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The Fairest of Kisses

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O-0-o-0-O

“Oh, Apple! There you are,” Raven exclaimed as she spotted Apple leaning against the side of a brightly colored stall. The girl in question turned at her call, a dazzling smile lighting up her face as they locked eyes. Immediately distracted at the sight, Raven ended up accidentally bumping into another fairgoer and stopped briefly to let loose a string of apologies.

Breaking away after having her fifth apology exasperatedly accepted, Raven quickly continued forward and made it to her destination with a sheepish smile and faint dusting of pink upon her cheeks. Apple was biting her lip to dampen her smile, an amused twinkle visible in her blue eyes as Raven let loose an embarrassed chuckle and held out a stick of cotton candy.

“H-here you go, Apple,” Raven stammered slightly before clearing her throat. “Sorry it took so long. The line was pretty crazy.”

Apple gracefully accepted the proffered stick of sugar. Plucking a piece of the fluffy treat, she popped it into her mouth, a delighted expression lighting up her face as it tickled her taste buds. “Candy apple- my favorite!”

Raven’s embarrassment melted in the face of Apple’s obvious enjoyment, a warm feeling settling in her chest. She smiled almost shyly and had to make a conscious effort not to fidget. “I remember.”

Apple’s smile softened perceptibly, and she moved forward to lace her free arm with Raven’s. Leaning her head on the taller girl’s shoulder, she gave the plum-haired girl’s arm a squeeze in a sort of half-hug. “Thank you, Raven.”

“It was no problem, Apple. The stall was on my way from the restroom,” Raven humbly stated, pointedly not mentioning the fact that it was only on her way because she made it so, not because it was actually on the most direct path. Apple was clever, though, and scarily smart, and so Raven cleared her throat and cast around for a change in subject.

“Hey, where did Maddie go?” Raven tilted her head, confused, having just noticed the absence of her best-friend-forever-after.

“She left a few minutes before you arrived,” Apple hummed as she took a dainty bite out of her treat. “Mentioned something about showing Kitty her stuffed unicorn before bouncing away.”

“Ah,” Raven smiled, amused at the Wonderlandian’s antics. A comfortable silence settled between them as Apple continued to eat her treat, the calm a pleasant change from the stress of earlier.

So distracted was she, that Raven didn’t realize she had grasped the hand that was gently brushing against hers until soft fingers twined with her own. Flushing lightly, she glanced down at Apple unsurely; she didn’t want to let go, but she also didn’t want to make the situation awkward or uncomfortable for the other girl.

Apple was seemingly oblivious to Raven’s inner turmoil, however, as she simply continued eating her candy and gazing out silently at the fair. Raven fidgeted slightly, unsure as to what she should do. Without looking up, Apple gently squeezed Raven’s hand, and it was all the reassurance the witch needed to relax.

Loath to break their embrace now that she knew Apple was okay with the proximity, Raven fished for something they could do that would allow them to stay as they were. Scanning what she could see of the fair, her violet eyes alit on the fairest wheel that was just visible over the tops of the stalls.

“Hey Apple, do you want to go see if they fixed the fairest wheel?” Raven questioned lightly. “With Maddie on her tail, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about Kitty causing a repeat of the earlier fairest fiasco.”

“I’d love to,” Apple smiled and nodded, pleased with the idea. She started forward, their linked arms and laced fingers ensuring that Raven was always close beside her.

The two of them leisurely strolled down the crowded path, content smiles visible on both of their faces. Looking down at Apple to make sure the other girl was having as pleasant a time as she was, Raven was met with Apple distractedly glancing to the side. Following her gaze, Raven blinked as she saw what exactly had captured Apple’s attention.

Chewing her lip and frowning slightly, Raven scanned the stalls intently before her violet orbs landed on a particular one. Lips curving up in a smile, Raven mumbled, “Perfect.”

“Did you say something?” Apple tore her gaze away and blinked up at Raven quizzically.

