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He leaves once he sees Mor and Helion talking quietly on the couch together. Her laughter was a little forced, the rigid set of her muscles a little tense but...He knows what will happen next. Knows that she’ll flirt and charm him for a little while, then invite him to her bed and lose herself in him for the night. Cassian doesn’t grudge her that, that comfort and distraction. She needs it after what happened today.Dragging a hand through his black hair he sighs, keeps walking, keeps looking for the other person who could use some comfort after what happened. He had stuck close to Mor afterwards, trying to inject a little bit of normality into things, tugging her feet into his lap, rubbing the tension from them the way she liked, calming her.

What Azriel had done in there, the sudden explosive display of violence...It unsettled her. No, it had downright terrified her. He had seen her stride through battlefields, her blades flashing, utterly composed, the Morrigan, a warrior goddess made flesh, not blinking at any of it. But when it was Az, in a confined space, when she was unprepared and it was sudden like that...He understood. Understood why it made her so pale, why she trembled, why she had clung onto his hand afterwards, needing an anchor, the gratitude in her eyes when he had sat with her, between her and Az.

He knows that she loves the shadowsinger, the bond that was forged between them centuries ago. He knows that she deems her reaction to his outburst as an overreaction, something that causes a mixture of anger and shame within her. Cassian hopes that his attentiveness that night will have calmed her and soothed her and convinced her otherwise. There was no shame in her feelings; Cassian can only guess at the memories that were dragged up for her. She survived what they put her through, all those years ago, but Cassian knows those scars, he has enough himself to understand that they will never heal, not fully, and can still be torn open again. But she’ll be alright, he has no doubt of that. Morrigan, for all she has endured, all she’s suffered and come through, still bright, still hopeful, is stronger than anyone he’s ever known. She will be all right. 

Now...Helion will take care of her, in his own way, in a way that she needs, and deserves, finding a certain comfort in his arms and in his bed. From the way Az had slipped off silently into the shadows when he and Mor had begun getting acquainted...Mor had needed him more earlier but Azriel...Azriel needs him now.

He finds him in Helion’s deserted wing of the palace, the open corridors letting in plenty of light and air. The shadowsinger is standing stock still in front of one of the large open windows, staring, just staring beyond, his eyes blank and distant. Cassian swallows at the sight of it. When Azriel is brooding, thinking things over, often he’ll pace. Rhys jokes about him wearing holes in the carpet but all of them prefer that to...This. This blank, distant, staring silence, when he’s withdrawn so deeply into himself that he becomes little more than the shadows that circle him, empty and hollow, a shell of the male Cassian loves so deeply.

Hesitating a few feet away, he considers his options. Azriel knows he’s there, he’s close enough and took no pains to hide himself or his approach, yet he doesn’t respond to him, doesn’t glance round, doesn’t speak, doesn’t acknowledge him in any way. He’s still buried inside himself, inside that guilt.

Guilt at losing control, the control he clings to, the icy composure that he thinks is what stops him becoming a monster like the brothers who tormented him as a child. That has nothing to do with it, with separating him from them, Cassian thinks with a throb of burning emotion. Azriel’s heart prevents him every being like them. A good heart, a dreamer’s heart, a heart Cass swore himself to shielding long ago.

But this...This runs deeper than that fear Cassian knows haunts him whenever he tortures, whenever he makes himself into that monster. The loss of control upset the meeting too but it’s not that either. No...It made things personal. It made Azriel vulnerable, revealed that weakness. A weakness everyone in Prythian knows exists, but still. He felt it then. Felt that vulnerability with them. Most of all, though...It had upset her.

Az had refused to look at her afterwards, refused to meet her eyes, refused to speak, to acknowledge what had happened. Enforced distance. But...Cassian knew he had seen her. Had seen how pale she had gotten, seen how much she trembled, how jumpy she was afterwards, flinching at unexpected touches or sounds. He had seen how it had driven her to Helion, to reinforce their boundaries and to drown out the panic that still thundered in her chest. He understands her too well to blame her, to condemn her for her actions. They all have different coping mechanisms and he...He understands. Azriel understands too. But that doesn’t make it stop hurting, doesn’t make the guilt fade.

The guilt Cassian can see still flooding his eyes, forcing him to add leash after leash to his wavering self control, threatening to drown him with every second.

Cassian makes his decision upon seeing that.

