people watching -rowaelin
an: so i meant to write this for rowaelin month but ahaha my bad- anyway this is based off of the song people watching by conan gray please go listen to it i swear this man never misses. anyway i don’t love it but i’m so glad i was able to write and just be grateful i didn’t go with my original idea of using the song dancing with your ghost :)
word count: 1,607
That wasn’t funny but she laughed so hard she almost cried.
Aelin didn’t think she was breathing. Didn’t think she could breathe even if she tried. Because as she practically doubled over with laughter, she knew it wasn’t many times Rowan Whitethorn caught her so comically off guard.
No- as his eyes twinkled with barely concealed mirth Aelin swore her heart flopped out of her chest and into the coffee cup in front of her. It wasn’t even funny, she realized- what he had said. It was that stupid dry humor of his, that at one point or another had infuriated her so much that she almost strangled him. Now it only filled a perfect missing piece of her heart.
They’re counting months they’ve been together almost forty-nine.
“I can’t believe you’re making fun of me on our forty-ninth, Buzzard,” Aelin grumbled, sticking out her tongue in a way that had her not- so fiance laughing.
Their friends had always thought it was stupid- the way they counted their anniversaries based on months, rather than years. But it had always been like that- ever since they had started dating. It seemed like everything with Rowan Whitethorn was a lucky charm- Aelin saw no reason to change what was clearly working. So now she didn’t want to do the math two figure out how many years she and Rowan had been together, because it had been forty-nine months.
He’s making fun of how she acts around the holidays.
“You know I love you Fireheart, but you have to admit that the way you get around the holidays is a little excessive, don’t you think?” He reached over the table and grabbed her hand into his own, lacing their fingers with a small smile. His green eyes shined. Aelin scoffed, remembering the ugly matching sweaters she had forced him into last Christmas.
“I am nothing if not excessive.”
The boyish smile that took over his face had her leaning over and placing a sweet kiss on his lips. They were warm to the touch, just like they always were, and he tasted like black coffee and Rowan. When she pulled back she was smiling too.
“Wow, that’s a beautiful ring! Congratulations you two!”
She wears a ring but they tell people that they’re not engaged.
The couple turned to see an older woman who had been passing by their table. She was now admiring the shining emerald that sat prettily on Aelin’s left hand. She felt her cheeks pink as she shook her head.
“Oh, uh, we aren’t engaged,” she smiled politely. “Just a present.”
She felt Rowan cough from across from her but she didn’t turn around- not when she knew the exact grin that would be split across his stupidly handsome face.
They met in class for metaphysical philosophy.
Rowan had long since decided that philosophy was not the way he wanted to go for his career path. And he would absolutely be switching out of this pathway at the end of the semester.
But not yet. Not as the blonde girl three seats down from him was still talking. Not as long as she was in this class.
Because holy hellas if Rowan Whitethorn believed in love at first sight this was it. And if he hadn’t been sitting down Rowan knew that he would have tripped straight on his face after looking at her once she cut him off from his god-awful answer to the question about the reading he definitely hadn’t done- and gone careening down the rows of students.
Because she was the most stunning person he had ever seen.
Were people like her even supposed to exist? And she was intelligent too? And witty apparently- if the knowing wink she had sent him after saving his ass was any indication. He wanted to touch her hair- well, he wanted to touch every part of her really, but he didn’t think he would last long if his thoughts went down that path.
So Rowan turned away and stared at his shoes for the rest of class.
And when it was time to leave, Rowan decided that maybe he did believe in fate after all.
“Were you put in here by accident?”
His feet almost stopped working and it was pure self-restraint that kept Rowan from turning around too quickly at the sound of the familiar voice. The blonde girl from earlier stood behind him, her arms crossed in front of her with a small smile on her face. Her eyes- gods her eyes, Rowan thought he could sink into them.
“I- uh, what?”
“Well you clearly didn’t do the assigned reading,” the girl shrugged, blonde hair bouncing around her shoulders as her smile grew. “Kinda makes one think you don’t wanna be here. That or you’re super confident in your abilities.”
“I wasn’t.” She arched a well-sculpted brow and Rowan wanted to kick himself. Why did his tongue feel like it was tied in knots? “Transferred- I mean. I wasn’t put here by accident. I’m in the philosophy pathway.”
“By choice? You seem so enthusiastic about it,” the girl mused, and Rowan laughed. So she was funny.
“Not anymore,” he shook his head. “I don’t think it’s really my thing. Not super intriguing to me- nothing worth learning about.” She was nodding along- Rowan was just trying not to stare. “Um... I never got your name.”
“I’m Aelin,” she responded, hoisting her backpack over her shoulder. “And you are…?”
“Rowan,” he stuttered out. “Rowan Whitethorn.”
Aelin grinned and Rowan almost fell to his knees. “Well Rowan Whitethorn, you should consider sticking around. Maybe you’ll find something worth learning about.”
With those final words, she was out the door.
Yes- Rowan thought as he watched her hips sway down the hall- maybe he would.
He tells his friends “I like her cause she’s so much smarter than me.”
