Sylvain honestly doesn’t remember that much of his childhood. It’s not repressed memories so much as it’s let go--forgiven, and therefore forgotten.
He doesn’t remember Miklan carrying him off to the mountains, though it must have happened. It was, simply put, unmemorable. Another day of his older brother despising him. Everything out of Miklan’s mouth is about the same as the last thing he said. Something something crest, something something I hate you.
He doesn’t remember the cold either. They say he survived in the mountains for two days on his own before Fraldarius knights found him on the wrong side of Gautier's mountains. He could’ve died. He ought to remember the cold, but he doesn’t.
Sylvain remembers the warmth instead.
When Sylvain first wakes from being found unconscious in the mountains (he doesn’t remember falling unconscious either), he sneezes from a faceful of cat fur. He opens his eyes; focus takes a second, but he brightens almost immediately.
Felix is snuggled up against Sylvain’s side, a very little boy idly playing with a very old cat. The cat humors him. Its tail is in Sylvain’s face, and so he sneezes again--or maybe that’s the cold that he doesn’t remember.
Felix responds with a startled oh. “You’re awake,” the small boy says, stating the abundantly obvious. He doesn’t sound like he’s been worried. “I’m supposed to get you water.”
But Felix isn’t getting him anything. Felix is going to stay exactly where he is, because Sylvain’s curled his arms around him, and he is not letting go. Neither of them are going anywhere.
“Um,” a wee Felix says, rather out of options.
He remembers Felix attempting to train a cat to fetch a pitcher of water. The cat does not fetch a pitcher of water. It’s a cat.
Felix stays. Eventually, Felix falls asleep nestled in the blankets between them, but Sylvain stays awake. It is quiet, and it is warm.
That’s what Sylvain remembers.
He remembers his responsibilities as the next Margrave Gautier, always.
He doesn’t remember a moon that’s ever passed where his father hadn’t informed a knight’s mother that their son or daughter had been lost defending Faerghus. He remembers the tone of his father’s voice in those times, of somber respect and gratitude.
That’s why when his father is a stern taskmaster in the training hall, Sylvain doesn’t complain. He trains, day in and day out. He remembers the faces of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, told that their loved ones had fallen. He remembers his father bestowing honors on the dead. He remembers the Lance of Ruin, and he knows what must be done--so Sylvain trains.
It’s never fun, mostly bruises and sore muscles, except for when Lord Fraldarius visits, sons in tow. Lord Fraldarius does not take Sylvain seriously in their training bouts (nor should he, the Shield of Faerghus could trounce young Sylvain with his eyes closed), and Glenn takes Sylvain far too seriously.
Felix is a different story. Sylvain has the advantage of three years, which at their age is practically a whole arm’s reach, but they are well matched. Felix is faster, and he wants to win far more than Sylvain.
They’ve been at this all day. It should feel like work, training from sunrise to sundown, yet it feels like play. He doesn’t think about the dead, or the enemies to the north, none of that matters, just the damnable boy in front of him and his damnably speedy attacks.
“Stop letting me win,” Felix says out of the blue, in the middle of a bout.
“What? I don’t--”
“You heard me. Stop it. It doesn’t fool me anymore.”
“Aww, but you’re so happy when you win. It’s adorable.”
Felix is mortified, and Sylvain lets him stew red-faced for a moment. He doesn’t let the moment linger too long though, just long enough to be selfish.
Sylvain redoubles his efforts for the rest of the afternoon. He fights in earnest--for no reason but to entertain a houseguest. It could even be said that he fights to see Felix smile, for the little hugs he gets after a bout, for those fleeting seconds of affection freely given.
For a time, Sylvain forgets that he is a Gautier. For a time, he is just another boy. He treasures the moments where he can forget who he is. They rarely last for long.
He remembers women. Generally speaking, anyway. He doesn’t tend to remember specific women, not even his first. He remembers dark hair and a soft voice, but her face a blur, and names are a lost cause.
Sylvain couldn’t honestly tell you what he looked for in a woman. He could lie to you though. He’s become very good at lying. It’s no surprise. He’s always been good at being what other people want him to be.
Did he look for beauty? Maybe. Not all women were stunningly beautiful, but most were beautiful, one way or another. Did he look for intelligence? Of course, though he wouldn’t fault anyone for being dumb. Did he look for kindness? No, but he really should. He’d have fewer bruises if he did.
