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Healing Struggles

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It hadn't been a full week since her return, and Edelgard was fretting over her like a mother hen. The woman refused to leave her side, even when Nessa felt the need to use the facilities.

"With all due respect, my teacher, you look like the wind outside would blow you over. I'm still not even sure how you managed the trek up to the Monastery."

She didn't need to know that Nessa fell. A lot. Or at all. That information, Nessa decided, was best kept to herself… lest Edelgard fret over her more.  

Still, Edelgard fussed over her constantly, and while precious, made it impossible to have a minute to herself. And that was something that was slowly starting to annoy the young woman. She was a private person as is, so to have someone around her constantly was… well, Nessa was not quite used to it. 

The only person she could tolerate for long periods of time was her father. And he was dead.

"I will be fine if you and Hubert need to speak on matters relating to the war," Nessa said in a sleepy sort of voice. 

She had been napping on and off over the course of the week, and not once did Edelgard leave her. Nessa didn't quite know why, after all, being around someone who is asleep was not very good company. And Nessa imagined it was rather boring. Edelgard had many things that she could, no , should be doing. Tending to the frail 'just woke up after being probably dead' Professor was not one of them.

"I can attend to that later," the emperor said dismissively as she glanced up from a report to take a look at her former professor. The chair she sat in was positioned so she could keep an eye on the healing woman, but she was still close enough to Nessa's desk, where her reports sat, to utilize it. 

"I am perfectly capable of tending to myself, should I need to," Nessa told her, holding her gaze.

"You can't stand up from the privy without help, Professor," Edelgard deadpanned with one brow raised as if to make her point.

The Emperor had her there. Nessa looked down at her bedsheets as she remembered that development. That had been an incredibly awkward development for the both of them. Nessa had never felt so embarrassed in her entire life, but Edelgard took it in stride and helped her without any complaint. 

Still, that meant Nessa needed another way to tell Edelgard to leave, so, new plan. She looked back to the Emperor, who was now focused on her reports again. Edelgard twirled her quill about her fingers as her eyes fluttered between a report and her own notes.

"Edelgard, I appreciate your attentiveness," Nessa started, placing her hands down on either side of her body with enough force to make a small thud, "but please go away !" 

Nessa didn't miss the hurt expression on the Emperor's face. Nor did she miss the way Edelgard jerked her whole body back, albeit slightly. The Emperor said nothing, but the woman bowed her head briefly before grabbing a few stacks of paper and making her exit. It was after the door closed that Nessa realized she probably could have worded her request better. Alas, it was too late now and Nessa decided that she might as well use this brief moment to process everything.

Nessa then settled back against her pillows and just stared at the ceiling.

Five years. 

In the span of five years, her students had grown up, lead Fódlan in a war against the Church. A war with a cause that they all believed in… to abolish the nobility system and create a new world where people would be judged by their own merits and not by the family from which they came. It was a grand idea, and one Nessa supported whole-heartedly despite her own heart not beating.

Her little eaglets were fully fledged eagles. They were no longer her fledglings. It was… strange and sad. Even though they cheered at her return, Nessa couldn't help but feel as if she wasn't really needed. After all, what good was a frail former mercenary turned professor? Nessa could hardly walk two steps, let alone face actual combat. Even if she could wield the Sword of the Creators, it's not like she could even fight anyone. Even the slightly unsettling spider on the wall would triumph over her.

They all changed so much. In five years, they likely saw about as much death as she had during her time as a mercenary. In all reality, they likely lead charges, and they were the ones to send troops to their untimely demise. Her poor students. Nessa only hoped that she prepared her little fledglings enough for the harsh realities of war.

She sighed.

She supposed they weren't so little any more… it was odd, that they changed so much, yet Nessa remained exactly the same… not counting her longer hair and looking like a skeleton. She certainly felt the same, just tired and weaker. And her students all said that she didn't seem to have aged a day. It was as if she was held in a magical stasis.

Sighing again, the former Professor pulled one of her pillows over her face. They were the same pillows that Bernadetta made her five years ago. Still nice and squishy, still soft and cuddly for sleeping. Even though everything, and everyone, seemed to change, at least her pillows were still the same, just like her. 

Though Nessa may have inadvertently driven off her favorite pillow. Her pillow Emperor was probably quite cross with her.

Nessa rolled on her side with her back to her door. While her pillows might be comfortable, her bed was decidedly less so. It could be due to the fact that she was practically a skeleton with skin, but laying in one spot too long was painful. When Edelgard was there, she fluffed pillows and made it so that Nessa had some extra cushion.

And Nessa hurt her.

In a rare fit of anger, Nessa seized the closest pillow, turned in bed, and tossed it over at her desk (that Edelgard had commandeered for work and war planning purposes). Unfortunately, the pillow didn't make it that far, falling just short of the desk. Instead it threw Nessa off balance and sent her tumbling out of bed.

