it's like walking through a nightmare world

Chasing The Sun Part 3: The Abyss - An Elucien Fic

Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. 

Title: Chasing The Sun Part 3: The Abyss 

Summary: Lucien returns from war battered and bloody but on the surface unharmed. The horrors of war take his toll on him however. Violence/blood trigger warning and it’s generally just quite angsty. I decided to split the final part into two to make it a bit more manageable so there’s one to go after this!

Teaser: “Lucien!”The cry blazes through him like a shooting star through the cold, empty expanse of the night sky.
Lightning bursts into his bones, crackling along his nerves, jolting his  silent heart as it begins to beat again for her.
He looks up in time to see her hurtling towards him. Her hair is unbound it flies behind her like a golden river. Her skirts billow like storm clouds around her a moment before she throws herself into her arms. Rocking back he absorbs her, balancing them both as she clings to him.

Link: AO3 

Again.

Again.

Again.

Another step. Another. And another. And another.

Every movement is an effort. As though he’s having to drag himself through waist high mud that keeps pulling him back and  sucking him down and threatening to drown him with each pause. But not pausing is almost impossible. It’s too hard. Too much. He’s too hollow, too cold, too tired, too shattered. Stopping now would be the easiest thing in the world. Sinking to his knees and letting this world finally claim him would be the simplest thing he’s ever done. Taking each step on, choosing to keep going, might be the hardest.

There’s a disconnect between his body and his mind – his body feels so far away. It’s as though it’s not really his at all, as though it belongs to someone else, as though it’s not really him at all. To him it’s little more than a puppet. A puppet with tangled strings that rarely obeys his commands and only makes it easier to fall. 

More than once he wonders why he bothers. More than once he wonders why he doesn’t just sink to his knees and let the ragged abyss he can sense on the fraying fringes of his awareness sweep over him. Why he doesn’t just let it drain him, damn him, doom him to the nothingness that’s spreading through him. He wonders why he fights, why he tries, why he doesn’t just give up.

Numb. He’s gone numb to everything. His battered, blood-drenched body aches with every step. It protests every movement that jars the injuries that haven’t yet healed. He barely feels it. 

The lands around him, which have melted into vaguely familiar surroundings now, a part of him manages to recognise as home blur. It doesn’t feel like home. The warm spring breeze that rustles through his braids doesn’t soothe him as it should. There’s no rush of relief, no sudden lightness, no soft smile to tug at his lips in response to the comfort of returning somewhere safe and known and good. The paths he’s walked and ridden and lost himself in for centuries belong only to some distant part of him that may as well be a stranger for all that he understands it now.

 Only the discordant music of war is remotely real to him in this moment; distant and faint though it is. It's an echo of the horrors he experienced, a ghost of the nightmares the world had made real and forced him to walk through again.

Drums. Pounding and pounding and pounding like the steady heartbeat of an idle god that viewed this battle as he would a game of chess. Lucien has no illusions about the part he had to play in it all. He was a pawn. A sacrifice if it would further the cause of the king. A shield for the more valuable players when he could not even be that. The role he had always played.

The clash of steel on steel bursts through him, at odds with the even, eternal drums. It had no beat of its own, each instance part of an individual dance and song. And doesn’t care about anything that exists beyond it. The shrieks of Fae and horses alike become a hideous, toneless, wailing cacophony that surrounds him and smothers him. He doesn’t think it will ever stop ringing in his ears. It will haunt him to the day the Mother takes him home.

The screams he is responsible for will never leave him. Those caused by the wounds that he dealt on that killing field and those that will answer the dead from the throats of the damned – those that loved the people he killed today – will never leave him.

Stumbling, he forces himself on. Though his mind still walks across that battlefield- through blood and gore and fear- not taking in anything around him. He wants nothing more than to stop, to collapse out here and let it all consume him – as it should. 

But every time it threatens to win, to beat him and destroy him, she stops it. Every time it sweeps in to overwhelm him he sees the light that dances in her rich, dark velvet eyes. Or he hears the gentle music of her laughter. Or feels the quiet press of her lips against his; what he truly recognises and knows is home.

Her name repeats in his soul over and over and over again – Elain, Elain, Elain, Elain, Elain.

