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All The Kings Horses

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Most of the Mighty Nein had stunning wings, colorful or large, strong enough to lift them into the sky and let them soar into the sunset.

Fjord’s were massive, some sort of seabirds that were resistant to water, the plumage thick and tight. He probably shed the most out of all of them Molly would know.

Yasha’s were an eagles, as well muscled as the rest of her and just as powerful, her wingbeats stirred up dust with every movement. Molly loved grooming them, running his fingers through the long feathers and watching Yasha relax with her arms looped around his middle as she created a private little cocoon for the pair with them. He thinks it reminds the taller woman of her loved one, the last person she’d trusted to groom her wings so intimately, he doesn’t mind if she wishes he were her. He’s just grateful he can offer some comfort. When she used Necrotic Shroud in front of them for the first time it was almost horrifying watching the skeletal bones rip through the feathers scattering them to the winds like tissue paper. When she returned to herself she hid the wings until the feathers grew back.

Beau had smaller wings but she was more dexterous than the other two. She could out maneuver all of them taking tight turns and pulling out of dives the others couldn’t dream of. Her wings were also the most expressive, always flicking and fluttering. She would reach out to the others with hands and wings in her rare, tender moments. A point of amusement for the group was the fact she couldn’t always hold back flickering her colors at Yasha in a mating display. One Yasha never recognized both to her relief and embarrassment.

Jester’s wings were the brightest of the bunch, always dyed bright colors and groomed until shining. The tips were decorated with chains and gems and all manner of baubles. Tieflings usually had more decorative than functional wings, just another thing to adorn for them. But leave it to Jester to defy the odds and join the others in the sky.

Molly watched them flit about and play tag up in the skies before returning his eyes to the road and making sure he didn’t run the cart into a tree. Caleb sat beside him reading while Nott watched their six for any trouble. Nott could glide but not really fly, her wings were small and messy. She didn’t really trust anyone to groom them except Caleb and after the years in prison they’d suffered through she didn’t feel comfortable separating from him long enough to stretch them. Jester could sometimes get Nott to go on a quick flight with her or preen her wings a bit but they never stayed neat and shiny long.

And that left the two of them.

Molly hadn’t thought Caleb had wings for quite some time, none of the group had ever seen them. But he was never bothered by Nott or her wings when they brushed over him in a comforting gesture, fluttering over his back or hair like a parent or sibling would. Over time the others became comfortable enough to brush their wings against Caleb too. He flinched at first, unused to tender touches but now he’d become more comfortable with them. Would accept affectionate brushes or slide his hands over coverlets as he slipped past someone.

All of that had changed that morning. Molly had finished breakfast and was heading upstairs to finish packing when Fjord had called after him in that gentle drawl of his to go check in on Nott and Caleb, let them know they’d be leaving in about an hour and to get their asses downstairs if they wanted to eat before they hit the road. Molly had given him a cheeky salute and hop skipped his way upstairs. He’d had a pretty good feeling about the day when he approached the pairs door and saw it hadn’t been completely shut. Tail curing with mischief he threw the door open and declared,

“I hope your pants are on darling!”

Horrified blue eyes snapped to his form, a set of wings flaring defensively on instinct before Caleb hissed in pain and they dropped. Before Molly could react or anything Nott had damn near kneecapped him and shoved him out of the room slamming the door in his face. Even with the thin wood door now taking up his entire field of vision all he could see was Caleb’s wings.

They were gnarled and scarred, pink patches of burnt tissue and bone like the ones that covered their beloved dirty wizards arms and chest. Burn scars. Smatterings of feathers grew in patches, some sprouting awkwardly out of tangled bunches of scar tissue. But even with all of the damage the feathers that had grown had glowed in the light of the sun. Golds and reds dusted along the tops, the same golden red of Caleb’s hair in the sunset. The speckling ran the length of the wings until each tip looked like it had been brushed in the same paint that Caleb had been created with. They were stunning. They must have been almost 16 feet long, the shape of them gave Caleb away as a bird of prey. A falcon, hawk, eagle something in that family. No wonder Nott looked only to Caleb as a leader; predator birds usually were. Leave it to them to have two raptors who stayed in the shadows. It was also clear that Caleb could never fly, even just lifting them had pained him and Molly felt his heart cry with sympathy.

He walked away without telling them what Fjord had said but when it was time for them to move out both of them were there. Nott was sitting on Caleb’s shoulder giving anyone who looked at her boy the evil eye. Caleb saw Molly before Nott did though and quickly turned them away, distracting the goblin while they finished packing up the wagon and heading out.

