BloodBorne Ch. 04bypurefire©
Xan was waiting for them when they'd returned from their errand. She sat in Alexis' chair in the solarium, anxiously chewing her nail to the quick and unconsciously shaking her foot. "Did you get it?"
Alexis nodded as he stepped forward to hand her the bundle of clothes he'd packed. He said nothing to her behavior and only turned to walk out of the room.
"Where is Xion?" Draco asked. He fought hard to control his emotions as he noticed that Alexis' eyes became slightly brighter. No wonder he'd turned away from Xan. "Is she all right?"
"She's taking a nap," Xan replied as she gripped the pill bottle in her hands. She lightly shook the bottle and knew that she only had enough for roughly two weeks. With luck, this very inconvenient situation would be resolved by then. "I managed to calm her down."
"Why didn't you make sure she took her meds when she's supposed to?" Liam asked. Seeing the state of that damned ramshackle house quickly ignited his short fuse, and reminded him of a past he did not want to remember. It also sparked a protectiveness that was quickly becoming a problem. "What the hell kind of-"
"You are really starting to piss me off with this shit," Xan softly murmured. Her tone of voice was menacing and held the promise of violence if provoked any further. "Xion is nine years old and I am raising her to defend and think for herself. She's been taking her own pill since she was six and I trust her completely."
"She isn't the one who should be trusted," Liam retorted. The second he spoke the hurtful words, he took an involuntary step back; Xan's face reddened dangerously and she shot up out of her seat. Her intent was clear and had Draco not been there to hold her back, she would have attacked and landed a few serious blows before he had to the sense to defend himself. Smug satisfaction made him say, "Is there anything remotely feminine about you?" The bitch actually snarled at him as she fought to break free of his brother's hold.
"Calm down," Alexis soothed in Spanish. He'd returned to the room to aid Draco in restraining her. He continued to whisper calming words to her and was soon able to keep the wild beast inside of her from making minced meat out of his brother.
Xan took several aggravated breaths before yanking her arms out of Alexis and Draco's holds. It wasn't very often she was ready to murder a human hybrid, but this time, she'd been pushed close enough to the edge to not think about the repercussions of her actions. "If I gave a flying fuck about what you think, I'd lie and say yes."
The comment left Liam speechless. An amazing feat. Another scathing remark would have easily put her in her place, but the glint of hurt in her eyes at his comment kept him quiet. He was making a lot of allowances for the woman, more than she deserved. Liam had to stop that; Xan had a lot of learning to do, and he wasn't helping anyone by allowing her to think that he would hold her hand through everything.
"Are you making any kind of progress on this whole Shirley situation?" Xan expelled one last calming breath before retrieving the items Alexis had brought home for her. In her rage, she'd absently thrown them on the floor. "I'd like to know when my sister and I can get the hell out of here."
"Tired of us already?" Draco asked.
"No, I actually like you. You make it a point to speak from time to time and when you do, you don't piss me off."
"So you don't mind me staring?"
"I'm used to it," Xan allowed. She shifted her attention to Liam, who had yet to answer her. "You going to answer my question before I turn sixty or should I start planning my funeral now?"
"It is not an easy question to answer," Alexis answered.
"See what I mean?" Xan asked Draco. At his understanding smile, she shook her head in near disgust. Men were supposed to be the simple sex, the easy, straight-to-the-point species. Not these men, apparently. "He's a demon. Find the right weapon or spell, and vanquish the fuck out of him."
"There's no real way to kill a demon like Sherliane," Alexis said.
"What the fuck kind of answer is that? What kind of demon is he?"
The growing agitation in Xan's tone of voice prompted Draco to step in and mediate. "We don't really know."
"You don't know?" she repeated. "The baddest of the badass demon hunters ever known are seriously standing here telling me that there is basically nothing that can be done?"
"Now we didn't-"
"No, Draco. If you can't kill him, why in the fuck am I here?"
