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Heaven or Hell

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Griffin glanced at the hourglass full of what looked like dirt but was actually fairy dust that had been drained of its magical properties. She had an hourglass full of dead fairy dust–a family heirloom–and plans that would be murdered by Ediltrude’s inability to be in time. The woman had no idea what being punctual meant and that would ruin Griffin’s spell. They were supposed to do it right when the moon was full and there were only fifty-eight seconds left until then. She huffed in exasperation. What kind of witch didn’t know how important being on time was in a situation like that?

Her attention was drawn exactly thirty-four seconds later by the feeling of familiar magical signatures followed by Ediltrude and Zara flying out of the forest and onto the shore of the lake. “I will kill you later but now we need to hurry. Only twenty seconds left,” she said coldly as she threw the spell book at them to make sure they wouldn’t mess up the incantation.

They had the common sense not to try to talk and instead focus on the pages in front of them and she felt her anger dissipate as they started the spell. They wouldn’t have to wait another month to do it so maybe she would forgive them without yelling too much first.

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Confusion wrapped her mind into its net as she read the letter from Faragonda. It was written in the secret code they’d come up with when they’d still been little before they’d even enrolled in Cloud Tower, though, that would alert whoever saw it that wasn’t her as well and begged her to meet her at that video game store in Magix that they both hated. So she found an excuse that wouldn’t anger the Ancestral Witches too much to justify her need to leave and headed there.

She saw Faragonda as she walked in but first browsed an entirely different section of the store before they eventually made their way to each other.

Thank you for coming,” Faragonda said in a hushed voice when they were well hidden at one of the isles in the inside of the store. There was so much relief in the words that it just left Griffin on her toes. “I had to see you.”

What’s wrong?” she asked, trying hard not to look at her friend but it proved to be impossible. She had to make sure that nothing had happened to her. If she’d gotten hurt because of the Company, she would make them all pay dearly. She had had it with them hurting the people she cared about. She tried to push back the sound of cracking bones and the rage of the Ancestral Witches when it’d become clear that Valtor would have to keep away from the battlefield until his injuries healed.

I missed you,” Faragonda said, leaving her speechless, but before she could scold her for putting them both in danger over feelings, the fairy drew her into a hug. And as the warmth of Faragonda’s body chased the cold emptiness inside her, she realized she’d missed her terribly, too. So she couldn’t get angry at her. She was glad to see her even if it was terribly reckless of them to meet without an immediate threat to necessitate it.

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Their voices raised so high that it was easy for a lot of things to be left underneath. Like her appreciation that Oritel cared enough to argue with her. Quite often Erendor and other members of the Company would just ignore her strategies and take matters into their own hands–always with disastrous results–but the king of Domino would at least try to talk it out with her when he disagreed with one of her plans. She was grateful for that.

Apart from him and his wife, there were few other people who cared about what she had to say and didn’t make her feel like her voice was banished where it would never be heard again because of the mistakes she’d made. She just wanted a chance to make things better. Not for her own sake but to fix what damage she could. And Oritel at least consulted her before jumping headfirst into actions devoid of any sense. She couldn’t even ask for more. But she still got it.

He also cared about her well-being which was what saw him yelling at her to take a break or go to the infirmary after a mission had left her with an injury. Maybe it was just out of necessity since they were allies, but the others didn’t even do that much. So she appreciated all the nuances that got lost in the loudness of their words when they argued.

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Faragonda had been right. She couldn’t keep turning a blind eye to what Valtor was doing. Or rather what the Coven was doing. But there wasn’t a distinguishable difference between the two since they were one and the same. Valtor was working for his mothers and following their orders down to the letter. And she wished to argue that he didn’t have any other option but she knew that was a lie. He had a choice. And so did she. And the time had finally come for her to make it.

She wished she could argue against that as well, wished she could just ignore reality and stay regardless of the consequences. But she couldn’t. Not when the stakes were so high. So she had to choose.

If the choice had been between Faragonda and Valtor, it would’ve been impossible to make. She loved them both and could never deprive herself of her relationship with one of them just to keep the other. But it was a choice between what the two of them stood for which meant there wasn’t really anything to choose. She just had to make the move. And that should’ve made it easier because she knew in her entire being that she couldn’t stay with him. But that somehow made the heartache worse instead. Because he’d left her no option to choose him and he’d doomed their relationship in his pursuit of power.

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Griffin looked at the broken glass on the floor before turning to Valtor who had just come back with their suitcases and was leaving them next to the couch.

He stopped when he noticed the look she was giving him. “What’s wrong?” he asked, apparently already over the incident that was all his doing.

Is this,” she looked back to the glass shards on the floor, “really the way we had to start our life in our new home?” They hadn’t even moved in yet and she already needed to break out the cleaning supplies and call someone to fix the broken window. It wasn’t exactly the way she’d imagined their married life would start. Not that she’d imagined anything when it came to that. Certainly not him carrying her over the threshold as it was done in old traditions.

I’m sorry,” Valtor said, making her sigh. “I should’ve given you the key.” She should’ve taken it herself. Or maybe just made him wear it on his neck to make sure he wouldn’t lose it. But to be fair–to both of them–he didn’t usually lose things. Or at least the things he valued. Which was exactly what was bothering her.

She took a deep breath. “Just go call the locksmith, and I’ll clean this up,” she said, turning to go find the closet. She vaguely remembered where it was supposed to be from their tour of the house but after that Valtor had been tasked with taking care of their new home while she’d been organizing the wedding. He’d assured her that everything had been moved in successfully and the house only needed the two of them to move in. And somewhere around that time he’d lost the damn key which had led to a broken window since they had no spare. And it would take some time to get a new one without the original.

Griffin,” Valtor caught her hand, halting her progress. “I’ll make it up to you, I promise,” his eyes found hers and the soft blue was like an ocean that would evaporate without her forgiveness. “I know we started off on the wrong foot but I’ll make sure that things will run smoothly from now on. You know I’m not a liar.” Whenever he’d say that, she’d inevitably believe him, for he’d never given her a reason to doubt him.

She nodded and smiled at him, her worries more or less put to rest, before she leaned in to kiss him.

He pulled her closer, pressing against her as his hand made its way into her hair while he ravished her mouth. She wasn’t sure when was the last time he’d kissed her like that. Not that he ever lacked passion, but this was something else entirely. And she remembered now that it was at times when he was afraid that he held her so close that it felt like he was trying to make her a part of him. Afraid of losing her. He’d read the thoughts in her mind even though she’d been careful to go around them from as far as possible for the sake of both of them.

She wanted to say something to reassure him but she had no air left and he was faster.

Why don’t you go upstairs to change while I take care of the broken glass and the locksmith?” he suggested and she had to agree that that sounded heavenly. They’d just come back from their honeymoon–a thirteen hour flight–and she could use a change of clothes and maybe even a shower. “And maybe we’ll have time to... explore the bedroom before we get company,” he said against her lips, making her breath hitch.

We did a lot of exploring on our honeymoon.” Not that she had any objections. But she’d really been looking forward to seeing some more culture and they’d ended up not leaving their hotel room for two whole days. And room service meant that they didn’t even have to go out for food.

Not of this bedroom, though,” Valtor pointed out, making her chuckle. “What do you say?” he asked as he touched his forehead to hers.

Griffin laughed as she pulled away from him and headed for the stairs. “Maybe,” she said as she looked back at him. “You know where to find me.” She started climbing the stairs. Maybe broken did bring good luck after all.

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Griffin almost fell to the floor–her magic was the only thing that stopped that from happening–when she tripped over a box that was left right in the way when you walked into the room. She barely managed to hold onto the pot she was carrying which made her see red already. The plant would’ve been doomed if she’d dropped it.

“Careful!” one of the twins reprimanded. She wasn’t quite sure which one it was yet. They were both equally annoying and she cursed Faragonda for the millionth time for turning out to be a fairy and starting a chain reaction that had left her having to room with the two sisters.

“Unless you want to turn yourself into a toad,” the black-haired witch spoke before her lips got pulled into a vicious smile since the thought apparently entertained her.

“What’s with all the boxes?” she asked, making sure to sound extra exasperated just to irritate them both as she left the pot with the plant on the floor next to her bed.

“Those are breakable so, please, don’t destroy them,” the green-haired twin said in the same tone of voice, pronouncing the ‘please’ as if it was the most vile word in existence.

Griffin looked at the labels of the boxes since it was obvious that neither of her “roommates” intended to tell her what they contained. “Those are a lot of animal parts,” she said, trying to keep the emotions out of her voice but her brain disagreed with her. It wasn’t that she cared for animals or was scared or anything. But it was disgusting to have so many dead insects in your bedroom.

“That’s Zara for you,” the black-haired witch–Ediltrude then–laughed. “You’ll get used to it. And to the smoke from the failed potions, too.” Her eyes narrowed as if she was trying to recall more details. “And to the side effects of those.”

Griffin was about to object to having experiments with potions run into the space she had to share with them but Zarathustra spoke first.

“Hey, I’m good at this,” she glared at her sister. “And of course, there’d be some mistakes. I’m working without instructions sometimes,” she motioned to whatever it was she was currently doing and Griffin noticed a frightening lack of any papers or books on her desk. She was working without any directions indeed.

“You’re a total disaster, sis,” Ediltrude waved her off which only had Zarathustra step closer to her, looking like a bull that was ready to charge at the red flag waved in front of it.

“And when was the last time you did some independent work instead of just following instructions, little sis?” she asked through gritted teeth, making Griffin plop herself down on her bed in despair. From the short interaction she’d first had with the sisters she’d learned that the only thing more annoying than the two of them making digs at her was the two of them arguing with each other. And it was happening again. She’d spent a total of eleven minutes with them–she was counting the seconds of her torture–and they’d already managed to get into a fight four times.

“Talking shit again, I see,” Ediltrude glowered as she jumped from the desk, towering over her sister since she was a lot taller. Especially in her heels.

Griffin huffed in total exhaustion, drawing their attention to herself. From the glares they both gave her she could tell it would be a long day.

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It was rather strange to lie next to Faragonda. It was like having a sleepover again and she was glad they’d managed to fix their relationship to the point where remembering the good old days didn’t leave an acrid taste in her mouth. But this time it was not friendship or laughter that had brought them together.

Faragonda had come to tell her that there’d been... a breach at the Omega portal on Andros. And then she’d offered to stay with her for the rest of the night. She couldn’t have denied if she’d wanted to. But Faragonda didn’t seem quite there herself.

If you got the chance,” she started, wondering whether that was a good idea but leaving things unspoken seemed too cruel to both of them, “you wouldn’t kill him.” She didn’t want to start with that but she knew Faragonda too well to not sense the abnormal amounts of dark energy flowing from her. Of course, it could be because she’d just seen her student blinded which Griffin was sure would’ve sent her into a fit of murderous rage had she been in Faragonda’s shoes. Even if Layla had healed herself. But it wasn’t just that. It wasn’t one thing. There was a hurricane of memories swirling in her own head and she knew Faragonda was at the same mental place. Or as close as it could get at least.

True,” Faragonda said, her voice quiet but not because of hesitation or shame.

Griffin had expected that much. It was why she’d went for their old way of talking things out when it was too hard to say the words as they were in your head. There was no need for hiding and lying between the two of them since neither of those was possible anyway. But some things were too difficult to say and too acidic to be kept inside. So they played a game of guessing in which lies were true.

I can’t stand the thought of him hurting you, too,” Faragonda was now speaking as they normally would, without turning things around on one-eighty so that they’d be easier to say. And Griffin wished she could reassure her that that wouldn’t happen but she’d be lying. And that was not the kind of lie Faragonda would accept. Not even to soothe her restless mind that was no doubt preoccupied with the memories of Oritel and Marion’s death. It had hit hard enough to make her willing to murder. And that was something that terrified Griffin because it spoke loud and clear of Faragonda’s pain and yet, she had no idea how to help her. “Taking you away...”

He won’t be able to do that,” Griffin said as she took Faragonda’s hand in hers. That she could promise her. He could do many things to both of them–a lot of which most certainly worse than death–but not that.

He hates you,” Faragonda fired out as she pulled her hand away, running from false, empty comfort just like Griffin had thought she would. But that wasn’t what her words were.

I know.” That was something that had been proven many times. Yet, it still hurt enough for her to wish to deny it, wish to jump back into a version of their game where they could change the truth by not accepting it. “That’s exactly why I’m saying it. I know him best.” And she knew he wouldn’t let her live in peace but he wouldn’t kill her either. For that would end her suffering. And he had too much hatred to spare to deprive himself of a target to aim it at. Especially the one that had hurt him like no one else ever had.

You don’t love him anymore?” It didn’t escape Griffin’s notice that Faragonda’s tone was questioning. As if she wasn’t quite sure whether this was part of their game or reality. And she wished for that uncertainty, too, because knowing the answer hurt too much.

True,” she said even though confirming the lie was just as hard as saying the truth would’ve been. She never would’ve been able to speak those words. Or their opposites for that matter. Because the truth was that both hurt. Both burned. In different ways. But still enough to leave vicious wounds behind that could only be soothed by one thing. And that wasn’t the lies she told herself, but a truth that would never come from him. For Valtor would never love her again.

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No, don’t!” Griffin’s frantic shout startled him and he turned to look at her. “You’re not supposed to eat raw cookie dough!” she scolded with concern in her voice that softened it just like the subtle worry did to her expression and grabbed his wrist, wiping his finger clean with the tissue she conjured.

I was just going to taste it,” Valtor said, confused by her behavior, but didn’t try to pull his hand away. Her skin was cool against his that always felt a little too heated and he loved the soothing feeling.

You can get stomachache from that,” she explained as she slowly released his hand and held his gaze to show she was serious. He was touched by the concern for his well-being but he couldn’t help the feeling that she was overreacting.

Come on, Griffin. I won’t die from a fifth of an ounce of dough,” he said as he reached for the bowl again. He’d never seen raw cookie dough before. He’d barely seen cookies at all, and now that she’d asked him if he wanted to help her bake some, he wanted to experience all the fun.

Griffin grabbed his hand once more. “Don’t even joke about that,” she said, her tone grave. “And don’t you dare dip into the dough again. That’s unsanitary,” she said as if explaining to a small child. And since the thought of her holding a child–his child–proved to be too distracting and causing a stir in his emotions, he focused on magic.

I’ll use a spoon then,” he said as he conjured one in his free hand only for Griffin to catch it as well.

Why are you so stubborn about this?” she asked as she tilted her head to the side like she did when her patience was being run thin by whoever was being obstinate and annoying her. He couldn’t quite remember when was the last time he’d made her treat him like that. Probably back before they’d become lovers and he’d been doing whatever it would take to get a reaction out of her since she’d been the first one to not be swayed by his charm or his words. The memories made him long to do it again.

I told you I just wanted a taste,” he said, imitating her exasperation, for he knew that would have the desired effect. Especially coupled with struggling out of her hold on him.

A taste?” she asked as she released him which was kind of disappointing but the stern expression that was bordering on angry that she was wearing was promising.

He barely managed to nod before she grabbed at his coat and pulled him into a kiss, her mouth crashing on his with force that was almost violent and had him moan in surprise, not protest. Never protest.

Her tongue made its way into his mouth and he had to hold on to her waist to not get carried away in her passion. The way she pulled him closer with her hands grasping at his shoulder and cupping his neck had him feeling so wanted, so protected, so loved. It was a taste of heaven and he wished he could stay in her kiss forever. He didn’t need anything else. But his body did.

Griffin pulled away, leaving him gasping for air like he’d ran for miles, forgetting he had magic he could use to teleport or fly. “How was that for a taste?” she asked, crossing her arms, her voice aggressive and loud. Or at least so it sounded to him as he couldn’t find his breath to speak. “That’s what I thought.” Griffin smirked before walking away to tend to the oven.

Valtor’s focus remained on her face that was taken over by concentration now that she returned to her task. It was a sight that he’d remember for the rest of his life. Just like the rest of his first attempt at baking. He touched his lips, looking to seal the feeling of that kiss into his very being forever.

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Look what I found at home,” Faragonda said as she handed her what Griffin quickly realized was an old diary of hers. Faragonda had had it while they’d been students and she’d always carried it with her everywhere, tempting Griffin to steal it and break the protection spell in order to read it. She’d almost succeeded a handful of times but Faragonda had always managed to stop her, guarding it with her life.

Someone’s been busy cleaning the attic this summer,” Griffin smirked as she took it and ran a hand over the leather. The color still looked just like it had once and threw her in awe of the blue that was just on the cusp of turning purple. It looked magical.

Something like that,” Faragonda said in a way untypical of her. As if she was trying to avoid giving her the actual answer. And if she weren’t so intrigued by what she was holding, she would’ve pressed it.

May I?” she asked even though she was burning with the desire to open the diary. She didn’t want to overstep any boundaries even if Faragonda had handed it to her. They’d just fixed their friendship the previous year and she wouldn’t survive another grand fight between them. They were getting older. They didn’t have the kind of time not to speak to each other for decades anymore.

Faragonda nodded, her lips slightly pursed, leaving a lingering sense of wariness in the back of Griffin’s mind while she quickly opened the notebook.

She couldn’t help but smile at the memories the entries brought. All of the adventures from their youth were documented–some she couldn’t even remember–and some still seemed big and exciting even now, after she’d seen more than enough action for an entire lifetime. And some were just teenager stuff that had nothing on what they’d seen after that. It still warmed her heart to remember all that they’d faced together back then with their inexperience and the naivety that inevitably came with young age.

As she read, certain phrases and details caught her eye, though. A throwaway line about the softness of her hair here, a mention of her radiating smile there. There was a short passage about her laughter on one page that blended with the tone of the rest of that entry and a sentence about the passion in her eyes that stuck out a bit but would be glossed over in normal circumstances. She could’ve easily missed them if not for the alarm Faragonda’s earlier behavior had set off in her head. Her body language and the studying gaze she could feel on herself as she kept reading, made the pieces click. It was no coincidence Faragonda had given her the diary.

Griffin looked up at her friend. “Are you trying to tell me what I think you are?” she asked, holding Faragonda’s gaze. They were staring so hard at each other that time seemed to stop existing for the two of them.

What do you think I’m trying to tell you?” Faragonda asked, her voice steady as it always was but she was deflecting.

Don’t play that game with me,” Griffin snapped, her voice loud in the tense atmosphere around them. She hadn’t meant for it to come out like that. But her heart was pounding in her chest so madly that she needed a solid answer, something to ground her and give shape to reality that had lost all form thanks to the question in her thoughts. How the world would look to her from now on depended entirely on the answer.

I could say the same to you,” Faragonda spoke, her own voice rising slightly. Not as much as Griffin’s had but she’d always been the more composed one. Griffin admired her for that since her own emotions could easily get the best of her. But this time control had gotten away even from Faragonda. And that was all the more proof for her to drop the games.

You love me?” she asked, nearly wincing at the sound of the word that was surely too strong and she’d used too hastily. Even if her question could still be considered beating around the bush. It was old news how much Faragonda cared about her. But she hadn’t known that she cared about her... in a different way, too. And what made it so different, really? She doubted she could love anyone as much as she did Faragonda. She’d just never thought of that love in a romantic context. But that didn’t make it less in any aspect.

I do,” Faragonda said, never breaking eye contact but she was painfully tense. Even if she’d been the one to initiate the whole conversation. But that was what made Griffin realize how crucial the whole thing must be for Faragonda.

She closed the diary and left it next to her on the couch before scooting closer to Faragonda who seemed to freeze at the action. Griffin leaned in, hesitating just for a second before proceeding. There was really no space to back away now. Any cautiousness should’ve come earlier, before she’d filled them both with anticipation. The realization that she would be just as disappointed and hurt as Faragonda would be if she lost her courage now motivated her to act and she pressed her lips against the fairy’s in a soft contact.

Faragonda’s mouth opened slightly against hers as the pressure seemed to drain from her before she moved her lips slowly, making them brush barely against hers. The familiar gentleness hit Griffin over the head with the realization that she’d been in love with Faragonda for a long time just as well as she’d loved her. They were best friends, companions and confidants and that was all that really mattered when it came to love. Faragonda was someone she trusted and knew she could count on. And in that sense, it had always been right there in front of her but she hadn’t realized it.

She had to pull away to breathe since the revelation had left her all out of oxygen but she pressed her forehead against Faragonda’s to let her know she was right there with her. She braced herself against the couch as the new reality had left her dizzy and somewhat confused but still with an overwhelming sense of relief and joy. And the warmth of Faragonda’s hand covering hers was the most reassuring indicator that everything was okay. It was better than that actually. It was magical.

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How about I take a peek at your future next?” Ediltrude offered as she plopped herself down on Griffin’s bed, interrupting her reading mid-sentence. She’d just stopped pestering her sister and was looking for a new victim.

No, thank you,” Griffin said without raising her head, sending a clear signal to be left alone. Someone would get hurt if the warning wasn’t heeded. She had only so much patience for the twins and their antics on a good day. And today definitely hadn’t been one of those. She’d ran into Faragonda in Magix and the hurt look on the fairy’s face as she’d ignored her had been... exactly what she deserved. She wasn’t her best friend anymore. She was just the reason why no one in Cloud Tower respected her regardless of her abilities that she’d demonstrated more than once.

Come on, Griffin!” Ediltrude’s fake whine had her suppressing the desire to roll her eyes, for that would mean actually taking the time to react to her roommate’s actions. And she wouldn’t be caught dead doing that. “It will be fun.”

I’m already having fun,” she said as she turned the page even though she hadn’t finished it. The sharpness of the gesture would supposedly send a message. That was if Ediltrude had enough intelligence to read cues of course. Apparently not since she missed her cue to go away.

You’ll thank me later,” the other witch spoke as she grabbed her arm and pulled it towards herself, forcing Griffin’s entire body to move against her will and nearly causing her to drop the book. “I see shimmering,” Ediltrude didn’t even give her the chance to protest as she started her divination, staring hard at her palm and ignoring the death glare that Griffin was sure she could feel in her bones even without looking at her. “Looks a lot like stardust.”

That had Griffin’s attention. She’d always loved the stars and she knew that Ediltrude was actually good at seeing the future. So maybe it wouldn’t be a total loss to give her a minute of her time.

Zarathustra seemed intrigued as well since she abandoned what she was doing and turned to look at the two of them.

I can also see bright light,” Ediltrude glanced at her, a small smirk pulling at her lips now that she saw she had her listening. “And a vast open space that looks like a dark void but is full of small shiny dots, probably stars.”

Griffin’s mind was already wandering with the possibilities of what a future containing those things would look like. Maybe she’d have her dream to explore the stars up close come true.

