It had been five days of the professor’s absence.
A freshly young woman that could handle any battle thrown at her on the spot, a punctual advisor and brilliant tactician, was now tucked away in her room.
Byleth spent a large majority of her life void of many emotions. Her humor was expressed through a girlish snort or chuckle at most, her anger was the equivalent of facing a brick wall that refused to acknowledge the offender’s existence or pretended nothing was the matter, and her sadness was just a residing void of never having a mother figure.
That’s all there was to her really.
He remembered after the battle; Sylvain and Dimitri arguing about something useless to do with lances alongside Ingrid who couldn’t make up her damn mind over the matter.
Dimitri had shown his true colors that once plagued his nightmares from the Battle of Duscur when Glenn passed. His anger bubbling at the thought of no one paying it any mind or addressing it after the diseased villagers were taken care of. Now they took care of the demonic beasts that happened to be students and he saw that look flash across his face when he went to call out an incoming swipe directed towards him.
That boar… does no one see the chaos lying beneath?
He couldn’t stand to be around him within that moment, his mind swirling with hurt and anger from the past and now.
He stalked off, he wanted this day to end and he needed to wash up to rid himself of the stench of sweat and blood. He was alone when he stumbled upon a scene where Jeralt was conversing with Monica and Byleth was waiting nearby looking tired and wanting to rest.
Because he was alone, he let his tired mind indulge in the random thoughts he had been having of his professor lately. Like how when she was exhausted, her breathing differed with subtle visibility as she sometimes held the air a bit longer and her cheeks puffed up for a fraction of a second each time. How she stood as tall as Hilda or Bernadette even in those boot heels, but she paid no mind about how others may tower over her and freely looked up with just her eyes when she was tired when talking.
It would take years for Felix to admit he loved when she tilted her head up to look at him when speaking- prompting his ears to grow hot as his mind struggled to acknowledge the thought of her being cute in his eyes.
Or her cocky eye roll and that snort only she could pull off as Sylvain or Claude tried to crack a joke about her height and looking young like the rest of them.
He often caught her staring off, her face reacting minimally but enough for someone as observant as him to notice.
It looks like she’s talking with someone in her head.
He became acutely aware of the things she did within the monastery and on the battlefield. He hated it; hated that he couldn’t control his thoughts or feelings.
Maybe it was this moment that opened a door for him as to who Byleth really was.
He was in the middle of rubbing tiredly at one eye when he noticed a flash of anger, hatred, fear and pain hit her face as she reached for the Sword or Creator, the blade already erupting in flames as she hurried to step forwards. The look in her eyes was murderous and aimed towards Monica.
Does he stop her? Is he supposed to join forces with her?
Monica had already occupied his thoughts in terms of her being different since being found. She had seemed too cheery and okay with what happened. Felix didn’t trust her at all, but then again he didn’t trust most to start with.
He had only managed to reach for the handle of his sword -ultimately deciding to back Byleth up because she wouldn’t set out against anyone without reason- when Monica darted out behind Jeralt with a smirk and reached for a dagger, her intent already clear when another person showed up and did the bidding for her and saved Monica before Byleth’s sword could save her father.
And then she was left alone on the field, holding her dying father in her arms as she began sobbing. He didn’t notice his fellow classmates catching up with him and having seen from a distance what happened, he didn’t notice that look flash across the boar’s face yet again, he didn’t notice a lot of things that weren’t Byleth.
She was crying and clutching him tighter as he muttered his last words to her and then she let out a bloodcurdling scream that racked his entire body with the pain she felt as it carried on several seconds with immense vocal range he didn’t know she had.
She was exhausted and in an overwhelming amount of pain and anger that she soon found herself wavering as she continued to cry. And she, herself, didn’t notice a set of armored arms quickly catching her as she tipped backwards before blackness set in.
The students followed in a hurry as Dimitri and Sylvain worked to carry Jeralt’s body carefully to Manuela in hopes of reviving him. Ingrid grabbed her sword and Mercedes shouted healing spells at the dying man.
