Actions

Work Header

Blood and Silver

Chapter Text

 “Alright, I’ll be off for the rest of the day. You alright to man the shop on your own?”

Edelgard rolled her eyes in a playful affection, and folded her arms as she sat down quietly on the seat behind the counter. The whir of the ceiling fan quietly rotating seemed to echo throughout the store, and for that level of calmness, Edelgard was always thankful. The less people she had to talk to, the better, in her opinion.

“Yes, dad…don’t worry.”

“Good,” Edelgard’s father replied with a chipper smile, and bid his daughter farewell as he opened the door. “See you later. Oh, and if Byleth swings by, tell her I said hello.”

Edelgard felt her cheeks get a little hotter at the unexpected mention of a certain someone, and turned her head away in a huff.

“Yes, yes, I will. Now go!”

With a gruff chuckle at teasing his daughter over her crush, the small-town store bell rang with the opening and shutting of the door.

Edelgard leant back against her seat with a sigh; and ran a hand through her hair as she exhaled.

“...This really is ever so boring, father. Why couldn’t you have had a shop that dealt in pets or something?”

She always did hate this side to things.

For Edelgard von Hresvelg, life had been a whirlwind over the last few months of entering adult life. Working for a living, accepting that the security of schooling was now a far off memory; and of course, the pressure of trying to get the woman she loved sooner rather than later was resting in the back of her mind eternally.

But when it came to the present moment of working, Edelgard was bored. Bored beyond compare, beyond description, beyond any sense of reasonable acceptance that most of adult life was boring. Hresvelg Woodworks; a father’s pastime turned to business, things couldn’t really have been going better financially in the small town of Garreg Mach for them - after all, in a place like this, every little household needed chairs, tables, bed repairs, clock repairs…her father had struck a goldmine, and yet, Edelgard had dreaded the idea of her life amounting to little more than this.

But with the way high school had been to her, it hadn’t surprised her to find that all of her childhood dream and sparks of ambition had floated away into the sunset the older she got.

The ceiling fan spun around monotonously. With her head lulled back, staring vacantly up at the ceiling, Edelgard allowed her lavender eyes to follow every spin; every slow, well-timed rotation around and around and around. The atmosphere amongst the steel shelves reflected Edelgard’s blasé enthusiasm for working here at her family store; a smog of a pale, grey and lifeless mist.

Her father loved this store, though; and not to mention the best part, which was that she got paid rather handsomely by the parent in question. She wanted to amount to more than this dead-end town, and part of her felt slightly irritable when she thought how her siblings had done much of what she was planning to do, too – work for their father for a couple of years, and then boom off to the big city for a brighter future. Edelgard von Hresvelg was destined for more than this small town, surely. To be stuck here in the height of life’s youth was a cruel punishment to any well-meaning young woman like herself.

“El? You in here?”

“Ah!”

Suddenly, the gaze of lavender was torn away abruptly by the sound of a curious, melodious voice and a tinkle of the store bell reaching her ears in one alarming, swift slice through the silence.

“Byleth!” Edelgard exclaimed, with a delighted smile on her face. “I wasn’t expecting you to show up!”

“I’m never too far away when you’re near, you know that.”

Edelgard restrained the blush from Byleth’s laughter that came from her teasing, and folded her arms.

“Oh, stop that now! I’m not the kind of woman you can tease mercilessly, you know.”

Yes I am, Edelgard thought, and quashed the thought down and away from her mind.

When it came to Byleth, Edelgard found her heart racing in a way that reminded her she did have dreams after all. She did have aspirations, even if this store made it feel like she didn’t. She truly did have the drive to make her life a beautiful experience; because the person who walked through the door was a very instrumental factor in the daydreams that Edelgard considered a perfect life.

A life together with Byleth; was there anything better? The idea of getting to wake up to her face every morning, getting to hold her close during the holiday seasons; and of course, the thought of having all of Byleth’s affection all to herself…

“So,” Edelgard began with a regained sense of composure. “What brings you here, hm?”

Byleth smiled warmly in response. A beautiful, genuine smile that Edelgard had fallen in love with over the years of growing up together; and walked up to the counter as she spoke to an even more dumbfounded Edelgard.

“Well, the thing is…” Byleth began, navy hair flopping down against her cheeks as she leant against the glass case of the counter. “I was thinking. It’s Mercedes’ party tonight, right? She invited us when we bumped into her at the movies, remember?”

“Oh,” Edelgard replied with a slightly bitter taste in her mouth, remembering how Byleth had been holding Edelgard’s hand until Mercedes muscled her way in to the moment. “Yes, I remember. We walked home together that night…with her and Annette, too, for some reason.”

Byleth chuckled.

“For some reason! They just wanted to hang out, right?” Byleth said, and smirked in a way that suggested she was teasing Edelgard again. Edelgard restrained a blush.

“Is there a question in here, Byleth?”

“Of course! So…” Byleth continued. “Are you going? To the party.”

Mercedes… Edelgard thought apprehensively. She’d seen her looking at Byleth throughout their classes in high school. Edelgard knew exactly what kind of look that meant, but high school was long over now; that was months ago.

But Edelgard couldn’t be satisfied with that knowledge. After all, just because they’d now graduated, it certainly didn’t mean that anybody’s feelings would have. I’m living proof of that, she thought with an internal sigh.

How long had it been now, since she first realized she was in love with Byleth? Four years? Five? No…it had been even longer than that. Had it been since childhood, this affection she felt in her heart for her?

“Oh…I don’t know,” Edelgard said back in the present moment, and successfully feigned interest in Mercedes’ party. “Maybe.”

Maybe?” Byleth said with a laugh. “I mean, I was hoping to go with you, but if you’re really not interested…”

Edelgard blinked in surprise.

“Wait, you want to go with me? Mercedes and I have never been that close, Byleth. I would have thought she’d thoroughly enjoy having you all to herself.”

“Why not? It’ll be fun. Parties are always a nice way to unwind.”

Edelgard couldn’t help but chuckle to herself.

Oh, Byleth. You really are dense as anything when it comes to women, aren’t you?

“You know what?” Edelgard declared with a smile. “I’d love to.”

“You would?”

Edelgard grinned to the point she could feel herself cheekily beaming.

“Yes, of course. I’d love to go with you.”

“Ah, that’s wonderful!” Byleth exclaimed in reply. “I’ll pick you up from here at about seven then, okay? It’s not like the beach is too far from this pit of a town, so if we go in my car, it’ll take about five minutes.”

“That’s true. I suppose we have that to owe to the size of an unbearably small town in the coastal sticks.”

Byleth nodded, and ran a hand through her hair.

“I’m glad to hear the same opinion,” she said, and both women smiled at one another. “Well…see you later, then. I’m really looking forward to it.”

“Okay,” Edelgard replied with an airy, girlish tone to her voice, and smiled. “See you. And…”

“Hm?”

Edelgard felt a warm smile creep onto her face, too.

“Me, too.”

Byleth cast a big smile to the woman before her; and, as she began to leave with a wave, the bell rang on the door as she slipped out of the store with a noticeable spring in her step.

“Aah…” Edelgard exhaled, spinning around on her chair with a rusted-over scrape, and clasped her now blushing face.

Her eyes met with the calendar that was behind her, pinned to the corkboard with an old, golden pin, and found herself becoming lost in her thoughts once more with the sights that greeted her.

The entire atmosphere of the store made it impossible to not get utterly lost in whatever you were thinking about. The dull, fuzzy static of the radio playing pop songs from two decades ago; the strangely ever-present scent of car fresheners and sawdust; and of course, the largest calendar that her father could possibly have bought and pinned up for the year.

“Garreg Mach Through The Seasons,” Edelgard recited to herself from the calendar’s title. She stood up, eyes scanning the beautiful, picturesque nature scenes before her, and traced her fingertips over the heavily printed numbers of “1982” besides the word “October”.

“From these pictures, you’d never know that it was a boring go nowhere kind of place, would you?” Edelgard sighed to herself morosely, and sat back down on her seat. “I wish Byleth was still here…but when don’t I, really?”

The next hour dragged along as though the minutes themselves were comprised of hours. Edelgard felt her brain begin to leak out of her ears with boredom; after all, there was only so many times she could indulge the local paper’s attempt at a crossword puzzle.

But as the clock struck six, Edelgard felt a sense of victory.

“Another day down,” she declared to herself. “And not a single customer today besides Byleth, thank God.”

With a stretch of her arms upwards, Edelgard hopped spryly out of her seat and onto her boots.

Throwing her employee apron behind her haphazardly, she quickly grabbed the store keys from the drawer behind her, and slipped them into her pocket. After all, Byleth was going to drive by here to pick her up in her new car. Edelgard could hardly stay still at the thought.

There was, however, the other thought that haunted Edelgard’s mind like an irritating buzz, which was the obvious observation that Mercedes was going to be there tonight. Around Byleth, flirting with her in Edelgard’s presence all over again; just like high school.

“Ugh…” Edelgard mumbled to herself, and folded her arms in a huff.

She had never been the kind of woman to allow something she wanted to slip away, but when it came to Byleth, it was such a hard topic to breach. The subject of love was something that thoroughly terrified Edelgard, but as the years progressed, that subject became more and more unable to be ignored. Byleth grew older alongside her, and so did Edelgard’s desires. What was once a simple desire to just be in the same room evolved into wanting to hold Byleth close, to kiss her, and –

Edelgard blushed, shaking her head as she did so.

“Come on, come on…get your head in the right mindset, Edelgard.”

The night was a perfect storm of things that Edelgard didn’t want to face, and yet, if things went well…

If she dared to dream that things could go well…

Byleth could really be hers by the end of the night.

“I wasn’t really expecting to have to do this so suddenly, but…maybe this isn’t that sudden after all, is it, Byleth?”

There were so many memories that Edelgard thought on fondly of the two of them every day.

How does Byleth not know? Edelgard thought with a laugh as she began to get herself ready in the store bathroom, and every time that question reared its head, she began to allow herself the daydream of thinking Byleth was just in the same shy boat as she was. After all, wanting to keep feelings to yourself for fear of ruining whatever was happening between them was not uncommon.

Their friendship had always been so much more than just that, but it had also been less than a relationship for years. They had never kissed, but each hand hold felt almost electric with how tightly Byleth wanted to hold onto Edelgard. Every hug always lasted too long for it to be just friends. Every love song always sounded a little too relatable for it to be just friends. And whenever they embraced, Edelgard could never get enough of how delicious Byleth smelled. The scent of her loved one was like honey to her senses; and for that alone, Edelgard knew that this was a love she wouldn’t get out of that easily.

Really, the time had always been leading up to Edelgard doing something about this. With the end of high school separating them all from any faux pas in popularity or social standing should a confession bomb, the time was now. The time was perfect.

“I won’t do it at Mercedes’ party…” Edelgard said to herself with a laugh, “even I’m not that cruel. But…”

But Byleth will be mine by the end of the night, she thought to herself, or at least, I hope.

As Edelgard finished up inside the bathroom, she returned to the now slightly darker interior of the woodwork store.

The scent of sawdust and paint reached her nostrils all over again, and Edelgard wrinkled her nose at the unfortunately familiar smell. As she walked over to the blinds-covered window, her slender fingertips pried them open for her eyes to peer out and see.

“Where are you, I wonder…” Edelgard mumbled to herself, checking the small, silver wristwatch on her arm. “Oh.”

Six thirty. I’m early again, as usual…

Edelgard blushed in embarrassment as she sat down on the windowsill, and placed her legs up as she leant against the wall.

“…Oh, Byleth…” she pined, and felt another twinge of embarrassment at her open longing for her crush to come back.

As she sat, she felt relief that nobody could see her doing this with the blinds in the way. It was always a comfortable way to allow herself to relax when the store was closed. The stuffy static of the radio playing in the distance was always a comfortable background noise, like a verbal pillow cushioning her head from the day’s thoughts. The nerves churned around her stomach like a tornado, thinking on every single angle of how tonight could go; ranging from a horrible rejection to a one-night stand.

Byleth, do you feel the same as me?

Did you daydream of kissing me when we were still stuck in that stuffy classroom, the same ways I did for you?

What goes on in your head when you think of me?

Edelgard breathed out slowly, shaking her head free of the dramatic line of thinking, and took another look outside of the blinds. The sound of an engine could be heard…

“…Hm…?”

A strange sight, even for the small country town of Garreg Mach, greeted Edelgard’s eyes unexpectedly.

It wasn’t Byleth’s car. Instinctively, her fingertips lessened their strength in prying the blinds apart to hide her appearance even more than it was already concealed; and, as Edelgard squinted at the sight in the ensuing darkness, she began to make out three figures in the shadows of the autumn evening before her.

Before her was an old, large black van. It was a vehicle that she didn’t recognize as belonging to anyone in town, unless they’d gotten a new one recently; and as it lay parked across the road from the shop, two hooded figures stood talking to a young woman that Edelgard couldn’t see well in the dark. Was it someone she knew?

Edelgard almost began to phone the police without even needing to assess the situation further; before she noticed that the hooded figures appeared to be somewhat under the demands of whatever the young woman was saying.

“Who is that…?” Edelgard said to herself in an interested whisper. “I feel as though it’s on the tip of my tongue…I wonder who it is? And why outside my father’s store?”

Edelgard had little time to ponder before she heard the oncoming sound of a separate car’s engine.  

She checked her watch. There was only one other person scheduled to be here tonight, after all. But only fifteen minutes had passed.

Was Byleth early after all…?

“Byleth…” Edelgard said to herself with a smile.

She must be just as excited to spend time together, too…

As Edelgard looked back up through the blinds of the window, the sound of a van’s sliding door could be heard; and the figures that Edelgard saw were all gone inside of it as it sped away with an unsubtle screech of rubber tyres.   

“How odd…” Edelgard said, shaking her head with an air of confusion. “I wonder what they wanted?”

I feel like I noticed a bracelet on her wrist… Edelgard thought. The only thing that seemed to be catching any light was the silver on her skin. Somebody with a bracelet, hm…?

Headlights began to come into view as the engine began to slow, and the sound of a car door opening and slamming out of sight reached Edelgard’s ears.

Edelgard felt her heart begin to ramp up with a steady beat; and, as a polite knock came at the shop door, Edelgard leapt to her feet and walked over.

“Hey, you.”

With a tinkle of the store bell from the door opening came that same, melodious voice that Edelgard adored.

“…Hello,” Edelgard replied with a smile. “My chauffer, I assume?”

Byleth laughed, and offered her arm to the blonde woman stood before her.

“Yes, madam. May I escort you to your…uh, ride?”

Edelgard was the one to let out a chuckle this time, and, as she locked the store behind her for the duration, the strange happening with the black vehicle outside was now a faraway thought from her mind.

-

“So? How did the rest of your day go, El?”

Edelgard sat in a dazed stupor inside Byleth’s new car as they travelled along the dark roads, and found that her eyes couldn’t stop looking at the pronounced, handsome jawline of her crush as she drove.

“Oh, it was fine…deathly boring, but fine. I make do with what I’ve got, I suppose.”

“Yeah, I can’t imagine your dad’s store being all too enticing to stay in for hours at a time,” Byleth replied. “I mean, if you were there with me, that’d be a different story altogether.”

Byleth smirked, and Edelgard blushed under the fleeting streetlights that shone in through the windshield.

“You are far too charming for your own good, you devil.”

“Aw, I’m just saying what’s true!” Byleth protested, and Edelgard couldn’t help but smirk back at her potential lover. “Well, now that we’re both far away from things that bore us to death – are you excited for the party tonight?”

I’m excited for what I want to say after the party, Edelgard quietly thought.

“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in one place again,” she admitted, and surprised even herself with her candid response. “I didn’t realize how much everyone felt like family, back in school. Even Rhea…to an extent.”

Byleth chuckled.

“I’m sorry you and our dear teacher butted heads so much.”

“No, don’t be…she was interesting to debate against, but I did get a little tired of her religious prattling every now and then.”

“Yeah, she did like to play the God angle often, didn’t she? I’m just glad that neither of you came to blows.”

Edelgard laughed.

“Even then, wouldn’t it just have made high school all the more interesting?”

“I don’t know,” Byleth replied, “all I really needed to be happy there was to hang out with you and eat the cafeteria pizza.”

Edelgard smiled. “Well, the same goes for me too, naturally. You were always the best part of high school.”

“Aw, shucks. You’re only saying that because it’s true.”

“Of course.”

Both women chuckled to themselves, and Byleth leant a hand down towards the radio to switch it on. The dull fuzz of static hovered in the air for a few seconds, before the crackled voice of the radio DJ began to come across the airwaves.

“…weekend, there are still some good movies out in the cinema, folks! If you’re strapped for a date idea with that special someone or simply just wanna hang out with your pals, check out some of these!”

The DJ began to list off some of the movies that had been inside the cinema halls for a numerous amount of weeks now. Edelgard and Byleth listened to the suggestions in silence; from Fast Times at Ridgemont High to Blade Runner, Edelgard couldn’t help but think of all the other movies she wanted to see alongside such relatively new releases, too.

“Want to go to the movies this weekend?”

Edelgard blinked.

“Huh?”

“Well?” Byleth asked with the same smile on her face that always made Edelgard melt. “I’ve been wanting to see Blade Runner for a while, but I never really got the chance to. And we saw Fast Times a couple of weeks ago, right?”

“We did,” Edelgard said with a smile. “It was, um…”

“Gnarly, right?”

Edelgard laughed, and Byleth couldn’t help but smile at her lover’s reference. “If you say so!”

As the two of them began to discuss movies in depth, the conversation began to fade as the sight of the large lake began to come into view; and Edelgard felt a sudden prickle up her back as they started to approach.

“Ah, we’re here!” Byleth declared. “Lake Teutates…as large and looming as ever.”

There was a moment of silence as the two of them saw someone that they recognized, and yet, never expected to see at such a place.

“Is that Marianne?” Edelgard asked in disbelief as the car began to draw closer to the large bonfire ahead, and both Byleth and Edelgard found themselves stunned.

“I was just thinking the same thing, actually. I think it is…” Byleth said in surprise. “I didn’t think I’d ever see her at one of these kinds of things.”

A pale, slightly tired looking woman with light blue hair stood, slightly awkwardly and fiddling with the hem of her dress, besides the bonfire. Edelgard couldn’t help but notice she looked as though she was waiting for somebody, looking around herself twice over before Byleth even parked the car next to the other badly parked cars on the drive down to the lake.

“We should go and say hello, Byleth.”

“Oh, yeah. Sure.” Byleth agreed. “I’ve always gotten along just fine with her.”

As Byleth and Edelgard found themselves trapesing through the muddy walk down to Lake Teutates, Edelgard found her heel slip slightly against the wet leaves beneath her shoes.

“A-Ah!”

Byleth caught Edelgard against her arms, who held onto her crush with a strength even she didn’t know she had.

“Oh…” Edelgard flustered. “S-Sorry…I don’t know what happened there.”

“Hey, hold on to my arm.”

Byleth smiled at the woman to her side, and Edelgard felt both embarrassed and delighted as she slipped her arm through Byleth’s own.

“…Thank you.”

Byleth grinned, and Edelgard chuckled to herself as they walked.

As they approached the bonfire, Edelgard winced as she could feel the unusual mixture of a roaring heat and a frosty Autumn wind against her skin. Byleth’s warm arm wrapped around her own was making sure that she stayed extremely toasty, and Edelgard felt the slight irritation of knowing she was going to have to brace herself for social interaction with people she was less than fond of.

But even with that, there were still people she was very close to – and was always happy to see.

“Edelgard, Byleth. Good to see you.”

Byleth and Edelgard found themselves greeted with the somewhat stalwart but warm appearance of Dimitri standing before them; warmly wrapped in a royal blue jacket.

“Oh!” Byleth said in surprise, as Edelgard smiled at the man before her. “Nice to see you, Dimitri. You’re here for the party too, huh?”

“I am,” Dimitri replied. “Though, I’ve been waiting for my foolish partner to show up for almost half an hour now.”

“Claude is still as unreliable as ever, is he?”

“As always. He’s lucky I love him so.”

Edelgard smiled. “I remember when I had to do a science project with him. Or should I say, without him.”

Dimitri chuckled, and offered his arm out towards the drinking table.

“Come on,” he said to Byleth and Edelgard as they began to walk, “let’s get some drinks.”

“Ah, I can go and grab us some. You two look like you’re freezing, and El already nearly took a tumble on the way here.”

Dimitri scoffed. Edelgard blushed.

Byleth!”

“I see. Well, that’s very kind of you, Byleth. I’ll take a coke and rum, if you would be so kind.”

Byleth chuckled as she turned to face the even warmer face of her Edelgard.

“And for the lady on my arm?”

Edelgard pouted.

“…I just want a Sprite.”

“That’s it? No alcohol?”

“No!”

Byleth laughed to herself, and gently unlatched Edelgard’s grip from around her arm.

“Alright, alright. Look after her while I’m over here, okay, Dimitri?”

“I am perfectly capable of standing still, Byleth!”

“I shall,” Dimitri interjected as Byleth laughed to herself, and began to walk over in the direction of the drinks.

Edelgard folded her arms with a huff, whilst Dimitri chuckled.

“…Come on. Let’s get warm before the bonfire.”

Dimitri and Edelgard walked over to one of the many logs that were placed at a relatively safe distance – safe judged by the eyes of those that could easily dance away from the flames licking at their boots, if it called for it, anyway – and placed themselves down on the rough bark beneath them.

Edelgard found her fingertips prying the bark away from the log gently; picking at the pieces next to the crackle and the roar of the large fire before her, her eyes were warmed by the heat as she turned to look at wherever Byleth had gotten to.

“So…when are you going to tell her?”

Edelgard blinked, snapped out of her attempt to glean where Byleth was standing, and turned to face Dimitri at her side.

“Hm?”

“Byleth.”

“What about her?”

Dimitri laughed. “Oh, Edelgard. Come now. We all know you’ve been hopelessly in love with that woman for the better part of your life.”

Edelgard paused; mentally judging whether or not it was even worth the bother to be embarrassed again at this point; before letting out a lovesick sigh next to her best friend.

“…I was planning to tell her tonight, actually. The idea of someone getting there before me drives me insane.”

“You mean Mercedes.”

“Yes, indeed. If you already knew who I meant…”

“Then you better act fast,” Dimitri interjected. “Trust me, Edelgard. Watching your crush gallivant around with others is no fun at all. You’re lucky Byleth has remained a free agent for as long as she has.”

“You and Claude have been together for a little while now, haven’t you?” Edelgard asked. “Do you find yourself worried about him at all?”

“Hm? How do you mean?”

Edelgard laughed to herself awkwardly.

“Well, he’s so…”

“Utterly unreliable? I’m very aware,” Dimitri replied with a sigh of his own. “But…”

Dimitri leant back against the rough bark, and Edelgard turned to look at him with a curious glint in her eye.

“…You really love Claude, don’t you?”

Dimitri smiled; the flicker of the orange glow of fire against his skin.

“Of course I do. Love is nothing to be ashamed of talking about.”

Edelgard crossed one leg over the other, and clasped her hands against her knee.

“But don’t you find it embarrassing to talk of?”

“No. And neither should you,” Dimitri said, turning his head towards the drinks desk and nodding. “Or somebody really will steal her away.”

Edelgard turned to where Dimitri was casting his glance, and gasped.

“Mercedes!”

“Go over there, if you can make it without stumbling.”

“You are lucky you’re my best friend,” Edelgard scolded as she stood hastily, “or I’d beat you to a pulp!”

Dimitri laughed; and, as Edelgard hurried over towards where her beloved was standing, Dimitri said,

“Just go and get your woman already, Edelgard.”

Chapter Text

“…glad you came tonight, Byleth! It means so much to have you here at my party. More than you know, I’d bet!”

“Of course! I wouldn’t be anywhere else.” Byleth replied brightly. “Any reason for throwing it? Or did you just want a get together?”

Edelgard began to overhear the conversation as she approached, and slowed her footsteps down in the wet ground beneath her.

“Oh, no reason really…” Mercedes began with a smile, and moved a little closer to Byleth. “I just missed seeing everyone in the same place, you know? High school wasn’t really that long ago, but it feels like so much has changed. And it’s not like we have a way of contacting everyone at once, so I thought I’d make some calls and get as many people here as I could!”

Byleth took a sip of the can of beer she was holding and nodded along with Mercedes.

“Yeah, I hear you. It sucks that there’s not really any way to get us all in the same place easily, but you managed to wrangle it pretty damn well!”

“Ah, well…that may be true, but…”

Mercedes smiled up at the slightly taller woman before her, and placed her hands on Byleth’s shoulders. Edelgard quickly felt the white pinprick of panic propel her forwards.

“Hm?” Byleth asked curiously. Mercedes tucked a strand of hair behind her ear bashfully, and Byleth took another sip of her beer.

“Well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t especially glad to see y-”

“Byleth,” Edelgard finally interjected, pretending she hadn’t seen Mercedes altogether as well as feigning that she wasn’t entirely out of breath from hurrying over so fast. “Did…did you get my drink?”

“Oh, Edelgard!” Mercedes said with a smile. “I’m so happy you could come, too!”

Edelgard smiled politely.

“Ah, hello Mercedes. Thank you for inviting me.”

“Of course!” Mercedes replied with a genuine warmth, and Edelgard’s eyelids fluttered with feeling a little bad for muscling in on a conversation she clearly wasn’t a part of. “Well, if you’ll excuse me, Byleth, Edelgard…Annette just arrived, so I’d better go and say hello to her.”

“Are you sure?” Byleth asked. “I’m sure she’ll make her way over here. We all gravitate towards liquids, right?”

Mercedes laughed, and shook her head; squeezing Byleth’s shoulders affectionately before letting them go. Edelgard winced internally.

“Oh, it’s fine! Don’t worry. I actually noticed Edelgard was a little slippery on her feet when she stopped here, so I’d better make sure Annie isn’t clumsy like usual. Why, if someone as composed as you can slip up, Edelgard, what chance does anyone else have?”

Edelgard blushed, and Byleth placed a hand on Edelgard’s shoulder with a laugh.

“You fell again, huh?”

“I did not!”

Mercedes smiled, and bid farewell one more time; reluctantly moving her hands off of Byleth’s shoulders.

“I’ll see you both later,” she said as she began to cautiously walk across the slightly muddy fields besides the beach, “I hope you enjoy yourself! Even Marianne came out tonight, so let’s all make the most of it! I doubt we’ll see her again at one of these!”

“That’s true,” chuckled Byleth. “Gotta make the most of everyone while they’re still here.”

Edelgard nodded curtly.

“Goodbye for now, Mercedes -” Edelgard said bluntly, irritated that her imbalances were being picked up on by seemingly everybody around her; before, as soon as Mercedes had turned to leave, Byleth placed an arm around Edelgard’s waist. “Ah?!”

“You sound like you’re slipping and sliding all over the place tonight, huh?”

Edelgard blushed.

“J…Just give me my drink, Byleth!”

Byleth laughed to herself, and picked up Edelgard’s Sprite from the side table; handing it to the indignant blonde before her with a smirk.

“Hmph.”

“Sooo? What’s up?” Byleth asked, taking another sip of her beer. “I’m surprised you came over here.”

“You were taking so long, I couldn’t not come and get my own drink, actually.”

“Is that really why?”

Edelgard paused, and looked up to Byleth; whose eyes were seemingly poring into her soul all of a sudden.

The same flirty smirk was far gone from her lips, and yet, the adoring warmth for Edelgard that she so loved still remained in her eyes. Edelgard’s previous indignant tone vanished into thin air.

“Byleth…?”

“El,” Byleth began, and Edelgard could hardly believe that she actually heard the tone of nervousness in her crush’s voice. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something for a while now -”

“Um…”

Edelgard and Byleth found themselves stopping in their tracks as they turned to face the source of a voice at their side.

“Oh!”

Marianne; the shy blue-haired girl from before; was stood wringing her hands together before Byleth and Edelgard.

“Marianne!” Edelgard declared in surprise. “It’s so nice to see you!”

Marianne blushed. Byleth nodded in agreement.

“Yeah, it’s great to see you out of the Church! How’ve you been since school finished?”

“W-Well, um…it’s been good,” Marianne began, and a faint flicker of a smile came across her gloomy face. “I, um…”

“You got a girlfriend, right?” Byleth asked with a familiarly cheeky boldness, and Edelgard patted her shoulder.

“Byleth, maybe she doesn’t want to talk about that?!”

“Oh, no! I-I do! Um…” Marianne interrupted hastily. “I’m just waiting for her, actually…”

“Aw,” Byleth replied with a smile. “That’s cute.”

Marianne’s blush flew up the scale by a few notches.

 “Is it anyone we know?” Edelgard asked. Marianne smiled brightly.

“I don’t know if you know her or not,” she said with a girlish blush on her cheeks. “She moved here over the summer…”

“Wow! You guys took a shine to each other just like that, huh?” Byleth said with a congratulatory tone to her voice. “That’s great, Marianne. Congratulations.”

“Th-thanks, both of you…”

Marianne giggled to herself, and Edelgard and Byleth couldn’t help but smile along with her.

As the three of them stood, the presence of another began to make themselves known.

“Marianne,” Dimitri suddenly announced, having congregated at the drinking table with the rest of them, “nice to see you here.”

“Ah! H-Hello, Dimitri…it’s been a long time since I last saw you.”

Edelgard smiled to herself as Byleth placed her hand around Edelgard once again; and, in the company of her friends, allowed herself to cuddle a little more into the woman she had fallen in love with.

“You mind if I do this?” Byleth asked. Edelgard nestled slightly further into her jacket.

“Um, you can…but why?”

“You just seemed a little cold, that’s all.”

Edelgard blinked twice, before allowing Byleth’s arms to warmly wrap themselves around her a little tighter.

“…Alright,” she replied with a grin, both on her lips and her voice. “I could always stand to be a little warmer.”

“That’s the spirit.”

As the clouds of the night began to coagulate above them, patching out navy blue quilts of silver stars above, Edelgard felt at peace with her place in the world. Even without a single word said to Byleth about the ways she loved her, about the ways in which, if Byleth were to disappear or be with another, Edelgard’s heart would be broken in such a way that it would never be repaired, Edelgard knew that being here in this moment felt like an irreplaceable treasure.

The four of them, after a little more idle conversation, had all moved down towards the beach area; where there was a much smaller fire in place, surrounded by rocks in the sands. In the distance, Edelgard could see her former classmates splashing around in the freezing cold water, spurred on by alcohol and sheer determination, and as they took their places on the ground, Marianne had barely gotten time to sit down before she finally spotted her loved one.

“A-Ah! Sorry, please excuse me…!”

Byleth, Edelgard and Dimitri turned their heads towards the direction Marianne had kicked up sand to rush over to; and, as they looked, they saw a pink-haired girl and a familiarly brown-haired man with a handsome look on his face arriving together.

“You’re late,” Dimitri said bluntly, and Claude smiled at his lover as he sat down on the sandy ground beneath him with a dull thud.

“I do apologize, your highness. I actually stopped to pick up Marianne’s girlfriend.”

“Oh?” Dimitri asked. “And who is that?”

“Hilda.”

“Hilda?” Edelgard asked, still holding warmly onto Byleth. She found that the longer they were sitting here, the closer and closer she had gotten to sitting between Byleth’s legs; cuddled up in her arms with Byleth’s head resting on top of her own.

Edelgard knew this was far too affectionate for it to be just friends.

“Yeah!” Claude continued. “She’s a girl that just moved here over -”

“The summer, right? Marianne just told us.” Byleth finished. “You guys live near each other?”

Claude nodded, and took a seat next to his boyfriend.

“Mhm. It just made sense to come here together for Mercie’s party. I’m sure you haven’t worked it out yet, but Marianne is incredibly smitten with this girl.”

Byleth laughed.

“I think we’d all have to be classified blind to not notice something like Marianne at a party.”

“Well I think it’s wonderful,” Edelgard said with a warm smile on her face as she turned to face Marianne and Hilda. “Good for them.”

As Edelgard watched the two women reuniting in the distance before her, she couldn’t help but feel slightly envious.

I wish that could be me and Byleth, she thought, and bit at the inside of her lip. 

As Marianne held Hilda’s hands shyly, and Hilda threw them to the side to wrap her arms around her tall, gloomy lover, Edelgard felt her heart sing for them. The sight of two women in love so thoroughly with one another resonated deeply within Edelgard’s skin; and, at that moment, seeing the sight of a love blooming before her made her turn to look up at Byleth’s face from her position in her arms.

The stars in the sky really were nothing compared to the ways Byleth made her heart soar.

Edelgard allowed herself to be held a little tighter by Byleth next to the small campfire, here on the beach; and fully embraced the knowledge that tonight, it was okay to allow herself to feel the overwhelming sensation of adoration.

But after tonight, things couldn’t go on like this anymore.

It was too much.

I love you, Byleth, Edelgard thought. I truly love you, with all of my heart and soul.

Her thoughts rattled off the longer she sat with Byleth in a comfortable silence; looking out over the dark, rippling waters of the lake, and listening to the crackle of the flames whilst resting in her crushes’ arms.

I love your entire being. The ways you look at me, the way you smell, the way you wear your hair, your clothes…

I love the very words that come from your lips that I so eagerly want to kiss. I just love you.

I love you so...

“Aww. They’re so cute, aren’t they?” Claude said, wearing a mischievous but well-meaning smile as he looked back at Hilda and Marianne. “Don’t you think they remind you of us, Dimitri?”

“I think you’d better get me a drink before you ask me a question like that.”

Dimitri suddenly froze in his tracks as though he knew exactly what to expect, given a prior conversation earlier with his best friend about the topics of love.

Edelgard did not disappoint him.

“Oho?” Edelgard began with a jeering tone to her voice. “What’s that? I thought love was nothing to be embarrassed to talk about?”

Dimitri, this time, was the one being made to blush.

Edelgard!

“Ooh? Did he talk to you about me, Edelgard?”

“He most certainly did.”

“Hey, I’ll give you ten dollars to tell me everything.”

“Well anyway,” Dimitri began, a flustered look over his rosy pink cheeks; and Claude rest his head in a mocking, loving way against Dimitri’s shoulder as he talked. “Love makes one act rather irrationally, does it not? I would think you would understand that, Edelgard. Like, say, interrupting a conversation that doesn’t include you?”

Edelgard felt her temple throb.

“I WILL kill you, Dimitri.”

“Oh! Marianne, introduce me to your friends!”

Edelgard looked up from her and Dimitri’s mutual, friendly scowl, and saw the bright, vivacious appearance of a pink-haired young woman coming towards them, gloomy lover in hand.

“W-Wait, Hilda…they might be busy…!”

“Not at all!” Claude declared, and pat a space of sand next to him. “Come and sit with us!”

“Oh, well…” Hilda began awkwardly, and chuckled as Marianne blushed profusely. “We’re just going to go and, um, find a nice place to look at the stars, but I wanted to say hello! I’m Hilda. Nice to meet you all!”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you too, Hilda,” Dimitri replied with a smile.

“Yeah! Don’t be a stranger,” Byleth said, still warmly holding on to Edelgard. “We don’t bite.”

“Much,” Claude added, and Dimitri clipped his ear with a laugh from his boyfriend’s lips.

“I’m so happy to meet you all!” Hilda said affectionately; and Edelgard felt something in her mind immediately notice the bracelet on this pink haired woman’s wrist.

A shimmering silver…

“Excuse me,” Edelgard began, “but may I ask where you got that bracelet?”

Where do I recognize a bracelet from, so familiarly…?

“You like accessories like that, do you?” Byleth asked with a smile, but Edelgard was too far away for even Byleth to reach her. Dimitri raised an eyebrow at his best friend’s absent-minded silence.

“Oh, this? Pretty, right?” Hilda replied, holding it up to the moon’s light above. “I got it recently as a gift for some good work! You can’t beat some retail therapy, right?”

A bracelet… Edelgard thought, before she ushered out a quiet gasp from her lips. That weird van from earlier, and the young woman...

Could it be something to do with her, or just an eerie coincidence…?

“Everyone!” Mercedes called from the larger bonfire, just up from the beach. “I’d appreciate it if you could all come up here in a few minutes! I’d like to say something, whilst all of my friends are here…”

Mercedes, even from a distance, waved towards Byleth. Edelgard felt a twinge of pain in her chest as Byleth let go of the arm around her waist to wave back, even if it was just a split second before it returned back.

Hilda and Marianne exchanged an affectionate look, and Marianne almost let out a yelp as Hilda placed a hand on her face.

“Well, it’s been lovely getting to meet you all! But I think we want to have a little alone time before whatever Mercie wants to say. Right, Marianne?”

“R…Right!” Marianne replied with a shrill shriek, and Hilda giggled.

“Oh, you’re so cute! I could just eat you up…come on, let’s get going.”

With a dismissive wave from Hilda and Marianne, utterly wrapped up in each other from the moment they set eyes on one another, Edelgard and the others bid them farewell; this time, her thoughts far from the bracelet and back to Byleth.

Please don’t let what you want to tell me be anything to do with Mercedes, Byleth… she pleaded silently. My heart simply couldn’t take it.

Ever able to read his best friend’s silent emotions, Dimitri placed a hand on Claude’s shoulder.

“Claude,” he said, and stood up from his position on the sandy floor. “Let’s go and get a drink properly, alright?”

“But -”

“Now.”

Dimitri quickly grabbed Claude’s hand, pulling him to his feet once again after he had just barely sat down, and scurried off with a myriad of non-protests in his ear.

“They sure left in a hurry…” Byleth said in confusion, watching the two boys wander off towards the alcohol and the larger crowds. Edelgard didn’t say a word for a few moments, and instead watched Hilda whisk Marianne away somewhere.

Here at this party, everybody seemed to be with their loved ones…

Herself included.

Edelgard blushed a little. Was it finally time to talk about this? Here, before the fire on this beach?

It was still Mercedes party, but…

“Byleth…”

The words stuck in her throat.

Byleth made a noise of confusion.

“Hm? What is it, El?”

“I…well, I just…”

Edelgard paused. Byleth leant a little closer.

“You know,” Byleth said quietly, and Edelgard restrained a quiet gasp from her lips. “I still haven’t forgotten what I wanted to say to you earlier.”

“You haven’t?”

“Nope. I do still want to talk to you, but…I want to talk to you after this party is over.”

Edelgard paused; and, as her and Byleth were merely breaths away from each other’s lips, here before the shimmering lake, the call for everybody to come up to the larger bonfire came once again.

“…Alright,” Edelgard said with a warm smile, as her and Byleth stood up. “I’ll listen to anything you have to say, Byleth.”

“Good. Because I want you to!” Byleth grinned, before taking Edelgard by the hand. “Come on, let’s go and see whatever Mercedes has to say.”

“Hey, have you two seen Marianne and Hilda?” Claude said, reappearing from a distance with Dimitri and several drinks in their arms. “Mercie wants to talk to us all. I know they’re probably busy right now, but…”

“That’s an impressive haul!”

“Thank you, Byleth. I’m glad somebody can appreciate the finer things in life.”

Dimitri shook his head as he folded his arms.

“Byleth, compliments only encourage him.”

Claude fluttered his eyelashes, and Dimitri blushed.

“Aw, you’re so gorgeous when you’re pouty, Dimitri.”

“Shut up!”

Edelgard turned to face Byleth, and squeezed her hand warmly.

“I’ll go and look for Marianne and Hilda. I’ll just be a second.”

“Are you sure?” Byleth asked. “You don’t have to do that, El.”

“Yeah, I can just –” Claude began, before Edelgard shook her head.

Not only do I not really want to be in the presence of Mercedes making eyes at Byleth...

But I’d also very much like to confirm my suspicions over that bracelet.

This is a perfect opportunity, if I can find them before a tongue goes down somebody’s throat. If they're already in the middle of making out, I have no chance...

“I really don’t mind.” Edelgard smiled politely, and Byleth; sharp as ever with things that weren’t romantically inclined; narrowed her eyes as she looked at the blonde before her.

She could tell there was probably an ulterior motive behind it. What that was, however, was anyone’s guess to her.

“…Alright…” Byleth said sceptically, and Edelgard smiled her best smile at the person she loved. “I’ll be up by the bonfire, then. Don’t wander off too far, okay?”

“Do you want me to come with you, Edelgard?” Dimitri offered. Edelgard shook her head.

“No, don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine.”

“…Suit yourself.”

“Come on, then. Let’s go!” Claude said, nodding towards the direction of Mercedes; and, as the others walked hastily up the beach and onto the muddy field behind, Byleth remained, gently grabbing Edelgard's arm.

“Byleth?” Edelgard gasped. "W...What is it?"

“El…” Byleth began, a concerned tone to her voice. “I mean it, you know. Don’t stray too far. That woodland...it always gives me bad vibes.”

Edelgard remained silent as Byleth looked at her with an air of seriousness that she hadn’t seen before.

"I know, but..."

“Listen,” Byleth said, looking over her shoulder towards the woods by the lakeside. “I know you probably won't be in there too long, but it's still dark…if Marianne and Hilda are there, I’m sure they’re fine together. But you’ll be alone. So be careful…okay? You’re really sure you don’t want me to come with you?”

Edelgard smiled warmly at her crushes’ caring side, and placed a hand on her arm.

“I promise I’ll be fine, Byleth. I just want to check something. That’s all.”

“Is it Hilda? Marianne? What did they do?”

“Nothing! Well…” Edelgard trailed off. “It’s probably nothing, but something kind of weird happened earlier outside my store.”

Byleth raised an eyebrow.

“Weird?”

“I don’t know how to describe it without sounding crazy, but…”

Edelgard paused in her tracks. I don’t really want to talk about this right now when me and Byleth are on the verge of actually making something happen.

If she thinks I’m even a little crazier than what she likes, would she feel any type of way about me that wasn’t negative?

Ah, am I not giving Byleth enough credit? At this point, I’m just making myself feel bad before anything else…

“…No, you know what…" Edelgard said with a shake of her head, "I’ll tell you afterwards. I promise.”

Byleth let out a sigh of resignation, before nodding firmly.

“Alright, I’ll drop it for now. But you better be safe, okay?”

“I will, don’t worry. I know how to take care of myself.”

Byleth chuckled.

“I know you’re a real battleaxe when it comes to defense, but…just be careful. For me.”

Edelgard felt her heart falter as Byleth turned to leave.

“See you later. You better come back in one piece, alright?”

"I promise, I will."

"Good," Byleth replied, and began to pull herself away from the blonde woman she wanted to remain with, "so just do what you have to and hurry back!"

Edelgard stood, watching Byleth hurriedly walked away; and suddenly found herself much lonelier than before.

“Byleth…” she whispered to herself,  and turned towards the direction Marianne and Hilda had walked in. “I want to get this over with quickly so I can finally hear what you have to say.”

And so, with a heart of determination and a mind split in two of romance and suspicion, Edelgard set off to speedily find the two lovebirds she had volunteered herself for – but somewhere deep inside her, there was a sinister fear that almost told her to turn back around and run.

Chapter Text

 

In all the years of her life, Byleth had found that she was not typically the kind of woman that allowed herself to get nervous easily.

“C’mon, Edelgard…” she mumbled anxiously to herself. “Where are you? They can’t have gone that far in, surely…”

There was definitely something to be said about the odd atmosphere around tonight. What was it? Why did it feel so unusual now that Edelgard was gone? It was like a looming sense of foreboding was in the air, waiting to pounce; and Byleth, usually so calm and collected, did not like that feeling one little bit.

Byleth nervously gnawed at her lip, folding her arms and rubbing at her shoulders as she stood beside the bonfire. Mercedes was stood just ahead of her, talking to Annette seemingly in a fit of overexcitement about whatever it was she wanted to announce; and next to Byleth was Dimitri, waiting with a disgruntled look on his face as Claude had decided to exchange some of his drinks.

Turning her attention to the sky above, Byleth felt a little more at peace for the action. Her eyes flickered shut, and she breathed in a large, slow slip of the crisp night air into her lungs. The breath was comforting, feeling the air in her lungs had been warmly diluted by the embers of the bonfire behind her.

“El…” she mumbled to herself, and exhaled anxiously as Dimitri walked over to her side.

“She won’t be long, don’t worry.” Dimitri said with a reassuring nod, and looked over towards the woodlands. “She’s more than capable of looking after herself, that one…but she’s made a point of telling you that on numerous occasions at this point, I’d wager.”

Byleth laughed affectionately at the thought of the blonde woman she wished were back at her side, and nodded in agreement.

“She certainly has. I still can’t help but worry about her, though…”

“Worry? That’s not a word that should be in your vocabulary, Byleth!” Claude suddenly announced with his reappearance, and handed Byleth a large bottle of some kind of alcoholic substance. “Come on, loosen up. It’s a night for jubilations! Edelgard’s fine, we’re all fine…right?”

Dimitri sighed at his boyfriend’s inability to read the mood, and Claude grinned at him with all the charm he could muster.

“You need to incorporate the word worry into your vocabulary a little more, Claude.”

“Nonsense,” he replied immediately, and took a sip of his own bottle. “What good does worrying do? Practical action is the best way forwards. Worrying is just a way to drive yourself insane without actually doing something about your problems. And if you can’t do anything about something, just let it go. Is that not the best way forwards?”

Dimitri and Byleth exchanged a stunned look.

“Well, I…” Dimitri said slowly, before resigning to his disbelief. “You’re completely right, actually.”

“I can’t disagree with you there.” Byleth said with an agreeable tone. Dimitri rubbed his chin, thinking on the words his lover had just said that actually made a whole lot of sense, and Claude nodded with a smug look on his face of actually getting something right. 

“Come on, come on. Have a drink, and Edelgard will be back before you know it.”

Byleth sighed as Claude wiggled the bottle before Byleth’s face, and, resignedly, Byleth unscrewed the lid on top of the bottle of whatever this was.

“Alright, Claude. You win. I don’t care what kind of beverage this is as long as it helps me relax a bit?”

“Um, if I may have everyone’s attention…”

Byleth, Dimitri and Claude all turned their attention to Mercedes stood before the small crowd of friends; and, as Byleth’s lips touched the tip of the glass bottle’s neck, she still couldn’t help but worry for Edelgard, even as the liquid slipped down her throat with an uncomfortable burn.

-

Meanwhile for Edelgard, she was finding that the woodlands of a lakeside she knew well were just as unsettling as Byleth had warned all along.

“Why did I agree to do this, again?” Edelgard chided herself. “Honestly…there’s a reason the saying curiosity killed the cat exists. And what if they’re not even in here? Ugh…”

As was so often with remorse over a decision, the weight of everything Edelgard could have done besides what she was actually doing began to weigh heavily on her mind. I could have been listening to Byleth tell me she loves me right now.

I could be getting drunk out of my mind and forgetting about my boring life.

I could be doing
anything, actually, other than wading through pitch-black woodlands looking for two women who are probably more than fine and wrapped up in each other right this second.

But it was never in her nature to give up; and so, Edelgard pressed on with a grumble.

Through the night-time noises of the woods, she waded through the bracken and the fallen leaves, carefully managing to keep her balance in the thick navy blue blanket of the night, and listened out for the sounds around her. Surely, Marianne and Hilda couldn’t have gone too far in; right?

“They better not have,” Edelgard replied to herself, and scolded her curious nature.

As she brushed away the leaves of the shrubs around her legs, she thought about the bracelet Hilda was wearing. Of course it went without saying, many people wore bracelets; but there really was something about this particular one that entirely drew her attention to it. It all seemed like too much of a coincidence. But who was to say Hilda was even the one associated with the black van, or even that the van was up to no good? The thoughts raced around Edelgard’s mind like wildfire.

“What could this m- ”

Suddenly, beneath her feet, she heard a loud crack.

“Agh!”

The yelp in reflex echoed; and as she stopped, Edelgard saw beneath her feet that it was the cracked, splintered old bones of an animal carcass.

It looked as though it were a deer, or perhaps even something smaller like a fox; but either way, it was long deceased. Her fast beating heart began to slow to a steady crawl again, and from the shock, she found her senses immediately heightened by the reaction.

Something she had noticed this entire time was that, for some reason, she’d heard a low hum all throughout her time in the woods. A low, low hum, as though a cluster of engines or a cacophony of voices were somewhere below the earth, though there were no cars or boats on the lake nearby to be making such a thing, and as far as Edelgard knew, there was nothing beneath ground to warrant thousands of people chattering at once. She looked around herself a couple of times out of what she believed to be misplaced paranoia before shaking her head, and resignedly turning back to look for Marianne and Hilda.

“Hm…? What’s that?”

As Edelgard pressed forwards, she began to realize she was able to actually hear sounds of something tangible.

Something that sounded like a person; no, two people. Something that sounded like…

“Ah,” Edelgard said, and closed her eyes with a restrained scoff. “So that’s what they’re doing.”

Edelgard sighed. Making out. Of course that’s what they were doing. She hadn’t really expected Marianne of all people would sneak off into the woods like this, but Hilda definitely seemed like the kind of woman that could easily influence her lovers into doing…well, anything she wanted them to, really. From the spritely look on her pretty face to the ways she must have sunk her teeth into Marianne right away, if they had gotten together just days after her moving in to Garreg Mach, Edelgard had already worked out Hilda was more than likely a force to be reckoned with.

“I wonder if I’ll get a scowl for interrupting their good time.”

Edelgard started to wade through the leaves a little more confidently knowing her target was in range. And when she turned back, she could still see the vague flickering of the larger bonfire through the leaves, reminding her she wasn’t all that far away from civilization after all; and suddenly, she felt a whole lot more childish for allowing her fears to get the better of her.

“Ah…Marianne…”

Edelgard felt the sudden shock of a blush on her face at the sound of a thoroughly enamoured whisper from Hilda. She could see a little clearer now, and felt a strange sense of relief upon seeing the two women’s shoulders poking out from behind a larger tree in this densely populated woodland.

The sense of romantic envy that Edelgard felt from earlier was returning, and this time, it was bringing with it a new sense of longing. The idea of Byleth rushing away with her somewhere like this, at a party or something else altogether, to hide away with just her, to be wrapped up in each other for just a moment with Byleth’s hands all over her body, or bunched up in her hair? That was a dream come true in itself.

Edelgard closed her eyes to quell the thoughts of desperation to kiss her crush, and found that she was close enough now to say something without it bordering on creepy.

She cleared her throat gently.

“Excuse me, ladies…”

 “Ah?!” Marianne shrieked, turning around from her position laying her back against the hard bark of the tree.

“Who’s there?!” Hilda demanded, still holding on to Marianne.

“It’s just me. Uh, Edelgard, that is.”

“Oh!” Marianne said with relief. “Thank heavens…you scared the life out of me, Edelgard!”

“Sorry about that,” Edelgard said with a bashful chuckle and a rustle of leaves. “If I could have avoided doing such a thing, believe me, I would have.”

“Who…?” Hilda asked again, before peering over Marianne’s shoulder in the dark. “Oh…you’re that blonde chick from earlier. What do you want? We’re kind of busy, you know?”

“Hilda…” Marianne said with a blush that was so powerful it could even be heard in her voice.

“I came to find you for Mercedes’ sake, actually,” Edelgard half lied. “She has some kind of announcement she wants to make, and she would like everybody present. Believe me, I didn’t want to be trapesing through the woodlands to stumble across two people making out, thank you very much.”

“Hmph. Well it’s thoroughly interrupted now,” Hilda replied indignantly, and pointed her finger at Edelgard. “But if Mercie wants us there, then we’ll be there. Okay?”

Edelgard paused, and bit her lip. A familiar sight greeted her eyes as Hilda wagged her finger.

That bracelet. Damn it…

I was hoping to get here before they’d done anything, but now it’d just look even weirder if I’d come out here to ask her about that…I’ll have to find out more some other time.

But why am I so entranced by it?

“Alright,” Edelgard replied flatly, “I’ll see you there, then.”

“Yeah, sure. Whatever.”

Edelgard could practically hear the dismissive, cold hair flick in Hilda’s voice, and took the opportunity under cover of darkness to roll her eyes in response.

“S-Sorry, Edelgard…” Marianne stammered out, almost as though she could hear the two butting heads without any visible proof. “We’ll be along soon…”

“Suit yourself. See you there.”

Edelgard turned away from the two of them to begin the walk back towards the bonfire, and felt a sense of foolishness inside her body for her actions.

“Ugh, I really am an idiot sometimes. What was I even hoping to get from that, anyway…?”

With each trudge back through the wet leaves, Edelgard let out a resigned sigh and brought forth an acceptance of completely failing to find out any more about what she wanted to. The darkness was beginning to alleviate, at least a little; either that, or Edelgard’s eyes were adjusting to the dark much quicker than she had expected.

But this time on the walk back to the bonfire, unlike the walk to find Marianne and Hilda, there were now two other separate things Edelgard noticed that were not the dull hum or other noises that she had noticed before.

“Hmm…?”

The first was that the floor on the way back felt…different. Beneath her boots, it somehow felt a lot wetter, as though something like oil or shampoo had been tipped all over the ground. There was no sound of splashes as she briskly walked through, and further still, she couldn’t remember it having rained the last night, even if the leaves were retaining some level of damp from the other bouts of Autumnal rain before.

“This is odd…” Edelgard whispered to herself, but no matter how she strained to look, she couldn’t see anything on the floor as she walked without a source of light. “I suppose I’ll just send up a prayer I’m not walking in anything unsavoury.”

The second thing was that, to her right and away from both the bonfire and Marianne and Hilda, there looked like there was some kind of strange cabin, with two lights on, very far off in the thicker woodland of the lake. Edelgard had never heard any kind of tale about an old man or woman who lived in the woods of Garreg Mach, and in a small town like this, gossip travelled almost at light speed.

Who could be in there, at this hour? Stragglers from Mercedes’ party? No, surely not. Edelgard shook her head as she continued to walk, thinking on how over the last twenty four hours she’d had more mystery in her life than all the years of her existence.

“Perhaps I’m more bored with this place than I thought,” she chuckled to herself, “if I’m finding mysteries in the ground beneath my feet and a young woman’s accessory.”

I just want to get back to Byleth, she thought with an affectionate bubble in her heart; and decided to put all of the strange sensations of the evening behind her. Nothing compares to getting to be with her.

Eventually, after much walking, thinking and many almost slip-ups along the way, Edelgard re-emerged from the bracken of the woodlands; and breathed out a visible sigh of relief in a puff of the cold night air as she saw signs of familiar life.

“Thank God,” Edelgard said out loud, looking around the larger bonfire for any signs of the woman she always wanted to be with.

As she began to walk across the field, Edelgard found that the sounds of humanity were of great comfort to her. From comparison to the woodlands behind, this felt like an entirely different world. The sounds of jubilation could be heard, cries of laughter and faux outrage at jokes made at someone else’s expense; the clatter of glasses, the crackle of the large fire...

Garreg Mach was a dull, uninteresting little pit of a place; but even for someone like Edelgard von Hresvelg, the people were what truly made this place her home.

She smiled to herself as she stood, observing the life before her; before a voice reached her ears.

“Ah, Edelgard! There you are!”

As Edelgard turned around to the sound of a voice that was so familiar and yet so unfamiliar all at once, she found her eyes slightly widened in surprise at the sight of the warm face before her.

“Mercedes?” She asked in surprise. “What brings you to me?”

Mercedes smiled warmly, and folded her arms in the cold over her peach-coloured jacket.

“Oh, I just didn’t see you at the bonfire when I was talking…was everything okay?”

Edelgard felt a twinge of guilt at seeing Mercedes genuine concern, and shook her head with a resigned expression.

“Ah…” She began. “I’m sorry about that. I actually went to go and find Marianne and Hilda so that we could all make it back for your announcement on time, but…”

“They were busy, I assume?” Mercedes asked with a knowing chuckle, and shook her head. “Don’t worry about that. Thank you for trying to find them on time, though. I appreciate it.”

“Of course…” Edelgard said in amazement. This was the first time that she could remember her and Mercedes actually saying more than two words to one another.

“Listen, Edelgard…I wanted to talk to you directly actually, when I saw you weren’t at the bonfire.”

Is she about to tell me off?

“Oh, you did?” Edelgard asked, as nonchalantly as possible.

“I did,” Mercedes said, and Edelgard couldn’t help but notice a morose look on her face; even behind her smile.

“What is it…?”

“I just…I just wanted to say to you that…I’m sorry we didn’t get to know each other better.”

Edelgard paused.

“Mercedes, what do you mean?”

Mercedes smiled morosely; or at least, an attempt at her usual warm smile; and looked at Edelgard with an expression that she just couldn’t place.

“I’m sure Byleth will tell you all about it,” she continued. “But I just wanted to say to you that I’ve always respected you, Edelgard. Even from a distance, I always thought you were someone others should aspire to be like. And, well…”

Edelgard remained silent, and tilted her head slightly.

“Make sure you take care of Byleth, okay?” Mercedes said, and Edelgard couldn’t help but notice that her eyes were slightly watery as she spoke. “I think she was a little too drunk to really comprehend what I was saying to everyone -”

“Wait. Byleth was drunk?”

“She was.” Mercedes replied with a louder laugh this time. “Very much so, actually! But…I just wanted to get all of that off of my chest. I’m sorry if I seem a little obscure, saying things so vaguely like this, but…I hope that things go well for you from here on. See you around, Edelgard!”

Edelgard stood, dumbfounded and looking on as Mercedes held up a hand, bidding her farewell; before turning around politely and walking back towards the bonfire.

“What was that all about…?”

“El! There you are! Ohhh my God. I was SO worried!”

Almost as though the words themselves had achieved a way to become physical with weight, Edelgard felt the heavy flump of a certain someone wrapping their arms around her.

“Edeeeelgard.”

“Ack-!”

Edelgard couldn’t help but chuckle as she turned around to a large cuddle from a very familiar woman; and she couldn’t help but fluster and blush as Byleth began burying her face into her neck.

“Mmmm. You smell goooood.”

“Byleth, you smell like an old brewery! How much did you drink? I wasn’t even gone for that long, was I?!”

“Aah?” Byleth asked, and Edelgard neglected to mention that she didn’t actually care whether Byleth smelled like her usual self or three bottles of alcohol. “Well. I… *hic*”

“Oh, you foolish thing…” Edelgard said, and placed her hands either side of Byleth’s face. “How are we going to get home now when you drove us?”

