#being surprised at how much work Nesta has
Feel like Nyx would be the nephew that sneaks away to his aunt's house in the middle of the night and stay there for like a week straight because they are his favourites, and neither Eris or Nesta questions it when he shows up out of nowhere because they do love him but Feysand are so terrified of what they might say to their precious child but really, Nesta is the only one who treats Nyx like he didn't fall out of the sky and is entitled to have anything he wants.
Oh god yes
Baby Night Night has never had a god damned chance- that kid is equal, damaging parts unbelievably sheltered/spoiled and just like....trapped in a long shadow of expectation.
And his Autumn relatives don't cosset him!
Like, the first time he runs away he's like...hmmm...sixteen? Angry. And Neris are fine with anger. But that teen angst bullshit? No. They put the kid to work.
And while work is just helping Auntie Elain bake her wife a birthday cake, she makes him do the dishes. Without using his powers. Eris takes him along to meetings and makes him sit through all the boring bullshit that entails.
But- afterward, Eris explains what happened. Like they're equals. He asks what baby Night Night thinks. Auntie Em likes her cake so much she hugs him, like he's a little kid. It's nice.
It's actually...making him feel better.
And sure, Auntie Nesta is grouchy and terrifying. But she's no where near as bad as Night Night's parents make her out to be. Sure, she's using blood magic, but it's alchemy. Yes, she's really, really busy, just like Uncle Eris, probably too busy for kids like his mom says, so much so Night Night has to assume they're making time for him- which makes him feel...warm? kind of ashamed?- but she doesn't leave him alone.
She's there, and it's pretty funny to see how happy it makes Uncle Eris to listen to her complain about boring government policy.
When Night Court lackeys eventually show up thinking Nyx has been kidnapped- well, lil baby boy comes to understand a little bit why Eris and all the Aunts like how mean Auntie Nesta can be. She sends home the royal guard in tears- and then tells Nyx he can stay as long as he wants, but he has to tell his parents he's safe.
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📖 Nessian Headcannons 🔥
Alyssa breaking from her usual Gwynriel? More likely than you think, mijas.
When I think about Nessian, the first thing that comes to mind is that they would 100000% be reckless!!
These two know how to have fun.
Nesta seems like she’s cold and aloof, which she has been in the past, but there is a wild streak in her. She’s just been very good at repressing it.
With Cassian, Nesta never has to repress a single thing about herself.
And what is love if not the safest place for you to explore yourself?
So, Cassian brings out the wild side in Nesta.
The bat boi’s do this thing called Drops. It’s where they fly super high, bring their wings in tight, and just free fall. Winner is the one who holds out the longest.
Low and behold, Cassian is almost always the winner.
Nesta is watching the brothers mess around one day and her heart plummets to the ground as she watches Cassian shoot down the sky. But he’s laughing. He’s cheering. He looks like he’s having the time of his life and a strange, curious eye opens inside her chest.
She wants to try it.
She wants to know what that release of control feels like, what ripping through cloud and wind at neck breaking speeds feels like.
Rhys notices her intriguing stare. He raises a brow at her and opens up an arm as if to say wanna try this again?
Nesta flicks him off because fuck no is she ever flying with Rhysand ever again.
Cassian lands beside her, his black hair wind tossed, cheeks flushed, and eyes positively alight.
She grabs his hand. He still beams at her every time she does.
She tugs on his hand until his head lowers so that she can whisper, “I want to try.”
For a moment, he looks shocked, but the widening in his eyes quickly becomes a narrowing. He’s grinning in the way that makes her toes curl and her heart lurch because that smile means trouble. And she’s thrilled.
His arms are around her and they’re shooting into the sky before she has a chance to second guess herself or catch a breath.
She’s not afraid. Never with Cassian. Never in his arms. She’s not even afraid of herself.
Right when she thinks they’ve gone high enough, Cassian keeps ascending.
His lips press to her ear as he says over the roaring wind, “Hold on tight.”
She can hear his suggestive tone and she laughs.
She turns in his arms and the thought of Cassian dropping her never occurs to her, but the fact that this level of trust exists between them does occur to her. That she can wiggle and maneuver in his hold while they are in mild fight and his hold on her is unyielding, it makes her fall in love all over again. He’s never once dropped her. He never will.
She turns so that her legs are wrapped around him, her arms squeezing his neck. His hands hold the bottom of her legs and he gives a gentle squeeze.
“Don’t tell me when,” she interrupts.
He pulls back to look at her and their noses are touching. This close she can see the gold in his hazel eyes. This close she can see the faintest dusting of freckles. He’s looking at her with an intensity that would have sent her sprinting in the other direction once, but she does not look away now. She meets every ounce of passion. She thinks he’s about to kiss her....
And they drop.
He’s wings snap in and they’re falling. It’s happening so fast that she can’t even think. Her stomach jumps painfully with a scream that she’s sure is painful to Cassian’s ears. The wind rips her hair out of its usual coronet and her eyes water. The force of the drop presses gravity so heavily on her shoulders she has no idea how Cassian is going to open his wings against it, that maybe this was a bad idea. She’s screaming and screaming and screaming
And then she’s laughing. That lurch in stomach, the wind slapping at her, the falling—it’s addictive. It’s thrilling. It’s like breathing in something forbidden. She never wants it to stop. She wants to keep falling—
Until Cassian flings his wings wide and they bank hard to the left, catching a draft of wind.
She can’t stop laughing and by the way Cassian grips her legs she can tell he knows how great this felt to her.
She leans her head back into open air, lets her arms fall back, and grins. She feels wild. She feels unhinged. She feels like herself.
“Again,” she shouts.
Cassian presses a kiss to her throat and they drop five more times.
Their Mating Ceremony is a fucking party.
Before it begins, our bat boi’s have a moment together. Just the three of them. As it all began.
Rhys holds Cassian by the shoulders and says, “You made me a brother. Before Az, before my sister, you were the first. I love you and I am very proud of you.” Rhys turns very serious. “And you also have now lost me three hundred fucking gold coins to this asshole behind me.”
Cassian was not embarrassed to cry, but now he’s barking out a laugh. Azriel leans against a tree, smug.
“Rhys didn’t think this would happen,” Azriel explains. “He bet you two would deny the bond for at least another year or two.”
Cassian tilts his head. “And you didn’t?”
Azriel shakes his head. “You are the bravest of us, brother. There is nothing—no truth, no enemy, no battle—you are not willing and ready to face.”
“You’re also a shit liar,” Rhys quips. “The cat would have come out of the bag eventually.”
Cassian laughs again. He hugs his brothers and they walk into the temple the same way they have walked through everything: together.
The ceremony itself is a blend of human and Fae traditions. Cassian stands at the end of the aisle, his brothers and Mor by his side. Nesta walks down the aisle in a white dress with red accents along the neckline and hem.
Yes, Rhys bought the dress
She walks herself down the aisle. She likes to think that even if both of her parents were alive to see this day, she would still choose to do this herself. She likes to think her mother is proud, and imagines her hand on Nesta’s cheek as she stands before Cassian.
He looks damn good in a suit and Nesta wants this ceremony over so she can promptly consummate their bond.
Nesta is a private person so she and Cassian will exchange their super heartfelt vows just the two of them later. Right now, they just have one promise to each other—the one that matters most: forever.
Gwyn ties a gold ribbon around their hands and it is only to be removed after the exchange of food.
It doesn’t matter what Nesta gives Cassian. Frankly, she can’t remember what was on the plate. All that matters was the way his eyes never left hers as he took that first bite, as they both felt that final snapping in place of the sacred thing linking their souls.
Of all the ways Cassian has ever looked at her, this one means the most to her. There is such security, such deep unending love. It’s passion and promise, lust and joy.
It is friendship.
Nesta doesn’t care, she kisses the male right there until he forgets his name. Until the only thing he knows is her.
Rhys cheers the loudest in the background.
The dancing doesn’t stop until morning. Nesta’s feet hurt. Her cheeks hurt—and what a strange, foreign feeling that is.
Before Nesta and Cassian leave, there is one last person she wants to see.
She pulls Feyre outside and the beginning of the morning sun is breaking through the clouds. She looks into her sister’s eyes that are mirrors to her own and says, “There is so much to be said between us.”
Feyre nods. “I know.”
Nesta smiles. “And I’m not afraid. I want you to know that I look forward to every conversation to come. However painful, whatever comes, you are my sister and I want to fight for our future.”
Feyre doesn’t fight her tears and Nesta’s fingers are gentle as she wipes them away. Just as she did when they were young. She’s not sure if Feyre remembers how Nesta would hold her when she cried. But there will be time for that. They have all the time in the world now.
After their mating ceremony, no one hears from them for a month.
Azriel, foreseeing this, had temporarily moved into the River House.
No matter how hard Nesta tries, she cannot convert her mate to love sweets.
He tolerates chocolate cake, even goes for a second piece sometimes, but that’s really it.
She asks Azriel for recommendations on bakery’s, because who knew he was such a pastry connoisseur?
But nothing works. Cassian simply cannot do sweets.
But he does cook, and he’s incredible at it.
It’s late evening and she hasn’t seen Cassian all day. He’s not in any of his usual spots and she’s running out of options to go looking for. That is until she passes the kitchens. It’s normally loud and bustling, but she can hear only one inside, along with the soft and methodical sounds of chopping.
Cassian has a look of focus and mediation that she rarely sees outside of training. He’s chopping an onion, sets it in a sizzling pan, and moves onto a pile of flour and eggs on the counter. She watches his hands carefully mix the two and she realizes that he has a serene calmness to him.
“I didn’t know you cook,” she announces her arrival, but he is not surprised to find her leaning against the door. He probably knew she was there the entire time.
“I’m a fantastic cook, Nes.” He looks up from the pile of flour turned dough and winks at her. It makes her face warm.
The farther she moves into the kitchen, the more her mouth waters. It smells divine. She hauls herself up onto the adjacent counter and asks, “Why don’t you do it more? Why haven’t I ever seen you in here?”
Cassian tosses a rag onto his shoulder. “I don’t want those hungry inner circle vultures expecting my five star kitchen skills every night. I like it to be a special occasion thing.”
“Is tonight a special occasion, then?”
“With you? Always.”
But the humor doesn’t land. She knows he’s covering something up, that he’s not being entirely truthful. She doesn’t push. She just watches as he moves gracefully from counter to stove to cabinet and all over again. It’s like a dance to him and she finds that she enjoys watching.
After a time of comfortable silence, she asks, “What is it?”
“White wine pasta with mushrooms.” His answer is soft and distant.
He drops the slices of pasta into the boiling water and she can tell that he wasn’t ready for a pause, that the chopping and mixing was a way to keep himself busy. But there’s nothing to do now but wait. And he looks lost. It rips at her heart.
She opens her arms to him and he gladly steps between her dangling legs and hugs her close. They stay like that for a while, his arms tightly enveloping her and her hands smoothing through his hair and down his back.
“It was Haizea’s favorite meal,” he whispers into her neck.
Oh. Nesta stills for a moment but then keeps to her calming ministrations. She knew Rhysand’s mother was a mother to Cassian and Azriel as well, but no one talked about her very much.
Cassian breathes in a deep, shuddering breath. “She taught me to cook. She took notice early on how strong I was as a soldier, how different I was from the rest. I think she knew, somehow, that I’d be in command one day because she told me that the most popular male in every army was the one who cooked. And she wanted me to have my best chance at fitting in. Of having the male’s I’d lead trust me.”
There aren’t words for Nesta to say and she suspects her mate isn’t quite done sharing what’s been bothering him. So, she keeps holding onto him.
“Today is her birthday.”
And there it is. She feels his grief down the mating bond and it’s such a deep ache that it takes her breath away, that she almost mistakes his sadness for her own. She wraps her legs around his waist and presses a kiss to his cheek. He grips her back.
“Rhys doesn’t like to make a big deal of it,” Cassian explains. “But every year the three of us go to her grave, pour out her favorite brand of whiskey, and fly around together for hours. She would want us to laugh, not get stuck in mourning. Other than Solstice, it’s one of the only times my brothers and I get to be kids again. We play air games and for a moment we’re young boys again and Haizea isn’t dead and we can come home to her cooking and her embraces.”
She leans back then, and brushes the hair from his face. “She’d be endlessly proud of you, Cassian.”
She feels his wavering in the bond, but she presses their brows together. “She would,” Nesta insists. “There is no part of me that doubts you are not everything she would have hoped you to become. You inspire people to be their bravest, to fight for what they believe in. You reach out for everyone, Cassian. You do not leave a single person behind. You are the light that people flock to, that people trust to lead them.”
His hazel eyes threaten to spill over with tears. She rubs a thumb over his cheeks. “You are what she would want you to be, because you are relentlessly yourself at all times, Cassian. That’s how I know.”
His lips crush onto hers and his kiss is desperate, tinged with just the slightest edge of grief. He’s breathing hard and she feels the relief and love in him shining down their mating bond.
The water boils over the stone and Nesta has to shove him away with a laugh.
They eat and laugh together. Cassian grows quiet sometimes, but Nesta is there to reach out a hand to him when he does. He tells her of Haizea, how she was the first female to ever hug him. He tells her of Rhysand, how his brother was the first comfort Cassian had ever felt in his life. By the end of their meal, there is a fortitude in her mate.
“You’re right,” Nesta nods her head at her empty plate. “This was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.”
The last two days of the week are the only days they don’t train. They spend that time taking the day slowly, waking up slow, and enjoying each other. During the warm seasons, Nesta finds that she adores the beach. Who knew Azriel had a secret sailing hobby? Certainly not Nesta. But lately the male has been opening up more, less withdrawn. When he takes her, Cassian, and Gwyn out in open water she’s delightfully intrigued to find that her best friend is not surprised by Azriel’s sailing. That she moves comfortably and familiarly around the boat.
Nesta loves sailing. The mystery and fear of the open sea strikes a thrill in her. Cassian ties a long rope attached to a small raft on the end of the boat and Nesta discovers tubing. Cassian and Azriel make the wind fly through sails at soaring speeds and Nesta and Gwyn hold onto the raft with all their strength, but when they hit a wave Nesta goes flying into the air. She shrieks the entire time down into the cool water and she grins the entire swim back to the boat.
This is living. She’s alive, she’s surrounded by love, and she no longer wonders if she deserves it.
“Nesta!” She has to fight the urge to throw her book at the voice singing her name.
Nesta doesn’t look up from her book. “Whatever it is, I don’t want it, Rhysand.”
The chipper tone doesn’t leave his voice. “Just look at it!”
Nesta rolls her eyes as she begrudgingly looks up. Rhysand is holding up a new set of leather boots and she has to admit that she does like them. “Thank you.”
Rhysand grins as he throws the shoes over his shoulder. They land with a loud thunk behind him. “That’s not even the gift. I mean it is a gift; I saw them on my way over here and just had to buy them, but this is the real gift.”
Nesta shakes her head at her brother-in-law. “You eventually have to stop with the gifts.”
He shakes his head, a cat like grin on his face. “Never.”
Nesta rolls her eyes again and holds her hands out for the box Rhysand as materialized. He’s thrumming with excitement as she opens it and holy shit.
“Rhysand,” Nesta swallows, her eyes large on the gift in her lap. This is more than a gift. This is...this is...
“It’s perfect, isn’t it?” He is absolutely giddy.
She wants to say it’s too much. She wants to hand it back. But he looks so happy and she isn’t sure how she’ll manage to part with a first edition collectors item of her all time favorite book series. Signed by the author no less. “How in the hell did you manage to find this?”
“I’m the most powerful High Lord in all of—”
Nesta holds up a hand. “Don’t preen to me, Rhysand.”
He laughs and she finds that she’s starting to enjoy this comfortable and friendly antagonism with him.
“I caught wind that Helion had them in one of his libraries. You will not believe how long I had to play poker with him to win them. I—”
Nesta is out of her chair before she knows what she’s doing. She’s just as astounded as Rhysand when she’s throwing herself into a hug, embracing him tighter than she ever has. This wasn’t just a gift he saw in a window and purchased on a whim. This was something he planned for. For her. He’s still and stiff but he brings his arms around her and he’s hugging her, too.
“Thank you,” she whispers.
He squeezes. “No. Thank you.”
It’s the first time she doesn’t whack him for his insistent gifts and thanks for saving Feyre and Nyx. It’s the first time she truly understands why he does what he does, why he is outrageously generous. It is one of the first times Nesta deeply understands her brother. It is because he feels like he has so little to offer the world, to the people who matter to him.
Nesta places the books in the center of her bookshelf.
The more training Nesta goes through, the more competitions she and Cassian have.
Cassian bets he can hang from a bar longer than she can, that since he’s physically stronger than her he’ll win.
They hang their for the longest time, both trying to make the other laugh and fall. Cassian’s arms begin to shake and he looks in pain, but godsdamn it he’s gonna hang there until his fingers bleed because Nesta looks smug. She doesn’t even waver. She looks ready to hold on for another hour. Cassian finally has to let go and falls to the ground, trying to catch his breath. To make a point, Nesta doesn’t immediately drop. She smiles at him as she still holds on to the bar. And then they have really rough competitive sex after bye
Nesta is a snuggler. When they’re in bed, she’s always curling into his side as close as she can get.
CASSIAN. WRITES. POETRY. 😤
I will go down swinging for that headcannon. I am ready.
He’s got a whole ass wall of shelves of various kinds of journals like fucking Stefan from the Vampire Diaries but less sad emo boi things.
Cassian actually has a gift for writing but he’s shy about it so literally no one knows. He writes a lot about the wars and battles he’s fought in, how those experiences shaped him for good and bad. He writes poems for his brothers, for his mother(s). He secretly has a huge, bleeding heart that he masks with frat boy humor.
His very best work was writing about Nesta.
He very slowly shows Nesta all his poems and she never once mocks him. She doesn’t over praise, either. She points out the one’s she really enjoys and they talk about them.
Nesta’s favorite one is how he describes flying. It takes her several re-reads, but she figures out that the poem reads like an instruction manual, like a teaching lesson. She realizes it’s about how he taught Azriel to fly. The poem is full of love and patience and the beginnings of an unbreakable brotherhood. It shows how deeply Cassian loves.
She cries when she reads the poem he wrote about waking up after the failed Hybern mission and his wings were ruined. His despair and fear is so tangible, but there is an underlying message of acceptance and that he would do absolutely anything to save his brothers.
Nesta expected Cassian to be eager for children. They don’t talk about them a lot, and she’s not sure what he wants, but she knows she’s not ready. Not yet. There is still so much she wants to do, so much of her bond with Cassian she wants to discover.
She brings it up as casually as she can one night over a quite dinner. A light goes on in his eyes, but it’s fleeting as something darker takes root.
“Do you want to start trying?” He asks carefully.
“No. We’ve only been mated for a year and I’m not ready to share you.”
His smile is wide and does a good job of hiding what’s really going on in his thoughts, but they are well past hiding from one another.
She reaches across the table and takes his calloused hand. “Tell me.”
“I don’t know how to be a father.” His eyes look faraway. “I never had one. Rhys’s father was a prime asshole and I never knew my own. I’m afraid something integral is missing in me and I won’t be good to our children.”
It never ceases to surprise Nesta how deep her mates insecurities go.
She rubs her thumb over his hand. “I understand. I don’t have the best track record of being a model human being or Fae. My mother, as strange as our relationship was, was not good to my sisters. I’m afraid that exists in me.”
Neither try to prove the other wrong about their fears. It’s not what is needed. Right now, they just need to be heard and understood.
Cassian though, is incredible with children. They adore him. He’s funny and gentle and he never tires when they ask to tossed in the air just one more time.
Lol children do not love Nesta. She doesn’t love children either.
Except Nyx. He is obsessed with Aunt Nesta. She’s his favorite and honestly, the drooling chub is growing on her. Nesta talks to Nyx like a well educated adult, even if he is a baby. He listens raptly to her, his violet eyes wide. The boy clearly looks like his father, but there are parts of Feyre in his mouth, his mannerisms.
There is even the smallest trace of Nesta. It’s shocking and it warms her heart in a way she’s never felt before, but the curve of Nyx’s eyes are familiar. They are her shape. Her mother’s shape.
So, Nesta teaches her beloved nephew the art of the withering side eye. He is a master and she is proud.
Nyx’s sixth birthday is coming up and she’s in her and Cassian’s private living room. She’s wrapping her nephews gift—a collection of feminist poetry and Valkyrie war strategy and no she doesn’t care he’s six the boy is smart damn it—when Cassian walks in.
“I am one hundred percent certain Rhysand is giving me a chocolate fountain for Nyx’s birthday,” she says over her shoulder. “He saw me looking at one the other day and I half believe he bought the damn thing that very day.”
Cassian hasn’t said anything. He’s still and he’s not breathing.
“What? Did I guess right?” When her mate says nothing she snaps her fingers. “This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve guessed a Rhysand-Gift, Cass. Snap out of it.”
His hand is on his chest, clenching and unclenching at his heart. “Do you...do you not...smell it?”
Nesta bursts out into laughter. “Just tell me to take a bath if I smell. I trained a little longer with Emerie today. She said I’ve been slow lately.”
Cassian is before her all a sudden, his hands holding her face. “Nes.” His thumbs run over her cheeks. “Take a deep breath in.”
She does. A scent that reminds her of both herself and Cassian—and something new. Something soft.
And she literally falls to her knees, bringing Cassian with her.
“Oh my gods,” she covers her mouth. “Oh my gods. Oh my gods.”
She thought she’d have more eloquent things to say when she found out she was pregnant. Turns out not.
Cassian is at a loss for words, as well. They only just decided to start trying last month.
Nesta then cackles. “You have very insistent genetics, Cassian.”
He’s still shocked and his hazel eyes are still wider than plates, but he manages a chuckle. “On the first go. Can you believe it?”
“Honestly, I do.”
Cassian swallows. “A baby.”
Nesta’s eyes warm. “A baby.”
Cassian leans his brow against hers and she knows he is softly crying. “I’ll be happy no matter what, but I really want a girl.”
And they do have a girl.
Arya, named for Cassian’s mother, is born in the first hour of the first month of the summer season.
As Nesta gives her final push, it is Cassian who catches their daughter. He weeps at the screaming, squirming, angry faced baby and he is besotted.
The first person Arya sees when she opens her eyes is her father, who cheers to see that Nesta’s eyes have passed to his daughter.
Her first steps will be to Cassian’s waiting hands, ready to catch her should she fall. He teaches her to fly and it’s one of Arya’s most treasured memories. He is there for everything, and he is no longer afraid of being a father.
Brb writing pregnant Nesta and Nessian as parents headcannons now.
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A Favor: Part Twenty-Six
Nessian Modern AU
a/n: writing this chapter was so much fun but reading it was a train wreck so you’ll just have to find out yourself whether it’s actually good or not. hurt/comfort ahead
Most of Nesta’s days lately are spent holed up in her basement apartment, either studying for her finals or preparing for her move—which means that whenever Cassian wants to see her, she has to haul ass all the way to the cabin to make time for him.
Like now, on the morning of her birthday, as she stands in her pajamas and slippers in the middle of Cassian’s home gym. Staring at the reason behind his urgent phone call telling her to come over.
“It’s a pole,” she says dumbly.
“Happy birthday,” he says, looking proud of himself. “Consider it an incentive to move in faster, okay?”
“It’s a pole,” she repeats. Tall and gleaming, it stands in front of the wall of mirrors away from most of the workout equipment. “You installed a pole?”
The gift itself isn’t that surprising—Cassian could afford an entire pole dancing studio if he wanted to. What surprises her is that it’s installed here, in Cassian’s personal space. The gym is to Cassian what the reading nook is to Nesta, if not even more sacred. Nesta rarely enters it, but now… he’s extending a blatant invitation into his space.
“I know you already take classes with Gwyn and Emerie,” Cassian is saying, “but you haven’t gotten to go in a while because of school and work, so I thought it would be easier for you if I brought the dance studio over here.” He scratches his head, and Nesta’s eyes drift to the silver watch on his wrist. “You never told me you used to dance. I found out from Feyre, and she sent me videos of your old ballet recitals.”
Cassian nods along. “You were good. You’re still good now, which is why you should wipe that look off your face and thank me for your gift.”
Nesta is sure she looks stupefied, but she doesn’t do anything to rein it in. She has so many thoughts, and she can only think of saying, “I don’t want to practice in front of you.”
“You don’t have to,” Cassian promises. “Other than early mornings, maybe evenings, the gym will be empty for you.”
Okay. “You—” Nesta starts, “You’re really okay with this?”
Cassian’s face drops in confusion. “Okay with what?” He looks at the pole and back at Nesta. “Do you not like it?”
“Are you okay with giving me part of the gym? Where are you going to go if you want to be alone?” She chews on her lip.
Cassian laughs. “Why would I want to be alone?”
Nesta shrugs. “I need it at least once a week. I figured everyone else was the same way.” Her alone spot in the cabin is her former bedroom from the first time she lived here. Cassian knows not to enter that room, and on days when she spends time in there he simply waits until she comes out. Nesta assumed the gym was close to being something like that for Cassian.
Realization crosses Cassian’s face. “Oh, you mean like your ‘special room’?”
“Don’t say it like that,” Nesta snipes. “I told you I don’t use it for masturbating.”
He comes over and swings a heavy arm around her shoulder. “Babe, if I wanted to be alone I wouldn’t stay in the house. I’d run the trails in the woods behind the cabin.”
“Really?” Her brows furrow. She didn’t know that.
“Look, am I gonna have to return the pole or not?” Cassian says, exasperated.
Nesta stares at him closely, and upon finding no other catch to his gift, she flings her arms around his torso. “I love it,” she declares into his chest. “I love it so much.”
His body tenses in surprise at her uncharacteristic outburst, but then she feels his strong arms wrapping around her too. “In that case, have I earned myself a private show?” he teases.
“I’ll give you so many private shows,” Nesta promises. At least, once she completes her 2L and has the time to learn how to use the pole. “Emerie and Gwyn are going to be so jealous,” she hums pridefully.
Cassian chuckles deeply, and the sound rumbles through his chest where Nesta’s head rests.
They stay holding each other in silence like that for a while, mostly because it’s too early for unnecessary conversing. When Nesta finally speaks up, it’s to say, “Did you really have to call me over at eight a.m. for this, though?”
“It’s your birthday.” Cassian strokes the hair away from her neck. “Don’t even think about sleeping,” he warns. “We’re spending the whole day together. Your sisters mailed gifts, and Gwyn and Emerie are coming over at noon.”
That works for her.
The week after her birthday, Nesta drops her resignation letter onto Rhysand’s desk with a heavy smack.
He looks up from the envelope to her. “What’s this?”
“I’m quitting,” she announces without flourish. “Thank you for the experience. Let’s never do it again.”
“But—you got paid more than anyone else in an assistant position ever would. And you weren’t too bad at your job for a student. What went wrong?” He picks up the letter as if he can’t believe his eyes.
Nesta’s stare is a deadpan one. “Let me guess: you thought I would take your free paychecks, use my connections to move up your nepotism ladder, and end up working at Night Court comfortably for the rest of my life?”
Rhysand sits back in his chair and raises a brow at Nesta. “This is a family business,” he says smoothly. “I thought you wanted to be part of the family?”
How funny of him. “I’m good,” she answers simply.
“You came all the way here to tell me this?” Here being Velaris, which gleams through the wall of windows behind Rhysand’s desk.
“I’m not here to see you,” Nesta says, the implication being left in the air. “I’m just stopping by.” Giving a short nod, she turns on her heel to leave.
“If you ever go looking for another job,” Rhysand calls after her, “tell me if you need a recommendation. I can get you into any position at any business.”
She pauses at the door and looks over her shoulder at Rhysand. “I already have recommendations. And a job.” Her summer clerkship at the local family law firm won’t pay a third of what she made here at Night Court, but it’s good enough for now. Combined with what she’s saved up so far, she’ll get through her final year of law school without issue.
At Rhysand’s surprised face, she takes her cue to leave.
Nesta didn’t intend on going all the way to personally meet the CEO to quit, but since Cassian has been in Velaris the whole weekend for work, she thought it would be nice to surprise Cassian with a visit and cut her ties with Night Court Inc. at the same time.
Night Court’s headquarters are huge, with the skyscraper easily being one of the tallest buildings in the city. Nesta nearly gets lost trying to find her way out of Rhysand’s offices.
When she finally spots the steel doors of the elevator, they’re about to slide shut on her. “Hold the door!” she calls out, kicking into a jog. An arm pushes out at the last second to stop the doors from closing, and Nesta slides into the elevator with a sigh of relief. The doors close after her, and she turns to thank the only other person in the elevator.
The man is already looking at her in surprise—surprise which slowly turns into a shark-like smile. “Nesta?”
Nesta’s blood goes cold. He can’t be.
“Remember me?” He points at himself, still grinning. “Keith? Keith O’Connell?”
She tries to swallow but her mouth is dry. “Yeah, I remember,” she gets out.
She remembers everyone she knew from college. She especially remembers Tomas’s closest friends.
Nesta realizes Keith is saying something to her. “What floor?” he asks.
“Uh…” Where was she going again? She can’t remember. She spits out a random number and lets Keith press the button.
Nesta turns her gaze to the flashing numbers above the doors, watching them go down and down. Why are there so many damn floors?
“Didn’t think I’d see you around here,” he goes on, trying to get her to meet his eyes. “Let me guess, you’re an intern?”
Nesta keeps her eyes glued to the floor numbers. “No.”
“Ah,” he hums. “Don’t tell me you’re still chasing that lawyer dream?”
When Nesta doesn’t respond, she finds five fingers on her jaw turning her face toward Keith’s.
She jerks out of his grip, indignant rage bubbling to the surface—rage that is almost immediately suppressed by dread and fear. She’s so small right now; she can’t remember how to be big and loud.
Keith grins, taking a step closer. “What’s wrong? I just asked a question.”
Her back bumps into the wall. She barely feels it. She might as well be back in the living room of her college apartment, sitting on the arm of the couch while Tomas makes snide remarks about her to Keith O’Connell and his other friends. She’s not allowed to leave, because then she’ll be the one who can’t take a joke.
Keith frowns disappointedly at the ground, as if he found a shiny toy just to discover that it doesn’t do any tricks. Now he’s bored. “Damn,” he says. “When you’re not busy being Tom’s bitch, I guess you’re just a bitch.”
Nesta wishes she could be a bitch right now. She wishes she could fight back. “What are you doing, Keith?”
He tilts his head at her. “I’m catching up with you. You got a boyfriend?” His beady eyes slide down her form, leaving a slimy feeling in their wake.
When her lips stay pressed in a firm line, he grabs her arm and laughs. “Come on, why’re you being so weird?” He shakes her by the elbow. “I won’t tell anyone if you do have a boyfriend, promise.”
Nesta hears a ding, and the elevator doors slide open. She doesn’t know whether it’s her floor or Keith’s floor, but she doesn’t care—she’s the first to pull away from him and make an exit. “See you,” she blurts before speedwalking out of the elevator.
Why the fuck did she say “see you”? She doesn’t want to see him ever again. He doesn’t deserve to see her ever again.
Behind her, she hears Keith chuckle again. “I’ll tell Tomas you said hi,” he calls after her.
Cassian finds Nesta huddled under a desk.
He thought his eyes were playing tricks on him when he spotted her hurrying out of the elevator on the eighteenth floor of Night Court’s headquarters, but soon enough he realized that yes, that was Nesta’s coat and Nesta’s hair. She was supposed to be back home studying for her first two finals, but instead she was here looking like she was going to be sick.
He was about to follow her when his eyes slid to the man that had gotten off the elevator after her. He didn’t like how O’Connell was staring after Nesta.
“We’re old college friends,” O’Connell shrugged dismissively when Cassian approached him. “I was just saying hi.”
Nesta doesn’t have any friends from college.
Which leads Cassian to a dim, abandoned meeting room, one that would seem fully empty if it wasn't for the sound of strained breathing coming from under the only desk.
He approaches the desk slowly, his worn sneakers coming into Nesta’s line of sight. Pushing the rolling chair away, he crouches down to get a better look at her.
Tinny music comes out of her earbuds, loud enough to drown out any other sounds. She stares past Cassian like she can’t even see him, and the hollowed out look in her eyes terrifies him for a moment. When she blinks, tears spill over onto her cheeks.
“Nes?” Carefully, Cassian reaches out to touch one of her earbuds. After a second of hesitation, he pulls it out and lets it fall.
Nesta sniffles once, then finally turns her teary gaze to Cassian. Her eyes widen a little bit as she croaks, “How did you find me?”
“I followed you. What are you doing here, baby?”
“Um—” Her voice cracks, and she swipes away her tears with the sleeve of her coat. She clears her throat and says, “I came to surprise you.”
“And how’d you end up under here?” Cassian pulls Nesta’s hand away from her face before the scratchy wool can redden her face further. Makeup is smudged around her eyes, and he tries to soothe the sensitive skin there with his thumbs.
Nesta’s other earbud drops out of her ear while he fusses, leaving her with nothing to listen to.
Cassian is quietly, studiously tucking stray hairs back into Nesta’s bun when she confesses, “I was weak.”
“How?” Concern pinches Cassian’s brow. “By crying in front of me?”
“I was completely helpless,” she goes on, her voice numb. “And I didn’t know how not to be that way. I hated it, it’s so stupid.” She tears up again. “I’m not supposed to be that stupid.”
“Tell me what happened,” Cassian demands. He can’t pretend to be patient anymore.
Nesta presses her lips together and stares down at her shoes. Nothing Cassian can think of can prepare him for when she says, “I ran into a friend of my ex.”
So that’s who he is. A frightening calmness settles over Cassian. “O’Connell?” he asks, though he already knows.
Nesta looks up. “You know him?”
He tightens his jaw but nods. “Move over.” Ducking his head, Cassian crawls under the desk to join Nesta. He has to hunch over in half to fit, but Nesta doesn’t seem to mind.
He has to give it to her—it’s not a bad hiding spot.
“What did he say to you?” He tries to sound steady, undisturbed.
“He didn’t need to say anything,” Nesta answers. “I lost my spine with one look from him. He had me under his thumb.”
“I see.” Cassian has made peace with the fact that Tomas Mandray has long since moved away, that he’ll never be able to track the shithead down and make him suffer. What he didn’t know, however, is that Mandray left his friends behind.
“Were you hurt?” is his next question. “Did he touch you?” Cassian doesn’t know what he’ll do if Nesta says yes, but he has to ask anyway.
“I’m not hurt,” she assures him. But her hands rub over her upper arms like she can feel the ghost of a touch there.
“I see,” he repeats. He watches her for a bit longer before stating, “You’re not stupid.”
Nesta’s huff is amused. “Thank you.”
“And don’t spend too much time thinking about O’Connell,” he mutters, nudging her knee with his. “I’ll get rid of him for good.” That is a promise that Cassian is happy to keep.
Nesta looks alarmed. “Like…murder him?”
Cassian laughs. “No, not like that. But you’ll never see him again, so I hope you’ve said what you needed to say to him.”
Nesta thinks for a moment, then nods. “That sounds good. I don’t have anything to say to him.” She inhales a deep breath. “I think I feel better now.”
Cassian holds out a hand to her. “You wanna get out of here?”
She takes his hand and he helps her out from under the desk.
Nesta apparently booked a hotel room in Velaris to surprise Cassian with, but they both agree on the way to the parking lot that they’ve had enough of the city. Cassian chooses to leave his truck behind for Rhys to take care of, and he offers to drive Nesta’s car while she rests.
The ride home is long and quiet.
Nesta sits in silence with her earbuds in, her head leaning against the car window and one of her hands in Cassian’s. He drives with his free hand, sneaking glances over at her every so often just to make sure she really is okay.
It enrages him that someone from Nesta’s past found their way into her place of work. What if he and O’Connell weren’t working in Velaris this weekend, and Nesta bumped into O’Connell in the middle of town instead? It could have tainted any sense of safety she has with the small city she calls home.
Cassian has no plans on telling her that O’Connell is the team leader for the Milan project, or that he rents a small place on the outskirts of their town. Because soon enough neither of those things will be true, and there’s no use in unnecessarily worrying her.
He absentmindedly rubs his thumb over the back of Nesta’s hand.
When they finally pull up to the cabin, Nesta picks her head up from the window to look around. Spotting the other black car parked in the driveway, she makes a sound of disappointment. “Az is home.”
“We can stay in the car if you like,” Cassian offers. He’s in no rush to go inside and face other people, either.
Nesta pulls her heels off, bending over to rub her stockinged feet. “Maybe just for a little while.”
Cassian unbuckles his seatbelt, gesturing for Nesta to put her feet in his lap.
She obliges, looking too tired to refuse him. Cassian runs his hands up her legs and under her skirt, finding the waistband of her sheer black tights and tugging.
“What are you doing?” She jerks under his hands, eyes wide. “The car’s too small for this.”
He narrows his gaze at her. “Chill, horndog. I’m just making you comfortable.” He pulls the tights the rest of the way down her legs and off, freeing her skin.
Nesta gives a little sigh of relief at the feeling of air on her bare skin. She rubs her hands over her thighs in wonder, drawing Cassian’s gaze.
He meets her eyes, and she slowly curls her legs off his lap, tucking them underneath herself instead.
Elated to have Nesta’s undivided attention after two hours of silence, he leans over and slips his hand around her jaw, pulling her in for a kiss.
Her inhale is soft, surprised, before she relaxes against his mouth. Cassian kisses her once, twice, hoping it’ll remind her that she’s safe at his side. That nothing can make her weak.
He’s slow to pull away, and he opens his eyes to find that Nesta’s are still closed, her lips still parted. He stifles a smile and whispers, “I think we should head inside.”
“Mm-hm,” she nods eagerly.
They exit the car, Cassian carrying Nesta’s shoes and tights in one hand and Nesta running over to him barefoot.
He leaves little pecks along her jaw and neck as they enter the cabin, taking extra time to find any moles or beauty marks. She’s about to turn in his arms to face him when they both take notice of Azriel sitting in the living room. Cardboard boxes surround him, and he’s filling them up with books.
Cassian drops Nesta’s heels and tights onto the floor, bringing Az’s attention to him.
“Hey, bro,” Cassian says warily. “What are you doing?”
“Moving out,” Az answers.
Nesta chokes on a laugh. When no one laughs with her, her face drops. “You’re serious?”
Cassian thinks the same thing.
“I’m going back to Velaris,” Az shrugs, dropping some trinkets into a box. “I’m ready to face Elain. I’m taking accountability.” He says it like it’s the simplest decision ever, like he’s talking about bringing an umbrella to a picnic.
“Are you sure about this?” Cassian asks. Just a while ago his brother was terrified at the idea of entering a ten mile radius of Velaris.
“I’m packing, aren’t I?” Az says dryly.
“You’re packing our things,” Cassian points out.
Nesta gasps when she notices. “Hey, those are my books!” She hurries over to snatch one out of Azriel’s hand.
Azriel snatches it back with a dark look. “What goes in the box, stays in the box.”
Cassian sputters in disbelief, looking around at the scene before him. “I mean—can we ask what brought this on?”
“Maybe I did some self-reflection. Or maybe I finally got sick of you and Nesta hooking up while I’m in the same room, like you were about to do now.” Az shrugs, pulling out a roll of packing tape and tearing off a strip with his teeth. “Don’t act like you’re going to miss me,” he continues as he tapes one of the boxes shut. “You two have been waiting for this day for months, and I’m finally granting your wishes.”
Cassian and Nesta share a look, and Cassian says hesitantly, “This isn’t… a breakdown or something, right?”
Azriel narrows his hazel eyes at Cassian.
“Okay, okay.” Cassian holds his hands up in defense. He pulls his hoodie over his head and off in one swift movement and goes over to the couch to help his brother pack. He still doesn’t know what brought on this sudden change of heart, but he knows Az won’t tell unless he wants to.
Nesta remains standing where she is, confounded, before dropping down next to an open box and rifling through it. “I want compensation for anything of mine you’re taking,” she demands, pulling out various paperbacks one by one.
“So like a dime for every three trash porns,” Cassian tells Az.
“I’m upcharging,” Nesta says. Her hand stops rummaging through the box, and she pulls out a framed photo instead of a book. She turns her steely eyes to Azriel. “You can’t have this one.”
It’s a candid picture of Cassian, Nesta, and Azriel on the ski lodge trip. Cassian remembers the moment it was taken with vividness, because it was one of the rare moments on that vacation where all three of them were smiling at the same time.
“Emerie took this,” Nesta continues, “and she’s my friend, so by extent it’s mine.”
Az smiles politely at her. “You’re right, you should keep it,” he says. “You’re too ugly in that photo for me to take it.”
Nesta sneers back, but gets up to reset the photo on the fireplace mantle.
