There’s a peculiar cat that skitters around in the dead of night at the monastery. He hears it in the quiet downtime when his sword isn’t hitting at the training dummy and adrenaline isn’t pushing his heartbeat into his ears: the soft patter of paws coming from the shadows of the training grounds itself, bringing a frown to his face. The door’s not open; it must’ve snuck in.
The animals are everywhere in the monastery, but it’s hard to miss the dangers of them roaming into buildings, much less one stocked with weapons and, usually, numerous people who are doing anything but paying attention to what might end up underfoot. It’s a good thing that he’s the only one here tonight—though, with the way this one always seems to work, he wouldn’t be surprised if it bailed at the first sight of more people. Felix sighs, taking easy strides towards the door, nudging it open and keeping very, very still; sooner or later, the sneaky feline should dart away, back onto the less dangerous paths.
It takes forever. His arm starts growing numb. Determination keeps him steady as he convinces himself that this could be taken as another method of training. He grits his teeth, mumbling without ire under his breath, “Hurry up already, would you?”
Moments later, a hesitant paw stretches forward into the dim light of the room. Felix watches in vague amusement as the cat eases its way closer, looking this way and that as if paranoid of everything around it. He’s never gotten as good a look at it as he does now; its fur is shaggy as if the poor thing doesn’t know how to groom, and looks almost purple; it must be a trick of the light.
He waits, careful enough to not even so much as breathe loudly as the feline draws closer, clearly torn between darting through the door and being more cautious. For all that the monastery is full of humans, it must not like them very much—or at the least, trust them. Felix can’t blame it, in that case. He understands the sentiments just as well. One that seems trustworthy could turn on you in a moment, shading the world with a jaded hue and discoloring even the most noble-hearted. Yeah, he understands that well.
And so he won’t let the door closed until that cat leaves the training grounds, even if the muscles in his arm strain under being forced still for so long. He’s committed to the task by no will aside his own, and he will see it through.
He catches its eyes when it’s near enough, holds a large, grey gaze for what feels like more than a few seconds. It doesn’t move; Felix frowns, expression soft.
“Go on. There are better places for you than here.”
It feels like another minute, but that (tiny—a kitten?) ball of fur finally barrels past him in a flash, and he breathes a silent sigh as it takes off through the monastery grounds, diving into a set of bushes. He gives his arm the relief it begs for and drops it to his side, turning his back and rolling his shoulder as the door closes behind him.
The kitten watches him from behind foliage, staring even after he’s no longer visible.
Much to his frustration, the cat returns again and again to the training grounds.
He never catches sight of it during the day—only at night, when he’s one of the few (if not only) students to stay behind and push himself further in his training. It becomes routine. Until his session is done, the kitten stays in the shadows; only after he’s done does it come closer, waiting for him to inevitably push the door open and free it.
“How do you keep getting in here, anyway?” He asks one day, making it pause in its steps on its way towards him. It triggers a few moments of staring; that’s become part of the routine, too. “Don’t you realize how dangerous it is in here? What if you got trapped while I’m not here? Or some accident happens with the weapons lying around? Start taking better care of yourself, you.”
If he seems like a madman, speaking to a cat in the middle of the night, then perhaps he doesn’t mind so long as no one’s around to see it. It meows, a tiny sound, and his heart does something weird; it brings him to smile, a small yet significant notion as the kitten briskly walks by, but doesn’t run.
He’s been over it a thousand times in his head, and yet he can’t figure out what just happened.
One moment he’s walking towards the training grounds, as routine and normal as ever, with a thought in his mind that he’ll see the same kitten, again, for it never seemed to have learned its lesson. The next he’s rushing forward as the shrill start of a squeak comes from the ledge up above heralds a disaster in the making. A flash of purple flashes as Bernadetta falls; a weight lands in his arms, but it doesn’t knock him over. It’s light, shockingly so—he might as well only have used one hand.
There’s an awfully familiar kitten in his arms, and Felix is still trying to figure out how it got there, and where Bernadetta disappeared to.
It doesn’t take long at all to recognize it as the same unkempt kitten from his nightly training sessions. Its large, grey eyes look up at him as it stays frozen in his grasp. Somehow, it— she seems even smaller than before, as if trying to shrink away from his stare, but Felix can’t help it. Nothing makes sense, even when he watched what happened with his own eyes.
“You... Just what are you?” He asks, finally. He gets a meow in response—a poor attempt to sound innocent, in Felix’s opinion—and huffs, “Don’t try to play dumb. I know exactly what I saw. Come clean, already.”
He kneels down, setting her down on the cobblestone below as he stares in expectation. Felix is fast, but there’s no way he’d be able to catch a tiny kitten if she decided to bolt in the other direction; he knows that, and his eyes narrow in warning. She seems to get the hint, curling in on herself for a moment before seeming to shuffle in place. A paw covers her eyes, then uncovers; she looks up at him, and he swears that weird thing in his chest happens again as he takes in her plea.
