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Since Edelgard could not go about everywhere in armor—so said Ferdinand, who jangled about everywhere in cuisses and greaves—a series of dresses had to be made for her.

The household had kept many of the dresses and linens from Ionius’ days. Every few months, when it was expected that she make a show of imperial largess, Hubert ransacked the old dresses and had Edelgard stand on a box while the tailor tried to get her in one dress, then another. The main problem was that she didn’t fit into many dresses in a way that was difficult to adjust for. Either they couldn’t close the dress over her back and shoulders, or Hubert rejected the dress for lacking some essential quality necessary for an emperor.

“We must preserve the feathers for suitably impressive occasions,” Hubert said. “A collar of feathers cannot simply be thrown onto any article to make it ‘impressive.’ What you have done is made the Emperor of All Fodlan a gaudy, screeching bird. She is the embodiment of a war won and a new dawn. I cannot begin to convey my bemusement at how we have employed you for so long.”

“Hubert, stop hassling the tailor.” Edelgard looked up from the fishing report and into the mirror. “You’ve made me look dour. The brocade waist was from my grandmother’s generation, not mine.”

“As I’ve been saying,” Hubert said, his eyes glinting. He always did like to perform a soliloquy.

In the end, the tailor went away with two dresses to remake to Edelgard’s body and current fashion. Hubert was called away on business. Most of the dresses were carried away. A few, Edelgard asked to keep out. Lysithea would be stopping by later after dinner as she often did. Clothes and fashion were something of a hobby for her, and Edelgard knew she’d like looking at the dresses, if only to make fun of them.

After dinner, Edelgard was lounging on the chair by the window when Lysithea strode in without knocking.

“Good, you’re working,” she said briskly. “What are you reading? The agricultural report from Nuvelle or the grain count from Goneril? Did you fire the Eastern treasurer yet? He’s an idiot. What’s all this?”

“I had a tailor in today. Come look.”

Lysithea did so, turning to them and running her hand over them. Just as Edelgard knew it, the red dress caught Lysithea’s attention. Rich, red velvet, not in season for the end of summer heat. It would make a magnificent winter piece. Having that plush, smooth velvet against the skin—Edelgard hadn’t dared to try it, in fear of busting the seams. “These are nice,” Lysithea said, tilting the fabric back and forth to admire the soft sheen, the heavy weight of it. “Were they your sisters’?”

“Some of them. That one, I believe, was my father’s second consort’s; she had many magnificent pieces made before the Dagdan war drained the coffers. Hubert thinks we should turn them to scrap!” Hubert would forgive her for maligning him later. There was a thrumming between her ears. Yes, what a waste to see all that cloth formless and soft, hanging in some closet. It’d be better off being put to use. “Try it on.”

“Really? Here?”

She watched Lysithea feel the dress with the back of her fingers, and the words she needed jumped into her hand. The killing blow. “The scoop of the neckline is slightly immodest by your standards, but it can be adjusted. You’ll look very elegant in it, I’m sure.”

She expected the eagerness, but not the way Lysithea reached behind her and undid the buttons. The widening gap of bare skin at Lysithea’s back had her mouth flapping open. There was no self-consciousness—why should there be? They were already familiar with the shape of each other’s bodies; already compared their wrists and arms with a cool eye.

And there Lysithea was, in her slip and still pulling the laces on the back to tie them. Edelgard went over automatically to help her into it.

“What do you think?” Lysithea said.

Edelgard circled around to the front, keeping one hand on her shoulder. Her other hand came to stroke Lysithea’s hair mindlessly—not so mindlessly. She knew how much Lysithea liked to feel pretty. Not just pretty, but elegant and powerful. An adult with an adult’s sensual authority.

Edelgard brought her hand up again. It trembled slightly when Lysithea’s eyes narrowed. Then Lysithea tilted her head back, letting her hair fall over her shoulder, and exposing her neck. Edelgard ran her hand on the outside of the thick tendon. Did it again on the other side, softer and hotter with blood.

“Velvet is a hard material for a young woman to pull off,” Edelgard said. “Though you cut a good figure in this.”

“Forget it,” Lysithea said, annoyed—her moods were almost incomprehensible at times. Lysithea tugged at the laces, and Edelgard undid them for her. “You can just say if I remind you of someone, El. I can take it.”

“How could you remind me of anyone except yourself?” she said, offended. “Your stockings are in poor condition, you have no decent gloves, and you should have someone come to your apartment and clean your jewelry. Not a single sister of mine would dare leave bed in such a state. You’re clearly an Alliance rascal. It’s no wonder people treat you like it.”

“Why you—”

“You’re my minister, irascible as you are. Your appearance reflects on me and my empire. Your choice of costume—” Edelgard held her hand up before Lysithea could protest. “—it is frivolous and wasteful, I agree. So be a good girl, and let me take care of it for you.”

 

#

 

Bernadetta wound up being her companion to the tailor. Edelgard felt almost bad for ordering Bernadetta to help her with this, but Bernadetta clearly enjoyed sketching the designs and presenting Edelgard with options for Lysithea’s dress.

Silk to keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Mother of pearl buttons and fastenings. Abalone shell accents. A lavender hair cover to match the lavender accents on the chokers Lysithea liked to wear. Gold jewelry, which she’d forage from the old Imperial stores. It wasn’t as though there was a pack of consorts and their children to adorn themselves with it. All the clothing would be stitched over the course of the next few months.

“It’ll be ready by fall,” the tailor said. “Would you like to add a coat, Your Majesty?”

“No!” Bernadetta said in a burst of passion before Edelgard could say yes.

“A scarf, then? We have the furs at the palace,” Edelgard said. She had a sudden, powerful image of Lysithea in white furs. A gremory’s outfit, except with the fur trim extending down her back and hips—

“We’ll keep talking about it later, Edelgard!” Bernadetta said and practically shoved Edelgard out of the shop. “Not here,” Bernadetta whispered. “All the best women’s coats come from the other side of town.”