“Remind me again why you like this chick, again? I thought we agreed that all psyche majors are walking red flags.”
Rowan rolled his eyes at his best friend as he picked up another one of Fenrys’s dirty shirts from off of the ground. He threw it to him as he rolled his eyes.
“First of all, it’s been a month now, I thought you said you would stop referring to her like that.” Fenrys groaned but nodded- it really wasn’t his fault. He referred to everyone that way anyway. But Rowan really liked Aelin, and he wanted his friends to like her too.
At the thought of his girlfriend, he felt a smile bloom on his face. Months after their first meeting and he had finally gotten the guts to ask her out. Thank the gods she had said yes- because Rowan was sure he had met his soulmate. His witty, sarcastic, stunning soulmate.
“I like her cause she’s so much smarter than me.” Fenrys scoffed.
“You’re so whipped.”
He definitely was.
They’re having talks about their futures until 4:00 a.m.
Aelin heard him scoff from across the line. “Never gonna happen.”
She lifted her feet up until they were practically perpendicular to the bed and she could feel the blood begin to rush to her head. She let out a laugh and put him on speaker so she could put the phone down beside her.
“You can fight it all you want, Buzzard, but we’re getting a dog. Maybe two. You may be able to negotiate one though once we have a kid.”
She felt more than heard Rowan inhale sharply through the phone and for a moment Aelin questioned if she had gone too far. She and Rowan had been together for thirty months now, and they had discussed moving in together- even marriage. But the other words hadn’t slipped from her mouth yet. Until now.
“I think we both know there’s no negotiating.”
The words were a balm to her soul and she grinned, even if Rowan was too far away to see.
“Damn right. So what do you think of Alice for a name?”
“I was thinking something more like Evalin, actually. Maybe Ellie. But for a boy-”
“Excuse me?” Rowan laughed at her interruption.
“We aren’t having a boy first,” Aelin responded resolutely.
“And you know this because…?”
“Because a mother knows, Rowan.” She rolled her eyes, even as she bit her lip to hold back her laugh.
“Aelin, you aren’t pregnant.”
“I just know, alright?” she snapped. Rowan’s responding laugh rang through the line.
It was quiet for a while after that. Aelin twirled a piece of blonde hair around her finger as Rowan read quietly to her over the phone. It was one of her favorites- Rowan knew it too. And it only made her love him more.
She looked at the clock. 4:00 am.
“I miss you.”
“I miss you too, Fireheart,” his voice was heavy. Like it always was when he had to travel for games. It always sounded heavy when he wasn’t around her.
She really did love this man. She loved him more than she had ever loved anything before. More than she ever wanted to love anything in her entire existence. He was the other half of her soul. She had found it.
“Yes, love?” She would never stop being grateful for it- that she had let herself feel that love and emotion to let herself be so attached to the person she was so often holding.
“Are we really not getting a dog?” His sigh was loud.
She was so grateful she had allowed herself to fall without caution for Rowan Whitethorn.
“Aelin, we can adopt as many dogs as you want.”
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'Twas Never Meant to Be - An Opinion
I have a lot of thoughts about this, and really need to get them out. So, let's talk about Elain and Azriel.
First off, I want to warn you, this post is a beast. Like, over 7.5k words beast. It just kept going. I'm sorry, but I didn't know what to take out and, honestly, I didn't want to spend a lot of time heavily editing it. Tread knowingly. I will not be offended if anyone chooses not to read it, or not to read it all.
Secondly, I want to say that this post is not meant to be a pro-Gwynriel or pro-Elucian post. Regardless of my personal ships, I want to explain why I, personally, do not believe Elain and Azriel would be right for each other. And these reasonings go far beyond "because I'd prefer them with someone else". In fact, these beliefs and feelings are first and foremost in my mind when considering all three of these ships, and any feelings I may or may not have on other ships are always second to my belief that they would not be right together. I will do my best to keep Gwyn and Lucien out of the comparison, unless using them as a way to point to something that would be wrong between Elain and Azriel - versus stating any reason why the other would be right.
The first two reasons I will share are ones I have been holding on to for quite a while, and have only become stronger with more content (Silver Flames). I have, personally, not seen much around these two thoughts, but recognize that they may be out there already, as there is no new thought under the sun. So, here goes:
Step Away From the Characters
Honestly, my first reason really has nothing to do with the characters themselves at all, but it's something I can't get out of my head. It's a personal thing, I know, as everyone might see it differently, but I can't help but feel like the three brothers ending up with the three sisters would be too perfect, too convenient.
I know that it's a shit argument when talking about an SJM book, and the more I read about the series, and the more books that come out within it, the more I recognize this. It makes me sad. But personally, I can't get behind this storyline, this ending that is so perfect it makes my skin crawl. It's not how life works, and it doesn't really make sense. If it were three adoptive sisters, as the bat boys are, it would actually make more sense, because it would stand to reason that you would have a two groups that mirror each other. That one girl who mirrored Rhys, let's say, then befriended to the point of sisterhood ones that mirrored the boys that Rhys befriended to the point of brotherhood. But Nesta, Elain, and Feyre are sisters by blood, not by choice, and so it isn't an automatic that they would be that reflection to the boys. And even though the boys lived together, and weren't fully brought together by choice as much as Mrs. Rhys's mother, they still chose to stay together and be brothers.
