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Reunited

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Cordelia could swear she was in heaven.

For years she had dreamt of being in her current position. Ever since she and Sumia went flying on a day off from training, where the sunlight shone in the other woman's hair and making her very presence glow brighter than the smile currently overtaking her face, Cordelia was hopelessly smitten with her best friend. She tried to act like everything was the same, but after that fateful moment every brush of Sumia's skin against hers sent electricity through Cordelia's body, every smile sent her way made her heart flutter and her stomach jump.

It was her dreams that always ended up more provocative. In those, all she could feel were Sumia's dancing hands down her body, the heat left by each trailing kiss, and the way those tan locks felt in her hands as Sumia made her sing. Her heart would pound and every part of her body felt like it was on fire in the best way.

She would wake from each one, completely flushed and with a need hard to fulfill when there was already someone giving out orders. But the dreams didn't stop, and neither did Sumia's beauty, her growing strength, or her closeness to Cordelia.

When the two were separated, it became easier to control. Cordelia would miss everything about Sumia's presence; she missed the way Sumia would know what Cordelia meant even when she herself didn't fully know, the way they would look out for each other so neither would hurt themselves too badly, the way talking came easy between them after knowing each other their whole lives. Her work as a pegasus knight kept her busy at least. Though she vaguely wondered if her pegasus ever got tired of hearing her talk about Sumia while getting groomed.

The night the two were reunited, Cordelia was sure she went through every human emotion possible. Flying through the air, she thanked Naga her pegasus knew where to go because the ground below was simply a blur to Cordelia as they raced overhead. None of her training had prepared her to lose everything all at once. Her pegasus whinnied, startling her back into focus. Quickly wiping her eyes, she finally looked back up just in time to see the small forms of the Shepherds coming into focus. “Thanks for the heads up, Aurora.” Her pegasus nickered in response, the noise carrying a nervous energy that made Cordelia glance back to the mountain side. The sound of clanging steel finally pushed through the sounds of her Sisters buying her enough time to escape.

With her lance held tight, Cordelia charged.

In truth, she hadn’t even processed Sumia had been there until the chaos had calmed. The Shepherds were hurrying to Ferox and Cordelia had remained on Aurora’s back. She had said it was to be prepared to take off at a moment’s notice if necessary, but in truth she was simply too exhausted to dismount. Just as they set up camp, Cordelia finally realized hers was not the only pegasus in the march. It wasn’t until she saw familiar tan hair that the weight in her chest slightly lifted, giving her new energy. She nearly tripped over her own feet in her haste, calling, “Sumia? Is that you?” The brown eyes that met her own made Cordelia’s heart sigh with relief.

“Cordelia! I was just about to-” Sumia didn’t get the chance to finish, as Cordelia nearly threw herself in her old friend’s arms, shaking from the effort of holding back her tears. Familiar arms wrapping around her instantly made that effort exponentially harder. “C-Cordelia?”

The only thing Cordelia managed to say, in a breath, was “You’re still here.” She felt Sumia tense for a second before Cordelia was being held tighter than she had ever been held before. Burying her face in her best friend’s shoulder, Cordelia wished the embrace would never end.

That is, until a little voice in her head spoke up about acceptable hug lengths finally spoke too loud to be ignored, especially with Sumia’s hand gently rubbing circles into her back. Pulling away, Cordelia put on her best apologetic smile. “Sorry about that. I’m relieved that you’re okay. It’s good to see you again.”

For a heartbeat, Sumia looked at her in a way that made Cordelia’s heart pound. Then her face softened and she replied, “I’m really glad to see you too, Cordy. Now come on, lets go get these guys set up for the night.” Letting out a small breath of relief, Cordelia realized Aurora had walked over to her. Petting her pegasus lightly on the nose, Cordelia grabbed her reins and walked side by side with Sumia. The two easily fell into a conversation, catching up while feeling like the other had never truly left. For the first time in that long day, Cordelia felt like things were going to be okay.

