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I wonder what's going on? (#15-19)

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Character of the Season
Pavetta

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Nestle

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A land of absence
and root and stone


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Bexley and Acton

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"And all the while her mind, her blood, her fierce and fearless heart was singing, singing, singing." — Shrike in We're under attack!

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Acton — Night Court Citizen Signos: 795
▶ Played by Griffin [PM] Posts: 134 — Threads: 16
▶ Male [He/Him/His] Hth: 20 — Atk: 20 — Exp: 34
▶ 5 [Year 497 Summer] Active Magic: Illusion
▶ 15.3 hh Bonded: N/A
#1






It was a strange and lonely evening he spent, walking the hallways of a castle he knew so well.
 
How many times, in how many states of sobriety, had he covered this ground? There was something soothing about the sound of his feet echoed back at him, muffled by the familiar tapestries along the wall. Around each turn he expected to meet Mila, her grin curved like one of her knives, or Raglan on some errand, or Reichenbach himself, asking if he wanted a drink.
 
But there was no one to drink with him tonight, and Acton had been sober since Solterra. That did not stop him from feeling like this was a dream-maybe-nightmare, some game of déjà vu, an evening plucked from his memories and made strange.
 
It was too quiet for this castle, and his shadow stretched along the walls behind him, the only part of Acton that lingered anywhere. He moved like a ghost through now-empty rooms, pausing only in what had been his own. Everything was as he’d left it months ago (strange, how that could be), but the buckskin couldn’t bring himself to do so much as shuffle a deck of cards. The noise in his head wouldn’t let him rest yet, and so with a last glance he was gone again, stalking the halls.
 
When he found Isra it was nowhere near the quarters that had been the king’s, and for that he was grateful. She was about as alone as she could expect to be, anymore, and the buckskin drifted toward her with a languidness he didn’t feel. His eyes still caught like sparks, but lately he felt like little more than damp coals.
 
Still he smiled at her, even as he dipped his muzzle in as much  a gesture of respect as he’d ever shown anyone.
 
“Long way from stealing apples now,” he said, and though his voice was uncharacteristically soft it still echoed strange and full against the smooth stone walls. “And you’re about to have a whole lot of new friends, too.” He’d seen the way they looked at her, there on the castle steps with blood and saltwater still drenching them all. It had made something tighten in him, dark and unsettled, because it was not so different than the way they had looked at Reichenbach, too. The way he had looked at the fled once-king, not so long ago.
 
People were always looking for a savior. How often did that work out for either side? But the unicorn was wary and world-wise, and he did not worry for her as much as he might have once.
 
“I’m glad it was you, Isra.” The words were quieter yet, small hushed things in the semidark space, and he meant them all despite the way his heart beat its fists against his ribcage and called him a betrayer. “Congratulations,” he added like an afterthought, but what he really meant to say was I’m sorry.
 
Seraphina was right – he had abandoned his home twice over now, once on purpose and once on accident. And maybe the shape of it was all different, after fire and flood and the abandonment of an entire regime, but Denocte was still his mother all the same. He would not make himself an orphan again.








oh, good lord, they've all gone belly-up


@Isra



Reply
Isra — Night Court Sovereign Signos: 725
▶ Played by nestle [PM] Posts: 118 — Threads: 18
▶ Female [she/her/hers] Hth: 20 — Atk: 20 — Exp: 33
▶ 5 [Year 497 Winter] Active Magic: Transformation
▶ 15.1 hh Bonded:
#2
Isra of the silver shadows

' now and at the hour of our death '



Isra walks the halls in the shadows that thrive between the specks of moonlight and starlight filtering in through the windows, where the sea-water is still nothing more than a distant nightmare to the stones at her hooves. Everything around her is winter-dry and it feels strange to inhale and taste salt and exhale and taste brine. The silence too feels strange. The heavy, silent shadows feel like more than silence and more than night and more than the things that live between those places of quiet and darkness.

It feels like a baptism of solitude, silence deep enough to drown and shadows cold enough to burn. The air is weighty enough to make her bones feel like porcelain as she wanders the hallways. She's aimless and wonders in her lazy exploration what stories the mortar might tell of the old leaders and their dragons, what secrets the stones might bare if they were turned to dust.