No, wait,” Ediltrude’s voice pulled her back to the present, “my bad. The color is the light blue of a cloudless sky and the shiny things are pixies. Which means the light must have come from your winx and the shimmering was from your newly-sprouted wings,” she barely finished before she burst into laughter and her sister joined her. “You should’ve seen your face,” Ediltrude said between fits of laughter. “You started glowing, just like a fairy.”

I’m sure we can... help you discover... the winx hiding in you,” Zarathustra spoke, doubled over. She could barely breathe from so much laughing.

Griffin paid her no mind and waited for Ediltrude to let go of her hand. Though, she probably needed a little push to get her out of her self-induced haze. “You should see your face, too,” Griffin spoke as she concentrated on the spell she had in mind. It didn’t take long for it to take effect and that was her sign to have the mirror on the wall fly over and get between her and Ediltrude so that the other witch could look at her reflection.

A blood-curling scream followed, interrupting any and all sounds coming from Zarathustra, as Ediltrude let go of her hand to wipe at her face. “What did you do?” she demanded angrily when that accomplished nothing to remove the bright makeup that was more than worthy of a fairy.

It’s an illusion so wiping at it will have no effect other than scrubbing your skin away,” Griffin explained. “Though, that will be an improvement.”

Undo this!” Ediltrude ordered, making her blood boil but she’d already wasted too much time and energy on her to allow her to get a raise out of her.

It will chip away with time. It will be gone after a few days,” she said as she scooted back up her bed from where she could lean against the headboard and picked up her book. Great! She’d lost her page. Now she had to look for it.

The mattress shifted as Ediltrude jumped to her feet. “I will-”

Remember that there’s more where this came from,” Griffin growled at her as she raised her hand to show that she was ready for a magical battle and stared the twin down even from her sitting position. “Be grateful that there aren’t any other... unforeseen consequences in it for you,” she allowed herself to mock before glaring at Zarathustra, too, to make sure she understood that referred to both of them.

Ediltrude retreated, fuming internally, to lick her wounds while Griffin focused on her book again. She didn’t need divination to see ten moves ahead of airheads like the twin witches.

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The sound of the piano drew her out of her shelter among the books just like he’d hoped it would. She’d retreated to the section of the living room that was turned into a library to find some peace and quiet after their loud fight. It was ironic, really, how much he’d said because he didn’t want to talk. But it was so hard to express his emotions in words when all his life he’d been taught not to feel so he’d switched to notes.

He knew she could read them but it didn’t scare him like it did when it was his mothers listening to him play. She wasn’t going to reprimand him if she didn’t hear what she wanted to. She just wanted him to talk to her and that made her the only audience he’d ever wished for. Because she would do her best to understand and accept his feelings and guide him through them.

So he let the piano wail and scream when he couldn’t, poured out all the pain he’d been in even before their fight–and that had only made things worse–and had the music apologize to her for the hurt he’d caused her. And it seemed to work, for her expression softened as she listened and a tear fell from her eye now even if it had been glistening there way back during their argument.

It prompted him to leave the keys alone and pull her close, drawing her into a hug, his fingers moving over her cheek now to wipe away the tear-stain. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he whispered, the words quiet with fear but not for himself. He just hoped it wasn’t too late to fix what he’d broken.

And I didn’t mean to push you so hard,” she said, her voice trembling like it never did, hurting him with her pain. “I just wanted you to tell me what’s wrong, let me in and allow me to help you,” she said, her voice breaking as she clutched weakly at the collar of his shirt.

And I should’ve let you but I’m not used to... someone caring about me,” he was quick to say before she could keep blaming herself. It wasn’t her fault he’d been raised to run from genuine contact and made to fear getting close to people. “I promise I will do better,” he stroked her cheek, letting the words seep into her skin and help her calm down.

And I promise to be more patient,” she said as she gifted him with a timid smile that had him leaning in to capture her lips. They were irresistible to him as they always voiced the sweetest of things and he wished to never stop hearing them. They were music to his ears and he was her willing audience.

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The thunder rumbled outside and it was only the warmth of Griffin's body pressed against him that helped him keep his heartbeat steady. He tried to focus on her quiet breaths–they sounded like safety–and not on Tharma’s cackling that he could hear in his mind. Or the shiver that ran down his spine at the sound of the–undoubtedly cold–rain that was pouring outside.

This is so soothing,” Griffin spoke and he could hear the content in her voice even if he couldn’t see it on her face thanks to the way her head was laid down on his chest.

What, the storm?” he asked incredulously, the words slipping from his mouth before he could quite get his shock under control.

Yes,” Griffin said, her voice firm and carrying hints of excitement. “It’s perfect for falling asleep to the soft sound of the falling raindrops.” All he could hear was the aggressive downpour and the violent wind. That was of course when there weren’t deafening thunders that called loudly to his nightmares. “And the knowledge that we’re in here where it’s warm and dry, and... cuddly,” he heard the mirth in her voice, “while the storm is raging outside,” well, she got that right, “is so cozy.” She pressed herself harder into him as if to convince him in the truth of her argument.

I wouldn’t use that word,” he said as he chuckled forcedly, trying to keep the mood light and not drag her into the hurricane in his own mind. “There’s too much thunders and howling wind for it to be peaceful,” he said, hating himself for the quietness of the words since he couldn't make them louder. And he was afraid to. Afraid that the lightnings would be turned on him if he voiced his complaints.

Griffin moved to look at him and he sighed before meeting her gaze rather reluctantly. “I’m here and I love you,” she said before pressing her lips against his neck and making her way upwards, the softness of her kisses tickling in a way that chased away the unpleasant shivers to replace them with their opposites. “And I’m ready to whisper it to you until it drowns out everything else in your mind,” her hot breath hit his ear, caressing his skin with her promise.

He pulled her closer, entirely on top of him so that he could feel all of her skin. “I’m lucky to have you,” he said as she wrapped her arms around him and nuzzled her head in the crook of his neck. His hands tangled in her hair and the softness of the purple tresses chased away the harshness of the memories of electricity coursing through his body and cold biting at his skin as cruel, vicious words rang in his ears.

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“There’s no use,” Faragonda said as she plopped herself down on the grass after her latest failed attempt to summon her magic and complete the task of blasting the boulders at the clearing to pieces. “I will never get it.”

“Of course you will,” Griffin put a hand on her shoulder, her touch so impossibly gentle considering the enormous destructive power of her magic. Faragonda could still remember the tremendous wave of magic that had swept over her when she’d first met Griffin who’d stepped in to protect her from three other witches that were bullying her. She’d never felt such raw power before, not even from her own mother who was a fearsome witch infamous in countless realms. How she wished she’d inherited an ounce of that talent but her own powers were laughable at best and nonexistent at worst. She would’ve ended up badly injured if not for Griffin’s interference. “You just need more practice.” Griffin was so patient with her, as if she was special when it couldn’t be further from the truth. She never showed the temper Faragonda knew was lurking under the surface. She’d felt Griffin’s outrage feeding her powers and making her glow with a green magical aura that had scared off the other witches before she’d even unleashed her magic. But those strong negative feelings were nowhere to be seen in their interactions which only made Faragonda feel worse.

“More practice?” She chuckled bitterly. They’d been practicing for almost half a year now with Griffin guiding her calmly and with care only for her to fail again and again. “I’m just wasting your time.” She’d been thrilled when Griffin had agreed to help her. She’d been left in awe of her power and, later, of her comprehension of magic and she’d thought that maybe she’d finally learn. But it was rapidly becoming apparent that that would never happen.

Griffin studied her for a moment and it was the first time she was left unnerved by her gaze. If she agreed with her, there’d be no more reason for them to meet and… she’d lose her best friend. Her only friend. Every other witch inevitably started taunting her for her lack of powers. But even the fact that she’d be the family disappointment that was not talked about at social gatherings didn’t hurt as much as the thought of not seeing Griffin anymore.

“Okay,” Griffin said, making her freeze. “One more try and I won’t press anymore. If you can’t, you can’t and we both accept that,” she was talking as if Faragonda’s success was somehow her responsibility and impacted her directly, making failure her problem. But she’d already done more than anyone else ever had. She’d not only refused to give up on Faragonda, but she’d also encouraged her to keep trying. She’d been just about ready to admit defeat before Griffin had shown up but her lessons had kept her going for six more months despite the constant disappointment for both of them. Even if Griffin never showed any feelings of the sort to her. “But you have to promise me to give your everything, okay?” Griffin put both her hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eyes, her expression serious.

Faragonda didn’t want to fail her even more so she nodded, summoning all of her determination to see this last attempt through. More for Griffin rather than for herself.

Griffin smiled at her in a way that managed to give her strength and faith even when she knew she would fail and let go of her shoulders to offer her a hand.

Faragonda took it and found herself on her feet when Griffin pulled her up with so much force that she almost stumbled forward, leaving them close to each other, the space between them full of tension. She couldn’t tell if it was anticipation or something unspoken on Griffin’s end, but she knew what it was with her.

Griffin didn’t let go of her just yet. “I know you can do it,” she said, her voice quiet  but not because she didn’t believe in what she said. She was a force of nature and she didn’t need to be loud to be heard. The quiet words contained much more confidence than anyone’s shouts could, much more confidence than Faragonda had. Yet, they didn’t make her afraid of not delivering and only helped her focus on the task at hand instead. Griffin was the only one who had that effect on her. Everyone else made her feel worthless. Including herself.

Griffin finally released her grip on her and made her way to the center of the clearing, reaching for her magic if the significant shift in the atmosphere was any indication. And the slight green glow surrounding her form. She was using a lot of power.

“What do I have to do?” Faragonda asked because she needed instructions. Not that they had ever helped her achieve anything but without any she didn’t stand a chance.

Griffin didn’t answer, focused on what she was doing. Her magic wrapped around the boulders around, making them glow as well, and forced them out of the ground before lifting them in the air. They kept raising higher and higher, driven by the spell Griffin was murmuring and channeling her magic into until they were so high Faragonda could barely see how they drifted closer together above Griffin’s head.

She turned her attention to Griffin, wondering what was going on in her mind. There was no way her weak magic could reach them there. Her blasts had barely made it to the stone surface when they’d been on the ground just a few feet away from her.

Griffin’s eyes opened and the magical aura disappeared as she put an end to her spell. But that meant-

Faragonda looked up to see the heavy boulders plummeting down towards Griffin. They would crush her and she didn’t seem to have any intention of moving, her eyes trained on Faragonda. She had to save her.

That remained the only thought in her head, her whole focus and energy going into it and before she knew it, Griffin was tightly clasped in her arms and they were at the other end of the clearing, the boulders smashing into the ground behind them.

Faragonda waited for the commotion to stop, clutching Griffin hard in her embrace with her eyes closed as she tried to shake off the terror of the experience. “Never again,” she hissed, her voice shaking, when everything calmed down around them and her heart was pounding a little slower, the feeling of it in her throat subsiding enough to let her use her voice more. “Do you hear me, never again,” she growled louder, pulling away to scowl at Griffin which would, hopefully, get her point across.

The expression she was met with was one of total fascination, though, and it took her a moment to process what could’ve evoked that response. But when she looked down, she found herself dressed in a sparkling dark blue skirt and top. It was a fairy outfit and it finally dawned on her that she’d just flown them out of harm’s way. Wings. She had wings. She had transformed and was a fairy.

Griffin reached to touch the shimmering things that were sprouting from her back and she felt the ghost of her touch in the nerves on her back. Apparently the wings were connected to them. “Well, that explains the lack of results,” Griffin said, her voice quiet again but this time it was full of respect. “Stained glass only reveals its beauty in the light.” The witch was in awe–something Faragonda had never seen from her–and it helped loosen the grip that the fear had on her throat.

If she’d been the family disappointment before, now she didn’t have to worry about that because they would just outright cut off all contact with her. No fairy was welcome anywhere near them, much less allowed into the family. Her outfit was much brighter than her future.

Griffin seemed to sense her thoughts, for she summoned her magic again but before Faragonda could start worrying, a mirror appeared in front of her and the reflection of her wings captured her attention.

They were indeed the blue of stained glass and weren’t shimmering which left them clear and transparent, see-through just like glass. “They’re beautiful,” she whispered as she touched her hand to the cold surface of the mirror in an illogical attempt to touch them.

“And you’re beautiful, too,” Griffin’s reflection smiled at her. “A beautiful fairy. Just as I thought.” Her hand was on Faragonda’s shoulder again and if anything, the soothing effect of her touch had multiplied now that their friendship was silently confirmed.

Faragonda would ask how she’d come to the conclusion but she was too preoccupied with her overflowing emotions that were all over the place and the only thing that grounded her was the security of the knowledge that Griffin was still her best friend regardless of the fact that she was a fairy. She wasn’t angry at the revelation as Faragonda was sure her family would be. And that was all that mattered right now even if the future was more than scary. So she covered Griffin’s hand with hers, relieved to feel the warmth of her skin and her support because she was sure that that was all she had left besides her newly found winx.

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He had to admit he was quite surprised when he turned to Griffin and found her mesmerized, her eyes drinking in the sight of the colorful display in the night sky. Even if she’d seen many other breath-taking things and all kinds of magic. She looked so different with that child-like awe taking over her, so soft and delicate that he feared snapping her out of it would break her heart in half.

It’s... magical,” she spoke as she must have felt him watching her. He was staring at her the way she was looking at the fireworks and was rather disappointed with the subtle shift in her expression when she spoke, for she’d looked absolutely enchanting.

You haven’t seen fireworks before?” he asked even though he knew. She had that yearning in her gaze that he knew so well. And the realization pained him because she deserved the world. She deserved to have everything she wanted. And she’d make sure she would. He’d make sure they both would.

Her gaze left the sky as if against her will and she shook her head. “There weren’t fireworks in my realm.” She turned to look at him, her eyes full of sadness with no tears which only made it hit worse. It was like she didn’t have enough strength to cry over it but wasn’t ready to let it go either. And the familiarity hit too close to home. “It was a water-based realm with a lot of crops and forests and fire was silently excluded from everything it wasn’t strictly needed for.”

Her words were like a slap in the face because he should’ve known that. He should’ve asked. How could he think he knew all of her when he didn’t have a clue about her past? It was true that she didn’t talk about it much and was vague and sparse when she did but he should’ve asked, should’ve cared enough to think of that. Not to mention that it explained why she’d been so reluctant to work with him in the beginning, considering his powers and his character.

And later,” Griffin wasn’t looking at him now, her head slightly bowed, “I was too busy studying in Cloud Tower to go to Magix and watch the fireworks.” Her voice was quiet as if she was scared to admit she’d preferred getting work done instead of having some fun. As if she’d wasted the opportunity of a life time. And it would’ve been so if she’d been living his life but his upbringing wasn’t her fault.

You did what you decided was best for you,” he said as he lifted her chin to have her look at him. She didn’t have to be ashamed that she’d had more opportunities and control over her own fate than he’d had. He appreciated her consideration but not if it brought her pain. He’d already suffered enough from how he’d been raised. There was no need for her to punish herself that her life had been different enough to allow her to choose what to do with her own time. “Why don’t we enjoy what we can now?” he tucked her hair behind her ear. It’d be better to get their job done while everyone was distracted by the fireworks, but with her by his side it wouldn't matter what obstacles they’d have to face.

And the smile she gave him in response was brighter than the display in the sky and convinced him he’d been right to ask. The rest of the world could wait a few minutes while she enjoyed the lights in the sky and he admired the ones in her eyes.

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It was the beginning of May. Trees and plants were blooming as nature was coming to its peak. Everything was green and beautiful with little touches of color that made it a masterpiece more breath-taking than anything anyone had ever seen. It was the embodiment of life.

It was her daughter’s birthday. It was the one day she loved and despised, for it’d given her the best thing that had ever happened in her life and demanded the hardest decision she’d had to take. It had been hell–especially the first few days after she’d given her away–to feel the emptiness in her arms where she’d held her daughter for a few hours before letting go of her for good. And since then it had been the most cursed day in her life.

Ediltrude and Zarathustra had picked up on the fact that something was wrong with that day but had left her alone when she’d made it clear she didn’t want to talk about it. And Faragonda didn’t try to get her to talk. She provided a shoulder for her to cry on and since she was the only one who knew what was wrong, Griffin found herself confiding in her against her own will sometimes. And it wasn’t that she didn’t want to talk to Faragonda. She just didn’t want to talk. But it hurt that much more to let it sit inside her and she couldn’t bear the pain on that one day.

This year was different, though. It was better in a sense. And it was so much worse. For her daughter was right there in front of her and she still couldn’t celebrate with her. She could barely even wish her a happy birthday and had to disguise it as a warning.

She’d called Darcy to her office to warn her not to get too crazy in her birthday celebration with Icy and Stormy. And she’d wished her a happy birthday which was far less than she’d wanted to do but it still left Darcy slightly puzzled and weirded out so it was the best she could get. And it was terribly insufficient, her heart breaking as she watched from the window of her office the three young witches heading out to Magix way past curfew. And the worst thing was that she’d have to punish them in the morning if she didn’t want to raise suspicion when all she really desired was to hold her daughter in her arms again.

It was her daugher’s birthday. And that meant she was dying again. Another year spent away from the one she loved the most. And she didn’t have the right to want more after what she’d done but of course she wanted to hug her daughter and tell her how much she loved her, that she wasn’t unwanted and she was only trying to protect her. But she couldn’t and it was killing her. It was the one day that left her all dead inside and the dull ache of the emptiness hurt more than the constant sharp pain inside her that she felt throughout the rest of the year when the absence of her child hit hard and fast, and unexpectedly. After all these years one would think she’d be able to tell when it was going to jump on her but it was a beast too unpredictable even for her and it always left her deeply wounded, one step away from death but not quite there. Because birthdays meant there was something born. And her agony was given new life every day, and it became stronger with each rebirth, the more time she had to spend away from her little girl. Even when she was within an arm’s length and still as far away as she’d sent her on that first day of her life.

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She couldn’t see anything beautiful in the mirror. Her golden eyes were dark and dull without the sight of him in front of them. Her purple locks seemed tangled and rough to the touch without him to run his fingers through them. Her mouth was never pulled into a smile now without him to make her laugh. And her heart knew no happiness ever since she’d left him behind which was more than obvious in her reflection.

He’d called her beautiful and she’d known it to be true when she’d been in his arms. She’d felt like the most beautiful woman in the world all wrapped into his love. And she’d never needed anyone’s approval or opinion on anything. She’d been free to do as she’d pleased along with him. And that had been the real beauty of their relationship.

But without the frame of his loving gaze, there was just ugly pain inside her. And rage at herself and her reflection, for it didn’t show what she wanted to see. He wasn’t standing behind her, bent over with his head over her shoulder so that he could whisper compliments and make tempting suggestions in her ear. He wasn’t there to pull her hair back to see her face better and tell her how beautiful she was as he held her gaze. He wasn’t there to worship her body and give her every piece of his heart. He was frozen in Omega and there was an ugly, jagged wound across her heart that didn’t even gush blood, but just grotesque loneliness.

There was just ugliness in her reflection as her face was contorted in silent agony and her words lacked all elegance since none of them were his name. Her beauty withered away without him to appreciate it and it slipped through her fingers when he wasn’t there to hold her hand in his. And what hurt the most was that she’d never be beautiful again, for time was passing mercilessly, pulling her further away from that awful day she’d betrayed him. She’d ran away and he’d never love her again, letting all that beauty perish at the cold hand of her conscience.

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All the times they had met on the battlefield had had her terrified that it would be the last one, the final time she saw his face. Even their last kiss or last embrace hadn’t left her so paralyzed with fear. Maybe because she’d known what they’d been, for she’d planned her escape. But the uncertainty of every battle left her shaken with the question when one of them would die, putting an end to the messy affair between them. And that was the last thing she’d wanted. For she’d never wanted to leave him in the first place.

The final time she’d seen him, which had only become clear in retrospect, had hurt with the fact that she knew it wasn’t final. They were both still alive. He was trapped in the ice but he was alive. And it couldn’t end like that. A story like theirs could never end like that. She knew in her heart that he’d be back. The final time she saw him couldn’t be in her memories or dreams.

Seventeen years and it still hurt to see him. The pain hadn’t changed just like he was exactly the same as she remembered him. Full of rage and out to get her. She couldn’t escape from his wrath even if she wanted to. She’d left him once and he wouldn’t let her do it again. And as she lost consciousness from his attack, she knew that wasn’t the last time she’d see his face, for he wouldn’t kill her.

“My face will be the final thing you’ll ever see.”

The words rang in her head long after she’d been freed from her cell and he was dead. He hadn’t been wrong. She still saw his face. And that would be the case until the very end. Their story had been interrupted before it could reach its final form and it would never leave her alone. It was never finished, and he might have taken his final breath, but her love for him hadn’t perished yet. And no end was in sight until then.

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The book lay abandoned on the couch–open no less like she never left them because it hurt their spines–as she paced around the room waiting for his return. He was late and she couldn't concentrate on reading when she felt the heaviness in the pit of her stomach and her heart racing to compensate for the slow movements of the hands of the clock. Something must have gone wrong. He could be in trouble and she could do nothing because his mothers hadn't let her go with him. She wasn't even told where he'd been sent, otherwise, she would've been there already. But the Ancestral Witches had been separating them a lot lately, claiming it was not necessary to have both members of their strongest team exhausting their energy for a job that could be done by just one of them. And so far their tactic of utilizing their resources had been working but Griffin knew something was bound to go wrong at some point. And she'd dreaded the moment, hoping they'd realize that Valtor and her were better off having each other's backs since that reduced the risk of injuries and failures. But they'd kept it up and now.... she hoped it wasn't too late to fix the mistake.

It was a little more than half an hour after his estimated time of return that she felt the enormous whirl of magic accompanying the opening of a portal. It was in the other end of their base and bursting chaotically with no sense of direction. He hadn't been in the proper mindset to concentrate on a precise location and the magic had spat him out at a random place.

She let her own magic seek out his and whisk her away to him and she was soon teleporting herself. She ended up in one of the smaller corridors of their base, somewhere she didn't go often but she didn't have time to think about that.

Valtor was standing in front of her, doing his best not to fall over as he held his ribcage with one hand, his other arm limp at his side and sporting a cut that, thankfully, wasn't deep. It was just a surface wound unlike the injury to his chest. By the expression on his face that was all bruised and swelling she could tell he was in a lot of pain. More than when he had a cracked rib. He had at least one broken rib, possible internal bleeding and multiple smaller injuries over his entire body. His clothes were dirty and ripped as he'd probably been tackled to the ground where he'd struggled with his opponent. Or, more likely, opponents. She doubted one person could beat him up that badly.

She approached him slowly, resisting the impulse to throw herself at him, for he could barely support his own weight currently. Her quiet steps could do nothing to drown out the sound of his harsh, ragged breaths and it pained her to see him like that, gathering himself and all the strength he had left in order to just move through the base. The battle and the following use of his magic to open the portal must have drained him completely.

