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Byleth settled upon the great railing of Fhirdiad's castle, her clothes doing little to protect her against the night's spring chill. Her eyes drifted to the emerald ring that circled her finger, and distantly, felt her attention draw to the reception hall where its partner lay upon her own lover's finger. 

Jeralt, she supposed, would have approved of Dimitri as her partner.

It mattered little now, she guessed, but... she couldn't help but cling to such a comforting fantasy. 

A clouded breath left her lips, fingers digging into the hard stone beneath them.

His loss gnawed at her. One of her few companions in her life, her father, gone in the wind with a smile on his face and tears in his eyes. Her own squeezed shut. Though time had marched without her and his grave had grown half a decade older, to her, his death was still fresh. As were the many injuries that came from the war, but that was no surprise.

With the end of the war came the steaming of great festering wounds and the slow healing of others. There was little rejoicing at the sudden end of such tragedies. No cheers of joy or popping corks. There was only a solemn silence as the last soldier fell, his name unknown, his killer quiet as both Fodlan and Faerghus let loose a long-held breath to sip stagnant, bitter air.

When the spears were settled and the truth crushed them, Fodland had turned to a time of grave keeping. Gazing to the fallen and looking upon the familiar names carved in stone. To tread the great stretches of risen ground where they and countless others mingled in death, their sleeping song a sweet but bitter one. Her students. Enemies in a time turned wrong, dead but not forgotten.

War had ended. It's tragedies stalling, its orphans and widows blank-faced. War had ended, but its wounds still oozed and stank of horror, and Byleth supposed, they would for a long while. 

Yes... 

She was sure of that. 

It kept her up at night, wondering if happiness could ever fill the hearts of the people again after such a long, brutal war. Yet, somehow, it had. With her coronation as Archbishop, she saw the joy in them. Piety and affection and happiness.

With her own eyes, she saw the people of Faerghus raise their heads to the altar of their new king, and find within in themselves, after so long, joy. Nauseating, outstanding joy, rejoicing not the death and suffering but the dawn of a new, bright kingdom, finally reunited with its heir. She saw the thread of redemption, thinning and near snapping reinforce to steel within Faerghus, and within Dimitri- in his healing, tender heart. 

To be regarded warmly to such a once closed-off soul was an honor. To be given the opportunity to share a life with him was inexplainable in how good it made her feel.

She couldn't help but daydream, a fist leveled to her cheek as some blissful sigh left her lips, acting more like a teenager than she had... ever. It was alright to steal herself to such flowery thoughts, she supposed, to think away from the end of the war and think to the joys of the day.

The endless feast she had slipped away from was one of them. Faerghus was not one for parties, but her students- Faerghus' warriors thought it fine to hold just one more feast before they began to rebuild. All who could, attended the party in earnest, and Fhirdiad held its doors open, Dimitri right at the handle.

It was... enjoyable. Somewhat. To see all the happiness from her students after so long... She could not help but give in to some of their demands. Talking and drinking; even belting out a song when she'd been properly boozed.

Mercedes and Annette had even roped her in to dance and to her own shock, she stayed for a spell longer than she expected before returning to her corner, champaign flute tight at her breast, surveying the crowd for all the others. Many tended the dance floor, speaking with noble friends that never attended the monastery, or picking at the foods set up around the hall. She even caught a glimpse of Dimitri, laughing loud and thunderous with Ingrid, Felix, and Sylvain, shaking her head at his silent question across the room for her to join him. 

No, she found herself more suited to stay by Dedue, his open silence comforting and unburdening to her desire to step away from the action. She was fitted better to watch and... maybe spy a bit.

She and Dimitri had both agreed that their engagement would be kept a close secret so early after the war. They knew that even in such joyous times their peace could be volatile, and the casualties of fallen empires and alliances still lurked beneath the shadows. If they ever planned to strike, she did not know but didn't wish to be what egged them on.

Unrest in his own court was also to be avoided. A new king and rediscovered heirs were exciting and hopeful but... the hard truth was that some in Fhaerghus did not approve of his rise to kingship. When the rumors of his madness spread, they did so like wildfire despite the church's desperate attempts to keep it quiet.

Though most of the country opened their arms in the light of his redemption, a portion did not forget the prince that abandoned them and lost his mind to loneliness. The two understood that their, the public's, own wounds from that may never heal properly, and Dimitri, most ardently of all, did not fault their dislike. He'd told her, quiet under the stars one evening that he only wished to prove himself to his people once again.

Despite their short engagement- it being hardly more than a handful of weeks- rumors flared as to why the Byleth, their Archbishop, remained in Fhirdiad when her work was so far removed. 

To her luck, such a topic was popular that evening. The theory most brought up was that she was his mistress. Second, there were plans of merging the holy kingdom and church. (An act that no matter how much she adored his kingdom and its people she would never agree to.) Third, the most accurate of rumors was that they had a secret engagement.

Many who came to that conclusion seemed... happy of it. Excited and unsurprised especially former students of the monastery and soldiers, yet, as always, there was that small group who didn't agree with it. Didn't like it. Wouldn't tolerate it.

They were a small group, yes, but their views were important and valid and her test sample of the party was biased against them. She was in love, yes, but not blinded.

As heavy as the reality of their situation could be, they didn't let it hinder them. It stayed a gentle reminder in their softer moments but didn't draw away from it too terribly. It did though, keep them from consummating their engagement.

It came up, and often. How he desired her as his lips pressed against her neck. How she ached for him as she ground against his knee. 

Byleth withheld herself. 

Withheld them both when his hands began to slip up her shirt- when she straddled him, throbbing as she twined their tongues. She always stepped back.

Dimitri never pushed her. Never complained or bemoaned, he only nodded, pulled away and held her tight in his arms before she would leave his rooms, that reminder of their reality not as gentle. 

It made what little enjoyment she had of the party be sucked straight out of her. Her social battery drained to dust and needing a break. So she'd left and found herself on scarcely traveled viewing deck, downing the last drink of her champagne and setting it onto the ground beside her.

An exhale left her as she looked to the sky beyond, clear and twinkling with the teardrops of stars. 

Her future was wide and endless, just as the universe laid out before her, and for once, all alone and so near the edge of the world, misguided and naive as it was, it did not worry her or provide any muted feeling of excitement. No, her joy was palpable and real. She could feel it in her heart burning the way Sothis' presence did in her soul, a silent, loving companion. There were heavy stresses still, but so much now to be thankful of.

Finally, she had forged a life to feel some way about, and thank the gods for that. She even let a smile ghost her lips. 

"Ah," She warmed at the sound of Dimitri's baritone voice, "I've found you." The words were filled with fondness and she turned towards the sound, her smile growing ever brighter against her cheeks. "I thought you'd-..." He blinked at the sight of her, his words mangled till there was nothing but silence between them as awe flickered behind his only eye. Grabbing ahold of himself he gave a hearty clear of his throat.

"You're making it around the castle easily?" he asked, a flush crossing his cheeks. 

She turned back to the stars, humming in response as she drunk in each bead of light before her. She needed not to motion for him to join her, his hulking size shadowing her and bathing her in a pleasing warmth as soon as she looked back. He'd long learned he was both free and encouraged to be close to her, though it had taken many weeks of coaching.

"Wonderful," he said, bracing his hands beside hers. 

"Sick of the feast?" She looked to him at her side and the smile that traced his lips. 

