PIECING
fanfic by volly
final fantasy ix (c) square enix

...

One of the best things about being royalty were Alexandria's imperial baths. They were massive, large almost as pools, full to brimming with steaming water that filled the entire chamber with mist. And always equipped with the latest and most luxurious toiletries.

When she was younger, princess Garnet liked to pour in all the perfumes and bubble solutions as she could, turning her baths into pungent, foaming concoctions she delighted in throwing herself into. As time went by, however, her tastes grew a little more moderate, a little more refined. Or so she liked to think, at least.

She'd sprinkle in one or two of her favorite scents--they varied from month to month, from mint to cinnamon to orange--before sliding into the bath, letting the hot water envelop her body like a welcoming lover. She'd relax, let herself float on the surface and stare up at the clouds of steam swirling above her, or close her eyes and focus instead of the fragrance of the perfumed bathwater.

And once she'd sufficiently amused herself, the maids would come in to further tend to her. She didn't like them. It wasn't that they were unpleasant company, per se, but they all just seemed to be so meek, so ginger, so careful. It was evident in the slow arcs of their combs through her hair, the delicate way they soaped up her back, as if they expected her to break at any moment, as if Princess Garnet of Alexandria were a porcelain doll they feared would fall apart in their hands.

Which was why she kept requesting the one person who could be counted on to treat her like a normal human being. Beatrix was usually too busy with her duties as captain of the Alexandrian army to take time off and do something as petty as wash her lady's hair, so her visits were depressingly few and far between. Garnet always enjoyed them, though, always looked forward to the next time she'd see her general waiting for her by the doors of the bathhouses, with towels folded neatly over her arms and her demure half-smile on her face.

They'd enter the bathing chambers together, where Garnet would quickly slip off her clothes as Beatrix graciously looked the other way and poked around the array of bath salts for her two favorites, which somehow managed to stay the same year-round, much to Garnet's amusement. She didn't mind, though. Over the days and months and years, she grew to love the scent of lavender mixed in with vanila, though she used the solutions sparingly. Other than when Beatrix was around, the princess saved the two fragrances for days when she was feeling particularly lonely, so that when she sank down into the bubbles and squinted up into the fog she could imagine her friend's presence.

Garnet would drift idly around the length of the bath while Beatrix sat at the rim, and they'd make small talk. Which was to say, Garnet would unload her daily stockpile of the woes of castle life to a finally-sympathetic listener. She never seemed to run out of complaints, which included but were not limited to her mother's distantness, certain unwise political decisions, and her eternal requests to go out into the city, which were always eternally denied...

At which point she would finally run out of steam and swim resignedly over to the edge, resting her cheek on the cool tile as Beatrix began lathering soap across her shoulders and started weaving little stories of life outside the palace.

She'd describe the cobblestone streets and colorful festivals and quaint shops in her low voice, her hands gentle on Garnet's skin. The princess could feel the calluses on Beatrix's palms, the firm, almost rough touch of fingertips far more accustomed to gripping swords than giving backrubs. But it was a welcome difference from the dainty, tentative treatment all her usual maids gave her. And Beatrix, for all her supposed inexperience at massage, was surprisingly good at it. Garnet would be happy to fall silent and relax at Beatrix's words painting pictures of Alexandria's suburbs in her mind while Beatrix's hands worked magic on her body, gliding smoothly over her neck and arms and spine.

But her position made it difficult to get too comfortable, so when a lull in Beatrix's descriptions came, Garnet would take advantage of the pause to wheedle the general down to the water. Beatrix would hesitate--it was unheard of, for royalty to invite a subject into such intimacy--but she would eventually succumb to Garnet's coaxing. And so the massage would lapse as Beatrix shed off her dress, Garnet shyly averting her gaze until the other woman entered the water and resumed the backrub, so close that Garnet could feel brunnette curls brushing the nape of her neck, an ample swell of breast pressing against the small of her back.

Gradually the hands would curl down to her hips and wrap neatly around Garnet's waist, Beatrix sighing in contentment as she just pulled the smaller woman into a warm hug. And Garnet would smile as she melted into the embrace and kiss her general on the cheek, over her eyepatch, on the lips if she was feeling bolder.

"You'll be all right," Beatrix would murmur in cryptic reply, as her innocent embrace shifted and her skilled hands dropped down to the junction of her princess's thighs. "You'll be all right."

And Garnet supposed she probably would. But only until the end of her bath.

...

author's notes - takes place pre-game...enjoy:) written for the ell-jay comm springkink (prompt: baths, gentleness - "lavender and vanilla").

...review? thank you. ;)