Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Dagger
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“There’s no way that happened. You’ve gotta be making it up!” Cas buckled forward as he laughed. He and Raine had wandered out to the garden behind the palace while the party continued in the ballroom without them. After walking leisurely through the hedges for a while, he’d brought her to a stone bench by the pond, so they could rest their feet as they continued getting to know each other.

Like he’d thought when they’d first started talking, she had a fun personality, and it didn’t take her long to pull him out of the funk he’d landed in when he’d seen the girl in pink who had reminded him of Iris. He still couldn’t completely remove his last girlfriend from his mind—he kept comparing Raine against her memory whether he liked it or not—but at least he’d relaxed again. It felt nice to be with someone whose company he genuinely enjoyed too. She was kind, funny, and supportive, and he felt like he could be himself as they hung out together.

He also liked spending time alone with her. Of course, being the king of Aspiria, he was never truly alone anymore. There were security cameras covering the entire property, and security guards patrolled the grounds on regular circuits, making sure nothing was amiss. The men and women they passed in the garden steered well clear of them though, giving the two royals privacy to speak without worry of being overheard. They knew better than to interrupt without a good reason.

“It’s true!” Raine insisted with a bright grin. “You should have seen the look on the man’s face when he realized I wasn’t a handmaiden. He’d traveled all this way to meet me, and yet he couldn’t have put in the effort to look up a photo of my face on his phone? Of course I had to embarrass him by playing along when he beckoned me over to make him lunch.”

“Wow,” Cas shook his head, running a hand incredulously over his mouth. “What an ass—er, a, um…” He cringed as he realized belatedly that he’d let his tongue slip. Most women of nobility didn’t love foul language, but to his surprise, Raine just giggled at his fumbling.

“He was a complete ass,” she nodded her agreement.

He blinked, a smile starting to tug his lips into a smile. However, just as he opened his mouth to say something back to her, his heart jumped into his throat as a sudden, loud bang shook the bench they were sitting on and sent ripples across the pond water. “What was that?!” He turned sharply around in his seat, wide eyed, and watched in horror as a part of the palace wall that flanked the ballroom caved in on itself, shortly followed by the upper level of the building that no longer had the support to hold itself up. Large chunks of stone and cement collapsed, and distant screams echoed through the garden.

“Oh my god!” Raine gasped, smothering her mouth with both hands. All color had drained from her face, and she pressed into his side. “Oh my god… Are we being attacked? My father is in there!”

“Your Majesty!”

An urgent voice tore Caspian’s attention away from the ruined palace wall, and he turned to see Jacob heading a group of five other guards who were all sprinting toward the bench with weapons drawn. “We need to leave. Now,” the security head ordered. “Terrorists were seen just outside the palace. We’ve detained one, but the rest are still loose.”

“What?” Cas stood up, his heart still racing. “How did they get in?”

“We don’t have time to investigate,” Jacob replied brusquely, gesturing for the king to follow him. “Come with me, sir. The safe house isn’t far. We need to relocate before they realize you aren’t at the banquet.”

“Is my father alright?” Raine cut in, standing up as well.

Jacob clenched his jaw, and Caspian swallowed hard. He was also worried about Quincy, but if there really were terrorists running around, armed with bombs, they didn’t have time to go looking for him. Grasping her by the hand, he nodded decisively at the security head. “Let’s go… Raine, you should come too. These people are dangerous.”


“Please,” he insisted, meeting her gaze imploringly. Again, Iris flashed through his mind, her lifeless body on the floor beside Ethan, and he tightened his grip on Raine’s hand. He’d already lost one person he cared about to the Scourge. He couldn’t lose the Suphate princess too.

The desperation in his eyes must have registered, because after a moment of hesitation, Raine pressed her lips together and nodded her head wordlessly.

“This way, Your Highnesses.”

With both royals on board, Jacob ushered them to the nearest road away from the palace, where an emergency vehicle was already waiting to carry them to the safe house. Cas jogged alongside Raine, surrounded on all sides by guards who kept a sharp lookout for the missing rebels on the property. His mind was still reeling from the explosion, but they had to keep moving. The palace wasn’t safe anymore.
Hidden 7 mos ago Post by sukikyoufu
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Shouts could be heard as the guards began to drag away the thrashing male, but he wasn’t making it easy for them. Jack was certain of one thing, that he would make their lives a living hell and he would not go down without causing a scene or fight. “NONE OF YOU CARE ABOUT US. WE’RE ALL JUST SHIT ON THE BOTTOM OF YOUR SHOE. SLAVES SO YOU CAN KEEP YOUR LAVISH LIFESTYLES.”

Harry rubbed his temples his frustration building as the prisoner would not shut up, he could see all the higher ups and guests being ushered out and towards safety but even they would be able to hear the commotion faintly. “Knock him out if you have too.” Giving the order to the guards who appeared to be incompetent in restraining the rebel. It appeared that got a reaction as the boy began to scream bloody murder spouting absolute nonsense about the rebellion, Iris and how the Capital had ruined her.

“Listen here kid, she’s dead.” Taking a step forward to the rebel which earned a brief bit of silence as he locked eyes with him. “I saw the body and it wasn’t the Capital that killed her, you can thank your own rebel friends Ethan for that one and she was then buried. Got it?” Harry made it clear that there was no substance to his claims, but there was a defiance in the rebels’ eyes.

“There was never a body buried!” With the last claim leaving Jacks lips everything went black as Harry had clearly had enough and knocked him out with the handle of his gun in one swift motion.

“Go on, take the rebel away.” Tutting to himself as the guards hauled the unconscious body to throw into the cell in the meantime until questioning, running a hand through his hair as he began to walk the perimeter checking on the damage from the explosion. As he did, he thought back to the night when they had gone on that rescue mission, picturing the body that had clearly been dead. Concerned he shook it from his head, but something was bothering him about that night. He had gotten Jacob to check for a pulse as for a moment he had thought he had felt one, but he knew there was no way the girl had survived, and Jacob had confirmed it.

Jacob would not lie about something like that, but still something with niggling away at him wondering if maybe he had been right in the fact there was still a pulse.


“Report.” Harry nodded to one of the guards that had approached.

