Sleep was the one time Nessarose Byleth Eisner truly felt at peace. Everything was simple in her dreams. People said what they meant, and did as they said they would. There was no lying, no double meanings, nothing that would confuse her. Not like the waking world.
Nessa loved to sleep, despite her issues with it all her life. Falling asleep was always hard. Perhaps it was because she had gotten used to her Father or his men carrying her around as a child until her eyes drifted shut. Or maybe she was, "just a cuddler" as her student, Dorothea, suggested with a teasing sort of smile. She did not seem to mean offensive with her statement, and it was likely an observation of her, but her facial expressions were playful. At least, that was how Nessa interpreted the situation at the time.
Edelgard interpreted the situation very differently and scolded her fellow student. When Nessa asked why, her Class Leader dismissed her, citing how Dorothea was simply saying silly things for the sake of being a pest. While her face seemed annoyed, Nessa heard what she thought to be some playful sort of tone in the princess's voice. Of course she was not familiar with emotions, but Nessa liked to think she had grown over her time with her student. At least enough to tell the difference between those sorts of quirks.
Still, the fact of the matter was Nessarose Byleth Eisner really liked to sleep.
So much so, that she was often late to class, or various other appointments (especially morning ones) because she was still asleep. She wasn't usually this bad, however after her students gifted her some pillows (courtesy of Bernadetta, and probably some arm-twisting by Edelgard), Nessa was significantly more late to just about everything. It was probably why Edelgard took to knocking on her door every morning as she went to breakfast, just so she could make sure the professor was awake before classes started. And, this way no one had to break down her door. Again.
(Edelgard refused to apologize for that, and she actually scolded Nessa for her tardiness. Ingrid, on the other hand, was mortified and kept apologizing every time they saw each other for at least two weeks.)
Actually, it was probably why Edelgard was less resistant to sharing a tent with the young professor during their missions. The other part could also be simply because they were used to it, having shared tents almost the entire time Nessa had been teaching. But, Nessa suspected that Edelgard had entirely too much fun hitting her with pillows until she awoke. She never missed the barely there giggles that Edelgard would try to hide when Nessa slowly woke up and tried to block the inevitable barrage of pillows.
Still, even with her student constantly trying to wake her up, Nessa often found herself late to all sorts of appointments. Mostly with the Archbishop, Seteth, other faculty or even the Knights, but that was only because Edelgard likely didn't know of these appointments (or she likely would have awoken Nessa, either by dumping water on her, or a barrage of pillows. She once tried to just pull Nessa out of bed, but that ended almost as badly as the first time she ever woke the young professor).
"Would you stop dreaming about your little Emperor and wake up already!"
Unfortunately for Nessa, it seemed like Edelgard would not be the one to wake her up this time.
Shame. Nessa liked it when Edelgard woke her up. She liked that Edelgard was the first thing she saw every morning.
"You are completely and utterly hopeless! Do you know that?"
She liked to sleep! Was that really such an issue?
But she was very tired! Honestly, Nessa couldn't remember a time she felt this exhausted in her entire life. Maybe another hour or two would do her good.
"Oh no you don't! You have been asleep far too long! You're going to be late!"
Late? Why would she be late?
"Must I do everything for you?"
The voice was irritated, but Nessa wasn't concerned with the voice. It was familiar in a way, and the irritation in that voice also seemed familiar. Clearly Nessa irritated the voice more often than not.
But why was she late?
"You'll come find me as soon as we win." Nessa heard Edelgard whisper in her mind.
"It will be the first thing I do." Nessa remembered saying. "I have a reward waiting for me."
A smile. Edelgard's smile flashed through her mind. They stood next to each other, foreheads pressed together, just savoring the early morning air. The camp was quiet, but slowly soldiers and the Black Eagle Strike Force were starting to awaken.
"Don't be late." Edelgard whispered before pressing her lips gently into Nessa's.
SHE WAS LATE!
And so, despite all the protesting from her body, Nessa woke up.
When Nessa finally saw Edelgard for the first time, the woman had her back to the stairs, opting to lean against the balcony railing and watch the night go by.
Gone was the young Princess and her Academy wardrobe. Here stood a war-hardened Emperor, still standing despite the crushing weight that rested on her shoulders. A weight that Nessa longed to help carry, but couldn't. Not in her current weakened state. She could hardly stay on her own two feet, and that was with the support that the wall gave her as she leaned against it.
"I am late, again." Nessa said, her voice raspy from lack of use. "I apologize."
Despite her weakened state, she still seemed to get the drop on Edelgard and surprise her. At least, it looked like surprise given the way the Emperor whirled around so fast, drawing a dagger and readying it to fight.
"Pro- Professor?" Edelgard asked, partially in shock but also in awe.
"Edelgard," Nessa replied, nodding.
She tried to push off of the wall and take a few steps forward, but the trek up to the Monastery seemed to drain what little strength Nessa had. After just three steps, she felt her knees buckle and collapse under her.
The professor closed her eyes and braced herself for impact with the cold stone, but it never came. Instead, strong arms caught her before she even hit the ground. Once secured, the arms adjusted and Nessa found herself being gently pulled into a strong warm body. Her head almost instantly rested against a shoulder, and she soon smelled the familiar comforting scent of bergamot.
Once she was not being jostled around, Nessa opened her eyes to see familiar lilac eyes staring down at her.
"You are very late, professor," Edelgard said after a moment of hesitation. Tears seemed to fill her eyes but didn't spill over, and the corner of her lips turned up ever so slightly.
"You know how I get when I am asleep," Nessa mumbled back, closing her eyes again and attempting to nuzzle against the spot where Edelgard's neck met her shoulder.
