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"You have to pack your things"

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Edelgard wasn’t one to believe in superstitions or even to listen to her hunches right away. There were always too many things involved whenever her mind suddenly decided something was off or wrong all out of the blue, without proper warning or reason to be. Instead, she would try her best to rationalize and find clues in reality as to why that was happening, a good way to both ground herself and stop any thought processes from going astray and ruining her day.

It didn’t always work, but then she was human and it was ok if she didn’t have it together all the time, or most of the time even, as her loves had been so keen on showing her for the almost year that they had been together.

She commended them on putting up with her through everything, though they would always shake their heads at that and ask her to stop thanking them for something so normal for a relationship. In those occasions Ingrid would envelop her in a tight, comforting hug after asking for permission and Byleth would kiss the tip of her nose or her lips, a sign of care that also helped to get her out of some negative thoughts. 

They had usually been the ones to deny her so-called hunches, used as they were to her mind sometimes being a little too cruel to her, how small things could get blown out of proportion at times. Such a thing couldn’t really be said for that exact moment in time, however.

“I’m telling you Ingrid, I know what I saw,” she insisted yet again while they walked through a long, narrow hallway with paintings over the walls. The house had always been too big for just Edelgard and was still too much for the three of them and the cats.

But it had been the place that saw their relationship grow from that first chance meeting in the local ice rink, one of those that had been opened for the Christmas season and literally pushed them together in a way that would have been comical if Ingrid hadn’t been injured. It would be hard for someone to not get hurt though, since she happened to let go of instructor Byleth’s hands at the worst possible time and collapse against former junior worlds figure skating champion (four times total) Edelgard von Hresvelg.

Who had been performing a spin of all things, so in the end they were lucky they only had to take the blonde to the nearest hospital due to a sprained ankle and wrist, plus her litany of apologies once not only Byleth, but also a very concerned Edelgard had stayed with her through the entire process of getting an X-ray and treatment.

As Byleth liked to joke, making Ingrid roll her eyes and Edelgard facepalm, that surely had been a way to break the ice.

“And I’m not saying you didn’t see it, but also that it might… not mean what you’re thinking that it does,” Ingrid countered, well-aware that her movements were a lot stiffer than usual and that Edelgard would pick up on it.

The woman wasn’t one of the best forensic investigators ever for no reason. The entire police station, including the Chief of Police who would always ask for Ingrid and Edelgard to work together when forensics were necessary, praised her work to high heaven and with good reason to do so.

As it was, she should have seen this coming and should totally have told Byleth about it too, so they could make plans that were a little more consistent and a little less prone to fail.

 “What should it mean then, Ingrid?” Edelgard turned to face her once they were in the middle of the living room, standing close to the plush cream-colored rug that four cats used as their own bed and playing corner. One of them, Sothis, growled, making the smaller woman sigh and stand aside, not wanting to get herself scratched by the feral little one that seemed to love Byleth and no one else.

“W-well you know,” the blonde started, instantly forgetting the lines she and Byleth had practiced one too many times for the last few weeks, ever since they had started making those crazy plans. She grabbed a cushion from the black couch closest to them and fidgeted with it, exactly the last thing she should do since that made Edelgard’s eyes widen in surprise. She had never been good at lying no matter the circumstance, but that was something else entirely. “I uh, I’m pretty sure I saw Byleth watching some videos on minimalism last week. Maybe she just wants to make her room more airy and uh, to have all those good vibes, the great chi you name it.”

When Edelgard sighed, her frown deepening before it dissolved into a concerned expression, the sadness still visible behind her irises no matter how much she tried masking it, Ingrid knew she should have talked Byleth out of that. That it would be a bad idea to have things go on in that manner, that they should sit down and have a long conversation about the entire matter -

“You know something.”

The accusation was there, but it was the sad tone to her voice that made Ingrid jump over the plush rug and the two black cats that were on it, then hold the smaller woman’s hands before making her take a seat on the other sofa. Her heart was beating in triple speed and her mind froze, unsure of what to say or do to answer that and comfort one of her loves. There were few things in the world that she hated more than seeing either of them in distress, though one of them totally was not being able to stop that from happening.

How was she supposed to act, though? She needed Byleth to come home more than anything, but of course the woman was working overtime now that it was almost Christmas again and the rink always paid her extra to help kids and grownups who crowded the ice rinks as if there were no tomorrow, trying their best to impress family members, crushes or both with stupid maneuvers that could and sometimes did end up with someone getting hurt.

