Ember in the Shadows - TheSlayer47 - Fire Emblem: Fuukasetsugetsu (2024)

Chapter 1: Tension

Notes:

*CW* description of minor character death at the end of the chapter

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“DAMN IT!”

At least the coffee was cold. But f*ck. Now Felix’s jeans are wet on the crotch, and the last thing he wants today is getting stupid jokes about pissing his pants.

Some of the coffee got on his seat, but that doesn’t matter. The rolling chairs have upholstery so stained that there’s never been a consensus on what their original color was.

“Gautier!” Felix snaps, throwing the styrofoam cup at the red-head. “How many times do I have to tell you to keep your sh*t off my desk?”

Sylvain flinches when the cup bounces off his face, but breaks out in a goofy grin. “Oh, there’s my coffee!”

“Disgusting you drink that mud,” Felix grumbles, “it’s been sitting in the breakroom all day. And a witness is supposed to be here in ten minutes! I can’t interview them like-” cut off by his cell vibrating, he checks the text and groans.

“Let me guess,” Sylvain chuckles, “they can’t come.”

“This f*cking day…” Clicking the contact, he glares at Sylvain as it rings, and rings, and- “Hello, Mr. Bersaw! Got your text,” Felix says, using what everyone calls his bullsh*t voice. So friendly, his co-workers are positive the witnesses can hear the fakeness dripping off it. “I understand you had a busy day, and maybe you’d like to get dinner, but if you could pop down and clear up some confusion, that’d be very helpful.”

Ugh. The man rambles on about how his lizard has been acting weird, and he needs to take him to a reptile veterinarian. Because apparently that’s more important than, you know, helping solve a murder.

“I am so sorry to hear about your lizard, sir. I hope they’ll be ok.” As Felix rolls his eyes, Sylvain slaps a hand over his mouth to stifle his laughter. “Uh huh, well-“ he pauses as the man drones on again. “Oh, I know you didn’t do it, sir! I promise you’ll be in and out really quick-” click. The f*cker hung up on him.

“Right, hang up on the detective. Doesn’t raise suspicions at all ,” Felix complains, flinging the cell onto his worn-down, pinewood desk.

Picking the styrofoam cup off the ground, Sylvain rolls his chair across the scuffed, tiled floorand slaps Felix’s shoulder. “Ahh, cheer up! Now you don’t have to explain why you peed your- AH!”

Felix opens his mouth to retort when Sylvain is shoved away. He grunts when he slams into his desk, making his absurdly large stack of files tumble to the floor.

“What the actual f*ck, Pinelli?” Sylvain snaps, seeing the pixie-haired detective laughing behind him. “Now all this sh*t is everywhere!”

Leonie scoffs as she walks past him. “Boo f*ckin’ hoo, Gautier.” Plopping in her seat, she props her combat boots on her desk. “You were taking up the whole walkway, so stop your damn complaining. Maybe if you weren’t such a slob, that would’ve never been a problem. We have this crap for a reason.”

She points at the metal filing cabinet under her desk. Like everyone else’s, it’s dinged up from years of frustrated kicks from civilians and definitely the detectives themselves.

Sylvain widens his eyes, pausing from picking up the papers. "Oh! You want to talk about slobs, huh? I’ve been in your car, and that is foul-”

“-it’s only plastic water bottles! They don’t smell-”

“-AND COFFEE CUPS! You do know that coffee dregs mold, right? And I’m just gonna throw this out there- how about you get a reusable water bottle?!”

Felix pockets his cell and ambles to the Captain’s office, leaving them to bicker about stupid sh*t.

Captain Eisner, while fair, is an intimidating man. Between his detached expression and dry humor, it’s nearly impossible to tell if he’s being serious or screwing with you. (Unless you’re Felix’s ex, then he’s perfectly friendly). And it doesn’t help that he’s an enormous man. Towering above everyone else, he’s probably 250lbs of pure muscle.

He used to be a Captain of the Knights of Serios, frequently deployed to different parts of Fódlan or to other countries. Between his skills with lances, hands like a blacksmith’s anvil, and the fact that his Crest emphasises strength, it’s no wonder he became the famous ‘Blade Breaker’. Why he left KoS to become the Captain of the 13th precinct is beyond anyone.

“Captain,” Felix says, lightly rapping the doorframe.

He doesn’t lower the papers he’s reading as he peers over his glasses, co*cking an eyebrow. “Piss yourself, Fraldarius?”

Felix fights the urge to scowl. “More like Gautier leaving his sh*t everywhere. This is coffee.” Felix takes a couple steps into the office, gripping the back of a chair in front of the Captain’s oak desk. “Anyway, my witness cancelled. That was the last thing I had for the day.”

The Captain blankly stares at him before setting the papers down and taking off his glasses. “That's it, huh?” He rubs his tired eyes. “I expected better.”

Well, that’s hardly fair. “Tch, I did my best. Put on the bull- eh, I was friendly and everything! He had to take care of his f*cking lizard, then hung up on me.”

“Call him again tomorrow. You have jack sh*t and need every potential witness you have.”

Felix knows this. He’s pretty sure the Captain was pissed at him when he was told to take this impossible case months ago. A perfectly healthy body, suddenly dead?

Typically, in cases of underdetermined deaths with no sign of foul-play, a case like this would be dismissed. But the woman was found with these thick, unidentifiable roots sprung from pavement near her body… and one of them had quite the hack job done to it. Bizarre.

Taking a deep breath, Felix thinks back to when he got this damn case.

-

Bernie, his friend and the Medical Examiner, called and asked him to come to the morgue.

“The cause of death is undetermined!” She squeaked, eyeing Felix cautiously. They’ve been friends long enough that he doesn’t take her anxious demeanor personally. “I couldn’t find anything wrong with her.”

He narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Varley, come on, this is a 50, maybe 60 year old woman. You’re telling me there were no natural or suspicious-”

“-53, and I said what I said!” She yelped, peeling off her nitrile gloves and tossing them in the medical waste bin. “Not from natural causes. No hints of self-harm or harm from others. No illnesses or diseases detected…” She trailed off, shaking her head. “She’s perfectly healthy! Well, except for the whole dead thing.”

Gnawing his cheek, Felix nodded to her before leaving the morgue. When he got back to his desk, he did a quick search to see if there had been any other cases like this in the past few years. But nothing came up, making his brain whir. While Felix loves a good puzzle, this is beyond anything he’s seen. Even though he’s only been a detective for a year, he was a cop for four. He’s seen some sh*t.

-

Felix expels a long-suffering sigh. “Captain, unless I finally get a call from the lab about the fingerprints from the switchblade found near the body, then I’m in paperwork hell. And you know the lab is backlogged for weeks-”

“Still don’t have those fingerprints, Fe?” A deep, smooth voice sounds from the doorway.

Felix ducks his head. f*cking hell, can this day get worse?

The Captain beams as he stands, holding his hand out. “Dimitri! What brings you here?”

Dimitri Blaiddyd- always the most charming and attractive person in the room. With his shaggy blond hair, sharp cheekbones, full lips, and dashing smile… hell, not even the milkiness of his blind eye throws people. On a man like him, it just adds to his beguiling nature.

“Hello Captain! You’re looking good in that orange blazer. How stylish of you!” Dimitri says, smiling brightly.

Felix rolls his eyes. He knows what his ex is doing. Dimitri lays compliments on thick when he wants something. Not that he needs to do that, everyone falls over themselves for the guy. Like a second of his attention will make them sh*t gold. There’s so much they don’t know.

“Ah, well my daughter got this for me,” Captain says, smirking. “Found it at a thrift store, if you can believe it.”

Wanting to get away as soon as possible, Felix starts backing out of the room. But not fast enough.

“Wait a second, Fe.” Dimitri reaches out and rests a hand on Felix’s shoulder. And dammit, a jolt shoots down his spine. “Didn’t you need to talk to me about something?”

For a moment Felix spaces out, trying to remember if that’s true. Then it clicks and he nods. “Oh, right. Yeah, come to my car then.”

“I’ll be there in about ten minutes!” Dimitri exclaims, flashing his perfect smile. “I need to chat with Captain here for a moment, then say hi to a few others, of course.”

With a curt nod, Felix leaves the office and goes to the bathroom. After doing a decent job of drying his pants, he goes to his desk. Grabbing his leather briefcase and laptop, Felix heads to the back door leading to the parking lot when Sylvain pops out of the breakroom with his styrofoam cup filled to the brim with that mud.

“Coming out tonight? Thirsty Thursday at Frank’s!”

Felix furrows his brows. “I thought you were on call?”

“No, thank Goddess. Ingrid is.” He cackles, a little twinkle in his eye. “She’s been in court all day providing testimonies.”

Felix grimaces. “That’s sh*tty. f*cking hate days like that. Even though most of them are long.” He thinks of all the paperwork he has to do. “Eh, I don’t know about tonight…”

“Ahh, really? You’ve skipped out the past few weeks.” Sylvain presses his palms together. “Pretty please? C’mon, hang out!”

As Sylvain watches his friend's face fall, his voice drops to a whisper. “I’ve already talked to Dimitri, and he isn’t coming. Has to finish an article for a deadline.” He pats Felix’s shoulder. “Anyway, it’ll be fun. Hilda even convinced Hapi to come!”

Felix snorts. “Damn, our secretary can get anyone to do anything, can’t she? But… ugh, alright.”

With a triumphant grin, Sylvain punches a fist in the air. “Great! I need to finish one thing and I’ll be there. An hour tops. Hilda’s already there, of course. Anyway, see yuh.” Sylvain waves as he heads back to his desk.

Rubbing his neck, Felix walks out and heads to his car.

*

He’s leaning against his silver Camry when Dimitri finally comes through the back door of the precinct.

He swallows as Dimitri ambles over. The glow of the street-lamps illuminates him, and Felix’s heart flips when he notices the blond tied his hair up in a half-ponytail. Uhg. Bastard did that on purpose. Months after their breakup, Dimitri still has a strong effect on him. And oh, does Felix try to suppress his lingering feelings. But he can’t control the dreams of the heated nights they shared, or easily forget the way Dimitri’s touch could make his worries fade.

“It’s good to see you,” Dimitri says quietly, the confident smile from earlier gone. “You… you look good.”

A touch of pink appearing on Felix’s cheeks, he simply nods before moving to his trunk. “I have the last of your stuff from the apartment. You need to take it.”

Felix forces himself to not look at Dimitri. He doesn’t need to, knowing the exact somber expression he must be wearing… and Felix just… just can’t.

“All my stuff?” Dimitri draws a long breath, peering into the box. “You sure you don’t want to keep the milk frother for-”

“-I want nothing of yours. So,” he says brusquely, “take it and go.”

When the box is out, he slams the trunk shut. To his dismay Dimitri sets it on the ground, and inexorably, Felix glances at his face.

With sadness clouding his features, Dimitri utters, “One more hug? ... Please?”

His heart wrenches. That please was said so softly, and his gaze so earnest.

Seeing no one around, Felix nods and steps forward, wrapping his arms around the blond’s waist. He intended it to be brief, but in a millisecond he’s thrown right back. Dimitri’s comforting sandalwood scent, the softness of his shirt, and the warmth of his body all remind him of happier times. As Dimitri draws him closer, Felix feels the vibration as his ex hums, pleased.

“I miss you,” Dimitri whispers, his lips on Felix’s ear, making him shiver.

It’s as if all the air escaped his lungs, the burning sensation snaking through him. Gasping, he steps back and pushes Dimitri away. “No. Don’t do that.”

Kicking the box away, Felix hurries to his car door and fumbles with his keys, trying to unlock it.

Dimitri takes a rattling breath. “Fe, I mean it. I miss you. I- I understand why you ended things. What I did, it was-” he chokes up. “I-I’m so sorry. I want to make this right, I’ll never do it again-”

“-how many times have you apologized to me?” Felix snaps harshly, glaring at him. “Repeatedly, for months. Between how you’ve been, and what happened…” His voice falters. “I can’t do this.”

Yanking his car door open, Felix sits and tries to shut it when Dimitri grabs on. “I called a therapist,” he says quickly. “My first meeting is tomorrow.” Dimitri whips out this phone and shows Felix his calendar. 4pm, Dr. Nevrand.

Felix sighs, then softly says, “I’m… I’m glad. Do that. But it won’t change my mind.”

Closing the door in defeat, Dimitri backs away as Felix starts the car and drives off.

Four good years, the fifth rough, and the sixth terrible.

What he’d give to relive those four.

*

Felix weaves through the crowd on the popular, busy strip of shops and bars as he makes his way to Mittlefrank Bar & Grill. It’s only two blocks from the precinct, so he could’ve easily walked here, but he wants to head straight home afterwards.

As soon as he opens the heavy cherry wood door, the wonderful aromas of freshly baked hamburger buns overcome him.

“Hey Felix! I’ll get your usual going,” Thea, the bar owner, calls when she sees him.

“Great, thanks,” he says appreciatively, walking over and slapping his debit card on the counter.

She tosses it with the other open tabs. When she gets a good look at his face, she frowns. “Tough day?” she asks kindly, her peridot eyes gazing at him with concern.

He fakes a smile. “No, it was fine.”

Thea draws her mouth in a hard line. She always had a knack for knowing when someone isn’t being honest. But for the most part, her philosophy is if someone wants to talk- they will.

She hums. “Right.” Dropping an ice cube in a glass, she free pours some bourbon and slides it to him. “Well, your first one is on me.”

While Felix wants to argue, he knows it’ll be a losing battle. “Thanks, Thea.”

“Of course. Now, your food will be out soon. Go on!” She shakes her bar rag at him and he smirks before heading to the back of the restaurant.

The brick walls are covered with police memorabilia: patches from the departments throughout Faerghus, plaques, polaroids of celebrating things like birthdays or retirements, and photos of officers who have passed away- such as Thea’s parents when she was young.

The previous owner of the bar, Manuela, was her foster mom until she adopted her. When it was time for her to retire, Thea and her wife, Petra, happily took over.

As Felix passes the pool tables, he nods to Raphael and Caspar, two cops he serves with.

“Fraldarius! Wanna play some pool?” Caspar booms, moving to grab another cue stick.

“Bergliez!” Raphael barks, straightening after trying to hit a billiard ball, missing the 12 by a quarter of an inch. He shakes his head at Felix. “Sorry Fraldarius! Normally I like playin’ with yuh- but I don’t feel like getting my ass kicked tonight.”

Felix waves his hand dismissively. “Eh, it’s fine, Kirsten. I don’t feel like it anyway.”

“At least with Bergliez.” Raphael gives a lopsided grin. “I have a chance at winning.”

“Dream on!” Caspar guffaws. “I’ve won way more times.”

Patting his partner on the back, Raphael slowly nods. “Yes, that’s right, little man. So many-”

“- don’t patronize me!” Tugging his sleeve up, Caspar flexes his bulky muscles. “And nothing about this is f*cking little. Just because you’re a giant-”

“FELIX! YOUR FOOD IS HERE!”

Looking past Raphael, Felix sees their secretary waving her hand and pointing at his burger. Raphael and Caspar are comparing their muscles as he walks away. You think those two would be terrible partners, but when their uniforms are on, they’re on top form.

“Yuh know, yuh coulda been here when it arrived,” Hilda groans, twirling her bubblegum-pink hair. “Then I wouldn’t’ve had to make such an effort.”

Felix rolls his eyes as he slides into the semicircular booth, sitting next to one of their dispatchers, Hapi. Per usual when she does come, she looks extremely bored.

Using the umbrella that came with her frilly drink, Hapi stabs one of the cherries. “Want this, Fifi?”

“Don’t call me that. And no, I don’t like cherries.” Besides not liking sweet things, he also hates them because he always seems to choke on them.

Hapi shrugs lazily. “Ehh, I don’t like them either.” She smacks her lips, then pops it in her mouth anyway. Her face scrunches in disgust as she chews. Felix gawks at her, confused, as she swallows and shakes her head. “Bleh! Yup, still hate them.”

While Hapi is great at her job, and on occasion he thinks she’s funny… she's also kinda weird, and he’s never really sure what to say to her. So he decides to say nothing and starts eating his bacon burger. As always, Petra makes it perfect. Extra crispy bacon, no onion or mayo, some pink, with cheddar cheese, and garlic fries on the side.

“In the future I’ll eat the cherries, Hapi.” Hilda says, playing with her gold dangling earring.

With a deep sigh, Hapi says, “Sure, Hilly. Oh, and Claudy has been eating your fries.”

Hilda glares at the chestnut-haired man next to her, who smirks as he eats another fry.

“Claude!” She shrieks. “Ugh, I even asked if I should order an extra basket, and you said no!”

“Personally, I think food tastes better when it’s free.” He chuckles, snatching another fry.

Hilda pushes him. “Serios help me, you’re so stupid. You’re a freaking forensic science technician and make way more money than me. So cough up, cheapo! You owe me a dollar for each fry you take. And since I don’t know how many-”

“-six,” Hapi says before taking a sip of her drink.

Claude dramatically slaps a hand over his chest and drops his jaw. “How could you, Hapi! I thought we were friends!”

Hapi flops back, her shocking red hair blending with the booth as she stares at the ceiling. “Don’t care,” she mumbles.

Beaming, Hilda pokes Claude’s shoulder. “Ha, ha! Six! And I want you to use that to buy jello shots.”

Claude laughs as he wipes his salty hands on his lightweight yellow sweatshirt. “Yeah, yeah, Hils. But we’re sharing!” He takes a sip of his beer before pulling cash out of the ridiculous fanny pack he wears. “Felix definitely looks like he could use one.”

Claude lopes off before Felix can protest. “Jello and bourbon,” he says wryly, “the perfect combination.”

“You? Take a jello shot? HA!” Leonie laughs as she takes Claude’s previous spot, Sylvain right behind her.

“Don’t worry, Felix. I’ll take care of it,” Sylvain says with a smirk.

Claude comes back with the shots, and Felix immediately slides his across the table to Sylvain. He does throw the rest of his bourbon back while the others try to eat the jello.

Felix asks one of the waitresses for another bourbon with ice, then he listens as the others start reliving amusing stories of police academy, their first years as a cop, or other dumb mistakes they’ve made. Occasionally, he notices Sylvain eyeing him and he remembers to add a smirk or chuckle here and there. He’d rather not have his childhood friend try to get him to talk about his feelings.

“My favorite story,” Leonie chuckles, red-faced from laughing. “Is when Sylvain caught his date stealing money out of the restaurant’s register!” She snorts and gasps for air. “And you had to take her in!”

Sylvain drags his hand down his face. “That was definitely one of my worst dates. She was in the bathroom and I realized I had to go too. What an idiot, though. Why would you commit a crime when you’re on a date with a cop?”

Claude takes another sip of beer then says, “I think the worst part of what you said is that’s only ‘one’ of your worst dates. But you know what…” His emerald eyes twinkle mischievously. “I’d love to take this opportunity to hear more awful date stories! I’ll go first-”

Felix clenches his jaw. No, no, and definitely not.

He gets up and heads to the bar to pay his tab. He’s already stayed here longer than he intended, anyway. He’s only taken a couple steps when Sylvain has an arm around his shoulders, and he steers him to the men’s restroom. Felix tries to escape his friend’s grasp, but to no avail.

Sylvain checks the stalls to make sure no one else is there before facing him. “Ok, Fe, what happened?”

Felix keeps his face blank. “I don’t know what-”

“Oh, please. We’ve been friends too long, so don’t pretend with me. Dimitri told me you asked him to meet before he left.”

Felix lets out a single, frustrated laugh. “I needed him to take his last box of stuff. I’ve asked him for months to pick it up and he hasn’t. So, I brought it to him.”

Sylvain crosses his arms and frowns. “Fe,” he says softly. “What happened? You won’t tell me, Dimitri isn’t saying anything-”

“Because it’s none of your business,” he says sharply. Then he takes a deep breath. “Sorry. It’s just… this is between Dimitri and I.”

Before he knows it, Sylvain is wrapping him in a hug. “You know you can tell me anything, right? I’d keep it a secret.” He lets go. “Or at least see a therapist, Fe. You were together six years… and have loved each other even longer.”

Avoiding Sylvain’s gaze, Felix firmly says, “I got this, Gautier. Don’t bring it up again.” He leaves the bathroom, hearing Sylvain curse behind him.

Felix closes his tab, then speeds out of there before anyone else can talk to him. He’s walking down the street, dodging people as they make their way to the next bar, and rubs his temples. Maybe I should get a therapist… not like I can talk to anyone else. Especially not Sylvain. He could never know.

As Felix walks, a flash of light catches his eye. It only takes a quick glance to realize it’s a flickering street-lamp in a dirty alley, nothing unusual.

“Oh! Sorry,” he mumbles as he bumps into a tall man. The man waves his hand before turning into the alley. Finding his car, Felix gets in and heads home.

The man’s leather wing-tipped shoes clack on the pavement, sometimes mingling with the fluttering trash scattered in the darkened alleyway, the stench of urine and rotting food permeating the air.

A dying street-lamp emits just enough light so he doesn’t trip over a decomposing cat, long-pecked apart by crows; or run into any of the dumpsters haphazardly placed near the center of the alley.

Behind him, noises of the busy, bar laden street reverberate off the brick buildings. Drunk college students, bachelor parties, or thirty, flirty, and thriving birthday nonsense.

“Pathetic fools,” he sneers, stroking his chin-strap beard. As he straightens his black tie, he halts as a cold breeze hits his back, contradicting the summer heat.

Narrowing his lavender eyes, he slowly examines his surroundings. Ah. Any moment now.

Whoosh.

Whipping his head around, the man’s gaze meets the pupilless, white eyes of his superior, and he holds back the urge to scrunch his face in disgust.

His superior’s body has deteriorated dramatically since they last spoke. Skin is sagging off what was once a young and handsome face. The black, chin length hair has thick streaks of white. What had been sharp cheekbones are now sunken. Skeletal.

Genuflecting down on one knee, the man’s sleek ponytail falls over his shoulder. “Thales, it’s an honor to-”

“Get up,” Thales snaps, his deep voice raspy and breathy. “Arundel. You have failed me.”

Arundel smiles weakly. “No, sir. It’s taking longer than we expected.” He keeps his voice even, smooth. “I always keep my word. I have never failed you.”

“And yet, you have never impressed me,” he hisses, gazing hungrily at his servant. “But you’ll have to do.”

The pavement rumbles under Arundel’s feet. Black roots break the surface, gripping his ankles tight, a biting cold penetrates into his bloodstream, paralyzing him.

Thales’ physical form collapses to the ground. As it smacks onto the pavement, it changes back into the young man it used to be. In its stead, hovering in front of his servant, is a ghost-white inhuman being, purple veins throbbing in its neck and reeking of decay.

Eyes widening in horror, Arundel tries to scream, but no sound escapes him. Not even the whisper of a breath.

Pain explodes in his head, and his eyes are overcome with blinding whiteness as the being touches him. His head jerks back as Thales melds into Arundel’s body, like a blade is opening his throat. Desperate for air, he gargles and chokes until a grey, pellucid mist rushes out of his mouth, coiling until it dissipates into the night.

After a few, wheezy gulps of air, Thales examines his new form. Lifting his arms, he furls and unfurls his strong, thick hands. Cracks resound from his neck as he stretches it. Yes. This will do just fine.

Smirking, he turns on the spot and disappears, leaving nothing except the lifeless form of his previous host body in his wake.

Notes:

Thank you for reading!

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! And kudos always appreciated.

Twitter: @HiStacyHere

Shout out to my best friend kayladb- who will listen to ideas and brainstorm at basically any hour of the day, and is my built-in beta reader lol. Appreciate yuh, friend <3

(This first chapter was made for #felixbday2021 and #2021dimilix week, Day 8, Prompt: Free Day)

Chapter 2: Blade

Summary:

Another body is discovered and Felix gets the results of the fingerprints he's been waiting on... and the result is less than ideal.

Notes:

CW: crime scene, brief talk of body decomposition (like --very-- brief but thought I’d say it just in case)

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Skiing in Sreng.

Lounging on the beach in Brigid.

At a farmers market in Almyra.

Eating at a sketchy bar when their car broke down on a road trip through Fódlan.

A collection of photo booth strips- smiling, laughing, kissing.

All gone.

Now the walls of Felix’s bedroom are blank. Even in the dark room it’s easy to see the contrast in paint color. Thanks to light and time, the walls are a lighter blue than they once were when he and Dimitri first painted them. But now there are squares of the darker shade where frames used to be, serving as a constant reminder of what is no more.

The frames? Donated. The pictures? In a box under Felix’s bed.

He’s tried to throw them away on many occasions. After a night of consuming multiple glasses of bourbon, he was about to toss the whole box into his fireplace. But there was something whispering to him- not yet.

The sleeping form of Felix is anything but sound; all night he was tossing and turning. But even through all that, he only stays on his one side of the bed.

Ring, ring!

Felix wakes up gasping.

Sweat is beading on his forehead and his chest rapidly rises and falls. A victim he’s previously investigated haunted his slumber. Which isn’t unusual, this is something most people in his line of work experience. A good night's sleep rarely comes easy.

Ring, ring!

Blinking wearily, he reaches for his phone. 5:36am.

“Fraldarius,” he croaks.

“Morning Detective,” Hapi drawls, "there’s a signal 7 for you. Ready to copy?”

Throwing his sheets aside, he swings his feet off the bed. He puts Hapi on speaker phone and picks up the pen and paper he keeps on the nightstand.

“Go on, Cinza.”

He jots the address down, thanks her, and hangs up. This is going to be a long day.

Felix trudges to the bathroom, beginning his routine. Which is important when you can be woken up at any hour of the night. But honestly, today isn’t that bad. How many times has he been called at 1 or 2am?

Removing his boxer briefs, he turns the shower tap on. Felix prefers to shower in the dark. Hot water pounding on his back is a much gentler way to wake up versus the shocking brightness of a fluorescent light. Laying his hands on the tile of his shower wall, head ducked, the stream cascades down his back over his scars and Crest. Thick and black, his- like all the Crests- stretch shoulder to shoulder and neck to tailbone. He, Ingrid, and Sylvain all used their Crests more often when they were patrol officers. Not so much anymore. But still, as Felix gets out of the shower and continues to get ready, he remembers to put the silver Aegis ring on his finger, straps on his dagger (that or an axe is required for all personnel), and his sword.

-

As Felix waits for his french press coffee to brew, he throws the breakfast sandwich he prepped the night before into the microwave and stares into space as he waits.

The walls of his living room are almost as blank as the bedroom. Dimitri was the one who enjoyed collecting art, he was always good at decorating. Felix? Not so much. He’s wanted to get around to buying some photos or paintings or something to hang on the walls, but it’s not his priority.

When his coffee is ready and in a tumbler, he grabs everything he needs and heads out the door. Felix doesn’t look at the single, off-centered painting on the wall.

The only one that stayed.

***

“Bergliez!” Felix shouts, “what do we have?”

Felix walks down the alley, lit up by flood lights since the sun is only now starting to rise. As he approaches the body he halts and coughs, surprised by the stench of decay. Opening the lid of his coffee tumbler, he brings it to his nose and inhales deeply. The scent of his dark coffee doesn’t quite mask the smell, but it’ll do until he adjusts.

This alley is f*cking disgusting. There’s a dead cat, an absurd amount of dumpsters, trash everywhere. And of course, the reason this was made suspicious enough to call detectives- black roots sticking out of the pavement.

Evidence markers are so scattered all across the alley that you have to tread carefully, or the crime scene investigators will be pissed. Just in case it is a homicide, then they don’t know if something here was touched by, or stepped on by the murderer. So, all of it goes to the lab. The corner of Felix’s mouth twitches as he watches the CSI, Dedue, examine the trash before meticulously putting it in evidence bags. Claude, the forensic scientist in charge of analyzing all evidence, has a sh*t ton of work to do.

But Felix’s gut is twisting. This happened between the bar and the precinct. The press will have a field day if they catch wind of this, especially if it’s that f*ckhead reporter Gloucester.

“Hey Detective!” Caspar cheerfully says as he jogs up to Felix. “The ID in his wallet identifies the victim as Giles Caillier. Dispatch got the call at 4:12am this morning from that woman,” he points down the way. A young woman who can’t be much older than 19 is wiping her tears as Ingrid interviews her.

Caspar rests a hand on the axe in its holster. “She cut through the alley on her way to her job, and found the body. We’ve also collected all the license plates of cars parked around here.”

“Thanks, Bergliez.” As Caspar trots away, Felix makes a mental note to call the neighboring shops when they open, hoping their security cameras work.

Putting the lid back on his coffee, he walks up to Bernie. She’s leaning over the body, her hair pulled back and covered with a hairnet, mask on, and nitrile gloves tight on her hands as she looks over the victim.

“Varley,” Felix tries to say gently when he’s closer, but as usual- she jumps.

“Fel- Fral- Detective!” she squeaks, “uhg, you always sneak up on me!”

“I beg to differ. You’re focused. So?” Felix nods to the victim.

Her shoulders droop. “Similar to the other body so far. Right now I don’t see anything that will help me determine a cause of death. Also like the other one, at first it had the strong odor you’re smelling. A body shouldn’t smell like that until they’re 3-5 days post-mortem. But based on the condition, my estimation for time of death is between 10:30pm-12am. It’s just...” she shakes her head. “Weird.”

A chill trickles down his spine. “10:30pm? You’re sure?”

She nods, furrowing her brows.

“f*ck,” he hisses through clenched teeth. He’s pretty sure that’s about when he left the bar. There were so many people on the sidewalk last night and he was distracted. Felix draws in a sharp breath... The man he bumped into went into the alley... Closing his eyes, he tries to recall the man. But it was such a fleeting, ordinary moment.

“Well, well, well.”

No . Nooo. Not this bastard.

“This is an active crime scene, Gloucester,” Felix snaps, “get behind the f*cking line.”

The asshole ducks back under the yellow do not cross tape and leans against the edge of the brick wall. His hands are raised placatingly as he gives Felix a co*cky smirk. “Yes, Detective. Now, I’m wondering how a murder happened right under the nose of the police? How embarrassing .”

Taking a deep breath, Felix holds it at the top. 1… 2… 3… then slowly blows out. The department has been dealing with his guy for five years. Everyone knows to not say a damn word to him, to leave it to Sergeant Detective Lecleric. But Lecleric isn’t here yet, and Gloucester is good- very good - at getting on their nerves.

“I mean really...” Gloucester holds his cell up, clearly recording and hoping to get a rise out of Felix. “Mittlefrank’s is down the street and the precinct is a few blocks away.”

“We don’t comment on ongoing investigations," Felix deadpans.

Tsk tsk, how neglectful,” the purple-haired f*ck continues, “tell me, Detective. Were you nearby? What could you have done to-”

“-now, now, Lorenz,” the cool, calm voice of Dimitri sounds as he appears with a fake smile. “How often does being an insufferable prick really help you? Do you even have friends?”

Felix clenches his jaw. Great, now two investigative reporters are here, neither are people he wants around.

“Dimitri, of course you’d show up. How are you going to explain the efficiency of the police when they can’t even keep their own backyard safe?”

While others can see a calm, composed Dimitri- only Felix knows of the vein toward the back of his neck that throbs when he’s focusing on controlling himself.

“Let the detectives do their work, Lorenz. I’m sure they haven’t even determined if there was foul play.”

Lorenz scoffs, “There’s a cold body. A death that could’ve been prevented-”

“-what about natural causes? What if he-”

“-looks like a young man from here, Dimitri-”

“-and young people can’t get sick?”

Shaking his head, Gloucester cackles, “Always the popo’s puppy dog. When are you-”

“Gloucester!” Felix barks authoritatively, “if you continue this line of inquiry, I'll have you arrested for interfering with a police investigation. And if you don't like it, take it up with Sergeant Lecleric.”

Gloucester is about to argue when he looks past Felix and his face pales. Flashing Felix and Dimitri dirty looks, he strides off as, right on cue, Lecleric appears at the detective’s side.

“Ah, while my intuition says he’ll be back later, I’m glad he’s gone,” Lecleric says.

When a civilian thinks of what a Sergeant Detective might look like, Felix will guarantee it’s the opposite of Lecleric.

Yuri Lecleric is small in stature with lilac hair and eyes. With sharp facial features and lithe body, those who don’t know them probably wouldn’t find Lecleric intimidating. But they’re the last person you want to f*ck with. Easily one of the smartest people someone could ever meet, their crass tongue is sharper than the blade in their scabbard.

After Felix reports what he knows to Lecleric, he turns to make his way back towards the body when he hears the flap of caution tape moving.

“Ugh, really? Blaiddyd! Get behind the-”

“He’s signed all the paperwork, Fraldarius,” Lecleric says coolly, “if the District Attorney says it’s okay for him to cross the line, then he can.”

Felix is about to rebut the stupidity of DA Seteth permitting that to happen- especially after the accident two years ago- when Ingrid and Raphael came up.

“Hey, Dimitri!” Ingrid says, smiling at her childhood friend. “Good to see you. Oh, and Dedue wanted me to remind you to be careful of the markers.”

“It was only one time, Dedue!” Dimitri shouts jovially toward the other side of the alley, where the CSI is putting the dead cat in a bag. “You’ll never let me forget, huh?!”

The typically stoic man smirks. “No!”

“Dimitri! My man! Missed you last night!” Raphael booms, shaking his hand.

The blond smiles. “Ah, I wish I could’ve been there. But I have a lot of deadlines to meet. Might be awhile before I can come out again.”

Felix rolls his eyes and walks away, not wanting to waste anymore of his time, when his phone rings.

“Fraldarius,” he says, using his hand to cover his other ear to listen better.

“Hi Detective. We have the results of the fingerprints from the switchblade. They have been emailed to you.”

Felix scowls at Dimitri, who keeps glancing over Ingrid’s shoulder at him. “Thank you, Mary.”

After hanging up, he jerks his head- beckoning Dimitri to follow him.

“Just one moment, please,” Dimitri says to the others before striding over, raising an eyebrow. “So… who was that?”

Felix clicks his tongue. “That was Mary. One of the lab technicians who runs fingerprints… they have my results.” He taps his phone angrily against his thigh. “When only yesterday they told me I wouldn't see it for at least another week.”

