Hurricane - A Nessian Fic
thank you to @sarahviehmann for betaing and cheerleading me through this :) prompted by anonymous, sorry it took a while but I wanted to really try and do it justice!
Summary: Nesta and Cassian post ACOMAF oneshot. Nesta comes to Cassian after the events in Hybern. The two of them release their frustration over being broken and Made and find an understanding between them neither anticipated and a connection that alters their lives even further.
His spine stiffens. At first it’s merely at the sound of her voice, cool as the mountain winds he misses streaming through his wings, sharp as a winter storm. That voice gets his back up even before he registers the mocking tone and the sardonic words.
Then he sees her. Nesta. Lounging against the balcony door with an ease that might suggests she owns this entire house and everything in it – including him.
The sight of her, the sound of her voice, her words dripping contempt, punch through the numb walls he’s surrounded himself with since he lost his wings with such startling swiftness and brutality that that’s all it takes to get his blood boiling.
A thick, rippling growl builds in his chest, loosed in a vicious burst towards her like roiling thunder. He’s seen battle hardened warriors on blood-soaked killing fields pale and flee from him at the sound. She barely even deigns to blink coolly at him as she strides out onto the balcony. She actually has the bald nerve and gall to approach him after that snarl had made it perfectly clear he wasn’t in the mood for her company.
She still looks like her. She’s still veiled in that icy beauty that called so sweetly to the fire in his heart, threatening to tame it; daring him to challenge it. But the Cauldron has sharpened her features, hollowing her cheeks, sculpting her fine lips, refining the lines of her face making her at once more elegant and striking but somehow also more terrible, and dangerous, and wild.
It’s a face to make men pause – especially with those eyes burning with blue fire and glittering with silver steel – honed to an edge even Az would covet – a face to make men tremble if they have a scrap of sense about them. Cassian never has.
So he faces her boldly as she approaches him, contemptuous grace in every movement, a predator at her core. She’s a panther draped in silk, a huntress of a different sort than her sister but just as deadly if not more so. She’s the knife in the shadows, the poison in the chalice, the end that comes without ever being seen.
If he ever somehow forgot her face, Cassian thinks as she stalks to stand by him at the stone balcony rail, he would never forget the way she moved. Not in a thousand immortal lifetimes could he forget that.
She moves like a storm given substance, holds herself like a queen among mice, a god among peasants – as though this world and everything in it, all its history and power and potential, the things it’s contained, the miracles it’s seen made flesh are beneath her, unworthy of her notice.
Her eyes rake up and down his body with a sharpness that cuts, weighing, calculating, judging, lingering for a fraction of a second longer on his tattered wings than anywhere else.
“Mor says you haven’t left this room in three days,” she announces, tearing her piercing gaze away from him the moment she opens her mouth to speak to him, her words frosted with apparent indifference, “You haven’t eaten. Barely slept…” she trails off delicately, examining her nails.
He couldn’t sleep. Not without reliving it over and over and over again. His wings shredded into bloody ribbons by that burst of power. The agony. The heat of the blood against his skin. The tang of it against his tongue. The bile rising in his throat. The panic constricting his chest and ripping the air from his lungs. His wings. His wings. His wings. Every time he woke in a cold sweat, panting and gripping the sheets to try and anchor himself to reality. A reality that was every bit as cruel as the nightmare he’d just torn himself from and offered him no comfort or respite from his torment.
But the rare occasions when he didn’t have that nightmare were worse. On those nights he flew through the wild, unforgiving mountains he had learned to tame centuries ago. Alive with the rush of air whipping past him, the call of the wind humming in his veins, and the taste of freedom gilding his tongue as he roared his defiance at the world that had tried and failed at every turn to chain him to its will.
Then he woke sobbing and alone in the blackness of the night; that exhilaration snuffed out like a candle by a thoughtless gust, leaving him blind and staggering and empty once more. He groped in the dark for his wings and felt the broken truth at his back and his soul howled its grief and devastation that he might never fly through those peaks again; might never soar into the arms of the waiting heavens as he was made to.
But he can’t tell her that. Can’t even begin to explain it to her, what this loss feels like for him, for an Illyrian male to lose his wings, to be grounded, what it means, the weight of what he’s lost. So instead he finds an easy smirk to toss in her direction – the kind he knows from experience will infuriate every inch of her new immortal being and says with idle arrogance, “Concerned for me, Nesta?”
