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Girlfrenemies

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Apple is confident the Headmasters' threat will persuade the bookball field vandal to turn themselves in. They must be reeling with guilt at being the guy who got the victory spellebration cancelled. Throughout the day she keeps Blondie's MirrorCast Show on in the background, certain she'll hear someone's been reprimanded and slapped with detention for the rest of the school year.

Things don't work out like she hoped. Tuesday bleeds into Wednesday and the culprit is still at large.

She waits through Wednesday less hopeful but still optimistic. The culprit must have realized now the Headmasters aren't bluffing. It's no fun to be in trouble, but it's their own fault for doing something so careless. There's still time for them to do the right thing and turn themselves in.

Come Thursday morning most of her hope is replaced with irritation. Whoever did this is being selfish. It isn't fair for the whole school to be punished for the actions of one moron.

It's not the victory spellebration she's upset about now. A party is the least of her concerns when royals and rebels are at all out war with each other again. She can't make it down the hall without hearing two people call eachother names. At least a dozen student have detention for roughhousing. No one's been injured yet, but she has a sick feeling in her gut that could change fast.

If someone doesn't step forward soon, Apple's scared the whole school will be torn in two.

On Tuesday the Royal Student Council voted unanimously to suspend all normal activity and focus on cleaning up the bookball field. They scrubbed the spray paint off the bleachers and picked up all the trash and streamers. They almost have the bookball field back to its former, pristine glory. They left the hardest part for last: the beanstalk-- still standing tall and ugly smack dab on the 50 yard line.

Their initial thought was to chop it down. Their attempt went belly up when Hunter took an axe to its trunk and it oozed out thick, black jelly that reeked like dead fish. Apple thought she was going to pass out, and several others had to flee the scene for fresh air. By the time they all recovered the beanstalk had magically healed itself.

No one was keen on trying again.

From there they moved onto other ideas. They had Tiny try to yank it out of the ground, but when he grabbed it his hands broke out into angry, red hives. Turns out he's allergic to whatever kind of beanstalk this is. They tied a rope around one of the upper branches and tried to pull it down. It was a game of tug-of-war the beanstalk won. Apple found a weed repellent potion in her home evilnomics hextbook. All it did was kill the grass and turn the beanstalk yellow for a few hours.

To say they're clueless on how to tackle this beanstalk is the understatement of the century. They're running out of time, ideas, and patience. If they can't get it out by tonight they'll have to move the game to Beanstalk High, which would deal a huge blow to the bookball team. They've had problems in the past with biased Giant-Land referees, and there's no way they'd get a fair game.

Today Briar shows up with a flamethrower intent on burning the thing down. Apple is almost crazy enough to let her do it, but they haven't reached that level of desperation. Besides, with their luck they'd burn down the whole school, minus the beanstalk.

Apple takes a more logical approach. She asks Raven, Faybelle, and Farrah, the school's most powerful magic wielders, to try and conjure up a spell to remove the beanstalk. Everyone else grabs a shovel and attempts to dig it up by the roots.

She and Briar work on a thick root snaking around one of the goalposts. Digging is exhausting work. In this moment she doesn't envy the dwarves in her story who work in the mines all day. Her hands are starting to cramp up. She shovels one more load of dirt out of the ground before dropping her shovel to shake them out.

When she looks up from her work she notices another thick, green streamer hanging from the goal post. They must have missed it during their initial clean-up. She stands on her toes and yanks it down.

Apple's thought from the beginning there's something off about this vandalism. For one thing, the colors are all Beanstalk High's shade of gold and green. It would make more sense for them to be red for the royals, or red and purple for the school. Now, as she studies this stray streamer, she notices a Beanstalk High logo printed in one of the corners.

Her thoughts go interrupted as Briar grunts a few feet away from her. She plunges her shovel into the ground, scoops up a heavy load of dirt, and heaves it over her shoulder before repeating the process again. And again and again. Her face is scrunched up hard in concentration, and a line of sweat glistens on her forehead.

"Briar, you're going to wear yourself out fairy fast if you keep working like that."

"I know. It's just-- Grimm, I'm so angry. All the time I put into planning the victory spellebration is going to waste because some idiot thought it would be funny to plant a beanstalk on the bookball field."

"Hey, we don't know if the party's totally off yet. The game's not until tomorrow. Who knows, they could still turn themselves in."

"I wish I had your optimism." Briar sighs and wipes her forehead with the back of her hand. "Maybe I should tell the headmasters I did it so we could still have the party."

"But then you wouldn't be able to go. The Headmasters said whoever's responsible is banned from all school activities for the rest of their academic career."

"Yeah, but at least the spellebration would be back on. I'd rather miss my own party than not have a party at all."

