Author's Note: This is my first time writing fanfiction for Shakespeare, so feedback is appreciated. The title comes from a line in Act 3, Scene 2, and the narration here starts immediately after that scene. I wrote this in modern language, because I didn't think anyone deserved to suffer through me attempting to sound Elizabethan.
Disclaimer: I'm definitely not Shakespeare, just a person with a school computer and too much spare time on their hands.
Helena never thought Hermia would betray her. And the irony was that Helena herself had wished for this.
It was hard to hate Hermia. She was everything Helena wasn't, everything she wanted to be. Hermia was beautiful and brave enough to live in this world. Helena thought of herself as being neither of those things. Hermia was fiery, standing up for herself against all the people who wanted to control her, but at the same time, there was something fragile about her, something that made Helena want to protect her, to hold on to her and never let go.
It was hard to hate Hermia. It was harder to love her.
They'd known each other all their lives, but it was months ago when things finally changed. In retrospect, things had been leading up to it for years. Slowly, Helena had begun to realize how little she knew about Hermia – and how much more she wanted to know her. As a young teenager, Helena had been overwhelmed by questions – What does Hermia think about when we're together? Why am I so suddenly jealous when she talks about her suitors? I am in no hurry to be married, and seek not her place. What is this feeling I have, that I want to be so close to her for all my life?
The more Helena tried to put these questions out of her mind, the more powerful and plentiful they returned; in droves, to haunt her like swarming ghosts. And when she saw how serious things had gotten between Lysander and Hermia – the way they spoke around each other, the secret looks they shared – the intricately structured denial she had built her world around came crashing down on her. Too late she realized she preferred the questions to the answer they left in their stead:
I'm in love with her.
She didn't know how it could be. She had never heard of such a thing, a woman in love with another woman. It didn't make sense. But it explained so much.
With that realization had come the strangest feeling, like she was sinking, or like something vital inside her had suddenly disappeared. There was no way she could be with Hermia, or even explain this to her. Helena couldn't cope with that feeling – she'd never felt so far from her best friend. She didn't know what to do – to try and sort out her thoughts or just get rid of them. She was left absolutely directionless. Deciding she had to be alone, she had politely excused herself from the conversation and gone out to get some air.
She walked until she couldn't walk any further, then she fell to the ground. She started to cry. She cried and listened to herself, and to the wind. It was cold against her skin – she was grateful. It served to draw some attention away from the gaping hole inside her. And with nobody present to critique her behavior, she cried openly, not bothering to even attempt to try to control herself, just letting her body do as it wanted. Like it wasn't her, just the natural flow of energy, part of the earth running through her. The wind rustled the leaves, the grass. It sounded almost like…
Footsteps. Helena couldn't bring herself to look up until a gentle hand was placed on her trembling shoulder. Her eyes met Hermia's – celestially dark and full of concern Helena didn't deserve.
No Lysander. Just Hermia.
They started talking, like they'd always done – best friends. Hermia was holding her. Hermia had always been the strong one. Somehow, Helena was telling her everything.
But Hermia didn't let go. Neither of them did. They were holding each so tightly, the world trying to pull them apart but still they held on. Suddenly, Hermia was kissing her, her soft, warm lips pressed against the other woman's. Helena sank into it.
She didn't know if there was a word for what happened that day. It had been so natural, like they were a part of the world, so alive. She wanted to shout her love up to the heavens, but knew they would have to keep this a secret. What she didn't know was why.
Questions. Once again, questions.
Instinct was probably the prettiest word for what had transpired between them. They made such an odd juxtaposition: Hermia and Helena. Helena still didn't understand it. And, judging from the way Hermia had quickly gone back to Lysander, behaving as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened between herself and her best friend, neither did she. But they'd done nothing wrong – Helena was sure of this. What she'd felt had been so strong, so good, so much larger than herself… it couldn't be wrong. How could the purest, happiest moment of her life have been wrong?
She'd thrown herself at Demetrius, thrown herself into trying to experience the same feeling for him. Throwing herself into an artificial emotion like it was a river. But something always prevented her from
She should have known Hermia would betray her. Helena had betrayed Hermia so many times recently, for the sake of a manufactured love.
It was all Helena's fault. For not being able to keep quiet, to be braver, to control her love.
So she tried, and failed, to hate Hermia for saving her from drowning.