It took him some time to raise his head and he only noticed her when she was making her final step and stopped in front of him. He didn't even look her in the eyes before the arm hanging at his side wrapped around her waist and pulled her closer. He drew in a hissing breath through his teeth at the motion, the cut on his bicep probably burning, but he held on to her, pressing against her body despite his injuries.

She wrapped her arms around his neck since that was pretty much the only affection she could provide without irritating any of his injuries and hurting him more. She was torn because she wanted nothing more than to offer him comfort but he needed to have his injuries checked. Every second they wasted could be vital.

She pulled away to tell him all of that but the words died in her throat when she caught his eye. He was looking at her like he was seeing her for the first time, with so much relief in his eyes that it had her weak in the knees, her hands shaking as she reached for his face.

Valtor,” her voice was shaking as well and her eyes filled with tears when she touched his skin, cupping his cheeks gently. She had to reassure him that she was there and she was real, that he was at home, in her arms, and the only way to do that was to touch him. Even if it made him wince. It was better than the thoughts that had been running through his head, better than the pain of thinking he would never see her again. Shivers ran down her spine at the realization how bad it had been.

He ran a hand through her hair before pulling her into a kiss, his lips parting hers and his breath filling her lungs finally had her breathing. He was alive. He was safe. He’d come back to her. And that was all that mattered in the world.

Valtor,” Belladonna’s bark was like a whiplash making them jump apart, Griffin’s insides freezing. She was standing at the other end of the corridor and yet, the chill of her presence could be felt from all the way across it. And she wasn’t even alone. Tharma and Lysslis were standing at her sides like they always were and they all looked furious. “You were supposed to come to us and report about the mission.” Frost started creeping up the floor and walls towards the two of them, making the temperature in the closed space drop quickly and significantly. Griffin was shaking again but not just from terror this time and she instinctively reached for Valtor for support even though he probably needed that more than she did.

That’s where I was headed, mother,” Valtor’s voice was steady but still respectfully quiet and his head was bowed down as he avoided eye contact, adopting submissive attitude. He didn’t let go of her hand, though.

And it took you forty minutes?” Belladonna asked even though she was well aware he was just coming in. If Griffin had felt the portal, there was no way the Ancestral Witches hadn’t. They just wanted to force him to admit his failure so that they could lash out at him. She’d seen them do it before. And she knew what would follow. She couldn’t let it happen. “Report. Now,” Belladonna’s tone got sharper, deadlier as the frost kept making its way through the corridor and was now close enough to bite at both of them as soon as the news of the mission left his mouth.

He needs to go to the infirmary first, Mistress Belladonna,” Griffin cut in, keeping her head down to avoid challenging them any further than was strictly necessary and keep her courage. She was still shaking on the inside and wasn’t exactly sure how much of that was visible on the outside as well. “If there’s internal bleeding, every second could be essential.” She dared a quick glance at the direction of the ancient witches and that was enough to have her swallowing, her voice dying in her throat. If they required a reply from her now, she wouldn’t be able to give it and that would get her a punishment as well.

But he found the time to get all romantic with you,” Tharma said, her voice seemingly controlled but the rage was burning in it steadily and insidiously and it was a good thing Griffin couldn’t talk currently because anything she said would be the wrong answer.

Is that what you’re doing now?” Lysslis spoke, her words full of cold, soulless curiosity that was like a knife poking at their open wounds and cutting through every nerve in its way. “You’re letting her fight your battles?” The way Lysslis referred to her crushed every last bit of hope Griffin had that she and Valtor could reason with them. They’d been praising her for her strategies when she’d first joined them and won them some huge victories. But lately all she did was get frowned upon. Especially if it concerned Valtor in any way. “You can’t speak for yourself and you can’t complete missions on your own. Are you co-dependent on her now?”

That’s not-”

That was a rhetorical question,” Belladonna’s voice was loud enough to break the ice crust covering the corridor in pieces as she interrupted him. “She speaks out of turn to us and you come back empty-handed. The answer is crystal clear.” The cold flushed over them, making their muscles shake so hard it was impossible to keep holding hands and their teeth chatter which she was sure the Ancestral Witches could still count as disrespect and punish them for that, too. “That partnership was bad for you.”

We’re your most successful team,” Valtor argued, looking her in the eyes, heat pulsing out of him and warming Griffin up enough to have her muscles relax. Steam filled the corridor as the frost melted off. “We’re unstoppable together.”

You still need to be able to function as an independent asset.” Belladonna snarled, more frost creeping their way. It couldn’t reach them with the heat coming off of Valtor but that was because she wasn’t trying to reach them. She wasn’t controlling the process. It was happening subconsciously. “Yet, all we’ve gotten is proof of the opposite.”

My mission failed because the Company of Light had sent word to the king to warn him of my attack and the guard was five times what I expected.” Of course it had. The Ancestral Witches didn’t let her plan much anymore, leaving their fingerprints all over everything they touched and giving away their plans to the Company. They were a force to be reckoned with but they lacked any subtlety in their planning, relying on brute force instead of stealth and that could cost much. It’d almost cost everything today and they still hadn’t realized it. Even the might of Valtor’s Dragon Fire wasn’t enough against too many opponents. “I still defeated them all and managed to escape.” If they’d captured him... Griffin didn’t even dare think of that. The Council had no mercy against any random dark magic user that was caught doing anything they considered wrong. There was no telling what they would’ve done to him.

You still came back empty-handed,” Tharma stepped in, the wind swirling around her feet and destroying Belladonna’s frost, making small pieces of it start spinning in the air. If they’d been any thicker, they would’ve been dangerous like glass shards. “And you dare talk back to us?” Electricity crackled around her and a lightning aimed at Valtor left her form.

No,” Griffin summoned a magical shield that stopped the attack from reaching its aim. Valtor’s hand was immediately on her hip, squeezing warningly to snap her out of it. She couldn’t oppose them like that and she knew it. But she couldn’t let them torture him either. “If you attack him now, it will take him more time to heal and go back on the battlefield,” she tried to be logical about it which had about fifty percent chance of just angering them more.

And it looked like that was the case with Tharma who was seething, more electricity crackling around her, but she still waited for Belladonna to react first. It was Lysslis who spoke instead.

So you’re just thinking about the Coven?” she asked, her voice soothing, lulling you into false security as she slithered in front of her sisters and ever closer. “Our little strategist,” the words finished in a resentful hiss.

Griffin knew better than to open her mouth. She just stood still, looking at Lysslis’ general direction but not into her eyes. She wasn’t suicidal.

Very well then,” Lysslis’ praise was like a slap in the face but she stood her ground as the ancient witch stopped in front of her. “We have a mission just for you. And you’ll either come back victorious or you’d wish to never have come back at all,” the threat was quiet but impossible to miss. Especially with Lysslis’ magic plunging her directly into an illusion, making the feeling of Valtor’s touch disappear.

She was wrapped into darkness, unable to hear or see anything, before a flash of white searing agony sliced through her mind and she couldn’t even feel herself react. She could’ve screamed or fell to her knees but all her brain registered was the pain and nothing else.

You’ll bring us what we want no matter how much blood you have to spill,” Lysslis’ voice reached her, making her misery worse. That was a part of the problem. She was trying to leave as few victims behind as possible. It was better from a strategical point of view but they were taking it as misplaced mercy. Though, any mercy would be misplaced by their standards. Even when bloodshed clearly wasn’t the answer. “Otherwise, I will personally pull your mind apart piece... by... piece...” every word echoed in her head, bouncing off the corners of her consciousness, hitting it with brutal force and leaving bruises behind.

The illusion ended as abruptly as it had begun and left her out of breath, the memories of terror and suffering fresh in her head, but at least she could feel Valtor’s hand on her again. It seemed like she hadn’t had any external reactions, for he hadn’t tried to pull her out of it. Or maybe he was just being cautious, playing along with their reign of terror. It was possible that he just didn’t have enough strength for anything left, too.

Get him to the infirmary and then come find us to receive information about the mission,” Belladonna’s voice cut through her but she was grateful for it also cutting them lose from that confrontation. It was over.

She wrapped an arm around Valtor’s waist, relieved that it didn’t cause him pain or even discomfort, and opened another portal. He probably wouldn’t have enough strength to even walk the short distance to the infirmary. And even if he did, she had no desire to go past the Ancestral Witches who were blocking the corridor. So she focused on the map of the base in her mind and helped him into the portal, letting her anger at his mothers feed her magic. She’d finally recognized their current location. It was in the part of the base that the Ancestral Witches had to themselves and he’d been going to them to report about his mission despite the seriousness of his current state. If his return hadn’t drawn her to him, they would’ve hurt him even worse than his mission.

Chapter Text

Griffin stood in front of the door she’d pushed open so many times with her hand rested over the handle and her pulse pounding in her ears. She couldn't understand her own hesitation. Over the last couple of weeks she’d only lived with the thought of that moment and now that it had arrived after countless sleepless nights and wrecking her brain without rest in order to complete one of the hardest–and most brutal–missions in her life, it was finally here and she couldn’t make herself open the door that would lead her home.

She shook her head and exhaled slowly to collect herself and banish all worries from her mind. The worst was behind her. She could breathe now. And she could see him. 

She pushed the door open and walked in, her eyes immediately finding him. He was on the bed, resting, and just that sight made everything she’d been through worth it. His face had gone back to normal, all of the bruises gone, leaving just the familiar features. She couldn’t quite tell about his ribs even though they had to be almost healed by now as well.

“You shouldn’t have tried to protect me back then,” he said, halting her step and leaving her wounded in the middle of the room. After all these weeks they’d spent apart, that was the first thing he had to tell her? Something that would keep her away before she’d even managed to kiss or touch him. “You put yourself in danger.”

She stood in her place, holding his gaze. She’d done the only thing she could’ve lived with in that situation. He could reprimand her all he wanted, she wasn’t going to apologize for caring about him.

“You know the real reason why they keep us separated isn’t saving resources,” he said in a softer tone this time and extended an arm to her which she quickly took, the warmth of his skin entering her veins and spreading inside her to chase away the memories of how awful the weeks without him had been. “It’s because you don’t sleep in your own bed anymore.” Well, they’d made sure she’d have to when they’d forbidden her to see him. Not that she’d had any time to, planning carefully and doing other missions to get the Company off the trail of what she was actually after. “It’s because I laugh more.” The admission made her smile and she tried not to think about how his weeks of recovery had gone. At least his mothers had been focusing on her which must have kept them mostly off his back for the time being. “It’s because we fell in love.”

Her eyes filled with tears against her will and she leaned in to kiss him and as their lips met and the teardrops falling from her closed eyes left cool tracks on her cheeks, she was washed over with relief. She was finally back in his arms and they were unstoppable together. So she hated it when he pulled away.

“I heard your mission went well and you came back with everything they wanted,” he said as he cupped her cheek with the hand that wasn’t holding hers and she leaned into the touch, closing her eyes to enjoy it. “That’s good considering your behavior after my failed mission didn’t do you any good.”

Her eyes snapped open and she was ready to protest but he didn’t give her the chance.

“You stated that you were loyal to me and not to them loudly and clearly,” he raised his voice a little, startling her. He usually didn’t do that. “And that can be good as long as I am loyal to them but you’re still unpredictable enough to be a problem.” She would normally smile since that was something she prided herself on. It was what being a witch meant. But his expression made the heaviness in her chest return. “There are two ways this can go from here. Either they’ll put us back together as a team or...” his hand dropped from her cheek as his gaze left hers.

“Or what?” Griffin asked, her voice cold and harsh as she squeezed on his hand to draw his attention back to herself. She wanted to hear it. She wanted to be certain what awaited her if the Ancestral Witches deemed her more harmful than useful.

“Or they’ll kill you,” Valtor said, his voice quiet, causing her hand to get pulled out of his as her arm fell limply at her side. “Which is why I want you to be ready to leave,” he continued as he grabbed her shoulders, shaking her slightly to make sure she was listening. She was. She just couldn’t comprehend what she was hearing.

“Leave?” she hissed as she grabbed at his forearms, holding on for dear life. “How am I supposed to leave? They control this place. If I try to open a portal, they can just close it and I won’t be able to do anything.” Her magic wasn’t strong enough to defeat theirs. Not to mention that she didn’t want to go anywhere where he wouldn’t be. She couldn’t leave him behind. That was out of the question.

“Fairy dust can open a portal that they won’t be able to close,” Valtor said, his voice frantic and his words an absolute madness.

“Where am I supposed to get fairy dust?” Griffin cried, gripping at him tighter. It was madness. All of it. It was madness that they had to go through that because they were in love and his mothers were afraid of that. And it was madness that he wanted to send her away. How was that supposed to work out? She’d be alive but without him she wouldn’t be living. She couldn’t leave him.

“I’m certain you can find one fairy,” he held her gaze adamantly as if trying to communicate the answer to her through telepathy. Faragonda. He wanted her to reach out to Faragonda. It was a genius plan. The fairy would help her even after everything she’d done and she could count on her protection no matter what it was that she had to face. But that would mean never being with him again. “Please, Griffin,” Valtor said as if he’d read the thoughts in her head. “I need to know you’ll be safe.” His hands cupped her cheeks and she covered them with hers, soaking up the feeling of his skin on hers. It was possible she wouldn’t get to feel much more of it.

“Okay,” she nodded, tears spilling from her eyes again. But the ache in her chest was better than the thought of how much he’d hurt if he had to watch her die. He was not only willing to let her go to ensure her safety but he was also telling her to get in contact with Faragonda. It couldn’t have been easy on him and she didn’t want to make it any harder. But she still held hope that none of that would be necessary as she pulled him into a kiss.

Chapter Text

It was cold and it was dark, and he couldn’t find his Dragon Fire no matter how hard he reached for its warmth and light. And soon the emptiness that his missing magic had left behind started to fill with fear as he grappled for anything familiar in the void that seemed to host just his consciousness only to come up with nothing. His thoughts became frantic and expanded, taking over the empty space and making it insufficient, evoking the suffocating and constraining feeling of claustrophobia, forcing him to struggle and claw to break out of his own mind, tearing at whatever few sensations he could feel and pulling them apart, but to no avail.

A persistent irritation drew his attention and saved him from himself as he recognized the sensation. Something was tickling his nose, the feeling invading his nerve endings and awakening them, awakening him.

His eyes opened and, normally, he would wince against the bright light he was met with, but he was just glad to be able to see it. A bit relieved as well, but he would never admit that even to himself. It would mean admitting he’d lost control of the situation and his own being. And that was a truth best left buried in the dark where no one would be able to see it.

The tickling was becoming unbearable and he reached up to brush away the offender. The softness of the hair was alarming with how foreign but also familiar it felt. It was clear it wasn’t his own and that had him wrecking his mind for any indication of who he could've trusted enough to allow them by his side while he was vulnerable in his sleep. That was usually out of the question and he’d only ever allowed it to one person...

His train of thought derailed as he froze – much like the events that had followed his weakness had left him. His throat closed and his mouth fell open as he sought oxygen but even the rapid rising and falling of his chest wasn’t enough proof that he was breathing. Not when he could feel someone else’s skin pressed against his bare chest and the heaviness of someone’s head on his shoulder. He didn’t want to look but the burden of the uncertainty was crushing him, squeezing all the life out of him.

He was met with exactly what he’d expected – a wave of purple hair in the most beautiful shade he’d ever seen spilling over his bed and his skin like blood dripping from the open wound on his ego and on the soul he’d always wondered if he possessed but that had to be what hurt so much so at least the pain was good for something.

He jumped out of bed–the realization that that would wake her and put an end to him only coming in retrospect–to find himself naked and exposed to all the horrors that would come when she took a look at his body. He remembered the look she’d had in her bright golden eyes when she’d set out to love him. They’d been shining with adoration, the light of which had been soft and inviting, and yet, had still managed to blind him to the truth. It had kept him from seeing how she’d betray him and that had nearly destroyed him, his heart trapped in an ice cube of its own long before he’d been imprisoned in Omega. He needed to cover himself. He needed something to save him from her sweet, tempting gaze.

He only found his underwear on the floor and managed to put it on before the quiet sound of the sheets being thrown away cut through him. He whipped around–turning your back on the enemy was mistake number one–to see her emerge from the sanctuary of his bed like a breathtaking vision. She was only clad in his shirt that was barely held closed by the one button that was done. It left a lot of pale and soft skin exposed and seducing him to get close. Her hair framed her body in much the same way her magical aura did, making her look ethereal and heaven-like, with purity and kindness tangled between the purple strands. It hurt with the knowledge how far from reality all of that beauty was but he still couldn’t make himself look away.

The smile that he loved, for it made him feel like anything was possible when she was at his side, met him from the face he despised. It had been the one image he’d concentrated all of his hatred and vengeful thoughts at and it should have made him see red but it didn’t. Just like he’d expected. Because every time she looked at him–especially when there was no resentment and anger in her gaze–she made him fall for her all over again, breaking his bones against the thick ice walls of reality that kept him separated from the woman who loved him and the blood spilling from his wounds only made it more slippery and difficult to get back on his feet and gather himself.

“Good morning.” Her voice was melodic as the words were laced with affection and her eyes shimmered with happiness at the sight of him, much like fairy dust that was meant to repel dark magic and, by association, him. Yet, he was so drawn to them and the thought of holding her in his arms that he had to exert himself and force his muscles to keep still even when his mind was pulling him towards her. She took a step closer and the memories of her body pressed against his and allowing him to sink into her being were enough to seduce him back into her embrace.

The thought had him jump back as if her voice had scalded him. “What are you doing here?” he asked, doing his best to ignore the beat his heart skipped when she stopped her crusade and didn’t try to close the distance between them. She was already too close. He could feel the warmth of her body and it was far too alluring. Especially now that the heat of his Dragon Fire was gone. She was the only thing that could bring him comfort. But he had to keep her away because all she’d given him had been years of frozen isolation.

“You had me here,” she smirked playfully at the double meaning of the words. “Looks like my plan to make you forget everything besides me was successful,” she prowled over to him, her grin more satisfied rather than predatory and didn’t make him want to pull away. Instead, her words only bent his mind to her will and had him imagining things, a powerful craving awakening in him. “We can go back to bed and recreate the effect,” she purred as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her body into his, feeding his hunger and drowning out everything that wasn’t her or his desire for her.

His hands found her hips as if by instinct and it brought back memories that he’d tried to banish from his head. Memories of what it felt like to hold her in his embrace, of what it felt like to pull her closer and feel less alone than he had in his entire life, and most terrifying of all, memories of what it felt like to love her. “No,” he pulled back, forcing her to relinquish her hold on him. “I don’t want you. Get out of here,” he grabbed her arm, ready to drag her out of the room, but stopped dead in his tracks when his eyes found no door.

The room was the same as he remembered it. The blinds were always pulled open–not even against his will–since she was an early bird and loved to read, and he loved to do anything that would make her smile. There were plants that hadn’t been there before she’d practically moved in but he loved hearing her talk to them, her soft voice caressing him even when the words weren’t meant for him. His bed was still warm from her form and his sheets smelled like her. And the only thing that was missing was the door. He was trapped in the room that was supposed to be his home but was rapidly shifting into a prison when he couldn’t throw out the woman that had been supposed to be his home but had betrayed him instead.

“No one’s getting out of here,” Griffin said, drawing his attention away from his spiraling thoughts and he couldn’t decide if it was better or worse. Her voice kept him from getting lost in his own mind but it also reminded him why it was in that state in the first place. He was forced to listen to her. And he was forced to look at her, too, look at the eyes that had looked honest when she’d told him she loved him, only for it to turn out to be a lie. “No one gets out of the afterlife.” The words proved stronger than his stubbornness, for he was looking at her. “You can’t get rid of me.”

His first instinct was to object. Not just because it was coming from her, but because it couldn’t be true. It had to be a lie. Only, he already knew it wasn’t. He’d never been severed from his Dragon Fire before but seeing how it was the element of life, it made sense that he couldn’t feel it in death. Which meant there was no point in holding her arm and feeling her skin when she was telling the truth and he couldn’t get rid of her.

He shoved her away from himself and it was painful to see her so unfazed even when she stumbled. It was to be expected, of course, since nothing he did was ever enough to move her. She’d stood by calmly and watched as he–the man she claimed she loved–had been sentenced to a fate worse than death.

“When did you die?” he asked because he couldn’t remember anything of the sort happening. Of course, he couldn’t remember his own death either but that seemed to be the only memory missing from his head. All the times he’d felt like the only man in the universe when he’d been in her embrace still seemed to be there and those would have most certainly been the first to go in the case of memory problems. And yet, he couldn’t recall her death which would be more than important to him. He’d never wanted her to die. Especially if it meant being stuck with her in the afterlife.

“I haven’t,” she said, her lips getting pulled into a smile and the show of teeth made him feel far too vulnerable and helpless. He found himself almost reaching for his throat as if to protect it from the sharpness coming off of her. “I can’t die, for I’ll always be in your mind.” Her knowing gaze sent shivers right down his spine and made him want to rip the shirt right off her frame since that was the only garment in sight and he couldn’t summon his flames to warm himself up. Even if that would leave him exposed to the sight of her naked body and that was another weapon that it was too dangerous to give her. “You let me in there and shut the door behind my back, trapping me inside to keep you company in your lonely existence.” The words closed around him like a tightening noose and he refused to let her choke the air out of him. She’d killed him once already.

“You left me,” he yelled as he grabbed at her throat and walked her into the wall, slamming her into it just to hear her cry out, the sound strangled thanks to his rough grip on her. “You have no right to be in my head,” he snarled and it barely registered in his mind that the words–and his behavior–still betrayed his weakness and were probably exactly what she’d been fishing for. Her hands grabbed at his wrist but he was ready to hold on to her no matter how hard she’d claw at his skin.

She didn’t try to struggle out of his grip, though. “You won’t let me go,” she spoke, her voice quiet and harsh from the lack of oxygen, in perfect contrast to the soft touch of her hands when she refused to struggle and left her life in his hands. And he couldn’t let go, for her words had left him frozen and trapped. So trapped in her openness and cruel refusal to hurt him. “You were afraid of hurting me once,” she barely rasped out, “remember?”

He did. Of course he did. The only thing he couldn’t remember was how he’d gotten there. But the fear of doing anything that would hurt her had been engraved into his being ever since she’d confessed her feelings. He’d been unable to comprehend how someone like him could get lucky enough to have her in his life. And the terror had carved holes into his mind and eaten away at his heart, nearly making him shake every time he remembered the possibility of harming her, torturing him like nothing else ever had. Not Lysslis’ illusions or Tharma’s electrocutions. Not even Belladonna’s frost or the ice of Omega.

