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Oh, so not a good idea. He ought to be shot. Drawn and quartered. Hung from the nearest rafter. Or something. Maybe then his brain would kick over and order him to do the right thing. An honorable male would back off. Sit her down and talk it out.
Which made it official. He should pull away, explain the way things worked while he made his position clear and let her decide. Only two options existed for females in his world—accept his dragon half, become his mate, or run like hell.
Clear cut. No room for misinterpretation. And yet, as her tongue t On a collision course with warriors hidden amid inhospitable cliffs and low-lying mountain valleys, he banked into a tight turn. Twin streams whistled from his wing tips. His brown, orange-speckled scales rattled. Snow spun in his wake, the mad rush matching the rise of his fury. A yellow glow sparked in his dark eyes.
His gaze swept east, the citrine glow staining the washed-out winter landscape in front of him. He needed a target. The perfect remedy. A way to focus his rage, the promise of a fight that would leave him bruised and more than a touch bloody.
It was either that or explode. Not a great plan considering his firepower in dragon form. The flammable poison Chapter Sixteen Cursing his bad luck, Ivar leapt off the third-floor balcony. The violent free fall blew his hair back. Frigid air burned over his cheekbones. Focused on the ground, he bared his teeth and timed his landing.
The blackness was absolute. No porch light on behind his aboveground lair. No glow from streetlights bleeding into his backyard. No moon to break through the murky thread of midnight. Just stony silence and the abysmal threat of another fucked-up night.
Suppressing a snarl, Ivar called on his magic.
His night vision sparked. Frozen grass came into focus, the brown, bladed edges sharp and battle worn in the darkness. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three— He let his fire dragon loose. Pink flame licked over his skin. Heat blasted through the cold. His body lengthened beneath the spread of blood-red scales and the crack of razor-sharp claws.
Winter wind snapped at the spikes adorning his tail. Brick facade of 28 Walton Street blurring in his periphery, Ivar spread h Chapter Seventeen Sitting with her back to the wall inside her temporary bedroom, Hope turned the rolled boxing wrap over in her hands. She snorted. The who, however, remained a serious problem.
One unlikely to go away anytime soon. Hope frowned at her knuckles. Or rather, what she was doing. Hiding might be a better characterization. In full retreat was an even better one. The fact she was doing it while wedged between her bed and the night table with her butt planted on the floor summed up her situation nicely.
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Hope cringed. All right, best add pathetic to the heap of shame and get on with her day. Cursing under her breath, she examined the Velcro holding the boxing Chapter Eighteen Raising her fists, Hope kept her guard high and pivoted around the heavy bag.
Footwork perfect, her bare soles skimmed over the hardwood floor. Shift right.
Dance left. Keep her opponent in her sights. Rope creaked. The black bag swayed from her last strike. Muscles pulsing with energy, she flexed her hands inside the sparring gloves and, timing her punch, hammered the sucker again.
The violent thump echoed across the weight room. The impact jolted up her arm. Satisfaction hummed through her as her biceps squawked in protest. Ignoring the discomfort, she struck again. And again. Jab right, a quick left cross before powering into an uppercut, moving in a rhythm that would make her trainer proud.
Again and again until her surroundings fell away. Concrete walls nothing but blur in her periphery, she brought her feet into play. Kicking high, she slammed her foot into the target zone. Black leather groaned. The heavy bag rocked sideways. Sweat rolled down her Chapter Nineteen He tasted like fine whiskey and hot sex. A combination she loved. Nothing wrong with a single malt after work. Probably something wrong with having hot sex with Forge. Or what he intended. None of it mattered.
The moment he kissed her, the outside world fell away. The idea of rethinking her decision disappeared. It was done. A lost cause.
Ethics thrown under the bus along with her ability to say no. No second-guessing necessary. Might as well commit. Might as well go with the flow. Might as well enjoy the ride and reap the reward. Tangli Chapter Twenty Stretching out his shoulders, Forge turned left into the corridor and strode toward the clinic. Hardwood floors gave way to smooth concrete floors.
The high polish gleamed dark gray as the round lights embedded in the floor threw splashes of light onto granite walls. Chisel marks stood in stark relief against the pale paint, reminding him of home and his painful history. Bowing his head, Forge cupped the back of his skull.
He pressed down. His chin touched his chest. Taut muscles squawked. He kept his feet moving, knees bending, bare soles whispering in the quiet, pace steady despite his tension. Goddamn history. The past never left him alone. As unrelenting as a hungry wolf, it circled, making him recall the good times, taunting him with the bad. Not that he could remember all of it. Which made him want to forget all the more. A picture of Hope rose in his mind. Forge shook his head. No sense turning away from the truth.
