also can we talk about the fact that the liches gave a whole speech about how suffering was a more powerful force than love, and then in a complete and utter luke skywalker moment, the boys threw a major wrench in their plans completely relying on THE POWER OF LOVE
Lance puts his foot down, and Shiro/Slav have a long overdue talk.
Shiro never figured Lance for the snapping type. They all had their moments, under the constant stress of intergalactic rebellion, but Lance kept a reasonably calm lid on it – his self-titled “rivalry” with Keith aside. Looking at him now, there is only surprise at the way he’s holding himself, the set of his expression: Lance looks both nervous and pissed off.
‘Keith – could you give us a minute?’ he says, in a deliberately calm voice. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Keith hesitate, as if reading the tenseness of the situation and worrying that it might get out of hand. ‘Now, Keith. Go check on Slav’s sector.’
Reluctantly, and with a suspicious look at them both, Keith exits. Lance looks even more nervous when he does. More so when silence settles on them, and he raises a brow at Lance. Well? says the look, say what you have to.
‘I just… you’re way too hard on him,’ Lance repeats, a far cry from the irritated way he’d snapped Can’t you just cut Slav some slack? ‘He’s trying to help, Shiro. I-it’s not… he doesn’t mean to annoy you. It’s just how he… is.’
‘Excuse me?’ His previous calm turns to surprise. He keeps his voice low, not meaning to menace – but Lance scowls a little deeper, mistaking it for nonchalance. ‘Don’t, Shiro. You sound just like Iverson when you do that, a-and he was an ass,’ Lance says, voice rising only in pitch. Angry and nervous, like a cornered cat. Shiro takes a small step back to give him breathing room, but Lance stays tense. ‘Slav only wants to help. You treating him like a nuisance isn’t – it’s not fair, okay. He can’t help being jumpy; he was a prisoner for ages –’
It takes a second or two for that to sink in. When Shiro goes quiet, when his stare goes vacant as he processes this, Lance steps forward, speech picking up momentum as he grew more defensive.
‘– and it’s not easy to adapt out here,’ there’s a note of hurt in his voice, and it hits Shiro more than the chastising. ‘Slav got taken from his people and thrown into a war just like we did. He’s handling it different. YOU handled it different, we all did. I thought you’d understand him because of it, since you both got tortured by the Galra.’
That’s almost an accusation, and now Shiro fully understands what has Lance so fired up, so recalcitrant. And that understanding brings with it a sense of guilt, especially with the way Lance had said I THOUGHT you’d understand.
“let’s keep this between the two of us.” Azriel and Feyre?
“Let’s keep this between the two of us, okay?” Feyre mutters to Az as he slips, unobtrusively into her bedchamber and she jumps to her feet, hurrying to meet him.
The shadowsinger just nods, ever dutiful to his High Lady’s every wish.
“No-one saw you come up here, did they?” she can’t help herself asking anxiously, glancing over his shoulder as though expecting Rhys to burst through the door at any moment and catch them together.
Azriel just gives her a flat look that implies he’s insulted she would even ask such a thing of him. Perks of being a super spy, she supposes.
“Alright, I’m ready,” she says, holding out a hand in invitation. Azriel grips it tightly and they winnow into shadow and darkness. They emerge moments later onto the pleasantly warm Velaris streets, pleasantly bustling but not overly crowded, something neither of them would have appreciated.
They set off together, Azriel quietly leading the way while Feyre follows, smiling and nodding at some of the people they pass who wave greetings to her. “Thanks so much for this, Az,” she puffs out, checking her bag to ensure she brought her purse with her. She doesn’t usually, typically relying on the convenient credit she has in most stores, but she doesn’t want Rhys to have any inclination of her purchase today. “You’re a lifesaver.”
“It’s no trouble,” he says, leading them down into a quiet, shaded street and walking to the very end, a small store tucked into the corner. “I live to serve at the High Lady’s pleasure.” She squints up at him, one eyebrow raised, and he smirks. “And entertaining as his last birthday was, I understand it’s not an experience you want to repeat.”
“No,” Feyre groans, burying her face in a hand at the shame of it. She has many talents and she loves her mate dearly, as Azriel knows, but gift buying has never been her strong-suit. And the bastard has a habit of finding exactly what she wants every single year without fail. Just once she wants to get him something absolutely perfect. Fortunately, she has a secret weapon in the form of Azriel.
“Really though,” she grumbles, pushing into the shop after him, “Who’s allergic to strawberries?”
“Rhys,” Azriel hums simply in that way that implies he knows everything in the world and that nothing could ever surprise him.
Well, he had been surprised last year when Rhys had taken a large bite from one of the chocolates she had delightedly given him and then promptly started choking. The shadowsinger hadn’t been expecting that. Unfortunately neither had she.
“And Keir,” he adds as an apparently innocent afterthought.
Feyre blinks, startled, looking round at him. She supposes it’s not too odd, Keir and Rhys are related, even distantly. Still, “I suspect that comes from the list you have tucked away somewhere that details every known method of killing that bastard; not a concern for the steward’s meal choices?” She muses lightly. That tugs a small, dark smirk out of Az.
Azriel leads her to the back of the shop then stops in front of one of the small, dusty glass-fronted cabinets to let her see what he’s picked out for her. She opens her mouth to point out that the display is stuffed full of items, she isn’t sure which one he means, but she stops when she sees it, her face lighting up in a smile. Hugging a rather startled Az she whispers, “It’s perfect.” And is relieved when he accepts the hug, smiling, patting her rather awkwardly on the shoulder to convey his acceptance of her gratitude.
