, but Raphael leaves, along with some of the tension in Felix’s shoulders.

He glances up. It’s getting late and really, he should go eat dinner. The training grounds are almost deserted by now, other people obviously also going for food while the dining hall is still open.

He knows Raphael is right. But he feels so restless. He thinks of the boar more often than he’d like, and of his father, still up there in Fraldarius territory fighting against the Empire. But despite that, Felix doesn’t regret his decision to work with Claude.

He’d wrestled with it a bit, in truth, at first. And so had Sylvain. They’d discussed it on their way down to Garreg Mach those few weeks ago, with Sylvain voicing some of his doubts out loud, unwittingly putting words to some of Felix’s own thoughts. Their leaving is ultimately weakening the Fearghus rebellion.

But the Faerghus rebellion is already nearly dead, and it's only a matter of time before it's crushed. With Claude and the Alliance, along with the professor, they have a chance of winning – and stopping Edelgard will also help the Kingdom.

Felix is not particularly attached to his country, and certainly not to its ideals. But this war is causing too much suffering and Claude – frustrating as he may be – not only wants to stop the war but also to build a new world. Maybe Edelgard wants that too, but – and even thinking of Edelgard pisses Felix off – how she’s doing it, Felix can never forgive.

It’s her fault Dimitri is dead. That so many are dead. It was her attack on Garreg Mach that lead to Byleth being lost for so long.

He clenches his hands into fists, ignoring the pain that shoots through his arm, and stomps over to grab a training sword. The door to the grounds open, a sound Felix is used to ignoring.

But when he turns around with the intention of pummelling a training dummy, he finds he’s facing Byleth, who runs her eyes over his body. It’s not in a salacious way – not in the way Sylvain might look a woman up and down – but in an appraising way.

“Raphael says you’re hurt,” she states, obviously looking at him to figure out what’s wrong.

He scowls. “I’m fine.”

How often does he say those two words? Often enough that they’ve become meaningless. I’m fine.

“Don’t lie to me.” An aggravated tone slips into Byleth’s voice. “You can hardly close your hand around the pummel of that sword. Let me heal you.”

She seems on edge. Felix decides to ignore everything she’s just said. “Spar with me.”

“No. Let me heal you. It looks minor enough that even my Faith magic can fix it.”

“If I let you heal me will you spar?”

“No,” Byleth says again, still patient despite being annoyed. “You’ve done enough training for today.”

Bristling, Felix turns away, heading for a dummy. He forces himself to grip the sword tightly, ignoring the pain that shoots up his arm. He needs to be able to fight even when he’s injured. He needs to be strong enough.

But Byleth clearly isn’t going to let this go. “Felix–“

“You’re not my Professor anymore, so save it.” The words are spoken harshly, more ugliness dripping from his mouth that he regrets as soon as he says it. His shoulders hunch up for a moment before he forces himself to smooth out, taking a deep breath and focusing on the training dummy, using the pain in his arm to ground himself.

She sighs. “I know that. And I know you don’t like me, but –“

“What?” He turns sharply, ignoring another wrenching pain in his side. “Why do you think I don’t like you?”

Byleth, usually the one with the direct gaze, looks away. “I’m not that oblivious,” she mutters.

Felix splutters, surprised. How could she think that? He’s always so worried it’s obvious to everyone how much he does like her. Whenever she’s around, he can’t take his eyes off her.

But then, whenever she looks at him, he looks away.

And whenever she approaches him, he walks away.

“Look.” Byleth raises her head, and while her tone and expression is neutral, like this doesn’t matter, there’s a blush across her cheeks suggesting that it very much does matter. “Over-training will have you fatigued for our next battle, and we’ve got reports of increased Imperial activity getting closer. We know they won’t leave us alone. Let me heal you, and then go get some rest. We need you.” She pauses and looks uncertain, like there’s more she wants to say. But she stays quiet.

Felix is silent for a time, an uncomfortable feeling of shame creeping up his neck, as he stares at her, for once not looking away. Words stick in his throat.

“F-fine,” he says eventually, a creak in his voice, and Byleth’s eyes brighten a little, and she raises her hand as she steps closer. Felix feels the cool, refreshing feel of her magic soothe his aches. Her faith magic isn’t as powerful as Marianne’s, but Byleth is right – it’s enough for the knocks he’d picked up brawling too hard against Raphael to start feeling better.

Byleth is close to him now, close enough that it would easy to reach out and brush her hair behind her ear.

He doesn’t, of course. That would be ridiculous.

As soon as she’s done, Byleth steps back, and her lips turn upwards. It’s not a smile, just a poor attempt at one. Felix has seen enough of them to know. She doesn’t say anything else. She’s never really that chatty, so it’s not unexpected, and instead she turns and heads towards the entrance.

“Professor.” Felix calls out before he thinks about it, moving quickly across the training grounds, stopping a few feet behind her.

Byleth halts at the door, one hand on the handle as she looks back at him expectantly.

“I don’t…” he starts and then stops before continuing in a rush. “I don’t not like you.”

Byleth’s brows furrow, and he cringes.

“I mean, I do like you.”

And then he cringes harder because somehow that sounds even worse. But Byleth’s lips quirk upwards again, except this time it’s into a real smile. Small but real. “Then maybe you should stop being an ass to me,” she says blandly, surprising him.

She’s right, though. “I-I’m sorry.” He feels a weight lift off him as he says it, and even more when Byleth’s smile widens. He hates that she’s thought he felt that way about her, and if he can do nothing else, at least he can correct that wrong.

He can’t treat everyone the way he does Sylvain or did Dimitri and expect them to put up with it. And he likes seeing her smile. She doesn't do it that often.

“I forgive you,” she says simply, with a tilt of her head.

He swallows and looks away, unable to hold her gaze.

“Just don’t do it again,” she continues, a note of warning in her voice.

“I won’t.” And then, “I promise.” He forces himself to look back at her, and meet that green gaze that seems to see right into his soul. “I’d still like to spar. It’s been a long time.”

Blyeth regards him for a moment, her scrutiny making him flush. “Tomorrow,” she eventually says. “Will you come eat with me? I’m hungry.”

Felix’s lips twitch despite himself. She’s less than half the size of Raphael and seems to eat just as much as him. But he nods and says, “You’re always hungry.”

Byleth pushes open the door and they begin walking side by side towards the dining hall.

“Maybe I’m making up for the last five years.”

She says it so deadpan that Felix isn’t sure if she’s making a joke or not, but he stops, suddenly angry.

After a step or two Byleth also stops and turns to look at him. “Felix?”

“It’s not.. don’t joke about it,” he snaps and Byleth’s eyebrows raise.

Felix did not take promises lightly. But it’s taken him less than five minutes to break the one he’s just made to Byleth and his anger turns inwards.

And he knows if he stays here he’s going to say something else he’ll regret. So instead of letting Byleth reply, he sidesteps her and says. “I’m just going to go rest.” He starts walking rapidly away. “But I still want to spar tomorrow,” he calls back, hoping that by then he’ll have figured out a way to speak to her like a normal person.

.

They don’t get a chance to spar the next day, because the ‘increased activity’ they’d noticed from the Empire has turned into a full on vanguard bearing down on the monastery.

It’s exhilarating fighting alongside the Professor again. They’ve all changed and grown in the last five years, but she’s still the same. And that’s not a bad thing. She’s deadly and precise, eyes roving over the battlefield, constantly working through her tactics even as she slices through their enemies. She seems truly emotionless, the Ashen Demon she was once called, but Felix knows now it only looks that way because she’s so focused. If she’s at all bothered by the way he’d blown her off the last time they spoke, she makes no indication of it.

And he’s by her side, deflecting attacks with the Aegis Shield and moving as quick as Byleth to take down their enemies.

She’s magnificent.

And he has to admit to himself that he’s completely, utterly in love with her.

It’s incredibly annoying.

.

They successfully defend Garreg Mach, and the aftermath has Byleth busy. Felix doesn’t see her much, except at some meetings discussing the war effort. He’s battling with himself – with the need to run away from this, and the need to face it and overcome it. He’s not big-headed enough to think she feels the same for him – she’d thought until a week ago that he didn’t even like her. This is something he must overcome, to get stronger.

Or so he keeps telling himself.

Still, when Claude casually touches the Professor while smirking over at him, Felix wants to stab him in the face.

He settles for glaring at Claude, and ignoring the anxious pit in his stomach at the thought of there being something more than friendship between Byleth and Claude, even if he has no right to feel that way.

.

Byleth finds him in the training grounds one evening, grabbing a training sword and saying nothing as she walks into his peripheral vision, watching him. Felix’s movements falter and then stops, and he looks from the training dummy to Byleth and then back again.

“…Well?” He asks eventually, irritated by her silence.

“Your form has improved.”

His heart thunders in his chest at the simple praise, but as usual, his mouth is quicker than his brain. “Of course it has, it’s been five years.”

Her lips twitch. “I know.”

Felix takes a deep breath and raises his sword towards her, speaking the language he knows best. “Shall we?”

Nodding, Byleth sheds her long cloak, tossing it over the training dummy. It’s not the first time Felix has seen her do this, but the long creamy skin of those powerful arms is always dangerously distracting. He wrenches his eyes away as she settles into a battle stance, and slides into the right mindset. He’s not so weak he’ll let the sight of her skin distract him. He won’t let himself be that weak.

.

They circle each other slowly. Byleth remembers sparring with Felix well – after all, it’s been a lot less than five years for her. Some things about him are the same; but so much is different. He’s quicker, stronger, sharper. Five years of war have made him into a weapon in a way that no amount of training ever could have. She recognises that in herself, too.

Felix still attacks first. That hasn’t changed.

She’d seen how quick he was at the recent battle for Garreg Mach, so she’s prepared for it, sliding her foot to balance herself and blocking the attack. Their wooden swords clash and she’s briefly taken aback by his strength before she shoves him backwards with a grunt. It’s only a momentary reprieve before he’s on her again, and their dance begins in earnest. Felix’s eyes are bright, a sheen of sweat across his face, and his hair is coming loose.

