My Whole World
Bucky wants to go for a motorcycle ride, and you end up going with him as his "chaperone." A beautiful kaleidoscope awaits you. Bucky x reader. 1954 words. Fluff. Have fun on the ride :))
“Hey Friday? Do we have any grapes?”
“We do not, Miss. We have gala apples, bananas, blueberries, mangos, strawberries, and watermelon.”
“Strawberries and sugar, it is. Thank you, Friday.”
“You’re welcome, Miss.”
It’s a short walk to the kitchen. I’m on hall GERS, so I have to walk through the common area to get to the kitchen. As I approached, I could hear quite the argument. Likely, Bucky and Sam. Or Bucky and Tony. The way I describe it, and it might be my bias, but Bucky isn’t actually the problem. Bucky and Sam were like a married couple; they could fight all day and go home and climb into bed together. Bucky and Tony are something else though. After Bucky’s rehabilitation in Wakanda, it took a while for Tony to accept Bucky’s apology and allow him to stay in the compound without constant surveillance. That was a tense period of times. Bucky always tries to be kind to Tony, but if Tony gets slightly agitated then it’s on.
“It’s just a ride. The bike has trackers. My arm has trackers. I can even be back before dark.”
“I don’t care, tin man. You’re not leaving the premises without a chaperone. You live with the Avengers, and if you run or turn or get captured, what does that say about us?”
“I won’t be turned! Shuri got it out of my head! And Vision and (Y/N) made sure of it! I don’t understa-”
Now is a good time if any. “Hey guys. Have any dinner plans?”
“Well...I’m just gonna grab some strawberries real quick then I’ll be out of your hair.”
It was deathly silent as I arranged my plate with strawberries and fixed a little ramekin with some sugar. It’s usually Sam and Bucky that do the staring contest, but Tony can be childish too.
“I don’t think I need a babysitter.”
“And I don’t care.”
And the bomb dropped. They were yelling over each other to quite a degree. Yelling was never your thing. Or any loud noise in all honesty. Trauma does funny things to you. You could see Steve and Sam at the common room entrance and Wanda and Nat at the other hall enterance. I’m certain we are about to see the beginning of the second civil war.
“YOU’RE SCARING (Y/N)!”
“YOU’RE THE ONE THAT BROUGHT IT UP WITH HER STILL HERE! YOU SHOULD APOLOGIZE!”
“YOU RAISED YOUR VOICE FIRST! IT WAS JUST A NORMAL CONVERSA-”
“BULLSHIT! YOU JUST CAN’T LIVE WIT-”
“i’ll do it.”
Everything seemed to stand still. Onlookers happened to turn to me, and Bucky and Tony were locked in another staring contest. I guess I’ll have to say it again.
“I’ll do it. I’ll ride with you, Bucky. Just- just stop yelling please.”
Bucky sighed and looked away from Tony, losing the contest. “Doll, you don’t have to ride with me. I’ll just put it off. You don’t even like motorcycles. I’ll just hang here.” He tried to do that smile that would make me agree. I coud see it in his blue eyes that he was sad about it though. It seems to him that I’m agreeing with Tony about him needing a babysitter.
“No. We’ll ride. I trust you to drive.”
His eyes nearly doubled in size. I knew I hooked him. It wasn’t often that someone said that to him, even after his rehab. I do trust him though. He’s always protected me on missions, HYDRA and Avengers alike. He’s the most dangerous person I know, but I know without a doubt that he would save me should something happen on our drive.
“Okay. That’s settled. Thank you for riding with Tin Man. I’ll see you two once you’re back.”
Tony turned and left the kitchen. It seems like everyone else cleared out pretty quick too. That just leaves me, Bucky, and my strawberries.
“You can uh, eat before we go. I didn’t plan on being back soon.”
“And maybe something a little warmer. It gets cold on the mountain after dark.”
“Alright. I’ll meet you in 45.”
A quick snack, refresh, and change of clothes later, I was stepping into the garage to meet Bucky. When you stepped in, you could spot Bucky near the back looking at Tony’s father’s car. Tony would keep them out of sight, but Bucky and Steve enjoyed them. It also reminded them of how different they are.
“Hey Buck. Ready to go?”
“Yeah, doll. Just...looking. Steve is letting us borrow his bike. Let me show you some safety stuff on it...just in case, y’know.”
We walked over to the Steve’s bike. It was a pretty bikes, but you’d seen it plenty. Steve loved that thing like it was a child. Bucky however, he was something else. He had his long hair pulled back into a half up half down look. His stubble had recently graduated into a beard. The extra dark hair on his face made his blue eyes pop even more. His outfit though. It was rare to see him out of his usual hoodie, basketball shorts, and slides or his field outfit. He had dressed warm for the occasion. Bucky wore his leather coat over a navy henley. He wore dark jeans and heavy iron toed boots. He was the definition of…
“Doll, you listening?”
“I figured as much. Put your helmet on and we’ll go.”
“What about your helmet? I know you might not have much up there, but it is quite a pretty face.” His eye roll was so hard it probably could’ve detached his eyes.
“Super soldier, angel. I don’t nee-”
“James Buchanan, I will not get on a death trap motorcycle with someone who doesn’t have a helmet on. Do you even have a driver’s license? Muchless a motorcycle license?”
“I’ll put a helmet on if you don’t ask about my license situation anymore. Deal?”
“You drive a hard bargain. Okay, deal.” I handed him my helmet. He slipped it on as I grabbed another. Maybe this was a bad idea.
“Hop on, doll. Yeah, just like that. Scoot closer. Closer. Like right up against- yeah. Yes. Alrighty. Your feet will rest here and here. Keep them there so you don’t burn yourself on the motor. Perfect, dollface. Now, just hold on. Not- no. Doll, hold on to me. You won’t have any stability behind me.”
“I don’t know about this…”
“You agreed. Just hold me like you hold that big green frog marshmallow thing.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen you clutch that thing. I’m honestly surprised you haven’t busted it yet. Now hold on.”
“I hate you.”
He laughed that sweet beautiful laugh. It was rare to get a genuine laugh out of him, so maybe this death machine was worth it. “I know you do.”
And we were off. Back tire skidded and fish tailed behind us. Tony would complain about that. My helmet was glued between Bucky’s shoulder blades. My screams and Bucky’s laughter filled the comms. The wind blew past us, but my arms didn’t let up on Bucky’s torso. My heart felt like it was beating out my chest. I’m certain he could feel my heart on his back. I could feel us turn through the curvy mountain roads. Thankfully I listened to Bucky and got a thicker coat or I would be frozen to the bone.
“Doll, look up.”
“No. My head is gonna fly off if I look up.”
“I promise, doll. Don’t you trust me.”
I would much rather be shot again than lift my head from the safety of Bucky’s back, but he pulled the stupid trust card. “You can do it, angel. It’s so worth it.”
It was slow motion. My head came up, and the wind blew across my helmet and down my neck. I had to blink to get used to the light again. Everything was so beautiful, The yellow-greens of the spring leaves created a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors around us. White blossoms littered the road and fell around us. Sunbeams poked through the leaves and reflected off in a perfect way.
“Yeah. We’ll stop up here to watch the sunset.”
Everything seemed to slow down. I was so enamored by the scenery I didn’t notice Bucky stealing glances at my big head. I definitely looked like a bobble head.
Bucky pulled off the road onto a lookout. We had the perfect view of the valley.
“Wow Bucky. Look! You can see the compound from here! Oh wow. The trees are so pretty. Everything is...golden.”
“Yeah. I remember driving up here a couple times before the war. The first time I came was not long after Becca was born. I was still really young, but I remember the stars sparkling. It was the first time I had ever seen them. Y’know, being in Brooklyn and light pollution and what not. I knew I wanted to spend every night here, just looking at the stars.”
Bucky shuffled a little closer. I could feel the heat radiating from him. We faced the sun as it set deeper into the valley. Everything was turning from a nice green yellow to orange and golden,
“The second time was not long before I was shipped out. I had saved up enough for gas to borrow my pa’s truck. We spent all day here. It was unbearably hot all day. Poor Steve, he was still a bean pole, and I basically had to sell my soul to keep him long enough to see the sunset. It was worth it though. I would do it everyday for him. We stood here, just like us, and watched the sunset. We’d seen the sunset plenty, but his face when he looked up and saw those stars. His face was priceless.”
I could see how much Steve meant to him, and how much he missed his home. Even though he was getting better at fitting in, it still wasn’t where he belonged.
“I’m sorry, Buck. I wish I could take you back.”
“No, no, no. Doll. I didn’t mean it that way.” His hands covered my shoulders, flesh and metal. “I’m trying to say...oh lord how do i? I’ve only brought my best friend here and now you and...I don’t know. I’m not as smooth as I was. Just uh...I want you to know that you’re special to me. In a Steve but not Steve way.”
My mouth was a perfect O. I knew I was daft, but this is a new low. My brain was already short-circuiting, but I shut down when he grabbed my face. I was stuck staring into his ocean blue eyes.
“Can I kiss you?”
His soft lips touched mine. My body was suddenly in motion. Our chests were squished together and my hands found their way to the back of his neck, his hair intertwined my fingers. In that moment, his breath became mine. Our souls were one. Everything I was flowed through him, and everything he was flowed through me. Fuck the sunset, this is something else.
We pulled away. It was like post nut clarity. “I hope you did the same for Steve when you brought him.” Bucky died laughing. The full belly laugh that would hurt if you laughed too long. It was highly contagious because I was leaning into him. “You know Steve is too modest to do something as passionate as that.”
Our laughter trailed off, and we were left staring at the valley. We missed the actual sunset, but you could begin to see the stars poking through.
“It’s like looking over the whole world.”
“Yeah, my whole world.”
yoooo. i hope you enjoyed. i love doing little domestic pieces like this. if you have some ideas for domestic pieces you want to see, please send me an ask. i can't promise i'll write since i'm inconsistent af, but it might motivated me more :))
Belamour (Ethan x f!MC)
Summary: Set after Book 3, Pooja finally gets Ethan to dance in the rain.
A/N: A silly something born out of my love for rains and my binge listening to 80s Bollywood classics (I have no idea what kinda mess this is tbh). Also, my first song based fic🤎
A/N 2: The song lyrics are indented (Translation in parenthesis)
Pairing: Ethan Ramsey X f!MC (Pooja Sharma)
Word Count: around 1.5K
Category: Total fluff
Warnings: None that I noticed
Song Inspiration: Aaj Kal Yaad Kuch by Mohammed Aziz
READ ON AO3
A pair of summery blue orbs insistently stare at the world beyond the glass windows.
A world that was now being washed by the consistent droplets that came down from the adobe of clouds to meet their origin.
Their drum was usually henotic, tranquil for him.
But at the moment, it only added to his irritation and deepened the void of disappointment that had formed in his chest.
In another room of the same house, a pair of amber orbs watched the magic of nature with a child-like wonder.
The pleasant, dewy petrichor spread around her, and the mellifluous tunes of Earth's own orchestra made her forget the fast turns her life went through in the past day.
In the faint light, she picked up her hand and let the jewel, the stone that was nothing less than a promise of forever, shine like the billion stars that dot the sky at nights that are devoid of clouds.
As the iridescent lights make her eyes sparkle, a vague idea forms in her brain.
Her thoughts float to reach the person who gifted her happiness, and a smile lit up on her face.
There was a mix of challenge and love in the quest she was about to partake and she was determined to succeed.
In slow, soundless steps, she made her way out of the room and out of the house.
A blur went past and his trained eyes were quick enough to catch the motion.
Shaking his head with realization, he followed behind.
As the steps took him down, and he stood under the shade of the multi-floored skyrise, she stayed yards away from it.
Her hair was wet, her skirt twirling, her face bright and beautiful.
He felt his heart race, whispering an urge to join with hers.