"I was going to ask you the same thing," he admitted with a slight chuckle, "I guess I find it... hard to be surrounded by so many people. It still tends to make me a bit anxious," He fiddled with his hands, "though, thankfully, not nearly as much as it did months ago." And she saw the truth by the clarity in his eyes and the fact that he would never have dared be as close to her as he did now. "Thank you for that," he uttered. "For saving me."

She slipped her hand over his and let him entwine their fingers. She gave his hands a gentle squeeze. 

"Thank you, for letting yourself be saved." His smile was soft as his eyes lowered, a certain sadness and regret in his expression that still hung some days. Though haunted less by his family, the humiliation of his madness had replaced it, although less overpoweringly. She saw his embarrassment with each old friend that hesitated even now, and each long, sullied look to his hands.

He pressed a soft kiss against her palm, nodding solemnly before joining her to stargaze.

It was another soft, easy moment to fall into. To dream of their own future in silence. King and Archbishop; Archbishop and one day... one day queen. In the comfortable warmth of his presence beside her, his love strong and unyielding, it all ate at her once again.

All the whispers. 

All the doubt and worry.

All the fear that she would lead Fodlan down the wrong path, abandon it, and if this, his entwined fingers and dazed expression would be the cause. Byleth wondered how much time they had before their private affections went all wrong.

If it truly was as fleeting as she felt.

If it was right for her to have...

If she should have waited and told him... no, despite how much she wanted it.

She sighed a long, heavy breath, brows drawing together as the biting wind brushed against her cheeks. Those thoughts would not do.

"Do you think there is regret in love?" she asked, her eyes steady on the stars. "That there is a place for worry and fear and regret in such a feeling?"

His thumb drew a slow line up her finger, caution making his movement hesitant. He was silent a long while. 

"Do you?" A quiet question.

Her eyes fell to the ground far below them. Dimitri's wedding ring was heavy against her own, a comforting and anxious weight all the same. "I don't know."

A small, schooled breath from Dimitri grazed Byleth's cheek. "They trouble you again," he said, "what the country would think of our union." She nodded, heart a heavy ache.

"They mutter about us," she said, "I eavesdrop to know, of course, but they mutter all the same, and..." Just as it took time for Dimitri to know he was always welcome at her side, it had taken Byleth time to know it was alright now to voice her fears. It was safe to do so to him and all of her friends.

"And it eats at me," she admitted, sighing. "We are weak after winning the war," she said. "The church has suffered heavy losses. Faerghus is just beginning to rebuild. A war, a coup, a rebellion- anything- could send us off balance- maybe tumble us back to the ground. And this," she knocked her ring against his, the sound shrill as it stretched into the night, "this could set off something like that- cause unrest and instability from within." Her toes curled at the thought.

But, Dimitri seemed, unfazed. 

"You're mistaken," he said. Her brows furrowed and she rose to meet his gaze, serious, but not unkind. "With the war's end, we're recovering, yes, slowly we are, but we are doing so with more stability than we've had since-... since decades ago." She gave his hand a squeeze, knowing very well what made him stall. "We are stronger now than we have been in years, even if the rubble of our crumble is still visible. Our alliances with the nobles are stronger than ever, toxic positions of power have been abolished and its people far removed, our armies are growing, and our people are happy."

Pride twinkled in his eyes. "They look to the skies, Byleth, and they finally dream again." A tight squeeze against her hand, an answer to her comfort. "We're healing, but those wounds no longer make us weak."

And... he was right. Relations between the inner circle and houses who did not defect to the empire had strengthed tremendously once Dimitri had risen to the throne. She saw the crowd that day he was coronated, saw the joy in the streets the days following.

She was young when the tragedy of Duscar had happened and the deaths of Dimitri's family and friends, but she remembered the chaos rumored around the villages her and her father stayed in that year. Remembered even Jeralt's strained expression when things seemed to not get better for a while. 

His kingdom truly was stronger now. Healing. Slowly but with strength behind it.

"What do you suppose your people would feel about a marriage between us, and the others outside then, so soon after the war's end?" Byleth asked.

His face softened into easy lines. "There would be some opposition, as there is for any royal union... and especially for the haste. Not large, I think, but it would still be there. I cannot deny that." Byleth nodded, thoughts drifting through every murmur she'd heard tonight against them. "But I think, all my leanings towards you aside, I think our people would rejoice even more at our marriage."

A sigh left his lips as he continued, "But what of the church, the faithful, what would they feel? I know our histories with them have been overall positive since we succeeded from the empire so long ago, with us leading the charge in the war, I can't fathom there being any hard opposition to at least the kingdom and some of the church. Seteth when we came to him, though as apprehensive as us, managed to see the pros of this union. Seteth, of all people."

Indeed... She'd gone to him knowing that he would be harsh, even a little cruel about it in hopes he would find all the right angles they were missing. Though he still worried somewhat of the smaller groups who opposed all of them, he was not outright against it. In many ways, he was for it.

"But if it's the people you worry for," Dimitri went on, "I don't have the intimate knowledge of the faithful like an archbishop would."

Her responding chuckle was dry. "Neither do I." She rose her head, shaking it towards the gods who decided she was fit to bare this burden; to Rhea most bluntly and what she forced into her. "I am so unfitting of this position, Dimitri. I'm not faithful or pious like these people. I was taught how to pray by Mercedes halfway through the school year, and didn't even do it again and mean it until Sothis had merged with me."

She leaned against the railing her strength wavering in the light of such cold, hard inadequacy. 

"I pray now and I feel... selfish. Guilty." Her fingers untangled from Dimitri's as she braced her elbows upon the railing, her hair whipping in the wind. She couldn't look at him... not she could almost felt Sothis gnawing at her from within her soul. Almost hear her sweet voice, chiding her with all the attitude in the world for being so stubborn against herself.

Fate chose you for a reason, Byleth, don't spit in its face stupid girl!

"What kind of example is it that their Archbishop, a woman who has Sothis within her is so... unfaithful," she muttered, watching a couple dance in the shadows of the castle alone to the faded music. "I'm unfit for this." She ran a calloused hand across her face. "I'm a teacher, not a holy symbol."

Dimitri nodded, slowly as he lowered beside her.

"And you were a mercenary before that," Dimitri said. "You muttered the same thing to me when I told you how lectures worked at the academy. 'I'm a mercenary, not a teacher.'" She looked up to him, his eyes drawn to the black horizon. "But look where that brought you." To family. Friends. Hope and joy. Acceptance for her every inch... And... to him. That icy blue eye fell to her. "I'm aware of how different this is but... have hope, Byleth. In yourself, have hope that you can lead these people down a better path than Rhea did. Treat yourself with the care you did me when I doubted myself."

She sighed. Once again, he was right. "I know I should. It's just so difficult so early on in this." Still, she did hope to do better than those before her. The moment the title fell to her she'd had plans and hopes of reform however too early it was to be thinking so far ahead. She knew that she wanted the best for the church and its followers. Her heart was set in the right place but it was all the tiny details that kept tripping her up. 

"You are a strong leader, Byleth. You're unbiased in the most shocking of situations and I feel- no, I know that you will fit that role well and do your people justice."

"But I am biased, though. Now, I am very, wholly biased."

"Elaborate."

"I'm meant to be the mediator within Fodlan. Guide all to peace and glory and-" she waved her hand in the air- " all the rest. Married to you, I would be somewhat biased, no matter how hard I would quell it I still would be. You as well would be biased to me." She sighed. "We can't have that."

