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I made it my new years resolution to be more social, something I'm terrible at, so I've been adding people to my reading circle and trying to read more fic (my god there is a lot of fic in the xmfc fandom--I don't think I've even touched 5% of it yet). The effort is probably going to crash and burn, somewhat spectacularly, but if I'm suddenly commenting on stuff, this is why.

Also, I am filling mini crack fills for the best prompt ever over at the kink meme. Erik is Survivorman and Charles is his long suffering husband who accompanies Erik on his expeditions. I won't be posting these snippets anywhere else.

Title: Love's Own Crown (10/?)
Authors: nekosmuse wrote the prose, afrocurl the poetry
Series: The Sonnet Series (aka the sequel to An Ideal Grace)
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Charles/Erik
Fandom: XMFC (non-powered, modern AU)
Summary: Follows An Ideal Grace, in which Charles and Erik navigate the complexities of their new relationship.

Back to chapter 9

sharp edges
pricks against
pale skin

slaps between
reddened cheeks

broken skin
broken hearts
broken minds.

reflected back
edges curve


Broken, by Erik Lehnsherr, November, 2011


Charles woke feeling pleasantly achy. He stretched against the sheets, muscles pulling nicely, the burn of exertion made hazy by sleep. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so thoroughly fucked. It made him want to burrow into Erik's arms; to rub against Erik until he convinced Erik to fuck him again, preferably sometime before breakfast.

Charles went so far as to reach out, flailing slightly when his hands caught air. He opened his eyes to find Erik's side of the bed empty. Panic surged in his chest, Charles kicking himself for having caved to his exhaustion; for having fallen asleep before he'd made certain Erik was all right. He should have known; should have seen it last night in the curl of Erik's shoulders, in the haunted blankness of his eyes. Charles had been too distracted, too giddy with orgasm and the fact that he'd somehow gotten Erik to fuck him to see anything other than someone in need of slight reassurance. Clearly Erik had needed more than that.

Charles pushed himself up onto an elbow--was about to climb from the bed--when a quick survey of the room found Erik sitting in the corner, fully dress, knees drawn to his chest. Charles' heart lodged in his throat. He had to clear it before he could speak.

The sound immediately drew Erik's attention. He glanced up sharply, features softening when he found Charles awake.

"Are you all right?" Charles asked. In lieu of a response, Erik stood, crossing the room to the side of the bed.

There was a brief rush of cold as Erik drew back the covers. Erik was no warmer when he slid beneath them. Charles couldn't help but notice that his hair was damp. He smelled faintly of sandalwood.

"You've showered," Charles said. It wasn't quite an accusation. Erik wrapped a careful hand around Charles' waist.

"I woke up early," he said, which probably made sense, given how early they'd retired last night. "You looked so peaceful I didn't want to wake you."

There was more--Charles could tell even if Erik was trying to ignore it--so Charles waited patiently. Erik let out a little laugh.

"I've been having this weird, reoccurring dream. I can't seem to fall back asleep after it."

Something loosened in Charles' chest, even if he knew--on some unconscious level--that Erik was deflecting. He felt guilty for having slept so soundly--although he always slept well next to Erik, and after last night he doubted he could have stayed awake had he tried--but he wanted to believe it was an unrelated dream that had woken Erik, and not lingering upset over last night. Charles had wanted Erik to fuck him--still wanted Erik to fuck him--but not if it meant releasing any of Erik's long-buried demons.

Erik didn't say anything else; Charles was once again left floundering until he found himself saying, "I've had the same reoccurring dream since I was a kid."

He had no idea why he was bringing it up, except perhaps that he was the most self-absorbed asshole on the planet. Still, Erik's grip tightened, bringing their chests flush, the cotton of Erik's t-shirt scratching against Charles' nipples. Erik's expression suggested he was genuinely interested--like maybe Charles' story might help--so Charles continued.

"In it, I'm at my mother's house, in Westchester, but I'm still a kid. I'm locked inside the pantry, except all the food is rotten and there are rats scurrying about. There's not much else to it; I'm just locked inside and can't get out."

He chuckled then, mostly to displace the unsettled feeling in his stomach. The dream still bothered him immensely, even all these years later. He still woke from it panting.

"What do you think it means?" Erik asked, a little breathless Charles thought. Charles considered.