Instead of answering, Raven gently tugged Apple in the direction of the stall she had picked out. “Can we stop here for a minute?”

“Of course, Raven,” Apple answered bemusedly as she was led to one of the fair’s game booths. Eyes instantly drawn to the hanging stuffed animals, Apple reluctantly lowered her gaze to take in the game’s set-up and frowned in bewilderment. Her head tilted to the side, as if the game would make more sense from a different angle. “Um, Raven? What kind of game is this?”

“It looks odd, I know,” Raven laughed sheepishly as she absentmindedly rubbed the back of her neck and explained. “It’s a Wonderlandian game Maddie’s been teaching me, supposedly to help me with my aim when casting spells. I was surprised to spot the booth, actually. From my understanding, it’s kind of an obscure game, even in Wonderland.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that!” Apple looked at the game in a new light. She still didn’t understand it, but seeing as it was one of Raven’s hobbies, it suddenly became of great interest to the blonde beauty. “How do you play?”

“Maddie’s been teaching it to me for about a month now, and I’m still kind of fuzzy on all of the rules. The game itself kind of changes depending on what the pieces are, but,” Raven sucked on her bottom lip for a moment and studied the booth before grinning mischievously and tugging Apple closer. “Come on, I’ll show you.”

The two girls walked up to the side of the small makeshift pond. Seeing as someone else was already playing, they stood to the side and watched while Raven waited for her turn. The guy currently playing the game squinted and threw a lily pad into the center of the pool. It hit the water, and a frog immediately hopped onto the platform and croaked. Puffing out his chest, the guy turned to the booth’s operator, only to be met with a bored look. The girl popped her bubble of gum and handed the guy a balloon before turning back to her magazine.

Walking closer as the guy dejectedly stomped off in a huff, Raven cleared her throat and flashed her wrist. The operator glanced at the bracelet showing she was an Ever After High student and pushed a button. A stack of lily pads flopped down on the counter before her, and Raven picked one up. Concentrating, Raven lightly threw the pad, watching as it landed on a frog’s hind legs in the center of the pool. Frowning, she threw the other three pads and smiled as two landed on a frog’s back, and one on a frog’s head.

The operator gave her an appraising look, before actually gracing her with a smile. “You’ll be the second player to actually get more than a consolation prize today. Your score’s pretty high, so take your pick from the big ones.”

“I don’t understand?” Apple asked quizzically. Raven looked back at her and shrugged, a half-smile on her face. “Wouldn’t it make more sense for the lily pads to land where the frogs can jump on them?”

“Like I said, the rules are confusing, and since it’s from Wonderland its not exactly supposed to make sense.” Raven explained as best she could. Maddie had explained the game in Riddleish, and for once something had actually made more sense in the inexact language had than it did in English. “But I guess the gist of it is that you get a certain amount of points for landing on certain parts of the frog, while points are subtracted by the frog’s actual location in the pool.”

Apple blinked and nodded, despite not understanding much of what Raven was trying to explain. It was just so… odd. “So I take it you did well?”

“It was close… I think,” Raven admitted, unsurely, before shrugging and gesturing to the large prizes hanging overhead. “Go ahead and pick one.”

“Me?” Apple asked, startled. Raven smiled and nodded, repeating her gesture. A slow yet delighted smile broke out across Apple’s face as she scanned the prizes before settling on a stuffed baby dragon in varying shades of purple. “That one.”

Following Apple’s pointed finger, the operator took the dragon down from the hook and passed it to Raven. Raven held the dragon in both arms and offered it to Apple, silently tickled that the other girl had picked a dragon that was an almost exact replica of her own dragon Nevermore. “Here you go, Apple.”

Apple went to take the dragon, before she paused. Realizing she still had a small tuft of cotton candy left, and not wanting to waste the treat, she glanced at Raven thoughtfully before coming to a decision. “One moment, Raven.”

