"But, Papa!" Nessa protested once again.
"I'm sorry, honey," Jeralt told his daughter as they walked down the hall to his office, "The Archbishop has me doing something else so I can't help."
"But how do I teach her to dance?" Nessa asked, trailing behind him and taking two steps for every one of Jeralt's one.
"You taught Roark pretty well, and he had two left feet," her father pointed out simply.
After she learned to dance, Nessa took it upon herself to make sure all the other men in their company could dance too. Some grumbled about it, but it was all in good fun, and soon enough dancing and music became a huge part of the company culture. All because Nessa just really liked to dance.
"But now I have to teach the opposite part! I do not know that part!" Nessa told him quickly.
Jeralt hummed for a moment. This was true. Nessa loved her dancing, but she never led before. She was always content to follow, and Jeralt had it on good authority that Nessa loved following.
"Well why don't you just find someone else who already knows your part, and practice the other part with them?" He paused for a moment before adding, with a small grin, "I'm sure your little crush can help. After all, nobles are pretty well versed in dancing as is, and as a Princess, she would probably know best."
"I do not have a crush," Nessa said quickly, blushing profusely. "Especially not on Edelgard."
"Your blush says otherwise."
"Why are you like this?" She grumbled to him.
"I'm your father. It's my job to give you shit. Especially since your mother isn't here, I have to give you shit from the both of us," Jeralt informed her as a matter of factly.
"Did she like to dance, too?" The young professor asked with a slight head tilt. It was one of the things she did when she asked questions she genuinely wanted to know the answer to.
"Loved it," Jeralt confirmed for Nessa. "You got your love of music, dancing, and flowers from your mother."
"Did you two dance a lot?"
Jeralt laughed, "why the interest in her all of a sudden?"
"Because you never speak of her." Nessa told him as a matter of factly.
He supposed she was right. He rarely did speak of his late wife, especially when his only child looked so much like her. Down to her emotive eyebrows.
"Tell you what," Jeralt said, now leaning against the door frame to his office, "you go figure out your dancing problem, and I'll answer as many questions about her as I can."
"Okay!" And she was off.
"Just like Sitri," Jeralt mumbled as he watched his daughter slide around the corner and heard her thunder down the stairs.
When Nessa found Edelgard, she realized that she hadn't planned at all what to say to her student. Nessa just was so excited at the prospect of learning about her mother that she never thought passed that, which was rather unlike her. So when Edelgard asked what she could do to help, Nessa just let out the strangest of statements.
"I need help learning to dance so I can learn about my mother!"
It was definitely not Nessa's greatest moment.
"Excuse me?" Edelgard asked, now opening the door to her dorm room all the way.
She gestured for the Professor to come in, and Nessa did.
"I, erm… that was worded quite poorly…" Nessa mumbled, closing the door behind her. "To elaborate, I asked Dorothea if she would represent the Black Eagles in the White Heron Cup. I was informed that due to her background in an Opera Company, she likely had extensive practice when it came to dancing. The only problem is that I need to coach her in dancing and I do not know how to do that… at all. So I need assistance, and I thought you would be best equipped to help."
"Professor," Edelgard asked her, "Are you asking me to teach you to dance?"
"Yes," Nessa informed her, "somewhat… Father told me that Nobles typically are typically taught to dance as children, but I need to lead, so I cannot ask the boys for assistance there, since they only know how to lead. So I need someone who can follow, and typically that is reserved for girls… I was unsure if Petra knew Fódlan dancing, and I am under the impression that Bernadetta would not appreciate my asking her, so that is why I am here."
"So I was your last choice?" Edelgard asked her, almost offended. Would this have been anyone else, she might have been offended, but Nessa was not like the others. Her phrasing was typically off, compared to most people, so Edelgard learned to ask the woman clarifying questions to make sure nothing was missed between them.
"Actually my father said I should ask you first. So I did," Nessa explained simply.
This was a perfect example as to why Edelgard asked clarifying questions. Had she not, she might have assumed Nessa asked her as a last resort. But with this information, she simply was justifying her reasoning as to why she came to Edelgard first.
"I see," Edelgard answered her. "Well I do know a little about dancing. And I am proficient enough in leading and following that I believe I can help you. But I do have an essay on mountain fighting tactics that I would like to finish at some point today."
"I will give you a perfect score if you help me," Nessa said quickly.
