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a semi-reasonable alternative to arson

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Lizzie Saltzman was not having a good day.

 

And maybe, she supposes, that’s not all that rare of an occurrence anymore since the very first years at Salvatore Boarding School in Mystic Falls, what with Josie setting Hope’s entire room on fire over a long-held crush that Lizzie didn’t even know about until approximately three weeks ago, and the all-encompassing pit of obsidian goo called Malivore sending zombie Bio Mom the week of Lizzie and Josie’s Sweet 16 to rain hellfire on what little stability they’d managed to retain as a family since everything started going to crap, not even to mention Frodo freaking Baggins showing up in all his garden gnome glory on the front steps of Salvatore lugging a pretty werewolf with nice arms in tow who would only serve to make Lizzie’s effed-up life all the more confusing than it was to begin with (—which, for your information, was already pretty freaking confusing).

 

Then Hope (that self-sacrificing idiot) jumped into the goo and Josie started dating the hobbit and Lizzie got chained to a tree and then Josie did some seriously heavy hoodoo voodoo that somehow made Lizzie remember everything and before she could tell anyone she died a gazillion times over trapped with Hope in some screwed-up Pacman simulation and finally everyone remembers now ‘cause Josie did some more extremely crazy hoodoo voodoo but Lizzie still thinks that the lot of them are on drugs because, like, What the hell?

 

These are so not normal problems for 16-year-olds to be having, witches and phoenixes and supernatural-whatevers or not.

 

(Also, how is it that literally no one else seems to be having a hard time digesting the apparent reality that multiple people have been and are currently under the inexplicable impression that they do, in fact, wish to have the ugly little gargoyle-faced offspring of one Landon Kirby?

 

Is Lizzie really the only one that’s confused by this?)

 

But, you know what? Fine.

 

It’s fine; Lizzie is an evolved, independent woman living in the 21st century, and she will take what comes, the good and the bad (and the outright weird, apparently).

 

But, you wanna know what she can’t handle?

 

Do you wanna know what—or who, rather—is currently quite thoroughly ruining her day?

 

(She’s gonna tell you anyhow.)

 

Hope freaking Mikaelson—that’s who. (And not in the usual way.)

 

Because, let’s get one thing clear: Lizzie is not one who waits around on someone—or anyone, really. Not by a long shot.

 

This very well may be her year of “Yes,” her year of taking what will come as gracefully as she can manage, but that does not, by any means, render her stagnant.

 

She has a whole life to be living, for Christ’s sake, and she’ll be damned if she lets any boy (or girl) take that away from her.

 

No. This year, things are different.

 

So how the hell is Hope freaking Mikaelson, of all people, succeeding so effortlessly at making it feel like the same old song?

 

So, fine, they killed a Minotaur together. Big whoop.

 

And, yeah, maybe they hung out for days after that ‘cause Lizzie wanted to tell Josie about Hope but Hope didn’t want Lizzie to tell Josie so Lizzie attached herself to Hope’s proverbial hip in the meantime to make sure she wouldn’t spill the beans. (And maybe, just maybe, she kind of liked the way Hope smelled, like flowers and vanilla bean and the beach at sunset and the way she smiled at Lizzie with that gorgeous twinkle in her blue-green eyes, like maybe for just a second they were existing in a universe where the two of them didn’t dislike each other so much, where Lizzie could smile at Hope and Hope could smile back and the whole thing didn’t have to feel so indubitably confusing no matter the way it made Lizzie’s chest flutter in a way she’d been sure only existed in the movies.)

 

And now, they’re friends, or… something.

 

Which is fine. That’s fine.

 

Lizzie doesn’t care—well, yes, she does, but only as a friend. Because that’s what they are: friends. Sort of.

 

And that’s fine.

 

She tells herself that all day, through waking up and dragging Josie out of bed and attending mind-numbingly boring classes on a bajillion magical history things she really couldn’t care less about… but, when she’s plopping herself down beside Josie and Raf and Landon (ew) and MG and Kaleb to eat lunch, she’s still pretty sure she isn’t quite convinced.

 

So, she does the logical thing: she takes a poll.

 

“Josie, how did you handle your crush on Hope?”

 

Josie promptly chokes on her celery stick at Lizzie’s blunt question, a slight blush tinting her powdered cheeks as the rest of the group turns to eye her with interest. “I—W-What? "

 

Lizzie fights the urge to roll her eyes at her twin. “Please don’t make me repeat myself.”

 

Josie swallows thickly, setting her half-eaten celery stick back down on her plate. “Well, I—"

 

“Wait a second,” Lizzie interjects, having quite suddenly found herself hit with a rather brisk epiphany on the matter in question. “Why am I asking you? Your solution was arson.”

 

Josie’s blush worsens even as Kaleb promptly bursts into laughter from the other end of the table. (In retrospect, that may have been the wrong way to go about it.)

 

“I—I—" Lizzie’s twin sputters, clearly at a loss.

 

“Frodo!” Lizzie tries next, turning to their resident bug-eyed hobbit, who just owlishly blinks wide green eyes back at her like he can’t quite believe she’s addressing him, directly. (Honestly, Lizzie herself can’t quite believe it either.) “What did you do when you realized you had the hots for Hope?”

 

“I—I—" he stutters, and Lizzie narrows her gaze—she doesn’t have time for this. “Well, I guess I just… told her how I felt, you know?”

