Six Sentence Sunday - Good at Starting Fires
Once upon a time an anon asked for an angsty Nessian piece where Cassian sees Nesta in her underwear for the first time in the Illyrian camps.
I write fanfiction slooooowly (can you tell?) but it’s finally done and will be posted next week. Here’s a snippet before then!
“Upstairs and to the left,” he said and Nesta turned to him. “That’s where your room will be. Mine’s next to it, same side. Both will warm up quick when the fire’s lit as the floorboards heat too.” Cassian jerked his head to the stairs, “Go and get changed, I’ll grab wood for the fire.”
Her face, one of permanent indifference and as smooth as porcelain, changed. The expression lasted only seconds before Nesta schooled it into something passing for neutral.
“Fine, I shouldn’t have expected you to be prepared.”
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Rhys and Nesta comparison
Rhys and Nesta are the exact same person and that’s why it took them so long to warm up to each other.
Rhys saw the passion with which Nesta protected Elain and not Feyre and hated her because he could NEVER imagine blatantly favouring one of his brothers over the other like that.
Nesta hated Rhys because he’s a constant reminder of how she failed to protect Feyre.
Nesta sees the power that Rhys has always had and how he was able to use that to protect his family. Nesta resents that. We’ve seen how destructive and resentful she became BECAUSE her dad lost all their money. Nesta sees what she could have been like and how she could have protected her sisters in Rhys, if she’d still had power/wealth. Rhys is the sibling Nesta could have been. And she resents him for that.
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Ok, so I got depressed and am about to make it everyone else's problem
"I'll be waiting"
This is not a Rewriting ACOSF. This is me being sad
He had been too late.
Not even Briallyn was fast enough with her Crown to stop Bellium from striking.
His knife had hit home. Cassian's home. Nesta.
A fatal wound, and with her abilities weakened, there's no way for her to recover.
There's no mighty power that could stop him now. His mate was there, his mate was hurting. Cassian roared to the sky and freed himself from the Crown's control. Before Briallyn could even blink in surprise, her head was already ten feet away from her body. Same with Bellium.
Cassian rushed to Nesta, she was laying on the floor, her hands on her wound in a fool's hope to stop the bleeding.
He kneeled before her and tried to carry her. He had to get her to a healer.
There might still be time.
She screamed in pain at his attempt
"Stop, stop, please. It hurts" She begged him. His heart cracked even more.
"Don't ask me to stop Nes, I have to take you to a healer"
"It's pointless" She breathed. Her eyes were getting heavy. She was running out of time.
"Just hold me, Cassian. Please" The way she said his name, it took every strength in him to not break right there. He did as she asked, holding her head close to his chest, so she could listen to his heart.
"Are you okay?" She asked. She was dying and she wanted to know about his well being. He couldn't hold it anymore.
Cassian started crying
"I'm sorry" he said, his voice trembling "I'm so so sorry for everything. I'm sorry for the way I treated you the first time I met you. I'm sorry for leaving you alone after the war. I'm sorry for not defending you. I'm sorry for ever making you believe I hated you. I'm sorry for saying I didn't have a choice being shackled to you...I'm so sorry for being too late." His voice was getting thinner with every word. He forced himself to breathe.
"I love you" He finally said it. The truth that lived in his heart. Spoken at last. "I've loved you for such a long time but I was so damn stupid. I promised you time in the war and avoided you afterwards. I'm so sorry. I need you to know, Nesta please. I need you to know that from the day I met you, you've always lived in me. Even when I was angry at you I couldn't stop thinking about you. I wanted to do a bunch of things with you. I wanted to make you laugh, I wanted to learn everything about you. To know which things made you happy. What made you mad. Did you know that I named at least 20 of your poses?" He laughed a little at that, tears going down his face.
"They went from I Will Eat Your Eyes for Breakfast to I Don’t Want Cassian to Know I’m Reading Smut. The latter was my particular favorite." he laughed again, thinking back to all those little moments they shared.
Nesta was quiet while he spoke, it was small but she was smiling warmly at his confession. And then slowly, carefully, she lifted her hand to hold Cassian's cheek. Her fingers were so cold.
She finally spoke "Mate" her voice was rough "You are my mate" she managed to say, her voice grew softer with every word "I'm sorry too, for pushing you away so fiercely. I was scared, scared that if I let you in, you would see the real me and hate it"
"I've always seen you, sweetheart. And I could never hate you" he grabbed her hand and kissed her bloodied knuckles.
She laughed a little at the nickname, it has been a long time since she last heard it. Then she grunted in pain. Erasing the little smile that had formed in her face.
"You didn't owe me anything after the war, Cassian" she breathed, he looked at her in confusion "you did promised me time. But not on this life." I'll find you on the next life and we will have that time Nesta, I promise "You didn't break your promise."
She took her other hand and pressed it to his heart. "I love you" her eyes were closing now "And I don't care how many centuries it takes, I'll wait for you in the next life. Even if I don't know it, I will always be waiting for you" She left one long breath go. Her chest fell and didn't raise again. Nesta's hand fell off his chest and he hold the other even harder.
Cassian cried again, harder than before. He couldn't tell where the screams began and the sobs ended. He looked up to the sky, screaming and crying, he could have sworn the world went silent. He pressed her harder against his chest as if he could bring her back by not letting go.
But it was too late.
Nesta was gone.
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Before the Dust Settles
Word Count: 4856
TW: miscarriage, death, depression, self-blame, eating disorder, victim blaming, disassociation, mentioned sexual assault
A/N: Huge shoutout and thank you to @thewayshedreamed for beta-reading this fic and for being so supportive! I couldn’t have done without you Dani ♥️ Also, tysm @perseusannabeth for listening to my early rambles abt this fic, and @bookstantrash for helping my indecisive self finish up editing this. Love you guys :)
Green. The color of grass and Springtime, when seeds sprout and eggs hatch.
Blue. The color of the sky. The color of her mother’s eyes. Would she have seen those eyes beneath their sleepy, blinking lids?
Red. Her legs were coated in an ominous crimson as she raced to the hospital. As her baby, who had never had the chance to become a baby, never had the chance to take a breath of air, never had the chance to see or hear or smell or taste or touch, to have eyes and legs and fingers, disintegrated.
Maybe she should have screamed. Nesta had always been one to go down fighting, kicking and screaming and biting, even if it seemed hopeless. Maybe she should have yelled at the healers to do something, to save her baby’s life, instead of just telling her that her child was gone.
The world looked grey now. It was a blurry and muffled, as if she were underwater. Perhaps this was all just a Cauldron-induced nightmare. Was she still drowning in its depths? Had everything that had happened after that point merely been a taunting vision?
But the cramps she felt were too real. Besides, she couldn’t bring herself to care about what reality was anyway. Even if everything was just a vision, her child was dead. Cassian’s child was dead. That was her reality.
So she sat on her bed in her two-day-old pajamas, staring at the grey wall, wishing she hadn’t taken for granted all the times when it had looked green.
A knock sounded on the door of her bedroom.
“Nesta, come on, we’re going to be late!” Cassian’s voice called through her door.
Was she supposed to go somewhere, wondered a small voice at the back of her mind. But mostly she was too tired to think, let alone to talk, or — gods forbid!— move. No way was she going anywhere, not even the kitchen.
“Nesta!” At her lack of response, Cassian opened the door and entered. He looked startled as he took in her attire. “We’re supposed to be at Rhys’ place in ten minutes! Come on, get dressed!”
Oh, yes, Rhysand. High Lord of the Night Court, host of dinner parties, husband of Feyre, and father of Nyx. Nyx would have been her baby’s cousin. Would they have had the same jet-black, silky hair? The same sunkissed, almond skin tone? Would they have played together?
Perhaps they would have sat next to each other on the swings, and Feyre and Nesta would have stood behind them, pushing them gently and chatting softly.
You have to answer, Nesta told herself. She couldn’t let Cassian suspect that something was wrong with her. If he did, he’d offer her kindness that would make her break down and confess everything. She couldn’t let herself hurt him that way. After all, she hadn’t even gotten the chance to tell him she was pregnant.
Taking a silent deep breath through her nose, Nesta steeled herself and forced herself to say, “I’m not going.” Cassian would never know that those were the first words she’d said since the healers had told her the news.
“What? Please, last week you promised you were coming!” Cassian huffed, frustrated. “Are you trying to punish me for staying out late last night having drinks with Rhys?”
She couldn’t make herself answer. It took all her energy to sit upright and blink every once in a while, when all she wanted was to melt into a puddle or to fall asleep and never have to wake up again.
“Seriously, Nesta? Look, I’m sorry, alright? Would you please just get dressed?”
I’m sorry, Cassian. I’m sorry that I’m being difficult. I’m sorry that you always have to put up with me. I’m sorry that no matter how hard I try, I can’t be a perfect wife the way Feyre is to Rhysand. I’m sorry that I’m irritable and difficult. I’m sorry that our baby is dead.
The words didn’t seem to escape her lips, since Cassian’s didn’t respond; he just continued to stare at her expectantly, with slight frustration in his gaze.
She shook her head in response to his question. The action made her nauseous, probably because she hadn’t eaten in over 24 hours.
Cassian opened his mouth to attempt to convince her to go, but shut it without uttering a word. He had probably realized that nothing he said would convince her.
“Is everything okay? Do you need me to stay home with you?”
No. Nothing was okay and never would be, because nothing, not even the gods-damn Cauldron, could bring their baby back. Nesta could never ever fix it. She wanted to wrap herself in his arms and yell at the world but none of that would bring them back. No, the only thing Nesta could do was to spare Cassian the pain. She needed to rein in her selfish desire for comfort and instead make sure Cassian never, ever found out. Cassian, who had never had a father and had lost his mother too early in life, who had been dealt a hand with far too much loss and violence, didn’t deserve to be hurt this way. This was Nesta’s burden to be shouldered.
So Nesta merely shook her head again. As she watched Cassian’s figure retreat out of the room and leap into the sky, she realized that suffering alone would make her feel a little less useless. If she could cry for both of them and hurt for both of them, then her pain would serve to keep the smile on Cassian’s face and the light in Cassian’s eyes.
And for that, for him, she’d willingly endure any torture. She’d willingly condemn herself to eternal silent suffering, if only to spare the male she loved — the male who was, and had always been, far too good for her. For Cassian, she would survive this.
Nesta sat there alone as the light outside faded and the room grew darker. She had no idea how much time passed. She just sat there, trying to push all her thoughts out of her head.
Pitiful, that’s what it was. She was supposed to be a Valkyrie — strong both physically and mentally. Why was it that now, she failed to do even what she’d learned in the first days of mind-stilling exercises with Gwyn?
She needed to get her emotions under control. So far, she’d managed to keep Cassian unaware. The day of her miscarriage, Cassian had been dealing with trouble in Illyria and had come home late. He had kept his emotional shields up as he usually did when with his troops, so he hadn’t felt her pain through the bond — pain she hadn’t managed to contain despite her best attempts as she felt her joy bleed out of her. If Cassian had smelt any of the blood that had refused to leave her clothes, then he likely assumed it was just wounds from training and hadn’t said a thing. He had spent the next day discussing strategy with Azriel and Rhysand and had gone drinking with them afterwards. Honestly, it was a miracle that she had been able to keep up this facade for so long, with her obvious despair permeating the room.
She had to pull herself together.
Just… maybe not just yet. Right now, it was a struggle just to take another breath. Her stomach grumbled, urging her to feed herself. However, her legs, which were number than her heart and steadier than her mental shields, refused to budge. She closed her eyes for a moment and wondered why she was surprised that her body was failing her yet again. As much as she had grown to love her body while training to become a Valkyrie and fighting in the Blood Rite, she should not have forgotten that it wasn’t really hers. No, this High Fae body was given to her by the Cauldron. Although, it was debatable whether she had ever really owned her body. Had her human body not been a tool cultivated by her mother to manipulate powerful men? But still, despite being malnourished, it had been hers — enough for her to fight tooth and nail to preserve its purity against aggressive ex-fiancés.
This body… Nesta wanted to think that she owned it. It had grown and changed with her, becoming stronger and fuller and more flexible. Perhaps this was just a reminder that nothing really belonged to anyone. Her body, her soul — it was all part of the universe and in truth, she was powerless to control its fate. Her baby, too. They had never really been hers.
Nesta had been so excited to share the news with Cassian when she had found out a month ago. Anxious too of course, but mainly excited. She had read up about every detail, since she was not as informed as she wanted to be about the differences between human and Fae pregnancy. She researched everything from the best foods to eat during pregnancy to how long to breastfeed to whether flying was safe during the later months. She had even found information on how to make a safe, enclosed space with a soft floor where an infant illyrian could start to fly.
At first, she wanted to tell Cassian, but she had read about it and decided to surprise him with it as a Solstice present. She had imported a special candle from the Day Court which masked the scent of her pregnancy and had made sure to hide her nausea from Cassian to avoid his suspicion and worry.
Now, she was glad she’d decided not to tell him.
She opened her eyes, sighing softly, and found a tray of food lying next to her. As she picked up the spoon and took a bite, she realized it was all her comfort food: a plate with fried potatoes topped with fried egg, along with seafood paella and a bowl of chicken noodle soup.
“Thank you,” she whispered to the House — her first real friend. Eating made her feel slightly better, even if it was just because doing something occupied her mind. Still not all her thoughts were silenced: as she took a bite of the eggs, she couldn’t help but remember reading about how eggs had high nutritional value and were a food source of nutrients for pregnant females.
When she finished eating — which, to her surprise, was when almost everything on the tray was gone — a few books appeared, replacing the tray. Instead of the usual romance, these were fantasy. The House had clearly sensed that Nesta needed to escape reality for a while and that reading about happy couples would only make her feel worse.
Nesta breathed in the scent of the book — the ink, the pages, the book-binding glue — and felt a sense of calm wash over her as her problems faded away.
Later, when exhaustion finally closed her eyelids, she fell asleep still clutching an open book to her chest, her mind soaring over glittering seas riding an iridescent thousand-year old dragon.
She awoke to the sound of a female voice calling her name through the door. She blinked and looked around, still groggy. She wondered briefly why Cassian was not sleeping next to her before recalling the events of the past few days.
“Nesta, you better be fully dressed because we’re coming in!” called a different voice.
Emerie. Gwyn. What were they doing here? Had she forgotten to tell them she wasn’t going to training? No, she had definitely let them know that she wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t attend. There was no reason for them to suspect otherwise, not after they’d seen Nesta dry heaving after training last week due to her morning sickness.
Nesta opened her mouth, trying to formulate some response that would make them leave but she found that she couldn’t use her voice. The thought of pretending to be alright exhausted her despite the fact that she had quite literally just woken up.
The door opened and the two females entered. As they gazed at her, Nesta knew she should try to put on her regular expression but it was futile.
Emerie’s eyes softened and Nesta resisted the urge to flinch. She didn’t want their pity. She didn’t want their comfort. She didn’t-
“We were wondering if you were willing to invite us,” Gwyn said tentatively. “We missed the Pegasus.”
“And the food,” Emerie added.
“And you, of course.” Gwyn’s eyes pierced her and Nesta knew her friend could see the sadness that was drowning her, burying her alive.
“But mainly the books and the food,” Emerie said, smirking.
The light, joking air they put on was for her sake. Because they knew that, no matter how far she’d come, Nesta tended to retreat into her shell when things got bad. That her old habit returned and she needed to be gently coaxed into talking about her feelings. She needed to be reminded that people loved her and that she deserved to be loved.
It was because of Gwyn and Emerie that Nesta found the strength to get out of bed and walk with them to the living room.
She didn’t miss the long glances Emerie and Gwyn shared as they seemed to be debating what to do, but she didn’t react to them.
“So, Nesta,” Emerie said, “I actually read this book recently, I think it was called Amethyst Mischief? It was incredible.”
“Oh, who was it by?” Gwyn inquired.
“Asterion Winika. She also wrote Tinted Skies of Raleigh. Have you heard of it?”
“No,” Gwyn replied. Nesta shook her head as well.
“Well, it’s about this young female who was born in a world where there is a form of alchemic magic that they call ‘technology’ which is based on lighting-generated impulses. They power thousands of different things with this lighting energy, which they call electricity. Anyway, so this female was travelling…”
As Emerie recounted her story, with Gwyn chiming in occasionally, Nesta felt as though she were slowly thawing. It was as though she’d been encased in a cloud of heavy despair and now, the dark clouds were slowly moving to let a tiny stream of sunlight through. Her sadness still clung to her, but it had loosened its grip slightly, giving her room to breathe.
Although she could not attempt to feel joy, she felt like she was able to get through her day — to make it through without feeling as though she was being crushed by a mountain (now, it only felt like a boulder).
At the end of the afternoon, as she walked her friends to the door to say goodbye, she felt like she would be able to survive this. She just had to take it one step at a time.
Cassian groaned, his arms raised above his head as he stretched in his chair.
“Long day?” Nesta asked. The dinner table, with their now empty plates, stood between them.
“Full day of training and drills with the Illyrians,” he replied, closing his eyes in exhaustion. “Sorry I didn’t come home last night. I needed to head to Illyria and-”
“It’s fine. Gwyn and Emerie came over today,” she said quickly, before steering the conversation away from her again. “How did the training go?”
Cassian let out a tired half-laugh, his eyes still shut. “About how you’d expect. Over-enthusiastic and energetic new recruits who need to learn some discipline, conniving warlords, disrespectful and power hungry males all around. But the drills went well.”
Pride cut through the haze of his exhaustion as he uttered that last phrase.
He opened his eyes. “It’s something beautiful, watching them all come together to fight. Of course I hope we won’t ever have another war but when we do these drills and they get into formations and fight the siphon-made simulation, they stop being individuals who are desperate for power and recognition and instead become the legendary Illyrian army. Watching those recruits who’d usually beat each other up for an extra portion of meat work together, helping each other up and guarding each other’s blind spots…”
His hazel eyes shone like liquid gold as awe colored his voice.
“It’s like Enalius is there. It’s glorious and it’s, well, I guess it’s why I love doing my job,” he smiled.
As she watched him, joy sparked in her chest which she felt keenly given its absence in the past three days. People often forgot that Cassian’s passion matched her own. They believed him to be easy going due to his mask of innuendoes, jokes, and smiles, and didn’t bother to notice his fire. Nesta loved watching him get passionate about subjects he loved. His face, his voice, and his soul lit up and Nesta couldn’t help but smile as he bloomed in front of her — fireworks breaking through the darkness of her despair.
Once in bed, Cassian promptly passed out. Laying curled against him, with his arm and wing tossed over her, Nesta felt his heat seep into her bones. In his cocoon, she felt safe, protected from the harsh tragedies she wanted to forget. Her last thought as she succumbed to Morpheus’ lull was that as long as she had Cassian, she would be alright.
Nesta woke alone.
She got out of bed, threw on a robe over her nightgown, and headed towards the kitchen where Cassian probably was. Her fae ears picked up the sound of faint voices, growing louder as she approached.
Nesta entered the kitchen. For a brief moment, she absorbed the sunlight that streamed in through the window and felt at peace. Then, she took in her surroundings — or more precisely, the people who surrounded her. Cassian was in the kitchen, of course, but alongside him stood not only Azriel but also Mor, Rhys and Feyre. They seemed to be having breakfast together, as Cassian and Az cooked something on the stove while Mor and Feyre chatted as the blonde made tea. Why they had all decided to gather in her house this morning, she had no idea. Perhaps Cassian had invited them and hadn’t bothered to inform her. Or perhaps they thought that since this house had once belonged to Rhysand, they were still allowed to come and go unannounced as they pleased. Either way, she was in no state to deal with so many people, especially so early in the day.
Hoping to get some caffeine into her system, she took a step towards the cupboard to grab a mug when she noticed something moving at Feyre’s feet. A flutter of wings, chubby outstretched fingers, and rounded violet-blue eyes froze her in her tracks. Nyx. The sight stabbed her sharply and pain flooded her senses as a sludge of ugly emotions bled from the wound.
Why was it that Nyx was able to be standing there, in perfect health, with his perfect arms and legs and hair and wings, while her baby had never even gotten a chance to grow any of their own? Why was it that Nyx could hold onto his mother’s leg, babbling happily, while Nesta would never be able to hold her baby, let alone hear their voice or see their smile? Why was it that Nyx could be alive, could be born and grow up, getting a little bigger and stronger everyday, while Nesta’s baby had never even tasted a second of life?
Rage and despair churned into a violent tornado. Nyx let out a soft cry, as her baby never would. Feyre placed a kiss on his brow, as Nesta would never be able to do. Nyx exhaled air that her baby would never breathe.
Too much. The tornado had shredded her insides — her passionate heart, the temporary joy the afternoon with her friends and the night with Cassian had placed in her, the strength cultivated by her mother and her society and later by herself — all torn to pieces.
The tornado threatened to escape her, to cut others to ribbons with sharp words and destructive acts, but Nesta used the remaining shards of herself to hold it in.
Nyx laughed a toddler’s laugh: bubbly and consuming and innocent. Because that’s what he was: an innocent toddler.
How could she have, even for a moment, wished ill upon such a being? Not just any child, but Nyx. Nyx, for whom she had sacrificed her powers. Nyx, whom she had rocked to sleep and fed apple-sauce to and babysat countless times. Nyx, who always smiled so widely when she played peek-a-boo with him and whose eyes sparkled as he wrapped his tiny fingers around hers. Nyx, who crawled and then walked towards her just because he loved her hair and her hugs. What kind of monster was she to question his right to exist, just because her own child had been taken unjustly?
Cold. Cruel. Contemptible. Her guilt grew claws that dug into her.
A monster. That’s what she was. No wonder the Mother had decided not to give her a child. She didn’t deserve one. What she deserved was this: unending, unrelenting pain.
Yet Nesta was a coward, so she backed out of the kitchen, eager to get away from the adorable toddler who brought her such agony.
She slid down the hall. Her footsteps grew louder, echoing the double beat of her heart: Mon-ster. Mon-ster. Mon-ster. She shut her eyes, then covered her ears, as though any of that would stop her from hearing the beat.
How could it, when the words came from everywhere? From the Cauldron which had stolen her child away, from the world which had castigated her from a young age, and even from herself: Mon-ster. Mon-ster. Mon-ster. She thought that she’d grown and changed but perhaps she’d only gotten better at deluding herself. After all, beasts can never really turn into people, no matter how hard they try and beguile themselves with fairytales.
How could she escape the truth? How could she escape herself?
Your fault, whispered the walls. Your baby is gone forever, hissed the floor. You deserve it, yelled the ceiling. And then they were all closing in on her, tighter and tighter and she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t fit in this tiny cage, this prison of her own design and-
She gasped, inhaling deeper as her chest finally loosened. It was Cassian’s voice behind her.
“Hey, Nesta.” His voice was so soothing and it grounded her like nothing else. She blinked a few times. She hadn’t even noticed that her vision had gone blurry but now it began to clear.
“I’m so sorry that I didn’t tell you everyone was here,” he said. “I completely forgot that I had invited them a while back. I tried to tell them that we hadn’t prepared brunch but they just said that they’d assemble things and then I kind of gave in and… I didn’t mean to overwhelm you. I’m sorry.”
She had left the room because she couldn’t deal with all those people. She needed space to process the unexpected torment of facing Nyx. But Cassian wasn’t people: he was her mate, her husband, her partner, and her lover in every sense of the term.
She wanted to hug him. To bury herself in his strong, caring arms and chest and never leave his embrace. To leave behind the hurt and the pain that clawed at her continuously, and shield herself with his love.
Nesta turned around slowly, and met his amber eyes. Part of her wanted to be trapped within them forever, frozen in time in the eye of her hurricane.
“Nesta?” Her eyes fell to his lips as they curved slightly. “I brought you a surprise to cheer you up.” His dark lashes cast a shadow along his left cheek as he winked.
He raised his arms, and held out a wide-eyed, smiling child. Nyx.
Nesta could only blink in shock as her internal storm started up once more, the winds stronger than ever.
“He wanted to see his favorite aunt,” Cassian grinned, so joyously it singed a hole through her already battered heart. She couldn’t tell him that looking at this child, who Cassian adored with his whole being and brought him so much happiness, made her want to retch, smash every item in the house, and then sob for the rest of eternity. “And I know how much you love this little ball of mischief.”
Cassian raised Nyx higher and pressed a light kiss to his hair, causing the toddler to giggle happily.
He would have been such a great father.
You took that from him, whispered her heart. You didn’t deserve a child and the Mother knew that, so she had to destroy his baby. It’s your fault. You killed his child.
Something in her expression must have betrayed her, because a crease appeared in Cassian’s brow and his smile faded slightly. He cocked his head and gently held out the laughing child towards her. “Do you want to hold him?”
She didn’t want to be here, in such close proximity to this reminder of everything she could have had — everything she had lost. She didn’t want to look at Nyx, who stared up at her with earnest round eyes and rosy cheeks.
She instinctively took a step back from Nyx, her waking nightmare, and shook her head. She tried desperately to think of a way to cover up her actions with the excuse Cassian had concocted — that she was merely overwhelmed by the Inner Circle’s unexpected presence this morning — but she couldn’t think as the desperate emotions churned and churned inside her. Her body wanted to succumb to their thrall, to sway and collapse and drown in the storm but she couldn’t — not here, in front of Cassian. That would only lead to questions, which would lead to pain for him, she reminded herself sternly. So she would need to cover up her tracks quickly.
But it was too late. Cassian’s eyes were already filled with alarm and his voice was coated with confused concern as he asked, “What’s going on? Are you alright?”
No, she wanted to yell. No, no, no. The child in Cassian’s arms, who most including her usual self would classify as a bundle of joy, was currently torturing her with his presence alone. She wasn’t strong enough to contain the throbbing anger and agony for much longer.
Nesta’s eyes finally obeyed her, tearing away from Nyx to gaze up at her mate. Nesta’s stare must have revealed that she wasn’t overjoyed to see Nyx as he had expected; he had realized that for some inconceivable reason, she was vexed by this toddler’s presence.
She watched as his emotions danced in his eyes. He looked as though he couldn’t recognize or understand her. Worse yet, a flicker of unease and of fear shone on his face. He had never looked at her like that before, and it broke something within her that she hadn’t even realized she’d been clinging to this whole time. The certainty of her bond with Cassian and the love they shared had been the one thing grounding her and now it was gone. He had glimpsed the truth of her: that she was a monster. She could feel herself spiralling as her brain noted that Cassian’s strong arms were supposed to be their child’s spot, not Nyx’s, and that those loving, protective kisses should have been their child’s.
She needed to leave before she hurt anyone else, before Cassian asked her the questions that lingered in his eyes.
So Nesta spun on her heel, and raced to their room. Mercifully, Cassian stood still in shock for a few seconds before chasing after her. Though he was faster than her due to centuries of training, the head start had been all she needed to enter the room before him. The House, her friend who understood that Nesta couldn’t bear the pain looking at Nyx or Cassian would cause her, quickly shut and locked the door behind her.
Within the privacy of her room, Nesta finally allowed herself to fall apart. Tears streamed down her face as silent sobs wracked her body. She let herself succumb to the suffering and the ache. Any remaining strength dissolved into nothingness and her head drooped onto her knees.
