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Letting go is easier than starting over. There’s nothing to relearn because everything fades out. It all disappears in some deep, sunken darkness. The world falls away, and so does all she knows. It’s easy to let go of it. But what’s impossible is the after. She never dreamed of resurrection, not for herself, because hell hadn’t allowed for it. She’d been stolen away at Cordelia’s request, and she feels like a stashed jewel, a precious ruby ripped from where she was meant to be, the place she’d gotten herself locked up in. That place didn’t have a key, but Cordelia found one anyway.

 

The world is colder, and she doesn’t know if that’s just part of their impending doom, or if she’s simply accustomed to the fires of the underworld. Five years will do that. It will create a certain pattern in the soul, carve out a divot. It will say, “this is your life, now and for the rest of time, so make do.” And she had. She had adapted, had molded herself to fit in with the suffering. She’d conformed because that was the only card she’d been dealt.

 

It’s not anymore. She’s free again, and she is trapped, stuck in this dank basement of a school.

 

The Hawthorne School for Exceptional Young Men, she thinks derisively. But the only exceptional thing she’s picked up on is the complete lack of magic in these hallways. Even now, as she reclines on the sofa in the study and flips through the pages of some half-assed spell book, she can’t feel it, not really. This place is a nightlight, while Robichaux’s is the sun.

 

It could have something to do with Michael, and maybe his evil is sucking the power away from all the others. But maybe there was never much power here to begin with. Maybe these men enjoy lying to themselves. Anything to climb the ladder of self-worth, even if that means constructing this illusion of higher learning, when really, it is all just a competition to them. It is a way for them to prove themselves, to show that they have Supreme potential, that it lives within these very walls.

 

(It doesn’t. Misty feels it, and it is depraved, a low, rusted rumble. A dying predator fighting for air.)

 

She should be grateful, she knows, to be among the living. To be real again. And she is grateful to be swept away from that sterile, stifling classroom. But Michael used her as leverage against Cordelia, and she doesn’t appreciate that, doesn’t condone being a part of his scheme. A cog in his well-oiled manipulation game. No one here seems to respect Cordelia, or any of the rest of them. Therefore, she owes him nothing.

 

Cordelia has been tucked away in some room, discussing next moves with Myrtle and Ariel, and she hopes they don’t come to an agreement. She hopes Cordelia refuses to bow to Michael. But she supposes she hasn’t a leg to stand on; the Seven Wonders got her killed, and Michael completed them with ease, and then some.

 

She senses it, slowly. The evil. The putrid smell of sadism. It grows stronger as a shadow of a figure passes across the floor, just outside the doors, and then she sees him. He is stepping into the dim room, lit only by the fireplace, and Misty’s bones scream, her skin itching at just the sight of him.

 

“How does it feel,” Michael asks her, “to be alive again?”

 

She grips the edges of the book she’s holding tighter, curls her fingers into the leather-bound cover.

 

“If you’re lookin’ for gratitude, you won’t find it here,” she informs him, and his lips twitch around a smug grin.

 

She hates everything about him. She wants Cordelia to kill him and be done with it. She wants him never to interfere with their coven again, for good or for bad. Yes, he has returned herself, Queenie, and Madison. But there is a cost, and he will name his price eventually.

 

“I’m just trying to make conversation,” he tells her, as if he’s innocent. As if she should feel guilty for rightfully suspecting his ill intentions. “I’ve never been to hell before. But yours, cutting up frogs…that doesn’t sound so bad. Why is that the thing that haunts you?”

 

And his tone, the arrogance, the way the words drip with the need to know her pain, all of it makes her sick to her stomach. If she could wave her hand and make him disappear, she would. If she could flick her wrist and send him flying into the nearest wall, she would. She could, probably. But she won’t. She didn’t come back from hell to fight with a corrupt child.

 

“Maybe some of us don’t enjoy takin’ a life. Maybe the question you should be askin’ yourself is why the idea of killing innocent creatures doesn’t fill you with the same fear.”

 

He nods in surrender, but that disgusting grin is still plastered onto his face.

 

“Maybe you’re right,” he says, condescending, and she watches as another figure comes into view behind him, feels a different energy, one that stands to rival his in strength and purity.

 

“Leave us, please,” Cordelia says, and he levels her with a piercing gaze that dares her to ask anything more of him after what he’s done today, but she doesn’t falter, and he steps out of the room. Cordelia shuts the doors once he’s gone, heaving a sigh as she leans against them.

 

The smile she offers Misty once she turns to face her doesn’t reach her eyes, and Misty’s heart falls. Cordelia is worn thin, her seams are splitting, and she can’t hide the pain of this new world they live in. The one where she has been the Supreme for all of five years when it’s supposed to be a lifelong gig, and she is already being challenged. She is already this close to being dethroned. To fading away into nothing. Just like Fiona.

 

But Misty can’t think about the future of the supremacy. Not when Cordelia is standing here wearing a fake smile, and she’d like to turn it into a something a little more genuine.

 

“You know, their magic isn’t even real magic,” she says, sliding her hand over the page that the book is opened up on, the words of the spell written up in all the fashion of a dessert recipe. “Just tricks. Like a bunch of mutts in a circus.”

 

And that does it, catches Cordelia off guard, and she laughs, a bubbly thing that Misty wishes would happen more often.

 

“Don’t let them hear you say that,” Cordelia warns, biting her lip to stifle a smirk. “The misogyny here is truly unmatched. I almost pity them.”

 

“They envy you,” Misty says with pride in her voice, grinning widely as Cordelia comes to join her on the sofa. “I can smell it on ‘em, clinging like smoke. Poor bastards. All but beggin’ to be put in their place.”

 

Cordelia hums, contemplative but pleased.

 

“We’ll play nice until such a time presents itself. But that time may be closer than we think.”

 

Misty shuts the book, dust flying up from disuse and tickling her nose. She tosses it onto the floor beside her foot where it lands with a thunk, thinks about leaving it there so they’ll have to pick it up later. Hopes they know she’s been skimming through the pages and mocking them.

 

She’s no expert when it comes to magic, but she’s no fraud, either. This school, whatever these boys claim to be, it’s all stacked on misguided confidence. A male ego stoked one too many times by no one but himself, and what must it be like, Misty wonders, to never have to make yourself smaller? To think that you are so extremely deserving of everything, so severely lacking in respect, that you can overthrow the goddamned Supreme at will?

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asks, folding her legs under her and turning to Cordelia.

 

Cordelia grows solemn, her face grave like she has seen the ghost of all ghosts. She has, and it’s Michael. Michael and all his toy soldiers, guard dogs, primed for battle and ready to attack at his command. Power that he doesn’t deserve. Power that doesn’t belong to him.

 

“We’re going to lose this war,” Cordelia tells her, and how she says it with such acceptance, such resolve, Misty doesn’t know. But she must have a plan. Cordelia always has a plan. If they’re going to lose, then there must be a reason for it. There must be an endgame. Misty trusts her, wholly. “It’s my fault. It’s my curse, to see. To bear witness and remain complicit. We’re going to lose everything, and it’s far too late to stop him.”

 

This is depressingly interesting, to hear Cordelia talk about this boy like he’s supposed to be her undoing. To hear her surrender. It’s disheartening, and Misty suddenly finds herself wondering why Cordelia even ordered her return if they are all going to perish once more regardless. Perhaps so they can die together this time. Perhaps so they can tie up the loose ends that dangle between them, demanding attention.

 

The middle of the end of the world is no place for such things, Misty thinks. She believes they will never get their timing right, and if Cordelia’s curse is seeing, then the curse of knowing is theirs to share.

 

How many burdens do they share now? Too many to count, probably. Probably too many.

 

Misty doesn’t know what she can say to make this grim gleam in Cordelia’s eyes go away, so she simply shrugs.

 

“Well, I already told you, I can’t fight,” she says, and the words are jagged as a dagger as they come out, almost bitter.

 

And maybe she still has some unresolved anger that is now morphing into resentment. She has a swimming pool of forbidden thoughts in her head, and she swats each one of them away like pesky flies.

 

“I just wanted you here with me,” Cordelia tells her, and it doesn’t make it any easier because Misty knows. She knows Cordelia wants her here, until the very end, and Misty wants to be here. But not quite like this. She thinks she’s allotted a certain air of immaturity about the situation, seeing as how she’s been plucked from a wretched hell that she was stuck in for five years, only to be submerged in this completely different form of hell. She’s allowed to be a little angry as she readjusts, as she accepts that she has been brought back just to die again. “I wish you could be here and be safe, but if you’re here, then all you are is in danger.”

 

“I’m used to it now,” Misty says. “We’re friendly, me and danger.”

 

Cordelia nods, and the light from the fire hits her eyes just right, and Misty sees tears forming in the corners.

 

“I know. That’s my fault, too, and I’m sorry. I wish you had gone with Stevie like I asked. I didn’t want you so close to this, after everything.”

 

Misty snorts at that, shakes her head.

 

“You’re crazy if you think I’m leaving you again,” she says. “Little bit of evil never scared me away.”

 

“But I wish it would,” Cordelia whispers, voice strained and hushed.

 

“Well, don’t. I’m here, and I’m here to help. I just can’t fight, that’s all.”

 

Cordelia shakes her head, reaches out to place a gentle hand on Misty’s arm.

 

“I won’t ask you to. The outcome remains the same, either way. At least you’re here with me.”

 

That’s right, Misty wants to say, is burning with it, I’m here to watch you die, and then I get to die. Again.

 

She subtly moves out of Cordelia’s grasp, doesn’t trust herself to not give into it, and stretches her legs out in front of her, muscles rolling with the motion.

 

“Do you think we might be able to get the hell out of here now?” she asks, deciding to bury her anger deep down, nice and tight, silencing it, because it won’t do any good out in the open. “Smell’s giving me a headache, all these damn wizards.”

 

Cordelia allows herself a chuckle at that, and Misty hates that she sounds so tearful, but the sadness sounds infinitely better than anger right now. She’d love to feel sad. She’d love to be able to cry and feel sorry for herself. But she’s just too frustrated.

 

What an inconvenience, to have fallen in love during the apocalypse. What a shitty inconvenience.

 

 

 

 

 

She rests her head against the glass by the window seat on the flight back, watches the thin, wispy clouds just outside. Leaving that school, stepping outside and feeling the grass give and rustle beneath her boots, had immediately lightened her mood. And being in the air, above ground at such heights, where she can see everything and nothing at the same time, is therapeutic, in a way. It is strangely calming to know that she is way up here, and everyone else in the world is way down there, going about their business while she is blissfully removed from the routines of life right now.

 

Cordelia is in the seat next to her, but she is asleep. Myrtle is beside her, wearing large, gaudy headphones, and her eyes are closed, too, but Misty doesn’t think she’s sleeping. Her hands rotate in the air, swaying as if she is conducting an orchestra. Yes, she is very much awake. At her own odd version of peace, maybe, but awake.

 

She is exhausted; being raised from the dead really drains the mind and body, and maybe she would be sleeping right now, too, but something that won’t allow her to rest is what Cordelia said to her back at Hawthorne’s. About missing her. Forever. A passing comment, thoughtless, probably, and just meant to emphasize Cordelia’s joy at having Misty returned to her. But it lingers, like all curious things do. It beats like a heart, the words, the memory of Cordelia uttering them. So strange, so…unwarranted. But not unwelcome.

 

Did Cordelia miss Queenie forever, Misty wonders. Did Cordelia miss Madison—or any other witch that they have lost—forever, she wonders. Did it bring Cordelia to tears every time, or is she special, Misty wonders.

 

Cordelia has never taken advantage of Misty’s presence. Cordelia has always appreciated her as she was and has always supported her, encouraged her. But something has changed. During her test, during the sprinkle of the last few sands in the hourglass, Misty could hear Cordelia. She couldn’t see her, but she guesses Cordelia couldn’t see her, either, so it had been even ground. Cordelia spoke to her. Cordelia wept for her. Cordelia held her in her arms, on her lap, and Misty didn’t need to see her to feel her embrace. Misty still thinks about it. She remembers the hand cradling her head, fingers clutching her hair, the other hand at her back, trembling on the carpeted rug of the great room at Robichaux’s. The soft, tearfully whispered Latin right at her ear.

 

But Misty had failed, and that had been that, and she wonders if it had broken Cordelia’s heart because she lost a member of her coven that day, or if it had broken her heart for an entirely different reason unrelated to witchcraft.

 

That memory feels like a lifetime ago, and Misty reaches over without even thinking, seeking a reminder. She carefully takes Cordelia’s hand, her fingertips sliding around the back of Cordelia’s hand, gently grazing her skin. Cordelia starts, eyes blinking open as she glances around until she realizes where she is.

 

“Sorry,” Misty says sheepishly. “I just…needed to feel you.”

 

Cordelia’s sleepy eyes soften as she smiles, gives Misty’s hand one, light squeeze. Then she fumbles under the armrest, finds a button and pushes it, lifting it up so she can move closer. Cordelia nestles her head onto Misty’s shoulder and goes back to sleep, and Misty knows this is a kind of warmth that she isn’t just imagining. This is no fabrication, and it’s no wishful thinking. It’s real, whatever it is. She’s real again, and so is this.

 

 

 

 

 

“We’re fucked,” Madison says as she paces back and forth, arms crossed. “We’re so fucking fucked.”

 

“Madison,” Cordelia says softly, an attempt at reeling her in.

 

“He’s the spawnofSatan!” Madison exclaims, raising her voice, and Misty’s never seen her so distressed before. Under any other circumstance, it might be amusing, but this is how Misty knows it’s bad. Even Madison is afraid.

 

“But did anyone that you spoke with actually use the term antichrist?” Zoe asks, and Madison groans in irritation. Queenie rolls her eyes. “What? We don’t know what he is, all we know for sure is that he’s evil.”

 

“What we know,” Madison snaps, “is that he sprung from the pits of hell that are festering under that demonic, ghost house, and that a bunch of Satanists showed up and sacrificed a fucking soul for him, and then he ate a human heart.”

 

“Okay…” Zoe says, stepping down slightly. “But—”

 

“Girl, stop,” Queenie interrupts, “he’s the antichrist.”

 

“I’m not saying he isn’t, I’m just saying—”

 

“Well, you’re wrong!” Madison argues. “He is, and he’s gonna kill us all, and then he’s gonna blow up the whole fucking planet.”

 

“Damn,” Queenie mutters, “I don’t think it works like that.”

 

Madison scoffs.

 

“Yeah, well, I’m sure we’ll get to find out exactly how it works, because he’s about to become our next Supreme.”

 

“Shut up,” Queenie says, shaking her head. “Some snobby-ass, white boy isn’t strong enough to take down Cordelia.”

 

“He will be if he has the goddamned devilcheering him on,” Madison counters.

 

“Enough,” Cordelia says, her voice piercing sharply through the arguments, and the room falls silent as everyone looks at her. “That’s enough. First of all, he is not the next Supreme, and he never will be. His status as the son of Satan disqualifies him. He will never be in charge of this coven. Second of all, no one is to breathe a word of any of this to the other girls. This stays right here, between the Council. They are here to learn, and you will not scare them with stories of the antichrist and the end of times.”

 

“But he is—”

 

“I know he is,” Cordelia says, cutting Madison off coldly. “And that information stays here, with us, just like I said.”

 

Madison lets out a loud, furious, “ugh,” and turns on her heel, stomping away and slamming the door to Cordelia’s office behind her.

 

“So…what do we do?” Zoe asks, and Misty can feel the nervous, timid energy radiating from her, radiating from Queenie and Cordelia, too.

 

It’s too much. It’s too intense. They’re going to die, every last one of them, and they all know it. Their fear is palpable, like Misty could reach out into the air and touch it. Her pulse jumps rapidly, unable to handle all the negative emotion around her, and Cordelia breathes in deeply, some of her tension rolling off and away with the exhale. It calms Misty only slightly.

 

“We try everything,” Cordelia says. “We fight, relentlessly, with everything we’ve got. We don’t allow him to maintain any other advantages over us.”

 

Zoe nods, and quiet passes over them again, a pensive, terrified stillness. Then, Queenie speaks up.

 

“Misty,” she says, and Misty is jarred from her internal processes, analyzing the mood of the room and doing her best to keep stable, to hold solid. “Are you good over there? You haven’t said anything.”

 

“I’m fine,” Misty lies, to all of them and to herself. They are all watching her now, and Cordelia’s gaze is especially difficult not to crack under, so she pushes herself off her chair and to her feet, clearing her throat so her voice does not reveal just how immensely she is struggling. “I’ll just be in the greenhouse.”

 

The walk from Cordelia’s office, through the hallways, and to the outside world is a blur in her memory, her head pounding with a million tiny thoughts, unable to focus, unable to pin down any sort of protection plan for herself. Because she’s not a fighter in this war, not a player in Michael’s game, and she can’t expect Cordelia to watch over her like a helpless child and try to save all of humanity at the same time.

 

She needs a plan. She has to protect herself. She has to help in any way she can. She has to pull her weight.

 

Stepping foot into the greenhouse feels like a revival, the clean, humid air, and the delicately thriving plant life. The power in this place is a tranquil kind. It doesn’t scream and suffer; instead, it is silent. It exists, and that’s all. Nothing here is in pain. Nothing here is afraid.

 

Misty sits on the cool, concrete floor and pulls her knees up to her chest, leans back against the wall and just breathes. She breathes.

 

“Hey,” a voice calls from the doorway, and, Zoe. It is Zoe. Sweet, caring, intuitive Zoe.

 

Misty opens her eyes and smiles weakly.

 

“Hey,” she answers, and Zoe comes to sit next to her on the floor, her legs folded under her, knees angled towards Misty.

 

Zoe pulls a chain from the pocket of her dress, her hand covering the pendant so Misty can’t see it yet.

 

“I got you this,” she tells Misty, and Misty’s eyebrows pull together in confusion. “It’s a welcome back gift. Happy homecoming.”

 

Misty holds out her palm, and Zoe drops the necklace into her hand, the chain curling into a heap that she has to pick up between her thumb and forefinger, untangling it and holding it by the clasp to fully view it. And when she does, it is beautiful. When she does, she feels tears burning her eyes.

 

“It’s a phoenix,” Misty whispers, a laugh bubbling in her throat, staring at the small, silver bird with its wings outstretched.

 

“Yeah, because rebirth is, like, kind of your whole thing,” Zoe tells her. “Rising from the ashes. And this time, not even the flames of hell could keep you down.” She nudges Misty’s arm with her elbow. “You’re fireproof.”

 

Misty puffs out a breath of laughter, a soft exhale through her nose, and pulls Zoe into a tight hug, clutching the necklace in her fist even after she pulls away.

 

“Thank you,” she tells Zoe, and Zoe grins and shrugs like it was no big thing. Like it wasn’t an incredibly thoughtful gesture meant to make Misty feel like she is back at home where she belongs.

 

Zoe has always been kind to her. Misty considers this once Zoe has left the greenhouse. Misty has friends here. Real, true friends who care about her. Friends who are in danger. Friends who need all the fire power they can get right now.

 

She shakes her head, because no. She can’t. It’s too soon. It’s too much. Misty will help serve this coven any way she can until she draws her last breath, but she can’t fight for them. She’s still reeling from the culture shock, her reemergence to the corporeal realm. She hopes protection is enough, because it’s all she has right now, and if she’s being completely truthful, she doesn’t even know if she can manage that much. Doesn’t even know if she can protect herself.

Chapter Text

At four o’clock in the afternoon, she sits on the floor just outside of Cordelia’s bedroom and waits. This faint bustle of activity that consumes Robichaux’s is a new development. These hallways used to be crawling with silence and tension. Now they are filled with footsteps and laughter and indistinct chatter as the girls jump from class to class.

 

Misty loves it, how it feels like a family. It’s strange, not something she’s ever known, but she thinks she could get used to it. She also thinks she probably shouldn’t get used to it, seeing as how she is stuck in an endless loop of fatality and rebirth.

 

When she hears someone approaching, she stops humming quietly to herself and glances up, meeting Coco’s seemingly horrified stare.

 

“I overheard Zoe and Mallory talking,” Coco tells her, taking cautious steps forward as her eyes flicker back and forth between Misty and the door. “Is it true? Are they summoning the devil?”

 

Yes, it’s true, and Misty doesn’t want to lie to her; not only is she new here, but she is good, and the kind, upbeat energy that she radiates is refreshing, a break from all the crippling fear around here.

 

Dinah and Cordelia have been in there for a little under an hour. The same amount of time that Misty has felt the weight of a dark storm cloud over this house. He’s here, she knows, and Cordelia is having a conversation with him mere feet away behind closed doors. She tries to ignore the chill it sends down her spine, that Cordelia is sat across from the demon who held her soul in his hands and crushed it every waking moment for five years.

 

But Coco doesn’t need to know everything, so Misty shrugs, casual and collected.

 

“There are lots of devils,” she says, and it’s not a lie, but it’s not the truth that Coco had asked for.

 

Coco just sighs and slumps against the wall, sliding down the length of it until she is sat beside Misty on the floor.

 

“You know,” Coco says, “I’m really not sure I’m cut out for all this.”

 

“Sure, you are. It’s bad timing is all.”

 

“So…it’s not always like this?”

 

Misty squints as she ponders that. It was like this the last time she was here. But that was different. That had been something of a civil war, all internal. This one originates from an evil, outside force. It’s hard to decide on which is the least favorable.

 

“I don’t know, it might’ve been a little worse. When Fiona was in charge.”

 

“Fiona,” Coco repeats, and the malice in her voice tells Misty that, despite Coco’s short time here, word of the wicked must travel quickly. “The one who was, like, crazy-obsessed with killing you guys?”

 

And how fortunate, how privileged these other girls are for never knowing such a time. A time when the handful of witches that dwelled here had to be consistently vigilant, could never turn their backs on one another for fear of a knife ending up wedged between their shoulder blades. Cordelia has performed miracles for this coven, drawing them in from the brink of the extinction that her own mother perpetuated.

 

Even if war is coming, it will be a more honorable end, Misty decides, with Cordelia at the helm. A far more noble resolution than their own Supreme picking them off one by one on the ultimate power trip.

 

“Like I said,” Misty sighs, “lots of devils.”

 

Coco shifts, grows restless with all the talk of evil. It is a lot to expect from anyone, Misty knows, especially since Coco is still adjusting to her enrollment at the academy, and to this new world of magic and witchcraft.

 

“Cordelia says you’re really good at divination,” Misty says, and Coco rolls her eyes, seems to momentarily forget about the looming threat of the antichrist and is bothered now for a completely different reason.

 

“I wouldn’t call it that. I’m a gluten-sniffing, calorie-counting, glorified trust fund baby in a house full of powerful witches.” Coco shakes her head. “I already know I don’t fit in very well here, and Cordelia was just trying to make me feel better about it.”

 

Misty hums, remembers the first time she was brought to Robichaux’s, remembers that same uncomfortable feeling of displacement.

 

“I didn’t, either. Sometimes I still feel like I don’t, being gone for so long. People change. Things change.” The overwhelming loneliness tries to claw its way back in, always just below the surface, waiting for her to sink low enough so it can swallow her up again. “You deserve to be here as much as anyone else. This is your house, if you want it to be. These are your people, if you want ‘em to be. If you’re here, you’re special. And you’re lucky.” Misty smiles then. “Comin’ into all this with Cordelia as your Supreme.”

 

“I tried to tell her that I wasn’t talented like the rest of you, and she wouldn’t let me believe it.”

 

“She’s good about that,” Misty says, a small grin on her face, “showin’ you all the best parts of yourself until you see what she sees.”

 

Emotion tugs at Misty’s heart, her admiration for Cordelia putting her in better spirits always, warming her and lifting her up.

 

Coco frowns then as her expression turns to one of curiosity, and Misty braces herself.

