The Witch had often wished she had been present when they had torn out the mind of the Advisor. Such things amused her endlessly; the idiotic fear in his eyes would have fed her mood for days.
However, she had been otherwise occupied. But Azkadellia had dreamed of it so many times that it seemed to her that every time she met his dark eyes, she felt a surge of hatred in her veins, thick and viscous, like a crawling infection.
Yet, there was no hatred in his eyes. He had never once mentioned the event, had been operated upon mere days after the end of her possession and had returned almost immediately to the position of royal Advisor. He was brilliant, intelligent, kind and wonderful. She saw the adoration in her sister's eyes as she embraced her friend without a second thought, the way she embraced her.
Every touch of kindness was killing her.
Azkadellia had taken to avoiding people's eyes. They were too honest. At first she had nearly begged for their gaze, for their touch, for their forgiveness. But as the days, the weeks had passed, she had realised that she couldn't have it. She didn't deserve their forgiveness.
And it was in these hideous moments of realisation that she could hear the Witch's voice, like a tickle in her ear, a scraping itch in the back of her mind, taunting and teasing her as the gap between Azkadellia and her family widened.
She flinched away from her mother's touch, almost enjoying the pained look in her purple eyes. She ignored her father's voice; she had even taking to avoiding DG. It was to agonising to be around her.
Azkadellia could still see the dark cloud floating around her sister's face, draining her life away. And every time she saw it, it was like it was suffocating her as well.
Mealtimes were unbearable. Azkadellia sat in silence, eating little, drinking nothing. DG's friends, the rag-tag group of people she had found on her journey, were the only life, the Gale family suffering silently in their misery.
The Tin Man was always watching, always aware of every move that Azkadellia made. She saw that he always sat with DG, constantly protecting. The Viewer was worse still. Every time the Witch spoke, he flinched and Azkadellia's heart raced, terrified of being found out.
But the Advisor was the worst because he completely and utterly ignored what she had done. The pale scar that split his skull didn't even remind him. She wondered sometimes if they had removed the memory when they'd put his brain back in.
She walked at night. Sleep was a fleeting commodity and not one that she cared to indulge in. If she couldn't escape the Witch's whisper when she had all of her senses about her, she didn't particularly want to leave all of her defences down.
So at night she walked the deserted halls of the Finaqua palace, bare feet padding along cold marble halls, the moonlight throwing lingering shadows over the floor. There were few guards, usually only at the entrance doors at there were enough corridors to avoid them. Azkadellia could slip unnoticed into a doorway if anyone passed.
She felt more like a shadow than a person.
Azkadellia moved out to the balcony at the end of the hallway. It was approaching winter in the O.Z. and the air was cooler than was pleasant. But she stepped into the night, letting it caress her skin like Death's touch – patient, knowing, welcoming.
But the presence of another being in her night had scared Death away, fleeing to the shadows until she could welcome him again.
It was the Advisor, his face calm, as though it were perfectly natural to run into another person at this unsociable hour. He leant on the balcony ledge, inclining his head politely.
You ripped out his brain¸ the Witch taunted, You destroyed his mind!
Azkadellia tried to ignore her, for the Advisor was speaking.
"I didn't expect to meet anyone else at this time of night. I hope that I'm not intruding, Highness." He said, smiling slightly. Azkadellia held herself steady, desperate not to wince in front of him.
"No. No, I did not expect anyone either."
"Are you having trouble sleeping?" He asked, his tone friendly, his eyes interested. It repulsed her, the way that he smiled. It was so easy, so free of worry that it made her feel sick to her stomach. She turned her face away, unable to reply.
"DG had nightmares, the first couple of nights after what happened at the Spire." He said conversationally, "I can't say I blame her. It was a heck of a goings-on, wasn't it?"
She still didn't reply, standing awkwardly by the balcony ledge. One hand gripped the stone but it did not provide the anchor she had hoped for. Instead she became completely aware of the ground, so far below. It would be just a few steps, just a few moments and then…
Fingers brushed against her arms and for a moment she wasn't sure whose they were. But her eyes met his.
He hates you! You ruined him! Tortured him!