“What about leggings? Gloves? Oh, and I should like your recommendations for a cobbler, one who specializes in…”

“Aaaaaa,” Bernadetta said quietly. Edelgard resolved to ask Hubert instead.

Hubert, as always, was a kind and indulgent friend. She asked him how he always had the correct measurements at hand. He bowed and said, “Your Majesty, it is simple.”

“You have an eye for detail and a fine grasp of the three-dimensional form,” she said, nodding with approval.

“I enter their wardrobes and write the measurements in my book. Would you like me to come up with a pretense to secure the measurements for a coat?”

“… Please,” she said. She no longer felt as embarrassed about the nature of her gifts. At least she wasn’t sneaking into anyone’s room.

 

#

 

The gloves arrived first, then the silk scarf. Then the first slip, sent over to Edelgard so she could evaluate and make approvals before the tailors worked on the rest of the set. Immediately, she saw it was too short—they were assuming the order was for her, not Lysithea. She wrote a stern note to the tailors to reprimand them for their lack of attention to detail.

She presented the gloves and scarf as a matching set. The gloves were white with button cuffs, the scarf deep purple on the inside and patterned silk on the inside. Lysithea put the scarf on and immediately started preening without even looking at a mirror.

“Here.” Edelgard folded the scarf so the lining showed, like a collar. Then she arranged it around Lysithea’s neck the way she had seen Petra wear hers, draping it on her shoulders like a shawl. “Like this for the summer to avoid sunburn. And here for when it’s cold. If you’re wearing a long coat, then you can wear it like this…”

She was not, by any means, an expert in scarf wearing, but five variations seemed plenty to assure Lysithea that the scarf was not some extravagant display of wealth, but a practical and charming gift. By the time Edelgard got the gloves, Lysithea was openly admiring herself in the mirror and practicing the different ways of winding the silk around her neck and shoulders.

Lysithea resisted the gloves at first, complaining they were too tight and impractical.

“I might get assassinated during the thirty minutes it takes me to put these on,” Lysithea said. “I don’t even see the point of these. They make you look stuffy.”

“They add a dignifying touch to any outfit. It’s difficult at first, but you’re certainly skilled enough to do this.”

“It’s not going to fit!”

“It will,” Edelgard said firmly. She had intended the gloves for Lysithea, and she’d see her vision through. She held Lysithea’s wrists tight and scrunched the glove’s fingers over Lysithea’s, straightening the finger one joint segment at a time. Then she could pull the glove over the widest part of Lysithea’s knuckles. That almost made Edelgard think Lysithea had been right, that it was too small after all. Then some difficulty was surmounted, and the cuff was snug around Lysithea’s wrist.

She blinked at her hand, now covered in white. Lysithea immediately made a fist, then turned her hand over a few times. Edelgard held the other glove out. It was tricky, but Lysithea managed it. Stood there with her tongue poking out from between her teeth as she worked the glove onto her fingers and palm. Edelgard had watched plenty of people put on their gloves, but it had never left her so muddled afterwards. “They’re nice, but it makes me look fussy.”

“You’ll get used to them. And they become easier to put on and take off given time.”

Lysithea grabbed Edelgard’s wrist and stripped the glove from her hand. She didn’t even look up at Edelgard. Without blinking, she shoved Edelgard’s hand through the cuff and yanked it into place.

“Hmm,” she said carelessly. “You’re right. That wasn’t hard at all. Why are your gloves unlined? That means they stretch more, don’t they? Mine are lined with—” She rubbed her two fingers together in a way Edelgard couldn’t help but see as perverse. It was the way she scrunched her whole face in deep concentration. “—Morfis silk. It’ll be harder to stretch them. I’m going to look like an idiot every time I try to get in and out of these.”

“I didn’t want to irritate your hands,” Edelgard said, feeling chastened. Her bare hand throbbed in the air. She tucked it away, instinctively, behind her back.

“If unlined gloves don’t bother your hands, why would they bother mine? And am I supposed to wear this indoors or out? Ferdinand got mad at me for shaking some old man’s hand with my bare hands… wouldn’t stop going on about how my sweat was staining his glove. If you have to take them on and off so often, you should make it fashionable to just wear them all the time like you do so people will shut up about etiquette…”

“Ah, you’re right. I’ll pass the edict tomorrow morning. You’ve done well in reminding me.”

“I’ll try wearing them around the palace today,” Lysithea said, her cheeks turning pink as she struggled to fit her hand into the second glove. “The scarf is—it’s beautiful. These are fine. Ugh. I’ll get used to them eventually. That’s ‘thank you.’”

That’s thank you? Very well.”

By the end of the visit, Lysithea reluctantly asked Edelgard for the name of the tailor so she could have more gloves made. Edelgard said she’d put the order for Lysithea. The emperor’s name made people work faster, after all.

It was only when Lysithea left that Edelgard realized Lysithea had taken her glove. The realization at first made her body turn cold, like a snake had coiled around her ankle. Then she imagined Lysithea’s fingers plunging into the silk cuff; the way the palm would bulge out as her fingers jabbed away. No, Lysithea would be more considerate. She’d open the cuff and feel her way through with her fingertips. She’d fit her finger into each hole and guide them through…

She imagined Lysithea’s hand, covered in black leather, Lysithea’s hand between her legs—she was due to show at dinner in fifteen minutes. Edelgard settled at her vanity and wiped her face. A light application of makeup was what she intended to do. Instead, she undid the ties of her drawers and slid her hand between her legs.

Black leather gloves. Edelgard could say they were for riding, and that riding was a fine activity for a young lady trying to maintain her health. And with the riding gloves, there would have to be a good coat to go with it, and those tight buff pants, which could look practically drawn over her thighs and ass, and appropriate shirts… The only person Edelgard had ever taken to bed before was, for better or worse, Ferdinand; it hadn’t been disastrous, it ended cordially, and unfortunately, it had given her a taste for the finer points of an equestrian’s outfit.

