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romantic, not disgusting yet

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Sylvain wakes up on the left side of the bed, the right side of hungover, and the middle of Felix’s arms.

It’s a rare instance, one that speaks of blurry blueberry nights and the subconsciousness of sleep; Felix has never been the type for cuddles, all jagged edges and sharpened gazes, even through the year or so they’ve been together, even back when they were children and playing together in the unkempt bushes of the Fraldarius backyard. Felix’s frame is strong as a shooting star wish against Sylvain’s naked back, tough in all the ways Felix has forced himself to grow, wiry knots of muscles over mended bones, arms secure and warm around Sylvain’s chest. If Sylvain scoots closer, he can feel Felix’s eyelashes fan in tickles against his skin, can picture Felix’s mouth parted over the cadenced brush of breathing, can sense his own body ebb and flow along Felix’s evidences of existence.

Sylvain allows himself a few minutes of blissful torpescence. It’s his birthday, after all.

There’s pretense in the stretch of his arms as he makes to turn, an excuse to face Felix at his most vulnerable, that picture he shows nobody but Sylvain on mornings like this one. Felix usually wakes up first, on the nights he sleeps over, always a creature of dawn and the subdued heure bleue light; the rays shine late and stripe gold through the thick curtains of Felix’s bedroom, tint his hair deep-sea stygian. Felix’s arms still hold him in a loose, unaware embrace, the kind that sparks thunder in Sylvain’s starless soul, and Sylvain’s eyes trace the thin cut of his chin, the keen angles of his face, softened by sleep and sun. There’s a lock tangling into Felix’s lashes, and Sylvain brushes it away, his fingers coaxing it back over Felix’s bare shoulder until he’s pulled into Felix’s unnatural orbit and grazes his lips over Felix’s forehead, onto the knife-cut lines of his frown until they deepen, along the bridge of his nose — Felix’s arms slip away from the anchor of Sylvain’s waist to grasp at the covers and pull them over his head as he groans and burrows into the mattress.

Sylvain laughs, soundless but to his own ears. That’s more like the Felix he knows, the Felix he loves.

Sylvain swings his legs over his side of the bed, the motion rehearsed and practiced from all the times he’s slept over at the Fraldarius brothers’ apartment, grasps with slumber-slurred fingers at the first shirt he finds — Felix’s, unsurprisingly; his own clothes are neatly folded onto Felix’s desk chair, but they’re on the other side of Felix’s room, and Sylvain clearly doesn’t have the strength to cross the room and incur Felix’s morning-induced wrath when he’ll inevitably trip over the mess on the floor. He doesn’t bother putting the shirt on after he softly closes the door behind him; his feet are as light as drunken yesterdays can grant when he steps into the hallway and makes his way to the living room.

The clock above the sink in the open kitchen ticks a few minutes past eleven and Sylvain’s head throbs a little past awake; he spends a few minutes finding the cupboard in which Felix has hidden his pack of specialty-café ground coffee, because Glenn apparently is not allowed to drink it, except Sylvain is pretty sure there was more of it in the bag yesterday when he made them a cup before they left for Sylvain’s birthday party. The flat is quiet and peaceful, save from the watery murmur of the stovetop espresso maker and the whistle of steam that fills the room with the rich, earthy scent of coffee; low noon lusters the translucent drapes that hide the window to the balcony, early June reflecting off the garden table and luring Sylvain’s mind towards outdoor breakfasts as he fiddles with the cup in his hands.

“Morning, Sylvain.”

Sylvain startles so hard the cup slips from his fingers and shatters to the ground.

Glenn raises an unimpressed eyebrow as he stares at the porcelain smithereens around their feet; the eyebrow discovers free will and raises higher when Sylvain swears — at the cup, at Glenn, at himself, too, probably.