That situation was one Ingrid was familiar with anyways. She had been foolish enough to let go of Byleth’s hands before the right time, only so she could make the beautiful instructor who had been helping her for the last half an hour proud. Not that she was complaining about how that ended up, with not one, but two worried women asking if she was fine all the time, but even so. 

It just felt too cruel to let Edelgard hang with false assumptions and notions that were making her more and more worried at every passing minute. Even more so when the blonde failed to answer and just caressed her hand as if that would be enough to fix their problems. 

“Ingrid please, what is going on? I-I know I shouldn’t have peeked into Byleth's room, but we have barely been using them and I lent her a pen the other day that I wanted back, so -” Edelgard said, her voice gradually rising until it almost broke in the end. It couldn’t be happening again. Not after she had found such wholesome, loving partners that had accepted her as who she was. Who had seemed to love her as who she was. “Are you… would I also find a suitcase in your room if I were to check it?”

“What?! No, of course - of course not El, I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” Ingrid was sure more suspicious words, coupled with the nervous laugh that she failed to keep in, had never really been spoken before.

Again, lying had never been her forte - even more so since Edelgard's words were completely true. Since her love would find some luggage hidden underneath her bed if she were to go there and look for it. 

She internally sighed and groaned in pain once she realized Edelgard’s eyes were filling with tears. Oh no. That was completely not supposed to happen, but then blame Byleth for apparently forgetting to hide her stuff the way they had said they would do so the forensics investigator of all people wouldn’t become suspicious. 

Yes, so the three of them had kept to Edelgard’s room most of the time recently, even more so after they had gotten the biggest, most comfortable bed they could find and it fit the room better than all the others. Yes, so Byleth and Ingrid had been talking this through for months in advance, making sure everything was set and they would be as ready to go as they could on the night they would talk to El about it. But that didn’t mean they should have been that careless that their love ended up finding out before the right moment, before the nice conversation they had been planning on having for that topic to come to life, after a nice dinner by candlelight or something like that.

But then she had seen the suitcases neatly stacked beside Byleth's room door, blue and black and filled with clothes, some accessories and important books that the woman loved. That was what had made Edelgard storm to the office where Ingrid had been looking over her notes on a case she had recently been assigned to, one that might need El’s help after all since it had been proving to be a bit more difficult than it originally looked like. The peaceful setting, with the golden late afternoon sunlight illuminating Ingrid’s smile once her lover barged in, was plunged into darkness the second the blonde realized there was something wrong with her.

And now… now all she could do was hold the smaller woman and whisper sweet words in her ear, words that did nothing to soothe her and only delayed the inevitable until their love arrived and they could finally have that talk. The living room, as spacious and light as it was with white walls and giant windows, seemed small and bleak during the minutes which were spent in waiting, as first two, then all four cats approached the couch and gathered around the women once they sensed how distressed they both were. 

Ingrid encouraged Edelgard to pet them, to focus on nothing more than that while they waited for Byleth’s arrival, when she promised everything would be out in the open and that no one would suffer. She did the same, hissing when she was bitten by Sothis but quickly choosing to caress Astra instead, letting her eyes wander over the huge front door as if that alone would make their partner come home any sooner.

Yet when it finally opened and the motion made both Edelgard and Ingrid jump to their feet since they were almost falling asleep in their embrace, relief flooded through Ingrid and made her beam, let go of El and rush to give Byleth a welcome kiss. 

“You’re earlier today,” she said in a light tone, completely unaware that their love was looking at that scene with something like hurt and fear etched in her eyes.

“Yeah, I uh, kinda just disappeared after a while and decided to call it a day. Yuri has been a great help and it got to a point that I was almost falling asleep while driving the sledge, to be honest,” Byleth smiled back, then put the heavy backpack with her ice skates down on the floor. She turned to the living room which greeted her with coldness rather than the warmth it always did, even though the fireplace was up and two out of four cats rushed to her feet as well. At first she wondered if that was a trick her mind was playing, though it was unlikely in any way.

It was the look on Edelgard’s face that made her halt and forget the urge to crouch and pet the cats as she did every single night. The anticipation and nervousness on it were stifling, scary and completely unsettling, making Byleth involuntarily take a step forward. Sothis even protested once Byleth promptly ignored everything else, her previous smile dissolving into a frown once she took in the scene, how forlorn and abandoned the smaller woman looked.

“She knows,” Ingrid whispered while they both went back to the living room, their pacing slow and tentative under the uneasy, fearful glance they got.

