I recommend you to add The Lunar Chronicles to your To-read list then. We have quite a small fandom so you don't have to worry about the chaos and toxicity SJM fandoms have lol. But only if you want, just a recommendation because I would love to hear your opinions on it. Take care of yourself okay!
Thank you, darling! You know what, I will, and I'll let you know my thoughts!
Don't know if you still want recommendations but I highly suggest the Ordinary Niacinamide and Zinc serum. Niacinamide is really good for brightening the skin. You could also get the Ordinary Hydrochloric acid serum, but that's optional.
And if you could, you should really get your hands on a Cerave cleanser.
Always taking recs! Thanks very much doll, will check these out:)
OMG OMG OMG you read my mind! I whatched that episode from the office a few days ago and the first thing I thought was ab feyres intervention. It was ridiculous at that point, and feyre is so silly (stupid? egocentric? selfish?) as michael hahahahahah
ask and ye shall receive! sometimes. if an author is bored enough and likes to celebrate birthdays by writing fanfiction alone in her bedroom. so i guess you're in luck!
Call it feminine intuition, or a mother's innate knowing, or simply learning people after living with them for so long, but whichever it is that lets Nesta know, one thing is certain: Cassian and the children are hiding something from her.
Or perhaps it's the fact that Cassian and the children are all exchanging increasingly common secretive smiles and winks (or attempted winks, on Nicky's part—he still hasn't learned how, and only blinks both his eyes).
"Dunno what you're talking about," Cassian says when she asks him for the umpteenth time, while they prepare for bed, voice would-be casual. But his eyes are twinkling far too much, and he can't entirely fight the smile from his face.
She narrows her eyes as she picks up a book from her nightstand. "It's not too late for me to call off the mating ceremony, you know." After months of planning, the words don't feel so foreign in her mouth, but she still fills a shiver up her spine. A mating ceremony. She isn't going to be a blushing virgin bride at her dream wedding; she's going to be a mother of three at her Night Court mating ceremony.
"Idle threats, Nes," Cassian says with a grin.
"What makes you so sure?" she shoots at him.
He pretends to think about it. "You wouldn't want to cancel everyone's trips to Velaris. Leyla's too excited. She'd never forgive you. And besides," he says, pulling her closer to him under the covers, "I think you know you'll like making it official."
She tilts her head to give him better access to her neck and wraps her arms around him to pull him closer still, and says, "What's more official than children?"
She doesn't mean it. At least, doesn't entirely mean it. It's not as though anyone's forcing her to go through with this. And she's—she's excited! She's happy about it! And Cassian's happy and so are the children and that's all that matters in the world.
She's happy to be publicly tied to Cassian. Overjoyed. She cried when he asked. That's not the problem. There is no problem.
But there is…the slight issue.
As much as Nesta is loathe to admit it to herself, Cassian's lifelong dream of a Velaris mating ceremony is just…not hers.
It's just so big. And so fae. All the official Night Court people, and people from other courts, too, people Nesta's never even met before. Her friends from Gilameyva are coming, too, of course, but seeing as though that makes it just even more people, Nesta's not even sure she's excited about that.
She hasn't said a word about it to anyone. Not Amorette, not Emerie, not Amren, and certainly not Cassian. It's not that she's dreading it. It's not going to be miserable. It's going to be the happiest day for the people she loves most, and that means it'll be happy for her, too.
Thankfully, she's better at hiding things from Cassian than he is from her, and he hasn't picked up on it. If he had to lose this because of her selfishness, she'd never forgive herself.
"Legitimate children," he says, pulling her back to the present. His voice is teasing, but that's another aspect. Cassian never brings it up, but she knows he hates himself for the children being born out of wedlock—matelock.
Ugh. She can't even get her head around that term.
Just one day, she tells herself. Just three weeks to go and then one day and then the rest of their lives together. Forever.
That's not at all a painful thought to fall asleep to, so Nesta goes quickly, a faint smile on her face.
All too soon, she is interrupted. But Cassian's kiss is too sweet for her to be irritated about being woken up, so she answers his gentle "Good morning" with one of her own.
Then she opens her eyes.
"Are you joking?" she demands. "It's not even dawn!"
"Oops," he says, grinning. He laughs as Nesta feels her power stir—much as she loves that sound, it's far too early for it. How does he have this much energy? And why is he dressed already?
"Get dressed. We're ready to leave when you are."
"Where do you think you're taking my children?"
But his grin only widens at her snarl, and he winks at her before he leaves, whistling to himself. She hates whistling. He knows this.
She's torn between wanting to rush to finally find out what all the secrecy has been about and taking her time getting ready now that Cassian is keeping the triplets downstairs. She settles on fifteen minutes, and meets a bouncing Nicky waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs.
"We were waiting forever for you, Mummy!" he says.
"Where are we going?" she asks, her voice perfectly pleasant.
Nicky opens his mouth, but Cassian appears before he can say anything, snatching him into his arms.
"Still not telling Mummy, remember?" he says, looking down at Nicky with a smile.
He giggles and clasps his hands over his mouth.
"Come on," Cassian says, setting him down. "Ava and Ollie are waiting."
Avery's Cassian's princess; there's no way she'll tell Nesta. Ollie might have, once, but now he's too responsible. Nicky's her best bet.
"Wipe that look off your face," Cassian says.
"Your conspiratorial look."
"I don't have—"
"Look, we'll be there in a few hours. In the meantime…" Cassian shoots out his hands and yanks her towards him by the waist. "Just enjoy the ride."
But her question is answered when Nicky pushes the door open in front of her.
"Pulled some strings," Cassian says with another wink. "I'm very high up, you know."
Nesta approaches the pegasus-drawn carriage with caution. She picks Nicky up. "Helion?"
She shoots him a look. "What did you do?"
He laughs. "Nothing you wouldn't, don't worry about it. Get in, get in. All right, let's let Mummy sit in the middle so she doesn't fall out."
"Very funny," she says. "No, Avery, Appa's making a joke. Mummy's sitting closest to the door."
"When can I sit closest to the door?"
"When you're a mummy."
"You still don't know where we're going, Mummy!"
"That's right. Maybe you should tell me."
"Do not," Ollie says to his brother. "You have to remember not to say anything, Nicky."
"Yeah, it's still a surprise!"
"It's hard to remember!" Nicky says.
Nesta holds his hand tightly as the carriage rises—for her benefit more than his; all her little bats adore flying.
"Why don't we all keep the secret together," Cassian suggests. "We'll be quiet and Mummy will tell us a story."
Nesta rolls her eyes. "You're not a very good trip organizer if you didn't supply entertainment."
"Why do you think you're invited? Go on, tell us a story, editor extraordinaire."
Part of her new duties at the Night Court branch of Sugar Books.
Her children demand their favourites, each in turn. Cassian interjects with his own annotations, for which they scold him in turn. After a little over an hour of this, it becomes clear where they're going.
"Bit dramatic for a trip home," Nesta says. Their other home, in Sugar Valley. The same little house the children had been born in.
Cassian grins. "Special occasion."
"When are you going to tell me?"
"Never, Nicky," Ollie says.
"But why not?"
"Almost there, Nicky."
"Then can I tell her?"
"You should not have told Nicky the secret," Ollie tells Cassian.
"He's not a good secret keeper," Avery agrees.
"He's a fine secret keeper," Nesta says. "He hasn't said anything at all."
"No, Mummy, but I really want to!"
Nesta catches Cassian's eye and shrugs slightly.
"All right," he says. "Ava's turn to tell us a story."
Before long, they swoop over Sugar Valley. The pegasus lands right in front of their house. Nesta can hear the gossiping now. Aysel'll have the time of her life at jam this afternoon.
"All right. Just like we practiced," Cassian instructs.
Before she can open her mouth to ask what he means, Nicky launches himself at her, gives her a kiss on her cheek, and says, "I love you, Mummy!"
Avery is next, and then Ollie—though he does not throw himself at her with such force, which she appreciates, because at six, they are starting to be too much for her to carry.
Cassian brings her face to his and kisses her once—chaste, but deep and loving. "Love you," he whispers as he pulls away.
Cassian never whispers.
"What's going on?" she says. She's not nervous, but she's…well, perhaps she is a little nervous.
He knows, and laughs a little. "Relax," he says. "Go inside. We'll see you soon." With a gentle push, she walks down the stairs of the carriage, and then they are off.
Whatever surprise it is, as long as it's in her house, it can't be too drastic. So she turns and walks up to her front door and opens it.
Nothing too dramatic. It's empty, and just as they left it. The only difference is the vines of sugarberries circling the railing, so Nesta walks up the stairs. They've had some remodelling done on the top floor; added a bedroom so each of them could have their own. Switched out Nesta's bed for one that can fit Cassian too.
The sugarberries dot to her and Cassian's bedroom, so Nesta opens the door.
On the bed lies an envelop marked with a 1 and and a box marked with a 2. Nesta picks up the letter and flips it over to open it. In Cassian's hand, it says:
I was never very good with this part so I'll just come out and say it: I love you. You're everything I've ever wanted. Our journey wasn't perfect, but anything that got me you and Ava and Nicky and Ollie is something I'd do again in a heartbeat. I'll never be able to give you perfect like you did with our children, but I can give you my best. So take your time getting ready, open the box, and come meet us outside.
and underneath in various messy scrawls:
Nesta sets the letter down carefully and looks at the box. If Cassian wants her to shower first, before opening it…she pushes her curiosity aside and lets herself enjoy a much longer shower than she had this morning, enjoys the quiet and the time to herself.
It's only so long that she can bear the suspense, so soon enough, she's wrapped herself in her robe and walking out to open the box.
White fabric. Nesta picks it up, and the length of it trails down to the floor.
Simple, elegant. Not unlike any dress she might wear on an average day. A bit more upscale, perhaps, because of the color.
A pair of heeled shoes are in the box, too. White, studded with red stones, like Cassian's siphons. Not something she'd ever pick out for herself. And another small box that she opens to reveal pins, twinkling with diamonds as small as the one on her mother's ring—now her ring, that Cassian gave to her.
After some time staring at it all, Nesta gets dressed. Her heart beats in her throat as she opens the door of her bedroom again.
The sugarberries are gone. Now there is a stretch of white paper, going all the way down the stairs, decorated with drawings from her children. Nesta keeps her head down as she walks along—pictures of the five of them, mostly, though other friends and family appear here and there. Bugsy the butterfly, too.
She follows the paper through the house, to the back door. It opens before she can reach the handle.
Nicky's face peaks in. "I kept the secret the whole time, Mummy! You look like a princess. Come outside!" He sticks his hand out to grab hers.
He's wearing clothes she might've dressed a human child up in. With little buttons and pockets. But his wings, like always, are out.
Nesta steps outside with him and bits her lip. She doesn't trust herself to open her mouth.
Avery and Ollie are at her side, similarly dressed. At the far end of the yard (only a few paces away), Cassian stands.
Nesta remembers how she felt when she first lay eyes on him, all those years ago. She loved him right away, and had hated him for it. She knew he was exactly what she wanted and she'd never be allowed to have him. He had been in his Illyrian leathers then, siphons aglow, and so other-worldly…now he's wearing human fashion, with a dress shirt in a blue so pale it is nearly grey. She wants him even more, and now, he's hers.
"Let's go, Mummy," Ollie whispers to her, taking her other hand.
Avery—who else?—leads them down the sugarberry-strewn makeshift aisle, at the end of which is a canopy of faintly twinkling faelights (it is not yet noon, after all) tied to low branches of their neighbor's tree.
"Nesta," Cassian says, when they arrive, and he takes her hands from the boys. "I know the mating ceremony isn't your dream."
Fuck. No, how could he know? She's been so good about hiding it; hasn't told anyone how she truly feels to keep it from getting out.
"You can't keep secrets from me, either," he says with a grin.
"Not like me," Nicky adds.
"Right, you should learn from Nicky. Anyway—"
"I do want the mating ceremony," Nesta objects. "I do." And she does! Really!
"Come on, don't interrupt me."
"Yeah, Mummy, you have to listen."
"Being a good listener is how your friends know you respect them."
"Yeah, it's important—"
"All right, I'm listening."
Cassian laughs. "As I was saying. The mating ceremony isn't your dream. And as it turns out, it isn't mine either. Hush. I'm talking. As it turns out, my dream is exactly all of you."
It's not that she doesn't know that, and it's not that he doesn't say it often, but Nesta finds herself with tears in her eyes. Maybe it's because she's at her own wedding.
"So here's my idea. It's only going to work if you can all keep a secret. We get married now. And we go on our own family honeymoon. And then we'll go back to Velaris and have the mating ceremony." He looks at all of them now. "Does everyone agree?"
"I also do!"
"I do too!"
Cassian looks back to her.
Her throat is too tight to open her mouth, so she only nods.
"Good," Cassian says, satisfied. He slips one hand into his pocket and pulls out a box. Popping it open, he revels two plain matching bands and three tiny bracelets.
"Ollie," he says, putting his on for him. "Nicky…Ava…" The box goes back in his pocket and only the rings remain in his hand. "Nesta," he says, "I've love you so much I can't remember what it feels like to not love you. I promise for us always to be a family. You're the people I care about most in the world, and you make every single day the best day of my life. So…will you marry me?"
She has to say something. She has to. But she's worried she'll cry if she opens her mouth—oh, she can't take it anymore. "Yes," she chokes out, and she can't stop the tears from beginning to drip down her face.
Cassian's hands are strong as he places the ring on her finger. He presses the second into her palm. Her turn.
"I love you," she whispers. "I haven't existed in this body without loving you. I love you all. Will you marry me?"
Her hands shake as she puts the ring on his finger, but he holds her steady, and then he is kissing her—and then stops, all too soon. The children are here.
"We did it!" Cassian says, pulling them all in for a hug with the ferocity of a grizzly bear. "We're married!"
The triplets cheer, and Nesta laughs, mostly as an excuse to cry a little without too much notice.
"All right?" Cassian says in her ear. "There are real marriage ceremonies too—"
"That was real," she says, breathless. "That was perfect."
He grins, and his shoulders relax a little. Was he nervous about this? He shouldn't have been. Of course she loved it. It was them. Their family.
"All right," Cassian says, louder. "Who's ready for our honeymoon?"