He looks so beautiful.

His sword makes contact with her shoulder, making her hiss in pain and jump backwards, parrying his next blow. Internally, Byleth scolds herself. She’s felt off kilter ever since she woke up on that riverside and a stranger told her the date. It eats away at her, knowing what has happened in the years she missed, and while no one else seems to hold it against her, Felix definitely seems angry about the fact that she was gone for so long.

She’d never been sure what Felix thought of her when he was her student. Oh, he always wanted to spar, yes, because he admired her skill and strength. But she’d often got the impression he disliked her. But this is Felix. He could be exceptionally rude to people she knew he did like, like Sylvain, so she tried to not take it personally. She shouldn’t care what he thought of her.

But she had. And she’d found her eyes lingering on him too much five years ago. Everyone thought of Felix as that boy who did nothing but train, but there was so much more to him, and she’d known that even back then. And now she can hardly look away from him, ridiculously handsome and still as complicated as ever. She can’t stop thinking about him.

And somehow Claude has picked up on this and won’t stop teasing her about it.

Felix gets her with a painful hit to her side.

“Are you even trying?” He snarls, obviously picking up on her distraction.

She focuses, pressing forward from where he’s backed her into a corner. He’s forced to block a flurry of heavy blows, and Byleth gets in a good hit to his side, making him swear and back up to reposition himself.

She watches him carefully, keeping herself still for a moment. “Why are you angry at me?”

Felix’s eyes narrow. “Because you aren’t taking this seriously.”

Byleth presses forward again, this time managing a hit on his thigh that causes him to stumble. It’s only due to a wide slash from Felix that he manages to force her back again, and prevent her from forcing him to yield. “Not that,” she pants. “You’ve been angry since I got back.”

“Because you left,” he says, like the answer should be obvious. He gets back to his feet, still steady.

“I didn’t– I didn’t choose to.” Byleth can see his anger coming to the surface, and his blows become heavier, somehow even quicker.

“I’m still angry about it,” he growls.

That seems unfair, she thinks, but she doesn’t answer, needing to focus on her movements. They’re far more evenly matched than five years ago when Felix, no matter how skilled he was, simply didn’t have the experience to be a real challenge for someone who’d been fighting for as long as she could remember. Now, there’s really no telling who might win, and as they clash and parry and move around the training hall, Byleth thinks that this is exhilarating.

What wins it for Felix in the end is, of all things, a dancer move. Graceful and deadly he spins and turns, more beautiful than any man should have a right to be, and his training sword slams into her side, in the exact same spot it had before, winding Byleth and sending her sprawling into the dirt.

Felix has her sword kicked away from her hand and his own against her throat in an instant as he crouches over her. “Yield,” he orders in a low tone that sends a thrill down her spine, heat blossoming in her core. His face is close to hers.

Not close enough, she thinks.

“I yield,” she whispers, voice hoarse. Her side aches, and she’s sure that she’s probably going to have a fine bruise after this, but the pain seems distant at the moment. It’s too captivating, this up close view of Felix’s face, flushed from exertion, hair falling from his pony tail, eyes bright from their fight and his win.

She expects him to immediately move away, but he doesn’t, instead just staring at her, his chest heaving as much as hers with his sword still at her throat.

Byleth, mesmerised by his hair, more messy than she’s ever seen it before, reaches up to brush some loose strands behind his ear. His hair is as smooth as it looks, like silk between her fingers. Her thumb caresses his cheek, and her fingers run along the shell of his ear before sliding down to his neck.

Felix starts, eyes widening, and he pulls back with a hiss of breath. The sword disappears from her throat, and he stands, once again out of her reach. “What are you doing?”

She sucks in a breath and tries to swallow down every single feeling she’s experiencing, especially the disappointment. What was she thinking, doing that? Especially to Felix, who she’s seen squirm like a sulky cat to get out of hugs and can’t handle more than a few seconds of eye contact at a time. “Nothing. Sorry.”

Scrambling to her feet, Byleth forces a smile to her face. He looks past her, over her shoulder. “Well done,” she says sincerely, hoping that drawing attention to his win will smooth over this awkwardness. It had been a good session, and he had bested her. She’s proud of him for that.

“Why did you do that?” He demands, meeting her eyes. His ears have gone red.

Embarrassment licks up Byleth’s back and across her shoulders. She doesn’t think she’s ever experienced this emotion before, not in such a way that it made her want the ground to open up and swallow her. And she feels bad, because Felix should be able to enjoy his first time beating her without having to wonder why she’s suddenly touching him inappropriately.

Shrugging, she bends down to pick up her discarded sword and makes her way across the grounds to store it. “Just forget about it,” she calls over her shoulder, making an effort to sound casual. She can feel her own face going red, and all she can think about is getting away from this mortifying situation. Time to make a speedy retreat. She puts the sword away and turns, prepared to make a beeline for the exit.

Please forget about it.

But it’s Felix, so he doesn’t. “No,” he snaps, striding over to block her path, his arm stretching out in to rest his hand against the wall in front of her. “I don’t think I will.”

Byleth takes a deep breath, startled by his sudden closeness, her shoulder almost brushing against his chest. She can feel his eyes boring into the side of her face, but she doesn’t turn her head to look at him. In that moment, she’d have welcomed another Imperial attack on Garreg Mach because at least it would be a distraction and she wouldn’t have to answer.

Still, she decides to be honest.

“I just wanted to touch you.” Her voice is quiet, but Byleth can hear the longing tone in it. She really needs to get away before she says something that will make him avoid her again.

Felix takes a sharp breath, but before he can say anything Byleth rushes to say more because, for once, she doesn’t feel able to deal with his barbed words. “I’m sorry, and it won’t happen again.”

Felix’s other arm comes up behind her, caging her against the wall. Now she does turn to him, frowning, forced to back up against the wall as he crowds her. Byleth stares up at him, shocked by his dark eyes and the hungry expression on his face.

“And what if I want it to happen again?” His voice is a growl and it goes straight to the centre of her, heat pooling.

Oh.

Oh.

And because Byleth is a mercenary, good at adapting to changing situations, she slides both of her hands into Felix’s hair, destroying what remains of his ponytail, hair-tie falling to the ground, and hauls his face down to hers. Felix goes willingly, pressing her into the wall as their lips and bodies meet.

It’s clumsy at first, teeth clashing, angle awkward. But then Felix shifts against her, hands sliding down her sides to her thighs, and he hauls her up so her face is level with his. Byleth instinctively wraps her legs around him, gasping at the feel of him between her thighs, and Felix’s tongue slips into her mouth, sliding against her own, making her hold on tighter to him.

His kiss is aggressive, devouring. Much like his first attack in their duel, but his weapons this time are his surprisingly soft lips and an eager tongue.

If he’s trying to overwhelm her, he’s very much succeeding. But she’s kissing him back with as much fervour, and she locks her ankles together behind his back, keeping him captive against her while her hands continue to slide through his hair, delighting in the feel of its softness. When she rocks against him, needing to get closer, he groans into her mouth, the sound of it rumbling through her. She can feel him against her, growing hard and heavy and the kiss becomes a little more out of control as he begins to grind himself into her centre. Byleth feels almost desperate, wanting to claw off her clothes and his and get closer. She wants to lose herself in him.

Felix’s hands start to wander now that she’s securely pressed between him and the wall. They start by sliding up her sides and then over her breasts, where he stops and squeezes. At the same time, he bites her bottom lip, once more making her jerk against him. Byleth shudders, needing more, needing him

And then the door of the training grounds slams open and they both freeze.

Byleth had completely forgotten where they were. Hesitantly, she draws her face back from Felix’s, trying to breathe quietly. Her eyes meet his and she can see he’s trying to do the same thing, his chest heaving as much as hers. Neither of them make a move. They’re concealed from anyone standing at the entrance to the grounds by one of the large pillars, but if whoever it is walks in and turns around, they’ll be seen.

Byleth hopes that whoever it is will just go away. It’s too late for someone to be training now, surely?

“It would appear Byleth is not here. Perhaps she is at the cemetery?”

Seteth. Why is Seteth, of all people, here at this time?

Byleth wants to groan. Seteth is probably the worst person to find them in a compromising position. His lectures about propriety were legendary among the students five years ago, enough to put all but the most brave – or stupid, or sexually frustrated – off having dalliances in public places, or even private ones.

Sylvain had received so many lectures from Seteth, he’d become able to do an uncanny impression of the man. It had also been hilarious, but as a Professor, Byleth could hardly admit to that.

And then Byleth had gotten a lecture from Seteth, for the lack of respect and control being displayed by her students and how it was her duty to fix it. She'd sat through it the whole time with Sylvain's impression fresh in her mind, lips twitching as she tried not to laugh.

So no, she doesn’t want to see Seteth right now. She might no longer be a professor and there are no students here, but he will absolutely disapprove of what she and Felix are doing in a public part of the monastery.

“She doesn’t usually go there this late.”

And that’s Claude’s voice. All they needed now for Sylvain to speak up and then it’ll be a real party.

At the sound of Claude’s voice, Felix’s grip tightens on her, except he’s still clutching at her breasts and it makes Byleth shift against him again, just managing to not grind onto his still hard cock. He tilts his head towards her, breath fanning across her face, and Byleth is disarmed by how good he looks right now. His lips are red and bruised, his face flushed, and his hair loose and in complete disarray, falling about his shoulders. She tightens her own hold on him, scratching his scalp with blunt nails, and he shivers, eyes falling closed.

Claude continues. “Is it really so important to find her tonight? We can discuss the letter and requisitions in the morn… ning.”

Some part of Byleth registers the strange pause in Claude’s words as something she should pay attention to, but it’s quiet and easily ignored because Felix lowers his head to her throat, pressing his lips to her sweat slicked skin, like he just can’t help but touch her. She whimpers quietly, lips pressing together in an attempt to mute the sound.

