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oh no my brother's friend is hot

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Felix scribbled out the last attempt with guessing on his chemistry homework when his father called out, “Felix! Come downstairs.” It was only 5 PM, and definitely not dinner time, so Felix had no desire in going downstairs and “be nice” to the random stray that his brother was bringing home. Felix knew for a fact that food wouldn’t be ready until 6 PM at the earliest, so if he go downstairs now, that would be an hour of:

Step 1: Felix trying to grunt out a hello.

Step 2: Stranger being taken aback by how Not-Glenn and Not-his father Felix was.

Step 3: Felix being irritated at the stranger, at himself, and at the world in general.

Step 4: His father, Glenn, and the stranger talking to each other trying to fill in the awkward Felix-shaped social black hole, resulting in Felix being left out of the conversation.

Step 5: Felix ignoring everyone, waiting for food, and hoping he could walk away from all this.

Felix rather skipped to step 6, which was when he could get food.

His father launched another “Felix,” but in the tone that implied that there might be consequences if he didn’t go now. Felix knew from experience he could get away with another “Felix!” before his father invade his room.

Felix could hear the talking downstairs, muted to soft murmurs by his closed bedroom door. A rumble of laughter followed.

Felix rose from his seat. He hadn’t heard his father laughed in so long. But then he thought about spending an hour being annoyed, and he sat back down. He skimmed through the textbook on his laptop again. Another rumbled of laughter drifted through the door, and his concentration was gone. Felix honestly couldn’t remember the last time he heard his father’s laugh.

Felix hadn’t met the stray that his brother brought back, but Felix already hated him.

The laugher downstairs tapered off. Felix waited for the third exasperated “Felix!” from his father to come, but only silence greeted him. Maybe they went to the kitchen. Felix didn’t know why he felt so disappointed and alone all of a sudden. It was ridiculous. His feelings were ridiculous. He should get back to work until dinner time. Then he would go downstairs, eat, then go back upstairs, and get back to work.

A firm set of three knocks at his door interrupted his thoughts.

“What?” Felix snapped. He instantly regret his harsh tone, but then he felt irritated that he even feel regret and guilty in the first place. Fuck this.

“Your dad said the food is ready if you want to come down!”

Felix froze. The voice was familiar and unfamiliar all at once. Felix moved to open his door before his thoughts caught up to his action.

“Hi!” The brightest smile Felix had ever seen greeted him. “My name is Sylvain.” Sylvain stuck out a hand toward Felix with an eager forward bounce with his entire body. The bright red wave of his hair gleamed under the golden hallway light. His other hand was gripping the door frame as he leaned toward Felix like a plant toward the sun.

I know you. You shouldn’t even exist outside of my head.

Felix stared.

Sylvain seemed unfazed by Felix’s lack of response.

Felix looked at Sylvain offered hand. He wanted to feel the warmth of those hands once more.

“Felix,” he grumbled, shaking Sylvain’s hand. He stiffened at the touch. This hand didn’t felt quite the same. It wasn’t what he remembered. The calluses weren’t where they should be. But this didn’t make any sense. Felix hadn’t met Sylvain until now. He didn’t know this man. Hell, Sylvain wasn’t supposed to be real. How would Felix know what Sylvain’s hands were supposed to feel like?

Felix yanked his hand back. Sylvain let out a startled noise from the back of his throat. Felix felt his face warming up, and no, that wouldn’t do. That wouldn’t do at all.

Felix scowled and brushed past Sylvain, hoping that it would be enough to hide the blush that he could feel breaking across his cheekbones. Damn it. Damn it all. “Why are you playing messenger for the old man? I heard him the first time.”

Felix could hear Sylvain’s quickening footstep following him. He wasn’t going to turn around. He definitely wasn’t.

“He wanted to try a new strategy since apparently the old one didn’t work so well in getting you out of your room.”

Felix scoffed.

“Hey now.” Sylvain hopped in front of Felix and walked backwards. Felix tried his best to ignore the tingling feeling at his shoulder where Sylvain gave him a friendly pat as he brushed past Felix. Sylvain’s warm eyes tugged at Felix like a puppy begging for attention. “It worked, didn’t it?”  

It was all too much, and Felix had to drag his eyes away from Sylvain. “Whatever.” Then, because he wasn’t interested in Sylvain suing them or something, he grumbled. “Watch where you’re going.”

For reasons that Felix couldn’t understand, Sylvain let out a delighted chuckle. What the hell was wrong with this guy. He sounded like he was actually fond of Felix. This was absolutely awful. Just awful. Felix hated and loved Glenn for bringing Sylvain.

“Besides, I had to see for myself.”

Felix had a bad feeling about this. “See what?”

“You might not like this.”

“Like what?”

“Glenn said that you hate being touched by other people, so much so that you won’t shake anyone’s hand. I had to see for myself.”

“You—” Felix was at a loss for words. He didn’t know who he should be angry at—Glenn for talking shit about Felix to Sylvain (even though it was true), his father for asking Sylvain to get him, or Sylvain for testing him. Felix decided on the safe option and be mad at all of them.

He scowled and pushed past Sylvain.

Sylvain seemed undeterred by Felix’s attitude because he dared to give Felix another pat at his shoulder. “Hey, I’m really happy though. You know, that you shook my hand, even though you don’t like to do that in general.”

Damn it. Sylvain sounded so annoyingly sincere that Felix couldn’t even feel that mad at him. “Whatever.”

Felix wasn’t looking at Sylvain’s face, but somehow he could feel Sylvain’s damn smile at his back. It made the back of his neck feel warm, and Felix hoped that Sylvain didn’t notice because this was mortifying, and damn it Glenn for bringing Sylvain and making Felix go through this. Remembering his dad’s words from earlier, Felix realized with horror that Sylvain was going to be here all weekend.

His dumbass heart jumped in excitement, and Felix knew this weekend was going to be too damn long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Naturally, his father was a lying liar who lied because when Felix and Sylvain got downstairs, the food was not ready. Felix knew it was a ploy to get him to socialize, but Sylvain was too great of a lure for him to resist. He bet the therapist’s words from years ago still haunted his father “This is a manifestation of his loneliness” even though they decided that therapy wasn’t helping, and Felix was better off brooding in peace.

It was a little insulting that both his father and Glenn looked so shocked when Felix appeared.

“You actually got him downstairs.” His father was looking at Sylvain like Sylvain was Saint Seiros or something.

“Wow Sylvain, maybe he should go live with you,” Glenn laughed, although his laugh sounded more awed than amused. There was something else in his tone too, but Felix was not ready to unpack that emotional package.

“I’d have to buy him dinner first,” Sylvain said. That earned a clattering of laughs from his father and Glenn. Felix felt his face warming again.

This conversation was pointless. Felix was going to make himself useful. “I’m going to set the table.”

“I’ll help you,” Sylvain said.

“You don’t know where anything is,” Felix pointed out.

