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After the War

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She remembered being in darkness again, and cold. She’d faced something like this not too long ago, after another huge battle. What was it...? She could not remember. But she did remember the voice then—

 

(“...So, please. Live for me.”)

 

—but he was not here now. Where did he go? She hoped he was okay. Even more, she hoped to at least have his hand hold hers one last time. His hand always felt so nice.

 

She tried lifting her eyelids, tried to speak, but couldn’t. Her body felt too heavy all over, with aches and pains. I’m so very tired. So tired...

 

“I’ll be damned. You actually did it.”

 

...Wait. Her brow furrowed. Who is this?

 

“I’m grateful, don’t get me wrong,” the voice said, cold and hard—but not as much as it could be. “But I don’t know what else to do now...”

 

Who are you?

 

“Still, looks like I owe you one anyway, goddess. Don’t ever say I didn’t do anything for you and that shithead.”

 

Before she could try turning towards the voice, a pair of cool fingers brushed against her forehead

 

 

.......

 

......

 

......

 

..............

 

 

The day after Britannia was saved from the Ten Commandments, Elizabeth woke up feeling like she’d been run over by a huge boulder.

 

It was a slow thing, her waking. She still felt an odd mix of exhaustion and the cathartic sensation of a well deserved rest. A part of Elizabeth wanted to drift back to sleep, back to the strange dream that was fading from her mind’s eye. Something that involved a sunset over an ocean, and a warm hand squeezing her own; maybe even flying. One of those strange dreams.

 

Finally, after a moment or so reveling in the soft bed, she groaned softly and slowly sat up, only to feel a pang shoot through her skull. Cringing, Elizabeth placed a hand on her forehead.

 

What happened last night? Then, opening her eyes a sliver, she wondered, What happened...?

 

Elizabeth remembered speaking with Diane about something, something involving Meliodas. She remembered trying to broach the subject with him, only for Meliodas to rebuff her with an aloof comment. She remembered being called to help Merlin, and then—nothing.

 

“What happened?” Elizabeth asked herself.

 

Then she opened her eyes wider and finally looked around the room. The bedroom was empty, not even showing a hint of Meliodas sleeping beside her. As she listened, Elizabeth became aware of the overwhelmingly eerie silence in the Boar Hat. No laughter downstairs, no yelling from Diane, and no call for her name. Not even any squeals or greetings from Hawk. The Boar Hat was silent, very much like a morgue.

 

Elizabeth shuddered—and then shook her head.

 

“N-no need to think like that,” she said, lightly smacking her face. “Nothing’s wrong. Everyone’s fine.”

 

Hopefully.

 

Again, she shuddered. Something definitely felt off, but what? What?

 

Elizabeth frowned. Well, I’m not going to figure it out lying here.

 

With a firm nod, she turned and placed her feet on the floor. Even without standing, she felt an odd wobble in her legs—like she hadn’t used them in some time—so she decided to move carefully in standing up. Once she felt able, Elizabeth cautiously made her way to the bathroom to wash up.

 

She was washing her face when  she saw it.

 

At first, Elizabeth was certain she was still on the cusp of waking. She narrowed her eyes and almost glared at her reflection, her mouth pursed together. Because there was absolutely, positively no possible way that she was seeing what she was—

 

...What. Elizabeth gaped and jumped back, now feeling very awake. WHAT THE—

 

Because she was seeing it, what had happened to her eyes; both of them. They were both blue again, but carrying a silver-ish pupil that was jagged, much like a rune. Elizabeth blinked wide eyes, including a new eye that did not look human anymore, and approached the mirror and sink again. She took one more close look and swallowed, her hands clenching around the porcelain.

 

“What is this...?” Elizabeth asked, tightening her grip. “How did this even—?”

 

She jumped at the sound of something cracking like glass, and falling to the floor. When she looked down, she found violent looking cracks going through the sink, starting from where her hands were; a small block of the sink fell to the floor and shattered, along with a few chipped pieces.