"That's fairy noble of you Briar, but you shouldn't let the real culprit get away with this." Apple frowns, and crumples up the streamer in her hand with a loud, satisfying crunch. "Whoever did this deserves to be punished."

Briar nods. "And in addition to whatever punishment the Headmasters give them, they are officially uninvited to all my future parties."

"As it should be."

"And speaking of people uninvited to my parties, look who's coming."

Apple rolls her eyes and pouts at Briar when she spots Raven headed their way.

"Hey Sweetie." Raven's breathing is heavy, and her skin is paler than usual, but she smiles at them all the same. "I wanted to let you know Faybelle, Farrah, and I tried everything we could, but nothing worked."

Briar scoffs. "Well obviously. This thing is still planted in the ground."

Raven's brows furrow. She opens her mouth as if to defend herself, but instead clamps it shut and stares at her shoes. The faintest blush sweeps across her cheeks.

"Thank you for trying Raven. We appreciate it." Apple smiles.  She nudges Briar's arm to get her to say something kind. She grunts, which Apple supposes is the best she can get.

"It wasn't any trouble. Faybelle and Farrah are headed back to cheerhexing practice, but I can stick around and help you guys dig if you want."

"Oh no, you don't have to. I don't want you to overhextend yourself."

"I don't mind. I want this thing out of here as much as you guys do."

"Okay, but take a break first, alright? You look hexhausted."

Raven nods and heads towards the bleachers, where Ginger's set up a refreshment table with lemonade and freshly baked cookies. Once she's far enough away Apple glares at Briar.

"Would you stop being so mean to Raven? I already told you I'm not mad at her."

"Yes, but I am mad at her Apple. What Raven did was spellfish, and more importantly, she left you hurting and heartbroken."

"She didn't do it on purpose."

"That doesn't matter. Just because it wasn't on purpose doesn't mean it's ok."

"What do you want me to do Briar? I can't force Raven to like me. And it only makes me feel worse knowing my two best friends are fighting because of me. Please, can you back off on her a little?"

Briar's expression softens. "Okay fine, I'll lighten up. But it's for your sake only. I still don't approve of how she set up her date behind your back. And I think you should tell her how you feel."

"Or we can just keep digging and not talk about my feelings." Apple says quickly.

Apple shovels into the ground and bangs onto something hard. The vibration runs from the shovel tip to her hands, and she yelps out in pain. She looks up and realizes she's hit the wooden fence separating the bookball field from the rest of the school.

"Grimm, how long does this thing go on for?"

"Actually, we wanted to talk to you guys about that." Blondie calls out from behind. She and Cedar approach them, both covered in dirt and sweat.

"We found a couple of roots that grow underneath the school." Cedar says.

Apple lets out a long, hard sigh. There goes her plan to dig this beanstalk up. She's not sure where to go from here. Briar's flamethrower idea seems a lot less crazy now.

"It's alright, we think we found someone who can help." Blondie says. Jillian steps out from behind them.

"Apple, do you know what kind of beanstalk this is?" Jillian asks.

She shakes her head. She can identify a few types of magic beans thanks to her home evilnomics class, but the beanstalks all look so similar.

"Uh… a tall one?" Briar suggests.

Jillian laughs. "No. It's called a solar behemoth beanstalk, and it gets its name because it's strongest during the daytime. At night its roots shrivel up, making it easier to plant, or in our case, unplant."

"Oh…" She and Briar say in unison. They've only tried to remove the beanstalk during the afternoon, stopping as the sun starts to set. Apple figured it would be too dark at night.

"You've got the right idea trying to dig it out though. You have to get rid of the roots or else it'll grow back. Plus when you try to chop it down it secretes a foul-smelling defensive sap."

"Yeah… we know." She winces, remembering Tuesday's disaster. She turns to Briar. "Want to call off the dig until later tonight?"

Briar shrugs. "It's your call. You're the president. Well, co-president, but since Maddie's at work you get to call the shots."

Apple sticks her fingers in her mouth and whistles. Activity ceases and heads turn her way. She clears her throat.

"Everyone listen up! We're going to try a different approach. Let's take a break and meet back here at 9 o'clock tonight to try and dig this thing out one more time."

Apple doesn't hear anyone complain as they set down their shovels and return back to school. She's ready to get out of here too. Her whole body feels sore, and she wants nothing more than to take a hot bath and never perform manual labor again. Briar, Blondie, and Cedar all retreat back to the castle together, but she hangs back a moment to talk to Jillian.

"Thank you so much for your help." Apple says, smiling. "It's fairy fortunate for us that you know so much about this beanstalk."

Jillian stares at her with a hard frown. "I didn't plant it here if that's what you're getting at."

"What? No, I didn't mean-"

"I know about this beanstalk because my dad's Jack from Jack and The Beanstalk. It's my destiny. Shouldn't you know something about that since you're a Royal ?"

