Edelgard first met Hilda on the first day of their junior year at Garreg Mach University.
The girl with the bright pink hair hadn’t immediately made an impression on her - her eyes had drifted over the girl’s obnoxiously pink hair with a simple interesting and that had been that. Then the girl had spoken and Edelgard was forced against her will to focus on her.
Hilda should not be someone Edelgard focused on - she should be focused on her plans after Garreg Mach, to finalize contingency plans with Hubert if her initial plans failed - she should not be focusing on the girl with the obnoxiously pink hair who refused to go anywhere without a frappuccino and refused to shut up.
She should not be wondering what Hilda’s thoughts were, why she was so confident in her outlandish opinions - it made no sense to her why she was focusing on her. She should not be thinking about the brightness of her eyes when she spoke about something she was passionate about, the way her lips curled invitingly over her words, the way her smile lit up her face when she spoke -
“Edelgard? Are you listening?” Ferdinand’s voice cut through her devolving thoughts pertaining to Hilda and Edelgard blinked, giving herself a full shake. No more focusing on the pink-haired girl - Edelgard had plans, had ambitions, and she wasn’t going to let Hilda stop her.
“Yes, I’m listening, Ferdinand,” Edelgard said, turning her head towards where Ferdinand and Hubert sat at the coffee table in their shared apartment, “I just momentarily spaced out. Do you mind repeating the last bit for me?”
Ferdinand’s eyes flickered once, towards Hubert, who delicately shrugged at the question in Ferdinand’s eyes. Edelgard was briefly irritated at the obvious communication between them that she was not privy too, but she supposed that was what happened when your two closest confidants enter in a relationship with one another. While she was happy with their relationship - particularly on Hubert’s end, as he had paranoia and trust issues that were truly legendary - it was times like this where a part of her was irritated at their easy, nonverbal conversation, while a smaller part of her craved what they had. However, as that quiet yearning feeling appeared deep in her gut, she pushed it away, burying it back down where it belonged. She didn't need relationships or love, like them - she just needed herself.
“Of course, Edelgard,” Ferdinand said smoothly, as Hubert and Ferdinand finished their nonverbal discussion, “we were just discussing the plans concerning your father’s company and how we want to dismantle it - feel free to jump in.”
A sense of relief entered Edelgard’s body as she straightened her shoulders and as the three began discussing her plans for post-graduation. It essentially boiled down to taking over her father’s company - which was expected of her and not something that would come as a surprise - but once she was in charge she would be changing the entirety of the company and eventually dismantling it. Her father’s company had started off with great intentions but unfortunately there was no way for it to be taken off the bad train it had begun to go down.
The meeting discussing the plan went as well as it always does which was to say almost perfectly until Ferdinand began to unintentionally (so he claimed) distract Hubert with his…Ferdinand-ness. Edelgard tried not to let it get to her - they were a couple (lovers, if you wanted to go that far) - and she didn’t know what else she expected. Somewhere, some part of her, wanted what they had. The ease of close touches, the private looks they shared, the way Hubert - a famously untrusting, rigid, man - seemed to completely relax in Ferdinand’s presence. She…she wanted that ease with someone. She just knew she never could - not with the way her goals in life were. It was a path Edelgard must walk alone, despite Ferdinand’s and Hubert’s assistance in the whole affair - it was something she had to do by herself, with no partner by her side.
Edelgard left shortly after the meeting derailed, leaving Ferdinand and Hubert to their comfortable domesticity as she walked to her apartment where she lived alone. Her single apartment was something she loved, something she cherished most days but today the apartment seemed a little bit too quiet. A little bit too lonely. Edelgard tried to not focus on it and especially not the way she craved to have a loud, boisterous voice beside her. She fell into an uneasy sleep, imagining loud voices, almost child-like giggles, and vibrant pink hair.
