Agatha is back. Agatha is back and she is prepared this time. Far more so than she has ever been in the past. Hecate had warned and begged Ada for years to ward the castle against her sister, but Ada had refused, ever hopeful that Agatha would change her ways.
The castle shakes beneath her feet, dust and debris falling from the ceiling as Hecate runs through the halls towards Ada’s office. The girls shriek with each rumble and the teachers do their best to hide their own fear while herding the frightened teenagers out of the building. Hecate dodges the running pupils, snapping commands to the rest of the staff as she goes.
Her legs burn and her chest aches, but she cannot slow down. She cannot stop. A malicious magic permeates the air, hindering her own and rendering it useless. It grows thicker, heavier the closer she gets to the Headmistress’s office. Hecate feels as if she is wading through tar.
She finally makes it. A strange, purple light emanates from the doorway, but Hecate pays it no mind as she rushes into Ada’s office. A wall of magic blocks her way. It swirls, dark and chaotic, around the room. At its center Ada is locked in a vicious fight against Agatha. Spells fly through the air with increasing ferocity.
Ada is advancing on her sister, Agatha seemingly buckling under Ada's superior skill, but there’s a gleam in Agatha’s eyes that sends a chill down Hecate’s spine. Hecate watches as Agatha begins to circle the room. The world seems to tilt and Hecate is knocked off kilter as streams of magic rush past her to gather in between Agatha’s palms. Realization hits a split second before Agatha acts.
Hecate throws her arms out, willing her magic to work, desperate to reach Ada. She has barely drawn a breath to cry out when the impact strikes and she is violently thrown backward. The air rushes from her lungs as she hits the wall and falls to a heap on the floor, splintered wood and busted stone litter the floor around her. Dizzy and sore, she forces herself back to her feet, ignoring the unnatural angle of her right arm and the sticky warmth running down the side of her face.
Hecate stumbles over the rubble and into Ada’s office. Her eyes burn and she coughs with every inhale. She inches forward, straining to see through the dust and smoke, towards where she last saw Ada. A shadowed form, lying crumpled on the floor, comes into view and Hecate’s heart drops.
Hecate wakes with a start, heart racing as the nightmare lingers.
Early morning light streams in through the bedroom windows, filling the room with a warm glow and illuminating Ada resting peacefully in her own bed. Hecate’s heart rate begins to slow, Ada’s steady breathing a calming reassurance, but there’s no shaking the anxiety that remains. Two weeks have passed since Agatha’s attack on the school, on Ada, and Ada has yet to regain consciousness.
In her growing desperation, Hecate has called in a dozen healers and specialists who have all come to the same conclusion. Physically, Ada is fine. With the exception of a fractured collar bone and a mild concussion, what injuries she did sustain were superficial and easily healed. There's no lingering magic or malevolent spell at work and while Ada had nearly depleted her magic in order to protect herself, it has fully recharged in the time since. There is no physical or magical reason Ada hasn't woken. Her mind and body simply need time to rest and recover.
Unconvinced and refusing to sit idly by, Hecate has thrown herself into researching spells and brewing potions to hasten the process. When not tending to this task, Hecate sits vigil at Ada’s bedside where she fills the silence by reading aloud from one of Ada’s favorite novels until exhaustion overcomes her. Occasionally, when the fear of losing Ada is too overwhelming to ignore, Hecate will whisper small confessions of the deep affection she holds for the sleeping woman. She knows that she will never have the courage to speak her heart to a conscious Ada, but speaking them aloud helps ease the burden of keeping silent for so long.
Slumping back into the uncomfortable armchair next to Ada’s bed, Hecate rubs small circles into her temples. The lack of quality sleep combined with the wide awake potions she's been consuming are beginning to culminate into one hell of a headache. She should get up and start her day. The cauldrons she set to simmer overnight will need stirring soon and there are several texts she still wants to read through, but fatigue has settled deep in her bones and the weight of it all has become too much to bear.
She will give herself these few minutes of rest and allow herself to take comfort in the fact that the woman before her is still alive. The same cannot be said for Agatha who perished in the destruction wrought by her own hand. Ada will be devastated at the loss of her twin and as much as Hecate's heart aches for her and as guilty as she feels, she can't help but be relieved that Agatha will no longer pose a threat to the school or to Ada.
Pulling herself from her reverie, Hecate stands with a muted groan as her lower back twinges. With a flourish of her hands, she is cleansed and dressed in a fresh outfit with her hair twisted back into its usual bun. Hecate hesitates before taking a half step forward to brush a gentle caress across the back of Ada’s hand and down the length of her index finger.
“I will return,” she promises before transferring to the potions lab.
Ada’s hand twitches, but Hecate is already gone.
Several hours later, Hecate is digging through the depths of her storeroom in search of a misplaced jar of dragonthorn while cursing ineffectual supply witches and their inability to maintain order in her classroom. With a triumphant cry, she yanks the desired jar from its hiding place in the back corner of the bottom shelf, narrowly avoiding toppling onto her backside.
The unexpected giggle that comes from behind has Hecate rising in a whirl, an outraged tirade poised at the tip of her tongue ready to be unleashed on whatever student is foolish enough to bother her. The words die in her throat. Ada stands before her whole and healthy, an amused smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. In her surprise, Hecate drops the jar clutched in her hands. The glass shatters, scattering shards across the floor around her. She barely registers the sound.
“Ada?” she asks, voice low and cautious.
“Hello, dear. Miss me?”
Elated, Hecate rushes forward without thought. Within seconds she is cradling Ada’s face in her hands, drawing her into a kiss full of love and relief. Electricity surges through her veins, setting her nerves alight, as their lips press together for the first time. She leans in to deepen their connection, eagerly swallowing every gasp that escapes from Ada’s mouth. It isn’t until Ada’s cool fingers wrap around her wrists that Hecate is even aware of her actions.
She reels back in panic.
Ada quickly reaches out and grabs Hecate’s hand before she can transfer away, well aware of her propensity to flee from highly emotional situations.
“Don’t,” Ada implores, eyes wide and hopeful. “Don’t run from this, Hecate. Don’t leave me to deal with these feelings alone any more.”
Hecate’s knees nearly buckle at the implication of Ada’s words. She has spent years struggling with and hiding her attraction to Ada, certain that the other woman would never regard her as anything more than a friend. Hecate anxiously searches Ada’s face for any trace of deception or doubt, but all she finds is honesty and affection. There’s a hint of something more hidden in the depths of Ada’s blue eyes. Hecate is hesitant to name it. Naming it makes it real and if it is real, there is hope. Hope is dangerous when there is so much for her to lose.
Hecate takes the risk.
Drawing Ada into her arms, Hecate brushes a reassuring kiss against her lips. "You're not alone, Ada. I'm in this with you."