Hi all,

thank you for the reviews! I just wanted to warn y'all that in this chapter I started using dual-POV. It only made sense to introduce it now because earlier would have given away too much of Ash's intentions, feelings, etc. Hope you don't mind!

"Harley!" A voice booms from the trees, and he freezes, the knife inches from my heart. It didn't connect, but for a moment it feels like my heart has stopped anyway. I let out a pathetic whimper as he lifts it a few more inches away and snarls, looking out into the trees. It kickstarts, and then my heart is hammering so hard against my ribs I think I might puke. My head spins as I try to follow his gaze, and I see the figure emerging from the woods. My heart just about stops again. It's Ash. Of course it is.

"She's mine," he says. "You know that."

I'm his? What the fuck does that mean? I open my mouth to argue despite the situation, but Harley beats me to it. "Fuck you. You've ruined every chance you and I have had. I think under these circumstances, the boss will be more than understanding."

"You know that's not true. Put that knife away," Ash says calmly, taking a few steps towards us slowly. My heart speeds up again, remembering him holding me. Remembering his knife against my neck.

"There's a Queen witch with her powers loose and you're letting her live, you fucking psychopath. I don't know what kind of sick game you're playing, but I'm ending this today. Fuck the boss," Harley screams, his face turning scarlet with rage. He's manic now, and I know I have seconds before he commits to killing me. I realise he's turned his attention completely to Ash, and the knife is further away from my chest. If I act quick, I might have time to get away. I see Ash about to argue, and take my chances. I throw up my hands with a scream and send Harley flying through the air. I scramble to my feet, but I barely make it three feet before he grabs my ankle and sends me to the ground again. I kick back with my free foot and catch his face. I hear him shout obscenities, dropping my ankle to clutch his face instead.

I know what I have to do. I've known from the start that if I tried, I could kill. I could kill him. I just don't know if I can make myself do it.

Ash is trying to catch up to us, shouting something, but I can't hear him over Harley's name-calling while he scrambles to grab me again and I trip backwards, falling onto a tree stump. Harley swings the knife around wildly, trying to catch me anywhere he can, and it barely misses my leg as I swing off the tree stump and put some distance between us. I glance back, and see him grunting as he stands. I know that once he's up I'll be dead. I might have magic, but he's faster than me, and he'll have that knife in my heart before I can react. Adrenaline shakes my hands, but I force them up. I close my eyes. I squeeze them tight, and I explode.

Bolts of lightning shoot from my palms, carving through the air with a crack, and cut him down. I hear him scream, and the sound is so awful I pull my hands away, covering my ears instead. They still tickle me with static when I press them into my skin.

I open my eyes, and Harley's on the ground. He isn't moving. I double over, fighting the urge to be sick, because I hear Ash rushing towards me, and I know he's next, but I can't kill him, can I? He stops beside Harley and bends down beside him, pressing his fingers to his neck to check for a pulse. I don't know if he finds one or not, I just know he's going to kill me. He stands again and turns to me, so I hold up my hands as a threat. They're trembling so badly I'm not sure I could even manage to attack him.

"Don't come near me," I shout. I know I sound crazy. I probably look crazy. I'm breathing so heavily I think I might throw up. Ash raises his hands and takes a careful step towards me. I push my hands further out, and try to stop their trembling but fail. "I mean it." I realise tears are streaming down my face, and even though it's pathetic, I can't stop them. I don't want to kill him. I want to be on the back of his motorcycle again, the wind flying through my hair as he swerves through traffic. I want to be sitting in the passenger seat of his car, laughing.

"Let me explain," he says, taking another step. I open my mouth to speak but before I can, I hear a shout, and Dawn appears behind him, swinging a giant plank of wood and smashing him on the back of the head. It doesn't knock him out. Instead he rubs the back of his head, looking almost offended, and turns, trying to see what happened, but I hold out two fingers, pulling my magic forward, and swipe them down in an arc through the air, and he falls to the ground, unconscious.

"Are you okay?" Dawn rushes to me, and I break. I fall to my knees, tears streaming down my face, my eyes fixed on Harley's lifeless body. I don't even hear Drew come up beside me. He kneels down beside me and pulls me into his chest, blocking Harley from my view. Then he starts picking the leaves from my hair, letting me cry. Dawn disappears from view. After a few minutes, I stop crying, but I don't move. I'm not sure I can.