It wasn't until a few days after their reunion in the Shepherds that Cordelia was able to genuinely look at Sumia for the first time. When she did, she immediately knew she was gone. Sumia had only grown more incredible to Cordelia. Even the times she tripped up, Cordelia felt herself falling just as quickly all over again. There was kindness in her every action and the strength to keep going even when she fell, both literally and figuratively. Hell, even those flower fortunes that Cordelia still found a little silly, were still part of what made Sumia... Sumia. She was as strong as she was kind and Cordelia found herself once again wanting desperately to do nothing but shower Sumia in the love and affection she deserved.

It was this realization that made Cordelia begin to notice what she had ignored before. It wasn’t uncommon to find Sumia walking alongside Chrom, both of them smiling and lost in conversation. Between that and the way Sumia would flush whenever Sully complimented her fighting abilities, Cordelia felt she didn’t stand a chance. On the rare occasion the army was allowed a break and the two found themselves letting their pegasi graze in a field of flowers, Cordelia shoved every other voice down and focused on the one singing the song of joy that her best friend found people who made her happy. Still, Cordelia found herself picking flowers that were perfect for Sumia’s fortunes, brushing out Belfire’s coat while Sumia was busy with other work, always pausing and waiting patiently for Sumia to catch up if she tripped. Seeing the other woman smile made her heart leap.

It had been a few days after that second realization when Sumia came visiting Cordelia's tent one night. Her face broke into a smile immediately upon seeing her old friend and Cordelia found her heart fluttering as she smiled back. She patted the spot on her bed set next to her and Sumia quickly sat down.

Sumia had her head in Cordelia's lap, her hands running through those soft, familiar tan locks. "So," Cordelia looked down to see Sumia's smiling face. Her eyes got a devious twinkle. "Anyone catch your eye?"

"Yes, actually." Cordelia felt the words tumble out of her mouth before she could stop them. She felt the heat rush to her cheeks immediately as Sumia sat up excitedly.

The excited woman scooted closer to the fully flushed red head. "Really? Who?" There was a certain light in her eyes that didn't seem to match the rest of Sumia's body that Cordelia couldn't name.

Fidgeting in her seat, Cordelia's mind raced for a way out. "What about yourself?" She was confident her racing heart could be heard all throughout camp as Sumia's face flushed, giving herself away. A twinge of jealousy smothered a small spark of hope in Cordelia's heart. So, naturally, she dug herself deeper. "We could exchange descriptions and try to guess?"

Sumia seemed to think for a moment. Smiling, she nodded. "Alright! I’ll go first."

Cordelia’s heart nearly stopped from that sentence alone. She tried hard to listen, to absorb the words and bury the pain in her heart as she fit other people into the descriptions Sumia was giving. Courageous : nearly any of the Shepherds truthfully, stubborn: still, truthfully, nearly any of the Shepherds in varying degrees, regal : perhaps Chrom or Lissa, elegant : definitely not Chrom or Lissa, cares deeply, almost to a fault : that could narrow it down, strong: perhaps it was Maribelle? Passionate and driven: Cordelia’s mind could only scramble, Cordy? Are you alright?

The world snapped back to stark focus as Cordelia felt a hand rest on her face. The look of concern swimming in Sumia’s eyes trapped Cordelia. Every bone in her body screamed at her to run. She wasn’t strong enough to fight back.

If you asked her, she wouldn’t be able to recall exactly what she had said to get her out of that situation. All she knew was hearing Sumia call out behind her and the feeling of her feet pounding against the ground as she ran away. She didn’t make it too far and nearly slid under the cover of a tree, breathing heavily and praying to any god out there Sumia wasn’t chasing after her. “Damn it.” She mumbled, leaning back against the bark and closing her eyes, before repeating loudly, “Damn it!” She ran her hands through her hair, briefly thankful it had been late enough that she had removed her wing clips, and lamented to the trees around her, “Why did I do that? I really should be better than that .”

“Better than what?” A voice made her nearly jump out of her skin. Raelyn was crouching in front of her, barely giving her any space, making Cordelia try, and fail, to scramble back farther against the tree. Raelyn tilted her head, leaning back slightly as if to fully size up Cordelia, “You alright, Cord?”