A day or two later, Cassian notices that the ski lodge picture is gone, frame and all. He sighs to himself and hopes Nesta won’t notice.
a/n: it’s official less than five parts left!! cassian’s revenge scene is gonna be hotter than every smut scene combined
tagging: @sjm-things @thewayshedreamed @drielecarla @valkyriewarriors @superspiritfestival @aliveahaahahafuck @cupcakey00 @sayosdreams @rainbowcheetah512 @claralady @thebluemartini @nessiantho @missing-merlin @duskandstarlight @lucy617 @sleeping-and-books @everything-that-i-love @cassianscool @swankii-art-teacher @wannawriteyouabook a favor: @awesomelena555 @julemmaes @wickedqueenoffantasy @poisonous-bloom @observationanxioustheorist @gisellefigue08 @courtofjurdan @theoverlyenthusiasticwriter @wolfiixxx @cass-nes @seashade @royaltykxx @illyrianundercover @queenestarcheron @monstrousloves-explodinggalaxies @humanexile @that-golden-lyre @agentsofsheilds @mercy-is-alive @cassiansbigwingspan @laylaameer01 @verypaleninja @maastrash @bow-dawn @perseusannabeth @dead-on-the-inside666 @jlinez @hungryreadingaddict @anidealiveson @planet-faerie @shallowhighwaters @ghostlyrose2 @chosenfamily-valkyriequeens @rarephloxes @readiajin @nessiantrashh @live-the-fangirl-life @ifinallygavein @xoblivisci @sjmships @jungtaekwoonie-is-life @lysandra-tiara @lanyjoy-13 @post-it-notes33 @loosingdreams @fromthelibraryofemilyj @18moneytoad @dontgetsalmonella @champanheandluxxury @togreblog @arinbelle @ladygabrielli1997 @meridainthedisneyland @moodymelanist @pixieelea @teagoddess99
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Embers & Light (Chapter 42)
Notes: Hey everyone, I know I wasn't scheduled to post until next weekend, but I got my writing mojo on and I managed to turn things around quicker than usual. And I also wanted to say thank you to you all for bearing with me whilst I was too busy to get you regular updates. So, I hope you enjoy this one and you'll also get an update next week, too. We're taking a turn into angst-ville, which is going to build over the next few chapters, so strap yourselves in for a turbulent ride.
This is one of my favourite in the whole of E&L and I've had it in my mind for a long time. I really hope you enjoy it. Please let me know what you think and know that every comment makes my day <3
If you enjoy my writing, I'd really appreciate it if you could reblog my work so more people can discover my fic--thanks so much!
Their silence was a stolid thing. If Nesta had fetched one of Cassian’s fighting knives, she could have cut a big, fat wedge out of it. The only problem was that she didn’t know what she’d find if she removed that slice. Would it carve a path for her to speak with Cassian about what he’d just revealed, or would it only reveal a mammoth, cavernous emptiness?
“So what lesson are you about to teach me?” Nesta asked, crossing her arms firmly across her chest as they stepped out into a surprisingly empty camp. Her voice felt scratchy and unused. It irritated her throat.
Cassian ignored her, closing the door firmly behind him. He was wearing his best scaled leathers, his hair pulled back so tightly into a topknot that his features appeared even more impenetrable and severe.
“Sala’s far away,” Nesta said into the stony silence, when Cassian finally turned to look at her, “so, you’ll have to carry me. Do you think you can stand it?”
A huffed grunt was Cassian’s only reply. There was no wry grin. No glint in those hazel eyes as he flared his ruby siphons to create a protective bubble against the battering wind.
Sala was out there somewhere, Nesta could feel it. But she didn’t want to summon the manticore. She couldn’t fathom the thought of not being near Cassian. His confession had panic lodged in her chest and terror eating at her insides. Because she was terrified he was going to leave her. Because she was awful. He had seen those images and he had been forced to watch—
The horror had Nesta clamping down on her thoughts, but then they were back, barraging into her from every direction. How much had he seen? If it had been the other way around… No, Nesta couldn’t bare it. She couldn’t bare it.
Tears rose within her but she bit them down.
“I have to attend a ceremony,” Cassian announced tightly without looking at her. “I’d like your company.”
Nesta blinked. Stared at him. It was not what she’d expected. A thousand questions itched at her. Nesta wanted to tell Cassian that she was sorry, that she was naive to think she could control the bond between them to spite the Cauldron, but she only ended up frowning as she asked, “You’d like or you need?”
“Aren’t they the same thing?”
“No,” Nesta retorted shortly. But she couldn’t help but ask, “What’s the ceremony?”
“Today is Kharon. It’s a day Illyrians say goodbye to the dead so they can rest in peace in the afterlife.”
Nesta frowned. She had thought the camp was quieter than usual, but had been too preoccupied with clearing out the shop to have asked questions. “The festival is in the camp?”
Cassian’s jaw flexed. “No, it’s always in Empyr.”
“Empyr?” Nesta repeated, but Cassian didn’t provide her with a further answer. The red light of Cassian’s star ruby siphon shone again and a sword appeared in his hand. “Take this.”
Nesta frowned, but she took the glowing sword, surprised when the magic didn’t shrink from the blade. Instead, it turned from ruby to a soft, silver glow as she sheathed it in the scabbard that was strapped to the back of her spine.“We need to be armed?”
“A warrior should always carry steel as well as magic. It will be crowded. You’ll need to call Sala and have her meet us there.”
Nesta’s eyes widened. “You’re telling me this now?”
“I was going to tell you before you got in the bath with me, but then things went in another direction,” Cassian admitted without a hint of embarrassment. The muscles in his cheeks worked as he ground his teeth. As if he was regretting what they’d done earlier. As if he regretted her. “Empyr is neutral ground—blood has never been spilled there—but I don’t trust Illyrians. A sword is better suited than your bow given the close proximity.”
“Will you come?” he added after she remained silent. For a split second, Cassian’s mask slipped to reveal the trepidation underneath. He looked away from her as if he knew what he’d done. “A lot of families will be saying goodbye to the warriors that were lost against Hybern. I need to be present.”
Realisation hit Nesta square in the face. Nightmares still plagued Cassian and Nesta had sleepily crawled into his arms to console him too many times to count. She knew he was haunted with the death of the soldiers that turned to ash when he did not. That had been Nesta’s fault. She’d screamed his name and Cassian had followed the sound blindly. Had heard her across the clash of battle, the screams of the dying…
Nesta could loathe the Cauldron for what it had done to those males, but in that moment, she couldn’t hate the bond it had granted them. It had meant Cassian had remained alive and breathing. Safe. Until they’d nearly died again.
She still couldn’t think of that final confrontation against the King of Hybern. Couldn’t stand to think that Cassian might have been taken from her. And her father… there had been such truth in his apology to her before he died. He had finally tried and the world compensated him with death.
I loved you from the moment I first held you in my arms.
Something uncomfortable thickened in Nesta’s throat like fat, grown vines. Usually she pushed away all thoughts of her father, but today she didn’t let those thoughts imprison her. Instead, she leant into the sadness and resentment that gripped her. Sadness that her father had acted too late. Resentment because, by that point, Nesta’s hatred for him had been embedded too deep for her to forgive him.
But today Nesta didn’t feel conflicted. She only thought of the way her father's hair had been lifted by the wind as he stood at the helm of the Nesta. Of how his blue eyes—identical to hers and Feyre’s—had shone with love before his neck was snapped and the life had flickered out of him.
The wind rustled a lazy arm through the forest, making it seem as if the trees exhaled before they took in a gasping breath. The sound shook Nesta out of her thoughts.
Cassian was observing her carefully, but his gaze was still shaded—wounded, actually.
It was that look that had her stepping closer to him. Panic began to rule her heart until it ran riot. She was desperate to touch him. To make things right again between them. She wanted that flinty expression to lighten, for him to drop his guard down—something she’d noticed he only did around the bungalow. Around her.
When Nesta wound her arms around his neck in reply, Cassian allowed it. She’d hoped that despite the fact that they were in public that he might stoop to brush his mouth over hers. But Cassian only scooped her up in his arms and looked straight ahead.
In seconds they were airborne.
Empyr turned out to be the most beautiful place Nesta had ever seen.
It was a long, wide valley shaped like a horseshoe where nature reigned supreme. Water cascaded over the forest green of the mountain walls in streams, but it was at the rounded edge of the valley, dead in the centre, where a huge waterfall cascaded over its bend. To Nesta it was the river’s blood, its waters plummeting to the bottom in froths of white before it plateaued into something calmer, stretching out like a blue, serene blanket to form the River Styx, which flowed through the valley’s centre like an artery. Islands of valley floor were made up of lush green grass and connected with makeshift stone bridges which arched over from one island of land to another, thanks to the veins of water created by the smaller waterfalls.
A stony silence had been their only companion for the journey. But as they approached, Cassian began to feed Nesta information about Kharon and the surrounding landscape. At first his voice was iron-clad and clipped—a general reporting military strategy to their troops before battle—but slowly it fell into something slightly more malleable, as if the scenery softened his reproach.
Nesta didn’t care that Cassian wouldn’t look at her. Only cared that his voice halted the distance that had been stretching out impossibly between them. A sliver of hope fluttered through her that things might return to normal as Cassian began to inform her that Rhys had ordered his attendance at the festival. Thankfully, his duties didn’t extend beyond showing his face—to quietly participate—which wasn’t a problem given that Cassian was the only one out of his brothers to attend the festival year-in and year-out.
As Cassian hung a hard right, casting his wings out wide to ride the wind, Empyr spread out gloriously before them. And Nesta almost wanted to gasp at the ravaging beauty of it. The colours were sparkling and vivid, and for once, the Illyrians below weren’t imposing but… merely crowds of fae. Finally, for one evening, a united people rather than divided by clans.
Cassian continued to talk as they began their descent. He weaved his wings through the air traffic, heading towards the thick woodland bracketing the mouth of the valley. According to him, a hanging mist usually took up residence over the valley, only lifting once a year for the celebration. And true enough, a canvas of stars sparkled like jewels above them even though the sky was only purple with dusk. They were so bright that Nesta had no issues finding the ring of pareho, the blue and yellow stars so vivid that Nesta almost believed she could reach her fingers up and touch them.
And interwoven with the stars… fireflies—a gift from Oya, the Goddess of Death and Rebirth—an integral part of the ceremony. The winged beetles were black with a yellow stripe down their back—the exact shade of the goddess’ star. For one evening only, Illyrians would set it upon themselves to catch a firefly for themselves and place it in a lantern. Each firefly signified a life taken from Illyria, a soul yet to reach the heavens, lost and drifting in the in-between. By placing it into the water at the top of the mountain and sending it over the waterfall, Illyrians believed they were granting a soul a peaceful passage into the afterlife. The current would allow the soul passage as the lantern was ferried down the River Styx and into the thicket of woodland at the other end of the valley.
Cassian’s voice fell into something hushed as he explained the ceremony, and Nesta couldn’t help it—she craned her neck to look up at him. His expression had slackened with mourning but it was not overcome with it. As if, somehow, this festival which was centred around saying goodbye to the fallen, was not only a celebration of granting a restless soul peace, but a method of closure for the living.
How many times had Cassian said goodbye to friends and family here, Nesta wondered? Had Cassian found it in himself to set his mother’s soul down the River Styx? Had it done anything to alleviate the grief and anger Nesta had witnessed first-hand?
The forest floor was a carpet of moss and pine needles as Cassian touched down by a wide river that stretched its way through the woodland. Nesta looked around as Cassian set her down. Through the tree trunks quite a way ahead, Nesta spied green grass and the mauve of the night sky—heard the sounds of crowds and the wafting music that came from plucked strings.
Cassian cleared his throat. “That’s the River Styx,” he explained coarsely, nodding to their left, where water travelled serenely past them. Nesta got the distinct impression that he was talking because he couldn’t endure the silence rather than wanting to converse with her. He still hadn’t met her eye. “It flows from the waterfall at the top of the valley all the way through the forest. They haven’t started sending down lanterns just yet—we wait until it’s dark.”
Nesta dipped her chin to indicate that she’d heard him, because she wasn’t sure what else to say. Everything that was left unvoiced between them was as far-reaching as the flowing river. Now they weren’t travelling through the skies, the tension from their earlier disagreement was even more palpable: a pulsing, sad energy. A deflated heart. “Where do the lanterns of fireflies go?” she asked eventually, when her curiosity got the better of her.
“Into the afterlife,” Cassian replied simply.
“You truly believe that?” Nesta asked. Her voice wasn’t derisive but curiously pleading. She needed to keep him talking. Needed him to engage with her.
You promised things wouldn’t be cold between us, she thought desperately.
But still Cassian didn’t look at Nesta. Instead, he nodded stiffly. “There’s an even larger waterfall at the other end of the forest. The lanterns are never found after they fall. There’s no debris—they just vanish. I choose to believe that is proof that they go somewhere. But even if they don't, it’s the ritual that is significant. It’s a way of saying goodbye. Of being able to breathe again after the weight of grief. If you don’t let go, it consumes you.”
The words hit home like a punch to the stomach. It wasn’t that they were deliberately pointed at her, rather that they made sense. The grief that still ate Nesta alive when it came to her father was a numb and quiet vat until it decided to bubble up, spilling like boiling water cascading over the lip of a pan.
Pine needles crunched underfoot as she shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other, but all Nesta heard was the snap of her father’s neck and Cassian’s screams echoing in her ears as his wings were broken one by one.
Sharply, Cassian twisted around, but this time it was Nesta who deliberately avoided his gaze. She wrapped her arms around her body, forming her own tight embrace. What if her father was drifting in this world because she hadn't let go of the hate in her heart? Elain and Feyre had visited his grave, but Nesta had refused--couldn't stomach the thought of him, let alone visiting his resting place.
Suddenly, Nesta wanted to cry—to sob actually—but she couldn’t let herself. Instead, she stared at the grooves in the bark of a pine tree—beyond that, to the river and the peaceful passing of water. “You said goodbye to your mother here?”
Tears burned Nesta’s eyes. “And did it help?”
“Honestly?” In the corner of her eye, Nesta saw Cassian claw a hand through the strands of his hair that had come loose during their flight. “She’ll always be with me. But not knowing where she fell? Where she was discarded? Illyrian funerals are two-fold. We burn bodies on the pyre—it releases the soul into the atmosphere—but then we must find it at Kharon. To my knowledge, my mother’s body wasn’t burnt, so I think I will always worry that I have not found her. That she’s still here somewhere, lost and unable to find rest.”
The desire to touch Cassian was overwhelming. The devastation in his voice had Nesta turning despite herself. He looked so immeasurably sad that his grief didn't just needle her stomach—it wrangled through her—catching on organs and tugging with a sharp, curved claw.
For a moment, they stared at one another—cloudy hazel on stormy blue.
“What happens to the females who can’t fly?” Nesta asked, knowing somehow, that Cassian needed to talk about something else. Nesta wondered if Cassian would catch a firefly for his mother anyway—in the hope that if he did it every year, she might find peace.
Cassian blinked, clearly surprised by Nesta’s question. “They are carried or left at home,” he replied frankly after a moment of consideration. “They usually hold their own ceremonies.”
Nesta thought of the tiny flickering fireflies that the widows caught and stored in jars in place of faelight in their own camp. Was it also a symbol of the loved ones that they had lost? Nesta had never thought to ask. She’d just thought it was a method of illumination against the chilling dark.
Silence blanketed over them like freshly fallen snow. Nesta furled and unfurled her fists, her nails creating tiny moon shapes of pain in the heart of her palm. She wanted to say something else—to penetrate the awful weight between them that was all her fault. Everything was always her fault.
She inhaled sharply, opened her mouth to say something, but Cassian had already turned, walking towards the noise that crept through the trees.
A panic thrust Nesta into action. She was gripping Cassian’s large hand before she could think, her fingers snagging on his rough, weathered skin. There was an uncloaked terror to the movement, something that coated her voice and skin, scratched up her throat. “Cassian.”
Nesta didn’t imagine the sound Cassian teeth made as they ground together. “What.”
“I don’t want to fight.”
He didn’t face her. Apparently, he didn’t deem her worthy. “We aren’t fighting.”
“You barely looking at me counts as fighting. I thought this was neutral ground. If we’re going to be out in public, we can’t act like we hate each other.”
Nesta threaded her finger through his and this time, Cassian was a little more pliant. He stared down at their hands, turned his body towards hers. Nesta knew what he was thinking—that others would see. That they were supposed to be promised to one another.
“You want to pretend?” Cassian asked eventually. A muscle worked in his jaw and his eyes flickered before they shut down completely. “Fine. We’re good at that.”
It took everything in Nesta not to snarl. She took a deep breath, quietening the magic which had leapt furiously in her veins at the temper rising inside of her. “That’s not what I said. I’m not—”
I’m not pretending. I can’t.
As usual, words were too hard. So, Nesta tried to show him instead. Propped herself up onto tiptoes and pressed her mouth to his. Cassian didn't kiss her back but Nesta felt him soften beneath her lips. After a beat too long, a hand reluctantly curled into the tangle of her unbound hair. She’d been in too much of a hurry to tie it back earlier.
When Nesta pulled away, she only did so slightly. She waited until their eyes connected and that lock that always seemed to exist began to turn inside of her—revolving to a deeper level. Cassian’s eyes blossomed into a cloudy confusion of green and brown, like petals unfurling. They were mesmerising, drawing her in as everything she had wanted to say earlier finally blurted forth, “I didn’t know. I didn’t know and I’m sorry.”
The hurt and anger that had been rippling across Cassian’s face dropped to a simmer, but tension still bracketed his jaw. Clearly, this wasn’t something he could just forget. Nesta didn’t blame him. She’d rather die than see him with someone else. “It’s fine.”
“It’s not fine,” Nesta snapped. Irritation bit at her like gnashing teeth, but she managed to reign it in. Fae would hear their discussion and talk if she didn’t master her voice, but it still picked up speed like a stone rolling down a hill. “I’m sorry for being an awful person. I’m sorry that you saw those… things. I didn’t know that was happening. I can be cruel but I’m not that cruel—”
Cassian’s lips were a warm, abrupt end to her speech. The kiss was hard and urgent and free of desire—different to their other kisses. It was not affectionate but fierce and painful in its making, the salt of her tears a sad burst on their tongues.
“I know you’re not,” Cassian rasped when he pulled away. He ran a thumb over her cheek to brush away the tears that had wet her cheeks, but the touch was too quick. He lifted her chin and although his expression was still hard, sincerity brought life to his next words, “I could never hate you, Nesta. I don’t blame you, I just— It was hard to see.”
Cassian trailed off. He bit down on his jaw, as if he was moderating his words. “I don’t like to think about it. I acted out. I’m sorry.”
All composure had left Nesta from the moment he’d told her about the bond--her lack of control—and she practically gaped at him. “You should hate me.”
“You were free to bed who you wished. I can't hate you for that.”
But whilst that was true, Nesta knew how she'd feel if she had been in his place: tortured and sick with longing. Taunted by images of something she could not have.
An awful, rueful smile tugged at one corner of Cassian's mouth. His next words weren't consoling like they were meant to be. “Not possible,” he countered, but devastation festered in his voice.
That ruin hung between them, but Nesta pushed it away. Didn’t want to face it. “I want us to go back to normal.”
That tiny half-smile flickered, like a dying star. “And what’s normal?”
“Before,” Nesta clarified. “I want things to be easy between us.”
But even as Nesta spoke, she knew her denial of the bond was wrecked. Cassian had said Nesta could dictate how things could go, but she’d always known that they couldn’t ignore what was between them forever. She’d been the one to bring up the mating bond—she’d given it a voice, a corporeal presence and she’d doomed them.
They were existing on borrowed time. They always had been.
“I see,” Cassian mused with forced lightness, but his voice was too rough, too coarse, “you just want to exploit my skills in the bedroom.”
That wasn’t it, but Nesta made herself snort. She didn’t want to think about what she’d done to him. What she'd allowed him to see. “Whatever helps you sleep easier at night.”
“You help me sleep easier at night.”
One simple sentence—the painful, scorching truth of it made everything heavy. Inhaling a shaky breath, Nesta set her shoulders. She just had to keep pretending everything was fine until everything was fine. She could do that. She could. Because she couldn’t accept something Cauldron given, not when it had torn her apart from the inside out. She couldn’t let it win. “I walked into that.”
An easy grin transformed Cassian’s face. It was real this time—for the most part—as if he knew they had to act that everything was ok until they both believed it. “You did.”
Together, they reached the edge of the clearing. Empyr stretched out before them in all its stunning glory. Fireflies hung in the sky, tiny specks of hovering light the exact colour of Oya’s star. Nesta’s power turned over in her veins, whispering excitedly, as if it, too, could feel the ancient power that clearly ran through the river.
She clutched tightly onto Cassian’s hand as they stepped into the crowds. Cassian curled his fingers around the back of her palm in response, his wings curving around her shoulder like a shield.
Nesta leant into his embrace, couldn’t help but shelter herself in his warmth. “Where now?”
Cassian nodded towards the vendors that had taken up residence across all the pockets of land. “We’re early. Let’s eat.”
Cassian led Nesta over bridge after bridge. Azure water ran beneath the wooden platforms, fed by the smaller waterfalls that ran to meet the River Styx. Lanterns bobbed down the centre of the valley, their chambers filled with soft yellow light as they travelled downstream towards the line of trees Nesta and Cassian had emerged from. And amidst it all, the voices of market vendors ran clear as they tried to persuade visitors to buy their wares. Some sold traditional Illyrian food, whilst others allowed visitors to purchase lanterns and nets to catch their firefly at the top of the Empyr mountain.
The bustling crowds and the arresting colours of Empyr made it easier for Nesta to push her and Cassian's disagreement to the back of her mind. It still lingered like an unwanted shadow, bristling in Nesta's stomach with every breath. But as time passed, it became easier to ignore.
Together, they ate triangular shaped pastries filled with spiced potatoes and peas, licking the grease from their fingers as they walked through the many stalls. Later, Cassian paused at a stall laden with desserts. He conversed with the vendor for a few moments in rapid Illyrian, before he returned with a box of milk-based sweets dotted through with nuts. The sugar rush was instant and Nesta almost moaned as she devoured the fudgey sweet in a few quick bites. Cassian just cocked a soft smile at her again. Tenderly touched her mouth with his thumb to brush away the crumbs before offering her another one.
When lanterns obscured the river’s depths, Cassian scooped Nesta into his arms and flew them to the top left-hand plateau of the mountain. There, fireflies gathered in such large clusters the grass glowed aflame—dancing and bobbing with buttery, inviting light.
It turned out that Nesta didn’t need a net.
“Your fire must call to theirs,” Cassian mused. Awe scratched at his voice as fireflies crowded atop Nesta’s palm and floated down to coat Sala’s fur.
The manticore had been waiting at the mountain’s peak, as if the beast had known that Nesta was about to appear. Sala had slunk out of the copse of trees, a predator amongst a race who were used to being the hunters rather than the hunted. The wariness in the Illyrians eyes had quickly dissolved into a mixture of awe and jealousy as Sala knocked her head against Nesta and Cassian’s midriffs in hello.
But Nesta had only given the manticore a half-hearted rub behind the ears. She’d been too preoccupied by the way that her power had began to vibrate in her blood like a buzz of swarming bees.
Within minutes, they were surrounded in a thicket of the beetles—circled specks of heavenly light.
When Nesta offered Cassian one of the glowing beetles, he merely shook his head. “I have to do it myself.”
He caught a firefly between his cupped palms and tilted it gently into the lantern. Nesta followed suit, struggling to tip just one into the lantern when so many crowded her palm—her skin.
She felt the raking gaze of the Illyrians—watchful eyes—even though she couldn’t see past the fireflies. Suddenly, she felt anxious and out of place in this holy setting. Like she shouldn’t have the privilege of participating in an event when she had so much hate in her heart.
But she made herself take stock. Banishing the lancing thoughts, she asked softly, “Do I have to give the soul a name?”
Cassian glanced sideways at her. He frowned at the look on her face—the stark uncertainty that she couldn’t hide in time. His spine straightened, his eyes scanning their surroundings. Somehow, Nesta knew that he felt the Illyrians looking at them, too. “It can be symbolic if you like. Or you don’t have to do it at all.”
But Nesta thought of all the floating souls around them. She didn’t know what she believed, but she respected the tradition enough to partake in it. She couldn’t deny freeing a trapped soul into the afterlife, even if she wasn’t sure whether she’d be of any help. Nesta supposed that was instilling faith that something might be true, rather than cutting it down as nonsense. Choosing to believe that there might be something more, until proven otherwise.
Something soothing washed through her as Cassian took her hand again. He led her to the melting snow at the mountain’s flat peak, where the River Styx plummeted down to the valley below. The crowds were heavy but orderly here, and despite Cassian’s warning that he did not trust the other clans, there were no derisive comments. Even when they spied Ironcrest lordlings and Illyrians wearing the rebellion’s crest on their leathers, there were only stiff grimaces and the odd crack of knuckles. Because Empyr was a respected, sacred spare for honouring the dead. It was not a place for feuds to run rife.
Instead, everyone queued solemnly, their voices hushed and swallowed by the roar of the water. Nesta and Cassian queued in silence, waiting their turn to reach the river’s edge. He did not let go of her hand. Did not remove the wing that cloaked her back. A thumb ran absent-mindedly over the side of hers, the hard worn skin not abrasive, but comforting. Eyes still clung to them and undecipherable whispers wound their way across to them on the wind. But there were also respectful nods interwoven with begrudging respect. Some younglings even dared to approach Sala before mothers caught their hands, a blush blossoming on the females’ tan cheeks as they steered their children away to whispered scolding. Sala didn’t bat an eyelid, only leant heavily against Nesta’s legs in affection, her eyelids slitted and heavy, as Nesta played with her ears.
When Nesta set her father’s soul into the water, she did it for him and herself. She did it to let go of her regrets and his. To finally say goodbye to the horrors and the fury and the bitterness. She did it with the hope that it would help her move forward rather than back. So her father could finally rest in peace, despite his faults and failures. Because he had tried in the end and Nesta was trying now.
Nesta did it without hate in her heart and without shedding a tear. But as the lantern tumbled over the waterfall, that suffocating iron band snapped inside of her.
It was freeing.
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Instincts [ Elucien ]
Prompt: A lovely anon sent me this: "Could I please request a fic based on elain reading a really sad book where 1 of the characters dies and she's absolutely torn up over it and Lucien sees her sobbing but he doesn't know what to do cause he doesn't get being invested in fictional characters (plss the irony has me ded) like she does, so he just sits with her and follows his mate bond instinct." So I took the idea and ran with it lol. Prompt requests are always a hit or miss for me depending on my writing energy and inspiration so I’m glad this one worked out!
This takes place post-ACOSF.
Lucien had been rooted to his spot in front of her bedroom door for about 10 minutes now.
10 minutes of him listening to her sobbing — sobbing.
He had been invited to stay the night after visiting Feyre and baby Nyx. Exhausted and rather than make the trek back to Jurian and Vassa, Lucien stayed. He stayed knowing he was spending an evening with his mate avoiding him like the plague per usual. But it was alright. He tried not to hold it against her. He let her have her space.
When she excused herself after dinner, Lucien’s eyes followed her as she left the room but with a quiet sigh, he returned to his meal.
“You know she doesn’t actually dislike you, right?” Feyre said with a small wince.
“I know.” Lucien replied, schooling his expression to not show his continuous disappointment. It needn’t be anyone else’s problem but his. “I’m pretty sure if she did, I wouldn’t be able to set foot in this house.”
“Now, now Lucien. You are a friend. You’re always welcome.” Rhys said then laughed when Lucien flipped him off.
“As mates, you both know exactly how well I can feel her emotions.” he said, his eyes on his plate. “I know she’s still going through things. So am I. We’ll eventually work through it.”
He didn’t bother to glance at Rhys or Feyre as he also excused himself. What Lucien didn’t add was even though they’re both working through it, consistently being around her without properly talking to her left him in a constant state of agony.
But he’d dealt with worse. It would be fine. He’d had his eye carved out. He could handle Elain not wanting to talk to him until she was ready.
It was as Lucien started settling in for the evening that he sensed her distress. He was in his own rooms, upstairs, and on the other side of the house when a surge of emotion washed over him. The book in his hand immediately closed and he was on his feet and out the door before Lucien could stop himself.
The bond had yanked him here, rooting him in front of her room staring and wondering what in the devil was causing her to be this upset.
His face suddenly fell. Was it him being here? She had never reacted this badly to him. If this was how she really felt, he would free her from the bond right here, right now. He would never want to be with someone who fucken sobbed at the idea of being with him. He deserved better than that. So did she.
He’d reject the bond and his own psychological wellbeing be damned if it freed them both from the misery he was apparently causing her.
But then —
“I’m going to kill her.”
And Lucien straightened at the venomous tone and words very clearly not about him.
Her door suddenly flew open and a rage like he’d never seen before was found on Elain’s tear-stricken face.
“I’m going to kill her.” she repeated and it was as though she hadn’t seen Lucien at all until he cleared his throat.
“I’m unsure who it is you’re referring to, but I would probably rethink your murder plan.” he said gently. “It won’t do much for your soul.”
Finally seeming to realize who stood before her, Elain immediately straightened with a sniffle and wiped at her tears hastily. He watched her in slight amusement as she wrapped her robe further around herself and with a final sniff, looked at him with a stoic expression.
“What are you doing here?”
Lucien pursed his lips at the clipped tone. “I sensed your extreme distress and wanted to make sure you were alright.” he replied dryly. “Seeing as you’re planning a murder, I guess you’re fine.”
Elain scoffed. “Fine. Of course, I’m fine.” she choked out and Lucien raised a brow. “When am I ever not fine?”
Lucien blinked. Interesting. This development was interesting. She was actually talking to him in full sentences. And being snarky.
He gave her a once-over. “We both know you’re not fine. Which is why you avoid me so much because I know the depth of that.”
Elain’s face flushed and her lips went into a thin line. “There’s no need to bring that up.”
“Yes, of course.” he replied immediately, a humorless chuckle escaping him. “Because that would mean you’d have to talk to me, and Cauldron forbid that happen.”
Elain blinked at him, surprise flashing across her face as her flush deepened. Lucien’s own face heated at what he’d said but shaking his head and taking a deep breath, he forced down his contempt. He had been two minutes away from rejecting the bond for her. He had to leave her before he said something else that was stupid.
Turning away from her slightly, he waved a hand. “Since you’re alright, I’ll take my leave then.” he said quietly. “Apologies for disturbing you.”
Lucien slowly walked away, clenching and unclenching his fists to calm his heart. He had almost reached the end of the hall when her voice called out to him.
“Do you read?”
He froze then turned to her slightly.
She was still standing in her doorway, a book now clenched tightly in her hands and looking at him like — Lucien swallowed. He wouldn’t read into her expression.
Turning, he slowly made his way back to her, his hands in his pockets and when he was one bedroom door away, he stopped to keep a healthy distance between them.
“Yes, I do. I enjoy reading.” he answered. “Do you?”
Elain looked down at the book in her hands and frowned, her lips trembling slightly. “Nesta was always the reader. I enjoyed reading them here and there but…” she began and looked up at him. “Now that I seem to have forever to do things, I wanted to start reading more.”
The corner of his mouth ticked up. “Based on the emotional breakdown you were having, I would wager you didn’t enjoy that particular read.”
Elain watched him quietly and Lucien tried not to read into the whirlwind of emotions seeming to charge out of her, especially when her lips trembled again, and eyes started watering.
“He dies!” she blurted in a wheeze. “Six books! I've been reading this series for six books and after everything they’ve been through! Everything that has happened! They’re barely happy for two chapters and then he dies!”
Lucien blinked as she started crying. Or rather, tried not to cry as she sniffled then sobbed.
“Oh.” he said stupidly and as understanding washed over him, his lips twitched.
“What’s the point? What’s the point if they’re not happily together in the end?!” she continued, her rant clearly not over as she angrily wiped away tears still streaming. “I’ve been rooting for them for six books! His death has no meaning!”
“Was it an important character?” he asked and the fury in her eyes almost made him take a step back.
“He was one of the main characters and the main love interest!” she growled. “I have been waiting for them to have their happily ever after for six books!”
He prayed to whatever gods were listening that he didn’t laugh.
“I see.” was all he could manage. “He was a favorite character of yours then?”
“He was the best.” she said with a small whine and quickly sniffled, glaring down at the book in question. “He was kind and loyal and he loved her so much! He was her perfect match.”
Lucien paused and the way she had said the words ‘perfect match’ erased his urge to laugh. Elain had clearly been committed to this fictional relationship. Should he...pat her on the back? It wasn’t like he could give her a hug. How does one mourn the loss of a fictional character?
“Well.” he finally said carefully. “The death was definitely done for shock value then.”
“Which is the stupidest reason to kill a character!” she snarled, and Lucien blinked rapidly, trying desperately not to let his amusement show.
“I agree but I mostly read nonfiction, so this is an uncharted territory of investment for me.”
“Nonfiction?” Elain said with a blink then sniffled. “That seems so boring.”
Lucien’s ears heated. “Nonfiction books are the easiest way to educate yourself on things. There’s nothing boring about that.” he said defensively. “Funny enough, some would say gardening is boring and you’ve invested all your time in that.”
She narrowed her eyes at him, the look not really having the desired effect with the tear streaks on her face. “Don’t you go there.”
He held up his hands in mock surrender. “Those gardening books you have count as nonfiction, you know.” he said with a snort and she squinted at him.
“Fair point, I guess.” she mumbled, and he watched as she glared at the book clenched tightly in her hands again. A moment of tense silence passed then Elain added, “I hate this thing. If I find the author, I will kill them.”
“I’d offer to burn it for you, but it seems the emotional damage has already been done.” he said, a small smile finding its way to his face as Elain continued to glare at the book. “May I ask, who suggested this series to you?”
And Elain glanced up, tear-stricken face furious. “Nesta.”
“Ah. So that’s who you planned to murder then?”
And Lucien really couldn’t stop his smile widening in amusement. “Might I also ask, how do you plan to do that?” he asked and her gaze snapped to his. “I’m only asking so when they question me, I have an alibi ready.”
Elain sniffled, wiping at her face but a ghost of a smile tugged on her own lips. “People underestimate gardening tools, but they hurt if you know where to strike.”
Lucien’s brow went up and then a quiet laugh slipped from his lips. “Unexpected answer but seemingly very you.”
Elain looked down at the book in her hand again. “And how do you know what I am or not?” she asked quietly.
“I’m very observant.”
A heartbeat of silence passed between them before Elain finally said, “Too observant.”
Lucien only shrugged, his heart going at an erratic rhythm. Their conversation had gone on longer than he had anticipated, and he didn’t want to do anything to risk spooking her. It was a strange dance between them. He wasn’t sure what tone it would take next.
But Elain surprised him once more. She frowned then without warning, stepped out of her doorway and whirled the book with all her might down the hall. It landed with a soft thud on the other side of the house.
Lucien blinked, eyeing how much closer she stood to him now.
“I’ll grab it tomorrow. I can’t stand it being in my room.” she mumbled, crossing her arms. “I’m going to beat Nesta over the head with it in the morning.”
Lucien’s lip twitched again. “I would support that plan as it would be a better one than murdering your own sister.”
Elain snorted. “After letting me get invested for six books only to have the main love interest die in the end?” she said, her eyes flashing. “She’s lucky I won’t.”
Lucien gave her a teasing smile. “As terrible as it is to say this, I’d pay good money to see you whack Nesta with a book.”
“I know she’s faster and stronger than me, but I’ll at least get one hit in.” she said, determination in her eyes. “The element of surprise will help.”
“I’ll cheer you on.” he said with a chuckle. “But also have Madja on call just in case.”
Elain looked at him curiously, a small smile on her face. “That doesn’t sound incredibly supportive.”
“If you’d like the fight to be fair, you’d probably need to train just a little.”
“I don’t want to be a fighter.” she snapped immediately, and Lucien’s brows shot up.
“I know.” he said simply. “Basic self-defense doesn’t require you to become a warrior.”
She glanced at him and her lips went into a thin line. “We’ve barely spoken in two years. How could you know that I don’t want to be a fighter when both of my sisters are? Why would I be different?”
“Because you are not your sisters. And again, I’m observant.” he replied curtly, and the familiar contempt flared up. “The only reason we haven’t spoken much in two years is because you don’t want to. I’ve respected that decision.”
The fight in her vanished at his response and instead, Elain shot him a slightly annoyed look. She crossed her arms again and the two stood there, in awkward silence. After a moment, she spoke.
“So what, you’d be willing to teach me basic self-defense?” she asked and Lucien quirked a brow.
“If that’s what you want, I’d be happy to do that.” he replied, crossing his own arms.
Elain assessed him and Lucien allowed it. It had been a long time since she’d stood before him and actually looked him in the eye.
But Elain ended up shaking her head and Lucien watched her expression shut down. “They’d just laugh at me if I suggested it.”
Lucien’s expression softened. “No one will laugh at you. I’m sure they’d love for you to learn to defend yourself.”
But Elain shook her head again and sighed. “I can’t win. I’m mocked for wanting a quiet life and then shut down if I try to take chances.” she said quietly.
Lucien’s hands dropped to his sides and his fists clenched. “I will tell you this once so please listen,” he began, and Elain’s brows furrowed. “You don’t need anyone’s permission to make changes to your life. You get to decide that and then just do it.”
Elain glanced at him. “It doesn’t feel like it.”
“Well, what do you want, Elain?” he asked and watched as her eyelids fluttered shut for a moment when her name slipped from his lips. His fists clenched again at his sides.
“What do I want?” she repeated, eyes still closed.
“Other than your favorite fictional character to have survived the series?” he said and smiled softly as a small smile emerged on her face.
“I want —” she began, eyes still closed, expression focused. “I want so many things.”
“Like what?” he asked softly, taking the time to memorize every inch of her face.
“I want to train a little. I want to travel. I want — I want to get to know you without everyone’s involvement.” she said quickly. “I want my choices to matter in everything.”
His heart started racing and when Elain opened her eyes, the flush in her cheeks matched Lucien’s, who could only stare at her with a barely managed intensity.
It took Lucien a few moments to find his voice again. “I’m not going to coddle you.” he said firmly. “If there is something you want to do, you can do it. You don't need my support to do anything but you will have it.”
Elain took a breath, her eyes scanning his face. “Good.”
“Great.” he agreed, and he couldn’t stop himself from asking, “Without everyone’s involvement huh?”
Elain flushed. “You’re a mystery to me and everyone has opinions. I’d like to form my own.” she said then quickly added. “With zero expectations between us. Whatever happens will happen.”
Lucien nodded slowly. “Whatever happens will happen.” he repeated then gave her a small smile. “As soon as you’re done mourning your loss, we can begin. My condolences by the way.”
With an eye roll, Elain huffed a small laugh. “Oh, shut up.”
And Lucien smirked. “You’ll have to talk to me much more when we train, you are aware of that, yes?”
“Push your luck with your teasing, I dare you.”
Lucien’s eyes gleamed at the challenge. “Don’t tempt me, I barely started.”
Elain fought back a smile then looked away from him with a sigh, curling a hair behind her ear, “For training,” she started, licking her lips. “Will...I need pants? Because I don’t have those.”
And every thought seemed to slip out of Lucien’s mind at the statement. The sheer innocence in it. The self-consciousness. She had no idea Lucien was barely holding on to his sanity as is.
He swallowed. “I’m sure Feyre can help you buy some training pants.”
“No!” she said immediately then flushed at his expression. “I don’t want anyone asking questions.”
Lucien chuckled. “Buying pants is a very normal thing, Elain. You shouldn’t be this worried.”
She bit her lip and Lucien had to look anywhere else until she very quietly asked, “Will you go with me then?”
He blinked at her, then swallowed. “To — to buy you pants?”
“You said we haven’t talked because I didn’t want to. I wasn’t ready.” she said and looked him in the eye. “I want to change that. Shopping allows some of the best conversations.”
He tilted his head, taking in the question and the challenge in her eyes. With a small smile, Lucien nodded. “Shopping it is.”
“Good. We can go tomorrow.”
“I’m making decisions.” she said with a firm nod, a small smile gracing her face.
“I can work with that.”
They watched each other for a few moments in silence before Elain finally looked away shyly again, making her way back to her bedroom door. “I’ll see you tomorrow then?”
“See you tomorrow.” he confirmed with a nod. “I’ll even grab the book that shall not be named and hang on to it for safekeeping for you.”
Elain laughed softly. “Thank you.” she said then added quietly, “And thank you for checking on me. Even when you didn’t have to.”
He waved her off with a good-natured smile. “I was only following my instincts. It brought me to the right place.”
It brought me to you, is what he wanted to say but held back. They balanced a delicate line and Lucien didn’t want to burden her. But the small smile on Elain’s face as she waved goodnight and gently closed her bedroom door gave him the impression she heard it anyway.
Feeling lighter than he had in quite some time, Lucien made his way back to his room, stopping only to pick up the now cursed book and taking it back with him. Closing his bedroom door behind him and leaning against it, Lucien realized then, he only had a few hours to mentally prepare himself to see Elain in pants for the first time.
Gods above, he was barely going to survive it.
Tagging my elucien readers: @vanserrasvalkyrie | @chloepereyra | @helion-ism | @arielle-reads | @bananaaazinpyjamas | @twigoftrust
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ahem... cassian taking nesta to that bookstore (fluff, don’t try making shit sad aight?)
Our First Non-Date
SURPRISE I GUESS!!
Nessian Archeron x Cassian
You can find the first part here.
