Characters: Frederick, Cordelia
Notes: For the OTP Meme that's been going around Tumblr. I decided to write fanfiction but some of the prompts I changed because, while they worked well for art, they didn't work well for fanfiction at all. I've also split the "OTP" part into thirds, so I'll do ten short pieces about Frederick and Cordelia, and ten each for two different pairings.
Prompt: #26: Getting Married
Sometimes love isn't fireworks, sometimes love just comes softly.
-Janette Oke, "Love Comes Softly"
She didn't love him.
Not even on the wedding night.
The wedding itself was a simple, calm affair, with a feast afterward at Chrom and Lissa's insistence. No forever-union could be allowed to happen, they insisted, without good food afterward.
Frederick was quiet throughout the ceremony. Afterward, at the head of the table beside her, he said very little but smiled a lot. Cordelia was not so foolish that she didn't know a façade when she saw one, but this once, she ignored it. It would be silly to say anything now, with a golden band sitting on her ring finger close to her heart.
That night, granted as much privacy as was wise, their marriage was consummated. Cordelia remembered very little of that night; when she had realized what was drawing close she downed several glasses of wine, unsure of her ability to get through the wedding night without it.
Frederick was a gentleman. She remembered that much. And the first kiss he'd given her in their matrimonial bed had been so soft, so caring.
He was always asking questions to ensure that he was doing everything to her satisfaction as well as his own, and the more days that passed, the more she realized that his meticulousness carried into all aspects of his life. If everything was not "just so" it wasn't good enough and had to be redone, sometimes over and over again—like tucking the sheets.
She learned to live with it. And he learned to live with her strange habits, like only being able to sleep on her stomach, and brushing her hair two hundred strokes before bed every night.
So while he fretted over straightening the sheets, she brushed her hair.
It worked out, in the end. Chrom was harder to forget than she thought he would be; it was strange to see him around camp, to remember having strong feelings for him…but to also see, out of the corner of her eye, the sunlight glinting off of her wedding band.
When Severa appeared, Cordelia's world was changed. It wasn't shattered, or turned upside-down; it was simply different. The older version of her that Severa spoke of made her want to hate herself, but she knew that she was different, not the same person who had carried young Severa for nine months, not the same person who had gone into labor clutching the sheets because Frederick had been forced away due to his constant niggling at the midwife.
She was different. The future had already been changed, for them, and she intended to make certain that it kept changing.
"What is it?" Frederick asked, looking over his book at her. His candle was burning low, and she realized she must have been staring at him for well over an hour.
She smiled. "Just looking," she said, and rolled onto her stomach, arms sliding under her pillow.
"You've never done that before."
"I think I should," she murmured into the pillow. "Frederick? Seeing Severa—it just… I've done a lot of thinking. When I agreed to marry you, I wasn't thinking so far ahead, not about children, or—"
His voice was so soft, that it made her lift her head. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm such a terrible wife."
"No," he said, closing his book and setting it down by the candle before he blew it out, plunging them both into darkness. "Cordelia, I asked you to marry me knowing full well that you might never feel the same way for me that I feel for you. That you're here now—that's enough for me."
"It shouldn't be!" she cried, sitting up, on her knees and searching for his face in the darkness. "It shouldn't be," she said again, hand brushing his cheek. "You should want more from your wife than that."
He was silent for a long moment. "What should I want, then? Should I demand love—measure yours to ensure that it is equal to mine? Should I demand that you let me have you every night in the name of procreation or to satisfy my own desires?"
He sounded tired.
She could have cried, and felt a pinching in her chest like she had when her daughter from the future had spoken to her, when she realized what kind of person this mother of Severa's was like.
"I," she began, but flailed for a response. "I don't know," she finally admitted, and wrapped her arms around him. "You should want more than this."
It took a few moments, but his arms came around her, and he held her so tenderly that for a moment she felt that she might—
"I should want more than your loyalty?" he asked. "More than your patience with me when I have to retuck the sheets sixteen times before I'll let you in bed? More than the sound of you breathing as you sleep at night, next to me, safe?"
She didn't know what to say to that. She just shook her head. She wanted to love him, more than anything. He deserved it, far more than Chrom. He had promised to never make her cry as Chrom had, yet she found it hard to care for Frederick in the same way.