As her heart finally slowed down, Cordelia let herself slump forward. “Truthfully, no.” She confessed to the tactician, whose eyes suddenly grew sharper with focus. “Have you ever been in love with someone you were confident didn’t love you back? So you tried to be happy for them and continue to be a good friend but each time their love life came up, your heart hurt more than anything?”

Raelyn looked away for a moment, ruffling her hair before sighing, “Not exactly, but I can get the feelin’.” She finally sat down properly before continuing, “When you love ‘em ‘nd want to be with ‘em more than anythin’ but there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to take the risk of lettin’ ‘em know to avoid the pain of rejection ‘nd losin’ that friendship?”

Slowly, Cordelia nodded. “Or sacrificing their own chance to be happy just to make yourself happy.” She paused for a moment. “Oh gods, I ran out of my own tent because of that.”

Raelyn laughed under her breath, then shook her head, mumbling something Cordelia couldn’t catch. “Mind if I ask who you’ve been pinin’ over? Gives a bit of context to how you’re feelin’.”

This time, Cordelia was able to fight against her instinct to run. “Sumia.”

The last thing she expected to hear was the immediate loud, echoing laughter from the tactician. Cordelia felt her face flush to its full, bright red. “And what exactly is so funny about this?” When the laughter didn’t stop, she started to get up, “I can’t believe you.”

“Wait, wait, wait!” Raelyn’s hand barely made Cordelia stop. Before Cordelia could rip her wrist away, Raelyn, still chuckling slightly, continued, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” She took a breath and finally collected herself enough to say, “I’m only laughin’ ‘cause it’s obvious how much that woman’s been pinin’ over you too.”

Everything in Cordelia seemed to freeze. “What.”

Leaning back on one of her hands, Raelyn waved the other around as she spoke, “I mean yea? You really haven’t noticed? You’re always the first person she goes to when we got free time, she always makes your favorites when it’s her turn on cookin’ duty, I don’t think I’ve seen a person look more proud of themself as she did when she made you lose your shit in the dining hall. She was practically beamin’ watchin’ you laugh so hard. Hell, no one had seen you laugh anywhere near that hard the entire time any of ‘em have known you. What made you lose it anyway?”

Cordelia laughed under her breath. “That would require explaining at least 3 inside jokes. We’ve been friends all of our lives, you know?”

Raelyn held her hands up, “Yea yea, I don’t wanna know then. What I do know is how Sumia will radiate worry until she sees you make it out of a battle okay. And how much she would talk about how amazin’ you are before you joined us. I think she tried to hide it from you, but she was really worried about you when you got here.” Guilt wormed its way into Cordelia’s heart, and as if she could sense it, Raelyn waved her off, “Don’t get caught in your head about that, you just went through somethin’ traumatic. You had to focus on gettin’ yourself back into shape first, and by then she had clearly been more happy to have you back at all.” Raelyn stood up, briefly dusting herself off with only half an effort, “The point is, she cares about you, a lot. Even if by some chance it isn’t romantic, I don’t think that woman wants to leave your side any time soon, and knowing how you feel wont change that.” She offered Cordelia a hand, which she took to stand to her full height. “Take your chance before you regret it.” Her eyes clouded with an emotion Cordelia couldn’t read, “You can figure things out after.”

As Raelyn patted her shoulder, Cordelia sighed, “Thank you, Raelyn. That helped a lot.”

The tactician grinned lopsidedly, “No problem, Cord! Can’t have one of my friends chastisin’ herself and gettin’ hurt on the field because of it.” She started to walk away, still looking at Cordelia. “Now go get some sleep. This war ain't over yet.”

For a minute, Cordelia simply watched her leave. Running her hand through her bangs one more time, she made the walk back to her tent. Peaking in, she whispered, “Sumia?” A soft snore answered her. She fully stepped inside, seeing her best friend fast asleep on her bed set. A warmth quickly enveloped Cordelia’s heart as she watched her for a second. It didn’t take her long to pull out a spare bed set and set it up close to her. Before laying down, she glanced once more at Sumia. A thread of tan hair had fallen into her face. Without a second thought, Cordelia reached over and gently tucked it behind her ear. She smiled softly, fighting down the urge to kiss the other woman’s forehead, and whispered, “Sleep well, Sumi.” It wasn’t long before she joined Sumia in the world of dreams.

