Eighteen, Two

Part Two: In This Life and the Next

Author's Note: So this is a continuation of Chapter Eighteen, Part One. It's still told from the same perspective(s) and beyond this chapter I fully intend to return to my usual narrative (of 3rd person). Apologies, this chapter is a day later than I intended it to be.
Warnings: Sexual content/themes for teenagers, unwanted pregnancy discussion, slavery, abuse, and the same warnings from Part One.

He’s actually not that bad.
Hadrian, I mean.

I used to come by here fairly regularly, but it always felt like a battlefield. Like I needed to be here to ensure Hadrian wouldn’t push me out of what was mine, but after I washed up wounded?

I started coming back because it was safe.
And for the first time in so long I wanted to feel what it is to be safe somewhere.
No one cared where us slaves disappeared to, so long as we were back for the exercises when called. They’d hunt us if we weren’t.

What was strange, though, is whenever other Sirens would show up to these islands… they’d leave and almost instantly forget it existed. I think it had something to do with Hadrian, but I wasn’t about to question it. He’d been kind to me when all others would’ve taken that chance to put me down.
I don’t mind spending time with him or sharing the islands I’ve found.
Well, that is, until he looks at me funny. Or says something to me.

Almost as if on cue, Hadrian turns and grins at me.
Right, my thoughts aren’t entirely private. I glower at him. “I’m just thinking it to be nice.” I cross my arms.
It’s been happening more and more the longer I’m around him. His thoughts were seeping into my own, too. It was even more annoying than just his occasional quips. Get out of my head! I shove at his thoughts.

‘You like it.’
I hate that I actually do sometimes. His voice was starting to feel warm and familiar. Or maybe I’m just losing my mind.
‘Just? I thought you had ages ago.’
I hissed at him, “rude!” No wonder you’re not married. It was a thought in my head before I could even contemplate that he’d hear it too.

‘Excuse me?’ He perked up stopping as I kept walking, his voice held a very dramatically offended tone, but he was resisting a grin.
I put a hand on my hip. “Oh, that’s right, you probably don’t know the meaning of the word ‘marriage.’ That’s the idea that you find someone who actually tolerates your shit enough to want to spend the rest of-”

He had crossed the sand over to me, causing me to pause. ‘I know what it means, princess, and no, we don’t have use for such novelties in my culture. Hallë have bonds you couldn’t possibly understand, especially given you’ve not found someone who’ll tolerate ‘your shit’ enough, either’
He encroached my personal space with his smug grin from his own response and I scowled back at him before matching his smug grin with one of my own. “Don’t turn this back on me! You’re just saying that because you couldn’t get a girl even if you tried.”

‘Oh really?’
I rolled my eyes, “yes really! Have you ever kissed a girl? Oh no wait, that’s probably ‘not in your culture’ either. Do you even-”

His lips crashed into mine for a moment so brief it could’ve been missed if I’d only blinked.
I hadn’t been prepared for that.
My lungs burned and I realized that I hadn’t breathed.
His tongue ran over his lips before they resumed the very Hadrian-esque smirk they always wore. ‘If I knew doing that would shut you up I would’ve done it sooner.’
That snapped me out of it, “hey!”

‘Well, I suppose nothing good lasts forever.’ He teased.
“Ugh!” I shoved at him, and he barely budged, his eyes of ice taking in my movements. “Hadrian!”
I shoved him again, and he pretended the force made him recoil to be even closer.

“Hadrian!” I protested and shoved him again, harder. His eyes had a spark in them - no more than that, a whole fire.
‘Yes, Juliana?’ His voice ignited the fire back in me. I shoved him again, only this time he held my hands so I couldn’t pull them back from the shove.

My heart pounded and I tried to steady my breathing from all the times I attempted to shove him with force. All I could stare at was the fire in his eyes. Fine, two can play at this game.

Just as his eyes began to shift with confusion at my thought I pressed forward onto him with my entire weight. My hands slipped up and draped around his neck as my body crashed against his. I’d show him what a real kiss looks like.