"Jillian I'm sorry, that was poorly phrased. I wasn't accusing you, promise!"

"Good, because I'm a Rebel. Why would I spray paint 'Rebels Suck' in enormous letters onto its base?"

"I don't know why anyone would do this, but I want to find out. Jillian, do you know where someone could buy these beans? Don't take that the wrong way, I'm not accusing you. You just seem like the right person to ask."

Jillian taps her chin. "I know The Mad Hatter's Haberdashery and Tea Shoppe sells solar behemoth bean tea. But I don't think they sell the beans whole, and you can't plant them after they've been ground up and steeped into tea."

"Is there anywhere else?"

She shakes her head. "The only other place I know of is Giant-Land. They're a lot easier to come by there."

"Okay. Thanks so much Jillian. That's fairy helpful."

"No problem. I've got to get going, but I'll be back again tonight to help."

"Thanks! We appreciate it." Apple calls after her as she leaves.

"Oh, are we done already?" Raven approaches carrying a shovel over her shoulder.

"Just for now. We're going to pick back up later tonight. But if you're not busy, do you want to walk with me to Bookend? I need to talk to Maddie about something. I'll explain on the way."

"Sure, sounds like fun."

Raven laces their fingers together and they walk hand-in-hand toward the village.

"So I was thinking about uh… the thing we talked about a couple days ago." Raven says as they stop at a crosswalk.

"What?"

"You know, the thing you want to do with our relationship?"

"The break-up?"

"Yeah… that."

"You can say it Raven. We don't have to keep it hidden since everyone's going to find out pretty soon."

"Well, I was thinking-- maybe we should hold off on it. It might make things worse. Think about it, how is it going to look if the Royal/Rebel couple breaks up when Royals and Rebels aren't getting along?"

Apple's lips purse into a frown. Raven has a point, which makes this even more frustrating. There's no reason for them to be together anymore. Can't Raven see she's trying to do her a favor? She's cutting her loose so she can see Dexter without any sneaking around or guilt. Except for whatever reason, Raven doesn't want to let go.

"I think the mood will improve once we catch this vandal. Then as long as we time it right and ask Blondie not to give us too much coverage, we won't cause another crisis."

"But what if we never catch the vandal?"

"We're going to catch them." She says as she yanks open the door to the Tea Shoppe. "I'm personally going to make sure of it."

Apple's never seen the Tea Shoppe this quiet before. She supposes the explanation is it's too late for afternoon tea, but still too early for dinner. The building is still bursting with magical, Wonderlandian energy, but most of the tables are empty. A few teacups and saucers float around idly, as if looking for something to do.

Maddie and her father appear missing. Apple stands on her toes to peek through the kitchen door but doesn't see anyone. On the counter there's a small, silver bell with a handwritten note sitting next to it. In neat calligraphy it reads: "Ring for service".

Apple taps gently on the bell. An impossibly loud foghorn roars in her ears, and an invisible breeze blows her back. She and Raven grab the counter to keep from falling over. A door on the ceiling opens,and Maddie's head pops out.

"Oh hey guys! Did you need something?"

"Hey Maddie, can you answer a few questions if you're not too busy?"

"Of course not. Like the Narrator said, it's not too crazy right now."

Apple shoots Raven a quizzical look. She's still not clear on who this "Narrator" person Maddie keeps referencing is. Raven shrugs, as though to say, just go with it.

"Do you know if anyone's ordered solar behemoth bean tea recently?" Raven asks.

Maddie scrunches up her face and gags. "I would doubt it. It smells like rotten eggs and tastes even worse."

Apple frowns. She's not at all surprised that something that secretes such a foul-smelling ooze tastes terrible. "Has anyone bought the whole beans? I mean not steeped into tea?"

"I don't think so, but let me check." Maddie ducks back through the door, pulling it shut behind her. She re-emerges through a different door on the front wall with enormous plastic bag in her arms. "Nope. See we haven't even opened  the package yet."

"Do you know if there's any other places in Bookend that sell solar behemoth beans?" Apple asks.

She shakes her head. "There aren't even any other places in Ever After. Dad had to get special permission from the King of Giant-Land to sell them here."

Apple sighs. "Well, thanks for helping us out. By the way, if you're done working by 9 we're going to try digging up the beanstalk again."

"I'll be there!"

"And if it's not too much trouble, could I get a chamomile tea to-go?"

"Coming right up!" Maddie grins and disappears through the door.

"We could sit down at a table if you want. Maybe we could make it a date?" Raven says with the most adorable, sheepish smile.

"We shouldn't, Raven."

It takes all of her will-power to turn her down. She wants to, Grimm does she want to, but she knows it's a terrible idea. She's been trying to scale back on the romantic gestures. Their break-up isn't going to look believable if they're going on happy dates right until the end. Plus it's counterproductive in her attempt to wean herself off this crush on Raven.