“We managed to apprehend one more, but the rest escaped. Soldiers are out doing a sweep of the forest as we speak. They’re being transported to a cell as we speak, no major injuries reported. We’ve sustained minor causalities all which have been moved to safety and are currently being treated. The King was unharmed.”

“Good.” Harry sighed before dismissing the guard off and reaching for his comms device once more to get in touch with Jacob. “Sir, perimeter secured, we’ve apprehended two rebels, but two have escaped. Soldiers are sweeping the forest, but no luck so far.” Pausing for a moment before he turned on his back away from the guard waving him off as he walked around the damaged building out of earshot.

“One of the rebels, they’ve made a bold claim. A name I didn’t expect to hear again.” Pausing Harry wasn’t even sure if he should bring it up, maybe he was just overthinking it, but it would eat away at him if he didn’t mention it in case, it was important to keeping the King safe. Everything so far that had happened her name had always floated around, so it didn’t feel like a coincidence. “They said Iris was alive and seemed to think we are keeping her somewhere against her will. It’s not possible right? You confirmed her dead at the scene.”

Dropping his hand from the comms device as he surveyed the rest of the building waiting for Jacob to confirm back to him that she was indeed dead, and this simply was a coincidence. Folding his arms, he tapped his foot waiting for further instruction.

Back at the condo Iris had been watching the broadcast, eyes wide as the explosion was caught on camera before the live feed abruptly ended. How was this happening? If it was the rebels didn’t they die with Ethan? Why was it someone was still attacking the monarchy like this? Or maybe it was someone else, perhaps this was an unrelated incident. Shaking her head, she paced the room wanting to go see if Cas was okay, to ensure that he was still safe and well, but she knew that wouldn’t be an option. Glancing to the door perhaps it was time she took matters into her own hands again.

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“Affirmative. It’s nonsense. Continue looking out for those missing rebels and find out how they got inside the perimeter.”

Jacob spoke softly into his comm device as the king and his men loaded into the escape vehicle. His voice was certain and unwavering, but as he responded to his subordinate, his brows pinched in concern. How in the hell had Iris’s name come up again when he’d kept her hidden away in his condo for over a month? The last the Scourge had seen of her, she’d looked like she had bled out in Ethan’s attic. He didn’t understand how they could have known she was still alive or why they would think she was being held against her will in the capital.

At the moment, he didn’t have time to piece it together either. With the threat of terrorists on their heels, his top priority was relocating the last successor of the Aspirian royal line to safety. So, as soon as everyone was inside the armored van, he climbed into the front with the driver and eyed the shadows around them as they took off for the connecting hovercar further from the palace.

Meanwhile, in the back, Caspian was watching the closed rear door tensely, as if he expected rebels to rip it off its hinges and spring through at any second with guns blazing. At this point, he couldn’t put anything past them. They had already taken so much from him, and they seemed to have no interest in stopping until he was dead. Anxiously, he wrung his hands between his knees, sitting on the edge of his seat until the sudden touch of a hand on his wrist nearly made him jump out of his skin.

“Sorry,” Raine managed a half-smile at his side. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“It’s okay,” Cas sighed, leaning back against the side of the van and closing his eyes. His heartbeat was still drumming in his ears, and he knew he needed to calm down. Even if the rebels did find them before they made it to the safe house, he’d learned from his experience in the outer districts that he needed to keep a level head if he wanted to survive. Of course, that was easier said than done, but the least he could do was keep from openly panicking.

For a moment, the only sound was the gravel turning beneath the van’s wheels and the hum of the engine, but Raine wasn’t finished speaking yet. “These people…” she went on quietly. “You made it sound like you’ve dealt with them before. Are they also the group behind the civil war in your country?”

Cas nodded without opening his eyes. “They’ve been fighting with us since my dad was still in power, and now that he’s gone, it just feels like they’re trying even harder to get rid of me… Since I’m an only child, there’s no one else in line for the throne right now.”

“Oh.” The Suphate princess frowned. “That is precarious.”

“Mhm,” he finally turned his head slightly to glance at her from the side. Though they had been getting along earlier, and this conversation felt like as good of an invitation as any, he didn’t make any moves toward her. She was fun and beautiful and he liked her company, but with everything that had just happened, his thoughts were fixated on Iris again. Facing the people who had killed her tore open afresh all the wounds he thought he’d healed, and suddenly, reaching out to another woman felt treacherous to her memory.

Raine was bold enough without his assertion though. The hand she’d rested on his arm slid downward to lace her fingers with his, and she gave his hand a gentle squeeze. He reciprocated halfheartedly and allowed her to stay there until they made it to the hovercar on the edge of the property, where the guards funneled them from the armored van into the aircraft that would carry them the rest of the distance to the southern safe house.
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Hearing the confirmation that it was indeed nonsense relaxed the soldier, but he couldn’t help that a part of him planted the seed of what if? Shaking his head, he trusted Jacob explicitly and he knew that if confirmed it was nonsense, then he believed it to be that. The rebels were just trying to unnerve them, it was a cheap dirty trick naming people that where dead and he wondered if they thought for a moment, it would save their own skin.

Approaching the clearing once more he could see in the distance soldiers dragging away the apprehended, no doubt to be questioned. Sighing he knew very well what kind of treatment this kid was about to face, but it couldn’t be helped. Not when they were part of a rebellion that was so hellbent on killing the Royal Family.

Assessing the damage, he had already sent out others to sweep the perimeter on hopes they could catch the others that had slipped through their fingers. Now that the palace was secure again, he tapped a few commands into his phone requesting a clean up crew to repair the damages and start cleaning up the mess. Whilst he was doing that, he began to inspect the perimeter to look for weak spots of entry as requested by Jacob, it was strange to think how they managed to slip through especially on a night that had heavy security.

Knowing he’d be likely to find the answers in the forest he began to leave the palace walls looking for anything that was strange. Placing his hands in his pockets he could hear noises from other officials calling out orders as well as looking for clues themselves to the whereabouts of the missing rebels. Everything was just idle chatter and as he moved deeper into the forest, he caught sight of something silver, the light had caught his eye and he knelt down to inspect. Brushing a few leaves, he was careful not to touch it as he began to follow where the line lead only to start approaching the border.