"I want lunch first," Nicky says.
"We're eating lunch when we get there. I have snacks in the carriage."
"Where are we going?" Nesta asks, as they walk back towards the house.
"It's a secret!"
"You keep secrets from your wife?" Nesta says to Cassian, who laughs in delighted surprise.
"I guess I do now!"
"Eternity of this, hm?"
"You love it," he says, grinning. Then he picks up the three children in one go and swoops them into the carriage, their shrieking laughter echoing in the empty street.
"I really do," she says quietly, and without a backwards glance to the house, joins them in the carriage.
hello everyone!! here's chapter seven!! without too many spoilers, this chapter is sort of an intro to nesta's magic (along with some light foreshadowing from last chapter). and as always, how nesta's mental health relates to that.
happy friday to you and happy twenty-second birthday to me, thank you to taylor swift for giving me so much<3 (this fic title and my whole age)
A new sort of anxiety in Nesta's chest has her awake in the middle of the night, wandering the House. To the conservatory, at first, then down to the entrance to the library, then she is debating sending word to Elain, then before she knows it she's up on the roof. And she is not alone.
"Early rising or not yet gone to sleep?" Cassian asks her.
She shrugs. "Both, I suppose." She's certainly not slept well, but she doesn't know if she'll manage to go back after this. "What about you?"
He grins. "I'm awake. But this isn't early."
"It's not yet five," she says, frowning.
Spinning a dagger between his fingers, Cassian leans against the wall. "Not early for me."
"What time do you normally get up?"
"Four-thirty." She makes a face automatically and he laughs. "I sleep in on weekends, sometimes."
"What do you consider sleeping in? Seven?"
"Yes," he says, matter-of-fact, and she rolls her eyes. "Why? What do you think sleeping in means?"
"Not before ten on a weekday and eleven on a weekend."
He clucks his tongue. "Bad form, Archeron," he says.
She walks over to a knife rack and picks one up, weighing it in her hands. "Maybe you're the one with bad form."
He laughs a little. Is it funny? Is she joking with him? It doesn't quite feel like that, but it's their first conversation where they aren't at each other's throat, or discussing lessons, and no death is imminent.
"Why are you up at this hour, then?" he asks. "And here."
"I..." she says, spinning the knife slowly in her hands. She puts it back. "I don't know. I've just been feeling...scattered...lately." How odd, she thinks, distantly, to be saying this to him. To be having this conversation with him after everything she had done to herself in punishment for not being good enough for him.
Cassian does not think it's odd that this is their first non-threatening and non-lesson-related conversation ever, that it's before dawn on the roof of the House, that she is in her night things. Or at least, he doesn't show it. He only says, promptly, "Scattered how?"
"Like..." How to explain? "Like my brain has just been cut up into a million different pieces," she says, putting her hands to her temples, "and none of them are working together. So it's hard to do anything. It's hard to speak or make a decision or anything because I don't even know what I'm thinking." She's quiet for only a moment before she says, softly, "I can't believe I just said that." Then, coloring barely, louder, "I mean I can't believe I even managed to put that into words. I've been trying..." But writing her thoughts had gotten her nowhere and not even Thalia had managed to pick this out of her brain.
"Maybe because I feel that way too," he says. She looks up at him. He shrugs. "Like and like, you know."
Like and like indeed. As though the pair of them have anything in common.
"The training helps though, doesn't it?" he continues. "That's why you came here, right? D'you want to start with me?"
Nesta blinks. Here? Now? In her nightdress?
He is right, though. The training does help.
"All right," she says.
He doesn't seem to mind the fact that she's woefully underdressed and barefoot. Doesn't mention it at all. Directs her the same way he always does; easily sliding out of his usual personality and into the more formal, instructor version. Left foot, now again from the right, good, one more time, good, hold that, try with a bit more force, good.
It's a short session, only twenty minutes, but all through it she is focused only on the sound of his voice and their movements. None of the rest of it exists. And when it is over, she takes a deep breath and says, unprompted, "I've started to play piano again."
"That's great," he blurts out. "That's-I didn't know you play."
"Don't tell my sisters," she says. "I don't want them to know and...I've been having Gwyn over for some meals. And Emerie too, you know. And I've been...I don't know. Doing these things. The new things. And Clotho has me doing odd jobs. And Thalia's exercises. And I'm carrying that notebook around. And these lessons. And suddenly it's all a lot. I-I'm worried it's too much." She swallows. Is it-pathetic? "I know it's really not that much. But it...feels that way," she finishes lamely.
"In my experience, if something feels like something, that's what it is," he says.
"But I don't," she says, struggling to find the right words. "I don't feel like it's a lot. I want to be doing more. It's a lot but I'm not actually doing anything." And that's the sorry truth of it. She's exhausted by this. This...healing. Even in her mind she can't say the word without mockery. What healing does she need? Other people lost limbs in the war. She just needs to get over herself.
"Remember being a teenager?" he asks, and she wonders why he has changed the subject into something arguably worse.
"Well, remember growing pains?"
"Yes," she says.
"It's like that, isn't it? It feels like so much but it can look like almost nothing. Even to yourself."
"I...suppose," she says, looking for a but.
"Or when you're sick," he says gently. She freezes. "When you have the flu. And you're recovering. You're tired just lying down. Because you're not just lying down. You're healing yourself. You're healing yourself, Nesta. Of course it feels like too much sometimes."
She can't move. She's stuck, listening to him.
"You don't have to do it all at once, so long as you don't stop entirely." He is confident, assured. What is it like, to be like him? To be so...so much. "You should go to bed now."
"Not worth it," she says. She'll probably only get an hour of sleep before waking up for his lesson and then the day.
"Yes, it is," he says firmly. "You're not coming to training today. And you shouldn't go to the library until after lunch. I'll make sure Clotho knows, if you're worried." He hesitates for a few seconds, then says, "Your health is worth plenty, Nesta."
She blinks, silent. Another one to spin around in her head later.
"Go back to bed now."
She does, and as she lies there, room lightening slowly as the sun rises behind her curtains, wonders why he hesitated.
The priestesses all ask where Nesta is that morning, and, Cassian notes with no small amount of satisfaction, Emerie and Gwyn look thoroughly disappointed and concerned when they realize she isn't there and that she's unwell.
He had been nervous about sending Nesta here, originally. The House hadn't been good for her the first time around-why hadn't it been her friend then?-and it frightened him to think of Nesta in the same class as these priestesses. Violated and traumatized, and then...too scared to ever leave this place, taking refuge in the mountain forever. He'd been scared sending her here would mean losing her forever. Never again would he see her under the sun, as he flew them beneath it, the braid atop her head shining like a golden crown. He would lose the chance to bring her to Illyria for the first flowering of spring, when the mountains grow lousy with fat red anemones. He'd never get a do-over Solstice, after he'd failed so spectacularly last time.
He has been overjoyed, obviously, to learn that he was wrong. To see her slowly come back to herself. Not quite there yet, but...getting there. Every day. Friends with the girls-or friendly, at least. Cordial. Not drinking. Not letting males who don't care about her do whatever they please with her. Talking to her sisters.
But it's been hard, he is ashamed to admit, to know that he is not part of it. To know that it's not he who helped wean her back onto food. He's not the reason she can sleep the night. He's not helping her.
That's why her request of self-defense lessons has been so precious to him. For his own selfish reasons as much as caring about her. But even with them, he's still been so terrified to do something to ruin it. Things with Nesta have always been so fragile, precarious. Anything can be the wrong thing. And it's just so fucking hard to not say the wrong thing sometimes, when she seems to live right under his skin.
Today was nothing short of a miracle.
He likes to train before she arrives, always. Good to get in a proper workout before the day begins, anyway, and this makes it far easier to concentrate when she is there. His jaw had dropped when he had heard her walking up the stairs, and he had panicked, slightly, debating whether he should throw himself off the roof or if she might see him flying away and know that he was avoiding her.
So he shoved all of that out of him and greeted her casually when he saw her.
It had gone better than he could have ever dreamed.
Realistically dreamed, at least. There have been plenty of wild, never-going-to-happen ones.
But Nesta sharing with him, confiding in him, asking him for advice? Almost to good to be true. He rides the high all through the morning, and Az notices.
"I guess you really like when Nesta isn't here," he says, completely deadpan, when the lesson is over.
"Funny," he says, but he can't be bothered to sound cross. "I saw her earlier." Now he can't stop his grin. "She's...doing well."
"Actually," he says, the truth dawning on him, "today's a hard day for her. But it's the sort of hard that only happens because of how well she's doing, you know?"
Az nods. "She should slow down, then."
"Maybe she just needs more support," Cassian says, hoping it's true. Maybe he can be that for her.
"I know. I'm just saying."
Az shrugs. "As long as you know."
That's the good thing about Az. He's not going to keep pushing. Now Cassian can turn the conversation back to Nesta. "She talked to me this morning. Really talked to me."
"Talked?" Az says. "Or talked?"
"Shut up, I mean she shared."
Az gives a mock sigh. "Cassian in tears over emotional intimacy from a girl. Never thought I'd see the day."
"Fuck off," Cassian says, grinning. "It's a big deal."
Az smiles slightly. "I know it is. I'm happy for her."
He wants to tell him more, but she's so private... "If I tell you something, will you not tell Rhys or Feyre or Elain?"
Raising an eyebrow, Az says, "Depends."
"It's not life or death. Just...Nesta's started playing the piano again."
"Oh." Az pauses. "I didn't know she played."
"Neither did I," he admits. But why shouldn't she? If she'd been educated as a gentlewoman. "But it's good, right?"
"No, I know. She's healing on her own. But you care about her and it's nice to see you excited the person you care about is doing better."
That much is true, at least. "Thanks." The thought of Nesta doing better inevitably turns his mind to darker thoughts. "Any updates on Briallyn?"
"You'd be the first to know," Az says patiently. "We still don't know how she's hiding herself so well."
Amren had been-still is-furious at Feyre's prohibition on resuming magic lessons with Nesta.
"They're not helping her," she had insisted. "It just scares her and makes her feel bad."
"Briallyn has Cauldron magic too, and she's going to use it to kill her," Amren seethed. "Nesta's magic needs to be understood to get to Briallyn. You'll forgive me for caring about the girl's feelings second to her life."
Much as Cassian hates to admit it, Amren does have a point. But Az's spies are the best in the world. Surely they'll be able to find her soon.
"Doesn't make sense," he says, for the umpteenth time. "How can she be better at magic than Nesta?" Nesta, bright and cunning and strategic and powerful in her own right...and this pathetic sell-out, Briallyn. How is she better at magic? It frustrates him to no end.
"Don't get so worked up," Az says. "I doubt Nesta cares Briallyn is better than she is."
"She will if she gets past our defenses."
"That's not going to happen," Az says sharply.
"Illyrians. Not her. And we got there in time. And she was safe. That means our defenses didn't fail."
"I'm not going to agree with you on this. Ever. And I'm not going to be okay with it all until Briallyn's dead."
"Cassian," Az says, "we're all going to see that happen. Calm down."
His siphons are glowing. And he's snarling. He blinks. "Sorry." It's just...Nesta.
"It's fine," Az says. And it's not, quite, but Az would never say so. "Come. We've got enough to do today."
And they do. Enough training to oversee, enough meetings with camp lords, enough meetings after those meetings to discuss if the camp lords were lying to them...so much to do that there isn't any time left in the day to think of Nesta at all.
Until the family dinner, which is cut off before it even starts when Elain bursts in the room, sobbing about how something has happened to Nesta.
She is an idiot. An idiot.
Wandering around in the middle of the night because she can't sleep. Who does that? Just lie in bed until it's time to wake up. One is certainly not going to feel better rested walking around. And then her complaining about their being too much to do. Too much what? Too much nothing? Reshelving books in a library, sitting in a lecture, or heaven forbid, playing the piano? Eating lunch with people? That's what tires her out? That's pathetic. She's pathetic.
Listening to Cassian was stupid. She should've-should've gotten the hell over herself, that's what she should have done. Should have taken a bath, forced down a cup of coffee, and gone on with her day.
Or should have thrown herself off the roof. Or onto a knife. She is such an idiot; how does anyone stand her?
Doesn't matter. No use dwelling on that now. Because she's ruined it, like she ruins everything-
"Nesta! Can you hear me?"
Nesta jumps. Thalia is staring at her, dark eyes wide.
"I can hear you," Nesta says. Like an idiot.
Thalia takes a seat on the couch next to her. "Well, you didn't hear me come in, and you didn't respond the first few times I spoke." She puts a hand on her shoulder. "Does that happen often?"
Nesta cringes at her gentleness.
Thalia takes her hand back. "All right, Nesta, I just want you to breathe."
She doesn't deserve to breathe.
"Come on, Nesta, with me. In...out...in...out..."
When Thalia is satisfied with her breathing exercises, she summons a glass of water out of thin air and hands it to her. "Now drink this," she says, "and let's go over what happened."
Nesta's blood turns cold. "No," she says.
"I'm just going to go." She keeps her voice as icy as she feels. That'll make it easier, she thinks.
Thalia's brow furrows. "Go where, Nesta?"
"Away." Of course, Thalia is right, she has nowhere to go. Nowhere and nothing. And anything she had managed to build for herself this past month or so is gone, because she's an idiot, and vile, and pathetic, and weak, and an idiot most of all.
"Why do you want to go away?"
Nesta clenches her jaw. She's not going to answer that. She won't.
"Let's work through what happened, Nesta," Thalia says. "I think it will help you sort out your emotions. You said you like writing things down. Pick up your notebook...yes. All right. Let's start with simple, objective facts first. Then we'll work around to processing. Nesta, what happened?"
Nesta closes her eyes. Keeps them shut tight. Perhaps she'll never open them again. "I attacked Merrill."
"Is that what you would call an objective fact?"
Nesta opens her eyes. "Does it sound like an opinion to you?"
Thalia doesn't balk from her tone. She smiles slightly. "All right. Write that down, then. Let's go backwards. What incited you to attack Merrill, as you say?"
What the hell is this? "Does it matter?"
"It does," Thalia says pleasantly.
Nesta exhales a short breath. "She...I thought she was going to...I don't know."