"Help me out here, Drew," Dawn calls, and Drew gives me an apologetic smile before moving away. I sniff and rub my sleeve over my face as he leaves me in the dirt and heads over to Dawn, who's found a coil of rope. Drew heaves Ash's body upright, and Dawn wraps the rope around his wrists and his ankles. In my panic, I hadn't even thought of knocking him out until Dawn had tried to. I think she might be braver than I am.

"There's a basement in there with a lightbulb that works," Dawn says, standing and dusting herself off. I'm surprised by her recovery. A couple of hours ago, this would have sent her running. Now, she's taking charge. It gives me the courage I need to stand up. They both struggle to hoist Ash's arms up and throw him around their shoulders, but almost drop him when they try to move.

"Let me," I say, wiping my eyes once more and taking a step forward. I raise my hands, and Ash with them, then walk with him hovering above them, into the cabin. It smells of nothing but damp, and I wrinkle my nose as we enter. I see the stairs to the basement Dawn mentioned, and head towards them, grateful that she left the light on at the bottom. It's concrete and all the walls are covered in shelves, each with strange jars or bottles on them. At the far end there's a desk, with notes strewn all across it. Dawn jogs over and pulls the chair out from it and sits it in the middle of the room, which I realise now is freezing. I settle Ash's body down in the chair and Dawn ties him to it for good measure.

I've used so much magic I feel exhausted, so I sit down on the concrete, my legs crossed. The room spins around me. Dawn paces back and forth in front of me and whispers curses under her breath. I feel the same. What are we meant to do now? We have a guy tied up in a basement and a corpse outside. Suddenly, my exhaustion turns into anger. I remember the conversation between Ash and Harley, when Ash had said I was his. Did that mean I was his kill? I stand, glaring down at him, pathetic in the chair, and I feel empowered. I'm the one with magic here. It's about time to take control of the situation.

"I want to talk to him alone," I say, looking back at Dawn and Drew. They both pause.

"Are you sure?" Drew asks. "He's dangerous."

I nod. "I'm sure. I can handle myself. I just… I have to do this myself."

Dawn nods, understanding, and takes Drew's arm. "We'll wait upstairs."

Drew hesitates, but goes with her anyway. I hear them close the door behind them, then look back at Ash. I'm not sure how long he'll be out, but I'm almost certain I can bring him back, so I lift my fingers again, this time swiping up, and his head raises with them. He sucks in a breath, his eyes flying open in panic, landing upon mine. Then he tries to move and realises.

"I want answers," I say. "And you're gonna give them to me, okay?"

Ash sighs. "Please, May, untie me."

I scowl. "After you held a knife to my throat? Yeah, that's not happening."

"You don't understand," he says again.

"Then explain. What am I?" I ask. He clenches his jaw and looks stubbornly at me. I can see the rage flickering behind his eyes. It makes me even angrier, and I take a step towards him, reaching down to his jeans. His eyes go wide as I run my hand down his leg, feeling for the dagger I know he's hiding, until I feel it. I yank it free of its sheath and let it fall down and out, clattering on the ground. Ash doesn't speak as I turn it over in my hands. It looks like it's made of bone, not steel.

"What did you mean when you said I was yours? Why did he stop?"

Ash looks away from me, still stubborn. "It's complicated."

"Better start explaining then," I say, holding the dagger by its hilt and pointing the tip in his direction. He sighs.

"Witch hunters that discover a witch first have the right to kill them. No other hunter is allowed to interfere. It's part of the code."

"Then why was he still here?" I bring the blade closer to his neck.

"You're… different. They don't care about the code when it comes to you. Almost every single one of them will come for you when they hear. They all want to be the one that does it."

I laugh humorlessly. "But you got here first, huh? How lucky for you."

"I don't want to kill you, May."

My breath catches in my throat. I stare back into his eyes, searching for the lie. "You were going to yesterday," I argue, but my voice comes out small.

"I'm running out of time. It was a mistake, a really fucking stupid one, but I never would have. If Serena hadn't come, I would have explained all this to you then. I just needed to make sure you wouldn't flip out on me."

I want to believe him. I want to so bad. "Why?"

"I want to help you," he says. I swallow hard. I know he's probably just saying it to gain my trust, but the words are giving me stupid, stupid hope. "I know about Solidad, too."

The anger comes right back, just like that. "Is she 'yours' too?"

