He awakens to winter chill seeping under the sheets. His feet in particular, where socks have managed to somehow run away in the mysterious hours of the night. It`s usually colder than this , he thinks.
Perci opens his eyes to see he is not alone. Not an uncommon occurrence. There was usually someone to warm his bed, but very rarely did they deign to stay behind.
This time was different.
Despite everyone`s expectations, his childhood friend grew taller than just about everyone they knew, yet somehow managed to curl up in a way that made him appear smaller than Perci. Stray locks of pink covered his closed eyes, sleeping serenely like an angel.
The soft rustling of sheets from Perci trying to tuck his cold toes back underneath causes the body atop him to whine, fingers curling against Perci`s sleep shirt in an effort to cling to the last vestiges of sleep.
“Perci…?” Auguste moans softly, clearly unhappy at being awakened. Ah, he`s a light sleeper. Perci tacks that mental note on the messy cork board that is his mind as he gently rolls Auguste over and onto the pillows. He makes for a get away, but an iron grip that betrays the sleepy chirruping voice of its owner wraps around his wrist.
A silent plea of ‘
’ weighs between them as sleepy green eyes blink up at Perci, perhaps still lost halfway in a dream. A small knife of guilt twists as he reassures him “I just have to head off now is all,” with a soft pat on Auguste`s head, smoothing back the waywards strands of pink hair.
“Wait,” Auguste hurriedly sits up and rubs his eyes as Perci pulls his smallclothes back on. “You c-can`t just leave w-without eating…!” The mere notion seems to rouse him to proper wakefulness, or just enough to form coherent sentences. “I-it`s...it`s not good for y-you.”
“You`re so funny.” Perci replies absentmindedly as he manages to wiggle out of Auguste`s grip and untangles his ankle from the sheets. He’s barely dressed, but it`s good enough. He makes it halfway to the door as he sing songs a hurried “Bye bye~”
Until a hand around his ankle stops him again.
“Oh wow, you`re serious, huh?” Perci stares down at a pink head of hair facedown on the floor, seemingly content with using it as a replacement bed. “Alright, alright, if I eat something will you leave me alone?”
“Yes,” He mumbles sleepily into the carpet.
Perci watches in pure amusement as this exhausted creature with unexpectedly wild bedhead rouses himself from the carpet like the living dead before trudging downstairs. He follows Auguste down the stairs, still pajama clad. Despite the innkeeper’s shocked face at his appearance, it seems to be the last thing on Auguste`s mind as he argues over the nutritional value of today`s menu.
Their exchange is simply white noise as Perci watches in fascination as this shrinking flower of a boy pokes this man square in the chest until he procured a fresh basket of fruit.
They take their bounty back upstairs, although Auguste foists most of it on Perci, since he`ll stay behind. “I`ll eat a-after I w-wake up,” Auguste manages to say before yawning, glancing back at the bed with a look of yearning in his eyes before pushing another muffin on his friend.
After his second helping, Perci catches a rather hungry look in Auguste`s eyes. Although he`d love to stick around for a nice morning romp before he goes, there`s just no time today. I really have to go, sorry, is what`s halfway out of his mouth before the latter simply tackles him.
A content look replaces Auguste`s eagerness as he feels something warm against his cheek. After smoothing back Perci`s hair, Auguste wipes off a few stray crumbs from his cheek, straightens his collar, and ushers him towards the door (after finding a miraculous moment to shove a few more muffins into his bag for later, which Perci still can`t recall seeing him do to this day).
Perci looks down to see a soft blue scarf tied in an immaculate bow around his neck. It`s no coincidence that it seems to match his eyes.
When did Auguste get this?
“Stay warm,” Auguste murmurs softly, without the tiniest hint of a stutter, before he waves Perci off with a smile.
Perci manages to still his shock for long enough to offer him a grateful smile. He takes his leave, certain that he can leave it all behind and focus on the day ahead. But he just can’t stop thinking about the soft fabric pressing up to his cheek.