“I can drive you, if you want.”

Edelgard turned around to see the smirking face of Claude.

Claude? You must be joking.”

“I am not!” Claude protested indignantly. Edelgard shook her head.

“There is no way on this earth you’ve had less to drink than Byleth.”

“Miracles can happen,” Claude retorted, and bowed. “As you can see, I’m perfectly sober.”

Edelgard closed her eyes in exasperation.

“…I imagine all your years of flunking school and partying have given you a cast iron alcohol tolerance, actually.”

“Edelgaaaard…” Byleth mumbled loudly against Edelgard’s neck. “You smell so gooood…”

“B-Byleth!”

Claude chuckled, and Dimitri walked over away from the bonfire alongside Annette.

“Claude,” Dimitri began in exasperation. “Stop winding her up, please.”

“Hey, it’s Annie!” Claude announced, ignoring his boyfriend’s request.

Annette smiled and waved politely.

“Hello everyone! Wow, hasn’t it been an age since we were all in the same place?”

“It feels very strange to see everyone,” Dimitri said, “I must admit.”

“It’s nice, though…” Edelgard said, and Byleth raised her head from Edelgard’s neck to kiss her forehead. “Byleth, sober up!”

“Mmmm, but you’re cute…”

“Hey! Are you saying I’m only cute when you’re drunk?”

“No WAY,” Byleth slurred, and cuddled up to a blushing Edelgard all over again. “You? You’re cute ALL the time.”

Dimitri chuckled as Edelgard flustered.

“Come on, stop it now…!” She protested with a glare of red against her cheeks.

“So what brings you over here, Annie?” Claude asked. “Dimitri dropping you off?”

“Yeah! Me and Mercie were going back to our homes for the night. Are you guys all setting off home now, too?”

Claude nodded.

“Yeah, I was just trying to convince Edelgard and the slum drunk to let me drop them off somewhere.”

“Claude, correct me if I’m wrong,” Dimitri began. “But weren’t you the one who got Byleth to drink all that alcohol?”

Edelgard felt icicles drip off of her words.

“Oh, you were, were you?”

Claude grimaced, and held up his hands.

“N-Now, now. No need for such a frosty look, Edelgard. Isn’t all of this side to Byleth just what you want?”

Edelgard’s icy demeanour immediately switched to a separate pink blush, and Byleth let out a chuckle against Edelgard that suggested she had entirely no idea what was going on.

“…Hmph.” Edelgard resigned, and Claude slapped his hands together in prayer.

“Come on, let me drive you at least to a diner to sober her up!” Claude pleaded. “Okay? Pretty please? It can be my way of atonement, even though this is technically all your fault.”

“All my fault? How?!”

“Because you made her all worried! She had to get a drink down her neck.”

Byleth groaned against Edelgard’s neck almost in an involuntary confirmation, and Edelgard couldn’t help but smile to herself.

“…Suit yourself,” she said with a smirk, and looked down at Byleth resting against her with a subtle warmth reserved just for the one she loved.

“That’s the spirit!” Claude declared, as Edelgard began to slip her hand into Byleth’s jacket pocket to find her car keys.

“Hmm? Whaddya doing?” Byleth asked.

“I’m just looking for your car keys,” Edelgard whispered against the shell of Byleth’s ear as she fumbled around in her crushes’ pockets. Between the gum wrappers and old receipts, eventually her fingertips touched something cold and metal. “Ah, got them. Here, Claude.”

With a clink of the metal, Claude caught Byleth’s keys, and after kissing Dimitri twice on the lips, he began walking jubilantly towards the strip of abandoned cars left by everybody in attendance.

“Come on, then!” Claude declared, and Edelgard smiled at Dimitri.

“Keep an eye on him, okay?” Dimitri said with a laugh. “Don’t let him go too fast. Sometimes he likes to gun it down the roads of this town entirely at the wrong speeds.”

“I will keep an iron grip as always.” Edelgard said. “Thanks for what you said tonight.”

“Hm?”

“About…you know. Her.”

Byleth, Edelgard’s eyes said. That was what they always said.

With Annette still in earshot talking to another person and Byleth almost passed out on her shoulder, Dimitri closed his eyes with a smile.

“…Ah. You’re welcome, of course.”

“You really are my best friend,” Edelgard openly confessed. Dimitri smiled again as he placed a hand on Edelgard’s free shoulder.

“And you for me too, El. Just have a good night, okay?”

“I will. I have a feeling we’ll be stuck at the diner for a long time yet, so see you later.”

“Take care of yourselves,” Dimitri said, “and whatever you do, don’t let her drink too much coffee. She’ll puke.”

As Edelgard and a very drunken Byleth bid farewell to the tall blonde man behind them, Edelgard slipped an arm around Byleth’s waist, and began hoisting her along towards the car she had been driving in just hours ago.

“What an unusual night…” Edelgard remarked.

“Hah?” Byleth slurred. “Ohh, El…”

“Nothing,” she replied with a smirk. “Just try to sober up a bit now, okay?”

“Where we goin’?”

“Well, let’s see…do you want to go to Manuela’s diner, up near my dad’s store?”

Byleth nodded slowly.

“Aaah, yes. Diner food…food is good.”

Edelgard chuckled; and found that once she thought she was out of the woods, her heart really was just as warm as her body when Byleth was against them both.

“Then let’s get going, shall we?”

Chapter Text

“You’ll be okay walking home after this, I take it?”

As Claude started the ignition of Byleth’s car, he spoke behind him to the two women he had offered a ride to; and, as he began adjusting his seat slightly towards the steering wheel, Edelgard helped Byleth clamber in next to her with a drunken fumble forwards.

“We’ll be fine, thank you. If Byleth needs a place to stay, she can just sleep over at mine.”

“I bet she can.”

“Claude," Edelgard began with a throb of her temples as she frowned. "I said something of a similar ilk to Dimitri earlier, but I'm not afraid to kill anyone who teases me out of the blue.”

Claude chuckled knowingly with a quiet word of apology, and began the drive back up to town.

He didn’t really say much of anything after that. The moment he was behind the wheel, it was almost as though a surprisingly responsible side of him took over. Edelgard appreciated that he was probably trying his best to concentrate on the dark roads back up to the main hole of Garreg Mach; very aware that he had the responsibility of two other people in the first place. Apparently, even Claude knew when it was appropriate to buckle down and accept that he had to fulfil something – well, mostly.

In this instance, Edelgard couldn’t have been more grateful to him for doing just that.

As she rode along in the back of the car with Byleth, Byleth herself was also considerably quieter. It seemed as though the alcohol was beginning to wear off after a short time of being in her system, but not enough to stop her hands from wandering. Edelgard wasn’t about to tell Byleth to stop with her affectionate state of being, but even she knew better than to try and initiate or talk about anything whilst one of them was even a little inebriated.

“What are you doing?” Edelgard whispered to the woman whose head had been resting on her shoulder for the duration of the car journey. “Hm?”

“You’re so beautiful…” Byleth blurted out, and her hands clasped Edelgard’s own firmly against the gap between both of their thighs as they sat.

From the dim lighting of the streetlamps on every corner and the faint neon signs of the stores around town, Edelgard could see the lines of Byleth’s face in the gentle reds and pinks that passed by their faces like water. The stillness between them in the back of the car could have been cut like a knife; the distance between their lips easily closed in a second, if either of them had dared. Claude switched on the radio with a gentle click of the button, and the static-filled sounds of a jazz song perfect for a night-time cruise began to fill the car.

“Dimitri loves this song,” Claude said idly behind him, “something about setting a perfect mood, or so he said. Wouldn’t you agree, Edelgard?”

Edelgard smiled mischievously at the reflection of Claude’s hazel eyes in the mirror, before he chuckled warmly to himself and continued driving.

“Mood music indeed,” Edelgard mumbled to herself, and turned her gaze back to the woman she was completely infatuated with resting against her shoulder.

In between the stillness, Edelgard could feel Byleth shift her weight slightly to face her a little better.

The tension was palpable between them; as heavy as it was hot, the desire was a noticeable weight that only served to stoke the fire in her heart, flickering just as brightly as the bonfire had done earlier. Edelgard felt Byleth against her neck, sloppily and non-committal brushes of her face against spots of skin that made Edelgard sit bolt upright; and as Byleth moved slowly upwards, her nose even brushed against Edelgard's own.

"Whoops," Byleth laughed clumsily, and flopped back down again. Edelgard crossed her legs.

"It's alright..." she replied, before allowing her head to stop itself from dizzying further. 

Edelgard found that her crush having the combination of a faint, sweet smell of alcohol on her breath and heavy-lidded eyes looking at her in the back seat was a recipe for being incredibly turned on. And Edelgard felt a little more confident in herself, too, around a Byleth that was less able to fully comprehend everything anyone would say to her.

“You’re gorgeous, you know…” Edelgard whispered gently, tucking a strand of Byleth’s dark hair behind her ear. “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

Between the comfortable, familiar noise of Byleth’s engine vibrating through the car’s frame and the sensation of a warm body against her own, Edelgard couldn’t resist telling Byleth exactly what she thought of her. Or at least a little.

“Mm…” Byleth mumbled; unable to fully open her eyes for the alcohol in her system. “You’re pretty. The prettiest, even…”

“You think so?” Edelgard said softly.

“I always thought that about you…” Byleth mumbled; her chin now comfortably resting in the dip between Edelgard’s neck and her shoulder. “You know that.”

“Do I?”

“You don’t? I’ll have to tell you more often.”

Edelgard blushed with a warm smile.

“Please by all means do, if you can actually remember to in the morning.”

Byleth giggled to herself, and Edelgard could have sworn from the way her lower abdomen tensed suddenly that she’d felt her crushes’ lips kiss lightly at her neck.

“We’re here, ladies...if you can tear yourselves away from each other for a moment.”

The bright lights of Manuela’s Diner shone in through Byleth’s car windows as Claude parked the car next to the entrance, and Edelgard found that between the sound of night-time jazz and Byleth’s voice, she had never enjoyed a car ride home more than this one. 

“Thanks for the ride, Claude.”

“No problem. Here.”

As Edelgard stepped out of the car, Claude passed her the keys to Byleth’s car.

“How are you going to be getting home?” Edelgard asked.

“Oh, I don’t live too far out. Just a few minutes’ walk away. I’m a big boy. I’ll be fine!”

Edelgard narrowed her eyes.

“Are you sure? You don’t want to call a cab or anything? I can pay for one for you.”

“Nope. I actually enjoy walking off a good night’s party, if it’s all the same to you!” Claude said with a smile, and held up his hand; his silver ring glinting some of the lights back from the diner sign as though it were a priceless jewel on his finger. “See you girls later. Enjoy your meals.”

Edelgard smiled at her friend’s kindness.

“Goodnight, Claude. Be safe.”

“Bye, Claude!” Byleth blurted out, before groggily groaning. “Urk…”

Claude laughed to himself, waving affectionately to his two friends, and then slipped his hands into his jean pockets; walking off into the maze of stores Garreg Mach had to offer towards the residential district.

“He’s really grown up a lot…” Edelgard said to herself, and slipped Byleth’s car keys into her pocket as she held on to her hands. “Come on. Let’s get you some food, okay?”

Ugh…” Byleth said with a bashful laugh, and pressed her free hand to her forehead. “My head is killing me…”

“I can imagine. How much did you manage to drink in the short time I was gone…?”

“You don’t want to know, trust me.”

Edelgard laughed to herself as she pushed open the door; and was greeted with the familiar, gaudy sight of the bright place in town known as Manuela’s Diner.

It had been a while since Edelgard had been here, and yet, it was just as she remembered it. Immaculately clean and with the exact same décor it had been graced with probably twenty or thirty years ago, Manuela and her crew did a good job of keeping the place ship shape. From the plastic plants in the corners to the gaudy teal and white tiles of the floor, Edelgard couldn’t help but feel at home.

The bright colours of the jukebox were as enticingly eye-catching as ever, and Edelgard couldn’t deny that it brought an urge to go put on one of her favourite songs. The counter was covered in a strangely therapeutic looking flecked white marble, and had worn-down, old leather stools behind it, more than likely for the truckers and other drifters that floated through Garreg Mach on their way to greater things.

But for Edelgard and Byleth, they stumbled in to a near empty diner save for a select few, and sat themselves down in the booth at the farthest end of the restaurant.

Byleth rest her head against the hard, teal wall as she sat; and Edelgard couldn’t help but chuckle as she slipped off her jacket.

“Are you doing okay?” Edelgard asked with a smile, and Byleth let out a stiff sigh.

“Ugh. This is why I never drink.”

“Not good at holding your alcohol, are you?”

“No!” Byleth replied with a weak laugh, and Edelgard couldn’t help but grin to herself again. “This is why you can’t go wandering off into dangerous situations and leaving me to cope.”

“Cope?”

“Yes! I was worried about you. So I drank, because I’m very responsible like that.”

Edelgard felt a warm sensation on her cheeks as she grabbed Byleth’s hands across the table, and stroked them boldly with her thumbs. Byleth allowed her tired eyelids to close over the uncomfortable, hot eyeballs in her skull, and squeezed the hands that smoothly slipped against her palms.

“Your hands are always so nice and warm, El...”

Edelgard blushed again. How many times have my cheeks been pink tonight alone?

“…Thank you.”

As the two of them waited for whoever would be their waitress, Edelgard thought to herself afterwards about what a strange night this had been.

There was so much she wanted to ask Byleth all about the night; if she had noticed the dull hum that she had heard in the woods, if she had somehow seen that strange cabin, if she had noticed the silver bracelet as anything unusual. There were so many things she wanted to pick her mind over, but above all else, Edelgard still hadn’t forgotten one very important thing – that Byleth wanted to talk to her about something in particular.

If only I hadn’t wandered off to go on a fruitless venture, Edelgard thought, I might know what that is by now…

I’ll find out if she can talk about it, even if this isn’t the greatest time.

“Byleth,” Edelgard started with a nervous shuffle. “I -”

“Oh, great. I have to serve you? What the hell are you doing here at this time of night? Oh, and hi, Edelgard.”

Edelgard blinked in disbelief as did a now half-sober Byleth, before they turned to face the source of the disgruntled voice at their side.

“Ah, well that explains the tableside manner,” Byleth said with a chuckle and a groan mixed together. “How’ve you been, Lysithea?”

Stood with a small notepad in her equally small hand, there was a tired face that both Edelgard and Byleth knew very well. The shock of white-blonde hair resting atop her head in a hairstyle that hadn’t changed for any number of years, Lysithea was just as both women remembered her; except this time, she was donned in a white and red striped apron with a work dress beneath.

“Oh, I’m just peachy. I love working here at the diner in the dead of night, when we only ever have two or three super depressed or weird customers. It’s sooo fun. I just love it.”

“Sounds nice,” Edelgard replied. Lysithea scoffed.

“It isn’t. So what can I get you?”

Byleth let out a creak of relief as the idea of toast and coffee began to finally hit her senses; and Edelgard ordered a small cup of tea.

“Ugh, the coffee is gonna keep me wired all night,” Byleth said resignedly, “but at this point, I’m long past caring.”

“Where on earth have you been to look like that?” Lysithea asked with a small laugh. “I don’t think I’ve seen you this drunk since…”

Lysithea faltered into a sudden quiet, and blushed. Byleth chuckled whilst Edelgard closed her eyes.

Ah, I forgot about hearing that these two kissed at Sylvain’s house party a year or so ago… Edelgard reminisced. If I could just forget that permanently, then that would be great.

“Anyway…where have you been?” Lysithea asked, feigning a casual tone, and cleared her throat as she tapped the soft eraser at the end of her pencil against her thumb.

“Mercedes was throwing a party by the lakeside. You know, to kind of get all the high school crew back together…” Byleth said with a second groan to follow her first, and pulled her jacket around her a little cosier. “You couldn’t show up because of work, huh?”

“Show up?” Lysithea began with a raised eyebrow, writing down the orders for her former classmates on the tiny sheet of paper in her hands. “I wasn’t invited.”

Edelgard and Byleth exchanged a wide-eyed look of disbelief as Lysithea scoffed, but both women could see she was privately quite hurt.

“You weren’t?” Edelgard asked in surprise. “Why not? I thought you and Mercedes got along just fine.”

“Well, we did back in school…but you know what she’s like about thugs.”

Edelgard scoffed at the idea of Lysithea von Ordelia being trouble.

Thugs? What are you -”

As Edelgard began to finish her sentence, the sound of the door to Manuela’s diner burst open with a loud bang against the wall; and filing in were the familiar faces of three women that Byleth and Edelgard hadn’t seen in a long time.

“Hey, there she is!” A loud voice echoed throughout the building. “C’mere, babygirl.”

“Leonie!” Lysithea announced in surprise; her disgruntled appearance now fully transformed into a coy, girlish surprise at the sight of the redhead that had burst her way into the diner. “What’re you doing here?!”

Edelgard raised her eyebrows as she turned back to Byleth, who seemingly hadn’t moved much since flopping down against the wall.

“Leonie’s really changed since school, hasn’t she?” Edelgard asked in a hushed voice, before turning back to the woman before her in an impressed gaze. “Wow, she got…”

“She’s very physically fit now, huh? I wouldn’t want to go up against her in a fight…” Byleth croaked in amazement, before slumping once again. “El…if I ever drink this much again, please slap me.”

“I’ll pry the bottle away from you. How about that?”

“Please do, and then whack me with it.”

Edelgard chuckled affectionately before turning to face the scene happening behind her for a second time.

She quickly found her eyes scanning the three thuggish women that had turned up with just as suspicious of an eye as she’d had all night. Clad in a dark assortment of tight-fitting t-shirts, jeans, baggy jackets and hi-top boots, she saw the culprits of brash voices and vulgar sounds introduce themselves as her former schoolmates; Leonie, Catherine and Shamir.

Three thugs who weren’t bad people at heart, but instead had allowed their boredom to transform them into the resident troublemakers. Leonie, the ringleader, had always been the most boisterous of them all; and now she had grown up, not much had changed. With a ponytail of fire-red hair shoved up messily and a scrappy, handsome look on her face, it wasn’t really a surprise Lysithea had fallen for her in this drab town.

Byleth raised her eyebrows as she looked over Edelgard’s shoulder at the gaggle before her.

“The purchase of a motorbike does a lot to a girl, apparently.”

Edelgard couldn’t help but laugh quietly at Byleth’s remark, and nodded in a stunned agreement.

But when it came to Leonie, girls fell over themselves to be with her these days. Edelgard could vaguely understand the appeal of a bad girl, but with crushes, Byleth had always been the forefront of her mind. A bad girl is too much work for me, she thought to herself, and watched as Leonie pulled Lysithea into her strong arms and kissed at her cheek.

The romantic envy reared its ugly head once again. Edelgard gnawed at her lip.

“Leonie!” Lysithea protested again, falsely attempting to get out of the strong embrace she’d suddenly found herself in. “Come on, I’m working!”

“Ah, fuck this place! You don’t need it. Manuela pays you dirt!” Leonie cursed. “You know I can take care of us both! C’mon, let’s go. My wage from the mechanics? We’ll be sitting pretty. Let me treat you to somethin’ nice, okay?”

“Hey, I have customers! And I like working here…mostly,” Lysithea protested with a scorching blush against her cheeks, and Leonie turned her attention to her former classmates sat behind her girlfriend.

Customers? Who the…” she said, before her tone switched from slightly irritated to a flat note. “Oh.”

“Oh! Hey, Edelgard!” Catherine said brightly; stepping out from behind the leather jacket embrace of Leonie and Lysithea. “Ah, and Byleth! Oh, wow. You look like shit.”

“Thanks for that,” Byleth laughed weakly, and sat up slightly. “Nice to see you, too.”

“Hah! I’m glad you still recognize me, looking like that!” Catherine chuckled.

The loud, brash nature of the Garreg Mach thugs began to vibrate through the walls of the diner, and Edelgard thought how if she was getting a headache from the sudden bout of noise, Byleth’s head was probably ready to split in two.

“Hey, Shamir!” Catherine continued. “Edelgard and Byleth are here! Come say hi!”

Shamir turned to where Catherine was pointing, and opted to look over with an air of irritation.

“…Hi.”

“Aw, c’mon. Lighten up!”

Leonie laughed as she held Lysithea in her arms, and turned to face Shamir.

“Don’t worry,” she said with a loud and direct tone. “You ain’t the only one that don’t like her.”

Shamir smirked, and Edelgard frowned.

“…I know.”

“And who exactly are you talking about?” Edelgard demanded with an irritated tone. “I’d love to know.”

“Watch your mouth,” Shamir retorted quickly, and from the daggers in her eyes directed at the woman behind her, Edelgard began to realize quickly that both Leonie and Shamir were less than fond of Byleth.

“Hmph. As childish as you’ve always been, aren’t you, Shamir?”

Shamir remained silent to Edelgard’s unafraid goading, and folded her arms. A chuckle came from behind Edelgard’s defensive position on the seat opposite, and Byleth’s grey skin looked a little fuller of colour and life now that she was being presented with a challenge.

“Aww. I don’t have fans in you guys? However will my heart go on?”

“Not in me or Shamir,” Leonie stated bluntly. “You’ve always been a pain in the ass.”

“Leonie…” Lysithea said quietly.

Leonie, spurred on to show off before her girlfriend, continued to both point the finger and air out some unnecessary dirty laundry on the diner floor.

You made out with my girl. I ain’t gonna forgive you easily!”

Byleth rolled her eyes.

“Leonie, that was literally over a year ago now.”

“And we weren’t even together at that point!” Lysithea added. “Come on, let it go.”

Leonie grumbled with a point well taken, before turning away with Lysithea in hand and storming off to another table at the far end of the diner. Shamir scowled at Byleth wordlessly.

“Well?” Byleth asked, and Edelgard couldn’t help but be attracted to her cheeky expression. “What’s your excuse?”

Shamir didn’t say anything again, and instead, opted to walk away from the table quietly. Edelgard noticed that Shamir, too, was wearing something silver on her wrist; but it was a large wristwatch as opposed to a bracelet.

Could it have been Shamir, by the black van earlier? …No, she’s too tall.

The best candidate for whoever that was, if it wasn’t just a complete stranger, really is Hilda. I wonder if it was her…

“Aah…” Catherine said with a rub of the back of her neck, and slipped her hands into her puffy white jacket. “Sorry about them. They’re a pair of grumps, I tell you.”

“Don’t worry about it. At least they only use violence when it suits them,” Edelgard said dryly, before she noticed Lysithea finally managing to wriggle away from Leonie in the distance by kissing her nose. “Looks like our food will finally now be on its way.”

“Thank God,” Byleth added solemnly, and lay her head back against the wall.

“You drank too much, eh?” Catherine said with a chuckle, and sat down next to a puzzled Edelgard. “Oh! Don’t worry, I won’t muscle in for too long. I can’t stand being around Leonie when she’s fawning over Lysithea, though. Drives me nuts to see too much public affection.”

“For what it’s worth, Lysithea just went back to the kitchen.”

“I’ll still take my chances with a break over here,” Catherine said with an exasperated expression, and ran a hand through her blonde hair.

“How have you been, Catherine?” Edelgard asked. “It feels like it’s been quite some time since we all last saw each other. Even if Shamir and Leonie are weird about Byleth now, for some reason.”

“Oh, Shamir…” Catherine said with an affectionate smile. “She’s always had a crush on Mercedes, that’s why.”

Byleth looked blankly at the two blonde women sitting before her, before Edelgard placed her head in her hands.

“Oh, god.”

“You know, Mercedes?” Catherine said to Byleth in a slightly patronizing tone. “The girl that likes you a whole lot?”

Byleth blinked.

“Wait, what?”

Catherine paused, before she let out an uproarious laugh.

“Oh, man! You really are dumb as shit with women, aren’t you?”

“Don’t talk to her like that!” Edelgard protested, as Byleth stared onwards in disbelief.

“Sorry, sorry,” Catherine replied with a wary chuckle, “I just assumed you knew! That’s why Shamir isn’t fond of you, Byleth. She’s just bein’ petty. She’ll get over it though…probably. I think they slept together at some point, but I can't be sure.”

Byleth ran a hand through her hair in disbelief, and Edelgard felt the nervous churn inside her stomach of wondering if Byleth was now considering Mercedes as a romantic possibility...or simply thinking all about the ways she could let her feelings down gently.

“I had no idea…” Byleth said in a disbelieving tone. “Wow, I guess I really am kind of thoughtless…did you notice it, Edelgard?”

Edelgard paused, and bit her lip.

“No,” she lied. “I hadn’t noticed.”

“I see,” Catherine interjected, with a knowing look on her face that both infuriated and embarrassed Edelgard. “So that’s how it is.”

“Yes, it is.”

Catherine chuckled at Edelgard’s pointed reply, and sighed to herself.

“Well, I didn’t come over here to stir the pot…to answer your question, Edelgard, I’m alright. Honestly I’m bored out of my mind stuck here in this town, but what’s new?”

“Aren’t we all,” Edelgard replied flatly.

Lysithea rushed around the corner, swiftly avoiding Leonie’s attempt at grabbing her again with a girlish giggle towards her thuggish crush, and brought out the order that Edelgard and Byleth asked for.

“Here you go.” Lysithea said, with an irremovable smile on her face. “One cup of coffee, one cup of tea, and some toast.”

“Thanks, Lysithea.” Byleth said, sitting upright slightly, taking her coffee in hand with a scrape of ceramic against the tabletop.

As her lips touched the edge of the hot liquid, Edelgard felt a smile creep across her face at visibly seeing the pleasure of a hot drink reach Byleth’s tongue. Lysithea began to walk away, slipping her tray underneath her arm, before Byleth hastily held up a hand.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute.”

“Hm?”

“You know, Lysithea,” Byleth began; closing her eyes in sheer enjoyment as the colour returned to her cheeks. “This? This is a damn fine cup of coffee. I’ve had, oh, I can’t tell you how many cups of coffee in my life and I have to say, this is one of the best.”

“You’re such a weirdo,” Lysithea said with a bashful laugh, “but thank you. I'll be sure to take them to heart.”

“Please do…” Byleth said, drifting off into the scent of her coffee cup; as Catherine let out another chuckle to herself.

“Well, coffee fanatics aside…” she continued at Edelgard’s side. “Mostly I’ve just been looking for work, but not really getting much of anything. My dad runs the general store downtown, but who the hell wants to work somewhere like that? Not me. Boring as fuck! Oh, actually, I bet you can relate, what with Hresvelg Woodworks being what it is.”

Edelgard sighed wearily, and nodded.

“Unfortunately, yes. Working for my father is nice for the security it brings, but…in terms of actual life fulfilment, not so much.”

“I hear ya. If only this town had a little more excitement, eh?”

Edelgard paused for thought as Catherine slipped out of her seat, and stretched her arms above her head. Byleth laughed as she began to pick idly at her toast.

“I can see your stomach, Catherine. Put it away.”

“You should be so lucky to gaze upon it,” Catherine retorted, and began flexing her arms in jest. “I’ve been working out a lot lately. Did you notice my abs?”

“Sure did. Congrats on the studly appearance.”

Catherine boasted a smug smile, before waving at the two women before her.

“Good. Keep in touch, okay? Swing by the store or something every now and then. It’s not like we can bug each other at school any more, right?”

“Will do,” Edelgard said with a friendly smile, and Byleth rounded off the conversation nicely with a wave of her toast at the tanned blonde now leaving their table.

As Catherine left, Edelgard rest her head on her hands, and propped it up with her elbows.

She heard the sound of a quarter being pushed into the jukebox with a therapeutic clink, and sure enough, the sound of an old, catchy song from the 50s began to play behind her. The diner had livened up something incredible; the sound of Leonie and her gang at the other end seemed to be the bulk of the noise, whilst the various people dotted around in the corners of the diner reading the paper or looking for somewhere to spend a lonely night were also a welcome fixture.

Thinking on Catherine’s admission of Mercedes alongside all of the events of Manuela’s noisy greasy spoon, Edelgard wasn’t sure she wanted to press that topic any further.

Byleth groaned as she took another bite of her toast, and Edelgard was brought back from the recesses of Worst Case Scenario inside her mind and back to the world outside.

“How are you feeling now, hm?” Edelgard asked. “That was a busy twenty minutes or so. I can’t say I’ve missed the hustle and bustle of school life any.”

“You’re telling me,” Byleth replied with an exasperated laugh, and took a sip of her drink. “Well…to be honest, I feel crappy as hell. But mentally, I’m great for just being here with you.”

Edelgard smiled warmly.

“…Me, too. I’m also glad you didn’t have an accident in the car on the way here.”

Byleth laughed.

“Yeah, life is always better when I’m not throwing my guts up in my own ride.”

“I’m surprised you even remembered we got here in your car.”

Byleth’s eyes flashed cheekily, and Edelgard paused in anticipation of her crushes’ reply.

“…I remember the whole car ride, actually.”

She remembers it…? Then that means…

Edelgard cringed.

Oh God. How embarrassing. I knew my romantic confidence would come back to bite me in the ass.

“You do, do you…?” Edelgard asked cautiously, and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear bashfully.

“I do,” Byleth said with a smirk, and much to Edelgard’s relief, she noticed the glint in Byleth’s eye despite the grey of her skin. “And that’s definitely been the best part of my night.”

Edelgard’s eyelids fluttered over her lavender eyes, and she placed her cup of tea down on the table.

“Byleth, stop it now…”

“El.”

Edelgard looked almost cautiously at the woman before her, who placed her coffee down against the table in response.

“Ah! What is it?”

“…I haven’t forgotten. About talking to you, that is.”

Edelgard felt her heart flutter. Byleth, when you look at me like that...

“I know," she replied softly. "Do you want to talk about it now, or...?"

“Actually...I think tonight…I need to get some rest before I tell you what I really want to say.”

“Is it something good, at least?” Edelgard blurted out helplessly, and, casting her embarrassment to the wind, just prayed for a good response. Byleth smiled, and rubbed the back of her neck with a wince of her eyes.

“Ow…well, yes, I think so. I hope so, anyway. I hope that’s what you think.”

Edelgard paused, blinking to herself as she registered just what Byleth had said to her, and finally allowed herself to smile.

“…Alright,” she said coyly. “Then let’s talk of it another time.”

Sometime soon, if I have anything to say about it.

“Sounds good to me.”

Edelgard and Byleth exchanged warm, knowing smiles, before Byleth sighed into her toast.

“So,” she began, taking a crunchy bite of the ever so slightly buttered bread before her. “What happened out in the woods? Did you find the girls?”

Chapter Text

“Oh!” Edelgard replied in surprise, and kicked herself for almost forgetting the entire reason she missed out on talking to Byleth in depth in the first place. “Yes, I did. They were making out. As expected.”

“Of course.”

Edelgard shook her head, and cupped her cheeks in her hands as she continued to prop up her chin with her palms. “It was very embarrassing, to be honest. I can’t say I want to repeat the excursion of interrupting a make-out session just to talk about Mercedes.”

Byleth chuckled. “It was still good of you to go and find them for her sake, though. I think she’d have really appreciated a gesture like that.”

“Yeah…” Edelgard said, feeling a little guilty as she thought on her true motivations. “Something felt very…unusual about those woods, though.”

Byleth raised an eyebrow, and took another sip of her coffee.

“Unusual?” She asked curiously. “It’s not like you to say that...what happened?”

Edelgard furrowed her brow.

“How to put it without sounding entirely crazy…” she began, and ran a hand through her hair. “It…I don’t know. It felt unnatural, somehow. As though something happened there that...really shouldn’t have.”

“Well, we’re all shocked about Marianne having a girlfriend after all this time, but…”

“That’s not what I mean!” Edelgard replied with a laugh as Byleth chuckled to herself. “You dork. I mean that something happened there that was bad.”

“How so?”

Edelgard paused and rubbed her temples. God damn it. I wasn’t going to talk about this until we’d actually talked about our feelings, but maybe talking to Byleth about it whilst she’s half sober is a better idea.

As Byleth leant forwards eagerly, Edelgard felt a little more reassured.

“...Promise you won’t think I’m crazy?”

“I would never think that,” Byleth said in a tone of voice that made Edelgard’s heart melt in her chest. “Anything you say is something I want to hear, you know.”

Edelgard smiled warmly, and Byleth offered her hands across the table to hold Edelgard’s own.

“…Alright.”

Byleth smiled weakly, before shivering under her jacket as she took Edelgard’s hand. “Ugh, this hangover is going to be a one of a kind experience, isn’t it?”

Edelgard chuckled, before the smile on her face became more of a simper as she recalled the night’s events.

“...I don’t know where to begin with the bad vibes I got from that place.”

Somehow, saying it out loud here in the atmosphere of this diner, made it feel so much more…real. Even though she had gotten through the strange experience of the lakeside woods and the black van’s appearance, even though she herself had lived through the actual, tangible experience of feeling the bones of a carcass crack beneath her boots and the strange hum that lingered in the air to name but a couple of things; it was all just…weird.

“Just start from the beginning. As obvious as that might sound, that’s often the best place to gather your thoughts.” Byleth said, and Edelgard felt a little bad for seeing the concerned look in her now reddening eyes.

“Well…” Edelgard began, and as she began to list off the experiences, she could see Byleth’s face shift into an expression – much like herself – of utter and complete confusion.

“None of it makes any sense. Well, perhaps the bones do…” Edelgard pondered, rubbing her chin as Byleth hung onto every word. “But what about the rest of it? The low hum, the cabin, the strange liquid on the floor of the -”

Edelgard froze in her tracks. Byleth’s eyes widened.

“What? El, what is it?”

“…I haven’t actually thought to look at my boots since.”

Byleth paused silently.

“…Want me to look?” she offered. “I might vomit leaning down, but I’ll do it for you.”

Edelgard felt a little alleviated of her sudden fear that something grotesque was on her boots by Byleth’s humour, and shook her head.

“No, it’s…I’ll look. Don’t worry.”

Taking a deep breath in, Byleth shuffled to the edge of her cushioned booth seat to look with the girl she’d came with; and, as Edelgard moved her legs out from under the speckled table, she looked at her black boots with a discerning eye.

“…There’s definitely something on the soles.”

Byleth raised an eyebrow.

“You know, there’s a joke in here somewhere.”

“Be serious, Byleth!"

Byleth laughed to herself, and shuffled back against the wall.

“Sorry. It’s probably nothing though, you know? Don’t worry about it. The other stuff is definitely pretty weird, though…”

Edelgard paused, before leaning back and grabbing a napkin to wipe along the edges of her boots.

“El?”

Edelgard’s colour drained from her face and – with the dried, glaring red that appeared on the side of the napkin – leant back against her seat with a look of disbelief.

Did I walk through a puddle of blood?

“El…?” Byleth repeated; before picking up the napkin that Edelgard was now staring at. “What the…?”

Looking at the cheap, white material of Manuela’s napkins, it definitely looked like blood.

Edelgard’s mind suddenly began racing. Was it blood from the animal’s bones I broke? No, that looked as though it had been dead for a long time. Why wasn’t there more blood on my shoes than a little bit against the edges? The wet ground must have absorbed the rest of it when I walked…

“El. Come back to me.”

“Ah!”

With a sudden noise of disbelief, Edelgard returned to reality; and looked at Byleth clasping her hands with a look of grave concern in her tired eyes.

“Sorry…” Edelgard apologised. “I’m sorry, Byleth. I feel like I’ve been so distracted by suspicion tonight…”

“I want you to listen to me, okay?” Byleth began, and Edelgard could tell that whatever she was about to say was going to greatly reassure her.

“Okay...”

“In the woods…it sounds odd, but I bet there’s a lot of blood from things going on out there. Not murder or anything freaky like that, but you know? Animals hunt each other, people probably get injured if they're chopping wood…not to mention there’s the sheer coincidence of the soil just being particularly red from getting so many leaves squished into it. Right?”

“That’s true…” Edelgard conceded, and Byleth squeezed her hands.

“So no more worrying about this, okay?” She asked. “Hey, if Marianne and Hilda were both fine, then I’m honestly sure there’s nothing to worry about. Marianne, if nothing else, would be a real easy target for something to happen to her.”

Edelgard closed her eyes, and breathed a slow, sure sigh of relief.

Byleth’s right. Nothing weird is going on. The other things were surely strange, but there’s definitely some non-sinister explanation out there somewhere.

I need to just calm down.

“You’re right, Byleth. You’re right…” Edelgard said with an apologetic tone to her voice. “I’m sorry. This is so out of character for me…”

Byleth smiled. “Hey, don’t worry about it. I love seeing new sides to you, y’know?”

Edelgard blinked twice before blushing, and shook her head as she looked bashfully away.

“How are you still so charming, after so much alcohol and hearing my crazy story…?”

“It’s just true! Besides, I’m still a little tipsy even with the coffee and the toast, so I’ve a lot more courage than usual.”

Edelgard laughed.

“Really? This just seems like classic you to me.”

Byleth smiled, and with the rays of soothing sunlight her reassurance brought, Edelgard began to finally relax all over again; screwing up the napkin with the streak of red on it and slipping it into her pocket to throw in the trash later.

Small, heeled footsteps could be heard approaching at a speedy rate over the sounds of the jukebox and the raucous crowd of Catherine, Shamir and Leonie, and Edelgard turned around to see the face of Lysithea and a lollipop hanging out of her mouth now stood before her.

“Need some refills?” She asked. "They're free. For some reason."

“You guys do that here now?” Byleth replied. Lysithea nodded.

“Yeah, Manuela’s added in a new policy. ‘Goodwill to the townsfolk’ or something like that. So, want one?”

“Hey, to the waitress with a killer pair of legs!” Leonie shouted down the diner, leaning back on her chair with her hands behind her ponytail. “C’mere and give me some sugar already.”

Lysithea’s face began to burn up. Byleth laughed.

“Wow. What a catch.”

“Better than you!” Lysithea retorted with a cherry red set of cheeks, and began to pick up Byleth and Edelgard’s ceramic mugs before her. Byleth leaned back her head and laughed a little louder than before, and Edelgard couldn’t help but smirk at the sight.

“Aw, you’re only saying that because it’s true.”

“Ugh, you’re just as much of a 'charmer' as Leonie!” Lysithea scolded, before stomping off down towards the diner counter. Leonie leant backwards to try and grab her girlfriend’s attention, but was instead met with a sharp tongue and a stomp in the other direction. Leonie pouted. Edelgard, meanwhile, found that all of Byleth’s antics tonight had made her fall thoroughly more in love with her.

“Hm? Why are you looking at me like that?” Byleth asked, and Edelgard couldn’t help but notice a bashful tone to her voice. “You’re looking at me so intensely.”

“I am?”

“Yeah, like you’re staring right into my soul or something.”

Edelgard paused, before she smiled and rest her head against her hands again.

“…No, no reason.”

No reason other than that I’m completely head over heels in love with you, of course.

Edelgard sat looking at Byleth for a few moments after that, and found that her heart was being kissed over and over again by the warm, airy feelings that rest inside her chest. The way Byleth, even when completely drunk, was still so affectionate; the ways that she looked so strangely attractive all windswept and tired, and of course, the ways that her hands felt in Edelgard’s own.

All of these things just serve to make me love you more, Byleth. And after tonight, I’m more certain than ever that you must know it, too.

But the thing that was now playing on Edelgard’s mind the very most of everything tonight, besides the weirdness and the other familiar faces she had seen, was the combination of two things.

The first was all the ways that Byleth’s arms had made their way around her waist as they sat on the beach.

The second was the intensity of the car ride here; because even if Byleth was recovering from her alcoholic fuelled stupor, she still remembered every single piece of it.

I have to tell her soon, Edelgard thought. I just have to. I can’t go another day without her as my own. I have to, before Mercedes gets there…

Wait. Mercedes?

Suddenly; a penny dropped in her mind of something else she’d forgotten amidst everything that had happened.

“Oh…”

“Hm?”

Edelgard shook her head, and tried to ask as casually as she could about the new thought that had bubbled over in her mind.

“Well, it’s just…what was Mercedes’ announcement?” She asked, rubbing the back of her neck in a guilty embarrassment at the memory. “She was awfully cryptic when I found her.”

“Cryptic? What about?”

Look after Byleth for me…okay, Edelgard?

“Nothing in particular,” Edelgard lied, and cleared her throat behind a combination of a curled fist and a blush. “I was just wondering.”

The jukebox’s song changed to another swing song from the 50’s in the distance; filling the diner’s walls with bright notes and colourful beats. Lysithea, before Byleth could begin, hastily hurried over with the refills of coffee and tea that both of them had asked for, and slipped her tray under her arm wordlessly.

“Thanks, Lysithea.”

“Shut up!”

Byleth couldn’t help but laugh again, and Edelgard smirked at her teasing nature.

“You really are such a cheeky devil.”

“What?” Byleth feigned innocently. “I’m just thanking her for the refills.”

Anyway, what did Mercedes say to you?”

“Oh, right. Well…” Byleth said, and Edelgard could see there was a slightly morose look on her face as she talked. “Apparently, her mother came in to a lot of money recently, so she’s planning to go to college sometime soon.”

“College…?” Edelgard said in surprise. “Mercedes? Really?”

“Yeah. She’s going to the big city sometime in the next couple of months. Apparently she took an entrance exam and she got word back she got in, so…”

Edelgard blinked in disbelief, and ran a hand through her hair.

“Wow…well, I can’t say I expected her to say that.”

So that’s why she was asking me to take care of Byleth…

“I know. I’ll be sad to see her go.” Byleth finished, and took a sip of her coffee before recoiling her tongue with a sharp breath. “Ow!”

“Oh, I guess Lysithea did just refill them…”

“I wonder if she filled mine with molten lava this time? My tongue’s gonna be burnt for like a week now…”

Edelgard and Byleth chuckled to themselves, and, as they continued to enjoy the atmosphere around them, they found that the rest of the hours of the night began to melt away.

One o’clock, two o’clock, three…the two of them had stayed awake, wired by caffeine and the adrenaline of youth all through the hours ahead of them. Byleth had now thoroughly sobered up, and if anything, was probably going to end up crashing all throughout the next day to come. Edelgard, meanwhile, had settled for a positive explanation of the strange day that she had experienced; and instead, chose to focus on the better things that her life had offered her.

Byleth and Edelgard talked the night away; about pop songs, all about their former classmates, about how high school had been; every subject that both women could think of was discussed, and for that, Edelgard found the urge to confess her undying love for Byleth just growing stronger and stronger.

“Wow,” Byleth said eventually, eyeballing the old red clock in the corner of the diner. “So much time has passed already, huh?”

“It has?” Edelgard said in amazement, blinking in disbelief as she saw the time. “Oh my!”

“I don’t want to get going, but…we probably should. You have to work tomorrow, right?”

Edelgard chuckled.

“You have much more optimism than me about any customers coming in, but I suppose you’re right. It is better to be responsible than anything else, isn’t it?”

Byleth smirked. “I think so. Besides…”

“…Hm?”

“I still want to talk to you,” Byleth confessed, and Edelgard felt her cheeks tinge pink. “About, uh…something I had in mind.”

Edelgard paused.

“…Do you want to talk about it tonight?” She asked, and felt proud of herself for asking finally what she had wanted to say all along.

I don’t care about the circumstances. I don’t care if you drank too much before. I don’t care!

Byleth smiled bashfully as she looked away, and Edelgard felt the inner child in her heart stomping her foot in indignation.

“Well…I don’t think I’m in my best shape tonight, so…how about tomorrow?”

Tomorrow…okay.

I can wait until tomorrow.

“…Alright.” Edelgard said with a resigned, tired smile; and only in that moment did she actually realize how exhausted she was.

“You holding up okay?” Byleth asked as she slipped on her jacket, and stood up gently on her two feet for the first time in a while. “Ugh, I’m glad I feel okay enough to drive.”

“Are you joking? You are absolutely not driving tonight.”

“Hah? Well, how am I supposed to get home?”

“I don’t care how much you protest, Byleth. Your car stays here.” Edelgard said defiantly, slipping on her crimson jacket over her shirt. “You aren’t driving, and I can’t drive. So…you can either get a cab, or...stay at my place around the corner.”

Byleth paused and bit her lip.

“Ugh, I don’t have any money for a cab after the diner, though…and I wanted to leave Lysithea a large tip, given everything she had to put up with tonight. So…”

Edelgard felt a nervous pool of butterflies spring a leak in her stomach.

“Well? The other offer is there for you.”

Byleth’s eyes turned to face Edelgard’s lavender ones; and, with a loving smile on her face that made Edelgard wish she hadn’t offered such a thing for fear of desperation keeping her awake in the latter hours of the night.

“Alright, then. I’ll take you up on that.” Byleth declared, and Edelgard nodded. Even if the rest of the night was now going to be incredibly hard for her, she was glad that Byleth wouldn’t be getting behind a wheel anytime soon.

As the two of them stood up from behind the table, Byleth placed down the money with a clink against the ceramic saucer for Edelgard’s teacup, and was pleasantly surprised to find that Lysithea was easily summoned by the sound of a tip.

“…Thank you.” Lysithea begrudgingly said with a soft smile, and Byleth nodded groggily. Edelgard smiled at the woman before her, who was still being kept under the watchful eye of a jealous Leonie in the distance; and chuckled as she spoke.

“Don’t stay awake too late,” Edelgard said, “and thank you for not kicking us out for staying so long.”

“If only this job actually let me sleep!” Lysithea replied with a sharp tongue aimed at her boss. “And…it’s alright. To be honest, it was nice to see you. And only you. And nobody else that you may or may not have come with.”

Edelgard sighed wearily. “You’re all so petty.”

“Isn’t that just life, Edelgard?”

Undeterred, Byleth placed an arm around Lysithea’s shoulders with a smirk; and the smirk soon evolved into a knowing grin at the sound of a chair suddenly being flung backwards behind them.

Lysithea flushed red. Edelgard chuckled at the sudden raucous sound of Leonie in the background as Byleth spoke.

“Well, me and El both enjoyed seeing you. See you around, okay?”

“Oh my God, Byleth -” Lysithea began. “Stop it! She’ll kill you!”

“What the fuck?!” Leonie declared as she rolled up the sleeves of her jacket. “You think you can just make a move on my girl like that?! Catherine, help me kick her ass!”

“Do it yourself!” Catherine said with a dismissive hand waving as she sipped her soda. “I’m waiting on pancakes.”

“Oh, boy…” Edelgard said with a laugh caught in her throat, and Byleth wasn’t afraid to flat-out laugh all the way out of the diner as Lysithea prodded Leonie’s collarbone to get her to sit back down.

What an eventful night, Edelgard thought, and yet, I still feel like there's so much more to come.

-

Re-emerging into the outside world, the crisp night air swirling around the dead town of Garreg Mach was just as freezing as both women had expected.

“God, it’s cold!” Byleth announced, and Edelgard found Byleth subconsciously huddling up with her hands in her pockets next to her.

Edelgard smiled.

“We’re not too far from my place now, so just hang in there.”

“I’ll do my best…” Byleth said in an air of false wistfulness, and patted the front of her car as they stepped out into the car park. “See you tomorrow, old friend. Sorry your mom’s been kind of a drunkard tonight.”

Byleth paused as her hand pat the frozen top of her car’s hood, and turned to face Edelgard with a look of disbelief on her face.

“Did Claude have the nerve to call me the slum drunk?”

Edelgard laughed and Byleth grumbled as they turned away from the car that had brought them here, and began to walk in the opposite direction towards Hresvelg Woodworks.

As the two of them walked, Edelgard looked up at the sky above her; and found that her heart felt considerably more soothed looking up at the stars from beneath her small town’s streetlights.

It almost felt as though everything from earlier had been a strange, unnamed blur of suspicion and excitement that she hadn’t asked for. The stars above, twinkling silently in the blanket of navy sky, looked just as beautiful as they ever did; and as Edelgard turned to face the woman she adored at her side, she noticed that the reflections of the silver dots could be vaguely seen in her eyes, too.

“Beautiful…” Byleth said quietly, and Edelgard nodded at her side.

“Yes,” she said, still looking at the shape of Byleth’s face, “it really is.”

The one thing Edelgard von Hresvelg was willing to give to the town of Garreg Mach was a simple thing, and it was that the night-time was beautiful out here. With little to no cars polluting the air and no way of the night sky being tainted by the small amount of streetlights here, the stars were always a sight to behold. With a dazzling galaxy above, Edelgard had often found herself lying in the fresh grass of her back yard, either with her siblings or alone, and had allowed the light violets of her eyes to be astounded by the ethereal, galactic swirls above as she rest her hands behind her head.

With Byleth at her side, the wintry winds of Autumn posed no challenge at all to her. Her heart felt warm, as though Byleth were a permanent source of a soothing flame that bathed her body inside and out, and that feeling alone taught Edelgard what it truly meant to love somebody.

“How are you feeling?” Edelgard asked softly into the night vibe, and almost felt as though she were violating the stillness with her voice. The neons of the store signs were soft, decorative and light with their effervescent words glowing against Byleth’s jacket as she walked beneath them, and Edelgard almost gasped when she felt Byleth wordlessly slip her hand into Edelgard’s own.

“I’m feeling a lot better,” Byleth replied without turning to look at the blonde girl at her side. “Like I said, I think that coffee really is gonna keep me up all night. And I liked the look of the diner’s pie, too…”

Edelgard smiled, turning her gaze downwards in a bashful expression.

“I’m glad you’re feeling better. I was worried about you…” she confessed. “I’ve never seen you that drunk before.”

“Well I was worried about you in the first place!” Byleth replied. “It’s enough to make a woman turn to drink, you know. You can’t go wandering off in the woods in the dead of night like that, even if there are lots of people around. That’s how a horror flick would probably start.”

“Sorry,” Edelgard chuckled. “I didn’t know I’d return to an affectionately drunk Byleth, so that was nice.”

“It was, was it? Am I not affectionate enough when I’m sober?”

“You’re plenty affectionate, actually. I’m just saying it was nice to see another side to you.”

Byleth laughed softly, and squeezed Edelgard’s hand.

“Well, thank you very much, in that case. I’ll have to get blind drunk for another hour again sometime soon.”

Edelgard grinned.

“We’ll just have to see about that.”

Through the crisp crackle of cold and the warm sensation of clasped hands, Edelgard and Byleth eventually made it to the front of Hresvelg Woodworks, despite both women dragging their feet in an attempt to make the starry-eyed night go on for as long as possible.

“The older we get,” Edelgard said with a disappointed tone to her voice that even she didn’t really realize was there, “I realize just how much time is becoming a commodity.”

“Aw, you’re talking like we’re near death, El! We only just graduated high school.”

“I’m…disappointed. That the night has to come to an end.”

Byleth squeezed Edelgard’s hand as they stood before the dark storefront, and shook her head.

“Don’t think of it like that.”

“Hm?”

“Think of it…as a way for a brighter tomorrow to come. Tonight won’t be the best night of your life, after all. You’re going to have so many more.”

Edelgard raised her eyebrows at the woman she adored stood at her side, and smiled.

“Quite insightful when you want to be, aren’t you?” she said in a soft tone. “Come on…let’s get ready to sleep, so you don’t have quite as bad of a hangover tomorrow as I’m anticipating you to have.”

“Oh God. Please don’t remind me,” Byleth winced, and placed her free hand to her head in anguish. “I don’t want to even think about it."

Edelgard chuckled, and looked over her shoulder at the streetlight across from her store.

That black van. It’s still gone…

Hilda, Marianne, the woods, the bracelet…even the diner. Everything has felt so lively tonight, and yet, so strange…

What an unusual incident this all was.

Is this really the end of it…?

With a shake of her head and a dismissal of the mysteries of tonight, Edelgard took Byleth by the hand to lead her a few houses further down the road to her house. At least working for her father had that little convenience; being able to roll out of bed and end up on her work’s doorstep was definitely something she took for granted.

“Well, here we are.”

“Man,” Byleth said with a chuckle, rubbing the back of her neck. “I don’t even remember the last time I stayed at your place. Wasn't it last year?”

“We were…” Edelgard replied with a fond smile, taking slow, gentle steps up to her porch, and pulling out her keys with a jangle. “I remember it was my birthday, and…”

“Then you got really sick for like, a week!” Byleth said with a warm laugh. “Oh, El…”

“I think I must have gotten so overexcited it made myself ill. Still, not to worry. My youthful luster and passion have all but died.”

Byleth laughed a little louder this time, and Edelgard couldn’t help but smirk at her own cynicism as the lock of her front door turned.

The Hresvelg household was somewhere that, despite Edelgard’s boredom with her working life, she truly did love. This place held so many nice memories, nice scents, nice familiarity. The jokes with her siblings, the cuddles with her mother, before her untimely passing. And as Edelgard stood steeped in a flurry of fleeting, bittersweet memories, she saw that the large, open fireplace of their living room was still lit; crackling away with the Hresvelg household’s three cats in front of it.

She also saw that her father had fallen asleep with a book on his chest once again, and his glasses slightly crooked across his face. Edelgard’s inner child decided that embarrassment was the best reaction to this, and decidedly began to hurry Byleth along.

“Oh, goodness…” Edelgard said with a whisper. “Byleth, don’t look in here while you go upstairs.”

“Sleeping dad, is it?” Byleth clocked right away.

“Mouth agape sleeping dad, yes.”

Byleth smiled at the woman before her, and took off her shoes gently in the corner besides a large, oak chest of drawers, resting beneath sparse looking coathooks.

“Alright, you got it.”

“Thank you.”

As Byleth tiptoed upstairs, Edelgard looked around her home as though she hadn’t visited for a long time; and felt a sense of refreshment unlike anything she had experienced recently.

Taking off her own boots and jacket, Edelgard tiptoed quietly up the carpeted stairs. No matter where she trod on the floorboards beneath the soft padding, there was always that one floorboard that squeaked, just to be extra irritating, and often made her squint her eyes shut in irritation. But this time, Edelgard was too happy to be irritated. She felt too good to allow anything else into her mind other than a sheer sense of gratitude to the universe for allowing her to be here.

Maybe, just maybe, Garreg Mach wasn’t quite as bad as she’d been thinking all along. After all, she’d met the love of her life here. How bad of a town could it be, really?

“Byleth, do you -”

As Edelgard pushed open the door to her bedroom, she saw a sight that she had been wanting to see for a very long time; except in this instance, it was executed rather poorly.

The sight of Byleth in her bed was always a welcome one, but seeing how fast – and how clumsily – she had fallen asleep made Edelgard chuckle as she leant against the doorframe.

“Oh, Byleth…” she said affectionately. “You really are so silly.”

The waning moonlight of the coming dawn poured into the room from behind Edelgard’s thin curtains, and she found herself moving in the dark like a shadow. Quietly stepping over her possessions; her diary, several tissues and who knew how many clothes; she reached a softly snoring Byleth, flopped down against the pillow Edelgard slept against every night, peaceful and warm.

“I suppose I’ll sleep on the floor…” Edelgard reluctantly mumbled to herself, but inside, deeply wished with a profound sense of love that she could sleep next to Byleth tonight.

Sliding her closet door slightly, she pulled out a red sleeping bag from the upper shelves; praying nothing would fall on her as she did so. And, after placing another blanket over Byleth’s body as she slept soundly in the bed above, Edelgard found her eyes heavier than she was expecting.

I can’t be bothered to get changed…I’ll just shower tomorrow morning.

And, as Edelgard’s head hit the tip of her sleeping bag’s top, she pulled the blanket warmly over her body and drifted off to the sight of Byleth’s silhouette, sleeping soundly just above her; and with her hand hanging off of the mattress, close enough to hold.

Chapter Text

As soon as her eyes closed, Edelgard drifted off into what started as a peaceful, restful sleep; but gradually, as a scene she didn't recognize began to reach her vision, she worked out quickly that she wasn’t actually experiencing anything real.

“Is this a dream…?" she asked herself quietly. "I must be dreaming…”

For Edelgard von Hresvelg, already a woman who rarely dreamt of anything, experiencing a vision like this in such rare technicolour was something that she couldn’t dream of doing in the first place.

The surroundings were incredibly peculiar. It felt as though something was here, something was watching her, trying to calculate her every move as she stood here in this strange, warped version of her room, and as she turned frantically to the bed, she noticed Byleth wasn’t there.

The more she looked around in amazement, the more she found that everything was much more different than she had first left it. The curtains in her room were no longer there; the bedsheets were a strange shade of purple, as though somebody had wanted to dye them lavender from a previously hot pink. And the bedframe itself was made of sterling silver instead of simple wood; glistening in a yellow light from the glare of an unnaturally large moon outside.

“What is this?” Edelgard asked in a quiet amazement, and turned to face the sight of her now painted blue door.

Her hand coiled around the doorknob, and then recoiled in a hasty motion; it was boiling hot.

“A fire?” Edelgard wondered, pulling her sleeve down to open it quickly. “I’d better see if Dad is okay!”

Opening the door with a wrench of desperation, Edelgard’s eyes were expecting to be greeted with the orange flicker of flames, whilst her ears were also anticipating the soft crackle of things being destroyed inside a large, orange blur. But all that there was instead was a long, long pair of blue curtains, and behind those, there was a set of darkened stairs of unknown length, leading down somewhere into the depths of an abyss.

"What on Earth...?"

But perhaps, most disturbingly of all, was the sets of bloody handprints; smeared and scraped along just above the banister, as though they had been holding on desperately, screaming before being dragged down into whatever was down there. The handprints were bloody; so bloody, as though they had committed some kind of atrocious act beforehand, and Edelgard felt, even in her dreams, a sense of looming terror prickling up her back as she thought about descending the staircase.

“Edelgard,” a familiar voice that she couldn’t place called from somewhere beneath. “Come on. It’s great, I promise you.”

“We’re all waiting for you, Edelgard.” Another voice called. “You’re chosen along with us, you know? You experience it. We know.”

“It’s three o’clock,” A different voice called. “Three by three!”

“Three?” Edelgard asked, shaking her head. “What are you talking about? Who are you?”

A silence befell the darkened staircase as Edelgard heard her voice echoing off of the walls before her; before the same kind of humming that she heard out in the woodlands by the lakeside began to ring in her ears.

“We’re waiting.”

“We’re waiting.”

“We’re waiting.”

“…up…” a different voice began to call from somewhere.

