Disclaimer: Nothing's mine but the plot! AGATB and all characters belong to Libba Bray!

Not So Long

Once, long ago, Pippa Cross knew what it was like to feel.

Once, long ago, Pippa Cross knew what it was like to hurt- to feel betrayed by her dreadful, society-driven mother as she encountered suitor after suitor.

Once, long ago, Pippa Cross feared that she would never know love, and that would be simply awful and horrid and utterly impossible. She was beautiful- everyone told her so. So what was that tiny speck of doubt?

PGBR

"He's so perfectly vile, Fee," Pippa sobbed, her voice muffled by the pillow. "And his name- Pippa Bumble! Could you imagine?"

"He's certainly no knight," Felicity replied, her voice somewhat lack-luster. "And no gentleman, either- I half expected him to stroll over and inquire as to directions to your face."

Pippa laughed shortly. "Oh, he noticed my face, I assure you he did. " She spat the words, and felt the mattress vibrate with Fee's mild shock at her uncharacteristic malice. "If it weren't for my face I don't suppose he'd have bothered attending at all. Mother would love that."

"Men are boars," Felicity replied nastily, and when Pippa glanced up, she was staring at the wall, her lip curled into a sneer. "Promise me you'll never fall in love, Pip."

"Oh, Fee," Pippa murmured, rolling onto her back and staring up at her vibrant best friend. "Life should be so terribly dull without it, don't you think? Love?"

"Then don't fall in love with a man," Fee replied, her tone becoming infinitely warmer as she gazed down into Pippa's violet orbs.

Pippa's forehead crinkled into an adorable pout as she contemplated Felicity's words. "What other choice do I have?" she asked curiously.

"Sappho certainly seemed to have the right idea," Felicity replied, wagging her eyebrows devilishly at the slight, beautiful girl.

Pippa blushed a lovely shade of fuchsia and pulled her knees to her chest. "Oh Fee, you're awful!" she cried, squeezing her eyes closed and giggling despite herself.

"You should stay away from me, then," Felicity murmured, and Pippa frowned- Felicity was constantly teasing her like this and usually basked in Pippa's indignant reactions. "I may defile you."

Shocked but still somewhat convinced that Felicity was playing an awful joke on her, Pippa laughed hesitantly. "How could you ever defile me, Fee?" she asked, latching onto Felicity's arm and gazing up at the blonde girl. "You don't even have a detestable surname, let alone his awful mannerisms and foul body odor."

"Pippa Worthington," Felicity mused, her playfulness having returned for the time being. "It suits you."

Giggling, Pippa pulled away and aimed a playful slap at Felicity, but instantly settled back against the blonde's shoulder, wrapping both her arms around Felicity's one. "More than Bumble, at least," she stated.

Felicity ran her long, gentle fingers through the soft, obsidian ringlets, staring everywhere and nowhere all at once, her silver eyes glazed over with something new. "More than anything."

PGBR

Once, long ago, Pippa Cross knew what it felt to be loved.

Once, long ago, Pippa Cross knew what it was like to be held and cherished for who she was, not who they saw.

Once, long ago, Pippa Cross had laid in the arms of her best friend and true love and truly believed that the world would stop for them.

Pippa whimpered as Felicity stood, setting her gently on the emerald grass, and Felicity had turned back for a moment and placed a tender kiss on her lips (warm, soft, cherry-flavoured) before waltzing over to the edge of the forest.

"Fee, what are you-" Pippa's words caught in her throat as Felicity placed a crown of daisies over the dark curls, kneeling before her in her chain-mail.

Slowly, Felicity lifted Pippa's hand and placed a kiss on the soft palm before raising her beautiful, lively blue eyes to Pippa's, and the smaller girl couldn't help but giggle. Felicity was always the knight, even in their childhood, when they would play Rescue the Princess. She had never let anyone else be the knight, and secretly Pippa was glad.

"May I have this dance?" Felicity asked, a smile playing at the corner of her pale lips.

Pippa blushed modestly and looked up at Felicity- all of her insecurities seemed to vanish around the girl who had become her prince. "You may," she replied curtly, playing the part, though her eyes were smiling- they never had for anyone else. It had always been Fee, and it would only ever be Fee.

Felicity whisked her off her feet and placed her hands delicately on Pippa's waist, and Pippa allowed her arms to rest around Felicity's shoulders as her knight whisked her around the enchanted clearing.

Pippa loved the Realms- her life was so utterly dank and miserable and gray in comparison. And here, they were free to love each other. Here, Pippa was free to fall into Felicity's gentle, loving embrace.

And Felicity loved her like no one ever had or ever would. In Felicity's arms, Pippa finally felt beautiful and appreciated for all she was, not simply for her beauty. Felicity had always been adamant that she was so much more than a mindless pretty face. In Felicity's eyes, Pippa knew she was truly beautiful.

Eventually, the dance came to an end as Gemma's brash, obnoxious voice rang through the trees, calling for Felicity. Pippa tensed momentarily as all the old fear and jealousy began to rush back. While she was trapped in the Realms, Ann and Gemma were constantly in Felicity's company, a luxury that Pippa was no longer allowed.

Why was it that every day without Felicity passed like a year, and every moment with her moved in rhythm to her ever-increasing heartbeat?

Pippa's muscles relaxed as Felicity ran her fingers down her slender sides and she looked up, blushing as she caught Felicity admiring her slight yet noticeable curves. Red-faced, Felicity took a step back, smiling bashfully at Pippa. "Tomorrow?" Pippa asked, already longing for the absent touch.

"I shan't allow Gemma to rest until I see you again," Felicity murmured, raising her hands through Pippa's hair and cradling her pale face lovingly before leaning forward and planting the tenderest kiss on Pippa's lips before pulling away and calling back to Gemma. "I'll be just another moment!"

But already Pippa could hear the sound of Ann's heavy footsteps through the brush and she could just make out a flash of bold, unabashed red that signified Gemma's impending presence.

Instinctively, Felicity pulled away and Pippa's lips pursed into a pout- how was it that she could spend a lifetime (and what was that, now?) in Fee's arms and still the contact would end just a moment too soon?

PGBR

"Pip! Pip!"

Her desperate plea rang through her head like Ms. Nightwing's infamous lectures, repeating itself as the scene played over and over again in Felicity's head.

Pippa, sinking into the ground with that mad expression. Pippa, screaming for all who could hear that she was the way- she was the way.

"Make it stop," she whimpered, clutching her head- she had never felt so weak and powerless, nor had she ever cared so little. "Make it stop."

And then it did, mercifully, but another scene began to play itself out, and if possible, this scene was even more unwelcome than the first.

A wall of flames surrounded them, lapping angrily at their sides. A horrid, wet spot on her cheek as Bessie spat at her. Pippa, jerking in her seizure. Pippa, offering her the berries. Pippa, pulling her into a final, fiery kiss.

"Pip," Felicity moaned softly- she couldn't remember the last time she had cried, and she had certainly never cried so much, perhaps in her entire life.

She had never thought to say the words- it had always seemed utterly ridiculous to point out what was already so dreadfully obvious.

I love you.

PGBR

Once, not so long ago, there lived a beautiful princess who lay in wait, dreaming of the day that her prince would rescue her from the dragon's keep.

And once, not so long ago, the princess fell from grace, bruised and corrupted, right before the eyes of that very prince.

And impossible as it may seem, once, not so long ago, the princess had believed that maybe- no, certainly- those three words could break the spell.

I love you.