Dimitri smiles sheepishly. “Well, how about that-”

“I didn’t ask you to call in a favor,” Felix hisses, “butt out of my investigation.”

The blond lets out a genuine, barking laugh. “Excuse me? No, not when there’s such a strange case to investigate. The roots? Bizarre undetermined deaths? I made the call for professional reasons, not personal. I’m assigned to this.” Then his eyes soften. He reaches out to touch Felix, but quickly retracts. “I know you asked me to give you space, and for the most part I have. But I’m not turning down what could be a very interesting story. No one else is snatching this up from me.”

Felix chuckles incredulously, “Oh hell no, this is not your story. I know how you get, hanging around all the time. You’re trying-”

“-to help? And there’s clearly something more going on here, Felix. What are those roots? They're not from any plant I’ve heard of.”

“You’re not a botanist or a forensic scientist. Claude will have an explanation. Anyway, all I wanted to say was back off.” Felix starts walking away again and grunts when he hears Dimitri’s footsteps.

“What are the results, Felix? You know I can talk to Yuri, or Jeralt, or Seteth and they’d approve my assignment.”

Felix curses. Dimitri has helped solve many crimes, which lead him to becoming an award-winning journalist only a few short years into his career. Between that and his charisma, he managed to forge close connections with many people, including those with power. The only reason he isn’t a detective is because he wasn’t interested in being a police officer. Which still confuses Felix, since his ex loves the thrill of diving into dangerous situations.

While Dimitri is right, it’s still extremely annoying.

“You’re forgetting that I’m a detective and you’re a civilian. I don’t care if you have connections.”

His ex rolls his eye. “I’m still right.” And he takes his phone out of his pocket. “I can call Jeralt, or you can show me the email.”

Anger sweeps through Felix. Dimitri is not going to relent until he gets what he wants. “You’re so pretentious,” he utters. Checking the email, concern suffuses his features as he reads the results. “Well f*ck.” His mind reeling, he doesn’t even realize that, out of habit, he shows Dimitri his phone.

Dimitri’s mouth falls open. “Byleth Eisner?” he whispers, running a hand through his hair. “That… that’s not?”

“The Captain’s daughter?” Felix mumbles, “it has to be. Eisner isn’t a common name.”

“It’s hard to believe none of us have met her.”

Shrugging, Felix says, “Captain always said she’s really private.”

“So,” Dimitri sighs, “what now?”

Accessing the police database from his phone, Felix types her name in. “I find her. And this stays between us until I learn more. You understand?”

Dimitri crosses his arms, an eyebrow raised. “Until we find her and we learn more. But yes I understand, that goes without saying.”

Tch, right. Because he thinks he’s coming.

***

This part of the city used to be nice. The bricks that were once bright, rosy shades are now rugged and earthen. Tired from all the leaning, poster glue, chips due to the use of gauntlets and axes in street fights, the cigarette butts put out on them, and many other peculiar or normal things. But as Felix strides down the sidewalk, sometimes checking his map app to ensure he’s going in the right direction, he appreciates the aging of the bricks. With its wrinkles and cracks and flaws. It’s not phony. It can’t deceive. Bricks are bricks.

Slowing to a stop in front of a door that might have been white once, with a thick, frosted glass panel, he checks the suite number he has on his phone and the sign taped on the front.

Suite 920

Eagle Investigations

BE - EH - HV

Felix has to pause. He not only wishes that he didn’t leave his coffee tumbler behind, but it had at least a shot of bourbon in it.

The Captain’s daughter… is a private investigator?

Really?

Of all the things she could be. Could’ve been a Detective at another precinct, for Sothis’ sake. What this tells Felix is she prefers to play by her own rules. A smirk twitches at a corner of his lips. He’s heard stories of the Captain being argumentative his first few years on duty. So, guess his daughter is fairly similar… which also means this might not be easy.

He should get a search warrant. Or maybe brought Ingrid with him.

But… this is the Captain’s daughter, and when it comes to family members, sometimes an extra step needs to be taken first.

Twisting the rusted brass doorknob, he steps inside.

“Hello?”

He shivers- the office is cold. Not just in temperature, but in the sense that hope feels lost here. This place is in even crappier condition than the precinct. Along the walls are a bunch of grimy filing cabinets looking like they came straight from a landfill. A water cooler (the plastic tinged yellow due to age), and the textured eggshell paint walls are covered in brown water stains.

Not much else is in this room besides a small round table with a bell on it. He taps it. Waits. Still nothing.

To the right, almost hidden by one of the tall filing cabinets, he notices a slightly open door. Walking through it, he finds in this second room are three desks. One with papers messily strewn about the top, another is neat with a flower-painted coffee cup full of highlighters and pens, and the last is plain with one stack of papers. On the back wall is an evidence board, like the ones at the precinct. It’s covered in photographs, newspaper clippings, post-it notes, and string everywhere trying to connect ideas together.

“Anyone here?” Felix calls out again. Silence.

He decides to take a closer look at the evidence wall to see what Byleth Eisner and possibly two co-workers are about. Seems like there are a few cases. Plenty of photos of people she might be tailing, and- wait.

A photo of the black roots at the first crime scene. He recalls one of them was badly hacked at. Now he’s fidgety, his eyes quickly scanning over each photo and note to see if Byleth wrote anything about them, but he’s not seeing anything relevant. Polaroids of strangers- no, no, there’s a photo of the woman from the first case, and the young man from today. How… How did she get today’s?

He’s itching to snatch the photo. But without a warrant, he can’t do sh*t except gaze at what’s out in the open.

“No one here, huh? Well, that’s somewhat disappointing.”

Surprised, Felix reaches to unsheath his dagger and groans when he realizes who it is. “Of course you followed me.”

Dimitri flashes a toothy grin. “Oh come on, you didn’t actually believe I’d ‘meet you later’? And giving me the wrong address? Really? Like I wouldn’t look it up myself?”

While Dimitri is smiling, it’s not genuine. There’s a trick to fake smiling so others believe it- broad grin, head slightly tilted to show interest, but Dimitri forgot to crinkle his eyes. If a person is either honest or trying to act like it, then the smile needs to show on the whole face. On top of that, Dimitri’s teasing tone is forced. It’s easier for him to put on this front with others, but he’s never needed to use this act around Felix, so it’s new for him.

But Dimitri keeps up the charade. “Looks like you need me, huh? Since you can’t touch anything.”

Felix raises his eyebrows. “Need you? All I need to do is call Galatea and have her get me a search warrant. So you can leave.”

The smirk that curves on Dimitri’s lips is real. “Yeah? Didn’t you tell me a half hour ago to not tell anyone yet because this is the Captain’s daughter? You’re going to be a hypocrite and wait a couple hours for a judge to approve a warrant only because you don’t like that I’m here?”

sh*t. He called my bluff.

Felix doesn’t protest when Dimitri joins him behind the desk and thumbs through the notebook. While reporters have rules, with Dimitri’s connections he wouldn’t get in as much trouble as Felix would. It can be f*cking annoying, because this has gotten Dimitri into danger far too often... but it’s useful.

“Look in the drawers,” Felix grumbles, “they have pictures of the roots and the victims.”

Dimitri stands abruptly and scans the evidence wall, his brows furrowing when he sees what Felix is referencing. “What the…” He starts pulling the drawers open, quickly shuffling through the contents. He gasps when he looks in the bottom rightmost drawer. “Felix…” Straightening, he holds up a clear bag with the hacked root inside, and it’s slimy like expired asparagus.

“What are you doing?” A deep voice slowly utters behind them.

Dimitri drops the bag and Felix snaps his hand to the hilt of his sword. At the door is a tall, brooding man in a well-trimmed onyx suit. Hair as black as coal is swept to the side, making only one lime green eye visible. He’s gazing at them through narrowed lids, but void of emotion. But what’s truly off-putting is his stillness. He didn’t flinch at the thump of the bag being dropped, nor did he blink when Felix reached for his weapon. The man is just… static.

Despite the creepy air to him, based on the mans calm demeanor, Felix assesses he’s (currently) no threat.

Felix taps the badge on his belt. “I’m Detective Fraldarius. This is Dimitri Blaiddyd, a reporter for The Fódlan Times. I’m looking for Byleth Eisner.”

The man frowns. “No one by that name works here.”

“Hubert, it’s fine,” an even toned voice sounds from behind the tall man. “I know who the Detective is.”

A small hand pats Hubert’s shoulder and he steps aside to reveal two women. The one Felix assumes spoke takes a step past the door frame and Felix clenches his jaw.

This has to be the Captain’s daughter. She has the same detached expression as her father and arches an eyebrow like he does when sizing someone up. She nibbles at her lip piercing as her gaze flickers between Felix and Dimitri, and he feels the intensity of someone working out their initial judgements. Maintaining eye contact with him, she slinks into the room toward the messy desk, casually leaning against it and bites at her cuticles like it’s an ordinary day.

“Are you Byleth Eisner?” Felix asks, stepping forward and holding her stare. Which is harder than it should be, her mint green eyes are immediately enticing.

She smirks, lazily dropping the hand at her mouth onto her thigh with a slap. “Sure am.”

“Ms. Eisner-”

“-call me Byleth.”

“Byleth. Your fingerprints were found on a switchblade at a crime scene a few months ago. Is that familiar?”

“Say nothing, By.” The other woman steps toward Byleth. Brown-haired, petite in stature, but clearly has toned muscles under her tight red shirt. She has hands balled in tight fists, her lavender eyes flashing with distrust.

“El, it’s ok,” Byleth says reassuringly before bringing her attention back to Felix. “I was wondering where that went. Thanks for finding it.”

Felix scoffs. “I’m not here to return it. Since you confirmed it’s yours, I’m going to have to-”

He’s interrupted by her letting out a single, sharp laugh. “You’ll what? Bring me in?” She walks around her desk, plopping in the rickety chair behind it. “Actually, you know what? Go ahead. It’ll be funny to see how my dad reacts to me in cuffs.”

While Hubert lets out a soft chuckle, El snorts in frustration but keeps her mouth shut.

Dimitri hums. “So you are the Captain’s daughter.”

She points to Dimitri and winks. “Correct.”

Fan-f*cking-tastic.

Not appreciating her cavalier attitude, Felix scowls. “The Captain will understand if I bring you in for being a suspect to a murder.”

Byleth snorts. Whipping out her phone, she taps on it. She lays it on the desk and smirks at him as the ringing fills the room. “Let’s see what he says, huh?”

“Hey, kid.” Captain says, softer than the gruff Felix is used to.

Byleth twirls a bit of mint green hair around her finger. “Hey, dad. Got something to tell you.”

Captain moans. “Uhg, alright. What do you need?”

A smile tugs at her lips. “I may have forgotten to tell you I dropped a switchblade at the first crime scene.”

There’s a moment of silence until he finally snaps, “What the hell, kid? How could you make such a basic mistake? And that’s already at the lab, Fraldarius is waiting on prints for it as we speak.” He sighs. “I’ll have to talk to him.”

She chuckles. “Funny you mention him. He got the fingerprints back and he’s here to arrest me.”

Captain snorts. “Give him the phone.”

“You’re on speaker,” she says, strumming her fingers on the hilt of the sword at her hip.

“Fraldarius,” he commands, “you’re not bringing her in. Period. But kid, answer his questions so he understands. Got it?”

“Maybe. Thanks-love you-bye.” And she hangs up. Just like that.

Byleth looks at Felix and Dimitri with the most smug expression. “Told you.”

“He also said to answer some questions,” Dimitri says, stepping away from the evidence wall toward Byleth.

Hubert gets in his way. “The Captain was referring to Fraldarius. Not you.”

The chair squeaks as she gets up, and Byleth crosses her arms over her blue tie-dye crop top. “Hubert, if I wasn’t ok with him being here, he’d be gone. Now,” she looks at Felix. “Questions?”

Felix picks up the bag with the root. “To start, I’d like to know why you have a piece of evidence. Why do you have photos of the two victims? Then I’d like to know if this entire wall is connected to my case.”

El huffs. “By! This is reckless. We don’t know them, and we’ve been making progress-”

“Slow progress.” She glances at El, who’s leaning against the doorframe, frowning. “They also have Crests. I’ve been doing this on my own a long time, got farther when I found you two, but now…” Byleth jerks her head toward Felix and Dimitri. “We need them.”

El rolls her eyes, and opens her mouth to argue further when Hubert cuts her off.

“She’s right, El.” Hubert grumbles. “We have not gotten further in our investigation. The situation is too great for us to bear alone.”

A few seconds go by before El stands up straight, her eyes hardening. “If they want information, we should test them.”

Hubert strokes his chin contemplatively, then smirks at Byleth. “I know the test we can conduct.” Inexplicably, the way he says that sends a chill down Felix’s spine.

Seeming to know exactly what Hubert means, Byleth nods.

Byleth smirks at Felix and Dimitri. “So, have you ever fought a Demonic Beast?”

Notes:

I forgot Hapi doesn’t have a last name! Cinza means Grey in Portuguese. I thought it sounded cool. Close enough to ‘ashen’, haha.

If you’re wondering about what I plan to do with Crests & what the heck is the Aegis ring about- y’all will find out in the next chapter lol

Thank you for reading!

Chapter 3: Demonic

Summary:

Battle with a beast and some answers.

Notes:

CW: minor descriptions of violence

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

At the northernmost tip of Duscur lies an ancient woodland. It’s clear this part of the forest hasn’t been disturbed by humans for quite some time. The soil is dark, logs are blanketed in verdant moss, the mixture of maples, oaks, elms, and pine trees stand strong as they stretch toward the morning sky. The thickness of the branches only allow shards of sun to light the way. A herd of grazing deer pay the strangers no mind, as if they’ve never seen things like them before, and therefore have no reason to be afraid.

The strangers carefully make their way through the forest, treading over rock slates, winding creaks, and avoiding crunches of twigs when they can.

The thumping of Felix’s heart resounds in his ears. Wanting to keep himself calm, he tries to pay attention to the sounds of the woods. Birds chirping, squirrels and chipmunks squeaking as they gather food, the bellows of moose with the occasional clunk of antlers.

Dimitri putting his hair in a ponytail is a nice, normal distraction from the unusual situation they’ve ended up in. Felix welcomes the sight of Dimitri’s muscular forearms as he ties his hair up, exposing his neck where the top spikes of the Crest of Blaiddyd peek out of his black and grey baseball tee. He recalls the many times he traced the Crest as they lay naked on the bed, his fingertips easily gliding over every line and curve thanks to beads of sweat.

A little pink in his cheeks, Felix looks past the blond at the three people who brought them here.

Byleth exchanged numbers with him and Dimitri a couple days ago, telling them to be ready at any given moment. Felix reiterated that he’s a goddess-damn detective, a high-ranking official at a precinct with direct lines to the Church of Serios, the governing system for United Fódlan. He can’t necessarily drop whatever he’s doing. Then the Captain told him that, yes, for this in particular- he will do so, “because you need to know''. Also according to the Captain, this is one of those things he needs to experience instead of simply being told.

So when he got the text on (what he wanted to be) this nice Sunday morning off, he hurriedly finished his breakfast and changed into attire that fit Byleth’s text: be ready for a fight.

He was the last one to the PI’s office, which didn’t surprise him. Dimitri moved to this part of town and was probably here within minutes of receiving the message. He was making Byleth chuckle, and even El had a smirk tugging at a corner of her lips at whatever amusing anecdote he was telling.

Hubert was sitting at his desk, staring at a map while a faint yellow glow pulsed at his fingertips onto a temple, his other hand hovering over the north part of the map. El and Byleth said he found a Demonic Beast even though those have been extinct for a hundred years, when dark magic was banned. Once Hubert had the exact location, Felix was about to ask how they were going to get there when Byleth and El grabbed Felix and his ex’s wrists, and the moment Hubert laid a hand on El’s shoulder, they disappeared in a puff of purple smoke and reappeared in the middle of the Duscurian Forest.

Hubert is leading the way, a cloudy orb hovering over his outstretched palm. Guiding them to the supposed ‘beast’. Behind him is Byleth, her hand on the hilt of her silver sword, her head rotating slowly as she scans their surroundings. El is right on her heels, clutching the handle of her axe firmly, her head tilted up studying the treetops. Dimitri has his short lance loosely strapped to his back for easy access, his arms hanging at his sides. Felix notes the controlled movements of his shoulders as he takes steadying breaths. Like Felix, he’s nervous.

Felix’s hand clenches the hilt of his sword and he peers over his shoulder. The herd of deer are gone.

A sudden sense of unease ripples through him and the hair on his arms prickle.

There are no more sounds.

No birds, critters, or moose. No wind blowing to rustle the leaves and branches.

Silence.

Slowly, he draws his sword, staying as quiet as his surroundings.

They’ve come upon a large, shallow swamp. In the far back, a grand willow tree stretches its weeping branches and long moss onto the surface of the water, breaking up the duckweed that rests atop like a blanket. The sun's rays shine more freely here, but the light brings little comfort, for all is still. Frogs aren’t leaping pad-to-pad, no newts or water striders to glide atop the swamp like ice skaters to create even the subtlest ripple. The only movement is a mist, its ghostly curls drifting upward.

The orb in Hubert’s hand has darkened to a charcoal grey now. With a flick of his wrist, it disappears. El and Hubert position themselves into defensive stances as Byleth points to where Dimitri and Felix should stand. They obey and stare out at the swamp, waiting.

The earth rumbles. Thunderous cracks resonate through the trees and the brown, murky water bubbles and pops, allowing the smells of briny algae and rotten eggs to mix with the mist.

In the center of the swamp rises a great head, eyes red as blood- a hungry, ghastly grin stretches across its face revealing yellow, barbed teeth. Mud slides off to expose an obsidian, thick body, its spine splintering through its back. Every vein of the beast protrudes and twists against its skin- pulsing and throbbing as if worms lived underneath- all the way to the end of its clubbed tail.

This isn’t nearly like the pictures he’s seen as a child. This is nothing like the dreadful fairy tales Glenn would tell to him, Sylvain, Ingrid, and Dimitri when they were young and camping in the backyard of the Fraldarius’s home. Sitting around a campfire with marshmallows on spits, Glenn would hunch his back, snarl his teeth, and curl his fingers into claws while he did his best to horrify them enough to keep them awake throughout the night, gasping and clutching to each other tighter at every blow of the wind.

But this creature- this beast- is something far larger, more sinister and horrific than he ever dared to imagine.

Its roar pierces through his very skin down to his bones, rattling his ice-cold nerves. They’re… they’re f*cking real.

“HUBERT- START WITH DISTRACTION TACTICS!” Byleth bellows over the roars of the beast as it plunges its heavy feet through the sludge of the swamp. “EL, AIM FOR THE THROAT! YOU TWO- USE YOUR CRESTS AND STAY CLOSE TO ME. WATCH OUT FOR THE TAIL AND KEEP MOVING!

Felix breathes in, a powerful heat surges through his Crest and like a whip-crack, a flaming orange light blazes down his arms. On his left hand the ring glows and transforms into his Relic, the Aegis shield, and the weapon in his right becomes his family heirloom- the Sword of Moralta.

In Dimitri’s grasp, what was once a simple short lance is now Areadbhar, the great Relic of the Blaiddyd’s.

Under El’s black shirt, there’s a red glow and in her hands the silver axe has become a Relic of her own. Due to his own extensive interest in weapons, Felix now realizes she must be part of the Hresvelg clan from what used to be Adrestia, and based on the curvature of her Relic, this is Aymr itself.

“MORTEM!” Hubert screams, running to the right while he, Byleth, and Dimitri flank left. A crystalling, purple mist veils itself over their adversary and in a sudden boom and flash of light, the beast rocks side-to-side, disoriented.

Rushing forward, El launches Aymr at the monster's throat, but its great head lolls and it pierces the jaw instead, making it shriek in pain as El summons her Relic back to her hand.

Byleth runs up and thrusts her sword into the belly of the beast. It screams as it rears onto its back legs and Dimitri surges forward, burying Areadbhar into the beast's broad chest. Twisting the lance before pulling it out, he swiftly backs up as it lands on its feet, causing another rumble in the earth.

Opening its ghastly mouth, a rippling green blob emerges from it, and due to the fetid stench coming from it, there’s no doubt in Felix’s mind that it’s poisonous- and it’s aimed straight for Dimitri.

Bolting from his stance, Felix rapidly closes the distance between them. Sliding in front of Dimitri, he snaps his shield forward, orange light bursts from it and the blob pops, splatting to the ground. Instinctually, Felix ducks and Dimitri grunts as he throws his Relic again, managing to pierce right under its chin. The beast swings its head violently and Areadbhar flies away before soaring back to Dimitri’s grasp.

The beast, utterly pissed off, turns and swings its tail in circles, and this time as Felix activates the power of his Crest to protect him and Dimitri, the force of the strike makes them airborne, and they land hard onto roots of a tree, yelping in pain and gasping for breath.

Despite the shock of the hit, they scramble to their feet and Felix notes that the other three are standing off to the side, weapons at the ready, but observing him and Dimitri. A f*cking test, huh? Assholes.

The monster focuses on the two of them, and this time as it swings its tail to smash them again, Felix screams as the almighty heat of his Crest surges through him, the light almost blinding his eyes as the throws his shield with such ferocity that it slices off the tail of the beast in one blow.

Black blood gushes from where the tail was severed, the roars from the monster making the shallow waters wave and the trees sway dangerously. Felix catches his shield as it boomerangs back, and he and Dimitri move as one and swipe, thrust, and stab at the beast. The arctic blue of Areadbhars light trailing as Dimitri moves, all their focus on defeating their foe. Unfortunately, it swipes its spiked head at them, knocking them down a few times before Felix can shield them again, but they keep getting up.

Finally, after a particularly powerful shield block, Dimitri makes the killing blow, slashing open the monster's throat. Blood spurts and gargles from the parted flesh as the monster crashes to the ground, its body thrashing helplessly. They all watch as the monster’s body slows, its last breaths being drawn, until life finally dims and leaves its eyes.

Only briefly were their panting breaths the only sounds, when suddenly noise erupts again and they snap back to attacking positions until they realize it's simply the swamp coming back to life.

“Felix,” Dimitri gasps, dropping Areadbhar and taking him by the shoulders, his eye checking him over. “Are you ok? Are you injured?”

Looking down at his torn clothes, Felix sees specks of blood like splattered ink on his shirt, and he feels the sting of cuts on his back. “I-I’m ok. Nothing that can’t be easily mended.” Now he takes in Dimitri, his clothes similarly ragged and bloodied. “And you?”

“Fine- I’m fine,” Dimitri whispers, and he pulls Felix into a tight hug. Relief overcomes Felix as their bodies relax into each other, their weapons changing back to the simpler things they were before.

They survived.

Felix chokes back emotion. The last time the two of them were part of an intense fight was two years ago , and Dimitri came out of it with a blind eye. So he holds him tight, thanking Serios or Sothis or whatever is out there that they both came out of this relatively unscathed.

Leaning back, they gaze at one another. Even with cuts and smears of blood, Dimitri’s impossibly handsome face stares into his full of concern. Dimitri raises his hand and wipes something off of Felix’s cheek. The warmth has Felix feeling the magnetic lure to close the gap between their lips, wanting to find solace in Dimitri’s embrace, when a small applause breaks them out of their spell and they step apart.

“I’ll admit,” Byleth says as she approaches, still clutching her sword. “I’m impressed.”

“You two really handled yourselves,” El agrees. Her weapon has returned to the silver axe it was before, secure in its holster.

Hubert nods, his face impassive.

Something in their tone makes Felix relief quickly disappear, replacing it with fury. Storming toward them, he points the tip of his sword to each of them.

“Alright, we killed it. So you’re going to tell us what the f*ck is going on!”

Hubert raises a hand. “Why don’t we go back to the office, clean up and-”

“No," Felix says with rigid authority, “no- you’re telling us right the f*ck now.”

Glancing at each other, they nod.

“Fine,” Byleth says, sliding her sword into its scabbard. She walks over to the nearest tree and takes a deep breath as she leans against it. “First thing I’ll mention, which is likely clear to you because of what just happened- but dark magic still exists.”

There's a pause.

“But… that’s been banned for a century,” Dimitri says, bewildered. “Since it caused that plague…”

El snorts. “Ok, clearly someone likes to follow rules. Just because something is banned, doesn’t mean it went extinct.”

Dimitri blushes and clenches his jaw, but he remains silent. Felix raises an eyebrow. Usually the blond likes to push back, especially if embarrassed or contradicted- cause Dimitri f*cking loves breaking rules. But he breathes, picks up his short lance and puts it in the sheath on his back. “Please continue, Byleth,” he says, clearly putting effort into keeping his tone even.

Byleth places a hand behind her neck and rubs as she speaks. “For a very long time, I have been tracking down traces of dark magic all over Fódlan. Following strange cases. From rises in missing persons, to personalities of people completely changing, strange deaths… not strange like your case, which is far more bizarre.” She drops her hand, tucking her thumbs into her belt. “My victims had causes of deaths that were also determined inconclusive, but they had similarities: bizarre scars in the same places on their bodies and their hair was white. According to people that knew the victims, that was not their original hair color.”

Felix and Dimitri exchange curious glances. What the..?

The detective opens his mouth to ask a question, but Byleth continues. “Then about six years ago I ran into my first demonic beast. Almost died trying to kill it by myself. But I managed. It wasn’t nearly the size of this,” she gestures to the monster. “Still big. Since these two joined me, more and more demonic beasts have been popping up. Which means they’re getting stronger.”

“They?” Felix quickly interrupts. “Who’s they?”

“An underground organization. Hubert calls them: ‘Those Who Slither in the Dark’.”

“Such a long name,” Dimitri says dryly, “why not something like -The Below. So much shorter.”

“We also call them Slitherers,” El flares defensively.

“That’s almost worse,” Felix mutters to Dimitri, making him smirk.

Byleth clears her throat. “As I was saying- Those Who Slither are getting stronger. We’ve spent a great deal of our time tracking down and fighting demonic beasts to keep them away from villages and cities instead of finding their lair. But ultimately they led us to Fhirdiad. Then my father contacted me about your first victim, Felix. When he saw the black roots he called me immediately.”

Felix’s mind is reeling. An underground organization that continues to use dark magic, bring demonic beasts back from extinction, strange deaths with scars and different hair… then the two victims Felix has cases for?

His brows draw even closer together. “What do they want?”

Byleth gestures to El, who crosses her arms over her chest. “We think they hate the Church of Seiros and Archbishop Rhea. From what Hubert and I know, and the research Byleth has done, the plague from one hundred years ago was directed toward members of the church. Even though Fódlan was split into three states, the Church still had immense power… then as of fifty years ago-”

“-they gained more power, when we became United Fódlan after the war,” Dimitri finishes, raking a hand through his hair.

El nods. “We think they want the power for themselves.”

There’s a long stretch of silence as the two process the information. Then Felix’s gaze flickers between the three PI’s and he clicks his tongue. “Are you the only ones who have been following them?”

Hubert lets out a deep, slow chuckle. “We have eyes and ears everywhere. When it comes to the fray, yes, it has been only us.”

Felix strokes his chin. “Why does this matter to you?”

If possible, Hubert stiffens even more as he glances at El, who worries at her lip. Byleth looks down at her hip. Clipped to her belt on the opposite side of her sword is a dagger with a blue sheath, and she grips the handle, her knuckles turning white.

“They’ve taken family from us,” Byleth explains, her voice sedate and serious. She raises her head, and a blazing gaze meets his. “While I don’t necessarily agree that the Church of Seiros should be the government of the nation, I hate Those Who Slither even more. Their torturous, dark ways… what they do… all that they’ve done.”

Dimitri scuffs the dirt. “Torturous? Is there more to this?”

“We’ve told you enough for now,” El edges in, giving him a hardened gaze. “The point is there’s a dark evil doing unspeakable things, and they need to be stopped before they cause another plague, or an attack… we’re not sure what they’re planning.”

“And that is precisely why we have decided to include you,” Hubert says pointedly, “we have come to realize we need further aid. Detective, you must have put together that your victims died from dark magic, which is why their cause of death is undetermined. Your medical examiner can only do so much. I would like to see the latest body and do my own examination.”

Felix shakes his head. “Allow a civilian in Bernie’s morgue? You’re sh*tting me, right?”

Hubert only stares back. He’s serious.

After hearing all this, Felix has no doubt in his mind that they’re correct. His victims died of a magic that was supposed to have been gone from the world long ago. It’s the only explanation that makes any sense. Bernie doesn’t know light magic, and as far as he understands of it (which, admittedly, is only minor healing), it doesn’t quite have the power to uncover more information.

He points at Hubert. “Wait. What could you do to examine the body that Bernie or a light magic user can’t?”

“Felix,” Dimitri says under his breath, “between him transporting us here and the spell against the monster… I’m pretty sure he uses dark magic.”

“The way I use dark magic is to further research, and to transport us if we need to be somewhere quickly,” Hubert explains, “I will never harm innocent people or allies.”

Felix and Dimitri look at each other, and the former nods.

“We’ll need to talk about this,” Dimitri says, “but we’re in. Do we need more people?”

Byleth hums thoughtfully. “Eventually, yes. Hubert and I think more people would be beneficial.” She raises an eyebrow at El, who scoffs. Byleth continues, “But not yet. Keep this between us and my father.”

The PI’s step forward, resting hands on each other's shoulders, Dimitri and Felix doing the same. In a flash of purple smoke, they disappear out of the forest.

***

Dimitri’s apartment is precisely what Felix expected it to be.

Clean, modern, and like he’s lived here for years. Pictures on the walls, pots and pans hanging from an iron chandelier above his little portable kitchen island, and matching rugs neatly placed across the pale wooden floors. Walking into it, the kitchen is immediately on the left, and past it is the living room where there’s a brick fireplace painted white with a tv mounted above it. Opposite that is a seemingly comfy black couch with blue and grey pillows. Dimitri always had a knack for making a space feel comfortable and look nice.

At the moment, Felix is in the bathroom drying off from washing the dirt and blood from his body before Dimitri tries his best to either use some healing magic (which he isn’t great at), or have his first aid kit to tend to the cuts.

The only reason Felix agreed to this arrangement is because they don’t want the healers at the precinct- Emile and Mercedes- to have to file a report for mending them, which means questions on why they are injured, which they cannot have. Since Dimitri’s apartment is around the corner from Eagle Investigations, and Felix really doesn’t want his nosy neighbors staring at him through their blinds as he walks into the complex.

Plus… Dimitri needs to be healed as well.

There’s a knock on the door. “Felix?” Dimitri says, the door slightly muffling his low voice. “I have spare clothes for you… since yours are, um…”

“Torn up?” Making sure his towel is tight around his hips, he opens the door enough to take a pair of sweatpants from Dimitri. “Is there a shirt?”

He chuckles. “Yeah, but I need to tend to your cuts anyway, so I thought you’d put it on after… do you want me to-?”

“-it’s fine. Fair point,” Felix mumbles as he shuts the door again and hears Dimitri step away.

Glancing at the dark grey sweatpants, Felix’s heart sinks when he realizes this is the pair he often took from Dimitri. He’d tease about wanting his comfiest pair of sweats back, sometimes chasing him around their apartment which would lead them to… things. Bringing them to his nose, he breathes in the mix of sandalwood cologne and laundry soap. When he unfolds them, something drops to the floor. Oh, he even threw in a pair of clean boxers... Thoughtful, since those were quite dirty from swamp water soaking through his pants after one of their falls.

Hanging his towel next to Dimitri’s damp one, since he took a shower first, he picks up his dirty clothes, steps into the bedroom and immediately stops at the sight of Dimitri’s bare chest. Even scratched up… Oh Serios, help me, Felix thinks as he stares at his ex’s broad, strong chest, his abdominal muscles flexing slightly as he looks through his large first aid bag, taking from it some ointments and bandages.

Felix clicks his tongue. “I don’t think we need every bottle you have. It doesn’t seem either of us have deep wounds.”

The blond looks up, and both men blush. Felix is fully aware of Dimitri’s lingering gaze at his own half-naked body, and he is sure they’re thinking of the same thing when his gaze stops at the pants.

Dimitri clears his throat, bringing his eyes back to the medical supplies. “I haven’t checked you out- I mean, haven’t looked over your injuries properly…” He stiffly gestures for Felix to sit on the edge of the bed, and he timidly obliges, sitting right on the edge, his back to Dimitri.

This was… not a good idea. No, being half-naked in front of the man I still lo- care for and touching each other to tend wounds. What the actual f*ck was I thinking?

“Are you going to practice your healing magic first?” Felix asks, hoping beyond hope that the answer is yes.

No such luck.

“Heh, unfortunately I haven’t had much reason to practice…” Dimitri admits. “So I’m still quite terrible at it.”

Felix glances over his shoulder, and he can see the blond uncapping an ointment. “Tch, ridiculous. You weren’t terrible, you can stop bleeding.”

“But not so good at mending the skin back together. Since you're no longer bleeding, let's get to the bandaging. I’m, uh…” Dimitri pauses. “I’m going to touch you.”

Felix readies himself, and once the cold ointment hits his shoulder he stiffens and tries not to think of how nice it feels to have Dimitri’s warm fingertips gently swirling the antibiotic over the cuts. Tries to ignore the tingles down his spine and the longing whispering through his body as he moves to each cut, long and short, on his back, slowly making his way lower and lower. sh*t, do I really have so many? But Dimitri is also taking his time, ensuring the gluey substance is doing its job.

As Dimitri starts putting bandages on the bigger injuries, Felix clears his mind enough to speak.

“What do you think?”

His ex hums thoughtfully. “Well, we have to help, don’t we? Now that we know the truth of what’s behind the murders?”

Felix picks at a loose thread on the inseam of the sweats. “How are you going to write an article about this?”

“You know I’ll find a way…” Dimitri lets out a drawn-out sigh, and Felix can feel the warmth of his breath on the back of his neck. “What, you thought this would be too strange for me to write about, so I might look for a different story?”

“No… I know you better than that. Nothing is too odd or frightening for you. Even when it should be.”

