In This World And The Next And All The Ones Before
“Why did you come here?” Nesta asked as he placed his head in her lap. There were a million other places he could’ve gone. Either of his brother’s, his best friend who thought she was stuck-up… And yet, he showed up at her door past midnight with a request.
“Hold me,” he had asked her, leading her to the couch he had once made fun of for being purely decorative and unreasonably stiff. He was stone cold sober, she could tell, and wasn’t sure whether to be surprised or concerned that that couldn’t be his excuse to have appeared at such an ungodly hour. Especially after not hearing from him for over a week.
“I couldn’t stay away,” he murmured. “I know you don’t mind.” He boldly and correctly assumed, then noted, “You’re wearing my shirt.” The one he had dropped off at her office when she felt like she was suffocating in her tight blouse. It was his favorite shirt, but he thought it looked better on her anyway.
“So what if I am?” She was wearing the watch he had given her, too. It was nothing too fancy, but he had grown tired of her losing track of time and using “no watch” as an excuse when she showed up late to dinner and apologized with a kiss. He never minded the apology kisses, though.
“And you’re about to run your fingers through my hair because I’m so irresistible to you.” He teased, but she could hear the exhaustion that coated his already husky voice.
Cassian had found her and it took a lot of courage and pride-swallowing to do it. No one ever cared enough to do that for her. No one.
Tentatively, Nesta placed her hand on his back as he made himself at home on her thighs.
Nesta ran her fingers through his thick ebony locks. Though still long, he had cut it since she saw him last. As though he had freshened up just for her.
Again, she felt like utter shit for yelling at him, saying that he was both scared or incapable of change of any kind. She didn’t want him to change. Not his personality, not his appearance, not his life, not his friends nor his job. Cassian was the best thing she ever had.
She thought herself a hypocrite… Cassian had come into her life- or more accurately she into his- And what? Showed her what honor was? Reminded her of how suffocating her life in the town is? How much potential she has in life…and love? He shook her, woke her up.
Cassian was an old soul, but it was Nesta who truly didn’t like change.
In her experience, change was bad. Change meant her mother dying. Change meant her father losing their money before joining her mother in death. Change meant her baby sister resenting her and fighting with her.
Change with Cassian meant warmth…unconditional warmth. This was unfamiliar territory.
“What are you doing awake?” He relaxed his body, nearly purring at the affection she was giving him. “Your lights were on.”
She didn’t want to lie. She didn’t want to snap. Not when she had shown that he could be vulnerable with her- in his way. “I missed you.” Truth, as she had barely slept since their fight. “I was writing about it.”
“About me?” His belly rumbled with a laugh for a moment. He quickly became serious, not wanting to ruin the moment. “I missed you too, Nes. I drive past here every day when I take the logs to town… I park at the end of your drive before convincing myself that you don’t want to see me.”
Nesta’s hand slid down his back as she leaned down to kiss his shoulder and inhale the pine scent she had so desperately missed. “I did want to see you,” she whispered. “I always want to see you. Even when I’m mad. Even when I’m sad. Especially then.”
“I’ll keep that in mind next time I lose my patience and let you walk out the door.” He meant it. She knew he meant it. In a small voice he asked, “Can we be okay now, Nes?”
In an equally quiet voice she whispered, “I’d like that.” More than anything she wanted him, wanted them. Wanted their present and future.
It only felt natural when Nesta folded herself onto him, covering his body with her own. As if they had done it in a million worlds before, and she hoped they would in the next million.
Silently, she thought of why and how she had fallen in love with him…
He challenged her, though was never condescending. And he let her challenge him without running away scared. People always thought she was a bitch…maybe she was… But he would ride out a conversation with her till the very end.
When they first met, they thought they could hardly stand one another. She secretly liked that he didn't treat her like glass. Like she was worth the breath it took to volley an argument or discussion. No matter how angry, he always listened to her, always saw her.
On the anniversary of her broken engagement and one of the worst nights of her life, she had gone out alone and got utterly shitfaced and was unable to reach a cab service. She didn’t want Feyre to know or Elain to be worried, and she didn’t have much in the way of friends, so she called him. The person whose opinion she thought she didn’t care for…
Staggering out of the bar, he picked her up and carried her to his truck. Didn’t even complain when they pulled over twice so she could vomit.
That was the first night he stayed over. He got the vomit out of her hair and braided it back before tucking her into bed. He slept on the sofa and left her an omelette and smoothie in the fridge before sneaking out, writing her a note with his home number to call in case she needed or wanted a decent drinking buddy, and that she wouldn’t have to go to some dive that scared even him.