“I suppose it can.” Seteth sounds resigned. “It is not urgent, after all. I just thought she would appreciate the good news.”

“I feel like she’ll appreciate it better in the morning.” There is obvious amusement in Claude’s voice and Byleth knows she should care because he knows, she knows he knows, but Felix’s teeth are grazing the sensitive skin of her throat and she has to bite down hard on her lip so she doesn’t make a sound. Her hands slide to his shoulders, bunching the fabric of his jacket in her fingers.

“You are probably right.”

“Mmmhmm. You know, while I’m here, I think I might get some training in.” Claude’s footsteps can be heard as he moves into the grounds, and they both freeze again.

Felix’s breath is hot against her skin, making her shiver.

“Very well, Claude. I shall see you and Byleth in the morning. Goodnight.”

“Night night, Seteth. Sleep tight.”

The door to the training grounds closes, but Claude doesn’t move and Byleth knows she really should untangle herself from Felix because there are two things that can happen now. The first is that Claude really is here to train, which means he’ll come to get a training weapon and then he’ll see them. The second – and most likely option – is that he knows they’re here and he’s going to tease.

Claude doesn’t move. Instead, he calls out in a cheerful voice, “Hey, Teach.” Byleth starts against Felix in surprise, making him hiss against her neck, pressing his erection back into the centre of her. “I can see your cloak thrown over a training dummy, and a sword on the ground. So while I’m hoping you’re both still clothed in whatever dark corner you’re in, you might want to be a little more stealthy next time. You could have scandalised Seteth.”

Felix's head raises to meet her eyes again. For a second Byleth is worried about his reaction – not to Claude, but to her and what they’ve just done. But there seems to be no regret there, just annoyance at the interruption.

“Go away, Claude,” he says loudly, his voice rough.

“Wow, rude, Felix, I was talking to Teach. And this is a public area.” There’s a barely suppressed laugh in Claude’s voice. He doesn’t seem at all surprised to hear Felix’s voice. “I was just giving you some advice. Anyway, Teach, we got a letter from some of the fence sitting nobles of the Alliance saying they will work with us after all, and it’s opened up some trade routes to better feed the army. As I’m sure you heard me mention to Seteth, it’s nothing that can’t wait till morning.”

Byleth clears her throat. “Thank you.” She’s surprised by how rough her own voice is, and Felix’s eyes drop back to her lips.

“Oh, no need to thank me. Just remember that you owe me one for not ratting you out to Seteth. I bet that would be a lecture and a half. You should also be thankful I’m not here with Sylvain.” He pauses. “Or Hilda.”

Felix groans but doesn’t admit that Claude is right. Because he is right. Hilda would be delighted, but the news would be all around the monastery within the hour. She'd probably have Lysithea bake congratulations cookies. And Sylvain... well, he would probably say something that would definitely end with Felix stabbing him.

With a huff, Felix asks, “Are you going to talk us to death?”

“Nope. You heard me, didn’t you? I’m here to train.”

Byleth sighs and finally unlocks her legs from around Felix. Claude is determined to tease. Felix’s hands steady her as she regains her footing and for a moment he holds her there, his hands on her waist, hers on his shoulders. He looks well kissed, and she imagines she looks the same. Unable to resist, she stretches up, pressing a light kiss to the corner of his mouth. When she pulls back, Felix is flushing again, but there’s a small smile on his face.

“He’s annoying, isn’t he?” Felix doesn’t bother to lower his voice.

Claude calls out in a sing-song voice, “I can hear you!”

“You were meant to,” is Felix's peevish reply.

Reluctantly Byleth steps away from him, out from behind the pillar and towards Claude. Behind her, Felix is following having found his discarded hair tie and is trying unsuccessfully to put some manners on his hair.

Claude stares at them, a twinkle in his eye as he takes them in from head to toe, obviously noting how dishevelled they look. “Wow. I did not think you had it in you, Felix.”

“Shut up,” he grumbles, giving up on his hair and going to grab his discarded training sword so he can put it away. Byleth retrieves her cloak, quickly sliding her arms into it and pulling it around herself. She suddenly feels cold without Felix wrapped around her.

“It’s good though,” Claude continues. “The pining was truly terrible to watch.”

“Shut up,” Felix snarls from across the grounds, his back to them.

Byleth is unimpressed with both of them, although she files away Claude’s words for later thought. She’d thought Claude’s comment was directed at her until Felix had reacted. It’s hard to picture Felix pining for anyone, but it appears Claude was speaking to both of them. She raises an eyebrow at him, and he holds his hands up in response as if in apology. It’s ruined by the smirk still on his lips.

“No, but seriously, I’m happy for the two of you. I’m sure if the training grounds could speak, they’d bestow their blessing too. After all, this is Felix’s church.”

Felix mutters something under his breath and then strides back across the grounds, grabbing Byleth’s hand before heading towards the door. “We’re leaving.”

“What, you don’t want to train? You of all people, aren’t training?” Claude gasps in mock shock, and even Byleth has to resist the urge to smile. Claude is enjoying himself with this far too much, and she really doesn’t want to encourage him.

So she hides her smile as she goes willingly with Felix, but turns back as she reaches the door to say goodnight to Claude.

He gives her a mock salute in return, still smirking as the door closes behind her.

Felix pauses once they’re outside, for the first time since they’d kissed looking a little uncertain. His face is endearingly red, and his eyebrows are furrowed. Her hand is still gripped in his, and she’s not sure if he’s realised that or if he doesn’t want to let go. Byleth watches as his eyes scan the area, but it’s deserted.

In truth, she feels a little uncertain, too. But she wants to see where this could go. She’s spent far too long thinking about Felix and wanting this, to lose him without even trying.

It’s terrifying, though, to place her heart in his hands, even if it doesn’t beat.

Thinking that, she glances down towards their linked hands and can’t help but laugh.

“What?” Felix sounds gruff, and when she looks back up at him again, he’s got a grumpy expression on his face.

“I was just remembering something you told me before.”

He glares at her with a suspicious look and asks in a flat voice, “What are you talking about?”

Byleth looks back down at their still linked hands. She pitches her voice to do her best, but still terrible, impression of him. “I’m more comfortable holding a sword than a woman’s hand.”

When she looks back at his face, she can see that he’s gone red again, and his shoulders hunch.

“That’s… why do you even remember that?”

Realising he’s embarrassed, Byleth feels a little bad, the memory of her own recent mortification fresh. So, feeling emboldened, she grabs his other hand, stepping closer to him. “It was cute.”

“I’m not cute.” His gaze lowers, looking at their hands and tightening his grip on them, but he’s still frowning.

Byleth says nothing, although she greatly disagrees with what he’s just said. She’d been surprised to find Felix at the Goddess Tower on the night of the ball, and even more surprised when he went on a strange tangent about not caring for handholding or romance. She hadn’t asked.

But it had been cute. And rather hilarious, really, but she’d keep that to herself.

Then Felix says, quietly, “It’s still true though. I’m not used to… this.” He swings their arms a little to emphasis his point.

“Neither am I,” she responds honestly.

He seems at a loss for words, so Byleth lets go of one of his hands and leads him away, walking across the courtyard to the dormitories. Felix follows, still holding on tight to her, remaining silent. Dusk has fallen, and the monastery seems so tranquil, it's hard to believe they're at war. It’s quite a contrast to how Byleth feels inside, because her nerves are building the closer she gets to her room.

When they get there, she turns with her heart in her throat as she looks him in the eye and asks, “Would you like to come in?” She knows what will happen if he comes in, and while she does want that, it's still making her nervous. It’s not like she’s never had sex before but… sex with feelings is new.

His throat bobs as he swallows heavily. But he nods, so Byleth takes a shaky breath and lets go of his hand to grab her key from her pocket to let them in. Felix follows her, shutting the door behind him and leaning against it.

In the middle of the room, Byleth turns, and fidgets with the sleeves of her cloak. Felix is regarding her with a heavy gaze that she can feel brushing along her skin, making her shiver. But he doesn’t move towards her.

“If you don’t want to–”

“I said I did, didn’t I?” His voice is still rough.

She blinks at him. “Actually you didn’t say anything, so…”

“Well I do,” he says impatiently. “I want…” He falters for a moment before a look of determination settles on his face. “I want you.”

Byleth startles, surprised by the sudden declaration, eyes widening as she takes in his expression. She’s seen that look before, when he’s set himself a task and he’s going to do whatever it takes to complete it. So she’s not really that surprised when he crosses the floor in a few long strides, cradling her face with his hands and kissing her.

It’s softer than their kiss back in the training grounds, but still full of heat. Byleth grabs his hips to pull him into her as she licks across his lips, demanding access. He opens to her, softly brushing his thumb along her cheek.

He pulls back from the kiss too soon for her liking, still with that determined glint in his eye. When his hands begin to undo the clasps of her cloak, she lets him work. The fabric pools in a puddle on the floor around her feet, and Felix takes her in, looking like he’s trying to figure out a complicated question.

But the answer is obviously quickly decided, because he begins pulling her shirt out of her shorts, and she lets her hands raise from his hips so he can yank it over her head. It gets thrown somewhere in the room, neither of them caring where it lands. Byleth is mesmerised by the look in his eyes, enjoying the feeling of being unwrapped too much to reciprocate.

For the moment.

His hands come to rest on her waist before he stops and frowns.

“You’re hurt.”

It’s where he’d hit her twice during their sparring – it’s beginning to bruise. In truth, it does hurt, but Byleth can deal with pain and it’s not bad enough for her to even consider stopping this. She can handle a bit of bruising.

“It’s fine.”

“You were sloppy. If we were on the battlefield, you’d be dead.” His eyes flick to hers again, just for a second, before he slides his hands around to her back, and then upwards to begin removing her breast band. “I’m pleased to have finally beat you, but I want to do it again. What had you so distracted?” The fabric around her breasts is pulled off her and flung impatiently away, and his hands immediately take greedy handfuls of the flesh displayed to him, his eyes locked on her skin.