It’d be impractical to have Lysithea ride on the same horse as her, but she was nothing if not imaginative. She imagined draping her body against Lysithea’s back and setting her bare hands—scandalously and impractically bare—on Lysithea’s thighs as the horse blazed down the path. The sun would be hot. Lysithea would keep her hair up, perhaps hidden behind a net or veil. Edelgard would put her lips against the spot where her collar met her neck.

Since there was no neck for her to put her lips against, Edelgard put the back of her bare hand against her mouth. There were hairs there, fine and white, and absent in the grooves of the scars. Surely Lysithea’s neck would be softer and less bony, and a more beautiful thing to look at. She bit down on her knuckles. Her wetness soaked through her leggings; in her fantasy, she imagined the annoying trouble of opening Lysithea’s jodhpurs to gain access to her cunt. She’d put a hand right on Lysithea’s mound to hold her there as she unbuttoned the pants. Then she’d peel them off Lysithea, working hard to get the pants off her thighs. She imagined feeling her way through wiry hairs for her clit; bringing her hand back up so she could lick her fingers, then dive back in.

And she could make it all happen herself, not the part where she was unbuttoning Lysithea’s pants, but the clothes—she knew the tailors now, and they’d know what look she wanted out of them without any of the complicated parts between them. It’d be simply a pair of buff riding pants, a linen jacket for the summer and a black wool one for the fall to set off her hair. It wouldn’t be sexual. They’d be normal clothes. Her fantasies would live in one place, and the weaknesses of her will in another. Surely such imaginings were normal? She hardly had the time for such things.

In the spirit of fairness, she decided to imagine Ferdinand. As far as practicality went, the tailor had shown her a series of different black laces. If she ordered something now, it could be ready in as soon as eight months...

A knock on the door. Edelgard nearly hurled herself off the bench. It wasn’t Hubert’s knock. Was it Ferdinand? She still had a few minutes until dinner, and it wasn’t as though he’d be so naïve as to think it’d start on time, not if Caspar was dining with them. Dorothea, paying a visit after yet another meeting with Hubert?

“It’s me,” Lysithea said. “I have your glove. Are you all right?”

“Fine,” she said. Edelgard wiped off the wetness from her fingers and onto her inner thigh. The heat between her legs didn’t abate, but she made herself stand straight. There were things she could do to prevent blushes: force a smile, breathe deep in and out. The mess she had made of her drawers—another knock at the door. She lurched to it. The front of her dress was wrinkled, her face was sweaty. She dabbed at her face with a handkerchief, then opened the door a crack. Too suspicious. She opened it the rest of the way and had to stop herself from snatching the glove. She made herself be gentle and delicate with it, even as she saw Lysithea’s eyes narrow. Had she always been so pretty when she was skeptical? “Thank you.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be at dinner already?” Lysithea said.

Instantly, Edelgard was aware of the creases in her skirt and sleeve, and the disarray of her hair. She looked messy. Out of control. It had to be contained. “I got distracted during my preparations.”

“But you look worse, somehow. Did you nap?” Within those words, an assumption of a bad dream, of shameful, muffled tears, and another assumption: that Lysithea wanted to soothe her after, that the hand reaching for hers was a prelude to further, more extensive comforts. Edelgard tried not to recoil. Such a thing would be a waste of Lysithea’s kindness, which was already so rarely given. They didn’t have the time for distractions. That was what Lysithea would say.

Edelgard put her hand behind her back and shoved it into the glove. “It’s not worth discussing. I’m afraid I’m quite late already—”

“I can bail you out of dinner,” Lysithea said, doggedly following her. “I’ll come in at the hour and say something’s come up. And you need to wash your sheets. You smell weird.”

“For someone who often complains about me hovering, you certainly have a talent for it yourself. I’m fine. Only bleary-eyed. No need to trouble yourself.” She pat Lysithea’s cheek. A guilty heat pulsed through her when Lysithea jerked, at first in surprise, then let her cheek fall against her palm. Yes, Lysithea would let her go to dinner without making a fuss. Lysithea was going to let her get away with this. “Good girl.”

“Why do you always say that?”

“I don’t know. You’ll have to do something to make me think differently of you if you want to stop being a good girl.” She reached into her pocket and found her sweat-dampened handkerchief and some small candies, which she sucked on when she was trapped in a particularly draining meeting. She brought a piece to Lysithea’s mouth, and Lysithea’s lips grazed her fingertips as she caught it and rolled it onto her tongue. Lysithea smirked up at her, but said nothing. Edelgard reached into her pocket again and gave Lysithea another piece. Lysithea’s tongue brushed against the side of her fingers, then pushed up. The edge of her front teeth left indents on the back of her fingers.

“Now I’m making you late,” Lysithea said and stepped on Edelgard’s toes. She slapped Edelgard’s arm. “Nothing good about that.”

She sounded so proud of herself for making Edelgard late. Edelgard wanted to squeeze her cheeks and tousle her hair. And though she hadn’t come, she knew what Lysithea’s lips felt like on her glove. She had that now.

 

#

 

From that day, she developed a slightly shameful, perhaps somewhat depraved habit.

Every week, progress reports would arrive from the tailor. The dress would be ready for first fitting in late autumn; the date had been pushed back because Edelgard had requested that the bodice be made from something less stiff, but still supportive and retaining the elegant shape, and the colors bolder but also within the boundaries of acceptable taste, should someone ask. The progress report would be accompanied with some small item Edelgard had commissioned. Gloves, stockings, slips.

Of course, she was aware of what it looked like: that she was gifting her Minister to ply her for sex. It was nothing like that. Edelgard maintained a scrupulous distance. During the day, she saw Lysithea during meetings or in the halls of the palace, looking sharper and more confident in her new clothes, though it seemed she never would catch onto gloves. And after work, during tea or when they were done with dinner, Lysithea would appear in her room to try things on while Edelgard watched and occasionally asked her to stay still so she could take measurements or notes for the tailor. In actuality, Edelgard used that time to fill in her fantasy with the sight of Lysithea’s waist, or her shoulders in the nightshirt.