 

“Hey, what about your powers?” she asks her. “How did you learn to bring people back to life like you do?” Misty must look taken aback, because Coco elaborates awkwardly, sheepish over knowing so much already about Misty. “You’re kind of a big deal, especially any time someone around here brings up resurgence. Or vitalum vitalis. Or pretty much anything to do with healing.”

 

Misty feels her cheeks burn with embarrassment.

 

“Well, I never really learnedanything. It’s just been this way since I can remember.” Misty lifts her shoulders, then lets out a self-deprecating puff of laughter through her nose. “I play with dead things. That’s about it.”

 

Coco snorts, shakes her head in blatant disagreement.

 

“Well, I call bullshit,” she says, and when Misty makes a noise of rebuttal, Coco shoots her an unimpressed look. “Oh, come on. You’re, like, basically Jesus.”

 

Misty blinks, gaping for a few odd seconds of silence, and when she goes to say that, no, she is actually definitely not Jesus, Cordelia’s bedroom door swings wide on its hinges, so forcefully that it collides with the wall behind it. Dinah is storming out, heading straight for the front door, but not before Misty and Coco catch her eye.

 

“I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were you,” Dinah warns, leaning in closer to them so Misty can see the fury, the disapproval in her eyes. “If you two are out here waiting for your beloved Supreme to appear and offer you salvation, you can forget it, because she just fucked this whole coven over trying to save it.”

 

They both watch her march to the foyer, making her exit like an elegant hurricane and slamming the door shut behind her.

 

Misty immediately stands, giving Coco an apologetic glance.

 

“I’m gonna check on her, okay?”

 

Coco nods, and Misty walks the distance to Cordelia’s doorway, carefully. She taps her knuckle against the door frame twice. Cordelia’s back is turned as she stares out the vast window with her hands at her hips. Misty can practically smell the stress of darkness in the air, lodged firmly in place. Like steam that settles over a boiling pot and refuses to scatter.

 

Misty gently closes the door behind her, and steps further into the room.

 

“Um,” she tries, “how’d it go?”

 

She sees Cordelia shake her head, back and forth, as if fighting against the thoughts that haunt her.

 

“He wanted my girls,” Cordelia tells her, and she sounds so completely disgusted by the thought of it, her voice cold as frost.

 

Misty feels her stomach do flips. Cordelia does not take her responsibility lightly, and Dinah said there is no salvation. Dinah said Cordelia fucked them over.

 

She’s sacrificed herself, Misty thinks, her whole body going rigid. She’s sacrificed herself, and now we have no Supreme, no semblance of authority, no guidance. Chaos.

 

Cordelia thinks she can trade herself for their protection, but it isn’t worth it. Misty would rather die by Michael’s hand than be safe from his evil and lose Cordelia for it. She’d rather die by his hand than for Cordelia to suffer through the same purgatory that held her hostage.

 

“Did you do something stupid?” Misty asks, and her voice is quiet, but it wavers with fear. “Somethin’ like sell your soul?”

 

“That’s exactly what I did,” Cordelia says stubbornly, and Misty holds her breath, an icy shock settling over her body. “But it wasn’t enough. I’m not enough.”

 

Good,” she bursts, dropping to Cordelia’s bed before her knees can grow any weaker. She lets her head fall into her hands and sighs. “Givin’ yourself up like that. Jesus, Cordelia.”

 

“There was no deal,” Cordelia tells her with a certain emptiness in her tone. “We couldn’t reach an agreement. My soul is dreadfully intact, for the time being, so you can relax.”

 

That’s why Dinah was so furious. Cordelia refused Papa Legba, and Papa Legba refused her. A stalemate that Cordelia seems to want to chalk up as a loss, but it’s not. Misty thinks Cordelia would take any opportunity that passes to sacrifice herself. She is desperate, and she is scared, and she wants so badly to protect her coven, but who is going to protect Cordelia from herself?

 

Misty will. She deems it her duty, to keep Cordelia from making these reckless, impulsive decisions that serve to benefit absolutely no one involved. Cordelia’s not dying. Not now, and not so easily. But Misty’s not going to be able to get through to her if she can’t get a handle on her emotions, so she puts that aside, no matter how strongly she feels it. No matter how much it pushes at her, provoking her, the thought of Cordelia, in here, bargaining her soul away to the voodoo devil while Misty sits just outside, helpless and ignorant.

 

“Come here,” Misty says, pats the empty space next to her. Cordelia finally turns to her, and takes a deep breath, but doesn’t move from her place by the window. Misty tilts her head, coaxing, impatient. “Please?”

 

And Cordelia does, reluctantly, probably would prefer to stand over there all day and strategize all the ways they could win, run through their options. But she sits next to Misty, because she’s done enough today. She executed a plan, and it fell through, and they will try something different tomorrow. For now, Cordelia’s going to sit right here, and Cordelia’s going to breathe. Misty’s not leaving.

 

“What the hell do you think we’d do without you?” Misty asks, and she tucks some of Cordelia’s hair behind her ear, rumpled and messy from where she’s probably pushed her hands through it a dozen times in the past few minutes. “You think we’d stand a chance?”

 

“It doesn’t matter,” Cordelia says, eyebrows knitted tightly together in a frown, her eyes tired and sunken. “We don’t, anyway.”

 

“As long as you’re alive, we do.”

 

Cordelia must detect the hurt tangled up in Misty’s tone because her face softens, and she relaxes a bit, becomes less consumed.

 

Misty wishes she knew what Cordelia was thinking. Cordelia gives her these looks that she can never pin down, and this one is frightening. Like she knows something Misty doesn’t. But it’s not right, it’s off, and Misty doesn’t understand it. She can’t decipher the secrets in Cordelia’s eyes.

 

She brings a hand up to Misty’s face as she tries for a smile that toes the line of heartbreak. Then Cordelia pulls Misty into her arms, into her embrace, and Misty can smell her skin, feel her warmth as she hugs her back. And maybe Cordelia should have stayed by the window, where the light scent of her perfume doesn’t sting Misty’s nose and where Cordelia’s arms don’t feel like such safety. It shouldn’t, Misty reminds herself, it shouldn’t feel like that, because she’s not safe, no one’s safe anymore, and she can’t let herself be lulled into the illusion.

 

She can pretend, maybe, as Cordelia seeks this comfort, and as Misty surrenders to it. She can pretend that the world can’t touch them right now.

 

There’s a power that seeps from Cordelia’s essence, a strength that Misty has only detected since her return. Cordelia’s always been powerful, but it was so quiet before. It screams now, a triumph, and right now, there’s so much more than her magic that Misty can feel. It’s something awful and dark, and it competes with the hum of her power. It struggles against it.

 

The curse, Misty remembers, and wonders if it hangs over Cordelia like the burden of regret. Cordelia has seen how it ends, and maybe that end follows her. Maybe that’s what Misty is feeling now, too, this closely, her heart beating against Cordelia’s.

 

“I’m so sorry,” Cordelia tells her in a whisper, taking Misty away from her thoughts. The haunting rumble of darkness ceases as she pulls back from Cordelia, and the intense spirituality of Cordelia’s magic leaves with it.

 

“For what?” she asks.

 

But Cordelia shakes her head in refusal, and Misty knows she won’t reveal anything, won’t confide in Misty as long as there is still an impending war to prevent. For as long as their revolution spans will be the length of time that Cordelia keeps her thoughts and feelings to herself, because she has taught herself to shrink down and compartmentalize in dire situations, Misty knows. To focus and commit.

 

“I’m just sorry,” Cordelia says with finality in her tone, and it’s done now. They’ve hit their same wall, the one neither wants to attempt to climb over or deconstruct, so they remain on separate sides of their own conflict. Maybe one day this will not feel like walking on such a thin sheet of glass. But probably, it won’t. Probably, it will always feel like this.

 

Cordelia stands, and holds a hand out to Misty. Misty takes it, allows Cordelia to pull her up and lead her out of the room with her.

 

 

 

 

 

Coco dies later that day due to strangulation by snack cake. It’s Mallory who saves her and brings her back to them. Saves her like it’s nothing. Saves her like she might be more than just an average witch.

 

According to Zoe, it is a revelation. According to Zoe, Mallory is the next Supreme. Misty knows what this means. Mallory is drawing her energy from Cordelia, draining her of her powers, slowly but surely.

 

But all throughout dinner that night, Cordelia is unbothered. Cordelia accepts this newfound fate with grace and strength and words of encouragement as she sips her wine. There is not an ounce of the jealousy Fiona possessed anywhere within her. All Misty can feel from her is pride, and even that is not for herself. It is for Mallory. Cordelia is proud of her. Cordelia will support her.

 

There is a toast, and Cordelia calls this a celebration. The last time they will all be together.

 

Misty rises from her seat then, her chair scraping violently across the hardwood floor, gaining everyone’s attention, and she can’t even manage to be apologetic as she seeks out whatever escape she can. It comes in the form of the front door, and Misty yanks it open, pulls it shut behind her with a solid click. She leaves behind the light conversation and laughter as she stands outside on the porch, walking over to rest her elbows on the metal railing and trying to breathe.

 

She contemplates all the reasons for why she may be here, and she comes up empty. She has gone over this again and again, and every time, it is the same. There’s never a right answer. Nothing ever fits. Cordelia has truly beckoned her back to this plane of existence only to bring her more suffering. More injustice.

 

Because if it is not Michael, then it will be Mallory who kills Cordelia. Indirectly and kicking against it all the while, because Mallory is a good person, and Misty hates that she understands why Cordelia is not filled with petulance. Mallory would make a wonderful leader. Mallory would strive to be like Cordelia, and she would keep this coven on the right path, would continue to guide them in the same direction that Cordelia has, enforcing all the same virtues of unity and respect and love.

 

Mallory doesn’t want it, either. Misty feels that, too, her utter refusal to accept it. If the supremacy was a choice, Mallory would not choose it, and maybe that’s why she is so perfect for it. Maybe that’s why she is so worthy of it.

 

Misty’s thoughts scatter and flee as the door opens and closes, and when she looks over her shoulder, it is Madison, lighting up a cigarette.

 

“What are you doing?” she asks, and Misty shrugs.

 

“Needed air,” Misty tells her shortly.

 

“You’re such a baby,” Madison quips casually through an exhale of smoke, and Misty bristles at the insult, the sheer unexpectedness of it.

 

“Why’s that?” she questions, humoring her. “Because I’m a human being with feelings?”

 

Madison rolls her eyes like she’s offended that Misty can’t understand where her hostility stems from.

 

“Because your pain is allyou feel, all the time.” Madison flicks the ash from the end of her cigarette. “You’re selfish.”

 

Misty snorts dismissively, had already checked out of this conversation before it even started, and now she’s entirely bored of it.

 

“Yeah, well, pot, kettle.”

 

“I may be self-absorbed, but at least I don’t prioritize my pain. In case you forgot, we’re facing the end of the fucking world. There’s more important shit going on than your little trip to hell.”

 

Misty shoots her a withering glare, and with that remark, she is suddenly back in, suddenly pushing off the railing and stepping into Madison’s space. Misty has refused to fight thus far, but she won’t hesitate when it comes to Madison and her snark and her desire to get under the skin of everyone around her.

 

“Since we’re sharin’ words of wisdom here, I’ll be the first to break it to you that you don’t actually know everything, and I bet that’s hard for you to swallow, so I’ll give you a few minutes.”

 

Madison sighs and relents, and she thinks Madison is displaying pity towards her because there’s none of Madison’s usual fire. This sobers Misty a bit, and part of her defensive attitude evaporates.

 

“Look,” she tells Misty, “I did my time, too, okay? We may not have been at exactly the same place, but we were at exactly the same time. So, believe me, I totally get it, and I’m not saying it’s not important. But right now, it’s not the most important.”

 

Madison drops her cigarette and stamps out the cherry under the heel of her shoe.

 

“What do you think I’m supposed to do?” she asks, shaking her head in affronted disbelief. “My magic’s not—I can’t fightlike the rest of you.”

 

Madison tosses her head as a scoff pulls from the back of her throat.

 

“That’s a goddamned lie. You can, you just don’t want to. Your fear isn’t supposed to control you. You’re supposed to take it, and you’re supposed to own it. Make it your bitch.”

 

Misty clenches her jaw, tight and angry, her eyes burning into Madison’s.

 

“I’m not like you. You ignore all the bullshit that happens to you, and you pretend like it doesn’t exist. Mine exists, and I’m dealin’ with it as best I know how.”

 

“You mean you wear your trauma on your sleeve,” Madison corrects.

 

Misty crosses her arms and steps back, steps down, because if she doesn’t, then she’s going to punch Madison in the nose. She’s going to ruin the moment of peace that everyone is having inside, and she’s going to give her anger an outlet. But Cordelia would disapprove, even if Madison did come out here looking to start something. Cordelia would be upset with her, so she doesn’t.

 

But there’s rage screaming, shooting through her skin, and the outburst strikes her when she sees that Madison’s dirty cigarette is still crushed and ashy on the porch.

 

“Were you raised in a barn? Pick that shit up,” she demands, pointing at the cigarette butt, and it feels good, but not as good as a fist colliding with a face. “How’s it possible that hell made you even more of a bitch?”

 

Madison leans down, a damn smug look on her face as she grabs the cigarette and throws it into the yard. When she straightens back up, Misty swears she catches a hint of sincerity in her eyes. Probably a trick of the light, because sincerity doesn’t fall within Madison’s emotional threshold.

 

“It didn’t, actually. I wish it did.” Madison pokes a finger into Misty’s chest, knocking her off balance, and Misty bats it away. “If you ever need to talk to someone who knows what it’s like to spend five fucking years in a place that makes you hate yourself, you know where to find me. But quit dragging everyone else down. You’re better than that.”

 

Madison retreats back inside just as easily as she had slipped outside, and Misty puffs out an agitated breath, kicks lightly at one of the columns of the house.

 

Because Madison has made a point, and Madison knowsshe has, and Misty knows it, too. And she really hates it when Madison makes a point. Really hates it because that must mean Misty is not as subtle and private with her emotions as she’d hoped. That must mean it is time for a change.

 

 

 

 

 

Misty pushes her feet against the arm of the sofa where she lies in thought and boredom, stretching her legs out. She readjusts the throw pillow behind her head several times before she finally tosses it to the floor.

 

Cordelia has been gone for roughly a day now, and Misty has been reevaluating her decision to opt out of this war. She shouldn’t be allowed to, really. Everyone else around here has been scrambling in preparation, doing all of the dirty work while she, what, recovers? Madison isn’t taking any time off. Queenie isn’t taking any time off. And what is the purpose of allowing herself to heal only to be thrown right back down the same rabbit hole of doom?

 

John Henry, the only man with any semblance of decency around here, had been murdered by Michael’s henchmen—or, rather, his singular henchwoman—and they’d all turned a blind eye to the death of their fellow warlock. With those leeches in charge, the Hawthorne School is no better than the state of Robichaux’s under Fiona’s rule. Corrupt and malicious and rotten to the core. Cordelia is fixing that. Her plane left this morning at five, and she vowed to return with their traitorous heads on a platter.

 

That makes two people Mallory has raised from the dead within the past few days, both of which by extraordinary means.

 

Misty worries with Cordelia being so far. If Mallory so much as transmutes herself to the bathroom here, Cordelia could collapse from weakness hundreds of miles away, and Misty would be none the wiser. But Myrtle is with her, and Myrtle has always taken care of her. Misty has to trust that she is safe. She likes to imagine that Cordelia doesn’t need to be taken care of, and that she is ripping those men apart without breaking a sweat.

 

Anxiously pacing and awaiting Cordelia’s return had gotten exhausting very quickly, so Misty is using this time to her advantage. She is strategizing. She is letting Madison’s words from before sink further, deeper, into her mind, until they buzz around in her brain so loudly that she is forced to take action. She has reached that point, she thinks. She’s ready to surrender herself to the end of times. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the noble thing.

 

“Are you gonna lay in that same spot until Cordelia walks through the door?” Queenie asks as she makes her way into the living room. “I haven’t even seen you move.”

 

Misty sits up, crisscrossing her legs, a grin twitching at her lips.

 

“There,” she says. “I moved.”

 

“Ha, ha, very funny,” Queenie says flatly as she begins rifling through the drawer of one of the end tables. She grabs an ink pen and settles into the cushioned chair diagonal from Misty.

 

Misty watches Queenie mark through the stack of papers in her lap. She wonders why Queenie has chosen to grade work here, in this room, at this time. Strange. But not so strange, Misty thinks.

 

“You don’t have to keep me company,” she tells Queenie, and Queenie raises an eyebrow at her. “I mean, if that’s what you’re tryin’ to do.”

 

“What I’m trying to do is grade these papers,” Queenie says, an all-too knowing look on her face, “but if, for whatever reason, you decide you wanna talk about something, then these can wait.”

 

Misty doesn’t say anything, so Queenie goes back to scribbling feedback on exams. Misty watches her, leans in a little and squints to try to make out the words on the paper. Words like spell, and ritual, and properties. It’s all so intriguing, all the knowledge begging for her attention. All the things she never got a chance to learn during her short time here.

 

Queenie notices Misty staring because she stops writing, and the movement of her pen lifting from the paper forces Misty to look up and meet her gaze.

 

“Can I help you?” Queenie teases, and Misty throws her head back and groans.

 

“I think Madison was right,” she says. “The way she went about it was all wrong, and I almost hit her, but everything she said was right. I wanna help, I need to help.”

 

Queenie leans forward and sets the stack of papers on the coffee table in front of them with a satisfied smirk on her face.

 

“Help how?” she asks Misty, and all Misty can think about is learning.

 

If she could find a way to develop her powers further, push them out like a force field into something tangible, something that is more than just healing and resurrection, then maybe she can be of use. Maybe she can contribute. She thinks she can provide protection for all of them, all across the board, if she just knew how.

 

But Queenie’s arms are crossed over her chest, and she is still watching Misty with a suspiciously victorious expression. She sees Queenie’s eyes flicker to the papers on the table.

 

Oh.

 

Wait—

 

“Did you do that on purpose?” Misty questions. “Sittin’ down here with all your papers to grade.” She takes one from the top of the shuffle and reads over the answers on the lines. “Are these even real tests?”

 

Queenie doesn’t bother holding back her snicker any longer, and Misty crumples up the sheet and throws it across the room.

 

“Shit, Zoe and I don’t even make ours use pencil and paper,” Queenie says as her laughter dies down, then her face falls, and her eyes widen slightly. “Don’t tell Cordelia that.”

 

Misty has half a mind to, now that Queenie has mentioned it. But it’ll piss Cordelia off, and Zoe and Queenie are excellent teachers without handwritten notes to prove it.

 

“What’s your point here, then?” Misty asks.

 

“I know you, bitch,” Queenie says endearingly, seems offended that Misty would think otherwise. “All it takes is the reward of learning something new to get you up off your ass. Madison meant well, she just doesn’t know how to talk to people. She pulled that same shit with my transmutation class, and then no one would try it because she had them convinced that all their organs would fall out if they fucked it up.”

 

“Jesus,” Misty mutters. “Well, consider me officially up and off my ass.”

 

The front door opens then, and Cordelia walks in with Myrtle, glances into the living room, her eyes landing on Misty. Cordelia smiles at her, then turns to quietly tell Myrtle something that Misty can’t pick up on, and Myrtle releases a hum of amusement in the back of her throat before walking away and down the hall.

 

Cordelia steps into the living room, and her gaze never breaks from Misty’s, and Misty just stares right back at her, feels the magic tingle in her fingertips, swelling in her chest with Cordelia finally this close to her again, under the same roof.

 

Queenie’s eyes flicker back and forth between the two of them, and she awkwardly gets up from her chair.

 

“Okay,” Queenie says, throwing up a hand, “I’m out of here.”

 

A flush rises in Misty’s cheeks as she glances away from Cordelia in embarrassment, and Cordelia gives Queenie’s arm a gentle squeeze as she passes by her.

 

Misty stands up and walks around to the back of the sofa to meet Cordelia and pulls Cordelia into her arms tightly, like it’s instinct. Like she has gone an entire day without seeing her, so she has to hug her now because she’s already forgotten what her touch feels like.

 

(She hasn’t. She won’t, ever.)

 

“Are you okay?” Misty asks, and she pulls back but not away, just to survey any potential damage. But there is none, and Cordelia’s power lingers and pulses on her skin, roaring loudly in her veins as Cordelia grips her arms, not willing to let Misty go yet, either. “How do you feel?”

 

Cordelia nods and bites her lip around a small grin.

 

“I’m good,” she tells Misty. “I feel good.”

 

Misty sags with relief, at being able to see Cordelia again, to touch her and to feel her magic. She seems to have found her second wind, Misty thinks, and it is perfect, because Misty has found hers, too. But she will keep that to herself for now. Cordelia is stronger and more hopeful than she has been in a while, and Misty doesn’t want to start an argument between them over pushing her magic a little further to help them fight. She doesn’t want to imagine the mess that will make. She thinks Cordelia would be content to let her sit this entire battle out, remain safe and seated on the sidelines. And Misty wasfine with that, too, but it’s wrong, she knows now.

 

“We’re sentencing Ariel, Baldwin, and Miriam Mead to their deaths at dawn,” Cordelia says, her tone serious now, and Misty grows restless at the thought.

 

“Death by what way?” she asks, despite already knowing the answer. The way witches deal with traitors also happens to be the way that ignorant, prejudiced outsiders deal with witches.

 

Cordelia hesitates, and a sympathetic look of understanding passes over her face, her eyes softening.

 

“You don’t have to come,” Cordelia assures her, running her hands down the length of Misty’s arms to her wrists, taking Misty’s hands in her own.

 

The necklace that Zoe gave her chokes at her throat now as she thinks of the flames. She feels the cool touch of the phoenix pendant pressing into her skin, wants to bring her fingers up to touch it, but resists, doesn’t dare let go of Cordelia.

 

She remembers what Madison said, about controlling her pain. It’s her burden and hers alone. She will bear it. She will attend the execution, and she will watch on in sick satisfaction as the men who have plotted against Cordelia from the beginning, disrespecting her and underestimating her, receive their justice.

 

“I want to,” Misty says finally, and Cordelia nods, places a warm hand on Misty’s face in a gesture of comforting solidarity.

Chapter Text

Words flash before her as her eyes dance across the page. She’s studied healing, protection, shields, spells, and in every book, the phrase “spontaneous cellular regeneration” has made an appearance. The more she sees it, the stronger her discomfort grows. The vague, peculiar way that this ancient material is written, how it relates the preservation of cells to immortality, is enough to induce the inklings of a headache.

 

Pain sprouts and spurs behind her eyelids each time she blinks, and she wonders how it’s possible. The rarity of a legitimate, documented account of success is discouraging and makes her squirm with uneasiness.

 

Misty thinks she’s done it before, tissue regeneration, because that is the very basis of healing. After she was burned alive, her magic mingled with the magic of the swamp. And she’s done it when she’s healed others. But to prevent the attack completely, to not only have the ability of rapid bodily reparation, but to use that ability to protect herself and the rest of them from potential harm, is a different thing. That wouldn’t be extending her powers, that would be pushingher powers. That would be expecting the impossible, for her to simply wave a hand and shroud them all in a force field of safety. Not only impossible, but ridiculous.

 

Even in all the books she’s shuffled through, protective energies are difficult to conjure and manipulate and maintain. It has to come from within her, and the range of it is always uncertain.

 

So, maybe she just protects herself. Maybe she trusts that the others can fend for themselves, and then at least she would be holding her own. Not entirely useless.

 

The door opens, and she slams the book shut, shoving it across the table in aggravation. She can’t look at this anymore.

 

“Oh. Sorry,” Mallory says, hand still clutching the doorknob. “I didn’t think anyone would be in here.”