"I don't know. Attack me." Stupid of her. Merrill is one of the priestesses; the high priestesses. The same amount of authority as Thalia or Daphne or Calliope, under Clotho. As if she would attack her.
And Nesta nearly killed her.
"Why did you think that?"
"Do I have to repeat everything?" Nesta bursts out, unable to keep it in. Then she bites her tongue. Control yourself, she hisses in her head.
"Yes," Thalia says. "I think you've had enough time to distance yourself from the event and now it is time. If you'd like to go faster, you can start from the beginning. Simple facts, please, remember."
Nesta gives another sharp sigh. Fine. Through gritted teeth, she says, "Merrill and I argued about Gwyn. I thought she was going to attack me. I...couldn't control myself. I couldn't control my magic. I attacked her."
And ruined her own life. What little she had of it, anyway.
In front of Gwyn, too. In front of Gwyn.
"Good," Thalia says, satisfied. "Write that down, please."
"Now," Thalia continues, still calm. "Let's start trying to understand why events unfolded as they did. I understand that you didn't sleep the night, correct?"
"What does that matter? I slept all morning."
"So you didn't sleep the night. You came to find Gwyn...just to say hello?"
Nesta thinks she might break her own jaw with the amount she is clenching it. "I just wanted to talk to her."
"All right," Thalia says, gently. "And then Merrill arrived. What happened then?"
This is humiliating. There's no other word for it.
But Merrill was wrong too, and Nesta can't keep the anger entirely out of her voice when she says, "She wanted Gwyn to go to her office. But she was..." Rude is not reason enough to attack someone. "She kept calling her nymph." Which Gwyn is, technically, or at least part, but...the way Merrill said it was cruel. Clearly meant to insult her.
"And how did that make you feel?"
Nesta blinks. "Ah-angry? Angry," she says again, more forcefully. "And insulted. On Gwyn's behalf, I mean." Does that sound stupid to Thalia, too? Insulted on Gwyn's behalf...the insult had been to Gwyn and she hadn't committed aggravated assault.
"Did she say anything else?"
"Yes," Nesta says, suddenly remembering. It had been something odd. "She said...the wind whispers to her about...me. And..." Nesta hates saying the word aloud. Hates that it is to Thalia, a priestess, in this place. "The Cauldron." Clearly, coming here was a mistake. It was never going to work. How could it? When she is inherently different?
"Mm-hmm. What did you feel then?"
"I..." Nesta loses herself in thought. "I-it didn't really...I was...I was thinking about what she said about Gwyn. I didn't really..."
"You were caught up in your anger on your friend's behalf to properly process what was being said to you," Thalia says, rather sage. "Well, how do you feel about it now?"
Nesta pauses. Fuck her is how she feels about it now, but she doesn't think she should say that to Thalia. Even if she's never going to see her again. "She shouldn't have said that." That much is true.
"How do you feel about it?"
"I don't know. Angry, again, I guess. Or...irritated." Perhaps that's more accurate. Yes, irritated.
"Write that down, please," Thalia says. "Now, what next?"
Nesta swallows. Loss of credibility and defense. "Then...I attacked her."
"Nesta," Thalia says patiently. "Let's go a bit slower, please. You're not a violent person. You're not on trial. I want to help you process this. So please, tell me what happened after Merrill brought up you and the Cauldron?"
She says it so casually, Nesta flinches. "She...nothing." Shame washes over her. "Nothing else happened. I just...lost control." That was all it took, apparently.
"I see," she says, considering. "Would you say you acted out of anger or fear? Earlier you said you felt Merrill was going to attack you, but it doesn't seem like you were scared."
"I wasn't scared." Does she sound weak? "I don't know why I thought that. I just...did." She swallows again. Closes her eyes. "I just couldn't control it, all right? And this morning, I said to Cassian..."
Thalia waits, but when she doesn't continue, asks, "What did you say?"
"That I can't do it. I just can't. And he said-I should just slow down-but obviously that's not-I can't do it anymore, all right?"
"I'm afraid I don't understand you."
Nesta sighs and opens her eyes. She looks at her notebook. "I can't always control what I think," she says, slowly. "And I can't always control how I feel or what I do. I don't always get to make my own decisions. Not anymore. I just can't. I don't know why. I'm...illogical, now. And evidently, I'm a danger to others. I thought I was...anyway. That's why I'm going."
Thalia leans back slightly, jotting something down in her own notebook. "Can I share my process with you?"
This should be wonderful. "Sure."
"Right. One of our students didn't sleep the night and instead attempted to sleep in the morning. The high priestesses and I were all made aware of this. When our student decided independently that she was well enough to attend the library later that same day, one of my colleagues interrupted her conversation with a friend by insulting her friend and referencing the student's trauma in a hostile, provocative manner. Our student reacted negatively, and lost control of her magic, and then lost herself in hysterics."
Nesta turns crimson. She had hoped they wouldn't have to mention that part.
"Interesting how both of us were stating facts, and yet, they paint such different pictures," Thalia continues.
Nesta crosses her arms. "I can take responsibility for my own actions."
Thalia gives her a small, rather sad smile. "I understand that today a priestess completely failed you and Gwyn. I hope this hasn't damaged your trust in me."
"No," Nesta says, slightly bewildered.
"Good. Then you'll know I'm not attempting to insult you when I say...it's wonderful that you are ready to take responsibility for your actions. But, as you said yourself, there are times when you think or act illogically. This is one of those times."
Nesta is quiet for a moment. "Are you joking?" she says. "You expect me to believe that this is just fine?"
"Of course not," Thalia says. "You are referring to your own actions, I assume."
"Yes." Fuck Merrill, seriously.
"Then no. But you did not act out of malice. Nesta, I don't always share my diagnoses with our students. But perhaps hearing yours would help you. Would you like to hear them?"
Nesta blinks. "Diagnoses?"
Thalia nods. "Perhaps just one, then?"
"I...how many do I have?" Is she insane? Insane people never know they are, do they?
"Everyone here has more than one diagnosis, Nesta," she says. "Does it matter?"
Does it matter? Of course it matters. She's not like everyone else. She thought she might be, but...she was wrong.
"There's only one I want to discuss with you right now. And that is because I know how bright you are, and how practical. You're smart enough to know that past traumas in your life have affected you, and you can even recognize some of the ways."
"Yes." But everyone here's been traumatized in some way or another. It's not an excuse.
"And I'm smart enough to know that there are a number that you haven't shared with me."
At this Nesta startles. Does she know about-Tomas? Or...something else?
"I'm not going to try and guess what they are, Nesta," Thalia says smoothly. "Please bear with me. Think of one of the triggers that have affected you privately."
The bath, Nesta thinks automatically. Her inability to take a bath. Not that that's much of an issue anymore, thanks to the House. Nesta might miss sinking low into a tub, but since she's not living in her own filth anymore, it doesn't really bother her so much.
"That's a sort of stressful response your body and mind undergo in a sort of warped attempt to protect you. You remember what hurt you, and try to stay away from things that resemble that, even if you are completely safe in the current scenario. Fear can be healthy and keep us safe. It can also, in this instance, hurt you. And as you saw earlier today, it can sometimes hurt others. You don't deserve to be punished for that, Nesta. Especially since we are committed to ensuring you have a trigger-free life here, and we violated that. Do you understand?"
Nesta doesn't have to fight so hard not to roll her eyes. Thalia makes it easy. "I do understand," she says, her voice calm and even, like a sane person, "I just disagree."
Thalia's lips quirk. "On what grounds?"
"Rather, it does not matter whose fault it is or isn't," Nesta says. "I'm responsible. I don't care what diagnoses you've given me. I'm still an adult. I'm not an invalid."
"That's a very good attitude to have, Nesta, and I commend you on that. I'm very pleased to hear that, actually. I don't mean to say you are uncontrollable. Think of it as reaching a limit of sorts," she suggests. "Maybe sometimes your limits are different than others. It would be cruel to punish you for that, don't you think?"
Nesta lets out a sort of strangled breath. If she's going to make her say it..."All right. And if I had killed Merrill? Or-Gwyn?" Nesta feels ill. She's going to vomit. The thought o-of hurting Gwyn, killing Gwyn...and what must she think of her right now?
At this, Thalia leans forward. "Nesta. I know you're quite powerful. But allow me to reassure you, that could never have happened. How many priestesses were there within a few seconds?"
Four or five, Nesta isn't sure. And Clotho amongst them-how mortifying.
"We never would have allowed that to happen. And I don't think you would allow that to happen, either."
A mocking, bitter laugh escapes her. "How do you know that?"
"I trust you," Thalia says. At her scoff, she says, "All right, I also have the facts. You stopped yourself just two seconds after you started."
Two seconds? It felt like longer.
Nesta stands. "I want to go to bed."
Thalia stands too. "It's all right if you don't understand all of this today, Nesta. But I want you back in the library tomorrow morning."
As Nesta reaches the door, Thalia says, "Oh. I should warn you. Your family is here."
Whatever Nesta is expecting when she sweeps into the living room is evidently not what she finds there, which is all of them save Mor.
He freezes in his pacing by the wall decorated with Nesta's gold plate thing. Feyre stands when she walks in, and Rhys joins her automatically. Elain shoves her hand against her mouth. Az looks like he wishes he had not come at all.
Only Amren doesn't look fazed.
"Are you all right?" Feyre blurts out.
Nesta peels her eyes off of Amren and looks at her sister. "I'm fine," she says shortly.
"We were all worried," Feyre says, weak.
Nesta doesn't answer. This was a mistake, obviously, all of them coming here. But Feyre and Elain were desperate to see her, and Rhys had to come to be with Feyre, and Cassian needed to see her, and Az came to be with him, and Amren...
But it's too much for her. They should have known. He should have known.
"I'm going to bed," she says.
Amren speaks. "It's twelve-thirty in the afternoon. You slept all morning."
"Enough, Amren," Feyre snaps.
Elain says, fighting tears, "Are you all right, Nesta?"
Nesta softens, almost imperceptibly, at that. That's good. That wouldn't have happened two months ago. "I'm fine. I'm tired."
"Can we get you anything?" Feyre asks.
"The House helps me with anything," she says, her voice softer still.
"If you use your magic on the House, why won't you learn to control the rest of it?"
Everyone freezes at that.
"Amren," Rhys warns.
She ignores him. "Obviously, you're capable. So why not?"
"Enough," Feyre hisses.
But Nesta ignores them too. "My magic doesn't control the House."
"Doesn't control it, maybe, but brought it to life." Amren meets Nesta's steely grey gaze with her own silver one. "I can feel you in the bones of it."
For a few seconds, everyone is silent. Just the two of them staring at each other. Rhys and Az poised to act if necessary. He's focused on Nesta. If something happens here, he's going to be on top of Nesta and as far away as he can fly them for as long as it takes to get Amren out of here.
"You can go, Nesta," he says, voice quiet. "You don't have to stay here."
She turns her head to him, and it nearly knocks him down. The life back in her eyes. Turning back to Amren, she says, quite simply, "Fine. Tomorrow. I'm going to bed now."
Just as elegantly as she had entered, Nesta sweeps out of the room. Like she is gliding. Floating. Flying.
She's tired. Fatigued. The day should end there. She should never get out of bed.
But she does, after a nap. She makes her way to the piano and she plays.
Then she eats dinner. Or whatever meal it counts as.
It is six when she realizes that she has not done anything new today. So she climbs to the roof in the hopes that he will be there, and he is.
"Nesta," he says in surprise.
"I wanted to see you."
His shock is visible, which satisfies her.
"You don't have to do lessons with Amren again, you know," he says.
"Yes I do," she says.
"You could do them with Clotho or another priestess," he argues.
"Amren's the only one who has a prayer of understanding," Nesta says. "I need your help with something."
He's on top of his reaction this time, but Nesta can still detect his disbelief. He's just not good at hiding how he feels.
"What is it?"
She shrugs. "I haven't done anything new today."
His eyebrows quirk. "You...take that really seriously." It's not judgemental; he just notes it.
"I do want to get better." It's humiliating to admit, but it's the truth. "That's why I need lessons with Amren. And I know it's pathetic, because just this morning I told you-"
"It's not pathetic," he interrupts. "Stop calling yourself that. You'd never think that about yourself if you knew how your sisters and I see you, you know that?"
Cassian runs a hand through his hair. "How about knives?"
"Knives," he repeats. "I bet you've never thrown knives before."
She frowns slightly. "No."
"Well, that can be your new thing for the day. Come here. Let me show you."
He switches into instructor-Cassian, and shows her how to keep her arm steady, how to keep her hips balanced. When she has thrown the fifth knife, she can't keep it in anymore, and she blurts out, "Will you tell me something honestly?"
He pauses. Fixes the angle of her wrist. "Yes."
"Do you think I'm insane?"
He drops his hand from hers. "Why do you think that? No, I mean, I don't. Why do you think that?"
She lets him guide her into throwing the sixth knife. Bull's eye. "Thalia said I have...diagnoses."
He laughs, holding her arm as he gears to throw the seventh for her, but she opens her hand and the knife clatters to the ground.
"Sorry, sweetheart," he says, over the rush in her ears. "I didn't mean-sorry. I wasn't laughing at you. It's just...I've gotten diagnoses before. I have some still. And I...wasn't expecting you to say that."
She turns to face him. This is close. If they're not doing anything self-defense or training related, it's too close. But she doesn't move. "You do?"
"'Course," he says, unbothered. "Most soldiers do. Or at least, soldiers who bother getting themselves checked out. And you've...been through it all."
"So you have diagnoses based on being a soldier," she says, picking up on his wording. "Well, from what Thalia says...I have some that are just...me." From how Thalia had avoided mentioning how many or naming them.
Cassian's hand moves faster than she can detect: it is at his side one moment, then holding her face the next. "I didn't say I don't, either. I do. And just so we're clear, Nesta...I happen to like the way you are."
"What if the way I am is just a collection of these-things?"
"How do you know?"
He winks at her. "Maybe I'm smarter than you think."
She doesn't say anything. Just stares at him.
He doesn't answer like a normal person. Of course not. Instead he moves his left hand to her waist and squeezes his right hand on her chin lightly. "Do you want me to tell you how I know?" he asks.