He wasn’t as phased as I thought he’d be and he adjusted for me accordingly. He shifted both of us until I was pressed back against the door frame of the hut. His hands gripped my sides and his weight pinned me to the wall as he broke the kiss to go for my neck.

Gods, why was he so good at this.
I could feel him smirk into my neck and I hissed through my teeth. I wanted to shove him off me for that but at the same time I didn’t want him to stop, so my shove became a playful nudge. His lips came back up my neck, stopping right where my ear and jaw met which caused me to exhale a soft groan.

No, keep it together, Juliana! Do not let this boy control the show! “Alright, fine…” I got the words out through jagged breaths and pushed him back enough to see his face; I was pleased to note his own breathing seemed equally erratic. “So you can kiss, what about the…” My eyes dropped low to the hem of his pants. “...other parts?”

Hadrian was still taking in long breaths to steady himself, yet he grinned wide. ‘What about them?’
“Do they work in your...culture?” I raised my eyebrows, licking my own lips now.
His face became slightly amused, yet his piercing eyes still searched my face...and then lower. ‘Do you want to find out?’

“Depends… can you handle a woman?” I’d heard the rumors from other girls who kept the company of the priests. Most men couldn’t find the hole if they tried, let alone do anything with it besides flail and thrash.
Hadrian shifted his weight to one leg, the other moved up and-

The static heat from the touch made my breath hitch. I moved a bit, becoming all too aware of how that felt.
My head was a thousand miles south focused on that sensation when one of his hands left my side to tip my head back up. His eyes were hungry as his voice echoed in my head. ‘I think I can figure it out if you point me in the right direction.’

This made me bolder and I began willfully moving against his leg as I held his steady, blue gaze. I couldn’t manage words at this point, but I knew I didn’t need to. What are you waiting for?

And his lips crashed down on mine again.


“Hadrian!” I didn’t need to be looking at her to know that shrill sound meant she was mad at me again.

I smirked and ignored her, moving my basket further down the beach to think about catching dinner for tonight. We’d been at this for a few months now, though it felt like years. She’d be by several times a week - it had been daily at first until those around her started to suspect, then we cut back. It was surprisingly difficult, but we managed.

Eventually they let up and she started returning more frequently - even staying the night when she could. I think we both preferred it this way - a break from both of our lives.
Honestly I don’t think I can even recall my life before her anymore.

“Hadrian!” It was both inside my head and at my back and my smirk became a full out grin.
‘Huh? What? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. My ears are still recovering from earlier.’ I tease her. She’s extremely vocal when we connect.
She’s extremely vocal at any point, I corrected my thoughts.

“Gods you’re such an ass!” For a brief moment I ponder if I had taken things a step too far… but it was brief moment that passes.
‘So you’ve told me before, princess.’ I grin back at her and her face falters.
“Ugh, you know what? Nevermind!” She turned away from me and crossed her arms with a huff.
She wants me to pursue her thoughts - to ask what she wanted.

‘Suit yourself.’ I shrug, turning my back to her as well. Despite this, I begin my careful creep into her thoughts. Oh, whoops. I’d left her basket she’d collected the seaweed in out in the sun and baked those right through.
Information in hand, I made my way out of her head, purposefully tripping the wires on the way out which made her snap back around.

“You’re infuriating!” She groaned, right on cue.
‘You said ‘nevermind…’’
“You don’t even care, do you?” Maybe she hadn’t picked up on my cue, or maybe she’s going into her melodramatic behaviors?
Or maybe both?
‘What if I like my seaweed dry and dusty?’ I tease. I’ll give her a reason to be melodramatic.

She groaned loudly and I bit my lip to stop me from grinning too wide. “I don’t even know why I put up with you! All I ever dreamed about growing up was having a nice, sensitive husband!”
Now that was hilarious and I let myself grin. ‘Good news, princess! I’m not your husband!’
“I wasn’t talking about you! Maybe I’ll go out and find someone who actually cares and is sensitive and loving and thoughtful and kind, unlike you!” She spat back at me. Essence, her anger was amusing. I could watch her go at this all day.