The look she gives him radiates such contempt that he can practically hear the disdainful word she sneers at him even though she never gives voice to it, please, before she says, picking at her nails in a show of unconcern that’s as tailored to his temper as his smirk was to hers, “Bored.” She says with a lazy shrug then cuts a glance in his direction as she adds, tone darkening like thunderheads gathering to blacken a bright blue sky, “And I thought might have something better to do with your time than brood over how hard done to you are, what with the war that’s coming.”
A harsh snarl erupts from him at her presumption, her insinuation, the knife she may as well have thrust between his ribs, plunging straight into the heart of him.
He advances a step towards her, wings barking in agony as they instinctively flare, a stark reminder of the loss he faces, the thing she’s trivialising with such brash arrogance.
Nothing without those wings. Nothing.
As before she barely shows any reaction to the fury she’s inspired in him and holds her ground with the same kind of serene indifference a deaf god might show the plight of an ant. Some part of him flickers, reluctantly impressed by her courage and resilience but it’s buried deep beneath the layers of raw, unbridled anger that fill his empty being – so long devoid of anything that centuries of hard training are as nothing to, forgotten in the face of her, in the way she reaches into him and rips at the most vulnerable parts of his self with cut-throat efficiency.
But Nesta, Cauldron damn her, just presses on cool and matter-of-fact, “I don’t really see what you’re complaining about myself.” He frowns down at her, expression dark as the corrupt hearts that plague the Court of Nightmares as she informs him evenly, “I’ve never been able to fly – it didn’t do me any great harm.”
Cassian has been interrogated by hardened, seasoned battle commanders with hours of time and centuries of experience at their disposal and not one of them even came close to getting this deeply rooted under his skin as this woman – barely old enough to be considered one, even as a human – has done in the space of a few minutes with a handful of icy, calculated sentences.
She knows just where to hit, exactly what weaknesses to exploit to bait a reaction out of him and the look in her glittering, unyielding eyes tells him she knows it. Damn her she knows.
He steps up to her, towering over her even in her new Fae body and she just leans in to him, arrogant, unflinching pride radiating from every inch of her.
“But if you could have flown,” he growls in her face, his barely controlled anger pulsing through every syllable and the way she glares at him, the way she gets right back in his face tells him she relishes every breath of it, “And then one day they took your wings from you and chained you to the ground and stripped you of every bit of freedom and independence I know you crave-“
Her face tightens into a soundless snarl at those words, that daring I know you, and he smiles so slowly, savouring the taste of her weak spot and he presses his advantage, digging his fingers into the cracks he’s made in that gloriously indifferent armour of ice and steel she’s encased herself in, prising them open wider.
“It would have done you harm then,” he breathes with all the arrogant certainty he can muster, “It would have driven you mad-“
“Don’t talk about me like you understand me,” she snaps, that fire flaring as her mask of ice shatters.
A broad, lazy grin spreads across his face. There you are some deep, instinctual part of him purrs to her – the being she truly is, that burning seething wildfire trapped in this immortal prison by the Cauldron’s cruel will.
“Oh but I do,” he murmurs to her, taking another step towards her as those feral eyes dare to him to do, “I do. You can try and hide behind your mask and your finery and your contempt all you like but I see you. I see you, Nesta Archeron,” rage has transformed those cold, sculpted features into those of a snarling hellcat, “You are a wild beast in skin that they have caged and tried to tame your entire life but all you want to do is roar,” he lets his smile widen, eyes dancing as he adds, “Like me.”
“I am nothing like you,” she hurls at him, voice surging with the same promise of violence and destruction as a roaring hurricane. But it shifts and becomes sharp and precise as a razorblade when she hisses viciously, “Wasting away up here and feeling sorry for yourself – you’re pathetic,” she snarls at him, venom dripping from every word.
He watches as those walls lock into place around her again, afraid she’d somehow gotten in too deep so now she shoves him out with every bit of her considerable strength and will no matter how ruthless she needs to be to do it.
“One little set back and you’ve given up,” she sneers.
Set back? Set back?
Nothing without those wings.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” he rumbles, lethal warning pulsing from every word.
That smirk; that damned smirk snaps right back onto her lips beneath her flashing storm-tossed eyes because she knows she’s won. She knows that she’s managed to get his hackles up and has barely even broken a sweat in doing so. She knows that he’s on the defensive again and that’s exactly where she wants him to be.