Raven tilted her head to the side questioningly as Apple plucked the last bit of cotton candy and strode a few feet away to throw the stick into the garbage. Swiftly returning, the blonde came to a stop a hairsbreadth away from Raven and lifted her hand. Raven blinked, startled, and automatically opened her mouth as the piece of cotton candy was pressed lightly against her lips.

Raven remained frozen as Apple deposited the fluffy candy in her mouth, soft fingers brushing against her lips before retreating. The dragon was gently tugged from her grasp with a quiet yet warm ‘thank you’, and Raven finally blinked and swallowed, a light flush appearing on her cheeks as the taste of candied apples exploded on her tongue.

Clearing her throat, Raven shyly glanced at Apple, and was strangely relieved to see the other girl clutching the dragon tightly to her chest, her cheeks also sporting a light dusting of pink. “Did you still want to go on the fairest wheel?”

Apple clutched the stuffed animal tighter and nodded, slightly startled at her own actions. Raven’s shyly pleased response was incredibly endearing, however, and so she couldn’t bring herself to regret it. “Of course.”

The two of them made their way once more through the crowd, and though they were no longer arm in arm, they were still close enough to brush lightly against each other as they walked. Every once and a while Raven would glance to her side, and see the blonde happily hugging the dragon in her arms instead of glancing longingly at the other stuffed animals being carried around, a bright and happy smile on her face. It made Raven smile too, the knowledge that she was the cause of Apple’s happiness a gift in and of itself.

O-0-o-0-O

“Um, Maddie,” Kitty quietly spoke as she played with the ice blue petals of one of the flowers on her dress, her eyes pointedly avoiding the bouncing hatter at her side. “Can I… ask you something?”

“Hm?” Maddie hummed around a large lollipop, head tilting and inquisitive eyes glancing searchingly at the cat-girl beside her. “Was’ong?”

Kitty shifted uncomfortably. “Well…” She trailed off for a long moment. Glancing to her side, she was only slightly surprised to see teal eyes still gazing at her patiently. She cleared her throat and tried again. “So I realized that not all pranks are funny, and sometimes they can be taken too far…”

“Yes?” Maddie popped the candy out of her mouth and stretched the word out, prompting Kitty to continue.

“It’s just- I can’t- I’m not-,” Kitty hissed, frustrated that she couldn’t articulate what she wanted to say. So it came as a surprise to her when a hand clasped her own, with blatant disregard for her claws, and a small teacup appeared in front of her. Inhaling automatically, the scent of cat grass and lavender wafted up to her nose and instantly caused her tense posture to relax.

“I always find, well, everything, easier to talk about over a good cup of tea,” Maddie offered, grinning up into startled yet grateful icy-blue orbs. The lollipop was nowhere to be seen.

Kitty gratefully drank the small cup, the tea helping to settle her nerves as she tried to organise her thoughts into something resembling sense. Handing the empty cup back to the other girl who promptly stored it in her hat, Kitty worked up the courage to slowly meet Maddie’s teal gaze before releasing a slow breath.

“I’m not that great at realising when I’ve gone too far, and I trust you,” Kitty spoke haltingly, her stance awkward and defensive, her tail curled around her leg. Despite that, however, the tea and Maddie’s support seemed to have helped as she stubbornly pressed onwards. “So I was hoping you wouldn’t mind… helping me? Letting me know when I need to scale back or stop?”

“Silly Kitty,” Maddie exclaimed and bopped the startled girl lightly on the nose. “Of course I’ll help you!”

Kitty blinked in surprise, even as she warily kept one hand hovering protectively over her nose. “You will?”

“You bet your best tea set I will!” Maddie exclaimed brightly, swinging their clasped hands to and fro. Stopping the motion abruptly, she turned and looked seriously at her companion. “You know what this means, don’t you?”