Cordelia woke unceremoniously to the full weight of something landing on her. Her eyes snapped open as she pushed it off, looking around for her lance on instinct, when a familiar voice made her stop, “Sorry!” She snapped her head to the source, adrenaline still coursing through her system, then breathed a sigh of relief seeing Sumia adjusting into a sitting position.

“Sumi, why did you-” Behind Sumia, Cordelia noticed the dawn light peeking in through the bottom of the tent flap. “Did you fall on me on purpose to wake me up so I wouldn’t oversleep?”

“Maybe.” The spark in Sumia’s eyes said the answer was definitely a “yes”. Cordelia laughed softly, playfully pushing Sumia’s shoulder. For a second, she felt like they were kids again, like they could go outside and play anything they wanted then come back inside for another sleepover.

Reality came crashing down around her as the spark died. “Cordelia, about last night-”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, Sumia.” She cut her off with a sigh. For a moment, Raelyn’s voice echoed in Cordelia’s head as she looked into those brown eyes. The words, three simple words, lingered on the tip of her tongue, pushing to spill forward and be heard.

“I got too flustered to say anything,” was what spilled out instead.

Coward.

She had to look away from those eyes so she could continue, “I’m sorry I ran out like that. I should’ve just told you that instead.” Hearing birds chirping outside, Cordelia sighed. “We should go get ready. How about I tell you after the war? Not just a description either. I’ll tell you their name, I promise.”

Sumia paused. “Okay, but I’ll hold you to that!” Cordelia knew she would.

A few hours later found Cordelia marching along with the rest of the Shepherds. She had been scouting out front, only for Raelyn to order her down to give her pegasus a break. Looking ahead, she could see the small form of Sumia on her own pegasus who had taken up scouting duty in her stead. Out of the corner of her eye, Cordelia caught Raelyn motioning to get her attention. Raelyn nodded her head towards Sumia with a lopsided smirk, then tilted her head questioningly. Cordelia felt her face get warmer as she got Raelyn’s implication. She spotted Chrom, walking next to Raelyn, then matched the tactician’s expression and nodded towards him. Her red tinted eyes widened and she turned around, but not before quickly flipping Cordelia off in retaliation. Cordelia laughed behind her hand, continuing on with renewed energy.

Looking towards Sumia again, she noticed the knight rapidly approaching the Shepherds again. Moving by instinct, Cordelia quickly mounted her pegasus and took to the sky just in time to hear Sumia call, “They’re not far ahead!” The two knights made eye contact and nodded to each other. They fell into place next to each other easily and prepared themselves for the battle ahead.

It was time to save Emmeryn.

 

--

 

Cordelia was tired. She lost track of how long they had been fighting, but from how heavy her lance felt in her hands made it feel like it had been days. She was breathing heavily, barely able to follow where her allies were and where the nearest threat was.

Which was how she missed that damned archer.

She couldn’t tell who the warning call came from, only that it came a moment too late. There was a sudden sharp pain in her back. It made her head go fuzzy, with only the loud, startled whinny of her pegasus and the vague knowledge she was falling piercing the veil. The last thing she felt as her vision faded to black was landing heavily on something and the feeling of shaking hands holding her tight.

The sound of soft breathing next to her welcomed Cordelia back. Her eyes fluttered open, pain immediately shooting through her upper body and forcing them closed again. “Don’t you even think about getting up!” A voice, Cordelia guessed was Maribelle’s, came from somewhere above her. “That arrow did quite a bit of damage to you darling.”

