This is plot bunny that demanded to be shown the light after rereading the first four books of the Chronicles. Haven't read the others yet, so don't shoot me if this is already done somewhere in them. Characters are a little OOC, but I'm okay with that even if you aren't. :) Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Don't own the work. Wish I did. It's wicked awesome. Making no money, either. Wish I was. Wicked broke.
She had never run so fast in her life.
Of all the things she was ignorant of, she knew this to be absolutely true. Not from the ferals, not from the various thugs her work as a Hawk had led her to encounter, not to the call of the midwives guild in the middle of the night.
She hadn't even run that fast from that blood-covered room in the fief, where all her life had changed.
She dashed past the guards at the gate, not sparing them even enough of a glance to recognize them. It was Clint, she was later told, who'd had the sense to keep his mouth shut as she sprinted past. Maybe it was the wild look in her eyes. Maybe it was the way her pallor was ashen – the true definition of the word.
Maybe it was the tears that streamed down her face.
She never asked him. Her curiosity didn't run there.
But she ran.
Through the Aerie, never bothering to look around at the halls that held so much of her waking envy. Those high, high halls, ones that might make the Barrani reconsider what they called the home of the castelord.
And by the time she skidded to a halt in front of the infirmary, she couldn't breathe, or see, or think.
All she could do was feel.
Anger, loneliness, shame, fear.
The Hawklord was standing at the entry, Marcus next to him, both somber and silent. She was enough of herself to think that the Wolflord should be there, calling a hunt for those that dared so harm one of his own.
But he was hers, first.
The Wolves and Hawks could have what she didn't want. Which was nothing.
She gulped a lungful of air, then two, reigning herself in as much as she could. The way Marcus's claws slid in and out of their sheaths gave her hope; he never fidgeted like that unless he was worried. When he was grieving, he was still.
And for the millionth time in her life, she prayed to whatever god was fickle enough to hear her.
The Hawklord said nothing, but simply nodded to her wrist. The bracer was still in place, but it was soon off, her fingers dancing over the gems, the precious stones blinking their story.
She wanted to know how this one ended.
So she dropped the bracer in his waiting hand and swallowed hard.
"He lives, just. They've done all they can now. The Wolflord has called a hunt for them."
Slaughter them, she thought without empathy.
"The fieflord has also lent his services, unofficially. They will not remain at large for long."
She nodded once, felt a tear trail down her face, and wiped it away. She could cry later – in relief, if the gods were kind – and now she simply needed focus.
"Don't disturb me," she whispered, pushing one hand against the door ward before her; she wasn't even aware of the spike of magic as it coursed up her arm.
"You will be tended to while you tend him," the Hawklord said in a tone she knew too well.
But she shook her head, her shame heavy in her words.
"No. No disturbance," she repeated, and this time, he said nothing.
The door swung open, and she kept her eyes on the ground as she stepped forward. Only when it clicked shut behind her did she dare her fear.
He was silent in the bed. She was so used to his silences. They spoke volumes.
This was the silence of pain.
The various bandages wrapped around his torso were stained and soaked through. One leg was splinted. Half his head was swathed in thick cotton, leaving very little of his face that she could see. The part she could see was bruised and scraped. A hand, his leading hand for his chained dagger, was mangled almost beyond recognition. What she couldn't see, she knew; organs were bruised, ribs were broken, lungs were injured, and he was bleeding within.
All this she took in at a glance, a healer's glance.
She walked forward slowly, her breathing careful, her limbs shaking, her fingers ice cold.
Will you kill them for me?
There was only a moment's silence before she heard Nightshade's response; he was waiting for her call. She didn't even have to speak his name.
For you, I will destroy them. Lord Andellan will show no mercy.
His voice was even and low, and she was grateful his anger wasn't directed at her.
They showed him none, she replied in a mental whisper, her anguish almost palatable.
There was a moment's hesitation, something unusual of the outcaste Barrani lord, but his next words were gentle.
This is not your fault.
She wanted to kill him, then.
Our…talk, it was necessary for your life, for your future. He is not gone from you. He has never been.
The urge to murder lessened slightly as she sat heavily on the vacated stool beside the bed. She trailed a hand up the bed sheet, stopping at his bruised and nicked fingers. She didn't touch him.
You gave me back what I thought would never be mine again. Why? She asked, though he'd stated his reasons an hour before.
Still, he humored her as always, and repeated himself.
I was in your debt, Kaylin Neya. You restored what was taken from me. Barrani barter. Therefore, I restored what I had taken from you. The fieflord replied.
Kaylin nodded slightly, though the movement was wasted. She lifted her hands but paused again, her fear almost suffocating her.
