#i wrote something
Not much physical whump in this chapter or the next but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any angst or whatever so there’s that ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
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Ingredients: painful magical healing, referenced use of “it” pronouns
The days since the incident had been entirely uneventful, which was both a blessing and a curse. Erebus was certainly glad to have some time to himself without being examined and grabbed all the time, but just being stuck in this room with only so many things to do and no one to talk to was a little rough. He had nothing to distract him from the myriad of things he didn’t want to dwell on. Struck with a sudden urge, he picked up his pillow, walked into the bathroom, calmly sat down in the corner, pressed his face into the pillow, and screamed.
He wasn’t entirely sure why, not that he didn’t have a multitude of reasons to. Maybe he wanted to do it without anyone hearing for once. Maybe it was because that arm still took him by surprise every time he looked down. Maybe the constant itch of the collar wrapped around his throat had finally gotten to him. Maybe it was the fact that he could hardly write his name anymore, despite his best efforts. Maybe it was because the only person who’d been kind to him since this whole mess began, the only person he could turn to for comfort, was also ripping him to pieces, making him into some kind of monster. And there was nothing he could do about any of it. All he could do was endure. Endure and hope things wouldn’t get much worse.
He heard the door to the cell open, but he stayed where he was, figuring it was just someone dropping off food or bandages. It wasn’t until he heard a tentative “What are you...you’re not asleep are you?” that he looked up. Neteri was poking her head through the doorway, giving him a concerned look. She looked a lot better than the last time he’d seen her, and Erebus almost smiled before remembering that A) she was the majority of the reason he was so miserable in the first place and B) her catching him doing...this...was embarrassing, to say the least. He felt his face grow red.
“Why are you...were you just going to look in here without knocking?” Now it was Neteri’s turn to blush.
“Well-you-the door wasn’t closed so I thought...whatever, it’s not like I saw anything. What are you even doing in here?”
“I’m-it’s none of your business.” He stood up, taking comfort in the significant height advantage he had over her. “Look, can we...not talk in here?” Neteri nodded and they went and sat in the main part of the cell, Neteri on one of the chairs and Erebus on the bed. He didn’t put the pillow down, hugging it to his chest instead.
“So. How have you been these past few days? Both with your arm and after the, uh, incident?”
“My arm hurts and it’s shaky and I can’t straighten it out or make a fist and I can barely write with it.” Erebus rattled off his grievances quickly. He’d tried to keep track of everything that he noticed was wrong with it in the hopes that Neteri could fix it, going over the list time after time in his head. She nodded slightly.
“Okay, not too bad. It’s about what I was expecting, honestly, so I should be able to fix it without too much trouble.” Erebus allowed himself to feel a small bit of relief. If he was going to be stuck with this horrific arm, it was at least going to work.
“As for what happened with, uh…”
“Yeah. I...I think I’m okay now.” Erebus looked down. “Being a person...helps.” He looked back up at Neteri. “Who is she, anyway?
“She’s...my rival? Kind of. And also my boss.”
“Wait that was your boss?! Does that mean that she can-”
“No, no, what she did the other day was completely out of line. She technically has a right to examine you every so often, but I have to consent to it and be present, which obviously didn’t happen then.” She sighed. “I...I’ll likely have to let her do it again in the future, but I promise it won’t be like, uh, that. I’ll be right there the whole time, and I won’t let her hurt you or do anything...weird.”
“So I’m just going to have to sit there and let her...look at me?”
“Well, most likely she’s going to request that you be restrained, since she seems to have gotten the impression that you’re some kind or feral beast, which is honestly hilarious. What, did you bite her or something?”
“No, I just resisted when she tried to take off my clothes. I pushed her back. And I kicked her.” Neteri burst out laughing.
“Wait, you kicked her? You?” Erebus nodded, and Neteri laughed again. “Oh, oh that’s fantastic. I love it. She’s so high-and-mighty all the time and it is annoying. For real though, if she looks at you again I swear it won’t be that bad. Ugh, she’s probably going to keep using “it” pronouns for you, but I’ll try to correct her.” Erebus hated that he was grateful that his captor was insistent on treating him with basic human decency in this one instance, but here he was. “Alright.” Neteri jumped out of her chair. “You ready for me to fix your arm?”
“As long as you’ll get it right this time,” he said as he stood up.
“Keep talking like that I just might not.” He was afraid she was serious for a second, but the mischievous smile she flashed up at him told him otherwise.
After she freed his ankle, her hand clamped around his right wrist and she began to gently pull him down the hall. He briefly entertained the thought of jerking out of her grasp and running, but deep down he knew there wasn’t much point. He had no idea where he was in the castle or where the teleportation stone was, and he’d honestly rather just let Neteri get his arm working correctly. So he let her lead him along without a fight, at least until they arrived at the lab. He stopped in his tracks upon seeing that table again, the horrors of a few days prior starting to overtake his mind. Neteri looked up at him.
“You’re going to have to get on there if you want me to fix it.”
“C-could I at least sit up or-”
“Nope, I need you to be as still as possible or else it’ll mess with the...things could get messed up, to put it in not-technical terms. You need to be lying down and secured.” She thought for a moment. “I can, like, not strap all of you down, would that make you feel better?” He steeled himself before slowly nodding, approaching the table on shaky legs. Deep breath. He hoisted himself up onto the table, every fiber of his being crying out in protest not to get back up here, not to lie down and let himself be tortured all over again. But he did it anyway, because it was either do it himself or be forced to. Neteri watched him intently the whole time, not moving even when he’d laid down.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” he asked.
“You’re...you’re really brave.”
“Well,” she said as she finally moved towards him, gently rolling up his right sleeve and unwinding the bandage, “I mean I can tell how scared you are, and that’s justified, but you still got up here despite that, you know?”
“I don’t think that’s...I just know there’s no point in running or fighting.” He looked away, and his voice dropped to barely above a whisper, “I think it means I’ve given up more than anything.”
“In a way, yes, but that’s not a bad thing.” She tightened the strap around his right wrist. “You just understand that resisting gets you nothing, and you’d rather make the choice to cooperate, but you’re still…” she furrowed her brow as she strapped his chest down. “You still have...resolve or...I don’t know how to explain it. Just like...something.”
“Something. That really clears it up.” She smiled.
“In conclusion: you’re brave,” she declared as she shoved the rag into his mouth to prevent him from arguing further. He halfway reached up to pull it out, but stopped himself and laid his arm back down. Maybe he shouldn’t give her a reason to strap his other arm down, since it seemed like she was going to start with just his right arm and chest secured. He braced himself, fingers of his left hand curling into the fabric of his shirt as he looked up at Zander the rat.
The pain started out quiet and slow, crackles and pops of little agonies sparking throughout his arm, preludes to the coming blaze. They steadily intensified, and before he knew it he was screaming, head arched back and knees bent as the pain ravaged his arm. A thousand flames coursed through every nerve before the sensation changed to a crawling itch, and it was all he could do to resist scratching at his arm. Thankfully, the magic stopped flowing soon after. And after a few residual twinges, the pain stopped too.
Neteri was breathing heavily, but she seemed to be in a much better condition than she had been the last time she attempted this, no blood coming out of her nose or ears. She smiled at him. “The worst of it should be over, but I might have to make a few adjustments. Can you try to make a fist? You said you couldn’t do that before, right?” Hesitantly, he did so, feeling a bolt of elation as the foreign fingers obeyed with ease. She let him sit up, having him move his arm all sorts of ways, and they were both happy to find that there were no problems with it at the moment. She cut the stitches around the now-healed spot where red and bronze skin were gnarled together, and he couldn’t help but wince as she pulled them out, despite how gentle she was being.
Once they got back to the cell, Erebus realized he could finally ask Neteri the question he’d thought of yesterday. “Does it do anything?”
“The arm, does it do anything...special? Like how the tongue-”
“Oh, yeah, it should be able to...well, have you ever met a lust demon?”
“Alright well basically what they’re able to do is change their appearance to suit the, ah, tastes of whatever human they’re trying to prey on. We’re not exactly sure if this is something they’re consciously able to do or if it’s purely reactionary. But there is a possibility that you’ll be able to change the appearance of your arm with enough practice.”
“Really?” Erebus looked down at his arm, imagining it changing back to look like the one he’d lost, feeling a small spark of hope.
“Mmhmm. Theoretically, at least. I can’t promise you’ll be able to do it, but there’s a chance.” She shrugged as she said this. “Oh, that reminds me of something else I wanted to ask you earlier. Is there anything you want? I...I feel bad about what happened with Hjáll, and the procedure on your arm was more painful than it was supposed to be. So, is there anything I can do to sorta make it up to you? Obviously I’m not going to let you go or stop what I’m doing, because no, but uhhh…” Erebus furrowed his brow. What did he want besides his freedom? He considered asking her to let him visit his home and say goodbye to people, but he shuddered at the thought of anyone who knew him seeing him in his current state, and he didn’t want to burden them with the reality of what was happening to him. They might blame themselves, and it wasn’t their fault. So he wouldn’t ask her to take him to Nathar, but maybe…
“Could I...go outside? I haven’t seen the sky or plants or anything in so long and I...I hate being stuck underground like this.”
“Sure! Ooh, I could show around the city! Yeah, yeah, that should work. I’ll need to get a few things in order first, so it might be a couple of days.” She got up to leave. “Until then, work on seeing if you can get your arm to change or whatever. I’ll be back with your food...at some point later today.”
After she left, Erebus stared at his arm, concentrating on the image of the one he’d once had, trying to imagine the skin fading from bright red to light brown, but it remained the same as before. Well, he didn’t expect it to work right away. But hopefully it would, someday.
Tags: @dramaticcollapse @thehopelessopus @just-a-whumping-racoon-with-wifi @galaxywhump @as-a-matter-of-whump @mnmlover2002 @tears-and-lilies @yet-another-heathen @rippedjeansandfadeddreams @starnight-whump @unicornscotty @thebewilderer @kixngiggles
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No Falling, Only Flying
A request from @my-fan-side sent millions of years ago where they asked for Nesta using her powers with Feyre’s help to gain wings so here we are!
Happy Sunday and I hope you enjoy!
They were in their bed in the camp listening to the rain hitting hard against the fabric of the tent, Nesta’s head on Cassian’s chest, his heartbeat beating a rhythm in her ear.
“I wish,” he said, his voice a low murmur as his fingers played with her hair, “you could fly with me.”
She raised her head, blinking sleepily as he tilted his face towards hers. The smile he gave her made her own heart beat faster.
“I do fly with you,” she replied, her voice thick with sleep. “We flew here.”
Cassian let out a sigh and Nesta reached up to smooth the wrinkles appearing on his forehead with his frown. He chuckled and grabbed her hand with his free one, drawing her fingers to his mouth to kiss her fingertips.
I know,” he said, “but I was meaning more of what Feyre and Rhys do where they fly side by side.”
Nesta drew a breath and shifted, only a little, out from his arms. “Ugh,” she said, now fully awake, “we’re in bed, having made love and you want to bring up my sister and her idiot mate? You’ve been hit hard on the head today.”