Stepping out of the shadows he cautiously approaches Azriel. He had considered talking to him, trying to draw him out of his shell with gentle words and touches but...That won’t work. He knows it won’t work. Not now. Not when he’s this far gone.

Instead he reaches down, assertive, decisive, and takes Azriel’s scarred hand in his own. He hates the scars, hates the lingering evidence of what was done to him being burned into his flesh for all these years. Hates the reminder it serves Azriel too, the way that past haunts him, clinging onto his very skin. He and Mor had searched for years for a healer who might smooth away those scars. They had never found one but even if they had...Cassian wonders whether Azriel would have accepted it.

He moves away without looking at the shadowsinger, leading him towards the High Lord’s own bed chamber, the nearest one to them. He won’t be needing it any time soon, Cass reasons, and is likely to have what they need stashed away somewhere easy to find.

He half expects resistance; half expects Az to remain rooted to the spot, immovable as a statue with that face of cold, unyielding stone. But he gives in to him, trusts him, falls into step with him and lets him lead him away from this cold, silent place where his demons are free to echo through the heavy, hollow parts of him. Relief courses through Cassian at the acquiescence but he tries not to show it. Az probably senses it anyway – or will if his shadows aren’t otherwise occupied with his own self-loathing.

Once they’re safely inside the chamber, Cass shutting the door behind him, Az not objecting once or showing a flicker of reaction to the choice of venue, he approaches him. Azriel had remained in the spot where Cassian had left him, as though he no longer possesses the will, the trust in himself, to choose what he does with his body, his emotions. Cassian has to help him with that. He steps forwards, closing the distance between them, cupping Azriel’s sharp, beautiful face in a broad, calloused hand.

Azriel has always been devastating. As he had matured in that war-camp, his frame filling out, all smooth, streamlined muscle, his features sharpening, becoming more angular, more beautiful with every year that passed, he turned the heads  of all, males and females both. He could have had any of them, would merely have needed a small smile to encourage them into his bed, to lay themselves at his feet and worship him. Az has always been picky with his lovers, though, to the point that being chosen by him was an honour. One Cassian had enjoyed many times. He didn’t think he would ever tire of worshipping this male, of loving him, of caring for him as often as he would allow.

He let those thoughts fill him, the thoughts of wanting to care for Az, wanting to guide him gently back into the light once more, as he kisses him. It’s a gentle thing, half an answer to Azriel’s pain and half a question of whether he will be allowed to take it from him. Besides, Az needs a little more gentleness, especially after today. He’s tense, cold, unyielding as if he were carved of marble.

For a moment Cassian wonders if he will remain that way in spite of his embrace. Then he melts. For him. Only for him. A fraction of the tension goes out of him and his lips soften against Cassian’s, accepting. He resists smiling against his mouth, instead choosing to deepen the kiss, his hand sliding into his soft dark hair. Azriel’s lips part for Cassian’s tongue and that first taste of him seems to set the shadowsinger on fire, ripping him from the cold, dark pit he had sunk down into.

He lets out a soft snarl, pushing against Cassian, backing him deeper into the room until his thighs hit the vast bed that’s cradled countless lovers over the years it has belonged to Helion. A little bit of the leash on Az’s self control snaps as he kisses him, demands him, claims him, and Cassian surrenders to him, for the moment, yielding, giving him what he wants, what he needs.

It’s been years since it’s been like this. With this hunger burning between them, this emotion, this need. Cassian finds himself giving in a little, like Az, to the instincts that burn in his blood, urging him on and on and on, demanding that he take more and more and more. Like a duel or a match in the ring, a contest, both partners giving the other everything they have, wanting to know if they can handle it.

He pushes down on those emotions, lets the softness rise inside, the love he feels for this man, the bond between them. This is not a contest, not a fight, not a struggle. They’ve had enough of that in their lives, more than enough. And like it or not they’re about to be plunged into more with this looming war. He doesn’t want it to be about that, wants them to discover tenderness and warmth in one another’s arms, the way they have before.

Cassian gentles the kiss, fills it with that warmth, that tenderness, that love that he needs Azriel to feel from him. Perhaps he does. When Cassian draws away the mask is gone, the cold, unyielding armour he works so hard to keep in place crumbling to nothing. All that’s left is him. Azriel. With all that rage and guilt and pain out there in the open. Cassian sees it all and he fears none of it. He never has. He loves Azriel, every piece of him, without question, without exception.

