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Hoarfrost sits heavy on the trees along the border of Gautier and Fraldarius, branches quivering in the wind as Sylvain dodges a clump of falling snow. His breath steams the air, and his horse snorts in surprise when a squirrel darts out ahead of them. Overhead the sky is so blue it hurts to look at, and the sun glancing off drifts of white doesn’t help his eyes either.

It’s more than a welcome change from the past few weeks of stone walls and stuffy halls filled with people who have nothing better to do than complain. Being gone to Sreng wasn’t supposed to last more than a month or two, but as it happened, two months turned into four, which then turned into nearly eight as things dragged on. Letters back and forth to Gautier can only do so much when little frustrations from his people build up, and he’s been stuck inside for the last end of Guardian Moon and the better part of Pegasus Moon taking care of what’s been pushed to the wayside.

A bird titters to his side, the sound echoing across the snow along with the crunch of Sala’s hooves and the jingle of her bridle as she tosses her head. Late afternoon rays do little to warm the air, but that’s all right—Sylvain’s handled worse weather for much less worthy ends. There’s only a few miles to the cabin Felix took it upon himself to fix up for them and better yet, Felix is already there. Just as letters do little to placate the masses, he's never thrilled when Sylvain’s presence in his life is reduced to words on a page.

The last few miles are equally easy and arduous—the ride is smooth, but Sala can only move so fast, and Sylvain’s never been too patient a man. When at last the cottage is in sight, smoke rising from the chimney, he squeezes her into a canter. “Fe!” he calls. “Get out here.”

A hand tugs back the curtains, Felix’s face appearing not two seconds behind. His eyes widen, and then he’s rocketing out the door. Sala starts again at the sudden noise and movement (she's not a warhorse, and it shows), but Sylvain manages to dismount in time for Felix to leap at him like an animal. “You ass,” Felix mumbles. “Don’t ever leave me for so long again, or I’m coming to find you and drag you back myself.”

“Oh yeah?” Sylvain wraps both arms around him, buries his face in the unbound softness of his hair and takes in a shuddering breath. “That a threat or a promise?”

“Both.” Felix turns his head to kiss Sylvain’s jaw, and Sylvain feels the exact moment that Felix’s lip curls before he pulls back. “What’s this?” he asks, unlocking his legs from around Sylvain’s waist and dropping lightly back to the ground as he cups Sylvain’t cheeks, rough with frost-laden hair. “You didn’t write me about this.”

“What, you don’t like it?” Sylvain asks. He leans down, and when Felix closes his eyes in anticipation of a kiss, rubs their cheeks together to earn himself an indignant squawk.

“Syl vain!”

“I like it,” Sylvain says. Pouts, really, but he’s not really broken up about it. Felix, as always, will either get used to it and claim the idea as his own, or decide he truly doesn’t approve and take the matter into his own hands. “So does Ada.”

“Ada’s paid to like it,” Felix snorts, continuing to rub mindlessly at Sylvain’s cheeks. His eyes go a bit glassy the longer the moment wears on, and Sylvain bites his lip to keep from laughing at the way Felix flushes when he comes back to his senses. “Anyway,” he says, “Kyphon’s in the back, you can put your beast in with him.”

“Help me? I’m exhausted,” Sylvain wheedles, slinging an arm across Felix’s shoulders as they start toward the small stable around the back. “I rode all day—”

“And will be ridden all night. I have things to prepare.” Felix glances over out of the corner of his eye, smirking, and Sylvain’s chest constricts as months of cast-aside desire comes back to crash into him. 

“Uh—”

“Go on.” Felix pats his shoulder mockingly, ducks out from under him, and sends him off with a shove. Sylvain stumbles over the roots of an old oak, struck dumb as his mind struggles past the sudden fog whispering to let everything but Felix fall to the wayside. But Sala’s nudging at his pockets like she wants a treat, and he can’t just leave her to her own devices.

Cursing under his breath, he shoves aside the haunting image of Felix the last time they’d fucked and sets to putting her in for the night. She and Kyphon eye each other as he brushes her down and blankets her with a lovely cloth the previous residents left behind.

He doesn’t like to think about where they may have gone, or whose fault it is they left—neither he or Felix need additional scars from the war, and sometimes it’s just better to ignore than ask questions.

Felix is bent over a bath next to the fire when he walks in, trailing his fingers through already steaming water as he looks back. When he hears Sylvain shut the door, he makes to get up, but Sylvain holds out a hand.