“Fuck, Glenn— sir— I’m so sorry, you scared me—”

There’s no smile on Glenn’s face when he looks at Sylvain fifteen-and-a-half centimeters up, only careful unemotion and the ghost of amused, smug satisfaction. Sylvain’s eyes flit around Glenn’s face for an anchor that’s not the scar tissue on the side, pulled taunt across high, handsome cheekbones in thunder-carved sunrays. There’s broken, star-like white all around his naked feet, and he sees Glenn gaze down again, blistered lines wreathed in another, narrow-eyed expression. The abyss of his ocean eyes stares back into him to gun down contempt-shaped holes into Sylvain’s whole frame, the kitchen counter like an execution wall against Sylvain’s back, and the discordant screech of the dirty dishes in the sink reach Sylvain’s ear as he shifts his hands to rest unthreatening on the steel edge when Glenn opens his mouth.

“Sorry I startled you, Syl.”

Sylvain rarely is at a loss for words. This time, he is.

There’s an apologetic smile curling over Glenn’s face, a spoonful of honey over the citrus-splash of the teasing glint in his eyes, so unexpected Sylvain almost laughs. As far as he knows, Glenn absolutely despises him; he was absolutely certain that, as short-tempered as his brother, though in a much colder way, Glenn would command Sylvain to pick up all the broken bits with his bare hands until he bled from it. It’s the kind of reaction Sylvain usually elicits from older brothers, and especially the ones who cherish their little siblings so dearly they’d tear the world apart for them; Glenn had always been an exemplary brother to Felix, which is exactly why he wanted to keep him the furthest distance away from Sylvain — possibly because of his own, self-inflicted reputation, most probably because of the stories Glenn must have heard from Miklan when they were younger and Miklan put Sylvain through hatred-tinged hell on a daily basis.

Perhaps this is why Glenn scares him so much, Sylvain realizes: before being Felix’s first brother, he always was Miklan’s last friend.

Glenn waves an idle hand in front of Sylvain’s face. “Sylvain? You okay?”

“Y-yeah!” Sylvain’s relief is choked out of him through the anxiety. “Don’t be sorry. No reason to be.”

Sylvain almost feels the short, sharp exhale that leaves Glenn’s nose, blue eyes leaving Sylvain’s face for Sylvain’s neck, sting-searing when they spot the plum bruise on the side, the one Felix likes to leave out in place of the faded cicatrice Miklan had knifed into him there when he was a teenager.

“There’s actually a lot to be sorry for.”

Heavy, stumbling footsteps conceal Sylvain’s questioning hum, and in the doorframe, Felix wears Sylvain’s shirt.

Glenn’s smile curls keen and mocking just as Sylvain’s twists soft and sappy. “Morning, Lixie.”

Felix, in all his Felix-ness, leaves him with only a huff and a swipe of the hand as an answer as he pushes him back to sink into Sylvain’s chest. Sylvain’s arms circle his shoulders like a patellar reflex, lets his hand stroke back Felix’s hair — tied into that lazy, half-bun that falls apart into a half-ponytail under Sylvain’s fingers — when Felix breathes deep over Sylvain’s collarbones, and when Sylvain kisses the top of his head once, twice, thrice, Felix raises his head to glare daggers at his older brother like he’s trying to prove a point.

Glenn looks everything from perplexed to furious when he glances back at Sylvain, and when he sighs, his long ponytail shakes from side to side alongside him, the air around them shifting into his rhythm.

“Sit down on the couch, lovebirds. I’ll make tea.”

You are the love of my brother’s life and also my friend, is what the mug in Glenn’s hands states when he gives it to Sylvain a few minutes later. His fingers gracefully dance away from the handle, and the perfect sway of Bergamot-scented vapor veils the gleam in Glenn’s eyes, harsh edges smoothed out by the late-morning light and the wild curls of his prim-and-perfect, ponytailed hair.

“Fe,” Sylvain whispers in what he hopes passes off as innocuous, “I think your brother is trying to poison me.”

“Trust me,” Felix says from where he’s buried in-between Sylvain’s pecs, “if anyone here will kill you one day, it won’t be him.”

“You guys do know I’m still here, right?” Glenn laughs a little, in that wispy laughter of his that’s more like the ghost of unintelligible joy. “Keep your weird brand of flirting to the bedroom, Lixie.”

“Fuck off.”