"So that you don't end up like Nadia."
Though there was a touch of sadness in Liam's voice when he spoke, Xan wasn't in the mood to calm down. "Who in the fuck is Nadia?" A tense silence filled the room as she looked around at all three of the men. Not one of them made eye contact and Alexis went as far as to simply walk out of the room again. "Who is Nadia?" she asked again.
"I'll leave you two to talk this one over," Draco meekly replied.
Xan watched Draco walk out f the room before she looked at Liam. It was quite obvious that this Nadia person was important. For Sherlaine to be a part of what happened to her meant that she and Xion were in for a rough time. "Say something, God damn it!"
Liam took a moment to fight the ball of pain growing in his stomach. The pain was just as intense, just as turbulent as the day he'd realized that she'd died. "Nadia was our sister."
Xan was not expecting that answer. "And Sherlaine killed her?"
Liam shook his head as he said, "No. But he played a part in her death." Bitter resentment welled within him as he recalled the fateful moment he saw Nadia's lifeless body. It had been after a bitter brawl to save Charisma's life, a brawl that happened to be the result of Sherlaine's aid in kidnapping both women. His brother Jameson had been forced to choose between Nadia and Charisma and because the choice had been too hard for him, Nadia sacrificed her life to save the ones she loved. "Sherlaine has the ability to come back to life. We know this because each of us have killed him at one time or another."
He loved Nadia as much as she loved Xion. Xan couldn't be angry at him after the pain that rimmed his seemingly impartial eyes. "I'm sorry you lost her. I can see that you loved her every much."
"She was one of a handful of women who cared about me without having anything to gain." Liam didn't know why he said that. Maybe it was the sudden softening of compassion in her eyes that pulled at him. Or maybe it was having the objective ear to listen to him. Whatever the reason, he wasn't sorry he shared.
"Only a handful?"
"Yes. Nadia, Charisma -- even though she's afraid of me, Patricia, my brother Lindsay's mother-in-law, Alauria, Lindsay's wife, and Lindsay's mother, may she rest in peace." A smile lit the corner of his mouth as he remembered the two matronly figures on his list. He made a mental note to call Patricia, as it had been a few weeks since their last conversation. She would inevitably call to chastise him.
"What about your mother?"
"Ivelda never thought that way."
The immediate darkening of his eyes told Xan that he and his mother hadn't been on good terms. She should have let the subject drop, but it was hard to imagine anyone having a tense relationship with their mother, especially after being raised by a mother who gave her life to protect her. "I'm sorry your mother-"
"She wasn't my mother."
"But you just said..."
The confused look that took over her face made his growing anger dissipate. Xan wasn't trying to annoy him; she simply wanted to know. "Ivelda was the woman who bore me. The term 'mother' implies that she gave a shit about me outside of what I could do for her." The surprised look in Xan's eyes gave him an odd sense of comfort. It almost felt as if she cared about him. "If Ivelda gave a shit about anyone, it was only herself."
The shattering statement broke her heart. To see such a strong man struggle to hide his pain and anger... Her heart urged her to reach out to him. "Liam..."
"You should get your stuff upstairs." He didn't wait for her to answer; Liam simply turned on his heel and walked toward the exit. "And make sure Xion takes her pill."
* * * * *
The illusion of starlight illuminated the large cold chamber. Save the billions of tiny bursts of pale gold light and the large symbol on the ground, the windowless room was bare. The deafening silence bounced off the walls, creating an eerie atmosphere that made the hair on the back of one's neck to stand on end. The air began to sizzle and pop as the center of the symbol on the ground, a septagram, slowly illuminated. Soft blue light permeated through the squared center, gradually rising in brightness to create a tall, narrow box of shimmering luminosity. A faint shadow began to fill the box, gradually darkening and dominating the space. Within seconds, flesh materialized and a sharp burst of light filled the room. A strong voice began to chant and old, ancient language that forced the twinkling lights to still in the air and brighten to blinding proportions.