She landed on the ground with a mighty thump. Her limbs were awkwardly tangled in her bedsheets, making it rather difficult to move or pick herself up. Her hair, which had grown significantly longer since she fell in the Battle of Garreg Mach, had come to obscure her vision and also get tangled in her bedsheets, leaving Nessa virtually helpless

A light knock sounded at her door before she heard the doorknob twist open.

"Professor, I-- Oh my goodness! Professor!"

The next thing Nessa knew, gentle hands were picking her off the ground, brushing her long mint green hair out of her face. Nessa let her head rest against a soft shoulder and soon enough, long brown hair obstructed her vision.

"Dorothea," Nessa mumbled out, letting the songstress help carefully untangle her and her obnoxious hair from the bedsheets. She was incredibly careful not to pull at Nessa's hair, or not to hurt her fragile limbs in her untangling process. 

Dorothea truly had a caretaker's touch. Did that develop over the course of the war? Nessa did not remember her to be quite so gentle. Even her hands had a softness that Nessa didn't remember. Which was strange, given that Nessa made sure to drill swordsmanship into the young Songstress. Especially after she became a dancer. Perhaps war left little desire for dancing to her, and a larger desire to care for pitifully weak professors.

Once Dorothea carefully untangled Nessa, she managed to help a still shaky professor to her feet.

With some shuffling, Nessa made it back in bed and Dorothea quickly went about checking over Nessa for any injuries.

"How did you get some of these scrapes, professor?" The woman asked and she pushed up the sleeves of the long sleeved nightgown that Nessa was borrowing from Edelgard (despite not leaving her alone, Edelgard at least closed her eyes when Nessa changed, which she was immensely thankful for now). "They look recent."

The look that Dorothea was giving her told Nessa that the songstress knew exactly how she got scraped up. Since Edelgard hadn't left her alone at all, it wouldn't be difficult for her to guess. She was only asking to give Nessa a chance to explain it.

Or lie.

Now Nessa understood why people lied.

"You do not need to concern yourself with them, Dorothea. Nor me. I am fine." Nessa mumbled in an unconvincing voice, pulling her arm from Dorothea's gentle grasp.

"The fact that I had to help you off the ground said otherwise," Dorothea fired back instantly. 

"You are being just as insufferable as Edelgard," Nessa told her. 

Dorothea sighed and pulled the lone chair over so she could sit next to the bed.

"Professor, you are not well. That's okay," Dorothea told her in a quiet voice, taking one of Nessa's hands in hers.

"I am not your professor." Nessa mumbled back, trying to disappear into her pillows. "I am not fit to teach in my state."

"It's okay to need help, you know." The songstress pointed out, leaning back against the chair and letting her legs cross over each other. "That being said, it's also alright to ask for some time to yourself. I was beginning to wonder when you would tell Edelgard off."

"I told her to leave, not to get off me. That does not make any sense, Dorothea. She was not on me at all."

She sighed. How could they forget how literal Nessa was. Honestly she was just as bad as Petra… it was adorable.

"I do not wish to seem ungrateful, but why did you come to my aid so quickly? Does Edelgard have someone stationed outside the door?"

Dorothea snorted. "While I wouldn't put that past her, I was not acting as a door guard for Edie. I came with some soup from the dining hall, actually."

The songstress pointed to a bowl that rested on one of the only open places on Nessa's desk.  

"I'm sure you're hungry."

Nessa couldn't deny that. She was constantly starving. Edelgard had been keeping little snacks in the room, so when Nessa was hungry, she could eat. It was never a lot at a single time, just a few bites here and there. Linhardt and Manuela were in agreement that grazing, and not overeating, was the best way for Nessa to regain her strength. But still, after a week, Nessa didn't feel any stronger… 

"Yes," Nessa confirmed.

Dorothea quickly rose to bring the small bowl over to the bed.

"I can feed myself," Nessa said quickly, with just a hint of irritation laced in her tone, watching as Dorothea reached for the spoon sitting in the bowl. 

"I'm sure you can," the woman replied simply, ignoring the slightly harsher tone that came from her former Professor. "I was just getting the spoon out to make it easier for you."

"Oh…" Nessa mumbled, "thank you."

Dorothea handed off the bowl to Nessa, making sure the other woman had a good hold on it before putting her hands down. 

"Let me guess, Edie has been the one feeding you this whole time."

Nessa nodded.

"Did you spill soup on yourself or something?"

Nessa looked side to side and then slowly nodded again.

"Well I'll let you feed yourself but if you get too unsteady, I'll take over."

Nessa nodded, deciding that was an agreeable arrangement. Soup burns were unpleasant.

The next few minutes were spent with Nessa careful slurping on some soup. She was extra careful not to spill some in her bed. It was apparent that Nessa had been left alone longer than she expected, because she managed to eat the entire bowl of soup. Granted, it wasn't a lot, barely a ladle full, but it was more than she had eaten in one sitting, so that was an accomplishment.