On their first date, he held his hand out for her to take. “In case you get nervous,” he said as she interlaced her fingers with his. “You can hold onto me and hide your face in my chest, too if you get scared.” She did get scared, but he didn’t push it. Though he didn’t have the decency to hide his smug grin when she yelped and clutched his bicep during the big jump-scare scene. She surprised him by later admitting, “I knew I was safe the whole time.”
He raised an eyebrow, “Because of me? I’m flattered, sweetheart.”
“Because of me, actually.“ She played with the buttons of her coat. “Rules of horror.”
He stopped in his tracks and folded his arms. “I’m not following.”
She felt safe with him, and wanted to let him in. But she wasn't used to being vulnerable, so she closed her eyes when she uttered, “I’m a virgin.”
Eyes still closed, Nesta heard Cassian’s soft intake of breath before she felt him.
He put his hands on her shoulders and whispered, “That’s okay.” She opened her eyes and couldn’t stop herself from hugging him. The smug bastard, ex-fighter, lumberjack with a heart of gold. He assured her that there was no shame in her sexual status. “Promise to shield me? I’m definitely not a virgin and I’m not white, so my life expectancy is fucking abysmal. Plus, I probably make too many jokes.“ He shrugged. “I’d outlive Rhys, though, which is a consolation…”
She laughed at him. He made her laugh. She never laughed before him. Not like this, not genuinely.
He made her laugh harder than she ever had before when he karaoked, “I’m the Only One,” by Melissa Etheridge to cheer her up after a long work week. His shamelessness and big heart were the most attractive qualities about this ruggedly handsome man.
When all the trees had been sold because she waited last minute, she went home to find him waiting at her door with the most beautiful Christmas tree she had ever seen in her life. He helped her put the star on top and made his famous eggnog while she baked the only thing she knew how: chocolate gingerbread cookies.
When she needed to talk, he would drive. Even in the middle of the night. Driving until she was ready to open up. One night he drove to the cliffs just outside of town and they got out. Sobbing and slamming her fists at his chest, she recounted something she never told anyone.
She and Elain had been kidnapped. They had been saved, but not after they had nearly drowned.
A year later, he found them again. Elain stabbed him on sight. Nesta, not wanting her sister to have blood on her hands, finished the job so he could never hurt them or anyone else again.
Screaming in anguish, he held her close. Reminding her that nothing could harm her here, with him. She asked if he was scared of her and he told her he wasn’t, he never could be. He took her hand and placed it on his heart, vowing to protect her and those she loves until his heart stopped beating.
She kissed him that night and she hadn’t been able to stop since.
They took it fast. They took it slow. She knew he wanted to have sex with her from the first moment they had been introduced. Cassian was passionate, and he let that passion flow into any aspect of their relationship that he could.
For her birthday, he had half-jokingly offered to go down on her. She dragged him away from the party and to his room, telling him that they could both give birthday spankings… They did. Cassian thoroughly enjoyed getting spanked by his birthday girl.
When she lifted her skirt up and removed her underwear she hoped he wouldn’t notice the few and small opalescent marks above her knee, on her inner thigh. But he did. Of course he did. He noticed everything.
“That’s what happens when your adolescent growth spurt mercilessly hits you like a ton of bricks,” she said as he used the tip of his fingers to graze the slight dips in her otherwise perfect skin.
He tried and failed to imagine a time in which Nesta was gangly or awkward, so he pressed his lips on each of the marks before hitching her legs over his shoulders.
And he went down on her. Making sure she was comfortable before he quickly darted his tongue on her bundle of nerves. It was amazing, and she wanted more. So he gave her more. Inserting two fingers and massaging her insides slowly, dragging the tips along the ceiling of her temple. When he finished her off, she moaned his name and nearly ripped his hair out.
Before rejoining the party, he held her until she stopped shaking. Whispering phrases in Spanish that she didn’t find out the meaning of until much later…
“Eso fue hermoso. Eres hermosa…”
“Eres incluso más dulce de lo que imaginé. Como la miel…”
“Si me lo pidieras, enviaría a todos a casa y te lamería toda la noche.”
Sighing aloud, she continued reminiscing on the reasons she loved him, then and now. Right now it was because he was warming her heart and body with his own.
Unbeknownst to Nesta, Cassian was also thinking of the reasons why he loved her, why he couldn’t stay away.
Nesta was as tenacious as she was magnificent. Quick witted and scrappy. He knew many fantastic women, but Nesta was on a completely different level.
He could be all of the sides of himself with her. It terrified him, to be like an exposed nerve, but he knew Nesta would settle for no less and would not open up otherwise. Nor should she, after all she had been put through in her life. He could be happy with her. He could let his weaknesses be known. He could talk with her when he needed to, or be quiet and contemplative.
