an actually nice headcanon for you today
so we all know how cordelia felt even more alone when alastair went off to the academy, and she told him this the summer after his first year
alastair being alastair would want to do something to change this, so the two of them come up with this little tradition
during the summer, they both read as many books as they can
while they read, they annotate the books, underlining things and leaving notes in the margin and pointing out things they think the other might like
then, at the end of the summer, they switch books
this way, whenever one of them gets lonely, they can just pull out a book and read it and see it through the other’s eyes
they make their own markings, too, responding to the other’s annotations, and then switch again
this goes on for a few years, and by the time alastair is done with the academy they have a huge pile of books all marked up with their jokes and notes to one another
they continue it after the academy, too, only now they don’t wait until the end of the summer to switch books and simply give it to the other as soon as they’ve finished
whenever one of them goes on some kind of trip, the other will give them an annotated book to take with them
it just becomes a thing between them
they develop a lot of inside jokes
whenever someone asks about the scribbles in the margins, they come up with increasingly ridiculous excuses for it
when james and cordelia get married for real, alastair gives her the very first book he ever annotated for her, one they passed back and forth for years up until recently, and she gets so excited she nearly knocks him to the ground with a hug
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This crooked posture is all you've ever known
It had only been a simple letter. A small act of rebellion against everything that had been going on in his life. Lack of impulse prompted to find the carefully hidden adress hed stored away in his room. Mindless curiosity inspired Alastsir to write the first few words. The more he wrote, the more it took his mind of the dread that seemed to want to swallow him whole these days. There was no need to focus on the present while he wrote. On the impending doom that symbolized the start of his second year at the academy, of the person he had to go back to being in just a few weeks. There wasnt space for such worries while he decided the correct usage of words he had learnt only in reading.
For the first time, he was feeling motivated. Alastair was surprised that this single letter began to make the smallest spark of his old self come alive. He used to love learning, and frankly he had never stopped. He quoted books that sat on his desk on his writting, felt acient interest spark again. As if he were the boy who got scolded for staying up reading books hed end up falling asleep on. But the boy he was learned because he was truly curious of the world around him. Alastair wasnt that boy anymore, and he didnt feel inclined to learn anything else about the world he had met outside his families walls.
But for only a moment, it was him and his words, and Alastair was able to feel a ghost of who he used to be. For just a moment, for just a second. He wanted to hold on, more than anything Alastair wanted to hold on to that small spark. The small prove that he was still here. Even if hed never be the same he just wanted to feel something of himself rather than the person he was forced to become.
It had been one letter, it had been one mistake. It had been one second where he let down his guard and the next thing he knew everything crashed down.
He usually would have been able to catch his steps from the hallway, but Alastair had been so lost in his own world he didnt realize until he felt his presence in the room. Now he cursed his stupidity. He dropped the pen and quickly tried to fold whatever he had been writting. Alastair turned to face the man before him before he even called his name.
"Alastair" his father chided in a low voice holding his lantern closer to his face "Its late, what are you still doing awake?"
"I wasnt aware how late it was" he said trying to keep all emotion out of his voice
"You've been up here all day and it did not face you the sun has long from set?" He moved closer "Seriously Alastair do you take me for a fool?"
Alastair retreated backward "I do not"
"Certainly you do, you tell me blatant lies and expect me to believe you. I could see your candle from the hallway. Why is it lit?"
"I needed light" he said slowly
"And for what would you have needed light if you werent doing anything?" Elias dictated, seemingly pleased to have caught him in something "I will not ask you again Esfandiyār what were you doing?"
Alastair stayed quiet. He could see his fathers face harden in candle light
"I did not raise you to be dishonest"
You did not raise me at all, he thought bitting back his tongue "I'm not being dishonest"
"What is in your hand then?" His father mandated, tearing his gaze from him to the desk "If you are certain in your honesty why hide things from your father"
Alastair wrapped his hand harden around the paper, he almost wanted to laugh at the small part of himself that felt bad for was ruining his writting "It is nothing important"
"What is in your hand" Elias repeated, his voice more forceful this time
Alastair knew he had no way of getting out of this, if he kept refusing the consequences would be worse. He looked at the floor "Its a letter"
"A letter" he sounded incredulous "Is this what you are creating such a fuss about? A letter?"
Elias extended his hand "Let me take a look at what is so special about this letter then. Since you'll go through such lengths to hide"
Alastair could feel his heart drop as he looked at his fathers expectant eyes "Go on"
With shaky hands he dropped the letter at his fathers palm "Honestly Esfandiyār all this because of a letter, who are you writting to? Your friends back at the academy?"
He could barely hear Elias voice through the pounding in his heart. Why had he been so stupid? Why did he forget to simply close the door. He should have closed it, if he had done that stupid little task he wouldnt be here. It was only one mistake it was only-
"Who was this letter for" Elias asked "I dont see any name"
That was because Alastair hadnt written one, he wasnt sure wether he was going to send the letter or not. He was suddenly hyperaware of the adress sitting underneath a book in his desk.
