He had come to a full stop, seeing the half-buried sword Gerda had left by the door, and swept it up, barely fumbling at the weight. The puzzle was immortal, as things of great power usually were, and this was to be the completion of the contract.

The sword blazed hot as he rushed back into the room, towards the storming Queen, with a thousand mirror shards manipulated by her anger and winds.

"Kay!" Gerda shouted, and he saw the witch's arms open wide. But Lumi was not his target. He dropped to one knee and drove the sword deep into the reforming mirror's heart, where he had sat as a child and been stolen from through promises he didn't understand. Lumi recovered quickly, snarling; her face terrible in anger. He scrambled backwards and Gerda rushed to pull him off the floor and through the ice pillar wreckage one of her angels had left. Running, with her dragging him by the hand, he could look back and see firsthand the impact of the sword.

Beneath its blade came a spreading red-orange crack in the ice, etching itself into the floor with an aim to permanence that would not be thwarted –

They rounded the corner then, the actual sword and Lumi lost to sight, but the crack followed. A growing heat came from the floor and cold shrank from it, melted on contact, and the stalactites on each mighty arch began to fall as the temperature of the sword met the Snow Queen's domain.

Kay moved independently now, motivated by fear, and Gerda recognized this, letting go of his shoulder. Her angels rushed behind and before them, dispatching Lumi's guards and keeping Lumi at bay with such ease that he wondered how it had taken her so long to come for him. The moment they crossed the threshold, tearing out into the wind-swept courtyard like bats from a belfry, one of the angels slammed the great doors behind them. It wouldn't hold long, in Kay's estimation, so the angel took out a second sword and set a fiery weld to the doorjamb and entire perimeter.

Kay saw them for the first time then, lit by flickering swordlight, and couldn't stop from staring at them in earnest as they finished their business.

"There's nothing to see…"

"There would be nothing to see anyway," Gerda reminded him. They kept moving down into the valley where Gerda said there was a town. Behind them, the castle listed dangerously downwards, like a bear sinking into a crouch. They headed south and he tried, quietly, to remind her in turn that he was still dead and this would pose a problem in going anywhere.

"No, you're not," she replied fiercely. "We defeated her. You finished the puzzle. That's the story. It doesn't end with you dying."

"She swore to kill me."

"So you have her death promise to look forward to, if she survived the collapse of her castle. No contracts, no curses."

There were gaps in what she said but he didn't want to think about them. Besides, there was warmth now, blood creeping through his veins at a faster pace.

"Why didn't you come sooner? Back then… "

She looked over at him. "I was scared. I would have died. You saved yourself and back then I thought you... wanted to be there."

He grew quiet. "I thought I did too, until the visions got… bad. I escaped and subsisted in the Mundy and… I never even thought to look for you." They walked on in silence for a while before Kay spoke again. "The curse is gone, but I might be…"

"Different. I'll take you as I find you," Gerda replied. It was a matter she had already given some thought. "Kramer, Burke, will you be heading back to… wherever you came from?"

Burke nodded. "But there is no need for you to walk back to the border of the worlds."

"But I walked all the way here. Surely there's no one-way portal."

"Some things must be done for the sake of a journey."

"…I could have teleported? All this way? I almost died!"

"You reached the destination and we followed you as soon as possible. You can ask for no better," Burke said, infuriatingly calm. She folded her arms.

"Take us back to Bigby then. No, the path? No. Anywhere we want to go?" She glanced at Kay, who shrugged as if to say she was calling the shots here. "What do you like, Kay?"

"Somewhere tropical," Kay said, after a moment. He had never been anywhere tropical but had often heard Mowgli and Cinderella describe them. "No volcanoes and no queens or goddesses. Or Fable communities. Somewhere with flowers and heat."

Gerda returned her attention to Burke. "That okay?"

"We are quite capable of that," Burke said placidly and Gerda seemed to realized that she hadn't said something. She became shy, ducking her head.

"And thank you. By the way. For the food and the safety and the flaming sword—which I'm sorry about losing."

"A pleasure, and do not worry, I'll retrieve the sword."

"Is the mirror repairable?" Kay asked.

"It is no longer your worry," the angel replied. And without another word, Gerda and Kay were in a sparkling glass-blue sea. Not on a beach, or boat, but in. The water was warm and no deeper than fourteen feet, clear straight down to the bottom.

Gerda jumped when Kay laughed: he was looking at the water below, rotating to stare at the sky, then back down at the sea floor, then –awkward- at her. His eyes were bright and joyous.

"I've never seen anything so perfect!"

"And the fact we're treading water-?"

"There's a shore! That way." He pointed with one dripping arm, gesture warped with enthusiasm. "And there are people—"

She saw him move compulsively for the glasses, the shadow that passed evanescent over his face when he couldn't find them, remembering that he could see now.

To save him embarrassment, she struck out for shore. He followed and the sound of his echoing strokes, his breath coming heavy after a few minutes of this, was more human than Fable. An existence beyond the story and she felt something in her soul finally come to rest. They had what everyone else did now. Closure, freedom, an openness about their choices.

Within minutes, their feet brushed the sand below, Gerda stepped on a sea urchin, and the story went merrily on from there.

###

And that concludes this little Fables fanfiction of mine. Thank you, very much, for reading, enjoying, or commenting (really, for that last one! There is so little fanfiction for this series and I like hearing from other fans...)

Roll credits: The Snow Queen and its characters (Gerda, Kay, Bae, the Snow Queen idea) are property of Hans Christian Anderson/his estate; Irene, Curdy, Lootie, and the rhyme Gerda sings are property of George MacDonald and used in his fairy tale 'The Princess and the Goblin'; all Fables characters (Bigby, Lumi, Totenkinder, Jack of Fables, everyone mentioned in reference to Fables, and this personification of Kay) belong to Vertigo, Willingham and anyone else who had a hand in. If I've missed anyone, assume they belong to the appropriate people.

And finally! This personification of Gerda, Kramer, Burke, the cursed man, and the crow gypsies are mine.

Thank you, again, for reading and reviewing.

Lisa/Crimson-Eyed-Angel99, 6 August 2012