Whenever Auguste set out to make something, it always came out delicious.
Even if, hypothetically speaking, you were stranded in the wilderness after running away from a gigantic mudpuppy, Auguste would somehow find a way to forage around and convince you that the greens of the earth were the most appetizing in the whole world.
“That`s because everything is made with love.” Auguste would always reply with such pure intentions that you, too, could believe that just a bite would fill you with the same love your mother had cooking for you as a child.
For now, they are thankfully not stranded in the middle of Coerthas. (“It was one time,” Perci had insisted. He was certain he had located a very rare fungus off the beaten path, but it turned out to be a nest.) They were home and warm, sitting round the hearth of the Rising Stones as Auguste moved to and fro with cups of sugar.
“You`re so good at this, Auguste.” Perci marvels at the scene before him; sliced halves of lemons, cored apples, and remnants of pie dough scattered on the counter. Into the ice box it went to chill overnight while Auguste prepared a filling that Perci continued to pick at. Auguste playfully slaps at his hands but ends up feeding him apple slices anyway. “I can`t even imagine a time where you couldn`t cook.” He mumbles through a mouthful.
“Of course, when I was little...everything I made tasted awful.” He chuckles at the memory. “But my mother always encouraged me….she said everything tasted delicious. Even when it didn’t.” Perci hums thoughtfully at that, trying to imagine a time where Auguste was bumbling around the kitchen.
But now, in their present, he is the perfect picture of mastery. His knife moves fluidly, making uniform slices of apples even as he fills the air between them with idle chatter. Which is why it`s so strange for him to suddenly lose his footing, his knife clattering to the counter as Auguste lurches forward suddenly. His vision blurs, mind is filled with nothing but memories.
They were always projections from another party, intense feelings sparked by the past. But the fuzzy film burning against the inside of his eyelids were the memories of his own long lost childhood.
“Look, Auguste made a new recipe today!” Lady Laviere`s gloved hands rest on Auguste`s shoulders as he shows off his latest confection. Lemon bars, carefully dusted with sugar. It`s a memory of himself, and yet he can barely recall this day. He remembers now, he was so proud to have done that all by himself.
“Wow, Au-chan! You’re going to be a pro chef someday, huh?” From his vantage point, he can`t see who`s speaking. It sounds like a young boy, sitting somewhere across from them at an ornate table. Auguste recognizes this as the dining room in the manor where his mother still lived to this day.
“M-maybe…” He watches his younger self blush with happiness. “If I can cook for you and mama f-for the rest of my life, then I...I think, I`d be the h-happiest person ever!”
“Are you okay?” Back in reality, Auguste found himself held in Perci`s arms. He managed to catch Auguste and hold him upright before he fell back onto the stove during his little trip down memory lane. “You look dizzy.” He rubs Auguste`s shoulder sympathetically, pressing their foreheads together to check his temperature. “Maybe we should call it quits.”
“I-it`s nothing…” He hasn`t quite explained to Perci these strange, empathetic feelings that course inside time and time again. He couldn`t explain why he found it so strange that he was seeing his own memories on display when that had never happened before.
“Let’s go to bed early.” Perci suggests with a gentle smile, reminding Auguste that he was going to finish tomorrow anyway. Auguste nods and lets himself be led back into their bedroom where Perci`s gentle touch puts him at ease. He kneads away the anxiety with hands and lips, a very comforting distraction in the form of kisses down his neck.
It isn`t long before they`re thoroughly tuckered out with Auguste settled comfortably against blossoming bite marks on Perci’s chest. He eagerly welcomes the familiar exhaustive sleep that he`s used to getting, a calm blanket of darkness that fades with morning light. Tonight, however, rest seems to struggle against the strength of overflowing memories.
“Hey, look who actually came outside!” A young child glowered at a smaller figure that was knocked to the ground. “Wouldn`t you rather be in the kitchen with your mommy?”
“You can`t even pick up a wooden sword.” Another voice piped up to a resounding agreement of giggles.
“I...I can so!” Auguste declared with every ounce of strength in his tiny body, which was unfortunately, not very much. He tried to pick one up and wield it like he`d seen the other boys do, but it fell from his fingers like a brick and landed on his foot. He winced, lower lip trembling as he tried with all of his heart not to cry.
Unfortunately, the loud chorus of cruel laughter made it impossible for him to hold back his tears.
“I bet he doesn`t even want to become a knight. He`s too girly for that. Are you sure you`re even a boy?”
“Maybe we should check!”
Auguste trembled as the trio closed in on him, eager to pin him down to the ground.
“Quit it already!” An indignant voice cut through the air. “If you were a real knight, you`d pick on someone your own size.”
The ringleader glared at the unsung hero. “And who are you supposed to be anyway?”