"Then we keep our positions separate. You would not be crowned queen, and I would, as it would go even if you did become my queen, have no part in the church." Her face soured. It was a good idea, undoubtedly, but still, she would have some influence over him, would she not? 

Her attention snapped back to him as he took her other hand. "We don't need to marry," he said, and she ached at the thought, at the soft sadness behind his offer, before, "not officially." As if the thought had just pierced his mind and did so violently.

Her brows furrowed slightly. "How then?"

"We do so in secret." He turned to her, hope bright in his eyes. "We keep the rings. We stay in our respected areas and visit each other often." He squeezed her hands. "Very often. Seteth can marry us and then we keep it a secret from there. Surely, the goddess will still smile upon that?" The words were desperate and oh so close as he shifted to be closer to her, his breath mingling with her own.

"You need a queen" her eyes lowered to the fur of his heavy cloak. "An heir."

"I will not be taking a mistress." A firm promise, but misguided at best.

Byleth exhaled. "No, because that's what I would be in that situation."

Dimitri let out a long, heavy sigh. She knew it ached him, the thought of not being able to marry her and... gods, it hurt her. Still, he did not let go, even as he looked away, back out to his kingdom.

"Dimitri," she uttered.

"We are the ones who forged this future," he said, voice low and determined. "Why can't we wield what we have wrought? ...I've told you how the kingdom would feel about us; Seteth the church, good, I remind you. What holds you back?"

What did, she wondered? After so much time dreaming of being with him as he pulled from his madness, what besides what she muttered for weeks truly hold her back. The people. The outrage. The public. Over and over, but, Dimitri knew his people. Seteth knew the church. Both parties agreed from their perspective so what kept her so wound tight? So worried.

She looked deep into his eye, and all the horrors it had seen. All of it she had missed. All of it she had left him to fend alone to. And felt... guilt.

Fear. 

It was fear that held her back. The crippling, horrible fear that she would lead him down the wrong path. That she had not taught him well enough to fend for himself as a ruler even after he showed her so much that he could, that he would and her own inadequacies would influence him. She didn't want to do wrong by Dimitri again and harming his kingdom would be a most terrible sin.

And that held her back. 

"I respect you a great deal, Byleth, and... and if your choice on this matter, whether tonight or tomorrow or weeks after is to break our engagement, I would understand." Pain glimmered behind his eyes at the notion. "But my love will only ever be for you. It's selfish to say, I am aware, to burden you with my own feelings forever, but I want you to know as much."

He began to slide his fingers from her hands but she stopped him, holding tight to his fingertips before he could let go. Her fear was strong, but... it was placed in a reality that was not true. Dimitri was a strong man. His will could be hard to break. His loyalty even harder. How had she forgotten such through all his hard work? How had she started to be so... idiotic in her love.

She wasn't blind, but her vision was clouded for the fear of her influence not being good enough. And though the fog had lifted, ever slightly, she had to secure herself. Save one last moment holding back. One last moment fearing with her breath held.

"If I came to you with a proposal, me as your wife and as the archbishop, with no compromise, heavy, and great that you knew your people would dislike, maybe even suffer for, what would you do?"

His eyes opened a bit more, and she swore she could see his mind's wheels turning as they did when he was a student. His answer came as fast as she had hoped it would. 

With a grim, serious expression, he looked to her openly and honestly. "I would do what was best for Faerghus, without doubt." A promise in the words. Once again he began to draw back, as if he had answered wrong but he did not back down. "I cannot do them wrong again, my people. I will not, I swear to it, no matter how much I love you." His eyes lowered. "I can't be sorry for that and I refuse to be, but... I find I am now if that answer jeopardizes my own selfish want to call you my beloved."

The softest of sighs left her lips, relief, overbearing and light washing away her fear at the answer she should have known he'd give from the beginning. She did not want some romance novel esc confession. No flowery words to burn the world for her even if it had just stopped smoldering. 

And that, that was what the world needed. No sugary words or hidden truths, in its ashen state- no... no, in its beautiful, glimmering strong beginning where rubble was seen not as weakness anymore, where people looked up to the sky and dreamed again, and kings eyes glimmered with pride and learned to consent to kindness and being loved again- it was a promise the world needed.

A promise to make it a better place after so long. A swear.

Her eyes lowered to his hands, at how much they had been through, and smiled softly. "I always knew you'd be a strong leader," she said. "A strong king." She felt him draw back to her as he once again laced their fingers, even taking a step closer to her. 

He leaned in towards her. "You would make a strong queen." Such boyish affection in his eyes, a look, she realized, he held so often at the academy when they were nothing but teacher and student. A prince and a commoner. "A beautiful, wonderful, perfect wife." His hands slipped from hers to fall at her waist, pulling her close. "Will you still marry me?" An utter as his breath mingled with hers. "Share a life with me?" And he was so close the slightest of movements would have brought their lips together. "Be my queen, even if in our marriage we keep the titles separate?"

Please, he all but begged in his tone as he rested his forehead against hers.

"Please," he said, his want for such a future laid bare. And it was the future she wanted. The future that in time, with care to Fodlan as it recovered, would be theirs.

Her eyes fluttered shut. "Yes." A whisper. "Yes to it all," uttered before she pushed her lips against his, entwining her arms around his neck as she forced every ounce of appreciation and adoration into the kiss, locking their lips in a perfect puzzle.

He sighed into her, his fingers curling at her waist as he leaned in, pressing her against the railing, giving in to her firm, slow rhythm, sagging at the draw of her tongue against his lip before meeting her steady kiss with one more burning and edged with hunger. Desperation. Like a man starved of touch even now. And in less dire ways she had been as well. She couldn't deny that being touched, being held and kissed with such pure need was intoxicating. That it did not set her afire each time they met in his office, so close to that final step.

So, so close.

She pulled away with a soft pop and could not help but marvel at Dimitri's, frankly, disheveled expression. The cold had tinted his skin a gentle pink, she, shaded his cheeks red. His eye fell half-lidded upon her, breathless as he had been their first kiss in the goddess tower. 

She wouldn't deny though, she was bit weary herself, trembling both from the cold and the sight of him- of being able to finally give in to her own wants. 

"Your teacher must have been very intelligent to have been able to give you such unwavering loyalty and smart judgment," she teased, moving to trace her thumb down the length of a scar that chipped at his neck. He shivered in response.

"Outstandingly so," he muttered, pressing her closer to him, reveling in the heat he gave off by laying her cheek against his armored chest. Wordlessly, he wrapped the length of his cloak around her and settled his hands at the small of her back, swaying, very gently.

"Strong too, and so beautiful," he added. He took in a long breath. "So beautiful." Something deep within her warmed. "The entire class would trail their eyes after her... brag about being invited to tea or lunch and go red in the face when she wasn't looking." 

She knew that of course. Saw the lingering stares and the heard the quiet scoldings from Ingrid, but for it to be said aloud... it made her think of his own lingering stares, his soft footfalls behind her when they walked around campus, his boyish, crooked smile. 

She nibbled at the corner of her cheek, her heart racing. "Were you one of them?" She'd always had a soft spot for him. She couldn't help but spoil him then and now. Tea after a well-done exam. Lunch after a hard battle. And when the white heron ball had come and gone that soft spot for him had shifted into something so much deeper despite herself and all the stress at quelling it before that night.