It was the first time they were on the battlefield without the guidance of their professor who was tucked under Felix’s chin and nuzzled into his neck as he ran back to the monastery, shouting orders in her place alongside Dimitri.
It had been five days.
Five days and Felix found himself worried like he had never been. He helped bury Jeralt’s body with Sylvain and Dimitri, watching as they covered the wooden casket and seeing the man who cherished his professor more than anyone in the world. It struck hard with him as he forced himself out of the scene and fighting off any memories that dared to resurface.
He couldn’t sleep later on, whether it was the worrying that kept him awake staring at his ceiling or Sylvain’s latest breakup, or the bout of insomnia only Sylvain and Mercedes were aware of, he would never know. In the end, he found himself wandering around the monastery like many nights had brought him to do. Light on his feet as he learned to correct through his spars with the professor, he wasn’t heard in the night. He wore his uniform that was halfway buttoned despite the chill in the air, fully expecting to spend the entire night awake and then head to a seminar maybe when the others woke as well.
He was just edging the bridge that connected to the church when he caught site of dark teal swaying in the wind. His foot steps stopped abruptly as his breath caught at the woman who had been locked up in her room. She wore her riding shorts and her black top without the armor or laced tights, her jacket gone and replaced with a thin robe she must use for bed, and her neck bare of the connecting collar piece. Her feet were shoeless as she stood on the half wall of the bridge, crying quietly and forcing down choked noises that didn’t pass the swordsman’s ears. He approached carefully from behind her.
She was mumbling to herself, barely intelligible enough to understand but he heard words and phrases such as, “I can’t”, “sorry,” “Sothis”, and the one that made his stomach drop, “I give up.”
Her foot moved to step off the bridge ledge as Felix ran up behind her and caught ahold of her waist before she fell forwards. He yanked her roughly as she let out a startled gasp and tumbled backwards with him into the middle of the bridge walkway. It was a second before she started kicking and trying to fight her way out of his clasp to finish what she started. Felix held on tighter for every blow, gritting his teeth and sitting them upwards as he pushed them both backwards with his feet until he was leaning against the wall with her in his arms.
“Let me go, Fraldarius!” She growled and pushed at his arms as they clung tighter to her.
“Professor, please stop this!” She kept going, her nails reaching up and making contact with his jaw down towards his neck, leaving red marks in their wake as he bit down, “Professor you have to stop this idiotic scheme and calm down!”
“Fuck you, fuck everyone. I don’t want to keep going anymore.” She was halfway out of his strong arms and hold when he yanked her back down and his face was inches from hers.
“Fucking test me, Byleth.” He hissed, his amber eyes glared her dark teal ones down as hers suddenly seemed more awake and shocked at her name slipping from his lips. “Do you think this is the right choice? Do you think you can solve all your problems by giving up and leaping off this bridge? Killing yourself won’t ease the pain, it’ll just spread it to everyone else.”
His eyes eased up and panic filled them as her nose scrunched up and her face fell in dispair, her lips trembled as whimpers passed them. He wasn’t sure when he moved, but his left hand quickly cupped the back of her neck and brought her face to rest in the crook of his own neck as his right arm supported her weight that laid in his lap, slanted and shaking. Her hands wrapped around his shoulders, clinging on as if she would fall from the bridge without his support to keep her grounded.
His cheek leaned into her hair as he felt hot tears gliding down his neck and chest before they became one with his uniform. Her sobs vibrated against his own chest and her shivering became more pronounced.
Somewhere in the far depths of his mind did he acknowledge that fact that he never acted this way around anyone, somewhere did he realize he has never openly comforted anyone as well, somewhere in those depths did he realize he’s never touched anyone like this or gotten close to anyone as he was now.
Was she breaking a wall of his down?
No, that’d be impossible.
He nosed her teal hair, “Prof-,” she shook her head and made a negative noise in response. “Byleth, let me take you to your room.” She was still crying but keeping it quiet, “You’re freezing, Byleth. You can’t handle the cold like most of us can, you’ve said so yourself.”
He gently pried her face upwards, his hand holding her cheek that was puffy from the exhaustion. His thumb wiped away at the tears, “Please, let me take you to your bed, Byleth.” He was shocked at his own whispered tone, even further more when she nodded and he found himself guiding her face back to where it was before he stood up with her small frame in his arms, walking the long trek back to her room.