Women--the concept, not the people--become his favorite pastime. They’re readily available in Fhirdiad too, the royal castle filled to the brim with wealthy daughters looking to fish up the best catch available.
Women, he learns, are very distracting.
The first time he forgets a training session with Felix and spends the day out with a girl instead, Felix lets it slide. Sylvain is forgiven, no words needed, only the comfort of unconditional acceptance.
The second time, he’s met with a stony silence.
“Listen, it won’t happen again,” Sylvain promises. It’s not the same promise he made to at least a dozen girls by now. The words are the exact same, but it’s not the same.
“Sure,” Felix replies, in a way that could mean everything or nothing at all. Sylvain can’t tell.
Felix tosses him a lance, and it looks like he’s done with conversation. Clearly, Felix changes his mind midway. He looks irritated and frustrated, though more at himself than at Sylvain. “Sylvain. I don’t care what or who you’d rather do in your spare time. Join me for training or don’t. I won’t look for you next time, that’s all.”
But Sylvain is true to his word. Next time, he remembers. He arrives on time, with a spare lance and polished armor, and he makes sure to do so in the future without fail.
Every time thereafter, he remembers. Some things aren't worth forgetting.
Once, Sylvain could believe that they were just boys, training to be knights because that’s what children do in Faerghus.
Now, he finds Felix cutting down a training dummy with primal ferocity. It’s not the sort of emotion you normally bring to a training yard, especially not for Felix who’s always prized skill alongside strength.
It’s the sort of emotion you need to let out after you lose a brother. Sylvain’s seen that sort of hollow-eyed determination before. It’s not the first time he’s seen someone mourning their brother by beating the shit out of an inanimate object.
Sylvain leaves and comes back with an iron lance. He’s holding an iron sword for Felix too. He goes where others don’t, interrupting Felix’s solo training session.
“Spar?” he asks, offering the iron sword.
Felix doesn’t take the sword. “Go away. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You think you can?” Sylvain asks, running headlong into self-destruction. He holds the sword out until Felix inevitably accepts it. “Come on. If you want to fight, let’s fight. That’s what you keep me around for, isn’t it?”
Felix speaks so softly that Sylvain has to read his lips. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry. It’s alright. Trust me--I understand.”
They are no longer children. He loves a boy enough to wish that they could be carefree together forever, but that’s not reality.
They will never be nameless knights, rather they will be lords. They will be Duke Fraldarius and Margrave Gautier. Good men and women will live and die for them in the name of honor, which is as miserable a thought as it gets. Sylvain remembers their titles. How can he ever forget?
Sylvain manages a smile that doesn’t even begin to cover up how he feels. The smirk thereafter does though. He takes a step back and lifts his spear at the ready. “Well, c’mon, Young Master Fraldarius. Let’s see what you’ve got when I’m not going easy on you.”
What Sylvain should remember is dancing with more women than he could count (and he can count pretty high, even with too many drinks in him), but that’s not what he remembers, since that didn’t happen.
Garreg Mach is throwing a ball, and Sylvain is not there. He was there, and he had his dance with a half dozen perfectly lovely, perfectly eligible women before he looked around. He had no idea where Felix had gone, so Sylvain was gone too.
He’s not the only person wandering the monastery’s halls. He passed no small number of couples heading to the Goddess Tower, and plenty of quieter folk had chosen to linger close enough to hear the music but away from the crowd attending the ball.
He doesn’t find Felix. Felix finds him. Go figure.
“I’ve been looking for you,” Felix says, as if Sylvain hadn’t spent the last half hour wandering the monastery searching for Felix, vaguely afraid that some enterprising young noblewoman had monopolized him.
“Come with me,” Felix declares before Sylvain even has a chance to say anything, “I want to spar.”
“Felix, we are literally having a ball. There is a ball. People are dancing. You can train anytime. There’s girls, there’s music, there’s dancing, it’s all very beautiful, and you want to spar? Now? Why?” He’s not sure what reality he’s in that this is a serious plea, but it is a serious plea.
Felix is unmoved. “I don’t want to dance with some girl.”
Sylvain says, slowly, as if he were talking to someone very, very stupid, “Then dance with a boy, Felix.”
