A/N This chapter is also…a lot. Be kind.
"Where to start." Rhys smiled as she swept Feyre to his side. "Perhaps where we met?"
She angled to him, her own grin starting to bud on her lips, "I suppose that's a good place as ever."
Rhys paused for a moment before taking her hand. Feyre watched as he splayed his palm in hers; his rough callouses scraping against her sensitive skin.
"How about I show you?" he hummed. And Feyre knew what he was asking. So without thinking a second more, she nodded.
Slowly, she felt him enter her mind. Waves rolled and crashed as Rhysand slowly but surely, showed Feyre their immense history.
From the very beginning, it was one so full of grief and suffering; love and sacrifice, her chest heaved to know it all.
The trials they had undergone in their early relationship were things no one should ever have to experience. Yet Rhys had endured it all for Feyre.
But one sorrow stood out beyond all.
She had been taken away from him too many times.
And with each memory that ushered through her mind, Feyre further understood the sheer amount of love he possessed for her. No matter what, Rhys put her first time and time again.
But despite his willingness to give it all up for Feyre, they had always been torn apart some force. Either by her own resentment of him or more recently…
Now that the forces keeping them apart were all gone, she and Rhys were faced with different challenges. With coming to terms from their past, and now the future.
Yet despite all that Feyre should be asking or not asking Rhys, one question still rang in the forefront of her mind.
Was her and Rhys' mating bond still intact?
Feyre had no time to get an answer as Rhysand withdrew his hand. The rush of memories receded.
And she once again, was left with her own thoughts.
As she considered the shock of it all; of meeting and parting through so many avenues, Feyre couldn't blame Rhys for fleeing to this island when he could.
Perhaps this place was his one small slice of happiness in nothing but a war of an existence.
And now that Feyre knew, she would spend the rest of her life to see it all repaid.
"—So, that brings us up to the end of the war." Rhys said simply when Feyre had yet to speak. And how could she?
How could she comfort the male in front of her, when Feyre had only just grasped what he had gone through?
"How long has it been," was the first thing she asked.
Rhys was silent as a rather large wave threatened to take her with it. But Feyre went nowhere as he pulled her closer. "How long has the King been tormenting us," she repeated. His head lowered.
"The King kept you long enough to take the rest of the courts afterward. All the while slowly wiping away your memories." Rhys voice was barely a brush in the wind, but she heard the regret there; how painful this was going to be for him.
Perhaps that's why he was fighting so hard to right the world. Rhys thought he was the first one to have forsaken it.
Feyre wanted to take him into his arms, to tell him none of it was his fault.
But he only went on, "Mor and the rest of them begged me to get you out. At first, I didn't want to betray my last promise to you. You had wanted to be let go, so I honored that wish."
He steadied his breathing before continuing, "Decades past as I tried to accept you were gone. I heard accounts of the King showing you off like a trophy. Otherwise you were treated well, so I continued to obey your wish. Mor and the rest of them were harder to appease. They tried hundreds of ways to set you free. But each attempt only pushed you closer to the King."
Feyre let that roll around in her head as she kept her hands clasped around his waist. "Then what was the breaking point?"
His jaw feathered, his gaze remaining on that tiny blip of land in front of them. Feyre didn't want to know why he couldn't look her while he retold their story. Perhaps if he did, Rhys would be overcome by his grief.
And wouldn't be able to finish.
"Maybe it was all my wallowing and self-pity," he grumbled, his grip on her tightening slightly, "Or the fact that Mor told me promise or no, I couldn't let you do this alone. We couldn't let you give your life for all of ours." He sighed, "So that next day, I offered the King the only thing I knew he wanted more than you. My magic."
Feyre pressed her eyes shut at the words; that Rhys had been so broken to give up his own power…
"Once the King took the parts of my magic he wanted," Rhys surged forward. His words becoming more rushed, "I was left with all the worst parts. The hatred, and the despair. And it left the King with the power to take whatever rest of the world there was," Rhys tone was utterly flat when he finished. But Feyre sensed how he was trying to remain strong.
So she merely lay her cheek against his chest; listening to his thundering heartbeat. Reminding each other that they were safe, and they had made it out.
"I'm sorry," was all she could say. Feyre wished to know the words to ease his heartache.
But none came.
He merely squeezed her once, twice. Feyre took it as a silent thank you.
"I was too weak to stop him," he said out loud, "The King almost pillaged the north continent dry. And the rest of us that were left, we had no choice but retreat. So we moved, building a new Night Court from the ground up. The southern continent was nothing but a remnant of a lost civilization. So we restored it."
Rhys sucked in a shuddering breath, and Feyre could only guess what came next.