Neither spoke the whole way, they accepted the silence of the darkness and emptied their minds of the nightmarish thoughts that would soon come. Felix wanted to say something snarky and cold, wanted to restablish his personality to prevent tonight from alluding he had developing feelings towards his professor. His mouth opened to bite out a comment about her getting his uniform wet, glancing down to point a glare at her.
His words died in his throat at the sight of her bottom lip quivering against his skin. Instead, his mouth shut tightly and he brought her closer, brushing the tip of his nose against her hair that smelled of roses.
He figured she must’ve chosen to bathe at night in the bathhouse of the monastery when everyone was in bed.
He shifted her light weight to quietly open the door to her room, only a few candles lit here and there by Manuela during her visits to coax Byleth out of the room. He sat on the edge of her bed sideways, leaning down to carefully unwrap her arms from his neck and guided her to lay on her side. His hand brushed her hair out of her face, wiping away a few tears before he shifted some and grabbed her royal blue blanket she was gifted by his class. He pulled it to her shoulders and squeezed one gently before he stood up to make his leave.
His body stilled when he felt a small hand grasp his wrist, “I, I’m-,” he turned to see her sitting up, her eyes on her hand. She breathed deeply, “I’m not great with my words, and this may be wildly inappropriate given my position here, but,” she fumbled some more.
He found himself forcing his usual bitter tone, “Professor, spit it out. I don’t have all night.”
To his surprises, he saw the corner of her mouth twitch upwards. Her eyes met his and he willed his racing mind to calm down. “Got more damsels in distress to save from an insomnia filled night? (Because of course she noticed he was an insomniac). Isn’t chivalry dead in your eyes?”
“You think I’d rather have it that you were dead in front of my very eyes?” He barked back in a hushed tone, hissing through his teeth. Her mouth parted ever so slightly, eyes taking in his state. Amber stared back into her, genuine terror reflected back at her that was hidden behind anger, and his chest stuttered. He faced her fully, “Professor,” she nearly rolled her eyes.
“Professor, Professor, Professor. That’s all I hear everyday. I can’t remember the last time it felt more like a nickname than an obligation.” Hands came up to push back her hair, bangs mixing with the longer strands.
Felix can’t remember a time where he had seen her face fully with her hair out of the way; staring longer than he should, noting the dark black eyebrows that made her teal eyes seem ever more mesmerizing. The lack of shadow on her small button nose that light bounced off the tip of. She had a slim face, but her cheeks were puffy in a way you had to take a great notice of.
“Then what do you suppose I call you?”
“Call me by my name,” her legs hung off the edge of the bed, dangling. “We already crossed a line on the bridge. You’re quiet and reserved so there’s little chance you’ll out me to the church about what happened. Take this as a sign of trust.”
“Fine.” He took a glance at the door, “Well, Byleth, I should take my leave.” He spoke turning his back to her as he made way to the door.
“Felix,” her voice was quiet.
“What is it now?”
The sound of rustling came from behind him as she stood up, hand resting on his shoulder, “You don’t have to leave, you can stay and sleep here.”
He swung around to face her, “By goddess, what the hells do you mean by that?” Surely she couldn’t mean…
Byleth’s hand fell to her side, her lips twitched up for a split second, “I mean you’re not going to get sleep and I’m sure helping me tonight didn’t ease the cause.”
“I,” he stumbled for words, his mind racking for an answer and sense of the situation she laid before him.
He wanted to stay, and at the same moment he wanted to run away from her and pretend the whole night in its entirety never occurred. She terrified him. Everything about her drew him in and it terrified him to bits. He spent almost his whole life without feelings that were beyond mundane in his eyes. Even as a child, Dimitri, Sylvain, and Ingrid could attest to the fact that was a bratty child with manners and polite behavior.
Could he drown himself in her? Could he throw himself into the depth of the unknown that was beyond his element?
He dared not to consider the word that could explain everything he felt entirely. He was smart enough to know that once he did, he wouldn’t be able to ignore or look back.