Wordlessly, Dorothea took the empty bowl and spoon from Nessa.

"Would you like me to stay, Professor? Or do you need space?"

That was a question that Nessa didn't have an answer for. She had to make Edelgard leave, so it was just strange to be offered space. 

"I do not know," Nessa finally admitted. 

"How about I go bring this back to the dining hall. And then I can come pop in and see how you're feeling?" Dorothea offered, "I don't want to smother you like Edie has been."

"Edelgard has not been smothering me," Nessa said, furrowing her brows slightly. "I have been able to breathe very well. And she has not been on top of me."

"But she wants to be," Dorothea mumbled to herself.

"Come again?" Nessa asked.

"Nothing, professor!" The songstress said quickly, jumping up from her seat. "Let me take this back to the dining hall and then I'll pop back to check on you. Would you like any other visitors?"

Visitors? That sounded… lovely actually. The past week was mostly waking up to see Edelgard already awake, dressed, and working. Sometimes Hubert would be there, talking about the war. Once Ferdinand was there, but Nessa hardly remembered seeing any of her little eaglets since she returned. At least not that she remembered.

"I believe visitors would be nice," Nessa confirmed with a nod of her head. "Though I doubt I could fit many visitors here."

After all this was her room from when she was a professor. Even though Nessa didn't decorate it much, only with a few instruments she had gathered in her travels, the space was rather small.

"Don't worry, Professor, I have an idea."

Well that was dangerous.

"Are you comfortable, Professor? Not too hot or too cold?" Dorothea asked as she stood over the woman, fretting over her in an oddly endearing way… provided she didn't do it constantly.

"I am wonderful, thank you."

"I'm great too, Dorothea, thanks for asking." Sylvain added in his typically cheeky voice.

"Quiet, you." She told him, lightly smacking his armored shoulder with a fan. "Chairs don't talk."

"So that's what I've been reduced to, a chair."

"You agreed to it!"

"You both are scaring the fish," Nessa commented to stop their bickering.

Dorothea had gotten it into her head that Nessa needed to get out of her room. So that was how she and a handful of her little eaglets found themselves sitting on the dock with fishing poles. Well, Nessa was seated in a cross-legged lap of Sylvain, with many blankets to cushion her, and her long hair braided back to keep out of the way, not unlike how Ingrid used to wear her hair. It was actually Ingrid who braided it for Nessa once they got her settled in Sylvain's lap. Sylvain's entire purpose was to keep Nessa from falling in the water if she caught a large fish. And, despite his complaining, he was actually enjoying himself if his massive grin was anything to go by.

Next to Sylvain and Nessa sat Ingrid, and Felix was on the other side of him. Petra stood behind Sylvain, with her own rod in hand. Once satisfied with her professor's comfort, Dorothea retreated to a chair behind them. She mostly was watching the scene (and not so subtly watching Petra), but also guarding all their snacks that she had assembled. Linhardt was leaning against one of the dock posts, fishing rod in hands and facing the water, while Caspar leaned against the same post, but facing Dorothea to have an uncharacteristically quiet conversation with her.

And also so he could be the first to dig through all the snacks when Dorothea's eyes wandered over to Petra's backside. He may not be book smart, but he was other kinds of smart, somtimes.

Bernadetta popped out for a brief moment, bringing a pillow for Nessa to put on top of Sylvain's lap, that way Nessa could use the excess blankets to shield her frail body from the cold. She stayed with the group for a moment before deciding her time for socializing was finished, and she went back to her room. She promised to pop back out every so often to check how the others were doing, never staying too long, but long enough for them to enjoy her company.

Quite a few of Nessa's little eaglets joined their impromptu fishing session. Lysithea popped up for a bit, bringing sweets that she was willing to share. Leonie even snagged a rod when she finished her training, vowing to defeat Nessa once she was recovered. Soon enough she and Felix were talking about strategies to best Nessa, despite her being right there. Mercedes and Annette popped out with even more snacks that their snack basket started overflowing. 

After a good hour, almost all of Nessa's eaglets were seated on or around the dock, happily conversing with each other and just enjoying a rather relaxing afternoon, or they had popped in for a moment before wandering off to finish things that needed finished.

Further away, off the dock, Ignatz was spotted painting the group. It was a quick painting, but the scene was so nice, that he knew he needed to capture it. Just so they could say there were good parts of this war. He went up to make conversation with the rest of the eagles, and get some snacks, but he would always wander back to his painting. On his last trip back to his painting, he noticed Edelgard, Hubert, and Ferdinand in the background.

"Ignatz, did you paint this?" Edelgard asked him, looking at the still in progress painting.

"What! Well, I… I, yes." He answered lamely. "I thought it might be good to capture this moment, when everyone looks so happy."

Edelgard nodded and pulled her eyes away from the painting, looking over at the dock. There, Nessa sat happily in Sylvain's lap. She wasn't smiling, clearly focused on catching a fish, but those eyebrows told Edelgard that she was quite pleased. And Nessa's pink cheeks said that she might be overheated from the large amount of blankets around her.