I motion at her, shooing almost with my amusement likely all over my face. ‘Go on, find yourself that sensitive husband. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here when you get bored of him.’
The look on her face was one I wanted to capture and keep forever. Her surprise morphed into indignant frustration before she put her nose up in the air. “Oh that’s rich, like you could handle that!”
I gave her another shrug, ‘the way I figure it, I wouldn’t need to.’

“Wouldn’t need to?” She crossed her arms and looked at me for further explanation.
‘Yes, you know what I said. I. Wouldn’t. Need. To.’ I spelled it out for her, knowing that wasn’t what she was looking for and would get her frustrated again.
Worth it.
Her head began tipping back and forth with each word, “yeah? And why wouldn’t you need to?”
I approached her. ‘Because you don’t WANT a boring, sensitive man, Juliana. The boy would probably cry when you nagged him, then what fun would you have?’

Her face soured and she rolled her eyes, “nag him with my ‘grating voice’ you mean?”
Hm, I must be using that tease too much - she might be starting to take me seriously. Sure, humans were loud, abominable creatures, but Juliana was… Juliana. It was a different sound and it took adjusting to, but it was actually cute once I got used to it.
It made the world feel more full. I never realized how silent it was until I met her. So I moved to rectify this, and change the subject back to what it should be. ‘Oh see, that’s just insulting if he implies that. Ungrateful, sensitive man who can’t even appreciate a good nag when he hears one! He might risk boring you to death and I can’t let that happen.’

She blinked at me in a way that suggested she didn’t believe me, but her eyes said otherwise in her annoyance and impatience. “You’re the one who says my voice is grating, Hadrian.”
I blink back at her in the same way, shaking my head in disbelief. ‘And you BELIEVE me?’
“You’ve recoiled away from me before when I’ve spoken, why wouldn’t I believe you?” She pouted. I take it this isn’t about the seaweed anymore. Essence, I can barely keep up with this woman.

I love it.
‘We don’t use our voices in my culture, Juliana! The only time we EVER do is through song and that’s almost always in water! Of course I recoiled! Your voice was loud and different to me and it took adjusting, but that’s all. I never meant you to take me seriously about it!’ I reached for her hand.
Her face softened into something more vulnerable and I felt the guilt hit me. There was a long pause as I contemplated all the ways I could apologize without actually apologizing when she spoke next: “What does your voice sound like, anyways?”

‘I’d make your ears bleed if you heard it.’ I smirked, then realized she might think I was joking. ‘Literally.’
She laughed, which was a rich sound. “And you thought my voice is grating? No wonder!”
I was more relieved she wasn’t still hurt by my stupid attempts to be funny with her. I rolled my eyes and shook my head, ‘it’s just loud, princess. It’s meant to travel long distances in water… so when we’re out of water it’s much, much louder.’
I could see the shift on her face and knew what was coming. “Can I hear it? What if you whisper to me?”

No way. I’ve learned that humans are many things in my life, but above all, they’re fragile. There’s no way I’d ever risk her for this. Not to mention the magic behind my voice? Yet before I could even shake my head she was pulling that face.
‘Oh no… that’s dangerous. You should be careful where you aim that face.’ I held up my hand hoping to stop her. ‘It won’t work, either.’

Her face shifted then to one even worse. “I have… other faces… if you’d prefer?” Her fingers trailed up my chest with that look in her eyes that would shake awake far more chaste men than I. “I mean… you came pretty close to making some noise this morning, remember? I could just… keep trying… ‘til I get the right one.” Her fingers danced back down my chest and she was relishing this now.
I closed my eyes tightly and shook my head in defeat. ‘I have conditions you know.’

As I opened my eyes I was met with her face lit up with joy. “Name them.”


Swimming wasn’t my strongest area, but it also wasn’t my weakest. I had to practice it consistently to maintain my strength.

Hadrian was natural at it, but I suppose having a tail would help.
He didn’t use it this time, though.

