Silence fell over the square, heavy in its absolution. Nobody moved. Nobody spoke. Everyone waited; waited and watched, to see what Baron Dominic would do. Outwardly, the man was the picture of calm, only the slight tilt of his head betraying his confusion. He regarded Felix.
"You would ask for death?" the baron asked. He spoke slowly, as if he couldn't quite comprehend what he'd heard. Felix's lip curled and he gave a nonchalant shrug of his shoulder.
"My old man respected you," he stated, ignoring the question. "Gilbert says you're a good man." The baron flinched and Felix's eyes hardened, determined to twist his verbal knife a little bit further. "So do it, good man. Kill the son of your dead ally."
Sylvain lurched forward, shattering the stillness that had fallen over the soldiers.
"What the hell, Felix!?" he shouted. The baron stiffened at the sudden exclamation, but before Sylvain could make it more than two paces, Ingrid was beside him. Her fingers closed around the young man's wrist, halting him in place. Sylvain glared back at her. "Let me go Ingrid!" he growled. She shook her head. There was fear in her eyes, but it was not fear for her own safety. Her gaze slid to Felix; to the lance held against his chest. The swordsman could see the girl's fingers trembling, the death grip she maintained on Sylvain as much for herself as it was for him. She was thinking about Glenn, Felix realized. She was terrified that she was about to lose another of her loved ones.
Sylvain must have realized this too. His jaw clenched, but he stayed in place, his hands clenched in two mutinous fists. Felix exhaled and returned his gaze to the baron. He could not back down now. Not when he'd pushed things this far.
"Well?" he asked, his voice low.
"Felix, I swear—!" Sylvain shouted, his face pale, arm rigid in Ingrid's grasp.
The baron hesitated, doubt pooling in the depths of his eyes. Everyone within the walls watched Felix's life hang on the edge of that lance; a collective breath held in utter stillness. One heartbeat passed. Then two.
Baron Dominic's spine straightened.
"Do not doubt the lengths to which I would go to defend my people," he hissed, pulling his weapon back to strike.
The swordsman wasn't sure which of his comrades yelled his name: Ingrid, Annette, or Sylvain. Perhaps all three. He was distantly aware of them dashing forward, determined to stop a blow they could not intercept. His gaze remained on the baron; fingers curled around the hilt of his sword. Baron Dominic stared back, his lance descending, Felix's death written on the polished steel. The young man braced himself, waiting for the inevitable bite of metal slicing flesh.
It didn't come.
For the breath of a moment the resolve in the baron's eyes faltered, but that breath was all it took. The lance paused a hair's breadth from Felix's heart… and a snarl of incensed wind slammed into the baron. The spell howled like a pack of demonic wolves as it plucked the man from his saddle, throwing him away from the swordsman and onto the cobblestone. Baron Dominic's armor released a tortured screech as he skidded across the ground. He lay there, momentarily stunned.
Felix could only blink in disbelief.
Annette was still glowing from the aftereffects of the spell, her hair floating around her face, the symbol of her crest imprinted in the air before her. The mage's eyes blazed with an incendiary inner strength, one that had burned the silence spell to ash. Gone was the uncertain girl who had sat beside Felix in the courtyard. In her place stood a warrior.
The swordsman set his jaw. Somehow, he found the strength to rise.
Annette whirled toward him. "Felix! Are you—"
"I'm fine," he confirmed, resting his hand on her shoulder and gently turning her back toward the enemy. "Don't get distracted."
As if on cue, a reedy voice broke through the silence.
"Cover Baron Dominic!" it bellowed. "I will take care of the girl."
Felix tensed as the warlock stepped through the smoke. The grizzled man's staff glowed with an eerie purple light, the prelude to another silence spell. Both of his beetle black eyes were fixed on Annette. Felix's grip tightened on his sword. If that man thought he could attack her again, he had another thing coming. The swordsman took a deliberate step forward, ignoring the pain. Ignoring the blood. He hefted his sword.
The warlock smirked; but then Annette was there. She stared fiercely up at Felix, having placed herself between him and the enemy's glowing staff. Her hands were clenched into fists, her fingers sparking with power.
"I've got this," she growled.
The edge in her voice could have sliced through steel.
Felix stared down at her, drinking in the determination and courage reflected in the cobalt of her eyes. That ferocity. That strength. It was beautiful.
She was beautiful.
The corner of his mouth lifted.
"Give him hell," he murmured.
Annette's face broke into a smile. She nodded.
Purple light flashed as the warlock brandished his staff. Annette snarled and whirled around, throwing her hand forward and releasing a blast of lethal wind from her fingertips. The warlock gasped as her tempest sliced through his spell before picking him up and hurling him into a pile of nearby debris.
"How do you like that!?" Annette shouted, her hair streaming behind her as she charged forward. The warlock burst from the stone, enraged, but very much alive.
Felix could no longer afford to watch. His own opponents were swarming toward him, the soldiers' faces lined in grim determination. The enemy knew that the swordsman was injured and thought him an easier target for it. The bite of his sword revealed their folly.
But for all of Felix's strength, the poison was taking its toll. The wound itself had been exacerbated by the baron's lance, and blood continued to dribble down his side. Slowly but surely, his body was failing. His blade grew heavier with every passing second and he cursed the lethargy of his arms. Still, he would not quit. Moments like this were why he trained. Why he spent hour after endless hour hitting a dummy with a sword. Easy victories meant nothing. It was here, with the odds irrevocably stacked against him, that Felix could prove the sort of warrior that he was.
