Riding with Felix was hellish, mostly because it wasn't riding with Felix. He stayed ahead of me, staring straight ahead. When we stopped for the night he retreated into sleep immediately, face and eyes closed so I couldn't see him. He shut down all my attempts at conversation with one syllable answers and resolutely ignored my attempts to return his rings to him. It was like riding with a dead man, and the comparison made me shiver.
Looking at his eyes, there was just nothing there. Not in either one, not a trace of the sometimes-bastard always-human brother I knew. He wasn't there any more. If I ever wanted proof that Felix'd really loved Gideon, I had it now. And I wished I didn't.
The first couple days I thought he'd kill himself. Was worried about it, actually – didn't like to sleep, in case he found a knife and managed to off himself – but I realized soon enough that he wouldn't. He didn't care enough. Didn't care about anything. And that was a million goddamned times worse. Especially in Felix.
Felix wasn't one of those people who didn't care about things. Felix was, in fact, quite possibly the most passionate person I knew. That's probably partly why it was weird, seeing him like this, not interested in anything. Oh sure, he ate and slept – I made sure he did – but it was just going through the motions. Sometimes I thought I could have stripped naked and pranced around and he wouldn't even bat an eyelash. I tried, sometimes, to draw him into conversation. It went the same way every time.
I'd ride up next to him. He'd be sitting there, loose like every joint in his body had been unscrewed, the long, beautiful hands too relaxed on the reins. Just breathing, nothing more. "Penny for your thoughts."
Worst thing was that I could believe that. That there really was nothing in his head. And in my head-always-thinking-something brother that was disquieting to say the least.
"How far d'you think we've come?"
"I don't know." Clipped, but not angry or sarcastic or anything. Just flat, like it was too much effort even to put a little tone in his voice. It scraped at my temper.
"Kethe's cock, Felix, can't you at least try?"
He turned his head and looked at me. "Don't start."
That was the worst. When he actually looked at me and I looked at him and his eyes. Felix'd never been good at hiding his emotions the way I was – you could read what he was feeling on his face like an open book. And damned if there was nothing on his face. Not a fucking thing. And the eyes were the worst, both of them eerie and skew-eyed and utterly expressionless, glassy, dull. Like he didn't give a flying fuck, which I guess he probably didn't. I shut my mouth.
"You get sick of me talking, you could always use the-"
"You want your rings back?"
"No." And then he nudged his horse and moved forward again, his back to me just as expressionless as his face.
"Fuck me sideways till I cry," I said, under my breath, and just rode on.
Once, only once, did I see him crack at all. Middle of the night, I woke up and he was sitting by the fire, back hunched, and I thought – I thought I heard him crying. I didn't dare move, just watched him, sitting there, his shoulders shaking minutely and crying. That hurt. I hadn't felt the obligation d'ame bug me in days. I was kind of starting to wonder if maybe he'd taken it off, somehow. That felt like a bad sign. Eventually I got up and went over to him.
"Go to sleep." It was the first time there'd been anything in his voice; and I'd be fucked if it wasn't tears.
Just saying that. Him saying that nearly got me. Especially how he said it, all tired-like and just sick of everything, like he wasn't okay but it didn't matter.
"Look, Felix," I said, desperate to try something, but he just stood up. Stood up and walked away into the darkness. I didn't dare go after him. I was almost glad when the expressionless face returned in the morning, packing his things.
I caught him once, looking through one of Gideon's books. There might have been splotches on the pages. He didn't let me see. But mostly – nothing. And if that didn't hurt.
My brother was unraveling right in front of me. And there was nothing I could do.
Nothing I could say.
It was like he wasn't even there anymore. I just couldn't help but think of what he'd said as we left Mélusine, him not even looking back at the city he'd spent his whole life in and that ultimately had kind of beaten the shit out of him.
"And I would have thanked him."
I couldn't get the picture out of my head, Felix burning in the center of Mélusine, just like Zephyr, just like fucking Zephyr, and he wasn't screaming or anything, just staring straight out with nothing in his eyes, because he didn't care. He just didn't care.