Outside, Cassian knocked and desperately called for her to let him in, to tell him what was wrong. His pleas were muffled by the House’s magic, but he still begged, until his throat was raw and his voice was hoarse. Even then, he stayed, resting his head against the cool wood of the locked door between him and his mate. He reached out a hand to her through their bond and felt the drops of sadness that seeped through the cracks of the usually immovable fortress walls of her mind.
Cassian shut his eyes, drowning in worry and pain, not knowing that across the door, his mate did the same.
Before the Dust Settles:
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A Court of Shadow and Ribbons
My First Post - ACOSF fanfic
I have only just discovered fanfiction and some of the stuff here and on AO3 is addictive. Big thanks to sarah-bae-maas, TrashForAzriel, MusicalMassasinsXxx, hey_itsjoanna and Chele shutupeccles for your inspiration.
Have about 15 chapters written, but will post slowly so that I can keep up with the story. No doubt if I haven’t finished a cohesive story by this time next year, SJM will have blown all of my plot lines out of the water, but that’s OK too, she is a legend and can do whatever she likes and I will love it!
Set after the special Az chapter of ACOSF. Attempting to fit in with the rest of Silver Flames and set us up for more Gwynriel. Hope you can handle the build up! SPOILERS. Do not read if you have not read ACOTAR up to and including ACOSF and the extras
Azriel noticed the glint of gold as it swung out of the top of Gwyn’s fighting gear the following day. He suppressed a smile and his shadows gathered tightly around him.
Why was that moment so pleasing to him? She knew the gift was from a friend, why wouldn’t she wear it? It set off her copper hair and looked as though the chain had been wrought directly from her very being. Could she have any idea that Az left it for her? Would she be dismayed to find it was from him, re-gifted in-fact after the failed attempt to please Elain? Az gritted his teeth. He remembered all of those enticing few moments with the beautiful Archeron sister. Finally he would find out if she was truly made of porcelain, or of the tougher stuff that the inner circle had glimpsed a few times during Nesta’s recovery.
Rhys. His timing was disastrous, his timing was annoying. Perhaps his timing was fortuitous. Why would The Mother provide mates for his brothers after all this time and leave him out. He guessed it was his luck, his destiny to be so left out of the family.
His relationship with Mor was better. They did not get to spend time together these days and she seemed happier. He didn’t think that it had anything to do with him. For the first time in a few hundred years that thought did not make him want to slash something. For the first time in centuries, he simply could be with Morrigan and not need more. He’d thought that it was Elain. Rhys dictated otherwise.
The snow was swirling around the training ring and the priestesses were doing a very good job of ignoring Nesta and Cassian’s scent and eye movements in between bouts of decidedly trying to hack at each other with an axe (Nesta) and a cudgel (Cassian). This would deteriorate into something messy soon as Nesta began to feel the weight of her weapon and struggled to aim the cutting edge where it would do the most damage. Azriel could see the humour in Cassian’s eyes as he too saw the fatigue begin and the blows become clumsy.
He glanced down at his scarred hands and missed the swipe by Cassian at Nesta’s exposed side while she ducked and came up with the blunt side of the axe at his waist. The gathered trainees gushed and Gwyn and Emerie clapped as Cassian surrendered his cudgel in return for a light brush of Nesta’s lips across his. He grasped the axe in his free hand and removed it to the weapons rack while Nesta was congratulated by the others. Gwyn stood back a little, she fingered the golden rose around her neck and glanced quickly at Azriel. He shrunk back into the water table and found his finger nails needing a cut, and a clean for that matter. His gaze lifted moments later to find Gwyn’s back to him as she returned to lunges with her practise sword.
Az cursed himself a coward. He really needed to visit one of those pleasure houses that Rhys had basically ordered him to go to. His libido was on a hair trigger and this Elain/Gwyn, should he shouldn’t he was the most difficult situation he’d found himself in that was not life threatening. What was sex without feelings. A relief he reminded himself. It would be a God’s damned relief.
Cassian had arranged the troops (they were not all Valkyrie or even qualified Illyrian fighters yet but they were certainly something) in formation of four lines of three. They began their cool down exercises and Azriel was able to revert to his normal strategy of walking the side and back of the group while Cassian instructed. The women had originally been uncomfortable with his presence, especially behind them, but he had learned to stay a good distance and using his softest voice, make corrections here and there. Sometimes he would ask one of the others to help by touching or directing the person having trouble with a move, but he never touched them himself.
Nesta made a suggestion that the group could use some chanting and humming to get in time with each other’s moves. Gwyn agreed to lead, she sang in a low undulating voice that seemed to carry out around the training ring and back to all of those repeating her words. Az found himself splaying his wings a little as if they wanted to absorb the sound. His shadows quieted until they were nearly flush against his whole body. This. He thought to himself. This is what he needed to calm and maybe get some sleep. He found his throat closing and emotion washed through him with the pure sound of Gwyn harnessing the breeze and the replies of the group.
Cassian punched him lightly on the arm.
“You really are a brute brother” Azriel shook his head and smiled at Cassian
“Interestingly brother, I get the impression that you liked that cool down and maybe could do with some more of that…” he looked over his shoulder at the water station where Nesta and her besties were sculling water and encouraging each other in what looked like teasing.
“……….relaxation”. Cassian did not let the tone deny what he was inferring.
“I could kill Rhys” Azriel grumbled
“For what?” Cassian was obviously shocked, “Rhysie did not tell me anything that I have not already guessed at, so whatever you’re talking about, you’re going to have to explain to me at some point”
Azriel shifted his feet and wrapped himself in shadows and wings.
“Just your average, you know five hundred year old male watching his brothers mate successfully and wondering where he fits into this family these days” He thought that he had diverted the conversation just enough to get Cass to concentrate on things that might upset Az and get him off the topic of horniness. The trouble with being friends with someone for five hundred years is that they can SEE RIGHT THROUGH YOU.
Cassian clapped his hand between Azriel’s wings and shot into his ear at a level that none of the ladies could hear
“Things get tight sometimes Az, and I believe that Esther from the Sidra Salvation would be VERY pleased to see you again”
“Fuck Cas, keep it down. You know what these females have faced”
Cassian merely looked intently at his discomforted visage.
“As do you my friend, as do you”
Game Cassian. Azriel knew then what had been obvious to his friend, the wanting the lust. Gods, so long as he was not showing that side to anyone else. He couldn’t be, he didn’t even know what he felt. Except rung out, unsatisfied and weary of the machinations of outside influences who wanted to thrust Prythian back into conflicts that it could little afford.
Azriel spread his wings and nodded to Cassian
“I’ve got places to be” as he shot straight up on the wing, then disappeared as he winnowed as far as he could in the one jump. He winnowed to Mor
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There is another Acotar book coming out after acosf in 2021?
So I know that Acmaf isn’t mentioned here but this book can not be Acomaf bcz it says #5 as in the fifth book of the series in order and Acomaf is the second one.
So... is there another book coming out this year?
And if it is, will it be Nestas since Sarah j mass said that she wanted to continue Nestas journey
Or will it be Azriels since she gave us his bonus chapter.
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Nessian - My first post
During Spring 2020 my youngest daughter (then 14) handed me a copy of Throne of Glass and convinced me that I HAD to read it (Manorian rules). Fast forward to Spring 2021 and I’m totally invested in Nessian and in complete awe to the fanfic writers that have taken this couple to heart.
I will always love SJM for giving us these characters, but love the writers who keep telling their stories. The fanfic writers are true unsung heroes (well a little bit sung) as far as I am concerned.
As people continue to discover the fanfic pieces, their storytelling arcs seemed to coalesce around a few critical points and can be categorised into (a) finished stories, (b) stories that will be finished and (c) unfinished stories where I don’t know if the author will finish. Chronologically I have arrived at:
– Nessian Growth after ACOWAR (a) @donttouchmyrubiesgirl on AO3
- Alone in the Townhouse + Nessian The Mating (a) @Rhysand_vs_Fenrys on AO3
– Embers & Light (b) @duskandstarlight – slow healing in the Illyrian mountains and first fanfic I ever read properly, with its own smutty ‘Habits’ AU.
– The Runaway (b) @iammissstark – written with Nesta’s chance to grow amongst those who believe in her
- A Court of Witches and Warriors (a) @arinbelle – slow healing in the Illyrian mountains
- Queen of Monsters (c) @vidalinav – slow healing in the Illyrian mountains, but VidalinaV has done many many stories of Nessian
- Symphonia (b) @darklove9314-blog – Nessian adventure + pregnancy!
- On Your Side (b) by wingsandembers (Jamila) on AO3 – relationship choices
Modern Nessian is covered by a number of good writers and I really like some of the fic by @thewayshedreamed
Smut vs Fluff – both are good for the soul and there are plenty of warnings to avoid if that’s not your type of thing. Rest assured if the fanfic author hasn’t written something you want to see, then there will be other stories out there which will have it. Probably inadvisable to badger a writer into something they don’t feel right doing. As of writing, there are on AO3 approx 21,000 stories tagging Loss of Virginity (roughly equally split between M/M and M/F) and 78,000 stories for tagging Dubious Consent (70% being M/M). Find your kicks elsewhere.
Nesta herself – the more I read of her the more I wonder if she is a mirror crack’d, her depth of positive and negative emotions, emotional and intellectual intelligence and power to make things happen always stand out. She also displays the physical and emotional vulnerabilities everyone has and the struggle to overcome them. In a lot of ways she is the best and worst of all of us, especially those who have difficulty in accepting help even as we tumble down the rabbit hole. Personally speaking, having been physically broken on the hills of the Himalayas quite a few years ago, there was no longer anywhere to hide myself from myself and Chapter 50 resonated.
A final thank you to all the fanfic writers who I have read, to those that I have to yet to read and to those who I will never read but provide joy to others.
Alert: I’m new to tagging so I hope that I get it right. If I don’t please reblog/re-tag to your hearts’ content.
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Embers & Light (Chapter 32)
Notes: Thanks for being so patient waiting for this latest chapter. As usual it turned out to be a hefty MF so I hope you enjoy reading it :) I think this chapter has got the most locations in it so far: Windhaven, Ironcrest, The Steppes and Velaris!
As usual, let me know what you think. And if you enjoy reading it please do hit the reblog button. Thank you, thank you, thank you <3
And during the wait for Chapter 33 (which I will post on Sunday 28th March / 4 April if all goes to plan), do feel free to drop into my anon box--I love hearing from you guys!
Despite a day and night of rest following the initial bout of healing at the cottage, the next week tumbled by in a whirlwind of activity. If life were a play, Cassian thought, then everything had previously been in intermission and the Gods had suddenly deigned to continue the show.
After speaking with Maya, Feyre and Rhys had winnowed an exhausted Cassian and Nesta back to Windhaven before leaving immediately for Velaris. By the time Cassian waved them goodbye, Nesta was already lying in the foetal position on her length of the couch, her head nestled into the corner. Silent silver flames danced in the hearth and Cassian only had time to groan before he collapsed onto the branch of cushions directly opposite. His wing had landed with an unceremonious thump onto the coffee table, moulding itself around a stack of books, the tip of his fingers grazing Nesta’s thigh. She did not bat him away. Her eyes were already half-closed, her breathing deep and even.
Cassian heard the gentle reassuring thump of her heart in his ears before everything had turned dark.
It was the click of the backdoor that had woken him the next day, heralding Mas and Roksana’s arrival. Cassian had blinked the sleep from his eyes only to be met with the crown of Nesta’s golden head and the scent of jasmine and vanilla entangled like something vital in his lungs.
Only then did he remember the nightmare that had dragged him from sleep in the dead of night. His eyes had snapped open, his body bound and immovable by the heavy weight of death and the illusion of powdered ash in his mouth. His chest had heaved but he’d managed to whip his head to the side—searching for her—only to find Nesta blinking blearily at him, as if his torment had pulled her out of the clutches of sleep. She hadn’t said a word, had only climbed across the cushions until she was lying at a right-angle to him, her body stretched across the intersection of the couch.
As soon as her head had lain next to his, Cassian had found himself able to move, as if the bindings holding him prisoner had suddenly been cut free. Shuddering, he had wound his hands through her hair and pressed his face to her scalp, breathing her in—the scent of her that told him she was safe and sound. That she was not the crumbling ash that coated his tongue.
Nesta’s hand had come up to clasp at his elbow, a silent comfort that told him she was there, before they had tumbled into the comforting dark together.
He hadn’t dreamt after that.
Biting back a sleepy grin, Cassian watched with amusement as Mas halted abruptly at the left-hand archway to the living room.
“Sorry anak,” she apologised with a mortified, unnecessary flush to her brown cheeks. Her hazel eyes flitted from him to Nesta, no doubt clocking how close their heads were and how Cassian’s fingers and nose were still buried in Nesta’s hair. “I didn’t realise you were still sleeping.”
With the swiftness of a mother prone to scooping up little ones before they got themselves into trouble, Mas grabbed for Roksana as the youngling tried to enter the room, gathering the little girl tightly to her chest. Roksana had made to lurch forward and her wings were still spread wide, ready to aid her attempt to launch across the room—towards Sala who was spread out by the fire.
Slowly, the manticore lifted her head from where it was resting on her huge paws and cocked it to one side. The beast’s sandy ears pricked forward in intrigue, her beautiful almond eyes soft and curious as she soaked in the sight of the little Illyrian buzzing with energy.
“Manticore!” Roksana exclaimed with a delighted clap of her hands. She looked up at Mas with unbridled excitement and then, to Cassian’s surprise, to him.
Cassian had never seen the youngling’s face so unfettered—so childlike. In fact, Cassian had never heard her speak. He knew she spoke the odd word to Mas and Nesta, but with him present, the youngling usually remained mute.
An ache rippled over Cassian’s wings as he folded them in and sat upright. Biting back the grimace that wanted to fight its way onto his expression, he shot Roksana his best smile and told her, “The manticore’s name is Sala.”
“Sala,” Roksana repeated quietly, turning her head to peek up at Mas with wide hazel eyes. The housekeeper grinned at the gesture and dropped a loving kiss to the wind-snarled mass of the youngling’s hair.
Nesta, who had been as immovable as a rock, finally stirred, no doubt dragged from the blanket of sleep by the sound of voices and the loss of Cassian’s hand in her hair.
Those steel blue eyes immediately sought his and everything in Cassian tightened as he found them to be clear and trauma-free—as wide and open as the moments after he had kissed her. After he had made her shatter on his tongue.
“Hello,” Nesta croaked. Then, she spied Roksana and Mas, and the sleepy smile that graced her face had all of his desire dissipating. His heart softened as Nesta propped herself up onto a forearm and said, “Hello.”
“You can go to Nesta only,” Mas told Roksana sternly as the youngling scampered across the room, scrambling up onto the sofa so she could wrap her arms around Nesta’s waist.
“She wants to pet the manticore,” Mas told Nesta with a faint, amused smile as Roksana whispered the word twice more to Nesta with a point of a stubby finger towards the fireplace. “Your manticore,” the housekeeper corrected with a toothy grin, even as Mas glanced nervously at the beast who had jumped to her feet, eager to greet Cassian as he rose from the cushions.
Cassian stretched with a groan that evolved into a wide yawn. His limbs were stiff from sleeping for so long. He needed to fly—to exercise and warm up his muscles. He needed to bathe. Gods, how long had they been sleeping? Eighteen hours? More? He usually only slept that length of time after battle.
“Devlon and the other instructors trained you this morning?” Cassian checked with Mas.
The housekeeper nodded. “More balance and footwork,” she told him. “Then applying that to self-defence.”
Cassian’s nod indicated that he was satisfied. “Take the salve from the bathroom cupboard on your way out today,” he instructed. One quick sweeping assessment of the Illyrian had told Cassian that she was sore. “It looks like you could do with it.”
A muzzle was thrust into Cassian’s hand and he looked down to find Sala staring up at him beseechingly. She let out an indignant whine as if to punctuate that she didn’t appreciate being ignored and Cassian snickered, before he bent down to scratch behind the beast’s ears.
When the manticore began to purr loudly, Roksana clapped her hands in delight.
“She’s very friendly,” Nesta told Roksana with a smile. She smoothed back the girl’s wild hair and kissed Roksana’s chubby cheek. Nesta’s hair was mussed, golden strands falling from her coronet which was now loose, no doubt from where his hands had been in it all night.
Cassian wasn’t sure she could look more beautiful. An intense urge overtook him and he almost felt the tug at his ribcage as he imagined striding across the room and slanting his mouth on hers.
Gods, he needed to taste her again more than anything.
Ignoring the sharp, knowing glance Mas threw his way, Cassian created some distance. Doing his best to appear casual, he leant against the right-hand archway that led to the kitchen and took the time to wrangle back some semblance of control.
But then he had watched Nesta introduce Roksana to Sala and everything tightened in a completely different way. His throat bobbed at the look of wonder on the youngling’s face as she stroked Sala’s fur and Cassian knew the sight was something he would cherish forever.
With a fervour that surprised even him, Cassian wished Feyre was with them. Because he knew what he wanted for next Solstice—a painting of this. Of Roksana before Sala, Nesta cradling the youngling’s body from behind, her chin tucked atop the girl’s dark tangle of hair, a secret smile on her face. Just the thought of Feyre brushing the moment onto canvas had sent shivers down his spine—and in that moment Cassian had understood just how irrevocably entangled he was with the female before him. How completely and utterly besotted he was in a way he had never thought possible with anyone.
Later, Roksana had buried her face into Sala’s neck, her small hands clutching at the manticore’s ears and whispered Sala’s name. And when Nesta had laughed, the sound had only confirmed to Cassian what he already knew: that he had never been so content. That he would live with the pain of being so near to Nesta and not being able to have her if it meant he could witness her smile freely. If he could hear her laugh without trying to stifle it as if it were a fire to be put out.
Over the following week, training the females, overseeing the military units and ferrying between Windhaven and the cottage preoccupied Cassian’s every breath. Nesta was just as busy, and she spent any free time she had in the widows camp or running errands with Mas. She had even flown to the travelling market with Mas, which had set itself up for a few days in the Paya valley, selling all means of goods, from spices and fresh produce to jewellery, weapons and swaths and swaths of fabric.
When he did not winnow to the bungalow to deliver them in person, Rhys spoke frequently into Cassian’s mind to deliver updates. Azriel bled in and out of shadows scouting for Kallon and utilising his most-trusted Illyrian contacts to feedback information of the ongoings in Ironcrest’s camp—the former attempts of which had been futile. And all the while they waited with bated breath as news continued to reach them that Marsh had still not left his bed.
It was only a matter of time until Kallon had the right to the title of Prince of Ironcrest. They all knew it. The question would be whether he’d come back to claim his title. And if he did, how the princeling would wield his new found power to rally his cause and drum up the discontent even further.
Given their demands and duties, Cassian and Nesta did not often find themselves alone, something which Cassian found to be both torture and a blessing. Even during their flights to the cottage they flew separately—Cassian on his own wings and Nesta atop Sala—and Nesta had even taken to bringing Roksana with her once the majority of the girls had recovered enough to be taken to Velaris by Mor. The little Illyrian had been delighted to discover Caer whom she adored even more than Sala, most likely due to his endless patience whenever Roksana clambered onto his back. Caer would pad around the grounds outside the cottage, carting Roksana about as she tried to balance herself with outstretched wings. Whenever she toppled off—which was frequently—the manticore would nuzzle at Roksana’s stomach with a teasing growl, which never failed to elicit squeals of giggles that cracked even Frawley’s hard exterior.
Lorrian, who had taken a shine to Roksana well before her visits, had used the youngling’s attendance around the cottage as an opportunity to give her some much-needed flying lessons. Cassian had watched with amusement, leaning against the paddock railings with Nesta and Frawley by his side as Roksana zoomed around the paddock with such speed even Lorrian had stumbled to catch up with her. Cassian had even spied a few of the girls peeking curiously from around the barn doors, no doubt drawn by Frawley and Nesta’s amused outburst of laughter. In the end, even Maya and Samra had come outside to watch.
After the lesson, Frawley had awarded Roksana with a huge mug of hot chocolate, before depositing the youngling swiftly into the tub for a much-needed bath.
In the rare moments that Cassian and Nesta were alone, Cassian found things… difficult, and it was through no fault of Nesta’s. After all, it was Cassian who had given Nesta the choice of deciding what their activities between the sheets had meant. Yet, Cassian could not help the bitter disappointment that wound through him when Nesta did not seek him out again at night—neither for company or for something more heated.
The problem was that Cassian had not truly known the gravity of what he would be dealing with in the aftermath. Knowing what Nesta now tasted like—the scent of which had faded but not disappeared from his tongue—tested a new reserve of Cassian’s strength, and Cassian found himself flitting between an almost terrifying, composed calm to a fervent, primal yearning that had him shaking with the need to touch her… to consume her… to please her in every way possible that went beyond carnal lust.
Oddly, it was the small things that set him off: when she stood too close or when those smoky grey eyes searched for him over anyone else. The worst was when she allowed a small smile to grace her beautiful face or when she taunted him, each teasing jab or jest enough to tell him that she was no longer wading through the muddy waters of trauma. That she was happier—more content.
Sometimes Nesta would touch him without him prompting her to, her fingers snagging on his arm or her body brushing against his as she moved to make tea at the kitchen counter. And those light touches… they burned, as if Cassian was nothing but an animal and Nesta was on heat. His body itched and trembled and begged for her, and Cassian had taken to pleasuring himself at night and first thing in the morning, recreating the sounds of her moans in his head and the grasp of her fingers in his hair. The way she had finally said his name and the weight of her breasts cupped in his palms. The way her body had arched and moulded to his as she had begged for release.
And finally, the way she had reached for him. Those fingers as they had dipped just below the waistband of his pants…
Fantasy and memory became friend and foe. And Cassian pleasured himself in the shower. After training. In the middle of the night. And even then, Cassian was only sated for the briefest of moments until that need crashed down over him again and he had to think of any grotesque image that would cool his blood: Devlon. Marsh. Kallon.
As a consequence, Cassian found himself keeping his distance whenever it became too much. It hurt to do it, as if something was tearing inside of him, and he knew Nesta had clocked it. But she didn’t bring it up and nor did she broach what had happened between the bedsheets. She did not shut him out. Did not poison him with words or derisive looks, even when, for the most part, Cassian thought his actions called for it.
And all the while her scent lingered like the sweetest perfume. It was worse when they were together. Then, it grew stronger. It filled his nostrils, his mouth, the taste of her heady and wonderful and almost sinful in its reminder that Cassian had experienced his one chance with her: one kiss, one touch, one taste.
That was another reason why Cassian was keeping his distance. What was it Nesta had said when he’d told her that the others might scent what they had done? It’s a complete invasion of privacy. So, when the others had arrived, Cassian had created space between them whenever he could. Had watched the way Nesta’s eyes had become more hollow whenever he ensured he was stationed at the opposite side of the room. He hadn’t had the time to communicate to her that his distance was to try and respect her wish for privacy—to prevent the others knowing what they had done—and he had been forced to watch her tumble into the dark depths of her trauma without a hand to haul her out.
Until he’d had to act as a tether, anyway.
Despite his efforts, Cassian suspected that all of his friends had sensed a shift. Mor’s gift was truth, after all, and Azriel and Rhys knew him better than anyone. His brothers had always reprimanded him for wearing his heart on his sleeve to the detriment of no-one but himself, but Cassian couldn’t help it. He couldn’t help a lot of things when it came to Nesta, and he didn’t trust himself not to let that carefully formed leash slip and ruin everything he’d promised her.
He’d already failed once; If you summon your healing magic, I’ll taste you again.
Mother Above. Cassian had even had to resort to training Nesta with Lorrian at the cottage—an unacknowledged chaperone—using the excuse that Nesta needed to not only practice with the bow, but spar with other opponents so she could experience different fighting techniques. And whilst that was true, it was also because training was sacred to Cassian. It taught people to survive and endure and he would not taint the opportunity by tackling Nesta to the ground and slanting his mouth on hers.
Not to mention that she probably didn’t want him to do that, anyway.
“Struggling?” Lorrian taunted at Cassian one evening after dinner.
The two of them had stepped back out into the paddock in order to exhaust some excess energy. They had left Nesta in the cottage living room with Frawley, Maya and Samra. Roksana, who had been running around all day with the manticores, had passed out in front of the hearth, curled up between the two beasts, one of her little wings curved around Caer’s head.
Maya’s eldest daughter Ailie remained upstairs. In fact, she rarely came out of the room she shared with her mother and sister, still too traumatised to face even those inside of the cottage. When she did emerge, she’d sit in front of the armchair by the fire and stare at the flames, as if she were hoping she were one of them and she could escape up the chimney and out into the freedom of the open sky.
But Samra—the youngest of Maya’s girls—was slowly and shyly come out of her shell, although she stuck to her mother like glue, clearly terrified that she might disappear.
“Struggling with what?” Cassian drawled to his friend, as he tapped his siphons to rid himself of his armour. It disappeared scale-by-scale, revealing a short-sleeved tunic layered over a long-sleeved one. Both were fastened at the waist by a lightweight rope of leather, which Cassian tossed to the side before shucking off the short-sleeved top.
Usually Cassian favoured fighting in skin, but Illyria in the depths of winter tested even his fierce warrior blood.
Snorting, Lorrian flared his own siphons and a gleaming emerald arm appeared in a wave of light. “You’ll feel better once you have beaten the shit out of me.”
Cassian raised a scar-slashed eyebrow. “That’s defeatist of you.”
Lorrian rolled his magical arm as he adjusted to the additional weight. “You have intermittent aggression and arousal seeping from your pores. I’m surprised Nesta hasn’t detected it.”
With a dismissive wave of a hand, Cassian replied, “I’m not that bad.”
The way Lorrian grunted told Cassian that he didn’t agree, but to Cassian’s relief, the no further comment came.
Cassian did not need his friend to point out that in the past week the two of them had sparred more frequently than they usually did in months.
“I’m acclimatising,” Cassian said shortly as they began to circle one another, their fists held up to their faces.
For a few turns, there was only the sound of their feet on the wet, spongy earth beneath the soles of their boots. Cassian’s eyes did not stray from Lorrian’s face, allowing his peripheral vision to drink in his friend’s every movement.
It was true that Cassian had more weight behind him than the colonel, but like he was in the skies, Lorrian could be as quick as hell in the training ring. Cassian had learnt long ago that sparring with Lorrian wasn’t about throwing the fiercest punch, but being alert enough to recognise when the bastard was going to duck and strike a fierce upper cut to the gut.
“You’ll stay in Velaris for a few days?” Lorrian asked, after their third round of circling.
Cassian flashed his friend a grin as if to tell him he knew what he was doing. It turned out to be more of a grimace. “You know that I am. Quit trying to distract me.”
“And Nesta’s going with you?”
“You know she is.”
“My point,” Lorrian continued with a slight pant, “is that you better master your shit before you get there. I imagine tensions will be high enough without a snarling general in the mix.”
“Things have been mending. She’s doing well.”
