Angst & Intrigue! · EMOTIONS: · Fan-fiction · Fire Emblem · LENGTH: · Slow Burns

Safe (Word) Part 3: The Soothing of Hardened Skin

It’s the long awaited (by someone, maybe!! >o< you don’t know!!) follow-up to my Beruka/Oboro and Severa/Camilla fic. This time it’s basically just emotions and none of the sex happening (but butts are touched, briefly!) so if you want to see adorable Fire Emblem girls have adorable emotional breakdowns and emotional healing, then BOY HAVE I GOT THE THING FOR YOU.

You can also read this on Archive of Our Own, as always! \o/ Thank you for reading! And note: I have a Patreon now, so please consider taking a look! 💜👍

She watches her Lord.

They sit together on a makeshift picnic sheet. Night by the lakeside had a chill all its own, the last vestiges of summer ebbing off into the start of a pleasant autumn. Honeysuckle was in the air, a touch overripe. It made your mouth water, if you let it. Sweet. Overly sweet.

A trail of nectar rolled down her Lord’s chin as she leaned in, close enough that the sweetness of fruit on her breath filled Severa’s senses.

“Would you like a taste, Severa?” she asked.

Severa felt the heat rising in her cheeks. She leaned in, opening her mouth to say…


Selena yowled into her pillow as pain stripped her from her dream and back to the surface of the waking world.

It was some moments of writhing, growling and thrashing against the constriction of sheets around her body, before she realized the traitorous sensation was…

She’d rolled over onto her bruised ass in her sleep.

Gosh damn that hurt.

Wide awake, thanks to the Camilla-imbued stings torturing her haunches, Selena kicked the covers away and lifted herself up on her knees. Tucking her nightshirt away from her rump, she reached for the nightstand and set about painting her stinging flesh with the soothing ointment.

The first daubs stung even worse than the bruises, and she hissed into her pillow. But after that initial suffering was dealt with her skin began to cool, and her thoughts began to wander.

She realized how her whole body ached with tension. Like the acidic burn of a muscle clenched for days, now finally released. Her mind was clearer than it had been in weeks.

She wished she could remember her dream…

“Atch—!” She yipped, as her slick fingers ran over a sensitive, purpling spot on her rear.

“That sounds painful.”

The words were flat, devoid of real sympathy or even meaning—a doll, mimicking a human.

Selena neatly shrieked, fleeing to the safety of the covers like a spooked possum. She hadn’t even heard the creak of the door hinges.

Of course, it was a matter of contention whether Beruka COULD actually cause a door to make noise upon entering a room, whether it was a Hoshidan sliding panel or a heavy slab of Nohrian oak.

On realizing who it was, Selena’s face jutted out from the nest of her hiding place, a nascent grimace dimpling her florid cheeks. “DON’T YOU KNOCK!?”

Beruka’s reply, naturally, as she approached her own bed. “It’s my room too.”

The small assassin never intruded into Selena’s personal matters, though her actions were certainly frequently intrusive enough, and it was much the same when her eyes narrowed on the small pot of ointment as she took in the scene.

“She found out.” Beruka said. And even the announcement of her realization—that Camilla knew she’d been sneaking around with Oboro behind her back—was said with all the impassivity of a slumbering bear.

A short intake of breath. Selena was poised like this, haunches spearing the air, exposed, glistening with ointment and… and… She Found Out? That’s all that bean of an assassin could manage to say?

“Let me take care of that.”

“I can handle it just fine,” Selena replied.

“You can’t see. You’ll just make a mess of it.”

To say something in her voice melted, or softened, would be to misstate the case. Beruka’s voice was not icy, or cold. Beruka was not icy. She was soft as a footfall in shadow. She was accommodating. But beneath that softness lay a blade ready to strike. To be soft and small and unseen, and to reveal herself only when ready; that was her weapon. This change. This mild slip of wet, warm water down the glacial front of her, is what drew Selena’s attention. Hesitantly lifting her eyes from their busywork examining the stitching on the bedspread, she examined her roommate, her partner.

There were reddened bruises around Beruka’s face, faint in the moonlight—faint as the moonlight—half-hidden by the immaculate shawl on her neck…

Her shawl…

Selena, who had a mind for fashion, couldn’t not notice such things—even in compromised situations such as these. When Beruka’d left, a day prior, the edges of the shawl had been ragged from years of wear, a bolt of fine fabric left to weather. But about her neck it was pristine as new, hemmed and tasseled, shimmering with secret cloth-of-gold in the dim light.