Everything is silver-light and moon-light and the stones look like sapphires where the two lights meet the shadows and reflect queerly off her scale-dusted belly. All the castle is gilded until she lifts her eyes and watches that golden speck of sun break through the shadows like a slow moving comet. Isra feels blinded by the bright and she feels sad to see how slowly all his body moves though hallways full of reverie.

“Acton.” His name sounds like a prayer on the silence, a whisper thin thing that might float through the darkness like a mote of dust dancing on the gales of their lungs. Isra offers her nose to him as she had so very long ago when her ribs were hollow things between the atrophy of her hunger.

She doesn't tell him that she still feels like a thief, stealing away crowns from horses with more fire than she and crawling over the bones of suffering with nothing more than the blinking of her dreamer gaze. Instead she only smiles sadly and her teeth look like a string of periwinkle pearls where the moonlight reflects on her as she pauses before a window. The freezing winter wind feels like an absolution when it cools the fire of her salted skin that still warm from hours and hours of tending to fevers and broken bones.

“I wonder what they would think to know their queen walked the streets like a ghost, hungry and praying only to be forgotten in the dark and  dusted shadows.” This too feels like an absolution of all the things buried like silt and rot instead the dark places of her soul. She's a queen that knows how to be made an altar of men and how to starve on the disease of memories that dance like moths and feed on the light around the darkness in which they thrive.

Isra knows so many things, more dark things than bones and flesh and dreams can hold.

And all those things live in the weight of her words she she brushes her lips across his cheek and whispers like a secret that she hopes the stone will hold like a grave. “I'm afraid.” Tonight it seems is for confessions and secrets and worries whispered in the moonlight where there is only dust and fireflies to hear.


@Acton

Art


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Acton — Night Court Citizen Signos: 795
▶ Played by Griffin [PM] Posts: 134 — Threads: 16
▶ Male [He/Him/His] Hth: 20 — Atk: 20 — Exp: 34
▶ 5 [Year 497 Summer] Active Magic: Illusion
▶ 15.3 hh Bonded: N/A
#3






Acton, she greeted him, and to him it sounded like no prayer at all but the soft guttering of a candle, a bend between darkness and light. He extended his pale muzzle to meet hers in the briefest of meetings of silk-soft skin and warm breath, and it felt like they were the last things alive between these cold rough walls – but when he pulled away he felt a little more like himself.

When she smiled he wondered if he’d ever seen her wear the expression before; he couldn’t remember. Other than that first night (so long ago it seemed now, a different world) their time together had been a haze of smoke and weariness, and all through the long trip to the Dawn Court he’d been too occupied with his own anger, his own black hurt, to pay attention to anything else.

They hadn’t been among his finer moments – though he’d never been known for those anyway.

Her words drew him away from his thoughts, back to the night around them where the wind sighed around time-smoothed corners of the castle. His gaze on her then was a considering thing, a gleam in the moonlight. “I never tell anyone everything. It’s only the endings that matter.” But of course he thought of his own arrival (a secret, now, to all save maybe Raum), a skinny colt newly ashore, alone and fiercely hungry for all the world had. Reichenbach had understood; their beginnings hadn’t been so different.

Acton has never done well with this kind of self-reflection; deep thought had never suited him, and now was no different. It made him restless, made him regretful, blue thoughts that turned to black ones. His emotions had always demanded action, but there was none now to take –

Again Isra leaned in, and his gaze caught the glimmer of moonlight on her horn as it slid like a tear-drop down a twisted knife. Did she think of it yet as a weapon?

Her touch surprised him more than her confession. He wanted to lean into both; almost absently he reached for a strand of her forelock, tugged it like he might have done with Sabine. It was a softer gesture than the buckskin often made, and still that restlessness grew in him.

“I’m not, not anymore.” More surprising to him that the truth of this is that he had been afraid at all – but he realized it now, how half that disastrous, hungry anger had been fear. If Denocte could change so terribly so quickly, what other truths might be undone? But for Acton the worst had already come to pass – everything he knew, dissolved like sea-foam. “Doesn’t seem like there’s much bad left to happen.”