Azriel knows. He must know, must see it in his eyes, because a moment later he’s surging for him, utterly unleashed. Cassian can handle it, they both know that he can handle it, one of the few that can. He doesn’t flinch from it, doesn’t bend or break before it, just takes it all, everything Azriel gives him.

People so often make the mistake of thinking that Azriel is empty, emotionless, that he feels nothing, that anything quite as sensitive as emotion was beaten out of him centuries ago. They’re wrong. His bastard brothers never took that from him, just taught him to hide it, bury it so deep it only lets itself known to those he loves, those he trusts completely. Like him.

Azriel’s scarred fingers start tugging at Cassian’s leathers, intimately acquainted with them, able to strip him with a hungry efficiency that has him hardening in anticipation. He knows what those hands can do to him, knows what they feel stroking over his skin, wrapping around him, bringing him closer and closer to the edge as he watches him with glittering hazel eyes and a soft smirk on his lips.

Groaning, Cassian begins tugging at Azriel’s leathers as well. His hands automatically know where the buckles and straps are, which ones to open up to get him out of those clothes now. He needs to feel him, needs his body against him, needs them pressed skin to skin. “Azriel,” he whispers hoarsely as their tunics fall away, thumping to the floor and leaving them both bare-chested.

Azriel doesn’t waste time, just growls softly and pulls him closer, slamming them against each other and sliding his hand into his hair, kissing him. He kisses him like he means to devour him, like he means to destroy him. He could. Cassian would stand against any on the battlefield, has stood against them, with a defiant laugh on his lips and thunder in his heart. He’s fearless in war. He had been trained for it his entire life. He had been born for it and it held no fear for him. The song of blades clashing, the dance between him and his foes, the exhilaration that pulsed through him; it was his, it was what he had been made for. He hated it afterwards, mourned the dead, grieved with their families, felt guilt at the injured but in the moment...He was eternal in that moment. Invincible.

All it takes to undo him, to strip him of that overconfident arrogance, is a single kiss from the shadowsinger. Az could have him on his knees in a heartbeat. Could have had him begging him, melting before him, surrendering to him in a way he never would with any other, with merely a word. And he has no idea...No idea the power he wields, the depth of his love, the lengths he would go to for this man, to make him see what he does; the most worthy male he’s ever known.

Azriel tugs at his the laces of his trousers, opening them up, loosening them enough to make them easy to remove, then starts on the ties of his own, leaving Cassian to shove them down past his hips as Azriel removes his own. Then he pushes Cassian towards the bed, making to urge him down onto his stomach. Cassian knows what he wants, how he wants this to be, rough and hard and consuming. It’s been like that before, typically after a battle when they’re both still full of that raging adrenaline and need for one another. But tonight...

Cassian puts a gentle hand on Azriel’s wrist, “No,” he says quietly, and he stops at once, blinking down at Cass, who sits on the edge of the bed and draws him down to him. He cups Az’s cheek in his hand, strokes it lightly with the ball of his thumb, leans in and presses his forehead to his, kissing him deeply, softly. “I don’t want it to be like that,” he says quietly, “Not tonight.” He has no objection to it, it’s what they both need sometimes but tonight...Tonight they’re already stained with enough violence and tension and he wants it to be about soothing that away.

Azriel watches him for a long moment, his hazel eyes deep, piercing and searching. He understands, understands what Cassian wants, how he wants this to play out. He kisses him again, a soft, fleeting brush of lips. He seems to struggle with himself, trembling slightly, the hand in Cassian’s hair gripping more tightly than the situation calls for.

When he whispers a hoarse, “Please,” against his mouth he knows just how much he needs this, how desperate he is. Azriel has never begged for him, never, not once since they’ve been together. He’s made him beg. Made him beg countless times, seems to find a particular joy in it..But for himself...He’s never begged for pleasure, for release, not for himself.

Cassian groans in answer, but then Az is moving, supple as water, as the shadows that whisper around him, and he’s crawling up the bed, making sure he’s watching him as he settles himself on his stomach, propped on his elbows as he spreads his legs for Cassian, glancing at him over a shoulder. He spits out a vicious string of curses, at the sight, at what it does to him to see Az like that, how desperate, how vulnerable he is for him in this moment.