The camp bed shifted as Cassian sat up, sheets pooling around his waist bringing his naked chest into view. Nesta gathered them up to wrap around herself, a barrier against the conversation - albeit a flimsy one.
“What I mean,” he continued, “is that I love you, and love having you in my arms while I fly but I want you to experience what I experience – what they experience.”
“And what exactly is that?”
“Freedom. Independent but still joined, flying to a destination together but being able to explore the sky, to dance together in the sky.”
Cassian sighed once more and lay back down, tucking an arm underneath Nesta’s body and drawing her close. “I don’t want to be Feyre and Rhys,” he said, “I want you to experience the freedom I love because I think you would too. I want you to have everything I have.”
Nesta shifted again, trying to position herself into a more comfortable position, her bare legs entwined with his, the sheets now tugged in a way to cover them both. His arms wrapped around her and with the heat from the furs and their bodies and the pattering of the rain, Nesta listened as Cassian’s breathing evened out until he fell asleep.
His eyes moved under his eyelids and not for the first time Nesta wondered what he dreamt about. Her? Possibly. Velaris? Likely. The camp? She hoped not. This place left him aching and tired.
The act of flight was when he was the freest and even in sleep, Cassian’s wings twitched and quivered. He would die if he couldn’t fly again, she thought, and she wished she had something in her life she revered with that desperate passion.
He murmured in his sleep and his arms held her tighter. In the shadows of the candlelight his face looked softer, his black hair splayed across the pillow mingling with her golden-brown strands
Perhaps though, she did.
Where death touched, power remained.
To others, death meant destruction and decay but to Nesta, death meant potential.
As she walked along the grasslands in the dark, she sensed the gentle flickers of power trying to reach her, all from the death of bugs, birds and the variety of small creatures which foraged in summer and slept in winter.
In a camp this size, despite the pitch of night, not everyone slept. Fighting and fucking filled her ears, drunken revelry and arguments rippling through the darkness. In a war camp the air was always thick, whether from adrenaline or sorrow; snoring from some tents, sobbing from others.
Joy was never easy to find here but was the one thing she wanted to give. This place ate away at Cassian and the longer he stayed, the less of himself would remain.
She walked from their tent until she reached the outskirts.
The Illyrians spent their days training in the vast field beyond the camp. Years ago, this place had been the site of a battle but only Nesta tasted the war as she stepped, the ground offering her all the flavours.
The metallic tang of blood reached her nose and though she trod on hardened soil she was drowning in the echo of its thickness from the lives slain. She hadn’t asked for this gift, if what she had could be called a gift. The magic had been forced upon her on a night as dark as this one as the Cauldron stole her life and that of her baby sister.
Death, it told her, is yours.
She was meant to die in the endless dark, her lungs filling with a liquid too thick to be water, but she refused what the Cauldron offered and re-shaped the meaning to suit her.
Soon Nesta stood in the middle of the field with nothing but wisps of death desperate to caress her.
She’d first discovered her power when she found the dead mouse. With some strange understanding, Nesta knew the small thing had crawled into the granary tent and died happy with a filled belly. She’d picked it up by the tail and the first flicker came from her fingers.
Now, she didn’t want to waste what was available to her. As her eyes closed and she breathed in something squirmed within her as though it were a living thing.
Place your feet, she told herself, and ground yourself.
The power came from beneath her and hummed through her bones until her teeth rattled and her skin prickled. Nesta held out her hands, palms flat to the ground until the vibration made her fingers convulse into jagged shapes.
Nesta slowly opened her eyes until they adjusted. She had yet to master the ability of muting the sheer brightness of the initial stage of the surge which was akin to throwing a log on the fire; a flare of sharp, sheer power before dimming into a bearable glow.
She smiled. Now all that was left of the night was her concentration.
At first light, the Illyrian males marched towards the very field Nesta stood upon, so she made sure to be gone before dawn.
Now, in their bed, Cassian’s body stirred next to hers before rising. Although her mind was awake her eyelids were heavy and she moaned at the loss of his heat, reaching across the scratchy sheets to curl into the space Cassian occupied only minutes before.
Her eyes opened to see Cassian watching her as he strapped on his leathers.
The fabric of the tent opening flapped in the morning breeze, the soft golden sun shining through. She must not have fastened the ties in her haste to return and she groaned and turned away.
“Where did you go last night?”
She flipped back over and stretched out her limbs, sliding a bare leg out of the sheet on purpose, revelling as Cassian glanced down her body.
Cassian stepped forward and skimmed his rough fingertips up her exposed calf.
“Hmm,” he murmured, “it’s almost as though you think you can distract me.”
Nesta huffed, ignoring the glint of mirth in his eyes.
“Fine,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep after you’d fallen asleep, so I went for a walk.”
Cassian frowned and Nesta braced herself. “Alone?” he asked. “At night?”
She fought the urge to roll her eyes. “I have power,” she told him, “and besides, no one will dare come near me.”
She drew her leg further out from beyond the bed to trail her toes up the length of his leather clad thigh.
“Nesta,” he warned and grabbed her ankle. “No distractions.”
She snatched back her foot. “I only walk to where the females are,” she lied.
The females were ensconced in a separate part of the camp, heavily guarded at night by magic barriers set up by Cassian and Rhys and patrolled by Illyrians loyal to the Night Court.
Nesta was their teacher and so her statement believable enough.
Cassian trained the females but due to the archaic notions that many Illyrians still held, he had to do so separately and often in the dim twilight of the evening while the males ate and rested. During the day Nesta taught them other important lessons – reading and writing. She’d failed Feyre but she wouldn’t fail them.
The camps don’t just need female foot soldiers, she’d once told Cassian, strength can be found in many ways. There’s a strategist or two amongst them, she’d said, female warriors whose skills lie elsewhere.
Cassian spent his days with knives while Nesta’s weaponry became chalk and boards.
The females held a begrudging respect for Nesta; they wanted to learn and she wanted to teach. Friendship didn’t come into the equation, but trust did.
The males, however, held no respect for her unless Nesta considered their fear respectful. She was a witch to some and cursed to others. Some referred to her as the General’s whore but Nesta didn’t care, she knew who she was to Cassian and who he was to her. Everything else was dust.
Cassian sighed. “I don’t want you getting hurt, all it takes is one cocky soldier...” he trailed off, the look in his eyes haunting her.
Nesta stood, wrapping the sheet around her nude body, holding it in place with one hand, steadying herself on the tips of her toes to kiss his cheek. Her free hand cupped his face, his skin warm against the cool of her palm.
Cassian captured her lips with his. They kissed a million times but each kiss felt like the first, excitement reverberating through her body, her heart pounding.
Cassian’s lips were soft and his kiss started out gentle before increasing in intensity. She sighed against his open mouth and slid her tongue lazily against his, Cassian’s large hands sinking into her hair, tugging at the strands.
Nesta let the hand on his jaw slide into his hair while the other dropped the sheet.
“Nesta,” Cassian murmured, pulling his mouth away from her, trailing his lips to her cheek and up to her ear. He nibbled on the lobe while her breath hitched. “No distractions,” he said and nipped at the shell before pulling away.
She slid a fingertip across the skin of one of his wings. “Tease.”
He sighed again, his eyes fluttering close. “Same about you.” He opened his eyes, “I have to get to the training field.”
Nesta placed a chaste kiss to his mouth before reaching for the sheet she dropped, in fairness she needed to dress and head to the females herself.
However, Cassian made no move to go and observed her with careful eyes. “I’m serious, Nesta - one cocky Illyrian. I’ve seen what happens when their arrogance and pride take over and there are many who don’t respond well to what they seem as disrespectfully flouting tradition.”
“I keep telling you - I have my power. All I need is to display a little.”
That was Cassian’s main concern - her power. So far rumour and reputation kept the males at bay as Nesta hadn’t displayed anything to anyone. The power was still within her, writhing and waiting, but she had yet to be its master if such a thing were possible.
If the others discovered Nesta didn’t have control, the fear which kept them away would dissipate in the wind, but that was why, when Cassian slept deep at night exhausted from days spent toiling and training, she crept into her field.
“I want you to be safe, it’s all that matters to me,” Cassian said. His wings twitched, a thought forming which he wanted to turn to reality. “I wish there was some other way you were able to defend yourself or flee if you needed to.”
“I won’t run.”
“I know,” he said, scrubbing one of his large hands down his face. “I wish you had wings,” he said, repeating his statement from the previous night, “that way you would have another option.”
It seemed churlish to mention even if she did have wings, so would her attackers.
Stand and fight or stand and die. Two possible options. Nesta was careful though, she wouldn’t get herself into that position in the first place. But it didn’t mean that trouble wouldn’t find her.
Nesta cast her eyes around the tent for a dress, drawing the conversation to a close. “I’m no Illyrian,” she said, “and no Feyre. No wings grow on my back.”
Cassian fixed her with a smile so sad her heart hurt. “I know,” he said, “but that doesn’t change the wishing.”
That night, following their conversation, magic flowed up through the soles of her feet and the palms of her hands, stronger and quicker than before leaving her exhausted. When done, she crumpled on the ground, the wet dew soaking her dress and blades of grass kissing her hair.
Too much but still not enough.
Nesta was too tired to focus. The day had felt longer than most with one brash soldier disturbing the peace of her lessons. She’d wanted to display her power to him but all that was left was a dull ache in her bones.
Several of the Illyrian females managed to get rid of him with more physicality than Nesta imagined mustering.
The night chill sunk into her flesh and her teeth clamped together as her muscles tensed and shivered.
Not enough. Never enough.
“What you need to determine before any interaction, whether in a strategy meeting or warlord council, is what you want to obtain. This will allow you to decide what your actions will be.”
A hand rose.
“What if the meeting doesn’t go your way?” The female who spoke was young but with black eyes as old as the mountains.
“Have a secondary plan of action for when your original plans change. Evolve or die, if you adapt yourself you can still succeed. An initial failure is not the end.”
“Do you do that? Adapt yourself?”
Nesta turned towards another female, also young. The question wasn’t a jibe, but reminded her of when Cassian asked her questions, like he was hungry for the answer.
“Yes,” she said, “Of course.”
Nesta sat on one of the chairs Cassian lugged around with him. The wood became uncomfortably cold in the winters and the chair was so old that splinters in sensitive places were a realistic health hazard. Thankfully the many furs covering it were thick.
Cassian’s desk in front of her was enchanted so only certain fae were allowed to touch the contents, Nesta being one of them. A spy for another camp had once fled the tent screaming; blood pouring onto the ground while the fleshy tendons of his hand hung like grotesque ribbons.
Dusk was drawing in and through the uncovered tent opening, Nesta saw the Illyrian’s bustling though camp. The moon was up and soon the stars would follow; the thick ashy smoke of the newly lit fires danced in the early evening breeze.
The males were back and the females who wanted to train in combat had left with Cassian.