Once Edelgard was alone and had an hour to herself, she’d hide away in her private sitting room, shove a cushion between her legs, and let herself fall forward into her settee while thinking about what might come next. Reading glasses? A hat? Did she know any good milliners? She had recently noticed Lysithea’s right ear was higher than the left. Should she make a note to the glasses maker, or should she pretend she hadn’t noticed?

She imagined picking Lysithea up and throwing her into the mattress and holding her by the cheeks and fucking her mouth. There were instruments she could get to make that happen, but to do so—ah, that would be crossing… But it was fine, she told herself, letting herself imagine Lysithea’s lips curling around her fingers. Lysithea had a sharp tongue. If Edelgard was doing anything untoward, she was sure to receive a tongue lashing. Though with that in mind…

She imagined Lysithea’s cheeks bulging around her instrument; imagined petting her hair back and adjusting her head… there’d be pressure as the instrument set off her gag reflex, and then she’d glide into her throat, filling up every inch she could. Good girl, she’d say, rolling her hips forward until Lysithea’s lips were against her groin. I’m so proud of you.

Hubert was having trouble meeting her eyes if he spotted her exiting the sitting room in the middle of the evening.

“Hubert,” she said finally. “Be honest with me. Is it becoming a problem?”

“Of course not, Your Majesty,” Hubert said, bowing just far enough so he wouldn’t have to meet her eyes. “I will tell Ferdinand you will be on time today.”

 

#

 

Lysithea, for her part, continued receiving Edelgard’s gifts and humoring Edelgard’s requests to try things on in front of her. She brought Edelgard gifts in kind—thankfully, nothing extravagant. She learned Edelgard’s tastes quickly: not tea, but beautiful teacups; not huge floral bouquets, but small pickings that Lysithea gathered herself and tied with ribbons.

Today, Edelgard had gotten Lysithea a shift. White with a hem lined with purple lace and a low neckline to accommodate her usual choice in dresses. Lysithea, as always, seemed perfectly comfortable standing in front of Edelgard in her underwear. Edelgard should have felt guilty. Instead, she, too, found it perfectly natural. Why shouldn’t she look?

When Lysithea was done changing, she said, “I got you something, too.”

“Did you, now,” Edelgard said, feeling cautious. There was something triumphant in Lysithea’s face. She thought she had Edelgard cornered.

Lysithea went to her bag and took out a box and nearly flung it at her. Edelgard opened it. Two gold ornaments, delicate with an airy, rectangular design, with lilac amethysts in the center. They matched her eyes exactly. Edelgard had to resist the urge to look for a mirror.

“They’re meant for the horned crown, but you’re not wearing it now, so we can’t see how it’ll look,” Lysithea said, sounding proud of herself anyway. “I had them commissioned from Ordelia. It took ages for me to remember the goldsmiths’ names—I had to write letters back home, and Mom kept warning me that they might not want to work with me. They were pushovers. They agreed on the first letter. It’s my thanks to you. You know. For spending so much time with me.”

“They’re lovely,” Edelgard said, schooling her face to be neutral, open. “I appreciate them.”

Lysithea’s smile suddenly vanished into a scowl. “Why doesn’t this… It’d be more mature of you to not show how disappointed you are by my present.”

A strange ache in her palms and chest. It took actual willpower to not rub at the scars on her wrist. “You’re always welcome to my time. You know that. I’m simply—it’s too much, Lysithea.”

“So what? I’m just supposed to let you dress me like a doll whenever you want and be happy with that? I thought I’d give you something in a language you understood, but apparently not!” She walked over to Edelgard and put her hand on her shoulders, obviously bracing herself for something. “Do you like—what about kisses?”

Edelgard froze only for a second. “I don’t mind them, but I can’t say I’ve had many.”

“You’re the emperor,” Lysithea said with a scoff. “Everyone’s done it. Even I’ve done it. And only four times for practice before achieving proficiency.”

With whom, Edelgard almost demanded. She managed to bite it back. “I’ve kissed for formality’s sake, but not for passion.”

“No way. I know you took Ferdinand to bed at least once.”

“He was too shy to kiss my—my lips for very long. Can we move on?”

“And no one since? What are you waiting for, your wedding? That’s perfect, then. Okay, tilt your head to the left and close your eyes. Don’t worry about your lips, you’ll figure it out. Now what?”

“It’s—I simply…” Edelgard knew she was blushing. “How long have you known?”

“At first I thought it was a glove kink. Then a foot kink, then, I don’t know, just a show off thing. You know what I think now?”

She was meant to ask. Ordinarily, she’d refuse. Instead, she wet her lips. “What do you think?”

“I think you don’t know how to take things the normal way.”

She bent over Edelgard, her own eyes shut and apparently very serious about what she was about to do. Then her breath was on Edelgard’s nose, her cheek. Lysithea opened an eye—she was frightened, Edelgard saw. Like she had just realized what she had done and wanted to take it back, but didn’t know how. Edelgard, taking pity, put her arms around Lysithea’s waist and let their weight fall against her back to give her a warning of what would come next. Lysithea arched her back into her touch, then yelped when Edelgard forced her down, so Lysithea fell on top of her. No room for uncertainty. When Lysithea tried to rear up, Edelgard tightened her grip. Instantly, she went still.

“You don’t like to wait, do you? It’s always ‘I don’t have time for this,’” Edelgard said. She leaned in and Lysithea’s lips puckered, right up until Lysithea realized Edelgard wasn’t going to do more. She tried, again, to close the distance. This time, Edelgard brought her other hand to Lysithea’s choker and caught her with her fingertips. Their breaths were hot against each other’s face. Lysithea’s breathing was growing faster; Edelgard could feel it, the rapid, shallow movements of Lysithea’s ribs against hers. She tried again, and Edelgard put more pressure into her fingertips. It was nothing like her fantasies, which mostly involved Edelgard groping her way through layers of clothes and soft fabrics; her fantasies hadn’t taken into account how enraptured she’d be by Lysithea’s face. Her sharp features, her full upper lip, her pleading eyes. Edelgard wanted to run her tongue across the edge of skin and lip, of lip and the wet, slick inside of her mouth.