Her morning was as routine for her as it always was - getting dressed, snoozing her alarm, making herself a small coffee and eating a bagel - and she began to make the trek to her classes at Garreg Mach’s main campus
She was irritated when she entered English 239, otherwise known as Introduction to American Literature, knowing that she would have to spend the entirety of the lesson gritting her teeth every time Hilda spoke. Edelgard always entered her class approximately ten minutes early to prepare herself for Hilda’s presence. It was a time when Edelgard essentially meditated and told herself not to get worked up by Hilda’s opinions or her brash, obnoxious personality (and not to be distracted by her pink hair, her pretty smile, and her melodic laugh).
This Wednesday, however, as Edelgard reached Seiros Hall 281 at approximately 9:50 am, Hilda was already seated in the room. As always, a venti java chip frappuccino sat on her desk, her backpack (pink, because what else would it be) on the seat next to her, the seat for her best friend, Claude von Reigan who consistently appeared five minutes late at 10:05 am. Edelgard liked Claude - respected him, even - but she could not understand his unwavering, loyal friendship with Hilda.
“Hey, Edelgard!” Hilda’s voice, loud and cheery, broke through Edelgard’s thoughts and she almost stumbled at Hilda’s words. She turned towards Hilda, who was smiling and taking a sip of her frappuccino. Her hair was in her signature pigtails - which should have made her look childish but it was a good look on her - and her makeup was done to perfection, not a single aspect done out of place.
“Hilda,” Edelgard said in response, her voice sounding detached and uninterested. “Good morning.”
Despite Edelgard’s attempt at a detached and uninterested tone, Hilda’s whole demeanor brightened once Edelgard spoke. Hilda simply beamed at her before turning back to her desk and taking a sip of her drink. Edelgard did her best not to roll her eyes but Hilda’s...everything was distracting and not needed. She sat down at her own desk, which was close to Hilda’s, and began getting out her materials for class, attempting to put herself in the correct headspace for class.
“Are you ready for our discussion about the symbolism in Catcher in the Rye?” Hilda’s voice cut through Edelgard’s concentration as she tried to prepare for class. At Hilda’s words, she felt a pit begin to form in her stomach.
“Didn’t the syllabus have us not discussing the Catcher in the Rye until Friday?” Edelgard forced her voice to be calm and collected, though her heart was racing in her chest. Edelgard was always aware of her deadlines and important class discussions - how had she let this go under her radar?
“Oh, last night Professor Eisner sent out an email explaining they were switching the discussion today because they have a conference to go to on Friday. Or at least I think that’s the reason I didn’t read past ‘Discussion moved to today’.” Hilda shrugged at the end of her sentence, giving an air of nonchalance. Edelgard tried to match that air of nonchalance but she knew she failed. Shit, Edelgard thought to herself, THAT’S why I didn’t see it - I went to bed early last night and didn’t check my email this morning.
“You’re not prepared for the discussion? Don’t worry - you can read my notes. And they’re good, I paid $100 for them,” Hilda’s voice cut through Edelgard’s internal monologue of Panic! Panic! Panic! and she shot Hilda an incredulous look. At her look, Hilda rolled her eyes and smirked.
“I’m kidding Edie - I wrote them. I know you’re too much of a kiss-ass to actually willingly use bought notes - not that I buy those! Just y’know, I know you wouldn’t use them.” Hilda laughed at the end of her sentence, holding two pieces of paper, covered in neat, precise writing on both sides. Edelgard reached out her hand, cautious, not even processing the nickname that passed through Hilda’s lips.
“Thank you,” Edelgard said, the panic her chest slowly subsiding as she frantically read Hilda’s notes. She barely registered Hilda’s ‘No problem’, as she studied Hilda’s notes. Edelgard was surprised at how…thorough they are. The notes weren’t a lot of pages but Hilda packed a lot of important stuff in those two pages (technically four, if you wanted to count front and back). Edelgard found herself entranced by Hilda’s notes, impressed at her use of language and attention to detail.