A/N: this month has been really nice on me. I finally feel better, not crying every day for literally nothing and I wanna dedicate this to my fren Sim (@perseusannabeth) cause homegirl just finished the offcampus series and she's grieving. I know she is. So yep. Take some Nessian fluff
And Nina, I had to add some angsty parts, but they're not Irene Angst Level, okay?
Word count: 6,833
When Cassian had called her back the night after their outing with Amren and Varian, she'd stared at the phone for a full minute until it had stopped ringing and she could go back to reading the article on poisonous plants that Elain had sent her.
It hadn't even been five minutes before the words had been obscured from the call screen again and the name "Cassian Navarro" appeared.
When she had ignored the call for the second time as well, he had decided to change tactics.
Hi Nes, I was thinking about when you'd be free to go to the library. I need a couple of manuals because I'm building a little gazebo in Rhys and Feyre's garden and your sister is putting a lot of pressure on me, so I was wondering if you had the day off tomorrow.
Nesta was stunned at the amount of useless information he had given her, but managed to reply with a simple, Working tomorrow, day off on Wednesday. Sending you the address later.
She certainly hadn't anticipated how hard it would be to get up that day, her will to live must have been hiding somewhere under her bed and Nesta didn't know if it was directly related to their going out or just her stupid brain not being able to connect to real life.
The only other worst thing she'd been able to think of at that moment was having to explain to Cassian what was going on, so, pulled out of bed by the future embarrassment they'd feel in such a situation, she'd managed to dress, wash and style her hair so that she had a braid crowning her head.
She hadn't put too much effort into deciding what to wear, after all, it wasn't a date and Cassian had seen her many times before in far more outrageous and scruffy clothes than the comfortable black jeans and grey jumper she was wearing right now.
The silence had made her uncomfortable at first, only because Cassian seemed to be really stressed - about what, she certainly wouldn't ask - but after about ten minutes, he'd turned on the radio and popped a CD into the player and the melody of a Verve song had filled the cabin.
She'd started humming under her breath and he'd looked at her with a faint smile on his lips and his eyes sparkling. She hadn't mulled over that look too much, but she'd started eyeing him more closely and noticed the way he narrowed his eyes at every street sign and how he ran a hand over his face every time a strand of hair landed in front of his eyes.
When Cassian had to blow the hair out of his face for the millionth time, Nesta pulled a rubber band off her wrist and handed it to him abruptly.
Cassian looked surprised, but took it almost immediately, brushing her fingers. Nesta immediately withdrew her hand, feeling how warm and calloused his were.
"Thanks, my hair is killing me today," he finally spoke.
Nesta continued to look ahead, noticing that they were about to enter the highway. "Well, it wasn't very wise of you not to tie it up before you got in the car. I never drive with my hair down."
He nodded slowly, still with the band clutched between his fingers. And then, suddenly he let go of the steering wheel, "Hold that for me for a second." and Nesta's eyes went wide, launching herself at him to grab it and keep the car in their lane.
"Are you nuts?" she almost shrieked, keeping her gaze fixed on the road and feeling every nerve ending vibrate with anger.
"Relax." he said in a calm tone, shifting her hands and gently pushing her back into her seat one more time. "It wasn't even five seconds."
Nesta huffed out a laugh that lacked amusement, "You do something like that again without warning me first and I'm getting out of the car."
Cassian looked at her with a raised eyebrow, "A bit dramatic, but alright."
She sighed, shaking her head slightly and resting it on her hand propped against the window.
That awkward silence fell again and Nesta couldn't figure out what the problem was. She hadn't felt any kind of unease three days before, but after all, they'd been with friends and busy walking, not stuck in a car for two hours with no chance of walking away or splitting up.
And in that moment, the reality of their situation overwhelmed her.
She forced herself to steady her breathing, opening the window slightly so that more air could get in. She forced herself to think about all the things she would see today at the library and how beautiful and spectacular it had looked from mere pictures. She wasn't going to let her twisted mind stop her from having fun with someone who was desperately trying to be her friend.
She took a deep breath and a surprising calm enveloped her. She looked to her left to see if Cassian had noticed that temporal change in her behaviour, but it seemed to her that he was just as fidgety.
She was about to ask him if he was okay, because the knee that kept bouncing and the fingers opening and closing on the steering wheel were obvious nervous tics, when he did the eye thing again, this time leaning forward over the dashboard as well, and the sharp turn he took to the right caused her to shift in her seat so much that she bumped her shoulder against his.
Cassian grimaced, "I'm sorry," he murmured.
"What's wrong?" she asked, readjusting in her seat.
"What's the matter? With your eyes, I mean."
"Oh." he seemed surprised by the question, almost as if he hadn't realised she'd been observing him for the last twenty minutes. He cast her a curious glance immediately returning to the road. "I wear glasses when I drive, but I couldn't find them this morning and these contacts are the wrong shade and I can't see very well."
Nesta nodded thoughtfully, "Where do you normally keep them?"
"In the glove box. But I already checked," he replied, rolling his shoulders. Another nervous tic.
Nesta had to suppress a smile. There was no way he could be so worked up just because they were talking. She looked down at the phone in her hand to check the time, and a flash of light momentarily dazzled her. She blinked a couple of times and then scoffed, "Found them."
She reached a hand towards the hatch compartment and pulled out a pair of very plain black glasses, handing them to him. Cassian seemed to finally relax since she'd gotten into the car.
"Thank fuck." then he pulled into a lay-by and without turning off the car, slipped two fingers in his eye, removing one contact and then the other, leaving Nesta stunned. He put the glasses on his nose and flashed her a smile that went from ear to ear. And Nesta was stunned for other reasons.
She couldn't deny that Cassian was an attractive man. She wasn't stupid or blind, but the man next to her should have come with a warning sign or a bell.
Attention, hot stuff coming your way.
Nesta forgot the comment she had wanted to make about how antigenic and risky it had been to remove his contacts without first cleaning his hands and in such a dirty environment.
His hair tied back in a messy bun, with the hint of a beard he was letting grow, and now his glasses on, Cassian looked like a model on the cover of a newspaper about sexy carpenters. The short-sleeved black shirt he wore that pulled on his huge biceps every time he moved in the slightest was just one more point to add to the list of things that made him appealing.
"So," he began, getting back on the road, "what's your favourite colour?"
Nesta snorted, "Are you serious?"
Cassian seemed to blanch, "What?"
"Have you ever been out with a girl?" she asked him sarcastically, knowing full well what the answer would be.
He clenched his jaw so hard that a muscle popped out on his face, "Only on dates."
"And this isn't a date." pointed out Nesta, holding back a laugh at how tortured he sounded.
Nesta touched the tip of her nose, thoughtful, "Shouldn't this be easier for you then?"
Cassian released a breath through his nose, "I'm under a lot of pressure right now."
"Yeah?" she asked, looking away and smiling.
"Yeah, and stop looking like you're enjoying it." he retorted.
She feigned innocence, "Enjoying what?"
"My pain." he sheeted.
Nesta laughed, unable to contain herself any longer and when he glared at her, she covered her mouth with one hand, laughing harder. Only when he snapped his fingers against the steering wheel did she stop, laying a hand on his arm, just for a few seconds, "I'm so sorry." she wheezed, "I just don't understand. When you're hanging out with my sisters or Amren, or Mor, I don't know, you don't seem to be in this much discomfort."
Cassian sighed again and Nesta chuckled one last time, stopping when he smiled slightly. "I'm just trying not to make you uncomfortable. You accepted I take you on this non-date, and I'm doing my best not to flirt badly with you every chance I get." he confessed, nodding slowly, as if to convince himself that he was doing the right thing and not wasting their time.
Nesta was genuinely surprised at his answer and decided to offer him an olive branch.
"My favourite colour is blue."
"Nice." he smiled, showing a hint of a dimple, "Mine is red."
"It's too bright of a colour," she said lightheartedly.
Cassian chuckled, "I'm pretty sure it reflects my peppy personality."
Nesta nodded, "I read an article once about how a person's favourite colour says a lot about the person themselves," she said annoyed, "It sounded like one of those quizzes you find in gossip magazines, like it was written by a third grader. I hate those things, like horoscopes."
He grunted, "God, Mor's obsessed with horoscopes..."
The conversation continued without any more awkward silences for the remainder of the ride, and when Cassian turned onto a bumpy road, Nesta knew they were close. Of course, even if she hadn't looked at the directions from her house to the place, the myriad cars parked along the road would have been an indication.
They parked in the first vacant spot they could find and as soon as Nesta was out of the car, an icy gust of wind hit her face, making her shiver with cold. She looked over the bonnet at Cassian and found him staring at her with a half smile on his face. He'd left his glasses in the car and had let his hair down again, her hair band on his wrist, and he looked even prettier than before.
"Do you want my jacket?" he asked her, with a conflicted look on his face, as if he didn't want to. Nesta narrowed her brows and he hurried to add, "There's no hidden agenda to my offer, just a friend lending a jacket to another friend."
Nesta watched him for a moment, trying to really understand his intentions, but then remembered reading in one of the reviews that the library was heated inside and shook her head.
Cassian gave a small nod of assent and then pointed down the street, "Shall we?"
From where they had parked to the library it would have been about a ten minute walk and Nesta couldn't help but notice the way Cassian kept his distance between them as if he was afraid she would get scared and run away.
He was back to fidgeting nervously with his fingers and when he realised she was looking at him, he put them in his pockets, smiling tensely at her. He took a deep breath and then said, "So, what do you know about this library?"
Nesta looked ahead, hoping to catch a glimpse of the building, but the foliage of the trees was still too thick and they were still too far away for it to see anything. She brought her hands to her stomach, crossing her fingers, "I actually did a bit of research before I came. Did you know that the Peace Treaty between Prythian and Hybern of 1864 was signed here?" she asked in an excited voice.
Cassian smiled at her so naturally that she felt herself blush. He had an expression she couldn't decipher, but Nesta had never been good at cracking people in general, so she didn't venture to continue until he said, "Tell me more."
And Nesta launched into a detailed description of the events that had taken place inside the building, which only a hundred years before had become a bookstore. Only one wing of the building had been furnished in such a way as to become a real shop, the rest had been set up to be visited as a museum, one of the oldest libraries. She talked about the architecture and how it was obvious that the palace had been built long before it became an important meeting place for scholars and researchers.
"And in 1932 a fire destroyed the science wing, burning more than a hundred textbooks." Nesta sighed, thinking how devastating that loss had been. She lit up with happiness when she remembered what happened next. "But luckily, one of the most important literary clubs in the city got together and they managed to recover a small portion of the books. It took them years to rewrite every manual, but they got help from one of the local researchers, a certain Mr. Hawthorn, I can't remember the name or details of the research, only that he's mentioned often in the article I read."
When she paused to catch her breath, Nesta realised with immense horror what had just happened. Cassian had not spoken a word after asking her if she knew anything about the place and she had monopolised the conversation without even acknowledging him once. She felt herself flare up and knew in that moment that any hope they had of becoming real friends was gone.
Sometimes she would get lost in thought and ramble on about the things she was passionate about. Quite often people had stopped her, letting her know they weren't interested in the subject, but Cassian had never interrupted her and she was afraid to look at him, convinced she would only find boredom and disgust on his face.
That was why, when he spoke, she was struck dumb.
"I'm impressed." he breathed, chuckling immediately afterwards.
Nesta pushed herself to look at him and he stood admiring her with his mouth slightly open, as if he couldn't find the words. She felt her heart clench in her chest so tightly that she didn't know if she could survive the pain. Who knows how many times he'd tried to stop her and she'd gone on and on about windows and arches and treaties of peace.
But when she got a better look at him, stopping in front of him, Cassian looked... happy.
He let out a laugh, running a hand through his hair, and Nesta was distracted for a moment by the sway of his arms before she was brought violently back down to earth when he said, "You surprise me more and more every time, Nesta."
And the way he said her name - Ne-sta - made her toes curl.
"Why?" she managed to throw out in a weak voice.
Cassian laughed again, raising his eyebrows so high they ended under the hair on his forehead, locking his eyes to hers. "I have a degree in history and my final thesis happened to be on this very library." Nesta felt the ground open up beneath her feet and hoped it swallowed her alive. "I came out of university with top marks and various accolades for finishing my studies on time and you, dreadful creature that you are, have just taught me at least three new things about this place."
His gaze was so intense that Nesta had to lower her head to hide the satisfied and surprised smirk that popped up on her lips.
"You're amazing." huffed Cassian, "Perfect in every way."
"Although," he clicked his tongue against his palate, "You made a mistake."
Nesta looked up at him, frowning, "Oh, yeah?"
Cassian nodded, smirking fiercely, "Why don't you turn around and admire the palace, and once we're inside, I'll explain what it is?"
She must have been so lost in her chatter that she hadn't noticed that they had arrived in the large entrance forecourt, because when she turned, her back to Cassian, the building stood among the forest trees, as imposing and splendid as ever. The photos had not done it justice in the slightest and Nesta was left speechless.
Living in a country with a history going back millennia, it wasn't hard to stumble upon historic streets with old buildings and monuments, but this was completely different.
She was still admiring the way the stone around the windows had been carved to look like trees trying to get into the building when she felt something settle on the small of her back. A hand.
Nesta stiffened slightly, before closing her eyes and relaxing.
Cassian must have noticed her discomfort because a moment later his hand was no longer touching her.
They entered the museum part of the building in silence and Nesta paid the entrance fees, reminding him of the tea he'd offered her last Sunday and Cassian hadn't been able to argue with that.
They had just passed the doors to the first room, the smallest in the entire palace, when he leaned towards her, to the point of touching her ear with his lips.
The fact that he was whispering as if they had been in a sacred place did things to her little icy heart, "Mr. Hawthorn was not a man."
Shocked by that information, Nesta's head snapped in his direction and she realised too late that she had miscalculated the space.
Her lips brushed against his cheek, the corner of his lips, before Cassian reacted so quickly he startled her, but avoiding them both an involuntary first kiss. His sudden movement caused him to lose his balance and he reached out his hands towards her, straightening as he held on to her shoulders.
Both of them were holding their breath.
Cassian cleared his throat, shifting his gaze to the wall of books, but returning to look at her soon after, "I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry, you just surprised me," she said when she had recovered. "I must have read the article wrong."
He was still watching her and shook his head, "Oh no, I don't think it's that. They only found out a few months ago that it was Georgina and not George Hawthorn. They found letters in the house of what was thought to be Hawthorn's wife. Some people think they were just friends, but anyone who has read the letters they exchanged knows full well that they were lovers. Anyone who says otherwise is either homophobic or stupid."
Nesta realised that she could have listened to this for hours on end. And so it was.
The visit continued relatively quietly, Cassian explaining every detail to her, expanding on things she already knew and when he forgot something, she would step in and have her say, commenting on every little aspect.
She'd noticed how Cassian hadn't tried to touch her anymore and how whenever someone was about to bump into her, he'd vocally warn her instead of wrapping an arm around her shoulders to move her out of their way like he had on Sunday.
The visit to the museum lasted less than expected unfortunately, because Nesta hadn't had this much fun in too long. It was becoming easier to smile at him or tease him when he said dumb things and even he seemed to finally be more at ease when he had to make jokes that smacked of him.
When they finally got to the shop, Nesta couldn't stand on her feet anymore, she just wanted to buy all the books she saw and go home and arrange them on her shelves.
"Which section do you want to see first?" she asked him, even though she had started hopping impatiently about the place.
Cassian gave her a smug look, "Why don't you go wherever you want and I'll look for the manuals for the gazebo in the meantime? That way you don't waste time keeping up with me. I'll be right there."
Nesta let out an excited squeal and ran off, hearing only the echo of laughter that shook Cassian from head to toe.
As Cassian flipped through the various books to find a picture of a gazebo that looked similar to the one Feyre had requested, he kept casting glances at Nesta.
Her eyes sparkled as she grabbed book after book without even reading the synopses. She was in the romance novels section, from what he could see from where he stood, but soon ended up in the classics, where she grabbed just as many books. She moved to the mystery books section, this time stopping to read the plots and putting most of them back on the shelves.
Then, surprising Cassian, she walked over to where the historical novels were and turned to face him. He bent his head to the side, raising an eyebrow to ask her what she was doing there. Nesta seemed at a loss, trying to move all the books from one arm to the other to point him to join her, but Cassian was already halfway there and when she looked back up at him and found him standing in front of her, she gave him a bright smile.
"Hello." she exclaimed.
Cassian's breath caught for a second before he too sighed a greeting.
"I was thinking," Nesta began, running her eyes over the titles in front of them, "that you could recommend something about..." she wiggled her fingers as much as she could, trying to point to the shelf, and Cassian leaned forward, cursing himself for not thinking of it sooner.
"Here," he removed the first stack of books from her arms and she sagged a little, giving him a thankful look. "I can go get a bag so you can put them all in there and you don't have to carry them like this," he said taking all the books and having her help him arrange them so they wouldn't fall out.
He smiled at her over all the books, looking down at her and she smiled back just as happily.
Hell, if she looked at him like that every time he took her to a bookstore he should do it more often.
He had just turned to go towards the entrance, where he had seen special bags for carrying books, but Nesta stopped him by putting a hand on his arm.
"Wait!" she exclaimed almost impishly.
Cassian turned his head, genuinely worried that something had happened to her in the mere seconds he had been shot. He must have moved too fast, because one of the smaller classics flew off the top of the stack and landed right in her face.
Nesta groaned at the impact and brought her hands to her face, rubbing her forehead where it hurt.
"Oh my God, are you okay?!" he asked with wide eyes. And then Nesta laughed, her eyes sparkling with amusement as she stared at him and he visibly relaxed. "Christ, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to throw a book at you."
She waved a hand in mid-air, to let him know it was nothing, and bent down to pick up what he realised was A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Of course Nesta was reading feminist classics.
She turned back to the books as if nothing had happened and Cassian had the urge to look for a list of all the bookstores in the world to take her to if it meant having her in such a good mood by his side, it didn't matter if she would never agree to go on a real date with him, he realised. As long as he could see her smile like that, he didn't need anything else.
"So, I was saying, before you battered me with a book-" she cast an amused glance over one shoulder at him.
He frowned, muttering, "I said sorry."
Nesta ignored him, "What do you recommend?"
"You said you read historical novels right?" she asked, looking for confirmation, "You could recommend your favourites. But not the English or Russian classics. Or French ones. Chances are I've already read those."
Cassian was stunned. Nesta wanted advice on books. From him.
They were silent for too long as she turned around impatiently, "You lied?"
He looked surprised, "When?"
"When you said you were reading. Were you just doing it to impress me or were you serious?" she asked and maybe Cassian imagined it, but she looked disappointed.
He was quick to reply, "The Black Coat, by Neamat Imam. It's pretty recent, but set in the 1970s in Bangladesh. It's about a man who needs help and seeks it from a journalist he asks for work and one of the main themes is the famine that hit the country after it became independent. It's not my absolute favourite, but it certainly gives you something to think about."
Nesta nodded, searching through the titles and finding it almost immediately, "Anything else?"
Cassian felt his neck heat up and coughed a little before resuming speaking. "The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson. Set in the tenth century, it's about a Viking who is called Red because of his hair and focuses on the European political outlook in the late Viking Age. Again, it's not as good as the historical classics, but it's nice and shows a way of life that we're definitely not used to. It's different."
After looking for a few minutes, Nesta gave up reading and turned to him, crossing her arms. She tilted her head to the side, watching him closely, "What's your favourite book?"
Cassian shrugged, settling the books against his chest, "I think at the moment it's The King Must Die by Mary Renault. But I change my mind every month when I find something more interesting or captivating."
She nodded thoughtfully, "I'll take that one then."
And Cassian wished he could change the title immediately because... what if she didn't like it? Or if she thought it was a stupid book? What would she think of him then?
But Nesta had already found a copy a few shelves down and there was no turning back.
He could counterattack, though, "What about yours? You're not going to give me any advice on feminist classics or blatantly trashy romance novels?"
Nesta opened her mouth wide, looking outraged as she placed the latest addition on the pile, settling the book under her chin, "How can you say they're trashy if you don't even know what they're about?"
Cassian chuckled, "On the cover of You Came," he said as he gave her a sly look, "there's something called a 'spicymeter'. How am I supposed to take you seriously?"
Nesta blushed, "I read erotic novels, so what? I have to keep myself busy in my spare time somehow."
And then he challenged her, "Get me the hottest book you've ever read," he said in a joking tone, "I'll go get the bag in the meantime."
She had already left for the section when he had an idea that would surely doom him depending on how Nesta would react.
He walked up to the cashier's desk, making sure she didn't notice, and begging the clerk behind the counter to be quick, paid for all her books, gently placing them back in the bags.
When he reached her again, she seemed not to have noticed anything.
"'So, what did you get me? Ride Me? Fucked You Good? Last Night I Gave You A Thousand Orgasms?" he teased her with an annoyed grin on his lips.
Nesta gave him a fiery glance before noticing the bags, quite different from those you put the things you wanna buy in, and closed her mouth tightly. She frowned and looked at them for so long before speaking that Cassian began to feel self-conscious.
"You paid for my books?" she whispered, looking at him.
"It's not a date, Cassian," she reminded him for the umpteenth time.
"I know, but-"
"So why would you pay for things that are mine?"
He couldn't read her. She wasn't hinting at anything.
She didn't look angry but she didn't look impressed or grateful either.
Cassian placed the bags on the ground between them and Nesta followed his every movement with her eyes.
He ran a hand through his hair, sighing, "My adoptive family is filthy rich. I have a trust fund that I never get to spend on things I really want to do, the only way I get to use it is by giving gifts to my friends, so just accept these as my first gift - friend to friend - and call it a day."
Nesta continued to be impassive as she kept her eyes fixed on the books.
Perhaps he had gone too far. After all, she had taken more than a hundred and fifty euros worth of stuff, but he really didn't mind.
He was about to apologise, tell her she could give the money back if it made her feel better. Cassian would find a way to spend it back on her at other times anyway.
Then she raised her head, handing him two books with hilarious covers to say the least, "These two have storylines full of plot twists. You won't be able to put them down, but don't expect big epic battles or Viking warriors. It's just two college kids trying to survive in the modern world while finding solace in each other."
He didn't even have time to thank her that she was already across the room and waiting in line so she could pay them.
He scoffed, shaking his head.
"I guess you'll be paying for these two," he said as he caught up with her.
Nesta didn't even look at him, pulling out her wallet, "A gift from a friend to a friend."
As they walked back to the car, Cassian offered to carry the bags, but she didn't want to hear one more word so they had managed to compromise and had split the load equally.
They'd been on the road for about thirty minutes now and Nesta had gone through every book he'd bought her, talking about all the previous works by the authors she was holding in her hand at the moment.
Cassian could have died like that. Happy, relaxed, listening to the plots of those dirty books with no moral lessons to teach the reader, just pure entertainment.
He wondered at that moment if he would make it through the first few chapters of the books she had offered him and let out a heavy breath through his nose as he turned right towards the coast.
Nesta looked at him wide-eyed, stopping her rant about the headmaster's son getting the occasional model student to fall in love with him. She brought a hand to her mouth, "Oh dear, sorry, I'm boring you. I'm sorry."
He gave her a confused look ready to tell her she didn't have to apologise, but she continued.
"Sometimes I do and I don't even realize it. And I realize they're not challenging plots where you have to apply some hidden lobe of the brain to understand them, but they distract me from everyday problems, you know? It's fun to be able to unplug a few hours after I get home from work and-"
"Jesus, Nesta, stop!" he laughed, placing a hand on her thigh. She sighed. "You don't have to apologise. Not when you're so excited about something." he looked at her slyly, offering her a reassuring smile, "In fact, I'm glad you're talking so much today. Normally I have to pull the words out of your mouth."
She blushed slightly and then grew sullen soon after, sitting up straighter, "This isn't the way to Velaris, where are we going?"
Cassian didn't answer.
"You're taking me into the woods aren't you?"
"We literally just came out of a forest."
She ignored him.
"I knew it. You're a serial killer."
"You're a little dense though. Why would you spend so much on someone if you're going to murder them?"
He decided to ignore her, chuckling, "I'm taking you to the beach."
"Why?" she asked, somewhat unconvinced.
Cassian shrugged, "I wanted to see the sunset."
"You didn't ask."
He sighed, gripping the steering wheel, "Okay," he whispered, then louder, "You want to go to the beach and watch the sunset?"
She nodded in assent and then continued to read the plots aloud.
And Cassian could have sworn he was in heaven.
Nesta gathered more sand, making a small ball out of it and placing it on the top of one of the towers she had made so far.
"Where did you learn to make such good sandcastles?" asked Cassian suddenly from behind her, startling her.
She jumped in the air, turning to face him and noticing the satisfied smile on his face for having taken her by surprise.
Nesta didn't answer him immediately, but allowed herself to admire him a bit.
Since they had arrived at the beach, they had taken off their shoes and were now both barefoot and then Cassian had bent down and started to roll his trousers around his ankles, offering to do it to her jeans as well, but Nesta had refused. She had sat down, looking at the sea for a while, while he walked along the shore and collected stones and shells.
When he had come back to her and shown them to her, asking her to make a sandcastle, she had laughed at first, but faced with his serious expression, she had been unable to do anything but get up and roll up her sleeves, moving to where the sand was a little more workable.
She looked away from that heavenly vision and made another ball, placing it next to the one she had just made. "When I was little my mum never let me do these, she said I'd get too much sun and forced me and Elain to stay under the umbrella all day," she replied truthfully, remembering the cruel bite of jealousy watching the children on the shore.
Cassian had joined her, kneeling beside her and had begun to place the shells so that they served as windows to the towers.
Nesta sighed, "Feyre was still too little when Mini Me wanted to build sandcastles, but as soon as I became 'too old to play like a kid'," she gave him a knowing look, mimicking her mother's voice, "and Feyre started to figure out she was an actual being, Mama let her do whatever she wanted. Even stand in the sun for hours on end." she shrugged. "Whether it was out of indifference or love, I never understood."
Cassian had been silent the whole time and now he watched her, hands on his thighs as he waited for her to give him more. For her to tell him another little piece of her soul.
So she offered him a forced smile, "So to answer your question, it's all pent-up creativity."
"Well, you're very good at it," he granted her. "I can imagine what you could have done if your mother hadn't been so strict."
"What about you?" she asked him.
"What about me?"
"Did you go to the beach a lot?"
Cassian smiled weakly, getting up and heading towards the water to collect more shells. He nodded a couple of times and then said, "My mum and I loved coming to the beach and she loved making castles. And she always put so many 'windows' on the towers-"
Nesta turned to look at their work, realising how many shells he had placed on the piles of sand. She smiled softly, covering her eyes from the sun and watching him walk towards her.
"We always came when she was free from work."
A charged silence settled between them until Cassian chuckled, drawing her attention, "What?"
"You said this wasn't a date. And that we're just friends. Right?"
Shifting her gaze to him, she noticed how he kept his hands hidden behind his back and the mischievous glint in his eyes didn't reassure her at all. Slowly she stood up, nodding.
"So, I must treat you as I would treat my friends. Correct?"
"Cassian, I swear to god that-"
She didn't have time to finish her sentence that something wet and sticky landed in her face with a resounding splash, making her jump back.
She took a deep breath and immediately regretted it when a strong smell of stale water and seaweed flooded her nostrils.
When she opened her eyes again, wiping the seaweed from her face, Cassian was doubled over in laughter.
She didn't even give him time to get up when she started to run towards him - to do what, she had no idea - but he started to run away too and soon they were chasing each other all around the beach, not noticing the sweet looks they were getting from the people around them.
At that moment, Nesta was running so fast that she could feel the wind in her hair and the smell and sound of the sea, together with the laughter of the man who was chasing her, mixed with her own and the continuous tapping of her feet on the sand, made her feel alive.
She felt Cassian come closer every few metres until two strong arms wrapped around her waist and she was pulled up and spun around in the air.
A surprised yelp escaped her as Cassian laughed in her ear, "Gotcha!"
It wasn't until he stopped spinning with her in his arms that they realised the position they were in and immediately broke away, laughing embarrassed.
Nesta turned to face him, her face red from running and her breathing laboured. He was in no better condition. His hair was pointing in all directions and his sculpted chest was rising and falling with haste under the black fabric of his shirt.
He looked away first, scratching the back of his neck and fixing his eyes on the sunset, and offered her his arm as they returned to where they had left theirs things unattended.
Nesta shook her head, laughing one last time and started to run, " Last to reach the castle is stupid!"
Cassian burst out laughing, but he caught up to her in the blink of an eye and they both knew that she had doomed herself to lose. That's why, when he fell tripping over his feet, Nesta knew he had done it on purpose.
She helped him up and they sat back as in silence they watched the sun go down, disappearing past the horizon and the blending lights of the sky created a breathtaking spectacle.
Nesta couldn't have noticed, too busy admiring the clouds, but Cassian had been watching her the whole time, trying to understand how something as sombre and secretive as her could look so bright just by being.
The journey back was silent, but this time the silence was not awkward. They both welcomed it with open arms, a new awareness that there was no need for it to be filled with chatter and that gave Nesta the opportunity to close her eyes for a moment and doze off.
When the car stopped outside her flat, Nesta was surprised to find that she didn't want to get out.
She turned to Cassian after she had gathered her things and nodded, "I had fun today."
He gave her a genuine smile, looking surprised, "Me too."
And then she permanently shocked him, adding, "I'm not working on Saturday, we could do it again. Changing location."
He blinked once. Twice. Then he nodded, "Sure."
He didn't seem to want to say anything more, so Nesta waved goodbye to him and then got out, not waiting for an answer from him.
Cassian stood motionless in the car park of her flat for another half hour, trying to figure out what had just happened, and when the reality of things finally dawned on him, he smiled, "Fuck yeah."
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Angels Like You - Part 2
requested : yes / no
A/n : Sorry this took so long to come out! I was way busier than I expected and this took more time than I planned to write! But thank you all for all of the feedback on part one, I was not expecting that!! I hope you like this!
warnings : mentions of smoking (very brief), mentions of drinking, mentions of sex, angst, I didn’t proof read this-
word count : 3.1k~
Tarquin's spies had been documenting your every move since you first showed up on the shores of the summer court.
Not that the two spies, one a short female with red hair so bright it was nearly impossible not to spot her, the other a grossly handsome male, had much to report. You had spent the last month lounging around your beachside cabana, drinking cheap drinks brought to you from a bar only half a mile away or swimming until your mind was clear again. Since you asked Mor to bring you here, you hadn't had any contact with the Inner Circle, but you knew they were well aware of your whereabouts.
Today the heat had been near unbearable. Which you found ironic since back home, it is still winter. Though, the summer court didn't seem to understand how seasons worked. You were laying in the sand, legs sprawled out against the warm water that crashed on your legs, a drink- something a little too sweet, with an overpowering coconut flavor- in your right hand. You took another swig, grimacing at the taste. The drink didn't have nearly enough alcohol in it, a fact you only knew because the bastard you called mate was still clouding your thoughts. His words from your argument still burned into your mind- you needed another drink. Rising from your seat in the waves, your now empty cup in hand, you made your way up the beach.
The bar you had essentially been living off of these past few months was practically empty- save the two females swapping spit in the corner and Ravi, the curly-haired bartender who gave you his familiar smirk. "What did you think of the drink?" He purred, the dark-skinned fae male- who you admittedly had been sleeping with this past month had gotten accustomed to mixing experimental drinks for you.
"Too much coconut, not enough alcohol," You replied slipping into, the bar stool.
Ravi shook his head, pointing at you with a well-polished finger, "I wouldn't get comfortable if I were you. You've got company upstairs."
Dropping the cup on the wooden counter, you stood back up, trying to regain your composure before facing Tarquin's spies. The male would likely be stubborn but easy to convince to leave you the hell alone, compared to the female. You had been waiting for Tarquin to make a house call or to have his spies threaten you- part of you was surprised that it had taken the High Lord this long. Climbing the wooden stairs, not bothering to make your approach silent, you reached the landing pushing through the beads that hung in the archway.
The living room has three washed-out green couches pushed against the three walls facing the window, a large table in the middle that still had cards from the previous night's game scattered on the surface, and a carpet that had one too many burn marks from forgotten joints. On said couches were not the two spies that had been trailing you, but Rhysand, Mor, Feyre, and Amren, all wearing the same dull expression.
It took everything in you not to turn back around. Rhys motioned with his hand for you to sit and only opened his mouth to talk once you had done so. "I want to start by apologizing." You nodded to show you were listening but didn't meet his gaze. The day you and Azriel had found the mirror when he left you in the street, you had asked the inner circle one question, which had ultimately led you to cut off communication with them for the time being.
Rhys cleared his throat and began, "We shouldn't have kept it from you, though we fi-"
Cutting him off, you spoke up, "I'm not mad because you kept the fact that he's my mate from me." From across the room, Amren gave Rhys a look that said, 'I told you so, boy.' When the group stayed silent, you explained, "I'm not mad at all, not at you guys at least. At the moment, when I asked you if you knew, I already knew the answer but, hearing it out loud just felt like confirmation that he would always come first to you guys- and it hurt but, I'm over it now."
Mor's nose scrunched up in rigid offense, "Please, Azriel does not come first. You are a part of this family just as much as he is. He asked us, you know, not to tell you, we all thought it was for your benefit. We thought he wanted you to find out on your own, but I've realized now that wasn't the case." The three others nodded in agreement as you swallowed down the emotions that rose. A month apart and hearing his name said out loud sent a wave of anger and longing through you.
"Did he tell you all about what happened under the mountain too?" You inquired, running your hand through your hair. You had assumed he wouldn't. The shadowsinger wasn't one to communicate things like that unless his rage was overwhelming.
Amren shook her head, her short bob shaking on her shoulders, "He hasn't stepped foot in Velaris since he winnowed you there." So Azriel was keeping his distance too. A cruel and satisfying grimace spread across your face. At least he was robbed of his right to his bed too.
"That's part of why we are here," Feyre intervened, "We wanted to check on you but, we need your help." Besides her, Rhys nodded.
"No." They hadn't even asked yet, but the words raced out of you anyways.
Rhys shook his head, "We're not asking, Y/n. The Queens, they're active again, and this war we won't win without you or Azriel fighting by our side."
You shook your head, "You want an Azriel search party, ask Cassian. I'm not going to look for him."
Amren cut in again, "What do you think we've been doing this past month? We didn't need to look for you- Tarquin has been demanding to know why you've been a beached whale on his shores- but we can't find the boy." With a sigh, she sat up, her silver eyes taking in the room, "We need you to find him. This war is a lost cause without him."
Without any hope, you asked, "Can't you just use your daemati power and demand he comes back?"
Rhys shook his head, "He's out of reach." From the look on his face, you knew that asking you had been a last resort.
"What makes you think I'll be able to find him?" You asked with a frown. Azriel was one of the best spies in all of Prythian, and he was a shadowsinger. There was a good chance tracking him would be impossible. On top of that, you weren't entirely sure you were ready to face him.
Feyre gave you a small, knowing smile, "You're his mate."
Azriel sat at the edge of the lake Cassian had told him about, the one he had taken Nesta to. He had been here for just over a month, yet, he felt no different. Where was this self-reflection the legends promised?
He sat back on the rocks, his wings cooled by the stones. Picking up a smaller rock, he threw the damned thing into the lake. From where he sat, he could hear the clatter of the rock to the lake's floor. Azriel wished it was him.
Admittedly he likes the silence of the lake, that even his shadows had stilled in it’s wake. But even in the quiet, his thoughts still screamed at him, refusing to let him forget what he had said to his mate. Another thing he had done wrong, handled wrong. How was he supposed to come back from that? Without stripping himself from his clothes, he jumped, gliding in the air for a few seconds before the cool lake water met his skin.
Mate. The word- you had grown to despise- hit you like a ton of bricks as you watched Azriel jump in the shockingly blue water. Finding Azriel had only taken two weeks, three days ago you has started the hike up to this lake when you figured he may have come here for the silence. Even while roughing it in the mountains, the male remained fit and was still as handsome as ever. Here he was, a few yards from you, shame washed through you when your anger that had fueled your hike up the mountains subsided into nerves. Perhaps you could go back now and tell Rhys that he'd gone mad, jumping into a lake during this time of year- honestly, it was a miracle the water hadn't frozen over.
As if summoned by thought alone, the male broke the surface, his eyes falling on you. His face instantly becoming unreadable, Azriel didn't get out right away. Instead, he sank back under the water as if he hadn't seen you. When Azriel finally climbed out of the water, the sun was setting, a few stars appearing in the sky. The two of you didn't speak when he grabbed a pair of pants and a shirt from his bag before he disappeared into the woods. Nor did a conversation spark when he set up a fire and began to cook dinner.
By the time you finished the two rabbits (neither of you had been able to eat much anyway), the sun had disappeared the peaks, the stars and moon keeping the two of you company, he spoke. "Did Rhys send you?"
His voice was hoarse as if he hadn't used it in the time he'd been away. Your answer lodged in your throat. Was this how it was going to be for the rest of your time together? Former friends separated by a mating bond because you were unlovable. When Azriel raised a patient brow, you nodded your answer.
Silence fell on the two of you again, the shadows around Azriel making him blend into the night. The only sound the light chirping of the insects and the leaves rustling in the soft wind. Unlike the warm beaches in the summer court, the mountains of your court were still slick with ice. The fire did little to warm you, even though your thick layers. How the hell had Azriel managed to swim in this weather? He may have been an irritable prick, but you still cared about his well-being, "Why were you swimming during this time of the year?”
The male didn't lookup. His gaze fixed on the fire. When he didn't answer, you got up to sit next to him, perhaps talking would be easier if you didn't have to look at his face. Azriel looked hollow. It was as if the male you knew had gotten left behind in the freezing water. You hated that it worried you, but you knew that it should. “Fine don’t tell me,” you murmured, tossing another log onto the fire.
"Azriel." His name was foreign on your tongue. "Why didn't you tell me we were mates?" Again he stayed silent, not necessarily ignoring your comments. You could see him processing your question. Weighing it, testing the answers in his head, what you would give to know what he was thinking.
After a long moment, he sighed, "I already told you-"
Not letting him finish the sentence, you grimaced, "Yeah, I get it you don't want me. That doesn't mean I didn't have a right to know."
Azriel stood up, a hand in his hair, "How would you have reacted if I told you? Why would I have told you just to hurt you? Sometimes knowledge is twice as painful as ignorance." His words held some truth to them, but that did little to ease the storm inside of you.
"I would have found out eventually, you know," You spat, turning away from him, hugging your knees to your chest.
Azriel muttered something under his breath, too quiet for you to hear before answering, "Well, it took you long enough. You didn't even feel it on your own. You had to be told, who knows, you may have never figured out anyway." The shadows that swarmed Azriel had spread enough that you could see his face when you turned to look at him. From the look on his face, he wasn't the Az you knew, his body masked in shadows, his face ablaze in agony and rage, glowing under the fire's light.
"Are you mad that I didn't figure it out on my own? That's bullshit, such fucking bull Azriel and you know it. First, you're mad I found out, now you're mad I didn't figure it out on my own? Pick a fucking struggle," You snapped.
Azriel's head snapped up, "I'd prefer you hadn't found out at all, but, sorry I'm a little offended you didn't notice in all the time we spent together." You and Az, at one point, had been practically inseparable. That was what hurt the most.
"You know you know me better than anyone," You seethed, "We spent so much time together, training, reading, going on missions. Now it's like you're a stranger. I don't want my mate. I want my friend back." Azriel flinched from where he stood, turning away from you. His wings and shadows tucked in tight.
You stood up to now, turning your gaze to the sky, you willed your voice to soften, "It hurts that you don't want me the way I want you. But I've lived with it for this long it wouldn't change anything anyway-"
Azriel cut you off, "It gives you hope."
"What?" you muttered.
Azriel sighed, "Hope. The bond would give you hope that things would change. That we could be more than friends but, we can't, I can't-"
Not being able to stand to listen to him reject you, again, you whispered so quietly that if Azriel hadn't stopped talking, you wouldn't have known he had heard you, "Why am I not good enough for you?"
"It's not you! Can't you see that?" His voice broke as he sank to his knees, "It's me. I'm not going to be the one who drags you into a life of misery because that's all you will get by being with me." Somehow, these felt like the first honest words he had said to you in the past month.
With a heavy heart, you mumbled, "I thought you didn't want me. That this bond was a mistake." Azriel tensed as you recalled his words, his shadows swarming now, reaching towards you.
The shadowsingers eyes met yours, his glassy, but no tears fell, "You deserve to be with someone better than me. I have nothing to offer you. The only promise I can give you is that I would never be good enough. I'm a mess, Y/n. Why would I willingly bring you into this? Willingly burden you with me?" Pain washed his feature, a hurt you had never know clear in his eyes.
Getting down on your knees, you took his scarred hands in your own, ignoring how he flinched slightly, "Azriel, you can't do this on your own anymore. You can't keep pushing me away because you think it's what's best for me. You are not a burden. And you don't get to decide for me whether or not your presence would be a heavyweight on my life. Do you think you're the only mess here? Some days I feel like I'm falling apart and that I'm all alone, but you know what? You've always been there for me. And I can only hope that you will let me be there for you."