“Incredible,” Lorrian corrected, his eyes flitting to Cassian’s solar plexus in a way that betrayed his desired move. “I’ve never met anyone more resilient. Frawley holds her in high regard and we know that doesn’t happen often.”
In the corner of Cassian’s eye, something moved at the far left-hand side of the paddock, but then Lorrian’s right elbow dropped and Cassian had the opening he had been waiting for. He lunged, his fist flying for Lorrian’s jaw and the colonel barely had time to slam his left arm up to deflect the blow.
But Cassian did not give Lorrian time to recover. He was already moving, his left fist cutting upwards to land a sharp jab to his friend’s ribs. Lorrian tried for a shot to the face but Cassian’s right arm was already deflecting and counter-jabbing before the colonel had time to so much as think about doing anything else but blocking.
Breath sawed out of them and Cassian knew that to any onlooker they were barely more than a blur of grunting flesh and lethal wings.
It was only a lightning fast parry from Lorrian as he jumped back on agile feet, that spared him from being thrown to the forest floor.
It struck up a distance between them again, and for a moment, there was nothing but the sound of wings as they flared outwards and tucked in tight.
And then they began again. Circling one another and panted for air, before one of them created an opening and then there was nothing but punches and blocks and counterattacks, of footwork and grunts and wings thrown out for balance. Cassian felt himself slip into that calm—the mantra that felt like a dance to him—until he landed a precise counter-head blow as Lorrian stepped in for a hook to the ribs.
Lorrian’s knees hit the floor with a thud and Cassian stepped back, breathing hard, giving his friend space to recover. Turning, he used his wrist to wiped the blood away from his lip, only to find Maya watching him with wide-eyes, her arms wrapped tightly around her body.
He lifted a hand in greeting and she offered him a small smile in return, before she turned on the spot and disappeared back inside the house.
“That was better going than last time,” Cassian told Lorrian. He extended his hand to help his friend up from the ground but Lorrian only waved him proudly away. “But you’re still dropping your left arm and leaving your face open. Once that falls apart so does all of the rest.”
Shaking his head in irritation, Lorrian spat blood onto the damp earth. Neither of them had been going at full pelt, but that didn’t mean they hadn’t roughed one another up a little. Cassian’s ribs were already bleating from the impact of Lorrian’s fists and he knew he was already sporting a bruise on his right cheekbone. “I spent all this time mourning the loss of a limb, but when I magic it back for hand-to-hand combat it feels wrong.” Grimacing, the colonel rolled his arm in its socket. “It’s like learning all over again and the worst damn thing is that even when I magic it away at the end of the session, my brain still creates a phantom soreness where my limb should be.”
Chuckling, Cassian clapped his friend on the back. The sparring hadn’t only been a method of burning off energy for Cassian. Now Lorrian had taken up the position of colonel, Lorrian had asked Cassian to train with him more regularly. Whilst Lorrian’s magic could bring his limb back into temporary existence, Lorrian’s muscle memory had depleted over the years. Training with Cassian provided his friend with the opportunity for his brain to reconnect with his lost limb for those times when he needed it the most. “You’re Illyrian, Lor. You can deal with some pulled muscles.”
Another grunt. “It would be easier on my body if you didn’t fight like a damn God.”
Cassian flashed his teeth. “I can’t help that I was destined to lead on the battlefields.”
“And so modest, too,” Lorrian grumbled. Then, he sobered. “Nesta seems a little better.”
Cassian had not spoken to anyone about Nesta’s trauma, but it was there so plainly for anyone to see that he did not jump to deny it. And… pride wound through him at how well she was doing. At how she hadn’t shut him out. “Yes. I hope—“ he blew out a long breath, suddenly unable to stifle the worry that took hold of his brow. “I hope Velaris doesn’t make it worse.”
“You think it will do that?”
“As you guessed, there are a lot of unresolved tensions and conflicts,” Cassian admitted. Not to mention that Nesta herself had once begged him not to send her back to Velaris. Cassian did not know why she’d had a change of heart. He knew she wanted to visit the girls and help them to settle, but she’d asked to come back with him before that. “Nesta wasn’t happy in Velaris,” he finished simply.
“Does she know it’s your birthday on Hogmanay?”
“No,” Cassian said shortly. He shot his friend a sharp look. “Don’t tell her.”
Cocking an eyebrow in confusion, Lorrian asked quizzically, “Why?”
“Because Nesta has enough to worry about. If she thinks there will be a party that she has to attend with my family where she has to pretend that she’s happy, then she will bolt.”
Lorrian frowned. “She won’t bolt from you, Cass.”
But Cassian was not so sure. Lorrian did not know the Nesta in Velaris; the sharp, angry female who had been so terrifyingly sick.
“What you have seen is not Nesta at her most traumatised,” Cassian told Lorrian in a long breath. “When she came here…” He trailed off, his throat bobbing. “Things were very bad. Velaris was toxic for her. The War was hard on her—more so than any of us.”
Kallon had highlighted some of Nesta’s habits during their trip to Ironcrest and Cassian had no desire to voice them aloud again.
This time it was Lorrian’s turn to clap him on the shoulder. “And now Nesta is stronger. She’s built herself from the ashes and become someone the females revere, Cassian. You know what the Illyrians are calling her.”
Cassian did know. Did not want to think too hard about the silver-flamed Diyosa with a fierce manticore by her side. Together they protected and defended the females of the Night Court.
“She might be the only High Fae in the history of Illyria to have the respect of our people,” Lorrian continued. “She’s already winning over the majority of the female population by doing nothing but being herself. She could single-handedly sway the rebellion if we played our cards right, Cass.”
Cassian did not say anything. Was too scared to.
“Even the males have begrudging respect, you have seen how Devlon is around her. At the very least, they recognise that she is powerful. Is she still going with you to instate the new law tomorrow?”
Rhys had offered Nesta a choice: to assist Mor in settling the last of the girls into the library or to come with the rest of them to each of the Illyrian camps to announce the new clipping law.
“This is what you have been campaigning for all your life,” Lorrian said quietly. “Nesta could pave the way for something new. Something better. You both could.”
“You seem to have forgotten that I am nothing but a lowly bastard,” Cassian stated gruffly, as together they walked out of the paddock and past the barn. “And that I have done very little to stifle this rebellion.”
“You earned the title of Prince of Bastards a long time ago, amongst other names.”
“That is not a title.”
“Is that what you’re worried about?” Lorrian asked with a flicker of surprise. “That you’re not good enough for Nesta?”
Cassian stalked towards the back door, suddenly keen to find Nesta and go home. He wasn’t angry, just… uncomfortable. Lorrian had hit too close to the bone.
“Don’t do yourself a disservice by labelling yourself as something others have tried to falsely pigeon hole you into,” Lorrian told Cassian sternly as they reached the threshold. “You can’t dismantle a faulty system if deep down you believe what the oppressors have drummed into you.”
Then, with a final clap to Cassian’s shoulder, Lorrian disappeared into the cottage.
As the pastel hues of dawn bled into day the next morning, Rhys and Feyre winnowed into Windhaven.
Even if it hadn’t been for the star-kissed breeze that wound its way through the mountain pass, Cassian would have known his brother and his mate had arrived. Cassian was halfway through correcting Emerie’s stance when her head whipped to the right of the sparring rings, along with every other female who had turned up for practice that morning.
Only Nesta did not turn, but like Cassian, she had been expecting them. Rhys had spoken into Cassian’s head the evening before whilst he and Nesta were eating dinner, informing him that he and his mate would arrive just after dawn the next morning. They planned to watch the females train, before Rhys would carry out his quarterly observation of Windhaven’s aerial fleet so he could witness the progress Cassian had insisted they were making in reforming the Illyrian troops.
Feyre would join Nesta and Mas on an inspection of the camp—the widows camp in particular—before they would all reconvene for a quick lunch. From there, they would travel to each of the camps main squares to announce the new clipping law, whilst Mor would winnow to the cottage with Frawley and transport the remaining females to the library.
Cassian knew that Nesta was not looking forward to going back to Ironcrest, but she did not change her mind about accompanying them to the camps. For some reason, the fact that she was willing to brave it at her own expense had only served to make Cassian fall for her even more. And although she had retired to bed early that night, she had left her bedroom door ajar just as she had promised during their time in Ironcrest. Cassian had watched her read in bed out of the corner of his eye for an hour or so before the faelight in her room winked out.
It had taken a long time for her breathing to become deep and for the blankets to stop rustling as she tossed and turned in bed. Cassian had fought the urge to crawl in beside her; to fold her into his body and tangle their legs together. To reassure himself with not only with the sound of her heartbeat but the patter of it against the centre of his palm.
Now, Nesta stood beside him with her hands on her hips, using the opportunity to catch her breath. She was dressed in her favourite leathers and her golden brown hair was weaved back tightly from her face. It revealed her flushed cheeks and pink nose, which was thanks to the frigid bite of frost that had kissed the landscape the night before.
“Back to work,” Cassian ordered the females firmly, as their attention lingered on the new arrivals. He heard the same command echo around the adjoining sparring rings from the other trainers. “I want three sets of ten lunges on each leg, followed by twenty one-two punches against your partner’s sparring pads,” Cassian continued.
He was teaching the youngest age group that morning and Nesta remained at his side to assist with the demonstrations. “Remember to make two clean punches,” he told the females. “It should sound like a beating heart—boom, boom—but your fists should move in a fluid movement like an arrow. One fist is the head, the other is the tail.”
He held up his palms so Nesta could demonstrate. Unsurprisingly, her punches were perfectly formed.
“Good,” he praised her. “Partner up with Emerie again whilst I do the rounds.”
Leaving Nesta with the shopkeeper, Cassian weaved his way around the ring, stopping when he needed to gently correcting a stance or a technique. In the corner of his eye, Cassian saw Sala give up her station beneath a copse of young pine trees. The manticore gently nudged off Roksana who had thrown her arms around the beast’s neck, and slunk over to Rhys and Feyre, her silver tail a blaze cutting through the brisk morning air.
The manticore paid no heed as Rhys stilled and his magic crackled—a male ready to protect his mate—but something angry rose in Cassian. He stifled it. Told himself he’d be nervous if a young manticore was roaming around near his mate without its fae counterpart beside it. Yet… the females around the camp had accepted Sala more readily than Cassian had anticipated. To them, Sala and Nesta were a gift from the old Gods—a level or protection against the evils in Prythian—and whilst they kept their distance they did not flinch when Sala walked by.
It helped that the manticore was good with the children. She allowed them to tug at her ears and hang around her neck, only letting out a warning growl if they pulled too hard or she’d had enough.
And the males… even they treated Sala with a level of begrudging respect and terror. Nobody could dispute the old magic that clearly stated that Sala was Nesta’s and Nesta was Sala’s. Cassian couldn’t say he was put out by it. If anything, it offered Nesta an undisputed level of protection that meant she could roam the camp and surrounding skies with more freedom. There had been so many times this week when Nesta had come back to the bungalow in time for dinner, her cheeks glowing and her eyes so wonderfully bright that Cassian couldn’t stop the delighted, relieved smile that graced his expression.
Ignoring the magic that was heavy in the air, Sala drew up at Feyre’s side. Feyre’s eyes were a little wide as the manticore nudged her muzzle into her hand in greeting, before the beast sat back on her haunches. Those golden eyes fixed back on where Nesta stood in the sparring ring, her weight braced on a back foot as Emerie pummelled her fists into her hands. But when Feyre dared to run her hand down the silken fur of Sala’s head, the manticore’s eyes briefly slatted in pleasure.
“She’s on our side, you know,” Cassian told his brother later, as they stood at the lip of the mountain pass where the sparring rings jutted out into the Illyrian sky. Feyre and Nesta had disappeared to the widows camp whilst Rhys observed the Windhaven forces. “Quit acting like Sala is going to tear Feyre limb from limb.”
Rhys’s attention slid from the males engaged in a sword fight to pin Cassian with violent stare that did nothing to quell Cassian’s irritation. “In case you have forgotten, Sala is a manticore. I believe I have some leniency to be wary of a beast who could rip out my mate’s throat with little hesitation.”
“Bullshit,” Cassian retorted, making sure he kept his voice low so as not to draw attention. “A manticore has its own moral compass and its own ability to judge who is and isn’t a threat. And,” he continued, “Nesta would never harm Feyre. She would never allow Sala to attack her.”
“Nesta’s magic is so vast you could add up the magic of six of the High Fae nobility and it would seem like a drop in the Sidra in comparison to Nesta’s. So excuse me if I take precautions given her relationship with my mate is volatile at best and the manticore answers to no-one but her.”
Barely contained fury split across Cassian’s expression and he clamped down on it, lowering his mental shields on instinct so Rhys’s dark consciousness could step inside his mind. Stop spewing shit, Cassian snapped internally, his voice thunderous now he did not have to control the level of his voice. And stop disrespecting Nesta. Her trauma runs deeper than you could ever imagine, yet here she is, defending the Illyrian people and fighting for what is right.
And Rhys… his brother actually blinked at the force behind Cassian’s words. It was not often that Cassian truly lost his temper—not like this.
Releasing a slow breath, Cassian finally loosed the words he’d needed to say aloud for a long time; If you don’t forgive Nesta, you will forever drive a wedge between the two sisters. You forget that Nesta is an empath. Why do you think she turned down every job you offered her? Your offers were never genuine.
Rhys observed Cassian with a level of scrutiny he hadn’t been subject to in a long, long while. Cassian did not squirm, only stared his brother down, unflinching. You can’t welcome Nesta to the Court of Dreams without a level of trust, brother. Let her show you what she’s capable of. Give her space and time. Nesta is strong and fierce and proud but she feels deeper than anyone I’ve ever met. She is well aware of the wrongs she’s committed. Do not think she does not suffer for them, but she is not someone to be controlled. Nesta cannot and should not be tamed by anyone but herself.
This time Rhys’s blink was laboured as if a realisation had just clicked in his brain. Cassian knew that he had not considered that he might prevent Feyre from mending a relationship that she yearned for. And to know he could be the cause of his mate’s unhappiness…
Rhys wasn’t without fault—nobody was—but this bias had gone on too long.
His brother seemed to think so, too. Ok, Rhys conceded. You’re right. I’m sorry. But know that it will always be my instinct to protect Feyre, you know that. Even if there’s nothing to protect her from I will never stop worrying.
Cassian did know. It was why he was so worried about this afternoon. About Nesta joining them whilst they announced the new law to a population of hostile, backward Illyrians.
But Cassian graced Rhys with a taunting smile that was free of his earlier anger. I understand. But you should know that if I see you mistrust Nesta or Sala again, I will drag you into the sparring ring. And we both know who will win that fight, brother.
Rhys’s velvet soft laugh echoed around Cassian’s mind and then that midnight dark retreated. Cassian carefully stacked up his mental shields until they were a ring of indestructible fire.
And all the while, Cassian did not voice what they both already knew: that it was his instinct to protect Nesta, too.
“What if instating the clipping law today motivates the rebellion?” Feyre asked uncertainly as they ate a quick lunch together in the bungalow.
Azriel had arrived a few minutes prior and they all sat together on the couch, plates balanced on their laps. Mas had been busy preparing food dosas that morning and even Rhys’s eyes had lit up with delight as he thanked the blushing housekeeper, piling copious amounts of potato onto his pancake.
It struck Cassian as he surveyed the people in the room before him—his loved ones— that the bungalow too small for so much company. And that was without Mor or Amren, the latter of whom had remained behind in Velaris to watch over the wards, alongside overseeing an important meeting with the merchants in stead of Rhys.
Cassian also suspected that Rhys’s second remained behind because his brother didn’t want any of the Illyrian’s to glean just how much power Amren had lost in the war—how she was no longer the nightmare the children of Prythian were told about—the ancient, terrifying other who would drink their blood if they misbehaved.
The new law would be decreed in all of the market squares of the major camps. Alaksander would travel with them and would be publicly clipped—a living example of what would happen to anyone who disobeyed the law that had been instated for centuries. Alaksander would prove that the new penalty for clipping another’s wings was not just a threat: the Night Court would follow through on their promises.
All of the Illyrian nobility had been informed of the impending law by Night Court winnowgram, each letter signed by both High Lord and High Lady. The reaction had not been a pleasant one and even though Cassian knew the amendment to the law was progress, he couldn’t help but wish it was not a bastard who had stooped so low as to mistreat girls in such an abominable way. What might have been different if Alaksander had not been brought up on the cold and brutal fringes of society, where only iron will and sheer luck meant you survived? It didn’t excuse his actions, but Cassian couldn’t shake the leaden sensation in his gut that whispered; what if, what if, what if?
“It could go either way,” Cassian confessed finally to Feyre, his expression grim.
As he spoke, cold fingers brushed against the back of his hand and Cassian looked down in surprise to find Nesta’s forefinger curl around his. He had dared to sit next to her, unable to emerge triumphant from the battle that came with his innate need to oversee what she ate—fetching her chai when she barely touched her tea, spooning more yoghurt atop her dosa to counteract the spices. Feyre, he knew, had watched the entire process with a bemused expression that bordered on amusement. Rhys’s eyes had just glimmered knowingly. Azriel remained stone-faced, but Cassian knew his brother was raising an internal eyebrow at him as those shadows whispered and whispered and whispered.
Cassian adjusted his grip until their fingers intertwined just as a soft, gentle breeze fluttered down that tether. It smelt sweet like summer. Like freshly cut hay bails and the muted perfume of flowers and grass. In his mind, Cassian caught a fleeting image of Nesta running her hands through a golden field of wheat as she walked towards a lone large oak tree, its gnarled trunk a safe haven as she sat against it and opened a book.
Want coiled inside of him and all Cassian could think about was raising Nesta’s hand to his lips and pressing his thanks to her skin. Something primal growled as he fought the urge and Cassian hoped to the Mother that Nesta’s scent had faded from him enough that his mere proximity to her didn't scream to his High Lady, I pleasured your sister until she shattered on my tongue.
For some absurd reason, the thought made Cassian want to bark a laugh. Nesta twisted her head to look up at him and Cassian wondered if she’d felt his amusement with her empath gifts or whether it had tunnelled down the bond.
He didn’t really care. He squeezed her hand.
“It will either continue to ignite any existing hatred of our Court or scare them enough that they will start to see us as a real threat,” Azriel said.
The Shadowsinger had already finished his food and was now standing at his usual spot by the fireplace. Sala sat intently before him, her eyes tracking his shadows as they wreathed about his body. It was almost as if the manticore was hoping he would send out a tendril for her to play with.
Cassian felt like telling the manticore that Azriel was all about hard work and very little play. But it was that work ethic and the Illyrian spies his brother had in place across the clan territories that had ensured that word had got out about what had happened in Ironcrest. Rhys had been adamant that condemning the Ironcrest royalty right off the bat might spark Kallon into action before they were ready. They still needed to find out where Kallon was, whether he’d managed to get the sword to work, and why he had needed the girls blood. Cassian was sure it was dark magic intended to revive the blade, but until they knew for certain… They needed answers and they needed them fast.
So, the leaked information had been selective—devoid of details about the sword and the pit of blood—but the bare bones had been enough to spark intrigue; each retelling whispered of Nesta Archeron, the witch of the Eastern Steppes and their manticores. Of clipped girls kept in cages and rebellion sentries killed for their crimes by a member of the High Fae who did not treat the Illyrians as lesser.
As Azriel had assured Nesta a few days prior when he’d visited for dinner; Stories that thrive on the grapevine have a tendency to wreak more havoc than the complete truth.
The key was to use the power of rumour to slowly unravel the success of the rebellion’s cause amongst the Illyrian people. If Kallon was relying on the females to sway any future referendum for an independent nation, the Night Court would reveal their despicable actions and hope that it would be enough to show the females of Illyria that the rebellion would only result in continued subordination and abuse.
“I am keen to side with the latter,” Rhys said lightly, as he picked a piece of invisible lint off his already immaculate shirt. “This is the first true reaction they have seen from us. It reasserts our authority above petty threats.”
“And it helps,” Azriel continued coldly, “that the rebellion sentries lost their lives. It eliminates further problems down the line.”
“Had the Blood Rite gone ahead, I did initially suggest that we should have allowed some of them to get caught up in the casualties,” Rhys mused.
“We can’t kill every Illyrian that stands against us,” Cassian snapped, his temper rising, even though he knew Rhys had never been serious about messing with the Rite. “That makes us the evil ones in the scenario. It sparks further rebellion later down the line when we squash down every fly that strays onto our path.”
“That may well be true,” Rhys reflected, “but Nesta has certainly done us a favour by ruling some of them out of the equation. Either way, going to all of the camps today is the start of something new—something better.” He turned to Nesta. “You’re ready?”
Nesta had been silent during the meal but to Cassian’s delight, she had cleared all of the food on her plate. Even so, her fingers tightened around his, her knuckles turning white as she rose up tall and lifted that regal chin. “Yes.”
To everyone’s surprise, the Shadowsinger let a faint, reassuring smile grace his mouth, as if he saw through Nesta’s indifferent mask. “It will reassert authority,” he reassured Nesta quietly, his voice as smooth as midnight.
Cassian relaxed slightly at his brother’s words. Nesta liked Azriel and he was the least likely person she would snap at. Sometimes that understanding consumed Cassian with a bitter jealousy that he couldn’t shake, that territorial part of him raging that Nesta would sooner listen to his friend over him, but now… it was needed, and it was useful.
He also knew that he wouldn’t give up their shared fire for anything.
Rhys nodded in agreement. “My Inner Court works on choice,” Rhys told Nesta. “You can help Mor relocate the girls this afternoon if you’d prefer or you can come to each of the camps with us.”
It was an olive branch and one Rhys meant, even if it scuppered his brother’s plan to reassert that Nesta was not someone to be messed with: a benevolent yet wrathful queen that would defend and protect those who needed it the most.
Nesta shook her head, but Cassian felt her inner turmoil in his stomach, the sensation deep and wounding. So he stood, helping her rise to her feet, their hands still entwined. He cocked an arrogant, lazy eyebrow and allowed a grin to spread across his face as he gave in to temptation and kissed the back of her hand, as if she were royalty and he a lowly pauper. “I think you’ll terrify them, witch,” he drawled, and Cassian didn’t have to observe anyone in the room to witness their surprise as Nesta’s lips twitched up into a small, true smile—a smile she saved for Mas and Roksana and him.
“You don’t have to do anything, Nesta,” Feyre said thickly, her hand coming to rest gingerly on Nesta’s arm as she also stood from the couch. She was no doubt thinking of the image Cassian had accidentally let slip the day before when Rhys had asked Nesta to share her memory of the cave. He had been so terrified of Nesta reliving the previous day’s trauma that the ring of fire around his mind had slipped.
It had been too late to fumble after the images that had tumbled through the exposed cracks of his mental shields; Nesta’s haunted blood-streaked face and that dead look behind her eyes as he desperately cupped a palm to her cheek in the bathroom—as he tried to get her to engage with him.
Feyre had looked as if she had been hit in the stomach—had looked physically ill—and even Rhys’ violet eyes had flicked to Cassian’s for a second, his dark eyebrows raising imperceptibly before Nesta had allowed him into her mind.
And that memory…
Even now, the thought of it made Cassian want to shatter things. They had all witnessed Nesta’s sheer panic as that male had pressed his body against hers, pinning her to the ground. Had all seen the boy’s cruel face that had pushed to the forefront of Nesta’s mind when it had happened—a face that Cassian was certain was that human piece of filth. But then Cassian’s pyrite had exploded with power, the ruby light throwing the male off of her just in time for Nesta to scramble to her feet and thrust that sword through his groin.
“You’re involved in this either way,” Rhys told Nesta from his position across the couch, puling Cassian abruptly from his thoughts. Silver flames from their position in the hearth danced in his brother’s star-flecked irises. “What you displayed was an incredible amount of power that they will fear. You need to remind them of that.”
When Nesta emerged from her bedroom in full leathers with a bow slung across her back, Cassian thought he might self-combust.
The leathers were a gift from Rhys and rather than being made up of the usual black, the scales were lined with a smoky silver that shimmered and danced. The effect was both sublime and unnerving; the whispering silver a promise of the danger that could be wrought from Nesta’s fingers should anyone cross her.
Clamping down hard on the arousal that smacked him in the face, Cassian quickly looked away, only to find Azriel observing him with a sly grin.
“Ditch the bow,” Rhys ordered.
Nesta bristled. “But—”
“No.” Cassian’s words were a deathly snarl that were forced between gritted teeth. Besides the lunacy of asking Nesta to go into the camps unarmed, Rhys’s tone was not the way to deal with Nesta—it was not the way to speak to his mate.
Feyre whirled on Rhys. “You can’t be serious?”
Rhys’s violet eyes did not move from Nesta’s, nor did his expression turn neutral as he spoke to Feyre mind-to-mind. “You’re powerful enough without it,” Rhys told Nesta simply when he was done explaining to his mate. “That’s the message you want to send. You have your own magic and you have a manticore at your side.”
Cassian clenched his fists as Nesta removed the new bow Lorrian had gifted her a few days prior. The bow she had taken to wearing almost everywhere.
“At least take a dagger,” Cassian ground out, striding towards Nesta and unsheathing one of the knives at his thigh in one fluid movement.
Mother above, the thought of Nesta with no weapon made him want to vomit.
But Nesta shook her head. “I’ve got one,” she told him as she buried her fingers into Sala’s ruff and took Rhys’s outstretched hand.
Her lips twitched as Cassian scoured her body in vein. He was so close to her that he could almost taste her skin, but he ignored the heady rush and crossed his arms firmly over his chest. He stared down at her and demanded, “Where?”
A taunting eyebrow lifted as Nesta replied coolly, “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
Cassian couldn’t help it. He laughed—the sound loud and booming and true. “At least tell me you’re wearing —“ he started, needing to know she was wearing the pyrite. That if some shit went down and he couldn’t reach her, if her magic failed, then he could protect her like he had that day at the cave.
Metallic blue shimmered in Nesta’s irises—her power writhing beneath the surface. The sight of it was a relief and Cassian wondered if Nesta had known that. If she had summoned it so she could assure him that she had her own arsenal of weapons. “I haven’t taken it off.”
“Now, now children.”
Feyre’s teasing voice filtered into Cassian’s ears and then her slim fingers were wrapping around his hand.
But Cassian did not break his gaze from Nesta, watched the fire dancing amusement in her eyes until Feyre folded him into nothing.
Ironcrest was just as they had left it; beautiful yet punishing, the strong wind a slap to the face as they winnowed directly into the roughly hewn market square located in the centre of the valley. To the left of them the sparring rings rose like teetering, grass-topped towers and to the right, the cliff face layered with the nobility’s residences staggered their way up into the clouds.
It had been decided that the royalty across the camps would not be granted a visit prior to the clippings. The Night Court would not bow to the Illyrians haughty sense of authority. Instead, the Illyrians would be reminded that it was they who were subject to its Court’s wrath should they not abide by law.
For the brief second it took for them to materialise into the camp, Cassian witnessed the awe alight across Feyre’s face—the painter in her no doubt drinking in the beauty around her—before her expression turning into the stony mask of a High Lady unimpressed with the brutal actions of her people.
