A/N: aaaaaa life is just crazy right now folks and i'm very sorry for not having this up earlier but yeah here's a Malora thing. Based off of a scene from M:MoE that I thought was really heartbreaking. Pretty much canon-compliant except for a few minor details that i might have changed without realizing it.
The cracks that you can't see, the ones on the inside, are often the ones that cause the most damage.
It doesn't hurt, she tells herself. It's not meant to hurt. It's not allowed to hurt.
Maleficent doesn't know what's happening anymore. Her life had been...well, it had never been perfect. It would never be perfect. But it was bearable. Perhaps even enjoyable.
Stefan was long gone, dead for years. Aurora was queen of the Moors, and ruled with both wisdom and kindness. She was able to act simply as guardian and protector rather than ruler. Being queen had never quite fit her anyway.
Most importantly to her, she and Aurora were happy together. There were no longer any deeply-buried secrets or long-standing conflicts between them. The human kingdom and the Moors were at peace. And though Maleficent would never truly forgive herself for casting the curse, Aurora did. Aurora was the only human she trusted enough to be herself when they were together. Granted, she trusted Diaval, but they had no reason not to trust each other, as Maleficent had saved his life and he had saved hers in return.
Aurora is a human. As she knows firsthand, it's the nature of most humans to react to anything unfamiliar or different with distrust and wariness at best, and fear at worst- which would quickly turn to hatred. Aurora, perhaps because she had been too naive at the time, had trusted her from the beginning. Maleficent had dismissed it as a lack of both judgement and experience at the time, but this reasoning no longer stood when Aurora continued to trust her even after finding out about the curse.
Their relationship is the best it has ever been. Maleficent, foolishly blinded by unrealistic notions of love, dares to believe that it was possible that this love, these feelings, this thing that had developed between them... could be of a romantic nature.
Clearly, she is wrong. So very, very wrong.
No more than a day after Maleficent at last gains the courage to consider this a possibility, Diaval comes to her bearing news of Phillip's proposal to Aurora.
She goes at once to confront the young queen herself. Her wings, which had never before failed her, feel heavy and numb as she flies to the forest clearing where she knows Aurora will be.
She hopes desperately that Diaval had, for once, been mistaken. She wants nothing more than for Aurora to smile that radiant, beautiful smile of hers and reassure her that no, of course Phillip hadn't been so foolish as to ask for Aurora's hand in marriage. But she knows that the real world is far too broken to uphold such a saccharine fantasy as that.
She can see the elation and nervousness warring for dominance on Aurora's features, she can hear the unease in her voice as she tells Maleficent what she already knew. And she knows she isn't meant to feel this way, she should be happy for her beastie, she shouldn't spoil Aurora's excitement with her selfish emotions, Aurora shouldn't have to be anxious about breaking the news to her for fear of what her reaction might be-
So she does her best to remain just as composed as always. She responds, of course, with the least amount of spite she can muster, and Aurora is just as stubborn as Maleficent knew she'd be, but in the end Maleficent knows she could never bring herself to say no.
And then- had it been a few days later, or a few weeks?- Aurora's asking her to come to dinner with Phillip's family. She knows all too well that her presence is desired neither by the royal family nor the citizens of the kingdom of Ulstead. She knows that it will be torture to spend more than a few minutes, let alone finish an entire meal within the stone walls of a castle rife with iron. But Maleficent can see how anxious Aurora is for her and Phillip's family to get along, and there's a dark voice whispering in her mind that hasn't she caused enough trouble for Aurora already? and can't she do anything right? and she finds herself agreeing to meet King John and Queen Ingrith and "try to behave".
Maleficent does her level best to ignore how every word feels like it's cutting into her skin. She tries, for Aurora's sake and no one else's, to keep her expression neutral and carry on like the thought of Aurora going off and getting married and leaving her doesn't make her want to tear her feathers out. Her feelings are wrong. Selfish. She has to keep them buried deep underneath a facade of indifference, for if Aurora were to discover them now, it would undoubtedly send their already-strained relationship into ruins. As long as she doesn't linger on it for too long, the pain is tolerable. The mask stays on.
The day before they are to travel to Ulstead, she's with Diaval, and he's trying to teach her how to be more friendly and less hostile and it just feels like he's teaching her how not to be herself- then Aurora approaches them, cheeks tinged pink and something that resembles a piece of black cloth clenched in her hand. Aurora says she has something for her, and Maleficent is distracted because she's exhausted from having to maintain a front whenever she's around her little beastie, who used to be the only person with whom she felt she didn't have to put up a front…
Aurora brings out the cloth from where it was partially hidden at her side, and tells Maleficent it's for her horns, and Maleficent's entire body goes ice-cold. Aurora says something else following this, but Maleficent can't hear it, she can't hear anything except for the deafening thud of her own heart beating. It doesn't matter, because she knows what the cloth is for and exactly why she has to wear it.
It's a veil. A way of covering up, of hiding. Maleficent doesn't hide. She is not a coward.
Aurora doesn't want people to see her horns because they frighten people. They make people uncomfortable.
Maleficent has never cared.
She thought Aurora didn't either.
Her head is pounding, her hands are shaking, there are so many emotions swirling inside of her, feeding off of one another and making the edges of her vision go blurry- she feels like an animal.
Maleficent can feel Diaval's gaze on her. She knows, without having to look in his direction, that he's staring at the veil with the same horror she feels.
She thinks she's going to be sick. How could the Aurora that she knew, the one she thought she knew, have changed so much in a matter of days? She thinks back to all the times Aurora has called her beautiful. She remembers Aurora telling her that she doesn't understand why people think she's a fearsome monster, because to Aurora, she'll always be perfect…
Nothing is changing, but everything is. This is the same Aurora, but it's not.
Aurora's gaze grows uncertain. She drops her hand, murmurs that maybe it's a bad idea, and all of Maleficent's anger comes crashing down in one massive wave, leaving only the pain behind. Aurora is clearly distressed. She's too young to have this much weight on her shoulders. None of this is her fault. She cannot be blamed for falling in love or wanting to marry whoever she pleases or trying to put Phillip's family at ease. Maleficent is the one at fault. Aurora wouldn't have to worry so much if she could just put aside her own feelings and be happy for Aurora. That's all she wants, and Maleficent can't even do that for her.
She clenches her jaw. The pain that she's worked so hard to hide over the last few days rises to the surface, threatening to break free. She shouldn't feel this way, has no right to feel this way, not when Aurora only means well.
It's alright, she tells Aurora, struggling to keep her voice even. She holds out her hand and Aurora, after some hesitation, places the veil in it. She doesn't notice the way Maleficent's fingers tremble or the way her knuckles whiten as she closes her fist tightly around it. She doesn't see how something inside Maleficent, something that has been cracked and chipped at and hidden deep, deep down breaks for the last time.
Maleficent knows this is it. She has truly and completely lost Aurora.
It doesn't hurt.
It does hurt. It hurts unbearably. But she can't show it.