No. No, she is not...that's not-she can't. She can't hear that-that's not-she's not-
He laughs again. "Relax, Nes." He pulls his hands back. "You did well with the knives."
She takes a step backwards, hands suddenly clammy. "Thanks."
"And for the record," he says, suddenly, "I think you should counterattack anyone who threatens you. With whatever you have in your arsenal."
"She wasn't really..."
"Let's not start that," he suggests. "Go to bed. I'll see you tomorrow."
Something in her had known, she thinks to herself as she slips into bed. Had known that there is an overload in her mind right now. With all going on, with all that happened, and with agreeing to lessons with Amren again...
Like the diagnosis Thalia wouldn't name, she thinks. That tries to protect her. It had known that she couldn't sleep tonight until something stronger had emptied her mind of all of it. And it had driven her to him.
And maybe...maybe he had known too. Maybe that's why he had been there. Waiting for her.
And that's too much to think about. So she just falls asleep.
i was SO excited to read this!! and it absolutely did not disappoint, completely exceeded my expectations, land on go and collect 400. loved it. LOVED it.
the effort?? the effort he has to put in because he's traumatized too?? um, yes. the anxiety, the fear of rejection? from someone you can't bear to be rejected by because they're literally your version of perfection? the angst? the terror? the determination? the self-loathing when you fail? the jealousy? the desperation?
THIS is the cassian we should have gotten in canon. the one who doesn't give up on nesta. acosf cassian straight up doesn't talk to nesta for like ten months!! this cassian is doing what he can to get her out of it even though it's hard for him and then he's like you know what?? this isn't working. let me meet her halfway. and that's how you do it, ladies.
A Drinking Song
Chapter 1: Wine Comes in at the Mouth
Summary: Two months after ACOFAS, pre ACOSF fic. If Cassian had actually tried reaching out to Nesta during these months.
Masterlist, Chapter List
Slip and slide this into your Wednesday evening.
She was drunk on ale, and he was drunk on the sight of her. Not because she was beautiful, but because she was a walking disaster and all he could do was drink her in.
Nesta wore calamity like a navy-blue dress that clung to her figure, sleeves rolling down her arms. To hide those bones of hers, Cassian thought, but not well enough for him to not notice the way she’d become smaller then when he’d last seen her. As if she were trying hard to disappear and couldn’t get close enough.
She blinked at him, and he opened his mouth, nothing witty or wise escaping his lips. All he could think was that she was here. In this place between tavern wall and tavern wall. The bricks quieting the maudlin voices to dull throbs.
Hey, babes! Here are our canon fixes for the week:
1. When Nesta was six, she met with a man who declared more or less immediately that she would forever be hopeless at playing an instrument or singing, but that she had a good ear for music. Bull.
2. Nesta is apparently so desperate for a friend that she gives the House life, but never really hangs out with the priestesses. Um. Okay? Sounds fake, but okay.
3. Both Gwyn and Emerie have never left their homes in Sangravah and Illyria, respectively, except for when the IC brings them to the library. Not exactly a fix, but something we will start to explore.
Since Nesta's accomplished virtually nothing in her life, she expects her ideas of "new things" to try to be easy to come up with. But after an hour of brainstorming in bed that Thursday evening, she only has two things scribbled in the notebook Thalia gave her: Wear yellow and Learn to play the trumpet.
"Don't suppose you have a trumpet in here?" Nesta says to the House.
The House only pulls the curtains shut in answer.
"Bedtime," she agrees, shutting the notebook and placing it on her bedside table. "I think this one-per-day rule is a bit much, don't you? Especially considering these self-defense lessons. Do you think other girls will come?" Nesta doesn't always wait for an answer when talking to the House. It tends to interject as it pleases, generally by opening doors or magicking a cup of tea in front of her. "I think that Emerie girl would like to. From Illyria, I told you about her...oh, thank you," she adds, for the House has placed the novel Nesta started last night by her pillow. "Shall I read aloud, then?"
She does, until she falls asleep.
The next morning, she draws looks from the hood-less girls and slight double-takes from the veiled priestesses; no doubt courtesy of the bright yellow dress the House had pulled out of her wardrobe this morning. She ignores them, not stopping until she reaches Clotho's office. When she knocks, Thalia's voice calls for her to enter.
"Well!" Thalia says, smiling.
"I'm never wearing this color again. It washes me out." Ruins the detox and more regulated eating she's had this past month.
"I think you look lovely," she insists, and Clotho nods. "But that's certainly your prerogative. Is that the worst consequence?"
"Yes, yes," Nesta says impatiently, waving a hand. "It won't kill me to try new things. Lesson learned."
Thalia looks over at Clotho. Perhaps she can tell what the priestess looks like under her hood, or perhaps she talks to her mind-to-mind like Feyre and Rhysand do, but Nesta almost thinks they exchange a glance of some sort. Amused, perhaps?
"Can either of us help you with anything, Nesta?" Thalia asks pleasantly, and gestures for her to sit down.
"Maybe," Nesta says taking a seat. Her cheeks color slightly as she does; why is she bashful about this all of a sudden? Around Thalia and Clotho? "I...well, I've started some self-defense, you know."
"We know." They both did, had both asked her how it was going. "You're still enjoying it, aren't you?"
"I...I am-it's good for me." Enjoy is a strong word.
"You said it helps keep you focused," Thalia says. "Centered."
"Yes. It...makes me feel good." She doesn't normally struggle with her words so much, does she? Does she sound like an idiot to the two of them, or just to her own ears? No, Clotho and Thalia would never say that about her. Never even think it. It's only her who's like this, trapped in her own wretched mind, slave to something dark and horrible and become just as vile-
But no, that isn't true. It's not just her who feels that way. And that's why she's here.
"It makes me feel more in control," Nesta says finally. "Of my life and my body."
Thalia leans back, satisfied. Clotho doesn't move. Nesta wonders if they know, if they can guess at what just went on in her mind. Either way, they both wait for her to continue.
"And I thought," she says, pausing to draw breath, "that maybe some other girls might be interested. With...Cassian."
At this, Clotho does cock her head.
"We meet in the mornings. Not on Tuesdays and not over the weekend," she adds, just so they aren't sitting in silence.
After a few moments that feel ridiculously long, Thalia says, "I think that's a wonderful idea, Nesta."
For a brief, strange moment, something happens. Nesta breathes in as Thalia finishes her sentence-not in relief or any emotion in particular, just to breathe-and as she does so, something inside of her shifts. Un-constricts.
But it's gone just as soon as it arrives, and before Nesta has time to dwell upon it, one of Clotho's notes appears. For a select group of girls, perhaps.
"Yes, I think we have the same few in mind...Of course, Nesta, you're welcome to share this with all of the students, but just between Clotho and myself, I think we'll privately encourage four or five...yes, thank you for bringing this up to us, Nesta," Thalia says, finishing with another warm smile.
Don't go just yet, Nesta, please, Clotho writes as Thalia takes her leave. I wanted to ask you how you were doing.
"I'm well. Thank you."
I'm glad to hear these self-defense lessons have something to do with that...our own lectures and exercises too, I hope?
Nesta raises her head slightly as her cheeks tinge pink. "I-yes. I think so." Clotho waits, unmoving, until Nesta sighs and says, "I do like the lectures."
Wonderful. Which ones?
Nesta answers honestly, "All of them." It's...it's quite something, to learn things. Things she never knew, never imagined, from females who are so passionate about them. "And...I like the jewelery. I like working with my hands."
I'm so very happy to hear you're finding yourself here, Nesta, Clotho's pen writes out. Have you given any thought to a more permanent assignment?
"I...thought you were supposed to."
With your input, of course. We would never want you to do something you were uncomfortable with.
But Gwyn's not comfortable with Merrill, is she? "I don't know. There's not really anything wrong with any of the priestesses, I suppose." It's only when Clotho begins lightly shaking with amusement that Nesta realizes she probably shouldn't have said that. "That is...I like them." She does. Enough.
Well, I'm happy to hear that, too.
Nesta rises, rather abrupt. "I've got to sort books," she says, and doesn't wait for a proper goodbye before leaving.
The amount Nesta has improved after only a few short weeks of being in the library floors Cassian. Her weight gain, voluntarily asking him for self-defense lessons, her performance in said lessons, and she still manages to find time to ask if other girls can join. Not even touching upon the fact that she's said she doesn't feel so dependent on alcohol anymore.
It shows incredible strength of character, and it makes Cassian's heart swell so much that he almost doesn't care when he meets an unfamiliar, tipsy young male he realizes must be one of the rebels in Windhaven, glaring at him.
"What are you doing outside of your camp, boy?" Boy, he says, because he is one. He's not yet participated in the Rite.
"Visiting family," the boy slurs. "Sir," he adds, mocking.
"Go home," he orders, trying to imitate Nesta when she's at her coldest.
Perhaps it works, because the boy blanches before sneering and turning away.
He has to tell Rhys they're getting more brazen. Normally Cassian wouldn't care at all what any of them say to him-or at least, say he doesn't care-but if these pricks are bringing Nesta into it, all bets are off. He's going to follow up on whoever that was and make sure he doesn't come back to this camp until this situation is under control. Until the threat on the throne, on Nesta's life, is vanquished.
Shaking himself, he pushes into Emerie's shop. "Good morning."
She looks up. "You're back. Hello," she adds.
He gives her a smile. "Who was that?"
Emerie does not return his expression. "My baby cousin, Bellius," she says, bitter. "But never mind him." Just like that, Emerie phases out of her ire and into a cool, detached expression. Just like Nesta, he thinks. Perhaps that was why they liked each other-if they liked each other. "What can I help you with?"
"Perhaps you can help me," he says. "Nesta-Lady Nesta-you met here a few weeks ago?"
"Yes," she says, careful. "I remember."
"Well," he says, unsure of how to introduce the subject. "She's...started taking some self-defense lessons. For exercise. With me."
Emerie looks unconvinced. "For exercise?"
"And she thought you might be interested in joining. And that you have some friends who might be interested, too."
Emerie's face doesn't betray anything. She studies him, and it's been about ten seconds before she says, "Did she?"
"Yes," he says, feeling only slightly like perhaps the two of them training together might not be good for him.
"Hm," she says. After another minute of her own quiet deliberation, she says, slowly, "I will attend one of these lessons...and then I will...consult with my friends."
"All right," Cassian says, thankful that it's over. "Someone will be along to pick you up Monday morning."
He doesn't dawdle too long in saying goodbye. He has a lot to cover before Monday-figure out the best way to introduce self-defense to very traumatized, potentially, females, and now he'll have Emerie, and Nesta. What kind of dynamic will that create?
But he's been a soldier his whole life. Surely he can handle a few young females.
Nesta has taken to carrying around her notebook wherever she goes, just in case she gets an idea of some new thing she can try. A girl named Deridre approaches her and asks her what self-defense is like, and if it's at all like the meditative yoga they do with the priestess Agata, so she writes that down. She goes to one of Daphne's lectures for the first time and learns about resuscitation and scrawls the name of a method to stop choking that seems simple enough to learn. Gwyn sees her writing and says, "You know, your finger nails are shaped so nicely. How come you never paint them?" so she adds that to her list, too.
She finds, actually, that it's quite nice to carry the book around. It's nice to have an excuse to write with such a fine pen. It's been years since she has.
Her sisters visit her over the weekend at her invitation and they are thrilled by her new things.
"I could teach you to paint," Feyre suggests.
Nesta wants to reply that the idea is to attempt things that do not make her want to pitch herself off the veranda, but instead she says, "You already tried that."
"Right," she says, deflating.
"But," she says, oddly disturbed by this response, and grasping for something to say, "maybe we can...sculpt. Or something. One day."
Feyre brightens at this. "Whenever you have time," she says, happily.
Nesta rolls her eyes. "You've heard we're inviting other girls?"
"Oh, Nesta, I just think it's such a grand idea-"
"Everyone's really excited about it, honestly, they've been trying for something like this for so long-"
"And with the Illyrian girls, Cassian said-"
"We know it's not exactly a unit, but still so impressive-"
"And we hear you're doing really well!"
"Yes! Really well! Maybe I could join you one day, too," Feyre says, hopeful.
"I'd watch. Or, or maybe even try some!"
Nesta takes a sip of water. She forgets how much noise these two make, honestly. "I don't think it's as exciting as you've imagined," she says. "Sure, you can come one day. Maybe not while the other girls...I'm a bit nervous," she confesses, suddenly. "Clotho and Thalia wouldn't let if they thought it was a bad idea, but I don't know..." She looks out onto the rainy city. The House keeps the interior warm for her, but sometimes she thinks she can still feel the cold in her bones anyway. "I mean, I'm the only one who ever leaves the library, and it could go really wrong. Obviously, no one's going to force herself to do this, and they can just no, but-uh," she finishes on a stammer, as she turns back to look at her sisters.
For there are shining silver tears in Elain's eyes, and Feyre's face looks cracked.
What has she said? What horrible thing has she done?
"No, no," Feyre says hurriedly, reading her expression.
"Sorry, Nesta," Elain says, bringing her hands to wipe her eyes. "It's just...it's just so nice to see you like this...about something."
"Oh," Nesta says, eventually.
Her sisters leave in the evening, but the likeness of their faces in her mind do not. Their expressions, their...love.
Is she really so different now, she wonders all weekend. Is she so much better? She doesn't feel particularly much of anything.
If this is better, then what had she been before?
Monday morning rolls around quickly, and she is decked in the uniform the House has supplied her and finished with a light breakfast, waiting at the arena on the roof before the sun has even fully risen.
"Nervous too?" Cassian says from behind her as he neatly lands in.
"I suppose," she says, not turning around.
"How long have you been here?"
He chuckles. "Maybe more nervous than I am. Well...shall we begin?"
"No one's here yet."
"So? We can start just the two of us." He shrugs out of his jacket. "Would put us at ease, at least, don't you think?"
Us, he says. Like they are the same. They get nervous by the same things and the same things calm them down and they do it all together.
"Yes," she says, clearly needing it.
The movements come easier than on Thursday. Each time she gets better, and it is, she will admit, a rare sort of feeling. To know that she is improving at something. To feel it in her blood and bones.
