Annette Fantine Dominic is not a naturally violent person.
She sings when she works, whether that be elbow deep in soapy dishes or smudged with dirt from the greenhouse of Garreg Mach. She snorts at Sylvain’s flirtatious jokes, and giggles over tea with Mercedes. She cries when her father refuses to speak to her. She shudders when she looks at what Dimitri has become.
But now, seeing Felix being speared right through the back before her eyes, all she can see is red.
From where she’s standing, up on a hill overlooking the close combat fighters, Annette gets a clear view of everything. The way Felix cuts down a single Imperial spell caster with fierce precision. The way he leaves his back open as the Imperial knight plunges forward with a deadly, unerring lance.
And worst of all, she hears his strangled, cut off cry, so unnatural from his usual cool and unflustered tone that she staggers at the sound. He pitches forward and collapses as the knight yanks his lance out of his body with a muffled exclamation of triumph.
Annette doesn’t even recognize her own shriek until it leaves her throat, raw and unbridled in its terror. “FELIX!”
She practically falls down the hill in her reckless haste to reach his falling body, weeping and cursing as arrows and thrown blades miss her by a hair’s breadth. She scrambles to his side and cradles him in her arms.
Felix’s face is the color of death, and he’s gasping for breath as the wet blood slides over her fingers with sick intimacy. His hand scrambles for something to hold onto and she catches onto his hand with desperation.
“R-Run…you idiot…” Felix hisses at her with a wet cough, clutching at her body with a frantic urgency that bites at her heart and stings at her eyes. Even now, in his injured state, he’s still thinking of nothing but her safety.
Annette sobs aloud, shaking her head violently. His voice breaks and for the first time cold, unyielding Felix sounds truly terrified as the Imperial knight focuses on her. “RUN, Annette…!”
The knight kicks his horse. It roars and charges towards them with a speed that is spurred on by its confident inevitability, every step pounding the earth like vicious war drums of old. The approaching lance is all she can see, getting closer and closer….Somewhere, Gilbert yells her name in pure terror.
Annette raises her hand, her eyes blurring with unmitigated fury, and clenches her fist.
A bolt of concentrated, unforgiving light streaks down from heaven and strikes the knight mid-stride. It cracks and shakes the earth with a deafening shriek that sounds like vengeance and feels like justice. The pillar of light blazes swiftly and winks out just as quickly, and when the afterimages fade from her eyes, all there is left is a smoking pile of bloody ashes and burnt metal.
Felix’s breath is getting shallow, short stuttering gasps that feel like individual punches in Annette’s gut. But even here, bleeding out as she weeps over him, he has the nerve to crack a small smile
“You idiot.” His gloved hand touches her face, wonderingly, worshipfully. “That was…”
And just when the light is fading from his eyes and her heart is stopping with his and a bitter wail is building in her throat, a soft whisper of tender magic brushes past her and melts into the gaping cavity in Felix’s chest. Before her eyes, the torn muscles and broken bones slowly coalesce together, like a perverse puzzle, until he is whole again.
Mercedes sounds winded when she speaks, jogging up to them with a huffing and puffing of breath. “That’ll keep him stable for now. The professor says we need to bring him to safety before the Imperials start trying to push into our flanks.”
Annette feels tears well up and she lets them fall; big fat teardrops that splash onto Felix’s pale face as she shudders with mingled relief and exhaustion. “Okay.”
As the girls each take one of Felix’s arms and lift, Annette chokes out, “Thank you so much, Mercie.”
Mercedes’ face is soft in her understanding, a kind smile tilting her lips. “Don’t thank me, Annie. You were the one who saved him.”
In war, one can’t stand by idly and hope for results.
Annette fights every day and visits Felix every night. Recently, he’s gotten conscious enough to scold her for coming to visit him, much to her chagrin.
“You should be resting.”
His voice is rough, but he’s wearing an expression that Mercedes calls “his Annette face”, a gentling of his features that dulls the usual bite of his barbed tongue. Annette always turns three different shades of red whenever Mercie teases her so, but right now all she can do is smile stupidly back, safe in the knowledge that only she can make him look at her in this way.
Felix is looking much better since that horrible day a week ago. He can sit up without help and Mercedes is confident that he can return to the battlefield within a month or so. From her seat by his side, Annette admires the pretty picture he makes, his dark rumpled hair against the white of the pillow and the bronze fire of his eyes in the light of the torches, and suddenly realizes for the umpteenth time how fiercely handsome he is.
He’s made of steel-corded muscles and violent beauty but more importantly he’s alive and right in front of her-
“Annette. You listening?” Felix’s doing that thing again. That teasing spark in his voice that always ignites whenever he realizes that it’s because of him that she’s so flustered. He knows her weaknesses and takes advantage of them as easily as his blade cutting through an opening in a defensive guard.