We have never, not fully, seen the Archerons make those same choices. These boys live together (or used to), work together, truly share their lives. The Archerons don't. The girls were disconnected before becoming Fae, and they are still disconnected after it. You see it more clearly with Nesta, of course, trying to stay away from the group, stay separate. But you see it with Feyre and Elain too. You see how Elain practically gives up on Nesta, and how Feyre discredits and dismisses Elain as anything more than just a kind soul who likes to garden. You can't, for two seconds, convince me that the Archerons have as similar or as bonded relationships to each other as the bat boys, and that alone tells us that we should not expect them to mirror the boys.
I would also like to note, looking back at the characters for a second, that it has been observed by others how Feyre and Nesta do seem to have similar energies a lot. On top of that, you could argue that Nesta mirrors all three bat boys in one way or another. It's one theory as to why she and Rhys struggle so much with each other, because they're too similar. And, you can't convince me that Az and Nesta don't share a bond because of their own similarities. Nesta's fire was cold as ice. Rhys once observed Azriels rage as an 'icy rage'. I don't think I need to mention how Nesta mirrors Cassian, but it's there too. So, the fact that she would be the sister who ended up with a mate from the Night Court, one of these three brothers, just made a lot of sense. But Elain, who is so different from her sisters, she doesn't have that same energy. It's not a bad thing, but it helps make sense why she would be the one with a mate from outside this Court.
Beyond this, however, I still struggle with the three and three come together concept. And that's coming from someone who actually has, within her family, a story of two brothers marrying two sisters - my great grandparents (or great great, I can never remember). So, I know stuff like this does happen, though admittedly my only experience is with two and two, and naturally I do believe that the likelihood of the full group being with the full other group goes down with each additional number. Regardless of that, though, it is an author's job to tell a story that we can connect to, and having such convenient and perfect endings makes it difficult to do just that. Because life isn't like that.
So I struggle with the concept of this. Like I said, the more I get to know these books, this series, the more I understand that this is not a great argument for why Elain and Azriel aren't endgame considering how other things have played out, but I still think it's a good argument for why they shouldn't be. However, I would also say that the argument that they will end up together because it's three brothers and three sisters is completely off base and illogical, for reasons I've mentioned above. What is the purpose of that? How does that drive the plot and the story and world? How does it connect us to them better? It doesn't. All it does is be just a convenient little bow that has no true purpose, unless there is true purpose as to why each sister ended up with each brother. And I don't really see a purpose as to why Elain would end up with Az except that they're both the last sibling, and that they currently like each other. But that doesn't mean they're right for each other, and I don't see how them being together will spur the story and the world forward the way Feyre and Rhys did, and the way Nesta and Cassian can and/or will.
As someone who dabbles in writing, I have thought about these types of things, and I'm always adjusting plans and thoughts when I realize I've gone into that too perfect la la land, and I'd like to believe that all writers do that. SJM has had some convenient endings, but I will say I've not yet felt like any ending was just too perfect. The closest was, of course, ACOWAR. But even then, you still had threads, misunderstandings, questions, and things you weren't happy about. Yes, the ending felt a bit perfect, but we still lost the Bone Carver, Mr. Archeron, the Suriel, etc. There were still things that made it less than completely perfect. And much of what was done in the ending did move this story forward, and provide the opening for what we are now getting. And, in the same vein, I like to think that SJM would recognize how this would be too much. But, I don't hold out a lot of hope on this reasoning alone, it's really just something I had to get off my chest.
Share Life With Me
This next point is huge for me, in my mind. Again, it is based off of my own personal opinions of some characters, as well, so I do understand that some people may not agree with this argument. That's fine, but you will not sway me.
It all comes down to one thing. What does Az want?
In the Az POV chapter we are finally told, out right, that he does want Elain. But, my question - does he really?
I have been thinking about this since long before Silver Flames, since we all knew Az had a crush, but it wasn't as cemented until Silver Flames came out, and we saw how Nesta and Cassian would develop as a couple. Because, and here's the kicker, I don't believe Az actually wants Elain.
Yes, you read that right. I know he thinks he wants Elain. I know he believes she's kind and beautiful. And I recognize that there was a sexual tension there - I'm not blind. But I don't believe that Elain is the end goal Azriel is actually looking for.
I believe that she is a representation of that end goal.
This mostly comes down to his conversation with Rhys, his belief about the Cauldron:
"The Cauldron chose three sisters. Tell me how it's possible that my two brothers are with two of those sisters, yet the third was given to another." He had never before dared speak the words aloud.
Okay, first - Az, please see point above. Also, I can't help but feel like SJM put that in here almost to show that this isn't actually a valid argument.
Second, let's dissect that argument for a moment. Now, perhaps Az is just trying to find what he considers a more 'objective' reason for why Elain should be his, why they should be together. However, if that were the case, then why would he have never dared speak those words aloud? Most likely because he knows it's not a solid argument, and logical Az knows this. But this is 2 AM, you just stopped me from kissing the girl I fancy Az, and he definitely is not being his most logical self.