Beside them, Nesta, Rhys and Sala appeared in a glitter of midnight. Seconds later, Azriel stepped out of the shadows with Alaksander beside him, the bastard bound in ropes of cobalt light. The Illyrian’s face was full of such stark fear and apprehension that Cassian knew he’d be begging when he learnt that his penalty was far worse than death.
Aside from the howling wind, the activity in the camp seemed to pause at their arrival, as if it was waiting with bated breath. Crowds had already formed in the square around a circular wooden platform that had been built around the middle of a stone fountain.
The fountain itself was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful structures in the camp. Water flowered downwards into multiple stone basins that grew in size until they met the wide reservoir at the base, which was obscured by the wooden scaffolding. At the very pinnacle of the fountain, two stone warriors rose towards the sky—Enalius and Oya—who sported crowns. Rather than being inlaid with jewels, the crowns were set with two angled stars that lay atop the front and were tied together by a circular ribbon that ran through their middle—pareho.
At the base of the fountain, hidden by the platform, Cassian knew lion faces were carved into the stone—beasts ready to fight beside their chosen companions in the battle against evil.
“Here we go,” Cassian muttered under his breath to Feyre as he spotted the all too familiar figure of Lord Rufous—Ironcrest’s senior war-lord—stalking towards them across the wide circular platform.
Cassian turned to Nesta, ready to prompt her should she forget their plan, but she and Sala were already moving—Nesta an unwavering, lethal Queen as she floated towards the steps that would lead them up onto the raised planks.
Sala slunk by her side, her silver tail flicking dangerously, her sharp fangs visible and pointed beneath her muzzle, and Illyrians stepped back warily to create an unobstructed path. Some jumped out of Nesta’s way, their eyes wide and scared as they discovered that the rumour of the manticore was grounded on truth. But a few of the females dropped to their knees and bowed to the earth. A handful of them even dared to reach out and brush Nesta’s arm, as if they wanted living proof that she was not a mirage.
Cassian tried not to bristle—tried not to snarl and launch himself towards her and unsheathe his sword in the same motion. A slow, steadying breath allowed his head to clear as he reminded himself that Nesta could protect herself. That she was strong and fierce and brave and that she did not need him to step in and fight her battles for her. So Cassian watched Azriel stride after her, his hand gripping Alaksander’s arm as he led the restrained male towards the stage. Feyre and Rhys filed in behind them, their magic trailing an invisible yet somehow detectable path behind them like a royal cloak, and Cassian took up the rear, his hand casually resting on his sword as he stalked after them, his expression as hard and unyielding as granite.
When Nesta slowly ascended onto the platform, Lord Rufous faltered. And Nesta—Nesta—smiled at him, the movement cruel and twisting and terrifying. And in that moment, every single rumour that had spread through the camp like wildfire lit as a threat in her eyes.
Those dark beady eyes fell to Nesta’s fingers, where embers sparked with the promise of flame, and Rufous stilled, seemingly frozen to the spot. Even the males beside him halted, although their expressions remained cruel and calculating.
“She killed Ironcrest warriors,” Lord Rufous snarled when he finally found his voice. “That witch is not permitted on our lands.”
Cassian snarled right back, the sound a low, territorial warning in his throat as he bared his teeth at the war-lord. Rhys scraped a nail down Cassian’s mental shield but he ignored it. They both knew he couldn’t help it. “Then the Ironcrest nobility should have ensured that girls were not caged and slaughtered like animals.”
“Where is Lord Marsh,” Rhys cut in smoothly, before Cassian could royally fuck something up. “I called for his presence today.”
“He and his wife are indisposed,” Rufous sneered. “As is his son.”
“And pray tell me, where has Prince Kallon scarpered off to?” Rhys asked with a light deliberation that should have set alarm bells clanging through Rufous’s thick skull.
“He has business with the warriors in the north of our territory,” Rufous replied coldly, but the male’s onyx eyes slid warily to Sala as the beast pinned him with a glare that sung death.
“How interesting,” Rhys mused, as he picked off an imaginary piece of lint from the exquisitely tailored shirt that was lined with silver thread—starlight shimmering in a night sky. “And here I was thinking that Princeling Kallon abandoned his territory and his people after our recent findings.”
Rufous’s lip curled but he did not retaliate. Instead, his gaze slid to Alaksander who looked as if he might have fainted if it were not for the Shadowsinger holding him up. “He’s not one of ours,” Rufous sneered.
“He was on your territory with many other males who belonged to your camp,” Rhys responded calmly, but this time his voice was laced with the dark sort of promise that should have finally made Lord Rufous take stock of who exactly he was speaking with. “And he will receive a punishment that is fit for his crime.”
“Is that why we’ve all been called here then?” Rufous asked. “To witness a killing of a bastard who has no relevance to our camp? We do not control the filth that comes out of Windhaven. We can’t help it if those savages clip their females.”
“If the Illyrians in Windhaven are savages, then I do not know what to call the males in your camp,” Nesta said, her voice brimming with a fervour that burned like ice. “How many females have been mutilated here? How many girls? It is a sin what has been allowed to happen here.”
Lord Rufous was slowly turning purple with rage—no doubt at having been spoken to with such derision by a female—but he remained where he was, his darting glances between Sala and the fire burning at Nesta’s palms enough to keep him stationed in place.
“I do not believe that I need to remind you or the Illyrians here in Ironcrest that clipping has been against the law for centuries,” Rhys began coldly before Lord Rufous could open his mouth to form a retort. His voice was suddenly ringing out across the crowds, his magic amplifying the sound. “As Lady Nesta has pointed out, I have it under good authority that many of the females in this camp have been mutilated, so I would not take it upon yourself to lie to both your High Lord and Lady that this is a one off occurrence when I can see for myself that it is not the case.”
Rhys nodded to the bodies of Illyrians who had gathered around the fountain—at the females who had turned up not only to witness a public visit from their High Lord and Lady, but to see the High Fae who had protected their gender at the potential cost of her own life.
A sharp click of Rhys’s fingers summoned a rickety looking stool that appeared out of thin air. “Sit, observe and do not speak,” Rhys ordered with another snap of his fingers and a deliberate pointed finger.
For a moment, Rufous looked as if he was going to object, but then Sala prowled forward. The manticore’s ears lay flat against the back of her head and her nose wrinkled as her lip curled into a cruel smile, baring her lethally sharp incisors.
The blood that had threatened to turn the war-lord the colour of beetroot drained so quickly that Cassian thought it was a wonder that he didn’t faint. Sala slowly encourages Rufous and his warriors to step backwards until the war-lord’s legs bumped against the stool. There was a moments pause and then, when Rufous failed to sit down, Sala let out an ear-deafening roar. Spittle flew onto the war-lords leathers and the male jumped out of his skin, his backside hitting the seat with an audible thump.
The males at Rufous’s side leapt to unsheathe their weapons, only to find that they were stuck in their scabbards.
Feyre raised her chin. “We won’t be using those. If anyone so much as dares to touch their weapons you will receive the same punishment as this traitor.” She jerked her head towards Alaksander whose knees were all but knocking together.
“Well said, darling,” Rhys purred, bringing his mate’s hand to his mouth so he could press a kiss to the back of her palm.
And then together they turned back towards the crowd.
Alaksander had begged when Nesta had cut his wings. Had fallen to his knees and begged as Nesta floated over to him, her irises misting silver.
“You were part of a group of males who raped and mutilated young girls,” Nesta had told him in a voice that had bordered on ethereal. “As punishment, you will never taste the skies again.”
That fated forefinger finger had risen and at the tip, a single silver flame had burned so hot Cassian could sense the molten heat of her magic from where he had stood flanking his High Lord and Lady. And somehow Cassian knew that the hoards of Illyrians that had gathered could sense it to—the immense power of the eldest Archeron sister who had been gifted with the magic to protect and defend.
Alaksander had started to sob, the sound cracking around the market square in such a broken way that Cassian was surprised the male’s ribs did not splinter. He tried to tuck in his wings but Azriel made him turn so his back and wings faced the crowd.
The male had tried in vein to keep his wings tucked in tight, but Rhys had lifted a hand and slowly, painstakingly, Alaksander’s wings had spread as if an invisible force was pulling them open.
“We do not take pleasure in this,” Rhys informed the many faces that had gathered around them. “We have trusted Illyria to uphold the laws the Night Court have decreed in the past, but they have not been followed. Lest this new law be a lesson to you all.”
“Should any of you clip another's wings then you will pay the same price,” Feyre continued. “We have eyes and ears in every corner of this Court. Do not think because you are far removed from Velaris that we will not catch wind of barbaric acts and that we will not dare to interfere.”
And then, with a nod from her sister, Nesta’s flame had seared through the tendons on either side of the male’s elbow joints. Alaksander had screamed, his back arching as he tried to flinch away from the permanent damage that Nesta had inflicted to his treasured wings.
It was that desperate, broken scream that had sleep eluding Cassian as he lay in bed hours later. His thoughts were too loud, too insistent, and the images his mind conjured were too bright and colourful.
He was worried about Nesta. She had healed Alaksander between trips to the other camps without a word. Had slowly knitted his tendons back together only for her to cut them again as they stood before the next clan. She had not balked. Had only kept that icy, murderous expression across her face that told Cassian she was thinking of every wronged female as she took away Alaksander’s flight.
Even so, Cassian knew Nesta had found no true pleasure in it, only a grim determination that what she was doing was right. And it was something that the crowd had understood, too. Nesta was two sides of a coin: she could protect and destroy and she would indulge in the latter if it meant fighting for the former.
By the time they had arrived at the House of Wind, the exhaustion that came with the day’s events had been stark across Nesta’s face. She had barely registered the food Cassian had made her eat in the dining room as soon as they had arrived, or the way that Sala had placed her head in her companion’s lap. Feyre had summoned the wraiths up to the House, clearly worried herself for her sister’s welfare, and Cassian had watched Azriel’s spies lead Nesta away to her old room in search of a bath and a warm bed with a forlorn expression on his face that had resulted in a quirked eyebrow from Azriel.
When Cassian had checked on Nesta an hour before he retired to bed himself, he’d only spotted the slope of a satin-strapped shoulder and the golden tangle of hair spilled across a pillow beneath the piles of blankets atop the mattress. Sala had lain at Nesta’s feet, her chin between her paws, but the manticore had hopped off the bed when she’d spotted him, rubbing her face against his middle with a loud, rumbling purr.
Letting out a long groan of frustration, Cassian flipped over onto his back in defeat—his mind too busy to grant him the peace that came with sleep. It was well after midnight now, the night sky overcast and muted through the view Cassian was afforded in the gap between the curtains. Occasionally, the cloud coverage would break to reveal a dusting of stars as they glinted softly against the smoky blue of the night sky and a beautiful crescent moon.
A dull pounding began to echo around Cassian’s skull; the result of his continuous efforts to strain towards something that simply would not come. So, when he heard the quiet patter of feet coming from the corridor outside his room, Cassian initially thought it was a new addition to the throbbing in his head. Even so, instinct had him reaching for the knife beneath his pillow. But then the doorknob turned and a soft, buttery wedge of light crept across the floor, illuminating the sweeping outline of Nesta’s curves as she stepped into the room. Sala’s golden eyes glinted as she sloped in behind her companion.
Nesta’s scent hit him moments after that—sleepy jasmine and vanilla. He didn’t sit up. Cassian had learnt to treat Nesta like an easily startled animal when she chose to expose herself. Opting for slow, measured movements was key—or better, no movement at all.
“Ok, sweetheart?” he rasped through the darkness, barely daring to believe he wasn’t dreaming as she leant against the carved oak door. It clicked shut behind her and Cassian pushed the weapon back beneath his pillow.
For a moment, Nesta stood there and Cassian tried not to notice how her nipples had peaked from the cold or how painstakingly beautiful she looked with dishevelled hair and her eyes half-shuttered from sleep.
He clamped down hard on the sudden need that washed over him, imagined sinking his teeth into the meat of it until it squirmed uncomfortably—a beast trapped beneath a paw—as Nesta walked silently across the room. Sala slunk through the shadows too, hopping up onto the bed so she could curl up by Cassian’s feet. But Cassian was too preoccupied with how the mattress dipped as Nesta slid beneath the sheets. At how his heart was beating so hard he knew she must be able to hear it.
She was still too far away—too far, too far, too far away on his stupidly enormous bed—and Cassian resisted every urge that screamed at him to grab her.
Instead, he rolled onto his side. Savoured the sight of her silhouette from the intermittent moonlight that filtered between the billowing amethyst curtains.
“It’s too quiet in my room,” Nesta admitted eventually, her voice hoarse from lack of use. She stared up at the ceiling. “The silence woke me up. I miss the wind.”
Now Cassian’s heart raced for an entirely different reason. “I had Rhys loosen the shield around my room here a long time ago,” Cassian told her, knowing Nesta had already clocked the soft howl of the wind as it whipped around the neighbouring mountain peaks. “Whenever we used to stay here as younglings I could never sleep either. It took me a long while to realise that Rhys could alter the magic for me. He did the same in Azriel’s room.”
Not that Cassian often entered Azriel’s bedchamber. His brother was fiercely private like that.
“Is that why you choose to stay up here rather than in the other houses?” Nesta asked. “So you can live in the sky?”
“Partly,” Cassian admitted with a lift of a shoulder. “I never had reason to set my roots down in Velaris permanently and buy my own place. My home has always been Illyria, even if the bungalow is small.”
Nesta frowned, clearly unconvinced by Cassian’s words. Before the threat of the rebellion, Cassian had spent very little time living at the bungalow, more often than not having one of his friends winnow him to where he needed to be when he was required to oversee a military unit or kick a stubborn war-lord into line.
But she only said quietly—as if it were their secret, “I like the bungalow.” She rolled towards him and as the face of the moon was again cast free of a cloud Cassian finally saw Nesta properly.
“I didn’t think I’d like Illyria but I do,” she confessed.
“I’m glad,” Cassian replied softly. “It’s not for everyone.”
Nesta shrugged. “It’s brutal and cold but it’s…” She trailed off, searching for the right words. “Freedom, somehow. I’ve never had a home really, but being there feels right.” A blush graced her cheeks and Cassian wanted to stroke it away with his thumbs as she looked away. “I don’t know if that makes sense.”
“It makes sense,” Cassian replied hoarsely.
Silence draped over them like a blanket. But then Nesta asked, her voice smaller than usual, “Can I stay here? In your room, I mean?”
“I’ve already told you I’d rather sleep with you beside me,” he reminded her, something cracking inside of him at the glimpse of vulnerability she allowed him to see. “Stay whenever you want.”
Nesta stifled a laugh. “You won’t be saying that if you have company.”
“I won’t have company.”
Nesta turned her head to smile into the pillow. “Liar.”
“I’m beyond lies right now, Nesta.” The intensity behind his words didn’t have Nesta physically recoiling but Cassian knew her—knew that she would start to panic. So, he shot her a slow grin. “I wouldn’t be stupid enough to turn away a haughty witch now, would I?”
A huff of breath caressed his cheek. “I didn’t realise you had such common sense.”
Cassian’s laughter sparked him into action, his resolve to keep his hands to himself wavering as he reached for her. And when Nesta moved towards him and melted into his embrace, her back moulding into the hard planes of his body, he almost groaned at the comfort of it—at the knowledge that she wanted to be held by him.
Their legs tangled together and Cassian curved a wing around them, carving out a safe space for the two of them.
Emboldened, Cassian dared to bow his head to the nape of her neck and breathe her in. And even though he had spent the last week desperate to touch and taste her, Cassian found he had never been more content in his life to lie with someone and merely hear them breathe.
Minutes passed and when Cassian shifted slightly to get more comfortable Nesta’s fingers curled around his arm. It was a silent order to stay and Cassian realised they were in the exact same place they had been the other morning, when they had awoken.
They both slept, after that.
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A scene I would’ve liked to see in ACOSF
She could not get the look out of her mind – the way he looked at her for the briefest of seconds after catching the sight of an Illyrian female running off with a bow in her hand. She pretended not to notice it at the time, but she could not pretend it did not hurt. And now, an hour later, sitting across from each other at the cabin eating dinner, she could not find the appetite to eat.
Usually, she ignored it. Reveled in the reputation crafted for her. Never tried to correct anyone or offer her perspective. And she was content with that.
However, she felt as if they both reached a place where she could enjoy her time with him without the need walk around any judgement. Apparently not.
She spoke before she could stop herself. “Have it ever occurred to you that when you look at me and try to fathom how I could ever let my younger sister, a child, go into the woods, that I was also a child?”
He dropped his spoon and looked up. Surprise marred his features, and although he opened his mouth to speak, she could tell that he had no words.
So, she continued. “Have it ever occurred to you that to Feyre, it was a matter of taking care of the parent who favored her. Where to me it was being stuck with the parent who has absolutely no idea what to do with me after losing the one person who I felt understood me.”
Still no words. His mouth stopped gaping.
“You look at me and see a horrible sister, and I may have been a horrible sister, but I was also a grieving child who’s only purpose in life was to marry rich. I was schooled in languages, decorum, dancing, smiling, lying on my back and so on, but by the time we went under I had absolutely no idea how to tie my own laces or cook a decent meal.”
She could still remember her mother, fawning over new dresses as a maid filled their cups of lemon tea. Looking back at it now, Nesta wondered if her mother ever loved her or she loved living through her. But at the time their mother died, at the time she was grasping straws, she clung to the one thing that was familiar to her – protecting Elain who was the mere porcelain doll her mother crafted her to be.
“So, I lashed out. And taking my age into consideration, I would say that was a normal response. And I am not holding my breath waiting for you or Rhysand – or god forbid Morrigan – to offer me redemption for something that is quite honestly none of your business. I’m not sure if the three of you are looking for some kind of apology that I didn’t try to mold myself into the only passable female image your brains are able to comprehend. And not that it is any of your business, I may not have been a huntress, but I was engaged to a man who stands by while his father beats his own mother. That was the only way I knew how I can offer support to my family.”
She did not mean to let that slip.
“I reserve any judgement I may have when I watch you around Morrigan and how you seem to treat her like a sister knowing how that started, when I watch Eris’ eye twitch whenever he sees you standing close to her, when I see they way the males here look and talk to you, because quite frankly I know how to not impose my opinion on something which I know nothing about. I ask of you the same and expect it.”
She held his gaze. She could’ve looked away, could’ve walked away. But she held it. She knew that whatever grounds they were walking on were delicate, and a part of her enjoyed her time with him, but she also knew if he couldn’t agree to that she will simply walk away.
It took him five second to nod. Swallowing slowly. “I apologize.”
She held his gaze for a couple more seconds before going back to her food. She felt a bit weird, never in her life having said any of those words before, and not knowing now if she will grow into regretting them. She did not want them to come across as an invitation for him to look at a new angle at which he may change her – mold her into a Morrigan.
“You are under no obligation to humor me…” he started. She looked up, and apparently he was waiting for her eyes to meet his before continuing, “but you could talk to me about your mother if you’d like. I can tell you what I remember of mine.”
There it is… the molding. Something must have shown in her eyes because he was quick to add. “I promise my only motive is my selfishness to know you more. Nothing else, nothing more.”
To know her more? What an absurd thought. And maybe that is why she nodded. Maybe because deep down, where a fragile heart still beats below the shield of her cruel self, the self that managed to keep that beat hidden from anyone who might take advantage of it, the self that manifested when she was barely ten because it already knew what kind of life she’ll be delt, that heart wanted someone to understand why she’ll never apologize for who she is and will never take kindly to anyone who bestows judgment to her cruel self. Because during cold nights, her cruel self was her guardian. And yes, its methods were not the gentlest, but what would you expect from something that was solely honed for basic survival.
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NESSIAN 24 24 24 24
I love them so much
All the Words We Never Said
Prompt: “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t leave.”
This one was really fun to write ;)
Thank you for the prompt and stay safe!
I recommend listening to Out of Love by Alessia Cara while reading :)
The day was cold and gloomy. Ice-cold wind whistled ruthlessly around Cassian, and he shivered, pulling his already thin jacket tighter around him. Fitting, he thought. It was almost like the weather could read his emotions.
Alone, he stood on the doorstep of Nesta’s house, knocking twice before letting himself in. The door swung open effortlessly and dead silence greeted him. The apartment was dark and empty, the curtains drawn and living room lightless. Sighing, Cassian shook off his boots and coat and stepped onto the plush rug. He began picking the clothes strewn carelessly about the house, a hoodie on the couch, a pair of sweatpants hanging off the dining table chairs. Quietly, he wandered around the house, picking up various items of clothing. After separating them into his and Nesta’s, he folded them and mutely placed them on the coffee table next to the day-old mug of drained coffee. Cassian carefully gathered his stack of clothes and taking one last survey around the kitchen and living room, headed upstairs to pack the last of his things.
They had agreed (well, more like fought over,) that Cassian was to keep the vacuum cleaner while Nesta took the blender and toaster. He could have the car, houseplants, and decor, so long as she could keep the house and its sizable furniture. Most of his stuff was already packed, waiting in his hastily-rented apartment, as he packed the last, and admittedly, the items he had procrastinated packing. His clothes.
Packing his clothes meant he had to enter the bedroom─their shared bedroom. The place where so many firsts had happened. First kiss, first sleep-over, the first time he had asked her to be his girlfriend, first─
He shot down his thoughts before they could go any further. Quietly padding up the stairs and stopping at the door, he sighed yet again. There was nothing melodramatic about this. Kicking up a big fuss would not solve anything. It was best to get it over and done with.
Taking a deep breath, he rapped loudly on the door.
A small voice answered from inside the room. “Yes?”
Cassian was not expecting her to be here. “It’s Cassian,” he answered after a beat.
Everything went silent again. He took it as a sign to enter.
The room was dark, save for the sliver of light rebelliously peeking out of the curtains. The bed sat right in the middle of the room, exactly in the same place as he remembered it. A human-sized lump lay under the covers. So this is where she’d been the last few weeks. Cassian tip-toed in.
“Nesta?” He whispered, careful not to wake her.
A soft voice peeked out from underneath the bed sheets. “Cassian?”
“Yeah. I announced myself after I knocked. Like you always asked.”
Nesta’s voice was unusually small. And hoarse. Guilt dropped like a stone in his belly. He shook it off almost as quickly as it came.
A minute passed. “Why are you here?”
“I’m leaving.” Cassian spoke at a normal noise level now.
“Of course you are, that’s all you know how to do,” she conceded quietly. There was no venom coating her words, no sharp edge to her voice. How uncharacteristic of her.
Minutes passed, and the only sound in the bedroom was the soft clicking of plastic hangers as Cassian removed his clothes from their shared closet. The clock ticked softly on the wall. Silence reigned ruthlessly.
After a beat, Cassian asked, “Do you want me to leave?”
Strained silence. Then a whispered, “No.”An honest confession. The hurt in her words was unmistakable.
Emboldened, Cassian tried to coax another response out of her. He needed something, something, at least, to hold on to, a reason to tell him why they didn’t work out. She had ended it abruptly, not giving him anything, not even an explanation as to why she ended it. Nesta had simply left. He sighed for the umpteenth time that day. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t leave.”
He knew Nesta couldn’t bring herself to say it. They both knew. Somehow, Cassian knew she didn’t need to say the words to know she meant them, and ones she wouldn’t say were the loudest of them all, the words unspoken were left hanging in the air. All cards were laid on the table as deafening silence clanged around the two.
Cassian tried again. “Is that all?”
“Okay.” she echoed tonelessly. “What are you doing?” She added softly.
“Packing up my things. You’ve suffered enough,” he whispered, zipping up his bags and stepping out of the darkened room. The door snicked softly behind him.
They knew each other well enough at this point; the countless number of years they had spent together proved well enough that when Cassian left, he could sense Nesta’s heart─the one they had worked so hard together to repair─shatter into pieces. He didn’t have to hear it to know.
The house was dark and silent as he left; its windows closed, the curtains drawn.
Just the way he had found it.
Cassian murmured a soft ‘goodbye’ and then he was gone, the scent of him vanishing on the howling wind.
Felt like writing a really quiet but angsty fic since this week has been super draining for me but I’m finally back on Tumblr after 5 months I think??
Hope you enjoyed! Leave a like/comment as that encourages me to write and produce more fics from the vast crevasses of my (weird) brain o.0
Taglist: (let me know if you’d like to be added!)
@sjm-things @nessian4life @hizqueen4life @ladywitchling @bookstantrash
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Anchor in the Waves (The Shadows Where I Hide) Ch 2
Rhys and Azriel sat down and looked at the map. Flags were placed where they knew armies resided. Each court marked, even the continent and the other lands to the east and west of them. Each court had about ten thousand men they could spare and were marked as such. Prynthian was still reeling from the loss a couple years ago, the war with Hybern taking thousands of lives and so soon after Amarantha’s reign, the courts were struggling to repopulate. Although many had come back from the various continents to find homes within the different courts. There were some courts such as Winter, Summer and Spring, who were still struggling. Azriel knew that The Summer court was still rebuilding after Hybern had attacked. The Spring Court was still in tatters after Tamlin’s treachery and Feyre showing the court their High Lords true colors. As for The Winter Court, Rhys has explained that Amarantha had wiped out many children, lesser and high fae. Rhys never spoke if he was the one to do it or if it was Amarantha herself.
Azriel glanced at Rhys who looked to be buried in nightmares. The memories of the horrors Rhys had to do, what he had to endure then and now looked like they were flying through his mind. The things he had to do, the person he had to be. Azriel thought no less of his brother, would never think less of him.
“Lucien is still with Vassa and Jurian in the Hewn City. As is Eris. My spies tell me they are residing in one of the palace apartments. Keir has left them well enough alone, though I think that is mostly due to Eris’s involvement.”
Rhys glanced up, pain flickering in his eyes before disappearing altogether. His voice was distant as he spoke. “Eris has chosen his side. I am not sure what his father will think.” Pausing Rhys crossed his arms and rested his chin in his hand, peering down at the map. “Eris has shown that he can be trusted. I trust him, if sanctuary is what he needs then I will give it. I am not sure what Beron will do, or if he has done something already. I’ll need to speak to Eris about it. Is he content to stay in the city?”
Azriel nodded. “I assume so. He hasn’t said anything. Mostly stays to himself and reads. Lucien and him have been talking. I don’t know how Vassa and Jurian are fairing. They both seem to hate the city as much as we do.”
Rhys thought for a moment and studied the map. Beron had moved his troops to the western border as if he was scared he was going to be attacked from the continent. Tamlin was a different story. Both seemed to be a threat and he didn’t like the thought of it. Rhys had been tense since Feyre had given birth. His instincts wanting to guard and protect his mate and son. They both rarely left the house without Cassian, Azriel or himself going with him. The threat of another war brought chaos into Rhys’s mind. He would do anything to protect his family.
“If we offer a house to them, they will be closer. But it has to be their choice. I will not force them to stay within my court if they do not wish to. Ask them, but also tell them that they are welcome to come and go as they please. We’ll know when they leave and come.”
