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The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts

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Felix gets the call just past 2am. He’s woken by his obnoxious ringtone, set by none other than Glenn, because of course he did. Felix couldn’t bring himself to change it when he saw his brother’s goofy smile every time it rang.

Glenn Fraldarius was involved in an accident, the woman on the phone says. They’ve been unable to reach his father, and Felix is the next on the list.

He drives to the hospital in a daze, barely remembers most of it. He should have called one of his friends, but he couldn’t bring himself to pick up the phone. He couldn’t bring himself to talk to anybody when everything around him felt like it was falling apart.

Glenn had been driving home from a ski trip with Dimitri and his family. Felix’s classes had been in the way; he’d decided not to go. Fuck, he hopes the Blaiddyd family are okay.

The nurse - he assumes it was a nurse, didn’t give him a lot of information on what had happened, only that he should come as quickly as possible. Felix hates what it implies.

It takes too long to find parking, he doesn’t even bother paying. He's rude, rushing through the halls in a desperate attempt to find his brother, to find Glenn. Because Glenn is hurt, and if anything happened to him, Felix isn’t sure he’ll ever be able to breathe again. 

He collapses upon entering the room, falling to his knees. A barely contained sob escapes his lips as Felix staggers up and drags himself to Glenn’s bedside. His brother looks so small, dwarfed by machines, tubes, and lines. There’s a heart monitor. It sounds uneven, too fast, but that’s good isn’t it? On TV, everybody’s heart rate is always slow before they die. 

Felix doesn’t know what the numbers mean. Doesn’t understand the pulse that’s too fast and too weak, doesn’t understand the blood pressure that’s too low. Glenn’s breathing is uneven too, but he ignores that, he has to. 

A doctor comes to speak with him, somebody has to make medical decisions and his father isn’t here. Felix is just barely 18, he can’t make those choices, he can’t decide whether Glenn lives or dies. The doctor is sympathetic. She sits him down, gives him a sad look and says:

“I’m sorry, but we’ve done all we can.”

It hits him like a ton of bricks, settling deep within his stomach. He’s going to be sick, he’s going to die. He can’t breathe.

There’s nobody Felix can call, it’s always been just Glenn. Dimitri, too, but he isn’t able to answer. Brain trauma, they’d said. Still in surgery. He can’t visit Dimitri’s parents, Patricia and Lambert were like an aunt and uncle to him. They’re both dead too. Lambert died on scene, and Patricia on the way to the hospital. He hopes somebody tells her daughter.

Instead, he collapses into a chair, tries not to sob too loudly when the anguish of the day finally overtakes him.

Ingrid already booked a flight, and Felix is texting her updates. She should have been called first, but Glenn never updated his emergency contacts after he proposed to her. She’s all the way in Enbarr for school, the earliest flight isn’t for another four hours, and then three more on the plane. He doesn’t say it, neither does she, but they both know she won't make it in time.

It feels like every breath is a lungful of glass, like he’s walking on ice.

Felix has never been a religious man, but he still prays. Holding Glenn’s hand, he sends every prayer to the Goddess he can think of, begging, pleading. Glenn is all he has, he’s his whole life. He can’t live without his brother, not the way seeing him laying in this bed makes Felix’s heart feel like it was ripped from his chest. His entire world feels like a kaleidoscope, emotions twisting like colours, grief and anger melding with everything else. He can’t lose Glenn.

In the end, the goddess is silent, as she so often is.

At 6:47am, almost five hours after he first got the call, almost eight after the accident, Glenn Fraldarius is pronounced dead.

They tried their best, Felix knows they did. He watched them try to resuscitate his brother long past when they should have given up, but in the end it didn’t matter.

His prayers fell on deaf ears, his pleads to hold on went unanswered. 

At 6:47am Felix’s brother is dead, and his world shatters.

The doctors give him time, a kind nurse asks if there’s anyone they can call. He asks them, through choked breath and gritted teeth, if they can try to call his father again. He’s on a business trip in Morfis, he’s unlikely to answer, but Felix doesn’t care.

He sits in the silent room with Glenn’s unmoving body. It’s only been ten minutes when there’s a knock on the door,

A young doctor enters. She has mint coloured hair pulled back in a ponytail, a white lab coat over blue scrubs. Felix can’t tell what kind of doctor she is.

“Hello,” she says, her arms are wrapped around a clipboard and a file. She looks nervous, but Felix is too far gone to care - not that he would have even before Glenn lay in front of him, still and lifeless. “My name is Dr. Byleth Eisner,” she continues, unperturbed by his lack of response. “I’m a seventh year surgical resident specializing in cardiothoracic surgery.”

Felix isn’t sure what any of this has to do with Glenn. He doesn’t respond, only tightens his grip on his brother’s hand. 

Dr. Eisner takes a deep breath. “I want to start by saying that I am so sorry for your loss,” she sounds sincere. Felix doesn’t care. “I am here to discuss with you the options of organ donation.”

Organ donation. His brother is barely dead, and they already want to cut him up.

“You what ?” he asks, voice empty of it’s usual growl. He just feels so tired. He can’t believe this is happening. Just a few hours he was texting Glenn, and now...

“I understand that this must be a difficult time for you,” she continues, as if she’s used to this kind of outburst. Honestly, she probably is. “And I would love to give you more time to process before speaking to you, but unfortunately, the human body isn’t viable for very long after death.”

He wants to say no. He’s about to, in fact.

“I ran a test on your brother’s blood when he came in,” she admits, opening the file she has stacked on top of the clipboard. There’s a hint of desperation in her voice. “There’s a patient here,” she continues, despite all the regulations she must be breaking. “Your brother is a perfect match.”

Felix is silent, he isn’t looking at her. He knows what Glenn would say, but he doesn’t want it. He doesn’t want to lose him, doesn’t want him cut up into pieces. 

“He’s twenty years old,” she tells him. Three years younger than Glenn. “He is twenty years old and he is dying. But your brother could save him.”

If Glenn could speak to him, Felix knows he’d be begging him to say yes. He knows that the fact Glenn isn’t an organ donor is more an oversight than anything. 

“How long does he have?” Felix asks, hating the way his voice shakes, because he’s alone. He’s alone and his brother is dead and Dimitri is in surgery and his dad still hasn’t called back. 

The doctor hesitates, probably about sharing more medical information than she already did. Felix is pretty sure that some of the shit she's saying is illegal. “Days, maybe,” she says eventually.

And that’s it. That’s what does it. 

Felix nods. 

It’s a rush after that. Felix signs paper after paper, he agrees to let them take almost everything. Glenn’s heart and lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestines. He doesn’t let them take Glenn’s corneas but that’s about it.

Half an hour later, they’re wheeling Glenn away to be stripped apart and sewn back together, while Felix is left floundering. Ingrid is still an hour away from boarding. 

Glenn is dead, and Felix is alone.

He finds his way to a waiting room, staring at his phone as he does. He’s crying - it’s stupid, he hasn’t cried since he was a kid, but Glenn is dead, and his bastard of a father still hasn’t called back. Felix thinks that he’s going to die right along with his brother, if only from pure heartache.

It’s like a dagger has been thrust deep into his heart, like he’s bleeding to death. Felix isn’t sure he’ll ever get the sound of the heart monitor flat lining out of his head, he thinks he’ll have nightmares about it for the rest of his life.

Goddess, Glenn is dead.

There’s a small group of people in the waiting room, they’re anxious. A brunette with perfect hair and makeup paces, a woman with long purple hair speaks to her in a low voice. Another with purple hair, this time short crapped and messy, is curled in a chair, watching the door. She’s chewing on her lip. A woman, ash blonde, glances at him, and Felix looks away. He doesn’t need pity.

It's five minutes later when she approaches him, and Felix doesn’t even notice until she speaks. 

“Hello,” she says, her voice soft in the quiet of the room. It’s watery, like she’s been crying too. “Do you mind if I sit?”

He shrugs, because he wants to bite. Wants to tell her to fuck off, but he can’t. He can’t because everything inside him is so twisted up he can’t even breathe.

She sits, crossing her legs. It looks like she jumped out of bed and threw on whatever was handy. The entire group kind of looked like that, aside from the perfect brunette. “I hope you’re waiting for good news,” she says, but she isn’t looking at him. She’s watching at the small group of people she came from, all waiting anxiously.

Felix lets out a humourless, watery laugh. “No,” he tells her. “No I’m not.”

She only nods. “I’m sorry,” she tells him. “I’m Mercedes.”

He doesn’t know why she’s introducing herself, and already hates the amount of times people have said they’re sorry. He wants to scream, wants to fight and hit and rip the world apart. Instead, Felix just stays silent. 

“My best friend is getting a heart right now,” she continues, her voice wavering, and Felix stops . “We aren’t sure if he’s going to be strong enough to make it through. He’s been on the waiting list for years now, but they haven’t been able to find a match.” Mercedes wipes her eyes, but she still smiles at him. “He’s been living in the hospital for a long time.”

Felix isn’t sure why she’s telling him this, even if it makes his own heart beat faster. Did somebody tell her that his brother is having his organs removed? Is that what she’s here for? But it doesn’t seem like she knows, it's like she’s just making conversation. Like it would be casual, if they both weren’t crying. 

“I’m sorry,” she says, letting out a shaky breath. “I just- you seem like you could use a friend.” Her fingers fidget with the fabric of her sweatpants. “I can leave you alone, if you’d like.” She glances back toward her worried friends. “But you’re welcome to come sit with us.”

He doesn’t know what to say. “My brother just died,” he settles on, because she seems so nice, and he’s a prickly bastard but she’s worried and scared and still came to speak to him and honestly that means a lot. He may not know her, but it's better than being alone.

She hums. “Is it okay if I touch you?” her hand hovers next to his, and Felix isn’t sure what to say, so he just nods. 

Mercedes takes his hand, cupping it between her own. Her's are soft and smooth, lacking the calluses from Felix’s years of fencing and sports. There’s comfort in the touch, and Felix finds himself wishing for more. He wishes for Glenn, to grab his brother’s shoulder and cry, just like he used to when they were kids.

He doesn’t know what he’s going to say when Ingrid gets here. He hasn’t told her he’s gone yet, doesn’t want her sobbing on the plane. He’ll tell her in person when she arrives. Even if she hates him for it. 

“I donated his heart,” Felix says after a moment, curled forward in the chair to stop the ache in his chest. It feels like a physical pain. Like he’s drowning. 