Sooner Chapter Twenty-One Standing in the antechamber connected to his laboratory, Ivar tapped his fingertips against the keyboard space bar.
The bank of monitors mounted to the wall woke up, the prompt for his password an island surrounded by an ocean of blue screen. He stared at it a moment, worry sitting like a hair ball in the pit of his stomach. His XO needed to get his head screwed on straight. Choosing males to breed his HE females when the Meridian realigned might be important, but the development of his antiviral drug took precedence.
Females were dying—babies, toddlers, teenagers, mothers or not. Which meant, as much fun as the competition was turning out to be.
Playtime was ove City lights winked in the distance. Waves crested and rolled in the bay, merging with unseen undercurrents before flowing past Seattle and out to sea. The icy swirl threw damp tendrils into the air, coating his scales with water, obscuring his vision with fog, making his unease keep time with frothing whitecaps. Refolding his wings, he adjusted his stance for what seemed like the thousandth time. Raising a paw, he flexed his talons.
Black, razor-sharp tips gleamed in the moon-glow. Step closer to the edge of the cliff. Climb to the row of boulders above the beach below him.
Hop back down. Resettle once more. No matter what he did—or how often he changed position—nothing eased the disquiet. Not surprising in the grand scheme of things.
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Waiting always set his teeth on edge. So did sitting Chapter Twenty-Three Folding his wings, Ivar fell out of the sky. Dropping through thick clouds, he aimed for the break between rooftops, pointing his paws toward the expansive lawn below.
Wind blasted over his scales. The rattle and shake soothed his temper, the chatter from the guards landing behind 28 Walton Street did not.
Multiple paws set down, crushing frozen grass under-talon. A spiked tail clipped one of the rusty oil tanks sitting in his appalling excuse for a backyard. The quiet clank annoyed the hell out of him. Bad form, he knew. He swallowed a growl along with his irritation. In fact, each male was doing it just right. Getting a gold star. Receiving an A-plus in the procedure department—whatever who the fuck cared?
Different night, same routine. No one entered the Chapter Twenty-Four Head bowed, dressed in his ceremonial robe, Zidane knelt in the middle of the sacred chamber. Hewn from solid granite, the circular room lay at the heart of the mountain.
Hot water flowed through channels carved into the rock wall, streaming into a pool flanked by ancient stone stairs. Steam writhed around him, dancing like ghosts as sweat trickled over his nape, down his back, making the heavy fabric stick to his skin.
His fire dragon loved the attention, all the inferno-like heat. His mood, however, continued to deteriorate. Hands fisted at his back, Zidane gritted his teeth. Kristus help him. He hated religious ceremonies. The shit-show always went on forever. Or his annoyance.
Everywhere he turned, something else irritated him—the stone floor digging into his shins, the cloud of jasmine clogging the air, the burn in his lungs, the ritualized chant making his temples thro Chapter Twenty-Five The chocolate mousse tasted so good, it nearly killed Hope when her spoon scraped the bottom of the bowl. Alone in the kitchen, elbows planted on the massive center island, she peered into the empty dish.
All gone. None left.
we're like a thousand suns
She frowned. Well, mostly. A few streaks of dark chocolate remained, marring white china, taunting her with the promise of another bite. God, that would be good. The absolute best given the guilt banging around inside her head.
Death by chocolate. The proposition sounded fantastic right now. Giving her spoon a lick, Hope glanced around the kitchen. Pale walls gave way to designer cabinets and an ocean of Carrara marble countertops.
A host of halogens spotlit the six-burner gas stove and all the details most people missed. But not her. Hope saw every little thing: the quality of the construction, each perfectly mitered corner, the precision of the paint job. Everything in its proper place. Nothing to provoke criticism. The ki Chapter Twenty-Six Bare feet cooling on mosaic tile, Hope pulled the blanket over the tops of her shoulders as Forge backed away. Her focus on his face, she crisscrossed the corners, gathering the wool in her fists, and pressed the soft fleecy side to her skin.
Without his warmth surrounding her, cold air attacked, shivering up her spine. He took another step away. And then another, leaving her standing alone in the center of the circular room.
Unease slithered in, winding her so tight she felt fragile. Almost brittle. Seconds away from breaking. The internal turmoil clued her in, jump-starting her brain. Her mind spun, hopping from one thought to the next. Something was wrong. Terrible, in point of fact. All right, so the dream sequence dragon attack. So did he Chapter Twenty-Seven Boots planted on the edge of the basketball court inside the gym, Forge searched for his female in the chaos. His gaze jumped over Sloan and Bastian.