Knowing there was a watch tower in the distance he decided to go take a look, reviewing the footage would give him some answers at least. Still not understanding what the silver spool was for just, yet he moved on to the tower only to find the door creak open and silence greet him. “Requesting back up at watch tower.” Giving away his position to his fellow men, hearing a reply of five minutes he moved inside to be greeted with a strong smell of blood.

Pulling out his gun to be on the safe side he began to move through the building listening out for any sudden movements, but it was just an eerie silence that greeted him. Already feeling on edge Harry was certain of one thing, he doubted that anyone was here. Kicking open the door to the surveillance room he moved into the doorway with his gun ready to fire, but all he was greeted with was an empty room and a dead body. A soldier that had been based here, but usually there was two and there was not telling what had happened to the second.

Glancing at the screens he could see that they had all been tampered with, something was jamming the signal. Soon after he heard his back up arrive, barking orders at them he pulled out his phone filing a report on the breach in tower seven. This is where the rebels had come from and it was more than likely they killed the guard in here, but there was still the question of the other guard that was missing.

Rubbing his temples this wasn’t going to be a quick and simple fix, but he felt confident they could get to the bottom of it. At least they had one in custody ready to interrogate, but it was concerning the other two had disappeared. Just as he was about to inspect the broken cameras a loud explosion could be heard and the tower, he was in shuddered parts of it crumbling. “Shit! FALL BACK!” Commanding to the other officers as they all started to scramble out of the building, everyone just about making it out safely before the ceiling began to cave in.

“FAN OUT, FIND THE CULPRITS THEY CAN’T HAVE GONE FAR.” His voice boomed as he commanded the officers, everyone began to move looking for the rebels ready to take them down.

Pacing some more in the condo Iris was at war with herself, she didn’t want to put Jacob in a position by leaving but she felt like she had too. What if she could help? Maybe she could be of use to help Cas? With her mind made up she grabbed one of his jackets throwing it over herself and pulling up the hood to help conceal her identity. Moving to the front room she rummaged round for some paper and a pen, the least she could do was apologise to Jacob. It was the least she could do after he had saved her life, but she had to see Cas and she knew he wouldn’t let her.
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The safe house had a haunted feeling to it.

At least, that’s what Caspian thought when they turned on the lights in the windowless building he had been told to make his home until the rest of the rebels had been caught by capital security. On the south side of the city, it was hidden away near a condominium development and looked on the outside like a mundane storage unit. However, the interior was furnished surprisingly lavishly, dripping in his late father’s taste. The furniture looked just like that of the palace, the walls were decorated with framed photos of the royal family, and the kitchen was fully stocked with enough food to last at least a few months.

There were four bedrooms, providing plenty of space for the king, the visiting princess and their guards, and a TV was set up in the living room to provide them with an outlet to keep up with the world beyond the safe house walls. That was where Cas and Raine set up camp while the guards went about some of their other preparations with the temporary location. Over the news, they saw that Raine’s father, as well as all the other guests in the palace except for five people, had made it out of the attack in one piece. She was relieved beyond words to see that her family was safe, and while they sat on the couch in front of the newscaster on the screen, she eventually fell asleep against his shoulder while he continued to watch the reports flow through, speculating about the military’s competence to deal with the Scourge and about whether or not he was going to hurry the timeline for a marriage to protect the royal bloodline from getting snuffed out.

It was a lot to take in, especially after he’d just been attacked at what should have been a fun, peaceful banquet with Aspiria’s closest allies. Cas didn’t know how long he sat in front of the TV, drenching himself in the weight of his kingdom’s expectations, until the touch of a hand on his shoulder startled him out of his spiraling. At the feeling, he looked up to see Jacob standing behind him with a frown. “You should get some rest, Your Majesty,” the guard suggested gently. “Your bedroom is prepared for you.”

“Rest for what?” Cas muttered, curling his fingers as Raine lifted her cheek from his other arm, roused by the sound of their talking. His fingers had started to prickle from lack of blood flow while she’d been using him as a pillow. “I’m not doing anything to help this whole situation.” He shook his head. “Five people are dead because those rebels came for me… and now I’m hiding from them in an oversized box because I can’t do anything to defend myself.”

“You aren’t at fault for any of this,” Jacob furrowed his brows. “And your job isn’t to defend yourself. It is to lead this kingdom, which you can’t do effectively when there are men loose in the capital who would do anything to see your life end. This is a necessary measure to keep you safe until we can hunt them down and put them behind bars.”

“Right,” Cas sighed, unconvinced.

“Don’t torment yourself over what happened today, Your Majesty,” Jacob rested a hand on his shoulder again. “Our soldiers are working round the clock to find the men behind the attack and bring them to justice. For now, we just need you rested and ready to present yourself strongly when you return to face your people.”

Cas pressed his lips together, his eyes drifting back to the running news piece on the TV. He doubted he was going to get any sleep while he was still so wound up after the bombing, but before he could voice his dissent to Jacob, he stared as the screen suddenly blinked off, and Raine stood from the couch at his side. “He’s right, you know,” she said, extending a gloved hand toward him. “Come on. You need to show those terrorists who’s in charge, and you won’t do that worrying yourself to death in front of the TV.”

Caspian gaped at her, caught off guard by the forceful tone of her voice, while at his back, Jacob smirked. “Fine,” he caved, taking her hand to stand up as well. He still didn’t feel like trying to rest, but the others had a point that watching reruns of the same news updates over and over weren’t helping. Taking a breath, he turned toward the hallway that connected to the bedrooms. “If it’ll make you guys happy, I’ll lay down for a while.”

“It will,” Raine chirped, casting him a wink and a curtsey as she walked past him to be escorted by a female guard to her own room. “Goodnight, Your Majesty.”

“Goodnight, princess,” he said back.

On his way around the sofa, Jacob tapped his arm one more time, leaning over to whisper, “She would make a wonderful queen.”

“Yeah,” Cas shrugged, watching Raine disappear around the corner ahead of him. Logically, he agreed with Jacob. The Suphate princess had all the makings of a leader that his father had encouraged him to look for in a partner, but his head and heart were still fixed on Iris. Even though he had been flirting with the idea of discussing an engagement with Raine and her father just a couple hours earlier, the thought of doing anything with her suddenly felt wrong. He felt a frown etch itself into his features and dropped his gaze to the floor as he headed slowly for the corridor.