“You can show him around,” Felix’s father decided to be unhelpful to Felix’s current attempt to get the hell out of all engagements. “He’ll be staying with us for a while.”

“I can help you carry things to the table.” Sylvain flexed his right arm, and even had the audacity to give Felix a wink, which made him look way more charming than he should be.

Felix had to look away and bite back a smile.

“Yeah, he’s a real hunk alright,” Glenn said. “All the girls on campus flocked to him even though I’m clearly the better option.”

Just like that, Felix’s warm, happy feelings burst like a popped balloon. Plates. He had to get plates. Cups too. Maybe the serving spoon also. Felix walked off to the cabinets, not really caring if Sylvian followed or not.

“It’s not like that,” Sylvain said.

“Oh it is definitely like that,” said Glenn. “Walking across campus with you is a nightmare.”

“Oh that’s not what I meant,” said Sylvain. “I meant—it’s not just all the girls that flocked to me, but all the guys also.”

Felix nearly dropped a cup, but he caught it just in time. Luckily, no one seemed to notice because they were all busy laughing together.

Hilarious. Just hilarious. Sylvain was a real riot.

Felix carried everything himself, ignoring Sylvain’s offer to help carry the cups. Sylvain seemed to deflate at that, and Felix told himself that he shouldn’t feel guilty.

But he did. It wasn’t Sylvain’s fault that Felix was a weirdo. It wasn’t Sylvain’s fault that Felix felt a little special with Sylvian around. And it certainly wasn’t Sylvain’s fault that Felix misunderstood Sylvain. Felix had let the emotional high from seeing the literal guy of his dreams blocked out his brain functions. The Sylvain in his dream was like this—he flirted for fun, and it was difficult to know when he was serious.

Sylvain moved to help, but Felix shifted away from him.

“I’ll do it myself.” Felix knew his words came out harsher than usual.

“Alright,” Sylvain said, backing off. “I’ll leave it to you then.”

Felix frowned. He just wanted a little space, he didn’t want to completely drive Sylvain off. Weirdly, Sylvain didn’t seem fazed by this. Felix thought he would because he definitely looked dejected earlier, but Sylvain seemed to bounce back quickly.

“I’m better at clean up anyway,” Sylvain said. He smiled at Felix.

Felix gave him a nod. “Sure.”

“Huh.” Felix looked up at Glenn’s startled noise. Felix did not like That Look Glenn was giving him. “What do you know…”

“What?” Felix scowled.

“You know, Sylvain is pretty good at chemistry,” Glenn said. “He could probably help you this weekend if you need it.”

Sylvain looked at Felix with interest. “Are you taking chemistry right now?”

Fuck you, Glenn. “Yeah. None of it makes sense to me.”

“I could take a look at what you’re working on if you want,” Sylvain said.

Felix thought about Sylvain in his room. He thought about Sylvain leaning over him to look at his laptop. He thought about Sylvian being close enough to touch.

Glenn was evil but he was also a genius. “If you want,” Felix said.  

“I thought you’re studying business, Sylvain.” His father said.

“I am,” Sylvain said, and there was something about his smile that just felt…off to Felix. “I’m pretty good at chemistry though. I did well in the class, and I tutored a lot.”

“You can help your father with his company then when you graduate,” his father said.

“That’s the plan.” Sylvain grinned. Felix was definitely not imagining it. Sylvain was definitely forcing his smile. “I don’t have to worry about a job after graduation, unlike everyone else.”

“Lucky you,” Glenn chuckled, nudging at Sylvain with his foot.

“Do you not like studying business?” Felix blurted out, curious in spite of his initial thought to act aloof about everything.

“My father is paying for everything, and I don’t have to worry about money,” Sylvain shrugged. “I have it pretty good. Can’t complain. Besides, the ladies love a guy with money. And the men too.” He winked at Felix again, but it felt all wrong this time around.

Felix scoffed. He felt no need to indulge Sylvain. “I’m gonna check on the food.”

“Don’t worry about it. I got this,” his father said, probably too excited that Felix was engaging in civil conversations. “Actually, Glenn, can you go get rolls?”

No, Glenn was not going to abandon him like this. “Want help?” Felix said.

Glenn looked like he wanted to laugh at Felix, the asshole. “It’s literally right down the street, Felix.” He smirked at Felix. “Besides, why don’t you show Sylvain around?”

“Yeah, Felix, you should show Sylvain the house,” Felix’s father said. “You can show him the roses you grew.”

“You grew roses??” Sylvain sounded way too delighted. He looked at Felix like Felix was one of the biggest wonders in the world.

“I didn’t.” Felix crossed his arms and looked away from Sylvain’s too bright gaze. “I just tend to them. My mom planted them.”

A hush fell over the room at the mention of his mom, and Felix hated it. Time did not make him feel less angry whenever this happened.

“I’d like to see them,” Sylvain said as if he didn’t feel the awkward solemn silence. “I’m sure they’re beautiful.”

Felix huffed. “I haven’t touched them since August when I left for college. I don’t know if they’re still alive.”

“Why thank you dad, for tending to my roses when I was gone,” his father said drily. “I appreciate all your effort even though I never asked.”

Felix blinked. This was news to him. “You? Took care of the roses?”

“I do know how to water and apply fertilizer,” his father said. “I do pay attention sometimes when you worked on them.”

Felix honestly didn’t think his father would. The roses were strictly his mother’s domain, and when she was gone, Felix was the only one to take care of them. His father refused to touch them, and Glenn was no better. Felix didn’t know what to say.

Sylvain walked up next to Felix, nudging at Felix’s shoulder. “I want to see.”

“Yeah yeah,” Felix said, feeling like he made the right decision to come home for the first time this school break.  

 

 

Chapter Text

“He is taking care of them.” Felix dropped down to a crouch as he examined the roses like they could tell him if his father had been mistreating them. All the plants looked so small now, but they were a lot better off than they were when he last saw them. There were even small buds reaching out tentatively toward the last ray of the evening light.

“Is it that surprising that he does?” Sylvain dropped down next to Felix. “They look really nice. Why are they in buckets?”

Felix didn’t know how to explain the mess of his household. He didn’t know how to explain that this version of his father and Glenn? Best versions Felix had ever seen since his mother was gone. It was easier to answer the second question.

Felix sighed, gesturing at the neighboring house to their left. “We had a gopher problem after the neighbors started their house renovation and redid their garden. These rose plants used to be a lot taller, but they started dying after gophers ate out their roots. I put them in buckets because I didn’t know what else to do.”

“Glenn said that you cried.”

“What? I did not,” Felix said, even though he definitely did. Glenn was a traitor, and one day he shall feel the full strength of Felix’s wrath. Besides, Felix was crying about the roses, but the roses wasn’t the main reason why.

“He said they were your precious children. He felt bad, you know, for making you so worried that you forgot about the roses,” Sylvain said.