“You want me to stop looking? What kind of fool do you take me for?”
Felix has never witnessed a cat become flustered before. Or, at least, what he thinks might be that, with the shrill attempt at a howl she gives as she rushes over, standing up against his legs to paw frantically at his calf. He can’t help but stare incredulously down at her, ignoring the absurdity of it all and swallowing back the thought of how adorable it is; despite her desperate whining, he can’t feel a single one of her attacks. Cute.
Still, his voice comes out in a grumble as he concedes to her emotions-pulling tactics. “Fine! But if you run off on me—I know where you live.”
Perhaps there’s a larger threat in that that he neglects to consider before he says it. He can see the fear in those wide eyes as he looks down at her, and he forces himself to turn away before it makes him feel even weirder things.
It takes a few moments. Moments spent with Felix staring at the bushes, remembering the first time he’d chased the kit—Bernadetta into them. Fodlan’s no stranger to bloodline oddities here and there, rare as they might be—he’s sure there’s something strange lurking in Dimitri’s veins that pushed him into what he’s become in the past few years—but never has he experienced any of it firsthand. His mind’s alight with a curiousity that he rarely feels outside of ventures directly meant to strengthen his prowess in battle; perhaps that’s why his heart does a weird turn when Bernadetta’s soft voice breaks the silence.
“I-I’m finished... ”
Felix turns around; Bernadetta’s standing there, as expected, wringing her hands together as she looks down, all but refusing to meet his eyes. That serves him well—in that regard, they’re the same.
It’s so easy, now, to see the similarities between her and the kitten he’s grown fond of: their eyes are the same grey color, with the odd ability to stir some kind of protective desire within him. That disheveled fur might as well be the hair on her head; it’s the same purple, too, now that Felix finally realizes that he hasn’t been hallucinating colors this whole time. Even the timid way they hold themselves is the same—he almost wonders if she’s going to dart away as she does in that smaller form, but even as he stares, she doesn’t seem to move.
It takes him longer than he thinks it should to realize the tail hanging from behind her. It’s not the longest he’s seen, and it’s not sleek and graceful—it, too, is an uncombed disaster, and something about it nags in the back of his thoughts like a question he wants to ask but can’t find the words for.
“A-A-Are you... going to say anything... ?”
Felix blinks, only realizing that he hasn’t once she forces the question out. A disgruntled sigh passes his lips as he brings his hand to his forehead. It’s followed by a laugh.
“I can’t believe it. All this time, it was just you hanging around here at night. As a cat.”
Something about saying it aloud makes Felix feel like he’s lost some part of his mind. Bernadetta flails, though it’s not that secret technique of hers that he’s been on the lookout for. Was that part of this whole thing, too? Some kind of special... cat power?
“I-It’s not like that!” She cries in a hushed tone, distraught but trying to keep her voice down. “I was just... I had only been...”
He watches as she struggles with her words to the point where she’s babbling apologetic nonsense and begging for his forgiveness. The moment he gets fed up and snaps her name, she squeals and runs away in a panic, leaving him baffled in the middle of the walkway. His mind spins with all that’s happened in the span of just a few minutes.
“Tch... what the hell was all of that?” He mumbles to himself, before turning back to his room, no longer feeling the urge to train.
She doesn’t show up to his training sessions after that. He means to confront her about it, but he doesn’t manage to corner her before their house leader starts a war and he’s bombarded with a million other things to think about.
He’s lost track of how many times he’s been to the infirmary by now. Days and battles have started blurring; he hasn’t been able to keep track of any of it since Arianrhod. Felix thinks he’ll remember where the burns on his torso had come from, at least, with how long he’s been holed up here and attended to, but he loses passage of time due to boredom alone until he’s cleared for battle once more.
There’s a cat by his side when he wakes up sometimes, the tips of his fingers barely grazing her fur. It’s not as shaggy as it used to be, not as shy, but he recognizes her all the same after the years in which he hasn’t seen her.
The purring that reverberated against his flank stops as the feline look up at him, startled but not afraid. Felix holds the gaze for a little while longer before sighing, “Don’t you have your own room to sleep in?”
It’s not really a question; he knows she does. Even though she doesn’t spend nearly as much time behind those doors as she once did, he’s found himself glancing in the room’s direction at times as he passed by. What he truly asks is why she’s here of all places, in his room, curled up against him as if some sort of pet. She answers by slowly stretching one paw to his ribs, and then the next. In a gentle, rhythmic motion, she alternates a pattern of pushing her paws against him.
Felix sighs, throwing his head back against the pillow. She stops for a moment but continues soon enough, and all he can mutter is, “Do what you want.”