Was it because Frederick cared for her? She didn't know.
All she knew was that she wanted to love him—needed to love him, because what would happen to Severa if she didn't? What would happen to her? And what would happen to Frederick if she didn't love him?
Maybe he was satisfied with a compliant, chattering wife now, but eventually he would grow tired of her. Eventually he would want a wife who loved him, who kissed him good morning instead of just accepting a kiss from him.
Did she want to kiss him? She had never thought about it. She had simply accepted him, his affection, his feelings…without ever stopping to consider her own.
She wanted to ask someone what it felt like to love someone who loved you in return, but she didn't dare. It was too embarrassing, too silly. Cordelia was skilled with a spear but that was her only talent.
"You should want love," she told him, finally, and he released her.
"Companionship is the next best thing," he told her, but she knew that he was settling and she hated that.
Settling for her. Why?
As months passed, she started to wonder more about it. Why did he love her? He said it every night, before they went to sleep—and she never responded in kind.
"Good night," he would say, softly. "I love you."
And she would just lie there, sometimes pretending to be asleep, and other times responding with, "Good night, Frederick."
Why didn't he love Lissa or Cherche or Maribelle? Why did he love Cordelia, whose heart had moved on from Chrom, finally, but had remained stagnant afterward? She felt incapable of love. Was she not allowed to love someone who loved her? Was that something that would always be denied? Was Frederick always to love her and she was always to just let him instead of wanting to reciprocate somehow?
She never regretted marrying him, not even once, and certainly never for her own sake.
He was a wonderful husband. He was a great listener. He tried to make things romantic. He always told her that he loved her.
And he didn't give up.
A year after Grima's defeat, they had returned to Ylisstol where he took charge of training the new recruits. She was his helpmate, his partner. She helped him teach the green kids how to hold a spear properly. Habit. Routine.
Wake up, work, come home, "Good night. I love you."
Every day for weeks and weeks. It didn't really change. Sometimes Frederick would do something nice, like bring home some extra meat for an especially good stew, or he would rub her shoulders as she sat in the bath.
Then she found herself pregnant.
She told him as they lay in bed together.
"I guess you can't sleep on your stomach anymore," he said.
"I suppose not."
"Is there anything I can do that will help you sleep?"
"Yes." She said it before she could stop herself, before she could even form a coherent thought. "Hold my hand."
He took her hand, and kissed her cheek. "Good night," he said, softly as always. "I love you." And then a second, "Good night," whispered against her still flat belly. "I love you."
She cried then, quite against her own will, bursting into loud sobs, which were soon muffled against Frederick's chest as he pulled her close.
"What is it?" he asked her. "Whatever is the matter?"
But she couldn't answer him for a long time, and when she finally did, her voice was whiny and made her sound more like a girl than a woman.
"I want to love you, but I think I must be incapable of it!"
She didn't dare look at his face, knowing it would be a partial smile, his best façade to cover up his hurt feelings.
But he pulled her away and made her look at him. Earnestly, he said, "Do you still love Chrom?"
She shook her head, immediately. "No," she said. "He is happy with another, and I am happy for him. I rarely think of him, anymore."
"Then give it time," he told her, smoothing back her hair and kissing her forehead. "Love isn't something you can force on anyone, despite what Tharja always said."
The next morning, he suggested that she stay home and do the cleaning instead of going out to train the new recruits with him. She agreed, but only because she was pregnant and she wanted the best for her daughter—or son, if Severa's being in the current world had changed things.
It was a long day, oddly quiet without Frederick around to talk to.
Standing in their bedroom as she cleaned it, she said, aloud, "I miss him." It was such an interesting thought that she said it again, astounded: "I miss him. I miss Frederick. I miss my husband."
And she kept going as she folded the laundry.
"We would be eating lunch right about now, and he would be sharing a funny story about the greenest recruit he has." She could almost hear his laughter, too, when she hung the drapes out on the clothesline and the wind pulled them into the air with a snap.
He was late getting home that night, as she knew he would be without her there to remind him that he had done enough work for one day. Tired from cleaning the entire house top to bottom, she did not wait up for him.