It's also not a logical or good argument because of one simple word. Given. "…the third was given to another." Az, you're better than this. I truly want to believe you're better than this. I understand that the mating bond is weird, and inherently at least slightly sexist, but that doesn't give any male the right to really look at it that way. Especially when you consider the explanation that the mating bond will be present between two perfect equals. This is seen in ACOMAF when Feyre can't believe Rhys would be her mate, because that's what it would mean, that she's his equal. This also paints Elain as an object, which, no matter what anyone's feelings are toward the character, is not okay. She is a person. A fictional one, but still a person, she cannot be given unless she chooses to give herself. The Cauldron simply dictated who it believes is best for her, and vice versa. I'm not saying the Cauldron was right, or that she and Lucien would be good together, but that's what the mating bond is. To argue that the Cauldron was wrong because two brothers got two of the sisters, but the third was given to another is inherently wrong, because Elain cannot be given away.
It also shows that maybe Az really isn't truly seeing Elain for who she is, if he is thinking of it this way. I do believe that Az is a feminist, or, at least, more of a feminist than most of the males in Prythian (which, sadly, doesn't seem to be saying much). So I don't believe this is a comment based on a sexism in Az we haven't seen yet, I truly don't. I believe that it is a comment made by someone whose judgement is clouded, and who is, as I stated earlier, using Elain as a representation of what he's really looking for. He seems to idolize her, put her on a pedestal, believe that she is all light, all good. (Az, please see my previous post on that little nugget.) He objectifies her not because he truly believes she is an object, but because she has become a symbol in his mind - she is not the person Elain to him. She is the one he should have, the one who will bring him what he wants. Note I didn't say the one he wants. Whenever a person puts another on a pedestal the way Az has with Elain, whenever someone idolizes them, or believes that said person will fix all of their woes, they are subconsciously objectifying them. That being is no longer seen as a true person, with all the flaws and struggles and ugly parts. They are something else. And those types of feelings about another person never end in a good relationship, because at least one side is always expecting too much from the other, and they rarely learn to cope with what they didn't expect. And, for the record, you should never really be 'coping' with your partners flaws, but that's a conversation for another day.
Beyond being not a truly logical argument, and showing us how Azriel has actually objectified Elain in his mind, I also believe this statement gives us insight into what Az actually wants. He could have said a number of things to express a belief (or desire) that the Cauldron was wrong. He could have talked about his feelings for Elain. About how he thinks their personalities are too compatible for them to not be rightfully mates. Pretty much, he could have said something about Elain, and how they are right together because of who they are.
But he didn't.
Instead, Az brought up his two brothers and their mates. How they each got one, so surely the third should be his. And why did he do this? Again, maybe 2 AM Az who had lost his logic just thought this was an objective reason. But I think there's more to it than that. I think he brought up those other relationships as a way to point toward what it is he really wants. Because that's what's on his mind. It's not that Elain is perfect for him, that she is everything he could have ever hoped for in a female. It's that she is the sister of his brother's two mates, and he wants what his brothers have. So, clearly, that must mean that it's Elain who can give him that.
Again, Az, please read my first point. Because that's not a guarantee just because they're related.
Now, I imagine most people are saying, "Well, duh. We all know he wants what they have. He said so earlier on in the chapter." And he did:
Azriel couldn't stop it. The envy in his chest. Of Cassian, and Rhys.
So, it's not new. But, this argument he provided highlights that so specifically. He wants what his brothers have. Not a mate, per se. No. What they have.
But, wait, a mate is what they have. What are you saying?
Yes, a mate is what each of them have. But, as we know, not all mates are perfect for each other. Rhys and Feyre, and Cassian and Nesta are both examples of how right the mating bond can be. But, let's instead look at what they both have, in points, instead of just saying they have a mate. Here are, from my interpretation, the main common aspects of these two relationships:
Love. Sure, Nesta and Cassian hadn't said it yet. But, yes, they love each other, they're just both stubborn and scared and maybe not ready to say it.
Heavy sexual attraction and chemistry. This may not always be the most important piece of a relationship, but it's blatant in both of theirs, and it's clear that Az wants that as well. Which is fair.
Friendship. It's hard to see it at times, because these books are so much about the romance, but I do believe that both couples are truly friends who like to spend time together. Who can have fun together. We don't get to see this enough - and I do wish we saw more of it - but it is there. It's there when Cassian throws his head back laughing at something Nesta said. Or when Rhys is thrilled when sassy Feyre appears. And yes, it is in part the mating bond, making them want to be near each other, but they still enjoy that time together. Mates who aren't right for each other wouldn't.
