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#elriel forever
nikethestatue · 2 days ago
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Via strawberriess
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nikethestatue · 6 days ago
                                         A friendly reminder!
                          The two biggest Elriel shippers are:
                                                 Feyre Archeron                                                                 &                                                     Sarah J Maas
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nikethestatue · 8 days ago
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Azriel and Elain
Via darkandbeatutifuldarknessart on Instagram
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nikethestatue · 10 days ago
Elriel Thoughts
Thinking of Azriel and Elain, I find it very telling that both of them are so attracted to each other that their behavior towards one another is in fact very outside the norm for themselves. The pull is so strong, they act out of character just so they can express what the feel without actually saying the words.
Azriel and Touch
We all know that Azriel doesn’t like to be touched and never touches anyone. I can’t recall one time when he touched Mor--I believe she might have touched his hand at one point, but that’s about it. According to Cassian, he doesn’t even like hand to hand combat and prefers weapons, to avoid sweat and bodily fluids. He leans on his brothers when he is wounded. He allows Nesta to hug him at Solstice in gratitude for his gift to her. 
He is a LITTLE different with Elain. He can’t stop touching her! He cradles her in his arms every chance he gets. He doesn’t set her down even when he probably can and should. He carries her into the townhouse in his arms. 
He is risking his life in Hybern for her, and after, he is dripping blood, wings half-shredded, but he won’t let go. She could probably walk. Nope. He is cradling! First thing out of his mouth--we need Helion to get these chains off her. No thought for himself and his wings. And Rhys needed to basically wrestle Elain out of Azriel’s arms, because, you know, he cradling her. 
He gives her his arm! Does he ever willingly give anyone his hand? Nope. First opportunity he can, he is like, ‘let me take your hand and let’s go to the garden’. Won’t even mention all his wingspan peacocking in front of her. 
In his POV he recalls exchanging touches and glances, brushes of their fingers. And of course a little later one, we sidle into some more serious touching. Not even going to go into all the naughty things that he wants to do with her, that are a little more than touching. 
It took Mor THREE CENTURIES to convince him to go to Rita’s. You know who suddenly expresses great interest in gardening plans? Wants to talk about plants and seed into the wee hours of the morning? Yep, same guy. 
Elain and Confidence
Elain is known as a shy, demure person. Not necessarily solitary, but someone on a quieter side. Around Azriel, or with him, she tends to show a different side of her, which even surprises her sisters.
During their very first meeting, in the human lands, she actually starts a conversation with him. Not something generic and ‘polite’, but very personal, about his flying. You’d assume she’d sit silent most of the night, but she begins to seek him out and takes comfort in his presence almost immediately.
The first time she flies, is with him. He brings her to the townhouse. Unlike Nesta, who didn’t take flight well, Elain seems totally comfortable, with no hint of fear or discomfort. Again, the typically shy Elain doesn’t balk at anything and doesn’t seek solitude. She takes his hand, calls it beautiful and then goes to the garden with him. Proceeds to just chill with this giant winged Illyrian that she barely knows. (Remember how well that interaction with Lucien went in the HOW? Yeah, that was uncomfortable)
Elain rejects the weapons that Cassian is offering her. Literally the next moment, she accepts Truth Teller. Who knew that the gentle Elain even knew how to handle a dagger? Not only that, but she proceeds to murder someone with it within a few hours. That’s confidence!
Come Solstice, she doesn’t even give two shits about public opinion. She is like, I am giving presents to my sisters, my two best friends and to this guy I like. Yes, in front of all of you. And yes, I made it especially for him. Because you know, I like him!
And then the next Solstice, she becomes the ultimate instigator of their almost-kiss. It’s an interestingly written scene, because it’s she who drives every action and brings them closer and closer. She is the one who comes downstairs. She is the one who gives him her gift first. She is the one who compliments the necklace, and then tells HIM to put it on her (she could’ve just taken the necklace and put it on herself). She lifts her hair in invitation. She finally tells him ‘yes’. She is so enamoured with him that she doesn’t care about Lucien, who is in the same house, or about her bond. With every action, she consistently chooses Azriel. 
The juxtaposition of their personalities is interesting. As banal as it sounds, they do give the other what he/she is lacking. 
He lacks warmth and human connection, and she gives it to him, and he find it in her and takes it from her.
She lacks confidence and bravery, and when she is with him, she finds it. Whether it’s flying, or facing and acknowledging her visions, or Truth Teller, or volunteering to locate Trove objects, or even wanting him to kiss her. 
What can I say. I ship it. 
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nikethestatue · 12 days ago
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Azriel and Elain and the necklace at Solstice
Via shirayukicat on DeviantArt
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nikethestatue · 15 days ago
Wing Sin
Elriel Month - LAST DAY (and I am sad)
Kept this baby for the last day. It’s just what the title says, wingplay.
This one is kinda weird, because it’s a little more than just wing love. This is NOT pretty, loving, or romantic. 
Inspired by the photo (included)
Okay, warnings: EXPLICIT
Do not read if: you are underage. 
If you are of sensitive disposition. 
If you do not enjoy sexually explicit writing. 
If you are not into wing play.
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Azriel’s wings. 
Getting her hands on his wings is a victory Elain delights in earning. It’s the way that he begs her for it, on the frequent occasions when he does. At times, he offers it outright and merely extends a wing towards her, while he fills his hands with her breasts and puts his lips on her neck, while she feels the membranes beneath her fingers. Feels her Azriel let go for her? He loses himself completely. It’s pure ecstasy. 
Sometimes, Elain manages to sneak up on Azriel when he’s not expecting it, usually in the shower, slipping into the open space where his wings can stretch wide. 
Azriel tucks his wings in tight when Elain gets them wet… that’s how they begin. A gentle caress at first. It makes him shiver, but she knows the wings well now, each scar and dent of the iridescent membrane, the silky texture, the intricate structure. He spins her around and grabs her in a way that has her laughing. Elain digs her fingers into his hair, elated because it’s one of the few times she sees him smile like this - for her, only for her and for once, entirely carefree. He loves to see her happy. He’ll do anything for this, this laughter, this grin, this joy he’s never been able to resist. 
They lounge on the roof of their house, overlooking Valaris’ incredible skyline.
She meets him, sometimes naked, sometimes wrapped in something that she is sure he will enjoy removing promptly. He lands on the roof, and there are days when she is in his arms at once, loving him and tearing at his clothes, sloppy kisses everywhere, ready, needy and impatient. Other times, she taunts--waits for him to stalk towards her, unhurried, eyes ablaze at the sight of her sprawled in front of him, ready for the taking.
He built a pool for her, on the roof, though he enjoys watching her swim naked in it probably more than she enjoys swimming in it. 
Today is a hot day, the sun is blazing and when Azriel lands on the roof, he is tearing his shirt off immediately, followed by his boots and then his trousers. Elain observes him from her lounge, under the pergola. She is drinking lemonade, and wants to offer him a glass. He dives into the cool water naked, only a cuff with his siphon on his wrist, before she could even get up. And then stays underwater for too long. Too long. And she always worries. She knows that he is perfectly fine, but her heart worries. He is her beloved and as he doesn’t emerge quickly, she tiptoes to the edge of the pool, just to check. And then the wings splay, violent and beautiful, dripping water like thick oil, and like a great and terrifying beast he emerges, laughing at her shrieking. 
He does it again today. And when she offers a sharp smack on his shoulder for making her so nervous and worrying her, he kisses her hands.
But he is ‘sorry’. Sorry for scaring her. Sorry for worrying her. So he does his penance. 
He sinks back into the pool and sets her on the edge, pulling her closer, spreading her slowly.
“I am sorry,” he whispers, and kisses the inside of her thigh.
“I am sorry,” he whispers, and kisses her knee. 
The wings flare out. 
It’s a game. Elain is not angry at all, but she likes it when he is ‘sorry’. 
Because then, his lips are on her wet folds, his tongue parting them languidly, his eyes watching her from between her legs, winking at her. He will toy with her deliberately, slowly, agonizingly. He suckles on the folds, until she is shuddering and her toes grip the edge of the pool, her fingers digging into his wet hair. And that tongue of his, strong and eager, slides in and out of her, finding its way inside, making her moan in that special way that he likes so much. 
Blindly, she reaches for the wing, her head thrown back, her long, thick hair brushing the tiled floor beneath her, eyes shut. He knows what she wants and guides the claw towards her parted lips, brushing its ivory smoothness over her tongue, readying himself, readying her. But she can’t wait any longer and her wet lips wrap around the claw, pulling it inside, gently working her tongue over it. The claw is porous and he feels everything with it. It’s where the claw meets the cartilage that he is most sensitive, so she licks there slowly at first, loving the firmness against her lips. But Azriel is impatient, and as his saliva mingles with her juices, his hard, scarred hand reaches up, giving her nipple a painful squeeze on its way, making her whimper. 
“Suck it, baby,” he orders, the tip of his tongue swirling over her swollen clit. He doesn’t stop the measured lapping, but watches her settle around the claw, his wing wrapping around her, keeping her in place. Her slim fingers tighten around him, gently brushing the membrane, and then he thrusts into her mouth. That scarred hand of his finds its destination and wraps around her slender, long neck, squeezing lightly. “Watch me,” he says, and her eyes fall on his face, half hidden in her pink, leaking slit. 
She sucks in earnest, messy and dripping saliva onto her breasts, the claw hot in her mouth, warming up even further as she latches onto it. He pumps it in and out of her lips, as he sucks on her clit, pulling it deep between his lips, the tongue working tirelessly inside of her, the teeth pressing on her bud in warning, when she moves too much.
They watch each other with gleeful, obsessive interest, marking every move and every pant, and he smiles indulgently when she chokes and gasps for air. But she will never stop without his permission, will never even pause, especially when he encourages her with a light squeeze of her neck.
“There is no better taste in my mouth,” he murmured against her folds, amazingly, still licking, “than your pleasure on my lips.”
“Mmm,” is all she could manage, smiling around him, wanting approval. He nods, and rises from the pool, his thumb now rubbing her, pressed almost painfully against her aching clit, and that’s what she wants, as she spasms against his hand, moaning over the claw, as his fingers smear the pooled wetness over and over her pulsating nub. 
“Is that nice, my girl?” he asks, and she nods desperately, wanting him to continue. 
He crowds her, as he eases out of the pool, sitting beside her and she scoots on her knees between his legs, already guessing what he wants from her. The wing folds and the claw is now next to his massive erect member, which he strokes absently, as she watches him with her innocent, chocolate-brown eyes, before he moves his hand from her neck to the back of her head and nudges her forth. 
She licks both, just like he likes it. Her eager, loving tongue drags up, from his balls, which she kisses first, and up that never-ending length of his, sliding over the thick head, before making her way back to the claw, gliding wetly from the tip to the base. He watches her watch him, his hazel eyes dark with desire, but he maintains his unique self-control, hardly reacting, other than a quickening of his breath.
He’ll tell her what he wants sucked, so she catches her breath and continues her licking, which he enjoys, judging by how he cups her breasts in his palms and fingers her nipples. 
She is so wet it’s embarrassing. She is leaking onto her thighs, pressing her legs together, wanting anything, just anything inside of her, but she also wants to pleasure him. The other wing shifts, but she is so busy, her mouth completely overfilled with his tight ball that she doesn’t even notice, until the other claw lightly scrapes along her spine. She gags and gasps with enjoyment and surprise, but he keeps her head firmly planted at his shaft, making her suck on the other ball without pause. 
That glorious claw roams freely around her body, the talon not at all sharp, but rounded at the tip and pleasantly firm. He grips his cock in his hand and then feeds it to her, while she grips the other claw and works her hand over it. 
Sometimes, he jokes that Illyrians have three cocks. It’s not untrue. 
“Look at me, love,” he asks, as he fills her mouth slowly, with a steady slide. It is always slow. Delicious and gargantuan, he is careful and deliberate in how he pushes forth, letting her adjust, breathe, relax her throat. But she swallows steadily, her eyes watering, as his thumbs brush her cheeks lovingly. Gods, he loves watching her! She succumbs, her fist firmly running over the claw, pumping, while her cheeks hollow over the shaft. “Do you want something inside of you?” he teases and she nodded desperately over the member, pulling it tighter and deeper inside her wet mouth.
The brazen talon stops its exploration of her body, and Azriel mutters, “Bum up,” so she arches her back deeper, raising her bottom, shaking with anticipation. She is not disappointed, as he urges the talon between her legs, spreading her lips far apart with a wet, obscene sound, before slowly filling her tight, dripping opening. She cries out, almost in tears from the tension and the pleasure that the claw finally offers her. 
“Do you like all your holes filled, my sweet?” he smiles indulgently, leaning back on his elbows and pumping in and out of her, filling her mouth and her sex with deep, unhurried strokes. She wants to scream “yes…” she wants to beg and thank him, because she can barely hold herself up on her knees, she wants to chant “Azriel, Az, Az, Az…” but she can’t, because he keeps her mouth busy. So she just takes everything that he gives her. It would never be enough. 
Sometimes, he penetrates all of her, two claws and his member, one for each opening, all at once, working her until she screams and screams, and everything crashes around her. 
He never did this before. Never used his wings with a woman. Never greedily thrust his claws into welcoming holes, which opened and yielded only to him. But Elain was his and he was hers, and they had each other wholly. They used each other’s bodies to the fullest, never embarrassed by their need, never afraid. The claws offer her a different kind of pleasure, and for him, it’s mind-blowing, it’s soul-destroying. It’s not just her kissing or stroking his wings, which is wild pleasure to begin with. It’s possessing her with such utter completion, where he doesn’t know where he begins and where she ends. Where all of him crawls into her and she accepts the entirety of him in her body.
“Suck, baby, suck, suck, suck,” he garbles his words roughly, his voice hoarse and so deep, he is barely understandable. His cock is bathed in her, and now he pumps hard, his hips unstoppable, his hand on her head, keeping her in place as he reaches deep into her throat. His hand shoots to her neck, laying firmly over the thin skin, feeling with obscene delight the girth of his member in her throat. His claw burrows deeper into her, the wet, tight heat of her gripping at it tightly, as he thrusts nice and deep. The claw isn’t as thick or as long as his member, but it’s slightly curved and hits her right in that firm, ridged spot, making her gag constantly on his cock, from the enjoyment that she is feeling inside of her. Her eyes are rolling back with such pleasure, that he doesn’t even make her watch him. She snakes her free hand up his torso and pushes her fingers in his mouth, and he pulls all four inside, sucking on them ravenously.
Azriel is in the throes of such sublime pleasure, his member so adored by that sweet mouth that he can't wrap his mind around how good she feels. He pushes harder and deeper into her sopping sex, and probably should be a little more thoughtful, but he can’t stop. His wings twitch and tremble, shivers running down the cartilage and the connective tissue, the pleasure building up and up within him. At last, Elain climaxes so hard around his claw, she actually slips off it, but he jams it back inside of her, to rock her through her spasms, as she cries and cries her joy over his swollen shaft. The tight walls of her passage squeeze and contract violently over him, but he presses the tip of the claw to her clit and she rubs herself violently against it, climaxing yet again within moments. 
He cups her cheek, watching her as she pulls on his member, slurping and choking, while he sucks and bites her fingers, in a desperate attempt to stave off his own climax, but it sweeps over him like a wave, smothering his body in rapturous ecstasy. She drinks greedily, as she always does, swallowing and licking him off, her lips finally unlatching from his shaft with a loud, explicit pop. A bit splatters on her face, because she is licking the claw now, prolonging his pleasure, watching the wings fly open in vulnerable surrender. 
“Baby, I love you so much,” he moans at last, body splayed on the slate tiles, his wings drooping around him. He doesn't care. 
Elain still can’t let go, doesn’t want to, so she slides over his limp body and starts to kiss him, from his feet, up to his legs, over his thighs. “I love you,” she whispers. She cups his balls in her greedy little hands and lavishes them with kisses, if they are the greatest gift to her. His cock is beautiful and delicious and she kisses it in gratitude, while he strokes her head lazily, watching her. 
“Baby, you haven’t even kissed my lips today,” he complains.
She smiles and reminds him, “I’ve kissed many other parts of you today.”
“True,” he agrees reluctantly. “Am I forgiven for my thoughtless dive today?” he grins at her.
She pretends to consider it, and then shakes her head.
“I do believe that there is still plenty of me that hasn’t been loved or filled today,” she whines. 
“Really?” He lifts his brow, a wicked smirk on his lips.
One of the claws scrapes over her thigh, an innocent touch. That is until it boldly probes between her buttocks and presses into her tight, tiny opening in silent proposition. It rubs and rubs and rubs against the sensitive rim.
She shrugs prettily, and continues licking his wings, whispering “I want another part of you in there.” And so that he is completely clear, she palms his member lightly. 
When she touches his wings, it is the only time he really loses himself completely, surrenders every last piece of himself to her. Every part that he’d been too scared to let go of for centuries before. The groans that escape his lips… the shaking of his arms as he fists his hands… His body starts to curl inward as she kisses his wings, strokes his wings, caresses and adores his wings. She licks the claws. She licks and kisses every bone and ridge. It becomes the greatest sight she’s ever seen. Her Azriel is undone in every conceivable way in her arms, at her touch, at her command, and all just for her… for his Elain alone.
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themissyvonne · 15 days ago
Elriel Month | Day 31: You Are Cordially Invited
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NOTE: See Day 21: Dreamland if you’d like to see how Azriel saw his wedding to Elain before it happened.
Azriel pulled away, kissing her once and twice more before linking his pinky with hers. “Until the end of forever.”
Elain nodded, sealing it with another kiss. “Until the end of forever.”
“You ready for this?” Rhys asked, smiling from ear to ear as he straightened the collar of Azriel’s jacket.
“Of COURSE he’s ready, look at him! He looks like a fairytale prince!” Cass said, pinching Az’s cheek.
Azriel laughed. “Ready for the wedding? Yes, thanks to Nesta. Ready to spend the rest of my life with Elain? Absolutely.” He said his voice thick with emotion, looking down as tears filled his eyes. "Been waiting 500 years for her."
“Az…dammit…” Cassian said, wiping at his own eyes and hugging his brother, Rhysand hugging them both.
“This never has to leave this room.” Cassian said, sniffling.
Rhysand laughed. “Are you kidding? Crying wasn’t even a question, the bet was on which of us would cry first.” Rhysand said, wiping his own eyes.
Nesta straightened Elain’s sparkling veil with tears in her eyes. “You look so beautiful, El.”