 

Elizabeth jumped back, one foot out of the washroom, gaping at the cracked sink and the pieces that fell. Then she looked at her hands. She hadn’t held on that tightly, had she? She clenched her hands, but didn’t feel the sting of the shards. What was going on?

After dusting herself off, Elizabeth slowly exited the washroom, feeling unsteady from her gut, and not just because of what had just happened. No one had come to see her yet, not even Meliodas. There was something unsettling about that, something she couldn’t name just yet. Elizabeth lingered on the feeling for a moment more before swallowing it down and taking a breath. She was being ridiculous. All she had to do was go downstairs and find her friends. Maybe they might be able to help—

 

Someone spoke softly in question before slowly opening the door. Elizabeth turned to face them and found herself pinned by molten gold eyes.

 

Merlin froze in the doorway, her gold eyes widening a fraction. She stared at Elizabeth for more than a beat, silent and her expression almost vacant. Like she had gone somewhere else, like she couldn’t believe what was in front of her. The gaze made something in Elizabeth tremble.

 

And then, Merlin spoke: “Elizabeth...do you know who I am?”

 

Elizabeth kept their gazes locked. And then, she smiled.

 

“Of course I do, Lady Merlin,” she said, feeling her shoulders sag with something like relief, despite the odd question. “You’re the Boar Sin of Gluttony, and the most powerful sorceress in all of Britannia. I could never forget you.”

 

Merlin waited before smiling back, a tired smile that was small but not sad; her eyes were gleaming as she spoke, “I know you wouldn’t.”

 

She paused to narrow her eyes at Elizabeth. In two strides, Merlin was standing right in front of her and nearly glaring into Elizabeth’s eyes. She leaned forward, almost looming; Elizabeth swallowed under the gaze and leaned back a little.

 

“U-uh, Lady Merlin…?”

 

After a moment, Merlin said softly, “Your eyes. They are…”

 

“Oh, right! I was actually about to go down and talk to you all about this—and well, the other thing.” Elizabeth chuckled, sheepishly rubbing the back of her neck as she glanced at the washroom. Then she looked back at Merlin, her expression brightening. “Speaking of, where is everyone? I haven’t heard from them at all since I woke up.”

 

“Everyone’s outside. Last night had been...well, rough,” Merlin said vaguely before turning the focus back to, “Elizabeth, did you wake up with both of your eyes like this?”

 

Elizabeth nodded.

 

“And you don’t remember anything...strange, correct?”

 

“Strange…?”

 

“Anything out of place,” Merlin elaborated. “Perhaps a mix of two events…?”

 

“U-um, no? No, I don’t think so,” Elizabeth said, growing more concerned by the minute. “Why do you ask?”

 

Merlin paused, her eyes going narrow. She curled a hand under her chin and looked off to the side. Elizabeth watched as she seemed to get lost in thought, swallowing nervously. Finally, Merlin nodded.

 

“The Captain will want to know about this,” she said as an afterthought; and then she smiled at Elizabeth. “They all will, actually. I think seeing you...seeing you will certainly raise their spirits.”

 

Blue eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Raise their spirits”?

 

“Let me go down first, however; this will be quite a shock.”

 

“...O-okay.”

 

Though very confused, Elizabeth didn’t protest as Merlin turned and walked out of the room. She wanted to get dressed anyway. And maybe wash my hair, she thought with cringe, her hand tangling in oily locks. Now that she thought about it, she did feel a light sheen of grime along her skin, along with a sour taste in her mouth that came from a lack of brushing. When was the last time she bathed? Elizabeth shuddered in thought, but then shook her head. Best not to think about it.

 

After a thorough shower and brushing of her teeth (which had been done in said shower, for obvious reasons), Elizabeth dressed in a soft blue gown and combed her hair. She looked in the mirror and contemplated whether she should brush her bangs over her left eye, like always, before snorting. Was there any point anymore? Elizabeth frowned a bit at her reflection in the armoire mirror, focusing on her eyes. What does any of this mean?