 

And that’s fair, Misty thinks, she can’t refute that because this is a dusty study on the upper floor of the academy, and from what she has seen, no one ever uses it. She is surprised that Mallory even knows of it.

 

“It’s fine.” She shrugs. “Think I’m done here, anyway.”

 

There is an awkward moment of pause as neither of them makes a move to leave, and in the silence, Misty notices Mallory readjust the grip she has on the cardboard box she is cradling in her right arm. She tips her head and gestures to the box, and Mallory swallows, looking nervous and embarrassed.

 

“What’s in the box?” Misty asks, and if she sounds suspicious, it is because Mallory looks suspicious.

 

Mallory steps into the room and shuts the door behind her, treading carefully over to the table where Misty sits sideways in a hard, wooden chair with her legs dangling over the arm rest. Mallory gently puts the box in front of them and begins unfolding the flaps.

 

It is a bird. Dead and frail, a wispy, pale-yellow dream.

 

“I found it outside,” Mallory explains, her eyes brimming with tears. “I think an animal must have gotten it, because it—its neck…” Mallory reaches out and trails a delicate finger across the broken bone, the bird’s head all crooked and snapped out of place. “I couldn’t help. I tried. I thought maybe if I brought it inside, I could focus, and…I don’t know.”

 

Misty hums, a slight, nostalgic smile passing over her face as she remembers one of the many small, helpless birds she’d held in her hands, the most important instance, that she had breathed new life into. The small bird whose price of resurrection had been one opportunity to burn at the stake. A cost that can’t be weighed on detrimental scales. Because Misty had saved it, and she will always save the thing that needs it.

 

“You said you couldn’t heal it?” Misty asks, and Mallory shakes her head, her expression one of shame. Misty doesn’t ask her why, doesn’t press questions about her magic or her powers; they are all struggling to keep hold of themselves here, wading through the murky depths of the end of all things. She just reaches into the box and softly scoops the bird up, places it on the table. “Here, try again.”

 

Mallory inhales a breath that hitches as she settles her hands flat above the bird’s form.

 

Misty wants this desperately now. It is a new world where witches may live freely and hone their craft without fear of punishment. And in this new world, when this bird returns to them, no one will burn for it.

 

“You can do it,” Misty encourages, nodding as Mallory keeps her eyes shut and holds her breath. Misty feels the stillness of the moment, can feel the air of concentration and determination.

 

It’s quiet, and Misty thinks her own lungs have taken a leave of absence, as well. One of the wings twitches, flutters once, and Mallory opens her watery eyes to watch but doesn’t break her focus.

 

The faint sound of the rush of magic increases, and Misty begins to hear the bird’s soul, singing instead of crying, and she thinks Mallory has done it. She watches on with anticipation, with hope.

 

But something enters this house. Something that doesn’t belong in this sacred space. Something dark that clings and consumes. It takes all of her attention away, and she rests a hand on Mallory’s arm, is about to tell her to stop, that something is wrong—

 

And then there is a blast of noise that diminishes the magic, sucking all the pure energy from the room and replacing it with terror.

 

A gunshot.

 

Misty’s heart falls, sinks, and her first thought is of Cordelia. This feeling is a familiar one, and she knows it well because she is incapable of ever forgetting it. Michael’s demonic, inhuman nature. The kind of evil that suffocates everything good.

 

That’s what he is doing, she thinks, when she hears another gunshot that makes her whole body jolt. He is suffocating everything good here. He is starting with them, and then he will move on to the rest of the world, and this is how it happens. This is the end of them. It has begun, officially, and it has launched without so much as a warning.

 

If she leaves to find Cordelia, he will kill her. If she stays here and allows Cordelia to die on her own, he will still kill her.

 

“Oh, my god,” Mallory whispers in horror.

 

Another gunshot. Another shock to her system.

 

With every round, Misty’s pulse kicks. It shudders and jerks, and she thinks she will suffer a fatal heart attack before Michael can even reach her.

 

She is frozen. She is stuck. She can’t move, she can’t think, she can only breathe, and even that is proving to be a challenge.

 

“We have to help them,” Mallory cries, making a beeline for the door, and that pushes Misty into action. She follows after her, swiftly catching Mallory’s elbow and tugging her back.

 

“Wait,” she hisses, and it has gone quiet downstairs. The eerie silence makes Misty’s hair stand on end, and she listens closely. “Do you hear that?”

 

Footsteps, light in tread, but hurried in their pace. They are distant at first as they start at the end of the hallway, and they become more prominent as they approach the door. Two sets of them, she realizes.

 

Misty pulls Mallory to the side, away from the door, and puts herself in the forefront. She swallows down her fear as she waits for the knob to twist, preparing to hit him with everything she’s got and preparing to die for it.

 

The door slowly opens with a creak, and Misty’s hands tremble and shake as she draws her magic in tighter, keeping it close.

 

When she sees Cordelia, she nearly collapses. The coiled fear in her gut unwinds infinitesimally as she steadies herself on the nearby table, palms pressed against the grain of the wood.

 

Cordelia is alive, and Myrtle is with her. They are both safe, and they will all die together now. The last thing she sees will be Cordelia’s face, and she is satisfied with this ending. It is a better fate than all the others that she’s collected, because this time, as her vision fades to black, as the grip she has on Cordelia’s hand goes slack, she will die knowing that they were given more. This time, Misty was able to discover the warmth of Cordelia’s embrace. This time, Misty was able to gaze into Cordelia’s deep, brown eyes, ones that truly, finally belong to her. This time, they got something right, even if it was a mere flicker. A glimpse of possibility.

 

Only, Cordelia is not ready to give up. Cordelia says it doesn’t end here, and Mallory argues with her, Mallory wants so badly to run downstairs and save their coven. Cordelia wants that, too. Misty sees it in the hard-set lines of her frown. But Cordelia has experienced loss in a way that Mallory has not. Cordelia has spent a lifetime fighting demons, and she knows when it’s time to retreat, when it’s time to surrender, or when it’s time to fight.

 

They are retreating, Misty thinks. That’s what Cordelia has chosen, because whether Mallory likes it or not, Cordelia gathers them all closely together and they fall to the floor of Misty’s shack in the next instant.

 

Misty’s hands come to rest beside her, digging her fingers into the fibers of the frayed rug in the main living space. She hasn’t been here in five years, and the place looks like it’s been upkept, loved, and lived in every day for those five years.

 

The curtains are different, and her bed has been moved, a few pieces of added furniture placed sporadically, but it is the same. It is hers. And now it is theirs.

 

It’s headier than whiplash, this sudden development. A vast percentage of their coven gone, destroyed. Robichaux’s is a battle ground now, a war zone that Michael has claimed and killed on.

 

Among all the chaos in her mind, she is struck with a single bit of recollection.

 

Zoe and Queenie were downstairs. Zoe and Queenie were in the middle of teaching a class. Zoe and Queenie are now victims of the antichrist and his war on humanity. His war on witches, rather, because that’s what this is. That’s what this has turned into.

 

Misty feels the lump in her throat, threatening to strangle her as she chokes back her emotion. Then her hand rises to her neck, feeling along the edges of the chain. The necklace that Zoe gave her. She touches the phoenix, and the smooth metal is no longer cool. It burns now. She expects the tips of her fingers to be wounded when she yanks them away from the offending jewelry. But she is tragically whole.

 

“Is everyone okay?” Cordelia asks, her face pale and sallow from the shock of loss and the exertion required to transport three other people and herself. Mallory nods, and Myrtle utters something, a vague complaint about their landing, but Misty hears none of it. In her head, Misty hears herself meeting Zoe for the first time. Zoe, whose magic called out to her, the first encounter she’d ever had with someone of her kind. And Zoe stood right here, right in this little shack, and Zoe didn’t judge her for her lifestyle or question her methods as she slapped handfuls of mud onto Kyle’s scars. Zoe accepted her. Zoe supported her. Zoe told her she was fireproof.

 

The only reason Misty is here, keeping her composure and not falling apart on the hard, wooden floor, is because Queenie gave her the inspiration to be strong. Queenie is the reason Misty had been rifling through all those old books at the academy. She’s the reason Misty decided to tap in to this fight. And Misty will continue, for both of them. Misty will not shatter into pieces. Misty will fight for them and protect their image and honor them and call them her friends for as long as she remains alive. Because even if death has taken them, if death has summoned all of them on this day, Zoe changed her. Queenie changed her. They bettered her.

 

“Misty?”

 

Cordelia’s voice slices through her whirlwind of thoughts, and Misty just shakes her head and pushes off the floor. She makes straight for the door and lets it slam behind her, jarring the foundation.

 

If she opens her mouth to speak, words of venom will pour out. She will take this anger out on Cordelia for not going back for them. For dropping the remaining few of them here instead, like a coward. And everything she’d say would be a lie, a massive lie, because Cordelia is an exceptional leader. Cordelia picks her battles, and that’s why Misty is still alive right now. She should be grateful, and she should be comforting Cordelia; Cordelia has lost the thing she’s worked her whole life for. She has lost the majority of her coven today. Cordelia has lost the majority of her girls, and she has lost the safe haven of the academy. They are running out of cards to play. They are losing, just as Cordelia said they would.

 

But all Misty can focus on is the chain of the necklace digging into her flesh.

 

 

 

 

 

Misty stays outside until it gets darker and a chill rises in the air. She’s not ready to face anything quite yet, but she shivers when the wind blows and decides it’s time.

 

When she opens the cabin door, she is met with the image of Cordelia sitting lonely on her bed, looking deflated and defeated, all balled up atop Misty’s quilted covers. Whatever tension she’d felt before dissolves, and she softens at this, feels bits of her heart chip at this. Cordelia is so very good about hiding her truth, but not right now, and not anymore, Misty believes. The crushing disappointment Cordelia must feel has Misty suffering through an empathetic sigh.

 

She makes for the bed, grabbing a soft, grey blanket from under her pillow where it has been neatly folded and placed. Misty shakes the blanket out, opens it up, and she drapes it over Cordelia’s shoulders. Cordelia’s hands reach for the edges, and she brings it tighter around her. She says nothing.

 

“Someone kept this place alive while I was gone,” Misty starts, taking a cautious seat beside her. Cordelia doesn’t open her mouth to speak. She just looks at Misty, and all the pain that Cordelia has managed to conceal thus far is no longer six feet under where she’s kept it buried. It breathes now, and her irises are drowning in it, glowing with an aching guilt. She’s breaking. Misty doesn’t want her to. “Wonder who would’ve done something like that.”

 

Cordelia continues to opt for silence. Misty continues to try anyway, despite the grief that Cordelia emits, the despair that sinks its contagious teeth into anything that feels.

 

“You know,” Misty tells her, and she keeps her voice low and quiet so that this moment can belong to them and only them, “you can’t do this. You know it’s not your fault.”

 

Cordelia’s resulting frown is a sharp, deeply offended thing, her eyebrows pulling together and her eyes burning impossibly darker, impossibly heavier.

 

“It is entirely my fault,” Cordelia argues in a voice that wavers and stalls on the last word. “I might as well have offered them up and served him their lives on a platter.”

 

Misty disagrees, strongly, but Cordelia needs to keep this grief close to her, even if it hinders. This is hers, the coven was hers, and she has been stripped of it. She is owed this hurt because that’s the only thing left. To ignore it would be to forget it. And Cordelia’s girls did not die in vain. They didn’t die for the pain of them not to be felt.

 

Misty will help her carry it. Because Misty feels it, too, and they should be allowed to feel it together.

 

She inches closer, the covers rustling beneath her as she shifts her weight and rests her head on Cordelia’s shoulder. Misty reaches under the blanket that Cordelia is sheathed in and finds her hand, slides her own over the warm skin of Cordelia’s palm and locks their fingers together. Cordelia slumps against her, leans on her, and she feels Cordelia’s head fall and lull, Cordelia’s cheek pressing into the top of Misty’s head.

 

Cordelia’s fingertips nudge at the rings on Misty’s hand, poking and prodding, seeking solidity, probably, this menial action an attempt to soften her own edges and distract. Cordelia is so far away right now, Misty can hardly feel her. She senses the light from her soul and the heat from her touch, but she senses little more. The darkness is all-encompassing, and it covers her up much like the fleece blanket around Cordelia’s body.

 

“You saved us,” Misty says, and rather than her voice popping the moment like a pair of scissors to a balloon, it seems to intensify it, tacking on more reality to the situation. “I know it’s not fair, we’re here, and they’re not, and I know it hurts like you’re missin’ parts of yourself, but, just…don’t forget what you did for us.”

 

She feels Cordelia lift her head from hers, and Misty raises up off her shoulder, meets her eyes. She doesn’t think Cordelia notices, she thinks it’s unintentional, but Cordelia’s grip on her hand tightens as they watch each other.

 

It is tempting to just say it all right now. Misty has to bite her tongue because if she doesn’t, if she takes this and pushes it further, they will be no good. The end of times can’t have her secrets. It can have everything else, it can pry the life from her body, it can burn her to the ground until she is dust, but this feeling she nurtures in the depths of her heart is safe there. It will waste away out here in the open, with all the death and misery to keep it company. Misty doesn’t want that. She wants to hold it inside of her where she knows it can’t be touched by the evil.

 

What she feels for Cordelia will never see the light of day. The risks are too great. It will have to stay within the notches of her rib cage, in the confines of her chest, always threatening, and it will have to simmer quietly, because she won’t let it out. She won’t let it be tainted.

 

It’s hard to block it all out when she catches Cordelia’s gaze lingering on her lips. It’s hard to stifle the admissions. Because there is so much that they’ve left unsaid, and that’s how they will leave this earth. Lost and yearning. But together.

 

She swallows thickly, mesmerized, entranced. She would like for Cordelia to come closer. She would like to stamp this moment in her memory with her mouth on Cordelia’s. And she thinks Cordelia wouldn’t mind that, because the gravity of their stare brings them to dangerous proximity. Wobbling magnets. They are standing on the ledge and overlooking the fall. They could jump, so easily, and so effortless.

 

Misty feels them reach a certain tipping point, and she allows herself a fleeting glance at Cordelia’s mouth, watches her teeth move over her bottom lip like pearls over velvet.

 

The next few seconds feel like being pulled from a paradise. The door to the shack swings open, and they move quickly, away, and Misty untangles their fingers as her heart races. She hears Cordelia release a shuddering breath as they both turn their attention to the intruders.

 

Only, they’re not intruders. Not really. It’s Myrtle first, and Mallory is behind her, an arm looped around Coco’s as she guides her inside. Madison follows behind them.

 

“Delia, look who we’ve found,” Myrtle announces, and Cordelia’s lips do twitch into a sad, hopeful smile at the sight of two more survivors. “Or, rather, who’s found us.”

 

Cordelia rises and crosses the distance, pulling Coco and Madison into a hug. Coco returns the embrace, relief on her face, and Madison tolerates it but wriggles free when she can.

 

“Where have you been?” she asks them, and Misty watches from afar, distrustful of being so near to Cordelia right now.

 

“We were just doing a perimeter check,” Mallory explains, “and then I—I felt something. And I saw them.”

 

“I used my powers,” Coco says, bursting with pride. “I think they’re growing. I just listened to myself, I followed the little traces of magic like you taught me, and it led us here.”

 

“I’m so sorry we had to leave you behind,” Cordelia says tearfully. “There wasn’t enough time.”

 

Madison sighs and tosses her head as she rolls her eyes.

 

“Seems like there was plenty of time.” Madison gestures grandly at Mallory. “Convenient how you managed to save your prophet.”

 

“Madison,” Myrtle warns softly, closing her eyes and shaking her head, but Misty sees Cordelia go stiff, and it is too late. Madison has slammed her hand right down on the big, red button, and Cordelia is the explosive.

 

“You have no idea what it’s like to care for people,” she tells Madison darkly, “and you never will. You will never understand what it means to balance the world on your shoulders. To make every decision in regards to the fate of everyone on this planet. You’re privileged, entitled, and you’re so goddamned cold that you might as well be as dead as the rest of them.”

 

The place goes still as silence falls and rings, and Misty tenses, can’t look away. Coco gapes as she looks between Cordelia and Madison. Mallory awkwardly scuffs her shoe against the floor, and Myrtle blinks at Cordelia, as if she is stunned to hear her say such things. Misty isn’t; Madison has a knack for starting fires. Cordelia stands her ground, and Madison’s attitude thaws, her face twisting from something scathing to something softer. Something like regret, maybe. Interesting.

 

“Sorry,” she mumbles, and Cordelia just puffs a breath of air through her nose and steps back, walking away and heading for the bathroom.

 

“Oh, Madison,” Myrtle sighs, always a tone of melodrama, and this time it’s justified, Misty thinks.

 

“I fucking know,” Madison bites back, and she crosses her arms, her leg bouncing anxiously. “I’m just—I’m…”

 

“You’re scared,” Misty speaks up, and then four sets of eyes are on her, and she flushes. “It’s okay.” She lifts her shoulders. “We all are. You’re just the only one being a bitch about it.” Misty allows herself a smirk then. “Quit dragging everyone else down.”

 

Myrtle breathes an amused hum and begins to make her way over to the closed bathroom door, knocking lightly and letting herself in when Cordelia tells her so.

 

The residual awkwardness hangs and sticks to their skins like a peeling sunburn. No one knows where to look, but none of them looks at one another. Misty is particularly taken by the patterned lace of her dress at the moment.

 

“Jesus,” Madison complains, then pulls the metal case of cigarettes from her back pocket and steps outside.

 

 

 

 

 

They don’t sleep very well that night. Not only are the arrangements and conditions unsuitable for this many people, but the entire shack is vibrating with an awful energy. Everyone is afraid. Everyone is remembering the sound of gunfire when they try to close their eyes.

 

Cordelia has chosen Misty’s bed, and Misty has chosen to be beside of her. This had been established with no doubt or question; Cordelia had made herself comfortable, and Misty had joined her. In such trying times, a couple of feet is actually thousands of miles. They are already splitting down the middle where the wedge of miscommunication resides. Closeness is important to both of them right now, and it is an unspoken importance.

 

Madison had claimed the couch, and she seems to have no issue with forcing Coco and Mallory to sleep on piles of blankets and sheets on the floor. Myrtle had summoned her own cot that sets across the room in the far corner, because apparently, she did have a qualm or two about sleeping on hardwood.

 

Before they’d all retired for the night, Cordelia had tried her hand at astral projection. She’d settled right here in this bed, shaking and writhing with fear and anguish as Zoe’s and Queenie’s souls turned to smoke before her eyes.

 

So, Michael can remove any semblance of life that a body possesses, even if that body is a dead one.

 

Cordelia had cried, sobbed as hope slipped through her fingers, and Misty had never felt more helpless. If there is no soul to restore, then there is nothing left, and not even Misty is capable of returning someone from a plane of absolute nonexistence.

 

The only silver lining in all of this is a dim one, and it is a mere sliver. Mallory can cross worlds, dimensions, timelines, and Cordelia believes she can save them. Cordelia is betting all of their lives on it, and while Misty thinks that is an immense amount of pressure to put on someone, even someone as reserved and sensible as Mallory, Misty also thinks she is right.

 

It is a waiting game now. They are isolated out here, away from the rest of humanity, and Cordelia says she will let them know when the time comes. She’ll let them know. And then the world will plunge into an even greater darkness, and they will be forced to resort to running on fumes and flickers of dreams. Dreams of a better world as they sit on their hands and let Michael reign his evil.

 

The countdown clock doesn’t belong to them, and Misty realizes that it probably never did. They have been fooling themselves, thinking they had any weight to throw around. They’re here to die, and they can fight, but it will get them nowhere. The only way to truly save the world is to erase this part of it. Mallory has to change their history, and Misty wonders what that means for all of them.

 

She doesn’t want to go back to hell. She can’t. Even if she doesn’t remember any of this, even if she wakes up one day and she is there again with no memory of the apocalypse or the antichrist, she will feel it somewhere. It will be a piece of her, tangled up in corrupt code, and it will be the only intimate piece she has of Cordelia as she endlessly slices her way through dissection frogs for the rest of eternity.

 

Either way, she will die. Either way. One is by body, and one is by soul, and they are both too unbearable to fathom.

 

Misty can’t lie here and let her mind run rampant, muscles pulled taut with the anticipation of fight or flight; she knows sleep is elusive, and it will not come tonight, probably. She shimmies out of the bed, careful not to disturb Cordelia, and makes her way to the bathroom. The door shuts with a click, and she sighs, walks over to the sink to splash water over her face. She leans against it as she looks into the mirror, shaking her head at her reflection.

 

Why is she here, she wonders. For Cordelia, maybe, but she will start tomorrow morning, practicing, stretching the limits of her magic. And she won’t tell anyone, because they will tell her what she already knows: that it doesn’t matter. It matters to her. They stand a chance with Mallory now, and Misty should be ready, too, just like the rest of them.

 

She hears a light knock on the door, and she grabs the hand towel to her right to dab her face with it.

 

“Come in,” she says, and it’s Mallory, quietly pushing the door open and slipping inside. She looks so extremely terrified, and Misty can’t imagine, to be the thing that everyone puts their faith in. “Are you okay?”

 

“I’m not strong enough,” Mallory admits, shaking her head as her eyes fill with tears, though it seems she has already been crying.

 

And Misty can sympathize with that, with the lack of self-assuredness. Misty can understand.

 

“I’m not, either,” she says, shrugging her shoulders and gesturing to the world around them, “for any of this.”

 

“What if I can’t do it?” Mallory asks, and Misty’s heart breaks for her. To be so full of love and life, to reject self-righteousness. Mallory is simply good without trying. She never asked to be a savior, but she will bear it because she cares so much about all of them. Misty feels it.

 

And how easy it would be, for someone as young as Mallory, someone as inexperienced in dealing with heroism, for her to refuse. She could say no, she won’t do it. She could doubt herself to the point of sabotage. But here she stands, accepting her role and keeping a level head. A good leader she would make, Misty thinks. But she hopes they will never have to find out just how good.

 

“You can,” Misty assures her. “You will, because you have to. Things stopped being fair when he murdered all our friends.”

 

Mallory nods and swallows, and Misty sees a flicker of hatred replace a bit of the fear. That’s good; if Mallory can find her fire, then this will be easy. Not effortless, but easier, at least.

 

“I just don’t want to let anyone down,” she tells Misty, and Misty takes a few steps closer, reaches out to place a gentle hand on Mallory’s arm.

 

“Then you won’t,” Misty says, mustering an air of calmness and comfort. “You know who you are,” the next Supreme, Misty thinks, “and you know what you can do.”

 

“But Cordelia…” Mallory shakes her head. “What if this does work? What will happen to her?”

 

That question makes her breath stall, and it makes her palms itch, her chest tightening. Because Misty doesn’t know. But Cordelia isn’t dying. That’s one thing Misty’s going to make certain of.

 

“I’ll worry about that,” she says. “You just focus on saving the world. That’s your job.”

 

Mallory must find the humor in this, among all the injustice, because she pushes out a soft laugh.

 

“Yeah,” she breathes, “easy enough, right?”

 

A small grin tugs at Misty’s lips, and she drops her hand from Mallory’s arm, opens the door.

 

“Try to sleep,” Misty says, and Mallory nods.

Chapter Text

Misty’s unaware of how much sleep she got last night, but she knows it wasn’t nearly enough. Her dreams had been black and empty, filled with random spurts of consciousness where she would stretch her arm out in the darkness, feeling for Cordelia, and when she felt the warmth of a solid form, she would doze back off.

 

She thinks she has never been so restless, and she was never really made of much composure before. She buzzes now, her energy heightened, and she craves solace.

 

The tub fills with scalding water as she adds salts and drops of frankincense oil to her bath. Cordelia was already gone when she woke up, and Myrtle said she went to get breakfast. The rest of the girls are still sleeping, the small cabin is quiet. She’s brought her 8-track player into the bathroom, and she hums along softly to Dreams, stirs her hand around in the water.