Heads together, bent over a computer, the pair commiserated, yakking about God knew what and. Not right now. Not with Hope in the wind and—fucking hell. He turned his back for one second and she disappeared. Scampered from view. Made herself scarce. He scowled. Where the hell— The sound of her voice cranked his head around.
He found her in less than a second. Back to being quiet, she sat cross-legged on an exercise mat with the other females. Chin tilted down, she dragged her hands through her strawberry blond hair. A quick twist of her fingers. A faster flash of an elastic, and she tamed the unruly mass, imprisoning the strands in a messy bun atop her head. The movement jarred her.
Her senses jangled, making her temples throb and her whole body hurt. Clenching her teeth, she took a deep breath and looked around, trying to get her bearings, allowing Forge to lead, struggling to stop the blinding whirl inside her head.
But nothing she tried worked. The tumbling force inside her tightened its grip. One mental revolution spun into another. Now her mind burned and the awful buzz spread, infecting muscles and bone, bringing tears to her eyes. Hope blinked each away, but. The whiplash slashed her. No relief in sight. No safe port in the storm. Just the roar in her veins and the splinter of once-organized thoughts.
She wanted to ask him, but as her vision blurred, the hardwood floor beneath her feet warped. Her knees dipped. She stumbled. Forge cursed and, withou Chapter Twenty-Nine Crouched in front of the dresser in her room, Hope reached into the bottom drawer.
She nudged her boxing gloves aside. Bypassed her favorite skipping rope. Shoved a pile of workout clothes out of the way. Some things deserved a quiet death. Or turn away.
She pulled the box out instead and, with a slow pivot, turned toward the bed. The thick duvet with pretty blue stars lay flat and smooth, the picture of perfection with its mound of pillows as she walked toward it, and into the teeth of her future.
He will not fall — not to them and not to dragons, not when he has a world waiting for him to come back to. It shatters, and a dead thing stares at Jon for a moment suspended out of time — and then, the telltale sigh of magic shudders through the air and his little sister arches a brow, dropping the face of death to the ground.
Arya twirls her spear with a grace Jon envies and admires in equal turns. It was luck that Jon found Ghost first, he thinks, because he would have suited Arya just as much. Braavos has been good to her, even if it made her suffer first. Deadly competence rolls off his little sister in droves. Arya was a wolf who became human, and so was Jon. He shoves Longclaw through the second to last Wight as a wicked smack cracks the air.
Jon is moving even as Arya tosses a knife to her higher hand, and Valyrian steel sinks through iron and ice to bite the life from the lifeless. He sweeps a hand over her cheek, feeling thick in the throat, and his little sister shoots him a wry smirk.
Both he and Arya look up as Drogon rips into Viserion with savage teeth; when a figure weighed down by iron falls from the sky, Drogon dives down right after him.
It feels like it wants to go too. A lone wolf dies, but the pack survives; splintered his might have been, but Jon carries them still as he turns towards the bloom of fire deep in the mire of the dead. Her knight sags to the ground, blood dripping from his lips, and Tormund snarls as he rips a dry throat apart with a crushing hand.
He lurches against bony arms. Daenerys, stripped of her power and fire, is barely old enough to understand war, and her face gleams as the king of ice raises her towards the sky.
And then piercing blue eyes are turning to him, and Tormund bares his teeth. He draws the dragonglass dagger from his belt as the king of ice regards him with an almost fascinated gleam in his cruel gaze. The Crows might have plagued them like the winter-sickness but the walkers — the walkers were endless, a tide they could never stem. No dam could keep them at bay, not even the great and mighty wall.
It is the devil that stares at him now. It is death. Could you fight death, wildling? Could you win? Ghost shrieks and whines, the sound of pain. He thinks of warm eyes, warmer than dragonfire. He thinks of him lain out on that fucking table, bloodied wounds still weeping as the Red Woman passed her hands over him and pleaded with her god.
He thinks of Jon, laid out beneath him across soft furs with the shape of his teeth over the scar of his sacrifice, and his body floods with fire. He thinks of Jon Snow, who shot him through and then kept the heart he found underneath, and surges into the cold.
Ghost lies on his side, unmoving, and his wildling has a blue hand in his hair and defiance painting his face, defiance that seems to amuse the Night King. Jon moves without thinking, without feeling the earth pass beneath his boots. He grips Longclaw as tight as he can, and the Night King raises his placid face as he nears with a savage battle-cry spilling from his lips. The clash of ice-steel to Valyrian breaks the night in two. For Jon, this is the moment — the moment that divides and defines his entire life to that point.
From that moment there is only the before, and now there is only after, and Jon will do anything it takes to see it. The Night King twists away from him with quick feet, moves just as inhumanly quick as his generals had.