“I don’t blame him for the roses.” Felix scoffed. “I blamed him for being a moron and for nearly dying.” Then, remembering what his father told him, Felix said, “Thanks for helping Glenn out at the hospital.”

He couldn’t meet Sylvain’s eyes. 

“Oh Mercie did most of the work,” Sylvain said. “He’s better now, you know. He’s passing all his classes and everything.”

Passing? Glenn? “He could do better than just passing.” Felix felt the anger rising up again at the thought. “He was so good at everything. He—” Felix had to stop because he was definitely not going to cry in front of Sylvain, damn it. He was better than this. Crying wasn’t going to bring the brother he knew back.

“Even amazing people who are good at everything have their weak moments,” Sylvain patted Felix’s knee. The touch grounded Felix and pulled him out of dark thoughts. “I would know.”

Felix huffed. “You? Good at everything?”

“I am guilty of being good at things without trying.” Sylvain said with a little laugh that felt sad to Felix’s ears. “It’s kind of bad, to be honest. Getting things without trying makes it hard later on because I don’t know how to try for the things I actually want.”

“That sucks,” Felix said, for lack of anything better to say.

“You’re the first person that said that to me,” Sylvain said. Felix knew he shouldn’t, but he really want to see the expression on Sylvain’s face, and oh he felt both glad and regret for meeting Sylvain’s eyes because Sylvain just had this way of pulling Felix into his orbit. “People usually just tell me I should be grateful for what I have. I really should. Maybe I’m just a greedy dastard.”

Felix felt a strange sense of déjà vu. He had dreams like this but not quite like this—moments where Sylvain didn’t say these words exactly but Felix knew that was what Sylvain was feeling, and he knew deep within his heart that he should have said something earlier back then. ‘I should have said something,’ Felix had thought in his dream. ‘I should have…I don’t know…said something, anything, to make that sad look of his disappear.’

But Felix didn’t know Sylvain. He didn’t know who Sylvain was, what he wanted, and what he needed. The hazy dreams amplified his sense of inadequacy, and damn maybe he should do something instead of just keeping it cool. Felix spent too much of his life watching the people around him fall apart. Maybe he could do something about it.

Felix thought of Sylvain’s grounding touch, and thought maybe he could do that. But, Felix didn’t willingly give affectionate touches. It wasn’t…what he did ever. Wouldn’t it be weird if he did it? He didn’t know how to do it properly—he might fuck it up.

Get a grip of yourself, Felix Hugo Fraldarius. It should not be that hard.

With great reluctance, Felix reached out a hand across Sylvain’s back and clasped Sylvain’s shoulder, like how Glenn used to whenever Felix lost a match. It nearly toppled him over because Sylvain was broad, and oh that was definitely a thought for Felix later when he would be alone. He tried very hard not to notice a whiff of mint from Sylvain’s collar.

Felix contemplated for a moment to pull Sylvain into a half hug the way Glenn would do it, but no, that was way too much. Felix could feel the heat of Sylvain’s body through the thin cotton of his T-shirt.

He cleared his throat and pulled away. ‘Don’t look at his eyes. Don’t look at his eyes, don’t—‘

“Stop looking so sad.” Felix grumbled. “I’ll kill you if you look sad again.”

Damn it, that was bad. Why did he say that? That was literally the least comforting thing to say. This was why the comforting people bits should be left to others, not Felix.

Sylvain snorted. It started out as one, but then another followed, and then another. Before he knew it, Sylvain was coughing and snorting and nearly falling into the roses. Felix reached out to steady him, but then he realized that Sylvain was laughing at him, the dastard. Felix didn’t suffer through the horrifying and embarrassing mental mathematics of comforting someone for Sylvain to laugh at him.

Felix shoved at Sylvain. Sylvain could fall into the dirt for all he cared.

Sylvain, disappointingly, did not topple over because he had a lot more muscle and strength than Felix expected. His laughter did slow to a stop at least. “You’re really something, you know that?”

“I’m leaving.”

“Wait, don’t go.” Sylvain caught Felix’s arm before he could get up. He gently pulled away as if he was afraid to spook Felix or something, which was ridiculous. “Do you think your dad got rid of the gophers?” Sylvain’s attempt at changing the topic was painfully obvious, but Felix could take whatever he could get.

“He might have.” Felix to imagine his father with gardening glove, watering the plants, taking out the weed, maybe leaving out poisons and traps for the gophers. His father knew nothing of going outdoors except for golf and nothing about plants except for golf grounds maintained by other people. It was funny in a way.

“You have a nice smile, Felix.” Sylvain bumped his knee against Felix’s. Felix didn’t realized he was smiling until Sylvain pointed it out.

“Shut up, I’m not smiling,” Felix said, although the more he tried not to smile the more it fought to break across his face, tugging at the corners of his eyes. Damn it.

“Just let it out man.” Sylvain laughed, pressing a thumb against the corner of Felix’s mouth and pushed the corner of Felix’s lips upward. “Let it go,” Sylvain sang.

“No!” Felix swatted Sylvain’s hand away. The spot where Sylvain touched him burned. A laugh was slowly bubbling inside him and threatening to pop, but he scowled at Sylvain in the hope that he could suppress it. “You’re ridiculous.”

“We’ll have you in a full smile soon, Felix. That’s my life mission now,” Sylvain said with a mock salute.

“I’d like to see you try.” Felix raised one eyebrow. If he was honest though, it was a challenge he wouldn’t mind losing.   

 

Chapter Text

A quick way to start a fight in Fódlan, Felix learned, was to ask people what to call Unification day. One would think that people would get over a war that happened thousands of years ago, but up to this day, depending on the person, fall break was either Unification or the Fall of Enbarr.

Felix’s family, like so many other families with the last name Fraldarius—one of the most common ones in Fódlan, called it Unification. Naturally the western part of Fódlan called it the Fall of Enbarr. Despite the name, the Fall of Enbarr celebration in west Fódlan was actually pretty fun, with tournaments and massive red paint fight in downtown Enbarr that Felix watched on TV with great envy. In east Fódlan the most they got were parades and some fireworks and too much church visits. It was mostly a family holiday here, about the ones still with them and remembering the ones that passed.

Honestly, the east Fódlan tradition was depressing for the side that actually won the war thousands of years ago.

Felix would trade for the west Fódlan celebration if not for their yearly visits to his mother’s grave. There wasn’t much to it. The Fraldarius tradition was always to have one celebratory meal for the people who were still kicking the day before, follow by grave visits, and then a commemoratory meal after. In between all of this, they watched TV for the parade at Fhirdiad or the superior option of the sword tournaments at Enbarr.

Felix’s family stopped being religious after his mother’s passing. Apparently now they were going to be religious on the holidays.

“My parents pray often and go to church once every weekend still,” Sylvain said when Felix’s father asked. “I don’t though.” He shrugged, taking the basket of rolls that Felix handed to him.

