Gwynriel: “Shut up and dance with me.”
- Walk the Moon
Suggested by @kylevalenti
Azriel could not recall a time in his life where he had felt this nervous.
This... was a momentous occasion.
It was just three weeks ago, approximately seventeen months after they’d met, that Gwyn had pursued Azriel and he had immediately accepted. She had been trembling ever so slightly and his voice had shook when he told her that he had been waiting for this moment for quite some time.
Of course, she had truthfully been pursuing him for about five months before they agreed, officially, that they were “a couple.” There had been longing glances exchanged, murmured and hesitant compliments, apprehensive embraces, and touches that lasted just a bit too long. All of it had been building and building and building up to that moment when Gwyn had taken his hands and made her move.
Then, just last week during one of their sleepless training sessions, Gwyn had suggested that they attend Nesta’s birthday party together. As a couple. Azriel wasn’t sure if it was the relentless sparring or the suggestion that made his heart skip a beat, but without a moment’s pause he’d thrown a punch that she effortlessly ducked and panted: “Sure.”
Gwyn had grinned for the rest of training, and likewise, Azriel’s chest was full to bursting until he knocked her on her ass. Helping her to her feet what Gwyn said next didn’t surprise him in the slightest (in fact it had delighted him): “Rhysand has hired a band and there will be dancing and we will be the best dancers at this party, Shadowsinger.”
Azriel’s lips twitched and he had given a resolute nod of his head. “Let’s begin training tomorrow.”
And so, they’d replaced their combat training with choreography. Gwyn had somehow managed to find numerous texts on dancing techniques and some very impressive movements. They arrived upon a dance style referred to as “sway” and determined it was their best option.
“What a way to announce our relationship,” Gwyn whistled. “Apologies in advance to Nesta for stealing her thunder.”
Azriel’s brows had shot up: “Do you truly think she will mind?”
“Nah,” Gwyn replied with an errant wave of her hand. “She’s been saying all week that Rhysand is making too big of a fuss about her party. She says his ‘undying gratitude is growing tiresome.’”
Breathing a sigh of relief at the confirmation that they would not face Nesta’s wrath, the two resumed their training and continued much in the same manner until the day before yesterday.
And now, here they were at the river house. Azriel had flown them here from the House of Wind, waiting right until everyone else had departed to leave. They had discussed when they’d agreed to attend the party that they would attempt to arrive last, slip into the party unnoticed, and then attract as little attention as possible until the dancing started.
Landing upon the grass by the river, Azriel sighted the party just behind the house. Balls of fae light illuminated the patio, a three man band played quiet music, and the inner circle milled about with drinks and food exchanging raucous conversation.
The Shadowsinger set his priestess down, then promptly tucked in his wings, shoving his hands in his pockets. Gwyn adjusted the bodice and sleeves of her canary yellow dress and smoothed her hair.
She faced Azriel and gestured to herself with a bright smile. “How do I look, Shadowsinger?”
Gods, plenty of words came to mind. Radiant. Exquisite. Stunning. And Cauldron, that smile. Did she know how that smile could light up a room? Did she know it took his very breath away when she looked at him like that? Like a man who didn’t wear countless sins on his sleeves and whose hands weren’t drenched in blood. She looked at him like someone that made her happy. Like he was just boy and she was just a girl, stupidly glad to be together.
But that was too much for this moment, so Azriel replied: “Like the sun.”
Her cheeks turned scarlet beneath those freckles that reminded him of constellations and despite having just seen the male stuff his scarred hands in his pockets she extended a hand to him. Gods, he loved that about her. He loved that she couldn’t be intimidated, that she didn’t fear his reactions and saw in notorious Spymaster of the Night Court the potential to be tender. Soft. Loving.
So with a sheepish smile, Azriel took the priestess’s hand and together they ascended the grassy hill.
“Excited to embarrass every other couple here?” Gwyn grinned.
“Morrigan and Nesta will be serious competition, but Cassian is hopeless and after a few drinks Morrigan will be a disaster,” replied Azriel with all the seriousness of a conqueror reviewing their battle strategy. “She and Emerie will be a tangle of giggling limbs.”
“Mm, am I jealous?”
Azriel offered her a roguish smile, recalling the kisses they’d exchanged on the library sofa so many times over the past few months. They were taking their time, as was par for the course, towards sex. All in good time.
When Azriel turned his attention back to the patio he realized just how close they were. How close he was to showing his family the feeling he had finally captured. To showing them what a fool he had been to ignore what had been right in front of him, and instead holding out for a mating bond. Who gave a damn about that bond that may or may exist for him?Gwyn made his blood sing, his heart burst, and his shadows dance. His shadows who were incessant around her.
No, that wasn’t an exaggeration. It was truly the best word to describe their behavior around her. Like overly affectionate animals, they had grown accustomed to reaching for her, dancing for her, begging Azriel to get closer and closer and closer. Even now when she held his hand, his shadows weaved around their fingers and whispered to him: more more more... we want more of her, of us...