"I thought it was over. But all was not well. I should have sensed something was not right with you. Your memories came back, but you were sleeping more, eating all the time, only to lose weight every day. But I was just so happy you were returned, I never stopped to ask what the real price had been—"
Feyre felt tears start to form in her eyes. But she managed to speak. "You couldn't have known about my siren, Rhys. The King was evil."
"I thought it was the stress of the move," he all but chocked, "All the work of building and delegating was wearing you down." He let out a long exhale that tugged at Feyre's grip on him. But she held fast.
"So we left," Rhys regained himself slightly, and her chest clenched to hear it. "I gave the new Night Court to Mor's family, and we spent centuries on this island, hiding from the world."
He paused to swallow, his head bowing to the sea, "But you were getting thinner; weaker. The more I tried to help, the more I realized I was the one causing it." His voice cut out with a sob. Feyre finally gazed up to find his eyes bloodshot with tears.
She couldn't stop her own from falling. Or speak for that matter.
"I shouldn't have been so naive," Rhys growled, as his anguish consumed his features, "I wanted our happily ever after so badly, I was willing to ignore everything else to have it. I was selfish, Feyre. And it took me months to make the decision. But I had to let you go."
She shook out a breath at what was to come next: Feyre's life with her sister's. Of selling herself on the street with her siren.
Rhys tensed before continuing.
"I contacted Mor after decades of hiding. She and the rest of the inner circle were doing well as they could; while keeping out of the King's wrath on the rest of the world.
But Azriel had intel of your family living at ease in the capitol. No one knew why the King hadn't stolen them as well, maybe sentimental reasons for you. But they were there; living peacefully. So I had found my answer."
"Gods, I had no idea," Feyre mused out loud. So her sisters' were immortal themselves. But now that the King was gone would their own memories be restored….
Feyre only added that question to her long list of others. They would have to wait to be answered once they returned to the mainland.
But for now, Rhys muscles clenched stiffer the further the story spun on. Feyre could do nothing but sooth him with each stroke along his back.
"I left you there with them," Rhys said quieter, "Using whatever magic I had left to make your sister's think nothing was amiss; hoping you would grow to be okay again. But the King had the entire north by then, and Mor's family was ruling the south. I had nowhere to go. Not anywhere I wanted to be, anyway."
Feyre ran her hand along the lines of his back. His wings flared wider, catching a bit of wind before folding back a bit too rigidly.
And Feyre understood what part of their story they had reached.
"That was when I lost all sight of what mattered," Rhys all but whispered. "I kept telling myself to let you live your own life, while my inner circle had their own. When I realized there was no longer any place for me in any of my loved ones' lives, I took to piracy."
His body shifted, and Feyre wondered if this part of his story was the part he was most ashamed of. "There, I slowly started to destroy the King's spice and silver trade. He may have had you, but he would not win.
I disrupted his trading routes. I thought I was doing good, taking his outside source of wealth and choking him dry. But he only turned to his own lands, starving out his people to build up what he had lost.
It was then, utterly racked with guilt for what I had done to innocent lives, I knew I could no longer hide from my real responsibilities."
Feyre craned her neck to look at him. "Like your throne?"
The sun was hitting the angles of his face as he took in a long breath. The rays shone off his tanned skin, making him look more like a god than anything.
No not a god.
But a High Lord.
His shoulders finally lowered. "Mor was doing well in her role. They all wanted me back of course, but I wasn't ready. The south they had created had become a haven for all remaining Fae. It was the best kept secret, and we renamed it Velaris because so. I would only ruin it with my return."
Rhys stopped at that, and she could do nothing but wait.
"Then I got a note from Azriel, saying you had fallen on hard times, and that—" he swallowed, "—That you were selling yourself with your siren to support you and your sisters."
Feyre managed to gulp down the thickness in her throat. But to know that Rhys' inner circle; her inner circle had never given up on her made her chest expand.
"I gave up piracy to find you," Rhys announced, "My ships; whatever wealth I had accumulated through stealing the King's merchant goods, I gave away. I wanted to find you again, to be a male you could be proud of.
But I underestimated how long it would take to find you; and the complexity of the King's spells that kept me out of the North. By the time I broke through them, I was absolutely penniless."
Feyre kissed his chest, once, twice. Because she knew the next chapter to come with all that she was. The street corner.
"I knew I never deserved you," Rhys muttered, clutching Feyre that much closer, "But when you gave me that coin purse instead of saving yourself, I knew what had to be done. I had to face my throne, and my people. I had to face the male you had once sacrificed yourself for. Not just for the sake of what you did, but for the woman you had become."
She felt hot tears start to rush forward, no matter how she tried to stop them. Feyre was thankful for the ocean; for the rushing of waves to soothe in their own way.
Then she felt him pause.
"This is too much for you," Rhys said rather sternly, "We can stop."
