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Recognition and Realization

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The infirmary in the castle of Rigel was aged from years of disuse before the war. Now, it seemed filled to the brim nearly constantly, rendering its condition even more dire. So it certainly didn’t help when the doors were kicked open, slamming into the walls as Berkut strode into the room, his expression livid and his voice loud.

“Out of my way!”

Healers and soldiers alike jumped at the sudden intrusion, those healthy enough to move stumbling towards the walls to grant the prince full access to the room. Berkut had only one patient in mind, however. He made his way briskly to the cot where Fernand was being treated, his heavy steps leaving all cowering in his wake. Despite his heavy wounds, Fernand himself was wide-eyed and (in all honesty) a bit afraid, trying to shift towards a seated position from under his stiff sheets. When Berkut reached his bedside, Fernand saw just how angry the prince was, his inner turmoil coating his skin like leather. Berkut’s hands were tightened into fists, shaking at his sides. Fernand braced himself for whatever berating was sure to come. Then Berkut turned to the healer that had been treating Fernand.

“You there! Why on earth is my second-in-command not receiving the finest of care? Do you truly believe that my own right hand ought to be placed among common soldiers? So long as his condition allows it, I demand that you have him moved to a private room at once!” Soldiers and available healers sprung into action, immediately beginning to select a room and prepare to move Fernand’s injured body. Fernand was speechless from the whole affair, unable to do anything but watch Berkut in awe. Berkut gave him a glare--or perhaps a look of utter disdain--then stormed out of the room just as suddenly as he had entered.

It wasn’t until Fernand had been placed in his new room before he saw the prince again. It felt a bit too luxurious for an injured soldier, with a proper bed (that he was very likely to get blood on) and polished wood furniture. It must have been a guest room in the castle, considering how well it had been upheld despite the lack of resources during the war. Berkut entered the room, still clearly upset. He waved his hand, dismissing the healers that were still tending to Fernand’s wounds. When they left, he turned to his knight.

“What the hell were you thinking?! You tried to take on an entire squadron of bow knights on your own!” Berkut was pacing now, getting it all off his chest. “Do you realize just how damn stupid that was? You could have gotten yourself killed!” He looked Fernand in the eyes, his hands tightening again. “Your injuries are a clear testament to your foolishness, Fernand.”

Berkut grabbed the edge of the blanket draped over Fernand, pulling it off in one swift motion. He was about to continue his scolding but stopped at the sight of Fernand’s bandage-covered leg and stomach. Fernand crossed his arms defensively, avoiding the prince’s gaze. He knew very well that Berkut was right.

“I know that, milord. I was just-”

“Fernand.” Berkut cut him off, his voice sounding a bit tight. “H-how is your condition, exactly?”

The sudden weakness in his voice threw Fernand off, making him take an extra minute to respond.

“I’ll be fine, milord. I swear I’ll be in proper shape to fight again as soon as possible. Give me two months- no, one month! I swear I’ll-”

Fernand stopped as Berkut took a step back and slowly dropped to his knees, placing his head in his hands. Fernand couldn’t see his face but the prince’s shoulders shook.

Is… is he crying? For me? Fernand wondered, completely at a loss.

Berkut’s gloved hands grabbed onto Fernand’s bed sheets, folds and ripples forming as his grip tightened. The sight of the crumpled prince at his bedside pulled at Fernand’s heartstrings. He carefully reached out, placing a hand on Berkut’s head and smoothing down his hair, hoping to comfort him. Berkut leaned into his touch, then reached up and took Fernand’s hand into his own, still refusing to meet his gaze. Something in the atmosphere had shifted. Fernand’s heart was beating wildly in his chest, loud enough he wouldn’t have been surprised if Berkut could have heard it. Then Berkut pressed a kiss to Fernand’s palm. And another to his wrist. And then up the injured man’s arm to his neck. Fernand felt a cold wetness against his burning face--Berkut really was crying. Fernand rolled onto his side, wincing at the pain before cupping the prince’s teary face in his hands.

“Berkut.” He said softly, nearly a whisper. “It’s okay, I’m here. I’m not going anywhere, I promise.” Berkut took a few shaky breaths, trying to calm himself down before speaking again.

“Gods… this is pathetic. It took me until this point to realize just how much you mean to me.” They both froze, realizing what Berkut had just said. A look of shock and dread spread across the prince’s face and he stood, moving towards the door. Fernand quickly caught him by the wrist, pulling him back. He knew very well that he was far too weak at the moment to actually stop him from leaving but Berkut remained, refusing to face him.

“Berkut, I want you to be entirely honest. We’re alone here, so please.” Fernand spoke, his voice wavering slightly. “Do you… do you truly have feelings for me?”

Berkut was clearly uncomfortable but he hesitated, and Fernand awaited his answer. Then he sighed, and sat down on the edge of the bed.

“I- I don’t actually know. I’m fully aware that that isn’t the answer that you want to receive but I’m still unsure of my own feelings.” He removed his gloves and ran a hand through his hair, his brows furrowed in frustration. “It’s just that… every time we’ve kissed or touched I… get this feeling that when we’re together, it’s the happiest I’ll ever be. And I don’t want to let go of that feeling.” Berkut looked to Fernand’s injuries again. “But we’re in the middle of a war , Fernand. I would never admit this to anyone but you, but I feel that I am not strong enough. It’s possible that every time we go to battle, one of us could fall. Your injuries today solidified that fact. Hell, we could even die on the battlefield together.” Berkut's voice cracked and he stopped, breathing heavily. He felt like crying again. Fernand sat up, wincing at the strain it placed on his stomach

“Then why not love while you’re alive?” Fernand spoke softly. Berkut turned to him, eyes wide at his suggestion. Fernand’s face flushed at his own words, but he placed a hand over his heart and continued.

“I will promise to live as long as possible, so long as I am living by your side. I am yours; today, tomorrow, and every moment beyond.” Berkut was completely stunned by Fernand’s honest confession. As moments passed in silence, Fernand began to worry that he’d said something wrong. Then Berkut grabbed him by the shoulders and kissed him. Fernand relaxed, leaning into the prince’s warmth and affection. Berkut kissed him again and again, whispering words in between.

“Gods--I love you--I really do--I’m scared--but I love you--so much.” He moved to straddle Fernand as they kissed, wrapping his arms tightly around the blonde as if he’d slip away at any second. The pressure on Fernand’s injuries hurt like hell, but he felt absolutely heavenly. The press of Berkut's lips was insistent and needy, as if a flood of affection was flowing through him. Perhaps Fernand had said the right thing after all.

Berkut was so wrapped up in showering Fernand with love that he hadn’t realized just how far he’d leaned over, bending the blonde’s back uncomfortably. So Fernand pulled away, dropping onto his back beneath the prince and panting slightly. The pain of his wounds was taking a toll on him, and his face expressed this fact. Berkut was looking at him so intently, clearly wanting to continue but considering Fernand’s injured state as well. In the end, he laid down next to Fernand on the side where he wasn’t injured and placed an arm over his chest, holding their bodies close. Fernand let out a contented sigh, curling in closer to his prince.

“I love you too, you know.” Fernand said softly, reaching up to play with a curl of Berkut’s hair. The exhale of a laugh brushed against his cheek.

“Yes, Fernand, I’m aware.” Berkut answered with a smile.

“Then would you mind kissing me again?”

“Anytime.” Berkut happily pressed his lips to Fernand's, bringing their bodies closer together in the comfort of the bed. Fernand smiled against Berkut's mouth, relishing in the adoration and love of the prince.