One of those females was the young Illyrian from earlier with the old eyes – Aja. She’d once told Nesta she didn’t want to fight; she wanted to be in the war rooms, on the councils, devising strategies and planning opportunities. Strength isn’t only in the body, she’d said and Nesta quirked a smile.
Aja trained because fight was her alternative plan. If held in a council room with a sharpened blade to her throat, wits and cunning would only help her so far. She had no magic and no wings. Her uncle had pinned her down and seen to that when she was a child.
If you adapt yourself you can still succeed.
It was a sting to Nesta’s chest to realise that she didn’t live by her own words. During her night practices she did the same routine over and over without getting any closer to mastery.
I am a hypocrite, she thought. I state what they should do and don’t follow the same action. I have not tried to adapt myself.
Nesta picked up a quill and scribbled a message on a piece of enchanted parchment waiting for the response to her words as they appeared somewhere else. Now, she needed to go the field and wait.
After all these years, a part of Nesta still wondered if she would be left, alone and waiting in the vast expanse of dark, for someone who would never show. But, in the pitch of the field stood a familiar figure who had arrived early and who was visibly brimming with excitement.
“Nesta,” they tried to whisper but their volume control was erratic.
Thank the Mother, Nesta thought, that we’re far from the camp. Still, a warmth filled her and when she was near enough, Feyre skipped forward to wrap her arms around her.
“This is so cloak and dagger,” Feyre squealed with a squeeze and pulled back. “Look, I’m wearing a cloak – and a dagger!”
Nesta arched an eyebrow, “Do you need to carry blades around?”
“Not a bit but I thought they would add to the ambience.”
A throbbing began behind Nesta’s left eye near her temple. She’d had another long day and the night was about to be longer.
In Nesta’s dream she moved so fast everything blurred. She could still pick out the colours though; the sapphire shine of the sea, the green mountains with white snow caps and a sky of deep azure which changed once the sun rose to a pink the same as Nesta’s lips.
A strange thing, Nesta thought upon waking, to refer to sky a colour as one’s own lips.
The golden thread hummed between her and the male lying beside her, their souls long merged into one. Sometimes the thread was as thin as spider silk and others as thick as rope but the link was always present, anchor and feather all at once.
Cassian’s wings shuddered as he slumbered and Nesta knew in his dreams he was flying alone.
“I truly hate this,” Nesta gritted out through clenched teeth. Sweat dripped down her sternum, a droplet trickling a path between her breasts.
“Yes, but you’re progressing. You need-”
“I need to take a break.”
Nesta clamped her outstretched palms into fists and opened her eyes, the magic snapping off as soon as she’d given up. That was progress in itself, the magic coming to rest under Nesta’s heel instead of coiling like a snake with a life of its own.
With Feyre’s guidance she’d managed to force it to do something she wanted it to do.
“You can’t just stop controlling your magic when you’re tired. That’s when you need to be wholly in control because that’s when you’re the least in control.”
“Yes, thank you, Feyre.”
Several weeks of training had now passed with Feyre winnowing every night to meet her without complaint. Nesta was more grateful than words would express but her fatigue and frustration made her snap, the danger being that she would reward her baby sister’s time and effort with sharp words.
Nesta turned her head to where Feyre stood beside her and reached out to grasp her hand. Feyre jolted in shock but, after a second, curled her fingers around Nesta’s so they held hands in the dark.
“I think you’re scared of where you draw your gift.” Feyre’s voice was quiet. “I see you gain momentum and watch you, well... give up. On purpose.”
Nesta didn’t say anything.
“You treat your magic like a dog you need to train but you don’t. Your gift isn’t separate from you Nesta, it is you. Until you conquer that you’ll never move forward.”
Cassian’s sleep didn’t solely contain sweet dreams.
Nesta had her own share of nightmares, the most prominent was being held down in the dark. She was in the Cauldron but instead of water, it felt like air. That was how much nothing was around her. But then the bodies arrived brushing against her with cold, twitching fingers. Some were dead and others were dying.
All tried to grab her.
She woke from those nights dripping in sweat and clawing at her throat with her fingernails. One time, in the throes of somnambulist she’d reached for the knife underneath Cassian’s pillow and pressed the blade to her neck.
The bond had screamed Cassian awake. Nesta was lucky it had, otherwise he would have woken to her bloodied body next to his, a handle buried in her windpipe.
Cassian also had his prominent nightmare, one Nesta had managed to glimpse.
Instead of darkness, Cassian was shrouded in a light which burnt too bright and grew too hot. He was flying from something and the bodies in her dreams surrounded him too.
In this nightmare, he didn’t fly alone. He held something in his arms, fragile and bleeding, with water pouring from its mouth and down its hair. Nesta easily recognised the drowned thing.
In the dream it never mattered how high Cassian flew or how fast, his wings caught fire and as he burned the scent of smoke and charred flesh filled the air. With his wings gone, he fell and so did the creature in his grasp.
He always screamed her name.
Maybe Feyre’s words from the previous night had unlocked something in her mind. Maybe it had been Cassian’s nightmare. Maybe something in her had been unleashed, something she’d been trying to close off.
Nesta saw what had once lived and died on the ground. Blood had been spilled and death had come swift and slow but, in all death, existed a remnant of life.
No one left the world without making their mark. That mark allowed Nesta to gain a firm hold of what she was unable to previously grasp and so, she looked past death and tenderly cradled the imprint of life.
Light emanated from her feet, swirls of colour spreading fast past her, up and up until coming down through the crown of her head and rooting next to her heart.
Illyrians had died here. Violent and painful.
Nesta would honour their lives and absorb them into her, turning their death stamp into something substantial.
She closed her eyes and pictured an image in her mind. Wings; outstretched and pitch black with veins of silver and gold running like rivers to her heart as their source.
Would they be nothing but smoke? She questioned. Impressive to look upon but with no use?
No, if they were to be real, they would be real in all things. They would snap and break just like Cassian’s once had and they would sense every cool breeze and warm ray of sun.
Over the rushing of the blood in her ears she heard Feyre’s delighted laugh and her name being called, over and over, jubilant into the night.
“Come with me.”
Nesta led Cassian by the hand, her smooth fingers weaved into his calloused ones. If he’d noticed the shadows under her eyes, he’d decided to say nothing. He wore his own exhaustion on his face but only in their tent. When he lifted the cover to go outside the mask of the hardened Commander of the Night Court fell on.
The Illyrians were like sharks, Nesta had surmised early on, one scent of weakness and they moved in for the feast.
She couldn’t be a weakness for him. His fraught filled slumber already left him sapped and exposed.
Nesta led him to the field and instructed him to take her into his arms. “Fly us,” she said, “and high.”
Cassian grinned at her, “Why Nesta, you should have told me you were feeling adventurous. I would have enchanted the tent to become more sound proof.”
She swatted him. “Hush bat, do as I say,” but there was no malice in her tone.
His grin slid into cockier territory, “If that’s what my darling mate wishes.”
Nesta stepped into his embrace, wrapping her arms around his neck while he positioned her so his forearm held underneath her knees. He murmured words into her neck, pressing his lips and tongue against her throat to feel her fluttering pulse.
Honestly, she thought, the hint of wind on his wings and his mate wrapped around him and his mind flew to one place.
The joy residing in Cassian when he flew was palpable. The love he had of the skies radiated from every pore in his skin and he glided along the currents as though smoothing his palms across the skin of a lover.
At the beginning of every flight, he closed his eyes in reverence. Nesta understood why he wanted this for her, understood how Cassian wanted to share one of his biggest joys with the other.
She smiled at him, the look on her face so unusually tender than when his eyes re-opened, he looked to her with a questioning gaze.
“What?” she asked.
“I’d say you’re plotting something,” he said, “you practically reek of scheming.”
Nesta crinkled her nose at him but loosened her arms. “Do you love me?” she asked.
“Of course,” he said without hesitation.
“Do you trust me?”
They’d long soared above the Illyrian camp, leaving behind the clanging of weapons and the scent of sweat and leather.
Cassian’s gaze immediately turned suspicious.
“Do you?” she asked again.
The sky was an endless ocean growing colder the further up Cassian flew. Nesta was reminded briefly of the Cauldron and the chill sinking into her flesh before she realised it was her own life leaving her body.
I drowned in the dark, she thought, but I will swim in the light. Even if it isn’t swimming at all.
Cassian’s body was taut, his muscles primed as he took in Nesta’s removal of her arms from around him.
“I do,” he said but Nesta heard the wave of nervousness in his voice.
“Good, then trust me.”
When they were children, Feyre broke a vase. She’d been running after Elain and had slammed into the table it stood on. Feyre and Elain had frozen in shock, as did Nesta when she rounded the corner after them.
The vase wobbled before smashing onto the marble floor. Collectively they held their breath in the hopes not breathing would somehow stop the inevitable. Afterwards, they bent their heads over the pieces and agreed if they fixed it and turned it into something more beautiful, than their mother wouldn’t care it had broken at all.
Cassian’s face when Nesta dropped through his arms was the same expression on Feyre and Elain’s while they waited for that vase to fall.
Nesta plummeted towards the earth, heart racing and stomach churning, and the noise in her ears was part air rushing around her and part the roar of a terrified Illyrian.
Nesta needed to smash his fear and turn it into something wonderful.
No one, aside from the sisters, would know the hours spent piecing that vase back together just as no one, other than Nesta and Feyre, saw the effort Nesta had to endure to get to this point.
Her back arched as she fell and her wings materialised into existence.
During practice, many attempts had occurred before her wings made an appearance and there were many more until they became skin and bone. Thankfully, less time was needed for Nesta to get used to them and once she took to the air with Feyre’s guidance it was as though she had been born with them.
Still, Nesta was not as fast as someone who always had wings from the moment they entered the world and Cassian reached her in a heartbeat. She turned, mid-air, to face him.
Traces of terror lingered on his face and she felt a stab of guilt.
“Nesta,” he began, his voice quaking but she answered before continued.
“I’m sorry, I promise I won’t do anything like this again, I just needed to show you. I learnt this for you. You want to fly with me? I’ll fly with you. You wished I could take to the skies to escape if I needed and I’ve made it so. I can bend them to my will, just like Feyre can.”
“How did you-?”
“At night, when you slept. Feyre helped.”
“Feyre was here? Cauldron.” Cassian rubbed a hand over his face. “I knew you were sneaking out at night.”
“Are you pleased?” she asked him.
When the vase broke Nesta, Elain and Feyre had gone to the local blacksmiths, their jewellery in hand; silver rings, gold bracelets, anything they found. He’d melted them down until metal became liquid and they’d used that as glue to hold the pieces.
The vase had been a delicate blue and white thing and when they placed it back on the table it ran with veins of silver and gold just as Nesta’s wings did now.
“You’re like a baby bird,” he laughed and she was forgiven.
She scowled at him, “I would say this is pretty good for a beginner.”
“One strong breeze and I’ll end up having to chase you over the mountains to bring you back.”
“I’m stronger than I look.”
He reached out to hold her hand and drew her in close, the front of his body pressed against hers. Their wings beating in time with their hearts.