Chapter 2 Link - Anchor in the Waves (The Shadows Where I Hide)
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Nesta adjusting her body to accommodate wings druring labor so that her and Cassian can one day start a family makes my heart melt ... but the angsty bitch in me wants Nesta to get pregnant during the war and then hide it from Cassian, who of course finds out mid battle, while Nesta heroically leads the Valkeries intro peril.
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everything i wanted
A/N: This OS is for @illyrianet‘s Nessian fic fest (even though it’s delayed). My song assignment was everything i wanted by Billie Eilish! Contains no spoilers, so it’s safe for those of you who are binging Nessian content while we anxiously await the book lol.
Nessian angst + comfort. Lyrics below the tags.
Warning(s) for strong language, mentions of suicide, mentions of war, and depiction of depression.
It wasn’t uncommon that Nesta dreamt of the war. In fact, it happened more than it didn’t; the only difference being the context of that night’s dream. Some were concrete memories her brain insisted on replaying, and others were strange, abstract features of the battle that haunted her. Sometimes, she didn’t even realize the burden she carried until her brain manifested it in some kind of intangible, inconsistent mental reel.
The dreams filled with memories affected her variably. Some recurred so frequently that she’d become desensitized to the imagery, the predictability of the events eerily comforting. Others presented themselves when she least expected and unearthed another facet of her trauma she hadn’t known she would need to process. Those nights were the hardest. They seemed to occur on some of her better days, making her feel as though she was destined to forever take a step forward only to take two back.
The abstract, seemingly aimless dreams were just as disorienting as the novel memories, creating a vague aesthetic rather than a cohesive visual. In their own way, they had her ruminating over the battle itself as she attempted to interpret their meanings, wracking her brain to separate the day’s details from invented symbolisms. That task proved to be difficult, but there were some things that she couldn’t forget if she tried.
The rhythmic cracking of bones, his bones.
The sound would forever haunt her; until her dying day, she assumed. Most often it occurred during the subtle transition from wakefulness to sleep, sounding at though those very wings were being snapped at the foot of her bed. Her eyes always flew open in alarm, and her heart rattled inside her rib cage. She counted her breaths until she calmed, only to repeat the process until she succumbed to exhaustion entirely.
The echo of his command she couldn’t bear to follow: “Go!”
Her panicked response, seemingly on repeat. “I can’t”
The overhead view of wings, hundreds of them, broad and battle-scarred.
A vague thrumming, felt within her very soul. An eventual uproar, power readying to unleash.
A bright flash of light, the searing of any physical matter in its wake.
Ashes; like snow flurries circling toward the earth in the dead of winter.
Those experiences, and numerous others like them, cycled until she was distressed enough to startle awake. That was always when the real trouble began. The internal struggle was characterized by a certain brutality she’d only experienced by her own hand.
The empty black of her room soothed her some nights and emulated the depth of the cauldron on others. Sometimes, the quiet eased the thrumming in her veins, and other times it was filled by insistent memories of battle sounds. There were nights where her eyes popped open to see a towering, winged figure lingering just inside the threshold of her door, only to ease backward once he realized she was awake and managing okay.
That night was different. The dreams started with a deluge of vague textures, motions, and sounds. From there, chopped scenes from the battle followed, but some events seemed to be skipped altogether in favor of investigating virgin territory. Her disturbed brain ran through the highlight reel of that day’s events until she held the king’s detached head in her hand once more, a vicious kind of silence settling through her blood at the memory. The dreams usually ended there, but that night, it seemed she had yet another layer to process.
She was back at the house with the others, standing on the balcony and listening to the heartbroken silence they carried from the battlefield. She tried to walk away, tried to get a moment to herself to get her bearings, but the Inner Circle seemed hellbent on moving inside for discussions and liquor. To call them the Inner Circle, even silently, made her mouth taste of pure ash when considering her perspective. That perspective was one of the third party; the woman always destined to be an outlier.
Nesta couldn’t bring herself to hate them despite everything. She would never give any of them, especially Rhysand, a single hint to it. But, whether she loathed to admit it or not, their teamwork and protection contributed in a major way to the fact that her sisters lived to see another day. That would always serve to tamp down her hatred.
She regarded all of them and their kinship and comfort with one another. She felt it, could sense it; the love that tied all of them together. The most painful part was the intensity and how it seemed to shine beyond what she felt, even from the two of them with whom she shared DNA.
Nesta wasn’t consciously aware of her motion to lift her body onto the ledge of the balcony. The cool stone beneath her palms grounded her as she lifted her knees upward to kneel on the solid surface. She stood to take in the landscape, the sun, and the wind blowing through her hair. It soothed her, that wind.
The vague sounds of conversation continued behind her as if no one had any idea that she was flirting such a delicate line. The wind continued to call to her, beckoning her to join the natural balance of the universe in another form entirely. The sound of it seemed like the only tolerable sensation she’d experienced in months.
So, she gave in to the compulsion, spreading her arms wide and leaning into the call of the breeze. There were no shouts, no screams from behind her. There was only the gentle roaring of the wind in her ears as she plummeted, and Nesta closed her eyes rather than bear witness to what happened next.
Her expectations hadn’t been established really, but being met with frigid waters definitely wasn’t on her radar. She felt that familiar tug again, the tether pulling gently on her soul. The Cauldron, she realized. She had thrown herself chest-first toward what she thought was her salvation, only to land in her very hell once more.
Before she got a chance to consider her choices, The Cauldron was tipping over and spilling her onto the cold stone. She gasped for breath and looked around the room. The scene was identical to the day she was Made, and she realized too late that her attempt had only resulted in her starting over from the very beginning. The details deteriorated in favor of aesthetic chaos.
Snapshots of Elain being forced under the water. The first sight of her pointed ears and her soaked body.
His pained grunts as he reached for her, how he crumbled beneath his own weight.
The sound of Elain’s cries.
Feyre begging for a broken bond.
A blur of Illyrian wings and the death-gods. The clash of legions, and the sound of breaking bones.
His command she couldn’t follow. Her reply.
The weight of the king’s skull in her hand.
Rippled, dark, and frigid waters of The Cauldron.
The sequence continued that way; torturing Nesta over and over again with her fear and her failure. She’d finally had enough, and when The Cauldron tilted to pour her onto the stone once more, she refused. The same stubborn insistence she’d already used to take what was rightfully hers shifted into something else entirely. It was an insistence on breaking the cycle, of finally using her pathetic existence to change their circumstances.
That time, she didn’t emerge from The Cauldron. Her essence lived within it, and the domino effect changed entirely at Hybern’s failure to prove The Cauldron’s abilities to the mortal queens. They could live in their delusions of royalty, but Nesta saw them for what they were. Desperate for power and purpose, eager to risk what they already had for greater glory. From her newfound perspective within the universe’s ether, she scoffed at their myopathy.
In her form, the pain was gone. The guilt and the anger subsided. She finally felt like she’d bested The Cauldron and had disrupted Hybern’s ability to formalize his alliances. As her dream progressed through the usual events, she noticed subtle differences along the way that contributed to the war’s result. They won the battle. Everyone she held dear survived, as did the people dearest to them. His wings were strong and intact, albeit scarred. But from her vantage point, there had never been a more beautiful representation of triumph.
Best of all, Nesta was no longer a burden or a disappointment. She had managed to save all of them from, not only an untimely death, but from an eternity of trying to find her place within their world. An eternity together as a family without the baggage.
Similar to how she experienced the sounds of cracking bones, she experienced the too-real pressure of his broad hand against her back. Despite it being a grounding sensation, she startled awake at the glaring reminder of the time they’d faced certain death.
They’d been prepared to go together. If only Nesta deserved such loyalty.
“Hey,” a husky, disembodied voice spoke to her. “Nesta, are you alright?”
She blinked against the dark, realizing that pressure on her back remained. Orienting her face toward the voice, she was met with a silhouette of broad shoulders and giant wings. A mess of curls circled the form’s face, a contrast to the sharp cheekbones illuminated from the hallway.
She wanted to shout his own orders back at him. “Go!” Why make him a victim of her mess?
More than that she wanted him to stay, proving her selfishness once more.
She swallowed thickly, steeling her voice to respond. Cassian beat her to it.
“I apologize if I’ve overstepped,” he breathed sheepishly. “I usually don’t come in, but you weren’t waking this time.”
“No, it’s okay. Thank you. For checking on me, I mean.”
His facial features became more clear as her eyes adjusted to the low light of the room. The expression he wore was indeed one of concern, but there was something almost fond in it, too. He offered her a small smile, and she eased her eyes closed to focus her attention on the gentle warmth of his hand.
Nesta huffed an ironic laugh through her nose. Her voice was hoarse once she spoke.
“Depends on who you ask.”
Her eyes opened to fall on his concerned, handsome face. His care would normally set her teeth on edge, but her exhaustion wouldn’t allow it. Instead, she gave him the highlights of her mental turmoil, noting the subtle tension in his shoulders. He grimaced as she recounted the usual offenders, knowing all too well which scenes haunted her most. For months, by that point, she had been sharing her nighttime experiences if only to rid herself of some of the weight. At her mention of the latter part of her dream, his eyes widened in horror.
A laugh threatened to bubble out of her chest. She knew it didn’t fit the context, but the contrast between his reaction and the generalized calm she’d felt was glaring. All things considered, she’d seen it all as a win.
“Sounds like a nightmare to me,” he croaked; a mix of sleep and emotion sabotaging his voice.
“Like I said, it depends on who you ask. In some ways, it was. Reliving all those moments that haunt me enough in the waking hours is always hard, and the fact that everyone seemed so content to let me launch myself off a balcony was scary. I would almost rather a celebration than the indifference.”
Cassian swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing through the force of his emotions. She could tell her words hit him in a delicate place, but she didn’t dare comment.
“The Cauldron part— that one is new. I usually start at the war itself; not when I was, you know.” She trailed off, not comfortable with saying it: when I was Made. “Going through it again— seeing you injured, watching Elain go into that damned pot. It’s unforgivable.”
Her voice morphed into something similar to the hiss of a viper, fear and anger lacing themselves into her vocal chords. She paused to breathe as to not get too worked up in the middle of the night and risk yet another bout of insomnia.
“No one will hurt you here, Sweetheart,” he whispered, his hand moving to rub gently across her back.
“Surely you know you can’t promise such things,” she argued, although her voice was weaker than she preferred.
The Illyrian prick snorted a laugh as if it was the most ridiculous thing he’d heard in his over 500 years of life. Perhaps it was, considering there weren’t many things that were likely to best him. Rather than address it, she deflected instead.
“The strangest part of it all was the relief I felt at the direction of the dream. No longer did I have to hear my name uttered under people’s breaths; no longer was I such a blatant disappointment for them to handle. I was finally free.”
Cassian’s face crumpled at her candor as if the thought devastated him entirely. It was possible that it did; if how she felt at any sign of his pain was an indication. “You shouldn’t speak of yourself that way,” he chided softly. “If others do not see what you bring to this world, they don’t deserve your notice.”
She blinked at him, unsure if she heard him correctly. His tone was a disorienting blend of conviction and heartbreak, and the sincerity surprised her.
“Regardless,” she said quietly, “Their opinions remain. They will grow tired of shielding me from all that lay ahead.”
“Nesta, as long as I’m here, no one will hurt you. You have my word,” he promised again, his tone unchanged.
Her emotions prevented any relevant response, so she offered a watery, weak smile in return. She didn’t doubt his word for a second; knew he’d lay his own life on the line before allowing anyone to fall victim to an attack under his watch. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe him.
Nesta just didn’t know how he could protect her when the person who hurt her most was herself.
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Tags (Master + Nessian):
I had a dream
I got everything I wanted
Not what you'd think
And if I'm being honest
It might've been a nightmare
To anyone who might care
Thought I could fly (fly)
So I stepped off the Golden, mm
Nobody cried (cried, cried, cried, cried)
Nobody even noticed
I saw them standing right there
Kinda thought they might care (might care, might care)
I had a dream
I got everything I wanted
But when I wake up, I see
You with me
And you say, "As long as I'm here
No one can hurt you
Don't wanna lie here
But you can learn to
If I could change
The way that you see yourself
You wouldn't wonder why you hear
They don't deserve you"
I tried to scream
But my head was underwater
They called me weak
Like I'm not just somebody's daughter
Coulda been a nightmare
But it felt like they were right there
And it feels like yesterday was a year ago
But I don't wanna let anybody know
'Cause everybody wants something from me now
And I don't wanna let 'em down
I had a dream
I got everything I wanted
But when I wake up, I see
You with me
And you say, "As long as I'm here
No one can hurt you
Don't wanna lie here
But you can learn to
If I could change
The way that you see yourself
You wouldn't wonder why you hear
They don't deserve you"If I knew it all then would I do it again?
Would I do it again?
If they knew what they said would go straight to my head
What would they say instead?
If I knew it all then would I do it again?
Would I do it again?
If they knew what they said would go straight to my head
What would they say instead?
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Forgotten Puzzles (Nessian Angst)
Tag list below the cut. Inspired by a writing prompt I found this morning.
Send me a prompt to celebrate ACOSF releasing soon!
Nearly anywhere she went, Cassian was there, unless she was in her own rooms or the library. Only rarely was there a day that went by that she didn't catch a glimpse of imposing wings or dark, curled hair through the shelves of books.
Curled up in her favorite chair, time passed quickly. Before she knew it, the sun was retreating over the picturesque mountains. Someone deep within the library cleared their throat. She sighed, knowing exactly who it was. She drained her tea, steeling herself for the inevitable encounter as she strode for the door.
Book in hand, Nesta navigated her way through the winding halls easily. It had only taken her two trips to the library to memorize the route. But gods, his scent distracted her. It addled her senses, even though she knew he trailed far enough behind that she shouldn't be able to sense him. But she still did. And thinking on why that might be concerned her.
Turning left at a junction, she swore softly. Wrong way.
Cassian was casually leaning against the wall of the corridor she had come from as she passed again. "Lost?"
"No," she snapped, glaring at him. "I know where I'm going."
"If you say so." He shoved off the wall, following after. "I'll just make sure you get to your rooms in one piece. I have a meeting with Rhys anyway."
"In his private chambers?" She retorted with all the venom she could muster.
"Uh, yes." Lie.
Fed up, Nesta paused. He dared a few more steps before stopping as well. She was sick of being monitored. Even if his presence had become somewhat of a comfort.
"Why is it," Nesta asked, whirling on him, "You are always conveniently there when I encounter even the slightest inconvenience? Don't you have better things to do?" He was supposedly general of Rhysand's armies; why did he never seem to leave the red walls of the House of Wind? She had been here for weeks and yet he was there at every turm, as if waiting for her.
Cassian shifted, wings tucked in tight. As if to protect them. As if she could erupt at any moment. "Feyre and Rhys asked me to keep an eye on you. Make sure you were comfortable."
"That's it?" When he didn't elaborate, she scoffed, turning on a heel and stalking down the hall. Gods, he was insufferable.
"No, wait." Cassian's rough fingers grazed her wrist, as if he knew enough that actually putting a hand on her would result in loosing his favorite body part. "Just hold on."
Inhaling deeply, he again reached for her hand. This time she let him take it, the solid warmth of his encompassing her slim fingers. She focused on the feel of his callouses sliding over the skin of her palm as he gathered his thoughts. It was an effort to keep from trembling at the contact. Her power roared through her veins, a wave crescendoing over her roiling mind. She could scarcely think over the noise, every nerve set aflame as if he had awoken some inner fire with that simple touch.
He rubbed circles on her palm, brows drawing together as if he was having the same inner struggle. Ages later, he spoke. "From the moment I met you in that manor across the wall, my life was all you.”
Nesta paused. What a vulnerable statement. One she would never let herself make, but... one that also rang true for her.
"I'm drawn to you," he continued. "When I leave, I can't get you out of my head. I can't help but wonder what you're doing. How you're occupying your time. If you're happy, or lonely, or smiling, or crying."
Perhaps that was why he tried so hard to convince her to train with him. He had said that it was to prepare her for the war, to give her skills to defend herself and Elain. Perhaps it went deeper than that.
Nesta furrowed her brow, eyes still trained on their clasped hands. Of course it went deeper than that. Her thoughts often wandered to him as well, no matter how hard she fought against it. Reading was a distraction to keep her consciousness busy enough to stay away from him. No matter how she pushed back, her mind always circled back to a certain cocky grin.
"Say something," Cassian pleaded, unable to bear her silence. When she remained stoic, he squeezed her hand. "Please."
Nesta turned his words over carefully, examining them from all angles. She concluded that he was sincere. His words held no hint of a lie. He had laid his soul bear, and would continue to do so - for her.
"I..." She swallowed the lump in her throat, looking up at him. Faelight illuminated the panes of his face and bounced off the scales of his Illyrian armor. Finally, she met his hazel eyes. Her breath left her in a whoosh.
Some foreign instinct came over her, focus narrowing to just the two of them. Before she knew what she was doing, she grabbed his collar and pulled him to her. The kiss was nothing at all like she expected. It was teeth and tongue, full of yearning and months of pent up passion. He wrapped an arm around her waist, moulding her to him. They fit together like two long lost pieces of a forgotten puzzle. Something tugged in her chest, a thread between them pulled taut. She pulled away, chest heaving and heart pounding. Was this-?
"Yes," Cassian breathed, as if reading her mind. "A mating bond."
Nesta stepped out of his arms. Her heart yearned to fall into him. Her head screamed at her to run. She had been broken so many times. She couldn't let it happen again.
She pressed a hand to her chest, backing away. Confusion coated Cassian's face, and he took a step toward her. Her face crumpled, pushing back tears as she shook her head.
"Nes," he begged, reaching for her. Her book thumped to the floor, utterly forgotten. Tears brimming, she turned and fled back to her rooms.
She did not look back at the broken male once.
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It's like the fire (replaced all the love)
Summary: "When they crumble, they're not facing each other. Both of them have their gaze set ahead. The hands they have placed on the couch are mere centimeters away, not touching. There's silence in the room. None of them talks for a long time. Even in these circumstances, stubbornness and pride triumphs over their hearts. And maybe the way they break apart should be an indication on how they weren't really meant to be together, Nesta thinks."
Relationship: Nesta Archeron/Cassian
Tags: Angst, Break Up, Healing
Chapter 1 - such a burden, this flame on my chest
read on ao3
When they crumble, they're not facing each other. Both of them have their gaze set ahead. The hands they have placed on the couch are mere centimeters away, not touching. There's silence in the room. None of them talks for a long time. Even in these circumstances, stubbornness and pride triumphs over their hearts. And maybe the way they break apart should be an indication on how they weren't really meant to be together, Nesta thinks.
She hears Cassian mumbling a curse and she feels his head turning towards her.
"You promised you'd stop drinking" he whispers.
And because Nesta always let's her rage talk in her place, she replies "and you promised you wouldn't hurt me".
It isn't really his fault she is hurt, she knows. He has done nothing wrong.
It all happened hours before. They were at some party. His friends were there, her sisters were there. Everybody seemed to be having a good time. But not Nesta. She had woken up without energy that morning. It was nothing new, but it pissed her off. She had gone to work, not talking to anyone. Cassian had sent some messages, he had even called. But she had ignored him. She wasn't mad at him, she just didn't want to talk to him. He would notice something was off, he would get worried and ask if something happened, not believing her when she said she felt that way with no reason. And how could she explain? So she let her phone ring. When she came home, he was there. His face was pale, and he was pacing on her porch. They had a fight. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that Cassian screamed at her, trying to calm down even as she kept ignoring him. They had just be quiet for a moment, and then decided to let it drop to go to a stupid party where Cassian's friends were waiting.
When they arrived at the club, Nesta just sat down on a table, not interested in having any kind of human interaction. She had come just for him, because she felt guilty about ignoring him and making him worry for the hundredth time. But he didn't sit next to her.
She had seen him dancing and talking to Morrigan, she had seen him laughing with her. The woman's hand placed on his knee like it belonged there. And maybe because she's always been jealous of the bright woman, maybe because she's always felt unworthy of Cassian's love, or maybe because she knows his friends would prefer seeing him with Mor, and they've never been very subtle about it, maybe because of all these reasons, she'd felt hurt. And she started drinking. She knows now it wasn't a smart thing to do, if not for the fact that she received judgemental glances from those around her, people who feel morally superior to her. Her sisters among them.
Cassian now let's out an exasperated sigh.
"I don't know how many times I have to tell you that there's nothing but friendship between me and Mor" he says. He tries to reach for her hand, but she pulls away.
She knows she's hurting him.
But she can't stop. She shifts her glacial eyes on him. "I don't believe you".
The way his eyes close for a brief second, as if to gather some control, make her rage burn.
When he opens them again, though, there's nothing but resignation. The same feeling that transpires when he murmurs "I love you, Nesta". Softly, as a caress. But it's received as a slap. It's not the first time he's said it. It's the first time she really doesn't know what to do with it. He loves her. But she's still hurt. She's still full of anger, she still has nightmares at night. She still thinks of alcohol and tries to drink herself to death almost every week, consciously or not. She still doesn't know how to love him back, because there isn't much place for love inside of her. There's only fire. She shouldn't have promised to stop drinking, because she knew she couldn't. She only did to make him quiet. She doesn't like when Cassian coddles her. Sometimes his way of caring for her makes her feel more of a broken doll than she already does.
She comes to a realization, then and there: his love is not the thing she wants the most right now.
That's why, after not managing to keep a tear from falling on her cheek, she replies "That's not enough".
And that's how they fall apart.
They don't really see each other for months. Cassian tells himself that it is a good thing. He needs to move on. But he can't lie to himself too much.
Not when he drinks almost every night to avoid thinking about her. It's ironic, he reflects, how he reaches for the same destruction that he didn't want her to reach for. Alcohol is the only solution he knows to his problems. He doesn't talk to his friends about Nesta, and they don't ask questions. He's not sure if they're trying to give him space and time, or if they don't really care about the break up. They have always disliked Nesta, anyway. When they first started dating, his group of friends kept joking about it, like it was some sort of prank he was pulling on them.
When he said he loved her, Rhysand just burst out laughing, shaking his head in delight. Cassian had decided not to be mad about it. They were his family. He knew they loved him, they were just a little bit overprotective. And Feyre, Rhysand's girlfriend, has never had a good relationship with her eldest sister. Maybe she told him not very pleasant anecdotes about her. Rhysand doesn't like anyone that has ever hurt Feyre. He's protective of her.
Cassian had justified his behavior over and over.
They hadn't said anything when he had come to a party hand in hand with Nesta for the first time. She was worried his friends wouldn't like her. She had told him so before coming out of the bathroom, her eyes read and her cheeks wet. "You shouldn't let them see you with me, Cass". But he had hugged her and comforted her, sure that this was just a silly worry and that his friends would support him no matter what. That night, everybody had ignored Nesta. He hadn't missed the glance Mor had sent him, though. As if he had betrayed her. Nesta was too smart to miss it too.
And now, as things have fallen apart, he is asking himself over and over again: why the hell did he keep trying to unite the two parts? He wanted his friends and family to have second thoughts on Nesta. He wanted them to see her as he did. This spectacular, fierce, fucking complicated woman that had stolen his heart completely.
Rhys and Azriel always accompany him to clubs now. Standing by his side, trying to joke. He doesn't always listen. Although he pretends he does. He even fakes smiles sometimes. It's only when they suggest he should start seeing another woman that he decides to stop drinking with them. And with time, he even sees them less. It's only when they present themselves at his apartment, asking for an explanation, that he realizes how angry he is at them.
For never supporting him, for always criticizing Nesta, for being happy they are apart, for never helping her. And he is mad at himself too. Especially for the last part.
That's why he explodes in front of them, letting his mouth scream out all the pain he feels inside, while his mind stays unbearably quiet except for a single sentence that keeps being repeated as a chant:
Not enough. Not enough. Not enough.
I don't know how to start this. Honestly, I don't even know why I'm writing to you at all. With how we left things, I guess you wouldn't want to ever hear from me again. And yet, here I am.
Maybe I'll never send this letter. Or maybe I will and pretend I didn't. That's funny, isn't it? I always face problems in that way. I do things and then ignore them until I forget, or better, until others forget about them. I hope against all hope, cause I know you won't forget the shit I did to you. I know you regret putting up with me. I know you regret knowing me. And loving me. How could you love me? I always ask myself that question, and I guess now I'm asking you too.
How could you fall in love for a wrecked thing like me?
Do you remember when we met the first time? I was drunk. Of course. I must have said something rude, I don't remember the details, but I recall how you picked a fight. Because you love to do that. And I remember thinking about you the next day. Like, not in a positive way actually. But I thought about you. Because I couldn't ignore you.
This is my way of saying that, from the beginning, you made place inside me (yes, I'm serving you a dirty joke on a silver plate, I know).
You're gone now. I mean, not like gone gone. I mean gone from my life, because you're not with me. And I guess, despite everything, I admit I miss it. I miss you. A lot. I'm not good with feelings, but I thought I was getting better while you were next to me. You make me feel safe. And that is what scares me the most, you know? I've never known a safety that would last. All the safe places in my life crumbled like castles of glass, and I guess they made so much noise inside of me that everytime I get near something similar again my first reaction is to cover my ears, not to listen. I run away from good things. You used to tell me that when we fought, do you remember? I think you do. You're right. I do. Because if I don't, the good things will capture me into their grip and I will be so caught up in the trap that I won't notice how it's suffocating me. I do want to be happy. It seems like I don't, but I really do. I just don't know how to be happy without being scared. And you terrify me. You really do. Because, and I think it's safe for me to say it now, you made me taste real happiness for the first time.
It's a pity I will never deserve you.
But you will be happy, you will find somebody else, I promise. I just hope you won't be too happy. It sounds selfish. I just mean I wish you won't be too happy to think about me, even if you hate me. I would prefer you'd keep hating me instead of not thinking of me at all. Don't forget me. Because I promise, I will never forget you.
Yours (in more ways than you know),
I don't think I could ever forget you. You are like a drug I can't stop myself from taking, even though it hurts me. You hurt me. I won't pretend you didn't. I won't tell you sweet shit and give you my forgiveness or whatever. At least not yet. But I know I fucked up too. Maybe we are just wrong for each other.
Shit, the mere thought makes me cry. That's also because I'm a little drunk. I miss you like hell. I even miss our fights, although they were so fucked up. We are so fucked up. But I really hoped we could work out either way. I hoped we would overcome these obstacles with our love and other romantic shit like that. I know it's ridiculous now. I won't forget you, Nes. I wish I could. I wish I could say that I'll get over you soon, that I'll be better, that I won't think about you anymore. I can't. I won't. I don't really want to. It's pathetic but this pain I feel is the only connection I have to you now, and I don't want to lose that.
I love you. In my own fucked up way. And I know you loved me too. You're not good at saying it, or showing it. But I know you did. Or maybe I'm just kidding myself.
Anyways, I hope you'll find a way to happiness one day. I'll be there when you do.
Yours (but you already know it),
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Stop idolizing Feysand and go talk to Nesta so you can have your own good love story!
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Pinky Promise - Chapter Seven
A/N: the fact that it’s not even 9pm here and I managed to finish this it’s awesome, but also not, cause it means I haven’t written as much as I’d have liked. This chapter literally is a third of what I had originally planned for part 7, so yeah.
