Midnight rolled around and Rita’s was only just starting to clear. The twinkle lights were beginning to dim, just as her energy began to waver. Everyone was drinking and no one was buying so no money was coming in. Feyre sighed, patting the apron pocket with her tips. It had been a long and unfulfilling night. She could sacrifice a few hours of her sleep for this, knew she’d pay for it in the morning, but she couldn’t dim the hope that she’d earn a few more tips. Caldron knows she needs it. Desperately.
Alis breezed past in tight jeans that made her entire figure look great, glancing at Feyre. “Staying late?”
Feyre sighed. “Yeah. Just thought I’d spend more time with you!” Alis eyed her, seeing past her lie though she choose not to comment.
“Remember to take care of yourself Feyre,” Alis’ eyes betrayed her concern and sorrow, but not pity. She knew Feyre didn’t want anyone’s pity. She just worried that Feyre was exhausting herself. Little did she know Feyre had been taking care of herself her whole life. It was hard to rely on a broken family, parents that no longer lived, nor cared for her in their lifetime and sisters that hated her, leaving her alone. Mother knows Feyre hates herself.
Ever since her birth, her life had been cursed. She was the reason her mother developed typhus. She was the reason her mother died. She was the reason her father developed an addiction. She was the reason her father passed. She was the reason her sisters loathed her. Everything came back to her. She was cursed and destroyed everything she touched. All except her brother. Her twin brother. The one who was her best friend, the one she loved with her whole heart. They were inseparable and maybe she was being selfish, but she couldn’t find it in herself to ever let him go. Feyre hadn’t needed to make that decision though because they grew apart in the last year.
A sudden wave of rumbling laughter from the door broke Feyre’s pit of self-loathing. A growing group of males that were overly touchy with each other, swaggered in.
“Firefighters?” Feyre asked Alis as she filled a pint glass with amber liquid.
“Illyrians, I think,” she replied.
“Oooh, I’m gonna make us some money,” Feyre whispered back, saluting as she went.
She walked around the counter and approached the varying types of personalities in front of her. “Hey all, what can I get you?” The soldier's gazes drifted from the tv to Feyre and back to the tv. These males were incredibly rude, she thought.
“Feyre!” A male voice broke through the noise of Rita’s, calling her name.
She glanced to the small crowd of males. Wedged between two muscled men was a face she recognised. “I know you!” He joked, a smile on his face.
Feyre laughed in disbelief and she launched herself at her brother. Her arms wrapped around his neck as his wrapped around her body, squeezing her just as tightly as she was hugging him. He smelled the same, lilac and musk.
“Where the hell have you been?” She demanded. They had always been close but this year he seemed distant.
“I was training,” he replied. She didn’t think too much about what training meant.
Feyre whacked his arm. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me?”
Regret flashed through his eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t have much spare time on top of training and I didn’t want you to freak out. I'm sorry, that’s no excuse.”
She pulled him in for a hug again, cherishing the warmth that emitted from his embrace. She didn’t know what would happen if he wasn’t in her life. He owned half of her heart. “Remember number two on our list of promises to each other. No lies, not now, not ever.”
“I didn’t technically lie. I just avoided bringing up the truth,” her brother remarked, his white teeth on display as he grinned, blue-grey eyes sparkling.
“You are the same smartass I remember!”
They smiled at each other, a comfortable silence settling between them. “I missed you,” she whispered, almost too quiet for him to hear. “Go have fun with your friends,” she said as she turned, walking back into the bar.
Feyre filled a few glasses of brew, drifting in and out of the bar, delivering to tables and earning tips. Her pocket was beginning to weigh more, a small smile graced her lips. If tips kept flowing in, she might have enough to pay her rent and add food to the fridge. Might.
“My f-favourite twin! Come’err.”
Feyre turned her head towards the sound of her brother's voice. Her brother's very drunk voice.
“I’m your only twin and you’re wasted,” she chuckled as he scoffed and Feyre raised a brow. “Do you have another secret twin you should tell me about?” Her eyes briskly brushed over the males at his side.
He smirked, ready to reply only for the retort to die on his tongue upon noticing the look on her face. “You’re n-no fun!” Her twin huffed. “Anyways,” he drew out the ‘s’ until he sounded like a snake.
“There is s-something I wanna el you,” he started, her stomach butterfly began their weekly exercise. “I’ll be shi-iping out in two weeks,” she opened her mouth to protest, dread beginning to fill her stomach but was cut off. “Never mind that, I want you to meet my friends.”