“They’re beautiful,” he said. “You’re beautiful.”
The wind whipped his hair around his face and tugged strands of hers from her braid. Nesta clasped Cassian close to her, not because she needed to - she’d crashed to the ground enough with Feyre to perfect her flight- but because she wanted to.
“I can go higher,” she said, “I won’t fall.”
“I’ll catch you,” he said, “I’ll always catch you.” Nesta saw the darkness overtake his joy and she was reminded of his nightmare.
“Of course, you will,” she reassured him, “but there’s no falling now. Only flying.”
This was the least she could offer, the gift of peace of mind.
But there was more to Cassian than a protector and she caught the sly smile he gave her. Here was the carefree Cassian, the one who wanted to fly higher or faster and now he had someone to match him.
Nesta flexed her wings and flew above him and he reached to grab at her ankle, his smile turning into a wider grin.
“Let’s go,” she said, “we’re made for higher.”
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“Come on, Cas.” Dean plops onto the couch at Cas’s side and nudges their shoulders together. “Don’t make that face.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my face.”
“Sure, pal,” Dean says with a laugh. It doesn’t last. Not while Cas is frowning. “Now why don’t you tell me what’s wrong.”
Dean blinks at him, and Cas lets the lie fall. Instead he shuffles in his seat. Slouching slightly, he curls his hands around his knees.
Dean waits, knowing Cas will speak his truth if shown enough patience and compassion. The guy’s not used to having people care about him. Not even Dean. Not even after all these years.
After a sip or two of his coffee, Dean lowers the mug to the coffee table.
“Use a coaster,” Cas says.
Dean makes sure Cas sees him rolling his eyes. “Yes, dear.” But he still reaches for the bee-shaped coasters Cas bought at a flea market and places one under his mug.
So it can’t be all bad, if Cas is still ornery enough to chide him about coasters.
“I’ve been thinking,” Cas starts.
When a long moment goes by where he doesn’t elaborate, Dean attempts to lighten the mood, “I don’t smell smoke.”
Cas gives him a withering look. Dean shrugs; hey, he tried.
Dean reaches for the coffee. He curls his fingers around the handle and lifts.
“Why haven’t we gotten married?”
Dean lowers the mug back down. He turns his gaze to Cas, sees the honest innocence in his eyes, coupled with what dangerously looks like hope, and asks, eloquently, “Huh?”
“We live together.”
“We’re roommates,” Dean says.
“We hold hands.”
“Lots of guys do.”
“We sleep in the same bed,” Cas says.
“Look, you know I like to cuddle. But that’s all we do. Sleep and cuddle. It’s not like we’re having sex.”
Cas presses his lips together. He tilts his head. Oh, God, that’s his pensive face. Is he thinking about... Is he... ? Dean’s brain fizzles out.
“Would you like to?” Cas asks.
The world goes absolutely still, even as Dean’s heart thunders out of control. Oh, God, yes, is at the tip of his tongue, but he bites back, too afraid he’s misreading. Cas can’t mean that. “What, uh... What do you mean?”
“Would you like to have sex with me?”
Dean swallows. “Would you... want to... with me?”
Cas doesn’t hesitate. “Yes.” His eyes are so blue, so open, so heated. Why hadn’t Dean noticed that before? Maybe he wasn’t the only one hiding it.
Dean rubs a hand over his mouth. He curses.
“And you?” Cas asks.
“Hell, yes,” Dean says.
He doesn’t know who moves first, but between one second and the next, he has a bundle of angel in his lap and Cas’s tongue in his mouth. It’s absolute Heaven, and Dean’s pretty sure he died at some point to be able to have this. He’ll mourn his own life later. Now, he wants... He wants.
Desperately, though, his last two brain cells rub together and he breaks from Cas. Cas chases his mouth, but Dean turns, pressing their foreheads together. He tries to think - how did they get here? What was the lead-up?
Cas leans back. His weight is a grounding heavy on Dean’s legs. Dean cups Cas’s face in his hands and waits for the lust to clear from Cas’s eyes.
“We don’t have to do this to get married,” Dean says. “I’d marry you anyway.”
“Dean Winchester,” Cas says in his deepest angel-voice, the one he saves for when he thinks Dean is being an idiot. The one Dean uses in all of his fantasies. “I think we should have both.”
Cas kisses him again, and somewhere between the couch cushions and the floor, Dean gets lost for a while.
When he comes back to himself, his pants are around his knees and his shirt is across the room. Cas is still on top of him, totally naked now, and planting lazy kisses at Dean’s collarbone.
“We should go to the courthouse,” Dean says.
Cas lifts his head and a single brow. “Now?”
Cas laughs, and Dean absolutely melts at the way the skin near Cas’s eyes crinkles. He wants to do this right, all of it. No more secret pining. No more fear his love is unrequited.
“I love you, Cas.”
Cas’s smile softens. He doesn’t have to say it back. Dean can see the way those eyes sparkle. They always do when he looks at Dean.
But Cas is gentle and good and kind. So he places his lips to Dean’s and whispers there, “I love you.” A pause. “My fiance.”
“Take my pulse,” Dean says.
Cas drops his head to Dean’s shoulder, but Dean can hear the smile he tries to hide when he says, “Why?”
“I’m pretty sure I’m in Heaven.”
Cas rolls away and takes Dean’s hand. He makes a show of placing two fingers to Dean’s wrist. “Still beating.”
“Huh,” Dean says, tugging Cas back against him. “Guess I’m just lucky.”
Cas rolls his eyes, and Dean kisses him.
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she was known for placing her hand on places lightened by the sun. walls, windows, grass, streams. always. as if this gold would crawl under her skin into her veins and light her being from the inside. little did she know she was the sun herself
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"You love to hide away, don't you?" I heard a shy voice behind.
"There's always so much noise our there" I said as he slowly sat next to me.
"It can't be only about that"
I smiled a little.
"But it is! I just..." I locked my eyes on setting sun and shimmering sea water. A marvel. I licked my lips. "I feel like everything that matters is here. That I finally found a meaning. I've never felt so much warmth"
I felt like a total madman but he kept gazing at me.
"It's like only here I can really see" I said the most cliché thing I ever could. It was really hard not to do a facepalm.
"What can you see?"
For a while I couldn't make a sound. Then the faintest whisper was let out.
— conversations with smoke
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Fluffy trope switcheroo... for a caretaking character carefully helping scarred and maybe wounded character quickly cover up and hide their injured body, so that they don't have to deal with anyone else staring-- redstainedsocks 👀
@redstainedsocks sorta ended up with when that doesn’t happen as quickly as it needed to...
They’d found him.
They’d found him, but the nightmare was far from over.
Camera after camera flashed, each burst of light highlighting his sorry state in stark detail. She’s thrown a blanket over him as quickly as she could, she’d chased them away, but it was too late. Day after day, his bruised and bloodied body was all over the news and social media, reporters knocking on the door, shouting questions he didn’t even want to think about answering. Even as his body started to heal, his mind wouldn’t and why won’t they just leave me alone please I don’t want to talk about it I don’t want to see it I don’t want to see it I can’t keep going on like this please please just shut up shut up SHUT UP SHUT UP LEAVE ME ALONE-
There was one place no one else would bother him. No one else would see him. His pain could be private, his alone. He left her a note, he didn’t want her to worry. To come looking. He breathed in deeply and rang the doorbell.
“Well, well, look who’s come crawling back.”
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Summary: At Zuko's 18th birthday party, in front of practically everyone he’s ever met, he's going to find out who his is soulmate is when their name appears on his skin. It turns out it’s very awkward when that name does not belong to his girlfriend who is known to throw knives at people she doesn't like.
Plus, Katara is determined to get over her crush on Zuko, but fate has other ideas.
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For the prompt thing: making dinner together <3
Ayooo it’s fucking. Death and gore and cannibalism time. Because Of Course It Is
“Come on. It’s what he wanted us to do.”
“I know, it’s just-”
“You don’t have to watch. Just give me the glass.” He handed her the shard of broken glass they’d been using as a knife, turning away from his friend’s corpse as he did. He covered his ears against the soft sounds of glass slicing through skin, the slight saw against muscle fibers.
She handed him a piece of...meat. It was bloody and greasy, little bits of gristle clinging to it. He really didn’t want to know where exactly it came from, but even then he wasn’t sure if he could eat it.
“Could we...cook it or something? I...I don’t think I can do it. Not like this.” She looked worriedly at the small pile of snow-soaked wood they had scrounged from the surrounding woods.
“I…” she sighed. “Alright.”
The fire was pathetic, but it was enough to roast their dinner on. If he closed his eyes, he could almost imagine they were roasting hotdogs together at summer camp.
He hoped this wasn’t their last meal.
Cannibalism tag: @hearse-song
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Oh I love this idea of twisting fluffy things into something horrible! I actually did a similar thing with a friend some time ago and it was great havfbsjfhd, soooooo actually I'm gonna give you something like what I had to work with, just to see where you'll take it!~
Morning cuddles. The sun just started rising over the horizon, soft light falling into the room where character A and B are huddled close together on the bed. A softly crackling fire in their fireplace from last night still keeps them warm, even after hours. Looking down at B, A can't help but smile as they snuggle further into their touch.
I hope this is something you can work with!
It is something I can work with! :)
She woke up to the feeling of the warm sun on her face, rolling over and smiling at the sight of him curled up next to her again. He’d been a little distant ever since he’d been rescued, and she knew things wouldn’t be quite the same again, but having him back safe meant more to her than she could say. She reached over and gently ran a hand through his hair, pausing when she saw his eyebrow twitch. He opened his eyes, fear and confusion flashing across his face for the briefest of moments.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“No, s’okay.” he mumbled as he closed his eyes again. “I actually want to wake up when I’m here.” She smiled and resumed stroking his hair.
“I’m so happy you’re back safe,” she whispered.
“Yeah. Me too.” And he wasn’t lying. He might not remember anything from before he was taken, and he might not remember who she was, but he could at least try to make sure that she never found out that the person she’d loved was gone.
Because even though he didn’t know her, he could tell she cared about him, and he didn’t know if she could bear to find out he was never really coming back.
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hmmmmmm how about that feeling you get when it's cold but you have like 6 soft blankets?
Just some starvation
They’d left him with everything he could possibly need to survive a week alone in the cabin. Food, water, blankets, and even a book or two. The problem was, they’d spread them out varying distances from him, and the chain attached to the collar around his neck was only so long. He’d managed to get the blankets and water just fine, but the books were just barely out of his reach, and the food was impossibly far away.
So there he sat, huddled under the blankets, glad for their protection against the frigid air of the cabin. They hadn’t bothered to leave the heat on, and it was all he could do to stay warm. The chain didn’t help at all, becoming like ice the moment any part of it left the warm solace of the blankets. He pulled them tighter around himself as his stomach growled again, looking longingly at the food piled on the counter several feet away from where he could reach. Part of him was tempted to fill up on water so the gnawing hunger would go away, but he only had so much of it, and drinking it filled him with an unbearably icy cold.
