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But The Greatest Is Love

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It was anticlimactic in the end.

The glamours. The dancing. The song that became a spell. Sabrina Spellman declared victory, Ambrose rolled the acheron, and Lucifer Morningstar dissolved into it.

She approached the blue-green contraption apprehensively. She picked it up with delicate hands, expecting it to be different. Hotter, perhaps, or maybe vibrating with evil power. It felt the same. It was still cool to the touch, wasn’t even heavier than it had been just minutes earlier.

A full minute passed in silence as they all waited, eyes on the acheron, expecting something. Anything. Nothing had gone according to plan. It was too good to be true that the acheron configuration had worked and now contained Satan in a prison strong enough to hold him and save the world.

A second minute passed before someone dared to break the silence.

“Well planned, Spellman,” Nicholas Scratch said.

“Yes,” Zelda agreed, “Edward would be proud.”

Sabrina turned to Lilith.

“What happens now?” she asked

“You give me my crown,” she answered with a satisfied smirk. “And I take that contraption into the deepest depths of Hell.” She took a couple of steps towards Sabrina.

“Wait,” Sabrina ordered. Lilith raised an eyebrow, but stopped her progression. She understood why the girl didn’t trust her, but she was genuine in her intentions. “How do we know you won’t release him the moment you the gates close behind you?”

“The Dark Lord has misled me for centuries,” Lilith said with such malice it couldn’t be faked. “I’m taking what is rightfully mine – the kingdom of Hell – and giving him what he deserves. Eternal life in the very pit he created for those that betrayed him.”

“Don’t make me regret trusting you.” Sabrina passed Lilith the archeron, noted how she held it tight, as though she were afraid it would get away. She took the heavy crown from her head, glad to be rid of it. Lilith stooped for her to place it on her own head. “All hail Lilith,” Sabrina said in a monotone. “Queen of Hell.”

Lilith smirked, liking how that sounded.

“Before I go…”

She passed the acheron back to Sabrina and placed her hands on the young witch’s face. She kissed her forehead. Sabrina gasped as what felt like both electricity and ice coursed through her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Nick step forward, ready to intervene, concern etched on his face. There was no need.

“My powers,” she said, realizing the buzz throughout her body was essentially her essence restored. “Thank you, Lilith.”

“You are a witch like no other,” Lilith replied. “Use your powers justly, Ms. Spellman.”

The group followed her to the gates of Hell. It was never said, but they each wanted to make sure Lilith went through them – and took the Dark Lord with her.

“Lilith?” Sabrina stopped her just before she walked into Hell. “Just so you know, if you let him escape, I will end you.”

It was a promise, delivered in Sabrina’s sure way that left no room for argument.

“There will be no need for that,” Lilith promised.

With that, she turned on her heel and walked into Hell, the acheron in her hands, the crown on her head. The gates closed behind her as the sound of wild cheering made its way to their ears as the residents of the underworld welcomed their new queen.

“I suppose we should go home,” Hilda said after a moment, “check on everyone.”

The group walked through the mines and surfaced in the cool night air. In spite of their victory, the mood was somber. There was little left of their coven. The Church of Night was no more. Father Blackwood was on the run, wild and dangerous. In the span of twenty-four hours, absolutely everything had changed.

“Sabrina.”

His voice was soft, pleading, meant only for her ears. She closed her eyes for a moment, steeling herself. She wasn’t ready to face him, to deal with his betrayal. The ruins of whatever relationship she had thought they had were still burning. It was too soon for this conversation.

“What, Nicholas?” He cringed at the use of his formal name. She had always used it when she was annoyed or mad at him, and this, whatever she was feeling, went well past anger.

“Can we talk?” He had never begged, but this felt like the time to start. “Please?”

“No.”

She didn’t give him a chance to respond, didn’t allow herself to register his crestfallen face. She picked up her pace and joined Zelda at the front of the pack.

“Give her some time,” Roz offered, having witnessed the exchange. Nick could only nod in response as he fought back a storm of emotions that threated to pull him under.

He trailed behind the group, his pace slower on purpose, watching Sabrina’s white blonde hair in front. What was left of the coven was recovering at the Spellman Mortuary. He supposed they expected him to be there as well, even if he wasn’t exactly popular with them at the moment. He let the pack continue to outpace him, somehow thinking about everything and nothing all at once.

Everyone was wrapped up in whispered conversations. The mortals were comparing notes about what they had just witnessed, making sure it all added up, that they hadn’t imagined any of it. Prudence and Ambrose plotted to hunt down Blackwood. Zelda, Hilda, and Sabrina debated on what to do with those waiting at the mortuary.

No one noticed him slip away, disappearing quiet as a mouse through the woods.

At the Academy, he was cautious as he let himself in. He avoided the rooms where bodies still lie, recognizing that he wasn’t emotionally strong enough right then to deal with seeing his classmates and teachers lifeless, and climbed the stairs to his dormitory, growing more confident with each step that Blackwood had truly fled.

His dormitory felt empty. It was empty. He had been afforded the luxury of a private room several years ago and he crossed through the room that used to be brimming with raucous warlocks pulling pranks and comparing notes on their latest conquests. It didn’t feel right, to be there this way. Still, he felt it was right for him to return to his quarters, to leave Sabrina her home.

He sat down on the edge of his bed and tried to process everything that had happened. Most importantly, Sabrina was safe. That was what he cared about the most. She hated him, didn’t trust him, but she was safe, and that had to be his silver lining, tarnished as it was.