“Oh Nesta, if you start, we all will.” Feyre warned, grabbing a handkerchief and handing it to her sister.
“You really do look beautiful, Elain.” Feyre agree, hugging her sister, and dabbing at her own eyes. “You’re so perfect together, perfect for one another.”
Elain hugged Feyre, beaming and holding her own tears in. “Thank you for helping me find him, for helping me find myself.” She said, taking both her sisters hands.
Nesta sniffled, pulling both of her sisters into her arms, letting her tears fall. The three sisters staying in each others arms until there was a soft knock at the door. “Is it time?” Elain asked.
“No, not yet, calm down.” Feyre laughed as she opened the door to reveal Lucien.
“I’m here to see the Bride if she has a moment.” Lucien said, looking every bit the heir of a High Lord.
Elain nodded. “Of course, come in.”
“We’ll see you again before its time.” Nesta assured Elain as she followed Feyre out.
Lucien walked in and Elain smiled up at him. Their relationship-their friendship had changed so much in such a short time. After avoiding each other for months over their own ill-fated bond, they bonded helping each other find and save the people they were truly meant to be with.
“Day suits you.” She said, smiling. Lucien nodded in appreciation.
“Thank you, Dusk suits you.” He said, adding. “It goes without saying, but, you deserve to be happy with someone of your choosing, Elain. I’m glad you found that happiness.”
“Thank you, Lucien. You deserve the same, and Vassa is very lucky to have you.” She said, not needing her Seer ability to notice how comfortable and happy Lucien and the mortal Queen were around one another.
“Thank you, Elain." He said, blushing slightly and not bothering to deny his coupling with Vassa. “Well, I’d better get to it, before Nesta comes back and drags me out of here. I didn't just come to pass on my congratulations, I came to give you something.” He said, pulling a small compass from his pocket and holding it out for her to take.
Elain felt the tears prick at her eyes almost immediately as she recognized it and took it into her shaking hand.
“Your father gave this to me when we started our journey back to Prythian, he asked me to give it to you today-on your wedding day, something old?” He added, slightly confused.
Elain smiled sadly, as she ran her thumb over the cracked glass. Today, the pain of his loss was especially strong, she'd been feeling his absence all day, had spent the last few weeks wishing that he could have met Azriel and the rest of their family. She hoped that wherever he was, that he knew that she was safe, happy and with someone who loved her. “It doesn’t work, hasn’t for ages, I tried to use it once and from then on it would only point North. Papa just kept it for good luck."
Lucien watched her. “Maybe it was never meant to work for him. Y’know you can’t get much farther North than the Night court, or the Illyrian Mountains.”
“That’s a lovely thought, Lucien.” She said softly, tears filling her eyes. “Thank you, for helping him be here in some way today.” She cried, pressing the compass to her heart as she threw her arm around him, hugging him tightly. Lucien hugged her back, not letting go until she did. Another knock at the door brought Rhysand sauntering in, shutting the door behind him.
“Making the bride cry, Luc?” he teased.
“Happy tears, only happy tears.” Elain said, dabbing her tears away. “Is it time?”
“Just about.” He nodded, clapping Lucien on the back in greeting.
“I’d better get back to Vassa.” Lucien said, hugging Elain one last time as she whispered her thanks again before he walked out and headed back to the hall.
Elain smiled up at Rhysand. “How is he?”
“Feeling like the luckiest man alive.” He said, grinning. “He’s not wrong. You’re absolutely stunning.”
Elain blushed, tears in her eyes. “Thank you, but I’m the lucky one.”
“You’re perfect for him, you know, perfect together.” he said, getting choked up.
Elain watched him, she rarely saw him this emotional and she couldn’t help but wrap her arms around him as he choked out. “Thank you for loving him, El, the way he deserves.”
“I promise to take care of him, Rhys, to love him and protect him like you have Feyre. He means everything to me.” She promised.
“I know you will, El, of that, I have no doubt. Now, if I take any longer, Az is gonna gonna come in here to get you himself, but I have one last task to complete before we go, per human tradition and Nesta’s orders. I’m told you require something old-“
Elain nodded, tapping the compass that now dangled from her bouquet.
“Something new?” He watched as she motioned to her dress. “Something borrowed?” Elain showed off the jeweled hairpins that Feyre had let her borrow, a solstice gift from Rhysand. “Something borrowed usually comes from family who are happily married, in hopes that their happiness will transfer over to the new couple.” Elain added.
“Well, I know you and Az will be every bit as happy as Feyre and I are, and that just leaves something blue.” Elain nodded and tapped the blue ribbon wrapped around her bouquet, it was the same ribbon Azriel had tied around the first bouquet of flowers he’d ever given her.
"Shall we then?” Rhysand smiled and offered his hand and she took it, laughing as he lifted his hand to twirl her before tucking her hand into the crook of his arm and giving her a nod. Elain returned it, a dazzling smile already on her face, she was ready and they both headed out.
Azriel took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves as he stood waiting.
“Keep breathing like that and you’ll faint before she gets out here.” Cassian teased, smiling over at him. Azriel chuckled and smiled, Cassian had never seen his brother so happy before and he wished more than anything that he and his brothers would enjoy this kind of happiness for the rest of their long, long lives.
Elain and Rhysand stood just on the other side of the closed doors, Feyre and Nesta adjusting Elain’s veil and flowers until it really was time and they both filed through the open doors as soft orchestral music filled the great hall. Cassian winked at Nesta as she made her way to stand at the opposite side of the altar.
“Our turn, El.” Rhysand said, patting her hand and waiting for her to nod before leading her down the aisle. His smile broadened as he felt Elain’s grip tighten slightly as Azriel came in to view, her smile bright enough to light up the entire room.
Elain couldn’t tear her eyes away from him, he was the most handsome male she had ever seen, a fairytale prince ready for their happily ever after.
Azriel’s breath caught and he stilled as Elain entered the hall, stunned by her ethereal beauty and grace. Rhysand walked arm in arm with her, bringing her closer to him, closer to their future together with each step, her eyes never leaving his.
In the first row of seats, his mother dabbed the tears from her eyes. Mor held back tears of her own, Emerie giving her hand a gentle squeeze. Nuala and Cerridwen held each other's hands, dabbing their tears and reveling in the union of their Spymaster and best friend. Amren watched, nodding to Azriel, her way of saying he’d done well for himself…and not to screw it up. Never before in his life had Azriel ever thought that this kind of happiness would ever be a part of his life, but here he was-again, he realized. He’d been here before, in a dream, a dream that was finally coming true. Every bad thing that had ever happened to him, every bad thing that he’d ever done, felt washed away by this newfound happiness, this blissful existence he had finally found with Elain.
Rhysand and Elain finally reached the end of the aisle, Rhys carefully lifting her veil and kissing her cheek before handing her off to Azriel and joining Cassian at his side, Feyre and Nesta at Elain’s side. The smile that Elain leveled up at Azriel was so full of love it made his heart feel as if it were bursting at the seams. It warmed his heart and made his soul sing, he lowered his head and Elain reached up to brush his tears away, her eyes glossy now too. Azriel turned, pressing a kiss to her palm before Gwyn cleared her throat and began, thrilling at the chance to officiate this unique ceremony for her mentor and her new friend.
“Honored and cherished guests, we are gathered here today on this joyous occasion to celebrate the marriage and union between Azriel and Elain Archeron. A union honoring not only the human traditions of Elain’s former mortal life, but celebrating the loving bond that the mother and cauldron have seen fit to bless them with in her new fae life.
This union is a promise, a vow to love, cherish and honor one another for the rest of their lives. It is a symbol of the love and bond that exists between them, a symbol of how far they have come and a vow to face any new challenges together as one. Now, as is tradition, the Bride and Groom will exchange vows.
Gwyn’s smile glowed as she watched, completely enthralled as Azriel turned to Elain, taking her shaking hand in his, his eyes of warm honey meeting her amber pools as he recited his vows.
“Elain, I pledge to you my everlasting devotion, loyalty and respect. I vow to honor you everyday, to protect you and cherish your dreams as if they were my own. My heart, my soul, my life, all of me is yours and has been from the moment I met you. Thank you for dreaming with me, building a future with me, for choosing me, for loving me.” Azriel’s voice was thick with emotion, Elain squeezed his hand gently, her eyes never leaving his, even as tears rolled down her cheeks.
“I can’t promise that things will always be perfect but I can promise that I will always be there to face any challenge with you, be your light in any darkness, I will always come for you. I will spend eternity loving you and showing you everyday that I hold you higher than the stars. I swear to love you in this life and every lifetime hereafter.
Azriel took a shuddering breath, relief washing over him that he hadn’t stumbled over his words, his charming smile returning as he looked down at Elain as she began to recite her vows.
Elain smiled up at him, love shining in her eyes like he had never seen before as she gently took his hand in her own and recited the vows she had written for him.
“Azriel, You are the most incredible person I have ever known. I am so lucky to be standing beside you today. I vow to protect, honor, respect and cherish you forever. To be your sunshine when darkness falls, your comfort when you feel pain and the kiss that wakes you every day. I promise to grow alongside you to become the people that we’re meant to be together. Thank you for showing me what true love really is, you are the love of my life, my best friend, my everything.” Azriel reached up to gently thumb her tears away before wiping his own. “You are my dream come true, the song in my soul and my light in the darkness. You will forever have my heart, my soul and my hand. If I lived a thousand lives, I would choose you every time. I swear to love you in this life and every lifetime hereafter.
Gwyn dabbed at her eyes, sniffling as she continued. “Azriel, do you take Elain to be your wedded wife, in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, forsaking all others as long as you both shall live?”
Azriel nodded. “I do. Let this ring be a symbol of my vows to you, my best friend, my wife, of our unending love.” He slipped the ring onto Elain’s finger, a band of diamonds and sapphires, 7 sapphires to match his 7 siphons. Azriel’s heart felt whole and full as he placed a gentle kiss on her rings.
Gwyn beamed. “Elain, do you take Azriel to be your wedded husband, in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, forsaking all others as long as you both shall live?”
Elain nodded, “I do. Let this ring be a symbol of my vows to you, my best friend, my husband, of our unending love.” Elain beamed as she slid the band onto Azriel’s finger, engraved with Illyrian runes for “love”, “respect” and “eternity”. Elain placed her own kiss over his ring, lacing their fingers together as they turned to face Gwyn.
“May the mother and the cauldron continue to bless your bond, your love, your future and this marriage. May the sun rise and set in your bonded hearts, and may there be no storm your love cannot weather. With all the power and authority that I possess, I now pronounce you husband and wife, you may kiss the Bride.”
At last Azriel cradled Elain’s face in his hands and their lips met, a kiss of unyielding, undying and everlasting love, those golden threads of their bond dancing and winding around them, their souls more bound to one another than ever before. Elain’s heart soared, it was more wonderful than any wedding she could have imagined before, because she was surrounded by family and friends that she loved and she was standing beside her one true soulmate, the man she would happily spend the rest of her life with. Azriel pulled away, kissing her once and twice more before linking his pinky with hers. “Until the end of forever.”
Elain nodded, sealing it with another kiss. “Until the end of forever.”
Swirls of ink seemed to twist and wind around their wedding rings, complimenting them perfectly, symbols of their everlasting love and their promise to honor and cherish one another until the end of their days and beyond, honoring both their traditions in this unbreakable bargain and bond.
Azriel smiled and led Elain back down the aisle, through their cheering friends and family as the music played again.
"That was lovely..." Gwyn said, watching as she dabbed the tears from her eyes. "but what happens next?" she whispered to Cassian.
Cassian smirked, offering his arm to Nesta. "Now, we revel! Drink and dance!"
"And singing? I heard there might be singing..." Gwyn said, following the pair where they would all dance, drink, sing and celebrate the happiness that they had all finally found.
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nikethestatue · 16 days ago
Playing with Shadows
Chapter 6 of Of Fawns and Shadows
Here is the next chapter! Long, long as usual. No warnings, maybe a little language.
The shadows are at play
Elain and Azriel seek out Nesta and Cassian
Azriel begins to heal. Elain learns a little of her powers
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Lex the shadow bounced around Elain’s legs like an over-excited puppy. Apparently, it was thrilled about its new role as Elain-only shadow and was overcompensating for its youth by providing her with a whole lot of useless and unnecessary information. Like how many cups and glasses there were in the cupboards, and what team won last night’s match, and some gossip about the neighbors, and the caloric count of the morning sweet buns. 
Azriel came into the bedroom and stood by the wall, arms folded, smiling and watching the interaction. 
Watching Elain dress.
Because Elain, half-naked and delicious, was standing in his--their--bedroom and dressing. His head was reeling. This was some kind of paradise that he never expected to even glimpse, let alone enter, and yet, here he was, watching and savouring.
Last night, he took liberties and partially undressed her, though he stayed respectful and did not bare anything that he knew he shouldn’t. She was also completely out of it, and wobbled like a ragdoll in his arms, once he finally hauled her into the house, partially cursing the fact that he lived on the last floor. Typically, he just flew in and that solved all issues. Last night though, trudging all the way to the twelfth floor, trying to prevent Elain from banging her head on the walls or rolling out of his arms, he was actually contemplating putting in a lift. The whole building belonged to him, even if other tenants didn't know, and now he was wondering how Elain was going to climb twelve floors back and forth. It reminded him of Nesta braving the ten thousand steps in the House of Wind, but maybe Cassian could subject his lover to that--Azriel couldn’t do something similar to Elain. Because as he carried the sleeping Elain upstairs, it sure felt like it was ten thousand steps. His wings weighed a ton, and he needed to keep balancing himself in his inebriated state so not to topple over backwards. 
In the end, it was worth it. It was worth bringing her into his world, ingratiating her into his life, having her next to him. He was honest when he said that he was a terrible sleeper, and his inability to sleep with others had caused issues in some of his previous relationships. His lovers couldn't understand why he didn’t stay with them, or why he slipped out of bed as soon as they fell asleep, only to find him on a sofa or a chair in the morning. 
With Elain, he took his time. He needed his shadows to assist with the removal of her jacket and boots, but after, he sent them away and took his pleasure in unbuttoning and sliding her dress down her lovely slender form, and then rolling her hose off her legs. He always enjoyed undressing females, the tempting anticipation of the final reveal, their skin bared under his fingers, expectation in their eyes. With Elain, it wasn’t quite so sensual the first time around, but it made him smile nevertheless and once she was only in her slip and underwear, she curled on the bed comfortably. He showered quickly and readied for bed, and when he stepped back into the bedroom, she was asleep in his bed in the same position that he left her in. He grabbed a shirt and his shorts and then managed to slip both on her, so that she did not awake and feel uncomfortable in just her slip. Truthfully though, he didn’t think that that would be the case. 
It surprised him, amazed him actually, but, as he settled under the blanket with her, he admitted that he made Elain happy. It was a novel emotion for him, this realisation that she sought his company and wanted to be with him. Beside his brothers, and Mor (and not always), he couldn’t think of anyone who wanted his company, and who viscerally enjoyed it. 
He and Nesta learned to like each other’s company over the past year. When she moved in with Cassian and him--without anyone consulting him prior, as to be expected--he didn’t care either way. No one liked Nesta, except for Cassian, but Azriel bore no ill-will towards her. He saw straight through her, recognising her trauma when no one seemed to understand it. Cassian was too wrapped up in his own head and love and desire for her, Rhys in his disdain for her, and the sisters in their confused attempts to help her. It was Azriel who suggested, during one of their family dinners, that a combination of physical and some type of manual, or intellectual work, might prove helpful in Nesta’s case. He certainly didn't think that his offhand comment would result in her being virtually imprisoned in the House of Wind, alongside him and the pining, raging Cassian. Unlike everyone else though, Azriel made Nesta understand that he wouldn’t stand for her bullshit, but wouldn’t give her any either. He didn’t snarl or abuse or resent her, he didn’t mention her drinking or her sexual exploits--he didn’t think that it was his place, and though it pained him to watch her spiral out of control, mostly for Elain’s sake, in the end, he realised that he cared about Nesta. She was an unusual person, sharp and witty, cruel and interesting. No, he’d never consider having a relationship with her, Cassian aside, or even with someone like her, but she turned out to be a good friend. 
No, Azriel loved his soft, gentle, innocent Elain. 
He wanted to be the one to teach her pleasure, and how to satisfy him, while he in turn coaxed the Elain that no one knew out of her shell. He wanted to come home to Elain and find peace, wanted her soft lips on him, her loving gestures, her smiles. Her mellow, comforting energy was what he loved, from the first moment that they met--she leaned into him, sought his strength, wanted his reassurance, and immediately found him fascinating. Over the years, they learned to joke and laugh and talk, about topics that probably made no sense to others, and they did not need to snipe at each other or challenge one another aggressively to enjoy a stimulating conversation. Both of them had experienced enough torment, rejection and sorrow in their lives not to bring any more into their relationships, and Aziel appreciated that about Elain every day. 
Curled in his arms, Elain slept through the night, and he slept with her. A second night of sleep! Peaceful and uninterrupted. He still couldn't believe that it came so easily, but that’s how she made him feel. That’s the peace that he felt with her. Now, he wondered when would be the next time he could actually sleep? Because without her next to him, in his bed, it seemed like an impossibility.
“Shhh,” muttered Elain, shaking her head at Lex the shadow. “I don’t need to know that!”
“Baby,” Azriel couldn’t help but laugh, “you are meant to speak to it mind to mind, not out loud.”
Elain turned to him, startled. 
“Ugh,” she muttered, “he talks all the time.”
Azriel approached. She was sitting at the foot of the bed, pulling on her tights, and a sexier vision Azriel could not imagine right now. Perhaps, if she was moaning beneath him, but otherwise, dressed in only a silk slip and smoothing those stockings over her long shapely legs was everything he needed first thing in the morning.
He went to the closet and then emerged, wearing only a shirt, and Elain paused her dressing, lingering unabashedly on his muscular legs and his carved stomach peeking out from the unbuttoned shirt.
“Somebody is drooling,” he teased with a smirk, as he began buttoning up and she snorted, “yes, you!”
He approached her and she pleaded, “how do you control them? don’t they drive you crazy?”
“Lex will be very useful,” assured her Azriel calmly and stroked her head. Seated like this, with her lovely face upturned and those doe eyes looking up at him, Elain looked sumptuous, particularly because she was at the same level as his cock. 