I was so focused on writing that I didn’t notice I was scraching my arm and when I had to copy it and I saw I had blood under my nails, I realised I cut myself, so if you ever wonder if I suffer while writing this stuff, just know that I bleed while writing.
A very special thank you goes to Babi (@bookstantrash) and @stardustsroses that helped me with the translation:)
Word count: 6,023
"You sure you want to tell her today?" asked Rhysand running a hand through his hair, "I mean, we could enjoy a nice lunch in peace."
Azriel yawned next to him, leaning forward between the two seats to see how much longer they had to go, "Please, I haven't seen mum in almost a month."
"It's not my fault," Cassian replied confused, "You have a car and you're old enough to make the trip for yourself."
Nesta's head snapped in his direction, annoyed at the surly attitude her boyfriend had taken on in the last few hours. "How about you stop picking on other people just because you're stressed about something you want to do?" she scoffed at him.
"Preach." murmured Rhysand behind her.
Cassian shook his head, telling them all to fuck off under his breath, but remaining silent the rest of the way as Nesta tried not to demand that he apologize to everyone for telling them off. Azriel and Rhys talked about their latest misfortunes about their respective jobs and Nesta tried with all her might to stay focused on the conversation, not wanting to interact with her boyfriend at all.
She and Cassian had been arguing all morning.
In fact, Cassian had been arguing with everyone for the last three days, every hour, every minute, every second.
They'd had their downtime, their happy couple nights and their mind-blowing sex to get back to exactly where they'd started.
During the first fight, Cassian had even had the nerve to blame her for bringing it all back and she had snapped. It had turned into something all too serious when they had both stopped their shouting and pacing and Nesta had only noticed at that point that he was crying - whether it was from anger or tiredness, she hadn't asked - and without making a fuss, had told him to leave.
The next day he'd gone back to their flat and Elain had threatened him with calling in reinforcements if he didn't stop all this immense bullshit and they'd argued as well until her sister had been forced to leave for work, leaving them alone again. And the screaming had started over, fierce and aimed at hitting the most sensitive spots in each other's hearts.
When the three brothers had picked her up that morning to go to Vera's, Nesta had been tense, had left a very dry kiss on Cassian's lips and then had been shocked to discover that her boyfriend had not informed the other two of the true reason for the visit they were paying to their mother. Azriel had asked them if they could go back because he had no intention of playing like a pawn in that sick game of his, but they had been over an hour's journey from Velaris by then and they certainly couldn't go back.
As they entered the street Vera lived in, Nesta took a deep breath, "Can I ask you to at least wait until lunch is over before we start talking about the army?" she asked without even looking at him.
"I repeat," Azriel cleared his throat, before Cassian could answer. Nesta looked at him through the rearview mirror and saw that he had as much of a frown as she did as she surveyed the townhouses, "In my opinion, you really shouldn't be doing this."
"And so you think I should just not tell her? Do you really think that's a good idea?" asked Cassian again with that cranky tone.
Nesta bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from snapping at him.
"If I may," Rhysand interjected, "I don't think you should even think about joining the army."
Cassian clasped his hands around the steering wheel, straightening his back, "I got that."
"You did?" Azriel turned to him with a sarcastic, forced smile on his lips, "Because you don't seem to have grasped the concept clearly enough-"
Cassian slammed on the brakes in front of their mother's house and the wheels of the car screeched on the asphalt. The gesture was so sudden that Nesta was flung forward and the belt gave her chest a sharp tug to keep her from slamming her head against the windshield.
She turned to her boyfriend with wide eyes, "What the fuck is wrong with you?" she asked him almost screaming, but he didn't even look at her and unbuckled his belt in an instant, before turning to his brothers and fixing his eyes on Azriel.
"May I know why you're suddenly so interested in me joining the army now? You didn't seem that pushy before Nesta found out," Cassian snapped, seeming about to reach out a hand and wrap it around his brother's neck.
Nesta was still looking at Cassian, stunned by that sudden burst of anger and she wished she could touch his arm, make him turn to her, calm him down in any way, because whoever was sitting next to her wasn't the man she loved.
"Cass-" she tried to speak.
It seemed to be the spark of his fire, "Why, in all the months she didn't know, did you never really come forward?" he shouted.
Nesta flinched, meeting Rhysand's gaze on the opposite side of the car. The youngest of them all looked as pissed off as Cassian did at that moment, but the way his eyes flicked from one brother to the other hinted that he was worried about what might happen.
When Azriel spoke, Nesta shuddered, "Because I was hoping she would be enough to make you stay," he said in an icy voice, "Since your family isn't."
"Enough." she heard herself say, "That's enough."
Her boyfriend must have sensed something in her voice, because he turned to her and his expression totally changed, "Nes-"
She raised a hand, "Stop it." she murmured looking into his eyes, "We came with you today because you asked us to, but none of us wanted to be here, not under these circumstances." she continued, flexing her hands, "We're here for you. To help you tell your mother that you're about to embark on a suicide mission that none of us seem to have a say in."
Cassian sat back down with his face to the road and closed his eyes. Nesta heard Azriel get out of the car and Rhysand sigh heavily, but she didn't move her eyes from her boyfriend.
"The least you could have done these last few hours was to let us blow off the anxiety and worry you asked us to keep to a minimum during this lunch, that's going to be excruciating as it is." she took a deep breath, then forced herself to reach out a hand towards him and place it on his arm. Because despite everything, Nesta would be there for him, "Azriel has every right to ask you not to ruin the one time you see your mother in a month and you shouldn't have yelled at him like that."
Rhysand's voice came out much weaker than usual, "We're just worried."
And then he too got out of the car, leaving them alone.
Cassian and Nesta remained silent, she never taking her eyes off his face and he too shocked to look at her.
"I don't know what to do," he confessed at one point.
Her grip on his arm tightened, "Then don't do anything."
When he finally turned to face her, Nesta couldn't read any of the emotion in his eyes. It was like looking into a stranger's face.
He shook his head, bowing his chin in defeat, "I can't."
Vera Almeda was one of the most beautiful women Nesta had ever met.
When Azriel had brought her to their place for the first time when she was sixteen, she had been appalled.
She had always found women with short hair to be more attractive, but her friends' mother had exceeded all expectations. She couldn't quite pinpoint what trait it was that made her so stunning and made her look so young even at fifty years of age, but certainly the way her dark eyes stared at you as if they were reading your soul played their part.
Now, as all four of them walked tensely towards the wide-open door where she stood, they pretended that everything was fine and that they hadn't just yelled at each other.
The one thing Nesta knew for sure would never be feigned, was the smile of complete adoration and love on Azriel’s lips, “Hi mum.” she heard him say, as he walked up the steps to the porch and wrapped his arms around his mother.
The even wider smile that broke across Vera’s face made Nesta’s heart tighten, “Olá, meu menino.”
Rhysand grinned, opening his arms and peering at the woman from over Azriel’s shoulder, “I don’t get any hugs?”
Vera chuckled and that sound reminded her so much of the three brothers that it startled her, “Come here, amor meu.” the youngest didn’t let her say it twice and joined the hug, clutching them so tightly that Azriel grunted, “Ah, how I’ve missed you, where’s my sweet boy?”
Nesta smiled from ear to ear, looking over to Cassian who had one hand in hers and was walking slowly as never before, up the walkway of Vera’s house. Her smile faltered when she saw how much distress her boyfriend was in, but giving his hand a gentle squeeze, she slipped hers from his grasp and gave him a small nudge of encouragement.
His eyes met hers for a moment, but then with two strides he too was on the porch and was holding Vera in his arms. Azriel and Rhysand stood aside with tense bodies, but a bright smile on their faces.
As she watched them, Nesta couldn't help but think of her mother, how happy she would have been to meet this strong, independent woman who loved her daughters as if they were her own.
She was glad to see that some of the tension in Cassian's shoulders seemed to disappear and when it was her turn to greet Vera, she felt as if she couldn't speak for fear of saying the wrong thing.
The woman gave her a smile that was twin to all the ones Rhysand turned on her every time he had to say some nonsense, but her eyes twinkled with emotion as she reached out her hands to her face and cupped her cheeks, "God you get more beautiful every time I see you."
Nesta knew she wasn't ugly and she also knew she wasn't short, but every time she visited Vera in the mountains, well, she felt short and not even close to the sheer beauty the woman shone with.
"Hi Vera," she murmured, finally hugging her in turn, "how are you?"
The woman pulled away too soon according to her liking, it wasn't every day she was hugged by a mother, but Cassian's arm quickly found its place around her shoulders and when she looked up at him, he was smiling at her. Nesta knew that he needed that contact more than she did, but she couldn't help thinking that she was grateful to have him close by and that he could tell her moods without even needing to utter a word.
Vera shrugged, "I carry on, I've made some new friends at the tennis club, but it's always pretty lonely up here."
Azriel looked worried, "Mum, I've already told you several times you can always move back to the city if it gets too isolated up here-"
She stopped him by putting a hand on his arm, smiling broadly, "I'll never set foot in a city again in my life darling, once you live in the mountains, you don't go back." then she clapped her hands together, shifting her gaze to everyone there, "Let's head inside then, otherwise lunch will get cold."
Rhysand made an excited noise, "I can't wait for the codfish," then gave Vera a kiss on the forehead, walking into the house, "How I've missed you."
She scoffed, "You've missed food that isn't pre-cooked or warmed up in the microwave," she joked, then stepped aside, letting the others in as well, "And I'm sorry, but it didn't turn out as good as usual. The fishmonger was closed and I had to use the frozen one," Vera cringed and Nesta chuckled, taking off her jacket.
"Don't worry mum, I'm sure it will all taste great anyway," Azriel reassured her.
"Of course it will all be great, I cooked it, I was just saying it won't be as good as it always is," she looked at him with an arched eyebrow, "Now go wash your hands and then to the table, I bought some cheeses too."
Nesta smiled at her, following Azriel down the corridor.
The walls were covered in pictures, drawings, paintings, some of which Nesta recognised as pieces Feyre had done. Vera had always been so kind to them, had always treated them like daughters.
When their father had died, she had been the first to give them money for funeral expenses and to bring them meals they couldn't always afford. Cassian and Azriel had done so much for them, but they owed everything to the woman who had raised them.
The year the girls had lost everything, Vera was still living in Velaris with her children and her husband, Rhysand's biological father. The whole family had tried very hard to keep them out of the State's foster care system, all very aware of what bad things happened to children and young people who for one reason or another no longer had parents.
Cassian had been with Rhysand's family for years before Marquise Almeda decided to adopt him for good. His mother had died when he was only five and his father had never truly been a part of his life, but from what little he remembered, Cassian had told Nesta that his mother had been a loving and flawless person. Everything he had ever needed.
Azriel, on the other hand, had arrived when he'd turned ten, three years after Cassian's adoption. It had been difficult at first, but they had handled little Az's nightmares as best as they could and it had taken a long time for him to feel part of the family himself, but they had done it.
Vera had never gone into detail, but Nesta knew that they had turned to adoption agencies because they had lost a prematurely born daughter who had seen the light for only a few days. After years of artificial insemination and aborted pregnancies, both she and Marquise had been unable to continue with those methods, too mentally exhausted, and Rhysand was already old enough to realise that things weren't going well, so much so that he'd stopped asking for a little brother or sister, but Vera felt that something was missing, and if the two boys standing next to her at the moment meant anything, Marquise hadn't been fully satisfied with their situation either.
By the time they'd reached eighteen, only Azriel had changed his family name, and Nesta was pretty sure her friend had never even mentioned his biological parents' names. She was also sure that if she asked Elain, she would know. Cassian, however, had kept his mother's last name and from what she knew, no one in that house had ever held it against him. Nesta knew they had been lucky to find Vera and she would never cease to be grateful to Rhysand's parents for taking them in and looking after them.
Azriel opened the bathroom door, leaving it open so she too could go in and wash her hands, but Nesta had stopped halfway down the hall to look at a picture of three little kids, all with crazy dark hair, laughing as they shot themselves with water guns on a sunny day.
She shifted her gaze to the doorway and the smile faded from her lips.
Vera kept her hands on Cassian's arms and looked up into his face, "What's wrong?" she was asking him in a low voice, "I can see that you're upset."
As if he could sense her attention, he looked up at Nesta. She gave him a sad smile, raising an eyebrow to ask if he wanted her to go to him, if he wanted to tell her now, but he shook his head, sighing rather loudly, "I'm fine, mum, don't worry," he replied, smiling sweetly at the woman.
Vera didn't seem the least bit convinced and continued as if he hadn't even spoken, "Is this about Nesta? Is that why you came, she's sick?" she asked, lowering her voice even more.
He shook his head, biting his lip, "No, Nes is fine."
She felt guilty eavesdropping on that conversation, so she turned to go to the bathroom, but stopped in her tracks when she heard Vera say, "So what is it, are you two getting married? Is she pregnant?"
At those words, Nesta's heart lost a few beats.
She didn't stand there and listen as Cassian answered her, but hurried into the bathroom and closed the door behind her.
Azriel, who was drying his hands, looked at her with a furrowed brow, "Everything okay, Nes?"
She shook her head, releasing a breath, "I think I'm dying, how can we lie to your mother for an entire lunch?"
His features grew tense and he looked away, "I have no idea, but I suppose we have to anyway."
Nesta nodded, biting the inside of her cheek, "I suppose so." she whispered moving to let him out.
Azriel gave her a brief encouraging smile as he walked past her, but before he left her alone for good he grabbed her wrist, stopping her, "For what it's worth, I really thought you'd be able to make him see how much he risks losing with this insane idea of his," he began, "And I don't blame you. If he doesn't realise how important you are to him, he's the fool, not us."
Nesta just nodded.
They'd eaten so much that Nesta was starting to feel the post-meal fatigue taking hold inside her, but she knew she couldn't just go lie on the couch or settle into the armchair like she always did. No, Cassian needed her to stay by his side at that moment and if she couldn't support him with words, she would at least support him by letting him hold her hand as if his life depended on it.
Vera put a hand on her arm, drawing his attention, "Gostaste?"
Nesta didn't know Portuguese, but over the years she had learnt to recognise some of the words and sounds and although she couldn't answer in the same language, it pleased her every time Vera turned to her and spoke in her native tongue. She replied in English, "Yes, very much. You have outdone yourself this time."
"Estão todos saciado?" she then asked, addressing the others as well. This Nesta did not understand, but noticed once more how her accent was marked when she was most tired.
Rhysand brought a hand to his mouth, suppressing a burp, "I'd say so."
Azriel flashed her thumbs up, but said nothing. Nesta chuckled. They were all so full.
"Bom," the woman said at that point, getting serious and leaning with her arms crossed on the table, "because you've been acting weird the whole time and there's something you need to tell me."
Everyone snapped to attention, but no one even tried to breathe in her direction.
"You don't want to tell me now, I see," she clicked her tongue, turning to Nesta, and without missing a beat, asked, "How are your sisters?"
Cassian visibly relaxed beside her, and his mother didn't fail to notice, of course. Now that she was paying attention, they all looked like four kids who'd been caught with their hands in the biscuit jar.
She recovered, nodding and sighing, "Fine." she said quickly, then frowned, "I guess."
Vera turned to Rhysand, "Sweet Feyre, is she still with that stupid piece of shit?"
No one reacted to those strong words, Vera had always been very vocal about her opinion of Feyre's long gone boyfriend, but Rhysand grunted, running his hand over his face, "Why are you asking me?"
Azriel snorted beside him, "Why do you think she asked you?" then looked at him, with the usual grin he always had when his mother was around. He was always happier when Vera was around, "You've been drooling over her for years."
The younger brother was about to reply, but the woman beat him to it, "And you my child, how is Elain?"
Cassian burst out laughing, putting an arm around Nesta's chair, who leaned closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder. Azriel had gone completely red.
"Babaca, você mereceu essa." muttered Rhysand, giving him a shove.
"Actually," Nesta began, looking Vera in the eye, "a few days ago Elain told us some rather worrying things. About Tamlin."
The woman sat up straighter and any trace of amusement that had appeared from teasing her children vanished, "Is Feyre safe?"
Nesta felt herself sinking inside. If that had been the first thought of someone who didn't hang out with Feyre that often, too, it meant something was really going on.
"We don't know," Rhysand replied, cracking his fingers, "Elain just told us that they had a fight while they were together and that she and Lucien left, but I haven't seen Feyre in a couple of weeks honestly and the most worrying thing is that El didn't seem the least bit touched by Tamlin's behaviour." as he spoke, Nesta had turned to look at Azriel.
He hadn't been with them when Elain had updated them on the Feyre front and she was certain that if he had been there, he would have grabbed her by the shoulders and shaken her. Now though, he just looked confused and distressed as he listened to his brother.
"God, poor little ones," Vera brought a hand to her chest, "I feel so sorry for them. If there's anything I can do to help you, help them, tell me. You could come here one weekend when the snow comes, I'd love to have you all. Mor too, I haven't seen the girl in a long time."
Nesta was already loving the idea and was ready to accept, thank her for the offer, but Rhysand had chuckled sarcastically and blocked her every word.
"Them?" he asked incredulously, "Mum, Elain tried to persuade us from trying to dig deeper. She practically ordered us not to ask or tell Feyre anything. It's almost as if she doesn't care. Almost as if she doesn't realise how sick that relationship is."
Nesta nodded slowly, almost imperceptibly. She'd been thinking exactly the same things when they had talked to her sister.
Azriel stiffened at the tone of voice he was using, and Nesta knew that whatever happened next would only lead to more discrepancies between the brothers.
Thankfully, Vera was the first to intervene, "Rhys, darling, you need to understand something," her mother murmured, extending a hand towards him, "Elain is just as stuck in this mess as Feyre," then she turned to Azriel for a moment, "Her boyfriend, Lucien, is Tamlin's best friend, or am I wrong?"
"Yes." he murmured, tensing his jaw.
Vera's eyes returned to Rhysand soon after, "So you do understand that they are in exactly the same situation. Tamlin and Lucien were Elain's first friends here in Velaris," no one corrected her on the fact that they were more than two hours from the city, she spoke out of habit, "However Tamlin deals with Feyre, he will also deal with El and Lucien. If Feyre doesn't realise the seriousness of his actions, then Elain isn't in an advantaged position to help her either."
Nesta gaped slightly and even Rhysand looked more shocked than anything else. Vera was right and now Azriel was as tight as a fiddle string too.
She groaned, bringing her hands to her face, "God this is all my fault." said Nesta, she shifted her gaze to Cassian, "They've been together for years, I didn't think it was like this- If I had asked sooner maybe-"
"Nesta, stop," Vera interrupted her, "None of this is your fault. Or your sisters'." she stopped talking for a moment, letting everyone soak up the words, "The only one to blame here is Tamlin, from the little you've told me, he's a horrible person and this is just more proof that he is. You couldn't have done anything either way. These..." she looked for the right term, biting her lip, "Situations can be easily hidden and glossed over, often because people tend to think it's normal. But it's not." she shook her head, squeezing her hand, "The only thing you can do now is go home and talk to them. To Feyre."
Nesta felt a knot grow in her throat, "If I hadn't been so distracted I would have been able to-"
This time it was Azriel who cut her off, the hard, tension-filled tone of someone who needed to have their say, to speak up, "You've had your own problems to think about, no one thinks it's your fault Nesta."
And although the boy was addressing her, his eyes were on Cassian, who had been silent for most of their lunch.
"Az." murmured Rhysand as a warning, casting a glance at Nesta.
She only hoped her oldest friend wasn't turning on Cass at that moment.
"Kids?" asked Vera, having picked up on the fact that something was going on that she wasn't aware of.
Then she spoke in Portuguese and Nesta cursed herself for not continuing her online classes.
The woman's voice was completely different from when she spoke in English to when she switched to Portuguese, sexier in Nesta's opinion. She bowed her head down, looking at her hands and frowning. Those weren't things one should think about while your boyfriend was trying to confess something to his mother.
"O que se está a passar, meninos?"
Cassian took a deep breath and removed his arm from Nesta's chair, placing his hand on her leg. Her hand immediately found his. "Mamã, por favor não te zangues-"
Mum, please don't be angry, that Nesta understood. And she had to restrain herself from raising her eyebrows because it was a stupid thing to say in such a moment. She also had to restrain herself from crossing her legs.
She was aware Cassian knew Portuguese, but only rarely had she heard the brothers hold whole conversations in the language and Rhysand was the only one who was willing to speak it when asked. Both of the older ones felt embarrassed whenever Elain asked them anything.
Vera smiled sarcastically at him, "Mas eu não ficarei zangada se me contares."
And then seconds of silence passed, heavy, eternal, and Nesta thought he would never speak, but he did.
"Vou juntar-me ao exército."
The woman sitting at the head of the table burst out laughing. And Nesta wanted to burst into tears.
She had had exactly the same reaction.
"Não, não vais." Vera shook her head, continuing to laugh. When no one said anything, she stopped suddenly, slamming her hands on the table, making everyone wince, "Vais o tanas!"
Cassian closed his eyes, "Let me-"
"I won't let you explain anything at all!" she shouted, standing up, "You won't do anything!" she turned to Azriel and Rhysand, raising her voice even higher, "VOCÊS OS DOIS ESTÃO EM GRANDES SARILHOS! TU ÉS O IRMÃO MAIS VELHO DELE!"
Rhys closed his eyes, bringing a hand to his face, "Mom, please-"
Vera snapped in his direction, "E TU, NESTA! COMO PODES ACEITAR ISTO?"
"She had nothing to do with it," Azriel said, with a hard expression on his face, "It was all Cassian, leave us out of this mess," he continued before his mother could attack them again.
Nesta tried not to flinch at those words. This was exactly what Cassian had asked them not to do. Not to openly antagonize him when he broke the news.
Vera was taking short, quick breaths, then raised her arms and clenched her fists, closing her eyes, "What are we talking about?" she muttered in a lethal tone, "Why the fuck would you-" she choked on the words, leaning one hand against the table. She looked at Cassian, who now looked like a child under his mother's inquisitive gaze. She shook her head, "You know what, I don't even want to hear your excuses."
Her boyfriend looked at Vera and Nesta felt sad for him, for just a moment, she felt pity for Cassian and felt sick at the thought of him fighting this alone. He had come here knowing full well that no one would help him, that Azriel would do the exact opposite of helping him.
She glanced at him and saw the second he decided he had to change his strategy and all the sympathy Nesta had felt up to that moment went out like a fire on which a bucket of freezing water is thrown.
"It's not an excuse and I don't have to explain myself to you. I was just giving you a warning." he said, taking his hand off Nesta's and picking up the glass of water, taking a sip.
Vera's eyes went wide, "Have you gone mad? Have you lost your mind?" she shouted, "Why would you join the army?!" she demanded to know. Nesta wanted to tell her that she didn't want to hear that story, that it wasn't worth it. "Look at me when I'm talking to you!" cried Vera finally.
Cassian set his glass down on the table and turned to her, without answering.
Cassian set his glass down on the table and turned to her, without replying.
Rhysand drew in a sharp breath, "Mum we've tried everything. He's made his decision, the only thing we can do now is stand by him."
Both Nesta and Azriel looked at him with sad, understanding eyes. It was pointless.
Vera let out a laugh, "Are you kidding?"
She went around the table until she found herself next to Cassian and turned him to face her. Eye to eye, she said, "Talk to me."
And maybe he'd misinterpreted her words. Maybe not, but he tried to speak.
"I'll be part of the cargo specialists-"
"You won't be part of anything."
"I'm going to enlist after January-"
Cassian looked her in the eye, "No."
Vera slammed her hands on the table again, raising her voice one more time, "I raised you. I'm your mother and I won't let you do it. If your father was still here-"
He stood up sharply, "My mother died when I was five. And Marquise wasn't my father, just like you're not my mother. You have absolutely no right to tell me what I can and cannot do. It's my decision and I'm doing you a favour by telling you before I do."
A disarming silence swept through the room.
Vera blinked, her mouth slightly parted as her fingers slid down the tablecloth. Nesta had stood up in turn and was about to tell him to apologise, to admit that none of what he had just said was true.
She couldn't speak, couldn't move her gaze from his face, but Cassian's eyes were on his mother and glistening with tears.
"Alright," Vera murmured in a voice so uncharacteristically weak, trembling. She took a step back, bumping her side into the couch.
"Mom." said Rhysand leaning towards her. She seemed to wince at the word.
She tightened her lips to a thin line, then nodded once towards Cassian, "I hope you find what you're looking for."
Then she turned and without even a glance at her other sons or Nesta, she walked up the stairs in silence.
Silence that stretched until they heard the door to her room close.
The voice that came from Nesta's chest had never been so threatening as she took a few steps back, putting as much distance between her and that person who looked like Cassian but she no longer knew, "Now you go upstairs and apologize to your mother-"
Azriel wasn't even looking at them when he spoke, interrupting her, "Get out of our house."
Nesta's head snapped in his direction.
Cassian clenched his jaw, running a hand through his hair, "We knew this was going to happen, there's no need-"
"Get out. Of our house." the older said through his teeth, standing up in all his height. A dreadful feeling grew in Nesta's gut. If Cassian reacted badly and they got physical, Nesta wasn't sure she'd be able to stop them. She just prayed it wouldn't come to that. When Azriel spoke again, his voice had never been more strained, "And don't try to come here or call our mother until you're ready to crawl on your knees and apologize."
Rhysand sat still, his head in his hands and his elbows resting on the table.
Cassian lifted his chin, keeping his gaze on Azriel.
She could see it, the pain in both their faces, the regret - for not trying harder and convincing your brother not to do something so reckless, for telling the woman who had raised you and loved you all your life that she was not your mother.
"Azriel, please, we're all going to sit down now..." the words died in her throat as Rhysand looked up at her and his eyes were glossy, his face red.
He pointed to the front door, with a wave of his hand that might have looked uncaring, but encompassed all the weariness of those mere minutes they'd been shouting.
No, Nesta corrected herself, the weariness built up over the months he had been forced to lie on his brother's behalf to everyone he loved.
"I think you should leave," and as he spoke he looked at Nesta, "We'll find a way to get back to Velaris on our own."
To let her know that she had nothing to do with this, but that if they chased Cassian off by himself and he got in the car, they didn't know what might happen.
She remained silent, weighing up the options, as Azriel turned around and walked out of the living room, up the stairs. Cassian closed his eyes sighing and then left the house, slamming the door behind him.
Nesta's head was in a complete state of chaos.
Rhys stood up in turn, still looking at her, "Whatever's going on, he needs you." he murmured, starting to collect the plates, the cutlery. Then he seemed to realise that no one would care and left everything there, closing his eyes. "He'll always need you."
And he left too.
It took Nesta a while to comprehend what the fuck had just happened and when she found herself outside the front door, jacket on, bag over her shoulder and Cassian's jacket in her hand, she wondered how long it had taken her to collect their things, because it seemed like ages ago.
She said nothing when she got in the car and said nothing when he drove off without even looking at her.
She said nothing when the first sob broke Cassian's breath and when he pulled over onto the road once his vision blurred.
She didn't say anything when he started crying so hard that Nesta's body reacted immediately and broke down some more for him, for the man she loved who was tearing down everything good in their lives.