“Hello, class! Sorry about the late-night email, I completely forgot about the conference that I was attending on Friday. Give me a couple of minutes to set up and then we’ll discuss Holden and Stradlater’s relationship.” Professor Eisner’s voice cut through the low hum of the students panic whispering with each other about Catcher in the Rye - at the professor’s words, the room went silent. Quickly, Edelgard passed Hilda’s notes back to her, their fingertips brushing as Hilda took the papers from Edelgard. Involuntarily, a flush appeared on Edelgard’s cheeks, feeling a tingling sensation as she did so. Hilda smiled at her and Edelgard forced her gaze away and turned to look at Professor Eisner.
“Oooh, what’s got you blushing, Edie?” Dorothea’s whispered voice coming from Edelgard’s right and Edelgard did not squeal in surprise. Edelgard was not a woman who squealed but she did turn her gaze toward Dorothea, who’s smile was big, bright, and teasing.
“Nothing - we should be focusing on class.” Edelgard’s voice came out sharp, demanding authority, and Dorothea only giggled, moving her head in such a way to ‘discreetly’ look around to see the cause of Edelgard’s...unprofessionalism in the classroom. Edelgard went to glare at her but then the professor began speaking, beginning the class’s discussion.
Class went by rather easily, much to Edelgard’s surprise as she had been unprepared for the day’s discussion. Even more peculiar, she found herself agreeing with Hilda’s opinions regarding Catcher in the Rye. As they exited the classroom, Dorothea chatted about anything and everything, in her usual way. Edelgard tried to focus on it but found herself thinking about Hilda. Her opinion of Hilda was supposed to be stagnant - she was supposed to be some girl that Edelgard knew. She wasn’t supposed to be the source of these confusing feelings in her gut, she wasn’t supposed to have her thoughts be consumed about the pink-haired girl in her class, she wasn’t supposed to be wondering if her hair was as soft as it looked, or what the feel of her lipstick would feel like on Edelgard’s lips, she -
“-And I was thinking I might be the third wheel and Ferdinand and Hubert’s relationship. Forget Petra, I’ve never liked her anyway. And oooh, maybe you could have Hubert on weekends and I’ll take Ferdinand on weekdays! How does that sound, Edie?” Dorothea’s voice cut into Edelgard’s thoughts and she blinked rapidly, turning her gaze towards Dorothea.
“Why...what? Why am I taking Hubert on weekdays? What are you doing with them?” Edelgard’s voice sounded bewildered to her own ears and Dorothea’s expression, which had been almost thoughtful, brightened considerably.
“Oh, good!” Dorothea said cheerfully, “ Now you’re listening. What’s got you so distracted?” Edelgard almost let out a laugh before shaking her head. She didn’t know how to answer Dorothea’s inquiry - how did she explain Hilda’s presence in her mind was terrifying and awful yet made her have butterflies in her stomach and made her heart beat faster?
“Nothing, Dorothea. I just...got distracted by something. What were you saying?” Edelgard said, forcing herself to focus on Dorothea’s next words. Dorothea rolled her eyes at Edelgard’s dismissal, shaking her head and tucking a piece of hair behind her ear.
“Edelgard, have we just met? Do I look like an idiot to you? Something’s got you distracted and I want all the details. I deserve them, even, as your best friend.” Dorothea’s voice, while gently teasing, held an undercurrent of force that would prompt a lesser person to immediately divulge whatever Dorothea requested. However, Edelgard was a strong individual and would not crack under the pressure of Dorothea’s words. She wouldn’t.
She continued walking forwards to the dining hall, ignoring Dorothea’s pleading words of “Edie tell meeeeeeeee” as they sat down at their usual spot, Huber and Ferdinand already present, engaging in a heated discussion about something.
“-Ugh, you are infuriating - oh, hi Dorothea and Edelgard!” Ferdinand smiled at them as they approached, seemingly no longer focused on his argument with Hubert. Edelgard smiled back, hoping that her smile would deter Dorothea’s plan of trying to figure out what was ‘wrong’ with her. Her smile was unsuccessful.