The damn thing was both needy and demanding within the confines of his undershorts, and Azriel struggled to contain it, and not freak her out with a sudden erection. Instead, Elain, fully aware of his struggle, licked her pink lips enticingly.
“Lainey, not helping,” he gritted out and she giggled.
“Fine,” she rose to her feet and went to get her dress. “What does it do?”
“Firstly, remember, it’s a shadow,” he reminded her, when he went to put on his trousers and socks, “so it doesn’t have emotions. You can’t hurt it, and it has no feelings. It only responds to you and to me. So if you want it to be quiet, or leave, just tell it, and it will disappear. It will naturally protect you, the way it protects me, the way it’s designed to do, so it will reappear if it feels you are in any kind of danger. It will warn you. Warn you if someone approaches, friend or foe, what mood they are in, if the news is bad,”
“Why didn’t he warn me about you just now?” she asked.
“I don’t pose you any danger,” he told her with a wink. “And I am still its master. It doesn’t understand to warn you against me.”
“For example, around you, mine disappear. Because they trust you. But you can order it to tell you if I approach and it will. Finally, you decide what information you are interested in. I receive probably much too much information, but that’s my job. I don’t know if you are interested in the happenings in Winter Court,”
“What’s happening in Winter Court?” she was instantly curious.
He threw his jacket on and took her hand, “That’s what we’ll find out soon enough, I suspect.”
He extended his hand to her and she took it.
“You look beautiful today, Elain,” he said simply.
It didn’t matter what she looked like, for every day when Azriel saw Elain Archeron, he told her that she looked beautiful. 
Back when Elain found herself thinking about him, and then thinking of him some more, at all hours of the day, wondering, worrying and sighing with secret relief when he returned, unharmed and healthy, Azriel, cold-faced, unreadable and smooth, greeted her once in the kitchen of the townhouse. It was just the two of them and it was very early in the morning. She didn’t hear him come in, still numb to his scent, still deaf to his presence, and she had just started on the morning porridge at the stove, when she turned around to get sugar, and walked straight into a wall. A wall of muscle that was Azriel’s chest. 
“Mother’s tits!” she cried out, and at that, he burst out laughing.
She had made him laugh before. Not his usual soft smirk, or amused chuckle, or a haughty snort, or a lift of his brow. Laughter. 
“Good morning, Elain,” he said evenly, once he stopped laughing, and that dark, rich, ‘midnight’ voice rolled over her bones, and made her unsteady on her feet, so much so that he gently grabbed her elbow to still her. “I see you’ve been spending time with my brother.”
“Are you staying for breakfast?” she blurted out, hopeful.
“Unfortunately, not,” he said. “I am just heading out.”
“Oh,” her voice fell to a whisper and she murmured, “well, have a nice day.”
He grabbed a sweet bun from the basket and watched her for a moment too long with those inscrutable, keen eyes of his. 
“Thank you,” he said simply and then turned around to leave. She didn't go back to the stove, but just stood there, and watched him. Watched his massive muscular back and how the morning light danced within the strands of his black hair. He paused and turned around, glancing at her one more time. “You look beautiful today, Elain,” he said and left.
Elain looked back at the building with sadness in her eyes. The facade was nondescript, but elegant, with beautifully etched flowers around the windows and columns. They reminded her of the flowers that Feyre painted on the dresser for her all those years ago.
She held Azriel’s arm, her hand resting on his firm bicep, and he followed her gaze to the building. “They say that those flowers are the insignia of the Dusk Court,” he said absently, then shrugged and pulled her along. 
“When will I see you again?” she wondered quietly.
He brushed his thumb over her fingers and said, “I was thinking that you’ll continue seeing me today for a little longer. We have a little over an hour--should I start my lessons today?”
Her eyes lit up at once.
“Are you sure?” she cried, genuine excitement filling her face.
“Well, we might as well,” he nodded, “every day is a day wasted. We have time, unless,” he stopped, trying not to overstep his position,
“Let’s go, let’s go!” she exclaimed impatiently. “come on!”
He laughed and then murmured into her hair, “Love, I don’t walk. I fly.”
And with that, he swept her off her feet and shot up in the air. “Will you ever stop screeching in my ear?” he joked, as she clutched at his lapels.
“I need more warning!” she protested, watching them swoop over the roofs, though he flew low, since the trip took only about five minutes. Next thing she knew, they were landing by ‘The House of Mirth’ and stepping onto the courtyard. They went inside and into the familiar dining hall, where the children were seated behind the long tables and eating breakfast.
Azriel never felt this popular in his life. Elain was forgotten and the children popped up from their benches, waving to him, greeting him enthusiastically, the little ones almost stumbling to get to him, all of them melding into a cacophony of ‘Azriel!” and “You came back!”
Elain was shaking her head, watching the commotion. 
Azriel clapped his hands, the children falling silent immediately, simply because he commanded that much authority with his presence alone. She doubted that Rhys would be as impressive to these younglings as the Shadowsinger was.
“Illyrians,” he spoke softly, but everyone sat straight and all eyes were on him, even the littlest ones, “finish up your breakfast. Eat well. Training begins in fifteen minutes. You are to assemble in the courtyard for your flying lessons.”
The younglings were mostly Illyrian, though some, like Sanaai were High Fae, and as Elain began making rounds, some whispered, “will Azriel teach us too?”
“Of course,” she assured him, hoping that he would figure out quickly what he'd teach them. Even though she was on the other side of the room, it seemed that Azriel sensed the nature of the complaints and discord, so without missing a beat, he added, “non-Illyrians--we will begin learning fighting techniques.”
“We want to fight too, Azriel!” Arguments over flying and fighting and whether girls were permitted to do either, erupted quickly and spectacularly. 
“This one is your fault,” murmured Elain with a small smile, as she passed by him and gently drew her fingers over his hand. He chuckled, observing the unrest in front of him. He caught her hand in his and left it on his arm. “Should I put down the insurrection Cassian-style? Go make them dig some trenches? Clean the latrines?”
Azriel was brief and to the point. Any discussion of girls’ training was stopped in its tracks, and no one dared to pipe up regarding the issue, after he simply stated that if he heard that question again, whoever asked it wouldn’t be permitted to train for anything at all. 
Elain observed him, feeling stupidly in love, watching how calmly and expertly he organised the entire operation. She always found him staggering--in every possible way--but his thoughtful, yet firm approach towards the children confirmed it yet again. He had a unique emotional awareness, particularly when it came to those who had suffered, just as these younglings did. Attentive, but disciplined, he made it clear that he expected the same from his charges. 
“Az, you came!” Temal ran to Elain, giving her a brief hug, and then gawked at Azriel in wonder and anticipation. 
“Hello Temal! Are you ready?” asked Azriel kindly.
“Yes,” Temal nodded vigorously. “But are you gonna beat bottom if I am bad?” he inquired immediately, a little concerned. “You can beat it, but,”
“I don’t beat bottoms,” assured him Azriel. “I don’t beat anyone.”
“Even if I am bad?”
“Even if you are bad.”
“But I don't know how to fly or I will be very bad,” Temal muttered sadly, hanging his head low. 
“It’s alright. We’ll all learn together. Did you remember to practice your reading and Common Tongue?”
“Yes! you wanna see it?”
Temal sprinted away immediately and then came back clutching his reading cards and reading book to his chest. In the next fifteen minutes, Azriel and Temal sat together, head to head, and Temal struggled and grunted and rubbed his head, but managed to finish his reading assignment. 
Watching the flying lesson was a nerve wracking experience for Elain. She jumped and shuddered and gasped every time someone fell, tumbled, careened and wiped out--which was constant. Azriel’s assessment of the younglings’ abilities was instant and correct every time, so he quickly divided them into groups, based on their experience and age, and watching all of them was both hilarious and horrifying at once. He hovered over his students, and Elain noticed again how truly magnificent and unbelievably huge his wings were--they shaded the entire courtyard, and almost blocked out the sun. She was doing art lessons with the youngest children, who all piled out outside, to watch the flying lessons. They also watched Sanaai enviously, whom Azriel lugged about on his arm, and who screeched in terror at first, hiding her little face in her hands when he rose up in the air. Now, she was barely clutching at his shoulder, entirely too comfortable in the air for Elain’s comfort level. Unlike the actual Illyrians, Sanaai didn’t have the security of the wings should she fall. Even those Illyrians who didn’t know how to fly could instinctively protect themselves when they fell, their bodies adapted to falling even from reasonably significant heights. Azriel’s grip on the girl was tight, but Elain was so nervous, she kept jerking her head towards them every time she heard Sanaai’s giggles.
Azriel stepped down. His face was slightly flushed and his eyes sparkled. 
He actually loved this. He loved the ruckus, the yelling, the shouts of excitement and the groans of minor failures. He wordlessly opened his available arm and Elain stepped right under it, wrapping herself around him.
“I can’t take it,” she moaned, hiding her face in his chest.
He laughed softly.
“What’s wrong, love?”
“I can’t watch them fall!” she exclaimed. “It’s awful.”
He was still laughing.
“And this one,” she pinched Sanaai’s plump cheek, “acting like she is an expert flier!”
To their mutual astonishment, Sanaai suddenly said, her voice soft, but strong, “I like fly!”
They both stared at the girl in stunned silence for a long while.
“You do?!” Elain cried at last, her eyes wide. She was struggling to hold back her tears.
Sanaai never spoke. 
She could, Elain knew, because she heard her hum, and mutter to herself at times, babble, but whatever happened to her, even though she was just a baby during the war, somehow stunted her speech and she interacted with everyone in silence, even if she wasn’t shy and didn’t see her muteness as a handicap.
Sanaai nodded excitedly. Azriel was silent, not wanting to spook the girl, but he pressed his lips to her golden curls, and she wrapped her short arm around his neck, acting like she belonged there. He held her to himself, stroking her back, letting her snuggle as tight as she wanted.
“Sunni, would you like to come with me and paint? Because I think some other children would like to fly with Azriel as well,” proposed Elain and opened her arms. Sanaai thought for a bit, biting her lips and then nodded. “More fly?” she confirmed, before being transferred from arms to arms. 
“Of course, sweet girl,”  Azriel assured her. “We’ll fly whenever you want to.”
Sanaai jumped on the ground and ran to the table where there was paper and paints.
Azriel wrapped his arms around Elain, holding her close. She threw her head back and watched him.
“You look happy,” he noted, fighting the monumental urge to kiss her right then and there. Her face was flushed with joy, those caramel eyes gleaming with love and utter delight, the long honey tresses fluttering in the wind, swiping over his hands. 
“She spoke,” Elain gushed, disbelieving. “Because of you. She spoke! Because you…”
“It wasn’t me,” he began arguing at once, but she pressed her finger to his lips and shook her head. “It was. You woke her up. Like you did me. When I was silent and lost, you gave me what I needed. You saw me. No one ever did, before you.”
“Azriel,” she said seriously, “you are my joy. You are my children’s joy.”
She never lost her habit of calling younglings ‘children’, and he didn’t mind it. He wanted her to retain her humanity, for as long as possible, because when he met her first, she was a gorgeous human girl who took his breath away. And her gentle humanity was what attracted him the most to her--none of the tit-for-tat ways of the Fae in her. She was genuine in her joy and in her sorrow, just like right now. It was simple and honest.
“Az, you made her fly,” she added, cupping his face between her hands. He pressed a kiss on the inside of her palm, and then…
Then they heard Temal’s demanding call,
“Az! Az! Stop being in love with Lain and come fly!”
“By the Mother,” moaned Azriel and Elain laughed into his chest. Then he kissed her forehead and said, “Fine, I will go fly, but I will not stop being in love with Lain.”
“And I will not stop being in love with Az,” she promised as well. 
Lex the shadow bobbed between their legs, swirling about, curious about everything that was happening around it. 
Are you learning? Elain asked, as Lex followed her to the table.
The master loves you, decided Lex.
And how would you know? You are so knowledgeable in love? she inquired, though her heart fluttered and jumped in her chest. According to Azriel, shadows were never wrong, because they did not attach emotions to their knowledge or decisions. 
The master loves you, repeated Lex and that was that.
The sun was pleasant this fall morning, and while it was chilly, it was nice enough to sit outside. The little ones were running around with a ball, others waited their turn with Azriel, arms outstretched in anticipation for when it would be them who’d be lifted and taken up in the air. Elain had Sanaai on her lap, and they were drawing alongside other girls, with Sanaai watching Azriel with some jealousy, and intently following his every move, every time he picked up someone new. 
There was something magical and beautiful about flight, and Elain recognised that immediately, the very first time she’d flown. She thought that she’d be afraid, but when Azriel’s arms wrapped around her gently and carefully, and she threw her hands over his neck, and he just leapt into the void, she felt no fear. It was a short flight, from the House of Wind to the townhouse, but she loved it. The sensation of freedom and joy--especially after being cooped up in the House of Wind for a month, was overwhelming. She gulped on air, felt her hair snagged onto the scales of Azriel’s uniform, and sensed his phenomenal strength, like that of a coiled, great dark beast--like the ones on the throne of Hewn City. But gods, she loved it! Loved flying. There was no other choice for her, but an Illyrian, once she’d flown with one--that she had to admit to herself quickly. That, specific, Illyrian.
The lady comes.
A voice inside her head sounded. Busy with the children, it didn't register at first.
The High Lady comes!
Lex fluttered in front of her eyes, reminding her of its existence.
A quick glance from Azriel, and Lex dove under the table, just as Feyre came out onto the courtyard.
Elain, pretending surprise, turned towards her sister. “Good morning! What are you doing here?”
“I came to,” Feyre stopped abruptly, her brow furrowed in confusion.
She was staring at Azriel and the rows of children with flapping wings, some hovering, some jumping, some rolling on the ground after a fall. “What is happening?” she gasped. She was shaking her head attempting to understand the scene in front of her.
Elain, acting cool, though there was a worm of trepidation in her stomach, explained.
“Azriel offered to teach Illyrian children how to fly.”
Feyre sat on the bench, watching, dropping her bag with painting supplies on the ground. 
“That’s a wonderful idea, Elain,” she gushed. “But how did you make him agree to this?”
“I didn’t,” Elain cocked her head. “He volunteered.”
“What about the priestesses?” insisted Feyre.
Elain felt a smidge of annoyance. She understood Feyre’s question, and her concern, but why were the priestesses more important than these children? It was an absurd reaction, she knew that, but she bit her lips and almost squeezed her fingers together.
Feyre turned around and faced Elain fully.
Elain had a soft, placid look on her lovely face, her hands folded upright on her lap. She usually had a tendency to wring her fingers, especially after she took her engagement ring off (for it never to be seen again) when she was uncomfortable.  But she looked confident, serene. Her hands remained on her lap.
“Azriel will explain it to Cassian. They will make it work,” Elain said calmly. And then, an idea popped into her head and she added, “Cassian might want to help.”
“Feyre, please allow us to figure this out between ourselves,” Elain still sounded pleasant, but there was a metallic note in her voice. 
“But Rhys,” Feyre began again,
“This is not Rhys’s decision,” Elain reminded her flatly. “Not Rhys’s domain. I decide who teaches the children. I request assistance from those who can help.”
Her look was heavy and meaningful,
“Please, and I ask this politely of you, please do not involve Rhys. This is not a Night Court matter. Just as Nesta thought to invite the priestesses to her training, I would like to do something meaningful and important for the children.”
“Elain,” Feyre, if put off by Elain’s unusual insistence, didn’t show it. “I think you are right. You are doing a great,”
“Thank you,” Elain interrupted, not really seeking praise, because it didn’t matter to her. “Azriel is doing it, but thanks.”
Feyre said nothing and then looked back at Azriel. He saluted her in his usual silent way, his face a bland, polite mask, and then turned back and began his instructions again. He had a youngling in his embrace, and the child squeaked and clapped with delight when Azriel moved in the air. It was an amusing sight--a massive Illyrian warrior holding a pink-clad girl in his arms, while he instructed the other children.
From under her lashes, Feyre stole a glance at Elain. 
Elain, the only person that Feyre was aware of, who took to Azriel immediately and wholeheartedly. Elain, who Feyre thought was afraid of everything, never feared the Shadowsinger. In fact, over the years, Feyre learned that she didn’t know Elain very well. Yes, her sister was always soft and gentle and polite, but there was also a steely steak in her, which surprised everyone. Elain had three friends--Nuala, Cerridwen and Azriel. It was a bizarre hodgepodge of beings, two wraiths and a shadowsinger, the very three that everyone was a bit wary of, Elain found kindred spirits with. The oddest one was certainly Azriel. 
He and Feyre had grown closer over the years, through all the trials and tribulations of the war and their association within the Inner Circle, but Feyre couldn’t say that they were friends. In fact, Azriel scared the shit out of everyone from time to time. Everyone, except for Cassian and Elain. Even Amren was cautious around him. Rhys would never admit it, but at times, he was secretly terrified of Azriel’s inner intensity, his strange, otherworldly darkness, his inner silence. Perhaps, only Rhysand could withstand and match the flow of Azriel’s unusual power, but he always knew that controlling the shadowsinger was futile. Azriel lived and served by his oath to Rhysand and the Night Court, but Rhysand knew when to step back and allow Azriel to act as he wished. To this day, no one was actually aware of the extent to Azriel’s network, influence and knowledge. If Rhys didn’t trust Azriel implicitly, he might have had reasons to be worried.
Whether Elain was naive, blind or unaware, she was the only one who clung to the shadowsinger virtually from the moment they’d met. Was it attraction, friendship, or something else, truth be told, Feyre did not know. But those two could spend all their time together, talking and exchanging meaningful glances, or doing nothing and being silent in each other’s presence, and remain only too happy in their mutual company. Azriel very rarely sought anyone out--he spoke with Cassian most frequently, sometimes with Rhys--but beyond polite chit chat, Feyre couldn’t remember the time when he initiated a conversation. Except for one person--Elain. He had absolutely no problem approaching her and then spending the entire evening with her, the two of them lost in their own world. 
Feyre wondered...Of course she did, even if Rhys tended to brush her questions off, reminding her of Lucien and Mor. But Feyre knew that nothing was happening on either of those fronts. However, the shadowsinger made no romantic moves: he did not offer to court Elain, did not seek her out alone, did not invite her to spend time with him. Elain, it seemed, was content with the situation. And it baffled Feyre, but she did not want to pry. Considering how well her interference was received by Nesta, Feyre didn't want to make the same mistake twice, now with her other sister. So she stayed quiet and put, but this development--Azriel volunteering his services and time in Elain’s orphanage was something completely unexpected. Maybe they did seek each other out after all?