“You don’t have to pray if you don’t want,” Felix’s father said. “That goes for Glenn and Felix too. I mostly only do it in memory of Charlotte, anyway.”

“Mom wasn’t even that religious.” Felix huffed.

“We visit grandpa’s and grandma’s graves every year though.” Glenn pointed out.

The thought viciously flashed in Felix’s mind. ‘Good to know you’re sober enough to remember, Glenn.’ He wisely did not say that aloud. No, everyone was here, and they were doing better. “We didn’t pray.” Felix chose to say instead.

“Your mother and I would go to church early in the morning when you guys went to school,” Felix’s father said. “She didn’t want to force you guys into it.”

“I remember going with you guys when I was smaller, but I think you guys stopped taking me some time after Felix was born.”

“Oh,” Felix said. He honestly never cared enough about church this or church that or no church, and his parents never really talked about it. It always seemed to be all such a hassle to him, and when it came to praying his extended family did enough to cover them all.

It was nice to be able to talk about his mom again without his father saying that the Goddess had a plan for them all or the Goddess worked in mysterious way or Glenn walking out to get a beer when he couldn’t handle it anymore.

“I’d like to join in your prayers, if that’s okay,” Sylvain said. His voice sounded kind. It brought a smile to Felix’s father at least.

Felix himself didn’t give any weight to prayers, and who knew what Glenn thought of it now. But Felix wanted to do this one thing for his father who was doing so much better.

It was nice of Sylvain to join, especially since Felix had a feeling that Sylvain wasn’t exactly fond of it.

They hold hands in a circle. The feeling of his father’s hand in his was unfamiliar. Sylvain had Felix’s other hand. Felix didn’t know how to feel about this new thing they were trying, but he told himself that changes could be worse than this.

Felix focused on the cadence of his father’s voice and the warmth of the hands in his. His father had mercy on Felix because the prayer was short.

The food looked good. His father made the signature roast pheasant with berry sauce, and the sweetness of the berry never clicked with Felix. Felix probably wouldn’t eat much of it, but luckily there were meat skewers.

“Pheasant is actually one of my favorite things to eat,” Sylvain said. “Careful Mr. Fraldarius, you might never be able to get rid of me.”

“Like I told you before, Sylvain, please call me Rodrigue.”

“You’re welcome to take my share,” Felix said, making quick work at a meat skewer. He let out a groan when his teeth sank past the crispy skin into the tender meat, the juice hit the back of this tongue with a burst of spiciness.

Shit. This was really good. “Where did you buy this?” Felix asked. He might try to stop by whatever restaurant that sell this and buy some on the way back.

“Sylvain brought it,” Glenn said. “Made them himself. He’s a pretty handy guy. Right, Sylvain? Sylvain?”

Felix got halfway through a skewer before he noticed Sylvain’s stare. He looked away, feeling flustered with the embarrassing noises that he made while eating. It was worse knowing the Sylvain brought the meat skewers. Felix didn’t need to like Sylvain more than he already did.

“Y-yeah.” Sylvain cleared his throat. “Roasted them myself. I’m glad you like them.”

Felix stared at the plate of meat skewers. Sylvain chuckled, nudging Felix with his elbow. He seemed to be a really touchy guy, Felix noted. “You can take more if you want. Don’t be shy on me now.”

Felix scoffed and took two to prove that he wasn’t shy, damn it.

“I like to go camping a lot,” Sylvain said. “So I got pretty good at roasting meat and fish over a fire.”

Felix blinked. He thought of wind chill prickled at his skin, but the sight of Sylvain whistling over the campfire as he roasted the meat over the open flame warmed Felix from inside out. Felix watched Sylvain’s wrinkled but sturdy hands as he turned the meat and the line of his strong back no longer clad in armor but the soft stole Felix knitted for him. Soft fire light danced on Sylvain’s silver hair, and Felix’s fingers itched to run through the soft strand. ‘I could watch him forever,’ Felix had thought. ‘Like this, always.’ Sylvain would turn to him then and smiled, and he had and would always watch Sylvain’s back now and forevermore, but nothing was quite the same as feeling the full enormity of Sylvain’s love through his gaze and knowing that he could make Sylvain happy by his existence.

Felix blinked again, and the thoughts slipped from him. He tried to grasp at them, but they trickled through his fingers like sand.

A nudge at his elbow pulled Felix back. Sylvain looked worried. “You alright there, buddy?”

“The meat skewer isn’t half bad,” Felix said.

Sylvain chuckled. Felix felt a little proud that he was the cause of many of Sylvain’s happy sounds today. “It’s okay to admit that I leave you speechless.”

“You think you’re so charming,” Felix scoffed even though okay fine, Sylvain was just that charming sometimes.

“I’d say he’s doing a pretty good job of charming you,” Glenn, being the awful brother that he was, chimed in.

“Shut up, Glenn.”

“What are you going to do if I don’t?”

Boys,” Felix’s father cut in.

“Felix, you should try the pheasant,” Sylvain said. “I think you’ll like it.”

“I’m not a fan of berry sauce,” Felix said.

“Felix doesn’t really like sweet,” Felix’s father said, saving Felix from sugar suffering because Felix might have caved in if Sylvain prodded him enough.

“You should really try it,” Sylvain said. The firmness in his voice surprised Felix. “You’ll like it.”

Felix reluctantly took a piece of pheasant that had the least amount of sauce touching it and took a small nibble. It was a breast piece, so it didn’t have as much flavor as the more fatty pieces. However, the moment he took a bite, he was pleasantly surprised by the taste of Derdriu spices.

Felix looked at his father in shock. It was no secret that he loved Derdriu spices, but he didn’t really get into Derdriu flavored food until he started college. He didn’t think his father would notice.

Rodrigue smirked. “Well, thank you father, for noticing my favorite kind of spices,” he said, looking more and more amused by what Felix would guess was a pretty dumb look on his face right now.

Felix looked down at this plate. It was hard to breathe all of a sudden. His eyes stung. “Thanks,” he mumbled.

“It’s really good,” Sylvain said, and then Glenn said something that sounded like an agreement, and conversations became lively once more. Felix was glad that no one commented on his silence, on the fact that he felt so touched and sad and happy and so full of feelings all at once. It was so stupid that a piece of meat could undo him like this. But Felix thought of his father, who wasn’t going to say anything about the pheasant that was one of mom’s recipe that he obviously modified to Felix’s taste. It made Felix so angry and so happy at the same time.

It was the best meal Felix had ever had in a while.

    

 

Chapter Text

Felix did his best to ignore the notification when his phone buzzed during dinner, but as soon as the last plate was taken off the dinner table, he rushed upstairs. The past seven weeks felt heavily on his shoulders as he sank into his desk and opened up his laptop. It wasn't going to be pretty, he knew. But a small traitorous part of his mind was hoping it wouldn't be too bad.


His grades indeed were not pretty. Felix's heart sank.