Azkadellia jerked away from him, the Witch's cackle echoing in her mind, cruel and bitter. The Advisor looked surprised, concern etched on his pale features. She shook her head slightly, brushing her hair out of her face. He tilted his head, watching her closely and then a miniscule smile touched his lips, barely discernible in the moonlight.
"Do you remember, when you were young, when you'd come rushing into my laboratory to see what I'd been inventing?"
Can't invent anymore, not the way he used to. Not with his mind jumbled and damaged…
"You'd always insist on seeing all the blueprints, all the notes I'd made." He was smiling fully now, eyes glazed in memory, "I'd never even show your mother, but you always had a way of getting me to show you."
He regrets it now! The Sunseeder, your grubby little hands examining it, remembering it…
His smile faded as her hands twisted into her hair, tearing at the thoughts. She lurched unsteadily towards the edge of the balcony and he let out a startled shout, seizing her by the arm.
She pulled out of his reach, gripping the balcony with both hands as the Witch screamed with laughter.
"What's wrong?" The Advisor asked, moving towards her again but she turned on him, hating him for being concerned, longing for him to touch her again and wishing that she could bring herself to climb over the balcony and fall.
The Witch's laughter faded at the sound of her name. Azkadellia met the Advisor's eyes, filled with concern. He reached out again but she stepped back.
"Why don't you hate me?" She demanded, the words escaping her lips before she could stop them. That halted him, his face creasing into a frown.
Her arms slid around her waist, hugging herself as her breath came raggedly, trying desperately to ignore the Witch as she hissed. The Advisor was staring at her, his eyes no longer filled with concern but with an emotion that she could not recognise. She licked her cracking lips.
"I destroyed you. I tore out your mind and used it to destroy the world." She spoke with a bitterness that felt terrible in its naturalness. He did not speak, watching her closely. She turned, putting her hands back on the balcony.
"Don't look at me like that!"
"Like what?" He asked quietly and Azkadellia looked over her shoulder at him.
"With pity. Don't pity me. Don't look at me! Don't… don't even acknowledge me! If you have to do anything, just hate me!"
He does hate you!
"How could I hate you?" The Advisor asked, genuinely confused by the question, "It wasn't you, Azkadellia. It was the Witch."
We are the same!
"We…" Azkadellia's voice faded as he stepped towards her. "We tortured you."
"The Witch tortured me." He said calmly. "Not you, Azkadellia."
"We removed half of your brain!"
"No…" He shook his head, not taking his eyes from hers, "No, Azkadee. Not you."
"We would have destroyed the world, given half a chance!" She shouted, stepping towards him, "We were going to block out the suns and we were going to use you to do it! So hate me!"
Her fist flew out at him but he caught it, bringing it down. She tried to wrench away but couldn't move, his grip too strong.
"Hate me!" She cried again, "Why won't you hate me?"
"You forget." He said and his voice was strangely cool, "I knew you as a child Azkadellia, and you were honest. You were brave, you were loving. You were good."
"I'm evil." She hissed, "I'm wicked. You must hate me."
"I won't ever hate you."
She fell still, but he did not relinquish his grip on her hand. His eyes had softened, as he looked her in the face.
"I could never hate you, Azkadellia." He said quietly, "Nor will I pity you. Do you want me to forgive you?"
"I want you to hate me." She whispered and was repulsed to find herself on the verge of tears as the Witch crooned in her ear. He shook his head.
"No. Hating you would be too easy and would not help either one of us. I want to forgive you."
"I forgive you." And his arms were around her, holding her struggling form, refusing to give her a chance to run.
She wanted to hit him, to hurt him, to force him to hate her, but he was strong. Too strong, she fell still in his embrace, trembling under his kindness.
The Witch was silent. Azkadellia felt light-headed, almost nauseous. For the first time in fifteen annuals, she was the only person in her head. All her senses were on edge, the cold air sending her into shock as she leant against the Advisor's frame, his hands holding her tightly.
Tears were on her cheeks. They were wet and salty and tickled as they fell from her face onto the light cloth of his coat. His embraced tightened as he felt them fall, his cheek pressed against her hair, devastatingly human as he spoke her name.
A/N: I've been working/struggling on a multi-chapter Az/Glitch story but it just wasn't coming together. Then I realised that what I really wanted to write in that story could be done in a one shot, so here it is! Let me know what you think.