"You have a terrible sense of humor," the young Emperor told her. She lightly knocked her shoulder against Nessa's head to keep the woman from falling back to sleep, or at least from falling asleep in general. "Have you any idea how long we have searched for you? We thought you died!"
Nessa yawned and opened one eye to give Edelgard a less than amused look at being interrupted from her mission of trying to go back to sleep. Slowly she opened the other eye and then picked her head up off of Edelgard's shoulder. Nessa blinked a few times, yawned again, and realized that they were on the ground still. Edelgard must have lunged to catch Nessa as she fell, and then opted to just sit on the cold stone while holding the weak woman in her lap.
"It is very possible I did die. I am unsure. But it felt an awful lot like a nap," Nessa finally said.
A nap that wasn't nearly long enough, but she kept that part to herself. Something told her that Edelgard was starting to understand what Nessa was saying. After all, Nessa wasn't the type to lie or say anything other than exactly what she meant.
Edelgard sighed after she took a moment to process Nessa's words. Of course the professor was telling the truth, she had never lied before. She didn't even understand why people lied, of course she isn't lying.
"You've been asleep for five years, professor."
"I have been made aware," Nessa mumbled. Her eyebrows furrowing just enough for Edelgard to see how distressed and irritated the woman was about that particular tidbit of information.
"I apologize for my tardiness," Nessa said after a moment of silence.
"I suppose I shouldn't be surprised," Edelgard replied, "we both know how you are when you're asleep."
Nessa looked up at Edelgard with the corner of her lips curling up ever so slightly. Then, she carefully rested her head against Edelgard's shoulder once more, and then let her eyes drift shut.
"Still, I am sorry."
"I know," Edelgard whispered back, pulling the fragile woman as close as she possibly dared. "I forgive you—"
"Thank you," Nessa mumbled.
"—Only because it is obvious that I am the only one that can seem to wake you at a reasonable time. Therefore I cannot hold your tardiness against you."
Nessa let one eye open to look up at Edelgard. The woman seemed to sound a little teasing, but she could not tell for sure. A playful but deliberate wink told Nessa that the Emperor was, in fact, teasing her like she used to do.
"You know, you may be late for our victory," Edelgard started off as she adjusted her arms and hands to get a better grip on Nessa, "but you are just in time to keep your promise from five years ago."
"My promise?" Nessa asked, now opening her other eye and raising one eyebrow to indicate her confusion.
Edelgard slowly stood up, making sure not to jostle the frail woman too much. "Today is the Millennium Festival, Professor. Don't tell me you have forgotten?"
Right! The Festival. The reason Nessa made such a fuss about racing up to the monastery before the night was over.
"Is there a festival happening?"
"Well, no." Edelgard answered honestly, "but I know the others are here just like we promised five years ago."
"I remember being promised a dance then, too," Nessa mumbled out as Edelgard walked them down the steps of the Goddess Tower.
"I am not sure that would be wise, Professor," Edelgard told her.
"I kept my promise," Nessa pointed out, "And I died."
"You were asleep," Edelgard stated in a less than amused tone.
"That is not the same thing."
"After five years, I am fairly certain that it is basically the same thing."
The Emperor couldn't argue with that. She let her back press against the door to the Goddess Tower and it swung open, letting them out into the cool evening air. The chill hit Nessa and seemed to go right through her as her body shivered violently to try and fight off the chill. Edelgard seemed to realize that Nessa's threadbare clothing and tattered borrowed blanket did nothing to keep the woman warm. So, with some awkward shifting around, Edelgard managed to wrap her cloak around her trembling professor without dropping her.
"I doubt you could even stand, let alone dance right now," Edelgard told her.
"I can if you help," Nessa argued.
"There is no music," The Emperor added.
"That did not stop us the first time."
No it didn't.
Both women remembered their first dance, back when Dorothea was the class representative and Nessa was trying her hardest to learn how to lead (and failing spectacularly). And then, of course, the ball when they both snuck off and accidentally met at the Goddess Tower. Both had been accosted by so many others that they never had the chance to dance with each other, so they made use of their accidental meeting to finally get the dance they had been hoping for all night.
The memory brought a smile to both of their faces, though it was more apparent on Edelgard's face.
"Perhaps when you are healed and this war is over," Edelgard said quietly as she walked them across the bridge that connected the Cathedral with the rest of Garreg Mach's campus.
Nessa hummed, clearly not pleased by the turn of events if her eyebrows were anything to go by.
"Only if I am your first dance," Nessa finally said.
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
"Good," Nessa replied. "I will try not to be late to that."
"I'll just make sure to come wake you beforehand," the Emperor told her, adding a playful wink for good measure. It was their way of helping Nessa work out what was a joke or some playful teasing, and what was actually something serious.
"Please do," Nessa replied, letting herself snuggle a little closer to Edelgard. "After all, you are the only one who can seem to wake me at a reasonable time."
That made Edelgard laugh, hearing her own words turned against her. It was a sound that would quickly become one of Nessa's favorites. Smiling ever so slightly, Nessa nuzzled against the spot where Edelgard's neck met her shoulders. And this time, Edelgard let her.
"Don't fall asleep, Professor," Edelgard warned her. "I know that the others will be just as thrilled as I was to see you again."
"I am not going to fall asleep, Edelgard," Nessa mumbled out.
But they both knew that wasn't true.
By the time Edelgard crossed the bridge and headed up to the conference room where the others likely still were working before Edelgard stormed out in anger, Nessa had fallen asleep.
At least this time Edelgard would be there to wake her up on time.