His hands drew a heated line up her spine. "Yes." Dangerous territory that years ago would have gotten them into terrible trouble. The taboo of it excited her more than she expected... egged her on harder than she'd thought it would now that they were so far away from those days.

"Did you envy the others when they got some of her time..?" Because she'd seen it some afternoons, his fists clenched when Sylvain bragged about a walk around town. How she must have been falling for him, even if humor laced the words.

His fingers curled against her nape, a deep rumbling hum echoing in his chest. "Envy didn't do how I felt justice." Infernally warm words that set her ablaze. 

They reminded her how he looked at her some days. How he would inch closer to her in private, his lips twitching to say something, anything before he would pull back. Pull away and excuse himself and leave her feeling so cold. 

But now they made her feel bold. Each missed opportunity made her utterly burn to make up for the lost time and pinpoint each moment at the academy where lust laced his eyes. Drill into her mind each moment he may have kissed her. Remember each hesitated word. 

Each held back desire from both ends.

Heated words huffed from her trembling lips, a question she wondered each night when he pulled away back then. Each day five years later when his eyes cleared and he reached for her... for just a moment. "Did you want her?"

"Yes." No hesitation."Yes." A desperate, dark answer and she drunk it in.

"What would you do if, right now," she grabbed a tuft of his hair and slowly pulled him close to her. "Right here, you finally had the chance to have her after all this time?" His fingers curled against her neck. 

His words were nothing above husky whisper. "I'd fuck her right on the railing. Right on my throne to let the entire kingdom know that I got her. Not Sylvain or Felix or Mercedes. Me."  She shuddered as his fingers pressed against her nape, her own hand drawing a shiver from his as it slipped lower. "But I'd take my time. I'd take her long," he drew out the word, "and slow," his hands tangled into her hair, "just to show her how much I've adored her-" He caressed her thigh- "loved her-" Raked his nails up, up, up to hold her cheeks in his hands- "worshiped her." As he placed a light, lingering kiss to her forehead.

"I want you very badly..." he admitted when he pulled away. " And I have for a long time now."

Her mind settled into a warm fog.

She moved to his ear and whispered, each word clear and deliberate. "Then, take me to your room."

Chapter Text

Dimitri's grip was tight around Byleth's as he took her through the quieter parts of the castle, letting go only when a guard or stumbling party goer came into sight before they stumbled into his room, small, and untidy as he slowly moved to the king's suite, but not yet.

They crashed against the door as it slammed shut and Byleth had every intention to finally have him. Pinned to the door, hinges digging into her skin, she kissed him, long and hard, softness replaced with fervor and fire, her desire a ruthless, deathly thing in ways it had only ever been with him.

A tongue trailed against her bottom lip, hands roaming, caressing, digging into skin, and she opened for him, caressing him and meeting his starvation with equal hunger before pulling away, drawing out his lip with her teeth.

She couldn't help the wicked smirk at the sound of his groan. Missing not a beat he quelled that smirk with his lips trailing down her neck, teasing her throat with his teeth all the while lapping at the skin there. The secret mark he left at the dip of her neck mingled perfectly with all the others, faded and new from the morning or the weeks of their engagement, always hidden just right by her clothing.

He let out a soft curse when her knee pressed against his crotch.

"You should lock the door," she murmured, applying gentle pressure to the length there, hard already.

"Must I?" he bemoaned, eyes closed as he reveled in her touch. She pulled away and slipped from his grasp and under his arm, chuckling at his grumble.

"Drunken nobles can be a bit oblivious." Indeed not the other night Ashe of all people, drunk beyond all belief stumbled into her rooms just as she had returned from Dimitri's quarters. Poor thing had apologized all the next day. "And frankly, I've no desire to share how I'd like to make you look with anyone else." She wanted to utterly ruin him.

And at that, he had no complaints at snatching the key from his drawer and locking the door in a fumbling hurry. Excitement, pent up desire and all of it flowing through her veins as she watched him, stumble, breathe, and... stall.

He lingered there, faced away from her, his frame rugged and large, so at odds with the small boy of her teaching years, strong yes- unknowingly strong; always breaking training equipment and swords as though it were nothing- but that Dimitri was softer, unweathered by time and tragedy, careful and kind, sometimes outspoken but never rude.

This Dimitri was different, the hints of his closed-off and temperamental nature still ghosting his movement, little nuggets of hatred that still settled deep within him, though aimed only at himself. No longer did he look the part of an open prince but rather a large, intimidating bear with the glare to match, but she and all of their comrades knew that there was still that boy beneath him.

A man now more vulnerable than ever, trembling beneath his thick skin. He was a person whose tender hands were stained with sin but becoming a bit easier to face with each atonement. Someone eroded and tired but learning to be kind once again, being careful not with the fear of breaking but with... a sort of worry.

He was anxious yes, a mess of sorts in private, all bouncing knees and clenching fingers, but it was so far away from the blank, muted stare of the past, filled only with flitting insanity and hatred.

This Dimitri was different, yes, but he was alive and finally, finally healing.

And she loved him deeper every moment he breathed and did not choke upon life.

"If you were having second thoughts, I would step away," Dimitri's voice was soft as he looked over his shoulder to her, his hands stuck on the doorknob. "If you told me you did not want this, right now, you would not upset me. We've waited and though I want this, I know I would not hesitate to wait another day if you thought you weren't ready to... commit so much to me."

She cocked her head. "Have I not been clear enough on my intentions?" The pressure in her chest drifted downwards- became harder to ignore and she approached him, still facing away. She wrapped her arms around the back of him, pressing her hips against his before unclipping his cloak and having it slip to their feet. She drew up onto her toes to speak to the back of his head, catching his eyes fluttering shut as her breath touched his cheek- as her hands drifted to the edge of his breastplate. "I've committed my life to you, Dimitri. I did so the moment I found you in the monastery. All of this... what I want to do to you is just another seal on that promise that I will stay with you, till the very end." Desire and affection laced his eyes once again, all his confidence and hers brought back with just those words

Her toes curled as she whispered, "I would like to spoil you tonight, your majesty. Maybe take up your offer of fucking you in your throne tomorrow. Maybe let you take me against the railing the next." He looked back at her, his eyes heavy with lust, his lips wet and parted though tipped in the smallest of smirks.

"To think the Archbishop would partake in such scandalous behavior before her wedding."

"Only if the king consents to her request that she remove his armor."

"Allow me."

"No." She ran her fingertips up his side to the buckles and straps that held his armor in place. "No, I would like to do this for you." His nod was wordless as he turned back to face the door, bracing his hands upon the frame as she began to remove his protection, piece by piece. She wanted to do this. She wanted to be the one to strip away that final barrier between them. She'd always dreamed of it.

Byleth worked slow, her hands trembling as she unclasped and unbuckled the various pieces of his armor before setting it gently onto the ground where she'd kicked his cloak, peppering his neck with kisses, and soft, gentle praise for his trust. Her touch was soft as she freed his legs, tracing up the back of his thighs and stealing small sighs from him before she undid a few buckles and tossed them into some far corner.

He'd always worn the same thing under that armor on the few occasions she'd seen him without it. An old black turtleneck fitted just a bit too tight and riding pants as if he was always ready to jump onto a horse. The sight of him now, fully willing to let her view him unprotected, with his back turned to her as he braced the door was... Goddess, it was breathtaking.

Her body was hot and unyielding, aching and burning for him in ways she had never felt with any man or woman before. Those people, just beings in a time whom she did not mind to take part in their whims, did not make her feel so... needy. Aroused sometimes, yes, and she never disliked having sex with her various partners, but it did not feel hardly as good as the anticipation of this just was.