 

Lizzie squints a little bit harder at him for a second or two. “Gross.”

 

Landon just blinks uselessly back at her, all doe-eyed gaze and jaw slackened and an entirely stupefied expression on his gnome-like features that has her absolutely itching to blast him into another consciousness.

 

“Raf!” she continues swiftly on, then, never one to be deterred by minor setbacks (and certainly not in the mood to be blasting anyone at the current moment, even their resident bug-eyed Gollum). "What did you do?”

 

Raf flushes slightly, fiddling with the fries on his plate. “All due respect, I-I don’t think that that’s any of your business, Lizzie—"

 

“Just tell me.”

 

“I avoided her for weeks.”

 

Lizzie cocks a single surprised brow in response, in part because the muscled boy had crumbled so quickly under questioning, though mainly because: He did what?

 

“I’m sorry, you did what? "

 

Raf ducked his head as if attempting to hide himself behind his tray. (Obviously, it doesn’t quite work.)

 

“Wow, so you’re all absolutely no help,” Lizzie concludes when it’s clear Raf isn’t budging as she stands abruptly from her seat, her lunch tray more or less untouched. “What am I supposed to do now?”

 

“Wait a second,” MG chimes in then, ever-so-helpful. “Do you have a crush on H—”

 

“Shut it, Milton,” Lizzie snaps quickly, feeling her cheeks heat. “I’m leaving now.”

 

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“I heard you’ve been asking about me,” comes Hope’s melodic voice from the doorway, and Lizzie hates the way her heart skips a beat in her chest as she whirls around atop her bed to confirm that it is, in fact, her, standing a mere feet away wearing skin-tight jeans and scuffed black combat boots and that trademark Hope Mikaelson smirk that used to make Lizzie’s blood boil, but now just makes her feel like melting on the spot beneath its radiance.

 

Still, Lizzie is nothing if not quick on her feet, and she doesn’t intend to lose her nerve now: “Do you use that line on all the girls?” she retorts; it’s not much of a comeback but it’s something, and it makes Hope smile so really, Lizzie can’t find it in herself to regret it all that much.

 

“Just the ones I like,” Hope gives back as good as she gets (because of course she does—she always has), stalking forward on sure feet before sitting herself upon the corner of the duvet just inches away from Lizzie like she owns it, and unfortunately, Lizzie can’t really even manage to be annoyed at her for that, because suddenly she’s so close and she smells so good and God, but Lizzie can’t help wanting to be even closer than they are now, if such a thing exists.

 

“Smooth talker,” Lizzie quips even as she feels her breath hitch in her throat at the way Hope’s looking at her—all jade-green eyes and pouty pink lips and something like rare sincerity written all over her smooth features; really, Lizzie’s just grateful she’s managed not to pass out thus far.

 

“Only with you,” Hope tells her then—softly, so softly Lizzie thinks she’d have missed it were they not so close as they are right now, and really, she thinks she might be hallucinating, because there’s no way that this is happening.

 

(What with the egregious chemical imbalance going on upstairs, she’s quite sure she’s more than capable of it.)

 

“You don’t mean that.”

 

Hope’s brow furrows ever-so-slightly, genuine confusion playing out across her face. “Why don’t you think I mean it?”

 

“I don’t think we’re having the same conversation.”

 

“What conversation do you think we’re having?”

 

Lizzie bites her lip, not quite willing to say it—not yet, at least. “I could ask you the same thing.”

 

“That’s not an answer.”

 

“What’s happening right now?” Lizzie asks instead, suddenly tired of it—the confusion, the holding back, the overarching uncertainty of it all. Because, really: even if she tells Hope what she wants and gets rejected here, even if she gets burned for the hundredth time since her first crush at the ripe age of 12, it’s as if she suddenly doesn’t care anymore; she just needs this (whatever this is) to be over.

 

She needs to know where she stands, and perhaps more importantly, where the two of them stand in regard to one another, because she thinks that if she doesn’t in approximately the next three seconds, she’ll lose her freaking mind, and she wasn’t kidding when she told Josie that her mental health was the most valuable thing she has right now.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I mean, I… " she trails off with bated breath, silently begging herself not to lose her nerve. Screw it. “I kind of want to kiss you right now.”

 

Hope’s smile widens, and Lizzie’s absolutely sure she’s going to laugh.

 

She doesn’t, though—quite the opposite. “I kind of want to kiss you right now, too.”

 

(At this point, Lizzie’s sure she’s hallucinating.)

 

“Look,” Lizzie begins, heart sinking painfully in her chest. “If this is a joke, this isn’t fu—"

 

She stops herself, then—more like, something stops her, then and—

 

Oh.

 

Oh.

 

Holy crap.

 

Hope’s kissing her, full warm lips pressed oh-so-gently against Lizzie’s, the pert tip of her nose tickling Lizzie’s cheek, the aromatic scent of her pervading every one of Lizzie’s senses in the most heavenly of ways.

 

It’s like magic—a whole different kind, though, since Lizzie already knows a heck of a lot about magic to begin with… 'cause, duh. Witch, and all that.

 

But, this… it’s different. Different from any boy (or girl) Lizzie’s ever kissed, warm and sweet and soft in a way she never thought something so simple as a kiss ever could be.

 

(In short, it’s perfect.)

 

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