(A/N) - Firstly, a big thank you to DissectingPomegranates (formerly LongVodka) for ping-ponging ideas and urging me on. I nearly killed this. Felt like starting over completely, actually. Also, thank you so much to my reviewers - sorry about the last alert if you got it - I had posted the chapter but after having it up for about five hours I pulled it, and I'm glad I did. I'm a lot happier with this, please forgive any mistakes, I'm going to give it another look later but I've been staring at it for too long to see straight right now. Urgh. xP ENJOY!
- No Regrets -
"Enlighten me, Miss Drill. Exactly how long were you planning on watching as Mildred dangled in midair before you deigned to do something about it?"
"You arrived seconds after I did, and besides, I'm not a witch, so there was nothing I could do about it."
"You've got two legs, haven't you?" Constance snapped irritably, "And a voice? Perhaps you could've run to fetch us?"
"Constance, there's no use arguing," Miss Cackle eased, gripping her deputy's forearm reassuringly, "Mildred's safe, no harm done."
The witch reluctantly tore her annoyed gaze away from the sports mistress and strode over to sit in her usual chair at the staffroom table. Imogen crossed the room and sat beside her.
"You yourself said that we can't keep an eye on Mildred all the time," the blonde muttered under her breath as she poured herself some tea.
"I didn't blame you for how she got there - I blamed you for not running for help straight away!"
"Constance, enough!" Amelia barked, and Constance immediately fell silent, staring at her empty cup as she waited for Imogen who, much to her surprise, took Constance's cup from her hands and poured the tea for her.
"I'm sorry, all right?" Imogen admitted, "But you should be sorry too for getting cross with me for not completing a task which I had no time to perform."
Constance stared, lips pursed at her cup of tea, taking a sip and burning her tongue but she didn't seem to care.
"Well?" Imogen asked.
"Oh, Constance," Amelia sighed, "Just say you're sorry and we can put this all behind us."
Constance rolled her eyes with a huff, "Fine. I'm sorry I care too much about the wellbeing of our students to take time into account when one could've alerted another in five seconds flat."
"You're welcome," Imogen accepted in a sarcastic tone; she obviously just wanted the argument to end, whether Constance wanted it to or not. She saw the witch open her mouth to further protest the sports mistress's behavior, but Miss Cackle cleared her throat and gave her a look, and the raven-haired witch ended it.
Constance was overseeing the girls as they ate their dinner, pacing in her usual manner like a leopard stalking back and forth in a cage at the zoo. She was particularly irritated today due to the argument she'd had with Imogen earlier, and she found herself watching and hoping that one of the girls would try something so that she could release her anger the only way she knew how : shouting at an unnecessary volume.
She turned on her heel, stalking her way towards the door when Imogen burst into the room, looking rather annoyed. She raised a brow at the non-witch as she walked, but said nothing, and turned on her heel to walk the other way.
"Where is it?" Imogen growled, dangerously close to her and she stopped in her steps, turning to face her.
"Where is what?"
"You know what," she said icily, unflinching.
"Your drama props? I transported them to the sports shed."
"I saw that," she argued, "I mean the canvas. It's not there."
"You mean the one with the hole in it?" she asked, toying with the blonde.
"Did you throw it out, then?"
Constance's brown eyes glanced over to the girls, Mildred and her friends, who were sitting closest to them. They quickly averted their curious eyes to their plates. The potions mistress sighed, looking to the witch and nodding her head over her shoulder, gesturing her to follow and she reluctantly obeyed.
She passed all of the tables and climbed the short steps onto the stage, snatching one of the many silver keys from her waist and jamming it into the door, twisting it and pulling it open.
She held the door open for the non-witch, who entered without any prior hesitation or concerns. Constance made sure to shoot a glare at Mildred, who was peering at them over her shoulder. She slammed the door shut behind her.
"You ... fixed it." Imogen said in disbelief, running her hand along the canvas where her student's head had previously punctured through.
Constance folded her arms tightly to her body, watching with a veiled smile as the non-witch as she marveled at her handiwork.
"I'm sorry," she breathed in relief, glancing apologetically at her, "I was afraid you'd thrown it out or ... blasted it to smithereens ..."
"Because I am that cruel, aren't I?" Constance said in disgust.
"No, because it was pretty much trash to begin with ..." she said, taking a few steps back to get a better look at it, her arm accidentally brushing against the witch's but she took no notice.
"I painted it myself," Imogen admitted finally with shame.
Constance was surprised, "Really?" she asked, looking to the painting with new eyes. She'd originally thought she was just saving something of Imogen's, not something that the non-witch herself had created ...