The sight of Dimitri, his breaths heavy and his back turned, his trust open and warm like an outstretched hand felt better within her than any night with even the most skilled of her "partners."

She could not help but be utterly weakened by it.

"Can I touch you?" A soft tentative question she asked, gentle just as her hands, teasing lines up his back.

"Shouldn't I-" his voice was graveled and weak before he cleared his throat- though it did little to hide his desire- "Shouldn't I be the one to please you first?"

She slowed, pulling away slightly. "Are you against me touching you?"

"Goddess no. But..." That icy blue eye raked down her body, "if you continue... I intend to pay you back in full, beloved."

"I'd expect nothing less." Once again she found herself pressing her body against his, her chest sat at his back as she snaked her hands around his chest and ran gentle, loving circles against the firm muscle there.

Goddess, she loved the firmness there. The feel of finally being able to touch him and not feel an obligation to hold back. The feel of having him trust her so... so dearly to have his back turned in the most vulnerable of positions.

"I love you," she uttered he heart swelled and thick against her rib cage. She felt fit to burst, felt talkative and so so happy.

Her hands traced around the expanse of his abdomen. "I love when you smile," she said, drawing small, ever-lowering circles downward. "When you laugh and hold my hand. I love when you say my name..."

"Byleth," he breathed resting his forehead against the door as her fingers reached the hem of his shirt.

"I love when you look at me and see inward. See me in ways I cannot imagine myself." Her fingertips were cool against his hot skin as she slipped them up his shirt, running them over scars and burns and rough patches of skin. "I love you, Dimitri. I love you more than I could ever describe."

"I love you," he uttered, shivering as her touch ran lower, and lower, and lower till it sat just at the lip of his trousers. She saw from behind him the strain there, how the fabric bunched and tightened around him in something painful. She played with the hem of his pants and traced a single nail around the skin there.

"Lower?"

"Please." Oh, and the aching desperation there made her burn.

Reaching down, she palmed at the ever-growing bulge between his legs and gripped him through the stiff fabric just to hear his breath hitch. His fingers curled against the door frame as her second hand slipped up his chest, stroking every inch.

"More?" She asked as she gave him a soft squeeze.

Deep and breathless he murmured, "Yes." And she slipped her hands into his pants and past his small-clothes to grab his warm, velvety length and pull it over his waistband. He let out a long, husky sigh. Already, his tip was slick with precum. Perfect.

His body twitched as she drew a small, slow circle around the head of his cock. He let out a sharp hiss of air. She circled him once again, and he swallowed, the motion strained.

"Oh, goddess."

She gave a husky chortle. "Do you enjoy that, your highness?"

He bobbed his head, hips twitching towards her as she let go of him to readjust her grip.

Smiling, she pressed a kiss to his neck and grasped him firmly in her hand. He dropped his head at the first pump of his cock and spilled Byleth's name from his lips the second. She felt the need in him, the pent up desire of years with each stroke of him, his chest heaving already, his shoulders already trembling. She drew her hand upwards, drawing her nails up his neck to press against his parted mouth, huffing hot air against her fingers.

He let out a deep, low moan at a particularly hard pump of his cock. She drew a line across his lip, drawing it down to steal another groan from him, drinking each sound as she picked up the pace.

Her name tumbled from his lips as he leaned forward, using the door frame as support as she pleasured him, the vulgar orchestra of sloppy, wet strokes and hard breathing making her ears ring.

Dimitri. This was Dimitri she was pleasuring. He was the one bucking into her ever-quickening pace, muttering her name, singing sweet praise and begs for more, more, more despite her outright refusal to even considering stopping.

This was Dimitri. The man she'd fantasized at night when his eyes lingered upon hers. The man whose name she called when she reached climax. By the goddess, this was Dimitri all hot and bothered for her and she could hardly believe it.

Heavy breathed herself and absolutely aching from the fire red arousal that flooded her veins, she couldn't even think as she slipped two of her fingers into his mouth and felt him moan around them. She pressed her forehead to his back, panting as she pumped him faster, matching the rhythm of his bucking hips, giving in to his hand as it wrapped around her own and guided her to the speed he needed.

"Dimitri," she whispered at the echo of his moan, his tongue wet and soft beneath her fingers as it lapped, giving in to her touch as much as she his. She never thought- no- never fathomed that so much pleasure could be derived just by giving it to someone. The fingers in his mouth dropped to grasp his neck.

His hand tightened around hers. Muscles twitched against her wrist as he tilted his head back.

"Byleth-" A hard breath left him as he tore a hand through his messy hair- "Byleth." A plea she ached to fulfill. She pumped his cock faster, her nails digging into the soft skin of his throat as she stroked him. His fingers clenched around the door frame, rutting into her as he took in chopped, cut off breaths.

He tore his hand away to hold himself up as a muffled moan ripped from his throat, the sound barely hidden into his arm as cum spilled from his cock onto Byleth's fingers.

"Thank you-"

"Thank you-" in choked cries as he bucked into her.

She eased him through his climax, her strokes long and easy down the length of him as he shook, panting and letting out some of the most delicious sounds as she picked at his most sensitive state, crumbling his walls, his restraint, his everything with each little touch and kiss against his neck, each unknowing roll of her hips to get some relief from her own arousal, painful and endlessly coiling.

His chest heaved in his moment of rest, shifting Byleth with the weight of the movement. She ran a hand down his back as he recovered, her touches slower now.

"Very good..." she murmured into his ears, tipped with red. "So, so good, Dimitri..." He wilted at the praise. Utterly melted with her every whisper.

"Thank you," she whispered. She almost missed his eyes as they fluttered shut and his soft, almost unhearable moan.

He was soft like this, moldable and loose and she could not help but wrap around his waist and feel him relax into her. She couldn't remember when he'd grown so submissive to her touch nor when his affections came to her notice, but they merged within her own timeline easily. Like a soft, warm gradient from the thens to the nows.

Of course, he fell into her every touch. Of course, he melted at her praise. Of course, he loved her. Of course.

There, pressed tight to him, she needed no explanations of his affection, he himself was answer enough. He himself, once again bright and hopeful, was all the answer she needed to him.

Without words, Dimitri turned to her and gathered her into his arms, effortlessly carrying her before setting her upon his bed, cold from his open window but not unwelcome. Nothing of him was unwelcoming anymore.

The soft, tender kiss he gave her tasted of iron. It was a long, easy thing that stole away her breath not from shock or arousal but from the overwhelming affection as he cupped her face.

His thumb drew gentle lines of love down her cheeks as his lips found a slow, languid rhythm. They slotted perfectly against hers, like a key to an ancient, old lock, and he broke her open, with each caress and loving touch of her hair as he pressed himself so gently against her. She gave in to his delicate touch without a thought.

Looping her arms around his neck, her fingers curled into his messy hair, raking her nails through the thick mane. He shuddered and she felt something harden ever so slightly against her thigh.

She ground her knee into him and he broke away to press his forehead into the pillow laughing breathlessly.

"Look what you do to me," he groaned.

Oh, she intended to do far more than just look as she slipped her hands down to give his recovering length a slow tug and lavished his sensitive tremble.

But he did not let her continue. No, he stole away her wrist to pin it above her head and drawback to look at her. She parted her lips to tease him, protest and offer up something better than her hand when she caught the sight of him.