Edelgard noticed that her hand was gripping so hard to the railing of the staircase that her knuckles were turning white, and she couldn’t tell if it was just her eyes playing tricks on her through fright or not; but, as she stood staring into the darkness below her, it seemed as though the darkness was beginning to stare back.

“Up?” She asked, looking upwards to the ceiling and wrenching her gaze away. “What do you mean?”

“…wake up…”

Wake up?

Wait a second…

“El…sweetheart, it’s time to wake up.”

Edelgard felt her eyes twitching under the moving shadow of something against her face; and, as they began to come into focus, she found herself suddenly sitting bolt upright on the floor with Byleth’s hand against her cheek.

"Oh!"

“Whoa! There you are. You okay?” Byleth asked with a worried look on her face. “You were stirring so much!”

“Ah! Byleth!”

Byleth, smiling as she sat back up on Edelgard’s bed and removing her hand gently from her face, crossed one leg over the other with a squeak against the mattress as she peered down.

“How’re you doing?” She asked, clasping her hands against her legs. “I thought I’d better wake you up or you’d be late for work, right? You seemed perfectly content to just keep on sleeping, despite your stirring.”

Edelgard paused for thought, and ran a hand through her hair. Her brow was sticky, as though she had been sweating with nerves overnight; and found embarrassment in the state she had awoken in.

“O-Oh, is that so…? I suppose last night must have really tired me out…” she stammered, before covering a yawn quickly with her hand. “No, no…I was just…having a strange dream.”

A dark staircase, familiar voices, those bloody handprints…what the hell does it all mean?

Edelgard shook her head in a futile attempt at waking herself up a little more, and looked down at her attire. She found that she was still in last night’s clothes; that much was not a dream; and according to her watch, she had about half an hour to get ready for work.

“Oh, damn it…” She cursed to herself, before a sudden thought emerged into her head before looking back at Byleth. “Wait, you’re asking me how I’m doing? How on earth are you able to even sit upright? The coffee and toast at Manuela’s must have been an elixir!”

Byleth laughed, and showed Edelgard a small glass tumbler she held in her hand.

“As much as I’d love to credit it to Lysithea’s expert skills with a coffee maker, your dad actually helped me out with some orange juice. I woke up a little before you, so…”

Edelgard closed her eyes in exasperation.

“Oh, did he? I see.”

He’s going to tease me about this forever…

“Hm?”

Edelgard shook her head abruptly, and stood up from the sleeping bag in a whoosh.

“It’s nothing…thank you for waking me up in time, Byleth.”

“Oh, sure. No problem. It’s the least I can do for you letting me crash here for the night, honestly. But, El…”

Edelgard looked curiously at the woman sat before her.

“Yes?”

“Well, uh…”

Byleth stood up, and Edelgard hadn’t realized just how handsome her crush really looked first thing in the morning.

Stood with slightly messy hair and in a white vest, Byleth ran a hand through it in what appeared to be a nervous excitement. Edelgard did everything she could to repress the sudden shock to her system seeing Byleth even more attractive than usual, and folded her arms in a fluster.

“What is it?” She asked hastily. “I have to get ready for work, so…”

It had been an awfully long time since Byleth had slept over at Edelgard’s place; for reasons both of them didn’t know or understand, really. The time just had never seemed right, or Edelgard had stayed at Byleth’s place instead, which wasn’t uncommon. From time to time she would stay with Byleth for the night, watching a movie or just staying up talking. With Byleth’s mother always out of town as a travelling goldsmith and her father consistently away in the mines across Garreg Mach, she had little to no contact with them, which often left Byleth lonely.

Not if I have anything to say about that, Edelgard had thought, even at a younger age.

But now, Edelgard was faced with a messy haired and increasingly attractive Byleth, and that in itself was a difficult situation to be in.  

“Listen...” Byleth began, and Edelgard felt herself growing uncontrollably warmer. Byleth’s arms were so much nicer than Edelgard remembered, so much more toned, so much stronger, and her hands were somehow beautiful all on their own, too.

Byleth’s slender fingertips slipped against Edelgard’s upper arms, holding her gently but firmly still, and Edelgard thought how in that moment, she could have easily died happy.

“I haven’t forgotten. I know I sound like a real broken record here, but I haven’t forgotten. About wanting to talk to you, that is.”

“Oh, that!” Edelgard replied with a nervous tone, and shook her head. “Well, let’s just talk about it later, okay? We’ve waited a little while now anyway!”

I can’t do this first thing in the morning. What if it’s something bad? What if it’s something I’m going to despair over forever?

No, I can’t. I just can’t. Not right now.

“El, wait a sec -”

“Listen, Byleth, I have to -”

Edelgard and Byleth stopped with a quiet, shocked gasp as they interrupted each other; before, after the moment of quiet, Byleth shook her head.

“So it’s now or never, huh?”

Edelgard closed her eyes, before opening them again in anguish.

“What do you mean?”

Byleth paused, and then laughed nervously as she looked up at the ceiling for a split second; and, before her blue eyes met with lavender ones, the words tumbled out of her mouth.

“El. Wanna go on a date with me?”

Edelgard found herself utterly lost for words.

A date? A date?

Did Byleth just say what I think she said?

“…Well?” Byleth asked after a few moments of blank silence from Edelgard’s part, and rubbed the back of her neck. “Uh, was this a bad time to ask…?”

“A date?!”

Suddenly, as though the world had resumed movement again, Edelgard loudly repeated the question back to Byleth in a fit of disbelief. She gasped, unable to believe that she herself had been so astounded, and slapped her hands over her mouth; her lavender eyes looking back at the woman before her.

Did she really say that so casually, after all of my anguish?!

Byleth bit her lip over her smile, and ran a hand through her messy navy hair. Edelgard felt her heart melt all over again.

“The thing is, El…I’ve been really nervous about asking you anything to do with stuff like that -”

“Edelgard? Byleth?”

An unwelcome, soft knock against wood suddenly came from behind Edelgard’s door; and both women closed their eyes in exasperation.

“Is he serious…?” Edelgard muttered in a hasty stress, before answering with an unintentionally pointed strain in her voice. “What is it, dad? I’m a little busy right now!”

Her father guiltily poked his head around the creaky bedroom door, and adjusted his silver-rimmed spectacles as he spoke.

“Oh, pardon me…good morning again, Byleth.”

“Morning, Mr. Hresvelg.”

Edelgard couldn’t help but admire her composure in the middle of such a situation, and her father cleared his throat politely before looking back at his daughter.

“I just wanted to make sure you were awake. You’ll be late for work, you know.”

Edelgard couldn’t help but scowl slightly.

“If only my boss would give me a little extra time to get down the road.”

“What a shame that your boss is also your dad!” Edelgard’s father replied, and as he closed the door, he said, “you’ve got five more minutes before I start docking your pay.”

Dad!”                             

“Alright, alright. Ten.”

“Ugh…!” Edelgard replied in frustration, and looked at Byleth apologetically as he closed the door behind the two women inside. “I’m sorry about that, Byleth…”

“I guess now isn’t a great time, huh?” Byleth said with a grimace. “I’m sorry. I was inconsiderate of your work schedule, El. I should really have waited t- ”

“No, I…”

Byleth stopped in her tracks as Edelgard began to speak, and watched as the blonde woman before her wrung her hands together whilst staring at the floor furiously.

“…Edelgard?” Byleth asked, and Edelgard couldn’t help but feel her heart backflip at hearing Byleth uncharacteristically calling her by her full name.

Am I going to say it? But we have no time…!

Ugh, if only we hadn’t run into this wall in the midst of such a thing!

Edelgard clicked her tongue inside her mouth in an attempt to alleviate the dry, nervous feeling that now rest on top of it; and as she began to speak, she found that her cheeks were scorching just as red as her favourite shade.

“The short answer to your question is yes!” Edelgard said in a quick haste, before rushing over to the bedroom door to open it. “We can’t talk properly about this now obviously, but I…!”

Squeezing her eyes shut and feeling Byleth’s gaze on her back, Edelgard shook her head. Everything I’m saying feels like an understatement.  

“I really want to talk to you properly about it, Byleth…so just wait until this evening, okay?”

Byleth blinked in a relieved disbelief, before Edelgard heard a sigh of relief come from her exhale.

“…Alright. That’s fine.” Byleth said as softly as Edelgard had spoke, and walked over to place her hand on her shoulder.

Edelgard felt her back stiffen again at the sudden contact, and wanted with all of her heart to feel bold enough to place her hand on Byleth’s there.

“I’ll pick you up from work again, and…we can go for a ride. How does that sound?”

“A ride?”

“Sure. Seeing some of the countryside this pit of a place has to offer…” Byleth said with a smirk that Edelgard could hear, and squeezed her shoulder. “What’s not to love? I find scenery gets the mouth moving more than anything else.”

“…Okay. If that’s what you want, that’s fine by me. I finish at five today, so…”

“Five o’clock? Got it. I’ll be there, so just wait for me. Okay?”

Staring at the back of her wooden door and with her palm firmly on the cold brass of the doorknob, Edelgard felt as though there was not a single bone in her body that wanted to part ways from this moment in time. Her eyes closed in a pained expression as she forcibly tore herself away from the single second she’d been waiting for with Byleth.

“Okay,” she said resignedly, and Byleth smiled.

“Good…thanks for listening to my nervous question…” Byleth chuckled, before turning around to pick up her jacket. “Guess I’d better get going too, back to my poor car outside Manuela’s. Hopefully Leonie isn’t still out there waiting to beat my ass.”

Edelgard opened the door, and turned around to look at Byleth to let her out before her.

How can you possibly be so casual and calm right now…?

Am I just a fling to you?

Or are you doing what I’m doing and totally underplaying this just to get through the day?

“Right,” Edelgard said with a slightly concerned tone about her voice, and Byleth, luckily for her, did not seem to pick up on it. “Well, I…I’m really looking forward to later, Byleth.”

Byleth stopped before Edelgard as they stood in close proximity in the doorframe, and nodded with a bright smile that made Edelgard as terrified as she was lovestruck at her feelings.

“Me, too. I’ll see you later, then?”

“See you later…” Edelgard said with a faraway tone, and watched as Byleth waved her goodbye before walking down the stairs and out of the front door with a click of the lock.

Edelgard stood in the silence of her house, utterly dumbfounded and unable to believe what had just happened; and, as she brushed her teeth mindlessly, changed her clothes vacantly and made her way to work through the cold winds of the morning, she eventually found herself behind the store counter of Hresvelg Woodworks once more.

The tinkle of the store bell on the door above was a familiar ring that went through one ear and out of the other. The same, stale smell of sawdust and bleach reached her nostrils with a momentary and unwelcome sting, and the sound of her boots softly placing themselves against the dull, grey carpet as she walked was another familiar sound all on its own. Today, even after the events of last night, really did appear to be a day like any other on the surface. But beneath, Edelgard felt as though she was stuck in a tempest.

Pulling the employee apron over her head and onto her body, Edelgard clicked the radio on with a turn of the dial, and the voice of the radio host reached her ears.

“…playlist! Enjoy some smooth listening for you and your loved one this morning.”

Edelgard felt her heart falter as a melody began to play, and a hand quickly ran itself through her hair.

“Is this really happening?” She asked herself out loud, and sat back down on her seat with a squeak of the material.

Now listening to a song that reminded her of one person in particular, Edelgard found herself entirely unable to sit still. It was so early in the morning here in Garreg Mach that she didn’t remember the last time Hresvelg Woodworks even had a customer this early, and no customers meant no distractions from her thoughts.

There were so many questions she had to ask. So many things she wanted to know, so many ways to feel. A huge part of her wanted to leap into the air and scream with joy at the idea of Byleth feeling the same ways that she did; another part of her wanted to curl up in a ball somewhere in the corner and pretend that none of this was happening. Love had become such a terrifying, wonderful experience for Edelgard, and in true form, Byleth was the one to push it forwards to another level.

Byleth… Edelgard thought, wringing her hands together anxiously. You really feel the same about me, do you? Or is this just a silly crush for you?

Thoughts began to fill Edelgard’s mind of the night before; the close proximity in the back of Byleth’s car, the way that Byleth had held her on the beach besides the lake; and of course, the way she held her hand on the way home…

How long have you felt this way? 

As she began to ruminate seemingly endlessly on a question that would be answered in just a few hours by Byleth herself, Edelgard began to feel her mind spiralling out of control. Love was the principle, guiding light of life to Edelgard; whether it was romantic, platonic or family, love was something that she believed was a fundamental human need. And with Byleth – no, with anybody, she wasn’t prepared to date around to find out.

Perhaps it had been because there had only ever been one woman in her heart, but Edelgard was utterly uninterested in playing the field. The first person she loved, she intended to keep.

Maybe that’s a tall order, she thought to herself defiantly, but that’s what I believe.

Byleth, if we end up together now, will we always be this way?

Will my heart be broken by you?

What does this mean?

What does this mean?

What…

As Edelgard almost felt her hands gripping to either side of her maddening, thought-filled skull, the phone ringing was what made her jump out of her skin.

“What the…?” Edelgard exclaimed in confusion, thinking it was still relatively early; and found that she was stunned when she looked at the clock to see two hours had passed. “Ugh, why am I even at work today?”

Slipping off of her seat and walking hastily over to the phone behind her, she unhooked it from the base of the phone and pressed the cold shell to her ear.

“Hello? Hresvelg Woodworks.”

“Oh, Edelgard! Is that you?” A slightly older, female voice said. “This is Emma, Marianne’s mother.”

“Ah!” Edelgard said in surprise. “Good morning, Miss Edmund…may I help you with something?”

“Well,” Emma began. “I just called to see if you’d seen my Marianne…she didn’t come home last night, and I’ve tried to call several of her other friends, including that girl she’s been with so much lately!”

That girl? She must be talking about Hilda…

“I haven’t been able to get in touch with any of them…do you know where she might be?” she continued, and Edelgard felt her heart hurt for Marianne’s mother. “Please, I’m going out of my mind with concern! You know Marianne isn’t the type of girl to rebel at home, don’t you? I can’t imagine what’s happened!”

Edelgard felt her brow soften.

I see…I bet Marianne stayed the night at Hilda’s place, given how they were in the woods last night.

“Miss Edmund, please don’t worry…” Edelgard began reassuringly, and tried her best to choose her words carefully so as to not get Marianne in some serious trouble with such a religious family. “Last night, there was a…small get together for a friend that is leaving town very soon.”

Leaving town? Leaving Garreg Mach?”

“Yes,” Edelgard said. “Marianne wanted to attend to see them as well as all our former schoolmates, and I think she ended up going to a…slumber party with them. I’m sure she’ll be in touch soon, Miss Edmund.”

“I see…”

Edelgard paused as the voice at the other end of the phone began to grow quiet. Even for a surprised mother, her silence was unusual.

“Miss Edmund?” Edelgard prompted again. “Is everything alright?”

“Thank you for your help, Edelgard. Goodbye.”

“Oh, that’s -”

An abrupt click of the receiver reached Edelgard’s ears, and she blinked in disbelief before hanging up the phone once more.

“…No problem.” She finished to herself, and shook her head. “What was that response all about…?”

Slightly confused but undeterred from her previous thought process, Edelgard did exactly as she knew she would for the remainder of that day; having only served one or two customers for large orders of some chairs and tables that would keep her father well paid for the remainder of the next couple of months, Edelgard was free to think of Byleth for as long as her mind could manage.

Chapter Text

Stuck behind the counter at a place she never wanted to be at in the first place, the hours dragged, and so did Edelgard’s mind. Each time there was even the faintest noise inside the store, Edelgard found that she would hope it was Byleth making a surprise visit, or that it was her father saying she could take the rest of the day off as he’d seen she was clearly preoccupied this morning.

But alas, Edelgard found that, as usual, she was stuck staring at the same variations of gloss and wallpaper she always looked at; all the way up until the last half an hour of the working day.

“Ugh, that was dire..." she said with a long groan, and tore off the employee apron over her head. "Hm…?”

As a noise reached her ears, Edelgard glanced out of the window; looking upon the spot where the black van from yesterday had been, she heard the familiar sound of an engine that she knew well in its stead.

Her heart leapt.

“Byleth…!” she cried out in a whisper to herself, and hastily ran a hand through her hair in an effort to make herself at least feel more presentable. And technically, she knew that it was still a little early; she knew that she shouldn’t close up the store before the appropriate time; but matters of the heart were always hard to keep under control.

It was hardly like anything was flying off of the shelves, anyway. 

“El? You in here?”

The tinkle of the store bell rang out from the front door, and Edelgard shut the blinds in a haste of closing the store as best she could.

“I am!” She said with a shrill, slightly higher-than-usual octave to her voice. “Ah, I mean…yes, I…am…”

Edelgard began to trail off as she saw Byleth standing before her, and somehow, she looked even more handsome than she ever had before.

Dressed in a navy blue and light blue baseball jacket, Edelgard felt herself a little giddy at the thought of that one, she wanted Byleth to wrap that jacket around her, and two, that she’d even had the lovesick thought of such an action. Her stomach churned with the bubble of adoration as Byleth’s shirt beneath her jacket was a crisp white, just like her vest had been from the moment in Edelgard’s bedroom earlier; and something that Edelgard had always adored was the silver necklace Byleth so often wore.

Silver has been coming up often in my life these past couple of days, she thought to herself.

“…You look very handsome, Byleth.”

Byleth grinned proudly, and slipped her hands into her pockets.

“Thanks! I have to make a good impression, you know? You see, there’s this girl I like, and I wanted to talk to her earlier about it, but she got taken away before we could settle in.”

Edelgard felt her cheeks blush. Byleth’s grin evolved into a chuckle, and offered her hand to the uncharacteristically shy woman before her.

“Ah?” Edelgard gasped.

God, why am I acting like an idiotic, giddy schoolgirl when this is all I’ve ever wanted?!

As Byleth extended her hand, Edelgard took it with her own daintily, and looked at Byleth with a set of slightly frightened but enamoured lavender eyes. Byleth noticed, smiling at the girl she felt such affection for with a warm gaze, and took her hand firmly in hers.

“Ready to go?” She asked gently.

Edelgard nodded, privately very glad she had decided not to bring a jacket of her own in the hopes of getting Byleth’s all to herself after tonight.

“I am, but…where are we going? Didn't you say it was just for a drive?"

“Well, about that…I think you’ll enjoy it.”

-

After what had been a peaceful, quiet ride through the dying sunlight of the Autumn day, Edelgard hadn’t even begun to work out where they were headed.

Byleth hadn’t really said much of anything since they got into the car. Edelgard had glanced at her more than a few times, and Byleth had still kept the warm, sincere smile on her face as her hands clasped the steering wheel before her; seemingly just happy to be in the same car as Edelgard, which in turn, made Edelgard feel like she could melt away all over again.

The dim strands of sunlight broke through the clouds, and hummed in through the windshield of Byleth’s car; pooling into a patch on various spots of the dashboard, Byleth’s hands, and Edelgard’s thighs. She crossed her legs together, staring ahead through the windshield firmly as though she were trying to desperately work out where they were going, when in actuality, all she was still thinking about was her line of questions.

The radio had kept the both of their thoughts ticking over. For some reason, the radio host’s choice of music today was one that was wholly centred around romantic music, and Edelgard couldn’t really tell if it had always been this way or today she was just feeling especially attentive.

“Where are we going, Byleth?” Edelgard asked, realizing that she didn’t actually know where they were at all, and considering this was Garreg Mach, that in itself was a surprise.

Byleth chuckled to herself.

“I figured you wouldn’t know where this place we’re going to was. You’ve not been on a date before, right?”

Edelgard blushed.

“Well, Dorothea asked me on a date when we were younger, but all we did was go to the movies.”

“Hah! Dorothea? Really?” Byleth asked in surprise. “You never told me about that.”

“It was embarrassing, really. I dropped my popcorn, she spilled her drink. We were just dorky teenagers.”

“Wow. With an incident like that, no wonder she moved away.”

Edelgard’s tension alleviated a little with a laugh at Byleth’s remark.  

As the car began to approach a location Edelgard didn’t recognize, she began to hear noises unfamiliar to Garreg Mach. The sounds of laughter, the sight of brighter lights breaking through the trees of the woods around them, and the boom of loud music, as though she were being taken to a house party. As far as destinations went, Edelgard couldn’t think of a further place she’d been than this; almost forty minutes by car, Byleth must have been pretty serious.

That thought in itself made Edelgard squirm in her seat.

I wish I could work up the courage to just...tell you. 

“Alright…” Byleth said, and made a left turn to a sight that astounded Edelgard’s eyes. “We’re here.”

“What is this place…?” She asked in amazement, leaning forwards on the seat. “Is this…oh!”

“Sure is.” Byleth nodded, and Edelgard found her eyes suddenly lit up with excitement.

Before her was a large roller rink, built over the last few years, and incredibly popular with all of her classmates in their final year of high school.

“This place…we never did go, did we?” Edelgard asked, turning to Byleth.

“I guess we just never found the time to go together, but I’ve been here a couple of times. It’s fun. Honestly, it seems like more of a date spot though, so it's not been too much of a frequented place by me.”

Edelgard gnawed at the inside of her lip as she asked a question that meant a lot with a casual tone.

“So…did you come with anyone else before?”

“Hmm…well, I came here once with Mercedes when we were just hanging out,” Byleth said, “but I think that was about it. I remember that day I had to go pick up my mom from the train station, so I didn't stay for long.”

Edelgard breathed a sigh of relief, and Byleth smiled with affection at the girl in her car.

With a huge, neon sign blocked out by most of the trees on the way here, Edelgard saw the glaring letters of “ASTRA SKATING RINK” shining down onto the floor below. The sky above was a nocturnal shade of pink about to slip into a nocturnally violet skin, and Byleth placed an arm around Edelgard as they began to walk towards the entrance.

“You excited?” Byleth asked, and Edelgard couldn’t help but smile in her arms.

“Of course I am! I wasn’t expecting anything like this.”

“I tricked you, huh?” Byleth replied. “As if we’d just go for a drive! I’m flattered you think I’d do that, though. That is quite a romantic thing to do, but I thought you’d like to do something I was confident you hadn’t done before.”

“You know me so well, don’t you?” Edelgard said with a laugh, before wrapping her arm around Byleth’s waist a little more confidently as they walked along the gravel covered floor with a crunch. “Um, Byleth…”

“I know.”

Edelgard paused at the interruption.

“You know?”

“You want to talk more about this morning, right?” 

Edelgard's eyelids fluttered over her lavender eyes in surprise.

“Well…yes. We were interrupted at…what could have been a very large turning point. For the sake of carpentry.”

“I want to talk about it too..." Byleth smiled warmly, "but for now...why don't we just see what happens here? I think we can always talk after, if we need to." 

“…Okay.” Edelgard resigned with a smile of her own, and as she began to allow the day’s thoughts to float away slightly from the centre of her mind, she found that seeing the large, multi-coloured neon sign glaring down at her as Byleth walked her to the entrance was an increasingly welcome sight.

From the delinquent-looking teenagers swinging their legs off of the wall to the parents waiting in the cars outside the rink, this place was a little more popular than Edelgard had guessed. The loud boom of music could be heard from the outside, with famous disco hits of the past decade blaring over the speaker system, and the shrill screams of what Edelgard assumed was probably dates trying to impress their other dates by being clumsy.

“Ready to enter the warzone of hurt butts and broken legs?” Byleth asked. 

“You make it sound like such an ideal date spot, Byleth.”

“Aw, are we on a date? You shouldn’t have!”

“Oogh. Stop teasing me!"

Byleth laughed as Edelgard shook her head in a fluster, and pushed open the door to the inside of the roller rink.

With a squeak of the hinges, inside was exactly as Edelgard had expected; loud and brash, both in colour and noise. The carpet was covered in various patches of unidentified, sweet-smelling liquid; mostly from spilled sodas and other unsavoury edibles, Edelgard quickly gathered; but otherwise, the patterns of blue, red and green stars were very fitting for the ambience. Another large, neon sign hung over the counter with a bored looking clerk behind it, who was entertaining herself; flicking through a magazine, and blowing a bubble from some pink gum rolling around inside her mouth.

Dotted around were various other couples, sat on the benches chatting or tying up their rollerskates before heading on to the large, open floor of the roller rink itself. Edelgard felt almost a little intimidated at the sight of so many people skating around to the loud boom of disco music.

“Um, Byleth…” Edelgard began, looking around at the people enjoying themselves. “I’ve never actually skated before.”

“Oh really?” Byleth asked with a knowing smile Edelgard knew was being used to tease her. “Never?"

“No…that was definitely more a pastime of my sister.” Edelgard laughed bashfully, and folded her arms as her and Byleth took slow steps against the carpet. “So I might fall over a lot.”

“Well, don’t worry!” Byleth replied brightly, and pat her chest. “I’ve done a lot of skating, so I’ll be sure to keep you upright in my arms for the duration.”

Edelgard blushed a little, and smiled in a way that took Byleth's breath away. 

“…I’ll be counting on you, then.”

Byleth smiled right back; and with Edelgard on her arm, walked up to the weathered-looking counter before her. The clerk behind the desk looked up from her magazine, twirling around a strand of hair on her finger, before clicking the bubble from her gum flat with a pop as she talked.

“Two pairs, right?” she asked, and turned around without hearing the response. “Sizes?”

After deliberating, Byleth informed the clerk of their shoe sizes, and they were promptly handed with two feminine pairs of roller skates.

“Here. You get about an hour of time before you’re asked to come back out,” the clerk said, handing along two coloured bracelets along with the roller skates. “So make the most of it. Have fun.”

“Thanks,” Byleth replied, and Edelgard felt the churn of nervousness in her stomach as Byleth led her to a bench. “You ready to get our skates on? It’ll be exciting!”

“I’m worried I’m going to fall flat on my ass, but other than that, I’m very much looking forward to it.”

Byleth laughed.

“You’ll be just fine, don’t worry. You’ve got me to keep you upright, remember?”

“That’s true,” Edelgard grinned in response.

Being in the roller rink seemed like an entirely different world, and Edelgard was grateful for the break from reality. Somehow, thinking of the potential for her and Byleth to go completely south quickly was far away from her mind, as well as the events of the night before; suspicious incidents not withstanding. For Edelgard, in this moment, all that mattered was Byleth...and not making a total fool of herself in front of her crush.

Byleth was the first to wander over to the plastic gate, pushing it open carefully so as to not knock off the fast-whizzing skaters, and, standing on the floor of the now even louder arena, held out her hand to the girl waiting for it to be offered.

“Ready?” She asked over the loud boom of the speakers, and Edelgard smiled as she took Byleth’s palm in her own warmly.

“As I’ll ever be.”

Byleth led Edelgard down onto the rink; and, with a gentle push of their skates, they were off.

-

As Byleth skated along next to her to the groove of the beat, Edelgard found herself lost in a world all of her own.

“Having a good time?” Byleth asked, looking down towards the woman at her side under the glare of the neon lights.

“Y…Yes….” Edelgard lied through frustration. “Ah!”

“Whoa!” Byleth said with a chuckle, and caught a suddenly slipping Edelgard. “I got you.”

“Ugh! Why must I be so terrible at skating?!”  

Edelgard had found out that, as she suspected, she could actually not skate very well at all, and instead had opted for clinging to Byleth’s arm out of not just adoration this time, but necessity. But it wasn’t all bad by any means, especially with Byleth being so attentive to everything Edelgard was doing.

“Come on,” Byleth said with a smile. “Let’s go slow. Hold on to my arm while we go, okay?”

Edelgard nodded, furiously trying to concentrate on the skating, and Byleth couldn’t help but smile to herself as they moved at a snail’s pace around the arena.

Something about this moment, Edelgard thought, was more perfect than she could have ever hoped for, given that last night Byleth had drank entirely too much, and Edelgard couldn’t skate to save her life. But feeling Byleth’s strong arm there just for her, holding her gently against her, supporting her and being so charming whilst she did so; Edelgard was confident in admitting to herself there were few things that were going to be better than this.

“Let’s try going a little faster!” Byleth suddenly announced, and Edelgard clung a little harder as the pace began to pick up.

“Byleth!” She protested. “Wait, wait! I’ll fall!”

“Come on, let’s give it a shot!”

“Don’t you dare! Byleth!”

Byleth took Edelgard by the hand, and begun to skate ahead.

Slipping her arm gently away from her grip and switching it for her palm, Edelgard made a barrage of noises Byleth couldn’t help but find utterly adorable.

“Having fun? I hope so!” Byleth asked with a cheeky grin, and spun around gently with Edelgard; holding both of her hands. “How about now?”

“Byleth! Stop teasing me!” Edelgard laughed in protest before screaming as she wobbled on her skates, and as Byleth watched Edelgard’s legs give out from under her, she found that she was a fraction of a second in time to pull her into her arms. “Ah…”

“Oh…”

Byleth and Edelgard spun to a stop beneath the gentle strobe lights of the arena floor, and both women realised that this whole time, the disco music and laughter of the other attendees had become second to the atmosphere built up around each other.

“…You really do look beautiful today, El.” Byleth said, and Edelgard couldn’t be bothered to allow herself to stop the oncoming blush.

The lights of the roller rink had been hitting Byleth just right all evening, but this view now was really something in itself. Her skin was now so perfectly illuminated by the warm peaches and forest greens and golden yellows that Edelgard couldn’t help but gaze upon her crush with hearts in her eyes – even moreso than usual. And of course, there was the small matter of Byleth’s smile, her fragrance, her temperament; all of it was making Edelgard fall in love, right down to the embrace they were stood in.

“Byleth…”

Edelgard placed her hands on Byleth’s upper chest, resting her thumbs against the warm, solid surface of her collar bones, and gazed up into her eyes.

The proximity between them seemed to be getting closer and closer with each passing moment; the boom of the saccharine pop music in the background fading out even more, and taking the screams of delight from their peers with it.

“You really don’t know what you do to me,” Edelgard whispered, and she couldn’t tell whether Byleth had heard her or not.

But it also didn’t matter. Edelgard finally began to feel like all of the building up over the years, all of the lovelorn looks she’d sent to the back of Byleth’s head in the classrooms in high school, all of the juvenile jealousy she’d felt when other girls talked to Byleth, or finding out that Mercedes and Lysithea liked her crush at some point in time; it didn’t matter.

Not anymore.

Byleth’s arms pulled Edelgard a little harder against her as they stood at one of the walls of the rink, and Edelgard moved her arms from Byleth’s collarbone to wrap around her neck slightly.

She felt so much more confident, seeing Byleth’s half-lidded eyes like this, so full of adoration in the same ways that she was. 

Am I really going to get to kiss you? 

Byleth’s breath was soft against Edelgard’s lips, and smelled girlishly sweet, as though she’d had flavoured chewing gum or a piece of fragrant candy beforehand; and it was only in that moment Edelgard realized just how close they were.

“Are you going to kiss me?” Edelgard whispered softly, and with their distance much closer than before, Byleth really did hear her now.

“I want to. Very much so.”

Edelgard felt her head spinning.

“I want you to, too…” She finally confessed, and somehow, even that felt like an understatement.

Byleth’s nose brushed against Edelgard’s own, and Edelgard’s lips tingled with anticipation.

Kiss me. Kiss me. Kiss me…!

“…El…” Byleth mumbled, her lips now grazing Edelgard’s own with her words; and, almost in a flash, Edelgard felt the soft sensation of Byleth; the woman she had been so in love with for so many years; finally, finally press her lips against hers.

Edelgard’s eyes fluttered closed, and with all of the love she could manage into a single, swift motion, she pressed her lips back into an adoring kiss of her own.

Byleth was just as good of a kisser as Edelgard had fantasized about on bored days in class or at the woodworks shop, and that was, in itself, something Edelgard didn’t know she was so excited to find out. The kiss didn’t last nearly as long as Edelgard wanted it to, or Byleth for that matter; but when the romantic affection had reached a boiling point here, in the middle of the roller rink arena, both women knew neither of them were prepared to wait.

Edelgard’s hands gently rest either side of Byleth’s soft face, and Byleth’s arms pulled Edelgard in a little warmer against her chest; kissing her lips twice over before separating from them. In a silent, warm smile of her own, Byleth blushed an almost beet red for the first time since Edelgard had met her all those years ago back in kindergarten, and laughed as she shook her head bashfully and looked away.

“Oh, wow. You actually made me blush!”

“Byleth…” Edelgard said in awe, looking at the woman before her. “We…?”

Edelgard’s fingertips gently touched her own lips in disbelief, and Byleth finally brought her gaze back up to the woman still stood in her arms.

“We did.”

“We kissed…” Edelgard said out loud, as though she couldn’t believe it herself; before suddenly, in almost a violating blur of sound, the music returned at full volume, and so did the voice of somebody they knew well reappearing.

“Well, well! Look who it is!”

Byleth and Edelgard turned in a daze to their sides; suddenly greeted by the smiling, cheeky face of Lysithea, and her less than impressed thuggish girlfriend in Leonie at her side, with her arms crossed and standing as though she owned the roller rink from merely setting foot on it.

“Lysithea!” Byleth said as though she hadn’t just been red enough to set fire to a house. “What are you guys doing here?”

“What do you think, moron? To play soccer?” Leonie stated bluntly, before Edelgard stepped up, ever shakily in her skates, and forced Leonie to take a step back with a surprised look on her face. “Urk!”

“She just asked you a question!” Edelgard barked. “Watch your tone!”

“Y-Yes, ma’am…!” Leonie replied in fear. Lysithea chuckled.

“We’re here on a date for the night! I finally managed to escape the diner and also wrench this one away from her friends, so this is a pretty momentous occasion for me, actually.”

“Hey, this date was my idea!” Leonie protested, before sheepishly looking away in the direction of the exit as she talked. “And…I guess…you two are here on a date, too?”

Byleth couldn’t help but smirk at the hopeful tone in Leonie’s voice, and nodded.

“Yeah, we are, actually.”

Leonie visibly relaxed her dander, and folded her arms.

“Oh, uh, right. That’s cool. Yeah. Always thought you two were dating anyways. Good.”

“Saw you two smooching over there!” Lysithea said with a grin and raised eyebrows, and both Byleth and Edelgard couldn’t help but squirm a little.

“Um, yes…well…” Edelgard blushed, and Byleth grinned whilst putting her arm around her date.

“And it was awesome.”

“As it should be,” Lysithea said brightly, as she curled an arm around Leonie’s strong one in turn, resting her head against her shoulder. Leonie’s temperament changed immediately to a more gentle one, smiling down at the woman she loved, and Edelgard felt a little bad for biting her head off.

"Yeah..." Leonie agreed awkwardly. At least she's trying, Edelgard thought.

“Well, it was nice to bump into you guys. See you at the diner again soon, I guess?" Lysithea added. "It was nice to have such a big chunk of people in there that were actually my age again, as opposed to the usual truck drivers we get in that are all so damn depressing.”

“I’m sure we’ll be there again soon,” Edelgard replied, “especially if Byleth drinks too much again.”

“Hey!”

Lysithea laughed.

“I’ll be seeing you very soon then, I’d imagine…” she said with a smile. "Have fun!”

“…Bye,” Leonie said reluctantly, but both Edelgard and Byleth could tell this was quite a large step up from the slightly insecure antics of last night’s thinking Lysithea was about to be stolen away.

“See ya around,” Byleth replied, and Leonie nodded at her curtly.

As Leonie and Lysithea began to skate away together, hand in hand, Edelgard couldn’t help but notice with a smile just how much Leonie appeared to adore the woman at her side.

“That was an unexpected reunion, wasn’t it?” Byleth said, rubbing the back of her head. 

“It was, but…that was nice to hear.”

“What was?”

“That we’re on a date,” she confessed with a pinkish blush, and Byleth’s eyes smiled along with her lips.

“Well…we are, right?” She said with a warmth Edelgard had always loved. “…Come on. I think we could stand to skate around a few more laps. Don’t you?”

“Did you see the way I skated before?” Edelgard laughed with embarrassment. “I don’t know if I’ve got it in me, to be honest.”

“Not even if I hold you upright?”

“…Well…” Edelgard began. “When you’re offering to help me…perhaps a little.”

Byleth smiled to herself as Edelgard slipped her arm through her crushes' own, and; with a gentle push off of the side wall and a head full of new thoughts; both of them began their tumultuous time around the roller rink once again.

What is the rest of the night going to bring me, I wonder?

Chapter Text

“What a night.”

Re-emerging into the cold night air was apparently becoming a habit for Edelgard, and to be able to have Byleth at her side for all of the incidents where she had to brace the cold was a welcome reprieve.

With a few more bruises on her thighs, elbows and behind than she’d have liked, Edelgard found herself and Byleth back outside the rink after what could only be described as the perfect first date. She hadn’t expected to be so quickly whisked away somewhere after everything; after all, this was not how she’d planned it at all in her head all day long. Edelgard had thought about how she wanted to go to a particularly beautiful, scenic place, talk with Byleth about her feelings for her, and maybe, just maybe, she’d get a kiss on the cheek when she took her back home.

But in true Byleth style, she was as unpredictable as ever, which was just another trait that Edelgard had fallen in love with about her. To be stood with her here, warm palm in warm palm and looking up at the stars in the sky above, it felt just like they were living in another memory Edelgard was going to end up treasuring forever.

“Tell me about it,” Edelgard finally replied to Byleth’s earlier statement, and squeezed her hand. “Did you have a nice time, Byleth?”

“Did I ever!” Byleth replied rhetorically. “Of course I did, El. It was amazing…and so are you.”

Edelgard blushed.

“Oh, stop…”

“Heh…” Byleth chuckled, and led Edelgard back over to her car. “I guess I should probably drop you at home, huh?”

Edelgard’s smile began to fade from her face, and she turned her lavender gaze back up to the stars in the navy sky above.

“…I suppose so.”

“Hm?” Byleth asked curiously. Edelgard shook her head.

“I just…” she began with a choke of emotion in her throat that surprised the both of them. “I just don’t want tonight to end.”

“You said the same thing last night, didn’t you?”

Edelgard blinked.

“Oh…I suppose I did, didn’t I?”

Byleth smiled, and gave Edelgard’s palm another squeeze as they reached the hood of her car.

“Don’t think of it as an ending, El. Always view the night as another way for an even better day to begin tomorrow.”

Edelgard paused as Byleth let go of her hand to walk around to the driver’s seat, and looked at her crush in awe.

“How do you manage to stay so positive?” Edelgard asked. Byleth shrugged, and opened the car door with a jangle of her keys.

“Where’s the point in negativity? It doesn’t do anything for me. I think Claude had the right idea last night when he said not to worry.”

“Huh? When did he say that?”

Byleth stopped in her tracks as Edelgard sat in the seat next to her, and cleared her throat.

“Oh, um…”

“Byleth. Were you talking about how you were worried about me to him?”

“…Maaaybe just a little.”

“Oh, no wonder he succeeded in getting you drunk!” Edelgard chuckled affectionately. “You’re so silly…I can’t believe you were so worried for me.”

“Of course I was.”

Byleth closed the door behind her, and as the door locked, Edelgard felt the atmosphere between them change almost immediately.

There was a new, lovestruck tension; something that electrified the air. The taste of Byleth’s lips still lingered on Edelgard’s own, and it was just a feeling Edelgard desperately wanted more of. She wanted everything to do with Byleth all the time, and now that the sensation of actually getting to kiss her was fully put forth to her, there was going to be nothing else on her mind.

“Shall we go?” Byleth asked with half a mind entirely somewhere else. Edelgard felt the very same.

“Okay.”

Byleth set off with a roar of her engine, and Edelgard switched on the radio. The ricochet of sounds from the adrenaline pumping, entirely-too-loud disco music back at the roller rink still knocked around in her eardrums; allowing for the welcome, soft crackle of Byleth’s car radio to soothe her racing heart.

“Welcome back, listeners of 103.2 Mach FM!” The radio host said brightly. “We’re still spinning those love songs that we all adored back in the day, folks; coming up next, we’ve got Etta James, Frank Sinatra and more, so stay tuned!”

Edelgard and Byleth remained silent as Byleth turned onto the dark country road back to Garreg Mach’s main town, and Edelgard rest her head against the window as they began to travel in silence.

The silence between them wasn’t one that either woman disliked; in fact, the silence was a welcome, warm, comforting one, that allowed both of them their space to think about what had happened at the roller rink, and also the feelings that had been so present for so long.

Byleth and I… Edelgard thought quietly to herself. Are we an item now?

I mean, we didn’t make out at the rink or anything, but that was definitely a kiss…

Oh, Byleth…when is it appropriate for me to tell you all about how much I adore you?

Everybody can see it.

I’m sure you must know, too…

Love is such a confusing beast, isn’t it?

“Ah, shit.”

Snapping out of her thoughts suddenly, Edelgard turned to face the source of the curseword.

“Hm? What’s wrong, Byleth?”

“I’m out of gas, because of course I am,” she sighed, and shook her head. “I could have sworn I filled up before, but…ugh, whatever. No sense whining, I’ll have to stop at the station up here. Mind waiting in the car while I do?”

“Gas station…? Oh, right.” Edelgard said, and suddenly remembered passing a station on her way here. “Okay, sure.”

As the car proceeded onwards with the soft notes of the radio filling the air, Byleth slowed the speed down to a crawl as it pulled up next to the gas pumps.

“Sorry about this, El.”

“Don’t worry about it, silly.”

Opening the door with a click, Byleth felt her teeth chatter at the sudden renewal of cold against her skin, and turned to face the woman at her side.

“I’ll just be a few minutes,” she said to Edelgard warmly, “so don’t you go driving off to grab food or anything without me.”

“Just take your time. I’ll keep a vigilant watch on your car…and resist the urge to grab a burger.”

“That’s my girl,” Byleth replied with a cheeky smile and a gentle shutting of her car door; and Edelgard shook her head with a bashful laugh.

“Your girl, hm?” Edelgard said to herself, and found that her cheeks began to ache with just how much smiling she’d done today.

As Edelgard watched her date walk over to the pump, she felt contented in her seat. The air outside was so frosty and bitter that the top edges of Byleth’s windshield were beginning to get a thin layer of ice along them, and Edelgard could see the beginnings of her breath as she sat alone. The tiny, old heater built into Byleth’s car chugged along as best it could.

Edelgard turned to see how Byleth was getting on with filling up, and watched as she hung up the pump back on its perch; peering back into the car to give Edelgard a wave, and walking off to pay the clerk at the counter. Edelgard waved back with a cheerful, warm smile, and as she turned back to stare at her clasped hands on her lap, she thought on how she could still hardly believe that any of this was happening.

“Byleth…” she said to herself with a fond smile on her lips. “I can’t believe how you’re always finding new ways to change my life. And that’s saying something when you can actually think that, freezing your ass off at a gas station in the dark.”

Wringing her hands together in the cold of the night, she looked out over to the gas station once more in search of her lover, and saw through the old, dusty window that she was stood in a surprisingly large queue for this time of night. As Edelgard looked around, she couldn’t really see any other vehicles at the gas pumps, but there was more than a few parked up in the back, looking to refuel in the form of snacks and drinks.

“Of course,” she grumbled to herself, “We couldn’t just get gas and go. Of course we couldn’t do something that simple. Of course the entire population of Garreg Mach had to hold up the one person I actually want to spend my time with.”

But as Edelgard sat grumbling to herself, she began to hear another vehicle pulling up in the refuelling lane next to Byleth’s car; and something about the sound of this vehicle sent a new chill up her back.

“…Who is that?” she said to herself in alarm, and shuffled around to get a look at what had frightened her so.

Next to her, Edelgard felt as though an invisible hand had reached down her throat and suddenly pulled out the gasp from her lips.

That van. The black van from the other day.

It was back.

Looking frantically to the gas station window, Byleth was still stood waiting to pay. Edelgard sat stationary for a split second, like a deer caught in the headlights, before slightly shrinking down in her seat. She did her best to get a good look around herself, as subtly as she possibly could; and without allowing herself to completely get lost in delusions of terror.

There were three very odd factors about this van, and by the end of the encounter, Edelgard von Hresvelg was more than positive something terrible was afoot with them around Garreg Mach.

The first thing was that the van was rocking.

It didn’t seem like any typical reason for a vehicle’s erratic moving. The most obvious thought would be some semblance of sexual endeavours in the back, or even as though somebody was in there looking for something. No; these rocking movements were a different type of erratic, unpredictable and alarming, as though whatever were inside the back was trapped and disoriented, unable to find a sensible way out. Edelgard felt horrified as she watched it move; jagged, abrupt and unnatural. She flinched as there was a loud bang against the inside of the van.

“Should I get out and help…? What would I even do?” Edelgard whispered to herself in a panic. “Oh, Byleth…! Hurry up already!”

The second thing was the response from the driver of the van to the sounds. Edelgard could nervously see that there were at least two people inside the front; the driver and the passenger, both clad entirely in black, and the only person to even bother getting out was the driver.

They were relatively tall; probably about as tall as Byleth, Edelgard would have wagered; and walked with a great amount of confidence in each step. From the cold snap and the fog of condensation inside, Edelgard could barely make out their figure; but their silhouette was imposing enough as it was.

“What the hell is going on…?” Edelgard said as she watched intently, and flinched for a second time when the driver banged their gloved fist hard on the side of the van violently.

The third thing was that even after all that, they didn’t actually refuel in any way, shape or form. No gas. No food. No drinks. Edelgard wondered why on earth they had pulled up into this bay at all; of all the bays, of all the parking lot spaces, they pulled up here, right next to Byleth’s car, only to bang hard on the van’s side with a fist.

But as the driver walked back around to the seat, their reasoning for doing such a thing began to make sense; as Edelgard noticed that, whoever was sat in the passenger seat, was now looking directly at her from behind their goggles.

“Ah!” she yelped out, before quickly snapping her lips shut from further elongating the noise.

Edelgard was not the kind of woman who reacted to fear with a scream often; but this came very, very close. The only times she could remember actively screaming through fear was from the terrible night terrors she used to get as a child, and this was definitely like one of those come to life.

Stunned into silence, Edelgard could only watch as the van drove off almost as fast as it had arrived. There was no number plate on the back, and no way to really even remotely identify the people inside. Getting the police seemed utterly pointless, and Garreg Mach’s squadron was hardly known for the excellent way they dealt with what rare crimes there were here.

But something that caught her eye was far more interesting. Edelgard saw, as she continued stiffly sitting in the safety of Byleth’s car, that there was a small, circular, silver something now laying in the middle of the floor where the van had been.

What on earth is that? Should I get out…?

What if that’s what they want me to do?

Oh, God…why were they looking at me?!

“El?”

“Ah!”

Letting out a second, louder cry of shock as she turned back to look at the confused face of her loved one, Edelgard opened the door on her side to leap out of the car and onto her feet.

“Byleth!” she cried, animated. “Did you see that? Did you see the van that just drove off?!”

“The van…?” Byleth asked, shaking her head. “What do you mean? What van?”

“The black van! It – it was right here!” Edelgard began, animatedly waving her hands around; before her eyes gravitated towards the small spot on the ground of silver. “And they dropped this!”

Kneeling down on the cold cement of the gas station’s driveway, Edelgard picked up the small piece of silver from before her; and, holding it up to the light, she began to see just what it was.

“A ring…?” she asked curiously.

“Can I see that?” Byleth asked as Edelgard stood up, dusting off her tights and folding her arms. Byleth took the ring in her hands, observing it carefully, before handing it back to Edelgard with a sure look on her face.

“As the daughter of a goldsmith,” Edelgard began, restraining a chatter of her teeth. “What’s your opinion on this?”

“Well, my parents never taught me much about this kind of thing,” Byleth began with a sardonic laughter that Edelgard seldom heard; before eyeballing the piece of jewellery between her thumb and forefinger. “All I can tell is that this is a very old ring…looks like a family heirloom of some kind if I had to guess, just from the date, really. Man, it really is so worn down.”

Byleth fiddled around with the ring in between her fingers, before holding it up to the light a little clearer.

“Let me see…”

“Is there something in it?”

“…Yeah. There’s a…year? 1902…wonder if that’s when it was made?”

“Eighty years ago?” Edelgard asked in amazement. “That could include who knows how many generations of people…do you think we should hand it in here at the station?”

“And have them forget all about it? Nah. I bet their lost and found section is ridiculous, even in a place so far in the sticks like Garreg Mach. We’d do better to just hold on to it until we hear someone talking about it.”

Edelgard frowned in contemplation.

“You think so?”

“Sure. I mean, you know this town as well as me, El. Word gets around when someone’s fence is broken, let alone a lost precious item.”

Edelgard paused. There was an uneasy presence in her stomach that had been there since all of this had began with the strange van and the woodlands besides the lake; but this in particular felt like the most potent of discoveries that Edelgard wanted nothing to do with.

“…I don’t feel good about holding on to this,” she confessed. “I really don’t.”

Byleth looked at Edelgard in surprise, and could tell immediately from the look on her face that her date was as serious as she was disturbed about this sequence of events.

“El,” she asked curiously, and placed a hand on Edelgard’s own. “Tell me. What’s going on?”

Edelgard looked away guiltily, and squeezed Byleth’s palm.

Do I really want to ruin today with talk of something this crazy? Sure, the black van was incredibly off-putting, but…it’s got nothing to do with me.

Right?

Even if they were looking at me, it was probably just a coincidence…I bet they just drove in here and stopped at the first free space.

“It’s nothing…” Edelgard lied. “Sorry. I suppose you’re right…we should just hold on to this for now. I guess you never know who it might belong to.”

Byleth paused with a gnawing at the inside of her lip, and folded her arms.

“Edelgard.”

Looking up into the serious expression written in her eyes, Edelgard tried her best not to melt upon sight and sound of Byleth’s determination.

“Yes?”

“You know you can tell me anything, right?”

Edelgard paused; her serious expression slipping into a much more contagious, softer look that Byleth reciprocated within seconds of seeing it.

“I know. In fact, I’d go as far as to say you’re the only one I can know will always understand me. Even Dimitri and I butt heads somewhat often when we confide in each other, if you can believe that. Not that we have clashing personalities, you understand.”

Byleth chuckled as though the past five minutes hadn’t happened; and Edelgard felt a smile returning to her face at the sound.

“Whaaat? You two? Surely not!” Byleth replied sarcastically, and put the key into the ignition of her car. “I just can’t wrap my head around that.”

“I know, I know. It’s hard to believe.”

Byleth smiled with amusement, and pat Edelgard’s leg reassuringly; and, as she did so, Edelgard immediately took Byleth’s hand into her own, clasping it with both. Amusement quickly became an intense, silent affection shared between them; and, as Byleth’s thumb stroked over her knuckles, Edelgard swallowed down the emotion that appeared to have caught in her throat.

“…That was frightening, Byleth.” Edelgard confessed with a slight edge to her voice. “I didn’t like that one bit.”

“Don’t worry. It’s over now, whether those weirdos in the van were here for five seconds or fifty. Right?” Byleth said calmly, and Edelgard always bought into her positive demeanour. “Here. I’ll take the ring with me instead if you really feel so weird holding on to it. How about that?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah! It doesn’t bother me,” Byleth offered. “I mean, I live above a Goldsmiths’ store my parents won’t let me within five feet of touching. I can live around one extra ring.”

“…Alright.” Edelgard replied with a reassured smile, before Byleth slipped the small silver circle into her pocket. “Thank you…sorry for being kind of weird about it.”

“Like I said before…don’t worry about it,” Byleth said with an exhaled breath of renewed vigour, and placed both of her hands on the steering wheel to drive back to Edelgard’s place. “Let’s just get you home before Garreg Mach throws something else weird at us.”

“Honestly, we were naïve for expecting it to be simple to drive home to reality,” Edelgard began, “after spending that much time around colourful lighting at the rink.”

Byleth laughed. “You’re telling me. Roller rinks are a lifechanger.”

Driving back through Garreg Mach in the darkness was a strangely serene experience, and Edelgard thought on how odd it was that she’d gotten to experience it more than once over the last two days.

Being able to be with Byleth like this was something that was a treasure. An anomaly in time that couldn’t possibly be allowed to be this perfect; and yet, somehow, even after all of the unsettling incident of the black van reappearing and the confusion that followed, it was. Her only one, her golden knight against the cold shimmer of silver; her sunlight that helped her face the day.

The dark trees flew by in Edelgard’s window, and she found herself resting her head wearily against the cold glass; her brow much warmer than she had realized. Her legs ached from the skating, and her lungs felt out of breath from the ways it had been stolen by Byleth tonight alone.

“Did you have fun tonight?”

Edelgard listened to Byleth speak softly into the comfortable silence that had resumed as soon as the car began to move once again. With the equally soft notes of the love songs on the radio playing quietly, she nodded as the car crawled to a pause at a traffic light.

“Of course I did. And you?”

“How could I not when it’s with you?”

Byleth smiled, and Edelgard found the all too familiar pink tinge returning to her cheeks as she looked away, and rest her head on her hands.

“You’re far too charming for your own good, you know.”

Byleth chuckled as the traffic light signalled for them to go, and Edelgard began to recognize her surroundings much more comfortably as they travelled. So many shops and places; so many familiar memories. Edelgard never realized until she was away from Garreg Mach just how much she called this little place home after all.

“Hey, there’s my place!” Byleth pointed out with a fond nod, and Edelgard looked to her left as though she hadn’t already been affectionately anticipating the sight of the run-down goldsmith sign she knew so well.

“Ah…” she said as the car drove slightly slower. “I haven’t been there in what feels like an age.”

“Don’t worry,” Byleth laughed. “You aren’t missing anything.”

“Does your mother come home a little more often nowadays?”

Byleth shook her head, and Edelgard knew that a silence from Byleth regarding her parents was always a poignant one of slight resentment for their absence.

The more they drove, the more places Edelgard knew inside and out. The barber shop that belonged to Leonie’s family, and had often been famed for their arguments outside with each other; Manuela’s diner, of course; the General Store run by Catherine’s parents, and often inhabited by Shamir as an employee alongside her, to name but a few.

“You don’t realize just how much time you spend in a place until you’re away from it for even the briefest of moments, do you?” Edelgard said in disbelief. Byleth nodded.

“Yeah, Garreg Mach seems to have a weirdly brainwashing effect, doesn’t it?” she laughed. “Everyone that lives here has been here for like, five generations of a family or more.”

“Oh…” Edelgard suddenly said, remembering the phonecall from Marianne’s mother amidst all of the romantic thoughts she’d been having about Byleth in the morning.

“Hm?”

“Marianne’s mother called earlier,” she began. “She said she didn’t come home last night.”

Byleth scoffed knowingly.

“Well, we all know why that is.”

Edelgard chuckled, and nodded in equal measure of knowing exactly what Byleth was getting at.

“Needless to say, I didn’t tell her that her daughter probably lost her virginity last night.”

Just last night? There’s no way those two haven’t been sleeping together for the last two months, El. Did you see them?”

“Did I ever,” Edelgard replied sardonically, and Byleth couldn’t help but laugh at her thoughtless remark.

“It is a little strange, though…”

Edelgard raised an eyebrow.

“Hm? How do you mean?”

“Well…Marianne just seems like such a homebody,” Byleth said thoughtfully. “I would have at least thought she’d call her mom. I mean, I remember when I had my tenth birthday party, and she called her mom like five times that night.”

“Mm…” Edelgard replied, folding her arms. “Well, the difference between being a child and a woman is a vastly large one.”

“You got me there. Maybe she’s just growing up with someone she loves now...Hilda definitely seems like she got her claws into that girl."

“That’s true,” Edelgard said with a laugh lining her voice.

Byleth turned the car along the corner, and it was only then that Edelgard recognized further where they were; now outside Hresvelg Woodworks. The same sensation of disappointment that Edelgard had experienced the night before at the events ending returned, and this time, they brought with them an even larger sense of disappointment.

Her thoughts were eating her alive. The desire, the lust, the love.

Byleth… she thought. All I really want to do is kiss you.

“Looks like we’re here…” Byleth said, and this time, Edelgard felt a little happier noticing the tone of disappointment in her crushes’ voice, too. “I guess we’ll have to wrap it up for the time being, El.”

The car pulled up along the sidewalk next to the looming shadow of Hresvelg Woodworks, which was just a couple of blocks down from Edelgard’s house. Byleth switched off the ignition.

“May I walk you home?” Byleth asked in a faux upper class accent, and Edelgard giggled.

“My, what a prince you are!” she replied. “I don’t see why I should decline.”

Byleth laughed to herself as she opened the car door, closing it quickly behind her, and hurrying around to Edelgard’s side to open her door for her.

“After you,” Byleth offered with an extended arm. Edelgard nodded politely.

“Thank you.”

Edelgard slipped herself out of her car and into the bracing cold; and, luckily for her, also into the palm of Byleth’s hand as they walked down the street.

“We’ll have to do this again sometime soon.” Byleth said, and Edelgard felt herself leaping for joy inside.

“…Do you really want to?” Edelgard asked. “Um, do it again, that is.”

“Eh?” Byleth asked in confusion. “Of course I do! I’m the one who asked you, remember?”

Edelgard smiled warmly as both of them dragged their feet walking home.

“I know, but…”

“Hm?”

“I don’t know,” Edelgard said bashfully with a smile. “I suppose…I just can’t believe this is happening. I’ve been finding it very hard to wrap my head around, I guess.”

“You’re telling me!” Byleth replied with a laugh. “I’m still amazed you said yes after all these years.”

Edelgard blinked in disbelief at the remark, and further still at the fact Byleth was the one blushing now.

“You? You can’t believe I said yes to a date with you?” Edelgard asked, floored by the revelation. “Byleth. You know girls adore you, right?”

Byleth shook her head in a silent disagreement with a bashful laugh, and the two of them began to come to a halt outside Edelgard’s home.

There weren’t many houses that were dotted around the shopping district. Usually, as was the case for Byleth, there were upper-store apartments – places where the owner of the store beneath would typically live. But in little pockets, there were houses nearish to the shops; and Edelgard von Hresvelg’s home was one of them.

As Edelgard looked to the houses’ window, she couldn’t see whether any lights were on inside the house. The curtains were closed, but that didn’t really mean that much. She could perfectly picture that her father would be asleep on the armchair once again, book on his chest and glasses askew, and more than likely with a warm, fat cat on his lap.

She probably had much more time to drag her feet; and for that, she was happier than words could describe.