"It's lovely work, Ignatz. I look forward to seeing the finished product," she told him. 

With that, she made her way closer to the dock.

"Color me surprised that this old thing hasn't sunk under the weight of you all," Edelgard said over the dull chatter. She had a slight grin on her face, letting the group know she was joking. Which was rather rare, and it threw the vast majority of the group off. When no one spoke, she followed up with an awkward cough before adding: "Catch anything good?"

"Check out the buckets!" Sylvain said cheerfully, "I think the professor caught enough to feed the entire army! She's the Fishing Master!"

"We must have a very small army, then." Nessa piped up while giving her rod a sharp jerk. "Aha! Come here you little bastard!"

Nessa felt Sylvain's arms tighten around her waist as she started sliding out of it. The fish redoubled its efforts to get away, now starting to drag Sylvain off the dock too. 

"A little help!" Sylvain called out, leaning as far back as he could.

Soon enough, half of the strike force had their arms around Sylvain, the professor, or the damn fishing rod, trying to pull the damn fish out of the water.

"Shouldn't we cut our losses?" Edelgard asked, rushing forward to grab onto her beloved Professor.

"Never!" Nessa declared loudly.

"Never!" Echoed her eagles.

"So be it!" The Emperor declared. "Pull!" Edelgard yelled, her hands moving to hold onto the fishing rod, just above Nessa's hands. 

Unfortunately, Nessa lost her grip on the fishing pole, sending the entire strike force barreling back against the dock. Thankfully, Sylvain was able to take the fall for Nessa, but she still felt the impact.

Now with Edelgard being the only person holding out against this insanely powerful fish, she had two choices. Let the rod go, or fight. Too bad for that fish because Edelgard von Hresvelg was not a quitter. Unfortunately for Edelgard, that fish was still trying to pull against the strength of five people, and without the support of Nessa and the remaining members of the strike force, the next pull from that fish sent Edelgard sailing into the water.

"Edelgard!" Everyone shouted as she disappeared under the water.

Hubert raced towards the edge of the dock, prepared to dive in, only to be stopped by Leonie and Petra.

"She can't swim!" Hubert shouted at them.

"The water is shallow," Leonie told him quickly. "She should be able to just stand up! If Lysithea can stand in it, Edelgard can."

"I'm taller than her!" Lysithea yelled out… though no one elaborated on how it was known that Lysithea could stand in the pond without needing to swim.

"Then why isn't she?" Hubert hissed, already pulling off his cloak, and beginning to roll his sleeves up.

Soon the thrashing of water caught everyone's attention. Edelgard's red cape had come off in the scuffle and floated across the pond, coming close enough to the dock for Leonie to grab it. For the better part of a minute, all that could be seen was a hint of red fabric, just below the surface of the water, and the thrashing of a truly monstrous sized fish. The mighty scaled beast bucked and thrashed, trying to keep crimson gloves from garnering a good hold on the smooth scales. 

"Stand up, Lady Edelgard!" Petra yelled at her, "The water has shallowness!"

"What is she doing ?" Hubert whispered to himself.

At this point, Nessa had rolled off Sylvain, and crawled between Hubert and Petra, watching curiously. It was like she had seen this before, but she couldn't place where. It wasn't until Edelgard stood up in the water, did Nessa realize why the scene was so familiar. 

The water came up just under Edelgard's bust when she stood up. Her crown was terribly askew, and hair falling out of her buns, sticking to her face, neck and shoulders. Edelgard's face was bright red, but even still, she wore a sheepish grin, and over her shoulder was the massive fish in question. It's gills were flaring, partially from being out of water, and partially because Edelgard had her fingers expertly hooked into one side.

"Please tell me this fish is good to eat, or I will be very disappointed that I wrestled a fish for no reason," she said to the group.

Perhaps it was the way she spoke. Or perhaps it was her sheepish face. Or, perhaps it was the way she looked at Nessa, and the Professor was reminded of a similar time where her father wrestled a fish. Nessa couldn't pinpoint what did her in, but something did, because she started to laugh.

Belly laughing! She laughed so hard that she lost her balance and fell into the pond as well. 

"Professor!" The eagles shouted as she disappeared under the water.

The cold water was enough of a shock to Nessa's system that she managed to get her head above water rather quickly. Still giggling a little when she could take in air.

"You know, Professor, I've never seen you laugh before," Sylvain said to her, "it's pretty cute."

Ingrid elbowed him for that comment.

"Ouch! Alright! But it is!" Sylvain grumbled moving to Hubert's side.

"This fish will be good for eating!" Petra declared as she and Leonie took it from Edelgard. She had wadded up to the edge of the dock and handed her prize off, presumably to be cooked.

"I've got you, Professor," Edelgard told her with an oddly amused smile. She bent over and scooped her Professor right out of the cold water. "I suppose these blankets are now useless," she commented, looking down at Nessa who was now wrapped in wet blankets.