As the pain subsided, Cordelia heard soft rustling next to her. Slowly opening her eyes, she finally began to take in her surroundings. Soft dawn light lit up what Cordelia now recognized as the medical tent. Had she really been out that long? Looking to the source of the rustling, she noticed with surprise that Sumia had apparently been sleeping not far away. As soon as Sumia’s eyes fully opened, she gasped and practically threw herself at Cordelia. “You’re okay!” The sounds of Cordelia’s own yelps of pain and Maribelle’s orders to get off blended together in Cordelia’s head as Sumia released her. “Sorry, I’m sorry!” She opted instead to hold tightly to Cordelia’s hand. “You just fell so suddenly and I was barely able to catch you! The arrow looked like it was so deep and I thought I wouldn’t find any of the healers in time and…” She squeezed Cordelia’s hand tighter. “Thank the gods you’re okay.”

Cordelia’s heart leapt as she squeezed Sumia’s hand back. “Sounds like you saved me, Sumi. Thank you.”

A weighted pause fell between the two when Maribelle spoke up again. “Pardon the intrusion, but could you wait outside Sumia? Now that Cordelia is awake, there are some things I must discuss with her before she can head back to her own tent.”

“Oh! Of course.” Sumia stood, dusting herself off. “I’ll let everyone know you’re awake.”

As she left, Cordelia let out a sigh. Her hand still felt like there were sparks dancing on her skin from here Sumia’s hand had been. Maribelle hummed and Cordelia saw a knowing glint in her eye. “What?”

“Oh nothing, darling.” The underlying song in her voice made Cordelia flush. “Let us get started so you can get back to her.”

The tests were simple checks to ensure there was no accidental further damage from removing the arrow or the impact after falling. It had broken off partially when she had landed on Sumia’s pegasus, making the removal slightly more challenging, Maribelle had told her. Thankfully, any damage from removal had been minimal and recovery seemed to be progressing. The pain that had been shooting through Cordelia’s body had begun to lessen, whether from her own instinct to try to lessen her own pain or her body readjusting naturally as the wound began to heal was impossible to tell. “So, how long until I can resume full duty?”

“Provided you don’t cause excess strain to the wound, I would give you three weeks, give or take a few days.”

“Three weeks?” Cordelia yelped.

Maribelle merely nodded, unphased in the least, “Precisely. Our magic can only do so much at a time, dear. Your own body needs to follow the process as well. We can’t very well heal your muscles completely without your assistance to insure they heal properly.”

“Surely the damage can’t be that bad?” Cordelia could already feel the ants crawling on her skin, begging her to move. “I’ve been hit before and it never took that long to heal.”

Maribelle’s steely gaze rooted Cordelia to the spot. “Are you telling me how to do my job? Yes, you have been hurt before, but those injuries didn’t go nearly as deep. The arrow nearly damaged your bone! You’re lucky it didn’t pierce your lung. You simply must give your muscles a chance to heal while maintaining their strength.”

Frustrated, Cordelia let her head fall back heavily. “Can I at least walk around camp to help out?”

“Certainly!” Cordelia breathed a sigh of relief. “As long as you have someone to make sure you don’t overextend your shoulder.”

“I can-”

“Take care of yourself?” Maribelle finished with a raised eyebrow. “Please. You’re a more than capable woman, darling, but you’re dreadful at knowing your limits and listening to them.” Cordelia had to look away, feeling her ears burn. “It doesn’t have to be the same person at all times, of course, as long as you have someone at all to help you while you’re still recovering.”

Biting down the urge to voice her irritation, Cordelia replied, “Very well. May I leave now?”

Maribelle paused, looking Cordelia up and down one final time. “You may.” With a smile, she added, “Make sure you let Sumia know the stretches I gave you to do to keep your shoulder in shape.”

Refusing to dignify her knowing tone with a response, Cordelia simply thanked Maribelle and left. Simply being on her feet washed Cordelia of her growing antsiness and she set off to check the perimeter of camp. She ran into a few other Shepherds as she patrolled, all of who gave various greetings of shared joy to see her on her feet again. Kellam, who she spotted patrolling in the opposite direction, seemed particularly relieved. Over time, the two had formed a bond as they often patrolled the edge of camp together. She had discovered he was as kind as he was strong, the limits of both surprising her every time. They finished their patrol together in a comfortable silence, with the only disturbance having been Raelyn running out of camp at full sprint with a shouting Gaius hot on her tail.