"Probably nothing. I suspect most dreams are like that; the reorganizing of memory, the processing of daily stimulus. Perhaps as a child I once accidentally locked myself in a closet and never fully integrated the memory and my mind has been trying to slot it into place ever since. I'm sure Freud, or even Jung would have a different interpretation, but I've never put much faith in dream interpretation."

The smile that earned him was worth having told the story. It was one of Erik's rare smiles, mischievous and a little cheeky. It made it easy to ignore the sleep deprived bruises that shadowed Erik's eyes.

"In mine, I'm standing in this empty, shapeless room, and I can't seem to get its dimensions right. One minute it's really big and the next it's really small; or maybe it's me that's growing and shrinking. It's been driving me a little crazy."

Charles had had a few dreams like that himself--mostly about places he remembered from his childhood. He told Erik as much.

"You were smaller as a child, so a room would seem bigger than if you saw it now," he said.

Erik nodded, looking a little impressed, like Charles had just handed him his answer--when really, Charles was mostly talking out his ass. Still, it was worth it when Erik shifted closer. Charles smiled, burrowing into Erik's embrace just like he'd wanted to earlier. He moved to place a kiss at the side of Erik's mouth--or at least, that was his intention, but at the last second Erik tilted his head, bringing their lips together in a slow, sweet kiss that curled Charles' toes.

Erik tasted like toothpaste. Charles was acutely aware of his morning breath, but Erik didn't seem to mind. He kissed Charles like it was the best thing he'd done all morning. Charles rather hoped it was.

Charles rocked his erection into Erik's jogging pant covered hip, a subtle invitation. In response, Erik pulled at Charles' shoulder, rolling them until Charles was half sprawled across him. The implication was obvious, but Charles couldn't find it in him to mind--not with Erik trapped beneath him, warm and solid and smelling like shampoo.

Charles smiled into their kiss as he brought his hands to the waistband of Erik's pants. A loud, resounding crash echoed from the room next door.

Erik tensed in an instant, pushing Charles to the side as he sat up and glanced over his shoulder. He stared at the wall between his and Raven's rooms for several seconds before slipping from the bed.

"I have to," he said, gesturing. Charles let him go--somewhat reluctantly, but he did understand the concern. Erik took a minute to smooth down first his hair, and then his clothes, frowning at the obvious outline of his erect cock. He shook his head, casting a final glance in Charles' direction. Charles didn't miss the regret he saw there, or the pained uncertainty that made Charles heart clench.


Raven Interlude

Raven bolted out of bed, poised for a fight. It was almost anticlimactic to find she was alone in her bedroom. She let her toes spread wide against the soft pink and purple rug that sat next to her bed, forcing her muscles to relax. Beside her nightstand, the glass of water she'd retrieved before finally turning in had shattered against the floor, water pooling in a puddle that edged towards the lowest point of the room. Raven ran a hand through her hair and exhaled. She must have been flailing in her sleep.

Her racing heart was just starting to settle when there came a tentative knock at her door. Erik, of course--the sound of the glass shattering had been somewhat deafening. Raven padded around the mess to grab her robe from the back of the wingback chair she'd made Erik save from the dumpster outside the building--she'd reupholstered it during their first month in New York, the fabric a soft yellow with tiny blue and red flowers. She slipped her robe over her shoulders, cinching it tightly around her waist before opening the door.

The look of raw panic on Erik's face would have been comical had Raven not known it stemmed largely from his guilt. Of course Erik would feel guilty for last night, despite an earlier conversation, where Raven had given him permission to do what he would with Charles inside the apartment, so long as it was behind closed doors and kept reasonably quiet. It hadn't bothered her, listening to their love-making--though she'd tried not to--but it had sparked something in her, some sense of longing for something she wasn't sure she would ever have. Azazel may have been an incredibly patient man, but she very much doubted he would wait forever.

"It's fine, I just broke a glass," Raven said, gesturing behind her to the mess on the floor. Some of Erik's tension eased, but his frown still held the edge of worry.

"You'll cut your feet," he said, extending a hand. Raven rolled her eyes, but took it, allowing Erik to pull her into the hall.