Diving from the bed, doing nothing to conceal his own desperation and desire, Cassian rummages through the drawers in the bedside cabinets. It doesn’t take him long to find what they need. Azriel remains waiting for him on the bed, scarred hands tightly gripping the plump pillows beneath him, his eyes full of a black desperation.

“Cassian,” he grits out, the word guttural and harsh, cold as the eyes that peer over his shoulder at him, sharp as flint. “Now,” he demands roughly.

He starts in surprise, “You’re not-“ he begins quietly but Azriel interrupts him.

“I don’t care,” he snaps, burying his head in the pillow, arching his hips towards him. “I don’t care,” he repeats, panting for breath, hands tightening in the soft material, the white stark against his dark hands. “I want, I need-“ he rasps, his voice breaking, his body trembling. Cassian knows. His heart jolts painfully but he knows what Az wants, what he needs from him. He wants it now, rough and fast and he doesn’t care if it hurts him. Not when he thinks that’s what he deserves. Not when, perhaps, that’s the reason he agreed to this.

Swallowing down the emotions that threaten to overwhelm him, Cassian places a warm, gentle hand on Azriel’s back. “No,” he says, softly but firmly.

Azriel growls at that, “Cassian-“ he bites but harshly.

Cassian’s snarl cuts him off, louder, harsher, rawer than Azriel’s own. “No,” he snaps back, “I am not doing that to you, I-“ He cuts himself off, takes a deep breath, forces his voice to lower and soft, his hand to rub soothing circles on Azriel’s back. Leaning forwards he takes his chin between his fingers, turns him and kisses him, making the action as gentle as he can. “No,” he says again, tender. “I want to take care of you, Az,” he says quietly, swallowing hard, not bothering to disguise the emotion in his eyes. He strokes a hand down his side, “Please...Let me.”

He holds Azriel’s gaze for a long, tense moment, waiting to see what he’ll do, if he’ll leave this room now in an even worse state that when he entered, if Cassian can have misjudged him that badly. Then Az looks away, rests his forehead against the pillows, his body softening out of the razor-edged taut lines he had held it in. Submission, acceptance, as much as he’ll get, as much as he can give.

He accepts it. He takes his time with him, slowly, gently making him ready, coaxing his body to relax for him, encouraging a few small, soft sighs to escape his lips. He’s too tense, so much of the control held in the rigid, almost painfully tight set of his muscles. Cassian works to carefully soften him, break down some of those walls, have him release a little of the control that he yanked back as a means of self-preservation when Cassian denied him the hard, painful fuck he’d wanted.

He presses gentle kisses to the back of Azriel’s neck as his hands slide gently down his back, lower. He groans softly and Cassian coaxes him through it, murmuring gently to him, praising him, telling him what he’s going to do to him, how good it will feel, how much he needs this.

When he finally settles at Azriel’s back they’re both breathing hard. Cassian positions himself carefully at Az’s entrance, leans forwards and kisses his shoulder, “Ready?” he asks quietly.

“Yes,” he rasps in return. There’s a lingering flicker of harsh demand in the word but...No reproach for the time Cassian took taking care of him, making sure he was comfortable.

Gently, Cassian runs his hands over the taut muscles in Azriel’s back. He doesn’t touch his wings, doesn’t dare but...He gets closer than anyone else, of that he’s sure. Then he’s pushing into him, in and in, deeper with every thundering heartbeat and Azriel’s back is arching, his mouth falling open, his head dropping down onto the pillows at the feeling of being filled this way.

Nothing but silence emanates from the shadowsinger, but Cassian is well used to that from him in bed. He’s learned Azriel’s other tells by now, the way he rocks back against him slightly once he’s fully seated inside him. The way his legs tremble in anticipation of more. The open mouth and tightness in his closed eyes. How he grips the sheets with his scarred hands.

Breathing hard, Cassian pulls out of him and then pushes in, slow, controlled. Azriel rewards him with a soft groan. He repeats the motion. Again, again, again, building carefully into a steady rhythm, holding Az’s hips with both hands to anchor him. Azriel’s wings flare instinctively, spreading out on either side of them, shaking and trembling. It takes every bit of self-control Cass possesses not to touch them, to seek out that sensitive spot that always has the Illyrians he’s bedded crumbling to their knees. But not with Az. Not his wings. Not without his permission, his demand.

Fortunately, he doesn’t need to go near those wings to make Az moan his name loud enough for the whole of the Dawn Court to hear him.