Those dark teal eyes stared up at him, the very same eyes that the class joked about looking dead and bored to all living hells. He noticed just like they did. But now, all he could notice was the variety of emotions that laid underneath. The brightness that was hidden by pain and grief, trying to push past and show him this new side to her.
He hadn’t realized he was inching closer to her and leaning down until she blinked and her long lashes pulled him out of his trance long enough for the panic to set in.
“I, I should go. I’ll see you when you return to class, Professor.” He rushed out as carefully as he could, ears in flames of embarrassment. He nearly ran out the door with the thought of feigning composure on his mind.
By the time Felix reached his room, his mind had already been consumed by thoughts of Byleth.
He sat on the edge of his bed, hands making quick work of his uniform top as he shrugged it off and felt cool air hit his heated skin. The swordsman laid back, hands pushing his own bangs back from his flushed face as thoughts settled deep into his mind. His hands held alongside his temples as his eyes pierced into the darkness, mouth panting slightly with only sharp, bottom canines peaking out.
He had always been composed, itching for a fight and spar all day, yes, but he was composed and made of steel.
Made of steel that would crumble in the wake of Byleth Eisner.
Besides, he couldn’t possibly be a possibility for her. There was Dimitri, the prince who was so damn smitten with her, it drove Felix up the wall with the lack of subtly he eluded. He had no room in Byleth’s life besides to spar with her.
Even so, the young man found himself awake another hour or so before he was cursing to the night and stalking out the door with his uniform jack being shoved on without a care for the buttons. He was quick to make way down the stairs and through the grass, up the other set of stairs before he found himself opening the door to her room and closing it behind him.
“Felix?”, she sat in her desk chair, tea cup in hand and to her chest. She had changed in the time he had been gone for she was dressed in a silk blue slip nightie that reached above her knees, her thin robe still covering her as well. He once overheard Annette and Ingrid talking of such nightwear clothing before class and how it was most often found in other lands beyond Fodlàn. Maybe he wasn’t alright in the head, maybe he had taken one too many blows and had lost some sense in him for he couldn’t bring himself to appreciate the expanse of skin or subtle curves of her body as much as he should’ve. He kept looking at her eyes and her nose and brows, being drawn in by her face far more than her body that sat cross legged in front of him.
The very same woman that once beat the boys in an arm wrestling match and flipped Felix onto his back during a sparring match was now showing every bit of femininity he forgot laid beneath to a mercenary like her. Even her nails on her feet were flower stained blue from the forget me nots growing in the greenhouse nursery. Felix knew she was attractive beyond words, he did more than a few lingering glances the first day she taught because he was bewildered how a woman like her could fight like a dying man on his last bit of adrenaline with the strength of well, Dimitri breaking scissors.
Not as strong of course.
“Felix? You came back.” She titled her head up at him as he walked over to her chair, her bangs brushed out of her face leaving the entirety of it exposed. He nodded, swallowing hard as she set the cup down and stood to meet him. Her hand reached out to cup his cheek, “Could you not sleep?”
His lips parted once to answer, the warmth of her hand seeping into his skin. He didn’t recoil at her touch, didn’t throw her hand to the side and forced a stern look her way. He felt bile rise to his throat instead, her eyes suffocating him in a way he’s never felt as he towered over her. He swallowed it down and tried to think of it as a sparring lesson between the two to ease his nerves.
“No, I couldn’t.”
“When was the last time you were able to?”
He blinked, trying to recall the last day. “I got at least five hours before the demonic battle. Lately, it’s been one to three hours each night or none at all.” It was easy to talk to her, easy to answer her.
“How often does this happen?”
Almost about every other night since Glenn died.
“Often.” He nearly missed the affectionate look that passed her eyes before they were swallowed by concern.
Her hand was so warm and soft despite the faint callous marks from wielding a sword. “When I first saw you, I knew right away that you must be plagued by insomnia and sleepless nights more often than not.” Her free hand came up to trace gently under his eyes as he stared at her, more of the wall crumbling in the wake of her touch as he found himself leaning into her hand. “Your eyes are so beautiful and surreal, it almost made sense they be weighed out by the goddess to suffer lone and awake nights.”