“Come,” prompted Beruka, looking off to a corner of the room as Selena’s inspection went over long. “It’s no different from dressing any other wound.”

“…it’s your fault anyway…” Selena mumbled, a flick of her hand confirming her assent.

Beruka never flinched from the truth. She nodded, curtly, with a slow intake of breath. “Some of it is.”

There was a strange half-moment where she seemed to be far away. But it must have been an illusion. Beruka, of all people? Beruka didn’t daydream. Beruka was always present; dangerously present.

“I stayed a little longer than I should have. That was my mistake.”

But then the small shadow managed an actual smile. “But she didn’t punish you as a warning to me. I can’t imagine she would think that a mere bruising would make an assassin change her mind.” An arched eyebrow. “Especially not where you were bruised. She’d have done something vicious if she wanted to send a message. I think…” She smiled, once more. She took a moment, a soft inhale of air between parted lips, before she spoke again.

“I think your bruises are very like my own.”

“That’s neither here nor there…” Selena said, softly, unable to quell that embarrassment boring twin holes of flushing energy in her cheeks.

There was nothing WRONG with it. There was nothing BAD about it. She wanted to say these things, as much for Beruka’s benefit as her own. She wanted to…

…tell herself it was okay, to want things. To need something. To need THAT, even. To crave something that blanked your mind, that took the pressure off, that made you feel better… even if just for a few hours…

That it was okay…

…to be something other than perfect…

Struggling, Selena brought herself to sitting upright—well, not QUITE upright, she course corrects, after putting a bit of weight on her rear sends a cringe and a wince through her. Still nestled in her blankets, she patted the side of the bed, looking away.

“Want to sit?” She asked, through teeth hardly gritted at all.

Beruka, for all her acerbic silence, understood a generous moment. And, for all of that, felt a sudden… need… for such things.

She’d only been away from the shop a little while, but already it stung her. She’d been visiting Oboro more and more frequently, with shorter and shorter gaps between; of course her employer and confidant would both notice. But she’d indulged anyway, hadn’t she? It was foolhardy.

But, she was learning, foolhardy things often paid with great dividends.

“Thank you.” She lifted her hands, showing them empty, and then, by her bed, divested herself of two small throwing hatchets, a larger hand axe, a vial of poison, a near-miraculously produced steel splitting-axe, two daggers. Shown to be weaponless, she accepted—as graciously as possible—the offer.

Selena’s nose scrunched gently at this display. “You’re so weird.”

Beruka remained diplomatically silent. Or, perhaps, silence was her agreement.

She sat at the foot of the bed, leaning back on her hands and gazing up at the shadows the lamplight cast across the stone ceiling. She noticed how still the bed was beneath her. Selena was frozen, like a prey animal trying to evade detection.

“It feels… good.” The words felt dusty between her lips, and took no small effort, and a little bit of visible pain—her jaw was darkened by blossoming red. “To be sitting next to someone, without weapons. Without fear. It’s good to know that there is someone else who understands. Even if I am only imagining that you do.”

“Well that’s a rude thing to say,” Selena replied curtly, pursing her lips. Why was Beruka always so… so… so… like…


But what was “this” Selena? Direct? Tactless? Unwilling to allow—or, more likely, not even thinking of them in the first place—the social niceties that let conversation flow? Could she not even pretend, even in this instant? She couldn’t round up to it? If she couldn’t, then Selena would MAKE her get it; Selena would PROVE she understood.

“Tch.” As she spoke, she carelessly lowered Beruka’s shawl. “If it had to be some Hoshidan wench, why not at least an herbalist? Your seamstress doesn’t know a thing about treating bruises.”

There was an instant, when Selena took hold of Beruka’s shawl. It was a very complicated instant, as understandings tested themselves and resolved beneath the surface of the assassin’s mind.

I could take the shawl and strangle her, she’s already pulling it down and won’t expect my forward momentum, and wouldn’t be able to compensate backwards.

Selena took Beruka by the chin, examining her mild bruises in the soft moonlight. “Here, you should be using this…”

Her hand’s not braced; it would be easy to lock her arm and break it, and force her down from there.