He restrained himself, but the scene in front of him was so spectacular that he doubted just how long his restraint would last.
After what felt like an eternity, she turned to him, half of her face golden under the street lights, the other half bearing the monotones of black and white.
She looked like the personification of their love.
Her life the golden, and his the black and white.
He could write sonnets to describe the picture-perfect scene that played before him like a film, but all he did was stand still, unable to tear his eyes away, unable to speak the words that hadn't already been spoken, his well-thumbed thesaurus gathering dust in the labyrinths of his mind.
She looked at him with a longing, a spoken call for him to join her as the rains continued to fall and purify the earth.
All he did was shake his head in silence.
She took it as a challenge, and he already knew how it was going to end.
For a minute he got lost in her memories, reminiscences from a time, from a moment that passed too quick, yet slow enough for him to remember every moment of it.
And suddenly, the faint tunes of a song brought him back to the present.
Every word of the foreign seeming language lucid clear, setting in a cascade of emotions and bringing pictures etched in past pages of the novel of life, making him go on a trip down the memory lane.
Aajkal Yad Kuch Aur Rehta Nahi
(Nowadays I don't seem to remember anything else)
Ek Bas Aapki Yad Aane Ke Bad
(Once your memories enchant me)
Yaad Aane Se Pehle Chale Aaiye
(Please come to me before the memories reach me)
Aur Phir Jaiye Jan Jane Ke Bad
(And then leave only after my breath leaves me)
The truth of the words came with an epiphany.
Every day of knowing her had been a way of painting the monotones of his life in colours he thought didn't belong to him.
Every moment she had ever spent away from him had made him yearn for her more than ever.
And yet he was foolish enough to think that miles of distance and hundreds of hours could make him forget her.
All the distress he felt could have been so easily ended if she had been with him then.
And now, as he dreams of an aeon with her, he promises to only let her go when his breath leaves him alone.
Apni Aankhon Me Mujhko Basa Lijiye
(Allow me to settle in the world of your eyes)
Apne Dil Me Mera Ghar Bana Dijiye
(Make a home for me in your heart)
Kya Karu Dil Kahi Aur Lagta Nahi
Pyar Me Aapse Dil Lagane Ke Bad
(What's the fault of mine if I can't concentrate on anything other than you, since our hearts connected by the string of love)
As the minutes pass by, melting into each other to form an hour, he loses all tracks of time.
And amidst the sweven he was living in right now, at a moment he could not pinpoint, she had taken his hand into hers and now he stood, lost in the amber of her eyes, forgetting all about the shower that now fell upon him.
As she continued to mutter the tunes in a harmony that went on in rhythm with the rain, he wished he could live in the world of her orbs.
To see the world as she saw it, to live the life from her perspective.
All he wanted was home in her heart, a tiny place on the lands of her soul.
Ishq Ke Maine Kitne Fasane Sune
(I have heard many tales of epic romances)
Husb Ke Kitne Kisse Purane Sune
(And stories about beautiful people from bygone eras)
Aisa Lagta Hai Phir Is Tarah Tut Kar
Pyar Hamne Kiya Ek Zamane Ke Bad
(But I feel I have been broken and got mended by love after centuries)
In muted harmonies, the two of them twirled, forgetting the world around them.
The way their eyes held onto each other, as if holding onto their lives, reminded him of the tales of love the folklores talk about.
The romances of princesses and maidens, and of beauties who earned their fairytale.
But as her palm stroked his cheek in a feather-light motion, he concluded that all those tales faint in front of the story of theirs.
There were no royals, no cruel witches setting up spells and no poisoned apples.
There were just two people, broken by the storms life made them navigate through, fitting perfectly as if parts of a whole.
He tried to remember if he had ever experienced anything as he did now, his lip tracing her ear as his hands wrapped around her waist.
It didn't even take him a second to know the answer.
Aapka Naam Dil Se Nikalta Nahi
(Your name never leaves my heart)
Dillagi Me Koi Zor Chalta Nahi
Dillagi Me Koi Zor Chalta Nahi
(No force is strong enough to stop the meet of two hearts)
Aapko Bhul Jane Ki Koshish Bhi Ki
(I tried a hundred times to forget you)
Aur Tadpa Hun Main Bhool Jaane Ke Baad
(And suffered a suffering of pain and agony once I forgot you)
The rains accelerate and become a downpour. The mist envelops them but there was no care for the changing environment.
The distance between them ceases to exist as their hearts finally get the pleasure of beating in unison.
In the next moments, she whispers close to his ear, the last of the melody, and it's his story.
The story of how he couldn't get rid of the five-lettered name since the first time he ever came to know about it.
Of how no force in the world could stop two hearts from meeting if that's what destiny had in plan for them.
Who one loves and who loves them back determines so much in one life.
And for him, it was a chance, a risk he was scared to take, dreading the destruction it may cause.
After all when had anything ever-blossoming flowers in the city of his soul?
But this time not only did spring finally arrived with its flowery footsteps but also led to a discovery of himself, a part of him that was buried under layers of snow from the winter that reigned in his life for years.
She taps twice on his heart, indicating how he had tried to forget her, all those years ago. And how he broke himself in the process.
As she hummed the last lines, he bowed down in front of the forces that brought the two of them together.
He thanked the stars which aligned the way did to let him fall for her and agreed to hide, to let the rains fall, to let him have this night with her.
And looked in awe at the woman who brought about the sweetest catastrophe mankind has ever known.
And without uttering a word, he picks her and kisses her, saying all that was left unsaid with it.
PS: I actually have another version of the song, that I sung specifically to go with this, but Tumblr is giving me troubles to upload it. Do let me know if you would like to hear it someday.
Anyways, If you are reading this, I am very grateful for you. Thank you for reading and I hope you have a great day🤎
Tags🤎(Please let me know if you would like to be added or removed):
Perma: @gkittylove99 @neotericthemis @udishaman @aestheticartsx @twinkleallnight @schnitzelbutterfingers @sophxwithers @sweatyrysconnoisseur @nikki-2406 @choicesfanaf @trrfanaddict @starrystarrytrouble @gardeningourmet @parkbarks @mvalentine @lovablegranny @mercury84choices @izzyourresidentlawyer @phoenixrising308 @adiehardfan @quixoticdreamer16 @a-crepusculo @cordonianruby @gryffindordaughterofathena
Open Heart (All fics and edit): @lucy-268 @maurine07 @bellcat2010 @headoverheelsforramsey @estellaelysian @shanzay44
Ethan x Pooja: @aleynareads @choicesaddict5 @stygianflood @mysticaurathings @jamespotterthefirst @ilikemenbutonlyethanramsey @takemyopenheart @mm2305
Living-History Museum HCs (All the Pedro Boys)
Obviously, I think Pero would be the Blacksmith for this enterprise
Gruff grumpy man working hard at the hot forge? Yes please
He also has his “secret” artistic and romantic sides, 100% will make his sweetheart a little something special
When he wasn’t learning his blacksmithing craft, he also learned a good amount of silversmithing
Not really much of a secret when he first gets adopted by one of the local cats and takes care of her litter of kittens
He also really un-ironically likes Pride & Prejudice and various other period dramas
And he has a a linear tattoo on the inside of his left forearm of a spray of apple blossoms which is his mom’s favorite flowers (why yes he has a spot for someone else’s favorite flowers on his other arm
Works at the reconstructed, interpretive glasshouse as a Glassblower
The glasshouse is a bit further out from the main museum being built near where the remains of the original 1600’s glass furnaces where rediscovered and excavated
Had to go through a four year apprenticeship to become a proper glassblower
He also did some work within his schooling all while juggling being a single dad for his adopted son after retiring from active duty
Grogu def thinks his papa has one of the coolest jobs ever and wants to learn how to blow glass too (also the kiddo is adorable af in his little costume that he has to match his dad’s work clothes too
Loves the science needed to create something that is both useful and beautiful, and thankfully any questions museum visitors ask don’t require much “character” interpretation and he can just keep it to the art
Is the kind of glass nerd who would die if he got to go to Venice and see the Murano glassblowers at work and would kill to learn more skills in sculptural glass work from an old school master
One of the best damn Tour Guides working in the historical area of the museum
Always seems to be researching the daily lives and scandals of people of the era of all classes and backgrounds
If you can have Ezra be the one to show you around the historic Governor’s Palace, he knows all the secret doors and walkways inside and out of that building including the fastest way through the hedge maze (though who wants to rush through that maze when you’re wandering with Ezra?)
The late night tours though? Some of his best work. He convinced the entire board of directors that having both ghost tours of the original houses in the museum, as well as some more adult orientated tours, would do well and they sure as fuck do
Sometimes after he finishes his terrifying (and positively, entirely, true) story of the Blackstone Sisters in the old Blackstone house he’ll blow out the candle if you’re brave enough. Almost everyone on those nights swear that they can hear the pacing of the two sisters, still hand-in-hand even after death in the hallway upstairs
Works as the beleaguered Head of Security
Literally though, providing security for a living history museum that is one of the largest in the world? It’s a logistical nightmare
Over 300 acres of land with the Visitor Center, multiple Art Museums, the whole main drag of the living history section which really is its own little town, as well as the further flung farm areas? It’s A LOT
Add in the taverns that also serve alcohol?
Javi has many a story about visitors who needed escorted off the premisses and he is the man who generally is called upon to handle them
Add in the late night ghost tours that are happening now too? Literally, he has a one-sided beef with Ezra about those ghost tours being a thing cause he HATES them
The man and his team are busy, but at the end of his shift he can often be found at one of the taverns for a beer
For even if he can be often run down? There is something special about the town that keeps him coming back
You can find this soft spoken man down the path from the Main Street of the reenactment town in his lower floor Printing Shop working as a Printer
He always has pages hung up on lines inside as the ink dries so he can work on the other sides
The print shops actually prints a lot of work for the museum, including the menus for the taverns and also recreating historic pieces as takeaways or set dressing for the houses
So along with setting type, there are times a museum visitor might see Frankie working on some carved engravings to add a little extra creative flair to a piece
He almost always has ink on his hands and over his leather printing apron
Has and will continue to complain to anyone who will listen to the near impossibility at getting 100% linen paper that would have been the same quality from back in the day
That and he has become an expert at keeping his press in tip top shape, modern printers have technicians to service them when they break down
Also has amazing arms from working the press as well
“Whiskey” Jack Daniels
Jack works in the section of customer hospitality as a Manger overseeing all of the food locations within the living museum which includes three taverns of varying price points
He not only has researched and hired experts in the foods of the era, but also brought in chefs to interpret those meals to more modern tastes
Prides himself in working in produce and the like from not only local farmers, but also from the museum’s own gardens when possible
Same goes for sourcing local wines, ciders, and beers and he has also been dabbling with a local brewery in making some ales based on some newly discovered recipes of the time
Can and has stepped in to help manage the taverns when someone calls in sick, he is a natural charmer with the guests
Also loves making sure that there are plenty of things to entertain in the evenings such as performers with their historically accurate instruments and songs of the era (and yes he has started off a round of singing Fathom the Bowl” many a night
Is a little harder to find since he works at the art section of the museum as an Art Curator
Seeing as he is in charge of the collections he has a lot to oversee from art, objects, and the archives
Is constantly working with the museum of new ways for museum goers to view and interpret the collections, as well as aiming to show a more diverse and inclusive rather than just one singular lens
Really loves the paintings and the like, that being his area of expertise in school
However, some of his favorite pieces show the impressions of the people who created and used them
Such as the well loved pair of pockets that were embroidered and patched several times, or some of the clay tiles that had been found in the Governor’s Palace gardens that had the paw prints of a curious kitty still pressed into them, or the bits of slate with the faint scratches with someone’s practicing their letters or drawing a funny cat cause people havent really changed much in many ways
Oh boy, Mr. Moreno is the main Director of the museum
Running a not-for-profit educational institution takes a special person to wangle ALL the different personalities there to making things run smoothly and Marcus is your man for the job
He also has a really good eye for talent and getting good fits for the different roles needed for a full experience for visitors (something he gets from his mom who recently retired as the Museum’s VP of Human Resources)
Loves testing new ideas out on his daughter Missy, pretty much everyone working there knows the director’s daughter
Missy can often be found doing her homework in her dad’s office and pretty much has the ru of the place since she is a pretty darn responsible kid
Def also has taken Missy out as his “date” to many a historically based event such as the spring garden ball where they both get to dress up
One of the boys who actually enjoys acting the part of one of the historic persons who lived back in the era the museum has been based as a Reenactor
He works at the Jonathan Withe-Smith house playing the part of the said Jonathan who was a lawyer and prominent thinker of the era
It’s a self guided house so you can find him just about anywhere playing his part of owner of this fine house built in the 1750’s
He loves going around in the historically accurate banyan robe that the museum had made for him
Also gets into character really really well, but the clothes are what really sells it
Is able to spout facts about the laws, politics, and fashions of the time at a dizzying speed, and has a smile that can charm ANY museum guest even on the hottest of days
This is just a fun idea to think about rather than a prompt idea ; What would the characters from Rat.ld do if they played Animal Crossing?