 

Elizabeth promptly shook it off and decided to just clip back the sides of her hair, her bangs combed to the front to show off her new (but also sort of not) eyes. Besides, maybe Merlin and the other Sins will be able to explain exactly what and was still happening to her. Feeling more reassured, Elizabeth combed through her finished hair and nodded to herself. Then, she walked out of the bedroom and headed for the stairs.

 

Once downstairs, Elizabeth paused. The tavern was empty, but left a mess. Along with some scraps left on the floor, there were several mugs turned on their sides, still smelling of ale. Some bottles of ale and other liquors had been left lying around, like the Boar Hat had just closed. Elizabeth felt something inside her twist. The Boar Hat hadn’t even been this sloppy before she’d stumbled inside all that time ago. Or at least Meliodas and Hawk wouldn’t have let it stay like that for long.

Where are they? She narrowed her eyes and looked around, only to stop when she saw something outside. A hint of something pink, and the mark of a clover, and slow movements along the porch. Hawk!

 

Smiling, Elizabeth walked towards door leading outside the tavern. The closer she stepped, the more she heard the voices of her friends. And the more she recognized them, the louder their voices became, even through the closed door. When she opened the door, she saw that all the Sins were outside, looking drained but clamoring around a calm Merlin. Meliodas was standing in front of her, his hands clenched tightly at his sides, and his teeth bared.

 

“—Merlin, just let me go up there!”

 

“Not until you calm down, Captain,” Merlin said, blocking Meliodas. “And promise not to...freak out.”

 

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?!” Diane shouted.

 

“Just trust me.”

 

“Yeah, okay, like we’re just gonna go by that, witch,” Ban scoffed.

 

Escanor spoke up, a chill in his baritone voice, “You watch what you say, Ban...”

 

Make me.”

 

Elizabeth watched the heated exchange, frozen in shock. Not because the Sins were arguing amongst themselves, but because of how they looked. Bruises, wounds poorly patched up, their armor cracked and torn apart, hair ragged, and heavy bags under their reddened eyes. Even those who didn’t join—a very silent, almost catatonic Hawk; a morose Elaine; and a very wounded, tired Arthur (When did he get here?)—they all looked like they went through hell. Like they had just come from a battle, one that chewed them all to mush, swallowed them, only to spit them back out. But what…?

 

Wait...

 

“Oh, no,” she worried out loud, her eyes going wide. “I didn’t sleep through the final fight, did I?”

 

Everyone froze in place in their arguing with Merlin (and each other). Diane was the first to slowly turn to face Elizabeth as she stood in the doorway; Hawk quickly followed, snapping his snout forward so fast, it must have hurt. Then Ban, and King; and Arthur and Escanor, and Gowther. They all stared at Elizabeth, their wide-eyed gazes so piercing that it made her stomach churn. Only Merlin smiled at her.

 

Meliodas was the only one who didn’t move, who didn’t look her way. Somehow, this made her feel worse.

 

She slowly slid her gaze to each of her friends, often meeting with wide eyes and gaping mouths. They were still looking at her like...like that. Like she wasn’t real.

 

Still, she put on a shy smile and lifted her hand to wave. “Um, h-hi?”

 

Nothing.

 

“So, um, I’m guessing I missed a lot?” Elizabeth started slowly walking forward, in the careful way one would approach a wounded animal. “I must have slept a lot longer than I thought. I’m really sorry about that. But um, did something happen? Did we win?”

 

She froze when she heard a choked whimper and darted her gaze to Hawk. Hawk stared at her with eyes full of tears. He sniffled a little more, looking like he was trying to stop the tears flowing down his cheeks. A small sob followed after, making Elizabeth cut a look at Diane, who was covering her mouth to muffle her cries.

 

“Elizabeth?” Hawk said, slowly approaching her. “Is that...is that really you?”

 

Elizabeth blinked, then briefly shifted her gaze back and forth, feeling very awkward. “Um, yes? I’m pretty sure I’m me. A-am I not supposed to be...?”