He shifted in the darkness, his shadow leaning away from hers, and twisted an ear to listen for footsteps that would never sound again in these halls. Acton wondered when he would stop missing ghosts, and the thought tightened his jaw; at last he shook his head and glanced at her, a brow rising in a familiar arch. “Has anyone bothered to give you a tour yet? I’ve got something to show you that probably wasn’t on it.” His smile then did not feel like just another memory, and his shoulder brushed hers as he stepped past her in the corridor, glancing back over his shoulder at her the same way he had in the market’s crooked alleyways not so long ago. “Follow me, my Queen.” With a wink, he turned away.







oh, good lord, they've all gone belly-up


@Isra



Reply
Isra — Night Court Sovereign Signos: 725
▶ Played by nestle [PM] Posts: 118 — Threads: 18
▶ Female [she/her/hers] Hth: 20 — Atk: 20 — Exp: 33
▶ 5 [Year 497 Winter] Active Magic: Transformation
▶ 15.1 hh Bonded:
#4
Isra of the constellation lines

' make me feel like a star pouring out light '



Only because she recognizes his restlessness as well as she recognizes the constellation lines between the stars does she notice it twitch beneath his skin like a fly. Part of her wonders if he knows what it is he itches for, if he has names for the monsters that crawl across his nerves when the world inhales and goes silent. Or is he like her, looking as dust and wondering what it is that makes her feel lost inside the wide ocean of her own flesh and bones?

Is he drowning or is he burning?

But he tugs on her forelock and it feels like an current of electricity carries between the two of them, bolts of lightning reaching between clouds and dreaming of the trees. Isra shivers and she forgets feeling lost when the idea of an 'end' stretches out before the two of them like a map. “There is always more bad that can happen.” Her words reach out between the dark and the moonlight like a road on this new map of theirs.“Always.” She says and wonders perhaps if it's the road to the end that she follows when she moves between the bits of light and shadows and pauses one hoof in the hair like a deer would on the scent of a wolf.

That first whole step into movement is the hardest and she quivers with the need to go both forward and backward. It feels as if bits of her are reaching out towards either end of her, like two magnets of the same pole that refuse to be held between flesh. Acton winks like a star in the shadows that promise to swallow him if she's not quick enough to catch him and the bits of her mold back together and push her forward, forward, forward.

“Until the end.” Isra touches her horn to his shoulder as she draws beside him as if she's truly a queen and he's truly a knight and they are more than just two young beasts that want to be wild and fearless even it it only lasts the night. Isra wants to be restless, she wants to run down that road of moonlight and darkness and feel how both the black and the silver-light both chill her salted, unicorn skin.

And even though she doesn't wink back there's a lightness in her smile, a bravery that comes from fires and floods and dragon-shadow. “Show me a secret then.” She steps ahead, horn glinting like a nebula of torch-light in the hallway. “Something only you can I know.” That ocean of her eyes dares him, challenges him to show her something other an empty promises and dreams smothered by walls.

@Acton

Art


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Acton — Night Court Citizen Signos: 795
▶ Played by Griffin [PM] Posts: 134 — Threads: 16
▶ Male [He/Him/His] Hth: 20 — Atk: 20 — Exp: 34
▶ 5 [Year 497 Summer] Active Magic: Illusion
▶ 15.3 hh Bonded: N/A
#5






“Then we’ll meet it,” he said, and it was Reichenbach he thought of then - the Crow King as Acton had loved him best, blood in his teeth and wild hair all a tangle, the way his booming laugh could quiet a room. Reich had loved a challenge, begged the world to bring one on. For the first time since the Wall, the thought of the formed, vanished king brought something different to Acton’s face than a bitter twist of lips - a smile. “Always.”

Memory softened all things, it seemed. And for one of the first times in his life, it felt almost good to not be angry.

There was still an apology, living somewhere between his gut and his throat, black as charcoal and dry as ash and willing to be said. Like he’d swallowed a moth that flew up and tapped its chalky wings against the back of his teeth. I’m sorry I left.

Did he owe that to her? He remembered still that first night they’d met - follow me, those words again, and how when he’d turned around she was gone as surely as if she’d never been. Only an apple core in the dirt was left.

Maybe they didn’t owe one another anything. Maybe they could just begin from here.

This time she followed him, and his smile in the dark was hidden from her as she tapped her horn against the bold plane of his shoulder, like a backwards fairytale. He knew even then that he would never be a knight - his courage, his skill, was of a very different sort - but he had always loved to pretend, anyway.