Her brain was distracted from asking her important questions when she noticed the three dark-haired and tanned males standing next to her brother. “This tall and ugly one is Cassian,” he pointed to the male on his right, the male- Cassian tried to shove her brother though his aim was completely off. Seems her twin wasn’t the only wasted one.
“This s-sneaky bastard is Azriel,” he shrugged, glancing to the male on his left and Azriel offered Feyre a smile. She had to agree, his male seemed to almost blend in with the shadows of the wall. He would be sneaky indeed.
“And this pretty princess is Rhysand. Try not to inflate his already massive ego,” this last male was the most beautiful male Feyre had ever seen. He had that type of beauty that was only found in books and fairytales. Raven black hair, high cheekbones and glittering blues so deep they could be violet.
Something about him drew her in and completely captured her interest. Maybe it was the allure, dark, mysterious and sensational or maybe it was just the lustful look in his eye aimed at her. He had what could be described as ‘bedroom eyes’.
“Hello, Feyre darling,” he purred and a shiver travelled down her spine. Her cheeks flushed at the name, warmth kindling in her core.
As she searched for his eyes, she noticed how tall he was, she had to crane her neck. Feyre felt her spine straighten as memories from the past threatened to consume her. Never again would she let a male hold any power over her, never again would she back down.
“I’m not your darling,” she snarled. Flashes of suffocating golden hands, condescending green eyes and smirking pink lips brought forth waves of old feelings; reopened the festering wound inside her heart. Flashes of long limbs and incredible height surfaced. She remembered how his face would be clouded in darkness and how he used his extreme height against her. She would never forget how she felt, how she feared for her life. She was left to wither away, to become dust between the stars. She had no one to help and for a time she accepted her fate. For a time she thought becoming a speck between those sparkling lights wouldn’t be so bad, some of their light might fill the darkness in her soul. But those twinkling bastards continued to laugh as she stayed trapped in spring.
She was lucky she escaped and found her way to Velaris. She was lucky she got a job from a generous stranger. The owner of Rita’s had a soft spot for strays and was all too happy to welcome Feyre to the family. She was finally able to breathe. When she first arrived at Velaris, her first day of true freedom, she declared she would never let a man hold the kind of power over her that allowed them to trap and suffocate her to the point she didn’t believe she held worth, she would never let her wings be tied again.
Rhysand’s eyes softened, almost with a panicked look when he noticed the fear and anger waging a war on her face. “Shit, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for that to come off in a bad way but you’re brothers right, sometimes I can be a-“
“Prick,” she cut him off, taking in the sincerity of his voice and on his face.
“Most definitely,” he grinned as Feyre chuckled. Their eyes met and she was captured in the glittering universe. Captured her when she noticed the stars that bloomed and soared in the wake of her attention. If possible the moon and stars lived within the violets of his eyes and his exterior was night personified.
A throat cleared and both heads snapped to the direction of the sound. Feyre’s twin wobbled his way over to Rhysand. “Hey bro-other, I brought you here to meet my s-sister so you can stop obsess-esing over her. I did not bring yous here to be an ASSES to her,” he whisper shouted as Rhysand’s cheeks flamed. His eyes darted anywhere but her.
He turned toward her twin, face still ablaze. “I think it’s time to get you home,” he said, glancing towards his other two brothers whom were making terrible paper planes out of napkins. One of the planes flew more than ten centimetres and both Cas and Az whooped with joy as if they had won the lottery. Rhysand shook his head, mirth lighting up his face. He gently hooked his arm under his very drunk friend.
“Rhysand, wait!” He glanced towards Feyre as she rushed towards them. “I’ll take my drunk ass brother, you go get the other two idiots.”
“Ex use me, I-I have a vary pretty arse thank you,” her brother stated matter of factly.
Feyre's face filled with disgust. “Ew, no. I don’t want t to hear about your ass. Just because we shared a womb and you are my favourite person to gossip to, doesn’t mean I want to know that.”
“Really fey fey. My ass is the hottest gossip right now,” he grinned at her mock vomiting actions. She took his arm and wrapped it around her shoulder as she wrapped her own around his back.
Feyre began her trek out the door as Rhysand slowly caught up to her, dragging Cassian between him and an unsteady Azriel. “Are you sure he also doesn’t need help,” she nodded toward Azriel as he almost tripped over Cassian’s legs.
“I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I do not need your assistance,” he spoke as if he was never drunk to begin with. If only his uncoordinated body could agree.