He left her there, ducked into the bathroom and came out with a hand towel. Like Raven, his feet were bare, but he tiptoed around the broken glass to mop up the water, and then began steadily picking up pieces of broken glass. Raven watched him work, tearing her gaze away from the jagged pieces of glass only when Charles stepped into the hall. He smiled somewhat sheepishly. Raven rolled her eyes. It seemed to ease some of Charles' embarrassment, the red of his cheeks fading.

He was wearing the same clothes as yesterday, his hair sticking up in every direction. He tried running a hand through it, but it did little to tame the chaos. Raven chuckled, and then inclined her head towards the room.

"It was just a glass," she said. Charles came to stand next to her. She almost recoiled--he was too close, too soon after she'd woken up--but before she had the chance, he caught himself, offering an apologetic smile as he put some space between them.

Raven shifted to the right so that he had an unobstructed view of Erik on his knees, still picking up broken glass.

"He's a little over protective sometimes," she said, because she was perfectly capable of cleaning up her own glass, but arguing with Erik over it didn't seem worth the trouble.

"I've noticed," Charles said with a laugh. Erik glanced over his shoulder at the sound of Charles' voice. He smiled, seeming somewhat relieved and then turned back to his work.

Charles cleared his throat and turned back to face her.

"I actually wanted to ask you something." He waited for her nod to continue. "What you said yesterday," he said, "about being okay with me living here..."

It wasn't really a question, but Raven understood what he was driving at.

"I'm comfortable with you, mornings notwithstanding," she said.

Charles nodded, but Raven could tell he was immensely curious--though doing a very good job of pretending he wasn't, respecting her boundaries, which she appreciated more than she could say. She hadn't even told Azazel the full extent of her past--something she suspected she ought to rectify.

"If I'm being rude, please tell me to piss off, but can I ask why you've chosen to go into a career that will involve doing something you're not comfortable with?"

Raven couldn't help but laugh--she laughed again when she noticed Erik, who had turned upon hearing the question, eyes growing wide, a look of horror on his face like Charles had just committed social suicide. She supposed Erik had a point, because it was undoubtedly something he had wanted to ask, but had refrained, likely not wanting to discourage her. She appreciated Charles' bluntness, though. It was one of her traits, after all.

"I like the idea of a challenge," she said. Charles looked startled for a moment, and then he beamed at her, glancing briefly to Erik before meeting her eye.

"I know exactly what you mean," he said.

The smile he gave her was conspiring, like he'd just found a kindred spirit. Raven felt a sudden surge of affection for Charles that until that moment she had only ever associated with Erik. It was a little overwhelming, so early in the morning, so instead of grinning like she wanted to, she gave him a soft smile. He took it for what it was, immediately turning his attention back to Erik, giving her the space she so desperately needed. As soon as his attention was diverted, she slipped down the hall and into the bathroom, leaving Charles and Erik to discuss plans for breakfast. There was something soft, almost fragile, in their words, so Raven tuned them out, not wanting to intrude.

By the time she was done with her shower--she'd taken her time today--the scent of eggs and coffee filled the apartment, and Charles was shrugging into his coat.

"Yes, but I do actually need to get some work done," he was saying. Erik was very obviously trying to convince him to linger.

She brushed past them, hearing Charles laugh at something Erik had said. She left them to it, uncovered the plate of eggs and toast Erik had set aside for her and sat at the island to eat. She'd just swallowed a piece of toast when the sudden urge to see Azazel struck her, so she pulled her phone from her pocket and sent him a text.


Charles hated Tuesdays--and Thursdays, come to think of it. His bio-ethics class was in the afternoon, which meant he couldn't lose himself in work at the lab, but it also meant he had a good deal of time to kill before he could teach it. He hadn't lied when he'd told Erik he had work today--and besides, he was hardly the only one who'd been neglecting work these past few weeks, Erik undoubtedly behind, however much he tended to overuse his TA. He'd needed time to think, though, this morning having thrown him completely off his game. Charles was used to feeling triumph whenever he achieved something he'd set out to do. He wasn't used to the low burn of guilt that currently coiled in his chest, however much Erik had tried to reassure him--and didn't that just make him the biggest asshole on the planet, because it should have been him trying to reassure Erik.

He stopped at home first, because he had yet to leave any clothing at Erik's, and regardless of how many times he spent the night there or Erik spent the night at his place, they never thought to bring an overnight bag. Charles suspected, especially if Erik wanted him to move in, that they ought to try giving each other drawers for a few months. He'd had a drawer at Scott's that he'd mostly kept empty, but Scott had never wanted a drawer at his. Erik, Charles hoped, would be more than happy to keep a spare change of clothes at Charles. He'd already migrated over his toiletry collection.