I will not let you fail. You have my word.
With that reassurance, she dropped her palms to Severn's far-too-still and far-too-cold arm. She probed delicately, cataloging his injuries with as much detachment as she could force from herself. They were extensive, and most were severe.
She found an echo of his thoughts in him, his mind reliving the fight even in unconsciousness. In all the ways she'd loved touching the Tha'alaan, she hated the after effects. When she healed now, she could feel a shadow of the thoughts of the one she touched. She understood none of it, and Ybelline had been rather vague about the science behind it. Apparently, it boiled down to magic and ignorance.
Ignorance is not an excuse.
This was her thought, and no one else's.
So she kept her hands on him, moving one unconsciously to his face, her fingers caressing his cheek. His thoughts grew more harried, faster, harder to follow. In her mind's eye, she saw a group of men and beasts around her, circling.
No, not her. Him. These were his memories.
He was hurt, then. His leg was already broken, white, blood-covered bone jutting from his calf. Then they struck. She flinched as each blow landed, bit her lip – hard – as she heard her Severn scream.
The sudden silence in his thoughts was worse, but she could still see them, still feel the pain, as they continued their attack.
She suddenly wished she could see their faces more clearly. She would like to hunt them herself.
Tend your patient, Nightshade murmured, redirecting her thoughts.
She nodded uselessly and began to pour her energy into the still man on the bed. She was removed from herself, as she usually was when she healed, but could not make out the presence of anyone else in the room.
Good, she thought to herself, hiding these thoughts from Nightshade. It's my fault he's hurt, my fault he's lying her. I deserve this.
So she welcomed her body's weakness as it grew inside her, the ache of muscles and the dehydration that tore through her system. As penance went, it was only a start. But it was a good enough start for her.
Never again, Severn. I'm never leaving your side again.
When the skin under her fingers grew warmer to the touch, she almost stopped. Almost. But she could not leave him with even a scratch from this. He deserved better. He had saved the world, taken the burden of Steffi and Jade's murders and, therefore, Kaylin's hatred, onto himself. He had watched over her for years from the wings, waiting in the Shadows, until she needed him. And she had needed him. She always would. She knew that now.
When her mirror had chimed, she had almost not answered it, intent as she was to get back to patrol after her visit to Castle Nightshade. But the soft sigh of a growl had caught her by surprise, and she'd approached. The look on the Leontine's face made her stomach drop, but his words had almost stopped her heart.
"Severn's in the infirmary. He was attacked during patrol. They're…they don't know if he's going to make it. You need to get down here."
And that's when she knew, without a doubt, that she would die if he did.
She loved him with everything she was.
That's why she had missed patrol with him. He'd covered for her and she ran to Nightshade, intent on asking for him to remove his mark, his claim on her, and give her back what she believed was the inherent right of all fieflings: a life of her own without Lord Nightshade.
The mark and his claim, he'd removed. His presence, though, she allowed to linger. He had saved her with his words, been her anchor in fights against Dragons and the Barrani's hell. She did not hate him.
She simply loved someone else.
Kaylin felt her own heartbeat slow with the strain she was exacting on her body.
Enough, Kaylin. You will kill yourself, Nightshade harshly snapped, his words almost a physical slap to her face.
Not yet! She cried. Just a little more.
But another voice spoke above her own. She took a moment to recognize it, gone as she was from the world. But she stopped and blinked, her eyes gritty with passed time. That's when she noticed that the skin beneath her right hand was moving.
Severn was speaking.
She blinked again, trying to make sense through her blurry vision, and she saw his dark brown eyes staring at her, wide and scared.
"Kaylin! What did you do?"
But she couldn't answer for a moment, content to soak up his face. When she felt drunk off his gaze, she allowed her eyes to slide shut and she slumped forward, barely aware of the arms that caught her. She was turned, then, someone cradling her like a child, wrapped tightly in an embrace that could be no others but his.
She found the strength to open her eyes one more time, reassuring herself that this wasn't a dream. He was staring down at her, his own eyes ringed with something that could have been tears, were he not who he was. She raised a hand and brushed her fingertips along his jaw line, feeling the stubble there. The smile that made blood well from her cracked lips was genuine.
But her strength ended there, and this time when she closed her eyes, she didn't open them again.
She had no idea how long she'd been asleep when she finally regained some sense of self-awareness. By the dull ache of her bones and the slight cramps in her muscles, it was awhile. But then she remembered blood and bandages, and she jerked upright, eyes snapping open, panic flooding her system.