True partners. In these two relationships, they are more than just each other's mate, lover, friend. They are and/or are becoming partners. In their relationships, Rhys and Cass have found a female who they can share their lives with. Completely and fully. In Feyre, Rhys has found a High Lady, a female who is his true equal, who can rule the Court with him. They work together, plan together. And Rhys can come home at night and tell her everything about his day. In Nesta, Cass has found someone who, I believe, will grow to command with him. Likely female units, but she is still mirroring Cass in that way. She may not become his true equal in terms of being Commander of the Night Court, but she would still be his partner. He will still be able to strategize with her, the two working together to determine where each unit will go. He will command the Illyrians, and by his side she will command the Valkyries. And he can come home, at the end of the day, and tell her everything about his day.
It's this last piece that I want to really dig into, because that is what separates Rhys and Cassian's relationships from others we have seen, in my opinion, and thus that is what Az wants. It's not just a mate, he wants what his brothers have, a true partner who he can fully share his life with. Because that is what makes their relationships so special.
And, in the end, I do not believe Elain can be that for him.
I am not trying to discredit Elain, or say that she is simple, or that she can't do anything but garden and be a housewife. No. That is not my point. I do think, however, that what it would entail to be a true partner to Az is something she does not want to do. And that is okay! It is okay for her to want to garden and bake. It's okay to not wish to be involved in all of the plotting and planning and little missions and quests that the Inner Circle does. It's okay to not want to train. To be happy as you are.
But she can't do both. She can't be a true partner to Azriel and remain as she is. Now, perhaps she does want more, and I have misread her. It's possible, I am not infallible. However, she hasn't ever truly shown us anything that tells me otherwise. And, no, I don't believe her offering to find the Dread Trove in Silver Flames counts as I don't believe she offered to do so out of the goodness of her heart or because she wanted to do it. I believe she wanted to prove Nesta wrong. (Again, you can see this in my previous post.) So, to be a true partner to Azriel, she may have to change everything that she is. And that's not fair to her.
And, even if I am way off on a lot of this. Even if she does want to do more for the Night Court. There is one thing that we have learned about Elain:
She does not wish to fight, she does not wish to train.
I'm sorry, you can't convince me otherwise. Not when she has had ample opportunity to do so in the year, year and a half since Hybern, and still hasn't. It was different with Nesta, who was dealing with a lot of other things, but Elain has been, for the most part, fairly healthy. Her not training is her choice because of who she is.
Again, this is okay! I am not insulting Elain for this, not at all. I get it. I don't particularly love working out - the main exercise I get is from rock climbing twice a week, that's it. So I get it. However, you cannot work with Azriel and not be trained, not know how to fight. Even if Elain could be silent, or infiltrate courts easily, and learn secrets, you need those skills, even if it's just a fallback to ensure you can escape should something go wrong. But it also helps to understand these types of things, to understand battle and politics and everything else. It's not about whether she can do this, it's about whether she wants to do this, and I'm not sure she does. So she would either have to change who she is, and be unhappy to become Az's partner, or she wouldn't be able to be that. And, admittedly, if she were unhappy, he still wouldn't have what his brothers have.
However, on top of that, I also don't know if Azriel would let Elain be his true partner. Think about when they're at dinner, talking about how Nesta needs to scry, and how they'll have to rely on Elain if she doesn't - what Azriel says.
“There is an innate darkness to the Dread Trove that Elain should not be exposed to.”
Sidebar - I've not seen anyone talk about how Cassian was absolutely in the right for defending Nesta. So I did. You can see my soap box here.
Now, back to the point. This is one example of how Az is constantly trying to protect Elain from, well, kinda everything. So, even if Elain did want to do all of those things, would Az even be okay with it? He obviously can't stop her from training or anything like that - and if he tries should she ever want to, he's dead to me. But, would he really share his life with her? Tell her about those 'unspeakable things that sullied his hands far beyond their scars'? I don't believe he would. I don't believe he could truly handle her working with him because, again, he has put her on this pedestal of beauty and grace and goodness (that she may not have). And the things he does are not good, at least not by his standards. He wouldn't be able to truly include her until he started to look at her as her own person again, which I also don't see happening. And, even then, he still wouldn't want to share with her all he'd done, believing her likely to judge those things, to be too pure to even hear about them. Regardless of whether that is true or not about Elain, it would hinder him from being able to have a true partner in her. When Azriel comes home at night, he would not tell her everything about his day.
Love Yourself, Az
This, I know for a fact, is not a new revelation. I have seen a lot about this, and have seen some posts that even helped me along with this as well, but I can't not address Az's shadows. I would link to the first post I saw about this but, admittedly, I can't find it. So, just know, I'm not the only one thinking this, and I recognize that some of this may come off as similar to others, but I couldn't not talk about this because it just feels so important.
Elain sucked in a soft breath that whispered over his skin. His shadows skittered back at the sound. They'd always been prone to vanish when she was around.
It wasn't until the Azriel POV chapter that I fully understood what lay behind the fact that Az's shadows would retreat around Elain, when we get a direct comparison to how they react to Gwyn's breath:
"How was the party?" Her breath curled in front of her mouth, and one of his shadows darted out to dance with it before twirling back to him. Like it heard some silent music.