He needed to shower and shave--he'd gotten an odd look from the cabby before he'd remembered his eyes were likely still shadowed by Raven's make-up--and to find something clean to wear, but first there was something Charles needed to do.

He dropped his coat and bag on his still overflowing chair--one of these days he was going to go through those books and catalogue them. When Erik, Raven and him did start looking at apartments, a library--or the very least a study--was essential. Charles crossed to his dresser and crouched down to pull open the bottom drawer.

He'd somehow, in the past ten years of his life, managed to collect enough stuff that the drawer was now close to overflowing. He'd been thinking about doing this since yesterday--longer, if he was honest with himself, but he needed that letter for his lawyer, and for the first time in a while, Erik wasn't around, and this wasn't something he wanted to do in front of Erik.

Charles repositioned himself so that he was seated, cross-legged in front of the drawer.

Erik's binder of poems was still there, as was the notebook Erik had given him. Charles set them both to the side. The binder with clippings related to his father joined the pile--in it was the letter Charles needed to send to Remy LeBeau.

The old tea box, with his photographs, he set the side as well. He'd sort through those later; put the ones he wanted to keep in an album. The shortbread tin he took out and placed on his lap.

Opening the tin was somewhat cathartic. Charles realized he hadn't looked in it since before he and Erik had started dating. Moira, who knew about the tin--and Charles still regretted telling her--would undoubtedly be proud of him for doing this; hell, Charles was proud of himself. He made two piles. A to-keep pile and a to-discard pile. The wrist band from his first hand job went into the to-discard pile, as did the poppy from the poppy guy. The watch Scott had given him he set aside--he probably ought to return it; it couldn't have been cheap. After a moment's consideration, he put Logan's coin next to the watch--he might as well give that back, too. The hand stamp went in the discard pile.

Erik's lecture notes he kept. Along with the receipt from their first official date--at least, that's what Charles was calling their coffee at the Hungarian Pastry Shop.

Slowly he sorted through it all. By the time he was done, the drawer was down to a more manageable size, Charles having accumulated a small pile of refuse, along with two items worthy of being returned. He repacked the drawer, keeping out only his father's binder. After a minute's hesitation, Charles opened the drawer above, taking out his collection of cardigans and setting them on the bed. Erik now officially had a drawer.

He brought his father's binder to his fold out table, the letter Kurt had sent him tucked into the front pocket. The letter was worn with age, having moved with him several times. It had coffee stains, and was crinkled from where Charles had crumpled it into a ball and thrown it across the room--more than once. One of its corners was ripped. He pulled it out and set it aside, very carefully avoiding everything else in the binder as he returned it to its place in the drawer.

After, he showered and dressed--and emailed Hank, because Hank had undoubtedly pressed ahead last night and Charles wanted to know what to expect when he made it into the lab later this afternoon--but it was still early, so when Charles got to the campus he detoured to Philosophy Hall. Muscle memory almost led him directly to Erik's office--and he did plan on popping in once he was done--Charles having to force himself to turn right when he usually turned left. It brought him down to Scott's office, his door wide open, Scott obviously in the middle of his office hours. He was alone, though, so Charles rapped his knuckles on the doorframe. Scott glanced up, clearly surprised.

"Did you take a wrong turn?" he asked, standing. Charles chuckled under his breath.


Scott frowned, missing the joke, but he gestured to the chair in front of his desk--the same one Charles had sat in what seemed so long ago now, the very first time he'd heard Erik Lehnsherr's name. Charles crossed the room and sank down into it, reaching into his pocket to retrieve Scott's watch and Logan's coin.

"I wanted to give this back," he said, sliding the watch across. He kept the coin in his hand, rolling it over the back of his knuckles, gold and silver flashing against the edge of his vision.

Scott's eyes grew wide when he recognized the watch. He reached for it, turning it over in his hand to read the inscription: All my love, Scott. How pithy it seemed now. Years ago, when Scott had given it to him--a birthday present--it had bothered Charles that Scott hadn't even thought to include Charles' name.

"I'm surprised you kept it," Scott said. Charles had to bite his lip to keep from laughing hysterically. Scott didn't know about the drawer.