An axe descended in a vertical slice, cracking the cobblestone as the swordsman moved aside. Felix's blade sang and the soldier fell. A great knight rushed to fill the space, her lance bobbing and darting like a striking asp. Felix let her weapon glance off the edge of his sword. She stumbled and his weapon found the chink in her armor. It continued like this, soldier after soldier falling to his blade as the melody of battle raged in his head. There was a rhythm to it. A consistency to the rising and falling of steel. The shouts and screams of soldiers. The percussion of armor clattering on stone. As long as he focused on that, his pain was irrelevant. Felix's heart pounded. His vision swam.
"Gonna need you to move!"
The swordsman blinked as a familiar war cry rose above the din of battle; jarring him from the trance he'd fallen into. Sylvain was suddenly beside him, taking down an enemy soldier with a perfectly precise swing of his lance. A few feet away, Ingrid disposed of two more men, her weapon a blur of lethal silver. Felix released a breath as the enemy backed away, his comrades' intervention earning him a slight reprieve.
"Thanks," he muttered, his eyes meeting Sylvain's. The red-head shrugged, hefting his lance as their enemy regrouped and converged upon them again.
"I didn't want anyone to kill you before I got the chance," he replied matter-of-factly. "Seriously Felix. You are never allowed to call me reckless again."
A small smile ghosted across the swordsman's lips.
The fight raged on, the trio doing their best to keep the baron's soldiers at bay while Annette and the warlock battled. Gilbert had managed to cut a path through to his brother. Baron Dominic had recovered from his encounter with Excalibur and now the siblings' weapons clashed in a desperate feud.
Felix could tell his companions' strength was dwindling. He could see it in the way Ingrid's lance dipped just a little lower than it should, and in the slight delay of Sylvain's weapon as he parried an enemy thrust.
"If this keeps up, we're going to be overrun!" Ingrid gasped as she countered a soldier's blow and sent him staggering.
"We just have to hold out a little longer," Sylvain responded, blood dripping from a shallow cut to his temple. "The professor, Dimitri, everyone. They'll be here."
"Besides," Felix growled. "There isn't anywhere to retreat to."
He was right and they all knew it, the knowledge looming as inescapably as the walls penning them in.
"Can we—" Ingrid began. She never got the chance to finish.
A massive column of light suddenly descended from the heavens, slamming into the cobblestones with an all-consuming roar, and sending debris everywhere. Startled exclamations rang out as soldiers leapt for cover, shielding their eyes from the brilliance of the spell. Felix, Ingrid, and Sylvain were buffeted backward, the three of them grabbing ahold of each other as wind peeled off the glowing column and whipped in every direction. For a moment everything was chaos. Then, slowly but surely, the light faded away, dissipating as quickly as it came.
Felix blinked shadowy after-images from his eyes, extracting himself from Sylvain and Ingrid and staring toward the center of the square. He half expected to see Byleth standing there, the Sword of the Creator at her side, her enemies vanquished at her feet. That sort of display seemed worthy of his best sparring partner. Yet it was not their professor who stood tall in the wake of the spell, but Annette. The girl's arms were still extended and her shoulders heaved with exertion, but the satisfaction on her face was impossible to miss.
The warlock stood in the crater Abraxas had left behind, his lips parted in silent shock, his staff cloven clean in two. He snarled, took one wavering step forward, and fell to his knees, defeated.
Murmurs of disbelief rippled through the baron's soldiers as they stared at the fallen man. More than one of them took a wary step away from Annette. Felix, on the other hand, couldn't take his eyes off her. The courageous, beautiful, clumsy, spit-fire of a girl, practically glowed in the throes of her power. How had she ever thought herself a burden?
Annette's fingers were trembling, whether at the magnitude of what she'd just done, or as an aftereffect of the spell, Felix didn't know. But he saw the pallor of her face, the sheen of sweat upon her brow, and when her first step wavered, Felix moved without thinking. Ignoring his own pains, he covered the short distance between them and caught her shoulders, steadying her before she could fall. Annette blinked, staring up at him in surprise.
"Felix?" she breathed.
"It's okay," he murmured. "I've got you."
Annette leaned into his touch, taking a second to simply breathe. He felt the moment she steeled herself; felt her lithe muscles tense as she lifted her gaze, fixing the baron with a glare of pure flame.
"Relinquish the relic, Uncle," she commanded, her weakness of moments ago vanished. "We will not ask again."
The baron hesitated, his eyes flicking from the wary faces of his soldiers, to the determined features of his niece. For a moment, he faltered.
That was when they heard it: Pounding feet. Clanking armor. Raised voices issuing commands. The intelligible sounds of a mobilized army, one that was bearing down upon them with alarming speed.
"You have got to be kidding," Sylvain muttered.
"More reinforcements?" Ingrid confirmed disbelievingly, her expression grim.
The army was almost upon them now. Felix could feel the ground beneath his boots shaking under the strain of countless armored feet. Baron Dominic's face lifted, his indecision snuffed like a candleflame. He raised his fist into the air.
"Our objective has not changed! Dominic soldiers! Bring my niece to me!" he shouted to the troops that began to pour into the square.
Yet these reinforcements did not march beneath the flag of House Dominic. Instead the sun glinted across row upon row of sparkling argent plate. Banners of silver and blue snapped proudly in the dancing breeze, banners held aloft by very familiar faces.
Sylvain whooped enthusiastically and even Felix couldn't stop the wolfish grin that broke across his face.
Dimitri and Dedue charged into Baron Dominic's soldiers, leading the Knights of Seiros and the Kingdom Army forward in an organized stampede. Ashe peppered arrows upon their enemy with lethal precision, the sniper positioned safely behind Catherine and a thrumming Thunderbrand.