“Hey, Ferdie and Hubie! Do you all know what has our favorite girl’s mind in the clouds?” Hubert made a face at being referenced as ‘Hubie’ from Dorothea but Ferdinand turned his full gaze on her, eyes wide. Edelgard fought the urge to groan aloud, any outward displays of annoyance would have her friends be even more forceful with their belief that she had something to ‘fix’.
“Is it the same reason you were distracted last night, Edelgard?” Ferdinand asked and Dorothea’s eyes darted towards Edelgard’s direction, locked obnoxiously shocked, mouth in a little ‘o’.
“Edelgard von Hresvelg! What is the number rule of our friendship?” Dorothea stated loudly and Edelgard pressed her face into her hands, letting out the groan she had tried to repress earlier.
“We don’t have rules in our friendship?” Edelgard said, weakly, hoping that her remark would derail Dorothea from her tirade. This, also, did not work.
“Always tell each other when we have things that are bothering us so we don’t become emotionally constipated men like Hubert and Ferdinand!” At this, both Hubert and Ferdinand let out an immediate, offended, ‘Hey!’ which Dorothea acknowledged with a nonchalant wave of her hand. “Edie,” Dorothea continued, voice turning soft, “you’re my best friend. There’s clearly something going on and I really noticed it when we were - oh! OH! It’s someone in our class isn’t it?” At Dorothea’s words, Edelgard felt her face flush.
“No,” She said, somewhat in vain, judging by Dorothea’s squeal and Ferdinand’s almost gleeful gasp. Hubert, predictably, said nothing, and that’s why Edelgard loved him most.
“Oh my god, Edie has a crush! I wonder who it is?” As she spoke, Dorothea dramatically tapped her manicured fingers against her chin, humming thoughtfully. Edelgard decided instead, at this moment, to focus on her food rather than whatever Dorothea thought was Edelgard’s issue. Edelgard didn’t have crushes, she couldn’t have crushes, she had plans and ambitions and she couldn’t do all of that while -
“Oh, it must be Claude!” Dorothea shouted and Edelgard choked on her sip of water. Dorothea made an alarming noise and thumped her back as Edelgard coughed to catch her breath.
“Claude?” Edelgard croaked out, once she was able to manage words, “ CLAUDE? You think I am distracted by that man who shows up to class late, spends all of his time pretending to be dumb when we all know he’s smart and thinks Sylvain Gautier is attractive?” The last part of her sentence is said with exasperation and silence meets her words. Hubert, who had been almost entirely silent through this whole exchange, hummed noncommittally before stating, “Actually, Gautier is not that -” Hubert does not finish his sentence as Ferdinand’s open palm went quickly across Hubert’s mouth, silencing the rest of his words.
Hubert shot a look at Ferdinand, harsh in a way that had other students trembling under his gaze, but Ferdinand did not care only stating, “You do not mention other semi-attractive redheads in my presence. We agreed on this.” Ferdinand’s voice was short and curt, but his eyes sparkled with mirth, even obvious to Edelgard who was sitting opposite of them.
“Wait,” Dorothea said aloud, forcing the four of them to focus back on the topic at hand, “if it’s not Claude....” she trailed off, furrowing her eyebrows, before her eyes widened and she turned to Edelgard, excitingly blurting out, “Oh my god! It’s Hilda!”
Edelgard tried to not have any outward reaction to this comment and have her features be calm and collected. Instead, she felt herself flush again and turned her face away from Dorothea’s knowing glances. At Edelgard’s lack of response, Dorothea and Ferdinand let out excited squeals and Dorothea was practically vibrating.
“I can’t believe you like Hilda,” Dorothea said excitedly, clasping her hands together, “she’s so great and so are you! A power couple for the ages, truly.” Edelgard lifted her head up and shook her head.
“I do not,” Edelgard started, attempting to have her voice have that strong, commanding tone, “have a...crush on Hilda. She’s just...she’s just…” Edelgard floundered her words, trying to encompass her exact feelings on her. She was engaging, she was irritating, she made Edelgard laugh, she made Edelgard angry - she was a hundred contradictions in one and Edelgard was utterly entranced by her.