He knew he had to let go of her at some point, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Not yet. With an attack from the rebels fresh in his mind, he tossed and turned for the rest of the night, haunted by the image of her motionless body on the drone camera when she’d died.
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Apparently, she wasn’t a person of many words when writing notes and she knew no matter what she had said in it Jacob would still hate her for it. After all he had saved her, he had rescued her and kept her alive and fed and warm, yet here she was now running away from all of it. Hindsight was a bitch and even though Jacob was part of the security team and his guard she still felt the need to find these rebels and get rid of them for good and maybe then she could face Cas.

After all this time maybe she’d feel worthy enough, especially as she owed him an apology for how she had left. Sighing he thought she was dead, perhaps it was better that way? Either way she needed to find out what the rebels were doing and how she could help Cas, it was the least she could do after all the drama she had brought into his life.

I’m so sorry Jacob, thank you for everything.

With the note set she left it on the table in the living room before she moved towards the door opening it up, giving one last glance to the place she left knowing this was best. If she could gain any information and give it to Cas it may just be the upper hand, he needed to quell the rebellion for good. The fact it was still on-going was worrying in the slightest as her father was dead, Ethan was dead. Who could possibly still want this to continue? Not when she believed in her heart that Cas was going to help improve the districts and not ignore it like his father had.

Running was easy, especially as her father had trained her to slip in and out of the Capital unnoticed in order to assassinate the royals long ago. With most of her memories returned she felt more equipped to deal with this and she felt motivated out of her emotional slump she had found herself in the past couple of months. Iris was certain she could help this time and be of use and thankfully her ability to blend in worked out great, no one paid her any attention and just assumed she was meant to be there. Maybe it helped she was in Capital clothing, but she had taken that from Jacob.

It had been two days of running, following any sort of lead she could find, and she ended up in an area that was awfully quiet. Listening out for any snippets of clues from civilians she had ended up on the south side of the Capital, a place that didn’t look as populated as other areas of the Capital she had seen on her travels. Problem was it had been two days, no food and barely any water which didn’t bode well in terms of survival, and she’d need to find something soon. So far what she had managed to figure out was one rebel had been caught and two were still on the run from the attack at the palace two days ago.

Two days of being out on the streets hiding in woodland areas for brief moments of rest had meant the clothing she now wore was a little on the scruffy side. Something she was starting to feel conscious in as it would gain more attention than needed. No one she had seen looked scruffy in any sort of way and it seemed that they all cared about their appearance, so now she felt like she was starting to stick out a bit more. Pressing her hand to her side she could still feel the odd twinge here and there, and although she was mostly healed and ready to be moving around more, she had neglected resting due to her sheer determination to be of use to Cas.

Shoving her hands in her pockets she kept her head down as she passed by two civilians who were looking her way warily, quickly shuffling past as she turned a corner to see a shop in the distance. An idea sprung to mind, and she knew it would be the perfect place to steal a bottle of water, that would tide her over for a bit longer as she felt like she was getting somewhere. Approaching the store her eyes swept the building looking for the shopkeeper and she didn’t see anyone out on the front, carefully she moved inside trying to make as little noise as possible. Heading towards the chilled section she could see the water in sight, smiling to herself she snatched the bottle but just as she was about to sneak it into her pocket a hand out of nowhere grabbed her wrist.


“Let go!” Iris hissed snatching her hand back as she began to back away, but there was an anger in the shop keeper’s eyes as he began to shout at the top of his voice to attract attention knowing that there would be some guards patrolling around as he began to chase her out of the store.


Quickly Iris began to leg it out of the shop her heart racing as she had been caught, if she could put distance between them before anyone else heard then she could slip away and hide for a bit until the coast was clear. Panicked she continued to run, but her next turning had been the wrong one as a couple of guards who had heard a commotion was heading towards the shop she was running from. They had quickly put two and two together, why else would you run in the Capital unless you were guilty of something?


Turning on her heel Iris tried to run off in another direction, but the guards were quick, and probably in better shape than she was as they easily began to close the distance between them. Trying to push forward she cried out as she went crashing down to the floor with a guard having pounced on her pinning her to stop her from running off.

“What’s your ID number?” The other guard spoke as he pulled out a machine to check it against their system.

“I don’t remember.” Iris whispered hoping it would buy her a little bit of time.

“Rebel?” Questioning to the other guard as he looked down at her appearance, they had been on high alert since the attack. “Name?” The guard persisted his eyes down on her, but Iris didn’t respond which didn’t bode well for them. “I’ll call it in. No risks.” The guard reasoned as he reached for his earpiece to send communication to Curry, especially as they knew the safe house was in this area and they couldn’t risk anything.

“Sir, suspected rebel caught in the area. We’ve restrained them, but they are refusing to talk.” Glancing at his partner who still kept the girl pinned as he awaited orders, they could take her to the prison but it was awfully close to the safe house that Curry may want to deal with it personally in case the last one was still in the area.
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Two days had passed. Two long, painful days of hiding out in an above-ground bunker while the capital’s security team continued to report back that the missing rebels had yet to be apprehended. Cas spent most of his time in front of the TV, or at least near enough to catch a glimpse of the reports on the news, unhealthily fixated on the things his people were saying about him while he was stuck in the safe house. He hated feeling so helpless, and he wanted to yell back at the reporter on the screen that he would be doing something about the rebels if his guards would just let him out to confront them.

As the hours crawled by, what had started as shock and despair had morphed into anger. The Scourge had taken too much from him. They’d abducted him from the capital, attempted to have him killed multiple times, caused strife between him and his dying father, bombed the home he’d grown up in, and murdered the woman he loved. He was done letting them walk all over him. Aspiria was his kingdom, and the rebels needed to learn to accept him as its ruler or he was going to make them.

On his second day in hiding, he said as much to Jacob, who was glad to see a new fire in the king’s eyes but (wisely) advised him to draft his speech before he returned to face the public eye. Raine offered to help as well, mentioning that her father had hired a professional to train her in the art of diplomacy. Like the security head, she was supportive of a heavy-handed response to the terrorists after her father had nearly lost his life in the attack, and she insisted that she would be able to help him craft a response that would instill confidence in Aspiria’s allies while also sending a clear message to the Scourge that the monarchy would be ending its leniency toward their tantrums.