Byleth grabs the back of his head, making him look at her. “You did.”

“Oh.” His ears redden – at that and not at the fact that she’s topless and he’s kneading her breasts enthusiastically. He’s obviously going to say more – admonish her for being so easily distracted, most likely – but then his fingers begin to play with her nipples and she gasps at the jolt of pleasure it sends through her, like a lightning strike. It seems to distract Felix from whatever he was going to say, eyes darting between her breasts and her face as he continues his movements, taking in her open mouth and heavy lidded expression. Byleth knows he’s going to catalogue every reaction she makes.

She tugs his head towards hers and kisses him again, moving backwards until she hits the edge of her bed. He follows closely, keeping his lips against hers, and the fabric of his shirt scratches across her skin pleasantly.

But she wants that barrier gone, so Byleth begins to pull at his jacket, thankful he’s not wearing too much complicated armour today. Felix helps her, undoing clasps and buckles, and the jacket is quickly shed, followed by his shirt, and Byleth falls onto her bed, pulling him down with her, eagerly exploring his skin with her hands; feeling the strength in his arms, the hard muscles in his back, the delicious ridges of his abs leading down to where he’s quickly hardening again. Felix presses her into the bed, his hips settling between her legs. His lips leave hers to descend down her neck and to her chest, drawing a nipple into his mouth.

At first he’s gentle, making her squirm, but then he bites down. Byleth moans, a breathy noise she’s sure she’s never made before in her life, and his eyes raise up to her face again, clearly smug. He releases her nipple, murmuring “interesting” more to himself than her, and continues down her body. There’s clear impatience in him now as he pulls off her boots, shorts and tights, tossing them away with abandon and leaving her only in her already damp smalls.

He’s kneeling between her open legs, and his hands slide up the inside of her thighs, playing with the edge of the fabric. Byleth shivers.

“May I?” He asks almost shyly, looking at her from under his lashes.

Byleth grips the bedsheets, lifting her hips before he’s even finished speaking. “Yes.

He smiles, probably at her eagerness, and moves backwards to pull her underwear off. That too is tossed aside and Felix pauses to take her in, naked and flushed in front of him.

She grips the sheets even harder, a shiver running through her that has nothing to do with being cold. “You have me at a disadvantage.”

Felix smiles again. “Perhaps I like that.” His finger taps her ankle. “Move up the bed,” he demands, and Byleth raises her eyebrows at him, but does as he says, shifting up a bit and resting her head on the pillow. To her initial dismay he gets off the bed, but when she realises it’s just so that he can remove the rest of his own clothes, she smiles and enjoys the show.

It’s not even that he’s trying to put on a show – she doesn’t think that would even occur to him – and his movements are fast and jerky, obviously impatient. But still graceful, and still hypnotising to watch, and it hits her all at once that she’s naked and watching Felix remove his own clothing and she can’t quite believe it’s happening. She’d thought about it – this – happening, but only ever in an abstract way, never in detail.

Just as well, she thinks as Felix’s pants come off, because her imagination would never have done this justice.

But she hardly has a chance to admire his body before he crawls back onto the bed, hovering over her. It’s quite a sight to see him like this; his strong arms on either side of his head, his hair loose, inky strands falling forward in disarray. His chest is heaving, with the blush from his face spreading down his neck. His cock is hard, and Byleth reaches between them to touch him, exploring the heavy weight of him in her hand.

Felix’s head drops forward, breath coming out in a hiss. He leans down to capture her lips, trapping her hand and his cock between them. Byleth throws her other hand into his hair, grabbing probably too tight, but he doesn’t seem to be complaining, moaning into her mouth as he ruts against her stomach.

She’s so distracted by the sound, she hardly realises when he shifts above her, moving his weight to one elbow so he can use his other hand to explore. Byleth can’t help but gasp when his fingers press into her wetness. At first his touch is almost tentative, enough to make her squirm but not enough.

“More,” she gasps into his mouth, and he grows bolder. When his thumb presses into her clit, she jerks and he pauses for a second.

She blinks open hazy eyes to see a pleased expression on his face. His movements are more deliberate now, and he watches her face as he does it again, and again, slipping his fingers inside her with ease, dripping as she is, stroking her walls insistently as his thumb plays with her clit.

Byleth can’t keep her eyes open. Her head falls back on the pillow and Felix increases the tempo of his onslaught by pressing biting kisses into her neck as he adds another finger into her wet core, curling them and brushing against a spot that makes her cry out with pleasure. It doesn’t take her long to fall apart, coming around his fingers with a soundless cry, nails digging into his back as she shudders while he continues to fuck her through her release.

Felix is, truth be told, rather pleased with himself for managing to make her fall apart so quickly. Byleth sighs as he slips his fingers from her, and their eyes meet as he raises his hand to his lips to taste her. Next time – he hopes there will be a next time – he intends to taste her right at the source.

She makes a pretty sight underneath him; mint hair fanned out around her head like a halo, a satiated expression on her face. But as she watches him lick his fingers, something sharpens in her, and before he knows it, she hauls him down to kiss her, and Felix only just manages to balance himself in time so he doesn’t crush her. His own arousal, that he’s been manfully ignoring, spikes again, and he’s so distracted that he’s taken by surprise when she skillfully flips them over and he finds himself on his back, with Byleth hovering over him.

He narrows his eyes at her. “What are you doing?”

A sly smile crosses her face, and her hand reaches for his neglected cock. Her touch is soft, but it makes him shudder in pleasure, eyes closing. Byleth shifts above him, and then he feels her hot, wet centre slide over his cock and his hips lift off the bed, hands digging into the soft skin of her backside.

She slides back down again and he groans, loudly.

Her hands move up his chest, one of them coming to a rest on his neck, thumb over his racing pulse point.

Felix opens his eyes when she doesn’t move again. When he tries to thrust upwards, he’s held down by her strength and he grits his teeth.

“What are you doing?” He says again. “Move.”

That little devious smile appears on her face once more, and Felix’s annoyance ebbs away at the sight of it. She looks… well, she looks beautiful, as always, but it’s more than that. He’s never seen her look this open, and certainly not this light since she’s woken up. She’s taken on a lot of burdens and only now, seeing her relieved of it even if only temporarily, does he realise that – and realise that her strength isn’t only just physical.

She’s remarkable, he thinks. And she’s chosen him.

And then he doesn’t really think of anything because Byleth rises and lines up his cock and then takes him inside her to the hilt in one go. After that, the monastery could be burning down around them and Felix is pretty sure he wouldn't notice. She's not even moving and she feels incredible around him, wet and hot.

Her own mouth drops open in one of those breathy moans, and Felix is actually relieved when she takes a moment to gather herself before moving again, because she feels so good that he’s going to come far too quickly if he doesn’t get himself under control.

Cracking open his eyes with difficultly, Felix grabs her hips, careful to avoid the bruise he’d given her earlier. Byleth straightens up, meets his gaze, and lets her hands slide back down his chest to rest on his own hips. It’s a good thing he’d taken the chance to try and pull himself back from the brink, because once Byleth does start moving, she begins riding him in earnest immediately, and all Felix can do is close his eyes and throw his head back and thrust up into her, meeting her punishing pace. His fingers press into her skin, and each time she slides back down onto his cock, he moans, growing progressively louder. It seems to spur Byleth on to ride him faster, and she leans back, bracing herself on his thighs.

Felix manages to open his eyes again, needing to see how that looks, and it’s as good as he imagined. Byleth is bowed back over him, breasts bouncing from exertion, quiet gasps falling from her open mouth. His gaze travels lower to watch where they're joined and that – that's quite a sight. He adjusts his grip to pull her down harder on him, watching his cock disappear into her.

Byleth's breath stutters, and he can feel her walls fluttering around him. Felix feels fit to burst, and knows he’s not going to last much longer. But he’ll be damned if he can’t wrangle a second orgasm out of her. So, pulling all his frayed self control together, he adjusts his hands and takes an even firmer grip of her and begins thrusting up harder.

Felix!”

He has to shut his eyes again because otherwise it’s all going to be too much and he’s going to come; he can’t take the way she feels, the way she looks, and the way she’s moaning out his name. He’s hardly aware of his own loud moans anymore, too focused on the noise of his skin meeting hers, the slick warmth between them, and her own sounds of rapture.

And then he feels her clench around him, and Byleth falls forward onto his chest with a muffled cry, so Felix at last gives himself over to the white hot pleasure, holding her tightly to him as he releases into her as she shudders above him, grinding down through the last of her own orgasm.

As he comes down and returns to reality, Felix feels boneless and more relaxed than he’s felt in… quite possibly the last decade. Byleth, still sprawled on top of him, appears to be in much the same way.

She raises her head a little to look at him with a fond expression that makes him feel a little embarrassed.

“Come here,” he says gruffly, sliding a hand to the back of her head, taking a moment to brush some hair out of her face before encouraging her to move up so he can kiss her; soft lazy kisses, made fuzzy by satisfaction and the overwhelming tiredness creeping over him. After a time, Byleth rests her head on his shoulder, and Felix thinks he lightly dozes for a time. Eventually she speaks in a soft voice. “I should really move.”

His hands tighten on her and she laughs. “I have to clean myself.”

Felix makes a disgruntled noise, but lets her go, resisting the urge to groan when she finally slides off his soft cock. He turns onto his side to watch her move across the room on legs that seem a bit unsteady, admiring her naked form. When she grabs a cloth and moves to wipe the insides of her legs, he does groan, because the sight of his own seed leaking out of her is far more arousing than it should be.

Byleth gives him a little smirk like she knows what he’s thinking and then returns to the bed, tossing a cloth at him too. Felix quickly wipes himself off and throws the cloth away, realising as he looks where it lands that her room is strewn with discarded clothes. His attention is drawn away from that as Byleth climbs back into the bed, this time drawing blankets over them.