A tear escaped Azriel's eyes, his shadows swallowing the two of you as he cried, "I'm sorry. For everything." He was silent for a moment before leaning forward, his head resting on yours, "All I want is for you to be safe and happy. I thought you'd be more likely to find that without me. I know you don't want to hear it but, I don't deserve you. I don't think I ever will be, but I'm selfish, and I knew that if I told you about the bond or that if I accepted it, I would never be able to let go. Mate or not, I've wanted you for so long, but that doesn't mean I deserve you." Azriel's confession hung in the air as you moved one of your hands up from his hand to his cheek.
"Azriel, you do know what the bond means, right?" You asked him with a small smile.
Azriel's face softened, muttering, "We are bonded for life-
"No!" You scoffed, "We're equals. You are mine, and I am yours, equals. It's not about who deserves who. We are two halves of a whole. We have the same value."
It was Azriel's turn to scoff, "Yeah, I'm going to have to disagree with that." The tears were gone, his voice, while it was still hoarse, was playful, his shadows dancing in the firelight.
"Well, I disagree with you, so I guess we're at a stand-off-" the words stopped, your tongue-tied, as you felt the bond snap into place. The feeling was like coming home, warmth spreading across your body as you stared at the male in front of you.
Azriel's hands left your hands coming to cup your face, whispering, "I'm done running from you." He leaned forward, his lips ghosting yours, "Can I kiss you?"
"Yes," you muttered, eyes fluttering shut. Kissing Azriel was so much better than you imagined. His lips, slightly chapped, still felt soft on yours. The feeling wasn't the electric feeling you had read about in books. Kissing Azriel, was dancing on the beach in the rain. It was watching the sky during Starfall. Kissing him was something you had only dreamed about, something a few moments ago you would never have believed you would find. Your hands moved to his hair, tugging at the ends, eliciting a groan from the male.
"No," Azriel said, taking in your confused face, "If we don't stop now, I am going to fuck you right here. And the first time I bed you, I don't want the stench of some other male on you."
You could feel your face turn red. You had forgotten about Ravi and the activities of the summer court. "So, we have a lot to catch up on?" You asked with a nervous smile.
Azriel flashed you a wicked grin, "I'm not sure I want to hear about it."
You laughed, "Are you sure? I hear fae males love these kinds of stories, especially coming from their mate." Azriel let out a loud laugh that echoed off the lake. You, however, were quiet, the word mate ringing in your ears, the term no longer stung. The bitterness it carried washed away. That alone made your smile double in size as you joined your mate in his laughter.
I might write a NSFW part 3 but I don’t know yet...
Also this was inspired (only the chorus) by Angels Like You by Miley Cyrus - hence the name.
General Azriel : @lovelywxxb @katiebellf @tastedlikedamnation @azriel-mate @carlotinhajujuba @gcfty @gliteryunicorns @famousbasementpainter @starlightorstarfire @imperishableblade @notsuzegomes @paulis0499
Angels Like You : @tastedlikedamnation @azriel-mate @gcfty @gliteryunicorns @imperishableblade @zerxfaithinhumanity @notsuzegomes @ffff
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Hey hey hey!!!
How are y'all doing? Here's another one, hope you enjoy reading it just as much as i enjoyed writing it!! Just a heads up, this is filthy, long, intense... but it gets a little cute at the very end ;)
Thank you @wickedazriel for this request! IT IS AWESOME!!!
✨don’t forget to make your own request✨
• I don’t own any of Sarah J. Mass’ characters or any of her plots, I’m just a fan having fun. Also I do not own the images. This is story is mine though, so please do not copy •
WARNING! cursing, sex... this is a hatefuck one
∞ I see red - Everybody loves an outlaw
Y/N was sick and tired of that bullshit. Ever since Elain arrived in Velaris to visit her sisters, Feyre and Nesta, Az was with her. They went to shops, restaurants and pretty much everywhere else. All the damn time.
To worsen it, this last month was rough on their relationship. Loads of work, constant arguments and sleeping on different beds was their new routine, and honestly, Y/N was so done with it. She tried time after time to get him to open up and share what left him so disturbed, like he had other times, but it was in vain. He became more distant, and was currently avoiding her.
Tonight, she wanted a change. She missed her mate, and just wished it was over. Determined to go talk to Azriel, she headed to Feyre’s house, knowing that he would be there.
As she walked the streets of the city, the sun was setting and an ocean breeze stirred lightly. It reminded her of when they met, years ago, and their first kiss. Smiling, she remembered those sweet moments, of glimmering glances and tentative touches.
Eventually, she arrived at the house and started to look for Azriel, hoping that the Inner Circle’s meeting was done. Roaming through the corridors, she caught his scent. And Elain’s, she realized with an exasperated sigh. Following it led to the main living room, and she would never be prepared to witness what happened before her eyes.
Elain and Azriel.
“What’s going on?”
Azriel turned around, startled. Shit. Holy shit. This is the last thing he needed. Looking into his mate’s eyes, he was panicking. Elain had kissed him, caught him by surprise, hoping he had feelings for her. But he did not want her. Elain has a mate. Elain is not Y/N.
“Y/N, wait. This is not what you think, just let —
Y/N's bitter laugh cut him off. Stepping closer, she glared at him. “It makes sense now. You acting distant and harsh, ignoring me all this time. How long has this happened.” Her cold voice tugged at his guts. “Actually, don’t answer me. You know, if you didn’t want me around anymore, you should’ve said it. But now it’s crystal clear.” She turned on her heels, and stormed out of the room.
Az moved, holding her wrist.
“Do not dare touch me.” Poison laced her voice, as she met his eyes at last. The anger there was enough to make him flinch, and he let go.
Desperate to get out of there, she stomped away from that place, hair whipping furiously. Tears came to her eyes, but she blinked them away. She had never been this angry, or heartbroken. Hungry for revenge, an idea came to her. Her smirk was devilish. She arrived home, put on his favorite dress, fixed her hair and painted her lips a bloodred tint. And like this, she went out seeking for the main part of the plan. Ace.
Now, Ace was a fae male who worked in the Rainbow. Handsome and with a talent for music, he was a charming male straight out of one of those smutty books Y/N owned. Azriel made sure she knew how much he hated the guy’s guts (with those green eyes and oh so perfect blond hair), even when she never had feelings for Ace.
With a killer look, she walked around Velaris and spotted tonight’s target. She reached him, asked if he wanted to have a drink and dance for a while, and he agreed without hesitance.
So they drank into the night, and he eventually invited her for a dance. She obliged, but as soon as the music started YN regretted it. It felt wrong, like it was missing something. This wasn’t Az. And she hated herself for being so foolish, in believing that the pain would go away this easy. That his presence would just vanish from her heart, even when it was burned into her soul.
Walking home, she wanted the day to be done. Y/N barely remembered bidding goodbye to a very confused Ace, her mind still clouded with everything that happened. She never expected anything like that from Az, even after years of relationship and many problems faced together.
Y/N reached her apartment, opened the door and found Az waiting for her. Seeing him made her anger rise to the brim, and she wasn’t the only one that was mad.
“You were with Ace?” He seethed, standing up from the couch. His blood boiled at her scent mixed with his.
She stilled, drunk in jealousy.
“Why?! Oh I wonder why. Maybe” walking towards him, pressing his back against a wall “it was because you were kissing dear sweet Elain in the middle of a fucking living room.” They stood closely now “Maybe it’s because I feel like a fucking idiot for falling in love.” Their breaths mingled, and Y/N’s gaze burned him. With anger, with panic, with… desire.
She glanced at his lips. The room was filled by their aroused scent.
She pounced on him. His lips met her with unwavering hunger, devouring her, and she equaled him. A delightful heat started between her legs and clouded her mind, enhanced by his now roaming hands all over her. A moan left her lips, and she felt him grow hard against her stomach. She palmed him through his pants, and his hips jerked.
Grabbing her wrists, he pushed her against the opposite wall and pinned them above her head. She whined in protest, and pushed her body into his. He went crazy with desire, her dress made her look like a goddess. All he wanted was to put his scent over that male’s.
“Jump” He ordered.
She did, wrapping her legs around him, with his hands now supporting her, fingers digging on her ass.
The kisses now were more important than air itself, their lips greedy for each other. Taking them to the bedroom, the shadowsinger was going mad for her. Y/N was on her own path to insanity, as her hands struggled with the buttons of his shirt and her body begged for more attention.
He set her down and their kissing halted, overtaken by the need to shed their clothes. Fast. Mere seconds later, the pieces of clothing were discarded on the floor and the frenzy returned.
His mouth was on her lips, her neck, her breasts. Her nipples were rock hard, begging for attention as he wrapped his lips around one, licked, sucked and bit down. Her moans got out of control, thighs clenched together. Moving on to the other nipple, her hands (who had been wandering around his wings) suddenly gripped his throbbing cock, and surprised, he moaned into her chest as he thrust forward against her hand.
Her other hand grabbed his shoulder, and pushed him into the bed. He let himself fall into his back, and she got onto her knees. He will go crazy tonight, she thought, I’ll make him.
The feeling of her mouth around him made him moan loudly. The view of her hand touching herself as she sucked him off almost made him cum. He gritted his teeth, and tried to hold it. But, with exceptional expertise, she teased him to the edge. And denied him right after. Twice.
Now, ready for more, Y/N stood up, straddled him, guided his shaft to her entrance… and lowered herself. Their moans sounded, and she started to move. Up and down at first, and then she ground into his cock. She pinned him to the bed, as he did with her against the wall.
Azriel lost any scrape of sanity after this.
Y/N couldn’t control herself, and said
“Does she ride you like this? Do you fuck her like this?”
His eyes glittered with the challenge. Getting out her grip, he freed his arms, slid out of her and flipped them over. Then he flipped her, positioning her on all fours. Slid back in. Grabbed her hair. Pressed his fingers on her clit. And whispered on her ear
“Does he make you feel this, Y/N?”
Her response was only a sequence of squeals and screams, pleasure crashing into her with violent waves. Their release was close, and the thrusting became faster, sloppier, desperate. Azriel thrust one last time, deep and strong, as pinched her nub, and she came around him. He followed her, getting squeezed by her muscles, tightly and uncontrollably.
Their exhausted bodies lay entangled on each other, neither daring to move. Azriel slid out of her after a few minutes, and she whimpered softly. Still on the bed with her back to him, Y/N worked up the courage to ask.
“Az, what happened there?”
He took a deep breath.
“Elain is having trouble with Lucien and their relationship, she talked to me a lot about it. There’s a lot of crap going on between them, and I advised her as a friend. Exclusively as someone who wants the best for her.” His mate remained in silence, and that quiet despair started to take over him once again.
“Y/N," he touched her exposed back gently, “turn around and talk to me. Please.”
A beat of silence went by. Two. On the third she moved, and their eyes met. His bared nothing but honesty and love.
“I love you, Y/N. My mate, my best friend, my everything. I truly did not expect a kiss from Elain, and I have no interest in another. I’m yours.”
And hers bared nothing but thankfulness and adoration.
“Thank you for being honest with me, Az. I believe you,” he let out a breath of relief at the words, “ and I’m sorry. I acted wrongly in going to Ace, in not hearing you and in dumping my insecurities on this.”
“What went on between the two of you?”
“We had drinks, he asked me to dance. I said yes, and lasted for half a song. Because it wasn’t you.”
Azriel said nothing, and her heart broke a little more.
"Can you forgive me?”, she asked, her voice nothing more than a whisper.
He looked into her eyes, and thanked the Mother for such a stunning, courageous and honest female in his life.
“Yes.” She smiled brightly at his reply, touching their foreheads. “Can you forgive me? For making you feel insecure and for staying so distant? I shouldn’t have shut you out”
“I can, Az. And please, let’s not do this again.”
“Oh absolutely, it was dreadful” the shadowsinger agreed, and leaned in to kiss her lips, the trouble now forgotten.
And so they kissed.
Their hands started to–
Well, you know what happens next...
Ps: talk to me, make some requests 😁 my box is open
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Update: The Raven and the Songbird
A little pain relief for everything I've put you through
Read on AO3
When Azriel landed in the training ring he shook his head, exasperated with himself. Now that he was here, what exactly did he plan to do? He couldn’t very well find Gwyn’s room, shake her awake, and beg her to forgive him.
He took a moment to survey the ring, racks of wooden weapons, steel, shields. The Valkyries had grown from desperation to get Nesta on the right track to three females surviving the Blood Rite to a small legion of Illyrians, priestesses, and other fae. They would be outgrowing the space soon, and he pondered that as the stone glowed blue in the moonlight.
Gwyn had never spoken much about the Blood Rite, not that he could blame her. The Illyrian tradition was barbaric under normal circumstances, and much more so with Briallyn’s meddling – with the intention of killing all three of the females. Azriel couldn’t help but grin to himself.
How spectacularly had her plan backfired.
He had not admitted that Cassian was not the only one sleepless and mortified that week, but where the general was a barely-contained force of will and expression Azriel was schooled in hiding his emotion. He’d had to stay stoic – to find Briallyn and Koschei, to support his brother while his mate fought for her life. But his relationship with Gwyn had begun to develop by then, as well. Slowly. It was all he could do some days not to fly in and destroy them all. She had already suffered unspeakable horrors, and the possibility that she had been at the mercy of Illyrian males – bred with a thirst for blood and flesh – had been nearly unbearable.
When that general is finished hurting her she has to feel the soul-crushing terror of watching the next soldier take his place because you don’t come to save her.
He ran a hand through his onyx hair, remembering Nesta’s words. His shadows seemed to wither around him, drooping over his shoulders and wings. How had it come to this?
The shadowsinger sat himself down on the ground, knees drawn up. He rested his forearms on them and gazed at the ink-dark sky painted with stars. Much like his High Lord, seeing the stars had always been a comfort to Azriel – a reminder that he was free from the prison of his upbringing, that he had escaped and had replaced his father and brothers with a family that cared for him and showed him what love and brotherhood really meant.
His found family had grown so much in such a short time. He was grateful for that, for so many reasons. Rhys had emerged from Under the Mountain a broken male and Feyre had helped piece him back together. She had quickly become a glue for all of them, holding them tight and treating them with such love that Azriel was often awed by it. It wasn’t hard defending her, being dedicated to her safety as High Lady. She was far more than a monarch to him.
Then came Nesta and Elain, and what a storm that had been. Cassian and Nesta were meant to be since the beginning, but that path had been long and painful, and not just for his ears and the new… sanitation concerns for public living spaces in the house. Sometimes he was surprised that he counted Nesta as his friend. She had been intentionally hurtful so many times. How often had he seen the pain in his brother’s countenance because of something she had said or done? And yet now he understood her, maybe more than he cared to admit. She had been hurting and afraid and overflowing with self-loathing.
He had hurt Gwyn for those very reasons.
He felt his shoulders and wings sag with the weight of Nesta’s questions tonight. Accusations thinly veiled as questions, and each one like a carefully crafted throwing knife plunged into his gut. He’d made her cry for at least the third time in as many weeks. Training and working to exhaustion, and not being able to sleep because of the worsening nightmares – nightmares that had cruelly transformed to remind her that he had abandoned her.
Even his shadows felt heavy.
The spymaster hung his head, shame like a blanket smothering him in summer heat. How could he ever forgive himself for causing that pain? It was a fate he had personally prevented, and now she was forced to experience it in her dreams. Because of him. Because he was a coward.
Azriel let his eyes drift closed and focused on his breathing. Sleep would not be an option tonight, and he could only pray that the priestess was sound asleep in the house, getting the rest she so desperately needed. Training didn’t seem to be in the cards either, as he sifted through the torrent of thoughts and emotions. He just needed to sit and think. And in the morning, he would speak with Gwyn as soon as he could. He would fall to his knees and beg for forgiveness if he had to.
The inky tendrils flitted to life around him at the sound of that voice. Cauldron damn him, of course she would find him now. But part of him was relieved to be able to talk to her so soon – that she was even here.
“Azriel, are you alright?” His heart squeezed at the softness of Gwyn’s voice, music to his ears – a sweet melody with harmonies of concern and kindness. How could she still be so kind to him?
“I don’t deserve to be asked that. Especially not by you,” he murmured, staring down at the stone between his feet.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Azriel.” Her soft footsteps seemed to echo in his head, a ringing alarm that she was coming closer. He didn’t want to run from her, but his heart was still racing. How could he face her inevitable rejection? He noticed her shadow fall over the space between his legs and when he looked up she was crouching in front of him, eyes shining with sincerity. “You deserve for people to care about you. And I do. I won’t just leave you out here alone when anyone could see the weight of the world pressing down on you.”
Gods, but wasn’t that exactly what he had done to her?
The shadowsinger had no air in his chest as he studied her. The expression on her face was difficult to describe – caring and teasing and scolding all rolled into glittering ocean eyes and the slightest quirk of her full lips. She rose and his gaze followed as she held her hand out to him, beckoning him to stand with her. It took more courage than he cared to admit to place his violence-scarred hands in hers, but their warmth spread through him like sunshine warming his bones as she helped him to his feet.
She didn’t let go, and that gave him the strength he needed.
“Nesta found me at the river house tonight. She had… a lot to say,” Azriel began as he saw color bloom on Gwyn’s cheeks. She looked down to their hands.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for her to –“ He squeezed her hands and she snapped her head back up to meet his gaze.
“I deserved every single bit of venom she threw at me, Gwyn. Do not apologize.” The shadowsinger looked down, then, unsure how to move forward or which of his many transgressions he should address first. So he asked, “Is it true? About the nightmares? That… that I don’t come for you?” He could feel the emotion catching in his throat, cracking his voice. His eyes burned as he looked back to the priestess. Her lips were pressed together as she tried to keep the silver lining her eyes from spilling down over her cheeks.
“Yes,” she whispered, lashes lowering as the silent tears fell. Each droplet was a nick in his heart, the guilt and pain salting those wounds. How could she be so strong, to endure this agony and yet hold the hands that caused it? He released one of the hands and lifted it to her face, hesitating with his fingers a breath away from her cheek. Azriel had his mouth open to ask if he could touch her when she leaned her face into his palm. He brushed at her tears with his thumb before bringing up his other hand, cupping her jaw.
“Gwyn,” he breathed, pleading silently for her to look at him. The shining pools that opened to him were so enthralling, depths shimmering with trepidation. Gods, what he would do to bring back the joy in those eyes. “I will always come for you. No matter what. And I will never be able to forgive myself that there might be any part of your mind or your heart or your soul that could believe otherwise.” He watched as she took a shuddering breath, but her eyes held his and he was emboldened.
“I’m so sorry, Gwyn. For all of this. I was a fool and a coward and I let my guilt and my fear own me. And it only hurt you.”
Gwyn’s hands covered the scars on his own as she pulled them away from her face, returning them to their place entwined between them. Azriel stayed silent and her head tilted as she studied him.
“What could you possibly be afraid of?” she released a hoarse, hiccupped laugh. The shadowsinger could only gulp down a breath and look toward the stars.
“I… I was afraid of the feelings I was developing for you. And of the pain I would feel when you would see all the things I have done and the monster that I am and run away from me. Or that you would be hurt because of this darkness inside of me.” His eyes had returned to hers and, while he saw understanding swimming there, her expression was uncompromising.
“Have I not been hurt already?” Her bluntness shocked him, and he felt the slightest twinge of panic that told him to run. Her fingers tightened like a vice around his hands and he saw her eyes darken, as if she knew what he was thinking. “Don’t you dare even think about running away, Azriel. Not now. I deserve better from you.” Even his shadows seemed focused on where their hands touched, intent on keeping them tied together.
She did. She deserved so much better. Better than what he’d done. Shame washed over him that he could have thought to flee from her. Again. He had already wronged her… too many times. But he had come here determined to right those wrongs. Azriel wasn’t sure if he would ever be able to give her what she deserved, if he would ever be good enough for her. But he sure as fuck was going to try.
“You’re right,” he conceded, that panic replaced by resolution and a faint, foolish glimmer of hope. “I’m not going anywhere.” She grinned softly and he thought his chest would burst from relief. They were still here, together, talking. They were going to figure this out.
“Why did you run, Azriel? If you care for me, like you say,” she demanded, that sea-deep stare piercing straight into his soul. “Why? Why are you afraid of me seeing who you are?”
He should have known that she would demand an explanation. Gwyn was strong and confident. She knew her worth and what she deserved, and him sharing the story behind all of his idiotic decisions was the very least of that. But he was not prepared, and he didn’t want to. He never wanted to darken others’ lives with his history.
“That’s… a long story, Gwyn,” he huffed, hoping that might be the end of it. But he saw her eyes, determination and challenge and fire blazing blue in the moonlight.
“We have all night.” She released his hands and gestured to the darkness around them. She would not be deterred, would not back down until she accomplished her goal. It was one of the many things he admired so much about her. “Should we sit?”
Azriel found himself smiling as he nodded, sitting cross-legged on the stone. Even though the impending admissions rang as a death knell in his mind, it warmed his heart to know that she cared so deeply – that she wanted to know the worst of him.
He had put her through enough, and he could relive his pain and push out his fear for this night, if only for her.
“I don’t know where to start.” He scratched the back of his neck, a nervous tick he was usually good at hiding. But then Gwyn – that sweet, incredible, special female – gathered his other hand with those long, pale, graceful fingers and he felt the tension ease. He looked at her, taking in the beauty and serenity of her features. Freckles were scattered over cheeks stained pink, an encouraging smile crinkling the corners of her eyes.
“The beginning seems like a good place, don’t you think?”
So that’s where he began.
Azriel was not proud that he could not find the strength to look at Gwyn as he walked her through his story, but he could still hear and feel her reactions. And he dared a glance at her from time to time, trying to read everything her eyes were saying. He told her about the cell he was kept in as a child, how little touch or affection or love he had experienced, and how the shadows around him seemed to move and react and speak. She clutched his hand tighter when he told her about what had happened to them, that his brothers had set fire to them to see how he would heal. She hadn’t said a word, but he smelled the salt from tears and felt impossibly soft strokes of her thumbs over those scars.
He explained his time in Illyria and the fearsome reputation he and Cassian had to maintain, simply to make up for the circumstances of their birth. And while Cassian had been brute force and power, Azriel was deadly calm, precision, intellect, terror. He admitted to her how he had hoped to find validation in his role as spymaster under Rhysand’s father, and that he could truly revel in his duties under the right circumstances.
“Those soldiers I killed in Sangravah,” he told her. “I would have enjoyed dragging out their deaths as long as possible for what they did to you.”
Gwyn’s hands were so gentle around his as he told her how much the death and darkness grated against his soul, and how he’d had nothing to tether him to the light. He talked to her about Mor, a waste of literal centuries. And then, somehow, he told her about Elain. Not that he’d loved her, because he never had. But that he’d felt entitled to her, like he deserved what his brothers had found with the other two sisters. That he was the third brother and she was the third sister and that was all that mattered. His entitlement, his lust and desire for the bond - as opposed to love for the person - just another ugly facet of his true self.
“So I suppose that brings me to you, to these past few weeks.” Azriel made sure to meet her gaze for this. “I panicked after the necklace, because I wasn’t prepared for what it would do to me to see that hurt in your eyes. And when I told you things would go back to normal I still didn’t know what to do. I thought distance would be best between us, because I knew you would be able to draw me out of myself. And that was dangerous.”
The shadowsinger’s throat burned with emotion when Gwyn smiled softly. He could see so much roaring in her gaze, but there was no sign of pity or disgust or fear. Azriel ran his free hand through his hair before resting it atop their other clasped hands. Wetness burned his eyes, but he didn’t care.
“When I found you in the rain that night, I could smell your tears and I saw your hands – split knuckles and bruised, swollen fingers. And,” he choked down his feelings even as the tears began their descent, “and I was torn apart with the guilt. It was my fault that you were doing that to yourself. I might has well have put those marks on you with my own two vile hands.” Azriel closed his eyes and let the tears fall – not many, but enough. The silence rang through his ears, his history hanging between them. He waited for the fear, the rejection, especially when she drew her hands away from his. But his eyes snapped open when delicate calloused fingers stroked his cheeks. Gwyn had risen to her knees to dry the wetness on them, her stare a storm of trust and understanding... and compassion.
“Thank you for telling me your story, Azriel,” she whispered. “I see you. You have nothing to fear. I’m still right here.” Then she smiled brightly, and he unraveled.
“Gwyn, I don’t know if you can ever forgive me – I wouldn’t blame you if you couldn’t. But I care for you as more than a teacher, more than a friend. You are a light in my dark life and these past few weeks have been miserable without you in them.” Her smile widened slightly and he reached out a thumb to catch a stray tear that had fallen from those precious, beautiful eyes. He felt his own grin pushing his cheeks against her warm hands.
“I care for you, too, Azriel. As more than a friend.”
He held that watery stare until she released his face. She stood up, brushing off her knees before reaching her hands to him again to help him to his feet. He tilted his head curiously at the determination flashing in her eyes.
“Here is what’s going to happen,” she began, looking down at her hands in his. “Before we pursue anything… romantically, I need to be sure that this isn’t something that will happen again.”
He opened his mouth to speak but she pressed her fingers against his lips. “We both have darkness and fear and I understand that. But if you feel it taking over, I need you to come to me, to talk to me. Because if I open my heart to you and this happens again – if you insist on shutting yourself off from me or deciding for me what I deserve or want – I will be heartbroken.” The confession left Azriel raw.
“What can I do, Gwyn? How can I reassure you?” He could hear the desperation in his own voice, but he couldn’t find it in him to care.
“We are going to go back to how things were before this mess.” She had returned her hand to his and gave both a squeeze. A shadow darted down around them, as if to approve of the contact. “The way it was that led us to realize that we feel the way we do. And you are going to prove to me that we can have what we had before I found out about that stupid, lovely necklace. Do you think you can do that?” He could have fallen to his knees seeing the hope in those ocean eyes, mirroring the spark of hope inside of him. It was something he hadn’t dared to let himself fully feel with her.
“I will.” Azriel’s voice was low and rough. “I swear it.”
“And then we can decide what comes next. And I can prove to you that your hands and your darkness are just as important to me as the rest of you.”
He was grinning like a fool, he knew. He still had a chance, because Gwyneth Berdara was the definition of grace and love. And by the Mother he would not screw this up.
He felt more than saw her wrap her arms around his back, pulling herself into him. For a moment he was frozen by the intimacy of it – shocked by her initiation of it – but he quickly let his arms settle around her waist. He breathed in, pulling her tighter, and leaned his cheek on the crown of her head.
“Don’t let me down, Shadowsinger,” she muttered into his chest. He chuckled and dared to move one hand to comb through her hair. “I want to see… what comes next.” He wanted to see, too. He wanted to know what it was like to look to the future and see more than dread and loneliness and exhaustion. He could see it with her.
“I wouldn’t dream of it, Berdara.”
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Send me a ship and I’ll give you 3 headcanons
Ahh, Elriel... Here we go
When they finally get together they are all over each other. Azriel is quite the ravishing type but so is Elain. At first he tends to keep a lot of their intimacies (and there is quite a lot) in privacy, due to being used to it and not minding being just with her because he isn't the most social one, plus doesn't know how Elain feels about it. However, Elain soon encourages him to be more open about it, carelessly kissing him while in common space, in front of others. Everyone gasps even though they were all expecting it for while. Azriel is very turned on by this boldness and completely commits to it, Cassian jokingly tells them to get a room but high-fives Az later.
Azriel is very busy with all the work as a spymaster and all the other little things Rhys makes him do, most of the time it includes reading documents/information. He hates that it takes his time away from Elain so whenever he has some papers to look over he's holding them with one hand, while the other holds Elain's and makes small circles around it with his thumb, it relaxes him. Sometimes he'll take the documents in the garden to watch Elain tend to the flowers, and when she's done he'll often put his head in her lap to read while Elain plays with his hair or his wings.
Azriel is just so proud of all the little brave/smart things Elain does? Like, she seems so pure and innocent but he knows that she is so much more than that. If he was there when she back-talked to Nesta he would be so proud and smirking. He's very proud when people carefully listen to her predictions. He's very proud when someone misjudges her for this sweet girl, and then is surprised when she turns out to be a badass. But most importantly, he's the proudest when she helps those in need and shows all the kindness in her heart. Azriel, growing up, thought there was no kindness in the world whatsoever, and still think it has a long way to go, but if there is one person to change it it's Elain.
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To Counter the “Azriel Only Wants Elain for Sex” Argument:
Chapter 64 -
• “From the shadows near the entrance to the tent, Azriel said, as if in answer to some unspoken debate, “I’m getting her back.” Nesta slid her gaze to the shadowsinger. Azriel’s hazel eyes glowed golden in the shadows. Nesta said, “Then you will die.” Azriel only repeated, rage glazing that stare, “I’m getting her back.”
Chapter 69 -
• “Elain’s eyes widened at the obsidian-hilted blade in Azriel’s scarred hand. The runes on the dark scabbard. “It has never failed me once,” the shadowsinger said, the midday sun devoured by the dark blade. “Some people say it is magic and will always strike true.” He gently took her hand and pressed the hilt of the legendary blade into it. “It will serve you well.” “I—I don’t know how to use it—” “I’ll make sure you don’t have to,” I said, grass crunching as I stepped closer. Elain weighed my words … and slowly closed her fingers around the blade. Cassian gawked at Azriel, and I wondered how often Azriel had lent out that blade— Never, Rhys said from where he finished buckling on his own weapons against the side of the wagon. I have never once seen Azriel let another person touch that knife.”
Chapter 7 -
• “Send Lucien, then. As our human emissary.” I studied the tenseness in Azriel’s shoulders, the shadows veiling half of him from the sunlight. “Lucien is away right now.” Az’s brows rose. “Where?” I winked at him. “You’re my spymaster. Shouldn’t you know?” Az crossed his arms, face as elegant and cold as the legendary dagger at his side. “I don’t make a point of looking after his movements.” “Why?” Not a flicker of emotion. “He is Elain’s mate.” I waited. “It would be an invasion of her privacy to track him.” To know when and if Lucien sought her out. What they did together. “You sure about that?” I asked quietly. Azriel’s Siphons guttered, the stones turning as dark and foreboding as the deepest sea.”
Chapter 12 -
• “But I strode to my seat—nestled between Amren and Mor—in time to see Elain say to Azriel, “Hello.” Az said nothing. No, he just moved toward her. Mor tensed beside me. But Azriel only took Elain’s heavy dish of potatoes from her hands, his voice soft as night as he said, “Sit. I’ll take care of it.” Elain’s hands remained in midair, as if the ghost of the dish remained between them.”
Chapter 16 -
• “Azriel strode to the lone window at the end of the room and peered into the garden below. “I’ve never stayed in this room.” His midnight voice filled the space.”
• “My money’s on yes,” Cassian said. “Want to make a wager?” “No,” Azriel said, not turning from the window.”
• “Azriel remained at the window. “Will Nesta stay here if she comes?”
• “I’d still be surprised if they remember once the storm clears,” Azriel said, turning from the garden window at last.”
(who do you think was in that garden / is usually in that garden ? 👀)
Chapter 19 -
• “Beyond the windows, darkness had indeed fallen. The longest night of the year. I found Elain studying it, beautiful in her amethyst-colored gown. I made to move toward her, but someone beat me to it. The shadowsinger was clad in a black jacket and pants similar to Rhysand’s—the fabric immaculately tailored and built to fit his wings. He still wore his Siphons atop either hand, and shadows trailed his footsteps, curling like swirled embers, but there was little sign of the warrior otherwise. Especially as he gently said to my sister, “Happy Solstice.” Elain turned from the snow falling in the darkness beyond and smiled slightly. “I’ve never participated in one of these.”
Chapter 20 -
• “Elain bit her lip and then smiled sheepishly. “It’s for the headaches everyone always gives you. Since you rub your temples so often.” Silence again. Then Azriel tipped his head back and laughed. I’d never heard such a sound, deep and joyous.” ... “Azriel mastered himself enough to say, “Thank you.” I’d never seen his hazel eyes so bright, the hues of green amid the brown and gray like veins of emerald. “This will be invaluable.”
Chapter 22 -
• “Azriel and Elain remained in the sitting room, my sister showing him the plans she’d sketched to expand the garden in the back of the town house, using the seeds and tools my family had given her tonight. Whether he cared about such things, I had no idea, but I sent him a silent prayer of thanks for his kindness before Rhys and I slipped upstairs.” (this was at 3am btw)
!! ACOSF quotes beyond this point !!
Chapter 19 -
• “You and Nesta are wanted down there.” “Because of the shit with Elain?” Azriel stilled. “What happened to Elain?” Cassian waved a hand. “A fight with Nesta. Don’t bring it up,” he warned when Azriel’s eyes darkened. Cassian blew out a breath. “I take that as a no regarding the meeting topic, then.” “It’s about what I discovered. Rhys said he requires you both there.” “It’s bad, then.” Cassian surveyed the shadows gathered around Az. “You all right?” His brother nodded. “Fine.” But shadows still swarmed him. Cassian knew it was a lie, but didn’t push it. Az would speak when he was ready, and Cassian would have better success convincing a mountain to move than getting Az to open up.”
Chapter 21 -
• “Maybe you’ll become interesting at last, Elain.” Nesta saw the blow land, like a physical impact, in Elain’s face, her posture. No one spoke, though shadows gathered in the corners of the room, like snakes preparing to strike.”
Chapter 22 -
• “Do you want a child?” “It doesn’t matter what I want.” Distant words—ones that prevented Cassian from prying further. He was still happy to be Mor’s buffer with Azriel, but there’d been a change lately. In both of them. Mor no longer sat beside Cassian, draped herself over him, and Azriel … those longing glances toward her had become few and far between. As if he’d given up. After five hundred years, he’d somehow given up. Cassian couldn’t think why.”
Chapter 29 -
• “Amren said, “We do not have the time to wait for Nesta to decide. I say we approach Elain tomorrow. Better to have both of them working on it.” Azriel stiffened, an outright sign of temper from him as he said quietly, “There is an innate darkness to the Dread Trove that Elain should not be exposed to.”
Chapter 31 -
• “Feyre said, “We won’t allow any harm to come to Elain. Rhys warded her this morning, and we have eyes on her at all times.” “Eyes can be blinded,” Nesta said. “Not the ones under my command,” Azriel said with soft menace. Nesta met his stare, knowing he was the only one aside from Feyre who could truly understand her hesitation. He’d gone with Feyre into the heart of Hybern’s camp to save Elain—he knew the risk. “We won’t make the same mistake twice.” She believed him.”
Chapter 58 -
• “Why don’t you sit?” She leaned against the doorway beside the shadowsinger. “My shadows don’t like the flames so much.” A pretty lie. She’d seen Azriel before the fire plenty. But she looked at who sat close to it and knew the answer. “Why did you come if it torments you so much?” “Because Rhys wants me here. It’d hurt him if I didn’t come.” “Well, I think holidays are stupid.” “I don’t.” She arched a brow. He explained, “They pull people together. And bring them joy. They are a time to pause and reflect and gather, and those are never bad things.” Shadows darkened his eyes, full of enough pain that she couldn’t stop herself from touching his shoulder. Letting him see that she understood why he stood in the doorway, why he wouldn’t go near the fire. His secret to tell, never hers.”
Azriel’s Bonus Chapter:
• “But she’d gotten Azriel one last year — a headache powder he kept on his nightstand at the House of Wind. Not to use, but just to look at. Which he’d done every night slept there. Or attempted to sleep there.”
• “Because her mate was here, sleeping a level up. Because her mate had been in the family room and Azriel had needed to stay by the door the whole time because he couldn’t stand the sight of it, the scent of their mating bond, and needed to have the option of leaving if it became too much.”
(Azriel was in so much pain from just being around Elain + Lucien that not only did Nesta notice during Solstice, but he also forced himself to stay by the door incase the pain became too much and he had to flee the room.)
• “So you will leave Elain alone. If you need to fuck someone, go to a pleasure hall and pay for it, but stay away from her.” Azriel snarled softly.”
(When Rhysand insinuates that Azriel’s feelings / emotions can be sated by sleeping with someone else from a pleasure hall he snarls because it upsets / angers him, which already ruins the whole “he only wants her for sex” argument).
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ACOTAR Next Gen Headcannons Pt. 1
I’ve been extremely excited to make these! I love next gen stuff. I’m going to go in birth order, so starting with our very own Twilight baby, here’s Nyx:
Firstly: for the Illyrian tattoos, I am using images of tatau’s of the Polynesian culture. I see the Illyrian’s as the Polynesian people—which encompasses so many different tribes. The placements of tatau’s are symbolic and I’ve chosen the above images for Nyx for a purpose.
Also kinda nervous what the reception will be for this because the plot bunnies took me to some interesting places and I went super left field....
There are eight cousins. The Feysand kids are: Nyx, Orion, and Atlas. Nessian kids: Verena, Hera, and Aren. Gwynriel twins: Melody and Kallen.
The cousins all get a matching eight pointed star tattoo to commemorate their love and friendship for one another. It also has magical properties that, no matter how far they go or how separated, the star tattoo connects them and lets each cousin know that the others are okay. A surprise tool for later 👀
Nyx is very much his father’s son. He has Rhys’s clever mind and silver tongue—which makes him an accomplished politician. He’s a prodigy when it comes to intelligence and political games, but he has his mother’s artist soul.
“You look just like your father, but you have your mother’s eyes.”
He has an extremely deep well of power that is very similar to Rhys’s so this leads Rhys and Feyre to suspect Nyx will be their heir.
When Nyx needs to be alone and have space to think, he makes pottery. He was never an accomplished painter like Feyre (loooollll @ how the whole fandom has agreed Feyre can’t paint for shit) but he does have a knack for abstract painting.
His first steps were to Rhys 🥺
No one was expecting it to happen, but during an IC family dinner, Nyx just gets up and stands on his little legs. Rhys is like a deer in headlights as Nyx starts walking to him. For a moment, he sees his son who nearly died. For a moment, he sees his little sister whose first steps had also been to Rhys hundreds of years ago. His sister who did die.
He kneels, the stars on his knees on the ground, and holds his hands out for Nyx. Everyone watches on excited, bated breath as Nyx takes those first five steps. He stumbles into Rhys’s arms and the room bursts into cheers.
Absolutely Rhys lets out a little tear.
Nyx’s first word is fly. He’s in Rhys’s arms, watching his uncles fly in the sky above. He points at them, looks at his dad, and says a very clear, “fly!”
Rhys takes it slow, but he takes Nyx flying and it’s one of Rhys’s favorite days in his life. The sound of his son’s squealing laughter, the excited way he keeps saying “fly!” The glee in Nyx’s blue eyes, so like his mother’s, and the chubby face that is a mirror of Rhys’s own. It’s a gift. All of it is a gift.
Aunt Nesta is his favorite. Period. He’s kept every book she’s ever gifted him on their own special shelf.
He’s close with both his parents, but he does feel an obligation to spend as much time with Rhys as he can so that he can learn to be High Lord.
He’s seven when his sister, Orion, is born. He spends the whole day with Uncle Cassian and Aunt Nesta and his cousin Verena. They have a beach day and Uncle Cassian throws him whenever he asks. He builds sand castles with Rena, and Aunt Nesta even helps them bury Uncle Cassian in sand.
It’s one of the best days he’s ever had, but when the sun sets and they go get ice cream, Nyx can’t help but be sad. The chocolate has dripped down the cone and is sticking to his arm, but he can’t bring himself to eat anymore.
Aunt Nesta takes a seat beside him, wipes his arm clean, and asks, “You can tell me what’s wrong.” Nyx likes that Aunt Nesta never beats around the bush, that she is always straight forward. He wants to be like that, too.
His lips wobble as he says, “what if they don’t want me anymore? What if they like the new baby more than me?”
He doesn’t fight it when Aunt Nesta brings him to her lap and hugs him tight. He’s always liked her hugs.
“I thought the same thing when your mom was born.” Nesta brushes her fingers through his hair. “I thought I’d be forgotten. But listen to me, your mom and dad love you so much it’s incomprehensible. They would do absolutely anything for you. They could never, ever forget you.”
When it’s time to meet his sister, Nyx holds onto what Aunt Nesta said. He’s holding her hand tight as they walk into the River House, and he almost runs up the stairs to his bedroom, but his dad is kneeling on a knee with arms open wide for him.
“Come here, son.” His dad must have seen the hesitation in Nyx’s steps as the joy on his face fell slightly. When Nyx is standing before his father, eyes downcast, he brings him into a soft and comforting hug. “You made me a father. I love you, my son. Always. Don’t tell your uncles but you are my best friend.”
Nyx looks into his dad’s violet eyes. Nyx has an uncanny knack for knowing when someone is lying. His dad is not. “Really?”
His dad holds up a pinky finger. “I solemnly swear.”
Nyx throws himself into his father’s arms and that terrible weight lifted. He looked back to see Aunt Nesta wink at him. He tried—and failed—to wink at her, too.
Nyx never did learn how to wink.
Nyx is ten when his youngest sister, Atlas is born. At this point in his life, he knows he has extensive power and is primed to be the heir of the Night Court.
But, that begins to change when Atlas is born.
It makes him very uncomfortable that it is now uncertain as to who the heir is, because Atlas as a reservoir of power that is equal to Nyx.
Nyx adores Atlas. She’s his sister and he takes being a big brother very seriously, but they can’t help the competition that brews between them.
