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he sits half broken in a cell. 

 

it’s temporary, olivia had told him. it had been strange, seeing her tower over his form, her dress exchanged for more formal robes, her hair pulled up higher. she looks more regal than he ever had, and with the general yunan at her side, he highly doubts anyone had objected to her taking charge and leading the recuperation. the council has not decided what your fate should be, so for now… you will be here. 

 

he understands. he doesn’t know what to do with himself either. 

 

everything passes in blurs. when you’ve lived as long as he has, time no longer has meaning; though it has surely been weeks since he allowed anne to tear through him, he doesn’t feel it. what are a few weeks compared to the centuries upon centuries he has already lived, wallowing in his own guilt and shame just as he is now? 

 

maybe his father and ancestors were right. maybe he really is pathetic. 

 

through it all, leif stays at his side. he hasn’t stopped seeing her since her descendant read her letter aloud– she haunts his waking vision, follows him into restless slumber. he doesn’t mind, not when a thousand years have passed and yet he can picture her just as she was. not when the ache inside of his heart has smoothened over and healed, knowing that she has loved him just as he loved her. 

 

less frequently, he sees barrel. barrel, his most loyal friend, who surely hadn’t earned the fate he had gotten. barrel, whose laugh echoes through the cell, invisible and yet present, far-away and yet right there with them. 

 

he thinks he might understand why the three humans had acted the way they had. maybe he had been foolish to assume that they, too, would crumble apart like his own friendship. maybe he is just naive. 

 

he isn’t aware of the time passing, but eventually, the door to his cell creaks open, and she peeks in, eyes wide. there’s a hood over her head, obscuring most of her features, but he would recognize her anywhere after everything. she, who had brought a light to the darkness he didn’t know he lived in. she, who he had risked everything for until he couldn’t risk anything anymore. 

 

he didn’t think he’d ever see her again, or that she would want to visit him in his cell, half-broken, defeated. he didn’t want her to see him like this, but he doesn’t have much of a choice in the matter, does he? 

 

“anne told me you were mostly robotic now,” she whispers, her voice barely loud enough for him to catch her words. even here, she is timid; the confidence and boldness he had initially admired about her is gone now, and he can’t even mourn the loss because it was destroyed by his own hands. 

 

“it kept me alive,” he answers– truthfully, because despite the times he had to lie to her to keep up his ruse and play to the core’s games, he never really enjoyed lying. “hello, marcy.” 

 

her hood slips off, and underneath is a pale figure of the girl that he had taken under his wing. there are bags under her eyes - not entirely unfamiliar, he cannot count the amount of times olivia had reported her lack of sleep to him in concern - and something hollow and fragile in her gaze, reminding him once again that she is… a child, one that had stumbled into amphibia mostly on accident, even if he had gloated otherwise. 

 

“they’re deciding on your fate tomorrow,” she says, still so quiet, still so timid. “lady olivia wanted it to be… impartial. there’s an entire jury made up of amphibians and humans alike, it’s honestly incredible. that’s why i’m here– in amphibia, anyways. they… don’t think i should attend the trial, though, so i snuck down here.” 

 

that should surprise him, but it doesn’t. “that is incredibly dangerous. tell me, marcy; why are you here?” 

 

“is it that surprising that i wanted to talk to you alone?” she crosses her arms, and then sits just outside his cell, leaning forwards on her knees. “i… don’t know. no, i know too much, and it’s so confusing, there’s so much in my head and yet i know i’m still missing stuff, and i am so angry, all the time, and guilty, and sad, and i don’t know where me ends and it begins, and… at the center is you. i thought maybe seeing you would help sort out my thoughts, but…” 

 

she’s rambling to you again, a sick voice in his head whispers– it sounds awfully like his father. before, it had been easy, too easy, to coax her into spilling her guts for him. over the centuries, manipulating and lying has become second nature to him– he needed it to survive, especially with his ancestors looming over his head - quite literally - and the burden on his shoulders. pressuring her into talking about her feelings had been easy, and though he hates the way his thoughts turn to past manipulations, he knows he cannot avoid it. 

 

“you want closure,” he finishes for her, calm. it would make sense; though he has no awareness of what it would feel like to be partially assimilated into the core’s mind, he can only imagine. he still doesn’t fully understand what had happened, or how she had stayed… herself, mostly, despite the assimilation, but after hearing her voice taunting him for weeks for his failures and reminding him of his mistakes, he can only feel relieved. “you thought it would give you peace, or clarity, to come down here and face me.” 

 

“i wish you wouldn’t do that,” she snaps, though the bitter anger in her face melts into something shy and remorseful almost immediately. “i… okay, fine. maybe you’re right, and i just need closure. maybe it’s a little difficult reconciling you letting anne defeat you with the fact that you stabbed me. ” 

 

ah. that’s fair. he has difficulty reconciling it too. 

 

it’s strange. he’s spent so many years repressing his memories of his past, burning them out of his mind, pretending that they didn’t exist and that he didn’t feel anything about severing ties with the only people who loved him for being himself, that he doesn’t know how to function with them. he doesn’t know how to open up, and he certainly doesn’t plan to again… but someone should know. 