 

Diane gave one last choke before removing her hands, revealing a watery grin. Hawk sniffled and smiled, his tears now flowing freely, and then leaped forward to tackle Elizabeth.

 

“Ah, Hawk!” She said, catching him and staying on her feet despite his size. Elizabeth embraced the pig as he sobbed and went to her knees to better stroke his back. “Hawk, what is it?”

 

Elizabeth!” He kept crying. “Thank god…!”

 

“What…? AH!”

 

Elizabeth felt two familiar arms wrap around her and hug her close. Diane laughed tearfully in her ear and spun her and Hawk around, making Elizabeth let out a scream. Hawk laughed, still too caught in...whatever he was feeling to care.

 

And, as Elizabeth landed back on her feet (confused and dizzy), it was like a dam broke.

 

Elaine finally hiccuped on a sob, a sound that quickly became a watery giggle that left her nearly breathless. Ban grinned wide and lifted Elaine up in his joy, joining in her laughter. King let out a long, deep sigh and rolled his gleaming eyes upward, almost into Helbram’s helmet. Escanor let out a joyful cry and hugged a grinning Arthur, who immediately winced, but still held some joy in his eyes.

 

Still holding Elaine, Ban made his way to Elizabeth and patted her on the back, a little too firmly, “Way to make a comeback, princess!”

 

“...A comeback?” Elizabeth asked, taken aback, then yelped as Diane nearly tackled her again from behind. “Diane…!”

 

In the background, Elizabeth heard Escanor declare, “I-it’s a miracle!”

 

“So it would seem,” Gowther said softly, almost an afterthought.

 

Elizabeth gaped at her friends as they surrounded her, her blue eyes wide as she was lifted up again. “W-w-will someone please tell me what’s wrong?!”

 

“Nothing!” Diane giggled.

 

“Absolutely nothing!” Hawk added.

 

“And it’s so wonderful,” they cried out in unison.

 

...Okay, so this basically tells me nothing. Elizabeth’s expression went flat, her mouth set into a frown. Finally, she shut her eyes and opened her mouth.

“Listen, I’m glad everyone’s happy and everything, but that’s enough!” She shouted, jostling Diane to stop and look at her. Hawk also looked up at her. Elizabeth shot them a look before looking at everyone else. “Can you please tell me why you’re all acting so strange?”

 

Everyone blinked and shared a look. King coughed into his hand and then said, “Lady Elizabeth...do you not remember?”

 

Elizabeth quirked a brow. “Remember what?”

 

They pressed their mouths together and looked conflicted—except Merlin, who looked certain enough that she’d drawn her own conclusions, like always—as if they had something to hide. Elizabeth stepped back from them, frowning. What was their problem?

 

Hang on, she wondered, narrowing her eyes.

 

“Wait, did something happen?”

 

Everyone, except Merlin and Gowther, did a very visible cringe. They all shared a wide-eyed look, the sort that bespoke a secret they were afraid of revealing—something Elizabeth found a little disturbing, considering how weary they all looked. Hawk hid his face into her stomach, lowly whimpering and dampening her gown with tears.

 

Elizabeth felt her stomach twist, and decided to draw conclusions herself. Not because she was particularly bothered by her friends keeping secrets from her—it was irritating of course, but if the reasons were good, she would understand their trepidation—and so, Elizabeth reflected on how everyone’s been acting. How they have reacted to her waking, how they’ve been looking at her...like she wasn’t supposed to be there.

 

She went pale.

 

“...Did something happen to me?”

 

A pause. Then, Merlin spoke up, “Yes.”

 

Elizabeth slid her gaze to her, licking her mouth nervously. “S-something bad…?”

 

Merlin blinked somber gold eyes, and then she nodded.

 

She didn’t realize she was swaying until Diane held her by the shoulder. Merlin waved her hand and muttered a word, and before Elizabeth could register it all, she was gently guided onto the seat of a chair. She leaned her forearms on her lap, taking in deep breaths, dully aware of the panicked voices and expressions around her over the pounding of her heart. The only comfort she could register was Diane’s hand gently stroking her back. Elizabeth didn’t truly understand why she felt this anxiety prickling under her skin. Technically, she didn’t know what happened to her. But the terrible truth was there, bubbling under the surface, brewing all sorts of chaotic questions inside her brain.

