I’ll be here to hold your hand


She shouldn’t have been there. Her gaze rose to the ceiling as it rattled and squeaked, raining dust. Alethea did not brush it away. The dust wasn’t the problem – the question of who walked the floor above, whether they had noticed her absence and were looking for her, was. Her eyes widened minutely, heart picking up the pace it had settled only moments ago, this time for a different reason.

It seemed as soon as she thought she had mastered this game, something was bound to trip her up.

At least Mallos did not seem inclined to hurt her…but that did not explain his sudden appearance after such a protracted absence. She did not know what had happened that night – had certainly not been told about the efforts taken to ensure the God stayed far away. The forbidding silence that surrounded it prevented her from asking anyone.

“Thea,” he started, oddly. She flinched. Nobody in the castle called her that. He could not know how that name would wound her, but equally, she could not fathom why he would use it…where he would have picked it up. A flicker of pain passed over her face, and she couldn’t quite meet his eyes as he studied her. But that abruptly changed, when he spoke next.


She stared at him in frozen silence.

The moment dragged. At first she could not breathe, terror gripping her so tightly there was no room. Was this a test? Had Mordred sent him, to see how she would react? And then the tears pricked her eyes, because she knew she would fail it – she could not hide her heartbeat, so loud she was sure it echoed in that deathly quiet space, and she could not stop the quick breaths that followed the held one, as panic gave way to…something. Alethea did not have a name for what she felt.

It was not exactly relief.

“…Tris?” she repeated finally, on a breath that bordered a sob. Her feet stumbled forward a step, as if possessed of their own volition. Her hand reached for him. Stopped. Lifted instead to her mouth, as if to force her voice into a whisper .“You…really? But you’re…why are you Mallos?” There were rumors of a competition that temporarily ensconced ordinary fairies into the originals’ bodies, but Thea had always thought it was an urban legend. It seemed so improbable, that a pirate lord could have possessed a god and then seduced him, later; it was the kind of thing she left to conspiracy theorists and lunatics. But if this really was Tristan–

“Gods, you can’t be here,” she blurted suddenly, her attention drawn by the ceiling, by the door on the far side of the room. “He’ll know…he’ll know. He sees everything.” Her voice trailed off into the void, into the distance between them that seemed, suddenly, uncrossable. If it was Tristan, she wanted nothing more than to throw her arms around his neck, and never again let him go. But what he must think of her, standing there in Mordred’s colors! And how could she touch him, how could she reassure him, in this borrowed body?

“No. I don’t want you to go,” she confessed, tears threatening to fall despite her best efforts, despite the iron resolve that straightened her spine and coiled through her limbs. “But…I’m terrified, Tristan. There are servants gossiping about spies in the walls. I think…” He knew you would come, she thought suddenly, and the color drained from her face. Gods, he knew more about them than they did.

“Can you escape, if someone comes? Do you have…Mallos powers?”



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