Heat began to dominate the room and the chanting grew in volume. "I am Sherlaine, the chosen. I command ye gates, open." A knife was pulled out of his pocket and with one determined slash, the flesh of his palm was carved open. Sherlaine winced at the sting that came from the wound then nodded in satisfaction as his blood flowed freely. "Payment for passage. I command ye gates, open!"
A burst of red light shot though the room, enveloping Sherlaine's tense body. Blinding pain invaded every cell, almost breaking his concentration. He continued his ancient chanting, weakening as the dark forces he called on drained him of his blood. Those tiny twinkling lights became unstable and one by one, they charged toward him, creating a swarm of burning energy. Power surged through him, taking more than he was able to give. "OPEN!"
The red light intensified and a fierce gust of wind swept through the chamber. Agonizing pain ripped through Sherlaine, forcing a tortured cry from his lips. All too soon, the room went still and he dropped to his knees as he panted for breath. "Fuck."
"I told you that you weren't powerful enough to do it on your own."
Sherliane glared up at the sinewy figure that stalked toward him. Tall and willowy, the figure seemed to float in her emerald robes. The robes enhanced the moss color of her eyes and contrasted with the silver-blonde hair that flowed to the waist. Smug arrogance contorted delicate, pixie-like features that belied the menacing power inside. "Saveena, now is not the time."
Saveena continued to approach Sherlaine in his weakened state. "I warned you this would happen."
"You did not."
"So I told you that you weren't ready for this simply to hear myself speak."
Delicate, long fingered hands rested on an impossibly small waist. "I am no soul-sucking Mordecai demon, Sherlaine." She watched he slowly gained his feet to give a glare as sharp as razor blades. "You must listen when I advise."
"I see no need to listen when there is no reason behind a warning."
"Shall I show you what I witnessed when they denied your request?"
Sherlaine shook his head at the invitation. He was still feeling the effects of living through the ritual. He didn't like failure, but he knew when to shut his mouth and listen. "What, pray tell, do you suggest?"
"It is not impossible to get what you want."
Saveena paused for effect before saying, "But your methods push you to failure."
"You have not answered my question."
"Your goal is to open a door, a locked door, is it not?"
"That's a simple way to put it."
With a simple wave of the hand, hundreds of twinkling lights illuminated the room once more. "And what do all locked doors need in order to be opened?"
Sherlaine nodded once in understanding.
* * * * *
The sight that beheld Liam when he walked into the solarium was not one he expected. Xion, fresh from her nap, and happily calm, lay prone on the floor, sketching his brothers and Xan as they conversed. Her long pigtails lay like dark thick ropes on either side of her small body. She was engrossed in shading, he realized; her small hand furiously shot from side to side in a tight formation as she filled the sheet of paper with the charcoal hue. As Liam approached, he saw that she worked on Alexis' likeness as he sat on his chair. Liam looked up at his brother, who steepled his hands beneath his chin; a clear sign that he was extremely interested in what he was being told. Draco took point at his usual spot near the window and stood with his arms crossed over his chest. Euan was present as well, and chose to lie near the unused fireplace in cougar form. His tail thumped lazily against the floor.
Liam saved Xan for last. She sat causally on the settee with one leg crossed over the other -- the most feminine thing he'd ever seen her do since their initial meeting. She had one arm draped over the back and her hand occasionally moved to emphasize a point she made as she spoke. There was a bit of sunlight filtering through the window and it brushed over her skin so gently; she'd never looked so soft, even with the contrast of her short spiky hair.
And then he focused enough to hear what she was saying.
"Oh man, my first Dymos was sick. I was sixteen and they put me up against a Kitron demon that only had one eye."
A Kitron demon? With short, stout bodies topped with overly large heads to accommodate four saucer-like eyes, they weren't extremely difficult to vanquish. But against once so young, they were deadly.