He had to focus on the warmth of the blankets. It was all he had, and all he was going to have for the next five days.
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Comforted after a nightmare
He screamed and writhed as the shock collar went off again, barely able to stay on his feet, but if the didn’t those chains were going to pull his arms out of their sockets-
He woke up in a cold sweat, breathing heavy. His partner stirred next to him, their arms encircling him and pulling back down into the warmth of the bed.
“Another nightmare?” they mumbled.
“Y-yeah. It was so...vivid.” He clung to them tightly, burying his face in their chest. He focused on the sound of their heartbeat as they gently rubbed his back, grateful that his still-healing injuries weren’t bothering him, at least. They had hurt so, so much in the nightmare-
Wait no no no no no no no no no you can’t feel pain in dreams you can’t feel pain in-
He woke up in a cold sweat, breathing heavy.
“There you are! You fell asleep on me, silly. You know you can’t do that without permission. Looks like you’ll need another reminder, huh?”
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Wrapped up in a fluffy blanket and given hot chocolate
Hecking death hours
One second he’d been right there next to her, laughing way to hard at his own stupid joke.
But one second was all it took. And now?
Her whole world was gone.
Her hands wouldn’t stop shaking, even after one of the EMTs wrapped her in a warm blanket, even after they helped clean the small cuts she’d gotten away with. They were still shaking, and it wasn’t from the cold.
It was a Thursday. Were people allowed to die on Thursdays? No, no they shouldn’t be allowed to, so close to the freedom of the weekend. He would have wanted to die on a Monday, right? Yeah. He would’ve.
Someone handed her a cup of hot chocolate, and all she could do was stare at the steaming surface of the liquid. Something fell into it, sending out small ripples. What could have-oh.
She took a sip. The longer she waited, the colder and saltier it would get.
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#MakeEveryoneSad - "Aw, you put on my favourite movie? Thank you!"
Just some torture mentions✨
They’d found the disc in her desk while looking for their flash drive that she’d borrowed. It was simply labeled “Memories <3”. Curious, they popped it into the DVD player in the living room.
They weren’t entirely sure what they expected, maybe vacation slideshows or silly videos from high school, but just not...this.
“Aw, you put on my favorite movie? Thank you, how’d you know I had a bad day?” They froze at the sound of her voice behind them; they hadn’t even heard her come home. Her hand snaked around their shoulder as the boy on the TV screamed in pain, nearly drowning out the eerily familiar laugh of his torturer. A laugh that they’d heard so many times at game nights and parties and those times when they stayed up late eating ice cream and talking and-what the fuck is that really her on there it can’t be right there’s no-her grip on their shoulder tightened, and they bit back a sob.
“You’ll watch the rest of it with me, won’t you?”
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Ooh! For the twisted prompts: You should do 'sinking into the touch when someone feels for your fever'!
Nothing I feel like I need to explicitly warn for so wheeee~
He could hardly remember anything from the past few days. Everything was a haze of pain and sweltering fever. Sometimes, he could pick out other feelings. Blankets being pulled up over him. Water being brought to his lips. A cool hand on his forehead. He leaned into the touches when he felt them, desperate for any comfort in the midst of this agony.
Eventually, the storm passed. Clarity returned bit by bit, and when the hand came again, he nuzzled into it, trying to guess which of his friends the hand belonged to.
“Oh, sweetheart, if I’d known you’d be this affectionate, I would’ve tried this method of getting you here long ago.”
His eyes snapped open.
He didn’t recognize this bed.
He didn’t recognize this room.
The only thing he recognized was this person.
But that made it so, so much worse.
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For the prompt thing: Person A is brushing person B's hair
General spoiler-less warning: it’s dark ❤
He didn’t mind helping her take care of herself until she got better. He liked doing it, honestly. She’d been practically unable to do anything since the accident, so he’d busied himself in bringing her anything she could want and making sure she was as comfortable as possible. He read to her, fluffed her pillows, and rubbed her feet, all while making sure she had good food to eat and helping her stay clean.
Every morning, he took care of her hair. She would lean up against him as he ran a brush through her long, caramel waves. Even before this had happened he’d loved doing it. It felt so soft as he ran his fingers through it to work it into a braid, smelling so nice that he’d sometimes just lean his face down into it and breathe in the scent of her.
Even as the rest of her reeked and rotted away, her hair always smelled nice, always stayed beautiful.
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Paint a gift of flowers black 😈
I painted it red if that’s okay (*/ω＼*)
Ingredients: emeto mention, plant horror (idk how to warn without giving it away okay)
He’d always hated the smell of roses. He didn’t know why, but something about that scent just made him feel sick.
So when that psycho bitch brought a huge vase of them, he could hardly hide his disgust.
“Aww, you don’t like the flowers? I bought them just for you, you know. Thought they’d brighten up the room.” She gestured around at the drab basement walls, his dried bloodstains coating various tools and spattering the floor the only real color in the room.
“Yeah, you’re interior fucking decorator of the year. They’ll go great right next to the man tied to a damn chair,” he spat. “Honestly, I’d rather keep smelling my own blood and sweat than those goddamn roses. They don’t fit the mood.”
“Well,” she picked up one of the many knives in the room, “I suppose we’ll just have to get you used to the smell. I think it’s quite lovely.”
He bit back his screams as she littered his body with cuts, not too sure what this had to do with the flowers. When she was finished, she grabbed one of the roses, delicately holding the thorny stem. He glared at her warily as she approached him. “What the fuck are you-FUCKING HELL WHAT THE FUCK YOU CRAZY BITCH-” he screamed as she shoved the tip of the stem into one of the cuts, the thorns scraping at his flesh as they were pushed in deep. Over and over again, until every cut was filled with thorny agony, the overpowering scent of the blooms combined with the pain making him nauseous.
He fucking hated the smell of roses.
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when you first see him, he is just as you are. he is skin stretched over bone, sinew, muscle, fat; reflecting light and colour and able to be translated into two dimensions even with the feeble skills you allowed to take root inamongst the greeks and the poets and the philosophers
he is a man, as you are a man. perhaps he has more anger and you have more poetry, but such differences must be allowed for. dust you both are, and to dust you shall both return. he is a man. he is what is allowed, and no more
Inspired by this prompt from @nuttynutcycle
For you, @yet-another-heathen
Ingredients: referenced torture and branding, character death, it’s just very dark!!
Like most nights, it was cold. Cold, dark, and lonely.
Matt had never liked any of these things, but in the time since he’d been kidnapped, he’d come to appreciate them. Cold meant he wasn’t being burned. Dark meant he wasn’t in that horrible room with its sharp instruments. Lonely meant he wasn’t being hurt. Actively, at least. The bruises and cuts that seemed to cover every inch of him were a constant agony, and he really, really didn’t want to think about the throbbing burn on his face, curving initials that weren’t his own.
He laid on the dirty mattress his captor had generously allowed him, struggling to find a position that was comfortable with the heavy metal collar around his throat. It was chained to a ring in the floor, and he could hardly sit up fully. He hadn’t been given a blanket or even a shirt, and it was all he could do to keep from shivering. As he was finally starting to drift off, Matt thought he heard an unfamiliar creak outside the room he was trapped in. Fear started to claw up his throat. Were they going to come drag him out for some midnight torment? He cowered in the corner as the door opened, but when he saw who was standing there, his jaw dropped.
Lily. It was Lily. His older sister, who he’d never thought he’d see again, had found him after all this time. A look of relief mixed with horror crossed her face when she saw him, and before he knew it she was on him, her arms wrapping him in a tight hug. It hurt terribly, but Matt didn’t care. For the first time in weeks, he felt safe. He felt like things were going to be okay.
“I’m sorry it took so long for me to find you,” She whispered in his ear. All he managed in response was a quiet sob. She pulled back a bit, looking him up and down, tears forming in her eyes. “Oh Matty, what have they done to you? Let me see if I can-”
One second his sister was looking him in the eye.
One second later she was slumped in his arms.
“Lily…?” Matt cautiously leaned her away from him, a horrible dread starting to form in his stomach. Her head flopped back, eyes open and glassy. Unseeing. Empty. Dark.
A hand snaked around her throat.
They pulled her away.
Her body thumped onto the dirty floorboards unceremoniously.
No no no-
He reached for her.
No no Lily please you can’t leave me here all alone
The chain was too short, he couldn’t reach her, and she wouldn’t look at him.
Why wouldn’t she look at him?!
They stood in front of him. He couldn’t see her anymore. But she wasn’t looking at him.
"Oh sweetheart, was that someone you cared about?" they asked sympathetically, running their fingers through Matt’s hair as he sobbed. They crouched down and cupped his cheek, turning him to face them.
"Maybe it's time you learned your lesson about loving other people."
Lily wouldn’t look at him.
And she never would again.
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The Journey Begins with a Smile
So ages ago (and I do mean ages) I asked people to give me some Nessian prompts and I had four requests. Not many so that’s completely doable I thought.
Since my request, things didn’t go so well for my personal life and then, on a global scale, a pandemic hit. Both those things meant I wasn’t writing or even reading much.
BUT I was determined to fill those requests - even if the requesters had forgotten or no longer cared! Luckily I have managed to get my groove back so am trying to ride the writing train for as long as it will carry me!
@ekaterinakostrova requested something where Cassian made Nesta smile for the first time. I’ve taken some liberties to fill the prompt but here it is. Finally.
I hope you enjoy!
The multi-level gardens of the Day Court stretched outwards like a labyrinth.
Unlike the Night Court, whose gardens were sensibly flat, Day’s held winding staircases which lead to a plethora of mezzanines, stacked one after another. Each offered a new delight; pools of water swimming with gold and white fish, pagodas draped with ever blossoming honeysuckle or fountains carved with the curved forms of caressing lovers.
Some paths appeared to lead to dead ends, but the experienced visitor long learnt appearances were deceiving. As long as the explorer had the foresight to move thickets of ivy and trailing roses aside, they would find smaller paths twisting towards secret grottos.
Aside from the romantic allure of mystery, the garden’s contained an energy which reverberated through Cassian’s bones. Although the deep calm of the Night Court lands was his preference, Cassian found staying in Day was never an unpleasant experience.
Wandering the gardens would have been its usual satisfying activity if not for the frustration simmering in Cassian’s veins. Not an hour before he’d bit the inside of his cheek until he tasted the copper of his blood before storming from the bedroom suites, leaving the other occupant behind.
His anger, and hers, were twins to each other. When the subject matter at hand arose, rational discussion dissipated like smoke in a storm and, as they were both apt to lose their tempers, that’s exactly what they did. After those times, it was best they stayed apart.
Being away from the Night Court brought up the familiar argument.
Cassian scrubbed a hand over his face, they were in Day on Rhys’ orders otherwise they wouldn’t have been there at all.
The knowledge of who Lucien was to Helion, and who the Lady of Autumn had been, was now widely known. Now, the painful possibility of civil war loomed over the Courts, brought on by the betrayal of an unwritten code of conduct. Helion was thinking ahead, reaching out to all potential allies in the hopes if he gained enough, Autumn would be dissuaded to start conflict.