First off...LOVE me some AC! XD
and I enjoyed writing this out (just some HC's) so thank you for the prompt idea! (edit- I didn't include ALL of the villagers they have, in case anyone was confused why I only mentioned 1-4 villagers in this HC)
Boun: This bitch got all food-related villagers, so of course he’s got a food-related down. Lot’s of stalls and markets, a farm and every villager he owns has their own little set-up shop around their place that matches the style of what they are. Frita (whose a hamburger/hotdog/fries) has a McDonalds set up right by her place. Merengue has a bakery. Tangy, Apple and Cheri have a smoothie place near their homes. His starter fruit is pears.
He has some common/popular spots as well such as a more defined boating/fishing area and a campsite with the works. Boun plays intensely for months but then only checks in every now and then.
Tong and Noi: They share an island (Tong the main character and Noi the second resident). Tong tries to make the island look nice but when Noi plays she does random stuff like cutting down trees, selling whatever she can find or leaving items out to the point where Tong has just learned to live with the chaos. Their starter fruit is apples.
Noi has no preference on the villagers but Tong likes Kangaroos because of the babies in their pouch, the Bulls because they remind him of himself, and the icy/cold villagers like Flurry and Whitney. Their island is pure chaos, lots of items thrown out without any central theme. Tong eventually relinquishes the island to Noi’s control when he’s finished playing the game. Noi runs rampant on the island, continuing to foster the ‘chaos’.
Raya: her island has a more natural but beautiful feel. Lots of custom designs that make a path with leaves in the fall and cherry blossoms in the spring, some she’s found from others but a lot she has made on her own. Hopping spots across a waterway that has nova lights and bamboo. Those intricate placements of flowers, trees, and items that make even the most veteran of AC players jealous. Her starter fruit is cherries
She cannot stand the popularity contest with certain villagers and therefore goes with the more forgettable crew, not ideally labeled ‘ugly’ but not a top pick for everyone. Such as Tammi and Axel. She does, however, love Drago and Hamlet.
Raya’s the first to complete a lot of milestones in ACNH, so she often is sending items to her friends or dropping money on their islands for them so they activate/open more things. She checks it often and finds joy playing the game long after everyone else is finished.
Namaari: Her island is the type that looks like she used every inch of space to make an intricate city. Namaari can look at a pile of simple panels, storefronts and boxes and make it into a work of art. With paved streets, traffic lights, a play on the eye to make something look further away than it actually is. Namaari checked in on well over 1k hours of the game, all of which was put to good use as her island is practically flawless. Her starter fruit is oranges
As expected! Island of cats. She tries to have one of every personality type to keep it unique, but her favorites are Katt and Mitzi.
She plays the game to the point of obsession, claiming the stamp rewards and getting a five star island, catalogging and collecting gulliver items until she has quite literally nothing else she could do for the island. Now, she only plays when the group is together to do an event.
Sisu: Enjoys the game just as much as Raya does, but is constantly behind. While everyone is finishing up the touches to their island, Sisu is just then realizing they have ratings and that her shops can expand if she would sell/buy more. Her only fruit is peaches and she was not aware that the others had anything different.
Her island is alright, she’s got the main idea down with plenty of room for improvement. Every section has an idea started but never finished. Missing the big ‘thing’ that would make it look really nice. (a campsite with no fire, a stall set up with nothing to sell.) Raya helps her a ton with it, as does the others, but it takes her awhile to understand how to visit their island (or open her own).
She somehow got lucky and got ONLY the top popular characters??? Such as Judy, Raymond, Shino and Marshall. (everyone was incredibly confused by this.)
"Gosh, I’m really bad at this, aren’t I?”
“Thank you. What’s the next part about? Oh. That-... I won’t blubber about this, I promise.”
PART 6: LIKES & DISLIKES
What is/are your favorite hobbies and pastimes?
“Oh! I love to sing! I-, I’m not good at it! But I used to be in the Church choir when I was little and, well, now it’s disbanded for the time being. But I hope to bring it back. I’ve only studied a tiny little bit of music, but I think it could be good! And if all the old members come back, maybe even Zachariah, I’m sure I won’t have to do too much work either. They’re all brilliant.”
What is your most treasured possession?
“You know that officially I don’t think I’m supposed to have one?” A pause. “Apart ... maybe? From the Holy Bible?” He wasn’t sure, actually. Weren’t the words of the Scripture supposed to be in him by now or something? Either way. “I like things that keep me warm. Tea cups I was gifted for my move in, blankets my mother made, um, my hot water bottle. Oh you’ve never had one? They’re great. They’re made of tin, I believe. Basically the same flasks the military uses, but a bit larger, and then you wrap it in a pillow case and it’s just great.”
What is your favorite color?
"That depends on the day. I know, terribly boring answer, but it’s true! Today I love blue. Ocean blue, on a stormy day. So a bit greyish, a bit angry, a bit chaotic. Sometimes I love the outer edge of a flame, you know that very dark orange? I also love the white of early Spring flowers, or apple blossoms. And just the other day I thought, my,” He closed his eyes, “what beauty can be found in honest brown eyes.”
What is your favorite food?
“Oh, that’s hard,” he chuckled, opening his eyes again almost as to avoid all the images of food flooding in. “I mean, there’s hardly anything I won’t eat; I’m a good dinner guest. But-... You see, I’m not a hedonist. I don’t value temporary joys like some do. A good dinner is a-, a marvellous feat, and I applaud any chef who learnt to make food like it’s art, but-...” He hummed. “I love a good rice pudding, if that counts? A good apple? Broth? Broth is good.”
What, if anything, do you like to read?
“At the moment I sadly don’t find too much time to read anymore. And even before that, I mostly read what my professors or Lady Dinah told me to read. I think, if I were to bring one author on a long voyage to read over and over again, it would be something by Victor Hugo.”
What is your idea of good entertainment (consider music, movies, art, etc.)?
“Well, music, definitely. Choir. Symphonies. Not so much those modern airs, I fear, but that’s just because I don’t understand it. I’m open to learning, though. I also enjoy a good book, naturally. I’m not the most enthusiastic about the moving pictures, but I’m don’t think they’re quite as banal as people make them out to be. The theatre can be great, and so can opera, but I find it exhausting to go see a play only to have someone talk through it the entire time. So I prefer books, yes. They’re ... quiet. There’s no one there to pay attention to, or to offend.”
Do you smoke, drink, or use drugs? If so, why? Do you want to quit?
“I smoke, occasionally, when I’m offered, and the same goes for drinking. I believe it’s similar to food, for me. The joy is so ... brief, compared to something which lasts in your memory for decades. Like, I don’t know, a prank or a good hug. So I don’t spend much thought trying to drink or smoke.”
As for the second half of that question, he knew what that was about. “I don’t ... believe that to express disapproval over other people’s mistakes, you have to do the exact opposite as they did.” He thought of his old professor at Oxford, who, after he’d witnessed to male students kiss had angrily invited his wife to dinner to show Valentin and his course mates how great his marriage was...
How do you spend a typical Saturday night?
“Working,” he sighed. “Late into the night.”
What makes you laugh?
“A lot of things, I fear. I don’t mock people though, I don’t laugh at their embarrassments, and I’ve never found it funny when others stumbled or fell out of trees. I just mean-... Well, I mean! People are marvellous, aren’t they? It’s rare that you meet someone who doesn’t have a little sun within him that just waits to burst and shine.”
What, if anything, shocks or offends you?
“I’ve recently learnt I can grow quite offended over people misappropriating the Lord’s name? And I don’t mean accidentally saying ‘Oh God,’ or something. I mean, behaving ... terribly. Selfishly. Full of hate and bigotry! And then saying God would’ve wanted it so. It-, it upsets me, yes.”
What would you do if you had insomnia and had to find something to do to amuse yourself?
“Insomnia means ... not being able to sleep? Because recently I wish I wasn’t so ready to sleep all the time. I’d love to wake up by myself and have more time in the day. I’d go back to work, of course.” Though perhaps he wasn’t actually correct about what this insomnia meant.
How do you deal with stress?
“The question is, if I do at all.”
Are you spontaneous, or do you always need to have a plan?
At this, he paused and hummed, planning out his answer. “Spontaneous.”
What are your pet peeves?
“When others purposefully try to misunderstand me. Or others. Strawman arguments.” He paused, hesitated, then leaned in a little closer: “I also really don’t like how thin the paper of new bible editions is becoming recently,” he whispered. “I mean, that’s just asking for paper cuts, right? Next thing you know, you won’t recognise Christians by a cross around their neck anymore, but by the wounds on their fingers!”
It’s been a hot minute since I last wrote one of these. This one is about The Power Inside a Family and deals heavily with the symbolism I used in that piece. I just have to ramble about it because it’s too perfect.
- Erebhus is Griffin’s home planet. I’ve spelt it with an h to indicate it comes from “erebh” which means evening, night. The idea being that there is so much water on the planet that reflects the final rays of the sunset that the whole night is light as day until the sun comes up again in the morning. It is known as the planet of the eternal sunset.
- On Erebhus it is tradition for brides to wear blue dresses like the ocean. They hold the ceremony under a tree the couple grew together to prove they can foster life on the swampy lands of the planet. The tree is usually planted outside their future house (or at least the place where it’s supposed to be) that they also usually build together.
- Emalyn’s engagement ring having a topaz gem was a gut feeling but I like how it fits. From Wikipedia: “the word topaz may be related to the Sanskrit word तपस् ‘tapas’, meaning ‘heat’ or ‘fire’”. That and the fact that topaz forms under high temperature and pressure at depth aka near volcanoes and there aren’t many volcanoes on Erebhus, it is a rare gemstone on the planet. Some topaz stones can fade from continuous exposure to sunlight and that is why Emalyn’s engagement ring is now paler than the intense gold it used to be.
- I picked lilies for Emalyn’s wedding flowers because they symbolize motherhood and fertility. They are used in weddings in China because they are tied to the 100 years of love. They are actually a 30th anniversary flower since they represent devotion. The roots and bulbs can be boiled in teas with healing effects.
- The apple tree I’ve mentioned in relation to Griffin’s veins is a symbol of wholeness, healing and connection with nature which is perfect for the idea of that part of the story. It also represents the idea that the future will be what you make it aka if you do good, good will come back to you and vice versa.
- Pomegranates symbolize fertility and rebirth, spring which is what Griffin’s transformation (as Faragonda pictures it) would do for her and for the rest of the dark magic users as well. However, it can also mean war due to the shape of the pomegranate that reminds of a grenade. (Which is ironic because Faragonda is only thinking of seeds aka spring rebirth but instead it’s more like Griffin’s heart gets replaced with a pomegranate when she goes to war against the Council.)