His Illyrian training is treated like another aspect of his schooling. He starts going to Windhaven when he’s eight for a few hours everyday, four days a week. He doesn’t, however, go all year long.
Nyx doesn’t like Windhaven. He doesn’t feel like he belongs. Unlike his father and uncles, Nyx doesn’t make any deep connections with the other kids. He’s a very private person, so he keeps to himself until his cousin Verena—Nessian’s oldest daughter—starts training with him. This is when the two become best friends.
His favorite color is the blue of the hottest fire.
He’s left handed.
Is a master swordsman.
Cassian, Azriel, and Nesta do most of the next gen training.
Nyx refuses to the Blood Rite without his cousins. He waits until Rena, Aren, Kal and Melody (the Gwynriel twins), and his youngest sister Atlas to do the Blood Rite together. Hera and Orion are the only ones who opt out the Illyrian ritual.
But—the cousins fight when they reach Ramiel. The physicality of the Blood Rite forces people to face themselves, who they are and their desires, and if they have what it takes to make the climb.
The cousins are kicking ass the Rite and are making historic time, but when they make it to the base of the mountain, all of their different reasons for wanting to climb—or for some not to climb—the mountain come out.
Nyx wants to become Carynthian because his father was one. He also wants his cousins to win with him because of ceremony and it’s how their fathers won. Nyx feels like this is how he proves himself the heir of the Night Court.
Atlas wants to make the climb, too.
They all argue about making the climb, and before they can all make a cohesive decision, the group of blood thirsty Illyrian’s they’d been outrunning the whole week is gaining on them. All of the cousins decide to fight them off, giving Nyx and Atlas a shot to make it to the top.
And the siblings do make it. It’s the hardest thing both had ever done. The mountain is unforgiving and the climb is brutal. Atlas nearly falls off the edge until Nyx catches her. But the climb bonds the two in a way that hadn’t happened for them yet. When they make it to the summit, exhausted and bloody, the two siblings have a moment of realization that the time to finally name the Night Court heir is fast approaching. They know it’s Nyx versus Atlas. They know they both want the slot. They know it will come down to a show down of power versus power.
But, not today. Today, they made the hardest climb in all of Prythian together--as family. Today, with joined hands, they touch the stone as united siblings.
For his 18th birthday, Feyre bought him his first studio. Only she and Rhys know exactly where it is in Velaris so that the studio can truly be his private place.
He is extremely close with his family and considers his seven other cousins to be his closest friends. He’s a very private person, so he does not trust anyone outside of his family, nor does he feel like he needs anyone outside of them.
Kal (Gwynriel son) develops a talent for tattooing, and gives each of the cousins an eight pointed star tattoo. Eight cousins, eight points on the star. A promise that no matter where they all end up in life, they will always be family. The star also tells them if the other’s are okay.
Kal also tattoos all of Nyx’s right forearm with the story of his family and words that remind Nyx to be strong in life and who he wants to be.
Nyx likes to visit Orion in her lab, and one day he comes to see her when she has a breakthrough. She’d been experimenting with expanding the scope of winnowing to reach to other planets. She wants to answer the question of what else is out there. It’s a pipeline dream and near unanswerable question, but with a machine she’s created she hopes it will amplify how far a person can winnow. On the day Nyx visits, she tries to send an apple with a tracking device to the nearest planet. She doesn’t expect it to work.
But it does.
Nyx is watching from where he’s propped on a couch. The apple he’d been eating falls to the ground as he slowly stands. Orion gulps as she turns to her brother. The apple successfully winnowed to the next planet over, a red light blinking. All Orion can say in the face of the greatest breakthrough in Prythian’s history is, “holy fucking mother.”
They quickly call their parents to show them, but for some reason every other test subject fails. Orion feels defeated but Rhys is dumbfounded and can’t say enough how proud he is, how Orion must continue this work.
All the while, Nyx has the strangest feeling. Like a pull, or a long line getting tighter. It feels like fate.
If Nyx had to pick, Verena is his best friend. She’s his closest confidant. If he was in a world of trouble, like accidentally setting loose eight prisoners from the Prison because he was foolish and arrogant, Rena is his first call to get him out of trouble.
Nyx outside of the Prison watching the prisoners escape: “Rena, I fucked up.”
Rena, somewhere in Velaris: “Not a new thing for you.”
“No, like I really fucked up this time.”
Nyx, just past his majority, wanted to explore the depth of his growing power. Power that is beginning to rival his father’s. Power that is equal to Atlas. The two will have to battle soon, as custom requires. He can’t help but feel like he’s going to lose.
To test out his strength, he decided the best place to do this was the Prison, where he wanted to test if he was powerful enough to bypass his parents and enter the Prison.
But, this back fires.
It ends up taking the combined efforts of the eight cousins to try and wrangle the prisoners back in their cells. They try to do this covertly because Nyx swore them all to secrecy, and if their parents found out then uh oh.
But things go horribly.
Rena nearly looses an arm. Aren broke three ribs. Melody broke a leg. Kal’s neck got swiped at by a monster, nearly tearing his carotid. Atlas dislocates her collarbone. Hera and Orion both get concussions.
And Nyx almost gets his head severed off. The only thing that stops him from losing his head is his father intervening with the Inner Circle.
Nyx has never seen his father so full of rage as he fights off the monsters and puts them back in their cells. He finally understands why his father is called Death Incarnate, why he is the most powerful High Lord in all of Prythian.
It is then that Nyx realizes he’s not ready to lead. How utterly unprepared he is. He almost led his sisters and cousins to their deaths--all because he wanted to prove he was the heir.
After they are all healed, Nyx and his father have a heart to heart about what happened. There’s lots of hard discipline, but a lot of worry from a father for his son. Nyx understands what he did and why it was severely wrong, but he doesn’t feel ready to face his sisters and cousins. And certainly not ready to face his aunts and uncles. He tells his father that he needs to leave. That he needs time away to figure himself out. Rhys understands.
He tells his father he’s going to the Continent.
which is a lieee.
The only person he leaves a letter for is Atlas. He tells her she’s the strongest of them and that he’s always known. He tells her where exactly he’s going and to not tell anyone until the time is right. Finally, he tells her he loves her and that he’s sorry he didn’t say it enough.
Nyx goes to Orion’s lab. He follows that tug, the line that gets tighter and tighter. He has no reason to believe this, but he just knows it’s going to work. He trusts in that pull in his chest.
He feels himself winnow, focuses on the calculations Orion had for the next planet over, and he disappears into night, into nothing.
It’s the most painful winnowing experience he’s ever had. He feels like his body is being torn in every direction but he grips that pull, that line, and before he knows what’s happening it’s over.
He lands on soft grass. His ears won’t stop ringing and the wound at his neck and head feels like it’s opened up again. He turns over and vomits his guts out onto the soft, green grass.
He hears running coming towards him, but he can’t move. He’s in pain and he can’t care about where he is and how this suddenly felt like his second absolutely idiotic decision in the last two days.
He feels blood dripping down his back and knows he’s torn open his stitches.
“Are you okay?” He hears a female call out. She sounds far away.
“Fuck no,” he coughs, his head feeling like it did when Typhon tried to rip it off his shoulders.
Above him, he sees a blonde female with the greenest eyes looking down at him, worried and panicked.
“He came from literally nowhere,” a male voice said.
But he doesn’t care about what the male is saying. All he cares about is for a moment there’s no more pain. There’s just a cracking in his chest that doesn’t hurt but feels like the clearest breath of air. He feels that line, that thing that felt like fate, snap into place. The blonde female with the green eyes seems to be feeling something, too.
Right as Nyx is about to lose consciousness, he hears another male shout, “Go get Uncle Rowan right fucking now!”
The last thing Nyx sees before his eyes close are those green eyes.
I’m totally writing a fic on what went down at the Prison, now. That ending got a little meta and I’m not sure how to feel about it, but I couldn’t resist. I love the idea of a crossover and Nyx and Rowaelin’s daughter being mates.
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A Favor: Part Nineteen
Nessian Modern AU
a/n: another chapter where the girls are clowns and cassian worships nesta's every breath 🙄 i promise some variety is headed your way soon
Gwyn adamantly refuses to accept any gifts for her birthday, much to Emerie’s irritation and Nesta’s relief. No amount of love for her friends can make Nesta enjoy the turmoil of hunting for the perfect gift, and she happily shows up at Gwyn’s apartment that night with nothing save for an overnight bag.
Gwyn easily has the nicest home out of all three of the girls, and it makes Nesta feel oddly proud to have a financially stable friend. Nesta herself has been flacking on her legal consultant duties to Night Court Inc., choosing to make do with the money she’s already earned while focusing on school.
Once they’ve all changed into sleep clothes and are settled around the living room coffee table with a cupcake and a glass of wine each, Gwyn pulls out a brightly colored bracelet-making kit with a sheepish grin. “I found this while I was looking through my childhood things,” she says, opening the kit. “You guys aren’t too grown for it, are you?”
“Depends,” Emerie hums, leaning over to get a closer look. “Is it Rainbow Loom?”
She gets her answer when Gwyn dumps out bundles of multicolored string instead of rubber bands onto the table. Looking disappointed, Emerie plucks up a handful of string. “Fine, I guess I can make do.”
Nesta licks cream cheese frosting off her thumb. “How do you make them? The bracelets?”
She’s met with two dumbfounded stares. “Have you never been to a thirteen year old’s slumber party?” Gwyn says.
When Gwyn and Emerie keep staring, Nesta feels the need to add, “I’ve never been to a sleepover. This is my first.” She was never one to be invited to sleepovers or social gatherings; even when she made acquaintances in middle and high school, they were just that—acquaintances.
“That’s… actually kind of sad,” Emerie says. Gwyn elbows her hard, making her yelp.
“I never thought of it that way,” Nesta says, shrugging. Though maybe it’s because a lot of things about her childhood were sad; it isn’t like she kept count of it all.
“Well, you can learn how to make bracelets now,” Gwyn states, taking out a little plastic baggie and emptying it out onto the table. Small silver charms scatter everywhere. “Everyone gets three colors and one charm.”
Nesta leans forward, making out the different charms. She spies one in the shape of a book, and another in the shape of a dove, and one in the shape of a music note. She snatches up the eighth note before anyone else can. Gwyn takes the book for herself, and Emerie considers the selection of charms before picking a dagger-shaped one. They prepare their string next.
“Now, we can either braid them or knot them.” Gwyn demonstrates how to do it either way, Nesta watching closely before imitating her. She braids the strings of her bracelet as best she can, her cheeks turning red with frustration whenever she spies one of the other girls’ perfect knots. Her half-eaten cupcake is forgotten as she tries to get her bracelet to stay together.
At one point she just has to accept the shoddy work she’s done and tie the bracelet off. She checks to see if it fits on her wrist.
“Now everyone give their bracelet to the person on their left,” Gwyn declares.
Nesta clutches her sloppily-made bracelet to her chest as Emerie responds, “What?”
“So we can wear each other’s bracelets,” Gwyn explains. “And carry around a part of each other all the time.”
“If I had known we were gonna be sentimental, I wouldn’t have picked the cute charm,” Emerie grumbles. Nesta agrees, but Gwyn just clicks her tongue and starts switching bracelets around. In the end, Nesta has Emerie’s dagger bracelet, Gwyn has Nesta’s music note bracelet, and Emerie has Gwyn’s book charm.
Nesta wiggles her bracelet on and turns her wrist over in the light. “That was fun,” she decides. “What happens next at a sleepover?”
“Next,” Gwyn says, “we exchange our most embarrassing secrets with each other, and then we do each other’s hair.”
Emerie shakes her head. “Okay, now I’m really too old for this. Anyone want to watch a movie?”
Gwyn nudges Emerie. “I’m the old one here, and it’s my birthday.” She raises her pert chin in a way that doesn’t look very grown up at all. “What I say goes.”
Emerie flicks up an eyebrow and stares in challenge, which Nesta interrupts by saying, rather exasperatedly, “I’ll go first, then.”
She digs around in her head for something embarrassing enough to be socially acceptable, only to realize that although a lot of embarrassing things have happened to her before, none of them are secrets. She finally settles on an admission. “When I was a kid, I had a thing for breaking and entering into rich people’s empty houses and hanging out in them. Does that count as a secret?”
Gwyn gapes, laughing in disbelief. “Are you going to leave it at that?”
“That actually sounds fun.” Emerie swirls her wine. “Why’d you stop?”
Nesta had almost forgotten. “I got caught.” She remembers the terror of being fourteen and fleeing past cherry blossom trees on her bare feet. “The owner’s family showed up early to vacation one year, and I never risked going back after that.” She shrugs. “Who’s next?”
Gwyn raises her hand excitedly. “I used to be a hardcore Gleek. Like, I had a closet full of Glee memorabilia.”
Nesta doesn’t quite know what to say. Emerie winces. “Maybe you should’ve kept that one a secret.”
“It was only one facet of my entire theatre kid personality. Should I tell you about the rest?”
Emerie raises her hands in surrender. “Please don’t. I’ll go next if it makes you stop.”
Gwyn laughs and Nesta perks up. “What’s your secret?” She hopes Emerie will finally admit to filling their shared Kindle account with lesbian spanking fiction.
But Emerie suddenly gets serious, clearing her throat and fingering the stem of her wine glass. “I might have the worst secret,” she says awkwardly. “I haven’t been honest with you guys.”
Nesta straightens, and Gwyn looks intrigued.
“In my defense,” Emerie says, “I never expected all of us to end up hanging out this much. Before Nesta and I became friends, all I did was show up to school to kick rich kids’ asses and make career connections.”
“Spit it out, Emerie,” Nesta tells her.
So she does. “I’ve been lying about my age.” Her cheeks turn red, either from alcohol or embarrassment, Nesta doesn’t know.
Nesta furrows her brows. “You’re not twenty-four?”
Emerie shakes her head in guilt.
“How old are you, then?” Gwyn says.
Emerie mutters something too low for them to hear. When Gwyn tells her to repeat herself, she says, too loudly, “Twenty-eight.”
She’s met with silence, and then—
Gwyn starts cackling, nearly keeling over. Nesta can only stare in shock. “Why would you—?”
“Because school is a shark tank,” Emerie says. “Everyone else went there straight out of undergrad, and I had to work four jobs for four years just to afford tuition. Being old at Prythian means being poor.” She quietens, looking down at her brown hands twisted together. “And by the time we started to get close, it felt too weird to bring up. So… I’m sorry?” She looks up to see if Nesta is upset.
Nesta doesn’t know what to feel, but Gwyn seems to. “You called me old,” she accuses. “You’re nearly a grandma!”
“Were you going to lie about your age forever?” Nesta interjects.
“If I had known there was going to be a forever, I would have opened up a lot sooner,” Emerie defends.
Nesta drops her head onto the table and covers her ears with her arms. “This is so weird,” she says against the wood of the table, her voice muffled. “I can never look at you the same way ever again.”
“That’s fair,” Emerie says cautiously. “But are you really mad?” Nesta feels a hesitant hand touch her shoulder.
“I need time to process,” Nesta says from her cocoon. Suddenly she hears a hum and a click, and her cocoon gets even darker. Gwyn and Emerie make twin sounds of surprise.
Poking her head up, Nesta blinks to find total darkness in the apartment. The heater has stopped running, leaving behind a quiet stillness.
“Shit,” Gwyn curses, fumbling with her phone. The flashlight turns on, lighting up her face. “I swear I paid my electric bill.”
“I don’t think it’s just you,” Emerie says, getting up to look out the window. “Look, the whole street is out.”
By the time they gather some candles and light them, the apartment has dropped twenty degrees in temperature. Nesta shudders, wishing she’d brought some warm pants with her.
“Let me get us some blankets,” Gwyn says, running off to the linen closet. Emerie and Nesta huddle together on the couch while they wait.
“So you’re really not mad at me?” Emerie asks, hope in her voice.
“Not mad,” Nesta says. “But I think we all lost a little respect for you back there.”
Emerie smiles. “Just a little?”
Gwyn comes back then wearing a thick sweater and carrying a pile of comforters. “I got a text from the landlord,” she says, unceremoniously dropping the blankets onto the couch. “Ice took out the power lines in the whole neighborhood, and we’re not getting any electricity until morning.”
“But it’s negative temperatures outside,” Nesta protests. “We’ll freeze to death.”
“Not if we all cuddle.” Gwyn tries to beam at them, but the effort is futile. “I’m sorry, guys,” she sighs, plopping onto the couch beside Nesta. “This is a terrible birthday celebration.”
Nesta wraps an arm around Gwyn and tucks her into her side, soaking up her warmth as Emerie spreads a heavy comforter over all of their legs. “What are you apologizing for? You did nothing wrong.”
The girls sit in silence for a few minutes until Emerie speaks up. “I wonder what Mr. Madani is doing right now.”
“What?” Nesta frowns.
“He’s probably all alone in his fancy heated cabin, unaware that you’re stuck in the cold dark.” Emerie suddenly smacks Nesta’s arm. “Hey. Why are we freezing our asses off here when you practically own that cabin?”
“I do not practically own that cabin,” Nesta splutters. “And this is Gwyn’s birthday. Why would I take you to Cassian’s place on her birthday?”
“Exactly!” Emerie says. “It’s Gwyn’s birthday, and she deserves better than this. Can’t your boyfriend be a little charitable and share his nice house with us?”
Nesta turns to Gwyn for help, but Gwyn just says carefully, “...Is it a big cabin?”
Emerie nods fiercely, pulling out her phone. “Eris has a picture of it from New Year’s on his Instagram. You wouldn’t believe how much money these Night Court execs make.”
Nesta makes pointed eyes at Gwyn. “You really want to spend your birthday with two strange men?” Cassian and Azriel aren’t exactly meek, nonthreatening men either—at least not at first glance. Considering the state Gwyn was in just some weeks ago, this doesn’t sound like a good idea at all.
Gwyn sounds wary but open-minded when she says, “You trust them, right? And it’s not like we’re going to let the guys join our sleepover. We’re just going to have a warm place to stay while we wait for my power to come back.”
When it’s phrased like that… Nesta purses her lips, thinking.
“Fine,” she finally decides. “Let’s go.”
Nesta strips off her jeans almost as soon as she enters the cabin. Much to Cassian’s pride and pleasure, this leaves her wearing only one of his old sweatshirts. Meanwhile, Gwyn and Emerie stand around awkwardly in the middle of the living area without knowing what to do next.
“Make yourselves at home.” Cassian grins at them. “Do you need anything? Food? Drinks?”
“Stop worrying,” Nesta groans. “We don’t need to be mothered.”
“I totally hear you,” he nods. “I’ll make cookies.” And maybe some hot drinks. It’s supposed to be a birthday party, after all.
Just then, Azriel appears at the top of the stairs in a dark hoodie and sweats. He’s halfway down the steps when he notices the living room full of girls and promptly turns around.
Cassian calls his name before he can escape. “Want to help me out in the kitchen?”
“No, thanks,” Az says over his shoulder, leaving Cassian alone to play host.
While Gwyn and Emerie admire the cabin (“There’s a gym down the hallway and a library upstairs,” Nesta points out to them), Cassian gathers baking ingredients in the kitchen. He rarely eats desserts or junk food, much less makes them, but surely he can manage a snack for the girls.
When he returns to the living room half an hour later with cookies and mugs of hot chocolate, the coffee table has been moved out of the way and replaced with a spread of blankets and pillows. The fire crackles hotly enough that Gwyn and Emerie have joined Nesta in discarding any extra clothing articles, and they all cheer from the couch when they spy the food.
“Goddamn,” Emerie whistles at the platter of cookies on Nesta’s lap. “Nesta told us you were a catch, Mr. Madani, but she didn’t tell us she got the full housewife package.”
“Shut up.” Nesta shoves a cookie into Emerie’s mouth and passes Gwyn some hot chocolate. Any toughness vanishes when she looks back at Cassian. “Thank you,” she mouths, and he answers by smoothing out her ponytail.
Satisfied with his work and feeling guilty for crashing the girls’ fun, he’s about to call it a night when he feels a tug at his pants. Nesta is looking up at him with eyes that ask him to stay. Cassian glances nervously to Gwyn and Emerie, who are arguing about what movie to watch from his extensive streaming collection, and glances back to Nesta. Are you sure? he asks her silently.
She nods, but it isn’t until Gwyn says, “Just sit down, you’re blocking the TV,” that he indeed sits his ass down on the floor by Nesta’s feet.
A short tug of war between Gwyn and Emerie results in Emerie getting the remote. She blows a hair triumphantly out of her face. “No Planet Earth documentary for you, then,” she says.
Gwyn sits back, grumbling, “You’d think I’d get treated better on my damn birthday.” Nesta adds, “I like documentaries.”
“You’ll like The Proposal even more,” Emerie refutes, scrolling through the TV.
The smell of melting chocolate chips must invade the rest of the cabin, because not long after the movie begins, Cassian catches Azriel sneaking downstairs. As subtle as a shadow, no one even notices him until he plucks up a cookie from the side table by Nesta.
She slides her eyes over to him without turning her head. “You look like a punk with your hood up,” she snorts. “What are you, fifteen?”
From the floor, Cassian withholds a sigh.
Az shoots her a dark look, clearly not appreciating the attention brought to his presence. “Don’t be a little shit,” he warns in a low tone. He reaches for another cookie and Nesta bats his hand away. “Those aren’t for you,” she hisses.
“Can we please not—” Cassian tries.
Az glares and goes for the cookie again. Nesta smacks him back, which results in a slap fight that is only interrupted by Gwyn pleading, “Guys, we’re missing Sandra Bullock!”
Nesta pulls away, looking apologetic, and Az flushes pink. “Sorry,” he mutters. But he snatches up three cookies with a final look at Nesta and goes to sit in the armchair on the other side of the room.
Nesta, Gwyn, and Emerie get cozy once more, quickly forgetting that Az is there. Emerie stretches her brown legs out across Gwyn’s lap like a cat. Nesta drapes her own leg over Cassian’s shoulder without warning. He turns around to meet her eyes, surprised, but she’s already intently focused on the movie. Smiling faintly to himself, he reaches up to brush her skin. It probably looks to everyone else like she owns him head to toe.
One thing Cassian quickly learns about the girls is that they simply can’t sit still. Even Nesta is more restless than usual, and she nearly kicks Cassian in the head more than once while readjusting herself on the couch. Emerie moves to sprawl on the rug. Gwyn sits upside down and watches with her head dangling off the seat.
As for Cassian, he loses all interest in the movie once Nesta joins him and Emerie on the floor, unable to contain her emotions from the couch. He glances between the movie and her face to find what’s making her so giddy, but it’s only the two main characters getting ready for a shower. He lifts a brow in amusement for no one to see, but settles back to watch her face in the glow of the dying fire. He’s waiting for her smile.
Because when Nesta really likes something, she’ll smile, and when she smiles… Everything scrunches up: her nose, her eyes, her cheeks.
On the TV, a naked Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock collide into each other, toppling to the floor. Nesta’s grin makes an appearance, and she slaps Cassian’s thigh in excitement, hard enough to hurt.
He hisses in a sharp breath, but doesn’t say anything or look away. He thinks he might have to kill anyone that refuses to protect the smile on her face right now, no matter who it is.
Once the scene changes, he walks two fingers up her leg to get her attention. “Nesta,” he whispers, unable to help himself.
She glances at him for half a second before looking back to the movie. “What?”
He opens his arms and gestures her closer. Come and let me hold you.
Nesta makes a face. “Don’t embarrass me in front of the girls.”
Cassian’s lips turn down. “You don’t mean that.”
She does. To prove her point, she crawls closer to Emerie and settles down next to her. Gwyn joins them on the floor, and they all huddle together.
When he catches Az staring at him with a hint of revulsion, Cassian coughs off the yearning and rejection and glares right back.
After the movie finishes, Emerie victoriously crushes an empty can of beer in her fist. Cassian has no idea where it came from. “More Sandra!” she demands.
It takes three more movies before Emerie is knocked out cold on the arrangement of blankets and pillows on the floor, Gwyn with her. Nesta eventually came back to Cassian and fell asleep with her arms wrapped around his waist, and Azriel passed out sometime after Miss Congeniality, curled up in the armchair with his fist propping up his head.
Now, Cassian carefully untangles Nesta from himself, nudging her towards Emerie instead. In her sleep, Nesta turns over to clutch the other woman’s arm and mumbles something unintelligible.
Cassian props a pillow gently beneath her head and picks up another one, throwing it harder than he needs to at Azriel’s face. “Get up,” he hisses.
Az jerks out of his sleep, looking around the dim room in confusion. Cursing lowly, he pushes himself out of his seat and scrubs a hand through his hair. “What time is it?”
“Three.” Cassian pulls a comforter over Nesta and Emerie’s shoulders.
Az crouches and picks up the other side of the comforter, adjusting it over Gwyn’s body. Cassian thinks he might see a frown cross his face for half a second, but then Az is standing up and brushing off his clothes.
After turning off the TV, the guys head for their rooms. “I didn’t think three grown women could be so... much,” Az says as they climb up the stairs.
Cassian huffs a laugh. “We were like that when we were younger, too.”
“Yeah, but we were teenagers.”
They reach the hallway. “I don’t know about the others,” Cassian says thoughtfully, “but Nesta never got to be a normal kid.” She barely got to be a normal adult. And in a couple of short years, she’ll be working her ass off at some prestigious firm and won’t have time for simple things like sleepovers anymore.
Cassian selfishly hopes he can give Nesta all the normalcy he can before that happens.
a/n: i’m gonna do my best in future chapters to give cassian depth beyond just his relationship with nesta 🥴 but first, be on the lookout for a gwynriel bonus scene :)
tags: @hellasblessed @sjm-things @thewayshedreamed @drielecarla @valkyriewarriors @superspiritfestival @aliveahaahahafuck @cupcakey00 @sayosdreams @rainbowcheetah512 @claralady @thebluemartini @nessiantho @missing-merlin @duskandstarlight @lucy617 @sleeping-and-books @everything-that-i-love @cassianscool @swankii-art-teacher @awesomelena555 @julemmaes @wickedqueenoffantasy @poisonous-bloom @observationanxioustheorist @gisellefigue08 @courtofjurdan @theoverlyenthusiasticwriter @wolfiixxx @cass-nes @seashade @royaltykxx @illyrianundercover @queenestarcheron @monstrousloves-explodinggalaxies @humanexile @that-golden-lyre @agentsofsheilds @mercy-is-alive @cassiansbigwingspan @laylaameer01 @verypaleninja @maastrash @bow-dawn @perseusannabeth @dead-on-the-inside666 @jlinez @hungryreadingaddict @anidealiveson @planet-faerie @shallowhighwaters @ghostlyrose2 @chosenfamily-valkyriequeens @rarephloxes @readiajin @nessiantrashh @live-the-fangirl-life @ifinallygavein @xoblivisci @sjmships @jungtaekwoonie-is-life @lysandra-tiara9 @lanyjoy-13 @frosted-crackers @post-it-notes33 @loosingdreams @fromthelibraryofemilyj @18moneytoad
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Hello pretty souls 💓
Another post for you all to enjoy and this time as promised, I'll get into the details of why Gwyn could potentially be one of the MCs of the next book who will share a POV with Azriel and she is also his potential main love interest.
Reminder: if you disagree, carry on.. there's nothing for you to see here ~
Well! First let tik off a few boxes from the MC checklist and whether or not Gwyn meets those requirement that sets her up to be a main character:￼
✅ Personal history/tragic backstory/dark past
✅ Character development
✅ Obstacles/external+internal conflict
✅ Potential romance (existing build-up)
✅ Undiscovered powers (hinted)
✅ Established friendships/bonds/relationships
✅ Healing journey (not achieved)
✅ Goals/motivation (e.g. Valkyries, leaving the library, braving the outside world)
✅ Mysterious identity/origin (father/grandfather)
I could even add a few more but.. this will suffice for now. You'd probably think by now that oh wow I didn't even think about some of these. I'll explain more key points later but let's move on.
After checking off some of the traits that define a main character, then you'll go back to the question.. alright but what will connect Gwyn to the main plot?
I'll answer that so bear with me, it will be a long answer, I think I'll even write them in points to make it easier to read.
So Gwyn's potential was already established and by the end of ACOSF, she became a fan favorite and nope this isn't a statement I made up, she is adored by the fandom. So, Sarah J Maas fulfilled her purpose with the readers, she made them get attached to Gwyn and fall in love with her.
Let's take into consideration that Koschei is the main villain, while we might confront him again in the next book it is unlikely he will be the actual main villain because he is set to be defeated in Book 6. I think Book 6 will heavily involved Vassa due to her curse (and not as an MC since she will have to return to Koschei at some point). There could be another villain in the next book that works for Koschei (like Brillayn was the main villain of ACOSF).
Anyhow, let's get to Gwyn and the plot:
• Gwyn expressed that she is ready to help the Night Court in anyway she can through researching about the Dread Trove. She might be tasked with researching about the fourth trove and we know it's not unheard of that the IC rely on the ancient texts in the library (even Azriel was mention in ACOMAF that he looked up ancient texts to find more about Amren's origins).
• The Valkyries won the Blood Rite but they are not established as Valkyries yet. I don't mean by training, the IC will probably send them on missions. Why'd you think SJM introduced the idea of Valkyries? Why are Cassian and Azriel wasting their time training them? remember there's a looming war. There are some matters regarding the Valkyries that should be resolved.
• From her backstory, we learned that Gwyn is tied to the Autumn Court. Her father and grandfather are still a mystery. It's possible that she is related to the Vanserras considering that Eris will have more presence in the books and he has his own secrets.
• To add to the previous points, we know that the only Court stirring trouble right now is the Autumn Court and its High Lord Beron. After Briallyn's defeat, I'm pretty sure Rhys will assign Azriel on Autumn Court missions (which were not the first time for Az to go on missions there). We had a glimpse of Az's spying missions with Cassian, but in his book we will have more. It's possible that Gwyn as a Valkyrie might join him and through this mission it will bring her closer to uncovering her origins and the possibility of her revisiting Sangravah which will be in the next point.
• Gwyn revisiting Sangravah will be a very crucial moment. One, because she will finally brave going to her sister's grave. Second, she might run into the children she saved during the raid. I see none other than Azriel, the same person that saved her, accompanying her there.
• Gwyn has a power we do not know about yet. Nesta mentions that she felt a cracking energy around Gwyn and we know that the description of crackling often is connected to Fire magic as once described by Feyre when she felt Beron's power. Gwyn might possibly have Fire magic that she did not unleash yet. How will we see that power ignite if she didn't have her own character arc?
• Since we explained the unlikely chance that Koschei will be the main villain of the next book, the next villain could possibly be Merrill. You'd ask what Merrill has to do with anything about this? Let me point out: 1. There is a spy working for Koschei in the Night Court - 2. Koschei sends his messages through the wind - 3. Merrill we know hears the wind whispering even under the the stone - 4. Merrill's obsession with the other worlds is a red flag. And who is connected to Merrill if she is possibly the next villain working with Koschei? Gwyn.
• Gwyn's healing journey. We know by the end of ACOSF that Gwyn still carries the guilt of her sister's death. Still is convinced that she failed her. Still feels unworthy. How will this be resolved if she did not have her own character arc? why did SJM dedicate some pages of ACOSF to develop and give Gwyn this depth? to be a side character? to be Nesta's friend only? SJM doesn't do anything unintentionally.
• Since each book will be a dual POV, let's talk about Gwyn's connection to Azriel and their healing. Azriel and Gwyn's healing will compliment each other. No one will rely on the other to heal, they will go through it together. Gwyn and Az have their own trauma, they were both victims, both of their mothers were unwanted by their people, they share the same low sense of self-worth, they are looked down upon because of their blood, Azriel being a bastard and Gwyn not being a pure High Fae. These dots connect where Gwyn and Azriel are concerned.
• The romance? by now know that Gwyn and Azriel have something going on. Some people will be like "ugh but they'll be friends-to-lovers and that's boring". Well.. for Azriel and Gwyn it will be unique. Why? Intimacy and love is something neither Gwyn and Azriel explored. Gwyn due to her trauma and Azriel due to his infatuation with unattainable women. The one hint we get from ACOSF about Gwyn each exploring about romance is through reading smutty romances introduced to her by Nesta and Emerie. I think that could be considered a step towards her opening up to the possibilities of romance. Gwyn and Azriel won't only be friends to lovers. Gwyn and Azriel will experience true love together for the first time. They will realize that they could love one another despite their wounds and dark pasts. They will find peace in each other and happiness. Two suffering souls who have found one another and finally saw that there is hope. They will together realize that they are worthy of the happiness and they are worthy the love they'll find in each other.
• Potential love interest? We've seen the chemistry "and yes in the few scenes we had of Gwyn and Azriel they do have something called chemistry". Gwyn and Azriel's interactions are not necessarily romantic but what did we get from them? banter, teasing, challenges, and a sweet moment in his POV where we have seen Az being himself around Gwyn and the reactions of his shadows to her which we have never seen before with anyone. No but really, we all know Azriel keeps his emotions within him but he can often feel rage whether it's because of a failed mission or being upset about things not going his way. This rage is taken out when Azriel gets physical in the ring, nothing else calms him. The reason he leaves to the ring on Solstice was to calm his rage but there was Gwyn. After one conversation with her, he calmed down even his shadows. This male that needs to release his rage using physical force was calmed down by one conversation with Gwyn. That's a big sign because she already makes him feel better. Claim as you well about romantic moments between them being non-existent, there is potential. Remember Aelin and Rowan during their training? they did not have romantic scenes yet but (and I'm not comparing exactly) we saw the chemistry, the banter and the potential. Another point to note is that SJM gave both Gwyn and Azriel something in common, singing. We know how much Gwyn loves singing and the fact that we learn that Azriel sings? Nah SJM you're obviously up to something and I love it. I've always believed that Azriel's love interest will be someone that soothes him and big evidence is SJM had shown us that with Gwyn.
These are my predictions, there could be more but SJM could also twist things around and give us more than what we expect with Gwyn and Azriel.
Let's summarize the key points:
• Gwyn's connection to the Autumn Court (her past, Sangravah, spying missions). The Autumn Court drama will be important for both the plot and Gwyn's arc especially if she is connected to the Vanserras.
• The Valkyries in-action outside training (by the end of ACOSF Its reaffirmed that both Cassian and Azriel will help train them to improve their combat skills + Mor will join them "possibly setting up future Mor and Emerie romance").
• Merrill potential villain arc (SJM gave more details about her than necessary)
• Sarah said the next book will have a Pegasus, we know the mini Pegasus loved Gwyn the most and we might see Pegasi become part of the cavalry forces for the Valkyries. We know according to legends that Valkyries rode Pegasi so it will be no surprise of this happened.
• Gwyn being the one to speak on challenging the Illyrians belief and bringing about change could go hand-in-hand with Azriel facing the Illyrians he despises so much. It's a point addressed by both Rhys ans Cassian about that it was still a battle between them about convincing Azriel that the Illyrians are worth saving (mentioned in ACOSF). Maybe with Gwyn, he will look at them differently.
• Gwyn and Azriel's romance (possible mating bond) + I know the necklace drama was set up by SJM intentionally though I doubt it will be a cat fight between Elain and Gwyn, it will be more about Az realizing what he had done and I think Gwyn's reaction will hit him hard.
• Gwyn's healing arc alongside Azriel since they have some connecting dots between them which gives them a stable healing journey.
I think much more will be unveiled in the next book since what we are basing our predictions off are what we have as of ACOSF.
Based on all this, it's possible that Gwyn will be a main character in Azriel's book. While I did not highlight much on what I predict about Azriel's arc but I know being the complex character that he is, Sarah will uncover a lot of secrets about Azriel that will catch us off guard. Especially that Azriel will be around the Valkyries more, we will see more of him with Gwyn and if Mor joined then we could finally witness the talk scene between them.
I don't see Sarah taking the time to develop a character who is a SA survivor, giving her a tragic backstory, has her own trauma and the healing journey that she is yet to go through, giving her multiple layers, making her distinctive due to her nymph blood and her love for singing, making her play a big part in Nesta's healing, connecting her with others especially Azriel, and just making the reader grow attached to her and love her. This is not just a side character or a plot-device to be used and tossed.
I adore Emerie, but even Emerie didn't get this level of attention and development from SJM as Gwyn did and Emerie was introduced in ACOFAS.
One last important point I want to address is: don't claim that Gwyn's healing journey is over. Not when canon says otherwise. Do not dismiss her unhealed wounds and trauma. We've yet to see her journey.
So my hopes for an Azriel book shared with Gwyn are very high because Sarah laid the groundwork for it in ACOSF. I'm really looking forward to it ❤️
• Gwyn being the one to speak on challenging the Illyrians belief and bringing about change could go hand-in-hand with Azriel facing the Illyrians he despises so much. It's a point addressed by both Rhys ans Cassian about that it was still a battle between them about convincing Azriel that the Illyrians are worth saving (mentioned in ACOSF). Maybe with Gwyn, he will look at them differently.
I'd like to highlight on this specific point after being accused of “Emerie erasure” because for some reason this resurfaced and it isn't the case as I stated obviously I adore Emerie. My focus was on Gwyn's role in the next book as MC with Azriel and this post solely focuses on her. Yes, she was the one with the quotes on challenging the Illyrians and bringing about change (which the Valkyries are always attached to the change I speak of but on my part I'm at fault for failing to elaborate more because I just wanted to highlight on Gwyn since this is a post about her but you can find other posts talking about the Illyrians/Valkyries).
Some of you forget or choose to not acknowledge the Gwyn is connected to the Illyrians regardless because (1. She won the Blood Rite with Emerie, 2. She and Emerie have an elite Illyrian warrior's title = Carynthian, 3. She is a Valkyrie and the one with the Valkyrie knowledge (Valkyries may likely include Illyrian females in their units) AND they will likely be targeted by Illyrians (read end of ACOSF)
So Gwyn's role when it comes to the Illyrians did not stem out of nowhere. The Valkyries will be key players in resisting the Illyrian sexist system and encourage Illyrian females to join them and part of this change includes Cassian and Azriel (who based on what ACOSF built up may likely deal with Illyria). Yes, three important Illyrians are involved here and not just Gwyn.
So, when I'm writing a post about one character, expect the main focus to be about that character and their potential as a supporting MC and love interest to the primary MC who I believe to be Azriel. Sarah did not develop Emerie as much as Gwyn because it is not her turn yet to be an MC (if the next book is about Azriel) and we will see how her story will evolves from then on since Mor also plans to join them. Also, a love interest has the benefit of seeing through the MC and their feelings. Who do you think has the better chance at understanding Azriel's feelings and help him see his own people in a different light? Sure his friends could be a factor in this but also the person that would help is the same person he could be emotionally open with (his love interest here is Gwyn).
This is one of my favorite posts because it fleshes out Gwyn's potential as MC and Sarah did give her so much development and her journey is not over🤍
But if you'd like to continue with that “Emerie erasure” agenda to feel better about yourself go ahead I guess?, funnily enough I've never seen any mention of her in your theories Lol but suddenly you care when it's convenient. That says something huh? Oh yeah.. wasn't she was part of a ship with Azriel? That explains it I guess Lol.
Anyhow, look forward to more posts coming your way and enjoy this one!🤍
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Embers & Light (Chapter 35)
Notes: Thank you to everyone who has been sending me some amazing prompts for E&L over the last few weeks. Incredibly, some of you just seemed to read my mind, so I’ve ticked off quite a few:
Jealous Cassian (of Azriel)
Jealous Nesta (@moodymelanist--I have had this written for maybe 5 months?!)
Nesta & Rhys training
I plan to try and update in two weeks time (16 May) but it all depends on how busy work gets :)
In the meantime, please send me any prompt ideas you have. I can’t promise I’ll write them but some of them will definitely feature in some capacity.
I hope you enjoy it! I loveedddddd writing this chapter so much. Like SO MUCH.
Lastly. if you enjoy reading this please, please, please reblog. It helps reach more people and I’d so appreciate it--thank you!
“I get to have two Archeron sisters this morning.” Cassian grinned wolfishly as he stood atop the sparring rings of the House of Wind with Azriel. “Who knew I’d be so lucky.”
Beside him, Cassian Azriel loosed a barely audible groan on an outward sigh. Together they stood in the sparring rings beside a fully loaded weapon’s rack. Ahead of them, by the arched walls of the House of Wind, Nesta and Feyre had emerged from the stairwell, climbing the last of the stairs with Sala at their heels.
The moment Cassian’s eyes had locked with Nesta’s the words had spewed forth before he could check them. Fuck, was he nervous or had the simple sight of her stoked a cauldron of roiling jealousy and desire inside of him?
Fighting the urge to fling his wings out wide, Cassian tucked in his wings tight to his spine. Allowed his imagination to run away with the thought of launching himself at Nesta and flying them down to his room where he could tear off her leathers and sink his teeth into her neck.
Azriel’s lips quirked upward with enough amusement that his shadows momentarily lightened. Feyre’s eyes widened slightly as a gust of wind spiralled around the sparring ring, no doubt intensifying he and Nesta’s scent. His brother’s mate had enough sense to do what Cassian hadn’t done—keep her mouth shut—but there was a knowing shadow in her irises that told Cassian she had put two and two together.
