Fatefall - 40

Fatefall - 40

A Chapter by A.L.
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Sage

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Chapter 40 - Sage 

My biggest regret: killing Drystan out of pettiness.

Jett had flour on his nose. And his cheeks. And in his hair. Yet even a dusting of flour could not dim Jett’s radiant smile that left Sage feeling out of breath. 

Four dozen cookies lined the kitchen counter of the team’s apartment. There were cupcakes in the oven and bowls of icing next to the sink. The whole apartment smelled of sugar and pastries. Part of Sage hoped Nakoa, Poppy, and Adrian would return soon so he and Jett could show off their baking skills, but selfishly, he didn’t want this moment with Jett to end.

Jett continued to skim the recipe book, reading pastry names aloud as though that would help him decide what to make next. “Muffins? Scones? Pie? Fates, if I’d known that there were this many kinds of pastries, I would’ve bought twice the amount of ingredients.”

“Let’s stick with the cookies, cupcakes, and one more,” Sage suggested. He still had a fair amount of money left from when he’d first run off to join the Tournament, but his funds were slowly dwindling and he wasn’t exactly eager to return home and ask for more. 

The baking had been Jett’s idea. Sage had offered to take him bakery testing again to celebrate his parents’ freedom, but Jett had wanted to try his hand at the actual baking part and Sage had agreed if only to keep Jett smiling. They’d trudged back to the apartment with hands full of flour, sugar, and the other necessary ingredients for most of the recipes in their new cookbook. 

“I was thinking maybe eclairs or macarons,” Jett said, glancing up at Sage. “Which would you prefer?”

“Honestly, I’d be fine with some more cookies--”

“You’re not helpful,” Jett grumbled, turning back to his book. Sage had to stifle a laugh. Apparently, all he needed to do to get Jett to read was find a book about food. “I suppose I could ask Nakoa, Poppy, and Adrian whenever they get back.”

“I wouldn’t get my hopes up,” Sage said. “It will be at least another day before Nakoa returns from her trip home, and Poppy and Adrian are probably either sulking or kissing.”

Jett frowned to himself. “I bet they’re sulking. They’re even worse at flirting than you are, Goldie. Regardless, if they don’t show up it only means more sweets for me.”

“You’re going to get fat,” Sage remarked. 

“And you’ll love me no matter what I look like,” Jett retorted, smiling. 

For Sage, though, the comment reminded him of something that had been on his mind quite often recently. 

He hesitated, unsure if his question would ruin this perfect evening but deciding that it was worth a shot. “Jett…what do you really look like?”

Jett glanced up from his cookbook, his expression unreadable. A dozen emotions seemed to pass behind his eyes---shock, reluctance, eagerness, they were all there. 

“You don’t have to show me if you don’t want to,” Sage hurried to say, already regretting his question. “I understand that it’s probably uncomfortable for you, so I don’t want to pressure you into it--”

“You’re not pressuring me,” Jett interjected. He blew out a breath, seeming more frustrated with himself than with Sage. “I just…The only people who have seen the true me are my parents and Evangeline---and that was only because she saved me. I mean, I guess the whole team has seen me without an illusion when Adrian used his Grace on me but with the mask and my hood, I doubt you would’ve noticed the differences…” He trailed off, probably noticing that he was rambling. “Just…promise not to hate me, okay?”

“Oh, Jett,” Sage murmured. “I could never hate you.”

Jett gave him a look that Sage couldn’t decipher. It either said stop being so sappy or what in the Fates are you talking about or just wait until you see how ugly I truly am

“I want you to see the real me,” Jett said somberly. He dropped his gaze and set to work.

Sage watched in amazement as Jett’s illusion slid away. He had seen Jett don illusions before, so he shouldn’t have been impressed but as someone who had spent his entire life wishing he could do what Jett could, simple displays of power still awed him. 

As for Jett…

His true appearance didn’t seem much different from what his illusion looked like. His skin remained similar to the tan it had been before, albeit it now seemed just the slightest bit paler like he’d spent many days recently hiding from the sun. His hair darkened to a deep brown, the tips hanging down by his eyes. His eyes. The sunlight from the kitchen window turned Jett’s irises a beautiful shade of caramel. It almost looked to Sage like Jett had been spun from pure gold. 

Because in the end, it didn’t matter that Jett was an inch or two shorter than he pretended to be or that his nose was slightly crooked or that he had a cluster of freckles right at the base of his neck. 

Sage loved him regardless. The realization struck him hard, but…it was true, wasn’t it? He found himself wishing (not for the first time) that he possessed the Grace of Time so he could make this moment last forever. Or for the Grace of Life so he could know if Jett’s heart was beating as fast as his. 

“I take it my appalling features have stunned you silent,” Jett said with a humorless laugh. 

“Never,” Sage said before he could stop himself. He could feel heat rising to his cheeks at his lack of hesitation. This boldness was unlike him, but it had been brought on by the fluttering in his gut.