Edelgard found herself on the first leading step of her porch’s stairs, and standing on that just made her as tall as Byleth on the ground. Placing her hands behind her back, she turned around to face Byleth standing behind her; who had finally worked out what she wanted to say in response to Edelgard’s claim that other women adored her so.

“I don’t know what other women think of me, El…” Byleth finally replied. “Sure, I don’t think that they hate me or anything, thankfully. But…all I do know for sure is that when it comes to girls…I’ve only ever cared what you think of me.”

Edelgard gasped under her breath in surprise, and found that her lavender eyes were immediately gravitating to staring at her date’s lips as she stood on the doorstep.

“…Byleth…” she began softly, and much to her surprise, Byleth walked in a little more to wrap her arms around Edelgard’s waist. “Ah!”

“Am I allowed to do this?”

“Don’t ask me something like that…” Edelgard said with a furious blush, placing her hands on Byleth’s shoulders and looking away slightly. “Just do it…you don’t need my permission to hold me.”

“Say, Edelgard…”

Edelgard’s gaze was immediately brought back to Byleth’s own at the sound of her full name, and Byleth bit her lip.

“Yes?”

“Well…” Byleth asked with a smirk that Edelgard felt melting her insides. “I’ve been wanting to ask you this for a long time, you know? But…”

Edelgard couldn’t find the strength inside to reply. Byleth laughed bashfully in a familiar way that Edelgard already had fallen in love with, and pulled Edelgard a little closer against her.

Propping herself up against Byleth’s shoulders, Edelgard found her palms warm against the woman she adored, their faces close in proximity all over again; and Byleth finally worked up the courage to say exactly what she wanted to say.

“Will you be my girl?” she asked.

Edelgard felt her head spinning at the sudden words.

“Byleth…!”

“…Just…” Byleth began, and Edelgard felt their noses brush at the tips all over again. “If you want to…if you want to be with me, I -”

Edelgard didn’t say another word; and instead, her hands moved from Byleth’s shoulders to cup either side of her face and pull her into a deep, long kiss.

Edelgard’s lips kissed hungrily at her lover’s own; with arms wrapped tightly around Byleth’s neck, both women felt as though she never wanted to let Byleth slip away. Just feeling how naturally their lips moved together was like a dream in itself. She was a dream. Byleth was everything.

To Edelgard, Byleth was the sun, the moon, and all of its stars.

To be able to finally hear her, here, on the front step of her porch after a perfect time together, say the words she had dreamt of, longed for…

Nothing was going to be better than this moment.

A sudden flurry of feelings were bursting at the seams with every comfortable movement of Edelgard’s soft lips against her own; of love, of longing, of lust; and Byleth already wanted more of exactly what Edelgard wanted, too.

“Mm…” Edelgard allowed to slip out from between the kisses, before feeling a little embarrassed as they pulled away from one another gently; a satisfying, parting noise leaving their lips ever so slightly. “Ah!”

Byleth smiled.  

“You’re so damn cute, El.”

Edelgard flushed a full red on her face, and shook it against Byleth’s forehead as they stood.

“How long have you felt this way?” Edelgard blurted out.

“A long time,” Byleth said with a slightly embarrassed laugh. “A looong time.”

“So…I’m not just a fling?”

Byleth blinked in disbelief at the question she was being asked, and Edelgard shuffled as she stood.

“El, how could you ever be ‘just a fling’? Do you know how crazy you’ve driven me?”

Edelgard cringed.

“Sorry…” she said with a despairing laugh. “I suppose I lacked some impulse control there.”

“Well, what about you?” Byleth asked. “How long have you felt like this for me?”

Edelgard scoffed affectionately.

“Byleth…if you knew how long I’d had these feelings for you and not said a word about them, you’d fall over.”

“Really?”

“Yes. It’s always been you…” Edelgard said, and shook her head as she blushed a little. “God, Byleth…it’s only ever been you.”

Somehow, Edelgard thought, even saying that feels like a understatement.

Byleth blinked in disbelief, before chuckling to herself; and resting her head against Edelgard’s own warmly all over again as she held her on the front porch.

“I really am a lucky woman, aren’t I?”

Edelgard stroked Byleth’s cheeks with her thumbs, just as she had so many times in her dreams; and, tentatively; with a nervous press of her lips; kissed Byleth all over again.

Is this what love feels like? To feel utterly terrified and yet so euphoric all at once?

Byleth…

Will you always choose me?

Hungry, loving, and tender, the second kiss was just as impactful as the first. The feeling of Byleth’s lips was something Edelgard knew she would never grow tired of; and, as Edelgard felt herself pulled a little harder against her lover’s body, she couldn’t help but think how the actions all felt so natural.

As the second kiss began to come to an end much sooner than either woman would have liked, Edelgard and Byleth both found their lips tingling as they broke apart.

“…Wow…” Edelgard breathed, and smiled after the word left her lips. Byleth, giddy and a little breathless, ran a hand through her hair.

“You’re telling me. Who knew you’d be just as good of a kisser as I’d always thought?”

Edelgard blushed profusely, before laughing to herself.

“Oh, Byleth…please!”

Byleth chuckled, tucking a strand of blonde hair behind her girlfriend’s ear with a warm smile.

“Sorry…you really are just too fun to tease.” Byleth confessed, and shrugged with a cheeky smirk on her face. “You’ll be even more fun to tease now that you’re my girlfriend, so you’d better prepare yourself.”

“Is that a promise?”

Byleth blinked, before laughing at Edelgard’s sudden bold retort.

“Oh, my…of course it is!”

Edelgard grinned, her cheeks warmed through the cold night air; before she began to realize that eventually, the cruelness of time meant this moment would have to come to an end.

Byleth shuffled in place hesitantly, realizing just what the two of them were about to have to do for the time being. Her shuffling turned into a resigned sigh.

“…Alright, alright. Shall we call it a night for now?”

Edelgard sighed, but a part of her was very grateful Byleth had been the one to take the initiative in calling things to a close for the time being.

“I suppose…” Edelgard replied with a despondent tone to her voice despite the smile. “I…well, um…”

“I don’t want to let you go, either.” Byleth said bluntly, and Edelgard felt a little relieved that she’d read her mind. “But it just means we’re going to have the opportunity for an even better tomorrow, right? Every cloud has a silver lining.”

Edelgard nodded at the woman stood before her, wrapping her arms warmly around Byleth’s neck once again.

“You’re right, I know. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it!”

Byleth chuckled, and reluctantly removed her arms from Edelgard’s waist; but, as she did so in the dark of the night, she suddenly clicked her fingers with a look of remembering something of great importance written all over her face. Edelgard found her own interest piqued.

“Hm? What is it?”

“Ah! I forgot!” She declared, and Edelgard’s eyes widened with hope as Byleth began to slip off the baseball jacket she was wearing.

“Byleth?”

“I was going to do this in typical old-style fashion earlier, but then we got all caught up in ourselves at the roller rink…so…”

With a cheeky smirk on her face, Byleth wrapped her blue jacket around Edelgard’s shoulders tightly; and kissed her forehead as she did so.

Edelgard, burning up from adoration and also a slight feeling of guilt given the temperature of the night around them, protested suddenly.

“Hey! Are you sure? You’ll be freezing!”

“I’ll be fine! I’m gonna be in my car in a second too, right? It only takes me a few minutes to get home from here, so don’t worry.”

Byleth took a step backwards as though she knew she wouldn’t leave otherwise, and held up her hand in a waving motion.

“Are you sure?” Edelgard asked half-heartedly, and Byleth couldn’t help but laugh as she slipped her hands into the pockets of her jeans.

“I’m very sure, especially after hearing that tone of voice. That was the right thing for me to do, huh?”

“Stop teasing me, you dork!”

Byleth’s laugh grew a little louder affectionately, before she waved at the girl she’d now made her own.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, El…sleep tight.”

Edelgard’s lavender eyes softened into a warm, adoring look, and wrapped the slightly-too-big jacket around her a little tighter.

“Goodnight, Byleth…and, um, thank you for such a wonderful day…I’ll never forget it.”

“I should hope not,” Byleth replied with a bright smile, and with a stiff attempt at turning away from the girl she adored, she began walking away from Edelgard’s home and back to her car.

Edelgard, for the next few moments, stood stunned and lonely on her porch doorstep.

Byleth’s leather blue baseball jacket smelled just like her; such comforting scents of chamomile and fragrant washing detergent, Edelgard couldn’t help but feel how this jacket just felt like home. Byleth was so dreamy and doting, such a heartthrob in her own right, and Edelgard still couldn’t believe the way things had panned out.

“Byleth is mine now, is she…” Edelgard said to herself into the muffled material of Byleth’s collar, and found that the edges of her eyes were stinging with joy. “I can’t believe it…”

As Edelgard stood, the snapping chill of Autumn’s night breeze stung at her hot cheeks; prompting a squeeze of her eyes and a further wraparound of the jacket Byleth had given her.

“I guess I’d better go inside,” Edelgard grumbled to herself; and, as she slipped her hand into the pocket of Byleth’s jacket, she felt something cold and circular inside. “Hm…? Oh…”

The ring from earlier; Byleth must have left it inside the pocket by mistake.

Even without her uneasiness surrounding the black van, Edelgard really did think that Byleth would be much better suited to keep it close, given how friendly she was with so much more of Garreg Mach by comparison to her introverted self. But, the ring; whomever it belonged to; now rest with Edelgard, and until tomorrow at the earliest, there was not a lot she could do about that.

And tonight was a night for celebration, Edelgard thought. She longed for a way to talk to Byleth for longer, to feel her kisses for even longer than she already had; but for now, she had to forcibly resign herself to a night of dreaming about the woman she loved.

Having her jacket was certainly a massive plus to that imaginative side of things.

As Edelgard turned around towards her house’s front door, she gently walked up the steps, and with a jangle of her keys, quickly unlocked the lock before her.

“Brr…” Edelgard shivered, closing the door behind her; and as soon as she felt the strong sensation of warmth on her face, she immediately knew that there was somebody home after all. “Dad?”

It wasn’t quite as late as yesterday when Edelgard had come home in the early hours of the morning, and so, she felt a little more justified in calling out for her father’s presence to make himself known.

And make himself known he did; for, as Edelgard turned the corner and into the living room, there he stood; uncharacteristically furious.

Edelgard’s casual walk began to crawl to a gradual, tentative halt as she looked upon her father.

“…Dad? What’s the matter?”

“So,” he began, with his arms folded and his eyes furious. “Whose jacket are you wearing?”

Edelgard blinked in disbelief.

“What? What are you talking about?” she said. “This is very unlike y -”

“Do I need to repeat myself, Edelgard? Whose jacket is that?” Her father barked. “It’s far too big for you.”

Edelgard frowned angrily.

“It belongs to Byleth, if you really must know…” she snapped back. “What’s gotten into you?”

“Are you two an item?” Her father asked, and this time, Edelgard noticed a strange sense of urgency in his voice. “Tell me!”

“Yes, we are!” Edelgard said, now fully irritated.

“Edelgard!”

“What? You already knew about my feelings for Byleth, anyway! What’s wrong with us actually acting on them?”

“Edelgard,” her father began with a flustered splutter. “You are forbidden from seeing that girl again!”

Edelgard paused, before she scoffed in retaliation.

If all of this wasn’t so utterly absurd, I’d be actually interested in finding out just what my father suddenly has a problem with! 

“What? Good luck with that!” Edelgard replied with a laughter of anger. “I don’t know what the hell has gotten into you, but you can consider your unwarranted opinion officially ignored!”

“Watch your mouth, young lady!” Edelgard’s father replied, and Edelgard’s eyelids fluttered at the rising tone in his voice. “I am your father, and you will do as I say!”

Closing her eyes in irritation, Edelgard shook her head. What had gotten into her father over Byleth, of all people? He had met her again just this morning, had known her for her entire life, as well as her parents; and perhaps the most bizarre factor of all was that he knew of Edelgard’s love for her. Why did he suddenly have a problem now?

“What is going on in this town lately?” Edelgard said in an incredulous disbelief. “First you’re acting like this, then there’s this – this weird black van outside our store -”

Edelgard stopped in her tracks as she looked back at her father, stood in the middle of their living room; and suddenly, the look on his face began to turn from an infuriated red to a shocking shade of white.

“Wait,” he interrupted meekly, with a long pause between his word and the following sentence. “Did you just say a black van?”

Edelgard’s frown was beginning to make her head ache.

“Yes, father. An old looking black van. Outside our store. And it seemed like it was up to no good.”

“Did you see it again after that?” Her father said, grabbing her by the shoulders suddenly with a vicious ferocity. “Did you?!”

Edelgard looked on blankly at her father’s panic; feeling the piercing pinch of his grip.

“Ow! Dad, what -”

“Tell me, Edelgard! Did you see it again anywhere else?!”

Edelgard winced in a mixture of fright and anger, and shoved her father off with a aggressive bang into the fireplace’s ornaments. The cats that were before the fire were unusually disturbed by the sounds, decorations scattering with a clang and a shatter; scarpering away from the sudden onslaught of potential danger; and, whilst Edelgard and her father stood just a few metres away from each other physically, they were now a million miles apart emotionally.

“…I’m going to my room,” Edelgard said bluntly, “we both need to calm down before we continue this conversation.”

Edelgard’s father didn’t reply as she turned around to walk away, and Edelgard heard the sound of him exhaling as he sat back down in their old, red armchair.

Wrapping Byleth’s jacket around her a little tighter than before as she made her way up the stairs, Edelgard found that the stings of joy against the corners of her eyes had now quickly turned to ones of sadness.

Chapter Text

“…Stupid dad. Why did he have to go and act like that for?”

Sulking against the door of her room, Edelgard had been hunched up with her face against her knees for the last half an hour.

She had been going through the reasons in her brain of every conceivable thing that her father could have thought to make him suddenly disapprove of Byleth. Was it that he wasn’t used to his children getting into relationships? Was it because she was the youngest one, once Edelgard left, he would be alone? Was it because Byleth was hungover last night, and somehow, that made a bad impression? No matter what Edelgard thought of, none of it made any sense at all. Her father was usually such an easygoing kind of man, not easily caught up in trivialities or social dramas; but this time, somehow, he seemed so…concerned.

“Not to mention the reaction to the van…” Edelgard continued to remind herself. “What was that all about?”

That was something she just couldn’t shake. The van. The strange, reappearing van. The incident with the ring, the erratic shaking in the back of the vehicle, the way the driver punched the side to get them to stop; all of it was so violent and mysterious that Edelgard was quite confident she wanted nothing to do with it.

Pulling out the cold, silver ring from the pocket of Byleth’s jacket, Edelgard held it up to the light of her bedroom between her thumb and her index finger; scrutinising it underneath a watchful eye.

“Just who do you belong to, I wonder…?” She asked the object, and almost half expected a reply with just how strange things had been the last few days.

As Edelgard sighed and slipped the ring back into her pocket, she resigned herself to spending the rest of the night in a strange mixture of euphoria accompanied by a huff.

There was nothing more she could do about anything that happened today, whether that was the positive, life-changing action of becoming Byleth’s girlfriend or having a blow-out argument with her father; and in a way, that was a comforting, temporary closure to experience.

Glancing at the clock on her wall, Edelgard saw that it was almost midnight. Outside was as blustery as it was earlier, and she could hear the wind chimes from the back garden knocking together in a cacophony of metallic clinks and jangles.

“Byleth…” Edelgard pined, and leant against her windowsill to look out through the darkness and up at the moon. “I wonder what you’re doing right now. Probably sleeping, actually.”

With an affectionate, soft chuckle, Edelgard turned away from her window after making sure it was locked firmly; and, hanging Byleth’s jacket up on the handle of the drawer next to her, she found it much easier to settle into bed and drift into a cozy sleep with the warm, homely scent of Byleth so close by.

-

Edelgard found, however, that the restful sleep was not going to be for too long.

“…Hello?”

Another dream…?

Similarly to before, Edelgard found her dream-self awakening inside her room; or what was supposed to be a cheap imitation, except this time, it all looked so much more…dilapidated. The technicolour illusion of the vision she saw last time was gone, but the bright yellow moon outside still remained; shining in shimmering, silvery rays from its glisten through Edelgard’s window.

This time, the window had bars on it that were bent; black, cast iron bars that had been torn open, as though someone – or something – had gotten in...or at least escaped outwards with great determination.

Byleth’s jacket wasn’t gone, but it was torn to shreds violently by what looked like serrated blades. Edelgard’s dream self, much like her other reactions to everything around her, was unflinching; but in the real world, she knew she would be overcome with a terrified grief if this were to be real.

“This is just a dream,” she reassured herself. “It’s not real. You’re okay.”

Behind her door, which was now a strong, deep purple; so deep it was almost blue from the indigo; Edelgard could hear weeping. And as she began to look further still around the doorframe, she saw something that chilled even her dream self to the bone.

“The handprints…”

The same bloody handprints from before in her last dream. The bloody handprints that had once lined the edges of the banister down the awful, dark abyssal staircase, had now crawled, dragged, and smeared all along her doorframe instead.

“Don’t come out here, Edelgard!”

Edelgard looked up in alarm at the sound of the pleading voice from behind the door.

“What? Who are you? I recognise your voice…”

“Don’t come out here!” they screamed; the sound of their voice tearing against their throat. “She’s waiting for you! Run, as far as you can!”

“Run!”

Run!”

More and more voices joined the cacophony of pleas for Edelgard to sprint as far away as she could from this place. As the voices cried, the handprints seemed to slither and manoeuvre all on their own, crawling along the walls in the dark like shadows or ghouls waiting to hurt those who touched them, and Edelgard felt the same sensation of blind terror as she did in her previous dream now infecting her all over again.

“Run, Edelgard!” the familiar voice began to cry again, and all that Edelgard could make out was that it was a woman. “Get out of Garreg Mach and don’t look back! They can’t touch you if you aren’t here!”

“Run away! Run away!”

“Go!”

Aaah!”

Shooting upright in bed with a loud scream and a thumping of her heart, Edelgard’s brow was sticky with sweat.

“What the hell was that?!” She scolded herself. “It all felt so real…!”

Gasping and gulping down breaths, she panicked and panted. Turning frantically to see if Byleth’s jacket was still next to her, she grabbed it in haste; rubbing the leather between her fingers, and burying her face into the material to breathe it in.

A sense of normalcy. She’s here. She’s always here with me. I'm calm.

Closing her eyes for a few moments began to steady the anxious heartbeat, and it felt as though Byleth’s scent was like a golden hand, reaching out to caress her senses. Successfully massaging them back to relaxation, Edelgard began to feel her heart reach a normal beat once again. It really wasn’t real. It was just a dream. It wasn’t real.

But…what does it mean?

Edelgard’s eyes looked up at the clock opposite her bed. Six in the morning. She’d slept the night away, pretty much...

“That breeze is so relaxing…” Edelgard mumbled through her sleepy haze, allowing her heavy eyelids to hover over her eyes. Yes, the cooling breeze...so soothing against her sticky brow.

Wait.

A breeze?

Edelgard's eyes pinged open at the sudden realisation, and her stomach lurched as she turned. The window was slightly ajar; but it looked as though the lifting up of its panel had been stopped by the sticking that had been there for years, by chance. Something that had been once so irritating had possibly just saved her from the consequences of a still horrifying thought - because, as Edelgard sat riddled with anxiety and confusion, she thought one thing in particular: had somebody tried to get into her house last night?

-

“…Hmph. Not surprised he’s a no-show…he always was a coward.”

After some regained composure on Edelgard’s part and some thorough checking of all the locks around the house, she had eventually made her way down the stairs with Byleth’s jacket wrapped around her; and saw that her father was nowhere to be seen.

Given the altercation last night, she knew exactly what would happen. He would go to work in her stead, assuming she would have rebelled by not opening the store or that she’d be lazy at work deliberately, and plant ideas into his head all day about ways Edelgard would have sabotaged him had he not taken the reigns.

“Thank God I don’t have to be there all damn day,” she said with a scoff, and deliberated to herself on just what to do with the hours of her day after such an unusual night.

Standing in the silence of her house, Edelgard found herself listening to the sounds of the cats eating at the other end of the hall and folded her arms with a furrowed brow.

The window. It was definitely locked when she went to sleep; Edelgard remembered pointedly locking it after listening to the wind chimes and looking outside over the garden. In the darkness, she couldn’t see a single thing suspicious, and on top of that, she wasn’t really looking for it in the first place. But the window was definitely open; not to mention the unusual dream.

“Ugh…” Edelgard anguished, rubbing her head.

She shook her aching mind free of its entangled web of thought, and decided on two things.

One, that she was starving hungry after everything that had happened, and certainly did not want to be in this house a moment longer than she had to.

And two, she desperately wanted to see Byleth; but that was always a constant, even if they had kissed the night before or not.

Walking into the spacious living room, Edelgard frowned to herself in disappointment at the way everything held a familiar smell of her father. The scent of cinnamon potpourri on the mantelpiece, the pipe resting on its side with tobacco half-smoked inside; a time where Edelgard would have found great comfort in parental familiarity was now unsurprisingly absent, and instead, she shook her head again in disbelief.

Unhooking the phone from the receiver, she sat down on the sofa next to the coffee table it rested on, and dialled up the number she knew so well. Anxiously listening to the dial tone seemed like it was taking a lifetime; but eventually, she felt herself gasp slightly as the hook of the receiver was answered on the other end of the line.

“Hello?” The familiar voice answered, accompanied by a yawn afterwards. Edelgard smiled, and one of her cats hopped on her lap with a warm snuggle. 

“Good morning, sleepyhead,” she said, stroking the purring bundle of fuss on her lap. Whilst the cat was incredibly cute, she couldn’t help but wish it was Byleth resting her head there instead.

“Oh!” Byleth suddenly answered much brighter, and Edelgard’s heart felt warm all over again. “Hey, you. What’s up? You must be missing me soooo much to call me this early.”

“Don’t flatter yourself!” Edelgard chuckled. “Even if it is true.”

“Heh. Well you know I’m not going to complain about something that I’m the exact same on, El. How are you doing?”

Edelgard paused; and realized that something about hearing the sound of a comforting voice brought large, sudden hot tears behind her eyes.

“Byleth…” she choked out, placing her slender fingers over her mouth to restrain her tears from elevating to sobs; and with a gasp from Byleth’s lips, Edelgard didn’t realize until the moment she felt like crumpling up in a heap just how much everything had been terrifying her lately.

“I’m coming over,” Byleth said firmly. “Are you okay? What happened? Did something happen?”

“I’m not sure…” Edelgard said through a set of tears falling down her cheeks. “I’m sorry. I didn’t feel like I was going to cry, but…”

“El…I’m coming over now. Hang tight. I’ll just be a few minutes, if you can stand the sight of me with bed hair again.”

Edelgard chuckled, sniffling slightly as she pulled out a soft tissue from the box next to the phone.

“On the contrary, I love that look on you.”

“That’s a dangerous confession to make. Now I’ll never brush my hair!” Byleth teased, before Edelgard already felt a little better for the emotional reprieve. “Just hang in there, sweetheart. I’ll be a minute, okay?”

“Okay. Just take your time and don’t drive recklessly, even if we only do live ten minutes away from the other.”

“I promise I’ll be good. See you soon. Wash your face and take a breather, okay?”

“…Alright. See you, Byleth. And…thanks.”

“Anything for you.”

As Edelgard smiled and Byleth hung up the phone, she dabbed gently at the edges of her stinging, tired eyes; flumping backwards into the cushions of her sofa.

“…What is going on around here?” Edelgard said to herself, and her cat purred on her lap as she spoke. “First that weird van, the bracelet, the woods…I wonder if Marianne has come home yet, too.”

As she waited for Byleth’s arrival, Edelgard forced herself to relax in the comfort of her living room. Even if this place did remind her of a sour exchange between her and her father, it was still home. Running her fingertips through the soft fur of the cat atop her legs, she sighed wearily; and eventually, after a futile attempt at relaxation, she heard the doorbell ring.

Placing the cat down gently besides the extinguished fireplace, Edelgard had never hurried to the front door quite as hastily as she did that morning.

“Who is it?” Edelgard asked curiously, as though she didn’t know the answer already.

“Umm…it’s me. The milkman.”

Edelgard laughed in relief as she opened the door to Byleth’s sympathetic smile, and wrapped her arms around her girlfriend in an almost immediate, involuntary action.

“El…” Byleth said, and Edelgard thought how she had never experienced such a tight hug in all of her life. “Are you alright?”

“…Just hold me for a minute.”

Byleth nodded, tightening her embrace; and both women buried their faces against each other’s shoulders.

“I don’t even remember the last time I saw you cry,” Byleth said softly, “let alone actually hearing it.”

“I’m sorry about that…” Edelgard apologized, pushing down the sting of emotion that began to rise up into her throat all over again. “I didn’t even feel like I was going to cry until I spoke, I guess.”

“Sometimes it’s like that. Something as small as a kind word can push you over the edge, right?”

“Mm.”

Byleth and Edelgard leant back in their embrace, and Byleth stroked a strand of blonde hair behind Edelgard’s ear.

“Tell me what happened over some food, okay?”

Edelgard blinked.

“We’re going somewhere?”

“Sure. Unless you’d rather have breakfast here? I’m starving.”

Edelgard shook her head quickly.

“God, no. Let’s get out of this house, please.”

Byleth raised an eyebrow in confusion, and took Edelgard by the hand.

“Alright. To Manuela’s, then?”

“Sounds great to me,” Edelgard stated with a dark glare over her eyes as she looked towards the Woodworks store, “anywhere but here.”

Byleth nodded, not really wanting to pry into Edelgard’s business any more than she wanted to offer, and as the two slipped quickly into the car, Byleth drove them with ease through the empty streets of Garreg Mach towards the diner.

Time passed in the blink of an eye, with nary a word said between them, lost in thought; and eventually, the engine came to a halt outside the building they’d been aiming to arrive before.

“Alright,” Byleth said with a creak of the handbrake after pulling in to the car park. “Let’s fill up on pancakes and have a chat, shall we?”

In the daylight, the diner looked so different in ambience. Edelgard was filled with the memory of how Byleth had been drunkenly very affectionate the entire time back in her car, driven very carefully and kindly by Claude, and the reunions that had followed inside.

“I wonder if Lysithea is working today.”

“If she is, I hope Leonie isn’t gonna be as loud with her pals as she was last time. My head was already hurting back then, and I’d very much like to avoid another headache.”

“Tell me about it,” Edelgard said, rubbing her eyes. “I’m in dire need of some sustenance.”

Byleth and Edelgard opened their car doors, and with a slam behind them, Edelgard held open the diner door for Byleth to enter first.

“Thank you, princess.”

Byleth chuckled as Edelgard flushed red right down to her boots, before she walked in afterwards with a flustered scolding to her lover.

As they entered the diner, they resumed their place of seating just as they had the other night; a booth near the far back; and sat down opposite each other, picking up a menu that both of them knew inside and out over the years. Edelgard glanced around for any sign of Lysithea doing the rounds of ordering, feeling her stomach rumble, and rest her head against the table. Byleth pat her blonde hair.

“You doing alright?” she asked with a laugh.

“I’m the one that’s fading fast today. I feel exhausted.”

“I know, sweetheart. But pancakes will rejuvenate you.”

Byleth looked up to the sight of a small, blonde woman familiarly glum and irritable with a notepad as she walked over, before her eyes lit up a little more when she realised just who it was that had swung by so early.

“You know,” Lysithea began with a wry smile, “when I said to not be a stranger at the rink yesterday, you didn’t have to take it this far.”

Byleth chuckled, and Edelgard sat back up.

“Good morning,” she said, and Lysithea raised an eyebrow.

“Was it your turn for the whiskey, Edelgard?”

“I can only dream,” Edelgard replied flatly, and Lysithea was the one who laughed this time.

“Well, what’ll it be?”

“Two plates of pancakes, please,” Byleth ordered, “and don’t spare the syrup.”

“You got it.”

Lysithea jotted down the orders onto her small pad with a scribble of her pencil, and walked off towards the kitchen almost as quickly as she’d arrived. Edelgard pinched the bridge of her nose in exasperation, and Byleth rest her head on her hands as she looked at her girlfriend.

“What happened at home, Edelgard?” she asked gently. “You seemed so happy with where we left things last night.”

Edelgard smiled softly, and sighed to herself as she leant back.

“Don’t get me wrong, Byleth. That…” she trailed off, before looking away slightly with a pink tinge on her cheeks. “What we did last night…it really was one of the happiest moments of my life. To finally have you all to myself like that…it’s all I’ve ever wanted. In fact, your jacket was what got me through a lot of last night.”

Byleth’s eyebrows raised in amazement at how candid Edelgard was being, and placed her hands on top of Edelgard’s own.

“El…”

“Byleth,” Edelgard began, “you’ve been what’s gotten me through every bad thing in my life. And last night was no exception.”

Byleth, shaking her head as she squeezed Edelgard’s hands tightly and warmly in her own, looked at her with a grave concern.

“...What the hell happened?”

Edelgard’s eyes closed in disbelief of everything she was about to say; but, as it so often went with bad situations, the truth was an unavoidable subject.

“Last night at home was…pretty bad.”

“Why?”

“My dad,” Edelgard began with a tinge of a grudge in her voice, and shook her head in disbelief. “I just don’t know what on earth got into him. He found out we were dating by the jacket you gave me, and for some reason, he totally flew off the handle.”

Byleth looked at Edelgard in confusion.

“What? But I just saw him that morning…why would he disapprove of us like that?”

“I don’t know. I literally have no idea,” Edelgard scoffed in anger. “But there’s more to the story than just that.”

Byleth sat back upright in her chair, frowning at the notion that her girlfriend had been reprimanded for accepting her request to be hers; and nodded.

“Alright,” Byleth said, “make sure you tell me everything, okay? Don’t leave anything out.”

“Okay…you asked for it.”

As Edelgard began to explain every aspect of the last few days, she watched as Byleth’s eyes widened and squinted in disbelief, in processing the information, and most of all, in fright. It was obvious to anyone hearing Edelgard’s story that something fishy and thoroughly unexplainable was going on. The silver jewellery, the black van, the cabin in the woods; not to mention the dreams and the window this morning. Edelgard shook her head, feeling as though her mind were spiralling out of control, and Byleth placed her hands on Edelgard’s again as she finished her story.

“Wow…” Byleth said in disbelief. “And you’re sure? These people in the van last night were looking right at you?”

“I swear, Byleth,” Edelgard said, lowering her voice slightly. “I swear it on my life they were looking right at me. Right at me. And then they didn’t even refuel their van? And what the hell was that in the back?”

Byleth frowned. She bit her lip in contemplation as her thumbs ran over Edelgard’s knuckles in comfort.

“Well, I…oh, hold on. Pancakes.”

Lysithea, in true waitress style, carried a hot plate on one of her arms and the other on a tray.

“Here you go.”

“Wow, all you needed to do to complete the ensemble was balance the drinks on your head.”

“Shut the hell up, Byleth, or these drinks will go right down your shirt!”

Byleth laughed to herself as Lysithea placed down the orders, before walking off in a huff with her tray under her arm once again. Edelgard couldn’t help but feel at least a little alleviated from the intense pressure of sharing her story by Byleth’s humour, and the knot inside her stomach began to undo itself ever so slightly.

“…As I was saying,” Edelgard continued, and began to tear up her pancakes with her knife and fork, “something is definitely going on, Byleth. Someone tried to break into my house last night, I’m sure. And I know it’s crazy of me to say, I know it is, but…the dreams…”

“You feel like they’re connected?” Byleth said, taking a hasty mouthful of food before speaking again. “This is all a very peculiar situation, isn’t it?”

Edelgard blinked in disbelief.

“You actually believe me?”

“Huh? Why wouldn’t I?” Byleth replied, and Edelgard couldn’t help but be dumbfounded at her girlfriend’s earnest reply.

“Well…don’t you think it’s all a crazy story?”

“I think it’d be crazier for you to lie to me about something like this, actually.”

Edelgard looked at the woman before her with an even further renewed sense of utter adoration for her unconditional trust, and felt a smile come across her face.

“…Thank you, Byleth.”

“What for?”

“For believing in me when I don’t believe in myself.”

Byleth paused, smiling at the woman she cared so deeply for with a sympathetic grin, and nodded.

“Well, sure. You’d believe me if I told you something of this magnitude, right?”

“Once we got past the stage of testing if you were teasing me,” Edelgard chuckled much to Byleth’s amusement, “absolutely I would. You know that.”

“Good! Then you have my trust, El. And I know you know that.”

“I do.”

Byleth took another mouthful of pancakes, and nodded. “Good. Then why don’t you eat a little more and we can talk about what to do after, okay?”

Edelgard nodded in agreement, and began to shovel the food into her mouth.

As the sweet, sticky delight of pancakes began to fill her stomach, Edelgard felt a bit more at peace. Byleth was with her, they were somewhere safe, and her father wasn’t anywhere nearby to glare at; things were definitely calming down.

“Um, Byleth…” Edelgard said sheepishly, and Byleth raised her head from her eating furiously.

“Oh! Hm?”

Edelgard blushed.

“You know if something weird happens again tonight…” she began. “Can I, uh…”

“Stay at my place?” Byleth asked with a smirk. “Why, El…if you wanted to -”

“Do NOT finish that sentence, unless you want some pancakes thrown at you!”

Byleth laughed to herself.

“I told you, I’m gonna tease you like crazy nowadays!” she said in a smug reply. “But…in all seriousness, of course you can. Just come over whenever you want, alright? That’s still a ways off, though. There’s plenty of hours left in the day.”

“I know, but I didn’t just want to invite myself over at the very moment of.”

“You can do that, too.”

“Hey!”

Byleth grinned warmly at her girlfriend, completely unfazed by anything she had just been told, and Edelgard was very grateful for the voice of reason in all of this being the woman she loved.

“Oh!” Byleth suddenly said in surprise, and as Edelgard turned around, they were greeted with the slightly confused, irritated face of Dimitri walking in to the diner.

“Ah, there you are.” Dimitri said, before walking over with his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. “May I join you for a moment?”

“Of course,” Edelgard said in bewilderment, scooting over to sit against the wall. “What are you doing here? It’s not like you to come to a diner of all places. Don’t you have some caviar to go and eat down at Dedue’s restaurant?”

“Ha ha. Very funny. My sides are just splitting, Edelgard.”

“Wow, you seem grouchy, even for you.” Edelgard replied with a dismayed tone. “What gives?”

Dimitri frowned, grumbling, as Byleth offered him a bite of pancakes. He begrudgingly took the fork.

“…Thank you.”

“What’s going on?” Byleth asked, and Dimitri’s frown quickly melted into a sorrowful look of disbelief.

“It’s Claude…he hasn’t contacted me in days.”

Edelgard paused.

“What do you mean? He hasn’t called?”

“Mm. It’s unusual for him to not be at my place all the time these days as it is, but I haven’t heard anything from him since Mercedes’ party.”

Byleth and Edelgard stopped in their tracks, and exchanged a nervous look over the table.

“Really? Not a thing?” Byleth asked, and Edelgard felt her heart sinking as she saw Byleth’s uncharacteristic look of grave concern. “I take it this is a dumb question, but have you been over to his place?”

“I was actually just on my way there…” Dimitri said with a heavy sigh. “I must say, it’s exhausting to love someone so…as he is.”

“Well, it doesn’t sound like he acts the same way when it comes to matters of the heart…” Edelgard said, touching her chin in thought. “Maybe he got sick from walking home or something? That would explain why he hasn’t gotten in touch.”

“…Maybe,” Dimitri replied half-heartedly, unconvinced. “I just can’t shake this weird feeling.”

“Of?”

“Something bad.”

Edelgard ran a hand nervously through her hair as Byleth bit her lip, before Dimitri looked at the two women around him.

“What? What is it?” He asked in haste. “Do you two know something?”

“No, it’s not that.” Byleth reassured. “But…something kind of weird happened to El, too.”

Dimitri looked in disbelief at Edelgard.

“It did?”

“Yes, well…” Edelgard said with a sigh. “We don’t know that it was entirely weird. Um, yet.”

“I think it’s pretty damn weird!” Byleth said, looking at Edelgard in a way that pierced her heart. “El, if anything were to happen to you, I’d -”

“Wait. What happened?” Dimitri interrupted. “Please, just tell me. I know I’m already being ridiculous worrying about Claude as it is through lack of information. I don’t need to wonder about you too, Edelgard.”

Edelgard sighed, and Byleth urged her to explain once again with a look of concern in her eyes that she just couldn’t say no to.

“…Alright, alright…” Edelgard said resignedly. “Don’t say we didn’t warn you that this is a long sequence of events.”

Explaining her worries once again, Dimitri’s stalwart expression didn’t waver once. He listened, just as intently as ever, to Edelgard’s story; all about the strange happenings from the very beginning, the altercation with her father, and the half-open window from last night. Folding his arms as he sat back in silence, his brow remained furrowed, before he eventually opened his mouth to speak.

“…We need to go and check that Claude is alright,” Dimitri said with an anxious nibble of his lip. “Now.”

Edelgard knew exactly what that meant.

Dimitri thinks something terrible is happening in this town too, doesn’t he?

The two women nodded in agreement, and, placing down their forks, Byleth left another hefty tip for Lysithea on the small dish next to the food as they flew out of the door in a hurry.

Chapter Text

“Byleth. Can’t this car go any faster?”

“It can, but we might not make it there at all if you want me to get ticketed.”

As they travelled along the country roads of Garreg Mach, Dimitri grumbled in the back seat, and Edelgard found that the trees of her hometown were becoming a bit too overly familiar for her liking.

The winds of the outside were particularly bitter today. Edelgard’s eyes felt hot with fatigue, remaining open for far too long at a time through getting lost in the storm of thoughts running rampant inside her head, and she found she had to keep periodically rubbing them to prevent the ache she knew was coming. Byleth was surprisingly quiet too, compared to her usual self; and Edelgard hated it.

We finally get together, and this is what we’re doing on our first day as a couple? Give me a break.

“Edelgard…” Dimitri suddenly piped up from the back seat as Byleth turned a corner.

“Yes?”

Finally ready to at least share a little of his thoughts on Edelgard’s situation, Dimitri began to speak darkly.

“If your father ever lays a hand on you again…”

Edelgard blinked in surprise.

“Dimitri…”

“Don’t worry about that,” Byleth interjected angrily, and Edelgard was surprised to actually hear her lover mad. “I’ve got her covered there. I mean, you’re more than welcome to come along. But if he ever does anything again, I’m not afraid to go to jail.”

“Good...” Dimitri said firmly. “What on earth was he thinking? He’s usually such a gentle man. I just can’t make sense of why he would suddenly act in such a way.”

Edelgard shook her head in anguish.

“I don’t know. Something just…” she began, pausing mid-sentence. “Ugh. I don’t know how to put it. Something in this town…”

“It feels wrong,” Dimitri said with a tone of voice that let Edelgard know she wasn’t insane, “doesn’t it? Do you feel the same, Byleth?”

Byleth’s hands gripped to the steering wheel so hard her knuckles were beginning to turn white. Edelgard looked at her in sorrow.

“…Yes,” she answered quietly. “I can’t condone a place that threatens the safety of the person I love.”

Edelgard restrained a gasp.

The person you love?

Love, hm?” Dimitri said with a smile. “So you two finally got your acts together, did you?”

Dimitri!”

“Sure did,” Byleth boasted proudly. “El’s mine now.”

Dimitri chuckled affectionately with a nod.

“Congratulations. What a shame it couldn’t be under better circumstances.”

“I’ll kill anyone that hurts Edelgard.”

Edelgard felt her face flushing bright red.

“Byleth, please…”

“To be honest, whilst I would usually take the opportunity to tease Edelgard relentlessly over your sweet sentiment, Byleth,” Dimitri said, and looked out of the window as he finished with, “I feel the very same about Claude right now. If anything has happened…I don’t know what I’ll do.”

Byleth paused.

“Dimitri…”

“Where does Claude live?” Edelgard asked. “I know he lives around this part of town, but…”

“He lives on Golden Deer Road.”

“Ah, so not far, then.”

Dimitri remained silent, lost in thought, and nodded. Edelgard looked out over the street names as they began to pass them; Black Eagle Street, Blue Lion Close; until eventually, Golden Deer Road came into view.

“We’re here,” Byleth said, and Dimitri leaned forward with a grip onto the front seat.

“Claude’s house is down here…” he said. “I wonder if we’ll see Hilda.”

“Hilda?” Edelgard asked in confusion. “What makes you say that?”

“Well, she lives around here too, doesn’t she? Claude said that was why he helped pay for the taxi that took them to Mercedes’ party the other day when he picked her up.”

Edelgard’s eyes widened.

T hat’s right…Hilda does live around here. I wonder, then...if Marianne is here too?

“I see,” Edelgard replied, a little too plainly for Byleth to not wonder what she was really thinking.

The car pulled over to one side outside Claude’s house. Children were playing loudly with a ball at the very end of the street, far away from the place Byleth’s car was now parked; and getting back out into the frosty air was always an unwelcome sensation. Edelgard’s eyes were met with gaudy oranges and purples in decorations, hung up along people’s front doors in the more residential area of town compared to where she lived.

“Oh, that’s right…” Edelgard said, turning to Byleth. “It’s Halloween in a couple of days, isn’t it? I wonder why the town didn’t decorate much this year? Not that Garreg Mach really ever does anything, actually.”

“Now that you mention it, I haven’t actually seen any decorations for it anywhere…” Byleth said, scratching her head. “Oh, well. Like you said, Garreg Mach is hardly a hive of party animals. Maybe we’ve all just been a little too busy. I forget the date constantly, so there’s that.”

“True,” Dimitri said in a muted, far away agreement, before he began to walk hastily towards the house he knew well.

Edelgard and Byleth trailed behind, slipping their hands into each other’s, before Byleth looked down to the woman at her side.

“…I’m really glad you’re okay.”

Edelgard looked up at Byleth with surprised eyes, and felt them soften as they saw the handsome visage of her loved one.

“What makes you say that?”

“Just…well, literally everything you told me. I didn’t get much of a chance to say it before Dimitri joined us, but I really am so glad.”

“Byleth…” Edelgard began with a gentle look on her face. “Thank you. For everything, really.”

Byleth smiled at Edelgard, and squeezed her hand gently.

“You’re always welcome.”

Walking down against the hard cement sidewalk, they began to approach Claude’s front door at a rapid pace. Dimitri was already outside, waiting with folded arms and anxiously biting his lip, before Byleth and Edelgard caught up to him with an expectant look on both of their faces.

“Shall we, then?” Edelgard asked.

Dimitri nodded, and walked up to the front door with bold strides; knocking twice, before pressing the doorbell.

“Ms. Riegan?" he called with a polite, uniform manner. "It’s Dimitri. Are you there?”

“Oh, just a second!”

After the voice, the sound of feet pitter-pattering against flooring could be heard behind the door. All members of the outside party straightened themselves up smartly out of instinct as the latch was undone.

“Dimitri!” A smiling face of a slightly older woman said, slipping her hands into the front pockets of her apron. “I see you brought friends?”

“Oh, pardon my manners. This is Edelgard von Hresvelg, the daughter of the owner of Hresvelg Woodworks, and this is Byleth. She’s the daughter of the pair that own Crest Goldsmiths.”

“Oh, my! Well, a pleasure it is to meet you both!” The woman said with a warm look on her face, extending her hand to both Edelgard and Byleth to shake it. “It’s always a pleasure to get to know more about the people my Claude spends his time with.”

“Yes, I can imagine…” Dimitri said as politely as he could manage without rushing her, and shifted his demeanour as he spoke. “Ms. Riegan, may I ask…is Claude at home?”

“Oh! He didn’t tell you?” She said, placing the hand she had used to greet Edelgard and Byleth to her own chin.

Dimitri shook his head quickly.

“Tell me what?”

“He’s staying with his father for a few days, in the next town over. He should be back for Halloween. He did say he’d told you, but I suppose that boy can be such a scatterbrain!”

Dimitri’s eyes flickered in a hurt, pained disbelief, to which Edelgard helpfully took the cue to step in.

“Really? How surprising!” Edelgard said, shaking her head, and Byleth nodded along. “He didn’t mention a word of that to us. Does he get along with his father well, then?”

“Oh, yes. Those two, they’re peas in a pod!” Claude’s mother said with a chuckle. “Utterly devoted to those they love.”

“Not that devoted,” Dimitri grumbled, and Claude’s mother chuckled again; taking the other hand out of her apron and placing it on Dimitri’s shoulder.

“Now, now, Dimitri. I’m sure he’ll make up for his misgivings when he returns.”

As her hand rest on Dimitri’s shoulder with a comforting squeeze, Edelgard felt the air suddenly knocked out of her lungs as a particularly familiar sight greeted her eyes.

“Ms. Riegan,” she began, and kept her voice as steady as she could. “Where did you get that bracelet? It’s…beautiful.”

Byleth picked up immediately on her lover’s subtly strained voice, and looked at the bracelet that still rest on Dimitri’s shoulder.

“This old thing? Oh, I’ve had it for years!” she replied with a flattered tone and a cursory glance back to the item. “It was a gift.”

“Did Claude’s father give you it?”

“No, no…he wasn’t ever that fond of silver jewellery,” Ms. Riegan chuckled. “Working in the silver mines will do that to a man, though! Back in the day, he used to talk of how he hated work. But considering silver is Garreg Mach’s biggest export, well…we don’t have much else going on here, do we?”

Edelgard paused with a false smile plastered onto her face.

“Oh, right. I just thought I’d seen another one like that around recently.”

Ms. Riegan’s warm, homely demeanour faltered ever so slightly when Edelgard said that. Like a candle flickering in a breeze, it was momentary and sudden, but it was there. It was noticeable. And this time, Edelgard had Dimitri and Byleth both there to see it happen.

“You don’t say?” Ms. Riegan replied with a smile that looked slightly forced this time. “Where did you see that, young lady?”

“A friend of ours had one just like it.”

“Ah, well…these were very popular pieces back in the day,” Ms. Riegan said, her friendly appearance returning with sudden brightness. "I imagine her mother more than likely handed it to her, if she were to have the same gift as I!”

Edelgard nodded; recognizing that was the cue for you can’t ask me any more questions, young lady…so shut the hell up.

“I see," Edelgard said with a polite smile. "Well, thank you for being so informative. It’s a truly beautiful piece.”

“Thank you!" She replied, before Edelgard was surprised by her next sentence. "Say, would you like to see it a little closer?”

Ms. Riegan’s face was the picture of friendliness, but Edelgard could see right through it. Something about her offer was chilling.

“Alright,” she accepted, and as she took a step forwards, Byleth also made sure she was close enough to see.

The bracelet. Finally; an up-close and personal look at something that started all of this worry.

It was…disturbing.

The bracelet was beautiful in an uncanny, unique way that Edelgard didn’t think she could describe, even if she’d tried to. It looked as though instead of chains, the bracelet were linked together through ornate looking spikes, blunted at the end so as not to hurt the wearer, and decoratively chained up around various, small symbols. One looked like a moon, whilst the others looked like different interpretations of religious images that Edelgard knew, but couldn’t place.

But the most difficult thing of all to inspect was at the very edge of the bracelet; and, as Edelgard’s lavender eyes scanned over it, she saw that there was a tiny, tiny silver box next to the latch of the bracelet; and, in even more minuscule letters than before, Edelgard peered down to see a year inscribed; 1965.

“1965?” Edelgard asked, letting go of the wrist she gently held to look at the bracelet. The friendly demeanour was back on Ms. Riegan’s face, and she nodded brightly.

“Oh, yes. That was the year this was gifted to me, you see. I’ve never taken it off!”

Edelgard’s eyes were open wide, and Byleth could tell something was gravely wrong. Dimitri, still scorned and hurt by Claude’s unannounced disappearance being quickly dismissed by his mother, folded his arms.

“…I believe we’ve taken up quite enough of Ms. Riegan’s time,” he said, looking at a stunned Edelgard. “Don’t you?”

“Yes…” Edelgard said, and found that her eye contact hadn’t broken the entire time. “I believe so.”

“What did you say your last name was again, dear? I don’t believe I remember it.”

Edelgard paused, and this time, she felt a fear seep into her mouth like poison as she spoke.

“Hresvelg,” she answered politely, as though the suspicion wasn’t driving her mad.

“Hresvelg! That’s the one. I’ll be sure to drop by your store sometime!” She answered cheerfully, before holding up a hand in farewell as she began to walk back into her house. “You all take care, now!”

“Goodbye, Ms. Riegan.” Dimitri said fondly, and Claude’s mother closed the door behind her; with not even a single backwards glance for Edelgard or Byleth.

“Well…” Byleth began with a second scratch of her head, and turned to face Edelgard. “That was odd.”

“Claude…” Dimitri said with an angry tone of voice. “Ugh.”

“Did he really not tell you, Dimitri?” Edelgard asked. “I find that hard to believe.”

“I don’t,” Dimitri replied scathingly. “Perhaps it’s time for us to see other people, if he thinks I’m just some idiot that’s going to wait on him hand and foot.”

“Come on, Dimitri…” Byleth tried to soothe, but Dimitri was too irritated to take it on board.

“…I’m going for a walk. I’ll make my own way home.” He said bluntly. “Thank you for taking me, both of you. Sorry for the trouble.”

“Need to clear your head?” Edelgard asked. Dimitri nodded. “Alright…well, be safe. Do you need cab money?”

“No…but thanks. I’ll see you later. And Edelgard…”

Edelgard looked at her friend as he began to walk off with his hands sulkily in his pockets.

“Yes?”

“If you and Byleth ever need a place to stay,” he said, holding up a hand without looking behind him as he walked away, “just come to mine.”

As Edelgard and Byleth watched Dimitri walking off away and past Byleth’s car, they turned to face one another; and, after walking a short distance away from Claude’s house, they turned to face one another with a look of confusion written all over their faces.

“What did you make of that conversation there, Byleth?”

There was a brief pause; before Byleth scoffed, and shuffled her hands into her pockets.

“That was a crock of shit, if I ever heard one. Claude doing anything without telling Dimitri is a far-fetched line of reasoning as it is, but Claude going out of town without saying anything? There’s no way he’d forget.”

“I don’t think he would either…” Edelgard said, rubbing her chin. “Which begs two questions. Why lie about it as his mother, and where is Claude now?”

“I don’t know…” Byleth trailed off, before Edelgard squeezed her hand. “What the hell is going on in this town? I never noticed things being this weird before.”

“Speaking of weird,” Edelgard cut in as they walked, “that bracelet was incredibly off putting. It reminded me of my dreams, somehow.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I don’t know why Ms. Riegan had one of those, though…”

Byleth frowned, before shrugging to herself with a worried look on her face.

“Well…” she began. “Where Claude is concerned, there’s really not a lot we can do about that…getting the police involved would be pointless, and there’s no absolute guarantee that he really isn’t visiting his father. I don’t know anything about his family…do you?”

“Oh, no. I didn’t even know he only lived with his mother,” Edelgard said with a shake of her head. “You two have always been a lot closer than me and him, so if you don’t know, I’m definitely not going to.”

“Hmm…” Byleth replied, and Edelgard couldn’t help but get a little lost in the blue of her lover’s eyes. “I guess we should just chalk it up to a strange incident. Another strange incident, I should say.”

“Mm…there’ve been far too many of those for my liking, I must say.”

Byleth nodded in agreement as they continued their slow stroll down the street, and Edelgard felt calm for the first time in hours with Byleth’s hand in her own.

“It’s been so chilly lately,” Byleth said with a displeased grumble, huddling up a little more in her jacket as the sound of rustling leaves could be heard, blowing with a loud whoosh in the wind on their trees. Edelgard smiled.

“You’re cute when you’re all pouty, you know.”

“Hey!” Byleth said with a chuckle. “Well, it is cold!”

Edelgard smiled warmly, before looking up at the blue sky and the clouds that were filling it.

“…So what do you want to do with the rest of our day?” she asked, trying desperately to push back the thoughts that had been disturbing her. “I don’t want to linger on something we can’t do a single thing about. Especially not the weird things I’ve been experiencing, either.”

“Hmm…well, I need to go to the supermarket. Wanna go there with me?”

Edelgard laughed. “A date at the supermarket? Count me in.”

Byleth couldn’t help but laugh along with Edelgard too, and squeezed her hand affectionately.

“God,” she began, shaking her head, “what a way to start a relationship, hm?”

“You’re telling me. I was terrified of talking to you about everything earlier.”

Byleth looked at Edelgard in amazement.

“You were? Why?”

“Because I didn’t want you thinking I was insane, obviously!” Edelgard replied with an embarrassed laugh. Byleth squeezed her hand again, and kissed her forehead firmly; an action that made Edelgard feel weak at the knees.

“Don’t go thinking something like that,” Byleth said, “or I really will think you’re insane.”

“Oh! Byleth, Edelgard!”

As Byleth and Edelgard came to a halt both in conversation and pacing, an incredibly familiar voice reached their ears; and, turning around, Edelgard’s blood ran cold at the sight of the people that now stood before her.

A sight that neither her nor Byleth could have predicted.

Marianne?!” Edelgard exclaimed as though she had seen a ghost, and even Byleth looked completely stunned. “Thank God…!”

“So she was okay all along…!” Byleth whispered to Edelgard in haste; and, as the two of them stood, the sight of three women before them greeted their eyes.

Mercedes, Hilda and Marianne were walking along the street from around the corner; stopping in their tracks at the sight of their familiar friends. As they began to approach closer, Marianne appeared to be completely fine; in fact, Edelgard thought, Marianne actually looked to be the picture of health. Besides a little case of tired eyes, she looked fine, and Marianne being tired was nothing new. 

This is perhaps the healthiest I’ve ever seen her, in fact...I wonder what she’s been doing the last few days?

Mercedes’s eyes flickered with a sad looking smile on her face as she noticed the hands locked between Edelgard and Byleth, and Hilda looked considerably brighter than she had done the other night.

Edelgard couldn’t help but notice her bracelet all over again too; but even that was pushed far to the back of her mind at the sight of a healthy Marianne.

“O-Oh! Were you worried for me…?” Marianne asked, shaking her head. “Wh-why?”

“Your mother called me!” Edelgard said. “She sounded very concerned! Did you call her yet?”

“She did…?”

“Yes!”

Hilda laughed, and swung against the arm of an incredibly lovestruck Marianne.

“Aw, don’t be such a stick in the mud, Edelgard! She’s just been with me.”

“Well, yes. I can see that.”

Edelgard and Hilda’s expressions soured at their polar opposite personalities clashing, before Byleth rubbed the back of her neck as she looked at Mercedes.

Catherine’s words were still ringing in her ears.

You know, Mercedes? The girl that likes you a whole lot?

“Um, hey!" Byleth greeted as typically as possible; Mercedes, still with a serene, sad smile on her face, nodded as she held her hands together behind her back.

“Hello, Byleth…” she began, taking two steps forwards. Edelgard watched her with a subtly wary eye. “How’ve you been?”

“Oh, you know…I could be worse. What about you?”

Mercedes chuckled knowingly, and Byleth felt a little guilty.

“Well, I should hope you’d be feeling good, after you and Edelgard finally got together. Right?”

Edelgard and Byleth blushed, and Marianne gasped.

“Oh! Y-You did?! Congratulations!”

"Wow, news travels fast in this town..." Edelgard grumbled.

“Aw, that is cute…” Hilda said with an air of sincerity about her, and smiled at Byleth as opposed to Edelgard. “Congrats! Welcome to the couples club. Now all that’s left is to hook up Mercie with someone!”

Mercedes closed her eyes slightly, and Marianne hastily tried to prevent her girlfriend from saying any more.

“H-Hilda, maybe you shouldn’t…”

“What about Shamir?” Hilda continued enthusiastically, despite Marianne’s protests. “She’s always been totally in love with you! And who doesn’t love a bad girl, right? Leonie’s off the market…oh, but what about Catherine? She’s so -”

“Hilda…!”

“It’s alright, Marianne…” Mercedes replied with the same continuous smile, and placed a hand gently on Hilda’s arm. “Hilda, when the time is right, everything will work out for me. Don’t worry.”

Byleth shuffled awkwardly, and Edelgard couldn’t help but feel slightly patronized. Hilda paused at Mercedes’ remark before nodding her head, and wrapped another arm around the one she was already cuddling up to of Marianne’s.

“Aww, well…you’re right!” Hilda said brightly, and Byleth couldn’t help but still hold the feeling of guilt inside her. “Now that I’ve managed to put my foot in it all over again, moving veeery swiftly on…what are you guys doing today? I don’t think I’ve seen you in my neck of the woods before, right?”

“Were you here visiting Claude?” Mercedes asked, and Byleth shook her head.

“No, actually. We were…” Byleth began, before Edelgard gently pushed her elbow into Byleth’s side in signal of not revealing the real details, “just…out for a drive. I’ve got to stop by the bigger store soon, so…”

“Oh!” Mercedes said, and smiled a little brighter. “We were just getting ready to go there. We were waiting for a cab to come by, but you always have to wait for so long for one around the sticks of Garreg Mach…”

“W-We can just get the bus?” Marianne offered into the conversation, before Hilda pressed an index finger to her lover’s mouth with a pout of her own lips.

“But maybe, just maybe, if we ran into somebody with a car,” Hilda said with a cheeky smile, and Marianne felt herself melt under her lover’s touch. “Who knows what would happen? Oh, the possibilities would be simply endless. The joy of avoiding public transport…!”

“Alright, alright…” Byleth said with a laugh, before exchanging a look with an already irritated Edelgard. “We’ll give you a lift, okay?”

“That’s fine with me,” Edelgard forced herself to say with a smile laced with disapproval. As if they gave us any choice.

Byleth grimaced, and Mercedes smiled politely.

“Thank you both....I’m sorry to intrude on your day, but we’d really appreciate it.”

“Don’t worry about it," Byleth said, and waved a hand dismissively. "We’re going to the same place anyway, right?”

Mercedes’ grin turned into a beaming smile with the acceptance of Byleth, and Edelgard couldn’t help but feel a little sulky.

As Byleth walked slightly ahead with Mercedes now on her coattails, Edelgard trailed behind with Marianne and Hilda. Hilda still kept a tight grip on Marianne's arm, resting her head on her shoulder as they walked, and Marianne’s blush now seemed as though it was a permanent sunburn on her alabaster skin.