With time to spare and nothing else to do to kill it, Cas agreed and they sat down at the dining table to pen a draft while the guards on site milled about by the kitchen, occasionally communicating into their comm devices with the rest of the team that was out and about in the city as they attempted to track down the missing rebels. Supposedly the two were still somewhere in the capital, since the border patrol hadn’t found traces that anyone had tried to escape from inside.

While the search dragged on, the guards in the safe house had set up a pair of laptops on the island counter, connected to the security cameras in the immediate vicinity to monitor the area for any unauthorized activity. That afternoon, a few of them were watching the screens idly when the sound of shouting voices suddenly projected from the computer speakers and made nearly everyone in the room jump. It was the first time they’d gotten anything other than general background noise since they’d set up the system, and all the guards who hadn’t been standing beside the counter, Jacob included, circled up to see what was going on.

“Burglar?” one muttered the guess with a glance at the security head, who was staring at the screen with a pinched expression. Crime rates had been low in the capital for the last ten years, and the fact that this had happened so close to the safe house didn’t feel like a coincidence to him.

“What’s going on?” Cas called over from the dining room. He and Raine had heard the commotion too, and he’d slid his chair back to join the group in the kitchen. “Did they find the rebels?”

“We aren’t sure just yet, your majesty,” Jacob responded without looking away from the computer. On one of the cameras, three tiny figures had just come into view. He pressed a hand on the shoulder of the nearest guard. “There, Stevens. Zoom in on camera six.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Let me see,” Cas ordered, pushing his way between two of the other men to get a view of the screen. After forty-eight hours of being pent up, he hoped the guards had found the guys they were after. Holding his breath, he watched as the camera that had caught the action was brought to full-screen and zoomed in on three people in a skirmish. He leaned in to get a better look and recognized two uniform that belonged to capital soldiers. They were wrestling to apprehend… a girl?


Iris?” he breathed, his eyes widening as he stared at her familiar face, pinned to the ground beneath a guard. The details were slightly distorted by pixilation, but he recognized her anywhere. He pressed his palms flat against the counter, suddenly dizzy. How the hell was this happening? He’d watched Ethan kill her, and his own team had confirmed she was dead, yet now here she was, alive and kicking in the capital? He didn’t understand how it was possible, but as he listened to the soldier’s voice on the radio, phoning in his capture to Jacob, he whipped around to the security head without a second thought.

“That’s Iris,” he snapped. “Tell him to bring her here.”

Jacob blinked, snapping himself out of his stupor. Like Caspian, he had recognized Iris immediately and had sworn under his breath the moment her face had appeared in any clarity on the screen. Having been in the safe house to make sure his king didn’t leave for the last two days, he hadn’t checked in on her recently, but he was shocked to see her outside of his condo, committing petty theft. It was entirely foolish of her to slip out on her own—especially while every soldier in the vicinity was on high alert for intruders. He didn’t know how she could have been so stupid. And now Caspian knew she was still alive. He winced. This was not going to end well.

“Jacob!” Cas barked when the guard didn’t immediately respond.

“Yes, sir,” he acquiesced reluctantly, bringing his hand up to his ear. He knew the king was going to put the pieces together eventually—he wasn’t stupid—but at the moment, Caspian seemed too fixated on the fact that Iris was still alive to put any thought toward the fact that he had said she was dead and had even claimed to have buried her, himself. There was no hiding his lies now that the truth had come out, and he swallowed hard, not looking forward to what was going to come when the king realized what he’d done.

“I can see you both on the camera now,” he responded to the soldier outside. “Bring her to the safe house. The king would like to speak with her, personally.”
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Struggling had been useless, turns out she hadn’t fully regained her strength from her incident with Ethan. It couldn’t end here; she was determined to be free of their grasp and do something for once to help Cas. Even with her renewed motivation it wasn’t enough to push these soldiers off of her and slip away. It hurt knowing she had been so close to try and help him, now she’d no doubt end up in a cell and this time no one would be there to save her.

“Sir?” The soldier questioned the order, the King wanted to speak to the girl directly. “Yes sir.” Knowing better to question it he only thought that maybe the King was sick and tired of these rebels and criminals running around that he wanted to deal with it personally.

“We’re to bring her in.” Nodding towards the safe house that wasn’t too far in the distance he bent down pulling up Iris to her feet as the other soldier removed his hold from pinning her to the floor.

“Ouch, that aint gonna be pretty for you missy.” The other soldier smirked as he forced her arms behind her back holding her in place as he directed where to walk.

“Oh, bite me.” Iris hissed grimacing at the pain of her arms being forced behind her back in a strong hold. This time her luck had run out, having been on borrowed time since entering the Capital it had finally caught up with her.

“Hah, you’ll get what’s coming to you criminal.” The shopkeeper from earlier chimed in having chased her for the stolen goods. Waving a fist in her direction as he picked up the stolen goods grumbling about how ridiculous the girls attempt had been as he shuffled back off in the distance towards his shop.

Dreading the idea of going back to that prison Iris kept her eyes to the ground as the soldier holding her continued to push her forward, only to look up when they approached a house rather than a mode of transport. Narrowing her eyes, she watched as the other soldier rapped on the door in a certain order, as if it was some secret code before it opened allowing them entry. “Where are you taking me?”

The question fell on deaf ears as the soldiers continued on pushing her into the house as the door closed behind them with a lock. Something didn’t seem right to her as this was not where she expected to end up and she found herself struggling just a little bit more only to receive a harsh shove into a room which made her stumble. Thankful she hadn’t fallen flat on her face, and she rubbed her wrists now free from the hold of the soldiers, frowning as she was about to say something her attention was caught but how high tech the room was.

Glancing around her eyes fell on Jacob and her heart dropped seeing him, guilt already surfacing as he had only tried to help her, and she had been foolish enough to leave the sanctuary he had provided. Opening her mouth to apologise to him she fell silent as she finally noticed another figure in the room, one that she had not seen in months.

Her mouth went dry as she swallowed hard having not seen him in so long, but there he was safe, and sound and she wished she could have gotten that information for him. She wished she could be of use to him for once and not cause all these issues.


Managing to get out his name from her lips, her voice quiet as she almost didn’t believe he was here and that he was real. The feelings where still there for him, they had never gone and as much as she was delighted to see him, she also felt guilty for leaving him and then worried about if he would even understand her reasons for it or would he hate her now?