Dimitri briefly pauses as he sticks a long bandage to his back. “Hmm. I’m glad you realize I’m sticking around… and you know I’m good enough at my job where I won’t spoil the investigation. But based on the nature of this… I might have to tell my boss this is a long-game story and not a short turn-around… I’ll figure it out.” He takes a deep breath. “Done. Does that feel ok?”

Felix nods, and as Dimitri moves to stand up, he reaches out and grabs his hand. “I can heal your back.”

Adjusting himself to sit behind Dimitri, he accesses his light magic and hovers his hand close to the skin, the glowing white mending the skin together as if the scrapes and bruises never existed. The heat of the magic always relaxes Dimitri, he quietly moans and slightly slumps, relaxing more and more under Felix’s care.

“Finished,” Felix says, the glow in his hand dimming to nothing.

Dimitri turns around, and Felix can’t help but look at his lips as he whispers: “Thank you.”

Felix, his breathing slightly deeper, shakes his head. “I- uh, yeah of course. I wasn’t going to leave you to figure that out yourself. So… er, where’s the shirt..?”

Nodding, Dimitri gets up and tosses him a simple black tee from an open drawer before reaching in and pulling a green one over himself and looking out the window.

The sun is setting, and it’s strange to think only about two hours ago they killed a monster.

Felix gets up and slips his dirty socks and shoes on, refusing to borrow anymore from Dimitri. They continue talking about their impressions of the PI’s as they slowly walk out of the bedroom, pausing in the kitchen to rehash what they learned. It was all just… a lot to take in.

Strumming his fingers on the kitchen island, Felix hears his stomach rumble. “Ah, I should proba-”

“-would you like to stay for dinner?” Dimitri asks so swiftly, Felix almost doesn’t understand. Dimitri takes a wavering breath. “I can order pizza, or I have steak and salad in the fridge, it’d be easy to make something.”

Felix swallows, and opens and closes his mouth a few times before quietly saying. “I don’t think that’s a good idea… but thanks for offering.”

He doesn’t look at Dimitri, for he knows he’ll change his mind in an instant. That striking blue eye, especially paired with the expression he’s sure Dimitri is wearing, would make him melt.

“Oh, yeah, of course, I just…” he rests his hand on the island, close to Felix’s. “I wanted to tell you… my first appointment with Dr. Nevrand went well. You know, the therapist? I’ll be seeing her every Thursday. She’s, uh,” he chuckles nervously. “Direct, to put it mildly. Which I think will be good for me.”

Felix smirks. “That’s great. I’m glad.” He almost reaches out to pat Dimitri’s hand, but he clenches it and steps back instead, keeping his gaze on his shoes. “Well… I guess we’ll be talking soon. For the case.”

“...yeah,” Dimitri says softly.

With that, Felix takes his wallet and car keys, and walks out of the comfort of Dimitri’s apartment into the beige, empty hallway to make his way to what used to be their home.

Notes:

I hope you enjoyed it!

As always- comments are greatly appreciated :)

Thank you for reading <3

Chapter 4: Below

Summary:

Preparations for the Rite of Rebirth, and Dimitri posts a simple picture on social media…

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Eleven snakes twist skyward to never see the sun.

For as long as they’ve known, the edges of earth are the boulders and roots overhead, and russet iron walls with rows upon rows of pipes which whir, filling the cold room with a constant hum that would disturb their scales, if they had any.

The Axis is the only room in which the snakes have resided for thousands of years. Their tails bound to the top edge of the grand cathedra in the center of the altar, their hissing tongues unyielding.

Their glossy eyes look upon their occupant as his rich, stern voice echoes across the room.

“You are late.”

As three figures approach, their footsteps clink on the misshapen plates of black and grey glass with cerulean neon stripes to illuminate their path.

Once they are near enough, they bow.

“My apologies, Master Thales,” says the middle figure coolly, “we have been gathering intel. The rebellion led by Lord Lonato was successful. The Knights of Seiros were distracted by the mutiny, allowing us to fulfill our true intentions.”

“Ahhh,” Thales’ lavender eyes twinkle with pleasure. “This is good news indeed.”

“There were very few survivors,” a female voice sounds to the left of the middle figure, “Lord Lonato died in the battle as well.”

“These deaths do not matter to me,” Thales says, gently straightening the sleeve of his crimson and gold silk vestment. “What of the note?”

The middle figure, resting a hand on the dagger at their hip, nods toward the person on their right.

“It was found,” a man says, “Archbishop Rhea called for the Knights of Seiros and the 13th Precinct, where the former Captain of the KoS currently heads, and demanded full security near the Goddess Tower during the Rite of Rebirth ceremony at the end of the month.”

Sitting in the shadows behind Thales are six barely noticeable others. They adjust in their seats, leaning towards one another, whispering as the wind does through leaves.

The middle figure stifles a cough before continuing. “It’s mandatory for most officers and detectives to be there, as well as any other staff member with a Crest. Everyone there is required to be skilled with a weapon, even in non-patrol duty positions in case of emergencies.”

Thales nods, stroking his chin-strap beard in thought. “And of the detective?”

“He, along with a reporter, have shown their worth and trust was established,” the middle figure responds, gripping their dagger tighter.

“Excellent.” Thales takes a satisfied breath. “I trust you understand the gravity of what needs to be accomplished next.” The three bow their heads, and Thales flicks his hand. “Dismissed.”

Obeying the command, the three bow again, then begin to make their way out of the Axis.

Thales emits a low, grinding chuckle. “Oh, and B...”

The middle figure, B, turns to stare blankly into Thales’ eyes.

“Do retrieve a different form for the next phase.”

B’s forehead crinkles. “Like the others?”

Thales slowly shakes his head. “No. Do not consume, only borrow.”

B nods. “I know just the person.”

Felix shifts uncomfortably in his seat. He has never done well with crying.

“Mrs. Callier?” he says softly, pushing the kleenex closer to the teary-eyed woman.

It’s understandable, of course. Her son was the most recent victim. With the overwhelming grief that her child was found after being missing for a year, only to find out he died, and the infuriating circ*mstance that she was asked to come in to answer questions while the why is confidential.

But she sat with him for an hour. Answering questions and occasionally taking sips of water from a styrofoam cup while adjusting herself in the plastic chair, making it squeak.

Ingrid has asked many times over the years to convert one of the storage rooms into another interview space, one that at least has cushy chairs for times like this: when detectives need to question grieving families. But no, they need to use the same room as they do with suspects and perpetrators- dirty white brick walls, an old table, and rickety chairs.

“I’m s-sorry,” she snivels, dabbing her eyes with a few tissues.

“It’s fine.” He thinks of his brother, recalling the bottomless hole of grief when he died years ago that still hits him to this day. “My condolences on your loss.”

Mrs. Callier takes a few deep breaths. “Giles was such a sweet boy,” she croaks, “when he changed… he was so harsh. Then he disappeared…” She draws a rattling sigh. “Have you found his girlfriend?”

He pauses for a moment, puzzled. “Girlfriend? No one’s mentioned a-”

“-well, he kept telling me she wasn’t... But his friend was around a lot. Kind thing with the prettiest bright red hair and eyes. Always polite until he went missing. She changed too. Because of heartbreak, I think... She’s been gone for a few months now.”

“Do you think she found him, and that’s why she went missing?”

She closes her eyes, and as she scrunches her face in thought, the fluorescent light shines off her wet, wrinkled cheeks. “Hmm. I hadn’t thought of that somehow… I can’t say.”

“One last thing, Mrs. Callier,” Felix says, holding his pen over an almost-filled page in his notebook. “Do you remember her name?”

She nods. “Monica... Monica von Ochs.”

He jots it down. “You’ve answered all my questions. Thank you for your time, ma’am.”

Felix holds the door open for Mrs. Callier, then escorts her to the elevator that will lead her out of the precinct before heading back to his desk.

It’s been an increasingly frustrating two weeks. After finding a way to sneak Hubert into the morgue to examine Callier’s body, he now knows with certainty that the young man's death was caused by dark magic. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly something he can report. Even though the Captain is well aware, it would be suspicious to his coworkers if he didn’t have to follow protocol. So, he conducted interviews. Talked to Callier’s friends, family, and to Ingrid who worked his missing persons case. It was quickly dismissed due to him being 24 years old and there was nothing odd about his disappearance except for a personality change. Not much detectives can do besides sending his photograph to all the precincts in Fódlan.

The complication with Byleth mentioning personality changes as a possible side-effect of being tampered with by dark magic, is that people change. Dimitri put the question plainly when he texted Felix the other night: How do we know what’s dark magic, and what’s normal human behavior?

As usual, Felix didn’t respond.

Sitting down at his desk chair, he tosses his notebook and pen aside. Felix yanks his hair tie out and drags his nails over his scalp with a groan. None of Callier’s friends mentioned a girl named Monica. Uhg, I’ll need to call them again.

He winces when he hits a spot that’s still sore from the fight. While most of his cuts and bruises on his front are gone, he landed really hard on his back a few times, so those bruises are still lingering, now a light yellow.

“You look pained, Detective.”

Felix rolls his eyes as one of their healer’s approaches. “It’s nothing, Bartels. Don’t worry about it.”

“Now, now,” Emile says in his calm tone, setting a clipboard on Felix’s desk. “You know I am not easily fooled. This will only be a second.”

Emile’s hand hovers over the back of Felix’s head, and the brief warmth is gone as quickly as it appeared.

“See. That was easy.” Emile picks up his clipboard and is about to write something when Felix clears his throat.

“It wasn’t work related, no need to take note.”

The sandy-blond smirks. “I track anyone I heal, as you know.”

“Always solid with the protocol! Felix, you’re not giving the nicest guy here a hard time, are you?” Sylvain teases as he walks up, and looks at the healer. “I thought you were coming to help me! Not this ungrateful bastard.”

Emile nods. “I was on my way and saw the detective wince.”

Sylvain squeezes Felix’s shoulder, making him recoil. There’s still a bruise there, too. “What did you do? Someone as coordinated as you wouldn’t fall on accident… so you either got in a fight…” Sylvain’s eyes twinkle mischievously. “Or you had a really good ni- ouch!”

“Shut up, you idiot,” Felix snaps as he retracts his fist from hitting Sylvain. “Why do you need Emile’s aid? To cover up another conquest?”

Sylvain chuckles as rubs his side. “Yes, actually.”

Emile closes his eyes and gently shakes his head. “Detective. I have shown you how to use light magic so you can fix those specific blemishes yourself.”

Felix snorts. “But that would mean not showing the whole office he managed to get someone into bed with him.”

“You know me too well!” Sylvain double-taps Felix’s cheek and jumps back before he gets hit again. “And you’re so good at it, Emile. But fine. I’ll do it myself... if both of you come to Frank’s tonight! We’re overdue for a round of pool. I’m determined to beat the two of you someday,” Sylvain waves his finger between Emile and Felix. “The two of you need to be humbled.”

Glancing at each other, Emile nods, then Felix smirks. “Prepare for another loss, Gautier.”

***

“f*ck!” Sylvain barks as he misses his second shot, the 9 ball a centimeter away from going in a side pocket. “This is bullsh*t! Total bullsh*t!”

“It is fine, Detective,” Emile consoles as he takes aim. “All it takes is practice and patience.” The healer, per usual, takes his time. Moving the cue back and forth in his hand to gage the necessary force of the follow through, then hits- the 4 ball perfectly falling into a corner pocket.

When Emile hits his third solid in a row, Sylvain curses and shouts toward the bar, “THEA! May we please have another round of drinks?!” He shakes his head. “Maybe if you two drink more, it’ll slow you down.”

“Has it ever?” Emile lazily says, intentionally missing the fourth ball, something he and Felix do sometimes to keep the game going.

“You are playing against a champion pool player, Syl,” Ingrid remarks as she chalks her cue tip. “Two years in a row, right Emile?”

“Three years!” His sister chimes as she approaches with a couple drinks. After setting hers down on a nearby high table, she hands a sugar-rimmed glass to Emile. “Here’s your peach martini.”

“Thank you, Mercedes.” With a small smile, Emile takes a sip of his drink. “Until they stock sorbet, this will do.”

“We’re not stocking something only one person will order,” Thea says as she comes up, handing Felix his bourbon on ice, Sylvain an old fashioned, and Ingrid a pale ale.

“How do you know only I would have some? What if more people would enjoy a refreshing peach sorbet?” Emile asks, taking another sip of his sweet drink.

Thea rolls her eyes. “Because I know my customers, and I’m not gonna lose money over it.”

“You always have some in your freezer anyway, Emile,” Mercie says, sitting on one of the stools.

“Yes, I know,” he sighs, “it would be more convenient if it was already here.”

“I have a feeling you’ll live,” Thea says with a wink. “Usual food?” After getting affirming answers and a change-up from Ingrid, Thea heads to the kitchen.

Doesn’t take much longer for Felix and Emile to win against Ingrid and Sylvain, and they promise to switch up partners so they’re on an even keel next time.

They are joined by many others, everyone clustering around all the high tables and chatting about this and that, the bar steadily getting louder as more people show up and the later it gets.

Felix, having finished his burger, wipes his hands on a napkin and looks around. Everyone is engaged in conversation and having a good time, despite that almost everyone here will be transported to Garreg Mach Monastery in a couple days for the Rite of Rebirth Ceremony.

“Damn, this just isn’t my night!” Sylvain shouts. “My date for tomorrow night cancelled! Her text says she has to go back to Remire to take care of her parents. Apparently they aren’t feeling well. Geez, they must be pretty old if they can’t take care of a cold themselves.”

“Sounds to me like she was trying to get out of a date with you,” Leonie says over her pint of Guinness.

Sylvain feigns offence. “Me?! Please, get out of a date with a handsome face like mine? Plus I’m charming, have an excellent job…” He reaches over and tugs at the sleeve of Leonie’s yellow blouse. “I’m quite the catch, don’t you think, Sunflower?”

She jerks her arm away from him. “Sunflower? What the f*ck makes you think you can give me a nickname?”

“You look lovely in yellow, Lee, what can I say?” He leans forward. “How about tomorrow-”

“-are you f*cking kidding me?” Leonie jeers. “Wow, you are unbelievable, Gautier. I feel like anytime I see a nice side of you- you decide to keep opening your mouth.”

“I wouldn’t mind if you kept it shut for me- OUCH!” He reaches under the table and rubs wherever Leonie kicked him. “Damnit, can people please stop hitting me?!”

“No,” Felix and Leonie snap.

Sylvain is about to retort when Hilda and Claude abruptly appear at their table.

“Can any of you please talk to Captain Eisner?!” Hilda whines. “There is literally zero reason for me to go. Look at these noodly arms!” She shakes them, and unluckily for her, instead of proving that they’re ‘noodly’, Hilda shows off how toned she is instead.

“Lookin’ pretty strong to me, Hilds,” Claude says with a sly smirk, “and I’ll never forget how brutal you were during academy! As soon as you had an axe in your hand in weaponry class, you’d kick nearly all our asses!”

“I didn’t have acrylics then, asshole!” Hilda narrows her eyes and pushes Claude’s shoulder. “You were just saying how you don’t want to go, either! And you’re one of the best archers around!”

Claude rests his hands behind his neck, “I don’t like fighting. It’s why I decided to be a scientist. Action is rare. I do abide by the weekly training requirements, and I know for a fact you do too, Hilds. So good luck asking the Captain to be excused.” He emits a low whistle. “I’d hate to be you.”

Hilda rolls her eyes and gestures around the table. “And that’s what I’m here to talk to the detectives about!” She pouts and widens her eyes at the three of them. “Could you please ask him for me?”

“Nope.”

“f*ck no.”

“If you have dinner with me tomorrow?”

Hilda frowns. “It’s a no then. Fine, but I’ll remember this when any of you want a favor!” With slumped shoulders she walks over to Ingrid.

“Definitely sh*t outta luck with her,” Claude says. “She won’t give up until we’re actually at the monastery, I’ll bet a shot on it. And Sylvain,” he licks his lips. “I’ll have dinner with you tomorrow.”

Sylvain’s mouth stretches into a wide grin as he looks Claude up and down. “Really now?”

Leonie hops off her seat, probably just as unwilling as Felix to listen to two of the flirtiest guys at the precinct tease each other. But Felix takes out his phone and opens up Instagram. As he’s scrolling, he stops on a new picture of Dimitri. He’s looking unfairly handsome in a light blue dress shirt with his fancy khaki pants, the pair he wears when he has to do something for work, or if he and Felix went on a nice date-

Wait.

Date?!

Felix scans the captions and irritation flares. All it says is, ‘Going out for a nice dinner!’

Ok. Could be for work. On occasion there are correspondents’ dinners, or his coworkers host things sometimes…

Or it could be a date.

Who the f*ck would he be going on a date with? Who and where and how would he meet someone to go on one with?

Felix clicks on Dimitri’s profile and scans the last few pictures. Ugh, he’s barely posted over the past few months. That doesn’t help. He racks his brain to try to remember if Dimitri has mentioned a new coworker, or maybe one that’s flirted with him before. Nothing is ringing any bells yet.

Placing his phone much harder on the table than he meant to, he accidentally startles the two flirts out of their trance.

“Yuh ok, detective?” Claude asks with a raised brow.

“Yeah, yeah I’m fine. Only tired. I’m gonna go.”

After saying a couple goodbyes and paying his tab, Felix speedwalks back to the precinct, gets in his car, and heads to his apartment. His mind has been reeling nonstop, trying to remember all Dimitri’s coworkers and what he recalls of their relationship statuses. Trevor’s gaze always lingered on Dimitri a little too long and often for Felix’s liking. Is he still with his boyfriend? Once Felix is at his complex and his camry is locked, he finds Trevor’s Instagram. Looks like he deleted all his pictures with his previous boyfriend.

Felix slams the door to his apartment behind him. Is Dimitri on a date with f*cking Trevor?

His gut heavy with fury and something else, he looks around the apartment and his eyes fall on the single, off-centered painting on his living room wall. The only one that stayed. The one of a sunrise.

Closing his eyes, Felix takes a deep breath, holds it and counts, then slowly breathes out. There’s no way to know. Jumping to conclusions. Could be work. It’s likely only work.

A little shame creeps in. Even if Dimitri is on a date, he has no right to be upset. Felix broke up with him. Dimitri can do whatever he wants.

Not feeling anywhere near tired, Felix changes into his workout clothes and heads to the little workout center on the first floor of his complex. It’s small and sh*tty, but he needs to run.

He does so for nearly an hour and a half.

***

It’s been a long time since Felix has been to the first floor conference room. Since this mission briefing includes officers, swat team, detectives, and other personnel who’ve been told to attend the Rite of Rebirth tomorrow, it’s necessary to use it.

Captain Eisner and Sergeant Lecleric are at the front, muttering to each other before the meeting begins.

Felix is standing in the back of the room near the door, sipping on coffee from his tumbler, hoping the wonderful morning elixir will wake him up a bit and shake off the bad mood he’s in, when someone stands next to him.

“Sorry I’m late,” Dimitri mumbles, making Felix almost choke on his coffee in surprise. “Luckily the Captain texted me this morning, otherwise I wouldn’t have known about this meeting.”

Felix clicks his tongue. “Why should you know? You don’t work for the department.”

“Some things never change…” Dimitri says more to himself than to Felix, emitting a low chuckle. “Crest. Relic. Connections. I’m always called for big missions like this.”

“You shouldn’t be,” Felix jeers, “it’s f*cking reckless to have non-police join us on something like this.”

There’s a pause before Dimitri says quietly, “You know I’m capable, didn’t we just-”

“-shh.” Felix glances around, but everyone is invested in their own conversations.

Dimitri drops his voice lower. “Fine. But what did you expect? You haven’t responded to my last couple texts. Even though they’ve directly been about the case.”

“Like the one where you asked how I’m doing and if I’m healing ok?” Felix says wryly.

Heat stains Dimitri’s cheeks. “Why are you being so-?”

“Alright, everyone here?” the Captain calls gruffly, and the room goes quiet.

“Where’s Bartels?” Lecleric inquires as their sharp eyes scan the room.

Mercie raises her hand, catching the Sergeant’s attention. “I haven’t seen him yet. He’s rarely ever late, I’m sure he’ll be here soon.”

Captain Eisner clears his throat. “Anyhow, tomorrow is the Rite of Rebirth Ceremony. As you are all aware, Archbishop Rhea has received a death threat. I’ve spoken with Captain Rangeld and we’ve come up with a plan. Some of you will be partnered with the KoS to stay near the Goddess Tower and some will aid with patrol. Sergeant Lecleric has the assignments, they’ll go ahead and read them, then we’ll start preparing for our departure in the morning.”

Felix taps his Aegis ring against his coffee tumbler. Something isn’t right about the situation. Not at all.

When he talked to the Captain about his concerns weeks ago, it was dismissed since they have to do what the Archbishop asks of them, period.

So he called Byleth. Of course she already heard about the assassination threat and they planned to be there anyway, but Felix felt a sense of relief that she agreed with him. He hadn’t mentioned it to his co-workers yet because the Captain asked him not to… but Felix isn’t shaking this feeling.

“Captain,” Felix exclaims, confused faces turning to look at him since he rarely, if ever, talks in a meeting. “The note has to be a ruse-”

Captain groans. “Uhg, dammit Fraldarius, what did I say?”

“I know, but it doesn’t make sense! Why would an assassination note be found so easily? It has to be a way to distract us and the KoS from the true aim.”

After a pause, from the left side of the room a tired voice says, “I agree with the detective.” Linhardt von Hevring, the Intelligence Analyst in charge of researching security threats, raises his hand to stifle a yawn before continuing. “I’ve read the note and pondered the circ*mstances many times. It’s my professional opinion it is a distraction.”

“Officer Hevring,” Lecleric says, arching a brow. “Are you saying you failed to give us a full report?”

Linhardt shrugs. “I overheard the Captain dismissing the Detective. It’s in the written report, I just didn’t include it in my verbal review when turning it in.”

Captain Eisner drags a hand down his face. “What do you think, Lecleric?”

“I agree with them.” The Sergeant looks over the lists in their hands. “We can do some reassigning.”

Nodding, Captain Eisner announces that the detectives and anyone familiar with the monastery will meet immediately to discuss viable locations the offenders could want to raid.

When others are dismissed, Emile weaves through the people leaving and into the room. He stifles a cough, then looks around the room, his face blank.

“There you are, Bartels,” Lecleric calls, “come over here, the Captain and I will fill you in.”

Emile crinkles his forehead and stares for a moment before ambling over to them, Mercie coming to his side immediately, concern etched on her face.

The other detectives and a few of the senior officers hang behind like Captain Eisner asked, all exchanging ideas on what an enemy might want and where they might find it, when Dimitri’s phone dings and he opens a message. Chuckling, he leans away from Felix to text back.

Grinding his jaw, Felix’s skin prickles with annoyance. Is he texting the date from last night?

No, it’s probably only a friend or coworker.

But when Dimitri pockets his phone, he’s smiling. Smiling!

What does that mean?

Dimitri yawns. “I should grab some coffee, I’m tired.”

“Maybe if you weren’t irresponsible and staying out on a work night to go on dates, you wouldn’t be so tired.” The moment the sentence left his mouth, Felix regretted every single word.

The seconds between Felix saying it and Dimitri’s silence is excruciating.

“Dates?” Dimitri finally utters, “I didn’t- oh. Oh. Last night I had a work thing. I…” he takes a deep breath and whispers, “I’m not-”

Suddenly, there’s an unintelligible shout and Emile storms out of the conference room. Everyone quiets for a moment, shocked, then Mercie whimpers and follows him.

“The f*ck?” Sylvain says, his mouth hanging open. “What did you say to the man?”

“I was just…” the Captain starts, his confusion and the light make the wrinkles and scars on his face more prominent. “Just kidding with him…”

But there’s something else there. Something else behind the Captain’s brown eyes besides being caught off guard by Emile’s behavior.

Ingrid notices it, too. “Sir? What is it?”

He shakes his head. “Nothing, it just reminded me of…” he trails off, his eyes distant. He shakes his head. “Never mind. Alright, let’s take a seat and consider where else to patrol tomorrow.”

The screeches of chair legs against tile reverberate off the walls, and Felix pulls his chair slightly past Dimitri’s, so if he looks at his phone again, he might be able to see who he’s texting.

Notes:

I hope you enjoyed it! I love hearing from yuh :-)

Oooh, I’m excited for the next chapter! *Cracks knuckles* Y’all ready for a fight?

Thank you for reading!

Chapter 5: Rite

Summary:

A battle in the Holy Mausoleum and its repercussions

Notes:

**CW: with battle comes descriptions of violence- blood, guts, breaking bones, and death.** < Technically E-rated, I think?

ENJOY

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“What do you mean you’re not going?!”

“Didn’t - say - we - weren’t - going!” Byleth huffs between punching and bobbing El’s boxing mitts.

Felix throws his arms up in exasperation. Trying to get details out of them is like pulling teeth- takes too f*cking long. Tugging an elastic off his wrist, he ties his black hair up in a bun and exhales sharply.

There’s a half hour until he and Dimitri need to be at the precinct to jump in SWAT vans and head to Garreg Mach. It wasn’t his intention to meet Dimitri here, but it seems they had the same train of thought. When Felix arrived, he was waiting around, wondering where Byleth, El, and Hubert were when he heard Dimitri’s voice coming from a bookcase. Upon further inspection, he realized the bookcase was attached to a door. Clever.

The PI’s converted the downstairs of Eagle Investigation’s into a training space. Aged concrete walls and floor, a desk in a corner where Hubert currently sits, looking through a leatherbound notebook and muttering to himself. Another corner has a weight rack, exercise mats, and a punching bag. To the right of the stairs is a kitchenette, a small dresser, and a bathroom that Felix hopes he’s never desperate enough to use. The middle of the room is where it appears they do the bulk of their training. A couple of jump ropes lay off to the side, El and Byleth running drills around them.

Yesterday, after hours of debate, ultimately the decision the Captain, Sergeant, and others came to was to patrol the Holy Mausoleum. This annual ceremony is the only time it’s open, and that’s where some rare treasure and the bones of Sothis (supposedly) lie. Felix figures it’s more about the treasure. What the f*ck would someone want bones for?

So here he and Dimitri are asking the Eagles if they will patrol the mausoleum with them. They figured it would be beneficial due to the strange nature of the day, and all it would take is the Captain introducing his daughter for the others to be, well, maybe not ok with it, but no one would object to extra hands in case things do turn into a fight... And there is another question that has been nagging at him and Dimitri since after the battle with the beast.

Byleth grunts after striking a hard jab, hitting El’s mitt with a sharp pop! “We - just - got - different - information!”

“Ok…” Dimitri says slowly, shifting his weight side-to-side. “So what’s the information?”

Sputtering out a laugh, Byleth backs away from El and starts peeling off her boxing gloves. “A source has told us that underneath Garreg Mach is-”

“By!” El snaps, eyes narrowing. “We’re going to tell them everything now?”

“We’ve discussed this on multiple occasions, El,” Hubert utters, not looking up from his notebook. “Must we remind you every time?”

She flicks some of her brown hair- which seems darker than Felix remembers- out of her sweat slicked face and mumbles something. Apparently Hubert understood it, because a grin creeps on his face as El tosses her mitts aside and stomps up the stairs.

Hubert takes a breath. “Our source informed us that underneath Garreg Mach is a small city called the Abyss. It is a place of refuge for many, but it also hosts a collection of valuable objects, and in this particular case they could be after an ancient artifact that was thought to be lost to history.”

“Ok, so you’re trying to get it first?” Dimitri asks. “What’s the artifact?”

Byleth steps toward the dresser and leans against it. “Don’t know! Our source said it was risky to be too detailed. This definitely won’t be one of our well-planned missions. We know where one of the entrances to the Abyss is, and we’ll have to go from there.”

Felix opens his mouth in bewilderment. “So… you’re not coming on our mission, which is clearly a ruse and in line with your investigation… to pursue an object that you haven't even been given the name of, and that’s been lost to time?”

She opens a drawer, shuffling through the clothes inside. “Yup!”

“Tch, does that not sound like a way to get you away from joining us? We could use the three of you.”

Byleth’s green eyes twinkle. “What? You’re not confident in your own abilities? The KoS AND most of the 13th precinct will be there, I think Garreg Mach is covered.”

Felix glares at her as she yanks off the t-shirt she was training in. Dimitri’s face turns a deep red as he looks away.

While Felix isn’t blind to the fact that she’s a beautiful woman, his interests have never strayed from, well... his gaze flickers over Dimitri, from how his blond hair is half up, bangs loosely hanging over his blind eye- the other blue as ever- to his chiseled, muscular body, reflecting a power and strength oxen wish they had.

Besides that, she’s wearing a sports bra, and his attention is on the Crest marking on her back. While he still finds it ridiculous that they’re not accompanying them to the mausoleum, he’s never seen one like that in the Crestology books he studied in school.

He knits his brows together. “What Crest is that?”

After pulling on a long-sleeve black shirt, she turns around and smirks, her lip piercing glinting in the low light. “Not sure. When I was younger and lived in the monastery, I asked Lady Rhea multiple times if she knew, but neither Tomas, the librarian, or even the Crest Scholar seemed to know.”

Chucking, Dimitri asks, “Wait, you lived in the monastery?”

She tucks a strand of mint-green hair behind her ear. “Obviously, you know my father was the Captain of the KoS for many years, until…” She grabs the handle of the dagger at her hip, sadness clouding her features for the briefest of seconds before replacing it with her usual, confident demeanor. “Until he retired when I was seventeen, and we travelled for a few years before he was asked to become Captain of your precinct.”

“Ah, well, I know they’re glad to have him,” Dimitri says matter-of-factly, “then you probably don’t know if you have a relic.”

“Not that I know of,” she shrugs.

Felix checks his watch. “We should go soon,” he says to Dimitri, then directs his attention back to Byleth. “You told us that one of the possible side-effects of being infected with dark magic is a personality change.”

Her expression dulls. “Possibly being the key word.”

“Right,” he plunks his hands on his hips. “How do you know what’s dark magic, and what’s just a person being flawed?”

Standing up, Hubert moves out from behind his desk and steps toward them. “It is almost impossible to tell,” he drawls in his usual cool tone, and he and Byleth exchange knowing glances. “But you should not worry about that, leave it to us. If you have any suspicions..?”

Felix glances at Dimitri. Is it even worthwhile to bring up Emile? It’s the first time he was late to work, and he got riled up, so two things they’ve never seen before… but everyone has bad days…

Dimitri makes the decision for him and tells them about Emile. Byleth stiffens during the quick review of what happened at the meeting.

When he finishes explaining, she’s nibbling at her lip-piercing, her eyes distant. “Thanks for telling us. We’ll make note of it.”

Felix checks his watch again and curses.

Understanding, Dimitri takes a few steps toward the stairs, then stops and glances at Byleth, “Do you three have a way to get there?”

Hubert gives his slow, deep chuckle. With a corner of Byleth’s lip quirked up, she wiggles her fingers and mouths ‘poof!’

Dimitri nods. “Ah, of course. Until the next time we see you, then.” And the two of them hurry out of the building.

***

“IS THAT ALL YOU’VE GOT, SWORDSMAN?!”

Air knocks out of Felix’s lungs as he slams against a pillar, pain searing through his body at the impact. White spots dance in his vision, but there is no time to orient himself. He thrusts his shield up in time for an axe to smash into the impenetrable metal instead of his skull.

Placing a foot on the pillar, he uses momentum to push himself forward, forcing the enemy to stumble backwards, permitting Felix to drive his sword up and through the brigand’s jaw and brain as easily as slicing wet paper. When he yanks his sword back, the brigand gurgles out a scream, choking on her cleft tongue as she collapses to the stone floor, body flailing as she suffers a tortuous death.

Howls of attacks and screams of the dying resound off the mausoleum walls, bright flashes of white light magic and the varied colors of activating Crests reflect off the dust created by more and more pillars being blasted apart, bits of stone soaring through the air, unbiased with who they land on.The dust thickens the air, the marred visibility adding to the dimness and confusion.

Needless to say, they were right.

They immediately found members of the Western Church stationed throughout the underground tomb, with one mage in the far back, black smoke emitting from his fingertips and curling around the grandest tomb- the one that must belong to Sothis- with an intimidating guard next to him. The guard is a knight clad head to toe in black, spiked armor. Felix’s soul chilled as he gazed at the glowing red orbs where eyes should be, a grey skull painted over their helmet, wielding a longsword.

It is the bones they want.

Sergeant Lecleric gave rapid orders, calling for wedge formations to break through the lines of their adversaries, healers and archers to remain in the back and aim true. Felix was commanded forward with the Sergeant, Dimitri, and others at their side.

Reality harshly returns to the present as an armored knight breaks through the line, scattering the SWAT teams left and right. Off to Felix’s left, Sylvain launches the Lance of Ruin. It slams into the knight’s shoulder, the force knocking him to the ground. Running forward, Sylvain unsheathes an axe. Raising it above his head, yellow light trails from the Crest of Gautier igniting as he swings it down, cleaving through the helmet and head of the knight, painting the stone floor with his blood and chunks of bone and flesh.

Lecleric booms, “IACULAT!” Making pearlescent white arrows rapidly issue from their palms and pierce along the body of a distant archer.

Raphael darts past Lecleric, and his gauntleted fist makes contact with the chest of another brawler, a loud crack sounding as his strength breaks his adversaries’ sternum, and based on the gurgling noises, Raphael’s spikes found lungs, puncturing all air out of them.

Mercedes shoots an ivory flame at an armored knight, the putrid stench of burning flesh immediately filling the area, her face contorting in disgust at the nasty sight of the knight she defeated.

From behind, one after the other, the tell-tale whistling of Claude’s arrows fly above them, perfectly hitting mages and other archers right in the eyes.

“FELIX!”

He moves in time to see another brigand emerge from the shadows, his axe coming down on him in a wild arc, and he jerks his sword up. Catching his weapon in the curve, Felix sends the axe flying out of the rival’s hand, but he misses the swift recovery, the brigand’s fist meeting his face.