 

For example: Am I supposed to be here?

“Elizabeth, look at me.”

 

She picked up her head and saw Hawk staring at her, his gaze firm. He snorted in thought, but stepped forward, determined.

 

“It’s been...a rough few days. I don’t know how much we can tell you about it, let alone about what happened last night,” he said solemnly, before smiling wide. “But regardless of it all, you are still you. And you are still here.”

 

Elizabeth stared at Hawk a beat, then looked up at Diane, who nodded. After a beat, one in which Elizabeth took a few more deep breaths and focused on Hawk’s words. Not to say that whatever had happened to her wasn’t important, quite the opposite; but it was probably best to focus on the good, for now—one being that Elizabeth was indeed still here. No matter how confusing life would be from now on, at least she had that. All the other answers will come, with time.

 

Feeling a little easier, she stroked Hawk’s head and squeezed one of Diane’s hands before standing up. She turned to the rest of the Sins and Arthur, and smiled wider.

 

“Hey, wait a minute,” Ban spoke up, squinting. “Your eyes are still all…”

 

“Oh, right!” Elizabeth said. She looked down at her hands and contemplated. Should she tell them about this morning, with the sink…? It felt important to talk about. Maybe with Lady Merlin…

 

“What do you think, Cap—Cap’n?”

 

It was then that everyone realized that, somewhere in the middle of the conversation, Meliodas had walked away from them.

 

Ban scowled and turned to look at the forest around the Boar Hat, while King floated high above and also searched. King’s eyes narrowed when he saw a rustle from the trees, as well as sensed a familiar power signature.

 

Correction: Meliodas hadn’t walked away—

 

“He’s running,” King muttered.

 

“What? Why?!” Ban said, then gestured to Elizabeth. “She’s still alive. Shouldn’t he be happier than any of us? Why run?”

 

Elaine rested a hand on his arm, her gaze soft. “Considering what we know, it’s probably still a shock.”

 

“Yeah, I get that, but—”

 

Frowning deeply, Elizabeth stepped forward until she landed under King’s feet. She glowered out at the woods surrounding the Boar Hat and clenched her hands at her sides. It wasn’t that she was angry, necessarily. Knowing him long enough, Elizabeth understood that Meliodas had more sides to him beyond his aloof shield. She knew that if he was able, he’d avoid showing vulnerability to anyone, even and sometimes especially her. She understood that, and empathized with that as much as she could, even if she was still left confused about something she knew he could answer.

 

Sir Meliodas!”

 

Doesn’t mean it wasn’t frustrating as hell, though.

 

“You stupid, stupid demon,” she yelled loudly enough to echo through the valley, stomping her left foot. “Stop running away from me!”

 

And with a speed that cracked through the air, Elizabeth chased after him—leaving behind a breeze that nearly knocked even Ban back and a streak of blown back grass.

 

While Merlin and Gowther blinked wide eyes after her, everyone else gaped at the spot she’d been in.

 

“Did she just…?” King started.

 

“No way,” Diane murmured. “What…?”

 

“Holy shit,” Ban grinned while holding a shocked Elaine.

 

Escanor just stared, while Arthur turned to the one person who might know. “Merlin?”

 

Everyone turned to look at Merlin. She pressed her lips together, and then shrugged.

 

“Well,” she drawled, “I have one theory…”


Elizabeth had never been a fan of running. Running was tiring at its best, and terrifying at its worst, particularly when running from someone dangerous. And yet, there was something natural in the way her feet glided over the ground, the way the world passed her—no, the way she passed the world—in a blur. It almost felt like flying.

 

When Elizabeth stopped in the middle of the forest, she paused to gauge her surroundings. Had the energy, the life that flowed through everything always felt so...so potent? She had felt something like this after her trial at Istar, but compared to what she felt before, that had been a poor, dull imitation—something she had to struggle for.