“You promised you wouldn’t do it,” Griffin spoke, dragging him back to the present where it wasn’t much better. In fact, the empty look in her eyes was a certain omen of doom that had him cowering in anticipation of her next words. “But you did,” she spoke with ease now that his fingers had loosened around her throat and allowed her to carry out the hit with swiftness and precision. There was nothing for him to do that could save him from her words. He couldn’t even pull away from the feeling of her skin. He just wanted her all for himself.

“You betrayed me,” he tried to retaliate so that he wouldn’t fall completely apart but the way the words came out, so disconnected from each other as if they didn’t belong together, made it clear that he was failing. She knew all of his weaknesses. He’d allowed her that knowledge in faith that she’d keep them safe. And then she’d left, keeping his secrets but hurting him worse than she would have if she’d used them against him. She’d been the only one who’d seen something good in him. She’d been the only one who’d loved him. If she gave up on him, where did that leave him? What did that make him?

“You made me.” It was said as an excuse and not as an accusation, and yet, that somehow hurt worse. “You pushed me away.” No emotional attachment. Just a simple fact. “But what else to expect from a monster.” The understanding look was what would’ve killed him if he’d been alive. It was brutal. And vicious. And the worst thing he’d ever witnessed. She’d accepted defeat, accepted that it was his nature that had gotten between them and there’d been nothing else to do.

He stepped back letting go of... it. That wasn’t Griffin. It was a fragment of his own mind that was currently poking around and releasing his insecurities inside his heart to destroy him. It was no surprise it’d taken him so long to figure it out since Griffin knew him as well as he knew himself. But what was standing in front of him wasn’t her. She’d never been so cruel. She’d never hurt him like that. In fact, what he was currently staring at was the exact opposite of her, for she’d loved him. She’d been the only one who’d ever done that, and he didn’t understand what she’d found in him but she’d never given up on him so he was still pulled in by the image of her. Even when he knew the hatred of the thing that looked like her, the hatred of his own mind.

“You chose power over me,” she said. It was her. As much of her as he’d ever get now - his own interpretations of how she must have felt thanks to his betrayal. “My love was not enough to warm your dark heart and you pushed me away,” she stepped closer and wrapped her arms around his neck once again but this time he only pulled her closer, ignoring the chill settling in his bones as her body sucked all the heat out of him. She was the only warmth he’d ever felt and how had he repaid her? “Do you have any idea how many tears you’ve made me shed?” she whispered as she touched his face and made him wish to grab her hand and press it harder in his cheek, for he could barely feel her touch ghosting over his skin. But he couldn’t take more from her.

The tears started streaming down her face, an impossible amount of water flowing from her eyes like rivers and already forming a puddle at their feet. He had to let go but he couldn’t pull away again. He couldn’t abandon her a second time. All the misery flooding their home was his fault. He couldn’t cause more of it when they were already on their way to drowning, the water coming to his knees.

“I’ve been drowning in them for years,” she hiccuped, her voice quiet as if she couldn’t breathe, her lungs heaving, stealing all the breath from him. He’d been so consumed by his own misfortune that he hadn’t stopped for a moment to ask himself what he’d done to her with his selfishness. With all his power he hadn’t managed to free himself from his prison, and she’d had it worse, for he’d left her with nothing. Not even his love for her to hold on to. “Please, save me from this torment, Valtor.”

It hurt to hear his name from her like that – full of despair. He’d been supposed to make her smile and life. He’d been supposed to make her want to sing and help her create memories full of joy. Instead, he’d been trying to torment her and tear her apart. Just like the monster that he was. She’d tried to save him but he’d made her lose all hope in him. If he’d been her, he would've killed him, but she’d been merciful and all he’d rewarded her with had been suffering.

He cupped her cheek and felt her leaning into it. She didn’t seem to mind the slight shaking of his hand as his whole body was losing temperature. The tears kept pouring from her eyes, though, the level of the water already reaching his chest, yet, all he cared about was her heart. He needed to fix what he’d broken. He needed to breathe life into her dying form.

He drew her into a kiss, carefully parting her lips to allow his oxygen to fill her lungs. Her fingers sank into his shoulders and pulled him closer, holding him in place since his shaking muscles were getting in the way of the kiss. The cold that had taken over his body was soon replaced by the burning sensation in his lungs as he was suffocating in her mouth but she didn’t let go of him. He had to pull away but he couldn’t do that. And what did it matter anyway? He was already dead. And that kiss was everything he would ever get from her and that he could give her. He couldn’t even give her his life. The kiss was everything that mattered. So he gave into her as the water level keep raising and her tears filled his respiratory system just when he was about to die from suffocation, drowning him in cold and darkness instead that he accepted. It was all he deserved anyway.

Chapter Text

My heart is still in agony when you’re not with me,” Valtor said as he took her hand in his and leaned closer to her. His lips remained slightly parted as if he couldn’t draw in enough air and his eyes welled up with hurt that could almost pass for genuine if she didn’t know what was going on. Currently, it only made the whole thing more ridiculous.

I am bewitched by the power of your wooing technique,” she spoke, trying to stay in role but it was proving to be impossible. The comedic effect of his pretense was too strong and her lips got pulled into a smile even though she tried to fight it.

He smirked. “Believe it or not, one or two have actually fallen for that,” he dropped the theatrics as he let go of her hand and straightened his back.

No.” She burst out laughing. It was just too much to take in. The image of him actually saying that to a real person and not as a part of their game, having to remain serious despite the absurdity of the situation was something she couldn’t meet with a straight face.

Oh, yes,” Valtor said in a deep tragic voice as if haunted by the memories of those times. He didn’t look like he was pretending and Griffin wondered what it had taken from him to play his role in those moments. She knew he’d had no choice, just like they had to go to that ball for their cause. But that couldn’t have made it easier. And it looked like acting had taken its toll on him.

I can’t believe what people will fall for,” she shook her head, trying to keep the thoughts of that out of her mind and, hopefully, keep him with her.

It had him looking at her, tilting his head to the side slightly like he did when something piqued his interest. So maybe it had worked too well. “And what will you fall for?” he asked, the words playful as much as they were probing. He wanted to know now. For real. Not just because they had to pretend to be a couple.

Griffin swallowed. “Not that,” her gaze drifted back to her abandoned research. She’d wanted to prepare herself on a tactical level, seeking out materials that would help her get acquainted with the palace they had to rob when he’d come into the library and distracted her with insisting they needed to practice for their cover. Reluctance would’ve led him to believe she wished to avoid more intimate closeness with him so she’d agreed, pushing away the memories of all the times he’d kissed her before walking away as if nothing had happened while her heart was pounding as if it would shoot out of her chest and chase after him and her breathing was more labored than after a sparring session with him.

Shall we find out?” Valtor asked, his tone light enough to pass for playful still but his eyes were on her, observing carefully for her reactions. She was his mission right now and he wouldn’t give up until he got what he wanted. She knew that well enough.

Okay,” she chuckled, more to cover her nerves rather than from actual amusement since they had long ago abandoned the innocent joking around. It was real now. What he got from her he could use against her. “I’ll humor you for exactly three minutes and then all of this is over and we get back to work.” She should have never let him get her sidetracked in the first place.

He leaned in, invading her personal space but she’d invited him to do exactly that so it was all her fault. “You’re extremely powerful and clever and I couldn’t wish for another partner,” Valtor said, captivating her by giving her his undivided attention. He was looking at her and her only and she couldn’t make herself look away from him. It was like the rest of the world ceased to exist. “I know you always have my back and I can count on you no matter what.” He brushed a strand of hair behind her ear to see her face better and his interest in her was more intoxicating than the feeling of their convergence. “I would gladly trust you with my life at any time.” The words hit her so hard, for she knew he didn’t trust anyone.

Valtor,” she whispered, feeling tears springing to her eyes at the sight of the softness in his, but before she could continue, his lips covered hers, cutting her off and drawing a surprised sound from her.

The kiss wasn’t like all those that had come before it when he’d been trying to prove a point by leaving her breathless with her thoughts spinning out of control. It was slower and steadier, reminding more of conversation rather than of conquering. He’d been looking to win a game all the times he’d kissed her before that, but now he was letting her feel everything, all of him, and she wanted more.

Her hands closed in his coat and she pulled him closer, doing her best to keep the rhythm of the kiss and not let her hunger take over. It was his right to decide how much to trust her with and she couldn’t take it from him.

He rewarded her for her patience by tangling a hand in her hair and keeping her close, letting her explore. He wasn’t trying to lure out the breath from her lungs until her head was spinning but allowed her to lead instead and take it at her own pace, do what she pleased, and she was happy to just have that. She didn’t need more.

A confused whine left her when he pulled away and her eyes snapped open to find him taking deep breaths. The kiss had obviously affected him as well which made it easier for her to deal with the fact that her own chest was rising and falling rapidly once again after his lips had been on hers with nothing between them but his passion and her desperation. She still let go of his coat, though, trying to make the action as inconspicuous as possible. She didn’t need him commenting on how hard she’d been holding on to him. She still wanted an explanation for the sudden interruption, however.

The three minutes are up,” Valtor said as if he’d read her mind before grinning at her, and it seemed especially offensive with his face so close to hers.

You bastard,” she hissed, hitting him in the chest with the heel of her palm and shoving him away. She’d fallen for his tricks again. She’d allowed herself to believe that he was honest only to have him play her like he always did. But it was her own damn fault. She knew better than that. She knew him.

None of what I said was a lie,” he tried as he caught her hand again but she pulled it out of his, the feeling of his skin too painful a mockery.

I don’t believe you,” she said, making an effort to not look at him or he’d charm his way out of the situation again. Just like he always did. And what hurt the most was that she’d let him fool her even though she knew how he operated. All because she’d wanted to believe there was something genuine in everything he’d said, in everything he’d shown her since she was his partner. But she was no different to him from anyone else. Just another person he could manipulate.

When have I lied to you?” Valtor asked, sounding hurt and it was just cruel of him to use that tactic because he knew it would work. It had to be a strategy but even that knowledge couldn’t keep her from looking at him. And the ice blue of his eyes was paradoxically warm once again.

This was just a game.” Everything was a game to him and that was why she couldn’t trust his honesty. She knew that well, yet, somehow her own mind was less convincing than the words coming from his mouth even after she’d been their victim more than once. It didn’t make sense and it left her afraid of what she’d allow him to do to her.

That wasn’t part of the game,” he said as he held her gaze and she found herself believing him once again because she wanted to. She wanted to believe his softness and she wanted to believe that he trusted her enough to be honest with her. “I meant every word,” he said, the intensity of his stare setting her insides on fire and she felt it creeping up her body, ready to give everything away to him when it colored her cheeks in soft pink that was far more dangerous than the blue of a flame.

Book. She needed to focus on the open book that lay forgotten on the table in front of her. Not on the warmth radiating from his body that she could feel thanks to his proximity.

Chapter Text

Did you miss me?” Valtor’s voice echoed through the dungeons, cutting viciously through the quietness that otherwise filled them. His magic had given his presence away as he’d teleported, though, spoiling the element of surprise even when she had her back turned to him.

Why are you asking when you’ll only believe one answer?” she turned around to face him. He’d sneaked behind her back and still hadn’t managed to startle her, working against himself in proving she wasn’t afraid of him. But he was going for another angle anyway, seeing that fear wouldn’t have her heart pounding for him.

I want to see if you’ll try to lie to me,” Valtor met her gaze calmly, his attitude contrasting to the emotions hidden behind the words. It was somehow worse than the times he’d erupt when they’d fought on opposite sides. They’d been meeting so much on the battlefield it had felt almost romantic. If not for the magic aimed to kill her. She couldn’t have missed him if she’d wanted to, for he’d always been there. But the ice of Omega had changed things for both of them.

If I say I did,” she started because he wanted her trapped in a situation in which lying and saying the truth would hurt equally so he certainly wasn’t expecting that, “will you not accuse me of lying about loving you?” If he wanted to bring up her feelings, he’d have to take all of them into account. Not just the ones that were convenient for him.

Who said anything about love?” Valtor asked, his facade still nonchalant enough but now with the tiniest hints of cracks in it in the face of the barely noticeable pause before the word ‘love’ and the way he blinked, cutting his gaze from hers just at the time it left his mouth. The challenge was back in his gaze in an instant, though.

What other reason would I have to miss you?” she asked as she stepped closer, steering him towards the trap he’d set for her.

The intoxicating feeling of our convergence,” he offered immediately as if it was obvious when the one thing that was rapidly becoming clear was that he’d lost. She just hoped he’d have the decency to admit that.

Magic comes from emotions, you know that.” He’d taught her that. She’d known it long before she’d met him of course, but he’d been the one to show her what you could really do with your powers as long as you got in touch with your emotions. Their convergence had been so powerful because their feelings had been in tune. They had been shared, the connection between the two of them strong enough to withstand every attack coming from outside.

Valtor held her gaze. “True,” he admitted as he crossed his arms, waiting for her next move.

So you believe me then?” she asked, hoping to steer the conversation in a less deadly direction. They had the chance to stop hurting each other but they had to both take it.

Believe what?” Valtor shrugged. “You haven’t said anything.” He had no mercy whatsoever even to himself. His inability to let go had destroyed them from inside. And it kept doing exactly that even now.

At least you can’t accuse me of lying to you.” She wanted to be honest. But what was the point if he wouldn’t accept any of her words that differed from what he wanted to hear? She couldn’t find his demons when he wouldn’t do so himself.

But you’re not telling me the truth either,” he spat out as if he had rights over her. She didn’t owe him anything after what had happened between them no matter what he thought, and yet, she was still doing her best to avoid hurting him–both of them–more than necessary. Which was more than what could be said about him. He’d set out to hurt her and he wanted her to cooperate in his plans. Selfish to the very end.

Are you telling me the truth?” she asked because she wasn’t the only one who was dodging questions. Luckily for her, she’d gotten better at not letting him get away with his hypocrisy.

I’ve never lied to you,” he said as his arms fell at his sides as if she’d truly hurt him. But it was his ego and his pride that she’d wounded. He’d loved to parade with the fact that he’d never lied to her but that had only been the case because he’d been too good at omitting the truth and she’d trusted him too much to press more. She’d loved him too much to see through him.

No,” she shook her head. “No lies. Our... partnership was killed by unspoken truths.” Like the fact that his mothers had been planning genocide and he’d known all along. Or the fact that she’d been suffocating among all the bloodshed and even her love for him hadn’t been enough to make her stay.

Was that what your betrayal was?” Valtor asked as he came closer, his voice a bit unstable as the emotions took over it. “Because I remember you saying you would never leave and then you went and did just that.” He was shaking, but not from anger, and the sight was unbearable because she knew his body language so well. Coupled with the words that he’d just thrown at her face, it made for yet another accusation against her. As if she’d brought everything they had down with satisfaction. As if she’d been happy about the whole ordeal. As if he’d been the only one to suffer.

Did you miss me?” she asked, her eyes closing under the heavy realization of what she’d just done. And just in time to spare her from the sight of his reaction towards the strike she’d just carried out against both of them. She hadn’t been trying to destroy them, and yet, there she was, pushing against something that was already far too fragile. Because he’d hurt her with the truth.

The sound of footsteps had her eyes snap open to see his back as he was walking away from her. And it hurt more than anything he could say. Especially when the thought that that must have been how he’d felt when she’d left made its way into her head. She’d hurt him and she had to do something to fix her mistake if she didn’t want to trap them in a vicious circle with no escape, if she cared for either one of them.

I did,” she fired out and was relieved to see him stop despite the harshness of the sound when it bounced back from the walls, washing over them in intense waves. “I did miss you.” She had. From the moment she’d left, a part of her heart had been ripped away and nothing other than his presence could fill the void eating away at her. So she couldn’t let him go, for that would be the equivalent of murder. “And I did love you.” Maybe loved him still. But even she wasn’t fully convinced of that so she left it out.

Valtor turned around, doing her the courtesy to look at her one more time instead of silently walking away with her heart. “I guess we both know the truth now,” he said, showing some mercy at last.

Chapter Text

Griffin rubbed her hands over her arms as she stood on the Alfea rooftop, trying to warm herself up. Last time she’d checked, it was supposed to be late spring. However, nature seemed to have forgotten about that if the temperature was anything to judge by. If she’d known it would be so cold, she would’ve declined Faragonda’s proposition to stay after the celebration and do some stargazing now that the threat was eliminated.

Are you okay?” Faragonda’s voice behind her back startled her–she hadn’t expected the question–even though she’d known she was there. The fairy hadn’t let her out of her sight for a moment and, frankly, she was starting to feel a little suffocated. She knew Faragonda was just being protective but it was over. Everything was over. They had no reason to fear anything anymore.

Peachy,” she snipped. “You should have included a warning for extreme weather conditions in your invitation.” She started pacing, hoping to chase away the chills that were having a field day running through her entire being.

Griffin,” Faragonda’s hand on her shoulder nearly had her jump, for she’d left her at the other end of the rooftop with her casual stroll. And it felt more like she’d just gripped at her throat, the restless energy inside her piling up by the second now that she was forced to stop. “I remember seeing you shake this hard only once before.” Faragonda was thoughtful enough to at least remove her hand now that the words were weighing her down and holding her in place. “Seventeen years ago.”

Griffin shut her eyes as a sob left her mouth. It was as much a sound of despair as it was of relief. At least she didn’t have to hold it in and pretend everything was okay now that Faragonda knew. Yet, that in no way changed the truth. And the truth was she should have never felt like that. Not seventeen years ago, and not now. And she didn’t know how to handle any of that so she turned to Faragonda for help.

You knew he was still out there?” Faragonda asked and even though the curtain of tears blocked her vision, Griffin knew the gentleness that would meet her from Faragonda’s gaze if she could see. She’d never judged her before and no matter what the irrational fear whispered in her ears, she wouldn’t start now. Griffin knew that as surely as she knew her own thoughts.

I hoped that...” Another sob got in the way of her words and she took a deep breath because she needed to finish that sentence. Left like that it insinuated something so wrong, something insane. “I hoped that he was gone and I wouldn’t feel anything this time.” She hiccuped, and she had to hate him just for that, for she couldn't remember when was the last time she’d cried so hard. “After everything he’s done...” She couldn’t finish that thought. Couldn’t admit out loud that he still had a place in her heart. Not after what he’d done to her friends and students.

Shh,” Faragonda soothed as she pulled her in her embrace, wrapping her arms around her and cradling her head with her hand just like she’d done seventeen years ago. And after all this time, it still worked. The warmth of their friendship was enough even against the cold of his absence and she held on to Faragonda like her life depended on it. Because it felt like it did. “He was filled with hatred and look where it got him.” Well, neither of them knew exactly what had happened to him. Only that he was gone. She could feel it in her soul, and it was more than weird, for he wasn’t any more lost to her now than he’d been when he’d been standing in front of her, and yet, the thought of his demise hurt. More than it was supposed to. Though, that wasn’t really a good measure since she shouldn’t have felt anything for him from the moment she’d learned what kind of demon she was dealing with. “Love is never a mistake in itself,” Faragonda whispered with such conviction that it was hard not to believe it.

Love. She’d made the biggest mistakes in her life in its name. And she’d also done the right thing in spite of her feelings. So Faragonda had a point there. She always did, and Griffin could count on her to show her the truth that had her muscles relax and the shaking subside.

Chapter Text

There was a knock on the door. She wasn’t expecting anyone but she didn’t startle like she’d used to do when she’d been sleep deprived and constantly on edge from the endless planning and the enormous stakes of the war. But not anymore. She couldn’t feel much these days. In fact, she only felt numb, and she told herself it was better that way even when she knew it was a lie.

Come in,” she said, for she figured that if it was anyone she didn’t want to see, they would’ve walked in already without bothering to request permission from her.

And indeed, when the door opened she was met with Faragonda’s face. She didn’t seem exactly happy–Griffin doubted anyone could be after what they’d witnessed in the final battle–but she was still much more cheerful than Griffin could deal with. “Hey,” Faragonda greeted as she walked in, her voice nowhere near its usual joyful sound but it would get there, Griffin knew. The fairy always found a way to pick up the broken pieces, and even if she sometimes joked it was a pixie thing, she knew better. It was a Faragonda thing. And she admired her for the beautiful display of quiet strength.

Hey.” She forced herself to smile for Faragonda’s sake. Her friend was making steady steps towards recovery and she didn’t want her own lack of progress to set her back. She didn’t want to drag her back to that pit of despair that their memories of the war were. They had to move on. And just because she couldn’t, didn’t mean she had to get in the way of everyone else.

Packing?” Faragonda asked as she sat down on her bed, eying her suitcase that was nearly empty, and not just by fairy standards.

Yeah,” Griffin said as she moved her gaze through the room, pretending she was looking for things she needed to grab and throw in the suitcase when the truth was that she’d already packed everything that she wouldn’t need until her departure the next day. She hadn’t had much to begin with after she’d left the Coven, and most of what she’d had, had been destroyed along with the entire planet of Domino. The only personal belongings she had–the only ones she’d cared about–were gone. Even the flower hairpin from Faragonda was lost since she hadn’t taken it with her into battle. She only had the clothes she’d been wearing, those she’d been provided with in the Fortress of Light and a few books that had been recovered from one of their safe houses. And most of her friends were alive. It was more than she could have hoped for.

Where to now?” Faragonda asked and if the upbeat tone sounded somewhat forced and her eyes seemed to glimmer with tears, Griffin pretended not to notice. If she were any less selfish, she would ask Faragonda what was torturing her. (She knew. It was the same thing that tormented all of them.) But she couldn’t witness her friend break down. It would be too much.

Home,” she said, all of her resolve going into making the words louder than a whisper and forcing herself not to choke on their acrid taste so she couldn’t make herself seem even remotely excited. There was no home for her anymore. She’d lost the right to call her realm home when she’d passed its secrets into Valtor’s hands. And she didn’t even dare think about how much being in his arms had felt like home.

Faragonda nodded, cutting her gaze from hers. “Start anew,” she said but the bitter chuckle that followed was something Griffin had never expected to hear from her. It set off all kinds of alarms in her head. “As if it’s that easy,” Faragonda shook her head, the tears streaming down her face and Griffin could swear they would both drown in them if she didn’t do something to stop them. “After what we’ve been through...” Faragonda’s voice broke and morphed into a sob.

Hey, hey, I’ve got you,” Griffin soothed as she rushed to her and sat down on the bed as well, taking Faragonda’s hand in hers and wiping away the tears from her cheeks with her free hand, only to feel the sorrow soaking up into her skin and leaving her frozen, unable to help her friend.