Blood pools in his mouth from his nose breaking, and Felix spits in his face as the brigand pulls his fist back to hit him again, but he is stopped by Dimitri. His face twisted with fury, he grabs the brigand’s throat with his anaconda-like grip, and like he’s a rag doll, Dimitri lifts him up and hurls him with efficacious violence against a set of stairs, their body breaking on impact, his bones piercing through his skin.

While he’s seen evidence of his ex’s strength on many occasions, the bone-chilling devastation of what Dimitri’s natural power, plus the influence of the Crest of Blaiddyd, is capable of will never be something Felix gets used to. It’s both awe-inspiring and horrifying.

But Felix doesn’t lie to himself, it scares him more. Not just because of moments like this, his stomach churning at the site of the brigand’s caved-in skull as he runs up the stairs, slashing at a mage as Dimitri uses Areadbhar to drive through the armor of a knight, but because of knowing what his bare hands are capable of does to Dimitri- during and afterward. The longer a fight, the more insane he becomes- getting lost in a boundless void of desperation for semblance of control.

Then following… following are weeks of silence.

But no time to think of that now.

Adrenaline permits Felix to not give a f*ck about the pain of his broken nose, or the blood falling freely down his chin and neck. Dimitri is only paces ahead of him, fury contorting his features, his body constantly emitting a blue glow as he keeps activating his Crest, growing more and more ruthless in his strikes. He needs to break out of this trance now.

“Blaiddyd!” Felix shouts, and he does so over and over, clearly not getting through to him. “DIMITRI!” He finally cries, lunging forward and grabbing the blond’s elbow.

It’s his first name escaping Felix’s mouth that finally captures Dimitri’s attention, permitting Felix to wrench him behind an unbroken pillar as the others surge ahead. His pupil is enlarged and unmoving, one of the signs of his escape from reality. Felix mutters his name a few more times, continuously checking around them to ensure an opponent doesn’t suddenly appear.

“Dimitri! Come back!” Felix reaches out, touching Dimitri’s cheek. “Come back to me,” he says, hushed and pleading. Finally, the pupil twitches and shrinks to normal as the blond finally looks and sees Felix.

Before, at first Dimitri would be angry that Felix snapped him out of the trances, only to thank him later. But right now, he closes his eyes and takes one deep breath, then nods and mutters, “Thank you, Felix.”

“We’re almost through,” Felix looks past Dimitri, and struggling on the other side of the mausoleum are Hilda, Caspar, and Linhardt. “Go help the others, I’ll rejoin the Sergeant.”

Nodding, Dimitri turns and darts to where his aid is needed.

Felix bolts forward and catches up to his colleagues. Slashing and stabbing his way though, they successfully progress forward until it seems they've won. There are a few Western Church soldiers left, who upon realizing they’ve become outnumbered, drop their weapons and raise their hands in surrender.

The dark mage is muttering furiously until the smoke suddenly disappears and there's a loud crack! Their face brightens with pride as the lid of the tomb creeks open.

A distorted voice emits from the Knight’s mask, “Too late.” They sheath their longsword. “Until we cross paths again.”

The Knight reaches into the tomb, and pulls out-

“A sword?” Sergeant Lecleric says, bewildered.

But not just any sword.

With the structure and design of the weapon, it’s clearly a relic, and Felix’s suspicions are confirmed when, despite its Crest stone missing, it glows to life in the mysterious Knight’s hand. With the simple flick of their wrist, the blade elongates and becomes a whip, everyone ducking right in time to feel the ambient heat as it soars over their heads.

The Knight emits a blood-curdling laugh, and the dark mage grabs them before vanishing in a puff of black smoke, a streak of neon orange light trailing in their wake.

***

The air in the audience chamber is thick with disappointment, sorrow, and the metallic taste of blood.

When the battle in the mausoleum ceased, they were ordered to see Archbishop Rhea and District Attorney Seteth immediately. Sergeant Lecleric, with their right pant leg beginning to turn brown as the blood from their arrow injury dries, trembled as they reported what had transpired, and to explain their failure to protect Sothis’ tomb.

As Sergeant Lecleric finishes, Archbishop Rhea slumps against the back of her throne, her fingertips massaging the spot between her brows, her expression pained. “How could this happen..?” she bemoans to herself, her gaze remaining downcast on one of the golden griffins that bear the weight of the hefty armrests.

Sergeant Lecleric bows, slightly wincing at the pain in their leg. “Our apologies, Archbishop. It happened so quickly-”

Lady Rhea raises her hand for silence, her navy and gold vestment swaying as she stands. While she moves gracefully, the circlet of gold charms and white lilies that surrounds her light-green hair clink pleasantly as she descends the dais with her chin up, despite her expression. Corners of her mouth drawn down, her jade eyes glistening as the cool light of evening shines through the stained-glass windows upon her soft, grieving face.

At least, that’s what it seems like to Felix. Grief.

As she descends, Felix slowly raises his arm to his mouth to quietly spit blood onto his sleeve. Only Dimitri, who’s standing right next to him, notices and crinkles his forehead.

While Mercie, Linhardt, and a few Healers from the monastery are flitting between everyone, healing wounds as quickly as possible, they have yet to get to him. Which is fine. He was able to heal his broken nose himself. It’s the tinny flavor lingering on his tongue and the way his blood is drying sticky on his face and neck that are driving him mad. That and failing to prevent their enemy from stealing something clearly precious away from the church. When the Knight and dark mage disappeared, they checked the tomb and nothing else was inside. Why would a relic be laying in there?

Dimitri reaches under his shirt, and Felix doesn’t understand what he’s doing until he hears a muffled rip, then the blond hands him a piece of his undershirt. Felix rolls his eyes, for f*ck’s sake, I can live with blood in my mouth for a little while longer. But nonetheless, he takes it and starts wiping his face and neck.

“I understand how quickly situations change in battle,” Lady Rhea states quietly once she reaches the last step of the dais, standing next to DA Seteth. “You are not the ones at fault.”

Captain Eisner steps forward, taking hold of Lecleric to help stabilize them. “What I’m curious to know, Lady Rhea,” the Captain says, looking at her with firm curiosity. “What was the relic that was taken from the tomb?”

She sighs. “That was the Sword of the Creator, and the most precious artifact the church possessed…”

Lady Rhea pauses, and closing her eyes, she rests a hand on Seteth’s arm, and he continues for her. “The Hero’s Relic belonged to The King of Liberation himself. A gift from Sothis, he used it to defeat wicked gods who wreaked havoc on the land thousands of years ago. But after the war, its immense power corrupted him, and he turned against the church. Saint Seiros was forced to eliminate him.”

“It is a weapon of terrifying power,” she says, her voice stronger than it was, “the Crest stone does not reside in it, and therefore it will at least be dormant.”

Some people shuffle their feet, and a few others clear their throat awkwardly.

Lecleric takes a breath. “About that, Archbishop. While the Crest stone was missing, the sword still…” they open and close their mouth a few times before finally saying, “glowed.”

Seteth’s jaw drops with shock. “That is impossible,” he affirms. “What you are saying cannot be true.”

But Archbishop Rhea’s face paled, her eyes widening for just a moment before softly muttering, “It couldn’t be…”

The chamber doors burst open with a heavy clunk, and Captain Rangeld leads the KoS soldiers dragging in the Western Church mages leftover from the fight, their yells of protest ricocheting off the walls.

“No! NO!”

“We have been deceived!”

“Forgive us!”

The atmosphere of curiosity drastically changes as DA Seteth steps forward, narrowing his dark-green eyes as he tightly addresses the traitors. “You have committed a severe breach of faith! On account of all the witnesses here, you are charged with threatening the life of the Archbishop, an attack on the Holy Mausoleum, and stealing the most precious artifact in Church history.”

Lady Rhea’s grief has now morphed into fury. Glaring at the mages, her voice is steady and harsh. “You dare threaten the Church and disgrace a sacred monument! The penalty for the atrocities you’ve committed is death.”

“Please!” One of the mages shouts. “The Goddess would never forgive you for this!”

With fire in her eyes, she says, “May the Goddess have mercy on your souls.”

“Take them away!” Captain Rangeld commands his soldiers, and the mages scream as they’re forcibly removed from the chamber.

Once their cries have dissipated, Lady Rhea addresses Captain Rangeld. “DA Seteth will fill you in on the weapon they stole… that sword in the wrong hands…” Her body stiffens. “...could be catastrophic.”

Notes:

As always: I hope you enjoyed it! And few things make me happier than hearing from yuh! :)

Thank you for reading!

Chapter 6: Enough

Summary:

Felix reflects on the past, and Dimitri has a wish.

Notes:

**PLEASE READ CW**

Less seriously, the chapter starts just a wee bit sexy.

Very seriously- please be advised that there is some triggering content in this chapter. You see the break up. There is yelling and inanimate objects are thrown, and there’s a brief mention of Sylvain’s abuse from Miklan. (But I’ll make this clear now, Felix was NOT verbally or physically harmed).

The flashback to the breakup fight is between the first and second asterisk *, so you can skip it if you want.

This chapter may be a bit of an emotional roller coaster ride. <3

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The moon peeks through the blinds, shining on the sweat-slicked bodies of the men on the mattress, the sheets laying useless on the floor next to the unpacked boxes and cans of blue paint.

Dimitri’s lips caress his, and calloused hands slide down Felix, dragging his nails to create white streaks against flushed skin, eliciting moans of pleasure and anticipation. The blond’s mouth follows his hand, biting Felix’s neck and shoulder, licking his nipples, his tongue lingering on the defining lines of his abdomen.

Felix’s breathing is quick and shallow when Dimitri moves lower, teasing his throbbing length. “Dimitri!” he cries, and he’s rewarded with his lover’s mouth consuming him.

Calling Dimitri’s name over and over, steadily getting louder as his lover sucks, strokes, and takes all of him as Felix grabs a handful of his blond hair, thrusting his hips to meet the back of his throat until the overwhelming, untamed release leaves Felix languid, gazing through his eyelashes at his partner.

With a loud swallow and lick of his lips, the impossibly handsome man stares hungrily, crawling back over his body, planting soft kisses along the way.

“I love you,” Dimitri utters before he captures Felix’s lips again, caressing them until they’re swollen and stinging from attention.

Felix’s heart swells and aches. Dimitri frequently tells Felix of his love and showers him in adoration. Even still, he struggles to believe it. How could Dimitri love him, with his sharp tongue and cold demeanor?

“I know that look,” Dimitri breathes on Felix’s ear before pulling his earlobe with his lips. His hand on his own hard length, lining it against Felix’s hole. “Just because you express love differently doesn’t mean you don’t at all. You’re not emotionless, Fe. I love all of you.” And their breathy cries of pleasure mingle together as Dimitri enters him. Felix digs his nails into his lover’s back, panting and moaning as the pace quickens, and Dimitri cries his name with a final thrust.

“DIMITRI!” Felix grunts, coming hard on his hand and cold bed sheets, alone.

Closing his eyes, he catches his breath and immediately berates himself for doing that again.

I really should start watching p*rn. Then I have someone ELSE to fantasize about.

Once, and only once, Sylvain suggested having a one-night stand. He winced at the blazing scowl Felix threw at him and hadn’t joked about it since. But recalling sexual endeavors with his ex-boyfriend to get himself off is occurring more often than Felix wishes.

Frustration percolates in his chest as he cleans himself up. It’s because we’ve been seeing more of each other, ‘thanks’ to the case. Of course memories will stir. It’s only been… he pauses to count on his fingers- six months?!

It’s Verdant Rain Moon. They've been working on the case for three months… So, yes, it’s been half a year since the breakup. A convoluted mix of anger, mourning, and hope stirs inside him.

Dimitri has seemed better… he’s been going out with his co-workers (not dates, which he carefully discovered from Sylvain), writing more articles for the Fódlan Times, and Felix won’t pretend his help on the case has been beneficial. Then there was the battle at the mausoleum last week.

It usually takes more effort to bring Dimitri back from his beastly state. But this time it only took saying his name and touching him on the cheek for him to come to.

Felix walks into the kitchen, takes the leftover Thai food from the fridge and puts it in the microwave for dinner. As it warms up, he gets a glass and bourbon from a cupboard and wonders if Dimitri’s ability to snap out of it faster has anything to do with the therapist he’s been seeing.

Probably. He takes a sip of bourbon. Likely.

His grip tightens on his glass, his knuckles turning white. He’s both proud, and a little heartbroken. Why did it have to take him moving out, us breaking up, for him to want to change? But he’s doing it- that’s the important thing here. Why didn’t he do what I asked?

Wasn’t I enough?

Looking up, his gaze falls on the painting of the sunrise and he clenches his jaw. Throwing back the rest of the drink, he draws in a sharp breath at the oaky sting hitting the back of his throat and strides over to the painting, taking it off its hook.

The fist-sized hole in the wall fills the entirety of his mind for an undetermined length of time, allowing a numbing cold to fill his heart as he stares. The peeled drywall, some of the edges still stained brown with a bit of blood. It’d be easy to fix. But Felix intentionally chooses not to. In the moments when he misses Dimitri the most, he takes the painting down, and remembers.

At first Dimitri pretended to be ok, which worked for almost a year. Then at home, he grew morose, speaking less and less. He stopped wishing Felix a good day in the morning. Wouldn’t send an ‘I miss you’ text during his lunch breaks. Then he no longer watched cooking videos with Felix as they usually did in bed every night. He’d roll over instead, muttering he was tired. Felix was at a loss. He remembers the different stages of grief he went through the first few years after Glenn died, so maybe Dimitri needed to get through this stage? Losing an eye, needing to retrain his vision and depth perception is not an easy thing.

But it didn’t stop. It got worse.

He became more numb and disconnected, not speaking for days that stretched to weeks. Felix had to make sure he took care of himself properly. Encouraged showering, sometimes washing with him. He forced Dimitri to eat breakfast and dinner, even if it was simply toast, and hoped Dimitri ate the lunches he packed.

They were closing in on the end of two weeks of complete silence when Felix reached his tipping point.

*

“WHO ARE YOU?” Felix yelled, his voice growing hoarse from the shouting match they’ve been having. He was standing between the living room and kitchen, tears falling freely down his cheeks. “You check out for a longer stretch of time as this goes on! You haven’t said a single word to me for weeks! It’s time to get a f*cking therapist!”

“You don’t understand!” Dimitri fired back from his spot on the couch, his voice breaking from lack of use. “It’s like claws are digging into my skull!” His teeth were bared, agony etched on his face. He clutched handfuls of his hair. “Like my brain is being shredded to pieces and there’s nothing I can do about it! NOTHING FELIX!” His flushed face was wet with tears.

“FOR f*ck’S SAKE, DIMITRI! Therapists are TRAINED to help people like you!” Felix wildly pointed to his head. “TO HELP YOU GET YOUR sh*t TOGETHER.”

“And what the f*ck do you know of it? You resented all therapy your dad tried to put in you in after Glenn died-”

“-don’t you f*cking dare bring Glenn into this!” Felix screeched. “That was different! I didn’t do what you’ve been doing these past two years, since you lost your eye. What?” Felix snapped when he saw that Dimitri furrowed his brow. “You don’t think I noticed how fake you were acting the first few months? I think I know the difference. Smiling, telling everyone you were fine- even me. But I knew. I knew you weren’t fine. I thought you needed to pretend. But I was wrong.”

Tears teetered on the edge of Felix’s eyes until he blinked and they trailed down. “Maybe I should’ve…” He shook his head. “No. I’m not going to play this game anymore. YOU NEED HELP. I was able to heal in my own way, and now you need to find what will heal you.”

“NO! I CAN’T BE HELPED! I DON’T DESERVE-” Dimitri cut himself off, and then...

He screamed.

At first it was deep, guttural, and thick with pain.

Until the beast took over.

At the next rattling breath he began to shake, and his next yell- a desperate, furious lion’s roar- took the last shred of Dimitri that Felix once knew, who he prayed was still there somewhere.

But Dimitri grasped the vase of flowers from the coffee table and hurled them against the TV, effectively shattering the screen and Felix’s prayers. Veins of blue, purple, and green snake through the broken screen, and Felix instinctively covered his face to protect himself from the flying shards of glass of the breaking vase. As Dimitri upturned the coffee table, fear tightened Felix’s chest. He’d never seen Dimitri lose his temper outside of battle before.

Until he bumped into the kitchen counter, Felix didn’t realize he was backing away. He ran to the door and snatched the keys off the hook. The door was only a few inches open when Dimitri slammed it shut. Grabbing Felix’s shoulder, he whirled him around, making Felix gasp in alarm.

It was the gasp and fear painted on Felix’s face that melted the beast. The fury in his gaze morphed into shock. The snarl on his lips twitched away. His face fell and his shallow breathing turned into gasps of crying, and with the last surge of anger leaving his body, as if demons resided in his fist- he gave one last shout and punched the wall.

Dimitri brought the cut up, bloodied hand to his chest, fell against the wall and slid down. The crumbled fall of a broken man.

The rest was a blur.

Felix stared at the hole in the wall. Walked away. Put a blanket on the couch, and intentionally called him ‘Miklan’ before closing the door to the bedroom.

He lay in bed awake all night, listening to Dimitri crying in the next room until, at some point, he had no tears left.

When the morning sun filled the bedroom, he walked in to find Dimitri sitting on the couch, his hands covering his face, the blanket untouched.

“You need to leave,” Felix said vacantly. “I can’t be with you anymore. Last night…” He looked around the living room. The glass was swept up. The TV was taken off its mount, leaning against the wall. His voice broke as he said, “This… this was too far. It was like what Sylvain told us about... with Miklan…” He couldn’t continue.

Dimitri let out a sound Felix hadn’t heard before. It was a despairing yell of a cry. Like an injured animal.

“I’m so sorry,” Dimitri pleaded, still not looking at Felix. “I’ll never forgive myself.”

Felix heard apologies before, when Dimitri would try to snap out of stretches of silence. But then nothing will change. Felix knew and understood it then.

He and Dimitri agreed to keep the reasons for their breakup private. Dimitri stayed with Sylvain, who, unlike Ingrid, only asked for the reason once and didn’t press. In a couple weeks Dimitri found his own apartment, and they moved all of what was considered his in a day.

When Felix came home after dropping off the last box, he slid down the wall where Dimitri previously had, and broke down.

Because even after the terrifying display of fury, Felix still loved him and wished he could stay.

*

The microwave beeps, waking Felix out of his stupor, reminding him that he warmed up dinner.

Hanging the painting back over the hole, he goes back to the kitchen to consume yet another glass of bourbon and eat his leftovers after nuking it for 30 more seconds. Then he decides a shower is what’s needed to relax his tense muscles and shake off the turmoil still knocking around his mind.

As the hot water pounds against his back, he tries to reason with himself.

I can’t be in love with him. He’s improving without me. Dimitri isn’t going away, and I know he has no intention of moving to a different city to work for a different paper. He’s staying here.

Felix washes his body with a little more vigor than necessary. We need to maintain a friendship. For the sake of our professional lives. We have to.

But it’s dangerous to be friends with the man you’ve loved since childhood. That kind of love isn’t something that can be tossed easily away. Sometimes he wondered if he should have never kicked Dimitri out, what if… if he held on a little longer, would Dimitri have still found the therapist?

No.

And that’s the hard truth. Dimitri probably wouldn’t have. Somehow Felix stunted Dimitri from taking the necessary action to be better. Maybe he should have pushed more? Maybe he could have made Dimitri snap out of it?

But that’s not true, either. Felix knows when someone is resolved to be a certain way, sometimes it takes a shock or an upheaval to change. Logically he knows this.

But f*ck. Dimitri was the one who was best with communication. He was the one who was good at sensing Felix’s true feelings and getting them to talk through what was troubling him. I can read the body language of suspects and witnesses. I can get them to divulge crucial information and confessions. But when it comes to the emotions of people I love, why don’t I see? Why don’t I push?

Felix shivers as he rinses off the soap and shampoo under the hot water. He’s stepped to this dance before. It does no good.

Dimitri crossed the line. Sylvain had told them when they were older the abuse he took from his brother. Hurting him. Leaving him in abandoned parks. Pushing him down wells. Throwing things at him. How CPS was never called boggled all their minds.

Since Dimitri’s parents died in the car crash he received minor physical injuries from, a darkness lurked inside him. It’d come out in battles, and as Dimitri said- claws infiltrated and overtook him, leading him to fight with a brutality Felix had never seen before. And when Dimitri lost his eye… that became a tipping point of loss for him, and he fell into despair. Felix tried so hard to help him. I… I did my best.

And sometimes what needs to happen is letting go.

We… we can’t be together. But we can be friends. And if Dimitri needs something… he’ll ask.

With a sigh, he shuts the water off and dries himself. Once he’s in a fresh pair of boxers and a shirt, he checks his phone to find a missed text, call, and a voicemail from Dimitri.

He’s curious, but not concerned. If something was wrong, there’d be more missed messages.

The preview of the text says: Please don’t listen to the vm. What I-

Well, now he has to listen to the voicemail, and it does not disappoint.

“Hey Felix.”

Forgetting himself a bit, Felix smirks. The ‘hey’ was a little more high-pitched than usual.

“Yeah, so, I’m calling to ask you a question- andyou can absolutely say no! But I’ve been working with Dr. Nevrand for a while now… and I’m wondering if you’ll go to a session with me? It can be anytime! Well… it’s every Thursday at 4pm… but you can pick any Thursday! Or maybe she’ll have openings other days if that doesn’t work for you. Ah, if you even want to go. If you do, as a thank you I can buy you dinner after- I mean! Ah, not dinner. Or maybe yes. Whatever you’re comfortable with. Oh goddess. I shouldn’t have said the dinner thing at all. There’s a way to delete this and start over, right? I just push-” there’s a beep, but the message is still going. After a second of silence, Dimitri lets out a curse. “Well, that didn’t work. I’ll text and hopefully you’ll delete this without listening to it. Uhhhh get back to me. Ok, bye.”

Biting his lip, trying to suppress the smirk from growing, Felix opens the text message.

Dimitri: Please don’t listen to the vm. What I’m wondering is if you’d be ok going to one of my therapy sessions? They’re Thursdays at 4

Dimitri: Understandable if not. Dr. Nevrand suggested it and I thought it was a good idea. But if you’re not comfortable, then don’t worry about it

According to timestamps, these messages were left right when Felix got into the shower. But even as he’s standing there, he sees three dots pop up, then disappear.

Felix stands there for a few moments, considering everything.

Then he decides.

Maybe he should vacuum the apartment.

Yes, good idea. Then I’ll have to put this stupid cell phone down. And it’ll be in my pocket, so if Felix calls or texts back, then I’ll feel the vibration! It’s fine!

Dimitri stops pacing the length of his bedroom. He’d written and rewritten each text multiple times, and even though he forced himself to hit send, he’s still afraid he sounded too forward in asking for this favor. Or this wish, more like. He’s trying to finish a third text about how he’d like Felix to come, but again, no pressure.

“Uh, no!” Dimitri mutters angrily to himself.

Maybe I shouldn’t have asked him. It’s too soon. Except it’s been six months, and Dr. Nevrand said if Felix is willing to come, then it’s the right time. If there’s any hope of at least being friends-

Dimitri shakes his head. That’s not what he wants.

He never wants to just be Felix’s friend.

But if Felix is willing to at least be his friend… then he’ll suck it up.

Dimitri tries to reword the text for the umpteenth time, then his phone vibrates and Felix’s reply pops up.

Felix: Which Thursday?

Dimitri’s heart beats to a lively rhythm, and a toothy grin stretches on his face.

Yes. He said yes!

Well… ok. He only asked which day. But it wasn’t a no! And that’s something! I can work with that. Now. Which Thursday…

Not this Thursday. That way he and Dr. Nevrand can review the coping mechanisms he’s learned thus far, so he can show Felix he’s improved.

Yes, Dimitri lost himself at the battle. He tried to ensure that didn’t happen. But then he saw the brigand punch Felix, and he was going to do it again- the switch in his mind flicked. A red veiled his vision and a loud silence consumed him. When he’s like that, it damn near impossible to break out unless Felix was able to break him out of it, or until the battle is done.

Like he would before, Felix got to him and brought him back.

Thanks to his work with Dr. Nevrand, he likes to think, he came back sooner than the other times Felix needed to get him out of it. He took the breaths. He closed his eyes. He focused on the warmth of Felix’s hand on his cheek, and maybe that was what did it.

Dimitri’s stomach clenched and his heart ached. Goddess damn, I miss my Felix. He f*cked up. He knows he f*cked up. And he's doing everything possible to put himself back on track. Not just because he wants it for himself, which he does, but he wants Felix to see his improvement.

I want the love of my life back.

Dimitri: How about Thursday of next week, the 21st?

Three dots immediately appear, but it feels like a hundred moons have passed when he hears back.

Felix: the 21st it is. Send the address.

Exuding a loud guffaw of relief, Dimitri falls back onto his bed.

That is one of the best replies he could’ve hoped for.

Notes:

Let me know what you think <3

Thank you for reading!

Chapter 7: Soul

Summary:

An hour of vulnerability.
The business of following.
A village burns.

Notes:

*The last half of the chapter has some descriptions of violence.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“Whenever you’re ready, Dimitri,” Dr. Nevrand says, her violet eyes softening. She only switches out of her straightforward demeanor into a gentler one when she notices Dimitri is on the verge of a panic attack. “Take your time and practice the exercises.”

The office is designed to be relaxing, but even with its lavender walls, whirling ceiling fan, comfortable furniture, and dim lighting - at the moment it all feels too hot, too bright, and too loud.

Dimitri’s body feels like a wild storm. His nerves are lightning bolts, flashing and crackling through his system to his quivering hands; stomach swooping as if gusts of wind are threatening to upturn his insides; heartbeats raging as rapid and hard as hail. This is easily one of the most vulnerable things he’s ever done.

What if he yells at me? What if he doesn’t forgive me?

No, I can’t expect anything in return. And if he yells at me, that’s valid. I’m doing this because I want him to know. It will help my journey to get better, and hopefully help him in some way, too.

Closing his eyes, he takes a deep, shaky breath. Deciding to practice the grounding technique he learned a few weeks ago, Dimitri rests his hands on his knees and focuses on tangible things.

I’m sitting on a couch. I’m wearing my old, soft jeans. My hands are rough. My feet are planted firmly on the floor.

Another rattling breath. He can't stop his hands from shaking, but his heart has slowed a tinge, and that will have to do.

For the past forty-five minutes Dimitri has mostly avoided direct eye-contact with Felix because as he discussed with Dr. Nevrand last week, there’s one thing he wanted to do today, and he wasn’t quite sure how to prepare Felix for it. So he carefully hid it in the long text he sent when Felix asked exactly what would be happening during the appointment. All Felix said in response to the novella was: ok.

As Dimitri and Dr. Nevrand go through the session like any other time, Felix has done the gist of what was explained he’d be doing - listening.

Felix’s arms are loosely crossed on his lap, and throughout their time he‘s remained focused. His brows slightly furrowed, looking from Dr. Nevrand, to the floor, to his hands, and on occasion Dimitri can sense Felix’s gaze upon him. Dimitri’s heart always skips, his speech jarring momentarily from nerves until Felix glances away.

But now it’s time. One of the big moments in Dimitri’s healing he’s been working up to for weeks.

Dimitri shifts to face Felix on the other side of the couch and looks into his amber eyes, which have always felt warm to him even in times of strain.

Clasping his trembling hands, momentarily choking on his words before he clears his throat and parts his dry lips.

“Felix,” he begins, and hopes beyond hope he can keep himself composed. “After the incident where I permanently damaged my eye… as you know I pretended to be ok, and I wasn’t. I tried to smile and joke my way through the pain and challenges of adjusting to my new sight…” Dimitri briely looks away, taking another deep breath before continuing. “But trying to keep up that façade became more and more impossible, and I fell into a deep depression.”

He regards Felix again, and Dimitri takes in how his face is blank and body is stiff, but he isn’t averting his gaze.

Dimitri swallows as he feels a burning behind his eye. “I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. I… I’m deeply sorry I hurt you.” His lip involuntarily trembles. “I should have talked to you. I should have been honest. Instead I ignored you and rejected any and all help. You went above and beyond to help me, and I pushed away the person who loved me most.”

Felix’s hands clench, but he’s otherwise unmoving. Dimitri’s voice drops to a whisper, his throat sore and dry from trying with all his might to fight back tears. “I wish I could have been more accepting and open. I wish I thought of your feelings. You deserve... So much more.”

Felix looks down at his hands as the wetness behind Dimitri’s eye can’t be hidden anymore, and a tear slides down his cheek. “The night we broke up… that will haunt me forever. I deeply regret it, and I wish I could take that - no, I wish I could take everything back.”

Wanting to reach out to Felix, Dimitri raises his hand, but he swiftly retracts it, resting it back in his lap. “I’m not doing this expecting anything from you, so don’t feel obligated to respond, you don’t have to. I just wanted you to know.”

Each passing second feels like an eternity as they sit in silence. Then Felix, still staring down at his hands, gives the smallest nod.

Dr. Nevrand clears her throat. “We’re at the end. I know there are some vulnerable emotions in the air and this brought up challenging times, but I understand you’re working on a case together. I encourage you both to communicate openly and listen to each other. Felix, thank you for coming.”

It’s awkward, and simple noises sound extra loud in the office as they shuffle to leave. The squeak of the leather couch as they stand up, their footsteps on the hardwood, the click of the door as Felix opens it, leading the way down the hall and out of the office building.

The uncomfortable silence continues as they make their way to their respective cars, and of course they parked near each other.

They slow to a stop near Dimitri’s car, and he watches nervously as Felix fumbles with his keys. While Dimitri has repeatedly told himself that Felix isn’t obligated to say a thing, it’s near torture to stare into his face, seeing the small signs that tells him Felix is upset and trying to hold back, especially as Felix opens and closes his mouth like he wants to say something. But Dimitri patiently waits.

Felix shakes his head as he looks at his keys. “Thank you for the apology… but I… I’m…”

“I mean it when I say I don’t expect anything from you,” Dimitri says softly.

Felix emits a single low chuckle. “Except for working the case.”

“Well,” Dimitri sighs, “that’s professional. I mean personally.”

Felix nods. “I know.”

Noticing how Felix is leaning away, Dimitri understands that he is done, likely wanting to process the session. He walks to the driver's side of his car and presses the unlock button.

“Dimitri.”

Pausing, Dimitri peers over the hood at Felix, who has a meaningful glint in his eyes.

“I’ve noticed your improvements,” Felix murmurs, “how you didn’t talk back to El after we fought the beast. How quickly you came back to yourself in the mausoleum.” He takes a deep breath. “I’m proud of you.”

A smirk trembles on Felix’s lips before he gets in the car and drives away.

Dimitri sits in the parking lot for a while, wiping at his wet face.

The sun disappears from the horizon as the lights in the parking lot switch on. In a back corner of the lot, a lamp lamely flickers before dying, effectively making the black BMW and its occupant harder to see.

The occupant, B, looks at their watch as the seconds tick until finally hitting a new hour. They glance back at the large oak doors of the Fhirdiad University library and smirk as they push open.

Ahh, right on time. As usual.

Always at 8pm sharp, a young woman with braided jade-green hair walks to her yellow Volkswagon bug in the opposite corner of the lot, her corduroy book bag tapping against her hip with each brisk step.

Once she has taken a left turn out of the lot, B turns their car on and follows, ensuring there’s a comfortable distance between them. Can’t have the young woman notice them. Besides, B knows where Ms. Bishop will be going next.

Every weekday Ms. Bishop wakes up at 7am to make coffee, shower, dress, put the books she needs for classes in her bag, grabs her pre-packed lunchbox, and between 7:55-8:05am she drives to the university for a full day of classes. After studying in the library on Thursdays, she picks up fish ‘n chips for her and her father, then finally arrives home sometime between 8:45pm-9:10pm, depending on traffic.

B sees the yellow buggy parked in front of the restaurant and pulls off to the side of the road, staying close. They don’t want someone else getting to her first.

As they sit, a tickle hits the back of their throat and they cough. It starts light, and B hopes it’ll stay that way, but it turns deeper and more forceful. They snap a hand to their mouth as their body jerks into the tight seat belt until it finally dissipates. B glances at their hand and hisses a curse. It’s getting worse. They grab tissues from the glove box and wipe blood off when their cell vibrates. Before answering it, B takes a sip of water from the bottle in the passenger seat to wash down the taste of blood.

“Yes?” B asks, then sighs. Even though their usual voice is even-toned, they’re still not used to how calm and pleasant this one naturally sounds.

“Oh! You’re in the other form!” a woman exclaims, surprised.

B lets out a single, sharp laugh. “Of course. I can’t follow the girl in my usual body, now can I?”

“Don’t need the attitude, B!” the woman chides. “It’s a bit late, isn’t it? I’m on my way to give Thales a report. Have you found an opportunity? Do you have her yet?”

“Seems you’ve forgotten what day it is,” B intones, tucking a strand of sandy-blond hair behind their ear. “It’s Thursday, when I’m expected to be late. And if I found one, don’t you think I would’ve called?”

“Uhg, I wish you got some of the personality from who you’re borrowing from. I heard they’re nice, then we could get a break from your sass,” she complains. B rolls their eyes. “And Thales is getting impatient, what are you-”

“-but there might be one,” B interrupts, starting to get a little impatient themselves. “It depends. Has the experiment improved?”

The woman sighs. “One moment, the man in charge of that is next to me.”

All B hears is muffled dialogue between her and their counterpart as they exchange information while Ms. Bishop walks out of the restaurant with a large, grease-stained bag of fish ‘n chips.

B has been driving behind Ms. Bishop for another minute when the woman is back on the line. “Sorry, he took a ridiculously long time to explain something that can be summed up as succinctly as: the experiment failed, and badly.” Her voice fades as she croons, “Thales is going to be furious with yooou!”

Their counterpart drones, “Well, if B managed to get the girl by now, maybe this would not have been an issue.”

Anger abruptly flares in B. “It’s crucial to wait for the opportune moment!” they snap harshly, almost triggering another coughing fit. “But it seems like we have found one. Tomorrow we light the village on fire-”

“-on fire?!” the woman shrieks. “Not that I care about the people or town, but that will absolutely send the Knights or precinct 13!”

