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The Cold

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Winter had torn through Faerghus with staggering speed. The citizens were scrambling to pull themselves together in time to fight off the ruthless frost, especially so soon after tragedy had struck the lands. People huddled in their homes, fed wood into their stoves for heat rather than hunger, and the streets were devoid of anything that wasn’t a snowbank or fallen branch. Felix knew that cold, could pull up the feeling in his heart along with the acrid taste of loneliness looming at the back of his throat.

But there was no point.

Felix looked on at Dimitri, swathed in his royal blues and golden seams, luxury woven into even his eyepatch, and he wondered how comfortable he possibly could be.

“There a reason you’re giftwrapped for the courts?”

An undignified chortle burst forth from Dimitri’s nose—and Felix really didn’t know what to do with himself when Dimitri turned to look at him. “I suppose I am dressed quite formally, aren’t I?”

“That’s what I said.”

Dimitri shook his head, fondness lifting his lips and setting his eye alight. “If only the people of Faerghus knew how crude Duke Fraldarius was behind closed doors.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

A hand, warm and sturdy and slowly being cleaned of blood, came up to brush against the seam of Felix’s trousers. There was an urgency in his touch, offset by Dimitri’s fear of hurting those he cares for—a desperation for connection contradicting his devastating strength.

“You’re correct,” the king said. “I do like having this side of you all to myself.”

“I hadn’t realized I became a prize of yours.”

Dimitri flinched back, hurt twisting his face away from the pleasant comfort that had been there. Felix cursed himself. “I would never—”

“Dimitri, I was kidding.” What he was about to say, the vulnerability he was about to express, it all required Felix to look away, through the crystalline pane of glass at the snowy expanse of Fhirdiad. “I’m . . . glad, to be your advisor. I don’t think anyone else would tolerate me.”

That snow blanketing the capital, that biting cold, unforgiving and bone-chilling, had been all too familiar to Felix during his time at the Academy. Every time he looked at Dimitri, a stifling wind would had swept through the hollowness of his chest, remind him of all the warmth he no longer felt—or rather, the warmth he wanted so badly to vanquish. There’d been days where he would sneak up to the top of the Goddess Tower, let the wind cut across his cheeks and come dangerously close to drying his eyes—drying his tears. It was the only thing that could balance out the frigidness creeping across his heart, threatening to freeze everything over until there was no telling it from the cityscape of Fhridiad.

But now—sitting here, with Dimitri, a piece of his past he’d yearned for so painfully for longer than he cared to admit—he could relax. He could burrow into the comfort of his best friend and let the ice gripping his heart melt away. Blue eyes chased away lethal chills and tentative smiles rivalling the winter sun shone like a beacon—one Felix would follow for as long as he was able.

“I like you like this,” Dimitri said, softer than he really had any right to.

“Shut up, boar.”

The king looked up at the ceiling as if it were more interesting than the man in front of him. Felix knew such wasn’t the case, but damn his heart for twisting at the lack of attention. He’d become a fool.

“What does that make you, if you so readily kiss an animal such as me?”

Felix listened carefully for any sense of Dimitri’s age-old self-deprecation. He replayed the words once, twice in his head before deciding they were simply playful.

“Don’t insult me.”

Dimitri moved out of his chair much too smoothly—too much like a cat about to pounce on his prey—and Felix started to understand just how much of Dimitri’s blood came from the King of Lions. Still, he let his legs fall open for the blonde to slot himself between them.

What a picture they must make; the duke who picked up a sword before a quill and the king who’d crawled out from his own grave to save his kingdom. The Shield of Faerghus and the Saviour King. Descendants of Kyphon and Loog. Perhaps it was always meant to be.

Felix didn’t like that idea. No, he and Dimitri had fought their way through too many of their own battles to simply allot their closeness to fate and legacies that weren’t theirs. Felix was here in Dimitri’s arms because he chose to be, just as Dimitri chose to take the future of his people into his own hands—as it should have been.

“If I am boring you, my love, I would ask that you tell me.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Felix murmured, leaning forward just so that his lips brushed against Dimitri’s.

He’d never thought he’d be able to have this—hadn’t known he wanted it until Dimitri was ripped away from him, by a war they couldn’t have planned for and a sickness Felix himself had left unchecked.

He quickly cut away those thoughts, as swift and mindless as if a blade were in his hands. There was no point in dwelling on things they couldn’t change. And, really, all of those horrible things had led to this one, irreplaceable thing, so Felix was empty on complaints. He couldn’t imagine a war he wouldn’t fight or an enemy he wouldn’t best if it meant he got to end up right here, where he felt safest. He could mould that feeling, that irrevocable love, into a weapon all on its own to cut his way back.

But Goddess help him, he’d never say that out loud.

Movement in front of him ripped him from his reverie. Felix immediately zeroed in on the lack of something very crucial to the king’s appearance.

His eyepatch was gone.

“I apologize,” Dimitri whispered. “The fireplace was making it quite troublesome to wear, and I rather like where I am right now—”

“You’ve never known how to not ramble, have you?”

Felix didn’t bother waiting for an answer—he was already leaning forward and pressing the softest kiss he could muster to the marred skin of Dimitri’s brow. The eye itself had gone milky, healed over stranger than any wound Felix had seen in his life—but still, it was all a part of his king, and he’d be a fool to treat it as anything less.

“Felix . . . You do not have to—”

“When have I ever done something because I thought I had to?”

A huff of a laugh, hands coming up to grip his waist—Felix instinctively leaned into that touch, the warmth that told him Dimitri was alive. To act so foolishly sappy, to offer tenderness that would surely suffocate him if he thought about it too much, was terrifying. Years of Felix’s life had been spent fending off a majority of affections thrown his way, romantic or otherwise, out of fear and apathy and a little bit of bitterness that he didn’t care to name. He supposed his only reassurance was that Dimitri, too, was putting everything on the line, whether it be his heart or his credibility as king.

His body demanded he offer up whatever non-verbal affection he had, lest his overexcited heart send him collapsing onto the ground. He pressed kiss after kiss to both scarred and unscarred skin, committing the feeling to memory.

Felix—”

“Don’t sound so surprised, Dimitri.” It makes me feel like I don’t love you enough.

Felix didn’t fight it when he felt Dimitri pull at the tie holding his hair in place.

“I’ve woken up beside you nearly everyday, and yet I never manage to understand just how you do this.”

There wasn’t much to say to that, so Felix contented himself with leaning forward again for a kiss. He nibbled lightly on Dimitri’s lip before pulling away—but the king’s hitch in breath didn’t go unnoticed.

The feeling of his loose hair tickling his cheeks was almost distracting enough to make Felix miss the firelight dancing in Dimitri’s eyes.

Almost.

The crackling of flames filled the minimal space between them, feet of the castle staff bustling just outside Dimitri’s door. Felix couldn’t imagine anyone making it past Dedue, so he wasn’t worried about someone walking in to find them in such a position. Instead, he listened to the steady rhythm of Dimitri’s breath, the surety in which his heart beat. He listened to the winds of their home batter lazily against the window.

“I love you.”

Such simple words, yet Felix found himself scrounging up every bit of courage he had to simple slur them our. It was easy, now, to let himself relax into a grip he knew would remain steadfast around him.

“And I you, Felix. Now and forevermore.”

A chill curled up from the corners of the window, teasing along the bottom of the pane, reminding them of the harshness they hid from whenever they could.

Felix wasn’t worried. Dimitri chased away the brisk winds, stood between him and all that threatened to haunt him. Here, there was warmth. Here, the cold could never touch him.

Here, just maybe, he could forget what the cold felt like all together.