He talked about his childhood. His early childhood. He said he was likely “smuggled over the border with bricks of cocaine” and tossed away. Rhys’s mother fostered him, though he didn’t make it easy on them, and then legally adopted him. A few years later, Azriel showed up and everything changed. He never forgot the kindness and generosity she showed him. He mourned her and Rhys’s sister every day and never again wanted to take for granted any good thing that came into his life.
He counted Nesta on the list of good things.
When he hugged her, even in public, she would let him hold her for as long as he wanted. What a sight they must be, he thought, the prim postured princess and the grass stained flannel and bomber jacket clad behemoth with permanently dirt crusted boots. Goodie Two-Shoes and The Filthy Beast.
He thought about the time he helped her move out of her shithole and into this new place…
He found a box of old CD’s. He couldn’t help himself pulling out a worn copy of “From Under the Cork Tree” and waving it in her face, her eyes bulging. “Those are a friend’s.” Nesta flinched at her transparent lie. “I don’t even know how they ended up here.”
“Hmm..” Cassian tapped the CD case and bellowed off-key, “CUT MY LIFE INTO PIECES! THIS IS MY-”
He was cut off by Nesta screeching and fighting to cover his mouth. “THAT SONG ISN’T EVEN BY THEM, YOU UNCULTURED MOUNTAIN MAN!”
Throwing his head back, he howled with laughter as she crossed her arms and asked, “So, Mr. Rompe Will Be My Wedding Song, how do you even know this music?”
“Well, Miss Season Six Buffy Was My Aesthetic,” his eyes gleamed with amusement. “Little sunshine Amren went through an emo phase in her youth as well.”
Nesta wasn’t terribly surprised at all by that reveal, but bit her cheek to keep from smiling.
“Do you have mix CDs? What was your profile song? I know you had one.” This was just too good to be true. His mind reeled as he gave a lopsided grin.
“Yes and get over it. I’ll never tell.” Nesta surprised him. She was constantly surprising him. He loved that. He loved her.
He looked at her in a way in which his hazel eyes said, “I love you. I am so in love with you. I am yours and you are mine, and we both know it.” Tilting her chin up with his forefinger and thumb, he kissed her. Slow and steady, but sinking into her completely. They had passionately kissed before, they had hungrily made out whilst groping each other. When she had gotten comfortable enough, she asked to see his cock that she had raised and made throb. With her permission, he guided her soft hand to it. Experimentally, she pumped it once…twice…It was her first time and she wanted to do it properly for him, so he instructed her through the beginnings…“Lick your thumb and rub it on the tip…FUCK!…Good girl…Tighter!…That’s it…” He hadn’t expected her to finish him and definitely didn’t expect it when she didn’t pull her hand away in disgust as he spilled onto his jeans.
This sort of kissing, the kind they did right there in her emptied house she was soon to be free of, a different kind of electricity sparked when their tongues danced and she pulled herself closer to him by reaching under his shirt to his warm back and fisting the collar of his paint splattered t-shirt. Toying with the waistband of her skirt for a moment, he proceeded to squeeze her ass with his permanently calloused hands. They both moaned into each other’s mouths before Nesta broke away.
Wiping her mouth and fixing her shirt so that it wasn’t so obvious as to how erect her nipples were, she said, “So are you going to help me move these boxes, or are those tree trunk thick arms of yours just for show?”
Cassian wanted so badly to pick up the bait, but he didn’t. “Sweetheart, I could load all these boxes up within five minutes and still have the strength and stamina to carry you to the truck. Then unload everything without breaking a sweat.“
Though he did accomplish the tasks within the time limits he set for himself, he did break a sweat. Not that Nesta minded.
After unloading the last of the boxes, Nesta led him to the mattress that she had yet to find a frame or box spring for, and slowly removed all her clothing. Then she removed his, kissing each of his tattoos as they became uncovered. Taking his hands in her own with complete trust in her eyes, she laid them down on the bed together.
That night, they christened her new home. It was her first time and she loved that it was with him. He felt honored to be the one she chose. As cliche as it was, they exchanged “I love you’s” before, during, and after.
Nesta had trusted him that night. And again she put her trust in him tonight. One of the many things he loved about her.
Their relationship was constantly evolving and he wanted it to evolve again, so he took a chance.
“Move in with me, Nes.”
Not a second later, she responded. “Yes.”
“Take me to bed soon?”
Again, she kissed his shoulder blade- his “wings”- and assured him, “In this world and the next, sweetheart. And all the ones before.”