- The hawthorn tree symbolizes love and protection in Celtic mythology. It is also known as the Fairy Tree because it’s guarded by fairies that allow the respectful gathering of sprigs and flowers, especially if it’s brides with hawthorn blossom in their hair or a bouquet that symbolizes their union of love. Its thorny branches are great for birds to make their nests safely. The hawthorn tree is known for its longevity and can live over 400 years. Its healing properties have been used by traditional medicine for a long time. To Greeks the Hawthorn was symbolic of love and would help bring success and longevity to newlyweds.
Woozi x Reader
Summary:y/n knows it’s deadly from the way it burst inside her,But she doesn’t care not anymore.
Pairing:Woozi(Svt) x Reader
Gene:Baseball au,unrequited love,Angst,bad ending,hanahaki Disease
She can feel the tears, like their swelling just behind her eyes unwilling to spill over like a dam filled with way too much water. She doesn't want to admit that though, never in a hundred words - and well, if she ever tried to explain how she felt, it'd probably just fall short. No, maybe short is the wrong word, it would be more like her feelings skydiving, twisting through the air at over 800km/h, a mad descent into the earthy, rocky ground below.
Like falling without a parachute.
But maybe it would be made worth it, because for just a second, you got to imagine the whole world in your palm, got to feel the wind whisking through your hair, as if pushing you away from your very death - it would be worth it because just for a second, just for a second, the earth would seem so tiny, incomprehensibly small.
She imagines, perhaps, this is what dying without actually dying, feels like. It's the twisting in the pits of your stomach, tossing and turning in your bed sheets at night, staring at the ceiling and wondering - just wondering. What did I do wrong?
Maybe there really isn't a simple answer for that though, no - there could never be a simple answer. It's a bitter swelling within the confines of her chest, one that makes it feel like something is about to burst from him - like striped carnations from her ribs, stretching and poking, ripping and prodding -
Conceivably, this might just be what the harsh reactor of reality might feel like, the way it comes crashing down around you - and you can't stop it. You can't do anything, but witness from afar as it cascades around you like a leaf trapped at the bottom of a children's swimming pool, harmless in appearance, but deadly in occurrence.
L/n y/n feels like she's, by definition, drowning.
It's spring, the time for flowers and life to rear their ugly heads from muddy, green earthy grounds - begging for attention, demanding for rain - demanding and demanding and demanding - and y/n, she doesn't remember flowers hurting this badly. Doesn't remember feeling like her bones were cracking under immense weight, doesn't remember the way she feels like she's going blind - like she's losing sight of yellow mitts - but she is. She's losing sight, slowly but surely, as striped carnations in all their glory stretch from eye sockets, over taking her vision like cloudy reminders -
You were never enough.
They whisper menacingly in her ear at night, force their way into her dreams, picking and plucking and ripping - removing all resemblance of what was known as the harsh word: love. There was no room for that here, in a land of rowdy driven teenagers - she knows that, she tries to know that, she tries to remind himself when she can see, the baseball resting comfortably - familiarly in her palm.
But love? That doesn't grow here.
What does is the bitter taste of regrets that linger on your tongue like acidic candy to teeth, sticking, and melting away any defense you might've had. It's like worms digging their ways through ripe, rounded apples - consuming, eating it - but not all the way, just in a way that leaves a long, hollow tunnel - winding and twisting.
It's like trying to guide that tunnel without sight, it's like being unable to see any hope at the end - no, chasing things here, things that aren't related to hitting home runs and achieving number ones - well, it just doesn't happen.
It. Just. Doesn't. Happen.
So when Y/n rips stems from her eyes, bloodied petals that were once obscuring her vision now laid out in marble, white sinks, she knows. She knows.
Oh God, does she know.
Striped carnations, in their own, fluttery existence mean something y/n wishes they never meant.
Stripes mean a regret for love that cannot be shared.
The flowers are more like a gentle reminder, than anything. They are from Lee Jihoon, and the catcher has no idea he even sent them. It's like a soft whisper into the harsh night, as if he's replying without ever really hearing y/n.
They say, bitterly:
"I want to be with you, I'd love to be with you, but I can't."
She knows this as the sudden yellow, bold yellow, carnations grow from her ribs, pushing against her skin until they sprout through her flesh - dripping a violent red shade with them, when paired with a bold, solid color, striped carnations mean so much more.
It's a regret for saying no.
But regrets don't stop the spread of vegetation, and how do they even survive - these flowers. With no water, no sunlight, they protrude through the darkest veins and darkest caverns of the human body, fragile, unable to stop their spreading - like an infectious disease, it keeps going and going, running its course - and Y/n is at the mercy of flora, beautiful colors, sickeningly sweet smells.
Sickeningly sweet ideals.
Now bitter, against the remaining taste buds in the sunlight's harsh gaze.
If the catcher, the one y/n has chased so diligently, wondering when the next time she'd be able to pitch to the other would be, had just said no - just a flat out no, simple within its existence, she could've trudged on.
Could've understood, maybe.
But a no with regrets, was like sex with strings attached, it pulls at you like a puppet, forcing you to remember all those times - all those moments you got a little too close with someone, let lips linger a little too long, let eyes stare a little too much.
It's all those times you were a little too exceedingly in love, it's all those times you cared a little too abundantly.
It's all those times you cried into your pillow at night.
Maybe the flowers were capable of growing from salty, wet tears.
It's all those times you said to yourself, in the dark to no one else, no louder than the tiniest squeak of a mouse:
I just want him to look at me back.
Just for a little while.
It's all those times you admitted those feelings to yourself.
That's why, that's why with long stems, striped carnations stretch from her eyes like extra limbs, yellow carnations erupt from her chest like she's being impaled - and she is, really, in the heart. Over and over, and over again. Like once wasn't enough, maybe this is how Julius Caesar felt.
Julius was only stabbed twenty three times, though.
Y/n has been stabbed over a hundred, she's sure, and counting. Although this isn't something you'd brag about, isn't something you'd write home about, isn't something you'd enjoy enough to care about.
Y/n knows, silently in the back of her mind as she takes sharp shears, sawing away at overly thick stems that are inching from her eyes like dark omens, like the literal festation of regrets:
It would all go away if he'd just look at me, just want me back.
But if Lee Jihoon wanted her back, then l/n y/n wouldn't be growing a personal garden within the careful little innerworkings and cogs of her body.
If Lee Jihoon shared feelings, the flowers wouldn't be striped, wouldn't be mixed in with bold ones too.
See, Jihoon is saying, in his own way:
You're great, really, I want to love you, I do, but I only love baseball.
Jihoon has only one love, and that's for catching baseballs on a baseball field, behind a batter's box, in a catcher's zone, crouched in front of the umpire like a jester before an emperor.
Obsessions, how they blossom within you before you even realize it, and Seokmin is shaking at y/n shoulders - pleading with the flowers to stop growing, an entire dorm room - number 5 painted on the door - is overflowing with posy - another word for flowers.
There's a lot of words for a lot of things, really, but nothing quite feels like this.
Seokmin is sobbing now, tears dripping onto carnations, carnations that already looked to have been soaked in blood from the tips - just naturally, now with the added, dark red - near brown, that seeps into the pedals, turning them into a different shade altogether -
It's fitting, really, how y/n's blood changes them to a swirling, calamitous red hue.
A color that denotes deep love for someone, and y/n really did, have a deep love for someone.
She loved someone so much, with every fiber of her being, she died for it.
Jihoon coughs out pink and light red carnations the next day, they, in their silent yet deadly approach, spread from his lungs and out his mouth, they mean:
Admiration, and missing someone unforgettable.
You could give everything to someone,
And it still wouldn't be enough.
The Warrior and the Embers
Chapter 22: Burnout
Masterlist / Ao3 / Previous Chapter / Next Chapter
The following week was filled with preparations for Beltane, a night of fire and food and dancing. A night practically made for the wild princess.
Spring would soon begin to wane, the rains washing away and giving over to the wild blossoms and bounty of summer. Beltane was a celebration of this change, where all came together to honor the fire goddess, and to pray for a prosperous harvest.
Fae across the world would be laying out offerings to the Little Folk, decorating hawthorn bushes, raising maypoles, and preparing feasts. In the evening, small fires would be ignited to allow a few brave souls to jump across. It was said jumping would bring luck, and ensure a good crop or a healthy birth. Fae used it to pray to the gods for whatever they desired most, and sometimes, the gods would listen. Of course most of the time, they stayed infuriatingly silent.
Rowan had never put much stock in the idea, though Lyria had always loved the celebrations, and he had tolerated them for her sake. Not that she spent much time leaping over fires. The pair of them had usually spent the time eating and listening to music, or dancing barefoot in the grass, their fingers entwined, feet clumsy and awkward, as far from the flames as they could get. Lyria didn’t love Beltane for its fires: she loved the holiday for what it meant – the end of the relentless mountain snows and the return of the flowers in her garden.
Rowan almost flinched. It had been a long time since he had thought of that garden, since he could remember its wild expanse without the pain forcing the images away. But now he could see every lovely petal, every tenacious weed, and instead of Lyria’s screams echoing in his mind, he could almost sense her presence on his skin, almost hear her soft laugh. And though the sound unearthed an ache deep in his chest, it was not unbearable.
After her death, Rowan avoided Beltane – or any celebration, really – instead spending the time holed up and trying to forget, usually by drowning himself in alcohol. On nights like this, where so many were turning to the comfort of their partners, it was so much harder to forget that he was alone, to forget what he had lost.
Though recently, it had gotten much easier to do so. So much so that he could now even think of Lyria, could remember his time with her, without completely falling apart. Usually, she was a small hole at the back of his mind, always there – but most of the time he could get through the day without having to acknowledge it. Now, Rowan could go whole days without thinking of her, entire hours where his forgetfulness wasn’t forced, but easy. Natural.
Rowan didn’t want to think too hard about the cause of that new ease.
Aelin had spent the past few days practicing harder than Rowan had yet seen. She was throwing herself into the work, and slowly but surely, she was improving. Even if Emrys was keeping Aelin back later and later each day to help prepare the Beltane feast, making her later and later each morning.
Not that the princess was complaining – Rowan caught her sneaking extra food off of overloaded plates at least half a dozen times. The magic he had her performing was exhausting, so he didn’t really blame her. Particularly as it meant that he no longer had to haul quite so much food up the mountain to help sustain her while they practiced. It was the little things.
Aelin was improving, but not as fast as she could be. She was still far from ready to go to Doranelle, and though she had mastered her shift, those iron bars limiting her power had not shifted one inch, and she still struggled to access her magic around them. Aelin worked best under some kind of pressure, when others were dependent upon her self-control.
Beltane was a celebration of fire, and Aelin was its Heir. Perhaps Rowan could figure out a safer way to use the princess’ drive to keep others safe while learning to control her power.
Twilight was starting to fall over the Cambrian mountains, painting the mists golden once again. Rowan and Aelin were standing together on a mountain plateau, a mile or so above Mistward. Various Fae wandered about, setting up tables for the feast, bringing in kindling from the surrounding woods, or just mulling about, waiting for the celebrations to begin. A few were giggling and practicing dances, while a couple of musicians were placing instruments along the forest edge, preparing to play.
Over the past few days, dozens of other demi-Fae had arrived from neighboring outposts to join in their celebrations, and most of them seemed familiar with many of the residents of Mistward. Rowan recognized a few of them, mostly healers from the compound. Even Namonora had come to Mistward to celebrate.
The newcomers were all friendly, and they greeted each other with much embracing and well-natured teasing. Normally, Rowan would be unaffected by the increased attendance, as he was usually feared and avoided by other Fae. But Aelin wasn’t, and the attention she was attracting grated on him.