"Maybe some other time then?" Raven asks.

"We'll see."

The funny thing is, ever since she mentioned breaking up, Raven's been acting more affectionate towards her. She's called her Sweetie more times than her name, held her hand at every opportunity, and committed the cardinal sin of acting affectionate without an audience. Apple's not sure what to make of it. She can only ponder Raven's mysterious reasons for keeping their dying relationship going, and scratch her head in confusion.

Maddie bursts through another door behind the front counter with a steaming hot to-go cup of tea. A saucer swoops down to nuzzle her cheek affectionately as she leaves a few extra coins in the tip jar. Raven reaches for her free hand as they leave, and she can't resist lacing their fingers together.

She never said she had to kick herself off this crush cold turkey.

As they're about to leave someone from the outside pulls open the door. Cupid steps through, looking beautiful but far too overdressed in a floaty, pink cocktail dress. Dexter follows in behind her, with slicked back hair and a suit jacket.

If Apple didn't know any better, she'd think they're on a date. But that can't be the case because Dexter is dating Raven. She and Dexter are madly in love and they're going to get married and she's going to grow old and alone except for her dozens of cats and-

Her train of thought is interrupted when Dexter leans down and kisses Cupid's cheek.

"I'm going to get a table." Cupid giggles, and gives Dexter's arm an affectionate squeeze before heading over to the front counter.

"Ooh be careful with the-" Raven calls out, but not before the foghorn echoes through the restaurant again.

Apple tries to mask her confusion, but her brows won't unfurrow. This relationship came out of nowhere and clobbered her over the head. Still, once the initial befuddlement fades away, she starts doing backflips and cartwheels in her head. Dexter and Raven aren't a couple anymore. Which means Raven is single and-- oh no, she's probably heartbroken.

The mental celebration comes to a screeching halt. What a terrible person she is to celebrate someone else's misery.

"So how are things with you and Cupid?" Raven smirks at Dexter. There's no trace of jealousy, betrayal, or hurt on her face. She's doing a convincing job of masking her pain. If Apple didn't know better, she'd never get the impression she's upset.

Dexter grins, and his ears tinge pink. "They're good. Amazing really. I had no idea we'd click so well."

"Dexter! Maddie said we can sit wherever we want!" Cupid shouts.

"Okay, coming Dear!"

Raven nudges him. "Have fun you two."

"We will." Dexter nudges her back. "Have you told her yet?"

"I'm getting there." She mumbles.

"You should tell her." Dexter sing-songs before meeting back up with Cupid.

As they leave the tea shoppe, Dexter pulls out a chair for Cupid at a heart-shaped table in the back. Raven holds the door open for her, and takes her hand once again as they walk up the street.

"Curses!" Raven grimaces. Apple braces herself for an emotional reaction. Raven doesn't have to keep her mask on for appearances sake anymore. Dexter and Cupid are well out of earshot.

"It's okay Raven!"

"No it isn't. I thought talking to Maddie would clear things up, but now this makes even less sense."

"Oh right! That." Apple blinks, and snaps her thoughts back to the vandal. With all the excitement as they left the tea shoppe she's almost forgotten about them.

"I mean-- why the hex would anyone go all the way to Giant-Land just to buy some magic beans? Hexpecially when Tom Thumb's Garden Emporium sells about a dozen different kinds right here."

"I don't know. You're right, it doesn't make sense. Plus Giant-Land isn't hexactly an easy place to visit. The only way to get there is by beanstalk, and those things take hours to climb. That's why my Mom always has the ambassador to Giant-Land visit us instead of the other way around. Giants can shimmy up those things in no time at all."

"So what do we do now? Ask everyone in school if they've visited Giant-Land recently?"

"That seems like the best place to start."

Raven groans. "That's going to take forever."

Apple shrugs. Her thoughts are still too consumed on something else to give the beanstalk her full attention.

"So uh… when did Dexter and Cupid become a thing?"

"Tuesday. That's when he asked her to go to the bookball game with him, as his girlfriend."

"Wow, things sure move fast around here. I was under the impression you and Dexter were still a thing."

Raven laughs. "What? Oh Godmother no. Things didn't really work out between us. Our one and only date was… awkward to say the least."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." Apple puts on her best sympathy face, but a thin giggle slips through. She clenches her fist, and attempts to disguise it as a cough.

"Don't be. It's better this way. Dex and I had a heart to heart the other day and we agreed we were better suited as friends." Raven stops walking, and turns to face her, looking her square in the eyes with a delicate expression. "We uh… also both agreed there's someone else we like more.”

"Oh. You already like someone else?"

"Yeah." She laughs, and squeezes her hand. "I think I do."

"Who?"