Originally Molly had been sitting in the back of the cart, polishing his swords when Jester turned from her spot up front and called to him,

“Molly, it’s such a beautiful day would you mind...” She trails off and he knows what she’s asking.

“Of course darling. You two scooch and I’ll drive.” Molly sets the swords down and clambers up to take the reigns as Jester coos and pets his face. She adjusts his curls in a quick preen before taking to the skies with Fjord right behind her. Beau takes a running leap and somersaults into the air whipping around trees, gaining speed until she spins up into the sky with them. Yasha is off doing her own thing so it’s just them. Caleb had been walking beside the cart, talking quietly to Nott but after a few minutes he hears the scrape of claws in the cart and when he catches movement from the corner of his eye he turns to see Caleb hauling himself up onto the bench next to him.

“Is it alright if I sit here?” He asks quietly, he’s unsure of himself. Shredding the edges of his coat again, Molly notes out of the corner of his eye and puts on a bright smile.

“Of course darling. I’d never say no to a pretty face.” He can see the blush bloom across Caleb’s face and counts that as a victory.

“Can... can we talk about...” His voice cracks and Molly instinctively reaches out for him. Caleb gets jumpy about touch when he’s fragile so for now Molly refrains.

“Only if you want to. Just say the word Caleb and it’s forgotten if that’s what you want.”

“Why, why would you offer that?” It’s hard to hear him over the creaks and groans of the wagon but Molly does hear.

“Because you didn’t get a choice in me seeing them so I’m giving you that choice now. I’d never want to take something you didn’t want to give me Mr. Caleb.” The nickname does the job and Caleb chuckles softly. Molly feels his heart flutter at getting that reaction from Caleb.

“Thank you Mr. Mollymauk.” He says back and Molly can see his shoulders relax under his coat. “I uhh, I don’t mind you knowing but please, please don’t tell the others.” He says almost defeated.

“Of course love, your secret is safe with me.” He telegraphs his movements so Caleb can see what he’s doing as he slowly loops an arm around Caleb. His hand settles between Caleb’s shoulder blades and the wizard shudders under the intimate touch. “I think they’re beautiful by the way.”

Caleb snorts, “Now I wonder if you actually saw them.”

“I mean it, the golds and whites suit you well. They match your hair.” The wizard shudders again and almost tilts away from Molly but the tiefling is persistent.

“Please don’t, I-I can- bitte, please.”

Molly rubs Caleb’s back and kisses his forehead again. “Shh darling, it’s okay. I won’t push I just wanted to tell you what I thought. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”

Caleb freezes for a minute as the clawed hand brushes over the shifting muscle that hides the abominations that are his wings and then hides his face in Molly’s shoulder and neck. He’s still shuddering but now he’s clinging to Molly instead of trying to push him away. Even if he doesn’t agree with Molly’s assessment of them it’s nice to have someone else know. Someone else know and still touch him like this, like he’s not the worlds biggest human disaster. He doesn’t deserve it, he knows but just one moment, one more moment of feeling wanted. Then he’ll pull out of Molly’s embrace. A moment comes, and it goes. Caleb doesn’t move.

Molly’s claws trace down his spine and instead Caleb melts into their touch with a tiny chirp. He hasn’t made a sound like that in years, not since he went by a different name. Molly doesn’t laugh at him though or have any outward reaction. He just keeps looking forward, steering the cart, and lets Caleb tuck under his arm like a fledgling.

Flocks are very affectionate, always brushing against and touching each other. They did not start as a good flock.

Caleb and Nott kept to themselves, Fjord was wary of his wings and wouldn’t let anyone near them. Jester had no concept of personal space and caused the others to jump several times from unexpected, intimate touches. Molly had been the enigma of the group. Always willing to touch and preen stray feathers, often times he’d reach out to smooth feathers absently as he passed but he never let anyone touch or see his. Jester had chided him for his coat once saying it was not suitable for flight and offered to make the proper slits for it. Molly had jumped away from her and held the coat protectively like she’d offered to burn it.

For all his affection he vehemently turned down the offer anytime anyone wanted to return the favor. And then the zone of truth happened. Molly remembers spitting out through bloody lips he’d chewed on that when he crawled out of his grave there had been nothing but a bloody, filthy, infected wound on his back. His wings had been hacked off painfully. Perhaps as a trophy to prove he’d been taken care of. Sometimes his soul ached to fly again but mentally he couldn’t remember how to anyway so it was an ache he couldn’t fix and did his best to dismiss.

At first they’d treated him like glass about it, retracting their wings from him as if afraid to offend him for just having them. It took Beau accidentally slapping him on the back after a sewer raid for people to start adjusting to being comfortable around him again.