“I don`t talk to wannabe knights.” The boy huffed and turned away, kneeling down beside Auguste who had curled up around himself protectively. “Are you okay?”
“I…” Auguste shook his head, wiping at his eyes with the ruffled hems of his shirt. He was more focused on the group of boys that lingered, mumbling something angrily before they lost interest in their prey.
Auguste continued to curl up, perhaps until he would disappear, when the strange boy came closer, gently touching his shoulder.
“Hey now, don`t listen to them.” He brushed a tear from Auguste`s cheek. “They`re just dumb.”
Auguste gasped. “M-my maman said you sh-shouldn`t say that word…!”
Mirthful laughter suddenly colored his world. “You`re so funny.” He told Auguste as he lifted him from the grass. Auguste`s legs wobbled like a baby deer as he`s helped up, listening raptly to the stranger`s pretty voice. He couldn`t help but nervously check over their shoulders to make sure the others didn`t come back for seconds.
Auguste tried to look up at his savior but finds himself ashamed at needing to be saved instead. “I`m sorry…” He mumbled, trying to muster up a tiny mustard seed of courage.
“Don`t worry about it. Those guys are just bullies!” The strange hero declared. “You did your best.”
“But..maybe they`re right.” Auguste sniffled. He wouldn`t develop the ability to hold back tears for many moons. “I don`t want to play fight, or be a knight like everyone else. I`m… I`m weird.” “I...n-need to…” He hiccuped between sobs, falling back down onto his knees in despair. “I n-need to fight back!” Soft green eyes looked up guiltily at his companion, a good few inches taller than him despite being older.
“It`s okay if you can`t fight yet.” He whispered softly, kneeling down to pat Auguste on the head. “That`s what friends are for, silly.”
“We...we`re friends?” His eyes went wide with shock. No one had ever wanted to be his friend before.
“Sure! And you know, not everybody wants to fight.” He extended a hand towards Auguste. “I`d rather play hide and seek.”
“Me too…!” Auguste reached out for his hand, hesitating for just a moment. Finally, finally, he found the courage to speak up. “Can...um, c-can we...play together?”
Auguste rouses all too suddenly from his dream with a jerk, nearly falling off the bed. Thankfully, the man beside him moves perhaps a fraction of an inch thanks to sleeping like the dead (to which Auguste takes Perci`s pulse for a moment, just to make sure).
There it was again. It was far too vivid to be a mere dream.
He looks curiously around the room, met with nothing but the glow of moonlight. Maybe a walk would do him some good. He rummages around for a pair of smallclothes on the floor, running into the pants Perci had eagerly discarded as they made their way into bed. Well, that would have to do for now.
He manages to get one leg through before something small and round tumbles out of the pocket. Auguste raises an eyebrow as he leans down. A smooth stone that gave off a gentle glow even in the dark of night.
He feels sick once more, nearly losing consciousness at the sensation of his Echo in full effect in rapid succession. So sudden was the rush of emotion that he could barely make out what he saw. But it was a memory of himself, again, watching as he deposited the tiny stone into a pair of waiting hands.
“Maman said there`s nothing like this anywhere in the world.” Auguste hears his own voice say, nearly a decade younger. “ It`s a lucky charm!”
He rolls the stone in his hand, and finally realizes one very spine tingling recurrence in every one of these flashbacks. He was never alone when he had them.
The memories weren`t his own. He was still peeking into the heart of someone else. The memories only seemed like they were his, because the two of them were always together. They would never part, it was only natural, something they seemed to gravitate to even now with a lack of clarity. Which meant that the boy he saw in that dream, was none other than—
Auguste`s heart stops as he looks over at Perci who elegantly drools onto his pillow.
He has a moment of silent panic, falling backwards and knocking his head on the nightstand (and no, Perci still didn`t wake up).
He was slowly coming to a realization he was none too ready for. If the little boy from his memories was Perci — the same boy he`d picked flowers with, scraped knees with, and eventually parted ways with that fateful day — was the same person who he`d “accidentally” felt up in a crowded bar nearly a decade later...
He had been sleeping with his childhood friend.
Auguste nearly faints.
In the gray light of early morning, his head is screwed on a little more tightly than the first go around. Auguste slips into his fuzzy bathrobe, brushing at the stinging marks on his neck as he makes his way to the kitchen. The memory makes his mind cloud, his stomach feel funny; he wants nothing more than to slip back into bed and curl against Perci once more.
Being with him felt so natural. After all, up until Auguste had left their hometown, they were always together. The older they got, however, the harder it was for them to stay. Harsh reality continued to break them apart at any given time, ushering them towards a quick adulthood.
Childhood never lasted long in Ishgard.
As he sets out the ingredients for breakfast, he wonders how to break the news to Perci short of telling him, nonchalantly “do you remember the little one who always toddled `round after you? Congratulations, that’s the same lad you’ve been bedding regularly!”
