Felix and Dimitri stood in their bedroom, previously just Felix’s room, in the old dorms of the monastery. Between training, planning, and trying to take care of themselves, the days were becoming unbearably long. The moon crested high in the night sky through the window, and they leaned against one another almost too weary to move. So, Felix offered to help Dimitri take off his armor.
"Careful." Dimitri smiled and held out his arm, blue eye glowing with fondness.
Felix snorted and took the other man’s hand in his own. "I'm always careful, unlike somebody."
He went to work undoing the buckles on the underside of Dimitri's forearm, slipping off the black gauntlet and the protective glove underneath. Dimitri had grown taller, broader, and his hands reflected it. Felix trailed his fingers across the longer digits and wider palms, overlaying the memory of the child's hand he used to hold with embarrassing fervor.
Eyes are the window to the soul, but a person's history was written on their hands. As children, Felix's hand was generally found within Dimitri's, years and years ago before they were stained with blood and death.
He thought about Dimitri grasping Felix's hand and begging him to stay in Fhirdiad so they could play with Glenn.
He thought about Dimitri sitting in the royal mausoleum with palms upturned in his lap and eyes staring into nothing.
He thought about Dimitri's grip around a lance, body covered in slaughter. One red hand swiping over a broken grin and freckled cheeks.
Dimitri had reached for his hand after that battle; Felix flinched back like he'd been burned.
"I have another gauntlet, Felix." Dimitri said, drawing Felix back to the present. He did not acknowledge how lost he’d gotten in his thoughts and Dimitri graciously let it slide.
Rather than dropping back to his side, Dimitri rested his bare hand on Felix's hip. Subconsciously, he listed into the touch. These days, when Dimitri reached for him, Felix reached back.
Their hands were not so different in the Academy days. Felix had shunned attempts on Dimitri's part to engage in physical contact, shrugging a hand off his shoulder in the dining hall or avoiding the brush of their fingers when trading notes. During training sessions, however, Felix would face the blinding sun to focus on the swing of Dimitri's hips, the grip of his hands on a lance, the caged fierceness in his gaze. Just keeping an eye on the beast , he'd lied to himself.
If Dimitri offered a hand to help Felix off the ground after defeat, he slapped it away.
Then Dimitri slipped into a place where Felix couldn’t reach him even if he wanted to. When Cornelia failed to produce Dimitri’s corpse, Felix knew he’d escaped execution. That didn’t mean he thought Dimitri was anymore alive than he’d been since the Tragedy of Duscur.
Felix had never been particularly regretful. He acted how he thought best, as honest as possible. He didn’t have time for the lies and propaganda that spouted his father’s mouth about chivalry and honor in death.
He’d observed the death of the Dimitri he’d once known. He’d seen no honor in the corpse walking around with the mask of a prince, and Felix made his sentiments known.
Yet, he’d ask during those five years, Why didn’t he come to me? Could I find him? What would I do if I did?
When Dimitri showed up at the monastery, wild and senseless, Felix experienced true desperation. Dimitri was right there, but Felix still couldn’t find him.
Dimitri’s return from the brink after Gronder made their relationship more fraught than ever. Betrayal, anxiety, and a thousand other emotions tangled Felix up in knots. The difference was in their ability to air their worries in the open, breaking the cycle of bitterness and mistrust. The unease didn’t magically disappear, but acknowledging its presence freed them up to discuss and feel other things. Such as: revisiting the growing tension that couldn’t be chalked up to apprehension over Dimitri’s mental state or Felix’s bad coping skills.
They started generously trading touches and fell into sync with each other’s movements more often than not. They grew bolder with each passing day, a slow crescendo yet to hit its climax. A hand on Felix’s back became an arm around his waist which became a hug from behind.
Scars were scattered on the back of Dimitri’s hands, palms, and fingers. The sudden urge to raise them to Felix’s lips, to kiss every line and ask their origins, nearly overcame him. Time hangs on heavy palms, as they say, and Felix had learned the weight of five years. Nine years, actually.
Felix set the second gauntlet on the desk and wordlessly began to undo the myriad clasps that held together the rest of Dimitri’s armor. They said nothing, Dimitri raising an arm when he needed to and Felix putting the armor in its usual resting place. At the end, Dimitri stood in his undershirt and pants while Felix was fully clothed.
Dimitri laced his bare fingers through Felix’s gloved ones. He parted his mouth to speak but Felix stopped him, pressing a thumb to his lips with a pointed look. Not that he didn’t want Dimitri to talk, but he couldn’t handle an emotional speech tonight.
With a half-lidded eye, Dimitri moved Felix’s hand to his cheek and nuzzled into his palm. A simple movement that should not have made Felix’s heart race.
There was a thrill to his gentleness that Felix couldn’t resist. Dimitri broke iron weapons with a single swing, shattered a vase while arranging flowers, and snapped the spine of books clean in half. All because he forgot to mind his strength. But he cradled Felix's hands like precious porcelain and never, ever forgot to pay attention.
“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”
- The Song of Achilles , Madeleine Miller
Dimitri’s voice, although quiet, filled the room. Felix nodded, thrusting out his hand while looking very hard at the wall behind him instead of meeting Dimitir’s eye. A shame, but he knew Felix better than anyone. This is normal. He wanted to cant down and kiss Felix’s forehead, to tell him without uncomfortable words or eye contact that Dimitri loved him exactly the way he was. But now wasn’t the time to push.