He nods, and I hiss, turning away from him and walking a few steps away. He's got some sick fucking claim on both of us. I don't understand any of this. "May," he says behind me, but I won't face him. I can't. "You have to listen to me. You're a Queen witch. You're descended from the very first witch. That's why you have no affinity. There hasn't been a Queen witch in over a hundred years, and even then, they were powerless because of the block. They're all terrified of you, and they're going to come before too long. I haven't reported back, and I don't think Harley will have yet either, because he wanted you for himself."

I freeze. Despite everything he's just revealed, only one word matters. "Yet?"

Ash doesn't speak, so I turn, my eyes wide. "He wasn't dead," he says quietly. "You did tie him up too, right?"

I curse under my breath and hurry for the stairs, throwing the door open at the top. Drew and Dawn are sitting with their heads in their hands and their knees drawn up to their chests, but they sit up when I enter. I run right past them out the door, and my blood runs cold. He's gone. I swear again, louder this time, and Drew comes up beside me.

"Shit. He's gone," he says. I run back to the basement stairs and race down them, coming to a stop at the bottom.

"Where will he go? You have to know." I try to hide the panic in my voice, but fail. If there's hundreds of hunters out there, and he reports my existence back to them, I won't stand a chance. I have to catch him.

"You have to set me free. You won't catch up to him."

"Oh, and you want me to believe you'll kill him? That you won't just kill me?"

"If I wanted to kill you, May, I've had plenty of opportunities," he says, a hint of something in his voice, his eyes glittering. I blush as I realise what he means.

"You won't kill your own kind," I argue.

"Set me free and I will, I promise. It's that or he goes back to them."

I bite my lip and consider my options. Even if I found a way to make myself faster with magic, would I catch up to him now? I curse under my breath before diving forward and untying the rope with shaking hands. I suck in a deep breath as the final knot slips free. I don't have time to look up before he's gone, just like that. I chase after him, almost tripping on the staircase, bursting through the door to see a white-faced Dawn and fuming Drew.

"How did he get free?" Drew asks.

"I let him go," I say, breathless, staring out the open door. Already, he's out of view. He's gone. I can tell Dawn's frightened. Drew is angry, already cursing and raising his voice at me, but I'm not listening. All I can think is how I had been so worried that Ash was going to kill me just yesterday, and now I'm putting my life in his hands. I close my eyes and silently pray that he comes back.


The question had crossed my mind more than a few times in the past weeks: when it came down to it, would I choose her or the people I'd grown up with? I hadn't known. I didn't know until a decision was forced out of me, and I'd chosen her, unquestionably. The moment I saw Harley pinning her down, his knife raised in the air, I knew. My heart had sunk so low I'd barely been able to shout to stop him, and I'd almost lost her.

It's why I run through the trees, no hesitation, knowing that when I reach Harley, I'll kill him. He can't get this information back to the others. My own family would tear me apart if they knew I'd kept her alive for so long.

I didn't know it was her when I first heard. Harley had been sent to scout Mauville. It had always been on the radar, but a witch hunter that drove through had reported sensing a witch somewhere, so as a precaution, they had to send someone. I followed, partly because Harley's unreliable, and partly because I thought I might find her first. I was under a lot of pressure, being the son of the head witch hunter. I'd never killed a witch. They're rarer now than they've ever been, and hard to find, but most of us had killed at least one. Harley claimed at least ten.

Giovanni didn't want a son that was claimed to be a witch sympathiser. I had a limited amount of time left to find one. It was my only choice. The only time I'd met a witch without looking had been when I was nine, at a summer camp mom forced me to. I remember the camp leader allocating us a team. When she'd pointed to the colour I was assigned and I sat beside the rest of them, I'd felt it. The sensation we were taught to watch out for. Wide eyed, I'd glanced to my left, and there sat a brunette girl, her hair tied in twintails, her legs curled underneath her. She looked back at me, her bright blue eyes burning into mine, and smiled. My throat felt like it closed up. I didn't know what to do, so I did nothing. Witches without their powers can't be sensed unless you're right beside them, so it would be believable that I didn't notice, even if they discovered her afterwards. I pretended I was normal, and she was normal. I didn't acknowledge the stupid childhood crush I developed for her over those weeks, despite the situation. Then camp ended, and we went back to our regular lives.

Then as I'd drove into this town for only the second time ever, I saw a brunette girl sitting at the edge of the road, knees drawn up to her chest. Obviously concerned, I pulled over, but then she started to stand. The moment her face came into view, my heart stopped. I recognised her instantly. It was her. May. The name that had haunted me for years after that camp. The witch Harley was likely searching for, sitting by the side of the road, helpless. I considered driving away. The moment she came close to me, she'd be my responsibility for real this time. There'd be no getting away from it. I'd have to kill her.