She squinted at the sun and leaned back on her elbows on the table.
Elain, it seemed, didn’t pay attention to the flying male, busy with the children around her. 
The High Lady questions, but is content with your decision, Lex informed Elain. 
“Mother above, his wings really are immense,” muttered Feyre to herself, a smirk on her lips.
“What?” Elain asked absently, and turned to her sister.
“His wings,” repeated Feyre with some hidden meaning behind her expression. “Are very large.”
“So what?”
Feyre cocked her brow knowingly. 
Elain glanced at her and rolled her eyes. 
“What now?”
“Nothing,” Feyre shrugged innocently.
“Good, I don’t want to know it.”
Feyre waited for Elain to relent, and ask, but she didn’t.
“I actually came here for a reason,” she said at last. “We’ll be leaving for Winter Court,”
“You are going to Winter Court?”
“Yes,” Feyre nodded. “Official Court business. Kallias sent an invitation. I think that he mostly wants to show off his baby,” he smiled. 
Elain glanced quickly towards Azriel and saw shadows swarming him, no doubt reporting on this new development. He remained stone-faced, but Elain knew that face much too well. Azriel liked what he was hearing.
“Who else is coming?”
“Just Rhys and I, and Nyx, obviously,” Feyre rolled her shoulders. “We are not invited with an entourage. Only Mor will join,”
Feyre looked at Elain intently and added, “You can come with us…”
It was clear that that’s not what she wanted and was being polite. Just as politely, Elain said, “No. Enjoy yourselves. I can’t just leave all this,”
“But…” Feyre reached for Elain’s hand, “I don't really want you to be alone.”
Elain chuckled, “Feyre, I am not a child that you should fret over. I will be fine,”
“Maybe you should stay with Nesta and Cassian?” proposed Feyre quickly. “You probably,”
“Don’t worry about us,” Elain patted her hand. “We’ll figure it out. Maybe the four of us will stay at the House together,”
“You know, Cassian and Nesta are,” Feyre paused.
“Recently mated and in love, I know. Don’t worry Fey, we’ll be alright. If they become intolerable, I’ll go back to the River House.”
“You are sure?” Feyre rose to her feet. 
“Absolutely. When are you leaving?”
“Tomorrow. I wanted to let you know in advance.”
“Thank you, I appreciate it.”
Feyre looked down and pointed, “Oh look, a shadow! One ran away from Az?” she laughed and then walked out, waving to Azriel and the children.
Sweet Feyre.
When Rhysand summoned Elain for that fateful discussion all those months back, it was just her and him. “I’d rather we kept this between us,” he told Elain. Translation--he did not want Feyre to know that he was forbidding her sister from seeing his brother romantically. “You must understand the fragility of the situation,” he continued. “Politically, this...romance of fraught with dangers to the alliances that we’ve been building.” 
Her romance. 
It was the first time in her life when her power rumbled. 
It rose. 
A jasmine scented wall of anger and fury, and both of them stepped away from each other, Rhysand’s star-flecked power responding in kind. But Elain’s power grew stronger, pushing at him, uncontrolled and Cauldron-forged. Neither one knew what it was, and Rhysand stared, dumb struck. One move, one step, and the River House would’ve been reduced to rubble. That jasmine-scented shadow tittered on the brink of explosion, and Rhysand just watched and watched, as if recognising some part of it. “Elain,” he finally snapped. “Elain!” 
She pulled back, feeling it recede and slither back under her skin. “You are not my High Lord, Rhys,” she reminded him then. “Seeing how you are my sister-in-law, and live in my house and in my land, I think that I am,” he cut her off. “And you want to marry into my family, and to my brother.” “Or,” she parried, “you and your brothers want to marry into mine.” They just stood, glaring at each other in tense silence. It was Elain, who reminded him, “Don’t forget, Rhys, that I still have all my powers. Who knows what I might be capable of? And with your alliances so fragile indeed, you may want to consider if you’d like me as a friend or a foe…” 
The High Lord was always a clever male, who knew how to wield others advantageously, so he stepped back and said, “I ask you to keep the conversation from Feyre. Will you promise that?” She shrugged, “Seems like you are prone to keeping things from her. But very well. What do I get in return?” His jaw feathered at her challenge, but finally he conceded, “I could send Azriel on a lengthy mission. But I won’t.” If that was supposed to have been a threat, Elain bubbled her lips and said, “Well, if you did, I’d certainly happily accompany him on said mission.” After a moment, she added, “Build your alliances, High Lord. The shadowsinger stays here. He might have pledged an oath to you, but I did not. Keep that in mind.”
So Feyre lived in blissful ignorance.
And Elain loved Azriel.
“Lain, you see me?!” Temal, all red, with his hair sticking in every way, a bruise on his cheek ran over to Elian and wrapped himself around her legs. “I flied! You see it?”
“I did see it,” she smiled, as she tried to smooth down his hair. “Did you like your first lesson?”
“I loved it!” he roared. “I want to fly all the time. Az is good, Lain. He is so good!”
“He wasn’t too strict with you?”
Temal shook his head vigorously. “No! Az is nice. Maybe a little bit strict,” he added reflectively. “But not too much.”
“I saw you fall a few times, are you alright?”
“Yeah, I have hurts, but I don’t care,” he waved his hand dismissively like a true Illyrian.
Azriel approached them, listening to the raving Temal with a small smile on his lips. When Temal was excited or energetic, he mixed Illyrian and the Common Tongue and what came out was rather hilarious.
“But I’ve seen you fall quite a few times,” Elain said.
Lex flew over Temal, inspecting him for injuries, whispering into Elain’s head about the array of scuffs, dents and bruises that her boy sustained. And Elain already began to appreciate Lex’s presence. Whatever she needed, Lex was just there--assisting, helping, guiding--without her prodding it to, and when she didn’t want to listen, she simply told it ‘no’ and Lex quieted down. 
“Lain, it’s good to have hurts!” Temal insisted, when she squatted in front of him and looked over his injuries.
“Is that so?” she raised her brow at him.
Azriel sat down next to them and smiled quietly.
“Yes,” the boy nodded, though he allowed her to inspect his cuts. “Illyrians don’t care about hurts. If I don’t have hurts and don’t fall, I can’t fly,” he explained. “Az, it’s true?” he asked, seeking validation from the greatest authority in his life.
Azriel nodded and then asked, “What’s our motto?”
Temal rubbed his head nervously, wanting to impress and not get the motto wrong.
“We fall seven times,” he muttered, speaking slowly, remembering the words in his head, and Azriel nodded with encouragement, saying, “but,”
“We get up eight!” he burst out.
Elain approved, “that’s an excellent motto to live by.”
Elain felt his knee with her fingers and he winced, but did not react beyond that.
“Az don’t care if he have hurts,” Temal then announced with his usual confidence.
“Az cares sometimes,” Azriel muttered, watching Elain. 
Gods above, he couldn’t get enough. Now that she’d given him a bit, he couldn’t get enough. That face of hers, every feature that he was disgustingly obsessed with, the cascading locks of honey-golden hair, the plump soft lips that were so tempting, he felt his self-control slipping away into the abyss with alarming speed. So he couldn't help himself--didn’t feel like it--and put his thumb over her gorgeous, plush lower lip. If her rose-petal soft mouth was anything to go by, the other parts of her...His throat bobbed pathetically at the thought. He lightly rubbed his thumb back and forth over her lip, watching her, unblinking. She lightly kissed the pad of the finger.
Temal looked at both of them with some incomprehension and then said,
“See Lain, Az have hurts!” and he patted Azriel’s scarred palm. 
Azriel paused, even if he did not flinch at the child’s attention. Temal was so matter-of-fact about it that Azriel clamped down on his usual discomfort of someone noticing his hands, especially when Sanaai crawled along the bench to him and slumped at his side, taking his other hand in her tiny, soft ones.
Elain watched him tense, well-aware that this scrutiny was difficult for him to stomach, but she didn’t say anything, allowing the exchange to unfold.
“Boo-boo?” said Sanaai softly, stroking his hand.
It was a boo-boo alright.
“Az, it hurts?” worried Temal. “You don’t be careful?”
“No, I wasn’t very careful,” confirmed Azriel with a sigh.
Temal wiped his nose with his fist and then, after a beat, offered, “You want hug? I give good hug. Lain like it.” 
And then, without waiting for permission or invitation, he squeezed Azriel’s neck in a tight embrace, and Elain watched the three of them tangled in their arms and heads, and she knew that at that moment, Azriel did not need her. He didn’t need her reassurance, even her support, because their children gave it to him unconditionally. They didn't care about the appearance of the hands, the awful scarring, but only that he was hurt and once in pain, and they attempted to heal him the only way that they knew how--hugs.
“So you be more careful, Az,” ordered Temal at last. 
“I promise, I will be,” Azriel nodded, his typically cold, perfect face overcome with emotion.
Elain finally said, “Yes, Az,”  her voice was quiet, but heavy with meaning, with a shade of warning, “you must be careful. You have us.”
They flew quietly.
After bidding the children a good day, telling Temal and others to practice their reading, play and take care of the younglings, Azriel picked Elain up and with one magnificent swipe of his wings, got them above the roof-line.
He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he forgot to throw a shield over them, and the cold wind whipped around them, but Elain didn’t say anything, only pressing herself closer to his chest, seeking a little reprieve from the gusts.
She wondered if the children somehow had gone too far. They were so sweet and genuine in their adoration of him, and their desire to make him feel good, but she could sense his paralyzing discomfort when they clung to him so tightly.
“Was it good?” she murmured shyly at last, looking up at him at last, “good for you?”
He pressed her closer to his chest and nodded.
She extended her hand and then put her cold palm on the back of his neck. He shivered and it seemed to wake him up from his mental stupor.
“What’s wrong?” she probed gently.
He shook his head stubbornly.
“Az, they meant well,” she assured him, but he only looked at her, intently, his eyes sad.
Finally, after all that silence, Azriel said, his voice hollow, “I don’t know if I deserve them.”
Before she could protest, he added, “I don’t know if I deserve you.”
Instead of arguing, Elain contemplated for a moment, and then inquired, “Why do you think so?”
He chewed the inside of his cheek and then said, “They are so pure, so kind. If they only knew what and who I was,”
“They do know,” she cut him off. The Archeron severity laced her tone. “They know who you are to them, and that’s what matters,”
“I think that my presence soils them somehow,” he confessed, voice low and lifeless. “They need someone,”
“No, they need you.” She was almost angry with him. He’d never seen her like this before. “I need you. They have no one, Azriel. No one at all. And now they have you.”
“You know what I do for,” he began.
“Yes, I do,” she snapped. “I know what you do! I know what Rhysand makes you do,”
“Elain,” his tone was cool, “that’s not fair. He has nothing to do with this,”
She grimaced and exclaimed, “Nesta is right! You will always defend him,”
“My history with him is long and complex,” he argued mildly. “But what I do for him is my choice. I wasn’t pressured or ordered. I decided,”
She glared at him.
“Fine, “ she bit out, “But do you do it out of malice? Or pleasure? Plenty of people out there who don’t do what you do and they are rotten to the core!”
He remained silent. Her eyes blazed with angry indignation.
“If you want to have this warped view of yourself, then go ahead,” she ranted. “I can’t stop you. No one can. You have to find it in yourself--the ability to distinguish between what you do and who you are inside, what your soul is made of. And I think that it’s made of love. And pain. And glory. But you need to see it yourself, Azriel. The children see it. I see it. Your friends see it.”
His cheeks coloured and not because of the cold or the icy wind. He finally realised that he’d forgotten the shield and quickly covered them, but Elain didn’t even notice. She was so fired up, she actually felt hot against him. 
“I don’t understand why you don’t see,” she continued. “How good and kind you are. Maybe,”
The master is distressed, Lex suddenly piped into her head. He does not wish for you to,
Oh, shut the hell up! Elain snarled at the shadow. I don’t care what ‘the master’ wants!
At that, a mischievous smile touched Azriel’s lips and he said, “The master can hear you two,”
“Good!” she barked.
“Are we having our first fight?” he interrupted her.
She stopped talking, and then couldn't help it, and smiled.
“I guess we are. At least I am!”
She still glared at him.
He looked down at her, thoughtful.
“I don’t want us to fight,” he requested softly, but sincerely.
Elain stopped.
“I won’t lie--I struggle with these thoughts,” he sighed, “they are ever-present and I can’t just brush them off...But, to answer your question, yes, it was good for me,”
She already forgot what she asked him, but apparently, he remembered every word.
“I suppose that I don't want my particular brand of darkness to rub off on the younglings,” he said simply.
“I honestly don’t think that that will happen. They need you--all of them. They accept you. I think that you need to enjoy it and give them what you can,” she stroked his cheek, “give what you want of yourself.”
The House of Wind loomed ahead of them.
After they left the orphanage, Elain didn’t ask where they were heading.
He nodded and decided, “you are correct. I believe that it will be a struggle, but a positive one.
“Many good things come with a struggle,” she reminded him.
“Wise beyond your years,” he chucked gently, looking at her with adoration in his eyes.
Elain cooled off a bit, her face changing back into its usual gorgeous loveliness, without a hint of anger.
Seeing that, he tsked, and shook his head in warning, “but, love, the fighting. No more.”
“We are bound to fight again,” she protested, though she blushed profusely at the rebuke. His tone was kind and mild as always, but she saw that he was not joking.
He shook his head, “We’ll disagree. But the fighting--that’s not us. You and I don’t fight. Alright?”
Elain gave him a long look, but then bowed her head once and said, “No fighting.”
They landed on the roof, quietly, and Azriel sat her down.
Surprisingly, there was no one there.
Well, Cassian. Cassian sat in a lounge, his black hair ruffled by the cool air, escaping the leather tie. He was in his everyday clothes, trousers and a tunic, and his bare feet were propped over the railing, crossed at the ankles. He was engrossed in a book, head tucked on his fist. But, not so engrossed that he didn’t extend his arm and without turning, called out, “Come here, petal.”
“Why are you here all alone? Aren’t you freezing?” she fretted, grabbing a woolen throw off another lounge and hurrying to him. 
“I am not cold,” he said, even when she tucked the throw over him, “I am an Illyrian.”
She rolled her eyes and exclaimed, “Oh gods, I’ve heard enough Illyrians today telling me how they are Illyrians and therefore invincible!”
Cassian chuckled and wrapped his vise-like arm around her hips and pulled her on his lap. Then he pointed to his cheek and she gave him a loud smooch.
“What are you doing here, baby girl?” he asked, tucking his book under the coverlet. “Did my handsome brooding brother finally make you come to your senses?”
“I didn’t know I was out of my senses,” she raised her brow, flicking his nose.
Azriel approached them at last, and sprawled on another lounge, folding his arms behind his head and splaying his wings, catching the rays of the mild sunshine. He watched them, with amusement, but without any jealousy, or apprehension. Because he trusted Elain with Cassian. The two developed a close friendship over the past year, after the mating, and Cassian finally had the sister that he’d always wanted. 
Initially, Azriel worried that Elain and Rhys would become fast friends--in some ways, they matched well together--contemplative, polite, not particularly temperamental, with a dry sense of humour and secrets that they kept to themselves. It’s not that Azriel was against the Rhys and Elain friendship, but he knew his brother well, much better than Elain, and Rhys rarely befriended anyone without some specific reason, without seeing an advantageous angle in the relationship. Even with his closest friends, even with Feyre, he knew how to wield them all as blades when he needed them. Elain was astute enough to understand that, at least on some level, but Azriel was happy to see how she drifted towards Cassian, who had no ulterior motives when it came to her, and how she closed the door on Rhysand’s friendship, remaining nothing but a sister-in-law to him. He trusted her implicitly, with his own son, probably more than he trusted anyone with Nyx, but their association turned familiar, rather than friendly. 
“Did Az ask you to come here?” Cassian pressed, twirling her lock over his finger. “Az is so pretty and persuasive, when he asks something, it’s hard to resist,”
“Can you be quiet, please,” begged Azriel with a lazy swipe of his hand.
Elain was giggling. 
“He is pretty,” she agreed. 
“I mean, if he, for example, told me that it would be wise for me to start training with his somewhat more troubled, but no-less handsome brother Cassian, I would have to say ‘yes’,” mused Cassian, pulling her against his massive chest. She snuggled on top of him, and he wrapped his arms around her.
Azriel could only shake his head.
Lex informed Elain that ‘the master is not envious of the General’. And Lex was not incorrect, for Azriel was not jealous of Cassian and Elain, even if his brother was holding her in his arms the way Azriel could only dream of doing up until two days ago. 
The nature of Cassian’s affection has always been physical, so there was nothing new about him pawing at Elain, but Azril knew that Elain felt nothing sexual towards her brother-in-law. The shadows were very firm and descriptive about it, even if he didn’t need to question her. And he never did. He knew Elain even without the shadows and her affection lay in one place--him.
Her sister, on the other hand...The shadows were no less descriptive about what Nesta wished to do, with him and Cassian. It was back in the days when Nesta and Cassian were still dancing around their bond, pretending to ignore it, pretending to ignore each other, pretending like they were not in love. Unfortunately, Azriel was stuck in the middle of that dance, and he could read the eldest Archeron sister just as he could the middle one. Her interest was obvious. The shadows, unhelpfully, notified him of ALL the ways she was interested. Every position. Normally, he wouldn’t have opposed it. Nesta possessed a sharp, attractive beauty that every male would admire. And he and Cassian had been inside enough females at the same time to hone their movements into a choreographed dance of lust and pleasure. He might have even enjoyed it. Nesta was not Elain--Nesta knew what she was doing; how she liked to be pleasured and what she could offer. It would’ve been a marvellous time for the three of them. Alas, Azriel was in love with Elain, and therefore celibate since she’d been Made. And pounding into her older sister alongside his brother would’ve made things...awkward. 
“Speaking of training, General,” Elain smiled, “where are your charges? Did you clear the roof just for me?”
“Hmm,” Cassian grunted. “The blanket is nice, Ellie,” he had to admit, shivering at the warmth that she and the throw offered him.
“Ahh, well, someone has to take care of you. What did you do to my sister? Did she finally throw you out?”
“Your sister loves me,”
“It doesn’t mean she wouldn't throw you out,” argued Elain and Azriel smiled. “Even if she loves you.”
“You know her too well. But I am curious, what are you doing with my brother? This early in the morning?”
“We hurried here so he could do his training and I can watch, and then talk to Nesta, but it seems we didn’t need to rush.”