“Let me get a look at you,” he says, and Felix sinks back into a crouch as Sylvain’s eyes rake over him. Their time apart has done him well—his cheeks are no longer gaunt, the darkness under his eyes receded to a much more manageable level. His shirt still hangs off of him, but it’s not... his. “Is this mine?” Sylvain asks, walking over to tug at the collar.

Flushing deep red, Felix shoves the hand away and mumbles, “No.”

“Yes it is,” Sylvain insists. “We got it last year in Fhirdiad.”

“It’s not,” Felix says, in his I’ll not have you calling me out on my bullshit voice, and Sylvain chuckles.

“So you were in Gautier at some point while I was gone. Missed me that much?”

Felix scoffs instead of answering. He stands and begins to undo the fastenings on Sylvain’s clothes, resolutely looking everywhere but up toward Sylvain’s face. His fingers are deft, his skin pinking as Sylvain brushes the hair from his face. 

"Feeelix…"

"I needed some documents," Felix says, "and I may have stayed...a night."

"In my rooms?"

"Don't push your luck," Felix warns. Then, softer, "But yes, if it'll make you stop asking." He smooths his hands across Sylvain's chest, then finally looks up. "I missed you."

Sylvain winds both hands into Felix's hair and gently cups his head, pulling his face up for a kiss. Felix's lips part under his, pliant and wanting as the soft moan that escapes him. It's one of Sylvain's favorite sounds, because it means Felix trusts him enough to let that sky-high guard down. He vowed a long time ago to chase it for the rest of their lives—now that he's seen every iteration of Felix, he can't go on without hearing the quiet, contented sounds made for him and him alone.

“Missed that, too,” Felix mumbles, and Sylvain swallows the words down with another kiss. This time, though, Felix pushes him gently away after a breath. “The water will get cold, Syl.”

“Let it.”

“Get in,” Felix says. “You smell like horse.”

“I do not,” Sylvain says, but tugs off his shirt in one smooth motion. Felix makes quick work of his pants and smalls, then nudges him toward the water. Sinking into it with a low groan, Sylvain lets the warmth of the water leach away the cold that’s seeped into his very marrow. There’s still a familiar tension still playing up and down his spine; it hasn’t gone away since he departed for Sreng last spring. But Felix’s hands are already roving across his shoulders, and under his touch, it’s all but impossible to care about anything but what’s contained in the four walls around them. 

Felix is the first to break the silence. “Your bed’s not nearly as comfortable without you in it.”

Sylvain smiles and lets his head tip back, eyes shut as he hums softly. “Did you have to sneak in, or did Shey bring you? Also—” He shrugs off Felix’s hand and turns around to rest his arm on the side of the tub. “What documents? I didn’t see any missing.”

“Just some land contracts,” Felix says. He folds Sylvain back into the water and holds a hand over his eyes before cupping the other and soaking Sylvain’s hair. “I figured since we’ll be looking over them together, I should know something about your territory.” 

“And what’d you find?”

“The collection of filth in your bottom desk drawer.” 

Sylvain cracks an eye. “Funny place to be looking for land contracts.”

“It was a few of the farms along the border,” Felix answers. “The ones near the river that were hit hardest by Sreng in the raids. I’ve been debating riding up and seeing them for myself.”

“I already rode through on my way back, they're fine for the time being. Now, my porn collection—”

“You have a very active imagination,” Felix teases, nuzzling into Sylvain’s neck and snickering. “I don’t know if I’m half as flexible as this thinks I am.” He splays a hand across Sylvain’s chest and presses it down, down, down before giving him a languid stroke beneath the water. 

Sylvain's already halfway to boneless, but as Felix worries the skin of his neck with the merest hint of teeth, still stroking slowly, what tension remains drains out of him completely. His head lolls back against Felix's, hand dripping as he reaches back to grab for Felix's free hand. "We can always double check," he breathes into Felix's cheek. "I don't mind practicing, either." When Felix tightens his grip and huffs, he says, "I thought I smelled like horse, sweetheart."

"Not anymore." Felix mouths along the line of his shoulder, breath heated as he plants a trail of open-mouthed kisses leading toward Sylvain's jaw. When Sylvain's grip on the edge of the tub tightens, Felix grins. "We have plenty of time, Syl—let me see you come."