“Harder,” Azriel grits out, gripping the sheets in front of him tightly, bracing himself. Cassian increases his pace, thrusting deeper into him and Azriel snarls at him. Turning over his shoulder, his hazel eyes black with lust he snaps, “Harder, Cassian.” This time Cassian maintains his pace, keeps his movements deep but steady and even, refusing to let go of that leash on himself.

Azriel groans his displeasure at that, starts rocking back against him, but Cassian refuses to alter his movements. This is about Az, yes, he wants to soothe him, wants to calm him and comfort him. But he won’t give him this. Won’t give in to that brutal, darkened part that demands the pain as the punishment for what he thinks he’s done. He’s had enough pain to last him an eternity and no matter how he snarls or begs, Cassian won’t add to that.

He keeps urging him, goading him, baiting him, demanding that he give him more, that he make it rough and hard and fast. Cassian just maintains his pace. This is what Az needs after what happened earlier. Something to soothe him, to gentle that raging icy storm inside him, not something that will stir into a greater frenzy, ravaging him even further. This is what he deserves, and Cassian gives that to him without restraint, every bit of warmth and tenderness he can manage.

More,” Azriel snaps at him, his eyes squeezing shut, his body tight and urgent. Panting he hisses, “Cassian, I need more, I-“

“Az,” he says, his voice soft as he interrupts him but firm, certain. Azriel quiets, breathing hard.

Cassian doesn’t break his rhythm as he leans forwards, trails kisses down that even column of runes along his spine. He had placed them there himself, all those years ago. He still remembers it, Azriel spread out on the bench before him, having refused a bit between his teeth or herbs to dull the pain of the gruelling process. He had simply endured.

Cassian had understood why, had struggled to keep his emotions in check as he had placed the script there. The spinal tattoo of every Illyrian was unique, deeply personal. Everything about the tattoos was but this part in particular. It was customary to choose words to be placed there. Most chose single statements, a prayer, or wards, for luck and glory in life and battle.

Azriel...Azriel had had a line of poetry placed there instead. A piece Rhys’ mother had been fond of, had shared with him when he was a child to help him sleep at night, to soothe him. Of those born in darkness some survive it, some escape it, some lighten it...But the strongest become it. Not one of the males gathered to witness the ceremony had sneered at his choice, not with the shadows that wreathed his skin.

Cassian kisses the length of it, feeling the words singing in his blood as he does, feeling Azriel shiver beneath him. “Trust me, Az,” he murmurs quietly to him.

That at last stops the demands, the urgings for more, for it to be rough and harsh and flood him with a mix of pleasure and pain. Cassian takes some small comfort in that fact, that he can release that with him, if only for this time they spend joined together.

Cassian takes his time, his hands stroke gently over his muscles, rubbing and soothing, his rhythm steady and strong. He focuses on Azriel’s pleasure, does everything he knows to do to drive him wild. He moans for him. He praises him gently. He scrapes his nails along Az’s skin making him hiss and arch when pleasure pulses through him and he’s not sure he can hold on for him.

He watches Azriel, how he responds to this. He watches the way his muscles soften and relax, how he lowers himself to the bed, submitting to him, giving in to the pleasure he’s inspiring in him. He notes how he pants, the faint gasps he manages to draw from him when he hits that spot that threatens to ruin him, ruin both of them. He exalts in the deep, panting breaths as his chest heaves, his wings flaring, trembling, tight and desperate. He watches the way his grip on the pillows before him changes, shifting into one born of pleasure instead of pain.

He takes this steady, worships Azriel’s body with his own, worships him with his tongue as he kisses him, coaxes him, says those things that fall from his tongue before he can stop them, that make him tense and rock back against him, groaning. He loves this male, has loved him for centuries, will love him even after the abyss has claimed them both, their bodies have turned to dust and their souls are nothing but fleeting glimmers amidst the stars. He will always love him.

Azriel starts trembling in Cassian’s arms and he knows, knows without being told that he’s close, that he’s so close and he needs this. The release, the relief that will come with it, every inch of him is desperate for it. Cass reaches gently beneath them, takes him in his hand and strokes him, matching the rhythm of his thrusts and a sound that might have been a whimper escapes Az, muffled by the pillows he buries his face against. It takes every shred of composure Cassian has not to come right there at the sound of what he’s doing to him.