She got out of the car, opening his door and waiting for him to get out and then let him hold her as with all his weight he leaned into her. She let him use her as an anchor, as his rock as he cried his mother's and brothers' names and begged for forgiveness.
They were all losing themselves, but they had failed to notice that Cassian had lost himself long ago.
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Nesta Archeron x Cassian modern au
A/N: I didn’t think I would actually ever end this. When the song came out I knew I just had to write something for Nessian, so here it is. I gotta warn you tho, that this has a large backstory and that it’s pure angst.
warnings: abusive relationship, mentions of death, car accident
I’d like to dedicate this to my sweet and kind friend Dani, who can go fuck herself for making me cry while I was translating this and had NO RIGHT to do so. I hope you cry yourself to sleep with this one:)
Also, Sayo, Maizie, this has an open ending, it was the best I could do, sorry
Word count: 8,550
three years, four months and twelve days before
Tomas burst out laughing beside her, "Why on earth would you get a license?" he asked looking at her, "I can take you anywhere, you just call me."
Nesta huffed, putting her hands between her thighs to warm up against the freezing cold, "Because I can't always depend on you, Tommy." she leaned forward into the small cockpit to pick up the bag at her feet, "Plus, if I got my license, you wouldn't have to drive all these extra kilometres every morning and I could go wherever I want when you're not around."
She pulled out her phone, checking the message from her sister Elain warning her that she would be staying at her friend Lucien's house. She shook her head. She couldn't understand how it was possible that they weren't together yet.
Looking up at her boyfriend, she knew she'd said the wrong things when Tomas rolled his eyes, moving his hand from her thigh and bringing it to the steering wheel, "And why would you ever go anywhere without me?"
It was her turn to roll her eyes, "I meant to go to the supermarket or the gym." then, she turned to face him, giving him a reassuring smile. She didn't want him to worry about her. "I don't like going to clubs at night, you know that. I wouldn't go anywhere like that without you, I know you're jealous."
At the time, the words had had positive connotations for Nesta. That overwhelming toxic feature of his character that he had always managed to sell her for something to hold on to like a precious treasure, "I'm jealous of you because you're mine, because I love you and I don't want anyone else to see you the way I do. You are only mine."
Nesta felt herself blush and looked out the window, "I love you, too."
"As you should," he flashed her an amused grin and his hand returned to her thigh, giving it a quick squeeze, "Now can you please drop this insane driving licence idea?"
She nodded, gritting her teeth. She didn't need her own car, she didn't need to move around on her own. Tomas was always available to take her wherever they went.
She relaxed against the seats, humming to the song that was playing from the radio and forced a tight smile on her lips, thanking life for finding a perfect soulmate for her.
If only she had known at that moment how effective his control over her was, she might have saved herself years of shock and pain.
three years and six days before
"Can you take me to Claire's bar before you go with the boys?" she asked wearily between the sheets.
Tomas had gotten up immediately after finishing and was already starting to get dressed. He had done it so quickly that when Nesta shifted her gaze to him, he already had his boxers and trousers on. "I can't." he simply replied, "And don't even think about getting a ride from your friends."
She groaned, pouting a little, "So I should just stay home and do nothing?"
He didn't even look at her as he slipped his shirt on, "I already told you, I don't like it when you ride with Emerie. That girl is a public menace and she can't drive at all."
She let herself fall backwards onto the bed, covering her bare breasts, "She doesn't drive that bad." she muttered.
Tomas scoffed, "But if she hit a pole last week."
Nesta chuckled, turning on her stomach and looking over her shoulder at him. He'd had asked her that morning if he could stop by before going to the bar with the boys, to hang out with her for a bit. They'd ended up in bed pretty much immediately - her family out with kin - and now, not even half an hour after he'd arrived, he was already leaving.
At the beginning of their relationship it had bothered her. The fact that he would go to her house for a quick fuck, during which she hardly ever finished, and then go out with his friends, leaving her at home. After a few months of being together, Nesta thought he was doing it so he wouldn't leave her alone all day. That he was doing it to show her that he could find some time to show her his love.
God how wrong she had been.
"What if I get the girls to come here?" she asked suddenly, when he was ready to leave.
Tomas sighed so loudly that Nesta wondered if he'd been breathless the whole time. When he looked at her, she knew she had angered him. He ran a hand over his face, looking into her eyes, "Why do you have to be like that? I asked you if you could please not go out with anyone tonight and you keep pushing and pushing." he exclaimed exasperated. Nesta immediately felt guilty, "If you care so much about seeing your friends, go out with them, but when they make you do something completely idiotic and stupid, don't come crying to me."
She shook her head, swallowing back tears at the tone of voice he used. He was right, why couldn't she stay home one night if he asked her without making too much fuss? Tomas had the right to ask her something like that and it seemed like she was just looking for an excuse to argue. She apologised, getting up to walk over to him and wrapped her arms around his body, kissing his taut jaw, "I'll stay home."
Tomas pushed her roughly away from him, planting a quick kiss on her cheek and leaving with a simple bye and Nesta was left alone that night. And the next one again and again, until Emerie stopped asking her out and the only times she could, was when Tomas was with her.
two years, nine months and twenty-six days before
Nesta's heart had stopped in her chest the second her father had called her from the emergency room.
Feyre had burst into tears when Elain, who had been beside her during the whole call, had warned her that their parents had been involved in a serious accident and that their mum was now fighting for her life in an operating room. Their dad hadn't gone into details, but he too was crying as he told her that it was something major and that they would have to hurry to get to the hospital.
Nesta hadn't thought two seconds about dialling Tomas' number and what she thought would be a short, hurried call had turned into a fifteen minute argument.
"I already told you I can't come, I'm at the arcade with my friends, call someone else," her boyfriend was telling her in an annoyed tone.
"Please," she breathed, "Please, Tommy, we have to go to the hospital. I don't know who else to call. The buses would take too long." tears flowed undisturbed down her cheeks, but her voice was controlled. She could hear Feyre in the other room crying in despair and Elain trying to calm her down in every way as Nesta tried to find a way to get to the hospital as quickly as possible.
If only she hadn't let him talk her out of getting her license.
"Nesta, stop fucking bugging me, I said I can't. And the discussion is over."
She was about to retort that it was his fault, she was about to yell at him that he owed her, that he'd promised her that if she ever needed a ride, he'd be there for her, but the signal of the call ending rumbled through her phone and she screamed in frustration.
She couldn't call Emerie or Claire. She couldn't call anyone.
Tomas had made sure she had no one to call but him. And now Nesta was alone.
She had helped Feyre calm down, updated them on the situation and they had taken three buses, taking over an hour and a half to get to the hospital. And it didn't matter that they ran from each stop to the next. It didn't matter that they had prayed to every god in existence that their mother would be alive when they got there.
Because Adele Archeron was already dead.
two years, nine months and twenty-three days before
"Get out of my house!" cried Nesta, "Get out of my house and don't come back!"
Tomas was fuming with anger, his face flushed and the vein in his neck pulsing, "Nesta you need to calm down. You're not angry with me right now-"
"Yes, I fucking am!" she sobbed, throwing her arms in the air, "It's your fault!"
His gaze darkened, "It's not my fault your mother died," he whispered threateningly.
She shuddered as if he had struck her physically. She blinked, letting some tears fall, before whispering back, "Get out, Tomas, and never show your face again."
He shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose, "And how are you going to do that without me, huh? How are you going to get around? How are you going to survive these days without me, without anyone?" he had moved so close that Nesta could feel his breath on her face, but she didn't pull away. He kept his gaze fixed in hers, "You're alone, can't you see that? You need me."
She held her breath, "I don't need you. I don't need anyone." she said through her teeth, lifting her chin up, "I'm going to get my license and I'll surely know how to take better care of my body than you ever did in our entire relationship."
When she saw that her words had the desired effect in the boy in front of her, who backed away a step and began breathing heavily, crossing his arms over his chest, she kept talking.
"That's what you've always been, a taxi driver and a sexual pastime," she spat at him.
Tomas remained silent, an angry grimace painted on his face. He turned to the door, grabbing the handle and then looked over his shoulder at her, a grin creeping over his face. "Have fun getting your license and dying like your mother."
And then Tomas disappeared and Nesta never saw him again.
one year, seven months and five days before
"Miss, are you okay?"
The driving instructor's hand rested on her shoulder and Nesta's head snapped in the direction of the woman next to her. She must have looked a lot more shocked than she thought because the woman cursed, "Honey, I don't think we should try to drive today."
Nesta wanted to nod, to tell her she was right, to yell that she couldn't do it. She didn't want to, didn't want to. She clenched her hands around the steering wheel, hoping to find a foothold, an anchor, something that would bind her to this world when her vision blurred and she felt her chest tighten.
She tried to breathe, but she couldn't get the air down, couldn't get her lungs to expand, couldn't-
"Girl, I think we'd better get out of the car," the woman murmured. She reached for the keyhole and slipped them out from under the steering wheel, keeping her gaze fixed on Nesta, who was struggling to focus more with each passing second. The instructor opened the door and walked around the car, opening hers, but Nesta couldn't move.
She closed her eyes, forcing her body to swallow oxygen before she passed out. When She did, the sound that came from her throat sounded like the one of an old man on the verge of death. She brought one hand to her chest, the other to her stomach when she felt she was going to be sick.
She unbuckled her seatbelt with some trouble with trembling hands, but as soon as she was free of the snake that was pinning her against the seat, she moved the woman who was now calling for help from other instructors and dropped to the ground on her knees, hurling up the lunch she had eaten a few hours before.
She didn't feel people's hands on her body as they helped her up, nor did she hear her father's voice asking what had happened. She didn't realise she was back home in her bed, didn't realise she had been there for days.
She could only imagine the fear and pain her mother must have felt the moment the car skidded on the ice and her father was no longer in control of the vehicle.
one year, five months and twenty-two days before
Nesta had taken some downers before going for her first drive. This time she had been confident that she would be able to drive for at least half an hour without any problems, that she would drive home in her own car, with her father beside her.
This had not been the case.
For the fourth time she had sat down, buckled her seat belt and done all the checks she had to do before starting, and then panic had taken over her body. It had assailed every fibre of her being and had squeezed her lungs and heart so tightly that Nesta had thought she was dying. She had jumped out of the car when she had felt the vehicle roar beneath her once she had turned the keys in the ignition and vomited again.
She would never be able to get her license.
It had been almost three years since her mother had died. Almost three years since her problems had started, since she had realised what kind of person she was. What kind of person Tomas was.
She had spent the last three years of her life in panic, in pain. Every step she took, every word she said, every look she gave, cost her more than anything else.
Nesta wasn't living. This was not life.
She was convinced that her mother had taken her soul with her when she had left her.
Because Nesta was empty most of the time, drained of all emotion, completely anaesthetised and oblivious to the outside world around her at times. And then there were the moments, lasting seconds or moments or whole minutes of excruciating agony, when Nesta felt it all.
And that all threatened to crush her every time.
Feyre and Elain had somehow managed to overcome it. They had managed to go their separate ways and had left their sister behind, because she had wanted to be left behind.
And if Nesta had been lonely when no one had been able to take her to her dying mother, she had not yet known true solitude. Because when even your own family turned its back on you and left you alone to cry on the road of that path you were supposed to take together while you screamed and no one could hear you, only then would you look up and see Loneliness smiling at you as it held out its hand.
Now, sitting on the floor in one of the aisles of the university library, she was holding her head in her hands and trying not to fall asleep, with little result.
She had not slept that night, like the previous thousand, but unlike the other mornings, she had not been able to take her tablets and during the third lecture of the day she had risked falling asleep on the desk.
She closed her eyes for a few seconds, opening them occasionally when she heard noises, but she must have fallen asleep completely at some point, because when she opened them again, her head was resting on the carpet and a hand was shaking her shoulder.
"Can you hear me?" a deep, concerned voice was asking. Nesta closed her eyes again and the grip on her shoulder tightened, "Can you hear me? Are you alright?" the boy demanded. She moved her lips, but no sound came out, "What an idiotic question, you're obviously not okay."
Nesta rolled onto her back, opening her eyes fully and looking up at the ceiling of the library. What was going on?
"Do you want me to go get someone, do you need me to call an ambulance?" the voice kept asking, sounding more and more concerned with each passing second. Nesta shifted her gaze to the person whose hand was on her shoulder and had started massaging it, applying pressure with its thumb. The movement harder than necessary, as if it was done to keep her awake.
The boy was handsome. Long hair held up in a tousled bun and the faint hint of a beard that hadn't been shaved in days covered the sculpted face of what might have looked like a Greek god. She couldn't reach his eyes that hers slowly closed.
Nesta was so tired.
"Hey, no no, open your eyes, stay awake," he shook her again, harder this time, and she groaned raising her left arm, "Sorry, I just need you to stay awake," he apologised, Nesta could hear the apprehension in his voice.
Why was he worried? He didn't know her.
"Can you tell me your name?"
She opened her mouth, trying to answer, but nothing came out and she looked up at him at that point. His dark eyes, a very common brown, stared at her glowing with emotion, but Nesta couldn't bring herself to care. She was having such a hard time staying awake, she just wanted to sleep, sleep, sleep.
"Alright, you don't have to answer, can you sit up?" he asked her then, after a minute of silence. She shook her head, letting it fall to the side, shifting her gaze to the floor again. He cursed and then removed his hand from Nesta's shoulder. "I'll call the ambulance."
Her eyes snapped to him so fast they sent a rush of pain through her brain. She moved her hand closer to him, resting it on his leg, and the boy snapped his head in her direction at the exact instant she sobbed and panic threatened to take control. She shook her head, taking short, laboured breaths, "No, no."
"Sweetheart I don't know what to do and I can't leave you here," he replied, putting the phone down and taking her hand in his. He glanced left and right, searching for anyone else. He sighed, returning his gaze to her, "If you can say a whole sentence without passing out and getting up I won't call 118. But, for all we both know, you could be having a stroke or a heart attack and we wouldn't know, and I'd rather you didn't die," he chuckled at the end of the monologue.
There was no trace of amusement in that sound though, nothing to suggest he was enjoying this.
Nesta tightened her fingers around his, "My name is Nesta."
She didn't know if she had spoken, maybe she had just thought she had, but the smile that appeared on his lips was answer enough to her doubts, "Nesta." he repeated, offering her a nod of his head, "I like that. My name is Cassian." he added. She didn't answer, but continued to stare at him.
"Can you by any chance tell me how old you are?" he asked after a while, arranging his bent legs underneath him.
Nesta sighed, closing her eyes, "Twenty-two."
Cassian gave her a little nudge with his knee, "Eyes open or I'll call an ambulance."
She obeyed, "How old are you?" she asked in a thin voice, so weak she was startled. She needed to sleep.
"I'll be twenty-four in a few days." he answered quickly, "Now a slightly more complex question, why did you faint?" he asked and the muscles around his mouth seemed to tense.
She shook her head, now much more aware of what was happening. Slowly she was returning to the world of the living. She removed her hand from Cassian's and felt as if he wanted to hold her for a moment, but he let go immediately and she thought she had imagined it. She pulled herself up into a seat, holding her head with her hands.
"I didn't pass out. I think I fell asleep," she replied, massaging her forehead. She grimaced and looked up at him.
The usual expression he'd had up to that point only seemed to grow worse and the worry doubled, "What do you mean you think you fell asleep?" then his brows knitted together and he leaned towards her, speaking in a lower voice, "I'm sorry if this seems a little inappropriate, but do you have a home?"
It took Nesta a while to realise what he was alluding to with those words, but when she did, she nodded, adding a faint, "I don't sleep."
His eyebrows shot up, "You don't sleep." it wasn't a question.
"I don't sleep." she repeated, resting one hand on one of the shelves and pulling herself up.
He nodded, looking up at her from below and pulling himself up in turn shortly after, ready to catch her if she fell to the floor one more time.
Nesta seemed to become aware of the situation they were in and felt her body stiffen suddenly and waited, waited for panic to assail her, for shame to take over. She waited to feel everything and too quickly, but her breathing did not change and her vision did not blur and Nesta thought she was dreaming at last, that she was sleeping so deeply that she could imagine a life where these things did not dominate her life.
When Cassian gave her a small smile, her heart missed a beat, "How are you feeling?"
She nodded and answered without thinking. Because everyone had been asking her the same thing for years. "Good."
He seemed to study her face for a few moments, then offered her an arm, turning to the strangely empty tables that stood in front of the entrance, "How about I buy you a coffee and then maybe take you to one of your friends?" he asked, "I don't want to intrude too much and ask if you want a ride home, but at least they could help you."
Nesta looked at him with a confused expression, "Home?"
The slightly more relieved expression that had begun to make its way onto his face fell away completely, replaced by an apologetic one, "Forgive me, I understood that-"
She quickly blocked him, "I have a home, I'm not homeless," he sighed, "But why would I want to go home?"
He looked at her as a second head had popped up on her shoulder, "Nesta," the way he said her name made her forget for a moment how messed up her life was, "you were sleeping on the floor of the library. You can't stay at the university, you risk accidentally falling asleep and hurting yourself. Are you narcoleptic?" he asked her suddenly.
She opened her eyes wide, linking her arm with his, "No." she whispered.
He chuckled, "Sorry, I didn't mean to imply anything, but it's not every day you find a pretty girl asleep on the floor. And I heard a thud, that's why I thought you fainted. I heard you fall," he glanced at her.
She still looked at him with wide eyes and didn't stop as he bent down to pick up her backpack and put it on his shoulder. Cassian turned another smile to her, "You there? Can you walk?"
She nodded and they spent the next few hours in the university cafeteria and sometimes Cassian would ask her questions that she couldn't answer, but he didn't force her to speak and seemed more than satisfied with the monosyllabic answers she gave him.
When she told him that she didn't know anyone there and that she didn't have a car to get home, he didn't comment on either, but offered to give her a ride and she accepted without hesitation.
And she accepted the next day when she met him after class on her way out of the chemistry building. And the next day when his car pulled up in front of the bus stop where she was waiting. And the next day again and again and again.
And suddenly Nesta was no longer alone.
three months and one day after
Cassian had been staring at her for so long that Nesta was beginning to wonder if he was dead. He sat so still, clutching the sandwich between his fingers as if the wind might have blown it away. She was also starting to feel a little uncomfortable. Not because her friend was staring at her, she was used to that, but because of the way he was doing it.
They had gone out for a walk in the mountains and had reached the top after more than four hours of hiking, but the landscape in front of them had erased any physical pain they had accumulated during the climb. They had sat on rocks at the summit and were now having lunch.
She was staring at the mouth of the Sidra, the point where the sea was darkest, but she couldn't chew with him looking at her as if she would erupt at any moment.
"For God's sake Cassian, what is it?" she asked exasperated at one point, fixing her eyes on him.
He didn't answer, but took a bite of his sandwich, furrowing his brow even more.
Nesta shook her head, urging him to speak. She huffed, pointing to the ravine below them with one hand, "I'll jump if you don't tell me why the fuck you look like a failed stalker."
Cassian chuckled at that, finally looking away and Nesta let go of a breath she didn't know she'd been holding.
"I wanted to ask you something," he began, shifting his eyes to the landscape, "But first you have to promise me you won't jump."
Nesta looked at him sideways, "That depends."
He opened his eyes wide, laughing, "Then no, I won't tell you what I'm thinking about."
She rolled her eyes, huffing, but let it go. She was used to this kind of conversation with Cassian by now.
"Okay, I'll ask," he said suddenly, startling her. Normally he would have laughed at having managed to provoke such an overt reaction in her, but he didn't and it made her worry even more, "But if you don't want to answer you don't have to and we can shut up or change the subject."
"If you put it that way, I'm already telling you I don't want to talk about it," she pointed out.
It was true. Cassian had gotten to know her in such a short time that it had shocked her at first. She still didn't understand why, not fully, but he had stayed and was still there and didn't seem to want to leave anytime soon.
He sighed, completely ignoring her comment, "Why is it that every time we drive it feels like someone is holding a gun to your head? What is it that scares you?" he asked to introduce the topic, "If I'm driving too fast or if it's something I do, you can tell me."
Nesta looked at him. She looked at him and didn't say anything and he understood she wasn't going to answer, not at that moment at least, and they stayed in that spot on the summit for another hour in silence. Where she had time to think, to reason about how important Cassian actually was to her. About how much Cassian had done in such a short time, to bring her back to life.
They had just arrived at the car park, were stamping their feet on the asphalt to remove the excess mud under their shoes, when Nesta looked at the car door and stiffened. She felt his gaze on her body again, but she took a breath and got into the car, sitting down and letting the fear fade, letting the storm inside of her settle.
They were going to face a couple of hours' drive back to the city, more than enough time for her to be able to tell him-
"My mum died. In a car accident." she said in one breath as Cassian took a seat next to her.
His hands stopped around the steering wheel, tightening. He slowly turned to her, nodding slowly, "Yeah, I figured as much. I just didn't know how." she closed and opened her fists, keeping her gaze fixed in front of her. She took a deep breath and Cassian placed a hand on hers, "We don't have to talk about it now. But thank you for telling me, for trusting me."
She bowed her head, "If I don't do this now I might never do it again," she murmured.
"Okay," he indulged her, then intertwined their fingers, "I'll wait for you though, I don't want you to tell me this very second."
Nesta sighed, closing her eyes, "Alright."
"Alright." he repeated.
Twenty minutes passed before she managed to open her mouth again, "You know Tomas?" she asked, despite knowing full well that he had a clear and precise picture and idea of who the boy in question was. They had already talked about him several times.
Cassian just nodded, but Nesta didn't fail to notice that the muscles in his arm twitched.
"You already know how... complicated our relationship was," she murmured.
He scoffed, "Complicated is not the word I would use to describe your relationship." when she shot him a look, he turned red, "Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt." he said settling back in his seat, "Please continue."
She straightened her back, "The day my mother died, I called Tomas."
"Of course," he replied, and there was no trace of sarcasm, Nesta noted, because anyone would have called their boyfriend at a similar time. He shifted his gaze to the mirror, slowing the car and moving into the right lane, letting a car that Nesta had noticed had been on his heels for a few minutes pass him. It had stressed her out more than she'd imagined, because once it had passed them, she was just a bit calmer.
"We didn't know how to get to the hospital and my dad couldn't pick us up. I asked him to take me there and he didn't, because he was out with some friends of his," she confessed, furrowing her brow, "I realised that day how much Tomas controlled my life. I realised that I had lost everyone because of him and how now I wouldn't be able to say goodbye to my mother because I didn't have a driving licence and I wouldn't be able to get there in time."
She felt emotion rise in her throat, but nothing like she had felt every time she thought about that day. And maybe it was because she was getting over it, maybe it was because of his hand on her leg moving his fingers to soothe her, she didn't know.
"There were months after Mum died when I couldn't even get into cars," she continued in a weak voice, "I only managed to do it after seven months, because we had to go on holiday and my dad didn't want to leave me home alone. He was afraid I might do something... reckless." she paused as they both assimilated the true meaning of those words and Cassian squeezed her leg, taking a deep breath, "After that trip I managed to ride in the car, not with a few worries, but I did it."
"I'm glad you made it," he told her, keeping his gaze fixed on the road. She looked up at him, smiling faintly and was surprised by that gesture. She didn't think she'd ever be able to talk about her mother without bursting into tears and yet here she was, smiling at her best friend.
"Me too," she said, "you may be less happy to hear this part."
"I'm sure I won't blame you for it, whatever it is," he said softly.
Nesta looked at him and couldn't find any indication that he was lying to her, so she continued, "The last time I saw Tomas, he wished I would die in the car like my mother had, three days after her death."
Cassian's head snapped towards her, his eyes wide and his lips parted slightly. He returned his gaze to the road immediately, seeing how Nesta had begun to shift her gaze from him to the road, but the shock in his features didn't seem to go away, "Please tell me you're joking."
She continued, without giving him an answer, "Since that day, every time I've tried to get behind the wheel, every time I've gone to driving school so I could learn, I've had a panic attack." she said, torturing the inside of her cheek, "A few times I've ended up throwing up everything in my body and I've never been able to do more than start the car. I've never been able to get my license and I have no idea how my sisters put up with it," she concluded.
Cassian remained silent for so long that Nesta began to think the worst. Maybe she had been wrong to tell him, maybe she had gone too far. Her father had told her once, that she tended to say too little or too much, there was no middle ground with her. Maybe she'd shared too much this time and now Cassian thought she was a fool and a coward. After all, it was only a matter of learning how to drive, even stupid people could do it and it certainly didn't take a degree-
"I don't know what you're thinking, but I can hear the gears in your brain moving and I know perfectly well it's not good," he said, squeezing her hand when she tried to pull away. He gave her a sincere look, "I'm sorry, Nesta," he whispered, "For everything you've been through and experienced. For not realising what the problem was sooner." then he grimaced, "I would have avoided doing two or three of the shits I did in the car when we first met, now I understand why you reacted the way you did." he said referring to when during the first few weeks he'd given her a ride home, he'd speeded at red lights or passed other cars on roads where they shouldn't have. "I'm sorry you had to have that asshole next to you. If I could just talk to him..." he trailed off, tensing his jaw. He breathed through his nose, watching her when they finally ended up on a straight bit of road.
His eyes blazed with a rage that Nesta had rarely seen in people, but there was more than that. Sadness, sorrow for the little girl she had been, for what had been taken from her. But not pity, never pity from the boy she had come to know and like, "I'm sorry."
seven months and fifteen days after
"Nesta breathe," Cassian was whispering to her, one hand on her shoulder and the other on her hand, gripping the steering wheel in front of her.
She closed her eyes, shaking her head, trying to swallow air. All she could hear was the pounding of her heart about to explode in her chest.
"Yes, sweetheart, you need to breathe," he chuckled. The hand on her shoulder dropped lower, starting to caress her skin there, "Inhale." he whispered, inhaling through his nose, "Exhale," he blew the air out of his mouth. "Now together," he ordered her. When Nesta didn't, but only began to breathe more heavily, Cassian told her to open her eyes.
She opened her eyes wide, watching her boyfriend as he mimicked the air rushing in and out of her lungs with his hand, "Breathe with me," he told her with an encouraging smile. Nesta wanted to tell him to fuck off, but the next time he inhaled, she did so with him. And slowly, after a few minutes of Cassian whispering soft words of comfort and guiding her through the whole process, Nesta was able to regain full control of her body.
"Very good," he finally told her, leaving a kiss on her temple. She looked over the windscreen, "Are you ready? Do you remember everything you need to do?" he asked her, giving her more room to start, but still keeping a hand on her leg. She nodded, not speaking for fear of breaking the bubble she was in.
It had been a couple of months since Cassian had let her drive his car. Or rather, letting her have panic attacks in his car whenever Nesta thought she could make it.
And she had made it, a dozen times now. She never made it more than twenty metres before she'd slammed on the brakes and thrown herself out of the car to vomit, but the last two times she'd managed not to let the panic take her over and she'd managed not to lose control completely.
This time she felt she could do more. Cassian had positioned the car further back than usual in the car park of that abandoned neighborhood to see if she could turn when she got to the far end. She'd gone back and forth three times before, but the idea of having to turn put a different kind of fear into her.