She pauses as she does so, fingers crumpling the fabric. She looks at Felix from under her eyelashes. “Do you want to stay?”

Frowning, he raises himself up onto an elbow, surprised she’s even asking, and when he answers, it’s a bit peevishly. “What do you think?”

Byleth narrows her eyes. “I think it’s best not to make assumptions, especially with you.”

“What do you mean, especially with me?” He returns the look.

“Well, clearly I was wrong about you not liking me, so…” Byleth trails off and shifts her eyes away, looking uncharacteristically vulnerable. “You could just give a yes or no answer.”

Yes, I want to stay.” He sighs. “Lie down.”

She does so, and they take a moment to settle themselves against each other, her bed not really big enough for both of them. Felix helps her draw the blankets around them, and then cups her cheek with his hand, making the effort to keep eye contact.

“I do like you,” he says, voice strained. “More than I can say.” Byleth hooks a leg around his hip as she gets more comfortable, watching him carefully. “So much that I don’t know what to do with it.”

“I can understand that. I feel the same way,” she responds quietly, taking the hand touching her face and placing a kiss into his palm.

Felix swallows heavily, watching her. There's more he wishes he could say, but this is enough for now, he thinks. This is more than enough. Instead he kisses her, because he doesn't think he'll ever get enough of kissing her.

Byleth is the one to pull away first, giving him that clear eyed look. “Are you still angry with me?"

It takes him a moment to answer as he tries to sort through his feelings. Yes. No. He moves even closer to her, pressing his face into the crook of her neck. Byleth’s hands immediately come up to stroke his hair. When he does eventually speak, his voice is muffled against her skin. “A bit. Don’t leave again.”

“I won’t,” she promises, even though they both know such a promise made during wartime is foolish. But Felix decides to let that go, for once.

“You left,” he says into her skin. “And Dimitri disappeared.” He sounds as lost as he’s felt over the last few years, and perhaps later he’ll feel embarrassed about this, but right now all he feels is safe. Like he's found home. “I looked for you both. And then he died, so I thought you had too. And then I looked for your body.” To his horror, he can feel tears building behind his eyes and he nuzzles into her warm skin, hoping that’ll be enough of a distraction to stop him from crying. He hasn’t cried in so very long. Not since he lost his brother. He hadn't even cried the first time he'd lost Dimitri, two years after Glenn; when he'd realised there was only a monster left wearing the costume of his friend. 

Felix shudders, and his hand on Byleth's hip tightens, fingers pressing into her skin like he’s afraid she’ll disappear again if he doesn’t hold on hard enough. He swallows hard, willing the tears away.

“Oh,” she breathes, running a hand up and down the skin of his back, over hard muscle and silvery scars. “I’m sorry, Felix.”

Felix shakes his head as much as he can given his position. “Don’t apologise.” The bite is back in his voice, but it’s gentler than usual. “Just don’t be so foolish as to do what you did before. Don’t leave me again.”

He can hear the sincerity and promise in her voice as she repeats her previous words. “I won’t.”

And this time, as he raises himself to kiss her again, Felix allows himself to believe her, just a bit. As he does so, he makes a promise to himself to stay by her side. Whatever they face in this war, she won't be alone, facing an onslaught like she had at Garreg Mach five years ago.

They'd be together.

Chapter Text

The first night Felix spends with Byleth is a mostly sleepless one, for him. He hasn’t shared a bed with another person since… since he had been a child, when he’d visited Fhirdiad and he, Dimitri, Sylvain, and Ingrid would pile into Dimitri’s stupidly large bed in the palace. They’d giggle and eat food and tell each other silly stories late into the night. Sometimes Glenn would sit with them for a while, but he never crashed into the bed and slept the whole night with them. He was only a few years older than Sylvain, but he seemed so much more grown up than the rest of them, all ready to be a knight even then.

Those memories aren’t ones Felix wants to linger on right now and, anyway, that was very different from this.

Even as an adult, whatever quick liaisons he’d had with other people had never escalated to bed sharing. It had been relief from the stress of war, furtive and quiet in campsites. Nothing more. Mostly less, if he’s being honest. At times he’d been left wondering why he’d even bothered, annoyed with the mess or how long it was taking…

But now, this… this. It’s not that he doesn’t like it. He particularly likes the feel of Byleth sprawled across him, leg thrown over his hip, breasts pressed against him, face tucked against his neck. One of her hands is curled into his hair. She’s so warm, and such an enticing mix of hard and soft. And she seems to be completely out for the count, her breathing slow and steady against his skin. Felix rather envies her that but it is, at least, a comforting sound. There’s a part of him that’s extraordinarily pleased that she’s able to sleep like this around him. He knows how much trust it requires.

It’s just that he’s very much not used to it. Every time he begins to doze off, it seems like Byleth moves or sighs in her sleep and it’s enough to wake him up again, on high alert, fingers curling for his weapon and finding only a warm body instead. So as nice as this is, he can’t relax, and he can’t switch his brain off, constantly replaying the events of the past evening. Even just twelve hours ago if anyone had said he’d end up in Byleth’s bed, he’d have scoffed and shoved them away, because it would probably have been Sylvain saying it.

Then there’s also the issue of how much he wants to touch her. A large part of him wants to wake her up, pin her on her back and kiss his way down her body.

But he doesn’t want to disturb Byleth’s rest and he’s uncertain if she’d like that. He’s uncertain about how to do… this. How to be with someone, even if you loved them. It’s not like he’s had any examples of it in his life. He thinks his father had loved his mother, but Felix doesn’t even remember her. Dimitri had lost his mother young, too. Ingrid’s mother had died in childbirth, after giving birth to another uncrested baby, hoping that this child would be the one to share Ingrid’s burden. Annette’s father had abandoned his family, while Mercedes’s stepfather treated both her and her mother terribly once he had a crested son of his own.

And then there are the Gautiers, who are more cold and as chilly with each other than the roughest Faerghus winter. Sylvain’s parents could hardly stand to be in the same room together – so much so that even Felix has wondered how they’d managed to conceive two children without killing each other. Perhaps, after Miklan, the Margrave’s intense desire for a crested child somehow willed Sylvain into existence and his wife had nothing to do with it.

So, no. Felix is aware enough to know that he didn’t grow up with decent relationships to learn from.

But that’s Faeghus nobility for you.

And he didn’t even manage to tell Byleth that he loves her. Should he? Does it seem too soon? They’d agreed to stay together and perhaps… perhaps they can just work from that?

Growing frustrated, Felix would have tossed and turned in annoyance if it weren’t for the body sleeping so soundly on top of him.

He really doesn’t want to wake her. She needs the rest.

So does he.

This is so stupid.

The night drags on and Felix remains restless. As dawn breaks he gives up and gently manoeuvres himself out of Byleth’s hold. She doesn’t stir, and he remains torn on whether he should wake her up or not, especially when she rolls over into the space he’s just left, hand grasping like she’s searching for him.

In the end he doesn’t, letting her sleep. He dreses quickly and slips out quietly to head to the training grounds. He may be tired, but he still feels worked up and full of nervous energy.

He can talk to Byleth later, and maybe by then he’ll know what to say.

.

Later that morning, Felix strides into the Cardinal’s Room, where Byleth is with Seteth and Hilda – the latter of whom looks exceedingly bored. When he’d joined the Golden Deer house, Felix’s opinion of Hilda had been very low. Lazy, spoiled, selfish. He’d been surprised to see how skilfully she wielded that giant axe she carried into battle and, admittedly, a little impressed. Since then, he thinks a little bit better of her, and he respects her strength, even if he still thinks she’s spoiled and selfish.

“Prof–“ Felix says, and then stops. He’d been in her bed last night.

Had he called her Professor, or Byleth? Had he called her anything?

Shit.

Byleth and Seteth are looking at him expectantly. Hilda simply stares at him with her eyebrows raised, a faint look of amusement on her face. She probably knows exactly what happened with Claude in the training grounds last night, because those two are as thick as thieves. It’s even worse when they get together with Sylvain.

Felix has thankfully not yet seen Sylvain today. He suspects Sylvain will take one look at him and know, somehow.

He clears his throat, deciding to brush by the awkwardness he’s feeling, although all it does is make him sound gruff. “I’ve a letter from my father – he’s willing to spare some troops.” He walks towards them at the head of the table and hands over Rodrigue’s letter that has all the details – it's scant on personal comments, so her doesn't mind showing it. Byleth and Seteth lean over the letter, reading quickly.

“Excellent!” Seteth proclaims. “More good news.”

Byleth hums as she turns her attention to another piece of parchment. “We’ll be able to better defend the monastery if we’re attacked again, and we should be able to keep the highroad safe for the merchants.” She scribbles something down before glancing up at Felix. “Are things well for your father?”

“Stable,” he replies, even as he feels his ears going red as he tries to remember how to be normal. How did he act around Byleth before?

Oh that’s right, like an idiot.

Forcing himself to continue, feeling the scrutiny of three sets of eyes on him, Felix goes on. “From what his contacts in Fhirdiad tell him, the Dukedom army has stopped attacking Rebellion territories because they’re worried about the threat of the Alliance.”

“Because you and Sylvain are here?” Byleth asks.

“Possibly.”

Seteth makes some notes of his own on the parchment in front of him, before returning his attention back to Felix. “It must be difficult to see your homeland in such disarray.”

Felix tenses. He doesn’t want to have a conversation about his feelings about Faerghus. “People are suffering everywhere. It’s not just Faerghus. I’ll help them by stopping this war.”

Seteth nods, but still keeps looking at him in that appraising way that makes Felix feel like a student again. Thank the goddess he hadn’t caught them last night in the training ground. On reflection, Claude had been the lesser of two evils. “Of course,” Seteth says. “Once we have defeated Edelgard and rescued Lady Rhea, hopefully we will be able to send aid to Faerghus.”

From beside him, Hilda sighs dramatically. “There’s so much on this list of requisitions.” She stands, neatly stacking the papers into a pile and gathering them in her arms. “It’s going to take forever.” With a pout, she leaves.