Feyre squeezed his hand. "No, keep going. I need to hear this."
Rhys sucked in a deep breath, perhaps gaining his own bearings as well. And then he went on,
"The King was triumphant when I begged for your salvation," he said darkly, "He demanded our bond for you to be saved from poverty. And you to return to his side once more."
Feyre could imagine Rhys on his knees in front of the King. Begging, as he said. The image made her shudder.
I will bow to no one buy my equal. The words echoed in time with her anguish. Her hands clenched the muscles of Rhys's back to center herself. But one thought would not cease.
Is our bond still broken?
Rhys only went to loosen her upper arms, gently stroking the skin there to try and relax her.
"Feyre, please, we don't have to go on if you don't want to," he said. Feyre managed to shake her head, regaining herself with a rather unattractive sniffle.
"It's just a lot to process," she said, "But I want to know it all."
Rhys hummed at that, continuing to swipe his hands from her shoulders down to her wrists. But he stopped there, taking her hands to wrap back around his waist. Like an anchor.
The ocean continued to carry on around them. And she let some of that strength run through her.
And as he let her absorb every single fragment of their torment, Feyre willed them to survive this.
With sheer ferocity, no matter what it took, no matter how long, Feyre vowed that they would be happy again.
But in the back of her mind, she knew so much of her was lost. Including her own memories of what Rhys was telling her. And she didn't know how to heal both their wounds at the same time.
Only when Feyre's breathing returned to normal, did he go on,
"It was luck that Mor's parents found me at all," he exhaled, "The war had changed them, they were now better, ruling in my stead as King and Queen, and Mor dubbed princess. But whatever my role was to be, I didn't care. I was once more, reunited with my inner circle after nearly a hundred years of being apart."
"I should have been happy knowing you were living your own royal life. Even if the King was evil, he could never do anything to harm you because of the stipulation of that first bargain. At least that's what I thought."
She tensed as Rhys gently explained, "We were all gone on a delegation, and when we returned, Mor's parents were dead. Poisoned. But it was absolutely clear who had been the culprit."
He let that sink in for a moment, and Feyre thought she might collapse. "I never apologized for their deaths." She looked up to meet his eyes; only to discover them impossibly soft.
"We weren't close." Rhys ran a finger along her cheek, wiping away the remaining tears there. "Before the war, they weren't the best of Fae," he all but grunted, but she didn't buy it.
Feyre hadn't been close to her mother, since she was a particularly hard woman. But that didn't mean she didn't love her all the same.
"Then I'm glad the King finally paid for all that he did," she growled suddenly. "And I hope he suffered."
Rhys nodded slowly, his thumb swiping slow circles along her jaw. "Believe me, he did."
"Good." Was all Feyre said, but something else resided in his eyes. Not so much pain or sadness. But regret.
"What is it?" she tugged him harder with meaning. He only shook his head.
"I had Azriel's spies keeping tabs on your condition," his hand dropped to her neck, cupping it gently, "While Amren and I searched for ways to get you out once and for all, I hardly slept for weeks, trying to find ways to get past the King's spells and your siren. The only answer was a bargain."
"That second day in the north," Feyre mused out loud, "In the gardens, you offered me a deal not from blackmail, but—"
He nodded, "The loophole was clear. Amren said if I made sure strings attached; and not just acting on my concern for you, the siren could do nothing to harm you. You hated me so much then. The latest memory wipe worked too well. And your siren was rejecting me more than ever. But I still had to get you away from him. And that would have to be enough."
Feyre let out a whoosh of breath. "Gods, those days seem likes eons ago."
"That day in the gardens, was a moment we all had been working towards for centuries." Rhys lowered into the water with a long breath, taking her to perch on his lap. "I knew how to figure out your siren at last. And we could be together again. But of course, I was too caught up to realize—" he broke off suddenly.
"Rhys—" Feyre clutched his wrist, "I was an idiot to leave. No matter the King's threats.
"I was trying to find the right way to tell you our history," even if his body remained rigid, she heard the surrender in his voice, "I was so close that day I proposed. But then you rejected me, and I thought you were truly over me. Over us."
"Never." Feyre felt her own lips tremble, "Never, Rhys, I just couldn't let anyone die for me. Least of all you."
She prayed the excuse was enough for rejecting the best man she had ever known.
Rhys only swept his hands along her sides; soothing her even now.
"I know," he hushed tenderly, "You always had the will to sacrifice yourself for others. I was just too hurt to connect the dots. But I figured it out soon enough."
"When did you realize." The waves calmed as the sun sunk lower in the sky. Rhys turned her forward again, kissing the back of her neck. She sighed when his arms twined around her waist, pulling her against him.
"When Mor gave me your ring," he breathed into her hair, "I sailed North the next instant."
