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Darling, I'm drowning

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Edelgard didn’t wander very often. In fact, she always carried out the exact same routine she had had for herself since she was a child. She was still a child, Claude had mentally mused as he and Dmitri watched her through the window of his dorm. Her routine was strict and left her with little to no free time -when she did have such she usually spent it with them or Hubert. Speaking of Hubert, it was just as unusual that he was not with her. Those two were inseparable, after.

 

“Lots of weird stuff here, Mitri.” Claude finally murmured in the dim light of his dorm. Dmitri nodded and his brow furrowed in concern. 

 

“We should go after her. I would not be able to forgive myself should something happen to her.” There he goes with his chivalry again. Dmitri was well-meaning, of course, but what’s gonna happen to the emperor's daughter at night? And Claude was willing to bet that Edelgard was better at defending herself then either of them. Still, she wouldn’t mind if they tagged along, right? They were best friends, right?

 

She stopped at the port, plopping herself down and allowing her bare legs to enjoy the burning frigidity of ice cold water. It was only now that they realized she was dressed in her nightgown, a pale red, handmade gift from her mother that still looked like it was too big for her. They heard her exhale shakily and bury her face in her hands. She took several more shuddering breaths, each more distressed than the next as the boys exchanged worried glances behind her.

 

They were about to intervene when they heard a low whine. It stopped them both right in their step as the realization hit them like a truck. Edelgard was crying. She was sobbing . It was a quiet, scared and anguished wail. 

 

“Do you two plan on spying on me for much longer? Get away from me.” Her crackly voice snapped at them. They weren’t good at being sneaky, that was obvious, but she really did make them feel like they were awful at it. Nonetheless, they pursued their friend-in-need.

 

“El, what’s happened?” Dmitri was trying to make his voice softer and it wasn’t working. He wanted to shout, to get Manuela to see if she was hurt, to get Lady Rhea on the scene to comfort her because he had no damn clue himself.

 

“Did you not hear me? I told you to get the hell away from me.” She shoved Dmitri out of the way, almost making him topple over into the river. She didn’t look sorry, nor did she say she was but they could talk about it at another time.

 

“No can do princess,” Claude’s brain screamed at him to wisen up and get serious but his heart told him to keep his cheery tone, “not until we find out what’s going on in that pretty little head of yours.” 

 

She scowled at him. “My issues are exactly that. Mine. Not your’s, or Dmitri’s, or Hubert’s, or the professor's. Leave me be with them please.” She was as stubborn as they come. Even after all these years, she still had those sky high walls ready to be built up at any moment. And Claude hates to tear them down but he has to. She won’t speak unless she’s forced to otherwise.

 

“Edelgard, come now. You know we are not going to leave until we feel you are alright. And a simple ‘I’m OK’ does not suffice in this instance. Tell us what is wrong, please. We would never judge you.” Dmitri grasped her hands, which were dreadfully wet with tears, but did not let that stop him.

 

“I… I had a nightmare.” They had done it. She was finally confiding in them. “During my childhood, I had many… experiences with Those Who Slither In The Dark. I believe I have told you I had many siblings, no?”

 

Dmitri and Claude nodded, the former squeezing her hand hand and the latter gently pulling her trembling form into his side, both attempting to coax her to continue.

 

“They performed horrible experiments on me and my family. All for those damn crests…” Neither missed how she spat out the word as if it were venomous. She choked on an incoming sob. “They killed them, they killed them all but I lived. They took everything from me and made me this…” Her words became inaudible as the wails forced their way out of her throat at the prospect of remembering such a traumatic event.

 

Claude felt bile rise in his own throat but swallowed it down. The three of them sat there, tangled in a mess of love and limb, clutching on to each other so tight it was as if they thought they were going to disappear on each other. They didn’t move until Dmitri and Claude felt Edelgard’s heartbeat return to normal and her breathing steady and even. She barked out a bitter laugh.

 

“I apologise for my childish breakdown, boys. It was never my intention to bother you with my own trivialities.” She smiled at them both but still looked so painfully sad that they could barely look at her.

 

“No, El. Listen. You were so brave to tell us something like that and to let us help. It takes so much courage to even think about opening up about trauma but you just did it. You let us in. Thank you so much.” Claude gripper her shoulders tightly, grounding her.

 

“We are so happy you trust us, Edie.” Dmitri chimed, using that silly nickname that always made her giggle.

 

“Thank you, thank you both so much.” She stood up and extended hands to them. Once they were all on their feet, she drew them in for the tightest squeeze her little arms could muster. They’d be OK, they were sure of it.