 

Misty sheds her nightgown and cuts the water off, steps over the lip of the tub and settles down into the heat. It burns her skin, and she thinks she may have run it too hot, but she also thinks it is not entirely unwelcome. Steam wraps the room in warmth, condensation fogging the mirror attached to the medicine cabinet above the sink. She allows her eyes to close and releases a sigh, an attempt at relaxation that she hopes will prove successful.

 

She lets the music take her, lets it lull her. When the song fades and stops, she cracks an eye open, glancing at the 8-track player and then letting her attention be drawn to the single candle setting on the sink. A flickering flame that she doesn’t remember lighting. She looks around, and no one is here, the door is still shut.

 

But something calls in quiet, overlapping whispers. She can’t understand it. The more she stares at the flame, the louder the whispers become, until her whole body is quaking with it, the unknown. It’s magic, she feels it, but it’s not hers, and she can’t understand.

 

Misty rises from the tub, dries her hands on a towel and wraps it around herself as she follows the voices. The energy grows stronger the closer she gets to the fire, and there is an unfamiliar power here, delicious and tempting, beckoning her. There is such beauty in the undiscovered. There are secrets here, bursting from the tiny wick of this candle, and she will know them.

 

When she reaches her hand out to touch the flame, it reaches back and clings to her skin, wrapping around her knuckles. She makes a fist, tensing then releasing, and the fire spreads like fire does, but it doesn’t burn like fire does. She holds it in her hands, and it climbs up her wrists, creeping further along her arms.

 

She wakes with a splash, her body jolting and swaying the water around her.

 

Misty looks around the room quickly, and all of the candles in the bathroom remain still and unlit. There is no fire. The fire is in her, she thinks, her skin splotched bright pink in places from the severe temperature of the water. She’s drifted off sitting here, her dream merely a product of her environment.

 

It’s not working, her plan. She is more anxious than before, worried that if she falls asleep again, she will see flames that burn brighter and hotter than those of a small candle. Worries that those flames will call to her, too.

 

She shakes off the remnants of sleep and tugs at the drain stopper as she raises up. The water rolls from her body as she stands, dabs herself with a towel. She slips the fringed dress she’d carried in with her over her head. The damp ends of her hair begin to curl and kink from where they’d touched the water. When she opens the door, the sticky, hot moisture in the air clots and tries to escape, gets swallowed up by the coolness present in the rest of the shack.

 

She doesn’t see Cordelia, laments over the fact that she has yet to return with food. Myrtle is perched on her cot, blowing vapor out through her nose like a regal dragon.

 

“I was ready to summon a battering ram,” Myrtle tells her conversationally, and yes, of course. The picture of concern. Relaxed on a makeshift bed, puffing out rings of flavored smoke.

 

“I fell asleep,” she mumbles with an embarrassed shrug.

 

Myrtle’s mouth tugs downward in a frown, exhibits authenticity this time.

 

“Are you alright, my dear?” she asks Misty, and Misty must give her a wide-eyed look of confusion. “Something’s altered your disposition.”

 

Misty wants to tell her that hell will do that to a person. That Myrtle, of all people, should know that dying is not good for the soul. She wants to deflect, but she has the dreadful feeling that she can’t get away with lying to Myrtle.

 

“I think I’m different now,” she says, and while the flames of hell may not have been what changed her, something has. Something has.

 

“Different,” Myrtle muses, and Misty nods.

 

“Like…like, somethin’ in me. Like when you’re doing laundry, and there’s too much stuff in your arms to carry, and you end up…losing a sock along the way. And you don’t even notice ‘til it’s too late.”

 

Myrtle hums, her lips quirking with omniscience.

 

“You’ve lost your sock,” she says, deep in contemplation.

 

“I think I lost a couple socks.”

 

And Myrtle snickers then, but it’s quiet, not meant to offend.

 

“You poor girls and your secrets.”

 

Misty is curious immediately, questions springing on the tip of her tongue. But she doesn’t think she should want to know. Probably shouldn’t, because she is certain that there are secrets Myrtle keeps for Cordelia, and maybe the rest of them, too. Misty would prefer that they remain unspoken, untouched. She would prefer they not make an appearance.

 

Myrtle cleans her vape with the hem of her cloak, doesn’t seem like she cares to elaborate. Seems like she wants to keep everything right where it is. Misty’s glad they’re in agreement on that.

 

She grabs a shawl from the hook in the middle of her room, decides to step outside and seek fresh air, since the bath didn’t calm her nerves, and since talking to Myrtle has done nothing for that, either. She heads for the door, keeps a hand on it as it shuts behind her so as not to wake the others.

 

Misty finds a place in the soft grass, settles down and shifts when the dew soaks through her dress, thinks that maybe working with her magic will help to ease her mind.

 

She brings a hand down to touch the grass beside her, lets the thick, wet blades tickle her open palm. She has never done this, has never used her magic for anything other than practicality and retribution. And maybe hell tainted her, took away all her good parts until there’s only the harsh aftershocks of a tormented soul. But she has to trust herself. Reading and learning is where it begins, but experience, performance, will close the circuit. She needs to make it her own. The gift of giving life is a precious one, she knows, and resurgence may hold a deeper, more significant meaning, and it may even offer different forms of protection that straddle the line between healing and complete preservation.

 

Michael doesn’t deserve mercy. He doesn’t deserve the satisfaction. She is done playing defense. She has more to offer.

 

Her skin tingles, her eyes rapt and focused. Magic stretches, reaching throughout, but remains focused in her hand. The muscles in Misty’s wrist begin to twitch and strain as she pushes her power outward. The patch of grass that her hand hovers over begins to dry out, and the edges of the blades curl up and lose their green hue. She pushes harder, takes a deep breath, then lets it out. Her magic wraps around the life she holds, and instead of healing it, she finishes it. Instead of giving, she takes.

 

Apparently, death can happen the same way life does: with an inhale and an exhale. It is the same. Two sides of one, sick coin. Only, this time, she’s flipped the coin like a corroded penny on the sidewalk.

 

The spot of grass is lifeless and wilted, and it’s murder, probably. On some level. Probably murder, but with a purpose. The only real way to protect herself is to begin crafting her weapon. And it’s not a shield. Shields will do no good against the son of Satan, she knows this now. They are past the point of pleasantries.

 

Misty senses light filtering in among her dark thoughts, and when she looks up, she sees Cordelia, making her way up to the shack with an armful of grocery bags.

 

“What are you doing?” Cordelia asks, a curious grin on her face, and Misty raises her eyebrows, shrugs.

 

“Watching grass die,” she answers, and it is not a total lie.

 

Cordelia just breathes out a short laugh through her nose, suspects nothing as Misty rises to help her. She takes two or three of the bags and follows Cordelia back inside.

 

 

 

 

 

Cordelia makes pancakes for breakfast, and Misty helps, sort of, hands Cordelia cinnamon and stirs the batter here and there, but mostly she stands around until they’re ready. There’s limited space at the tiny table against the wall, so she goes over to sit beside Coco on the couch.

 

“How many calories?” she asks jovially, and Coco shakes her head.

 

“You don’t wanna know,” Coco tells her around a mouthful, and Misty just snorts and shrugs.

 

“Won’t bother me,” she says, stabbing her fork into the pancakes and shoveling a bite into her mouth.

 

Misty watches as Mallory suddenly rises from the table, and her plate is still full, but she claims a loss of appetite, excuses herself to go be outside. Madison rolls her eyes, and a few short minutes later, after she is finished, she abandons her chair to go start on the dishes. Cordelia and Myrtle remain seated, and Myrtle plucks a strawberry from atop her pancakes and pops it into her mouth as Cordelia speaks quietly. Misty can’t hear them over the roar of running water, but Myrtle’s eyes seem sad and distant. Cordelia’s body language indicates the loss of something.

 

She doesn’t even notice that Coco is watching her watching them. Misty feels a blush creep up her neck.

 

“What?”

 

Coco stares at her dumbly, squints her eyes.

 

“Is there something going on?” she asks in a hushed tone. “With you and Cordelia? I really can’t tell anymore.” She drops her fork to rub her fingertips at her temples. As if this is stressful for her, this thing between Misty and Cordelia. As if it is stressful for her.

 

“No.” Misty’s head shakes with denial, and she keeps her voice down. “We just—we’re…I don’t know. What makes you think that?”

 

Coco’s eyes narrow into slits, as if she is catching her in a lie and she knows it.

 

“Gee, you know, I’m not sure. But I bet it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that she slept in your bed last night.” Coco heaves a dramatic sigh, slumping further down into the cushions. “Every time you…look at her, my skin tingles like it does when my powers are trying to tell me something.”

 

Misty stops chewing her food, swallows it down as she watches Coco blankly.

 

“Sounds like a real problem,” she comments offhandedly, takes another bite.

 

Coco sits up and leans in closer to Misty, glances around to make sure no one is listening.

 

“I’m not trying to grill you or anything, and I won’t tell anyone. I’m just trying to understand. I think my powers might be growing, and if I’m right about this, then maybe I’m having, like, a breakthrough or something.”

 

So, Coco is curious in a way that isn’t just empty gossip. Coco believes she has sensed something, and Coco is interested in learning more about how her magic works. Misty doesn’t think she can lie to her. If Coco wants answers, she can have them.

 

“Yeah,” Misty says quietly, “I love her.” Coco’s expression morphs, shifts from excitement to sympathy. Misty lifts her shoulders and moves the food around on her plate with her fork. “Guess your powers are growing.”

 

Misty stands suddenly, needs to get away from this conversation and the clenched fist it has around her heart. She walks over to the sink basin, hands her plate to Madison, and Coco hurries to follow her.

 

Wait,” Coco bursts, her voice the opposite of the quiet thing it had been a few moments ago, and everyone in the room looks at her, pulling Cordelia and Myrtle out of their conversation and causing Madison to glance over her shoulder. Coco flushes with embarrassment and grabs Misty by the wrist, hauling her into the bathroom and shutting the door. “Oh, shit,” she says, and the panic in her tone is evident. “I didn’t—if I had known, I would have just kept my mouth shut.”

 

“It’s okay. You probably shouldn’t talk so much shit about your powers anymore, though. They were right. You were right.”

 

“But I just—I thought you guys were just having sex or something. I didn’t know it was serious.” Coco keeps her voice low. “Does she know?”

 

Misty shakes her head, and the shock of sadness shoots across Coco’s features.

 

“I don’t know. There’s a time and a place,” Misty says, pretending as though she has accepted this. She hasn’t. She won’t. But she can pretend that it doesn’t bother her as deeply as what it does. “Middle of a war isn’t exactly it.”

 

Coco clenches her jaw, grits her teeth.

 

“That fucking kid,” Coco spits, and Misty can feel the venom. “Who does he think he is?”

 

Misty blinks.

 

“…He’s the antichrist.”

 

But Coco doesn’t back down.

 

“No. Cordelia has a plan. Mallory can fucking time travel. She’s gonna save the world, then you guys are gonna work this out.”

 

Misty doesn’t mean to laugh, but it spills out anyway. She appreciates the loyalty, and she thinks Coco has the most fire out of all of them. Coco’s suspicions about them may have been fully accurate, but she’s not right about this. Every single odd in existence is stacked against them, towering, and has been from the beginning. Even before Michael. Before the end of the world, they still didn’t slot together correctly. There has always been some doom or another that has kept them apart, and maybe it’s bad that Misty has grown so used to this.

 

But the positivity is welcome, and it makes her grateful to have Coco here with them. A refreshing dose of optimism.

 

“I hope you’re right,” Misty says, and she does hope. She hopes with everything in her.

 

 

 

 

 

“Can you turn that shit off?” Madison asks, pointing to Misty’s 8-track player like it has offended her, where the soothing sounds of Fleetwood Mac emanate. “It’s late. Some of us sleep.”

 

Misty reaches over to her nightstand and cranks the volume dial down by one notch, and Madison groans, slams her weight down onto the couch and pulls a blanket over her head.

 

Mallory and Coco have long since been passed out on the floor, and Cordelia and Myrtle are just now returning from their once-around the swamp to reinforce the protection spells.

 

Myrtle floats over and dramatically collapses onto her cot, and her eyes are closed now, but Misty doesn’t think it’s possible for any human to fall asleep that quickly. If it is, then she wishes she had that ability. She wishes that was her power.

 

Cordelia flips the lights off as she makes her way through the shack, then smiles at Misty when she reaches the bed. Misty smiles back, shifts over to one side so Cordelia can pull the covers back and lie down.

 

It’s quiet, save for the soft strumming of guitar and the harmonious vocals of Stevie Nicks. Cordelia turns on her side, her head resting gently on the pillow, and Misty feels her gaze burning into her. She squirms, tries to get comfortable, and decides she’d rather give her attention over to Cordelia than the unfaithful promise of sleep. She rolls over and faces her.

 

Cordelia’s eyes shine in the darkness, and this closely, Misty can see the pooling warmth in the soft, brown, infinite depths of them.

 

“Hi,” Cordelia whispers, and Misty grins.

 

“Hey.”

 

The stillness returns, and Cordelia releases a heavy breath, as if she is decompressing now for the first time in days. She probably is.

 

“I like this song,” she tells Misty, reaching out to push thick hair behind Misty’s ear, and her hand lingers on Misty’s cheek.

 

The lyrics tell a story, one of fading goodbyes and lost relationships. It’s no one’s fault, Misty thinks, the way that happens. A person can know that something is bad, and they will pursue it if it’s what brings them solace in the moment. A person can love so much and so hard, and it can still not be enough if what’s inside rages more fiercely than the external.

 

“Me, too,” she says, holds Cordelia’s hand against her face. The tips of Cordelia’s fingers press to Misty’s cheekbone, her thumb stroking dangerously close at Misty’s lips, and Misty feels like this storm, this spinning, spiraling thing between them, rages far stronger than the storm within her. And she doesn’t know what to make of that. “Cordelia?” When Cordelia hums softly, Misty continues. “Do you ever get really scared?”

 

Cordelia’s mouth tugs into a frown.

 

“Scared?” she asks, and Misty nods, then Cordelia nods. “Yes.”

 

“That you might lose somethin’ important? And you don’t know why it’s so important, but it is?” Misty inhales a shuddering breath. “And you feel it all the time, in all the deepest parts of you?”

 

Cordelia’s eyes darken, loud as thunder without saying a word, and the soft frown on her face evolves into hurt. She nods.

 

“Yes,” she breathes, and Misty hears the hidden agony.

 

“Are you scared like that right now?” she asks in a whisper, and Cordelia bites her lip as her eyes glisten with tears.

 

“I can hear you,” Madison grumbles, her irritated voice ringing out into the thickness in the air, among their whispers, chasing the moment away and causing Misty to startle.

 

Misty hears rustling as Madison rolls over on the couch, attempting to bury herself inside of it and become one with it just to stifle their voices, probably. Cordelia moves away suddenly, kicking the covers off of her and rising from the bed. She picks up the grey blanket that Misty had given her before and wraps it around herself as she makes for the door.

 

The silence Cordelia leaves in her wake is deafening, and it has Misty’s head reeling, stuck in overdrive. She wants Cordelia back in her bed. She wants Cordelia’s face so close to hers that she can see every emotion. She wants to reach out for Cordelia’s warmth and pull it back to her.

 

Misty sheds the sheets and quilted comforter, scrambling out of bed to go join Cordelia outside. She finds her seated on one of the metal rocking chairs on the porch, and Misty sits in the one beside her that is angled inward. She doesn’t say anything. The way Cordelia stares out into the darkness of the night tells her that Cordelia has to be the one to speak first.

 

It’s minutes of aching tension as Misty waits, and she watches the swamp with her, listens to the crickets and bullfrogs.

 

“I used to think I knew fear,” Cordelia finally says, voice hoarse, “growing up with Fiona, being so afraid to even…exist. But that was cowardice. This is real. This is fear.” Cordelia looks over at her, and Misty can’t ignore the pain. “So, yes, I’m really scared right now. I’ve been really scared for a while.”

 

“How long?” Misty presses, and Cordelia shakes her head, releases a false, hollow laugh that is probably more fit to be a sob.

 

Cordelia stands up then, starts lifting the hem of her silk pajama shirt, and Misty blanches as Cordelia uncovers more and more skin, as she reveals the darkness that Misty has felt since she’s been back from hell, the evil that has been looming over Cordelia.

 

It’s a nasty, thick, black wound that spreads from her side to the middle of her abdomen. The flesh there is jagged and marred, sweltering gashes and puckered ridges, and Misty chokes on her gasp, pushes herself to unsteady feet. She doesn’t know why she stood up; she can’t move. She is overtaken with horror. Cordelia’s bottom lip trembles as she swallows down her cries, and when Misty takes a step closer to reach out, Cordelia flinches and lowers her shirt, sits back down. She pulls the blanket back around her and puffs out her cheeks through an exhale.

 

“What—what’s…” Misty tries, but she can’t. She can’t hold onto any of her words right now.

 

“I’m dying,” Cordelia tells her, and she finalizes it with that. With two words, she seals it, her fate and Misty’s along with it.

 

Misty shakes her head like that will take all of this away somehow. Like if she can deny it, then it will leave, and Cordelia will regain her health, her life. They were marked for death. The end will claim them all, she knows this. She knows. But she realizes that she has been so lucky, that Cordelia has been so lucky to make it this far. She thinks she would have done all of this so differently if she had known and understood the severity of Cordelia’s condition. Her weakening state. And Cordelia has always been the “suffer in silence” type.

 

Cordelia ordered Misty’s return from hell knowing full well that Misty would have to live without her, one way or another. Even if they do make it out of this alive. Which they won’t. Torture. Cruel injustice.

 

“You’ve been—” her breath catches on the word dying because she can’t make herself say it, “this whole time, that’s why you—we’re supposed to be fighting evil, and you’re lettin’ it build a home inside you, and you didn’t even tell me.”

 

“Because this is what happens, Misty. This is how it works, and this is how it will always work. The Supreme fades away. Mallory will rise, and I have to accept what that means for me.”

 

“No one should have to accept that.” Misty paces back and forth across the porch. “No one should have to be so damn comfortable with that.”

 

Cordelia is suddenly quiet, and Misty looks over at her, watches Cordelia awkwardly pick at the fibers of the thickly woven blanket spread out on her lap as her brows knit together.

 

“Then that would make me no better than my mother,” Cordelia says, chin wobbling, and a tight pressure squeezes at Misty’s chest. “And I have to believe that I am at least one-tenthof a better leader than she was. I know I’ve let my girls down. I’ve failed. I know I have. But this coven remains the most important thing to me, and I will not put myself first for as long as I’m still breathing.”

 

Misty swallows, shoving past the emotion lodged in her throat. She steps closer to Cordelia, squats to her knees in front of her, and when Cordelia’s tear-filled gaze meets hers, Misty feels like breaking. She feels like letting herself come apart, throwing away everything she’s worked so hard to contain. She takes Cordelia’s hands in her own, runs her thumb over Cordelia’s knuckles, the back of her hand. They are wrapped in the dark calm of the swamp, the serenity. There is life all around them, chirping, croaking, rumbling, rustling, and then there’s them. Silent. Breathing.

 

“Let me help you,” Misty says, her voice barely above a whisper, and Cordelia is already shaking her head. “Please, let me try, please, I can help, I can heal you.”

 

“No,” Cordelia tells her dutifully, brokenly. “We’re too far now. There’s no escaping fate. It takes what it needs so that the world can go on.”

 

Misty feels the burning pressure of tears in her eyes, blinks it away, and Cordelia must see it because she leans in, a hand resting on Misty’s cheek as the pad of her thumb grazes Misty’s browbone, her temple, her cheekbone, then further down to brush over her lips.

 

“It won’t,” Misty says quietly, “not without you here.”

 

She watches the muscles of Cordelia’s throat tense as she swallows, watches as Cordelia’s tongue pokes out to wet her lips, then she watches as Cordelia closes the distance between them and kisses her. Misty inhales sharply, and Cordelia begins to pull away after only mere seconds, but Misty takes her face in her hands and holds her there. She lets her eyelids flutter closed and melts into it.

 

Cordelia’s mouth is soft against her own, pliant, over and over, with intensity and purpose that Misty matches. Cordelia draws her in deeper, her hands warm on Misty’s face. Several years’ worth of hidden passion, stowed away in places they have never attempted to access, sparking between them now. Of all times for it to finally show itself. Misty grips Cordelia’s biceps, the notches of her elbows, slides her fingertips down the length of her forearms, touching every part of her that she can and excluding the part of her that is leaking decay. She stays away from that part, ignoring the rot that calls to her, begs for her magic. Cordelia doesn’t want it. Cordelia is at peace with it, and Misty will have to learn to be, too.

 

She sighs when she feels Cordelia’s tongue tease at the seam of her lips, wishes Cordelia didn’t taste so much like the salt of tears and the ashy fog of death.

 

It is a goodbye, Misty realizes, the force of it knocking into her. This is Cordelia, saying goodbye, indefinitely.

 

Misty tilts her head and pours her soul into it, and she has the fleeting thought that if she hopes with all her might, then maybe she can heal Cordelia, just like this, without even touching the wound. She thinks she can mend the splitting flesh, stitch it back together with her magic if she just tries hard enough

 

But maybe she can’t, because Cordelia must be able to feel it, is pulling away and pressing a gentle kiss to Misty’s forehead.

 

“Don’t,” Cordelia whispers against her skin, shaking her head, and when she looks at Misty, there is still pain in her eyes. There is still sadness and defeat etched onto her features, but she smiles through it as she runs a hand down the soft curls of Misty’s hair. It was selfish to try anyway. “It’s okay.”

 

Misty is having a hard time believing that. She is having a hard time processing that there is no way to cheat a death sentence. She doesn’t think any of this is okay.

 

“This can’t be all there is,” she says, and her voice is raw with want of every kind. There has to be more. They are worth so much more than impossible obstacles and tearful goodbyes. They have so much more to offer each other than this.

 

Cordelia heaves a shaky breath. A tear falls from her eye and rolls down her cheek, dripping from her jaw, dissolving into the wool of the blanket as she sniffles.

 

“I’m sorry,” Cordelia whispers.

 

Misty is sorry, too. Because she wants Cordelia, and she wants her safe and whole in a world that isn’t threatened. Misty believes she must be in the worst possible outcome of the situation. She is living the hopeless, hellish version of this, and there is no way out. Every door is another wall. It’s worse than hell itself, because at least that isn’t real. This is crushingly, horrendously real. And Misty can do nothing but watch this all burn around them, and then it will take them with it as flightless victims of destruction and chaos.

Chapter Text

The next day holds no further glimmer of hope, nothing better, and it seems like the more time that passes as they wait, the bleaker it all gets.

 

Coco and Mallory are swept off and away to their new lives under their new identities. The two of them may never be allowed the opportunity to remember the rest of them. They may never even see them again. More of her friends lost to this plague, she thinks, and brings a hand up to touch her necklace.

 

Inside the shack, Myrtle consoles Cordelia, and outside, Misty watches a weeping willow tree.

 

The branches sway and bow at the gentle breeze. The leaves droop as if they are sad, as if they are aware of their namesake and are committed to the role.

 

She has felt pain many times, but never one quite so harrowing. Cordelia has been wasting away before her eyes, and she hadn’t felt it. It’s been so concealed under all the magic and nerves, the things that swarm so much closer to the surface.

 

This is going to happen one of two ways, the first being that Mallory succeeds, alters time, erases it. She will become the next Supreme in the new world, and Cordelia will continue to wilt until she dies. Misty will go back to being locked away in a stifling purgatory, and she won’t remember. No one will remember.

 

The second possibility is that Mallory fails. They all die by Michael’s hand, crushed in his fist and beneath his boot, and the world will remain under his total control.