Neither Seteth or Byleth respond to her mild whining – Felix guesses that they’re used to it. Clearly they trust Hilda to get it done. Or at least to find someone to get it done for her.

“I must also take my leave of you both. I promised Flayn I would make time for lunch with her today.” Seteth smiles fondly as he mentions his sister, but it’s not lost on Felix that he also takes his paperwork with him. It’ll likely be a working lunch. Soon, Seteth is also gone, gently shutting the door behind him.

And Felix is left alone with Byleth, who stands and faces him with a small smile on her face.

“Hi,” she says, and it’s such a simple statement, a nothing, and it still makes him blush.

He’s very aware of the little pouch of herbs in his pocket and unsure how best to bring them up. But when Byleth takes a step towards him, he hastily grabs them and holds the pouch out to her, bringing her up short. “Here. Take these.”

Byleth’s eyebrows raise, but she takes the offered pouch and opens it, peering in before taking a tentative sniff.

“Oh.”

“I, ah…” Felix raises his eyes towards the ceiling, unable to look her in the face. “I was inconsiderate last night. I should have made sure you didn’t mind before I…” He gestures vaguely, hoping she’ll understand. The realisation had struck him like a Thoron spell when he’d been aggressively attacking a training dummy – that they hadn’t taken precautions. He’d immediately gone skulking around the greenhouse, knowing enough of what he needed to fix the... issue and grateful no one had asked him what he was doing.

“Before you came inside me?”

Felix knows a lot of people think he’s blunt and straightfoward. They’ve clearly never met Byleth. His face burns and he still can’t look at her. But her voice is mild, as it usually is. At least she doesn’t seem annoyed. So he just snaps his head in a short nod in reply.

“I hardly minded,” she says, sounding a little amused. “And anyway, I was on top.” Byleth keeps talking but for a moment Felix blanks out, images of her riding him ramming his brain. He takes a deep breath and gets himself under control, paying attention to what she’s saying. “I already brewed myself the tea this morning. Manuela always has some on hand.” Her lips twitch. “She was very put out when I wouldn’t tell her who my mystery gentleman was. So don’t worry.”

“I see. Good.” It is good, Felix knows. A pregnancy would be a disaster. But she’s so matter of fact about it. How is she able to talk about things like this and not be bothered?

“I did miss you this morning, but I assumed you went to train.”

That makes him lower his gaze. He had wondered what she’d thought about waking up alone. “Ah. Yes. I did.”

Byleth smiles, that twinkling smile he’d seen in bed last night, and tosses the pouch of herbs onto the table before stepping closer to him, reaching up to pull him into a kiss. As he lets himself fall into it, Felix relaxes, suddenly realising how tense he’d been – with some fear she’d only wanted him for one night, or that she’d changed her mind about him, despite everything they’d shared. Once again he considers telling her the truth of his feelings, but only for a second before he brushes it aside.

No, not yet.

So instead, he does what is easier; Felix deepens the kiss, trying to let her know his feelings with actions and not words. Byleth backs up to the table before hopping up onto it, and Felix steps in between her legs, letting his hands run down her sides, over the curves he’d explored the night before and wanting to do so all over again.

But the sound of distant voices breaks them apart. Byleth blinks at him, looking a little dazed as she caresses his cheek.

“Maybe not here?” she says with a smile.

Felix glances towards the closed door. People are often coming and going from this room at this time of day. “Later,” he responds decisively, taking a step back and helping her down off the table.

It’s just in time, because the door is opened and Claude strides in, followed by Lorenz. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, they’re arguing about something. Felix immediately tunes it out, keeping his attention on Byleth, who is still smiling at him.

“Ah, Professor, Felix.” Lorenz cuts off whatever Claude is saying when he realises the room is occupied. He’s wearing a polite smile on his face, only slightly strained. Behind him, Felix notices Claude make a face at Lorenz’s back, and bites back a smile.

Lorenz is more bearable than he’d been five years ago, true, but Felix still has little to do with him. Their relationship hadn’t gotten off to a good start back then, because Lorenz had some fool idea that Felix wasn’t upholding noble ideals, especially as the future Duke and Shield of Faerghus.

It was not a conversation that had ended well, with Felix furious and Lorenz offended by his biting words.

So, no. He doesn’t like Lorenz, even now. The feeling is mutual. When she'd been their teacher, even Byleth hadn't scheduled them to do chores together, correctly assuming that forcing them to spend time together would make things worse.

Lorenz rounds the table. “Claude and I were discussing some of the trade routes between Garreg Mach and Leicester. We’ve had some disagreements on which will work best. Professor, perhaps you can assist?”

Claude speaks up. “Lorenz seems to think I’m favouring Riegan territory over the rest of the Alliance, when my reasoning is that Derdriu is the most populated city in the country, and–“

“But not,” Lorenz interrupts him archly, spreading out a map of Fódlan on the table, “the only city.” He carefully pushes papers and letters out of the way, knocking over the little bag of herbs, spilling some onto the table. “Oh! I do apologise. Are these yours, Professor?” He picks up the bag, attempting to secure the tie and hands them to her.

The sour smell wafts over Felix, who freezes, wondering if Lorenz knows what these are for.

Judging from the way Lorenz pauses and his smile freezes in a grimace, he certainly does.

Byleth, unperturbed, takes the pouch from him, closing it and disappearing it into one of her pockets.

Claude saunters over. And damn him, he laughs. “Glad to see you two had a good time last night.”

Felix turns a glare on him, and Lorenz whispers out a scandalised, “Claude!”, while Byleth remains unbothered, although she turns to Claude with a raised eyebrow, as if daring him to make another comment.

“I apologise, Professor,” Lorenz stutters out. “On behalf of Claude, too.”

Byleth waves a hand dismissively. “It’s fine. I’m just glad you’re all familiar with birth-control.”

Raising his eyes to the ceiling because he doesn’t want to accidentally make eye contact with anyone in the room – and that includes Byleth – Felix can feel himself blushing again. But there’s also a part of him that wants to laugh, just because of the way Lorenz is spluttering in surprise at her words, said so casually.

And Felix suspects Byleth might be having fun at their expense, but she sounds like she always does, so she might also be serious. It’s genuinely very difficult to tell.

Claude’s loving it, no surprise to Felix. He drops an arm across Lorenz’s shoulders. “Of course. Wouldn’t do to have a lot of little bastards running around, now, would it? Wouldn’t be very noble, would it?”

“No.” Lorenz clears his throat, and straightens up, shrugging Claude’s arm off. “It would not,” he says stiffly. “But this conversation is inappropriate.” His eyes dart between Byleth and Felix, a question in them, but one he doesn’t voice.

“We’re all friends, here, aren’t we?” Claude asks. He grins at Felix. “Did you learn what those are from Sylvain? He could give a seminar on preventing pregnancy.”

Felix lowers his eyes to scowl at Claude and roughly replies, “You are not my friend.”

Claude presses a hand to his heart. He keeps a smile on his face and speaks in a tone of mock hurt, but his eyes have turned cold cold and Felix wonders if his words had perhaps been too harsh. “I’m wounded, Felix. I thought we had something special.”

“Claude.” Byleth tilts her head at him and the two share a look, communicating something silently. Whatever it signifies, Claude’s eyes warm again as he looks at her.

It prickles at Felix, a reminder of how close they are. Claude probably knows when Byleth is joking and when she isn’t.

His scowl deepens.

Lorenz clears his throat theatrically. “Anyway. May we discuss something of importance now?” He gestures to the map with a pointed look, and it’s enough to get everyone back on track.

Felix slinks away, not needing to be part of this conversation about trade routes in the Alliance. He makes his way towards the door, but turns back before leaving for one last look at Byleth.

She’s watching him, and her lips turn upwards slightly as she meets his eyes.

Beside her, Claude and Lorenz are arguing again, and don’t notice.

Felix returns the smile, feeling heat spread up his neck as they look at each other, and it’s enough to take the sting away from the knowledge that Claude knows her better.

.

While he carries Byleth’s smile with him for the rest of the day, Felix still feels restless and unable to settle. He’s not sure if it’s because he’s still processing what happened with Byleth, or because of the letter from his father.

It’s made even worse by the fact that he’s on stable duty with Sylvain. It’s not a chore he enjoys, although he knows it's something Sylvain does like. But it feels wrong to Felix, to be here without Ingrid. As he mucks out the stalls, his mind wanders. If he closes his eyes he can almost hear their voices – Ingrid grooming her pegasus down one end, while Sylvain feeds apples to his mare down the other.

But Ingrid is not here now. She’s still in Galatea. Safe, at least. But he knows from his father’s latest letter that things are bad there.

The horses seem to pick up on his brooding mood. Even Sylvain is quiet, murmuring and humming quietly to the horses as they work their way through the list of chores.

It irritates Felix. After almost an hour of it, he marches over to the stall Sylvain is in, standing in the open entrance and glaring.

“What is wrong with you?”

Sylvain raises his head from his work, rubbing sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. He blinks at Felix. “A lot. You need to be more specific if you expect me to answer that question.”

“Ugh. Why are you being so quiet?”

A slow grin spreads across Sylvain’s face as he stares at Felix. “Are you annoyed… because I’m not talking?”

“What? No.” Felix responds hotly. “I’m just used to you prattling on like an idiot. Did you hit your head?” His eyes scan Sylvain, who looks to be in perfect health.

The grin widens. “I think you’re worried about me.”

Felix shoots him a withering glare. “We’re–“

Sylvain cuts him off, lowering his voice to an almost pitch perfect expression of him. “We’re at war.” Raising his voice, he continues, ignoring Felix’s disgruntled expression. “I’m aware. I just…” He shrugs. “I just have a lot on my mind.”

Felix swallows down the biting comment that’s instinctual for him to reply with. Something like, so there’s something going on in that empty space after all? Instead, he narrows his eyes at Sylvain. “Is it about Ingrid?” he asks abruptly.