Things had continued calmly in that manner for Cordelia while the Shepherds prepared for their next move. Kellam would help her check the stock of necessary battle items after the two patrolled together, Donnel would help her check the food supply, ensuring none of the food had spoiled and checking how long their rations should last, Cherche would help her with armor and clothing upkeep, all with Raelyn popping in to check on the running of the camp. Sumia helped the most with pegasi care. For Cordelia, it was one of her favorite parts of the day. When it was just them, the two could talk for hours and their pegasi would liven up. Often, the two would leave the stables with hair out of place where their pegasi lipped them playfully, and they never seemed to find a place Aurora wouldn’t find their treats. For a while, Cordelia nearly forgot there was the war. Spending time with the Shepherds, hearing some of them talk about an argument they had, a cute merchant from a nearby town, debating who the best cook was and why, it was like they were all simply trainees: always ready for a fight but feeling far from the actions as well. The loss of Emmeryn hung heavy in the air, yet life had to go on.

The nights, however, were more similar to her trainee days than Cordelia could have anticipated.

The first day of her recovery, Sumia had found her in the store room, pulling her outside to talk. “So, I had an idea.” When Cordelia nodded, she continued, “What if I sleep in your tent for a while? At least until you’re fully healed.” Cordelia’s mind raced to balance her emotions as Sumia went on, “That way if anything goes wrong, you don’t have to risk making it worse while trying to get to the medical tent! If the pain flares up or if the wound opens in your sleep somehow or if there’s any part of it you can’t do on your own, I’ll be right there by your side to help!” Her eyes glowed with a genuine desire to help.

It only took a second before Cordelia agreed, “That sounds like a wonderful idea, Sumi!” Wonderful, but terrifying. The smile that lit up Sumia’s face made Cordelia’s heart flip. Gods, she hoped she wouldn’t say anything too damning in her sleep.

“Perfect! I’ll meet you in at dinner and we can set up after.” Sumia beamed. She paused for a moment, and before Cordelia could ask what was wrong, Sumia leaned up and quickly kissed Cordelia’s cheek. Sully’s call pulled Sumia away before Cordelia could process what had just occurred. She walked back into the store room, a hand resting on her burning cheek, in a flustered daze.

Kellam glanced to her and smiled. “That’s a look I’d recognize on anyone.” He set down a collection of lances he had been inspecting and walked over to Cordelia. “You really have it bad for her, huh?”

Both her hands covered her face now, but Cordelia was sure her blush was still visible. “Gods, how many people are going to know before I even tell her myself?” She sat down on a nearby box and laid back. Not that it would happen soon, Cordelia added to herself.

Kellam chuckled, sitting next to her. “Why don’t you just tell her?” Cordelia felt him shift his weight to lean back to look at her better. “It’s obvious she has it bad for you too. Wouldn’t it be easier to say it outright than dance around it with mutual flirting?”

“I don’t know.” Cordelia moved her hands, staring pointedly at the roof of the tent as if it held an answer. “Everyone keeps saying it’s obvious she has feelings for me, but what if it’s just because we’re childhood best friends?” The question was hollow and she knew it.

Without even looking, she could feel Kellam’s rightfully disbelieving stare heavy on her. “Cordelia, you’re one of the smartest women I know, but... “ He paused. “How can I put this nicely…?” For a moment, Cordelia thought he was just teasing her with how long he had been trying to finish his statement. “I don’t think that’s the real reason for your hesitation.”

Cordelia let out another sigh. “There’s too much going on right now. I simply want to wait for this war to end.” Her words rang out as What if one of us doesn’t come back next time?

Kellam, however, didn’t show he heard the ring. “That’s understandable.” He moved to stand back up. “Whenever it is you decide to tell her, I hope it makes you both happy.”

Slowly, Cordelia joined him. “Thank you, Kellam.”

He smiled back at her. “Though, if you want to keep it a secret from her, you’re aware you blush every time she smiles at you, right?”

If it weren’t for Maribelle’s lecture from the last time Cordelia had pushed herself too far echoing in her head, Cordelia would have thrown the nearest object she could reach at him. “Anyways,” She pointedly changed the topic, which he answered with a laugh, “how were those lances looking?”