"I believe so," Nessa agreed. "And now I believe we need to bathe…"

"Good thing I was planning on making you take one today," Edelgard mused.

"You sound like my--" Nessa cut herself off. She couldn't finish her statement. That wound still cut too deep. "A warm bath would be most appreciative," she opted to say instead.

Edelgard looked like she was going to say something, but at the last second she seemed to change her mind. "I'll have one drawn for you right away."

The hot water was relaxing on her poor body. Edelgard, still clad in wet clothes, carefully lowered Nessa into the water, making sure it wasn't too hot beforehand. The Emperor called for what few servants they had in the monastery to draw Nessa a bath. The water was only later made warm due to Edelgard casting a fire spell at it. 

"And you questioned why I had you train in reason," Nessa managed through her chattering teeth. She shimmied in the water so that she could sink down to where her shoulders were covered by the hot water and bubbles (which was a necessary addition according to Nessa).

"Of course, Professor," Edelgard teased back, letting her forearms rest against the side of the tub.

"I plan for everything," Nessa answered with a playful quirk of her eyebrow. 

It made Edelgard smile. There was nothing special about it, just a simple smile while a still soaked Edelgard leaned over the top of the tub. She was seated on a stool close by, armed with soap, scrub brushes and washcloths to help clean the Professor. Even with her hair an absolute mess, her crown still cockeyed, Nessa couldn't help but smile back. Little moments like these made Nessa want to kiss Edelgard again and again until they both needed to stop for air. 

"Well you definitely didn't plan for this hair," Edelgard commented, letting her wet gloved hand brush soaked locks off of Nessa's forehead. "Do you plan to cut it?" 

Nessa shrugged. She never had long hair before. It definitely got in the way, so it probably would go.

"Either way, it needs to be washed, just like the rest of you."

"You are still in wet clothes, Edelgard," Nessa pointed out. "And you also fell into the pond so you probably need washed too. We can wash together."

If Edelgard's bright red race was any indication, that was not the right thing to say. The Emperor quickly sputtered something that Nessa couldn't quite catch it even understand, and devolved into a coughing fit for a brief moment.

"I do not wish you to become ill," Nessa told her. "You need to take care of yourself, Edelgard. It is very important… I believe this tub could fit two of us if we tried."

"Professor I do not think that it would be–"

"You will get sick if you stay in wet clothes! And you feel into the pond as well. Even longer than I did! You need a bath," Nessa argued to the Emperor. It was one of the few times she ever spoke back to Edelgard that she could even remember. "Also you smell like pond water."

"Fine," The Emperor relented. 

Probably because Nessa said she smelled like pond water.

"But, you have to promise not to look. At me. Just– just close your eyes and don't open them until I say so." Edelgard told her nervously. "And don't drown."

"I am not going to drown," Nessa scoffed, almost looking offended.

"Eyes closed," Edelgard reminded her.

Nessa closed her eyes, scrunching up her face a little in the process. And once Edelgard was sure that Nessa wasn't going to drown, she got to work peeling out of her wet clothes. 

What felt like an eternity later, to Nessa (which was likely only ten minutes or so), she heard Edelgard ask her to scoot up, so that the young Emperor could slip in behind her.

It didn't take long for Edelgard to slide in the warm water, sighing appreciatively at the warmth of the water against her skin. Once she settled, strong arms slid around Nessa's torso, gently pulling her back to lean on the Emperor.

"Time to get that pond water smell off you, Professor," Edelgard told the woman as she reached out for some of her many supplies. 

Up until this point, Edelgard had been giving Nessa sponge baths in bed. She didn't feel comfortable letting the young woman out of her quarters in such a weakened state, but now that Nessa had been out and submerged in a fishy pond, Edelgard had no choice but to help her get cleaned up.

"I can wash myself," Nessa informed her, leaning back against the Emperor. "You do not need to baby me."

"I do not baby you," Edelgard informed her.

"Yes you do," Nessa insisted, "Caspar said so."

Edelgard wasn't quite sure when Caspar became a reputable source, but apparently he was.

"So did Dorothea. She said you smother me, actually. I told her that you did not cover me or get on top of me, but she informed me that there is another meaning to that word when we were fishing," Nessa added. "I overheard the two of them before the others came, they believed I was too distracted by fishing to listen."

"How did you even get out there, anyway?" The Emperor asked, ignoring what Nessa had repeated. She would have words with Caspar and Dorothea later, but for now she had more important decisions to make. Cinnamon or Bergamot?

"Dorothea found me after I fell out of bed–"

"You what !?" The Emperor whipped her head to look at the back of Nessa's head. The woman was conveniently avoiding her gaze, which irritated Edelgard, but she wasn't about to force Nessa to look at her.

"I threw a pillow because I was angry, but I lost my balance and fell out of bed. Dorothea found me and helped me back in bed because I was tangled in my sheets."

