Titania breezed in and kissed Oberon on the cheek. "We’re having people for dinner this weekend, dear."
"Mm," he said, without taking his eyes from the scissors he was sharpening. "Which people?"
Titania sighed. "Oberon, why are you still playing with that? Yes, you can touch iron now. So can I. It’s wonderful. Get over it."
He took the scissors away from the grindstone and blew on the new edge. "Unlike most of the human tasks I’ve tried to do, I’m good at this." Finally he looked up, smiling, as he touched his work carefully. "Ah. Perfect."
"We’re having Hermia and Lysander for dinner," she said. "And also for a change we’re including Helena and Demetrius this time."
Oberon stiffened, and cut himself. "Why? Why do we have to have them?" he snapped as he sucked on his finger. "You don’t like them. I don’t like them. Nobody likes them. They’re too much trouble."
She heaved a sigh. "They wouldn’t be trouble if you could just behave yourself when they come around! Last time you set fire to Helena’s skirt, do you remember that?"
He hunted around for something to tie over his cut, and didn’t look at her. "That… was an accident."
"I didn’t even know we could set fires by thinking about it anymore. That’s a dangerous talent."
"I said I didn’t mean to."
"I know." She had forgiven him for that weeks ago, and so she smiled and bent to kiss the top of his head. "You’re trying your best with all the human things, I know that. So am I." She rubbed his shoulders a moment and kissed him again. "Just look on the bright side: now you get to sharpen all our steak knives, so the guests have something to eat with."
He sniffed. "I already did the knives, that was one of my first projects." He shrugged her off. "At least… I did four of them. For us, and our friends. We only have four chairs, too. So there’s no reason to have those other two over at all."
Her patience vanished abruptly in the face of his childish whining. "Oberon! We are having everybody for dinner and that’s final!" He bristled and then gave up, turning to stare out the window without one more word in her direction.
She tried to feel satisfied. But without the shouting match and slinging of magic spells that used to characterize their arguments, the victory felt a little hollow. So she stalked out of the room without another word either.
Oberon watched his wife flounce away to the bedroom, emitting annoyed hisses the whole way. She banged the door shut behind her. She had probably gone to go sit in front of the mirror and primp for a while – it seemed to be her latest cure for bad moods.
Oberon had no problem with it. It was better when she smiled than when she threw tantrums, and besides, after she finished touchups on her hair and makeup she was just that much more pleasant to look at.
But the door flew open again not ten seconds later. "Oberon, did you sharpen my hairbrush?"
He stared at her stupidly. She was clutching her hand to her chest, glaring…
"Sorry," he said after a moment.
"My hairbrush?! Why on earth would you ever sharpen a hairbrush?"
"Because… I-…" Why? Good question. Because it looked to be sort of the right shape for sharpening, that’s why, and he’d been bored, and grinding things was fun, and after he’d blown through the shovels and razors and kitchen utensils there didn’t seem to be many other sharpenable surfaces left in the house.
But that was ridiculous. It made no sense, and it was stupid. So… why had he really done it? "I don’t know why!" he exploded. "Why don’t you tell me? You’re the one who decided to magick away half my brain! And then you get impatient with me when I’m stupid? How is that fair?"
"Magick away…" she stared at him, amazed. He was furious. In all the time they had been human, she hadn’t seen him lose his temper this way.
But he subsided almost at once. "Titania, I’m sorry," he said quickly, dropping his scissors to the floor as he rose. (They landed point-first, stuck in the wood and quivered there. He really is good with a grindstone, she thought, and resolved to find him a less dangerous hobby.) "I won’t fight, but please: don’t make me see Demetrius – he makes me ill."
"Ill? Really, Oberon. He’s a little silly, but-"
"How would you like to see him stumbling around with that blank adoring look on his face, and think: I look like that too. It’s awful."
"I promise you, you don’t look nearly as blank or as adoring as Demetrius."
He stared like he could hardly believe what he was hearing. "How can you…?"
"Oh, lighten up. He was blank to begin with. At least he’s happy now."
That was even worse. "Titania."
"Don’t make me remind you that you were happy with that, that creature that Puck created for you. Don’t you remember?"
"That?" she almost shrieked. "How could you bring that up? That is not the same!"
"It is exactly the same."
"It is not! That, that thing was a monstrosity, you had me fall in love with an abomination! That’s nothing like what we did for Demetrius – we gave him a happy marriage, he would never have managed it on his own!"
He snorted. "So, if I’d used that flower to make you my slave instead of that creature’s… if I’d won us a happy marriage with it at your expense, instead of my own… you’d accept that?" He was getting more and more agitated as he ranted. "If I took away your choices, took away half of who you are, and made you believe- OH!!" The curtains had burst into flame with the force of his feelings.
He had to take a break from arguing in order to leap up and put out the fire.