He seemed so natural in the water in a way I couldn’t place. I had to maintain some effort to stay under - to stay focused on my training that taught me to hold my breath for long periods of time. Yet he was watching me from a short distance away, his eyes not struggling to stay open, his arms not flailing to keep him still… it was like he was one with the water in ways I was never able to be.
I would never be able to hear him if I had to keep thrashing like this. My training was really falling behind since I started spending more time with Hadrian, but I couldn’t say I regretted it.

An unplaceable sound echoed across the water followed by a pulse that seemed to shake the ocean.
Suddenly I didn’t need to flail anymore. I settled just beneath the surface in the calm that had filled the water.
Hadrian smiled at me from where he floated.
You did that?
He nodded.

I hadn’t ever put together that he had magic. I mean, I sensed it on him first, but I didn’t make the connection that he might actually be able to use it. I’d never seen him do it before, except on the occasion that he’d change between having a tail or having legs.
It almost made me afraid. I didn’t even see him move yet he stilled the water and enabled me to float casually… and breathe… and see. What else could he have done to me? I suppose a whole number of things.
‘I never would.’

I felt guilt that he had heard that. Sorry. I looked down at the ocean floor that flickered in the sun rays several meters below us.

I could sense him moving, approaching fluidly in the water. His hands reached for my face to pull me back to those piercing blue eyes. His skin felt different - slicker… harder. Outside the water his skin felt normal, maybe a bit rougher than average, but not like this. ‘Don’t be. I’m sorry. I should’ve warned you beforehand. Please forgive me?’

I shook my head, continuing to look away, you have no need to apologize to me. I shouldn’t have thought that way about you in the first place and-
‘I would never, ever hurt you, Juliana. From here on out I will never use magic on you without your permission. Your fears are valid and I was too hasty. Please… forgive me?’
I nodded smally, finally getting my bravery back to look him in the eyes. Forgive me for my assumptions?

He smirked even in the water, ‘I saw no assumptions made.’
I put my best scowl on. Hadrian.
That made him grin. How he isn’t getting saltwater in his mouth I have no idea. ‘If it makes you feel better, then sure, whatever you say princess.’
So are you going to talk to me, or what? I pushed my thoughts at him. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to speak to him here, so I decided I wouldn’t risk it.

‘Nah, I just dragged you out here to watch the light reflect off the seafloor. Neat, huh?’
It was all in good fun, though, and he released me to back up further. ‘I’ll start with a whisper to be safe.’

I tried to resist grinning in my victory of dragging him out here for this, but I was really curious to see how this would sound. I even quieted my thoughts just so I could focus on hearing him. He seemed so far, I worried I wouldn’t be able to.

Hadrian carefully cupped his hand in front of his mouth and I strained to hear.
“Ju-li-a-na.” And there it was, my name echoed across the nearest expanse of water, twisted by a thick accent from a tongue that had never used such a language before. It was almost like a song - like the ones I heard each night before I met Hadrian. It confirmed it. That was him
I couldn’t stop myself from grinning a little and instantly regretted it as the saltwater hit my teeth. I recoiled when I heard musical laughter.

Hadrian was grinning, laughing and shaking his head.
It was hard to describe how beautiful the voice was - or the way it seemed to still the water around me. Now it made sense to me why Calypso always sought to recreate the Hallë that were supposedly killed off. She would never be able to come close, at this rate.
‘You heard that, right?’

I nodded, doing my best to keep my mouth closed as I smiled at him. Can you not speak English?
He looked surprised before shaking his head. ‘I don’t KNOW English. Only your name and well, one other phrase.’
Then how are you able to talk to me? He was pulling my leg. He had to be!
‘You’re the one speaking MY language! Well, I think.’

I shook my head at him and crossed my arms. I don’t know your language. I only know my own.
‘Then we must be meeting somewhere in the middle? Somehow?’
Because you’re in my head?
‘Or because you’re on my frequency?’
I think about it for a moment. So what’s the other phrase you know?
His eyes went wide for a moment, it was unexpected of him. Hadrian never seemed this caught off guard, and it only made me more curious.