“She’s just a lot.” Edelgard finished, rather lamely, feeling her heart pitter-patter in her chest and what felt like a low roaring in her ears. God, feelings were stupid and dumb. This is why Edelgard (and Hubert, originally, the traitor) agreed on not having any romantic relationships until their goals were achieved. Romantic partners, romantic feelings, were distracting and awful. It was much better to focus on oneself and not worry about others.
“Hey,” Dorothea said quietly, putting her hand on top of Edelgard’s and squeezing gently, “I know it’s scary to like someone - but Hilda’s a good person. Plus, from what I’ve noticed in how she interacts with you in class, she definitely likes you back.” Edelgard felt an emotion she didn’t know quite how to name immediately overwhelm her at Dorothea’s words, her eyes blinking rapidly almost feeling she might do something ridiculous like cry.
“I don’t care if Hilda likes me,” Edelgard said, her voice quiet and wavering, “I don’t have time to have a relationship I have to focus on -”
“Edelgard,” Hubert’s voice cut her off and she rapidly turned her head towards Hubert’s, whose gaze was strong and unwavering. “You told me it was okay for me to have personal relationships with others - that it would make me stronger, help us focus on our cause more. Are you saying that you were wrong?” A silence is met after Hubert’s words, the sound of the other patrons in the dining hall chattering away the only noise Edelgard is able to focus on, rather than the low roaring in her ears.
Are you saying that you were wrong?
“I-” Edelgard started to say but swallowed harshly at the end of her attempted word. She let out a sigh and pushed a hand through her hair, thinking about Hubert’s words. Edelgard had told Hubert it was okay for him to involve himself with Ferdinand - encouraged it, even - because it seemed awful to her that Hubert was throwing his life away to focus on her dreams. He should be able to get the chance to enjoy everything life has to offer - oh. She...she was thinking the same way Hubert was, wasn’t she?
That’s why they wanted me to be open, Edelgard thought, I’m going to become someone I don’t recognize otherwise. She reached out her hand to grasp Hubert’s, giving it a gentle squeeze, mouthing the words Thank you, as she did so. Hubert smiled at her, one of his rare smiles that almost made her find him attractive, and just gave her a nod. They’d known each other long enough to not need words; she knew exactly what he was trying to say.
“You should go ask her out,” Ferdinand said, once the moment had passed between Edelgard and Hubert passed and Edelgard whipped her head to look at him. Edelgard opened her mouth to viciously argue, she just maybe got into the headspace that romantic relationships for her were okay, this was not the time to immediately go out on a date when a voice interjected.
“Hello, favorite people. How are the second most attractive group of people at Garreg Mach University doing this fine lunch hour?” Claude von Reigan’s voice, loud and obnoxious as ever, interrupted their conversation and brought it to a screeching halt. Shoulders stiffening, Edelgard turned around to look behind her.
And there, with Claude, like two peas in a pod, was Hilda, looking as bright and beautiful as she always did. Her smile was bright and when she was Edelgard was looking at her, her smile widened and almost looked like something Edelgard would describe as flirty. But Hilda wouldn’t be smiling at her like that - she had other people who were not Edelgard to share her flirty smiles with. Wait, what was Hilda doing here? Claude and Hilda every day after class went to their respective dorms to nap and relax before class (Not that Edelgard had managed to memorize Hilda’s schedule so she could maybe run into her. Edelgard knew so she could avoid her, obviously)
Edelgard glanced at Dorothea, to communicate something along the lines of What are they doing here? but noticed the mischievous glint in Dorothea’s eyes. She caught a glance of Dorothea’s phone in her pocket and almost absently remembered that Dorothea and Claude were almost something like friends. A pit started to form in Edelgard’s stomach, making her swallow hard.
