Nessian, 2.9k, Rated T
A/N: This is based on the moment in ACOWAR when Nesta admits that she can’t take baths anymore because of Hybern. I wanted Cassian to help her out with her fear.
Nesta stared at the tub filled with an ankle deep of water. Her breath came out shaky, causing small waves to form over the surface. A towel wrapped around her skin, and the fabric irritatingly rubbed against her body. She knew there was no possibility of submerging herself in the water, two buckets were already filled beside it, but she wanted to try dipping her foot in. Just for a bit. Feyre had already contracted someone to install a shower, but it wasn’t going to be finished for another two weeks. Thus, Nesta continued her routine of using buckets.
Inside, Nesta knew she must look ridiculous, for she was staring at a seemingly empty bathtub. There was nothing in that water that would hurt her, not something that shallow at least. She would lift her leg and dip a toe, nothing more. That would be enough. All of her muscles seemed locked in place as her mind urged her leg to twitch towards the water. She could barely breathe the longer she stared, her thoughts circling around the image of Elain being shoved in those waters, not knowing whether her sister or a corpse would escape. Those moments when Nesta could hear her own heart thundering in her chest, even without Fae hearing. Then, Nesta’s thoughts raced to her own drowning. The tight grip of the Hybern soldiers’s hands on her body. The rage coursing through her as she pointed her finger. The flooding of her lungs—
“By the Cauldron! I am so sorry!”
Nesta whipped around faster than one could winnow to see Cassian standing in the doorway.
“What. The hell. Cassian.”
He was already retreating out the door, covering his eyes with his forearm. “I’m sorry Nesta. I thought—‘
“Did no one ever teach you to knock when there’s a closed door?”
“Closed, Cassian, the door was closed.” Her breathing came out incredibly ragged, and she practically shrieked, “Get out!”
She turned with every ounce of dignity she had left.
“What are those?”
Her voice came out very clipped. “What do you mean, what are those?”
His silence stretched on between them, daring her to turn around. She only allowed her head to graze over her shoulder before she saw he was not looking anywhere near her. Instead, his gaze locked on the buckets on the floor, and his eyes showed where his thoughts were going.
“Cassian. I said get out,” she snarled at him as she turned to face him fully.
“Nesta, are those—“
“They’re nothing,” she breathed, losing all courage from before, “Just leave.”
His head nodded at the order, still not looking at her as he left, lost in his own mind. When he closed the door, she walked over to check the lock and rested her back against the wall. Cassian’s interruption dragged more fight out of her than she thought it would, and she couldn’t motivate herself to even approach the tub let alone dip her toes. Her fight mellowed the longer she stood there, and she slid to the floor.
Too damn weak. She felt so inadequate that she couldn’t even stand. Everything seemed unnecessary beyond her inability to clean herself. Last time she washed was yesterday. She hadn’t done anything strenuous today, so she could wait. She could wait until tomorrow when she would have to wrestle with herself all over again to enter the bathroom and fill the buckets. When she drenched herself in their water, she would always hold her breath and move as quickly as possible. Her record was six bucketfuls, she didn’t think she could handle anything beyond that.
The water was surely cold by now, and as she stood to empty it, her legs shook. Plunging her hand into the tub for the drain, her eyes closed and she felt two silent tears slowly run down her face. The gurgling of the water was the only noise for a while until she heaved the buckets up to drain in the bath as well. Her towel somehow stayed snug against her body the whole time, and she hid the pails under the sink before leaving the room. Where she saw a hulking bat sitting across the hallway from her.
His lips moved as if to speak, but Nesta shot him a glare and practically ran to her room. She heard him follow her, but she just moved faster before slamming her door in his face.
As quickly as she could, she disrobed and dressed herself as he sighed on the other side.
“Nesta—“ he paused, as if wondering if she was going to let him continue—“I’m sorry about earlier. I was debriefing Rhys downstairs and was walking backwards into the door. I didn’t see it was closed. My apologies.”
She could hear him turning to walk away, but for whatever cauldron-damned reason, she opened her door.
“You weren’t there.”
His back strained at her words and his wings hitched slightly.
“Nesta, you know that ever since Hy—“
“Not there. I know there’s nothing you could have done. I don’t think you do, but that’s for another time.”
He was facing her now, and his jaw worked as if he were going to say something. She held up her hand. “Let me finish. You weren’t at the meeting with Graysen.” She took a deep breath, somehow this private admission a million times harder than the one that she made so long ago. “Your eyes were on those buckets, and your thoughts seemed to be working faster than your mind could handle. So I, ah, guess you should hear it from me before you draw your own conclusions. Taking a bath is pretty difficult after —“ she gestured pathetically with her arms—“everything. Feyre’s getting a, what do you call it? A shower installed. It’ll be another two weeks, so I use buckets instead of a bath. I wanted to see if I could dip my feet today, or at least my toes,” she sighed, “turns out I’m a little too pathetic for even that.”