Jett raised a brow, half-amused. Sage suddenly had the ridiculous urge to kiss the flour off of Jett’s nose. Why? Even Sage didn’t know. Flour would most definitely not taste good so he’d be kissing Jett just for the sake of it. Luckily, Jett interrupted the moment with a sigh before Sage could do anything stupid. 

“I forgot how refreshing it is to give my Grace a rest,” he mumbled, the tiny crease between his eyebrows smoothing. He looked peaceful and unburdened and it made Sage feel warm inside. Jett deserved more moments like this. 

“Do people often change their entire appearance with their Grace?” Sage asked. 

Jett shrugged. “I don’t know. My parents never did, but I don’t know many other Graced of Deceit.” He hesitated, preparing to add something else. “Do you…do you like it?”

Sage felt the fire in his chest growing hotter. He struggled to come up with words adequate enough to describe his thoughts. “Of course I like it, Jett. It’s you.

He took pleasure in the pink tinge that crept up Jett’s neck and ears. “You’re just saying that because you don’t want to make me feel bad.”

“No, I’m not. And I wish you could see yourself the way I see you,” Sage said. “Then you’d know that you don’t need your Grace to make me love you.”

The words slipped from his mouth on their own accord. There was no going back now. 

Fates, Jett, you’ve never needed your Grace to impress me. That day we first met---the day you tried to pick my pocket---I asked you to join my team not just because of your Grace, but because you were stubborn enough to lie to my face about it. You protected me from those boys on the beach, and you were ready to fight them Grace or no Grace. You comforted me that night in the second Trial. You’re compassionate, you’re bold, and you’re so much more than who you pretend to be.” He paused, heart stumbling over itself. “So don’t say that you’re not good enough ever again, because you are good enough. You’re more than enough.”

And with that his fervor faded away and he was left fidgeting awkwardly with the hem of his shirt. 

Jett stared at him in silence for a moment, his mouth parted just slightly. Sage barely allowed himself to breathe, afraid that he’d ruined everything. 

Then Jett laughed. It wasn’t a cruel laugh or a mocking laugh, but it still made Sage blush even harder.

“That,” Jett said, “did not go as planned.” He grinned widely, stepping closer to Sage and taking his hands in his own. “Y’know, I had this whole scheme where I was going to bake blondies and then you were going to ask why blondies, to which I would respond with because I love blondes and then we’d kiss.”

Sage gaped at him. “You mean you had ulterior motives this entire evening?”

Jett shrugged, though Sage could tell he was pleased with himself. “Maybe. Maybe not. But you derailed it all with your curiosity. I suppose that your way was probably better than mine anyway. Well, except for one thing.”

Sage already knew what Jett was thinking, which was how he found himself leaning down to press his lips to Jett’s at the same time as Jett closed his eyes. 

The kiss felt long overdue. With it came hundreds of ideas for memories yet to be created---dancing in the rain, snuggling on a cold winter night, holding hands in the aisle of a bookstore, starting their own bakery, watching shooting stars streak across the sky from a rooftop, and maybe, just maybe, a proposal. Sage wanted to experience all of it, and he wanted Jett at his side.

So when the first kiss faded, Sage took the opportunity to kiss the flour off of Jett’s nose, just as he’d been planning all along. 

When Sage finally pulled away, Jett’s closed eyes fluttered open. 

“Why’d you stop?” he asked, voice low.

“You said you were going to make blondies,” Sage reminded him. “You can have another kiss after you finish baking and clean up the kitchen.”

Jett nodded. “Y’know what, Goldie? That’s fair. Because even though your flirting leaves much to be desired, you can be quite the romantic when you want to be.”


The week leading up to the third and final Trial passed all too quickly. Sage and Jett were only gifted with a single night to themselves because Nakoa returned the next day, Moose noticeably absent from her side. She seemed to be in a bitter mood, so Sage and Jett were careful to steer clear of her except for at meal times. 

Poppy had apparently spent two days investigating the castle and Koda’s apothecary for any more clues and she’d barely slept because she returned to the apartment when Sage and Jett were helping Jett’s parents settle into Jett and Evangeline’s old place. 

Jett visited his parents every day, but Sage only accompanied him a few times. It felt like he was intruding on moments that didn’t belong to him, despite Jett’s reassurances that it was fine. He lent them the little remaining money he had taken from home, cooked a few dinners, and helped catch them up on how life in Xegalla differed from that in Aecheral. Really, it just warmed his heart to see Jett able to hug his parents and speak to them without a sheet of glass between them. 

Adrian, too, rejoined the rest of the team within a few days. He walked stiffly, his injury still troubling him slightly. Sage considered asking why Adrian didn’t just have Poppy heal him, but the tension between the two of them was higher than ever. 

Actually, strike that. The tension between everyone had never been higher. 