“I-no?” Kitty furrowed her brow, taken aback. She was still slightly off kilter from the instant acceptance and agreement to her request, though perhaps she shouldn’t have been considering who it was she had asked.

“Silly, it means we’re going to have to spend a lot more time together if you want my help with your pranks!” Maddie giggled, her blue and purple curls bouncing energetically around her head. “Because when you’re not pranking, you’re napping!”

Kitty gazed curiously at her fellow Wonderlandian, an odd emotion stirring in her chest. Her voice was soft when she finally answered, though it contained a slight purr. “I think I’d like that.”

“Tearrific!” Maddie’s excited smile lit up as she laid a swift kiss on Kitty’s cheek before bouncing forward, dragging the slightly taller girl behind her with no trouble. “We can start our togetherness by going on the fairest wheel!”

Kitty held a startled hand up to her cheek and let herself be dragged forward without a fight.

O-0-o-0-O

Lizzie Hearts smiled softly as two of her oldest and dearest friends made their way to the fairest wheel with clasped hands. Her expression was almost wistful as she watched them, the hatter bouncing and making wild hand gestures while the feline unconsciously leaned in and hung on to her every word. So occupied with being happy for her friends was she, that the future queen of Wonderland failed to notice a pair of soft footsteps approaching from her back.

“Were you planning on going for a ride?”

“Oh!” Lizzie jumped, startled, and attempted to twirl to face the unknown voice. Her red high heels caught on the edge of a cobblestone, however, and she wobbled, precariously close to falling. Before she could brace herself for the inevitable impact, a soft set of hands slid past her bare arms and grasped her waist in a surprisingly firm grip, steadying her. Looking up at her savior, Lizzie was unprepared to see the concerned blue eyes of Darling Charming shining down at her.

“Are you alright?” Darling asked, the concern palpable in her soft voice. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Lizzie continued to stare, finally blinking when Darling set her back on her feet before stepping back shyly, a light blush visible on her pale features. Coming back to herself, Lizzie smiled. “It is quite alright, Darling. I should have been paying more attention to my surroundings.” Seeing that her response only slightly eased the other’s obvious bashfulness, and feeling guilty for her part in it, Lizzie prompted her questioningly. “Perhaps you could repeat your earlier question? I am afraid that I did not hear it.”

Darling noticed she was fidgeting slightly, and stubbornly clasped her hands together to force herself to stop. She always felt less confident when she didn’t have her armor to hide behind. It had less to do with needing the protective coverings to feel less cowardly, and more to do with the fact that she associated wearing a dress with being a princess instead of a knight.

It had been ingrained in her from a young age that she was a princess, and she was expected to be a damsel and leave the heroics to someone more qualified. As she grew older, however, she’d come to envy her brothers their freedom and destiny, and had begun to observe their classes in secret. She may have been a princess, but she was also a Charming, and she’d decided long ago that no matter what, she’d be true to herself.

It was just a lot easier to be true to herself when she was wearing pants, not a constraining yet admittedly beautiful dress.

Still, she was a Charming, a knight, and she would not be cowed by the thought of talking to a pretty girl. Darling straightened slightly, raised her gaze to meet Lizzie’s, and made an effort to bring up her family’s signature smile. “I was wondering if you were planning on getting in line for the fairest wheel.”

“Oh,” Lizzie breathed, fascinated and despite herself charmed by the other girl’s sudden transformation. She still looked delicate and shy, but there was a hidden confidence barely peeking through that she couldn’t help but find rather attractive. Lizzie blinked at her thoughts and shook her head slightly. “I-No. My earlier ride was quite, shall we say, eventful. Besides, I have a feeling that my friends could use the quality time such a ride promises, and it is not an activity one does alone.”

“I see,” Darling replied softly, her head tilted slightly as she gazed thoughtfully at the future Queen of Hearts. She bit her lip and hesitated momentarily before resolutely tapping into the part of herself that made up the valiant white knight of Wonderland. Offering her hand, Darling graced Lizzie with a dazzling smile. “Would my lady do me the honor of gracing me with her presence on the fairest wheel? I promise, no harm shall befall you under my watch.”