"There's Mercie!" Annette exclaimed, seeming to temporarily forget that they were on a battlefield in her excitement to see her friend. Mercedes winked at them before returning her focus to the enemy.
In the center of it all stood Byleth, looking very much The Goddess Reborn as her hair streamed around her, the Sword of the Creator glowing in her hand. She wielded her commanding presence like a second blade, enemy soldiers falling away from her of their own accord, their faces a mixture of awe and fear as she strode through the melee.
Felix watched Baron Dominic, the man's expression bleak as he looked across the battlefield. The brothers had ceased their fighting, Gilbert looking on as the other man surveyed the scattered Dominic troops. The baron's shoulders were slumped, but when he finally stepped forward, there was resolution in his eyes.
"Enough!" the man bellowed, the wind catching his voice and pitching it above the sounds of battle. "Cease this madness!"
It took a moment for the soldiers to recognize the command, and several more for them to actually adhere to it. But eventually the cacophony ebbed, then died completely as faces turned upward in wary inquiry. Baron Dominic's gaze met his soldiers', his mouth a determined line as he slowly and deliberately raised his lance into the air. He held it aloft a second more, steeled himself, then threw the weapon to the ground. The metal reverberated loudly as it bounced against the unforgiving cobblestone, rolled forward, and came to a halt at Annette's feet. For a tense moment, niece and uncle regarded each other. Then Baron Dominic bowed his head and Annette smiled.
The baron turned to his brother. "Enough Gustave," he murmured again. "I surrender."
Felix felt the adrenaline leave his body as his allies roared their approval, its absence leaving him reeling. He wanted to revel in their victory; wanted to congratulate Annette on a hard-won success. But his limbs were turning to lead and an uncomfortable burning sensation had begun to seep through his veins. The ground roiled beneath him, as though the stone had been transformed into ocean swells. Voices dimmed and blended together, melding into a single, indiscernible buzz. A hand appeared on his arm and he turned to see Annette staring up at him, looking distinctly concerned. She said something, but her words were muddled. Everything was muted, as if the battleground had been suddenly, and inexplicably, plunged underwater. He opened his mouth, and the world turned on its side.
Annette's arms were around him before Felix even realized he was falling, his weight taking them both to the ground.
"Felix? Felix! Stay with us!" Annette gasped, her arms cradling his head and shoulders. "Mercie's here! She's right here! We're going to help you! Hold on, okay?"
The swordsman tried to respond, but his voice didn't seem to be working properly. He was barely aware of Mercedes sprinting over, Sylvain and Ingrid on her heels. The bishop knelt down beside him, her face grim, her hands pulsing with white light. His comrades collapsed beside her, Ingrid with her hands over her mouth, Sylvain's face pale, fists clenched tight.
Tired…Felix was so tired…
Unconsciousness called to him, as gentle and alluring as waves lapping on a lakeshore. Darkness beckoned in velvet tones, promising sweet release from the agony that lanced through his side. From the way his limbs burned with unnatural fire, as if the blood had turned to magma in his veins. Felix was losing himself to it. Falling further and further away from the waking world…
And then, softly, sorrowfully, a voice began to sing. The notes were pure and bright, a life boat floating above the sea of his unconscious mind. The voice called to him, drawing him out of the depths. Beckoning him back to the surface. Just for a little longer.
His eyes fluttered and he found Annette'sface. She was crying again, singing through her tears. He could not make out the words, but the melody soothed his aching wound as effectively as the magic that pulsed from Mercedes' hands. As the last notes of her song dissipated upon the breeze, the girl lowered her forehead to his, murmuring words Felix could barely make out.
"I…I made up a new song. That was only the first verse."
The depths were calling, pulling him back under. He couldn't see her face anymore; could barely hear her voice as she whispered to him.
"I won't… I won't sing the rest until you wake up, okay? So…so you have to wake up Felix. Or you'll never get to hear how it ends…"
He was sinking, down, down, down beneath the waves of unconsciousness. Her voice was a distant echo lilting upon the surface. So very, very far away.
"It's okay," the echo breathed. "I've got you…"
And then there was warmth as soft lips pressed gingerly to his own, so delicately he might have imagined it.
Then that wonderful warmth melted away and he knew quiet and darkness.
And then nothing at all.
Felix was floating. Garbled voices moved in and out of his consciousness. Voices he knew he recognized, knew he cared about, but couldn't place. He felt the bitter ache of something not right seeping through his veins, a cooling sensation as white magic pushed it away; and then burning agony as that wrongness fought back. It consumed his mind, biting and clawing at his consciousness with a ferocity that threatened to overwhelm him. He was left shredded and gasping in its wake, hanging by a thread above an encompassing darkness. Voices beckoned to him from somewhere just beyond that undulating shroud. Voices he recognized. Voices he loved.
Glenn… His father…
Their whispers rose from the void, drifting to his ears with agonizing familiarity. Felix couldn't remember the last time he had heard them so clearly; before they'd been warped by the inconsistencies of time and memory. He could see them, if he wanted. Somehow, he knew it possible. He could go right now. It wouldn't take much. The tether keeping him here was already fraying. He could break it, if he chose. All it would take was one… sharp… tug…
And then he heard it. A third voice that permeated through the depths of his consciousness. A song that drowned out the murmuring dark with bright, crystalline notes. The music strengthened his weary soul, flooding his mind with images of what letting go would cost. Of who it would cost:
Sylvain…Ingrid…Dimitri…The professor…His classmates…
A girl with the sun in her smile and a song on her lips…
He hesitated. It would be easy to let go. To slip silently away into a blissful, permanent sleep...