There was no question Rhys would pledge to Helion.
It didn’t hurt though, Rhys said, to pay Day a visit.
Rhys spoke about contingency planning and counter-measure tactics but Cassian had known Rhys long enough to understand the guise. Under everything lay the ripple of the question of Spring’s allegiance and the inevitable shift of power towards the next generation of High Lords, including those Rhys was unable to befriend.
Custom dictated High Lords, and now High Lady, were the only ones to be allowed in the sanctum to speak politics. However, Rhys requested the attendance of his Inner Circle - where Rhys went, his most trusted followed.
What was less clear was the rationale behind Rhys’ request that those connected to the Inner Circle also attend. It was, Cassian believed, Rhys’ attempt to keep his friends compliant and a way to curry favour from others - namely Lucien who always hungered for time with Elain.
This secondary request was the one which opened the festering wound close to the surface of Nesta’s skin.
In an effort to find some calm, Cassian took to walking the gardens, like he had many times before. Like those times before, his steps took him a familiar route. Maybe, in the depths of his subconscious mind, he sought out what would bring him solace no matter how measly a sliver.
He ventured down a staircase, overflowing with floating lilacs, and onto a terrace which was surprisingly spacious for such a narrow-arched entrance.
This particular mezzanine was paved with sand coloured stone and framed by apple trees, their branches reaching towards each other like fingers. The waist high balcony overlooked the next level down – the glass domed ceiling of the sunken library.
This terrace, tucked away in the constructed gardens, housed the collection of seven statues who all faced inwards, into their circle, for eternity.
Like all statues in Day, the figures had been carved from marble run through with thick veins of gold and silver. Unlike the other statues, Cassian held an interest for these and these alone.
Whichever sculptor Helion found, he found one with talent. Despite the fact they were rock the sculptures contained something so painfully real. They were motionless yet their bodies held motion, they were emotionless yet their faces held emotion. When Cassian reached out to touch them, he swore there was bone beneath their stone skin.
Day was never more glorious then how she was now, in the full swing of her namesake and the wide blue sky called to Cassian to dance. Though his muscles ached to obey and his wings quivered in anticipation, he wouldn’t fly. Day was filled with sharp, ornate spires and he’d navigated a similar path unsuccessfully before.
But being trapped on the ground did nothing to help his mood; his legs shook, his eyes stung. Cassian was tired of the burning sun, tired of being apart from his friends, tired of the endless political deliberations of the other High Lords.
When he was unable to fly, Cassian needed to find other ways to curb his energy. One of those ways often involved his willing mate.
Except, at this current time she was not quite so willing. The blush pink rooms they were guests in were uncomfortably close to the rooms of others so Nesta didn’t want to make love to him here. She was even less likely to be inclined towards Cassian’s persuasions following their argument.
This was a radical departure from how they were in the isolation of their mountain cabin, especially in those final days. Time had turned into hourglasses and the sand of their lives trickled through their fingers fast then they breathed.
They couldn’t move to each other quick enough then, couldn’t remove their clothes fast enough, couldn’t press their bodies close enough.
Since their return to Velaris it was as though Nesta was turning into stone as cold and hard as the material of the statues Cassian now stared at.
Cassian sighed, drawing a deep breath of the lilac scented air into his lungs and walked towards one statue in particular. The one he thought of as his twin.
The stone fae stood high on the ends of its toes, as if it couldn’t bear to have any part of itself touching the ground. The arms stretched over its head, fingers straining upwards, begging for the sky to claim it. The figure didn’t have wings but Cassian imagined them, stretched out behind, broad and strong.
Cassian’s own wings, tangible flesh and bone, twitched as a breeze drifted past.
The circle existed for centuries but grew in number over the years. The first ones, the original ones, hadn’t changed but the way Cassian looked at them had. Once a carefree nature danced about them but, like all things weightless, that had floated away.
The invisible weight on them now was hard and heavy. Even the figure for the sky had something buried under the surface that hadn’t existed before.
Cassian was no fool – he recognised his own transference. What he saw; fatigue, anger, sorrow – these were his own burdens and in turn he projected them onto the poor stone creature in front of him willing it to absorb what he didn’t want.
Cassian ran his hand once more over his face. He wanted his effigy to take Nesta’s words which today were sharper than usual with insults flung towards his family with flippant ease. He reminded her that when she spoke with venom against them, she spoke venom against him.
Take your antidote then, she’d sneered, beg your friends to draw it all out if you think I’m such poison.
Nesta hadn’t been fully happy in the mountains but she’d been as close to peace as he’d ever seen. Finally, a part of Nesta was at rest, and the female Cassian loved was in a place he loved. All had been right for a time, their hearts in full growth, only to shrink into themselves when they were summoned back to Velaris.
Cassian would be misguided to think their arrival in Day was what agitated Nesta to begin the fight that morning. He could pretend she picked up on his restlessness or that she didn’t care much for the Court however the latter was a lie.
During her lengthy rehabilitation Nesta had visited Day on numerous occasions, sometimes with Cassian but often without. On the instances he visited her he was forced to choke down his jealousy at seeing Nesta and Hellion walking arm in arm, understanding that the High Lord of Day was playing a significant part in helping her heal.
Nesta would spend every minute in this place if Helion asked her to.
No, everything triggered from Rhys’ request that Nesta come to Day.
In Nesta’s eyes, Rhys’ request was a command; a command which served only to appease Rhys’ ego and prove he would always be able to demand the lives of those around him bend to his will.
Rhys wanted Cassian to be in Day and Rhys wanted Nesta to provide a pleasant distraction for Cassian’s restless nature. There was no other purpose.
The bitterness bled into Nesta at the fact Rhys demanded her attendance in a place she adored and would visit without complaint. Rhys had smirked it was the ‘without complaint’ he’d wanted from her for once.
She came only because Cassian had pleaded.
The heavy honeysuckle cloyed at Cassian’s nose and he decided to leave the gardens before he drowned in the scent of flowers. He’d find Az, a permanently sympathetic ear, who would patiently listen to Cassian’s complaints about how suffocated he was in a place he longer wished to be.
As he turned, a flash of marble hidden in the trees caught his eye.
Cassian hadn’t noticed anything else on this mezzanine before but it was no surprise, the white figure among the deep green leaves was set apart from the circle and tucked out of sight.
Drawing closer he saw the statue stood with its back to the rest, head titled downwards. The marble designed to be the hair splayed outwards as though caught in a tumultuous wind. Something about the statue, something about her, hollowed out Cassian’s chest.
“Why didn’t Helion put you with the others?”
“Because she doesn’t belong with the others.”
A voice, smoky and deep, carried across the space and Helion appeared from behind a wall of ivy onto the terrace next to him.
Cassian quirked an eyebrow. “I didn’t know about that secret passage.”
“That’s the whole point of it being a secret,” Helion said with a wistful sigh. “Now I’ll have to move it.”
“Don’t on my account.”
“And have you get here quicker to start your sulking? I don’t think so.”
Cassian opened his mouth to refute Helion’s words but the High Lord spoke over him.
“Beautiful, isn’t she?” he said with a nod to the statue. “Out of all them, this one’s my favourite.” Helion turned to Cassian, dark skin glowing from the light within, mischief in his eyes.
Cassian bit his teeth together.
She was beautiful though, curves and angles, and the strength of stone. But who were they speaking of? The statue or Nesta herself?
“Why is she over here and not with the rest?”
The smugness slid from Helion’s face, his dark eyes scanning Cassian’s face, categorising every imperfection and scar as though he searched for something. Perhaps he wasn’t able to find what he wanted and a sad smile crept onto his face. “I told you – she doesn’t belong with the others. If I put her in the circle where would she gaze? At the ground? I won’t have that for her.”
Cassian’s mouth twisted, “She’s already looking at the ground.”
Helion cocked his head to the side, like one of the curious dogs in the mortal realm who sensed an invisible Cassian without truly perceiving him.
“Interesting how we can view something so differently. Tell me,” Helion said, “what are you seeing?”
They stood, arm length apart, one a High Lord and one a General. One draped in white and gold silks and the other clad in black leather. Winged and grounded.
Centuries existed between them with decades of Helion’s decadent parties where his fingertips would trail across the skin of Cassian’s muscled forearm, his mouth curled into a sensual smile. They’d not gone to bed with each other but shared at least one female over the years.
Here they stood in the sun; no lustful invitations, no pulling of rank. They were two males, competing in a game with stakes Cassian didn’t care for.
Still, he described her. Head downward, eyes downcast, eyelids. No sculptor would ever be able to create something so fine but Cassian swore there were delicate, long eyelashes casting a shadow against the sharp sculptured cheekbones. The graceful neck curved into a collarbone and clavicle with strands of stone hair caught in a storm of her own making.
Head and eyes down. This is what Cassian relayed to Helion. “Are you satisfied?” he growled, “I’m tired of playing.”
Cassian had jested over the years that Helion had a way of undressing him with his eyes, of looking beyond the armour and siphons to the male underneath. Helion had roared with delight and asked Cassian if he wanted to put that feeling into action.
Now, with the High Lord’s dark eyes on him, Cassian believed Helion was witnessing something deeper, that he was now staring beyond bone and blood.
“I know when you’re upset,” Helion said, glancing away, “and where you go when you are. You’ve walked this pathway numerous times and besides, these are my gardens, they tell me everything.” Helion’s eyes flickered back to Cassian, “You’re not as prone to idiocy as Rhys would have you be. Look again and try and do it properly.”
I have, Cassian wanted to tell him but he hadn’t.
Her stone feet were planted on solid ground, the stone hands down by her sides with the palms facing upwards. Her head was still down as were her eyes.
The figure seemed to change the longer he looked, one expression melting into another, completely different from before; disinterest, anger, peace. Cassian followed the line of her eyes to the gold domes roof of the sunken library glinting in the sunlight on the mezzanine below.
The statues full lips were tilted upwards into a smile, small but there.
“You don’t love Day,” Helion said to him, his deep voice breaking through the storm of Cassian’s thoughts.
“I enjoy it.”
“But Day will never be home.” Helion raised a robed arm towards the sky, long dark fingers stretching out, the light greedily swimming around his skin. “You seek freedom and you can’t find that here. So, my question to you oh miserable one, where do you find freedom?”
Cassian shrugged; this was an easy question and though Helion already had the answer, Cassian would play a little longer. “Velaris. The mountains.”
“And who are you free with?”
Helion’s tone was sly and conspiratorial as though he was inviting Cassian into a darkened room and asking him to share all his secrets, whispering across velvet pillows or through draped curtains. It was like honey dripped from Helion’s mouth.
Cassian’s fists clenched, tendons sliding over bones as he flexed his fingers.
Helion was skilled at drawing out confidences that most fae wanted to keep hidden. He emitted some strange magic which made Cassian want to dash to the nearest scribe and spill everything he had. Names and faces swam into Cassian’s mind, seemingly at Helion’s bidding, the most prominent being the one who spent her morning scowling at him.
