The clock-tower struck midnight in slow, steady beats. She counted them with the beats of his heart: one … two … three …

She needed to leave. Someone was bound to come looking, more likely sooner than later, and if she was found–

(six … seven … eight …)

A wet red bubble swelled on his lips and popped. It left a faint pattern against his white cheek. She touched it with a fingertip and traced down; the corners of his mouth still remained turned up, and his eyes are like pieces of frosted blue glass. Her other hand ached; she couldn’t make them let go.

(eleven … twelve. Silence.)

Voices echoed in the hallway, slowly approaching. She leaned down in a careful arch until her forehead touched his and smiled.

“It’s stopped,” she whispered. “All of it, just for you.

I hope you find your princess, someday.”

They didn’t kiss: it wouldn’t do if he woke, somehow. He might ask her to stay (she would), or he’d offer to go with her (he would), and midnight was already past. The magic spell was broken.

“Good night,” she said, and finally let go of the knife.

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