“I overheard from my - from the Captain, that the Knights will be occupied with another mission, so the precinct will be responding to any emergencies the Knights would normally cover. Which is perfect,” B says as they park slightly down the street from Ms. Bishop’s house. Her father is already home - B can see them hug through their large living room window. “Then maybe I can finally dispose of-”

“-really? Still on this vendetta after all these years? And I think it’s a bad idea for you to go. What if they see, capture, or kill you? Aren’t you supposed to be the one snatching the girl?”

B laughs. “Have you ever known me to miss a fight? I’ll tell you exactly where Ms. Bishop will be every hour of the day. You are more than capable of accomplishing the task. Besides,” they say, twisting their lips into a crooked grin. “I have my new toy to play with.”

The flames of the burning village crack and pop as it licks the rain, clouds of smoke climb against the downpour and ash sticks to the droplets, blending with the mud as it hits the earth.

Mud splashes high as the body of an infected villager jerks and spasms toward Felix - its yellow, pupiless eyes glowing out of its sunken sockets, pieces of skin sliding off with each slap of its long, wet hair across its face to reveal sinewy muscle beneath it.

Felix slashes through the once-human as easily as cutting an apple. Its muscles slough off in chunks as both halves of the body fall and sink into the puddles.

“Th-thank you!” A villager screams as they run past Felix and behind a SWAT team, no longer cornered by the freakish anomaly.

“What - the - f*ck!” Leonie pants as she rears her arm back, chucking her short spear and severing an arm of an adversary at the shoulder. She unsheaths another lance strapped to her back. “What is it with these villagers?! Keeping up manners at a time like this!” and she proceeds to jab and swipe, keeping the infected away from the healthy people trying to escape.

Felix grunts in silent agreement. Remire Village, their home, is burning down. More than half the people have inexplicably become diseased, and each villager they’ve rescued so far has remembered to say thank you?

He shakes his head and charges forward with Leonie, slashing through more and more people, grinding his teeth with each kill and trying to push through how hard the rain is hitting his raincoat and making him feel heavy.

When they first arrived, they hoped to evacuate all the people who weren’t sick, shut the village down for quarantine, and get emergency medical services to those who were ill. But the moment they saw the infected, with their deformed bodies wildly attacking anything and everything - they quickly realized there was nothing they could do but protect the ones that managed to not catch whatever virus that spread here.

Up ahead, the razor tip of Ingrid’s relic, Lúin, catches one of the diseased across the stomach. It cuts through flesh and muscle, and guts spill out. Her face scrunches in disgust but she advances, the light of her lance trailing through the rain, casting her in glowing yellow rings as she attacks.

As Felix progresses, he occasionally glances left through the trees where he knows Dimitri is fighting, occasionally seeing the arctic blue of Areadbhar flashing between boles. His stomach churns, not only from the offensive malodor of the walking corpses, but with irritation at fighting separately from Dimitri. They’ve been split into different groups before, but he didn’t like it then, either. Wanting to be near if he went off the rails, shielding him if an adversary approached from his blind side… knowing for sure he is still alive.

But Areadbhar’s light will have to do for now.

Felix jerks his shield forward, blocking a rusted axe from clipping his face before thrusting his sword into the attacker’s sternum, the pop and issuing screech ringing in his ears. He withdraws his sword, and flicks some of the blood off before running ahead. A red flare catches the corner of his eye, and for a moment he hopes it’s El swinging Aymr, proving that the Eagles did make it to the battle, not having seen them yet.

On the contrary, the chill runs through him when that wirey, unworldly voice from the battle in the mausoleum booms over shouts and the clangs of weapons: “Thought I’d have a bit of fun here, too!”

Up on a raised mound is the thief, who the Captain dubbed the Death Knight, with the Sword of the Creator in their hands.

Before Felix is close enough to command a retreat - four members of a SWAT team rush ahead, weapons raised. The Death Knight reels their arm back and around, the whip of the luminous sword extending and sizzling in the air, turning rain into steam. As the brutal weapon slices through his charging allies, fury swallows Felix in its maw.

Heat surges from Felix’s Crest down to his shield and an orange blast issues from it, hitting the Death Knight in the chest, causing them to stumble backwards. Then Mercie appears, rushing in from the left and white bursts from her hands, beams slinging around the Knight like a lasso, and they yell as the heat penetrates through armor, their head jerking back, making their helm fly off, revealing the knight’s identity as he collapses to his knees.

“EMILE!” Mercie cries in surprise. With a flick of her wrist she breaks the spell and brings her hands up to her face, wet from rain.

Emile coughs and lifts his head, scanning his surroundings before landing his gaze on Mercie. His expression is cold and cruel, his pupils larger than normal, nearly hiding what Felix remembers to be pale blue irises. He’s known them to be calming, but now they’re empty. Rain drips down his cheeks onto his lips, which twist to a grin that does not suit the man he knew.

With Mercie still from shock - Felix, Leonie, and Ingrid press on, trying to reach him, stabbing and cutting their way through the last of the infected villagers, but frustratingly Emile recovered enough of his strength to disappear in a puff of purple smoke, the red of the Sword of the Creator swirling with it.

“Well, f*cking hell,” Felix spits as the last body drops. He looks at Ingrid and Leonie as they jog up, and is about to make some commands on searching for Emile, when shouts erupt from their left. The others.

Leonie grabs Mercie as they rush toward Captain Eisner’s group, weaving through trees to get to them, and Felix immediately scans for and finds Dimitri, relieved and proud that he seems to be in control of himself.

The corpses of the infected are strewn about the mud. Guarding a raised platform are brigands and armored knights. Felix, Captain Eisner, and Mercie manage to fight through the line and run up the stairs. On the platform they find, domed in a shimmering mist, is the most unlikely person Felix could expect - the librarian from Garreg Mach Monastery.

“Tomas?!” the Captain exclaims, confused. “What the hell?”

The kind, gentle face of the librarian changes into the same vile expression Emile had. “Tomas has been gone for some time now,” says a hoarse voice, like creaking chains. He slowly grins. “Solon is who I really am.” He - Solon - reaches up and grips a handful of hair and pulls.

Everyone shouts in disgust as the non-Tomas peels off the body revealing a repulsive, paper white and ancient-looking man, his veiny forehead significantly larger than any other Felix has seen. But his eyes are the most unnerving - his left eye is the size of a tea saucer, and the colors for both are inverted: his scleras are black, while his pupils are white.

The Captain grunts and throws his lance at Solon, but it bounces off the shimmering mist protecting him.

Solon cackles. “Based on the moronic looks on your faces, I’d say you’re surprised,” he snarls.

“What have you done to this village?” the Captain booms. “What are your plans?!”

“This,” Solon hisses, gesturing to the corpses and burning homes. “Was all part of an experiment, which doesn’t concern you, yet.” he grins madly. “What does concern you is what I’ve successfully distracted you from!”

“Distracted us from what?!” Captain Eisner commands, stepping forward and banging his fist on the dome. While Captain Eisner’s strength matches Dimitri’s, some things cannot be broken by sheer force.

Solon shakes his head and laughs at him in response. “Like I would tell you. Now, I must bid you-”

“EMILE!” Mercie suddenly screams. “WHAT DID YOU DO TO HIM?!”

Solon throws his head back and guffaws. “That boy is long gone, girl. Go on, whisper your pathetic prayers to the Goddess. Just know she’s not listening.”

Turning on the spot, Solon disappears, and the protective barrier vanishes with him, but leaves the body of the old librarian behind.

The rain stops as Captain Eisner and Felix wheel around to find the last foe being stabbed by Dimitri, the others waiting for orders and to report to the Captain. Felix lays his hand on Mercie’s shoulder, who is now sobbing, and helps guide her off the platform.

Once down the stairs, Felix lets go of her shoulder and is about to step forward to update the Captain along with the other detectives when Mercie throws her arms around him, crying into his chest.

As Felix awkwardly pats Mercie on the back, never really being good with this sort of thing, Dimitri sidles up to Felix, his eyebrows knit together. What’s wrong? he mouths, his eye flickering to Mercie.

Felix shakes his head. Later, mouths back. Then he feels heat in his cheeks upon noticing Dimitri looking over his body, likely checking for any obvious injuries. When Dimitri meets Felix’s gaze again, it’s hard to tell if his cheeks are pink from cold, embarrassment at being caught, or both.

Before today’s code red called for them to rush to Remire Village, Dimitri and Felix agreed to take the weekend as space before meeting again to work on the case. But of course, life seems to have a way of interrupting the simplest of plans.

Not having spoken since after the therapy session last night, there’s a distinct awkwardness between them. Felix has only had such a short time to mull the apology over and wonder what that means for him… or for them.

Felix bites the inside of his cheek. This is not the time to think about it.

“Now that we know Emile is the Death Knight,” the Captain's voice suddenly booms over everyone, “we need to search his home and everywhere he could’ve been going these past few weeks!”

Then there’s this. Felix curses internally. He should’ve known. Emile has been a completely different person for weeks. Isn’t this what the Eagles said? Personality changes? Leave it to us, Hubert had told him and Dimitri. Felix prevents himself from stomping his foot in anger. Why the f*ck was he foolish enough to let that slide?

“I can’t believe he’d do this…” Ingrid remarks sadly. “He was always so-”

“-that’s not Emile.” Mercie lets go of Felix and glares at Ingrid, resolve fixed on her face. “For years we’ve had dinner multiple times a week together, but he’s barely seen me over the past month. He’s been quiet, and then harsh when he has spoken to me.”

She pushes her short, wet hair, the same sandy-blond as Emile’s, off her face. “I thought maybe his bi-polar medication needed adjusting. I was trying to encourage him to go to the doctor for that and a cough, but then he’d usher me out of his apartment and not let me back in. But this is something else entirely,” she says quietly, making everyone lean toward her. She furrows her brows. “Like he’s… possessed . And before you laugh! I know my brother, and whoever that was,” she points west, where Emile (orsomeone)disappeared. “Was not him.”

Captain Eisner tightens his face into a frown, but looks at her with empathy. “I know he hasn’t been himself, Mercedes. I think we’ve all noticed in our own ways. But you know we can’t ignore that you, three detectives, and other members of the SWAT team - may the ones who perished rest in peace - saw his face. That’s something we can’t ignore.”

Mercie opens and closes her mouth indignantly a few times before shouting: “I’m going to check on the survivors!” and she hurries away, wiping her eyes.

“Dad!”

Everyone else looks to the east, and Felix and Dimitri exchange quick glances as Byleth, El, and Hubert jog up to the Captain. The three of them are soaking, with mud and blood splattered all over them, like everyone else.

Captain Eisner looks relieved. “Kid, where the hell were you?”

“Oh, you know,” she shrugs, her hand casually resting on the blue sheath of her dagger. “Killing walking corpses, rescuing villagers, going into homes that were still standing to check for any uninfected survivors. Your people are good, so we hung in the back.” She winks at her father, then arches a brow and points at the other detectives. “Sooo, are you going to mind your manners and introduce us, or..?”

Her father chuckles, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and introducing her, El, and Hubert to the detectives.

When the Captain does this for everyone except Felix and Dimitri, Sylvain frowns. “Uhh, Captain, you’re forgetting-”

“-we already know those two,” Byleth says with a smirk, walking up to Dimitri and pushing her fist against his shoulder. “Been through a lot together, haven’t we?”

Sylvain emits a low whistle, grinning widely at Dimitri. “Playing for the other team now, D? Wow, never saw that coming!”

Ingrid punches his arm. “You’re an idiot! That’s obviously not what she was talking about!”

Sylvain opens his mouth to say more idiotic sh*t when Felix cuts him off. “Dimitri and I have been working with those three on my case.” He glares pointedly at Sylvain. “That’s all.”

The co*cky bastard raises his hands defensively. “Oooh, keep the claws, Fe!”

“That’s enough, Gautier,” the Captain says, slightly amused. “Break up, everyone. You know what needs to be done. Hang back, you two,” he adds to Felix and Dimitri as the others move away to do their jobs, El and Hubert standing to the side.

“Kid,” the Captain groans, looking at Byleth again, who's still wrapped in his arm. “I know I’m a broken record, but I’d appreciate you reporting to me whenever you arrive in a battle.”

She rolls her eyes “And I’ll say what I usually do: I’ll try my best. I’m not going to abandon a post just to report to wherever the hell you are.”

He gently shakes her, then sighs exasperatedly before letting go. “Whatever. Do what I ask for once.” Captain Eisner steps forward and looks at the five of them. “It’s time to fill the other detectives with all the details of your case. With everything that transpired here today, and what seems to be coming, the team needs to know.” He narrows his eyes at El as she scoffs. “That’s an order, Edelgard.”

El looks affronted. “We don’t report to y-” but she shuts up at the look Byleth gives her. Clearly irritated, El smacks her lips and mutters, “Fine.”

“Good. We’ll work out a time later, now get to work,” the Captain says, then he walks away.

“So,” Byleth says, wiping some blood off her cheek. “Got any updates?”

Dimitri pushes his wet hair out of his face. “Could we perhaps discuss that later tonight?” he asks. “Felix and I have some duties here to take care of. Then I’d like to take a shower and get into warm clothes as soon as possible.”

Byleth shrugs. “Sure. Our office at nine.”

Dimitri grimaces. “Or my apartment? No offense, but your office isn’t very…” he tilts his head, and Felix is guessing he’s trying to find a nice way to say cold, gross, smells like mold- “... comfortable. My place is around the corner from you, and I’ll order dinner.”

“Well, you should've led with that,” Byleth says through a smile as she and Hubert place a hand on El’s shoulders. “Alright. See you then.”

And the Eagles disappear in a whirl of smoke.

***

Felix, now dry and warm in the rainless summer night, walks out of the gas station store with a can of doubleshot espresso and two 6-packs of beer. Because, in his opinion, after a day of fighting, uhh, zombies, consuming some form of alcohol is in order.

He’s exhausted, but the sooner he and Dimitri communicate with the Eagles, the better. Just because he usually has long days, it doesn’t make it easier on the body. So, he downs the doubleshot espresso once he gets in his car, tosses the empty can in the plastic bag he keeps for trash, and drives to Dimitri’s apartment.

It doesn’t take long to get there. Dimitri buzzes him up, and Felix’s heart thumps a bit harder with each step up the stairs. Oh sh*t, what if he’s the first one there? He didn’t think of that. He intentionally waited to leave so he’d arrive past nine, but what if the Eagles are later than him?

His fear is assuaged when he opens a door into a hallway of apartments and hears chatter and sees Byleth, El, and Hubert walk into Dimitri’s place. Catching the door with his foot before it slams shut, he enters and lets the door gently close behind him, and kicks off his shoes next to the other pairs.

Setting the beer down on a corner of the kitchen island, Felix raises his brows at the extra mile Dimitri went for dinner tonight. There is an array of options set out on the island… flatbread, a veggie tray, shrimp co*cktail, some sort of pastry puffs (probably cheesy), and sparkling water.

“Uhhh, wow,” Felix mutters, “this is… a lot.”

“I realized I had no idea what you three would like,” Dimitri says as he takes another tray out of the oven (looks like spring rolls). “I grabbed whatever seemed good. I know it’s a bit odd to have such a variety,” he looks self-consciously at the Eagles. “But hopefully there’s something here you like.”

“You are a generous host,” Hubert says as he picks up a plate. “Thank you for being considerate.”

“Snack dinner…” Byleth says quietly. Felix looks at her, and is surprised that she looks a little… sad?

El frowns. “You ok, By?”

Byleth doesn’t react for a few seconds, then after a tiny shake of her head, she nods. “Yeah, I grew up doing this once a week. Getting our favorite things and having a little of all of it.” She smiles. “Haven’t had this for a long time, is all! Thanks!”

“Oh, that’s nice.” El’s hand slowly reaches out, seemingly to take Byleth’s, when the latter grabs a shrimp and pops it in her mouth. El clears her throat, a tinge of pink in her cheeks. “Yup, this looks great. We’re not picky like he probably is.” El jerks her thumb toward Felix, who clicks his tongue.

“I’m not picky.”

Dimitri snorts. “Except in order for you to eat a vegetable, it has to be drenched in some sort of sauce or dressing.”

Felix scrunches his face. “They’re disgusting, and I found a way to get myself to eat them. Doesn’t matter how.”

With a smile and slightly condescending nod, Dimitri says, “That’s true. Good job.”

Grabbing a beer and twisting off the cap, Felix frowns and takes a swig. Whatever.

They all put a smattering of each on their plates, grab a beer, and while Byleth and El situate themselves on the matching armchairs, Hubert takes the spot at one end of the couch closest to Byleth, leaving Felix and Dimitri to sit next to each other on the couch.

Of course.

He sits a little stiffly, acutely aware that their thighs are only a couple inches apart. Felix can even feel Dimitri’s body heat radiating off of him.

For a while they eat and drink in silence, all clearly ravenous after the day they had.

The silence is awkward for Felix, who’s trying very hard to suppress personal thoughts about Dimitri, not wanting his mind to stray to his feelings before launching into their accounts of the battle, then needing to focus and listen to the Eagles' side of things.

Once they all get seconds, they’re satisfied enough to have some small talk. Happy to be out of wet clothes. Grateful Dimitri bought good options. The weather for the week. Dimitri asks Byleth what kind of things she and her dad favored getting for snack dinners, to which she answered a vague ‘it changed’, and went into how El loves seafood and can eat a truckload of shrimp (this is when Felix realized just how much shrimp is on that woman’s plate). Then the Eagles started laughing and sharing close calls they’ve had with various species of demonic beasts.

It’s actually nice, now that they’re starting to make real conversation. With the help of the beer, Felix finds himself relaxing a bit. Setting his plate and empty bottle on the coffee table, he leans back into the couch and, without thought, rests his hand on Dimitri’s knee.

It is only for a moment, but the shock that runs through him is powerful, buzzing through his nervous system and finding its way to his heart, which is now beating as fast as a rabbit’s. Felix feels Dimitri’s muscles tighten at the touch, but he stays still. Felix is pretty sure both of them are holding their breath. Not wanting to draw attention to it, Felix slowly slides his hand off Dimitri’s knee and onto his lap, clenching his fist. sh*t. sh*t. Shiiiiit.

“Alright!” El shouts abruptly, and Felix looks at her, finding her gaze flickering between him and Dimitri. “What happened with you two?”

Felix automatically snaps, “Well, that’s hardly any of your business.”

El raises her brows. “Like hell it isn’t! Pretty sure we heard SWAT members talking about the Death Knight being here as we caught up to you. So,” she crosses her arms. “Spill.”

Felix’s heart doesn’t skip a beat, but freezes. How f*cking humiliating. He didn’t even take a millisecond to consider what El could be asking about. The fight. Of course she’s asking about the fight.

With El’s face still looking indignant, clearly not noticing his blunder, Felix does notice that Hubert and Byleth are chuckling behind their hands. Damn it. Chancing a glance at Dimitri, he’s simultaneously relieved and nervous to find the blond is remaining composed.

Not wanting to let the moment stew for another second, Felix jumps right into explaining that Emile is the Death Knight, how Solon changed form and what he said, then what Mercie had told the team about Emile’s behavior over the past month.

Felix stares pointedly at Hubert. “We mentioned Emile a few weeks back. You said you’d look into it. Did you?”

Hubert smirks. “We did. But whoever seems to be using his body is adequately skilled at magic.”

“So, yours isn’t good enough to tail him?” Felix asks sharply.

“Ooh ho!” El huffs, and is about to get out of her chair when Byleth kicks her legs out, resting them on El’s lap. And while the brunette could very easily shove their leader’s feet off of her, all she does is bite her lip and rest her hands on Byleth’s legs.

“Please don’t worry about it, El,” Hubert says coolly. “It’s understandable why the detective would be frustrated.”

“I’m wondering,” Dimitri starts, tapping his beer against his knee. “If you couldn’t follow him, why not ask us to do it? Felix has access to electronics that-”

“-would only go haywire,” Hubert explains. “Whenever Emile came out of the precinct, he would have certainly used dark magic to detect any of the electronic bugs you could have placed on him and break them. Something I’ve discovered through trying to get him, is I believe some of these people can change their appearance at will. Some might be forced to stay in a body until they don’t need it anymore, and some can switch in and out.” Hubert takes a sip of his drink. “That is what we think whoever is using Emile can do. Because there would be a point when he would enter a bar, or a crowd on the sidewalk, and suddenly disappear.”

“But… Tomas, the victims from before… they’re dead,” Dimitri states. “If Emile’s situation is different… Could he be alive?”

Hubert shakes his head. “If my theory is correct, then his soul is gone. And a body without a soul doesn’t work. When the borrower no longer needs his physical form, then it will be dead like the others.”

“His soul is gone?” Dimitri gasps.

Felix leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “What does that mean?”

“With magic, tangible things are easier to manipulate than something as difficult to understand as a soul,” Hubert explains. “The darkest of dark magic can meld bodies together, but what cannot be done is melding souls. That would drive a person to insanity. My theory is they found a way to drain a soul, take only a few necessary memories, and use the body.”

Felix rubs his forehead. “How-?”

“-I could not tell you how. The only way I could figure it out is by doing it, and that is not something I’m interested in.” His eyes darken. “I’m not like them.”

“Ok… ok. ” Felix stands and starts pacing the length of the living room and kitchen, bumping his fists together. “So the first couple bodies that were found… you think those were the leftovers of some members of Those Who Slither?”

Hubert nods.

With all the information percolating in Felix’s mind, he reimagines the crime scenes.

“The roots…” Felix whispers. “They were away from the bodies… What do you know about those?”

“I found they have a paralyzing property,” Hubert says. “I think they were used to stabilize and quiet the new victim while their soul left them and the bodies merged.”

“Wanna tell them how you found out about that special feature?” Byleth says with a smirk. Even El giggles as Huberts eyes narrow.

“No, I don’t think-”

“He thought it’d be fine to handle them without gloves,” El giggles, “and he hadn’t finished dressing after his shower.”

Throwing back the rest of his beer, Hubert is about to respond when Felix, not caring about the amusing anecdote, his mind still buzzing, interrupts: “Are the roots deep underground? Is there a way to detect them and follow them to a home base?”

Hubert his head. “Not that I’ve found. I’m trying to create a sensor that will alert me to any dark magic being used. So, maybe we can get an alert for when it happens again,” he shakes his head. “But that is proving difficult, for it did not detect when Emile was attacked.”

“That does sound complicated,” Dimitri affirms, his hand clutching the knee where Felix previously touched. “I hope you can work out the kinks… I’m anxious about what Solon meant by-” Dimitri is interrupted by Byleth and Felix’s cell phones simultaneously ringing.

Felix takes his cell out and frowns. It’s Captain Eisner.

Byleth’s brows furrow as she looks at hers, and she hurries out of the room, beating Felix to Dimitri’s bedroom, leaving him to answer it in the kitchen.

“Captain,” Felix says, turning his back to the others.

“Fraldarius.” The Captain sounds exhausted. “You’re in for a long night.”

Byleth bolts into Dimitri’s bedroom, shuts and locks the door, then heads straight for his bathroom, closing that door, too. Byleth accepts the call.

“Archbishop.”

“Byleth… Something terrible has happened.” Lady Rhea’s voice is wavering, clearly distressed. Byleth waits patiently, listening to Rhea’s rattling breaths. “Flayn has been kidnapped.”

“...What?” Byleth chokes out, making sure she sounds surprised. “How did they find out?”

“I don’t know… we had been so careful.” Rhea lets out a sob. “I called to ask you to come by tomorrow, right now I can’t…”

Sitting on the edge of the bathtub, Byleth rakes a hand through her green hair, the same shade as Flayn’s. “Yes, of course. I’ll see you tomorrow. And Seteth?”

“I told him to stay home, but he demanded to come… He said noon.”

Byleth takes a steadying breath. “I’ll see you then.”

And they hang up.

Standing up, Byleth looks at herself in the mirror, touching the bags forming under her eyes. El says she’s ridiculous, that there are no bags - but Byleth knows what’s there. Well, she thinks. Maybe she’s going crazy instead.

‘We had been so careful…’

The thing is…

‘Careful’ doesn’t necessarily equal safe.

Byleth makes her way out of the bathroom and bedroom back to the others, and waves to El and Hubert, signaling they should go.

She notices Dimitri and Felix are now standing together in the kitchen, and f*cking hell, the tension between those two is so thick, she’d have to sharpen her dagger to cut through it.

She wishes they’d just bang it out already.

Not that she has any idea what happened between them, but still. It’s obvious they’re still very into each other, and they should at least have angry sex or something.

But Byleth is certainly not the type to give relationship advice.

She glances at El, who gives her a warm, caring look that she reserves for only Byleth.

I can’t even figure out how to talk to the person I love.

She used to know how… but ever since the incident, her ability to express affection of any kind has never been the same. And Byleth is not looking forward to tomorrow. Usually she can convince Lady Rhea to meet somewhere else, preferring not to walk through Garreg Mach to the Archbishop’s office if she can avoid it. But due to the circ*mstances, she has to suck it up.

“Do you mind if we leave from here? Or would you prefer we do it outside?” Hubert asks Dimitri, snapping Byleth out of her train of thought.

Dimitri shrugs as he blushes and takes a step back from Felix, who turns away from them. “No, it’s fine.”

With that, Byleth takes El’s hand, and once Hubert places his on El’s shoulder, they ‘poof’ back to their office.

Hopefully Byleth will sleep tonight.

She doubts it.

Notes:

I hope you enjoyed this chapter! : -)

As we get closer to the end, the more excited and anxious I get!

Thank you for reading!

Chapter 8: Byleth

Summary:

"If her heart could beat, would this be one of the moments when it'd be beating rapidly?"

Notes:

CW: mention of character death

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

It’s Saturday. The busiest market day of the week.

Byleth sighs, wishing it was Sunday as she comes to a stop, lingering in the shadows of the brick archway leading into Garreg Mach. Sundays are the slowest for the mark- oh.

Actually, nevermind.

Then Rhea would invite (tell) her to come to mass, and no, nope, nuh-uh. Byleth hopes she can avoid the older nuns or vendors who watched her grow up running around this place, stirring up trouble with...

She clutches her dagger and wonders if her heart could beat, would this be one of the moments when it’d be beating rapidly? She knows hearts do that when someone is scared, excited, nervous, and - well - for a lot of reasons. But right now it would definitely be due to anxiety.

It has been eleven years since Byleth learned she can’t wholly trust the church’s motives and realized Rhea can do wrong. She has never forgiven herself for learning too late.

Her breath catches in her tightening throat. Eleven years.

Has it truly been that long since everything came crashing down? Since he - ?

No, she can’t think about him. Her anger hasn’t disappeared over the years, and getting riled up before a meeting will do her no good.

Exhaling a long breath, she checks the time on her phone and curses. Needing to hurry to Rhea’s office, she pulls the hood of her jacket over her head and keeps her eyes on the cobblestones, quickly weaving through the market-goers. Luckily all the people who’d know her are distracted by their to-do’s.

Well, except for one of the guards.

“Well hello, Miss Ei-”

“Hello, Samuel,” Byleth says, hoping the firm way she says the gatekeeper’s name will help him realize she doesn’t want her own announced. “I’m sorry, I’d love to catch up, but I need to meet the Archbishop.”

Samuel, now with more wrinkles on his face than she remembered, flashes her a toothy smile. “Of course, but I’d like yuh to check with me on the way out!”

She can’t help but grin at the older man, he’s always been kind. “I promise.” With a wave, she continues on her way through the hall and up the stairs. Head still down, hood still up.

The dining hall is loud, full of students on their lunch break. Of course nothing is different. From the schedule, to the tapestries on the walls, and even the gardens are the same - lush with flowers from all over Fódlan. Even with all the gorgeous flowers of the land at her fingertips while she lived here, dandelions were always her favorite.

As she climbs the stairs to the second floor, she recalls how she’d run through the gardens for games of hide-and-seek, or to find a place of refuge to study away from the other students. Well, she should have been studying, but usually she would make dandelion crowns for, well, him.

Absentmindedly, Byleth traces the two letters carved in her blue scabbard with her thumb as she walks through the Audience Chamber and to the back corner where Rhea’s office is.

Byleth knocks and there’s a soft: “Come in.”

Rhea and DA Seteth are sitting on one of the couches. Seteth is hunched forward, his head in his hands and shoulders slowly rising and falling. Rhea beckons Byleth in, inviting her to sit on the couch opposite them.

Seteth slowly sits up, his eyes dry but bloodshot.

Byleth wishes she knew what to say. Sass and witty remarks have always been her thing, but comforting words..? Not so much. Plus, she remembers when people tried to comfort her, and she didn’t find them very helpful, as well-intentioned as things like that tend to be.

“I’m sorry about Flayn,” she mutters. It’s honest, at least. She is sorry.

“Thank you,” he croaks.

“Go ahead and give us the reports, Byleth,” Rhea says solemnly.

First, Byleth recounts what her dad asked her to report about Remire Village, as he and Yuri are too busy leading the search to find Flayn to discuss this themselves. When she gets to the part about Solon’s gloating over keeping everyone distracted, Seteth’s expression shifts to a simmering rage. Then, since she primarily works for the Archbishop (well, allows Rhea to have that impression), Byleth proceeds to discuss how Hubert and El were tracking the Death Knight, “Emile”, and how his possessor must be prodigious at magic to elude capture.

“You’re sure of this?” Seteth seethes. “He’s possessed by one of the members of Slither?”

Byleth shifts in her seat. “We believe so.”

Rhea makes the sign of Seiros over her chest, muttering, “May Emile’s soul rest with the Goddess.”

“They’re growing more bold,” Seteth says, red creeping up his neck. “It used to be impossible to find the discarded bodies, now they leave them in the streets! And now that we knew one was in sight for the first time, you couldn’t track them?!” He slams his fist on the coffee table. “Isn’t tracking their whereabouts what you’ve been trying to do for the past decade?! How could you have failed?!”

“Seteth, you know how difficult they are to corner,” Rhea says gently.

He abruptly stands, his face contorted in anguish as he looms over Byleth. “Your incompetence has led to Flayn’s kidnapping! Find where they are, and find my daughter now!”

Byleth remains composed. “I understand-”

“-you don’t understand!” he cries, spit flying out of his mouth. “You don’t know what it’s like to lose someone you love!”

“ENOUGH, Seteth!” Rhea snaps as she gets to her feet, her severe look sending him to silence.

Tension hangs heavily over the room. Byleth tries to ignore the ache in her stomach, as if his words were a dagger that drove into her gut. Keeping herself steady, all she can hear is Seteth’s erratic breathing until, after a few more long moments, it slows down and his grief-stricken eyes flicker from Rhea to Byleth as realization dawns on him.

“I didn’t… I didn’t mean that,” he croaks with a shake of his head. “I apologize. I can’t think straight.” He falls back onto the couch, his palms cradling his face again.

“It’s fine,” Byleth says, “I remember the pain.”

The Archbishop sits next to her, taking one of Byleth’s rough, calloused hands into her soft ones, giving them a gentle squeeze. “Of course. If you need anything, remember I’m always here for you.”

Byleth squashes down the flit of anger that stirs at ‘you’, and she offers a tiny smirk. “Thank you, Archbishop. If that’s all?”

Rhea nods, gazing upon Byleth with the false belief that she understands what Byleth thinks and feels completely. “I shall see you soon, dear Byleth. As always, be careful.”

Byleth stands and bows to her, then glances at Seteth, “I’ll ensure Flayn’s return.” Alive or dead.

As she briskly leaves the office, her mind spinning so fast she’s barely aware of where her feet are carrying her. She knows this place well enough to not need to pay attention.

‘You don’t know what it’s like to lose someone you love!’

Seteth’s words reverberate in her mind, stinging although she knows his grief and anger is raw. Byleth remembers what it’s like to wonder if the lost will be found, praying they’re alive and whole. Whether his outcome will be better isn't up to her.

As she walks through the courtyard, the invisible dagger in her gut twists more when she sees some kids eating lunch, and on the other side of the courtyard a young girl and boy practice sparring with toy swords. The boy stumbles into the girl and they both fall, laughing at their mistake, and just like that, Byleth’s walls of resistance are defeated.

***

WHACK!

“OH!”

THUMP.

“Tiny!”

Byleth hurried forward, throwing her sword aside and sliding on her knees to the boy on the ground.

“Tiny! Oh Goddess, are you ok?”

Tiny rolled onto his back, clutching his stomach. The light from the flashlights circling them illuminated only part of his face. “Punching? Really?” he wheezed. “That was a cold move.”

Byleth rubbed his shoulder, her brows furrowed in concern as he tried to catch his breath. Once it finally subsided, she stood up and held her hand out. “You know how I get during training. Sorry I lost myself there... I should know better than to-” she tightened her lips shut at the scowl Tiny gave her.

He slapped her hand away and winced as he got up. “Stop calling me ‘Tiny’! I’m taller than you! And don’t treat me like a porcelain doll. You know I hate that.”

She did know, probably better than anyone else at Garreg Mach. “First of all, you will always be ‘Tiny’ to me, I’m older than you! And secondly, I do not treat you like that!” Byleth said indignantly. “I punched you, didn’t I? When do I ever go easy on you?”

Tiny huffed as he slowly picked his sword off the ground. “We’re both ten, stupid! You don’t come at me with all your strength, I’ve seen you spar with the other students. There’s not a drop of sweat on you!”

He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the sweat dripping from his face. Even in the dim light, she could see how his hands trembled, the deep flush in his cheeks, and the droop in shoulders. Byleth could hear his heavy, wheezy breathing.

She bit her lip and glanced toward the doors leading out of the training grounds. They should stop training... He’s technically not allowed to be sparring. All the adults tried to keep an eye on him; even the other kids watched him closely. Everyone knew how sick he was.

But Byleth understood he had good days, too. She could always tell by a certain twinkle in his eyes during class that he either wanted to pull a prank or sneak into the training grounds later that night with multiple flashlights in hand.

Byleth stomped her foot. “Don’t snap at me! I’m the only one who plays with you during recess, and no one else would risk getting in trouble to spar with you!”