Cassian sighed and then said, “Nes has her cycle.”
Azriel tried not to wince. The joys of close proximity to all his family were a gift that kept on giving. He’s been around this a few times now--this was the third--and never did he thank the gods for having his own apartment like he did when Nesta had her cycle. Secretly, though, he sort of has been waiting for Elain’s cycle to come, just for the sole reason of having the opportunity to take care of her and wait on her hand and foot. That was his weird dream that he definitely kept entirely to himself. 
“Oh no!” Elain exclaimed, “I should go to her and see if she needs something,”
“I wouldn’t,” Cassian stopped her, and pressed her closer to himself. “She is napping. The House is fussing over her. I am around just for moral support and to fetch her whatever she wants.”
“But the rest of the priestesses,”
“Apparently, many of them have their cycles synced in together,”
Azriel shuddered and raised his palms, “Alright, that’s enough. Can we stop discussing cycles. There is certain information that I absolutely have no desire to know,”
Cassian was laughing. 
“Just wait until you,”
Azriel immediately interrupted him, with a smirk and a cocked brow. Cassian tensed, sensing that something was coming.
“So Cass,” said Azriel slowly, and Elain waited, wondering where he was heading. 
“So Az,”
“What have you been reading?” 
Elain looked between the two of them.
“Nothing of interest,” Cassian shrugged. “Military strategy.”
“Hmmm… ‘The Art of War’ perhaps?” inquired Azriel, folding his arms over his chest.
“How did you guess?”
Elain snuck her hand under the cover, to where Cassian had hidden the book, and he twisted with surprising speed and grace for a male his size, catching her wrist in his hand.
And that’s when Lex attacked. Instantaneously he was a dark, fierce shadow in front of Cassian’s eyes, blinding him for a moment, before he writhing and gripping his hand, pulling it away from Elain’s wrist, forcefully unlatching his fingers.
“Mother’s tits, what the fuck!” cried Cassian, once Lex relented. “What the fuck Az?” he growled.
“I didn't do anything,” Azriel shrugged, smirking. 
“Keep your fucking shadows away from me!”
“It’s not my shadow.”
Cassian rubbed his arms, muttered, “Damn shadows...Az,”
“It’s my shadow,” said Elain, laughing. “He was protecting me,” and then she triumphantly wrung the book out from under the covers, brandishing it in the air.
Azriel burst out laughing. He laughed openly and jovially, because these two were his favourite people in the world. The two he loved the most.
“Really Cass?” he finally managed, while Elain was shaking with laughter, draped over Cassian’s body. “Really? ‘One Night In Illyria’? Sellyn Drake?”
Cassian rubbed his chin, groaning.
“You, pipsqueak, need to stop laughing,” he warned Elain, who paused, only to dissolve into giggles again. Azriel couldn't stop either.
“My mate is indisposed, what do you want from me?” Cassian muttered. 
“So you are reading sexy romance novels?” challenged Azriel.
“They are not bad...But I never knew that that’s what females wanted. Ellie,” he looked at Elain, “is this what girls want?”
“I don't know,” she shrugged, “I don’t read romance novels with the same interest as Nesta. What does it say?”
“Don’t tell her,” warned Azriel. 
“Now I want to know!” insisted Elain. 
“Velvet-wrapped steel?” quoted Cassian. “Is that what you gals call it?”
Elain started laughing again, “No Cass, we gals just call it a ‘cock’,” she said.
“Gods above,” moaned Azriel, who’d never heard Elain use the word ‘cock’ before, “the moment we step into this cursed House, this starts. Can we stop talking about cocks and cycles, please!”
“Az, why are you so uncomfortable with normal bodily functions?” it was Cassian’s turn to tease.
“I am very comfortable with all functions,” said Azriel, flexing his wings involuntarily, challenged by another male in front of his female. “However, I’d rather you didn’t talk about cocks with Elain.”
The way he said it, just an edge of threat in his voice, and if Cassian didn’t know him better he wouldn’t have picked it up, but there it was, and Cassian threw him a questioning look.
To soften the threat, Azriel quickly added, “And if you do, you might just find out what you’ve been reading.”
“What?” both of them stared at him. “What have we been reading?”
He preened at their undivided attention, drawing their interest out with his silence.
“Sellyn Drake,” said Elain at last. “They read Sellyn Drake.”
“Yes. But who is Sellyn Drake?” taunted Azriel.
“Come on brother,” moaned Cassian, “don’t make us play ‘20 Questions’!”
“Alright,” Azriel sat up straight and rubbed his hands together, “but this is a secret. So keep it locked up. That included Nesta,” he gave a warning look to Cassian, “because she’ll tell the other two and so it goes.”
“They are priestesses, Az,” reminded him Cassian, “they don’t leave the Library.”
“Emerie does.”
“Helion. Helion is Sellyn Drake.”
Cassian let out an earth-shaking roar of laughter.
Elain joined in.
Azriel followed.
“Why did I not think that?!” Cassian raged, wiping his tears. “I should’ve guessed!”
Elain, who’d met the handsome, swarthy, seductive High Lord a few times before agreed, nodding. 
“How…” Cassian couldn't even form a sentence. “What...when did this start?”
Azriel extended his hand to Elain and she immediately slipped from Cassian’s embrace and slid onto Azriel’s lap, laying her head on his shoulder. Naturally, Cassian tracked the movement, but at this point, did not comment. He didn’t comment as he watched Azriel’s arms wrap around her waist and then comfortably drape over her hips. He didn’t comment when Azriel placed a soft kiss on her forehead. He didn’t comment when Elain tucked into his chest silently, looking utterly content.
“Helion’s sister began writing first, and she became so popular, our favourite vain High Lord couldn’t abide by her fame,” explained Azriel, casually sliding his hand under Elain’s braid and stroking the back of her neck with his knuckles. 
“I can see that,” agreed Cassian, folding his arms behind head and spreading out on the lounge, wiggling his toes. 
“So, he decided to try his hand in writing, but he figured that he might be accepted better if he pretended to be a female. Hence, he picked an ambiguous name and began writing, and the rest is history!”
“How am I ever going to look him in the face and not remember this?!”
“You promised,” reminded them Aziel sternly.
“Yes, yes, we remember,” nodded Elain.
Cassian looked the two of them over and said, “Tea, please.”
The House  immediately delivered a silver tray with tea, biscuits, toast, butter and jam.
Elain clapped excitedly, like a child, and wondered, “how can we get this at home?”
The way she said it, somehow Cassian felt that she wasn’t referring to the River House, but he didn’t pry. There would be time for that. If Azriel wasn’t talking, there was no point in questioning, because he wouldn’t say anything of substance.
“Now that you’ve teased, insulted and taunted me in my own home,” he said, once Elain poured him his tea, 
“It’s my home too,” reminded him Azriel with a wink.
“Well yes, but...To what do I owe this visit?” he sipped the hot drink and added, “and please don't give me the ‘I train the priestesses’ bullshit, if possible’.”
“It’s possible,” agreed Elain, slathering toast with enough butter to hurt Azriel’s arteries, and then plopping a disturbing amount of jam on top. She handed it to him and he devoured it with an alarming gusto. So, the girl was aware that Azriel had a horrible sweet tooth and could gorge on chocolate and cakes like a fiend. And she relentlessly took care of his food for him, feeding him biscuits and then asked for coffee, which the House provided right away. She also knew that he preferred coffee.
“I would request to borrow Azriel,” she said.
“Borrow him for what?” Cassian squinted at her suspiciously.
Cassian did not like to share Azriel. They both knew it, and there were many reasons for the attachment that they felt for each other. At times, it even caused some tension, but Azriel was completely understanding and gently tolerant of Cassian’s desire for closeness. Cassian though, even though he was mated, still felt a proprietary affection and intense need for Azriel’s company. Nothing could ever change that. Nothing would. But he could sense that things were changing, and it filled him with some internal dread, even if he knew that these were all happy tidings. But Azriel was his--his brother, his friend, his counterpart, and maybe, just maybe his ‘shadah’, (an Illyrian ‘soulmate’)--a friend so close, so intimate, so essential, so necessary that they shared part of one soul. Cassian was perfectly fine with having Az live with him and Nesta, in the same house, forever, until they were nothing but stardust in the night sky. 
Secretly, he was somewhat relieved now--because if it was Elain who had his brother’s heart, then that would be just fine. It wasn’t particularly surprising, because Elain was exactly Azriel’s type--his secret type, the type he never shared with anyone, but that only Cassian was aware of. Azriel was domineering by nature, competitive, authoritarian, and had high expectations from his casual lovers. He liked it hard, and rough and kinky and in copious amounts. However, Cassian knew Azriel’s intimate desire as well--a deep seated yearning to be loved and cared for, by a female who’d give her her whole heart. Besides, Elain had the right look and manner, with her innocent loveliness and the promise for Az to be her teacher, in everything. 
Also, Cassian liked Elain. Very much.
“I have Illyrian younglings,” she said simply, “who haven’t been taught how to fly. Azriel volunteered to teach them.”
Cassian set his cup down and sat up, swinging his legs and resting his elbows on his knees. He leaned towards Elain, and behind her, Azriel tensed. It’s not that he was worried, but Cassian could be crude and rough when challenged, so Azriel had no desire for Elain to be on the receiving end of that. Cassian’s never been rude to Elain, and she actually seemed to enjoy his bawdy humour and his teasing, and his handsy ways, yet the hazel eyes were dimmed with temper. But Elain didn’t even flinch. Instead, she reached out and took Cassian’s huge hand in hers, and ran her thumb over his own. 
“Cass,” she said softly, 
“You have younglings that need to learn how to fly, and you didn’t think to ask me, petal?” he asked, his voice low and menacing.
“Cass,” began Azriel, but Elain continued, 
“I did, I did think that,”
“You did?”
“I am asking you right now. They also need to be taught how to fight and defend themselves,”
“Yes?” Cassian was still waiting, but not as tense now.
“So, I was wondering if you and Az can decide between each other how to work that out. I want the best for my children, for my charges--Illyrian and Fae. Who else can give them that, but you two?”
Cassian plopped down on the lounger again, wings squished haphazardly, arms crossed. Looking very much like a petulant toddler about to throw a fit.
“Why didn’t you ask me first?” he demanded.
Hiding behind Elain’s head, Azriel smiled. 
What a smart girl. A smart, smart girl.
“You think I wouldn’t have asked you?!” she sounded sweetly indignant, yet played with him, blinking those wonderful large doe eyes at him. “I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. You have the priestesses and I didn’t want to interfere…”
“Petal, that’s not interference! The younglings deserve and need to be trained. Between Nes and Mor and the two of us, we can make it work. It’s a very good thing you are doing, baby girl,” he approved.
“Speaking of Nes,” Elain got up from Azriel’s lap and stretched. “I am going to check on her.”
She walked inside the House, Lex following dutifully, both males looking after her.
Once she disappeared behind the door, Cassian said, shaking his head, “You gave her a shadow?”
Azriel finished the last biscuit and shrugged, “The shadow chose her. It had never done that before, so I figured that I couldn’t stand between them.”
“You’ve never done that before.”
“They never wanted anyone else. She is the only one.”
Cassian bit his lip and then, “Is she?”
“It would seem so,” answered Azriel vaguely.
“Nesta,” Elain snuck into the bedroom and closed the door behind her.
Nesta moaned softly and extended her hand towards her sister, splaying her long thin fingers.
Elain quickly unbuttoned her jacket, throwing it on a bench, toed off her boots and then climbed on the bed next to Nesta.
Elain found the scent of the bedroom oddly comforting--an amalgamation of her two favourite people. As she loved Nesta, still more than Feyre, always feeling a tight, inexplicable kinship to her prickly sister, so did she love Cassian, who was absolutely her most favourite male in the world. Following last Solstice, her relationship with Rhys turned into an icy acceptance and she was resolved to put on a pleasant front, mostly for Feyre’s sake, and because it was not in her nature to cause discord. As she told Azriel, they were all too entangled and she needed to tread carefully and delicately, especially with the High Lord. Unfortunately, what started off as a pleasant, close relationship, now largely disintegrated, and Elain returned to what she knew and loved--Nesta, and now Cassian. 
She wrapped her arm around Nesta’s sweaty head, and gently stroked her hair, as Nesta tucked her face into Elain’s shoulder. 
“Do you need anything?” Elain asked, running her knuckles over Nesta’s pale, clammy cheek.
“For this to be over,” Nesta groaned. 
“What day is it?”
“Do you want me to run you a bath?” Elain offered.
“Yes,” Nesta nodded weakly.
The House was already ahead of them, and both heard the water running in the bathing room. Elain helped Nesta off the bed, supporting her thin body as they walked slowly, Nesta dripping blood on the floor and the House wiping it behind them. In the bathroom, Elain took Nesta's sodden nightgown off and her sister sunk into the enormous tub that was so hot, it was steaming. But it seemed to help, as Nesta shuddered with pleasure and closed her eyes.
“You have a shadow,” she suddenly said casually.
Lex bobbed on the rim of the tub, inspecting everything curiously. It was silent though.
“Did Azriel give it to you?” Nesta said offhandedly.
“Um,” Elain didn’t know how much she should say, and how soon.
“Is it for protection? or is it yours?” Nesta continued, eyes still closed. 
“Protection?” Elain was confused.
Nesta opened one eye and glanced at her, chuckling somberly, “You know his shadows chase you everywhere?”
“What? No they don’t!”
“Oh yes they do,” Nesta insisted. “Have been, since the war.”
“What are you talking about?”  Elain flushed. What did Nesta know exactly?
“I thought you knew,” Nesta shrugged. “You couldn’t sense them?”
Elain shook her head.
“Hmmm…” Nesta sighed.
“You think he spied on me?” asked Elain quietly.
“No,” Nesta’s voice was firm. Then, she added, “Az is too honourable for that. But he is a worrier,”
“Is he?” Elain chuckled, since Azriel hardly struck her as a ‘worrier’.
Nesta moaned softly and turned in the tub to her side.
“Yes. But only about you and Cassian.”
“How do you think Cassian survived all these years?” she laughed grimly. “It’s not luck or a miracle. It’s Azriel.”
“So you saw the shadows?”
“Yes. I just assumed that you knew about them as well.”
Nesta moaned again and her brown scrunched, as a wave of pain throttled her body. 
Elain, not knowing how to help, thrust her hand into the bloody water and pressed her palm to Nesta’s stomach. 
Nesta almost swatted the hand away, grimacing, but Elain kept the palm to Nesta’s strong, muscular stomach, rubbing it gently.
Slowly, Nesta relaxed. And relaxed further.
They sat in silence, Elain massaging and rubbing Nesta’s belly, until Nesta’s eyes fluttered open.
“What? Do you need something?”
Nesta rose abruptly, water rolling off her body. She didn’t need assistance, and just stood in the tub, straight as an arrow, without the ‘cycle-hunch’ staring at Elain with her glacial eyes. Elain blushed a little, seeing as Nesta was completely bare, looking both vulnerable and fierce.
“How did you do that?” 
“Do what?” murmured Elain, confused.
“The pain,” Nesta’s fingers brushed over her belly, “the pin is gone...I mean, still a bit present, but nothing like before,”
“Pain ebbs and flows,” began Elain, but Nesta shook her head vehemently.
“No, it’s not like that. I felt your fingers...they sucked the pain out.”
“They did?”
“Yes. Elain,” Nesta peered directly into Elain’s eyes. “What is your power?”
Elain rose and pulled her hand away. “I don’t know,” she snapped, biting her lip. “I don’t know,”
Nesta regarded her with her usual preternatural stillness. 
“If I took something from it, perhaps it gave you something instead? Some kindness? Something,”
“Stop it!” Elain ordered. “It didn't give me anything. Nothing. Nothing,” she repeated, but with less conviction now.
Nesta did not argue. 
“Can you put your hand on my stomach again?” she requested.
“No. Why?”
“Just to ease the pain,” she said simply. “It helped.”
Tentatively, Elain pressed her hand back to Nesta’s belly and Nesta sighed with relief and enjoyment, eyes closing. “Keep it like that.” Elain did. 
“Sweetheart, you are up!” Cassian’s voice boomed behind them.
He stopped at the entrance of the bathing room, gawking. Not so much at Nesta’s nakedness, but the fact that she was upright and standing still, without moaning or clutching her abdomen.
“Very observant,” muttered Nesta.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better,” she admitted.
Cassian made his way into the bathing room and opened his arms to Nesta, while Elain stepped aside.
While Cassian fussed and dried Nesta’s body, Elain went to find her another nightgown to wear and more pads. 
Azriel stood in the bedroom, shaking his head. 
“I’ve seen all your sisters naked way too many times,” he groaned, rolling his eyes.
Elain smiled.
“This one,” he waved his hand towards the bathing room, “I see naked every other day. The other one, I’ve seen in and out and just about gutted,”
“Welcome to the family, I guess?” Elain laughed and then handed Cassian Nesta’s things.
Azriel stepped closer and his arm wrapped around her, pulling her to him. He tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear and then murmured, “And yet, the only one I actually desire to see naked, remains elusive.”
“Perhaps you’ll get lucky one day,” she winked and stroked his cheek.
The General and the Lady are watching, sang Lex snaking between them.
Azriel relaxed his grip and stepped back, just as Cassian carried Nesta into the bedroom. Neither one commented on what they saw. 
“Don’t leave,” Nesta pleaded, as Cassian deposited her on the bed. “Stay with me.”
Elain glanced at Azriel, and he nodded. So she climbed onto the bed beside Nesta and Nesta greedily grabbed Elain’s hand and pressed it to her stomach, needing the relief. Without prompting, Azriel slid next to Elain, toeing off his boots and unbuttoning his jacket. He folded his hands behind his head and settled in. Cassian, in turn, lay on Nesta’s side, gently stroking her head. 
...Cassian opened his eyes. Late afternoon shadows were darkening the bedroom. Next to him, Nesta still slept, and he was amazed and delighted at the fact. She did not struggle or cringe in pain the entire time. She slept soundly in the crook of his arm, her own arm thrown around Elain, whose hand rested securely on Nesta’s stomach the entire time. On the other side of the bed, Azriel was asleep as well, his body curled around Elain’s, embracing her loosely. Elain’s shadow friend slithered sleepily over them.