 

“you remind me of her,” he says, almost wistfully. his voice isn’t strong now, not with his body so broken, but she’s leaning in, hanging onto his words, and maybe if he closes his eyes and pretends, he can imagine they are standing on his favorite balcony, him telling her stories of amphibia’s past, enticing her with knowledge. 

 

“your friend? the one that betrayed you?” she asks. 

 

“leif,” he affirms, shifting in his cell almost uncomfortably. he can’t remember the last time he had spoken her name out loud; it feels sacred, forbidden. “she was the first to nickname me. she had a hunger for knowledge and secrets, and she was kind enough to try and befriend anyone she met, no matter the circumstances. when she found out about the danger amphibia was in, our friendship didn’t matter– she would always try her hardest to save everyone. that is what i had the hardest time reconciling; that she would throw our friendship away for the world, that she wouldn’t choose me.

 

“but i was wrong to think that.” 

 

she is staring at him with those wide eyes again, and for once, he can’t read the expression on her face– not because it is hooded in shadows, but because there’s emotion written in her eyes that he can’t place. perhaps it is associated on his own admittance that he had been wrong. 

 

just past her, leif stands, waving at him so enthusiastically like she never left his side. 

 

“her heart was too big. so is yours. and i couldn’t stand her betrayal, and i couldn’t stand watching you do exactly what she had done. but it was never about you, personally, marcy-” 

 

“-that’s worse, you do see how that’s worse, right?” she digs her hands into her face, tears them into her hair with a long-suffering groan. “anne and sasha were right, this was such a bad idea, why did i think this would work-” 

 

“-i care about you.” 

 

she freezes at that, peeking at him through her fingers with the most haunted expression he’s seen on her. 

 

and his eyes are burning now, and he doesn’t think he can keep looking at her or leif anymore. it’s hard enough, admitting these things out loud; let alone admitting them to someone he had hurt. 

 

“i always have, marcy. you… brought back a warmth i hadn’t had in a thousand years, and for that, i cannot thank you enough. i should have thanked you more. and if it is closure you were seeking, i hope you know that i… am sorry, for all that i wrought upon you. there is nothing i can do to make up for the past, but you didn’t deserve the core’s plans for you, and i regret ever obeying its commands in the first place.” 

 

her shoulders shake. she’s crying, he realizes belatedly, looking back at her face again even as she buries her face deeper into her hands and weeps. 

 

“why can’t i hate you?” she cries, and despite his half-beaten, half-broken body, he longs to reach out past his cell and offer her a finger in comfort. “i want to hate you so bad. i can’t walk right half of the time because of you. i have all these thoughts in my head because of what you couldn’t stop. i hurt anne, i hurt sasha, and i hurt both worlds, and part of it was my fault, but it was yours too, and i should hate you!” 

 

“but i can’t !” she wails, and she glances up from her hands finally, her eyes puffy and red, her expression forlorn. “i… was it real, andrias? the way you treated me… listening to my ramblings, encouraging me and my interests… was that real? or was it you manipulating me?” 

 

“it was real,” he tells her, and that, too, is honest. “you are one of the most fascinating beings i have ever had the pleasure of meeting, marcy wu. if we had met in different circumstances, i would have liked to have you as a friend.” 

 

“a friend,” she repeats, almost dubiously, and she shakes her head, still crying though not as loudly or dramatically now. “i… i don’t know if i forgive you. i don’t know if i can. but… thanks. for making my time in newtopia so memorable, i suppose. and for being honest with me. i… i can put in a good word with olivia-” 

 

“-don’t bother,” he interrupts, “i’ve led a very long life, marcy. if the council decides i should die tomorrow, i will not oppose. it will be nice, seeing my beloved leif and barrel again. i’ve tried stopping fate once before, and you can see how well that worked out for me; never again.” 

 

“...okay,” she sighs, and she stands. for a second, it seems like he will be left alone with his thoughts again, but she hesitates and then fidgets with the pockets in her cape. 

 

“i almost forgot- i found this during the palace cleanup- olivia told me i should just throw it away, but i couldn’t-” she finally seems to find what she had been looking for, and she proudly holds out the tiny pin she had gifted him once so long ago. it’s much duller now, not as shiny as it had been that first day, but it might just be the best thing he has seen in a very long time. 

 

he had kept the pin after everything, after all. it was a gift from her, he couldn’t bear to throw it out, even if it was much too small and informal for him to use anywhere else. he didn’t even remember where he had stashed it, let alone how she had found it– but then again, she always does find ways to surprise him. 

 

she hesitates again, but then slides the pin inside the cell, through the bars. he cannot move very well with his body as destroyed as it is, but its there, a shining reminder of the girl that had fallen down the stairs and into his heart, the one he had been so proud of once upon a time, one he had betrayed because he couldn’t stand the thought of her getting what she wanted when he could never. 

 

“goodbye, andrias,” she says so solemnly, and she leaves as quickly as she had arrived, no more words to be said. he can only hope she received the closure she had desired. 

 

goodbye, marcy wu, he thinks to himself, staring at the robot pin that lays just out of reach– truly a metaphor of every good thing he’s had in his entire life. may the fates bless you with the happy ending you truly deserve.