Felix still takes the coffee cup Glenn offers him like Glenn hasn’t probably slipped laxatives into Sylvain’s tea. It’s his favorite tea, too, and the cup is too specific for comfort, and Sylvain, for once, is thrown into the seasick discomfort of not understanding something right away. There’s a card missing from the deck, a jack of spades stuck behind a wooden, dusty cupboard no one ever bothers to move for cleaning; there is no universe in which Glenn would be kind to him without an objective. Sylvain remembers Ingrid’s admiration for him, and Dimitri’s childhood infatuation with him turned into adult lovesickness over the years, and wonders what he has not seen from Glenn Fraldarius that other people seem to have witnessed, something so self-evident he remains utterly blind to it. To Sylvain, Glenn’s most obvious trait has always been his protectiveness, stubborn at the expense of everything else, something he’d once wished he’d experienced not from the place of the threatened, but from the spot of the protected, that proof of unconditional sibling love he never was worthy of. Listen, Gautier, and listen well, Glenn had told him once, the first time Sylvain had come for dinner at the Fraldariuses’ as Felix’s boyfriend, Felix is the most important person in my life, and if you ever do the tiniest thing to hurt him, like you hurt all of these girls and people you used like your playthings, I will destroy you — and Sylvain remembers having felt only two emotions, that evening: furious terror and heartwrenching envy.

Sylvain looks back at the cup in his hands, thumbs over the word love while he analyses the way the print for friend curls along the edge — because Glenn isn’t Miklan’s friend, not anymore, not since Miklan got on that train when Sylvain was sixteen and disappeared from their lives in a storm of venomous exclamations and Sylvain-destined bruises. Felix’s frame against Sylvain’s chest is the exact weight of his entire world, fits into Sylvain’s existence like a missing puzzle piece as he drinks his coffee in small, scalding sips, and when Sylvain gazes back to the open kitchen, the soft smile of Glenn’s face is aimed at him.

“So I’m guessing I’m the only one who’s gonna do the dishes here, like always?”

Felix groans in the way only a scolded child can, as though he’s still young enough to endear Glenn into spoiling him; he swings his legs over the couch, leaves a kiss on Sylvain’s cheek as he stands up — and oh, how amazing Sylvain’s shirt looks on him, big enough to fall over his shoulder in the exact way Sylvain dreams of during lonely nights — and Sylvain leaves his untouched cup on the coffee table.

“Wait, Glenn,” and Sylvain belatedly realizes it’s the first time he’s called Glenn’s name without adding a shameful, sheepish sir, “I’m gonna help too—”

“No way,” Felix shoots down. “You’re a guest here.”

“Not for long.”

Sylvain freezes on the couch, staring at Glenn like Glenn’s about to run him over, because surely that’s what Glenn’s objective was — to ban Sylvain from the shared Fraldarius flat and slowly remove him from Felix’s life, one leftover shirt at a time— “I’m moving out.”

What?!, Sylvain thinks.

What?!” Felix exclaims.

Glenn’s loud, loud laughter vibrates in echoes over Sylvain’s tea.

“Don’t tell me you’re gonna go live with the boar.”

“I’m going to live with Dimitri,” Glenn corrects his brother, hits him over the arm with a whip of kitchen towel. “And your broke, non-existent ass won’t be able to afford living here alone, right?” There’s that citrus-splash gaze again, fresh and sour and looking right at Sylvain.

“Fucking finally.”

“Watch your fucking tongue, brat.”

“Wait,” Sylvain says before the two of them fall into one of their habitual, endless brotherly spats, “so you’re saying I… can move in here?”

From where Sylvain’s sitting, Glenn’s sunburnt expression looks almost fond.

Glenn’s footsteps are soft and quiet as a cat as he walks to the couch; his scarred fingers curl around the mug, hand it for Sylvain to hold, warm enough not to burn.

“Only if you promise not to break my birthday gift.”

It’s an easy promise to hold, Sylvain thinks; he’s already sworn off ever breaking more delicate things, like table mirrors or a brother’s bones or Felix’s heart. The tea is good, brewed just this side of bitter, the way Sylvain likes it best.