“S-Sorry, Edelgard…” Marianne apologized, and Edelgard was too busy focusing on looking at Mercedes talking to Byleth happily ahead.

“What? Oh, don’t worry about it. We’re here now…” Edelgard said resignedly, before sighing. “To be honest, Marianne, I’m just glad you’re alright. I thought I’d seen a ghost when I lay my eyes on you.”

“She’s fine! She’s just been all wrapped up in my cocoon,” Hilda said, kissing Marianne on the cheek, before looking at Edelgard with a sharp look in her eyes. “Right?”

Edelgard blinked, surprised at the direct glare, and looked back in confusion.

“Um, right…I mean, that’s what I assumed anyway, so…”

“And you’d be right!” Hilda beamed, and Edelgard noticed the bracelet on her wrist jingling as she threw her arms around Marianne’s neck.

“A-Ah! Hilda, please…”

“Everyone ready?” Byleth said, standing at the side of her car with her hands slipped casually into her pockets, and looked at Edelgard with a private smile in her eyes that only the two of them could recognise.

Edelgard felt her irritation alleviated by the look of her lover, and couldn’t help but smile back.

“…As always.”

Mercedes placed her hands on Byleth’s upper shoulders, and Edelgard felt her smile suddenly snap like a twig. Byleth looked in surprise at the woman before her.

“Thank you again for doing this, Byleth...I really appreciate the help.”

“Oh, uh…it’s nothing!” Byleth said bashfully, placing her hands gently on Mercedes’ wrists to push them down subtly. “Let’s get going, shall we?”

Mercedes chuckled as she got into the car, and Edelgard felt a little concerned that, as she stood here in the freezing cold of the Autumn breeze, her fists were curled up into small balls of frustration.

“Ooh, it’s a squeeze in here, isn’t it, Byleth?” Hilda said with a knowing smile, and Marianne, sat at the right window seat, felt every nerve ending in her body suddenly electrify as Hilda grew closer to her. “This is nice.”

Hilda, fully embracing the lack of space in Byleth’s car with five people in it, shuffled herself with a hard press up to Marianne’s body; and, wrapping her arms around her neck gently as they sat, began to whisper against her ear. Marianne visibly shivered in delight, placing her hand over her mouth as Hilda’s lips brushed against her ear, and Edelgard couldn’t help but feel the romantic envy rear its ugly head once again.

“Do you mind if I sit in the front?” Mercedes asked apologetically. “I get a little carsick if I don’t have anything to look at.”

“Can’t you just look out of the backseat window?” Edelgard asked incredulously.

“Well, I could, but…it makes me feel nauseous.”

Byleth looked at Edelgard expectantly, and Edelgard huffed.

“Fine.”

“Thank you!” Mercedes replied brightly, and Byleth felt a little awkward as she sat in the driver’s seat.

“…Okay, superstore it is.”

Edelgard slipped into the seat next to Hilda and Marianne, folding her arms sulkily, and rest her head on the window as the car began to start; and, with a rumble of the engine, they were off.

Whilst next to her, Hilda and Marianne were busy making eyes at one another, Edelgard didn’t take her eyes off of Mercedes the entire time. Byleth was luckily her girlfriend now; Edelgard breathed a sigh of relief over that much, at least; but it was very clear Mercedes was not over her feelings.

Her body language, her constant smile, the way there was always a girlish blush on her face whenever Byleth was around; Edelgard recognised it all so well. The only thing she would give Mercedes was that it was almost refreshing to see somebody else wearing a different type of jewellery; something Edelgard didn’t even know she cared for until today. To see Mercedes’ golden necklace and bracelet glimmer in the soft Autumn light was almost a reassurance, even if she did feel slightly irritated by who was wearing them.

Byleth and Mercedes talked in the front seat occasionally. Edelgard didn’t say a word, and neither did Byleth, unless she was already spoken to first by Mercedes. Edelgard picked up little bits and pieces of their conversation; tucking her blonde hair behind her ear, she heard various chuckles from Mercedes at jokes Byleth made, and gnawed at the inside of her lip.

“…Are we there yet?” Hilda asked from the back seat, tearing herself away from Marianne momentarily. Marianne’s eyes had hearts in them all over again.

“We’re almost there,” Mercedes said, peering out over the shops that all of them knew well. “Right, Byleth?”

“Yeah, we are. I never usually have to go to the store from all the way out where you guys live, so this must be quite a trek for you all, huh?”

“It’s a pain,” Mercedes agreed, “but at least it’s definitely been a lot nicer this time than just getting a cab.”

“I’m glad,” Byleth replied with a polite smile, and Edelgard felt a little childish about being annoyed at watching Mercedes’ eyes light up.

“So what are we getting today, Byleth?” Edelgard said, leaning forwards on the front seat slightly possessively. “You said that you wanted to go there when we were at the diner this morning, so it must have been something important.”

Mercedes’s bright smile faded into a flickering candle smirk, and Byleth laughed as she spoke.

“Oh, yeah. Super important. Thank you for bringing it up.”

“I knew a reminder of that would help,” Edelgard replied with a smile of her own that suggested she knew she’d been found out. 

“Mhm. That bottle of milk and that bread? They won’t know what hit ‘em.”

Edelgard couldn’t help but laugh as she hung on to the front seat, and didn’t bother to turn to acknowledge whatever look she could feel Mercedes was giving her.

Eventually, the car pulled up into the parking lot of the oversized superstore, and everyone – besides Marianne and Hilda – was at least a little grateful to get out of the stuffy car they’d arrived in. Mercedes got out first, and was quickly followed by Marianne and Hilda, who began talking to her on the other side of the car.

“Whew…” Edelgard said, stretching her arms out over her head as she got out on the same side as Byleth. “That felt so long.”

“You did very well, El.”

“Ah!”

Edelgard turned to face Byleth at her side, who placed her hands on her shoulders as she spoke; and, after what felt like an age without Byleth’s touch, Edelgard suddenly felt rejuvenated all over again.

“…Thank you,” Edelgard said in reply, and placed her hands on Byleth’s own affectionately; grabbing them to pull down into a hand-hold of her own. “It took a lot of willpower to not be incredibly jealous the entire time.”

“Believe me,” Byleth said with a knowing smile, “I could feel the daggers from the backseat.”

“Sorry about that.”

Byleth laughed, and Edelgard felt her heart skip a beat as she noticed a blush on her girlfriend’s face.

“No, it…I quite liked being so sought after by you.”

Edelgard felt a thousand arrows pierce her heart.

“Shall w-we go?” Marianne called from the other side of the car, and Byleth nodded, stroking her thumbs over Edelgard’s knuckles.

“Coming, coming…” she said with a nod, and Edelgard grinned. Byleth really was hers, after all; and, after everything that had happened today alone, an impromptu, slightly unconventional date to the supermarket was the only thing that remained inside Edelgard's mind for the time being. 

Chapter Text

The journey around the superstore was just as uninteresting as Edelgard thought it would be, except this time, it was an experience made entirely better by the presence of Byleth. Mercedes, Hilda and Marianne had gone on ahead, grabbing whatever they had needed through the unpleasant ambience of a recently cleaned superstore, smelling of bleach and non-descript frozen odours from the far end of the aisles, and hurried over to the checkout that seemed just as dull and lifeless as the air around them.

“We’ll wait for you by the car,” Mercedes said to Byleth and Edelgard as she passed them by with Hilda and Marianne. Edelgard counted her blessings.

“Alright,” Byleth replied with a friendly wave.

As Edelgard’s eyes scanned over the brightly coloured boxes of cereal whilst a speaker announced the deals for the week, she eventually found her gaze just looking at Byleth with adoring eyes.

Byleth really was so beautiful, Edelgard thought, that it was no wonder it had been driving her crazy all this time. The ways that Mercedes had looked at her in the car was no surprise, really.

“Man, finally. I got my cereal. I’m ready to go. Hell, I’m ready for anything now.”

“You have everything you wanted?” Edelgard asked with a laugh, and Byleth nodded.

“Sure do!” Byleth said in reply, and Edelgard chuckled again as she watched her girlfriend shake the cereal box twice in satisfaction. “You want anything, El? I take it your dad wouldn’t be making anything for you guys tonight.”

“Hmph. Even if he did I wouldn’t eat it anyway, but…no. Don’t worry. I’ll be alright with what I’ve got.”

Byleth smiled as the two of them walked to the checkout; before Edelgard noticed a discount on umbrellas besides the cashier. A striking crimson one stared back at her, luring her over into an impulsive purchase, and Edelgard resigned herself to her fate of becoming its new owner.

“Oh…maybe I’ll buy one of these,” she said to herself, holding a red umbrella in her hands. “I suppose with winter coming, it always does bring storms with it.”

“Good idea,” Byleth said with a bright smile, and, almost as quickly as they had arrived, they were finished as soon as they had paid.  

Byleth and Edelgard re-emerged into the natural cold of the outside as opposed to the artificial one inside the superstore; and, with hands held, they made their way back to the car.

“Got everything?” Mercedes asked as they began to approach. Byleth nodded, and Edelgard opted to remain quiet as Hilda and Marianne leant against the side of Byleth’s paintwork.

“Yep, we’re all done.” Byleth said with a smile. “I take it you guys need a lift back home?”

“That would be lovely,” Mercedes said, flashing Byleth a warm smile. Edelgard rolled her eyes privately.

“Alright. We’ll drop you off, then.”

“Will you be wanting to sit in the front seat again, Mercedes?” Edelgard asked, hiding her tone of resignation. Mercedes shook her head.

“No, it’s alright, Edelgard. You already gave up your seat next to Byleth before.”

Edelgard blinked in surprise at her response.

“Are you sure…? I thought it made you feel sick to sit in the back?”

“I’ll be alright,” Mercedes said brightly, and held up a packet of travel sickness pills in her hand. “I came out of the store prepared!”

“Hey, I bought you some of those before!” Hilda said with a click of her fingers as Marianne held her close. “Uh, I think? I guess we don’t travel by car too much.”

“You did, and so did Dorothea, before she moved on!” Mercedes said with a demure chuckle. “I suppose everybody knows I get a little travel sick now, then.”

Edelgard felt a pit of guilt open in her stomach as she so often did after a jealous turmoil; and, with a resigned shake of her head, committed to her next suggestion.

“Why don’t you just sit in the front again, Mercedes?” Edelgard said. “You’re better to save those pills for when you really need them.”

Byleth smiled at her girlfriend, proud of her good deed; and Mercedes looked back in surprise.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, it’s fine. I rode in the back on the way here, anyway. May as well again.”

Mercedes looked at Edelgard with seemingly grateful eyes, and smiled brightly at her.

“Oh, thank you…that’s so considerate of you.”

With a polite smile, Mercedes took Edelgard up on the offer; and, as Byleth began the car journey back, it provided Edelgard with a lot of time to think.

In a strange way, she was very grateful for the moment she had provided herself. There was so much to consider. Too much. The black van. The jewellery. The interaction with Claude’s mother. So many weird things going on, so little time it felt like to solve them. What did it all mean?

As Edelgard continued to ruminate on the subjects, the more sinister sides of them all came up, too; her window being lifted up, the supposed disappearances, the dreams. The dreams were definitely one of the weirdest parts of the entire experience.

And, as Edelgard frowned to herself, she thought on her father. His behaviour was so incredibly out of character that it had shocked her to the core.

I wonder if he’s calmed down yet, or if this is the beginning of me having to move out…

But with thoughts came the loss of time, and before Edelgard knew it, Byleth had returned them all to the neighbourhood of tacky Halloween decorations and screaming, excitable children. Pulling up on a different sidewalk than before, she found that the Blue Lions Close was practically just a carbon copy of Golden Deer Road, except from the fancy décor of the places around her, with much bigger houses.

“Here we are.”

Mercedes placed a hand on top of Byleth’s one resting on the gearstick, and Edelgard’s patience began to wear thin all over again.

“Thank you so much, Byleth.” Mercedes said, removing her hand quickly. “We’ve really appreciated it. Haven’t we, ladies?”

“Oh, yeah. It’s been awesome to not have to hail a cab!” Hilda said, and Marianne’s eyes were still firmly locked on to her. “Hasn’t it, honey?”

“Y-Yes…” Marianne trailed off, before shaking her head in embarrassment as she snapped out of her lovestruck stupor. “Ah! Um, I mean, yes! Th-thanks, Byleth…and sorry for worrying you and Edelgard…”

“Like I said,” Edelgard replied warmly, “I really am just glad you’re okay. What a relief.”

“Yeah! Me too,” Byleth chipped in. “It was such a worry to hear that you hadn’t checked in. You rascal.”

Marianne blushed, and Hilda laughed as they all began to get out of the car. Mercedes walked to the trunk of Byleth’s car, opening it to grab her heavy shopping bags.

“Here, let me help you with those.”

Byleth picked up the bags Mercedes had, and smiled at her as she began to walk on ahead.

“Oh!” Mercedes blushed, and Edelgard decided to let this one slide. “Thank you, Byleth…! I’ll help Hilda and Marianne with their things, in that case!”

Byleth nodded, and Edelgard hurriedly ran up to Byleth’s side; taking one of Mercedes’ bags in her hands.

“Hey!”

“Don’t protest and just let me help you,” Edelgard interrupted quickly. “You’re far too chivalrous for your own good.”

Byleth made an indignant noise, and Edelgard couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Doing this, things feel as though they’ve gone back to normal, don’t they? Whatever that was.”

Byleth laughed.

“Yeah, it really feels like life just…slowed down today. Which is by no means a complaint.”

“You’re telling me.”

The blue sky above was beginning to quickly fill up with grey clouds, thanks to the breeze of the Autumn winds outside, and Edelgard found that the stormy weather almost looked…comforting. There was something always so relaxing about the sights of oncoming rain, something so soothing and natural about it that always seemed to wash away the burdens of life. Edelgard hoped that it would rain just in time for her and Byleth to be alone together, anyway.

As they began to come to a halt outside Mercedes’ house, the three women behind them caught up, and Mercedes clicked her fingers as she placed the bags down on the floor.

“Oh!” She exclaimed suddenly in announcement. “Wait here just a moment, everyone!”

“Huh?” Byleth asked curiously.

“Ohh, I know what this is!” Hilda said excitedly, swinging on Marianne’s arm. “You guys are gonna love this.”

With a jangle of Mercedes’ keys in the lock, she opened the door and ran inside hastily. Edelgard could hear the sound of papers shuffling from a distance, and before long, Mercedes ran back outside; carrying with her four small, orange envelopes.

“Here!” she said brightly, handing two to Edelgard and Byleth. “These are for you two.”

“Hm? What’s this?” Edelgard asked, slipping her thumb delicately below the ridge of the envelope’s seal to rip it up. “Oh…!”

“But Mercedes, are you sure you’re gonna have time to do this?” Byleth asked in surprise. “Don’t you leave for college soon?”

“I do!” Mercedes said with a tinge of sadness. “But…you know how I love a good cause!”

As Edelgard pulled out the invitation, she saw the words “Halloween Party” written along the top line in cursive.

To Edelgard,

I’d love it if you could make it to my Halloween Party in a few days. Bring drinks or a snack to share with everyone. This will probably be my last party before the big move, so I’d like it a lot if you could come!

Love, Mercie

P.S. – Make sure to dress up!

“Halloween Party, huh…” Edelgard said, looking up at the serene expression of Mercedes once more.

“Yes! Oh, and here’s one for Dimitri,” she said quickly, handing it to Edelgard. “I saw him walking away earlier from Golden Deer Road, but I didn’t get the chance to give him it. Could you pass it on for me?”

“Of course.”

“Man, your last party for a while…” Byleth said sorrowfully. “Let’s make sure this is a great time, okay?”

Mercedes nodded with a smile on her face.

“I certainly hope so, Byleth. Will you be coming along?”

“Oh, for sure!” Byleth replied brightly. “As if I’d be anywhere else.”

Mercedes giggled playfully, and Edelgard felt the guilt dissolve in a pit of jealousy.

“You said that at my last one, too. You really must be fond of them!”

“Your last party was quite an event,” Edelgard interrupted. “I’m sorry I had to miss your announcement.”

“Yes, well…” Mercedes began with a chuckle, and turned to face the guilty faces of Marianne and Hilda. “You weren’t the only one, so don’t worry about it.”

“Thanks for inviting us.” Byleth said with a smile, and Mercedes blushed a little.

“Oh…of course. I couldn’t not have you there.”

“Who else is going?”

“Will Lysithea be there?” Edelgard asked with a knowing smirk hidden behind her words, remembering what Lysithea had said beforehand about not being invited.

“Oh, Lysithea?” Mercedes asked in a faux ignorant way. “I decided not to ask her.”

“Is that so? Why?”

“Oh, come on…I’m sure you already know. I bet you mentioned my last party at that pit she works at!” Mercedes replied with a chuckle that surprised both Edelgard and Byleth. “Am I right?”

“How did you know we went to the diner?” Byleth asked, cocking her head to the side.

“You mentioned it rather loudly when you were drunk, remember?” Mercedes replied with a laugh. “I heard you from all the way where I was talking to Annie.”

“Oh, right…” Edelgard said, thinking fondly of Byleth’s affections that night. “We did mention it, yes.”

“And what did she say?”

“She said you didn’t invite her because you didn’t like thugs,” Edelgard replied, and Mercedes folded her hands. “But I thought perhaps as Lysithea herself isn’t the problem, you might’ve changed your mind. She's a nice girl.”

Mercedes smiled politely as she shook her head.

“I haven’t.”

Byleth paused at her blunt response.

“...I’m surprised at you, Mercie.”

Mercedes widened her eyes as she looked back at Byleth.

“You are? Why?”

“Well…” Byleth began, folding her arms. “I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t think they’re that bad. And Shamir seems to be really fond of you.”

Mercedes surprised everybody around her at that moment by laughing a little louder than anybody had expected her to.

Shamir?” She replied with a chuckle. “I haven’t got the faintest bit of interest in her, so I’m afraid her feelings are deeply misplaced.”

“When was the last time you and Shamir even spoke?” Hilda laughed. Mercedes shook her head.

“I don’t know! Honestly, I try not to think about it. Those thugs are just no good for anyone.”

“Aw, they’re really not that bad!” Byleth laughed. “They’re a little brash, sure, but…”

Mercedes smiled at Byleth.

“They’re just wasted potential,” Mercedes said bluntly, and Byleth’s smile faded to one of surprise at the woman before her.

“Is that what you really think?”

Mercedes paused, and tapped her chin in contemplation.

“Well, perhaps that was a little harsh…” she said apologetically. “But don’t you think they’re just wasting their lives with their behaviour?”

“I can’t disagree with you in a way, but…maybe they’ll go on to do great things. You never know what people are capable of.”

Mercedes chuckled as Byleth frowned, and smiled serenely at her.

“I’ve always loved your optimism, Byleth…it’s one of your best qualities.”

Edelgard was the one who frowned this time, and cleared her throat.

“Right, well…it’s about time we got going home, isn’t it, Byleth?”

“What? Oh!” Byleth said suddenly, recognising the hinting look in Edelgard’s eyes. “Yes, it is. Yup.”

“Aww…it sucks you can’t hang out longer!” Hilda said, and Marianne nodded. “It was a pretty nice time getting to hang out together today! I actually got to know you a little better too, Edelgard.”

Edelgard blinked.

“You did...?”

“Sure!” Hilda said with a bright nod. Marianne smiled. “You’re a woman with strong principals, right? I really respect that in a person.”

Edelgard paused, taken aback by the sudden sincerity of Hilda’s comment, and felt a smile come onto her face.

“Oh! Well…thank you!”

Byleth smiled warmly at the girl at her side, and took Edelgard’s hand before everyone; an action which surprised everybody involved inwardly.

“Well, we’d better be going, but thanks for the great time! You can be sure we’ll be there at your party, Mercedes.”

Mercedes nodded fondly, and clasped her hands together.

“I can’t wait to see you again.”

Byleth blinked at her forward statement that there was really nothing explicitly wrong with, and nodded awkwardly.

“Um, yeah. You too!”

“Goodbye for now,” Edelgard said in farewell to the women before her, and waved to them all as her and Byleth began to leave.

“Bye, guys!” Hilda said, waving back enthusiastically, before the three of them turned to enter Mercedes’ house.

“Thank God,” Edelgard grumbled as they walked out of earshot, and Byleth chuckled.

“Aw, come on. That was pretty nice, right?”

“Nice for you, maybe! Mercedes falling all over you was not exactly how I wanted to spend the day…but I suppose she at least did something nice in the end.”

Byleth nodded with a squeeze of Edelgard’s hand, and in her other occupied one, she held the invitation from Mercedes. Her thumb ran itself over the hard indents of the pen’s ink on the back of the card, and shook her head.

“I gotta say, I really am surprised Mercedes is throwing a Halloween party.”

“Really?” Edelgard asked curiously.

“Yeah. She’s always loved spooky stories a lot, but she’s told me before that she thinks Halloween is just a commercialised waste of time.”

“Huh. That’s bleak for someone like Mercedes.”

“Right?” Byleth replied. “I don’t get it. A holiday themed around spooky stuff I’d of thought would be exactly her flavour...I guess maybe she reached that point just as she’s gonna leave Garreg Mach.”

“How odd,” Edelgard said with a raised eyebrow, followed by a shrug. “Though to be fair to Mercedes, it seems like most of the town hasn’t been that into it this year, though.”

“That’s true. Guess I’ll have to bring a snack to her place now though, so we might need to go back to the store before then. It’s in two days, right? Halloween, that is?”

Edelgard tapped her chin.

“Is it really that close…? Wow. I suppose we’ve just got time to get costumes.”

“I’m excited,” Byleth said with a smile. “Our first Halloween together as a couple.”

Edelgard felt her cheeks flush red, and Byleth chuckled to herself.

“It is…” Edelgard said with a smile, and looking up at Byleth, she felt a lot calmer than she had done all day. “Byleth…”

“Hm?”

“I’m not ready to go home yet.”

“Me neither…” Byleth said, scratching her head. “Wanna go and look at the flowers by the church or something? I always enjoy spending some time there.”

Edelgard’s eyes smiled along with her lips.

“You’re a very sweet soul, aren;t you?”

“Hey, they’re just beautiful. What better place to take you?”

Byleth winked. Edelgard blushed and prodded her face with a pointed finger.

“Stop teasing me!”

“I can’t help it," Byleth replied with a laugh in her voice. “Occupational hazard. What can I say?”

“Hmph.”

With a second soft laugh from her lips, Byleth unlocked the door to her car; and, with one final look over her shoulder as they got into their seats, Edelgard couldn’t see anybody that they’d just spent the last couple of hours with lingering; and slipped into the seat with an uneasy feeling in her stomach.

The car’s engine began to chug up once again, and Edelgard was privately quite excited to go to the church’s floral display. In Garreg Mach, the only things that were worth mentioning at all in Edelgard’s mind was the nature aspects of it all. The stars from the other night served as a strong reminder of such a thing, let alone the colourful, well-kept decorative flowers that lined along the church path and building, dazzling the citizens with its colourful bouquet.

“How often do you go to the church, Byleth?” Edelgard asked into the stillness of the car, and Byleth made a clicking noise with her tongue as a droplet of rain splashed on the windshield.

“Oh, damn it. It’s raining, so I suppose we’ll have to look from the inside of my car…” Byleth said with a grumble, “but I go there kind of often, I guess.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. I mean, I don’t go inside the church or anything, but I do like to go and look at the flowers occasionally. Sometimes I see some familiar faces there, too.”

Edelgard clasped her hands in a ball on her lap as she tilted her head, and looked at the woman to her side.

“Really?” she asked in curiosity. “Such as?”

“Dedue, if you know of him,” Byleth said as the car crawled to a halt at a traffic light. “The guy who runs his own restaurant.”

“Oh, right…I do know of him. He’s a little older than us, isn’t he?” Edelgard thought, and chuckled to herself. “I remember he had a crush on Dimitri for a while.”

“Wow, go Dimitri.”

Edelgard laughed. “Don’t say that when he’s taken, Byleth!”

Byleth laughed in turn, before pushing down the acceleration pedal once again at the sight of a green light glowing at her through the rain.

“Sorry, sorry. But yes, he goes there sometimes. And Lysithea, actually.”

“She does?” Edelgard said in amazement. “I can’t say I expected that of her.”

“Yeah. I’ve seen her once or twice, but we’ve not talked too much whenever she’s been there. I think her mom works at the church a few days a week or something.”

Edelgard raised an eyebrow as she crossed one leg over the other, and ran a hand through her blonde hair.

“I can’t say I’ve ever set foot inside the church, really.”

“Never?”

“I’ve not been much for believing in God,” Edelgard said nonchalantly, “what about you?”

“God, hm…?” Byleth said with a shrug of her shoulders. “I don’t know. I think there’s probably something up there, but I don’t think it’s a man sitting on a fluffy white cloud just waiting to tell us what we did wrong in life.”

“True,” Edelgard said with a laugh, “but even then, I suppose I’m just not really that spiritual. My father seemed to actively avoid talking about religion growing up, which I don’t think is entirely a bad thing.”

“Is that so?” Byleth asked in surprise. “I think your dad is the first person I’ve met that has such an aversion.”

“Religion can be used to bring a lot of people together for a good cause,” Edelgard said, “but I think more often than not, organised groups of devoted people can only bring bad things.”

Byleth glanced over at Edelgard’s disapproving expression as she continued to drive, and found herself hanging on to every word.

“…You’re an interesting woman, El.”

“You think so?”

“Of course. Why else would I…”

Byleth paused in her tracks, and Edelgard could see that she was stopping herself from saying something.

“Byleth?”

“It’s nothing. You’re just cute.”

“That was not what you were going to say!”

Byleth laughed, a little embarrassed, before rubbing the back of her neck. Edelgard’s eyes stared wide in amazement.

Love?

Were you going to say you love me?

“Oh, look. We’re here.”

Edelgard, shaken out of her lovestruck stupor, turned to see the sight of Garreg Mach’s church in full bloom, even in Autumn. All year round, even through the winter months, somehow the church’s flowers were always in season. Carnations; Edelgard’s favourites; lined around the ornate fountain in the back of the yard, housed by two stone cherubs holding up the water spout. Byleth’s favourite flowers, roses, adorned the trellis that led into the church’s back garden; surrounded by ivy and thorns that had to occasionally be trimmed down.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it…” Byleth said thoughtfully as the car pulled up before the black iron gate. “I really do love coming here.”

“Byleth…” Edelgard said with a smile, and noticed that the rain had begun to let up a little. “I’m sorry I didn’t bring an umbr -”

Almost as though a penny had dropped at the exact same time, Edelgard remembered that she had indeed brought an umbrella with her – from the superstore.

“You genius!” Byleth said with a bright smile, and Edelgard felt an infectious excitement run through her at the sight.

“I try my best to be as psychic as possible.”

Byleth smiled, and handed Edelgard the keys to the trunk.

“Here. Just grab your umbrella and let’s go on a little walk, okay?”

“Sounds lovely to me.”

Edelgard quickly got out of the car; hurrying around with a splash of her boots in the puddles beneath her feet; and, unlocking the trunk, caught sight of the crimson umbrella she'd bought back at the store in no time flat.

“Let’s hope these weren’t discount for any particular reason…”

Popping up her umbrella with a soft click, Edelgard found her ears immediately soothed by the soft, continuous pitter-patter of raindrops falling against the material. Byleth saw that she had gotten hold of the umbrella in the mirror, and opening her car with a hasty rush over to her loved one, Edelgard handed the slightly taller woman her umbrella.

“Here.”

“Am I to do the honours of us sharing? Alright.”

Edelgard smiled, and slipped an arm around Byleth’s own.

“You’re taller…so it makes sense.”

Byleth couldn’t help but show a soft, quiet smile of her own beneath the soft falling raindrops, and Edelgard felt her heart thudding.

“I’m glad. That we got to do this, that is.” Byleth said quietly, as her and Edelgard took slow steps towards the gate surrounded by roses. “I was a little concerned we’d be trapped with the other girls all day.”

“I thought you said it wasn’t that bad?”

“It wasn’t! But no matter how fond I am of people, I only really ever want to spend my time with you.”

Edelgard smiled affectionately. 

“The feeling is very mutual, I’ll have you know.”

Byleth felt her heart warmer as Edelgard’s hand reached out to push the cold, iron bars of the gate open; and, with a squeak of the hinges, both women found themselves in a world entirely different to that of the typically drab surroundings of Garreg Mach.

“Wow…” Edelgard said in a dreamy wonderment. “How did I not know somewhere as beautiful as this could exist in Garreg Mach?”

The church was a building impressive in both size and creation. With a large, looming spire atop its spike-shaped roof, the stained glass windows only served to add to its gothic appearance. Made out of dark bricks and old timber, Edelgard could see that this was a building specifically designed to house the ideology of worship.

The flowers around the church could certainly not be explained by any natural means. To Edelgard, despite little knowledge of plants, she was certain that no flower could survive all year round. Surely there were specific seasons for them to be cultivated, and it wasn’t like this was a greenhouse; Garreg Mach, today alone, was freezing. But Edelgard also didn’t care about the hows, whys or selective fluctuations of nature, because this all meant that she got to be with Byleth before some of the most beautiful sights she had ever seen.

As her and Byleth walked along the small, narrow path, arm in arm, Edelgard rest her head against the warm shoulder of her lover. The soft pattering of rain against the red canvas of her umbrella made her eyes feel sleepy, and the sight of the beautiful colours only served to make her heart thud faster.

The churchyard was completely empty. Off in the distance, Edelgard could see the graveyard behind the building, surrounded by old trees and an even larger gate than the one her and Byleth had walked through. And as her and Byleth stopped to look upon the beautiful purples, yellows and reds of the flowers dotting along the building, Edelgard couldn’t help but feel like they were living in a dream.

“Byleth…”

Byleth didn’t say a word in reply to Edelgard; and instead, pulling her into an embrace beneath the gentle, pink light shining through the red of the umbrella, Byleth placed her lips against Edelgard’s own in a gentle kiss.

As Edelgard’s eyes widened at first from the sudden action of Byleth, they soon settled into closing as her lips kissed back against the woman she adored’s own; and, as the rain continued to fall, Edelgard wrapped her arms around Byleth’s neck as they kissed.

Byleth’s lips were so gentle; so comfortable to kiss, so natural. Edelgard could taste the tell-tale sign of a sweet candy or gum coming from every movement, and that in itself only served to make Edelgard fall more in love. Byleth’s lips had their own taste, their own movements to her own, as well as having their own way of kissing comfortably, which is something Edelgard didn’t even know existed.

But they did. And Edelgard couldn’t stop kissing Byleth, no matter whether she had wanted to stop or not.

Her arms wrapped around Byleth’s neck a little tighter, and Byleth’s embrace tightened around her wrist; the umbrella almost pressing against their heads from how low down Byleth’s hands had to go to hold Edelgard closely in the ways she wanted to. But the umbrella remained stationary, guarding them from the rain and any prying eyes that may have been around. Edelgard’s lips only grew hungrier.

The longer the kiss grew, the heat between them furthered. Whilst Edelgard and Byleth may have only been a couple for a few hours, they had been friends for longer than that; and more than friends but less than lovers for even longer than that.

The kiss became wet with lust - each movement of their lips felt a little hotter than the last. Neither woman quite dared to venture to break the line of romantic with sexual tension, and so, opted to simply show the other how adored they were. How both of them knew that, even here, in the midst of the rain and a kiss between the two of them, there was always going to be moments even better. Edelgard longed to tell Byleth the ways she loved her, but instead opted to restrain herself for the time being.

As Edelgard’s hands slipped against Byleth’s hair gently, feeling the navy blue locks against her slender fingertips, she found that the sensation of pressing her nose against Byleth’s cheek softly was something she also loved. The sensations of closeness; the intimacy. Edelgard could experience the scent of Byleth’s skin, no matter how little, and Byleth could do the same for Edelgard.

“I could live in this moment forever,” Edelgard blurted out in a whisper against Byleth’s lips, and before she had the time to be embarrassed, Byleth pressed her lips against Edelgard’s own again.

The sound of the rain began to let up, and the lack of raindrops accompanied by the renewed sounds of birdsong reached their ears. Byleth pulled away gently from Edelgard’s lips, looking into her eyes as she pulled down the umbrella away from their heads, and Edelgard felt almost sad that the rain had stopped.

“…Well,” Byleth began with a slightly giddy, handsome smile, and Edelgard felt a little embarrassed that she could practically feel her lips aching for more. “Shall we look at the flowers a little longer?”

Taken aback by the casual nature of the statement and the intensity of the actions before, Edelgard couldn’t help but close her eyes with a resigned laugh; and, taking Byleth by the hand with an affectionate squeeze, said,

“Yes, please.”

Roses, carnations, daffodils and tulips; all manner of flowers around the church were beautiful and vibrant even after the rain, just as Edelgard had first seen. The scents of the carnations perfumed the air, a sweet, feminine, floral smell floating along a post-rain breeze; and Byleth held Edelgard’s hand through the churchyard, talking amongst themselves about more casual topics than what had been on Edelgard’s mind the very most lately. Talk of movies, music, the dates they wanted to go on; even returning to the roller rink, much at the request of Edelgard herself, despite her lack of affinity for skating.

“You enjoyed it that much, did you?” Byleth asked rhetorically, with a grin on her face. “I’m glad that it left such a good impression.”

“How could it not? That’s where we had our first kiss.”

Byleth chuckled. “I guess it is, huh? I suppose running around playing kiss chase when we were kids doesn’t really count.”

Edelgard blushed with a wide-eyed stare.

“You remember that?!”

“Sounds like you do too, princess.”

“You really are such a tease, Byleth...”

Byleth laughed in response.

As the two of them continued their slow walk around on the side path through the garden, Edelgard heard the sound of footsteps from a slight distance away heading up to the church. At first, she couldn’t see who it was for the large bushes that separated the two paths; until eventually, after much curious peering, she began to see through a small gap near to the church door just who it was.

“Hm…?”

“What is it, El?” Byleth asked curiously.

Peering through the bushes and hearing the click of heels against the concrete, Edelgard saw the back of a familiar head walking up towards the large church doors.

“…Is that…Lysithea?” Edelgard asked in surprise. “Who’d of thought? We were just talking about her.”

As Byleth glanced over Edelgard’s head through the small opening in the bushes, she shrugged.

“Oh yeah! I suppose it is. I bet her mom is working today or something.”

Edelgard raised an eyebrow as she watched Lysithea enter the building; and, as she began closing the door behind her with a loud squeak of its old hinges, she was gone as quickly as she came.

“We’ve been bumping into Lysithea quite a lot lately, haven’t we?” Byleth said. “It’s funny, really…I expected to see people a lot less once we graduated high school, but with the exception of Dorothea moving away a few months ago, we’ve all just kind of remained the same.”

Edelgard laughed nostalgically.

“True…if I’d only known in high school what I know about us now.”

“And what does that mean, hm?”

“It means,” Edelgard said with an affectionate squeeze of Byleth’s hand, “that I would have saved myself the trouble of daydreaming about you for hours and just accepted that they’d all happen later anyway.”

“But where would be the fun in that?”

“That’s true. I suppose you’d of made my heart long for you in one way or another.”

Whilst hearing Byleth’s laughter was always a treasure in itself, this time, Byleth laughed this time in a way that Edelgard truly loved. Whenever Byleth was particularly smug about something, a sultry, attractive chuckle would always hum up from the back of her throat, and that kind of sound would always send a shiver of delight down Edelgard’s spine.

“My, I am flattered...” Byleth said, leaning down and looking at Edelgard teasingly. “Aren’t I lucky? Having a pretty girl like you saying all of this to me!”

“Hmph…” Edelgard flustered, and Byleth loved the fact that she was playing right into her hands; knowingly or unknowingly. “I should hope you feel lucky, having all of my attention like this!”

“Believe me, I very much do,” Byleth said with a smile.

As the time began to pass a little more, Edelgard noticed that the sky above them was starting to get dark. It always became so cold and difficult to see in late Autumn, and that was a double-edged sword. Great for post-work naps; not so good for actually getting to stay out past six safely, even if Garreg Mach was hardly known for its crime level – or lack thereof.

But with the mysterious van and everything else going on lately, Edelgard knew that cover of darkness meant getting home quickly. Checking her watch, she saw the time was around five minutes past five; and the sky above them was a pretty mixture of pinks, oranges and greys, swirling together as though they were aftershocks of an inferno.

Edelgard looked at Byleth’s face as they stood at the front of the churchyard. The lighting of the sky made her look so beautiful; but at this point, what didn’t? The lights of the roller rink, the lights of Manuela’s diner; even the light of the moon on their walk back on that night had just served to make the woman she loved look even more brilliant.

“What a pretty sky…” Byleth said as she looked up, and Edelgard admired the feminine beauty of her face quietly. “Still…as loathe as I am to say it, we should probably be getting back.”

“…Mm.”

A pause lingered between them after Edelgard’s less-than-thrilled noise. Byleth’s brow furrowed in sympathy.

“El…if you need somewhere else to stay…”

“It’s alright…I have to face my father at some point,” Edelgard began with a strained grimace. “But I’d love to take up your offer in a couple of days.”

“Oh? You mean after Mercedes’ party?”

Edelgard grinned at Byleth’s hopeful face.

“Yes…” she said with a soft affection. “If that’s alright with you, of course.”

“If that’s alright, she says…as though I wouldn’t jump at the chance to spend even longer with you.”

Edelgard smiled brightly at the woman at her side, and nodded.

“…The feeling is very mutual,” she replied. “But I suppose you’re right…we really should get back. Not that I’m really looking forward to returning home to see if we’ve been burgled.”

“I doubt that would be the case,” Byleth chuckled. “Don’t worry about it, El. I bet last night you just didn’t lock your window properly, and that was exacerbated by the fact you had a nightmare on top of everything else yesterday.”

Edelgard folded her arms, and bit at her lip. Could Byleth be right?

“I was so certain I locked my window, though…” she replied, before resignedly accepting the fact that she couldn’t fully remember such a monotonous action. “Oh…whatever. It doesn’t matter now, does it? What’s done is done, and I suppose nothing happened for the time being.”

“Just keep the phone in your room close to you, and everything will be fine.” Byleth said firmly. “I’m only ever a phonecall away, and so are the police.”

Edelgard relaxed into a smile as she looked at Byleth.

“Thank you, my knight in shining armour.”

“Anything for my princess,” Byleth replied with a knowing smile, and bowed. Edelgard blushed.

“Honestly, when you work out what a name does to me…”

Byleth beamed as she jingled her keys in her hand playfully.

“Come on. I’ll take us both home for the night…even if I don’t really want to do that.”

As Byleth opened the door with a click of the car lock, Edelgard took one more look at the stone walls of the church that, surprisingly, held Lysithea within them; and, with a fleeting glance back at the roses before her lining the iron gate, she slipped herself into the passenger seat of Byleth’s car to begin the journey to a lesser form of home.

Chapter Text

“…You’re really sure you don’t want to stay at my place?”

The moment Byleth pulled up to the side of a now closed Hresvelg Woodworks, Edelgard felt the pit of anxiety open up in her stomach all over again.

“…No, it’s okay. I mean, I very much want to…” Edelgard added, “but I think I should probably at least try to make up with my father first.”

“Alright. I think that’s a good idea too, for what it’s worth.” Byleth began with a heavy sigh, before clicking her fingers. “Oh! I just thought about Mercedes’ party…want me to pick us up some costumes? I think Lorenz’ store is still selling them somewhere in town.”

“Ah, that’s right…” Edelgard mused. “Party Avenue is still open. Somehow.”

“Mhm. So what’ll it be?” Byleth said, and Edelgard could see the glint in her eye. “Are you gonna be a witch? A devil? An emperor? Hmm, maybe that last one is too avant-garde…”

“What will you be going as, Byleth? Maybe I can work around you.”

“Me? I was thinking of going as a vampire. Or maybe a devil. A vampire with horns.”

“Ooh, scary!” Edelgard said with a laugh that infected Byleth. “A vampire, hm? Well…”

“Hey, I know what you should go as.”

“And what’s that?”

“You’ll have to wait and see,” Byleth said with a wink, before Edelgard huffed playfully.

“Hey, no fair!”

“Heh!”

Edelgard and Byleth smiled at each other; before, as Edelgard began to realize that time was passing, allowed her smile to fade. Turning to look down the street in the direction of her house, she sighed loudly.

“Well…” she began, turning back to Byleth apologetically. “I suppose I’d better get going.”

“…You sure?” Byleth asked hesitantly. Edelgard nodded.

“I’m afraid so.”

“Well…okay. I really had a lot of fun today, El...” Byleth replied with a warm smile. “I hope you did too.”

“Of course,” Edelgard said with a returned warmth and a candid reply, “it’s always nice to just spend time with you.”

“Aw, you’re gonna make me blush now.”

“Stop that.”

Byleth chuckled, before she bit her lip in contemplation; before leaning over to Edelgard and kissing her cheek.

As Edelgard felt the sensation of Byleth’s lips slowly part ways with her cheek, it was as though she had left a burning imprint in her skin. Byleth felt her lips tingling as they removed themselves from Edelgard; and, as she lingered in her girlfriend’s space, Edelgard couldn’t help but place her hands either side of Byleth’s face and pull her into a soft, lingering kiss.

“Mm…”

After a few seconds, Edelgard’s lips reluctantly pulled away; stroking Byleth’s cheeks with her thumbs as she did so.

“…I’ll see you tomorrow, Byleth.”

“Don’t go…” Byleth pleaded with a whisper that sent a desperate pining through Edelgard. “Stay…just for a little longer.”

“Byleth…”

Byleth leaned over again; stealing another kiss from Edelgard’s lips. And another. And then another.

Edelgard’s hands slipped up into Byleth’s hair as the kiss grew; feeling her fingertips slip through her silky hair, the intensity only burned brighter. Byleth’s hands moved down to Edelgard’s hips, holding her as closely as she could against the driver’s seat and the things in between; whilst Edelgard, overtaken by a rush of being unexpectedly horny and fully enamoured, found that her lips couldn’t tear themselves away again.

“El…” Byleth whispered between kisses, and Edelgard felt her body shiver as she heard her voice warmly kissing at her ear. “Ugh, El…do you know how long I’ve wanted this?”

“Probably half as long as I have,” Edelgard replied in between impassioned kisses of her own, and found that as Byleth shuffled forwards, the sound of her elbow hitting the car horn made them both jump out of their skin.

“Whoa!”

“Ah!”

The loud, brash beep still ringing in their ears, both women couldn’t help but first look at each other in amazement, and then laugh in a shared embarrassment.

“…I better had let you get home, hadn’t I?” Byleth admitted with lips slightly redder than before. Edelgard blushed. “If I don’t, you’re not going to be allowed out of my sight tonight.”

Edelgard, thankful for the break from the shared sexual frustration, chuckled of her own accord; and stroked Byleth’s face with her hand.

“You really are going to get me in big trouble one of these days, aren’t you?”

“I should certainly hope so,” Byleth replied, and Edelgard pecked her lips one final time before forcing herself to open the car door. “Ugh. You can’t just leave me with one kiss!”

“You know as well as I do that we’d be doing that all night if I stayed.”

“And the problem with that is…?”

Edelgard laughed as Byleth rest her head against the steering wheel in a faux dramatic motion.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Edelgard said pointedly with a smirk. “I’ll let you know how everything goes.”

“Alright. Call me later, okay?” Byleth asked, and Edelgard could tell what she was really asking.

Let me know you’re safe.

“Okay.”

“I mean it, El. If I don’t get a call from you at some point tonight, even if it’s 2 in the morning, I’m going to the police.”

Edelgard smiled affectionately at Byleth’s renewed serious appearance, and shook her head.

“I promise,” she said calmly, “I’ll be fine.”

“…Alright. Take care of yourself. I’ll swing by your work tomorrow at about six-thirty?”

Edelgard nodded.

“Sounds great to me,” she said. “See you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, princess.”

“Hey! And don’t pick me up a tacky costume because you think it’s funny!”

Byleth laughed as Edelgard closed the door in a blushing huff, and with two beeps of her horn as she drove off, Edelgard watched with warm cheeks in the bitter cold as her lover drove around the corner and out of sight.

“Your princess, hm…” Edelgard said with a girlish laugh. “I never knew I could be so easily charmed.”

As Edelgard began to walk home through the wintry winds of the dark, she suddenly felt very thankful that her house was but a stone’s throw away from her workplace. Byleth had done the right thing by parking outside Hresvelg Woodworks as opposed to her home, given her father’s reaction the previous night. Edelgard couldn’t help but inwardly seethe at the memory.

“He better not try anything stupid again tonight,” she grumbled, and listened to the sounds of the world around her.

The cars in the distance, where somebody had left an alarm on for far too long.

The sound of her boots clicking against the light cement of the sidewalk.

The rustle of the dark leaves in the trees around her…

These were truly the sounds of home.

“…I can hardly believe so much has happened these past few days…”

Almost as soon as she had reached just outside of her house, Edelgard stopped in her tracks with keys in hand, blowing in the gusts of wind.

There was another sound that suddenly began to fill the atmosphere; a sound that Edelgard recognised well, despite only ever having heard it the once. It wasn’t the van, and it wasn’t the sound of anybody she knew. No; she heard it, only once; and now once again, just as she had back in the woods what felt a lifetime ago now.

That humming. 

“What…?”

Confused and alarmed, Edelgard frantically looked around for the source. That hum. The low vibration from the woods…it was back in full, and this time, she could hear it even louder than before.

“But where is it coming from…?” She asked in disbelief, and found that, with surprise, she was not alone in hearing it. 

As she looked around herself, she saw the select few faces of the other people that lived closest to the shopping district making themselves known. An elderly woman looked out of her window curiously from just across the street, squinting out over the horizon to make sense of the sound somehow; whilst a man walking his dog a few houses down stopped in his tracks, and even the dog herself began to bark endlessly at the noise. A third person, a young woman who had been beginning to walk around the corner, also stopped in her tracks, and seemed to look beneath her feet as though it were the makings of an earthquake.

Whilst Edelgard was relieved that she wasn’t going insane, the panic was beginning to settle. This low humming was real. It was happening. She hadn’t just imagined it in the woodlands the other night, nor had it just been solely contained there.

“I can really hear it…” she said in disbelief, with widened eyes. “But what is it?”

The hum sounded like something moving underground, but Edelgard couldn’t be sure. It wasn’t like heavy machinery, or the sound of a loud horn, or a large vehicle rolling down a road far too small for it. No; it was as though a chorus of something indescribable in sound was coming upwards.

Edelgard listened in fright, and closed her eyes to get a better visual inside her mind.

The notes of the humming changed as she listened. Some were in a higher key, others in a lower key, but mostly, all of the notes blurred into one untranslatable, messy blur of sound.

“This noise…” she began with a tremble of her voice. “It feels monstrous.”

But perhaps the strangest sensation of all was that Edelgard felt personally connected to the sound. Along with the sounds of home from before, this time, the hum in itself felt like a strange beacon for warmth. Almost as though it was calling to her directly, she felt her knuckles turn white as her fists curled into little balls at her side, and as she stood still, the humming began to come to a close.

“What…?”

The noise. It stopped. Like a flash of light; it was gone in an instant.

Edelgard looked around in amazement as she stood just outside of her home; and, with a hurried jingle of her keys and a thud up the wooden porch steps, she flung open the front door and slammed it shut.

“…What on Earth is going on…” she asked herself in a haze of disbelief, before she heard the sounds of somebody shuffling around in the living room.

Her frightened self from the outside world transformed. Suddenly, the humming was an inconsequential thing of the past, and all that there was in this moment was the idea that her father might suddenly attack her out of the blue again, or on the flipside, that he would be very apologetic as Edelgard would expect.

Nobody was coming outside to greet her, though. Edelgard bit her lip, folded her arms, and tried to decide what to do.

“I suppose I’ll just bite the bullet…” she mumbled to herself; never one to let a problem linger for too long; and made her way into the living room.

Home sweet home, Edelgard thought. Her eyes met with the typical scenery of the house that she always expected; her nostrils greeted by the scents of a fresh cup of coffee and half-eaten biscuits. The fireplace roared before the two cats that lay before it, crackling behind the cast-iron grating. Edelgard felt the heat of the orange glow warm the front of her cold face.  

“…Oh,” her father said somewhat sheepishly as Edelgard stood in the doorway, stroking the cat on his lap once again, and holding up a newspaper before his eyes to avert his daughter’s gaze. “Hello, Edelgard.”

“Let’s not pretend to act casually, father.” Edelgard said bluntly, but managed to keep her anger under wraps. She folded her arms as she stood in the doorway and let out a small sigh. “Shall we try to smooth over what happened yesterday, or would you like to go on acting as though it never happened?”

Her father furrowed his brow, and scratched his head; taking off the small, circular glasses from the tip of his nose.

“Well…” he began with a tone of discomfort. “I’m not sure what to say, really.”

“You could start with ‘I’m sorry’,” Edelgard replied, unimpressed by her father’s attitude. “Honestly, dad…what the hell were you thinking, reacting like that?”

“I am sorry, Edelgard. I shouldn’t have manhandled you like that,” he said firmly, and Edelgard felt her guard go down significantly. “I immediately regretted the action. I’ve never done that before…I felt deeply ashamed afterwards. But...you also shouldn’t have shoved me quite so hard into the mantelpiece, you know.”

“Well it wasn't  like I was prepared for you to treat me like that. What was I supposed to do? Calmly remove myself from the situation?”

“Point taken…however,” her father said, and Edelgard could already tell she didn’t like where this conversation was going. “I meant what I said, Edelgard. I am being serious when I say this for a second time around."

"Which is?"

"Which is that I don’t want you to see Byleth anymore.”

That’s another thing,” Edelgard quickly added to the end of his sentence. “Why? What did Byleth do that is so terrible that you don’t want me to be with her?”

“It’s not Byleth that’s the problem. Not at all. I like Byleth, you know that.”

“Well, that's what I thought! Then what is it, if not her? Did I do something wrong?”

Her father frowned; though this time, Edelgard could see that it was a strange type of frown. This was one filled with sorrow, and further lined with anxiety.

“Edelgard…” he began, with a pinch against the bridge of his nose. “Can I ask you to do something for me?”

Edelgard looked on expectantly.

“What is it?”

“Will you please….please, just this once, trust in what I’m saying to you?” her father responded, and Edelgard could tell that he wasn’t joking. “I’m not saying this to be obtuse. I want you to be happy. But…I think you should wait until you’re a little older, maybe living in the city…before you find love here.”

Edelgard scoffed.

What? None of what you’re saying is making any sense, dad.”

“So what did you do today?” He asked almost abruptly; and Edelgard paused with a guilty look on her face that she tried to unsuccessfully conceal.

“Uh…”

Her father sighed wearily.

“I see.”

“Well, what did you do today?”

“I was working on a commission at the church,” he said, rolling up the paper and placing it on the small, oak desk next to his chair. “They wanted some wooden panelling repaired.”

Edelgard raised her eyebrows.

“You were at the church, too? When?”

“Hm? Oh, I don’t know…sometime in the morning. Why?”

“Byleth took me there, to look at the flowers.”

“So you were with Byleth.”

Edelgard closed her eyes in exasperation; and, as she opened them again to the silence, she could only watch on as her father sighed, waving a dismissive hand at his daughter in resignation.

“Listen, I’m tired…” he said. “I think we should talk more about this tomorrow.”

“I mean…” Edelgard said in confusion. “I really don’t think there’s anything left to talk about, but okay.”

“Edelgard.”

Edelgard paused, and her father looked at her with a serious expression in his eyes.

“Yes?”

“Please…” He began, and Edelgard could hear the pain in his voice. “Don’t fall in love with Byleth. Or anyone. It doesn’t matter who…just don’t.”

Edelgard raised an eyebrow in confusion, before shrugging and walking over to her father as he sat despondant in his chair.

“…Well, it’s far too late for that,” she said with a coy laugh. “But do you want a hug?”

Her father blinked at the bluntness of his daughter’s statement, before his entire demeanour shifted into one of an exhausted, worn down resignation.

“Alright,” he offered, and opened his arms to Edelgard. He shuffled the cat off of his lap as Edelgard leant down to his elderly frame, and wrapped her arms around her father just as she had done as a small child.

It had been a long time since they had last actually shown each other any sort of familial affection. Edelgard wasn’t much for affection from anybody that wasn’t Byleth, and her father was much the same in his own way. Both of them had been wrapped up in their own commitments regarding work, daydreams and living. Edelgard was more than thankful to feel as though she had regained the man she knew so well as her father compared to the oversensitive monster he had been the night before.

“…I’m sorry, Edelgard,” he apologized, and Edelgard winced as she could hear the sounds of emotion in his voice. “I’m so sorry about it all.”

“Don’t be silly,” Edelgard said quickly, wanting to avoid any waterworks, and assuming that her father meant all that had happened over the last night. “Let’s just move on from this now. Here in Garreg Mach, we’re the only family we have.”

“I know that,” her father said as Edelgard left their hug, and turned to walk out of the living room, “believe me.”

As Edelgard’s father began to feel his fingertips against the surface of the newspaper once more, Edelgard spoke.

“I’ll be in my room if you need me,” she said. “Oh, and dad…”

“Yes?”

“Did you hear that weird humming outside?”

“Humming…?” Her father asked, bewildered. “No, I didn’t. But the cats were all at the window a few minutes ago, actually…that was why I thought you were returning home in the first place.”

Edelgard laughed to herself.

“When have you ever known a cat to rush to a person’s reappearance?”

“Very true,” her father replied with a slanted smile. “I’m afraid not, though. I didn’t hear anything.”

“I see…”

Edelgard bit at her lip slightly, and thought about how she’d be returning to her room for the first time since she thought about being burgled – or worse. As sharp as his daughter, Edelgard’s father looked over at her face expectantly.

“Is something on your mind?” He asked. Edelgard shuffled a little awkwardly, before deciding that it was probably best to share the details with the only other human tenant of this house.

“Well, it’s probably nothing, but…I was just wondering, you haven’t been out into the garden today either, have you?” Edelgard asked casually, as though it hadn’t been on her mind all day.

“I haven’t. Why?”

“It’s just…I thought I locked my window last night, but…”

Edelgard’s father looked at her with a frightened look on his face. Edelgard laughed nervously.

“Dad…? What’s with that look?”

“Someone tried to get in? Are you sure?”

Edelgard looked at him with a strange look in her eye.

“Well, I can’t be sure…but it was definitely a little open.”

Her father paused.

“…I haven’t been out into the garden, but make sure you keep everything locked from now on,” he said, and Edelgard could swear she heard a slightly tremble in his voice. “Okay? Just double check the locks if you’re unsure.”

“Alright,” Edelgard said in a slightly unsure tone. “I’ll...be upstairs if you need me, then.”

“…Okay. Goodnight for now, Edelgard.”

“Goodnight, dad.”

Turning to leave to walk up the stairs, Edelgard was just out of earshot of hearing her father panickedly curse under his breath; and, grabbing his keys as he hopped out of the armchair, Edelgard was in her room with the door closed as he left the house.

-

After an hour or so had passed, Edelgard had found that she felt much more relaxed in her room once again.

She had triple checked her window this time; even placing a small piece of wood in the way of being able to lift it upwards, nobody could easily get in this time. Her red curtains were firmly drawn, save for the ever present, universally irritating crack of light she could never seem to block out in the mornings. She had even checked her closet and underneath the bed; and thankfully, there was no sign of any boogeymen or other unsightly creatures.

“Phew…” Edelgard said in relief, and flopped back down onto her bed; suddenly greeted by the warm, loving scent of her girlfriend’s jacket. A smile crept across her face as she rolled onto her side, taking a piece of the fabric between her fingers, and felt a lovestruck sigh slip out of her lips. “I suppose I’d better call Byleth…I wonder what we’ll be going to the Halloween party as?”

Today had been an eventful day. Between the events of the morning, everything with Byleth, the visit to Claude’s mother and then seeing their friends, it had given Edelgard a lot of food for thought.

“Marianne…”

That was an unexpected revelation, but not an unwelcome one. Marianne was safe, and that was something Edelgard breathed a sigh of relief about. With her blonde hair sprawled out over her pillow, she felt much more relaxed than she was anticipating, and the idea of hearing Byleth’s voice was only making her feel more excited.

“…I still can’t believe she’s mine…” Edelgard whispered to herself in excitement, and thought about the day’s events in a much more lustful way.

The newfound, lovesick tension between her and Byleth was so strong that you could cut it with a knife, and even in the looks that the two of them shared, Edelgard could feel the mutual passion. Love was a terrifying beast, that much was for sure; but to be able to feel the throes of adoration in such a way was life’s greatest gift.

Edelgard’s fingers twitched. She wanted Byleth in much more than just a way of simple kisses. She wanted to feel her body against her all night, to feel the salty taste of her skin, to kiss her lips whilst they moaned and ached for more of each other than they could ever hope to give. Edelgard’s face felt hotter, but much hotter than just a blush.

“…Fuck…”

She was turned on.

Byleth’s kisses had been turning her on all day, really, but they had not had much of the opportunity to fully explore that feeling just yet. After all, it had only really been a couple of days since they had gotten together, and Edelgard didn’t want to give it up that quickly.

At least, not openly. Inwardly, she was dying.

Edelgard’s hand rest on her hipbone, deciding whether or not to spend the next two hours in the company of herself, her fingertips and her imagination; before sitting upright for a moment, shaking her head free of the lustful thoughts she so loved to indulge in for far too long, and picked up the phone on her bedside table.

“I should at least call her first,” she said to herself, before feeling a little embarrassed at just wanting to hear her voice. “She must be worried.”

Dialing in the number that she knew off by heart, hearing the dial tone once again brought forth an anxiety renewal. Edelgard bit at her lip a little as she waited, and found, with great relief, that she didn’t have to wait too long.

“El?” Byleth answered almost immediately, and Edelgard felt her heart warmed by the romantic attentions of her girlfriend.

“You’re a sweetheart, aren’t you?” Edelgard replied with a teasing voice, and Byleth laughed bashfully at the other end of the phone.

“Just goes to show I know when you’re thinking about me, doesn’t it?”

“Touché…” Edelgard laughed, embarrassed. “How are you doing?”

“I think that’s my line,” Byleth said in a sense of urgency. “Are you alright? How did it go?”