Rowan had caught many of the visiting males throwing glances her way, their faces open and inviting. However, they always reconsidered when they noticed Rowan standing at her side, their scents shifting from inviting to reluctant.
Perhaps if the males had known that Rowan was her teacher, they would have been less hesitant to approach the princess. But Rowan didn’t have room to feel guilty for not enlightening them to that fact – he was too busy feeling grumpy and protective and irritable. Not that he would blame Aelin for going off and pursuing some wide-eyed male. She deserved whatever pleasure she could get her hands on.
Even if he wasn’t so sure that Aelin felt the same way about him. The previous night, Aelin had actually growled at another female in the kitchens at dinner who had been looking at him with interest, and had stepped forwards as if to say hello.
Rowan wanted to be irritated at the princess for her intrusion, but he couldn’t help but be a tiny bit pleased – the deep, territorial, and entirely male part of himself secretly satisfied by it. Pleased that she had staked some small claim to him, even if it was only as a companion, or a friend.
Not that that word came easy to him. Friend. Rowan hadn’t had a person to call a friend in over 200 years – his fellow warriors didn’t really count. Not even Gavriel, even if Rowan had occasionally thought of him as one. They were all blood-bonded, connected by a lust for power and purpose, and nothing more. It wasn’t a foundation for deeper relationships to form.
And yet here Aelin was, his equal, his mirror and…his friend. Regardless of all obstacles.
Aelin had not feared him once after their initial meeting, hadn’t once flinched from him, no matter how much shit he’d flung at her. And it was starting to affect him, to change him. No matter how he tried to deny it. His conversation with Namonora had begun to open his eyes, but it wasn’t until last night that he’d really noticed.
Rowan’s scent had changed. It had lost its abrasiveness, was no longer so hostile. Just as Aelin’s had. And the demi-Fae females at the fortress had begun to notice.
Rowan didn’t really know how to feel about that.
Aelin munched on an apple a few feet behind him, the loud crunch breaking him from his thoughts. They were standing in front of three unlit fires. The central pyre was a massive pile of wood, stacked up high enough to brush the stars, but the two at its sides were much smaller – perfect for jumping. And all three of which would be Aelin’s responsibility through the night.
“I assume you brought me here so I could practice?” Aelin chucked the apple core across the field, rubbing at a sore shoulder and frowning.
Rowan gestured towards the piles of firewood. “Ignite them, and keep the fires controlled and even all night.”
“All three.” Aelin’s voice was flat, colored by a familiar irritation.
“Keep the end ones low for the jumpers. The middle one should be scorching the clouds.”
Aelin pursed her lips, anxiety filling her scent. “This could easily turn lethal.”
Rowan lifted a hand, stirring the winds around the princess just enough to ruffle her clothes and tousle her golden hair. “I’ll be here,” he said simply.
“And if I somehow still manage to turn someone into a living torch?”
“Then it’s a good thing the healers are also here to celebrate.”
She gave him a dirty look, but seemed to accept her instructions, turning towards the unlit pyres and rolling her shoulders. “When do you want to start?”
Aelin was doing well, very well in fact. Though that didn’t much settle Rowan’s nerves. Each time another oblivious demi-Fae leaped over one of the jumping-fires, heedless of the danger they were placing themselves in, Rowan could feel his whole body tense.
Not that Aelin much appreciated his anxiety. Every time he murmured for her to be careful, or to keep steady, she all but snarled at him. So Rowan did his best to keep his eyes forwards, out towards the field full of demi-Fae and away from the princess who was steadily burning at his side.
The Beltane celebrations of his childhood in Doranelle had been rigid, formal affairs. Queen Maeve hosted a banquet, which she rarely attended for more than a few minutes, and his mother always shoved him into his stiffest, most uncomfortable tunic with strict orders not to spill anything on it. There was dancing, but it was always restricted to the strict, formal movements of the traditional dances.
When he was younger, his parents had forced him to pair off with other young females to dance, and he’d despised it. It wasn’t the dancing that he hated – his family had put him in lessons, so he knew all of the movements. It was more the awkward, stilted conversation, the obligatory etiquette and proper manners that he chafed against. And it had only gotten worse as he grew older.
By the time he reached his second and third decades, Rowan’s parents were gone, and he was living in his uncle Ellys’ house alongside his many cousins, including Endymion and Sellene. Ellys had raised him well, had even given him his first lessons in swordplay. But he had been strict, and avoiding formal events had been out of the question.
So once Rowan was free of his uncle’s influence, he had avoided official celebrations and their fraught conversation as often as possible. But here, among the demi-Fae, things were different.
The dancing was much more lively, the clothing looser and more comfortable – made for spinning and whirling in the firelight. The food was less decadent, and far more delicious. Emrys’ feast had been made with love and care, and not impressing the various lords and ladies, in mind.
But most of all was the feeling of freedom and joy and excitement that overwhelmed the open space. Everyone’s scents overlapped into a cacophony of warmth and spice and vibrance. Here, people ate what they wanted, laughed when they wanted, danced how they wanted to, and even went off into the bushes together without anyone staring daggers at them.
The smell was intense, and with Aelin standing just feet away, it was almost overwhelming. Her flames and magic and the heat of her body reached out to caress him, pulling the memory of the taste of her blood to the forefront of his mind. Lemon and jasmine and fire, all wrapped up in the taste of desire that had flooded the whole of the clearing.
And the music. It was beyond words.
Violins and flutes and drums and harps and horns, weaving together a blanket of sound that swathed the whole of the field – the whole of the world. And while the music was all ancient songs that had been played in Doranelle for millennia – by the demi-Fae musicians, the sound had some other richness, some deeper emotion Rowan hadn’t heard before.
He thought that Aelin might have been just as moved by the beautiful melody, her flames seeming to twist in time with the music, the vibrant colors blinking and flashing in the starlight.
And what colors they were; rubies and citrines and tigereyes and the deepest sapphires. Over the past few weeks, the flames she conjured had shifted, becoming richer and more varied – a symphony in and of itself. More beautiful than any sunset.
Nearby demi-Fae marveled at the gorgeous fires, obviously wondering at how they burned so brightly and yet didn’t consume the wood they rested on. A few wandering eyes took note of Rowan and Aelin standing quietly in the shadows at the edge of the clearing, but Rowan didn’t think any of the watchers made the connection between the magic flames and the fire-wielder at his side.
As the night wore on, Aelin grew more and more exhausted, drained by the sustained use of magic. But the well of fire within her did not lessen. It burned on, endlessly ravenous.
Yet still, those iron bars did not burn away. Aelin’s wildfire felt strong enough to consume the entirety of Erilea, but the prison in her mind was impervious to that strength, and held fast. Once again, the image of Aelin chained up in a darkened dungeon, her child’s face twisted in anger and pain, flashed before his eyes.
Rowan’s jaw tightened. He would do anything to free her from those bars. To see the Heir of Fire unleashed at last.
Aelin shifted on her feet slightly, her face contorting in discomfort.
“Easy,” Rowan said as her flames danced a bit higher.
“I know,” Aelin spat through her teeth.
Rowan frowned. He was certain he was in control, and ready to intervene if it proved necessary. Even if he wasn’t stronger than Aelin’s flames, Rowan was confident that he was stubborn enough to repress the wildfire if it slipped Aelin’s control. But still, he only barely contained a flinch as a female took a wild leap over the leftmost pyre, giggling as she went.
Aelin shifted again, the middle bonfire twisting and arching with her as she stretched, mirroring her movements, a rippling golden reflection. “When can I stop?”
“When I say so.”
“I’m sweating to death, I’m starving, and I want a break.”
“Resorting to whining?” Rowan wanted to roll his eyes, but he was being baked alive, his linen shirt soaked with sweat and the leather blazingly hot, shrinking and tightening in the blistering heat. And the princess was far from better off; Rowan could see her limbs glistening with sweat, her clothes damp and wrinkled, face cherry-red.
Rowan sent a cooling breeze in her direction, wrapping his ice around her burning form. Aelin’s muscles relaxed and she closed her eyes, moaning softly.
Rowan became very still, desire pooling in his stomach as her scent and the taste of her blood wrapped around him, neatly wiping his mind clean of everything but the feel of her heat beside him.
He forcibly wrenched his thoughts away, thinking of something, anything other than how much he wanted to walk over to her and –
After a few moments, Rowan cleared his throat and managed to say, “Just a little while longer.”
Aelin visibly sagged in relief, and a few more silent minutes passed. Rowan could feel Aelin’s thoughts drift, her gaze shifting over to the piles of food stacked on the tables across the field. Her stomach grumbled aggressively, and Rowan felt an ounce of guilt pass through him. He would give it a few more minutes, and then they could stop for the night.
Aelin began tapping her foot, her head bobbing and swaying along with the music. Her flames began to follow suit, whirling and swishing with every twitch of her fingers. They leaped higher once again, and Rowan tensed.
“Easy,” Rowan said, but then it clicked. “Music. That day on the ice, you were humming.”
Aelin nodded, beginning to hum along with the instruments. A bead of sweat trickled down her face, and Rowan sent another cool breeze her way, though this time she was burning so hotly that the air warmed almost immediately, and didn’t seem to help.
“Let the music steady you,” Rowan said, but Aelin didn’t respond. Her eyes were glued to the flames, and they were surprisingly blank, though their golden core was molten and bright.
Rowan’s brow furrowed, anxiety trickling through him. Aelin’s flames roiled and undulated with the melody, the colors deepening to rich blues and bright whites as the temperature increased.
“Easy…” Rowan said again, but Aelin didn’t seem to hear. It was almost as though she was in some kind of trance, her thoughts pulled into the depths of the writhing flames.
“Steady.” Rowan’s voice had shifted from calming to tight and insistent. But still, she did not move, her gaze utterly fixed upon the three smokeless fires now bursting with power and life and intensity.
Rowan took a step closer to her, all of his attention utterly fixed on the fire-wielder. Her power writhed and strained against her mental cage, aching for freedom. And though the pressure of the power was surely extraordinarily painful, Aelin didn’t even twitch, her scent clean and as empty as death.
Terror flooded Rowan. “That’s enough for now,” he said, grabbing her arm in an attempt to get her attention. But it burned him, and he hissed and let go. “That is enough.”
Rowan didn’t know how, but Aelin was burning out. Right before his eyes.
He had been worried about Aelin accidentally losing control and hurting other Fae, he didn’t realize that he should have also been worried about her roasting herself from the inside out.
She turned to look at him, slowly, reluctantly. And her eyes were even emptier than he had thought. She turned back to the flames, the gold around her pupils burning even brighter than Rowan had yet seen.
“Look at me,” Rowan said desperately. He wanted to reach out and touch her, but he couldn’t when she was burning so hotly. “Look at me.”
She didn’t move. “Let the fires burn on their own,” he ordered, his voice filled with fear. Finally, she turned back to face him, her scent filling with a dull, confused pain. His nostrils flared. “Aelin, stop right now.”
She was completely still, agony pulsing through her scent and tensing all of her muscles. “Let go.”
He reached out to touch her, but stopped himself when he felt the heat radiating from her body in waves. The bonfires were starting to climb, and the demi-Fae around them started to back away, murmuring in worry and confusion.
But Rowan didn’t pay them any heed. “If you don’t let go, you are going to burn out completely.” But Aelin still didn’t shift one inch. Rowan snarled, “You are on the verge of roasting yourself from the inside out.”
Aelin blinked once, then her eyes widened as her wildfire filled her up, and agony radiated from her in waves. The iron cage did not break, and instead of melting the bars, Aelin set her fire free in the prison of her own body.
The three bonfires surged, racing up to melt the stars as Aelin fell onto the grass, groaning in pain. Demi-Fae yelled, the music faltered, and Rowan stilled as the killing calm iced over his limbs.
“I’m sorry,” Rowan hissed, swearing viciously as he ripped the air from her lungs. He waited only an instant for the fires to fall and the magic to be torn away before returning her breath to her.