Mercedes freezes for a moment. When she speaks again, it sounds like it's through tears. 

“Thank you.” The words fall from her lips like a prayer, reverent in their inflection.

Felix looks up, sees the way she’s looking at him like he’s the one who hung the stars. Tears are falling from her eyes, but she’s smiling at him like he’s her everything.

He wants to say something, but nothing can meet the way she looks at him.

“We weren’t-” she begins, letting out a watery laugh. “Goddess, I’m so sorry. You’re grieving, I’m sorry. It’s just-” it’s not a laugh this time, but a sob. “We were so sure he wasn’t going to find a heart. So sure he was going to die.”

He still might, remains unsaid. She said it herself, he may not be strong enough to make it through.

“Please,” she tells him, gripping his hand, “come sit with us.”

He does.

Dorothea, the brunette he saw pacing, hugs Felix when she finds out. Her whisper of “thank you,” so sincere and heart wrenching, it almost distracts him from the fact his world is shattered like glass. 

It’s been two hours. Glenn is dead. Ingrid is on the plane. Nobody has reached his father. 

Bernadetta is the one curled up, trying to focus on anything but the hospital around her. Her oversized sweater looks comforting, and Felix wishes he had one of Glenn’s. She spares him a smile, and Felix finds himself thinking that he should feel honoured about that.

Petra - the other one with purple hair - is sweet; tells him she is sorry for his loss in faulting Fodlan. She’s from Brigid, Felix comes to find out, when she apologizes for her lack of mastery in the language. She’s not bad, he thinks. He, at least, can’t speak any other languages.

They sit him in the middle of the group, something that would usually make Felix uncomfortable. He must be desperate for any human connection though, because he doesn't.

“Are heart transplants supposed to take this long?” Dorothea asks, she looks like she’s about to rip out her own hair. 

“It’s only been an hour,” Mercedes says calmly from her seat. She’s still holding Felix’s hand, and if it had been any other day then he probably would have shaken her off by now. “It can last anywhere from two to five hours, maybe longer if there’s complications.”

Dorothea groans. “Well, this is Sylvain, he exists to make everything as complicated as humanly possible.”

They all laugh a little at that, before growing silent. 

Felix wonders how many hours they’d spent at the hospital, leading up to today. Wonders if they had started losing hope.

“Has anybody called his parents yet?” Bernadetta speaks up from her seat. She’s pulled out some yarn, and is knitting in what Felix thinks might be an absent minded way. He doesn’t know enough about knitting to know whether or not one actually has to look at the yarn in order to do it. She’s hesitant when she asks.

It’s almost funny how quickly the air of the group turns uncomfortable before they all turn to look at Mercedes. At least Felix knows who of the group was closest to Sylvain, or at least was the designated mom friend. 

“I haven’t, no,” Mercedes says. “I’ll call them when he’s out of surgery and stable.”

There’s a flare of indignation at that, because Felix would do anything for his father to be there. 

Everybody else seems to take it as a good answer, which Felix thinks is bullshit. What right did they have to keep that shit a secret from his parents?

Mercedes must be a mind reader, Felix thinks, because she leans over once everybody’s attention is back on whatever anxious habit they’re using to pass the time.

“Sylvain doesn’t have a good relationship with his parents,” she whispers to him. “If we were to call them now, they’d only stress him out before he's stable.”

It seems like a good enough answer, even if it still bothers him.

They end up telling Felix stories, if only to keep him out of his own head, and them out of theirs. The chairs in the waiting room have been pulled into a loose circle, but the nurses don’t seem bothered by it.

Mercedes is a third year nursing student, but that isn’t where she met Sylvain. They’ve known each other since he was sixteen, and she was nineteen. An unlikely friendship - Sylvain was a regular at the coffee shop she worked at, where he drank everything but coffee. She was the one to call an ambulance when Sylvain collapsed, six months after their meeting. He’d ended up on the transplant list that day. It’s been four years since then, and Felix can’t imagine watching somebody waste away for that long. He doesn't think he could handle visiting the hospital to watch his best friend slowly dying, while waiting desperately for a heart that may not come. 

Dorothea is Sylvain’s ex girlfriend, or rather, ex fling. It was never serious, she explains. Sylvain was eighteen and drunk on newfound freedom, she was seventeen and trying to make her ex jealous. It lasted approximately a week before she decided that her ex was a dick, and Sylvain wasn’t her type. He took it in stride, apparently. She didn’t even know he had a heart condition for the first few months of friendship, until he had his first extended stay in the hospital. 

“The asshole was always way too good at hiding it,” she says with a watery laugh. “He hates being seen as weak, being vulnerable. Better to slowly kill himself than admit there’s something wrong.”

Petra met him about a year ago, courtesy of being Dorothea’s girlfriend. Apparently Sylvain had tried hitting on her from his hospital bed. Dorothea had to explain what his shitty pickup lines meant, while Sylvain sat there looking pleased beyond belief at the blush that had spread across Petra’s cheeks. Apparently Dorothea threatened to dump her iced coffee on him. The only thing that stopped her was the idea of the poor nurses having to change his bedding.

“How long has he been in the hospital?” Felix finds himself asking.

“In and out most of his life,” Mercedes replies. “But it got worse when he was sixteen, and he’s been living here long term for about a year and a half now.”

A year and a half staring at blank, white walls.

Is that what Dimitri will have waiting for him?

Bernadetta doesn’t want to share her story, but it doesn’t take long for her to give in. She’s an indie comic artist, she explains, and has a large following. Sylvain tracked her down at a convention when he was eighteen and asked her to sign his copy. The cover art was old, from the very first printing. Only a couple hundred were ever sold. He laughed when she pointed that out, said he had been a fan for a while. He’d read it in the hospital, it turned out. By then, he couldn’t do much without exhausting himself, so he read a lot. Her comics are still one of his favourites. They became friends shortly thereafter, and she’s let him look over her new editions months before release since then. 

“I have my drawing tablet in my bag,” she says softly, glancing at the fabric bag shoved under her chair. “I have a new edition to show him. I wasn’t sure if I’d get it done before...” she trails off, leaving it unspoken, but Felix knows. Dr. Eisner had told him - Sylvain had days, if he was lucky. Which means less if he wasn't.

Ingrid texts him three hours after Glenn died, two since the start of Sylvain’s surgery. 

Mercedes had stepped away briefly, something about a call from “Annie”. Dorothea and Petra went off in search of coffee, and brought back enough for the five of them.

He shouldn’t be sitting with them anymore, but it's nice. It makes him feel a little bit less alone, if only for a little while. He doesn’t tell them anything about Glenn after they told him about Sylvain, and they don’t ask.

Felix sighs bitterly upon seeing the message. She's in a taxi, twenty minutes from the hospital, and he has to find a way to tell her she’s three hours too late. That Glenn died while she was in the air. That they’re still unable to reach Rodrigue. He’ll have to admit that she can’t see Glenn yet, because Felix had allowed them to cut him up.

She’ll be wrecked, and he doesn’t know how to avoid that or how to help her. He doesn’t think he’s capable of supporting another person. If it weren’t for Sylvain’s friends, Felix is sure he’d be drowning in grief right about now. As it is it feels almost impossible to keep his head above water. 

“Are you alright Felix?” Mercedes asks, and he wonders if it's as exhausting as he imagines it would be to always be aware of everybody else’s feelings. She seems worn thin, and Felix thinks he can understand. From what she’s said about Sylvain, she’s watched him slowly die for four years. He can’t even imagine that.

He shows her the message in lieu of a response. She hums in reply.

“Would you like one of us to go with you?” she offers, and Felix blinks a few times. It’s tempting, if only to hide behind somebody else. But no, he can’t do that. Can’t drag any of them away from their friend to deal with the grief of people they don’t even know.

Mercedes hugs him before he heads downstairs to meet Ingrid, Dorothea follows suit. They put their phone numbers into Felix’s cellphone, and offer to text him updates about Sylvain - if he wants to know. Mercedes makes sure to impress upon him that he and Ingrid are welcome to come sit with them, if they so desire.

Felix doesn’t think they will.

He meets Ingrid in the lobby, and pulls her to the side to tell her. She collapses to the ground with a sob. It's ugly and loud, full of all the grief and heartache he feels. People glance at them with barely contained pity. As much as it pisses him off, he can’t blame them. A nurse approaches and lets him guide her into an empty conference room.

It takes about twenty minutes for the sobbing to calm down into constant tears instead. 

“C-can I see him?” she asks, her voice so full of desperation. For a moment, Felix hates himself. Hates every decision he’s made that has stopped Ingrid from getting at least that much. Then he remembers Sylvain’s friends. Remembers the way Mercedes said thank you like Felix answered every prayer she’s ever had.

“No,” he answers, looking away. “Soon, probably, but not yet.” He lets out a harsh breath. “They took him for organ donations two hours ago.” Felix won’t look at her, doesn’t want to see the way her face must shatter at that.

She lets out another sob, but reaches forward to take his hand. “Good,” she manages to force out, trying her best to smile through body shaking sobs. “He- He would have wanted that.”

Felix swallows. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah he would.” And then Felix is crying too.

He tells her about Sylvain, and his friends waiting upstairs. How Glenn saved a twenty year old man. He hopes she takes comfort in it, even as she sobs.

It takes another hour or so for her to calm down, but Felix knows it’ll take nothing to set her off again. He can’t judge. It feels like he’s poised precariously on a knife's edge, too. 

“I think I’ll go see Dimitri,” she whispers, sipping on a paper cup of water a nurse had given her. Felix admitted he hadn’t yet, hadn’t been able to stomach the thought of it.

He nods, and denies her offer to join. 

When he’s alone again, he tries to call his father.

He’s surprised when Rodrigue answers. 

“Felix,” his father says in a harried voice. “I was about to call you-

“Glenn’s dead.” The words slip passed his lips without him even realizing it, and then they’re out there in the open, and he can’t take them back. He swallows before continuing. “He- there was an accident. Mr. and Mrs. Blaiddyd- Glenn is dead, dad,” he repeats, unable to break the news about his father’s closest friends, too. “Dimitri’s in the hospital, I- I haven’t seen him yet. He got out of surgery not long ago. Ingrid is on her way there, now. She just got in from Enbarr an hour ago but -” he lets out a shaky breath, tears falling down his cheeks again. “But he’s dead.”

There’s silence on the other end, and Felix doesn’t know how to respond to that. He wants to throw his phone across the room, let it shatter against the far wall.