“Well…” Edelgard began, trying to think of just how to phrase what she wanted to say. “I mean, it was certainly a lot better than last night.”

“You have a tone to your voice that suggests it didn’t go quite as well as it could have.”

“I’m afraid not…” Edelgard said, and didn’t realise just how disappointed she was until that moment that her father still told her to not see Byleth. “I just don’t understand. After all these years, all this history that he knows about, all these feelings…why is he so against me seeing you?”

“I think there’s something in the air, to be honest…” Byleth said bluntly, and Edelgard heard her flop against the springs of her mattress. “I mean, loads of weird shit happened today, right?”

“That’s true. And the last few days in general have just felt…weirdly off,” Edelgard stated. “The best thing that came of the last few days is definitely us.”

Byleth paused, and Edelgard blushed.

“Don’t leave me hanging after something like that, you dork!”

“Sorry, sorry!” Byleth laughed, and Edelgard flustered angrily. “I was just…I just thought about how beautiful your voice sounded.”

“Oh, Byleth. Stop trying to charm your way out of me telling you off!”

“No, it’s true! I promise…I was really hoping you’d call just now, actually.”

Edelgard blinked, and lay back down on the soft press of her blankets.

“You were?”

“Yeah. I was thinking about you.”

Edelgard blushed.

“I was thinking about you, too.”

No, seriously. I was really thinking about you. Very much.

“You were?” Byleth asked. “I’d love to think about each other together.”

Edelgard laughed knowingly of exactly what Byleth was implying.

“I bet you would,” Edelgard said with a cheeky tone that drove Byleth crazy on the other end of the phone. “But you’ll have to wait a little longer for that.”

“Hey, I don’t know what you’re referring to. I’m as innocent as a lamb.”

“Sure you are.”

Byleth chuckled, and ran a hand through her hair.

“You know, this is gonna sound pretty odd to say…”

“Hm?”

“But…” Byleth began. “All of this weird stuff? I know it’s scary, and I wouldn’t ever wish for anything bad to happen to you, El, but…it’s kind of exciting at the same time, isn’t it?”

“You think so?” Edelgard asked. “I can’t deny it does always make me feel pretty interested…”

“Right?” Byleth replied enthusiastically. “I mean, nothing ever happens in this damn town anyway. As long as nobody gets hurt, I don’t see the harm in a little strangeness every now and then.”

Edelgard couldn’t help but agree; Byleth was definitelty right about that. But…

“…I just hope Claude is okay.”

“Oh, he’ll be fine!” Byleth said, and Edelgard felt a little more convinced by simply hearing Byleth’s bright tone. “Honestly, I know his mom seemed kinda weird, but I really didn’t doubt that he’s just hanging out with his dad somewhere, probably regretting not telling Dimitri properly. I bet he’ll be just fine. And Marianne turned out to be okay, right?”

“She did,” Edelgard said, reminded of the sensation of relief that had been with her. “Thank God. I didn’t realize how much I cared until I saw her again.”

“Same here,” Byleth replied with a chuckle. “Say, did you call Dimitri yet, actually?”

“Huh? Oh…you mean about the party, right?”

“Yeah.”

Edelgard shook her head, before realizing that Byleth couldn’t actually see her doing that.

“Oh! Um, no, I haven’t.”

“Did you just shake your head?”

Edelgard scoffed before it evolved into a full laugh.

“Hey, how did you know that?”

“I know you well,” Byleth chuckled, and Edelgard smiled as she heard her girlfriend getting a little softer in tone. “I’m…really glad you’re safe.”

“Me, too. I can’t say I was looking forward to coming home tonight.”

“As much as I jump at any opportunity to have you with me,” Byleth said, and Edelgard could hear her roll onto her side, “I wanted you to be able to make things right there, first.”

“Well, don’t worry…” Edelgard said, and felt a teasing attitude suddenly come over her. “I’ll make sure I’m right at your side the night after tomorrow.”

There was a poignant pause. Edelgard bit her lip in anticipation.

“Oh, really?” Byleth replied, and Edelgard felt a strange sense of victory.

“Mhm. I told you, didn’t I?” she replied eagerly. “I’ll be staying at your place afterwards.”

Byleth paused again, and Edelgard’s smile turned to a flat-out beam.

Did I just make Byleth openly horny?

“Ngh…”

“Oho?” Edelgard laughed. “Did I just work out how to tease you? My, my.”

“You’re killing me here, El.”

Edelgard giggled to herself, leaning back onto her bed, and resting her hand on her stomach; feeling her fingers tingling as she did so.

“I just wanted to give you even more of a reason to look forward to the party.”

“Believe me, I was already looking forward to it. You’re just solidifying what I wanted to do even more.”

“And what’s that?”

A noise came from Byleth’s lips; suggesting she thought about saying something, and then opted for restraint. Edelgard’s brain and body were egging her on to encourage Byleth to say exactly what she wanted; Edelgard’s heart, meanwhile, was begging her to keep things slightly less lustful so she could appreciate everything Byleth had to say without the clouded fog of lust.

“I think,” Byleth said with a laugh that Edelgard could practically hear the blush through, “we should talk about this at the party.”

“You think so?”

“I sure do.”

Edelgard laughed brightly, and resignedly agreed.

“Alright…” she said with a tone of voice that suggested she was teasing her.

“And what’s what supposed to mean?” Byleth asked with a smirk.

“Nothing, nothing. Anyway, you’re right…I should call Dimitri about the Halloween party.”

“Hey, no fair! You’re just gonna get a girl all riled up and then leave?!”

“Goodnight for now.”

“I swear to God…” Byleth said with a flustered laugh. “Goodnight, princess.”

“I’m hanging up now!”

“Have fun.”

It was Edelgard’s turn to fluster this time.

“Oogh!”

“Haha!”

With a click of the receiver and a sense of satisfaction never experienced before, Edelgard felt her lungs filled with air that only Byleth could have breathed into her.

“Right, well…now that’s done,” Edelgard said to herself, and tried to maintain her composure, “I should call Dimitri.”

Punching in a number that she should have known better than she did after all these years, Edelgard waited for her best friend to answer the phone, and began to throw a pair of wrapped-up socks into the air like a ball.

Suddenly, as the phone answered, the socks landed on her head with a thud.

“Ow!”

“…Hello, Edelgard. What is it?”

“Uh, hello, Dimitri. I was just calling to see how you were.”

“Shitty. Next question.”

“Alright,” Edelgard said with a sigh, and was glad that she had known exactly what to expect from the off. “I was also calling to let you know Mercedes is having a Halloween party the day after tomorrow. Fittingly, it’s on Halloween, if you can believe something that crazy.”

“And?”

“You are invited.”

“And?”

“That’s it. Any reason you’re being so bristly with me in particular?”

There was a brief pause.

“…Sorry.”

“Have you been crying?” Edelgard asked.

Dimitri paused again.

“No.”

“You totally have.”

“Maybe a little,” Dimitri confessed, “but I’m fine now.”

Edelgard sighed sadly for her best friend, and leant back against the pillows of her bed; idly throwing the pair of socks that had so abruptly landed on her head into the closet from her upright position.

“Claude will be back soon, Dimitri. You know that.”

“How could he not tell me? Why didn’t he tell me that he was going somewhere?” Dimitri finally said angrily, and sniffed as subtly as he could. Edelgard felt her stomach turn for him, thinking on how if the tables were turned and Byleth had suddenly disappeared, she wouldn’t be able to stand it either. “I just…it was so inconsiderate. He’s so inconsiderate. And the worst thing is, I believe he’d do it, too.”

“Is that a dealbreaker for you?” Edelgard asked. “You must have known what Claude was like before you got together with him.”

“Of course I did. I suppose I was just foolish for thinking he’d be different with me.”

“Dimitri…”

“Listen,” Dimitri interrupted. “I appreciate you calling, Edelgard. Sorry for being brisk with you. I don’t really want to discuss my feelings on the matter of Claude, but I will try to be there at the party. Okay?”

Edelgard frowned a little, knowing full well Dimitri was determined to wallow in his own sadness all night; and folded her arms.

“Alright, but if you’re being a misery guts at Mercedes’ place, don’t expect me to comfort you.”

“The alcohol will do that for me just fine. See you.”

Before Edelgard could protest further, Dimitri had hung up the phone with a gentle click. Edelgard sighed.

“Oh, Claude…” she began. “Why didn’t you just tell him?”

But as the conversation with Dimitri began to flow further from her mind, and as the unsettling events of the day also began to float away, Edelgard’s river of thought began to take her right back to where it was before; Byleth. Where it was before, where it always was, and where it would be in the future.

Byleth, Byleth, Byleth.

Leaping out of bed to quickly turn off the main light of her room, Edelgard hopped back onto the mattress as quickly as she’d left; and leant over to the handles of her chest of drawers to pull Byleth’s jacket off of them.

“Ah…”

Draping the jacket that was two sizes too big for her over her body, Edelgard felt like she was in heaven. It was far too big on Byleth as it was, let alone on a woman slightly smaller than her; and Edelgard found that, with great pleasure, she could easily keep this across her all night.

Edelgard felt a hot blush on her face.

“Really, this is just too much…” she mumbled to herself in a limp attempt to prevent what she was about to do, before caving in; and allowed a hand to slip underneath the band of her underwear. “Ugh…”

Edelgard buried her face into the collar of the jacket, and felt the smooth, languid motion of touching herself to the scent of the woman she loved for the next little while.

Thinking of Byleth on top of her was almost too much to bear, and that in itself was always a thought that sustained Edelgard behind closed doors. The handsome lines of her face, and now the sensations of her kisses; as Edelgard felt her fingertips grow wetter with every movement, those thoughts were all that was inside her mind.

The curves of her body, the ways she looks at me…ah…Byleth…!

Edelgard could feel how horny she was from not just the wetness, but how sensitive her clit had gotten under the imagined touch of Byleth. Every bone in her body was begging for her to fuck her, to climb on top of her and do exactly what both of them had wanted for so long. Edelgard bit down on the soft collar of the baseball jacket to muffle her moans.

The sheer thought of Byleth was always enough to get Edelgard off. Her entire body felt electrified by nerves; every brush of the sheet, every scuffle of her clothing as it bunched up over her breasts felt so good, so raw and unyielding that she couldn’t find it in herself to stop.

Her fingers dipped inside herself for just a second - slipping out with a slick wetness against her fingertips, Edelgard knew it would never feel as good as Byleth fucking her, and in a way, that was a torture all on its own.

“Fuck…!” Edelgard breathed, both in frustration and sheer lust. “Ugh…!”

Resigning angrily to the length of her slender fingertips, she touched a little harder and more forcefully beneath Byleth’s jacket. With her thighs spread and her knees propping up the material, Edelgard could barely contain herself for too much longer. Her fingertips began to slip against the exact spots she needed them to touch…and every brush against the sticky, wet sensation of in between her legs sent a new jolt through her body.

Byleth, Byleth, Byleth…!

“Aah-!!”

With a sudden shock to her system, Edelgard felt her thighs snap together against her hand as she came; and her eyes squeezed shut through the sheer delight of burying her face in Byleth’s jacket a little too long.

“Fuck…” Edelgard whispered breathlessly to herself, slipping her shirt down over her breasts again, and sitting up carefully with a wince.

Slipping her hand out from underneath, careful not to get anything on the material, she held her hand up in the slightly illuminated dark; and, with a breathless, inwardly embarrassed laugh, quietly admired the wetness of the two fingers that had so thoroughly been put to good use.

 “Byleth…” Edelgard asked into the open space with a breathy chuckle. “…I wonder if you just finished too.”

With a heavy set of eyelids now resting over her lavender eyes and a head full of stars, Edelgard found that no matter how she tried for the next five minutes, she was lulled into a sleep beneath Byleth’s jacket; just as she’d wanted to for so many years.

Chapter Text

“Mm…”

With a reflexive wince at the flash of light Edelgard felt over her eyes, she found that not only had she woken up at a reasonable time, but had also not had a weird dream for the first time in what felt like forever.

“Ugh…” she began, sitting up with a hand to her messy hair. With a yawn and a scratch of her head drowsily, she began to realise that something felt a little…different.

Her legs were freezing cold. 

“What the…? Aah!”

With a shriek of embarrassment and a shuffle upwards, Edelgard felt remarkably thankful that her father hadn’t decided to just knock and enter anyway, on a night where she’d fallen asleep immediately after getting off beneath her girlfriend’s jacket and still remained half-naked from the act as a result.

“Oh my God…” Edelgard hurriedly said with a sleepy but scorching red face, and made herself considerably more presentable as she shot upright from her bed.

After the initial embarrassment, Edelgard was relieved to find that her usual morning routine ensued. Byleth’s jacket remained unscathed after its use, still full of her girlfriend’s scent; something that Edelgard now found even more attractive than before; and, with a flustered set of hands, Edelgard managed to hang it back up on the drawer handles next to her.

Rushing to the bathroom and then to the closet, she was ready in a matter of minutes. Clean and fresh, ready to face the day, and even more ready than before to see just what it was Byleth was going to pick out for her. A smile crept across her lips.

“What are you going to put me in, I wonder?” Edelgard asked herself as she slipped on her red jacket, and with a satisfying slide of her closet door to a click of the lock, she quickly left her bedroom in the same condition it had always been in.

Making her way down the soft carpet of her stairs, Edelgard followed the rails of her usual morning routine, and called out a greeting to her father.

“Morning, Dad...” Edelgard said, nonchalantly and with a yawn; but when there was no reply, she began to feel her heart sink a little. “…Dad?”

As Edelgard’s hand held onto the cold, white varnish of the banister, she noticed that the house was lacking in several things that she took for granted each morning.

The first; there was no warmth.

Not necessarily the warmth you could feel on your skin, but in its place, the ambient, emotional warmth of a home. There was no smell of slightly burned toast lingering in the air. There was no sense of heat, which meant that the fireplace hadn’t been lit to incubate the house; and most oddly, there was no sense at all of any sight of human life anywhere. It was as though her father hadn’t been there in hours. Something about the atmosphere felt very desolate, very lonely; as though something unexpected had taken hold of the surroundings.

The wind chimes tinkled over the patio door, and Edelgard found her ear immediately drawn to the blustering winds outside. The trees in the back garden were rustling beneath the dark, grey clouds, and she saw that a stray ball had been flung into their garden, most likely by the children playing next door.

“Halloween weather indeed…” Edelgard mumbled to herself, and turned her attention to the sight at her feet. “Huh? Oh.”

There was no food in the cat bowls, which led to a quick, furry crowd at Edelgard’s socks; coagulating into a chorus of high and lowly-pitched meows.

“Alright, alright…” Edelgard answered back to her feline companions, quickly leaning down to stroke all of them, and watched as they followed under her feet on the way to the kitchen. “I’ll feed you, stop panicking. Honestly!”

But where is my father? He’s usually always such an early riser…

“Ugh,” Edelgard groaned, picking up the tin of cat food off of the boxes next to the garbage. “How can you all eat this stuff?”

Wrinkling her nose at the unpleasant, dead odour of cat food, Edelgard promptly threw the remains of a well-used tin into the garbage; and turned to face the outside of her kitchen over the sounds of her pets gnashing away at their food.

“I wonder if he just slept in or something for once?” Edelgard said, rubbing her chin. “I guess I could go check.”

Peering into the living room on her way up the stairs, just to make sure her father really was absent, Edelgard found her legs carrying her up as though she was floating. Her footsteps were quiet against the carpet, careful not to wake her father if he was suddenly taken ill or something along those lines; and, with a soft knock against the bedroom door, she began to speak.

“Dad?” she asked gently. “Are you asleep?”

No response.

Edelgard, whilst she was always someone who chastised her father for doing this to her, decided to go against her moral code and opened the bedroom door. What she found, however, was not the large, lumpy figure of somebody under the duvet behind black-out curtains, but instead the sight of the room fully illuminated by the daytime light, and the bed left unused.

“What the…?” She asked herself in disbelief at the sight. “Did he even sleep in here last night?”

A pit of discomfort began to open up again in Edelgard’s stomach. Where was he? Did he leave at some point last night? Edelgard could only remember him ever doing that once before in his life, and that was during a time when her mother had passed away and he had decided to drink – which had not ended well.

So for this time…where?

Where could her father have gone?

“…I guess there’s nothing I can do for now…” Edelgard reassured herself, shaking her head. “Maybe he got a call to do another commission or something…?”

Overnight? The possibility seemed incredibly unlikely; and it wasn’t as though her father was a young man anymore. Edelgard gnawed at the inside of her cheek gently in anxiety, before shaking her head free of all the terrible thoughts that began to encircle her mind.

“This is ridiculous. I’ll just go to work, and he’ll definitely be here in the evening.”

If only it were that simple, she thought to herself.

Walking out of the front door felt somehow even more wrong than Edelgard had initially felt coming down the stairs, and the glare of the low-hanging late Autumn sun only served to further that. The grey clouds in the back garden were apparently only there to serve as cover to a great patch of sunlight, surrounded by stormclouds out on the front of the road; and, as Edelgard looked down at the other end of the street, she saw the old, slightly rusting sign of Hresvelg Woodworks poking out from the corner of the sidewalk.

“The world feels a little colder today,” Edelgard said in a wistful tone, and began to make her way to the building that she so loathed to be trapped in for hours at a time.

On this particular day, Edelgard found that the hours dragged even moreso than usual, despite the unusual increase in customers. From the moment she set foot in the door, and dismissing any hopeful thought she had that her father had just come into work early, she found that Hresvelg Woodworks actually had an early morning customer, and that in itself was something Edelgard couldn’t believe.

But, after they had all come and gone inconsequentially through the hours, Edelgard found herself sat at the counter, head in hand, daydreaming and thinking about all the moments spent with Byleth, or leafing through the same woodworking catalogue she had already read through ten times this month.

“Things must be getting bad if I’m actually looking forward to next month’s copy of this thing…” she said to herself, before running a hand through her hair and turning to look at the clock. “If I could only spend every moment with Byleth. No wonder dad always wants me to get out of town and see the world if this is the excitement Garreg Mach has. I wonder where Byleth and I will go to later in life…”

The minutes dragged even longer, almost as though somebody, somewhere in the galaxy had snagged them deliberately on a hook. They trailed in, one after another; three, four, four thirty, four forty…until, like a miracle, six o’clock stared back at her from its dark hands. Edelgard sighed in a victorious relief at making it through another day, and flipped closed the catalogue with a soft whack of its pages.

“Thank God.”

With a stretch of her arms above her head, a thought entered her head. Byleth was coming by soon...

“I wonder what costume she got for me…” Edelgard said, before trying to repress the anxious feeling she got as she looked behind her. “Maybe I’ll try calling home and see if Dad’s back yet.”

Walking over to the telephone, she punched in the number, and found the feeling unsuccessfully repressed of an all too familiar nervousness. Edelgard’s fingertips coiled around the wire in anticipation.

“Come on…” she mumbled to herself anxiously. “Surely, he’s got to be home by now…”

But the phone continued to ring. No answer.

Edelgard placed the phone back down on the hook with a slightly irritable, uncomfortably and increasingly familiar soft chew of her inner cheek, before she found that her her eyes were being drawn towards the side of the store windows.

She flinched with a gasp.

After everything that had happened today; no, after everything that had happened over the last couple of weeks; Edelgard was both surprised and not surprised at all to see a shadow underneath the streetlight was staring back at her.

Edelgard’s eyes widened as she looked, convinced that at first, her vision was obscured by the growing dark of the oncoming evening; but, as she walked over hastily to the blinds, it became very apparent from the way that the silhouette ran down the street that she had been being watched.

They were dressed fully in black, from head to toe, and Edelgard could see the same black-out goggles resting over their eyes; just like before, back in Byleth’s car at the gas station. The body type was hard to distinguish in large, deliberately misshapen clothes; but above all else, this time, Edelgard found herself…different.

This time, Edelgard was much more infuriated than she was scared.

The shadow that was staring at Edelgard began to realize that, even in the dark, the scowl behind the pryed-apart blinds meant that their prey had finally had enough of being terrorized.

“That does it!” Edelgard announced to nobody in particular, slamming her fist down on the counter, and the person beneath the streetlight was the one that felt an alarm inside them this time. “I’ve had enough of this!”

Even though fear enveloped her body, anger was now at the forefront of her brain; and in a way, she was very grateful that she had finally seen red. Nerves, fear, anxiety; none of these emotions were ever typically Edelgard’s style. She had always been such a confident woman, determined and stable – she wasn’t prepared to allow that to change now. Life was hard enough in this dying little hovel as it was.

Grabbing her jacket furiously, she tore it off of the coathanger, slipped it on, and threw open the door. She could see whoever it was running scared now, scarpering down the dark street; slipping in and out of the streetlights like a ghoul in the night.

“I can see you, you know!” Edelgard yelled angrily; watching as her breath formed in the cold, and faded into the night. “Show your face around here again, and I will make you sorry!”

The person running came to a slow stop at the very end of the street, almost fully out of comprehensible sight; and for a split second, Edelgard felt the final straw in her mind snap in half with regret.

Should I have really done that?

What if they have a weapon?

If they come back, what means do I have to defend myself?

But what followed afterwards was not something Edelgard had expected to come from the mysterious assailant, who now was standing with just a fraction of their hooded body in the streetlight; and all Edelgard could do was watch as they tilted their head back a little, laugh loud enough for her to hear, even from this distance; and afterwards, continue to run fully out of sight.

Edelgard, heavily breathing with a furious anxiety running through her body, clenched her fists.

“Ugh!” she said with a growl, and kicked the metal trashcan next to the alleyway of the store with a loud bang.

Watching it hit the floor, Edelgard watched the trash fall out of it and blow away in the wind. From old beer bottles to chip wrappers, the trash blew against the metal fence next to the store, and soon behind her, the sight of headlights began to come into view.

As she stood, she saw the brightness of their beams shining on the grey asphalt of the roads before her, and half of her had a mind to turn around with a furious expression, whilst the other wanted to run away out of anticipation.

“Hey!”

Edelgard found herself whipping around in surprise at the sound of a voice she knew well, and suddenly, the anxious air left her lungs.

“Byleth!” she said into the cold night air, and, as though the sight of a red flag were only a momentary glitch in her system, Byleth brought with her a renewed sense of normalcy and an even warmer sense of love.

Stepping out of the car with a surprised expression of her own, she closed the door behind her with a bang; leaning back in through the window of her car to turn off the ignition and the lights.

“What the hell happened?” Byleth asked hastily, rushing over to Edelgard; who had now buried her face in her hands. “El! Are you alright?”

Edelgard von Hresvelg; the strongest person that both her and Byleth knew; stood on the side of the streetwalk, beneath the cloudy night sky and surrounded by the empty wintry winds of Garreg Mach, and began to sob into her hands.

“Byleth…” she cried, shaking her head, and refusing her lover permission to see her face. “I can’t…”

A stunned Byleth placed both of her hands either side of Edelgard’s shoulders, and pulled her girlfriend into a tight hug that she was more than fine with not initially being reciprocated. Edelgard felt her hands pressed against the crook of Byleth’s neck as she allowed herself to be held, and eventually, the hands came away from the wetness of her eyes. Edelgard’s arms slipped around Byleth’s neck warmly.

“Edelgard…” Byleth said gently, and Edelgard resigned herself entirely to her lover’s embrace. “Come on…you’re freezing cold. Let’s get you home, okay?”

“No…I can’t…”

“…You can’t?” Byleth asked gently, before Edelgard felt her back stiffen. “Wait, did your dad do something again? I swear to God, I’ll-”

“No! No, no. It’s not that,” Edelgard protested quickly, shaking her head. “I just…”

The emotion caught in her throat with a painful lump, and Byleth’s expression softened.

“…Come back to mine,” Byleth invited. “If you can’t stand to go home. I’ll sleep on the floor too, if that’s what you want.”

“Why would I ever want that?”

“Well…” Byleth began, rubbing the back of her neck. “I didn’t want you to think that I was trying anything funny.”

Edelgard blinked, wiping her wet eyes, and laughed weakly.

“You’re so silly…” she said with a sniffle. “Come on…let’s go. I just need to lock up first.”

Byleth smiled sympathetically, and nodded.

“Alright, sweetheart. Just do what you need to do.”

Edelgard nodded, running a hand through her hair as she rushed back inside to grab the keys, and Byleth rest against the front hood of her car with her hands in her pockets.

“Wonder what the hell happened…” she said to herself with a tone of worry, and leant back her head to look up at the sky. “Hey, if anyone’s up there listening, can you give my girlfriend a break? Thanks.”

“…I’m back. And you’re very sweet.”

“Ah!”

Startled, Byleth looked at Edelgard’s smile, and blushed a little of her own accord.

“You should really stop making me blush, y’know. I already feel like a sap around you as it is.”

“But it’s so much fun,” Edelgard said with another weak laugh, and dabbed at her nose with the edge of a tissue. “Sorry about…well, all of that.”

“Now who’s being silly?” Byleth protested, and opened the car door. “Come on. Let’s get home and you can tell me all about it, okay?”

“…Thank you.”

“Ah, wait-!”

As Edelgard got into the front seat, she heard a loud crinkle of plastic and a soft crunch beneath her as she sat; and closed her eyes in exasperation.

“Let me guess,” Edelgard said with a grimace. “This isn’t just a new type of crinkling cushion, is it?”

“It’s your costume, actually…I wasn’t expecting anyone to get into my car tonight.”

Edelgard laughed to herself sarcastically.

“Well, what better way to end the day than with a now slightly creased costume?”

Stepping momentarily out of the car, Edelgard found her eyes looking down more at the sight of the seat before her; and, pulling up the costume into her hands, she saw that she had now got a slightly dented halo inside the plastic.

“Byleth. Did you get me an angel costume?”

“I sure did,” Byleth boasted, and laughed as Edelgard looked on in shock. “I told you, didn’t I?”

“Told me what?”

“I’d get you what you were. It was either that or a cat, and I figured that an angel suited you best.”

Edelgard’s cheeks turned from a pale pink to a bright red, and she huffed as she lay the costume down in the back of the car.

“…Thank you for getting me something.”

“You’re very welcome.”

Edelgard walked back around to the passenger seat, and closed the door behind her as she sat.

“Are you still going as a vampire?”

Byleth laughed with a nod as she opened the door to sit behind the steering wheel.

“Yup. Well, a devil vampire. I’m original, right?”

“That goes without saying, of course…” Edelgard smiled, and suddenly, the world felt a lot brighter all over again.

Byleth placed a hand on Edelgard’s knee as she started up the ignition with her other, and Edelgard rest a hand on top of hers silently; placing her second hand on top of it for a warm clasp between them.

As the car began to move down the opposite end of the street, Edelgard closed her eyes as she rest her head back against the seat. The soft whir of Byleth’s engine filled the silence, and as they drove, there was no need for a radio. There was no need for much of anything except each other. Like a diamond in the rough, Byleth had always been such a presence; an effervescent gem in a canyon of beasts and boredom, and right now, Edelgard was beginning to realize that things were just the way they had always been.

The streetlights came and went with a shine through Byleth’s windshield; and as Edelgard opened her eyes, she saw that a few of the stores in the shopping district had now bothered to put up Halloween decorations. Gaudy oranges and violets were muted by the night-time darkness, turning them all to a monochrome mixture of greys and blacks, and streams of ‘Happy Halloween’ appeared to now hang from every window.

“Maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough before,” Edelgard began, before realizing Byleth couldn’t read inside her head. “Oh, I mean about the Halloween decorations.”

“I noticed that today, too. Maybe we’d just been so caught up in each other and everything else that we hadn’t really noticed.”

“How was it today at Lorenz’s? Did he have all the costumes off the shelves?”

“It did look a bit like a bloodbath in there…” Byleth said with a small nod. “I guess everybody decided last minute about Halloween in general. Most of the customers in there today were kids.”

“The children always look adorable in his outfits, at least.”

“Hey, what about me?” Byleth asked with a smirk. “I think I’ll look devilishly handsome, if you ask me.”

“You never lack modesty, I see.”

Byleth laughed, and Edelgard giggled quietly to herself. She’s not wrong, she thought.

“I think you’re going to look beautiful in yours,” Byleth said, turning a corner slowly. “I saw it and immediately knew you had to have it.”

“Oh, Byleth…please.”

“It’s true! You’ve always suited whites and golds. Why not now?”

Edelgard smiled warmly.

“Well, I appreciate the thought you took to get it. Thank you.”

“No problem…just don’t complain if your halo is slightly lopsided now.”

Edelgard laughed sardonically.

“Story of my life.”

As Byleth reached her place just above the Goldsmiths, Edelgard found herself looking up at the store’s apartment with a fond smile on her face. It had been a little while she was last here; and even if it hadn’t been that long, so much had changed between them that revisiting it was going to be an entirely new experience.

“Well, here we are. Sunny ‘my apartment’.”

“I feel like I’ve asked you this before,” Edelgard began as they unlocked their doors to step outside onto the sidewalk. “But do you like living above a store?”

“Do I like it compared to living in a house?” Byleth began with a chuckle. “No. But as far as convenience goes, it’s not bad. I mean, Catherine’s store is just a stone’s throw away, and best of all, you’re pretty close. It’s alright.”

Edelgard smiled.

As Byleth walked over, she put her arm around Edelgard, and locked the car with her free hand. Edelgard wrapped her arms around Byleth’s waist in turn, both of them walking up to the darkened windows of the Goldsmiths, and Byleth quickly put her key into the front door’s lock.

“Welcome to our humble abode,” she said, and opened the front door with a squeak.

“I know this is an obvious statement to make,” Edelgard began, “but it sure is dark in here.”

Edelgard found that as she stepped inside, she couldn’t see a thing, even with the orange lights of the streetlamps outside glowering in slightly. Byleth rolled down the blinds of the window and flipped the unnecessary “open” sign to “closed”, despite that the store had been locked up for the better part of the day.

“Did you just purposefully make it darker, Byleth?”

“Hold on,” Byleth said with a chuckle at Edelgard’s indignant reply. “I’m just…ah, there we go.”

As a click reached Edelgard’s ears, her eyes winced at the sudden light that filled the room.

“Ah…” she grimaced, rubbing her eyes. “Well, I can certainly see now.”

Byleth spread her arms wide in a falsely grand introduction to the dusty tabletops of the Goldsmiths, and slipped off her jacket. Edelgard couldn’t help but wish that jacket was wrapped around her body too, but decided to keep her words to herself as thoughts of last night filled her mind. She blushed as Byleth draped the jacket over her arm, and brushed past her to walk upstairs.

“Come on, let’s settle in. I still want to hear about whatever upset you.”

As Edelgard trudged up the stairs after Byleth, both women found themselves able to become comfortable in Byleth’s room very quickly.

Edelgard, experiencing Byleth’s room for the first time since their love became announced, found that being there was almost like a heaven she didn’t know existed. She had always felt that way, to a point; the scent of Byleth, the things Byleth liked; this place was so organically her, so full of life and character of something Edelgard utterly adored.

Now, coming back here was just like a slice of the world she wanted to keep all to herself.

From the posters of things Byleth liked to the memorabilia of bands and movies, the bedroom of this somewhat tiny apartment really had its own character. As Byleth walked into the bathroom to wash her hands, Edelgard found herself peering up at the posters that lined almost every inch of Byleth’s walls.

“You still love your variations of music, don’t you?”

“Of course! Who doesn't?”

Edelgard chuckled affectionately as she looked around the bedroom. The logos for each were almost a glaringly huge feature of each poster; Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath…the bands and acts were almost endless.

“That poster of King Crimson still kind of freaks me out with its face looking like…that.”

“Hey, it’s cool though, right?” Byleth said with a smile, re-emerging into the bedroom and running a hand through her slightly messy hair. “Once you see it, you definitely don’t forget it.”

“You can say that again.”

Byleth grinned, kicking off her boots into a corner of the room as Edelgard sat down on the bed, and crawled onto the mattress next to her.

“So. Wanna tell me what happened today?”

Edelgard sighed, clasping her hands into a ball on her legs as they hung over the side of the bed.

“Well -”

With a quick manoeuvre of her arm snaking around Edelgard’s waist, Byleth pulled Edelgard down onto the mattress next to her.

“Ah! Byleth!”

“You didn’t think we were going to sit up and talk, did you?”

Edelgard blushed furiously.

“I-I thought you said you weren’t going to try anything funny!”

“What?! We’re having sex? Right now?”

Byleth!”

Byleth let out a laugh as Edelgard rest her hands against her collarbones, rolling over onto her side to face the woman that had stolen her heart. Byleth’s arms remained comfortable; one draped over her girlfriend’s hip, and the other propping her own head up with its hand, and squashing her elbow down into her pillow.

“You’ve looked like you need some affection literally from the moment I saw you today,” Byleth began, “and you’re not objecting to this.”

Edelgard pouted.

“Well…no, of course I wouldn’t…” she resignedly said, placing a hand on Byleth’s cheek. “But you are so cheeky!”

“El, when it comes to you,” Byleth began, and Edelgard knew she was going to lose another blush from her cheeks even before the sentence finished, “you have to be forwards or you won’t get anywhere.”

“And just what does that mean?”

“Hello? I had to tell you to your face that I liked you.” Byleth said bluntly, and Edelgard laughed. “I’ve been dropping hints for years, y’know. Why do you think Lysithea even remotely appealed to me?”

“I don’t know. Because we’re both grumpy?”

“No!” Byleth replied with a laugh of her own. “Because you’re both blonde. I guess I began to get a bit of a soft spot for cute grumpy blondes.”

Edelgard shook her head with a laugh.

“The fact you even have the nerve to call me dense, Byleth! Everybody knew I had a huge crush on you!”

“Well, we’re here now, right?” Byleth said with a guilty laugh. “And I, for one, am very happy that we are.”

“As am I,” Edelgard replied with a bright grin, and found that, as they lay with their heads against the warm, comfortable pillows of Byleth’s character-filled bedroom, things were never quite as bad as they seemed.

“So,” Byleth began, propping her head up a little more on her hand. “Do you want to talk to me about today? Or is it off limits?”

Edelgard’s smile began to fade, and her body shuffled a little closer towards where Byleth lay.

“…I…” Edelgard began, before taking a deep breath and starting over. “I…think something happened to my father.”

Byleth’s eyes widened, and Edelgard felt as though the emotion was going to choke her all over again.

“Something happened to your dad?” she asked. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. I think – well, I hope I’m just being stupid…” she said with a shake of her head. “But he wasn’t there this morning, and he hasn’t answered the phone all day…”

“Aw, I’m sure he’s fine, El. I bet he’ll be there tomorrow morning like nothing ever happened!” Byleth reassuredly said, squeezing Edelgard’s shoulder before moving back to rest in the dip between her ribs and her hips. “Don’t worry. I bet he just left early this morning for a commission or something.”

“Well, that’s the weirdest part of it,” Edelgard frowned as Byleth looked at her with curiosity. “To be honest, Byleth…his bed didn’t even look slept in.”

“…Maybe he just made it before he left this morning?” Byleth offered as a suggestion. “Sometimes after me and my mom have had a fight…on the rare occasion that she’s actually here, that is…she tidies up a lot after. So does my dad. I think it’s a weird parent thing.”

“That’s possible. I suppose I don’t fight with my father often, so I don’t really know what to think regarding that…” Edelgard sighed. “But…outside was a different matter.”

“Yeah, that was honestly what I was more expecting you to talk about…I’ve never seen you of all people lash out before.” Byleth said with a sympathetic look in her eyes. “What happened?”

Edelgard frowned, and rolled onto her back. Byleth moved her hand to rest on her own hip as she lay on her side, and Edelgard immediately regretted moving away from her touch.

“…Some creep was watching me.”

What?”

“Yeah. Underneath the streetlight outside my store…” Edelgard said, seething. “I saw them.”

Byleth was the one who looked a little angry this time, and Edelgard felt almost embarrassed at how handsome she found her.

“Who was it? I’ll beat the shit out of them.”

Edelgard chuckled, a girlish blush on her cheeks. Is this how Leonie makes you feel, Lysithea?

“Oh, um…I don’t know.”

“Hmph…” Byleth grumbled. “Who are these little shits? I can’t wait until we find out.”

“I don’t know,” Edelgard repeated again. “But I’m getting really tired of this game of cat and mouse.”

“Me too. If you ever find out who they are…” Byleth began with a serious look on her face. “Remember that Catherine owes me a favour. I’m sure me and the Garreg Mach thugs could do something about it.”

“Byleth, you know violence is rarely the right answer.”

“Well, sometimes it’s the only answer you’ve got. Whoever this is, they need teaching a lesson!” Byleth said indignantly. “And hey, weren’t you outside today to give them a good beating?”

Edelgard raised her eyebrows.

“I can’t deny that. I mean, I did say rarely. I’ll do it if I have to.”

“Well…listen. It’ll be fine, I know that much. No matter what,” Byleth said, and Edelgard couldn’t help but believe entirely in her words. “So for tonight, why don’t we just hang out and have some fun? We can watch a movie and hang out. And then tomorrow, your dad will be home, and the Halloween party is upon us! How about it?”

Edelgard smiled, and nodded gently.

“…That sounds perfect.”

“Good. Then what do you say we pick out a good one? I’ve got some good stuff on the video shelf in the hall.”

“I noticed. Your collection of tapes is getting increasingly large, isn’t it?”

“Hey, there’s nothing better than a good movie with a hot chick.”

“Byleth!”

As Byleth laughed at Edelgard’s scolding, she heaved up off of the bed, and Edelgard found that tonight wasn’t going to be nearly as dire as she had suspected it would be.

Eyeing up the angel costume that rest next to the mixture of vampire attire and devil horns Byleth had picked out, a part of her couldn’t help but ignore the worrying feeling in her stomach in favour of tomorrow. And for the rest of the evening, Edelgard began to feel her problems melting away once again, resting inside the arms of Byleth. The two of them watched copious amounts of the videos that Byleth had on the shared video shelf with her parents.

To name but a few memorable moments, they watched Alien, to which Edelgard found herself holding Byleth close during the particularly unsettling parts, much to her amusement and affection; Jaws, to which Byleth was the one now holding Edelgard close during the gory parts of the movie; and Rocky, to which both women found themselves surprisingly engrossed.

But towards the end of the movie marathon night, Edelgard found her eyes growing increasingly tired. A small nest of popcorn, empty bottles and candy wrappers had formed around them on Byleth’s sofa; and, as Edelgard let out a big yawn behind her hand, Byleth couldn’t help but notice.

“You doing okay?” she asked with an affectionate smile. Edelgard rubbed her eyes.

“I don’t think I realized how tired I was…”

“We did ingest a lot of movies, huh…” Byleth said with a smile. “Want to go to sleep?”

“That sounds good to me,” Edelgard said with a sleepy smile of her own, and Byleth couldn’t help but look on a little in a lovestruck mess of her own.

Standing up, Edelgard took Byleth by the hand, and led her over towards the direction of the bedroom. Byleth felt her cheeks a little hotter, feeling Edelgard’s tight grip on her palm, and knowing exactly what she would love to do if the circumstances were a little different.

But as things stood, Byleth knew she’d regret trying to initiate anything on an evening where Edelgard had been so worried and upset. With a quiet, unnoticeable sigh of a very specific type of frustration, Byleth followed in after Edelgard into her bedroom, and sat down on the chair across from the bed.

“…So?” Byleth asked, as Edelgard sat down on the edge of Byleth’s bed. “How are we going to go about this?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well…” Byleth began, rubbing the back of her neck. “You know.”

“Been having impure thoughts tonight, have you?” Edelgard said, with a leer forwards and a knowing smile on her face. Byleth blinked.

“H…Hey!”

“I’m just joking,” Edelgard chuckled, and lay back against the pillows on the bed. “Aren’t we just going to share?”

“…Are you sure?”

“Yes! Come on and stop being silly.”

As Byleth laughed to herself, heaving up off of the chair, she walked over to her closet; throwing out a shirt and some old shorts for Edelgard’s sake.

“Oh?” Edelgard asked, picking up the items of clothing that smelled just like Byleth.

“For you,” Byleth said, picking up a shirt and a considerably more worn looking pair of shorts off of the chair next to the one she had just been sat on. “I’m gonna get changed in the other room.”

“Byleth, you really don’t have to -”

“Hey, now. A girl needs some privacy!” Byleth laughed embarrassedly. “I’ll be back in a second.”

“…Alright…” Edelgard said with a blush of her own, and as Byleth left the room, her embarrassment tripled in size as she buried her face into the shirt of her lover as much as possible. How I can face her with any item of her clothing right now is beyond me, she thought.  

Byleth soon returned, and Edelgard was satisfied by the mere sensation of wearing Byleth’s shirt; let alone getting to experience the newfound, sexually frustrated night she was in for of sleeping next to her girlfriend for the first time since they started dating.

“Ready for bed?” Byleth asked. Edelgard nodded.

“…Okay.”

Byleth smiled in agreement, and flicked off the light; walking over to where Edelgard was laying beneath the sheets.

“Well,” Byleth said with a false yawn, and a gaze that lingered too long on Edelgard for it to be entirely innocent. “Let’s try and rest. I’m sure tomorrow will be much better.”

“I certainly hope so, Byleth.”

And; as Byleth began lifting the sheet up to get herself into bed, right next to the woman she found herself so mutually infatuated with; both women felt the sudden wash of desire almost cripple them, and be forcibly shoved into a mental box as they tried to rest.

It took both of them a while to drift off. Between pretending that they’d fallen asleep, stealing looks at each other’s faces in the dark and the insatiable urge to just slide their bodies on top of each other, both women had one particular thought in common as they stared up at Byleth’s ceiling in the dark.

I want to feel her against me.

But when?

Chapter Text

After a difficult night’s sleep, Edelgard found that when it came to which of them in their relationship was the one to sleep longer, she was going to be the one that woke up first.

Perhaps it was just the anxiety, or perhaps it was just the way it was always going to be; she didn’t know, or even care, really, given that waking up early next to Byleth made for a sight she was going to treasure forever.

A smile crept across her face as she rolled over. Laying on the soft, warm comfort of Byleth’s sheets, Edelgard shifted her body up slightly to prop up her head against the pillow as she looked to her side.

“You’re so beautiful…” Edelgard whispered to herself as she looked over her lover’s resting face, and resisted the urge to stroke her skin. “You really are.”

The sunlight of the morning was gentle as it broke in softly, shimmering through a crack in Byleth’s curtains. Edelgard watched the particles of light and dust meeting, dancing together in a comfortable, floating motion, and saw that the stream was coming to an end at the edge of Byleth’s bed.

Edelgard felt her lips tingle as she looked down, and felt an overwhelming desire to kiss the woman that had made her fall so madly besides herself in love.

“…Even when you’re asleep, you’re still infatuating me…” she mumbled, and touched the edges of her own lips with her fingertips.

Edelgard knew that if she could have spent all morning kissing Byleth, she would have. If the world would only just stop turning for a moment, if her mind could stop worrying and racing and driving itself insane, Edelgard thought how she could have quite happily allowed herself to be in a bubble with Byleth; kissing her face, her perfect lips, and softer still against the eyelids that rest over her intense, blue gaze.

“Mm…”

Edelgard’s own eyelids fluttered as Byleth made a noise that suggested she was awakening, and before Edelgard could decide whether to pretend to be asleep or give away her staring at the woman she loved, Byleth’s eyes opened quicker than she could judge and made the decision for her.

“Well, well…” Byleth said half asleep, and Edelgard tried not to blush at the attractive tone to her girlfriend’s voice. “Aren’t you a sight to behold? I wish I could wake up like this every morning.”

Edelgard chuckled, and felt the long strands of blonde hair that hung down over her arm as she propped up her head tickle her elbow.

“Good morning to you too, sleepyhead. I see being tired does nothing to deter your charm.”

Byleth chuckled huskily; bringing up her arms from under the covers, and stretching them out above her head.                        

“Hey, if I can’t flirt with my girlfriend in the early hours of the morning…”

Edelgard blushed a little, and smiled at the woman before her.

“Did you sleep well?”

Byleth nodded as she turned to look at Edelgard with a slightly wider gaze than her half-asleep one.

“Like a rock, actually. Guess I was more tired than I thought…and you?”

“I slept okay…” Edelgard said, tapping her chin. “I suppose.”

“No weird dreams?”

“Not this time. Maybe you’re my good luck charm.”

Byleth smiled warmly, and draped an arm drowsily over the covers that rest atop Edelgard’s hip.

“I definitely think I am…” she said cosily, and snuggled a little harder into her pillow. “So now we’ve cleared that up, I’m gonna go back to sleep now.”

Edelgard laughed, and kissed Byleth’s cheek as she flopped back down.

“Hey, wake up.”

“Goodnight. I’m asleep.”

Edelgard poked Byleth’s cheek playfully, and Byleth puffed it out in a faux protest that made Edelgard smile; which was good, because the next question she was about to ask was not one she wanted to.

“Byleth…” she began; a nervous wash arriving in her stomach. “Can I at least use your phone?”

Byleth’s eyes began to slowly open again, and she saw Edelgard run a hand anxiously through her hair as she looked away from her.

“My phone?” Byleth replied with a curious tone. “Oh, you mean for your dad…right?”

“Yes. Oh, in a more private setting, rather than in front of you...if that’s alright.”

“Well…” Byleth said in contemplation, and Edelgard could tell from her tone of voice she was much more awake suddenly. “Okay. Besides the one here in my room, there’s another one out in the hall. But don’t stress out if it doesn’t go to plan, okay?”

Edelgard felt the nervous churn of her stomach.

“…I’ll do my best,” she confessed. “All I’ve been doing is worrying, anyway.”

“I’ll be here waiting,” Byleth said, and Edelgard knew her girlfriend was going to remain firmly awake until she got back.

As Edelgard crawled over Byleth’s body laying beneath the sheets and clambered out of bed, she felt the nippy chill of the morning cold kiss at her bare legs. The pyjamas Byleth had given to her for the night were not exactly winter-friendly, but at least they were something.

Ah, it’s almost winter, isn’t it? Edelgard suddenly realized. November isn’t far away now. All there was left of October was -

“Oh…!”

“Hm?”

Shaking her head, Edelgard realized something that she hadn’t really registered until this morning.

“Today…” Edelgard said, turning around in surprise. “It’s Halloween, isn’t it?”

“It sure is,” Byleth said, stretching her legs under the sheets as Edelgard stood. “I can’t wait for the party later. It’s gonna be awesome. Mercedes always throws really good ones.”

As Edelgard stood, Byleth smiled in a way that she couldn’t help but return wholeheartedly herself, and found that she felt a little calmer for the action; even if she didn’t entirely feel like smiling right now with what she was about to do.

“Me neither,” she said with a half-hearted smile, even though the party was the farthest thing from her mind. “Well…I’ll be back in a second. Your phone is in the hall, right?”

Byleth nodded and spoke gently.

“Just take your time, El. Remember that everything will be fine, okay?”

Edelgard and Byleth exchanged a silent, knowing look of understanding with one another, before Edelgard found herself with a stomach filled of a nasty, nervous mixture of both bats and butterflies.

“Alright…” Edelgard said, as she opened Byleth’s door to a frosty hallway outside. “Time to check on Dad, I guess.”

As Edelgard’s feet touched the cold carpet, somehow the walk to the telephone felt much more daunting with each step. The ominous air that Halloween seemed to bring with it every year felt so poignant this time around.

Uncomfortable figures following me, mysterious events, unsettling dreams…how I wish it would all just stop.

Trudging down the hall, Edelgard’s fingertips eventually touched the plastic of the phone on the wall. An off-white, weathered beige phone with a coiled wire, Edelgard found similarly to yesterday at the shop, her fingers intertwined themselves with the wire as she punched in the number.

Every beep felt like a death sentence. If her father didn’t answer this time, it was very likely he wasn’t going to be at home, and that meant that he really was somewhere else entirely.

Edelgard swallowed the newly formed lump in her throat, clicking her tongue inside her mouth to alleviate the dryness, and listened to the ringing as it began.

Her head span with the rush of adrenaline in her veins as she waited. Each ring of the phone was heavy, and every moment of silence was even heavier. Edelgard’s eyes closed themselves in a painful anguish, until at the other end of the phone, somebody answered.

“Hello?”

Edelgard’s breath hitched as a voice reached her ears, and the coils around her fingers tightened as her hand became a fist.

“Dad? Is that you?” she asked hastily. “Are you alright?”

There was a brief pause, but Edelgard couldn’t tell if she was just being too urgent with her words.

“I am fine,” the voice replied, and Edelgard frowned at how muffled it sounded. “I am sorry to have worried you.”

“Where on earth did you go? I was worried sick!”

“I am sorry,” the deep voice of what sounded a little like her father replied. “I had to work.”

“Late? That late? And for a whole day?”

“Yes. And I will be gone for the rest of this day, too.”

Edelgard paused.

“Why?”

“The church needs reparations,” he replied. “I will see you tomorrow. Goodbye.”

“Dad?”

With an abrupt click of the phone, Edelgard heard nothing more than the receiver noise saying that the caller on the other end had hung up; and as she stood, dumbfounded, she knew not what to do other than place the phone back down on its own hook, too.

Byleth, having heard the sound of the phone being placed back, came outside into the hallway to see Edelgard standing there; holding her elbow in her hands as she bit the tip of her thumb in contemplation.

“Everything alright…?” She asked tentatively, scratching her head as she ruffled her hair slightly out of its messy bedhead. Edelgard nodded with a frown, and still didn’t bring her gaze back up to meet Byleth’s eyes.

“I suppose so?” She replied, shaking her head. “I mean, somebody answered.”

Byleth tilted her head to the side.

“Somebody? Well, it sounds like it was your dad, right? Who else could it have even been?”

 “…Let’s go over there,” Edelgard said with a frightened look on her face. “Please.”

Byleth looked at the woman before her, recognizing the uncharacteristic but unfortunately now familiar look of fear; nodded quickly; and didn’t protest as she grabbed both her jacket and Edelgard’s own.

“Come on,” Byleth said, throwing her the jacket, and signalling to her bedroom to go and throw their day clothes back on. “Let’s get dressed and go.”

All that Edelgard knew was something about that phonecall was fishy; and one way or another, she was going to find out what.

-

“El. You’re sure you want to do this?”

Parked directly outside Edelgard’s house after driving by a closed Hresvelg Woodworks, Edelgard was surer than ever that she needed to find out if something strange was going on or not.

“Definitely,” Edelgard said bluntly. “If someone I don’t know has been in my house…”

Byleth felt a white sheet of fear come over her back.

“You really think that wasn’t your dad on the phone?”

Edelgard paused, and bit her lip anxiously.

“…I don’t know. It sounded like him, but…somehow it just…it sounded off. I can’t describe it. But at this point, I do wonder if I’m losing my mind.”

“We should call the police if you feel that strongly, El. That’s fucking creepy.”

“No…” Edelgard protested with a shake of her head. “I don’t want them to think I’m insane, especially if we need them and I’ve already got myself a reputation as a liar from that.”

“Edelgard, really, I -”

Edelgard placed her hand on Byleth’s own, and stroked her face boldly with her thumb. Byleth immediately stopped in her tracks.

“Let’s check first…if there’s sign of foul play, then I think it might be time to get the police involved.”

As they sat in Byleth’s car, hand in hand and looking over to the house that Edelgard loved to call home, it felt like a surreal experience to think that this chain of events was now warranting even the merest thought of the police being involved. Just a few nights ago Edelgard was on the porch kissing her soon-to-be girlfriend, and now, she was imagining the most horrible scenarios that could have happened to her father.

How did things get this bad?

“El,” Byleth began, rubbing her chin. “Before we go down a really weird route… does your dad usually do anything that indicates telling you where he is if you’ve not been around in the evening? I remember my mom sometimes did that…until she didn’t.”

Edelgard made a noise of contemplation.

“Well…with your mom, I’m not surprised, given that she’s nearly always out of town now…but I do wish she’d drop you a line a little more.”

Byleth rolled her eyes at the memory of her parents.

“Don’t worry,” she said with a sardonic chuckle, “I’m just bitter. But for now, just try to remember. Is he a note leaving kinda guy?”

 “Hmm…” Edelgard said, pausing for thought. “Does he…?”

It had been quite a while since Edelgard had last not spent the night at home before all of the events that had unfolded this week; but she did remember that sometimes, on occasion when they were all a little younger, her father would leave a note. Working on buildings often meant that he had to be gone in the early hours of the morning, leaving Edelgard and her sister to get ready for school; and then when her sister moved away, the note would occasionally be left for Edelgard.

“...He did used to.”

“So there’s a chance he really did leave a note, then?” Byleth said with a reassured nod. “Okay. You’ll know his handwriting, I take it?”

“I do.”

Byleth nodded again; this time, with an even more reassuring clarity than before.

“Alright. I’ll make you a deal,” she began. “If there’s a note, we’ll just chalk it up to him having a big job, and needing some space.”

“What about the weird phonecall?”

“Well, you know how phones are…sometimes the sound gets distorted or the connection is bad,” Byleth offered as a consolation. “Especially with the stormy weather around here lately.”

Edelgard tilted her head to the side in thought. She couldn’t deny that…

“That’s true…I can recall more than a few times when we’ve been on the phone and the connection out here in the sticks has suddenly gone dead.”

“Exactly! So…if there’s a note, we leave it. And…”

“If there’s not,” Edelgard said, with a reassured, relieved sigh, and a pat against her legs. “We’ll go to the police. Okay. Thank you, Byleth…I feel a little calmer now for hearing some rationality rather than thinking the worst all the time.”

Byleth smiled warmly, and placed a hand on Edelgard’s shoulder with a reassuring squeeze.

“Everything will be alright, y’know?”

Edelgard nodded quietly.

“Thank you…” she said with a grateful smile, and placed a hand on top of Byleth’s own as it rest on her shoulder. “For always supporting me. I really appreciate it…more than you know, I’m sure.”

Byleth’s eyes warmly looked upon the woman she loved, and with a squeeze of the hand resting atop her own, she leant over to kiss her girlfriend on the cheek quickly.

“Let’s go check it all out to put both our minds at ease. Okay?”

Edelgard nodded firmly; Byleth was right. It was time to bite the bullet.

As they opened the door to the blustery Halloween winds outside, her blonde hair blew around her like a platinum storm of its own in the aggressive breeze.

As her lavender eyes met with the front of the house, Byleth took her by the hand, and the two of them walked along the asphalt of the road; with both the clicks of Edelgard’s boots and soft pads of Byleth’s hi-tops echoing out slightly through the dead town air.

The distance from the car to the familiar, run-down wood of the porch steps to the Hresvelg household felt like miles and miles with the anticipation, but Edelgard moved forwards regardless. Byleth’s hand felt like a welcome warmness in her own, and she found herself squeezing it fondly as they reached the steps.

“Got your keys?” Byleth asked.

Edelgard rummaged around in the pocket of her jacket; listening to the soft, small noises of the cluster of silver knocking together with a brief jangle, and nodded.

Looking up anxiously, Edelgard took a deep breath; and, with a firm foot forwards, she found the courage to walk up.

 “Let’s check it out.”

Pushing a key into the lock, Edelgard opened the door with a familiar, unoiled squeak of the heavy front door, and found that there had at least been somebody inside this house at some point today.

The homely smells were back, at least. The smell that somebody had eaten toast, the sign that the cats had been fed; not to mention the warmth of a fireplace that had recently been put out, probably about an hour ago, from the way the natural cold of the walls began to overtake the embered air.

“…Feels like home,” Byleth said with a slightly wistful air, before crossing her arms in embarrassment at Edelgard’s expression. “Uh, I just meant that it feels like someone’s been here! In a positive way, that is.”

Edelgard grinned knowingly. Byleth blushed with a laugh.

“You’re cute.”

“Hey, now who’s teasing who?”

Feeling a little more confident that her worries were founded in delusions, Edelgard began to press onwards toward the living room. As she turned to walk inside the warm, small place that she called home, her eyes lit up as she saw that, on the side of the armchair where her father usually was, there was exactly what she was hoping for.

There was a note.

“Oh…!” both women said in a surprised unison, and Edelgard found her racing heart shoot through every emotion possible.

“Thank God,” Byleth added with a hand against her own chest, before confessing, “you really had even me running scared there, talking about the phone call being kinda wacky like that!”

Edelgard allowed Byleth’s words to rush through one ear and out of the other as she approached the sheet of paper, and with a fumble of her fingertips against the surface, she lifted it up to scan with her eyes.

Edelgard,

Regrettably, I’ll be working late for the next little while. I doubt we’ll be seeing much of each other with the work that I need to be doing.

It’s all something I can’t get away from, and honestly, I’d much rather I do it now than you do it later.

I love you very much.

I left some food in the fridge for you from the soup I made earlier this week. Tell Byleth I said hello.

Don’t forget to feed the cats.

- Dad

P.S. – There’s an early Christmas present for you at the Library.

A s I won’t be around much, I left you something there in a book, as opposed to you stumbling across it in the household. 

You know nobody really checks any of those things out. I believe you know just what hobby I enjoy. See you soon.

We all come home eventually, after all.

Edelgard blinked; and, as she looked over the note, something about it didn’t sit well inside her mind.

“So?” Byleth said, peering over the slightly shorter woman’s shoulder before her. “What’d he say?”

“He’ll be working late for a little while, apparently…” Edelgard said, lost in her thoughts. “Byleth, is the library open today?”

“The library? Man, I haven’t been there in ages…” she replied in just as much confusion as Edelgard. “We can go check it out, if you want. Why?”

Edelgard passed on the note to Byleth, who quietly scanned it over once before looking back up at the girl before her.

“Your dad sure is sentimental in his notes, isn’t he?” Byleth laughed affectionately. “Aw, pops. You’re sure this is him too, right?”

“It’s definitely his handwriting.”  

“Well…isn’t that a good thing?”

“It is…” Edelgard said with an unsatisfied tone to her voice. “But now I’m even more curious about this library thing. What the hell is going on? He didn’t even say where he was working!”

Byleth chuckled, and placed a hand on Edelgard’s shoulder.

“Well you know your dad. He’s not exactly the chattiest guy,” she said. “But hey, at least now we know the police don’t have to be involved. And this note was pretty nice. You could really feel that his all went into it, if you ask me.”

Edelgard felt a warm fondness in her heart for her parents refresh inside her heart.