Her name took shape at the end of Cassian’s tongue.
“You know who,” Cassian choked the words out in lieu of the ones that was forming, “don’t play your games.”
Helion stepped closer to the statue with a sigh and trailed a graceful finger across the carved lifeline on her upturned left palm. The line cut off not long after it started before beginning again, half a nail width away. It matched the real version perfectly.
Helion pouted and peered over the ledge. “It’s no fun if you don’t want to play but let’s not then, let me share with you a truth which your own truth speaker doesn’t care to bring to you. Nesta isn’t free in Velaris, but then you do know this.” Helion’s eyes glanced from the sun glinted library roof to Cassian’s face.
“She’s free here though. My statues, my darling beauties, represent the hearts of my most welcomed guests and while you are quick to immediately assume that Nesta spends her time staring at the ground, I see she is simply seeking her own peace.” Helion shrugged, gold and white silk sliding over smooth dark skin. “Freedom looks different for everyone.”
“I know that,” Cassian snarled, teeth bared, “I don’t need some heavy-handed lecture.”
The air began to pulse as an energy reverberated around the stone of the terrace. The tree branches shook and the leaves rustled. One growl of power to a disobeying dog. A warning; never bear your canines at a High Lord in the very Court his blood runs through.
Cassian uncurled his fists, splaying his fingers in Helion’s eyeline. Acquiescence. Cassian was guilty of foolish behaviour but he was no fool.
Helion’s tone had bite. “I’ll forgive your misjudgement on account of your poorly developed emotional response mechanism but only this once. You get away with burying your head when in the Night Court but I won’t have it here. Let me speak plain - this statue is an everlasting part of my garden but it’s rock, expensive rock, but rock. I would happily welcome the originator of its visage to become a permanent member of my Court. I think she’d accept, don’t you?”
Although the power of Helion still sang its presence, Cassian restrained the urge to turn feral. He didn’t, wouldn’t, because despite what others thought, Cassian was no animal. Besides, some part of Helion’s words wormed their way through Cassian’s brain.
Perhaps Helion discerned the calm Cassian was desperately trying to maintain because his voice was soft when he next spoke. “You have two options my handsome friend; go together to a place where you are both equally as free or find your freedom apart. Sacrifices have to be made and they shouldn’t all be hers.”
The sweet scent of roses and lilacs drifted through the mezzanine and Cassian looked down at the statue’s open palm.
“You can spend your time out here staring at an exquisitely carved piece of stone or you can reach for something real,” Helion said. “Your choice.”
Cassian thought of the circle of statues at his back, most especially the one on its toes spending centuries reaching for something that never came.
The squeeze on Cassian’s shoulder was gentle. “You’ll find her in the library,” Helion told him, “but then, you already knew that.”
Cassian sighed and closed his eyes and when he’d opened them, Helion had gone. Only the hanging ivy swaying by the wall was any indication of where he’d gone. Cassian looked back at the statue’s calm and serene face before trailing a fingertip onto the other open palm, half expecting her hand to curl around his, finding that he wanted it to.
“Yeah,” he murmured, “I knew.”
Cassian wanted everything; Nesta, the Inner Circle, Velaris. He wanted his freedom; long fought for and hard won. He could have all those things if he pushed hard enough - but only for a time. His desires co-existing side by side would have lasted as long as a breath in the span of his lifetime.
There will be cost and Cassian understood the price.
He left the mezzanine and its sculptured delights behind. They were just statues, fixed to stand forever. Living things were meant to move.
The library was cooler than outside, filled with white marble columns and an expansive white marble floor making the space larger and lighter. Ivy weaved its way up the columns while the golden domed roof provided a welcoming warmth, counterbalancing the coolness of the stone.
Nesta was exactly where Cassian knew to find her, tucked away in her favourite loveseat under an arch in the romance section.
In the mountains Nesta told him how she spent her days in the Day Court; meals with Helion, walks with Helion, talks with Helion.
They all made Cassian’s stomach twist.
Nesta also told him she learnt to be alone with her thoughts. In those moments she went to the library, one of the few places she found comforting. There hadn’t been many safe spaces on offer to her in Prythian.
Cassian stood a small distance away behind one of the larger columns, folding his wings in as tight as he was able.
Nesta would always be one of the most beautiful females he’d ever seen. As she was now, with her head bent to her pages, she matched the statue above their heads; watchful and waiting.
Her face, smooth and still, could have been carved from stone, a testament to how expressionless she could be. If Cassian hadn’t experienced the passion, the sadness and the rage which existed underneath he would have believed she felt nothing at all.
Her cool voice carried across to him.
“Are you going to spend all your time lurking in the shadows?”
“I don’t lurk.”
Nesta looked over briefly, a delicate eyebrow raised, her pink lips downturned. Those blue-grey bore into him. She wasn’t in the mood for playing.
Cassian sighed and walked toward her. At least, he thought, Nesta shifted on the loveseat to make room for him. After their argument he thought she would be more inclined to try and beat him with the book she’d turned back to read.
They sat in strained silence. Nesta’s soft breaths out of sync with Cassian’s. She inhaled on his exhale. Everything was out of sync with them, even down to the core.
Cassian let out another sigh. Maybe he could fix this, re-set where they were going wrong. He shifted, his leg brushing against hers, so he could see her while he spoke.
“I was speaking with Helion,” he said.
Nesta kept her face to her book but raised an eyebrow again, “Oh.”
“Yes, in the garden.”
“Hmm,” she murmured and turned a page.
“He found me through one of his secret passageways.”
Nesta’s lips quirked into a small smile, “Now he’ll have to change it, so you don’t find it.”
“Yes, that’s what he said.”
“He has many that he’s always changing. I wouldn’t worry.”
The silence fell over them again like a fog. They’d reduced themselves to small talk between strangers, Cassian at a loss for what to say and Nesta with no desire to help him find his words.
“He found me in the statue circle.”
She was about to turn another page, although she hadn’t really been reading since he sat down, but her fingers stumbled and she dropped the book which landed with a thud.
Cassian picked it up, the gold embossed words on a cover of rich green telling a story of love. Nesta reached out and as she did, Cassian used his other hand to grasp her wrist, “Nes...”
She wouldn’t meet his eyes, her throat bobbing as she swallowed. “Let me go.”
It was a weak command, her voice shaking as she spoke but Cassian would always obey her will and he released her wrist. Nesta snatched at her book.
She didn’t open the cover, abandoning her pretence of reading and instead placed the volume on her lap, staring upwards towards the ceiling.
“I hate those statues,” she said.
“You have to visit them every time you’re here.”
“Not every time,” he replied but she turned, looking him in the eye.
“Yes, every time. I’ve seen you and I’ve felt you through the bond.” She looked away and started to trail the lettering on the cover with a fingernail. “Besides, Helion tells me you visit them a lot.”
Well, Helion is a spy and a snitch, Cassian wanted to say but bit those words down. This was Helion’s court and those were his garden’s, his statue’s. He went where he pleased and talked to whomever he pleased, and that, unfortunately, included Nesta.
“After our argument this morning I knew you would go there instead of coming to see me,” Nesta continued, “you and that damned circle.” Her voice cracked and she bent forward, placing her face in her hands so Cassian couldn’t see. Strands of hair fell from her crown braid over her forehead.
“Nesta,” he said, and Cassian took her wrists in his hands, gently pulling them away from her face.
Her face had blanched a stark white and the rims of her eyes were tinged pink. Despite the sheen of tears in them, Cassian knew she wouldn’t allow herself to cry. Nesta always found a way of shoving everything into a box in her soul.
“You all get to spend eternity gawping at each other in every Court in every form, don’t you?” She snatched her hands away, smoothing down the frayed hairs away from her face, wiping at her eyes.
“They’re just statues,” he said.
“I know,” she hissed, “Don’t be belligerent Cassian, we both know you’re too smart for that.”
“I’m not being-” but he stopped speaking and sat back against the marble wall, his wings hitting them with a bang.
Cassian closed his eyes, trying to think of what to say to make any of this better. He thought back to their argument in the bedroom, mere hours ago which felt like days, surrounded by excessive amounts of silk in various shades of pink.
“There’s a statue of you,” he said, envisaging it like some lost old memory and not something he had been staring at less than hour ago. The image was clear in his mind; the windswept hair, the upturned palms, that lovely but sad face with its hopeful, delicate smile.
“Do you like it?”
“Yes, I think I do.”
“It’s set apart from the others.”
Cassian heard the rustling of her dress as Nesta shifted. “Helion told me he wanted it separate from the rest because it didn’t suit the others.”
Cassian’s heart picked up its pace, “What do you think about that?”
“I agreed. The statue should be away from the rest. It doesn’t fit with the others.” Nesta let out a gentle sigh. “I don’t fit with the others.”
Cassian opened his eyes and stared into the distance.
The gardens were a labyrinth and the sunken library even more so, rows of white bookcases lined with vibrant colours, pastels or even shimmering golds stretched outwards until they stopped short of the central atrium, right underneath the top of the dome. The light shone through in beams and specks of dust danced amongst them.
They both sat rigid and unmoving with muscles locked into place and stared ahead, not at the rows of books but at the future in front of them, at decisions that would take them away or bring towards.
“Would that suit you?” Cassian asked, his voice thick. “Being apart from us? Elain? Amren? Me?”
Nesta’s fingers twitched on her lap, digging deep into the material of her skirts. “I don’t need to consider Amren in my plans and she knows this. Elain will understand in time; besides she has her own life now and gets to live the way she wishes so I don’t understand why I cannot.”
She paused. “Feyre will be irritated but she’ll come around in time. She’ll have to.”
The seconds of silence lasted longer than Cassian liked. There was no definitive answer, no immediate outpouring of emotion. His breath rasped in his ears and now he could hear Nesta’s, finally in time with his own. Her voice was quiet, travelling from a universe away.
“You can’t seem to understand why I don’t love the Night Court as much as you do so I don’t know whether you’ll come around in time.” Nesta picked at a loose thread on her dress. The more she pulled, the more it seemed she unravelled the sinews in his heart. “I don’t know how much longer I can wait until you do, if you do. I don’t heal in the Night Court; I can’t heal among those who hate me.”
Cassian wanted to reassure her; to say he would understand why she couldn’t love the Night Court, that eventually she would heal amongst the copper roof tops of Velaris and she was never amongst those who hated her. The words stuck in his throat and burned.
His love for the place he called home was built in his bones, constructed as part of him as he had wings on his back. Without his home he wouldn’t be Cassian of the Night Court, he wouldn’t be anyone.
“Helion has offered me a home here,” she continued.
Cassian nodded, his head bobbing on a neck that now felt too thin. Cassian understood Helion wanted to offer Nesta a home in Day, he wasn’t aware he already had. “Would you be happy here?”
“I think so.” Nesta let out a mirthless laugh, “Day is the opposite of Night and so the Court would suit me just fine.”