But Felix had always preferred a challenge.
He turned away from the darkness and allowed the lullaby to wash over him, its warmth enveloping his soul and keeping the void at bay. The melody acted as an anchor, keeping him tethered as the poison raged, hearing its death knell in the notes of the song.
Raged. Fought. And lost.
With a sigh of finality, the wrongness at last faded away. His veins ceased their burning, the pain in his side calming to an uncomfortable itch. His mind began its slow rise to the surface of consciousness, bringing with it the sound of familiar banter.
"…been four days already. He is going to wake up, right?"
"Manuela said he would pull through. She does know what she's talking about, in this regard at least."
"And we're sure she wasn't drunk when she said that?"
"What!? It's a valid question!"
"I'm…not arguing that. I'd just hoped that you might be taking this whole situation a bit more seriously."
"I am taking it seriously. Felix won't die. He knows I'd kill him if he did." A pause. "…Besides this whole putting on a brave face thing is doing wonders for my luck with the ladies."
"You are unbelievable!"
Felix slowly opened his eyes, blinking against the sunlight streaming in through the infirmary's open window. Two chairs had been placed by his bedside, both of which were currently occupied by Ingrid and Sylvain. The pair appeared to have frozen halfway through an argument, their eyes fixed on Felix in hopeful anticipation.
"Hey," he croaked, peering at his friends through half-lidded eyes. His throat had never felt so dry, and he was pretty sure someone had replaced his tongue with a swathe of sandpaper.
"Felix! You're awake!" Ingrid exclaimed, a smile breaking over her lips as she threw her arms around him.
"Welcome back, buddy!" Sylvain agreed, plopping on top of Ingrid and thereby Felix as well. He blatantly ignored the blonde's muffled protests as she was squashed between them.
"…Thanks," Felix responded from the bottom of the pile. "Now get off." His friends obliged, Ingrid with a pointed glare at Sylvain. Slowly, the swordsman eased himself onto his elbows, wincing as his side tightened. It wasn't painful, just…uncomfortable.
"Easy…" Ingrid murmured, eyeing his bandaged torso.
"I'm fine," Felix said shortly, shoving aside her concern. He had too many questions to linger on such trivialities. "What happened? Did we get the relic? Is A—Is everyone alright?"
Sylvain and Ingrid exchanged a knowing look, Sylvain's expression triumphant, Ingrid's amused. Felix narrowed his eyes.
"What?" he asked, somehow already annoyed.
"Nothing," Ingrid replied, giving Sylvain a light shove as he snickered. "Baron Dominic relinquished the relic, so the mission was a success."
"And Annette's fine," Sylvain added, his eyes glinting mischievously. "Since you were obviously conc—"
"Shut up, I was not!" Felix protested, glaring daggers at the other man.
"Sure, sure," Sylvain responded, waving his hand in a humoring way that Felix hated. "But, since you wanted to know, I'm fine. Ingrid's fine. Everyone's fine. Except you apparently. Why the hell didn't you tell us you were injured!?"
"I…" Felix trailed off, suddenly uncomfortable. He shrugged. "It was a small blade and the wound wasn't deep. Enemy soldiers were attacking. It wasn't a priority."
"Felix, your life is a priority," Ingrid retorted flatly, folding her arms across her chest.
"Well I'm alive, aren't I?" Felix returned shortly. Sylvain and Ingrid exchanged another look, this one significantly more weighted than the first. The swordsman felt his stubbornness falter, their silence speaking volumes. "…Was it that bad?" he asked, hating the hesitation in his tone.
"It was that bad," Sylvain confirmed. "To the point that I'd punch you in the face if you weren't already lying in the infirmary."
Ingrid placed a calming hand on Sylvain's knee, one he made no effort to move.
"Felix, by the time Mercedes got to you, the poison had spread pretty far. It…you…" she trailed off, swallowing and clearing her throat before allowing herself to continue. "You were lucky."
Silence fell over them, the distant sound of birdsong clearly audible through the open window. Felix didn't know what to say. He was embarrassed over their concern, and frustrated with himself for causing it in the first place. Displays of weakness, instances of vulnerability… Both were things he made a point to avoid, yet both had proven unavoidable. His hands tightened into fists and he glowered at the bedding. Sylvain sighed, clearly picking up on Felix's discomfort. He clapped the young man on the shoulder.
"Moral of the story, just let us know when some crazy assassin stabs you with a knife. Okay?" he asked. "It's what friends do."
"…Or something," Ingrid mumbled, kneading her temples with the tips of her fingers.
"I…will," Felix assented. Then, almost as an afterthought: "Sorry."
At that moment the sound of soft footsteps drew their attention to the doorway, and a second later Annette Dominic slid into the infirmary. She paused at the sight of three pairs of eyes on her.
"Oh, hey gu—Felix! You're awake!" The girl moved forward, then stopped just short of the infirmary's round table. Her eyes flashed to Sylvain and Ingrid. Was it Felix's imagination, or did her face look suddenly flushed? And why was Sylvain grinning like that?
"Um, I can come back later actually. I don't want to interrupt," Annette said, her voice oddly high. Sylvain leapt to his feet.
"Actually, Ingrid and I were just leaving. Weren't we Ingrid?" he asked. Ingrid blinked once before slowly nodding her head, rising to her feet as well.
"Uh, yes. Yes, we were," she agreed. "Definitely just leaving."
Felix was not an idiot. There was definitely something going on. He glared at Ingrid and Sylvain, but both seemed content to keep him in the dark.