“Felix,” his father says before he can, and fuck, he sounds absolutely wrecked. “Felix, I’m so sorry,” he says, and Felix can hear the way his voice shakes with tears. “I- I’m so sorry I wasn’t there, that you had to deal with this all alone.” And that’s what he’s sorry for? Not that he didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Glenn? He’s sorry that Felix was alone? “I’ll be on the soonest flight,” he says, as if that means anything. He won't arrive until tomorrow anyway.

Felix hangs up on him. 

Dimitri looks like shit, although that’s to be expected. He did just go through several hours of brain surgery. Ingrid holds his hand and sobs again, Felix stares up at the lights and blinks tears out of his eyes.

A medically induced coma, they’d said. About a week or so, to give his brain a stronger chance of healing. Felix heard what they said between the lines - they aren’t sure of his prognosis yet. They want to give him the best chance he has before they have to make one.

He almost wants to laugh from the absurdity of it all. It’s 11:26am. The accident happened just after midnight, Glenn died at 6:47am.

Twelve hours ago, Felix was sitting in his bedroom watching a shitty horror movie on netflix, his cat laying across his legs. Now three people are dead, Dimitri may as well be, and Felix feels like his heart has been ripped out of his chest. 

It’s almost noon when Mercedes sends Felix a message. 

Sylvain’s surgery was a perfect success. He’s in the ICU now, and while he isn’t out of the woods yet, the doctors are optimistic.

He shows Ingrid the message, she asks if she can see him.

It throws Felix for a minute, because why would she want to? But Ingrid gives him a watery smile and says:

“I’d just like to hear his heartbeat again, one more time.” And who is Felix to deny her that? He texts Mercedes.

When Felix was little, he used to crawl into Glenn’s bed after nightmares. Five years older than him, Glenn was always so big and brave, able to stand up to everything. It was Glenn who would check under his bed for monsters, who would read him stories when their dad worked late. 

Felix lost count of the amount of times he’d fallen asleep to the sound of Glenn’s heartbeat. He knows Ingrid feels the same way.

Mercedes is quick to check with Sylvain’s doctors and get back to him. Dr. Eisner approved Felix and Ingrid visiting.

He’s scared as they leave Dimitri’s room. Sylvain’s isn’t far, all things considered. A different part of the ICU, but still within the same ward. 

The room is almost empty when they arrive. Mercedes is there, sitting next to Sylvain and speaking to Dr. Eisner.

The man in the bed, Sylvain, Felix’s brain finally makes the connection, is pretty. Or, could be, rather. It's hard to think somebody is pretty when they look on the verge of death.

He’s a redhead. It's the first thing that draws Felix’s attention. His hair is flat, overgrown and messy. The colour is dull, but it must have been vibrant once, before his heart started giving out from the strain of keeping him alive. The next thing he notices is Sylvain’s skin, so pale it's almost translucent, and pulled taut against bones. He’s been sick for years, and living in the hospital for a long time too, Mercedes had said, so it makes sense. But still, he’s so small.

There are all sorts of machines and tubes, similar to the ones in Dimitri’s room, but it still takes a moment to make the connection. The steady beeping sound of the heart monitor, Glenn’s heart.

This is it. He’s hearing Glenn’s heart beating in somebody else’s chest.

Ingrid must realize it too, because she’s crying again, and then Mercedes is crying from her seat next to Sylvain, and smiling at them. 

“You must be Ingrid,” she says softly, and Ingrid only nods, her eyes drawn to the steady rhythm that Felix knows she can image beating inside Glenn’s chest,

Dr. Eisner introduces herself as the one who performed part of Glenn’s surgery. 

“If you’d like, we can have it arranged so you can see him,” she offers holding a clipboard. 

Ingrid only nods again, unable to speak. Felix can empathize.

It's just past noon. In twelve hours, their entire lives have changed.

Dr. Eisner excuses herself, and leaves the three of them in the room.

Felix wants to ask where the other three went, but he can’t bring himself to speak past the lump in his throat. 

Mercedes holds out her hand to Ingrid. “Would you like to feel?” she asks. “I know Sylvain wouldn’t mind.”

Ingrid lets her take her hand, lets her put it against Sylvain’s too thin wrist, and feel the pulse there. Steady, strong, alive. She falls to her knees there, just holding Sylvain’s wrist like it's the most precious thing in existence. At this point, it may as well be.

Felix shakes his head no at Mercedes' silent offer to do the same. Instead, he leans against the wall, watches Ingrid cry and cry, watches Mercedes cry too. 

“Thank you so much,” Mercedes says, pulling Ingrid into a tight embrace. “I can’t imagine what you must be going through." Looking at Sylvain, Felix thinks that’s a lie. Mercedes knows what it's like to watch somebody die, if slowly instead of all at once. “If not for you two,” Merecedes continues, fresh tears flowing from her eyes, “there’s no guarantee Sylvain would be alive right now.”

Ingrid shakes her head, although none of them really know what she’s disagreeing with. “I only just spoke to him,” she says, her voice shaking.

Mercedes lets Ingrid clutch at her shirt, soaking the shoulder of the lacey blouse in tears. It’s more than Felix could do for her. 

They stay for an hour, just listening to the sound of Glenn’s - now Sylvain’s - heart beat. The only reason they stop is the news from Dr. Eisner that they can see Glenn now. 

Rodrigue arrives the next morning. 

Felix and Ingrid slept at the hospital. Well, Ingrid slept, curled in a chair by Dimitri’s bed. Felix sat, staring up at the ceiling. 

Technically it's against hospital regulations to stay the night, but those rules are more lax in the ICU, especially on the first night.

Ingrid wakes a few hours before Rodrigue arrives, exhaustion pulling at her features. It’s her who ventures out to get more shitty coffee for them, while Felix sits by and lets the nurses check on Dimitri.

He thinks something must be wrong with him. He feels so numb about the situation now, like he spent all the emotion he has yesterday, and is now left as a feelingless husk of a person. Part of him hopes it stays. Feeling nothing is easier than feeling the sharp sting of grief at the knowledge that he’ll never see Glenn again, never be the butt of one of is brother’s stupid jokes, or see him smile. 

Like Ingrid, Rodrigue comes directly from the airport. He looks destroyed as he enters Dimitri’s room. 

“Felix,” he says, a desperate quality to his voice. Felix has never heard him sound like that before, but he’s also never seen the man grieving a child. Rodrigue takes a few steps, and pulls him into a fierce hug, a sob escaping as he does so. Ingrid is next to receive the same treatment. 

“I’m so sorry,” she says, but Rodrigue shakes his head. 

“No, no Ingrid. You’re grieving too.” 

He speaks to the doctor, the closest thing Dimitri has to Next of Kin until his uncle arrives, although Felix thinks that there’s a good chance that Rufus will concede his position as medical proxy to Rodrigue, rather than making the flight to Fhirdiad. 

“I donated his organs,” Felix says when his father re-enters the room. He’s staring out the window, and doesn’t even bother looking to the man as he speaks. “Sorry if you didn’t want that I guess,” he knows his voice is flat, monotone and empty. “There wasn’t a lot of time to make the decision, and nobody could get a hold of you.” The last sentence has a bite to it, and only then does Felix realize he’s angry. Pissed, actually. Because Glenn was dying. Rodrigue wouldn’t have made it in time, just like Ingrid didn’t, but what right did he have to be unreachable while his son died? While Felix held his brother’s hand and sobbed? 

“Felix I’m-” Rodrigue starts, his voice watery and wavering. 

“If you say you’re sorry I swear to the goddess I will knock out your fucking teeth.” Threatening his father in the ICU over Dimitri’s unconscious form is probably not the best practice, but he’s so tired of hearing it. So tired of the pitying looks from nurses and doctors and other visitors. It's exhausting to hear from his family, who are grieving just the same. 

He storms out before his father can reply, leaving Rodrigue and Ingrid in the room. He just - he needs air. Needs to be able to breathe without suffocating from the death surrounding him at all sides. Needs something that isn’t Dimitri or Ingrid or his father, sobbing about Glenn and Lambert and Patricia. 

Felix finds himself outside. He hasn’t smoked for years now, not since Glenn caught him as a rebellious fifteen year old. But Glenn is dead, and it seems a little bit like revenge to do it now.

He recognizes Dorothea outside, wearing a black coat that’s differently too big for her. She’s smoking, eyes closed and head tilted up. He shouldn’t bother her, he's fucked with those people enough, but the idea of approaching anybody else to bump a cigarette makes his stomach churn. 

“Got any extras?” Felix asks, walking up to her. It’s raining a little, which somehow feels fitting.

Dorothea opens her eyes, a little startled. It takes her a moment to recognize him. 

“Felix,” she says, a small smile on her lips. Her makeup is impeccable. She must have redone it, considering her eyeshadow is a different colour than the day previous, along with her lipstick. He hadn’t even realized he’d noticed it the day before. “Yeah sure.” She reaches into the pocket of the coat and pulls out a box and a lighter. They’re cheap, but Felix doesn’t care. The kind he bought off the older students in highschool was cheap too. 

He lights one, and tries to suppress a cough. 

“They’ll give you shit if you go back in smelling like cigarette smoke,” Dorothea says. 

“Spoken from experience?” The nicotine is already rushing through his system. Felix knows the effect of nicotine isn’t actually relaxation, but he feels it all the same. Maybe it’s just having something to focus on other than the fact his life is falling apart.

“Not really,” Dorothea responds, staring out at the parking lot across from them. “I’m a singer by trade, and Sylvain can’t really be around smokers. This is just a guilty pleasure.”

Felix supposes that makes sense. Something about cigarettes and heart disorders. Part of him wants to ask how Sylvain is doing, wants to know whether the last piece of his brother is still kicking, the way Glenn isn’t. He doesn’t. If Dorothea is out here, she probably doesn’t want to talk about it.

They settle into silence, leaning against the wall. His phone vibrates a few times in his pocket, but he doesn’t check it. Doesn’t want to see Ingrid trying to convince him to come back inside. 

Dorothea finishes her smoke first, but after grinding it into the pavement, she doesn’t go back inside. “You okay?” she asks, and then stops. “Sorry, guess that was kind of a stupid question.”

“Yeah, it was,” he replies. At least she hasn’t apologized for Glenn.

They settle back into silence. 