 

Misty would like to run like cowards do. She wants to take Cordelia and heal her and live in blissful self-indulgence until the bombs hit. She was once so angry to be brought back from hell, so outraged that Cordelia could demand such an injustice. That anger still exists somewhere inside her. She knows that this is the true test of strength. It won’t be the fight itself; it will be everything leading up to it. It is everything that has forced her to change. It is living a doomed life full of trepidation and agony.

 

So, maybe parts of her want to run. But other parts of her want to fight. Other parts of her want to protect Cordelia until she can’t any longer. Because Cordelia only cares about Mallory’s success and the survival of the majority. Cordelia doesn’t care what happens to herself anymore, and Misty has no idea how she’s supposed to be okay with that.

 

Misty won’t shed tears. If she does, she’ll drown. So, she lets the willow tree weep for her, lets it do what it does even without an audience. She watches the leaves flutter like lashes.

 

It’s in pain, Misty thinks. Take it away.

 

She latches onto the base of the tree with her magic, reaching for the life and possessing it, beginning to strip it away. The tree seizes with the force, then slowly, slowly, the leaves start to tremble. They turn from green, to brown, to black on their descension into nonexistence. They begin to disintegrate, and when Misty applies more pressure, they shrivel to ash. The branches convulse, and she feels the life fall away piece by piece as they drop and crumble. The trunk comes apart like a rockslide, bits of bark flaking off and fading to dust. She hears it cough its last breath and collapse beneath the power she inflicts, all the way down to its roots.

 

Until there’s nothing. No tree. No life where there once was. The only thing left is the single tear that rolls down her cheek. An homage, she thinks. Whether its paid in respect to herself or the tree, she can’t be sure. Because her soul suffers every time she makes something else suffer. Maybe it is her body reacting to all of the dark energy she is attempting to harness.

 

It does come from a place of evil, and there are so many forms. Her intentions were to heal by eradication, for no other reason than because she simply wills it so. That counts as evil, even if she also considers it an expansion. Practice. Magic. If the line is not drawn somewhere, then it will remain invisible, and then nothing is stopping her from becoming just as bad as Michael.

 

It is Cordelia who reminds her who she is and what she fights for. Misty knows why they’re here and why she’s doing this. She can tell herself it’s justified in that way. Misty can tell herself that as long as Cordelia breathes, then so does the goodness in her soul.

 

“Holy shit.” Madison’s voice cuts through her thoughts, and she whips around to face her. “When did you learn how to do that?”

 

Misty doesn’t have an answer. She just knows that she can balance death now, too. She just knows that life and death aren’t all that different. She thinks she must have known this, to some degree, and she thinks she must have been avoiding it.

 

She’s afraid of what it will turn her into. She’s afraid of what hell has already made of her, and she’s afraid that the end of the world will have an even greater impact.

 

“I guess…” Misty says, clearing her throat, “when I got mad enough.” She has never feared her magic before now. It has always been a comfort, something she’s good at, healing and saving. But there is a new energy within her, raw, screaming, and it can’t be silenced. She doesn’t want it to be. She’s leaning into it. She can use it. “How’d they do when you dropped ‘em off?”

 

Madison allows the conversation to switch over to Coco and Mallory, accepts it with a roll of her eyes, and Misty is relieved.

 

“Trust me, they’ll be fine. They’re different people now.” Madison crosses her arms. “Even without the identity spell bullshit, Michael’s too much of an idiot to notice anyway.”

 

 

 

 

 

The swamp has a certain, unique magic about it on its own. This is what’s going to keep them safe, the mud. It heals and protects, and under different circumstances, it might inspire Misty to do the same.

 

Myrtle digs into the earth without a shovel, using her magic, and lifts dirt into the air, rests each pile beside a hole in the ground. Their plots. Misty is slightly put off by the idea of being buried alive again. The pitch-black silence, the tight claustrophobia. Madison must be on edge, too, because there is an impossible amount of snark in her tone.

 

“How the fuck are we supposed to breathe?” she asks, and Misty snorts.

 

“Not like we’re witches or anything,” she mutters.

 

Madison glares at her.

 

“You let the soil breathe for you,” Myrtle explains, dropping her hand and letting a pile of dirt follow. “It’s alive. Tether yourself to it.”

 

Madison scoffs, jumps directly into another complaint, and Misty ignores her, pushes Madison’s consistently negative energy away. She looks around for Cordelia, searching, and finds her several feet away in the garden behind them.

 

She leaves Myrtle to fend for herself against Madison and starts walking over. And this aspect of her home has been tended to as well, she’s noticed. None of her plants is dried up or out of place. They thrive, and they breathe. The way Cordelia’s fingertips linger on one of the leaves makes her think she’s had something to do with this, if not everything to do with it.

 

“I fell in love with this place a long time ago,” Cordelia says when Misty gets close enough, and the familiar pain that Misty has gotten used to seeing and feeling from her isn’t present right now. Enjoyment takes its place. “You have everything here.” Cordelia straightens one of the potted plants that has been knocked sideways from the clutter. “It’s perfect.”

 

I do, Misty thinks to herself as she watches Cordelia. I do. It is.

 

Misty could make promises that she can’t keep right now. She could say they will be back, that they will return once their plan works, fate permitting. She could say that it’s such a shame all of this will go to waste in just a few short hours. All of this life will be a memory, unable to be touched and felt and appreciated.

 

But it wouldn’t be fair to say those things. It wouldn’t be fair to ruin this delicate calm before the storm. Misty’s not even sure there’s anything she can say right now. Everything seems off-limits in this sanctum. She can’t talk about what happened last night, can’t bring up the death that is swimming around in Cordelia’s body. Can’t bring up how Cordelia kissed her like she knew something, and how Misty kissed her back like she knew it, too.

 

They began years ago surrounded by plants, and that’s how they will end. It’s this, and it will be. Quiet company kept in greenhouses and gardens.

 

Misty thinks she can keep Cordelia’s sorrow at bay and the softness in her eyes.

 

“Hang on,” she says, starts treading over burlap-covered ground, searching around wooden benches and tables for one of her favorites. Her eyes light up when she finds it, and it’s grown so tall now that she sees the petals poking out from behind a table just a few steps away from Cordelia. Misty waves her over. “Come here.”

 

And Cordelia laughs lightly, easily, when she sees the deep magenta bushels of the flowering plant. Misty smiles proudly.

 

“Is that milkweed?” Cordelia asks, and she sounds so amused, so untroubled, and Misty’s heart lurches. “For monarchs?”

 

“Special kind, native to swamps. It was so tiny before. Didn’t even have any buds,” she says, gingerly touching one of the vibrant flowers, and she guesses five years’ time will do that to a thing. Make it grow. “I like it because I don’t really need it. Most everything else here is for me, healin’ and magic and such. But this is for them.”

 

For them, the butterflies. The life.

 

A gloomy chill shivers through her as she thinks of the willow tree. She feels guilty being in the presence of any sort of plant life now, feels like they can smell the evil on her and they turn away from it. She’s been weathered by fear and hatred. She’s not even sure her green thumb is green anymore. It is probably grey and rotten.

 

“I don’t have all the fancy potions and books that you have,” Misty says, distancing herself from her thoughts, “just this.” She gestures to the plant life around them, then warily lowers her arms, fearful of making them all turn to ash in one swift motion.

 

“I like this better,” Cordelia says softly, shyly. “This was all that was left of you. I’d come here and feel your magic in everything, and it made me feel closer to you.”

 

She reaches out for Misty’s hand, and Misty lets her take it, lets them hang in silence and heavy gazes.

 

Misty thinks that Cordelia believes she’s spoiled herself by having Misty at her side again. And maybe she has, maybe it is selfish and unfair on both of their accounts. But maybe this is something they wouldn’t think twice about under less extreme conditions. Maybe it’s only the timing that is selfish and unfair, and they are at its mercy. It doesn’t make them the same as their situation. It’s what the universe has given them, and maybe the only thing they are is wise for taking as much as they can.

 

“Cordelia,” Myrtle calls, a familiar twinge of dread in her voice as she pulls both of them back to reality. “It’s ready.”

 

Four perfectly crafted tombs. Misty sees them in the distance, and when she looks back to Cordelia, the misery has bloomed once more in the brown of her irises. She gives Misty an apologetic smile and goes to release her hand, but Misty keeps it.

 

“Wait,” she says, the word coming out in a rush of air, “don’t let go of me,” she tells Cordelia, and Cordelia’s face pinches in a puzzled frown. “I mean, you—your magic, when we’re…” she swallows and shakes her head, “I need to feel you, I need to know you’re there.”

 

Cordelia’s thumb grazes the sensitive skin of Misty’s wrist, and her expression turns to one of potent strength.

 

“I will never let go of you,” she promises, her eyes sparking with conviction, and Misty nods, has to believe that she means it.

 

 

 

 

 

It is an endless hibernation; she sleeps for the entirety of her entombment, and she gets no choice in the matter. The magic had pulled her under. When she wakes, suffocating beneath the impossible weight of layers of dirt and ash, pushing every uncomfortable breath in and out, it is exactly as horrifying as she had expected. She learns quickly that the more resistance she applies, the less successful breathing becomes, and her lungs pay for that mistake a few times. But Myrtle was right. The soil is alive, and it has healed itself, protected itself against the fire and war.

 

She senses Cordelia next to her, knows she didn’t break her promise, knows Cordelia held on tightly for every excruciating moment.

 

Cordelia’s magic pulls at hers again, and this time, it forces her up, and she starts clawing against dirt and mud and debris until the thick smell of chemical rot reaches her nose. The first breath she takes on her own, she coughs it back out, gags on soil and death. Once her chest has stopped heaving and shuddering, she looks around in a panic, sees Cordelia raising herself from the ground, then Myrtle, and Madison, choking around the mud lodged in her throat, her upper body protruding from the ground.

 

Misty wriggles her way out of the hole, the packed dirt falling around her as she rises. Her legs are numb when she stands, weakened, and she doesn’t recognize this world. She thinks she could stare into the void abyss for days, weeks, and still not be able to rectify it with the one she left behind.

 

Michael has won, or at least, they have led him to believe he has, and this is his prize. This sickening ruin, this corruption. He owns all of this now. Flat, level ground stretches for miles and miles, smoke and ash and radiation all poisoning the atmosphere. It can’t touch them, can’t thwart their magic, and Misty almost wishes it could.

 

There’s no swamp. No trees or grass or flowers, and there is little oxygen. There’s no sun or warmth. Everything is gone, demolished, entirely razed. Her home here, the first one that ever accepted her for who she was, once filled with such bright life, is now a war zone, is now a barren wasteland.

 

She finds she can’t properly react to it. She finds she feels about as much as what is left, and that’s nothing. She feels no semblance of life anywhere, regardless of how far she stretches her magic.

 

“Misty,” Cordelia says, and her voice cracks through ash as Cordelia moves into her space and presses her hands against Misty’s face.

 

She knows Cordelia is looking for reassurance that she is okay, but she’s not, not at all. Everything has been hollowed out and replaced with this scorching, blood-thirsty evil. The emptiness weakens her, and she has nothing to draw her energy from. It’s all dead, and she’s frozen stiff with shock. It’s not okay, and she is not okay, but now is when bravery saves her. She has been preparing, to be able to look Cordelia in the eyes and tell her that she can do this. But she can’t string the words together, can’t pick them up from where they bury themselves deeper in her throat, so she just nods.

 

“We have to go now,” Cordelia tells her, slowly dropping her hands. “It’s time. We have to go.”

 

It begins with Cordelia taking them all to a place directly outside the gates of Hawthorne’s, which is no longer Hawthorne’s. Misty doesn’t know how Cordelia can see through all this poison, all this dense fog, doesn’t know how she’s managed to transmute them all here so perfectly. But Cordelia is drowning in power right now, and Misty thinks Cordelia draws her magic not from life, but from something entirely different, from the very bloodline of the supremacy, because it is a part of her, always inside of her. She doesn’t have to look outward to find it like Misty does.

 

Being within the walls of this place makes Misty vibrate with uneasiness, and she resists the threatening pulse of dark energy, doesn’t allow it to settle into her bones and consume her. It is worse this time. Last time, it was only a touch. It is an assault now. She wants to take a knife to it, cut it from the air until she can breathe again.

 

When Cordelia resurrects Mallory, Misty feels a significant portion of her power leave her as it enters Mallory, and then it returns, then retreats, bouncing between the two of them. A struggle for balance so severe that the universe can’t reach a verdict.

 

It happens quickly then. Misty feels Michael before she sees him, a venomous cancer that appears in a single organ, then spreads as he speaks, as they all turn to face him.

 

Misty should not be here. Misty does not belong here. He’s too strong, she can’t feel anything beyond his wicked power, and her muscles ache, wanting to run but needing to stay. Bile rises in the back of her throat, the scent of death and decay pushing on the pit of her stomach.

 

At the utterance of a single word, Cordelia sends mechanical parts and plasma flying, and the blowback causes Michael to be thrown from the top of the staircase. Then Madison is sliding into a window of opportunity, littering Michael’s body with bullet wounds, seeping blood as he falls and slumps against the wall.

 

Madison tells them to go. She tells them to go, and to get Mallory upstairs, and Cordelia obeys. Misty follows after Cordelia as she makes her way to the staircase, grabs Cordelia’s arm.

 

“We can’t leave her here,” Misty argues frantically, “we can’t, she’ll die.”

 

Cordelia rests a hand against Misty’s cheek, looks at her with something Misty doesn’t have the ability to place right now.

 

“Stay close to me,” Cordelia tells her, and she ascends the staircase with Mallory and Myrtle.

 

Misty glances back at Madison who stands over Michael, guarding him and daring him to move. Misty shakes her head, helpless as she forces herself to operate on autopilot, races up the stairs.

 

When she rounds the corner and rushes down the hallway, Mallory is on the ground, and Cordelia is hovering over her.

 

“What happened?” Misty asks, her panic rising, constricting her lungs. But she knows. She feels Mallory’s life force fading. She sees the bleeding stab wound in her stomach. From downstairs, Misty feels an impact at her temples, sending shocks through her skull. “Madison’s dead,” she says numbly.

 

“Help me,” Cordelia begs, lifting Mallory from under her arms, “help me.”

 

Misty grabs Mallory’s legs and they cart her away to the bathroom, filling the tub with water and easing her into it. Myrtle stands guard by the doorway, and Cordelia tries to revive her, tries and tries, and Mallory’s eyes flutter shut, a surrender. Misty feels her leave them at the same time she feels a pinch at her windpipe, a crushing sensation, and she heaves out a breath.

 

“Coco,” she says, brings her knees up to her chest, covers her face, “Coco’s dead.”

 

There is no foreseeable way that she can do this. She doesn’t know why she thought she could. She feels everything, feels every last breath, and her necklace tingles with such a might that it makes her want to rip it off. She’s never been so extremely enclosed and surrounded by death before. She has never cared to know it this intimately.

 

“Misty, you have to save her, bring her back, please, I can’t do it, I can’t,” Cordelia pleads, her hand gripping Misty’s wrist tightly, and Misty’s breath is still falling in short, shallow gasps, still trying to adjust to how the grim possibility of failure is quickly becoming their reality.

 

Cordelia’s eyes are swimming with tears as she begs Misty to do the one thing she knows she is capable of, hell or no hell, apocalypse or no apocalypse.

 

She grounds herself in Cordelia’s gaze, puffs out a shaky exhale as she sits up and places her hands over Mallory’s floating form, places her hands on either side of Mallory’s head. Her hands quake with fear and pain and loss, and she remembers the bird Mallory had wanted so badly to heal, the bird who had been just as dead as Mallory is right now, remembers Mallory’s tears as she cried for a thing she didn’t know. Mallory’s devotion to the coven at every step, never backing down. Misty will show her the same devotion.

 

She pushes her magic and makes contact with Mallory’s soul. She can feel it. She can do this. Mallory can still save them, Mallory can—

 

Behind them, Myrtle releases an awful cry of pain that makes Misty’s hair stand on end, and she drops her hands, lets go of Mallory. Bright red blood pours from Myrtle’s throat, runs down the glove on the hand that clutches the slice across her neck, drips onto the floor, and her grip on the doorframe loosens as she collapses.

 

Cordelia’s scream forces Misty out of her wide-eyed shock and into action, and when Cordelia stands, Misty rises with her. She grabs Cordelia’s arm, her fingers digging into Cordelia’s skin, holding her back, using all of her strength to keep her from advancing on Michael. It is just them now, only them, and if Cordelia acts on her vengeful whims, if they don’t focus on bringing Mallory back, then they will join her.

 

He watches them with a dark smile on his face, then he bends over to plunge the bloodied dagger into Myrtle’s chest, drawing the last shreds of life from her body.

 

Another scream rips from Cordelia’s throat, and Misty feels her magic surge as she uses it to throw him down the hallway, but Misty keeps her grip firm, and Cordelia doesn’t struggle against it, knows she can’t afford to put her grief before their survival.

 

“He killed Myrtle,” Cordelia sobs, looking Misty in the eyes, and it rivals any sort of anguish Misty has ever seen. Misty hears the question there, the finality of their situation. Cordelia would like to do something that Misty won’t let her do. Time and options are scarce, and Misty’s heart pumps in short, quick beats. The only thing that stands between Cordelia and Michael right now is the tight, shaking grasp she has on Cordelia’s forearm.

 

Misty shakes her head furiously, fights back her hysteria and keeps her voice level as she speaks.

 

“We have to save Mallory,” Misty reminds her, tugging her back towards the tub, “we have to fix this. You’re not dying. You’re not dying.”

 

Cordelia deflates, and Misty watches her throat tense as she swallows thickly. The fate of the world rests right here, right in this moment, and it is such a fragile thing, seems like it could crush under the weight and get lost in all the chaos.

 

But Cordelia nods, and Misty shudders a sigh of relief, loosens her grip on Cordelia’s arm as they turn back to Mallory. Misty will bring her back, essence on speed, and Mallory will reverse all of this, circumventing hellfire and brimstone, and Cordelia will not die here.

 

When Misty crouches by the bathtub, something sharp and silver flies into the room, whizzing by so quickly that Misty misses it.

 

But she hears the sound of a blade tearing through tissue, and she sees the dazed, startled expression on Cordelia’s face. She sees the blood blooming from Cordelia’s chest where a knife punctures through her heart from behind, soaking her shirt in a bold crimson, the severe tip of the knife jutting out from her chest.

 

Misty feels sickly, her eyes wide with terror, all the color draining from her face in an instant. Time slows to a stop as she lunges to catch Cordelia before she collapses, her arms sliding around her waist. She sinks back to the floor with Cordelia in her arms, cautious of the wound, cautious of the blade buried in her back. Misty takes in shallow gasps of air, brushes Cordelia’s hair back, touches her face.

 

It is a car crash, the moment of absolute trauma, and then the stupor that follows. It is a house that loses power in a storm, pitching everything into immediate darkness. It is over now, Misty thinks. She’s failed, she’s broken her promise to herself, she couldn’t protect Cordelia, she doesn’t know why she ever thought she could.

 

Cordelia says her name, chokes around it, and Misty’s vision goes blurry. She blinks away tears as Cordelia’s eyes begin to flutter and roll.

 

“Hey,” she breathes, holding Cordelia’s face in her hands, “hey, no, no, no, don’t go to sleep, don’t fall asleep, don’t close your eyes. I can heal you, hold on, just hang on, I can save you, I’ll save you.”

 

She settles Cordelia in her lap and exhales deeply as she brings a hand beneath Cordelia, wrapping her fingers around the handle of the dagger, preparing to remove it so she can access the wound. Cordelia shakes her head weakly, shifts, slowly brings a hand to Misty’s arm and pushes it away. Misty’s body wracks with chills with every wheezing breath Cordelia manages, feels Cordelia’s pain like someone’s taken her own heart and detonated it.

 

“Stop,” Cordelia tells her, voice thick, and she coughs on blood, sputters out a mouthful onto the floor beside her, “save her, save Mallory.”

 

Misty feels her bottom lip tremble, and she shakes her head, passionate refusal to accept the life unraveling in her arms. She feels it so strongly, the way Cordelia fades. She’s losing an entire part of herself, and her soul is shattering under the pressure like two tons of stacked glass. She’s losing her light. Cordelia grows dim in her arms, and she feels her surrendering.

 

“Cordelia, I can’t…” she breathes, uses her thumbs to collect the tears that leak from the corners of Cordelia’s eyes. I can’t do this without you, I can’t let you die, I can’t be left alone with him. So many doubts pushing at her throat, but she’s too overcome with loss to speak them aloud. “Please, I can’t, I can’t.”

 

Cordelia smiles then, broken and faint, and brings a heavy hand up to Misty’s face, touching her cheek, and Misty leans into it, begs for more, more time, more strength.

 

“I love you,” Cordelia manages, and her lashes flutter through a series of slow, hazy blinks, and Misty watches her, watches her like if she focuses hard enough, she can keep her here. She doesn’t say anything because whatever words she has will turn to ragged cries if she opens her mouth. “I’m sorry.”

 

Misty leans down, presses a kiss to Cordelia’s forehead, letting her magic pulse and surge, giving her everything she can. It’s not enough, she’s too weak, too lost right now. Cordelia takes her final breath, and Misty feels it everywhere. The agony swallows her soul and splits it open.

 

Cordelia broke her promise, Misty realizes, that she would never let go, and she cannot even bring herself to feel angry. She is distraught, wondering if this is how it felt when she died in Cordelia’s arms. Did Cordelia feel it like she does? Did Cordelia mourn for the part of herself that she knew she would never get back? Misty has questions that she will never receive answers to.

 

“I know you,” Michael says conversationally, lingering in the doorway. “I resurrected you.”

 

His voice cuts through the pain of grief, cuts right through her bleeding soul. When she looks up at him from her place on the cold floor, there is still the trace of a twisted grin on his face. She cradles Cordelia’s lifeless form as her body begins to lose its warmth.

 

Every bit of resentment and outrage she’d felt at being brought back from hell during the threat of a looming apocalypse is making itself known again, and she knows now that she had it all wrong, directing it towards Cordelia. None of it is Cordelia’s fault. Cordelia did not spring from the darkest pits of the underworld. Cordelia did not eradicate ninety-nine percent of their coven. Cordelia did not authorize a nuclear war.

 

Cordelia only wanted the familiar presence of a lost friend, the comfort of being understood by someone she missed so dearly. And Misty had truly thought she’d had the right to be anything other than grateful for the precious, extra time they were granted. She’d wasted it, she thinks, so oblivious, kicking against the idea of failure and death. She swore Cordelia would not be a casualty, refuting reality, and Misty knows now that she was not as prepared for all of this as much as she thought.

 

But it’s so easy to imagine conquering the thing. It is less easy to sit across from it and hold the proof of death in her hands.

 

She shifts Cordelia from her lap, lying her on her side on the floor, gently cupping the back of her head as she slides her off of her. Her eyes don’t leave Michael’s, and they are locked in something of a stalemate, but Misty moves first.

 

She whips around, lunges for the large tub behind her, reaches for Mallory, and if she can just get one hand on her—

 

Misty feels herself being lifted and slung across the room, his evil taking her and throwing her like a rag doll, and when her head collides with the far wall, she sees throbbing spots of black and white behind her eyelids.

 

“Sorry about your friend,” he says, sounds more victorious than remorseful. “But she started it. And fair is fair.”

 

He steps further into the bathroom and stands over Cordelia. His foot kicks against her shin. Unresponsive. As if he needs the reassurance that she is gone, and Misty’s blood boils.