Death to the usurper? I tried to not laugh for fear of tasting the ocean again.
‘I don’t think I can say it right.’
This made me more determined and I nodded, projecting my thoughts right back at him. I can be the judge of that.
He looked pensive but finally caved. ‘I’m going to regret this’
I would’ve clapped, only well, the water prevents the sudden movements, so instead I looked on to him expectantly.

He pushed himself further back and settled in, his eyes closing with the tension. And he calls me melodramatic.
Hadrian began by doing the same thing he did last time, slowly putting his hand in front of his mouth. Why?
‘It redirects the sound so it’s not going straight at you.’
Oh. I purse my lips and make a slight face. Well feel free to, you know, say it whenever.
‘I would if you’d let me.’

I stuck my tongue out at him and regretted it. At least he laughed a bit before shaking his head and returning to his state of tension, hand over his mouth.
“I…” The word filled the space around her and the water almost shimmered with it. “...love you.”
He may have been shielding his mouth, but the words still hit me with a force I hadn’t expected - no magic or sound, just… weight.
Hadrian looked around with uncertainty before shrugging. ‘I said it wrong, didn’t I?’

I could barely manage to shake my head. He hadn’t. He had said it just right. I opened my mouth to speak and water flooded in, making me grimace. Nice reminder to think before I speak, right? Do… do you know what it means?
‘I’m fairly certain, yes.’
He turned his head down, brought his hand up to his lips as a cover and echoed out an achingly beautiful melody. “A-mélia le ye.”

It echoed from the seafloor and all around me. It swallowed me and all I could do is stare with my mouth agape - despite the salty taste. I didn’t speak the language, but I knew exactly what it meant.
Where did you learn it?
‘You talk in your sleep sometimes. I never understand it when you do, I think it has something to do with me not being able to speak directly with you when you’re sleeping… You said it once and… I don’t know, it’s like I knew what it meant. I knew it immediately.’

Just like I knew what he had said just now. I pushed my way forward, swimming towards him in the water. He was so much further away than I realized.
Or perhaps I just didn’t want the distance right now.

Hadrian moved faster and he met me halfway.
That was the peaceful part of being out in the middle of the ocean.

Nothing else needed to exist.

Not our pasts.

Not my shackles.

Not the uncertainty of tomorrow.

Just him and now.


Juliana and I walked a thin line of being caught time and time again.
I was being stupid and so was she, but we didn’t care.
The days were long, the nights were short, and we were stupid in love.

The closer we got, the more I felt her even when she wasn’t here. The closer our minds became.
The days were getting shorter, and those following the impostor queen were growing suspicious.
Juliana had to start disappearing more often and returning to me less.
Then one week she didn’t come at all.

I reached for her every, single night but she couldn’t hear me. We were too far apart for too long and our minds could no longer take the distance.
I sang, hoping she would hear it, and during the night I’d hear her sing back sometimes. It was the only thing that kept me sane.
I paced up and down the length of the island for those weeks.

I watched for any sign of movement - anything at all on the horizon.
Hearing her songs told me she lived, but not much else
She was favored. I knew that.
It’s what she told me when I tried to convince her to just vanish with me.

“They’d look for me, Hadrian. They’d track me to you. We can’t do that.”
I still think we should’ve tried.
She’d been sicker when I last saw her. It was like exhaustion had grabbed hold of her and wouldn’t let go.
Food was hard for her to eat, too.

One day she had trouble even making it to the islands. I had to meet her part of the way out to carry her back. I had never wanted more than to just lock her into our hut and never let her leave… but she had to.
And I hated that she had to.

So pacing back and forth on those stupid islands for as long as I did only drove me further into madness.
If she wouldn’t come to me… I’d have to go to her.
It was the only solution.

I’d never expected to be treading water in the islands that were once my ancestors. The imposter queen seemed to suck the life out of the waters, and I knew she probably had a good sense for all of the waters around here.
There was a good chance I’d get caught.
This was stupid, and Juliana would knock me senseless if she knew.