Selena reached for the bedside point of ointment. “It’s a special blend *I* came up with.”

Her eyes are unguarded and vulnerable, then a killing blow to the solar plexus.

“Comfrey leaves, arnica, and some witch hazel. ~Perfect~ for bruises. By morning no one would even…”

All this as the woman’s unexpected hand rose towards her throat…

Lady Camilla would not approve.

…and set about gently painting Beruka’s face with her fingers.

I’d never see Oboro again.

At that gentle alight of fingers upon stinging skin, Beruka’s mind reset.

Selena is my friend.

“Thank you.” Beruka’s exhale was so sharp her chest tightened, and her breasts ached in their bindings.

“Be careful,” she said. “Please.”

Things are not as they were.

She didn’t even wince as Selena’s hand seized her round chin, held her in place to get a look at her damage. For the second time that day, she felt almost painfully vulnerable and exposed before the eyes of another. Her eyes closed, and she let forth a warm sigh—new, painfully full, strong feelings. She felt engorged by them.

Beruka indulged in the slick, gentle sensation of the ointment along her cheeks. She didn’t wince, though, as the ointment was applied; she still lacked sufficient grace to know she ought. But it did steal the sting from the bruises on her cheeks and jaw, the orbit of her eye.

“You really are very good at this.”

“Of course I am.” Selena said, with dogmatic pride. “You have to be, if you want to do these things. You have to be careful. You have to make sure THEY’RE careful with you; but that’s their job too. Which is why I’m upset. Because you’re letting such an obvious rank amateur—”

Still, as she chattered on, part chiding mother, part eager confidant, she felt a question bubbling to the surface of her stomach, just about to break for air…

“Who would guess that we would permit it…” Beruka murmured, almost to herself

The word caught Selena up, and the blush of her unbruised cheeks intensified spectacularly. As did the furrow of her brow.

“Permit…?” She asked softly, against the thunder beat of her heart. Saying these words would be admitting it to another person, another besides you and Camilla, that you need something. That you need IT. That you want IT. That you…

It’s not Camilla who asks these things of her; it’s her who asks these things of Camilla.

A sudden guilt coils around Selena’s stomach like a hungry serpent. Her hands fall into her lap. Carelessly, she fidgets her fingers together, unaware of the quiet squelch of the ointment that adds a caste of silliness to her otherwise melancholy pose.

“Beruka, you…” She took a breath. “You shouldn’t permit things like that; you do them…” She took another. Her eyes grew misty, and a rigid shake of her head quivered her ponytails. “It’s something you want to happen, not something you let happen.”

The arms of Selena’s nightshirt came back damp, as she swiped the coarse cotton against her face.

It took quite a while, before her low, quiet voice filled their small corner of the large bedchamber.

“I’m sure she’s nothing compared to Lady Camilla.” Beruka, who spoke slowly as a rule, now spoke as if she were inventing each word as she went. “Oboro is very pretty. And she’s proficient with knots. But our first time… she was afraid. I was the one that asked her, because I burned inside for this feeling. We… I spent so much time killing that I couldn’t feel anything. When the two of us went together, and bought our matching rings, I started to feel something. When I spoke to Oboro of my master, and of her parents, I started to feel something. But everything I am, all my life, got in the way of that feeling.”

Selena opened her mouth to respond, but for the first time in her long relationship, she found that she had nothing to say.

“I asked her to tie me up, so I couldn’t run away, so I couldn’t defend myself or strike back, so that I’d have to feel everything. We agreed on all of our terms.” Of course, to a businesswoman and an assassin, agreements would come as second nature. “And… even though she’s an amateur? She made me feel. Everything that I feel for her, and she feels for me. It’s complicated. We’re still discovering all of it.”

Was that a glimmer at the corner of her eye? The beginning of a laugh?

“But whatever it is, we have that because I permit her to touch me, and because I permit myself to be hurt.”

She took a slow, deep breath, and at the end of it. A more centered, calmer Beruka. The little storm beneath the surface was contained, for worse or for better.

“I expect Lady Camilla is different with you. More sophisticated. You probably both know what you need.”

Yes, Selena thought, with a haughty little lift of her chin. We both know exactly what we need.