Azriel’s spine arches as his hips snap into him over and over again. He’s shaking, spine arching, his head buried against the rumpled pillows in front of him, the sheets a mess beneath his body from how he’s writhed with him. With one final, hoarse, “Please, Cassian,” Azriel finds his release, muffling a rough moan that might have been his name in the pillows in front of him. He only manages to hold on for a few more thrusts before he’s finishing with him, gasping out his name.

They pant for a few moments, trying to compose themselves, bodies trembling as pleasure floods their systems and that familiar thick heaviness settles over their limbs. Then Cassian forces himself to reach into a pocket realm, pulled out a towel to clean them up so he can nudge Azriel down onto the bed before him.

It takes a little effort with the wings but...Cassian manages to fold his larger, more muscular body around Azriel’s slender one. The shadowsinger is strong, but it’s not the brute strength of a sword, like his own body, it’s the honed, precise, razor-edged strength of Truth-Teller. They are two sides of the same coin, they always have been. Light and dark, warm and cold, gentle and harsh, a shield and a dagger; their contrasts complement one another, strengthening them both.

Cassian leans forwards, pressing his forehead to the back of Az’s neck, damp with sweat from what they’ve just done, and breathes in his scent. Vanilla and leather twined together, a sharp hint of something sharper beneath that. It’s a scent that always reminds him of home, no matter where he might be or what he might be doing, it’s calming. There’s something about Azriel’s presence too, so sure, so in control and composed, that makes it difficult not to feel safe around him, not to want to linger by his side. If he loses this in the coming war, if he loses Azriel-

He forces those thoughts down, shoving them to a place so deep inside them he can’t feel the ragged claws they rake over his soul. Instead he gives Az a little squeeze when he feels him trembling. The sex helped, it always helps, both of them, it’s one of the reasons he understands Mor so well: their coping methods are the same in this regard. But it wasn’t enough to keep everything at bay for Az, not after what’s happened recently.

Cassian contemplates talking to him about it, trying to get him to open up but...Those wounds are too raw, too ragged, tearing them open again when they’ve only just begun to start scabbing over...That’s not what he needs right now. He only kisses the back of his neck, rubs at the still taut muscles in his shoulders, loosening them, having the shadowsinger relax in his arms.

“We should go,” Azriel murmurs after a long moment, trying to shift away from him to extricate himself from the tangle of sheets their bodies have fallen into.

“No,” is all he says, the word a gentle hum as he nuzzles against his neck.

“Helion won’t be pleased to find us here,” Azriel persists and Cassian sighs. He’s always been hopeless at this part, always needs to be practically tied down to get him to remain in bed for any length of time once they’ve finished. Fortunately this part of things he excels at.

“I think,” he says with a grin, “Helion would be entirely too pleased to find us waiting naked in his bed.”

Azriel snorts at that and Cassian tries to hide his flicker of delight at the gesture, “That’s an even better reason as to why we should leave. Now.”

He huffs out a soft laugh at that but doesn’t release the shadowsinger, keeps his thick, muscled arms locked firmly around his waist. “You aren’t going anywhere,” he growls, half playful, half threatening. Azriel stills for a moment then again tries to slip free. Cassian sighs. He slides his arms free but doesn’t move to get out of the bed, he only murmurs quietly, “Stay, Az, please.” He pauses, frozen, half-propped up. He rolls his shoulders, seemingly struggling, then Cassian places a hand on his side, adds quietly, “For me.”

Azriel melts at those words, sinks back down onto the soft bed, lets Cass carefully drape one of his wings around him. Despite the hold, the warmth, the calm quiet and the sleepy haze of pleasure that blankets them both, he starts trembling after only a few minutes. Closing his eyes Cassian arches forwards, gently kisses Azriel’s cheek, “It will be alright,” he says quietly, his voice low and soothing, the one few ever truly hear from him. He rubs Azriel’s back, trying to soothe him as he goes on, “You will be alright,” Azriel’s trembling worsens at that but...For different reasons. Cassian kisses him gently again, “It’s alright,” he murmurs quietly to him, “It’s alright.”

Azriel manages a shallow nod. Trying. He’s trying to believe what Cassian is telling him. He keeps murmuring those words to him, holding him as he shakes, allows himself to be more vulnerable than he’s been in weeks.

He tries, in spite of the pain, in spite of the guilt and the grief and the darkness that are threatening to destroy him, he tries. And Cassian loves him for that.

***