The absolute bully.
“I’m listening.” She pouts. “And I should be the one telling you to rest.”
Felix shrugs, wincing as the movement stretches his wound. “You can’t exactly rush these sort of things.”
Annette swats his hand. “It would heal faster if you could just stop fidgeting!”
The swordsman looks a little resentful, his gaze wandering out to the bustle of camp, as yawning soldiers trudge wearily off to bed for yet another day of battle. It’s a wet day, and the rain is making traveling in full plate armor all but impossible.
His voice is low when he speaks again. “I can’t stand being cooped up here when there’s a war to fight.”
She makes a sympathetic noise. “No one does. But we learn to deal with it. It’s kind of…” Annette scrunches up her face to think of an apt descriptor, “…a side effect of battle.”
Felix barks a short laugh, an erupt noise that makes her jump. His copper fire eyes are gleaming fondly at her though he’s struggling to hide his smile. “I liked the way you said that.”
“O-oh.” There she goes again, surely turning redder than a tomato in this lamplight. At times like this, Annette wishes her skin wasn’t quite so pale. Every time she blushes, it’s so painfully obvious.
They pass a moment in a slightly awkward silence, but it’s far from uncomfortable and she’s learning to treasure these moments, when they can just forget the horror of the past and fiercely embrace the present, fickle as it might be.
Felix breaks the silence. “I forgot to thank you.” He winces as he struggles to sit up higher, and Annette rushes to help him, her traitorous heart almost thundering out of her mouth as his arm tightens around her shoulders when she lifts him into a more comfortable position.
“Thank me for what?” She asks when he’s settled.
His lips quirk up wryly. “Don’t make that face. You saved me out there.”
Annette hangs her head, trying to shut out that image of Felix being pierced through the back like an animal. “I didn’t do anything.”
“You obliterated that knight.” His hand hasn’t let go of hers. “You didn’t run or flee in terror. You summoned so much magic you looked like some sort of saint. It was…absolutely terrifying.”
“You got hurt.” Her voice is small. “I wasn’t thinking straight.”
“Annette.” Did Felix say that? It sounded too gentle to be him. She looks up somewhat timidly and almost stops breathing.
Felix is smiling at her, a soft smile which warms her up like a tender flame that burns her up from the inside and pours forth from her face. Those copper eyes that she always admired so much swallow her in their depths.
“You saved me.” He’s quiet, he’s just as red as she is, but he’s smiling and it’s the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen-
“I would be dead if not for you.”
Annette hiccups on a little sob. A little sniff begets another, and then another. Soon she’s crying. His smile melts into a worried frown only to open in an expression of astonishment as she falls onto his chest and wails like a child, barely able to get the words out between large gasping sobs.
“I was s-so worried and there was so m-much blood and I thought you were going to die and you almost did die and I saw you dying I was holding you and I was terrified I was g-going to lose you because I think I love you and y-you almost died before I could say it-”
Felix, who had been awkwardly stroking her back in soothing motions, freezes. Annette also stiffens, all of a sudden painfully aware of what she had just said. For a moment time stops, and as tears tremble on her eyelashes she’s trembling just as hard within the cage of his arms.
But before Annette could panic or reel back, his arms tighten around her again and she feels his fingers carding through her hair in gentle motions that shudder with relief and no small amount of smugness.
“You idiot.” Felix’s breath is warm against her ear as she melts like snow on a spring day when he pulls her close to his heart. “Did it really take me getting a lance through my back to hear you say it?”
“D-Don’t say it like that.” Annette sniffs, hiding her blushing face in his collar.
“Hm.” He hums, resuming those soothing circles on her back as she shudders through the last of her tears. His hands are gentle and she relishes their touch, for they hold her with such reverence that she feels almost sacred in his grasp.
Felix buries his face in her hair. He mumbles something inaudible and she blinks up at him. “What did you say?”
“Don’t make me repeat myself.” He’s blushing. She can feel the warmth creeping down his body. It makes a surge of delighted confidence fly through her.
“If you don’t say it again I won’t sing for you tonight.”
Felix sputters. “You—You—“
Annette laughs and burrows herself deep into his warmth. She begins to hum a playful ditty under her breath, and right away, like a snake under the mesmerizing warble of the flute, Felix calms and sinks back into her touch, drinking her in with such worshipful emotion it makes her knees weak.
She knew exactly what he had said. For him, there are no need for words, because she felt it in every touch of his body tonight. His eyes, his hands, his voice. Over and over again, like a whisper to her heart.
I love you too.