 

Don’t,” she spits, and her head still spins, makes her feel as though she may be sick. Her hand reaches up to clutch at her skull, surveying damage and checking for blood. “Don’t touch her, don’t…”

 

Her brain is stuck in a dizzy, spiraling fog, and the closer she gets, the stronger her urge to stand up and fight becomes. He stops a few feet in front of her and lifts his chin, and there are invisible hands around her neck as he gazes down at her, using his corrupt power to choke the life from her. It clogs her senses, his wretched existence. Everything about him fights against her, pulverizing the final strands of hope. She can’t function, can’t maneuver through his darkness. She’s not strong enough.

 

Her eyes begin to strain and water, and she brings her hands up to her neck, trying in vain to pry his hold from her. Her fingers brush over the necklace, the gift from Zoe, and it feels like a completely different lifetime, such a distant memory that it has almost withered to smoke in her mind. But the memory strikes her with full intensity at the same moment her magic does, and the small, sterling phoenix pendant sizzles against her skin, alight with newfound energy. She absorbs it. She utilizes it. She’s not sure why it envelops her in such power, but it does, and she pushes it all out with a strangled shout.

 

It severs his grip, knocks him off-kilter, and she coughs and coughs and sucks in raspy breaths of air. Rage consumes him as she rises unsteadily to her feet, her palm pressed to the wall for support. He looks offended that she is still alive, offended that she has dared to do anything other than perish. Good.

 

She’s not leaving this world in some choking, gagging defeat. She’s here, and she’s ready for wrath. She’s ready for everything he promised to deliver. She’s ready to burn. She’s ready for him to prove that he is the antichrist.

 

He killed Cordelia, and Misty is at her lowest, and therefore, her highest. The magic spins at the bottom of her chest, wrapping solidly around her heart, her veins, then her muscles, then her bones. Until she is glowing with it. Until she feels it burrowed deep in every part of her.

 

He killed her, she thinks, and her skin sparks with electricity.

 

“You know,” he begins, sounds disappointed in her, “Christ called himself a healer, too. The sinners still crucified him.”

 

And yes, yes, good, if she can get him to keep talking while her magic spreads, then she can distract him long enough to get to Mallory. She stands her ground, feels her power rush along her skin, wonders if he can feel it, too, or if, like Madison said, he is too dense to notice.

 

“Is that what you’re gonna do?” she asks in a shaky voice, spurring him on. “Nail me up by my hands and feet and let me rot?”

 

“If that’s what it takes.”

 

She has the urge to tell him that it will take more than that, that she has been there before, and the ropes could not keep her, she rusted the nails that held her down. If she can survive those she considered to be her family lighting the match and burning her down, then she can handle Michael’s idea of pain and suffering. She knows this hurt can’t compare to the hurt of betrayal. From him, she expects it. She expects death. She can navigate this.

 

Her magic still craves energy and growth, and the only connection it seems to want to make is with his. But it can’t have it, he is too powerful, and it can’t reach him. Can’t wrap its tendrils around him. So, it buzzes around her, within her, filling her with a strength she’s never felt because it has nowhere else to go. It has nothing to feed on. No way to expand. But she thinks she can protect herself.

 

Misty lets her eyes flicker over to where Mallory lies, hollow and bled out, and Michael sees her do this. Michael becomes scared of her potential, she thinks. He must become scared, because he is releasing a furious growl and lifting his arms in one, sweeping motion, curling his fingers and pulling up flames with the gesture as if he is taking them directly from hell and bringing them to her.

 

She closes her eyes with a wince, a reflex, and waits for the fire to scorch her skin. But it never comes. She feels its heat, and she smells the liquid coals, but when she slowly blinks her eyes open, she sees that she is not burning. She is on fire, and she’s not burning, and he has given her something. He doesn’t know this, but she does. Her magic has the energy it needs, and it pulls from the fire, taking it and translating it, the flames dancing along her skin as she consumes. She had expected to fry by his hand, and she believes now that maybe she shouldn’t have thought so little of herself. Maybe she shouldn’t have underestimated the value of life, even if she is a lone survivor. Fire is life, and here it is, the most valuable thing in the moment.

 

He has given her exactly what she needs because he doesn’t understand how a life force communicates with the world around it. He only understands how to destroy it. That’s not enough anymore. He can’t touch her. She’s protected. She can beat him.

 

Michael seethes, his jaw clenched tight and his nostrils flared.

 

Her magic is finally begging for another outlet. She’s absorbed enough of the fire’s light to push it outward, beyond herself.

 

She raises an arm, carefully, wrapping her magic around his life force, and she pushes it out with the intensity of a sonic boom. The fire that engulfed her simmers out as if she’s been submerged in safe waters. He crashes into the wall out in the hallway, and she holds him there. She crosses the distance and keeps him right there a few feet above her, but under her control, and he writhes and thrashes and shouts, but she has him. She has his evil in the palm of her hand, and it does fight. It struggles and whispers and taunts. Misty feels it, trying to break into her, prying, seeking, any attempt to snuff her out like the tumor-riddled disease it is. But somehow, someway, she is stronger than him. She thinks he knows this now.

 

“What have you done,” he demands in a shout, his chest heaving with rage, his eyes dark and finally, finally terrified.

 

She’s found herself in the darkness. She’s conquered loneliness and turned it into power. It took an apocalypse to force her into startling realization. It took the end of all things for her to find a beginning.

 

She thinks of the willow tree that sacrificed itself so she could be here. She wonders if it was so she could look Michael in the eyes and tell him that she is not afraid because she owns death, too.

 

“You think life exists just so you can step on it,” she tells him, and her voice is unwavering as she keeps her power focused. “You’re a child torturing ants under a magnifying glass, calling it control. Callin’ itlife and death.” She takes a step closer and watches his face contort with rage, shakes her head. “You don’t know anything about life.”

 

No!” he screams, jerking and twisting against the magic keeping him in place. “You can’t do this! I’ve given this world over to chaos, and you can’t take it away from me, it belongs to me, it is mine, this is my kingdom, I did this.”

 

He doesn’t look like much of a ruler here in his final moments, squirming and teeming with such blind fury. And Misty feels the inklings of pity pull at her. The mighty antichrist, so misguided. So confused. So out of his depth. He’s had everything given to him, and when he hasn’t, he has cried for it like a child until he received it.

 

He will never know what it’s like to go up against the deadliest enemy of all, oneself, and then overcome. His power is his weakness, the power that was gift-wrapped and handed to him. He doesn’t have the disposition for humanity. He’s the one who doesn’t belong here among them. He doesn’t belong at the helm of their world, even if it is a desolate one. He has nothing but his evil, and that is no longer enough. This whole time, cheating at a game that he created to begin with.

 

Evil is a sickness. It rips the life from everything it sets its septic sights on. He is consumed with it. He is seeping. She will purge him of it. She will purge the world’s remains of his essence. She will heal the situation.

 

“I’ve been to hell,” she says, “and I’ve seen the flames. I’ve known wrath, and I’ve known mercy.” Misty clutches tighter at the evil in his soul, drawing up more of her magic. “I’m sorry I can’t heal you, but even if I could…” she shakes her head, closes her eyes as her powers gain charge, current, “forgiveness wasn’t meant for people like you.”

 

He cries out, emitting warped, demonic screams of defeat that make her ears ring, spewing expletives and damnation in helpless, chaotic outrage. She ignores him. She offers him salvation in the way she crushes down on his soul, and it hurts, it hurts her because it is so purely dark, so overwhelming. She has to feel his energy, has to harness it, in order to end it. And it is a violent, unforgiving thing to experience.

 

But Misty takes it on, covers his power with hers, and she releases a screaming sob as it becomes one with her, planting her feet and turning her face away from him as darkness enters her, rushing and pulsing in the air around them, and then she releases it, releases him, with a final close of her fist.

 

The blast hurls her down the hallway, the force of the eruption pounding white noise into her ears, expelling all magic but her own. She heaves on the floor, lightheaded and gasping and weak, grasping at cold marble to pull herself up. She can’t, she can’t stand, so she crawls over to the place where Michael existed mere seconds ago. He doesn’t now. There is a rotten pile of dust in his wake, and even that is screaming with an insidious energy.

 

The weight of exertion presses down on her, and she feels her eyes growing heavy, her arms limp, body numb, movements slow and syrupy.

 

She doesn’t know what to do. She can’t just let him sit here, not when she doesn’t know if he’s capable of rising from the ashes. Cordelia would know what to do. Cordelia—

 

Misty makes her way back to the bathroom on hands and knees, letting out a miserable sound at the sight that she had tried to push to the back of her mind. She reaches around for the knife buried below Cordelia’s shoulder blades, grabs the handle and worries she doesn’t have the physical strength left to remove it. It digs against muscle and tissue as she works it, squelching at the pressure, and Misty gags, breathes deeply through her nose before tugging it out of her. She tosses it on the floor where it lands with a clatter and situates a shaky hand over Cordelia’s heart, places the other against Cordelia’s cheek.

 

If she can kill the antichrist, she can do this. Her magic has been depleted, but she swore to herself that Cordelia wouldn’t die, and she won’t fail her. She will bring Cordelia back with whatever thin veil of power remains within her. Even if her body can’t take it. Even if she dies for it.

 

The magic that strains from her hands spits and sputters, and she releases an exhausted groan. She wrings her hands, rotates her wrists, and tries again. But there’s nothing left. The power stalls in her veins, shorting out, running dangerously close to empty.

 

But Misty still breathes. And if she still breathes, then Cordelia can breathe.

 

She reaches trembling, blood-stained hands to Cordelia’s face, cupping her cheeks as she fights tears.

 

“Come on,” Misty urges in a focused whisper, feels magic tangling up at the tips of her fingers, “come on, come back to me, please come back.”

 

Misty shuts her eyes, breathes out once, transferring her life over into Cordelia, and goes still for a moment.

 

Silence.

 

Until Cordelia breathes in, strangled and choking, stealing the breath from Misty’s lungs, and she raises up just as Misty collapses.

Chapter Text

Most often, when referring to death, people speak of freedom and peace. All death brought Cordelia was more heartache. She never felt free. She never felt at peace. It was disappointment, failure, and an inability to cope. She’d been pulled away from Misty without a choice, left to bleed out in her arms. Then the return. The dreadful, hopeless return to a world without Misty. This new world order is not entirely new. It is merely a continuation of life before Michael tainted it with his darkness. It’s not like replacing a vinyl in a record player; it’s more like a vinyl that skips and is scratched, and it spins on anyway. Regardless, letting go is easier than starting over. Going about her daily routine at the academy is, funnily enough, infinitely more difficult than dying had been. There’s no scratch to start from, nothing to rebuild. Misty had done that for all of them.

 

“Annihilating the antichrist. Resurrecting the Supreme. Restoring balance to the universe, healing the very fabric of space-time.” Myrtle chortles to herself. “Her résumé is more impressive than Hillary Clinton’s.”

 

“This isn’t a job, Myrtle,” Cordelia sighs, packing soil into a metal container, “and she shouldn’t have had to do that. She died.”

 

“Yes, and then she brought herself back!” Myrtle exclaims. “Her power pushes the bounds of mortal capability. Denial will not protect you from what you’re feeling.”

 

Cordelia shakes her head, face twisting into a frown as she adds Michael’s ashes to the metal tin, sprinkling them into the fungal-ridden dirt.

 

“You can’t possibly know what I’m feeling. I was never prepared for her to risk her life.”

 

Myrtle’s face falls, and sympathy forms around the lines of her eyes.

 

“Delia,” she says slowly, leaning more heavily against the table in the greenhouse. “You gave her no choice. Did you expect her to look the other way in all this? Did you expect her to look right through you?”

 

Cordelia ceases her movements, retracts her hands from the dirt and dust.

 

“I expected her not to fight.”

 

“She didn’t even expect that of herself,” Myrtle counters.

 

“She told me she wouldn’t, and I told her I wouldn’t ask her to,” Cordelia says sharply, replacing the lid on the solid, metal box and latching it closed.

 

“Misty can sense the current of a storm from miles away. Her magic is of the quiet variety, observant, never too exposed. Why would you think her love wouldn’t be the same? Why would you assume the two aren’t connected, and why would you assume that, when combined, they are not the most powerful, most devastating weapons on the face of this earth?”

 

Cordelia shoots her a glare, her eyes tight with pain and embarrassment from being so closely judged and reprimanded.

 

“I can’t talk about this right now,” she tells Myrtle, mostly because she doesn’t want to, but also because she needs to bury this heavy, metal box of Michael’s remains in the front lawn where he can’t escape, where the bacterial soil inside will break down what is left of him. His ashes will remain in confinement, never allowed to roam freely within the ground. Never allowed to leech the life from anything ever again. The fungi she’s layered in the tin beneath his ashes will devour him, and Misty’s sacrifice will not be taken lightly or in vain.

 

Cordelia’s conversation with Myrtle had taken place three weeks ago, just after they’d returned to a thriving Robichaux’s filled with the rest of her girls, and Misty remains unconscious and unresponsive. Misty did not only destroy Michael. She took away his power, removed the very hooks he had on the world. Without him, the world had been plunged fully back into its rightful state. Misty had healed the world, had erased its darkness and replaced it with light. With life. Misty lives as a channel now, a comatose martyr for all eternity, connected to the world even more intimately than before. She resides on Cordelia’s bed, wrapped in preservative magic and a consistent healing energy. She’s alive, and she breathes, but she is asleep, and it’s who she is now. But Cordelia keeps her there, gives her dreams with her Sight, lets them flood Misty’s subconscious. They are soft, pretty things: a quiet thunderstorm in a forest-green landscape; a calm, cerulean oasis surrounded by desert plants; rosy sunsets bleeding orange and red at the seams. If Misty can never again see this world that she’s restored for them with her own eyes, Cordelia will be her vision. She will make sure these images reach her, because it is important, even if, every time, Misty has no outward reaction. She never stirs or jolts or smiles. But Cordelia knows she feels them.

 

There is a plant, a milkweed that she’d plucked from the swamp and potted, resting across her bedroom in the windowsill. Each time Cordelia offers her these visions, each time she helps Misty dream, the plant produces another bud, and a fiery monarch butterfly appears outside the window. Fluttering, hovering, responding to a call.

 

Cordelia never lets it in.

 

 

 

 

 

Michael’s grave is marked by a small, slate rock and nothing more, undeserving of honor or commemoration. The rock is not a tribute, but so that she doesn’t lose his place. She keeps an eye on him, even as his remains decompose, even as he withers away.

 

Cordelia hears the quick click of heels down the walkway from the front door, catching her attention and easing it away from the sooty soil, out of sight but most likely never out of mind, in the metal lockbox she’d planted in the yard three weeks ago.

 

“Is that him?” Coco asks suspiciously, eyeing Cordelia, then the dirt plot topped with a jagged stone. Cordelia thinks Coco’s powers are really starting to show themselves, and she’s exceeding every expectation she set for herself when she first enrolled here. Cordelia remembers a lot of reluctance, a lot of petulance and self-directed hostility. That’s not who stands before her now. Coco has found herself, and Cordelia is glad she gets to see it.

 

“It is.” Cordelia nods, then glances back down at the packed dirt at her feet. “But try to keep this between us. I don’t want the others to think he can still hurt them.” Gunshot blasts and bullet casings flash in the back of her mind, and she cringes, shifts her weight uncomfortably as rage courses through her veins. “He’ll never have the chance to hurt anyone ever again.”

 

“So, is he, like…?” Coco gestures wildly, can’t seem to land on the proper words for the question she wants to ask. Yes, he’s dead. Yes, he’s buried in the front lawn. Yes, his ashes are being broken down and processed as they speak. But Cordelia thinks what Coco is really seeking is just reassurance. She was there, too. He killed her, too. She was a part of this, and it makes sense that she would be concerned.

 

“He is nothing now. You don’t have anything to worry about,” Cordelia tells her, and some of the tension leaves Coco’s shoulders. She reaches out and places a gentle hand on Coco’s arm, squeezing once lightly and offering a grateful smile. “And I’m really proud of you for being so brave. In your short time here, you’ve been loyal to this coven through and through. I appreciate that more than I can express.”

 

Coco smiles self-consciously and shrugs.

 

“Misty’s the one who kicked his ass. I just…” Coco stops herself, and Cordelia watches a look of confusion cross her face, then disappointment. Sadness. “I’m sorry. I thought this was all gonna pan out so well for you guys. If I could take her place, believe me, I would. She deserves to be here more than I do. She should be here with you.”

 

Cordelia feels her chest quake with pain, feels the phantom stab of a knife through her heart. She is moved not only by Coco’s fierce words of loyalty, but by the implication that she and Misty could, in some way, ever be together. It doesn’t work that way for them, and it has never worked that way for them. She doubts Coco knows of their horrible luck when it comes to matters of fate.

 

“You deserve to be here just like everyone else. Misty made this sacrifice because she cares so much about all of us.”

 

“She cares about you,” Coco corrects, and when Cordelia’s face twists into a frown, Coco sighs. “Can I say something? She said you didn’t know, but there’s no way you don’t, I mean Ifeel it, so how can you not see it? And if she’s stuck like that forever, then you should know.” Coco crosses her arms as if her words are an act of grand defiance against the universe, and Cordelia thinks that Coco understands more about this than she thought. Before she can continue, Cordelia speaks, wishing to hear nothing more about abandoned opportunities.

 

“I knew,” she says quietly. Patterns of cowardice never break, she thinks. Knowing and never acting. Seeing and never speaking, not until it’s too late, until it doesn’t matter anymore. She’s paying for that now, and the price of self-inflicted silence is a hefty one.

 

 

 

 

 

She’s being punished for her unfair double standard. It had all been fine when she was so desperate to save them that she had leaned into her hero complex. That had been okay, because it was her and not Misty. But she is feeling now what Misty would have felt, and she gets to feel it forever. Or, perhaps not forever; she is still dying. Mallory is still rising, and she grows stronger with every passing day, and Cordelia becomes weaker. Mallory wants the supremacy even less now, if that is possible. She’s seen now firsthand what it entails, the choices and the pressure and the exhaustion. Mallory asks her every day if there is anything she can do to slow this process down, or stop it completely, but Cordelia just smiles and shakes her head. It doesn’t work like that, Mallory knows, and Cordelia appreciates that her heart is in the right place. She deserves to lead this coven. She will make less mistakes than Cordelia has.

 

She supposes it is easier to accept her mortality now that Misty is lost to her. Misty is not lost, Misty is alive and breathing, but she is out of Cordelia’s reach, always. Maybe they will meet again on a different plane of existence somewhere in between, since they will never be together in this one. Maybe Cordelia will find her someday soon.

 

“Cordelia,” Zoe says, knocking lightly on the already open door to Cordelia’s office, slowly stepping through the doorway. “Is this a bad time?”

 

It is always a bad time, Cordelia thinks, as of late. All life has been returned, restored, and the world is whole once more. Alight with seven billion people and all their potential once more. Cordelia has never felt quite so empty.

 

“Come in, Zoe,” she says, tries to fight against the exhaustion in her voice. She’s not slept, not really, in three weeks. She has opted for naps in the greenhouse against tabletops littered with glass potion bottles and wooden mortars with their corresponding pestles. Her body has surrendered to the lure of sleep here in her office on occasion, her head lulling and resting atop old, open books with worn, split spines and broken seams. It is always inconsistent. When her body longs for sleep, she allows it, but only for a few hours. Sometimes during the day, and never for a full night. There is too much work to do, always too much, and not nearly enough time.

 

“How have you been holding up?” Zoe asks carefully, and it’s hard to tell if she means because of Misty or because of the death that devours her from the inside out. Either way, the answer is that she is not doing well. But Zoe needn’t know, has no business worrying, and Cordelia really doesn’t want to talk about it anyway.

 

“I’m alright,” she tells her, and immediately forces a change of subject, gesturing for Zoe to have a seat in the chair in front of her desk. “What did you need?”

 

“Well, Queenie and I have been talking about taking some of the girls on a field trip.” Zoe shrugs casually. “Just somewhere around town. Hell, even around the block. They’re having trouble focusing.” Zoe leans in anxiously, then sighs, lowers her voice. “I don’t think they’ll ever get over what happened to them here. I don’t think they feel safe learning here anymore. But we want to help them.”

 

Cordelia feels a twinge of rage and upset at the memory, at Michael waltzing right through the front door of this haven. He’s tarnished it, and even if he isn’t here, even if they are safe now, Cordelia understands why the girls wouldn’t feel that way. His evil has been wiped away, but they relive it each time they walk these halls. Being forced to sit and learn in the same room in which they were brutally, fatally wounded would take a toll on anyone, and it makes Cordelia’s blood curl even if she hadn’t experienced it for herself.

 

“I think that’s a wonderful idea.” Cordelia nods, offering Zoe a kind, weak smile. “We’ve got to start trying to find some semblance of normalcy around here. You and Queenie can take them anywhere you’d like for as long as they need.” Zoe seems satisfied enough with this answer, and if Cordelia didn’t know her any better, she’d think Zoe was perfectly content. But Cordelia knows her, knows all of her girls, and she can see the distant curiosity in Zoe’s eyes, can tell by the way she toys with the sleeve of her shirt. “Was there something else?”

 

Zoe goes to shake her head, but stops herself, and Cordelia watches the expression on her face change as the gears shift around the words in her mind.

 

“How’s Misty?” she asks, keeping the volume of her voice low as if that will help soften the blow of the question. It doesn’t, but Cordelia is grateful for her sensibility about it. “Have you found anything that might help her?”

 

To say no would be admitting to failure. To say no would be giving up, and Cordelia will never give up on Misty, not until she draws her last breath. She knows such a time is upon her, and she is frantically searching for answers and solutions in every book she can get her hands on, all the ones on protection spells and how to thwart them that she owns. She can’t tell Zoe that she has gotten nowhere with her research. It’s not to spare Zoe, but to prevent herself from actually having to say the words.

 

“I’ve been trying,” Cordelia finally tells her, and it is true. Her devotion to Misty will never be anything other than true. Her success, however, is lacking significantly. But she dares someone to accuse her of not trying. Cordelia understands that Misty is no longer hers, never was, and that instead, she belongs to life. She belongs to the world. She is an extension of it, and her magic is what has landed them in the beautiful aftermath of chaos and destruction, unscathed. To pull her from that would be to put the whole world in danger. The world under Michael’s reign had been a device with no charge, dead and empty. Misty is the battery now, and every molecule of life that thrives does so because of her. It manifests its energy from her.

 

“So…she’s never gonna wake up?” Zoe asks, and Cordelia’s heart stutters its way up to her throat at that.

 

I had her this time, Cordelia thinks. We were so close. It’s unfair to have her here with me, a reminder that we will always lose even if we win.

 

“Sorry,” Zoe mumbles, embarrassed and ashamed to have voiced such a thing. But how can Cordelia blame her? Zoe wants her friend back as much as Cordelia wants the missing piece of herself back. This is uncharted territory, unexplored, and no one has ever done what Misty has done. Cordelia thinks that none of them really understands it, herself included. But she is trying.

 

“Don’t be,” Cordelia assures her. “She’d be touched to know you care.” Cordelia believes that Misty has always had a soft spot for Zoe, a mutual respect, a strength. Zoe had been the first witch Misty had met, and Zoe had been the reason that Misty had showed up on their doorstep, begging for a temporary safety and instead receiving the offer for a permanent home. She chokes up at the memory of that day, has to clear her throat and shake it from her mind.

 

“I need to tell you something.” The hesitation in Zoe’s voice doesn’t bode well, and Cordelia’s stomach bunches up with nerves. She’s not sure the amount of trauma she can endure at this point. She’s not sure to what extent of stressful news she can truly bear. Cordelia feels like an overinflated balloon these days, walking through an open field of needles. But she nods, because Zoe wants to confide in her, and she will always allow trust to flourish in this house. “I gave her a necklace before all this…shithappened. It was her “Welcome Back from Hell” gift.” Cordelia has seen this necklace, briefly, she thinks. She’d noticed that it was new, and that had been all. “I enchanted it.”

