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nostalgia for the familiar

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Driving her body by anger was frustrating; suffocating; exhausting. Cassandra could find more words for it, however, her mind was elsewhere, kicking pebbles that brought up dust and loose dirt. Her eyes were dull, and she was expressionless; dirty; she felt sick because she hasn't eaten in days.

There was an imaginary weight on her shoulders, but it was easy; it was heavy but she could roll her shoulders effortlessly despite it, weight was familiar, and the ghost by her side crooned about it, about how easy Cassandra found burdens and rested them on her. It felt like duty, like it had to be there.

The shadowblade was released from its sheath, and rested in her hands, she practiced breathing, calming herself just like she shouldn't. Anger tightened her chest and throat, after awhile it felt hard to breathe, and whenever she spoke it just became yelling, and then it was like she was ripping her throat apart.

She's walking now, letting her legs take her wherever, dragging the shadowblade behind her because she's not sure what to do with it; she could cut her own rocks and whittle warning signs but that was far from Cassandra's favorite pastime. She just had it as a blood drawing threat, a satisfaction of finally dragging Adira through the dirt.

She wore the moon's light like a nightgown, lurking without elegance, ghostly; tired; starving for everything. She's breaking, only slightly, exhaustion replacing rage because she found it hard to sleep, she'd dream nightmares and have nightmares about dreams, about good and bad, about home, about Rapunzel with arms outstretched and oh so welcoming, loving, longing.

Cassandra fit the shadowblade back in it's sheath as she slowed her walking, taking in the forest. Tall oaks, dense with leaves covering the sky, only letting silver blanket itself against the grass; curling, beckoning branches and owl homes of hallowed trees; crickets chirp and Cassandra wonders if it's because they hate the silence as much as she does.

She continues, drawing near a familiar place, comforting and heart-tearing. She could feel the opal pulse with the beat of her heart, uncertain and yet curious, drawing nearer and coming to what seemed like an all new place, a bright watered lagoon, a place somewhere only they knew.

 

Water filled her lungs, anxiety the name of the phantom snake that coiled around her throat, she was terrified even if someone was there to save her. Her face had refused to show the anxiety that plagued her, and Rapunzel smiles unaware in front of her, beckoning her gently into the lagoon’s waters; Cassandra grabbed her Princess’s hand like a lifeline, explaining unwillingly.

All it took was an understanding nod, and for Rapunzel to squeeze her hand just a little harder for Cassandra to be able to breathe again.

 

Rapunzel was a golden thing in this heavy world, both wild and tamed, clumsy and elegant; she'd rush into things without knowing, and more times than not she'd return victorious. Cassandra’s lips curled in a jealous frown, she sees silhouettes of her and her Princess carefree, splashing water at each other and laughing loud and cheerful enough to move a flock of crows out of way.

The lost lagoon, untouched by no one but them she'd believe. Cassandra’s hand burns like a punishment for missing her, a reminder that cried that Rapunzel was not a friend, and never to be hoped more. Her oculars warily studied the waters, gems hidden but glowing in the light of the moon, bright and beautiful and teasing. She wonders again, if their bracelets were still there.

She takes the sword off her back once more to fix it in the ground, walking forwards and stopping at the edge of the water. It's a memory, each droplet holding something of them and what they did, what they saw, said, and brought back with them. Cassandra thinks back to the water that clung to the glass-like rock when Rapunzel emerged from the lagoon, presenting it. She can't stop thinking.

 

“What's this?”

Resting in Cassandra’s hand was a bracelet, leather-stringed, brilliant and blue and exact to the gems that covered the bottom of the lagoon. Rapunzel smiles bright in front of her, and Cassandra looks at her even more confused.

“A bracelet.” Says the Princess matter-of-factly, going on to inform her handmaiden that she had one, too; lifting her arm up to show the bracelet tied simply around her wrist, two gems fused together to form a rigid heart, to represent Rapunzel and perhaps how love had been her own lifeline, after all falling in love was what saved her.

Cassandra looks back down, running her slender fingers along the simple bracelets smooth gems. “Matching bracelets?” She dares ask, voice laced with just a twinge of disbelief. “I appreciate it, but jewelry isn't really my thing.” She's honest, and silently promises to keep the bracelet somewhere in her safekeeping.

Rapunzel only smiles wider, sweet and honey-like; amused. “Like poetry and cookies?” She teases gently, and Cassandra scoffs with the smallest smile; caught red handed and shaking her head slowly; she bids Rapunzel temporarily farewell, and leaves to tie the bracelet around her wrist.

 

The water was cold, soft like it was rolled and shaken till any rough edges were rid of, dream-like and almost numbing. Cassandra’s eyes closed, and she lowered herself deeper into the water, no longer standing with her feet dipped in uncertainty. It was uncomfortable, likely due to the fact she was fully clothed and shoed, but she thought nothing of it.

The water was to her chin now, she kept her eyes closed and forcefully calm; if she stays there long enough she might just forget she's in water, and she wishes she could; but it was just so loud, the silence made her ears ring and was an open gate for any ghost who wanted to reach her, to show her how to use the rage she trained herself to calm for years.