Raven's hand in her's trembles, and she stands frozen in place. Her cheeks flush pink, and her eyes look like a deer caught in headlights.

"It's okay." Apple says, giving her hand a small, encouraging squeeze. "Sorry, I shouldn't have asked. I know it's kind of a personal question."

"No, you're fine. I'm just a little nervous for your reaction."

"Raven, whoever it is I'm not going to judge you for it."

"It's Uh… it's Daring." Raven bats her lashes, then throws an arm over her forehead and pretends to swoon.  

Apple snorts. Tea nearly shoots out of her nose. "Really, Raven?"

"Really. He's so rugged and handsome. I'm sorry Apple, I know he's your storybook prince, but I can't help the way I feel."

"Right…" Apple rolls her eyes. "Raven, you don't have to lie about it. If you don't want to tell me that's fine."

"No! I want to, but I'm not sure I'm ready to have this conversation yet. So, raincheck?"

Apple nods. She's not sure she's ready to talk about it either. It's going to break her all over again when she finds out who this new object of Raven's affection is. She's already startled and disappointed she's fallen in love again with someone else so fast. It's easier, she thinks, to know she likes someone but not have a name and face to go with it. A mysterious stranger is better than Daring, or Sparrow, or whoever it is.

She can't, however, say she isn't curious.

At dinner she and Raven go around table to table asking everyone if they've visited Giant-Land recently. They talk to at least 200 people, and every single one of them says no. It's discouraging, but Apple hasn't given up hope yet. They've still got hundreds of people left to ask. Plus, they've got a big chunk people they can cross off their list of suspects. Assuming none of them were lying, of course.

After dinner Apple swings by the Headmasters office to get their permission to leave the stadium lights on tonight. She doesn't want everyone out digging in the dark. The lights in the main office are off, and the school secretary has already left for the day. She hopes the Headmasters haven't left too.

She knocks on their door, then waits a few moments before knocking again, this time louder. When the door still remains shut Apple sighs and turns to go. At least they've got some flashlights in the royal student council office they can use, or maybe she can ask Coach Gingerbreadman for his set of keys, assuming he hasn't gone home too.

On her way out she gets distracted by the mess on the secretary's desk. Papers and pens are strewn all over the place. Apple has no idea how she gets any work done with all this clutter. Apple grabs a stack of papers and straightens them into a neat pile. Then another, and another, until she starts to expose the desk's surface.

Underneath one messy pile she finds a clipboard covered in some unknown, sticky substance. Apple gags, and takes out a handkerchief from her pocket. As she wipes the clipboard down she reads the bolded words at the top.

"Student Sign-Out Sheet."

Apple's eyes widen. This could be the missing puzzle piece she needs for finding their vandal. Any off-campus trips further than Bookend require a parental signature. If anyone visited Giant-Land during the school year, their name would be here.

Apple scours through the list. There's Raven's dad at the top, signing Raven out to visit Queen Castle for the weekend. Below it is Goldie Lockes, signing out Blondie for a visit to The Enchanted Cul-de-sac. Little Red Riding Hood appears several times to take Cerise to Hood Hollow. There's a dozen other parents taking their kids a dozen other places, but to her dismay none of those places are Giant-Land.

She's about to flip the page when the door to the Headmaster's office opens with a loud squeak. Apple sets down the clipboard and tries to act natural.

"Is there something I can help you with Ms. White?"

"Uh… do you know if any students have visited Giant-Land recently?"

Headmaster Grimm narrows his eyes. "And why hexactly do you need to know that?"

"I… I'm just wondering." She puts on her best, most innocent smile in an attempt to charm the information out of him.

"No. As far as I'm aware, no students have visited Giant-Land this spellmester."

"Oh, okay." She sighs. "Then can I just have the keys for the stadium lights? We're going to try digging up the beanstalk again tonight."

Headmaster Grimm nods, and retrieves the keys from his office.

When Apple arrives at the bookball field at a quarter to nine she's startled by the turnout. There's 35 students on the Royal Student council, but there must be five times that many people sitting in the bleachers waiting to get started. She counts the entire bookball team, all the cheerhexers, the marching band, the rock band club. Not to mention all the people still pouring in through the entrance.

"Maddie, where did all these people come from?" Apple asks when she finds her in the bleachers sitting next to Raven.

"Raven invited them!"

"Not all of them!" Raven says quickly.  "I only asked a few people, but word got around and… well you know gossip spreads fast here at Ever After."

"Yeah, I know."

"I hope you don't mind."

Apple laughs. "Are you kidding? The more the merrier!"

"Okay everybody, let's get started!" Maddie shouts and thrusts a fist in the air. The crowd in the bleachers roars back in response.