Then there was Jacob, how could she explain herself out of what had happened? Telling the truth would get Jacob into trouble and she didn’t want that, not when he had saved her life and it hadn’t been the first time either.

“I’m so sorry.”
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The safe house was awash with confusion as everyone waited for the local guards to deliver their captive to the king. Cas could feel the guards’ questioning eyes on his back, though none of them dared to voice the inquiry that was undoubtedly on all of their minds: Who was Iris, and why was he summoning her to himself when the protocol was to take all rebels to be formally interrogated at the prison? Even Raine, who had been watching the scene from a distance, had fallen quiet as she hovered behind him now, though she didn’t seem to know what to say either.

Rather than explaining the situation to any of them, Caspian just stared at the computer monitor with bated breath, where he could see the entire process as the guards hauled Iris to her feet and dragged her along with them. He was still shaken that she was alive. He’d thought he had watched her die with his own two eyes, and he had no idea how he was seeing her in the capital again after Ethan had taken her away from him. It didn’t make any sense, and his head felt like it was spinning.

“Tell them to be gentler with her,” he frowned at Jacob, also unappreciative of the way the guards were handling Iris on the screen.

The guard pressed his lips together. “Your Majesty, if she’s going to struggle, they need to use force to—”

“I don’t care,” Cas snapped.

Jacob held his insistent gaze for a few silent beats before his eyes flickered to the front door, where everyone in the safe house had turned as they heard the knocking from the guard. “They’re already here,” he said softly, then turned to one of his other men with a tilt of his head at the door. “Let them in.”

“Yes, sir,” the guard nodded

Caspian’s eyes flicked toward the motion briefly before returning to the security head with a scowl. He was starting to notice that when it came to Iris, Jacob wasn’t the quickest at following orders. The other man had practically ignored him just now, openly in front of his subordinates. He wasn’t sure what to think about that. However, he didn’t have time to work it through when the doorknob rattled open, and his breath caught in his throat as he looked up again to see Iris stumble into the room.

She really was alive. His heart felt like it stopped as their eyes met. He couldn’t believe it. For over a month, he’d been slowly relearning how to go on without her, moving on with his new life as king until he could make it through the days without breaking down over her loss. He’d thought he would never see her again, yet here she was in the capital, still breathing.

Thoroughly shocked, it was the sound of her voice that brought Cas back out of his stupor. When she said his name, he took in the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and took a half step forward, feeling the hot sting of tears welling in his eyes. “Iris,” he whispered hers back, almost as if he was afraid the spell would break if he said it too loudly. As soon as the word left his lips, though, he couldn’t help himself any longer. While she was still in the middle of her apology, he broke from his place beside his guards and swept across the room to pull her into a tight embrace.

“I thought I lost you,” he murmured into her neck, his voice breaking without any mind to the other people in the safe house with them. Right now, as far as he was concerned they were the only two people in the world, and he didn’t hold back from tangling one hand into her long hair as he held her against himself. Every part of him was trembling with emotion, and a couple tears rolled freely as he whispered weakly: “I thought you were dead.”
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Everything felt so overwhelming to her as her eyes landed on the King, the one person she had told herself she’d be fine to live without. The man she felt deserved so much better than her and the one person she had genuinely wanted to help, only to have that blow up in her face. Seeing him resurfaced the love she felt, the care and the want to be with him alongside all the guilt of what she had put him through from assisting in his kidnapping to then letting him believe she was dead. What kind of person would do that to someone they cared about?

Though what kind of person would leave a sanctuary knowing they were safe? The foolish kind that truly believed she could find something to stop the rebellion once and for all so he could finally live in peace without the scourge ruining his life. Hearing her name leave his lips she felt herself tremble trying to hold back her own tears. A part of her wondering if he’d hate her for letting him believe she was dead.

Even as she stumbled out an apology her eyes went wide as he moved forward and seconds later, she could feel a tight embrace as his arms wrapped around her. A warmth enveloped her, and she couldn’t help but give in to her own desire as she returned the embrace tightly, worried that if she couldn't feel him, it would all be a lie. That she’d wake up from some sort of daze that she had painted because of how fearful she was about returning to the prison that had tortured her once before.

Closing her eyes, she buried her head in his chest not daring to face the look of Jacobs face or anyone else that where watching. Iris knew she was about to get a good man into trouble if she couldn’t think of something plausible that wouldn’t incriminate Jacob. Then there were the guards that must be judging their King for openly showing care towards a criminal. There was also the issue of another woman being in this safe house that Iris couldn’t help but wonder about, it had been the same woman she had seen on the TV watching the party before the disaster.

So much emotion swirled around in her head that it felt nauseating, tightening her grip on him as she tried to steel herself to face the inevitable music. “I’m so sorry Cas...” Repeating the apology that had been interrupted before. “I’m so sorry.” Truly she felt awful knowing he had grieved for her right after losing his only family left.

Reaching her hand up she wiped away his tears before resting her hand gently on his cheek pulling back to meet his gaze. “I was trying to find something to help you, to finally get rid of that rebellion so you’d have peace.” Her own voice wavered as she whispered out the words, her eyes tearing up again as she couldn’t stop them from falling because she had let him down again.

“I was stupid.” Iris sighed her eyes downcast as her hand slipped from his face disappointed in herself and the decisions she had made, but yet a part of her was so happy to finally see him again when she didn’t think there’d be a chance. Biting her lip, she could feel everyone was staring at them, she could hear whispers between the guards, everyone thoroughly confused as to who she was and why the King was acting this way towards her.

No one had really known what she was to him except his friends and Jacob and right now she knew rumours were about to spiral for him and she didn’t want to keep causing him trouble like this. Maybe honesty would be the best policy here? But then she’d get Jacob into trouble and what if he hated her for it?

“I thought I’d never see you again...” Emotions started to pour out because she couldn’t hold it back anymore and her body shook as she tried to stop herself from crying and looking so pathetic in front of him and everyone.
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It felt like a dream. As Iris wrapped her arms around his back and buried her head into his chest, Cas just held her tighter, amazed that she was really there. He still didn’t know how it was possible when he’d watched her die on screen and had been told that she was gone. There were questions in the recesses of his mind that were going to demand an answer eventually, but right now, it was all he could do to keep himself from unraveling completely as he felt the warmth of her living body, the tickle of her hair against his cheek, and the pressure of her hands on his shoulders.