She didn’t realize that she never once looked at him the whole time, but when she did, his face was completely stricken with devastation. Her fingers scratched behind her ear, and she attempted to walk past him.
“Nesta.” His hand was on her arm and his gaze was intense. “Nothing about your situation is pathetic. We share at lot of sexual jokes, but I’m serious when I say I have a shower at my house that you can use in the mean time. If you need to. Want to.”
She’d never admit how grateful she was at his offer, but the look in his eyes showed that maybe he could feel her relief. “Thanks. I’ll think about it.”
Their gazes locked for a moment longer, before she turned to leave and his hand left her arm.
At Ritas that evening, the whole inner circle enjoyed a night out including Elain and Nesta. All together, they shared a few drinks though Nesta drank less than everyone and sat completely erect on a barstool. Their group swayed along to whatever tempo they pleased while Nesta stared amazed that even Amren joined in their revelry. Looking at them all, she knew she could join them, in fact, they’d already encouraged her multiple times. Cassian never directly asked her once, but his eyes skirted over to hers almost too often. As if now that she told him her fear, she would shatter if left to her own devices.
Nesta slowly nursed her water at his excessiveness until the prick behind her shoved into her the bar.
“Excuse—“ Nesta started as she turned around.
Her voice was drowned out by the fighting males behind her. And the full mug of ale that completely drenched her outfit. There was no time to become angry at her sodden state. The fighting pair continued as though nothing happened, and Nesta just stared at herself mouth agape.
“Hey, Hey, Hey, HEY.”
Nesta looked up at that.
Cassian stood with his arms erect, breaking up the fight. His words were hushed between the two swaying drunks. Whatever he said calmed them, and his main tactic seemed to be forcing them to break eye contact by repeatedly claiming “look at me”. Nesta heard him say it so much that she didn’t realize he was saying it to her until she looked up.
His eyes were inches from her face and stared at her with concern. “There you are.” He gave her a small smile. “Are you okay?”
“Of course I’m okay. I wasn’t in that fight,” she hummed, “Can you get out of my face?”
He moved as if he just now realized their proximity and skirted his gaze down her dress. With his raised eyebrows, she couldn’t help but look too. “Nesta, I’d always thought I’d see you wet, but these were not quite the circumstances I was imagining.”
Nesta’s jaw dropped for a second time that evening. “Is there a real reason you came over here? Or did you just want to make some poorly timed innuendos and have to disrupt that fight to do it?”
“If you must know—” he leaned in close again—“your damp state seemed like you were going to need to wash.”
Nesta froze. She had not thought about that part of her evening yet.
“And I thought maybe you’d…want to come to my place.” The last words came so fast that she almost thought she misheard him. Almost. Which was why her response felt like too much.
“Fine. But you’re not allowed any more innuendos.”
He put his hands up in defense but wore a grin of satisfaction before leading the way out.
Not a word was spoken between them as they winded through the streets of Velaris. Nesta’s anxiety grew the longer they walked. From an outsider perspective, their situation would look promiscuous as he took her home, but there was nothing sexual about their silence. They weaved their way through town, down alleys, and Nesta could’ve sworn they‘d cross the Sidra twice. The peace shared between them seemed so delicate that Nesta had no desire to break it, especially since Cassian was offering so much to let her use his shower. A slight breeze passed, and Nesta’s dress, clinging to her body now that it was soaked, caused her to shiver.
She could feel Cassian look at her out of the corner of his eye and almost snapped. Tear him apart for taking them in a seemingly pointless journey through Velaris when there had to be a better route. Her mouth opened slightly to voice—
“Here we are,” Cassian gestured to a single brick townhouse, identical to all the others on the street. To Nesta’s surprise, every window had a lush garden growing in boxes underneath them. Cassian walked up the stairs, and Nesta stared at his back without really seeing it.
“Do all Illyrians in this city live in townhouses?” Nesta inquired.
Cassian jangled his keys, and Nesta began to ascend the stairs after him. “At least we’re not compensating for anything—” he turned to wink at her—“But considering there’s only three of us, yes we all do.”
Nesta scoffed at that and stepped aside as Cassian opened the door. As though he forgot she was there, he stumbled into his home without any bravado, not even turning on a light, and lightly made his away upstairs.
“Nesta, there’s definitely no water out there. If you would like to enjoy the particulars of indoor plumbing, you’ll need to follow me to the bedroom,” he called as he turned towards her.
“We agreed on no innuendos.”