"I was cleaning out a drawer and found it." It was somewhat of a relief when Scott nodded. He didn't say anything else, merely tucking the watch into a pocket. Charles wondered if he'd try giving it to Logan. He wondered if he was the first to have received it. Still, all things considered, it was a nice watch.

The thought of Logan reminded him of the coin, so Charles slid that over as well. "I also found this. I figured if you guys ever go up to see Logan's family," he had vague recollections of Logan having mentioned something about family, "you could use it."

Scott nodded again, somewhat thoughtfully, so Charles quickly changed the subject before Scott could put two and two together and actually come up with four.

"Mostly, I wanted to talk to you about that lawyer."

That was the real reason he'd wanted to see Scott. He needed to know just how far he could trust this guy--just how far he could rely on him. Kurt's letter was a heavy weight in his messenger bag.

"You saw him. Good for you, Charles," Scott said, which rather rubbed Charles the wrong way, but he ignored the urge to sit a little straighter; rolled his eyes instead.

Scott didn't notice.

"I actually met him through Logan. He consults with the NYPD on a lot of the white-collar cases, so when Logan's grandmother died and he had to do all this cross-border estate stuff, we went and saw him. I know he's not your usual lawyer type, but the guy has some serious skill when it comes to this stuff. Give him a chance."

Charles felt marginally better hearing that. He nodded, and was about to thank Scott for his time--to stand and leave--when Scott glanced over his shoulder, expression growing dark. Charles turned to glance over his shoulder, smile lighting up his face until he caught sight of the expression on Erik's face, and, oh.

Oh. Right.

Charles gave Scott a pointed look, pleading for his silence. He stood then, crossing the room to where Erik was, standing frozen in the hall in front of Scott's open office door, having obviously heard Charles' voice and come to investigate. Erik was glaring at Scott, but his gaze shifted to Charles, expression somewhat hurt when he met Charles eye. Charles schooled his features to fond exasperation--his first instinct had been worry, Erik paler than usual, the lines across his forehead starker than they usually were.

Without saying goodbye to Scott, Charles slipped into the hall, taking Erik's arm and tugging him away from Scott's office--they were not having this conversation in front of Scott--waiting until they were around the corner to speak.

"You are utterly ridiculous, but it's adorable, so I forgive you completely, and also, how can you possibly be jealous of that man? I broke up with him, mostly because he is a twat," was as far as he got before Erik stopped walking.

Apparently Charles hadn't been dragging Erik down the hall after all. He staggered to a stop--he had no other choice--turned and arched an eyebrow.

Erik's expression had lightened considerably. "Did you just use the word twat?"

Charles reflected. "Possibly?"

Erik laughed. "I haven't heard that since I was at Oxford."

"Where do you think I learned it?" Charles grinned.

"Sorry, that was..." Erik gestured. This was getting to be an old conversation, and yet Charles didn't mind having it. It was nice to be reminded--Erik could remind him every day as far as Charles was concerned--that he was wanted; that he was worth possessing.

Charles closed the short distance between them, stepping into Erik's space. He pressed up onto his toes, sealing their lips together in a brief, though entirely warming kiss.

"I was interrogating him about my new lawyer," Charles said as he pulled back--best not to mention the watch.

"I see," Erik said, crowding even closer. He bent down to nip at Charles' lips, Scott clearly forgotten.

It was easy to get lost in Erik's kisses; easy to forget where they were until a throat cleared behind them. A low growl vibrated in the back of Erik's throat--he had a hand splayed possessively across the small of Charles' back, which he used to drag Charles' closer, like he was worried it was Scott, coming to issue a challenge. Charles had to physically push against Erik to get him to let up.

"Public hall," Charles managed, feeling a blush spread across his cheeks. He glanced over Erik's shoulder to find Erik's TA--Janos, Charles recalled--standing somewhat awkwardly, holding a pile of what were obviously student essays.

Reluctantly, Erik released him. He scowled at Janos, who merely shook his head, gestured over his shoulder in the direction of Erik's office, and then walked away.

"That kid is going to be renowned someday," Erik said, gesturing to Janos' retreating form. "He doesn't say much, but my God can he write."

Charles tilted his head. "Should I be jealous?" he asked, realizing too late that it was the wrong thing to say, Erik's smile disappearing, his expression growing dark.