Lysithea shifted against Edelgard. “El,” she said, and Edelgard felt her throat move against her fingertips as she swallowed.

Edelgard squeezed her waist, then ran her hand down Lysithea’s lower back. This was much better than teatime. She could keep Lysithea like this for hours. “You want Mommy, don’t you?”

“What?”

“I said, you want—”

What.

Edelgard let go of Lysithea’s neck and back, and Lysithea slid down the length of Edelgard’s body. Lysithea slid down to the floor, then knelt at her feet. “Mommy?” she said without any derision. Expectation. Like she was waiting for Edelgard’s next order.

Edelgard gripped the chair arms in her hands. Then she took her gloves off, both of them. She was excited; she was winning something, though she didn’t know just what. She leaned down close enough that Lysithea’s breath was on her upper lip. “Open your mouth.” Lysithea shut her eyes and let her lips fall open, and Edelgard slid her fingers inside, tracing her lips from the inside. When Lysithea’s mouth fell open, apparently accepting her fate, Edelgard stuffed her mouth with the gloves. The muffled outrage only made her smile. She squeezed Lysithea’s chin between her fingers. “Did you think Mommy was going to kiss you? Is that what you thought? You thought deserved kisses for being proficient? Hold it for me. Good girl.”

Lysithea glowered up at her, but worked her lips shut around the gloves.

She put a kiss on Lysithea’s cheek, then her jaw hinge, then her ear. Lysithea’s hands grabbed at Edelgard’s upper arms. Edelgard leaned back and patted her lap, and Lysithea climbed right in. She had closed her lips over the gloves, keeping them in. Eager noises escaped her mouth, especially once Edelgard ran her hands over the back of her stockinged knees and legs, approaching the edge of her skirts, but not going under, not yet. Then Edelgard pulled her into her lap. She had a surprisingly soft ass, and the weight of it against her upper thighs and lap, their stomachs pressed against each other and her small breasts right there—Edelgard reached around Lysithea’s arms and pushed her back until her face was against Lysithea’s breast. She mouthed at it over the dress until Lysithea pulled herself away and scratched Edelgard’s neck—asking, in her rough way, to speak.

Edelgard took the gloves out. Lysithea coughed briefly, then said, “Stop messing around and let me kiss you. Don’t make me be Mommy. I’ll do it if you’re too much of a wimp—”

Edelgard almost gagged her again just for being smart. Then she had an idea. She covered Lysithea’s mouth with her hand and forced her back down on her knees. The soaked gloves went onto the tea table.

“Hands under your thighs—there, like that… Good. Stay.” She almost wanted to kiss Lysithea right there; she looked confused and still angered by how quickly her legs folded underneath her, but she did it.

She left Lysithea sitting there and went to her sitting room. She had a small pile of gifts already prepared, some which she had commissioned in a fit of what she thought was excess attention, others which she had been waiting to give. The right occasion or mood; she didn’t know what she was waiting for. What would be right now? The red garters embroidered with lilies and gardenias? It’d clash, but Edelgard would be the only one to see it.

When she came back to the room with the box, Lysithea was rocking back and forth, her thighs rubbing against each other. She tried to stand up. Edelgard pushed her back down and forced her cheek into her skirts. She caught Lysithea’s head between her thighs, and Lysithea let out wet gasps. Edelgard stroked her neck, then pulled her off.

“Are you going to let me do anything, or am I supposed to die while waiting for you to it together?” Lysithea said, her hands still trapped between her thighs and calves and visible frustration on her face.

“One more thing, I promise. Up. There you go.” She waited for Lysithea to finish shaking the numbness out of her hands and then gave her the box. “Open this.”

Lysithea did. Her breath caught as she pet the garters in the box. “They’re beautiful,” she said. A moment as she thought. And then she looked up and said, deliberately, “Do you want me to put them on, Mommy?”

“You don’t have to keep calling me that.”

“Yeah. But you like it, don’t you? Mom-my. Mommy.” She blushed, as though finally hearing herself, then said, “Can I put them on already?”

“Yes, put them on.”

The older garters were white and the buckle had stretched out the holes. Edelgard’s hands trembled as Lysithea tossed the old garters aside. Edelgard held up the stockings for Lysithea as she fit the new garters around her leg. She had chosen lilies because they were Lysithea’s favorite flowers and gardenias because the tailors had been able to add them. She had Lysithea stand, hold her skirts up for her inspection—it felt so filthy to ask, but she asked, and it was done for her.

“Kiss now,” Lysithea said. “You’ve gotten yourself all worked up. Gimme.”

“Yes, of course. You deserve one, after all that.”

She was almost tragically inexperienced, but she wouldn’t let that stop her. Lysithea was patient with her, letting Edelgard test her a few times. Then, once it felt reliably good, like thin electricity arcing along the front of her body, Lysithea took control. She grabbed Edelgard’s collar and walked her back into a chair, so Edelgard was forced to sit down or topple over it. Her hands squeezed Edelgard’s shoulders and arms. Her hands settled on the top of her breasts.

“Hmm. So it’s not just padding after all. You’re so—you’re so weird. I should’ve guessed. You obviously have intimacy issues. We’re not going to live long at this rate—”

“Is now really the moment for this?”

“It’s a fact. Hanneman and Linhardt are years away from a cure, so either we’ll decline together and die, or we’ll decline together and live for however long’s left. If you’re not interested, then we might as well get the heartbreak part of this done and over with.”

“I see. Yes, you are very careful with your time.” She swept Lysithea’s hand away from her breast, not rudely. A gentle circular brushing out, as though she was smoothing something out, the way Lysithea had smoothed out the truth: they wouldn’t decline together. Edelgard had a few years’ advantage in that respect. She had made peace with her time, though not Lysithea’s. Her eyes fell to where she knew the garters were. Her absurd, slightly perverse hobby was now a comfort to her.