Cassian's instructions leave no room for worrying in her mind. When she slips out of his holds, breaks out of his grip, all she can think of are his body and hers, anticipation of his next move and victory when she gets it right, or disgruntlement when she is wrong. They move through the steps in sync, almost like the ballet she used to study, and she is so consumed with it that she does not notice until they are done that they have an audience.
Not a particularly big one. Gwyn, Deirdre, and Azriel has brought Emerie, but an audience nonetheless.
"All right," Cassian says. "So what Nesta and I just did is called the Grunge Hook." He launches through into an explanation of what it means and Nesta blinks as she realizes he must have known they all had arrived. Seen them, heard them.
Her cheeks go cold. She can never notice anything else when he's there. Certainly not as they were; touching, talking...
"So Emerie and Nesta, and, ah, Miss..."
"Gwyn," Gwyn says at the same time Deirdre says, "Deirdre."
"Right," Cassian says. "Well, you two pair up."
Emerie walks over to Nesta and they are ready faster than the other two. Nesta tenses. They have not yet been outside-perhaps this was a mistake-what will Gwyn think of her now? She won't sit next to her for lectures anymore, won't come help her put books away-
But it is only a moment, and then Gwyn turns to Cassian and says, "I guess we should have dressed differently."
"You can wear whatever you're comfortable with," he says. "And you don't have to do anything you don't want to, either."
So Deirdre keeps her hood secured on, but Gwyn shrugs her robe off entirely to reveal simple, like-colored dress. Perhaps she'd like leggings and a skirt like Nesta's, she thinks. If she decides to continue...if other girls decide to join...
Emerie's, surprisingly, not as good at the movements as Nesta is. Surprisingly because Nesta doesn't really think of herself as good at this, just better than before, and because, well, Emerie's Illyrian, and all the Illyrians Nesta knows...
"It's your wings," Azriel says, approaching. "They throw you off balance."
She droops. "So I can't. Because I'm clipped."
Nesta flinches-it's such an ugly word. But what to say?
Azriel answers before she can, his shadows clearing from his face. "Of course not," he says, patient. "Just hold yourself this way," and he shows her how to maneuver her wings.
Emerie seems as though her emotions sway easier than Nesta's, as she appears cheered up by this. "Let's try again," she says to Nesta.
And they do, but it is not like before, with Cassian. It is not as in sync, and she is not as focused. Over on the other side, under Cassian's watch, Gwyn and Deirdre are doing even worse.
When the hour is done, Deirdre hurries back down faster than she has moved throughout the whole lesson, and Gwyn shoots Nesta a small smile, and nods her head once at Azriel, before saying, "Good to see you again," and leaving. Emerie says, "Thanks for thinking of me," and perhaps sounds a bit more genuine, but she turns to ask Azriel to take her back right after, and then she is gone too.
"Brilliant," Nesta says aloud, miserable.
Cassian looks over at her, surprised. "What?"
"Are you kidding me? That was horrible."
Cassian laughs. "Are you kidding me? That was great!"
"Enough," she snaps, skin burning. "I don't need-"
"Woah," he says, raising his hands. "Woah. Seriously, Nesta, what's wrong?"
She clenches her hands into fists. "Stop mocking me."
"I'm not!" he protests, and his stupid eyes are wide and innocent and his stupid voice is confused and concerned when he says, "Come on, why are you upset?" so she has no choice but to answer.
"They hated it and they were bad."
Cassian laughs again. A real laugh this time, with his head tilting back, and the sound echoing in the mountains. Her heart lurches. She ignores it.
"They did not hate it," he says, eyes twinkling. "And they were not bad. They're novices. Not everyone's a born natural like you, with a perfectly paired partner in me," he teases, winking, almost as though good-natured.
"They couldn't get away fast enough." Deirdre didn't even take off her hood. So much for helping other females.
Cassian's grin falters. Shit. Had she said that out loud?
He moves closer to her. "Do you know how many clipped Illyrian females have agreed to come to anything remotely similar to this?"
"You know I don't," she snaps, but he doesn't rise to her bait.
"None," he says, calm. "Emerie is the first. Do you know how long Deirdre's been in here?"
"No," she says. Longer than Gwyn, but not more than that.
"Since before Amarantha took over."
Nesta winces. Over fifty years, at least, then.
"And she came...you convinced her to come."
"I didn't," she says. "Thalia-"
"She told me," he interrupts. "She told me you told her what it was like and she wanted to try it."
Nesta stills at this. "Well...what does it matter if she just tries it once?"
He laughs-again! Why does he laugh so often? "Aren't you doing that? Trying things once? Oh, no, I don't mean it in a bad way, Nes, don't look like that. I'm just saying...okay. So it's not for everyone. Maybe she tries it once and never does it again. But it's still worth a whole fucking lot that she tried. And that's because of you. And how do you know she's not going to try again, anyway? Because she left when the hour was up?"
Nesta reddens slightly.
"Fuck," he says, and this time it doesn't amuse her, his easy swearing. "I-shit. Nesta. I'm not trying to hurt your feelings."
She startles. "I-what?"
"I just mean..." He runs his fingers through his hair. "Look. You did a good thing. Whether or not they continue, you did a good thing. And I think they will, for the record. Emerie might not want to come every day, you know, she might not have time...but I think Gwyn liked it enough."
Nesta feels something inside of her flutter. "She did?"
Cassian nods. "Definitely." He looks at her for another moment, then shakes his head.
"What?" she asks, dreading the answer.
"Nothing," he says. "I just don't understand how you can't possibly be so proud of yourself. Especially today." He shrugs slightly, completely oblivious to what is happening inside of her. That feeling from Clotho's office. What is that?
But it is gone as soon as it arrives, just like last time. He says, "See you tomorrow, Nesta," and leaves. And then she does too.
Cassian, Nesta learns over the course of the next few weeks, is right.
Not about her, obviously. But about the females still being interested.
Gwyn's excited about it. "I didn't realize you were so good," she gushes.
Nesta huffs in amusement. "Hardly."
"Well, better than the rest of us!"
"Just a bit more practice," she says. And there is something about the lessons with Cassian...though they don't do as much together, though, anymore. Not with the others there now. She almost wishes that she had not invited everyone for each of the lessons...maybe one morning with him just to herself.
But that's-that's just absurd. He's hardly hers.
Deirdre finds her that Monday, too, and thanks her for convincing her to go. Nesta privately wonders what on earth it was she had said that worked, because the conversation barely stands out in her mind, but she tells Deirdre she's glad to hear she enjoyed it, anyway.
"I think Roslin and Ananke would like it too," she says. "Thalia told them it would be good for them, but they were too nervous. I'll try and convince them...I didn't realize how much fun it would be," she adds with a gentle laugh.
"Oh," Nesta says. "Oh...well, good. I mean, good to hear. I hope they...join too."
And Cassian is right about Emerie as well. She does not come on Tuesday, but she does on Wednesday, and tells Nesta she thinks she can keep coming twice a week.
"And your friends?" she asks.
"They're interested," she tells her. "But I think I have to work a little harder at convincing them."
Nesta nods, not wanting to ask what they might have stopping them from coming. Whatever happened to Emerie's wings-whoever had clipped her-perhaps those females have someone like that in their lives.
It is on the second Wednesday that Emerie arrives that Nesta asks her if she'd like to stay a while longer. She'd already asked Azriel the day before if he could possibly take her back after lunch, and he'd agreed.
There was something odd about talking to Azriel, she noticed. Something about those shadows. Something about the way they-looked?-at her. Something...
But Emerie agrees, if a bit shyly, and she asks Gwyn if she'd like to take lunch with the two of them instead of in the priestesses' dining hall, and Nesta has her new thing for the day: hosting people for a meal.
They ogle everything openly, jaws dropping as the House pulls out chairs for them and food appears as Nesta requests it.
"Thank you," she says.
"You're...talking to the House?" Gwyn asks.
"Oh. Thank you," she adds.
"Thank you," Emerie says quickly.
The House likes them too. Nesta can tell. There's a bit more effort being made here today, she thinks, as she notes a fancy bouquet in the middle of the table and finer china than she normally uses. Nesta smiles to herself.
Nesta searches for something she can say, a safe topic that has nothing to do with self-defense, but Gwyn beats her to it. "So, how do you two know each other?" she asks.
"Nesta came to Illyria to scare some rebels who are trying to kill her," Emerie answers casually.
Gwyn jerks her head towards Nesta. "Really?"
"Not quite how I would have phrased it," Nesta says. "But true enough, I suppose."
"Why are they trying to kill you?" Gwyn says, eyes wide.
Wonderful. What a fantastic luncheon this is.
"They don't like me very much."
"They're scared of her," Emerie says. "And they want to overthrow the High Lord and High Lady." She turns to Nesta. "What do you think of that?"
Nesta raises an eyebrow as she cuts into her food. "Of killing my sister and Rhysand? Well, I've certainly thought of it myself, at times."
They both laugh. Nesta blinks. Then she smiles slightly.
"I have to assume I'm against them," she says. "But to be honest, I don't really understand any of the politics here. I'm...not very well-informed."
"Oh, neither am I," Gwyn says, shaking her head. "It's terrible. I mean, I've lived in this court all my life, and I'm so pitifully ignorant. It's ridiculous. I don't know the first thing about Illyria, like. Or even Velaris, really. And I have no excuse. I live in a library, for gods' sakes."
"I don't know of any books I'd recommend for you to learn about Illyria," Emerie says, thoughtful. "Not unless you read Illyrian, that is."
"See, I didn't even know there was an Illyrian until you just said that. Pathetic."
"Can you recommend other books?" Nesta says, latching on the chance to steer the conversation away from the history of the Night Court and into perhaps the only topic she might be able to contribute to.
"Oh, of course," Emerie says, pausing to swallow. "What do you like?"
"Romance," Nesta says, as Gwyn says, "Adventure."
"Ooh, The Knight Society. That's both. You can read that together."
Gwyn grins at Nesta. "Book club," she says. "What's it about?"
Emerie launches into a description of the book-the series, actually-and eventually, Nesta finds herself not looking for things to say, but rather just...talking. Not forced. Not desperate. Just a part of the conversation. Easy, flowing...fun, almost.
Funny, at least. Emerie is clutching her sides laughing as she describes the worst romance novel she ever read and Gwyn giggles, her hands covering her mouth, but Nesta says thoughtfully, "That's not such a horrible idea, though."
"No, no, the premise is atrocious, yes," she says. "But that exact scene...that has potential."
"Potential, right," Emerie says, laughing still.
"No, I mean it," she says, but she lets it go, lets the conversation drift naturally.
She is disappointed when Azriel comes to take Emerie back, but picked up by the fact that they all are. Emerie promises to make time to stay for lunch again, either Monday or Wednesday of next week.
"This was so lovely," Gwyn says to her, wistful, as they walk down to the library together. "So much nicer than in the dining hall.
"Really?" Nesta says before she can stop herself. "Well...I eat lunch every day. You can join...if you'd like."
Gwyn brightens. "I would!"
So after two weeks of lessons with other girls (Roslin and Ananke have joined, and Lorelei and Ilana, too, though the later doesn't participate so much as watch), and more random assignments from Clotho, and new things for Thalia, Nesta finally finds herself with a few hours of quiet after Friday evening's lecture has been canceled.
"Shall we read?" she says to the House.
Lights flicker in answer. Too many for the usual yes or no. This means Nesta has to follow.
"All right," she says, standing. "To the veranda?" she asks. But it's too cold out, so she hopes not.
Instead, the House leads her to a room she hasn't been in since her first stay, upon first exploration. She has had no need.
"Oh," she says at the door, softly.
The knob turns slightly, not fully opening. The House giving her the final decision.
But she doesn't want to hurt its feelings, so she opens the door.
The music room-a conservatory, it can be called-just by the sheer size of it-is grander than she remembers. She had opened the door and not even stepped inside, that first time. Just stood there, frozen, before snapping the door shut and hurrying away.
She takes a slow step in, but almost as though she is being walked by some other being, she takes another, and then another, and before she knows it, she is seated at the piano.
Ballroom grand. Enormous. Sleek and glossy and it would sound just perfect, she knows.
Lights flicker from behind. She turns and lets out a little laugh.
"Thanks," she says, shaking her head at the spotlight, "but I don't think I'm going to be learning the trumpet this evening."
The lights stop, as if the House is acquiescing.
The lights above her now flicker briefly. So will you play the piano, then?
Nesta inhales and exhales deeply. Slowly. Again. And again. The same way Cassian has her do after lessons.
There's really...there's really nothing stopping her. There's no reason not to. If she were to pick up her notebook and write down the reasons why she can't play right now, there wouldn't be any.
So why can't she do it?
She doesn't have an answer. So with another deep breath, Nesta closes her eyes and gently presses her thumb to middle C.
The sound is soft, and then that feeling, from with Thalia and Clotho, and Cassian, hits her again. But as she hits the second note, it does not fade away. It stays this time. So she plays.
hello, my dears. here's chapter five, without too much fanfare. enjoy<3
The morning of her first self-defense lesson with Cassian, Nesta awakes to a cool breeze blowing in the scent of roses from her open window.
"Good morning," Nesta says, smiling slightly. "I guess you liked my gift."
She had finished it yesterday, in the jewelry-making session. It had taken her the better part of the day. A sort of cover for the cracked, broken part of the walls the Illyrians had destroyed. Golden and gleaming and prettier than the beige paint around it, but complementing all the same.
And now the House, apparently, is showing her affection for it: a new rose bush outside of her room, fat flowers dangling down over the top of her window. A very pretty frame for her already spectacular view of the city.
The House gives her different clothes today, too. A fitted shirt, and a knee-length loose skirt, with leggings underneath. As close to pants as she'll wear. By Cassian's slight approving nod when she meets him after breakfast, he approves.
"We'll be starting on the roof," he says, in lieu of a greeting.
She nods once. She remembers hearing him, back in that awful first week here-goodness, but it's not yet been a full month since then, and it feels so long ago-hearing him up there, throwing knives around or whatever it was he did. She guesses she'll soon find out.
The crispness of the morning mountain air hits her in full force, but Cassian doesn't act like it fazes him at all. In fact, judging by the way his wings spread slightly wider, he likes it.
"All right," he says. "Let's begin."