 

This, though; it was like all this energy was a physical thing that she could just reach out and touch, perhaps even mold to her bidding. Elizabeth looked around and listened, realizing that she could hear everything. From the pitter-patter of squirrels climbing up trees, the calming brush of wind on greenery, and even the soft crawling of insects—she could hear it all. It was amazing. Beautiful. And…

 

Too much, she cringed, clenching her eyes closed. She cupped her palms over her ears. Way too much!

 

Elizabeth took a breath, a sound that felt as loud as everything else, and tried to search through the sounds. All she needed was something familiar. The sound of booted feet, the sound of soft breathing; maybe even a curse, muttered under breath—

 

B-bmp!

 

Her eyes snapped open wide. Elizabeth tilted her head towards the right, focused on the sounds. The sounds of heartbeats, frantic, maybe panicked; a rhythm echoing through seven hearts.

 

OH-kay, she exhaled a few times, her eyes wide and blinking. We have officially waded from the shores of Beach Weird to fudging BIZARRE Reef.

 

Still, it was the best lead at the moment. Elizabeth can worry about this...this weirdness after talking to Meliodas.

 

But how to sneak up on him? Elizabeth looked around, tapping a finger to her slightly curved lips in thought. Hmm.

 

Her gaze found a tree, but not for previous reasons. Elizabeth looked up in thought, and then nodded in affirmation. She bent down to gather her long skirt, hoist it to above her knees, and tie the hem of her skirt into a knot, making it look shorter than it was. Then, she started climbing.

 

It was hard at first. Hard to get used to the bark biting at her fingers and even through her flats, the wood scratching at her legs, the struggle of pulling her body upward. Elizabeth had not climbed a tree in years, let alone one as thick and strong as this one. She thought she’d long forgotten how.

 

When she finally landed on a thick branch, she crouched on it and found the nearest tree, focused on the closest branch.

 

Elizabeth swallowed nervously, before bracing herself. Go big or go home, right?

 

And with that, she leaped.

 

The landing wasn’t exactly...

 

“W-whoa…!”

 

...perfect.

 

Elizabeth dangled from the branch, her arms wrapped tight around the thick limb. She took one breath, then another; and then lifted her legs to wrap around it also.

“That could have gone better,” she said, and then grunted as she hoisted herself up. Elizabeth wobbled a little but after placing a hand to the tree, she managed to get her footing.

 

Once she was standing upright, Elizabeth paused to look around, to bask in the breeze that brushed her skin, through her hair. Why had she stopped climbing trees again? Was it just because of what happened with Father? Because, as guilty as she still felt, Elizabeth also felt like she’d missed out on something in climbing trees. She couldn’t exactly put her finger on it, but there was just something right about her being up here.

 

After taking in a rather sweet, oaky scent, Elizabeth tentatively stepped over to another branch, and kept going until the next tree was in sight. Feeling a bit more ready, she got in a stance and leaped once more. The landing still ended up being wobbly, and she still had to grab at the bark for support. But it was a start.

 

“Okay,” Elizabeth said with a slight grin. She looked to the next tree and squared her shoulders. “Okay.”

….

 

 

..

 

.

 

Between some more stumbles and new discoveries over her renewed body, it didn’t take long for Elizabeth to find him. From her perch on a nearby tree, Elizabeth could see that Meliodas was sitting on the ground, both legs bent and his back against the bark. He was clenching his hands into the ground on either side of him, his eyes hidden by his bangs. Elizabeth stared at him, feeling her heart clench.

 

She slowly climbed down from her tree, hoping she was as silent as she’d intended. Once she was back on the ground, Elizabeth brushed the dirt from her knees and arms; and then, she slowly approached Meliodas until she was adjacent to him.

 

“Sir Meliodas?”

 

Meliodas flinched, then shakily lifted his hands to curl them at his ears. He set his jaw but would not look at her. Elizabeth stepped to sit in front of him, curling her knees under her. She leaned forward and noted that he was keeping his eyes tightly closed. Her eyes stung. Meliodas had been vulnerable before, but in small pieces, even when briefly shedding tears. She’d never seen him like this, like he was ready to fall apart. Elizabeth quickly decided she didn’t like it.