Before this, I didn't realize how bad a sign it is, for his shadows to retreat. I just thought they did that when he was around someone he was attracted to, almost as a sense that the other person lightened him up. But, with this comparison, and in general what we see from Az when around Elain, I see just how wrong I was. His shadows hiding isn't a sign of him lightening up - no, it's a sign of him retreating more into himself, trying to be something that he isn't around that person, in the hopes that they'll accept him if he is.
In the end, it's toxic.
He can't be who he truly is around Elain. That's not something that will lead to a healthy, happy relationship. He may have the girl he thinks he wants, but he won't have the relationship we all know he is desperate for. Whereas, around Gwyn, we see his shadows reach out to another person, jump out, dance with her breath, sing to her. He is able to fully embrace who he is around her. He will be able to be himself with her, love himself with her. And whether or not Gwyn is the right person to him, what this tells us is that Elain can't be that person. That she, like Mor, would be toxic to Az.
On top of that, I can't not point out the word usage here.
While I did observe this on my own, I am not the first to point it out - pagesofmoonlight talks about this in detail, about the usage of the term 'skittered' in regards to how the shadows retreat from Elain. It's not just a general hiding, or even a 'lightening' of Az, as I once thought. It's a gut reaction to her, her breath. They run from her. When I read that word, I literally picture a wave of something, and the shadows seeing it and running from it in fear.
Similarly, in comparison, with Gwyn's breath, the shadows 'darted' out to it. That, also, is not just a general they reached out to it for warmth or contact. Now, they darted - that is a very quick move, often done with a need or desire to get to where you're going as quickly as possible. The shadows needed or wanted to be with that breath, so they darted to it.
Like I said, this post isn't meant to be promoting one ship over Elain and Azriel. But what Gwyn provides here is a comparison, is a sign of what could and should be, whether with her or another person. Even if she isn't endgame, she shows us this problem between Elain and Azriel.
Home is Where You Shine
This entire post, which has become MASSIVE, has been very focused on Azriel, and why Elain is not right for him. But I want to touch on a reason why Az isn't right for Elain.
Azriel is a part of the Night Court. It is his home. It is where he belongs. He fits here, it is right for him. He can and does fine here. I don't think anyone can deny this. But Elain - she does not.
First, let's look at when Nesta is in the Spring Court.
Nesta’s throat constricted, and she surveyed the swaying cherry blossoms overhead. Elain would love this place. So many flowers, all in bloom, so much green—the light, vibrant green of new grass—so many birds singing and such warm, buttery sunshine. Nesta felt like a storm cloud standing amid it all. But Elain … The Spring Court had been made for someone like her.
I'm not saying Elain will end up in the Spring Court, but I do believe it is telling that Nesta would think about another court this way. We've not, to my recollection, really ever seen another character think about how well someone would fit in a different court. Feyre did, if I remember correctly, mention enjoying other courts at times, thinking they were beautiful, but never did she think about how right someone within her court would be in a different court. Because no one else in the Inner Circle would fit so well in another court. For whatever reason it is, everyone else is perfectly suited for the Night Court, and they can handle it.
It takes a lot to be a part of the Night Court. The masks they all wear, the reputation they have, the responsibilities that fall on their shoulders. It's not an insult or an attack on any character to say that they may not fit there, that they may be more in tune with the beauty of Spring, the warmth of Summer, the light of Day. And Elain, who is gentle and kind and not one to pretend to be what she isn't - likely because she's never felt the need to - I can understand how it would be hard.
Secondly, and I know it's a point of contention, and a well-discussed piece of Silver Flames, but I do want to talk about the Solstice Ball, and Cassian's observations.
Elain in black was ridiculous. Yes, she was beautiful, but the color of her long-sleeved, modest gown leeched the brightness from her face. It wore her, rather than the other way around. And he knew the cruelty of the Hewn City troubled her. But she hadn’t hesitated to come. When Feyre had offered to let her remain home, Elain had squared her shoulders and declared that she was a part of this court—and would do whatever was needed. So Elain had let her golden-brown hair down tonight, and pinned it back with twin combs of pearl. He’d never once in the two years he’d known her found Elain to be plain, but wearing black, no matter how much she claimed to be part of this court … It sucked the life from her.
I will try not to go too far into the information about Elain in the black dress, as it's been discussed a lot from both sides, though I do think it is telling, because Cassian isn't just saying it's the one dress. It's very specific about how Elainin black was ridiculous, not that dress. It may seem shallow, but in the end, black is a crucial color in the Night Court, and that type of symbolism is often used to depict things just like this. It would not be the first time, and it certainly won't be the last that a writer uses color this way. However, I have seen a number of posts about this, on both sides, and I do understand both arguments, even if I disagree with one because I don't think it's meant to just be a skewed POV.
I would like to note, however, that the main argument I've seen is that there was once another time Elain was described in a dress that did little to complement her, but it's a very different description. That other time, it's mentioned specifically that the dress and color/shade of the dress did little to complement her 'sallow skin'. First of all, this is specifically discussing how the color didn't work with her skin, not how the color 'drained the life out of her'. Secondly, I would say it is very important to note that 'sallow' means "of a sickly, yellowish or lightish brown color". It is not discussing her skin as it typically is, but how it is when she was in the midst of her own depression after becoming High Fae. It's not that the dress didn't complement her, it's just that it didn't help make her skin look better than the sickly state it was currently in. Whereas, in this reflection, Elain is healthy, and still the black is draining her. Not the dress, not the shade - black. Point blank.