The hour ticks by, slowing and speeding up depending on moments when Cassian touches her. There's none of his usual chatter or teasing; he's serious and unsmiling. The training ring is probably sacred to him.
Serious and unsmiling, but not discouraging. He's generous with his praise when she achieves his simple tasks-too generous, she thinks, but perhaps he has some ulterior motive.
Or perhaps, a small voice inside her head says, he's relieved you'll finally know how to defend yourself, and he means it.
It's not as daunting as it had seemed at first, this self defense. He's good for their agreement; this isn't training. He takes all her weaknesses and her proposed attacker's strengths into consideration and shows her how to maneuver past it all. How to cause an assailant-even one as big and strong as he is-to let her go when they grab her arms tightly in front, how to move her legs when she's caught in a chokehold, and how to break free when someone grabs her from behind.
"I guess no one will be able to pull onto your hair, though," he muses, more to himself than to her. "Keep your arms at your sides; you don't want them to get in the way of this one," he adds, mercifully changing the subject too quickly before he can notice her expression.
No one can pull on her hair now, that's the whole point. But they had, they had, rough enough that strands came out and she had no way to escape. What if she had known these tricks then? Would she have had a prayer? Would she still be human? Elain? And what of Father, would he still be alive? Or would it not have mattered; only delayed her certain torture and death, because she had been human, and they had been Fae, and in the end, that was all-
"Arms like this, Nesta," Cassian says, switching from mock-assailant to instructor as he gently tucks her arms against her sides, and drawing her out of her head to the sound of his voice and the feel of his hands on hers, his body behind her. His wings block out the wind, and she can feel the warmth radiating from him to her core. "Because you don't want them to get in the way of when you break out...and why else?"
"So I don't use them to hurt myself," she says, repeating his words from earlier.
"Right...good. Let's do this one again. One last time."
She takes a deep breath.
"Yes." She doesn't hesitate. She doesn't need to. He doesn't let her feel trapped.
"All right, I'm grabbing you now-good!"
For she is ready for him, this time. He wraps his arms around her from behind, his arms trapping hers at her elbows, and she instantly draws them in like he instructed. Without waiting for his prompting, she gathers her strength and throws her head upwards and backwards, like he had shown her, and then leaps away as his arms fly open.
"Good, Nesta!" he says, eyes shining as she turns around. He isn't hurt; he keeps moving away for this one so she doesn't do any real damage. "You would've hit his neck there...normally, I'd say go for the chin, but neck's really good...at that speed, with that force, really good..." He grins broadly at her, his first smile of the morning, and after an hour of being in instructor-Cassian's presence, she blinks at the easy switch.
"You did really well," he says, after handing her a glass of water. "Did you...how was it for you?"
She shrugs slightly. "All right." It wasn't fun. But it was hardly suffering. And the movements, following Cassian's instructions...a good way to keep herself focused.
"Would you...do you want to continue?" His voice is casual, but from the careful way he does not meet her eyes, she can tell he is tense.
"Yes," she says, trying to keep her voice casual too.
He brightens, and something inside her dims automatically. His...elation, relief, whatever this spark is, at seeing her agree to do this...it feels, somehow, as though she is doing something wrong. She is cheating or lying. She does not deserve this, is not worthy of his joy. Of him.
"It's not healthy to do workouts every day," he says, "especially...when you're in recovery."
When you're weak, he means. When one is ill and emaciated-even if she is getting better, and trying, it's not going to be enough-never enough-
"So I think...Mondays and Tuesdays...and Thursdays and Fridays? If you'd like to do this long term, I mean."
Nesta blinks. "How long-term?"
He shrugs. "Till you want to stop, I guess."
She purses her lips slightly. "Don't you have...I mean, will you be able to do this four times a week, indefinitely? Don't you have..." An occupation, she wants to say. Running the strongest military on their island, maybe one of the strongest in the world. "You don't have the time," she decides on instead.
He does it again. His deep hazel eyes latch onto hers and don't let her go. She doesn't have a prayer of looking away until he lets her. There's not enough self-defense lessons in the world for her to be strong enough to fight this off.
"I always have time for you, Nesta."
She shivers, and it doesn't have anything to do with the crisp wind under the weak October sun.
He moves his head, and lets her go.
"So tomorrow, then," he says.
"Tomorrow," she echoes. She doesn't stay to watch him fly off.
Nesta had done incredibly well. Spectacularly. And she had looked even better.
He had stayed up half the night before, wondering if she was going to show up in pants. She hadn't, but the skirt she had worn had gone only to her knees. The shortest he'd seen her in by far. And her black top...like a second skin. A healthier skin, almost normal. Not translucent any longer. Covering a softer body. More curves, like she used to have. Bones not protruding so much. Golden hair shining in the dim light, coiled and braided like a princess', like a queen's. She even has it up when she goes to sleep, he'd learned during her first week here. Does she ever wear it down? Only to bathe, probably. And what does she look like then, with this slight new weight, this perfect skin, this beautiful hair reaching he doesn't even know how far down...He'd only allowed himself a few moments of ogling her before violently shoving out all thoughts anywhere near the realm of lust from his mind. The training ring was not for this.
Feyre and Elain are beside themselves with happiness, as he knew they would be, when he tells them how it went.
"She agreed to more lessons," Feyre says in wonderment.
"It can only be a good thing," Elain says, tugging on a stray lock of hair.
"Yes," Feyre agrees. "But...maybe, considering...you know. Your history." She shoots him an apologetic look. "Maybe it'd be best if..."
Cassian's heart rate picks up. "You think someone else should teach her?" No, his instincts tell him. She had asked him. She wants him to do it.
But he knows he'll give in. If her sisters think it would be better...because it's her that matters. Not what he wants. What matters is her getting better.
Oh, but he knows he can be the person to help her. Or one of the people, at least. If she just lets him.
Mercifully, Feyre says, "No, no, not that. Just...maybe you could do with a chaperone? Azriel or-well, no, not Rhys. But maybe it would be good for Az to drop by occasionally...what do you think?"
"That's not a bad idea," he admits. A buffer. He could do with one.
"So, what are you teaching her, exactly?" Elain asks.
"Just some self defense. Breaking away from an assailant, today." But maybe, in time, he can convince her to do more. More general exercise, maybe even some offensive techniques. "There was something at the House," he adds. "On the wall where the Illyrians attacked."
"This gold...thing. Covering the damage the Illyrians did to it." He clenches his jaw at the memory.
"I thought the House was magic now," Elain says. "Couldn't it have fixed itself up."
"Nesta made it," he says. "She told it she was going to fix it, so..."
The wall had been as fine as any other in the House, in any one of Rhys' homes, before the attack. Painted well, a warm beige, and decorated with any number of ornate pictures and mirrors and shelves for vases and whatnot. But now, the wall was white and bare but for the swirling metal covering the cracks and craters.
Cassian understands. If Nesta had made something for him, he'd want it to be the only thing people saw when they looked at him.
"She made something?" Feyre asks, eyes widening slightly.
"She did say she had that jewelery thing...she said she liked it."
"I never thought of Nesta as an artist before," Feyre says, quieter. "She never had any patience for painting when I showed her."
"Well, I'm sure she doesn't think of herself as an artist...I got the impression she liked it as a way to calm herself down."
"Do you think? What does she need calming down from? Is she-is she angry, do you think?"
Feyre and Elain continue to discuss Nesta and guess at her thoughts and motives while Cassian sits and desperately wishes he could only ask her.
Thalia asks to see her as soon as she's available, so Nesta tells Gwyn she'll see her after lunch and heads down to her office.
"Good morning," Thalia says, smiling up at her from her couch.
Nesta sits opposite her. "Hello."
"You're looking refreshed."
"I started...some self-defense. Just a little. With, um, Cassian." Does she know Cassian, Nesta wonders. Probably. He's the kind of person everyone knows.
"Well, I think that comes at a perfect time, actually."
Nesta's eyes shoot up. "Why?" she asks, wary.
"I think I've settled on an idea to help you tackle your goals. I wanted to know what you think."
"All right," Nesta says, after a beat. "What is it?"
Thalia tilts her head back slightly, chin set. Oh, this should be good. "What do you think about keeping a log and schedule of trying new things?"
She sucks in her bottom lip before saying, "Trying new things? How does that help me with my goals?" It seems like Thalia is trying to push her own agenda over actually helping Nesta achieve hers.
"It'll get you in the habit of doing things you aren't used to," Thalia says, patient. "It'll keep you focused on something. It might bring new joys or interests into your life, perhaps personally, or perhaps by bonding with others. And it'll greatly increase your confidence and self-esteem."
Nesta blinks. "That's not one of my goals."
"I know, dear. It's one of mine."
Nesta looks down. "It's..." She forces herself to say the words she would normally just drown in inside her own mind. "Just hard to remember sometimes."
"What's hard to remember?" Gentle, not prodding.
She swallows hard. It sounds so stupid inside her head. How will it sound out loud? "That I'm actually supposed to...get better. Sometimes it feels like that's the wrong thing to do." She bites her tongue-she hadn't meant for that part to come out.
But Thalia never acts like what she's saying is pathetic, even if it is.
"How does it feel wrong?"
Nesta sighs. Not out of irritation over the question, just because she isn't quite sure how to answer. "It's...I don't know. Sometimes one just knows a thing is wrong."
"Hm," Thalia says. Considering, thoughtful. "Well, at any rate, your self-defense lesson today can count as your new thing for the day."
"Well-wait, for the day? You want me to do one new thing per day?"
Thalia's lip quirk. "How often did you think I was asking you?"
"I don't know. A week, maybe."
"I don't think so. Once a day, please. Don't forget to track them all. Write them down. Run along, now, Nesta, and if you could take these books with you? Thank you."
Gwyn finds her putting Thalia's books back on the fifth level. "So, how did it go with Thalia? And with your training session with Lord Cassian?"
Lord Cassian. She'll never get used to that. "News travels fast, I see," she says primly.
"You know it does. How did it go?"
"It went...all right."
"Which one?" Gwyn takes a book from Nesta's hands and puts it on a shelf over her head.
"Both of them. Actually, I think the lesson with Cassian went better," she says in surprise, after reflecting. "And it wasn't training. It was just some self-defense."
"Same difference. What happened with Thalia?"
"She's making me try one new thing a day."
"One per day? Every day?" Gwyn shudders. "I can't believe you go along with everything she says. All her meetings and exercises and now this self-defense...You must be four times as brave as I am, at least."
"What are you going to do?" Gwyn continues, either not noticing Nesta's discomfort or respectfully ignoring it. "For your new things, I mean."
"I don't know," Nesta says, weighing two books, as if debating between her options for tomorrow and all the tomorrows after. "I guess...try every fruit I haven't?" Gwyn laughs. "I don't know what she expects me to do."
"I'm sure you'll think of things. You're...you'll do better than the rest of us. You do better than the rest of us. It's so obvious, how much you want to live." She says it confidently, assuredly, her teal eyes set.
Nesta bites her lip. "I did really want to live," she says quietly. That night in Hybern. She had fought with everything she had. The whole way to the Cauldron, and even after, inside it. She hadn't stopped. "I...can't..."
"I know," Gwyn says, voice soft as Nesta's. "You can't remember why. It's all right. You will. I can tell."
Nesta blinks rapidly. She's not about to cry. She's not. She just...she doesn't know what she is.
"I can't believe it's not even noon," she mumbles.
Gwyn chuckles. "Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your day's hardly going to be a quiet one. Calliope wants you all afternoon."
She likes Calliope, generally, so that's not so awful. "For what?"
Gwyn shrugs. "Sorting through her papers, probably. Maybe she wants you as an assistant."
If Nesta gets assigned to a High Priestess, than she doesn't have to do these menial tasks anymore. Of course, there's no promise that the priestess she'll be assisting won't have her own miserable things for her to do...Merrill, Gwyn's priestess, is a royal pain, Nesta knows...
"So I guess I'll see you tomorrow, then," Gwyn says. "Wearing your dress backwards or eating starfruit."
"Ha," Nesta says flatly.
Gwyn laughs once more before going, unbound copper hair flowing behind her.
She's wrong, Nesta knows, about her being braver than anyone else. About her being brave at all. All she's doing now is what other people are telling her. Go see Calliope in her office, Nesta. Come sit with Thalia on the third level, Nesta. Tell Clotho if you liked Daphne's lecture, Nesta. Simple motions, simple movements. Nothing brave about it.
"Now again on the left, Nesta. Good. Good."
It's Thursday morning, and Cassian is the one ordering her about. Sometimes she thinks he sounds like any one of the priestess, with how he talks to her in these lessons, which makes her feel...she isn't sure. It's odd, certainly. Considering all the ways they used to talk to each other. Barbed insults, right in the House, to the other end of the spectrum. The words that cycle in her head some nights, the newest among them being I always have time for you, Nesta...and, of course, intermittent praises from when she does well.
"Excellent. Keep your torso just like that...now with your arms just as I-yes!"
There's really not any bravery required, Nesta decides. Not when the priestesses are all eager to do anything that encourages the girls to, well, do anything, and not when Cassian is...himself. Even now that Azriel, the member of her sister's circle Nesta is wont to consider her favorite if only because he never talks to her, has started showing up for a few minutes every session. Even he, with his face more closed off than Amren's (back when they were on speaking terms), and those dark shadows of his...even he does not discourage her.
Their hour ends, and he watches her drink two glasses of water-discreetly, drinking some himself, too-before turning to leave.
"Um," she says, voice slightly louder than it needs to be.
He pauses. Turns. Waits.
She can't look away again-his eyes-but she has to say something, doesn't she? What was it she was going to say?
"I seem to be doing well," she blurts out. Then flushes crimson.
He grins. "You're doing very well, Nesta."
She smooths her skirt, as if that'll somehow help her regain composure. "What I mean is," she says, voice hopefully not wobbly, "these...lessons...seem to be doing me good."
His grin gets smaller, but his eyes grow soft. "I...am very glad to hear that."
"I mean they help me feel...better. I feel better. Stronger. And I don't get so distracted all the time. And I...don't think about drinking so much." That's true, she realizes. In fact, she hasn't wanted a drink since...Monday? Sunday? She can't even be sure.
Cassian inhales sharply. "Good," he says, rather faint. "That's...that's so good, Nesta."