“Breathe. Breathe.” Rowan begged as Aelin gasped raggedly, her spine arching as her power settled uncomfortably back in its cage, its connection to the world broken. But the wildfire still coursed through her body, boiling her blood and roasting her skin.
And Rowan was running, leaving Aelin lying on the ground, where she was shaking with tearless, panicked sobs. He sprinted over to the eastern edge of the field, where he could see Namonora and another female chatting casually.
At the sight of his panicked expression, Namonora instantly shifted, her face becoming severe. “What is it?”
Rowan didn’t have time for explanations. “Come,” he said, turning back to return to the princess who might have already succumbed to the fire, return to the spark that might have finally burned out.
Thankfully, they followed him without question, and when they reached Aelin, she was still writhing on the ground.
Still alive. Rowan had to hold in a sigh of relief.
Namonora’s assessment was quick and efficient. “Can you stand to carry her? There aren’t any water-wielders here, and we need to get her into cold water. Now.”
Rowan gritted his teeth, and then gingerly stretched out his arms to cradle the princess, shutting out the pain as her skin met his, her fire reaching through his clothes and scorching his flesh. Rowan held Aelin as far from his body as he could, sprinting through the forest and back down the mountain towards the fortress, his heart beating rapidly in his chest.
He tried to wrap her in his ice-kissed wind, enveloping her burning body in freezing air. But it didn’t work. Rowan wasn’t able to pierce through the heat she was emanating.
He pumped his legs still faster, hurtling through the underbrush as Aelin’s scent weakened and twisted and frayed, her grip on consciousness fading under the weight of the agony pulsing through her.
Rowan tightened his grip on the princess, unwilling to let her fade. Unwilling to let her die.
After some unknowable, endless stretch of time, the fortress came into view, and Rowan tore through the wyrd-stones, over the gate, past the courtyard, down the stairs and towards the bathing room.
“Get her into the water.”
Rowan lowered her gingerly into the sunken stone tub, but before her skin even brushed the surface, the water began to billow with steam. Rowan swore.
“Freeze it, Prince,” Namonora commanded. “Now.”
Rowan sent all of his power towards the female in the basin before him, a vast surge of ice and wind, and the water immediately froze solid. But then –
“Get her out!” Namonora shouted, and Rowan reached in and snatched Aelin from the now-boiling water, the skin on his hands beginning to blister. She had nearly boiled herself alive.
Rowan lifted her up and placed her in another tub, kneeling at its head while the two healers hovered somewhere to his side. This time, he had to be more careful with his use of magic. So instead of a quick wave, Rowan focused on gathering a steady, forceful pressure.
The ice formed again, and then began to melt. “Breathe,” Rowan said into her ear. “Let it go – let it get out of you.” Steam began to rise once again, but then Aelin took one small, shaky breath, and it dissipated slightly. “Good,” Rowan panted with the effort of fighting against the wild, uncontrolled force of Aelin’s magic.
Ice formed again, and then melted. Aelin took another steadying breath, her eyes closing as she focused on calming her panicked body.
Rowan began to sweat in earnest, the perspiration trickling over his ruined skin and stinging, salt in an open wound. While his magic was so strained, the burns couldn’t heal by themselves. But the small ache was nothing in the face of the terror currently coursing through him.
The water froze and melted in a steady pattern, like the movement of a pendulum, or breath in a pair of lungs. In and out, in and out. Frozen, then melted. Fire, then ice. The ebb and flow of the tide, pushing and pulling.
Aelin’s uncontrolled flames slammed against his steel will, over and over and over again, until the pendulum began to slow, the breaths evening out until finally, they stopped.
The water stilled, settling into a comfortable warmth while Aelin’s scent relaxed from the sharp, agonized copper tang to a dull ache. Rowan felt his own limbs begin to relax, the lack of tension leaving him feeling hollow, and heavy.
“We need to get those clothes off her,” Namonora said, and Rowan moved out of their way while the two healers leaned over the tub, carefully easing up Aelin’s head and peeling off her sodden clothes.
There was a moment of quiet while Namonora silently assessed Aelin’s condition, her eyes expertly flicking over her still form, cataloguing every detail. Aelin just lay there, eyes closed, her skin dangerously pale and her face flushed with fever.
Namonora looked at Rowan expectantly, silently asking him to speak.
Rowan kept his voice calm and soft. “Just answer yes or no. That’s all you have to do.”
Aelin nodded stiffly, grimacing in pain. Her eyes were still closed.
“Are you in danger of flaring up again?”
“No,” she responded, barely a whisper through her lips.
“Are you in pain?”
“Yes.” Another breath of sound, punctuated with a flare of discomfort in her scent.
Rowan clenched his jaw, looking pointedly at Namonora.
The old healer nodded at him. “We will prepare a tonic. Just keep her cool.” And they both trod into the hallway, heading for the kitchens, the door shutting softly behind them.
Rowan reached over for a bucket of water and handful of washcloths lying on the floor beside him. He dipped the cloths into the water, and brought the temperature as close to freezing as he could without it turning solid and useless, then laid a cloth on Aelin’s forehead. She sighed in relief, her tight expression softening.
Rowan soaked the other cloth in the bucket, and began wringing it over her head and neck. “The burnout,” he said quietly. “You should have told me you were at your limit.”
Aelin opened her eyes a millimeter, but didn’t say anything. He wrung more water over her brow.
“If you’d gone on any longer, the burnout would have destroyed you. You must learn to recognize the signs – and how to pull back before it’s too late.” The anxiety in his voice gave way to command. “It will rip you apart inside. Make this…” he shook his head. “Make this look like nothing. You don’t touch your magic until you’ve rested for a while. Understand?”
Aelin only raised her chin, her expression pleading, a silent request for more of the icy water. But Rowan just held the cloth tantalizingly above her, refusing to wring it until she nodded her agreement.
A few more silent minutes passed, Rowan slowly cooling the princess’ heat. But the pain in her scent refused to fade, and Namonora still did not appear. The more time that passed without the arrival of the tonic, the higher Rowan’s irritation grew. And soon, he was flinging the cloth in the bucket and standing up to leave, deciding that Aelin was cool enough to survive without him for a few moments, and her need for the painkillers was now greater than her need for temperature-control.
“I’m going to check on the tonic. I’ll be back soon.”
She nodded faintly, and Rowan left, the door clicking shut behind him.
He strode directly over to the kitchens, his booted feet slamming into the stones and echoing loudly through the halls. Rowan didn’t think he’d ever cared less.
He found Namonora stirring various strong-smelling plants in a cauldron over a fire, the other healer efficiently dicing several other herbs, readying them to be mixed into the pot with the others. When Rowan entered, Namonora instantly dropped what she was doing and gestured for the other female to take over, then strode over to him, her expression determined.
“I know you’re going to want to protest, but I do not care. You need those burns treated, or they absolutely will get infected.” Namonora grabbed Rowan’s shoulder and pulled him over to the counter, where white bandaging had already been laid out. Rowan opened his mouth to object, but Namonora interrupted. “Do not argue with me, Rowan Whitethorn. I’m not about to change my mind, and you protesting will only make this take longer.”
Rowan clenched his jaw, and seriously considered retaliation, but at the steel in the healer’s eyes, he relented, and began to strip off his ruined clothing. Namonora’s lips pinched in victory.
Rowan winced, groaning in pain as the cotton pulled at the tender flesh of his chest and arms. Namonora clicked her tongue and raising a mortar and pestle filled with a sweet-smelling poultice.
“That might have been the strangest almost-burnout I have ever seen,” she said, dabbing the saccharine mixture on the welts covering his left arm. It smelled of eucalyptus and ginger and strawberries.
“I’m not sure it was a burnout,” Rowan sighed.
Namonora tilted her head, a silent question. She moved to the other arm.
Rowan shook his head. “I don’t know. But her power wasn’t depleted – it was more like she…set it free. Within her own body.”
“A suicide attempt?” the other female asked politely.
Rowan flinched, and Namonora’s clever eyes narrowed, taking note. “No,” he finally replied, “She just lost control.”
“Hmm.” Namonora muttered, smearing the last of the poultice over his bare chest. “The block.”
“Yes,” Rowan agreed, nodding ruefully.
“So there has been no more progress since I last saw you?”
“No.” Rowan’s voice was curt.
Namonora began wrapping the clean white linen around his arms, seeming to be mulling something over, hesitating. “As I said before, she may never overcome it.” The healer’s eyes tentatively flicked over Rowan’s face. His expression was carefully impassive. “These things are far more emotional than they are physical. And if she does not find a way to confront whatever trauma lies in her past, she may always have this block. Instead of focusing on getting rid of it, maybe she could focus her attention on finding ways to cope with it, to work around it.”
Rowan just nodded tersely, his face blank and hard. Namonora finished bandaging his chest, and nodded slowly, giving him her permission to leave. “We will be in with the tonic in another few minutes,” she said, and turned back to the fire. Rowan carefully pulled his shirt back on over the bandages, and strode from the room without another word.
But not before overhearing a final comment from the healers, their words gliding over to him through the open doorway.
“So that was Rowan Whitethorn,” the other female said plainly.
“And the Princess of Terrasen.” Namonora responded.
“Are they together?”
“I don’t know. But I think they are well suited. Perhaps – ” and her voice faded into the background.
Rowan only clenched his jaw, shaking off their words and striding purposefully towards the bathing room.
It was lit by faint candlelight, and the tiny, flickering flames cast eerie shadows over the walls and stone floors. Various cloths, buckets, and basins were scattered intermittently across the room, filling the spaces between the sunken stone tubs. Aelin was a golden ghost across the stretch of the room, now sitting up and facing away from the doorway through which Rowan had just entered.
The door clicked shut behind him, and his feet made soft tapping sounds with each step towards the princess. Rowan was irritated, and impatient. He could scent Aelin’s pain from across the room, and he had to tell her that the tonic wasn’t yet ready.
But Rowan only made it halfway across the room before the bottom fell out of his stomach, and he stopped dead.
Rowan’s breath was ripped from him in a ragged gasp, and there was an overwhelming silence in his mind.
Her back was a mangled slab of flesh, a mess of old scars, one on top of the other on top of the other. Marks of pain and hate and prolonged suffering. The marks of someone who had been beaten, again and again and again. The marks of someone who had been destroyed.
Aelin – Rowan’s mental voice broke over her name – Aelin hadn’t only suffered due to death and misfortune and loss, she had been broken. Broken by others.
A roaring began somewhere at the back of his mind, vicious and lethal and inexorable. He would rip apart whoever had done that to her with his bare hands. He would destroy them, would hunt them down until only their ashes remained. Would see them suffer. Would ensure that Aelin got her revenge on them before they died.
Aelin turned her head, her brow furrowed in confusion. But once she saw the direction of his gaze, her face softened in understanding.
“Who did that do you?” The words were blank, empty. Rowan’s body was so stressed, so fraught with pain and shock and fury, that the question just slipped out, barely a breath between his lips. Completely emotionless.
Aelin’s voice was tired and hollow as she responded, “A lot of people. I spent some time in the Salt Mines of Endovier.”
Rowan felt his chest tighten. “How long?”
“A year. I was there a year before…it’s a long story.” Aelin’s eyes flitted over his bandaged chest and arms, her face falling in sorrow and regret. Rowan thought that if she apologized to him, he might explode.
“You were a slave.” The word twisted on the way out, burning his throat like acid. Aelin paused, and gave him a slow nod, her eyes filled with some ancient benediction, or divine reckoning.
Rowan opened his mouth – to say what, he didn’t know. So many things were roiling inside him, aching to be set free. Questions, apologies, furious declarations, vows of revenge, expressions of sympathy. They all caught in his throat, and he closed his mouth as one small truth settled into him.
Maeve had known the princess had been a slave, had known how much she’d suffered and toiled, had known everything. And she hadn’t said a word. She’d kept it all from him.