If Nesta knew what had just happened, she didn’t give any indication. Instead, she snorted with a displeasure he did not feel down that tether as she floated towards them on those lithe and strong legs that had wrapped around his head the night before. “Obvious and predictable,” she scolded, but the ire in her voice was not poisonous. She even held Cassian’s gaze. “I’ll spar with Azriel.”
Cassian didn’t let his smile falter, even though disappointment and… jealousy struck him hard. His eyes narrowed against his will and he folded his arms firmly over his chest. Allowed his muscles to flex in a movement that he knew Nesta would clock. Pathetic. So fucking pathetic. “Azriel has places to be.”
It was true. News had come that morning that Marsh had passed. Azriel had knocked on Cassian’s door in the early hours before dawn, summoning him from the woolly depths of sleep and the warmth of Nesta, who was tucked firmly against his side thanks to his curved wing.
The sharp rap against the door had Cassian snapping upright, his fingers already curling around the knife beneath his pillow, before his drowsy senses caught up with him and he realised that an intruder would not knock or call his name. That they would slip into his room and slit his throat before he could even blink.
And Cassian should have pulled on his pants and stumbled towards the door, but he hadn’t. He had turned to Nesta who was wide awake, her fingers wreathed in silver, her eyes too round and glowing like metallic moonlight.
“It’s Azriel,” Cassian had assured her, pressing his mouth to her fire-wreathed fingers until they flickered out as if they had been kissed by the wind. He could hear her heartbeat in his ears, the pound of her blood, the quickening of her breath. She had been taken in the night before. Those Hybern bastards had kidnapped her. “You’re safe.”
Cassian had slipped outside to find Azriel leaning against the opposite wall, his arms crossed and a brow raised. The Shadowsinger had not commented as Sala slinked into Cassian’s room from where she had been camped out in the hallway and hopped onto the bed, where he’d left Nesta tangled in the sheets.
The aggressive growl that loosed itself from low in Cassian’s throat was not something he was proud of, but it had kept Azriel’s shadows firmly around his brother’s shoulders and face where they belonged, rather than spying into others business.
As usual, Azriel had barely reacted. Had only levelled his brother with what Cassian dissected as a cautious look, as a sleepy Nesta padded out of the bedroom moments later and demanded to know what was going on.
The regal stubbornness to her expression had been one of the most endearing things Cassian had ever seen, especially with her mussed hair and with her entire body scenting of… well, him—them. And that pressure in his chest had only soared when she had curled her fingers around his bicep, fastening herself to him, the gesture so casual but everything at the same time as Azriel detailed that Marsh had died and that they should join him at the river house once they had changed.
It had been a subtle slice of time to allow them to quickly bathe. To wash away the surface scent of the night before—not that it made a huge amount of difference. Even Cassian noticed the way in which Nesta’s scent curled around his own, like a thick and delicious cream stirred through a sauce. How he could still taste her on his tongue, smoky and sweet.
Shrugging, Azriel plucked a pair of sparring pads from the weapon’s rack with puckered hands. “My spies are stationed where they need to be. I can stay an hour before I head back to Illyria to get an update.” He handed Nesta some black boxing wraps. “I assume you don’t need my help in putting these on?”
Feyre arched an eyebrow at Cassian. “Looks like you’re stuck with your second favourite student,” she quipped, as they both watched Azriel and Nesta step into the training ring that flanked the rise and fall of the arching walls of the House of Wind.
“I don’t have favourites,” Cassian lied, even though they all knew that was not true. “Now, let’s see whether you have been practicing whilst I’ve been gone.”
Cassian ran Feyre through her paces, slowly warming her up. After one round of boxing he was shaking his head at her in dismay. “Your footwork is messy, Archeron.”
“You’re not being very encouraging,” Feyre grumbled, but she reset her posture with a look of grim determination, the length of her tight braid swaying as she flipped it over her shoulder. Then, she ordered in a way that sung Nesta, “Tell me.”
“You’re not pivoting on your foot when you’re swinging those hooks,” Cassian told her sternly. “And don’t forget to reset your hands after each punch, you’re leaving your face wide open. I can’t have my High Lady getting smacked right in the nose, can I? Try it again and then we’ll rest for two.”
By the time he let Feyre get water she was grumbling at him. “I forgot how harsh you can be,” she said as she took a sip of water.
Cassian cut her a glance, smiling in a way that did nothing to erase the tension bracketing his mouth. “It gets the best results.”
Feyre followed Cassian’s gaze to where Nesta was in the middle of a round with Azriel. The Shadowsinger was cushioning every strike with his pads as Nesta worked through a myriad of punches and kicks. Cassian could tell by the rhythm Nesta had lost herself in that she was working on instinct rather than any routine Azriel had dictated. At her fingers, mist had started to swirl but it was calmer than he had expected. Silver blazed through shadow as she pounded Azriel’s palms time and time again.
“Is that the method you use with Nesta?” Feyre asked with a small shake of her head. “I wouldn’t have thought that method would work with her.”
A noise of agreement sounded in the back of Cassian’s throat. Nobody had been more surprised than him when Nesta hadn’t massacred him on the spot for issuing orders at her in the training ring. Not that he used the routine barks he threw at his soldiers with her; he wasn’t that keen for an early death. Instead, he used level instruction and only rewarded her with praise when it was deserved.
It was what had established a foundation of mutual respect between them. Cassian didn’t patronise or over-embellish Nesta with encouragement and she respected and took on-board his expertise. With time, that respect had stretched its rayed fingers into their life outside of the sparring ring, smoothing over sharp words and bites, like sunlight blooming from the horizon as it climbed the skies.
It had led to whatever last night had been. As usual, Cassian didn’t know what any of it truly meant. What he did know was that Nesta had slid her hand into his in Rhys’s study as Azriel detailed what he had learnt about Marsh. Her fingers had threaded through his unconsciously, their selves momentarily entwined and fused despite the audience. She had let him fly her back to the house and tug her back to his room for a few more hours of sleep, even though he’d wanted to do anything but sleep.
Pride surged through Cassian as Nesta spun on her heel and delivered a kick to the sparring pads with her foot, the blow so sharp that Azriel had to take a step back to steady himself. It was a force that should not have thrown his brother. Feyre caught it too.
“She’s as lethal as I thought she would be,” Feyre admitted, her voice full of awe. They watched Azriel push Nesta away as she went for a knee in the groin. Nesta immediately righted herself before launching herself back at him with a fierce round of punches, until Azriel called time. “I know I’ve seen her in combat,” Feyre continued. “But there’s something different in seeing her train hand-to-hand. She truly likes being in the ring.”
Cassian nodded. “Nesta is a natural. The focus tames her fire and thoughts.”
He jerked his chin to where Nesta and Azriel trained. Azriel had ditched the pads and was blocking punches with his arms, practicing openings with Nesta so she could attack on the offence.
“Watch,” Cassian instructed Feyre lowly. “See how Nesta took advantage of that opportunity? Az purposefully dropped his elbow to see whether she’d notice it.” He grimaced at Feyre and pinned her with a stern look. “That’s what you’re doing with your elbow. You’re getting sloppy. This,” he tapped Feyre’s the bend in her arm, “remains here.” He moved it so it was tucked in tightly to her body. “Dominant hand by your ear, other one by your mouth, that’s it. Now, let’s go again and then we break.”
Feyre was panting hard by the time Cassian put her through her paces for a second time. Spying that they had paused, Azriel also called for a break, and he and Nesta strode to meet them at the water table.
“Here,” Feyre greeted Nesta, pouring her sister some water from the tall ewer and offering it to her.
Delivering a short nod of thanks, Nesta took the glass. She was breathing hard and Cassian tracked the rivulet of sweat that was trickling down the side of her temple. She used her arm to dab it away and then took a few gulps of water.
Cassian made himself look away and focus his attention on his brother. Tried to rid himself of the thought of licking away the sweat and sinking his teeth into her neck. “You look like you’ve worked up a sweat.”
Azriel bowed his head at Nesta. “I was put through my paces.”
Nesta’s lips twitched and Cassian tried to dampen the jealousy that ignited inside of him at that faint trace of a smile. It had taken him months to get that out of her; he had endured barbed words and insults, battering and maims, tears and stony, vacant silence. Azriel had endured none of that and had been lucky enough to be graced with something Cassian had chased after for weeks—months.
The Shadowsinger’s hazel eyes darkened as they clocked Cassian’s territorial expression, but he didn’t comment. Only asked cooly, “What do you want me to do?”
It was an opportunity for Cassian to assign Azriel to Feyre, but Cassian pushed away the temptation. He hadn’t trained with Feyre in months and she was rusty enough that it was his duty to spend some time correcting her technique.
“Run through defensive moves with Nesta and then pick up the longsword. Nesta will tell you what we have been working on.” Cassian levelled the eldest Archeron sister with a pointed gaze. “Blast it up,” he told her. “Short bursts. Don’t expel it all at once. Control not excess.”
Nesta’s fire wasn’t something Cassian tended to instruct her on now. They had fallen into a regular enough routine that Cassian didn’t bat an eyelid when fire roared from her palms. In fact, for the most part Nesta had it reigned it under control. But they were in Velaris, where Cassian knew the strain of stale memories were taking their toll. And when Nesta was rundown her fire had a tendency to become wild and unpredictable.
She needed release—an opportunity to release some of her seemingly bottomless magic—and whilst Nesta’s fire had blazed across the room when he’d brought her to completion multiple times the night before, Cassian did not doubt that she would benefit from expelling more of it.
Perhaps when they were back in Illyria, Cassian could see to that more than once. And the thought of fucking Nesta anywhere in the House… Cassian threw a blanket over the thought, dousing the flames that threatened to roar to life and boil his blood.
Cassian was so preoccupied with not thinking about Nesta inappropriately that he drifted through Feyre’s drills, his focus that of a crescent moon, desire having taken a ravenous, greedy bite.
If he’d had his wits about him, he would have registered how Azriel bled in and out of shadow, flashing in and out of being, his foot hooking behind Nesta’s ankle and bringing her to the ground at the same time his arm twisted around her waist, flipping her onto her front.
There was a lancing flash of panic and Cassian tasted his heart in his mouth, the frantic beat of it thrashing like a fish out of water.
One moment Cassian was with Feyre and the next he had launched himself across the space between the training rings. Silver flame and ruby red got there first, Nesta acting on terrified instinct, the move Cassian had drilled into her over and over until she was sore and panting. Nesta jerked her head back, slamming her skull into Azriel’s nose so hard Cassian heard the crunch of bone. Then, she twisted and her hands were thrown out in front of her. Mercury fire blended with an explosion of ruby light, blasting into Azriel with a force that sent him careening backwards.
The snarl that unleashed itself from Cassian was wholly beast and it was only Nesta panting and shaking on the ground that stopped him from tearing at his brother with his talons and teeth.
But Sala was there, shooting across the distance between Nesta and the shadowsinger in a blur of wings and lean, unyielding muscle. She skidded to her feet so she was only inches from Azriel’s face and loosed a warning roar that was so ferocious, snow toppled off the mountains as the land shook.
Azriel—the stony faced, expressionless Shadowsinger—propped himself up onto an elbow and blinked in shock, as if he were trying to piece together what had happened. Blood ran down his nose but the remorse on his face was genuine.
“You stupid prick,” Cassian snapped as he thudded to his knees beside Nesta, ignoring the sharp pain that sluiced through his kneecaps. His wings were stretched out so wide his muscles burned, the gesture hostile but he couldn’t think beyond the terror that had coursed down the bond that was usually so constructed. He wrapped a wing protectively around Nesta’s shoulders. “What the fuck were you thinking?”
Nesta’s fingers gripped Cassian’s arm, the touch a silent warning, as she quickly sat up and searched for Azriel. When she saw his bleeding nose her magic disappeared in a wisp of smoke carried by the wind. “Did I burn you?”
Panic slicked her voice like oil—a partner to her pale face and worried expression. Cassian didn’t have to see through her leathers to know that the pyrite at her chest was gleaming scarlet. His siphons were winking, his protective magic sparked to life at what Nesta had perceived to be a threat. And Sala, she was still bent low, her tail whipping agitatedly from side to side.
But the manticore stepped back so Azriel could slowly uncurl from the floor. The shadowsinger bowed his head with such sincere apology that Cassian would have usually felt bad for snarling. But all he could think about was how he wanted to slam a fist into his brother’s face. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think,” Azriel apologised, his usual stoic expression awash with regret.
“What were you using your shadows for,” Cassian bit out, using his magic to crack Azriel’s nose back into place.
The shadowsinger grunted in pain, wiped away the blood with the back of his hand, before he levelled Cassian with a dead-eyed stare. “I was making it more challenging.”
Cassian growled and his fists clenched. “You know better—“
“It’s fine,” Nesta cut in, but Cassian could tell from the weariness cloying her voice that she was frayed and raw. “Sala,” she called. The manticore held Azriel’s stare with glowing eyes for a few more beats, but then she butted her head roughly into his side—as if she were admonishing a cub rather than a five hundred year old shadowsinger—before she padded back to Nesta. “Let me heal your nose,” Nesta said to Azriel. “I can stop the bleeding—“
But Azriel held up a hand with a shake of his head, but his eyes were not on Nesta but Cassian, as if he was waiting for his brother to launch himself across the ring and attack. “It’s all right. ”
Nesta’s gaze flitted briefly to Cassian’s, as if she was putting together the workings of their mind, but the steely, blue depths of her eyes also secretly requested something else.
“Let’s switch partners for defensive,” Cassian ordered. He straightened and held out a hand so he could pull Nesta to her feet.
Her hand was ice cold and Cassian could have sworn something crackled between them—her fingers thawing as he channelled all of his warmth into her palm.
“Want to stop?” Cassian asked Nesta when Feyre and Azriel had distanced themselves.
Nesta narrowed her eyes and ignored the concerned glances Feyre was tossing her way. It wasn’t a glare but a conflicted frown. “No.”
“Want to pummel your fists at me?”
Nesta huffed but otherwise remained silent. Crossed her arms over her chest, blocking out the world. Looked away from him towards the city below with an intent that was too deliberate.
Desperate for a reaction, Cassian tugged teasingly at the stray strand of hair that had wound itself free from her braid. “Care to wrestle skin-on-skin, sweetheart?”
“What and make another wet dream of yours come true? Absolutely not,” Nesta snapped, batting his hand away.
Cassian barked a laugh of triumph. In the corner of his eye, he could see Feyre and Azriel looking over at them. He could almost sense his brother’s sigh of long-suffering despite the space between them. That, and the remorse that still clung to him as thickly as his shadows. Cassian knew Azriel hadn’t meant to scare Nesta. Knew that his brother had been far too removed recently, that he was no doubt exhausted from trying to track down Kallon, to have thought with a level head.
“I’m just saying I wouldn’t be opposed to making things a little more interesting,” Cassian taunted with a gleam in his eye, knowing that this was what Nesta needed: banter and distraction to smooth over the painful memories. “You were game last night.”
To Cassian’s surprise, the air around them turned heavy, like a blanket of stars casting their jewelled eyes down on them. Jasmine and vanilla thickened in the atmosphere, winding with Cassian’s pine and musk as Nesta unflinchingly met his stare. “And here I was thinking that the sparring ring was sacred to you.”
“Seeing you in those leathers has me wrestling with my self-restraint, sweetheart.”
The surprise that set alight Nesta’s eyes had Cassian wanting to reach for her. To kiss her. For all of Nesta’s confidence, Cassian knew she was self-conscious in her leathers. Whilst it had only showcased how thin she’d become when she’d first joined him four months ago, the material now clung to every muscle and curve.
Cassian had always thought Nesta stunningly attractive—the sort that hit you as sharp as whiplash. Even when she was gaunt and hollow and trauma had gilded her every breath, Nesta had still been mesmerising to him. But as she slowly began to train and eat, ditching her old vices, her very self emitted a healthy aura. It radiated from her skin, singing as magnificently as when she called forth her healing power.
Silver crackled threateningly at Nesta’s fingertips and her eyes glinted with cunning fire. “Go and cool off somewhere, bat.”
“Not a chance, sweetheart,” Cassian responded with a shit-eating grin. “I’d rather spend my time trying to persuade you to take another tussle in the sheets with me.”
“And I’d rather make you wait,” Nesta announced with an air of finality. “You’re far too cocky this morning.”
“I can wait,” Cassian assured her with a wink, even as his blood heated. He stalked over to the weapon’s rack and pulled off a longsword, which he handed to Nesta. She levelled the weight of the weapon in her hand, flipped the handle so she could inspect the circumference of the blade with an ease that shouldn’t have surprised him.
“Thirty minutes one-on-one with the sword,” Cassian told her. “More if you fail to remember the correct step-work I taught you before Solstice. Then I’ll have you go up against your sister so I can correct you both from a distance. If you want to stop just say and it’s done.”
But Nesta didn’t ask him to stop and Cassian ended the session by blasting his magic into the air and having Nesta fire arrows at it. Rhys had joined them towards the end of the session, taking over from Azriel to spar with Feyre. Cassian suspected it was an extended form of foreplay for them. He understood how it felt, Cassian thought his blood might leap out of his skin. All he could think about was how Nesta had tasted on his tongue. How she’d moaned and writhed and begged. How he’d spilled across her stomach, her hand a sacred touch unlike any other.
As they continued to practice, Cassian felt Rhys’s weighted gaze on Nesta as she pierced his scarlet magic with arrow after arrow.
“Relax your bow hand,” Rhys instructed, calling across the sparring ring as Nesta followed the red circle of light which trailed up through the air from the siphon on the back of Cassian’s right hand. He and Feyre had called it for the day and had paused at the water table to rehydrate.
Blindly, Nesta followed the order—Cassian suspected because she hadn’t connected the dots at who had fired the command—before releasing the string. The arrow speared through wind and azure, travelled directly through the core of Cassian’s light. Ruby dispersed in a fizzle of light.
Rhys nodded as Nesta dropped the bow to stare at him. “For the last few shots you’ve had bow torque—it’s slight, but it’s there.”
Nesta’s brows drew together in a motion that would have most assuming that she was irritated, but Cassian knew better. She was thinking, trying to dissect where she went wrong.
Rhys must have sense it too because he pushed of the tall table which hosted the ewer and a scatter of used drinking glasses to walk over to them. Rhys had wings today, probably because the pale sunlight was a perfect excuse to soak up the rare winter warmth.
“May I?” Rhys asked as he drew up beside them and Nesta blinked at the etiquette.
To Cassian’s surprise, Nesta darted a look at him and he felt that uncertainty—the wave of it like nausea.
“Rhys is better at the bow than me,” Cassian admitted to Nesta with a mock grimace. He resettled his stance and crossed his arms over his chest, anything to stop himself from bristling at the thought of Rhys touching Nesta. “Not by much mind,” he added quickly at Rhys’s smug smirk.
But that was enough for Nesta. “Ok,” she conceded with a dip of her chin and Rhys closed the distance.
What Nesta asked next had Cassian’s heart twisting in his chest. It eased the territorial part of him that was clawing to intervene. “Is it bad? The…” she trailed off, clearly unsure of the term Rhys had mentioned.
“The bow torque? No, it’s not too bad,” Rhys assured Nesta as he took the bow from her. His voice dropped so it was softer, less cold, as if he realised how rare it was for Nesta to expose herself as insecure. “It’s ever so slight. The problem is coming from how you’re holding the bow. You need to keep your hand completely relaxed from the time you start drawing back until the arrow has hit its target. You’ve been squeezing the grip so your fingers are twisting outwards when you release the string. You need to let them hang naturally—limp.”
Rhys nocked a new arrow, took stance and drew back the string, making a show of how his hold remained relaxed. Knowing what he wanted, Cassian threw a light into the air for his brother and Rhys tracked it, his body loose yet alert. When the arrow flew, it pierced the heart of Cassian’s light.
“I see what you mean,” Nesta remarked and held out her hand for the bow with silent command. Cassian bit back a proud smile at the determination on her face. He hadn’t failed to notice how closely Nesta had scrutinised Rhys’s bowmanship. How she was now so keen to learn that she readily exposed herself to the possibility of doing something wrong.
“Who has been teaching you?” Rhys asked conversationally, after Nesta had hit three clean bullseyes in a row.
His brother didn’t need to ask. Cassian had already told his Rhys how well Nesta was progressing with the bow, but Cassian appreciated his brother’s efforts to breach the steely gap between himself and his mate’s sister.
Feyre clocked it, too. She had come over to join them but had remained silent. She shot Cassian a surprised look and he lifted an eyebrow in response.
“Lorrian,” Nesta replied, as she placed the bow back onto the weapon’s rack with a gentle snick.
Rhys dipped his chin. “The best then,” he replied.
“Yes.” Then, “Thank you for the help.” Nesta slid her gaze to Cassian. “Are we done?”
“We’re done,” Cassian confirmed. “Go clean up.”
He tracked Nesta’s every movement. Even once she had disappeared through the archway with her sister, he didn’t look away. Not even when Sala’s swaying haunches had faded into the dark and her tail was the only flicker against the depths of the shadowy stairwell; a silver glow.
He thought of Nesta peeling off her leathers in her rooms as she ran a bath. Began to start towards the archway, his legs moving independent of reason, when Rhys commented, “Your mind’s in a gutter, brother.”
Cassian stilled. Loosed a grunt. Made himself grin wolfishly as he turned. “When is it not?”
“How bad is it?”
The urge. That’s what Rhys was referring to. His brother had always known the truth. From the moment Cassian had left the family dinner table as he was plagued of images and sounds of tangled flesh and laboured breathing. Of Nesta entangled with someone else. It had been like shiny, fierce splinters stabbing through his heart. Cassian had escaped to the wine cellar on the pretence of bringing up more wine, only for Rhys to find him and for Cassian to admit what he was sure his brother had expected for a long time.
The next day Feyre had summoned Nesta to the river house and Cassian had taken Nesta to Illyria.
And now Cassian had been granted a taste of Nesta and found his own release. It had made the urge to claim her worse somehow. Cassian felt like his skin was crawling, his blood boiling furiously, pulsing and bubbling like millions of furious hearts trying to tug him towards her.
But Cassian couldn’t voice how bad it was, even though he knew his brother understood. He and Nesta weren’t even mated for fucks sake and Cassian felt like he was going to go out of his mind. How had Rhys managed it with Feyre for months?
“It’s fine,” he said tightly.
“Feyre thought you were going to pummel Azriel into the dirt.”
“I was planning on it,” Cassian gritted out, his fists clenching involuntarily at the memory of Nesta shaking and panting on the floor.
“Feyre called me here.”
Cassian’s head whipped to the side. “Because of Sala? That was just a caution—”
“Not because of Sala. Because of you.”
Because of the testosterone pumping through Cassian’s veins, no doubt. That call to protect and claim that was already driving every thought and transcending every other need.
“I’m fine,” Cassian repeated again. He rubbed his palms over his face to give his body something to do, lest he launch into the air and fly straight through Nesta’s open window.
Cassian bet he could make every previous horror that came with the bathtub from Nesta’s mind with a few strokes of his tongue. And that would mean he could taste her again—
“I’ll spar with you later,” Rhys replied knowingly and he dared to clap Cassian firmly on the shoulder. It jolted Cassian out of his untoward thoughts. “But for now I need you to go and speak with Maya.”
The suite Maya and her daughters had been allocated was situated on the same floor as Cassian’s at the far left of the House, providing a glittering view of the west of the city.
No voices filtered beneath the door from the apartment beyond as he approached and Cassian didn’t pick up any movement either. Instead, the air was hushed and mournful. Painful, in truth—acute and sharp as a needle.
When Cassian rapped his knuckles against the wood of the door, the noise was too loud. The echo whipped around the hallways and clung to the stone; a hollow, lack-lustre energy.
Eventually, Cassian picked up the faint tread of approaching feet. The sound was so soft Cassian wondered if Maya had been trained to walk like a warrior, or, more likely, she had learnt to become a ghost lest she attract unwanted attention at Marsh’s residence.
The heavy wooden door opened a crack and a slice of winter sunshine crept into the hallway from the large windows that ran along the wall opposite. Maya’s large, almond shaped eyes widened when she spied Cassian, but she opened the door a bit further, enough so that Cassian spied Samra sprawled on the ornate couch in front of the hearth, her unmarred wings spread wide and curled around the furniture as it was a blanket moulding to the objects beneath it.
Allie was nowhere to be seen.
As if Maya sensed Cassian’s curiosity, the twin stepped neatly out into the hallway. She moved with feline grace, her posture straight. As it usually was, the twin’s ebony hair was twisted back into its usual double knot at the base of her spine and it gobbled up the light that seeped through the crack in the door, the colour identical to his own—to every other Illyrian.
Clasping her hands in front of her hips across the green woollen fabric of her Illyrian dress, Maya looked expectantly at Cassian. When he did not immediately speak, she said softly, “It is kind of you to visit us again, Lord Cassian.”
Cassian nodded. He had visited Maya only the day before to check she was comfortable and to see whether he could bring them anything. Cassian didn’t know why but he had an instinctive urge to help Maya that he could not ignore. Her plight reminded Cassian of what had happened to his mother and so many females before and after her.
Not that Cassian could truly remember his mother, of course, but what had happened to Maya—the cruelty she and her daughters had suffered—drew out this need in Cassian to protect the females of Illyria—to offer them a hand that hauled them out of the sexism that was engrained so deeply into Illyrian society.
“Is the apartment to your liking?” he asked, ignoring Maya’s curious stare, as if she was dissecting his very self. “You have access to the whole of the House here, you needn’t stay in your rooms. And you are more than welcome to join us at mealtimes in the dining room. It’s situated a level up from here.”
Maya offered him a small, genuine smile, but there was a shrewd quality in the depths of her gaze that reminded Cassian of Frawley, as if the wheels in her brain never stopped turning. “Thank you, but I do not think you are here to be hospitable today.”
There was nothing gracious about lying, especially to someone who had been subject to such a harsh life. So, Cassian conceded, “No, I’m not.”
Maya lifted her head. “Nesta tells me there’s a private library here, Lord Cassian.”
“There is,” Cassian confirmed, wondering how Nesta managed to stop Maya adding a title before her name. Wondered if he’d be able to do the same. “And it’s just Cassian. I’m not a Lord.”
Maya cocked her head. “You are like Nesta. You shy away from your title.”
“It is not mine to claim,” Cassian told Maya. “Surely even in Ironcrest it is no secret that I grew up on the outskirts of the camp.”
Something shifted in Maya’s eyes and it was not pity, but… sad. She looked grievously sad. “Of Windhaven?” she asked, but the way she spoke was for confirmation rather than uncertainty.
“I was born and raised in Spearhead until I was old enough to train. Windhaven after that,” Cassian corrected.
Maya looked away. Opened her mouth to speak but Cassian got their first and her hazel eyes snapped to his. “You have heard of what I did.”
Maya did not shy from his gaze. Only tilted her chin upwards to meet his eye. The faelight torches held by the sconces on the walls lightened her irises, and Cassian noted that they were almost a burnt amber interspersed with lightning forks of green. “As you say, even as confined as I was to Marsh’s residence, I do not think there is anyone in Illyria who has not heard of what happened at Spearhead, Lord Cassian.”
Cassian wasn’t sure what to say to that. He didn’t regret what he had done to those complicit in his mother’s suffering. They had all deserved it. They had deserved far more and he would do it again if anybody dared cause such grave suffering to someone he loved.
For some reason, he wanted to voice that to Maya but the words got lodged in his throat.
“Perhaps you can take me there?”
Casual blinked. “To Spearhead?”
A small, faint smile laced with that sorrow flickered across the twin’s face. “No, the subject clearly brings you suffering. I was speaking of the private library. My girls can’t read well enough for books but I was granted an education. I should like to see it.” Then, Maya elaborated pointedly, “And you are here to deliver bad news. I’d rather spare my girls from it until I have to.”
Cassian swallowed the lump in his throat. Marsh had bedded Maya against her will for years. Had inflicted great suffering upon her, including taking her youngling from her at birth—a Princeling who was raised to be cruel and callous. And then she had been denied access to her girls.
But Cassian only bowed his head in agreement. “Of course.”
Gently, Maya closed the door to her apartment suite behind her. She followed Cassian along the dark hallway. Their feet clipped and reverberated on stone as they travelled down the staircase to Nesta’s floor.
Cassian shot Maya a sideways smile as they approached the double doors to the library. If Nesta wasn’t busy with her sisters today Cassian knew that she would most likely be here with her nose buried in a book. He also knew that if he had found her here then he would have lasted all but five minutes before he sought her out and tried to distract her.
Fuck, perhaps it was a good that Nesta was busy with Feyre at her art studio located in the heart of the rainbow, Cassian thought. That she had also promised to spend the afternoon with Elain walking through the city gardens that Rhys had charged Elain with attending to.
“Please,” Cassian said, gesturing to Nesta’s favourite chair. It was wing-backed and made of soft tan leather. It was positioned to look out at the view of the city below; the Sidra a curvaceous, glittering ribbon through the centre of the green-tiled houses and opulent marble market squares until it met the sea.
Slowly, Maya perched herself on the edge of the chair as Cassian took a seat opposite. The twin trapped her hands between her knees, as if that would stop them from wringing.
Suddenly, Cassian’s tongue felt too big for his mouth and speech was difficult. But he eventually said, “Word came that Marsh passed last night.”
There was a pivotal silence in which everything seemed to hush, and then, to Cassian’s dismay, tears welled in the twin’s eyes. Cassian smelt water and salt as tears trickled down her cheeks; tremulous tracks of relief and… what Cassian thought might be grief.
“Sorry,” Maya apologised, flustered as she blinked rapidly, brushing the tears away with her knuckles.
Leaning across the space, Cassian closed his hand atop one of Maya’s and gave it a gentle squeeze of comfort. “Don’t be,” he told her, suffusing his voice with what he hoped was genuine kindness. He handed her a handkerchief that the House magicked onto the small reading table by his side. Gently, he pressed the cloth into her hands. “Here.”
“He died peacefully?” Maya asked, after she had taken her time dab the handkerchief across her cheeks. She held the cloth to her eyes as if she was pressing in a surging well of emotion. Cassian was glad Nesta was not here. For some reason, Cassian knew the depth and gravity of Maya’s feelings would be a tidal wave to Nesta given her empath gift.
“From what we know, yes, we believe his passing was peaceful,” Cassian admitted, wrestling with himself to prevent his brow from knitting.
From what Lorrian had detailed, Marsh had used Maya against her will in place of her sister Lyanne—Marsh’s wife—after she had died in a fire. Marsh had used Maya in the hope that she would bear him a first-born blessed by the Gods given the prophecy that had unveiled that either she or her twin’s first child would be star-born.
And here Maya was shedding tears for him. As if he was worthy of it, despite his horrific actions.
Cassian knew he would never be able to understand the complexity of Maya’s emotions given what she had endured, but for her to be able to give Marsh the honour of mourning him, even if it was only for this slice of time... well, Maya was a greater fae then Cassian could ever be.
Nodding, Maya sniffed. She had kept her eyes trained firmly on her lap, but now she summoned the courage to look up at him. “And Kallon? I suppose he has come to claim his right to the clan?”
Tension bracketed Cassian’s mouth, pulling his lips into a thin, grim line. “Not yet.”
Maya straightened, suddenly more composed. “He will.”
Cassian thought the same, but he still asked, “Why do you say that?”
“Why would anybody turn down responsibility of a clan when they already seek power for a cause? It will be easier for him infiltrate the minds of the Ironcrest people in a place of unrivalled authority. Do not think he has not been preparing for this moment. Marsh’s health has been declining for a long time and there is no one else to challenge him.”
“The Ironcrest nobility could step forward,” Cassian supplied.
“They will not,” Maya assured Cassian. “Nobody will question Kallon’s authority. They have all seen Enalius’s sword. They have felt its power.”
“But not its allegiance,” Cassian told Maya.
“They do not know that,” Maya replied. “They are not powerful or smart enough to see past the allure of its ancient magic and question why Kallon has not been using it. They only know that it is God-given—a merciless weapon for a warrior God—and Illyrian’s do not question the way of the Gods.”
A merciless weapon for a warrior God. Maya had slipped briefly into Illyrian, but those words were familiar to Cassian.
“You are quoting Heroicis,” Cassian stated, because had been known those words for hundreds of years. Had learnt to read so he could absorb the words on the page that he had stared at time and time again as a young boy who had nothing but the clothes on his back and the last reminder of his mother and the roots that came with that.
Surprise flickered across Maya’s face. Cassian supposed a bastard would not normally be overly familiar with the ancient text—or be expected to read. But the Illyrian nobility would have been raised reading Heroicis.
“Yes,” Maya nodded. “Kallon has always been very interested in Heroicis, ever since he was a child. It is my fault. When I was allowed to see him, I would read it to him. It is what my sister and I grew up listening to. I wanted to continue the tradition—to detail the great battle with male and female Illyrian’s fighting alongside Oya and Enalius to my son.”
A faint smile tugged at Maya’s lips as a memory took form. “My sister and I used to act it out when we escaped into the tunnels. We would bicker over who would be Oya and who would be Enalius. M—” Maya broke off and shook her head as if she could see the last before her eyes. “My sister always got to be Oya. Whilst we were identical in looks, we differed in mannerisms. She was strong-headed, fierce and loyal to a fault. She had this commanding nature about her that had even the bullish of males sitting up and taking stock. I was more timid and preferred to bury my nose in books. I wouldn’t have learnt to fight if she hadn’t persuaded one of the guards to give us secret lessons at the cave at the back of the mountain residence. That’s how I knew about its location—how I guessed where Kallon was keeping the girls.”
Having seen Maya fight, Cassian was not sure that he agreed that she was timid. He wouldn’t deny that she had been easily frightened when they’d first met, but that was out of fear of Marsh’s wrath and her daughters well-being than true character.
“You must miss her very much,” Cassian said. He remembered what Lorrian had told him—that her sister had died with Marsh’s brother, Halias. That it had been rumoured that they had been partaking in an affair.
For the first time, Maya lifted her eyes and held his gaze, as if the mention of her sister had brought her courage. “I do. She was my everything—my other half—and since she has been gone I have not once felt whole. For most fae marriage or the mating bond is the tie that makes you complete … but for my sister and I, our twin connection rendered us one.”
“It must have been very difficult,” Cassian said, “to have the weight of a prophecy on your shoulders from such a young age.”
“The prophecy secured our fate and because of it my sister was lost to me before her death,” Maya reasoned. “But no true happiness comes from discussing the past and the brothers that my sister and I were chained to by marriage. If you think Marsh was a monster, you did not know his brother.”
“Halias?” Cassian asked.
To Cassian’s surprise, Maya’s lip curled. “My sister’s fate was a tragedy, but the agony that Halias was claimed by in that fire was deserved over and over. It is the only consolation I have; that whilst my sister died, he also suffered.”
‘I am sorry for what you and your sister have endured,” Cassian told Maya earnestly. “I have long fought for female rights in Illyria but the progress has been so slow—” He rubbed his hands over his face. “If Kallon’s rebellion catches aflame then it will raze any hope of giving the Illyrians living on the margins a voice. The Night Court cannot let it happen. I know he’s your son—”
“He is my son and he isn’t,” Maya confirmed. “Like my sister, he has long been lost to me and it took me far too long to realise it. What he did to my girls… I will never forgive him for that.”
“But if the prophecy is to be believed, he is star-born,” Cassian said. “Whether we like it or not we cannot ignore that fact, even if he has yet to master the sword.”
“A prophecy is a prediction,” Maya corrected. “It is not truth. Illyrian’s are superstitious and often do not see rational sense in understanding that any change of events can alter life’s course.”
“You think that is why the sword’s blade vanishes when it is used,” Cassian put together, as he studied Maya as she got to her feet. “Because the prophecy’s course has been altered?”
“Perhaps,” Maya agreed. “Given that you are familiar with Heroicis, you will know that it was Oya that gifted Enalius the sword.”
“That’s right,” Cassian agreed. “I have a copy in my room. I was reading it just this morning.”
It was true. Cassian wasn’t sure why he had packed it but it had seemed only right that it travel with him, especially given that it was the only current drawing they had of the sword to go by. Only the day prior, Cassian had travelled down into the library’s depths to ask Clotho for help. The mangled-fingered Priestess had wasted little time in assisting him, summoning a young, red-haired fae who served Merill—a female who Clotho ensured Cassian was one of the most knowledgeable in the library. The red-head had listened to what Cassian had to say with an intensity that matched her teal eyes. And whilst the female had looked at him with caution, she had not backed away from him, only scampering off after promising him that she would do her best to scour the library for any information on the sword, Enalius or the first Illyrian battle.
Maya bobbed her head to indicate that she had heard him. “When Oya gifted Enalius with the sword Heroicis states that it is designed to—“
“—slay the demon sheathed in flesh,” Cassian finished. He flashed Maya a wolfish grin. “I wasn't lying when I told you that I am familiar with the text. I assume Kallon is just as familiar with it?”
“Yes,” Maya nodded, but there was regret in her eyes. “If Kallon believes the sword needs to be bonded to him in order for it to work, then beyond him attempting to manipulate answers from the ancients, that’s the first place he would look to.”
Frustration furrowed Cassian’s features. He’d known this. They all had, deep down, but they still weren’t getting any answers.
“And I suppose in Kallon’s eyes, the demon is the Night Court,” Cassian responded grimly.
“Yes,” Maya said. “After all, what is a divine text if it is not there to be bent to someone’s will in a bid for power?”
“You really want to do this on your birthday?” Nesta asked Cassian for the second time, as she stared out at the lush landscape around them.
The flatlands that surrounded Velaris and its mountains had been a patchwork of colour when they had been airborne, but now there were only shots of dark green and earth, winding beaten paths, grass borders and red-berried bushy hedgerows, interspersed with farmhouses, cottages and livestock. On the right, the mountains rose up, their hunched, broken backs bowed towards the sky.
“I’m starting to think you’re trying to get out of this, sweetheart,” Cassian shot back with a roguish grin. “And is it so unbelievable that I want to spend time with you?”
His words were an echo from the day they travelled to Kamanam and Cassian could tell from the way Nesta stifled a snort that she realised what he’d done. She crossed her arms firmly over her chest—whether it was a defensive move or to shield herself from the cold, Cassian wasn’t sure. What he did know was that it emphasised the generous swell of her breasts and Cassian had to use every ounce of his will to look her in the eye rather than launch between them and take her right on the earthen floor.
From the way silver lit up Nesta’s eyes, Cassian had a feeling that Nesta knew what he was thinking. It kindled his own fire and his smile became smoke, his scent heady. He couldn’t stop the suggestive words that fell out of his mouth. “Given that you didn’t have a midnight workout last night, you should have plenty of energy.”
Metallic glinted in Nesta’s irises and that bond between them creaked and cracked as it expanded a fraction. It was enough that Cassian felt a spear of something curl in his stomach. “You could have come to me. I left the door open.”
Surprise lanced through Cassian, because it wasn’t a lie. He had come home from a late drink with his brothers to find his bed empty. It had left him feeling as if someone had scooped out his insides and whilst he had tried to push away the disappointment, one touch of his skin against the cold sheets had been akin to sending icy shards of longing through his heart.
So, Cassian had rolled out of bed and trodden silently to Nesta’s rooms to find the door cracked open. She had been sleeping with her back to the door—something that sent waves of panic through him despite Sala positioned at the foot of the bed—and only the bare slope of her shoulder sat atop the blankets; a tempting, unblemished curve that Cassian had wanted to trace with lips and teeth.
But he had resisted his desires. For all of Nesta’s tendency to constrict the bond during her waking hours, sleep slackened their connection. The silence wasn’t a terrifying pitch black that Cassian had felt from her before, but smooth as a midnight sky dusted with stars. It was still and quiet and peaceful, and Cassian hadn’t the heart to be selfish enough to drag her from the depths of a sleep she so sorely needed.
Instead, Cassian had coaxed the blanket up to Nesta’s neck so she wouldn’t grow cold and had whispered to Sala to protect her before he had taken his leave.
Just the memory had Cassian’s suggestive smile softening like butter in sunlight. “I did. You were asleep.”
The faint flicker of Nesta’s surprise tugged at his ribcage and her expression became liquid. “You could have woken me up. I’m sure you had a few ideas.”
Images of what Cassian could have done to rouse Nesta from sleep coursed through him and the taste of her—the scent that hadn’t left him— intensified on his tongue. His cock strained against his pants to the point that it hurt, but Cassian made himself swallow.
Clenching his trembling hands into fists, he searched those beautiful eyes for a trace of hesitation or regret, but he found none.
“I didn’t know that,” Cassian replied honestly. “I didn’t know if you wanted that.”
Nesta did not back down from his gaze. Did not run or snort or loose that viper tongue. She just held his gaze, as if they were locked into place. “Well, now you do.”
“I do,” Cassian agreed, his heart beating in his mouth. “I’ll come later.”
The feline smirk that played across Nesta’s face had Cassian barking a laugh, but then she dragged her gaze to the fields that stretched out before them. She jerked her head to the left in the direction of Velaris, away from the sea and the mountains. “That way?”