His nostrils flared. “You only do it because you feel obligated to be nice to me, since they always treat you so special. And don’t protest! You know it’s true!”

Byleth snatched her sword off the ground and stomped to the weapons rack. “Whatever! It’s not like I’m the only one with a Crest! And we should stop anyhow, you don’t look so good. No matter what you say.”

As Byleth reached to hang the sword up, she heard the pounding of feet and a grunt. She turned in time to raise her blade and block the attack. Maneuvering out of the way, Byleth whipped her sword around, smacking him on the shoulder. He whimpered in pain as she brought her weapon high above her head, making her hesitate.

But she should have known it was a trick. In that moment of uncertainty, Tiny smirked and hit her in the stomach with all the strength he could muster.

“Oof!” Byleth groaned. She hunched over as Tiny fell to the ground, but not in pain this time.

“I actually - got you - By!” He gasped between hearty laughs. “You should - have seen - your face!”

At first she wanted to tell him off, but then she started to laugh, too. Tiny rarely laughed like that. A chuckle here and there, sure. But that good, solid, and much-too-loud belly laugh was wonderful and contagious, and she no longer cared about getting caught.

~

It was a typical weekend night for Byleth and Tiny. (The nickname had turned funnier than ever. Now at age 15, he towered over Byleth and most of their classmates. But to his chagrin, the name stuck).

Every Saturday they would go to the grocery store to select what items they wanted for their weekly snack dinners. They would cook all of it and feast while watching whatever movie the other decided, depending on who’s turn it was.

“Ok, we’ve got pizza, ice cream in the freezer, popcorn,” Byleth listed, pointing at each item on the coffee table. “Chicken nuggets, jalapeno poppers, and broccoli because you insist on a vegetable.”

Tiny shrugged as he scooped cheesy broccoli on his plate. “Balance is crucial. And there’s nacho dip all over it, I don’t know why you care so much.” He shoved the cheese-drenched vegetable into his mouth. “The Chosen One should eat more veggies anyway, keep your strength - ow!”

“Serves you right,” Byleth grumbled, pulling her leg back from kicking him. “Don’t call me that, it’s rude. And not true.”

“Oooh really?” he chuckled, licking cheese off his fingers. “Then the fact that you're extra strong, good at everything, and favored by Lady Rhea and Jeralt means… nothing?”

“Multiple things to address here,” Byleth says, clearly irritated. “First off, those things don’t mean I’m a ‘chosen’ anything! I don’t even know where you heard that. Secondly, I’m not good at everything, so seriously shut up about that.” When he opened his mouth to retort, Byleth shoved a slice of pizza into his mouth. “And last of all - don’t call him Jeralt. It’s so f*cking weird.”

He dropped the slice of pizza onto his plate, awkwardly chuckling as he finished chewing. “Oh, sorry. Favored by Sir Jeralt-”

“Oh my Goddess,” Byleth exclaimed, “you’re impossible.”

“No,” he said firmly. “The Archbishop and Captain don’t care about me. If you’re ‘the Chosen One’ then I’m the opposite…” he paused for a moment, then his eyes darkened. “I’m The Cursed One, or whatever. I’m the frail, pitiful sick boy who, ironically, is only allowed to study to become a healer.” Tiny took another bite of his pizza, eyes narrowed as he chewed.

Byleth frowned. It always irritated her to fight about this, especially since she knew he wasn’t wrong. As much as she hated to admit it, she was treated specially. All because of chance.

Tiny shook his head. “But I’m still studying offensive light magic when I can get away with it. When we’re promoted into the military academy, I’m going to prove to the professor I can be on the frontlines, instead of waiting at the f*cking healing tent at camp.”

It made her uncomfortable whenever he brought that up. She knew there was no way they’d ever permit him on the frontlines. And honestly, that gave her some relief. Even though they still snuck off in the night to spar together, and even though she was aware of how skilled in everything to do with magic he became… if he fought in the same unit, no order from anyone would stop Byleth from ensuring his safety.

“Oh, damnit,” Tiny suddenly snapped. “Can you-?”

He caught the blood dribbling from his nose in his hands as Byleth grabbed a handful of paper napkins. She put some on his hands, then used another to pinch his nose for him as he wiped the blood off his palms, successfully managing to avoid getting any blood on his food. The nose bleeds were becoming more frequent. But there was nothing to be done but wait until it was over.

A tense silence lingered between them as she took her time to scroll through the movie options. Once Byleth finally clicked on an option, she looked over at him.

“Hey Tiny,” she said softly, “you know I love you, right?”

Tiny slowly relaxed his face and curved the corners of his mouth up. “Ditto, By.”

***

“Hello, Miss Eisner,” Samuel says as Byleth passes, jolting her to the present. “Oh my, I seem to have caught yuh in the middle of a thought!”

Byleth stops before reaching the staircase and clears her throat, hoping it would ease its tightness. As she steps toward the gatekeeper, Byleth checks her hood to make sure her hair is covered, since she has a feeling she’ll be here a little while longer. She takes a few steps toward the gatekeeper. “Oh, it’s nothing. I hope you’ve been well.”

“Sure have!” Samuel beams. “I’m a grandfather of two girls now! I’d show you pictures, but I’m still on duty for a few more hours.”

Even though he said he can’t show her pictures while on duty, apparently it’s ok for him to talk at length about how his children and grandchildren are doing. Byleth doesn’t mind. She listens best she can between recalling the times Samuel would ask her and Tiny what the report for the day was when they were much younger, and they’d share all sorts of gossip excitedly until they were too old for such things to be cute. Then it’d be talking about how classes or their days were.

He asked her some questions as well, wanting to know about what her life has been like, and she answered as concisely as possible, not feeling like talking about herself much at the moment. (Or ever, really.)

“My, you sure have grown into a strong, capable woman. That’s good, that makes me happy.” Samuel looks at her. His grey eyes are filled with kindness, but a grim smile has formed on his face. “You know, Miss Eisner,” Samuel says softly, “there’s a nice patch of dandelions in the grass area of the parking lot. I remember you used to like those.”

Byleth gives him a small smile. “I still do. Thank you, Samuel. It was good to see you.”

After bidding him goodbye, she hurries through the crowd. Her thoughts are a mess now. Once she allowed some memories to rise to the surface, they all came crashing like waves, one after the other. Coming up for air feels nearly impossible, making being in public - being here - significantly harder.

Of all the people she cared about. Of all the people she loved. Of all the people she’s known who have died, Tiny is the one she cared most about. The one she wishes she could’ve saved. Sure, maybe she should have more feelings about her mother. But Byleth never knew her since she died after the birth. Tiny, however, was someone she could always rely on - even more than dad, in some cases. In spite of the frequent fights, his bitterness in the vastly different ways they were treated, they still loved each other. Tiny and By. Them versus everyone else. Together, always.

Her chest feels tense as she enters the parking lot. She looks past the freeway and into the horizon toward the Woods of Hrym… and Byleth realizes she’s overdue for a visit.

Like Samuel told her, there is a nice patch of dandelions. Byleth bends down and picks as many as she needs before getting in her car and heading out.

Instead of taking a left onto Interstate North to Fhirdiad, she takes a right onto Interstate South to Hrym.

*

While the Duscurian Forest is lush and full of life, the Woods of Hrym are meager and in a perpetual state of atrophy.

The exposed roots of the trees stretch as if they were once claws walking along the land, now clenching through the dry soil to stubbornly claim their piece of earth. Broken rocks with black moss are dispersed among hollowed logs that became refuge for beetles and spiders, the stag trees they lay near reaching toward the dimming Horsebow Moon sky.

Dead leaves crunch under each heavy and timid step of Byleth’s boots. She carefully scans her surroundings for signs of a threat, even though Hubert ensured no demonic beasts will suddenly burst forth from here - not today, at least. But still, she clasps her dagger with one hand while the other is holding a bouquet of dandelions (delicately, not wanting to crush the stems and get sticky sap on her hands).

It has been too long since the last time she visited these woods. At first she tried to come every year, but the more involved she became in her mission, it grew more difficult to carve out time to make the trip back.

Regardless, Byleth still knew the way. Knew when she needed to walk a little more east, recognized the unmoved boulders that signaled she was almost there.

Finally, after what seemed like seconds and many moons at the same time, she found The Tree.

Commonplace to anybody else, Byleth knows every crack, knot, branch, and shade of this particular one. She reaches her hand with the dandelions out, her pointer-finger tracing over the initials she carved on the one year anniversary of his death.

With trepidation she looks at the foot of The Tree, and she can see him as if he were still laying there. Incredibly pale, like all his blood was drained from his body. Eyes open in horror and lips parted. That weather was wild that day - blustery with a downpour of rain - and leaves were stuck on his rain-slicked face.

With a restrained whimper, she leans her back against The Tree and slides to the ground.

For a while she sits in silence, staring at the spot where he was. With a heavy sigh, she drops the bouquet of dandelions onto her lap. “I had to go back there today, which you know I hate. Or maybe you don’t know.” She shakes her head. “I can’t walk the halls of Garreg Mach without seeing you, us, all over the place.” Byleth smirks, even though she’s uncomfortably aware of the knot forming in the back of her throat.

Byleth picks up one of the dandelions and drives her thumbnail through the middle of the stem, the sticky sap oozing onto her fingers as she slips another dandelion through the tiny hole. She forms another hole in the new stem, and continues this process as she thinks of the day he died.

***

They were seventeen and enrolled into the Officer’s Academy. During the day, Tiny would be diligent in studying to become a healer, but at night he would intensely practice offensive light magic, determined to be better than anyone. When the time came, he demonstrated his skills to his professor and their house leader. The professor was furious and reported him to the Archbishop. No matter how much Tiny protested or demonstrated his skills, the orders from the Captain and the Archbishop were clear: he was not permitted to be on the front lines and he was to cease practicing offensive magic, period.

Tiny persisted, and each refusal soured him more, and eventually there wasn’t a single conversation between them that his words didn’t drip with venom or sting like a bite. It was infuriating, but Byleth tried to be empathetic. She believed he would improve once the damn year was over and he could apply for jobs outside of Garreg Mach that would appreciate his talents. Maybe even work with a police department. Anything to get him away from the place he grew to loathe.

But during Officer’s Academy, they gave him two choices: he could either remain at Garreg Mach and intern in the school infirmary, or he could stay behind at the medical tent when they needed to set up camp while away on missions.

So he chose camp.

“Stay behind,” Tiny said to Byleth in a high-pitched voice, mocking their professor who had walked away moments ago. “Or you’ll hurt yourself. Always seen as fragile and pathetic. Doesn’t matter that I’m prolific at magic, better than any other Lion. Including you.”

Byleth looked over her shoulder to find everyone either preparing for battle, or setting up camp in the biggest clearing they had found in the Woods of Hrym so far. Some were chopping down younger pine trees for firewood. Others were setting up tents and canopies for respite from the rain, taking care of horses, sharpening weapons, or organizing supplies. The soldiers meant to be fighting in the upcoming mission were due to leave any moment, so Byleth tried to stay alert for the signal and be attentive to Tiny’s frustrations (no matter how repetitive they were).

“Yes, of course you’re better at magic than me. Doesn’t make me horrible, either. And Elaina is just as gifted as you.”

Tiny snorted, adjusting the hood of his coat to keep the rain out of his eyes. “Just as. Don’t flatter her. I’ve seen her practice seraphim. It’s weak.”

There was shouting. Byleth whipped her head around to find the Lions and battalions gathering. “Well, I’m sorry you’re pissed. But I can’t fight and protect you at the same time.”

He looked affronted. “Who said I needed your protection?”

Byleth shrugged. “We both know you can’t maintain energy for an entire battle. You’d either get tired or sick, and die. So, please-”

“f*ck you, By,” he snapped. While his tone was hard and cold, he looked at her as a puppy would after kicking it. “Of all people, I thought you were on my side. I thought you saw me as stronger than-”

“I do! I mean,” she glanced over her shoulder again; other students were calling and waving for her to join them. “Ugh! I know you’re more capable than people give you credit for. I know you’re powerful, but you’re not physically strong enough to endure a battle yet. I don’t want you to die when I could’ve been there to help you, and I can’t let others be in danger because I’m ordered to be somewhere else. I can’t be in two places at once. I’m sorry,” Byleth said as she took a step back, “but you have to stay, Tiny.”

A gust of wind blew his hood back and whipped strands of his hair about his blazing eyes. “I told you to stop f*cking calling me that! If you start using my actual name, then others will. ‘Tiny’ is f*cking deprecating and doesn’t help people's perceptions of me.”

Byleth rolled her eyes as she backed away. “Except all of us have been doing it forever. Good luck with having us change it now. Love you!”

She ran away, not waiting to hear if he responded with his usual ‘ditto’.

When the mission to rid nearby villages of bandits was over and they came back, the stench of their opponents split open corpses left behind and long since dissipated in the wind, they were approaching camp when a campsite guard sprinted up, informing them Tiny had disappeared. No one had seen him in hours.

They scoured the woods. Byleth replayed their last conversation in her head over and over. f*ck, did he follow them? Did he get so pissed that he wanted to show them up, then got lost? Or got tired and collapsed? Now because of his bruised goddess-damned ego, he was laying in the woods somewhere all alone.

Byleth thought about what a selfish idiot he was, thinking he could - what? Sneak up on them? Be a knight in shining armor and use a spell to save someone? Ward off an unseen attack? She hoped he was laying in an uncomfortable position. He deserved-

“Oh, finally!” Byleth called, seeing his legs on the ground on the other side of a tree. “For f*ck’s sake, Tiny, you couldn’t just… just…”

Byleth froze. She suddenly became cold. Her mouth dried and throat clenched, her chest grew heavy.

There was something wrong.

Running around the tree, Byleth saw his face, even paler than usual. Instinct and years of training kicked in, and she checked his pulse, breathing, and whispered a few healing spells before her hands began to shake and head started to fog up.

Someone told her she screamed for help. Their professor told her and her father that Byleth had frantically searched the boy’s body, looking for something while screaming: “IT ISN’T HERE! WHERE IS IT? HE ALWAYS WEARS IT, TOO!”

She remembered none of this. She remembered where she found him and his face. His look of fear. He died alone. He died afraid.

The church ruled that it was his illness that finally took him. While that seemed to make the most sense, Byleth didn’t feel that was right. Sure, the Healers thought Tiny would likely not live as long because of his condition. But he wasn’t weak that day, it was one of his good ones. It didn’t add up or make a lick of sense to Byleth. It wasn’t right.

So, she snuck into the coroner's office and read what they determined the cause of death to be. If someone didn’t look hard, it would seem they simply wrote “natural causes”. But Byleth had an ability to notice things others wouldn’t, and under the words there were faint erase marks of something else, a different word. She could only spy a few of the letters, but her best guess was dark magic.

In the years following his death, Byleth learned of the organization Those Who Slither in the Dark… and since she had to do what she believed was the only way to get answers.

***

Byleth finishes making the dandelion wreath. Her eyes are stinging and throat sore as a tear rolls down her cheek. “There isn’t a day I don’t miss you,” she chokes out, “you were my best friend… I’m… I’m so sorry I wasn’t there.” She lays the wreath down next to her before unclipping her dagger from the belt, looking at the letters, ‘B B’, carved into the blue sheath.

Byleth sits there in silence, staring at the letters until she suddenly gets up, clips the dagger back onto her belt, and walks a few paces away before pausing to whisper over her shoulder:

“I love you, Balen.”

Notes:

Thank you for reading! I love hearing from you :-)

Chapter 9: Unveil

Chapter Text

“What do you mean by: which shade of white do I want?”

“Well, umm, there’s more than one shade of white, s-sir.”

Felix glares at the olive-green haired young man. His grin is faltering as he fidgets with his name tag, which reads ‘Ignatz’, on the orange work apron.

Felix rolls his eyes. “Just give me a standard white.”

Ignatz chuckles awkwardly. “Ah. Let me show you, sir.” He reaches under the counter, pulls out a thick book and places it on top. The young man fumbles as he opens it, and Felix just sees a bunch of squares of… white.

“See?” Igantz says. “There’s over 150 shades! Do you happen to have a sample of the white you need? Or even a well-lit photo?”

“You’re asking if I have a sample or picture of my wall? And out of all these shades you can’t tell me which one is standard?”

Ignatz shakes his head. “There is no ‘standard’, sir. But if you’re renting, you can call your landlord. They’d probably know the color they use for the complex.”

Felix groans. He hates calling his landlord. Dimitri used to handle talking to him, since Felix thinks he’s an irritatingly gregarious man who always wants to chit-chat. And despite removing Dimitri’s name on the lease, he never remembers that Dimitri doesn’t live there anymore, so he asks how Dimitri’s doing. Felix used to correct him, but has recently given up and just lets the man know Dimitri is fine, since Felix does know the answer. But that’s it.

Ok, and Felix might share when Dimitri has a new article in the Fódlan Times. And since today is Wednesday, Dimitri probably does have an article out. But after that, Felix tries to cut conversations with his landlord short. Which is hard since the man insists conversations shouldn’t be less than 10 minutes, and Felix doesn’t want to tell him why he needs the exact paint color, so he will not be making the call.

“Yeah, I’m not doing that,” Felix says. “You seriously can’t tell me the most common white?”

“This is only my second day,” Ignatz says, “but my boss told me the most popular whites we sell are linen, ultra pure, lace, cow’s milk, and-”

“Sorry, cow’s milk?"

“Yes. It’s this one here.” Ignatz flips the page, and without even reading the labels under the shades, he taps on one.

Felix squints. “That looks more like a really light grey.”

Ignatz’s face brightens up. “Yes! Shades of any color react differently depending on how they were treated, so they can look another way on walls. Whites can seem warm or cool, or look more blue or grey. It just depends on-”

“Ok, ok, you don’t need to get that deep into it. Uhg, just whip up a sample of ultra pure. Please,” Felix adds, knowing he’s been a bit of a dick to this guy. But seriously? Over a hundred and fifty shades? f*cking ridiculous.

“Can do! That’ll take about twenty minutes.”

Twenty minutes? For a sample? “Right, fine. I’ll get the other things I need. Where can I find joint compound? Or, uh...” Felix glances at his list. “Sandpaper, fiber tough patches, and a putty knife.”

The young man whips his head around, tapping his fingers on his chin. “Hmmm, well, sorry but as I mentioned this is only my second day, so I’m not sure where anything is… but I can call a co-worker and-”

“I’ll figure it out myself.” Felix strides away, taking a deep breath. He didn’t realize choosing a paint color would be such a damn process.

After wandering around a few aisles, he admits he’s not going to find anything by himself. He spots an older woman in an orange apron and shows her the list. Felix holds in his embarrassment and frustration as she giggles, commenting that all he needs is a ‘one-stop shop repair kit’, walks straight ahead from where they are standing and grabs a clear bag full of all the things he has listed.

“And what’s nice is the compound is pink, then turns white when it dries so you know when it’s time to sand it! Perfect for beginners like you!”

Felix clicks his tongue and mumbles, “I’m not a beginner.”

She pats his shoulder. “Of course not. But this is all you need, young man! Oh, and always read the directions thoroughly before starting.”

After a simple grunt in response, he heads back to the paint counter where Ignatz has his sample ready, and Felix snatches it off the counter with a quick thanks and heads straight for the check-out. He just wants to go home and get this done before he changes his mind.

***

If someone asked any of Felix’s coworkers if they consider him a procrastinator, he is certain they would all laugh in that person’s face and say: “Absolutely not. Felix, a procrastinator? Never.”

Well… they’d certainly be surprised now.

Felix arrives home from the hardware store, he takes the kit and paint out of the paper bag and places them on the kitchen counter.

He is about to open it and read the instructions, but he hesitates and decides he has some very important paperwork that needs to get done right this instant.

He grabs his bourbon and pours some into a glass before opening his laptop. Work distracts him for a while. The glow of his laptop illuminates his face as the sun goes down. He fills in some reports and types up notes. Then his eyes stray to the items nearby until he closes his laptop with a grunt of frustration.

Alright, he’ll have to do something else.

He decides tonight’s the night to defrost that steak in the freezer, roast the fingerling potatoes, and microwave a bowl of frozen yellow corn.

After Felix eats, he cleans the kitchen and when that’s done, he pours himself more bourbon and turns around.

The repair kit and paint are, of course, still on the kitchen island.

It’s time. He knows it’s time. It feels right and this is the choice he’s made. Felix reaches for the kit, rips the plastic, and reads the instructions as he sips his drink.

One: Sand the wall around the hole and wipe off any dust

Two: Apply the self-adhesive mesh patch on the damaged area

Three: Cover the -

The thing is, there’s too much going on in Felix’s mind.

His mind keeps wandering to after Remire in Dimitri’s apartment. Wandering to a tease, a touch on the knee, and the sudden awareness when he and Dimitri were standing much too close in the kitchen after the Captain’s call. Felix could smell the beer on Dimitri’s breath, could see a single strand of hair stuck to his long, blond eyelashes. The awkwardness of the moment was saved when Byleth opened the bedroom door and told the others it was time to leave. Felix strode out of the apartment almost as fast as it took for the Eagles to disappear.

The last thing he needed in his beer-addled haze was to be alone with Dimitri. Not when there was so much he still needed to consider.

Three: Cover the patch with joint compound. Feather the edges of the -

But it’s been days. Felix did his best to push thoughts of his personal life down, but he’s been exhausted, and it takes a surprising amount of energy to avoid something.

When he was younger and would get upset, Glenn would poke him until Felix finally confessed what was wrong, what he was honestly feeling. It's almost like Glenn is here, poking and prodding, finally forcing Felix to consider recent events and admit truths.

- joint compound by increasing the pressure on the putty knife as -

So he gave in, and the truth floated to the surface.

He’s scared.

Scared of everything Dimitri said during therapy. The authenticity of every word.

- you spread it on the existing drywall.

Scared of the hopeful twinkle in Dimitri’s blue eye, despite saying there are no expectations.

Four: Let dry and apply a second coat of the -

Scared of what Felix’s heart is trying to tell him.

- joint compound if necessary.

Felix feels the heavy weight of the next move being his. It’s like playing the longest game of chess. They must be nearing the end, for the move Dimitri made was significant, and what happens next will change their future either way.

There are no more pawns for Felix to use as distractions as he decides what to do, and he’s overwhelmed.

Sand the surface until smooth,

Does he retreat? Leaving the pieces to age and collect dust and wonder what could have been? Or does he advance? Does he try to win? What does ‘winning’ even mean?!

What if winning means getting back together and trying again? Kissing Dimitri, touching him, sleeping with him, holding him in his arms, and Felix being held by him? Coming home to him everyday, when they’d cook together and talk about their days. Laugh about stupid things. Watch movies while eating popcorn and with Dimitri’s arm over Felix’s shoulders. What if it means enjoying each other's love again?

- wipe away any dust, and paint.

Felix stares at the painting of the sunrise. Or...

What if there’s another accident? What if Dimitri falls back to old ways? What if Felix lives more of his life thinking he struck gold, only to lose everything all over again? Can Felix survive another devastating heartbreak? Does he dare take the risk?

He knows the answer… but once he says it out loud, it will change everything.

Felix sets the instructions down, pours himself another shot (or two) of bourbon and swallows it in one gulp before taking his phone out of his pocket to text Dimitri.

Felix: Lunch -

He pauses. What day?

Friday? Oh, hell no. That’s only two days away.

Monday? Ah, no, that doesn’t work either.

Next Wednesday. Then that gives himself a week to continuously reconsider what he wants to do until he has to sit there, look Dimitri in the eye and finally spill.

Felix: Lunch next Wednesday?

He immediately taps ‘send’, not wanting to hesitate for another moment.

Slapping the phone down on the counter, he picks up the instructions again. Realizing he paid zero attention, Felix re-reads them, picks up the sanding sponge, and takes down the painting of the sunrise and lays it on the counter (he’ll find a different place for it later).

He repairs the fist-sized hole in the wall.

***

It’s already Wednesday.

Felix is a bit frustrated with his morning already. He put his shirt on backwards, dropped his bag of coffee grounds on the floor and had to clean it up, walked out the door then realized he forgot his keys, and as he went to leave a second time, he realized that the shade of white he picked is slightly different. But he cared less about this, no one will notice unless they’re really paying attention.

This has been the quickest week of his life. Which shouldn’t surprise him, with the constant search for Flayn and working other cases, of course it went fast. But today is slow. Painfully slow. Even as he sits at his desk working on paperwork, he’ll think a good amount of time has passed only to learn it has been a few minutes, which he finds insufferable.

“What’s with you?” Leonie asks when Felix lets out his tenth grunt of frustration within the same hour.

“Nothing, just…” he sighs, “I hope we find the kid soon.”

Leonie slowly nods her head. “Yeah… same.”

After a few more hours finally pass, Felix gathers his things with the plan to head straight home after lunch, knowing his nerves will be too shot to want to be around people. He’s about to stand when Caspar and one of their regular burglars burst through the door.

“Balthus!” Sylvain shouts with a goofy grin on his face, “Long time no see!”

“Which, need I remind you, is a good thing,” Ingrid says from her desk behind Felix.

When it comes to his relationship with the police department, Balthus is... unique.With every attempted car theft he does, he always manages to make the same mistakes that get him caught every time. His friends always pay his bail, so he never stays in a cell for more than a couple nights. While they obviously prefer Balthus stop trying to steal cars, between his contagious positive energy paired with his humor and extremely bizarre experiences in his youth have made him enjoyable to have around.

“Hey, pals!” Balthus says as Caspar leads him toward Sylvain’s desk. “First things first, can someone get Claude? I want to ask how his mom is doing!”

Unable to help it, Felix and the others laugh. Balthus went to high school with Claude’s mom and without fail, teases Claude about how hot she is and wanting to take her out on a date, not caring that she’s still married.

“Sorry to tell you Claude is too busy to socialize today. Kicked me out of his lab when I stopped by earlier,” Sylvain says, kicking his extra chair out for Balthus to sit in. “And while it’s always interesting to see you… why is he here exactly, Bergliez?”

Caspar laughs as he lets Balthus sit down in the spare chair. “Go on, tell them what you did and why!”

Balthus puffs out his cheeks in an exaggerated breath. “Ahhh c’mon, pal! Do I gotta? I feel like an idiot.”

“Because you are an idiot,” Lecleric says as they approach, “which has been established over the numerous failed crimes you’ve committed… and that you continue to keep trying. Spill.”

Shifting in his seat, Balthus lets out a pained sigh. “I streaked in the park.”

Leonie spits some of her coffee out, Sylvain explodes with laughter, and Felix can guess that Ingrid is shaking her head as he is.

“Well, that’s certainly not your usual M.O.,” Lecleric says.

Between his laughs, Caspar says, “Tell them why.”

“Cause, uh... I might have some useful information for you all, so that’s what I did to see you.”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Leonie says, getting Balthus to look over his shoulder at her. “You’re telling us you went streaking so you could be arrested in order to talk to us?”

“YUP!” Caspar says. Everyone shakes their head.

Sylvain tuts. “You know, Balthus, you could’ve simply walked through the door and asked to speak with one of us.”

Balthus groans. “Yeah pal, I know that now. Never been in here without cuffs, yuh know?”

As everyone else teases him, Felix gets up and grabs his suitcase. “As amusing as that is, I gotta go.” And he hurries out of the precinct.

***

Felix’s plan has not panned out so far.

Wanting to be the second person to arrive, Felix waited a few minutes until 1pm to enter the restaurant. To his dismay, the typically early Dimitri hasn’t yet arrived. So, Felix sits there, tapping his Aegis ring against his water glass and jiggling his leg as he waits. Every twenty seconds he lights up his phone on the table to check the time. Once it’s ten after 1pm, he’ll text Dimitri to check if he’s coming.

Eight minutes after one Dimitri arrives, of course wearing another of Felix’s favorite dress shirts, this light blue one accentuating his broad, strong shoulders.

A smile tugs at Dimitri’s lips. “Hey, Felix. Sorry I’m late. Umm… it’s good to see you.”

“Yeah. Erm, thanks for coming,” Felix says, shifting his gaze down to his water glass.

It’s quiet for a moment. Dimitri takes a long drink of water. There’s an awkward tension settling between them.

Felix looks up again. “So-”

“Hello! Welcome to Cafe Ordelia!” says a chipper young waitress as she stacks a couple menus on the table. “I’m Annie! Can I start y’all off with something to drink?”

Bourbon. A glass full of bourbon filled right to the brim, please.

“I’ll stick with my water,” Felix replies.

Dimitri nods. “Same, thank you.”

“Ok! I’ll give you some time to look over the menu!” Annie says, smiling brightly before walking away.

They reach for the menus at the same time and their hands touch, causing a slight static shock. “Oh, sorry,” Dimitri mumbles, his face flushing as he withdraws his hand.

“It’s fine,” Felix replies under his breath, quickly taking a menu.

Felix is looking at the menu, but not reading sh*t. When should he say something? Rip the bandaid and say it now, even if it makes the rest of the lunch awkward (or would it be so awkward that they decide to leave)? Or sit and have forced small talk until the very end?

Why does this have to be so f*cking weird? Most weeks they see each other multiple times because of work. They’ve eaten lunches and dinners together while working through things… Sure, those might have been with the Eagles at their office or Dimitri’s apartment, but still.

The answer doesn’t take long to come to him. Because Felix asked Dimitri to meet him here to have a private lunch, and with the therapy session not being that long ago, it’s pretty clear that Dimitri must know Felix wants to tell him something.

Ultimately, Felix decides he can’t f*cking stand the idea of waiting another minute. He drops the menu onto the table. “I have something to say, and don’t interrupt me while I say it.”

Dimitri slowly sets his menu down and laces his fingers together on top of it. Felix can see Dimitri’s knuckles turning white as he tightens his grip.

Folding his arms on the table, Felix looks at the salt shaker between them and talks to it. “I won’t get into how our last two years were terrible. You know this. You know I hated watching you fall apart, knowing nothing I was doing was helping… So that's all I’ll say about that.” Felix shakes his head. “When we broke up, I hoped to rarely see you. Realistically that was foolish, given our jobs and having the same friends. Still, I hoped. Then you came barging back into my life, insisting on working this case… I was so angry. But…” his mouth is dry. He takes a sip of water. “But I’ve realized… and after the session… I’ve made a decision, and it’s not fair to make you wait any longer…”

Felix frowns as he looks up from the salt shaker into Dimitri’s face, which is suffused with concern and resolve, like he’s ready for bad news.

“I want-”

“Hey!” Annie says as she approaches again, “have you decided on-”

“We still need a few minutes, uh, please,” Dimitri adds, realizing he cut her off.

“Oh, ok!” she says before leaving them.

Felix hates being interrupted. He has a hard enough time talking about his feelings, especially with something as delicate as this.

He takes a deep breath. “I think we-”

They both jump as Felix’s phone rings, which seems exceptionally loud. Glancing at it, he moans when ‘Captain’ lights up the screen.

“f*cking f*ck,” Felix snaps under his breath before answering, “Captain?”

“We have a lead on Miss Bishop’s location. You need to get here immediately .”

“We need to go now,” Felix says, jumping to his feet and pocketing his phone. Dimitri is right behind him as they dart out of the restaurant.

***

The discolored, broken brick exterior, overgrown weeds, and trash littered about was enough to tell Felix this warehouse on the edge of town has sat unused for a decade or two.

After checking the perimeter, the squad announces themselves, shouting for the occupants to come out. When there are minutes of no reply, the squad pushes the double doors open and steps inside, setting up the formation Captain ordered.

The Captain, Byleth, Felix, Dimitri, and Seteth (which is unusual for him to be here, but it’s understandable), lead the way into the warehouse with Mercie, El, and Hubert close behind. With no windows to let in natural light and only two of the dim overhead lights working, everyone is as silent as possible as they walk further into the warehouse. They cannot see far in front of them or around them. The faint glows of the Relics barely make a difference.

“Mages,” Captain Eisner says, his voice rumbling, “give us some lig-”

Before the Captain can finish that thought, a low, sinister laugh echoes throughout the warehouse, sending a chill down Felix’s spine at the emptiness of it.

Another overhead light in the back turns on, and on a raised platform stands the person claiming to be Emile. His sandy-blond hair looks wild and tangled, his eyes wide as a crazed grin stretches across his face, incredibly unlike the original man. His hands are clasped together, but within quick reach of the sheathed Sword of the Creator. On one side of Emile is Solon, his lips curled in a snarl; and the other a young, red-head girl that looks somewhat familiar to Felix… though he can’t quite place her.

At their feet is a petite girl with long, jade-green hair. Her clothes are dirty with holes here and there. She’s extremely pale, as if no blood is left in her body. Her eyes are closed, her mouth slightly parted.

Seteth wails in agony, “FLAYN! FLAYN!” He tries to run forward when Emile raises his hand, and it seems Seteth’s feet have stuck in concrete.

“Nuh uh uh,” so-called Emile says derisively, “I have not given you permission to move.”

“Permission?” the Captain says. “Not sure where you learned to do math, but from where I’m standing you seem severely outnumbered.”

“Why yes,” Emile says slowly, “it would seem that way.”

All the lights in the warehouse suddenly click on, significantly brighter than the rest. There is an eruption of gasps and curse words. Felix is suddenly encased in a dome of a golden, shimmering mist. He slams his Aegis shield against it, but it knocks him backwards, his back hitting the barrier behind him. He looks around, finding magic users or anyone with a Relic encased in the barrier, and others with weapons at their throats.

“Why are you doing this?!” Seteth bellows.

The red-head girls' laugh is shrill. “ Why are you doing this?” she jeers. “They’re all very stupid, aren’t they?”

“Obedient fools, more like,” Solon rasps.

“No,” Emile says, “they are clever. But we are cleverer.”

It suddenly clicks where Felix recognizes the red-head from. The picture on the missing persons posters, the girlfriend Mrs. Callier mentioned… “Monica von Ochs?”

“Oooh,” she croons, “guess I can’t say you have a bad memory. That is the name of the girl I’m using.” She looks down at Flayn, steps forward and nudges Flayn’s body with the tip of her shoe. “Too bad I couldn’t use her, she’s prettier.”