“I’m sick of people telling me how sorry they are,” he says after a moment, because it’s true. Felix isn’t usually one to talk about emotions, he hates the feeling of being vulnerable. But being angry he can deal with, even talking about being angry, and Dorothea is here, willing to listen for all she hasn’t said it outright.

She laughs, “Yeah. Well, it doesn’t really stop. People have been telling me how sorry they are for Sylv since we met, and he wasn’t even dead.” The ‘yet’ remains unsaid.

“It’s bullshit,” Felix says.

“Yeah, it is.”

Her phone chimes, and she checks it, her eyes darting across the screen as she reads. The phone clicks off, and Dorothea slips it back in the pocket of her tight fitting jeans, rather than the huge black coat. 

Felix doesn’t ask what it said, Dorothea doesn’t volunteer the information.

He finishes his cigarette soon after, but like Dorothea, doesn’t make a move to head back inside. It seems neither of them are quite ready.

“Sylvain’s awake,” she remarks casually, scuffing her petite black flats against the concrete.

Felix is acutely aware that he's still in the sweatpants and tshirt he threw on when he first got the call.  

“You and the peetty one are still welcome to visit, if you want.” The pretty one. She must mean Ingrid. “Sylvain probably won't hit on either of you. Even he realizes there's a time and a place. Most of the time. And even if he doesn’t, he’ll probably still be too tired to try.”

Felix decidedly doesn’t comment on that. Although if somebody tried to flirt with Ingrid right now, she’d probably stab them, Glenn’s heart or no. “My dad’s here,” is all he says. 

Dorothea shrugs. “Him too, if he wants.” She takes a moment. “You don’t have to, just. If it helps. I don’t know. It’s a weird situation.”


“Yeah, it is.” The families or organ donors don’t usually meet the transplant recipients. It was only a stroke of luck that Felix did. He thinks of the heartbeat in Sylvain’s room. How similar it sounded to Glenn’s. How Ingrid felt the pulse, and sobbed. He doesn’t know if it helped her, but he hopes it did. Sighing, he shrugs. “I don’t know. I’ll ask.”

She nods, turning back to look out over the rainy day. “You still have my phone number, yeah? If you ever need to escape for a moment, feel free to message me.” She smiles, it’s blinding and beautiful. 

“Yeah,” he responds, with no intention of actually doing so. “Sure.”

They do end up visiting Sylvain. 

He looks better, Felix thinks as they arrive. They’re a bigger group, enough so that some will have to wait outside. Dorothea slips out of the room when they get there, Mercedes stays. 

Sylvain is reclined on the bed, pillows piled behind him. His colour is already better. Still pale, but he looks less translucent. The tube down his throat has been replaced by a nasal cannula. His eyes are hazel, and warm. He looks tired, but he’s smiling as he talks to Mercedes, his hand in hers and she strokes her thumb carefully against it. It lights up his whole face. Felix is struck by how accurate his original assessment was. Sylvain is very pretty.

They’re warned about the possibility of infection before they enter. 

Sylvain’s smile turns sad when they do, and his face falls a little. He adjusts the way he’s sitting, before cringing. Pain, probably. Felix wonders if he’s in a lot, or if the medications he’s on keep it well controlled. He seems aware of his surroundings, at least.

“Hello,” Mercedes speaks first, which Felix is thankful for. Sylvain looks like he agrees.

Rodrigue is choked up, staring at the heart monitor. At least they seem to have warned Sylvian ahead of time.

Felix watches as Sylvain fists the blanket, breathes deeply a few times, and coughs once. 

“Hi,” he says. His voice sounds rough, and a little out of breath. Considering he got a new heart around 24 hours ago, Felix can’t really judge. “I, um,” he looks to Mercedes, who shrugs. “Sorry, uh, I’m not really sure what to say here.”

“No, that’s-” Ingrid starts. She has to take a couple of deep breaths. “That’s okay. I think we’re all a little lost right now.”

Sylvain looks relieved at that. He seems a little like he’d rather die than be in this situation, but maybe that’s just Felix projecting. 

They all just stand there awkwardly, nobody really sure how to approach the situation. 

Dr. Eisner saves the day yet again when she enters, taken aback by the group visiting. 

“Hello Felix,” she greets, glancing at the other two. Her eyes settle on Rodrigue, and soften a little. It’s the only perceptible change in her facial expression. “You must be Glenn’s father,” she says, reaching her hand out. “I’m Dr. Eisner. I performed part of the organ removal on your son.”

“And then did my surgery right after,” Sylvain adds, likely guessing that Dr. Eisner couldn’t share that detail, even if it was easy to guess via context.

Rodrigue shakes her hand. “Thank you,” he tells her, full of emotion. He could be thanking her for a million things, but she doesn’t seem to mind. 

“Of course. If you have any questions regarding your son’s organ removal, feel free to ask me. I can also get you in contact with Glenn’s doctor, should you have any questions regarding his care.” She’s professional, and Felix can almost forget how close she was to begging him to sign away his brother’s organs. 

“I-” Sylvain starts, only to cut himself off with a cough. He cringes again before continuing. Apparently having the doctor there broke the ice a little, although Felix still doesn’t feel it. “Thank you,” he says, “I’m not sure how much you know, but there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be here right now, if not for your son.” He laughs awkwardly. “I was cutting it pretty close for awhile there.”

Mercedes squeezes his hand, and he gives her a smile.

Felix wonders if Sylvain had made peace with the fact he was going to die, only to be saved. He wonders how it must feel to come back from that.

Rodrigue swallows down what Felix assumes is another sob, and steps to the edge of Sylvain’s bed. Mercedes offers the hand she’s holding, and Felix watches as his father takes it. “I am so glad that part of my son lives on, and that his death has at least given others the opportunity to live.” 

It sounds cheesy, even to Felix’s ears, but Sylvain seems a little bit choked up about it. He bites his lip and nods once, before looking away.

Rodrigue lets go of his hand, and turns back to Ingrid and Felix. “Well, we should probably let him rest.”

They take their cue, and leave Dr. Eisner to her patient. 

Dorothea is nowhere to be seen when they leave, and Felix assumes she’s either getting coffee, or headed down for another smoke.

Felix goes home that night, back to the quiet house he shares with his father, and used to share with Glenn.

His brother’s car is still in the garage, since he had been in the Blaiddyd’s when they crashed. The police would be in contact with his father eventually, Felix knew, when they figure out what caused it. 

The house is empty, devoid of more than just people. It's like the very spirit if rhe place is gone now. He walks the halls, pacing them and trying to retrace the steps Glenn had taken on his last day before the trip. Trying to feel a little bit closer.

It doesn’t work.

In the end, he raids his father’s stash of expensive alcohol. Felix doesn’t think Rodrigue will even notice, and if he does, he’ll understand.

It’s evening, which makes it around 40 hours since he last slept. Felix can’t tell if he’s so tired he doesn’t feel it anymore, or if he’s so fucked up he can’t feel anything.

He guesses it’s the latter of the two.

A quarter of a bottle of overpriced whiskey later, Felix passes out on Glenn’s bed. 

The days pass with no change from Dimitri, which isn’t unexpected. The doctors say he’ll be in a medically induced coma for another week or so. 

Rodrigue is holding off on the funerals as long as he can, knowing Dimitri will want to attend. They all know he won’t be able to wait forever. More than likely, they’ll bury the dead in a small ceremony, and have a larger one funeral later, when Dimitri is eventually released from the hospital.

If he’s released, Felix thinks but doesn’t say. His father would yell, Ingrid would punch him. Instead, Felix accompanies them to the hospital everyday, sitting around a cataonic Dimitri, and pretending that he won’t wake up with brain damage. It isn’t a question of if at this point, but rather of how badly.

In the evenings, Felix finds himself in Glenn’s bedroom. Usually drunk. It makes it easier to sleep without dreaming of his brother’s broken form, wrapped up in a hospital bed. Of signing away Glenn’s body to be taken apart and put back together. 

Four days after Glenn died, Felix runs into Mercedes.

She looks better than when he saw her last; like she’s been home in the past few days. Personally, he thinks he looks worse. 

“Felix!” She greets happily. Her eyes scan his form, and he knows what she sees. He hasn’t been sleeping well, his hair is dirty and unbrushed, simply tossed into a ponytail. He’s in sweatpants and one of Glenn’s old, oversized hoodies. He probably smells vaguely of alcohol. Her smile doesn’t slip, nor does she ask how he is. “Headed up to see your friend?”

He shrugs. “Yeah.”

“Want to grab some coffee first? I can pay,” she offers, and Felix shrugs again.

He wrecked his room the night before, shattering fencing trophies on the ground until his floor was covered in flecks of glass. The housekeeper will have a hell of a day today.

Mercedes guides him to the cafeteria, and orders a large black coffee for Felix, and a latte for herself. She nods to one of the tables. 

The hospital cafeteria is mostly empty at ten in the morning, with only a few employees taking up a table here and there. The blue scrubs give them away.

Sitting carefully, Mercedes wraps her hands around her coffee. Felix sips his and makes a face. 

“I know, right?” she laughs, sipping on her own. “It isn’t very good. But it’s something to do with my hands, and a reason to take a walk.”

Felix gets that. Sitting in Dimitri’s room makes him claustrophobic. 

They sit in silence, and Felix is thankful for that. It isn’t tense, like the one that settles over his father and Ingrid. It’s comfortable.

He barely knows Mercedes, and if he hadn’t decided she’s an angel before, he certainly would have now. 

Suddenly, a question burns in his mouth, and Felix doesn’t know why he cares to ask. Maybe it’s because even though she seems better, she still seems tired. Maybe it’s because she’s been so kind to him, and it’s only polite to return the favour. Felix hasn’t cared for being polite in the past, but that was before a stranger comforted him over his brother’s death. “How is Sylvain doing?” He covers his awkwardness by drinking more coffee.

She looks surprised for a moment, before settling into a sad smile. “He’s doing well. Still in a lot of pain, but that’s to be expected.” She thinks for a moment, before continuing. “They’ve moved him back to his room in the Cardiothoracic ward, which is better than the ICU, even if he still complains about it.”

He hums in response. 

“I have to head back to class tomorrow,” she says. “My profs gave me some time off, which I’m very appreciative of, but it means Sylvain will be alone most of the day.” She sighs, leaning back in her chair a little. “He’ll manage. He’s done so in the past, but I hate leaving him alone here. He’s already read through every book he can think of wanting to read.”

