The Wedding Dress
Lell comes home early and discovers Serynth's secret.
The key scratched in the lock, a soft click indicating that the door was open. Lell stepped inside and closed the door behind her, set her bag down and stretched.
Mahoyaya was tutoring some friends in the art of the sword and wouldn't be home until late. Serynth had wanted to help her, but had been forced to go to some surprise hospital meeting instead - probably one that would last a while. And Ajido was out at the Optistery, busy with some "very important state business" and "not to be disturbed on pain of death" - meaning he was probably in the middle of a good book and wanted to finish it. Rosie was safe in Apururu's care for the night, with Hakkuru and Kuroido "helping".
Lell, having come home early, had the house to herself for a few hours.
Lell hummed to herself as she shrugged out of her coat and hung it up on the hook. What to do, what to do... She had some old projects up the attic. Maybe getting those out would be fun. And she could clean up some of the mess in the attic - her spouses would no doubt like that.
But when she got to the attic stairs, she froze. The attic lamps were lit. And she could see a shadow moving around, hear faint footsteps.
It wasn't the first time someone would have gotten into one of her safe spaces, and she felt that old surge of fear. But... she'd changed a lot, too. And she wasn't about to be a victim again.
Fiery energy surged into her palms, making her eyes glow red with the effort of holding it back. She took the stairs slowly, not wanting to alert the intruder to her presence.
But, despite her best efforts, one of the stairs creaked under her foot. The shadow froze.
Its owner was the first one to speak. "Who's there?" Serynth's voice... not an intruder.
Lell's shoulders relaxed, and she let go of the mana she was holding and ran the rest of the way up the stairs, laughing. "Sweet Altana, Ser, you scared the crap out of me! I almost roasted you like a mushroom! I thought you were-"
She came to a sudden stop once she reached the top, not quite sure what she was looking at.
Serynth stood in front of a full-length mirror, wearing a dress she recognized - her old wedding dress, in fact - and had let down his usual ponytail, his blonde hair now resting against his shoulders. In his hands was a bouquet of pink flowers.
"Um... at the hospital," she finished, her voice quieter now as she searched for what to say.
"I'm sorry, I'll put it back right away," Serynth said, his face going bright red. "I know you're angry, but-"
"No, no, wait. Why would you think I'd be angry?" Lell shook her head firmly. "You look cute."
"Lirana always was," Serynth mumbled.
"Your sister?" Lell shook her head. "Never mind. Can I... ask... Um..."
"Can you keep a secret?" Serynth fired back.
"Haven't I always? Of course! You can tell me anything!"
"I haven't really had any hospital meetings lately," Serynth said, tossing the flowers onto a nearby box and turning back to the mirror but staring at the ground. "But when everyone else is out of the house, I... I've been trying things on. Yours and Maho's."
"And you... made up these hospital meetings because you wanted to hide this from us?" Lell said softly.
"I knew you'd be angry if you found out." Serynth's shoulders drooped. "So I hid it, and I lied. I knew you'd only be angrier, but..."
"But you really wanted to do this." Lell drew up alongside Serynth. "How long?"
"Have I wanted to? Since I was a kid. How long have I been doing it? A few weeks. That's all, I swear."
"I see..." Lell rolled this around in her head. "And... Do you call yourself differently?"
"Serara. ... But you can keep calling me Ser."
"And Serara is..."
"A woman." Serara's voice had a defensive edge to it, waiting for Lell's argument.
"Okay." Lell put a hand on Serara's shoulder.
"Please don't tell anyone else yet," Serara mumbled. "I'm not... ready for it."
"Of course," Lell whispered. "I'll keep your secret. It's yours to tell."
A silence thick with unspoken questions and answers filled the attic.
"Say something to break the tension," Serara pleaded.
Lell thought for a moment. "So... Does this mean you're going to start groping and harassing yourself, or..."
No response. Lell looked over to find her wife's eyes welling up with tears, but a smile on her face. Serara choked out a mix between a laugh and a sob. "That... that'll do it..."
Lell laughed, taking her into as crushing a hug as Lell's spindly black mage arms could manage. "What am I saying, start groping yourself..."
Serara returned the hug with just as much enthusiasm, dripping onto Lell's shoulder. "Yeah, yeah, laugh it up..."
Lell pulled back, whipping out a handkerchief and wiping Serara's face. "I'm full of questions. But for now, all I want to ask is... Can I braid your hair? I think that dress would look even better with a nice braid... maybe across the bangs and down..."
Serara managed another laugh-sob. "Uh... Yeah... Please... I never did figure out how to do it..."
Lell clapped her hands, her mind wandering. "Ahhh! And I just got some new patterns in from the clothcrafting guild... There's this one that would be absolutely perfect on you..." She hesitated. "Is this too much? I can slow down..."
"I married you because you're too much," Serara said. "Never slow down, okay?"
"And now... The ceremonial carrying of the bride across the threshold..."
Lell hummed Eternal Oath bombastically as she slowly approached the back door, her wife in her arms. She had been right - the braid had looked beautiful on Serara.
"Well, this is a surprise."
Lell nearly dropped Serara, her head whipping around. "Ajido! Why... Why are you...?"
"I finished up my important state business early," Ajido said, pushing his glasses up his nose. "And I always use the back door, for privacy."
"I can explain," Lell said hastily, her mind racing. Think... She had to come up with some excuse to protect Serara...
"No explanation needed," Ajido said. "Now that I get closer, I can see that you're using Tractor to lift..."
"Her," Serara said timidly.
"Her." Ajido nodded. "Carry on. I'm sorry to have interrupted."
Lell's eyebrows went down, her relief temporarily masked. "You were making a joke about my arms?!"
"Not a joke. Just an observation." Ajido leaned in, kissing both his wives. "You couldn't possibly lift her unassisted with her cookie habit."
This time Lell really did drop Serara. "Have you ever known how to read a room?! You scared us both! I ought to light your butt on fire for that!"
Ajido shrugged. "I don't see why this should be a big deal. But perhaps we can discuss it?"
From the other side of the house, the front door opened and Mahoyaya's honey-sweet voice rang out. "I'm home, sweethearts~! My students did so well today, I let them go home early!"
"... As a family?" Ajido finished.
Lell's shoulders sank, and she offered a hand to the fallen Serara. "Are you ready for this? I can stall her while you change if you want me to..."
"No... I think it's going to be okay," Serara said, taking Lell's hand and getting to her feet with a smile. "Besides, she has to see the gorgeous braid you did for me..."