 

Cordelia’s eyebrows tug together as her face pinches into a frown, puzzlement settling onto her features.

 

“I don’t understand,” she says, and Zoe slumps further into her chair as she sighs.

 

“I didn’t know what was gonna happen with this Michael thing. And I didn’t know what hell did to her, I didn’t know if she could even protect herself anymore.” Zoe’s cheeks flush with embarrassment. “It was just a basic protection spell. She’s the one who absorbed it and used it. I didn’t even know that was possible.”

 

Cordelia’s brain begins to fit the pieces together, locking them into place one by one. So, Misty had taken on the full power of the necklace. Or, rather, the protection spell from the necklace. That’s how Michael had been unable to touch her. That’s why his fire made her stronger. Cordelia had seen it all with her Sight, but she couldn’t understand it. She thinks she’s starting to. She thinks she is beginning to gain a bit more clarity about how Misty’s magic works.

 

“Interesting,” Cordelia muses aloud, gazing distantly at the antique grandfather clock in the corner of her office. If Misty is protected by the necklace, then maybe removing it would break the spell she’s under. Or maybe it would do irrevocable damage. Maybe the necklace is keeping her sustained and alive. “Why are you telling me this now?”

 

Zoe shrugs and huffs out a breath of air.

 

“I don’t know. I’m sorry. You seem desperate. Maybe this can help. I just thought you should know.” Zoe moves to stand, abandoning her chair, and starts for the door, and Cordelia continues to sit with her contemplation. “She doesn’t like being alone,” Zoe says, lingering in the doorway. “I just thought you should know that she never was.”

 

After Zoe leaves, Cordelia flicks her wrist and closes the door from her place behind the desk, and Zoe’s words repeat in her mind, threatening to wreck her.

 

She doesn’t like being alone.

 

Cordelia knows she doesn’t. And now that is the state Misty is resigned to for the rest of time. Misty will never not be alone. Misty will never see any of them again, and Cordelia finds herself morbidly wondering if death would have been a better alternative. At least Misty would be at peace and not trapped here forever.

 

She doesn’t like being alone.

 

Cordelia knows. Cordelia doesn’t like being alone, either, but she’s made so much of a habit of it throughout her life that it is natural. Or, at least, it had been natural before Misty came along. She thinks Misty made a habit of it, too. She thinks that’s what their bond had been forged on in the beginning, a mutual loneliness. She thinks, with a shuddering sob, that they are back to that now.

 

 

 

 

 

Cordelia overthinks even in her fleeting sessions of unconsciousness, which is all they can be called, can’t really be called sleeping. She overthinks even when she is not supposed to be thinking. She overthinks even when the deeper parts of her mind beg for silence. There is research to complete, there are tomes to skim, there are salves to make, and there are powders to grind. Nothing has worked on Misty thus far because there is nothing to fix. As if the very molecules of her magic are confused, telling her that there is no injury here, there is no endangered soul. So, what does she expect, really? She expects failure. She expects this loss to last a lifetime, expects for it to stick this time around, and it can’t truly be considered a loss. Not if the body remains, and not if the soul remains, and not if they are both still intact. Misty is not dead and gone. Misty is breathing and sleeping just down the hall. Misty is on a vacation that she will never return from. Misty is on an island paradise somewhere on the other side of the country, on the other side of the world, and Misty neglected to purchase a round trip ticket for this vacation.

 

She blinks bleary eyes open and raises up from her desk, from the dusty page of the open spell book under her head. The page sticks to her face, adhered by residual drool, and she peels it off, flattens the page back down. She straightens up in her chair and immediately goes back to reading, adjusting her glasses from where they bend crookedly on the bridge of her nose. Cordelia squints her burning eyes, flickering across the words on the page but retaining nothing. Looking but not seeing. There is an answer here somewhere. She can find it. She will find it.

 

It’s hard to believe, if not impossible to believe, that there are no other known instances of breaking someone out of their own protection spell. What isn’t hard to believe is that Misty’s magic is something special. Cordelia still doesn’t understand why she can’t find anything similar enough to it. Surely, someone has been here before. Surely, she will not have to resort to ridding Misty of the necklace. Cordelia doesn’t think that would be a very wise idea, even if it is the only one she has.

 

Cordelia feels her eyes grow heavier, losing track of her place on the page, going back over the same material several times. She begins to blink less and less, and her eyelids begin to flutter, until she is drifting off again.

 

She dreams of tall heights and rickety bridges; the kind that are not meant for crossing. But she does try, and the expanse of it reaches so far that she can’t even tell what she’s trying to move closer towards. The frayed ropes at either side of her that she clings to begin to strip apart, unravel, and fall away. The heel of her shoe gets caught in a notch in the wood, snapping a piece of the bridge, and then it all begins to crumble. She wakes with a jolt.

 

With a sharp, frustrated groan, she tosses the glasses from her face, not bothering to fold them before they clatter onto her desk.

 

“Jesus,” she mutters as she drags her hands over her face, rubbing her eyes.

 

This won’t do. She can’t fight this. Her body craves rest, comfort in a place that is not a chair or a table. She’ll take a break for tonight because there is no use continuing to sit in a stiff, leather desk chair, draining herself to the point of utter dysfunction. If she’s going to help Misty, if she’s really going to try, then she has to be understanding of her own basic needs. Misty would want her to take care of herself. Misty would be gutted to know that Cordelia has been neglecting sound sleep and proper health because of her.

 

It feels like defeat as she pulls the chain to the lamp on her desk. It feels like failure as she shuts the door to her office and makes down the hall.

 

Cordelia doesn’t bother with pajamas. Instead, she crawls onto her bed and collapses next to Misty, donning the day’s slacks and floral button-up. This is the first time she’s slept in her own bed in three weeks. She has apologized to Misty in this state, where Misty can’t hear her, more times than she can count. More times than she can remember. And she has meant every one of them. She will never stop apologizing; this is her fault, and the universe is intent on making damn sure she knows that.

 

Her head makes contact with the plush, fluffy pillow, and she is no sooner being pulled under. It feels good to rest. It feels good to breathe, away from the smell of ancient text and potted greenhouse plants. She has no shortage of reminders in her daily life. Misty is everywhere, even if she is only here, in her bed. Misty is everywhere now.

 

“I love you,” she whispers, running her fingers along the chain of Misty’s necklace, and her eyes are blissfully shut as she sinks, as she hopes for quiet dreams, or none at all so that her brain may fully rest. She drops the hand at Misty’s neck to her waist, seeking Misty’s hand in the darkness, latching onto it with a loose grip.

 

There is nothingness for several moments. She thinks she has reached a peaceful slumber, at ease in Misty’s presence, pitched in black and entirely serene. So calm and quiet. Her heart rate begins to build speed, and it takes her from this place. She feels her pulse hammer away beneath her skin, wonders why, why on earth she is having such a reaction in the middle of a dreamless state. Her magic is detecting something, something her other senses aren’t.

 

There is a voice that comes from outside of her head, from outside of a dream.

 

“I love you, too.”

 

It is spoken softly, simultaneously apologetic and forgiving. It is Misty.

 

Cordelia’s eyes squint into the darkness as they open, and she thinks briefly that she has reached some sort of mental break. She thinks this until she looks over at Misty, and her eyes are open, too, for the first time in weeks. Misty wears a small smile on her face, like she doesn’t know what this moment calls for, doesn’t know how the emotions line up here, but they fit well enough to bring about a smile.

 

“Probably would’ve been smart to say somethin’ before, right?” Misty teases.

 

And Misty is joking, so casual, so seemingly unaffected. So gentle, even after she has seen the world at its worst. Even after she has been made to feel death of every kind, and even after she has been made to pull humanity from the brink of that death.

 

Cordelia’s body courses with chills and shivers and shocks. She takes each breath with caution, afraid of breaking this. Afraid that it will somehow be taken from her again if she is anything other than completely careful with it.

 

“Misty,” she whispers, and she is beyond the point of keeping the tearful sob from her voice. She focuses on baring it all now, focuses less on what it will mean. She focuses on the flecks of grey in Misty’s eyes, focuses on the bow of her lips, the tip of her nose, the arch of her brows. She focuses on the silence of this moment, and how it is not silent at all. How it is roaring and teeming with joyous potential. How it is the very definition of a miracle.

 

Cordelia brings shaky hands up on either side of Misty’s face, feeling her, knowing her, needing her. Misty’s hand is weak and lazy as it slides up and down the length of Cordelia’s forearm. She must need this, too, Cordelia thinks, this affirmation. Her fingertips press delicately into Cordelia’s skin below her elbow, telling her that she is here. Telling her that they are both here, and that they can be, that being awake and alive at the same time and place with no demons or wars is possible. It’s possible, and they have it now.

 

“I missedyou,” Cordelia says in a breathless rush, pressing a kiss to Misty’s forehead, her temple, her cheek. “So much, and every day, all the time.” She presses her face to the skin there, her nose poking Misty’s jaw, and she feels warmth. She feels a stable, solid warmth that is more promising than any spell she could have found in a book. “I missed you.”

 

Cordelia misses things that she has never even had in her grasp. She misses visions that slipped through the cracks. She misses memories that they were never allowed to make for themselves. She misses touching Misty just for the sake of touching her, just to silently say, I feel you, I need you.

 

She feels Misty’s chest wrack once, and her face pulls into a frown as Misty draws a congested breath. When she meets Misty’s eyes, they are filled with tears, overflowing and dripping at the corners, wetting her lashes, and Cordelia watches Misty take her bottom lip into her mouth, pressing her teeth to it to quiet the cries, slamming her eyes shut and shaking her head.

 

Misty’s memories have caught up with the rest of her, and she is feeling all of it, all over again, Cordelia thinks. Cordelia thinks this is not a bad thing, Misty being so open with her pain. She wants Misty to know that she can trust her with it. Cordelia would take it all and feel it for herself if she could, so that Misty never has to shed another tear; Cordelia has shed enough for both of them in three weeks to last a lifetime.

 

So, Cordelia offers her comfort as Misty experiences this pain, the pain that is rightfully hers, the pain that belongs to her, because it’s real and it deserves to be felt. Cordelia soothes her and shushes her and slides lingering fingers through the curls of her hair.

 

One of Misty’s sobs chokes off into a light, giddy laugh, and she hiccups around it.

 

“You’re alive,” Misty says, dragging one of her hands to Cordelia’s chest, pressing her palm gently to the space between her rib cage that once encased the unforgiving blade of a knife, that now only encases a full, steadily beating heart.

 

Cordelia nods, covers Misty’s hand with her own and holds her there over her heartbeat, bites her lip to stifle a wide-spread grin.

 

Because of you, she wants to say, because she owes Misty all she has. Misty did this. Misty is the sole reason that the earth tilts and spins. And Misty may have returned this world to its light when she ended Michael, but she returned Cordelia’s light years ago, seeking refuge in this home. Keeping her company in the greenhouse and speaking words of kindness about her leadership. Believing in her. Three weeks ago, Misty saved the world. But Misty saved Cordelia’s world long before then.

Chapter Text

Cordelia reclines against the upright pillows on her bed, flips the thin, yellowed page of Philosophy of Natural Magic. There are books splayed open and scattered across the bed, and Misty is reading one of her own, about light magic and the healing effects. Misty is lying on her stomach, her elbows sunken into the comforter, head propped up with her hands. She looks uncomfortable, not in position but in disposition, and Cordelia reaches over on the nightstand for the still warm mug of passionflower tea. She takes the string between her thumb and forefinger, using the tea bag to stir the dregs. Cordelia holds the mug out to Misty, and Misty glances up from her place in the book, offers Cordelia a soft smile.

 

“You’re letting it get to you,” she says evenly, watches Misty sit up and take a sip of the tea. Misty sighs as she cradles the mug in her hands, shrugging her shoulders lightly. “Relax.”

 

“I don’t wanna be immortal,” Misty voices quietly. Cordelia blames a significant portion of Misty’s unease on Myrtle. After being stuck in a magical coma for three weeks, the first thing Myrtle shouldn’t have said to Misty was that she’s “achieved life and death” and that she is the “definition of a hero and something else entirely.” Those things could have probably waited a few more days, Cordelia thinks. Misty is still recovering mentally, spiritually, and now her stress levels are maxed out, gnawing and crawling under her skin. She doesn’t know who she is now, she’d told Cordelia. She doesn’t know how to be okay with everlasting life. “Are you scared of me now?” Misty asks, her face pulling into a nervous frown, eyes filling with a sad darkness.

 

Cordelia’s own eyes soften as the sorrow in the question crashes into her.

 

“Of course not,” she breathes gently. Cordelia shifts and sits up, taking the warm mug from Misty’s hands and placing it on the nightstand. “Of course I’m not scared of you.” Cordelia doesn’t think that’s possible, not in this world or any other, no matter how many of Satan’s sons Misty is capable of obliterating. She doesn’t think she has ever been anything other than wholly enlightened by Misty’s existence. She doesn’t think she has ever felt quite so safe and understood. This pull she feels deep inside is not a place that hosts fear.

 

“Madison said she’d help me test it out, see if I can really die or not,” Misty tells her anxiously, tries to pass it off as a joke with an awkward chuckle, but Cordelia knows Misty would do anything if it meant finding clarity within. If it meant she could further discover herself and her magic and her purpose. Misty has been cursed with the obsession of finding her place in life, never fitting in and always trying time and time again, trying for a place that fits and provides comfort and peace of mind.

 

“That’s…probably…not the best idea,” Cordelia says dryly. In truth, Madison most likely believes she is helping, but Cordelia will gently remind her tomorrow that Misty’s well-being is not some sort of game, that Misty is not some form of target practice.

 

Misty slams her book shut and pushes it across the bed, throwing herself back down onto the comforter and burying her face in plush fabric.

 

“I just wanna know,” Misty complains, her voice muffled, and Cordelia feels a slight grin tug at her lips, amused not by Misty’s distress, but by her desire to learn every single answer to the existential questions of the universe. It’s inspiring, heart-warming, that Misty cares so much about who she is, that she is so invested in the intent of her powers. Cordelia is glad that Misty is interested. Cordelia is interested, too. That’s why she lugged all these thick books in here in the first place, in hopes to calm Misty’s nerves. It’s not exactly working.

 

“Here.” Cordelia closes her book and tosses it to the floor. She gathers up the ones within her reach and does the same, kicking the few remaining texts at the end of the bed off with her foot. Misty picks her head up and looks up at Cordelia, and Cordelia reaches out to gingerly push messy curls behind Misty’s ear. “We can call it a night.”

 

“Maybe it was nothing.” Misty sighs, leaning into Cordelia’s touch as Cordelia’s hand grazes her cheek. “Why does it have to be some…new power? Maybe I was just stronger than him.”

 

A frown casts over Cordelia’s face, and she drops her hand, memories that aren’t her own flickering through her mind. She hadn’t seen it firsthand, but Misty had lived it, and Cordelia had learned of it. Cordelia had touched Misty’s hand for the first time after they returned her unconscious form to Robichaux’s, and she’d known then. Whatever happened at that outpost wasn’t “nothing.” Michael couldn’t even touch Misty.

 

“You haven’t accepted your extraordinary abilities since you stepped foot into this house,” Cordelia says, remembering Misty’s denial of the supremacy, her lack of response to it all. “There’s a very large possibility that you have a certain immunity. You’re special.”

 

“Everyone else in this damn house is special, Cordelia, we’re witches.”

 

“Everyone else,” Cordelia says, voice rough around the edges, “didn’t defeat the antichrist and restore the natural order to the world.”

 

Misty laughs softly in rebuttal, hanging her head. Like she is disagreeing with the heroic act she performed. Like she didn’t heal the world and save seven billion people. “This is a touchy subject for you, isn’t it?” Misty asks. “People and all their potential.”

 

“Because I’ve been there.” Cordelia thinks of cowering in the shadows, where she’d spent the majority of her life. Steering clear of Fiona’s path and her limitless power; Misty may not have wanted to be the Supreme all those years ago, but Cordelia wanted it even less. Cordelia had seen the true power, and she had convinced herself it wasn’t power at all. It was weakness, and she wanted nothing to do with it. But that naivety ended up costing her Misty’s life, forcing all of them to complete a test that shouldn’t exist in the first place. “I won’t let anyone else in this coven make the same mistake of doubting themselves or their strength. This is important, Misty. You’re important.”

 

“I know,” Misty says with a shrug, yielding to the gravity of the situation. “I know it’s important. Just wish I could understand.”

 

Cordelia is starting to understand it. She’s read about it from every perspective, and she’s yet to deduce the mystery of it all, but she is starting to wrap her head around certain parts of it. Misty was born with her gift of resurgence. It’s a part of her, not something she’s ever had to hone or practice. When she brings something back to life, she’s giving her energy over to a soul in need. Cordelia thinks Misty must have been the soul in need at the outpost. She drew it from the chain around her neck and took it, all of it, and then she turned life over on its back and exposed death. And she took that, too. This is no myth. It’s nothing like the tales she’s stumbled upon in her readings, force fields, stretching the fabric of reality. Misty’s ability to shield herself comes from within. It’s contained internally, and it lives and breathes in every cell in her body. Preservation. The very essence of healing.

 

Misty is so curious about it. She wants to know everything right away, right now. Cordelia sees the wonder in her eyes when she talks about it, like she’s mesmerized by this idea of knowledge and discovery. She imagines Misty sharing this admiration with others, out in the greenhouse surrounded by a small group of students as she answers their questions the same way she wishes someone would answer hers.

 

Cordelia hums softly to herself, a fond smile finding its way to her face.

 

“You should consider teaching here,” she says, and Misty laughs loudly this time, so amused that it makes Cordelia laugh, too.

 

“What?” Misty shakes her head, sliding further up the bed to curl up next to Cordelia. She wraps an arm around Misty and holds her close. “Why?”

 

“You’re always searching for something,” Cordelia says, her voice kind and soft, a hidden wistfulness to it. “You like helping people.” She lifts her shoulders lightly, causing Misty to stir with the movement. “You’d be good at it.”

 

Misty is quiet for a moment, and Cordelia believes she may be contemplating the plausibility. There’s nothing to ponder, though. She knows Misty would be a wonderful teacher, nurturing and encouraging. Most of the girls already know of her and have heard talk of her talents. Even if they haven’t, they are bound to know by now, after this most recent display of her magic. She’s done something of historic value, something that only exists in folklore and fantasy. Cordelia thinks Misty has a lot to offer this coven beyond her powers. She could open them up to a whole new world of nature and healing.

 

“I’m not exactly scholarly,” Misty finally decides with a sigh, “They’d call me Miss, and I’d stand up there at the front of the room, act like I’ve got any idea what I’m talking about.” She snorts as if the concept of her guiding the education of others is a ridiculous one, and if Misty’s not comfortable with it, then Cordelia won’t push. But she still thinks it would be nice. “I don’t know. Someday, maybe.”

 

They live in the veil of somedays, Cordelia thinks, between great, wide possibilities. There’s a freedom in it. There would be, at least, if she was not still living on borrowed time. But Misty returned them all to a period of vitality, and Cordelia doesn’t worry for the future of the coven. It doesn’t keep her up at night anymore. Mallory can say she’s not ready, but the speed at which Cordelia’s power continues to drain itself like a bath gone cold suggests otherwise. Cordelia knows there’s nothing left to do but wait. Sometimes, selfishly, she dreams of following in Fiona’s footsteps, dreams of escaping and hiding out in some far-off city, state, or country. She dreams of wilting peacefully, in the privacy of a tiny cottage tucked away in the mountains, where no one can fuss over her. Or maybe even Misty’s shack in the swamp, flanked by greenery on all sides and a thick, damp air. But Cordelia prides herself on learning from Fiona’s mistakes and bettering herself. She won’t abandon this coven to protect her ego. She’ll steel her composure, put on a brave face, and revel in the fact that she’s done more here than her mother ever even attempted.

 

“What are you thinking?” Misty asks distantly, as if she is thinking something, too, and Cordelia would much rather focus on that.

 

“Nothing important,” she answers calmly, closing her eyes, but she thinks Misty knows her all too well by now. She hears Misty release a steady, leveled breath.

 

“I still feel it,” Misty tells her in a low voice, like it hurts her to say it as much as it hurts Cordelia to live it. She feels Misty’s hand creep over her hip, her stomach, then it lands at her side, and she skims her fingertips over the mutilated flesh, over the silk of Cordelia’s nightgown. Cordelia’s eyes fly open, and she inhales sharply. Her immediate reaction is to slink away from this, to push Misty’s hand back and tell her that she’s fine. That would be lying. That would be breaching one of her own personal rules she’s set for herself when it comes to Misty. Cordelia is not fine. Cordelia is dying, and it settles deeper into her bones every day. It stings, and she weakens more and more as time goes on. Her body is turning against her, turning her into the frail memory of a person. “Can I see it?”

 

She knows what this means, knows that once she allows Misty access to this diseased part of herself that Misty will want to do what she does: she will want to heal. Because this is what happened last time, and the pleading tone of Misty’s voice, the longing in her eyes, is still something that haunts her. It’s another burden to carry. She’s not afraid to die. She hadn’t been before, and she’s not now. But she fears the loss of Misty worse than a child fears the darkness. She knows now, how that pain is an unbearable one. She knows it would be so incredibly wrong to put Misty in the same position.

 

So, she nods, bracing herself, preparing to expose her weakness and offer herself up to Misty like some sickly patient at a doctor’s office. She exhales slowly in an effort to placate her rattling nerves, and she begins to lift the hem of her gown. Misty snakes a hand around Cordelia’s, then shifts to straddle her lap and looks entirely focused, entirely in her element. Cordelia’s hands fall away to her sides, and she lets Misty slide the thin fabric up, lets it bunch up just below her breasts, and it does nothing for her nerves. Absolutely nothing, except maybe it worsens them. Her pulse thunders as she watches Misty, but Misty isn’t watching her. Misty is working right now, Cordelia thinks. Misty is concentrating. Misty is feeling out all of the dark energy, figuring out how she is going to tackle it. She studies the wound, and Cordelia holds her already stalling breath.

 

“It’s worse now,” Misty mumbles, her brows pulled together in a moment of total immersion. Cordelia wants to smooth the planes of Misty’s face with the tips of her fingers, the pads of her thumbs. She wants to distract Misty from the harsh, rigid flesh at her side. She feels guilty here, feels guilty for allowing this, because she has no idea what will become of the next Supreme or any after if Misty succeeds.

 

“This won’t hurt Mallory, will it?” she asks, but Misty knows how to manipulate her magic now, would never willingly jeopardize the safety of anyone in this house. But if it’s worse now, then that means Mallory’s powers are still growing, that she is still rising, and Cordelia won’t take that away from her.

 

“Healin’ you won’t hurt her,” Misty says quietly, a hand hovering over the decay, and Cordelia wonders if her hands ever hover elsewhere. It seems like they never do. “It’ll just heal you.”

 

She’s being presented with something of a win-win situation when she is typically so accustomed to only receiving two equally dreadful options. It doesn’t seem possible. The ruling Supreme gives her life force over to the rising Supreme. A balance of power in the universe. A balance that Misty negated when she returned the world from its darkness, and now she harnesses more light energy than she knows what to do with. Misty is wealthy with the possibility to heal even the most grievous of wounds, the highest, most advanced form of her magic.

 

Misty moves to take Cordelia’s face in her hands, sets her gaze on Cordelia’s eyes instead of her wound, and Cordelia is suddenly lost at sea, lost in a perfect storm of smoky blue.

 

“It got deeper, so it might sting a little,” Misty warns her in a voice that is barely above a whisper. “Are you ready?”

