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The Secret Ingredient is Love

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“Ugh. Babe, I’ve changed my mind; we are never having kids.”

Hope had been in the Salvatore School kitchen after dinner, baking as was her wont when trying to distract herself from the day’s goings-on. It was too cold (and snowy!) for her to be outside painting in the garden, and she hadn’t been inspired lately in her studio-corner in her dorm room, so she chose the next best thing. It was the winter lull post-Valentine’s Day, when the Virginia winter seemed to drag on and snow was no longer exciting and new and beautiful, but tedious and here too long and dingy. Spring, though around the corner, seemed forever away yet. The way to fight that was with cookies, Hope figured, so the auburn-haired Mikaelson was baking (today, chocolate chip fit the bill).

That was, until her calm and peace and quiet were interrupted by a voice from the doorway, which grew closer and closer before Hope could turn around and assess the situation. Her gaze fell upon an exhausted and exasperated Josie Saltzman, whose normally-perfect brown hair was tousled, unruly strands going every-which (or witch!) way. She looked drained, and her mouth was limp; the brunette siphoner didn’t even have enough energy to form her trademark pout.

“Hey, Jo, what’s wrong?” the tribrid replied, a note of concern in her voice. “What happened this evening?”

“Dad had me filling in for Ms Rosenberg while she was taking care of an emergency back home in California. She had scheduled a potion check-in session after dinner; what was she thinking!? Or what was Lorraine thinking with that dessert? The secret ingredient must have been an entire bag of sugar! Everyone was bouncing off the walls when they came to check their potions, practicing every spell they knew instead of checking the potions. Even Pedro!”

By this time, Hope had rinsed her hands and moved closer to the exasperated witch, eventually wrapping her arms around Josie’s waist and pulling the brunette tight. “Hey, hey, it’s OK, Jo. All of that is over and you’re here with me now,” the auburnette cooed, moving one hand to gently stroke a misplaced lock of hair out of Josie’s face. Josie laid her head on top of Hope’s and let out a sigh stuck halfway between exhaustion and contentment.

“You take such good care of me, Hopey,” Josie mused delicately.

Hope eased the twosome over to the island and helped Josie onto a stool, then began tracing patterns on her back to further dissipate the stress her beloved was bearing.

“What would I ever do without you?” the siphoner continued.

“I suppose you would have run off with Jade and seen the world,” Hope chuckled. “That doesn’t sound like a terrible life,” she continued with a cheeky grin.

“No, it sounds dreadful, because it doesn’t have you in it,” came the brunette’s plaintive reply.

“Well, you don’t have to worry, because I’m not going anywhere without you…except maybe over to the counter right now to fix you a treat,” Hope responded, serious at first before finishing with a chuckle. Indeed, the tribrid finally left Josie’s side before making trips to the cabinets, refrigerator, pantry, and freezer, and microwave.

When Hope returned to Josie’s side, she brought two sundae glasses filled with ice cream, topped with a half of a fresh chocolate chip cookie sticking up like a dome, the whole dessert drizzled with hot fudge. The tribrid followed that up with two steaming mugs full of Hope’s signature hot chocolate—Josie never managed to be paying attention when Hope was making the elixir, so she never caught the secret ingredient, which Hope always claimed was simply love. When Josie realized she had been foiled again, she was finally recovered enough from her earlier stress to be able to employ her trademark pout, paired this time with puppy-dog eyes. “I tell you every time, Jo, the secret ingredient is love,” Hope replied good-naturedly, tracing more circles on the brunette’s shoulder.

“And I know this is too good to be just love,” Josie responded after a draught of the soul-warming beverage.

“Are you doubting the power of my love, Josette Saltzman?” Hope retorted with mock offense.

“No, no, no, I know all too well the power of Mikaelson love…Hopey,” the brunette countered in defeat. “It is always and it is forever. You’ve shown me that,” she concluded, throwing her arms around the tribrid now seated beside her, leaning in and softly, briefly bringing her lips to the auburnette’s cheek. “And it is good, just like you.”

Hope’s face was now in full flush…only Josie had the power to turn the fearsome Mikaelson tribrid into a blushing teddy bear.

They sat together in silence, eating their sundaes and sipping their cocoa, basking in each other’s company, letting the stresses of the day melt away. Every so often, the quiet was interrupted by a sigh or a moan or a chirp of joy escaping the Saltzman twin’s lips, an expression of the delight the treats—and Hope’s company—brought her.

When they finished, the twosome cleaned up the kitchen together, like a well-oiled machine working in silence. Hope placed two small containers of freshly-baked cookies in Josie’s hands—“One for you, one for Lizzie”—and pressed her lips gently to the siphon’s cheek. They linked hands and left the kitchen, bound for their dorm rooms.

Upon arriving at the Saltzman twins’ room, Josie spoke. “Stay right there, Hope.” The witch then ducked inside, returning a minute later with something in her hand, hidden behind her back. Once in the hallway with Hope again, Josie whirled her hand forward, presenting Hope with a small pot filled with crocuses in bloom. They were nearly white, with just the faintest hint of lavender or lilac in their coloration, with extraordinarily delicate veins of purple radiating towards the outer edges of the petals. A bright orangish-yellow cluster of stamen and pistil rose from the center, completing the flowers. It was Hope and Josie in flower form.

Hope was momentarily at a loss for words. “They’re gorgeous, Josie…how….”

“The secret ingredient is love, Hopey,” the brunette responded with a smile, leaning down to bring her lips toward the upward-pointing lips of her beloved, pressing them together in an expression of that love. Their secret ingredient, always and forever.