Cassian guessed that there was more to their visit today other than Elain’s request for additional training. He didn’t know the story, but assumed that there was a story to be told. But Azriel still kept mum, and Cassian didn’t press him. Right now though, Cassian simply enjoyed the moment--the four of them tangled together, his brother seemingly finally at peace, someone he apparently loved, right next to him, perhaps in love as well. Whatever Azriel needed from him, Cassian was going to deliver. Whatever it took. However Azriel needed to claw his happiness out for himself and Elain, Cassian was going to be right next to him every step of the way.
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nikethestatue · 17 days ago
Hold Your Hand While Dancing
Elriel Month - Day 29
You know the drill--slightly NSFW
*Also, any of these dances--waltzes, the tango, or anything else make no sense in the Fae world, but hey, I didn’t make the rules and incomprehensible cultural references (yes, I am pedantic like that)*
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Azriel is watching her spin at Rita’s. Her dress hugs her hips tightly before flowing out around her legs. It is more daring than what she usually wears, but sometimes, they sneak out to Rita’s, just the two of them and she pulls out all the stops. The dress reminds him how much he loves running his lips up her bare legs and to her thighs, the sheer panels of fabric a wicked temptation to his eyes.  She saunters and writhes to the beat, begging him to come just a little closer. Azriel takes his time getting to her, not because he is bashful--he is an elegant, capable dancer--but because he is enjoying the view. Even if Elain shakes her hips invitingly in his direction. Even if her hair whips and swooshes around her bare skin.
The first thing Elain feels is the way his shadows slip over her skin in the wickedest, most spine-tingling ways--a preview of what’s to come later--moments before his hands do, pulling her roughly into the steps of the dance. He always waits for the tango, before joining her. The tango--arms and legs intertwined, breaths shared, every part of her touched and moulded within the grasp of his rough palms, her body bent and twisted just the way he likes it. The tango is his favourite. He taught her. She knew the waltz, the polka, the mazurka and the bolero--all taught to her when she was a little girl, just as a proper lady was expected to know. But not the tango. That was scandalous. That was for lovers, tittering on the brink of a kiss, yearning and heated. It demanded submission. It wanted equality. It allowed domination. 
Each step lights a fire. Each beat pulls out a rhythm they can’t ignore. They chase it, with their bodies and their burning glances. He allows the shadows to slip inside her dress, caressing her body beneath, keeping her needy and wanting. Her dress shifts and opens with every turn, every dip he guides her into, and when she’s spun out and back into his arms, her lips are on him and when they’re finally home, it’s teasing, teasing, teasing until she can’t stand it anymore. 
Azriel rewards her for wearing such a dress. She knew it would drive him wild, and now he is proving it with how slowly he is taking it off her. His lips are on her calves, his teeth on her thighs, as he draws the shimmering hem up and up and up her bare legs. He kisses and bites, and then his breath hitches, when he finds another gift that she’d hidden. Or rather, revealed. His tongue slides between her folds, for she’s been naughty and forgot her undergarments. A perfectly acceptable and expected omission. So her fingers glide over his scalp, threading through his hair,  and she chants coming, coming, coming, love. Azriel. My love!  And Azriel is grinning like a demon, as he watches her release for him, her body dancing within his arms, her hips undulating, the flesh of their bodies blending again, in a dance only the two of them know the steps to.
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nikethestatue · 20 days ago
Elain and Azriel - A Quiet Love Story (a reminder)
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They hold hands all the time
Azriel offers Elain his arm
Azriel bowed to Elain, when she descended the stairs. The only other being he bowed to is freakin’ DEATH!
Elain considers Azriel’s hands beautiful, and doesn’t mind the scars whatsoever
Elain makes Azriel blush
Azriel makes Elain blush
Azriel scares everyone, including his High Lord, but not the flower girl
They get flustered with each other when they see the other dressed nicely
Azriel was willing to die for and with Elain
Elain makes Azriel LAUGH, the way no one seen him laugh
Azriel fans his wings in front of her (on first ‘date’!). He has no chill
He protects her physically, she protects him thoughtfully--giving him gifts that would make his life easier, thinking of his well-being
She also kicks a huge ass hound with her bare feet when Azriel is threatened
Azriel was the one who thought of Elain first when Hybern stole her
The first time she flew was in his arms, and she wasn’t afraid of flying after that
He waxes poetic in front of her
Azriel, who usually standing in corners or by the windows, not interacting, but listening, actually seeks her company and approaches her himself
He does hang out by the windows a lot--hoping to catch a glimpse of her downstairs
Azriel’s shadows trust him with Elain and disappear because they are not needed
No one could guess what was wrong with her, not her sisters, not her ‘mate’, not an expert healer--but Azriel knew
Elain wants to travel. Azriel travels a lot. You do the maths
She devours him with her eyes when he comes for her on Hybern
Azriel trusts Elain and her inner strength--he gives her Truth-Teller and trusts her to protect herself with it. So she kills the King of Hybern instead, and then returns the dagger
With Elain, Azriel permits himself to FEEL
He doesn’t want her putting herself in danger, but allows her to make her own decisions
He respects her work and her domestic input, and makes everyone wait for her to sit at the table before they eat
Elain initiated two kisses with Azriel
Azriel wouldn’t mind tasting all of Elain’s bits and bobs 
They like chilling together--in the garden, by the fire, in the parlor
She heals him gently by accepting him, who he is and even the ‘ugly’ parts of him 
He gently heals her by treating her like she is valuable and by accepting her even during the toughest moments when no one knew what to do with her
He is nauseated by the scent of her bond
Elain’s learned her worth and doesn’t beg or grovel after the Solstice fiasco. Unlike with Greyson, she has the sense to walk away with dignity and returns the necklace (I personally think that it shows immense personal growth)
He spent a year staring at her gift. ‘Good night, headache powder…”
He packed his snowballs with rocks and ice in vengeance 
He loses a snowball fight because of her
They talk gardening plans together! (Riveting stuff, I am sure)
Elain knows that Azriel ‘sees’ her. ‘The only one who ever did’ (You didn’t think that this was about Greyson, did you?)
He is not too bothered by starting WWIII over her, Lucien, Autumn Court, Koschei be damned
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nikethestatue · 21 days ago
Elriel Month -Day 25
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nikethestatue · 26 days ago
I kind of find it adorable that the composed, stoic, unflinching Azriel, who frightens the shit our of everyone, including most High Lords, who is totally unreadable even to his closest friends and inspires dread and fear in the Illyrians, is total mush when it comes to Elain. Gazing lovingly at headache medicine and obsessing over whether to give her and gift for Solstice, and if so, then what. When she finally kisses him, he’ll totally come undone at the seams.
Soft boi for the flower girl
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nikethestatue · 26 days ago
Elriel Month - Day 20
Your Sacrifice
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nikethestatue · 27 days ago
Elriel Month -Day 19
Traveling Together
...These bulbs, came all the way from the tulip fields of the continent....You should come with me. Nesta won’t go, because she says she doesn’t want to risk the sea crossing, but you and I...Oh, we’d have fun, wouldn’t we?...
Elain Archeron
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nikethestatue · a month ago
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Elriel Month - Day 12
Dark Academia
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nikethestatue · a month ago
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Drunk and In Love
Elriel Month - Day 11
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nikethestatue · a month ago
Happy Mother’s Day/Adoption
Elriel Month - Day 9 Adoption
This one is near and dear to my heart. I was looking forward to writing this chapter for a while. Because families is what you make, not what you are born into.
I hope you enjoy! And buckle up, this one is a big boy.
Comments are always appreciated
Fluff, mentions of some sexual things, nothing explicit, lots of talking and loving and good things
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They stood in the hallway, Elain looking down at the key in her palm.
Azriel put his heavy, rough-skinned hand on her neck and squeezed lightly, his fingers tangling with her braid.
“Do you mind?” he asked, voice unsure, “if I touch you? Just a little,”
“I mind,” she looked up at him.
His hand dropped at once. He stepped back, his face actually displaying something akin to pain. The Shadowsinger was not easy to surprise, but he seemed genuinely shocked by her response.
She was shaking her head in admonishment though.
“I am so-,” he began stuttering, but she interrupted,
“I mind that you don’t touch me more!” she said fiercely and his reaction was priceless--a smile lit up his features, a pleased little smirk playing on his mouth. Relief that was now rolling off his body was palatable.
“Is that so?” he teased, his hand migrating back to her neck, his thumb stroking lightly, as he moved closer.
“Indeed!” she declared snappily. “You are awfully timid, considering that you are living with Nesta and Cassian.”
“Well,” he began, but she interrupted him again,
“You know, Nesta and I are sisters,” her voice was heavy with meaning and suggestion. “And by the way, I am not a maid. I lost my virginity before her!” She stared at him, a challenge in her pose, on her flushed face.
Azriel’s breath stilled for a bit.
Well, that answered one question that’s been on his mind for a while. Normally, he could tell, but with Elain, he struggled to identify anything in her scent. Either her experience was nominal, or there was no experience to be had. 
Elain wasn’t stupid--she knew that he’d wondered. Everyone did, because nobody knew except for her, Greyson and Nesta. The twins suspected, but the three of them rarely discussed matters of love or sex. The twins picked up on her attraction to Azriel a while back, but they never mentioned it. For all she knew, they might have been there on that fateful Solstice night, and witnessed the horribly awkward exchange. Elain, though, under their own tutelage in matters of spying and noticing things that others preferred to keep secret, picked up on something of her own--Nuala had been Azriel’s lover. There was a barely perceptible change in Nuala’s demeanor whenever she spoke of ‘lord Azriel’. An intimate softness seeped into her voice, one born of affection that was more than just camaraderie or companionship. Elain, true to herself, did not pry, grateful that the twins reciprocated and did not question her feelings either. 
Sometimes, when she visited Nesta at the House of Wind, she also met Nesta’s friends--Emerie, a clipped Illyrian, and a bubbly, opinionated priestess named Gwyn. There were times, if Elain was being honest, when she went up to the House early in the morning, to watch the training sessions. It seemed like everyone had the same idea--the pristessess, as well as she, because watching the solemn, but gentle Azriel train was something that they all partook in. He never let on whether he was aware of all the admiring glances that trailed him and his every move, and Elain did not know if she were to be amused or jealous of the attention he was receiving. Irrationally, she considered him ‘hers’. Not in some wild mated way, but in a more subtle realization that he was interested in her. And only her. Yet, she kept her thoughts to herself, and no one was privy to her fantasies and affections. The same couldn’t be said for Nesta and her friends, who gossiped and exchanged details that were so intimate, it probably would’ve made Cassian blush. 
Gwyn was recently introduced to a young Illyrian named Balthasar, who apparently helped Nesta during the ordeal of the Blood Rite. The young male showed a lot of promise and was now being trained by Cassian himself, which led to the introduction to Gwyn. Balthasar, smitten, requested to court her and they were in the initial stages of the courtship, though that didn’t stop Nesta and Emerie from asking all sorts of questions...especially about his anatomy. Gwyn didn’t even have the answers, but the questions kept coming. Elain was happy that the twins did not put her through the same scrutiny. Curiously, Cerridwen asked a lot of questions about Emerie, the kinds of questions that had Elain promising that she’d introduce them, soon.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” said Azriel with a smile. “And just so you know, and since we are sharing information, but I was the last to lose my virginity out of the three of us. And I am the oldest.”
“Who was the first?”
“Who do you think?” he chuckled.
He booped her nose with his knuckle. “Smart as always.”
There was a pause in their banter, a brief, tense silence.
“Good night then,” he murmured and pressed his lips to her forehead.
Elain bit her lip and it took a lot of self-control on his part not to lick her plump, pink lip on the same spot.
“Good night.”
Elain had a suite of two rooms, situated in the back of the mansion, away from Feyre and Rhys, and Azriel’s room and office were close to hers--whether it was a coincidence, or Elain’s hand in designing the layout of the mansion, who knew?
There would be no sleeping for him tonight. He came here to speak with Rhys, and ended up seeing Elain’s legs, touching her, and asking her to enter a forbidden, clandestine affair with him, to which she agreed. He found out that she was not a virgin--he still didn’t know how he felt about that--and that she was ready to defy Rhysand in order to be with him. For someone who was meticulous, thoughtful and controlled, Azriel was not going to sleep tonight. He needed to. He was exhausted and worn out from travelling and worrying, and now…
He undressed and bathed, running the evening’s events in his head over and over again. Was he making the situation worse? For everyone? His usual doubts began swirling in his brain, as he wondered if he’d pushed the situation too far? He wasn’t too concerned about the ramifications for himself, but Elain was…
Standing in his bedroom.
“Lainey, what ar-,” he began, stopping in his tracks. At least he was wearing his underpants, though nothing else. 
She was barefoot, wearing only a nightgown--a simple white thing that reached to her knees, with tiny applique flowers on the straps. 
Suddenly, he was reminded of the nightgown in which she was dragged before the King of Hybern and how she looked then--terrified, small, so thin. He was barely alive, but the violent, burning rage that coursed through him at that moment, when she was pushed inside the Cauldron, it still flowed through him today, at the memory of it. And then they pulled her out, the nightgown clinging to her, and she naked underneath it, like a newborn babe, wet and crying and sodden...Only she was not born, but someone remade, and at that very moment, a thought penetrated his pain-addled brain...It was a horrible and selfish thought, a thought that he never repeated and never voiced to anyone, even to himself, though it lived in the back of his mind. What if she was reMade for him? What if the Cauldron made her for him? Made Nesta for Cassian? That’s why her mate bond was such a gruesome shock to him--how could the Cauldron that just made her give her to another? Why did Cassian and Nesta remain bound, ever since they first saw each other and the eddies of the Cauldron began swirling in their favour? But he, as always, had his one desire snatched away from him.
Yet, seeing Elain in his bedroom right now, he couldn’t feel so petulant after all. 
Elain was choosing him. Not her bound mate. Him. Why that was the case, he couldn’t say, but neither did he care. 
“Why aren’t you sleeping?” she asked, her voice very quiet.
“I am not much of a sleeper, “ he admitted.
Her gaze raked over him, his whole form, from head to toe, and then back up. Her eyes slithered over his legs, his powerful thighs, shyly skipped over his middle, then went up, to his thickly-muscled abdomen, the burnished-bronze skin of his chest. Her chocolate-brown eyes skidded over the network of scars and tattoos that flowed from his neck, down to his strong, sinew-corded arms, and then up to his neck, finally meeting his gaze.
He liked it. Liked his woman looking at him. Her gaze was bold, without coquettish pretence, without unnecessary shyness, as she studied his body in silence. He let her. 
Her slow and thorough study of him continued for a few moments, her eyes following the contours of his wings, which he tucked tightly behind his back, then to his hands, which he eventually folded on his chest.
She, at last, looked around and then said, almost to herself,
“I designed this room…”
“You did?”
When the house was built, he was simply told that these were his rooms. Truthfully, he liked them immediately. Found the colour scheme of blues, grays and whites soothing and pleasant. It wasn’t dark, which, perhaps, was the most important element for him--he didn’t like dark. For someone who lived in the shadows, he enjoyed light and sun more than anyone could imagine. The dark was a place where he languished for a decade of his life. It was sorrow and horror and reek. It was his half-brothers tossing piss at him, kicking him in the stomach, spitting at him. 
“I hoped that you might like it,” she said and then looked down, her bare toes scratching against the cobalt and silver rug. “This gave me quite the headache. I wanted the colour to be just right.”
“It is right,” he assured her, and then took a few steps towards her.
“You are so beautiful,” she blurted, staring at him, watching him move. He didn’t even know how to respond, though the compliment certainly pleased him. Unlike Rhys, who’d probably say “Oh, I know” or Cassian, who’d say something along the lines of “and you haven't seen all of me yet, sweetheart,” Azriel was more humble when it came to women swooning over his looks. Though he was very aware that he was, in fact, beautiful. But he remained silent, his only hope that she would never stop looking at him like that--like he was the only thing that she desired. 
He came over to her and they stood so close, she could feel heat radiating between the two of them. Her breasts tightened beneath her nightgown and she knew that he could see her puckering nipples, as blush spread from her face down to her chest. 
He cupped her cheek and asked gently,
“What are you doing here?”
“Sleeping with you,” she announced, her brown doe eyes sparkling with challenge.
“Elain, not that I am not,”
“Just sleeping, Az,” she corrected him.
He blew out a breath of relief and she chuckled.
“Is sleeping with me so terrifying a notion for you?”
He shook his head, “Not terrifying at all. But thank the Cauldron. Because I am not sure that I could deny you anything, yet this is not how and where I imagined...things happening…”
Her finger traced a pattern along the markings on his skin, and he needed to exercise all of his famed Azriel self-control not to pull her into his arms and devour her mouth. 
“How did you imagine them happening?” she asked, with quiet, pretend innocence. Her lashes fluttered, as she drew her gaze from his chest up to his face.
He smirked and finally allowed himself to squeeze her tight hips in his palms. She was an enticing mix of both slender and voluptuous, with beautiful waves of honey-golden hair and caramel-brown eyes. She even smelled like honey...Like pastry. If anyone doubted it, Elain was confirmation that Azriel definitely had a ‘type’--shapely light-haired women with naturally kind and affable dispositions and brown eyes. 
“To begin with, us not being in any kind of close proximity to Rhys...or Feyre,” he snorted and Elain grinned, nodding her agreement. “Then,” he considered, and gently cupped her breasts. They nestled comfortably in his palms, surprisingly soft and supple, a woman’s breasts, not a girl’s. Her breath hitched, and he felt the rapid beating of her heart against his wrist, while he squeezed, gaging her reaction.
“Girls in the village,” she remembered, looking down at his scarred, rough hands that fondled her tenderly and unhurriedly, as if the two of them had all the time in the world, “used to tease me. Said that these were too small...that men liked an ‘overfill’.”
He rolled his eyes and muttered,
“Well, good thing you got out of that village, right? Because those girls knew fuck all about what men like.”
His thumbs brushed against her swelling nipples and she gripped his bicep instinctively, stifling a moan.
“Exactly why I want it to be just you and I,” he whispered against her cheek, his breath warm, his body ever so slightly tense. “So that if you want to moan, you’ll moan. And if you need to scream, then I will delight in your screams and your pleasure.”
“Az…” she looked up at him, “you know that...gods…” she sighed, 
“What, my beauty?” he urged her, pressing slightly on her nipples, coaxing a response and a gasp.
“I want you so much…” she confessed at last. “In every way...With me. I want to do all these things that I fantasize about. Going places, making you laugh, doing silly things…”
“And we’ll do them,” he promised, kissing her cheek, “we’ll do them all.”