Lizzie couldn’t help the small smile that bloomed into existence and danced across her lips. “You do your name proud, Darling. You would certainly make a hexcellent knight.” Darling nodded gracefully at the compliment, a secret twinkle of amusement flashing in her light-blue orbs. “I was not planning on riding the wheel again, however I find myself reluctant to decline such a gallantly worded proposal.”

Lizzie placed her hand gently in Darling’s, and was startled when the taller girl turned her hand around and brought it up to her lips. A gentle kiss was pressed to the back of her hand, and Lizzie was sure her cheeks were reflecting a pleased flush. A soft ‘oh’ fell from her lips, and Lizzie stepped closer to the youngest Charming, studying her in rapt fascination. Despite the normally quiet and soft-spoken girl’s sudden confidence, Lizzie could still see hints – a very slight dusting of pink, a nearly undetectable tenseness in her posture, the shyly hopeful look in her eyes – and the juxtaposition of emotions and mannerisms both mesmerized and captured her.

Darling slowly lowered Lizzie’s hand, their eyes locked, before tucking it into the crook of her arm. Feeling Lizzie automatically grip her arm more securely and lean slightly closer, she placed her other hand on top of Lizzie’s and tilted her head towards their destination. “If it pleases my lady?”

“Onwards, then,” Lizzie nodded gracefully, playing along. Perhaps the day had not been a total disaster after all, if it ended in such a way.

O-0-o-0-O

Apple and Raven flashed their bracelets at the fairest wheel’s attendant before being ushered into the compartment. Apple slid in first, her plush dragon still clutched in her hands, followed by Raven. The door shut and locked behind them, and Apple eyed her prize thoughtfully. Coming to a swift decision, she scooted into the middle seat and placed it on the seat she had just occupied. Nodding to herself once she was sure it wouldn’t fall, she shifted closer to Raven and retook her arm. Laying her head down on Raven’s shoulder, Apple sighed and snuggled closer.

Raven was happy to let Apple use her as a pillow, and this time took the initiative to twine their fingers as she alternated between looking out over the fair and gazing softly at her companion. She had let her eyes close for a moment to enjoy the soft breeze, faintly smelling of Apple’s perfume, when a small voice caused her to blink her eyes open.

“I want to apologize,” Apple all but whispered, her gaze pointedly avoiding Raven’s and instead looking on as she played absently with Raven’s fingers.

“Whatever for?” Raven’s voice was also soft, though it held an inquisitive lilt.

“Today. Earlier. I was- I was horrible, and awful, and nasty, and evil, and-,” Apple started slowly, haltingly, yet as she continued the words started tumbling from her lips faster and faster, her voice rising in sickened agitation.

“Shh, Apple, hey,” Raven shifted slightly and turned, brushing a fallen blond lock back behind Apple’s ear before gently cupping the side of her face. Slowly, Apple’s pained baby blue orbs rose to meet Raven’s soft violets. “You already apologized earlier. Do you remember what my response was?”

“You said it wasn’t my fault,” Apple responded slowly, though her gaze remained pained as she remembered what she did- what she felt. “That I was under a curse and that there was nothing to forgive. But Raven, you don’t understand, I-,”

“Apple, I think I do,” Raven gently caressed the distraught girl’s cheek with her thumb. “I-I’m not evil.”

Raven’s tone and expression was almost apologetic, and Apple had the momentary urge to throttle the clueless girl. That didn’t matter. Not- not anymore. But the other girl didn’t know that, and so Apple held her tongue and deflated.

“I’m not evil, but I do unfortunately know a thing or two about curses. You weren’t in control, the curse stripped you of that and twisted your mind and emotions until you were as far removed from yourself as you could be.” Raven continued, soothingly.

