Beneath the gentle afternoon shade of a willow tree, Byleth swirled a delicate teaspoon around in her cup as she stole glances of her beloved. She was certain she hadn’t felt this happy in weeks.
Perhaps Byleth should have been so elated this whole time. After all, she was engaged to the Emperor of Adrestia, and the wedding would be the grandest affair to grace Enbarr in…decades, really. There hadn’t been much to celebrate since the previous Emperor’s nuptials so long ago, and his obviously declining health — along with the dark rumours that swirled around his suspiciously absent children — had put quite a damper on the capital for the years to follow. Byleth was excited to be a part of something so important and to be deep in the throes of planning with the love of her life.
…Well, not exactly. Edelgard was deep in the throes of planning, absolutely refusing to let Byleth — or anyone else, for that matter — lift a finger. And therein lay the problem.
It’s not that Byleth was opposed to a big wedding. She had figured it was part and parcel of marrying, oh, only the most powerful woman on the continent. But she hadn’t anticipated that it would mean her fiancée would be constantly preoccupied in the months prior. It was downright frustrating to see so little of Edelgard — except when she flopped down to sleep at night, completely wiped out and too tired to even cuddle.
Byleth gently shook her head and cast those thoughts aside. Not when Edelgard finally had free time to spend, just the two of them at an iron-wrought garden table, savouring a pot of bergamot tea and fresh blackberry tarts...
"You know," Edelgard said, peering into her own cup, "drinking tea with you always makes me feel nostalgic."
"Oh?" Byleth took a small sip and winced. Still too hot. "How do you mean?"
"Well, these little tea parties are how I got to know you, all those years ago." Edelgard paused. "Before I thought you’d choose my side."
Byleth smiled and blew on her cup. "Right. Well, they helped me get to know you, too. Before I truly knew how to feel."
Edelgard’s expression softened. "I always felt your kindness, Byleth. Even then."
They settled back into a comfortable silence and Byleth took a bite of her tart. This was exactly what she needed. Just a slow afternoon with Edelgard, no one around as far as they could see, no one to interrupt them with napkin options or bridesmaid dresses or —
"Your Majesty! I am so terribly sorry to interrupt, but…"
Byleth barely suppressed a groan and leaned an elbow on the table as Edelgard turned her attention to the aide that had burst into their private garden. "What is it, Theodore?"
"Well, it’s just…we’ve spoken to the florists, and there simply aren’t enough flowers in Enbarr to fulfill your order!"
Edelgard gasped and hopped up from the table. "No! Then how shall we line the castle and all the major streets?!" She turned to Byleth, appearing fretful. "I’m sorry, my love, but I —"
"It’s fine," Byleth lied. "This requires your attention."
Edelgard placed her hand upon Byleth’s, and briefly, she forgot how to be upset. "We’ll pick this up another time."
Her fiancée and Theodore fled the scene, and Byleth groaned and slammed her head on the table. The tea hadn’t even been cool enough to drink.
After a half-finished dinner date, a heavily-distracted picnic, and a hastily-aborted, er, romp, Byleth had had enough of Edelgard's near-constant absence.
She found her Emperor fast asleep in her office chair, splayed out over a pile of potential menus — each littered with detailed notes, of course. Byleth nudged Edelgard just enough to wake her, kindly ignoring the inelegant snort that resulted.
"Mmmm…" Edelgard groaned and wiped her bleary eyes, then seemed to realize where she was. "Oh, dear. How long have I been out?"
"I don't know," Byleth said. "I have no idea, because you've been cooped up here without me all day. Or rather, all month."
Edelgard frowned. "You're mad at me."
"I’m not mad, El," Byleth sighed. "I just don’t see why you can’t delegate at least some of this. I…I miss spending time with you, is all."
Edelgard nodded curtly. "I can understand that. But trust me, what I’m doing is necessary. This wedding cannot be average, not in any way." A fire sparked in her eyes that Byleth found almost amusing — this much zeal, whether in battle or planning a marriage. Edelgard did nothing by halves. "It will be the grandest event you’ve ever been a part of, Byleth. I want it to be spectacular. I want it to be perfect!"
"I just don’t understand why it has to be perfect," Byleth admitted.
Edelgard paused at that. "I…well…" She played with one of the locks of hair that had come loose from her buns and let down her guard enough to appear visibly nervous.
Byleth placed a hand on Edelgard’s shoulder as gently as she could. "What’s the matter?"
"It’s just…" She furrowed her brows. "You’re marrying the Emperor, after all. I owe you a grand event, don’t I?"
Byleth shook her head. "You don’t owe me anything, El. Not even your hand."
Edelgard turned pink. "But…if it’s not perfect…I thought…" She averted her eyes. "I thought maybe you’d be disappointed."
"Aah! You’re yelling, Byleth!"
"Sorry, sorry." Byleth let out a gentle laugh. "I just can’t believe that’s what this was about! El, how could I possibly be disappointed?"
"Well, it’s just that you’re —"
"Extremely lucky to have you, yes."
Edelgard pouted cutely. "No, I was trying to say that I’m —"
"The most beautiful woman in Fódlan? I agree."
Byleth hadn’t realized it was possible for Edelgard to turn redder than her cape, but she was delighted by the adorable sight. "You — you flatterer…" But she quickly broke her frown to breathe out a sigh. "I know it’s foolish of me to feel so insecure this close to the wedding. I’m just…deep down, I think…I’m still scared you’ll wake up one day, and you’ll regret your choice."
Edelgard’s words hung in the air for a few seconds — but not any longer before Byleth tugged her into a tight embrace. "El," she said, squeezing tighter. "El, I could never."
"I — I know that, rationally." Edelgard hugged her back. "But I still…"
"No. We won’t entertain those thoughts at all." Byleth pulled back to stare into Edelgard’s eyes, hoping her own gaze would convey her love and determination if her words couldn’t. "How many times have I chosen you, now?"
Byleth placed a small kiss on Edelgard’s nose. "I chose you in the Holy Tomb."
A kiss on the cheek. "And I chose you when I woke up five years later."
On the forehead. "And I chose you at the top of the Goddess Tower."
On the lips — a kiss that Edelgard returned, more aggressively than expected, and she chased it when Byleth pulled away. "And if you need to hear it again, I’m choosing you now. Okay? You. And I’ll never, ever regret it." Byleth paused, thinking, and smiled. "Even if the wedding turns out to be a complete disaster."
Edelgard — who was crying by now, though Byleth pretended not to notice — smiled back at her. "I’ll hold you to that promise." She wiped her eyes on her cape and laughed a little at herself. "Alright, you’ve convinced me. I’ll recruit some help with this wedding and scale it back a little. Then you can have me to yourself a little more often."
Byleth beamed in a way that she never dreamed she could have before Garreg Mach. Before El. "That’s all I wanted! I think Ferdinand would be an excellent wedding planner, don’t you? And Bernie would be a good consultant for those flowers. And we could have Dorothea on the dresses, and —"
"Oh, you’ve already thought this out, haven’t you?"
"Well, I was hoping I’d win."
Edelgard rolled her eyes. "And so you did. Are you happy?"
"Very," Byleth said, sweeping Edelgard close for another kiss on the cheek. "I’m as happy as can be."