With so many extra hands there aren't enough shovels to go around. Raven, Faybelle, and Farrah have to perform a duplication spell to keep up with the demand. It takes a while to get organized, but when Melody puts her high-energy playlist on over the stadium speakers everyone snaps into the groove and the dirt starts flying.

Apple crosses her fingers Jillian's information is correct. She has no reason not to believe her, but so far her luck at getting this thing out has been lousy. To her delight, everything falls into place. The roots are smaller and thinner than a few hours ago, and they don't have to dig under any buildings to get them out. With all the extra hands on board, digging takes hardly anytime at all.

"What do we do now?" She asks Jillian when the final root is unearthed.

"Now you have to burn it, starting from the root tips."

Briar appears out of nowhere with an eager grin and her flamethrower at the ready.

Apple and Maddie evacuate the bookball field as Briar goes around lighting each root tip like a candlestick. Though Jillian assures her there won't be any horrible smell and only the beanstalk will burn, she's not about to take any chances.

Once again Jillian's information proves to be correct. Five minutes later there's no trace of the beanstalk other than a pile of ashes and a gaping hole in the middle the field.

"Thank you everyone so much for helping out!" Apple shouts to the crowd. "Tomorrow I'm going to call an emergency landscaper out here to get our field into tip-top shape."

"Actually, I'll handle that part Apple." A voice from behind her says. She turns around to find Headmaster Giles applauding them.

"Thank you Headmaster!"

"Consider it my treat. I want you all to know my brother and I appreciate the hard work you've put in these past few days."

"Does that mean the victory spellebration's back on?" Briar asks with a hopeful grin.

Headmaster Giles frowns. "No. There will be no parties here until the person who planted the beanstalk is found. Again, if anyone knows anything, please let me or my brother know immediately."

When Apple gets back to her room she collapses into bed. She barely has the energy to take off her shoes, and doesn't even bother changing into her pajamas. She's exhausted from a day of physical and emotional labor.

She falls asleep still thinking about who the hex this vandal is. There's a clue somewhere. She feels like it's staring her right in the face, but her brain is too tired to focus on anything besides how soft her pillows are.

She picks up where she left off in the morning.

"I asked a few more people about visiting Giant-Land."Raven says in-between bites of her cereal at breakfast.

"And?"

She shakes her head. "Aside from Jillian and Tiny, I don't think anyone in this school has ever been to Giant-Land."

"Yeah, I'm starting to get the same impression." She tells Raven about her conversation with Headmaster Grimm the previous night.

"Grimm, it seems like the only logical hexplanation is that whoever planted the beanstalk came from Giant-Land." Raven sighs before taking another bite of cereal. "We're missing something. Maybe there's a black market for magic beans? I could ask Faybelle."

"No, wait a spell, you might be onto something."

Apple thinks about what she said. 'Whoever planted the beanstalk came from Giant-Land.' She thinks about the streamers with the Beanstalk High colors and logo. She thinks about the graffiti, printed in enormous, letters, almost too big for a human to print so neat: 'Rebels suck'. It's a faction of their school, but it's also their team name.

She slams her hands on the table, rattling their bowls of cereal.

"Raven! That's it! I know who did it!"

"Huh?"

"Come on! We have to go tell the Headmasters!" She grabs Raven's hand and runs with her out of the Castleteria.

"Woah, slow down Apple. I don't get it-- who do you think did it?"

"It someone from Beanstalk High! They wanted to psych us out, or get the game moved to their home turf, or probably both now that I think about it."

Raven gasps. "Oh my Godmother, you're right! How did we not think of it before?"

"Because we were all convinced someone here did it."

They burst  through the doors to the Headmaster's office.

"Girls!" Headmaster Grimm shouts, shoving something that looks like little, wooden figurines into his desk. "What is the meaning of this?"

"Headmasters, Raven and I have something fairy important to tell you."

"We think we know who trashed the bookball field."

"Start talking."

At lunch the Headmasters issue a statement over Blondie's MirrorCast show. That morning they spoke with the Headmistress of Beanstalk High, and after some investigating, they discovered the real culprit. It was Hefty Bigman, Beanstalk High's star quarterbook, and three other bookball players. The four of them have been suspended, and won't be playing in tonight's game, making Ever After's victory seem even more imminent.

Nobody celebrates harder than Briar when the Headmaster's announce the victory spellebration is back on. When the final bell rings she snaps back into her default modus operandi: legendary party-planner. Apple tries best she can to assist her, but she can barely keep up as Briar runs around the school making sure everything's in place.

In order to not get run ragged, Apple settles on the stationary task of inflating balloons and tying them down with sandbags. She keep track of how many she inflates in her head. She almost loses track when she gets to 77, distracted her by MirrorPhone vibrating in her pocket.

Sent from Raven at 4:45 PM

Want to help me make some posters in my room?