“I can imagine,” Felix remarks. Even just sitting in Dimitri’s room drives him insane. He couldn’t imagine being stuck in the hospital all day, everyday, for months. “How much longer is he in here for?”

“Two or three weeks,” Mercedes answers easily. “If he continues to recover at the rate he is now, and doesn’t develop any complications.”

They chat some more, about every safe topic they can think of. Which means no Glenn, no Dimitri, no mention of Felix’s family or friends or personal life at all. She doesn’t once ask how he’s doing, and Felix is beyond thankful for that. When the coffee is finished, Mercedes smiles at him.

“If you ever find yourself bored, I’m sure Sylvain could use some company.”

Felix doesn't think he’ll ever stoop to a level of desperation where he could put up with that awkwardness.

He hits it the next day.

Ingrid is crying again, and Rodrigue is working from his laptop at Dimitri’s bedside, and Felix can’t fucking take it anymore.  

“I’m getting some air,” he says, as if either of them would notice his absence at all. It’s like all they care about is Dimitri, is Glenn being gone. Ingrid pulled out of her university semester, and commented to Rodrigue about transferring to a closer school. Rodrigue is working through the delegation of his duties, so he can take an extended leave of absence to help Dimitri recover. 

Felix hasn’t been in contact with his school, but based on the emails he’s received from his professors wishing him their condolences, he guesses his father did it for him. He can’t decide if he’s thankful or not.

He doesn’t have a plan on where to go until he sees a sigh for the Cardiothoracic Ward. Mercedes had texted him Sylvain’s room number, just in case, and Felix had scoffed at it.

It will be awkward, he knows, but the idea of hanging around aimlessly isn’t any more appealing than being in Dimitri’s room, and the idea of going home to that empty fucking house makes him nauseous. So awkwardness it is.

Nobody pays him any mind, despite the fact he knows he looks like shit. Felix supposes the nurses must be used to that - it's not like people came here for pleasure after all. Dying friends and family took up the rooms. Or, recovering, in Sylvain’s case. 

The door to the room is open when Felix arrives, which he curses. If it were closed, he could easily convince himself to leave. 

He can see Sylvain from the doorway, the redhead looks good, his skin tone looks normal, and his hair seems a little less dead. He’s reading something, although doesn’t seem very invested.

Felix knocks on the open door, and Sylvain looks up. 

It takes a moment before recognition flashes in his eyes, and an easy going smile finds its way to his lips.

“Felix, right?” he asks, putting the book down without even bothering to mark his place in it. That in itself tells Felix how interesting it must be for him.

“Yeah,” he replies, standing awkwardly in the doorway.

“Mercedes mentioned you might stop by, you can come in, if you want.” He motions to one of the chairs in the room, and Felix notices that there’s several.

It isn’t hard to imagine that somebody has occupied this room for awhile. There’s a stack of board games in a chair, and various books and comics are neatly piled next to it. The bedside table is almost overflowing with flowers and Get Well Soon cards. There's a bag of said cards next to it, filled to the brim. Probably old ones. 

He lets his feet pull him into the room, and sits down on one of the chairs. 

“Sorry,” Felix mutters. “Just couldn’t take being in the room anymore.”

If Sylvain is confused by that, he doesn’t say it. Just sighs, looking at his semi depressing room. “Honestly? I get that.”

Felix supposes he would. This room is better than the ICU, but not by much.

“Hey,” Sylvain says after a moment. “You play chess?”

Felix blinks a few times. “Not really. I’m not sure I even know how.”

“Wanna learn?”

Fuck it. Not like he had anything better to do. “Sure, why not.”

Sylvain, as Felix comes to find out, kicks ass at chess.

“I didn’t have much else I could do as a kid,” he explains as he resets the board for the third time. Felix’s competitive streak is showing, his single minded focus for winning, even if logically he knows it’s unlikely. He gets the feeling Sylvain is going easy on him, and still beating him. “My parents were really protective. I wasn’t allowed to do anything. So I ended up spending my time playing chess.”

Felix moves first. “How long have you been sick?” he asks after. He remembers Mercedes mentioning he’d been in the hospital often.

“Forever I guess,” Sylvain says easily. “Had my first open heart surgery when I was two months old. My first transplant when I was seven. Been in and out of the hospital my entire life.”

Felix stops for a moment. “This wasn’t your first transplant?” he asks, looking up at Sylvain, who smiles dazzlingly. 

“Nope, it’s my second.” He talks about it as if it’s normal, which for him Felix supposes it must be, “We didn’t think we’d get one, honestly. My parents probably would have paid somebody, if it wasn’t highkey illegal.”

The parents that Felix had yet to hear about, other than when Mercedes mentioned she hadn’t told them yet.

“Do they know you got one?” he asks.

Sylvain’s face darkens a little for a moment, before he shrugs. “Mercedes called them the day after the surgery. I guess they yelled at her for not telling them sooner, but they haven’t visited me yet.” He gives a guilty look. “They’ve called me a couple times, but I keep ignoring them. Figure I’ll just tell them I was asleep”

“They really that bad?” Felix asks. Mercedes didn’t get into it, although it seems Sylvain doesn’t want to either.

“It’s complicated,” he replied, which Felix supposes is a fair response. 

Felix loses count of the amount of times he plays chess. It’s a stupid game really, with stupid rules, but the alternative is sitting awkwardly with Sylvain or sitting even more awkwardly with his father and Ingrid. Chess wins.

Nurses come and go, lunch gets set out but goes uneaten. 

He doesn’t even realize how long it’s been until a knock on the door, and Mercedes comes in. 

“Oh, hello Felix,” she says. She has a laptop bag over her shoulder, and Felix guesses she must have come from class. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”

“I wasn’t expecting to be here,” he replies, debating carefully which piece he should move. Sylvian, the bastard, has a grin on his face as he watches, meaning Felix is likely already beat. 

“He’s been playing chess with me,” Sylvain tells her, and Mercedes laughs. 

“Now that’s just not fair,” she says, looking at Felix. “You didn’t tell him, did you?” she asks, her voice still entertained. 

That gets his attention. “Didn’t tell me what?”

Sylvain pouts. “Come on Mercedes, he wouldn’t play with me if he knew.”

She doesn’t seem sympathetic, but is smiling anyway. “Sylvain is a Chess Master,” she tells Felix. “Probably would be a Grandmaster by now, if he didn’t have to take time off.”

Felix whips his head at Sylvain, glancing at the chess board, and then back at Sylvain. He knew the other was going easy on him, but he didn’t expect it to be by that much.

Sylvain, to his credit, looks guilty. “It’s no fun if I beat everybody I play against by turn seven. Besides, really you’re still learning.”

Okay, maybe Felix is a bit over competitive. “Play me for real.”

He loses in five turns. 

It becomes something of a routine after that. Ingrid and his father are at the hospital from the start of visiting hours to the end, and Felix is dragged along with them. They don’t question when he disappears for most of that time. 

They don’t always play chess. Sometimes Sylvain reads, or if he’s too tired for that, sleeps. There’s other board games too, which Felix finds he has an easier time winning than chess. He’d never admit it, but he’s been reading up on how to play chess better, if only for his wounded pride. It shouldn’t hurt to lose against such an experienced player, but damn him if Felix isn’t going to put up at least a bit of a fight.

He’s also googled Sylvain. Apparently, he has competed at an international level since he was twelve. He was a cute kid, from what Felix could see of the pictures. Sylvain, twelve years old and holding a trophy. What a nerd. 

Most interesting to Felix, however, was the photos from Sylvain’s last tournament, two years prior. He looked ill even then, skinny and tired even as he smiled at the camera, but so much better than now, which is still leagues better than that first day post surgery. 

He also learned Sylvain’s last name. Gautier. The name is familiar, somewhere in the back of his mind. If it weren’t, he probably wouldn’t have bothered looking it up. As it is, a quick search reveals why he knows it. The Gautier family are old money. The kind that makes money just by being rich. Investors and businessmen. Eleanor Gautier is a designer with her own fashion line, William Gautier is the CEO of a mega corporation. 

He doesn’t mention any of this knowledge when he visits. But he continues getting his ass kicked.

Out of all of Sylvain’s friends, Mercedes comes most often. Which isn’t at all surprising, considering she’s known him the longest. The hospital is between her school and the apartment she technically shares with Sylvain, too, so it makes it easier for her. 

She brings Annette after a few days. 

“Oh! Hello,” Annette says upon entering the room, a smile lighting up her features. “You must be Felix! Mercedes has told me a lot about you.” Her hair is red, and Felix finds himself wondering if there’s some relationship between her and Sylvain. “I’m Annette! Mercie’s girlfriend.” 

Mercie. It’s a cute nickname. 

He shakes her hand, and watches as she latches onto Sylvain.

“Sylv!” she says happily. “Oh goddess you look so good!” 

Felix really does agree. 

“Thanks Annie,” he replies, letting himself be pulled into a delicate hug. “It’s good to see you. How’s class?”

Annette, as Felix comes to find out, is in her first year of the Garreg Mach teaching program. The same school which Mercedes attends for nursing. The two met at Mercedes’ job at a coffee shop, the same one she met Sylvain at. 

She met Sylvain since he and Mercedes share an apartment. 

“Caspar and Lin are asking after you,” she tells him as she sits in one of the chairs. “I haven’t told them anything yet, wanted to check with you first.”

Sylvain shrugs. “You can tell whoever. I don’t really care. Besides, Lin just wants to get crushed at chess again.”

“He’s gotten a lot better you know!” Annette says, laughing.

“In that case I’m looking forward to it.”

Felix hates that he feels jealous at that.

Nights at home still suck. He can avoid thinking of Glenn, or Dimitri, when he’s with Sylvain. It’s harder when he’s alone.

The housekeeper cleaned the glass from his bedroom, piled the remains of the broken trophies in a box, tucked next to his shelf. 

He’d packed up every photo of Glenn and Dimitri in with them.

Glenn’s room is untouched. The housekeepers go in and dust, air it out the way they always do. Nobody says anything about it.

It feels like a ghost is in the house, how Glenn’s favourite cereal is still in the pantry, his favourite juice still in the fridge. His shoes still by the door. 

It hasn’t been that long, Felix knows, but he wishes those reminders weren’t there. Wishes he could just lock away every memory of Glenn so that it wouldn’t hurt so much.

He puts a hole through his bedroom wall exactly a week after Glenn’s death.

His father doesn’t even comment. 