"So I was wondering if maybe you thought that...because I thought...well, I-I don't know, but maybe..." Stammering, tripping over her own words, it's just-
I have never in my life thought you were pathetic.
She nearly gasps, the words playing in her mind so clear in his eyes it's almost as though she can hear him saying them aloud.
"I thought maybe some other girls would like to join. If you don't mind. Having some more of us."
Cassian blinks. "I...I don't. I don't mind at all. I think that's a great idea, actually."
"Well, I also thought," Nesta starts, encouraged, "that since, you know, you've wanted that female Illyrian legion for so long-" he blinks again, evidently unaware that she knows that-"maybe you could also see if some Illyrian girls wanted to join. Just to see if they have a taste for...any of this."
Cassian's mouth falls open slightly and his hand goes to his forehead. "I...can't believe I never thought of this myself, actually," he admits. "Self-defense as a sort of gateway...that's actually really fucking brilliant, Nesta."
She huffs a sound of amusement at his swearing; it's been so long since she's heard any curse, as the priestesses are all so pious and proper. He starts at the sound.
"Well," she says, ducking her head to busy herself with her skirt so he doesn't see her color again. "I have to go bathe and..."
"Oh, yeah. All right. Well...so Monday? With some other girls?"
"If they want," Nesta says. "I don't know if anyone will want..."
"Well, you just let them know. Maybe ask Clotho..."
"I will. And...will you go to that camp? Windhaven?"
"Windhaven?" he asks.
"I met a shopkeeper..."
"Oh," she says. "You know her."
"She's the only female shopkeeper," he says. "We've met."
"I talked to her a little. I think she might be interested. I think she has some friends who might like it, too."
"Oh," he says, surprised. "I didn't know...I assumed-well, never mind. All right, Nesta. Goodbye, then. And great idea, really. And..." he trails off. She looks up to see him smiling. "You did really well. I mean it."
She nods, just once. But then she says, "Thank you."
She can't quite believe she said that. But judging by the way his grin widens enough to show all his teeth, it's something he's been waiting a while to hear.
omg i'm still mostly off tumblr but i decided to check my activity to see if anyone left a comment on one of my fics and i--
so glad to see everyone coming together to find this😂 glad you all enjoyed it!!
okay I need y’all’s help. I read a fic where Mor goes to “check” on Nesta and Nesta reveals she slept with a woman instead of a man and Mor is completely shook and I CANT REMEMBER THE NAME OR WHO WROTE IT
hello all. not entirely back from my hiatus, but i decided i did want to share this on tumblr just in case someone isn't on ao3. i've been having a rough month and as it turns out, writing this really helped boost my mood, so maybe reading it can help boost someone else's. so enjoy!
Elain is hysterical, but Nesta expected that. Feyre takes her by surprise, though.
"How did they get in?" she keeps saying. "How did they get in?" Almost as though she can't say anything else at all.
"Azriel's taken them in for questioning," Rhysand tells her, rubbing her shoulders. "We'll know everything soon enough."
Nesta's mildly irritated that she's the one who was attacked and yet it's her who has to comfort her sisters, but no matter. They're upset and she...isn't.
"It's really all right. The House kept me safe." The House keeps her safe, actually. Safe and comfortable and healthy and warm and clean....
"You'll come to stay at home tonight," Feyre says, squeezing a shaking Elain's hand tightly.
Home being Feyre and Rhysand's mansion by the Sidra. "I...don't think I will, actually. Thank you."
Her sisters blink at her.
"You don't want to stay here," Elain says, the first thing she's managed since crying.
Nesta bristles slightly at the implied insult to the House. "I do."
"It kept her safe," Cassian says, speaking for the first time since he brought in Elain.
"But they got in!"
"Maybe it let them in so you could catch them," Nesta suggests. "But it's safe for me here. And...I don't want to go." How could she possibly give up her standing bath, her magically-warmed room? There's not a price one can put on a proper night's sleep and then starting the day clean.
Feyre and Elain glance at each other for a moment, then nod at her.
"All right," Elain says, brave face on. "We'll stay with you."
Unnecessary. But if it'll make them feel better. "All right, then."
Rhysand gives Feyre a kiss on her cheek and puts a hand on Elain's shoulder. "We'll leave you ladies to get settled, then." He gives Nesta a charming, reassuring smile--ugh. "Everything's going to be fine."
"You're going to those Illyrians?" she asks.
"Yes," Rhysand says. "You get some sleep. You don't need to worry about any of this."
She's not worried about any of this. Why is no one listening to her?
No matter, she decides again. She was never in any danger anyway. She can just...calm her sisters, and go to bed, and put this from her mind.
Except she can't. The House's damaged wall stays etched in her mind, and the sound of those Hyben soldiers chasing after her in the library in her ears. What if they get in? Illyrians, or Briallyn, into the library? During a session with Thalia or one of Calliope's lectures or jewelry making or weekly check-in?
As she gets more agitated, tossing and turning, the room warms slightly. The House lulling her to sleep.
Fine. Fine, she can sleep tonight. Thalia says that she shouldn't agitate in bed, anyway. It's counterproductive and illogical--she'll sleep now, then be well-rested in the morning, and then she can come up with...something. To ensure the library remains safe while she is here.
Because if she doesn't...she might have to leave.
And she realizes she's not prepared to do that.
Something a soldier learns quickly is that torture during interrogation needs to be handled with precision and care, because people will generally say absolutely anything to get the pain to stop, and then none of the information can really be trusted. On top of that is the act itself, which damages the perpetrator as much as the victim. Cassian knows all this, and yet, as he thinks of Nesta, he can't bring himself to care.
"Calm down." Azriel's icy voice cuts through the images of her in duress hitting him like a series of punches.
He only snarls in return, but Az isn't shaken.
"She's all right," he says. "Calm down."
"She could have died." There it is, the simple truth. She could have died . They could have killed her . Briallyn wants her revenge; she'll probably do it slowly and painfully.
"She was safe the whole time, Cass."
"She didn't even know anything was going on," Rhys says, agreeing. "She's not even scared."
So what? So she wasn't scared this time, so what? The other times she was scared. Next time she might be.
"I should have been there." He should have never let Feyre and Elain go through with this. Fought to keep her in Rhys' home in the city; surely even these Illyrians would not dare attack the High Lord's residence.
"That's enough," Rhys says sharply. "It's not your fault. She's safe. And you were there. Right as the alarms went off."
"You were there faster."
"What does that matter?"
"It's a good thing she was at the House, Cass," Az says.
Yes, good thing. Good thing the House can keep her safe, even if he can't. From his own people.
"What did they say?" he asks, voice a growl. Rhys had not let him in the rooms if he could not promise to control himself. He could not.
"Not much," Rhys admits. "Just confirmed what we knew."
"It'll take time," Az says, spinning Truth-Teller in his fingers. "But I would like to state for the record there is a way to speed up the process."
"We can't make them martyrs," Rhys says. "We can't just senselessly slaughter them."
"It's not senseless. They're collaborating with an enemy to overthrow the crown. They attacked a Lady of the Court. There should be punishment for that." Az's eyes are cold in a way Cassian's never could be when talking about his own. Yes, he wants them to die for what they'd do to Nesta. But the way his brother feels about their people as a whole will always hurt in its own way.
"So they're scattered throughout the camps?" Cassian says, steering them back towards the matter at hand.
"With their strongest presence in Windhaven, yes."
Cassian frowns. Even though intelligence had led them to suspect it, having it confirmed...Windhaven is a more moderate camp, with Devlon, it's leader, being mild enough that he had let him and Az participate in the Rite centuries ago. But perhaps Windhaven's structure had led to its rebels being organized enough to form a strong base.
"We should start by cutting them off at Windhaven," he starts slowly, "and then we might not even have to bother with the dissenters in the other camps. Should we start interrogating the males there?"
Az raises an eyebrow. "You want to interrogate every male in Windhaven?"
"I think it'd be easier to just kill anyone who won't swear fealty to Rhys and Feyre, but since you two want to go about this diplomatically--"
"That's not the diplomatic approach," Rhys cuts in. "And that's not what we're doing. That's a colossal waste of time."
"Keeping Nesta safe is not a wa-- "
"I didn't mean that," Rhys interrupts again. "But there are far more productive methods of ensuring her safety and also furthering our cause of diminishing theirs."
"And I'm not going to like it," Cassian says, scowling.
"No," Rhys admits. "I don't think you will."
Nesta had been looking forward to going back to the library, because Elain had looked at her all weekend as though she was already mourning her and Feyre had driven her spare with her constant reassurances that all would be well and safe. But being here now, with the girls who were so close to having their sanctuary breached--yet again, because of her--brings forth a new layer of guilt.
"You're quiet," Gwyn whispers to her in weekly check-in.
"I'm always quiet."
"Bad quiet. What's wrong?"
"Just tired," she says, softly.
It's something of a lie, actually. Despite her concern over the safety of the library and the House--and herself, she supposes--Nesta actually awoke today feeling refreshed. She sleeps well and can stomach a few small meals a day. She's even begun inserting small jogging segments during her walks outside, just to get her blood pumping. Sometimes she catches herself aching for a drink, but her head no longer throbs in pain and Thalia's exercises help her to rid her mind of the thought.
It's working with her hands Nesta likes best. The lectures are fascinating, but she still ends up drifting down some spiral, but the jewellery-making and book-sorting keep her focused enough that she can't think about how miserable she is.
And the thing is, here, now, she's not miserable. She's not happy, not by any stretch of the imagination, but she's not miserable. And that's...worth something.
She wonders if any research she might get assigned to will also help in distracting her...or if that might make her happy.
No, she thinks, looking around at the dozens of girls, plenty of whom don't even speak after decades or centuries of being here. Research does not make people happy. Perhaps there are some people who just aren't meant to be. After all, she does not think she has ever been so. Not in her wealthy childhood, not in her poverty-stricken adolescence, and certainly not here.
Not miserable is good enough. She can be not miserable for her sisters, be presentable and not so embarrassing for their sakes.
Elain and Feyre are still there when she leaves the library for the day, joined by Rhysand and a particularly stoic Cassian. In fact, she thinks as she studies him in the reflection of the mirror in the living room out of the corner of her eye, she cannot recall ever seeing him this...upset. He's glaring at the floor, bright hazel eyes dark and yielding nothing of his typical irritating, incessant character. He spins a dagger between his fingers, siphons glowing bright each time he nearly slices his fingers clean off.
"Did it...go well with the Illyrians?" she asks, trying to keep her focus on something else.
"If you're an optimist," Rhys answers, grinning.
Feyre catches her annoyance at his answer and throws him a sharp look. "We've confirmed that Briallyn is taking advantage of the rebel situation in Illyria to get to you."
"Is that different from what you already thought?"
"It's good to have it confirmed," Feyre says. "We know more about the rebels in our context--" she gestures to herself and to Rhys, "--than in hers. So we know the best way to combat it."
Nesta waits a few moments, but no one says anything. "Which is?" she prompts.
Elain's throat bobs. Nesta watches Cassian's jaw clench even tighter in the mirror.
"The Illyrians need to be reminded of their place," Rhys says. "They forget, because of the distance between us, that they answer to us."
Nesta doesn't particularly care about the inter-politics of the Night Court, but she suspects that if an organized Illyrian rebellion is now working with Briallyn to kill her in order to unseat Rhysand or separate themselves from him, there's probably more than just distance involved.
"So you're going to remind them?" Nesta asks.
"That's where we thought you might have something to do with it."
Cassian starts tossing the knife between his hands faster, almost stabbing at the air. Nesta ignores how her heart speeds up when he nearly drops it through his foot.
"If the Illyrians end up going to civil war, we'll win. But we prefer to tamper down the rebels. We think the best way to do that is show them, first and foremost, this isn't worth dying over. And they will die." Rhys' words are a cold promise.
It's--frightening. What does he want her to do?
"Come with us to Windhaven," he says, as though in answer.
Nesta blinks. "I...thought I was here to stay safe."
"You'll be safe the whole time," Rhys says firmly.
"We would never entertain this otherwise," Feyre adds, eyes wide.
"What would going to Windhaven do? A display of strength?" Seems like it'd be right up the Inner Circle's alley, but overall, in her opinion, useless.
"Precisely," Rhys says, satisfied she's understood. She stifles an eyeroll. "You don't have to do much. Just walk around. We'll give you a tour of the camp. You remember how terrified they were of you, don't you?"
She does. Witch, they had called her. "But they won't be," she says. "They must know I don't have any magic." There's simply nothing to be scared of. She is, perhaps, not quite as sickly and pathetic today as she was a month ago, but certainly nothing to look twice at. Nothing to fear. Nothing to note.
Feyre opens her mouth to object, but Cassian beats her to it.
"You're a female twice as powerful as any of them. They'll fear you." She has no choice but to look at him when he speaks, and he catches her gaze tightly, fiercely, and she can't look away, can't turn her head or even blink--
"We'll be with you the whole time," Feyre says, breaking the spell. She forces herself to look at the floor instead.
"I'll come too," Elain says, determined.
"You don't need to," Nesta says, voice softened. "It's fine. I can do it. I'm not scared."
Elain deflates a bit, in relief or in disappointment, she isn't sure.
"I'm sure you're tired. We'll go tomorrow, if that's all right with you," Feyre says.
Nesta of a month ago had no plans for the day or her life, but now... "Actually, could we go to Tuesday?"
The four of them look at her in surprise.
"There's a new lecture circuit starting." History of limb and organ transplants, led by Daphne, their healer. "I wanted to go."
"Oh," Feyre says, blinking. "Oh! Well! That's--yes, of course, we'll go Tuesday instead. Yes, that's...that's fine."
Her sister's attempt at being casual. Nesta stifles another eyeroll.
"Well, I think I'd like to wash the dust off before bed..." Lie. She wants to go for a walk and eat a small dinner and read. But she wants them gone. She's had quiet enough company for the day.
"Of course! We'll leave you to it, then." Feyre leaves with a smile, and Elain gives her a soft kiss on her cheek before leaving with the pair of them. Cassian follows, but he lingers in the doorway.
"You don't have to go, you know," he says, turning and taking a few steps towards her. Too many.