Rowan felt himself turn from the room, and shut the door behind him quietly. He wanted to slam it, to shatter it behind him. But he couldn’t do that to Aelin. Aelin, who was sitting in the cold tub, alone and abandoned by all the world. Aelin, who had been a slave.
And Maeve had known everything, and then called for Rowan to break her, like some prize draft horse. Like an animal, or an object. Just a new flashy possession for the Queen who collected Fae like carriages or garments or jewelry. Another weapon in her arsenal, to join the row of hearts lined up on her sleeve.
Rowan flew through the clouds, soaring over the rippling forests, shaping the winds to push him onward, faster and faster, sending him towards the dark queen.
Why hadn’t Maeve told him? Why hadn’t Aelin told him?
Rowan took in the passing world out of instinct rather than interest, all of his thoughts still bent towards the image of that expanse of ruined flesh, glistening in the candlelight. It was burned into him, branded and seared. Right alongside the images of Lyria’s corpse, bloody and cold and distorted.
Aelin in shackles, Aelin in the dark, Aelin tied to a post, a pale figure brandishing a whip –
Rowan howled, his hawk’s cry piercing the night, echoing off of the sides of the Cambrian mountains, now towering before him. A chorus of unearthly howls rose in response – Maeve’s wild wolves, guarding the passes. Even if he flew all the way to Doranelle, he’d reach his queen and demand answers and…she would not give them to him. With the blood oath, she could command he not go back to Mistward.
Rowan choked the current of wind beneath his wings. Aelin…Aelin had not trusted him – had not wanted him to know. Did she think he would think the worse of her? That he would think that she deserved it?
The thought curdled in his stomach. She had not wanted him to know, had not thought he deserved to know. And maybe he didn’t.
That day – that day early on, he’d threatened to whip the girl, gods above. And she’d lost it. He’d been such a proud fool that he’d assumed she’d lashed out because she was nothing more than a child. He should have known better – should have known that when she did react to something like that, it meant the scars went deep. And then there were the other things he’d said…
Shame roiled alongside the anger in his gut.
She hadn’t wanted him to know, and when he’d found out, he’d just left her alone. Too wrapped up in his own anger and agony to notice how that must have felt. To have your secrets ripped from you, and then be abandoned.
Rowan had left her alone. Weak and defenseless, and recovering from a burnout.
Primal anger sharpened in his gut, brimming with a territorial, possessive need. Not a need for her, but a need to protect – a male’s duty and honor. He had not handled the news as he should have.
If she hadn’t wanted to tell him about being a slave, then she probably had done so assuming the worst about him – just as she was probably assuming the worst about his leaving. The thought didn’t sit well.
So he veered back to the north and called his magic to pull the winds with him, easing his flight back to the fortress.
After a few more frozen minutes, Rowan arrived back at the old stone walls of the fortress, now familiar in its ancient, crumbling majesty. He headed right for Aelin’s room, swooping around the southwestern corner of the castle and towards where he knew her small window would lie.
He sent a sharp wind over to push the glass open, intending on explaining, or apologizing, or begging her forgiveness, he didn’t know. His hawk’s wings brushed the edges of the window frame as he swooped into her room, finding it smaller and colder than he remembered.
The basin in the corner had iced over, the stone floor looking just as freezing to the touch. Aelin lay curled up tight beneath a ragged blanket, still undressed, her breath fogging the air and her limbs shaking with cold.
Rowan shifted with a flash of light, his heart twisting. He had left her in a room without a fireplace, had given her a space purposefully and intensely uncomfortable. Intent on punishing her, for crimes she had not committed, and had paid for many times over.
Rowan scooped her up, wrapping her more tightly in the blanket and carrying her up two flights of stairs, down the hall, and into his rooms. A fire was already roaring in the grate, and the space was warm and inviting, especially when compared to the rooms he had just left.
Rowan laid her carefully on his bed, tucking her into the quilt and moving to lie beside her, as far from her trembling form as the space would allow. His voice was unintentionally rough as he said, “You’re staying with me from now on.”
Aelin’s eyes drifted open, her face drained from pain and exhaustion.
“The bed is for tonight. Tomorrow, you’ll get a cot. You’ll clean up after yourself or you’ll be back in that room.”
“Very well.” She nestled more comfortably into her pillow. “But I don’t want your pity.”
Rowan’s voice shook slightly. “This is not pity. Maeve decided not to tell me what happened to you. You have to know that I – I wasn’t aware you had – ”
She slid an arm across the bed to grasp his hand, her fingers small and cold in his. Rowan’s eyes were wide, his face open. He hadn’t felt so vulnerable in – he didn’t know when. If she wanted, she could strike him a blow that would fracture him. It wouldn’t be anything more than he deserved.
Her words were soft. “I knew. At first, I was afraid you’d mock me if I told you, and I would kill you for it. Then I didn’t want you to pity me. And more than any of that, I didn’t want you to think it was ever an excuse.”
“Like a good soldier.” His voice was filled with wonder at the strength of this woman. How he had ever thought her a killer. He would regret that for the rest of his miserable life.
Rowan took a long breath. “Tell me how you were sent there – and how you got out.” It wasn’t an order, wasn’t a command. It was a request. To understand, so that they could once again be on even footing. So that he could know her, as she now knew him.
Aelin’s face hardened slightly, but she breathed deep, rallying herself. Rowan couldn’t help but feel honored. Honored to be chosen to be a part of her life, to help her bear this burden.
“After my…parents…were killed, I fell into the service of Arobynn Hamel. He spent the next eight years training me, forming me into a weapon.”
Aelin began to weave a tale of death and intrigue and pain and…love. She suffered much at Arobynn’s hand, but she still found joy and happiness in her time in Rifthold, living out the final days of her childhood.
Aelin’s voice warmed slightly, her eyes crinkling. “I was as wild as could be – dancing until dawn with courtesans and thieves and all the beautiful, wicked creatures in the world.” She smiled at the memory, and Rowan smiled with her.
She spoke of learning to love music, of growing older and finding herself happy to be free, reveling in the pleasure of anonymity. And the guilt she felt whenever she remembered the cost of that freedom.
Rowan kept silent the whole time, letting the story flow from her freely and without interruption. These past weeks had taught him how good talking could feel, how much lighter and freer you were after the tale was done. So much so that you wondered at the massive weight the invisible burden had been before. He didn’t want to deprive her of that, no matter the questions that pressed on his tongue.
She spoke of a man named Sam Cortland, and how together they’d sacked a city and freed over a hundred slaves, using little more than their wits. But then, how upon her return Arobynn beat them mercilessly, and sent her to the Red Desert to train with the Silent Assassins.
Aelin told Rowan of running in the desert, of racing Asterion horses, of battles and death and escape. She spoke of falling in love for the first time, and how her and Sam schemed to escape from Rifthold together.
Aelin’s voice was tentative. “I think in my heart I knew that it wasn’t going to work. That the gods wouldn’t let me elude the burden of name forever. But still…I loved him too much to care.” And Rowan’s heart twisted.
She spoke of his death at the hands of her fellow assassins, her voice shaking slightly as she told of how she failed to get her vengeance, was captured and taken to the king’s court, and sentenced to enslavement in the salt mines. Her words drifted off, “I still don’t know who it was that betrayed me…”
But Rowan thought he did. If Arobynn Hamel ever got within his reach, Rowan would take his revenge. Slowly.
But Aelin was obviously not ready to hear that the man she had lived with, grown up with, and had come to regard as some mixture of teacher, father, or brother, had left her to rot in that prison. Had tortured and killed her love.
So Rowan kept silent as Aelin continued. “That first day in Endovier, I knew I would die there.” Her voice was like the inside of a tomb. “They brought me inside, stripped me, cut off my hair, tied me to the whipping post and gave me twenty-one lashes. Then they rubbed salt in the wounds, and made sure that they would never heal properly. It was only through the kindness of some of the other prisoners that I survived that first night. Which they were then killed for, of course. But I got my revenge. It took a while, but I got it.”
She spoke of a year in hell. A year of darkness and toil. Of how eventually, she snapped, sprinting for her own death. How she had killed her overseer, taken her revenge on the guards, and gotten within an inch of the wall before being knocked unconscious. How she had run three hundred and sixty-three feet.
Rowan only marveled.
“And then, one day, they came. The Crown Prince and the Captain of the Guard. And they took me away.”
She told him how the son of her enemy offered her a shot at freedom, and used her to win a competition to become the Hand of the King. She told Rowan how she won it, slowly rebuilding her body from the wreck it had been after leaving Endovier. How she had come to love Chaol Westfall.
How the Captain had rescued her from hell, and helped to heal her, how he rebuilt her heart only for it to shatter once more with another death, another betrayal, another weight on her shoulders.
Nehemia. The princess of Eyllwe. She had been Aelin’s friend, her closest confident. She had loved her. And then she died.
Was murdered, violently. Horrifically.
Aelin tracked down her killers, and left them in pieces. But Chaol Westfall had discovered that she was Fae, and made a deal to get her out of Adarlan. To send her to Varese, under orders to assassinate the Ashryvers and collect their naval defense plans.
“So I came. And then I met you.”
Aelin’s golden eyes flicked up to meet his, hers clouded with exhaustion. Rowan squeezed her fingers lightly, glad that they were regaining their usual warmth.
Aelin closed her eyes and sunk into the bed, finally succumbing to exhaustion. But Rowan lay awake, his thoughts whirring.
She had edited, leaving out a lot of crucial details. She hadn’t explained her deal with Maeve, or why she went along with Chaol’s deal. Nor had she said how her parents had been killed, and why she ended up in Arobynn’s care.
But still, Rowan felt…clear. Free of the confusion and the questions that had been weighing on him for so long – from ever since she had swaggered into his life, broken and drunken and hurting.
There were others things that he was curious about, however. Things he had no right to ask, but still wondered. Did she still love that man from across the sea? Still long for him even after all that had broken between them?
And what would she do when Rowan brought her to Maeve? Would she leave with her armies and her alliance, bought with the ring he had given her, never to return? Would he ever see her again?
Worry trickled through his veins, and Rowan pulled the princess’ hand to his chest, resting it over his heart. His breaths evened out, and he began to drift into an easy sleep.
But before he truly fell, he remembered something Aelin had said, a gift Nehemia had given her. “She named me Elentiya – Spirit That Could Not Be Broken.”
The words mocked him, and filled his heart with an aching mixture of joy and sadness. Aelin – the spirit that couldn’t be broken. That he had been ordered to break, and who instead had become his friend.
She lay at his side, the weight of at thousand burdens on her shoulders, and yet she still survived. Had endured.
Masterlist / Ao3 / Previous Chapter / Next Chapter
March Magic 2021
Above Photo: Cherry Blossoms are in bloom at the University of Washington right now - Photo By Kai Wang
Am I alone in thinking that was the longest March of all time? It truly felt like it would never end. Usually I love my birthday month, but with everything still the way it’s been for the past year, there really didn’t feel like much of a reason to celebrate. Also, Nathan got COVID. It was awful and scary and I was worried about how he’d be, but all is well and he just got his vaccine this past weekend, which is incredible. So a real roller coaster type of month, but thank god it’s over.
Here’s everything that went down last month.
I recapped how my winter list of things to do went.
Forever an optimist, I made a list of spring things that I’d like to do. One of my favourite things to do is get a pedicure on the first day of a season. I don’t get them very often at all, so it’s a nice way to usher in some new weather.
I finished watching Superstore, which is such a great show. I would’ve never watched it on my own, so this is why you have to listen to your best friend’s recommendations sometimes. They know more than you. Also, it was weird as hell to hear the Smashing Pumpkins song Today in one episode. Just seemed like a strange pairing, them and this show. Or any show, really. But I mean they did lend a song to that Apple ad, so I guess the old days of Billy Corgan complaining about everything are over.