Auguste turns over a fried egg as he turns over his half baked ideas, uncharacteristically sloppy with his technique. He breaks the yolk, watching the yellow bleed over just like his scattered thoughts.
And then it hits him. Of course, the answer was in front of him the whole time!
“I want to make something special for you today.” Auguste places a mug of coffee before Perci’s yawning face.
Perci was more apt to linger lately, even when neither of them had a good reason. They had made a silent game out of making up reasons why they should spend the day together, just for a little more time to be hand in hand.
“You know I’m always hungry if it involves your cooking, Auguste.” Perci responds cheerfully, already looking eager. “Why ‘special’ though? I didn`t do anything in particular.”
“No, you didn`t.” Auguste replies with a gentle boop to Perci`s nose. “You don`t have to do something special.”
He is ushered towards the tables where the other warriors would come to join them upon waking as Auguste set to work. “No peeking. I`m serious this time!” Auguste smiles gently as he holds up a whisk rather threateningly. Perci gets the message as he shoves his nose in a book, stealing a single glance over the rim of his reading glasses to find Auguste tying his hair back and fixing the bowls before him with an intense gaze.
His heart thudded against his ribcage, threatening to push out as he went against all of his instincts that had build up over the years. He didn`t level out the flour, purposely folded the dough awkwardly so it had clumped up in places, and cut the chocolate into jagged chunks so they were sticking out this way and that like geodes. They didn’t have ornate dishware just laying around, but he tried to find the prettiest plate that Rowena could give him.
He feels embarrassed putting a plate of lopsided cookies in front of Perci when he`s known for being much better than this, but the ends justify the means. Although Auguste was thoroughly unimpressed by his own efforts, Perci was as delighted as always, eagerly biting into a freshly baked cookie.
“I guess….it`s worth a try.” Auguste`s stutter disappeared completely, overcoming his nerves to fold his hand under Perci’s, lacing their fingers together as though he could will the memories to him. “Do you remember when I made these for the first time, Perci?”
“The first time? I don`t think you`ve made cookies for me before.” Perci takes another bite, earnestly searching his memory for a moment like this. The lingering taste of chocolate on his tongue was familiar, what with Auguste always spoiling him with sweets.
But there was something strange about this , something familiar that ripped at the blood stained sinew that kept his painful memories at bay, lest they threaten to burst forth.
“I-it`s my first t-time…” The young boy gestures to the slightly burnt, misshapen cookies spread on a delicate plate. His mother`s finest china had been collecting dust lately. She hadn`t been taking any visitors since her husband`s death. Lady Laviere did make one exception, however, for this young boy who loved to sneak out at night.
“They do look a little lumpy.” Perci can`t help but giggle before he puts one in his mouth. “Whoa...whoa! This is amazing, Auguste!” He hurriedly shoves the rest in, and then another, continuing to talk anyway as children often do. “And that was the first time you tried it?”
The child who was shrinking behind an embroidered pillow dissolves into giggles, an effervescent blush coloring the apples of his cheeks. “M-my mom helped b-but I mixed everything together m-myself!”
“It`s great!” Before long, he’s already polished off half the plate, and Auguste feels his heart swell with pride. “I hope you make more.”
“R-really…?” He brightens up. Those boys always picked on him and said he was good for nothing. But this, he was good at. After all, mama and Perci said so. And what they thought was the only thing that mattered.
“Maybe next time...I...I can ask mama to teach me how to make cake!” He knew how much Perci loved devouring the cakes at their house during tea time.
“Really?!” He nearly knocks over a saucer in excitement. “Will you let me try?”
“Of course.” Auguste pipes up immediately. “I`ll make it just for you!”
The images fade, a brilliant reflection of more peaceful days, and Perci`s chest tightens. Auguste`s stare burns a hole through him as he searches for anything, just anything in his expression. Hope makes him catch his breath as Perci’s eyes widen, looking down at the ornate plate covered with clumsily yet lovingly prepared treats, and back up to the hands that made them.
“Auguste…. You`re Au-chan?!” A flash of recognition as scar tissue is ripped away. He looks at the boy in front of him with a fresh pair of eyes, and sees the tiny figure that once followed behind him like a shadow.
How did they forget? How could they forget? Was life so cruel that they forget the pure innocent love of childhood?
Auguste merely nods, as though a gaping chasm of years was barely stitched over in his heart. “I`m sorry I didn`t realize sooner...Paa-chan.” He looks down sheepishly, the childish nickname sounding so silly on the tongue of a grown man. Perci didn`t seem to care in the slightest, however, reaching forward suddenly to hold Auguste`s face in his hands. He searches for answers in the spaces between his fingers, looking at him as though it were the first time.