"I know," she says. "I meant what I said. I'm not scared." The House won't be there to protect her, but... "Aren't you coming?"
"I am," he says, voice low--lower than normal, that is.
She nods once, eyes trained on the floor. She can't look at him again. Not when there's no alcohol to muddy the intensity of his gaze, no promise of some other male to drive him from her thoughts tonight.
I have no regrets in my life, but this.
I have never in my life thought you were pathetic.
"Good night," she says abruptly, turning around and rushing down the stairs.
No, no other male. A book or a game with the House will have to do.
They travel to Illyria the same way they came up to the House, but in reverse. Cassian flies her up until they are out of the House's protective sphere, then Rhys and Feyre grab on to each of them and winnow them to solid ground, miles and miles away.
She had been here once, during the war. It was miserable. It hasn't changed much. The lack of the stench of death is a significant step up, though.
"We'll be meeting Devlon. Camp lord."
Feyre links their arms together and Nesta bites her tongue to keep from saying anything. She doesn't think she and Feyre have ever walked arm-in-arm like this before. She and Elain had plenty, once. She and her other human friends, back when she had them. Way, way back.
They reach a sort of training center soon enough, and the Illyrians do double-takes when they see them-- her . She sees familiar religious gestures and even recognizes some of the males.
"Morning, Devlon," Rhysand drawls to the one approaching them.
"What is this?" he growls.
"Lady Nesta heard some soldiers were interested in her wellbeing. She was curious too."
Devlon narrows his eyes and scowls, but some of the younger males behind him grow faint.
And she supposes...considering how all this might look to them...she understands.
For Rhysand is their all-powerful High Lord, magic rippling from his being. Cassian is their most feared warrior, and he flanks them from behind, seven siphons radiating enough heat that she can feel it through her cloak. And she stands with Feyre, their High Lady, their cursebreaker, in a fine gown indeed that the House had picked out for her (one the nicest she's worn in quite some time)...yes, perhaps this does look a sight to behold. Perhaps they do seem powerful, not worth the effort.
Still, she knows that she herself is nothing to fear. Any one of these soldiers are as strong as the ones from Hybern who pulled her out of bed, and she has not exactly improved in physical prowess since then.
"My sister would like a tour, please," Feyre says sweetly.
Nesta almost blanches at her tone. She doesn't think she's ever heard it before.
Devlon probably isn't allowed to glare at Rhysand or Feyre or maybe her either, so he settles on Cassian. She can hear him chuckle slightly, but she doesn't turn to see.
"This way, Lady," Devlon says finally.
Devlon's tour-guide skills leave a bit to be desired, but in his defense, there isn't much here.
"Don't you have a school?" she asks, interrupting his riveting description of the shops and the living quarters .
Devlon freezes in his tracks. "You will not touch our children, witch," he snarls.
Nesta rolls her eyes and makes to answer, but Cassian moves before she can.
"Don't threaten her again," he hisses, knives at the ready in his hands.
Feyre and Rhys don't act as though this disturbs them in the least. On the contrary.
"Answer Lady Nesta, Devlon," Rhys says, almost lazily.
After another glaring-match with Cassian, he does, pointing to a dilapidated building. "There," he grunts.
"Not in session, I see," she says.
He grunts again, and walks them a little more along the main road, not bothering to point out any more attractions.
"Well," Nesta says, when they reach the training center again. "Thank you for that...riveting experience." In truth, while she doesn't like Devlon much, all this day has done has shed some light on why the Illyrians hate living under Rhysand so much. Velaris' luxury seems ostentatious in comparison, even vulgar. She doesn't think she ought to bear the brunt of it, obviously. But there seems to be an easy path to calming the rebels.
"I didn't see any girls this morning, Devlon," Cassian says, stepping in front of her and Feyre to talk.
Feyre pulls her closer. "All right," she whispers. "Now, we're going to go back to the training center, and you can walk around the shops. Don't be scared," she hurries to say. "You'll be perfectly safe. I promise."
"I'm not scared," Nesta replies.
After a few more minutes of discussion--with Cassian angry at Devlon for a lack of female soldiers, Nesta gathers--the four of them trail off, Feyre squeezing her hand in goodbye.
A few Illyrians loiter around her, pretending not to stare at her as she turns around and heads back towards the shops.
There aren't many here--a butcher's, a liquor store (Nesta had clenched her jaw the whole way past the first time, and she does again now), some clothier's. One of them, Nesta notes, is stocked with winter goods, while the others seem to be selling out quite nicely.
She makes her way inside. If only to escape the gaping from the Illyrians who can't seem to decide if they want to follow her or run away.
The shop is warm, quiet, and empty but for a female at the front, with her back to the door.
"Good--morning," she says, the pause in her words when she turns to see her customer and sees that it is Nesta. "Lady," she adds.
"Good morning," Nesta says.
"Can I help you with anything?" the female says bravely.
They both know it's a lie. The shop is far too small to pretend to browse. But she lets her.
The female looks younger than Nesta, but she might be older. The fae take longer to age, with Cassian's five hundred-odd years giving him a face that Nesta would guess is thirty-two, and Nesta's own body, frozen at twenty-three, probably looks to fae to be two hundred or so. She wears a simple dress--everything in the shop is simple, and makes Nesta feel uncomfortable in her finery. Like Velaris' vulgar beauty that she had thought of earlier. Nesta's clearly not here to browse.
"I had heard you were interested in a tour," the female says politely. "Was it to your liking?"
"Yes," Nesta says. "News...travels fast around here, does it?"
"Not much to talk about." The female turns to put away a folded sweater, and Nesta sees a horrible set of scars down her wings. She can't stop her mouth from falling open, and manages to say something with slightly more decorum than her original intended gasp.
The females turns. "I know. I'm Emerie. I own this shop."
Nesta cocks her head. "You do?"
"That's very impressive," she said. "I used to own a business." Her own trading on the continent. She hadn't trusted her father with all of their finances again, and had insisted on running some of her own.
"Really?" Emerie says, clearly mirroring Nesta's sentiments. Which is--nice. That camaraderie. And outside of the library, too. "Well, it's nice to know there are other females interested in making a name for themselves."
Nesta huffs a noise of amusement. "It is." She's silent for a beat, then asks, "Is it...difficult? Here? For you, as..."
"As a female who's not cowed by this?" she says, gesturing outside. "It's...not as lonely as you might think. And that makes it less difficult."
Nesta nods. She understands what Emerie means, even if she doesn't quite feel it herself. Friendship, she means. Sisterhood.
All the same, it's nice to know. That it's out there, outside of the library, and in it. Even if she doesn't have it. Even if she...
"Did it work, then?" she asks Feyre, hours later.
"It did," she says, a smug smile on her lips. "You did great. Good job, Nesta."
Nesta nods, even though it doesn't feel as though she's done much.
"I'll see you, then," Feyre says, reaching Nesta's hand to squeeze it in goodbye. "Elain will be so pleased to hear," she says, partly to herself, Nesta thinks. She practically skips towards Rhysand, who sweeps her in his arms as they descend into the city.
"Wait," Nesta calls to Cassian, before she realizes what she's doing.
He freezes in his tracks, wings still poised to follow after her sister and Rhysand. He turns.
"I wanted to ask you," she said, suddenly very aware of her heartbeat. "If you'd--once you asked--I--"
Her face flushes crimson, but he doesn't mock or even grin. Only nods once, patient, and that spurs her.
"If you could perhaps teach me some self defense? Not--not training, not like those soldiers...but maybe, if they attack again, and they get to me, just so that I know--just so I'm not entirely--"
"Yes," he cuts in. "I will."
"All right," she says, nodding slightly. "Thank you," she adds, realizing she probably should.
He swallows. Starts to say something. Then, nearly flinging himself off the veranda, he flies away.
hi y'all, going to be taking a break from tumblr for an indefinite amount of time, and normally i'd think an announcement like this is kind of silly, but i just want to let people who are interested in my fics know, i'll be updating them on ao3 and not here.
kissing your lover’s forehead as they’re dying in your arms
being forced to watch the love of your life move on with someone else, you’ve gathered enough courage to tell them you want to be with them, only to catch them holding hands with someone else
our family won’t approve of our relationship but we have to stick together, until one day you question if the relationship is even worth all this secrecy and i can’t believe that you’d doubt us even for a second
i’m finally ready to be with you, but you’ve finally moved on from me, and i’m too late
we can’t be together but let’s make the most of the night before we have to go our separate ways, maybe watch the stars as we talk about how we would have gotten married, how many kids we would have had, if the odds had been in our favor
coming home to find your lover cheating on you, throwing all their things out the window and cursing them out of your life, wondering how they could do this to you ‘’you can’t claim to love someone, and then go and do what you just did.’’
being forced to kill your lover, because only one of you are going to survive, and your lover insists they couldn’t live in this life without you ‘’just promise me you’ll be happy. promise me you will be.’’
it’s been months since we broke up and i just found one of your old sweatshirts in my wardrobe and it’s making me miss you
we haven’t seen each other in years but reunite at a mutual friend’s wedding, things ended badly between us and we both know it’s better to avoid each other but of course we’re seated at the same table, opposite each other
we’re broken up, you’re over at my house to pick some of your stuff up, and neither of us know how to act, so i just let you inside, you grab your things, and leave as quickly as you came
you’re over at my house to pick some of your stuff up, and as you load the last of your things into your car, you head back to my front door to say goodbye, and somehow… we wind up in bed
being forced to kill your lover, but you can’t do it, so they take your hand, and help you press the knife into their chest, while the antagonist watches your every move, making sure neither of you try to run
having to watch your lover die, as you’re restrained by the antagonist, unable to fight your way out of their grip, yet your eyes are glued on your lover’s
having to say goodbye to your lover, who’s moving across the world, kissing them goodbye one last time before they board the plane. during your last kiss, your lover says they didn’t think you would make it to the airport but ‘’i couldn’t let you leave without saying goodbye.’’
two character’s dying together, laying outside in the cold, rain, holding hands
a love triangle in which, lover #2 recognizes how toxic lover #1 is for the main character ‘’one of you will end up killing the other. whether that’s physically or emotionally, one of you will end up killing the other. there’s no dimension in this world where the two of you end up happy.’’
accidentally catching your ex or the person you’re in love with getting frisky with someone else, and having to pretend like it doesn’t bother you
going to your lover’s house to apologize for something you did, but instead of being let in, you get the door slammed in your face ‘‘why are you here?’‘ ‘‘i’m here because i love you, and because i want to make things right.’‘ ‘‘well, i don’t want you here, so go away.’‘
one character, with trust issues, gets drunk one night and spills how insecure they are in the relationship ‘’you don’t. you don’t love me. you only love me when it’s beneficial.’’ or the partner is caught cheating and the character drops those words
your lover telling you that they don’t love you anymore, or that they’ve found someone else, and as you pack your things, you find a photo of the two of you together, from a time when you were happily in love
unrequited love, in which i just poured my heart out to you, telling you i love you and you said that you don’t feel the same way, and then you leave, and i’m standing here, not sure what to do, i can’t even cry that’s how shocked and heartbroken i am
‘‘you’re the worst thing that has ever happened to me. no, listen to me. you’ve destroyed me.’‘
a break up in which, one person doesn’t have any feelings for the other anymore, while the other one is still head over heels in love with them ‘’but that doesn’t mean that our love wasn’t real. doesn’t mean that you didn’t love me enough, or that you weren’t loved. you were. you’ll always be.’’ ‘’just not in the way i love you.’’ ‘’no.’’
promising your lover that you’ll make it home in time for your anniversary, but something comes up and you’re late, which screws up all your plans for the evening, and instead of celebrating your anniversary, your lover goes to bed, and barely utters one word to you the next morning
it’s toxic, and we’re not good for each other, and ‘’i love you so much it’s killing me.’’
begging your lover to open the door so you can talk things through ‘’i know you’re in there. [character], please, open up.’’ but as they won’t, ‘’at least let me say goodbye.’’
a character using their last bit of strength to kiss you goodbye, before they close their eyes for the last time
two characters are about to kiss, but pulls away last second when one character says ‘’this isn’t right.’’ and the other replies with ‘’you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t.’’
‘’you said you wouldn’t break my heart, and then that’s exactly what you did.’’
‘’i don’t want to listen to a single word coming out of your mouth.’’
‘‘we can’t be together. it’s too dangerous. you understand that, right?’‘
one character, who’s either been brainwashed or cursed by the antagonist into trying to kill their lover, has their lover pressed up against the wall, a knife to their throat, having tried to convince their lover to kill them instead, before they hurt them, in which their lover says ‘’go ahead. do it. if you’re telling the truth, if you’re so convinced you’ll kill me, do it.’’ and the character stares at their lover, who then says ‘’if you weren’t in control, you would have done it a long time ago.’’ and it then leads to the character slowly gaining back control, breaking the curse or whatever. alternatively, if you’re related to the devil himself, you could have the character kill their lover, and then right after they’ve killed them, they snap out of it, dropping the knife to the ground, in pure shock as they watch their lover’s dead body fall to the ground ? you guys wanted angsty prompts it’s not my fault also i’ve done this to my own character welcome to hell
friendly reminder to Certain People to stop fucking crosstagging, all it does is bring more angry stans into anti notes & inboxes and none of us want that! the fact is that if a stan wants to hear criticism of the series they will come TO us and that passive aggressively crosstagging posts only makes people madder & less willing to listen.
anti posts should be tagged exclusively with anti tags & anti tags should only be used on anti posts.
I want to state that I transcended as a human being and wrote my best sentence yet. It is simple as hell but it sounds brilliant to me. Beware in english it doesn't make sense. But the story is about pirates and during a sea storm the narrator (is that me) keeps repeating "Hit, roar, pull" every few paragraphs or sentences to obviously describe what the sea is doing around the boat. HOWEVER. Written in portuguese it is "Bate, ruge, puxa", and the pronunciation of these words sound like the breaking of waves (ooshe oosha) - LIKE A SEA STORM!!! THIS IS SO COOOLLL HOW DID I DO THIS!!! And the more you read it during the storm scene the more your brain will reproduce the wave sounds so you're kind of imersed in it#!! Well maybe because I'm the biased writer but... I'm so excited about this even though I know no one else will notice