Caleb had given him curious looks for a while after that news came out and now that he knew he understood them a little better. Like him Caleb was grounded, never to fly again. Perhaps it was why Caleb had accepted the nesting offer rather than running away like he usually did unless he was a few pints deep.

Molly nuzzled Caleb’s hair for a moment, not preening but offering comfort and trilled for him softly.

“Do you miss it?” Caleb asks quietly after a moment.

“Devils don’t fly love.” He says partially dodging the question and partially answering it.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Molly and Caleb had been dating for a few months now, it was some of the best and most stressful months of Molly’s life. The best because Caleb was amazing and sweet and kissing him was like finding heaven. It was stressful because Caleb’s worst enemy was himself, the wizard’s poor self esteem and trauma rearing its head every time he managed to get Caleb to smile. Intimacy was its own set of hurdles; from finding places to have just the slightest smidges of privacy, or just dealing with nosy flock members who wouldn’t let him make gooey eyes at Caleb without snickering.

Tonight they were at a harvest festival on a cliff overlooking the sea, there had been aerial and ground shows for everyone and food and drink were plentiful everywhere. Molly was sitting on a log around a bonfire nursing a cider with Caleb leaned into him after a few drinks. Molly was feeling warm too, they made some good cider here, he was listening to the various conversations going on around him without really hearing anything. Just enjoying the warmth of the world and the moment around him. Deciding he very much so wanted a kiss from Caleb he nosed at their cheek and trilled needily, Caleb’s gaze dropped from the skies and he obligingly gave Molly a smooch. Just one though and then his eyes were dragged back up, Molly pouted a little disappointed until he looked up to see what had captured his beloved’s attention so much.

It was a mating flight. They were more for display or show these days, a holdover from a more archaic time. The couple in question was clearly having a good time, laughing and pressing kisses to each others hands and mouths as they met and came apart. It was almost over actually and even Molly found himself unable to look away as the couple embraced with a kiss before tucking their wings in and dropping. It was a trust fall, if one of the partners broke away then the union would fail. But if they flared at the same time it was a testament to the strength of their bond.

He could feel Caleb trembling next to him, wings quivering under his skin as he watched. The couple flared their wings together and spiraled back up into the air kissing and holding each other close. But Molly’s attention wasn’t on the couple any more, his gaze was on Caleb and he was mildly surprised to see such naked longing there. He wonders a bit what the longing is more for, to fly himself or to have someone he could do a mating ritual with. Caleb can be a little old fashioned like that, a quality Molly tends to find endearing.

Getting an idea Molly brushes his hand down Caleb’s back, “Darling, will you come with me please?” He asks finishing his drink and standing, he offers a hand down to Caleb.

“Sure Molls, where did you want to go?” He lets Molly pull him up and smiles as the tiefling’s arm automatically wraps around his waist to hold him close and steady.

“It’s a bit of a surprise darling, do you trust me?” He asks, leading them away from the group on the cliff and down to the sands of the beach.

“Molly, where are you taking us?” He chuckles fingers twining with theirs as he follows along after them. When they’re a little away from the group Molly spins around and stops them.

Crossbow to the head, he’s nervous about this, it’s only the alcohol in his system that gave him the bravery to finally realize how much he wants this. Standing in front of Caleb he swallows and raises their entwined hands like the starting position of one of the more formal dances they’ve attended. It’s also the first position of something else, something Caleb had been unable to tear his eyes from and he sees the moment when the wizard figures out what he’s doing.

“Mollymauk, what are yo-oh...oh. A-are you sure? We- we can’t...”

“I know we can’t fly my love but I-it would make me incredibly happy to have this with you. If it’s something you want too.” Molly had gutted himself on the sand, spilled his everything to Caleb and now it was his choice to make. “Be mine?”

Caleb didn’t move, didn’t respond and after the moment had become awkward Molly went to pull his hand away and apologize for overstepping (and then drink enough he’d never remember he did this) when Caleb’s hand gripped his tighter. Molly could hear the sand shifting as Caleb slid his leg in a half circle around to press the back of his calf to the back of Molly’s, the completion of the first step.

“Dance with me Mollymauk.” Caleb says a little shyly, Molly would guess he’s the same color as on overripe tomato right now but now he’s the one waiting on Molly. Shifting back into place Molly mirrors the movement, his boot finishing the circle in the sand to brush over Caleb’s other calf. And then they spin together slowly, reversing their positions by using each others momentum and weight.