He imagined that as time went on his shadows’ appetite for Gwyn’s company would be satiated, but for now they were greedy. Nipping at Gwyn’s cheeks and dancing to her faint singing and growing excited at the prospect of showing Azriel’s family that she was theirs. That she liked them and didn’t shy away from them.
Azriel’s heart pounded at giving them such an impression. At showing them just how fiercely he felt about Gwyn.
As she always did - though he couldn’t explain how - Gwyn sensed his anxiety, and immediately gave his fingers a comforting squeeze. “Just rehearse the steps in your mind, Shadowsinger. Rehearse them and enjoy yourself.”
He glanced over at her, offering a crooked smile. “Am I really so transparent?”
She gave him a serious look. “Only to me, Azriel. To everyone else, I promise, you are an enigma.”
Chuckling, they arrived at the patio. Before they could take their first step onto the stones, all conversation hushed and all movement stopped. Every eye was on the shadowsinger and the priestess.
Azriel, “the enigma,” flushed furiously beneath their stares.
Beside a delightfully scandalized Emerie stood Morrigan, who smiled at them warmly. Nesta was whispering to a smirking Cassian, her eyes not leaving his. Amren had her head tilted curiously, while Varian’s lips were turned down at the corners in silent approval. And Elain. Elain stood frozen, her expression unreadable. It couldn’t be a surprise. She’d seen them together. She’d seen this coming.
And Azriel suddenly realized... that everyone had. Every last one of them. It had been so obvious to them, to Gwyn, to everyone except the mate obsessed Shadowsinger.
“You made it,” Feyre smiled, sweeping over to the couple. She handed them each a flute of champagne. “Food is over by the tables, dessert will be out later.”
“Being late isn’t nearly as fashionable on you as it is on me.” Rhysand appeared with a babbling Nyx hiked up on his hip. “Alternatively, the hand-holding - a solid choice.”
Feyre swatted the High Lord’s shoulder swiftly. “Apologies on his behalf. My mate forgets himself...”
Gwyn frowned over at Azriel. “I can relate.”
Rhysand snickered, placing a gentle kiss on his son’s cheek. “We’ll start the dancing shortly, then Nyx will be off to bed and we can have dessert and enjoy a few card games. Of course, then I will take each of you for every coin I pay you.”
“I don’t take challenges lightly, Rhysand,” Gwyn grinned.
Azriel remembered a time where she wouldn’t call Rhys and Feyre by anything but their titles. It was strange to believe that at some point they hadn’t been on casual terms. Gwyn had truly become a part of their mismatched, pieced together family over the past year.
Azriel and his partner mingled, when they weren’t holding hands, some part of them was touching. Shoulders, feet, knuckles brushing knuckles. Gwyn would lean her head on him every so often and it did not escape Azriel’s notice the way the conversation would slow for just a second as whoever they were speaking to fondly took in the action.
Azriel had been so lonely for so long that his newfound happiness was a joy they all shared.
And he didn’t mind that at all.
Eventually the band struck up an upbeat tune and Feyre, Rhysand, Nyx, Morrigan and Cassian took to dancing. Meanwhile, Azriel and Gwyn exchanged hushed whispers about their upcoming showcase of newfound dancing talents. Gwyn reminded Azriel not to forget to keep his arm movements in time with his footsteps and Azriel reminded Gwyn that there were four spins, not three.
The quick tune ended and the next one began.
“This is the one!” Gwyn whispered.
Azriel, for the first time, found himself hesitating. Gwyn, noting the way he’d frozen, rolled her eyes playfully and grinned at him. Then, she took his wrist and tugged him towards the dance floor.
There was just enough room on the far corner to perform their every move.
Azriel forced himself to remove his hands from his pockets and tucked in his wings as tightly as possible. His shadows wriggled and writhed on his shoulders in anticipation.
Gwyn gave him an encouraging smile, and nodded her head mouthing, “one... two... three...”
Azriel inhaled... and they began.
Face right. Hands behind their backs. One step forward. Two slow steps back. Three quick steps back. Tap the left toe back then tap it forward.
The first stage done.
Pivot forwards. One step forward. One step forward. Three quick steps forward. A beat. Three more quick steps. Forward tap. Backward tap. Pivot one-hundred-eighty degrees. Two steps forwards. Pivot back one-hundred-eighty degrees. One step forward, pivot one-hundred-degrees again.
Second stage done.
They had two beats to catch their breath, where Gwyn looked at Azriel and the focused expression on his face loosened as he realized that... she was beaming at him. Beaming in that way that said they weren’t just competing to be the best dancers against every couple here... She was competing against him too.
A wicked grin spread on Azriel’s face as all anxiety melted away, replaced with that pulsing need to win.
One beat. Two beats.
Spin back forward and swap sides. Turn right. One foot down, one foot bent and up - arms spread. Hold. Plant feet and turn left.