It's also important to recognize that this isn't meant to insult Elain, I believe it is a symbol of how she doesn't shine in the Night Court, how this court could potentially 'suck the life out of her'. Yes, it's just a dress. Yes, there's a chance they wanted her to look plain, but I don't believe that.
They were always going to have Nesta dance with Eris, and they all knew that, despite Elain's beauty, and no matter how lovely she looked, Eris would gravitate to Nesta. He'd already shown interest in her, he'd already become intrigued. He looked at Elain first, I believe, to get a look at his brother's mate. Because he wasn't looking at Elain with interest. No, it was an 'assessing gaze'. There was no reason to make Elain look plain. In fact, there was every reason to make sure she looked just as beautiful as Nesta. Think about what Cassian said just before this:
Both sisters wore black. Both walked behind Rhys and Feyre, a silent indicator that they were a part of the royal family. Had mighty powers of their own. They’d planned it that way, wanting Eris to see for himself how valuable Nesta was.
Why would they want her to look plain, considering this? They wanted Nesta and Elain to walk in the procession behind Feyre and Rhys, as a sign, a symbol. Yes, they wanted Eris to see and understand how valuable Nesta was, as it is said, but they didn't want Elain to look any less valuable. First, doing so would have made Nesta look less valuable by comparison. But, on top of that, I highly doubt they had any fears that Eris would prefer Elain - if they believed Eris about Lucien, then I think they'd believe that Eris wouldn't wish to take away his brother's mate. In fact, I imagine Eris would more likely help Lucien with Elain - but, that just be my Eris stan status coming out.
What is clear is that it was purposeful that they put both Nesta and Elain in black, as a symbol that they are a part of this family. My guess is that they found a dress for Elain that did her the most justice, and that she was comfortable wearing but, in the end, black just doesn't work on her. And is that fact not telling when that is the color of the family?
While this was in draft mode, I also found this post from yazthebookish, who goes deeper into this, and how it wasn't just Cassian who observed how ridiculous Nesta looked in black. So, for those who want to talk about how it is a skewed perspective, there were actually three that made this observation, and I absolutely agree that SJM wouldn't shove this in there solely to say that they purposefully tried to make sure Nesta outshone Elain. As they pointed out, Nesta is gorgeous in her own right. Cassian met her and Elain together, and he was instantly drawn to Nesta. As I mentioned earlier, Eris has been intrigued by her since long before this - see the High Lords meeting in ACOWAR. Helion would gladly get into her leathers, and while I'm aware that's not saying much, his focus on her is slightly higher than you see it on others he would also slide into bed with. She doesn't need Elain to dull herself down to shine.
I also think the one observation about how the black 'wore her' matters. It makes me wonder more about this court, both the general Night Court, and the people in the Inner Circle. Is the court wearing her? Is it sucking the life out of her? Is this why we don't see as much spine from Elain? We got some in this book, but it was all in an attempt to prove she belongs to this court. Something she feels the need to do, as we see in Cassian's reflection:
When Feyre had offered to let her remain home, Elain had squared her shoulders and declared that she was a part of this court—and would do whatever was needed.
…but wearing black, no matter how much she claimed to be part of this court … It sucked the life from her.
First of all, just quickly, I want to mention the ellipses before it says 'it sucked the life from her', and what came right before that. Is Cassian talking about the black? Or is he talking about being a part of this court? I don't have the answer, just food for thought.
I can't help but notice that Elain seems to feel the need to constantly prove, declare, and claim that she is part of this court. She has to push her way through, and while I know it's in part because so many people try to protect her, I think it's more than that. I believe Elain wants to be a part of the Night Court, but in the end it's not suited to her, and so she has to force her way in, when even Nesta, who everyone has been so displeased with, manages to fall in much easier. It's not because they don't like Elain, that's obvious. I believe it's because, in the end, they all see it.
It reminds me a lot of Tywin Lannister's quote from GoT (TV series, I won't read the books until George RR Martin finishes them):
Any man who must say, "I am the King", is no true king.
Could you not adjust this to: "Any person who must say, 'I am part of this court', is not truly part of this court."
I don't think Nesta has once said that. Feyre, maybe, but not in the same way as much as in letting certain people outside the court know. But, to have to say that within the court - it signifies that either you, yourself, don't believe yourself part of the court, or that maybe you aren't truly. Or that you are, but you recognize that maybe it's not the right fit, even if you really want it to be.
In the end, while I don't think Elain can't fit or find a nice life in the Night Court, the final point is that she doesn't shine in the Night Court. And that's not the same as saying she fully doesn't belong. But, shouldn't home be a place where you shine? Where you can be everything you are, and it is absolutely right? Isn't that what Nesta found in Silver Flames, in the House, with Cassian, and Gwyn, and Emerie,…and the House? She didn't have to be anything other than who she was, with any of them, and she still found a place that not only provided her comfort, but where she could truly shine. And she's found it in the Night Court, as well.