“Sometimes, I envy Cassian and Nesta,” she admitted. “They are so playful and happy together. They are like two peas in a pod,”
“Yeah, well,” he mumbled, “you haven't lived with them then,”
She smiled. 
“But you know what I mean? they live for themselves. They have happiness, and it’s tangible. It’s not that they are happy, which they are, but they have this wonderful aura of joy and understanding about them. I want that too. But I want it to be ours. Uniquely yours and mine.”
His wings rustled at her words, the earnestness in them. It was a twinge of happiness that he couldn’t contain, as the claw on top of his wing flexed, as his throat might, when he was happy and excited. As he was right now.
“Baby, together, we can be anything,” he picked her up in one swoop and pressed her to his chest. She yelped and giggled next to his neck and his wings flared at the sensation. “We can do anything!”
He deposited her on the bed, suddenly painfully, achingly aware that it was Elain fucking Archeron laying in his bed. He couldn’t even wrap his mind around this development. 
“We can even kill the King of Hybern together!” she laughed happily, waiting for him to slide next to her. 
“We can and we did,” he nodded, spreading his wings across the expanse of his bed, tucking Elain closer to him, her soft breasts splaying over his chest.
They’d never discussed what had happened that fateful day. The memories were too heavy, too overwhelming, and it took a while for all of those emotions to settle. 
Nesta couldn’t cope. For many a reason, none of which she discussed with Elain. But Elain knew that the death of 1,000 Illyrians, an entire legion, hung heavily over Nesta’s consciousness. Nesta chose to save one. The only one that mattered to her. The only one she ever loved. She saved Cassian, only to decide a few hours later that they would die together, side by side. That the death of the 1,000 Illyrians was for nothing, for their Commander would still die that day. That the black ash that rained over the battlefield was all because of Nesta’s binding to this one male, who mattered to her above everything else. And if she couldn’t save him again, then she would die with him. 
Then after the war, the rumors began to spread like wildfire. The GREAT LOVE. The greatest love story of this age. Nesta and Cassian--the Cauldron-made and the Commander General--for whom she sacrificed a legion of Illyrians. Over whom she draped herself, in the last attempt to protect her mate from certain demise. None of it helped Nesta’s mental state after the war.
“Why did you give me Truth-Teller that day?” Elain asked suddenly.
Azriel wasn’t planning to discuss the battle, not when he snuggled so comfortably next to her, the fire crackling merrily in the white marble fireplace, throwing shadows on the walls. The rain was pelting against the windows, but Azriel never felt better, more at peace.
But he said,
“You know why.”
She waited.
“I knew you’d follow them,” he said simply. “I knew you’d follow your sisters. I had no way to protect you I gave you the dagger,”
“Listen,” he said firmly. “I knew things were going to go to shit. Cassian was alone out there. Rhys forbade me from fighting. The Cauldron took out a legion...You didn't need to be a great war strategist to know that we were losing, badly.”
“I was such a coward,” she muttered with disgust.
He tipped her chin up and shook his head, his voice stern,
“No. At the end, you came through. At the end, when it mattered, all of you came through. Nesta offered herself--I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting that from her. But since then, she’d earned my undying respect. Feyre and Amren were there, by that fucking Cauldron...Anyway, I knew things were going to fall apart quickly and spectacularly.”
“They did,” she agreed. 
He paused, thinking. She looked up at him and brushed her fingers over his face, soothing him, dulling the memories, calming him tenderly, with a kiss or two on his chest, over a pronounced scar on his shoulder.
“I had to save you,” he said at last, voice hoarse. He wasn’t comfortable with the disclosure. That like Nesta, he didn't care about anyone else, other than Elain. Her survival was the only one that mattered. It was clear to him then, that Mor didn’t matter quite as much as he thought she would. Cassian, his brother, his second half, was a soldier and he expected that he could perish--they both did. His gentle little fawn though, his beautiful girl who somehow understood him without speaking, who accepted him instantly, and who was thrust into the madness of war and this world against her will, well, his girl had to survive.
“I had to give you the one thing I trusted,” he continued, his lips pressed to the top of her head, “and hope that it would be enough.”
“But that’s not all you did,” she reminded him, bringing his hand to her lips, kissing it absently like she enjoyed doing. Azriel still marvelled at how natural it came to her, how easily she offered him this simple, loving gesture. 
“You wrapped me in shadows.”
He nodded. 
“I mean, you are shit with a dagger, baby,”
She smacked him harshly on the shoulder and he burst out laughing. Azriel only laughed like this with her and Cassian. She never heard such joy and ease come from him, unless he was teasing her or goofing around with his brother. 
“Not so shit after all,” she snapped her fingers and stuck her tongue out at him. “Stabbed that bastard like it was a walk in a park!”
“That’s my girl,” and he slapped a loud kiss on her forehead. 
She became a bit more serious and said, “I couldn’t have all that be for nothing...Nesta, Cassian, you, with your shredded wings, but still fighting...Rhys on that battlefield. I mean, if Tamlin was there, how could I not be? I had to save Nesta,” she swallowed. “I had to...and Cassian. Because without him,” 
“I know, love, I know,” he nodded simply.
“After all that, for her to lose him, it would’ve been intolerable. And I think that for you, too.”
She sighed and clutched at his arm.
“No one even saw me, from behind the shadows. I knew where the Cauldron was--I could feel it--and I knew that both Nesta and Feyre were there. I had no idea what I would do, to be honest. None. But when I saw it--gods, the bloody horror that was Cassian, just blood everywhere, and my sister sprawled over him, it was…’ she shuddered at the memory. “I just saw the King’s back to me, and I went for it...I don’t really remember it all too well. It was chaotic. I guess I stabbed him in the throat,”
Azriel nodded.
“Yes, in the neck. And Nesta finished him.”
“I honestly don’t remember. But thank you. For the shadows.”
He chuckled.
“Any time, love, any time. Remind me never to get on your bad side.”
“You are horrible and I can’t believe that I like you.”
“I can’t believe it either,” he murmured, with some seriousness in his voice.
She only shrugged and yawned and asked, “Do we sleep?”
“You sleep, baby,” he encouraged, stroking her back soothingly. “I’ll do some work.”
She lifted her head off his chest and looked at him. He grunted his displeasure.
“No, get back in there,” he whined.
She shook her head. “No. You aren’t doing any work. If Rhysand can go to the opera and fuck my sister in a hotel for the night,”
“Elain Archeron, what language!” he mocked teasingly.
“Well,” she ignored him, “then you can take the night off as well, and sleep. You aren’t obligated to work constantly.”
“So I request to court you two hours ago and you are already ruling over my life?” he chuckled.
She shrugged, “I guess I am.” Then, gently, she cupped his face and brushed her thumb over his mouth. “Please Az...I want you to rest. Please.”
He smiled at her and finally nodded. “As my lady commands.”
“What do you need to sleep?” she asked with glaring sincerity which rattled him. He wasn’t used to people caring about him. Cassian cared. Azriel wasn’t sure that anyone else did. 
“I...I am just happy that you are here, with me,” he rubbed his head, “I don’t really need anything.”
She looked at him and asked, “Do you want me to undress?”
He almost choked, but mustered himself about to groan, “Baby...yes. But no. If you are undressed any further, there will be no sleeping. And all our plans will go to seven hells!”
Giggling, Elain settled within the embrace of his heavy, thick, warm arm and wrapped her arm over his torso. Her fingers brushed over one leather cuff around his wrist that contained a cobalt siphon.
“Only one?” she inquired.
“I mean, I am careful, but I don’t sleep with seven siphones,” he chuckled. “Just one.”
She turned on her belly, looking at him curiously. He shifted and then pulled the blanket over them. 
She propped her cheek, leaning onto him, within the hold of his arm, from which she apparently did not wish to move. Good.
“What happens if you don’t have it on?” 
“I don't know,” he admitted, “I haven't been without them for a long time. I imagine nothing good. If we are threatened, I’d probably destroy the entire mansion,”
Her face changed ever so slightly, but not in fear, but in awe.
“So you are very powerful?”
“More so than Rhysand?”
“Different kind of power. My shadows allow me to have predictive power--know certain things in advance...they warn me if there is a threat, or if someone is in danger. I can send them to look for things, to seek things out, to scout. Also, they hide me, as you are well aware. The siphons channel my power, the physical, killing power, but also allow me to heal myself and others--not from diseases, or wounds,”
“I remember,”
“I can also move through space with the shadows or winnow,”
“Cassian can’t,”
He shrugged,
“I am different.”
He stroked her back tenderly and said, “But I don’t do magic tricks, like Rhys,” and at that, she snorted. “And my power isn’t confined to this Court. I can be a shadowsinger anywhere.” He levelled a serious look at her, and added, “and you, my dear, are Cauldron blessed. Your powers,”
“I don't think i have any powers,” she protested.
“Wrong. But like mine, they are predictive in essence.”
Elain hummed, thinking about his words. He was likely correct in his assessment, but she didn’t know what it meant. He didn’t push her further into this conversation, sensing that she wasn’t comfortable with the discussion. So he stroked her head and she settled next to him in silence.
She’s never slept with a male before. Never with a man either. 
She had met Greyson in the field early, early in the morning. Even the servants and the grooms in the stables were still asleep. She snuck out, so not to wake up Nesta and answer questions that she didn’t want to answer. Greyson was always surrounded by his men and his soldiers and privacy was hard to come by. They’d kissed. Never for too long or too much, ever in fear of being discovered and interrupted. Greyson, eager to emulate the heroes of Old, of the First War, was polite, chivalrous and domineering. He had to prove himself to his father, and she made for a good match--pretty, soft, wealthy. So he treated her accordingly. She loved him. Or at least was infatuated with the idea of loving him, of being a proper wife to a warrior. That was until she had met real warriors, that fateful night. Ancient, scarred, wild and magnificent, she’d never forget seeing them for the first time--so indescribably beautiful, the three of them, and so dangerous. Greyson was but a boy compared to them, his life experience meager, his aspirations juvenile. He didn’t know the world beyond their village and the adjacent lands. And something cracked in her chest that night, after she’d gone to bed. Azriel stunned her. But he was utterly unattainable. He was so outside the realm of her wildest dreams that she tucked her fascination with him deep inside of her, never to think of him again. He could never be. It would never be. She resolved to be a good wife to Greyson, the Lady of the Manor, and was convinced that eventually she’d forget about the winged Fae male who spoke beautiful words to her and permitted her a glimpse of a different and beautiful, if savage world. Then, that early morning, in the mists, just as the sun was touching the horizon, Greyson made his move. She was not forced or pressured, and for that she was grateful. She agreed, lost in his scent and his kisses, and then it happened, in a bale of hay. She wore more clothes then than she did now. He hiked up her skirts, and then with some fumbling and grunting slid into her. It was unpleasant, and painful too, but after the first bout, he was ready again, and the second time was better, as he was more loving and even popped her breast out of the bodice and squeezed it like it was a sponge. Some mystery was solved for her that morning, and it made her giddy. So when she returned home, she was smiling.
Now, she was wrapped around Azriel. Their legs tangled together. His breath was steady and the movement of his wide chest even and deep. He actually fell asleep, that massive arm pressed around her. He was so hard and so big, she kept getting a little lost in him and it was the most thrilling sensation of all. 
When she had to, Elain Archeron acted. Tonight, she had to act. This impasse between the two of them, with Rhysand in the middle, was becoming intolerable. Azriel was too loyal to his oath, and though he chafed and fought against Rhys’s order, it was more complicated for him to stand against his High Lord. Elain had no such qualms. She didn’t obtain immortality only to lose Azriel. 
It was so early, it was still dark in the room, the embers gleaming in the fireplace. The rain had stopped sometime in the night. Now the barest lick of light seeped through the blue velvet curtains. Elain knew that she should probably sleep some more, but that would be impossible. She was too happy. Her heart overflowing with joy. 
Azriel was asleep atop of her, his head resting just below her breasts, his torso situated comfortably between her legs. Gods he was heavy! His wings splayed over the bed, draping over the edges, and Elain realized that they added additional weight to his already muscle-clad body. She also marveled at how enormous they were. Of course she’d flown with him and seen them unfurled before, but it was different when he was in motion. Now, it was like an endless dark mantle that spread over the bed, drooping all the way to the floor. 
Azriel’s palm rested on her breast. During the night, she reached for his hand sleepily and placed it there, and he hadn’t let go of it since. It would be nice if he never released it. If she could spend the next century here, in his bed, with him sleeping soundly within her embrace, his hands palming her breasts, she wouldn't think of it as a century wasted. He was sleeping! It filled her with unusual, inexplicable excitement--that with her, he was so relaxed, so at peace that he found rest at last. Even his shadows were at rest. The shadows usually left the two of them alone, disappearing when they were together. Elain had asked about that, and Azriel explained that since the shadows detected no possible threat from her, and because they sensed his feelings towards her, they didn’t feel like they needed to be present. Apparently, they trusted her Azriel with her. The notion made her chuckle, when he told her. 
“Emani,” he murmured sleepily, shifting atop of her at last, his mighty shoulders rippling with waking muscles. 
“Sleep, sleep,” she urged him, stroking his jet-lack hair. “It’s early.”
He moved his head though and looked up at her, chin pressed into her upper stomach. He looked even more handsome right now, if that were even possible--the planes of his face softened, the hair tousled, eyes an unusual emerald green, which she’d never seen before. The shadows awoke with the master, and like a bored puppy, they saw that there was nothing interesting to be done around here, before disappearing. 
“I am squishing you,” he noted, though didn’t make a move to lift himself. She lightly rubbed her foot against his lower back and smiled at him.
Looking at her, he gushed softly, “You are beautiful, Elain,” and she blushed at the ravenous hunger in his eyes, the expression of awe.
“You can squish me every night,” she told him, drawing her fingers over his cheekbones, studying his face. 
The sombre fact that that would not be the case, and that this was a stolen night for both of them, hit them like a pile of bricks.
She would not lounge in his sprawling bed ever again--or at least any time soon--and either would they enjoy the intimacy of last night. There would be no loving embraces, or soft conversation, not the tangle of their limbs, or the caress of their hands on each other’s bodies. He would not be cupping her breasts in his scarred palms protectively and she would not be waking up wrapped in his love.
“We should...” she began.
“I know.”
He placed a kiss between her breasts and then lifted himself off her. Her warm, damp center immediately missed the sensation of his body pressing into it, and she groaned, not caring that he knew. 
“Lainey,” he kissed her hands, “I am sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for…” she sighed.
“No, emani, I do,” he sat up, running his warm hand over her hip, where her nightgown hiked up almost to her stomach. “I should’ve come up with a plan of some sort by now.”
She propped herself on her elbows, golden brown hair sliding over the pillows. Those trusting chocolate eyes looked at him with expectation. He rubbed his head, mussing his hair even further, and then said,
“I slept like I was dead…”
She smiled. “That was the idea, shadowsinger.”
“Some Cauldron-born power you exercised on me?” he teased. And then, leapt to his feet at once. It startled her, this abruptness, which was so unlike him.
“I am such an idiot!” he exclaimed, slapping his forehead.
Brows furrowed, as she awaited an explanation.
He snapped his fingers, thinking, figuring something out.
“We’ll need your sister!” he said at last.
“Which one?”
“Which one do you think?”
“Nesta. What can she do?” she frowned. Then ordered, “come and touch me, while you tell me.”
He was back in the bed in a second, as he began trailing kisses over her arms, her shoulders, bypassing the too-tempting throat, his calloused hand landing on her naked thigh, caressing languidly.
“Remember the ball in Hewn City?” he asked, punctuating every word with a kiss. She nodded, attempting to stifle a moan of pleasure, which proved unsuccessful. He only continued his delicious, measured assault on her flesh with his lips, and Mother above--if this is what she was feeling now, when he was just casually kissing the least sexual parts of her, then what would happen when he was keen on actually making love to her? She already knew that she’d never felt like this before. And they’ve done nothing. Nothing at all, with Azriel being a gentlemale as always. Well, at least one of them was smart and collected. Elain was about to fling her nightgown off and then...come what may. 
He pulled back a bit, sensing the turmoil inside of her.
“Yes, I remember,” she groaned, having difficulty keeping her eyes open, her back arching towards him.
“Baby,” his voice was gentle. “Look at me, love.”
She managed to, somehow.
His expression was kind, understanding.
“I want to kiss you a little more, emani,” he said, tucking her hair behind her ears. “But, you can’t,”
Don’t get aroused. Don’t mark his bedroom with her scent. She knew what he was not saying. It was an impossible request, but he was right. So she nodded. 
“Good girl,” he approved, and the praise did nothing to ease the wild craving that engulfed her.
“Just call me Elain,” she begged, hating it. She wanted to hear ‘love’ and ‘baby’ from his lips. She needed to hear him say ‘emani’ to her--’darling’ in Illyrian--something Cassian frequently called Nesta as well. The greatest, most intimate term of endearment in Illyrian. 
“Tell me why we need Nesta?” she asked at last.
He nodded, playing with her hair lightly. “Her scent--rather Cassian’s scent--was glamoured for Nesta for her dance with Eris,”
“Yes, I remember. Morrigan did it for her,”
“Yes, but Morrigan showed her how to do it as well,” he explained at last. “Which has been a fucking blessing!” he added with a groan and Elain burst out laughing. “Stewing in their fucking scents was a nightmare that I do not wish on my worst enemy!”
“Poor Azzie,” she stroked his face, laughing.
“Yes! Yes, indeed. Poor Azzie indeed,” he was nodding vigorously.
She wondered, “Does she have to glamour both of us?”
“No, either one would be sufficient. I don’t really want to be coming to Nesta every time we want to kiss,” he muttered.
“Which,” she noted dryly, “we haven't done yet.”
He smiled.
“We will,” he winked at her.
“I want to dangle something in front of you to keep you guessing.”
“Again, why do I like you? I don't know. I must be crazy.”
“Must be.”
Both of them heard Nyx cry in his nursery. 
“Well, I guess that’s all the time we got,” he sighed.
She took his hand and asked, “Are you busy today?”
“I have some meetings, but nothing that I can’t move or postpone. Why?”
“I think you need to spend the day with me,” she suggested, kissing his knuckles.
He agreed, “I think that I do, too. Do you have something in mind?”
“Oh yes, absolutely. Can you meet me at 9 bells, at the Brea Bakery?”
If he was surprised, he didn’t say anything.
When Elain opened the door and stepped out into the hallway, in nothing but her crumpled nightgown, she was met with Nuala’s shadowy presence.