That made Edelgard laugh at her. "I didn't realize you were so competitive, Professor," the Princess said with a smile.
"I like to win," Nessa replied with a shrug. But more importantly, she wanted to know more about her mother… and she also very much wanted to dance with Edelgard.
"Well worry not, I am nearly finished with my essay anyway. I was actually adding the finishing touches on it when you knocked on my door," Edelgard assured her. "So, where should we go and practice?"
That was actually a good question, Nessa really had no idea where they could go.
"Perhaps the classroom?" Nessa said with a quirk of her brow.
"That seems agreeable," Edelgard answered, "I doubt anyone will be there anyway, so we can move all the tables and benches."
And that was how Nessa found herself thirty minutes later, with one hand holding Edelgard's and the other resting on her waist.
"I apologise, Edelgard," Nessa found herself saying, with a slightly red face, "I am not the most skilled in this."
"That's why I'm here to help," Edelgard told her. Though if Nessa knew better, she would say that Edelgard was likely as nervous as she was.
Of course Nessa hadn't a clue why Edelgard might be nervous about this. After all, they typically shared a tent when the class went out of missions. The two often were in close proximity… or perhaps she was equally as flustered as Nessa. Though, Nessa doubted that. Edelgard was very composed.
"I imagine that the best way to go about this is for you to learn the basics of leading," Edelgard said after a moment. "Thankfully the dance that is traditionally done for the White Heron Cup is a simple one, so I am confident you should be able to pick up the steps with ease, Professor."
With that, Edelgard rested her other hand on Nessa's shoulder.
"I know you're leading, but try and let me take control, just so you learn the steps," she explained.
Nessa said nothing, only nodding in response.
It was strange, having to lead, but really just following. It felt natural in some aspects, having Edelgard lead while Nessa followed, but she found herself wishing the roles were reversed. After all, Nessa infinitely preferred to follow.
For a few moments all that Nessa could focus on was making sure she had the right feet moving at the right time, and the soft voice of Edelgard, counting the steps out loud for her. Her voice was quiet, not like Manuela's when Nessa caught her working with her representative. And with Nessa's eyes looking down at her feet, she could feel Edelgard's breath on her ear. If her father could see her now, he would certainly be laughing.
Still, his advice was not very useful… Years of following, and then forcing herself to lead threw her for a loop. It made Nessa briefly wonder if this was how her students felt when she pointed them on a different path. Either way, dancing with Edelgard was not going to help her help Dorothea.
"How are you feeling, Professor?" Edelgard asked her after a few minutes.
"Wrong," Nessa found herself mumbling, looking down at her feet. "I hope Dorothea is as skilled as I have been led to believe or we will definitely lose."
And the Black Eagles did not lose...
Unfortunately, Nessa was just not good at leading. Everything was just Not Right. She was moving forward when she was supposed to move back, left when she wanted to go right, and Nessa did not like it.
"I do not think I am very good at this, Edelgard," Nessa finally admitted with a hint of sadness.
"Nonsense, my teacher," Edelgard declared. She stopped awkwardly leading Nessa across the classroom and quickly shifted her hands. "Here, let me lead. I've found it helps when learning to dance."
"Oh! No, Edelgard I–" but it was too late. Once Edelgard's hand was gently placed on Nessa's waist, her words caught in her throat.
"Just follow me," Edelgard whispered to her with a kind smile.
Little did she know that Nessa would follow her to the ends of the world, and beyond.
The young professor closed her eyes, letting her head tilt towards the ground, and did as she did best. She followed.
For the first few steps, Edelgard was rough, forcing Nessa to move in just the right way… only to realize that Nessa knew exactly what she was doing. After going through the same steps a few times, Edelgard realized that not only did Nessa know exactly what she was doing, but she did it very well. Nessarose Byleth Eisner was a natural dancer.
"You can dance," Edelgard stated, still moving across the floor of their classroom.
"I can follow," Nessa admitted, picking her head back up and looking at her student. "But I can only follow. I suppose I was not very clear about that…"
Definitely not, but all the same, this was a discovery that Edelgard was pleased to learn. She had to admit, she very much enjoyed leading the taller woman around their classroom. And she didn't stop when Nessa admitted to knowing how to dance. Instead, Edelgard took even more control, eager to see how Nessa reacted. Nessa, in response, allowed her student to see a side of her that none of her other Eagles had.