I couldn't help but steal glances at her while she sat in the passenger side. She was painfully beautiful. Every time she looked my way, my stupid heart kickstarted in my chest, and my brain shut off. I could have killed her right there. We were alone. She told me her boyfriend had left her on the side of the road. It was the perfect situation to frame him, or make it seem as though something had happened to her out here that could never be traced back to me. I'd win Giovanni's favor back.

I couldn't do it. I drove her home, which was on my street. I went into the house and pretended nothing had happened. I was in denial. When I saw her walking into the classroom the next day, it was like the world was laughing at me. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole, but I could still ignore that she was a witch. I couldn't believe it when she was told to show me around, when her friends dragged me right into their little group instantly. I told myself I was doing it to get closer to her, waiting for the right moment. Really, I just wanted to be there. I liked them all. I liked her. Her being a witch didn't make me hate her. It just seemed to draw me towards her.

Then Harley killed the fucking janitor. I felt it, a jolt right through the heart in the middle of the night that woke me up as magic flowed back into the air, back into her, and I jumped up, racing to the window, throwing open the curtains. She was there, kneeling in the grass, a damned rose blooming beneath her hands. It hit me like a ton of bricks that this was really happening. Harley was trying to draw her out, making it so he could sense her from farther away. I had days before he discovered her at most.

But I had saved her. I waited for Harley to attack, then saved her, and later that night I found him and threw him against the wall, warning him to back off. Telling him she was mine, that I'd already found her. He'd said he'd back off. He lied through his teeth. I should have known he would never leave her alone. He was too greedy. He probably even knew my father would believe his word over my own.

He comes into view, sitting in a clearing, clenching his side, so I scream his name. He turns and pauses, a sick grin spreading over his face. A few feet away, I spot someone else, and freeze. Harley notices my gaze and follows it, and the colour drains from his face. Suddenly, I understand.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," I say, taking a few steps towards him.

Harley hisses as he stands. "Did you kill the Queen witch or not?"

"Is that not a witch hiding in those trees right there?" I ask, pointing to a nearby tree. She's stupid if she thinks I can't sense her from here. She peers around the tree, the same sick grin as his plastered on her face. Solidad. He's been working with a witch this whole time.

"Come here, sugar," Harley says in a sickly sweet voice that makes my stomach turn. Solidad steps out from the tree and comes up beside him. He throws his arm over her shoulder and nuzzles his face in her hair, sniffing it. I take a step back. I have to play this right. I know Solidad could make me kill myself right here and now if I let her get close enough. I hadn't planned to face two of them.

"How long have you been working with her?" I ask, buying time.

"How long have we been dating, boo?" He asks her, not even bothering to look at me.

"About three years," she drawls, looking down at her nails. Three years. Hypocrite. I clench my jaw. I could use this against him. If the others were to find out he'd been working with a witch for that long, he'd be executed, and they'd kill her too. I can see in his eyes that he has genuine feelings for her. I just can't believe that of all people, Harley fell for a witch.

"Solidad here was pivotal in this operation. I had to use her to get the pesky boyfriend out of the scene, so she'd be alone more, you know? But then you were basically his replacement, weren't you?"

"You're a fucking hypocrite," I snarl. Harley only laughs, the sound cutting through the air.

"Do you love her? Is that why you won't kill her? Or are you really just a witch sympathiser? Solidad helps the cause. She's on our side. She's a regular witch. Yours is a queen witch, and she's not with us, she's against us. It's not the same at all, pathetic weasel."

"She should have killed you while she had the chance," I hiss, and it's the wrong thing to say. Harley's face twists as his temper flares.

"Well don't worry, mine won't hesitate when it comes to you."

Before Solidad can run at me, I hold up my hand. "Wait." She pauses. "We can come to an agreement. You don't tell anyone about May, and I won't tell them about Solidad. They'll kill her, and probably you, if I do."

I can see he's not convinced at all, and I start to plan my attack. I can't let them leave, so I can't just run. I have to make a stand, even if the odds are stacked against me. I'm waiting for his response, but he's just staring down at Solidad while she glares at me, bloodthirsty. He starts shaking his head, laughing, and I reach down for my dagger. As my fingers curl around the hilt, a tingling runs down my spine and spreads over my whole body for a moment. May. She's here. I freeze, but Harley doesn't seem to notice, either because Solidad is right beside him, or because I can only feel her presence due to our connection.