When Nessa paused for a breath, Edelgard had to resist making a comment about how that situation wouldn't have happened if she had stayed. 

"She brought soup. It was nice and warm, and I ate it all. Dorothea even let me feed myself."

That was definitely a subtle jab at the young Emperor, and she kept silent. Partially because she didn't want to go off of the woman who somehow beat death… but also because this was a rare instance where Nessa was actually able to show and communicate her feelings to someone else. Even if it was a more angered emotion, and Edelgard was at the receiving end of her subtle jabs, she would allow it in private. To a point. 

"Did she, now?" Edelgard finally asked, coming to a decision on what soap to use. Cinnamon fit her teacher better than Bergamot.

"Yes. I did not spill it at all. And I finished the entire bowl… and then she asked me if I required space but I was unsure, so she returned the bowl to the dining hall and then returned with Sylvain. He carried me to the pond and then you know the rest."

"I'm glad you were able to eat an entire bowl of soup without dropping it," Edelgard said to her. "That means you are gaining your strength."

"Which is why I can wash myself," Nessa stated, leaning back against the Emperor and looking up at her with big green eyes.

And that was when Edelgard realized Nessa gave that entire story just to make a point. The point being that maybe Edelgard babied her Professor a little too much. 

"Perhaps a compromise," Edelgard proposed. "I will allow you to mostly wash yourself, but I will wash your back, as it is hard to reach without your limited mobility, and hair because honestly, it needs it. And I highly doubt you have ever cared for hair this long in your entire life."

"That sounds agreeable," Nessa said with a nod. Edelgard made fair and valid points. Also, at this point, any win no matter how small was still a win to her.

And so Edelgard passed Nessa some cinnamon scented soap, wrapped in a washcloth. She made sure to keep an eye on Nessa as she washed, just so that the woman didn't accidentally drown herself. But, since her Professor was insistent on washing herself, Edelgard took the opportunity to use her bergamot soap and rid her body of the fishy pond smell that Nessa insisted she radiated. She did not smell like a pond.

As for Nessa, she had scooted away just enough for Edelgard to have her own space where she could also scrub herself down. Since Edelgard seemed far more concerned about not smelling like a pond, Nessa took the time to slyly wash around her scrapes that she earned on her trek up to Garreg Mach. They were healing nicely, but they still looked pretty bad and Nessa didn't need to give Edelgard another reason to fret over her. 

"If you are trying to hide those scrapes, you are not being as subtle as you think," Edelgard said after slyly watching Nessa for a bit.

The mercenary's head whipped over to the Emperor, and Nessa's eyebrows had shot up. Well, as much as they usually did when she was caught off guard.

"I gave you a sponge bath not long after you arrived. You were not completely coherent the first time, and so you did not hide them from me. Who did you believe cleaned and bandaged them when you awoke?"

Nessa looked from Edelgard for a moment, and then her eyes looked off to her upper right, like she was lost in thought.

"I suppose I did not notice…" Nessa finally said after a minute.

"You were not quite coherent until a few days ago," Edelgard answered her. "I doubt you remember Manuela, Dorothea, or Linhardt checking up on you."

Nessa definitely did not. But now it explained why Edelgard was fretting over Nessa so much.


Edelgard rolled her eyes but gave Nessa a playful wink all the same. 

"Finish cleaning yourself and then I can start on your back and then your hair. That will likely take the most of our time here,”  the young Emperor said, “and then you are going right back to bed.”

Nessa sighed at Edelgard’s words, but she knew the young woman was right. Bed actually sounded really nice, though Nessa wasn’t very inclined to get out of the water, since it was still very warm and cozy. So, Nessa washed what parts of herself that she could, slipping around the large tub a few times, forcing Edelgard to help keep her upright. Even though it was very obvious the Emperor wanted to make some comment (likely about how Nessa should have stayed in bed, or something to that effect), she remained silent. For that, Nessa was thankful.

“I think I am as clean as I can be,” Nessa finally said after a moment. She wasn’t sure if it was a trick of the light or not, but it almost seemed like her skin was less dirty. Perhaps those sponge baths she was given were not as effective as a real bath. 

“Alright,” Edelgard said, “turn you back towards me and here--” She brushed Nessa’s long mint colored hair over one shoulder, “hold that for now and I’ll get your back.”

It was still very strange to have such long hair, and Nessa wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it yet, but at least Edelgard knew what to do. She always knew what to do. Even now, she knew to be gentle with the washcloth as she ran it across Nessa’s back. It was interesting how gentle she was, given that Nessa knew Edelgard was probably the strongest of her former students. From what she remembered, the only student at Garreg Mach that could possibly match Edelgard’s strength was Prince… well, King Dimitri.