When Cordelia's eyes opened again, it was before dawn, and she turned her head to see that Frederick was still asleep. They'd slept beside one another many nights, yet she realized she had never actually watched him sleep. It was odd, she thought as she reached for him, that she already knew every line of his face, the slope of his jaw, the way his hair fell, the sound of his breathing.
He stirred, his hand reaching up to touch hers. Sleepily, he murmured, "What is it?"
The only thing she could only think to say was, "I know you."
"What?" His eyes opened and he gave her a long, curious look. "Of course you do. We've been married for—"
"I know you better than I've ever known anyone," she said. "I know all of your habits, and I know your favorite foods. I know that you love me, not because you say it every night, but because you hold me when I cry and never ask for more from me than I can give."
She was almost in tears just saying it.
He didn't say anything. He just gave her an odd sort of smile that didn't show his teeth, where half of his mouth tilted upward.
She realized that he was touched by her words, a little, and she hugged him.
When she first imagined married life with Frederick, what felt like a lifetime ago, she had assumed he would be very cautious about everything, maybe even stoic. But that wasn't the case at all. His habits were odd, and his compulsive behavior annoying at times, but he really did care about her, and it showed in everything he did, in how he looked at her—even in the way he kissed her, like he had on their wedding night.
That first kiss, so softly given that she had thought, for just a moment, that she had imagined it.
That was the only way he had ever kissed her. Never hard or demanding, even when it was clear that he wanted to take her more than anything. He was always so patient with her.
She didn't deserve it.
She wanted to deserve it.
And she wanted to try something, too.
Pulling back a little, she just looked at him. He didn't question her—he just remained still, as if he felt moving would break the moment. Then, before she lost her nerve, she kissed him—hard—and felt his arms tighten around her, pulling her close as he responded.
When she pulled away after a long moment, he looked like he wanted to say something, but she stopped him by speaking first.
"I wanted to do that."
"I missed you yesterday. It was the first time I've ever had that thought."
"We've scarcely been apart even a few hours since we've been married," he admitted. "Fighting together, then working together."
"I guess that makes sense," she mused. "Come home earlier, tonight."
"I did not mean to be so late," he said, a half-apology.
"I know. You're completely lost without me there to help. Well, I'm making your favorite for dinner tonight so you'll want to be home at the usual time to help eat it. You know I can eat all of it myself if I have to."
He gave her a pleased smile. "I'll be home on time. I haven't forgotten those sandwiches. I really missed out that day."
"And it wasn't even your fault," she told him, giving him a playful shove.
He just pulled her up into a big, warm hug. "I haven't stopped loving you."
"I know," she said. "And I don't think I can say that I love you, too—yet. But I think I'm getting closer."
The kiss he pressed against her temple told her how happy that made him.
"You'd better hurry up," she said, suddenly. "Look—the sun. You'll be late if you don't get up!"
"What?" He looked out the window and then almost jumped out of the bed before he reached down to try and straighten the blankets—with her still in the bed. She pushed him away, laughing. "Not today," she told him. "I'll fix it."
And he actually left it for her.
Surprised, she followed him to the kitchen and started making him a couple of sandwiches for his lunch.
"I'll fix it tonight," he said.
"What, you don't think I'll do a good enough job?"
"Maybe." His lip twitched in amusement.
"You," she said, rolling her eyes. "You know what would be better for you to do than straighten the bedsheets a million times?"
"You can brush my hair for me. And count out the strokes."
"Five hundred strokes."
"But I only do two hundred."
"I want to do five hundred."
"I like your hair."
She laughed. "Okay. Five hundred strokes. Tonight. You'd better get home a little early so you have time."
When he went to leave, she kissed him. It was nice. It was better than waiting to be kissed, she thought. So she did it again. And then she said, "I'll miss you."
It wasn't "I love you," but it made him smile.
"I love you, Cordelia," he said. "And I always will."
She was glad of that.
As she watched him ride away, she wondered if maybe love wasn't what she had always thought it was—something that made your heart feel so full that it wanted to burst, something exciting. Maybe love was actually quiet and soft, like the way Frederick kissed her. That would explain why it had been so hard for her to find.