A one shot of The Ancient Magus' Bride taking place shortly before chapter 38: The Darkest Hour is that before the Dawn. Originally posted on tumblr but since my other fic is taking longer than I anticipated with school coming into full swing I figured I should probably put a little something up in the meantime.

The Ancient Magus Bride belongs to Kore Yamazaki

Elias didn't consider himself to be vain, he understood and appreciated beauty but saw it as secondary at best. Regardless, he hated looking at Chise's poor arm. Yet he couldn't look away.

It dug into her skin gnarled and angry like a cancer setting roots into the bones and blood of the small girl it had latched onto. From what he could see in Chise's body language the arm hurt every bit as badly as it looked. From time to time she would raise it in the wrong way or bump into something or other and wince harshly as her face became flush. She couldn't even put clothes on normally as the hand at the end was too large to fit into sleeves. Silky had fortunately taken it upon herself to fashion sleeveless shirts that Chise could unbutton easily and cloaks to cover her shoulders in the cold. She was now in sleeveless pajamas Silky had finished earlier that evening, arranging herself on Elias' bed so as not to disrupt her blistering arm.

There was, of course, the practical reason that Chise had now begun sleeping with him every night. Her coughing fits would often worsen in the night and Elias would rush her to the washroom, hopefully catching her distress before blood started fighting its way up her stomach and lungs, all while comforting her in any way he could. The other less practical reason was that Elias found he wanted to be near her for as long as possible.

Time was rarely a scarce commodity among the fae and he had never before been an exception. But now, he felt as though the clock mocked him with every tick of its hands. The sleigh beggy's life had always been on a timer, but before he had foolishly believed that through his studying and talent he could eventually stop those hands. Now the clock bore down on him feeling both quick as a whip and slow as molasses as he waited for the inevitable. Before when her ring broke everything had happened so quickly, there was no time to even comprehend the situation. Now he had all too much time to ruminate on exactly what had happened. What was going to happen. And just how much he had failed.

He watched her now, lying beside him on her right flank, thinking of everything he could have done differently or shouldn't have done at all. He should've been the one to absorb the dragon's magic. He should have never come up with that plan. He should have rejected the college's plea for help with their own mistakes. He shouldn't have ran away when she had tried to comfort him in his jealousy. He shouldn't have let her make the blessed salve. He shouldn't have brought her on the church's menial errands before she knew any magic. He should have warned her about the aerials. He shouldn't have taken her as his-.

That was the first time that particular thought had entered his mind. He thought about all the misfortune she had faced in her short time in England. Each day had brought her with some new misery from the world of magic. He had taken her in for selfish reasons when he really thought about it. And she was the one who suffered.

"Elias?" Chise's voice calm but laced with concern brought him out of his musings. Her eyes bore into his own with none of the malice that he had become accustomed to from fae or human alike. Rather, she wore a look of gentle worry.

"Is something wrong? You look like you're feeling sad." Elias stared at her. Was this what sadness felt like? Regret and hopelessness coalescing into a dense weight in his chest making the very act of breathing laborious? That seemed appropriate. Without even thinking about it this enigmatic girl had once again taught him more about himself in the span of a second. And yet in the months she'd been there he'd only really taught her how to get into trouble. He reaped all the rewards and she fell all the labor. No matter how he considered it that seemed unbearably cruel.

"I…" he mumbled struggling to voice the feelings and thoughts swimming within, "Chise…do you…do you regret coming here?"

Chise's eyes widened as she sat up at the question. "Why would you say that?" She responded bewildered.

Elias immediately regretted the question, the last thing he wanted was to upset her. He stared down at his hands in his lap for a moment before breathing deeply.

"Since you've come here…you have been faced with danger, harassment, injury and now…death. Perhaps if you'd never come here, or even," the words seem to catch in his throat, "if someone else had bought you, you could have experienced a safe life." He tried to picture it now, the girl going to school like any other her age. Concerns no greater than a difficult exam.

Chise's small hand gripped onto the side of Elias' palm. His fingers reflexively curled around hers as he looked at her. She was facing downwards, her mouth a thin line and her brow furrowed slightly in silent contemplation. Her shoulders hunched briefly then relaxed as she met his gaze.

"Elias, I told you before that until recently I…didn't want to live. But I don't think I told you…just how close I was." She gripped his hand tighter, her body tensing again. "Had Mr. Noel came to me even a minute later than he did…" her breath hitched briefly but she swallowed and continued, "Well…I wouldn't have been able to live a safe life, to put it mildly." She gave him a strange smile and an awkward chuckle, trying desperately to make light of the terrifying event she was describing. Elias opened his jaw but nothing came out. Even a minute later…

"As for someone else buying me," She continued apparently afraid she would lose her voice if she paused too long, "given that I'm a sleigh beggy and all, I doubt I would have been in good hands. More likely I would have been just a battery. And I would have been content with that. I just…wanted to be wanted so badly. I was ready and even a little happy to give up any ownership of my life I had left as long as I wasn't rejected. I never dared to imagine I'd be so lucky as to find an actual family." She leaned against his side her eyes growing distant.

"But since the beginning, you welcomed me in. It may have been with an agenda at the time, but to be honest when you explained your plan to me I couldn't help but think that your ultimate plan was 'if I treat her well hopefully she'll come to like me' kind of like a kid wanting to make a friend but with only a vague idea how to do so." She let out a small laugh, "Since I've come here, yes somethings have been troublesome, but my life has always been troublesome. All those things you mentioned are things I faced long before I came here. But now I've learned to deal with them, to not just let things happen to me but to make them happen for me." She lifted her dragon scarred hand, turning it over as she observed it. "Even if I make stupid mistakes more often than not." Elias winced and she chuckled.

"I've even been able to help some people along the way." Her voice grew quiet. "I've learned so much in such a short time here…it finally felt like…I had a life I wanted to live…" a small sniff escaped her. "Even if…even if I don't make it…I'm so glad that I got to have a life worth living even for a little while."

She looked him square in the eye, tears prickling at her lashes. "So no, I don't regret coming here at all."

Elias suddenly found that having her sit next to him simply wasn't enough. He gently took her into his arms and placed her on his lap. Chise didn't object, she barely even seemed surprised. Instead, she nestled herself into Elias' chest as he hugged her closely wary of her arm. He brought his snout down and held it against her forehead wanting to embrace her as much as possible. She returned the gesture, her eyes heavy with sleep and emotion gazing softly at him.

For a moment they sat there quietly, their breathing slow and in sync. Perhaps it was selfish, but Elias wanted to stay like this until time ran out. Eventually, Elias switched off the bed lamp and pulled the quilt up to Chise's waist. He quickly resumed his embrace, one hand grasping the back of her head stroking her hair with the other gently placed on her stomach with Chise's small fingers interwoven within.

"Elias?" She said drowsiness thick in her voice as she tucked herself closer to his chest.

"Mmm?" he responded drinking in the warmth she radiated.

"Do you regret buying me?"

He thought for a moment on the months in which the faes' Robin had made herself at home and tried to recall if there truly was a time that would have felt better without her there.

Elias nuzzled his snout against Chise's forehead. "Not for a second."