The thought of the polite and helpful Prince made Nessa wonder how he was doing. Her little Eagles told her much about the world after Nessa fell asleep and she still found it hard to believe what all changed. Everything was different. And that really wasn't something Nessa wanted to dwell on in that moment. She seemed to be thinking those thoughts more and more as the days went on, and as she was confined to her bed. Now she wasn’t in her bed and she refused to have such… well, not good thoughts. 

No. Nessa would enjoy this bath and this little taste of freedom that she had. Knowing Edelgard, it would be awhile before she was let outside again. 

Though, if being trapped inside meant that Nessa could take more baths with Edelgard, she might be more inclined to stay put. This was very pleasant. And It didn’t hurt that Edelgard had a very soft and soothing touch. So much so that Nessa started to find herself getting a little sleepy. She would not fall asleep, though. Then she might drown, and Edelgard told her not to do that. 

“Alright, your back is clean,” Edelgard declared as she noticed Nessa swaying ever so slightly in the bath. It was a subtle sign that Nessa was getting sleepy again. Something that Edelgad picked up on rather quickly, even after 5 years apart. 

"Thank you," Nessa replied.

"You seem tired," Edelgard stated.

"I am fine," Nessa stated. "The water feels lovely and it is far more relaxing than my bed."

"Then perhaps you should relax," Edelgard somehow said without stuttering or making a fool of herself. "Come," the Emperor said, gently wrapping her arms around Nessa's torso, "lean back and relax. You are still unwell and you had quite a bit of excitement today."

Nessa hummed, but allowed Edelgard's strong arms to guide her until her back was flush with Edelgard's front. She squirmed slightly, trying to find a more comfortable position. When she did, Nessa truly let herself relax, and let her head fall back against Edelgard's shoulder. 

"Today was rather exciting," Nessa mumbled, turning her head so her nose brushed against the Emperor's neck. "I enjoyed myself very much."

"I'm glad," Edelgard said softly, trying to keep her breathing even and to keep from twitching. That latter proved to be more difficult with every breath Nessa took, since Edelgard could feel each breath.

"Except the part where I upset you," Nessa added, letting her eyes shut. "I did not like that…"

"But I was smothering you," Edelgard said, finishing where Nessa trailed off.

"I can still breathe quite well, but according to Dorothea's other meaning of the word, yes. A little."

"A little?" Edelgard asked her, not quite believing her professor.

"... A lot." Nessa mumbled after a brief pause.

It made Edelgard smile, just a little. And then she realized something.

"Did you just lie to me?" The Emperor asked, amusement coloring her tone.

She had! Nessa just lied to her. Her Professor, who never quite understood the point of lying to someone, just lied. To her of all people! This was a momentous occasion, and one that Edelgard would mark down in a calendar of some sort. Just so she would never forget (and so she could remind the woman on the one year anniversary of the event, for no real purpose other than her own amusement).

"I did not wish to injure your emotions," Nessa mumbled, nuzzling closer to Edelgard's neck.

"Hurt my feelings," Edelgard corrected and trying not to smile at the silliness of the whole thing.

"Right, that," the other woman answered.

Of course, the one time Nessarose Byleth Eisner lies, it's to keep Edelgard feelings from being hurt. It was quite touching how much the woman cared for her after five years. Though, Edelgard had to remind herself, what was five years to her and the others was only a day to their professor. Of course her feelings remained unchanged.

As for Edelgard, well… it only seemed like her feelings grew stronger in her Professor's sleep. Leaving the woman alone, even for a moment, frightened Edelgard more than she cared to admit. The irrational part of her was terrified that if she took her eyes off the women for even a moment, she would disappear before her eyes once again. That little irrational part of her would explain why she was practically smothering the professor.

"I must remember that you did not experience time the same way we all did," Edelgard said to her quietly. "I apologize for my smothering. I am just… concerned for you."

"Linhardt said you fret like a mother hen," Nessa supplied in her typical emotionless tone. 

"He was fretting over you alongside Manuela, and Dorothea on your first day back," Edelgard snarked back.

"I do not recall this."

"You don't remember anything from the day you arrived until two days ago," Edelgard pointed out.

"I remember spilling soup on myself," Nessa protested.

"But not the sponge bath I gave you three days ago."

"Yes, that is unfortunate," Nessa agreed, "I should have liked to remember bathing together. I am enjoying this."

Edelgard smiled a little. "I assure you, it was nothing like this. It was simply a bath in your bed."

"That sounds decidedly less enjoyable," Nessa responded. "This bath is very enjoyable. I should like all of my baths to be as enjoyable as this one if I am to be confined to a bed until I have recovered."

"Then I shall make sure you have all the warm water and relaxation you need, Professor."

"The water is nice," Nessa started, "but I was referring to your company which makes this so enjoyable."

It was a rather bold statement for Nessa. It was even bolder for her to let her fingers intertwine with Edelgard's under the water, while nuzzling against the crook of Edelgard's neck. However the boldest part had to be the lips that Nessa pressed softly against Edelgard's neck.

"And here I thought you were tired," the Emperor said without stuttering (much to her own surprise).