When she began to apologize to him, he shook his head fervently, loosening his grip on her just enough to meet her tear-streaked gaze with his own. “You have nothing to be sorry for,” he murmured, his voice catching slightly in his throat with roiling emotion. He swallowed hard, reining it back as much as he could. “I’m just glad you’re here.”

He could feel the tremor in her arms, so he pulled her back in, resting his chin on her shoulder and squeezing his eyes shut as he whispered, “I love you, Iris.”

For a long moment, they stayed like that. Cas ignored the quiet, confused chatter of the other people around them, all of whom were certainly baffled by the sudden appearance of a girl from the rebellion in the capital and their king’s obvious attachment to her. Raine was silent from her corner, watching the display with tight lips and uncertainty written across her features, while Jacob was prickling under the questioning gazes of the other guards. None of them knew what he’d done, but as the personal head of the king’s security, they had to suspect he had some awareness of this illicit relationship between their monarch and a member of the rebellion.

Cas also felt the eyes on his back, though he was less affected by them. As the initial shock wore off, and he felt the flood of emotions slowly subside, he opened his eyes halfway and threaded his fingers through her hair, thinking to himself. Her return meant a lot of things. Not the least, she’d come back after he had started actively pursuing a courtship with another woman—a woman who was sitting in the same room as them. He felt a faint twinge of guilt for the way he’d reacted in front of Raine, but he couldn’t help it. Iris was the one he loved, and no one else could replace her in his mind. It was uncomfortable to know what that meant for the Suphate princess, but…

“Here. Let’s go back to my room,” he said softly, pulling back again and taking her hand in his. “We have a lot of catching up to do.” With a glance over his shoulder, he flashed an apologetic look at Raine before turning to the guards. “Go back to your posts. Iris is my guest, so I’ll be the one to look after her.”

The security team exchanged a few uncertain looks amongst each other, but none of them were bold enough to challenge their king’s order so, after a brief, collective hesitation, they began to disperse throughout the safe house with only a few mumbled ‘yes, sir’s, and Cas led Iris further inside with a gentle tug to her hand.
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Iris could only feel the guilt continue to rise as he spoke, saying she had nothing to be sorry for. He didn’t even know the half of it and yet here he was reassuring her even though she had lied to him yet again. What made it worse was the stares she could feel, the awkward looks and whispers between themselves that the King was professing his love to some street rat. A member of the rebellion no less and she worried for his reputation knowing just how much hard work he was putting in to rebuild everything in the right way.

Hearing the admission of love Iris had to bite back another sob as she kept her arms around him, eyes closed in hopes to hide away from the world and the people that surrounded them. Her mind going haywire wondering what she should do, the silence wasn’t helping either as she felt like everyone was making a judgement just adding to how self conscious she felt right now in the moment.

A part of her wished she was back in Jacobs condo having not made such a stupid decision, she was about to ruin a lot of things for Cas which she never wanted. Selfishly however, she was really happy to see him once again and she focused on hiding the twinge of jealousy she felt towards the other girl that was here. Cas thought she was dead, and he was a King no less, he had to move on and forge relationships else there’d be no heir and no succession. Still, Iris couldn’t help but feel that way towards this woman especially as she knew that this woman had to be of high standard. Someone the people would want to see him with.

Pushing all those thoughts aside she bit her lip at his next words, they did have a lot of catching up to do and she wasn’t quite sure what to tell him. Unless she could get him to promise Jacob wouldn’t get into trouble? Hesitant to follow just as the guards where to follow his orders she felt Cas tug on her hand which prompted her to move. Trying to avoid everyone's gaze she couldn’t even bare herself to look at Jacob, let alone the girl that had been brought here with him.

“Cas... are you sure?” Unable to stop herself from asking that burning question, he would understand more than anyone that having her here. Stating she was a guest in front of the security team and that girl it would spark the rumours, his very image could be tarnished. “I don’t want to make things complicated for you again.” As much as she wanted to be by his side if it made things difficult for him, she would step aside, she would force herself to be content in knowing he was okay. It was that kind of thinking that had kept her from seeking him out for so long, accompanied by the horrid injury that took time to heal.

Even so she followed him to his room still in awe that he was really there, and that he still had such a strong emotion towards her after all this time apart. This would be it; this would be the chance to be completely honest with him. If she lied it would only come back to haunt her and he could very well in turn come to hate her for it and she had to trust in him, each time she didn’t and tried to do it by herself it ended up badly.

“I’ll tell you everything that happened, but I need you to make a promise for me.” Iris smiled slightly as she gave his hand a reassuring squeeze, she still stood by her decision of not wanting to get Jacob into trouble and she would try to get Cas to promise that at least. Jacob wasn’t a bad person, he wanted the best for Cas much like she had, and she didn’t want to run the risk of Cas not wanting him around. Cas was a King no less and it could be hard to trust those around you, but Jacob would never wish harm on him and did everything he could to protect him, and she didn’t want Cas to lose that.
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“I don’t care about that,” Caspian shook his head as he ushered Iris insistently with him to the back of the safe house. Being king over Aspiria was complicated enough by itself. At least with Iris, he was happy. He’d been slaving and sacrificing ever since he’d been crowned after his father, so even though he knew there were going to be repercussions if word got out that he was in love with a rebel from the Scourge, he was willing to put himself through the challenges if it meant he could have her back in his life.

Leading her back to the room that had become his most recent home, he closed the door behind them for privacy and let go of her hand. The space itself was small, like the rest of the bunker, with only a bed and an armchair by way of furniture. It was good enough for a conversation spot though, so he planted himself on the edge of the bed and patted the mattress in gesture for her to join him, raising his brow when she told him she was going to need him to make her a promise.

“Anything,” he said on reflex, still too caught up in the emotions of their reunion to consider what she might be asking of him. As far as he was concerned, Iris could ask him to make her queen tomorrow, and he would do it without a second thought. Admittedly, it wasn’t the best headspace to be in when committing to anything, but he couldn’t help it. He’d spent the last month convinced she was dead. Seeing her in front of him now, alive and well enough to hunt him down all on her own in the capital, all he cared about was making sure he didn’t lose her again.

