a/n: Character drablet of Ember from To Fight or Fall...because she is my most complicated, multi-faceted character so far, and because I need you to understand her. Or not understand her...I need you to embrace her as the part that exists in everybody.

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She hurries through the hallways, clutching rolls of maps and plans to her side as if they were the most precious treasures in the world. Maybe they are. It gives her a connection to him, after all.

Though she does not know; does not admit it. Pride is a very strong barrier, and no amount of battering logs or picks and axes will ever break it down because it is not a wall of brick and mortar; and it is not a door, either.

Sometimes she gets too caught up in her world of war and barbs and vanity. It is hard to get away from this addicting game.

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She is grateful for her friends, now, even if she never says it.

The light-haired one; all sweetness and childish flight. This one likes jello. Ember never cared much for the gelatin sugar, for it is only coloring that makes it so fascinating to the innocent children staring greedily at its charm. But this golden one is naïve and solemn and is good for her.

Darkness sometimes offers solace. This friend is all sanity and practicality and laughter, with knowing, mirthful eyes that send the lightheartedness hurtling towards her at the speed of light. They hope it is contagious, because everything looks better when laughing. This friend is good for Ember, too.

She does not know how good she is for them, as well.

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He confuses her, with his too-light hair and too-metallic eyes. No one should be able to read her quicksilver soul; especially not him, he who has taunted and mocked and attacked her year after year. Especially not he who has endured her vicious retorts as no other person would.

She wonders why he does not build up a shield. She wonders why he still lets her and bares the parts of his soul nobody else can see.

Not when she can rarely see beyond his opaque gaze. She decides that it is unfair and has attempted to school her expressions to fit his.

Without succeeding, yes, but he will never tell her so because he finds it almost cute—though what a horrible word that is; all spun sugar and fluff and other nauseating details—and he likes watching her, anyway.

Although he will never tell her that, either.

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She is a leader, and with it comes responsibilities and obligations.

She will not cry; she will not cry.

It is so very lonely atop this towering marble pedestal they have built for her, though, and she thinks that no one deserves this position. So very, very lonely and she wishes she could bring someone else up so she could talk with someone else who understands.

He is right in front of her, but she does not see.

She'll catch herself, sometimes, wondering if he noticed that she let her hair down today, all free and wild and tangled and so unlike her usually unruffled self.

He noticed. He does not tell her, for he also has pride.

And when she finds herself thinking about him, this ancient sixteen year old will see in her mind all the faces she is responsible for, and she'll smash her mirror into glittering shards and ignore her bleeding fist and continue her duties.

The glitter coats her as she flits from side to side; their very own fairy queen.

She is all grown-up all too soon, and she still thinks of him even when she is supposed to be vivid and resistant and strong; for there are other meanings to the word 'strong' and she wishes it could describe her. But it doesn't, because it can only be used to describe humans, and she begins to think that she's only a ghost or a statue, after all.

The faces and their voices will repeat in her mind, and she will put on her stone mask and check for cracks.

You see that girl-woman-child? She's a leader. Very intelligent, you know; she has to be to survive in her world of broken steel and broken dreams. And brave and strong and beautiful and good! Yes, yes, Ember can do no wrong and she's so brilliant and so happy—look, look, there's her smile and it's so bright and wide and plastic and we don't know why she's sad.

Sometimes she just wants to tell them. I'm not so smart. I'm not so strong.

But she doesn't, because who believes that anyway when that's all she's never told herself and so many others?

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Once upon a time there was a queen who lived in a tower of ice who wondered why the fire of battle couldn't melt it. Once upon a time there was a king who stared at all his subjects and wondered why his throne was so high. Once upon a time there was one soul that was split in half, and one traveled into the heart of an ice queen and the other to the heart of a golden boy and they finally met in battle.

Once upon a time there was a boy who hated a girl who hated him back, and they clung on to this hate because it was the only thing keeping them alive.

They pass each other in the hallways, smiling smiles that hurt so bad because all this sugar has got to be damaging to you. She thinks that the smile is blinding, and so they cut off the smiles and spit out poisoned words that soothe.

Hate you so bad sometimes that I want to scream and fight and cry but I don't because you never let anything show so I can't either.

Hate you so bad because you're so young and naïve when you think you're not and you grew up too quickly and you shouldn't have because you're only a little girl, after all.

And then they walk away as silver meets gold and fire meets ice because they're walking contradictions as they climb back onto their stage, performing for their eager audience and trying to ignore the mirror staring back at them. Their shadow haunts their steps still, but they try to shake it off.

Was it always like this? She doesn't remember anymore.

Once upon a time, in a land far away and a different world and a different moment, a little boy gave a flower to a little girl. She took it, and they smiled happy smiles at each other and grasped hands; grasped their lifeline. And all that mattered then was the little boy reaching out to the broken little girl and asking what she dreamed.

They lived happily ever after.

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