Georgie had been working in one of the hidden rooms when she heard someone making their way cautiously down the stairs. Curious, she waited a moment before peering out and carefully following after who she realized was Antigone.
What was she doing going down here? Antigone usually only went as far as her small workshop, never venturing any further than necessary. But now she was heading right towards...the door?
What was she doing? It was too close to the time Eric usually showed up for her to go wandering about outside. Was she planning to leave with him? Finally take him up on his offer of rescue?
Her heart clenched in her chest and she shook her head to rid herself of such thoughts. She reached the door a few moments after Antigone had ventured outside, where Georgie watched her sit down on a rock and proceed to wait there patiently. It seemed like she was looking to talk to Eric.
But before she could act on her conclusion, burst from the stairway and demand answers, lo and behold, up rode the stubborn git in question. She hung back in the stairway, trapped in the hidden doorway lest she give away its presence. From there, she heard Antigone’s futile attempts to convince him to leave them alone.
Her heart sank. It wasn’t going to work. Eric was far too convinced of his heroics to ever see the damage he was doing. If Antigone wasn’t careful, he might very well resort to ‘rescuing’ her against her will. But it was when she screamed at him to leave her and Rudyard alone that Georgie finally couldn’t take it anymore.
“Oi! Piss off, Eric!” He turned to her, bafflement clear on his face.
“She told you she’s not interested in you, so for once in your life could you just take the hint!!!” He was still gaping at her, clearly not registering anything she’d said. Finally he seemed to gather together enough thoughts to speak.
“Is this where you’ve been all this time? I’ve been worried sick! I thought you were dead, what the hell are you playing at? The Piffling Forest is no place to mess about.” Georgie felt her rage building and her hair burst into flames, but at this point she was past caring
“What am I playing at? What the hell are you playing at? I wouldn’t even be out here if you hadn’t chased me out of town, and now you’re here harassing someone else!” Chapman rocked back as though he’d been hit.
“Chased you out of- What on Earth are you even talking about?!”
“You wouldn’t leave me be. You never left me alone! I didn’t need your help, Eric! I still don’t, but you’re so wrapped up in yourself that you never, not for one second, thought to consider that maybe some people won’t fit perfectly into the story you’re forcing them into. I don’t want or need you, and neither does she!!” Georgie stood there, chest heaving, hair crackling around her face as she glared at him.
“I… what?” And just like that, all her anger, her frustration, drained out of her and she was just…empty. She could feel her hair returning to normal, curls hitting her shoulders. Chapman looked so shocked and lost and... small, as though he had never once had cause to think about his actions before. Just then all she wanted was to collapse somewhere and forget the world.
“Just... go, would you?” She turned towards Antigone and slumped against the other woman’s shoulder, exhausted beyond words. She didn’t see the concern in her eyes as she looked down at her or the fierce glare she leveled at Chapman, but she did hear the clinking of his armor a few minutes later as he rode away. She sighed, turning her head slightly to speak.
“Can we just go back in, please?” She looked up to see Antigone nodding quickly.
“Yes, yes of course we can. Are you alright?” Georgie sighed.
“I don’t know. I’ve been wanting to say that for... awhile, but I can’t even tell if it’ll even do anything. I just… I... I want to be able to live without always looking over my shoulder for the next person who just wants me without actually caring about me , or what I want.”
Antigone paused in guiding them back to the hidden staircase and hesitated for a moment before wrapping her in a tentative hug. She responded quickly, arms tightening around her waist. Her mind snagged for a moment on the comforting feeling of Georgie in her arms, but she quickly shook it off. This was about Georgie, not the fluttering in her stomach.
“I’m sorry, I wish this wasn’t happening to you. You should feel safe here. I thought maybe if I just talked to him I could convince him I didn’t want to be rescued. Then he’d leave, and you wouldn’t have to hide all the time.” Georgie sighed and shook her head slightly.
“I haven’t been hiding from Eric. Or, I mean, I have, but that’s not the whole reason I’ve not been around much lately. Can I show you something?”
“Yes, of course.” Georgie hesitated for a moment before pulling her up the stairs, heading for the hallway across from her room.
“I don’t know why it took me so long to find, it was way more obvious than the other one but, here.” She ran her fingers deftly along the joint of the ceiling as she spoke, pressing down when she found what she was looking for then moving aside as a trapdoor swung downward to reveal a bright square of sunlight. She hoisted herself up, then turned around to offer Antigone a hand.