The doctors are slowly taking Dimitri out of his coma over the next few days. Felix doesn’t know who will tell him about his parents and Glenn, but he knows he won’t be in the room for it when Dimitri finds out.

Ingrid is still a mess, still cries at everything. It pisses him off, how her grief is all consuming. The few sparks of joy, or at least normality, he gets with Sylvain are sucked into her vortex the second they’re in the same space. 

She’s been staying at his house too, in the guest room when she used to stay in Glenn’s. 

His father has finished passing off his work, and is now officially on an extended leave of absence. 

They still don’t question where Felix disappears to at the hospital.

He visits Sylvain everyday, if only to break up the monotony of his life. 

It’s one such visit that he meets Sylvain’s parents.

He arrives at Sylvain’s room to find the door closed. Unusual, but it’s happened before. If Sylvain is tired, or he’s speaking to a doctor, the door is closed. He knocks and opens it without waiting, something he’s done every other time the door has been closed.

Two heads snap toward him. Sylvain’s isn’t one of them.

Even if he hadn’t seen a picture of them in his internet stalking, the resemblance is obvious. Sylvain’s father has a head of red hair, a strong jaw, and green eyes. His mother is soft and blonde, her eyes are the same hazel as Sylvain’s. They’re both dressed in clothes Felix knows cost money. As much as he doesn’t care for wealth, he is his father’s son. He knows they’re rich, knows their jobs and titles, but he also grew up around the kind of money the poor dream of, where cost is never a deciding factor. The kind of people who will drop several thousand dollars on a new watch because they felt like it, or a $400 bottle of wine with dinner.

“And who are you?” the woman snaps, her voice is sharp and disapproving.

Felix knows why. His hair is in a ponytail, he’s in a hoodie and jeans. None of it is brand name, aside from his only slightly worn converse shoes. He looks solidly middle class, maybe less. Her tone of voice still makes him bristle. 

“Mom,” Sylvain says sharply, “this is Felix, a friend of mine.”

Both of Sylvain’s parents look distasteful at the word friend, and Felix is hit with the sudden thought that Mercedes is Sylvain’s oldest. He never speaks of anybody he knew younger than sixteen, and most of them he didn’t meet until he was eighteen and living with Mercedes.

“Hi,” Felix says, crossing his arms. 

Sylvain’s father opens his mouth to say something, and somehow Felix knows what’s coming before Sylvain even says it.

“His brother is also the one who donated his heart.” It’s not quite true. Glenn didn’t decide anything, but at this point in the conversation it's pedantic. 

His mother huffs, her overpriced heels click as she walks toward her purse, left sitting on the chair Felix normally sits in.

“And exactly how much money do you want for that?” William Gautier asks.

Felix very much wants to punch him.

Instead, he sneers. 

“I don’t need your money, ” he spits, “I have quite enough on my own, thank you.”

Sylvain’s parents look doubtful, Sylvain looks like he’s about to vomit. 

“Is that so?” Mrs. Gautier asks, her eyes scanning over his form again. 

“My name is Felix Fraldarius,” he snaps at them, straightening his back. “You may have heard of my father. Rodrigue Fraldarius, COO of Blaiddyd Inc.” He doesn’t let them doubt him. “And for your information, families of donors aren’t aware who is receiving their loved ones' organs. The only reason I do know is because I ran into some of Sylvain’s friends. The fact that you are implying that I sold my brother’s organs is frankly offensive. So no. I don’t need, nor do I want, your money.”

He glances at Sylvain and already feels bad. 

Sylvain looks terrible, he’s pale, and his lip looks bloody from biting it. If this is how his parents are, Felix can’t blame Mercedes for waiting to tell them he’d gotten a transplant. 

“I’ll be back later, Sylvain,” he says, not really wanting to leave, but more not wanting to deal with whatever bullshit his parents pull.

As soon as he’s out of the room, he pulls out his phone. 

To Mercedes:

Are Sylvain’s parents always that insufferable? 

The reply is almost immedient. 

From Mercedes:

Oh no. Are they visiting? What did they do this time?

To Mercedes:

Not sure what they were talking about before I showed up, but Sylvain looked like shit. Then they accused me of selling my brother’s organs.

From Mercedes:

Sounds about right. I’ll be there soon.

He goes back to Dimitri's room. Nobody even looks up. 

Mercedes texts him less than an hour later.

From Mercedes:

It's safe now.

Sylvain is asleep when Felix arrives, an oxygen mask over his mouth. Mercedes is already there.

“Left class as soon as you told me,” she whispers. Keeping her voice down is pretty normal, but she’s not usually this quiet. 

Felix nods, shutting the door behind him. He glances at Sylvain, who looks paler than usual. 

He’s about to ask Mercedes what’s wrong when she tells him. “Panic attack,” she explains. One hand is holding Sylvain’s, while the other is running through his hair. “The doctor had to ask them to leave. So much strain isn’t good for him.”

A week post heart transplant. No, Felix can’t imagine it would be.

“Are they always that bad?” he asks.

She shrugs. “Usually worse. They were going easy on him, since he’s still in the hospital.”

Easy. Whatever they were talking about made Sylvain look sick , and that was easy. 

“What the fuck is wrong with them?” he whispers harshly.

She smiles, it isn’t the least bit genuine. “A lot.”

Sylvain stirs two hours later. Blinking his bleary eyes open. He seems a little fuzzy, but he still reaches for the oxygen mask.

Mercedes catches his arm. “Leave it for now. I’ll call for a nurse.” She reaches up to hit the call button. “You should rest some more.”

He shakes his head, cringing as he pushes himself into seating. Mercedes just sighs.

It's only after that he catches sight of Felix, and cringes again. This time less in discomfort than in embarrassment. 

Felix just shrugs, before turning back to his phone.

A nurse comes to check on him quickly, removing the oxygen mask as she leaves. 

Sylvain settles back against the pillows, his eyes closed.

“Drug’s still hitting you?” Mercedes asks, swiping her thumb along the back of his hand. 

Sylvain makes a noise of affirmation in response. 

“I think I’ll go get some coffee,” she announces after squeezing his hand. “Want me to bring you some Felix?”

So not an invitation to join her then. 

“Sure.” he responds easily. He’s getting used to the shitty taste. 

“Rude,” Sylvain mutters, his eyes closed as he faces the ceiling. 

“You weren’t supposed to drink coffee before this transplant,” she chides him. “You’re definitely not allowed to drink it after.

“She’s so mean to me,” Sylvain says after she leaves.

Felix snorts. “Sounds like she’s trying to keep you alive, idiot.”

Sylvain opens his mouth to say something but seems to think better over it. Instead, saying “yeah, fair point.”

He wants to ask if Sylvain is okay, he instead says, “I’m not upset, by the way. About your parents. They're trash, but that isn’t your fault.”

Sylvain blinks his eyes open, looking at him. “You’re not mad I didn’t tell you I’m rich?”

Felix raises his eyebrows. “First, bold of you to assume I didn’t already know that. Second, you’re not mad I didn’t tell you the same?”

“How’d you know?” he asks, instead of commenting on the second half.

“Google, dipshit,” Felix responds evenly.

“You googled me? Rude.”

Sylvain seems a bit better after that, pouting as Mercedes hands Felix his large, black coffee and sips on her own latte. 

Bernadetta stops by later that day, a few hours before visiting ends. Mercedes had already left, citing working the closing shift. 

“Oh, um, hi. Felix right?” Bernadetta says from the doorway. She has a tablet in her hands. Sylvain is dozing after obliterating Felix at chess again.

“Yeah,” he responds from his seat. He’s picked up a random comic from Sylvain’s pile. 

At Bernadetta’s wide eyes, he realizes it must be one of hers. 

She shuffles into the room, putting her tablet down on the table. “That’s, um, not the first one,” she tells him, her hands fidgeting together. “I- I mean, if you’ve already read them, then I get it, but, um, if you haven’t, that isn’t the first.”

Felix blinks at her, and glances at the pile. That made a lot more sense. “I figured these would have been in order.”

She smiles, it's the first time he’s seen it. “Usually they would be, yeah, but Sylvain was too tired for that before.” She rounds the table, and picks up a different one, handing it to Felix. “That’s the first.” it has her signature on it.

They sit in silent as she draws, Felix reading through the comic that makes a lot more sense now. She eventually goes through the pile and orders them so Felix can grab the next one easier, something she comments that Sylvain will probably appreciate. 

“I really do,” Sylvain says, causing Bernadetta to jump and squeak. 

“You asshole!” she yells at him. “Don’t do that!”

“Sorry, sorry,” he says, not sounding very sorry at all. “Got anymore panels for me to see?”

She huffs. “Well, you’re not dying anymore, so you can wait for the next chapter like everybody else.”

Sylvain pouts, Bernadetta tries to remain strong.

He gets to see the new panels, Felix isn't at all surprised.

A week and a half after the accident, Dimitri wakes up.

He’s confused, in and out of consciousness, and not entirely lucid. Dr. Hanneman says its to be expected after a massive head trauma, and they just have to wait. They take him down for an MRI and CT anyway.

They explain what could happen, based on what they’ve seen of him so far.

Headaches, light sensitivity, vertigo, blurred vision, memory lapses, confusion, limited attention span, drastic personality changes.

None of it sounds good.

He spends less time with Sylvain, now that Dimitri is in and out, but he still makes time to spend a couple hours with him.

Felix has to agree with Mercedes, the idea of leaving Sylvain alone is just an unappealing one.

Two days after Dimitri wakes up, he’s lucid enough to understand what’s going on.

It doesn’t go well.

He’s aggressive and angry, cursing out Rodrigue and Ingrid and Felix from his hospital bed. It ends in a seizure. 

Felix spends the rest of the day with Sylvain, even after Ingrid texts him to say that Dimitri is awake again, and he’s very sorry.

Sylvain takes one look at him, and holds out his hand. 

“Come here,” he says, and Felix does. He drags Felix over, and wraps his arms around him. 

“Wanna go for a walk?” Sylvain says a couple hours later. Felix looks up at him, and Sylvain is grinning. “I can do that now, you know. They’ve been getting me to walk around since the surgery, but I can do it without a nurse present now. I just have to have somebody with me.” 

He agrees easily.

It doesn’t take long for a nurse to transfer Sylvain’s IV bags to a portable IV pole, and then they’re off.

“Why do you even still have that?” Felix asks, nodding to the IV.

