From the minute Elain had emerged from the Cauldron, she had felt two tugs at her soul. One, associated with the High Lord's son, Lucien, and one, with the shadowsinger Azriel.
From the minute Elain realized what it meant, when she knew what they were to her, she found herself making a promise to herself. The promise to not choose either of them, Cauldron blessed be damned. But as she grew closer with Azriel, and farther away from Lucien, in the months after the war when her sisters were busy, she found herself contemplating that promise, wondering whether she would break it or not.
When Lucien tugged at the bond between them, she saw something. She had seen their life, what it would have been like, had she chose him. She was pregnant, in her flash of seeing, and they were wandering through the hills of the Night Court, where they had bought an estate to raise their child upon. She hated it. Hated that she belonged to this male, this male who had meant nothing to her before they realized they were mates.
But Azriel, he was different.
At night, when all she could dream about was the wet, cold, darkness of the Cauldron, of being Made, he had sent her images. Images and memories of flying, of snow, of Starfall, which she had yet to experience. He had given her peace of mind, a quiet solace. She had received what she needed at the time, a way to fall asleep. And fall asleep she did. As she fell into the sea of calm dreaming, she heard him humming a lullaby.
Elain remembered all this while Azriel was gone on a mission to the human realm.
She had not forgotten, so to speak, just pushed all the information to the back of her mind. But as she waited for the shadowsinger to return from his mission, so they could have tea and garden, of course, she found herself thinking back to the things he had given her. Quiet understanding, a shoulder to lean on, literally and figuratively, something to hold onto when the rough water of her nightmares threatened to drown her. The bond was strong between them, a physical thing she could feel and sometimes, see.
It was darkness incarnate.
Vantablack adamantium coursed between them. It was her savior. The adamant wall he kept up when on missions was warm and welcoming, and she could see hers too. Hers was made of adamant, as well. Her seer gifts gave her the uncanny ability to push people away from her safeguarded mind. But not Azriel. No, not him.
She, subconsciously, let him in.
The adamant of her mind, whenever he brushed his presence against her walls, transformed into green vines that bent to Azriel's will. He walked freely through her mind, her memories. As Elain sipped her tea and read her book, she could feel him getting distracted by the meadows in her mind. He was rewatching the memory of being shoved into the Cauldron. For some reason, he liked to visit this one the most.
Elain shivered as he watched her touch the water of the Cauldron. Watched her writhe and scream in protest. Watched her head go under, and the surface of the water go still.
She felt him seethe in anger as he listened to her thoughts. The fear, the terror, the confusion as the Cauldron gave her something, as it felt became attached to her.
Shaking herself, turning away as he left the memory, Elain tried to go back to her book and tea, but found that Azriel was running his scarred hand along her vines, willing them to push him out once again. So he would be away from the memory. Elain carefully, gently, closed her mind off from him and then sent two words down the bond.
You're welcome, though I don't know why you're thanking me.
Elain smiled to herself.
I'm thanking you because whenever you watch that memory, it makes it easier for me to watch it. When will you be back?
A blush crept along Elain's cheeks and ears. She didn't think he would be back so soon. With shaking hands, she set down her tea and book and stood from her seat. She took a deep breath and started up the townhouse stairs to her bedroom. Nuala and Cerridwen were waiting for her in her dressing room, no doubt because of Azriel. She didn't mind being watched by them, or him, for that matter. She knew he was just making sure nothing happened to her. Just making sure she was safe at all times. And Nuala and Cerridwen were nice enough. Quiet, for one thing.
Elain decided that she would take a nice long, hot bath. She needed to clear her head before she saw Azriel again.
For the past week, he's been in the human realm. Doing what, she didn't know. But since he had left, all she could think about was him. Everything and anything about him. His cupid's bow lips, his hazel eyes, his ebony hair, his scarred, gentle hands. Everything. The small amount of distance between them was bothering her to no end.
After all, she had chosen him over Lucien. Azriel had not pushed the bond on her, not expected anything from her. He had simply waited, and been there for her. Helped her with her visions, and with her terrible nightmares. And in the past months, with him gardening and drinking tea with her every day he could, she had grown fond of him, his presence.
She liked the darkness that lifted when she was around him. She was the light to push away the vantablack cloud that always seemed to hover over him. And sometimes, she liked the darkness. The shadows. They were comforting, welcoming, beautiful. They made him more beautiful, mysterious, charming.
As Elain slipped into the warm water, she sighed in relief. Her body welcomed the warmth of the water, and she dipped her head back so her hair fanned out through the water all around her head. As she washed, she imagined her hands as Azriel's. Her hands slid down the side of her body, over the curve of her ample breasts, down the slope of her waist and legs. Eyes closed, she pictured Azriel in the bath with her, helping her wash her body and hair.
