Again. He scrabbled helplessly at the arm holding him down, gasping lungfuls of foul black water until he drowned like a kitten in a sack, struggling uselessly, mouth opening to scream and it filled with black, black water that shoved its way into his throat, rushed down to fill his lungs and there was no air, no air, no air-
He jolted upright, breathing hard, suddenly wide awake, the darkness pressing in on him too much like black, cold water. Deep and bottomless and strong, and he watched their struggles weaken and weaken until they thrashed and went limp, dripping water. He usually let them go into the Sim and they would float away but he dreamed that they waited at the bottom, wherever that was, and reached up to pull them down when Keeper held them under the water-
Felix could feel himself shaking and struggled out of the sheets, trying to fight the panic. There wasn't a light he could turn on. Someone stirred across the room on their little cot, half waking, and he ducked swiftly out of their room and padded down the hallway on silent feet, flinching at small sounds behind him, shoulders drawing up by his ears. By the time Felix reached the room he was looking for, he was catching sobs of fear in his throat, sure that any moment the black water would come rushing down the hallway to hunt him down.
The door stuck, slightly, but he tried to be quiet. It didn't matter, Vincent heard him anyway. Felix was privately relieved that he was here at all – Vincent was even more…in demand than he himself was, most nights, but it was the only place he could think to go.
The only safe place in all of Mélusine, for him.
"Vincent?" he said, in a small voice, "M…m'sorry, just…"
Vincent stretched, winced, and sat up slowly. "—that Felix? Kethe's cock. You okay?"
"I'm…I just…" Felix looked down, letting his flyaway red hair hide his face. "…had a nightmare." The dark pressed at his shoulders. The water pressed at his mouth, daring him to try and breathe. He swallowed hard.
"—a nightmare? Fuck me sideways, Felix-" Vincent sounded annoyed. Felix flinched and huddled against a wall, away from him. "…what about?"
"…water," he said, as quiet as he could make his voice. "Drowning." He couldn't keep the sob from coming up, then, hard as he tried to choke it back. The noise that he made was quiet and not quite a cry, but it was enough for Vincent to recognize.
"Kethe, Felix." His voice softened, though. "C'mere." Standing, Vincent came over and hugged him, loosely, moving in a stiff and uncomfortable manner.
"You're hurt," Felix said, worriedly.
"Only a little. I'll be okay. Why'd you come here?"
"Trust you," Felix said, quietly, ducking his head against Vincent's shoulder. "Can I…don't wanna be alone. Can I stay here?"
"You can stay here," Vincent said, almost gently. "Come on." The protective hug tugged him back toward the narrow cot. "There's room for both of us, you're small."
"Thanks," Felix found the voice to say, weakly. "Won't – make noise or anything."
Vincent just shook his head. "C'mon. I don't mind." He nudged Felix at the cot, and the taller boy lay down hesitantly, joined a moment later by Vincent, who wrapped his arms around him and pulled him close. "Just go to sleep. It'll be okay."
Felix nodded, shakily, and tried to make himself smaller. "Sorry."
"Don't got to apologize." Vincent touched his hair, lightly. "C'mon. You need your sleep."
"Wake me up if the water comes," Felix said, blurrily, and Vincent just nodded, and stroked his hair again.
About a decad after we left Mélusine behind, Felix stopped sleeping all together.
I guess he must have thought I wouldn't notice, since he was up after I went to sleep and awake when I got up, but it was obvious to me. He didn't focus the same way, had red rims around his eyes, twitched more than usual. I knew better than to try and bring it up, though, not when it would just get him snapping at me. I figured he'd have to sleep sooner or later, and if he tried to talk about it I wouldn't stop him.
Wasn't exactly much else I could do.
Anyway, though, we got to a little town at some point, and I thought maybe that'd be better, with a bed and everything. Most of the towns before that Felix just refused to go near, would veer way out of our way. I figured he didn't want to see people so much, especially not close to Mélusine where they might've heard something. Felix didn't exactly blend in much.