Every twist and turn that Edelgard threw out, Nessa responded eagerly, clearly loving how the other woman challenged her every movement. Gone were simple introductory movements, only the basic framework of the dance remained. The two girls glided across the floors, with their feet moving perfectly in sync with the other. What started as an innocent teaching session, between two girls, quickly turned into a competition. On one side, Edelgard was trying to see how far she could push her partner, almost trying to throw her off. And on the other side, Nessa was eagerly matching each of Edelgard's steps as gracefully as ever, and a cheeky smile on her face.
Whatever space the two had between them in the beginning was now non-existent as Edelgard kept Nessa's body pressed firmly against her. They only separated when Edelgard forced Nessa away for a spin, but it was never for too long. While neither would admit it, at least in that moment, they rather enjoyed their bodies pressed together like that.
When their dance ended, it ended with Edelgard dipping Nessa low, and Nessa wrapping one leg around Edelgard's waist to keep herself from falling. It wasn't that she didn't trust Edelgard's strength, but it was more instinct than anything. Both women were surprisingly out of breath, shaking slightly, but neither were inclined to move from their position. Actually, Nessa found her free hand drifting up Edelgard's shoulder and sliding around the back of her neck, as to bring her closer.
But Nessa wasn't the only one with wandering hands. One of Edelgard's hands slowly slid from Nessa's waist, over the curve of her hips and held on firmly to Nessa's muscular thigh. And while she would never admit it, she did find her fingers creeping underneath the edges of Nessa's shorts, and even sliding under the stockings she wore. It was just one of many times that Edelgard wished she didn't wear her gloves, just so she could truly feel Nessa's skin against her own.
Neither were quite aware of how close they were to each other until their foreheads touched, and noses brushed against each other. It was only then did they register how heavily they were breathing. And in that moment, Nessa realized how beautiful Edelgard's eyes were. Her hand moved again, from the back of Edelgard's neck, up to let her fingers brush against her cheek. As she placed her hand against Edelgard's cheek, she smiled every so slightly when she felt the young woman press into it just so.
"Edelgard," Nessa whispered so quietly the princess herself barely heard it.
"Yes?" She whispered back, eyes darting down to Nessa's lips for a split second, and then back up to her eyes.
"May I–" Nessa started off, trying to figure out what exactly she wanted to say. Or what she even wanted to do!
"Can I–" she tried again, once again failing at trying to voice her desires.
"What do you need?" Edelgard whispered back softly.
"More," Nessa found herself saying, but unable to elaborate. "I– I…" as much as she tried, she just couldn't begin to explain what she needed, what she wanted .
Thankfully, Edelgard seemed to know. She always knew.
"Okay," she whispered back.
Once again, their noses brushed against each other, and Nessa and Edelgard let their eyes drift shut.
"Professor?" A call rang out from the courtyard. Dorothea.
Her call shocked the two of them so much that Edelgard dropped Nessa on the ground, lost her balance and fell on top of her. It was their groans of pain that alerted the songstress to their location and she popped her head in.
"Edie! Professor! What are you two doing in here?" Dorothea asked with a mischievous glint in her eye.
Edelgard looked up from her spot half on top of Nessa, started pushing herself up with her hands and answered, "the professor asked me to teach her to dance so that she could coach you… as you can see, it has not been going as anticipated."
Nessa propped herself up on her hands, looking over at Edelgard with one eyebrow raised, indicating her confusion. It was true that their impromptu dance practice didn't go as expected, but she was not quite sure what Edelgard was trying to imply. Such things were beyond her understanding and it seemed like Petra was the only one of her students that understood that feeling.
"Don't worry, Professor!" Dorothea said, trying to hide a laugh behind her hand (and failing), "I am very confident in my dancing abilities. Manuela taught me when I first joined the Opera. We're definitely going to win! All you'll need to do is stand there and tell me I look pretty."
"You look pretty?" Nessa replied with a slight cock of her head to show her confusion.
"Just like that!" The songstress chirped out. "Well, practice is in half an hour and you told me to come find you half an hour before practice, so here I am."
Nessa nodded, she had told her student this.
"Thank you. Please go ahead to the gardens. I believe that is where the practice is to take place, according to Professor Manuela. I will be there shortly."
Dorothea nodded and headed on her way, but not before giving Edelgard a look. It was not something that Nessa understood, but the groan from Edelgard indicated that she understood the meaning behind it.