Apple broke away gently from the hand on her cheek and looked down, her thoughts and emotions a tangled mess. She knew that the curse had turned her emotions in on themselves. She knew because she had tried to destroy their world and had been evil to friends and strangers alike. She mostly knew, however, because while under the spell she had hated Raven. And not just a little bit. Every inch of her wanted to make the other girl suffer, to cause the other girl to be broken and miserable. It was only after the curse was lifted that she realized what those sickening urges to destroy Raven in every way possible really truly meant.

Because she had hated Raven with a passion she didn’t know was possible, in reality she lo…

She lov….

Raven was her whole world. It was a… humbling and terrifying conclusion for her to come to. And she wanted to tell her, wanted to break free of the hesitance and fear, the regret and shame. Wanted to let the truth out.

But Apple… Apple wasn’t that brave. Had never been that brave. She’d always listened to her mother, always forced herself to fit into the mold set out for her. To be truthful, it had been so many years since she had simply been Apple White instead of The Future Snow White, that Apple wasn’t sure who that girl was anymore. Wasn’t sure if she could ever be that girl again.

But Raven? Raven deserved that girl, and so Apple would try to remember. It might take her a while, but she had a goal now, and one thing that was consistent between her two identities was that when Apple wanted something, she chased after it with a single-minded fervor until it was hers.

So Apple fluttered her gaze upwards through her lashes, and told the truth. It just wasn’t the whole truth. She was determined that it would at some point she’d be completely honest with Raven, however, and that thought mollified her slightly. “It doesn’t hexcuse my actions, Raven. I was so horrible to you. I don’t want you to think that I enjoyed- that I secretly hate you, or something like that. It’s actually quite the opposite.”

“I know, Apple, and if you insist it will make you feel better, I will accept your apology. But know you don’t need one, because you’ve done nothing to warrant it. And I care about you too, despite your tendency to wake up and sing way to early in the morning.” Raven said teasingly, and she caught a hesitant yet small smile form on Apple’s lips. It wasn’t much, but it was a start, and Raven was determined to show Apple that there were no hard feelings between them.

Raven leaned forward to give Apple a friendly kiss on the cheek, at the same time Apple tilted her head up to reply. Their lips connected lightly, and both girls froze with wide eyes. Raven slowly leaned back and glanced away, her cheeks flaming.

Apple brought a hand up and traced her lips, the tingly feeling left behind causing her heart to speed up. Staring intently at the embarrassed girl, she quietly uttered her name. “Raven?”

Raven tried to pretend she didn’t hear her roommate, but her conscience won out over her embarrassment and she reluctantly lifted her head to face the blonde. She had just enough time to get a quick glimpse of Apple’s resolve face before a hand was gently cupping her face and soft lips were once again brushing hers.

Raven gasped lightly, and allowed her eyes to flutter closed. She wasn’t sure what the embrace meant, wasn’t sure if she should be searching for a deeper meaning or to simply allow it to stand as a friendly gesture. She simply decided to give in and allow Apple to lead. She had long ago come to the conclusion that she would never demand anything of Apple, but she would more than willingly take whatever the other girl was prepared to offer.

The kiss was soft, gentle, sweet, and it lingered slightly, but it was also considerably shorter than either girl would have liked. Apple pulled away slowly, her chest warming as Raven cutely fluttered her lashes open and stared at her silently with shimmering violet orbs. Unable to help herself, but not wanting to rush things, she pecked Raven on the cheek she was holding before releasing it to twine their hands once more.

Feeling considerably lighter, and much more confident in her ability to be brave, to be the Apple White Raven deserved, Apple snuggled up to her roommate and smiled in contentment when Raven slowly shifted until she was in the circle of her arms. She would get there, eventually, but in the mean time Apple was determined to spend the rest of the day making warm memories at the Spring Fairest with the person she quietly thought was the fairest of them all.

O-0-o-0-O