Essence, I’d do anything to feel that right now. I’d give anything to know she’s alive and well.
I mean… I knew she was alive. That part I could feel connection to, but nothing else. What if she was being tortured?
Well, I mean… what could I even do then? We’re so useless and we used to own the seas!
No, at the very least I can try and connect to her mind again… I just need her to feel my frequency - to speak on it.

I kept myself undetected using my own magic, and thankfully I didn’t feel any large magical presences here, so there was a chance the usurper was gone out of the area for the time being.
I drifted through the waters, stalking silently.
Everything was so dilapidated. What happened to this place?

“What-ve- -ou say-”
I could barely make out the words… but it was her. I could feel her. She was in a small group - other women with shackles on their legs. I watched silently from the water, seeing the curve of Juliana’s back towards me filled me with more hope and relief than I could ever imagine.
Then there was the slight pang of anger.

I hadn’t heard a word from her in weeks… maybe longer. I’d lost track. Had she forgotten me that easily?
I recoiled from my own, ugly thoughts. No, there has to be a reason. There has-
Juliana turned away from the group with a nod. “That’s enough, I’m heading home.”
It was like I’d smacked into the great coral reef face-first.

Juliana’s arms rested over the swell of her stomach.
I had never been so shaken.
How could I have been so stupid?
How could we have been so stupid?

All of those days and nights we spent… and we never once thought something might come out of it? That we might create something more?
I’d drifted to the ocean floor like a dead fish.

What have we done?


“That’s enough, I’m heading home.” I didn’t have to stand here and listen to their idle threats.

“Best watch your back, oh favored one. You won’t keep that love for long.” Calindie shot back, but I pretended I didn’t hear them.
They knew killing me while I was pregnant would result in being fed to the Cursed for them.
I was favored.

It made me nauseated again just thinking about it.
I was just so exhausted.
I never should’ve gone back to those islands after seeing Hadrian there the first time. Gods, why had I been so stupid?
I resisted slamming the door shut behind me to the little hut that was now mine.

Mine because I had something the goddess wanted.
A chance to give them my child.
Hadrian’s child.
Our child.

They didn’t know he was the father. Thankfully, that much was assured. I told them when I was out doing my practices that I met a man who I let take advantage of me.
The story seemed sound enough… only now…
Now I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere. All those times Hadrian told me we should just vanish… all that hope that maybe one day I could just disappear…
They wouldn’t let me leave anymore.

Hadrian didn’t know… and I couldn’t tell him.
I hear his songs at night and they always sound so mournful. Some nights I can’t even bear to respond. My heart shatters thinking about it.
He likely thinks I’ve abandoned him…
I’ve tried to sing back to him, to tell him I’m alright, but I don’t think he understands, just like I don’t understand him anymore. I was extremely emotional. I still am. Overwhelmingly so.

They fed my mother to the cursed, what would they do to me once they take our child?
Some days I debated trying to force the child out prematurely to an early death. The thought makes me pained, but I can’t bare to bring them into a world like this - a world of chains where they couldn’t even know their father.
Losing the child now, however… would mean my death.
I wish I would’ve seen it before someone else had - but no. They had to sense I was pregnant before I could figure it out and take care of it quietly. I was so stupid!

I clenched my fists as tears fell down my cheeks.
Nowhere is safe. I bent over the sink to try and wash my face of these vile tears when I heard something moving in the house behind me.
I looked around the living area skeptically and nearly jumped when I heard a knock on the door.
I wiped my face down once more with my hands before gathering the strength to open the door for the messenger.

“Juliana? Report in tomorrow morning before tide rolls in.”
I give them a curt nod and close the door. They need nothing else from me, and I don’t have the strength to play pretend right now.
I turn back to the living room and nearly scream in surprise.

There was pain in his eyes as he looked at me. I couldn’t form any words, and neither could he as he looked right at me. At my face.
Then my stomach.
Then my face again.