It smells faintly of mint, the same scent he remembers from the night before when Auguste held him close.
“So Auguste made you a lunch box too, hm?”
Perci seems to miss who the voice belongs to until he looks down to find a slightly disgruntled young man who seems rather disappointed that everyone taller than him does this.
“He made one for you?” Perci manages to sound like he really doesn`t care either way.
Alphinaud holds up the small container filled with stewed vegetables and beef. “I don`t know how he does it. He goes off adventuring but he always finds the time to cook for us.”
See, his does this for everyone,
Perci sighs in relief.
Nothing to get your knickers in a twist about--
“Hey,” Alphinaud interrupts, leaning over his lap. “Why did he give you apple bunnies? That`s not fair...and how did he get that into the shape of a heart?”
Perci feels his ribs threaten to crack in sheer disbelief.
“Hey, are you listening to me?”
This...could be a problem.
He`s not one for waking up early. A warm blob of glowing topaz would usually wake him up by scuttling all over his stomach and face, physically pushing him from the bed. On this particular morning, it’s the wafting scent of sweetness that rouses him from his murky gray dreams that were habitually brushed away before any stray memories can come sneaking in.
His senses catch up one by one. The scent of breakfast was first, and hearing soon followed. Someone was singing with the clattering of dishes for percussion. The kind of singing everyone enjoyed when they thought no one was listening.
He hadn`t realized until the light of morning revealed exactly where they were, but the room they`d annexed in their haste to get into bed was furnished with a small, cozy area for cooking. The stove was tiny but powerful, roaring away at a pot of porridge.
Perci tries to crane his neck for a better view, only for his muscles to remind him that regretfully, they exist. Fury above, his hips were sore! As he manages to pull on a stray pair of smallclothes from the floor, a smirk blossoms unbidden as he listened to the soft tune, words he couldn`t make out. This same soft voice was whispering such scandalous things in his ears only hours before.
“Good morning.” He’s shaken from his stupor by a mug of hot chocolate greeting him under his nose.
“I w-woke up earlier this time...so you wouldn’t get away from me.” Auguste says cheerfully, wiping his floury hands on an apron.
“You already made breakfast?” Perci looks on at Auguste in contempt, because this time his hair was neatly combed in deference to Perci`s nightmarish bedhead.
“I sure did!” It takes a moment of careful consideration for his words to come out confidently, without tripping over his vowels.
“Gods, when did you even wake up?” Perci asks incredulously as he takes his seat at the small wooden table, clearly unbothered by lacking a proper shirt and pants.
Auguste simply ignores him and pushes a plate under his nose. Perci stares at the freshly made food before him, trying to calculate just how long this must have taken. But knowing Auguste and how finely presented everything was despite being so simple, it was probably as easy as breathing to him. Moments pass as Auguste settles down across from him with a cup of tea, sipping from it delicately.
Like all of this was normal.
Like nothing about this, nor their little “arrangement,” was weird.
Like none of this could change in moments.
Perci stares at this peaceful young man, notices how many more bruises trail up his arms, how many more bandages than usual wrap around his fingertips, yet he remains so perfectly serene.
“Um...you know.” Perci speaks to his stack of pancakes rather than at Auguste. “You don`t have to do this or anything.”
Auguste fixes him with a look as though he`s sprouted dragon wings, tilting his head to the side. “I...I d-don`t follow…”
“I mean,” he twists his fork through a river of syrup, sinking his knife in to avoid thinking of the one that twists in his chest, “you don`t have to be so nice to me just because--”
“N-no! No no!” Auguste hurriedly cuts him off, a soft pink dusting his cheeks. “It`s not like, p-payment or anything. Not like that a-at all.” He trips over half of his syllables. “It`s just, y-you can`t start the day w-without breakfast...and I hate knowing you haven`t eaten.”
Does he do this for anyone else?
Perci can`t help but wonder. Why should he care, though?