I don’t know what to do,” Faragonda cried, the words hitting far too close to home and if her vision wasn’t blurred by the tears, she would’ve noticed the pain crossing Griffin’s face which would’ve led to a whole new cause for crying. “Everyone expects me to just go on and return to being a guardian fairy for my realm but how am I supposed to do that when I was there to watch an entire planet perish and all I could do was... nothing?” the words kept spilling from her mouth just like the tears were streaming from her eyes and all of it threw Griffin in agony because she understood too well. She felt so lost herself. “How are we supposed to move on after everything we saw?” her voice was so loud and unstable that it was scary, for Griffin had never heard her like that, but she understood. She’d asked herself the same. And she hadn’t been able to come up with an answer. Until now.

Together,” she said as she gripped tightly at Faragonda’s shoulders to draw her attention. “We’ll get through this together,” she promised as she held her gaze before drawing her into a hug and feeling Faragonda sink into it helped her relax as well. She hadn’t known what to do with herself before that moment. But now she had a direction. She had nowhere to be. So she’d stand by her friend and help her pick up the pieces. And hopefully, she would find some peace for herself as well.

Chapter Text

Faragonda glanced at the clock as she finished signing the last document in her pile. It was late. And it would've been even more so had Griffin not stayed to help her with all the paperwork the Council kept sending them after the incident with the Trix. They were looking for reasons to get rid of both of them and Saladin, too. The Council had never been thrilled about Griffin and her position as the Headmistress of Cloud Tower despite her competence–or probably because of it–and now that she and Saladin had backed her up and stopped them from destroying her career, they were being targeted as well. One wrong step was all it would take for the Council to replace them. It was a good thing they were watching each other’s backs.

Thank you for staying to help me,” Faragonda said, a smile taking over her face at the sight of Griffin’s expression as she filled out the last sheet from her pile. It was one of total concentration and besides being adorable–Griffin would throw a fit if she knew that she was thinking it so it was a good thing she was busy currently–it also made Faragonda appreciate Griffin's readiness to assist her even more. She would've had to stay up all night to finish the mountain of paperwork without the help. Not to mention that Griffin had her own work to attend to but she’d still stayed because their friendship had been revived and was once again at its strongest.

It’s the least I could do after everything we had to go through,” Griffin said without looking up. She didn’t add the “because of me” but it was in her tone, loud and clear, and it was like she pushed the pen she was holding between Faragonda’s ribs, making it painful for her to breathe.

The witch was prone to blaming herself and trying to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders while also refusing any help offered to her. Faragonda had hoped that after they’d handled the whole mess with the Army of Decay together Griffin would let her in. And she had but she still insisted on carrying her guilt instead of allowing her to soothe it. She would try anyway but she didn’t have enough air to speak.

There, all finished,” Griffin said as she slammed the last sheet of paper on top of the stack and threw her pen away dramatically, sending it flying through the room and flipping the mood on its head. “No magic needed for these monsters either, although it would’ve made things much easier and faster.”

It would have indeed but the Council had made sure to make the paperwork magic proof. For protection from fabrication and tempering with the documentation was the official version. To make their lives miserable in retaliation for standing up to them was the truth. Which didn’t leave them a choice but to commit hours to filling out pointless forms and such. Otherwise, Faragonda would've used some dark magic from the old days to save herself and Griffin numerous hours of writing resulting in back pain and headaches.

There’s even time for a cup of tea and whatever ridiculous game you’ll think of this time,” Griffin smiled at her as if she’d seen her need for something to brighten her mood and shed some light in the darkness gathered in her mind. “Just not Truth or Dare,” Griffin scrunched her nose up in distaste but the smile was back soon as she conjured two cups of tea to back up her tempting offer.

Faragonda chuckled as she leaned back in her chair, relieved to straighten her back for the first time in what felt like forever. “I could kiss you right now,” she spoke, the sentence rather breathy as she felt the pressure leave her body and her muscles relax.

Could?” Griffin asked, the high-pitched sound of her voice and the feigned scandalized expression on her face forcing Faragonda to purse her lips as a measure to hold her laughter in. “Well, that’s disappointing,” Griffin looked away as she summoned a pout to take over her features.

Are you sure you want me to kiss you?” Faragonda teased as she leaned forward again for effect, her body protesting against the action just like her mind protested against the notion of taking that game any further. She had to stop before she could trick herself into thinking that this was something more than just innocent joking around with her best friend. She’d be the one to burn herself with disappointment when she inevitably had to return to reality.

Are you sure you could kiss me?” Griffin mirrored her movement, challenging playfully, but her bright golden eyes shined with desire that looked real and honest and then some. And they were so close that it would be a crime to ignore the intimacy of the moment.

Faragonda moved closer to the inviting warmth coming from Griffin and closed the space between them even more but the proximity wasn’t suffocating and instead wrapped them in the freedom their friendship had always granted them. Freedom to be who you are and be loved for that and supported no matter what. It had always been the one thing that had given her the strength to keep going.

She took a deep breath, giving them both time to clear their heads and back out of it if they felt the need. But the only need she could feel was to be close to Griffin. As close as the fabric of existence would allow and then some.

She touched her lips to Griffin's slowly and gently when all she wanted was to hold on to her and never let go but she didn’t want to force her into something she wasn’t ready for or didn’t want. So she left all the choices to her, afraid to even touch her, even if it would be like having her wings ripped off to feel her pull away.

Griffin's hands closed in her blouse, pulling her closer and almost out of her chair, making her grab on to her and hold tight as Griffin's lips opened against hers and her tongue came out, seeking permission to enter her mouth.

Faragonda parted her lips to grant it and let Griffin lead as she let herself get carried away in the caresses of Griffin's tongue and the softness of her lips on hers. The kiss was hungry and needy, and desperate–as if they’d finally found the one piece they’d been missing and they were trying to make the most of the wholeness filling up their hearts before it could slip through their fingers–and it left her feeling light-headed. Though, that might have also been the lack of oxygen since they didn’t pull away until it became life-threatening.

They parted, their chests rising and falling erratically and the sound of their harsh breaths filling the room, but Faragonda touched her forehead to Griffin's, looking to stay as close to her as possible. She also took Griffin's hands in hers when the witch let go of her clothing, thoughts of what her clinginess looked like probably flooding her mind now that the oxygen was coming back to her brain. There was no way Faragonda could find her too close, though, and she wanted to show her that.

Griffin closed her eyes and squeezed Faragonda’s hands as if to make sure she was still there with her. “I...” she took a few more breaths–to calm her racing heart that Faragonda could hear or to gather her thoughts wasn’t clear–before she spoke, “I’m scared.” Her voice was quiet and this time it wasn’t from the lack of air.

Faragonda pulled away to look at her and she could see the fear gripping at her throat. “I’m here,” Faragonda said, suppressing the impulse to cup Griffin's cheek, for that would require her to pull one of her hands out of Griffin's and she feared that could plant feelings of abandonment in the witch. So she just held her hands and hoped her voice would have enough strength to get through to her friend.

I’m scared I’ll ruin everything between us,” Griffin opened her eyes that had welled up with tears while her voice had disappeared, leaving only a whisper behind. “I can’t live without you,” she admitted, making Faragonda’s heart skip a beat and her grip on Griffin loosened as she nearly melted at the words. “I can’t do it again,” Griffin said and the guilt in her eyes reflected in the water that was filling them had Faragonda’s heart freeze into a hardened shell of pain that seemed impossible to break through by something as soft and light as her love for Griffin.

I’m scared, too,” Faragonda confessed, for she’d been haunted by the same thoughts ever since they’d mended their friendship. They hadn’t spoken for years and even though it seemed like no time had passed at all between them as they still knew each other better than anyone else, she could still remember the coldness of those nights when she’d felt like she’d fall out of bed and disappear into the unforgiving blackness of the chasm that had opened between her and Griffin in place of the deep and intimate understanding they’d shared. She’d been haunted by that fear for too long for it to go away without leaving any traces on her heart. And the marks were still there ready to make themselves known the moment any uncertainty crawled over them and irritated them even in the slightest.

Griffin seemed to misread her words through the haze of guilt wrapped around her mind and her tears were ready to fall from her eyes the moment she flung herself over the edge of the cliff of blame she’d put herself on. Faragonda had to be careful not to be the one to push her over.

We’re together in this, though,” she said as she pulled Griffin’s hands closer and pressed them to her chest, hoping to draw her to safety. “And we know what we want.” She did. And if the way Griffin had and was holding on to her was any indication, then she wanted the same. “We can make it happen. We can make sure we won’t have to live without each other,” she said, glad to see Griffin's eyes widening slightly as if to help the distress seep out of them faster and make space for new hope to fill them, chasing away the tears. “So what do you say?” she went for a smile but the nervousness had frozen her muscles and her lips couldn’t quite make it. “Jump with me into the unknown?” She would offer Griffin a hand but she was already holding both of hers and she wouldn’t let go if Griffin didn’t ask her to.

Yes,” Griffin just barely managed to choke out through all the emotions that could be read in her eyes before she lunged forward and kissed her hard.

If the previous kiss had been needy, then this one was better described as passionate, both in giving and taking. It tasted like freedom–freedom from fear and freedom to be together–and neither of them could break away from it. It was liberating and Faragonda refused to let the uncomfortable position they were sitting in restrict them or get in their way.

She pulled Griffin out of her chair without breaking the kiss and let go of her hands to grasp at her hips and lift her on the desk. Griffin was light enough for Faragonda to not require any assistance from her magic but she still used it to move away the teacups that she barely remembered were there. The pile of paperwork wasn’t so lucky, though, as they ended up pushing it over, the sheets falling all over the floor, but she could hardly be bothered with that when Griffin's arms were wrapped around her neck and grounded her in their cozy little bubble of love.

Chapter Text

She’d been like water, pure and vital, and gentle, soaking up everything she touched with life, including his soul of fire. She’d been his opposing force, capable of reining in his flames and extinguishing him, and yet he’d been afraid that he’d be the one to hurt her. Destruction was all he knew, all he was good for, and he’d feared that even the endless flow of her love wouldn’t be enough to tame his flames. He’d been scared she’d evaporate under the aggressive burn of his darkness, leaving behind only a cloud of hot steam scalding his face and melting the skin off the bones. For no matter how different, they were one and the same, and destroying her would be the end of him as well.

Then she’d taken it in the opposite direction, turning into hard, unforgiving ice that trapped his heart in her grasp, biting viciously at it and leaving her marks all over him. Every little crack she could find, she filled and ripped open, leaving him fissured and fractured and ready to collapse, his pieces crumbling to dust. And it wasn’t enough. She reached inside his chest with her cold hand and ripped his heart from his ribcage to store it in one of her making. She put it in a block of ice and back inside him, knowing full well that he wouldn’t freeze like death and yet would feel like he had only to keep living in the aftermath of her betrayal. It was far more cruel than anything he could've done to her, far more vicious even than his thoughts of revenge. But it was his own fault for thinking fire could hurt water and that she’d spare him if he fell in love with her.

How foolish it had been of him to think opposites attract. They did, but they could never come together as one whole. It was a destructive dance, a fatal attraction that he was now paying for with his life. For the only endless thing was the agony her absence was drowning him in. And the only thing he was left with was the desire to rain pain and carnage upon the universe because that was the only way to get his flames to burn something else and not his own insides instead. And there was nothing to soothe his wounds and help him heal when his life had drained from him the moment she’d slipped through his fingers.

Chapter Text

She remembered it like it was yesterday, like she could still feel the ache in her chest when she was overwhelmed by the desire he awoke in her. She’d wanted nothing more than to be with him, to love him and hear his steady, calm heartbeat when she woke up every morning with her head laid on his chest. She’d wanted to feel his touch and his love on her skin and it had been such a pure dream. Her desire for him had been so powerful it had seemed like nothing could stand in its way when he’d put the stars in her eyes with his soft confessions.

Then the truth hit her with full force, knocking the air out of her lungs, and yet, the love still seemed to linger in her heart, sinking its claws into her hard and making her head spin, still full of thoughts about him. What to do now? Get him back? Erase the past like it’d never happened? Move on? Bury him in the ground blacker than his heart? Pull herself apart to stop from spiraling down a path of no return? She didn’t know what to wish for, and her heart was colder than stone when there was nothing to keep it warm, no desire to drive her life forward. Everything was dead and she only carried on because the war still needed to be stopped.

One moment he was out for her head, the next he was trapped in Omega and something in her broke like a crack in the ice that would never free him. She was free of the questions, for there was only one thing to do. She continued with her life with the distant memories of his love still somewhere in the back of her mind–though, they seemed like a tale she’d read somewhere and not her own experiences–and a much more familiar ache in her heart that scared her to death, for that was the only thing she’d get if he ever came back, and she’d moved on. She had. At least that was what she told herself.

He came back. And desire flooded her system. Desire to kill him for daring to come back, for daring to interrupt her life and harm the people she loved but leaving himself out as if to mock her for the feelings she still sheltered in her heart, for only pain would come from them. And if she could see it and he knew it, too, why couldn’t she banish them to somewhere worse than a dimension of frost, to oblivion? Why did she let her desire for him live when it was left unsatisfied because that was all she ever got with him? Just a need that no one would meet. Certainly not him.

He was gone again before she knew. He’d made a fool of her stubborn little heart that refused to give up and then he’d died. He was gone this time, lifting his curse over all of them and they could finally take a breath without the threat of his rage hanging over them. Yet, the skies seemed emptier that night, for the stars had long left her eyes but there was still a little flame of desire that used up all of her oxygen, leaving her as good as dead since that was the only way to ever be with him again. And no tomorrow could heal the pain of having to find something else to hold on to if she wanted to keep taking shaky breath after shaky breath to fill up all the empty space in her chest.

Chapter Text

She was at Alfea. She was safe. She was. She knew it. So why could she still feel chills running down her spine? Why could she still see the hatred she knew would be burning in Valtor’s eyes the next time he looked at her? Why could she still hear the piercing shrieks of the Ancestresses that made her want to curl up in herself and never have to face the world and everything that was wrong with it currently again?

She couldn’t do it. She had no strength left for anything. She’d used up all of it to get herself to leave him when all she’d wanted had been to stay with him. Cuddled in his arms and wrapped in his love. Keep waking up to every new day in his bed where the first thing she’d see w ould be his face softened by the sleep and offering her the chance to run her fingers over his silky features. No day started like that could go wrong which was a promise for a happy life. But all of that had burned in flames like everything that got in his way. And now she was in his way and awaiting an agonizing death by his hand. Whether he would kill her or not, it didn’t matter. He would never touch her with love again and that was a punishment she’d brought on herself.

A knock on the door startled her, prompting her to quickly wipe away the tears and hope they hadn’t left any traces on her pillow or bedspread that could give away that they’d ever existed. She’d at least gotten good at keeping her cries trapped inside her throat the last few months when the anguish would just jump out on her without any warning and tackle her to the ground stealing the tears from her eyes and the sobs from her mouth and she’d often been forced to stifle those, for she couldn’t give voice to what was troubling her.

The door opened and she didn’t need to look to know who it was. There was just one person that cared about her in Alfea. There was just one person that cared about her in the world. And her crushing loneliness was her own doing this time. She’d become another reason for dark magic users to be despised even if her being a witch had nothing to do with the lines she’d crossed.

I don’t recall inviting you,” she said, the nasal sound of her voice drowning out Faragonda’s steps and she hoped the harshness of her tone would make her go away. There was darkness inside her that destroyed everything it came across and just because the fairy ignored it, probably thinking that their friendship would save her from it when it had turned out to be stronger than love, didn’t mean that it would disappear, illuminated by the light of Faragonda’s care for her.

I wanted to see how you are,” Faragonda said softly as she stopped next to the bed, ever the opposite of everything Griffin did and said and was. She’d always complemented her perfectly as the light to her darkness and it all made Griffin wish to turn away from the reminder of everything that was wrong with her but she couldn't make herself turn her back on Faragonda. Not when she was the only one who loved her still and not when she was the only reason she was even alive at this very moment.

I’m fine,” she snapped, more against her will rather than voluntarily. It was a reflex. Just like everything bad was to her. “I’m a witch, not a baby,” she said, and this time the words were mellower when they came out of her mouth but they still sounded like the vocal equivalent of sandpaper in her raspy voice which tears couldn’t oil for her. “I don’t need coddling.”

She rolled her eyes when Faragonda chose exactly that moment to conjure a tissue and hand it to her. She didn’t take it to prove her point even though she could actually use it. She was forced to breathe through the mouth now that her nostrils were blocked and that left her feel every bit as vulnerable as a fish out of water. It filled her with the need to hug herself but that would mean admitting that she felt it.

No, of course you don’t,” Faragonda said as she sat down next to her, resting the hand with the tissue where Griffin would easily be able to reach it. She was always so considerate and her tone proved it as her words didn’t sound like a mockery. They were full of understanding and Griffin couldn’t wrap her mind around the compassion Faragonda was capable of towards her especially when she couldn’t be so gentle to herself. Not after what had happened. “However, you almost got brutally murdered by the three oldest and most vicious witches in history,” Faragonda continued, nearly making her shut her eyes tight in an attempt to escape from the memories even when she knew that wouldn't help, but she knew the words weren’t easy to say for Faragonda who still cared about her so she focused on listening instead, the warmth of her friend’s voice the best weapon against the cold reality. “That can be pretty traumatizing no matter who you are.”

It had been. Griffin still started shaking just at the thought of the three ancient witches being after her and they hadn’t even gotten to do anything to her. She knew what they were capable of, though, and that was enough to feed her nightmares for years to come. They had no concept of mercy, especially to someone who’d betrayed them, and she’d gotten enough of a taste of their magic–multiple times–for her to know that whatever had awaited her had been the worst way one could die. None of that mattered, though.

What they were going to do to me was nothing compared to what they have in mind for the universe,” she said as she jumped up in her bed, forcing Faragonda to back off a little. “They’ll destroy entire planets without batting an eye,” she grabbed the tissue from Faragonda and hurled it across the room, wasting her energy as it didn’t get far. It wasn’t in her direct line of sight, though, and it was better that way. Not because she didn’t need comfort and something to drain her tears but because she wasn’t sure anything could. Not with the destruction she could see in her head. “So many people will perish and I’m scared that if I wasn’t even strong enough to save myself,” her voice was cut off by a sob that spilled from her mouth like blood, but she had to finish that sentence even if it killed her because not finishing it would kill her for certain, “then how will I stop them?” It was out and it was still tearing her mind apart but a little less viciously now that it was also tearing at Faragonda’s heart. “I’m terrified that it’s too late to fix my mistake.”

She started sobbing in earnest now but Faragonda drew her in her embrace before she could fall apart. She held on to her because it was the only thing that didn’t hurt. She had no strength to pull away as the pressure threatened to make her head explode and she could barely take a breath through all the tears and snot coming out. It was a weird way to be killed by herself but somehow fitting still.

Maybe you can’t do it alone,” Faragonda said, the words quiet but still reaching her through the sound of her heart pounding in her head, “but maybe we can do it together,” she continued before the panic had the chance to set in, and her arms around Griffin were like a shield that could protect her from anything and everything. “With a little help from some friends.”

Faragonda was the only friend she had left but she was more than enough, more than she deserved. Still, she held on to her, for letting go wasn’t an option.

Normally, she would roll her eyes at the words, at all the crap about unity and friendship that pixies liked to spew. But this time it was different. Faragonda’s words didn’t sound like empty platitudes. They couldn’t. They were the only source of hope in the darkness looming over their heads and so she clung to them because she had no other strength left. She’d lost her partner, her beliefs had crumbled in pieces and her life would follow if she didn’t take the hand her friend was offering her. She couldn’t keep going through the darkness without a flicker of hope to guide her, and Faragonda had always been the shining light in her life that got her to safety no matter what.

Chapter Text

“What do you want for Christmas?” Faragonda asked as she left her bag on the small coffee table that currently only sported a cup of green tea that Griffin loved to drink. It went with all the activities she enjoyed which was why she didn’t feel like drinking it at the moment.

“I want you to leave me to read in peace,” Griffin said without moving her gaze from the book she was holding. Faragonda had let herself in when she hadn’t gotten up to open the door. She usually wasn’t one to be unable to take hints so she must have ignored it and barged inside her apartment even though she knew she wasn’t wanted.

“Come on, Griffin!” Faragonda whined as she plopped herself down on the couch, bumping into Griffin on purpose to draw her attention. All it drew was more venom to the surface. “I need you to give me a hint.”

“I thought you’d be spending Christmas with Saladin,” Griffin said as she kept her eyes on the book. She couldn't look over at Faragonda lest she saw the hurt her words may have caused her friend in her eyes. It would make her soften and she couldn't allow that, for she was already too close to falling apart. “You won’t have time for me,” she said and she wished she could ascribe the tears in her eyes to the fact that she was staring so hard at the page it was a miracle she hadn’t bore a hole into it already.

“Of course I’ll have time for you,” Faragonda said as she wrapped her arms around Griffin's shoulders and her warmth was making Griffin's heart melt from the frozen cage it had been locked into after she’d seen her best friend kissing with Saladin at her office. She’d had some free time and she’d wanted to ask her to go grab a cup of tea together but instead of a hot drink and a warm conversation, she’d gotten the freezing realization that that was what Faragonda had been keeping from her. “I’ll always have time for you,” Faragonda said in a quiet voice as she rested her head against Griffin's shoulder as if she couldn't take the burden of Griffin's accusation. “Nothing’s changed between us,” she tried to reassure but all it managed to do was make Griffin's teeth grind.

“Please, leave,” Griffin spoke slowly, opening her mouth as much as the words would allow to make sure she wouldn’t break her teeth from gritting them together so hard.

Faragonda let go of her, sitting up, and it was like the sun had disappeared forever but it was better that way than only getting some leftover rays. “Okay,” Faragonda said, her voice raspy or perhaps that was just the edge of Griffin's thoughts that made it seem like that, “but we will celebrate Christmas together so you’d better give me some pointers when it comes to your present.”

Griffin closed her eyes and focused on breathing deeply. In and out. In and out. Focus on the air in her lungs not the burning in her heart.

“I could get you a book but you have to tell me which one you want. Or at least drop some hints because I don’t want to get you something you’ve already read. You should probably send me a list of the books you have since I doubt I can remember the titles of all of them. Or I could get you a plant? If you have where to put it.”

Griffin’s eyes snapped open and she dropped the book in her lap before turning to Faragonda who was looking around as if trying to figure out how big a plant she could fit in the empty space the apartment offered. She grasped Faragonda’s chin and turned her head towards her. “Are you going to stop talking any time soon?” she asked because her nerves couldn't take much more of that. There was only one thing she wanted but it was better to just accept it would never happen instead of breaking her own heart with empty hope.

Faragonda swallowed and shook her head. She either couldn't talk now that she’d realized how close their faces were or it was because Griffin was holding her jaw. Or it might have been because she’d finally figured out what her presence was doing to Griffin and why she’d been avoiding her ever since she’d seen her with Saladin.