Once upon a time, Sylvain would've been embarrassed about how little it takes for him to come undone under Felix's hands. He would've forced himself to hold off until Felix had come at least once, because he was not going to let anyone—even Felix—know that maybe all he wanted was to be put first for a change. 

But then Felix had wrapped more-than-talented lips around him and looked up, eyes earnest and searching, and Sylvain had decided right then and there that sex with Felix was going to be entirely different from what he was used to.

Life itself was going to be different, and he hasn't yet had that disproved.

  "Ngh, Fe," he grunts. "Harder, a little...yes." He lets his jaw drop open as Felix works him over, soft groans pooling on the surface of the water until all breath leaves him in a rush. Felix kisses him through the orgasm before swishing away the spend and telling Sylvain to finish cleaning himself.

"I see, fuck me and leave," Sylvain grumbles, no heat in it as his fingers trail down Felix's arm. 

"You're incorrigible."

"Aww."

Felix snorts fondly and tosses a towel over, then turns away to pull tea and cups from the cupboard. "I didn't bring a whole lot of variety," he says, "but there's enough to sit and talk over."

"How about any food?" Sylvain steps out and towels himself off, fighting the urge to simply carry Felix back to the bed and have his way with him. He drapes the towel over his hips as Felix sets the water on to heat. "I could eat."

"Toss the water and come sit." Gesturing to the table, Felix shoots Sylvain a smile. "I'll see what I can find."

Sylvain does, but instead of sitting, he pads over to the end of the bed and digs for new smalls, tugs them on, and flops back onto the bed. It dips a few seconds later, Felix's weight settling next to him. "Hey," Sylvain murmurs. He drags his knuckles along the sturdy line of Felix's thigh, looks up at the face he's missed for far too long. "Fancy meeting you here."

"Mm." Felix reaches out to cup Sylvain's jaw. "I think the margrave will be most displeased there's a bearded stranger in his lover's bed."

Chuckling, Sylvain pulls Felix over to sit on his thighs. His hands still mold perfectly to their curve, and he gives a squeeze before moving to Felix's ass. "I have it on very good authority the margrave doesn't mind at all," he says, wiggling his eyebrows. "In fact, I'd bet he thinks this is the opposite of a problem."

"Does he, now?" Felix leans low, his hair curtaining around their faces as he rests their foreheads together. "And what exactly do you think he'd say if I told this stranger I loved him?"

"Well…" Sylvain's lips curl up, and he noses into Felix's cheek. "I think the poor, lonely margrave wants your love all to himself." 

"Poor, lonely margrave," Felix mocks. "This'd be the one who left me all alone for spring, summer, and half of winter?"

"He really is kind of a prick, isn't he?" 

"The worst," Felix agrees. "And still, I'm thrilled he's finally back."

"I really did miss you," Sylvain says softly. "Every second of every day."

"I know." Felix leans back and dismounts, leaving Sylvain wanting as he begins to prepare their dinner. "Get dressed; you can tell me more about the journey."

For all their time apart, they settle quickly into their old ways. Felix reaches for his knife, Sylvain hands him ingredients one by one as he spins yarns about Sreng, and the little cabin in the middle of nowhere lights up with Felix’s laughter when Sylvain admits he nearly lost a hand to Suri’s wolf. “How was I supposed to know she loves apples that much? Apples! She’s a dog.”

“Sounds like you should’ve been paying better attention,” Felix says, offering up a slice of carrot. 

“I have never once in my life—”

“Been distracted?”

“Not paid attention to a dog,” Sylvain continues over him, not even hesitating. He chews on the carrot and narrows his eyes at the corner. “Not even Sala likes them that much.”

“I bet Suri laughed.”

“Yes, the entire group laughed, and then they laughed some more when I gave her half, if you must know,” Sylvain says, sticking his nose in the air and peering out of the corner of his eye at Felix stifling another laugh. “I’m a very kind and generous man, Felix, this is what you chose to deal with.”

“As if it were much of a choice at all,” Felix says. He holds up another slice of carrot to Sylvain’s lips, breath hitching when Sylvain wraps them around his index finger. “You’ve always inserted yourself by my side.”

“Other places around your body, too,” Sylvain mumbles around the digit, and Felix pulls it away.

“You’re terrible.”

“Mhmm,” Sylvain hums. He leans back against the counter to watch Felix toss the food in a pan over the fire. “Lys wouldn’t stop pestering me about when I was going to bring you to meet everyone.”