So he did, as they walked, as Isra brushed by him in the narrow hallway and he answered with a gleam of a grin the dare in her eyes. He pretended it was not strange at all, that it did not hurt even a little (old scars, festering wounds) to walk a path he knew so well through stripes of moonlight and shadow and end up outside the king’s quarters.

Acton only paused once, to cast his amber gaze to her and try and guess whether she had been in this room, whether she had made it her own. He realized then he did not know where she slept, now she was a queen.

And then he shouldered open the door, and breathed in the incense and smoke, scents like ghosts he couldn’t see that carried him away. Almost he spoke, but instead he shook his head, the black cloud of his mane settling again around him, limned by moonlight, then headed for a dusty bookcase in the corner adjacent to a bay of windows.

“He was never much of a reader,” he said, half to himself, wearing a grin like a sickle-moon of memory. And then he nosed along the row of books until he reached one that was not a book at all, and gave it a sharp pull. With a groan the whole case slid away, and Acton slipped through the open space and into a brief but consuming darkness.

Only a moment and it was over, and he stepped into a little rooftop garden, a mosaic of stars under his hooves and a river, a flood, a world of stars above him. Night jasmine bloomed, climbing up a cedar trellis, wild and tangled with no one left to care for it but smelling all the sweeter for it. And Acton turned back to watch the unicorn slip into the blue and silver light of the night, and almost had to catch his breath.

Safer, then, to joke.

“I hate to think of how many trysts this garden has seen,” he said, arching a brow. “But I don’t think there’s anyone left to remember it now.”

Except for Raum - but Acton pushed those thoughts away almost roughly. The Ghost had no place in this moment. It was only for them.




oh, good lord, they've all gone belly-up


@Isra



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Isra — Night Court Sovereign Signos: 725
▶ Played by nestle [PM] Posts: 118 — Threads: 18
▶ Female [she/her/hers] Hth: 20 — Atk: 20 — Exp: 33
▶ 5 [Year 497 Winter] Active Magic: Transformation
▶ 15.1 hh Bonded:
#6
Isra who blooms at night

“no one says a word that has not been spoken a thousand times before, a thousand thousand times, and even the first of those was a repetition of words that came before.”



Isra wants to be brave as she follows him and the hallways turn darker and the incline steeper. She longs to feel like she's not walking on grave-stones made slick by ice and coated in the dust of fury. Somewhere along the hallways she begs her bones to not feel fragile, to not walk as if the stone at her hooves are bones mortared together with glass.

Everything about this path seems fragile and the darkness swallows up Acton's smile that could have been the only thing to make her feel braver. Isra craves in this moment to be anything but a trespasser, a dragon-less queen who dreams more often that she lives. Deep in her bones she wants to feel like a conquer, a freedom fighter who looks at walls and feels fury instead of sadness and sorrow.

And just as she's about to turn back and let the ghosts nip at her heels chase her away from this corner of the castle, Acton shoulders open a door and she forgets all her sorrows and her fears.

Isra can only see the books, forgotten and dusty with pages as white and faded as ghost who cling to the place between this life and the next. She's there before him, running her nose over the cobwebs, reading the leather spines with a fervor that makes her unicorn blood sing. “They are so lonely.” Her voice is a whisper and the cobwebs shatter before her sad wonder, as if they are great gates of dust that crumble before the dreamer.

But their story is not finished here. Just as Isra is about to pull down a book, and crack up another world before the hungry sting of her gaze, Acton tugs on another and darkness is reveled and the books drift away from her mind like wishes.

All she can see is darkness and she swallows up that fear when it comes calling again as Acton disappears into that nothingness. When she follow him she has to remind herself she is a unicorn, a queen, a slave and there has not been a thing yet that she did not survive.

Each step in the darkness seems both longer and colder than the last and she's almost forgotten if she's taken one step or a hundred steps in that blackness. And then,

Then,

Then there are flower and starlight and moonbeams that taste like finely spun sugar on her lips when she blooms a smile. Ahead of her the trellis of jasmine and fern and ivy curls upwards like the first page of a book, before the story has really begun. It's beneath that arch that she pauses, horn dancing in the starlight and her chain seems almost empty for the way it hold brittle kelp instead of flowers. “It's good then that flowers are only flowers and their memory is a short and fragile thing that lasts but a season.” Isra tucks the words into a flower as she presses her nose between the petals and tries to forget how he seems made more of gold than moonlight when her eyes stray from the garden to him.