A heartbeat. More real and present to him than the hollow emptiness that is all that’s left of the heart he might have had before it was shattered by war. He’s never sure if it comes from within him- the only flicker of light amidst a body built of black hollows and ash dusted bones. Or if it’s from her. Something she sends down their bond whenever she feels him getting lost, gently guiding him back home to her.

Whatever the cause it keeps him going. It’s a drive, a want, a necessity. More than food or sleep or warmth or air he needs her.

Through the dense haze of his exhaustion he has this tie to the world. The world that still feels so distant and remote to him he wonders if it was ever real at all. He needs to see her again. The way her brassy hair fans across his chest catching the golden light of early morning that gilds their room. The way her deep brown eyes crinkle when she smiles. The shape of her delicate lips when they bend around his name.

He needs the scent of her, sweet and fragrant. He needs the scent of them- her soft sweetness tempered by his fiery spice- to fill his lungs and wash away the blood mist that taints them now. He needs to feel the softness of her lips against his. He needs to hear her mumbling thoughtlessly in her sleep. He needs to watch her humming quietly to herself while she potters about the garden buried under one of her big floppy hats.

That need, the ache to be with her again keeps him upright whenever he stumbles. And the bond. The bond he’d felt her seize and pull with every ounce of her strength when death’s cold whisper had skittered through his bones. The bond that had pulled him back from the darkness that had sought to damn him. The bond that still hums within him – the only thing that tells him he’s still here, that his soul is not yet utterly, irrevocably lost. The bond that shows him how to get home. The bond that pulses with her quiet, anchoring presence and keeps him moving forwards. His lighthouse in the midst of a violent storm. The bond that stops him from breaking entirely.

The manor comes in to view at last and Lucien drags his weary body through the over-bright gardens. They now look garish and tasteless to him.  The rich vibrant colours seem out of place in a world that’s so full of the blacks and greys and soulless emptiness of death and war.

Up the sloping gravel path and finally to the steps that lead to the doors behind which his love waits for him.

“Lucien!”

The cry blazes through him like a shooting star through the cold, empty expanse of the night sky. Lightning bursts into his bones, crackling along his nerves, jolting his  silent heart as it begins to beat again for her.

He looks up in time to see her hurtling towards him. Her hair is unbound it flies behind her like a golden river. Her skirts billow like storm clouds around her a moment before she throws herself into her arms. Rocking back he absorbs her, balancing them both as she clings to him.

Her arms wrap so tightly around him it’s as though she’s trying to crush the breath from his lungs. But it makes him feel safe. Being in her arms again, he feels grounded and real, less like he’s slipping away from himself into nothingness.

Elain buries her face into the crook of his neck. Slowly he lifts his arms from where they hang limp and lifeless at his sides and wraps them around her slim form. Something snaps in him at the action. It’s the first he’s wanted to make since dragging himself from that killing field. The first thing he hasn’t had to fight with his body to do. The first thing that’s felt right. 

Instinct slams into him like a vanguard changing through enemy lines, shattering a part of the numb wall that surrounds him. Surging against her he grips her tightly and lifts her off her feet. Some unknown vestige of strength in his hollowed, wrecked body keeps him from crumpling.

Gasping for breath Lucien burrows his face against the soft skin of her neck. Then he places her name over and over and over again. His breath beats against her again and again like the drums that still pound endlessly in his bones.

Trembling he cradles her against him, digging his fingers deep into her thick brassy curls. The numb daze that still fills his empty mind continues to assault him but she helps. Mother bless her she helps.

She’s the only thing left that actually feels real to him. The rest of the world is slipping away from him like sand through a sieve. It feels like a dream he’s just woken up from and the more he tries to remember the more he forgets. As it all melts away leaving him alone, terrified, in the blank emptiness, only she remains- solid and eternal. Something no-one and nothing can ever take away from him.

His mate. His anchor when he’s adrift in the flat, interminable sea that surrounds him. It waits to claim him, to drag him into the still abyss that claims to offer peace. But however hard it pulls at him, however fiercely his demons tug him down her hold on him is stronger. She keeps him tethered to the this world, to her and she refuses to ever let him go.

Taking a deep breath that shudders through them both Lucien buries his face in her thick hair and breathes her in. That scent, the scent of her, of them, their mating bond fills him. Her arms tighten around his chest, holding him close. Somehow – somehow- she manages to keep all of his broken pieces together to stop him shattering entirely.

****

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