"Is that Raven?" Briar asks, not looking up from the strobe light she's fiddling with.

"Yup. She wants my help with something. Do you mind if I-"

"Go. Don't worry, I've got this."

She grins. "Thanks Briar."

Sent at 4:47 PM

Be there in a sec!!

Apple knocks on Raven's door, and lets herself in when she finds it's unlocked. Raven sings along to the rock song playing on her MirrorPad. There's a smudge of purple paint on her nose Apple can't help but find adorable. She sits cross legged in front of a poster that reads "GO REB". She's in the middle of painting the E when she looks up at her and grins.

" Hey Sweetie! There's posters and paint on my bed."

Apple nods and grabs some supplies. She settles down next to Raven, and is careful not to get red paint on her floor as she begins making her poster.

"So, can we talk about our break-up?" Apple asks as she paints her first stroke on the poster-board.

Raven sighs. "Can't we worry about it later?"

"Well, that's what I wanted to talk about. I think the best time to break up is this weekend, after the bookball game and victory spellebration."

"Apple-"

"No, listen to me. Everyone's already in a good mood, and winning the championship will only help improve things more. It's the best time to do it without causing a fuss."

"Apple I don't-- why do you want to break up so badly?" Raven's voice cracks as she says it.

"I never said I wanted to! I only said we should!" She shouts. Her eyes are starting to sting from the tears welling up and blurring her vision.

"But why? I mean, look at all the good our relationship has done. Royals and rebels are getting along better so much since we got together."

"No! It wasn't our relationship that did that! Maybe us being together helped a little, but not as much as actually talking to people and helping them work through their issues."

Raven nods. "You're right. It was silly to think a relationship could solve the school's problems. That night where we talked about our feelings on the balcony made me want to learn more about your perspective than any pep rally or royal/rebel relationship ever has."

"There's no quick fix for the Royal and Rebel tensions. It's going to take time and effort to work past our differences. The best thing to do is keep the conversation going."

"All that being said though-- Apple, I'm not sure I'm ready to end this relationship yet."

Raven tries to grab her hand, but Apple snatches it away.

"No. Raven, we have to break up! I can't do this anymore!"

"Why?"

"Because I'm in love with you!" She shouts. All the emotions she's bottled up are spilling out of her in the messiest possible way. "I love you Raven, as more than just a friend. And I can't keep pretending to date you and pretending it's fine and pretending I don't want something more. Besides, you said you like someone else now. You should be with them and not me."

"Apple, I was talking about you."

Apple stares at her wide-eyed and dumbfounded. Her heart feels like it's going to pound out of her chest. Her emotions are going a thousand miles an hour. She doesn't know whether to laugh or cry or ask Raven to repeat what she said to make sure she heard her right.

"But you said you didn't like me that way."

"Yeah… that was a lie. Well, I was lying to myself more than I was to you. I didn't want to be in love with you. I thought I was setting myself up for disaster. I thought you were straight.”

Apple laughs. "So did I until recently. I've been lying to myself about that for a long time too. This relationship forced me to do some self-reflection. Remember a couple weeks ago when I was acting all weird and distant?"

Raven nods.

"That was uh… me going through a gay panic because I realized I've been in love with you ever since we met."

She laughs. "Me dating Dexter was an attempt to prove I wasn't in love with you. As you can see… I failed pretty miserably."

"Well, now that you know I love you back, maybe we can spellebrate your failure?"

"Oh? And what do you have in mind?" Raven smirks and nudges her shoulder.

"Breaking up."

Raven's face falls flat. "What?"

Apple laughs. "I think we should start fresh. Let's put this fake relationship behind us and start over, for real."

Raven rolls her eyes. "You couldn't have worded that in a way that didn't give me a heart attack?"

Apple grins at her devilishly. "Would you like to do the honors?"

"Okay, let's do this." Raven takes her hand, getting purple paint on it in the process, and locks eyes with her. "Apple, it's over. I'm sorry. I'll always have fond memories of our relationship, and I hope afterwards we can still be friends. Really good friends. Maybe even girlfriends. But this relationship is over."

Apple sniffles and lets out a few crocodile tears. "Oh, Raven, I don't know how I'll ever recover from this heartbreak."

"You're strong Apple, You can survive this."

"Somehow, I'll make it through the pain and love again." Apple takes a breath to regain her composure. "So… how long are you supposed to wait to ask a person out after they've ended a relationship?"

"I think 15 seconds is usually good."

"Well in that case." Apple takes her hands once again, and swallows hard. "Raven, I know you don't really like bookball, but there's this fairy big game tonight and I was wondering if you'd like to go with me as my date?"

"Oh Apple, I'd love to."

"And maybe if this date goes well we can go on more? Because I think your fairy amazing, and sometimes I look at you and melt into a puddle because you're so hextremely gorgeous. I love you a lot Raven."