“And there has yet to be one. The only bathroom with a shower here is upstairs—“ he turned back around—“So my offer still stands, but you’ll need to enter the room where I sleep.”
Nesta padded up after him.
His bathroom was huge. Everything in it was built to accommodate wings, making it all three times larger than necessary. What she assumed was his shower had three spigots each with two handles underneath. Cassian left her there unceremoniously, and she’d already stripped herself bare. Though she claimed she would be fine, there were too many levers and the water shot down in a pounding waves so hard that Nesta immediately turned it off, scared of its power. She cracked the door open.
“Cassian,” she practically whispered as if he’d be right inside his bedroom. No response.
“Cassian.” Much louder.
Footsteps sounded from downstairs, and she waited for his approach. She felt like an uncivilized idiot who couldn’t even learn how to use a freaking shower.
Someone tapped lightly on the door. “Can I come in, Nesta?” he sounded incredibly tired on the other side. She let him in.
“I don’t know how to work the shower,” she stated, “I mean I don’t know how to make the water more tolerable.”
He just stared at her. “Is the rain okay?”
“You’ve been out in the rain since the cauldron. Is the rain okay?”
She thought back to memories of such gloomy weather and nodded. With those directions, he turned some dials on the faucets and spun the handles so water came out.
“That should feel like a light storm. If all three are too much, just use the one in the middle. The knobs underneath control the water temperature.”
A wave of exhaustion passed through her so strong that she had nothing to remind him that she knew how to turn it on. She left it at, “Thank you.”
As he left, he called, “When you’re done, just come get me to bring you home. I’ll be downstairs.”
She nodded before he turned and walked away. The bathroom that once seemed huge, now appeared tiny. Nothing in that room mattered except for the dripping water. Nesta stared at it a little, astonished that Cassian had been so generous throughout this whole situation. After so many years in that hovel, she was trained not to waste water, no matter how much she wished she could just stare at it and be clean. The towel dropped to the floor as she caught a waft of her beer-ladder self. Tentatively, she raised her arm and let the water cascade down. She could stop herself whenever she felt, but she chose to step over the tiny ledge on the floor anyway.
The sensation of all that water hitting her at once was too much. The warmth of it enveloping her to a point of choking that she blindly grasped for the faucet on her right, shutting the flow off immediately. On her other side, she fumbled more, but still managed to find it rather quickly. Above her, water came at a calming, leisurely rate. She closed her eyes. It’s just rain. It’s just rain. It’s just rain.
Her breathing slowed, slightly.
She could do this.
She’d already stood there for longer than those buckets could ever drench her. That thought though, forced herself to exit the stream. Her toes remained wet. She couldn’t help but think of only a few hours ago when she’d restrained from even putting her foot in the water. A sharp laugh escaped her.
Lathering herself in soap and washing multiple times, Nesta could only stand in the water for maybe a minute at a time before believing the shower a rainstorm washed away. All in all, she stayed there for maybe seven minutes. A short wash for anyone else, but the longest Nesta had had in months. Though they’d won the war, this felt like Nesta’s largest victory. Cassian’s towel felt like velvet as she wrapped herself in it, wondering if she just thought that way because of the significance of her evening.
Outside, folded neatly on the bed, were a small stack of clothes meant for her. She quietly wandered downstairs to find Cassian. As she passed through his living room, she thought maybe he was in the kitchen only to find it empty. Rather, after some insistent searching, she found him curled on the couch, his wings forming a cocoon in place of blanket, making it appear as though he never meant to fall asleep.
His face seemed peaceful, more so than she had maybe ever seen it. After everything he had done for her tonight, he deserved some rest. She found a blanket and draped him in it before realizing that with his hulking form, there was really no place for her to sleep down here. Scrambling back up the stairs was her only option. First, she opened the door across the hall from his room, hoping to find a guest suite, but it was an office filled with maps and strategies. Which meant her only option was his bed. It felt like a personal intrusion, but the more exhausted part of her mind reminded her she’d already used his shower, so why not surrender to the comforts of his sheets.
Immediately, his scent invaded her nose the tighter she tucked herself in, but she found it intoxicating. A depressant stronger than any alcohol consumed that evening. She pulled the sheets tightly, almost feeling like Cassian was there with her. After almost no time at all, she fell asleep, her dreams filled with not a single drop of water.
In the morning, Cassian woke her up by poking her shoulder. They’d shared a small smile before he walked her home, and again neither of them said anything until they reached Rhys’s home where Nesta thanked him. Then, kissed him on the cheek, an action that surprised them both.
No matter how much shock there was though, Cassian welcomed her to his home for showers every day before Feyre got one installed. And thankfully never commented when she occasionally stopped in after it was.