“Only if you want it,” Lysithea said. She let her hands rest on Edelgard’s shoulders. It reminded her of how Hubert liked to intimidate people in dark corners: arms blocking their path, looming over his victims, total seriousness on his face. Already, Lysithea’s face had assumed a dreadful adult look. ‘If you say no, I won’t be hurt,’ it said, already resigned.

“I do want you,” she said. “And I care for you deeply. There’s no need for heartbreak between us.”

“What does that mean? I’m going to make you say it.”

“I—” What were the words? They sounded so—childish. “I like you. I like you and desire you. Originally, I wanted to make sure you were cared for and allowed to flourish without having to worry about time or resources, but these days, I find myself wanting to care for you in other ways. Not just physically, but emotionally, as well.”

Lysithea moved her hands over Edelgard’s arms and shoulders. “You’re a sweet talker. I didn’t expect that. There’s one thing I want. Okay? Call me Mommy.”

Edelgard went for a kiss and received a pinch for her troubles. Her back stiffened. Lysithea gave her a calm, untroubled stare. “You must be joking.”

“Why should you be the only one who gets to be Mommy? Because you’re older? I can kill people from thirty feet away. You can’t even use a bow without people in front of you ducking. And I’m taller.”

“There’s no need for us to play at such games. It was an embarrassing slip.” That she had then repeated multiple times for reasons unknown. “We can talk about this later.”

Lysithea tightened her thighs around Edelgard’s hips. “I can make you,” she said.

“Yes, if you cast Luna on me, I’m sure to say anything you wish.”

“El, I’m warning you. I’ll do it. I’ll break your dumb butt. I’ll make you cry.”

She sounded serious as always. Edelgard had no doubt that she’d try. Edelgard ran her fingers down Lysithea’s thighs. Soft, she noted with approval. Plush, even. She’d leave marks if she squeezed with force. “The way I see it, I have the advantage of position.”

She rested her hands on Lysithea’s lower back. Her aim was to maintain at least the veneer of decorum before pulling Lysithea for a kiss, and that was how she lost. Lysithea hooked her fingers in her collar and yanked her from the chair and onto the floor. She should have been enraged. Instead, looking up at Lysithea from the floor, she felt her cunt throb insensibly.

Lysithea seated herself on the chair, then tapped her foot by Edelgard’s hand. “You’re going to put yourself over my knee,” she said. “And then you’re going to call me Mommy.”

“Why?” Edelgard blurted out.

“Because you’re always going on and on about how I’m a good girl and throwing things at me when we could’ve been doing this ages ago! And the whole time, I’ve been sitting in my office…” Her fingertips rubbed Edelgard’s scalp. Then she gripped hard and yanked Edelgard’s head back. “You can’t be Mommy if you can’t do this in front of me. Understand?”

Pride had no place in her Empire. Still, she almost refused to do what Lysithea said. If she was not Mommy, then why had she been called so? Her eyes fell to her bare hands on the rug, and she crawled to Lysithea, approaching her from the side, and rested her head against her knee. It wasn’t so bad, putting herself here. Lysithea’s clothes smelled nice. They were soft, recently washed, and warm.

“Not there. In my lap,” Lysithea said feverishly. She ran her hands along the nape of her neck, then spread her hands between and over Edelgard’s shoulder blades, urging her on until Edelgard’s thighs were against Lysithea’s and her face upside down by Lysithea’s calves and the leg of her chair. Lysithea’s hands were greedy: they moved quickly down Edelgard’s back, squeezing and pinching occasionally. Gliding over the back of Edelgard’s ass and legs, then once, lifting the hem of her dress. Edelgard felt her legs stiffen. She wrapped her hand around Lysithea’s ankle; in warning or to brace herself, she wasn’t sure. Lysithea went back to cupping her ass. “I didn’t know butts could be so hard. Is that normal, or does it hurt when you sit down? What the hell.”

“What are you doing?”

Lysithea’s finger ran right down the side of Edelgard’s thigh. Then she raised her hand up and slapped Edelgard’s ass. A glancing blow, but it still made Edelgard flinch in surprise. No one had dared to strike her that way, yet she was not angry. The skirt of her dress was flipped over her back, but her underwear stayed.

“You have grandma panties,” Lysithea announced, like she was sorry for Edelgard. “I won’t take anything off. I’ll just keep your skirts like this so you can really feel it. Maybe even get your stupid measurements.”

“Lysithea!” she yelped as Lysithea shoved the back of her head down, so she was practically bent in half over Lysithea’s lap.

“You know what you have to do if you want me to stop,” she said coolly and brought her hand down on the other asscheek three times in the same place. The first blow was glancing; the next stinging; the final made Edelgard tense. Lysithea pinched the spot she had struck, squeezing harder and harder with the pads of her fingers, then her nails, until Edelgard grabbed the settee’s arm for support. She rubbed Edelgard’s ass until her fingers were in her crack, down to her slit.

“It’ll take more than this to break me,” Edelgard said.

“Good,” she whispered, and Edelgard’s legs trembled.

Would she scream if Lysithea spanked her pussy? Break if Lysithea forced her to spread her legs so she could spank her holes? The front of her body from the stomach down beat a hot, steady warmth. She moved her cunt back against Lysithea’s hand. Lysithea ground her hand into her cunt through her underwear, reaching and reaching until her thumb reached her entrance. Then Lysithea lifted her hand and landed a blow under her asscheeks so hard that Edelgard’s legs snapped straight out behind her.

For all Lysithea’s finesse in magic, she had a heavy hand with Edelgard. She pounded into her, aiming for soft, tender spots: her tailbone, her inner thighs, perilously close to her cunt, the back of her knees. It was not pain as she had understood it before; nothing cut out or forced in, no danger, and certainly no suffering. Every time Lysithea pat her ass, rubbing circles with her palm, her breasts ached, and she felt a strange mix of delirious and protected. When Lysithea dug her sharp nails into her backside, she bit her lip to suppress the moan.