He would have to retake chemistry and math if he wanted to meet the requirements for Introduction to Reasoning after this quarter, which is then the requirement for so many other courses that he needed. Luckily, he didn't need the chemistry from first quarter to take chemistry in the second quarter. Everything would be pushed back one quarter until he retake the required courses, but still...it felt awful.


This was stupid. Felix was fine. He wasn't stuck in the hospital or had episodes of depression or alcohol problems or anything. Those were his father and Glenn's issues. Felix was fine for the most part, but he still fucked it up.


Two knocks at his door startled him. He quickly snapped his laptop shut.


"What?" Felix scowled.


Glenn's concerned face greeted him through the open doorway. It struck Felix just now that he missed seeing it. "You alright, Felix?"


"Why wouldn't I be?"


"I don't know," said Glenn, giving Felix's bed a quick glance like he was contemplating falling into it, like all the times he had done in the past when Felix used to hide in his room feeling bad all by himself, and Glenn would wrestle all those worries out of Felix. The Glenn now though hesitated at the door as if not sure of his welcome. "You tell me."


'That was weak,' Felix thought, trying to push down his disappointment. "Everything is fine." Everything had to be.


"We're all watching the games," said Glenn. "If you want to join us, we're all just downstairs." He looked like he had no intention of walking in. 


"If that's all, then I'm getting back to work," said Felix. He turned his back to Glenn just so he didn't have to be reminded of how Felix had outgrown the affection that Glenn used to be able to offer. 


It was fine. Felix had work to do if he wanted not to fail more courses than he already did. It was fine. It was all fine. 


Felix was fine.


"Alright." Glenn's voice was very soft. "I'll let you get back to work."


Felix didn't hear him leave, but when he turned back around, the doorway was empty. He was not disappointed, he told himself.


There was work to be done anyway. First of which was to clear his mail box because apparently it was filled beyond capacity, and he wouldn't be able to receive new mails. He started at first to erase things from advertisements, but when that proved to be too long, he decided to sort his entire inbox from oldest mail to newest to delete the 500 oldest ones regardless of importance. 


Most of which were middle school group projects, assignments, and meet ups from old classmates he no longer talked to. He definitely had to delete some of them because he used to have a crush on this sweet girl with the best red curls, and for reasons beyond his current comprehension, kid Felix decided to use emojis in some of his emails to her regarding choir, which he would rather die than admit he used to do. So to the trash these memories went.


But then Felix got to an email that was marked with the star, and his fingers froze over the keys. 


He opened it.


It was an old email he had sent to Glenn.


"Glenn, I failed."

It was so long ago that Felix didn't remember what event this email was referring to. Felix had a rough time in middle school, so this could be anything. 

Glenn's reply, according to the time stamp, was immediate. 

"Hey! It's okay if things don't work out! You're the smartest and bravest little brother I've ever had and you'll get through this. I'll be back in an hour, and we're getting ice cream, alright?"

Felix's response wasn't immediate. He could imagine his past self trying to gather himself after a good cry.

"I'm your only brother. I want the cinnamon and nutmeg waffle cone with the ice cream."

"Okay okay."

This was six years ago. There were so many others until Felix began high school, and then it was nothingness. Felix honestly didn't remember that they stopped emailing each other since.  

Felix was different when he started high school. The Glenn became different when he started college. And then mom was gone, and then they didn't really talk after that. 

Glenn became a stranger. Felix had to hear that Glenn was in the hospital from a complete stranger who claimed to be his best friend.

Honestly, these emails were from so long ago. Felix didn't even remember the context for most of them. He needed to clear his inbox. 

For some reason though, he couldn't make himself delete a single one. 

He kept going back to the first one. "I failed" he had told Glenn, and Glenn was there. The last email that Glenn had sent him before the silence walled up between them was

"I miss you. I'll be back soon."

Felix swallowed the heavy lump of emotions that got stuck in his throat. 

Glenn was back. He wasn't exactly the Glenn that Felix once knew. Felix wasn't exactly the Felix that Glenn once knew either. Glenn wasn't the same Glenn who was so sure about his place in Felix's life. 

But that was fine because Glenn was here. He was still here, with Felix. With their father. Glenn was alive and breathing and recovering, even if he was not yet whole. 

Felix closed his laptop.

He walked downstairs.

Glenn was on the sofa with Sylvain. His father was in the armchair. They were watching the tournaments on TV. A bright warm flame crackled in the fire place that they hadn't used for a long time.

Felix vaulted over the sofa and plopped down right in between Glenn and Sylvain, earning startled noises from them both. 

"You really couldn't sit down like a normal person??" Sylvain laughed, incredulous.

"You're lucky you didn't miss much," Glenn said. "They're still on the archery preliminary."

Felix hesitated for a moment before snuggling against Glenn's side like he used to do as a child. He crossed his arms defensively when Sylvain looked at him, but apparently that did nothing to intimidate Sylvain because he just seemed amused. 

When everyone was occupied with the games again, Felix whispered into Glenn's arm. "Glad you're here."

Glenn didn't say anything that indicated he heard Felix, and Felix sighed in relief. His father was too far away to hear anything. Felix saw Sylvain smiled at the corner of his vision, and damn it, he didn't expect Sylvain to have good hearing. But then- 

"I'm glad you're here too," Glenn said.

Felix kept his eyes on the TV screen, trying to will the stinging in his eyes to go away. 

 

Chapter Text

"Couldn't sleep either?"


Felix jumped. He knocked over the cup by his elbow but luckily caught it before it crashed onto the counter and spilled everywhere. 

"Sorry," Sylvain said. He looked sheepish. "I didn't think anyone would be down here. I couldn't sleep, and I thought getting some water would help."

"The water pitcher is in the fridge," said Felix.

"That smells really good," said Sylvain. "Are you drinking tea?"

Felix lifted his cup in response. "Do you want some?"

"Yeah, I'd really like some. I don't think I can go back to sleep anyway."

"What do you want to drink?"

"Whatever you have is fine."

Felix finished up the rest of his cup and tossed the tea bag into the trash before walking to their tea shelf. Almyran Pine Needles was usually his choice of tea, but for Sylvain, probably not. Bergamot, Felix thought. A flash of memory came to him, the citrus scent from Sylvain's lips from afternoon tea.

Felix moved as if by instinct. He hadn't brewed bergamot tea for someone else before, but he was pretty sure he could get it right. 

"Oh you don't have to. I can-"

"It's fine," Felix cut Sylvain off. 

It didn't take long for the kettle to boil since he used it recently for his last cup of tea. While waiting for the water to cool, Felix went to grab the banana bread from the fridge. He sliced three pieces, put the rest back, and washed the knife just to use up another minute. Then he poured the water and steeped the tea. 

"Do you drink tea a lot?" Sylvain took the plate of banana bread Felix offered him.

"Sometimes when I have trouble sleeping," Felix said. He watched as Sylvain took a small bite of the banana bread, then a bigger bite. Felix held back a smile.