"Oh, that's okay," Annette responded, taking another step toward the hallway. "You don't have…to…"
"Don't be ridiculous Annette, yes we do," Sylvain retorted, crossing the room and patting her good naturedly on the head. She scowled and wriggled away from him. Ingrid turned scrupulous eyes to Felix.
"If I see you anywhere near the training grounds, I will personally drag you back here and tie you to the bed myself," she stated. "You need to fully recover before—what Sylvain?"
A massive grin had completely swallowed the bottom half of Sylvain's face, the effect exaggerated by his eyebrows which were waggling in a lascivious dance upon his forehead.
"Nothing, Ingrid. I just had no idea you fancied that sort of bed pl—Gah!" He stumbled backward as the blonde stormed over to him, brandishing her index finger like a knife beneath his chin.
"Not. Another. Word." she growled, her face a magnificent shade of plum. Sylvain grinned weakly at her. Felix's posture unconsciously straightened as Ingrid's attention whipped back to him, her fingers still precariously close to Sylvain's throat.
"Felix? I'm glad you're awake," she stated, her words clipped. The swordsman cleared his throat.
"Uh, thank you," he said shortly, ignoring the pleading eyes the red-head was sending his way. Ingrid's attention snapped back to Sylvain, the young man automatically lifting his hands in a meek gesture of surrender.
"C-come on Ingr—"
"Shh! No." She pressed her index finger to his lips, effectively silencing him. Felix and Annette watched with mild interest as Sylvain quieted, his gaze locked on the blonde, eyes sparkling.
The birds sang. The curtains ruffled.
Ingrid opened her mouth, closed it, and promptly strode from the room.
Sylvain blinked, his hands falling to his sides. "Aw Ingrid! I was joking, don't be like that!" He started after her, then seemed to remember that Annette and Felix were still in the room. "Ah, you kids have fun," he said to them. "Don't do anything I wouldn't. Or, you know actually, don't do anything I would." He took two more steps toward the door before pausing again. "Oh, and Felix?"
"What?" Felix growled, blatantly fed up. Sylvain shot him a dazzling smile.
"You owe me dinner. Soon preferably. And if I got any gray hairs over this whole traumatizing experience? Drinks are on you. For the rest of our lives," he stated. Then, as if sensing Felix's forthcoming protests, Sylvain winked, waved, and hurried after Ingrid.
"That was…interesting," Annette said after a moment. The swordsman sighed, rolling his eyes.
"That was normal," he answered flatly. "Unfortunately."
Annette giggled, but lapsed into silence a beat later. Felix couldn't help but notice that she seemed weirdly hesitant, her usual cheer dampened in a preoccupied haze. The girl had yet to occupy one of the vacated chairs, but neither had she made a move to retreat back into the hall. Instead she simply stood there, wringing her hands awkwardly and looking as though she might bolt if Felix made any sudden moves. His brow furrowed.
"I was going to bake you something!" she blurted, cutting him off before he could finish his question.
"Uh, okay," he replied. Annette barreled on.
"Mercie offered to help me. She's way better at that sort of thing. But then I remembered that you don't like sweets and I didn't want them to go to waste— Not that giving them to you would be a waste! —This isn't coming out right." Annette took a deep breath and tried again. "I only came up here to make sure you were alright. And you are! So, I…I'll just…" She pressed her lips together and thumbed in the direction of the door.
It was then that Manuela bustled into the room.
"Annette! Hello again!" the diva exclaimed. Annette froze.
"Uh, h-hello, Professor M—"
"Oh, Felix! You're awake at last! I hoped you would be! We were all so worried," Manuela crooned, gliding right past Annette. The woman's heels clicked against the wood floor as she strode to his bedside. There was a small ceramic cup in her hand, the vinegary odor of which Felix could smell from his spot on the mattress. Manuela regarded him before her eyes flicked to Annette, a coy smile on her painted lips. Felix was instantly on edge.
"Isn't it lovely to see our swordsman safely back in the land of the living?" she gushed. "I know how worried you've been dear."
Annette instantly looked like she regretted not bolting from the room when she'd had the chance. She stammered out an answer regardless. "O-of course it is. But everyone was worried. It wasn't just—"
"It'll be nice to sleep in your own bed again won't it?" Manuela interrupted. She gestured to the vacant seats beside the bed. "Those chairs looked so uncomfortable. But you managed, didn't you?"
A very pregnant silence followed this statement. Felix stared at Annette, who stared at Manuela, who looked very pleased with herself.
"What?" Felix blurted, at the same time Annette gasped: "P-Professor Manuela!?"
The diva gave the girl a conspiratorial look and wagged a manicured nail in false admonishment.
"Don't think I didn't see you slipping in here in the late hours of the evening. I was in charge of his care you know." She turned to Felix. "It was adorable. Like something out of a romance novel! Our little Annette. Asleep in that chair! Every night!" Manuela sighed wistfully.
Between the flush on her face and the red of her hair, it appeared Annette's head had actually combusted. She began to sidestep toward the door, the movement stiff, like a particularly awkward crab. Felix couldn't tell if Manuela was aware of the discomfort she was causing, yet the glint in her eye implicated that she knew exactly what she was doing.
"This is perfect actually," the woman continued. "Annette!"
Annette tripped over the rug.
Manuela pretended not to notice.
"Dear, would you stay here and ensure Felix drinks this concoction?" She raised the glass with its foul-smelling potion. "I have a date in town this evening and the state of my hair…ugh." She pulled a face and set the cup on Felix's bedside table. He scowled at it.