The dance is meant to be about balance, about how well the couple compliments each other. Can they support the other? And it’s more than just physically too, it’s about trust in your partner, about your faith in their ability to meet you halfway. If one person gives too much or too little it’ll cause the couple to overbalance and fall. Do they know how to catch each other? The push and pull that makes up every relationship, the give and take.

Once the spin is completed Caleb and Molly switch hands and do the same but in the reversed direction. They’re probably going a little slower than most couples but they are stumbling around, doing this in the dark. After the second spin they clasp hands and trade a soft kiss before raising their arms and sliding them across each others shoulders in a caress that should hit nothing but skin, if you grab someone’s wing you’ll both fall out of the sky. Their feet bump against each other as they clasp forearms to keep the other from falling into the sand. They’re both leaned away from each other, free hands trailing in the sand as they keep the other aloft with their clasped hands and feet pressed together. Then Caleb takes a step to straighten himself up and pulls Molly into his arms, they trade another quick kiss before repeating the shoulder slide move again but this time it’s Molly who takes the step and pulls Caleb in until their lips meet. Molly dips Caleb and kisses the hand still cupping his cheek. Caleb picks Molly up and spins them around. They clasp hands between their chests and hold each other close just sharing breaths and feeling the others heart pounding in their chest.

They can’t complete the dance fully without the trust fall, nor can they chase each other back and forth in the sky to show off how their wings brush, how they can tease and play with each other in sync without dropping from the sky. But when Caleb gasps into Molly’s mouth and whispers,

“Trust me?” Molly feels his stomach swoop like they did just plummet off a cliff. And when Molly moans an affirmative in response he feels a phantom tug between his shoulder blades like a pair of wings unfurling to catch them.

Caleb strips off his coat and lays it on the sand before lowering Molly onto it.He follows them down and cover’s Molly’s body with his own as he pulls them into a deep kiss that has Molly seeing stars.

They made love for the first time on the beach, slowly, savoring every inch of uncovered skin between them. They sighed and moaned each others names between gasps of love as heated hands grabbed at hips and thighs. Caleb was beautiful and Molly was so grateful for his darkvision so he didn’t miss a single second of how Caleb looked when he finally came. They came down curled up together on Caleb’s jacket, legs hopelessly tangled with Molly’s tail coiled around Caleb’s calf. Their hands were clasped, foreheads pressed together as they slept, Molly’s coat providing them with some modesty.

They woke and traded more kisses, hands exploring skin again in the pale light of day. Caleb was more than slightly mortified than they slept naked in public but Molly just chuckled and pulled his coat tighter around them as they scrambled into their clothes trying not to get caught.

“Shall we go to the bathhouse? Warm up a bit and get our clothes cleaned so we can walk into the tavern for breakfast looking at least slightly decent?” Molly asks pulling Caleb close, his beloved wizard blushes, getting shy again now that they were completely sober. The tiefling laughs and kisses his cheek, his heart close to bursting from the amount of love he carried for Caleb Widogast. Molly laces their fingers together and they walk through the early morning streets together feeling as blessed as any flown pair.

They knew they didn’t need to leave the ground to prove that they were a good pair.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Molly wasn’t used to feeling cold, he was used to everything around him being cold but never himself. That was one of his favorite things about Caleb, his beautiful wizards inner fire always made him feel the same temperature as Molly.

He couldn’t really make out the words that the holder of the spear that had been plunged into his chest was saying. Right now he could barely even remember their name. It seemed so unimportant. Where was Caleb, he wanted his Caleb. They’d keep him warm. He could hear screaming in the distance but he wasn’t sure what it was.

The spear twitched in his chest and the pain was sharp enough that he finally tuned in enough to hear one word, ‘Lucian’

“My name is Mollymauk!” He snarls gathering the blood in his mouth and spitting it at them. It’s the last thing he ever knows.

Caleb holds him in the aftermath, after everything was torched to the ground in the wake of his heart shattering. The rest of the nein gather around as Caleb cradles Molly’s body in his lap and rocks them back and forth as he sobs. Somebody places a hand on Caleb’s back, trying to comfort him; instead Caleb snaps his wings out uncaring as they rip through the back of his shirt, as they scream in pain from trying to control the damaged tissues and nerves and wrap their mangled forms around him and Molly. He cups Molly’s cheek in his hand and kisses his forehead softly as the others sit around him, extending their wings around them. A moment bought for a flock to mourn the loss of one of their own.

You know devils don't fly
So don't expect me not to fall
Devils don't fly
But God we almost had it all
But I got chains and you got wings
You know that life ain't fair sometimes
Devils don't fly
But I try