Once Feyre has made her purchase and had it carefully wrapped up by the owner, who seems friendly with Azriel, well, as friendly as anyone can be with him, the two wander back out onto the streets of Velaris. Feyre insists on dragging him into a nearby shop and pressing a large amount of fine differently coloured balls of wool into Az’s protesting hands and then further insists on taking him for a quiet cup of tea.
She rarely spends time alone with the shadowsinger, he always seems to be out somewhere on some secret mission sometimes she doubts even Rhys knows about. That or closeted up in his room with Mor, enjoying the time he has with her. Usually she only has conversations with him like this when they all go to Rita’s and neither of them feel much like dancing for an hour or so.
It’s nice, though. Azriel has a quiet, oddly calming presence, even with the shadows darting around him, whispering, always whispering. There’s a comfort to being around him, a sense of safety, and an odd feeling that she could tell him anything and he would simply nod and understand. As a result, Az is the one she’s gone to more times than she can count when she’s had a difficult decision about the court to make that she doesn’t want to put on her mate. He inevitably listens to all she has to say and offers a few quiet insights that help her make up her mind. She values his opinion, and his friendship, more highly than she thinks he’ll ever know.
Not longer after they’ve sat down in a comfortable booth by the window, they’re both brought two teas and slices of cake that she hadn’t ordered, but that she suspects Azriel did, given that they’re both topped with liberal amounts of strawberries and that their arrival prompts a rare, mischievous smile to blossom across his lips.
Feyre nibbles at her cake then decides now is as good a time as any to bring up what she wants to, as well as have her revenge for this little dig about the strawberries. Looking slyly at Az over the rim of her cup she says innocently, “I’m sorry to take you away from Mor, I know you just got back, you must have been wanting to spend some time with her.”
Azriel just blinks at her, saying nothing, as he drops a lump of sugar into his tea. Then another. Then another. She’s discovered, from these little retreats they make to this place from time to time when they both need a little peace and quiet, that he takes an inordinate amount of sugar in his tea. He had confessed to her once, with a small smile, that it was his one and only weakness.
Finally, carefully, too carefully, Azriel says, “I’ll have plenty of time to brief Mor, later.” Yes, brief her, amongst other things.
“Mm,” Feyre muses, taking a small sip of tea, “Wouldn’t you rather have spent the morning with her than me?”
Azriel blinks, apparently genuinely bemused by this comment, “You’re my friend, Feyre,” he says quietly, sincerely, “I like spending time with both of you.” Damn. She really should leave the subtlety and intrigue up to Az as well as the gift choosing. And he’s too earnest and good-natured, there’s no fun in teasing him at all.
“Azriel,” she says quietly, a soft smile tugging at her lips, “I know.” He blinks owlishly up at her again, clearly implying you know what? And she just scowls at him because if she doesn’t get to tease him then she’s not playing games with him either.
A deep flush of colour burns into Az’s cheeks as he stares at her, “How?” he rasps eventually and she smirks smugly at him.
“You’re not the only one who can know other people’s secrets, Az,” she says with a grin, taking another pointed bite of the strawberry cake, which really isn’t half bad. She might have to bring Rhys here at some point, then she might have half a chance of finishing a dessert on her own without the High Lord’s spoon magically making its way over to her plate while he twitters about ‘mating bond equality’ and ‘what’s yours is mine, Feyre darling’.
Azriel’s face darkens at that and a low, protective growl rumbles in his chest, “Who told you?” he demands, hands curling into fists.
She starts in surprise at the sudden black venom in his voice and opens her mouth to say something when Azriel freezes, apparently realising how he’d reacted. The blush on his cheeks darkens and his wings twitch, clearly uncomfortable. “I’m sorry,” he murmurs quietly, and she has her suspicions that he and Mor haven’t been together for long confirmed, based on his response.
“It’s alright, I understand,” she says quietly, and she does. That need to protect, to keep her safe must be heightened for the two of them after the amount of time they spent apart. She smiles, “And no-one told me, Az,” she huffs, a faint hint of playful scolding in her tone, “I can find some things out without the help of you and your spies, you know, I’m not blind.”
“Says the woman who didn’t notice for nearly fifty years that her mate is allergic to strawberries,” Az mumbles into his tea, but she notes the playful spark in his eyes and resists the urge to kick him under the table with difficulty.
Instead she reaches over and takes his hand, “I’m happy for you, Azriel. For both of you. You deserve this,” she gives his hand a soft squeeze and finally manages to coax a faint smile from him. “But why-”
“Didn’t we tell anyone?” Azriel supplies for her. She supposes he has to find some way to claw back his composure, the best way he knows how, making sure he knows everything she does. Mostly. She nods. He shifts uncomfortably, wings rustling in agitation at his back as he shrugs. “We would have, when we were ready,” he says quietly. “We’re just…Not.” She’s never seen him so discomposed before, he’s usually the picture of articulate eloquence. But Mor…She does this to him. “Not yet, Feyre, please-”
She gives his hand another quick squeeze, smiling, “I won’t breathe a word of it to anyone, Az, I promise.” He smiles, nodding his head, and thanks her.
They finish their tea and cake and then Feyre winnows him to Mor’s townhouse before returning herself to the House of Wind to finish up her preparations for Rhys’ birthday.
The next day, her mate is delighted by the delicate ornament of crystal Illyrian wings she gives him, after having spent all of the day before painting them, accenting the details until they’re a near perfect replica of her mate’s own.
Feyre notes the way Azriel’s scarred, gentle hand slides around Mor’s waist, squeezing, drawing her in close, just for a moment while no-one else is watching….But misses the way Rhys raises his glass of wine in Azriel’s direction while she’s chatting to Mor, thanking his brother for picking out the gift. Az nods and smiles. The two of them are content to keep this particular secret between themselves for the rest of their long eternities.