Every night after that, without fail, Sumia fell asleep in Cordelia’s tent. The space between their bed sets felt like a chasm to Cordelia. The cheek kiss would play in Cordelia’s mind on repeat as she lay awake, Sumia close enough to touch and yet far enough away Cordelia dreamt of all the requests that lay on the tip of her tongue in the day. Can I hold your hand? Please kiss me again. You can join me in my bed if you want. I want to hold you close.

Some nights, her dreams left her wondering why she woke with empty arms. Yet starting the day with that familiar smile she could never get enough of left her dreams behind quickly. Part of her prayed she would gather the courage to confess before she was left alone in her tent at night again.

So the ending of the war came all too soon, yet not nearly soon enough.

Her shoulder had not yet fully healed when the marching orders came around. Fear clawed at Cordelia’s heart. She couldn’t be there to fight alongside her friends. She couldn’t be there to fight alongside Sumia. She had been walking the perimeter when she heard and it took her only a second to decide to bolt to the stables. As she expected, Sumia was in there, prepping Belfire for the march. “Sumia!”

“Cordelia?” There was surprise in the knight’s voice. “Is something wrong?”

Before her courage could falter, Cordelia stepped up to Sumia. “Please come back safe.”

Taking Sumia’s face in both of her hands, Cordelia kissed her.

It was only a heartbeat before Sumia was kissing her back. She wrapped her arms around Cordelia’s waist, pulling the taller knight closer. Cordelia’s hands threaded themselves through Sumia’s hair, careful not to displace her wing clips too much, as she poured every ounce of her feelings into the kiss. She could feel Sumia smiling long before they broke apart to breathe easier.

“Sumia! What’s takin’ ya so long?” Sully’s voice made the two break apart suddenly. They looked between where Sully’s voice came from, then back to each other, then laughed quietly together.

The way Sumia looked at her after they both calmed down left Cordelia’s knees weak. “I’ll be back before you know it.” She leaned up, giving Cordelia one more chaste kiss, before turning back to Belfire and leading him out.

Cordelia watched her and the rest of the army leave until she couldn’t see them anymore. With nearly everyone off to fight, the camp felt both deserted and claustrophobic. No matter how many supply checks, how many times she walked the perimeter, Cordelia couldn’t chase away the worry threatening to swallow her whole. There was nothing she could do here to help her friends survive on the field. In the end, she found herself in the stables again, Aurora’s gentle nudging giving her a small sense of comfort. She was just about to lead her out for a quick flight when distant shouting reached her. Running as fast as she could manage, she finally found the source.

The Shepherds were returning, and Cordelia’s heart was higher than the pegasus she saw flying triumphantly in the sky.

The next few weeks were a blur to Cordelia. Between traveling back home, meeting the newest recruit, Olivia, and celebrating the long war’s end, there had hardly been time left for her and Sumia to talk. Her shoulder was finally cleared a few days before they made it back to Ylisstol, yet Sumia remaining by her at night left neither of them surprised.

It had been nearly a week after they had returned home when the Shepherds had been freed from the citizens’ celebration of their victory. Sumia and Cordelia had been assigned more permanent lodging in the castle, but on their first night free of duty, they found themselves in the courtyard together.

“So,” Sumia began, tucking a stray piece of hair behind her ear. “You still owe me that name.”

Falling in love happens over and over again. The two scariest parts are the initial fall, and the one where you admit you fell in the first place. That admission could land you to the home you’ve longed for just as easily as it can tear down the walls you built in hopeful preparation. It can lead to more time together, learning and growing as a pair, just as easily as hardly speaking, wanting but never knowing how to break past the awkwardness of the ruins of what could have been.

For Cordelia, it felt like giving her heart to the one who already had it, and when warm, excited lips pressed against her own, she knew she would never regret it.

“I love you too, Cordelia.”

Every part of Cordelia knew she did. Now, laying together that night, Sumia resting comfortably in Cordelia’s arms, she could swear she was in heaven.