Desire throbbed painfully beneath his skin but Cassian made himself shake his head. He retied his hair into a tight top knot, mainly for something to preoccupy his hands. Nesta tracked the movement and Cassian wondered if she spied how his fingers shook, making clumsy work. “We’ll head southwards,” he informed her.
Nesta frowned. “We aren’t running back to the city?”
“I wanted to take you somewhere else first,” Cassian confessed. “Will you let me? It’s a couple of miles towards the sea. The terrain is flat, so it should be easy for you considering you usually run up the mountain.”
“Ok,” Nesta agreed simply.
They ran in relative silence, the staccato of Nesta’s breath and the pounding of their feet the only accompaniment to the fields and winding country lanes. Nesta did not complain, only shot Cassian an irritated look when he urged her to up the pace and she realised he’d barely broken a sweat.
Eventually, Cassian signalled for Nesta to stop and she leant over her knees, her breath winding up in clouds of smoke.
After a moment, Nesta frowned up at him from where she was doubled-over. “I can keep going.”
“I know,” Cassian assured her, because he did know she could go further, even though he’d pushed her to a pace that launched her well out of her comfort zone. “I just thought we could do with a breather.”
The disbelieving glare Nesta shot him had him laughing. He held up his hands. “Just because I’m not gasping for breath doesn’t mean I’m not tired, sweetheart.”
Gesturing to the stacked stone wall made up of cobbled dusty red, Cassian said, “This way.”
With an ease that he knew would annoy her, Cassian climbed over the waist high wall and grinned to her from the other side.
“Isn’t this trespassing?” Nesta asked curiously, but she followed him anyway, using the uneven stone as footholds before swinging her legs over the top to join him in the meadow on the other side.
“It’s fine,” Cassian assured her and before she had time to process it, he took her hand. Tugged her along after him. “There’s a stream just by that copse of trees over there. We can rest for a while before we run back.”
“By the cottage?” Nesta queried as she observed the scenery. The winter meadow stretched before them, giving way to a fenced off paddock and a stone cottage with multiple gabled roofs and generous windows. To its right were a series of shadowy outbuildings—stables and a modest barn—and to its left was a stream covered with a thin film of ice.
“What if someone’s home?” Nesta asked, but when Cassian glanced behind him he saw that she was still preoccupied with their surroundings, her eyes wide in a way that caressed his very core.
“Nobody’s home,” Cassian reassured her, a faint smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “And nobody will mind if we rest here.”
“Are you herding me?” Nesta challenged as he curved a wing around her shoulder, encouraging her to follow him.
Cassian laughed. “Perhaps. I never know when you're going to be stubborn.”
“I’m always stubborn,” Nesta scowled but she didn't bat him away, allowing him to lead her through the winter meadow that was still kissed with melting frost.
“You like it here?” Cassian asked curiously, after they had taken turns drinking from the stream. It may have been frozen over but the water still ran steadily beneath the surface. Cassian had only had to stomp down on it with the heel of his boot to get to the water beneath.
Nesta studied him from where she was perched on the hollowed out remains of a fallen tree trunk. She had been quiet for a long while and Cassian had known better than to pry. Especially when she was drinking in the scenery as if she was starved for it.
“It reminds me a bit of Lorrian and Frawley’s,” Nesta admitted after a long moment. “It’s nice and green. Spacious and quiet. I like that you can smell the salt on the wind.”
Cassia nodded in the direction of the stream and the trees that loosely lined the other side of it. “The sea is only half a mile or so away beyond the trees. Velaris is a short flight to the East. I thought Maya and the girls might like to stay here, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.”
Nesta’s head whipped away from the direction of the cottage. Cassian had a feeling that she was looking for signs of life, but the chimneys remained lifeless and no movement came from around the premise.
“You found them a house?”
“This cottage and the land surrounding it is mine,” Cassian admitted, nodding to the stream and surrounding meadows and fields, which stretched to brush alongside the flank of the stone brick cottage. “I bought it a long time ago but I usually let it out. The previous tenant just moved on last month, so Maya and the girls can stay here if they’d like.” He raised a shoulder before letting it drop. “It saves me the trouble of finding someone else to let it to.”
But Nesta was frowning. “There’s livestock here.”
The left-side of Cassian’s mouth kicked upwards, forming a crooked smile. Was there anything she missed? “I let the farmers in the area use the land. It would be selfish to own somewhere I don’t use when they could make use of it.”
“I thought you like staying in the city,” Nesta stated bluntly.
“I do,” Cassian confirmed. He cocked his head playfully at her and closed the distance between them. Tugged at a stray strand of hair that had fallen loose from her braid. “This place is for when I am old and weary, Nes.”
He waited for her to snap at him. To tell him not to call her that, but Nesta only tilted her head until she was mirroring him, as if she was trying to figure him out.
“I always intended to move out when the time was right,” Cassian continued, because her silence had his heart slamming against his ribcage again and he wasn’t sure why. “I like to be surrounded by nature—you’ve seen what Illyria is like. Here it would only take me twenty minutes to get to Velaris by wings, but I get some peace and quiet and a damn good view of the sea.”
“And the time was never right?” Nesta guessed. Her voice had dropped into something soft and burnished—evanescent. Cassian desperately wanted to hold onto it.
But he merely shrugged. “Work is always demanding and usually requires that I’m in the city or in Illyria. My friends and family are there. I never had anybody else significant in my life to want to sacrifice that. So,” Cassian shrugged, “you could say that I bought the roots but it was never quite the right time to settle. Maya and the girls can get good use of the cottage. Start anew until they want to move on and find somewhere of their own.”
“What?” Cassian queried with a raised brow, after a too long silence had stretched out where Nesta only continued to stare at him.
Swallowing, Nesta shook her head. But then she surprised him. She pushed off of the trunk, sunk the tips of her fingers into the leathers encasing his arms and lifted herself up onto her tiptoes so she could brush a kiss to his cheek.
Her scent encased him and his hands moved of their own volition, settling on her hips as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
“What was that for?” he asked, silently cursing himself at how hoarse he sounded. How broken.
Nesta loosed a shoulder but he could tell from the way her eyes rippled like water that she was anything but nonchalant. “You are impossibly kind and good,” Nesta said quietly—earnestly—and Cassian blinked in surprise. Not that Nesta could think those things about him, but that she’d grant him the privilege of saying it out loud. She searched his eyes as if she was looking for something important—seeing something that he did not understand. The sudden sadness he felt was not his own. “The world does not deserve you, Cassian.”
Cassian went to speak. His lips parted, but Nesta cut in before he could say anything. Stepped away before he could bow his head to kiss her and erase that sadness. “Which way back to Velaris?”
Cassian made Nesta run another three miles back towards Velaris before he simply scooped her up into his arms and flew the rest of the distance. But rather than fly them back to the House of Wind, he set them down at the southern outskirt of the city, where the land met the sea and the many ships in its harbour.
He bought them battered salted cod fish wrapped in newspaper from the small stall at the heart of the docks he’d been visiting for years. Then, they sat on the planks of one of the quieter piers that stretched out onto the sea, their feet dangling over the bottomless blue. Nesta didn’t balk at sharing food with him or even at trying something new, and they ate and conversed with an ease that left Cassian warm.
After they had licked the crumbs and grease from their fingers, Cassian had offered Nesta his hand to help her up.
She hadn’t let go.
They walked back into the heart of the city hand in hand, following the curve of the river. Cassian led them over stone arch bridges and into narrow streets made up of white marble cobbles. Pedestrians nodded hello but Cassian didn’t stop to engage them. He only offered them glimpsing smiles as he explained to Nesta about Hogmanay. Pointed out the pastry-wrapped fruitcake piled in the windows of bakeries and cake shops. Explained why the sconces on either side of the lampposts were lit with blazing torches even in the day, and how at night, some parts of the city would turn into a street parade lined with performers, including fae practicing fire-breathing and swinging fireballs. Cassian even pointed out the restaurant they would eat at later, the small shopfront lined with rustic wooden tables sheltered by an awning a deep midnight blue and speckled with what looked like starlight.
It was all so… normal. Domestic, even. Nesta’s fingers remained firmly threaded through his and her attention only wavered when they headed down a particularly narrow street which was paved either side with tall, asymmetrical buildings that Cassian thought Nesta would appreciate for their uniqueness. Unlike the usual marble houses with their green gabled roofs, the uneven townhouses had all been converted into shops and were painted in gentle pastel colours and framed with old oak beams. They were colourful, but in no way as vibrant and showy as the Rainbow—muted and soft and unassuming.
From the way Nesta fell quiet, Cassian knew she had not stumbled upon the street before. With wide eyes, Nesta soaked up the atmosphere around them but Cassian’s gaze remained transfixed on her face, memorising her expression as if it was as vital as breathing. For once, she looked so unguarded and so happy that Cassian couldn’t bring himself to coax her along and out of the way of the pedestrians scurrying about trying to complete the last of their shopping before the evening’s celebrations. Instead, he allowed her to slow to snail’s pace outside a particularly old bookshop with large antique windows, Cassian nodded to its door.
“Why don’t you browse whilst I get you a cup of tea,” he announced eventually, when he realised that Nesta would not voice that she wanted to look inside. “You need to rehydrate. And I imagine you want to take some books back to Illyria.”
Nesta looked both torn and surprised. Cassian wondered if anybody had truly noticed Nesta before him—what she wanted and what she disliked, what made her eyes shine and what made her irate. The thought made something deep inside of him ache, because he knew what the answer was. Too often Nesta had studied Cassian with such blatant disbelief when he had correctly anticipated what she needed, as if she hadn’t expected him to notice her at all.
Laughing softly, Cassian untangled his fingers from hers. “You’ve not been listening to a word I’ve said since you spotted it,” he explained. Pressed a daring kiss to her knuckles before he let her go and urged her to the front door.
Biting back a scowl, Nesta allowed him to shepherd her towards the front door. “I’ll be five minutes,” she relented.
“I know what that means,” Cassian grinned. The bell above the door tinkled as she pushed it open. “I’ll be at least ten minutes, sweetheart. Don’t rush.”
Nesta took Cassian at his word, because by the time he arrived back at the shop, she was still inside. Leaning against the wall of an apothecary across the street, Cassian held onto the two mugs of steaming tea in his hands and watched the passers by whilst he waited.
“Well, look who it is, the Lord of Bloodshed as I live and breathe.”
Turning his head to the left, Cassian found a dark-haired female situated at a diagonal to him across the pavement. She was tall and generously curvaceous, her espresso skin unblemished. Emerald cat eyes gleamed at him before the female dropped one eyelid in a teasing wink, her eyelashes fluttering.
“Nakeisha,” Cassian chuckled in greeting, pushing off of the wall, “it’s been a while.”
The wild, cheshire cat smile Nakeisha tossed his way showcased every single one of her white teeth. It reminded Cassian that once upon a time that her mouth was one of the things Cassian had liked best during their many nights between the sheets, but now the memory only filled him with a sense of foreboding.
Over the years, Cassian had rarely dread bumping into one of his many flings. For the most part, they were always fun and Cassian had always made it very clear that he wasn’t one to stick around—give or take the few relationships that had actually been something more. Nakeisha was not one of those relationships. Yes, they had hooked up many times over the centuries and it had been fun, but neither of them had been after more than a release. It was why Cassian had always gone back for more. He rarely found someone so aloof and casual when it came to the bedroom, especially considering Nakeisha was so ambitious in real life. She was a female who knew what she wanted and wouldn’t stop until she got it. She spent her days relentlessly working for a refugee initiative which helped to home anyone in need of shelter across the court borders, but she partied harder.
Even Cassian had never been able to keep up. In truth, he had always been happy not to, but he wouldn’t deny that their arrangement hadn’t been there in part because she was easy on the eyes.
“It must be nearly a year,” Nakeisha said, cocking her head at him. Her long, cornrow braids swished with the movement. “I never see you out anymore. You were always a regular at Rita’s.”
“I’m stationed in Illyria at the moment,” Cassian replied smoothly. “Have been on and off since the war.”
Nakeisha nodded, but didn't ask for more details. She knew better than to ask. “Back for Hogmanay?”
“Yes,” he confirmed. Unable to help himself, he glanced towards the shop, searching for Nesta through the large glass window. A spike of panic lanced through him when he came up empty.
Nakeisha’s amber eyes were sparkling when he shifted his gaze back to hers. “Waiting for someone?”
Cassian took a sip from his mug—green tea with a twist of lemon, just how he liked it— and smiled. “Still nosy as ever, I see.”
Keeping his smile easy, Cassian tried not to glance back towards the bookshop door. Nesta had never met one of his previous flings before and he was keen to keep it that way. They were so close to being something and it was all he wanted—it was all he had wanted for a long time. He hadn’t even glanced at another female for Cauldron’s knows how long. And he knew how awful it felt to meet someone your mate had bedded. Even now, the face of the males Nesta had taken home were burnt behind his retinas. He’d never be able to forget them.
“I prefer discerning,” Nakeisha corrected Cassian with a grin. “Two mugs is a bit of a giveaway, General.”
There must have been a telling expression that Cassian was unable to erase from his expression, because Nakeisha’s eyes gleamed again.
“Don’t tell me you’ve finally been pinned down?” she laughed softly. It was not a jealous or bitter sound, only amused, as if he had defied all odds. Cassian could hardly blame her. For the few hundred years they had known one another Cassian had been the definition of a philanderer. “I definitely had bets on me before you.”
Cassian shot Nakeisha a disbelieving look. He’d always thought she was more unlikely than he. She was too independent and loved her own company too much. Cassian had never given it much contemplation, but if he were to really think about it, he suspected Nakeisha hated the idea of being chained down, whereas Cassian had just never met anybody who had captivated him enough to put his job second. Until he’d met Nesta, that was.
But Cassian didn’t voice any of that. Instead, he asked as smoothly as possible, “Is it so unbelievable?”
Nakeisha just shrugged. Unable to help himself, Cassian squinted through the wintry sunlight in the direction of the shop door just as Nesta emerged with a heavy-looking shopping bag in one hand. When her eyes found his, he gestured to her with a steaming mug.
She took her time crossing the cobbled street, her posture unfazed, her expression blank. Even though Nesta’s skin was dried with sweat and some of her hair had escaped her braid, she looked unforgivingly beautiful. Training outside in the winter sunshine had left her skin rosy and her eyes icy bright. And those leathers… well, they clung to her enviable curves which had finally filled out now she was eating three meals a day.
“I see you bought the whole shop,” Cassian remarked drily as Nesta drew up beside him.
He handed her a mug of chai. Slowly, Nesta reached out to wrap her slim fingers around the porcelain. She peered into the mug and then back at him with a perfectly arched eyebrow, silently asking how he’d got his hands on her favourite drink.
“I know a place,” he remarked off-handedly. Smugly.
She nodded in thanks. He watched her take a small sip and then those steely blue eyes moved to Nakeisha.
“Who are you.”
Straight to the point, as always. No introductions, no niceties. It was so Nesta that Cassian would have laughed, if he hadn’t been so concerned about how this would go.
Nakeisha wasn't stupid. She was always discreet. She slept with enough people not to be deluded enough that their odd tumble between the sheets meant anything more then pleasure with no strings attached. So, Cassian wasn’t surprised at Nakeisha’s genuine, friendly smile, even as she did give herself away by shifting uneasily onto her other foot.
There was no doubt in Cassian’s mind that Nakeisha recognised Nesta. Everyone in Velaris knew who Nesta was. They knew what had happened between Cassian and Nesta during the war, too. What had happened in the year after… There was no such thing as privacy when you had saved the whole of Prythian from destruction.
“I’m Nakeisha.” A painful pause constricted the air around them in which Cassian realised Nesta was going to be deliberately unforthcoming.
“This is Nesta Archeron,” Cassian said, hoping his tone was easy and unaffected. Even though it wasn’t needed, Cassian embellished, “Feyre’s sister.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Nesta,” Nakeisha said warmly, and, to Cassian’s surprise, bowed her head in respect. “Thank you for everything you did for us in the war.”
There was a long awkward beat where Cassian felt the prickle of Nesta’s magic across his skin, but then Nesta dipped her head. It was, Cassian supposed, the most she could muster without either turning on her heel or allowing mist to seep from her fingertips. Even now, she did not like to bring up the war.
Swallowing thickly, Nakeisha glanced uncertainly at Cassian before she brought her gaze back to Nesta. “Cassian and I were just talking about Hogmanay. Will you both be at the party tonight?”
Nesta twisted to look questioningly up at Cassian. “Not tonight,” he told them both. In truth, he hadn’t been to a Hogmanay party since before Amarantha’s reign. “Just family.”
“Well, have a lovely time. Another day older, General.” Nakeisha quipped teasingly as she unfurled herself from where she was leaning against a lamppost.
“I said I’d meet Elain in an hour,” Nesta told Cassian stiffly as they watched Nakeisha disappear into the throng of fae. “Which way to the House?”
All it took was one wave of Cassian’s hand to their right for Nesta to start moving. She walked with such purpose that Cassian stopped himself from offering to fly them back and set after her instead, matching her stride with his long legs.
After a while of walking in silence, Cassian remarked, “You’re quiet. Were you irritated to find the bookshop lacking in smutty romance, sweetheart?”
Cassian had hoped for her to snipe at him or fall prey to his teasing but she did neither. Instead, she replied faintly, as if she was somewhere else entirely, “Some of us don’t live to hear the sound of our own voice.
Cassian ignored her comment. Tried to take the books from her hand, instead.
Nesta stopped him with a heart-stopping glare that Cassian suspected would have killed him if it weren’t for the immunity he had built up over the last nine months.
He held up his hands in defeat and flashed her a cheeky grin. “How’s the chai?”
“Good.” Then, “Do you always charm your way into free crockery or is this just an uncanny coincidence?”
“I can’t help it if everybody loves me, sweetheart,” he parried and Gods above he had a death wish as he winked at her before he could check himself.
Nesta snorted. It was not soft like usual. It was abrupt and sharp. “And did you sleep with the cafe owner, too?”
And there it was.
Keeping his face neutral, Cassian feigned ignorance. “Contrary to popular belief I haven’t bedded the entire female population. Are you referring to anyone in particular?”
Nesta snorted again. And really, Cassian wasn’t all that surprised. Nesta knew. She always knew when it came to him.
“Oh please; formidable figure, beautiful face, sizeable assets?” Nesta counted a different finger as she listed each trait. “I’d have bet all my money on it even if she hadn’t been looking at you like that.”
Cassian smirked. If he was lucky, he wasn’t imagining the jealousy lining her voice. “And how was Nakeisha looking at me, Nesta?”
“Well, am I right?” Nesta demanded, ignoring his question.
“You do realise that you just described yourself,” Cassian drawled. A slow grin spread across his face as he took his time looking Nesta up and down. Satisfaction hummed through him as her irritation spiked. If she wasn’t going to answer his question he wouldn’t answer hers, either.
But then he realised how stupid he was being. He grabbed for her spare hand, wound his fingers through hers and she didn’t pull away, even though Cassian could tell she thought about it. Her irises were wisps of metallic smoke—a moving, magical, captivating thing—and he felt his magic pulse.
“We can play this game if you like,” he told her in a low, hoarse voice that bordered on dangerous, “where I tell you everyone I’ve fucked—which would be hard, by the way—and you could do the same for me. But I can promise you that it will be tiring and it will just make us both furious.”
Nesta pressed her lips together.
Cassian sighed. “Fine. Shall I ask you about the male yesterday?”
Anger and irritation swept free from her expression as Nesta frowned. “Erol?”
Huffing, Nesta slipped her hand out of his as they began to walk again. At first, Cassian thought it was out of ire, but then she transferred the bag of books to that hand and Cassian realised that she was just struggling with their weight. Clearly, the heavy items were starting to take their toll.
“I didn’t fuck him.”
Cassian didn’t say anything. Thought of the way Erol had looked at Nesta with such familiarity Cassian had wanted to snarl at him—had growled at him—like some feral beast that could not see sense. Plucked the heavy bag from Nesta’s hands, needing to do something, that wouldn’t end up with him kissing her to show her just how much he didn’t want to be having this fucking conversation and would much rather be worshipping her instead.
“He was—is—my friend,” Nesta continued after a long while. “He watched out for me—stopped me doing anything reckless. I didn’t just go to taverns to fuck and drink. I liked the music. So did Erol. He lost his wife in the attack on Velaris. I think it took his mind away from things.”
A pause stretched out for a few beats too long as Cassian blinked. He hadn’t been expecting that. Hadn’t known Nesta had formed a friendship during that time, even if it was only in the barest capacity. A bitter sadness wound around his ribcage that Cassian could not shake. He couldn’t determine if it was his or Nesta’s.
Before them, the mountain of sandstone climbed like an unending wall before it disappeared into the clouds. Silently, Cassian gathered Nesta into his arms and spread his wings wide so he could launch them into the skies.
There was so much he could say, Cassian realised, as he began to fly them up towards the flat-top peak. But Nesta…she had offered another slice of herself, so he only gathered her closer to his body and bowed his head until his lips were resting on the top of her head.
“Did you visit the theatre or opera house whilst you were here?” Cassian asked into the golden brown strands of her hair.
“I—“ Nesta craned her neck to look up at him. She’d clearly not expected him to change the subject. “No.”
“You’ll like them,” Cassian responded simply. Kissed her crown once. Twice. “I’ll take you next time.”
Nesta’s returning nod had warmth travelling down Cassian’s bones despite the winter chill. It was an acknowledgement that there would be a next time in Velaris for them. That she would walk the streets with him rather than alone.
“Come and bathe with me,” Cassian blurted after Nesta’s retreating back after he had touched them down upon the balcony.
Nesta paused at the entryway to the floor to ceiling glass that led into the House. A faint smile played upon her lips. It was not a smirk but it wasn’t soft, either. Amused, perhaps. And… pleased. “I wasn’t lying when I said I was meeting Elain.”
“I know,” Cassian assured her, suddenly inexplicably nervous. His fingers wanted to tremble at the anticipation that came with pressing her against the bathroom tiles until their bodies melted into one. “We’ve got time.”
Slowly, Nesta turned. Stalked over to Cassian on her strong lean legs. The movement was measured and sure and so fucking intoxicating it felt like a fist had closed over Cassian’s windpipe. Nesta enthralled him. The two of them were both cat and mouse. Predator and prey. And the way they switched roles with virtually no indication of when it was going to happen thrilled him, the uncertainty of it addictive and sweet and sinful.
The hairs on his arms and legs—at the back of his damned neck—pricked to attention as Nesta closed the distance between them. Cassian felt the heat of her. The desire that coiled around her belly and his. Their scent smoky and ancient. It lit up his senses and his nostrils flared, his wings rustled and a hand wound its way through her hair before he even had a moment to catch himself.
A hitch of breath was the only indication of Nesta’s surprise and that vanilla and jasmine thickened as she tilted her head, exposing the tantalising column of her neck.
Cassian hardened instinctively as his other hand came to pull her hips to his body, until their bodies were perfectly aligned.
“I’ll make it worth your while.” His voice was as dry as sandpaper—scratchy.
Nesta shivered as if his words had broken her, but when she leant up onto her tiptoes, her lips hovering inches from his, she appeared nothing but sure.
The phantom touch had Cassian groaning from somewhere deep inside of him. His siphons winked as magic coursed through him, pulsing in tandem with his blood and heart.
“If we bathe I won’t see Elain.” Nesta’s murmured words caressed his mouth and Cassian groaned again, all sense of his self-restraint lost as he captured her lips with his.
“Fuck Elain,” Cassian rasped when he finally pulled away. Nesta’s eyes were icy mirrors as her eyelashes fluttered open and he could see the reflection of his burning hazel irises—the blatant desire in them that he could not check. “Who needs sisters anyway?”
Nesta’s laugh was beautiful and smoky with a hint of wickedness. She levelled him with a look until Cassian realised that she would not relent, even if he could scent that she wanted him as much as he wanted her. “I do.”
Cassian searched her expression. The seriousness that had taken ahold of her features. “I know.”
Nesta kissed him again, firmly this time, leaving no opportunity for him to try and persuade her otherwise before she stepped away from him.
“Enjoy your cold shower,” Nesta called, tossing the words over her shoulder with a sly smile, before she slipped through the glass doors and disappeared.
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Why keep an open mind about Elain
(And why her book will slap hard)
When I was writing this one-shot right here, I read a few posts about Elain as a spy, some of them liked the idea, others didn't. Which is totally ok, if you don't, of course. I also reread a lot of scenes from the books to understand better how this could play out.
But I came across some comments about how Elain being a spy would make her "lose her characterization" or be "out of character". So I wanted to talk a little about it. This post will be discussing those comments specifically and why you should keep an open mind about Elain.
NOTE: As usual, sorry for any mistakes, English is not my first language. I really hope I made myself clear. If you have any comments, I would love to hear them. Be kind!
1. Elain as a character
The first reason I don't believe that argument is because ACOSF made it clear that we know very little about Elain. So how can we say it would be something out of character for her when we barely know her as a character?
So far, we only have other characters points of view on Elain: a person who has a sweet temper. But ACOSF came to tell us that there is another side of her. Nesta expected Elain to cry because of Graysen. She didn't. Elain didn't back down from her fight with Nesta, she didn't hesitate when it came to the Trove or the Hewn City, she laughed when Nesta told her to fuck off. In every single of those moment, Elain's behavior is emphasized by one reaction of the others: surprise.
"You think I’m to blame for his death?” Challenge filled each word. Challenge—from Elain, of all people.
"Elain showed some teeth," I observed. "I wasn't expecting that."
And this is nothing new. Look at what we have in ACOFAS:
and Elain—Elain—had taken up Azriel’s dagger and killed the King of Hybern instead.
The last two books highlight that 1) we don't know everything about her and 2) we expect one behavior from her.
But most importantly: she often doesn't correspond to what it is expected of her, especially in ACOSF.
And then we have this:
With time and safety, perhaps we'll see a different side of her emerge.
But I also think we haven't yet seen all she has to offer.
And before this makes someone think Elain will not get a book because we don't have much on her character, this is exactly what books are for. To develop a character. Before ACOSF, Nesta didn't have much development either. We had seen ACOFAS lay the background for her, the same way ACOSF laid the background for Elain's story.
Elain will surprise us. Sarah is practically screaming that at this point. So before judge something as out of character, we need to have in mind that Elain will have her arc and by the end of it, she will be different, she will grow. Which leads me to:
2. In order to be developed, characters need to change
Before ACOSF came out, lots of people said Nesta would never be a warrior, especially because of this line:
And why must I train at all? I am no warrior nor do I desire to be. (ACOWAR)
And I understand. I really do. But we went from that to Nesta not only becoming a Valkyrie, but also thinking about starting a small unit of females. Yes, that line is back in ACOWAR. However, in ACOSF Gwyn and Emerie said the exactly same thing:
Gwyn gestured to Nesta's fighting leathers, the overlapping scales. "I'm not a warrior".
Emerie's face yielded nothing, as blattle-hardened as Azriel's. "I'm not interested in a warrior's training".
There's a difference between developing a character and doing something out of character.
Elain already is passing through an internal change, which means SJM is preparing her for her arc. So we have to keep in mind that Elain will pass through challenges, changes in her journey, where she will learn new lessons, abilities. She will face and deal with her traumas and flaws, because she will be developed as a character. Of course, her essence will still be there, but in order to grow, she needs to change as well.
At this point lots of things happened to her, now we will see Elain making things happen. Changes like that are inevitable, necessary, but not out of character.
Now, if Nesta, Gwyn and Emerie became warriors, why would it be so out of character for Elain to become a spy?
Personally, I think if Elain became a warrior, that could be considered out of character, because Sarah already told us that her strength comes from a different place:
Elain had always been gentle and sweet—and I had considered it a different sort of strength. A better strength. To look at the hardness of the world and choose, over and over, to love, to be kind. She had been always so full of light.
Of course, this is Feyre's Pov, but is also SJM talking about Elain's nature.
We have to understand the difference between characters' point of view and what SJM is trying to tell us. For example, Nesta in ACOSF had one perception of Elain ("she is like a dog"), but SJM emphasized Nesta's perception as not correspondent to Elain's behavior. How? Using that scene where Elain talks about Nesta's dancing. in that moment, Cassian and the readers realized Nesta's point of view was biased, non correspondent to what Elain was showing us in that scene.
I'm saying that because there's a difference between narrator and author. But this is another discussion entirely.
But I truly believe from what we have seen so far, Elain isn't the warrior type. And despite the fact that we had just read ACOSF, therefore another book about warriors training doesn't sound so appealing, from what we had seen until now, Elain's has potencial (build up) to go to another direction, one that we haven't seen yet.
3. Elain already has what it takes
I want to look at this:
I wondered if Rhys’s spymaster often got his information through stone-cold manners as much as stealth and shadow.
My sister Elain can convince anyone to do anything with a few smiles.
For the record, Feyre said this in ACOWAR and these both scenes are very close to each other.
Spying is not all about shadows and stealth. Azriel works from the shadows, but if Elain can be so lovely and convincing that anyone would do anything for her, she could be a different kind of spy. And with her Seer powers, she could be a valuable one. As much or even more than the Night Court spymaster. Look at this:
Shadowsingers are rare—coveted by courts and territories across the world for their stealth and predisposition to hear and feel things others can’t.
We know Elain can be almost as stealthy as Azriel. And she is a Seer, which means she can See and hear things others can't, too. Not to mention we already have seen that she is observant and knows how to keep a secret.
Elain pushed, “We keep it secret—we send the servants away [...] No one will know.”
“I think she’s got you beat for secret-keeping.”
Elain saw every single thing Nesta had done, and understood why.
Not only she is observant, but also knows how to read people, to understand them. Look at these scenes where Nesta said basically the same thing, but Feyre didn't understand her. Elain on the other hand...
“Father would want you to—”
“Don’t you finish that sentence.” Despite the sound shield around us, there was nothing to block the view of my sister baring her teeth. The view of her fingers curling into invisible claws. A scene. This was about to become a scene in the worst way. (ACOFAS)
"[...] if Father were here—”
“Don’t ever mention him.” Nesta bared her teeth, but kept her voice low. "Never fucking mention him again.”
Pain slowly washed over Elain’s face. And understanding. “Is that what this is all about? Father?” Silver lined Elain’s eyes, but her voice remained steady, sure. “There was nothing that could have been done to save him, Nesta." (ACOSF)
Elain understood exactly what was going on with Nesta.
Nothing is more telling to me than this, and I highly doubt SJM didn't want to show us not only Nesta's internal issues, but how Elain can understand and read very others very easily as well.
Elain also understood when Feyre wasn't sure about buying gifts. And not get me started on Azriel's bonus chapter, where it's emphasized repeatedly that they can read and comprehend each other without necessarily saying what they meant. This shows a connection between them, yes, but also a skill.
Just imagine how valuable and rare she would be for the Night Court.
And the best part is it wouldn't be out of character, because she already presented those features. Besides, Elain can be lovely, delicate and be a bad ass spy (or whatever she wishes to, tbh) . Even better: she can use those characteristics in her favor.
Do not forget what Rhysand said: Elain is sweet and she is not afraid of get her hands dirty. We just haven't seen that yet, because SJM will show us that in her book. Simple as that.
4. Elain being a spy attends SJM's pattern
In every book (or series) so far we had a female character learning something new. Feyre learned how to control her powers (and to read), Nesta learned how to be a warrior. I think it's safe to say that Elain will learn something in order to be developed as a character.
You could argue she could learn anything, which is fair. But in ACOSF we learned that Elain can be stealthy as well. SJM emphasized it again and again, and there is no way in hell she did that just for fun. It's safe to say by now that even if she doesn't become a spy, this ability will play a role in her book.
A few examples that we all know too well by now:
Elain spoke from the doorway, having appeared so silently that they all twisted toward her, “Using me.”
"You came,” Elain said behind her, and Nesta started, not having heard her sister approach. She scanned Elain from head to toe, wondering if she’d been taking lessons in stealth either from Azriel or the two half-wraiths she called friends.
She'd leave her gift amongst his other, opened presents, subtle and unnoticed.
What is curious is that stealth is associated with Azriel, but also with Nuala and Cerridwen, Elain's friends. (Here, I highly recommend this amazing post for more on this friendship and what it means to Elain’s future).
I don't have a doubt the next book is about Elain, it will be her book. So you can't tell me the fact that her friends and love interest are spies is just a coincidence or that won't mean anything. Not when Elain herself has already started to show that she can be just as stealthy and subtle as any of them.
In this scenario, we have:
Elain learning how to be a spy with Azriel, whilst they work together to find the Trove and help each other to heal from their issues.
A female main character learning something new with the help from her love interest whilst they work together to solve a problem connected to the main plot and help each oher to heal from their issues.
I PRESENT YOU THE SJM'S PATTERN.
I know some people like or don't like this theory because that would mean Elain would have a connection to Azriel or because they don't like her becoming "similar to Azriel".
But the thing is: they already share a connection, they know each other for almost two years now and most of their interactions happened "off-screen", so they don't need her to become a spy to want to be together. They already do.
And mostly important, she wouldn't become similar to Azriel, because Elain already has the required features. We don't know much about her, but so far what we do know is: she is stealthy and a good secret keeper. She knows how to read and understand people. She can hear and see things others can't, because she is a Seer, and she can be convincing af.
Most of those were emphasized again in ACOSF concomitantly with Elain's another side. (Tell me again the next book isn't about her).
And again: a female character learning something with her love interest is SJM's pattern. We've just read a book that follows this exactly structure. Are we going to say Nesta or Feyre lost their characterization because they learned and now share the same abilities as Cassian and Rhys?
SJM already answered that for us in ACOSF:
“Does it undermine my image as a warrior to be with you?”
“No. Does it undermine Feyre’s when she’s seen with Rhys?”
This is so telling, I literally stopped my reading at this. We tend to put this passage aside because of what comes next (Cassian being very discreet and screaming he's Nesta's mate to every single soul in Velaris to hear), which is totally fair. But right there, SJM is telling us that female characters sharing abilities with their love interests is no reason to undermine them. On the contrary, in her books this is a way for them to heal togheter.
Knowing SJM, Elain being a spy along with Azriel, Nuala and Cerridwen wouldn't be nothing new. We have seen this story over and over again.
We have so much build up for this, I could go on and on and on. And before someone says this won't work because Azriel has to stay away from her, just take a second to think about how much tension we would get if they are forced to work together in order to find the Trove (or any other reason that SJM will come up with). We'll have a story full of secrets, tension, drama, angst, passion, desire, love. Things too easy don't make a good story.
But at the end, even if she does not become a spy, I just think we have many possibilities for Elain and an amazing story ahead of us. I really want people to keep an open mind about her and her book and not judge too harsh amazing possibilities as out of character. If Nesta hadn't became a warrior, we wouldn't have known the Valkyries. So maybe, when you judge a possibility like that, you are closing yourself to an amazing journey.
And also, Nesta was once judged and hated. A lot of people ended up changing their minds, which is great because she is awesome. So I think we already learned that lesson.
We will see another side of Elain emerge and she will surprise us. That's not me, that's SJM. She already told us that. Repeatedly.
All of this just to say: keep an open mind about Elain. She has what it takes and will surprise us - and I can't wait to see her becoming a badass.
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An Extensive Analysis of Eris
The recent excerpt from ACOSF has got this fandom spinning on it’s head because it includes a feral-smiling Eris waltzing with Nesta. As a result, people have now delved deeper into his character and whether or not he deserves a redemption arc (or an arc of any kind).
So naturally, he has been compared to Rhys, because Rhys also appeared to us in the beginning as a cruel, cunning person, who was eventually revealed to have a bigger heart, and a valid excuse (at least amongst the IC) for his behavior.
I made this post to mainly catalogue all that Eris has done, analyze his actions, see if he indeed can be compared to Rhys, and to determine whether or not he should have a redemption arc.
What We Know So Far
Our first mention of Eris is in ACOMAF, when Rhysand is explaining to Feyre what happened to Mor. I could put the quotes here, but just to save some time I’m gonna make a long story short.
Mor’s father, Keir, declared that she was to be sold in marriage to Eris. Eris is known for being cruel, and Mor begged Rhys to stop it. Rhys brought her to the Illyrian camp for a few days, and she decided to sleep with Cassian in order to ruin her “pure” image. Because she slept with Cassian, Eris refused to marry her. Said, “she’d been sullied by a bastard-born lesser faerie, and he’d now sooner fuck a sow.” Her family, although it’s not said explicitly, basically beat her, and then dumped her body on the Autumn court border with a note nailed to her body that said she was Eris’s problem now. Eris left her for dead in the middle of their woods.
Now, we’re going to look at what he exactly said during this event, given to us from Mor’s POV in ACOFAS:
“Don’t touch her.” Those steps stopped. It was not a warning to protect her. Defend her.
“No one touches her,” he said. Eris. “The moment we do, she’s our responsibility.”
Cold, unfeeling words. “But—but they nailed a—”
“No one touches her.”
A pale, beautiful face appeared above her, blocking out the jewel-like leaves above. Unmoved. Impassive. “I take it you do not wish to live here, Morrigan.”
He must have read it in her eyes. A small smile curved his lips. “I thought so.”
Eris took a step away. Someone behind him blurted, “We can’t just leave her to—”
“We can, and we will,” Eris said simply, his pace unfaltering as he strode away.
“She chose to sully herself; her family chose to deal with her like garbage. I have already told them my decision in this matter.” A long pause, crueler than the rest. “And I am not in the habit of fucking Illyrian leftovers.”
Now that we have Mor’s side of the story, we’re going to look at what Eris has said about that fateful day during a discussion with the IC in ACOWAR:
Mor snarled, rattling the glasses. “You never gave any evidence to the contrary. Certainly not when you left me in those woods.”
“There were forces at work that you have never considered,” Eris said coldly. “And I am not going to waste my breath explaining them to you. Believe what you want about me.”
. . . .
A frown at Mor as he drained his wine and set down the goblet. “I’m surprised you still can’t control yourself around him. You had every emotion written right on that pretty face of yours.”
“Watch it,” Azriel warned.
Eris looked between them, smiling faintly. Secretly. As if he knew something that Azriel didn’t. “I wouldn’t have touched you,” he said to Mor, who blanched again. “But when you fucked that other bastard—” A snarl ripped from Rhys’s throat at that. And my own. “I knew why you did it.” Again that secret smile that had Mor shrinking. Shrinking. “So I gave you your freedom, ending the betrothal in no uncertain terms.”
“And what happened next,” Azriel growled.
A shadow crossed Eris’s face. “There are few things I regret. That is one of them. But … perhaps one day, now that we are allies, I shall tell you why. What it cost me.”
A main takeaway from this is that there seems to be much more to story of what happened between Eris and Mor.
Does that mean him leaving her in the woods is excusable? No. Absolutely not. He didn’t try to take the nail out of her (which would’ve been the bare minimum), he didn’t alert Rhys that she was there, he didn’t do anything to help her. He started to make the situation even more traumatic by saying vile things to her. Whatever reason he gives for not helping her will be just that: a reason. But not an excuse. Those are two very different things.
Eris say’s that leaving her there is one of the few things he regrets. There’s something in that. I’m not saying under any circumstance that he should be forgiven because he feels guilty, thats stupid as hell, but it is showing that he’s not some apathetic, other-worldy evil person. There’s some semblance of a conscious in him.
He also say’s that one day he’ll tell them why he did it and what it cost him. By what it cost him, I’m guessing he’s talking about the cost of ending his betrothal to Mor, because I can’t think of what he lost by leaving her there.
I don’t think there’s been any mention of someone getting revenge on Eris because A.) Rhys told Feyre that, “Azriel found her a day later. It was all I could do to keep him from going to either court and slaughtering them all.” and B) her family was obviously going to do nothing cause they’re the ones who hurt her.
I’m not going to try and theorize what cost Eris had to pay. It obviously is something (or someone) important to him.
But to me, one of the biggest things we got from this discussion is that it seems Eris knows Mor is gay. That secret smile of his that had Mor shrinking, the way he says he knows why she slept with Cassian, and that he gave Mor her freedom by ending the betrothal without giving a reason . . . he knows.
He knew she was gay, so he ended their engagement, no questions asked. And then Mor was dumped in his woods, and he did nothing to help.
Morally grey, indeed.
(P.S. To the person that posted something along the lines of, “I can’t wait to see Mor’s face when she see’s Eris dancing with Nesta,” . . . get help)
Another excerpt I wanna look at also happens during the recent discussion we’ve just seen, but it has to do with Feyre and Lucien.
“You hunted me down like an animal,” I cut in. “I think we’ll choose to believe the worst.”
Eris’s pale face flushed. “I was given an order. And sent to do it with two of my … brothers.”
That little hesitation before he says ‘brothers’. . . sus. That’s all imma say. (maybe there’s more than one illegitimate son in that family . . .)
“And what of the brother you hunted down alongside me? The one whose lover you helped to execute before his eyes?”
Eris laid a hand flat on the table. “You know nothing about what happened that day. Nothing.”
“Indulge me,” was all I said.
Eris stared me down. I stared right back.
“How do you think he made it to the Spring border,” he said quietly. “I wasn’t there— when they did it. Ask him. I refused. It was the first and only time I have denied my father anything. He punished me. And by the time I got free … They were going to kill him, too. I made sure they didn’t. Made sure Tamlin got word—anonymously—to get the hell over to his own border.”