The soft leather gloves were a contrast to the steel gauntlets that Dimitri favored. White fur at the wrists and light tan coloring, they served function first, fashion second. Garreg Mach had a milder climate than northern Faerghus where Felix bought them, but the winter months did bring unforgiving blizzards.
Pulling off his right glove, Felix hands was pale with silvery scars flecked across his knuckles. Dimitri hadn’t adequately appreciated their warmth when he was a boy. He took every touch for granted, and the years without contact taught Dimitri what craving really meant.
In the wake of the Tragedy, Felix had sought him out but they hadn’t quite known what to do with each other. Too many bonds that joined them were broken. Rodrigue began to leave Felix at home when he came to Fhirdiad, and Dimitri’s responsibilities grew to fulfill the duties of his father. They stumbled through mourning and guilt as best they could, but not fast enough to reconcile their friendship before the Western Rebellion.
After that battle, there were no further attempts at niceties.
Their interactions were neutral at best and vicious at worst at the Academy and upon their arrival to the monastery five years later. To be fair, Dimitri became the more brutal of the two at that point.
Change arrived with The Battle at Gronder Field. As he lay dying, Rodrigue asked Dimitri to live for what he believed in. The professor told him to do the same afterward, and that broke down the last of his resolve. They did not, however, qualify what it was he ought to believe.
It had been a long time since he’d given much thought to his own beliefs. As a child, he’d believed in the myths of old kings and fairy tales of monsters hiding in the woods. Then he’d grown up all at once, and there was only the drive for revenge that the voices in his head demanded. Ghosts nipped at his heels for so long, he forgot there was another way to live.
He had never been a religious man, but when Byleth and Rodrigue urged him to live for what he believed in, he took a leap of faith.
You have one thing terribly wrong , Rodrigue had said. Dimitri discovered that, in actuality, he had many things terribly wrong. He had spoken with Mercedes, Dedue, and many others for counsel. They were more patient than he deserved, but he started to take kindness where it was given, and they helped set him right.
Little by little, he found the stones that would line his path. He believed in saving people. He believed in a future where everyone has a voice.
He tugged off Felix’s second glove, marveling at the numerous scars and how they differed from his own. The scars on Felix’s hands were mostly small nicks from other swords, clean and thin lines. Dimitri’s hands were covered in gouges, burns, and jagged stripes, recordings of the demon lost in grief and madness.
Felix taught him that it was possible to live with the pain of losing loved ones without drowning in it. He told Dimitri to remove the gravestones around his neck before he snapped, and begrudgingly took on the task of helping Dimitri do just that. They began to speak frequently, sticking to topics of war and strategy until other topics eventually bled into their conversations. They started reminiscing. Arguing. Laughing. Confessing.
Several weeks ago, they sat in the war room hours after everyone else had gone to sleep. They bickered back and forth over the logistics of moving an army through a particular ravine between the monastery and Arianrhod, but there wasn’t any biting malice to their exchanges anymore. Dimitri redrew the map again and again to outline possible routes, and at some point he must’ve pressed the quill into the parchment hard enough to splatter.
“You have ink on your face.” Felix had sighed, gesturing to Dimitri’s right cheek. He rubbed at the spot, and Felix immediately huffed and waved at him to stop. “Forget it, you’re making it worse. Here.”
Felix reached up, hand gloveless, and wiped at the ink with his thumb.
That first caress shredded across his skin, each nerve under a knife’s edge burning so hot it felt cold. Cold like a bright morning, fresh water running over smooth stones, that first breath of oxygen after surfacing from the deep. Cold like coming home after a long time away, and all he needed to do was light a fire and settle in. Cold like waking up .
Felix felt it too, jolting back like he’d been shocked. Over time, the more their hands connected, the more the sensation evened out. Yet, there were days where Felix's touch could not reach him at all. Numbness overcame him on those occasions, and he would come back to the cathedral. Someone, usually Felix, appeared to drag him back to the dining hall or his room till he came back to the world. Dimitri’s balancing act didn’t remake him to the boy he’d been, but molded him into a new combination of man, beast, and king.
Dimitri placed the leather gloves next to his gauntlets on the desk. Felix’s fingers were slender like a pianist, a violinist, a master of sound with a sword as his instrument. Dimitri ran a thumb over his palm, feeling the calluses formed by his life as a swordsman. This is how the crescendo grows.
His hands crafted music, and Dimitri wanted to play and be played in return.
Mirroring Felix’s actions, he started unbuckling the leather straps that accompanied Felix’s outfit in silence. An incredible act of vulnerability, to be undressed by one’s lover; a month ago, Felix wouldn’t have let this happen.
“Well? Are you planning to have us stand here all night?” Felix said, down to his turtleneck and leggings, with a blush going up the tips of his ears. Dimitri chuckled and pulled Felix in closer.
“Just taking in the view. Makes me think I might already be dreaming.” He tucked Felix’s head under his chin, ignoring his wriggling. If he wanted out, Felix could shove him off.
Dimitri counted himself a lucky man to get to decide what beliefs would shape his future. Tonight, he believed in Felix. He believed in love.