“Good morning,” said Nuala cheerfully, though she understood everything at first glance.
Azriel was behind Elain, his gaze heavy, and edged with warning. The twins technically worked for Rhysand. He paid their salaries and they served in his household. They were found, hired, trained and worked for Azriel just as well. So…
“Cerridwen went to get the baby,” said Nuala evenly. Then her eyes darted to Elain’s bedroom doors. “You should probably get in your bath now. The High Lord will be coming back soon.”
Shadows swirled around Azriel at once.
“You have time,” added Nuala, glancing at her sometime-lover. “But do not tarry. You should be gone soon.”
“Thank you Nuala,” he said simply, but there was gratitude in his expression.
“We’ll take care of everything,” she promised.
By the time Elain arrived at the Brea Bakery, Azriel was already waiting for her. The clock tower struck 9 bells just as she approached him.
“Hello beautiful,” he winked at her, head cocked to the left.
It was a sunny, crisp autumn day. The sky was a crystalline blue and the sun was bright, if cold, though it didn’t stop Azriel from stretching his wings ever so slightly to catch the rays. Elain figured that since they were uncovered, the wings were probably colder than the rest of him. He wasn’t in his leathers--just a jacket, trousers and knee high boots, the siphons on his wrists hidden under the jacket. He looked almost normal, if not for his otherworldly handsomeness and the swirling shadows, though they didn’t engulf him, and only floated about lazily.
“Everything alright back home?” he asked, as she threaded her arm through his.
She nodded. “I haven’t even seen him. Only Feyre, and she was busy with Nyx. And yes, you are correct about the stench.” She wrinkled her nose. She’d heard her sister fuck her High Lord more times than she cared to recall, usually when they forgot to throw a shield over their bedroom. It was better now, since her rooms were far away from theirs--definitely her idea--considering the close proximity that they had to each other back at the townhouse. Still, today, they hurried to see their baby son, so the remnants of their nightly activities were glaring.
He chuckled.
“Told you.”
“We don’t need to disgust people like that,” she decided. “For their sake.”
He was grinning and nodding.
“I think we might have dodged them this time around.” They entered the bakery. “He is not screaming into my head, questioning me. So…”
“Lady Elain!” a green-skinned male Fae smiled at Elain from behind the counter. Then he glanced at Azriel and added, “Lord Azriel. Good morning.”
Elain reminded herself that just like Cassian, who couldn’t walk the streets without being ogled, stared at, admired, whispered about and generally adored by the public, Azriel was also instantly recognizable. Though admiration for him was tinged with a bit of unease and fear, for everyone knew who he was, what he did, and what that famous dagger on his thigh was known for, Azriel was still loved and exalted. 
“The usual, Lady?” asked the baker.
“Since I have help today,” she said, “load us up, Bron.”
The baker winked and nodded, disappearing behind the counter.
Within minutes, he began carrying out large, flat boxes. Curious shadows informed Azriel that the boxes contained doughnuts. 
“Lord Azriel can probably carry,” Bron the baker sized Azriel up, “seven? Eight?”
Once mountains of boxes were placed on the marble counter, Bron reported, “Jelly. Chocolate. These are chocolate glazed. Caramel. Raspberry. Strawberry.”
“All with sprinkles?” she confirmed.
“Of course. So many sprinkles, I had to place an additional order. Almost ran out.”
Once Elain paid, Bron began loading up Azriel’s outstretched arms with the boxes. They weren’t heavy, but cumbersome. Then he did the same with Elain and bid them a good day. 
“Lainey, baby, you hungry?” inquired Azriel with a chuckle, once they were back on the street. She laughed.
“Don’t know how you keep your girlish figure after what...200 doughnuts?”
“A secret of mine. Follow me, Lord Azriel.”
He rolled his eyes, “they never learn.”
“I am always Lady Elain,” she shrugged. “I got tired of correcting people.”
Elain led him down a few winding streets, towards the newly built district, which was  still under construction, emerging from the ruins of the Rainbow. 
They approached a wildly coloured building--purples and pinks, greens and yellows, blues and reds were splashed over the walls, like the Rainbow itself threw up all over it. 
An orphanage, informed the shadows. 
Elain opened the door with her boot, hefting the boxes, and Azriel shouldered the door, letting her pass.
“Elain, hello!” “Elain, you came!” “Elain, what’s that? Doughnuts?” “Elain, are we going to play today?” “Elain…”
There were dozens of children, some Illyrian, some Fae, some High Fae, all of various ages.
At the sight of Azriel, some of them paused and stopped to consider him.
One brave boy, of about 10, came forward and asked boldly, “are you the shadowsinger?”
Azriel nodded, “I am.”
“Why are you here?” demanded a girl with bright eyes and blonde ringlets.
“I came to help Elain,” he explained, as they moved through the throngs of children, finally ending up in the dining room. 
“Who is going to help us?” asked Elain and hands rose in the air eagerly.
Quickly, she rattled out orders--plates, cups, napkins...the older kids were asked to fill jugs with water, set out fruit bowls, while the younger ones set the tables. 
“Lain! you came!” a small Illyrian boy with a pale face and large hazel eyes rushed to her and wrapped himself around her legs. She gently rubbed his head and said, “Temal, how are you doing?”
“Good!” he reported, nodding as well in confirmation.
“That’s excellent. How are you with your lessons?”
Temal frowned a bit and Azriel smiled, observing the dynamic between the two, while he helped unpack the doughnuts. 
“I don’t like learning letters,” exclaimed Temal dramatically. “It’s too hard!”
“But you are a smart boy--it can’t be that hard for you,” argued Elain.
“Why do I have to?! You can read to me, Lain!”
He was small for his age, but he was missing two teeth, so Azriel figured that he was about six, and his wing size pointed to the same age. 
“Who is this?” he then demanded, plopping down on the bench. His legs dangled in the air, as he studied Azriel. “Are you a prince?” he then inquired.
“A prince?” Azriel shook his head, “no.”
“Are you Azriel?”
“I am Azriel.”
“I know you!” said Temal confidently. “You are a big warrior! And you have shadows,”
“That I do,” confirmed Azriel, while Elain smiled. “What about you?”
“I am Temal. From the Iron Eagle camp.”
“Oh, I’ve been to Iron Eagle,”
“Yes, it was nice,” agreed Temal and then switched to Illyrian, recognizing one of his own in Azriel. “Me and my mali--father--we lived there together. He was a big warrior too,”
“Temal,” interrupted Elain, “Common Tongue.”
The boy frowned, but switched back to the Common Tongue, muttering, “Lain is mean sometimes…”
Azriel chuckled and sat down on the bench beside Temal. “I don’t think that she is mean, but she is correct--you need to speak both languages.”
“But she makes me read too!”
“Which you should know how to do,” noted Azriel. 
“Why?” Temal threw his hands up. “I want to be a big warrior! they don’t read…”
Elain implored Azriel with her gaze, and he nodded to her.
A little girl stepped tentatively towards them, her fingers in his mouth, enormous gray eyes watching Azriel, or rather his shadows, with fascination. He sent one over, and it darted towards her, while she tried to grab it, only to watch it seep through her fingers. She grunted her displeasure, trying to grab another, but to no avail. Frustrated, she climbed onto the bench beside Azriel and then her eyes snagged on his siphon and they widened with amazement.
“Do you like that?” he asked softly. She looked at him, then at the siphon, then back at him, eyes blinking. He extended his hand to her. She disregarded his scars entirely, and lightly touched the siphon with a small, chubby hand. He sent a twinge of power and the stone glared brightly, eliciting an excited gasp from the girl and from Temal.
“Sanaai,” said Elain, “do you like the siphon?”
The girl nodded eagerly, caressing the stone. 
“Ask Azriel nicely, and he could change the colours for you,” suggested Elain. Sanaai threw a pleading glance at Azriel, but did not say anything. She must have been around three, perhaps four, so old enough to speak, but she was silent, caressing his hand and the leather band around his wrist. Azriel did not pressure her to speak, and changed the flow of his power, entertaining her with the glimmering stones.
“Is that a siphon?” inquired Temal in awe.
Azriel nodded, and Temal immediately touched it, utterly floored by the proximity to the legendary stones, muttering, “how many you have, Azriel?”
“No!!! Seven?” cried Temal. “Nobody have seven! It’s too much…”
“I have seven, and my brother,”
“Only General Cassian have many,” interrupted Temal.
“General Cassian is my brother,” said Azriel, amused at how reverently the boy spoke of Cassian. “And we both have seven.”
“My mali had one,” recalled Temal, leaning over Azriel’s shoulder, sighing. “It was green.”
Azriel was quite aware that Temal’s mali was gone, but he said nothing, other than, “well, then your mali was truly a great warrior if he had one green siphon.”
The fact that it was green told Azriel that the male was part of an areal legion. Possession of one siphon indicated that he was probably of a higher rank--a commander. 
“My mali,” continued Temal, “was in the war. He is now with Enalius and other warriors. In Vallahalla.”
Azriel only nodded. 
Elain’s face was full of such sorrow at Temal’s detached explanation that it broke Azriel’s heart. Sanaai, who was fussing with his shadows and siphons silently settled on his lap, tucking her head into his chest. She was a lovely little girl, with luminous brown skin, darker than his, those striking glacial eyes and gorgeous curls of honey-brown. She still attempted to catch a shadow in her fingers, though rather than being frustrated, she was giggling at it. Azriel held her to him, her body soft and light against his arms.
“You know what, Temal,” he said at last, “I think that it’s quite possible for you to get a siphon as well,”
“What?” Temal perked up, but then shook his head, “it’s too hard! Mali can do it. You can do it. I can’t. I don’t even know how to fly. My mali was teaching me, but then he go to war. And then to Vallahalla. So I don’t know…”
Azriel chewed on his lip and said, “I can teach you to fly.”
Elain’s eyes flew to him, when she overheard his words. She was helping the younger children settle on the benches for their breakfast, while the older kids were distributing doughnuts and juice. He looked at her and then at Temal,
“Would you like that?”
Temal’s eyes were so enormous and his face a mask of amazement. “You gonna help me Azriel?” he murmured. 
“Of course,” said Azriel. “You. Other younglings who don’t fly yet. We’ll do it together.”
“Lain, it’s so true?!?” cried Temal. “Azriel gonna teach me?!”
“If Azriel said he will, then he will,” simply said Elain.
The window was rapidly closing on Temal’s ability to fly. It’s been two years since the war. Temal’s father probably began teaching him when the boy was about 3 or so, which was the right time to start the lessons. However, now, in the melee of the post-war confusion, so many orphaned Illyrians had their lessons fall by the wayside. 
“But you have to promise me one thing,” added Azriel, turning on his bench to face the table. Most of the younglings were already seated, eyeing the doughnuts with delight. Sanaai stayed on his lap, unwilling to move, which was just fine with him. He poured her and Temal their juice and then there was haggling over what type of doughnut they wanted. Sanaai didn’t say anything, but frowned and shook her head when Azriel offered her a variety of options, until settling on the strawberry one. Temal couldn’t make up his mind, until Elain proposed that they all share, and fluffy, puffy doughnuts were ruthlessly sliced in half, so the four of them could sample different ones. His face covered in powdered sugar, Temal asked, “What you want me to do, Azriel? So you teach me to fly?”
“I want you to work on your reading,” said Azriel, sipping his coffee, which Elain brough for him kindly, since he was occupied with the children.
Temal frowned, sighed, but nodded.
“We’ll have lessons three or four times a week,” Azriel promised, as he fed Sanaai her doughnut portions, which she stuffed into her mouth until she almost gagged. “Alright,” he muttered to her, “you need to calm down. No one is taking this away from you. I don’t want you choking, you know…”
“That’s a lot!” Temal was excited.
“But,” Azriel added, “before we fly, you will show me what you’d learned and read for me. Agreed?”
“Yes,” the boy nodded, not too enthused, but resigned. 
“Good. You’ll get your siphon before you know it!”
They spent the better part of the day at the orphanage. 
As heartbreaking as the stories of some of these children were, they seemed to be thriving here. Elain, to his surprise, though he wasn’t sure why he was surprised by her efficiency, ran the operation with kindness and understanding, somehow cued to each child’s special needs and backgrounds. There were other teachers and minders of course, but she was the center of all the activity. Azriel now understood where she had disappeared to most of the time, and what she did with her days. He was aware that she spent a good deal of time and effort working with city planners, designing gardens and parks, and helped out elderly and unfirm Fae with their planting and gardening, but seeing her here, it became clear to him that this place was her favourite, the closest, and dearest to her heart. And it filled him with pride, actual joy that his girl was someone so special, so kind and loving. And it made him wonder if he did, in fact, deserve her.
“Az,” she called him, once the older children were busy with their lesson, writing something scrupulously in their journals. 
Temal and Sanaai would not leave his side, along with a few other children, who trailed him and asked him a million questions a minute.
“Do you build?” she asked.
“Build what?” he wondered with a smirk. “I helped build Cassian’s bungalow.”
“I don’t need you to build a bungalow,” she giggled. “Just some shelves. We have the wood, but if you can,”
“Sure,” he nodded. “Though I think I will need some helpers!” and he looked at the younglings around him.
“I’ll help you, Az,” offered Temal immediately. They’d moved from Azriel to Az very quickly.
“And you, pretty girl?” Azriel asked gently, stroking Sanaai’s curls. 
She nodded eagerly. The rest of the children all volunteered to become carpenters for the day, and followed him to the yard, where planks of wood were stacked against the wall. 
Elain watched him from the window, smiling.
She never doubted him, yet there was a twinge of apprehension. Azriel wasn’t known for his display of emotions, so she didn’t know how he’d react. Yet she needed to show him this place. Wanted him to know this part of her, how important it was for her, what these children meant to her. And now, she felt stupid tears prickle her eyes, when she watched her little boy, her Temal, bond so quickly with her big boy, her Az. Temal and she shared an immediate, unbreakable bond, from the moment she saw the frightened confused little boy and the moment she took him in her arms. He wouldn’t let go. He spent days and days, perched on her hip, silent and shell-shocked. It took a long time for him to finally stop shaking, crying, asking for his ‘mali’. His mother died at childbirth, so his father was the only parent and Temal didn’t know anyone else. The father, as she found out later, was incinerated by the Cauldron, one of the thousand Illyrians who perished and turned into black ash. 
Azriel ran his carpentry shop like he commanded his legions. Elain smiled through her tears. In minutes, he assigned everyone a task, distributed materials and tools, engaged everyone from the tiny Sanaai, to the older children, who were stripping and polishing the planks. The older boys were showing off in front of him, displaying their strength, which was amusing. Some even tried to carry a plank of wood on their own, watching how he managed two, on each shoulder. Turned out that they were a bit too ambitious, and had to call upon others for help, but his strength and ability only spurned them into action. Before the end of the day, the shelves were mounted on the walls and the children took to the task of filling them with books and toys.
“Good night, Lain!” Temal gave her the biggest hug, rocking against her for a long time. 
“Good night, love,” she kissed his head. “Play, eat dinner and then sleep well and I’ll see you soon.”
“I like Az,” he then whispered in her ear.
She smiled and whispered into his, “I like him too.”
“Az, you gonna marry Lain?” he asked loudly, when Azriel returned from putting Sanaai for her nap.
“Yes,” said Azriel without hesitation. “If she’d like to marry me, I’d marry her.”
“I think she does,” affirmed Temal confidently.
“Well, then it’s settled.”
Temal extended his hand to Azriel, and they shook.
“It was good to meet you, Temal. I’ll see you for your flying lessons.”
“Are you strict?”
“A little bit.”
Azriel helped Elain with her jacket and then wrapped her scarf around her neck. 
“I can do it!” said Temal with wild confidence. 
Azriel buttoned his own jacket and said, “Of that, my boy, I have no doubt.”
Outside, Elain took his arm and they walked together in companionable silence, each thinking of something. Azriel was chewing his lip, a sign of contemplation.
He halted suddenly and turned to face her.
“What?” she asked.
He cupped her face in his hands, and looked at her for a long time, with that inscrutable, piercing Azriel gaze which made people squirm and tremble. She just waited for him to speak.
“They’ll have to be ours, you know,” he said at last. “Temal, and Sanaai.”
Tears spilled on her pink, cold cheeks and he wiped them with his thumbs.
“Yes,” she nodded.
“Yes?” he smiled, his heart full. He’d never been so sure of anything--well, except for Elain. But when they were sitting at the table, sharing their doughnuts, he felt that this was his family. Instantly. His little sweet girl, and his brave Illyrian boy and his beautiful Elain, whose heart encompassed the world.
“Emani, tell me that you know this as well?” he urged her. That these children belong with them, that they were their family. Whatever children the two of them might or might not have, these two were absolutely, incontrovertible theirs.
“Of course,” she sobbed, “of course. They are ours. Az...” she looked at him through her tears, smiling widely, “Azriel…”
“I know, my love,” he murmured. “I will do everything, and I mean everything, to make this happen,” he vowed, kissing her tears away, stroking her face. “Soon, love. Soon.”
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nikethestatue · a month ago
Invisible String (a Tiny Story)
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Elriel Month - Day 8
Invisible String
Inspired by Feyre and Nesta choosing Azriel to spite and challenge their mates
“I will fly with Azriel”, Feyre said. 
“Of course,” Azriel said.
“I want to train with him instead,” Nesta said.
Azriel coughed into his tea.
Present Day:
“I simply want Azriel,” Elain said.
“I figured you did,” Lucien said.
A look of relief on his elegant face.
“So…” she looked uncertain for a moment. Not about her decision though. About the process. Then, “Will it hurt?”
Lucien smiled, “I am a big boy, I can handle it.”
“It’s hard…” she swallowed, clenching her fists. “Difficult, you know...for me to hurt you.”
“You won’t hurt me,” he assured her. “You’ll free me.”
His pale, strong hand reached for hers and he took her fingers in his, squeezing gently. “Do it for both of us.”
Still she hesitated.
“Do it for him,” he encouraged, his voice firm, but soft. “You love him. Do it for Vassa. They both deserve it just as much as we do.”
Elain came out of the house and squinted at the sunlight. The world was bright and shimmering and smelled of jasmine.
Azriel idled by a lamppost, arms folded on his chest. Waiting.
She crossed the street and he wordlessly extended his harge, brown hand to her. The sureness of his strength transferred to her, the invisible string of their love.
“How did you choose?” he asked at last.
He knew the answer. Another invisible bond was no longer there.
“I chose wisely.”
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