Something burnt inside his chest. His overworked, overwrought centuries old heart was now in flames and this was the beginning of it turning to ash.
“I can’t live in Day,” he said. “The Court is fine enough but this place would become to me what Night is to you. It wouldn’t sustain me.”
“We’re at an impasse then. The road ahead of us is splitting.” Nesta spoke the words with cold, impassive authority, the kind of tone she used for others which led them to assume she was a heartless creature.
But Cassian could feel her as he always had. A crack across her heart ran deeper than anything before. She’d been through hell and come out the other side carrying what pieces of herself remained within her clenched fists. This couldn’t be the event which broke her, he couldn’t be the fae that broke her.
Sacrifices, Helion told him less than an hour ago, needed to be made. But not all sacrifices needed to be a bad thing. Sacrificing something didn’t mean you would always lose; it may mean winning something more valuable.
“Yes,” he said, voice soft, “if you think the road only has two paths to choose from.”
Nesta took in his words, and Cassian could sense the moment they landed in her mind, how she sounded out their meanings. A strand of wavering hope rose between them.
“Oh,” she said but her voice held a tremor, the edge of anticipation she was clinging to and the thread wound itself tighter round her finger until her flesh turned white.
“I believe this morning an angry female hissed at me about retreating back to the mountains and staying in the cabin forever.”
Nesta pursed her lips. “Well, I believe the female had a right to be angry as I believe said female was being abandoned by her mate.”
“He would never.”
Cassian ran a hand through his hair, tugging at the roots. “I don’t want to leave them,” he said.
Nesta’s shoulders sagged and her hope dissipated from her like smoke. “I know,” she said, “I just-”
“However,” he interrupted, “that doesn’t mean I won’t leave them. At least on a semi-permanent basis.”
Nesta took a deep breath in.
“I can’t live here,” he gestured outwards to the marble pillars and trailing ivy and streams of violently bright light. “Day isn’t for me but Night isn’t for you. My life is in Velaris and I have responsibilities that I can’t leave and friends I want to see, but as long as I’m somewhere near, somewhere I can fly to them I think that will be fine.”
Nesta released her breath and Cassian carried on. “I can’t lose them Nesta but I won’t lose you. I’ve waited a long time for you even before I understood what I was waiting for. If Velaris will destroy you then at some point the city will destroy me too.”
He continued to stare ahead but Nesta’s arm brushed against his as she moved, her slight frame against his broad one. From the corner of his eye, he saw her pale face gazing at him and if he turned to her, he would see her hope anew.
“The cabin needs more work to make it habitable all year round and the winters are hard and isolating. I’ll need to fly to Velaris more often than you would want and you’re still going to have to visit your sisters. Honestly, I’d hate to make Elain angry.”
There was a soft sob next to him. “I’d hate to make Elain angry too,” but she smiled through her tears.
“We’ll have to think of a way to transport all your books. I’m not flying them to the cabin, not if you’re bringing that twelve book saga you’re into with the-”
Nesta grasped his chin in her slender fingers and turned his face to hers. Shining in those blue-grey eyes through the misty layer of tears was pure delight.
“Thank you,” she whispered and brought her mouth to his. The kiss was sweet on his lips, soft and slow and filled with the promise she would always love him. Cassian deepened the kiss, sliding his hands over her waist before trailing upwards on her back to tangle in her hair.
They stayed like that for a while, his tongue seeking out and sliding against hers; wet, luxurious kiss after kiss. Cassian groaned and gripped Nesta’s hips, fingers digging into the flesh beneath her dress and he swung her up and over onto his lap.
She pulled her mouth away and gasped, “No! Not here, not in front of the books!”
“The gardens then?” he joked and received a flick to his chin for his trouble.
“Helion will be disappointed.”
“No,” Nesta crinkled her nose, “that I won’t be making my home here.”
Cassian trailed his hands up Nesta’s back to her hair, tangling the strands around his fingers, looking forward to when he could make it took as disordered as her glorious statue’s. “Make this place your holiday destination. I’m sure you’ll frequent Day every time I’m in Velaris.”
“I’m sure you’re right.”
“And when we’re done appeasing the world we’ll be together again, at home.”
Nesta’s eyes scanned his face, the way Helion’s had done earlier, but instead of an assessment that had left Cassian found wanting, her eyes were soft and the blue-grey was the colour of the sky in the Night Court just after a storm.
“Yes,” she said, “at home.” She leaned in to kiss him again and before Cassian closed his eyes he soaked in the image, letting it burn forever into his mind. A perfect picture of Nesta in the flesh; her fluttering eyelashes, freckled nose and the sweetest smile he’d ever seen.
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Spiral Day 2021: Cycle(-stys) of Yikes
Waddup y’all out how’s spinning out going? Good, good, love to hear it. Hey does anyone want to watch me break Castys? It’ll be funny I swear ヽ(✿ﾟ▽ﾟ)ノ In reality it’s INCREDIBLY messed up so please heed the warnings shit gets dark But uh yeah for context this is when he’s stuck in the lab ✨
Ingredients: lab whump, dehumanization, muzzle, organ harvesting and noncon surgery referenced, the boy goes nuts, starvation, dehydration, implied self-harm, implied autocannibalism
Castys thought endless torment would be a little more exciting.
Not that he’d expected it to be fun, but it was just...boring. Every damn day was the same. They’d drag him out of his cell to the same room, strap him to the same table, cut him open with the same knives and take out the same organs. Well, no, the organs they took varied by the day. But he only had so many different ones, so at some point he’d experienced it all before. The tests had a horrifically wide variety to them, but the common theme seemed to be Painful and Terrible and 0/10 Would Not Recommend.
He’d fantasize about being back on his ship often to distract himself from everything. He’d imagine the sound of the waves, the feel of the spray in the wind, the smell of salt, his crew by his side...the thought of them made him happy and sad at the same time. He missed them all so much (except for Harris, he was a bitch), but the fact that he was here meant they were all safe and happy. Yeah, that was why he was stuck in this stupid place, those darned mortals and their tiny lifespans that he just had to get all sympathetic about and give himself up to these psychos so they didn’t spend the rest of their little lives in misery. Instead, he was going to spend the rest of his much longer life stuck in-no, he was going to get out...somehow.
But how? He didn’t have anything to pick the locks with. He was constantly restrained, either strapped to a table or chair in the lab or being manhandled from one room to the next by people who were ridiculously stronger than him. He’d tried to rush past the guards when they came to get him from his cell, but they’d caught him and chained his ankles together, making it nearly impossible for him to even walk. The short chain connecting his ankles and the muzzle they’d strapped to his face a couple weeks in were never taken off, just permanent additions to what it was like to be Castys. And if they took the muzzle off, it was just so they could mess with his mouth, and it went right back on afterwards, because why give food and water to someone who can’t stay dead?
So it went. Castys started to forget what it was like to walk normally, to speak with other people, what it felt like to eat, to be touched in a way that didn’t hurt, to be treated like a person. There was only the cycle of wake up, get dragged out, get sliced open, get poked and prodded and stabbed and studied, get dragged back, fall asleep and pray that tomorrow would be a little better, or even a little different. He could vaguely keep track of time by how blood-crusted his skin was, a way to tell how long it had been since the last time they’d hosed him down and chopped off his hair. The ship he dreamed of never went anywhere anymore, it was stuck, like him, because there was only here, wasn’t there? Everything else was just a delusion. The boy had always been in a cage, the ship had always been in a bottle. The square of the sky he could see out the window was there to trick him into thinking there was something else out there, but he knew there wasn’t. There was only here, and there was only the cycle.
The cycle, though, began to change, so slowly as to almost be imperceptible from one day to the next. Tests were a little shorter. Less organs were taken. They left him alone for a minute more. He hardly noticed it was happening until one day...they didn’t come for him at all. At first he was alright with it, he preferred the loneliness and the quiet to the table and the pain. But not dying at their hands every day meant the condition of his body wasn’t being reset constantly. Soon enough, hunger and thirst began to claw at him. Even if he had something to eat or drink, that muzzle was still stuck to his face, no matter how much he fiddled with it. Or maybe that was just a part of him, maybe he didn’t have a mouth, and this was just his face.
Every three days. Thirst. Weakness. Dizziness. Death. Was it three days? Is that how long you could last without water? He tried to count, but the numbers got lost in the haze all too easily. There was no way to mark the stone, to keep track outside of his head, the blood wasn’t being washed off him anymore. He had nothing, nothing at all, just here and himself and the unyielding stone. The square of sunlight would move across the cell, the only motion to break the constancy of everything else. It was the same day repeated over and over and over and over and over and it was the same just the same nothing ever changed, ever, ever, it was the same-
Something wasn’t the same. The leather muzzle that had kept him silent for so long had been slowly rotting, and it finally fell off. For a moment he simply stared at it lying there on the ground, broken, dying, fading away. He opened his mouth for the first time in decades. And he screamed, because that thing got to rot away and disappear and he wouldn’t, he would always be here, hungry and thirsty and alone and trapped and alive and it wasn’t fair, not at all, and he screamed because it had been so long since he was able, he cried because it was all he could do.
The tears, at least, moistened his dry tongue.
He drew lines. Some were faint, and some were vivid. The vivid ones were good, they were brilliantly red, they tasted so sweet, they pulsed and burned like stars. He drew so, so many, and every one was new and different and brilliant. Little cracks in the never ending cycle of monotonous agony. They let him feel for a moment like his thirst was quenched. The cracks widened, chunks broke off the sides, and then that constant feeling of hunger went away, too.
And so it went, drawing and sucking and biting and chewing in an attempt to satiate those cravings, but it was never enough, never enough, and he would wake up to unbroken skin, and the cycle could start all over again. Maybe he could have counted somehow, how many times it happened, but it didn’t matter, there wasn’t an end to count down to, there was just wake up and hurt and drink and scream just to hear something and wait for death so we can start again just wait just wait it’s coming the ship is sinking in the little bottle but it always comes back up please just let me rest just let me go I can’t do this again I can’t I can’t-
There was a new sound. A creak. Footsteps. They came back, old memories of something outside the cycle. There was someone-or was it something-standing on the other side of the bars. Its eyes were so white and empty, a color he hadn’t seen in so long that he couldn’t help but stare. It stared back, eyes narrowing and then widening.
“Castys?” He cocked his head. That sound, that word, it meant something, right? It did, it did, he was sure it did, but...what was it? And what...who was that? The more he looked, the more he was sure that there was something familiar about that silhouette. It was...distinct. Unmistakable. Unique. He didn’t remember who it belonged to, just that he recognized it. It was a someone, yes, yes, not an it, not-an-it-or-I’ll-tear-your-throat-out. So when they opened the door to his cell, when they came in, when they smiled at him, fangs flashing in the dim light, he wasn’t afraid, even if he should have been.
“I finally found you.”
Castys Cult: @as-a-matter-of-whump @blackrosesandwhump @fanmanga1357-blog @thehopelessopus @just-a-whumping-racoon-with-wifi @hearse-song @muddy-swamp-bitch @whumpasaurus101
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