His voice could’ve broken me. In a way it had, and I snapped from my trance. “Hadrian… you shouldn’t be here!” I looked around hastily to the windows, wondering who might be peering in, seeing me talking with the enemy. “They’ll kill you! They’ll drag you in and torment you!”
‘I don’t care.’ There was something more distant and light in the way his voice echoed into my head. It sounded hollow. ‘Juliana…’
My eyes immediately blurred over with tears at hearing his voice again. My lower lip trembled, which matched the feel of my arms that I wrapped around myself.

With haste, Hadrian crossed the distance and I collapsed into his arms. My shoulders trembled and I sobbed into his familiar form. “I-I th-thought I’d never get to-get to see you again.”
‘I’m sorry… I’m so… so sorry, Juliana.’
I knew he was talking about the child.
Our child.
“What are we going to do?”

He was quiet for a long, thoughtful moment.
‘I’m here with you now. We’ll figure something out.’
“They won’t let me leave.” I breathed. “I’ve tried… but they know about the baby… and they’re watching me like a hawk.”
I could feel him stiffen at my cries, and knew I needed to expand further.
“I didn’t say a word about you, I swear it.”

Hadrian pulled back, his hand rubbing his face. This whole situation was such a mess. I could feel him thinking it too. ‘What did you tell them?’
I sniffled, unable to meet his gaze. “I told them that I was visiting a port town and got raped by one of the men there.” I wiped my face to try and regain my composure. “I couldn’t let them find you.”
He felt there was more. ‘Did they believe it?’

I bit my cheeks before sighing. “Most did… but one of the commanders began to question… because I’m… one of the strongest fighters here. He said there was no way I would let someone do that to me without taking their life… so… he believes I did this purposefully. It ended up looking really good for me because they thought I was trying to do this for the will of…” I couldn’t even say her name anymore, my throat tightened.

Yet Hadrian wasn’t mad - his face shifted with relief as he slumped onto the couch in the room. I continued to check the windows with paranoia, but it was quiet out for the night. ‘Thank the tides.’ He murmured this in his head, and I know it wasn’t for me, but I heard it anyways.
“I would never tell them about you…”
His blue eyes jumped up to mine, confused for a moment before he shook his head. ‘I was more concerned that they’d hurt you.’
Tears sprung to my eyes again and I cursed how easily I got emotional. This child in me would ruin me for that.

He pressed his hand to my stomach and for a moment the entire world seemed to fall into silence. ‘How far along…?’

“I’ve been showing for a little while, but honestly I haven’t kept track. I just wanted it to be over with… I didn’t know… I didn’t know what else to do.” I hastily wiped my eyes.
There was a gentle tug of him on me and I stepped closer to where he sat. He rested his head against my stomach and the world was so full of calm.

I would’ve given anything to just have him.
Him, our islands, and our baby.
That’s what made this hurt so much.
‘What’s the safest route for you, Juliana? I… I can get you out of here. We can vanish, just like I told you. You could stay with my family - they’d welcome you… and-’ Tears fell from his eyes, too.
“Hadrian…” My voice broke over his name and I rested my palm on his face. “We both know we can’t do that.”

‘We won’t know until we… try.’ He was swallowing back the pain his words brought, but he knew I was right.
“They’d come after me, Hadrian. I have something extraordinarily valuable to them now… and…” I slumped down onto the couch beside him, my face in his shoulder. “They’re going to destroy everything.”

Our baby would not have the life I wanted for them and it hurt beyond comprehension.
‘I… I won’t let them.’
“There’s nothing you can do…”
Hadrian was shaking his head, wiping his own face. ‘I can’t believe that. I need you… I need you to be safe, Juliana. Whatever it takes.’ He emphasized the last part, and I knew what he meant as his eyes glanced to the swell of my stomach and back to my face.

“They have experiments for infants… one of them has been consistently fatal. Six babies have died trying to have this artifact implemented into them.”
Hadrian nodded, his eyes and mind wrapping around the plan as it formulated. ‘After they attempt and the child dies, you won’t be of much use to them for a while… and you could disappear.’
I nod, “and because I’ll have had the baby alive… they won’t have a need to kill me just yet.”
This made Hadrian nod further. ‘Exactly. Do what needs done. Have the baby, have them attempt whatever they need… and when they’ve released you I’ll come for you.’
I looked to the floor. “Would you be upset...?” About the baby? I couldn’t find the strength to finish the phrase aloud.