“I mean it...I d-don`t do this because I h-have to. I...I want to do this for you.” He seems to struggle for the right words, but it`s hard to make someone understand why he would be so kind without desiring anything in return.
“A-and more than anything, we… we`re friends.” Auguste smiles. Many summers have come and gone, leaving crystal cold in their wake. Yet he still seemed to hang on to that notion, the long gone memories of their youth.
It had been so many years. Too many. Auguste was gone when everyone was whispering behind Perci`s back, did you hear? The truth about his mother. It turns out, wouldn`t you know it, his real father is--
If Auguste knew, would he still be so kind?
So many questions. Not that anyone would ever know, because Perci wasn`t about to ask any of them. He silences his thoughts with the sweet taste of maple syrup that blots out his problems if only for a moment.
He looks across the table at Auguste who seems to be content with a piece of toast slathered in what looks to be two solid inches of marmalade.
If only for a moment...
“Is it really okay…”
Auguste looks curiously at Perci who seems so eager to say something. He knows what he wants to ask, with a gnawing pain so deep in his heart.
But instead, he says, “...if I go right now, then?”
A single glimpse of sadness flashes in Auguste`s eyes. Yet life is not like his fairy tales, and Perci blinks. He misses it, and only sees that same smiling face as always.
“Of course. As long as you`re safe.”
He didn`t stutter that time, Perci notices as he finishes the last of his food. Auguste`s gentle tone always balms his soul, but his gut still manages to contort in a nagging feeling he just can`t put a name to.
And that notion alone frustrates him beyond belief.
Auguste performs his usual ritual of doting before Perci has to go, making sure nothing is forgotten. Perci can`t hide his scowl when Auguste winces at Perci touching his wounded wrist. But Auguste insists he`s just fine, as always. Why does he always do that?
Perci gently berates him for aggravating his wound this morning, ending on a softer note of “Promise me you`re going back to bed today, okay?” before tucking a strand of hair behind Auguste`s ear.
He bites his lip, wondering if Auguste will be mad, but the glitter of surprise in soft green eyes takes him aback. “I will,” he promises, leaning in to give Perci a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Why is it the ones on his cheek rile him up even more than the ones on his lips?
Despite his little outburst, Perci manages to put on a good show of exiting as nonchalantly as possible.
But he can`t help the glance over his shoulder at the boy who always seems to be waiting for him.
Auguste always wakes up first. That’s what Perci expects as he opens his eyes, only to find that similarly curled up body huddled against a pillow. The dark circles under his eyes seemed to be growing deeper.
The soft light of dawn colors the brick walls of Auguste`s sleeping quarters in the rising stones.
Perci gently shakes him by the shoulder, only for Auguste to jolt awake. He screams out, reaching for something with a look of terror in his eyes.
The color returns to his face as he realizes exactly where he is instead of some far flung battlefield. “G-good morning, Perci…” The look of fear in his eyes fades, replaced by the usual placid smile. “Sorry, it looks like...I overslept…” He’s been better about stuttering lately, but he has to choose his words a little more carefully.
It seems to take all of his brain power to do so, as his eyes droop low once more. “Alright, time to get up…” He pulls back the sheets and swings his legs over the edge, no doubt heading off for the kitchen.
“What do you— wha?!” Auguste makes a rather unflattering sound as an arm winds around his middle, roughly tugging him back down to bed.
“Go back to sleep,” Perci mutters into his ear, strong arms encircling Auguste so he couldn`t escape.
“But…” He can feel the way Auguste shrinks in his arms. “You...you have to go...right?” A silent as always seems to be on his lips, but he bites his tongue.
Indeed, he does have somewhere to go. Places to be, people to please, if only at face value, whatever his whims are that day.
But right now, his only whim was to stay right here.
Oh. Auguste smiles, grateful that Perci can`t see the look on his face. He was selfishly glad for just one more moment he could steal from the world where they could be together, just the two of them.
People come, and people go. But for Perci, Auguste was here, in this ephemeral moment where they could embrace just like this.