Jon thinks he should be exhausted, thinks he should be weak by now, but all he feels is heat. All he knows is the burn of blue eyes through him, both cold and warm, one fiercely alive and one a mere mockery of it. He would speak, if he thought it might matter.
If, perhaps, he thought his tongue would even cooperate. Jon puts himself between his wildling and the Night King, just as he put himself between Tormund and Daenerys. As he set down his crown, he lifts his blade, the blade he put to the name of the dragon queen so it might defend his siblings from her — now, it will defend them from the reach of ice as well as fire.
The Night King must have once been a keen swordsman; his strikes are rapid and pristine, controlled in a way Jon never was able to grasp. Jon parries a swift blow, twists and puts his weight behind the blessed steel, lets it become an extension of his own body. Still of my blood. The Night King advances on him, hummingbird fast, and around them the dead begin to stir and rise.
Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Kill the boy, and let the man be born. Tormund, crouched protectively over Ghost, bares his teeth. You have so very much to lose, Jon Snow. All of it — from the moment he set foot on the wall to the moment he touched death, has been for this.
From the moment he turned from the dark to emerge into the light again, it has been for this.
The dead surge forward and commit the gravest mistake he thinks they could when they surround Tormund and Ghost. But Jon was born a wolf, and he feels it when he leans into the madness of the dragon. A wrenching roar all but strips his skin from him as Tormund fights the best he can, and Jon thinks something inside him turns to wildfire.
It melts like liquid brass over his bones and turns his chest into a maelstrom, thundering with a song he can only equate to the perfect marriage of snow and flames all at once.
Winter has come, Jon Snow. Do not let it freeze your heart. Some holy thing grips him as he strikes out at the Night King until the creature is put on the defensive, made desperate by it.
Jon felt a fraction of this, just once, when he was facing down Ramsay Bolton at the end of an impossible battle, and for so long Jon has been a champion of the impossible. He swells with that now, ignoring the ache in his thighs, in his hands. The Night King feigns to the left and goes right. Jon rolls when the Night King brings his sword down into the dirt, head spinning, and he lurches back to his feet with a phantom of fangs gnashing over his teeth.
He leaves Longclaw where it fell. He nearly bites through his tongue and bides his time, praying silent and pleading for Tormund to hold on — just a little longer, he thinks wildly, just a little — The earth trembles for the hundredth time, and Jon looks up as a river of fire opens over the ground, consuming half the dead that surround Tormund and Ghost.
Jon meets a pair of warm blue eyes, blue as the sea. The Night King swipes and Jon ducks low, hand going to the hilt at his back. The moment will be the hero that saves them — Jon is merely the hand that will guide it forth.
He draws the dagger Arya put in his hands and moves like a viper, a growling bellow gathering in his throat. The Night King brings his blade down while Jon shoves his upwards, and the world catches its breath.
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Time compresses in, becomes a heartbeat of a thing, and Jon can barely feel his own body as the one under his hands goes utterly still. The army of the dead is gone, and Jon Snow stands in a ring of bodies with a steel knife in one hand and the other closing around air where the king of ice once stood. Tormund puts his own pain aside and pushes stubbornly to his feet. The littler of the pair noses at its dead mother, the white queen, fallen across the ground like snow. His lined face is white, but when he checks for a pulse he finds one — weak, so very weak, but his old heart still beats.
It reeks of death and smoke, of impossible loss and of newborn hope.
Unsullied and northmen, wildlings and Vale-knights all linger amongst the ruin, all of them looking vaguely stunned and beyond ragged. Perhaps that eating ice was stayed, driven away when the source of its vitriol died. Her hair turns from red to grey to white, and Tormund watches with a strange grief as she withers away beneath her red, red robes. The Red Woman crumples down to her knees and turns to ash, swept away by a gentle wind coming tumbling over the mountains.
Davos moves to meet them, gruff and grim as ever, and he takes the bear-knight from them with an ease belying the years he wears. The little crow shuts his eyes. But there are people still yet to find, healing yet to start, and so after only a moment, Tormund lets him go and moves to follow him towards the gates. A need to fight him, a need to have him, a need to keep him; it all comes tumbling through and his chest is full of wool as they pass beneath the gates of Winterfell.
The silence inside the keep is deafening in only the way something housing the dead can be. And then — and then, the silence breaks, splintered by the one name Tormund was absolutely certain would be his last word. A whooping roar rushes through the men, started by the wildlings, and someone shouts for healers as the raucous business of the aftermath begins.Mark Frost. Quoting Friedman, who's theories have been wrong esp. Choosing males to breed his HE females when the Meridian realigned might be important, but the development of his antiviral drug took precedence.
The quiet clank annoyed the hell out of him. And he is. The clash of ice-steel to Valyrian breaks the night in two.
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