 

“Meliodas, I’m here,” she said, swallowing hard. “Please, talk to me.”

 

“...”

 

“...Please?”

 

Meliodas clenched his jaw tighter and gave a slight shake of the head. Elizabeth paused, her throat tightening, but was undaunted. She shifted closer to him, slowly, and then lifted one hand over one of the hands covering his ears. She gently stroked her thumb over his skin. Meliodas froze, a strangled sound escaping his closed mouth, but he didn’t pull away.

 

Elizabeth smiled softly. “At least look at me?”

 

He inhaled sharply, then exhaled in a manner that seemed just as painful, but slowly removed his hands. Meliodas opened his eyes and looked up at her. Elizabeth felt her chest tighten further when she finally saw his eyes—so dull and tired but also stunned, terrified. Elizabeth frowned, noting the dark circles forming under his eyes. When had he last slept?

 

“You’re here,” he almost whispered.

 

Elizabeth beamed, hoping that this would help. “In the flesh.”

 

Meliodas slowly reached out to cradle her face, his eyes wide, but vacant. His voice came out raspy as he spoke, “How? Last night, we saw you...I saw you...”

 

He couldn’t finish the sentence, and that made Elizabeth feel that dread again. She hoped she’d understand what happened to her soon, because this mystery was already terrifying for her. She placed her hands over his wrists and gently squeezed.

 

“I...I really don’t know,” she said. “I don’t even remember the past few days.”

 

Meliodas blinked. “You don’t?”

 

“Yeah, it’s like.” Elizabeth bit her lip, pausing to think. “One minute, I was talking with you about...something. I don’t know what, but I think it was important? Then, I’m heading to Merlin to heal her and break a curse from one of the Commandments and then—it’s just a blur after that.”

 

Meliodas stared at her, his wide eyes flashing.

 

“M-Meliodas? A-are you…?”

 

Elizabeth froze when she heard a choked sound, almost a whimper. She stared at Meliodas and felt her chest throb at the tear that started rolling down his cheek, quickly followed by more. And the more that fell, the more whatever mask Meliodas had donned began to crumble. Before she could say anything, Meliodas took in a shuddering breath and practically leaped forward, wrapping his arms around Elizabeth and burying his face in her neck. Though he held her tightly to him, he still gently stroked her back; and then, gritting his teeth, he started to sob.

 

Though stunned, Elizabeth returned the embrace, stroking one hand through his hair and the other at his back. She stared ahead with wide eyes. Even him...even him, she kept thinking, recalling everyone else who’d cried when seeing her.

 

But Meliodas, he was not the sort of person to shatter from anything. Not like this. He was solid as stone, and sometimes just as cold. The few times he’d been so vulnerable around Elizabeth? Nothing, compared to now. Someone had managed to break through his built-high walls and shatter something inside him, something he’d been protecting for a long, long time. And what made it worse was that someone had been her.

 

Elizabeth frowned into his hair, wanting to kick herself. Whatever she’d done to lead to her...getting hurt, to lead to Meliodas and her loved ones being like this, she swore never to do again. (Or at least, she hoped that it had been worth it.)

 

They sat there holding each other until Meliodas’ sobs softened, until he was only breathing shakily into Elizabeth’s neck. Finally, after taking a deep breath, Meliodas pulled away and began rubbing at his eyes. Elizabeth bit her lip and placed a hand on his shoulder.

 

“A-are...are you okay?” She asked.

 

“Yes. No? Very likely no,” he decided with a hollow chuckle. Meliodas paused to look at Elizabeth, and he slowly began to smile. “But I will be.”

 

Elizabeth smiled and nodded. Then she reached out to hug him again, an embrace that Meliodas immediately melted into, turning his head to nuzzle her shoulder. He closed his eyes and sighed deeply, his hands again stroking her back. Then he stiffened.