Oh goddess, help her.

He was utterly wrecked.

Each of his breaths was labored, every heave of his shoulders weighted with pleasure and visible arousal, all the while the undying scent champagne hinted his breath like ambrosia. What little control his hair had was gone, ruffled and messy after both her grasp and his own trails through it. Blood pooled at a tooth-shaped dent in his lip, his icy blue eye burning into her as he licked it away.

She ached to touch those lips. To feel them upon her. Hot and heavy and run against what ailed her.

"Dimitri," and she was utterly breathless, the tone new and different as it oozed from her mouth

His hands trailed down, raking nails on her liquid fire as they ran over the soft skin of her arms. Palms splayed onto her stomach, circled the skin revealed by her armor there in wide circles.

"I think it's only fair that I return the favor, Your Grace..." With the flick of deft fingers, she unbuckled her breastplate, and a humorous smile covered Dimitri's face.

"The whole favor," he clarified. Her toes curled at the desire that dripped his words and, reluctantly, drew her hands away from her armor. It was only fair, she supposed.

It was then that she regretted how utterly slow she had been with him while he took his time to relieve her of her armor, what little she dawned. His touches were too brief, too small as he unclasped items and sat them upon the floor beside his bed before moving back to begin again, moving ever downwards to caress her leg as he pulled her free of her boots and the single metal brace at her knee. She'd wrecked it when she was younger and always kept it protected now. It still ached when the rain was humid.

When she was finally uncased from her metal shell, left only in her common clothes- professional and... near exactly what she'd wear at the monastery did Dimitri pull back, sitting on his calves as he drunk in the sight of her.

She enjoyed it, his stare as it stole looks at her body, no longer hidden or hesitant, no longer guided away by war or duties or- god forbid- assignments of yesteryear. She was laid bare for him despite her stifling clothing, and she lavished how he took her in, fully, as if seeing her for the first time.

"I didn't know removing my armor would attract you so heavily," she mused, glancing down to his cock, still spilled from his trousers and fully erect once again.

"You're one to talk." Her lips quirked up into a smirk and she raked her gaze back up to his eye, his attention razer sharp. "Is it such a sin to be attracted to you?"

"To your Archbishop?" Oh, how unfit she was to be such a holy leader at that moment, squirming and throbbing for him. "A delicious sin."

He hauled himself forward, straddling her as he placed his hands beside her head. "May I confess something, Your Grace?" He smelled of cologne and pine. An overpowering, enveloping scent that muddled her mind.

"Pray tell," she uttered, "What ails you so?"

The sheets bunched in his hands. "I must confess that I have dreamed of tasting you for far too long."

Her breath hitched. She blinked, slow at the words. "And what are you planning to do?"

Those hands, delicate and terrifyingly strong fell softly onto her hips, his thumbs teasing lines of fire against her thighs. His smile was nothing but predatory. "May I demonstrate?"

Please. Gods, please. "Well, of course." But the benevolence edging her playful tone had crumbled all at the feel of him, stroking her skin beneath her tights.

His movements were tender... goddess, they were so terribly tender as he slipped his hands up, running over the crest of her thigh and over her naval, his callouses tough but not painful against her, a perfect texture to her skin, mottled with scars and years of battle.

His head lowered to press a soft, lingering kiss beneath her jaw the same moment she felt him unbutton the bottom of her cropped blouse. Her fingers splayed at the sheets, her heart, heavy and tight with anticipation. Could it beat, she thought it would thunder.

His lips were deft at her neck, his teeth nipping and tongue trailing sweet wetness up her throat. As he worked a pop of buttons with each advancement on her blouse, a hard, marking bite with each lull. Byleth wasn't quite sure when her hands had tangled in his hair or when she'd ground against his hip and tore a dark chuckle from him.

But she knew when her blouse was open, when to snake her arms out of the sleeves before Dimitri dropped it off the bed. She knew exactly when he slipped behind her back and unclasped her bra. When he took it off of her as though time had no end and let it join the rest of their discarded items.

When his lips parted at the sight of her. She'd mark that moment in her mind forever.

"Goddess," he breathed. "You're stunning." His hands were tipped with cold as they fell onto her waist and slipped up, rising against her tensed muscles, bumping against each rib. An unbearable heat coiled within her at every inch he traversed, each movement slower than the last. Gods, she missed when he was impatient.

"Dimitri," she called as he stopped at the underside of her breast, rubbing the skin there but moving no further.

"Patience, beloved." Humor tipped his words as he traced her. "I want to enjoy you."

She arched her back, grinding that infernal heat against his leg, positioned so perfectly between her legs and he applied gentle, burning pressure into her. "I want to feel enjoyed," she drawled, face flushed. He chuckled as he raked his fingers up, up, up-

A shivering breath left her teeth, chattering in excitement as he caressed her peaked nipples. His teeth pressed against her shoulder, the pressure easy, but a reminder, a promise that this was his turn. His turn to dominate. His turn to caress and stroke and- and oh goddess- roll her nipple between his rough hands as he sucked at her neck, marking her before trailing that tongue, hot and sloppy down to her collar bone, nipping at the hard, sharp edges of her, before pulling a hand away and delivering a long, needy lick against her hardened peak.

His fingers were experienced as they work, drawing small breaths from her with each skilled stroke of her, his tongue more so, circling her nipples, nipping at their peak and sucking hard with a strong, unending rhythm. It was ecstasy, she thought, as his hand trailed from kneading her breast to fall between her legs and pressed two fingers right against her.

She moaned. For the first time in her life, she moaned, a strangled, shocked sound that made Dimitri go oh so still.

"Dimitri-" His name was intoxicating. Perfect as it rolled from her lips like a reverent, impatient prayer at his stoppage, only to shudder as he continued, something releasing in him, something clicking into place as his movements turned far more intense and purposeful before he left her breasts and trailed his mouth down the expanse of her stomach. His fingers played with the lace of her tights, caressing and rubbing her thighs just bellow where she needed him- where his hands undid her shorts and slipped them down her legs before tossing them away. And oh gods, he was trembling.

There was a fire in his movements, desperation fringed with something smoking hot and suffocating as he rushed, fingers flying to caress her thighs and roll her breasts within his hands as he nipped holes into her tights at the softest edge of her thigh, his cheek pressed just against her heat. And she'd never felt such overpowering desire in her life before.

No heated moment with a new stranger in an Inn when her father was out fixing their weapons, no soft, practiced tongues of women who knew just how to please her, no- none of them- those forgotten faces and moments in time ever made her feel as she did then, flying and floating and sizzling as he kissed closer to her core, each second agony, each breath labored, each thought filled only with a silent plea.

She felt the warmth of his tongue seep through her bottoms and press right on her aching heat. She dug her nails into his scalp and a groan vibrated through him and perfectly on her core drawing a whisper, a soft moan of pleasure from her.

A plea. A cry. A beg.

"Dimitri," she whispered, his touch not enough through her layers. Nothing would be enough until he removed them, sunk himself into her and grew drunk off her. "Dimitri." And she moaned his name, desperation dripping from her like the wetness at her thighs.

"Dimitri.."

And just like that, he snapped. He gripped the top of her smallclothes and tights in a tight grasp and pulled them down, grace forfeited as he yanked them from her feet and threw them away, his lips hard against her thigh.