I read and reviewed Joan Rivers’ book Enter Talking.
I made my way back to Lilia with Irene to devour their seasonal leek focaccia & green salted butter, which is always heaven on a plate. (Me and focaccia have had a pretty strong love affair going on for some time now. I plan on making it at home soon, but I can’t decide on the flavouring I’ll want to add to it. There are too many possibilities.) We also shared two pastas: the corzetti with pine nuts, marjoram & parmigiano reggiano as well as the sheep’s milk cheese agnolotti with saffron, dried tomato & honey. Always a good meal here. Might benefit from some new pastas, though.
Above Photo: My sweet baby girl, leek focaccia & her green salted butter
Above Photo: Stunning Irene & pasta
Above Photo: I’m very excited for bread
I got my first Moderna shot! I usually have tons of anxiety around needles, but somehow it wasn’t a problem this time (maybe because I had the kindest nurse on the planet). It sounds so simple, but she told me to look away, to take a deep breath and while I was taking that breath she put the needle in and THAT WAS IT. So grateful for that advice. Must remember that for life now. I have my next shot on April 8th! (I did get COVID arm, but it went away in 24 hours so it really wasn’t a big deal.) Also, I’ll definitely ask a medical professional, but if it’s allowed then I’m definitely getting my card laminated for free.
There’s this great, cute new store called Gift Box on Broadway in Astoria. It’s very similar to Lockwood, only better. Lots of cards, gifts, beauty products, candles, that kind of thing.
It’s green garlic season and we must all celebrate! I’ve also decided that I might devote my life to compound butters. Making them, eating them, giving them away as gifts potentially. Maybe this is what’s been missing.
Google image search the vagar faroe islands and let’s go.
I can’t stop putting this Esti vegan feta on everything, it tastes exactly like regular feta only slightly less salty.
Everything from the brand Umbra is gorgeous.
These are officially (and my niece Layla can attest to it) the greatest socks on the planet. Not too tight, not too short or high, and soft as a cloud.
Best kale caesar dressing I’ve had in months. And I love the idea of using breadcrumbs instead of croutons to liven things up a bit.
I made this roasted winter citrus and wow was it hot fruit. It should be a crime to make something look this good, but taste average as hell.
I started using the app Google Keep to organize all of my lists and tasks and I love it. It’s so much better than using Notes.
HOW have I never even HEARD of Shake Shack’s Innovation Kitchen?! AND HOW HAVE I NEVER BEEN. It’s moved to the top of my current Must Visit list.
I may or may not have fallen down a rabbit hole of incredible Melissa Clark recipes. Love this woman.
If you live in Englewood, New Jersey, how do you not just LIVE at this bakery? My god. Every item. In my mouth. Now.
And listen, I’m no scientist, but this seems like huge news…?
If you find yourself anxious or unsettled, this video of lasagna being made from scratch is the most soothing thing I’ve come across in months.
Target sells candles?! I’m the last person on earth who learned this. $4 for an actually great mini candle is wild.
Tried a slice of the red velvet cake from Milk Bar and it was unexpectedly good. I don’t usually care about red velvet (because it’s a scam?), but honestly their cakes always find a way to taste amazing.
I made this cajun linguine and it was so lackluster, I hate when a pasta recipe doesn’t work out. It’s so upsetting. Also, cajun seasoning can blow me.
They’re opening a Sonic in Manhattan, which I’ve never been to before, is it worth going?
I know Eataly is for tourists, but once in awhile I like to stop in to peruse. I tried one of their prepackaged foods (the eggplant parmesan) and it was a hard pass. Just no flavouring at all. The only thing that saved the day were their individual little Italian chocolates. Always amazing. I do want to eventually try their dried pasta Afeltra since I’ve heard such good things about it.
I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely not ready to watch documentaries about the pandemic yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to. I mean… we’re still IN IT, for christ’s sake. HBO needs to just sit down.
Tell me that you know the song Sea of Love.
You had me at “cheese-oozing focaccia.”
Great piece on diet culture by Julia Turshen.
When I was in Seattle in April a few years ago, I wandered onto the University of Washington’s campus and was blown away by their gorgeous cherry blossoms. They have a livestream of them right now, if you’d like to take a look.
With plastic bags officially banned now, I desperately need a basket bag to take when I go to the farmer’s market. So f-ing lovely. Everyone will think I’m Belle or some shit.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a fresh Jamaican patty in my life, so I’m definitely going here the next time I’m in Mississauga.
I love this chickpea salad, especially after adding basil.
Some of these are actually really great tips.
How on earth have I never heard of the restaurants Dell’anima or Anfora?! They’re both under the Joe Campanale umbrella (of L’Artusi fame)! I’m so excited to go. Just look at those menus.
Speaking of, I can’t go for too long without eating the wagyu steak tartare at L’Artusi. It’s a problem. (It also makes me want to buy a really great finishing olive oil, so I’m looking into that. I’m thinking either Monini or Frantoia.)
Above Photo: Wagyu steak tartare at L’Artusi
One thing I’ve started to do that you should too: buy good butter. I stopped buying margarine many years ago and thought I was a better person for buying regular grocery store butter. But sweetie, you can do more. The butter (specifically European butter) in specialty shops or some bakeries or markets is EONS better than the run-of-the-mill basic grocery butter. And it enhances literally everything that you use it in. Right now, the butter in my fridge is beurre de baratte butter and it’s ridiculously good. Obviously I’m not going to use this butter when I’m baking because I’m not a millionaire, but when I’m making something savory for dinner? Or a compound butter? Or on top of asparagus? On some bread as a snack? It’s unreal.
Speaking of food advice: don’t buy your parmesan at the grocery store either. I’ve never had amazing parmesan from there. It’s always the same, even the expensive stuff. Get your ass to a cheese shop. Enough already, you’re an adult.
I tried a CBD chocolate and just as I thought: it’s a scam. Just like red velvet. It did nothing for nobody.
I bought this tea tree toner on a whim from The Body Shop and I might keep buying it for the rest of time. I use it on my face right when I get out of a hot shower and it’s kept my face feeling incredible lately.
A new coffee shop opened up in my neighbourhood called Coffee Avenue and I can’t recommend it enough. The macadamia milk hot chocolate blew my face off.
I finally ate at Bar Primi in the city and it was spectacular. We had the ricotta crostino with hazelnuts & truffle honey (which is almost like a dessert, it’s so good), the linguine with 4 cloves of garlic & breadcrumbs as well as the penne ragu alla bolognese with ricotta which was the very best. Can’t wait to go again. Loved the atmosphere of the place, too.
The seasonal candle is out at Trader Joe’s and it’s grapefruit, which smells perfect. I’ve finally stopped hoarding their candles and have started burning them. Only took me a year of lockdown to realize I should try to enjoy my life.
Lemon Kit-Kats exist and all is right with the world. Delicious.
I don’t go very often, but I’ll always love The Dutch. Perfect cornbread. Perfect tartare. You can’t go wrong.
Above Photo: Housemade scallion-chipotle cornbread with whipped butter
Above Photo: Wagyu steak tartare, capers, bearnaise aioli
*Note: if it seems like I eat a lot of steak tartare - I do. Good observation. It’s incredible.
Controversial opinion but the Dove chocolate peanut butter eggs are one millions times better than Reese’s peanut butter cups. I couldn’t believe it either.
This leads me to another declaration: Easter candy might be better than Halloween candy. Hear me out. Halloween candy is almost chaotic when you think of the candy options, it’s overwhelming and more often than not, disappointing. Easter candy, however, is usually always new and fresh each season. They’ve got to work harder to get you to notice Easter candy, so infact you’re getting a more well thought out product, which usually tastes better. Anyway, can you tell I’m depressed…?
I went to the new Ulta location in NYC in Herald Square and it’s great, it seems bigger than the UWS one and it’s way more convenient to visit. Must remember. Oh! But speaking of Ulta, remember how last year they had such great birthday gifts? They really dropped the ball this year. They’re trying to give a $5 Mario Badescu facial spray as the March gift?! Are you fucking serious?! That’s the worst. Literally the worst gift of all the months. Fighting every urge in my body to write them a strongly-worded letter about this. Just insanity. I didn’t even go claim it. Keep your damn gift, no spray can calm me down from this.
New love: macadamia milk in my iced coffee in the morning. Just heavenly.
I rewatched Wall-E and what a great movie. For all ages. Too perfect.
Love the song Team by Lorde.
I watched the Woody Allen & Mia Farrow documentary on HBO and it’s obviously a must watch. So many things I didn’t know about that story were shown, this man needs to be stopped.
If you ever get a new phone and you want to transfer over all of your WhatsApp messages to your new phone (and you’ve never backed them up), you can pay $40 and use this site to do it.
The new Super Mario World in Japan looks incredible.
Do not judge me, but I ordered (and returned) a SKIMS bralette. I was swayed by a few photos of women wearing it and wanted to see for myself what it felt like. Verdict: crap. Sure, the material is soft but only because it’s so poorly made and unsupportive. An immediate return. The beautiful colours of the bras are what sells the product, in my opinion. It’s so hard to find well made, beautiful browns and neutrals in undergarments.
Speaking of what’s her name, I also ordered this KKW mini lip liner set that I’m unfortunately in love with. I use it as a lip liner and filler, and each fucking one is gorgeous. I’m going to do a post to show you. You’ll see what I mean.
I came across this wonderful stationary store in Chelsea, City Papery. I could spend hours roaming the aisles in there. Made a mental note to go back to get some really beautiful envelopes (why on earth am I still buying the basic-ass white envelopes at CVS??), such a great store.
I’m proofreading a book right now about the idea of living with intention and I’ll post a link to it as soon as it’s released later this year. It’s honestly one of the best self help things I’ve read in a long time.
I’ve had a Pinterest account forever and I recently organized a lot of the recipes into seasonal categories, which has inspired me to make so many new meals this season. Check it. Also, I haven’t tried these yet, but these spring recipes (below) sound delicious.
Blueberry Ricotta Cake with Lavender Glaze
Banana Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
Lemon Almond Pudding Cake
Asparagus Quiche with Hash Brown Crust
Apricot Shortbread Bars
Buttermilk Lavender Scones
Carrot Cake Bread with Nutella Cream Cheese Frosting
Lemon Olive Oil Cake with Lavender Mascarpone
I’ve mentioned my filmmaker friend Dusty before (his film Violation was at Sundance this year), well his movie is a Critic’s Pick in the The New York Times this month, which is amazing and so well deserved. Truly could not happen to a better person.
I have eaten approximately five pounds of asparagus since spring began and I can’t see myself stopping anytime soon. It’s so fucking good. One grievance: that huge, fat asparagus. Why’s it so big like that?? Unnatural as hell. Give me that thin, beautiful asparagus that’s increasingly so hard to find any day. And to anyone who’s like, “Don’t you hate how it makes your pee smell?” - why you gotta go smell your pee? Be normal, weirdo.
I did Nathan’s podcast and we talked about how it’s been so beneficial to get some intentional offline time each Sunday.
Here were the best tweets of the month.
Some things that I’m looking forward to this month: I’m trying so hard to find a way to stream the last three episodes of Stanley Tucci’s Searching For Italy which has been impossible to find, will definitely go check out Little Island, excited to maybe go to the Kusama exhibit, I’d really like to make the Carbone garlic bread, I want to locate and try milk bread, my brother Robbie told me to mix balsamic vinegar & mayo and put it on a burger so I’ll try that soon, I bought some dried Rao’s pasta so I can’t wait to make it, I’m so excited that movie theatres are opening on the 2nd here (I’ll be fully vaccinated very soon so this is great), and I’m adding a resolution: I’d like to do one new thing on the first of every month (examples: buy stock in something, eat ramen, etc.).
If you’ve got any interest in reading last month’s roundup, you can see what went down in February over here.