“Oh?”

“You should come with next time,” Sylvain says. “Even if things end up taking longer than expected, you’re free to come back whenever you’d like. And I have no doubt you’d make it on your own.”

Felix glances back, but doesn’t immediately discount the idea. “Lys is…”

“One of Kessa’s leaders.”

Tugging on his bottom lip with his teeth, Felix nods and stirs the pan. “I see. Why?”

Sylvain moves to pull out a kitchen chair and sits on it backwards, chin hanging over the back as he rests his elbows on his knees. “Apparently I don’t shut up about you,” he says. “And she wants to see the man who ‘keeps me so distracted.’” He punctuates the words with air quotes, then tips his head to the side, widening his eyes and drawing his brows together. “And it gets cold up there.”

“So you want a bed-warmer,” Felix says.

“I want my husband,” Sylvain says, and he knows he’s won when Felix’s neck turns red. “Next time I go won’t be until summer at the earliest, so it’ll be official and everything…”

“You’re cheating,” Felix mutters into the flames.

“I think that’s on you for losing your aversion to romance, sweetheart,” Sylvain says.

Felix says something that’s lost in the final sizzle, and when Sylvain asks about it, doesn’t answer until he’s portioned the food out and set the plates down. “I said tactical error.”

“Yeah, you really fucked that one,” Sylvain murmurs. He slots his feet between Felix’s under the table. “Come with me. Fraldarius can spare you for a week or two.”

“Fine,” Felix says. He ducks his head but doesn’t manage to hide his smile from Sylvain, who very graciously simply stabs a chunk of rabbit with his fork and holds it to Felix’s lips. Felix takes it and says, “But I’m not sharing my food with the wolves.”

“Just the one.”

“No,” Felix says, clicking his tongue before digging into his own plate. Outside, the wind is beginning to pick up, and as the conversation meanders, both inch closer until Felix abandons his chair altogether. He gets up and retrieves a box from the counter, setting it back down on the table and settling himself firmly in Sylvain’s lap. Wrapping his arms around Sylvain’s shoulders, he leans close and says, “Annette made us some cake things.”

“Did she?” Sylvain reaches up to tuck Felix’s hair behind his ears, leans in to press a kiss to the corner of his jaw before traveling lower, toward the hollow of his throat. “And if I’d rather treat myself to something else?” 

Felix shivers as Sylvain begins to suck a mark onto his collarbone. “What was it you had in mind?” he asks, voice carefully aloof like he can’t feel Sylvain pressing against the junction of his thigh. “Polishing swords?”

“‘M gonna fuck you so good you can’t walk tomorrow,” Sylvain mumbles, just before wrapping his hands around Felix’s thighs and standing, taking him along with. Felix’s gasp rips through the room, and the bite of his nails in Sylvain’s shoulders is the best sort of pain as they make their way back to bed.

Felix is a vision spread out below him. He always is, of course, but tonight, he’s absolutely radiant: firelight melds effortlessly with the gold in his eyes, and his face—that goddess-damned face that can fell him with a single glance—is haloed by midnight, and the twist of pleasure on his brow as Sylvain spreads a hand across the inside of his thigh is something he’d go to war all over again for. He’d take on all of Fodlan himself if it meant the world would still know the sound of Felix’s laugh and the savagery of his anger, the bite of his blade and his gentleness shown only to scruffy stray cats. 

But the beauty of peacetime is that he doesn’t have to, because though Felix is worth dying for, Sylvain would rather live a long life with and for him.

“You’re staring,” Felix says quietly. He smooths away Sylvain’s I missed you with a press of his lips, a flick of his tongue against Sylvain’s mouth before suddenly their positions are reversed and he looks every bit a god kneeling above Sylvain. “Can I have your mouth?” he asks. 

“Please, fuck, Fe.” Sylvain grabs gracelessly for the lacings on Felix’s pants, his hands trembling before Felix swats them away and piles their clothes by the bedside. He’s wet enough to smell, and Sylvain only has to hear Okay before pulling Felix forward and burying his face in his cunt. 

This sits high on the list of things he’s missed most. He spent more than his fair share of nights in Sreng with a hand down his pants reminiscing about the way Felix tastes, how it feels to be caged between scarred thighs with callused hands knotted insistently on his hair. 