"I got it." she muttered more to herself than to him.
She started the car, stepping on the accelerator and slowly lifting the one on the clutch pedal. The car started forward and Nesta let out a breath, feeling her heart beat in her throat.
"Slowly, like this..." murmured Cassian as they reached the end of the car park, "Now slow down a little and turn the steering wheel to the right, slowly," he explained to her. Nesta did exactly that and the car turned smoothly on the asphalt. She didn't even realise she had arrived on the opposite side of the car park until she had to turn again and again and she did it so many times that Cassian laughed beside her. When she decided she was tired and ready to get out and really breathe, she braked slowly, managing to stop without turning off the car. She turned the keys in the lock and then the car stopped roaring beneath her.
She turned to her boyfriend, a smile going from ear to ear, and whispered, "I did it." a laugh escaped her control.
Cassian did the same, nodding, "You did it!"
They both jumped in, banging their heads against each other's and burst out laughing, but the fun was short-lived as Cassian slid a hand to the back of her head and pulled her against him, kissing her and conveying all the love and pride he was feeling at that moment.
They had swapped places soon after and he had driven her home. Nesta had been about to ask him if he wanted to come in - by now her family was used to seeing him in the house around the clock, being that they'd been together for a couple of months - but his phone had rung.
At the blonde girl's name, Nesta had felt that tinge of jealousy rise in her stomach.
Cassian had frowned, "Calm down, calm down, I can be there in a moment. Are you at your father's or your mother's?" he had glanced at Nesta letting her know he wasn't going to stop and she had smiled, leaning over to him and leaving a light kiss on his lips.
Mor always called at the most inopportune times and Cassian, no matter where they were or what they were doing, would drop everything, take Nesta home and run to her friend's house to help her with whatever problems she was having.
Before he darted off her street, he had promised her that he would call her that night when he got back home, but Nesta knew that wasn't going to happen. That's why she wasn't disappointed when she waited until midnight for his call and it didn't come, and then one o'clock and two o'clock, until sleep claimed her and she surrendered to it.
ten months, two weeks and eleven days after
"Are you serious?" asked Nesta, letting her hands fall from Cassian's face down her sides.
His silence let her know that yes, he was serious and that yes, he would leave in the middle of... what they were doing.
"Cassian this has to stop, it can't go on like this forever," she murmured, turning to pick up her shirt on the floor. When she turned back around, he was adjusting his crotch with a grimace on his face and Nesta had to call on all her strength not to yell at him.
"Nes, sweetheart," he began, with that hangdog expression he always had whenever they discussed this matter.
She lifted a hand to stop him, fixing her icy eyes in his dark ones, "I don't care to hear yet another excuse." she said through her teeth, tucking her shirt in and covering her naked body, "It's been months, months Cassian, that every time she calls you, for whatever reason, you just grab your shit and go and refuse to give me any real explanations." she hated the way her voice sounded, but she couldn't help it. He had stopped himself from dressing and was watching her carefully. "I understand that Morrigan may have some personal issues, I don't need to know what it is, but why she needs you, every time something happens to her, is something that doesn't sit well with me."
He sighed, running a hand over his face, "I need you to trust me, Nes," he reached out to her, taking a thin hand between his large, warm ones. Hands in which Nesta had found comfort over the past year. His eyes sparkled with love as they settled on her face, "I need you to trust me."
Nesta breathed softly, squinting her eyes, "I do trust you, Cass, but-"
"Then that's enough," he interjected, squeezing her hand. He leaned down to kiss her and she bent her head back, taking in the love she craved every second of her day. When he pulled away it was as if someone had poured a bucket of ice water over her, "I love you," he whispered.
He left the house without saying goodbye and Nesta was left alone in her room, her head still bent back and the phantom touch of his lips on hers.
one year, four months and eight days after
Their anniversary was just around the corner and Nesta couldn't have been happier.
Or so she pretended to be.
The last three months had been agonising.
Between her and Cassian things were flowing well. She could get into the car and have almost no reaction, and she could certainly now turn the steering wheel left and right and go more than fifty metres in reverse without skidding. Cassian had almost finished his classes and only had a couple of exams left before he could graduate and she was so proud. She had spent Christmas with him and his adoptive family and had had the pleasure of meeting his brothers, who had lived in another country for the last two years and planned to return to Velaris for good after New Year's Eve. She had never seen him so happy as when she had gone with him to the airport to pick up Azriel and Rhysand.
Nesta's only big, fat problem was a certain blonde girl.
Morrigan had managed to become so entrenched in their relationship that she sometimes didn't even realize it anymore. It was like having a daughter who needed attention every four hours or she would die.
Nesta was sorry that the girl was so miserable that she needed someone by her side so often, but it drove her insane that this person had to be her boyfriend. Especially when it affected the relationship and the dynamics between them.
Cassian was sometimes so tired that he would fall asleep in the middle of class and quite often Nesta had joked that she was the one who never slept, hoping to get the truth out of him once and for all, but she had never got anywhere.
However, when Nesta had snapped and he had tried to pin the blame on her, she had sent him away and explicitly told him it was over. Cassian had looked at her with his mouth wide open, had tried to apologise, blaming it on the lack of sleep, exhaustion, but they both knew it was all his fault.
She'd been sick for days on end, terrified that she'd lost yet another person in her life, but on the sixth day Cassian had come to her house and asked if they could go for a ride.
They had been out till four in the morning, laughing in the traffic, shouting the songs. He'd made love to her in that car, which was just a car like any other as much as it meant everything to the two of them. It had been the place where Nesta had learned to trust him, where she had confessed to him her every doubt, her every fear. It had been on those seats where they had first declared their love for each other.
He had sung her a song by John Legend, a song that promised eternal love even through the ups and downs of a relationship. He had promised her that he would stand by her even when no one else would. He had apologised to her for all the times he had run to Mor and promised her that it would never happen again.
If only Nesta hadn't believed him.
one year, four months and twenty-one days after
She opened her eyes the second the mattress moved beneath her, warning her that Cassian had woken up and was getting up. She smiled into the pillow, ready to roll over and pull him back down into the covers with her, but when she saw the time on the alarm clock placed on her nightstand, she found a very bad feeling twisting her gut.
She turned to her boyfriend, watching him as he moved stealthily around the room, picking up his clothes. When their eyes met, Nesta already knew what was going on. Cassian looked at her carefully and made to open his mouth, justifying why she was sneaking out of her house at 3:27am, but Nesta shook her head, bringing the blankets up to her chin and murmuring loudly enough that he could hear her, she said, "Get out and don't come back."
And Cassian did.
one year, six months and one week after
Nesta had woken up that morning with a dry throat. She'd gotten up, washed and dressed, and got into her car, driving out of the Archeron's driveway without so much as a hint of panic. She had driven for hours, dulled by pain and sorrow. When her mother had told her when she was sixteen that heartbreak wasn't easily mended, Nesta hadn't believed her. How was it possible for a person to be so foolishly taken in by someone that they felt so bad when they left you? It was too idiotic a concept for her to comprehend. She would never let someone get so attached to her that she would rip a piece of her heart out when they left.
God how wrong she'd been.
She hadn't seen Cassian in over a month and each day seemed worse than the last.
It was a different pain from the one she'd felt when her mother had died, but no less strong. No less heartbreaking.
She'd gotten her license only a week before and had driven so many hours since she'd had that stupid piece of paper in her hands.
Cassian had known. Cassian had known that she was going to have her driving test that day. He should have known she'd managed to pass it. It couldn't be any other way.
And she had hoped with every ounce of her being that he would text her. That he would call her and tell her how proud he was of her. Because Nesta hadn't cared about other people.
She hadn't cared that her sisters had prepared a dinner in her honour and that her father had almost cried when she announced that she had made it. She hadn't cared that her friends, the old ones she'd managed to regain and the new ones she'd met over the months, had been so happy for her that they'd given her half the gadgets that now hung in her car.
She hadn't cared about anything except what Cassian would think about seeing her driving the car alone, without his hand on her leg.
She'd driven past his house so many times, crying silently.
She'd visited all the places they'd been, that he'd taken her to when she'd been on the verge of breaking down each time.
Cassian had known her like no one else ever had, and that would never change.
Her mother had even told her once that breakups were easier when they happened because people stopped being in love. Nesta hadn't believed that either. Because how could it be less painful when you stopped loving someone, compared to when they wronged you and gave you a reason to leave? How could it be less painful when every little thing the other person did was no longer nice or lovable, but unbearable and irritating?
But Nesta hadn't stopped loving Cassian and never would. She hadn't stopped feeling the butterflies in her stomach fluttering every time he smiled at her when she woke up in the morning. She hadn't stopped loving the way he tied his hair back with whatever was in his hands in that moment. She hadn't stopped loving the way the lines of his tattoos coiled around his arms, his pecs.
She didn't realise she was heading for his house again, but when she found herself in front of it, she didn't carry on as she always did, she turned off the car and got out.
She was looking at the sidewalk, hesitant to take a step forward or get back in the car and run, never to return. To leave Velaris, to leave her mother and her family, to leave the university and rebuild her life in a city that wasn't made of memories and ghosts that haunted her everywhere she went.
She looked up at the house then, and took a breath. Two. Three.
Breathe with me, he'd told her.
You are not alone.
I love you.
Nesta, you're my soulmate.
One day I'll marry you.
You'll be the mother of my children.
There's no one else for me.
I don't know what I would do if you left.
Nesta took another steadying breath and stepped forward.
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Finally - Nessian NSFW
Nesta has been stuck at home all day, because the camp lords being scared of her is another thing that they can't deal with now, and she's missed Cassian. Dinner is promptly forgotten when he gets home.
Nesta sighed happily and pulled her blanket tighter around herself, gods, Illyrian winters were cold, but the fire roaring at her feet was doing its job of keeping the house warm. She stared into the flames for a few moments, the popping sounds no longer frightening her, she could still remember everything that had happened, but she had found ways to control it, to ensure it didn't take over her life again. The log crumbled into ashes and she grumbled, placing her book to the side to replace it, she grabbed the closest jacket to wrap around her shoulders, hardly noticing Cassian's scent all over it as she replaced the log on the fire.
She didn't notice the door opening as she gently blew on the flames, coaxing them to catch properly, adding a few smaller pieces to keep it going. She grinned as flames started to lick up the side of the wood, and subconsciously pulled Cassian's jacket closer around her until warmth began to radiate outwards. She stayed there for a few more moments, watching the flames dance, and summoning a tiny piece of magic, it should have been flame, but it was like liquid silver. The flames dancing along her palm were not orange and red as the wood burned, but flames of burning silver. She willed them to mimic the pattern of the fire in front of her, furrowing her brows in concentration. She didn't notice the door silently close behind her, didn't notice someone stepping inside.
Cassian grinned as he stepped inside, seeing Nesta so calm, so peaceful, silver flames dancing along her palm, completely under her control. It calmed his adrenaline from training to see her so serene, so relaxed, she had even changed out of her leathers today, replacing them with a pair of leggings, and big fluffy socks that went almost to her knees. Some part of him leapt for joy at the sight of her in his jacket, his scent all over her, and he leaned against the kitchen island for a moment, letting her practice without worrying that he was watching. Her training was coming along beautifully, even more so now that she had let him in, allowed him to help her heal, properly this time. He'd missed her today, even though they'd trained together this morning, with Devlon and the other camp lords coming, they'd agreed that it was best to avoid provoking them with her presence. He'd missed seeing her tear into Windhaven's cocky males, seeing her destroy them without even breaking a sweat, Cauldron, he wanted to make her sweat tonight.
He silently pulled his weapons away, and his outer layers, leaving just a light shirt, and his pants, but if he had his way, they'd be gone soon as well. Nesta sat back on her heels, and allowed her silver flames to rise off her palm a little, practicing the exercises that Cassian had suggested, taking the magic away from her, and closer again. He must have made some sort of noise because she froze, and turned around, glaring at him,
"How long have you been there?"
"Long enough to see that your power's coming along nicely." She furrowed her brows, but sighed and pushed herself to her feet, crossing the floor to him, and wrapped her arms around his neck,
"I missed you today," she whispered, and he squeezed her waist, just holding her against him.
"Yeah, I know, me too, but I can't get rid of them yet, just another couple of days, sweetheart, I promise."
"Then I can actually come outside, to train and stuff? I'm going to be so unfit if you don't get rid of them soon."
"Oh, I don't know, I can think of other ways for you to exercise." She grinned, and looked up at him,
"Is that right?" She chuckled as he picked her up, and wrapped her legs around his waist, "I think you might have to show me," she whispered, and kissed his neck, tugging lightly on his ear, and grinning at his groan. She kissed her way along his jaw and back to his ear as he walked, as fast as possible without running, to their bedroom. He twisted his head as she moved this time, and caught her lips with his own, almost moaning again as she opened for him at the first brush of his tongue. She melted into him as he kissed her, going almost limp in his arms, just about holding on to him as he carried her through to the bed.
He grinned as he gently set her down, kissing her face while he pulled away the jacket around her shoulders, quickly finding the buttons on her shirt and tossing it aside, he kissed her again as soon as she had pulled his own away. There was a challenging glint in her eyes, even as she let him push her down onto the mattress, and pull her leggings off. She bit her lip as he unbuckled his belt and kicked his pants away, leaning over her again to kiss her.
Nesta's core turned molten at the desire in Cassian's eyes as he unbuckled his belt, quickly leaning over her again, but she wanted to be difficult tonight. She surged upwards and flipped them over, so she was straddling his hips, pinning him down onto the bed. A flicker of annoyance flashed through his eyes, and she rolled her hips against his, grinning at his moans as he felt how wet she was, even through the fabric of her panties still still between them. She chuckled as he unclipped her bra and threw it aside, grabbing her hips and trying to take back control.
"Oh, no you don't," she muttered, and pulled his hands away, holding his wrists down as he snarled softly at her, "Don't be rude," she crooned, and rubbed herself against him again, "Ask nicely," that finally snapped the tether he had on himself. She squealed as he threw her sideways, immediately pinning her down, so that she couldn't have moved if she wanted to. She squealed again as he pulled her panties up, the fabric rubbing against her, and she moaned, loud enough that Cassian put a hand over her mouth to quieten her.
"Shhhh, sweetheart, stay quiet for me." She whimpered as he tore her panties away, the pressure gone, and tried to roll her hips against his. "Oh, no you don't," he chuckled, repeating her words from earlier. She but her lips and fixed him with a pleading gaze, reaching out for him, but he stepped away, just out of reach, and grabbed her wrists, pulling her up to the headboard, ignoring her wriggles as he tied her wrists to the wood, quickly checking that they weren't too tight before stepping back to see. She whimpered again, and spread her legs apart, trying to coax him in.
"Cass," she whined, "Cass, please." He raised an eyebrow and she furrowed her brows, still trying to be difficult. He could tie her down all he liked, but she wasn't going to lose this battle of wills easily.
"Ask nicely," he crooned, as he sauntered towards her, hiding something behind his back. She tried to squirm away,
"What - what is," she sighed as he pulled his hand out from behind his back, a black, silk blindfold hanging from his fingers. She did keep still as he tied it behind her head, more to keep her hair from getting caught than doing as she was told, but he didn't have to know that. She shivered in anticipation as he ran a single finger down her throat, trailing down her stomach, but stopped right before he reached where she wanted him most. She rolled her hips, trying to force him inside her, but he pulled away entirely, and stepped away.
He moved silently, so that she had no idea where he was, and she jumped when she felt another rope tying one of her ankles to the bedpost, then the other. She couldn't move at all, and her breathing sped up, waiting for him to do something, anything. She turned her head from side to side, trying to get any sense of where he was, but the blindfold fit her eyes perfectly, and didn't let even a sliver of light in.
She lost track of time, lying there on the bed, just waiting for anything. She though she was going to die of desperation when a gentle hand brushed the hair away from her face. She couldn't help it, she moaned again, just the slightest brush of his fingers had her desperate for the feel of his body on hers, of him inside her,
"Please," she whimpered, "Please,"
"Please what?" he chuckled, and before she could process what she was saying she had already lost,
"Please, General," she whined, and gasped as his hand brushed along her jaw before settling around her neck, not squeezing, but holding firmly enough that she knew he wasn't in the mood for swapping around tonight. She whined, and tried to rub her thighs together, but she couldn't move at all. Still, he noticed the movement, and rubbed a hand across her stomach,
"Awww, sweetheart, if you needed a reprieve you should have said so," she bit her cheek to keep from snarling at him, desperate not to make this too easy for him. she sighed as his hand dipped lower, lower, and stopped. He walked his hand back up her stomach, palming one of her breasts, flicking his tongue over the other one, and she moaned out his name, tugging at the bindings to try to find him, but they held firm. Still, he refused to give her what she wanted, light touches all over leaving her trembling, and desperate for his touch.
"Please," she whispered again and again, tears of frustration slipping down her face at the featherlight touch along her jaw. He quickly wiped them away, his mouth echoing the movement, working along her jaw, and down her neck. She moaned again when he nipped at the skin of her neck, slipping a hand into her hair, and gripping it tight, holding her head still as he sucked at the skin of her neck, her whimpers and moans urging him on. When he let go, and pulled back so tried again to reach out for him, the ropes holding her still, in the dark, waiting for him again.
She almost leapt out of her skin at a touch on the inside of her thigh, kisses rising closer and closer, but dipping away again. She knew she was trembling with need, desperate for anything now, he was winning, and he knew it, but she refused to give in yet. He continued teasing until she moaned again, losing control,
"General," she whined, "Please, please," he smiled against her skin, his lips kissing higher and higher, until she screamed at the first brush of his tongue against the wetness pooling between her legs. She cried out again, and again, at each flick of his tongue, her back arching off the bed, as much as the restraints would allow, pushing herself into his face as much as she could, desperate for more friction, for anything, and she sobbed when he pinned her hips down, "Please," she screamed, and he pressed down on her clit with his other hand, his tongue still diving inside her, and she let go. She let of the competition, and screamed his name again and again, letting him bring her over the edge again and again and again, until she was crying with pleasure, trying to push his face away. She was too sensitive, it was too soon, but she couldn't move, and she didn't ask him to stop, she cried out again wordlessly, just screaming her pleasure out for anyone to hear.
Cassian pulled away and grinned at the sight before him, Nesta was shaking uncontrollably, shouting his name again and again as he brought her to climax over and over again. He kissed his way up her body, and gently untied the blindfold, brushing away the tears forming in the corners of her eyes, and peppered kisses all over her face,
"Okay, sweetheart?" She nodded slightly, and tugged against the restraints with as much strength as she could muster. He took the hint, and untied her, placing her arms around his neck, helping her to hold on to him as he nudged her legs apart, waiting for her nod of assent before pushing into her slowly, agonizingly so. She threw her head back, her eyes fluttering shut as he eased into her, pausing to allow her to adjust, kissing along her jaw, bracing one hand beside her head, and leaning down on his forearm to hold her head with the other. She held on to him, a little stronger now and squeezed his shoulder gently, urging him to move, and he obliged her, pulling out an inch and slowly pushing back in, again and again, holding her gently as he began to move faster. He kissed away her moans as he thrust back into her, only stopping for a moment to allow her to wrap her legs around his waist, tilting her hips upwards to allow him to drive deeper into her with each thrust, snapping his hips against hers, her moans mingling with his own as pleasure built inside them both. She reached up to kiss him again, moaning into his mouth as he drove her down into the mattress, crying out as she fell over the edge again.
She clenched around him and he groaned, trying to stave off his own climax for a moment, just until she had finished. He kissed her face, murmuring encouragement as she screamed out his name, clinging on to him for dear life. She fixed him with her gaze, her eyes filled with joy, lips slightly swollen, her skin gleaming with sweat as she shouted his name again. The moment she dropped down, her strength failing, he let go and spilled inside her, dropping onto his forearms above her, and burying his face in her neck. She held his head against her, running her fingers through his hair as they both panted for breath. They stayed still for cauldron knew how long, with Nesta clinging on to him as he rested his head against her, just breathing in her scent, entwined with his. He lifted his head to check that she was still okay, protective instincts surging upwards, She opened her eyes at the movement, joy still shining in them, and smiled at him, giggling when he brushed a thumb over her cheekbone and murmured,
"You're so beautiful," he meant it, he really did, she would never believe him if he told her that she was the most beautiful female he'd ever seen, but she was, even as a human woman, she'd been devastatingly beautiful, but now, as high fae, these past six months had been torture, slowly breaking through her fear, her walls, to reach the soul hiding underneath them. She was beautiful, not just her face, her body, she had a beautiful soul, it had just been hurt, and hidden for so long. He gazed down at her, remembering the first time she had opened up to him, had cried in front of him. He hadn't expected her to let him in, but when he had wrapped his arms around her, she had reciprocated, crying into his chest, releasing all the pent-up anger, fear, and grief after the war.
Nesta scrunched her face up and closed her eyes again, smiling in her sleep, Cassian had never dared to hope that some day she might be able to let him in, that she might some day be his, but she was his, and he was hers, in every way. She still had her moments, but he knew when she needed space, and when she needed him. He'd never thought that he could ever be this happy, this lucky, because he was, he'd been a bastard lying in the mud, and she had never cared, she was the first person who had never noted that, perhaps because she didn't realize what it meant, but when she did, she never cared, she just saw him. Only him, and he saw her, for what she truly was. She wriggled underneath him, and he pushed himself up, flopping onto the bed beside her, and pulled her into his chest, letting her sleep for as long as she needed.
Nesta woke up what must have been almost an hour later, the last streaks of sunlight were fading in the sky, and she blinked the sleep out of her eyes, finding Cassian already awake beside her, absentmindedly playing with her hair, holding her tight against him, a wing draped over her.
"Cass," she muttered,
"Mmmhhhm." Nesta's words froze in her throat, as she looked at him, and tears formed in her eyes, "What's the matter? You're okay, I'm right here," he reassured her. Nothing, nothing was wrong, but she couldn't find the strength to speak. He already knew what she wanted to say, but had never heard her say it out loud, he knew it, but she had never explicitly told him. He fell silent, giving her a chance to think, to organize her thoughts, and she snuggled into his chest, smiling at his answering chuckle,
"Do you love me?"
"More than you can imagine. Is that what you're worried about?" She glanced away, but he gently caught her chin and turned her face back towards him, "I have loved you for a long, long time, and will continue to do so until the day I die." The tears forming in her eyes started to fall, and he brushed them away,
"I - I,"
"You don't have to say it, I know, it can be hard to say it."
"No, I - I want to," tears began falling down her face in earnest now, why couldn't she say it? She loved him gods damn it, and he loved her, so why couldn't she say it? She sobbed, and buried her face in his chest, Cassian rubbed her back gently, murmuring softly to her.
"It's okay, it's okay, I know, I know, sweetheart."
"It's so stupid, it's just three words. Why can't I say it? Why can't I just tell you that I love you, it shouldn't be that hard." Cassian grinned, and Nesta frowned, "What?"
"You just said it."
"Did I?" He nodded, and chuckled,
"You can do it."
"I love you." She said again, and grinned, then laughed, "I love you, Cassian." She laughed again, and threw herself fully onto his chest, repeating it again and again. Finally, it was about time that she managed, she'd realized two months ago that she loved him. No, more than that, she'd known that for ages, but she'd realized two months ago that she was hopelessly, irrevocably in love with him, and it was about time that she told him.
They stayed there for another half hour, before Nesta sat up, "We haven't eaten dinner." Cassian reached out to pull her back,
"I'd much rather eat you," but she slipped out of the bed, a little unsteady, but walking nonetheless.
"You already did, now eat dinner, and you'll have to get up, unless you want me to accidentally poison you." He groaned as he rolled out of bed, grabbing her face and kissing her deeply again, before finding his way to the kitchen.
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East Wind’s lament.
Cassian was looking at her with eyes full of sorrow, longing and something deeper that he couldn’t, he wouldn’t allow himself to explore. She had made clear that she wanted nothing to do with him. So he resigned to only look at her with a body aching for her touch, unspoken words clinging on his tongue, fearing rejection. He had learned that nothing could stop the stirring pain inside him when he was reminded Nesta would never let herself love him freely. That was Nesta. She was a strong, otherworldly force, challenging Mother Nature herself, the sky roaring and lighting in chaos. It felt as if Nesta could steal the power with her spiteful rage, taking down anyone stupid enough to confront her. What else could a storm do but rage? She was her own. Didn’t belong to anyone.
He bit his lip to keep his thoughts from spilling out into words. Words that would undoubtedly complicate an already unsteady situation.
She had been training since dawn, beating opponent after opponent with fluid and accurate moves. Breathing heavily, exhaustion sinking onto her bones. Yet she did not falter, she kept moving with bloodied fists, body bruised, and legs trembling, beds of sweat covering her eyelids and forehead, running down her cheeks. Pushing herself to become stronger, someone nothing could take down. A female warrior with steel in in her eyes: cold, hard, and unforgiving. She was a blur of wild fury, uncontrolled but still deadly.
Even with spring spreading its fingers across the land, he could feel the the bitter chill of snow lingering in the air. There’s an acacia tree nearby, blossoming and beautiful and swaying in the soft breeze, unaware of the turmoil in Cassian’s soul as Nesta.
It was an overwhelming feeling. The wild thumping of his chest, the chaotic movement of his heart. Hands stretching towards her and pulling away. She’ll never be mine. He told himself. The affliction swept through him like a storm, sudden and fierce.
Cassianheld onto the moment shared between them in the middle of the battle against Hybern, it gave him strength to survive a little longer, and this one memory was so stubborn it did not want to leave. It's surprising how his heart was so fond of it, as it hasn't tarnished one bit of that cherished memory. And that familiar feeling, whenever his eyes fall on her figure, barged in, breakthrough, and dissolved his resolve, everything into nothingness.
At times he could see the shadow of a little girl who grew up into a lonely woman, looking at everything with wary eyes, who learnt to keep every emotion under lock and key, While a piece of her heart screamed a wordless ‘set me free’
But his heart shattered into a thousand pieces as his eyes fell on the male holding her by the waist and devouring eagerly her mouth. Soon he discovered a different one entered her room every single night, sharing her bed, burying themselves in the most intimate part of her. He often dreamed of having her to himself. Her milky white skin and brown tresses, waves of pure earth softly reflecting the light of the sun that flowed past her round breasts in loose curls, flushed cheeks and parted lips, whispering his name and a hand working at the junction of her thighs. She made inviting little sounds, soft sighs and whimpers that made him almost dizzy with want, begging him to take her, desperately uttering his name in a husky, delicious whisper. He gravitated towards her as if in a trance, and reached his hand up to meet hers.
But every single time, just as he felt a spark where their fingertips brushed against each other, his eyes flew open. It was only a beautiful and thorny creating of his desire and yearning for what could not to be his. Simply a fanciful yearning to escape reality. What a cursed and dammed fate was his, having his heart shattered by the destruction of vivid hallucinations created in his wildest dreams. In love with a mate who would not accept the bond...
Notes: so I’ve never written for this fandom before but I’m pretty excited for Acosf and I abolished love Nessian
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