"I love you too."

Apple leans in closer. She can feel Raven's warm breath on her lips. "I'm so happy we can do this for real now."

"Me too."

Electricity sparks between them as they inch closer and closer. Apple's heart is beating so fast but time is moving so slow. Raven's soft, delicate fingers stroke her hair as her eyes shut and their lips meet.

They start slow and cautious. Lips just brushing against each other and hands just skimming each other's bodies. Then Apple throws her arms around Raven's neck to press their lips even harder. Raven moves her hands from her hair to around her waist. She hopes to Grimm their  neighbors can't hear the noises they're making.

Who lives next door to Raven again? She can't remember anything as Raven's lips turn her brain to mush.

When they break apart Apple can't help but giggle at their reflection in Raven's mirror. Happy tears flow freely down her cheeks. Her lips are still tingling, and she can't remember anything making her feel this good in her life.

"Oh my Godmother look at us. We're covered in paint."

It's in their hair, on their clothes, and all over their faces. They're coated in a red and purple swirl.

Apple laughs whenever she looks at Raven's sign. "GO REBE" is painted nice and neat, with straight lines and even brushstrokes. "LS" looks like it was tacked clumsily on, because it was tacked clumsily on. In-between kissing and cleaning up and kissing again, they didn't leave enough time to finish it.

They walk to the bookball field hand-in-hand. They've done this dozens of times before, but knowing the affection behind it is genuine makes it so much sweeter. Apple's cheeks ache from smiling so much.

Maddie is the first person to notice something’s different. She runs up to them at the ticket booth, bouncing up and down in excitement, and squeezes them in a bone-crunching hug. Apple can’t tell if she’s had too many slushies or if she’s genuinely this excited for them.

"You're together! I mean, really together! I'm so happy for you guys!"

"Did the Narrator tell you that?" Raven asks.

"No! I could tell just by looking at you. You're both positively glowing!"

“I heard it from the Narrator though.” Kitty gives them a lazy smile and a thumb’s up. “Way to go you too. You didn’t need any more encouragement from me to finally spit it out.”

The four of them purchase their tickets and enter in through the main gates. Apple gasps at the newly refurbished bookball field. The grass is thick and bright green, and the lines on the field are crisp and clean. No one would be able to tell less than 24 hours ago there was a gigantic beanstalk right where the school logo is.

As they make their way up the bleacher steps Briar approaches them. “Did I hear Maddie right? Are you guys a real couple now?"

Apple nods and squeezes Raven’s hand.

“That’s hexcellent! I'm so proud of you guys!” She turns to Raven. "Hey, I'm sorry I was kind of a jerk to you these past few days."

"It's alright. I probably deserved it."

"Yeah, you did."

Raven bites her lip, and turn her attention towards the bookball field, where Hopper is waving exuberantly at them. "Hey, I think someone's trying to get your attention."

"Yeah, he does that a lot.” Briar rolls her eyes. She gives him a lazy wave and he almost falls over in joy

"I think Melody's trying to get your attention too." Apple sing-songs, and points up at the announcer's booth.

“She probably just wants my help with the PA system or something. But I’m gonna check with her anyway. I’ll see you guys around." Apple watches with amusement as Briar bounds away, taking the bleacher steps two at a time.

"Want to find somewhere to sit?" SHe asks.

"Yeah I-"

“Raven! Hey Raven! Did you tell her?” Dexter waves with his good arm from on the field.

“You mind if I go say hi?” Raven asks.

"No go ahead." Apple grins. She doesn’t have any reason to feel jealous of Dexter anymore. Raven clambers back down the bleacher steps and towards him, and Apple watches in amusement as Dexter musses up her hair affectionately.

"So you and Raven are still together?" Duchess says with a sneer. "Even though your fake relationship is doing nothing now.”

“Yup. We're still together. Except now we're a real couple instead of a fake one."

Duchess' eyes widen. She almost drops her plate of nachos. "Holy hex? Did you just admit your relationship is fake?"

She nods. “You were right. Raven and I were only pretending to date to help royals and rebels get along. Our whole relationship was fake up until about two hours ago.”

Duchess knits her brows. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because no one will ever believe you." She smirks, and walks away leaving Duchess' jaw on the ground.

She and Raven claim a row close to the home team’s end zone, near the top of the bleachers. They have an amazing view of the field up here, but from the way Raven press so close against her she gets the feeling she isn't going to pay much attention to the game.

"You know I had a dream once where we were sitting in the bleachers, curled up together under a blanket. I think it was the first time I realized I was in love with you."

"You should've told me. I would've brought a blanket instead of this dumb sign."

Apple shakes her head. "The sign is better."

"Why?"

"Because we can do this."

Apple holds the sign in front of their faces and kisses her.