“You won’t give up on this present thing, will you?” Griffin asked.

Faragonda shook her head again, but this time it seemed like she didn’t want to talk, it seemed like she was afraid of ruining the moment. And Griffin couldn't miss the opportunity. It could be the only one she had.

She leaned in and touched her lips to Faragonda’s just barely, letting go of her chin and closing her eyes because she was afraid of her friend’s reaction. She didn’t want to see her pulling away and leaving. She couldn't see her walking out on her to never come back again after she’d ruined what they had because she’d been selfish in wanting more, in wanting Faragonda for herself when she didn’t deserve her after the heartache she’d caused her with her behavior the past few weeks.

She barely held back the surprised moan that was on its way out when Faragonda pressed her lips against hers harder and moved them slowly, almost not at all, allowing the feeling of fullness and wholeness to sink in. It was like she’d found her complementary puzzle piece. Faragonda was like a natural extension of her being, like the part she’d been missing, and now that they’d been put together her thoughts and feelings ran to completion like they hadn’t been able to before. She felt like a whole person for the first time, like a person she could love when Faragonda was bringing out the best parts of her.

They had to pull apart for air, though she doubted she could breathe well when she was feeling the emptiness of Faragonda’s absence. To her surprise, she was still there when she opened her eyes and hadn’t disappeared like a product of her wishful thinking. She was there and she was looking at her with a gaze full of expectation. Like she was waiting for permission to touch Griffin’s heart and reach their joint being.

“Did I make myself clear?” Griffin asked, unsure of how she found her voice but glad she had. Now at least Faragonda could make her decision with open eyes just like she had when she’d decided to show her feelings despite the very probable consequences of losing her best friend.

Faragonda nodded, still not saying anything and Griffin was afraid that she would never get to hear another word from her again. But she still couldn't make herself regret the moment of total clarity that the kiss had provided. It had become clear to her, indeed, what she wanted and how much she wanted it.

“Goo-”

She hadn’t even gotten the whole word out when Faragonda kissed her again and this time it wasn’t just their lips that were touching. Faragonda came closer and pressed herself into Griffin, allowing their souls to touch fully and caress each other with the devotion and care that had always been a part of their friendship. For they’d loved each other all along and it was now clear to both of them.

Chapter Text

Griffin had dreaded the moment when she’d have to tell Zara about her decision. She’d already discussed it with Ediltrude and they’d both agreed to do it together, but even that wasn’t enough to calm her heart. She’d never separated the twin witches as she loved them both and they were dear friends to her. She didn’t know how to live without either one of them so it pained her to choose one over the other no matter that it was just a formality.

“Why not make me co-deputy?” Zara asked as she’d expected. Really, there’d been no way around that question and Griffin hoped she could give an answer that wouldn’t upset the other witch.

“I only need one deputy,” she explained, knowing full well that that wasn’t enough. But she could hardly give more without undermining her efforts to let Zara down slowly. “Besides, in case Ediltrude needs to take over, you’ll be helping her, of course,” she said, looking to Ediltrude for support. She could use that and as well as she knew Zara, Ediltrude knew her better and could probably pick up mood shifts she couldn’t, making her Griffin’s saving grace.

“That’s right,” Ediltrude said as she put a hand on her sister’s shoulder.

Zara didn’t shrug it off so that was probably a good sign. Griffin definitely hoped so but she knew Zara’s anger and how insidious it could be. She could be seething on the inside and you’d never know. So she wasn’t quick to grab the party streamers just yet.

“But why not make it official?” Zara asked, calm and collected which unnerved Griffin more than if she’d been angry. Then at least she would've known what her friend was feeling. Currently, it was a mystery and she was getting tired of walking on eggshells.

“Because I don’t feel comfortable leaving you in charge,” she said, deciding to skip the technicalities about administrative structure and so on and just tell the truth which Zara usually appreciated even if it took her some time to come around. It would spare them all time and nerves and as much as she wanted to be sensitive, she had her reasons for that decision.

“Why not?” Zara pushed as she smacked away Ediltrude’s arm when she tried to wrap her in a hug but she didn’t look away from Griffin even for a moment, holding her gaze.

“You act before you think sometimes,” Griffin said without breaking eye contact to show she was serious, but also hoping that Zara would understand there was nothing personal in her decision. It was the personal feelings that were making it so hard.

Zara frowned. “So do you,” she said, her voice a little louder but there was no venom in it. She was more confused than angry, really. “So does anyone,” she added to further her point, and as if somewhat apologetically for her initial words.

“I know how to walk the line,” Griffin said, hoping it was true. She wasn’t offended by Zara’s comment but rather alarmed by it. They all remembered what her bad judgment had led to–everyone did, for it had impacted the whole world–and she was still in awe of their ability to trust her and let her make choices that concerned all of them. As much as she didn’t agree with the Council’s philosophy and course of action, she couldn't really be surprised they were mindful of her. So it meant a lot to her to have the twins’ support and she didn’t want to repay them with hurt.

“Zara, we love you the way you are,” Ediltrude stepped in again, drawing her sister’s attention to her, “but you can be irresponsible.”

“This coming from you?” Zara raised an eyebrow at her sister as soon as she’d finished the sentence and as strong as the impulse to laugh that took over Griffin when she saw Ediltrude’s expression was, she had to hope they wouldn't get into a fight. The atmosphere was already tense enough, at least to her.

Ediltrude looked over at her as if seeking moral support and the pleading look Griffin gave her seemed to do its magic as she exhaled slowly before turning back to her sister. “When was the last time someone filed a complaint against me?” she asked calmly and Griffin held her breath as they waited for Zara’s reaction. She was afraid Ediltrude had chosen the wrong approach but all she could do at the moment was trust her judgment and it was a small favor in return for everything her friend had done for her.

Zara gave a pout. “This is oppression against me and my feistiness,” she muttered under her breath as she crossed her arms. It was a tamer and more comedic version of the tantrums she threw when she was genuinely mad but Griffin wanted to make sure there were no hard feelings between them.

“I don’t think as fellow witches we have a say on the matter of feistiness,” she said, earning a glance from Zara which told her everything she needed to know, “and pettiness,” she added, allowing a small smirk to show on her face now that she knew they were good.

“Hey!” Zara protested, her arms dropping at her sides as if she’d been gravely wounded but her reaction only proved Griffin's words and it seemed to dawn on her when Ediltrude laughed at her side.

“Come on, Zar,” Ediltrude said as she wrapped an arm around her sister’s shoulders. “Do you really want to be given more paperwork to fill out?” Ediltrude waved towards Griffin's desk and the sheets all over it that were the perfect prop for her little demonstration.

Zara almost went green at the face at the mention, making both her sis and Griffin chuckle at her expression.

“You know what, you’re right,” she said, trying to make herself look lost in contemplation as if there was a deeper motive to her changing her mind rather than simple unwillingness to deal with more documentation than she already had to. “I’m not cut out for that.”

Griffin turned to Ediltrude who returned her devious look. “Maybe we should give her a chance after all?” she asked, faking innocent intentions as the root of her words.

“Perhaps we were wrong,” Ediltrude nodded in feigned consideration, imitating Zara just to rub it in. “We should go for tryouts,” she suggested.

“Wonderful idea,” Griffin said before turning to Zara and flashing her a wicked smile.

“What- Oh, no!” Zara exclaimed when she saw the sheets of paper on Griffin's desk rising in the air, moved by her magic. “No, don’t do this to me!” Zara grabbed at Ediltrude’s arm and removed it from her shoulders, freeing herself and using the opportunity to dash for the door.

The paperwork followed through the room and caught up with her, sticking to her form and pressing her to the door that didn’t yield to her, locked by Griffin’s magic. It got a dramatic scream from her that had Ediltrude and Griffin laughing evilly.

Chapter Text

There was melody to every life. Each heart sang its own song, weaving happiness and sorrow together, sometimes even in the same note, making it hard to capture but music was capable even of that magic. It transcended language, time and social divides. It had the power to unite and make people understand. You only had to listen to the melody of one’s heart if you truly wanted to come to know that person.

She’d listened to his all those times he’d come to kiss her without saying a word first, all the times she’d let him take off her dress when he’d taken down his walls and let her get close, all the times he’d touched her body with the feelings he couldn’t voice. She’d listened and she’d fallen in love with the way he loved her when he couldn’t love anything else. She’d fallen in love with the gentleness and openness he’d shown her despite his fear of judgment. She’d fallen in love with the heart bleeding in the same way that her own was when the hands it had been put into had dropped it in a field of thorns as if on purpose to see how much it could take before it was just a torn, bloody mess that even tears wouldn't come out of.

She’d fallen in love and he’d caught her, falling with her in the depths of the feelings they shared. And there’d finally been some light in the darkness that had always been wrapped around her. There had been warmth, a flame to keep her safe by burning everything that dared breathe at her the wrong way. But she couldn't have stayed in the middle of so much destruction. It hadn’t been just about the protectiveness. He’d given her countless roses but he’d never been like them. They only used their thorns to defend themselves but he was using the jagged edges he’d been left with to cut others. And even though she’d understood his pain, she couldn’t have stayed in his garden where their love couldn't blossom in the middle of all the violence he was growing.

So she now listened from afar just like he did. He came every night to the club where she sang and she read every morning about the crimes he’d committed in the newspaper. And because she’d listened she knew it’d been him and didn’t know whether to be glad or upset the authorities couldn't catch him to stop him from wreaking havoc since she hadn’t been able to. And because he’d listened he kept coming back to hear her song.

He couldn't live without her and she understood that, for she had the same notes in her own melody that was much simpler and clumsier when his heartbeat wasn’t a part of it. So she let her voice make love to his heart just like his gaze did to her soul. Every night. At the club where she sang. With all the people around. She was naked in front of his eyes, for he was the only one who heard her melody, he was the only one who loved her truly. But that was the only way she could allow herself to be with him without being torn apart by guilt too viciously.

Chapter Text

The quiet hurt. Sure she was rolling her eyes hard and already on her way out of the room the moment Ediltrude and Zarathustra started another one of their obnoxious fights and when it was late at night and she’d already broken curfew too many times, she considered using her pillow–not to cover her ears but to suffocate them both–but the quiet understanding they shared during the rest of the time was much more painful. At least with the arguments she often ended up getting dragged in the middle. But when they were doing their twin thing and communicating silently, it felt like they entered their own realm and she was left alone in the suddenly cold room that was usually so stuffy due to everything that was crammed in it that you couldn't breathe. But in those moments it felt bigger than the universe and she was left in the center of all that empty space, separated from everyone else and depraved of the warmth of human contact like she didn’t deserve it.

She spent all her free time in the library. The silence was different there. Less hostile and empty when she knew that she could grab any random book and it would keep her company without passing judgment on her. It was a safe haven where even her own thoughts couldn’t jump on her, for the books protected her from that too. They occupied her mind with themselves, and filled it with structured knowledge that held the hurricane of her doubts away. But no matter how much of that she acquired, it still wasn’t enough to fill the emptiness in her heart. It was still there, dark and silent, like a black hole that was slowly consuming her, when there was no light to illuminate it and no laughter to ring through it. And she shouldn’t be seeking light since witches drew their power from the dark but she’d lived too long with it to forget about it’s soothing presence.

There were so many things that reminded her of it. The secret code she still used when she was writing down thoughts she wanted to keep private, for it was the safest thing she knew and she could trust it was uncrackable. The warmth of a pinkie promise she could still feel even though it had been long broken and she’d forgotten the feeling of contact with someone else’s skin. The memories in her dreams. They all screamed one thing when she couldn’t even make herself say Faragonda’s name.

She’d always been there for her and Griffin had trusted her with the darkness of her heart because she’d been her sister. And now she wasn’t even a witch. And how could she call a fairy sister? How could she look at Faragonda with her sparkly outfit and her shimmering wings and not shield her eyes from the blinding light? How could she hug the one thing that was meant to oppose and destroy her? For light and darkness had always been at war, and fairies and witches were bound by that dynamic as well. And the past didn’t mean anything–it couldn't–for it was all different now. And it would never be the same. She wasn’t strong enough to change anything.

Witches were supposed to draw their power from the negative emotions. But it seemed that no matter how hard the heavy nostalgia was crushing her heart, it wouldn’t fuel her magic and she was left weaker than she’d ever been before.

Chapter Text

He’d followed her to Magix to find out where she disappeared off to every other week. She usually had excuses that were even good enough for his mothers but not for him. Not when he knew her and knew she was lying. She got distant and cold every time he asked her about those trips and it was like a fire he couldn’t control spreading through his veins and burning him, filling his lungs with ashes to know she didn’t want to trust him with the truth when he’d trusted her with his soul and his love. He could only think of one reason that could explain her behavior and as much as he hadn’t wanted to doubt her, he was getting proof that he’d been right to.

She was off with more than just a few planets from her supposed destination, lost somewhere at the busy streets of Magix where she couldn’t find anything about the magical tome she’d claimed she was after but would at least lead him to the truth. She’d covered her tracks well, to the point where he’d had trouble tracing her–he was torn between being proud of her and getting even more suspicious if that was even possible–but he’d found her. Just in time to see Faragonda walking out of the mall where he knew Gtiffin was.

He felt a different heat surging through him and the anger almost got the better of him as he barely stopped it from pushing his magic to burn through his disguise and go after her to finish her once and for all. He couldn’t get sidetracked with revenge, though, if he wanted solid proof that Griffin had done nothing that would hurt him, nothing that would require him to hurt her. He had to find something, something that would make him believe that even after he saw her coming out of the mall herself a few minutes later. Something that would allow him to keep loving her even when it was confirmed that she’d been meeting with the fairy, for his love wasn’t conditional and just because he was supposed to purge it from his heart when he’d have to burn her, didn’t mean he would be able to.

He grabbed Griffin's arm as she was walking down the street, headed towards her next stop which would be crafting a deception good enough to trick even Lysslis, and pulled her into an alley that seemed forgotten by the world where she would have all the time to give him some explanation that could save their love.

She struggled against his grip at first when she thought it was someone attacking her but it all ceased when she saw it was him and the look on her face broke him and made him want to scream but that would draw attention to them and steal away her opportunity to save them both. So he held himself back even at the sight of the terror in her eyes at the face of what they both knew he had to do to her and it only proved their love was lost, for she’d given him a reason to give her a reason to be afraid of him. Or perhaps she was afraid of herself, of what she’d done to them.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, holding on to her, for he didn’t want to let her go. He was giving her infinite opportunities to lie to him with being so vague and yet none at all because he wouldn't have been there in the first place if she could get away with hiding the truth. So he hoped that she could find some roundabout way to explain her actions or weave a net of half-truths that he could let himself fall into, otherwise his soul would follow her in the flames where they’d both die.

“I haven’t betrayed you,” Griffin said, her voice full of restless energy like she had so many ways to explain things that she didn’t know which one to go.

He hoped she’d find the right one because he wanted to believe her. He wanted to, wanted to trust that the way she was grasping at his sleeves was a desperate attempt at holding on to him and not a measure to prevent him from hurting her. He would never. He didn’t want to. He couldn’t.

“This has nothing to do with you or the Coven,” Griffin sounded torn but whether between lying and saying the truth, or between keeping her firm grip on him and reaching to cup his cheek, he couldn't really tell. “This only has to do with me and Faragonda,” she said as she seemed to have made her choices, her fingers opening and letting go of his sleeve and it felt like she was abandoning him even if she was reaching to touch his skin.

“She’s one of them,” he hissed, still wary of their surroundings, and grabbed at her hand, to keep her off of him, for he was too vulnerable and he was afraid her touch wouldn’t be soothing now like he was used to it being. He was still gentle enough not to crush her hand in his outburst, though. He didn’t want to hurt her, even when she was hurting him. Faragonda was an enemy, one of the Company, and he couldn't understand how Griffin had trusted her enough to meet with her and put herself in danger. It could’ve been a trap. She could've gotten herself killed, leaving him with all that love for her in his heart that would’ve remained unshared and would just stick to its walls until it hardened enough to stop it from beating.

“She’s my friend,” Griffin objected, her voice quiet and tears filling her eyes. He’d hurt her despite his will when it had been the one thing he’d wished to avoid. “She’s my friend and I miss her,” Griffin sobbed out as her body slumped in defeat against the wall behind her back, the tears falling from her eyes, and if he hadn’t been there to hold her, she would’ve fallen on the ground, like a body with no soul, like a corpse.

It hurt him that she’d trusted Faragonda enough to share her secret with her but not him. Faragonda was on the side of the Company, yet, Griffin had been meeting with her and hadn’t even told him about it, trusting the fairy not to betray her while she’d been fearing he’d hurt her. It should have alarmed him, should have been a red flag, but the world would lose all color without her and he couldn’t see anything through her tears. Her cries echoed in his mind like those of a bat that had no other way of finding home, for it was blind and alone. And it hurt more than his thoughts.

He drew her into a hug and felt her wrapping her arms around him slowly, weakly, but with intent, as she held on to him and her touch didn’t hurt like he’d feared it would. It had been the doubts that had hurt him and they seemed distant and unreal now that she was in his arms and he was in hers and they were together again, no secrets standing between them, no lies that were painful. Just their unconditional love that could survive anything, for they were fully devoted to it.

“I love you,” Griffin whispered, but it was still the loudest sound in the universe. The only sound he wished to hear. “I don’t ever want to leave you,” she said, and he believed her because he wanted to. Because his love was unconditional and he wanted to believe hers was too. And he did.

He did believe it when she offered to stop meeting with Faragonda and he said he’d cover for her if she needed him to because he couldn't watch her suffer, even if he felt like he was on the wrong end of her love and she was giving more of it to Faragonda than to him. He did believe it when she came back every time even if he wished she would've never left because she took his heart with her and he was afraid she wouldn’t return and he’d have to go look for her only to find her dead with his heart clutched in her grip, making it impossible to pry it from her cold, lifeless fingers. He did believe it when the Company kept fighting them without any further knowledge on them, for she hadn’t betrayed them and was risking her life just to go see her friend. He did believe it and he came to regret it just like he’d been afraid he would when she left him. Because he’d believed a lie.

He should have killed her right then and there when he’d caught her sneaking behind his back but that would've killed him, too. She was so deeply entangled in his soul that he couldn't have removed her without destroying himself. She’d known it, too, and she’d still left even after he’d put so much faith in her, even after he’d put himself in her hands. She’d let him down and torn him apart and now he was in a million pieces broken against the floor, not even a body left behind, when he could have avoided it if he’d just killed her on time, but his heart had made him weak.

Never again. He wouldn't listen to it anymore. No matter how hard it was to ignore it with the need it was making him feel to kiss her, and look at her face, searching for a reflection of his own feelings in her eyes, searching for a reflection of himself, for he was all woven from his love for her and without it he’d unravel out of existence but he was safe because it was unconditional and no matter what she did, he couldn't stop loving her even if he wanted to. And he did. He really wanted to stop loving her. It felt too good even when it hurt and made him weak. Weak for her.

Chapter Text

Faragonda walked into the apartment, clutching at the spare key Griffin had given her, the edges of it digging into her fingers. Her phone was clasped in her other hand and she was doing her best to relax her grip on it so that she wouldn’t crush it. She hadn’t left it out of her grasp ever since she’d gotten the message from Griffin. It hadn’t been long but it had planted a sense of urgency and even desperation in her that she hoped she was imagining. She’d still dropped everything and hurried to Griffin’s apartment to check on her.

It was quiet but that was exactly what made the uneasiness claw harder at her stomach, nearly making her double over from the overwhelming feeling of wrongness. Griffin hadn’t opened the door and she’d had to use the key that was currently on its way to drawing blood from her. She had to loosen her grip but she couldn’t. She had to hold on to something and the hope that everything was okay was too fragile and would break if she touched it, let alone clutched at it. So she tried to keep it whole as she clutched at the key instead, the pain keeping her thoughts from becoming too heavy, and she kept herself moving. She had to find Griffin.

The kitchen was empty and everything in there looked normal, just like it did in the corridor. It only fed her restlessness, though, and it took over as she opened the door to the living room and froze. She hadn’t been prepared for the sight that met her.

The chairs were toppled over, the cushions from the couch were in different ends of the room, the crystal bowl that was always full of packets of tea was shattered at the foot of the coffee table that had been wiped clean of everything it usually sported and all the items could be spotted lying around on the floor. One of the pictures on the walls had fallen and its frame was broken.

Griffin was at the end of the room across from her where Faragonda couldn’t reach her from all the rubble in her way. She was sitting on the floor cross-legged, slumped over and her hands lying in  her lap so still that it hurt to look at her and the tears were falling from her eyes silently. Her look was lost somewhere in space and Faragonda wasn’t even sure she’d noticed her. She had to do something because she couldn’t look at her like that. It was like looking at a lifeless doll and not her best friend.

“Griffin,” she called quietly, afraid that startling her out of her state would break her. She looked so tiny and fragile, and resigned, and Faragonda had never seen her like that before. And the empty stare that met her when Griffin looked at her was the most painful thing she could remember. She couldn’t even feel her stomach anymore as the worry had stolen it from her and it was moving on to her heart and mind now. “What’s wrong?” she asked when it became apparent that Griffin wouldn’t speak first. She just hoped she wasn’t pushing on the wrong front. The last thing she needed right now was to make Griffin retreat in herself and refuse to talk to her.

Her life seemed to stop in the moments while Griffin remained still and unresponsive and she couldn’t breathe. It seemed unfair for her lungs to be full of oxygen while Griffin’s entire being felt so empty.

Griffin did move in the end, though, as if spurred on from her worry for Faragonda when she must have been mirroring her own state. Her head turned and her eyes filled with new tears at the sight of a book that Faragonda hadn’t noticed before. It was lying under one of the chairs that had its legs in the air  pointing at her like deadly spears.

Faragonda walked towards it, though, careful not to step on something and hurt herself and moved the chair away. The book was open and now that she could take a better look at the pages, she recognized it as the yearbook of their high school. She hadn’t found the time to get hers yet so she didn’t know what was the problem with it.

She quickly shoved her phone and the key in the pockets of her coat before picking up the yearbook. Her gaze slid over the open page and her eyes widened when she came across the words as if looking for something else she must have missed. There was nothing else, though. Just the string of words that was like a punch in the gut. Most likely to kill a man.

“That’s-” she cut herself off, for saying it was a joke would be like instantly filling the room with water and causing both her and Griffin to drown. Their classmates had voted Griffin most likely to kill someone and it had been bad taste of them to even come up with that prank, not to mention to go along with it. “They didn’t mean it,” she tried instead as she closed the yearbook and threw it on the carpet as if hoping it would swallow it before focusing her attention on Griffin and getting to her. Her friend needed her support because to her it definitely wasn’t a joke if the destroyed living room and her concerning emotional state were any indication.