Imogen nodded, glancing at the witch before turning to her creation, "It was part of my drama course I took over the summer. Stage design. I'd never painted before in my life, and it's obvious."
"I like it ..." Constance managed in a small voice, quite unlike herself, and it caused the non-witch to look over at her in puzzlement.
"I mean, it's much better than I could ever do ..."
"Well have you ever tried?"
"No, of course not."
"Then you never know," she offered with a small smile, looking back to her canvas, "The instructor said I failed to show the illusion of depth. Everything's much too bright, she said, foreground and background. It's hard to tell which is closer and which is further away."
"So what exactly did you do wrong?" Constance asked, brows furrowed as she failed to notice what was so bad about it.
"I should've made everything in the distance darker," she explained, "Things often look brighter in the foreground and darker in the background."
"Sounds more like an opinion to me," Constance scoffed.
"Well it is in the way of paintings ..."
"I see ..." Constance said, but she didn't appear convinced.
The more she looked at it, the more she found herself appreciating it. On the left, Imogen depicted a grassy hillside with flowers and sunlight ... the right, a winter wonderland, icicles hanging off the dead leaves and reeds along the frozen riverbed ... it seemed familiar somehow ...
She blushed as she realized the possibly unintentional representation of their two opposite natures. Hugging her stomach tight, she felt someone watching her, and she looked to her left, where Imogen stood.
Immediately, her green eyes flew back to the painting, pretending to be busied by simply admiring it.
"I do regret what happened, you know," Constance found herself saying before she could stop herself.
Imogen turned to look at her, expression indifferent but she could still read the hurt in her eyes as she locked her gaze on her, hoping that she could convey how she truly felt without having to go into much detail and convince the younger woman that she was indeed sorry.
"For several obvious reasons, I regret it. But ... I want you to know that it is nothing personal ..."
Imogen nodded shortly, looking to her feet, "Did you only kiss me because you drank that potion or ..." she stopped, the question itself seemed to cause her pain, and she had a look on her face like she didn't want to hear her answer for she knew it probably wouldn't be one she would want to hear ...
"No," Constance said truthfully, causing the woman to snap her head up and look at her, but the witch did not meet her eyes. She instead locked her gaze on a corner of the painting, the spring side.
"I wanted to ..." she couldn't bring herself to even say the words 'kiss you', so she left it at that, her entire body trembling slightly as she allowed her arms to fall to her waist, her fingers picking at her cuticles in her anxiety.
She felt so incredibly vulnerable at that point, the walls of the backstage area seemed to be closing in on her. Her breathing became shallow, and she wanted nothing more than to take it back, to take everything back, every touch, every look, every word ...
And then, she broke her thoughts, shattering them into pieces and blowing them all away with a simple touch ... her tan hand gently brushed her pale skin, and she took her hand in her own, her thumb rubbing against her knuckles in reassurance.
Brown eyes glassy with tears, she looked up at her, still too afraid to do or say anything except look at her.
The younger woman smiled back, reaching up her other hand to stroke her cheek. The touch caused her to jump slightly, involuntarily, but she soon leaned into the touch as she closed the space between them.
All her senses seemed incredibly heightened at this point. The scent of her perfume, the feeling of her skin against hers ... even, annoyingly enough, the chatter of the students as they ate their dinner in the next room.
The girls' shouting began to get louder, whether it literally was or it was just in Constance's mind, she couldn't be entirely sure, but it was getting on her nerves and she felt the all-too-familiar impulse to teleport and check on them right away.
"I should really ... it's nothing against you," she assured quickly, squeezing her hand, "It's just ..."
Imogen nodded in understanding, her warm tan fingers slipping from her gentle grasp, but she did not move away. Instead she got closer to the witch, pressing her up against the wooden wall.
Constance's breathing became shallow as she stared into the deep green eyes of the blonde before her, her own brown eyes a mixture of fear and anticipation.
Imogen was trembling now, the closeness affecting her boldness as she stared back, fingers awkwardly gripping black satin-covered shoulders as her eyes glanced longingly at her lips.
Constance's hands, which had somehow ended up around her waist, pulled her nearer, her thumbs running in gentle circles along the non-witch's back. Their breath intermingled but neither one seemed ready to make the final move that would bring their lips together at last.
"Imogen ..." Constance managed finally in a hoarse whisper, looking positively heartbroken.
Anchoring her fingers into the silky fabric, Imogen closed the rest of the space between them and captured her lips in hers.
She went gently and carefully at first, so feather light that Constance was barely aware it had even happened, her eyes open to watch for any negative reaction and thankfully, there was none. Constance didn't react at all at first, too dazed to realize this was actually happening. She soon let her guard down and kissed back, her fingers grasping fistfuls of her t-shirt.