"What tea are we having?" Sylvain asked before losing all pretences of politeness and finished the rest of the banana bread slice with one bite. "Do you want some?" He pushed the plate toward Felix. Felix had a feeling that if given a choice Sylvain would eat it all.

"I don't want any banana bread. You can have all of it," said Felix. Sylvain took another slice in response.

"And this is bergamot tea."

"Oh.." Felix took great delight in Sylvain's widened eyes. "That's my favorite. How did you know?"

"Lucky guess."

Felix waited for another few minutes before taking out the tea bags. He handed a cup to Sylvain and watched in amusement as Sylvain tried to hide his trepidation. Sylvain looked at the tea in the cup with a strained smile. 

'Picky dastard,' Felix thought fondly. He watched with only a little smugness as Sylvain took a small sip, widened his eyes, and then took a longer sip.

"This is good." Sylvain smiled at him with such warmth that Felix felt it heating his cheeks. "I'm happy to learn that tea brewing is your secret talent."

Felix brought the cup to his lips to hide his embarassment. "It's not really."

"This is the first time someone made tea for me and actually got it perfect," Sylvain said. "Seriously!"

"Stop flattering me," Felix scoffed, trying not to feel too pleased by the praise. "It's not a big deal. I just drank a lot of bergamot tea when I was younger."

"Bergamot tea was your favorite then?"

"No, I used to drink it often because it reminded me of someone," Felix said, then immediately regretted it.

Shit. Why did he say that?

Sylvain looked at him expectantly, and Felix knew that Sylvain wanted him to elaborate. Unfortunately, there wasn't a good way to say: "I used to make bergamot tea often when I was younger because the man of my dreams loves drinking bergamot tea, and I wanted to know what it was like, and also I wanted to perfect making tea for him. Oh by the way, don't mean to sound creepy, but the man of my dream in the past is a fantasy version of you."

"Reminded you of someone, huh?" Sylvain's face stretched into the most irritating smirk Felix had ever seen. "A crush? Your first love?"  

"Shut up." Felix couldn't meet Sylvain's eyes. Damn it. He was pretty sure his face was burning red right now.

Sylvain snickered.  

Just for that, Felix pulled the plate of banana bread toward himself and took the last slice. Sylvain gave him a mournful look.

"I thought you didn't want any!" Sylvain said.

"I changed my mind," Felix said. He was going to toughen up and eat all of it too even though the bread was way too sweet for him, but then Sylvain looked like a sad puppy abandoned on the roadside by its trusted owner.

Felix took pity on him. He broke the slice in half and gave one to Sylvain. It earned him another blinding smile from Sylvain.

Thankfully, Sylvain didn't push the topic. 

"Can you promise me you wouldn't hate me if I tell you something kind of crazy?" Sylvain said. 

Felix was not sure what to expect. "I can't promise anything, but shoot."

"I kind of hated you before we met," Sylvain said. All the warmth was gone from his face, and Felix's heart drop. "Glenn talked about his little brother all the time, even though you guys barely talked to each other when he was in college. He loves you so much. You were a spoiled brat that didn't appreciate what a great brother you have."

"Haha, just kidding." Sylvain blinked, and then the solemnness was gone from his eyes, and in its place was a mirth that Felix couldn't feel. "You should see the look on your face!" 

It took Felix a moment to respond because he didn't expect that from Sylvain. He felt like an bucket of ice water was dumped over his head. It was awful because fuck Sylvain, he didn't understand, how dare he? 

But deep down, Felix knew the truth, and fucking hurt because Felix knew Sylvain was right even if Felix didn't want to admit it.

Felix knew he was a shit brother and a shit son. He didn't know how to handle emotions well. He didn't know how to comfort people. He couldn't help Glenn when he needed help the most.

Felix rose from his seat. 

"Wait, Felix--" Sylvain caught Felix's hand. "Sorry, I didn't mean--it was just a joke."

Felix yanked his hand away from Sylvain. The crushed look on Sylvain's face didn't make him feel better one bit. "Fuck you." Felix looked at Sylvain, really look at him, and realized that just because this guy in front of him looked like the man in his dreams, this Sylvain was not him. The Sylvain in the dreams that kept Felix from feeling desperately lonely in the days when his father wouldn't look at him, in the days when Glenn felt so out of reach, in the days when all Felix knew was to keep his promise to his mother to take care of the roses the only way he knew how, this guy in front of him was not that man. This was someone that Glenn brought home. 

This someone was a stranger to him.   

"You didn't mean it as a joke," Felix scowled. Anger, his greatest shield and his one true friend, cleared his muddled mind and gave him strength. "I don't need your insincere apology."

"Felix, wait!"

Felix tried to walk away, but Sylvain caught his wrist and Felix couldn't get him to let go despite the struggle. Sylvain was stronger than he thought. 

"Felix, I'm sorry. I had a bad dream. My brother--I Just." Sylvain took a deep breath and let out a long sigh. "I shouldn't have taken out my own personal problems on you. I'm sorry."

"Let go of me" was all that Felix could say. He felt drained all of a sudden. 

"I'm really sorry," Sylvain said, but Felix didn't know what to think of his apology. 

Sylvain's desperation was burning though his grip onto Felix's skin. 

"Let me go. Now."

Sylvain let go. He looked like all the life had been sucked out of him, but Felix brutally crushed any empathy he felt for Sylvain. 

He walked away. 

 


  

Chapter Text

The call came when Felix was working on his history homework. It was from Glenn. It had been a really long time since they last spoke.   

Felix’s mind jumped to the worst conclusion.

He picked up the call.

“Glenn?”

Glenn didn’t say anything, but Felix could hear his heavy breathing through the phone. There was a lot of noise in the background, pulsing music occasionally pierced by shouting and cheering. Then, there was a sharp screeching metallic sound followed by a slam, and the world narrowed down to Glenn’s heavy breathing against the silence.

“Glenn?” Felix asked again, growing increasingly worried by the silence. “Glenn, where are you?”

Glenn’s response was a sharp gasp followed by muffled crying. Felix tightened his grip on the phone. This was Glenn. Glenn . He had never seen Glenn like this, not even at their mother’s funeral. Glenn had left right after, and Felix was so stupid that he didn’t even question if Glenn was okay because Glenn was Glenn. The broken one was never Glenn. Felix was the one who cried, not Glenn.

Felix .”

“Glenn, Glenn? I’m here. Where are you?”

“Felix, I can’t do this anymore.”

Felix’s heart dropped. He rose to his feet. His father was sleeping, knocked out by the liquor he drank after dinner. Felix would dump a bucket of water on him if he had to. Glenn never sounded so broken. “Glenn. What happened?”

“I’m trying, I really am.”

“I know you are,” Felix said even though he had no idea what was going on or what to do. He tried to remember when they last talked, whether that would give him any clue to what was happening. The funeral was when they last said a few words to each other, and Glenn had been so put together then. “You’re doing your best.”

