the water laps at her sides, as hot as she needs it to be, steam rising up, the smell of flowers making it all that much better for madelyne’s senses. she sighs as she sinks deeper into the tub, her hair pulled up, pinned in place, her magic making the room spark with it. gryffin was off to school, the garage was being managed by one of the better women on the staff, and madelyne could dedicate herself to this: weaving spells, relaxing and going over what she had to do for this week.

it didn't seem like one of those weeks where everything would be moving at a fast clip, and she had to be concerned with everyone. all she had to do was help out nora, get gryffin through his last week, and sort through her own complicated thoughts. even with things starting to calm down, the fact that jean had wounded her so deeply hadn’t ever left her mind. it still was there, underneath her smiles and sweet messages and her attempts to move on, the memory flooding back, her words swirling in her head, washing over her again and again.

she tries and tries to live with. tries to wrap her spells around a future for herself, for molly, for gryffin, for lilith. tries and tries.

she’s not ever sure if she’s successful as her belly grows and jean’s words seem louder than ever.

madelyne just tries.

her feet shift in the water, the steam rises up, and before she knows it, her eyes are fluttering shut.

the dream starts as it always has for the past few months: she is in a room, surrounded by other women who all look like her. they all have vacant eyes set in beautiful faces framed by red hair. they all reach for her one by one, trying to keep her close to their cold bodies.

like alway, she tries to let go --their hands don't give, only squeeze harder, trapping her even as she tries desperately to wrench away from them screaming that she’s real. the women scream and exclaim in jean’s voice, hurling insults at her over and over, nails digging into her face, her cheeks, her shoulders.

except this time, things do not go as normal.

this time, she breaks free from their hands, running from their insults. her feet pound against the linoleum floors, her hair sticks to her sweating face, and her heart pounds. she can hear their high, angry voices following her as she runs, deeper and deeper into the lab. gadgets give way to white walls--white walls give to red soaked hallways, and her feet press into carpet as she runs.

and the more she she runs, the more she starts to realize something: someone or something is watching her.

the hair on the back of her neck pricks with the awareness that someone’s eyes are watching her nightmare play out so intimately, so vividly. it feels so violating, so strange, as she turns around a corner, stumbling further into the red soaked hallways that she realizes is her own mind. she pants and shakes as she goes, running harder and harder, past familiar doors, memories, feelings.

the thing watches her, and something about it feels hauntingly familiar. it feels--warm, searing as she goes deeper and deeper, the smell of burning flesh starting to fill her nostrils.

she turns, opens her mouth to shout, to yell at the thing watching her. she stops, shocking washing over her as she looks at it in the eye, as the heat swallows her up.

she knows who this is. she knows what this is and--

--madelyne jerks awake in the bathtub. she pants, clutching at her throat, suddenly feeling parched, left half dizzy by the dream.

and then her confusion and panic deepens as she looks down and realizes that the bathwater was completely gone. and settled on her skin and stuck to the porcelain were ashes--a sad remainder of the petals she’d had in the tub with her.

she pants, feeling a need for water and an explanation for all of this.