"Was that bad?" Nessa asked quietly.
"Excuse me?" Edelgard asked, looking over at Nessa.
"Was… was I bad? Is that why you groaned?" Nessa asked her.
"Wha– no! No, not at all!" Edelgard reassured her quickly. "Dorothea is just… well. It's hard to explain. Dorothea is just being Dorothea. You did nothing wrong. I promise."
Nessa accepted that with a small nod. Understanding was difficult, but Edelgard was nice enough to help her all the same.
"Was… everything else… bad?" Nessa asked her.
That got a small grin from Edelgard. "Definitely not," the princess answered her. "Everything else was lovely. You are an incredible dancer, professor."
"I like to dance. But only follow, I do not think I can lead," Nessa told her.
"Then next time I won't make you try to lead. You can just follow as much as you like," Edelgard promised her.
"I would not make such statements," Nessa told her, finally picking herself off the ground. "I love dancing very much. You may be in for a long day."
"I'm sure I'll enjoy it all the same," Edelgard told her, also standing up. "And if Dorothea is as good as she thinks she is, perhaps you should see how skilled she is when it comes to leading. You never know, it may be more impressive to have her lead if she can do it well."
Nessa's eyebrows shot up. She hadn't even thought of that idea!
"Edelgard! You are brilliant!"
The princess rolled her eyes, but she offered a smile all the same. "Praise really isn't necessary."
"Yes it is!" Nessa declared. "I should go!"
The woman took a few steps and then realized the state of her classroom. She and Edelgard had pushed all the tables and benches up against the edge of the room, giving them as much room as they could to work on their dancing. But that took a little bit.
"Go, professor," Edelgard said to her. "I'll put the room back together. You go secure our victory in the White Heron Cup… on one condition."
Edet took a deep breath in and then said, "you save me a dance at the ball."
Nessa smiled at her just slightly, "Edelgard, you may have as many dances with me as you wish. I love to dance." She said to her. Nessa paused for a moment and then added, "And, I believe you may have become my new favorite dance partner."
With that, Nessa bolted off to coach Dorothea, doing her best to ignore the strange feeling of disappointment deep in her gut and the burning of her cheeks.
"So, how'd it go?" Jeralt asked with a small smile on his face when he watched his daughter walk back into his office later that night.
The coaching for the White Heron Cup was over, and each of the three houses seemed fairly confident in their chosen representative's abilities. Already the knights were taking bets about who would win the cup, and Jeralt had it on good authority that most were betting on a Black Eagles victory. So that would come as good news for his daughter.
Nessa walked into his office and fell into one of the chairs, letting out a massive breath that she was holding once she was settled. It was probably the most dramatic Jeralt had ever seen her, which amused him greatly.
"That good, huh?" He asked from his spot at his desk. He had all kinds of papers scattered about. Reports on suspicious movements. With very little known on the Flame Emperor, the Knights stayed on their toes, investigating anything and everything that was suspicious. While Jeralt appreciated the constant vigilance, especially when his kid seemed to be at the center of this mess, he didn't appreciate all the extra paperwork.
"You already know," Nessa stated, looking over at him. While she may not be the best at reading into the intonation of others' voices, she knew her father well enough to know that he knew more than he was letting on. "How did you know?"
"Walked by the classroom when she was leading you around," her father admitted with a small grin.
When her father mentioned that dance, Nessa couldn't help but sigh and let her mind drift back to it. "She is a very good dancer," Nessa mumbled out as she remembered Edelgard's strong grip on her waist when she dipped Nessa.
"Glad you had fun, Nessa," Jeralt said with a sincere smile on his face. He had never seen her like this before. Sure she was always incredibly shy among 'pretty girls' and by her own admission, Nessa was 'useless around pretty girls' and she was 'a useless lesbian'. But this was different. She seemed almost smitten with the Adrestian Princess, and Jeralt couldn't help but smile.
"It was good," Nessa finally said after a moment. "Do you think my mother would like Edelgard?"
"I think if she treated you well, your mother would approve. Yes," Jeralt answered honestly.
"Do you have any other questions," he asked her. "I am a man of my word, after all."
Nessa looked at his with what seemed to be a mischievous sort of look on her face (or as close to one as she could make), and said, "I will make you a list."
That alone had him laughing for the rest of the evening.