“I just want to know what happened,” he insisted. “I saw Ethan… in the attic…” He swallowed hard. Even though a month had passed, and Iris clearly wasn’t dead, his throat still got tight when he thought about that live feed, so he shook his head again and breathed: “How are you still here?”
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Knowing that even with the repercussions he would face just having her back in his life didn’t seem to faze him made her feel a bit more at ease following him back to his room. As he let go of her hand, she missed the warmth, missed the feeling of having him close and without holding his hand she found herself fidgeting as she stood. Fingers fumbling with the end of her sleeves, a hesitance to join him on the bed because she was about to tell him the whole story. After telling him everything he may very well hate her, he may decide that in the end she was not worth any kind of hassle.

Hearing him agree to the promise she let out a shaky breath before joining him on the bed. Wincing at the mention of Ethan she could hear the pain in his voice, he had to have been distraught seeing a scene like that. Seeing her like that. Biting the bottom of her lip she reached out instinctively grabbed his hands in both of hers gently, hoping the touch alone would remind him that she was physically here alive and well. “I understand if after this you hate me, if you even hate Jacob, but I need you to promise me you won’t fire him. He’s a decent man, he cares about your safety and would never let anything harm you. I don’t want what has happened to jeopardise your safety.”

Squeezing his hands gently as she took a deep breath readying herself to explain everything, “That note I left you in the hotel was cowardly, but... I didn’t want to leave you. E-Ethan. Blackmailed me. Promised me he’d end the rebellion and his obsession with trying to kill you if I returned to the districts.” Glancing down at her hands that where holding his she wasn’t sure if she could look at him, she didn’t want to see the hate or disappointment in his eyes. “I was stupid enough to believe it. I didn’t want you to worry about me, I didn’t want your reputation to be brought into question because of me. I was an idiot to even believe for one second, he’d let things drop if I returned.”

Trying to explain parts of why she did it, so he could understand her thought process, but the guilt was evident in her voice because she knew she would have hurt him. “Jacob followed you when you came to visit me in me the hotel. I answered thinking you had forgotten something, but there he was. Our secret out and he knew you’d been lying to protect me. I’m not sure what he would have done, or what could have happened, but I said I wanted to go back to the districts. Jacob agreed to take me back, he believed it would be best for you. To not have someone like me bringing you down, he didn’t know about the blackmail... maybe I should have told him then? Maybe it wouldn’t have ended up like this. I wasn’t thinking straight as all I cared about was protecting you.” Reaching up Iris gently caressed his cheek with her hand, blinking back the tears in her eyes because she knew that she had still be a cause for his pain regardless of how everything had panned out.

“I...” Swallowing hard Iris felt the tightness in her throat, the hesitation to talk about what happened next. In truth she couldn’t remember everything fully, there had been a lot of pain, things that may not have even happened. “What happened next... well.” Cringing because she wasn’t even sure she could put it into words, “I... I should have died. I felt it. I... I.” Iris could feel her voice cracking as she hung her head in shame, no longer able to hold back her tears as the emotions started to boil over.

“All I could think of in that moment was that I let you down, that I was so powerless to help you with anything. That all I had done to you was cause pain.”
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Through his own excitement, Caspian could see hints that Iris wasn’t as elated about their reunion as he was. It was strange, but she looked almost… nervous to be with him again. The restlessness of her fingers and the quaver in her breath seemed uneasy. He wasn’t sure why that would be. After everything they’d been through, he would have thought she’d be happy they were together again, and she had seemed that way just a few minutes ago. He watched her with a confused frown as she hesitantly joined him on the edge of the bed. He was the one who’d asked her to fill him in on everything that had happened since the day he’d seen her with Ethan, but with the way she was acting now, he was starting to wonder if he was going to like hearing what she had to say.

Still, the touch of her hands against his was a soothing balm against rising nerves. He turned his palms over into hers, reveling in her warmth—further solidifying the fact that she was really there with him again. For a moment, he sat in that relief, and then knitted his brows when Iris began to speak and mentioned a name he hadn’t expected. “Jacob?” He looked up from their intwined hands to her face. Parting his lips, he almost asked her what his guard had to do with anything, but he stopped himself. By the look on Iris’s face, he could tell she wanted to tell him everything, so there was no reason to spring ahead.

Forcing himself to hold onto his questions for now, he let out a sigh and nodded. “Fine… I promise.”

It was difficult to listen without interrupting, but Cas did his best as she began to tell him everything, beginning with the note she’d left for him the day she’d gone missing from the hotel. His throat tightened at the mention of it, old emotions resurfacing as he pictured her handwriting in his mind. Back then, he’d thought she had left him of her own volition, and even though it hadn’t been as painful as believing he’d just watched her die on a screen, it had still hurt. He’d wondered about it ever since, so when she told him Ethan had blackmailed her, his eyes widened slightly in surprise.

The detail slotted a lot of things into place. Now he knew how her ex had gotten ahold of her and why she’d left him so abruptly. It hadn’t been her choice after all—at least, not fully. He felt a mixture of relief and sadness at that. On one hand, it was good to feel certain that he hadn’t done anything to drive her away. But on the other hand… everything about what Ethan had done was despicable.

He was equally surprised to learn the role his security head had played in her disappearance. Even though he’d just promised Iris not to fire Jacob, he felt anger whip through him at the discovery that the other man had known where she was—had helped deliver her to Ethan on a silver platter—and had kept it from him all this time. “He should have told me,” he shook his head, folding his arms stiffly over his chest. “If I’d known, I could have done something to help you, Iris. You didn’t have to go back to him—” Pausing, he took a breath. As frustrated as he was, there was nothing helpful about getting mad at the past. She was here now. That was all that mattered, he reminded himself.

Instead, as her voice broke, and she lowered her head, Cas leaned over to draw her into his arms again, hugging her tightly to his chest. “It’s not your fault,” he murmured. “And even if you disagree with me, I don’t care. I meant it when I said I’m glad you’re here now, so whatever happened before this… It’s behind us.” Closing his eyes, he let out his breath softly and pressed a hand to the back of her head. “I never stopped loving you, even when you disappeared, but do you… still feel the same about me?”
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