Desperate, she's tugged herself underwater and opened her eyes, barely used to the feel of water against her oculars but she doesn't pay attention to that for too long. She's looking down at all the shining blue glass and it's hard to see in the water, in the dark, and like many times she relies on the opal fit into her chest to guide her; the gem glass takes in the light, and it's solid, seething.

The water doesn't fill her lungs yet, as she's filled with rage, jaw set and lips sealed. She's angry, uncomfortable, her heart torn in two and aching, aching, aching.

She bothers to look back at the past sometimes, only going too far once in a blue moon; she's humored by the way days feel like nothing has been done, or she follows routine and it's usual, but when she looks back she notices that maybe she was happier and never realized it, that even if she only prowled the lands at least she never was at the lagoon desperate to find a piece of her back then.

For awhile, she and Rapunzel wore those glass bracelets like they were gold, and tossed them like they were too; blue pieces of nature-made glass meant everything, it tied them both to each other like platonic promise rings and they'd laugh about such a silly way of describing it later. But Cassandra suddenly choked, and soon water filled her lungs. She doesn't remember now.

It was not long lasting, because she resurfaced quickly with fists clenched. She's coughing and cold, everything she does feels like mockery, and furious she dives down again.

This time she doesn't think too hard, fingers grazing the bottom of the lagoon and she feels for the bracelets, longs for them, because she hates how tied down they make her feel and she'd do anything to cut at least one string that ties her to the Princess.

Underwater she can't hear the crooning, and she might briefly fantasize about being able to breathe under here for just a moment. Her fingers hook around a leather string, and blindly she grasps desperately for the other. She misses once, then twice, and the third time strikes when it gets hard to breathe again, but resurfacing comes easy.

She lifts her hand to look, and the complicated knot of her bracelet is hooked around her finger, and the rigid heart of Rapunzel’s is there, too. Cassandra breathes, staring at them with a dumbfounded look as if she can't believe she found them; she swims back to the shore without another thought, and tossed the bracelets on the grass as she hauls herself up.

“And what are you going to do with those?” The Enchanted Girl asks with genuine interest, a brow cocked as she circled the bracelets; she stops when she faces Cassandra, and the woman doesn't react, raking her fingers through her wet blue hair.

“I thought I lost you underwater.” Cassandra decides to say, unable to decide on much else, she wasn't sure what she wanted to do with them.

“You can't lose me, Cassandra.”

Cassandra just shifts to sit on her knees, picking up the two bracelets whilst ignoring the ghost and she's feeling something new; remorse, triumph, hate, adoration. Her back soon quickly curls and her head is buried against her legs with the bracelets clutched to her chest, now faced with something so real, it was hard to decide. She thinks, and her sight shielded from the lagoon helps, the dark helps.

It's both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply. She relies on it even when she's not sure, because the uncertainty is frustrating, so great she wants to bare her teeth and drive her sword into the ground and feel it writhe. She wants to cut what she creates, and wants to rid of what she was given.

She's torn between love and hate, signals that she was cared for and signals that she was ignored. Rapunzel showed her so much, with two pairs of bracelets and paintings of them, the Princess moved her to give up so many things, to give up on a dream for herself, to give up winning, to give up a voice.

Cassandra straightens her posture and stares up at the sky, she could feel Rapunzel gazing too.

She dares not look back down at the bracelets now, because it coils around her heart and suffocates her with longing, whilst drowning her with rising waters of rage in her lungs. She wants to break it but knows later she'll want to piece it back together, she tenses up and grits her teeth, she wants to cry but her fear of looking weak stops her.

“I understand what you're feeling.” The Enchanted Girl speaks again, and Cassandra looks at her.

“What?”

“You were a friend of Rapunzel’s, I know betraying her has put a weight of guilt on your shoulder.” She doesn't look sympathetic when she speaks, it's fake, but Cassandra can't tell. “But you have to remember your reason behind it, Rapunzel took so much from you, and you want to fulfill your destiny so I wonder why you're not sure, we both know what needs to be done Cassandra.”

Cassandra's expressionless now, deadpan and looking back down at the bracelets. Such thin leather was easy for her to rip, and she starts to pull the string of both, brows furrowed. This wasn't what needed to be done, but it felt good, snapping the string and releasing the gems; to be breaking the promise of friendship.

She hastily pushes all the gems back into the water as if she can't bear to look at them, but the heart of Rapunzel’s bracelet fits into her palm, she glares, stands up and takes her sword from the Earth; holding the gem in her withered hand and placing the sword against it. She wants no trace, and even despises the fact that shards will remain as she presses the blade against the glass and revels in the satisfying crack.

She hates feeling indifferent, torn between two opposite feelings and she knows she can lock one in and the other out. Cassandra stops herself, because she knows Rapunzel will try, try, and try again to pull her best friend back on their side. But Cassandra’s gaze steels, sprinkling the shards like ashes into the lagoon and she's determined, certain, tired and finally resting with decision.

And pure, she looks at the Enchanted Girl and grins.