“GIVE ME MY DAUGHTER!” Seteth screams, trying to pry his feet from the floor.

“We are through with her. She’s barely alive, hasn’t woken up in days. You can have her back.” Emile kicks her off the platform, and she falls limply to the floor with a loud thud.

Seteth cries out before stumbling forward. Realizing he’s freed, he runs to Flayn and throws his lance aside to kneel next to her, pulling her in his arms. “She’s breathing!” Seteth yells, his voice shaky in his relief. “It’s slow, but she is.”

“Yes. We no longer need her,” Emile says, “but we need one more thing.” With a flick of his wrist, a metal collar appears and snaps onto Seteth’s neck, a thick, black chain attached to it. Emile jerks hard on the chain and drags Seteth away from his daughter, forcing him to climb onto the platform despite his fierce resistance.

“What the hell is this?!” the Captain shouts amidst the other protests.

Solon snickers. “There is so much you don’t know.”

In an instant, purple smoke consumes Seteth’s struggling form, and he’s gone.

Emile claps his hands together. “We have what we want now. It’s time to go.”

“What?!” Monica snaps, disbelief crossing her face. “That’s it? We’re not going to kill any of them? Not even him after all your complaining?” She unsheathes her sword and points it at the Captain.

To Felix’s left, Byleth yells and swiftly disarms and slits the throat of the woman who was holding her, then steps in front of her father as she unsheathes her sword. “Like f*cking hell you are.”

The Those Who Slither in the Dark soldiers clutch their captives tighter, all looking to the back of room for instruction on whether to attack instead.

Emile raises his hand, signaling them to remain where they are. “Before we go,” he says, “I’ve decided it’s time for a family reunion.”

“You are not my brother!” Mercie shrieks from her translucent holding cell.

“No,” Emile says, forming a menacing grin, “I am not.”

The non-Emile stretches his arms out, closes his eyes, and tilts his head back.

A horrified silence fills the room as his body begins to crack like porcelain, then starting at his white boots, pieces begin to fall off. It turns into ash, swirling around and up as more pieces of his clothes and body disintegrate.

The ash spins faster and faster as the tall, lithe form of Emile’s body drifts away, revealing a different body. Charcoal boots and clothes with red triangle patterns are revealed, along with armor on his left knee, forearms, and torso. This man has a pale, angled face with dark blue hair falling to the crook of his neck. Darkness lurks behind the mint-green eyes as his gaze wanders over his adversaries.

But what makes Felix’s stomach drop, a surreal guess at the tip of his tongue, is the sheathed dagger on his hip opposite of the Sword of the Creator.

The man’s grin is still sharp as his gaze falls on Byleth and the Captain.

“Impossible,” the Captain gasps.

Byleth makes a sound Felix has never heard from her before: a strangled cry of shock and distress. “Balen?”

The man’s laughter echoes in the warehouse, reverberating in chilling magnitude. “Hello father, sister,” he sneers, “it certainly has been a long time.”

Chapter 10: Instinct

Summary:

“Felix,” Dimitri whispers, “what were you going to tell me at lunch?”

Felix pauses for a moment before responding. “Let’s talk about that tomorrow… now you need to-”

“No, please,” Dimitri pleads, voice thick with worry, “please Felix. It has been agonizing to wonder about. Just tell me.”

Notes:

*CW* Mention of needles and tubes at end of chapter

Chapter Text

Felix doesn’t realize he’s been holding his breath until he draws in a quick, sharp one out of necessity.

The mystical barrier encasing Felix doesn’t prevent him from seeing his surroundings clearly, so he looks over his shoulder at El and Hubert, who look just as shocked as he feels. He guesses that neither of them knew Byleth had a brother, either.

The Captain’s brows are furrowed, his lips parted as he stares at his son like he has risen from the dead. Then there’s Byleth, while usually so calm and composed, is taking shuddering breaths.

Balen’s lips curl down as he wrinkles his nose. “Father,” he repeats, as if the word leaves him with the most vile, bitter taste in his mouth. “Not used to calling you that. Doesn’t sound right, since you weren’t much of one to me.”

The Captain doesn’t respond to this. Byleth lowers her sword, the tip of it clanking on the concrete floor. “Balen… is it really you? How? I saw your body… we buried you.”

“I saw your body!” Monica mocks. “You saw what we wanted you to see. Your sister isn’t very bright, B.”

Balen tightens his jaw. “Shut up Kronya, you dolt.”

Monica (Kronya?), drops her jaw in indignation. “You know what! Since neither of you are in your disguises anymore, I don’t want to be in mine!”

Just as Solon did at Remire Village, the red-head grabs a handful of her hair and pulls, peeling off Monica’s body to reveal who must be the name Balen used: Kronya. Her hair is obnoxiously orange, her skin the same paper white as Solon’s, except under her left eye is a teardrop tattoo.

Monica’s body smacks on the concrete floor. Kronya stretches her arms and smiles a twisted grin. “Now this girl’s momma will have a body to bury.” As she did with Flayn, she kicks at the body a bit. “See? I care.”

“Killing innocent people just to seek out more people to murder and torture is beyond vile and cruel,” Dimitri spits from Felix’s right. “You people care about nothing.”

Kronya steps forward and opens her mouth to retort when Balen withdraws his dagger from it’s blue sheath and points it at Kronya’s throat. “I told you to shut up.”

Her eyes widen. “Why I-”

“Do as he says, Kronya, or Thales will not be pleased,” Solon rasps.

Kronya growls as she steps back.

“You still have your copy,” Byleth says as Balen places his dagger back in its sheath.

Balen’s eyes flicker to Byleth’s left hip, where she keeps her identical dagger. “It’s a good blade. But not nearly as incredible as this.” He grabs the handle of the Sword of the Creator, and it glows as he draws it out.

“Why?” Byleth asks breathily. “Why are you with them? Why are you doing all this?”

Balen’s eyes darken. “Why wouldn’t I? I’ve seen the true, wicked ways of the church since we were born. Twins, yet I was treated drastically different from you! Because you were strong!” His calm demeanor is faltering, fury replacing it. Balen’s gaze shifts to his father. “And what is the reason for that?! I demand you tell me, or I will have every single one of you killed!”

The Captain closes his eyes. “I will tell you if you promise to spare them.”

After Balen nods, the Captain speaks. “When you and Byleth were born, both of you were weak. Rhea did not believe either of you would make it. Your mother, Sitri… She had a special heart, made of Seiros’ crest stone. Sitri begged Rhea to use it to save both of you, even though it meant she would die. Wanting to respect her wishes, Rhea took out the stone and turned them into two halves…” the Captain looks pained. He shakes his head, struggling to continue. “But it wasn't an even cut. One piece was bigger…”

“Byleth got the bigger half,” Balen says under his breath as he places his hand over his heart. “So... That’s it. That’s why I was treated so horribly. Because Rhea gave me the smaller half.” His entire body is trembling in fury. “That nor the effects of the snake piece were things of my choosing! I tried to be strong, I worked hard to be the most skilled mage in the Academy and I succeeded. But none of you would give me a chance! None of you believed in me!”

“That’s not true,” Byleth says, her voice rattling, “I believed in you.”

“Liar! You said you couldn’t fight and protect me. You said I couldn’t maintain energy for battle, that I would get tired which would lead to putting everyone else in danger, when I would’ve been fine. I was strong that day, I would have been an asset! So I followed you, ready to prove myself.”

“Then he met us!” chimes Kronya, lazily twirling her sword.

“Turns out they had been tracking me for years,” Balen continues, “watching me. They saw my power and appreciated it. Wanted it.”

“That’s all it took to turn your back on us?” Byleth catches her breath. “On me?”

“We knew the boy was special in a way no one else saw,” Solon says, “we turned out to be correct.”

“This is getting so boring,” Kronya says through a yawn, “can you just kill the old man already so we can go?”

“No!” multiple voices bellow, the cry resounding in the warehouse.

“Move out of the way, Byleth,” the Captain says with deep sincerity, even as the Slither soldier behind him digs their knife further into the Captain’s neck. “It will be ok.”

Balen scoffs, his face twisting in jealousy. “You always loved her more. If you even ever loved me-”

“-of course I did,” Jeralt growls. “But what you’ve done is unforgivable.”

Balen’s face reddens. “No! What’s unforgivable is the church’s obsession with Sothis and their treatment of anyone who doesn’t follow her. They think they’re full of so-called righteousness. They turn their backs on anyone who is different, whether they are outsiders, the poor, or those outside the boundaries of this country. No, no. They are unfit to hold their power. The Agarthans will be just, and do what’s best for all the world.”

“You’re an idiot,” Hubert says scathingy, “Those Who Slither’s aim is to replace the church’s power with their own, they won’t be any different or better. I imagine it to be more bloodthirsty and treacherous.”

Solon and Kronya snarl and grunt in anger. Kronya raises her weapon as Solon conjures a swirling ball of black and red mist when Balen raises a hand, signaling them to stop.

“Leave!” Balen shouts. “This reunion has lasted long enough.” He raises the glowing sword. “Goodbye.”

The opposing soldiers disappear in puffs of purple smoke, releasing some from having weapons at their throats and others, like Felix, from their shimmering cages. As Kronya and Solon turn on their heels to do the same, a bright white lasso flies through the air and winds itself around Kronya’s body. Felix turns to witness Mercie, her face twisted in anger, yanking on the light whip. Kronya falls, her head slamming on the edge of the platform before falling to the ground with a heavy thud. As Kronya lays unmoving, Balen yells and swings the Sword of the Creator, the blade elongating and lashing toward the two nearest people: Byleth and Felix.

The Captain reaches out and grabs Byleth, throwing her down to the floor, which allows the tip of the sword to slice deep into his chest.

Felix snaps his shield forward to repel the blade when a pair of hands are upon him, pushing him away. Felix’s eyes widen in horror while he watches Dimitri scream in agony as the blade cuts into his back. The Captain and Dimitri collapse to the floor.

As Balen’s chilling laugh echoes in the room, Byleth screams and jumps to her feet, sprinting toward her brother when he disappears, a wide grin still on his face.

***

The waiting room in this wing of the hospital is quiet.

Felix glances at the TV screen again as he walks by it for the umpteenth time, hoping to see Captain Eisner’s status change from procedure to recovery, and for Dimitri’s status to change from recovery to visitors allowed.

Felix hasn’t sat since Mercie checked him for injuries, even though no one else would have any. He’s been pacing the length of the room for at least an hour, his hands occasionally running through and gripping his hair, tugging on it. Wondering why the f*ck Dimitri jumped in front of him, when Felix has a f*cking shield? What would possess Dimitri to do something so idiotic?

“Felix. Please sit down,” Ingrid chides from her seat, pinching the bridge of her nose, “you’re driving me crazy.”

Sylvain drapes an arm across her shoulders. “Dimitri’s ok, Ings. If he wasn’t, the doctors would have told us by now.”

“I know,” she says, “I just want to see him.”

“And the Captain isn’t out yet, that chest wound was nasty,” Leonie whispers before looking over her shoulder in the corner of the room, where Byleth, El, and Hubert sit quietly away from the others.

“I hope little Flayn will wake up from her coma,” Mercie sighs. “It’s a miracle she’s alive at all.”

“Hopefully we get her father back before she does, though,” Sylvain says, his arm still around Ingrid. “Goddess damned, why did they need him? What twisted game are they playing?” Sylvain looks over his shoulder. “Sergeant Lecleric, what should we- oh, where are they?”

“Lecleric took Kronya to the precinct to put her in a cell,” Mercie explains, “I remember them saying they will do an interrogation later.”

“I wonder if the magic diffuser cuffs will hold in dark magic,” Ingrid muses.

Sylvain shrugs. “Guess we’ll find out.”

“We can talk about all that later,” Leonie says tiredly as she leans forward, resting her forehead in the palms of her hands.

The room goes silent again, and Felix plops in the seat on the other side of Sylvain with a groan. He jiggles his leg until Sylvain grips his knee. With a simple glance, Felix knows what Sylvain is saying to him: Dimitri is going to be ok. Felix nods and Sylvain removes his hand with a heavy sigh.

It’s hard for Felix to know whether it has only been minutes or close to an hour when a doctor finally walks into the waiting room. They all stand up as Byleth hurries forward. They hold their breath as they wait for the doctor to deliver an update.

The doctor, looking exhausted, smiles. “Captain Eisner’s surgery was successful. He’s going to be ok.”

Sighs, cheers, and whoops of relief bounce off the walls. The doctor explains that the Captain will be in recovery for the next few days, and except for his daughter, they won't be able to visit until tomorrow and to come back then.

“And what about Dimitri Blaiddyd? Can he take visitors yet?” Felix quickly asks when the doctor turns to leave.

“I’ll ask a nurse to come in with an update for you,” she replies, then leaves the room.

Only moments later does a nurse dash into the room. “Is there a Felix Fraldarius here?!”

Felix steps forward. “That’s me, is something wrong? Is Dimitri ok?”

He looks incredibly flustered. “You’ll see. He’s, uh, demanding we get you. Follow me. Sorry, no other visitors yet.”

Felix follows the flustered nurse closely as they stride through the very white, sterile smelling hallways. In some of the recovery rooms Felix can hear visitors talking happily or laughing, others have people crying, but then Felix hears it. A man shouting at the end of the corridor. Dimitri.

Felix rushes past the nurse and to the room where the shouts are coming from.

“I’m not going to stay overnight!” Dimitri yells. “You can’t force me! I can walk right out of here!”

“I do not advise that!” a doctor says firmly. “With a wound like yours, it is not hospital procedure. Relics can leave longer lasting, more challenging to heal injuries. It’s best we keep you here at least one night to-”

“Felix!” Dimitri exclaims as Felix hurries to his bedside. Dimitri is damn near hyperventilating, sweat beading on his forehead and looking panicked.

For a moment the doctor looks relieved. “Oh, good. Maybe you can convince your friend that staying here would be best for his healing, and-”

“What the hell?” Felix snaps, glaring at the doctor. “That’s absurd. He’s not going to calm down here. Have you looked at his records? Have you any idea what he’s been through each time he’s at a hospital? Dimitri will not get any rest here, and that’s what he needs, isn’t it? All this thrashing around and panicking will do nothing to help him.” Felix looks into Dimitri’s face again, whose sweat is soaking into the collar of his hospital gown. “What will it take for him to go home today?”

The doctor sighs in defeat. “Well, he can’t be alone. A new bandage with magic-infused ointment will need to be reapplied every few hours. Keep an eye out for any irregularity with the injury, some relics can cause an infection. Make sure he doesn’t try anything strenuous for a few days.”

He can’t be alone.

Felix looks at Dimitri, who is still breathing quickly, gazing anxiously at Felix.

“Dimitri will stay with me. I’ll look after him.” Felix hears Dimitri take a long, relieved deep breath. “How soon can I get him out of here?”

***

After getting the prescription ointment and some bandages, Felix parked at the patient pick-up and waited for Dimitri. It took the nurses longer than expected to wheel Dimitri out of the hospital.

When Felix raises an inquisitive eyebrow at him, Dimitri smirks guiltily. “Sorry, ran into everyone.”

“Ah,” Felix says as he helps Dimitri into his car. “I should’ve known.”

The drive to Dimitri’s apartment is quiet. Dimitri’s leaning his head against the widow, his eyes closed and breathing deeply. Felix figures he’s working on calming down. Dimitri has always hated hospitals. His parents died in one. Glenn died in one. When Dimitri woke up from his surgery after the accident, that’s where he realized he would never see out of his right eye again. So if getting Dimitri out of the hospital asap means he needs to stay with Felix, then fine, he can stay.

Felix leaves Dimitri in the car as he runs up into Dimitri’s apartment to pack a bag. Dimitri only requested a few specific things, but after knowing him for nearly three decades, Felix is able to make quick work of it. He knows what drawers are assigned certain clothes, where Dimitri typically keeps his shoes and toiletry items. He even grabs Dimitri’s favorite snacks - protein bars and crisp veggie chips.

When he gets back to the car, Dimitri is asleep, not even waking when Felix starts the car.

Was lunch really only two hours ago?

f*ck, if only Felix spat it out sooner. Just ripped the bandaid and got to the damn point. Dimitri isn’t just staying with him, but coming back to the apartment they shared together for the first time since the break up. sh*t, this is going to be awkward. Felix doesn’t want to cause Dimitri any more stress, so obviously telling him tonight shouldn’t happen. What Felix appreciated about having lunch was he could say what he wanted to say, then they would part ways to mull things over.

Felix shakes his head. He’ll just have to wing it. Which he hates.

After parking the car, Felix rests his hand on Dimitri’s shoulder. “Hey, we’re here.” Felix gives him a little shake, and Dimitri stirs. He starts to stretch, then yelps in pain.

“Be careful, you oaf,” Felix says as he gets out of the car. “Just… stay there.” He grabs Dimitri’s things from the trunk before opening the passenger side door. “You ok to get out on your own?”

Dimitri manages a tired smile. “My legs are fine, but thank you all the same.” Nonetheless, he winces as he gets himself out of the car.

Felix rolls his eyes, then shuts the door and locks his car.

The quiet elevator ride up and walk down the hallway feels like an eternity.

Once Felix and Dimitri walk into the apartment, the former marches right into the bedroom and drops Dimitri’s stuff. Felix strips the bed and grabs a clean set of sheets from the closet.

“What are you doing?” Dimitri asks from the doorway.

“What’s it look like?” Felix replies.

Dimitri sighs. “I know you’re changing the sheets, but why are you doing that?”

After Felix finishes tucking in a fitted sheet, he looks at Dimitri. “It’s probably best that you sleep on the bed. I’ll take the couch.”

“No, no, no,” Dimitri says with a shake of his head, “I’m inconveniencing you enough. I can sleep on the couch.”

“You’re out of your mind,” Felix snaps, “obviously you’re sleeping where you won't stretch your injury too much. You need to be comfortable and not another word about it.”

Dimitri emits another drawn out sigh from the doorway, but Felix is busying himself with the top sheet and duvet.

“At least let me make dinner.”

“Goddess, can you please relax? You were asleep in the car ten minutes ago.” Felix quickly shuffles through the overnight bag and hands Dimitri a protein bar. “I’ll take care of dinner, but in the meantime eat this or something. Help yourself to whatever. Let me finish doing what I’m doing.”

Dimitri disappears from the doorway, and Felix takes his time changing the pillow cases. Dimitri will probably need all four pillows to keep himself propped up like the nurse recommended. Luckily the throw pillows on the couch are comfortable enough for Felix. It’ll do.

When Felix walks out of the bedroom, he sees Dimitri sitting on a stool and slowly chewing the protein bar as he looks around the apartment, specifically at the blank walls.

“I like what you’ve done with the place,” Dimitri says dryly after swallowing a bite.

“Hmph. At least your sense of humor is intact.”

Dimitri smirks, and his eye lands on where the hole used to be.

“You did a good job,” Dimitri notes.

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t going to let the hole stay there.” Felix decides not to mention he only got around to fixing it a week ago.

“The choice of white is interesting,” Dimitri says.

“I didn’t know what shade I needed, and you know I avoid talking to the landlord, so I picked ultra pure.”

“Oh, what you needed was cow’s milk white,” Dimitri says nonchalantly, as if this was basic, should-have-known knowledge.

“You’re f*cking kidding me,” Felix mumbles under his breath. “I’ll fix it sometime. I’ll go ahead and warm up some dinner.”

Dimitri smirks. “Ah, what leftovers are we having tonight?"

“Meat lovers pizza.”

“Perfect,” Dimitri says as he eases off the stool. “I’m going to change.”

Splitting up the rest of the pizza between them, Felix starts to warm up one plate when he hears a yelp of pain from the bedroom. Hurrying in, Felix realizes he left the overnight bag on the floor and that Dimitri tried to pick it up himself. Felix grabs the bag and places it on the bed. Felix is about to return to the kitchen when he pauses.

“You, uh, probably need help changing.” Felix can feel warm rising in his cheeks as he says this. This was not something Felix considered when they were at the hospital. “Since you shouldn’t bend over… and need to be careful with stretching your arms.”

Dimitri’s face flushes. “Ah. True. I guess I do…”

From the bag Felix takes out sweatpants and the tank top Dimitri prefers to wear, then faces Dimitri. “You can, uh, unbutton your own jeans.”

Dimitri’s cheeks deepen in color, and Felix averts his gaze as Dimitri unbuttons, then lets his pants fall to the ground and kicks them aside. Grabbing the sweats, Felix makes quick business of kneeling and slipping the sweatpants on Dimitri, all while trying not to think about how any other time he has knelt in front of Dimitri like this, it was not for putting pants on.

Felix clears his throat. “Shirt,” he says under his breath, and grabs the hem of Dimitri’s shirt. “Don’t lift your arms much. I’ll have to stretch the collar out and pull it over your head.”

Dimitri hums to acknowledge the statement, and Felix is careful not to brush his fingertips along Dimitri's skin as he pulls, this time not able to stop himself from appreciating Dimitri’s muscular waist and chest as they’re revealed. Dimitri winces and sucks air in through his teeth as Felix tugs the shirt off.

“Hmmm…” Felix looks at the tank top. “Maybe you shouldn’t wear that… since taking the shirt off hurts.”

“I agree,” Dimitri says, his cheeks still a deep red, “and I think I’ll eat later. I’m pretty tired.”

Felix nods. “Ok.”

Felix helps Dimitri ease into bed, then adjusts a couple pillows for Dimitri’s comfort. “I’ll have to wake you in a few hours to check the bandages.”

“That’s fine. Thank you, Felix.”

Felix closes the door. He eats pizza and watches a movie to pass the time. Once the credits are rolling, he washes his hands and grabs the ointment, a new bandage, and a couple paper towels just in case.

He raps his knuckles on the door before opening it. The knocks rouse Dimitri, and he winces as he sits himself up a little straighter.

Felix places the items on the bedside table, and to take some pressure off of Dimitri, wraps one arm in front of Dimitri’s chest, taking hold of the opposite shoulder. Felix tries not to think about how nice it feels to touch Dimitri like this. How nice it is to feel Dimitri’s steady breaths, or his chest hair tickling his arm. Felix tries not to massage Dimitri’s shoulder in reassurance, but to keep it still.

Felix slowly peels the bandage off and grimaces. The wound stretches across the width of Dimitri’s back, shoulder-to-shoulder, and there was some leakage. Felix uses the paper towels to dab at it, which makes Dimitri tense, a hand grabbing Felix’s arm. Felix should distract Dimitri.

“Why did you jump in front of me?”

Dimitri hums. “Instinct.”

Felix shakes his head. “But I had my shield. I would have been fine.”

Dimitri gives a small half-shrug, which makes him wince.

There’s a stretch of silence as Felix squeezes ointment on the new bandage.

“Felix,” Dimitri whispers, “what were you going to tell me at lunch?”

Felix pauses for a moment before responding. “Let’s talk about that tomorrow… now you need to-”

“No, please,” Dimitri pleads, voice thick with worry, “please Felix. It has been agonizing to wonder about. Just tell me.”

Felix’s heart is racing, and it’s as if lightning is shooting through his nerves as he focuses on keeping his breath steady. He presses the fresh bandage on, and ensures it’s stuck before he leans back to look at Dimitri.

Dimitri looks at him, too - his face only inches away from Felix’s. Their hot breaths mingle together, their eyes locked on one another.

“I want to try again,” Felix whispers, barely audible between them, “I still love you.”

Dimitri draws a shuddering breath. “Felix,” he gasps before closing the short gap between their lips.

At first the kiss is gentle, if not timid. Felix feels Dimitri start to pull back, but he tilts forward to deepen the kiss. Felix has always found Dimitri’s quiet moans intoxicating, and Goddess he didn’t realize how much he missed hearing them. As Dimitri’s fingers curl into Felix’s shirt, pulling him in closer, Felix realizes he nearly forgot how good Dimitri tastes as he slides his tongue in, capturing another delicious sound.

After an undetermined length of time, Felix pulls back, both catching their breaths. Dimitri’s lips are pink and swollen, and as Felix licks his own, he can tell his are as well.

Dimitri moves a hand up to Felix’s face, his thumb stoking Felix’s jawline, and Felix sinks into his touch.

Suddenly, Dimitri winces. Slowly Felix remembers the injury and he stands up. “Oh, sorry, um… I should let you sleep.”

Feeling awkward, not quite sure what to do now, Felix takes a step back to retreat to the living room when Dimitri takes hold of Felix’s hand. “Please stay,” Dimitri asks softly, earnestly.

Felix squeezes his hand and offers a small smile. He moves to the other side of the bed as Dimitri gently leans back into the pillows. Felix kicks off his shoes and jeans before sliding into bed and into Dimitri’s outstretched arm. Felix laces his fingers with Dimitri’s as he lays his head on Dimitri’s chest, who’s chin now rests on Felix’s head.

Felix mumbles, “Does this hurt?”

“No,” Dimitri quickly replies, planting a kiss on the crown of Felix’s head, “it doesn’t hurt at all.”

***

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME?!” Seteth screams as he thrashes against his restraints, the cerulean lights in the floor casting shadows on his face. “TAKE ME TO MY DAUGHTER, NOW!”

“I’d be still if I were you,” Balen says coolly as he rests his legs on the arm of the cathedra in The Axis, his hand reaching up to touch the snakes twisting out the top edge of it. “It will make what’s next significantly less painful.”

“You better not sit there for too long,” Solon says scathingly as he readies the needles and IV tubes. “You wouldn’t want Thales to see.”

“He won’t be back for hours,” Balen says, rolling his eyes, “and we’ll be busy with other things when he-”

The doors to The Axis burst open and Balen leaps off of the cathedra. Balen scowls at Solon as the hideous man chuckles at his expense.

“Why isn’t Cichol hooked up to the weapon yet?” Thales demands as he approaches his throne, straightening his crimson and gold vestment when he sits.

“Yes, Master,” Solon says with a bow, walking over to the still thrashing green-haired man.

Balen isn’t surprised as he watches Solon struggle to insert the IV. While the chains and collar prevent him from doing much, it doesn’t leave him completely immobile. Should Balen help? Yes. But he also takes great pleasure in watching his ally struggle.

“Immobilize Cichol, B,” Thales says after a few moments. “We need to begin draining him.”

Balen nods, and with a snap of his fingers Seteth, or Saint Cichol, slumps over in a temporary sleep. “There,” he says with a co*cky smirk, “you should be able to insert the IV now.”

Solon mutters curses on why Balen couldn’t have done that a while ago, then Balen swallows before asking a question that’s been on his mind over the past few hours. “Are you not worried, Master Thales, that Kronya is now in the hands of our enemy?”

Thales shakes his head. “No. They will get nothing from her. She knows death at my hands would be significantly worse than whatever they could do to her. They have rules, we don’t.”

A smile stretches across Thales’ face as Cichol’s blood begins moving through the tube and toward the large hatch door in the far corner of the room. Once the blood flows under the hatch, the doors begin to glow a faint orange and the ground briefly rumbles. Thales brings his hands together in a sharp clap. “Excellent. Now it should only be a matter of days before we can discharge the weapon. You are all dismissed.”

Solon and Balen bow before making their way to exit The Axis.

“B,” Thales says. Balen turns to look into Thales’ snarling face. “Never sit on my throne again.”

Chapter 11: Together

Summary:

The End

Notes:

CW: Descriptions of violence

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Sunrise peaks through the curtains, a sliver of sun finds Felix’s eyes, causing him to stir. He wakes up to find he (unfortunately) rolled out of Dimitri’s arms sometime during the night. With the faint glow of the morning sun gently illuminating the room like a night light, Felix takes in Dimitri’s sleeping form. He looks peaceful, a small smile on his lips. Felix wishes he could rest here, but once he’s awake, he needs to get up.

He slides out of bed and makes his way to the bathroom. Dimitri has always been a heavy sleeper, and Felix is hoping that time apart hasn’t made him more sensitive to noises. Once he’s finished using the bathroom and brushing his teeth, he finds that Dimitri is indeed still asleep, and Felix gently opens and closes the bedroom door.

As Felix starts boiling water for his french press, he considers what he can make for breakfast. Pancakes? No, too much of a chore. Fried eggs on toast? Easy.

Felix prepares the french press and sets a timer for four minutes, then grabs eggs out of the fridge. While the pan is heating up, the corner of Felix’s mouth twitches up. Last night really happened. He said what he needed to say, and Dimitri kissed him. They kissed.

Felix cracks a few eggs onto the buttered pan, and they sizzle.

Wait… Dimitri didn’t say anything, though. He only kissed Felix. Then they cuddled. So, clearly Dimitri still loves him as well, right?

Felix shakes his head. Obviously Dimitri feels the same, he’s always made that clear. But Felix can't shake that teeny pinprick of doubt, which grows into worry and even more questions. So, are they officially back together?

The timer for the coffee beeps, then Felix plunges the press and pours himself a cup of coffee, leaving an extra mug out for Dimitri.

When should they tell their friends? Right away, or save the news (if there is news)? Is Dimitri going to move back in? Should Felix move into Dimitri’s place? Are they starting all over again? Or jumping right back to, maybe not to the way things were, a different thing... but a good, comfortable one where they can relax and simply be themselves. Nothing complicated or overly romantic. Just the day-to-day pleasures of existing together.

The sound of the bedroom door opening distracts Felix from his thoughts. He pops a couple slices of bread into the toaster before flipping the eggs.

“Morning,” Dimitri mumbles through a loud yawn.

“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” Felix asks, turning around to pour Dimitri some coffee.

“It doesn’t hurt as much right now. I think that ointment is more powerful than we expected.”

Felix narrows his eyes, but Dimitri opens the fridge to grab some milk for his coffee without even wincing.

“Hmm, alright. I’ll check it after breakfast.” Felix doesn’t miss Dimitri’s smirk as he turns around to click the burner off and scoop a couple eggs onto each plate.

The toast pops, perfectly crisp, and as Felix butters them he slightly jumps as arms suddenly wrap around his waist. He shivers as Dimitri grazes his lips on the crook of Felix’s neck.

“I love you, Felix,” Dimitri whispers before planting a soft kiss on his neck. “Last night I was too caught up in the moment that I didn’t say it back.”

Felix blushes as he holds back a smile. “Well, since my lips are still a little swollen, I’d say you showed it instead.”

Dimitri hums in contentment as he brushes Felix’s long hair aside to lay a kiss right at the base of his neck. Warmth stirs in Felix’s abdomen, his breathing becoming slower and deeper as Dimitri runs his hands slowly over Felix’s body, continuing to lay gentle kisses on his neck and cheeks.

Felix drops the butter knife, his hands grip the counter as he tilts his head back, giving Dimitri access to more skin for him to kiss and touch.

“Dimitri,” Felix croaks, “breakfast will get cold.”

“Let them be cold,” Dimitri replies, “I’ve missed you.”

Turning around, Felix’s whole body warms at the affectionate look Dimitri gives him. Felix loves him, and he has him again.

Felix kisses Dimitri hungrily as he wraps his arms around him, pressing himself into Dimitri’s chest, and they stay like that for some time. Felix’s body grows hotter, his length hardening, especially as he palms the growing bulge in Dimitri’s sweatpants. Dimitri slips his hand under Felix’s waistband when Felix’s phone rings, and both men groan.

“I can ignore it,” Felix whines, his mind fixated on the fact that Dimitri’s hand is just above where Felix needs him.

“It- it’s probably work,” Dimitri struggles to say, and with a groan he slips his hand out and steps back, grabbing Felix’s phone from the counter. He frowns and shows the screen to Felix. It is, in fact, the precinct.

Felix curses loudly, then answers the phone. “Fraldarius,” he says with obvious irritation.

“Yeesh! Ok Felix I dunno what’s got you all cranky, but Sergeant asked me to call you,” the secretary, Hilda, says. “They want you to assist in interrogating that creepy girl. Oh yeah, and Mercie wants you to bring Dimitri, she wants to check on his wound. Mercie thinks she can heal it more or whatever. Just get here.”

“Right,” Felix sighs, “we’ll get there as soon as possible.” He hangs up.

“Soon as possible,” Dimitri breathes, his fingertips playing with Felix’s waistband.

“Which can be an hour,” Felix responds, desperately wanting Dimitri’s hand down his pants again. “Right now, I only want you.” And they kiss again.

It’s incredible how easy it is to fall back into each other. No shyness, no awkward fumbling to learn what the other likes - they already know this about the other. Felix knows exactly where to tease on the inside of Dimitri’s thighs before swallowing him down. Dimitri knows what to whisper lovingly into Felix’s ear as he firmly holds and tugs Felix into blissful oblivion. If they had more time, there is so much more Felix would like to do to this man, who looks so handsome with his blond hair stuck to his sweat-slicked face, his heavy, naked body resting on top of Felix’s. But they have to get up. It takes very little persuasion from Dimitri for them to shower together. Felix tries to be mindful of Dimitri’s wound as they do so (which does look considerably better already).

Felix helps Dimitri get dressed, and at first Dimitri protests until he realizes Felix planned to spend a long time on his knees, then happily obliges until another phone call from the precinct demanding they get the hell over there, they grab their cold eggs on toast and leave the apartment.

***

“What are we telling the others?” Dimitri asks.

The drive to the precinct has been quiet. At stop lights they glance at each other, blushing and smiling. Before Dimitri asked, Felix had been thinking of what the answer to that might be.

“They’ll make a big thing of it,” Felix finally responds as they turn into the parking lot. “Sylvain will lose his mind. Let’s… agh.” Turning the engine off, Felix strums his fingers on the wheel, determinedly not looking at Dimitri as he tries to piece his thoughts together. “We’ll probably go to Mittlefrank’s soon… how about you join us next time and we’ll, hmm.”

Dimitri reaches over, takes Felix’s hand and brings it to his lap, giving it a reassuring squeeze. “Or we can invite Ingrid and Sylvain over to my apartment and tell them in private.”

Felix squeezes Dimitri’s hand in agreement. Yes, that’s a much better idea. Then Sylvain will spread it around the precinct, there will be a span of an hour where Felix will likely get bombarded with questions, then it’ll be over and everyone will move on.

