A kitten had come over and was curiously sniffing on his sweat soaked hair before purring and clambering onto his heaving chest. He'd been laying here for a while now, how long exactly he had no clue, with the hot gravel of the deserted training grounds digging into his back. His tired hand arched up to gently scratch the little feline behind its ears, the other one remaining clutched about his sword.
The young man cursed and returned his gaze to the dusk speckled sky dousing everything in soft light. This shit had been building up for days now but as always his pride had kept him from seeking help. Hazily he wondered whether someone would find him and should that happen, if he'd rather choose a quick end for himself or bear with the humiliation of having to be carried back to his room. Maybe he'd be lucky enough and a certain someone would notice his absence. Or maybe that'd be the worst of luck.
It wasn't the first time exhaustion and the deep ache of longing had chained him to the ground. When had he last really touched someone outside of combat, in a non-violent way? When Sylvain had slung his arm over his shoulders earlier, trying to drag him to town, it'd all just been too much, his carefully maintained facade crashing down on him. It'd sent him flying, carrying him here to do the one thing he didn't have to think about. To simply get lost in his training, the sword's calming weight in his palm an extension of himself.
A low sigh slipped past cracked lips and he closed his eyes, trying to ignore the deep pain and exhaustion that had sunken into his very marrow and created an endless pit in his stomach.
Not that it had ever worked before. No matter how much he trained and ran himself ragged, it hadn't worked ten years ago and still didn't now. It wasn't a problem he could solve himself, no matter how much that bothered him.
The cats made it better, if just a little bit. His fingers still diligently carded through his fluffy companion's fur and the gentle warmth and weight eased his pain a little. It would pass eventually, he reminded himself. It always retreated again, hiding in his core until it would emerge once more and slowly drown him in his craving.
Gravel crunched under secure steps, making him cringe and fight to get up. But alas, his body remained where it was, navy hair spilled over the ground and no doubt at least as dusty as the rest of him. Resigning himself to his fate, he instead focused his attention on the approaching person and managed, with much struggle, to crack and eye open and shift his head as to be able to see whomever he was unlucky enough to have run into.
The sight of you, weapons still strapped to your belts from your earlier spars, a large flask dangling from your hip and your pockets undoubtedly stuffed with pastries released the dread that had settled over him. Had it been anyone else, he would've longed to simply sink into the ground never to return, but over the years he'd begrudgingly come to stop hiding his pain around you. You tended to know anyways.
Sturdy boots came to a halt near his side and soon after your concerned face appeared in his blurred view.
"Fe, you're still here. I couldn't find you at dinner so I got you something in case you were too caught up with training again. Doesn't look like it tho. What's up?"
You'd seated yourself beside him and were fumbling for some water. Felix just groaned and closed his eye again, the kitten still securely nestled against his palm. You chuckled and shuffled to lift his head into your lap, your fingers immediately disappearing into messy hair.
"Did you overdo it again or is this one of those situations?"
Another non-committal sound reached your ears and you tugged a little at his hair, delighted by him melting further into your hands.
"I'm guessing the other thing, then. It has been a while… You oughta drink something before I can move you. Ya think you can sit up yet?"
A slight expression of distaste furrowed his brows, but Felix nodded weakly and let the kitten jump off him before being pulled into your lap. He sank against your chest with a sigh on his lips, head falling on your shoulder and still desperately holding onto his weapon. You let your fingers trail over his cheeks and put one arm around his waist, the other holding your uncorked flask. For a moment you were absorbed in the feeling of a warm body against yours. Even though it happened more often these days, the feeling still managed to catch both of you off guard every time. Shaking your head and returning to the current situation, you raised the water to his lips and watched him devour it in small sips.
"Alright. I'll sheathe your sword now, okay? I can't carry you otherwise."
He grumbled more, stating his displeasure with your plan of actions. You smiled down at his limp frame.
"Can you walk there?"
Felix frowned but had to admit to this current inability to do so.
"I thought so. Chances we'll run into anyone else are slim, if that makes it any better."
Hair brushed against your neck and your breath got momentarily caught in your throat. The man in your arms nodded once and you took the sword without resistance, returning it to its sheath. Your forehead shortly pressed against his temple in a reassuring gesture. You could feel him quiver.
"I'm gonna lift you up now."
Another nod into your chest, accompanied by a small sound of disgruntled approval. Getting up in the most careful manner possible you looked down at Felix, slumped and displeased in your arms. And yet, it had gotten so much easier for him to show any kind of weakness to you. A few years ago he'd have adamantly remained in whatever spot he was currently occupying and waited the pain out.
You squeezed his hand and started walking.
The short trip was as deserted as you'd anticipated, much to the relief of you both. There were already too many rumors about romantic involvement between the two of you, although neither of you ever fell in love.
You'd arrived at your destination and wrangled the fickle lock open with the spare key Fe had given you after the first time this happened, his cheeks pink and ears glowing.
The fond memory got a silent chuckle out of you.
You steered towards the bed and carefully sat down, placing the swordsman beside you. He looked even more exhausted in the dim light, dark eyebags suggesting he'd not been sleeping much again.
Felix leaned against you for support as you set to removing your armored pieces.
The moment you were done, scarred arms looped around your torso and pulled you under the covers. You were buried under the soft mounds and his warm body pressing against your chest. Trembling he hid his face in your neck and tangled your legs together. You started running your fingers through his hair and over his scalp without having to think about it at all, barely noticing the faint familiar shiver it sent down his spine.
"I'm here now, Fe. I won't leave until you want me to."
Voice filled with affection and your lips brushing against his forehead, you curled closer around him. The navy strands were dusty and smelled of sweat, but you couldn't bring yourself to care. It brought a smile to your lips as you rested your chin on top of his head.
He was heavy in your arms. His weight had always been an anchor.
He pressed a chaste kiss to your neck and hid his glowing face away from your soft gaze. The red tips of his ears still gave him away and you couldn't help but press a kiss on top of his head.
"You keep saying that."
A hint of helplessness shimmered through the words.
"And I mean it every time. If you don't want me to leave, I won't."
A shaky breath ghosted over your skin and you instinctively pressed closer. He was safe in your arms, one hand cradling the back of his head and the other at the small of his back. You could've stayed like this until the end of time.
"I don't love you and won't ever, but I do care for you. If that's enough, I'll share my life with you. Wherever it'll lead us."
You were trembling now and took a deep breath, the familiar scents of leather, metal and sword oils washing over you in calming waves. You feared you'd said too much as you laid in waiting for an answer.
Felix was silent for a while and you were all too aware of how much the both of you were shaking.
When he finally spoke, his voice was thick with an unnamed emotion.
"I don't- I've never-"
You could feel him struggling for words, arms still securely around your middle. He took a deep breath and started to speak again, this time sounding determined.
"I don't want you to leave. I don't love you either, but- you fight good. I'd be annoyed if you died."
Relieved laughter shook your form and you started peppering his flushed face with kisses, suddenly feeling very warm and fuzzy.
"No getting rid of me now."
Your body was light.
"As if I'd want to."
His was too.