He gave no warning, no hint or muttered expectation, and she didn't want them, not as he offered her a hot, needy tongue that drew up her slickness instead. Her legs locked around his neck. Her toes curled as that fire in her turned to an inferno. He growled against her, his throat vibrating against her in time with the circle of his tongue against the tip of her clit.

She didn't feel like she could breathe right. Her lungs felt tight and weak, as though not strong enough to bring in enough air as his tongue lapped her, that beautiful face buried between her legs.

Byleth sensed the determination in him, the starvation as he devoured her, drowning in her and tearing moan after moan from her lips, unaccustomed to the sound. Each sound of pleasure she released, he echoed. With each moan, that fire in him that burned her wholly turned to desperation, bucking, whimpering desperation.

His hair ground against her thighs, scratchy and burning as he worked. Dimitri pulled back only to draw a deep, gasping breath and she glimpsed the holy sight of his face, glistening with her.

His cheeks were moist with wetness, lines of his messy hair trailing across his skin, sticky and soaked. Dimitri's sharp eyes were furrowed with pleasure the second he pressed back into her.

His fingers teased her entrance all the while, playing and toying with her even then before he sunk into her, curling a thick, trained index finger directly into her heat, grabbing at all her frayed ends and stroking them all the while his tongue worked her clit. Byleth's back arched and buckled into the sheets just as fast.

The pleasure he wrought her was unexplainable and new and she felt his utter addiction beginning at being her undoing, and her own simple addiction to him. At being the only one to make her smile so brightly. The only one that made her heart flutter and her lips tremble.The one who first eased her into feeling welcome and accepted at the monastery after so many years as being pinned as odd or emotionless by most she met.

"I'd love nothing more to share our happiness with you. Joy can be so fleeting after all... So, I hope you will consent."

All the others she had forged through hell with were the only one that could mold the muted emotions stolen from her at birth, that lacking thing in her that made her feel subhuman and more at the same breath- that made her silent heart ache to race and thunder- that made her human. But it was Dimitri, only Dimitri in that vast, wide world that once swallowed him whole, who could hand her that stinging missing piece of herself. Who had done so when the light-filled his eyes once again.

Acceptance. With each lick.

Undoubting and confident acceptance for every inch of her, flaws and all. With every hard, quick curl of his fingers as he massaged into her.

Acceptance. With a hard suck and a perfect, perfect graze of his teeth against her.

Her climax nearly tore her in two.

She braced her legs around his head, pulling him in close and grinding against those lips- her lips as she let out a long, uncensored moan out into the quiet night of Fhirdiad as that coil in her tightened to a small, hard ball before relaxing all at once.

Never, never in all her life did it occur to her that this... this was what it was meant to feel like. Not a throb and a sigh but a great, strong wave of warmth and relief and trembling that clamped down around her heart and entwined her soul with his. Toe-curling, back-arching, relief that made her ears ring and her body tingle as he eased her through her bucking finish.

Her heart ached at his softness as she fell from her climax, that freefall long and sensitive and he harnessed it, and tamed it with his own tenderness. That beastial need in him was all but replaced as he stroked her with his tongue, drinking her and calming her electric twitches against him. Every move made was tailored to her and she felt it within her bones.

It was Byleth who pulled him away, gently tugging his chin up to look at her, her pleasure no longer faded and dull but beginning to build once more. His eye- goddess- it saw the world in her when it met her lidded gaze. He would give her everything if she asked. Every scrap of himself he did not already hand over to her, she knew, if she willed it, he would hand over his very soul to her.

And that was what wrecked her. Made her want him in so many more ways than physical.

Saying nothing, he caught her silent request and pulled away. Reaching from behind he tugged off his shirt and shimmied off his pants before kicking off his boots, hardly graceful, but it warmed her nonetheless. Finally, after so many nights dreaming, she saw him.

His legs muscled and weak from decades of having to stand tall. His chest, splattered with scars and tears of his past. His shoulders.

They were confident, despite the weight upon them, though eased, after so long. Her eyes drifted to a wound there, puckered red and still healing.

All of them, still healing.

She rose up to press a soft, open-mouthed kiss to that most painful wound, a promise behind her that he would never be subjected to such torment ever again. She would never allow it. And when she had moved to voice it, to tell him and promise, this one full and forever, she was silenced.

Dimitri didn't look at her, his eye settled upon her hands, folded in her lap. A sad, small smile flitted across his lips.

For just a moment, it was only them, that war and its terrors far behind them, dull but not forgotten, the festivities of the night strewn aside but not lost, the chill, cold but no longer biting. Just them, open bare to their very last inch. Every failure and misguided action, every harsh word and step taken too fast.

For a moment, it was just them. Just him and his hand as it moved to the back of his head and fiddled with the strings of his eyepatch. Adjusted and loosened before pausing.

She felt even time turn its unbiased and endless gaze towards him, it's barrier and marching dread stilled as if even itself waited for his movement, his choice with bated breath.

With all the hesitation in the world, he pulled the fabric away from his eye and laid it carefully beside him.

His eye was missing, its socket hidden by the thin drape of his tattered, immovable eyelid. The depth of the scar dripped onto his cheek like the start of a streaming tear. The silence there was expectant and turned its head to her, waiting, ticking down for her to speak a word. But there were none to say.

His eye squeezed shut. "Forgive me," he muttered, the tremble there infantile. "I-... I thought you'd- that it would be okay to..." His jaw tightened. "I'm sorry." A whisper.

He reached for his patch but she caught him before he could touch it, holding tight his wrist. He looked up, eye wide and startled as she pulled that hand away and entwined their fingers as he so often did.

There were no words to say that would ever describe how beautiful he was to her.

Her lips laid gentle upon his broken, wounded eye, a ghost of a kiss, nothing more than the brush of a leaf against a hand. Nothing more than a whisper in the darkness.

"Thank you," she whispered, the silence fragile and unneeded to be broken as she pulled away. "Thank you, Dimitri, for sharing your life with me." And when she met his look, she found tears there, shyly glistening at the corner of one opened eye, and slipping without restraint from a broken one.

The two sides of him, clashing together and mingling for one brief, beautiful breath before they crashed into one another with one soft, tender kiss. She knew the promise in that kiss. The swear behind his slow, easy movements, no longer fueled by the fire of arousal but by pure, unfathomable love.

He led her down, easing her body against the sheets as he pressed against her, caressing her and surrounding her with his stable arms. She brushed away the wetness that still streamed his cheeks when he pulled away for a breath.

He looked stunning in the low light, illuminated only by the moonlight that glittered through his open window. When he dipped down to kiss her all over again, she savored his every breath. His every move as he kneaded her breasts and trailed warm hands down her sides. Savored his every shudder as she ground against him and corded her fingers in his hair.

Savored his lidded, lovely stare as he pulled away. Pulled back just to tease her legs apart. Gentle. Always gentle with her. It was a thrill, one that made her feel light and flowery as he asked her if she wanted this. If she was ready for him. A thrill to know someone so strong was so vulnerable with her. His baritone rumbles turned to quiet whispers only she would hear.

"Tell me if I hurt you." A soft request in the dark of night as Dimitri positioned himself at her entrance, his tip edging into her. "Tell me to stop and I will."

Her only answer was the shifting of her legs onto his shoulders, and it was all the signal he needed to slowly slip into her, inch by inch stopping only to ask if she was alright. If this was okay.