Charles had forgotten about the student thing--stupid, stupid.

"Sorry, that was... I didn't mean..."

"It's fine," Erik said, but Charles knew it wasn't--not really. There was something very dark in the timbre of Erik's voice; something that, when Charles thought about it, he realized had been there since last night.

It was also something they really didn't have time to discuss at the moment, Charles' class fast approaching, Erik obviously on the way to his. It would probably be a day, at least, before he saw Erik again, his night spoken for, Hank forgiving, but not that forgiving. Charles reached out to place his splinted hand against Erik's shoulder.

"I really am sorry," he said. He wasn't just talking about his slip. Erik's expression softened.

"It's really fine. But you should know that you never need feel jealous of anyone." He brought a hand to Charles' cheek, brushing the backs of his fingers against it.

"The same goes for you, you know," Charles said, earning one of Erik's genuine smiles. Erik hesitated then, glancing once over his shoulder before he swooped down and pressed their lips together.

"I have to..." he said as he pulled back, gesturing over his shoulder. Charles nodded, letting Erik head towards his office while Charles turned back towards the exit.

Too late Charles realized that he hadn't actually planned a lecture for today.


Raven Interlude

Gloves helped. A lot, actually--and maybe that was something she should look into; probably a lot of make-up artists wore gloves, it might even be mandatory. She could feel the warmth of Azazel's hand, nestled against her own, but without the skin to skin contact her usual knee-jerk reaction was missing. She felt... comfortable was a good word.

"You're not usually so quiet," Azazel said, as if sensing her thoughts.

In the space between lunch and now, they'd somehow managed to make it to Union Square--a four block walk if Raven recalled correctly, though Raven barely remembered the trip. If she didn't know any better, she would have sworn they'd teleported here.

She blamed it entirely on being unaccountably nervous.

She almost wished she could take back that text.

Union Square was filled with the usual post-lunch crowd; and this despite the decided nip in the air. People bustled everywhere, set against the backdrop of a clear and sunny afternoon, the sky an unending shade of blue. The leaves had mostly fallen, the trees skeletal claws that stretched heavenwards. Raven released a breath, surprised when it misted the air. She spotted an empty bench and moved towards it, dragging Azazel with her. As they sat, Azazel's expression was entirely too amused.

He ran a thumb against the back of her knuckles. The sensation was not unpleasant.

"We talk about dis," he reminded her, and they had, but for however patient Azazel was, Raven was the exact opposite. Impatience burned in her chest, until she thought she might vibrate out of her skin.

She saw her shrink this afternoon--Azazel had already offered to take her to her appointment, his bike parked outside her apartment. If there was ever a more opportune moment, this was it--if it went badly, she had her safety net in place.

The thing was she wanted to kiss Azazel. More than anything--she'd never kissed anyone, and no one had ever kissed her. She wanted to understand the dopey smile Erik wore whenever he and Charles parted. She wanted to know what it meant to have her face heat the way Charles' always did, blush disappearing beneath his shirt. She was twenty-nine, damn it, and she'd never been kissed.

Azazel had enough of an understanding of her past--no specifics, never specifics--that when she held up her hand--the one he wasn't holding--he immediately fell still. He waited, head cocked to the side, watching her intently. When she turned to face him, he offered her a reassuring smile.

He remained perfectly still as she leaned forward, feeling a little claustrophobic once she was in his space--though it was no different from yesterday, when she'd had to get in close to get Charles' eye liner right. It wasn't as off putting as she'd expected, Azazel watching her with fond amusement, his eyes finally closing when she got in close enough.

She kept hers open, pressing her lips to his, little more than a quick peck, but it didn't flood her with disgust or guilt or terror like she was expecting. It just was, her heart beating a little quicker, her palms a little sweatier, her mouth a little dryer. When she pulled back, Azazel opened his eyes. He searched her face, obviously pleased by whatever he found there, because he smiled, both comforting and seductive.

Raven laughed.

"I'm actually a little disappointed," she confessed. "I was expecting the end of the world."

"Da, dat is usually what happens when people kiss me."

The glare Raven shot him was mostly half hearted. The grin Azazel gave her was entirely fond.

For the first time in perhaps the whole of her life, Raven was startled to feel something she suspected might be hope.

On to chapter 11

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