“What? No, you know she’s f–“

“The boar?”

Sylvain sighs. “No. Felix–“

“What then? Your father?”

No.” Sylvain drags his hand through his hair, looking frustrated. “It’s not important.”

“It is if it’s distracting you. It could get you killed. We don’t have time for distractions.” As he speaks, Felix realises he’s a hypocrite.

And so does Sylvain. His gaze sharpens. “I know you spent the night with the Professor. Is that not a distraction?”

Felix harrumphs, annoyed. “If you knew, why didn’t you say anything?”

“I just kept thinking about it. You and her.”

Face turning thunderous, Felix steps into the stall and punches Sylvain’s shoulder, hard enough to make him stumble back. “Don’t do that, you pervert,” he snarls.

“Ow, Felix!” Sylvain complains, rubbing his shoulder. “Not like that. Do you really have such a terrible opinion of me?”

Felix doesn’t deign to answer that question, forcing himself to calm down. “So what, exactly, were you thinking about?”

Sylvain sighs. “Do you love her?”

Felix stills, eyes darting away from the earnest expression on Sylvain’s face. He hadn’t expected that. “Uh.”

“You don’t have to tell me, I think I know the answer.” Sylvain sighs, still rubbing his shoulder. “Just, like I said, I’ve been thinking. About love.”

Felix stares. There’s something in Sylvain’s demeanour he’s never seen before. He’s thrown around the word love in the past, but they both always knew there was nothing serious about it. The word fell from his mouth easily, a pretty lie. Sylvain didn’t even like the women he bedded, having already decided that anyone who might go to bed with him is only doing it to get a crest baby out of him. Felix has never been able to understand why Sylvain acts the way he does. Maybe some of those women were out for his title and his crest, sure. Even Felix had been approached by those who wore that kind of interest clear and obvious, but they were easy to get rid of.

However, he’s also seen girls who he knows didn’t deserve the way Sylvain treated them, crying in corners of the monastery while their friends glared and whispered behind their hands.

Sylvain acted like there was something disgusting about them because they’d wanted him, like there was no other reason to want him except for his title and his crest.

And then Sylvain would go and turn that fake charm on someone else, and inevitably a someone else would fall for it, it despite knowing better. Because Sylvain lied and smiled and told them they were important, and while Felix is still figuring out Byleth, he knows Sylvain well enough to know when he’s being a liar.

It had always annoyed them all, but Felix generally walked away, irritated, while Ingrid would always chastise Sylvain. But mostly they had all just… accepted that that was how Sylvain was.

But this. What the fuck is this?

“Okay,” he says, wondering what he’s supposed to say to Sylvain. “What about it?”

Sylvain’s mouth twists in a cynical smile. “It’s pretty painful, isn’t it?”

Felix feels like there’s something that Sylvain is telling him without actually telling him. “Are you in love?” he asks, and then something occurs to him and he steps forward, anger flaring again. “Are you in love with the Professor?”

“What? No, I’m not in love with her!” Sylvain side-steps Felix with his hands raised. “Honestly, Felix, you’re being ridiculous. And seriously? Are you still calling her Professor? That’s kinky.”

Unclenching his fists, Felix folds his arms and decides to ignore the last thing Sylvain said, mollified that he’s telling the truth otherwise. “Then what is it? Just tell me so we can be done with the conversation.”

“The conversation you started.”

“Sylvain.”

Sylvain sighs. “Look, it’s nothing, really. Just forget I said anything.”

“No.”

Raising his eyes to the roof of the stables, Sylvain takes a deep inhale through his nose. Felix realises it’s something that he’s done himself when he’s been frustrated with Sylvain in the past and he narrows his eyes, wondering if this really is all a joke.

“Okay, fine.” Sylvain turns sincere. “I think I’m in love. For real. Not, you know, how it was before.”

“Oh.” Once again, Felix isn’t sure what to say. “Will you tell her?”

“Nah, it would never work out with them.”

“Why– is it Ingrid?” Felix asks, angry again. “Because–“

Sylvain drags a hand down his face. “No.”

Felix keeps glaring. “You said them. Is it a man? It better not be me.”

Sylvain laughs, sounding as amused as he does incredulous. “You have a very high opinion of yourself.”

“I know my own worth.” Felix is aware of how arrogant that sounds, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Out of the two of them, it’s Sylvain that doesn’t, purposely hurting others and himself.

But then, while Felix has many criticisms about his own father, Rodrigue had never pushed marriage on him. He may have prioritised the boar over Felix, but he’d never made him feel like he was valued only for his crest.

But Felix knows what it means, especially to hold a major crest. He knows it doesn’t make him better than anyone else, but it does make him desirable. His feelings towards his crest are positive only because of the strength it gives him.

It’s different for Sylvain, who has by now stopped laughing and is looking at him fondly.

“And you should, Felix,” Sylvain says honestly before he turns teasing. “So you’ll be devastated to know that while I love you, I am not in love with you.” He steps forward swings an arm around Felix, hugging him close, but Felix tenses his shoulders and slinks out from under him.

“Get off me.” But there’s no heat in the words, and Sylvain knows it. “So who is it?”

But Sylvain just shrugs, smile turning wooden. “Doesn’t matter. I’m sure I’ll get over it.”

Once again, Felix struggles with what to say, because he’s not used to this kind of Sylvain. But something about the defeatist attitude irritates him. “Don’t be a coward.”

“Felix.” Sylvain suddenly sounds tired. “I don’t want to be mean, but up until yesterday you could hardly even look the Professor in the face. She made the first move, didn’t she?”

Felix scowls. And blushes, because it makes him remember the way Byleth had skimmed her fingers across his cheek and touched his hair and made him realise that she felt something for him. He’s not sure if Sylvain would take that as making the first move, but judging from his raised eyebrows, he’s already decided on the answer.

Sylvain goes on. “Really, don’t worry about it.” He raises his arms behind his head and fixes Felix with a genial smile that might have fooled someone else. “As I said, I’ll get over it.”

Felix runs through everyone in the monastery in his head, wondering who could possibly have Sylvain like this. He’s not sure he’s seen him bring anyone back to his room since they’ve been back at Garreg Mach.

So who…?

Sylvain laughs again. “I can see you thinking. You should give up.” He pauses briefly. “But hey, Felix, I was thinking of something else too.”

“What?” he asks, allowing the change of topic.

“Even though you have the Professor now, I hope you haven’t forgotten our promise.”

“Of course not.” Felix’s response is brusque, but then he makes the effort to meet Sylvain’s eyes. “I would never.”

Sylvain is pleased. “Good. Can I hug you now?”

No.” Felix steps out of his reach and goes back to his work, Sylvain’s laugh following him, wanting to finally finish the chores.

But he keeps mulling over their conversation.

It’s later as he’s leaving, while Sylvain grooms his mare, does something occur to him. He wanders down to the stall Sylvain is in. “Sylvain? How did you know I was with the Prof– Byleth last night?”

Is it weird that it feels weird to say her name?

Sylvain smirks at his self-correction, but doesn’t otherwise acknowledge it. “Oh, I met up with Claude last night. He told me what happened in the training yard.”

“Oh.”

Sylvain – uncharacteristically – says nothing else, and there’s just the swish, swish of the brush as he smooths it across the horse’s flank.

With that, Felix takes his leave, trying to figure out what’s bothering him about Sylvain’s answer. On the face of it, it makes sense. He ran into Claude, who told him. Because of course Claude told him.

But…

Claude.

The exaggerated nonchalance, even for Sylvain, of oh, I met up with Claude.

He and Claude used to play chess a lot together, when they’d been students. They’re still friends, often together despite their duties.

Is he reading too much into it? Sylvain is friends with the rest of the Golden Deer, and with the remaining Blue Lions, even if they’re not here. Surely it must be someone out of those two groups that he loves? Who else is there? Sylvain and Hilda have a somewhat acerbic friendship, but they’re definitely friends. He doesn’t think it could be any of the other Golden Deer, though. But what of those he’s still in touch with elsewhere? Felix believes Sylvain when he says it’s not Ingrid, but what about Mercedes or Annette?

Mercedes could probably handle Sylvain, but Felix will absolutely punch him again if it’s Annette.

But why does his mind keep circling back to Claude?

Halfway to the bathhouse, Felix pauses, trying to decide whether to go back and question Sylvain more. In the end he doesn’t, because he’s not sure if he’s right and anyway, it’s Sylvain’s business.

He just wishes he could forget the way Sylvain had said it’s pretty painful, isn’t it? when talking about being in love.

Felix thinks of Byleth.

Maybe, yes, love is painful, and Sylvain is right. But only partially. It’s not pain that comes to mind when he thinks of Byleth – not now, anyway. And the pain he felt before was because he’d thought she was dead.

Thinking about that is enough for him to change his destination, heading straight to Byleth’s room, where he knocks on the door and waits impatiently, hoping that she’s inside but knowing that she could be anywhere.

To his immense relief, the door opens, revealing a casually dressed Byleth, which means she’s probably done with her duties for the day. Without thinking any further, Felix steps inside, sliding a hand into her hair and leaning down to kiss her.

While Byleth initially responds, stretching upwards and reaching out to grab him, their lips have only just brushed before her hand shoots up between their faces, pushing his mouth away from hers and taking a step back.

“You stink,” she says bluntly.

He pulls her hand away from his mouth, frustrated. “I was on stable duty. You should know this, you assigned it.”

“So? Go take a bath. Everyone has to do stable duty sometimes.”

“I just wanted–“ Felix cuts himself off, irritation breaking through. This isn’t what he’d imagined when he’d come to see her. “Fine,” he snaps, turning on his heel and marching away, dutifully heading in the direction of the bathhouse but angry about it.

He ignores Byleth when she calls his name.

.

Scrubbed and clean and smelling of something woody and pleasant, Felix tries to sink into the hot water and relax.

But it’s no use.

