Felix is like a sword, slim and straight and fine. When he moves, he moves with grace. When he is still, he is as a statue, coolly regarding the world and allowing no hint of sentiment to escape.
Sylvain has never been good with a sword. He prefers the lance, long and brutal and to the point. When he does wield a sword, he chooses a large one, heavy, more like a club than a blade. It gets the job done, but without finesse.
And so Sylvain keeps his distance, unwilling to sully Felix’s grace with his rough, clumsy hands.
When they were young, Felix was frightened of horses. He’d been a small child, delicate and sensitive, and his more adventurous companions often left him behind. They would go out riding and he would stay in, training or reading a book.
Until Sylvain’s birthday, when he insisted on riding to his favorite picnic spot.
“Come with us, Felix,” he said. “You can ride with me, it won’t be scary!”
Later, when Felix learned to ride on his own, the memories of Sylvain’s warm chest, his strong arms, and his joyful laughter were the armor that kept Felix’s fear at bay.
The girls that Sylvain pursues are pretty and often naive. They laugh at his jokes and blush over his gifts and their eyes sparkle when he takes them by the hand. They are sweet and simple and temporary, and they never know the best parts of him.
Felix is pretty too, but he’s not naive. He doesn’t laugh at Sylvain’s jokes, he turns away Sylvain’s gifts, his eyes are cold as ice. Felix is difficult. Felix is work.
Felix is forever.
So Sylvain is content to watch, certain that even his best is not good enough for Felix.
“May I have this dance?” He holds his hand out, and Felix is certain he is teasing.
But Sylvain sweeps Felix into his arms, whirls him out onto the dancefloor. He’s tall and strong and he smiles like a prince out of one of Ingrid’s silly books.
“Let me go!” But he doesn’t even try to pull away. Sylvain holds him tighter and the warmth of his body is like scalding metal pressed against Felix’s skin.
“You’re a good dancer…” But Felix is already moving away, strangled by his own desire and frightened by the hopeful note in Sylvain’s voice.
There are wild roses by the stream where they stop to eat.
Sylvain tethers the horses while Felix gets out the food, bread and cheese and chicken. They eat in companionable silence, and afterwards Sylvain begins to pick roses.
“Do you remember,” he says, “when we used to make crowns out of flowers?” His fingers move swiftly, weaving the stems. “We would have fake coronations.”
He settles the roses on Felix’s head. They are blood red against his ebony hair.
“The Queen of Summer,” he declares, and turns away before Felix can see the depth of tenderness in his eyes.
Sylvain is tired of waiting, tired of playing their little games. They are at war now and any battle might be their last. Circumstances have changed. Sylvain has changed.
There is snow on the ground. The air is thin and frigid. Beside him, Felix stands straight as a blade. His face is as pale as the moon overhead, as white as the snow.
“If we die tomorrow,” Sylvain says.
“We won’t,” Felix answers.
“Still.” He cups Felix’s face in his hands, pulls him in close, kisses him deeply, tenderly. “I can’t die not knowing how your lips taste.”
By day, they fight side by side. Margrave Gautier and Duke Fraldarius, the two staunchest defenders of the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, they turn the tides of battle time and time again. They have saved each others lives, the lives of their friends, the life of their king.
By day, they are companions, the one tall and broad and bright as the sun, the other slim and graceful and pale as the moon.
And at night, in the dark, they move together, briefly setting aside the ugliness of war to take refuge in the temporary shelter of one another’s bodies.
They watch the victory parade from one of the palace’s many balconies. Down in the streets the people of Fhirdiad cheer and sing and dance, free finally from the specter of war. Their king is back where he belongs, the Empire has been pushed back, and all is well.
“I suppose we ought to go home now,” Sylvain says.
“Yes,” Felix answers. “We have duties to attend to.”
Sylvain sighs, lifts Felix’s hand to his lips. “Will you come visit me?” he asks.
“Idiot,” Felix says, his fingers closing like a steel trap around Sylvain’s hand. “Of course I will.”
Candles flicker in Felix’s bedroom, a dozen or more circling the bed, more on the windowsills.
He arches his back like a cat and the sweat on his pale skin glistens in the candlelight. Sylvain, propped against the pillows, admires him with heavy-lidded eyes.
“Come back here,” he says, laughing. “You didn’t answer my question.”
Felix glances over his shoulder, amber eyes glittering, and Sylvain surges forward, wrapping his arms around Felix’s tiny waist, pulling him close. Their lips meet and part and meet again.
“Yes,” Felix murmurs, and on his finger the ruby engagement ring blazes with reflected light.
By the time they’re old men, they have accumulated a wealth of scars.
Sylvain holds Felix in his lap and traces the long line of one. It arcs across Felix’s torso, tracing the path where a lance nearly took him away for good. Sylvain shivers at the thought, hugs Felix close against him.
Felix shushes him, holds him tight. They move together, slow and sweet, and soon Sylvain forgets his old fears. His fingers trace the fine, familiar lines of Felix’s scars and he loves them for what they truly are, a map that only he knows how to read.