“I’m not. I’m really not.” Glenn sobbed. “I’m fucking up everything, and I can’t seem to get anything right. Felix, you don’t know how badly I’ve fucked up. Dad said—” And then Glenn broke into a series of wet coughs. “I’m so ashamed.”

It wasn’t hard for Felix to imagine what their father had said. Their father always had high expectations for Glenn, and Glenn had always met the challenge. Glenn never failed at anything in his entire life. Glenn took pride in that. Felix loved and admired him for it.

“Glenn, you listen to me. Listen well. I don’t give a damn what Dad said. If you can’t do it anymore? Then you come home to me. Do you understand me? You. Come home. To me .” Felix said, trying to keep the shaking out of his voice. He couldn’t lose Glenn. He couldn’t .

“But I have to keep going. I can’t just run.”

“Nothing is more important than you, you hear me?” Felix winced when his panic came out as harsh words. “Glenn. Do you hear me?”

“I can’t come home.”

“Yes, you can. I’m here, alright?”

“But Dad. He won’t let me come home.”

Felix thought that if Glenn snuck back home, their father would not even notice. Even if he did, Felix didn’t really give a fuck what the man thought as long as Glenn was home and safe. They would figure something out.

“Glenn. You listen—”

“I can’t pull you down with me, Felix. I can’t.”

Glenn hung up.

“Damn it, Glenn!”

Felix tried to call Glenn again, but Glenn wouldn’t pick up. He kept trying and trying, each successive failure felt like another step toward Glenn’s—no, nothing was going to happen to Glenn, nothing—if Glenn could just pick up his fucking phone

“Hello—”

“Glenn, what the fuck—” Felix stopped when his mind process the voice that was very much not Glenn’s. “Who the hell are you?”

The guy sounded friendly but fake at the same time. He sounded exactly like a guy that Felix would love to punch in the face. “This is Glenn’s friend. I just got him home. He’s fine now. Are you his brother? Felix, right?”

“What the fuck just happened to him?”

“Nothing. He’s fine. We all went out to drink for a bit. It’s not a big deal. Glenn just had a little bit more than usual.”

Felix gritted his teeth. “I know my brother. Glenn doesn’t like to drink.”

The guy didn’t say anything at first, then he laughed. It was an awful, grating sound, like nails scratching a chalkboard. “Then you and your dad don’t know anything about your brother. Don’t bother. At least he has people who care about him here.”

The guy hung up.

Felix nearly smashed his phone on the floor before he realized he needed it to call in and check on Glenn in the morning. He couldn’t sleep at all that night. He couldn’t finish his homework either.

Glenn didn’t pick up Felix’s call in the morning, but in the afternoon, Glenn called Felix, sounding okay and fine as ever. Felix couldn’t see him through the phone, but he could imagine Glenn rolling his eyes when Felix said he was worried. Glenn said that was the first time he drank, and it wasn’t a big deal because it wasn’t going to happen again. Felix almost believed him. Almost.

 

 

 

 

Felix remembered now, as he woke up to the sound of the hallway bathroom door slamming, that he had unofficially met Sylvain before.

It was understandable if Sylvain disliked him, if Sylvain remembered that call and that was his first impression of Felix. At least that was more accurate than Felix’s impression of Sylvain, which was literally just fantasy.

 

 

 

 

Sylvain sure took his sweet time in the shower even though he was a guest. Either that, or Felix was annoyed and was finding excuses to hate Sylvain more than he already did. Well, that was not true—Felix didn’t hate Sylvain. Sylvain was the one friend, the other being Mercedes, who was actually there for Glenn at college when Felix and his father couldn’t be.

Felix couldn’t hate Sylvain.

When Felix heard the bathroom door open, he went to catch Sylvain in the hallway. Felix was going to give Sylvain a piece of his mind immediately, but then his words seemed to die in his throat as he took in the sight of Sylvain’s damp hair curling gentling around his face and neck, his skin flush pink from the shower. Felix didn’t realize he was staring until Sylvain smirked, and Felix quickly looked away. It was clearly too late because Sylvain was laughing at him.

“Like what you see?”

Felix wasn’t looking at Sylvain but he could just hear the wink Sylvain was sending his way.

“I have something to say to you,” said Felix.

“Alright,” said Sylvain, still sounding very amused. “I’m your captive.”

Felix ignored the leer that Sylvain gave him and said, “Glenn was going through a tough time, and I didn’t do anything to help. You were there for him when I wasn’t.” He could feel a creeping heat on his cheeks. This was all so embarrassing, damn it, but he had to push through before he lost his resolve.

Sylvain didn’t say anything. He looked serious, for once.

Felix swallowed down his pride and said, “You are a good friend for Glenn. I guess…I’m trying…I want to say thanks.” His embarrassment made him spat out the last few words as if they had been tortured out of him, but at least he tried.

“You’re…thanking me?” Sylvain sounded shocked. His voice then softened, and he looked timid. “Even after what I said to you last night?”

“You were right that I barely talked to Glenn during college. When he was struggling, I didn’t know. I wasn’t a good brother—you’re not wrong.” Felix said.

“Hey, Glenn was going through some stuff, and he didn’t tell anyone,” said Sylvain. When Felix finally found the courage to meet Sylvain’s eyes, Sylvain was looking at him with a gentle gaze. “He didn’t tell me or Mercie either really. I mean, I had guesses, but you know how stubborn Glenn is in trying to do things on his own. Mercie and I didn’t know for sure, and we see him every day. It was impossible for you to figure out. Besides, you were a kid, Felix. There wasn’t much that you could have done.”

“I wasn’t a kid. I was in high school,” Felix scowled.

Right ,” said Sylvain, in a tone that clearly meant he disagreed but just wanted to humor Felix. “You don’t have to thank me. I’m glad to be Glenn’s friend. I should be the one to apologize to you.” Sylvain scratched the back of his neck, and now he was the one who didn’t meet Felix’s eyes. “I was upset about something else last night, and I took it out on you. I’m sorry about that.”

Felix nodded. Sylvain’s words still hurt him now, but at least the apology took some of the sting off. “Okay.”

“Okay. Are we—are we good?”

“Yeah,” said Felix, feeling like a huge weight was off his shoulders. “We’re good.”

 

 

Chapter Text

It had not been long since Felix met Sylvain, but as Felix pretended that he wasn’t noticing at all how Sylvain was giving him A Look from the other side of the car, Felix came to the conclusion that meeting Sylvain in real life? So much better than dreaming about him. He was never going to say that out loud though. 

“I’m not checking my phone. Stop messaging me. We’re right next to each other. It’s stupid.” Felix said even though he secretly thought it was kind of cute. There was no way he was going to admit that, especially not with his father up front and Glenn swiveling in his passenger seat to glance at them with too much interest. He resisted the urge to look at Sylvain and let the full power of Sylvain’s pout attack him. Just a small glimpse from the corner of his vision was already too much. 