Shivering from the cold air of the bathing room, Elain wrapped herself in a towel and let Nuala and Cerridwen dress her and braid her hair. As they slipped away and closed the door to her rooms behind them, Elain saw Azriel in the doorway.
Cheeks pink with a blush, she exited her rooms. He was standing in the hallway, his shadows hiding his face from her view. He was dressed in his fighting leathers, but Truth Teller and his other blades were nowhere to be found.
"Hello," Elain chirped, clasping her hands together. Azriel's shadows continued to writhe and move around by his face. Wanting to get a good look at him, Elain reached up and placed her hand on his chin and tilted his head up so she could see his face. Azriel looked surprised by her touch. "There you are. I've been waiting for you," Elain murmured, staring into his eyes for the first time in almost a week. "Would you like to come in?" she asked, motioning to the door to her rooms. Azriel's mask of collected cool faltered.
"Y-you want me to come in?" he asked, an eyebrow lifted. Elain nodded and turned towards her door, turning the knob and pushing the door open. She led Azriel into her bedroom. Elain sat down on the edge of her bed, watching as Azriel awkwardly stood by the door.
"You can sit down, Azriel," Elain said with a chuckle as he looked like a lost puppy for a moment before standing up and sitting down next to her on the edge of the bed. She shifted in her sitting position so that she was turned toward him.
"Elain?" Azriel said. She looked up into his eyes through her eyelashes. "This bond between us, you know what it is, yes?"
Elain, cheeks pink, nodded. "Yes, Azriel. I know that it means we're mates. And I know that for some reason, the Cauldron mated me with you and Lucien. It gave me a choice.
"And have you decided?" Azriel asked, his eyes and face guarded. He was waiting, Elain realized, waiting for her rejection of the bond between them. He was preparing himself for the heartbreak.
"I decided a long time ago," Elain said carefully. "That I wanted nothing to do with Lucien."
Azriel let out a deep breath. "And does that mean...?"
Elain knotted her fists in the skirts of her dress, leaned towards him. Wide-eyed, Azriel kept completely still as Elain neared him, her lips slightly parted. She lifted a hand and touched the side of his neck, letting her fingers dig into his soft, black curls. Slowly, gently, Elain kissed the shadowsinger.
In the moments where her lips were against Azriel's, she lost most of her self-control. Elain moved closer to Azriel, who had one of his scarred hands on her waist and the other lying on her lap. Azriel licked her bottom lip, asking for access. Elain, without another thought, granted it to him. The closer their bodies got to each other, the more hungry their kiss became. When Elain's fingers tugged at his curls, Azriel leaned away from her slightly, pressing his forehead against Elain's.
"Elain, wait," he gasped. Elain frowned. "I-I want to do this properly. There's this faerie tradition, that says that the female should offer the male a meal to signify their acceptance of the mating bond."
Elain chuckled, and leaned a little ways away from him, just so she could look at his face. "You want me to offer you food? Haven't I done that every day since we started having tea together?"
Azriel considered this briefly. "To hell with traditions," he murmured against her mouth as he kissed her. Elain giggled against his mouth and deepened the kiss. Soon, she was on top of him on the bed, her skirts hitched up to her waist. Elain began to unclasp Azriel's fighting leathers. The breath caught in Azriel's throat as she took off his leathers, his shirt, his belt. His cupid's bow lips sucked and nipped at her neck, leaving love bites on the tender skin there.
From here, Elain was unsure of what to do. But Azriel, being around five hundred years old, knew exactly what he wanted to do. And so he told Elain. Her cheeks turned a tomato red color after he whispered the words against the shell of her ear. With shaky hands, she removed the leathers on his waist and legs, tossing them aside. Azriel gripped her hair gently, sneaking a kiss every now and then as she carefully took off his clothing. Once he was just in his underthings, Elain figured she ought to take off her dress.
Azriel untied her waist cincher and the dress fell down around her legs. Standing up, Elain discarded her dress and was immediately back on Azriel, kissing him and running her hands through his ebony hair. His hazel eyes were closed as she fumbled with his boxers. First, she twiddled with the waistband, hooking a finger underneath and pulling it down an inch. Then, overcome by her instincts, Elain stopped kissing Azriel and moved her face down, down, down, until the waistband of his boxers were in between her teeth and she was tugging them down, down, down.
Elain couldn't believe what she was doing, who she was doing it with. She loved him, and they were mates, but she had never done this before. She was fascinated by his powerful, muscled body. As he lay bare beneath her, Elain's hands moved from his shoulders down to the backs of his knees. She wanted to see, feel, touch every part of him.
Azriel enveloped them in shadow, and then they were one.