Not noticing Linhardt was becoming increasingly hard for Ignatz.
To begin, they were both always in the church or library. After a while, Ignatz’s eyes strayed to him, and it wasn’t long before his thoughts followed too: images of Linhardt with his long hair and his pale skin, with his pursed lips and silk-curtain eyelashes.
One night, Ignatz was doodling when Linhardt walked in with the fervor of a devil. He had torn through books, scribbled down notes, and when he had blazed out, Ignatz had looked down and seen Linhardt in charcoal.
That didn’t mean he had a problem. It just meant he could appreciate beautiful people! And Linhardt was stunning.
Then, of course, Linhardt joined his class. Then he had asked for help with the homework. Then Ignatz was doing Linhardt’s homework while he researched, slept, or rambled on about whatever topic with that smooth voice of his.
Ignatz might have mentioned his dumb little crush to Raphael once. Raphael might have looked at him, grinned and laughed his contagious laugh and said, “You sound like my lovesick kid sister!”
It hadn’t made him feel any better.
He asked Hilda, subtly and fitting of a spy or assassin, he might add, how you asked a person out. How you said you were interested in them. Hilda had tapped her fingers against her chin. “Tell me about her, Iggy. Does she have long, beautiful hair? Is she very skilled in her weapon of choice? Ooh! Is she an absolute charmer?”
“It’s not you, Hilda.”
“Oh, I know. But I’m happy to hear that you think all those nice things about me. Now, you like art, right? Psh, don’t try and hide it. Why don’t you paint them a nice picture and say something sweet?”
So Ignatz painted the prettiest landscape he could think of: a spot in the forest outside of the town. The mountain air was thin, but if you walked a bit, you reached a cliff that had an overlook of Fódlan’s entirety. Sunlight filtered through the clouds and shaded the regions below in their yellow and green glories. When he stood on that cliff’s edge, Ignatz could see his home, his family, his future.
Linhardt would like it there. The mossy undergrowth was perfect for napping.
It took him a week to get the painting perfect. He had wanted to get done sooner, but the sun wouldn’t stop setting and he spilled his oils on the trek up one time. But finally, it was finished. He carried it carefully back to his room and hid it behind his dresser— now that it was done, he didn’t even want to look at it and see all the mistakes. By the time he got back, it was past dinner, and all he could do now was wait outside his room and hope Linhardt would walk by.
As one hour past, then another, his eyes drooped lower and lower. Eventually, he couldn’t keep them open anymore. He leaned against the door of his room, and the next thing he knew, he was being shocked awake by somebody’s hand.
“Ignatz, are you alright? I didn’t think you were the type to nap outside.”
Ignatz blinked as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. Linhardt stared back at him. Maybe it was the shadow, but Ignatz could have sworn there was a smile on his face.
“Linhardt...” Ignatz yawned, stretched his back. Falling asleep standing was a first for him. Although it made sense why Linhardt napped all the time— his body was charged with electricity. That also might have been the lingering feeling of Linhardt’s hand on his shoulder. “What time is it?”
“When I left the library, it was half-past two. Why are you out here now?”
“Um…” It would be easier to lie and save whatever dignity he had left. But Ignatz didn’t spend a week slaving away over this painting and spend hours of his life in the night cold to flee like a coward! He gathered all the suave courage in his body and said, “I was waiting for you, actually.” His voice gave out on the last word, and he cursed himself to oblivion.
Ignatz could make out Linhardt’s eyes widening. “What for? Couldn’t it have waited for tomorrow?”
He shook his head. “No.” Oh, was that too forceful? “It could if you’re busy…I have something to give to you, is all.”
Linhardt did not say anything for a few long moments. Ignatz closed his eyes and steeled himself for rejection.
“Well, since you waited for me for so long, I’d like to see it.”
“Really? Great! It’s in my room.” Ignatz pushed open the door (he hadn’t locked it, and was grateful to see no thief had pillaged his belongings) and lit the candles. His room and Linhardt were bathed in warm, flickering light. He didn’t like painting portraits much, but looking at Linhardt, he saw his eternal muse. A sharp pain hit his chest, much like being stabbed. All he wanted to do was run his fingers through his hair, run his hands down the sharp lines of his cheeks.
“You must be exhausted.”
Linhardt’s furrowed eyebrows, his stern eyes, all gave him the aura of someone deciphering a riddle. He was looking at Ignatz like he was a puzzle. Suddenly his uniform was too warm.
“I suppose...I’m not used to staying up like this.”
Linhardt yawned. “Me neither. It’s been almost four hours since my last nap. I’m quite tired.”
“Sorry. I won’t keep you much longer.”
“It’s alright.” Linhardt flopped onto Ignatz’s bed like it was his, arms spread wide. Ignatz blushed and spun around as fast as he could. The stretch of his stomach’s skin that his uniformed failed to cover would appear in his dreams, he was sure of it. Linhardt was a nobleman, wasn’t he? It must have been against some sort of code for him to lay down on a commoner’s bed and look so...so...
Ignatz took a few deep breaths and grabbed the painting from its hiding spot. He had more important things to think about than how attractive Linhardt looked on his bed. In his painting, there were so many imperfections that it was unbearable. Where his paint had pooled, where the color of the moss went accidentally veering from Linhardt’s hair to lime green, where the clouds had dipped onto the trees...but he couldn’t fix it now. He hoped that Linhardt wouldn’t notice. That maybe, just maybe, he would like it.
Right, he had to think positively! Linhardt would like it, and Linhardt would be charmed! He smiled to himself and turned.
Linhardt was snoring softly on his bed. His back was against the wall, head on Ignatz’s pillows.
That was his luck, wasn’t it? He should have expected as much with Linhardt’s penchant for sleeping. Ignatz placed the painting down and snuffed a candle in defeat. Still, it was hard to be mad when he looked at Linhardt’s peacefulness. In fact, now that the adrenaline of maybe-confessing his feelings was gone, it was hard to be anything but fatigued. He went around snuffing the candles until he came to the one by his bedside. What sort of knight would Ignatz be if he disturbed a sleeping nobleman? Without thinking, his hand moved to brush a stray lock of hair out of Linhardt’s eyes.
Which fluttered open. Ignatz snatched his hand away. He could feel his heart pounding in his throat. “I’m sorry, Linhardt. I’ll— I’ll find someplace else to sleep.”
Linhardt huffed. “This is your bed? Oh, it is...” His voice was soft and thick with drowse. A yawn. “Sorry...you can sleep with me. I don’t wanna get up...”
Ignatz was never more thankful Linhardt didn’t abide by any noble’s code. He muttered a soft ‘okay’, wondering why the Goddess blessed him so as he crawled into bed. That he was still in his uniform didn’t matter. As soon as he snuffed the candle, Linhardt’s arm slotted around his waist, his breath tickling the hair on Ignatz’s neck.
Ignatz couldn’t hold the tiny noise of surprise and excitement down. He thought he heard Linhardt laugh, but it didn’t matter. He had to stay awake and commit this all to memory. How the sound of Linhardt’s breathing was so loud in the quiet, how his fingers flexed against Ignatz’s shirt. But soon the feeling of another body’s warmth overtook all else, and Ignatz fell asleep.
He’d deal with the consequences and give Linhardt the painting in the morning. Right now, he would enjoy this moment.