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which one of us is the one with the tinderbox?

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jenny blinks awake to the sound of someone yelling. she groans loudly and shoves her pillow over her head. the yelling bleeds through anyway. whoever it is must have an incredibly good reason to wake her up, because it’s barely dawn, and jenny went to sleep last night at-

she falls off the bed in shock, knocks her elbow against the bedpost, pauses a moment to writhe around in silent agony, and stumbles over to the door. it’s locked. she doesn’t know why she thought it’d be anything but.

the shouting is getting more annoying now. like nails on a chalkboard. when jenny peers out the window, she sees a woman on the ground, hands cupped around her mouth. “what do you want?” jenny asks exasperatedly. the woman looks pleased to be noticed. a little too pleased, in jenny’s opinion. it borders on smug.

“i came to rescue you,” she says. “i have a quota to fill, so if you could let down your golden hair or whatever, that would be fantastic.”

“what the fuck?” jenny says incredulously. “it’s a sixty foot tower! nobody has ixty feet of hair. mine is, like, eight inches. maybe.”

“actually, you’d be surprised,” the woman replies. it looks like she’s got a sword on, and there’s a pretty, long-haired horse cropping the grass behind her. a knight. presumably. “why are you up there, anyway? lock yourself in?”

okay, clearly not a knight. far too rude. “i did not lock myself in. that is so condescending.” jenny shakes her hair back now, tries to look like she knows what she’s doing. avoids eye contact. “this was the last stage of my- my master plan.”

the woman’s laughing is even more annoying than her shouting. it’s like- like really, really terrible nails on a chalkboard. when it finally dies out, she wipes a tear from her eye and asks, “your master plan? did it entail being trapped in a sixty foot tower with a locked door?”

“yes, actually, it did,” jenny lies. “so you can go. i’ll be down before noon.”

“right, of course.”

“i will,” she insists. “i knew what i signed up for. even if i didn’t really believe it.”

“and?”

“and what?”

“and what did you sign up for? what’s your name, anyway?”

“jenny,” she says. “of the realm of calendar. and it’s none of your business what i signed up for.”

“never heard of it.”

jenny comes dangerously close to stamping her foot. “you’re in it right now. you’re in the backyard of the castle of calendar. how can you possibly be somewhere and not know the name of it?”

“i do know the name of it. it’s the commonwealth of sunnydale, and we don’t have castles anymore.” she frowns slightly. “are you sure you’re all right?”

jenny’s about to make a very long, very irritated speech, when the realization kicks in. right. it wouldn’t be the realm of calendar anymore at all. it’s been a hundred years.

when she had first thought it up, the plan was genius. take advantage of the obviously made up curse, stab herself in the finger with a spindle, pretend to fall into a coma, and get out of marrying prince snyder from the next kingdom over. like all her other plans, it had worked perfectly.

except for the part where the curse wasn’t made up.

now she’s stuck in a locked, sixty foot tower, with nothing except a bed with, frankly, far too many draperies and canopies and sheets and underskirts to sleep in comfortably, and an extremely annoying not-knight who needs to fill her rescue quota, and it’s a hundred years in the future, and everyone she ever knew is dead.

she’s totally screwed.

except, maybe, the bed doesn’t have too many sheets. not for escaping a sixty foot tower, anyway.

“yeah, i’m fine,” she tells the woman on the ground. “just thinking. hey, what’s your name?”

she raises her eyebrows, but says, “lilah. of the business of wolfram & hart.”

interesting. they had wolfram & hart a hundred years ago as well. it never had the best reputation.

“give me, like, ten minutes, and i’ll be down,” she says anyway. lilah raises her eyebrows, but says nothing. smart.

the sheets are a garish shade of magenta. jenny rips them apart. pink was never her color, anyway. there really is a shocking amount of it, totally unnecessary. her dad was always like that: melodramatic, liked bright colors. wanted everyone to know he was king. very annoying, especially when jenny was a teenager.

in less than ten minutes (okay, it’s more like fifteen, but who’s counting? lilah, probably.) she has the sheets twisted into a makeshift rope, and she’s tying it to the bedpost.

“okay,” she calls out. “step back.” then she tosses the other end of the rope out the window and looks down. it’s a little short, but she can easily jump the last nine or ten feet. her skirts, however, are going to be a problem. they’re six layers deep and too frilly to run in, much less climb down the side of a tower. her father’s doing, probably. he really was very dramatic.

the skirts come off easily, ripping at the bodice until she can step out of them. she leaves one on for modesty, and swings a leg over the window sill. the rope holds well, and she shimmies down the tower in less time than it took to actually make it.

the grass feels good on her bare feet.

“well,” lilah says. “very impressive, jenny of the calendar realm. but have you got any shoes?”

“i don’t, as it happens. i have just slept for a hundred years, you know. i think i can be excused bare feet.”

“really? a hundred years?” lilah asks, surprised. “i mean, sleeping curses are common enough, but most girls get kissed before the hundred years are up.”

“well, i suppose the giant, incredibly tall, impossibly thick, dangerously thorny rose hedge surrounding the tower was a deterrent,” jenny says. up close, lilah has lovely eyes. like clouds. “how did you get through, anyway?”

“oh, my sword is enchanted. very strong, never needs sharpening, looks good with all my chain mail. i cut through the roses, but it took me almost a week, because they grew almost as fast as i could cut them down.”

again, interesting. in jenny’s day, enchanted swords weren’t rare, exactly, but you couldn’t just walk into the blacksmith’s and have one made.

“well,” she says, hit with a sudden burst of inspiration, “i don’t know about you, but i’m not waiting another week to get out of here. let’s burn it down.”

it’s lilah’s turn to look incredulous now, and she does it with aplomb. “you want to light the giant hedge completely surrounding us on fire?”

“yup.”

“i’m sorry, do you want to die?”

“i’m sorry, do you want to spend another week hacking through that hedge?”

lilah rolls her eyes. “fine,” she mutters. very ungracefully. “but i still think the hacking would be safer.”

“but so slow! and not as fun. besides, don’t you know, swords are behind the times now. try to catch up with the rest of us.”

“you are over a hundred years old! you’re the one who should catch up with the times!”

jenny pulls out a tinderbox from nowhere and brandishes it in her face. “which one of us is the one with the tinder box?”

“what does that have to do with anything? also, i’m pretty sure you just stole that from my pocket.” lilah makes a grab for it, but jenny just takes a step back, and opens the box.

the roses look like they’ve never been pruned, and there’s dead leaves all around. the sparks catch easily, and soon the whole thing is up in flames. jenny rips some cloth off her dress and hands half to lilah to cover her mouth and nose. still, by the time the fire burns out, and the hedge is gone, they’re both coughing, eyes watering. lilah grabs her horse’s reins and leads him away from the tower, jenny close behind.

the fresh air is good, and soon they can take deep breaths without it hurting. jenny already has blisters, though, and she doesn’t know how much longer she can walk on them. when the pain gets too bad, she tells lilah to stop for a minute, and sits on the grass. lilah hesitates, then sits next to her. “blisters?” she asks. jenny nods. “i get them too. of course, it helps when i wear shoes, but clearly you’re a stubborn sort of person.” jenny smiles slightly and nudges her with her shoulder. “you’re not exactly warm and fuzzy, either. even if you are really cute.”

lilah laughs. “you know, normally that would be a terrible line, but it just so happens that you’re pretty cute too. cute enough to pull it off.”

when they kiss, jenny can feel her smile.