It was confusing, being in love. He had always been curious about the feeling, fascinated by the way mortals seemed to just pick a person and devote themselves to them forever. He had thought they were insane. Why sleep with one person for the rest of your life when you could sleep with so many more?

But then Sabrina Spellman had walked into choir class and his world tilted.

At first, he wanted to steal her from the mortal. That was the plan – even if she didn’t break up with the guy, he wanted her attention. He would happily share, as long as he got to have her. But as he got to know her, he realized there was so much more to her. Her mortal side helped her feel things differently, react differently. She saw a different world, one of fairness, where right versus wrong meant something. And somewhere along the line, she helped him to believe it was possible too.

He thought, maybe, he understood love long before he recognized that he was in love. It was when he put his own feelings aside, willing to be her friend and nothing more if it meant she would be happy with the mortal. He could have used Harvey’s query into why he had shown up to help him to drive them further apart, but he chose not to, chose to try to give her what she wanted – even if it wasn’t him. But when she told him they had broken up, he didn’t hesitate to move in, to sway the girl he had fallen for. He had his devotion from the Dark Lord by then, but it never felt like a devotion. It felt like falling in love with Sabrina Spellman was what he was meant to do.

Maybe he had been foolish to think she would forgive him when he appeared in her bedroom, letting her see how heartbroken he was, how desperate he was for her to believe him. He had put every ounce of knowledge and magic he had into fixing that acheron, thinking maybe it would sway her, convince her he was telling her the truth about his feelings for her if he could just get it to work. He really should have known Sabrina Spellman wasn’t going to forgive and forget that easily.

He kicked off his boots and removed the elaborate costume he still wore. Still in pants and an undershirt, he laid back on his bed, hands laced behind his head, considering his options.

He wondered what the mortal would do. How would he go about righting a wrong like this? He didn’t know much about the mortal world, but he didn’t think the answer lay there. Sabrina was unique. Her heart was unique. She had given him a precious piece of it. He wasn’t prepared to give it back, but he wasn’t sure how to keep it. He certainly didn’t deserve it.

Somehow, his troubles with Sabrina felt bigger than the fact that his coven was essentially nonexistent now, that the only home he had was no longer, that Blackwood was out there, plotting something sinister, powerful and dangerous. It wasn’t that he wasn’t worried about the state of his world. It was that he only had the capacity to focus on one overwhelming problem at a time and his relationship was the one he wanted to fix most.

“Mr. Scratch?”

He sighed as Zelda Spellman’s voice floated through the Academy.

“Nicholas, are you here?”

He pushed himself off the bed and didn’t bother with making himself more presentable. Let Zelda Spellman see him disheveled and miserable. Maybe she would tell Sabrina and she would soften towards him even minutely.

“Ms. Spellman,” he greeted, stepping out of the dormitory to find her down the hallway, systematically searching rooms, whether for him or for survivors he didn’t know.

“There you are.” She seemed almost relieved. “It’s not safe to be here, Nicholas. What’s left of the coven is at the mortuary. You’ll join us there.”

He shook his head.

“With all due respect, Ms. Spellman, I think it best I remain here.”

“Sabrina,” Zelda guessed.

“She expressed that I’m not welcomed,” he said. “I’m in a position in which I need to respect her wishes.”

He didn’t want to. He had considered teleporting to her room, or at least to the mortuary yard, and trying, again, to talk to her, convince her to give him a chance to prove he meant his confession of love. Still, his instincts told him Roz was right – she needed space from him, and he had to give it to her. She deserved that from him.

“That was before Blackwood destroyed our coven,” Zelda replied. “You and Sabrina are capable of putting aside your differences in the name of ensuring our survival. Gather whatever you may need. We’ll leave in a moment.”

“I’m staying here,” he insisted. “At least tonight. I’ll re-evaluate things in the morning.”

Zelda studied him. He was resolute in remaining at the Academy. She could tell in his defeated body language, the messy nature of his normally buttoned up appearance. She decided to allow him his wishes for the night, feeling a bit sorry for the boy, all things considered. Perhaps she could convince Sabrina to rescind her dismissal, at least from the mortuary.

“If you must stay here tonight, put some protections in place, Mr. Scratch,” she said. “Blackwood appears to have fled, but we have no way of knowing who remains to do his bidding. Tomorrow, I expect you at the mortuary.”

Nick nodded, not sure if he would turn up tomorrow or not.

“Thank you, Ms. Spellman.”

“Sister Spellman,” she corrected, not bothering with an explanation. She appraised him. “Brother Scratch, have you ever wondered why Blackwood took you in?”

“I was an orphan warlock being raised by a familiar,” he said. “Where else was I supposed to go?”

Zelda shook her head.

“You’re no ordinary warlock, Nicholas. You know you’re powerful, but I daresay I don’t think you know just how powerful you are.” She saw his brow furrow in confusion. “Something else for you to think about, I suppose.” She nodded once. “Tomorrow,” she reminded him. “At the mortuary.”

She turned and disappeared on the spot.

He blew out a breath.

How was it that just last night, he had kissed Sabrina goodnight and walked confidently through the woods to sleep in his own bed, a little worried about whatever was brewing, but confident in his relationship, his place? How had everything – everything – gone so wrong in such a short amount of time?

Deciding to take Zelda’s advice, he re-entered his dormitory and set to work, warding it with protections. He stopped at the trunk at the foot of his bed and opened it. He reached in blindly and landed his hand on his flask, engraved with the Scratch family crest. He twisted off the top and took a swig of the potent bourbon inside.

Tonight, he would wallow, he decided, settling against his headboard, the flask in hand. Tomorrow, he would face the world – or at least, Sabrina.