But here I guess he decided it was okay for some reason and we went and got a room. The innkeeper stared like his eyes were going to fall out, and I think that bothered Felix, but for once he minded his manners and didn't snap or nothing. He got two separate rooms and before I could ask any questions he was gone.
So I went and got dinner for both of us, and tried to get some to Felix but he wasn't opening his door and figured there wasn't any connecting door either. So I ate by myself and pretended I wasn't annoyed or nothing, and went to sleep early cause there wasn't anything else to do, even if I was worried I knew Felix wouldn't say anything unless he damn well wanted to.
I'm a pretty light sleeper. Especially in strange places. So I wasn't exactly surprised I woke up in the middle of the night. Except that someone was in my room.
And that someone was Felix. His voice sounded all small and sort of fractured, and it kind of reminded me of the way it had that night in the jail under the Mirador, how he was barely holding onto the accent. I made myself let go of the butterfly knife.
"—Felix? That you?"
"…it's me," he said, still all quiet. Powers, I didn't like the way his voice sounded. "I didn't mean to…I'm sorry."
My eyes were adjusting to the dark and I could see him all huddled up against the wall, shoulders up by his ears and arms wrapped around himself. Didn't look like nothing so much as a kept-thief expecting to get kicked, and didn't that hurt. "S'okay. What're you doing up?" I tried to make my voice gentle or something. Know how good I am at that. Fuck me sideways. Sure enough, he just flinched again like I kicked him. "…sorry," I tried apologizing. He shook his head.
"No…it's o – all right. I just…sorry. I didn't…"
"Felix, what the hell happened?" I regretted snapping the minute the words were out, but of course I couldn't take them back then. "…Kethe, sorry."
"…I had a nightmare," he said, in that small, scared voice, "I didn't…I didn't want to be alone in the dark."
Kethe's cock. Kethe's fucking cock. That just about did it for me right then. Stupid Millyfox. "…powers, Felix. Are you – okay?"
He kind of shook his head. "I'm sorry for bothering you," he said in this whispery kind of voice, and that just hurt even worse.
"It's okay. What kind of nightmare?"
He just kind of shivered and didn't say anything. I sighed. "…what do you want me to do?"
"Can I – stay here?" His voice got even smaller. "Just – just in a corner or something, anything…" I wanted to hit myself for hesitating when he said after that, "But if you don't…it's all right," and sort of looked like leaving.
"No – Felix, you can stay here." I kind of took a step toward him. "What kind of nightmare?"
He shriveled, a little. "Malkar," he said, and it was almost kind of a whimper, and Kethe's cock, it made me feel like flinching. Damn Strych. Damn fucking Strych.
"Not always," Felix said in this little broken voice, and powers, I just – couldn't.
"C'mere," I said, making my voice as gentle as I could, and just – sticking out a hand, hoping Felix could see it. "You don't have to be alone, okay? I'm here."
And he just sort of nodded and edged a little closer to me and put his hand in mine, and I led him over to the bed and kind of nudged him at it. "Hey. Here. There's room for both of us."
"I won't be…I won't bother you," he promised, eyes all big staring at me and I couldn't quite look at his face.
"Just lie down," I said, and could hear my voice going rough. "Take a rest. You're going to be okay." I hoped. Kethe, I hoped. And he lay down and I lay down and sort of put my arms around him carefully and he went tense a second and then sort of relaxed and closed his eyes.
"Thank you," he said, still all quiet.
"Shh," I said, and let myself hug him a little more tightly. "It's fine. Okay?"
"Okay," he agreed. Fuck me sideways.
I could tell when he went to sleep, and I tried to stay awake in case he started dreaming again, but I fell asleep too. And I woke up in the morning with his head resting on my shoulder and one arm across my chest, legs all tangled together, and for some reason it wasn't weird at all.