 

“Elizabeth.”

 

Elizabeth hummed, still smiling with her eyes closed.

 

“How...how did you catch up with me so fast?”

 

She blinked, and then pulled away, her smile sheepish. “Well, um. I kind of just...chased you?”

 

Meliodas stared. “Just you?”

 

Elizabeth nodded.

 

“You didn’t come with...anyone else?”

 

She shook her head, and then said, “I couldn’t wait. You were already so far away when we realized you’d ran, and I didn’t want to risk losing sight of you. So, I ran after you,” Elizabeth finished with a shrug.

 

Meliodas narrowed his eyes, his gaze hard but not angry. “And did you feel...strange?”

 

Elizabeth paused to recall how running had felt, how she’d been feeling all morning. “I did feel strange,” she admitted, lowering her gaze to her hands. “I’ve been feeling strange since I woke up. But it’s a not a bad strange? It just feels…different.”

 

“Different how?”

 

“Like...we might need to replace the bathroom sink different.”

 

“I...what?” Meliodas blinked wide eyes. “Replace the sink…?”

 

Elizabeth chuckled nervously, hunching her shoulders like the action would hide her from him. As she began twiddling her fingers, her goddess eyes peaked out from her silver bangs.

 

“I kind of, um, broke it? I’m so, so sorry,” she added, bowing her head. “I didn’t even mean to, but I just...”

 

Pouting in confusion, Elizabeth lifted her hands and mimicked the movement of her squeezing around the sink. She gave Meliodas a look, but he was staring at her hands. He narrowed his eyes once more, this time in deep thought.

 

Finally, Meliodas spoke, “Elizabeth, I need you to try something.”

 

She blinked. “O-okay. Um, what is it?”

 

“Put your hand to the grass, right here,” he paused to point at a patch of grass next to them, “and make flowers grow.”

 

Elizabeth frowned and leaned back, her brow furrowing. Was he seriously asking her to relive her failure at Istar? Her growth of flowers during the battle with Hendrickson had been one thing; she hadn’t even been conscious of what she did. It had been a fluke, at best. To repeat that again? Elizabeth was certain it wouldn’t work. She couldn’t even grow one sunflower under Zaneli’s teaching. So, what is he—?

 

Meliodas caught her look, and gave her a reassuring smile. “I know what you’re thinking, but trust me. If I’m right about this, you won’t fail.”

 

“...Okay,” she drawled doubtfully, and then closed her eyes. Elizabeth moved to tangle her fingers in the grass, extending her power to the earth.

 

At first, she felt nothing but the foliage, but then, then...warmth. Something sparking just beneath the surface, not exactly like lightning, but an energy all the same. Life, Elizabeth realized. She felt the life of everything growing, or wanting to grow from the soil. Being so caught in the warmth surrounding her, Elizabeth dug her fingers further into the dirt, wanting to, to—

 

“Holy. Shit,” Meliodas murmured, before placing a hand over the one in the dirt. “Okay, that’s enough.”

 

“Huh, why—?” Elizabeth opened her eyes and gasped. Because all around her and Meliodas, from the grass to the bark of trees, were brightly colored, newly grown flowers that spread almost all over the forest. And along with those flowers, carried the remnants of a magic that glowed from her very own fingers. Elizabeth stared at her hands as the glow faded and clenched them. I did that. I actually did that.

 

She looked at Meliodas, who was standing up and looking around. His gaze held some shock, with a tinge of something like...reverence? Elizabeth blushed. No way...I’m just imagining things.

 

Meliodas finally smiled and looked back at her, his green eyes gleaming with newfound mirth.

 

“C’mon, let’s go back and talk to Merlin. She’s gonna need to see this for herself.” Meliodas offered Elizabeth a hand and winked. “I’ll even race you there. Since you can finally catch up, and all.”

 

Elizabeth stared up at him a moment, and then beamed. She grabbed his hand and stood up. And as their gazes locked, Elizabeth felt that for the first time, they were truly seeing each other eye to eye.