Felix didn’t know she could say words like this, didn’t know she was capable of thinking thoughts with such depth. She was brilliant and intelligent beyond compare, but she never expressed this side of herself.
She noticed him so early on?
He didn’t flinch at her words, didn’t need to suppress an eye roll either. Instead he leaned his forehead down to hers. “Byleth,..”.
“I’m sorry.” Her hand readjusted itself on his cheek, other following suit until she gently held his face in her hands. Her thumb shyly traced over his bottom lip, sometimes catching it without realization and dragging it out to reveal his straight set of white teeth people had only ever seen in a menacing bearing of them. “I’m sorry you saw me tonight, and I’m sorry you saw me on the battlefield before Monica-,” she closed her eyes, forcing down a sob that threatened to make way. His right hand came to hold one wrist to his cheek, his left hovering over her waist until he took the plunge of a dagger to carefully hold her. “You’ve caught me twice this week, I’m eternally grateful it was you to save me.”
“I don’t, I don’t know what that means.” Her skin was warm and he savored the heat radiating off her while she shivered close to him.
“I don’t either. I just know that you were the one to catch me as I lost consciousness and stability on the field, and you were the one to save me from myself a moment ago.” Her nose brushed up against his, the temptation to lean down and bring their lips together was reeling in his mind for the first time outside of his dreams. “I also know that while he exonerates this ray of light and hope for the kingdom, you’re there in the dark by chance, ready to draw a sword if anyone steps in my path.” He doesn’t have to ask to know she’s talking of Dimitri.
“I think you may be right. I think that may be my purpose.”
“You make me question whether or not I believe in fate and destiny.”
“Me?” Felix pulled back, surprise etched onto his sharp, handsome features.
“You have since we met at the Goddess Tower, I wasn’t going to go but I found myself there and you as well.” She was looking up at him again, that may just be a mere weakness of his.
And he hates staring, but after the insistent tea parties she has with every student and him, he’s starting to relax at the gesture.
“I just felt a strong need to breakaway from the crowd, I don’t do well in them.”
“I know that better than anyone.” She stood on tiptoes, one arm wounding around his neck as the other slid down to place a hand over his chest where his heart laid beneath.
He prayed to the goddess she couldn’t feel how anxious he was feeling.
“Byleth,” her name rolled off his tongue far easier than a mere “professor” did. Her hand nearly scorched his skin that was bare under it. “I feel as though I should take my leave.”
Her button nose nudged his again, “What do you want to do?”
“Stay here.” Felix responded fast and assertive, his hand reaching to hold hers to his chest.
“That’s very unlike you.”
He let out a short and quiet chuckle, “Seeing you like this? That’s very unlike you yourself.”
“Is it that awful?” Her voice was barely audible to his ears.
Did she really think this side to her wasn’t worthy to be seen by anyone? If anything, people weren’t worthy to see it themselves.
His mind acted on its own accord, new thoughts and ideas swirling in his head as he felt his lips connect with her cheek. “I’m drawn to this side as much as I’m drawn to you around the monastery and you caked in blood and sweat on the battlefield with a sword in your hand.” He was panicking; unable to suppress thoughts he had tucked away in the far corners of his mind. Everything was rising to the surface as he felt a new part of himself step forwards that was hidden away with his feelings for the mercenary.
And at the same time, it felt as though he could finally breathe for the first time in a long while.
She peered up at him, a woman with immense might and power, and she looked small and fragile within this moment. Someone that could slay thousands of men if forced to was being held by him like she could break.
His heart nearly collapsed.
She stepped backwards, hand coming down with his in tow, fingers interlaced by goddess knows who or when. He followed her, watching as she blew out the few candles when a thought occurred.
“What about Professor Manuela?”
“I have it on good authority she’ll be nursing a major head pain tomorrow morning and avoiding the outside aroma as it ‘sickens her since love isn’t real and nothing is beautiful besides her’, she won’t be seeing me tomorrow unless it’s beyond afternoon.” She raised the final candle close to him, ready to blow out the final one and set it on the desk behind him, when she let go of his hand instead. “Felix,” she started, eyes flashing with immense guilt.