Then her sense of awareness caught up to the rest of her, and she realized she was in her home, in her bed, and there was someone next to her. She felt hands on her face, felt her head turned to the side, and her eyes widened as she saw who she wanted to see.
His brown eyes were still worried, and they were tinged underneath by dark shadows. She wanted to chase them away, so she raised her own arms – they were bare, she noted distantly – and she held his face the way he held hers.
"I didn't finish."
She didn't need to clarify; he knew what she meant. By the way his hands tensed on her cheeks, he didn't like the reminder.
"You almost killed yourself."
She was still getting used to this reality, the one where he was in her arms and healthy, and responded absently, "You almost died."
His eyes hardened, steel appearing from nowhere, and he let go of her face, instead grabbing her wrists with almost bruising force and pulling them from his skin.
"Why, Kaylin? Why didn't you let anyone give you water? Why didn't you let them know just how far you were going to go? Why didn't you stop when you healed the worst of it?"
His voice was barely restrained, and it cracked at some words. Which, she couldn't tell, because she was too busy lingering in the warmth of his hands.
"Was it guilt? Did you hurt yourself like that because you thought you somehow deserved it?"
These words didn't crack, though they were whispered and tinged with dawning horror.
She ducked her head, then, distantly remembering the thoughts she hid from Nightshade. He really did know her too well. When she refused to meet his eyes, his grip tightened. Now, she knew she would have bruises.
"Why did you almost kill yourself for me?"
She turned away, the instinct to flee, to run, to leave, completely overwhelming her. But then there was a voice in her mind, anchoring her as it always did.
No, Kaylin Neya. This is your future. This is what I have returned to you. Embrace it.
Unable to stop the small mental smile at Nightshade's words, she couldn't resist asking, Or else?
His chuckle was short, but honest.
I told you I wouldn't let you fail. I never said at what. Learn to be specific when you exact promises from people, and learn to realize when someone is not being specific, he admonished gently.
Then his presence, his entire presence, was gone from her mind, and she knew he would not return until she called for him. That was, after all, the deal they had agreed upon.
So she inhaled deeply and released her breath slowly, giving herself a slow count for, well, she didn't know what. But then she turned back to him, the Hawk in her noticing that he sat on the bed next to her instead of in a chair.
Chin up, defiant even as she trembled, she thought back to his words and responded in a strong but quiet voice, "You almost died. Had you, I would have followed."
It wasn't often she managed to shock Severn, but this time, she'd utterly floored him. He dropped her hands numbly, his eyes trained on her face. She had to drop her gaze at the intensity in his stare.
"You were almost dead. They almost killed you. You haven't done anything wrong –"
He startled her as he vehemently interjected, "You don't know anything! I've killed, Kaylin. I've murdered. I've tortured. I've done to others worse than what was done to me."
But she was undeterred, and spoke it.
"I know. And there are things I will never know about those seven years. But I don't care. You saved the world, my world, even as I thought you brought it crashing down. You rescued me from all the darkest parts of myself." Then, speaking with that fickle, flickering insight the marks of the Old Ones lent her, she asked, "Will you let me rescue you?"
She could almost watch him remember her words from the test in the tower at the Barrani High Halls.
"I think he's suffered enough."
Watching the emotions play over his usually stoic face, she murmured, "I didn't lie."
He didn't say anything for a moment, but when he spoke, he closed his eyes.
She closed her own eyes, mimicking him.
You said you cannot lie to me here.
I can't. You can't, either.
Then tell me.
I forgive you. I love you. I don't want to be anywhere but where you are. I don't know what my future is, what I am supposed to be in this world, but I know that whatever I have left of my destiny to call my own, I want you in it.
Then words ceased. But movement started.
Her eyes flew open as she felt his lips brush hers, but they fluttered shut again as she leaned into his touch. If most aspects of him were hard and edged – his muscles, his knives, his soul – his lips weren't. They were soft against her own, and she felt something warm hit her cheek. She leaned a bit and brushed away his tears with light kisses, trailing them over his cheeks and across the one scar on his face that was from their past.
He was her Hawk, flight feathers torn. Her Wolf from the Shadows, tied and revealed.
But as he wrapped his arms around her and cried into her neck, breaking into pieces he knew she'd catch, she knew they'd have more than a past. They'd have a future.
Because in her mind was the echo of his words.
Ellariayn. Elianne. Kaylin.
I love you. I'm sorry. Don't leave. I love you.
I love you.
And she did the only thing she could. She held him, and loved him back.
Silly? Yes. Pointless? Probably. Did this fulfill some need of mine, to see this play out this way? Absolutely. Thanks for reading and feel free to R&R.