Sylvain shrugs, taking easy steps. Relishing in the freedom. “Medication, mostly. Stuff for pain, antibiotics, and anti rejection medication.”

They take the elevator down to the first floor, and Sylvain pulls Felix along to the courtyard. “I haven’t been outside in months. ” He says, happily chatting. “Mercedes used to go with me, back when I could still walk unassisted, and then she’d take me in a wheelchair when I couldn’t move on my own. But it got to the point where I could hardly stay awake, and even doing something like moving between the hospital bed and a wheeling exerted me too much.”

Sylvain steps out into the courtyard, taking in a deep breath of air, before smiling at Felix.

It hits Felix, as it so often does, the things he takes for granted. For Sylvain, something as simple as walking, or going outside, is a novelty, something he had lost months ago. It’s like every day Felix spends with him, he finds another thing to be thankful for.

There's joy in the things Sylvain does, too. Every little thing, Sylvain is happy for. Being able to play a game, or read, or see his friends. The things that just a couple weeks ago he’d been unable to do. 

Felix isn’t happy. Glenn is dead, he can’t be happy. He’ll never be happy again, but when he’s around Sylvain, he’s content.

Dimitri is transferred out of the ICU not long after, but that doesn’t mark the end of his hospital stay.

When the rest of his injuries are more healed, he’ll be sent to a long term rehabilitation facility to treat his brain injury better, and help him manage himself again. It will be a long road to recovery.

Mercedes catches Felix outside of Sylvain’s room a few days after that.

“Oh Felix!” she greets, a large latte in her hand. “I was hoping to run into you.”

He raises his eyebrows at her. 

“Sylvain is being released the day after tomorrow!” Almost three weeks to the day after the accident, and Sylvain’s surgery. “We’re having a get together on Saturday, after he’s had some time to settle in. A sort of welcome home party. I was wondering if you wanted to come? Your friend Ingrid is invited as well! I’d invite your father, but I can’t imagine it would be very interesting.” She seems so happy as she says it, her eyes bright. “There will be a few people you haven’t met yet. It’s not a surprise or anything, so you can ask Sylvain about it if you want.”

“I’ll think about it,” he settles on, not wanting to disappoint her when she seems so happy.

Sylvain, too, is ecstatic. 

“Fe, did you hear?! I get to go home!”

Fe. Felix tries not to blush at the nickname. Fuck.

“Yeah Mercedes told me,” he replies. “She invited me to your party, too.”

Sylvain’s smile is near blinding. “You’ll come, won't you? Seeing you is the only thing I’ll miss about this place.”

Felix can already feel his resolve weakening. “I’m not sure yet, but probably.” He conveniently ignores the second half of what Sylvain says.

Two days later, Felix sits in Sylvain’s room as he packs a bag, chatting aimlessly. Mercedes helps, stacking the comics and books that she hadn’t brought home previously into boxes. 

“Don’t lift anything too heavy,” Mercedes reminds Sylvain. “I know you think you’re invincible now, but you are still healing from a major surgery. This isn’t the time to push your boundaries.”

Sylvain, petulant as always, shoves more things into his bag. 

Felix and Mercedes make eye contact, a silent plead for help from her. He nods.

When Sylvain zips up his bag, Felix lifts it.

“Hey!” Sylvain says, offendedly. “I can carry my own bag, thank you.”

“Sure,” Felix says, blowing a strand of hair out of his face. “But you’d give poor Mercedes an aneurysm.” 

Sylvain pouts. It looks good on him, and Felix hates it. Stupid Sylvain in his oversized tshirt and sweatpants. 

He helps them carry stuff down to Sylvain's car. Mercedes doesn’t usually borrow it apparently, mostly because parking at school isn’t worth the cost when they live right next to transit. 

Some of the nurses who know Sylvain wave as he passes, walking on his own two feet, unassisted. As soon as he’d signed the discharge paperwork, he cut the plastic hospital bracelet off. Plastic, because “when you stay long enough you get an upgrade.”

“I’ll see you Saturday?” Sylvain asks, standing outside of the car as Felix and Mercedes pile his stuff inside.

“Yeah,” Felix concedes. He hasn’t brought it up with Ingrid yet, and even though she’s invited, he isn’t sure he will. She's been hard to approach, and its like every time they talk, they argue.

It turns out his father has slightly different plans.

They can’t keep Glenn and the Blaiddyds any longer, which means with Dimitri’s blessing, they bury Glenn on Friday.

Patricia’s cousin, Volkhard, has planned the Blaiddyds’ funeral for the following Wednesday.

It’s a solemn affair, burying Glenn. It isn’t raining, no matter how badly Felix wishes it were. It's just him, Ingrid, his father, and one of Glenn’s closest friends, Holst. Ingrid won’t stop crying, Felix won’t start. Holst seems caught in the middle of the tension and Rodrigue tries to hold himself together.

The priest reads his scripture, calling on Saint Serios to guide Glenn’s soul back to the goddess’ side. Few other words are spoken. 

Felix is angered by it.

Glenn was well loved, still is well loved. He gets that Dimitri is still hurt, that he can’t attend the funeral, but Glenn deserves better than four people and a priest. He deserves all his friends, all the people who looked up to him and loved him. He deserves more than some half rate funeral because Rodrigue doesn’t want Dimitri to feel left out.

It ends in an argument that evening. Ingrid is sobbing at the table, still wearing her black dress. Felix is screaming, his father yells back.

He doesn’t know who started it, but he knows who finishes it. Rodrigue grabs the first thing he sees. A mostly finished bottle of bourbon, and throws it.

It's not in danger of hitting Felix, not really. He’s ducks all the same. The bottle shatters.

In the silence that follows they all process what just happened. Rodrigue steps forward, an apology already on his tongue.

Felix turns and runs. 

It’s late spring in Faerghus, but it's still enough to get cold in Fhirdiad. Felix is still in the suit he wore to Glenn’s bullshit funeral. He isn’t even wearing shoes.

He hasn’t seen Sylvain in two days. Hasn’t known him for much more than three weeks. He calls him anyway.

Mercedes is driving Sylvain’s car, but Sylvain is in the back seat when they pull up. Felix barely pays attention as he slumps into the seat, and Sylvain slings and arm around his shoulders, pulling him in close. Felix cries into Sylvain’s shoulder, hears the rhythm of his heart and doesn’t think of it as Glenn’s.

When they get to Sylvain’s apartment Felix lets himself be pulled upstairs. 

“I don’t have a lot that will fit you,” he says, going through his clothes. “Most of the stuff I have won’t even fit me anymore.” He pulls out a worn tshirt, and tosses it behind him. In his dresser he finds a pair of sweatpants. “You can shower, if you want.”

Felix doesn’t. He’s exhausted.

Dimitri is a monster. Nobody will say it, and it isn’t his fault, but it’s true. He’s violet against staff, cruel to Ingrid. Abrasive and angry. He gets it, really, he does. There’s something wrong with Dimitri’s brain, now. Sometimes, Dimitri apologizes, cries because he doesn’t know why he’s acting like this, but the next minute he’s just mean.

Ingrid is a mess. She can’t keep herself together. Every time Dimitri says something cruel she just sobs. It’s like she’s the only one grieving, like she thinks they could never understand how she feels. Like it isn’t Felix’s brother they just buried.

His father is worse, in Felix’s opinion. He’s just pretending nothing is happening. Like Glenn isn’t even dead, just gone. Like Dimitri isn’t fucking insane now. He’s just trying to play house, and gets upset whenever anybody fights against that.

Felix wants to scream. He wants to scream and fight and punch and grieve. The only good thing that’s happened in three and a half weeks is Sylvain. 

He gets changed and sits on Sylvain’s bed. The blanket is red, so are the pillows. A different shade than Sylvain’s hair, but red all the same. There’s a bookshelf in the room, it’s full of books and comics. A beautiful chess set sits on top of his dresser, the wooden pieces lacquered and delicately carved. 

Sylvain is there, sitting next to him. “Can I help?” he asks, and Felix shakes his head. His world has fallen apart, and he doesn’t know how to start putting it back together. 

Mercedes brings him and Sylvain tea. His is bitter, but he imagines Sylvain’s is sweet. Mercedes seems like the type to make people tea based on their specific taste. That, and he knows Sylvain can’t have caffeine. 

“I’m sorry,” Sylvain says eventually. Their tea is finished, and they’ve been sitting in silence. Felix still hasn’t told him what happened, but based on the suit that is lying crumpled on Sylvain’s floor, they can probably guess. “Fuck. If... if I could give this back,” Sylvain’s fingers fist into his shirt, directly above his heart. “If I could-”

“Shut the fuck up,” Felix snaps, before Sylvain can continue. “I know. You haven’t said it, but I get the feeling you’d made peace with death. I get it, you’re fine with dying and Glenn wasn’t, you wish he was here and you weren't.” He pushes himself to his feet. “But Glenn wasn’t like that. He would’ve hated hearing you talk like this. Like you don’t matter. So just, shut the fuck up.”

“Okay,” Sylvain says easily. And Felix wants to punch him. Wants to punch somebody, anybody, wants to smash that overly expensive chess set, wants to throw the mugs Mercedes had brought them tea in because fuck this. Because Glenn is dead, so what’s even the fucking point? 

“Fuck this!” Felix shouts. “Fuck all of this! Fuck you and your stupid heart and fuck my dad and his inabilty to deal with anything and fuck Ingrid and her sobbing and Dimitri and his everything and fuck Glenn for leaving in the first place!”

“You’re angry,” Sylvain says.

“No shit, ” Felix snaps. “I’m fucking pissed. Everybody is thanking me and apologizing and acting like I’m a saint when I was just trying to do what Glenn would have wanted, but nobody else gives a fuck.”

Sylvain must be magic, because next thing Felix knows, he’s being pulled down the hallway to the kitchen. Sylvain opens the cupboards. He pulls down glasses and plates, mugs and what looks like expensive china.

And then he looks at Felix.

“Knock yourself out,” he motions to the glassware. 

Felix doesn’t do anything, so Sylvain does it for him. He picks up a glass cup, and throws it. It shatters against the countertops. He looks back to Felix, and hands him a cup. 

“I can buy more.”

When it's over, half the stuff Sylvain pulled down is broken. Mercedes is leaning against the wall behind them with a broom. Felix is surprised nobody called the cops. 

“Feel better?” Sylvain asks, leaning against the counter.

Felix is panting. “Yes. No. Fuck. I don’t know.”