"I am never too tired to kiss you."

"I think you have fallen asleep almost every time I have tried to kiss you," Edelgard told her in a teasing tone.

Unsure if Edelgard was joking or not, Nessa picked her head up and looked over to the Emperor. She was searching for the wink that usually followed after her teasing statements, but it didn't come.

"You jest!" Nessa stated, her tone only slightly shocked. But it was about as much emotion she normally displayed, when she actually displayed any.

"I am an Emperor, not a jester," Edelgard stated with the slightest smirk on her lips. She did enjoy throwing her Professor's words back at her. 

Nessa's brows furrowed slightly. "You should have told me. I would have awoken."

"You needed the sleep," Edelgard replied, "like you do now. And we should be getting you back to bed."

"No," Nessa said quickly, rushing back to her previous spot against Edelgard's shoulder. She moved so quickly that the water followed and splashed the both of them in the face.

Both sputtered and quickly stopped holding hands so they could wipe off their faces. Suffice to say, the moment had definitely been ruined.

"I still need to wash that hair," Edelgard commented once her face was mostly wiped off.

It was as close as Nessa would get to Edelgard allowing them to enjoy their bath a little longer, so she simply nodded and scooted so Edelgard had full access to her long green locks.

Edelgard moved so that she was kneeling behind Nessa, giving her just a little bit more height to help with the task of washing her Professor's unruly mane. If anyone thought her mussy hair was unruly beforehand, then her current hair could only be described as an uncontrollable nightmare.

"With your hair at this length," Edelgard said as she started scrubbing at Nessa's scalp, "you look quite a bit like your mother."

"Does it look nice?" Nessa asked her.

"We shall see when I am through with it," The Emperor told her with a smile playing at her lips. "While I never cared for make up or anything like that, I have always taken good care of my hair. So you are in for a treat today, my teacher."

"I look forward to the results of your hair care regiment," Nessa replied simply.

Unfortunately, Edelgard wasn't able to perform the entirety of her hair care routine on Nessa. Partially due to time constraints, and if Nessa wasn't falling asleep earlier, having Edelgard scratching her scalp and working on her hair was starting to put her back to sleep. After Nessa yawned for the third time, Edelgard instructed the woman to lean back so she could rinse everything out.

"It isn't my full routine, but it is probably better than what you usually do," Edelgard told her. "But we should get you into bed now."

"Can we stay just a little longer?"

Edelgard should say no. They've been in the bath for quite some time and Edelgard is rather pruney… 

"Just a bit," Nessa added, looking back at her with the biggest pleading look that Edelgard had ever seen from her. "And then I will return to bed without any complaints for the rest of today."

Sighing, Edelgard leaned back against the tub and pulled Nessa back against her. The former professor smiled slightly and nuzzled right against the crook of Edelgard's neck once again. 

"Thank you," the professor whispered out once she had gotten comfortable.

"Of course," Edelgard whispered back before dropping a soft kiss to the top of Nessa's head.

The action made Nessa pick her head up slightly. Not all the way, just enough so she could let her nose brush against Edelgard's, and let their lips meet in a sweet, tender kiss. 

The two shared a few more sweet kisses before Nessa rested her head back on Edelgard's shoulder.

"Don't fall asleep," Edelgard told the other woman, her voice barely above a whisper, "we still need to get you back to bed."

"I am not going to fall asleep," Nessa mumbled out, but that was a lie. They both knew it.

Moments later, Edelgard felt the fluttering of eyelashes against her neck. And, a few seconds later, she heard the softest of snores coming from her companion.

They could stay a little bit longer, the Emperor supposed.

The two spent almost an hour in their bath, but the Professor was true to her word, not uttering a single complaint when the Emperor slipped out of the tub to throw on a long robe before she helped Nessa to bed. However, instead of taking the professor to her own bedroom, Nessa found herself curling up in an excessively large bed in an oddly familiar room.

"The Archbishop's room?" Nessa mumbled in her sleepy haze.

"We did use her baths for you," Edelgard commented, rifling through some clothing until she found something suitable for Nessa to sleep in.

"I must not have noticed."

"You were asleep for most of the journey up here," the Emperor told her, now walking over with a long night gown that presumably belonged to the Archbishop. "Here let's get you out of that towel and into this and then I will let you rest."

"Will you stay?" Nessa asked, allowing herself to be manhandled (albeit very gently) by the Emperor.

Edelgard didn't answer until Nessa was clothed and tucked under the blankets.

"Edelgard?" Nessa mumbled.

"I'll stay," the Emperor replied. She carefully slid into bed from the other side, scooting as close to her professor as she dared.

"Thank you," Nessa mumbled, curling up next to the woman. 

And suddenly, Edelgard felt her eyelids grow heavy. Perhaps her Professor's exhaustion was rubbing off on her, because the next thing she knew, Edelgard was fast asleep with Nessarose Byleth Eisner curled up right next to her.