He knew his typical response would’ve been impatient, telling her to get on with it so he would know what was keeping her, but that part of him that he was unaware of being devoted to her took the reigns of handling his natural reactions that Felix didn’t want to resurface in front of her right now.
Especially if they are directed at her.
It wasn’t a split in his personality per se, and it wasn’t another identity living in his head. It was Felix, finding a lost part of himself unknowingly that was left in debris and rubble.
He went to ask what was wrong when her hand gently titled his head up and angled it, finger tracing along the skin of his jaw to his neck. He hissed, wincing even as she touched the undamaged portion of the skin that was too close to her claw marks. “Shit,” was all he managed out, jerking out of her grasp by habit.
Her hand drew back, “Felix, I’m so incredibly sorry and ashamed for doing that to you. I can’t excuse harming you, I can only say I was trapped within my own thoughts and motives that I must not have broke out in time even as you grabbed hold of me. I don’t expect forgiveness or understanding, I just need you to know I regret it happened and I didn’t do it to intentionally harm you.”
Felix looked at her, catching her eyes lingering on the red trail he hadn’t realized was there after the moment passed. Grief for him and a sense of her being apologetic filled her eyes, but no sense of a desire to be let off so easily like a child would want. Regardless,..
He stepped closer, index finger lifting her small chin up as she tore her glare away from her offending marks and met his eyes, now focusing on the dark, hollowed marks under them that she noticed from day one.
“Byleth, I know what it’s like to be on the battlefield in your own mind, alone. It’s a terrifying experience and I understand that you were protecting yourself in some twisted way that would’ve done worse for you in the end.” His hands trailed down to her arms, “I’m okay, I’m more concerned with you at the moment and rather glad I received these marks than caught you a second too late.” His jaw tightened painfully for a few seconds as he tore his stare elsewhere to get the image from his head. “My point is, it was a moment of weakness. Even the greatest heroes can have them and should be granted them, as long as they have someone behind them ready to save the day and help.”
She reached for his hands, interlacing their fingers. “I figured you would give me the hardest time for it.”
“I may be a simple man on the outside, Byleth, but I’m far more complex than one could imagine.” He pressed a kiss to the inside of her wrist, “I’m thankful for these scratches just as I am thankful to have you in front of me. We can worry about the marks in the morning, for now let me sleep and you can consider yourself more than forgiven.”
He let out a soft smile when she nodded, unaware of the rare reaction from the swordsman as she pulled the covers back. Felix pulled the uniform top off, resting it on her chair as he stepped out of his shoes and followed her under the blankets. His heart hammered in his chest and he was a few steps from being just anxious, but he settled to the idea of her pushing her pillow further up the bed for him, his right arm extending across the span of the bed. And he became sedated when she opted to use his arm for a pillow instead, her robe-soft back hitting his chest as his left arm hung heavily over her waist, rounding along to the edge of her stomach.
“I’m going to force you to eat more, Eisner. You missed a few meals already.”
She hummed, shifting her back some more until he leaned his chest closer to her, “I’ll comply only if you eat with me.”
“You insatiable woman,” he mumbled out, halfheartedly as he maneuvered some to grab hold of her right hand that had been closest to her face, interlocking their fingers together once again. His voice dropped to a whisper, thumb stroking patterns over her skin, “Byleth, I don’t know what this is or what it means.”
“I know, I don’t either. I just feel,” she trailed off.
She tilted her body ever so slightly to meet his eyes, “I feel as though you are my greatest shield against myself and the evil out there. I feel that I need you in ways that are beyond my comprehension as of now.” She saw his startled look, turning back as her eyes started to grow heavy.
“I think you may be the closest thing to a powerful impacting vulnerary to me.” She mumbled a response, her words lost to sleep. Felix felt his own mind become fuzzy and felt a wave of drowsiness hit him stronger than ever. He pressed a chaste kiss into her hair, “Then I’ll be your shield that’s in the shadows if that’s what you need, Byleth.”