“Exactly,” Griffin said, her voice shaking so hard with both anger and pain that it almost made Faragonda lose her balance when it rocked her whole world. She almost fell to her knees as she made her final step but it was worth it since she got to Griffin and could put a hand on her shoulder, even if it didn’t have much of an effect. “They took this lightly and put it in the yearbook where everyone who looks at it will see it, dubbing me a potential killer like it’s a joking matter,” Griffin said as she looked at her, her eyes bloodshot and puffy. “And the worst part is that they might have been more right than they thought,” Griffin looked down and gravity pulled even more of her tears out of her eyes. Or it might have been the self-loathing that forced them out. Either way, they were in the open and were killing Faragonda and probably Griffin as well.

“Of course they weren’t,” Faragonda said as she sat down next to her friend and rubbed Griffin’s arm in an attempt to chase away the shivers running down her own spine. “This stupid prank only speaks of our classmates’ maturity,” she tried, the urge to grab the yearbook and make the people who’d participated in the scheme eat it as well as all of the other copies so that neither she, nor Griffin would have to look at it again taking over her. She had to stay with Griffin, though. Her emotional comfort was a priority at the moment, and she could always put off the plans of revenge for later.

“Oh, really?” Griffin snapped, pulling away from her. “Look around,” she said, motioning for the mess that surrounded them. “My first instinct was to destroy,” Griffin enunciated, barely breathing through the emotions and all the tears coming from her eyes before she covered her face with her hands, sobbing audibly now.

Faragonda couldn’t look at anything else but her friend even if she wanted to. And she didn’t need to. She knew what Griffin was capable of, knew that she could be your worst nightmare if she wanted to but none of that mattered to her. Apparently, it did matter to Griffin, though. And she couldn’t understand how she hadn’t figured it out earlier. They’d been best friends for years and it hadn’t even once occurred to her that Griffin could have self-doubts about being a good person. Probably because to her she was the best person. But it still didn’t excuse the fact that she hadn’t noticed. If anyone was at fault, it was her.

“I’m asking you to look at me,” she said as she gently closed her fingers around Griffin’s wrists and slowly peeled her hands off her face when Griffin allowed it without resistance. “I can’t speak about anyone else,” she started, making sure that she had Griffin’s attention, their eyes reflecting each other and it was beautiful even with the tears in the way because they had no problem baring their souls to each other and it was that connection that she wanted Griffin to remember, “but to me you’re most likely to steal my heart.”

Griffin gave a half-huff, half-chuckle. “It’s not the time for jokes, Faragonda,” she said but her voice was still overflowing with insecurities just like her eyes were and she still hadn’t pulled away from Faragonda, for that could be the only thing keeping her whole.

“I am not joking,” Faragonda said seriously as she slipped her hands into Griffin’s and held them tenderly like she would hold Griffin’s heart. “I have never met anyone else like you. You’re so strong and passionate, and unapologetic for being yourself, and I don’t think I can tell you how much I admire you for that,” Faragonda said, her eyes watering with the memories of all the times Griffin had stood up for her or someone else, or for her own principles and had fought with words or even physically for what she believed in. She held a love for the world that could easily be seen in all of her work no matter if it was the essays she wrote on the stars or the plants she took care of. And she kept that love alive even when everyone was trying to crush it.

“You’re all those things too,” Griffin said, her eyes full of questions now and her grip tightening on Faragonda as if to ask if she’d missed something, to make sure nothing important had slipped through her fingers, to offer support. It was done with such care that it only fueled Faragonda’s love for her, making it enter her tears and cause them to spill as it reached for Griffin.

“I’ve learned how to be those things from you,” she said, her own voice trembling but that was from the overwhelming sense of security that was entering every pore of her being, for Griffin’s hold on her was anchoring her in a world that was breathtaking because they were looking at it through the lenses of their friendship. “You make it so easy for me to love myself and you.” She’d always been weighed down by her family’s expectations for her that had left her feeling like she wasn’t enough and she would never be. And then Griffin had caught her hand and led her out of the darkness where she could see herself in Griffin’s eyes and she could be the person she was in her own. It was liberating and she never wanted it to stop. She could never give up what they had.

“But I…” Griffin’s words died in her throat as it was the voice of the insecurities that was quieter this time. And Faragonda wouldn’t stop until there was not even a whisper of it left.

“Yes, you could be a monster, Griffin,” she said, tackling the problem head on, for that was the only way to get rid of it. And it was the one thing that they had to kill. “Just like everyone else,” she added because she had a feeling Griffin had forgotten that. And it was worth mentioning even when she knew that Griffin wasn’t satisfied with being like everyone else, and she would never expect her to be. “But you choose not to be,” she said, drawing more tears out of Griffin’s eyes but those didn’t hurt to look at because they were drowning the doubts in Griffin’s head. And that was a murder she didn’t mind having on her conscience.

“Thank you.” Griffin managed a smile, and even though it wasn’t her brightest, it was more than enough, for it showed Faragonda her spirit was returning. She looked full of life again, full of her passion, and it was the most beautiful thing Faragonda could think of. “I’ll need to clean up this mess, though,” she said as she turned to look around the room, her gaze critical of what needed to be done rather than of what had already been done.

“Redecoration?” Faragonda offered without looking away from Griffin.

Griffin nodded thoughtfully, her mind most certainly racing with ideas already as she scanned the room, and Faragonda could see her imagination painting pictures behind her eyes. It gave them a special shine that turned them into the brightest stars the universe had ever seen. It lit up her whole face, like she was all made of light, and it seemed fitting as it was that passion that helped her breathe life into everything she put her mind to. It was a magical sight.

“I just hope mom won’t be too mad I broke her crystal bowl,” Griffin scrunched up her nose at the thought of upsetting her mother.

“At least the tea is okay,” Faragonda teased as she bumped her shoulder into Griffin’s whose obsession with tea had rubbed off on her as well. They could be tea fairies or something.

“I’m never one to ruin my own tea,” Griffin said before giving her a wide grin that made her feel her stomach but this time it was gentle flutters that drew her thoughts to it instead of the worry that could never be present when Griffin’s smile was. It was all that was needed to let Faragonda know everything was okay with the world. She didn’t need words.

Chapter Text

A little gust of magic caressed her senses. The energy was calm and flowed easily through the air, reaching her and making the knots her nerves had been tied into come undone just like her brush was doing with her hair, although it was way more pleasant than the pull on her purple strands.

“Need some help with that?” Faragonda asked, stepping closer. She’d barely arrived and she was already offering her assistance, making all troubles seem far and inconsequential.

Griffin didn’t fight the smile pulling at her lips. “Well, I don’t need it, but it would be very much appreciated,” she said, her fingers opening to allow Faragonda to pull the hairbrush out of her hand when she’d barely finished her sentence. It just made the smile widen, especially when she caught Faragonda’s look in the mirror.

“It will be my pleasure,” Faragonda said as she tangled her free hand into the purple locks and gently combed the hairbrush through them, making Griffin close her eyes to enjoy the moment fully. “You seem content,” Faragonda noted with discernible smugness in her voice.

“Why wouldn't I be?” Griffin asked, letting herself just enjoy the moment and passing up the opportunity for some playful banter. All she needed currently was the gentleness with which Faragonda was brushing her hair.

“You mean that as long as I’m here all the troubles stay away?” Faragonda asked, but the smile that could still be heard in her voice was somewhat more insecure now. As if she had doubts about the effect she had on Griffin. Or it was simply that her own troubles couldn’t melt away just because she was in the arms of someone who loved her. Either way, it was concerning to a point that Griffin couldn't allow.

“You mean that my presence doesn’t make you forget your problems?” she teased as she opened her eyes to look for a reaction, hoping to lighten the mood and tell Faragonda everything she needed to hear. They’d never needed to speak to communicate but she was prepared for a heartfelt conversation if that was what was necessary to disperse the clouds over Faragonda’s mind.

The smile that appeared on Faragonda’s face was enough to let her know she’d succeeded. “I would never dare to insinuate that,” she teased back, making Griffin roll her eyes playfully at the feigned fear of her.

She reached behind and caught Faragonda’s hand, waiting for her to untangle it from her hair so that she could lace their feelings together. “Good,” she said, making sure to hold Faragonda’s gaze in the mirror, “because I need your whole focus while you’re helping me with my evening routine.” She placed a kiss on the back of Faragonda’s hand to show her gratitude in advance.

Faragonda sighed dramatically, looking to the sky as if it could open and suck her up to save her from Griffin’s special brand of sweet torture. “Magic rituals require less preparations than your bedtime does,” she whined while she kept brushing the purple locks which defeated the purpose of her complaining.

“Shut up,” Griffin pulled her hand out of Faragonda’s, trying to play offended but the laughter bubbled in her, making the task impossible. “I’m doing all of this to be beautiful for you,” she said, immediately regretting the words when her voice got smaller, the insecurities the existence of which she was doing her best to deny jumping on her despite the playful tone of the conversation, threatening to ruin everything with her own fragility that she hated so much.

“You’re always beautiful to me,” Faragonda said, having sensed where her mind had gone to, but that only made Griffin look away since she didn’t want to face her own weakness in the mirror. She had enough of that every morning. “Griffin, look at me,” Faragonda urged softly, both of her hands on Griffin's shoulders now, even if she was still holding the hairbrush, and compelled her to comply with the request. “Always,” Faragonda said, her gaze so intense that it was impossible for any doubts not to crumble under it.

Griffin felt her whole face soften as her heart relaxed. “Sweet talker,” she murmured as she couldn't quite find it in herself to give the charade her everything when Faragonda had genuinely touched her. But accepting reassurance meant admitting the insecurities had gotten the best of her and she wasn’t ready to admit that defeat.

“Well, I don’t need to talk to convince you of how beautiful you are,” Faragonda said, knowing her well enough to not get offended even when Griffin was slightly offended by her own behavior on her behalf.

She raised her eyebrows and let her lips form a silent ‘oh?’ that was that much more comedic for it before turning around in her chair to face Faragonda. “I might give you a chance to prove that claim to me if you ask nicely,” she said, pulling the hairbrush from Faragonda’s hand in an invitation to make a move and employing her magic to drop it off on her vanity.

Faragonda didn’t need more. She leaned down and captured Griffin's lips in an intense kiss while she tangled her hands in the purple locks, pulling on them slightly as she did so and making Griffin moan in her mouth as sign number one that she believed her. And if she knew Faragonda, she wouldn't stop before she’d gotten at least, like, a hundred of those and made her forget everything from her insecurities to her unfinished evening ritual.

Chapter Text

The steps approaching her were quiet enough not to disturb the natural peaceful state of the library–or at least not to disturb it more than her own sobs that she’d tried to suppress but some had gotten away from her–and that gave away who they belonged to. She’d thought that she’d be alone in the library in that late hour but Faragonda always knew when something was wrong with her so when she hadn’t found her in her room, she’d also known where to look for her.

Sure enough she felt her friend’s gentle touch on her shoulder before Faragonda sat down on the floor next to her slumped form. And as much as she’d wanted to be left alone she could never make herself shrug off Faragonda’s hand because nothing was stronger than their friendship. Not even guilt or self-loathing.

Griffin looked up at Faragonda and even though her vision was blurred from the tears and her glasses were all covered in water drops, she could still see Faragonda’s eyes darken as she sensed the direction of her thoughts.

You’re crying because of him,” she didn’t try to stall or be roundabout and the way she spat out the pronoun made Griffin afraid to think of how she would've said his name. It reminded her too much of the hatred her own heart held and it was a pain that she never wanted to let Faragonda go through. “This is all on him. He’s a monster,” Faragonda said, her grip on Griffin's shoulder tightening slightly as if in an attempt to get the words through to her. And it was far from hurtful–she doubted Faragonda could ever harm her no matter how far either one of them would let herself go–but it was still alarming with the potential for destruction it carried. Potential that couldn't be in Faragonda’s hands.

He is,” Griffin said through heaving breaths, the images flashing through her mind more than enough evidence of that, painting a perfect picture of his crimes and everything he was capable of. And her heart hurt, burned by her own feelings. “He is the monster that I love,” she said, cutting her gaze from Faragonda’s because she couldn't take the chance of seeing some more hatred in her friend’s eyes. Even when she knew Faragonda would never hate her no matter what she’d done. “Because I’m a monster too.”

That’s not-”

Yes, it is,” Griffin interrupted her because everything Faragonda would say was biased. And they had a real problem when she was the objective one. “Valtor kills whoever gets in his way to accomplish his goal,” her hand closed in a fist, clutching tightly at the fabric of her dress to keep herself out of the past when she’d seen no problem with that. Not because she was disgusted by the memories but because she was afraid she’d forget why she should be. “I have killed people who were in my way to accomplish my goal,” and she’d seen no problem with it right up to the very end, right until she’d realized how far that mindset could take you. Genocide had been her cutoff point this time, but if she fell into that madness again, she couldn't be certain that she’d be able to stop herself once more. “We’re one and the same. It’s why we made such a great team.” It was why she still missed the intoxicating feeling of their partnership. Of everything that had come with it from the good morning kisses to the heartless killing, it had all been a part of the heaven they’d built for themselves while chasing their common goals.

You’re not like him,” Faragonda said as she grabbed at her shoulders as if to shake her out of those thoughts and she held on to her even if she didn’t quite want to leave them. Just like she hadn’t wanted to leave him. She hadn’t wanted to leave her everything behind. And she sometimes still wanted to go back, held back only by the fact that he’d never take her and that would break her heart worse than being away from him burned. “You left him because you’re better.” She was burning in agony because she wasn’t. She’d never been.

That difference is just a product of circumstances,” she said, her voice steady now and the tears drying because she’d never been more sure of anything in her life. He’d been raised not to feel, not to care and not to value life. She hadn’t, and yet, she’d been right there with him, at his side the entire time. And in a sense that made her worse than him. Because he didn’t know any better, but she did. She did and she’d still crossed the line and her own boundaries. And she couldn't blame him for that, or her love for him. She could only blame her own heart that had been full of too much pain and hatred and she’d allowed it to go numb while simultaneously drawing from the negative feelings to feed her magic and make herself a threat to the innocent.

You love him still?” Faragonda asked, and there was no judgment in her voice or her eyes just like Griffin had known there wouldn't be. And she couldn't tell if it was relief that filled her or guilt. Because she didn’t deserve that treatment but she wanted it too much to refuse it with her selfishness. She’d let herself become the worst possible version of what she could be and Faragonda still regarded her as a friend. Because she was still her friend, even when she was at her worst.

She did. She did love him and it hurt but it was better that way. It was better to hurt from love than from hate. She’d learned that now and it was a valuable lesson that managed to give some meaning to her life and the cycle of agony it had become.

Faragonda’s hands fell away from her shoulders, making her heart skip a beat from the uncertainty that washed over it. “I swore to myself that I’d kill him,” Faragonda said, making Griffin flinch with how slow and serious the words were, definitely well thought out and not just a show of impulsivity, “but I can’t take him away from you.” Faragonda looked down, as if ashamed from herself, and for the first time in their friendship Griffin wasn’t quite certain she knew what stood behind the action. For Faragonda was certainly not joking about her decision, so perhaps she was ashamed of the possibility of her actions hurting Griffin.

He took himself from me,” Griffin was quick to say to reassure her, to reassure them both.

Valtor wouldn't be any more lost to her if he were dead than he was now. But she knew she still wouldn't be able to accept it. Her heart would still fill with resentment for Faragonda if she killed him, for it would be like having a part of it torn away and she’d need something to fill the bleeding, gaping hole left in the place of her love. And she couldn't afford that. She couldn't afford more hate.

However, I’m asking you not to do it.” She hesitated for a moment before reaching to take Faragonda’s hand in hers. The gesture drew too much of her attention to the fact that her hands were stained with blood but that was the least of her concerns right now. “Not because of me but because of you.” A lie wasn’t such a big deal after all the other crimes she’d already committed. The truth that would break Faragonda’s heart was more concerning but the only way to be selfless now was to be selfish. Or at least that was what she liked to believe. “It’s so hard to begin every day knowing that you’re the reason someone has no tomorrows,” she said, not sure whether looking at Faragonda or not would be better, but she couldn't look anyway so that solved the problem even if it was the solution that only served her, “knowing that you’re the reason there’s a corpse with no soul out there.”

Faragonda squeezed her hand, not allowing her to sink into the memories of all the terrified faces that had come to terrify her in her dreams. It was not quite in her ability to tell whether it was done in support or in search of such and she allowed herself to interpret it as both, giving herself permission to be selfless and selfish with the presumption that that was what Faragonda was doing. Even though she couldn't remember a single time when the fairy had been selfish and hadn’t had her best interest in mind, but she chose to ignore the knowledge that she was just projecting to assuage her own conscience when she had to be a good friend.

Valtor may be a monster but he has enough of a soul for it to weigh on your conscience.” Breaking his heart still weighed on hers, and she’d only killed him figuratively. Though, knowing him, that was probably worse. But it was all her good intentions ever led to, and she had no choice but to live with it, because her bad intentions always led to worse. It was the one word that described her perfectly. She was a witch, but she wasn’t evil. She was worse. “Don’t do that to yourself,” she said as she locked eyes with Faragonda. Don’t make me lose you, the voice screamed in her head, but she held it back in one last attempt to put someone before herself for a change. She’d already lost Valtor, and she’d lost herself. She couldn't lose Faragonda too. It would be too much. There would be no tomorrow for her if that ever happened.

It seemed to work as Faragonda drew her into a hug, even if only due to the fact that Faragonda’s best interest coincided with hers this time. It still allowed Griffin to breathe deeply, though, as she wrapped her arms around Faragonda, trying to keep her safe as much as she was holding on for her life. For the sun would keep coming up every morning as long as Faragonda was there with her.

Chapter Text

Night was the time when witches were at their best, when their spells were strongest and they made their moves, when the darkness wasn’t just inside them but everywhere around them as well and the light coming from the moon was only a warped reflection of the sun rays that didn’t have enough strength to chase away the shadows and they swallowed everything, deciding on a whim whether to spit it back out in the morning or not. Night had been their time as well, when they’d been together and it had been just the two of them, no missions and dangers, no ambitions and goals, and nothing to keep their attention off each other, their passion for each other running free and unrestricted as it only could in the darkness where it was kept safe. So it had been logical for their love to fall apart during the day.

She’d loved the quiet of the mornings when she’d always been the first to wake and she could look at Valtor who’d still been asleep next to her in her bed. Or it had been her who’d been in his bed – it had depended on the perspective. Either way, it had never been their bed. It just hadn’t been meant to be. And Griffin suspected that somewhere deep down she’d always known that. Still, she’d loved to watch him while he slept. It had been the only time she could see the real him. In the day he’d been wearing the veneer of arrogance like a second skin, and at night she’d been too busy exploring his body and enjoying his touch on her skin for her to care about anything else. But when he’d been asleep and the early rays of sunlight had softly caressed his face, she’d been given the opportunity to see through him.

He looked like an angel, and held the soul of a demon, a beast, a monster. And it had scared her as much as it had excited her, for she knew how to deal with monsters, but she’d had no clue how to stop herself from falling in the inviting embrace of the angel. And in the hesitant light of the dawn everything had seemed softer, kinder, friendlier. It had seemed like they could have been happy. And she’d wanted to freeze the sun in that moment because the bright light of the day revealed all the ugly parts that had simply looked mysterious and tempting at daybreak. And how could her light be the source of the strongest darkness in the universe?

It had hurt to accept it, to leave him and betray not only him but herself as well. But really, it was her own damn fault. He might have been made from the Dragon Fire but he’d never been meant to be on the side of light, and she’d known that. He was darkness powered by the strongest source pf magic, the darkness that could snuff out all the light, and she had to stop him. She had to find another source of light for herself to chase away Valtor’s shadows from her soul. So she’d decided to take the hand Faragonda had offered her and join the Company of Light. Maybe that could restore the balance in her soul.

Chapter Text

Why are you still awake?” Faragonda’s voice startled her.

She’d been so concentrated on studying the maps that she hadn’t heard her approach even in the dead silence of the library in the middle of the night. It was just proof that her work was too important and she couldn’t abandon it in favor of sleep. They had a hot trail on the Coven and it was their first real chance in weeks to actually turn things around. It would be a crime to let that opportunity slip through their fingers, and while she hadn’t protested when everyone else had gone to bed, she’d stayed up to work. Somebody had to.

I’m not done here,” Griffin said, making her voice cold so that Faragonda would get the message. She wasn’t joking around. She wouldn’t let anyone pull her away from her work right now when she was on the cusp of finding them, of finding him.

Step away from the books,” Faragonda’s tone was just as grave, making the temperature in the room rise as the atmosphere became tense with the intent they were both putting in their respective stances on the matter. There was no room to breathe as their silent battle of wills gained speed, both of them not moving a muscle in their refusal to budge.

It was the wave of energy that spilled from Faragonda that made Griffin look at her to see the serious expression on her face as the magic flowed from her, both light and dark. It was untypical of Faragonda to let the side of her powers that fed from the negative emotions at play and Griffin wasn’t exactly certain what her friend was hoping to accomplish. If the fairy was trying to convey to her that her actions were hurting her enough to power her dark magic, then it was a waste of time. She wouldn’t let even that deter her from her task.

Griffin, I am serious,” Faragonda said when Griffin turned back to her books. “You need to go to bed and I will make sure that happens no matter what,” she said, more magic spilling from her in support of her words and it finally dawned on Griffin what was going on in Faragonda’s head.

You won’t fight me in the library,” she said as she turned to look at her friend, the smile on her face more intended to hide her hurt rather than to express smugness over calling Faragonda’s bluff. It wounded her that Faragonda would try to manipulate her like that, and her heart quivered in fear for a moment as the thought of all of it being an illusion of Lysslis’ crossed her mind but she shrugged it off. She knew Faragonda’s magical signature. It was her friend who was trying to manipulate her. And she had yet to decide whether that was better or worse.

Oh, yes, I will,” Faragonda said, her body shining as she transformed in her Enchantix to prove her words, the light blinding and painful, and not just because Griffin had spent hours staring at endless strings of words in different languages as she was hunting for the Coven.

So you’ll fight me–in the library–even though you think I’m too exhausted to be reading?” she asked, no fake smiles this time, just the genuine disbelief in her eyes as she tried to show Faragonda that it was madness. That whole conversation was insane. They were supposed to be friends, not fight each other–in the library–when she was only trying to help.

If that will convince you to get some rest, then yes,” Faragonda said, her own voice carrying hints of desperation as her eyes begged Griffin to just listen to her and make things easier for both of them. It wasn’t in her power, though, and the energy coming off of Faragonda was only tugging at her own feelings, pulling them to come forward and power her magic to put a stop to this before anyone could get hurt.

