inspired by this latest piece of art from waricka!
Pale fingers caress her cheek, and the Sun Queen turns her face away.
“I’m with you,” she says, and her voice is a hollow thing. “But I am not yours. Don’t touch me.”
Something uncurls in her chest at the way his jaw clenches. Satisfaction, she realises, as if from a distance. For the first time since her knife split Mal’s heart, she smiles.
Alina makes herself a monster. It is the least that Aleksander Morozova deserves. And the world will not survive the rule of the Darkling alone.
Somehow, she doubts anyone will consider it a favour
They are crowned. The priest trembles to touch them, even with the crowns.
Her husband (she supposes) fails to notice. Used to such things she thinks, and trembles herself, under the weight of centuries to come.
Her husband (she supposes) doesn’t fail to notice that. As she faces the cheering hordes (to terrified to stay silent), she catches the twitch of his hand, a single and involuntary movement towards her.
Her mouth curves into something sharp and bloody. The people cheer louder, as though the sound will somehow protect them from it.
The shadows crowd in on her, as soft as her name on his lips. The stone of the wall is rough against her back. She laughs at the repetition as the cloth of his kefta brushes her skin, warm from his body.
He should be cold. When Alina thinks of ancient things, she doesn’t think of heat.
“You have what you wanted,” she murmurs, tilting her head back. The light from a candle plays across her face, casting his into the darkness. She prefers it. “You have everything.”
“I do not have you.”
She closes her eyes. Leans into him, presses her forehead to his chest. “You have my support. You have my companionship. You have my power, as much as I have yours. If you wanted the rest of me more than any of that, you could have made a different choice.”
Alina doesn’t have to look at him to know the way his face twists, the way his fingers waver like he might strangle her (or something darker).
But he doesn’t.
“Then do not say I have everything,” is all he says.
He doesn’t touch her.
There is a part of Alina that knows the girl she was would hate the woman she is now.
The rest of her knows that that girl died as surely as Mal did that day on the Shadowfold, with him and every other person she had tied herself to.
That Alina might have considered her weak. That Alina might have seen something noble in dying with the rest of them, in denying Aleksander Morozova his final prize.
The Sun Queen sees nothing noble in joining forces with him, but nothing noble in dying either. She thinks that the concept of nobility is probably lost to her. With the sun burning under her skin, she can’t afford it.
It doesn’t take centuries for her to lose her humanity, for her thoughts to shift from the needs and wants of Alina to a giant scale with the world in one pan.
It just takes power.
Ravka comes under their sway with ease. The rest of the world is not so difficult as she once might have thought, after that.
But there are still moments. No matter how great the threat of destruction,there will always be people who fight against whatever injustice they see. Alina realises, with some small shock, that she understands this better than the Darkling.
It is twilight when she comes to him in the study, finding him bent over a map. His hair falls from its tie in haphazard strands, and she thinks that once upon a time, her fingers might have ached to brush them back.
She lays a hand over his instead, surprising the both of them with the comfort she offers.
“You can’t make the entire world believe in us, Aleksander.”
There’s no denying the pleasure she takes at the way he jerks at her use of his name, every time. She laughs, quiet and amused, and taps his knuckle.
“We don’t need all of them. We just need enough.”
He lifts his head. She has no idea what she’ll find in his features until she’s face with them, and the ruefulness instead of rage makes her smile.
“You, of all people, should know that it will never be enough.”
She inclines her own head. “For you.” She makes to withdraw her hand. “That’s why you have me.”
A beat passes, a breath. And then his fingers - gently - catch hers. They tangle together, arms stretching the distance between them.
“I suppose,” he says, and doesn’t squeeze. Doesn’t rub his thumb over her palm, doesn’t do anything except stay as they are, “you are right.”