“I will remember it now.” Between the chime of her hooves against the path of stars the words each sound like a note of a song not yet whole. She walks towards the edge of the path, laughing as overgrown flowers brush at the sensitive skin stretched tight over her rib-cage.

And when she looks at him again with no flowers to hide the shyness in her cheeks and lips, she is the one who has to catch her breath.

@Acton

Art


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Acton — Night Court Citizen Signos: 795
▶ Played by Griffin [PM] Posts: 134 — Threads: 16
▶ Male [He/Him/His] Hth: 20 — Atk: 20 — Exp: 34
▶ 5 [Year 497 Summer] Active Magic: Illusion
▶ 15.3 hh Bonded: N/A
#7






Lonely, she named the books, as though they could feel anything at all - and though Acton had said nothing to that, had only shot her an odd crooked look, it rang and rang in his heart like the ripple of a thrown stone.

Lonely, lonely, lonely. If a book could be so isolated, so untouched - what did that make him?

All foolishness, that kind of thought and talk, the kind of thing the Crows had never bothered with. But Acton had a funny feeling it would haunt his dreams that night.

He much preferred her reaction to the garden.

Her smile bloomed better than any flower ever could, no matter whether it opened at midnight under a silver sliver of moon or at dawn in the frost or under golden hot noon. He watched that smile and when he looked back at the garden it felt a little like seeing it for the first time - all the magic, all the promise, all the maybe that it had held. He’d been little more than a lanky boy, that first night, when Reichenbach the new-crowned king gathered all his orphans and explained to them the world was theirs.

Acton smiled then, too.

It lingered even when she spoke, each word holding as much whimsy as it had when she’d called the books lonely. Never would it have occurred to him to think that way, and he opened his mouth to say so, but forgot it altogether when he watched her dip her nose into a bloom, graceful and fine-boned as any hummingbird.

How had he forgotten she was a storyteller? He is unused to this kind of dreamer, the kind that saw the silver glimmer of the stars and thought of stories instead of coins. Hers was a quieter kind of joy than any he’d known - but maybe no less fierce for that.

“I hope you do,” he said, and was surprised to find himself speaking at all. “I hope you do for a good long time.”

Only then did he break from his own stillness, shifting his gaze from hers as he walked to the cool stone of the parapet. It was only a black shape in the darkness, but beyond it the city glowed with a thousand flickering torches, an imitation of the stars above. The buckskin looked out at it for a long time, then laughed soft as soot and turned back to her.

“I was going to warn you,” he said, and there was still something black as a crow’s laugh in the timbre of his voice. “I was going to tell you to be careful, now you are queen, but I can’t think of anything worse than what you’ve already been through.”

Only a little while before, she’d said herself that there was always more bad that could happen, but the buckskin couldn’t quite believe it. For him, at least, it had been an upheaval, an unmooring, an apocalypse.

But the gods were already against them, and the power-hungry and mad had fled, and what else was there? Once, Acton and his ilk had been the blackest danger there was to Denocte.

How short-sighted he is, how boyishly cavalier, to think that it is still true.





oh, good lord, they've all gone belly-up


@Isra



Reply
Isra — Night Court Sovereign Signos: 725
▶ Played by nestle [PM] Posts: 118 — Threads: 18
▶ Female [she/her/hers] Hth: 20 — Atk: 20 — Exp: 33
▶ 5 [Year 497 Winter] Active Magic: Transformation
▶ 15.1 hh Bonded:
#8
Isra of the dust

'Everything is transfixed, only the light moves.'



“You could remember it too,” The words are too breathy when they come out and her heart feels like a forge in her chest, molten enough to melt down steel and bone. Isra looks away from him then and looks against to the stars. This time when she traces lines between them it reads like scripture instead of fable or history.

She wonders if the old kings looked at the night sky from between the orchids and the lilacs and read words from the night sky. It feels more like a religion to her than the sea and the gods and all their divine destruction. She wonders too, if they wore golden crowns, flowers crowns or nothing at all.