No, of course she didn’t think that. She didn’t think anything of the sort. For all her knowledge of rules and technique, for all her obsession of doing things perfectly, the concrete WHY of it eluded her. She knew it felt good. She knew it brought a thrill to her heart. She knew exactly how she felt, after the first time, trailing her fingers along her aching skin and marveling at how free, how unburdened by it all she felt.

Why did she like it?

Why did she need it?

Why did it make her feel better, and make the hurt go away?

Selena’s question eked its nefarious way up her throat. Squash it, she insisted. Be quiet. Don’t ask.

“…can I tell you something?”

With a cant of her head, like a curious animal tracking an offered treat, Beruka slowly nodded.

At that meek permission, the tidal wave came. Selena, unvarnished, looked into her friend’s eyes as her own quavered with tears.

“I asked her to do something I shouldn’t have. There are rules. Her lower lip trembled as she spoke. “I-I asked her… I asked her to… t-t-to touch me, after it was over. After I said stop.” Her head barely moved, even as her lips trembled, even as the tears rolled down her cheeks. “I couldn’t take it. I felt so alone. Everyone has someone. S-she has Lady Corrin. Yuh-yuh-yuh-you have that seamstress. What do I have? Nothing. No one.”

How alone, she was. How alone she’d ever be.

“I-I felt like such a coward, asking for it. I-it wasn’t even be-be-because I was turned on.” But she was. “I-it wasn’t even because of how badly I love her.” But she does. “It was just… it was… only…”

A sharp tug, about Selena’s waist, forceful and quick.

Selena leaned forward, no resistance in her to Beruka’s advance.  Beruka, pulling her against her body, as if the taciturn assassin weren’t six inches shorter and twice as prickly as she. Still warm. Still soft. And, despite herself, doing her best to provide comfort.

Had she ever done this before? Unlikely; if she’d ever so much as received it, it was likely from Lady Camilla, or from Oboro. Nevertheless…

Selena’s elbows on her thighs, her palms grinding into her treacherous, seeping eyes. “I broke the rules. I begged *her* to break the rules. Juh-juh-just because it was the only proof I’d accept that anyone cared about me at all.”

It was already accomplished, whatever was happening. It hardly needed Beruka’s tug for permission. The floodgates of her heart had opened. She would’ve begged a rabid dog to hold her, much less this assassin, her nominal friend—by proximity, if nothing else.

Still, permission was nice.

So Selena wrapped her arms around the wisp of her friend, reined Beruka to her twice as hard as Beruka reined her to she. Sadness found Selena in great, sobbing gulps, and she made an absolute, snotty mess of Beruka’s shoulder as she poured out her loneliness, her grief, and–most potently, if not most importantly–her shame.

“You broke a rule.” Beruka spoke with a hasty clip. Empathy was not in her repertoire. The words were muddled in her head. She spoke them quickly, for fear of never getting them out at all. “That’s fine. You aren’t perfect. If you were perfect, we wouldn’t be friends. I’d be working for you, or you’d have killed me.” Matter-of-fact, easy as the weather. “It’s better that you aren’t. I’m going to apologize tomorrow. You can come with me.”

And perhaps that was Beruka’s world. Action, Consequence. Permission, Agreement. Beruka decided, and Beruka acted, and in her voice there was something more than a flat affect.

“Lady Camilla will understand,” is what she said.

What about letting go of that shame?

Eyes, puffy and red, looked to Beruka. And Beruka, for her friend’s comfort and her own, looked away, tensing her lips to dissuade the blush crawling up her cheeks. Her fingers squeezed around Selena, autonomous, without her intent.

“But you’re wrong, anyway. There is someone. You go off at night and stare up into the moon. You have secret conversations with a few others. There is the mark on your shoulder.”

A flinch imperceptible to most others, perhaps even those as perceptive as Lady Camilla herself, would not go unnoticed by a trained assassin like Beruka. It coincides with the mention of her tattoo. Selena looked down, staring at a patch of grit on the cold stone floor. After all this, she could hardly stand to look at her friend. She clung to what few words she could understand as the torrent wracked her. ‘Not perfect’; ‘Camilla will understand.’

“You don’t need to tell me about them. But I know that they are out there, that you think on them. You’re here, and you’re proof.” And then? A smirk. A SMIRK, an insufferable SMIRK from the horrible little smoke-wisp. “If the rest of us do not suffice.”

Impulse took Selena, at that smirk.