"I'm not drinking that," he said darkly. Manuela gave him a flat look.
"That's rude, Felix," she said before releasing a beleaguered sigh. "Men. Always so ungrateful." Manuela gestured airily for a moment before rounding on Annette again. "Thank you so much for your help, darling. You're really doing me a favor," she cooed, winking as she walked past the girl. Annette squeaked, something that might have been a response, but also might have been due to Manuela accidently treading on her foot. "You two behave yourselves!" the diva sang, fluttering her fingers as she departed. Then, with a satisfied swish of her cloak, she vanished from the room.
Felix didn't think he had ever heard such cacophonous silence.
Annette was staring at the door, though Manuela's footsteps had already faded away. The girl's hands were pressed against her cheeks, as though hoping to hide the vivid blush that fanned underneath. Felix opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He didn't know what to say to her. Didn't know if his thoughts were sorted enough to say anything at all. Manuela's words were bouncing around his head in an incessant echo, making it difficult to focus on anything else.
"Asleep in that chair! Every night!"
The swordsman's brow furrowed.
"Okay well, you heard Professor Manuela!" Annette had found her voice again, though she still wasn't looking at him. "Make sure you drink that…um…whatever it is! I'd stay, but I have to go, uh, polish my…books—shoes! Polish my shoes…not books. That doesn't make sense. Anyway…Bye Felix!" She turned and promptly crashed into the table, upsetting the vase that had been acting as its centerpiece and sending flowers cascading across the floor.
"Are you—" he began, but she cut him off.
"Nope. I'm good. I got this. Totally under control," she said hastily.
"I know what you're going to say, Felix! 'There she goes again! Clumsy Annette…can't even back out of a room properly…'"
"Well it's a stupid place to put furniture—"
She froze, apparently unaware that she'd been jamming the plants back into the vase flower-side down.
"Do you…want to sit down?" he asked. There was a pause in which Felix busied himself by staring at the anatomical figure situated oddly in the infirmary's dusty corner.
"O-okay," Annette finally replied. Her voice was surprisingly small. She crossed the room, hesitating only a moment before sliding into one of the vacated chairs. The following silence was nearly palpable.
"So…" Annette began.
"Um…" Felix added unhelpfully.
Someone could have fried an egg on his face. What had he been thinking? Why had he called her over when he had no idea what to say? It would have been better if he had simply let her leave! If he had avoided this whole ridiculous—!
"I'm sorry," Annette said suddenly, halting the downward spiral of his thoughts. Felix frowned.
"For what?" he asked. The girl's hands balled into fists. A few seconds passed before she responded.
"I got the relic from my uncle," she said, her eyes fixed stubbornly in her lap. Felix's frown deepened, her answer not what he had expected.
"I heard," he answered. "But that doesn't seem like something to apologize for." Her eyes flicked to his and he was glad to see a flash of familiar exasperation there. It made whatever…this…was feel more normal somehow. Then her expression sobered again.
"Not that specifically," she said, pausing as though trying to piece together her thoughts. "Back on the battlefield… you were just lying there. I realized…" The words caught in her throat. Annette exhaled, her thumbs performing a frenzied dance around each other as her fingers interlocked. "You've always been so strong Felix! Then you got hurt. Really hurt. And I realized that despite your strength, you might still die. And it would be partially my fault. I was the one who had to get a relic. I was the one that dragged all of you into it." She hesitated. "If you had, well, you know… Even with the relic, I…I think I would have lost more than I won that day."
Felix's frown deepened as her words washed over him. She was looking distinctly pink, her rosy cheeks blending with the strands of her hair.
"I…see," he finally managed, fumbling for a practical direction in which to take this conversation. One that veered distinctly away from his almost dying and her apparently feeling responsible for it. "You're being ridiculous."
Annette blinked. "What?"
Felix fixed her with a look. "Blaming yourself for my injury is a waste of time. I was the one who let that man through my guard. It was my failure, not yours."
"We're at war, Annette," he interrupted. "Do you blame the professor every time our soldiers die in battle?"
The girl frowned. "No, of course not."
"Even though she's the one ordering them to fight?" he persisted.
"That's not the sa—"
"It is the same," he broke in. "It's exactly the same."
"Maybe it is a similar concept," Annette assented. "But, um, that's not really what I was trying to say. Though that was a part of it, I suppose."
"Oh." Felix hesitated. "Then what were you trying to say?"
"I…it's…well," she stammered, then shot him a frustrated look. "You can't just put me on the spot like that, Felix!"
"You're the one who brought it up," he returned.
"I know…" Annette protested, her inflection rising. "I know! I…it's just that…"
"It's just…?" he persisted.
She looked at him. Exhaled slowly. Then threw her arms around his neck.
It wasn't often that Felix Fraldarius was caught off guard. Now was one of those times. He tensed, at a sudden and complete loss for what to do with his arms.
"I thought I was going to lose you," Annette whispered. "First to my uncle, and then to the poison…" She trailed off as her arms tightened. "When you challenged him to run you through I…That was terrible." Her voice was tiny. Tremulous. "I'm just so glad, that I didn't. Lose you, I mean," she mumbled into his shoulder. "I guess that's all I was trying to say."
Felix opened his mouth to reply and promptly closed it again. He was having a difficult time formulating a proper sentence. His hand was lifted, hovering mere inches over Annette's back. All he had to do was set it down. It wasn't like he had never hugged anyone before, it just wasn't something he did often. Hugs were a quick ordeal, usually with a single arm and a couple of back slaps for good measure. 'Manly hugs,' Ingrid called them; reserved for family and close friends. This was definitely different, but that didn't make it bad.