It's still strange to think she's a queen, that this place between the stars has been entrusted to her.Beneath the sky and between the flowers she still feels so very small and fragile. What is she to a world of constellations and dreamers but an interloper sent from the ocean-floor of another world?

Only once her heart feels a little more like ice and less like fire does she turn back to him. For a moment, before she spots him in the shadows faintly outlined by the city fires, Isra feels more alone than she ever has. How quickly she forgets that silence is her old friend and cobwebs were once her silken sheets. The loneliness is in her steps when she joins him and she wonders if he feels as ghostly at she sometimes does.

All her wondering tonight feels like revelations, as if the two of them are dusty and forgotten bibles of dead worlds and dead gods.

“It looks like a dream, a world of bonfires and hope.” Isra lays her head across his back, happy to swallow down the doubt his warning brings with the blaze of the contact between them. Her heart feels molten again and her skin feels like paper where her chin rests on his spine. “From here it's easy to see only the firelight and skip your gaze over the dark corners and alleyways like a stone skipping over the ocean before sinking.” Each of her words is a touch and she threads her lips through his mane as if that contact alone will keep her afloat in that sea of darkness.

She doesn't want to sink, to wallow along the ocean floor with all the bones and dead again.

“Promise me that we wont become the stones.” The whispers too feel like touches between them when she closes her eyes to the faint glow of daylight rising above the horizon. Part of her hopes that as long as they are touching the day will come and they will still be here alive, unlike ghosts and stones that live only in the dark places.

If her heart flutters in her chest, she thinks, all the better to chase away the dark with petals and wings.

And this is how Isra waits the new day, with the one stallion who saw her when others saw only darkness.

@Acton <3 fin
Art


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Acton — Night Court Citizen Signos: 795
▶ Played by Griffin [PM] Posts: 134 — Threads: 16
▶ Male [He/Him/His] Hth: 20 — Atk: 20 — Exp: 34
▶ 5 [Year 497 Summer] Active Magic: Illusion
▶ 15.3 hh Bonded: N/A
#9






“Of course,” he said, but he was too caught on the sea-foam lace of her words to really take to heart what she said. It seemed unlike what he knew of her - how she was as much the unbreakable steel of her chain as the shimmer and strange magic of her scales.

But he did not feel wholly himself, either, on this strange night for survivors and for ghosts, and he turned his thoughts away from it.

He only glanced back once as she came toward him, the light on the bonfires below and the starlight above limning her horn in silver, in gold. She looked like a thing being forged, like a promise and a warning. Like a unicorn.

When she spoke, though, her words were all Isra, and he grinned as he turned back to the city.

“It always felt a little like a dream to me,” he said, and shifted beneath the warm weight of her chin. He could feel the flutter of her breath against his back and it made him feel at once wild and comfortingly familiar - like an old trick before a new crowd. “Like I could always wake up, if I had to. Like it was always safe.”

Maybe what he meant was: it felt like home. But that was a word that Acton had never quite learned to say.

Funny, then, that it came to him now, when so much had changed. When he had seen, for maybe the first time since he was a colt, that nothing could truly be safe or be sacred. Even the highest towers (the ones with the surest, quickest smiles) could fall.

But here he was, with the same stars blazing bright overhead, with the same sweet breath of jasmine around him. It was easy in that moment to feel like the storm had been weathered.

Again the unicorn broke his thoughts, and one slender ear turned back toward her as his mouth pulled tight, considering. His gaze did not leave the bonfires or the thin bright line of dawn above them, as though their burning and burning had finally lit the sky.

“We were never the stones,” he said, after only a moment’s quiet. “We are the shadows, or the waves, or the stars.” They were not for sitting still, they were not for wearing down.

Acton had no idea what the hell he was for, but he’d always known what he wasn’t. Something about her - maybe her inauspicious beginning, so like his own - made him think Isra was the same.

But she didn’t feel the same, with her skin warm against his and the almost delicate expansion of her ribs with each breath, the drift of her dark hair on his shoulder. Acton was never good at sitting still, but for once it wasn’t so difficult.

He knew then that he would remember it, this garden, this night, this surviving, and he smiled into the dawn.




oh, good lord, they've all gone belly-up


@Isra



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