The thing about Felix is that he isn’t afraid to take what he wants, and Sylvain’s all too eager to offer up every inch of himself. He licks into Felix like a man starved as Felix rolls his hips greedily against Sylvain’s face. “Need it, need you,” he gasps, chasing Sylvain’s tongue when Sylvain breaks away to breathe. “Goddess, Syl, I—fuck, fuck, ah~”

Sylvain grins at the neediness, deftly tracing around Felix’s dick with a finger before taking it between his lips. Two digits slip easily into Felix’s hole and Sylvain shivers when Felix clenches around them. He’s already leaking onto his stomach, can feel the precome pooling on a body going blessedly soft. 

Above him, Felix keens. Barely-coherent praise bleeds from his lips as he crushes Sylvain to him: So good. More. I love you.

Mine.

His voice cracks on that last one as he comes, back bowed and hand fisted in Sylvain’s hair tight enough to hurt. When Sylvain taps his wrist, he lets go immediately. “Sorry.”

“You’re so fucking beautiful, Fe,” Sylvain rasps. He cradles Felix’s lower back, guiding him down to sit on his stomach. The brush of his ass against Sylvain’s cock forces out a whine from low in his chest.

“Saints, Sylvain,” Felix breathes, eyes wide as he looks down, reaches out to wipe at Sylvain’s chin with two fingers. Sylvain takes them in his mouth, sucking them deep until Felix presses down on his tongue. He opens wide and preens under Felix’s Good boy. “I think I could get used to this,” he continues, stroking his thumb along Sylvain’s jaw. “You’re just as handsome with come on your face.”

“Knew you’d come around,” Sylvain manages around the fingers.

Felix scoffs fondly. “I’m sure.”

“Mn.” Sylvain butts his head into Felix’s palm, and even after years of the touch, the way Felix caresses him like he’s precious makes his heart stutter. When Felix rolls his hips back, trapping Sylvain under wet heat, he forgets how to breathe. His face and what little is left of his composure crumple as Felix reaches down, positions himself, and sinks down in one smooth motion. “Felix—”

“Unh,” Felix groans. His eyes are shut, brows knit and jaw slack as he circles his hips once, twice. “You’re so.. .ha—” His hands fly to Sylvain’s chest when Sylvain presses up against him. “Fuck, nothing fills me half as good as you.”

“That what you thought about when you were browsing my stash?” Sylvain asks. “Did you fuck yourself in my bed and think of me while you were three fingers deep?”

“Yes,” Felix all but growls. He rises and drops himself back down sharply, and Sylvain’s hands dig hard into his thighs as he struggles not to come on the spot. “Fucked myself and thought about when you made me do it in front of the mirror while you watched.” 

“Good memory,” Sylvain manages. “What else?”

Felix hits a stride, tugs Sylvain’s hands to his waist as he rides him. “Training grounds, sparring. Cathedral. First time you shared my tent.” Each word seems harder to draw out, and when Sylvain slows to point out that sharing a tent wasn’t much, Felix pants, “It wasn’t sex.”

“What, then?”

Shoving sweaty bangs from his forehead, Felix visibly softens as he pauses. “That was the night I realized what I was really feeling for you.”

“Ah.” Sylvain stretches up to grin against Felix’s neck, then angles Felix’s head down so he can press his lips against the other man’s forehead. “That I wasn’t the annoyance anymore?”
“That I love you, you fool,” Felix says.

And Sylvain knows this, knows the story of how mortified Felix was to realize Sylvain had been awake to witness him panicking about the new discovery. But he also knows that though Felix will never admit it outright—except when he’s drunk or just on the cusp of sleep—he also loves being the one to make sure Sylvain never feels unloved again.

He gently maneuvers Felix onto his back and looks down with a soft smile. “I love you too, sweetheart.”

“You’re such a sap,” Felix half-complains. His nails drag down Sylvain’s back as Sylvain wraps around him, begins to move in him again. Words give way to breathless whines and whimpers, the sounds dancing through the rafters as Sylvain drags him over the edge again. 

He himself spills across the flat planes of Felix’s stomach in long pulses, his groan muffled by the crook of Felix’s shoulder. “I love you,” he mumbles again, and again, and again until Felix’s face screws up at the feeling of come drying on his stomach. 

“Cloth,” he says, pointing to the basin on the counter. “Then any more professions.” 

“Uh huh.” Sylvain leans in for one final kiss, and Felix allows it. “Happy birthday, Fe,” he says softly against his lips. “I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.”