After waiting for a time with two blubbering idiots and the other fascinated with the brick wall, Rhysand’s car rolled around. He hopped out to help her haul drunk male number one into the front seat of the car. When they reached her twin, she purposely strapped her brother in like a baby. “And you say you aren’t a baby yet I’m treating you like one,” she muttered under her breath.
“He is definitely a baby,” Feyre closed the door, glancing to where Rhysand leaned against his car. His arms were crossed, muscles straining against his black button-down. He was incredibly handsome.
“And you're not?” She retorted. Her eyes lingered on his mouth but she looked away before he could notice.
“No I’m not a baby but I am-“
“Obsessed with me?” She cut him off, blurting out the first thought that came to mind. Feyre fought the urge to blush and feel embarrassed by her thoughts but really she was just curious. It had been a long time since anyone had been interested in her for anything other than her body. Knowing he was interested purely based on her brother's word rather than her appearance left something warm to kindle in her heart.
Rhysand rubbed the back of his neck, again throwing off her initial thoughts of him. “You heard that,” his voice low, his eyes caught on hers.
“Well I do like to know of my admirers Rhysand,” she breathed, taking a step closer.
Faster than she could comprehend, Rhysand had stepped forward until their bodies touched as he placed hands on the side of her face. “Rhys.”
“What?” Her nose scrunched as her brows drew together in confusion.
“Call me Rhys. That’s what my friends call me,” a light flutter brushed her heart, her eyes never leaving his.
“Are we friends?” Her voice had taken a low and husky edge.
Rhysand’s eyes dilated and filled with a fire similar to the one burning inside of her. Purple orbs flickered to her lips and back to her blue-grey ones. “Well I’d like to be so much more but for now friends,” his soft-spoken words broke something inside that had been building for too long.
“Well Rhys, I would love to be your friend, maybe even so much more.” His smile made one of her own appear. Her breath caught at the beauty and light that shone upon his face. Her simple words brought such happiness to him that she was sure she was almost glowing.
A thump in the car brought back reality. They both stepped away from one another, glancing towards the one who thumped his head against the glass window. Rhys threw her an apologetic smile as he rounded the car. He paused, glanced back at her. “Goodnight Feyre.”
The flutter returned, more insistent. Something tugged in her chest, leading her to him. Disappointment washed through her knowing he would be leaving but they were friends now, so there would be a next time. Maybe next time it will be more than friends.
“Goodnight Rhys,” she said as he got in his car. He pulled away from the curb and she watched until she couldn’t see him anymore. She walked back into the bar, a small smile gracing her face, a possible image of her future forming.
Not even 10 hours later, Feyre found herself marching up the steps of her twin's supposed home. She had to search for him, ask around, all because she had no idea where he now lived. Feyre cursed herself for not knowing but she had to go through those embarrassing conversations. She needed answers.
Her fist met the wired door, metal banging against the door frame each time her hand touched the door. “My stupid ass Archeron brother, open up!”
She was preparing herself to break down the door when Rhys opened up. She stood back in shock. He looked just as surprised to see her as she was to see him. The shock didn’t last as a smirk graced his face. “Ready to see me so soon darling? Maybe it’s you who is obsessed.”
She scoffed and chose to ignore his comment. She was charmed last night but not so much this morning. “I’m looking for my brother, is this his home?”
“This is my home,” he started, placing his finger against Feyre’s lips as she began to protest. “Your brother’s home. As is it Cassian and Azriel.”
She opened and closed her mouth multiple times before huffing. “Well is he here?”
“No, your stupid ass Archeron brother isn’t here,” he grinned, repeating her words.
“When will he be back?”
“Not for a while,” Feyre sighed, suddenly exhausted from her early morning nervous breakout. She was always tired but all she wanted right now was answers. She needed them.
It was as if Rhys could read her thoughts. “Please, come inside.”
The inside of the home was warm and cozy. It didn’t feel business-like compared to the outside, it felt like a family lived here. Picture frames were scattered around the house, ranging from three boys to a mother and a daughter. Feyre stopped by one, staring at what looked like a younger Rhys.
She didn’t notice his body heat until his breath brushed her neck. “Those are my adoptive brothers, Cas and Az. Ma took them in when we were young and we’ve been thick as thieves ever since,” she shiver as his breath ghosted the shell of her ear. Feyre turned her body as she felt Rhys retreat. She followed after him like a dog on a scent.
“How long has my brother been in the Illyrian training camps?” She blurted out the question that had been floating through her mind for the past 10 hours.