“…Alright. Let’s go and check out the library, and then we can go ahead and get ready for the party tonight. I promise, the library will be the last thing I ask of you today.”

Byleth, excited that her girlfriend was now getting more into the Halloween spirit, placed an arm around her shoulders.

“That’s my girl! See, parties solve everything.”

“Do they now?” Edelgard laughed, and placed her hands on Byleth’s shoulders. “Well, I know something else that would definitely make me feel a lot happier.”

“Oh? You do, huh?”

Edelgard nodded with a smile, and placed her lips against Byleth’s with a firm peck; before patting her shoulders.

“Mm-!” Byleth said with a whine, and half-pouting as Edelgard pulled away. “Aw, come on! You can’t just leave me there!”

“Come on,” Edelgard said as she began to walk towards the front door, “we’ve got a library to check out.”

“El!” Byleth protested, and as she heard the front door open, she laughed to herself with one hand on her hip. “Honestly…what a woman I’ve got myself.”

Re-entering Byleth’s car after the tense few moments spent inside the Hresvelg household was a welcome break from the stress of the morning. As Edelgard found herself sinking into the car seat with a comfortable, long sigh, Byleth quickly turned on the ignition, and drove towards the direction of where she remembered the library to be.

“It’s been a long time since we were last there, hasn’t it?” Edelgard eventually said over the low rumble of Byleth’s engine, “I don’t even remember the last time.”

“Probably something dumb for school…” Byleth said with a groan. “We always used to have to do shitty projects every other weekend.”

“Don’t remind me. I’m still recovering from the one I had to do with Claude. Or like I said to Dimitri, without him.”

Byleth and Edelgard laughed to themselves quietly, before their minds went to the thoughts of Claude’s wellbeing.

Please be alright, Edelgard thought. Please be just visiting your dad.

“How about some music?” Byleth asked after the ensuing silence, and quickly switched on the radio with a satisfying – and now familiar – click of the dial.

“Sounds good to me.”

The fuzzy static of the radio began to come into focus, and soon, Edelgard heard the voice of the radio host once again.

“BOO! Good morning, Garreg Machers, and a veeery happy Halloween! Are you ready for a spook-tastic day? I certainly hope so! We’ll be spinning all the classic scary songs, so stay tuned!”

Byleth laughed to herself.

“I still can’t believe it’s Halloween already,” she said with a shake of her head. “Where did this year even go?”

“On drinks and partying for you, I’d imagine.”

“Hey! I don’t even drink that much.”

Edelgard giggled softly, and Byleth pouted with a smirk resting behind her lips as they turned a corner and saw the library come into view.

“…We’re here, hm?" Edelgard began with a start, leaning forwards against the dashboard; before she noticed something. "Oh…”

From a distance, it wasn’t hard to see already that there was one key factor separating them from finding out just what it was Edelgard’s father had wanted her to receive – that the library was closed for the day.

“Oh, damn. It’s closed?” Byleth said, peering forwards over her steering wheel. “I guess we’ll have to check back tomorrow…?”

“That’s unusual, but not entirely unexpected on a holiday, I suppose…” Edelgard said with a sigh. “Do we know anyone who works there? Maybe they’ll be at the party tonight.”

“True,” Byleth replied with a contemplative look on her face. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see for now. The mystery of your dad thickens, but at least he sounds like he’s safe.”

Edelgard frowned, unsatisfied with her answer of the library’s temporary closure, and huffed in her seat.

“Well…” she began. “What should we do in the meantime?”

“Go and get some snacks for tonight, I suppose?” Byleth said, returning Edelgard’s shrug with one of her own. “Mercedes did say to bring some stuff with us.”

Edelgard sighed wearily. 

“I forgot about that. Alright. Let’s go for now, then…I’ll just have to hope my dad didn’t leave us a cheque for a million dollars.”

Byleth chuckled.

“Well I for one sure hope he did.”

After the unsuccessful trip to the library, Edelgard and Byleth found themselves back at the superstore. Edelgard privately quite liked the feeling of being on Byleth’s arm inside the walls of the desolate, soulless supermarket; the domestic bliss of going shopping with the one she loved was definitely something she couldn’t wait for in the future.

Shoving in several bags of chips and a crate of beer into the cart, Edelgard raised her eyebrows.

“Wow, you’re going all out.”

Byleth rubbed the back of her neck, and Edelgard’s arm around hers tightened a little.

“Well I mean, if this is gonna be Mercedes last party in town, I think she should at least get the luxury of this kinda thing.”

“In other words,” Edelgard began with a knowing smirk, “you feel guilty because you had no idea how much she liked you, and now she’s leaving. Right?”

Byleth made a noise not unsimilar to the general sound of urk, and laughed bashfully amidst the far off sounds of cash registers and chattering echoes.

“…I really am dense around girls, aren’t I?”

“You are, but that’s also why you’re so loveable.”

Byleth sighed.

“Honestly,” she said with a shake of her head, and shoved the crate up onto the counter for the clerk to price up. “I’ll never understand women, despite that I am one.”

Edelgard chuckled as the two of them made their way back to Byleth’s car after the paying and bagging up; and, as Edelgard hopped into the passenger seat next to her girlfriend, Byleth switched on the ignition, escorting the two of them back to the homely warmth of her apartment.

It was time to get ready for the party – and anything else it might bring with it.

-

“Byleth, really…” Edelgard said bashfully, and felt an embarrassed blush rising to her cheeks. “I just can’t believe you got me something like this!”

“Aw, come on! You’ll look cute!”

Stood in front of the large, full-length mirror inside Byleth’s bedroom, Edelgard held up the plastic wrapping of her angel costume before her and blushed.

It was the early evening of a Halloween that, even in Garreg Mach, had begun to sound like it was bustling. Pleasantly surprised by the events of the earlier day, Edelgard had decided to push them all to the back of her mind for now. Her dad appeared to be fine, and she’d find out whatever was at the library tomorrow…she hadn’t had any incidents with anybody weird today, and that in itself always felt like a small victory. For now, everything seemed to be going according to plan, and that was really all Edelgard could ask.

As she stood with the white of her material glaring back at her from the mirror, she listened as Byleth talked from the outside hall, determined to keep her own outfit a surprise from her girlfriend as they changed; and Edelgard had decided that she would much rather change without being watched, too.

“I promise,” Byleth said as Edelgard heard her leaning back against the wall outside the room. “You’re gonna look gorgeous. Angelic, even.”

“I feel like an idiot!”

“Come on, El…” Byleth said with a laugh, before a shrill sound of the phone ringing interrupted them both. “Oh, one second.”

Byleth’s footsteps walked away towards the telephone outside, and Edelgard took a deep breath as though she were about to take a massive plunge into a pool of water below her.

“…Alright,” she said firmly, and tore off the plastic of the costume with a wince. “It’s now or never.”

Slipping on the silken feeling of the white dress, Edelgard began to feel more and more feminine as the material hung on her limbs like a flowing white gown. With the costume also came a white cardigan, which was a blessing, considering the cold weather outside; and, slipping on the slightly lopsided halo on her head from yesterday, it hovered over her platinum hair on a dainty spring attached to a headband with a completeness to her outfit.

Wrapping her cardigan around herself, Edelgard looked back at herself in the mirror and thought about how this wasn’t so bad after all. Byleth had leant her a golden necklace from downstairs, one with a cross on it, just to complete the truly angelic look; and Edelgard felt as though she almost looked…beautiful.

“Huh, well…what do you know?” She said with a pleasant sense of happiness. “I suppose I am suited for the angelic life, after all.”

“El, that was Dimitri, and he…”

Opening the door to her bedroom suddenly, Byleth realized her error at the gasp from the girl inside; but before she could apologize, Byleth quickly found that her breath was taken away by the sight of Edelgard in her angel outfit.

“Um…” Edelgard said, shuffling awkwardly in position, and noticing just how handsome Byleth looked in return. “I, um…”

The two of them blushed profusely, before turning around wordlessly and ripping their gaze off of one another.

No, no, no! I’m not having impure thoughts in an angel costume!

That’s a one-way ticket to hell for sure – wait, I’m not even religious!

“S-So, uh,” Byleth began with her arms folded, and Edelgard couldn’t shake the image of her in a white shirt and black slacks out of her mind. “Dimitri wanted to know if we wanted a ride to the party…”

“He did?” Edelgard asked in surprise, pressing her palms to her cheeks in an effort to surpress the warm blush that now seemed like it enveloped her entire body. “I’m surprised he’s going!”

“Me too,” Byleth said, folding her arms. “But I’m glad he is, because now we can at least have a drink or two.”

Edelgard took a deep breath, satisfied that she had regained her composure long enough to accept that Byleth looked ridiculously handsome in her vampire-slash-demon outfit, and Byleth had apparently reached the same conclusion as she turned around, too.

Both women allowed their gazes to fall on one another for a lot longer than the first time; and that in itself was an experience that neither one of them wanted to let go of. Byleth looked gorgeous, Edelgard thought, and couldn’t help her mind wandering towards the more lustful side of things.

With a crisp white blouse, a pair of black pants, a little smear of red blood against her bottom lip that looked like smudged lipstick and some dollar-store horns on her head, Edelgard couldn’t help but think how desperately she wanted to just stay home and make out with Byleth instead.

Thoroughly enjoying the way Byleth was looking at her with such greedy, longing eyes, Edelgard now found that she wanted to very much keep this angel costume on for the long run after all.

“...Byleth, did you tell Dimitri we’d like to go?”

“What…? Ah!”

Byleth ran back out into the hall as Edelgard giggled, and sat herself down on the edge of the bed as she waited for Byleth to finish up; which didn’t take too long, as she trudged back in with a look of defeat on her face.

“Huh? What happened?”

“He hung up!” Byleth said with a whine to her voice that couldn’t help but make Edelgard smile fondly. “I don’t know his number! How does he even know mine…?”

“He probably knows the Goldsmith’s number,” Edelgard reminded. “You have it on the store outside, right?”

“Oh…” Byleth said in realisation, and closed her eyes in exasperation. “Sometimes I worry about myself.”

“Hold on, I know it…” Edelgard said, picking up the phone next to Byleth’s bed, and punched in Dimitri’s number.

The phone rang for a brief moment as Byleth folded her arms from across the room, and eventually, Dimitri answered with a sigh.

“Listen, Byleth, I told you not to be too long -”

“It’s me, you idiot.”

Dimitri paused for a moment to register the voice he was hearing, before Edelgard heard him laugh in such a way that made her want to throttle him.

“Oh, my. You’re at Byleth’s place?”

“Don’t you dare.”

“Did you fuck yet?”

“Anyway,” Edelgard said firmly as Dimitri laughed. “We’d love a lift to Mercedes’ place, if you please.”

“I see. Do I need to give you some time to…freshen up?”

Dimitri laughed for a second time, and Edelgard felt her temple throb with irritation.

“No! Though you know…I’m surprised you’re driving. Didn’t you want to drink?”

“Oh, I’m not driving…” Dimitri said, and Edelgard felt herself feel a little confused. “I’m paying for the cab.”

“Wait, why are you paying for our fare?”

“Because,” Dimitri said finally, and Edelgard was the one that laughed knowingly this time.

“Oh, I get it. Because you feel guilty for being short with me. Is that why?”

Anyway,” Dimitri said, and Edelgard was the one who laughed for a second time this time. “I’ll see you in a few. I’m getting in the cab now, so be ready, alright?”

“Alright. Thank you.”

“Mhm.”

Hanging up the phone, Edelgard chuckled fondly as she turned to face the woman that she loved, looking at her with a curious expression on her face as she explained just what it was they were waiting for. After a few minutes, the cab was surprisingly fast from where Dimitri lived on the outskirts of town; and, as Edelgard and Byleth rushed outside to greet him, they hopped inside the car, carrying their large bag of goodies with them.

Edelgard scoffed mockingly at the sight of Dimitri simply carrying a small bag of chocolates and one beer.

“Wow. Hey, big spender.”

“Shut up and get in,” he scolded, and as Byleth closed the door behind them with a laugh, they began to drive towards the direction of Mercedes’ home - and a night that neither woman was going to be forgetting anytime soon.

Chapter Text

“So, what have you come as, Dimitri?”

Sitting in the cab with two of her most valued people, Edelgard found that she felt perfectly content for the first time in a long time.

Whilst things had been a little weird – to say the least – where her life was concerned at large, she figured that taking the night off on Halloween to have a little fun was something that, at this point, she really owed to herself. Byleth was in good spirits; but Dimitri remained in the brooding mood he had been forced into by Claude’s abrupt disappearance over the last few days, and sulked as he looked out of the window.

“I didn’t feel like dressing up.”

“You’re going to stick out like a sore thumb, you know…” Edelgard said pointedly. “Mercedes is having a fancy dress party. You know, the kind with costumes.”

“Like I said,” Dimitri repeated. “I didn’t feel like it.”

“You’re still missing Claude, I take it.”

Dimitri didn’t say anything to Edelgard's remark, and Byleth crossed one leg over the other.

“…Thanks for paying for our fares, Dimitri.”

Dimitri's prickly atmosphere softened a little, and he let out a melancholy sigh.

“Don’t mention it," he grumbled. "So. How have you two been?”

Edelgard smiled in an encouraging way towards her best friend, who couldn’t help but allow himself to smile at least a little in the company of his friends.

“We’ve been alright,” Byleth said. “We saw some friends the other day.”

“Edelgard mentioned it, I believe. Mercedes and…others?”

“Yeah, Marianne and Hilda.”

Dimitri nodded.

“Did you have fun? I feel I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to Mercedes when we were back at the lakeside.”

“It was okay…” Edelgard said with an underlying grumble, and Dimitri smirked in a way that suggested he knew why. “I was happy to…have spent time with them. Well. Marianne, at least.”

“I bet you were,” he replied with a flat tone that made both of them laugh. “I’m looking forward to the party tonight, though…at least a little bit.”

“Yeah!” Byleth replied enthusiastically, and Dimitri finally let most of his guard down. “Mercedes always throws really cool Halloween parties. I mean, they’re mostly the same as any other party, but having one on Halloween just feels so right.”

“That’s true. It’ll be nice to see everyone again, too.”

The cab began to pull into a familiar neighbourhood, and from the gaggle of people all gathered at one particular spot on the sidewalk, it wasn’t hard to spot where Mercedes’ place was. Dimitri leant over to pay the cab driver as he and the two women got out, and Edelgard felt her teeth chattering the moment the winds hit her skin.

“God, it’s cold…”

“Want me to warm you up?” Byleth offered, and Edelgard couldn’t help but blush with a girlish laugh as Byleth wrapped her arms over her shoulders.

“Here, let me take that.” Dimitri said, taking the large crate and chips from Byleth’s hands.

“Thanks, man.”

“Dimitri, you’re being awfully accommodating tonight…” Edelgard said with a teasing laugh. “You know, you haven’t been that short with me.”

“…I’m just trying to be helpful,” Dimitri replied without looking around, and carried the snacks and beer towards the party. “Plus, Mercedes will think these are all from me.”

“Hey!”

With a laugh, Dimitri walked ahead of the two lovebirds behind him, and Edelgard allowed her head to rest back against Byleth’s shoulder as they walked in unison.

“You excited?” Byleth asked. Edelgard nodded.

“Very. I do like the atmosphere parties bring with them.”

As they began to approach the house, they could see the group of people that had been standing outside begin to filter into the house. Mercedes had a lot of decorations outside of her house; from fake gravestones to well-carved pumpkins, it was obvious that she and her family had gone to a lot of effort to make this place look nice.

“What is that…?” Dimitri said, wrinkling his nose as they approached the front lawn more closely. “Ugh, right down to the smell? That’s gory. Even for a woman like Mercedes.”

On the front lawn, poking out of ripped up trash bags and covered in what looked like blood were limbs; designed to have been, Edelgard assumed, torn off unpleasantly at the hinges of the human body. There was a bigger bag that looked to be a torso that nobody could quite see, and a second bag that was lumpy at the edges; sharp, harshly created pieces of bone tearing out of the plastic that housed it.

Some of the limbs were varying different colours on top of the already realistic gore, and Byleth found herself feeling a little dizzy at the disgusting sight before her. Purple patches of skin were showing like it was rotting away, whilst other patches were yellowing with the bruises. Of course, no little patch of gore was complete without pink skin from where the blood had sunken in.

“Wow, that’s…creepily realistic, isn’t it?” Byleth said with an embarrassed laugh. “I’m almost embarrassed to say it’s made me feel a little queasy.”

“I can even smell that ugly bronze smell that comes with blood,” Dimitri said, raising his eyebrows. “I’m impressed. Mercedes has outdone herself this time with this unpleasant pile of human lost and found.”

“Thank you.”

As they turned around to the source of the voice, Mercedes stood before them all in a slightly revealing witch outfit.

“Mercedes!” Byleth greeted, and Mercedes wrapped her arms around Byleth as they stood. “It’s so nice to see you. It sucks this is gonna be your last party around town!”

“I know…” Mercedes said with a muffle into Byleth’s collar, and placed her hands on her shoulders as they stood. Her warm gaze turned to Edelgard with a smile, and letting go of Byleth, she turned her affection towards the woman before her. “It’s so nice to see you, Edelgard.”

“You too,” Edelgard said with a nervous laugh that made Dimitri laugh, hugging Mercedes a little awkwardly back. “Um, thank you for inviting us.”

“Oh, it’s no problem. Come in and get warm. It’s the least I can do for you,” she said with the same level of room temperature warmth she always held. “Are these for the party?”

“Byleth brought them,” Dimitri said, handing over the case and chips. Mercedes looked at Byleth with a girlish blush in her cheeks that infuriated Edelgard.

“Ah, thank you -”

“Are we going in? I’m freezing.”

Mercedes chuckled as Byleth laughed shyly, and stood back to the side near to the ugly display of bloodied limbs.

“Of course. Please, this way.”

“Thank you,” Edelgard said, and chastised herself inside for being so rude out of the blue again.

Edelgard, Dimitri and Byleth all filed in, whilst Mercedes followed suit.

“No jacket today, Byleth?” Mercedes asked affectionately. Byleth chuckled.

“Ah, no. El’s got my other jacket and really, what kind of self-respecting vampire-demon-lady comes in plainclothes?”

Mercedes laughed girlishly.

“I’ve always loved those jackets on you.”

Inside, the music was as blaring and loud as Edelgard had expected, and Mercedes was just as popular as she had expected, too. People from high school that Edelgard and Byleth hadn’t seen in months were here; Caspar, the jock from their football team, had turned up dressed as a zombie, whilst another boy they knew, Lindhardt, had also done the same, and both were laughing at the differences in their outfits. Hubert, a solemn-looking boy had come dressed as Edgar Allen Poe, to which Byleth remarked, “Has he just come as himself?”

Edelgard chuckled as they held hands through the crowds stood inside the hallway of Mercedes’ house, and Dimitri closed the door behind him.

“Anybody want a drink?” Mercedes offered, holding the crate of beer in her arms. “I’d love one, personally. Thank you for bringing these, Byleth.”

“No problem. I’ll take a beer though, sure.”

“Don’t go getting as drunk as you did at my last party, okay?” Mercedes said with a laugh, and handed Byleth a can from the plastic wrap. “Here.”

Byleth took the beer in her hand as Mercedes placed them down on the food table, and for a third thing Edelgard was also expecting, a swarm of locusts in the form of morose small-town inhabitants each took a can from the pack, too.

“Wow, I’m glad I shelled out for those now.” Byleth said with a laugh, and leant back against the wall; placing an arm around Edelgard’s waist as they stood.

“Ah! Byleth, Edelgard!”

Turning to face their right-hand side were two individuals, both wearing something somehow more extravagant than they could have expected, which in itself prompted a laugh out of Byleth as she stood.

“Wow! Fancy seeing you guys here.”

“Right? Never thought she’d let us in, but even Mercedes can be bought off with alcohol, apparently.”

Stood before the two women and Dimitri were Catherine and Shamir, much to the surprise of Edelgard, and she watched as their demeanours spoke loudly of their typical attitudes.

Catherine had come dressed as a knight. A shoddily made outfit over a t-shirt and jeans, she’d at least put in some effort. Shamir, on the other hand, had come dressed up as an archer; a toy bow’s string hanging across her chest as it rest on her back, her face was the typical picture of gloominess it had always been. Catherine pat her on the back as Shamir grumbled.

“So? What alcohol did you give her?” Edelgard asked. Catherine laughed and elbowed Shamir in an affectionate nudge.

“Vodka. She’s a bad girl underneath it all, apparently. Who knew?”

Shamir’s cheeks got a little rosy, and Byleth seized the opportunity.

“Hey, maybe you should ask her to dance, Shamir.”

“She’s not interested in me,” she replied with a slightly unimpressed tone. “And mind your own business.”

“She was just offering a suggestion,” Edelgard quickly chipped in, before Byleth pulled her a little closer to her as they rest against the wall. “Ah…”

“Well, suit yourself. It’s her last few nights in town though, so you should probably get in there before she’s gone.”

Shamir frowned with a scowl.

“Tch…!”

“Anyway,” Catherine began brightly, “wanna come and check out the other decorations around the garden? They’re pretty neat.”

“Sure,” Byleth agreed. “Lead the way.”

“You coming, Shamir?”

“No.”

Catherine sighed.

“Why are you like this? Oh, whatever. Let’s get going.”

As Byleth, Edelgard, Catherine and Dimitri began to walk off towards the garden, Shamir opted to stay behind and sulkily cop one of Byleth’s beers from the table.

As far as parties went, this one was definitely booming. The hallway was decked out in the same, familiar gaudy purples and oranges that Edelgard had seen at the dollar store, and the music inside the living room was livening up the surroundings more than anything else. But just like Catherine had mentioned, even the back garden was full of decorations. More of the oddly gory limbs were strewn around, black plastic bags flapping in the gentle winds of Halloween, and the smells of tobacco and other substances could be smelled lingering in the air.

“Honestly,” Catherine began, as she took a seat on the cold metal of a patio bench outside, “I’m really surprised that she let us in. I know I said that before, but man. The look on her face when we showed up was thunderous. I thought she was gonna kick our asses for sure!”

“I’ve never really understood why she doesn’t get along with you guys,” Byleth said with a shrug, and took a sip of her beer as her and Edelgard sat down on the opposite bench. “But I guess everybody’s different.”

“Yeah, well…Leonie and Lysithea didn’t wanna come in the first place,” Catherine said, running a hand through her hair, and stretched out an arm against the top of the seat. “They’re probably at home fucking or something though, so I’m glad they kept that to themselves at least. Last thing I wanna do is go find them at another party doing that so we can just get kicked out. Again.”

Byleth laughed, and Edelgard sighed with an amused tone.

“Honestly, you’re so crass.”

“Sooo? How are the two lovebirds doing?”

Byleth and Edelgard exchanged a bashful look of girlish blushing, and Edelgard clasped her hands together as she sat.

“Very well, thank you.”

“Aww, good…” Catherine said, taking a large chug of her beer. “I’m glad you finally got it together.”

Byleth nodded warmly, before the re-appearance of two people in particular made themselves known to the girls sat at the benches.

“Ah, Byleth! Edelgard!”

Hearing a familiar voice, both Edelgard and Byleth found themselves looking up from their conversation with Catherine to the familiar faces of Hilda and Marianne; still stuck together like glue, they were all dressed up for the occasion.

“Oh!” Edelgard said in surprise. “Hello, you two.”

As the dull thud of the bassline carried outside, Hilda hurried Marianne onto the bench next to Catherine, and promptly placed herself down on her lap.

“Ah! H-Hilda…”

“C’mooon. Hold me already! I'm cold!”

Wrapping her arms bashfully around her girlfriend, Marianne’s grip was suddenly held firmly around her waist by Hilda, who smiled as energetically as usual towards the women before her. Catherine scoffed, and crunched her empty can of beer in her hand.

“Man, just when I got rid of Leonie and Lysithea for the night…I’m gonna go find Shamir.”

Byleth laughed, and Edelgard nodded.

“See you later, then.”

“See ya. Don’t get too drunk, you two.”

Disappearing into the crowds of the house, Hilda and Marianne shifted their weights around a little better to see the two sitting before them at the unlit barbeque area that Edelgard only just noticed was housing the patio benches.

“How’re you guys doing?” Hilda asked brightly, and Edelgard smiled politely.

“Fine, thank you.”

“Aww, you came as an angel! That’s cute.”

“Picked it out myself,” Byleth boasted, and Hilda laughed.

Hilda had come as a particularly revealing nurse from no hospital Edelgard would have recognised; and Marianne had come as what looked like a werewolf. A plaid shirt with rips on the shoulders and a pair of brown gloves, it was very much the understated version of what Edelgard had worked out. There seemed to be a constant blush on her pale features whenever Hilda was around, and that was something that Edelgard could at least relate to.

“How are you doing, Marianne?” She asked. “Enjoying the party?”

“Oh…” Marianne began, still not bringing her gaze up to meet with Edelgard’s own. “Y-Yes, thank you. Mercedes is always so kind…”

“It’s been so much fun!” Hilda added. “We danced for ages even before everyone got here, right?”

“Y-Yes, and it was embarrassing…!”

Edelgard laughed fondly. “Well, I’m glad you’ve been having fun.”

“Hey, did you hear?”

Byleth and Edelgard exchanged a look before looking at Hilda, who was now swinging off of Marianne’s neck.

“Hm?” Byleth asked.

“Apparently,” Hilda began, “Mercedes has someone she likes here tonight that she's gonna put the moves on. But she won’t tell us who!”

“Oh, really?” Edelgard said in surprise, and Byleth raised her eyebrows. “Any guesses?”

“No!” Hilda said with a pout. “I guess it means you’re out of the running now, Byleth!”

“Did literally everybody know about this crush but me?”

“Yes,” the three women said in unison, and Byleth sighed.

“Ah, man…”

“What makes you say that?” Edelgard said. “I’ve never known Mercedes to like anybody else, actually.”

“Weeeell…” Hilda began, and tapped her nose. “It’s just a hunch, but she’s been real happy the last couple of days. Ever since we all hung out together! I wonder if she met somebody after we left her house that day or something?”

“I-I don’t know,” Marianne said; and, as she brought her gaze up, Edelgard felt her breath hitch in her throat.

“Marianne, are you alright?”

The words tumbled out of her mouth before she could catch them, and Marianne gasped.

“Y…Yes, I’m fine! Why do you ask?”

“Your eyes,” Edelgard said with a horrified look on her face, and Hilda looked just as confused as Marianne. “They look bloodshot.”

“O-Oh…” Marianne said in embarrassment.

“Hey, that’s not nice to comment on her appearance like that!” Hilda frowned. Edelgard shook her head in protest.

“No, no…I meant that in a concerned way.”

“I-I’m fine,” Marianne said with a nod. “I’ve just not been getting a lot of sleep l-lately…”

A blush scorched her cheeks, and Hilda herself couldn’t help but get a little pinker in the cheeks, too. Byleth snorted.

“It’s pretty obvious what they’ve been doing, El…”

Edelgard stopped in her tracks, before she closed her eyes in exasperation. “Ah.”

“Hee hee!”

“Room for one more?” Dimitri asked, carrying a small shotglass of what looked like vodka inside of it.

“Sure,” Edelgard said with a shake of her head. “Join and watch me put my foot in it again.”

“I’m gonna go grab another beer,” Byleth said through a laugh, and stood up as Dimitri sat down. “Anyone else want anything?”

“I’m alright, thanks.” Dimitri replied. Hilda and Marianne shook their heads with a polite decline, and Edelgard held up her hand.

“No, I’m fine, thank you.”

“Suit yourselves!” Byleth said brightly, and Edelgard watched her girlfriend wander off into the crowd of people at the door; dodging and weaving through their exciteable motions.

As they sat, and Dimitri caught up with both Hilda and Marianne himself, Edelgard tilted her head back. Her halo hovered over her head with a taut spring of the headband as she looked up into the sky above, seeing all the stars that Garreg Mach offered every night without fail.

Maybe, she thought to herself, everything really is going to be okay now. I never thought I’d feel this way on Halloween, of all days…

Looking around herself, it really felt that way when she was amongst normalcy like this. The sight of her schoolmates amongst themselves, bobbing for apples and throwing darts at a picture of Frankenstein on the back door was something that she hadn’t really realised she’d needed. Just the company of other people was enough to make her feel at ease.

The conversation between the four of them flowed. Hilda and Marianne seemed particular eager to ease into the conversation once Edelgard rejoined it after a small moment to herself; talking to her and Dimitri about everything they could think of. And Edelgard found herself particularly engrossed in hearing Marianne retelling a story of a scary altercation she had in her household attic as a child, and then realising that it was just a large cross Mercedes’ mother had leant them for years, to which Dimitri tactfully replied was creepy.

With a chuckle as she sat amongst friends, the length of time Byleth had been away from her began to feel especially long.

“I wonder where Byleth’s gotten to…?” Edelgard said to herself, looking over in the direction of the well-lit entrance to the back door behind her. “I might go and see if she’s been caught by someone she didn’t like too much in school or something.”

“Oh, I’m sure she’ll be back in a minute! Stay!” Hilda protested.

Edelgard held up a hand, and shuffled upwards from her position on the bench.

“I’m sure you’ll be quite alright without my presence for a minute,” she said with a fond laugh, and Dimitri nodded.

“I’ll do my best to keep you company,” he offered, and Hilda laughed weakly.

“Well, if you insist...”

“I’ll be back in just a moment,” Edelgard said. “Try not to miss me too much.”

“I’m sure we won’t,” Dimitri replied, and Edelgard clipped him around the ear as a laugh passed from his lips.

Turning to walk back into the house, Edelgard’s eyes were scanning for the sight of dollar store devil horns atop a vampire's head. There were many interesting sights to behold, from alien antennas to cowboy hats, but no sign of horned headbands.

“Where is she?” Edelgard said as she waded through the crowds, before she caught sight of Shamir in the exact same place she was when they had walked off. “Shamir, have you seen Byleth?”

Shamir took a sip of her beer.

“I think she went upstairs,” she said with a bitter tone. Edelgard raised an eyebrow.

“Upstairs?”

“Yeah, she seemed a little drunk.”

Edelgard chuckled.

So that’s what happened…I bet she’s gone to the bathroom.

“Alright, thank you.”

Slipping past Shamir and the other party-goers sat on the stairs, Edelgard began to make her way up the soft carpet and to the large upper floor.

Mercedes’ house sure was a big one, and definitely big enough to house all these people and then some. There were two girls in the corner of the hallway making out, whilst there were other much more drunk patrons sitting against the walls. Walls that, presumably, held the doorways to the bedrooms and spare rooms.

“Bathroom, bathroom…” Edelgard said, scanning the doors. As she finally found it, she hurried over the extended legs spread out across the floor from the drunkards sitting against the wall, and with a dainty knock, she spoke. “Byleth? Are you in there?”

“Who the fuck is Byleth?” A voice slurred from behind the door. “Wait your turn!”

“Oh, sorry…” Edelgard said, taken aback. A burp came in response, followed by a surprisingly polite voice.

“Noooo problem.”

Edelgard frowned. Then where did she go…?

Wandering along the hallway, even in a house this big with several different hallways upstairs alone, there were only so many places she could have gone. Edelgard checked a couple of her rooms on the way along them; inside one was an in-depth conversation with some of the shyer schoolmates playing solitare and laughing with Sprites in their hands, and the other held nothing in particular besides other people chatting.

But, as the last door closed, Edelgard noticed one more door down the hallway that she hadn’t tried.

“Well, if you’re upstairs, you must be in here…” she mumbled to herself, and walked towards the doorway that surprisingly didn’t have anybody sat next to or around it.

“Oh, you might wanna wait to go in there.”

Edelgard turned around to see the face of a boy she knew vaguely called Felix passing her by. He seemed as stoic as ever. 

“Why?”

“Mercedes is in there with a girl.”

Edelgard felt her blood run cold as Felix walked away down the stairs, and, checking for anyone else around that could potentially stop her, she pressed her ear to the bedroom door and closed her eyes; the thudding of the music downstairs and the chatter of the people around fading into the background as she concentrated.

“…me? I’m serious. I’ll forget everything you just said and walk out of this room, and nothing will change between us if you just stop this nonsense now. Okay?”

Byleth…?

“Byleth, please…” Mercedes said, and Edelgard felt her veins hot with an angry fire in them. “Please, just listen, okay? I know I should have told you earlier about how I feel, but…will you at least consider it? Edelgard doesn’t have to know. I’ll never tell her, I just…”

“Wait, wait. Stop right there,” Byleth said, and this was one of the first times Edelgard had ever heard her angry. “You know that’s a really shitty thing to say, right? What the hell has gotten into you?”

“Byleth, I just -”

“Man…you really aren’t the girl I thought you were, Mercie.”

“Do you know how much I’ve wanted you? How much longer I’ve needed you than her?” Mercedes quickly interjected, and Edelgard was surprised at hearing how pleading her voice was. It almost sounded a little unhinged with its desperation, and from the way that she was talking, it definitely sounded like she had a grip on Byleth in some way. "All the times I watched you, Byleth, and you never really even looked at me once...don't I deserve something before it all changes?!"

“Mercedes -”

“Please, just touch me, just once! Come on, I’m desperate for you, you know? I’ve always wanted you, and -”

“Get off me! I’m leaving. I can’t believe you tricked me into thinking you just wanted to smooth things over!”

“No, don’t leave! Byleth!”

As the door opened, Edelgard was perfectly prepared for the sight of exactly what she was expecting.

Byleth, however, was not.

“E…Edelgard!” She said in utter disbelief, and Edelgard’s eyes were full of fury.

But the fury wasn’t directed towards Byleth. Instead, Mercedes, sat on the edge of the bed that lived inside this room, was looking down at her legs; and Byleth placed her hands on Edelgard’s shoulders.

“El, don’t…”

“So?” Edelgard said, wriggling out of her lover’s grip gently, and Byleth could both feel and see that Edelgard was utterly furious.

“It’s not polite to eavesdrop,” Mercedes replied plainly over the boom of the loud music downstairs. Edelgard scoffed.

“It’s also not polite to try and ruin someone else’s relationship because you’re feeling regretful and horny, but you don’t hear me complaining.”

Mercedes scoffed as she looked up from her thighs, and her own gaze met with Edelgard’s own in an exact match of fury.

“Fuck off, Edelgard.”

Seeing Mercedes angry and actually hearing her cursing only served to make Edelgard even angrier. It was like a fire being stoked with gasoline.

Edelgard took off the headband she was wearing to hand to Byleth.

“Hold this for me.”

“Edelgard!”

Marching over to the bed, Edelgard’s hand moved before she could register; and, like a twig snapping, a sudden, loud whack of her palm against Mercedes’ cheek seemed to echo throughout the noisy house.

Byleth closed her eyes as the stillness that followed real violence settled into the air, and Mercedes didn’t move her head away from the direction it had just been slapped in.

Fuck you, Mercedes.” Edelgard spat back angrily, and tried her best to keep her trembling voice from elevating into a loud shout. “How dare you speak to me like that. And the nerve to say something like that after this desperate, farcical attempt to sleep with my girlfriend…”

Mercedes remained wordless and stared down at the floor. Byleth looked on in horror.

“Byleth,” Edelgard said, icily. “We’re leaving this crappy party now.”

“But -”

Now.”

Edelgard’s voice was as cold as her glare, and Byleth knew not to try and protest, or to try and make things right between her and Mercedes in this moment - if that could even be achieved now.

When it came to the duration of the friendship, even before their relationship, Edelgard had never told Byleth what to do, nor did she ever expect anything of her; but when it came to something like this, when it came to something where the tensions had bubbled over because of the behaviour of another, Edelgard couldn’t even stand to be in the same house as Mercedes in the end.

Taking Byleth by the hand, Edelgard and her began to walk down the stairs. Shamir and Edelgard’s eyes met for a split second, and even Shamir herself looked slightly frightened by the glare she received.

Edelgard tore open the front door with a loud bang, not really caring whether it had done any property damage or not, and pulled Byleth out with her.

“El, just wait, would you?!”

“What for? So I can hear Mercedes try her best to fuck you again?!”

“No!” Byleth said, and pulled her hand out of Edelgard’s tight grip. “Just hold on, just a moment!”

“I’m not angry with you, you know!”

“I know you aren’t,” Byleth said, holding out her hands. “But you need to calm down a second!”

“Calm down?” Edelgard repeated incredulously as they stomped onto the sidewalk. “Are you telling me if someone said that to me and you overheard, you wouldn’t be doing this, too?”

“I would have probably done worse, actually,” Byleth said with a nervous laugh, and Edelgard felt her temper cooling from the cold wind and warm words. “But…please. For me. Just calm down, just for a second.”

Edelgard paused, and closed her eyes; taking in a deep breath and exhaling, she found her brow sticky with the sweat of anxiety and fury as she stood in the crisp night air.

The booming sound of the music back inside was coagulating into a mixture with the laughter and shouting of rowdy adults, and Edelgard found her temple throb with irritation as she began to calm down.

“…I won’t apologise to her.”

“I know.”

“I can't believe it…” Edelgard seethed. “I thought it was fishy when you didn’t come back, but to think she was trying that with you…!”

“But nothing happened! You heard that, right?”

Edelgard nodded, and her lavender eyes met with Byleth’s concerned ones.

“Even if I hadn’t directly heard you, Byleth, I know you would never do that.”

The smudged red of what was supposed to be blood still remained on Byleth’s lower lip as she breathed a sigh of relief, and her horns were slightly lopsided from the quick thundering down the stairs Edelgard had made her do. The headband Edelgard had given her was still in her hands, equally as lopsided as the horns; and Edelgard shook her head as she took it from her.

“I know you already know, but…I did hear what you said,” she said, placing the headband back on her head. “And…I’m very, very glad.”

Byleth smiled in relief, and pulled Edelgard into her arms; an action which prompted Edelgard to wrap her own arms around Byleth in a tight, loving squeeze.

“You’re always the only one for me,” Byleth whispered, and Edelgard nodded into the crook of her neck.

“You’ve always been the only one for me, too. Which is exactly why that made me so furious…” she said, and leant back in their embrace with a shake of her head. “To think she was prepared to just…house that as a secret between the two of you forever…!”

Edelgard clenched her jaw in anger, and Byleth shook her head.

“…It doesn’t matter now, El.” She said firmly, and Edelgard looked up to her lover with eyes full of adoration. “Let’s just go back to mine.”

“To your place?” Edelgard asked. Byleth grinned.

“Don’t you remember?” she said with a smirk. “You said to me on the phone you were planning to stay at mine tonight, right?”

“Byleth.”

As Edelgard stood, averting her gaze from Byleth for a moment inside her embrace, Byleth’s eyes frantically searched her girlfriend for any indication of how she was feeling in this very moment.

“Yeah?”

“I want you to fuck me.”

Chapter Text

After an overwhelming, sexually tense journey home in the back of a cab, both Edelgard and Byleth found both their heads spinning, and the difficulty of keeping their hands very firmly to themselves becoming more and more of a reality. 

I want you to fuck me.

The sentence was echoing through Byleth’s mind, and Edelgard couldn’t help but blush at noticing how much she was fidgeting and crossing her legs next to her. A small part of her was embarrassed; the majority part of her was insanely horny, and that was something that no amount of slapping Mercedes in the face could quell.

“Should I pay?” Byleth had asked to Edelgard without looking at her, and Edelgard felt her face scorching as she replied.

“No," Edelgard replied with a red face. "I’ll pay.”

“Alright.”

Thinking back on the party’s individual events could wait. Thinking back on the look on Mercedes’ face as well as the brazen, outrageous actions of someone Edelgard had spent a considerable amount of time with trying to move in on her girlfriend could wait. All of life's mysteries and discomforts could wait until after Edelgard had solidified the eternal, strong bond between her and Byleth with giving her both her body and her lips; even moreso than usual, this time.

Eventually, the car arrived at it's destination, and the two of them started scrambling out of the cab with a thrust of money to the driver’s face; who was gone as soon as the girls had paid up. And now, standing in the midst of the cold, Halloween night air, both Edelgard and Byleth found themselves listening to the ambient noises around them.

The joyous children, the scolding of mothers around them, the chatter, the winds, the soft tunes of music from various other parties or get-togethers stationed around Garreg Mach in the far off distance; Edelgard felt every nerve in her body electrified, on edge and anticipating as she continued standing out in front of Byleth’s store in the state she was in. As she turned to face Byleth’s handsome, lipstick-smudged face, she could see that her loved one felt the exact same.

They didn’t need to say any words to understand how the other felt when their eyes said it all for them. I want you. Every movement, every single glance, every breath; it all just added up to the exact same result.

I want you. I’ve always wanted you. I need you.

“Come on,” Byleth said with a tone that made Edelgard want to melt into the sidewalk. “Let’s get inside.”

Edelgard nodded quietly, her cheeks flushed red with a mixture of excitement and nervousness, and listened as Byleth’s shaky hands slipped the key inside the lock of her store.

Entering, the two of them were undeterred by the darkness around them. Edelgard’s body moved on autopilot, even through the thick, opaque blackness of the interior before her; moving in an automatic motion towards where she knew the stairs to be, and quivered with anticipation at following after a new side of Byleth that she was  about to know very intimately.

Her footsteps were soft against the carpeted stairs, and so were Byleth’s. Nobody else was here, though really, neither had expected there to be, either. It was just the two of them in this quiet little slice of the world, all to themselves, and soon to be wrapped up even further in each other.

Byleth flicked on the light of the landing that led up to her bedroom, and took Edelgard softly by the hand. Edelgard held back the gasp under her breath as they moved.

Pushing open the bedroom door, Byleth stopped; and Edelgard couldn’t wait another second.

Wrapping her arms tightly around the woman she adored, Edelgard finally gave in after all this time; and pressed her lips hungrily to Byleth's own. 

Her hands slipped up into Byleth’s hair, and Byleth felt herself losing her mind as she felt this unrestrained, natural side to Edelgard that she’d never seen before. She'd fantasised about it, sure; hadn't they both? But now, all of the pining, all of the love, the angst, the adoration, the carefully woven together tapestry of the red string that made up their lives was finally, finally reaching the point it was supposed to. The intimate, careful touches that came with first love; the realisation that loving each other was something deep, something terrifying, and something so beautiful that it could never truly be put into words all at once.

“Mm…”

Edelgard felt Byleth pulling her against her body, and wrapped her arms around her hips. As their lips kissed, they shifted from varying intensities; hot and heavy to soft, gentle pecks on the lips; and they began to feel themselves moving subconsciously towards the bed. Edelgard’s eyes were closed, but the sensations of Byleth were painting the most vivid, ornate visions she’d ever experience. The smell of her, the taste of her; the intimacy was driving her wild.

Byleth hadn’t bothered to switch the light of her bedroom on, but for Edelgard, that was fine. She could still feel her body, and better yet, see her bathed in the glow of the moonlight from outside that shimmered in through Byleth’s open curtains, permeating through the netting that held away the rest of the world. The silhouette of Byleth was beautiful, so much more beautiful than Edelgard could have ever expected, and Edelgard almost felt like crying with joy at seeing the light in her lover’s movements.

Edelgard’s fingertips felt a little nervous as they kissed, and she began to fumble with Byleth’s buttons as they stood. Needily pawing at Byleth’s collarbone, Edelgard’s body jolted forwards at feeling the unintentional graze of Byleth’s tongue against her bottom lip, along with the way her girlfriend's hands instinctively held her even closer than before.

Her fingertips couldn’t get a firm grip on the buttons to undo them, but eventually, after feeling the heady, dizzy rush, she managed to successfully undo one button.

“Edelgard,” Byleth breathed huskily as they fell back against the bed together in a soft thud. “I’ve wanted this for so long…”

“You have no idea how much I’ve thought about this, do you?” Edelgard whispered back in a hasty reply, stroking Byleth’s hot cheek with her thumb, and pulled her back into a kiss that she didn’t want to stop.

Edelgard now felt her legs aching to wrap around Byleth’s hips as they lay down on the soft mattress. Shifting their direction from laying horizontally with an uncomfortable dangle of their legs over the side, to now actually laying down, vertically, properly beneath the sheets, and pressed up against one another.

“Have you ever done this before?” Byleth asked in a moment of lustful bluntness, stroking Edelgard’s hair behind her ear as the majority of it remained splayed out on the pillow beneath.

Edelgard blushed harder than she ever had in her life.

“…No,” she eventually confessed. “Have you?”

“No, actually…” Byleth admitted with a nervous laugh, and even in the moonlight, Edelgard could see that she was just as red in the face as she was. “I guess we’ll just have to go through it together, hm?”

“That’s more than fine with me…” Edelgard said with a dizzy smile; and, comfortable in the knowledge that Byleth was well and truly hers, the intensity of lust returned in full force.

Her fingertips felt more confident now. With deft, quick motions, Edelgard undid the rest of the buttons on Byleth’s blouse, and slipped it off of her body to reveal her in little more than a black bra and the silver necklace she wore; now hanging down against Edelgard’s collarbone. Byleth slipped off the straps of Edelgard’s white, silk-like dress, and Edelgard shifted it down off of her body. It somehow felt so…embarrassing to be laying here like this, in little more than her underwear beneath the woman she loved so much, but her desire entirely outweighed any sense of shame. It always did. 

“You’re so beautiful,” Byleth said in a low hum of a whisper, and kissed at Edelgard’s neck gently.

“A-Ah…”

Byleth’s lips. God, she was a good kisser.

Shifting a little more beneath the sheets to get away from the cold, Edelgard thought about how easy it was to maintain their own intense heat. Byleth’s lips dragged themselves up and down the soft, perfumed skin of Edelgard’s neck, and her hands held against her hips; squeezing them as she kissed. Edelgard’s thighs tightened themselves around Byleth’s waist.

“Byleth…” Edelgard moaned, and Byleth felt her entire body experience a shock of being incredibly turned on at the sound. “I…mm-!”

Her lips covered Edelgard’s own quickly again, and Edelgard felt her mind loosening at the seams.

Her hands slipped up into Byleth’s hair, messily bunching up in the back as Byleth’s body pressed down hard between her legs; prompting Edelgard to reach down her fingertips to graze the cold metal of her lover’s belt’s buckle that was now pressing against her stomach. It was time to undo the one thing that was keeping Byleth from being fully revealed to her.

“Fuck, El…” Byleth whispered, propping herself up with a droop of her hair over Edelgard’s shoulder as she felt her belt being taken off. “I’m seriously going to go crazy.”

“You’re not the only one.”

“…Ugh…”

Kicking off her pants from under the sheets, Edelgard finally experienced another part of Byleth that she hadn’t before. Her legs.

Byleth’s bare legs. Edelgard had seen them once or twice, in between sleepovers growing up and maybe in the girl’s locker room when they got changed at school; but she’d never felt them against her like this. The feminine, soft smoothness of her skin; the ways that they felt like an entirely new experience all on their own. Her hands stroked along the skin of Byleth’s upper back, running their fingertips over her shoulder blades as she hung her head down to kiss Edelgard more, and Edelgard ran the backs of her calves against Byleth’s own as much as she could manage.

Byleth was beginning to get more and more turned on, and from that, Edelgard felt the knock-on effect. Her tongue wasn’t just subtly or accidentally grazing Edelgard’s bottom lip anymore; Edelgard was beginning to taste the tip of it with her own tongue. Their lips kissed hungrily, needily and excitedly at one another’s with the intense heat of first-time lust, and Edelgard felt her fingertips dancing towards the rough, lace-lined material of Byleth’s bra clasps.

“Fuck…” She breathed, as Byleth’s lips moved from her own lips towards her neck; and Edelgard couldn’t resist undoing the small metal indents that rest against her fingers any longer.

As Byleth slipped off her bra, Edelgard felt her head spin in an entirely different direction with how horny she was becoming. Byleth sat up slightly, pulling it off of her arms, and for the first time, Edelgard saw her breasts.

Her hands reached up to grope at them, kissing at the skin with soft but hungry kisses, just like the ones that had been planted on Byleth’s now red lips. Edelgard didn’t really dare to move her lips any further down than on the upper skin of her breasts, and Byleth pushed her gently back down against the pillow.

“Come here…”

Edelgard felt Byleth’s bare chest press against her own as Byleth leant down, undoing the stronger clasps of Edelgard’s bra from behind; and, pulling it off, Edelgard watched as Byleth experienced exactly the same sensations she just had from finally laying her eyes on Edelgard’s chest.

“…Honestly…” Edelgard bashfully said at the sight of Byleth’s surprised, enamoured expression, and tried to resist the urge to cover them with her arms.

“You’re so beautiful.”

As Byleth sat bathed in the blue light of the night-time, hovering above Edelgard as exposed as she was, Edelgard couldn’t help but find a newfound beauty in the vulnerability of someone that she loved showing her everything they had to give in such a profoundly forwards way; even if Byleth didn’t realize it. Edelgard’s fingertips stroked against her lover’s bare midriff, and moved her hands up to pull Byleth back down against her.

“…Kiss me,” Edelgard whispered. “Just…kiss me. Touch me.”

“Edelgard…” Byleth said with a warm, honeyed whisper. “Always.”

Instead of being the fumbling, hot mess both Byleth and Edelgard had envisioned their first time to be, this time was turning out to be just as incredible as they had hoped. With Byleth’s lips against hers, Edelgard’s own tingled with the sting of love, and both women felt as though they were reaching a boiling point.

Byleth’s fingertips kept getting a little lower and lower with every kiss. First against Edelgard’s ribs, then her hips, and now they rest just against her upper thighs. Edelgard shifted in desperation, before pulling Byleth’s face down into the pillow a little, resting against her shoulder as she whispered;

“I want you to fuck me,” Edelgard blushed. “Remember?”

“…!”

Edelgard felt Byleth’s back stiffen; and as her hands rest against Edelgard’s thighs, Byleth chuckled throatily against Edelgard’s ear.

“You do, huh?”

“I do.”

“Then allow me.”

Surprised and attracted by her confident response, Edelgard felt a renewed sensation of excitement as Byleth’s fingertips hooked into the sides of her underwear; and, with a quick motion, pulled them down. Edelgard soon realized that she wasn't wanting to bask in any more sensations of embarrassment than she had to, and so, quickly grabbed Byleth’s wrist; and steered it towards in between her legs even faster than she was planning to.

Byleth could take a hint, even if she was embroiled entirely in the sloppy, intense kissing between her and her girlfriend.

“I’ll be gentle, okay?”

“Please don’t be,” Edelgard pleaded with a nervous, hasty laugh. “Just…do what you want.”

Byleth made a noise of wanting to spontaneously combust, and as her tongue slipped into Edelgard’s mouth, her fingers slipped against the wetness of Edelgard’s clit for the first time.

Edelgard felt, from this alone, as though she was going to hit her peak far too early for this to be over. The sensation of Byleth’s fingertips fumbling around in circles against her clit for the first time ever was driving her insane. The languid strokes against the small, sensitive place in between her legs were making her body twitch, and Byleth’s breathing was getting a little more ragged with every moan and gasp that came from Edelgard’s lips.

“Byleth…please-!”

Grappling with Byleth’s wrist, Edelgard shoved Byleth’s hand even harder between her legs, who gasped wordlessly in reply. Without a second longer, Edelgard let out a small yelp of pleasure as Byleth’s fingers slipped inside of her with ease.

Two slender fingers, coated in Edelgard’s wetness, slipped harder inside of her. In and out in a set of fluid motions, Edelgard felt as though she was already fit to explode. Byleth’s back became a little hotter, a little stickier as she moved around more, grunting quietly and panting against Edelgard’s lips as she fucked her, but even then, it was so much more than that; it was making love and fucking all rolled up into one intensely passionate action.

“El...!” Byleth struggled, and Edelgard clung to Byleth’s back as her fingers continued to move in and out. The gentleness Byleth had suggested was gone, and Edelgard was relieved. She didn’t want it to be gentle, even if it was her first time; she wanted Byleth, and she wanted her now. She'd done gentle enough on her own. 

Byleth and Edelgard’s bodies were stuck to each other. Their skin moved against each other beneath the sheets, and the tell-tale signs of Byleth’s desperation to make Edelgard feel good rest in her upper arm muscles burning as she thrust her fingers in and out of her lover. Edelgard felt it all, excitedly and intensely clinging to her lover. Her lower abdomen began to tense up with the hot pressure of Byleth’s body against hers, and her arms began to get stiffer as she pulled Byleth’s body down against her.

“B…Byleth!” Edelgard gasped in pleasure, and Byleth’s already needy fucking only grew. Her legs tensed as Byleth gasped out a phrase in her ear.

“Come on, princess.”

Ah--!”

With one more push of Byleth’s fingers and her favourite pet name ringing in her ears, Edelgard let out a cry of euphoric delight.

“Aah!”

“Fuck…!” Byleth breathed in response, muffled by the pillow; and Edelgard felt her legs twitching as Byleth slipped her fingers out. “Oh, fuck…”

Edelgard came. Harder than she’d been expecting. Much harder; and as Byleth slumped down against her body, her heart thudded in her chest so hard that Edelgard could feel it thrumming against her skin as she lay, slumped over in an exhausted, horny mess.

“…Byleth…” Edelgard whispered, dizzily trying to brush the stars away from her head as she shuffled slightly upright, and quickly found that she couldn’t. “Ugh, I…wow…”

Breathless, Byleth chuckled against her lover’s body beneath the sheets, and Edelgard felt her head spin.

“You liked it, then?” Byleth asked, and Edelgard laughed.

“Are you serious?”

Byleth couldn’t help but laugh and look away, and lay with her arms around Edelgard’s midriff as she rest her head on her thigh over the sheets.

“Holy shit…” Byleth exclaimed. Edelgard grinned with a lazy satisfaction on her lips, and pushed Byleth over onto her back with a severe lack of strength.

“…Allow me.”

“Oh?”

Draping herself over her lover’s body, Edelgard felt much more confident and comfortable in the atmosphere that she and Byleth had created. This didn’t feel like their first time at all; if anything, it felt more like this was just the way things had always been. The sheer excitement and rampant desire was still lingering in the air, though; there was an electric need to be pressed up to each other and lost in the moment.

Now, Edelgard wanted to show Byleth just how much she’d been wanting to experience touching her, too.

If Edelgard had been even more confident, she would have added a little teasing quip to Byleth’s curiosity; but for now, she opted to kiss Byleth on the lips…before slipping down to touch just how wet Byleth was, too.

“Ah-!” Byleth suddenly gasped. “El…!”

Pulling Byleth into a lazy, half-lidded kiss, Edelgard felt the slow, languid motions of their tongues against each other driving her crazy all over again. The flush of heat that overtook her in the moments of intensity when she was getting off on her own reared their head again, renewing themselves as being a part of her and Byleth having sex from now on, and Edelgard couldn’t help but gasp between the kisses as her fingertips were soaked.

“Do you want me to fuck you?” Edelgard asked with a breathy whisper. Byleth chuckled.

“Just…touch me.”

“Would you prefer that?”

“I’m bigger on me being the one that does the fucking…” Byleth said with a wry smile and a blush on her cheeks. “But…I, um…”

Edelgard grinned, and Byleth felt herself pull her lover closer to her as she felt her breath tickle her lips.

“You want me to touch you as much as I want…right?”

Byleth nodded.

“…I always need you, El,” she confessed, “in every single way.”

Edelgard touched in between Byleth’s legs with a smug smile on her lips, and Byleth felt completely resigned to the action as she lay beneath her. Edelgard buried her face against Byleth’s breasts as she did so, kissing lightly at the skin’s delicate surface before lazily dragging herself back up to her lips, and allowed her fingertips, wet and surprisingly experienced at touching exactly where she needed to, to touch against her lover's clit.

“Ah…!”

It was a real turn on, thought Edelgard, to see Byleth like this. So delicate, so willing to be submissive; so completely desperate for her touch, just like she was in turn. Dipping slowly inside Byleth’s slit and back out for more of her desperation, Edelgard felt her body shiver in delight as Byleth writhed and moaned under her touched, and felt enamoured even further by her lover at feeling just how horny she must have been for her to be this soaking.

Edelgard’s fingertips moved in tandem with one another. Drawing long, well-met circles around Byleth’s clit, Byleth writhed and clung to Edelgard’s back, pleading for her to do it harder, then softer, and then opting to just bite down on her hand whilst Edelgard touched her.

“Do you like it?” Edelgard asked into the quiet stillness of the night. Byleth nodded hastily.

“Yes, yes…God, yes…”

Edelgard placed her lips over Byleth’s own, and began to touch her a little more vigorously at the sound of those words; and, just as she had before with Byleth’s fingers inside of her, Edelgard watched her lover see the same stars Edelgard had in front of her own eyes.

“F…Fuck!”

Byleth’s body shook, and felt all of the tremors of delight and the trembles of the aftershocks following an orgasm as Edelgard’s body rest against her.

“…Byleth…” she breathed into the calmness of the night, and took a deep breath into her lungs.

As Edelgard slipped her wet fingertips away from in between Byleth’s legs, the two of them found themselves in their own private afterglow. All wrapped up in between the sheets of the bed and the blanket of darkness, both of them had experienced something both entirely new and not new at all. Tonight, Byleth had came, and so had Edelgard, but instead of feeling a painful longing, they were able to experience the sensation of being pressed against each other. Laying in the nakedness of intimacy had become a comfort that Edelgard didn’t want to let go of already. 

“Edelgard…” Byleth began, holding her lover close in the moonlight.

“Yes?”

“I love you.”

Edelgard’s eyes pinged open for just a moment with heavy eyelids, and sat up with a draping of her blonde hair against Byleth’s chest.

“What?” She asked, reflexively. 

“I love you,” Byleth repeated with a smile that could have illuminated the room in itself, and Edelgard felt the edges of her eyes stinging with happiness. “I love you more than anything.”

“Byleth…!”

How long have I waited to hear those words?

Edelgard felt her head spin with an indescribable sense of completeness; and, resting her head softly against her lover’s breast, Byleth heard exactly what both women wanted in return.

“I love you, too…” Edelgard confessed, and saying those words felt like getting the world’s greatest confession off of her chest. “I love you, Byleth. I love you with every inch of my heart.”

Somehow, even that felt like an understatement.