She let them out, let them flow and seek out the energy hidden in her, merge with it and power it for her purposes. There was too much hurt and resentment and despair for her to contain them if she wanted her trick to be efficient but there were also the good things. Her love for Faragonda that would never let her hurt her, the gratefulness for having such a devoted friend even when they disagreed, and her desire to protect all the books from any possible damage this argument could have on them. She couldn’t let that burn – all the magic, and beauty, and knowledge. It would be a sin.

It all flowed together and closed around Faragonda, weaving a silvery sphere around her that held her trapped so that they would all be safe, so that no one would get hurt. Griffin had had too much of that, too much of hurting and getting hurt. She had no more strength to go through more of that. She would break too much, more than she already had, and that scared her more with the possibility of it going on rather than with the possibility of it ending when she tired out and was so crushed that there was n’t even dust left. It was more terrifying to think that it wouldn’t stop even then, that the relentless conflict inside her that kept breaking her apart would go on even when she was just the stardust left after the star had died and its existence was long forgotten.

Faragonda tried everything to break free from her magical prison but none of her tricks worked, even though they had been almost equally powerful the last time they’d sparred together. It had been long ago, though, when they’d still been studying magic in a carefully controlled environment and not in the realities of the war, and Griffin had never suspected she could do the magic she was currently performing. And it had changed.

How is this possible?” Faragonda asked when she tried to use her fairy dust to escape but it had no effect whatsoever. “How can you be maintaining this level of magical concentration for so long?” she looked at Griffin, leaving the fairy dust alone now that it had proven useless.

There’s just enough light magic in this to withstand your fairy dust,” Griffin explained as she basked in the feeling of the positive emotions running through her and making her sphere unbreakable. It was proof that she could do something other than destroying and she could keep it up forever. She wanted to. “I can explain if you’re ready to stop this fight and listen?” she offered even though she wasn’t tired and didn’t want to end the connection between her feelings and her magic that made them both much more distinguished and intense than they were when separated. But she didn’t want to physically be in a fight with Faragonda. It was one of her biggest nightmares.

Faragonda nodded calmly and had her winx vanish, leaving her in her normal clothes and as her usual self, as Griffin's best friend that wasn’t trying to fight her when everyone else was, as the warm presence she could always count on when the fissures inside her filled with too much cold.

Griffin slowly let the feelings fade, causing the sphere to do the same and let Faragonda out so that she could join her as she sat down. Probably for the first time in the last two hours. And now that her resolve when it came to the whole situation with Faragonda was more or less put to rest, her energy drained out of her slowly but surely, letting the exhaustion seep in. Though, that could be caused by what they had yet to discuss.

What we study in Cloud Tower and Alfea respectively is not all there is when it comes to magic,” she said, her gaze on the books in front of her to occupy the part of her mind that wasn’t captured by her explanation but was rather prompted by it to wander back in memories instead. “The schools teach a more clinical approach to magic which is probably a good idea when you have young and inexperienced magic users on your hands, but it leaves so much potential unexplored.” She took a breath, preparing to dive into the topic truly. “We’re taught that magic is a tool and that it needs to be controlled when you use it but that puts a divide between you and your magic that renders you unable to use your full potential.” She chanced a glance at Faragonda to find her listening carefully and if she was drawing any side conclusions, it didn’t show on her face. Griffin’s own thoughts were scattering now that her whole attention wasn’t occupied, though. “We’re taught to look at magic as something that stands beneath us and not as something that stands next to us, inside us, and is a part of us.” You can’t just do magic, you are magic. “When you really connect with your feelings and let them flow without holding them back, they can power your magic with unlimited power,” she said, her voice shakier now as all her strength was going in just getting the words out, and she hadn’t noticed when her vision had filled with tears as her eyes had been busy watching the memories play out in her head.

Griffin,” Faragonda called, her voice quiet and full of understanding now, asking to stand next to Griffin and not against her as she understood Griffin needed support since rest wasn’t an option currently, and the warmth that washed over her was a shocking contrast to the cold that had lived inside her for so long now. It had her tremble and that, in turn, forced the tears to spill, which also dragged out the sobs in an avalanche of feelings she’d been doing her best to hide ever since she’d arrived and joined the Company. Ever since she’d left him.

Griffin nearly threw herself at Faragonda’s open and welcoming arms, clutching hard at her because she was one of the only two things that she knew for sure. “I have to find him,” she choked out. She had to see him. She had to stop him. But before that she had to see him.

Chapter Text

Griffin rummaged through her purse in search of her keys. It was either the three glasses of champagne that were making her memories of where she’d put them hazy or it was the feeling of Faragonda’s gaze on her that didn’t let her concentrate on her search. She just hoped she hadn’t lost her keys.

She’d offered that Faragonda come home with her since her apartment was closer to the hall where they’d celebrated the New Year’s arrival with all their friends and colleagues. They’d decided it would be best if Faragonda stayed with her and went home in the morning since it would be safer for her and Griffin would worry less. She just hoped that they wouldn’t have to go to Faragonda’s apartment, after all.

She finally felt the cold metal of her keys against her skin and grabbed at it, pulling them out of her purse only to drop them on the floor. She winced at the ringing sound they made when they fell as it was loud enough to wake the entire building and dug into her own head. Faragonda’s laughter that rang a second later had a very differed effect on her, though.

She looked at her friend to find her pressing a hand against her mouth when the memory of how late it was surfaced in her mind. The laughter was still alive in her eyes, though, and made them sparkle like stars in the dimly lit corridor, capturing Griffin's attention and making it hard to concentrate on the keys that barely gave enough shine for her to find them on the floor next to Faragonda’s foot.

She bent down to get them, careful not to lose her balance and plummet right into her friend, sending them both to the ground. Her head was spinning slightly even though she knew she wasn’t drunk. Perhaps a bit tipsy, but not drunk. It might have been Faragonda’s laughter that still sounded in her mind, though, that had caused that.

She managed to grab the keys and unlock the door without any accidents, pushing the it open theatrically as if it had cost her enormous efforts to do so. And perhaps that wasn’t so far from the truth. Faragonda’s stifled chuckle behind her was the real reason why she’d done it, though.

“Feel at home,” she said as she moved aside to let Faragonda in. She knew she did. She always felt at home everywhere when Faragonda was next to her. And she always made sure to let Faragonda know how welcome she was in her home, no matter how many times she’d been there already. To Griffin all of them felt special since her home always seemed to get charged with positive energy when Faragonda had stopped by and the rooms seemed somehow brighter, like they captured the sunlight and kept it inside to make her apartment feel warmer and cozier.

Faragonda didn’t say anything but looked at her and gave her a soft smile which Griffin felt herself return. And it stayed on her face as Faragonda walked past her and inside the apartment.

She hadn’t had much reason to smile before she’d met her best friend but when Faragonda was with her she found it impossible to stay impartial to the beauty of the world that was suddenly illuminated by their friendship. And seeing Faragonda smile was like watching the sunrise – the most beautiful sight in the world.

She walked into the apartment herself and turned around to lock the door. Pulling the keys out of the lock wasn’t a problem but putting them back on the other side proved harder since the apartment was dark. She felt around for the key for the lights only to have Faragonda’s hand come on top of hers, Faragonda’s nails digging into her flesh, right as her fingers found the switch. And it was like the light came on in her soul in tandem with the lamp at the corridor. So her heart sank back into the darkness it had just come out of when Faragonda pulled away.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled as Griffin turned around, brushing against her as she did so, to find her just a step away. And she’d been even closer before she’d pulled back. “I was just trying to help. I didn’t mean to scratch you,” Faragonda said, looking at her apologetically, and Griffin had to wonder how much the alcohol had gotten to her friend’s head since she looked ready to cry just because she’d scratched her a little. Not that Faragonda wasn’t always so very caring that it made her heart melt to be around her since she helped heal even her older scars that were left from the time before they’d known each other, time that she didn’t want to remember, for it had been much emptier and painful. It was unusual for her emotions to get away from her like that, though, since she was always careful to not hurt anyone else with her own feelings. And she knew how much it pained Griffin to see her cry. So it was either the alcohol that was taking its toll or something else, though Griffin had no idea what that could be.

“It’s okay,” she said as she reached to touch Faragonda’s cheek, hoping that would make it immune to tears and they would retreat back in the inside of her heart where she couldn’t see them since there was no reason for them to fall. Faragonda had done nothing wrong, and she didn’t care about the scratch. She’d only wanted to feel her touch for longer since all the hugs they’d shared earlier and the snuggling on the backseat of the cab on their ride home were still insufficient for her insatiable soul. She wanted more. She wanted all of Faragonda for herself.

She turned to lock the door now that she could see–though, it was more an attempt to hide the thoughts running through her mind from Faragonda’s tender gaze that always read her like a treasured book–but she was stopped by Faragonda’s hand on her shoulder that coaxed her to face her again. She looked at her best friend to see her eyes sparkling mischievously like they only did in her company because with her Faragonda could be anything and she’d still be loved, and she knew that so she had no qualms when it came to showing Griffin what she kept hidden from everyone else. It made her feel special, to be the only one to know the darker parts of Faragonda–if they could even be called such since she doubted her friend had ever had a malicious thought in her life–and somewhere along the road, she’d made it out to be more than it was. She’d fallen in love.

“Griffin,” Faragonda said, her voice nearly a whisper, and so breathy as she pressed herself into Griffin, their entire bodies touching just like their souls always had, making her exhale slowly feeling her own chest pressing more firmly into Faragonda’s. “We didn’t get our New Year’s kiss,” she said as her eyes bore into Griffin's soul with the desire she could see in them, bringing out her own even when she knew it wasn’t reciprocated to the same level although it felt like it was and she usually let herself drown in that belief until she had to pull away to breathe.

Faragonda cupped her face and pressed her lips against hers, her eyes closing immediately to heighten her other senses and let her savor the kiss, and she dropped the keys to grab on to her with both hands, the ringing of metal against the floor barely registering in her mind as Faragonda’s lips parted against hers and her tongue requested entrance. It was in her mouth in a second as she couldn't refuse Faragonda anything and it was dancing with her own like it had so many times before. Yet, she never seemed to be able to get enough and dreaded the moment when Faragonda would pull away because her friend’s breath would leave her lungs soon after and make her feel so empty, like she’d never breathe again.

She prepared for it as Faragonda broke the kiss but she stayed close enough for her breath to still enter Griffin’s open mouth and keep giving her life. She didn’t need Faragonda to kiss her all the time. Just to always be close enough to kiss. Both physically and emotionally.

“Maybe we could do more than just kissing,” Faragonda said quietly as her chest was rising and falling in rhythm with Griffin's own, pressing into hers like their hearts were trying to break through their ribcages so that they could mold together into one whole. And the words made her eyes snap open and her grip on Faragonda tighten as she realized what a terrible mistake they’d just made.

“You’re drunk,” she said as she tried to pry Faragonda from herself as gently as possible and push her away without hurting her feelings. She wanted nothing more than to have Faragonda want more than their current arrangement if it could even be called that–Faragonda had spilled tea on her and suddenly their faces had been so close and she couldn't quite remember who’d done what, only that they’d ended up kissing and her head had been spinning even as she’d been walking home later with the heavy realization that now she’d crave Faragonda more than she already had but could never have her as she wanted, and she’d been overjoyed when they’d continued to kiss, then act like it had never happened over the course of months since it had been the most she could have hoped for–but it was the alcohol talking, and she was too selfish to lose her friend because of bad judgment. “Let’s go wash your face with cold water and put you to bed,” she said, talking like she’d heard Faragonda do to the little children she was looking after all day while Griffin was teaching at the upper classes since she knew she was too cold to deal with people under the age of fifteen. She hoped it would make her friend listen to her as her brain had to associate it with care and comfort.

“I’m not drunk,” Faragonda said as she grabbed at her forearms, holding her in place and not letting her get further into the apartment or away from her. “I might be a little tipsy but I’m not drunk,” she said, her voice turning serious enough to have Griffin convinced for a moment before she shook her head to throw out the self-indulgent thoughts. “I do want you to take me to bed, though,” she said, still serious, dropping the flirtatiousness so that Griffin would believe her, but she couldn't. She couldn't let her wishful thinking take Faragonda away from her.

“No, you don’t,” she shook her head, feeling tears springing to her eyes as the words left her mouth. But it was better to cry over that than to cry over losing her best friend just because she couldn't control herself. She would never survive the end of their friendship and that was exactly what was awaiting her if she let her desire cloud her judgment. She couldn't be the one to destroy what they had just because nothing was ever enough for her and she always wanted more.

“I’m sorry, Griffin, but I know what I want better than you do,” Faragonda said, her tone stern and her eyebrows knitting slightly as she stood up for herself. And it was that firmness that finally convinced Griffin that her friend was, in fact, very much in control of her actions. “And I want you, not only as a friend but as a lover too,” she said as she brushed Griffin’s hair away from her face before she cupped her cheek, the action so tender that Griffin couldn’t stop herself from covering Faragonda’s hand with hers and pressing it harder into her skin as she wanted to feel more of her. She also couldn't stop the tears, though.

“Why did you wait to tell me right now?” she asked, her voice trembling at the memory of the slurred words and stumbling that their drunk colleagues had been through and the bitter taste of the champagne filling her mouth again as the tears were leaving salty tracks on her cheeks when the fear started leaking out of her eyes. She was still apprehensive and couldn't let herself believe that her wish was coming true, she was terrified that it was her nightmare that was playing out and she would fall into it since it looked like a dream through the alcohol haze they were both in.

“I was afraid,” Faragonda whispered, “of ruining our friendship,” she closed her eyes and touched her forehead to Griffin's and Griffin let the warmth of her skin sink into her and help calm down all her shaking insides. “But I realized I didn’t want to spend another year pretending I felt less for you than I actually do, pretending that I don’t want more out of this relationship.” Faragonda said, making her pull back to look at her as she tried to comprehend all the emotion that washed over her at the knowledge that her feelings were returned. It made up for all the times she’d been denied basic human needs like friendship and kindness. It made her forget the loneliness that had latched on to her soul like a parasite and was draining the life out of her. It made the world look like a beautiful place for the love inside her to bloom and not like a hostile entity that was out to get her. “I’m sorry,” Faragonda bowed her head and pulled her hand out of hers when she read her reaction incorrectly, “if I-”

“Shut up and kiss me,” Griffin said as she lifted Faragonda’s chin to join their lips. And it was even better this time as she didn’t have to hold her love back. She could let it into the kiss and let it fill them both and make them one.

Faragonda reciprocated, letting her own feelings flow, and they mixed with Griffin's, filling them both with the love for each other they shared. Faragonda’s hands closed in Griffin's coat and pulled her closer, their teeth clashing from the passion and impatience they were putting into the kiss, making them pull back for a second and take a breath to calm down before diving back into each other. It was such a consuming experience, drowning out everything else to leave them empty for each other’s affection so that they could soak it up and feel it soften their hearts even more as they melted into each other.

Griffin turned them around, guiding them to the bedroom as she tried not to break the kiss, for she’d just turn into a puddle on the floor in the corridor otherwise. She couldn't say they were moving very fast, though, as they were stopping at every step to pull at each other’s clothes in their despair to take them off. And the moment they parted to discard an article of clothing, they pulled each other back into another kiss, starting the whole process again while they were slowly making their way to the bedroom, leaving a trail of clothes behind to worry about in the morning and not now when they could finally focus on each other’s bodies and on exploring their beings as thoroughly as their hearts desired, as they’d wanted for so long.

If Griffin's movements were a bit hurried and sloppy, Faragonda didn’t complain. She just let her touch every part of her for as long as she pleased, leaving herself in her hands like that was the safest place she could be. And it touched Griffin's heart so profoundly she felt the tears coming back but Faragonda’s lips on hers and her fingers all over her body, touching, their skin meeting like soft flower petals caressing each other, didn’t allow any water to fall from her eyes as the heat of Faragonda’s love and want swallowed her whole, keeping the cold of the winter away while Faragonda took her time to wrap her in her tenderness.

And when she woke up in the morning, she was met with the warmth coming from Faragonda’s body that was still in her embrace, the feeling of Faragonda’s lips kissing her sweet love into the skin of her neck making her shiver as every last bit of bitterness inside her melted away.

Chapter Text

In the end of her life, he is always a stranger to her.

If she is a ballerina, he’ll come to her show, sit at the first row, at the best spot in the entire hall, from where he can watch her closely and she can feel his eyes on her the entire time, leaving her with the question how much he followed the story and how deep he saw into her soul as she gave her everything to her performance and, therefore, to him who was watching like his life depended on it. And she’ll leave that night with the feeling of his gaze penetrating into her being to her very core and making itself at home there, filling her with anticipation to see him again. After all, he must seek her out after the way he was looking at her, like his eyes were making love to the soul that was pouring out of her into her performance. But she never sees him again as his mothers have taught him to only watch art but never make it himself, for it reveals too much about his own soul. And she’s all made of art so loving her would be the greatest art of all, forcing him to be vulnerable like he’d never been before. And he can’t let go of his walls. They’re the only thing keeping him whole and stopping him from turning into a broken mess all over the floor.

If she’s a teacher, he’ll come to teacher-parents day and she’ll know his name, she’ll know he’s married to a woman he doesn’t care about, she’ll know he’s the only man she’ll ever love, and she’ll know just as well that it is wrong. And she can’t have him either way so why compromise with herself? Why sacrifice her own soul when she’ll get nothing out of the whole ordeal? Why plague herself with guilt that would get in the way of any love she’ll get to feel from him? So his words are the only part of him she allows to touch her because she couldn't stop them even if she wanted to, because he speaks such beautiful things but they make her feel so ugly for wanting him, and in the end she’s relieved when his daughter graduates and she won’t have to see him again. He gets the message and doesn’t seek her out again and her heart is breaking that he will never be more than a stranger to her. Because she never got to explore any part of him for herself and his words are the only thing that is ringing in her ears, screaming at her that it is her own damn fault because he wanted her but she was too cruel to give herself to him and put them both out of their misery.

If she’s a rich heiress, he is the man that bumps into her on the sidewalk and she feels his hands on her as the only thing keeping her from falling to the ground and probably breaking something. She thanks him, he says “You’re welcome” and they’re both on their way. And it is only later that she realizes her bracelet that is a decades-old heirloom is missing from her wrist where she can’t remember his fingers ever being. They must have stopped there on their way off of her, though, and snatched her bracelet away while she’d been charmed by his beautiful face. And the fact that she’d remembered his features perfectly was only of so much help as she went to the police, for they couldn't find him. He was a phantom who had left his touch on her and his face burning in her head and had stolen a part of her heart away, for she loved that bracelet dearly. She’d thanked him for helping her, but he’d only been helping himself, and she is feeling oddly betrayed considering he is nothing to her, just the thief that got away because that’s what he’d been trained for. And she doesn’t know that it was him who’d drawn the short stick because he feels like a betrayer for the rest of his life.

If she’s a lonely soul, he is the company she’s been looking for. She meets him at a bar that her friend dragged her to to cheer her up even though they’d both known it wouldn't work. The only thing that can is a connection with another soul that she is doomed to never find. And that is exactly the thought running through her mind as their eyes meet and she feels something, something she can’t identify because she’s never felt it before. And he holds her gaze even when she’s been staring for too long, never drops it and never lets the window to her soul hit the ground and break apart, leaving her in the dark. And that is so reassuring that she accepts the silent invitation and joins him where he’s sitting. They’re flirting and it’s the first time she can feel herself breathing freely as she knows her words are always reaching him and his words are genuine. His touch even more so when she takes his hand and lets him take her home where she can let herself feel him all over her and his kisses are a heaven she’s never thought she’ll enter as their souls are dancing together bound by passion and understanding. She falls asleep wrapped in the light of his inner flame and not in the darkness of her own mind and wakes to an empty bed that makes him so unfamiliar to her at the wake of his betrayal. And she walks like a ghost ever since then, a stranger to herself, for she doesn’t know who she is without his soul to complete hers. It kills her slowly.

If she’s the one who spills her tea on him, he’s the one whose coffee pours all over her when they’re both in a rush to get where they’re going. But as their eyes meet, they realize they’ve just arrived at the only destination that matters – each other’s lives. And it hurts when they have to let go of that subconscious knowledge to look at the damage they’ve done to each other. It hurts more than it would have if they’d been scalded by the hot drinks but, currently, it is only their coats that are ruined, and perhaps a bit of their souls when they’re occupied with irrelevant things. It would hurt them even more to know that they only have so much time together. They exchange phone numbers and names–for the dry cleaners bills even though they could just pay their own–thinking that they have any control over what is happening to them but they’re bound in a sinister ritual of heartbreak that is not in their power to break. And they’ve barely parted, with her having made only a few more steps when a speeding car runs right into her, breaking all her bones into stardust, and she’s not even alive for long enough to hear him scream out her name and run back to her, but it’s too late, for he’d already let her go when he shouldn’t have. Her soul feels his touch as he cradles her broken body, though, and touches his in an attempt to soothe him because that’s all she can give him after he didn’t hold on to her for a little while longer. And she waits for him in heaven but when he never shows up, she knows it didn’t work and his soul was lost when her life was because he never got to know her and that crushed him harder than the car did her.

If she is his wife, he is her future ex husband since they are divorcing. They had a good run, or at least so she tries to tell herself when the yelling gets so loud it will make her deaf if she doesn’t leave. It is painful to feel him touch her hand as he takes the pen from her to sign the papers now that she knows he no longer loves her, or at least so she tells herself when the coldness of the empty bed hurts her more as it creeps into her body and the knowledge that she’ll have to get used to that instead of his hot kisses and eager appreciation for her body infests her mind. It’s better to watch his back as he walks away from her instead of having him sit next to her on their dinner table in dead silence with the very sound of her breathing grating on his nerves, or at least so she tells herself when she’s all alone in the house that’s full of memories from their life together that haunt her like ghosts and make her want to pull her heart apart so that she won’t have to feel his absence so acutely and she wants to slice her mind in half so that she won’t have to face the truth that he wouldn’t be able to save her from it anyway since he hasn’t been there with her for a long time. He was pulled away by his ambitions and she tried to stand in his way so he shoved her aside. She survived the fall but the love in her heart fell out and got broken apart in tiny pieces that would only cut you up if you tried to put it back together. And she should have left it right there, on the side of the road that they no longer walked together, but she couldn’t make herself leave it for dead so now it feeds on her life force as it keeps living like an abomination in her soul.

But the worst part comes when she wakes up from the constant nightmares. Because the nightmare is the scariest then. She is his past and he hates her. She knows all of him but he’s a stranger when he looks at her with the desire to kill her. She made him like that and the tears fall from her heart that’s already drowning in her love for him that she can no longer give him. And there is only death for her from now on because he is a stranger to her and that is how her life always ends. With him being the stranger that she can never have.