“Right.” There’s a long pause. Sylvain doesn’t know what Felix expects to fill that silence, but then Felix asks, almost politely, “Do you need me to repeat myself?”
He feels slightly light-headed. He’s not sure if it’s because of an impending headache, but it’s definitely because of Felix. “No--nope, no. We’re not sparring. We’re dancing, I accept no replacements for dancing. You know how to dance. I know you know, I taught you.”
Sylvain offers a gentlemanly hand, as naturally as he’s offered a sword in the past. Felix scowls at it, because of course he does, but he takes it just as the next song begins.
Barely, he remembers that Felix insisted on leading, though Sylvain’s the better dancer. That doesn't seem right, but it’s fine. Whatever he wants.
Mostly, he remembers a moment he wished could last forever.
He remembers funeral rites, completely unworthy and lacking for a man of Rodrigue’s station. It’s all they really have time for, but Sylvain insists that some parts are kept. Some words and gestures matter more than others, though he supposes no words matter to the dead.
He’s seen knights and warriors buried before. He knows how it’s done, how it should be done.
But in any case, the dead are dead. Sylvain worries more about the living.
He finds Felix in alone in his room.
Gently, Sylvain takes him by the hand. He’s not sure what he would’ve done if Felix hadn’t gotten up and walked with him, but Felix follows where he leads. Felix doesn’t protest. He doesn’t say anything, and he doesn’t have to. There’s nothing that needs to be said.
The training yard is mostly empty. Sylvain makes brief eye contact with the few people that are there, and they take their leave. No one’s seen Felix for a few days, and everyone knows what happened to Rodrigue.
Sylvain hands Felix a sword. He chooses a lance for himself.
They spar with a ferocity that Sylvain hadn’t experienced for years. They spar without games, without pity, with only skill and raw ambition. It is a primal instinct. For the first time against Felix, Sylvain slings fire, nothing he’d ever do in a fair tourney. Felix unburdens himself of his sword, and unarmed his attacks are faster than ever before.
A snapped lance lays on the ground. They are lancer and swordsman, mage and grappler. There are no rules. There’s only each other.
They are lords of Faerghus. They are not kings nor are they knights. They are warriors, descended from elites. Battle is their mother tongue, the language into which they were born and bred.
Battle too is the language they use to mourn.
He remembers the night before they advanced onto Enbarr. Sylvain’s alone. He hasn’t sought out any woman to spend his night with. That’s not something he wants or needs right now. It’s no time for games, not when tomorrow might be his last day alive.
He looks for Felix in his bedroom. He’s not there, so Sylvain goes to find him in the training yard. It’s the first and only place he needs to look. He watches Felix take swings at a training dummy, until it looks like the training dummy breathed its last.
“Are you done?” Sylvain asks, with more hope than anyone else would dare.
“No. Go find some girl if you’re lonely.” Felix kicks the beaten dummy to the side. He’s about to leave to go fetch another.
Sylvain steps forward and bridges the distance between them. It’s dark by now, but he’s familiar with Felix’s face even in the darkness. He kisses him fiercely and gently in turn, on his lips, on his neck.
Softly, Sylvain says, “I don’t want to spend tonight with some girl. That’s not… Felix, what if you die tomorrow?”
“You--” Felix begins but stops, cutting off whatever form of verbal abuse he was about to unleash. In complete seriousness, he says, “Then you find some girl, you idiot. You move on.”
“I made a promise.” We made a promise, he doesn’t bother saying. He knows Felix remembers.
“A promise you made to a dead man, if I die.”
Sylvain laughs--at the simplicity of it, at the arrogance of it--and he kisses Felix on the forehead. “You don’t get to choose how I live or how I die. That’s up to me alone, so if you want me to live, you better stay alive out there. And if you don’t think we’ll make it past tomorrow--then come back with me. Give me something to remember, Felix. Is that so much to ask?”
For a moment, Sylvain wonders if he’s wasting his efforts here. Felix doesn’t move--but then he does. He sheathes his sword, the sound of it reverberates through the quiet of the night. There’s never been a sweeter sound.
He’s seized by his collar then, lowered down for Felix to kiss and then to bite. Felix releases his grip on him, but he lingers, close and not touching.
“Fine,” Felix agrees. “Let’s go back.”