“Claude! What a pleasant surprise! Normally I only see your handsome face once a day but I get to be blessed by it twice - truly it is a gift.” Dorothea’s voice was loud, boisterous, and instilling a lot of faux surprise that even Edelgard caught on to it. Claude laughed at her words and said something in response that Edelgard didn’t quite catch - she was too busy staring at Hilda.
At this close proximity, Edelgard could see how pretty Hilda’s eyes were and how pretty and well done her makeup was. Hilda’s eyes were boring into hers and Hilda’s posturing and body language almost seemed to say, Hey, I know. Me too, Edelgard. Edelgard almost felt something like a smile begin to form across her face and something must’ve been obvious in her expression because Hilda’s eyes brightened.
They were brought out of their staring content - Edelgard didn’t know what else to call it - by Dorothea, Ferdinand, and Hubert all gathering their things and leaving the table at once. Edelgard went to open her mouth to say something but Hilda beat her to it.
“What? Claude, where the fuck are you guys going?” Hilda said and Claude grinned wolfishly, grasping her by the shoulder and shoving her down on the seat next to Edelgard like one would do with a cat when you wanted them to sit down with you.
“Edelgard’s friends may be subtle, but I sure as shit am not. Talk to each other, make out, have extremely public sex in the dining hall, stab each other with a knife - I don’t care. If I have to hear Hilda talk about you one more time I will kill Edelgard myself. Deal with your tension, please. ” Claude's smile was all wolf as he spoke and as he finished speaking he sent a rather meaningful glare in Hilda’s direction before winking at Edelgard and departing. Edelgard tried to catch any of her friends’ eyes but they all quickly left, leaving just Hilda and Edelgard.
Neither of them said anything for a moment, still reeling from Claude’s demand and Edelgard searched her mind for something to say. It seemed Hilda was attempting to do a similar thing.
At this, both of them laughed and some of the tension seemed to disappear. The pit in Edelgard’s stomach was still there but she also had a warm feeling fighting it and every second that passed the warm feeling seemed to be winning.
“If Claude didn’t make it obvious,” Hilda started to say, once their nervous laughter had quieted, “I uh, I guess you could say I like you. I mean, I think your opinions in our English are class are flat out wrong -”
“Wrong? My opinions are wrong? You once argued that The Great Gatsby was one of the worst novels in American literature -”
“Fitzgerald is extremely overrated, his works suck and are bad all the way around. You do not need to spend a whole page describing people, you can do it in two sentences. Who even has time to read that?” Edelgard opened her mouth to retort, as Hilda continued her anti-Fitzgerald tirade, feeling the fiery feeling in her chest of anger but paused, realizing she wasn’t actually angry. Arguing with Hilda was almost...fun. Was this how Hubert felt , she wondered when he argued with Ferdinand for the first time? Knowing he had met his match and someone could stimulate his mind?
“Anyway,” Hilda said and Edelgard focused her attention back on Hilda’s words and not on her mouth, “ that’s not what I was forced here to do. I...I want to take you out. On a date. Where maybe we could hold hands or even kiss if you wanted.” Hilda’s voice was teasing and confident but there was an undercurrent of nerves in her tone. It comforted Edelgard in a way, knowing that Hilda was maybe nervous about this too. Then the rest of Hilda’s words reached her and she felt her face flush.
She stared at Hilda for a second, though she was sure for Hilda it felt like years long. She looked at her, really looked at her for a moment, and took a breath. She was not going to be like the many people who ruined their own lives in the name of their dreams, she was going to be her own person.
“Yes,” Edelgard started to say, her voice having the tone of cool confidence and power, a tone she had been trying to rediscover since this whole Hilda thing began, “I think I would like that.” Hilda positively beamed at her words and Edelgard found herself smiling, really smiling back.
Maybe Hilda and she wouldn’t be like Ferdinand and Hubert, or Dorothea and Petra, or Caspar and Linhardt - friends of hers that seemed to match in every imaginable way. Maybe, though, they would be - and Edelgard had to take the chance on Hilda to see if they would be. After all, if she wasn’t willing to take risks for herself, who else would?