“How?” Byleth inquired, her voice loud enough so it would reach Edelgard’s ears. Given the atmosphere around them, there was no need to be secretive over the entire thing anymore. 

“I saw the suitcases in your room,” El said, shrinking into herself on the couch while the two women took their places in front of her.

Somehow she had known a moment like that was more than likely going to happen, that she would be kicked out of an amazing relationship that had seen them through so much, that had allowed all of them to grow into better, more humane versions of themselves even though they hadn't been together for that long. Yet of course sooner or later they would realize she wasn’t good enough for them, or at least she had always thought anyways, ever since the moment they had talked about becoming a polycule after all.

She just never expected it to be done in such a way, completely behind her back and straightforward like that, before they could even speak about what was and wasn't working between them anymore.

“When were you planning on telling me about it?” She inquired, trying her best to keep her voice under control as if she were talking about something mundane, or to a prosecutor that would tear her down with questions if she showed the smallest amount of hesitation.

A hesitation that took over her two loves once she asked that, since they stopped and stared at her with saddened eyes for a second or five.

“Tonight, actually,” Byleth said, her gaze flickering to the floor before coming back to Edelgard’s. “I’m really sorry you found out beforehand, though. It was supposed to be something we’d talk about after dinner or the likes.”

“After dinner or the likes,” she echoed in disbelief, anger now replacing the dull melancholy which had taken her over. Had they meant to torture her, to lull her into a false sense of security before doing what they had intended to from moment one? “And you’re both involved in it, I see.”

“Y-yes, though it was mostly Ingrid’s idea and I just helped with some details,” Byleth shrugged, then sighed and relaxed her shoulders, wondering why that had been met with more silence. “So yeah. You have to pack your things.”

The smaller woman froze, her heart skipping a beat after those words were said. Her body tensed, hands balling into fists, eyes widening at what she could and couldn’t understand. The fact that Ingrid stiffened beside Byleth just seemed to corroborate to the fact that yes, they were about to leave her be, but no, she had no idea why she had been asked that.

“P-pack… my things?” Her voice was shy and small, not the same one that she used while in court or talking to others at work. But then, her mind was running around in circles, wondering when they would see that was what she had feared the most. 

When they would finally ask her to get out of the relationship - and maybe of her own house as well.

“Mhm. Preferably by tomorrow night so we can have a better idea of what we should actually take. I always mess up and leave some things behind, but I really would rather not do it again this time. It was awful when I forgot my passport at Hilda’s place and had to see her family one more time once I went back -”

“By? I don’t think you should be saying things… like that,” Ingrid interrupted once she finally found her voice, somewhat scared at the tear she could see threatening to run down Edelgard’s eyes. She had been trying to break into the conversation, to make Byleth, sweet, sometimes too distracted Byleth, to realize the effect her words were having on Edelgard.

And how that was not the effect they should be having to begin with.

“Hm? But why, there’s totally nothing wrong with us all packing and -” Byleth held up a hand, a mischievous smile on her face, and started fumbling with the several pockets on her coat, her face twisted in a frown until her eyes widened and she seemed to finally find what she wanted. “- going on a trip." She waved tickets around, face triumphant and smile as wide as if she had won the lottery. "I know, I know, it’s sudden and it’d be the first time we traveled together, right? But Ingrid and I have been wanting to surprise you with it for months since you, no, we , deserve it and all. So yeah, pack your things and -”

“El? El, is everything ok?” Ingrid asked once they both watched their love hide her face behind her palms and give the longest sigh she could manage. It was slight, but there was a tremble to her hands that made them sit beside her and touch her shoulders in a small, comforting gesture.

It took a few minutes for Edelgard to be able to look at either of them in the eye, but when she did her gaze was murderous instead of the thankful, happy one they (mostly Byleth at that point) had expected to get from her. Then some seconds more until Edelgard let them embrace her as tears finally ran their course.

Through sobs that were muffled by Byleth’s shirt, still cold from the ice rink, and Ingrid’s kisses while they tried calming her down, Edelgard told them about her suspicions that they were about to either move out of her house or say what an awful partner she was, how she shouldn’t be in a polycule to begin with. She was rightfully furious when they giggled at that, then relented once her distress was rewarded by even more sweet pecks and loving words, promises that they would never do something like that yet again and vows to work on their communication skills for the trips to come.

And although the night ended in a better note than it had started, with Ingrid and Byleth apologizing and promising to do Edelgard's packing themselves, kissing away the remnants of her fear and reassuring her no one was moving away, that was a conversation they would recall and laugh about for many years to come, whenever plans were being made or more trips came to be.