The war is over, and there’s a hole in his heart that fights to consume him. His blade feels heavy and restless in his grasp, but he still manages to swing when he needs to. People are preparing for their futures, discussing their territories and dealing with reparations.
Felix has nothing to go back to, the Fraldarius title feeling nothing short of acid each time he considers it, but he knows where he’ll be going nonetheless.
He stays one last night in a room that feels colder than ever. Come morning, he’ll pack his sword and leave with nothing more, nothing less. There are battles to be fought all over Fodlan, still, and he can’t numb the thoughts without having a fight to look towards.
More than anything, this place is stifling. Felix has no intention of dying soon, not like this, and staying at the monastery, surrounded by empty rooms, will surely suffocate him.
The morning sun is barely up by the time Felix makes it to the gates the next day. Before he can step a foot outside, he’s nearly tackled to the ground from behind.
“Please don’t leave!” A familiar voice cries, and Felix, for a moment, is stunned.
“Y-You can’t just leave! Or—please don’t!” Bernadetta carries on, surprisingly strong arms locked tightly around his waist. Despite that, she still manages to project a feel of flailing.
“What are you—get off of me!”
Prying her off is more difficult task than it has any right to be. Felix is distantly aware of the shopkeepers staring their way.
There’s a surprising amount of conviction in Bernadetta’s voice. He’s heard it before, but it still rings strange in his mind whenever he hears it. Even stranger is how it’s towards him this time, but for what reason, he can’t be sure.
“Tch—you’re bothering me. Why don’t you just—"
“C-Come with me! I don’t... I don’t want to go back alone!”
Felix stiffens. Bernadeta’s face buries against the back of his shirt. He would never claim to be the best at understanding the intricacies of how others feel, but he knows enough to understand the desperation in her voice and how all of her heart poured into each syllable. He feels her trembling; he decides to think of it as being from the exertion of strength.
She’s waiting for an answer. He sighs, taking advantage of a lapse in her grip in order to pull himself away. Bernadetta yelps in surprise, her wide eyes watery and her mouth agape, ready to beg him further.
He cuts her off with, “Stop being so loud. Everyone’s staring at you.”
“Eh?” Bernadetta blinks, turning her head slowly to observe the merchants in the plaza. Her face turns scarlet; he finds himself looking down at her skirt, wondering if he’d catch the rare sight of her tail. He doesn’t, but he does realize that she’s frozen stiff and silent, as if suddenly incapable of so much as moving.
Felix sighs. With a huff, he takes her hand and turns around, heading back towards the dorms.
“Come on,” he grumbles, tugging her along but not too harshly. She scrambles to keep up at first, but by the time they’re somewhere private where they can talk, she’s matched his pace with ease.
The Varley household provides him more opportunities to witness the feline side of Bernadetta than Felix could’ve imagined. It’s like she feels no need to hide her nature here (though he’s never really understood why she did before, either; as far as Felix knows, everyone else had already known one way or another), sometimes walking around with her tail flicking behind her (it’s no longer scruffy, either, like she’s actually been taking care and brushing through it) and—to Felix’s utterer astonishment—a pair of purple cat ears twitching under the bush of her hair. He asks her about it one day, and she squeaks an explanation of how it makes her feel more at ease than not. He doesn’t press her further about it.
She slips into his room at night, sometimes. The darkness nearly hides her anxious fidgeting and the way she trembles, much Felix’s eyes are keen even if he’s half asleep.
“What are you so afraid of?” He asks one night, not missing the way she locks up under his gaze.
“N-Nothing! It’s just...”
He can sense there’s something on her tongue, waiting to be spoken but not just yet. With a sigh, he leaves space for her atop the bed. She climbs next to him quietly, and curls up by his side as though she were back in that feline form of hers. It doesn’t take her long to fall asleep, all things considered, but Felix thinks he might have been too distracted listening to her breathe to notice how much time had passed.
She tells him, one day, what causes all her nightmares. It’s funny, somehow; she comes to him, shaking and afraid, and yet she’s the one that keeps him from jolting awake from his own.
It’s a whim. An absolute spur of the moment decision. In fact, Felix isn’t entirely sure what’s possessing him when he does it. He’s drawn in by curiousity, and a lack of inhibition strikes.
He scratches behind her furry ears, gently, and watches how she melts against him. His expression is colored by amusement and affection; he blames that odd feeling in his chest when he idly imagines giving her a ring.
Bernadetta ruins it by asking him first, after stammering hard enough that Felix can barely understand her. She apologizes profusely later, quoting the look on his face as being “disappointed, somehow”, and it only riles him up more, his face feeling far too warm for comfort.
Eventually, he stops her panicked tirade with a kiss. Out of the corner of his eye, he watches her tail shoot straight up, and he laughs.