“About a year.” A year. Her twin brother had been in the camps for a year and she had no idea. Her fear began to rise, her panic everblooming.
“You’re shipping out in two weeks right? I need to know more, I need answers, I just need-“
Hands cupped her face, tilting her face upwards. “Hey,” his voice was enough to calm the raging storm inside. She took in a deep breath as she focused on the rhythm of his breathing. “I’ll tell you anything you need to know.”
And so he did. He told her everything; from their training, their friendship, the no phones rule to the dreaded date in two weeks.
Feyre felt calmer knowing about his life and that he had a friend like Rhys. It brought her comfort to know he was happy. Although she would still kick his arse for giving her wrinkles.
She finally felt stable enough to leave. She thanked Rhys for his time as she walked towards the door.
“Feyre!” She paused just before the door and turned her head towards Rhys. “I will be always here for you, even if it’s only to ask questions or to talk to a friend,” he hesitated, then said in a voice much softer, “And just like your brother, you will always have a home here.”
Over the next two weeks, Feyre appearing at Rhys’s house became a common occurrence. She was there every day. Although she would be lying if she said she came only to see her twin.
It was the day before her brother, Cas, Az and Rhys shipped out and she was terrified. They are Illyrians but they aren’t invincible. She didn’t know how to blindly accept that one of them may never come home. Over the drowning fear and numbness flowing through her blood, she didn’t know how to cope.
“Rhys, I'm scared. I’m so scared,” she said to the male that had become her closest friend over the weeks. Possibly even closer than her twin.
“Me too,” he whispered, almost too quiet to hear. Feyre’s head snapped to his face, observing the many emotions that crossed his devastatingly beautiful face. She covered his hand with her own and he turned his, entwining their fingers. Their eyes locked, Feyre stared into the endless pits of sorrow, fear and hope. The hope grew and lit up his eyes with each passing second.
“Go out with me?” He breathed.
“Go on a date with me when I return,” Rhys asked. His palms were clammy against hers, the only sign of his nervousness.
Feyre hesitated. She wondered why someone as beautiful and loving as him would want her. She was cursed from birth, doomed to be alone forever, damned to live a life without love. She couldn’t be with him or he would be cursed too.
Feyre realised her mistake. Rhys took her hesitation as rejection. She could feel his grip loosen, palms damper than before. The light in his eyes dimmed. “Just think about it and decide when I return, it will give me something to look forward to,” the words rushed out of his mouth.
An unexpected laugh bubbled out of her. “Are you assuming I’ll say yes?” She teased.
“Hoping you mean,” a grin formed, eyes twinkling as renewed hope flooded his body. She could see the relief in his eyes, his nervous demeanour transforming back into his confident one.
Her eyes sparkled with mischief, her fear of her curse lingering in the back of her mind. She wouldn’t let this curse touch him. She would keep him safe from it just as she had with her twin. “Oh, of course, hoping,” she drawled, her own smile forming at the hope of their future.
Long agonising months passed before all four of her favourite people were on a plane back to Velaris. Although she knew they were unharmed, her foot still bounced with nerves.
She had arrived two hours earlier, finding she was unable to concentrate on anything but the dull roaring in her ears. She chose to sit and fret rather than pretend to act normal.
Eventually, the bus carrying many Illyrian arrived, windows down and hands waving to loved ones. Families stood around, many of whom had tears running down their faces. The same could be said for Feyre, old tear tracks damp again.
The door to the bus opened and the first to walk out was her brother. A choked sob left her mouth as she ran towards her twin, him doing the same. They embraced so tightly she couldn’t breathe but Feyre didn’t care. Her brother was here and alive. She was grateful.
When they finally released each other, many of the other Illyrians were reuniting with their own families. She looked behind her twin to see Cassian offer a salute and Azriel a smile but she focused on the male behind them. The one that shared her late-night zoom calls, allowed her to whisper her fears and cry her heart out. The one that listened to her rant and made her laugh till she couldn’t breathe during those dark months. The one that had become the new shining star in her life.
She recalled all those fateful months ago when he asked her out. He told her to tell him when he returned but unaware of it, she had already made up her mind when he asked. He had become the new hope in her life and she would be damned if she let him go.
So when he finally took her in, she launched herself at him. He easily caught her, dropping his bag and placing his forehead in the crook of her neck. Her lips brushed his ear as she readied herself to say the word she knew would bring him to his knees. The word she knew he dreamed of hearing from her lips. And so she whispered into his ear the word that had been burning a hole into her heart for all those bleak months, “yes.”