Feyre groaned, "I never should have lied. We could have figured it out together. But I—"
"I know. And no more apologies, remember?" His voice was finally lighter, no longer choked with guilt and grief.
Feyre leaned against him; savoring the warmth of the male behind her. Not just physical heat, but the insurmountable fire in his heart. For his family, for his people. For her.
No matter how far they strayed.
So with all that in mind, Feyre sucked in a breath, bracing herself for the final question, "One last thing."
Feyre kept her eyes on the island, where their little slice of heaven stood. She kept them there, not daring not face him when she said the words.
He only waited.
"When you were about to leave from under the mountain," she started, "You showed the first time you saw me not as human, but Fae. And you knew then, we were mates."
She felt Rhys tense behind her, but she only went on,
"And although I have accepted that the King broke our bond, I have to ask all the same—"
"Feyre, I know what you're asking, and—"
She rushed in before he could finish. "—Wait. Just let me say this. I want you to know, I don't care about any broken bond. I love you no matter what." Feyre finished with a sigh.
But she was feigning her indifference to ease the tightness in her chest. Because she was anything but unconcerned.
No, Feyre yearned with everything she was for their bond to be there. With all her soul, she still wanted to still be bound to Rhys.
He was quiet for a while, his hands finally slipped from her waist, slowly turning her to meet him.
"If you're finished," he quirked a brow when they were face to face, "Can I say what I wanted to in the first place?"
Feyre nodded. His eyes seemed to darken on her pout, but he continued, "I was going to tell you, that without our mating bond, my love for you will always remain."
Feyre opened her mouth.
"—But that's not all." Rhys tugged her chin upwards, so those breathtaking eyes could shine down upon her, "So I hope you don't mind when I tell you now, despite whatever the King might have done, or tried, our bond remains."
She shuddered at his words, her eyes closing in pure relief. But Rhysand was not finished,
"We were always bound, Feyre," he tucked her into the crook of his neck when she shook harder, "That's the one thing not even death itself could take from us."
She was full on crying when he kissed the top of her head. And she swore the waves themselves stilled.
"But how can you be sure?" she parted. Rhys pretended to weigh her question.
"You yourself said you could hear it," he surveyed her with a challenging brow, "Earlier when you were convincing me to listen to what I knew to be true?"
Feyre stilled at his knowing look, "Did you always know?"
He nodded, "I was just waiting for you to."
She lowered her brows at him, preparing to scold Rhys for keeping something so important from her for the sake of self-awareness.
But he was already kissing her.
His lips were warm and soft as they prodded at Feyre's to open. Which she did willingly, savoring the taste citrus and sea that was uniquely Rhys.
She urged herself further into his arms. He groaned at her insistence, standing to take them to deeper water.
He laid her atop the stilled water, holding her on the surface with nothing but a hand to his back.
Feyre still wore a thin sleep shirt. And she was about to ask what he was doing when his mouth devoured her chest.
"No more ill memories," He moved to her other breast, the rough cloth adding to the sensation of it all, "No more regrets," His hot tongue continued to trace the swell through the drenched fabric. "I want to spend this new eternity tasting you; memorizing you."
Feyre gasped when he took her nipple into his mouth; sucking on the hard peak.
The water's warmth melded with her own body temperature as he peppered kisses along her stomach.
All the while his hands supported her weight.
The shirt barely covered her hips, and Rhys tugged the fabric upward to expose her lower half.
Feyre trailed her hands from his shoulders to his neck. Wetness rushed to her legs with every shift of muscle.
"I want to take every minute to love and worship you," he spoke as if he was reciting a prayer, drifting lower yet, "And I want us never to be parted again."
Feyre groaned when he met the wetness between her legs; teasing her. And despite the heat coursing through her veins; the utter need for her mate won over all.
Feyre smiled at the thought.
Truly, Rhys was hers. And she, his.
Bound now and forever.
"What are you smiling about?" Rhys asked. Feyre drifted from his hold to stand.
His eye went glazed to her form, a slow grin forming as he no doubt found her breasts peaked beneath her shirt.
Feyre merely slipped into his arms, stroking his forearm as she pretended to mull over his question.
"I was just thinking, now that we're mates. If something else remains true as well." She met his stare, finding his violet eyes as hungry as hers.
"Whatever you want, it's always been yours."
Feyre nodded. And the words that came next had no help of stopping, "I remember once asking for a crown."
Rhys didn't answer for a moment. He merely stroked the side of her face, his eyes more liquid than Feyre had ever seen them.
"And I was ready to give it to you then, Feyre darling."
"And now—" He paused to brush his lips along her ear, "Now you'll be the High Lady I've always been waiting for."
A/N More to come! Hope you guys have enjoyed it so far :) Thanks for reading and reviewing.