“But there is such a great distance between us.” Sylvain gestured to the empty passenger seat between them. “Felix . Check my message.”

“No,” said Felix. “Glenn, do we have any water?”

“There’s a bottle in the pocket behind my seat,” said Glenn.  

Please ?” Sylvain’s whining was a disturbing combination of annoying and adorable. Felix wanted to hate him so badly. 

 “No.”

“Please?”

“No.”

“Please?”

Felix sighed. “Repeating ‘please’ multiple times is not going to work. Stop that.”

“I promise you this is the most important thing I’ve ever created in my entire life.”

“I highly doubt that.”

“No, it’s true. I promise.”

“Your life is boring then.”

 “It varies from week to week. Felix .” Sylvain nudged Felix’s shoulder with his phone, and clearly the distance between them wasn’t even that great because Sylvain could physically touch him. Urg, Sylvain was so dramatic. “It’s good. Remember our discussion this morning?”

That got Felix’s interest. This morning they got into talking about facial hair and how Sylvain was jealous that Glenn and Felix didn’t have to shave. Then Sylvain mentioned that Glenn had been trying to grow a beard and failing spectacularly at it, and Felix said that Glenn with a beard would be a disastrous sight. Sylvain, because he was a bad friend to Glenn but was trying to be one for Felix, showed Felix pictorial evidence of how right Felix was. Felix was disappointed that Glenn shaved before coming home because Felix definitely would have given him some unwarranted criticism and then laughed at him a lot.

 “No,” Felix said, pushing down his curiosity. He was drinking water right now, and he had a feeling things would end really badly if he opened Sylvain’s message. However, Sylvain, being the asshole that he was, shoved his phone screen right in front of Felix’s face. 

It took Felix a few seconds to process what he was looking at, but when he did, he completely forgot that he needed to swallow down the gulp of water in his mouth. It spewed out spectacularly as he coughed out a laugh, hitting Sylvain’s phone screen and Glenn’s face as he turned back to see what was going on. 

“Gross!! Felix, what the hell??” Glenn screeched. 

“Serve you right for being a nosy dastard.” Felix barely managed to squeak out as he tried to cough out all the water that made it down the wrong pipe. He glared at Sylvain, the evil perpetrator, who was busy laughing at them both. 

Sylvain, the asshole, had cut and pasted the lower part of Rodrigue’s smiling face, beard and all, onto Glenn’s frowning, angry face, so Glenn looked like a demented clown. It was a horrifying defilement of Glenn’s photo. Felix loved it.  

“Felix, language,” said Rodrigue. 

 Felix held back the ‘but Sylvain started it’ because he wasn’t a teenager anymore, damn it. “I hate you,” Felix said to Sylvain.

“No you don’t,” Sylvain said as he wiped his screen with his shirt sleeve. Felix really wanted to hate him for his smugness. 

“What were you guys looking at anyway?” Glenn asked, still furiously rubbing his face with his arm to get Felix’s germs off his skin. 

“Nothing,” Sylvain and Felix said at the same time. 

“Oh that’s bullshit!” said Glenn.

“Language,” said Rodrigue.

Glenn swiveled in his seat to look at Felix. He narrowed his eyes, then looked at Sylvain. “How did you guys get chummy so fast?”

Sylvain slapped a hand against his chest. “I am a very likable person.”

Felix rolled his eyes, but he didn’t say anything to disagree.

“You better not be trying to steal my brother, Sylvain,” said Glenn. 

 “If Felix decides he likes me better then it’s not stealing. Right Felix?” 

“Both of you are idiots. No one is stealing anyone,” said Felix, crossing his arms and trying to look all stern and not at all secretly pleased that they could joke around like this. 

“I guess we can make you an honorary Fraldarius member so you can come on holidays if you want, so you don’t just run off with Felix,” Glenn chuckled. 

“Awww, thanks Glenn. You don’t have to do that. I won’t steal from you,” said Sylvain. His voice became strange. “I don’t want to burden you guys. It’s already so great that you guys let me have a place to stay for these few days.”

“You should have thought of that before you crash our holidays,” Felix pointed out. “Besides, you’re not bad. I wouldn’t hate it if you come every once in a while.” Or more often than that, but there were witnesses, and Felix wasn’t going to say that. 

Felix looked out the window, trying to ignore the stare that Glenn and Sylvain were giving him. 

“Aww, Felix,” said Sylvain. “You like me.”

“Shut up,” said Felix. He was not blushing, damn it. He was not .

“Thank you, everyone, for asking for my opinion,” said Rodrigue. “Sylvain, if you need a place to stay for the holidays, you are welcome to come and join us. Under one condition.”

“I—I can?” Sylvain stuttered, and the sound was so un-Sylvain like that Felix had to stop his nonchalance act and turned back to catch the rare timid look on Sylvain’s face because it was such a precious occurrence of sincerity from Sylvain. “What do I have to do?”

His father didn’t say anything for a few seconds, and it was a very short few seconds, but it was enough to make Sylvain nervous. Even Glenn was frowning. Felix wanted to roll his eyes because the old man might be tough and misguided and annoying sometimes, but this? In this, Felix knew he could count on his father. 

Sure enough, Felix could see the old man’s smile on the rear-view mirror. 

“You’ll have to make the meat skewers again,” said Rodrigue. “I’ve never seen Felix eat so much food in one sitting before.”

“I will. I definitely will.” Sylvain coughed a few times, and then his cough slowly dissolved into chuckles. He looked heartbreakingly relieved. “Thank you.”

“The old man might not seem like it, but he's softhearted,” said Felix. “He likes taking in strays.”

Felix ,” said Rodrigue, in a tone that implied he didn’t like the way Felix worded things, but he wasn’t disagreeing, which described about 90% of their interactions. 

“Now that you’re one of us, do you want to show me what you showed Felix earlier?” said Glenn.

“Oh I see. All of this is just a ruse to see my greatest creation, isn’t it?” said Sylvain. 

“No, I meant all of it. But I also want to see what you showed Felix.”

Felix watched as Glenn and Sylvain argued back and forth about the stupid picture that Sylvain was probably never going to show Glenn because Glenn would kill him. He watched as his father’s smile through the rear-view mirror never faded away even for one moment. He thought about this morning, how Sylvain, with his stupid jokes and stupid picture and his stupid Sylvainness, had carefully chiseled away at the heaviness of the grave visit. 

It was so much better having Sylvain here, Felix thought. No, he wouldn’t hate it if Sylvain visited more often. 

Felix pulled out his phone and checked his messages. They had exchange numbers earlier so that they could keep in touch, and Sylvain had been spamming his phone with random conversations ever since. Felix saved the photo of Glenn that Sylvain sent him. He didn't know what he was going to do with it yet, but inspiration might hit him one day, and he needed this precious resource.