“Come up? I wanna show you what I’ve been doing lately.” Antigone nodded, having trouble forming words. The sunlight was shining through Georgie’s hair as she stood silhouetted in the gap, and when she grasped her hand it was warm and calloused. She felt her stomach swoop as Georgie effortlessly pulled her up. She steadied her briefly, hand firm on her shoulder, before letting go and gesturing around them.
Antigone reluctantly pushed away the stuttering in her chest before looking around. She expected a steep shod roof, ill-used and in disrepair. Instead, beneath her feet there was a flat wooden structure supported by the roof and several of the sturdier vines.
“I wanted to actually be able to spend time out here without worrying about anyone breaking their necks. And I’m great at carpentry, but it still took a bit of time to get everything together. So I’ve been doing this whenever Chapman shows up, yeah, but also just when it’s nice enough out. It’s a good place to tinker with spells.”
“Georgie, this is incredible! I can’t believe you did all this, where did you get the supplies?
“Eh, found some trees in decent shape, bit of unused furniture. Wasn’t too hard.” Antigone was still in awe, spinning slowly to take in the view of it all. Sure, she’d known these woods for the majority of her life now, but to see them from the open air was something new.
Georgie headed over to the edge and sat, legs dangling into the air. She beckoned for Antigone, and it only took a few moments of apprehension before she made her way cautiously over.
They sat for a few minutes, staring out over the forest. Antigone had spent years looking at these trees, but somehow they seemed lovelier than ever before. She somewhat suspected it had more to do with the woman next to her than any noticeable change in height.
At last, Georgie broke the silence between them.
“I’m sorry he won’t leave you and Rudyard alone.” Antigone’s face scrunched up in confusion.
“And you as well, whyever just me and Rudyard?”
“Well you were telling him to leave you both alone when I came out.” She blinked at Georgie in shock.
“No, I told him to leave my family alone, and that obviously includes you. I mean, it wasn’t as if I was going to let him know you were there, but Georgie. Of course that means you! I don’t know what we would have done without you, what I would have done. You’ve changed my life. Whatever else happens, you’re one of us now, and you’ll always have a place with us. We love you.” Georgie looked at her strangely for several moments, to the point where Antigone began to fidget with nerves. Had she said too much?
Finally Georgie moved, the odd look still on her face. She looked almost, hopeful, but there was something else there too, Antigone just couldn’t quite place it.
“Can I?” One of Georgie’s hands came up to gently cup her face and she felt her breath catch in her throat. She nodded slightly, heart racing as she met her eyes, unable to speak. Georgie moved closer slowly, so slowly, until she was mere inches away. Antigone felt her thumb lightly stroking her cheekbone and let her eyes fall closed. She could feel breath on her lips, and only moments must have passed, but it felt like an eternity before she murmured,
The word was barely out of her mouth, practically inaudible, before Georgie’s lips were on hers, gentle and sweet. She melted into the kiss, hands fluttering around Georgie’s waist before lightly settling there. She felt her other hand coming up to cradle her face, and sighed into her mouth. After a few moments Georgie pulled back slowly, and though she longed to chase her mouth, kiss her for hours, days, weeks , she forced herself to stay in place.
Fortunately Georgie didn’t go far, seeming perfectly content to remain in the circle of her arms, though her hands moved from her face to rest gently at the base of her neck. She seemed to put herself together for a moment, before meeting Antigone’s gaze head on.
“I love you.” Antigone’s heart caught in her throat, and she felt a strange new warmth rush through her entire body. “I just thought you should know that before you say I’ll always have a place with you.”
Antigone gazed at her, frozen and unable to form words. She stood there so long that Georgie seemed about to pull away, but she tightened her arms around her waist.
“Please give me just a moment.” Her voice came out quiet, but strong, and Georgie settled back into her embrace. After another minute or so, she gathered herself and spoke.
“I love you too.” Georgie gazed up at her, joy on her face.
“Really?” Antigone blushed, but forced herself to keep eye contact. It wasn’t as hard as it might have been, her eyes truly were lovely.
“Yes, really. I love you. You should also know that, you will always have a place with us, yes, but if you ever do wish to leave, I’ll follow you wherever. My loving you isn’t contingent on you staying here.” Georgie seemed shocked for a few beats, before surging up in her arms, and capturing her mouth in another kiss. Antigone responded as enthusiastically as she could, using her firmer grip on the other woman to pull her closer and kiss her more deeply. Georgie responded in kind, wrapping her arms around her neck, and pulling her in. They stayed there on the roof for the rest of the day, and for that moment, it was as if all their problems, Piffling Vale, even Chapman, ceased to exist. They were happy, together, and in love.