He just had to put his damn hand down.
Before he got the chance, she pulled away, a light flush on her cheeks.
"Aaaaaand you're not saying anything," Annette said, a bit self-consciously. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have hugged you. I know you don't really like that sort of thing."
Felix shrugged and cleared his throat. "It…wasn't terrible," he responded, then instantly felt like an idiot. He could practically hear the slap of an imaginary Sylvain palming his forehead. Wasn't terrible indeed!
"Well, that's good," Annette said slowly, the first word drawn out.
"…It is," Felix agreed. Gods what was wrong with him!? Did he need to be on death's door to communicate properly!?
"Okay, well this is awkward," Annette said with a nervous laugh. "I'll just let you rest."
And now he had gone and chased her away; all because he was too prideful to open his mouth and risk saying something stupid. Annette had been by his side every night while his body fought the poison. She'd lost sleep for him. Meanwhile all Felix could do was tell her that her hugs 'weren't terrible.' He was such a fool.
Annette hummed awkwardly as she rose from her seat, clearly taking his silence for acquiescence to her leaving. The melody gave Felix pause. He recognized it. Remembered those lilting notes permeating into the depths of his being, keeping the darkness at bay. It had been that song that had given him the strength to hold on.
Of course, the voice had been Annette's. How had he not realized?
"Can you sing for me?" he blurted, successfully freezing the girl in place. She blinked at him.
"Uh," Felix replied. That was not what he'd had in mind to keep her here, but that was what had come tumbling out of his mouth. There would be no going back. The conversation horse had left the stable, and Felix was stuck in the saddle with no reigns. He took a deep breath.
"I…I heard you. Before," he mumbled, pointedly averting his gaze. There was no way he could say any of this if he was looking at her. "I heard your voice, when I was unconscious. I didn't know it was you, but after what Professor Manuela said, it must have been."
"Oh," Annette replied, her voice tiny as she lowered herself back into the chair. "Um, for the record, you weren't supposed to know about any of that. It's more than a little embarrassing…"
"It kept me here," Felix told her honestly. "When I was…drifting. Your voice kept me grounded." He looked at her then, at her lips slightly parted in surprise. He found himself staring at them, a memory niggling in the back of his mind.
A song as the battlefield faded around him. Warm lips brushing his own…
He jerked at the sudden recollection, his face feeling hot. What the hell had that been?
"Um, Felix?" Annette asked. "You're kind of…staring."
The swordsman blinked. So he was. What was wrong with him?
"Sorry," he muttered, pointedly looking anywhere except at Annette.
She laughed nervously.
"A-anyway, going back to what you said before…I guess I just felt that singing was the least I could do. You know, since my uncle tried to kill you and everything. And for some reason you seem to like my stupid little songs."
Felix looked thoughtful. His mind raced back to moment on the battlefield when the lance had paused a hair's breadth from his chest.
"Your uncle could have killed me," he said quietly. "But he didn't.
Annette frowned. "What do you mean?"
The swordsman shook his head. "It doesn't matter," he responded. "But Gilbert was right. The baron's a good man." Annette was giving him a suspicious look, so he barreled on before she could press the issue. "Anyway, you're avoiding my question. Are you going to sing or not?"
The mage immediately looked flustered. "No, it's embarrassing!" she hissed with a quick glance at the infirmary door. "What if someone hears?"
Felix lifted a brow. "So back on the battlefield, when you said you'd sing the rest of your song for me…that was a lie?" he asked.
Annette froze. "You remember that?" she asked shortly. Felix tilted his head.
"Mostly," he responded. "Why?"
Annette looked as though she might be ill. "N-no reason. But um, is that all you remember? A-about that particular moment?"
A press of soft lips.
His hesitation spoke volumes.
"O-oh my," Annette stammered, her complexion rivaling a ripe tomato. "I am so sor—I have to go. Now. Right now." The girl jumped up, upsetting her chair in her haste to get to her feet. She squeaked, nearly toppling over herself as she scrambled to right the mistake.
"Calm down, you're going to hurt yourself!" Felix said as he shoved his blankets to the side. He rose to his feet, managing to get a steadying hand on the girl's arm before she could fall. Annette whirled to face him, her eyes immediately dropping to his bare chest. Felix wouldn't have thought it possible for her to flush any deeper, but somehow, she found a way. For the goddess's sake, it wasn't like she had never seen a shirtless man before! Besides the bandages covered most of his torso anyway. What was she so embarrassed about?
He released her arm and stepped back.
"Can we have a conversation without you flailing like a madwoman?" he asked flatly.
"I make no such promises," Annette replied. She had tilted her head up and now stared pointedly at the ceiling.
"Then sit in that chair so you can make such promises." A pause. "Withoutknocking it over." She brought her gaze back to his, but still looked ready to bolt. He sighed, his voice softening. "Please, Annette?"
She hesitated, then finally sat.
Felix followed her example, lowering himself onto the side of the bed, his feet planted firmly on the floor. It was humiliating how winded he felt from simply standing. The poison really had done a number on him.
His gaze settled on Annette, though her own remained locked in her lap.
"So…" she whispered. "What else do you remember? A-about after you…fell?" Her fingers interlocked, her thumbs returning to their dance. Felix hesitated, his mind sifting through the muddled memories.
"Warmth," he said honestly. "And…a song. Your song."
"Oh." Annette's thumbs continued to circle each other, over and over again. "Is that all?"
Felix's eyes drifted to her lips again, his face heating. He cleared his throat.