Elias sighted "You are just like your mother, so sentimental. I cannot believe I am wasting time on this nonesense" he ran his hand through his hair "I will give you one last chance, who were you writting to? And dont you dare say no one"
Even thought he was still a considerable distance from him, Alastair could still smell the alcohol in his breath. He seemed sober enough to still be able to have rational conversations, but there was no mistaking he had been drinking. He was always drinking. The same way he had when Alastair had been able to become aquitanced to the person he had considered writting to. Once he left Cordelia with their father at the herondales anniversary party, the last thing he had expected was to find himself at the company of Charles Fairchild. He had gone to get some air outside the institute, and Charles just happened to be there, leaning against one of the statues at the entrance with a drink in hand.
"Awful party " He had said "I dont understand why my aunt and uncle keep endlessly throwing these social events, as if we were mundanes"
Alastair didnt have enough strength to do anything but agree. Vaguely, he remembered what he had told Cordelia "Im here to impress everyone who is anyone"
Charles Fairchild was certainly someone. He was the consuls son, probably in line to become the next consul himself. He had heard rumors about him at school, ambitious charismatic. Hes also incredibly handsome a little voice in his mind said. He shook his head, he was here to make connection, and this might be one of the most powerful ones he could make.
Alastair fell into an easy conversation with the other man about various subjects. It surprised him how easily he could put down things just a few months ago he had valued so greatly, Alastair guessed it would only become easier with time. Charles said he was impressed by his maturity, complemented him on his intelect for politics. Alastair still remembered the smile Charles gave him when he said he hadnt hadnt enjoyed talking to someone in so long. He desperatly tried to push down the feelings that smiled brought, they were yet again something the world fobid him from having. But wasnt he used to the world taking things away?
At the end Charles gave him an adress, said if he wanted to continue to speak about politics he could send a letter. He had kept that adress for days, until today. Where he started writting about a book Charles recommended on political theory, and he lost all sense and thought about contacting him.
"You were right" Alastair settled on saying "I was writting to a friend from the academy"
"Wouldnt that have been so much easier to say at first before wasting both our time" his father taunted "But no, like always everything has to be difficult with you"
"What boy were you writting to?"
"Augustu Pounceby" he lied
"Alright" Elias said "Then lets see what you were writting to him about, since you have decided keeping your words to a friend secret were so much more important than being honest"
Before he could protest his father shoot up the letter and pressed the lantern in his hand towards it. For a few excruciating moment he waited,fearing his father would see through his facade and realize he wasnt writting to a friend. That somehow hed realize his words werent meant for someone you trusted, but someone he hoped to impress. Someone he hoped would grow to become more than acquitance.
"Politics" his father spit out, breaking the silence "You are writting to a friend about politics"
Alastair stayed quiet again, trying to not let his face betray any feeling
"Me and your mother sacrifice ourselves so you can get an education to become a good warrior" Elias continued, with barely contained anger "And you decide to waste it on politics"
"Is this what the academy teaches you? To ignore your mandate and pursue idiotic work?"
He tried to counter him "Im not pursuing anything-"
"Oh but thats not what you said here. Here you say that "Politics have always been an interest of mine" His father stood closer now "What is it going to be Alastair. Who are you lying to your friend or I?"
"An interest doesnt mean I'm pursuing anything father" he tried to not to betray his feelings, if he even showed an ounce of a disrespectful tone it would not go well for him "I'm only fourteen there is nothing for me to pursue"
"But thats how it starts" his father countered "Are you that stupid? Think you can change the world? You are right about one thing Alastair you are fourteen and you dont know anything about real life. I am not going to let you stand by while your stupidity destroys the life of our entire family" Elias rolled his eyes "Sometimes I wonder if we sent the wrong brat to the academy"
"What" he whispered
"If this is what results of your education, is it even worth it keeping you there. Cordelia would benefit so much more of the academies training. What if I just send her instead of you, I need at least one of you to not be a complete dissapointment"
Alastair could feel his hand shake. He tried to take a deep breath but it was as if he had forgotten how to breathe
"Shes a warrior, and you have proven to me time and time again youre not" he stated furiously
"Dont" he said in near panick, he was alright with his father insulting him, he was alright taking on every miserable thing this world have to offer. But the thought of Cordelia in the academy. The thought of her going through even half of what he went through because of their father brought ice to his veins. It made him drop all composture "Do not send Cordelia"
"Are you afraid she'll be able to do what you could not?" His father asked, the smell of alcohol in his breath making Alastair naseous
"I'll work harder" he pleaded, hating how desperate he sounded "I'll forget this nonesense and work harder than any of the kids there. I'll become the best fighter you've seen. Just please dont send Cordelia"
His father considered him for a moment. He knew Elias thought he did this out of jelousy, but it didnt matter to him. His only thought was his sister, being in a place he could not protect her from.
"If what you say is the truth" his father finally said, his voice was calm but Alastair could hear the venom underneath his every word "then burn this letter now, and do not let me catch you lying to me again Esfandiyār"
Elias handed him back the letter and stepped out of his room, closing the door on his way out. The boy he used to be would have been upset. Deep within him he felt the pain his fathers words had brought. But the boy he used to be was gone, and the boy who now was was numb.
He burned the letter
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