“El. You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”

“I’m—ah,” she said, and this time had to cover the incoherence of her next words by biting Lysithea’s calf. She got another spank for that, and the reward of Lysithea bending over her and panting on her back. “I’m enjoying, I’m…” She scraped her teeth down Lysithea’s ankle again.

Lysithea shoved her hand between Edelgard’s legs. She spread Edelgard’s cunt apart through the soaked cloth. Her thumb pressed over Edelgard’s entrance, then in. No further than the very tip of her finger with her drawers in the way, but in. Her long fingers rubbed against the rest of her slit. She rocked her hand back and forth, then shifted the position of her fingertips, just slight enough to catch her clit with the type of friction Edelgard liked. She laughed then, a low vibration Edelgard felt in her own stomach.

“Yeah, you like it. Stop biting me! Ask Mommy to let you come, or I’ll stop. You want it so bad, you can’t even ask for it right.”

“Mommy—eugh. Mommy,” she said, grabbing at Lysithea’s ankle and the leg of the chair.

“Mommy what?”

“M-Mommy, I want you. Please, Mommy. Mommy,” she said, trying again, desperately, to make the words happen. She hadn’t even called her own mother Mommy before she disappeared; the idea of asking her for anything was so strange as to be nonsensical. No words, then. She reached behind her and undid the ties of her drawers and shoved them down. Lysithea’s thumb pushed into her and her fingers were on her clit and she yanked hard on Edelgard’s hair, her fingers scratching at her scalp.

Every now and then, she pulled her hand away from her cunt and gave her hard spanks. Then she’d push her way back in, fucking Edelgard on her thumb faster and harder than Edelgard had ever touched herself while rubbing her clit with the sides of her fingers. Every time Edelgard called her a good girl, Lysithea gasped and pressed her legs together.

“Lysithea,” she said. “Lysithea, oh, good girl, make me come.”

“Mommy—”

She held onto Lysithea’s ankle, either to warn her or to make a demand, she couldn’t say; then Lysithea slid her thumb all the way in and pressed down, and what little control Edelgard had managed to keep over herself was thrown away. Lysithea had to hold onto her dress to keep her from falling off her lap as she came. Edelgard let her legs drop off the edge and slid down to the floor, her forehead resting against the rug.

The next thing she knew, Lysithea flipped her over and crawled on top of her, one hand between her legs and her other hand in Edelgard’s hair, tugging at it back and forth while she touched herself. Her face, to the inexperienced eye, looked furious; to Edelgard, she simply looked desperate. Edelgard’s winces of pain and gasps of excitement only pushed Lysithea further along.

“Mommy, how did I do?” she said, pulling hard. And to the pained, keen whimpers she received in response, she laced her fingers behind Edelgard’s head. “I want to sit on your face.”

“One second. One second. Keep pulling.”

She kept her palms on the lily and gardenia garters as Lysithea kept touching herself and her breathing slowly steadied. Then the twitches and movements of Lysithea’s thighs became too much. She pulled Lysithea forward until her face was inside Lysithea’s skirts and her lips touching the hot, musky heat of her cunt. Lysithea thrust against Edelgard’s face, sliding from chin to nose in one strong motion. Thrust again before Edelgard could even get her tongue out, this time in shorter, harder strokes—yet it didn’t anger Edelgard to be used like this, not when her own fingers brushed over those beautiful thighs and when she could feel Lysithea’s cunt swelling with arousal and growing wetter against her lips and mouth.

Lysithea pulled away from her just long enough for Edelgard to stretch out her tongue as far as she could manage and take a deep breath. Lysithea adjusted the angle of her head, clawing at her scalp and neck as she did so, and this time thrust with intention: she wanted her clit on Edelgard’s tongue. It took another try for Lysithea to find her target. Her clit fit perfectly against the tip of Edelgard’s tongue and upper lip; whenever Edelgard could, she caught it and held on to it, sucking and rubbing her tongue underneath it. Each time, Lysithea would push her hips forward frantically, then tap her ear to indicate that she wanted to go back to fucking her face again.

She was dizzy at this point, with an exhausted tongue and jaw, and sweating unpleasantly from the heat of the skirts and body. Her ass hurt in a way that only made her more desperate. But Lysithea was growing easier to handle, letting Edelgard lick her slit up and down, tracing the place on each pussy lip where the texture changed from soft skin to the slick inside; lapping at her entrance to feel it squeeze and spasm; going back and letting Lysithea grind her clit against the flat of her tongue until Lysithea forced her head right into her body and held her there. Edelgard squeezed the garters and couldn’t help herself from making excited, wet noises, drawn from the bottom of her lungs. She was less breathless than she thought.

Lysithea let go and fell to the side.

“Ah—ah, Mommy, thank you. El,” Lysithea said, panting exquisitely on the rug.

“Do you want more?”

“I can’t fucking breathe, so no. Mommy. I need to do stamina training…” She tried to sit up and fell onto her back and covered her eyes.

Edelgard propped her head up with her hand and kept Lysithea’s skirts flipped up so she had a better view of her legs. Then her eyes wandered up, to her now exposed cunt, cutely complicated, with its large inner folds blooming outwards. Edelgard used her fingers to splay them apart to look directly at her hole, the way her juices trickled out of it. Lysithea parted her legs further for Edelgard’s inspection, the way she waited for Edelgard to circle her when she tried on a scarf or a new skirt. Had she been excited during those moments, too?

Edelgard looked higher up Lysithea’s body, up the big up and downs of her stomach as she kept breathing, then her clothed chest.

“I want to see,” Edelgard said and gestured upward.

“There’s not much there,” Lysithea muttered, already reaching behind her to unbutton the back of her dress. “I know you like them big.”