“You brat!” She sniped, pouncing upon her friend and pinning her to the bed—and apparently quite unaware, as she’d have to be—of the risk she takes in doing so.

But Beruka was her friend, after all.

Pinning Beruka to the bed, Selena grinned through her teary eyes and snotty face. “’If the rest of us do not suffice’ I never thought I’d see the day when you were passive-aggressive about something, y-you little twerp.”

A silence fell over her, as she noticed a flick of Beruka’s eyes towards her wrist. “What? What are you looking at?”

Protectively, she released her grip on Beruka, holding her wrist in her hand, and her arm to her chest, to cover the telltale glint and jingle of gold in the moonlight.

“I only wore it because…”

She swallows…

“I thought I’d miss you… at the dinner… if I didn’t.”

With an uncharacteristic show of sentimentality, Beruka mimicked the motion, holding tight to her own wrist, to the silver that gleamed there.

It clung to her. She’d insisted. It couldn’t make noise, whatever they got, as it could endanger her missions. It couldn’t wear her down or slip up or down her wrist, or give anyone purchase to hold her.

Most importantly, Selena liked silver. So soft, weighty, silent gold for Selena; moonish, shimmering silver for Beruka. Platinum, rare and commanding, for Lady Camilla.

Her self-control was exceptional; Beruka did not fear striking out. But touching it, knowing that bond against her skin, quieted the reactions in her mind, and gave her permission to rest.

“I’m glad you wore it,” Beruka said.

With an imperious flare of her nose, and an impudent flick of her ponytails, Selena looked up and away as good as any brattish princess in any kingdom such as Nohr. “Don’t get any big ideas from it either. I’m still p-pissed about having to carry your secrets.”

There was a smile on that mousey little face! Even as Beruka folded her arms up around her aggressive friend. “No big ideas.” Her voice was foreboding as ever. Some things would never change, perhaps.” I’m an assassin of Nohr, a retainer to Lady Camilla. I know just where my place is.” But the tenor of it was oddly warm, deep. Satisfied. As though that place, just at that moment, were a generous, wonderful one. “It won’t be your secret to keep any longer. And I’ll keep yours.”

Beruka noticed the slackening tension in Selena’s brows and shoulders. The briefest suggestion of a smile on her lips. Done with her playful aggression, Selena flopped into the bed beside her friend and gave a deep sigh, staring at the darkened shadows of the ceiling as her fingertips idly toyed with the light bit of silver at Beruka’s wrist, and down lower, to roll her fingertips along the back of Beruka’s hand. “You better let me meet that seamstress before Lady Camilla does; I’ll be less judgmental.” Her finger slipped lazily along Beruka’s pinky, she yawned, and her face seemed at peace… despite the rain barrel’s-worth of tears drying on it.

At the feel of fingertips across her own, the claiming of her hand, Beruka gasped softly. “Neither you nor Lady Camilla will change my mind. Or hers. But I’ll introduce you to Oboro first, if you’ll do the same for me, when your secret love comes to take you back to your home.” She turns her head to the side; her eyes are red, when she looks back to the ceiling.

She let her cheek fall against the pillow, regarding Beruka with quiet eyes for a while. “Hey, Beruka…” She said softly. “You won’t tell Lady Camilla any of this? Promise?”

Her hand closed over her friend’s.

A squeeze of her friend’s hand; a deep, slow, dear breath. Fear in her heart? Perhaps.

Perhaps that is her new life? Perhaps the nature of trust, love, friendship; not just the game she has entered? She’d never have thought they’d be more frightening than claiming lives.


“Promise,” Selena replied, softly. Her eyes had grown heavy, but she was somehow unable to sleep.

She sat there, watching her friend in the lamplight, and her friend watching her, feeling a smile build up in her gut until she couldn’t stop it from spreading across her face as well. And when it did, she was rewarded with the taciturn, but relatively unguarded response of Beruka’s as well. At the sight, Selena squeezed a bit firmer around Beruka’s hand.

Before she knew it, however, Beruka’s eyes had slipped closed in sleep. Selena breathed out a sleepy sigh herself, and moved to extract herself…

…only to discover her friend clung to her in her sleep with all the strength (though only half the limbs) of some sort of overlarge and shockingly possessive crab.

So, duly trapped, Selena rolled onto her back with a sigh that morphed into a shallow yelp as she realized she’d never finished putting on her own ointment.

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