Where two of Eris’s brothers had been killed. By Lucien and Tamlin.
Eris picked at a stray thread on his jacket. “Not all of us were so lucky in our friends and family as you, Rhysand.”
We see another semblance of conscious here when Eris refuses to take part in the slaughtering of Jesminda. To even be in the same room as it. He then made sure that Lucien wasn’t going to die by making sure Tamlin was at his border.
I’m not putting these quotes here to say, “Look, he cares about stuff , so let’s excuse everything he’s done.” No. There is no excusing any of his actions. Just like we can’t excuse Rhysand’s behavior in the first two books, or Cassian’s, or Nesta’s, or even Feyre’s, etc. But what we can do is see the reasons for their actions, and try and understand why they acted the way they did. They have their reasons, and Eris has his. (P.S. I’m not trying to compare what they’ve done, I’m just noting that they all had reasons to do what they’ve done, and they all deserve to be heard out.)
Comparison To Rhys
As I said earlier, Eris has drawn a lot of comparisons to Rhys. I agree with most of them.
This fandom has catalogued all of Rhys’s questionable actions like . . .
*TRIGGER WARNING: words like sexually assaulted*
Rhys sexually assaulting Feyre three times in the first book by drugging her, and then compelling her to give him lap dances in front of the folks Under The Mountain. He then displayed Feyre again in a sexual manner in the second book in front of The Court of Nightmares as, and I quote, “The High Lords Whore.”
In both situations he could’ve done things so much differently. In the first book, he could’ve just, oh I don’t know, kept her in her cell? Or maybe brought her upstairs as a normal person?
And in the second one she literally could have been ANYTHING else. Everyone thinks she’s his prisoner, so why didn’t they go with that? Why couldn’t he have just dressed her in some raggedy-ass clothing, messed up her hair, and then tell her to act super stoic or frightened? Really Rhys, she just had to be your whore? (I know it was consensual but that doesn’t make her persona okay. He could’ve picked literally anything else)
Did he have his reasons for doing this? Yes. Does his reasons excuse what he did? No. You don’t have to make everyone else around you act a part just because you do.
So while we may not excuse Rhys’s actions, we can understand his reasons even if we don’t agree with them. Same with Eris. We know Eris has his reasons, and I doubt we’ll all agree with them, but he still has them.
Let’s also not forget that Rhysand made a deal with Eris and Keir that he would support Eris’s claim to the Autumn Court throne when Eris decides to kill his father for it. He also allowed Keir and his court to come into Velaris, and even though they’ll be turned away by every vendor, he still allowed them in. While he had his reasons for doing this (the Darkling army for ACOWAR) he still did it. It still hurt Mor.
My biggest hesitation in thinking Eris will get a redemption arc is wondering where it would fit in the books for him to have one. We don’t know how if his waltz with Nesta is just a one-time thing or if it’s a result of a friendship between the two. The second book is supposed to be centered around Elain, Azriel, and Lucien, so that could also be a spot where he get’s an arc, maybe through a relationship with Lucian or Azriel.
Either way, I’m not gonna bring down the hammer and say that he shouldn’t get a redemption arc. Tbh, the term ‘redemption arc’ kinda annoys me because it shouldn’t be about redeeming what was done in the past, but more about learning from past mistakes and taking the initiative to grow into a better person. That’s what I want for Eris. He’s not going to magically be revealed to be this super sweet fun-loving guy like Rhys. I don’t want him to be revealed like that either.
I just want to see more of his character, see why he is the way he is, and, like i’ve said a million times in this post, know his reasons for acting the way he does.
One last thing before I go. I’m not interested in seeing any relationship blossom between Eris and the IC, or Nesta, and I think it’s unlikely anyways. There’s a possibility for them to have an understanding, sure, but no friendship. I know there are some people who automatically adore Eris because they hate Mor and that’s just stupid. Mor isn’t my fav either, but I won’t cheer Eris on just because he hurt her.
That’s all I’ve got. If you’ve made it this far, I appreciate you. Really.
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azriel x archeron sibling! reader | part 2
this is pure slow burn
the cauldron chose you to be his mate, but you’re not the one he wants.
the cauldron chose y/n to be azriel’s mate, but they’re not the one he wants. and now it’s painfully obvious - since the moment the bond clicked in. Before that night, y/n had time to fall for him - even as they saw him falling for their sister after being in love with mor for 5 centuries.
that’s not fair. they couldn’t compete - elain and mor, they’re in whole other level.
and even staying at the House was painful, y/n could barely breath when they were there with him. Being in different rooms didn’t help, nor did the fact that he ignored them and that everyone else tried to ignore the bond, the smell of it polluting the air.
his smell, now almost always mixed with elain’s seemed to be all around the house and as a new turned fae was really hard for y/n to just ignore it. and half of the time burning elain’s garden looked like a good idea.
y/n needed space, something to keep them busy, a reason to never be around. that was their main motivation to look for a job - their first job in fae land. and they’re glad to manage to be accepted in a library downtown. but it kept them busy only from 12pm to 6pm, so it soon was not enough. and soon they managed a second job as a waitress in a cafeteria a street from the library, which would keep them occupied from 5am to 11am.
feyre and nesta must have sensed that something was off, since they started to invite you to go the Rita’s or to dinners in the House of Wind almost every night. what made two jobs seem like not enough and in the last night y/n went to Rita’s with them, they explained that now they also worked in a restaurant from 7pm to 11pm. Feyre was angry and asked many times why her sibling was doing it - if they need space, she and rhys would happily buy a nearby house to them. but they didn’t want it - rhys money. nesta was more understanding, but made herself clear when expressing her disapproval of them working that amount of hours - even if they’re fae, that was not healthy. the problem is that y/n just couldn’t care anymore- not about their health, nor about the fight they had with feyre that night.
feyre, who used to be the closest to them, the only one who made them feel at home. she was now not more than blood and memories from a past life.
three jobs were exhausting, for sure. but it helped them to meet new people, away from feyre’s new found family. better yet, it allowed them to buy a small (one bedroom) apartment in a relatively far neighborhood from where the House was located, but still close to their works. they had yet to move, since it required telling the inner circle about their new home. but they wanted to do it soon, so getting in the House by the river early on a Friday night to meet all of them reunited in the dining table did look like a opportunity handed to them in a silver plate.
“what do you mean, you’re moving?” mor asked, breaking the silence that had frozen the place after the breaking the news.
y/n played with their fingers as they tried to ignore feyre’s look, the angry face she made.
“w-well, you see... i have been working really hard recently and...” they stopped what they were saying as feyre stand on her feet.
“can we talk? you and I, privately?” her voice was cold and she didn’t wait for an answer as she started to go up the stairs. y/n followed silently.
feyre walked in her office, using her powers to close the door after y/n walked in. she also felt the wind barrier her sister created around them, in order to guarantee the conversation would stay private. it did help to put y/n at easy - at least a little.
feyre didn’t say anything - a silent invitation for them to direct the conversation.
“i can’t pretend it doesn’t hurt me, feyre. i can’t stay by and watch him and elain and pretend i don’t care. besides that, i can almost feel through the bond the discomfort he feels whenever i’m on the same room, the same table. and he just... he has already suffered so much, I can’t do it - I can’t handle being the cause of more pain.”
feyre was... shocked. wow, she and y/n had really grown apart. before, they used to spend hours in the forest - hunting, talking, just existing. and know she spend months ignoring her young sibling torment, not even knowing it was there.
so she did the only thing she could. she hugged her sibling. in the end, she knew how it felt to be trapped inside a home.
“so...” she cleaned a tear “can i at least help you to move? since i couldn’t even participate in the choice of the apartment?”
y/n giggled, shaking their head as they felt the air get lighter.
“yes, of course. I was thinking about starting tomorrow.”
feyre agreed with a head movement, before asking:
“by the way, you chose your apartment alone? you should have asked someone to show you the best areas in Velaris at least...”
“oh, lucien helped me.”
the shocked in feyre’s face was now even more evident.
“lucien? he didn’t pass by, i didn’t even know he was around.”
“oh, yes and why do you think he did that? have you smelled your own house?”
feyre just giggled in answer, opening the office door so you could head back to the dining room.
y/n was yanning when they headed back to their bedroom, one that they shared with mor, since amren prefered to stay in her own apartment. when you heard some knocking on the door, you presumed it was her and opened the door without thinking twice.
‘thank mother i’m fully dressed‘
it was not mor, but azriel. y/n was surprised and they knew he could read it on their face.
“i’m sorry to disturb you. i know you might be tired”
“yes” they answered. y/n felt like they had forgot how to form phrases. he didn’t smell like garden, what made his presence a lot more tolerable.
he didn’t say anything for a few seconds, so y/n didn’t either - they knew he would talk when he felt ready.
“this is also your home.” he said, not looking at them.
y/n knew what he meant. ‘this is your house, you don’t have to move because i make a face every time you enter the room.’ but they felt like pushing his bottoms, so they just turned their head slightly to the left, as if they were confused and waiting for him to finish.
“i don’t... i have nothing against you.”
“you’re my high lady’s sibling.”
“well, thank you, but it’s very brave of you to assume that me moving has anything to do with you.”
shock shined in his eyes, but just for a fraction of second - in the next moment, nearby shadows were gradually hiding his face.
that was all he said before leaving through the shadows.
y/n sucked in the air, slamming the door shut.
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Elucien Week  : Pearls
Title: Unexpected Surprises
Prompt: Lucien has been trying to plan the perfect proposal for his mate for months. Things do not go as expected.
Elain’s dress | Ring 1 | Ring 2
Tagging: @elucienweek | @vanserrasvalkyrie | @chloepereyra | @helion-ism | @asteria-of-mars | @arielle-reads | @gingerwritess |
The room was silent enough you could hear a pin drop.
Lucien and Nesta stared at each other, seated across the table at The House of Wind. Lucien with a quirked brow and Nesta narrowed eyes.
The two hadn’t always seen eye to eye. In fact, Nesta’s scowl seemed to deepen, and Lucien’s own glare intensified every time they were in the same space. But the two had found common ground. They had even, dare say, gotten along here and there.
But Lucien needed something from Nesta and Nesta...well, she liked being annoying.
“What do I get in return?”
Lucien rolled his eyes. “Your sister’s happiness? My undying gratitude.”
“Hmm, your gratitude sounds awfully sarcastic.”
“That’s the only appropriate response to your question.“
Nesta tsked. “Now, now Vanserra. Don’t be a toad. I would like you to politely ask me.”
Lucien gave a long-suffering sigh and Nesta smirked. “Nesta, would you please tell me where you went with the ring I want to propose to Elain with?”
Nesta snorted. “You trusted me so much with it, yet you question me as if I’d lose it?” she said and then shrugged her shoulders. “Say I lost it. What does it matter what ring you get her? You’re mates anyway. You’re in love. It’s not like she’s going to say no.”
They both knew why it had to be this particular ring but again, Nesta really enjoyed getting on Lucien’s nerves.
He scowled. “Well, what do you want from me then? What is it going to take for you to give it back to me?”
“Hmm. What do I want?”
Lucien braced himself. He knew she could ask him to do something humiliating. Nesta always had an eye for it. Granted, he was a total dick about it right back, but it was why their very childish relationship worked. They were great assholes to each other.
He rolled his eyes when she finally smiled at him. That stupid sinister smile.
“You are so annoying.” he muttered, and she barked a laugh.
“Oh, you’ll know the proper meaning of annoying once I’m done with you.” she cooed and stood. “Come back to me after three days. I’ll tell you what I want.”
“I can make it four.” she immediately replied with a smirk. “Or five or six days.”
Lucien glared and huffed. “Fine. Three days. If you don’t tell me, I’m going tell Elain exactly how unhelpful you were and that you stole the ring that I only gave you because I panicked she was going to wear my jacket then make sure you won’t be there for the actual proposal.”
Nesta snorted. “As if you’d dare.”
“Oh, I dare.”
The two smiled at each then, terribly mean smiles.
“Are you testing me, cockroach?” Nesta asked quietly.
“Oh, I am, demon.” Lucien confirmed.
In a strange way, the two of them were the very best of friends.
“Three days, you weasel.”
“I’d say I look forward to seeing you then, but that would be a lie, you witch.”
Nesta chuckled then blew him a kiss to which Lucien’s immediate response was to gag audibly.
Three days passed as Lucien planned and planned and planned. Each plan was more extravagant than the other, but he still needed a base to compare — just in case — the idiot human had actually done something memorable. Most importantly, he needed his fucken ring.
When Lucien finally had Cassian bring him up to The House of Wind again, Nesta showed up on the evening of day three with such a sweet smile that Lucien knew he was fucked.
“Well?” he drawled.
“It turns out I accidentally left it with a special friend. You will need to spend the night with said friend and then you may return with the ring.” Nesta said simply. “Then, and only then will I give you my blessings.”
Lucien snorted. “Who said I wanted your blessings?”
“Forgive me but I must be mistaken,” Nesta said with raised brows. “Did you really think you would have a blissful time planning a wedding for my sister dearest without my involvement? I didn’t think you were this big of a moron, you redhaired buffoon.”
Lucien leaned his head back and let out a groan of frustration. Nesta only smiled.
He glared at her. “Is this revenge for the time I accidentally set your reading nook on fire?”
“You say accidentally, I say planned assault.”
“I was drunk!”
“And somehow knew how to find your way to my reading nook.”
Lucien pursed his lips, his glare intensified as she smirked at him. What did that evil witch have in store for him?
“You have a magic house that gets you any books you want and yet, I have to suffer for an accidental mistake.” he snapped. “You’re sabotaging my proposal!”
The House seemed to flutter at its mention. Nesta only smiled that annoying smile.
“I’m making your proposal more worthwhile.” she said sweetly. “It’s now a grand gesture.”
Lucien scowled and then took a deep breath before glaring at her again.
“Fine. Fine.” he finally said. This was all for Elain. He would be fine. He could do it. Whatever it is. “Who is this friend, why do I have to spend the night, and why do they have my ring in the first place?”
Like a storyteller weaving you a nightmare, Nesta explained slowly, “Deep in the wonderful House of Wind, there is a magical library. And even deeper in that magical library, you will find one of the most fascinating creatures I’ve come across. This creature terrifies some and is a darling pet to others.” she paused and smiled wickedly as the color drained from Lucien’s face. “Naturally, I am the latter.”
“You have got to be kidding me.”
“Oh, but I’m not.” she said with a grin. “Bryaxis dear has your precious ring. In return for holding on to it, it requested some company. You will spend the night with it to keep it company. The next morning you will return with your ring, and I will be more than delighted to assist you with any and all proposal preparations.
Lucien shot out of his seat in outrage. “It could eat me!”
“That would be the hope, wouldn’t it?” Nesta muttered and Lucien glared at her. “But no, it won’t. I’ve made a bargain. All it wants is tales of far-off lands and adventures. You’ve had those. Make use of them.”
Lucien’s glare intensified before he closed his eyes and took another deep breath. He thought of Elain again. He thought back to when both Feyre and Rhys as well as Nesta and Cassian finally had small intimate weddings, and Lucien had watched Elain’s face and the way her eyes lit up in happiness and glee at the ceremony of her sister’s happiness. Lucien had also seen the flicker of sadness on her face when she thought no one was looking.
All of it would be for Elain. This was something she would want. It would make her happy, so Lucien was going to propose. He was going to propose in the most ridiculous way possible and let her plan the wedding of her dreams, outdoing both of her sisters. He would do anything to make her happy. She would be his mate and wife.
And he sure loved the sound of the word wife.
But first, get through this trial of doom.
“You’re just delighted by this, aren’t you?”
“Over the moon.” Nesta replied with a wave of her hand.
“Fine, you fiend,” he replied with a disgruntled noise. “I can’t wait for the day when I return the favor.”
Nesta cackled. “I have no doubt you’ll only plan the best revenge for me.”
With a final glare, Lucien sighed then took off, knowing he’d have to prepare and somehow explain to Elain he’d be spending the night elsewhere.
Nesta had the audacity to walk Lucien down to the area where Bryaxis stayed after permission was granted by the priestess for him to pass through. The smug smile on her face dulled any fear from Lucien because all he could do was picture throttling her.
“Here we are.” she said in a sweet singsong voice. “Bryaxis will find you so just wait here.”
Lucien took one look at the dark hallway and sighed then glared at Nesta. “Just so you know, when I get back, I’m going to choke the life out of you.”
Nesta only laughed, patting him on the shoulder. “Not if Braxis doesn’t snuff the life out of you first.”
Lucien scowled at her back, still shaking with laughter. “What a wench.” he mumbled, then with a sigh, turned towards the darkness that filled the hall. He hadn’t even been granted a weapon. But no matter, he was a weapon.
He took a few steps forward, deeper into the dark hall and lit very soft flames at his fingertips as he glanced around. Lucien waited, wondering if the wicked beast had the mind to torture him by making him wait as Nesta probably wished it.
But then a soft voice broke the silence, “Are you my esteemed guest?”
Lucien whirled towards the voice, his hands lighting just a small space ahead of him. His heart was thundering, but his voice was clear as he answered, “Yes. I am Lucien. Where would you like me to sit, friend?”
“Are we? Friends?”
“Promise you won’t eat me and I’ll be an even better friend than the witch who sent me here.” he said with a shaky chuckle.
A dark chuckle replied. “She is very nice to me. Reads to me many stories of adventures while I look out my window.” It said, “Tell me future high lord, what stories and adventures do you have for me?”
Lucien’s brows lifted. The beast seemed to know more about him than he expected. “I’ve traveled to many places. Tell me a place you’re curious about and I’ll be happy to oblige.”
The soft voice spoke again. “I would recommend you douse your fire. You might see more than you bargained for with me.”
A shudder ran through Lucien’s body, and he thought of Elain. This whole thing was so unnecessary but for Elain, he would do it all.
With a sigh, Lucien’s fire flickered out and made his way to the edge of the wall, sliding down into the darkness.
“Is this a good spot for you?” he asked dully, and that dark chuckle returned.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you weren’t too happy to be here.”
“I’m not. That demon made me. Apparently, you have the love of my life’s ring and I’m going to need that to propose.”
The darkness seemed to halt for a moment. “You’re going to propose with this ring?”
“Yes, of course. What did Nesta tell you I wanted to do with it? Shove it up my ass?” Lucien said with a snort and the darkness laughed with him.
“She made no mention of the significance of the ring. Just that you needed to be punished for ruining her books.”
Lucien rolled his eyes, any fear of Bryaxis gone at this point. He seemed only a tedious pet.
“It was an accident but if there’s anyone who holds a grudge worse than Rhys, it’s Nesta.”
“Ah, the High Lord wasn’t too happy when I disappeared for a while.” It said. “The High Lady is the nicer one to me.”
Lucien snorted. “Sounds about right.” he said then sighed, shifting so his back rubbed against the wall. “Tell me friend, what stories would you like me to share?”
“Tell me about your mate.”
Lucien tensed. “And why would I do that?”
“All you did was speak of her in passing a few moments ago but I felt the warmth.” It said. “I would like to feel more.”
Lucien narrowed his eyes. Surely Nesta wouldn’t send him to spend time with a creature that could potentially hurt Elain.
“I am bound to this place now, future high lord. I mean no harm. I am merely curious.”
“You could sell information to the highest bidder if you wanted to.”
“Surely you don’t think I’d be left alive if I had any ill will.” It said and Lucien could’ve sworn he felt the beast chortled. “The Goddess of Death and our lovely High Lady wouldn’t leave a dust particular of me.”
“Neither would I.” Lucien promised quietly. “And I have enough fire and light in me to blaze a whole continent should you decide to play games. Your darkness wouldn’t last a second.”
Bryaxis seemed to halt at this and then skitter around Lucien. “You’re so brave. All this for your love?”
“I will give my everything for my mate.”
“Then tell me about your love.”
Lucien paused again, but this time instead of being suspicious, he felt the creature’s curiosity. “I thought you wanted stories of adventures?”
“What is love but an endless adventure?” the soft voice said.
Surprise colored Lucien’s face then he let out a soft laugh. “I didn’t take a creature so terrifying to be such a romantic.”
“You aren’t terrified of me.” It challenged.
“You lost your edge after I got to know Nesta on a more personal level.” Lucien said with a snort. “Plus, you haven’t seen Elain screaming at Rhys for ruining her gardenias.”
Bryaxis chuckled, then his darkness seemed to curl around Lucien. “Tell me then. I want to hear all about your love adventure. Start with why you picked this ring.”
Lucien paused, thinking exactly how he had come to choose this ring. It took him a moment but then he smiled softly into the darkness and said, “Pearls.”
He felt the creature tilt around him. “Pearls?” It repeated.
“I first noticed it when she wore that filthy human’s ring.” he said, his lips frowning for a moment. “But then as time went on, she seemed to have a preference for them.”
Lucien blinked into the darkness as he continued. “She would wear these lovely dresses that were always adorned with pearls, and it would make every nerve in my body burn. Then she’d wear hair clips that made her seem like she was glowing, an angel with a halo.” he said and chuckled. “I gifted her pearl earrings, then a necklace and bracelet to match. Naturally, a ring seemed next.”
“Why haven’t you given it to her yet?”
Lucien paused him and licked his lips once again, smiling slightly as he felt Byraxis twist around him. “Well, have you ever heard the story of the Seer that could see all except her way home?”
“What about the lost prince who wandered in every place trying to find home?”
“I have not.”
“Well, you’ll be pleased to know that the two intertwine.” Lucien said quietly and the creature seemed to hold its breath. “Two lost souls, tied by a thread, pulled together by the most unlikely circumstances.”
“The story of the Fox and the Fawn.” Bryaxis said with a level of excitement Lucien wasn’t expecting. “The Kingslayer and the Son of Day.”
He laughed softly. “You seem to know where I’m going with this.”
“Maybe so.” the creature said and Lucien felt it wrap around him closer. “But your warmth...tell me the story.”
Lucien smiled and then did exactly that. In fact, Lucien spent all night, telling Bryaxis exactly how the Fox and the Fawn came to be. How the thread between them went cold for two years. How the choke of disappointment threatened to ruin everything — how resentment started to build. How much avoidance there was.
But then he also told him of the day the Fawn called to the Fox. The day it all changed.
Where Elain had unknowingly summoned him by the intensity of her distress alone and when Lucien barreled into the Night Court ready to kill, she had only walked up to him with silver lining her eyes and said as firmly as he’d ever heard her speak, “Take me away from here.”
“And so, I did.” he said softly and a small smile graced his face. “She was wearing the pearl earrings I had given her for the first time. I could suddenly see her in nothing else.”
“Pearls can be a symbol of perfection.” the creature said, and Lucien almost felt it’s smile.
“You can see why I find it so fitting for Elain.” he said with a chuckle. “The ring...just suits her. It’s beautiful, elegant and perfect. Just like she is.”
“But surely things were far from perfect.”
“Oh, they were.” Lucien said with a snort. “She may look demure, but my love can be quite mean.”
And Lucien continues to weave the tale of the tense awkwardness of being in the same space away from everyone who had ever interfered between them. The way they had to orbit around each other while desperately trying to ignore the pull between them.
He told Bryaxis of their fights, of their conversations, of their first kiss, and how the fire in his veins liquified when her lips touched his.
And slowly, without realizing it, Lucien had started to glow as he spoke. It only made him smile as he continued to describe the feeling of holding her in his arms for the first time. Of sharing a night together. Of hearing her confess her love to him. Of saying I love you to her right back.
Lucien glowed like the dawn of a new morning as he continued all through the night, describing the adventures of the Fox and the Fawn exploring their love and the world around them together.
When the new day finally came to be, Lucien's faint glow had settled and even Bryaxis hadn’t shuddered away, kept warm by the eternal glow of his guest’s happiness.
“So here I am…waiting for the right moment.” Lucien finished with a sigh. “Good enough adventure tales for you?”
“For now.” It said with a chuckle and the corner of Lucien’s lips ticked up. “Your ring is in your pocket.”
Lucien’s hands immediately went to his pant pockets and let out a laugh. “It’s been there all night, hasn’t it?”
A dark chuckle was the response. “She wanted to see how long it would take until you started screaming.”
Lucien snorted and slowly stood, stretching with a groan. “She seems to forget how much older I am than she is and how much more horrors I’ve seen.”
The creature wrapped itself around Lucien in a soft, almost embrace-like way. “Say hello to Elain for me. I hope to hear more about your adventures, Son of Day.”
“Next time, I won’t need to lose a ring to visit. I’ll come to plan terrors with you.”
Bryaxis’ laugh followed Lucien as he made his way back towards the open halls, squinting slightly against the light, and he was pleased to find a scowling Nesta waiting for him. She crossed her arms as he smirked, adjusting his shirt.
“Well. You survived.”
Lucien laughed. “Turns out your beastly friend is a big softie. It took one mention of Elain for it to like me.”
Nesta scoffed even as a small smile graced her face. “Speaking of Elain, she’s been annoyingly asking about you all morning. As if she doesn’t trust me not to maim you.”
“No, you’ll just send me to my potential death instead.”
Nesta sniggered, then handed him a note that instantly had Lucien perk up, as it smelled of Elain. “This is for you. Cassian is ready to throw you off the balcony to take you home.”
Lucien waved her off to walk ahead as he opened the note.
My love. I’ve missed you all night and I hope you enjoyed helping Nesta (I know you didn’t).
His head shot up. “Helping you? She thought I let her sleep alone to help you?”
Nesta grinned over her shoulder. “What was I going to tell her? You lost her ring and I wanted to torture you?”
“I didn’t lose it! You stole it!”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Lucien rolled his eyes then looked back to the letter.
Please go home, rest, eat well, and I’ll see you in the evening. I have a special surprise for you and I can’t WAIT to see you. I even picked an outfit to compliment mine ;) I love you.
He smiled. He couldn’t wait to see her either.
Lucien blinked rapidly, trying his best to quell down the dangerously high range of emotions he was feeling.
Per Elain’s instructions, he had eaten, rested, and when he woke, he washed up and dressed in the dress shirt and pants she had insisted he wear. He very securely pocketed Elain’s ring.
The moment he had stepped out of his home in the early evening, Cassian had very nearly tackled him with a blindfold and only said, “It is my mission to bring you to your surprise and I can’t let you see anything.”
Lucien allowed it and allowed the quick flight then allowed him to land them without complaining even though he desperately wanted to — his heart had been hammering in his chest and he was too excited to see Elain. He allowed Cassian to rip off the blindfold and very roughly attempt to fix his hair before casually shoving him towards his surprise.
And this was where Lucien had been frozen for the last few minutes.
Because they were now standing in the Day Court on a flower-lined path, leading to a beautifully decorated gazebo where the love of his life was standing, in a beautiful baby blue dress beaming at him.
His eyes briefly scanned the area around him, and Lucien almost choked on the fact that his parents stood there smiling, Eris gave him a wave and alongside them stood Rhys holding Nyx alongside Feyre, Nesta, and Cassian grinning obnoxiously.
“Are you going to leave me standing here, my love? I’ve missed you.” Elain called out and only then did Lucien move. Faster than Elain expected, Lucien had wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into a kiss so heated, it earned a few hoots.
Elain laughed as she pulled away and smiled up at him. “Hello to you too.”
“What — what is all this?” he asked, looking around.
“Well…” Elain began and pulled away. She turned and Lucien watched as Nesta moved forward, handing Elain a small box and smirking at him.
All thoughts left Lucien’s head when Elain slowly turned back to him and opened the box with a smile so bright, he was sure Bryaxis could feel it back at the Night Court.
She only shrugged with a small laugh. “I had to have Nesta keep you distracted so I can finish setting this up.”
“She could’ve done that without having me spend the night with Bryaxis.” he said with a snort.
“She did what now?” Elain said and her head snapped to glare at her older sister, but Nesta only smirked back.
"You said you wanted him out of the way for a while."
"That could've been permanent." Elain snarled and Nesta laughed as Lucien gently brought a hand to turn her face back towards him.
“Next time, send me to Feyre.” he said, scrunching his nose with a small laugh and Elain sighed, then shrugged sheepishly.
“Too late now.”
Lucien licked his lips and dipped his head, a soft laugh escaping him. He took a look at the lights, the flowers, and then the people sharing this happy moment with them. His eyes drifted back to Elain’s beautiful face and he brought a hand to his own pocket, finally pulled out the ring he had held on to for months.
“You stole my thunder, dove.” he said and opened his small box. “I’ve been waiting for the perfect moment.”
Elain’s expression softened as her eyes drifted to the ring then back up at him. “Every moment is the perfect moment with you, my love.” she said, and Lucien’s own face softened.
“I had so many plans.” he whispered. “I wanted to give you the perfect proposal.”
But Elain shook her with a smile. “I knew you were trying to do something like this but... I wanted to plan this for you. I wanted to make this moment unforgettable because you’re my love, my mate, and the only partner I want to have.” she said, and Lucien shuddered under her touch. “You deserve the most wonderful proposal because you’re the most wonderful person I’ve been blessed to meet. I want you to be wooed.”
“I love you. I love you for everything that you are and all that you will be.” she whispered. “And I will love you until my final breath. You’ve given me a home, a life, and a love I only dreamed about. You make me bloom. You are my brightest sun and I want to spend the rest of my life with you so I didn’t want to wait anymore.” she said with flushed cheeks and a wide smile then slowly, dropped down to one knee, dress and all. “Will you marry me, Lucien Vanserra?”
Lucien grinned, dropping down to one knee as well. “Only if you’ll marry me too, Elain Archeron.”
“Disgusting.” came Nesta’s mumble.
“Fuck off, Nesta.” Lucien only said with a smile, his eyes only on his mate.
“Are you sure about this, Elain? It’s never too late to back out now.”
“Fuck off, Eris.” was Elain’s response, grinning widely, her eyes only on her mate.
“Language.” tutted Rhys. “We have a child in attendance.”
Unanimously and without dropping their gaze from each other, Elain and Lucien only said, “Fuck off, Rhys.”
“Now, now.” Lady Autumn chided, her own hand interlaced tightly in her mate’s and Helion’s glow as bright as the sun. “Answer the questions!”
Elain shot Lucien a coy smile and held out his ring to slide on his finger. “What do you say, mate? Are you willing to be my husband too?” she teased, and Lucien gave her a devilish grin.
“Only if you’re willing to be my wife too.” he replied with a wink.
“Then my answer is yes. A thousand times, yes.” she breathed, as he slid the pearl ring on her finger.
“And my answer will only ever be yes. Through a thousand lifetimes, you will always be a yes.”
“Good because when we leave here, I’m going to do so many naughty things I’ve wanted to do with my husband.” she whispered.
“Then it’s great you’re going to be my wife because I definitely have so many naughty things I would only do with my wife.” he whispered right back.
With a giddy giggle, Elain leaned in, cupping Lucien’s face and kissed him fiercely as Lucien pulled her into his arms and stood. Elain’s right leg curled up as they deepened the kiss, cheers erupting behind them, but Lucien only dipped her back, making up for the moments they’d been apart.
“Son, save some for the private room I reserved for you.” Helion called out with a snort. “Let us celebrate!”
Finally pulling away, Lucien grinned down at his mate, his love, and soon-to-be wife. “I’m going to give you the wedding of your dreams, miss. No stealing the show this time.”
Elain’s head tilted back as she laughed. “What if I want to give you the wedding of your dreams?”
“It will be as long as you’re the bride.”
“Enough with the romance!” hollered Cassian. “I want to eat!”
Lucien scowled, his head snapping to where Cassian stood patting his stomach obnoxiously but before Lucien could smite him, Feyre stepped into view with a grin.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for years!” she said. “I want the first hug!”
And so, the story of the Fox and the Fawn started a new chapter, full of light, love, and much more happiness to come.
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Elain sat on the bank of the river, chiffon skirts pulled up above her knee. Toes dipping in the cool clear water. Flexing her toes as the water flowed around and in between them. Fingers busying themselves in the soft blades of grass. Fresh and alive in the springtime air. She could feel the warmth of afternoon burning into her gown. With ease, she could move to the tree across the way. Complete with an overhang of leaves high above, keeping her from the heat of the sun.
That was too close. Far too close to Lucien. This proximity was too close as it is. Whereas mere months ago Elain avoided him for her selective reasons. Which consisted of grieving the loss of mortal life and adjusting to an immortal one. Once Elain discovered the two of them healing from their pasts was easier together she deemed her distance selfish. Lucien had only called it necessary. They may have never reached this level of comfort and affection had they forced themselves.
Now Elain avoided her mate for want. A silly reason to be sure. Elain had the vision of the two of them accepting the bond. She didn't have to know the exact location. When her visions came to life there was a tingling sense of recognition inside her mind's eyes. The sensation did not strike thinking of tackling him here by a riverbank as he hunted for fish. Instead of moving closer, she would sit watching him and enjoying the pleasant view.
But damn the cauldron and the mother it was not easy. Not when he stood in the water looking like that. Her gaze once again drifted to the reddened hue of his hair. Pulled back and up with a leather strap. Was it intentional it was the same color as her eyes? Elain wasn’t sure. It caused her cheeks to turn a shade of deep pink regardless. Similar to the deep blush of her gown. A few strands of those fiery locks she enjoys braiding, fell away dusting along the cream-colored tunic he wore. Elain focused on Lucien, rolling the sleeves up to his elbow. The fabric secured around his arm, showing off the toned muscles in the lower half.
Her mouth parted a tinge watching how his arm flexed, muscles tighten and loosening readying himself to snatch down and grab another fish. After every fish he caught, Lucien had the utmost audacity to groan and roll his head side to side exposing his neck. A neck she wanted her lips on in the worst way. Did he taste of autumn she wondered? Of cinnamon and crisp apples or something more robust? Small embers inside her desperately ached to be a roaring fire consuming her entirely.
Elain continued her exploration of the stunning view. Noticing how the crystalline waters splashed against the fawn brown slacks. Causing the fabric to stick against his skin. Elain could not help but notice the muscled thighs underneath. Heart racing wildly inside her chest. Sweeping her tongue along her lips as Elain shifted her weight, brushing her thighs against each other. A silly, feeble attempt to ease that wanton ache.
“Would you like to help flower or continue to admire the view?” Lucien quipped, a taunting grin on his features. A deep russet eye met her own. Embers flickered in his eye. Yet his metal eye stayed focused on the waters.
“Who said the view was anything worthy to admire?” Elain retorted. At the rapid turn of his head, Elain held in a giggle. Lucien blinked once, twice before laughing.
His laughter warm and bright like daylight itself burst out from him. It was one of her favorite things about him. The way he tilted his back and his shoulders shook when he laughed. Lucien’s hands resting on his waist when he did so. It never ceased to bring brightness in her smile, warmth to her chest. The sound was unlike anything she’d ever heard. One she was perfectly content with hearing until the end of time itself.
Shortly after the two passed the awkward stages of being around one another, they quickly fell into step with jabs and remarks. It was a side of her not many witnessed. Though they bantered daily, he always blinked as it caught him off guard. As if this were a mere dream. Typically she would lay a hand to his arm, a gesture signaling this was real.
Lucien turned in the river, wading through the water towards her, “Well if that’s the case.” Elain kept her eyes locked onto his ready for his next move as he approached. A grin wide like a fox as he settled himself next to her. Brushing her warm brown tresses off her shoulder, the heat of his breath against her lobe. Elain took a calming breath ignoring the way her skin prickled at the sensation, “then there must be something amiss with your scent, Elain.” his tone dropped at her name on his lips. The goosebumps and throb below increased from that. As much as a gentleman she knew her mate could be. Times like these made her think of shoving him into the rushing river. If only to gather her wits.
"You can try to shove me in the river 'Lain. You will fail." He teased.
"You don't know that." Elain huffed.
"Oh but I do."
She turned fully facing to argue her point. Elain's mouth opened and closed several times, seemingly losing the ability to speak. Focusing on how close Lucien was. A mere breath away from her, feeling the heat of his body within this proximity. Dancing embers in his russet eye burned with intensity fixated on her. Elain could only stare, marvel at the goldenness of his skin. Even the scar on his cheek held a gruesome elegance. Her gaze drifted to the smirk pulling up in the corner of his mouth, the firm yet softness of his lips. Elain bunched the fabric of her gown, resisting the urge to take his face in her hands and kiss him soundly.
“Nothing is wrong with my scent.”
“No?” he chuckled with amusement.
Elain glared her cheeks a deep shade of scarlet. The seer could form words icy enough to match Nesta. When it came to haughty expressions, she failed. Humorously at that. Lucien sniffed the air around them. “Of course not.” adjusting the rolled cuff of his sleeve. Elain zeroed in on the action. "You only want me. And denying yourself due to a vision." Lucien stood heading towards where he was last in the river.
"That's not fair!" She stood to follow him. The water soaking her gown instantly. Threatening to slow her pace as the skirts became heavy twisting around her legs. Elain prevailed, reaching him in seconds.
Lucien paid her no mind. Staring at the river. "You're right. It's not for either of us. Now." He lifted a finger to his lips. indicating to be silent. "You'll scare the fish."
"I don't care." She hissed. "You're the one who's… who's...Riling me up!"
That pulled his attention. "I was fishing. You're the one sitting in the grass fantasizing." Her cheeks burned. "Unless you want to help me. Go back to the bank and we can finish this later."
She didn't want to wait. "Fine." Elain grabbed her skirts moving to Lucien. "What do I do exactly? Stick my hand in the water?"
His metal eye whirred, brows rising in surprise. "You wanna fish?" She nodded. "Come here then" the velvet smoothness of his tone faded into gentleness as he said. "Watch the rocks."
Elain did as instructed, paying close attention to the rocks on the ground. Feeling the slick and sharpness of them poking her feet. Lucien extended a hand to her. She took it, slipping her palm sliding against his well-worked one. Ignoring the way her heart sparked at his thumb brushed along her knuckles. Lucien tightened his grip, helping Elain the last few steps placing herself in front of him. Steadying her with a firm grasp on her waist.
"We just...look at the water?" She whispered, staring at clear waters, noting the mud, rocks, and the few fishes swimming about.
"For the most part." His chin grazed against her shoulder. Leaning over Elain, peering into the river, "it's about timing. Knowing the path, the destination. It doesn't matter how the fish gets here. Only that it does and then you snatch it."
"Why do I get the feeling you're not speaking of fishing."
He chuckled again. The sound would be her undoing. "Because I'm not." He paused. "Well not fully." Elain let out a small laugh. "Fate has been designed. It can't be altered. The road may change but the destination remains the same. It doesn't matter if we accept the bond whenever we wish or according to your vision. It's your choice Elain. I support it. Whether today, the vision or in a hundred years."
"Thank you." It was all she could say. At the moment Elain didn't trust herself to speak more.
"You're welcome." They were silent for a time. Listening to the gurgling of the river and the gentle breeze bristling through the leaves. "We can have sex without accepting the bond."
"Stating a fact flower."
"I know." Elain swallowed, losing herself to the heat of his touch on her waist. The tips of fingers gently tapping her side. His scent swirling around her, like autumn leaves in a breeze. And his face a kiss away from hers. She refused to turn in his arms, no matter every part of her screaming in protest. Opting instead to place her hand over his, sliding her fingers in between. Instinctively leaning into his chest.
What were they doing? right. Fishing. They were fishing. Supposedly.
"Right. It is about timing and patience. Knowing when to strike. See that one?" The hand on her hip splayed on her stomach. Keeping Elain flush to Lucien as he pointed in the distance to a grey fish swimming towards them. She gave a brief nod. "Count to ten in your head then drop your hand and grab. Eyes on the fish."
Lucien started the countdown from ten. With each number, his splayed fingers curled against the soft gown. His voice lowered and lowered his cheek gravitated to Elain's. The warmth of his body pressed to hers. By three she gave in. Turning in his arms only to find Lucien wasn’t looking at the fish or the river at all. But her.
"You're supposed to be watching the fish." He said fingers trembled to find a home beneath her chin.
Elain's shrugged, "Slow learner." Her lids fluttered close briefly, Lucien lifting her chin.
"Indeed." Inching closer. An eye flicked to hers concern laying in them as he searched her eager wanting ones. "Do you want me to stop?"
His lips slanted over hers. Slow, tenderly claiming her mouth. Elain tugged on his tunic, deepening the kiss as the fire inside her glowed brightly. Hands traveling up around the base of his neck. His tongue brushed against her mouth. Elain parted her lips with a blissful sigh granting him the access he's craved so long. As Lucien wrapped Elain in his arms, holding her tightly. She felt it. The sudden weariness in their bond echoing the nerve stricken heartbeats. As if they stopped he'd wake and this would all be a beautiful nightmare. Elain sent loving thoughts down the bond in reassurance. That she chose him. Now and forever.
It was all the encouragement Lucien needed to sweep her in his arms and carry her to the riverbed. Elain peppered kisses along his jawline up to his scar. "I hate her," she murmured against his cheek.
Lucien halted Elain still in his arms both of them snapped to the voice being cleared ahead of them, "Yeah me too. Try being stuck in a ring on her hand." Jurian commented leaning against the bark of a tree. A foot tapping the barrel with fish inside. "I see hardly any fishing was done."
"Go to hell Jurian." Lucien commented winnowing them away. As Elain held on, she felt the tinge of recognition in her mind.
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