Elain hasn't. And maybe that's just because we haven't seen her story play out yet. I'm not so stuck up to believe there's no way I could be wrong. In fact, what bugs me the most about a lot of posts around these different beliefs is the use of 'when' instead of 'if', because no one wants to admit that, at this point in time, no matter what side you're on, it very much is an 'if'. None of us know what SJM has planned. All we can do is use the information we've been given to make as educated a guess as possible. This is mine, and SJM may prove me completely wrong, and that's okay. She may end up giving Elain a more similar arc to Nesta, and show how she develops and grows into someone who flourishes in the Night Court with Az by her side, and should she do that, I hope it's in a way I can understand and not something poorly developed and difficult to grasp.
A Mate is A Mate is A Mate
I won't talk too much about how she and Azriel aren't mates and how that automatically means they couldn't work. It could, in concept. I won't address the theories about her ending up with multiple mates. I do not agree with these theories, as they conflict with the canon we have. Until SJM puts out canon information that can explain a contradiction to what we've been given, any theory that truly contradicts the canon provided I will not consider, whether I like it or not. Multiple mates is not a thing. Being able to sever the mating bond so that someone can have a new mate is not a thing. I do recognize that females can reject the mating bond, and I am not saying whether or not I think Elain should or shouldn't do this with Lucien. Nor am I saying that having a story where someone does reject the mating bond to see how that plays out wouldn't be great.
I will point out, however, that it is often discussed as a thing females do. Females reject the mating bond. Males who have a female that rejected the mating bond grow incredibly uncomfortable, and they truly struggle.
...there will always be a ... tug. For the females, it is usually easier to ignore, but the males ... It can drive them mad.
I'm not going to include all the stuff about males thinking their mate belongs to them. Grow up, Prythian. Get with the program. But, considering this, considering the other pieces we get, I do not know if a male can be with another person, truly, in a loving relationship if he has a mate. Maybe one day, years and years and years after the rejection. Or maybe, if his mate doesn't fit his preferences - if that is a thing (and honestly, we don't yet know the status of same-sex mates, but if they are a thing - please let them be - then I have a harder time believing that those who have specific preferences would end up in a mating pair with the wrong gender).
I am not saying this to say that Elain and Lucien should be together. I am saying this because, considering all these things, right now, canon information essentially tells us that, should Az find his mate, he will go to her, need to be around her. Think about Cassian when Feyre asked why he bothers with Nesta:
Because I can't stay away.
Think about how Lucien couldn't help but try to find Elain, despite direct orders of being told not to. Or about how the second Rhys heard Feyre say 'no' in her mind to Tamlin, he was there to take her away. They just can't help it. The mating bond has a stronger pull on males.
And, maybe Az would be able to deny the bond. To reject it himself, who knows. But, based on everything we've been told, that would be incredibly difficult. And, considering how much he wants what his brothers have, would he want to?
Obviously, there is reason to believe Az does have a mate, and we've met her. And I know some people disagree with this. I would be interested to hear any theories about why he and Gwyn aren't mates, so long as they don't involve Elain. It's not that I have anything against her, it's just that those arguments don't actually point to Gwyn and Az not being mates, just that the person believes Elain and Az belong together regardless, which is not an argument for why they're not mates. But if there are any reasons or signs found in the books and canon information that distinctly point against Gwyn and Az being mates, then I'm open to hearing those points. And, as I mentioned, I do not entertain any canon-conflicting theories, such as the multiple mates one.
As it stands, though, I do think we have been directed toward the idea that Gwyn and Az are mates, and can believe that the mating bond will snap into place. Once it does, I have a hard time believing Az will actually be able to stay away. And that, even if Gwyn ends up rejecting that bond, I don't know that he'll be able to be with Elain after it, knowing Elain isn't his first choice.
Like I said earlier, I'm not against Elain rejecting the mating bond, or anyone doing so. I will say this, though - how much more powerful would it be to have someone reject the mating bond not because they wish to be with someone else, but just because they do not wish to be with that person? Is it not more empowering to see a female (or male, if they can do it) choose to be single, and live their life as they are solely because they just do not wish to be with that person? Instead of it being more of an, 'well, it's just, I'd rather be with him'. Sadly, I do not think Elain is set up to be that person. Gwyn could, potentially, be, though I'll admit I don't believe it, considering the attention Gwyn pays to him. But I do think it's worth noting that, in my opinion, the mating bond can be rejected even if there is not another male in the picture.
However, despite all the questions and uncertainties, until we get answers, this is my personal view, based on what I've seen in the books, and how I've interpreted it. I personally feel that, regardless of who I hope ends up with whom, SJM has placed a number of clues and hints to show that Elain and Azriel aren't meant to be together, that they wouldn't be right together. And that, if they were to be together, the relationship would likely be unhealthy, and potentially toxic.
This post is also not meant to insult or attack Elain in any way, nor Azriel. Nor am I trying to insult or attack those who ship them together. We are all welcome to our own opinions. I promise to respect yours, please respect mine.
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