Hadrian looked conflicted for a moment before letting out a long breath. ‘If I said ‘no’ and meant it, would you think I was a monster?’ His piercing eyes came back to mine. ‘I’d love our child, I know I would but… you’re the only one who matters to me in this situation.’
I fell onto him in relief. “I just want this to be over with…”

He immediately cradled me to him. ‘We can wait this out, Juliana. We’ll get through this. This life may be bad, but our next one will be better. I’ll get you out of this place… and when the timing is right, we can think about a family. We stick to the plan, and the rest will fall into place.’
I cried into his arms, waiting for when these emotions wouldn’t have such a vice grip on my voice so I could respond… but I didn’t need to be vocal. I remembered that day in the water. Amélia le ye, Hadrian.

His arms tightened around me and he swallowed back his own emotions. ‘And I love you, Juliana.’
He stayed with me, comforting me for several hours before we snuck him out of the Cove. I couldn’t sleep until I heard him sing to me from the islands telling me he’d made it back safe.
We would get through this.
For once I believed it.

My pain and suffering was almost over.
They wouldn’t look for me hard after I lost our child. Depression has taken many before.
We could vanish to the other side of the world for a while… wait for everything to cool off, or maybe just stay there permanently.

I wish the child didn’t need to die, but at least Hadrian supporting it made it easier.
I’d rather my child die a million deaths than grow up a slave here the way I did. I could not subject this child to a life of misery - of pain and sacrifice.

This was for the best.
I put my hand on my stomach.
I just want you to be free.

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"Never Enough" by Loren Allred
"Let Me Down Slowly" by Alec Benjamin
"I Can't Breathe" by Bea Miller
"When the Darkness Comes" by Colbie Caillat


  1. OK I'm full out tearing up here and have been for a while. Like free flowing waves of tears down my face.
    These two have wormed themselves in DEEP and I'm such a MESS. Godwhywhywhwyhwy couldnt they have been HAPPY

    THEY WERE, with their cute little banter and man that got hot eh snort

    God and I love when she'd use the term CRASHED. Like his lips CRASHED against mine, cause you know, that's how we talk about waves. Waves CRASH on the shores, on BEACHES which by the way are BEIGE which is a coloring Juliana has. They represent a wave meeting a shore and that wrecks me even more.

    Godlike I know these are Ezzie's parents, but I'm like disappointed now? That they didnt get their happy enDING
    Haaaaaaaaaaai'm crying again cause I remember how this ENDS for them. With Hadrian cradling her body on a bonfire.

    I'm not going to be okay for DAYS LIVVIE
    I'm a MESS

    1. <3 <3
      Gods, I feel it! This chapter really broke me up to write. I hated having to split it, but it just got too unbearably long. I think it worked out better in a way. But going back through and rereading from chapter 17 onwards is a little more soulcrushing than I could ever be prepared for.

      They had some of the FUNNIEST banter, though, I swear I laughed aloud when Juliana talked about finding a NICE, SENSITIVE husband.

      OMG I didn't even NOTICE it until you pointed it out! Crashing waves like Hadrian crashes upon Juliana, the coloring and everything fits perfectly. Ack that hits my soul in a poetic way, and was entirely unintentional. They just like their water wordplays around here I suppose.

      I FEEL this very much so. I was actually really depressed with how hard I was rooting for them to "win" and not have to lose everything like they did... but Ezzie lived... and so they did lose everything they planned. FML that breaks my heart.

      I'll be a mess with you, don't worry. This has been wrecking me up for quite some time. Anyways, thank you SO much. You've been awesome and kept me sane as I got through school and I don't think this chapter would've gotten out if you hadn't encouraged me, so... it's here because of you! <3
      I'm off to go hide under my desk for a bit.