“No?” she mocks, arching an elegant eyebrow at him. Her voice hardens once more into that line of frigid steel when she grinds out, “The way I see it shit happens and you deal with it.” She tosses a look loaded with contempt at him as she crosses her arms over her chest with a snide sneer, “Or you don’t,” she says, her eyes flickering pointedly to his ragged wings again.
“You have no idea what I’m dealing with,” he spits at her.
Nothing without those wings. Nothing without those wings. Nothing without those wings.
He doesn’t care that he’s making this easy for her. He doesn’t care that she’s somehow slipped beneath his skin and is digging deeper and deeper into him with every word. He doesn’t care about the thick, smothering tension that’s getting tauter between them with every second, pulling the air from their lungs and the sense from their selves and making it more and more likely that one of them is going to do something incredibly stupid if it isn’t eased soon.
All he cares about is the challenge in her eyes and the way his blood roars at him to rise to it.
Her eyes narrow and lightning flashes in them as she straightens her spine and stares him down with something terrible burning in her blood as her mouth twists itself into a wordless snarl. And though he stands almost a clear foot taller than her, the rage that gathers from very part of her could make him tremble like nothing he’s seen in over five centuries of war and battle and bloodshed could do – such anger – anger that could level worlds and bring deities to their knees is all directed at him as she moves in so close that in a shiver he could touch her.
“No?” she whispers, words shaking with barely controlled fury, fury she’s trying so hard to leash to herself but with little success, “I have no idea? I have no idea?” she repeats, throwing his words back at him.
Her eyes are now glowing slits in her face and he realises then, realises that this is bigger than him and the sharp words they’ve been tossing back and forth, biting and baiting and testing each other’s limits, feeling each other out again after the things that have changed.
He’s caused something much deeper and darker in her to snap and make her forget the armour of indifference she’s used to shield herself from the world for so long. Because when she snarls the next words at him he sees, sees the cracks that splinter and fissure right down to the core of her where her ice and steel give way to vulnerability.
“They didn’t take you and stuff you into that Cauldron and turn you into something else – something you despise against your will,” her voice cracks with rage and despair and something like grief – grief for what she was, what she lost, what was taken from her.
Her breathing shudders as she goes on, apparently unable to stop herself now that she’s begun and this time her words tremble, tapping into a vein of emotion in her so deep that the impact it has on her – on him – staggers him.
“And they didn’t make you watch, make you feel helpless, and powerless, and weak as they did the same thing to the person you love most while you couldn’t do a single damn thing about it,” she rages, stamping her foot in a futile bid to relieve some of the crushing, unbearable pressure that’s hammering down on her soul.
Cassian had watched, watched as they’d dragged both girls to the Cauldron and forced them under. He’d listened to Nesta’s howling screams, seen her fight like a snared beast to get to Elain, felt that desire to tear her own being into shreds and all the world too for spite and for the sake of her sister. He’d felt her terror and her pain through that promise he’d made her, that bond he’d forged between them – the oath that had killed him when he’d failed to keep it.
The agony in his wings had been too much and he had tried, Mother damn him he had tried. Tried to keep that promise, tried to protect her, tried to die fighting on her behalf as he’d sworn to her he would. It had destroyed a part of him when the pain had knocked him unconscious and stopped him going to her. He had failed. He had failed her. He had broken his vow. And that thought had haunted him since waking almost as much as the enormity of losing his wings had.
And if that was what watching had been like for him, what it had done to him, then to her…
“You chose this,” she hurls at him, her fury dragging him back to her like a leash on his soul pulling it in to hers.
Her hands clenching into fists at her sides as she fights to keep herself together; tries to stop herself from shattering entirely. And some part of him, some mad, wild part of him wants to reach out to her, to fold her into his arms and shelter her from it all. But the sane, rational part of him that remains tells him she would never allow him.
Her chest is heaving with the effort of containing the raw emotion that throws itself against her soul with the force of a relentless, furious ocean slamming itself against a steadily shattering cliff-face, emotion that he can somehow feel radiating out of her – anger and pain and grief and guilt and he understands.
With the impact of those three words he understands everything.
The difference in what they’d endured and all the fury and contempt she felt for him and his pain when she…
“You chose to shield your friend, your brother-“ as she had failed to shield her sister, “You chose to protect him this way- You chose.” Chose. As she would have. If they had given her that chance. “Was it not worth it?”