He can’t help but feel he might have overreacted to Byleth earlier.

He had smelled of horse shit, after all.

Sinking lower and tipping his head back to rest against the edge of the bath, Felix closes his eyes, trying and failing to ease the tension from his shoulders.

The sound of someone else entering the bathhouse reaches his ears, but he pays it no mind. There are always people coming and going and he’d chosen one of the smaller, private baths, where he wouldn’t be disturbed. These private baths are technically for the nobles only, but that rule has long since ceased to be observed.

Except it’s not a moment later when he hears the door to his section being slid back and he sits up, furious–

– only to see Byleth standing there with an unfathomable expression and the anger drains away immediately.

“What are you doing here?”

She tilts her head, eyes dancing across the parts of his torso exposed to her before returning to his face. “Can I join you?”

He blinks, having not expected that. But he hardly has to think about the answer. “Yes.”

Nodding in reply, she takes a step away and begins shedding her clothes.

Felix’s mouth goes dry.

Her movements are completely without a hint of self consciousness, as smooth and fluid as she is on the battlefield. He’d stripped her of her clothes himself just a day ago, and yet this is still so very alluring.

The long coat comes off, and is folded a little haphazardly before being placed on the bench. Then she sits down and takes off her boots before standing up again to pull her bodice off, leaving Felix staring at her still bound breasts. Next, she turns slightly and slides her shorts down her legs, and then her tights, and Felix is still looking at her ass when she turns around and he realises that she’s topless. In the same quick, efficient manner, she pulls down her smalls, leaving her naked.

She catches Felix’s eyes, looking amused by his expression. He makes an effort to close his mouth, swallowing heavily as he watches her step into the bath, sinking down with a sigh as she hits the hot water, resting her back against the side opposite him. She’s close enough that their legs brush together, but altogether still too far away.

Byleth begins with no preamble. “I’m not apologising for saying you stink, because you did, but I’m curious – what were you going to say before?”

He drags his eyes up from the sight of her breasts skimming the top of the water. “…What? When?”

Byleth shifts and her calf brushes against his. Her mouth curls up in a way that tells him she knows he’s distracted. “Just now, before you left. You said, I just wanted and then you stopped.”

Felix tilts his head back, closing his eyes, a little embarrassed. “Nothing,” he sighs.

The water ripples and then splashes across him as Byleth moves forward, nudging his legs down so she can straddle him. Her thighs press against his and Felix can feel himself getting half hard as she skims her hands up his chest to rest on his shoulders. His hands, resting stretched out across the back of the bath, clench with the need to touch her.

“Tell me,” she whispers.

Felix sighs, resigning himself to answer. Still keeping his eyes closed, he says, “I just wanted to see you.”

He’s rewarded with Byleth moving closer, and his breath stutters as he feels her breasts press against him. There’s a brush of her hair against his cheek and then her lips at his neck, so on display to her with his head tilted back. Felix shudders as her teeth drag along the sensitive skin, and then again when she smooths her tongue and lips over him.

Sagging back against the edge of the bath, Felix lets her work for a moment. The strain in his shoulders has finally relaxed, but there’s a very different type of strain building up in him. And because he’s not one to be passive, it’s not long before he can’t help but touch her too, tipping his head down to capture her lips in a proper kiss while his hands slide greedily across slippery, wet skin. He presses deep, open mouthed kisses into her mouth, and when she slips a hand between them to take a firm grip of his cock, Felix can’t help the load groan that seems to bounce off the walls of the bathhouse.

They both stop moving like they’ve just remembered where they are at the same time. Byleth pulls back, blinking at him.

“Is there anyone else here?”

“I don’t know," he answers honestly.

Her hand on him grips tighter, making his breath catch. Byleth’s voice drops to a murmur. “Can you be quiet?”

Raising his eyebrows in challenge at her, he retorts, “Can you?” and manoeuvres his own hand down to slip between her folds and tease at her entrance. “You’re already so wet.”

“We’re in a bath.”

Byleth’s almost petulant tone makes him laugh, and Felix slips a finger inside her. Her touch on him goes lax as she starts to grind against his hand. “I don’t think the bath has anything to do with it.”

He’s not sure where these words are coming from, slipping out of his mouth as easily as his fingers are sliding in and out of Byleth. Perhaps that’s just what happens when a very naked and enthusiastic person is draped across you.

Or perhaps it’s something to do with the satisfying feeling of watching her come apart under his hands.

He adds another finger, shifting to better his angle, and begins pumping harder while his thumb seeks out her clit, pressing firm circles into her. Byleth arches back, slamming a hand over her mouth to stifle a moan, and Felix smiles to himself, pleased. He keeps his free hand splayed across her back to steady her, as he leans forward to take a breast onto his mouth, opening wide around a nipple and sucking hard.

Byleth’s nails dig into his shoulder as her hips jerk forward. A whimper escapes even from behind the hand pressed against her mouth. Her skin is flushed and pink, water dripping down her body, and Felix releases her breast to sit back and admire how she looks. He lets his hand slow down, becoming more teasing – too little for her to find her release – and Byleth attempts to grind down harder in response.

The hand falls from her mouth to tangle in his hair.

“Stop teasing me,” she hisses. She pulls his head up to aggressively kiss him, but ends up dropping her head to his shoulder with a groan when he lets his fingers slip from her completely.

Felix is actually intent on something more selfish. Gripping the inside of her thigh, he encourages her to lift up, and angles himself at her entrance, the head of his cock brushing against her and making her shudder. But Byleth needs no further invitation, and sinks down onto him.

They both moan at the sensation as the water sloshes around them.

“You’re being loud,” she says breathlessly, beginning to rock back and forth on him.

Felix’s brows knit together as he tries to form words, too focused on the way her walls are gripping his cock. It feels just as good as it did last night. Fuck, he wants to do this every night.

“You–“ he starts to chastise her but ends up moaning as she clenches around him, squeezing his cock. But he cuts himself off, determined not to make another sound and latches onto her breast again, enjoying the noise Byleth attempts and fails to muffle when he slides his tongue over her nipple.

His hands make their way through the water and down Byleth’s slippery body to take hold of her thighs, helping her lift and ride him while he continues to mouth at her breast. All around them, the water sloshes, as noisy as the sounds Byleth is trying to contain. The heat and humidity of the bathhouse has them both sweating, and the hair he’d pulled up to keep it out of the water is sticking to his face and neck. Byleth is no better and even her usual poise is lost as she slips against the floor of the bath, only Felix’s hands keeping her steady.

One of Byleth’s hands touches where they’re joined briefly, before she starts rubbing her clit. If Felix’s hands weren’t otherwise occupied, he’d be doing it himself. Detaching himself from one breast so he can move to the other, he kisses and bites across the soft skin, pulling Byleth down harder on him. Her free hand slams down hard on the edge of the bath as she tries to keep herself balanced, while a debauched moan spills from her lips.

She comes when Felix bites down hard on her nipple, squeezing his cock as she shudders above him. Felix holds her tight and continues to fuck into her as best he can, given how slippy everything is, letting her breast go so he can look at her face. Her hand is now over her mouth, eyes closed, with a blissed out expression on her face.

The hand drops to his hair again and her head falls forward. When her half opened eyes meet his, she moans his name, long and low and satisfied, and Felix comes with a groan that she quickly leans forward and swallows with a kiss. She keeps moving on top of him, and he can feel every spasm and clench of her around him as he releases into her.

Byleth’s hands work at his hair, soaked from sweat and humidity, and gently ease it out of the tie it’s in, running her fingers through it. Felix sighs, feeling relaxed and sated, turning his head into the crook of her neck and holding her tight to him.

“You were louder,” he eventually murmurs.

He feels Byleth shake against him in a silent laugh. “Only because you cheated.”

“I do not cheat.”

She laughs again, a little louder, and he pulls back to look at her face, because he likes to see her smile. “Maybe it’s my own fault,” Byleth says, “for putting these right in front of your face.” She grabs her breasts to make her point and it’s so ridiculous Felix doesn’t feel as much embarrassment as he might have expected from such a comment, especially not when he can tell he’s teasing.

But as he looks, he catches sight of the bite marks he’d left on her, distracting him.

He covers her hands with his own, squeezing gently before pulling them away to inspect the damage. “Did I hurt you?”

“It felt good,” she replies, still flushed and smiling. Brushing his hair out his face, she leans back in to kiss him again, sweetly brushing her lips against his.

“I–“ he starts and then stops. I love you floats at the tip of his tongue, but instead, he says, “I don’t want to hurt you.” Felix stops again, annoyed with himself. “I know I have, when we spar. But I don’t mean that, I mean–“

“I know what you mean,” Byleth says when he stops again, cradling his face. “Don’t worry.”

She may as well have told him not to breath and clearly the way he’s looking at her conveys his thoughts. And it’s ridiculous – she’s the strongest person he knows. But he can’t help it. And she takes his concern with seriousness. “Felix, I’ll tell you if you do.”

“Alright.” His eyes flick away from her and then back. “Byleth.”

Her face lights up. “Is that the first time you’ve called me that?” Her tone is still teasing and Felix can feel himself reddening.

“Would you prefer I call you Professor?” he asks snidely, looking away from her again.

“It seems strange for you to do that. But…” She shifts on top of him, reminding Felix that his now soft cock is still inside her. “You can ask me again when we’re in a less compromising position.”

He slides his hands across her bare, flushed skin. “No,” he eventually decides. “I don’t want to call you that anymore.”

Byleth delicately skims her fingers over his face, making a pleased noise.

“Felix,” she whispers a moment later. “Say my name again.”

The request is so open, not even Felix can miss the longing in it, and he realises that so few people actually call her by her name.

He looks up at her, sitting upright so he can rest his forehead against hers.

Byleth.”

Her response is a smile so wide it makes Felix feel almost overwhelmed. He thinks of what Sylvain had said, about love being painful. And yes, maybe, sometimes it is.

But it’s also this and that makes any pain worth it.