“Nonsense. Yours are my favorite because you are my favorite. And if I can make you feel good…” Her breath caught once Lysithea pushed her dress down and pushed her bra up, so it rested on her neck, exposing her tits to the air. They were small, with puffy, brown areolae that begged to be touched. When Edelgard rolled her palms against them, Lysithea arched her back and shut her eyes; when Edelgard cupped them from below, Lysithea let out a sweet wheezing noise and squeezed her thighs together. “I’ll get you nicer bras—black lace… or if you prefer something else, I can have that done. The garters, I can make them even nicer, if you’d like. Or simpler. More masculine? You’d look good in that style, too.” She looked up at Lysithea’s face, and to her surprise, found Lysithea flushed with pleasure and too distracted to respond. “You’ll wear whatever I give you, I’m sure,” she said and put her face against the subtle curve of Lysithea’s chest.

The scars from what the Slithers had done had faded and stretched over time; Edelgard didn’t linger too long on them. She’d prefer them to not be there, but, lacking time traveling abilities for herself, she’d ignore them. Lysithea was almost absurdly tolerant as Edelgard licked and bit her way across the sensitive expanse of skin. Then, when she had enough of Edelgard leaving spit everywhere, put a hand on Edelgard’s forehead and pushed her away.

“How are you still horny?” she said.

“Because you’re beautiful. I’m so happy you’re alive. And that you have these for me to make you feel good.”

Just as Edelgard knew she would, Lysithea squirmed and pressed her leg into Edelgard’s bare pussy. Edelgard rolled her hips into it and gasped when Lysithea’s nails found her ass. Her fingernails dug right into a bruise, like she was trying to rip her apart.

After Edelgard had exhausted herself with her rutting, Lysithea made her get out of her drawers and dress so she could say she had seen Edelgard naked. There was only a little strangeness from the novelty of the situation. She wasn’t as self-conscious as she thought she’d be. They had the same scars, after all. Lysithea stripped down, too, though she left on her garters and stockings on request.

“Wow,” Lysithea said, and poked Edelgard’s side. “Okay. Nice. How do you always have a waist when you’re out in public? You don’t have one now—it really is just muscle there. El? Breasts make you stupider, don’t they.”

“Hmm? Wire, usually.” Edelgard said, unable to stop looking at the marks she left on Lysithea’s breasts. She wanted to mash them against her face again, or at least rub her nipples until they hardened in her fingertips, or maybe just watch them bob as Lysithea breathed or walked around the room. Lysithea cleared her throat and put on her shift and made pointed eye contact with her. Edelgard refused to feel any dismay.

Lysithea pinched Edelgard’s arms and made an annoyed noise. Then she had Edelgard turn around so she could heal her bruises. None of Edelgard’s previous healers insisted on touching her while they worked, but she allowed it in this case, even when Lysithea slapped her ass a few more times to see it move.

When she was done, Lysithea held her hands out so Edelgard could see how sore they were. The backs of her hands were bright red and her palms were bright pink and turned white when poked.

“I didn’t go too hard, did I? I didn’t think you could bruise,” Lysithea said.

“You’ve seen me bleed.”

“Yeah. But I didn’t think I could hurt you. Or that you’d want anyone to.”

“You haven’t found my limits yet,” she said, and Lysithea swallowed, like she was salivating at the thought of beating her ass again. The word sweetheart came to mind, unbidden. She was hungry. And she wanted to dress Lysithea up again; there were plenty of items left over in her sitting room, and if Lysithea’s clothes were wrinkled, then Edelgard wouldn’t mind lending her something to wear and helping her out of it later. “Again?” she said. “Again, good girl?”

“But I just healed you,” Lysithea said, in the tone she took when an event had been badly planned or if she thought a proposal was rather stupidly laid out. “If I had known you’d want it again, I would’ve left them there to make it hurt more.”

They got up after a while longer. The couch, Edelgard said. It was a good size for the two of them; it was short in length but wide enough to accommodate the both of them side-by-side. The fact that she had frequently gotten off on the couch in the middle of the day was something she’d leave unsaid.

“Can you wear the jewelry I got you tomorrow?” Lysithea said.

“I will.”

“Good. It was really expensive. It made me mad when you pretended that you didn’t like it. I put a lot of thought in it.”

“I like it very much. You chose well, Lysithea. I’ll wear it whenever you want. You’re more precious to me than gold or blood.”

“You’re so embarrassing,” she whispered, but didn’t move away. “You know, my parents used to worry I’d die unmarried. That was apparently the worst thing imaginable for them, that after all I’ve done, I’d die without making someone a widower.” She looked at Edelgard quickly to make sure she wasn’t upset. Parents were a tricky topic of conversation with all of their friends. “It’s annoying, but I get it. No one remembers the children they lost, and they’ve had a happy enough marriage. Not many other people could understand them after that.”

Edelgard felt at loss for how to respond. She hadn’t wanted the situation her father had, that was for sure. She turned over Lysithea’s words in her head for a second, then said, “Is that what you think we’ll have?”

“I’m not saying we should get married right now or anything. That’d be weird, politically. It’d set bad precedent, and Hubert would die. I don’t want our shared doom between us all the time. That’s all.”

“We’re not special for not being immortal. And you’ve never been one to linger on the vagaries of the future. Why start now?”

“Because!” She sighed, annoyed, and turned her face away. “Never mind. You’re going to tell me if I’m worried, I should work harder at the Crest Institute.”

“You don’t have to do anything now. We can relax together for the rest of the evening.” Edelgard put her face to her neck and sucked some skin between her lips. “You’re usually the one who’s trying to remind me that the present is all we have and all we should try to hold onto.”

“Fuuuck, you’re a sweet talker… sugar tongued.” She panted and tangled her legs with Edelgard’s. Her body felt good in Edelgard’s arms: hot, soft over the bones, her diaphragm expanding as Edelgard covered her breasts with her hands, and whole. Edelgard could make the future a sweeter thing to contemplate for Lysithea. She had the means, the power, and the will to do so. Plenty to spare, an excess of it.

Lysithea’s ribs were warm under her hands. Her nipples tightened under Edelgard’s fingers; her pulse pushed her tongue back.

“Good thing you like candy,” Edelgard said and reached so she could kiss Lysithea on the lips.