“Grief is tricky like that, I think,” Sylvain replies.

He sleeps alone in Sylvain’s bed. Sylvain sleeps in Mercedes’ with her. 

The kitchen is clean when he comes out the next morning. The only remainder of last night's events is a couple gouges in some of the cabinets, and a bit of chipped paint among the backslash. There’s a new package of red plastic cups, and paper plates on the counter.

Sylvain is drinking what Felix really hopes isn’t coffee. 

“Coffee’s in the pot,” he says, which earns him a glare. “It’s tea.”

Felix isn’t sure if he believes him, but he gets coffee anyway. 

“The party is supposed to be this evening,” Sylvain tells him after a few minutes of comfortable silence. It's odd, Felix isn’t used to it. Being around people is an uncomfortable experience in general, but Sylvain seems to be the exception. Mercedes too. “If we cancel now, everybody will think I died or something, but we can if you want.”

“Why would you cancel?” Felix asks, confusion lacing his tone. 

Sylvain laughs, it’s light and airy. Real, if teasing. “Felix. You had a breakdown last night and smashed half the dishes in my kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, you’re welcome to smash the rest if it’ll help, but I understand if you wouldn’t want to see people today.”

“But they’re your friends.”

Sylvain frowns, putting his mug on the counter he’s sitting at with Felix. Reaching over, he takes Felix’s hand in his own. “So are you."

They do end up having the party, with the caveat that Felix can retreat to Sylvain’s room if he ever feels uncomfortable or overwhelmed. 

Felix spends the day pretending to help Mercedes cook, but mostly being relegated to Sylvain Wrangler. Sylvain, it seems, is incapable of sitting still. It’s something Felix had noticed a bit in the hospital, but it’s even more pronounced here, where there’s no nurses or doctors to tell him off.

They end up playing chess, if only to get Sylvain to sit the fuck down before overextering himself.

Annette arrives first, with her friend Ashe, who brings even more food than what Mercedes already cooked. She and Mercedes share a kiss, while she hugs Sylvain, and greets Felix. Ashe introduces himself.

Dorothea and Petra arrive next, dragging along with them two people Felix comes to know are Linhardt and Caspar. 

Ashe is a culinary student, while Dorothea is a drama major, Petra studies politics, and Caspar is on the sports team. Linhardt studies biochemical engineering, and no, he isn’t afraid of hospitals, he’s afraid of blood.

Yuri, Constance, and Hapi arrive an hour after the party started, blaming Constance for it. 

Hapi is apparently the only friend of Sylvain’s he met while in the hospital. Renal failure. Constance had ended up donating her kidney, Yuri would have instead if he were a match. 

Everybody is friendly to him, and most people don't seem to know the role in Sylvain’s recovery he inadvertently played. It becomes clear relatively quickly that they thought the next get-together would be a funeral, not a celebration.

Sylvain looks genuinely happy, if a bit tired. 

“If he starts looking too exhausted, would you mind pulling him away for a bit?” Mercedes asks him in a low voice. “He’d never do it himself, and he and I can’t both leave.”

Felix agrees easily, staying on the perimeter of the event anyway.

Ashe is friendly, if a little too earnest for Felix’s tastes. They chat a little, before Ashe is stolen by Hapi.

And then Hilda arrives.

Felix can honestly say that he didn’t expect to see anybody he knows, but there she is. Of course, they aren’t close, but they were thrown together as children more often than not, while one or both of their brothers were babysitting.

She spots him immediately. 

“Felix,” she greets, and a few people take notice. “I heard about Glenn.” Of course she did.

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” he tells her. Not here, not now. 

“Of course. I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am about-”

“Hild,” Sylvain cuts in. “He doesn’t wanna talk about it, yeah?” He leans against the wall behind Felix, a comforting presence, all things considered.

She bits her lip, apparently realizing that even her condolences counted under ‘I don't want to talk about it.’ “Yeah, of course.” She smiles at him brightly, before heading back to the redhead she came in with. Her boyfriend, Felix thinks he recalls Glenn mentioning. 

“You good?” Sylvain asks, and Felix looks him over. He seems tired, drained from so much interaction when the most he’s had in months were a few people. 

“Can we just sit in your room for a bit?” he asks, because it’ll tackle two birds with one stone. How he feels claustrophobia, and how Sylvain looks dead on his feet.

“Yeah, of course.”

Sylvain collapses onto his bed, cringing at the way it pulls at his chest.

“You should be more careful,” Felix says, even though he knows Sylvain has heard it approximately a million times. 

“Yeah yeah,” Sylvain responds, only proving Felix’s silent point.

Felix settles next to him on the bed. Sylvain is warm - not feverishly so, a comfortable warmth. “Did you want to have this party?” he asks suddenly.

Sylvain is quiet for a moment. “Not really," he admits. "But everybody was so excited to see me, and I was excited to be home. I am excited to be home.” He rolls over so that he’s facing the ceiling. “It’s just. It’s hard to explain.”

Felix stays silent, and lets Sylvain gather his thoughts. 

“You were right,” he starts, “when you said that I’d made peace with the fact I was going to die. I was sure of it. Had everything in order, ready to go. Hell, my will had been filed for months. I just.” He sighs. “I don’t remember the last few days before. It comes in flashes of pain. Mercedes was there for most of it, I think, but I just slept. That’s what a person does when they’re dying. They sleep.”

Felix remembers Glenn’s unconscious form. He wonders if that counts.

“Whenever I was awake, I was so tired, ” Sylvain tells him. “Even breathing took energy I just didn’t have to spare. I was intubated, since I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. I think at some point I fell asleep and just knew I wasn’t going to wake up.”

“And then you did,” Felix finishes. 

“And then I did.”

They sit in silence for a while, the sound of the party outside the door still in full swing.  

“I don’t regret it,” Felix says suddenly. “Glenn. His organs. I thought at first I did. That I’d let them cut him up. I did it because it's what he would have wanted, but I didn't want to.” He turns to his side, facing Sylvain. "I'm glad I did, now."

Sylvain turns his head, blinks at him with eyes wide in the dim light of his room. “Yeah? What changed?”

“I realized that whether or not I did wouldn’t change the fact that he’s gone,” Felix tells him. “But you’re the only good thing that’s come out of this.”

And then Sylvain is kissing him, and Felix is kissing back. They really shouldn’t be doing this. They haven’t talked about it, and Sylvain is only alive because of Felix, and Felix is grieving and lost, but neither of them want to stop. So they don’t.

Sylvain’s lips are warm and gentle and his hand finds Felix’s hair. Felix moans quietly in response, swallowed by Sylvain’s mouth on his. He runs his fingernails along Sylvain’s side and feels him shiver, and then Sylvain’s other hand is caressing his face.

Felix wants this, he realizes. Which he probably should have realized before they started kissing, but he’s never been one to have a very good knowledge of his own emotions. It’s true what he said though, Sylvain is the only good thing that’s come out of this mess, and it isn’t just friendship. He’s on good terms with Mercedes, would even call her a friend. Probably Dorothea too, and maybe Bernadetta, but they aren’t like Sylvain. Sylvain, whose smile makes Felix feel a little less alone, a little less like his world is falling apart. Like maybe even if he isn't happy now, he could be.

“Looking good Sylvain,” Dr. Eisner says as she makes some notes of his chart. “Your ECG, echo, and xrays are all healthy. You’ve been feeling alright?”

“Yeah!” Sylvain responds, flashing Felix a smile. “No shortness of breath or chest pains at all.”

“Good. Your scar is fading nicely as well.”

He shrugs. “Well, you know what they say. Chicks dig scars.”

Dr. Eisner raises her eyebrows, and glances toward Felix, whose face is flushed red. 

“Do they?” her voice is steady, but they can both hear her amusement in it. 

Sylvain laughs. “I mean, I assume so at least.”

The appointment finishes with a good prognosis. Sylvain will have another one in a few months, as he will for a while, but that’s better than how often they've been in the past.

Sylvain slips his hand into Felix’s as they leave. “You good?” he asks.

Felix sighs, long and exasperated. “I’ve unfortunately grown long used to you flirting in front of everybody.”

He’s always hated PDA. But the way it always makes Sylvain smile is worth it. 

“Yeah, well, Dr. Eisner technically introduced us,” Sylvain says.

“Technically it was Mercedes,” Felix corrects. “But yeah, sure, let's go with that.”

They walk out of the hospital into the bright sunlight. It’s warm for spring in Fhirdiad, but Felix doesn’t mind it. Mostly because Sylvain doesn’t.

The past year has been good for him, Felix muses. They met just over a year ago now, and Sylvain’s colouring is totally normal. His hair is soft, and a vibrant shade of red so unlike what it had been the first time Felix had seen him. He’s gained weight too, looking healthy rather than the skin and bones of somebody sick and close to death. 

“Mercedes and Annette are still wondering if we’re coming over for dinner, I told them I’d let them know how we felt after the appointment,” Sylvain said, giving Felix’s hand a squeeze.

It was a bittersweet time of the year. The anniversary of Glenn’s death - and thus of Sylvain’s life - had just been a week before. The grief that had numbed over the past year had come back in full force, crippling him as the day approached. They’d met up with Ingrid, Rodrigue, and Dimitri for dinner in the apartment Rodrigue shares with Dimitri. He’d sold the house not long after Felix and Sylvain moved in together, and got a large enough apartment to share with Dimitri for when he’d been released from his rehabilitation centre three months later, a total of nine after the accident. 

“I’m not sure,” Felix says, letting Sylvain swing their arms. “I kind of just want to stay in tonight?”

Sylvain shrugs. “Sure. I’ll let them know when we get home.”

Home. The apartment they’d shared for a little over five months now. It was covered in books and comics, along with more than a couple of chess sets. Sylvain still hasn’t picked up playing competitively again, despite his parents best efforts. He just makes up some vague excuse about it not being good for his heart. 

His reasoning to Felix is less vague. “I just don’t want to wait my time doing anything but what I love.”

“If that was how it worked, you’d never get out of bed with me.”

They arrive home not long later, and Sylvain busies himself making dinner, while Felix kicks off his shoes, and pulls out his laptop. He has a few assignments due for class, but nothing all that pressing.

“Hey Fe?” Sylvain calls from the kitchen.

“Yeah?” Felix replies. 

“I love you.”

Glenn is dead, has been for a year, but Sylvain isn't. Felix is more than content, he's happy.

“I love you too, fucking idiot.”