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watch her play her part in a long fixed fable

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Electra asked her, “Why me?” breathed like a prayer she was afraid the gods would hear. (Cassandra was familiar with that feeling. Overly so.)

Cassandra touched the soft skin of her cheek – still flushed from their embrace, her mouth still swollen, and Cassandra could feel her own body heat, from the top of her head to the base of her belly, deep and so very much her own – and pushed her hair back from her eyes. She said, “Because you see too much, too,” and it was the truth. Electra closed her eyes and lowered her forehead to press against Cassandra’s own. Cassandra forced herself to swallow, to draw a shaky breath. Please, she thought. Would not let it be a prayer. Please let me be brave.

It was the truth. But it was not the only truth.

It was beyond selfish, when Cassandra’s fate was engraved into her very bones. And she would apologise, with every moment, every kiss and every touch she was allowed. Because she would not let go of this, not when she had already had so much torn from her. Electra eased her mind, her dreams, with muttered asides that caught at Cassandra’s throat and made her want to laugh (and oh, she hadn’t laughed in so long, long enough that she wondered, sometimes, if she still could), with quirked lips and lifted eyebrows, and the stubborn set of her jaw to match the fire in her eyes whenever she drew her parents’ ire.

Cassandra did not want to let go. Not ever, not until the gods themselves came down to pry her cold fingers from around Electra’s wrist.

Because Electra saw so much, and yet she could not see her own worth. That standing between her parents and their targets, those who could not protect themselves, made her stronger than most of the warriors Cassandra had ever known. That Clytemnestra’s indifference was her own failing, not Electra’s. She called herself clumsy, ungainly, and yet with her sword in hand, she moved with a grace that stole the breath from Cassandra’s lungs. She loved so deeply, shining from her even as she tried to pretend it did not exist, cursed it as a weakness.

Because she had not tried to touch Cassandra that first night, had not come close until Cassandra gave permission. Her hands had been gentle as she helped Cassandra steady herself, and for the first time since Helen had set foot upon their shore, Cassandra thought she might close her eyes and not see the flames behind them.

Because Electra did not ask, did not demand answers she would not believe.

Because she never smiled, not really, but there always seemed to be one lurking in the curve of her lips. Cassandra wanted to draw it out, wanted to watch as it lit up her face, as she knew it would. She wanted to kiss it from her, listen to the noises she would make. Wanted to hear them outside of her own mind.

And that – that had been the true revelation. Electra made her want. For herself, for her sons. She wanted them to grow, to be happy. To reclaim what had been lost, if they wished. To be spared her so-called gift, her pain, the taint of declared madness (twisted up inside her, bitter and scornful, and always, always right. But never mad, until it pleased them to whisper in her father’s ear as Apollo taunted in hers). She refused to let it hurt, that she could see nothing for them – how could anything harm her anymore?

She wanted to be happy. Just once, just once more, she wanted to be able to feel something good, something that was hers. To not feel her death leering over her shoulder constantly. She wanted to feel loved, adored, in ways she hadn’t been since the day she realised the man watching her was not mortal. To be able to return such feelings.

She wanted more than she had dared to hope for in years, than she knew she deserved. Because of Electra.

Electra’s hands curled around Cassandra’s jaw, over her neck, as if to keep her there. Cassandra had no intention of moving. “Kiss me again?” she asked, and Cassandra thought, please let me keep this.