When he was done, he noticed that Titania had begun to cry, noisily. "You hate me," she wheezed between sobs. "I gave up my powers and my k-k-kingdom to make a life with you, but you don’t want it! You w-want to get away from me."
"I… I didn’t say that," he said uncertainly. "Please don’t cry. You know I didn’t mean to hurt you." Then, with a soft bitter laugh: "You know I can’t."
She tried to make her voice steady. "If you were free right now, Oberon… would you leave me?"
"I don’t know," he said, and then took her in his arms when the tears started again. "But I’m not. You don’t have to worry about it, I’m not going anywhere. Please stop – you know it kills me to see you cry."
"Oberon, let go of me." She shrugged him off and said to the wall: "You are free."
He thought he must have misheard her.
"Hello? I said you’re free. Now go! Get out of my sight and don’t come back; you’ve broken my heart and I never again want to see you or hear you or even think your name. Leave."
Hearing Titania cry was usually a torture, but right now, all of a sudden her pain was a very distant second on his priority list. Freedom! So close he could taste it. "It’s... it’s not that simple, Titania, you can’t just tell me you release me," he said gently, not wanting to accidentally anger her somehow. "You need a spell, and the powder of a special-"
"-Of a special star that only rises once a year etcetera etcetera etcetera," she spat, over him. "Yes, you nitwit, I know. I sprinkled you with it two nights after I married you. You’re free; you’ve been free. Now leave!" She started crying again.
Three hours later, Oberon was still apologizing and begging to be taken back.
He had started to consider rugmaking as an alternate human hobby – at this rate he would be groveling well into the next millennium, and he would prefer not to do it on a hard wooden floor. His knees were already getting sore.
"Listen to me, please listen. I swear I didn’t mean to hurt you. I love you."
"Oh? A minute ago you couldn’t wait to get away from me!"
"Titania, that’s not what I meant, you know that’s not what I meant…"
"No!" She swept away to the far side of the room (for the fifteenth time). "Nothing you say can possibly change my mind – I never want to see you again! You’ve destroyed my happiness and all that’s left in my heart is ash!"
He scrambled across the floor to her (for the fifteenth time), grabbed her hand and kissed it. "The most beautiful foliage grows from the ash after a terrible fire," he murmured against her wrist.
She shivered and snatched it away – he was getting to her.
So he went for the hem of her dress and kissed that instead. "Titania please, you’re my wife, you’re my life, you’re all I have ever wanted, you can’t turn me away. I’ll die if you turn me away!"
She drew herself up and turned her back on him, sniffling. "You have turned me away, Oberon. You’ve made your choice! We are through."
He crawled around quickly to prostrate himself in front of her again, and then noticed that his newly-sharpened scissors were still standing up in the floor. He grabbed them and held the point to his throat. "Then there’s nothing left for me – and I’ll end myself right here!" he raved. "I mean it! I love you! And I can’t live without you – I won’t!"
At that, she forgot all about looking cold and regal. "Oberon!" she shrieked, and dove at him. They tumbled over and over each other across the floor, wrestling over the scissors.
"Stop, stop it, are you mad?!" she screeched.
"Let go, let go of me, let me do it!" he screeched back, just as wild and twice as loud.
Without magic it took longer than usual, but she eventually managed to fight him to a standstill and contain him and hug him tight.
She held his head to her chest and pet his hair frantically. "Don’t, you can’t, Oberon darling remember we don’t heal from that kind of thing anymore!" She shook him like a rag doll, then changed her mind and started petting him again. "Sweetheart, this time you could have been killed! Oh, Oberon, no!"
He sighed and went limp against her. This was even better proof than the screaming and spellcasting they usually did: she loved him and wanted him and would be devastated if he left her. All was right with the world.
Eventually, when the crying had died down on both sides, Oberon nuzzled into her and said, hoarsely after all the shouting: "I can hear your heart. It was racing."
"It was racing for you, you silly idiot. You could have hurt yourself."
"No. If you left me, then the blade would have been a mercy. But if we’re together, everything is all right."
She was rubbing the back of his neck, soothing him. "Oberon, you are an idiot. We’ve been together all along."
"No. It will be different now. Now we’re equals." He finally pulled away, so that he could look at her. He brushed her hair back and stroked the tears off her cheeks. "Now, if I kneel at your feet it’s because I want to, because you’re so beautiful that it literally floors me. Do you see how wonderful that is?"
"Mm." She made a face. "There is one thing I need to point out, Oberon: now you see that I didn’t magick away half your brain. Do you realize what that means?"
He held out his arms to her. "It means you truly do love me, exactly as I am, just as completely as I love you even if I couldn't admit it. It means-"
She made an even worse face and shooed his hands away. "No, it means you decided to sharpen my hairbrush all on your own."
His jaw dropped but he couldn’t think of any answer at all.
"I’m taking away the grindstone."
The End. Sorry for any typos and/or continuity issues; this story made a pretty fast journey from muse to brain to keyboard. Hope you enjoyed!