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A Court of Shorts and Drabbles

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There was too much green.

The reds and oranges Lucien grew up with could still be found, but only as dots amongst a sea of green, rather than leaves that clung to the trees and littered the ground. It was alarming to wake up day after day and see so much green overwhelming the colors of his old home.

The home where his father still ruled.

“How are you adjusting to Spring Court?” Tamlin asked him one morning, a month into his stay.

Lucien poked at his food, thinking of how he had to search for autumn colors. “It’s perfect.”

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No one dared tell Amren no. Cassian flew out the night she asked, and came back with all the paint he could carry. Azriel fetched canvas. Mor hunted down brushes.

Rhysand stripped to be her first model.

"Does Cassian have to watch?" He asked.

"I've seen it all before," Cassian reminded him.

Amren, in the meantime, replied, "I said no moving. Talking is moving."

Rhysand knew better than to try and enter her mind to ask for a reprieve, and so settled in for the wait. If he was lucky, she would tire of painting in hours, rather than days.

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Feyre told them where she left their money, and since no one remembered, no one stopped Nesta from grabbing it.

"I'm going to visit Feyre," she said. Who knew what that monster's magic would do to her family's minds if she contradicted their delusion?

"Have fun," Elain said, smiling so sweetly. Like nothing was wrong; No deep gouges in the table she sat at.

"I will," Nesta said. Even if Prythian would be a nightmare. Even if lowering herself to speaking to a mercenary repulsed her. But they were still alive because of Feyre. Her sister wouldn't die for them.

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Something about the way Mor watched made Azriel queasy. There was no envy in her eyes as Elain took his scarred hand and guided him through the motions of repotting. Nothing like the seething jealousy that Lucien looked on with.

No. She looked happy.

Happy to see him with another female, like she was relieved that his attention was off of her. Like she wanted him to fall for another male's mate so she wouldn't have to deal with his quiet, wistful advances again.

Elain held his hands gently, but it felt like they'd been set on fire once more.

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The daylight shined bright over the autumn foliage, casting a shadow across the ground below that stretched well into the forest. For on blissful moment, Elain was sitting in that shade, looking up through the leaves at the speckles of light that broken through.

She blinked, and was back in her room in the townhouse.

Her hand hesitated a moment before grabbing a pen. The pounding of her heart told her that his vision was important to her, and she would need help making sense of it.

She showed her notes to Feyre later, and couldn't understand her sister's grimace.

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The morning after was the worst.

Lucien wanted to hole up and pretend that the entire preceding week never happened, but he had work to do. Appearances to make. A strong, unified front was needed in the wake of Feyre's abduction.

Abduction. Ha! No one would believe his suspicion that she chose to stay away.

He descended the stairs hoping to encounter no one, and was unsurprised to see Ianthe smiling up at him.

"You needn't wait for the next Calanmai," she told him. "My bed is always open."

His stomach seized.

Curse Feyre for leaving him to the wolves.

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The halls echo with his footsteps. No other sound greets him. Those servants too frightened to quit go quiet when they sense him nearing. The few loyal guards not out suppressing uprisings that still spark here in the countryside glare silently as he passes. He doesn't know where the deserters are. He doesn't have enough men left to track them down and drag them back.

Tamlin sits down on his throne, which feels for all the world like it's built from glass shards and straw, and pulls his knees up to his chest.

He looks weak, but that feel appropriate.

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The painting would put anything her father ever handled to shame. Feyre looked left and right for any onlookers before she lifted a hand up and ghosted her fingers across the canvas, admiring craftsmanship the like of which she'd never achieve in her mortal lifetime.

Not that they would care. Those high fae would likely laugh at her quaint, human attempts at painting.

She let her hand drop and resumed wandering up and down the halls. With Tamlin taken over her promise to her mother and herself north of the wall, she had nothing else to do with her life.

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"That's an awful lot of moaning. Is this your first time?"

Azriel shuddered under Cassian's touch. No matter how much his step-brothers tormented him, they had never been so cruel as to touch his wings.

"L-let them go, Cassian."

"Just stop resisting and let's do this."

Azriel squeaked—sqeauked—as Cassian placed one hand on the thin membrane of his wing before grabbing the end and roughly shoving it into place. Such cruel fingers, leaving him flushed and panting.

"There. This is the angle you hold them at when you crouch for take-off."

"Cassian…"

"Hm?"

"I hate you."

"You're welcome."

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He held his chin high as he ordered her death. Watched while sons of lesser nobles eager to please him ripped off her wings, her fingers, her limbs. Her heart stopped long before they removed it.

It was slow even after she could no longer suffer, but it had never been her punishment. It was natural for a lesser being to seek to gain status.

The criminal was his shameful son, who screamed and sobbed even after the body was removed. A pathetic excuse for high fae. His soiling the family name with such a lesser lover was a sin.

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A sliver of light shined under the door.

Azriel watched, what little muscle he had tensing. A dark spot—someone's foot—split the light. He squeezed his eyes shut and pulled his knees up, tucking his head in.

Whispers everyone swore signaled madness sounded around him. Told him what awful things his brother outside the door planned to do. Told him the other one would be there as soon as he found the oil.

Six hours before he could come out. Three days before he could see his mom. No escape. He braced himself for another day as their plaything.

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She stole a glance at him from across the room, lips pursed, none of his merriment betrayed in the presence of the other courts. Only a glance his way before her eyes went to her lap. She didn't see if he looked at her. If that cold expression melted when he risked glancing while Beron was there.

He wore his sun crown, she'd noticed. Although technically his court was Day and not the sun itself. It suited him. He was dazzling. Brilliant. The source of all light in her life. With Beron in between them, she was trapped in shadow.

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Lucien stood his ground longer than the sentries, but he fled in the end. There was no one in Pryhtian who could match the might of a High Lord. Even another of Tamlin's kind would think twice before approaching him in the wake of Feyre's abduction.

Still, Lucien stayed nearer the mansion than everyone else. Stood between the rest of their men and their master, lest his attacks extend beyond the walls.

He watched windows break from the pressure of Tamlin's fury. Watched vines, thick and thorned, jut out from walls. Watched any chance of things returning to normal shatter.

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He was the perfect man. A perfect romantic, offering her the perfect first meeting. Writing perfect letters. Any party in which the two could find one another was perfect. And the day he summoned her to his estate and took her through the ash wood orchard before kneeling down to slip a band of iron over her finger as the most perfect in her life.

She came home and showed her sister her perfect ring.

Nesta took one long hard look at it and then told Elain, "Our sister is going to wed a faerie."

But he was still perfect.