"Uh, there might have been…uh…" He cleared his throat again. "But I was…I mean…maybe? I think there was…something else…"
Why was this so difficult? Why couldn't he master eloquence in the same way he mastered swordplay?
Annette's eyes lifted, her gaze catching his.
"Was it a bad thing?" she asked quietly. "This… 'something else?'"
He blinked. Surprised.
"No!" The word left his lips before he could rationalize the implication. He cleared his throat. "I mean, no. Not…it wasn't…worse things have happened."
Annette looked mortified.
"Worse things have happened?" she squeaked. Felix winced.
"That's not what I meant… I just can't, I'm not—!" he cut himself off, his eyes catching her wide ones. "Look, I'm bad at this okay?" he finally blurted. "I don't know…how to say…what I'm saying."
Annette blinked at him before her lips melted into a smile.
"Felix…you're blushing again," she said.
His face flamed hotter.
"Shut up," he grumbled. "A-anyway this is stupid. Are you going to sing my song or not?"
Annette colored. "I never said it was specifically your song," she protested. "A-and anyway I thought you were dying when I said that!"
Felix shrugged. "Maybe I still am. My side does feel pretty sore all of the sudden…"
"That is not funny!" Annette exclaimed, suddenly bombarding his shoulder with multiple, pointed whacks. "You can't just say things like that after, well, everything!"
"Okay!" he replied, lifting an arm to fend her off. "Okay, I get it! Calm down, you don't have to hit me!"
"Yes! I! Do!" Annette retorted, punctuating each word with a jab to his arm.
Felix caught her hand and their eyes met over her captive fingertips. A beat passed and she opened her mouth, though Felix dropped her hand before she could say anything. He would be damned if he let her call him out for blushing again. He wasn't an idiot. He could feel how warm his face was.
"Anyway, you don't have to," he mumbled. "Sing, I mean."
Annette pressed her lips together, looking thoughtful. "I will," she said after a pause. "On one condition."
Felix looked at her, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. "What's the condition?" he asked cautiously. Annette's eyes sparkled.
"You have to drink Manuela's potion," she told him, pointing at the small ceramic cup. Felix pulled a face.
"Ugh, it smells like wyvern piss," he grumbled. Annette nodded, looking much too pleased with herself.
"Yup. Probably tastes like it too," she agreed.
Felix scowled at her. "You're not helping your argument."
"It'll get you back in the training grounds faster."
This gave him pause. Annette grinned triumphantly, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms over her chest.
"Well?" she asked, nodding in the direction of the concoction. Stubborn blue eyes met obstinate amber. A silent skirmish commenced between the mage and the swordsman, one carried out in complete stillness. It was over much quicker than Felix would have liked to admit.
"…Fine," he grumbled, finally looking away. The young man grabbed the cup, glaring down into murky green depths. This was just a different sort of battle, he told himself. All he had to do to claim victory was take a few swigs. It was laughably simple. He would keep a straight face for good measure. There was no way he going to let Annette witness his disgust.
Gritting his teeth, Felix closed his eyes, hesitating only a moment before he drained the potion.
It was every bit as terrible as he'd feared. Annette had the gall to applaud.
"Shut up," he grumbled, leaning back against the pillows. "A deal's a deal, Annette." His eyelids already starting to droop. Gods that stuff worked quickly.
"I know," the girl sighed. "Close your eyes. And don't laugh!"
"Why do I have to close—"
"Just do it Felix!"
He let his eyelids shut, sinking into the mattress with a tired sigh. For a moment there was silence, and he wondered if he'd actually have to goad her into singing. Then he felt a small hand slide into his own. The gesture startled his eyes open and Annette's face swam back into view. She tensed, looking immediately unsure. Her fingers tensed, prepared to pull away if he said the wrong thing. Felix stared at her, a handful of seconds ticking by before he closed his eyes again.
"Weren't you going to sing?" he asked quietly.
He did not let go of her hand.
A tiny, relieved sigh floated somewhere above his head. "You're so impatient," Annette whispered, but the smile in her voice was impossible to miss.
At last her song lilted from her lips.
The notes floated through Felix's fading consciousness, their tender legato crafting a lullaby that instantly put him at ease. Annette's hand was soft and warm in his own, the exact opposite of his sword's rigid steel. Somehow, holding it felt just as natural. Felix's mind slipped away on a ship of tranquil song; Annette's voice the compass, pointing toward the sea of dreams.
And if those dreams happened to be of her? Well…
It wouldn't be the worst thing.
Hello everybody! Thank you so much for your patience! This chapter took a lot of polishing and I wanted it to be as good as I could make it before it was released. I sincerely hope the wait was worth it! I had so, so much fun writing this and I really hope you all had a blast reading it! Writing Felix trying to be emotional is hard! Thank you all so, so much for your support! I love being able to share my love of this fandom and this pairing with all of you! I have a few more ideas for FE stories bopping about in my head. I need to focus on writing something short xD Or shorter I should say. Who knows, maybe one of these days my intended oneshots will actually be a oneshot.
I debated having them kiss again at the end and...I wrote one way where they did and ended up changing it. Don't hurt me please. (It still exists in a massive 9127 word document of content I cut from this story xD) I hope you all don't kill me over that. I guess I just thought with Annette already being as embarrassed as she was, and Felix being the type of human that he is, I wasn't sure that she'd feel comfortable just kissing him again. I feel like Felix isn't the type of person you just kiss without having a conversation about it first...Unless he's dying. Or something. Anyway. Hopefully you guys aren't too mad at me...
You all are the best! Thank you again for taking the time to read! Hopefully see you awesome humans in future stories! :D