Emboldened by the touch, Imogen deepened the kiss, eliciting a soft moan from the witch. Constance reached up and ran her hand through that short blonde hair, finally getting to know how it felt between her fingers.
Somewhere in the dining hall, a plate fell and shattered, followed by gasps, hushed whispers and giggles, along with the shuffling of benches as the girls hurried to clean it up before the teachers came back.
The two teachers broke contact immediately once that plate hit the floor, but they did not rush to the scene just yet. Constance was torn, her instinct to be there when trouble occurred setting her nerves on fire, yet she could not bring herself to release Imogen entirely.
"You should go," Imogen said quietly with a soft encouraging smile, giving the brunette one last kiss on her lips.
Constance couldn't bring herself to speak once they finally parted. All she could do was nod, her face blank as she seemed to fully comprehend what had just happened here, and already she was mentally kicking herself for allowing such a thing to happen.
She breathed deeply, straightening her silky dress and casting a spell upon herself and Imogen to remove all their tell-tale signs. The blonde appeared both grateful and disheartened at this as she followed the witch out into the great hall, which had instantly become silent at their sudden appearance.
"Alright then, who broke what?" Constance barked, her usual cold demeanor returning at the drop of a hat along with her strength and confidence. Imogen strode casually across the stage and exited through the side door, and it took so much self control for Constance not to steal a final glance at her.
Miss Hardbroom shut the doors to the infirmary, the stress of her tiring day crashing down on her all at once as she ascended the short steps up to the main hallway. She was trying so hard to grasp exactly what happened earlier ... did Imogen only kiss her in retaliation for the kiss she'd given her the night before? Or had she really meant it? More importantly, did Constance herself really mean to kiss Imogen in the first place? Sure, she told her she meant it ... but did she?
And if she did, what was to become of them? They were never friends ... they could barely stand one another. It wasn't exactly an easy foundation for them to go off from - enemies to ... lovers? The word in her mind sounded so foreign. Forget being found out by anyone - the suggestion alone that they might be having relations with one another would surely send anyone into a fit of hysterics.
The sound of Imogen's voice caused her to involuntarily blush, a shiver running down her spine as she instinctively turned to face her.
The non-witch looked as uneasy as the witch must've looked, perhaps even more so now that she had to face the woman that was just on her mind.
"How's Mildred?" Imogen asked, and Constance's brow furrowed in confusion.
"Sorry," Imogen apologized immediately, "I saw you take her off to the sick bay ..."
That irked Constance. She must've been so furious with the girl that she hadn't noticed the non-witch watching her ... perhaps she wasn't as aware of her surroundings as she thought she was.
"She tried to magick a plate back together and she cut herself," she explained briefly, "She's fine. Miss Hawthorne's patching her up."
Imogen nodded, "Good," but she still stood there, hands in her pockets as she looked to her shoes.
An awkward silence fell between them, and she filled it immediately, "If you'll excuse me ..." she turned to leave but Imogen rushed up beside her, instinctively reaching out to touch her arm.
Constance stopped in her tracks and looked down at her hand, and she withdrew it immediately.
"I dismissed the girls already," Imogen explained, "I hope you don't mind, it was getting close to the usual time anyway and I thought ..."
"It's fine." Constance assured, allowing a soft smile to grace her lips briefly, "Thank you."
"No problem," Imogen replied quietly, flashing a nervous grin but it too faded quickly, "Constance, about earlier ..."
The witch silenced her with a slight shake of her head and a fearful gaze, and in the next moment the girls filed out of the great hall. She looked down the hallway towards the noise and watched as they passed and headed up the stairs to bed, too caught up in conversation to notice the two teachers hidden away in the shadows.
"Remember what you said earlier ... about regrets?"
Constance looked over to her, brown eyes glittering in the darkness but she said nothing.
"I don't regret it," Imogen said honestly, shaking her head, "Kissing you ..." she drifted off with a blush, but her eyes wouldn't leave hers, "I don't regret it one bit. I don't think I ever will." She let out a short humorless laugh before looking down at her feet again, regaining her composure before looking back up at the witch.
The witch stood in stunned silence, barely aware that the non-witch had slipped past her.
"Imogen ..." she managed quietly, and she thought she hadn't heard but she must've, for she turned around.
Constance didn't know what to say. Half of her wanted to shout at the woman for being so foolish and the other half wanted to snatch her up and kiss her senseless ... but she decided on neither. For once in her life, she didn't want to over-think this and blow things out of proportion - she'd have time for that later. For now, she reacted as if the blonde had said nothing at all out of the ordinary.
"Goodnight, Imogen." She said politely, and folded her arms, vanishing into thin air.
(A/N)- Review? I'm currently working on the next chapter.