She hummed, the small pain of adjusting to him far from the front of her mind when the pleasure of him, of being filled finally and connecting so intimately with this man she had dreamed and loved for so long. She pulled his face to hers, drawing him in for a long, heated kiss as he sheathed himself. Hips touched her own and Dimitri breathed into her, turning his head away as he braced his elbows beside her to idle, savoring the feeling.

"I've wanted this for so long," he whispered. "Gods, I've wanted you for so long. To taste you- to touch you- gods to finally bed you-" he cut himself off with a groan as he ground into her. Nails dug into his sheets as Byleth let out a strained breath, throbbing around him painfully so, and it drew another throaty whine from him.

"Again," she urged. He ground harder this time, twisting himself within her before giving a short, small thrust. Her toes curled.

"To think I somehow got the chance." He moved inside her. Not enough. Not enough friction. "Goddess, do you know how long I've wanted to do this? How many times?" Another, short, drawn out thrust that made her hum against her drawn in lips.

"How?" She whispered, her voice hardly above a breath as she squeezed around him as if it could draw him even further into her.

His lips settled against hers once more, teasing open her mouth with a needy tongue. She could still taste herself on him. Smell her own arousal on his breath.

"Ever since the ball so many years ago," he murmured into her. His hips drawing out. "I was such a whelp... but I wanted you that night." He rocked into her, rolling just against her softest spot and she moaned at the feeling. "To hold you." Slow, languid thrusts arousal stringing between their hips with each drawn-out movement. "Kiss you." Coiling, burning pleasure. "Make you moan on my tongue." He let out a low groan. "I pleasured myself all night just to the thought of you. And when you came back into my life-" A snap into her, harder and emphasized by the muffled slap of skin against skin- "when I could finally see again- see you-" Such adoration in those words, such desperation as he huffed and pushed into her- "it became a damn habit."

The thought of it, so lewd and- and breathtaking- the thought of him now, hunched over as he pumped his cock, her name tumbling from his lips. Her hand he imagined bringing her pleasure. Gods, she melted at the picture of it.

His hips rolled into her, his rhythm unsteady, erratically echoing into the night as chopped, stuttering moans left her lips. Each cry a reinforcement to his desire. To that wild part of him that she felt growing to make her moan more. More.

More.

"I've loved you for so long-" he panted in her ear, his voice trembling and weak- "I love you so much, my beloved- my grace- my queen-" A moan cut him off as she bucked against him, pulling at his hair as he thrust before raking them down his back.

His lips never strayed far. They worshipped her body as he took her, licking and claiming her neck, slipping his tongue to press against her, their kisses far less clean. They were all tongue and teeth now, desperate. Thirsty and he drunk her in.

Thirsty and he ground into her, that added connection, even for that one thrust putting perfect pressure against her clit. She took his hands, one twining with her fingers, the other drawing down to her clit, guiding him to rub her in a steady, firm circle. He nestled his face into the crook of her neck.

A hot breath moistened her skin. "Faster?"

"Please." He nodded frantically.

He groaned against her skin, pace quickening, hitting her core at the perfect angle- rubbing her clit with her guidance- whimpering.

Oh, goddess, he was whimpering. Her own moans were tumbling then, louder, needier than before, pressing her lips against his own and bitting before going tender, going soft and running her hands through his hair, down his back, easing him as he utterly lost himself.

He whined, rolling into her. And she felt her climax coming, felt herself seeing that edge and the long fall beneath. Felt her undoing and her end. Her heart tightening and sending waves of wonderous, wonderous heat, bright and soft through her veins as she watched him.

His muscles rolled, his back tensed and arching as he pumped, his eyes only for her and where they met, slick, warm fluids dancing around their thighs.

"I'm close-" he huffed, hardly able to keep his eye straight on her- "I'm so close-" A question there, for her. To tell him it was alright to let go.

To tell him it was alright to release.

She pressed his lips against hers, and let him pant into her, his thrusts less organized, less stable.

While she and Sothis were the beginning, Dimitri, he was the end, not a cold, bleak, dark end, but a warm, enveloping one that stroked her arms in the fading sunset. His end was calming, a great heavy wave that set her old soul free.

Fervently.

Ardently.

She loved him.

She loved him to his very core.

"Come with me," she moaned, the words like an outstretched hand and he picked up his pace, bucking and pumping into her with abandon, spilling her name off his lips as his hand and his cock pushed her over the edge and into a free fall.

Everything within her tightened. Coiled and heated like bated breath before it sighed- moaned as she did, it more a sob than anything. Slick, hot fluid filled what Dimitri did not as he rolled into her, a few weak, shuddering thrusts pushing them both through their release.

He remained there, hunched over her as though a great protector, his hair hanging low from his face and tickling her cheeks. Bliss softened all his hard edges and soothed her own soul. Whatever of herself she hadn't already given to him was gone.

He pulled out of her, the sensation of emptiness both a relief and uncomfortable. He gathered her into his arms as he rolled onto his back, and nestled her against his chest, her head just beneath his chin as he let out a rumbling, bone settling sigh. He entangled their legs as he did his fingers in her hair, stroking it in long, relaxing draws of his fingers against her scalp.

She could have stayed in that moment forever, curled on him and blissfully heated by his larger frame as though he were her own personal fireplace. She ran her hands along his arms and savored his heavy breath at the touch.

He'd gone so long without touch. Five years of knowing only pain when hands came near him and it broke her heart. It shattered her to know that those seconds of darkness for her had been years of lonely torment. She'd sworn when she saw him, crumpled and bloody in the monastery, never again would he be without a kind hand or a companion at his side. Never again would a hand draw away from him in fear or reach forward to harm him.

Hers would be outstretched always to bring him peace, whatever she could.

In time, the sound of the returned to the room as their breaths slowed. Revelry and roaring crowds heard even so far away from the reception hall, a soft mingle to the soft breeze and rustle of curtains.

So close to him, she could hear his heartbeat, firm and steady like the roll of a drum.

"You're so warm and small," he whispered, his voice rasped and graveled by his moans. Warm hands stroked her back. "I've never held you so close before... It's... almost unreal." She rose up onto her elbows to face him and his warm smile that reached every corner of his eye. "To think you chose me over such other worthy men and women... somedays it still astounds me." He paused as his face flushed. "Was that... was that inappropriate to say?" As if saying something so soft could be after all they'd done

Her snort was resounding. "Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd, I cannot fathom you being so shy after all we said at the viewing deck."

He let out a breath and looked away, his face thoroughly flushed. "Well, forgive me, I didn't know that feeling was forbidden after sharing such intimacy with you for the first time."

She sighed and ran her hands along his broad chest. "No, that's not what I mean." She circled a deep scar on his pectoral. "I mean, you have no reason to be so... hesitant with your softer affections of me nor to pull them back so quickly." Even now sometimes he hesitated to say them. Bumbling after saying her hands were soft days before cringing when he admitted she was so warm against him.

She drew in her lips for a small, genuine smile. "I encourage it... actually, your openness. Your words, they make me happy."

She felt him draw back in to her and show a small, bashful smile. "At least I do not anger you with my softness for you."

She could still remember a time when he would have threatened to kill her- and did so many times- without any softness for her. She was not just happy to see him now, walls broken and her snuggled up against his most vulnerable side, she was so very proud.

"May I say something else?" he asked, seeming to once again find himself able to stroke her skin. She hummed and settled her chin upon her fist. "With every passing moment, I am more endeared and excited to spend my life with you." She closed her eyes against such heartfelt words and pressed a soft kiss to his lips, swollen and utterly perfect.

"As am I."