 

Cordelia nods slowly, decides that being here, alive, with Misty outweighs nobility and pride. She decides that she is human, too, and the road to this new beginning will be paved with trust and loyalty. She is no longer the sacrificial lamb. Peace is well-deserved, they’ve earned it, and it’s something she gets to have with Misty. She’s ready to be rid of the final inklings of death that still lurk even after the war, ready to shed harmful tendencies, ready to accept help, ready to accept the gift that Misty is offering. And she hopes it does sting a little; all real things should.

 

Misty keeps her eyes trained on Cordelia’s, keeps her hands pressed to her face, gauging her reaction in time with the magic that begins to bleed from her soul. Cordelia hadn’t been awake to feel it before, had only felt the spike of air in her lungs as she rose from the floor of the outpost bathroom. She hadn’t consciously felt Misty’s magic. She hadn’t felt anything other than heartbreak as she found Misty’s lifeless form in a heap inches away from her. Cordelia isn’t prepared for the emotion, and she should be, because all of it is connected. But it is one thing to know and another entirely to experience. Tears fill her eyes on their own, without her permission.

 

Healing and resurrection were things Cordelia never quite perfectly mastered. She excels in every other branch of magic, so much so that she developed her own gift of divination to the point of total omniscience, when she chooses. But she could never fully reach that place between life and death that Misty seems to dwell permanently in. It seems like such a beautiful place. Misty makes it feel so beautiful.

 

Cordelia feels a spasm at her side, a pinch, and she winces as the skin there begins to twist and warp, as Misty begins to pull from it. It doesn’t sting like a burn. It aches like a craving. Cordelia aches, somewhere unknown, somewhere deep within, at the touch of Misty’s magic on her soul. It fills her senses, and her heart races in the silence at the feeling of being enclosed so completely in such light energy. She feels the surge of her powers growing with each modicum of death Misty steals from her. She feels a tear fall from the corner of her eye and roll, soaking into the skin of Misty’s hand.

 

Misty feels this, and the frown on her face deepens, but her palms remain planted on Cordelia’s cheeks, her fingers stroking over the damp streaks Cordelia’s tears are leaving behind.

 

“Are you okay?” Misty asks. “Am I hurting you? I need to know. If this isn’t working, I need to know.”

 

Intensity is not hurt, Cordelia thinks. Love is not hurt. Salvation is not hurt. And Misty could never hurt her. Misty’s magic mingling with her own is one of the heaviest, headiest things she’s ever felt, one of the most potent. Misty has to feel it, too, because her pupils are blown wide as she watches on, some sort of combination between apprehension and ardor. Instead of answering, Cordelia reaches her hands out to Misty’s neck, tugging her down, bringing Misty’s face to hers and letting her fingers bury and tangle in Misty’s hair.

 

When their lips meet, there’s a sudden, startling vibration under her skin where the rot is turning whole again, and she gasps into Misty’s mouth. One of Misty’s hands drops to her other side, the one that is not afflicted, her thumb smoothing over bare skin. The other remains on Cordelia’s face, tightly cupping her jaw, never severing the connection. Misty is still healing her, even as her lips part for Cordelia and even as their tongues brush, and if anything, Misty’s powers have been enhanced, spurred by this action. But Cordelia didn’t do it so Misty could heal her more efficiently or more quickly. She did it because of the tautness of her heartstrings and because being touched and loved and healed and saved by Misty is too much. Misty’s magic infiltrating her system and commanding the attention of the wound, commanding a reaction, is too much. She could turn away from this. There are still a few places left to hide. Cordelia practices repression almost as fiercely and frequently as she practices witchcraft, but this is worth all of the conflict and all of the trauma. She would do every single horrible thing all over again if it meant she could be right here, lost in this moment and reeling under the weight of Misty and remaining blissfully unhidden.

 

Cordelia feels her flesh stitch back together, weaving the last broken parts of her skin, and when the death is all dried up and the full extent of her power comes rushing back to her, her teeth catch on Misty’s bottom lip as she pulls away to breathe. Misty stares down at her, chest heaving, panting out soft breaths against Cordelia’s face, her lips still hovering inches away. Cordelia drags a hand down from where it clutches Misty’s hair to her own stomach, feeling for deep, ghastly markings and finding nothing. Nothing except the softly puckered ridge of a single, light, pink-grey scar that feels like the edge of a cloud.

 

“Sorry,” Misty breathes sheepishly, trailing a finger over the glossy, silver scar. Misty has saved her life—again—and is apologizing for a bit of minimal scarring. Faint remnants of tissue damage. Amazing. “I can make some mud for that.”

 

While Cordelia is touched that Misty is so committed to helping her erase even the slightest memory of death and decay, Cordelia is going to keep it. She’s keeping it because it won’t remind her of that. It’s a testament to this moment, to the time she felt the full, unhinged power of Misty’s love.

 

“How did you do that?” she whispers, the cadence in her voice heavy with awe. “I tried everything, I gave up, how did—” Cordelia’s words are cut short by the hitch in her breath, and she shakes her head. She should know better by now. She should know better than to ask questions as if she is surprised. She should know that if Misty can heal Michael’s damage, Misty can also heal the fatal flaw of supremacy.

 

“You said you’d never let go of me.” Misty lifts her shoulders in a self-conscious shrug. Her fingers tap in unhurried, randomized rhythms across Cordelia’s stomach, making the muscles there twitch and contract, sending a shiver down the length of her spine. She thinks it might be scary, how quickly she is ready to make a habit of this, being tucked safely beneath Misty with her fingertips tracing patterns all the way to her sides. “I’m just helping you.”

 

Cordelia remembers. She’d spoken a sworn commitment that she knew she wouldn’t have the ability to uphold, one way or the other. She’d given Misty false hope, simply because Misty had asked for it. But also, maybe Cordelia had wanted to believe in them so strongly that she even managed to lie to herself. So much had already kept them apart, and she still wanted to hang on. Cordelia is ready to be much more sincere with her promises.

 

She thinks of the night in the swamp where she’d unearthed her best-kept secret, where she’d broken Misty’s heart for neither the first nor last time. Misty has always respected the boundaries Cordelia has built around herself, and Cordelia doesn’t think those boundaries have been very fair to either of them. She’d constructed them to protect Misty, to keep her out and away from all the havoc. It has never worked, and Cordelia could ask Misty how long. How long she’s hidden parts of herself away. How long she’s waited. Her answer would probably be the same as Cordelia’s: too long, she thinks, and she’s grown tired of talking. Knowing would be pouring salt in the wound, and they have suffered through enough of that without perpetuating it any further. They won’t entertain their misery anymore.

 

Misty flattens her palms against Cordelia’s stomach, using the heels of her hands to gently massage circles across her abdomen, then lower, at her hips. “Help me more,” Cordelia tells her, arching up into the touch. Misty smiles impishly, baring her weight down and pushing her pelvis against Cordelia’s to keep her there. Cordelia bites her lip as Misty’s thumbs tease and prod at the lacy waistband of her panties. She sits upright then, keeps Misty in her lap as she lifts the edges of her nightgown, sheds it and tosses it beside them, baring herself from the waist up. Cordelia takes Misty’s face in her hands, running her thumbs along her cheekbones, just below her eyes, and she watches Misty’s throat tense around a swallow. She is hers, and this is theirs, and Cordelia’s body is alive and humming, coursing with newfound power. She brings Misty’s face to hers, crushes her lips to hers and sighs. She takes Misty’s hand, places it over her breast, over her heart, and when Misty kneads gently, once, she drops her head to Misty’s shoulder with a soft whimper.

 

She’d thought the most intense form of contact had been soul to soul, and this is that, too, on some level, someway, but it’s something else, skin to skin. It’s liberating to expose the deepest parts of her heart, she thinks, and this is just an extension of that, one that has nothing to do with fire and death and healing. It is simply meant to be enjoyed for what it is rather than what it could be. They don’t have to dream anymore. Her hands grip Misty’s thighs, her lips suck at the pulse that throbs beneath the skin of Misty’s neck, and for once, her reality is better than her dreams. She will never again have to long for something so out of her reach, because it’s in her arms now.

 

Misty angles her wrist, making rolling motions with her thumb over Cordelia’s nipple. Cordelia’s breath starts coming in short, sharp waves, little rushes of pleasure coursing through her and crashing into her lungs. When Misty takes her nipple between her thumb and forefinger and tweaks it, Cordelia sinks her teeth into the smooth expanse of flesh where Misty’s neck meets her shoulder, causes Misty to groan and cant her hips down and forward. Cordelia grabs Misty’s face, pulls it to her, and their lips meet in a messy, desperate kiss. Cordelia has tasted the tip of Misty’s tongue and the skin of her throat, but that is not enough, and since they’re free now, she would like to experience for herself just how far this freedom stretches. She hopes it’s infinite, like a horizon line or a mass of stars.

 

She uses her grip on Misty’s thighs to flip them, hovers over Misty, sucks Misty’s bottom lip into her mouth, tugs it with her teeth then soothes it with her tongue. Misty’s hands fall to her lower back, urging her to move above her, and she presses the leg she has between Misty’s thighs further. Misty arches and lifts her hips, silently begging for pressure, friction, release. Cordelia gives it to her, grinding her knee at the apex of Misty’s thighs. She gives it to herself as well when she grinds down onto Misty’s bare thigh. Misty’s dress has ridden up, and Cordelia’s flimsy, lace panties remain as the only barrier, and she hopes Misty feels the wet heat that gathers there with every movement of her hips, hopes Misty knows that she is not the only one who has ached for this.

 

Cordelia pushes Misty’s dress up further, and Misty lifts her arms so Cordelia can rid her of it. “You are so perfect,” she breathes in astonishment, taking in pale skin and smooth muscle. She slides her hands down Misty’s shoulders, over her collarbones, then covers Misty’s breasts with her hands, nipples grazing her open palms as she continues to rock against Misty’s thigh. She feels her muscles clench and bites her lip through a moan. Misty’s hands fly to her hips, stopping her motions.

 

“No, wait, don’t,” Misty pants, her breath harsh, and she shudders when Cordelia drags the tip of her finger over her nipple. “I wanna touch you.”

 

Cordelia releases a breathless laugh, high on arousal and teetering on the edge, but she relents, moves her hands to Misty’s sides and drops her head to her chest. She has waited this long, and she can wait longer at Misty’s request, because Cordelia is going to touch her first. She presses her lips to Misty’s sternum, drags them along the skin over to her breast, then skims her teeth at the swell, nipping and teasing while Misty writhes beneath her. Cordelia’s lips latch on, and she sucks lightly, then less so, coaxing a bruise into bloom merely for her own pleasure. She moves down, slides the flat of her tongue over Misty’s nipple, feels Misty’s hands smooth through her hair, then close into fists and tangle as she sucks it into her mouth. Misty’s hips jolt, and a soft sigh of a whimper escapes her lips. The mewling sends a wave of heat to the pit of Cordelia’s stomach as she fantasizes about what other sounds she can wrench from Misty. She wonders if she can inspire anything that goes beyond the low volume of a whine.

 

Her mouth releases Misty’s nipple with a soft pop, and she forges ahead, trembling with want and uncertain of how much longer the both of them can endure. Cordelia has been especially patient, but she feels herself breaking each time Misty’s nails scratch bitingly at her scalp, each time she tugs on a handful of Cordelia’s hair. They have the rest of their lives to take their time. Misty has given them forever, so Cordelia will give them right now. She will indulge these eager desires, she thinks, as she drags her nose down the length of Misty’s torso, pressing her lips to the skin above Misty’s navel, then beneath it, then lower still. She reaches Misty’s simple, cotton panties, drops a kiss to the top of them and glances up at Misty.

 

Misty meets her eyes and exhales shakily. Cordelia sees everything in this moment. There’s the heartache of falling in love in a war zone, there’s a hopefulness that not even the mightiest adversary could crack, there’s betrayal stemming from hidden truths and cruelties. They have made a lot of mistakes together. They have made a lot of mistakes for each other and at the expense of the other. They have been handed failures and rendered powerless as they accepted them, because what else could they do? When the entire world seems determined to stack its forces against them, what could they do? Become one of those forces, Cordelia thinks, just as Misty had done. Become the very thing that destroys so as to tip the scales. Become the very thing that destroys and then don’t destroy, heal instead.

 

Cordelia swallows thickly as Misty’s hands come to rest at her hips, then she hooks her thumbs under the fabric and slides the panties down her legs. Cordelia takes over, stripping them the rest of the way off. She thinks she could have waited another five years, been stabbed through the heart five more times over, lost herself even deeper to this battle, and it would still not be enough preparation for this. All the carefully crafted dreams in the world cannot compare to actually having her head between Misty’s legs. She is immediately overtaken with the desire to bury her face in aching warmth, but she starts at Misty’s inner thigh, leaving open-mouthed kisses in her wake as she moves higher. She sucks on the skin at the junction of Misty’s thigh, another bit of flesh that she has claimed and mottled with her mouth. Misty tenses, the muscles in her legs tightening and releasing as she sighs, arcs forward and spreads her legs further like an offering.

 

Misty mumbles her name like a plea, the word rolling off her tongue and dripping with arousal, not unlike herself. Cordelia presses her lips just above Misty’s clit in a show of mercy, then strokes her tongue over her once. Misty’s moan is a guttural thing that claws its way from her throat, and Cordelia has to lift one of Misty’s legs over her shoulder and use her other arm to hold her hips solid against the bed. She slowly drags her tongue through the abundant wetness she finds, dipping into her entrance and sliding up to her clit, swirling her tongue.

 

“Cordelia,” Misty breathes, her voice cracking and faltering as she chokes on a low groan, Cordelia’s tongue teasing inside her. Then she takes Misty’s clit between her lips, pulls it into her mouth and suckles gently, the tip of her nose nudging against her pubic bone. Cordelia hums her response, sending resonating vibrations and causing Misty to toss her head back and moan. Misty’s fists abandon the bedsheets and root themselves in Cordelia’s hair, guiding her with every flick of her tongue. When she glances up to meet Misty’s gaze, Misty’s eyes are dark and frenzied, her chest heaving greatly, silently begging.

 

Misty is craving a different sort of wreckage that is not post-apocalyptic. She is begging for a fire that only pleasantly burns. Cordelia wants to give that to her. She releases Misty’s clit, watches Misty pull her bottom lip into her mouth as Cordelia brings her fingers up to roll over her clit, and Misty stirs. Cordelia sinks a finger into her, and she emits a moan that makes Cordelia feel lightheaded. She leans back in to wrap her lips around Misty’s clit once more drawing her fingers out, and when she goes to slide back in, she adds another. She works her tongue around the soft, sensitive flesh in her mouth, scraping with her teeth, feather-light, once, then twice. Cordelia keeps her pace slow and unhurried, pressing the tips of her fingers to the slick, raw swell of flesh just inside. Misty keens with pleasure, moving her hands to Cordelia’s shoulders and gripping tightly, leaving short, crescent indents on her skin. Cordelia feels Misty tense and clench around her fingers, and with one last tilt of her wrist and one final lap at her clit, Misty is crying out, her muscles fluttering and spasming against Cordelia’s fingers. Cordelia presses a kiss to Misty’s clit and feels Misty’s body twitch and tremble with it, and she keeps her fingers right where they are, working slowly and gently, helping Misty find solid ground again.

 

When Misty’s hand grabs Cordelia’s wrist, stopping her motions, Cordelia carefully removes her fingers. Misty takes them, brings them up to her lips and sucks the taste of herself off of them. “Jesus,” Cordelia whimpers breathlessly, feels the throb of her clit and the soak through her panties. She retracts her fingers, draws them out of Misty’s mouth and works quickly to remove the final stitch of clothing between them. “Touch me,” she breathes, watches the heavy rise and fall of Misty’s chest. “Touch me. Now.”

 

A smug grin tugs at Misty’s lips, and Cordelia feels no shame in needing Misty as badly as what she does. Technically, it is Misty’s fault. Technically, she could have gotten herself off several minutes ago and spent the rest of the night between Misty’s thighs. But Misty needs this, too, so Cordelia surrenders. “Come here,” Misty tells her, the hands on Cordelia’s hips pulling her forward, and Cordelia leans down, her lips colliding with Misty’s in sloppy, reckless passion, tongues stroking and teeth knocking together from a building impatience. Cordelia feels one of Misty’s hands trail around her waist, brushing against her lower abdomen, grazing her fingertips over the flesh and raising goosebumps. When she brings her hand lower, hovering just above the heat at Cordelia’s center, Cordelia sinks her teeth into Misty’s bottom lip, an implied request. Misty cottons onto it and dips her fingers between Cordelia’s legs, gliding them through smooth, wet warmth, dragging her thumb over Cordelia’s clit once.

 

Cordelia’s body shudders with a tremor, and she pulls away from Misty’s lips with a ragged breath, rests her forehead against Misty’s. She reaches for Misty’s hand and lines her fingers up, never severing eye contact, never breaking this loaded gaze even as she sinks down and accommodates Misty’s fingers. Cordelia removes her own hand and lets Misty take this lead, places each hand on either side of Misty’s head to keep herself up. She rocks her hips down, watches the smirk tease at Misty’s lips as she drags her fingers across rigid, sensitive flesh on every withdrawal, as Cordelia exhales a series of sublime moans.

 

“Misty…” Cordelia breathes, then trails off into a throaty groan. “You…”

 

She can’t maneuver her brain around the words she needs, can only shake her head in frustration and tilt her hips a bit, seeking added friction as she continues to ride Misty’s fingers.

 

“What?” Misty asks with feigned innocence, fluttering her lashes, but she knows because there is a breathless smile on her face, and her eyes are filled with mirth. She shifts her wrist, thumbs over Cordelia’s clit and keeps the rhythm of her fingers steady as she adds delicious pressure. Cordelia’s head falls to the crook of Misty’s neck, and she whines, feels her muscles contract around the fingers inside her. “Good?” Misty asks teasingly, and yes, yes, good, but not good enough, not yet.

 

“Hard—” she breaks off into a high-pitched moan, muffled into Misty’s neck as the pad of Misty’s thumb flattens and rolls over the throbbing flesh, exhales harshly through her nose. But Misty must understand, because she curls her fingers with new ambition. Cordelia wants to feel her so deeply and with every part of her, wants to forget there was a time when they weren’t together and doing this. She wants to forget that they’ve died and been reborn just to be here. She only wants to remember how this feels. When Misty drives deeper, pressing and tweaking at her clit with more force, Cordelia feels the pleasure within her ripple and shudder, the arousal coiled tightly in her stomach slowly beginning to unfurl, cries and curses spilling from her lips. The movement of her hips stutters to a stop as her orgasm washes over her, starting from within and spreading throughout, down her spine, weakening her legs and making her arms shake. She lets herself collapse fully on top of Misty. Misty goes to withdraw her fingers, but Cordelia shakes her head and drops a hand, keeping her there as the aftershocks thrum through her veins.

 

“Stay, just…” she whispers, “just stay like that for a minute.”

 

Misty laughs airily, but concedes, uses her other hand to stroke up and down Cordelia’s back. “Okay,” Misty says quietly.

 

 

 

 

 

Cordelia is wrapped in warmth, a thick comforter pulled around her shoulders as her head nestles deeper into her pillow. She smiles before she even opens her eyes, delights in the knowledge that Misty will be there when she does. She’d slept so peacefully last night, no longer ailing, abandoning her sickly state and not bothering to say goodbye to it in the rearview mirror. Because of Misty, she can breathe without her ribs feeling as though they are splitting apart and breaking. Because of Misty, she can lounge comfortably, and she can sleep in late without feeling shame. She doesn’t need the rest because she’s weak or tired now; she needs it because her body has been rejuvenated, in more ways than one. She feels her power again like a person greeting an old friend, softly but spiritedly. She scoots over to the right side of the bed, hoping to bump into Misty’s still-sleeping form and wrap an arm around her, but she finds emptiness.

 

She blinks her eyes open, squints at the filtering sunlight that assaults her senses. She glances around for Misty, but the room is unoccupied, and she is the only one in this bed in the stillness of the late morning. Misty has probably decided to wake up early and sneak away for breakfast. Cordelia sits up, bringing the bedsheet around her otherwise exposed self. She rubs her eyes with the backs of her hands and tries to stifle a yawn. Just as she is about to toss the covers aside and rise, to begin the search for Misty, the bedroom door opens, and Misty smiles brightly at her as she shuts it back behind her.

 

“Hey,” Misty says, donning one of Cordelia’s silk robes, sash tied at the waist. She’s carrying a mug in each hand, lifts one in the air as a gesture to Cordelia as she makes her way back over to the bed. Cordelia takes it and smiles her appreciation, carefully sipping the scalding dark roast. “Figured you could use the energy,” Misty tells her suggestively, and Cordelia just nudges her gently, her bare arm brushing against the silky robe, and—

 

“Did you go out there in that?” Cordelia asks, her heart thumping anxiously, and she watches a blush creep up Misty’s neck, spreading across her face. They hadn’t gotten the chance to talk about it, about some sort of establishment and disclosure. Misty had been too busy crooking her fingers at all the right angles, and Cordelia had been too busy letting her, and now Misty has stepped outside of Cordelia’s bedroom before noon to fetch two mugs of coffee on a crowded, bustling Monday. And she is wearing her robe. The very definition of suspicious.

 

“Should I not have done that?” Misty asks quietly, afraid she’s already done something wrong when they’ve only just begun. Cordelia softens, thinks back to a few months ago when she would have given everything to be where they are now, and she wouldn’t have taken anyone else’s opinion into consideration. It’s so easy to be blinded by daily routines, so easy to fall into traps. Cordelia has been freed from her last one, and she’s through with taking outsiders into account when it comes to her personal life. Nothing else matters, nothing, and she hopes everyone in this house saw Misty wearing her robe like a trophy.

 

Cordelia holds her steaming mug with one hand and drops her head into the other, sliding it down her face as giddy humor bubbles in her chest. It rises to her throat, and she snickers, shakes her head to gain composure, but ends up spiraling further, until her shoulders are jumping with every laugh. She’s spent her entire life fretting over perception, but not anymore, and not with Misty. Never with Misty. She will gladly tell the world, and she will dare them all to question her. Misty asked her once if she ever gets scared, and at the time, she had been honest with her answer. But she’s not scared anymore.

 

“It’s—sorry, I just…I just realized.” Cordelia shrugs and bites her lip around a grin. “Why did we torture ourselves for so long over this if we’re not going to show it off?” she asks, reaching her hand out to graze her knuckles over Misty’s cheek. Misty watches her, eyes glinting with exuberance as a small smile twitches at her lips. Cordelia slides her hand down to the satin collar, bunching it in her fist and gently tugging Misty closer, pressing her lips to hers in a heady rush of emotion. She feels Misty smiling against her lips, and she pulls away, plants a kiss on Misty’s cheek and smooths a hand through her messy bedhead.

 

“Well…” Misty says slowly, her eyebrows pulling together as her face contorts into a frown, “somethin’ weird didhappen.” Cordelia’s expression matches hers, and she turns, angles in to face her with curiosity. “Zoe said some bigwig left you a voicemail, wanted to reach out to the witches who saved the world, or something, I don’t know, she said you’d have to listen to the message.” Cordelia stares blankly for a few moments of silence, the gears in her head twisting and turning and churning. She hadn’t come forward with any public statement about what happened. As far as the rest of the world knows, they woke up one day with their lives back. It had been that simple, and the news outlets have been buzzing about it for weeks, but she thought the excitement had died down; stories come and go in the media, and humans are fickle creatures who crave routine and ignorance. “But she said she wants to meet us. She said she’d fly us out and everything.”

 

Cordelia meets Misty’s gaze again, blinking away her stupor, and asks, “where? Fly us out where?”

 

Misty shrugs her shoulders, raising her eyebrows, equally as lost, but holding more pieces of the puzzle in her hands than Cordelia.

 

“Las Vegas,” Misty says.