"Your threats are empty. I can kill you right here, then go back for your girlfriend, and then who will tell them, hmm?"

I sense her, concealed in the trees behind us, waiting. Now that she's here, I've already won. It's my turn to laugh. I see Harley's face twist in rage at my amusement. Solidad pulls away from him, ready to lunge for me. I step to the side, and May steps out from the treeline.

"Should have taken the deal," I say with a shrug. Harley barely has time to realise and open his mouth before she sends him flying. Solidad screams and launches into action, throwing herself at me, but I dodge her and run right past to where Harley's limp body is crumpled against the tree he smashed into.

I don't hesitate. I don't give him time to speak before I plunge the dagger into his chest. I jump away, my blood running cold at the sight of him, at the realisation that I've done something I can't take back. He laughs his signature laugh in his final seconds, then coughs up blood, and the light leaves his eyes. I hear Solidad screaming behind me and whirl just in time to see her clasp her hands around May's neck. Tears are streaming down her face and her eyes are wide, manic. She's cracked. May claws at her hands, then tries to throw her magic at her, but Solidad snakes inside her head, forcing her to hang limp. I can't get close to her. The second I'm in range she could force me to kill May myself if she wanted to.

She starts to lift May from the ground, clenching her teeth hard, and I know I have to risk it. I bolt for her, but before I reach her, she drops May. May slumps down to her knees, but I keep my eyes on Solidad. I'm ready to run at her if I need to, but she just… backs away. She turns to look at Harley, lifeless against the tree, one last time before turning her back and bolting away. I wait until she's out of sight to turn.

I fall to my knees beside May and place two fingers on her neck, feeling her pulse, holding my breath, and flood with relief when I feel its steady beat. I drop my head into my hands, closing my eyes for a moment, just to gather myself. It's dawning on me that I just killed one of my own, someone I've known my whole life, and yet all I feel is relief that she survived. I open my eyes again, and she's looking right back at me, unblinking.

"Are you alright?" I ask. She starts to sit up and nods. I stand, then offer a hand out to her to help her up. She just looks at it at first, but I can't blame her, now that she knows. After a moment, she takes it, and the feeling of her skin on mine sets my hand on fire. I pull it away as soon as she's standing. I see her eyes flick towards Harley, see her realisation. She looks back at me, panic filling her eyes.

"You killed him," she whispers.

I nod. "It was him or you."

"And you picked me," she says quietly. It's not a question, but seems more like she's telling herself. Coming to terms with it. I nod again, swallowing hard. I don't know why I'm nervous. I'm not a nervous person. I clear my throat, suddenly wanting this conversation to end. I have to deal with Harley's body, but first I need to get her home. She's still trembling, and although the redness on her neck is already starting to disappear, she's exhausted.

"I'll have to find Solidad. I don't think she knows anyone she can tell right now, but she'll find a way to get us back, so I can't leave her."

"Then what?" May wraps her arms around herself and stares down at the ground, pushing leaves around with her feet. The truth is, I don't know. If I spend too long out here, they'll come to find me and see why. They'll find her. I can't let that happen.

"Then I'll have to go back, or it'll look suspicious."

May freezes, slowly looking up at me, an unreadable expression on her face. "You… You're leaving?"

God knows I don't want to. "I'll find Solidad first… Then I'll decide what to do."

She nods, unfolding her arms. She's taken a few steps back from me. She doesn't trust me yet. "She'll be at homecoming. That's where she'll strike back."

She's probably right. I watch her for a moment as her eyes flick around, unsure where to look. My mind wanders back to the night she bumped into me on the street, when the rain had us running into the park and she'd looked at me, innocent and lovely as ever, and had laughed. The sound had awoken something deep down in me, that childhood crush I'd never managed to shake. I'd known then that I was screwed. I could never kill her, and why should I? I also knew that I was drawn to her, and not because she was a witch.

I open my mouth, ready to ask her to homecoming. It doesn't mean anything, it's just so I can watch over her, but close it again. Now that she knows Solidad forced Drew to cheat on her, she'll probably go back to him. He was there when I found her. Maybe they'd already talked it through. After a silent moment, May sighs.

"I need more answers, but we should get back first."

I nod, not trusting myself to speak, and we head quietly back through the woods together.