Hunter’s team had miraculously reappeared in their apartment practically overnight with no clues as to why they’d missed the Fete. The unmasking was set to take place at the end of the third trial. And while everyone was stressing over the fact that they had no clue what to expect for the final trial, Adrian was flat out panicking as he drew out plans (and redrew and redrew and redrew) for every possible scenario. Poppy couldn’t care less and spent most of her time brooding with Nakoa in their bedroom. Jett continued to visit his parents and Sage alternating between joining him and helping Adrian organize his thoughts.

When Evangeline arrived on the morning of the final trial with stacks of clothes in hand, it came as an unwelcome surprise to everyone.

“The third trial will commence at noon,” Evangeline explained after the team had changed into their trial garb once again. Same black jackets, pants, and boots as before. The deja vu was nauseating to Sage. 

Though Evangeline didn’t look any more comfortable in her slim dress with her hair braided around her head like a crown. It seemed the noble life was treating her well, at least. 

“There is to be no weapons allowed in the arena,” Evangeline continued, reading off the sheet of paper she’d been given. “You will rely on your Graces alone for your victory.”

Sage frowned at that, though he shouldn’t have been surprised considering the Tournament was meant to test the competitors’ Graces. Still, it meant he’d be relatively useless to his team once more. 

Jett squeezed his hand underneath the table and Sage took it as an oath. Jett would be at his side. 

“There should be no murder under any circumstances,” Evangeline said. “And as much as I want to claim it’s directed at the other team, you guys did kill someone, so…” She paused and no one laughed. “Tough crowd. Anyway, the trial will end when all of your opponents are unconscious or otherwise subdued---this does not include death.”

“They really don’t want us to kill anyone,” Jett grumbled.

Sage elbowed him in the side.
Evangeline ignored them both. “Immediately following the trial, the losing competitors will have their Graces removed and the winners will be given their prize. If there is no winner by sunset, the Tournament will end in a draw and the prize money will be added to the next competition’s pot. Incentive to win fast, I suppose.”

“They’re as ready for this competition to be over as we are,” Sage said. 

“I think everyone is eager for this competition to be over,” Evangeline agreed. “But that’s all the information I have for you as of right now. I’ll escort you to the arena shortly before noon, and then I suppose I’ll see you on the other side.” Her smile was bittersweet. “For now, I’ll wait outside if you guys want to discuss some last minute strategy.” Then she ducked outside, leaving Sage and his teammates alone once more.

“So,” Adrian began. “This is it. This is the end.”

“I’m going to miss you guys,” Jett said, faking a sob. Sage kicked him underneath the table. “What? We’ve accomplished so much together--”

“We haven’t won yet,” Nakoa interrupted. She glanced at Adrian. “You never did find your brother’s murderer.”

Adrian nodded. “I know. But…I’m still glad that I competed. Otherwise I wouldn’t have met all of you.”

“Oh, Fates, he’s going to make me cry with his sappiness,” Jett said, continuing his fake sniffles. 

Adrian shot Jett a glare. “Okay, maybe I’m glad that I met most of you---excluding a certain someone, of course.” He shook his head, stifling a grin. “Nakoa’s right, though. We haven’t won yet. This is what we’ve been fighting for. I may not have found Asher’s killer, but the rest of you were in it to win it.”

“My parents are free,” Jett reminded them. He beamed with pride that brought a smile to Sage’s lips.

“And you offered me a position in the Golden Guard,” Nakoa said. She offered a half smile. “I think I’m going to have to take you up on that.”

“You guys are defeating the point of my motivational speech,” Adrian grumbled. “But whatever. Poppy and Sage still want to win, and none of us really want to lose our Graces, so…” He shrugged. “We’ve got this.”

“That is so cheesy,” Poppy groaned. “But I’ve got to say, I appreciate the confidence.”

“Team cheer on three?” Jett asked, sounding a little too hopeful.
“Yeah, that’s a no from me,” Nakoa said, scowling at Jett. “We don’t have even have a team name--”

“Uh, yeah, we do. It’s called Team Jett after its most awesome and wonderful captain.”

“Alright then, team captain,” Adrian said with a smirk. “Why don’t you come up with a strategy for the trial?”

Jett grinned. “I may have a few ideas…”



© 2023 A.L.


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Added on January 18, 2023
Last Updated on January 18, 2023
Tags: adventure, Grace, Fates, Fate, teen, ya, fantasy, fiction, magic, tournament, game, competition, enemies to lovers, young adult, assassin, thief, royalty, prince, priestess, death, survival, noble


Author

A.L.
A.L.

About
When I was eleven, my cousins and I sat down and decided we want to write a fifty book long series that would become an instant bestseller. Obviously, that hasn't happened yet (and I doubt it will) bu.. more..

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Fatefall - 1 Fatefall - 1

A Chapter by A.L.