He searches for what was obvious the whole time.
“You don`t even look like the same person.” Perci laughs awkwardly. The last remnant of the young child who grew into an awkward adolescent were those bright green eyes that always looked after him, glittering with tears or cast away shyly. Yet now they stared back at him bravely in wonder. He absentmindedly runs his thumb over Auguste`s lip and finds himself blurting out unconsciously, “You`re super gorgeous now!”
Auguste squeaks, curling his fingers into Perci’s chest in an aborted attempt to pull away; he only draws closer with no possible way to hide his bright red cheeks. “And you!” He sighs and cards a hand through Perci’s chestnut hair. “You`re so handsome, Perci.” Though it was never a secret, memories or not, what with how intensely Auguste had been eyeing him back when they were “strangers,” and that was without the influence of alcohol.
Perci can`t help but grin at how easily embarrassed Auguste is by such a simple confession. He continues to gaze down at him tenderly, grazing Auguste’s cheek as though he were treasured porcelain. Perci wonders very briefly how many other things he could say to make him blush, as Auguste was criminally adorable with such a desperate look on his face.
“You know, you keep saying that you were awful, but even back then, your cooking was amazing.” Precise images and sentences were difficult to recall, but lingering scents and tastes brought him right back to the moment where he sat in Laviere manor.
Auguste tried to look anywhere but Perci`s face, seeming much more like his childhood self in this moment. “R-really? I, uh, I...it`s not that good.” He nervously twirls his finger in Perci`s hair as his stutter returns with a vengeance.
“The weirdest thing is, I...sort of remember what you’re telling me, but the memories are fuzzy at best.” Perci frowns, frustrated that the pieces didn’t fall together faster. “It`s not like I tried to forget you, but…”
“Well,” Auguste tries to fill in the gaps and lift a bit of the guilt off of both of their shoulders, “we haven’t seen each other in almost a decade, and we both changed a lot in that time…”
Perci had managed to forget the more painful parts of his childhood at the price of sealing away the happy memories of the one that always stood by his side. He shook his head, all too overwhelmed that he even allowed this. Auguste had suffered in silence, yet he simply let himself forget, as though it was a luxury he could even afford.
He felt the weight of faded years push down, threatening to swallow him whole.
“Perci...Perci, it`s okay.” He jolts back to reality as Auguste had noticed his downcast eyes. Even though a simple utterance like that wouldn`t remove several years of pain, it was a start.
Auguste takes Perci`s hand between his own silently, threading their fingers together. “We`ve made a lot of memories together this last year, haven`t we?” His voice was so soothing, much like a parent. Perci wonders where he learned that, since he was usually the one that needed to be consoled. What happened between then and now that made him what he was now?
“Hey, Perci?” Auguste cuts through his haze, smoothing back Perci`s hair before touching their foreheads together. “What do you say we make some new memories?” He notices Perci`s hands shaking between his own.
He is met with silence as Perci seems to consider the weight of his words. Moments pass, and Auguste wonders if this was a foolish choice after all, but a soft nuzzle to his cheek reassures him that indeed, not all is lost.
They were still very much here, and very much together.
“I`d like that.” Perci mumbles.
“Maybe a nap first.” Auguste suggests with an airy laugh. “That was a little overwhelming, wasn`t it?”
The two retire to their place in the Rising Stones, a room that was more or less “theirs” rather than Auguste or Perci`s room. Although no one knew what to call them (“He`s your...friend?” “Your lover?” “Your boyfriend?”) they knew that where one was, the other was almost certain to be.
Somehow a “nap” of sorts was achieved, but the greater part of the day was spent in one another`s arms, rediscovering what was lost in the years between.
“Paa-chan, Paa-chan, wait up!” Tiny footsteps crunched through the snow as Auguste trailed behind breathlessly as Perci beat him for the fifth time. Their races always had the same outcome, but Auguste didn`t mind. After all, they had made one simple rule: the loser always got a consolation prize.
“Alright, lay it on me!” Perci throws his arms wide, waiting expectantly.
Auguste beams and glues himself to Perci’s side, standing as high as the tips of toes would take him so Perci could reach his cheek and give him a big kiss.
“Maybe you`ll beat me next time.” He ruffles a head of feathery pink hair.
“And then you`ll have to give me a kiss!” Auguste declares proudly.
He is pulled from the tender embrace of a memory once more, his chest filled with a hollow warmth like the glow of the fireflies flitting outside their window. He sighs, looking over at the one beside him who had quite literally been the man of his dreams as of late.
“This time you were the one who caught up, huh…” Auguste smiles fondly, looking over at his peaceful sleeping face. The longer he stares, the more he sees nothing but the little boy who napped by him in his mother`s flowerbeds.
“I`ll be waiting for that kiss, Perci.”