But regardless of whether it felt understated or overdue, both women knew this was a perfect moment. Perfect touches, perfect kisses, perfect moonlight. All of the unsettling edge of the days before melted away, just as they always did when Edelgard was in Byleth’s presence. All of the worry, the anxiety, the mystery of the outside world suddenly didn’t matter any longer.

Byleth loves me, Edelgard thought. She really loves me. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to show her the depths of just how much I adore her.

And, as the two women lay in a comfortable, perfectly unbreakable silence, Edelgard felt the softness of her cheek sticking to Byleth’s skin gently; and with a pair of thoroughly enamoured women with equal pairs of heavy eyelids, it took no time at all until the both of them drifted off into a dreamless sleep with ease; the phrase I love you burned into both their memories and their hearts.

-

The morning after the night before had finally arrived, and Edelgard found herself waking up in the arms of Byleth all over again; this time, with an entirely new experience both literally and figuratively underneath her belt.

“Mm…” She said with a groan, and found her tired eyes waking up to the larger version of the familiar stream of sunlight she had become accustomed to inside Byleth’s bedroom.

The curtains still hadn’t been fully closed after the immediate intimacy after last night, as both she and Byleth had become entirely exhausted after the fact. The slightly off-white of the window’s netting softened the already mild calmness of the morning sunlight, and Edelgard watched as it shimmered inside Byleth’s room even more than usual.

“How beautiful,” Edelgard said softly to herself as she looked out over the cold November morning of Garreg Mach, and for once in her life, she appreciated the security of stillness.

Byleth’s breath was quiet, but Edelgard felt as though it only served to magnify the memories from the night before. She still felt the warmth of her cheeks leaving her body now that her head was cooled from the fiery lust of hours passed. As Byleth drowsily napped next to her, Edelgard couldn’t believe that she’d finally done it.

She’d actually slept with Byleth. And on top of that, she’d finally said it. The three word phrase she’d wanted to say for years.

I love you.

I love you, Byleth.

The words had rung true; and there had been no better time to say them, what with how the night before had played out.

And what a night it was, she thought with a coy amusement. What a day, even. 

Edelgard, had she not been so entirely exhausted from her first time actually getting to make love with her girlfriend, would have very much allowed the sour taste of disbelief and vindication fill her tastebuds for the next week solid.

Mercedes…

She knew Mercedes had liked Byleth, but to do that? At her own party? It would have been one thing had Mercedes not known; but there was no way she didn’t know that Edelgard and Byleth were dating. Edelgard distinctly remembered her saying so.

Well, I should hope you’d be feeling good, after you and Edelgard finally got together, she remembered Mercedes saying. Right?

Edelgard grit her teeth. They’d spent all that time together, seemed to have come to an understanding regarding the girl they both liked; and for what?

“Ugh,” she grumbled in disgust.

“What’re you doing?”

“Ah!”

Surprised at the sound of her lover’s voice in the clear dawn, Edelgard looked up at the sleepy face of Byleth as they lay against the pillow; naked and intertwined beneath the bedsheets.

“Oh, sorry…” Edelgard smiled bashfully. “Did I wake you?”

“No, you didn’t…don’t worry,” Byleth said with a small yawn, and Edelgard nestled in closer just as Byleth pulled her closer in turn. “I was kind of awake for a little while anyway, just…taking it all in, I guess.”

“Taking it all in?”

“You know…everything that happened.”

Edelgard felt her heart flutter at the sight of Byleth’s smile all over again.

“…Me too…” Edelgard confessed, “I can’t believe we…actually went ahead and did it.”

“I know…” Byleth said with a far away look on her face. “I can’t believe it. We actually dressed up together.”

“Oh, Byleth!”

Byleth laughed with a cough of her sleepy throat, and Edelgard pat her collarbone playfully as they lay nestled in the sheets.

“Sorry, sorry. I couldn’t resist teasing you a little.”

“You really never change, do you?”

Byleth chuckled, and stroked Edelgard’s blonde hair as they lay together.

“No, in all seriousness, it was…” she began with an embarrassed smile on her face. “It was...perfect. At least, I think so.”

“I agree,” Edelgard replied with a furious blush, and wrapped her arms tightly around Byleth’s waist as she lay. “I couldn’t have asked for better, really.”

“You promise?”

“Of course. Why would I lie about that?”

“Fair point,” Byleth laughed, and pulled Edelgard closer to her. “So…want a repeat performance?”

Edelgard raised an eyebrow as Byleth began to shift a little on top of her, and couldn’t help but laugh as she felt Byleth’s lips against her neck.

“Ah…got a taste for it now, have you?”

“Of course. Did you really expect anything different?”

As Edelgard chuckled, bringing the heat and the adoration up with her, both herself and Byleth were distracted by the sound of the phone ringing.

“Ignore it,” Byleth demanded with a shake of her head, and Edelgard was only too happy to oblige.

As Byleth’s lips met with Edelgard’s own once again, Edelgard found her bare legs tightening a little around her lover’s hips as they lay. Byleth made a noise that suggested she was entirely enjoying the moment far too much, allowing her fingertips to slip into the platinum blonde of Edelgard’s hair as they kissed; before the phone hung up, and then began ringing again.

“Ugh! Who the hell is calling this early anyway?!” 

“Oh, stop that…” Edelgard said breathlessly with a smile, and leant over to pick up the phone from Byleth’s bedside table. Byleth grumbled as she hovered over her girlfriend, taking the phone from her with a disgruntled click of her tongue, and placed it to her ear.

“Hello?”

“Byleth, is El with you?”

Byleth blinked, and Edelgard noticed the look of grumpiness on her girlfriend’s face fade into confusion.

“Dimitri…?”

“Is she there with you or not?”

“Yes, she’s here…” Byleth asked with a tone to match her expression. Edelgard raised an eyebrow. “Uh…you wanna talk to her?”

“Thank God…” He breathed. “Turn on the news. I think she was onto something before any of us were.”

Chapter Text

“What do you mean?”

“Just turn on the news,” Dimitri repeated with an increased sense of urgency, and Byleth couldn’t help but notice a slight tremble to his voice. “Both of you…call me whenever you’ve done what you have to do today. We need to talk.”

“But -”

Dimitri hung up. Byleth looked at the receiver in disbelief.

“What the hell…?”

Edelgard looked at Byleth with a concerned expression, and Byleth placed the phone back down on the table next to her bed.

“What’s going on, Byleth?”

“I don’t know,” Byleth said, grabbing a shirt that she’d left some other day strewn idly on her chest of drawers in a heap, and pulled it over her head. “Dimitri wants us to turn on the news?”

Edelgard looked at her with an incredibly puzzled expression, and as Byleth put her underwear back on, Edelgard pulled the sheet around her in a warm cocoon.

“The news…?”

“Apparently…” Byleth said with an equally growing concern. “Hold on, I have to find the remote.”

Edelgard picked up her underwear off of the floor quickly, shuffling them on in swift motions; and as she was clasping her bra back on properly, Byleth threw her an oversized hooded top.

“Here, put this on. You’ll be freezing.”

Edelgard smiled.

“…Thank you.”

Byleth’s warm smile returned too, even in the midst of her confusion, and soon, a declaration of victory followed.

“Aha! Here it is,” Byleth said, walking over to the television. “Let’s see what’s going on then, I guess?”

Edelgard paused, wrapping the warm, cozy hooded sweatshirt around her as she stood up next to Byleth, and what greeted their eyes on the small television screen before them was nothing that either woman was expecting.

“You’re watching GM Today. I’m Seteth Seiros. Thank you for tuning in.”

A stern, no-nonsense looking man stood before the camera with a grave expression on his face. Dressed in a snappy-looking suit and wearing his hair smartly tied back into a ponytail, he stood before a location Edelgard knew so well now.

The lake. Lake Teutates; and behind him was a sight that chilled Edelgard to the bone.

On the television screen, she could see that yellow tape decorated the trees like ribbons. Police uniforms were scurrying around like ants near the lake’s surface, and wading further still into the woodlands next to it. Behind the newcaster was something surrounded by a large, white canvassing tent, and Edelgard was positive she didn’t want to know even remotely what that housed.

“This morning at around seven o’clock, two fishermen by Lake Teutates came across a horrifying discovery. They had been fishing in the early hours of the morning; and during that time, an unknown suspect had spent the time they had by building an odd, wooden contraption to hang a currently unidentified body off of its beams.”

Silently, and for the first time in all of the madness, Edelgard could feel both her and Byleth’s faces draining of their blood. The man on the television screen continued.

“Not entirely unlike a crucifix, though much more dishevelled, the fishermen were both horrified to find it. The body in question is so violently disfigured that currently, no identity has been able to be made. Whether the disfigurement is from injury or simply from decaying away with time, we haven’t been told. The body doesn’t appear to be a recent death though; which only makes this mystery all the more chilling.

The police are currently canvassing the area, and so far, have made no further developments. The real question appears to be one that is on everyone’s mind – why here, in this small town? Why did this happen?

And perhaps the most frightening one of all…will it happen again?”

“Oh, my God…” Edelgard said with a queasy feeling in her stomach. “What the hell is this?”

Byleth, stood at her side and at a complete loss for words, could only watch on as the news continued.

“As if this mystery wasn’t puzzling enough, it appears that other oddly shaped contraptions popped up over town overnight. Three, to be exact; and with all the same intrigue as the most gory one here, at Lake Teutates. More mysteriously however, on the others, there were odd, human-like mannequins; dressed in what appears to be clothes dated back to decades ago.

The wooden structures are crudely made, have three beams attached to a large, upright wooden pole, and are clearly there to send a message. Besides the one here at the lake, the others are situated at the following locations; one outside of the local high school, one near Astra Rollers in the surrounding woodlands, and one on the outskirts of the town centre. All of the following locations are blocked off until further notice.

Is this simply an elaborate Halloween prank? Or could it be something even worse?

Only one thing is for certain; and that is that somebody here, in Garreg Mach, has lost their life.

We’ll be keeping you updated as the story progresses. If you have any information…”

The newscaster’s voice began to fade into the darkness of Edelgard’s mind; and her eyes felt painful with just how long she hadn’t been blinking.

“El?” Byleth finally asked, but Edelgard was too far away mentally to respond.

Her nails were digging into her knees as she sat, hunched up and terrified against the edge of the bed. Edelgard von Hresvelg was not a woman that caved in easily to fear or terror, but this was just something that proved everything she thought. Something terrible – no, worse than terrible – was going on in Garreg Mach. She’d known it all this time. She knew it all along. And now, the people responsible; whoever they were; were finally beginning to make their move.

“Edelgard…speak to me.”

“Oh, Byleth…” Edelgard said with a voice that sounded as though she was chilled to the bone. “We have to go to the Library as soon as possible.”

“The library?” Byleth asked in a soft curiosity, before she clicked her fingers. “Oh…! Your dad’s note from before…I totally forgot!”

Edelgard nodded slowly, and ran a stiff hand through her hair; wetting her lavender eyes with a final blink of her eyelids.

Her father’s note from back home…what could he have really meant…?

“We have to go and find out what he left there.”

Byleth looked at her girlfriend with concern, and was surprised to see the kind of look she held in her eyes.

It was almost as though Edelgard had resigned herself to the knowledge that something awful had happened; and now, she was in the process of trying to work out the best way to deal with whatever was coming next. Byleth’s eyes scanned every corner of Edelgard’s face anxiously, desperately trying to wrack her brains to make anything better, to just make this all go away.

“…You don’t think he left you just money,” Byleth finally realised. Edelgard remained silent as she stood up.

“We need to go, Byleth.”

“Don’t you want to take a minute?”

“What for?”

Byleth, lost for words at Edelgard’s traumatised bluntness, shook her head in discomfort.

“I…well, I don’t know, just…to calm down a little, I guess.”

Edelgard paused, and upon hearing Byleth’s own level of discontent, found her mind wading its way back to reality from the dark pit of an abyss she had led herself down.

“…Sorry.” Edelgard apologised, shaking her head and rubbing her eyes. “I’m sorry, Byleth. I didn’t mean to worry you when things are now even tenser than e-”

Before Edelgard could even finish her sentence, Byleth had thrown her arms around her girlfriend in a fierce, tight embrace; and Edelgard couldn’t help but notice that she was trembling.

“You don’t need to be scared, El. I’m right here with you.”

Edelgard wrapped her arms tightly around Byleth in turn; closing her eyes as she buried her face into the crook of her neck; and nodded quickly.

“…I know, Byleth. I know. And you don’t need to be scared either, you know?”

“I’ll never be scared for too long, as long as we’re together. Okay?”

“…Okay.”

And now more than ever, Edelgard thought, neither of us can be on our own any longer.

-

After getting dressed properly and making their way back into the familiar, warm comfort of Byleth’s car, Edelgard found every bone in her body was chilled to the core. Byleth had done her best to try and make the situation better, as brightly as she could; and true to her nature, she had succeeded, at least a little. And to get to the library was a slightly long journey, for what it was – it felt so much longer than it had done yesterday, anyway. With a tight embrace, a kiss on the lips and some further words of comfort, Edelgard felt a little better about the situation for a while.

But when they began to drive around the small and now shaken town of Garreg Mach, Edelgard’s small glimmer of hope was quickly extinguished as though a bucket of ice water had been thrown over a small, already dying candle. She could see that the streets were particularly empty, desolate with the terrified energy that something terrible and foreboding was in the air; and the knowledge of it being true kept coming back to haunt her. Was there anything she hadn’t remembered? Was there anything she had seen, and just hadn’t thought anything of? Was there? Could there have been clues to this all along?

“El,” Byleth began as she drove, and Edelgard let a gasp slip from between her lips at the sensation of a warm hand on her leg. “You’re zoning out again.”

“Ah…I’m sorry.”

“What are you thinking about, hm?” Byleth asked as she turned down a small road. “Tell me.”

Edelgard’s eyes met with the sight of another fully empty street. Old bits of Halloween candy wrappers and torn off signs blew around on the sidewalk, gathering around in a small pool of papers and streamers caught in the wind. Edelgard could see that not a single one of the shops had their lights on for business.

“I just…” she began with a tone of disbelief as the car continued on. “I really can’t wrap my head around this. Any of this.”

“I know…it’s all so creepy. But…” Byleth said, and Edelgard could hear that she wasn’t quite sure how to phrase what she wanted to say next. “I guess this really does mean you were right all along.”

“Yeah…there’s no way any of this is a coincidence. Something bad is happening. Has happened, even.”

Byleth nodded, and Edelgard could see that her cheeks looked a little pale as she drove.

“I wonder who the body belonged to…” Byleth asked to nobody in particular. “It sounds like they’d been dead for a little while.”

“Mm…” Edelgard said, rubbing her chin in contemplation. “I think that’s what makes this even more confusing, doesn’t it?”

“It does?”

“Well…what kind of message are the culprits trying to send?” Edelgard said with a shake of her head. “The weird attempt at oddly shaped crucifixes, the body, the use of mannequins…it just doesn’t make any sense.”

Byleth shook her head in turn with a confused sigh, before she began to pull up in front of the library.

“I don’t know, El. But we’re here.”

As Byleth’s car began to pull into the car parking lot, Edelgard could see that this place was at least open. The lights were on behind the large, glass-panel rotating doors, and that brought both a sigh of relief and an inward bite of anticipation. One way or another, Edelgard was more than likely going to find out something new today from her father, and that in itself was something disturbing.

She knew calling home today would be pointless. By the early hours of the morning in previous years, whenever her father had to work early to the point he would leave a note, he would never be there past eight; not to mention it wasn’t like calling had soothed her fears any yesterday. All Edelgard could do was just trust that he was alright. It all felt like a death sentence looming over her head.

The car pulled into a space with a slow roll of its tyres, and with the familiar squeak of Byleth’s handbrake, it felt like this morning was truly a far off dream. What had once been a beautiful, clear dawn after a passionate, hot night with her lover now felt like a garish, low-hanging sun that seemed to scornfully look upon the small town that Edelgard and Byleth both called home.

“Alright,” Byleth said, and Edelgard could tell that even her usually calm girlfriend felt the biting anguish of nerves. “Let’s go and see what the deal is, shall we?”

With a silent nod, Edelgard agreed, and opened the car door to step out onto the crunch of the leaves outside.

“I don’t want to do this. Not even a little.”

“I’m in the same boat today. Honestly, I thought today would just be…well, more of what happened last night, but this is something else.”

Edelgard nodded solemnly.

“Tell me about it. This isn’t exactly cultivating the mood.”

Byleth laughed quietly, and Edelgard felt a flicker of a smile return to her face at hearing her girlfriend’s laughter.

“Hey, there’s plenty of time for that. Let’s just go and put your mind at rest first, right?”

Edelgard nodded as Byleth put her arm around her whilst they approached the library.

“You’re right. As usual,” Edelgard said with a smile, and wrapped an arm around Byleth’s waist in turn. “Thank you for always being my voice of reason.”

“Of course. You’re my princess, after all.”

Edelgard blushed whilst Byleth giggled as they took a step into the ground floor of the library.

It had been a long time since the two of them had been anywhere near a house of academic relevance, and returning to it was not exactly an exciting prospect. The dull brown carpet, the bone-white walls that housed the huge, dark bookcases stuffed full haphazardly with books that were decades old; this was certainly the library, all right. Back in high school, the projects they had been assigned had been long, tumultulous and boring, which Edelgard often thought perfectly described high school life at large.

“Here we are…” Byleth said with a tone of being thoroughly unenthused. “Ugh, this brings back memories of studying for far too long towards the end of the year.”

“Tell me about it…” Edelgard said with a nervous chew of her cheek, and found her eyes scanning the shelves for the area her father mentioned.

The library smelled exactly as she remembered it; there was the somehow comforting, crisp smell of old, weathered pages, and the slightly less pleasant smell of the newer publishings, resting near to the front door in an attempt at catching the eye of whoever entered. There were empty tables dotted around the room, with the equally quiet librarian sitting behind the counter, reading a book that looked worn enough to have been her main squeeze of a novel for quite some time.

“Oh, by the way, El. What was the hobby your dad liked?”

Edelgard smiled nostalgically as her eyes finally caught sight of the ‘crafts’ sections.

“He really liked a particular type of carpentry, as I’m sure you’re just stunned to find out.”

Byleth laughed as they began to walk towards the bookshelves.

“Whaaat?” She replied with a sarcastic tone. “Your dad? The owner of a woodworks store? Never.”

Shocking, I know, but I assure you he did. To be honest, I guess it is shocking in a way considering that was also his job…” Edelgard said. “But I suppose if you love to do something, keep doing it.”

“So what did he like to make?”

 “Carvings of animals, mainly. Not big ones or anything,” Edelgard said, scanning the books as they arrived in the area of books that began with C, “in fact, he actually liked carving birds the very most.”

“Aw, that sounds nice. I bet they were pretty.”

Edelgard’s eyes suddenly locked on to the sight of a book that she knew from seeing it in her house once or twice, and as though her hand moved of its own accord, it flew out from before her to grab onto the spine of the book.

“Aha…!”

“What’s that?” Byleth said, peering over Edelgard’s shoulder. “Oh, I see. ‘Avian Carvings’, huh? Looks like nobody even read this besides your dad.”

Edelgard flicked through the book at a lightning pace; her lavender eyes scanning in between each page as quickly as she could; before eventually, three pages before the end, she came across a small, red envelope that looked stuffed full of something.

“Oh!”

“Hey, that’s probably what your dad was talking about!” Byleth announced, before rubbing the back of her head. “I mean…no shit. Thank you, Byleth.”

In a place where Edelgard would usually have offered a giggle at her girlfriend’s slightly obvious statement, her thumb had already slipped itself into the opening of the envelope’s top; ripping it open to find that inside was not money, but instead, a letter.

Her heart sank.

“El?” Byleth asked as Edelgard froze in place. Taking the letter from her girlfriend’s hands without protest, her eyes narrowed into one of great concern as Edelgard didn’t move from her spot. “…Do you want me to read it?”

Edelgard nodded silently, and placed her hands over her face.

Byleth felt her heart break to see her girlfriend in such a state of mind as it was, but so resignedly to the idea that something bad had happened was making her feel even more helpless.

“Alright,” Byleth said softly, and placed a hand on Edelgard’s shoulder as she read it. Edelgard covered the rest of her face with one hand as a second one moved to squeeze Byleth’s own; and as she listened to the soft, comfortable tones of her lover’s voice, the sounds didn’t connect inside her mind with the jagged, tragic words written on the page before her.

---

My darling Edelgard,

I don’t have much time left, so I’m going to say as much as I can. Please forgive your father’s scribbly handwriting.

First of all; and believe me, I know how hard this must be for you to read; but please, don’t come looking for me. I won’t be returning.

I know this must be incredibly hard to stomach, especially as I know what kind of woman you are, but please, don’t. I don’t even know when or if you’ll read this, but if you are reading this, do not look for me. By the time you hopefully see this, I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll be gone from this world. I love you very much, and none of this was your fault. This was something that had been in the cards for a long time. I truly wish this outcome could have been avoided, but in the end, I think I always knew it was coming.

Maybe this is what I deserve.

---

Byleth trailed off with her voice; a horrid, bulbous lump of emotion caught in her throat as the shock filled her mind.

Edelgard’s fingertips took the letter from her hand; the now empty, vacant space between her ears tried so hard to process what her eyes were seeing; but no matter how hard she tried to concentrate, she just couldn’t. She continued to read aloud to her and Byleth, despite that, and both women found themselves unable to really function in response.

Her father continued.

---

Garreg Mach is a cursed town.

Cursed, from the edges to the centre, by something cruel. This place is a disgusting, horrible pit of people who hold little to no value for anything but themselves. Well, maybe that’s not true for ‘most’ – I don’t think most people know about this. At least I hope not, or humanity is even more doomed than I initially thought.

But Garreg Mach is cursed, Edelgard. I know it sounds insane, but please believe me. It’s cursed. There is something very wrong with this town, and whether or not that curse is supernatural or manmade is something else I don’t know, but I wasn’t prepared to take the risk after your mother died. If it’s manmade, and there’s nothing actually governing their behaviour, then this town is even more depraved than I first thought.

The rules of this curse are, from what I can glean, as follows:

The first is that three people must be chosen. I don’t know what the deciding factor is for those three people. They never told me, no matter how much I fought to find out. All I can tell you with certainty is that a long time ago, one of those people was your mother.

When it began for us, I’d been thinking things were a little strange too, just like you. I’d noticed a few things – namely, a black van outside our house in the early hours of the morning, back when you and your sister were just babies. I’d also noticed someone had tried to get into our house too, except in our case, they tried through the front door. And most of all, I noticed the silver accessories. Garreg Mach has always loved their silver.

Everybody had a piece of silver on them that had been taken. One man had a ring, the other a necklace; and as for your mother, I don’t know where she even got it from, but she came home one day with a silver bracelet on. Said it was from someone at her workplace when she was a nurse, down at Garreg Mach General Hospital. She thought it was pretty. The silver mines here in Garreg Mach are our biggest export, after all.

And then she went missing.

Those three days were absolute agony. Your sister was too young to understand; and you were just a baby. I started following every lead I possibly could when the police deemed that they couldn’t help me. Eventually, I ended up somewhere I’m not telling you about, and I was horrified when I saw her again.

Edelgard, there are things in this town that you wouldn’t believe, even if I told you. It sounds absolutely absurd, writing it down or saying it out loud. But if you ever find it, I promise you aren’t going mad. What you’re seeing is real.

I’ll spare you the details, but when I found your mother, it was not a pretty sight. I think she went quickly at least, thanks to having garnered favour with the person in charge. And as for the other two, they were dead as well, strung up like turkeys on these weird wooden beams. It was disgusting and degrading to see them like that. I’ve never been able to get the sight out of my mind. It’ll always haunt me. Always has.

I wanted to run five million miles away from this place. We should have left the very moment I saw that black van. But if your beautiful mother had been killed, and I didn’t stand a chance against whoever these people are, what was even the reason to stay? But they said they’d find me. They said they weren’t the only town that took part in this. Garreg Mach was just a puzzle piece as part of a much bigger and more terrifying whole, and if I could at least stay where I could keep an eye on them, I thought that was the better option that leaving my two little girls as orphans here in this nightmare. Hiding in plain sight, or something like that. Maybe stupidity.  

My current deduction as to what feeds this so-called curse is sacrifice. I don’t know the ins and outs; I don’t even know why, or how. All I know is that I – your mother’s husband! – received an invitation to her so-called funeral from an unknown source. Someone told me at that sham of a funeral that if I ever tried to tell you about it, or if we ever tried to leave, you and your sister would be killed. They would know. Somehow, they’d know. And I couldn’t find out any more about anything, no matter how hard I tried.

I thought about going back there. To the place where all of this happened. I tried, even; but all they said was that I wasn’t “worthy” anymore. I’d seen my wife die. I’d been there, and left afterwards. I wasn’t allowed in. And with two baby girls, I had no choice but to turn away with grit teeth and eyes full of tears.

But your sister is alive. She managed to leave as far as I know. I don’t think anything has happened to her. She moved away to the big city; and I was the one who told her to never visit. I didn’t tell her why. But I broke off that bond with her to keep her at arms’ length. I was praying I wouldn’t have to do that with you, just as long as you both stayed alive.

But the difference between you and your sister is that she left this place single, Edelgard.

You see, I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. What was the link? Silver jewellery was hardly uncommon here, and black vans were not anything unusual in the world at large. So I noticed a pattern in the three that were chosen, besides the silver.

We all had lovers. All of us. Don’t you find that odd?

If you were going to use human sacrifices, wouldn’t you want to get people that had no strings attached? Why actively stalk and go after people who are taken?

My conclusion is that, somehow, the depth of love is involved. I have no idea how. I have no idea why. I don’t know what any of it means. Maybe it really all just was a coincidence and I’m just a fool, living in a town full of lunatics and murderers. Maybe I could have left with you both years ago, or at least told you all about it, warned you to be safe without fear that someone would come to get us. Maybe I could have had a better life rather than this guilt-ridden existence.

I’m so sorry, Edelgard. I’m so truly sorry. I’m only telling you this now because I know they’re coming after you anyway. I don’t know what triggered it. Maybe because you told me about the van? I have no idea. I don’t know why they’re coming after you. I hope and pray with all of my heart, with every inch of it, that it isn’t because you and Byleth are together.

If it is, pack up your things and leave; immediately. You can’t fight them, but maybe you can outrun them nowadays. I don’t know if that will guarantee your safety, but it sure as hell isn’t safe in Garreg Mach for you anymore.

I’m sorry, my beautiful daughter. That’s as much as I have to share. Something is going on beneath the surface of Garreg Mach’s façade. Please, if you ever see your sister again, tell her I love and miss her too, so very, very much. I did everything I could to try and keep you both away from the awful jaws that snap shut on this town.

I can only pray now that it was enough; and that, at last, your mother and I can rest our own souls together in the next life.

All of my love always,

Your father, Ionius von Hresvelg

---

The last word left Edelgard’s lips like the final drop of water in a glass that had been rolling off of the side, and landing with a silent, echoing splash into the great ocean of the world. Byleth stood, stunned into a silence of disbelief at her girlfriend’s side, whilst Edelgard found that no matter how she tried, she could barely move at all.

Grief. Tragedy. Sadness. Fury. All of these things enveloped Edelgard’s body as she stood. A curse on Garreg Mach? Like some kind of fairytale come to life? And what of her father? He just blindly expected her to accept that he was now not a part of the world anymore? Her mother was murdered by these people, and now possibly her father, too?

But perhaps the most burning question of all: were these people now coming after her?

“El…”

“How could this happen?”

Edelgard turned to face Byleth with large, watery eyes, and as the words stammered from her mouth, her knees collapsed beneath the weight of all of the grief that now rest inside her mind and heart.

Her hand covered her lips with a choke of disbelief into them, and Byleth was left completely wordless at her side. Even though this was Edelgard’s father that something bad had happened to, she still knew him well; she still had fond memories of him, from when they were younger or whenever he had come by to drop Edelgard off or pick her up. A person that both of them knew and valued, even if one was more than the other, now sounded as though their presence was absent from the world.

The gravity of death was a weight that rest heavily upon both women’s shoulders.

Byleth knelt down next to her girlfriend on the soft carpet of the hard library floor, and pulled her shaking frame into her arms.

“El…” Byleth said in a soft whisper, “I’m so sorry.”

Edelgard’s eyes were streaming with an anxious flow of water, and Byleth’s heart ached as she felt her lover’s frame trembling.

What do I do?  She thought desperately. El, what should I do? What can I do to even help with this?

As Byleth held Edelgard close, the letter from her girlfriend’s father still clasped firmly in her hand, she noticed that from the slightly torn envelope of Edelgard’s doing, another sheet of paper fell out from inside and onto the floor with a dainty noise of collision.

“Hey,” Byleth said, trying to repress her own emotions. “What’s this?”

Edelgard sat back slightly, wiping her eyes with a sniffle, and looked at Byleth in confusion.

“Oh, no. Is there something else?”

“Hold on,” Byleth said, unfolding the paper and looking at it with a confused look in her eye. “What the hell…?”

Edelgard, taking the paper from Byleth to look it over herself, read the words before her on the page.

Before the Underworld was born, Rights of passage were required. Now, the world has changed so much, hasn’t it? Thanks to the Hard work of Everyone, Citizens hAve learned to relax, and the truth of the Believer Is a simple Notion…and those who Deserve all Of the Wrath of Nature will receive it.

“What the fuck?” Edelgard cursed. “Is this gibberish?”

“No, look…” Byleth declared with a tone of realization. “There must be something to do with these capital letters. I’ve seen it before, in cop shows. You know, when an anonymous letter is sent or something?”

“The capital letters?” Edelgard said, and looked at Byleth with a worried expression written all over her face. “Then…what was my father trying to say alongside that?”

Chapter Text

Burn the cabin down. What the hell did that mean?

The words rung in Edelgard’s ears like an alarm. Burn the cabin down. Burn the cabin down. She knew exactly which cabin without prompting. The one she had known all along – the one by the lakeside. But why?

Why, father? What is in there that needs to be burned?

“We need to go to the police!” Edelgard said in a sudden panic, and leapt to her feet; clasping the letter of her fathers in her hand. “Right now!”

“Wha-? El, wait!”

Edelgard’s legs carried her out of the library before she could make the conscious decision to do it herself; and by the time she had rushed outside, Byleth had followed in a haze of desperation to get her lover to calm down.

“Edelgard! Wait!”

“Byleth, there’s no time! If my father is at the cabin and the police can go, then…!”

Edelgard!

Edelgard was unused to hearing a sense of demanding urgency in Byleth’s voice, and that was enough to make her stop in her tracks.

Her mind was a horrid blur; a haze of neon greens and yellows thrown into a red room, and then further chopped up into a blender to make one, incomprehensible scribble of chaos. Edelgard could barely think, could barely focus on anything by the time Byleth placed her hands on her shoulders; and, for the first time that Edelgard could remember, she actually saw Byleth’s eyes clouded with tears.

“Stop!” Byleth pleaded. “Please, just…stop and slow down, just for a moment!”

As they stood in the empty, echoing car park of Garreg Mach library, Edelgard felt a tiny droplet hit her forehead. And then another. And then a third.

Rain?

Around the two of them, Byleth also looked up to the sky to notice that, during their time in the library, the clouds had become intermingled; darker patches of grey where they had bumped into each other and attached like magnets, both women saw the frayed wisps of clouds forming together.

The raindrops began to fall thicker and faster the darker the clouds got. Plummeting onto the ground and onto the sidewalk, they landed with a hard thud. The sound of splashes permeated the atmosphere.

Standing in the middle of the car park, Byleth and Edelgard looked at one another. Edelgard’s lavender eyes were so tired now compared to this morning; so much less bright since finding out in absolute clarity something was wrong about the world she lived in after all. Garreg Mach was cursed by something, and her father was missing; gone, without a trace. Something had happened to him. Something was going on at the lakeside, just like Edelgard knew.

But what?

“…Byleth…” Edelgard said, and the raindrops that had begun to slide down her face and onto her lips began to slip off of them with her words. “We have to go to the police.”

“Are you sure?” Byleth said, squinting beneath her messy fringe as she looked back at the woman she loved. “El…if something terrible really is happening here, shouldn’t we suspect everyone?”

“I know you’re right,” Edelgard said, “I know, I know…but if there’s even a fraction of a chance that we could save my father, Byleth…I…”

“It's alright, honey…” Byleth said, and took a step closer as she wiped her eyes. “I know.”

“Even though he said to not look for him, I -”

“I know you can’t do that,” Byleth nodded, and Edelgard grabbed on to the tops of her lover’s sleeves. “Right?”

“I’m sorry…”

Byleth blinked as Edelgard’s grip tightened.

“Why?”

“Because I’m putting you through so much. All of my grief, my anxiety…” Edelgard said with a pained tone to her voice that Byleth felt sear through her feelings. “I can’t bear it. You shouldn’t have to deal with me and my problems, Byleth.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Edelgard. You know that.”

“But -”

“El,” Byleth said firmly, and took Edelgard’s shoulders into her hands as they moved beneath the shelter of the library’s entrance. “I’m not going anywhere. It doesn’t matter whether you tell me you think you’re being unfair, or you’re unsure I’m able to deal with you, or whatever else is going on in your head. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Byleth…” Edelgard said with a pained whisper, and as Byleth pulled her into an embrace, Edelgard’s tired eyes flickered closed; and thoughts of just how lucky she was to have somebody she adored like this in such mutual love was surely a blessing in this wretched universe.

As the two of them began to pull away from one another, Edelgard’s misery remained. Her father was missing. Claude was still missing. Marianne had been missing, and yet, had returned unscathed. But the real truth was that Garreg Mach was tainted by something, something unknown and large enough to cause a cataclysm of grief on an astronomical scale behind the scenes. Edelgard could only pray that the letter her father had left wasn't going to be his last.

But trying to make sure of that meant going to the police station. It was a risk, especially if the people involved really were coming after Edelgard; or worse yet, that the supernatural talk of the curse was real, and something was coming to get her. But was it? Did curses really carry any weight to them? Edelgard thought on a saying she’d heard often used around her school days, which usually came with gun safety – the guns aren’t the problem, but the people behind them.

Edelgard’s mind felt itself far too chaotic to function. Byleth opened the door hurriedly, helping her girlfriend in after the initial and weighty shock of the potential loss of her father, and rushed around to the other side to leap into the driver’s seat.

The police station

“…You’re sure you want to take this risk?” Byleth asked as the rain hammered down on the windshield of her car. Edelgard nodded silently; her hair wet from the weather outside, and her spirit thoroughly drenched in her own worry. “Okay. Then let’s go…and be prepared for anything.”

“…I will be,” Edelgard said firmly. “I am, even.”

Byleth’s boot pressed down on the acceleration pedal, and within moments, they were gone from the library.

-

“So…let me get this straight. Your dad has been missing for days, but then he left you a note at your house that you’re sure is his…and before visiting back home, on top of all that, he answered the phone.”

“Right.”

The police station was somewhere that Edelgard and Byleth had both never been to before, and from the way things were going, it didn’t look like they were going to be here ever again.

“But now you think it might not have been him…but you also don’t know if anyone broke in to begin with.”

“Right.”

“Then you get a weird letter from him today saying that the entire town is in danger, there’s something fishy going on in the cabin near the lake, and you’re pretty sure that other people have been taken away too, including your pal Claude von Riegan. Am I right so far?”

Yes!” Edelgard pleaded, exasperated from how over the top her story must have sounded. “Please, you have to believe me. We wouldn’t be here if this wasn’t an absolute last resort!”

The station had been an unpleasant experience from start to finish, but neither woman was really that surprised by the notion.

There were around three to four deputies stationed around a small, dishevelled room; paperwork in piles on each desk that didn’t look particularly well cared for, or even like anybody themselves cared for their occupations in the first place. Garreg Mach was not exactly known for its high crime rate, which meant that the police officers here were known for little more than going to Manuela’s diner far too often and breaking up hooligan fights, usually between Leonie and up-and-coming youngsters who wanted to be viewed as the next heart-throb of the town.

The ceiling fan rotated at about the same pace as the police officers moved. One woman was sat with her feet up on her desk, eating a donut and drinking coffee, whilst her superiors were stood at the water cooler with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths; even on a day where four weird, shambolic crucifixes had been erected all over town, and one with a rotting body hanging off of its timber, too.

Since arriving, nobody had really paid Edelgard any attention, nor the taller, navy-haired woman at her side. The deputy sat at the front desk of the police station sat, tapping her eraser-tipped pencil against her notepad to the beat of the tinny-sounding radio behind her, and sighed heavily as she scribbled down the notes that Edelgard had told her in a panic.

“Listen, kiddo…” she began, uninterested, and ran a hand through her hair. “I’m sorry that you’re missing your dad, but didn’t he say he was working? He said he was working on a Church commission, right?”

Edelgard paused with wide eyes, and Byleth folded her arms.

“Yes, he did, but -”

“You know Hresvelg Woodworks, right?” Byleth chipped in, and from her tone of voice, both Edelgard and the lazy deputy could tell she was thoroughly unimpressed. “You know the guy who runs it too, I assume?”

“Of course,” the deputy replied, her eyes locking on to Byleth’s with an equally unimpressed air about them. “I pass it every day on my way to this place.”

“Then you know he’s an old dude.”

“I do.”

“So, tell me, officer, in what universe would the Church commission an old guy to do woodwork overnight?”

This one,” the deputy replied flatly, and chuckled in a way that suggested she’d thought the story Edelgard told her was entirely fabricated from the start. “Look. Hresvelg Woodworks is the only place in town that does woodwork repairs. If the Church needs something fixing and they need it bad, is it really out of the realm of possibility for him to be called there?”

Byleth frowned. Edelgard sighed, sensing the tension brewing in the atmosphere.

“Please…” she said with a softer tone, and the deputy’s brow softened in turn. “I know you must think this is ridiculous, but please. You must surely have deputies out at the lake today, right?”

The deputy remained silent, but Edelgard could tell that she was getting somewhere.

“…Please,” she asked one more time, and Byleth leaned against the tall counter top to talk in a whisper to the deputy before her.

“What about if I have a talk with Benjamin Franklin? I’m sure he could say it a hundred times better than I could.”

Both the officer and Edelgard stopped in their tracks in shock at the nerve to bribe someone in front of the station, and with a second sigh, the deputy picked up a black phone at the side of her desk.

“I’ll check if they’re canvassing the area,” she said, pointing a finger at the blonde woman before her. “But don’t expect any more than that. Okay? And I don’t accept bribes…but I might accept some donuts someday.”

“Oh, thank you!” Edelgard said with a tone of gratitude so earnest that it made even the deputy blush, and Byleth placed a hand on her shoulder as they waited for the phone to answer.

“Thanks, man.”

The deputy rolled her eyes as she waited, and eventually, a click could be heard at the other end.

“Hey, got a request from back here in the station. Have officers been sent to near the site of the body yet? ... What? Oh. No, near to the woodlands.”

There was a long pause.

“Oh, really?” The deputy suddenly said. “Thanks, that’s a great help. Bye.”

With an abrupt hang up of the phone, the officer turned back to Edelgard with the same lazy look on her face and shrugged.

“Sorry, but they already investigated the cabin. There was nothing of note there.”

Whilst Edelgard was expecting there to be nothing of value in the place she so desperately wanted there to be, somehow hearing it was more of a shock than she was anticipating.

“…Alright,” she replied, dejectedly. “Thanks a lot for your help, officer.”

“Don’t mention it,” the deputy replied, and went back to reading over some paperwork Edelgard had seen her eyeing up as they entered.

Around the station, the other officers that had previously been lazing around had caught sight that somebody had actually come in, and Edelgard was surprised to see their gazes resting on her as she turned to leave. It felt a little unsettling, to be suddenly watched by so many people; but with how high the tension was around Garreg Mach, she thought it was probably a level of suspicion to be expected – even if it had been somewhat delayed.

“Well…” Edelgard began as she turned to Byleth, stopping just shy of the front glass doors of the station. “Thanks for coming with me anyway…even if it was totally fruitless.”

“Hey, don’t be silly, El. You know I’ll help you with anything in the world.”

Edelgard’s tired, sad eyes smiled weakly, and Byleth felt a pang of pain in her heart at the uncharacteristically defeated sight of the woman she loved.

“Thank you, Byleth. What would I do without you?”

Almost as though the universe had been watching and waiting for an opportune moment to interrupt the tenderness between the two, a loud bang could be heard throughout the station, and unfortunately for Edelgard and Byleth’s eardrums, right next to where they were standing.

“What the…?” The deputy back at the front office said, standing up in alarm; before her eyes were greeted with an incredibly familiar sight to the police station. Slumping back down in her seat, she sighed for what must have been the fifth time in the last ten minutes, and began flicking through a magazine again. “Oh, for...what do you want, Leonie? Missing the place?”

“You gotta help me!”

Brushing past Edelgard and Byleth as though they weren’t there, the panicked, flustered sight of Leonie Pinelli made her way to the front desk.

Slamming her hands down on the top of the counter, Edelgard was surprised to see someone usually so full of strength and vigour so…well, frightened. Her whole body was shaking as though she had ran miles and miles to get here, pumped full of adrenaline; and she began speaking so fast that the officer behind the desk couldn’t even begin to decipher what she was saying.

“Whoa, whoa, slow down!” The officer said, holding up her hands. “God, it’s not like you to be on the other side of the desk. We’re usually putting you in the slammer to cool that hot head of yours for the night.”

“Stop joking around and listen to me! My girlfriend’s missing!”

Edelgard and Byleth felt their blood run cold.

“What did you just say?” Byleth asked in horror.

Leonie, as though all of the previous animosity she held with Byleth had fully evaporated into thin air in favour of something dire, turned around and gripped her shoulders.

“Lysithea!” Leonie said, and Edelgard felt the tiredness of her eyes fading into a sense of urgency as they widened once more. “She’s missing!”

“How do you know?” Edelgard asked quickly.

“She hasn’t contacted me in days, and when I went to her house, her mom said she’d left town to go and see her dad! She fuckin' hates her dad! She'd never do that!”

Edelgard and Byleth looked at each other with a look of disbelief. There was another very similar story to Lysithea’s own – and if that was the case, and both of these stories were wrong…

“Oh, no…!” Edelgard said, covering her mouth with her hands.

The outburst from Leonie had prompted the other officers to more obviously look onward at the commotion now. They were honing in on the expressions of the woman in the lobby before them; the gaunt, uncharacteristically terrified expression on one of the police station’s regulars, the pretty blonde girl who looked as devastated as she felt, and the tall, handsome woman with navy blue hair holding them both together like glue.

“Let’s get out of here,” Byleth whispered, and even Edelgard could hear a tremble in her voice.

“What?! I need them to help me, Byleth!” Leonie said, ripping herself away from Byleth’s grip. “They – I can’t live without her! They just gotta help me!”

“Calm down, would you? You’re giving us all a headache, as usual…” The deputy said, and rest her head back on her hands as she sat down. “Ugh, whatever. No point helping you, anyway. Your girl’s got the right idea to skip town while you weren’t looking.”

“What?!”

The officer sneered as she leaned across the table. 

“You’re nothing but a no good thug.”

A flash of hurt came across Leonie’s eyes, before it was quickly stoked by fury. 

“Why, you…!”

Leonie, restrained by the nimble reflexes of Edelgard and Byleth, tried to lunge forwards to grab the deputy by the scruff of her shirt; and luckily for her rap sheet, she narrowly missed. Her legs flailed in her dark jeans, kicking around as the two women struggled to hold a woman of this strength back from killing a police officer in her panicked haze.

“Leonie-!” Edelgard struggled, and Leonie managed to kick over a wastepaper basket by the side of the counter with a loud, metallic clatter. “Calm down!”

We can help you, dumbass! Calm it!”

Leonie’s ragged breathing began to come down from a guttural, angry sound to a reduced panicked breath, and both Edelgard and Byleth held up their hands.

“We’ll take it from here,” Edelgard said with a tone of apology to her voice. “Sorry for the trouble.”

“Hmph…" The officer replied, disgruntled. "Just keep that one away from here, would you? We’re busy.”

Byleth scoffed under her breath quietly as her and Edelgard began frogmarching Leonie out of the front doors, and as they listened to the door shut behind them, Leonie shook the both of them off and stumbled onto the cold sidewalk outside.

“What the fuck, you two?!” She protested angrily, staggering forwards. “Why’d you do that?!”

“To stop you from really getting thrown in jail! How would you find Lysithea then?!” Edelgard scolded, and Leonie backed down a little at the sight of Edelgard’s expression.

“…Sorry.”

Edelgard, equally as taken aback by the gaunt expression on the woman before her, closed her eyes in a despairing exasperation; and tried her best to ignore the crushing weight on her shoulders.

“It’s fine. We have other things to worry about right now.”

“Yeah, like how Lysithea went to go see her dad or whatever…?” Byleth asked, and Leonie could see that even the woman before her thought that was a big fat lie.

“Ugh! I wasn't lyin' back in there, she really hates her dad!” Leonie protested. “There’s no way in hell she’d spend more than five seconds with that dude, let alone not tell anyone she was going! Even at the diner they said she hadn’t put in a note that she was gonna be going, and she wouldn’t do something like that!”

“She didn’t tell the diner?” Edelgard asked in surprise.

“No!” Leonie said, and for the first time, both Edelgard and Byleth saw this rough and tumble thug almost in tears. “I can’t shake this feeling that something really bad has happened to her, especially after the news this morning! I almost puked!”

Edelgard closed her eyes again in anguish. Byleth stepped in.

“We’ve got our own suspicions, too.”

Leonie paused as the winds began to bluster around them.

“You do…?” She asked, and then shook her head. “Actually, what the hell were you two doin’ at the station?”

The leaves in the trees rustled with the November winds, and the rain from earlier had stopped pounding on the wet floor beneath their feet. Edelgard’s eyes stung with the pain of both fatigue and the cold breeze around her. The petty squabbles of yesterday seemed like such a far off dream, now.

“There’s a lot to unpack here…” Edelgard began, rubbing her temples. “And there’s someone else we need to get involved, too.”

“Oh, shit…” Byleth said with a sudden realization.

Dimitri. The prospect that Claude really hadn’t gone to his father’s after all was looking more and more likely.

“I need to call him, don’t I…” Edelgard said, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Oh, God. Why is this happening?”

“On top of that, if Claude really didn’t go to his dads…”

“Then that means his mom is involved,” Edelgard finished for Byleth, and both of their heads began to spin all over again. “Just how deep does this rabbit hole go?”

“Wait, wait. What about who now?” Leonie asked, shaking her head. “Is someone else in my position?”

“Yes,” Edelgard replied. “Dimitri. His boyfriend has been missing for a few days now, too.”

“Oh, man…” Leonie said in anguish, running a hand through her hair. “Ugh! I can’t stand it, this standin’ around and doing nothing but talking! Lysithea is out there somewhere, and I need to find her!”

“Believe me,” Edelgard said with a tone of voice that suggested she was about to break, “I know exactly how you feel.”

Byleth placed a comforting hand on Edelgard’s shoulder, and Edelgard turned away from both the women before her. The tears were stinging the edges of her eyes, standing here in the bitter winds of late Autumn; and as Byleth looked at Leonie, the two of them suddenly felt united for the first time in their lives.

“Where are we going first?” Leonie asked with an air of sensibility to her voice that neither woman had heard before. Byleth ran a hand through her hair.

“Given the circumstances…maybe my place is best,” she offered. “But if we’re all going to be staying there for however long, you’ll both need some changes of clothes. I restocked recently on food with El, so we’re alright on that front.”

“I don’t care, I’ll do it. Anything if it means we’re going to find her!” Leonie said, shaking her head in anxiety. “I’ll meet you at your place, then. The Goldsmiths, right?”

“Sure is.”

“Fine,” Leonie replied, and waved a hand. “See you in a couple hours. You better be prepared to do anything, you hear me?!”

Byleth waved without a smile to the anxious woman disappearing before them in a flurried, hasty sprint, and Edelgard placed a hand over her mouth.

“…You okay, El?”

“I’m holding it together…for now,” Edelgard replied, before turning her eyes back to Byleth.

Her eyes look so dead, Byleth thought with a pang of pain inside her chest. Edelgard von Hresvelg was usually such a headstrong woman, so full of vigour and tenacity and determination for miles to come. But now, she looked so…defeated and broken, even by just a single look in her tired, crestfallen lavender eyes. She looked as though she was reaching the end of her tether, and the tether was already frayed on the way here.

“Just a little longer, Edelgard. Then I’m sure we’ll be at the bottom of this mystery.”

Edelgard nodded wearily.

“I know,” she began with a tremble in her voice. “I just…I can’t believe everything.”

Byleth’s brow furrowed with a sad expression.

“…I’m sorry I can’t make it better.”

“On the contrary,” Edelgard said, slipping her hand into Byleth’s own. “You’re the only thing holding me together right now.”

Byleth smiled weakly, and squeezed Edelgard’s hand warmly back.

“I love you.”

“And I love you, too.”

As the two of them stood a little distance away from the police station, Edelgard walked up to the space that Byleth was occupying wordlessly; and wrapped her arms around her in a gentle, tired, devastated embrace.

“El…”

“Just…” Edelgard interrupted quietly, and turned her face inwards to Byleth’s shoulder. “Hold me for a moment. Just…please.”

Byleth, caught mid-sentence, did as she was told; and wrapped her arms tightly around the woman before her that had already been through so much.

The wind blew. The ominous, unforgiving cold breeze that seemed to be a permanent fixture to Garreg Mach these days, bringing with it the horrors and terrors of times past. Byleth’s hair danced against her face and neck with the bluster, a flame of navy blue intermingling with the platinum blonde that rest at her shoulder, and kissed her lover’s forehead wordlessly. A kiss so simple and yet, somehow, just made everything that little bit better.

“…We’ll get to the bottom of this,” Byleth said softly. “We will.”

“I know. I have faith that we will,” Edelgard nodded, and leant back in Byleth’s embrace. “Whether we want to or not.”

“You look absolutely exhausted, El. You need to rest.”

“There’s no way I can sleep knowing what I know now, Byleth. I think this will haunt me forever.”

Byleth remained quiet.

“I know.”

Edelgard exhaled as she buried her face against Byleth, and held her tighter against her body.

“…Byleth,” she asked softly, “what did you make of the police? Do you think they can be trusted?”

“No,” Byleth replied almost immediately, “but admittedly, I really did think that going in, too. The people that remained seemed way too lax about the fact that four crosses and a dead body just popped up, even if they did send all the officers Garreg Mach had up there.”

Edelgard closed her eyes in exasperation.

“…I know. I think you’re right, too. Which means they can’t help us.”

“Listen…” Byleth began, and turned to face the set of payphones that rest outside the police station, nestled into small, silver booths. “Before we get too deeply into that, why don’t we call Dimitri from here? He did ask us to call him anyway, and he could meet us here. The three of us could stop by your house to pick up a change of clothes for the night. Strength in numbers.”

Edelgard felt her stomach churn.

“I don’t want to go home.”

“You don’t have to go home, El. But if we’re going to be investigating this more prominently, it’ll do you good to have a set of clothes at my place. I think all you’ve got at my place is the angel costume and the clothes you’re wearing now, and I don’t know about you, but I’m soaked. And not in the fun and sexy way.”

“Oh, Byleth…” Edelgard said with an exasperated, weak chuckle, and Byleth smiled proudly at wriggling a smile out of her lover, even in a situation like this. “Alright. You win. I suppose I could do with actually checking if things are alright at home…even if it pains me deeply.”

You don’t have to go in, silly. I can just rush in and get you something.”

Edelgard blinked.

“Are you sure…?”

Byleth nodded with an affectionate laugh.

“You didn’t seriously think I was going to make you run through your house after everything, did you?” She asked. “Come on, El. Even I have more tact than that. Sometimes.”

“…Thank you.”

“Besides, someone’s gotta feed your cats.”

Edelgard smiled nostalgically, and dabbed at the edges of her tired eyes.

“That’s true. Maybe we should bring them to your apartment for a little while.”

“Sure, if that’s what you want. Not like my parents are around to say no anyway.”

Despite the slightly lighter nature of their conversation, Edelgard ran a hand anxiously through her hair at the thought of going anywhere near the house she called home for so many years.

She couldn’t place the sensation that, even amidst all of the other, terrible negative feelings she held within her mind, something about the idea of going home felt like an awful idea. Even with the grief and the despair aside, something felt…off. Byleth was right that she needed new clothes, given that they’d been caught in the storm in these ones; but something about returning there felt unusually grim.

“Alright,” Byleth said, wrenching her girlfriend out of her sudden myriad of thoughts. “Shall we find out what Dimitri is up to?”

“I think it’s more that Dimitri is going to find out what we’re upto,” Edelgard said wearily, and both of them made their way over to the payphones.

Unhooking it from its receiver, Edelgard’s fingertip pressed down the number into the silver squash of each button with haste.

What did she even tell him? Was it better to wait to tell him in person, or tell him over the phone? What did she even really know, anyway?

The phone rang. And rang.

And then at the other end, somebody answered.

“Hello?”

“Dimitri, it’s Edelgard. I need to talk to you right away.”

“Oh, thank God. Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Edelgard replied. “Why do you keep asking me?”

“Because you were the one who said a black van had been following you!” Dimitri protested. “I almost had a heart attack this morning, thinking of that awful body as being you or…”

Dimitri trailed off, and Edelgard closed her eyes in pain.

“…Dimitri. We need to talk. Right away.”

The grave tone in Edelgard’s voice spoke volumes more than her words. Dimitri felt a chill rush up his spine.

“What? What do you mean?”

“Come to the police station payphones and bring a change of clothes. We need to drop by my house to pick up some clothes and the cats, but afterwards, we’re going to be staying at Byleth’s place, and -”

“Edelgard, what the hell is going on?” Dimitri interrupted. "The police station?"

“Will you just listen to me?!”

Dimitri, Byleth and Edelgard all fell in to a collective silence at her sudden snap. Edelgard pinched the bridge of her nose.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you.”

“I know,” Dimitri said, and Edelgard was quite sure she had never heard a tone this caring in his voice before. “I’ll be there. Just calm down.”

“I can’t calm down.”

“Why?”

“Because my father is probably dead.”

Dimitri paused.

“…I’ll be at the station in fifteen minutes.”

“See you then.”

Dimitri hung up first, saving Edelgard the trouble, and Edelgard rubbed her temples as she turned around to face Byleth.

“You doing alright?” Byleth asked gently. Edelgard nodded.

“I just…I just want to get to the bottom of this. I need to get to the bottom of this.”

“And we will,” Byleth reassured. “But we have to take the right steps to get there first.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well…if they’re playing a game with us, then we play the game with them. A black van, weird noises, your dad’s letter about all the things going on...” Byleth said, prodding the tips of her left hand’s fingertips with her right ones. “We have so many things to share properly with both Dimitri and Leonie, now. Leonie, too, is someone we’ve never really had the chance to sit down and talk with. Maybe she’s got some insight.”

“You’re right,” Edelgard said, feeling a little more positive for the affirmative action. “Thank you, Byleth. I suppose now all we can do is wait.”

Sitting themselves down on the wooden panels of the bench besides the payphones, the two women waited for Dimitri to show up.

Edelgard rested her head against Byleth’s warm jacket, and nestled up to her as comfortably as she could. She didn’t know that her father was dead, after all; just like she didn’t know, truly, what had happened to Claude and now Lysithea. Marianne had been fine after all of her worry; who was to say the three of them wouldn’t be, either?

The winds were bitter as they encircled their bodies and their wet clothes. Biting with its chill, Edelgard shivered, and Byleth pulled her closer. The sky above them was a dark grey; patches of determined, soft sunlight poking through to make harsh puddles of light onto the dark sidewalk; and Edelgard found her eyes squinting at the sight.

Her body felt like it was shutting down. She was hungry, tired, and utterly worn down by grief and uncertainty. As she sat, forcibly relaxing next to the woman she adored, her mind swirled. She could hardly stand to think of anything outside of the pain inside her heart and the words her father had left her. Burn the cabin down. Don’t come looking for me. Your mother had a quick death.

Edelgard’s burning eyes closed for a moment, and re-opened to the soft noise of Byleth’s voice accompanied by an engine.

“El, sweetheart…” Byleth nudged, “Dimitri’s here.”

The sound of a car door opening and shutting with a firm slam could be heard, along with the inane chatter of a cab driver and a familiar, slightly deeper voice alongside it. Footsteps hurried over towards the payphones, and Byleth helped Edelgard sleepily onto her feet.

“Ugh…did I fall asleep?”

“You did,” Byleth said with a comforting smile, “even in this freezing wind, which I think speaks volumes for how tired you are.”

“Byleth! Edelgard!” Dimitri said with a sense of urgency all over his face, and his piercing blue eyes looking at the two of them with a grave sense of concern Edelgard had never seen in such a typically stoic man. “What’s going on? Are you both alright?”

“We’re fine, we’re fine…” Byleth reassured, and Edelgard’s tired gaze met with her best friend’s own. “But we’ve had a lot of things to deal with today.”

“What happened?” Dimitri asked, before placing a hand on Edelgard’s shoulder. “Are you really alright, or is it not appropriate to talk about outside?”

“It’s definitely better if we get behind closed doors,” Edelgard said, and lowered her voice. “Because we can’t trust anyone anymore.”

Dimitri’s eyes widened in shock at the blunt nature of Edelgard’s words, and nodded.

“…Okay. Byleth, I take it you drove?”

“Sure did. Let’s go by El’s house and then stop at mine,” Byleth said firmly, before turning to her girlfriend. “Do you have those, um…cat carry cases?”

“Carry cases? Oh…” Edelgard replied in an initial confusion. “You mean the things we use to take the cats to the vet? Yes, we have three.”

“Oh, good. Okay, then we’re all set. Let’s get going.”

“Things must be bad,” Dimitri said as they began to walk along the sidewalk towards Byleth’s car, “if you’re even talking about taking the cats. But I want to hear every single detail when we’re somewhere safe. Understand?”

“Without even a shred missing,” Byleth replied with as positive and bright of a response as she could manage in this situation.

But, as Edelgard looked over her shoulder when they began to walk away, she found, much to her horror, that the eyes of almost every deputy inside the police station was staring at her through the glass panel doors as they left.