“Ok,” Felix says, “we’ll keep things professional when we’re not alone.”

Dimitri lets out a low chuckle. “Be our usual selves, then.”

With a nod, Felix exits the car and grabs his briefcase from the trunk.

With the Captain recovering in the hospital, his lack of presence feels odd, the precinct tense as Dimitri and Felix walk in.

Only Sylvain is at his desk. Felix can hear Leonie and Ingrid chatting in the breakroom, probably getting coffee and a snack. Lecleric is likely in their own office.

When Felix drops his briefcase on top of his desk, Sylvain looks over his shoulder at his two friends, his brows furrowed.

“Finally,” he says exasperatedly, “Lecleric has been pissed with how long it-” Sylvain pauses, his eyes narrowing suspiciously as he regards Felix and Dimitri. “Something is different,” he muses quietly, rising from his chair and taking a step closer to them.

Felix averts his gaze and starts unpacking his things, choosing to ignore the nosy red-head.

“I’m feeling better, thanks for asking,” Dimitri says playfully, clearly hoping to distract Sylvain from what he’s trying to sniff out.

However, this makes Sylvain draw in a long gast, bringing Felix’s attention back on him. Sylvain’s eyes are wide, and he forms a large, toothy grin. “You two made up,” he says so quietly, Felix only understood due to his excellent lip-reading skills. “And don’t you dare tell me otherwise. We’ve been friends our entire lives, I can read you two better than anyone else. Who was it who first discovered you two started dating in the first place?”

Felix and Dimitri lock eyes, and the way Felix is feeling is reflected on Dimitri’s face. Of course Sylvain would know. Somehow he always f*cking knows.

“Shut up about it,” Felix mumbles, “there’s enough going on, we don’t want a scene.”

Sylvain is practically vibrating with excitement. “Thank the damn Goddess you two finally got your sh*t together. I’ll keep my mouth shut, but Ingrid will sniff it out shortly, just watch.” He shakes his head. “Did you really think you could keep this from your childhood friends, who also happen to be detectives, for long?”

“Not long,” Dimitri sighs, “only hoped for maybe a few days.”

Sylvain laughs and looks over his shoulder. Upon noticing Ingrid and Leonie making their way back, he smirks. “Good luck.”

“How are you, Dimitri?” Ingrid asks warmly as she approaches, placing her opened bag of doritos on her desk.

“Much better today,” Dimitri says with a smile. “I heard Mercie is looking for me?”

“Yes, she’s in the medical room. Felix, Lecleric is not happy you took your time getting here. Better go see them now.”

“Yeah, I heard,” Felix responds, and without another word he heads towards Lecleric’s office.

When he raps his knuckles on the door, Lecleric doesn’t even look up when he says: “About time.” They get up from their desk and stare at Felix with great intensity. “You’re going to interrogate Kronya. You're lead on this case, so I wanted to leave it to you.”

“Thank you, Sergeant.” Felix chews on the inside of his cheek.

From their brief interaction yesterday and knowing the organizations she’s part of, Felix knows she’s insane. They need to know where Seteth is. They need to know what Those Who Slither are planning, and she will not be easy to crack.

“I need your permission to play this differently,” Felix says to Lecleric, and explains what he’s considering.

“Do what you must,” Lecleric says, “we need this information.”

“Then I need to make a call.” Felix takes out his phone, and clicks on one of the contacts on his speed dial. “Byleth. I need you, El, and Hubert here as soon as possible.”

***

An hour later, the interrogation room is lit and rearranged, and a plan thoroughly devised with the Eagles. Chairs are on either side of the old metal table, which is perpendicular to the one-way mirror. A ring is attached on one edge where the culprit will have their handcuffs secured. Hubert conjured a spotlight that illuminates only the table, leaving the rest of the room in darkness. There is nothing else. No notepad. No water.

An officer leads Kronya into the interrogation room. The magic-dampening cuffs are tight on her wrists. The officer clips the cuffs to the ring on the side of the table. After ensuring her cuffs are secured and fastened, he leaves the room.

Byleth, Hubert, Lecleric, Sylvain, Dimitri (now thoroughly healed thanks to Mercie), and Felix stand on the other side of the one-way mirror. Felix observes her as she waits alone. Even though she cannot see them, she tilts her head to the right to stare at the mirror, rocking back and forth, clinking her cuffs on the table, a demonic smile flickering on her face.

Felix stretches his neck and clears his mind of everything else except what needs to happen in that room. How he needs to act and what he has to let happen when it comes to it (for it will come).

“Ok,” Felix breathes, “here we go.”

Felix rounds the corner to the door. The officer unlocks it and allows him in.

Felix doesn’t look at Kronya until he relaxes in the chair opposite her. She widens her smile, revealing her teeth this time. Sharp. Yellow. Kronya’s orange hair is greasy and wild, poofing sideways as if she’s been clutching at it for hours. This close to her, Felix can see her orange eyes are bloodshot. The shadow the spotlight casts on her fades her youthful appearance. He can see wrinkles at the corners of her eyes. He wondered if their ghost white skin was make-up, but he doesn’t see evidence of powder or foundation, meaning their skin is actually that white, as if it has never seen the light of day.

“Hey, detective,” Kronya says in her high-pitched, irritable voice, “fancy seeing you here.” She laughs, the screech of it reverberating off the walls in the small room.

Felix says nothing. He stays leaned back in his chair, keeping his expression impassive.

“Oooh, playing the stoic guy, huh? You sure look the part. Very intimidating,” she says in jest, wiggling her fingers. “But I see a glint of fear in your eyes. You think I’m crazy.” He stays silent. Her smile falters. “I’m not.”

“Really?” Felix intones. “Tell me the point of poisoning an entire village. Where is the DA, and what are you planning?”

Kronya snorts. “Oh yes sir! Ok sir! I’ll tell you everything, sir!” she jerks up on the chains, hunching over so she can do a mock salute. “What? ‘Cause you asked a question, you think I’m gonna tell you everything?” Her cuffs clink loudly as she knocks her fists on the table three times. “Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

“Well,” Felix says, “that would be the smart thing to do.”

“Or what?” Kronya taunts. “You’ll throw me in jail? Torture me? Kill me? That’s against your laws.”

“We have laws,” Felix says, reaching into his pocket, “that are for the protection of humans and animals, but according to our information... your kind…” Felix pulls out a pocket knife and taps it on the table. “Are neither.”

Her crooked smile falters again, but she throws her head back in an obnoxious laugh. “Ooooh! Tough guy, tough guy. I’m so scared of your teeny knife. Trying to spook me, when I’ve seen and done things your lowly, human brain can’t imagine.” She stands and leans over the table, getting as close to Felix’s face as possible. He doesn’t flinch. “It’s one thing to kill someone in the middle of battle. But here, in a room like this, with me chained up and weaponless is very different. You wouldn’t be able to do it,” she says scathingly as she noisily plops back down in her chair.

Felix flicks the knife up. “I’m going to ask you only one more time,” he says, low and serious, “where are they keeping the DA? What are your plans?”

Kronya rocks back and forth in the chair. “Not gonna tellll!” she croons.

Felix taps the sharp tip of the knife on the table, the click loud in the otherwise silent room. He slides the knife to the far corner of the table, away from Kronya’s reach. He rises from the chair, walks into one of the dark corners of the room and unplugs the security camera. With only the table lit, Kronya cannot see he did this, but she heard it.

Felix doesn’t look at her when he walks to the door, only speaking over his shoulder when he touches the handle. “Since you want to play games,” he says, looking past Kronya into the dark space behind her, “fifteen seconds.”

Kronya emits a mocking ooooh as he walks out and locks the door, but her tone warbles.

Ten seconds.

Felix rounds the corner and watches with the others.

Five seconds.

She’s staring at the mirror again, one corner of her mouth turned up, still rocking in her chair.

A figure emerges from the darkness behind Kronya, slamming Kronya’s head hard against the metal table with a resounding bang, making her scream in shock and pain.

El walks to the other side of the table and sits in the seat Felix previously occupied. She brings her long, brown hair forward over her shoulders before folding her arms on the table.

Kronya looks up at her attacker, blood dribbling from her nose as her eyes wide in confusion. “You look… familiar,” she says.

El’s eyes are unblinking as she glares at the culprit. “Maybe this will help you remember.”

Next to Felix, Hubert mutters an incantation and with a wave of his hand, El’s brown hair fades, getting lighter and lighter until it’s as white as Kronya’s skin.

Fear suffuses Kronya’s features as recognition hits her. “You,” she gasps, clearly surprised.

“Me,” El replies, low and menacing.

“This - you - this can’t be ok!” Kronya snaps her head to the mirror. “She’s not a cop!”

“No,” El says, “I’m not. Now.” El grabs the pocket knife from the edge of the table and taps the tip on the surface. “You’re going to tell us what we need to know.”

Kronya stares at El, considering. A smile creeps back on Kronya’s bloodied face, but it’s clearly forced and less confident, making Felix’s heart flip in triumph.

“Tell me, Edelgard von Hresvelg,” Kronya says, her typically high voice dropping an octave, “does it make you sad to realize how alone you are in this world? Your mother, dead. Father, dead. Eight siblings slowly tortured to death and there was nothing you, the sole survivor, could do a single thing about.” Kronya throws her head back in another mad laugh. “You’re pathetic. You’re weak. There’s nothing you can do to make me-”

In a swift motion, El stabs right through the center of one of Kronya’s hands. Kronya screams in agony as El retracts the knife. Kronya stands abruptly, her chair falling to the floor as she jerks hard on the chains, causing the table to shift back with her.

The extra violent occurrence makes Sylvain move to exit the observation room, clearly wanting to stop the situation.

“No, Gautier!” Felix shouts. “Give her more time.”

“It’s getting out of control,” Sylvain retorts. “You didn’t tell me she would actually stab the bitch!”

“Detective Gautier,” Hubert says slowly, “she’ll get the information we need.”

“Please, Sylvain,” Dimitri implores. Sylvain finally nods, looking uncomfortable as he steps in front of the mirror again.

El lunges forward, grabs the collar of Kroyna’s shirt and yanks, slamming Kronya’s chest onto the table, blood from Kronya’s nose dripping onto the floor. El climbs up and straddles Kryona’s waist, tossing the pocket knife aside, a sharper dagger appearing in her hand with a snap of Hubert’s fingers. Leaning down, El lets Kronya see the blade, who cackles despite the fear etched on her face.

Pressing the blade into Kronya’s neck, El’s voice is serious but calm as she speaks, not matching her look of fury. “I said,” El reiterates, “tell us what we need to know.”

After many long seconds of silence, El presses the knife in deeper, making blood bead around the edge.

Kronya squirms, then grunts when that only makes the blade cut further into her skin. “We needed special blood to activate a weapon.”

With her other hand, El grabs a fistful of Kryona’s hair and leans, pressing her head harder into the table. “What’s the weapon for?”

“To get rid of the church. We needed blood from the saints.”

“What the hell do you mean, by all that?” El questions. “That’s impossible. The saints are long gone from the physical world, and the church has impenetrable protection-”

“You are ignorant,” Kronya rasps, “Nothing is impossible or impenetrable forever.”

For the first time, El glances at the mirror, her fierce exterior briefly fades as she looks toward them in fear.

“The church will smile until things don’t go their way. They’ll want you gone, like how they wanted us gone,” Kronya says gruffly, “you know it’s the truth. They didn’t try to save your or your family. It was big news that an entire family was kidnapped. Especially with your Crest. They didn’t care. Their ethics, their so-called righteousness and faith are a trick, a joke. As soon as they’re done with you, girl, they’ll spit you out much worse for wear.”

Her rage back, with a swift flick of her wrist, El leaves a cut on Kronya’s cheek, who yelps in response. “I’ve already been worn down,” El utters, “I’ve already been to hell and I’m still here. Now, where is this weapon?”

“It’s hard to describe,” Kronya says in a teasing pitch before emitting a chilling scream as the tip of El’s blade pierces Kronya’s neck, certainly driving into muscle.

“Answer me!” El shouts.

“The southernmost eastern corner of the Woods of Hrym!” Kronya yelps. “You’ll find an iron hatch leading to our underground! Your precious Seteth, as you call him, is there!”

El withdraws the knife from Kronya’s throat and swings off of her. Kronya, gasping for air, slides off the table and onto the floor. Blood from the wound on her hand soaked into her shirt and smeared on the table she’s still chained to.

As El strides to the door, Kronya coughs and says, “I look forward to hearing you all died in your pathetic attempt for victory.

“What you will hear,” El rasps, “is that your people were exterminated.”

El storms through the door, the officer outside it rushing in to take Kronya back to her cell.

***

The iron hatch is covered with moss, twigs, and leaves from the trees surrounding it. Unless someone is looking for it, Felix is sure there is no possible way someone could stumble upon it.

After a long stretch of time of officers trying to open the hatch, Hubert lays a hand on it, his eyes closed as he mutters incantations until there’s a thunk, and the hatch slowly opens to reveal a winding staircase, leading down into darkness.

Lecleric leads the way, and luckily once they place their foot on the first step, a faint blue glow on the steps appears.

The smell of moisture and earth grow stronger as they descend. As Felix steps off the staircase and walks further into the tunnel, a chill runs through him. The magic that created this place makes the air thick and heavy, as if he was in Enbarr’s summer humidity. The tunnel is strange with it’s man-carved boulders that form a high arch above them, but the floor is made of a black glass with bright blue stripes leading straight ahead. Felix needs to squint to learn that eventually the path curves to the right.

The footsteps of their unit resound loudly as they pad down the tunnel, Dimitri staying close to Felix. Felix protested him coming, even though he knows that will always be an argument he cannot win. Mercie healed him well enough, and when Dimitri makes up his mind it’s nearly impossible to persuade him otherwise.

Glowing yellow caution signs on the walls with odd symbols illuminate Dimitri’s face, and Felix can tell he’s as anxious as Felix feels. While he always feels a little nervous before a fight, this isn’t the same. Above ground their surroundings are familiar, for the most part Felix can anticipate what to expect, can foresee how he has to react. But this is uncharted territory, and by the faint mumbling and coughs behind him, he’s certainly not the only one who is uncomfortable, especially since there seems to be only one way in, and therefore only one way out.

They’ve come upon a gigantic underground chamber. Boulders and roots are overhead, but the walls are a rusted iron with rows of pipes that hum, filling the room with a low tone and disturbing Felix’s skin, goosebumps appearing there. The shiny, black floor continues as pathways in this room, misshapen grey plates between the blue stripes. But the vastness of this room isn’t what caused the gasps.

Clearly Those Who Slither have a silent alarm, for a significant number of opposing soldiers are scattered throughout the room. All clad in black and shuffling their feet in anticipation, weapons at the ready. Felix tightens his grip on his sword, focusing on taking slow deep breaths and listening to the flutter of his heart, trying to ground himself.

There’s a wail, and Felix looks to the far right corner of the room to see a figure chained to the floor. Tubes are in his arms which lead to a large hatch with glowing orange edges. Seteth.

“So glad you could join us,” says a rich, stern voice.

Straight ahead, past the soldiers and robot is a throne, a man in gold and crimson sitting upon it with Balen on one side and Solon on the other, all looking smug.

The man on the throne continues. “With the final draining almost complete, you will get to witness us decimate Garreg Mach and the village full of filthy devotees.”

Lecleric loudly declares, “We will not let that happen! Surrender now and your people will be spared.”

The room erupts in laughter. Balen, Solon, and the man on the throne are particularly amused.

“They think they can win, Master Thales,” says Solon. “They never fail to say foolish things.”

The man on the throne, Thales, wags his pointer finger. “No, we shall not be surrendering, and all of you will regret coming here.” He glances at Balen, then nods.

Balen steps forward, the Sword of the Creator glowing brightly in his hand. “Kill them all!” he shouts, and the soldiers roar, their boots thumping against the shiny floor as they charge forward.

As Lecleric booms orders, Felix hears the words “I love you” and feels hot breath on his ear before a quick kiss finds his lips. Surprised, Felix looks at Dimitri, his eye full of fear. Immediately, Felix understands what he’s afraid of.

“Don’t be like that,” Felix tells him. “None of us will die tonight.”

Dimitri nods, his frown remains as his pupil constricts, which tells Felix he’s ready for a fierce fight.

“Let’s go!” Byleth shouts as she, El, and Hubert bolt past. Felix and Dimitri surge ahead with them, diving right into the war cries and blurred actions as the opposing forces collide.

A brigand zeros in on Felix, her axe waving wildly above her head. Just as the axe begins its descent to cleave his skull, Felix’s Sword of Moralta catches her full in the face with a sickening crunch and a spray of dark blood.

A few feet away, dozens of black arrows issue from Hubert’s palms, hissing as they arch in the air. Shouts turn into screams as the mystic arrows rain on the adversaries. Some arrows pierce straight through unhelmed heads and through throats, blood gushing down their front as they fell to the ground. Other arrows only slowed the soldiers down, only piercing into non-life threatening parts of the body.

El drives Aymr through the belly of a dark mage, his innards spilling out as she twists her Relic before using her strength to drive it upward, slicing his upper body into two. Near her, Dimitri hacks Areadbhar into the chest of an armored knight, piercing through immediately. The knight falls to his knees, writing and gargling as Dimitri runs past him, already slicing into his next opponent.

Felix crashes to the floor and immediately rolls, just dodging the sword strike meant for his head. Angling his blade, he drives his own sword through his enemy's calf. They scream and collapse next to him, and Felix finishes them with a killing blow. Lurching to his feet, he ignores the sharp pain on the side of his head, and matches blows with a lancer until an arrow explodes out of her chest. The woman sways, then collapses, dead. Felix looks up to see a police archer running ahead of him, launching arrows in quick succession, always finding their intended targets.

Felix’s heart stops in fear when he sees Dimitri, far off to his right, falling to the floor, his arm brutally slashed and bloodied. An enormous, gauntleted man stands above him, raising his hand to strike down. Sharply changing course, Felix launches his shield. It flies in an orange blur until it slices clean through the grappler’s neck. The headless body falls forward onto Dimitri, blood rushing onto his clothes as Dimitri pushes the man off and leaps to his feet. A moment of relief washes over Felix’s as Mercie’s familiar healing light wraps around Dimitri’s arm, instantly healing what seemed like a serious wound. After a brief glance and nod at Felix, Dimitri rushes ahead, joining up with El and Hubert.

As the Aegis shield flies back to Felix, it manages to slice into another enemy soldier. When Felix catches it, he immediately uses it to deflect an incoming arrow.

The chamber grows louder with the roars and screams and clangs of battle, and when Felix gets a chance to briefly take in his surroundings, he’s relieved to see more of the enemy sprawled on the ground than his coworkers and friends. A group of enemy soldiers meet their deadly fates as a line of police lancers thrust their weapons, painting the tips in their blood. Felix pulls his attention back to the next opponent in front of him as Byleth joins his side, the fight moving too quickly to take in whether or not they’re winning, or if any of his close friends have died. Felix and Byleth swipe, lunge, parry, and stab their way ahead in unison, successfully progressing their line forward.

Out of nowhere, out of nothing, a low thrum meets his ears and two bolts of lighting pierce into the ground, and blood-curdling cries echo in the chamber. One of the bolts was directly to he and Byleth’s left. When he looks over, he chokes on air when he sees Ingrid laying unmoving on the floor, her arm completely burned.

“Ingrid!” Felix screams, and he tries to run toward her. Byleth pushes him aside, parrying a blow that would’ve found his skull if not for her quick reaction.

“Stay focused! A healer will find her!” Byleth shouts as she guts the new opponent. “We need to get to Seteh!” Byleth jerks her head toward the right of the throne where the DA is slumped over, Balen, Thales, and Solon guarding nearby, their previously confident expressions now irate, which indicates to Felix his side must be winning.

After a few strides, Felix abruptly feels a scorching heat hit his back and he’s thrown forward. His head smacks onto the ground, and he grimaces as he is yanked to his feet by Dimitri, who has blood running down his face due to a gash near his left temple. Felix spits blood out of his mouth onto the floor, gasping at the sharp pain in his back and the sting on his tongue, having bitten hard into it. Felix looks around in time to see Byleth kill the dark mage who hit him. She turns and her eyes widen.

“Down!” Byleth yells, and they duck just in time, the whip of the Sword of the Creator flying above their heads.

“Too cowardly to fight up close, Tiny?!” Byleth screams at her brother. The sword lights up his features, accentuating the tells of insanity.

Balen flinches at the nickname, then curves his mouth into a distorted grin. “I will for you, By. Then I can show you how much stronger I have become. You see, the Agarthans not only promised me respect, but to also give me strength. While I can never be fully healed, I am no longer a weakling.”

“Skill determines the outcome more than strength,” she replies firmly. “Oh Tiny, you still have much to learn.”

Anger consumes Balen. “Shouldn’t you be somewhere burying your father?” he asks cruelly, hoping to get a rise out of her.

“He’s your father, too,” Byleth counters.

“He was never such a thing to me,” Balen spits. “Believe me when I say I will get to him when I’m through here.”

Byleth yells and sprints toward him, her sword raised high in the air, and Balen bolts in the opposite direction.

“Leave him to me!” Byleth calls as she goes after him.

“You’re too late, anyhow,” Thales says triumphantly before looking down at Seteth, “we now have enough.” With a flick of his wrist, the collar, chains, and tubes disappear off of Seteth.

At first Seteth doesn’t move. Judging by how pale he had become from blood loss, Felix is sure he is dead. But then he stirs, slowly rolling onto his side, eyes blinking sluggishly.

Instantly the chamber rumbles, and the glowing hatch next to Seteth, as well as a hatch in the ceiling directly above it, begins to creep open.

“What is happening?!” Felix asks in panic, mind whirring as he looks around the hatch, as if there will be a big red CANCEL button like in the movies.

“We saved our last javelin with the hopes we would finally be able to collect the blood of all the saints, for they were all still earthbound in physical form.”

“What this does,” Solon hisses, “is make the barrier that once protected Garreg Mach Monastery penetrable.”

“You monsters!” Dimitri snarls, his body shaking in fury. “Hundreds of people live there. You’re unnecessarily murdering innocent people! And all the children!”

“They are not innocent if they follow that wretched Archbishop,” Thales replies. “They all deserve their deaths, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You’ve failed.”

“No!” Felix and Dimitri shout in unison and they run forward.

Dimitri catches Solon by surprise, slicing the hideous man through the shoulder and down his body and out at Solon’s hip, his cleaved body falling with two thumps to the floor.

Felix wasn’t as lucky. Thales hits Felix’s side with a whip of magic, sending him flying and crashing into Seteth, the two of them almost rolling into the now fully opened hatch.

The chamber rumbles more violently and a bright, white light flashes in the room. Felix presses his palms over his ears as the javelin thunders out of the hatch and exits the gigantic hole in the ceiling, flying straight into the blue and orange sky.

“Oh f*ck, oh Goddess,” Felix gasps as the brutal realization hits him.

They’ve lost. Hundreds of innocent people are going to die. He can feel his stomach churning, hot bile rising into his mouth before choking it back down.

Suddenly Seteth is nearly nose-to-nose, an unexpected strength in his hands as he grasps Felix’s shoulders tightly, bringing them up onto their knees as he shakes Felix to look at him.

“I need you-” Seteth wheezes, “to tell Rhea - to take care - of Flayn.” Seteth’s whole body shakes violently. Tears are welling in his eyes as he focuses on Felix. “Tell Flayn - I will always - love her.”

Felix screws his face in confusion. “Seteth, what are you-?”

But the DA pushes Felix far away from him, and he begins to change.

He throws his head back and gargles, choking and gasping as if his throat was slit. His teeth grow, protruding out of his mouth and becoming sharp as needles. Seteth writhes and twists, the scream turning into monstrous screeches as his body transforms: skin turning to scales, hands and feet changing into claws, ridges sprouting of his head and spine as he grows bigger and bigger, until finally bat-like wings sprout form his back, and the great, dark green dragon roars before pushing hard on its hind legs, swiftly flying after the javelin.

Felix remembers to check his surroundings, but all his allies and the few remaining Agarthans can do is stare in horror as the dragon flies to the javelin, now beginning to arch southward.

“NOOO!” Thales screams, sending bolts of lightning from his hands into the sky, barely missing Seteth.

But Thales’ next incantation is interrupted when Areadbhar pierces through Thales’ back and down through his stomach. As Dimitri withdraws his weapon, Thales’ black innards cascade out of his body, which dissolves to reveal a skeletal, inhuman being. Its ghostly white skin sagging off its bones, purple veins throbbing in its neck and a strong scent of decay rushes over Felix, the bile almost coming back up.

With one more swipe of his Relic, Dimitri decapatives the being that was once Thales, and the remains of the body disintegrate until there is nothing but a pile of ash.

Dimitri and Felix look back up into the sky in time to witness the dragon - Seteth - swallowing the javelin whole, setting off the explosion.

A wave of heat blows through the hole in the ceiling and the earth trembles ferociously, causing chunks of boulders to fall down, crashing all around them.

The fight between the remaining Agarthan soldiers and Felix’s allies continues as they run down the tunnel, the underground chamber beginning to cave in around them.

“Felix!” Dimitri shouts before grabbing hold of his arm and yanking him in a different direction.

Hubert is struggling to hold onto El, who is thrashing in his arms and crying.

“Byleth!” she screams, “Where’s Byleth?!”

“We need to go, El!” Hubert cries as he tries to pull her toward the exit.

“I’m not going to leave her!”

The floor beneath them begins to crack.

“Dimitri,” Felix says to him, the blond looking distressed. “Grab El, we need to go.”

Without another word, Dimitri wraps El up in his strong arms and lifts her. Unable to fight against his fierce strength, El cries and squirms in his arms as they run.

“THERE SHE IS! LOOK!” El exclaims when Dimitri adjusts her, giving her a look over his shoulder.

Hubert and Felix whirl around, and Byleth is limping as fast as she can toward them, blood soaking one side of her body as she drags the glowing Sword of the Creator along with her.

“Stop running!” Hubert calls to Dimitri, who halts instantly. “Take Dimitri’s shoulder, and quickly!” Hubert orders Felix before disappearing in a puff of smoke.

Felix sprints to Dimitri, grabbing him right as Hubert appears with Byleth. Hubert encases the five of them in smoke and in a moment they find themselves above ground with the others.

Mages are either fervently working to quell the trees that caught fire from the explosion, or healing the injured. A mixture of relief and horror swirls in Felix’s stomach. Now that he’s up here, he partly expects to see the remains of the dragon spread throughout the forest, but the explosion must have caused Seteth and the parts of the javelin to disintegrate, leaving them nothing to clean up, but also nothing to bury.

Felix scans the area, and another surge of relief courses through him at the sight of Ingrid wincing and groaning in pain as Mercie works to heal Ingrid’s burns and wounds the best she can. She’s alive, and so are his other closest friends. Their numbers are smaller, though, and he bows his head, silently grieving the lives that were lost.

“Byleth, what happened?” Felix hears Dimitri ask, bringing his attention back to them.

Hubert lays Byleth on the ground, letting her head rest on El’s lap. Hubert quickly starts tending to her wounds as Byleth speaks, albeit weakly.

“I disarmed him, but didn’t kill him,” she says. “I couldn’t do it. I told him to leave and never come back, but he attacked me with magic when my back was turned.” She winces as Hubert reaches a gash in her side. “When I moved to strike him, he disappeared.” Byleth closes her eyes and grunts in frustration. “I should’ve done it when I had the chance.”

“He is alone now, By,” El says reassuringly, brushing some of Byleth’s sweat-dampened hair out of her face. “This place he called home is destroyed, we killed all his allies and his leader. What power does he have now?”

“We don’t know if this was their only base of operations,” Felix utters, “there could be more.”

The five of them are silent until Hubert finishes healing Byleth’s wounds as best he can. He sits back, wiping the sweat off his forehead. “That is true,” Hubert says gravely, “we do not know how many bases they may have. Though I strongly believe this was their central headquarters, and that will hinder their cause greatly.”

Byleth curses, and El helps her sit up. “I should have ended this,” Byleth says.

Dimitri shakes his head. “If there are more, killing your brother would not have ended anything. Don’t put that responsibility on yourself.”

“Easier said than done, but thanks.” She offers Dimitri a small smile.

“Hey!”

The Eagles, Dimitri, and Felix turn to find Sylvain jogging toward them, blood splattered all over him.

“Are you ok?” Dimitri asks as the red-head approaches.

“A Healer took care of me, most of this isn’t mine,” Sylvain says darkly. “But I wanted to ask - did any of you know that Seteth was a f*cking dragon?”

***

“Your father died a hero,” Dimitri says as he places a vase of flowers at Flayn’s bedside.

Yet to wake up, the young woman lays in her new bed in Garreg Mach Monastery. Archbishop Rhea did not hesitate to fulfill Seteth’s wishes for her to care for his daughter, immediately having her moved out of Fhirdiad Hospital to a comfortable room in the monastery where Flayn would receive treatment from the Archbishop’s personal Healers.

It had been a long day. It has been a few weeks since the last battle, and today they honored the life of DA Seteth with a grand ceremony and processional before laying him to rest in his grave at the monastery.

Everyone who witnessed his transformation from human to dragon were required to sign forms, binding them to never reveal his true identity, for such information could cause chaos among the general public. Felix agreed, the impossible things they’ve seen need to stay secret.

Felix laces his fingers with Dimitri’s, giving it a gentle squeeze to reassure him. After Seteth’s ceremony, Dimitri was moved to visit Flayn and recount to her the events of the battle and how her father saved them. While Felix doesn’t understand talking to someone who can’t hear them, he cares that it means something to Dimitri.

“Sorry, Detectives,” the Healer on duty says, looking apologetic, “but it’s getting late.”

“Right,” Felix sighs, “thank you. We need to be going anyway.”

Felix and Dimitri walk out of the room and through the monastery, not saying a word until they get in the car.

“I’m so tired,” Dimitri admits, rubbing his eyes as Felix starts the car.

“Me too,” Felix agrees. “Your place, or mine?”

Dimitri takes a deep breath, a languid smile stretching on his face. “Mine, I need to pack more clothes. That is,” he glances at Felix, some pink in his cheeks. “If you want me to keep staying over, since I’ve been there every night.”

Felix turns onto the freeway to Fhirdiad. After merging a few lanes, he takes one hand off the wheel and finds Dimitri’s hand. “I always want you to stay.”

Dimitri squeezes his hand back.

~ Six Months Later ~

Boxes needing to be unpacked cramp the room, and cans of dark green paint and paintbrushes are forgotten in the corner as Felix and Dimitri lay on the mattress. Felix rests his head on Dimitri’s chest, enjoying the feeling of their bare, sweat-slicked bodies against each other, basking in the afterglow of celebrating moving into their new condo in the city.

Dimitri’s fingertips gently touch Felix’s chin and he tilts Felix’s head up, giving him a tender kiss.

“I love you,” Felix whispers, leaning in to kiss Dimitri again.

Dimitri hums in contentment. “I love you, too,” he says, and starts to stroke Felix’s hair. “We should probably keep unpacking,” he says wearily, “we’ve been here a few days and have barely done anything.”

“Speak for yourself,” Felix retorts, “we’ve been very active.”

“I mean specifically for the condo.” Dimitri blushes. “I’m certainly not complaining about how we’ve been spending our time. But-”

“I know,” Felix interrupts. He holds Dimitri tighter. “Ten more minutes.”

Dimitri laughs. “Like I haven’t heard that before… but ok, ten more minutes.”

Dimitri kisses Felix again, but this time they do not part. Felix fully intends to make sure they stay on the bed longer than ten minutes, when his phone rings with that particular ringtone.

“No,” Felix groans when Dimitri breaks the kiss. “We didn’t hear it.”

Dimitri raises his eyebrows, and Felix curses. He begrudgingly rolls over, and grabs his phone.

“Fraldarius,” he says, putting the phone on speaker.

“Hey Detective,” Hapi drawls, “there’s a signal 7.”

Felix grunts, “I’m off duty, Cinza. Have you called Pinelli or Gautier or any of the other detectives?”

Hapi clicks her tongue. “Captain Jeralt told me this one's for you,” she says, “he wanted me to mention that the body is like the ones from your last big case.”

“What do you mean?” Felix asks, and his heart feels like it sunk right into his stomach like a rock.

“You know,” Hapi says, “the ones that were fine except for being dead. The Captain says it’s the same.”

“Well, f*ck,” Felix snaps before looking into Dimitri’s eye, finding worry there. “Fine, give me the details.”

He memorizes what she says, then quickly types the notes on his phone when the call ends.

“I didn’t expect this to happen so soon,” Felix confesses, rolling onto his back with a sigh.

“Clearly there are more of them than we thought,” Dimitri responds, propping himself up with his elbow, resting his head on his palm. “But we’ll call the Eagles. Byleth gave me their numbers before they left to track Balen.” Felix nods. Dimitri brushes a strand of hair back, tucking it behind Felix’s ear. “We’ll solve this together,” Dimitri says.

Felix gazes up into Dimitri’s handsome face and into his bright blue eye. His heart warms. “Together.”

The End.

Notes:

It's absolutely wild to me that this story is finished. I'm feeling so proud of myself and honestly a little sad that it's done. But mostly happy and pleased.

To everyone who commented: y'all were truly the fuel to my fire. I can't thank you enough <3

And enormous shout out to my best friend and beta, kayladb/raspberrycrip. You read and re-read everything, helped me brainstorm, listened to my rambling, and encouraged me when I was having a hard time. Love you, my dear friend!

Thank you all so much for reading. <3

You can find me on Twitter: @HiStacyHere

Ember in the Shadows - TheSlayer47 - Fire Emblem: Fuukasetsugetsu (2024)
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Name: Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner

Birthday: 1994-06-25

Address: Suite 153 582 Lubowitz Walks, Port Alfredoborough, IN 72879-2838

Phone: +128413562823324

Job: IT Strategist

Hobby: Video gaming, Basketball, Web surfing, Book restoration, Jogging, Shooting, Fishing

Introduction: My name is Rev. Porsche Oberbrunner, I am a zany, graceful, talented, witty, determined, shiny, enchanting person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.