And this is where it got hard. Where they couldn’t follow each other’s lead and where one of them moved at a time. With a spin from Gwyn and instead of them both facing the same direction, she faced him and not only did he have the most competitive female in Prythian to compete with, but he had to contend with his reeling mind trying to focus against that breathtaking smile she wore.
He paused. Her right foot tapped to the side then behind her ankle. His turn. He mirrored her, adding an additional step. Her turn. She mirrored him.
End of stage four.
They had to be in synch again. Stepping forward. Sweeping forward. Spinning back. Spinning forward...
And eventually Azriel was no longer repeating the steps in his head. He found himself lost in her sparkling eyes and her broad smile. The motions came naturally to him as the heat of their competition set in and her every motion became deliberate. Her flexibility and swiftness lending her a fluidity he didn’t have. His strength and discipline giving him a flawless execution she couldn’t match.
It was very indicative of who they were. Similar enough to make a good team, different enough to compliment one another.
For perhaps the twentieth time since their relationship had begun to evolve, Azriel heard that thought that continued to repeat itself: Fuck the mating bond.
And the final sequence.
A series of turns that were simple in action but challenging to synch up. And yet somehow turn after turn they managed to hit every beat. Azriel was astonished with them and found that when he met her stare she was equally surprised.
Though he supposed they shouldn’t be. They were both quick learners. They were both dedicated and driven by a healthy thirst for victory and a desire to master every skill. To be the best.
Azriel recognized this part of the song and he could tell Gwyn did too. During their rehearsals she’d always hummed this part because her tenor could reach it, whereas Azriel’s baritone just couldn’t.
Azriel didn’t count off and neither did she. They stopped at the exact same time. One foot planted forward, one foot pointed back, arms folded behind their backs.
The shadowsinger was breathless and he couldn’t tell if it was from the way Gwyn was glowing or their positively impeccable performance.
Everyone was well aware there was no contending with the pair of them and compliments were exchanged. In spite of their daunting display, all attending enjoyed the dance floor.
Meanwhile, Gwyn and Azriel observed from the stone bench, catching their breath and sipping champagne.
Finally Nyx was put to bed, courtesy of Elain who seemed to be eager to leave. Then dessert was eaten, card games were played, and the night was coming to an end beneath a star filled sky. The band began to play one final song. A slow melody to wind down everyone in attendance.
This time, Azriel tugged Gwyn to the dance floor.
He took her wrists, lifting one to rest on his shoulder, then intertwining their fingers with his other. Then Azriel slowly, gently, carefully rested his hand on the small of her back.
They turned in slow, gentle circles to the rhythm of the ballad.
“I have something to tell you,” Azriel said quietly.
Gwyn’s eyes widened briefly, then she inclined her head, beckoning him to proceed
Azriel bent his neck, lips brushing her ear. “I was the better dancer of the two of us.”
Gwyn recoiled, gawking at him. “You ass.”
Azriel laughed, a full bodied sound that made him tilt his head skyward.
“You were, at best, a close second, Shadowsinger.”
They bickered playfully for the next thirty seconds, continuing their gentle turning and swaying to the slowly fading music.
They’d danced on multiple occasions, but for the first time ever, Gwyn leaned her head against Azriel’s chest.
His brows raised at the action. As many females as he had taken to his bed over the decades, he couldn’t recall ever engaging in a moment so publicly intimate. Azriel’s eyes darted over to Feyre and Rhysand. They were in a similar position. The High Lord met his brother’s gaze.
“Relax,” he mouthed.
Azriel nodded vigorously. It truly was as easy as that.
The shadowsinger let his chin rest atop Gwyn’s head, then felt her nestle closer into his chest. His shadows twirled around their joined hands, and covered Gwyn’s shoulders. There was a time when he would’ve scolded them. Told them to withdraw. Not anymore.
“This was a lovely night,” Gwyn murmured against him. “I wish it didn’t have to end.”
Azriel shut his eyes and pressed a kiss to the crown of her head. “We’ll have plenty more. I swear it.”
Gods willing they would. Gods willing that she continued to be in his life. After just a taste of being the one that she had chosen, the one that she cared for, Azriel didn’t know how to go on without her.
It seemed dramatic and perhaps a little hasty, to admit to himself that he would love her someday. Perhaps even someday soon. Then again, how hasty was it really? He’d slowly been falling in love with Gwyneth Berdara since that Winter Solstice night where he’d imagined her smile. He’d slowly been falling in love with Gwyneth Berdara since that day she found him alone in the training ring, slammed a book down in front of him and said: “Shadowsinger, I require your services to install a beam in the ceiling and tie a ribbon to it.” Then she had opened her fist and let a long length of white ribbon fall onto the page before him.
And finally, she had cut that ribbon, and she’d kept what she had severed.
What Gwyn didn’t know was the shadowsinger had the other half. He’d removed it after her victory, shoved it in his pocket, and carried it everywhere with him since.
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