"How did you defeat him?" Alexis asked.
"Well, at first, I fought him like I'd fight any other pendeho I'd run into in the street, but I was getting some serious ass handed to me." She chuckled as her mind went back to the terror she felt at the fight. She'd been out of her element and the shouts from the on-looking crowd intimidated her. "He got me down on the ground and had me in a sleeper. I was fading fast."
"Was this before or after you learned how to wiggle out of a hold?" Liam asked insolently. Oddly enough, he didn't like the fact that she'd been sharing her stories without him present to hear them.
"Before," Xan answered. She'd been too engrossed in her memories to notice his usual attitude. "So I'm on the ground, stars are floating in my eyes and it's getting black."
"What did you do?" Draco asked excitedly.
"I poked his eye out." There was a long moment of silence as the men took on her confession. Then Draco began to laugh uproariously. "After that, there was nothing left for me to do."
"Damn, I like you," Draco laughed.
"Right back at'cha," Xan replied with a smile.
That simple moment of camaraderie set Liam's blood on fire. "You'd think someone who fights the way you so would know better."
"I was sixteen," Xan said with a hard voice, "I didn't know what I was doing back then. I had sense enough to remember what my mother taught me in the event some jerk tried to rape me."
This was the first time she'd mentioned her mother since they'd met. "What else did she teach you?" Liam asked. He was convinced she'd have something smart to say and oddly enough, the prospect excited him.
"Not much. She died when I was fifteen." Xan glanced over at Xion, who'd stopped sketching at the mention of their mother. Her brown eyes held a sad curiosity as she was nothing but a toddler the fateful day they became orphans.
"How did it happen?" Alexis asked.
Xan wondered if she should retell such a story. As it was, Xion didn't know yet; until now, she didn't know much about the world her sister lived in. But things had changed drastically, and Xion deserved to learn the truth. "She'd just put Xion to bed and I was finishing up a history report for school. There was this loud crash and my mom screamed for me to watch over Xion, who'd started screaming. I ran toward her room and saw my mom fighting this big grayish-yellow demon with huge black horns and bright red eyes. I'd stopped because I'd never seen anything like it before. It had huge, sharp teeth and this thick greenish goo rolling out of the side of its mouth."
"A Laureate demon," Alexis murmured, "They're bred to sense and abduct powerful children to make slaves."
"I didn't learn that until much later," Xan said sadly. She hadn't broken eye contact with Xion, who'd now shifted to a relaxed lotus position. Her sketching had been forgotten.
"What happened next?" Dacro asked.
"I watched them fight. I'd never seen my mother move that fast before. I mean, she was the one who taught me most of what I know, but she was like something out of a kung fu movie. She noticed me standing there and screamed at me to get Xion and run. I ran to Xion's room and picked her up, but my mom forgot that it was a straight drop to the ground from her window. My room had the back porch projection to jump down onto. So we couldn't leave. I ran into the closet and hid with Xi. She always stopped crying when I held her." Xan swallowed the painful lump forming in her throat at the emotions that came with her memories. "Somehow the demon made it into the room and was headed straight for us. She followed it in and they fought like crazy. She had some kind of sword in her hand and she stabbed it in the chest. But it managed to bite her shoulder before it died."
"Laureate saliva is a deadly neurotoxin," Alexis commented.
"As she lay there dying, I brought Xion to her. I kept begging her to get up so that we could go. But she only shook her head and made me promise to remember the stories and protect Xion. She died holding each of our hands."
Liam felt his stomach twist at the despair in Xan's eyes. It was too much for someone that young to take. No wonder she was so hard and unbending. He wanted to reach out and hold her, to take her pain within himself so that she could be free to live her life without worry.
"What stories?" Xion asked. She didn't know how to feel knowing how she'd lost her mother, but she was comforted by the fact that her sister didn't break her promise.
"The stories about where we come from, kid. The stories of the Esmali."
"Will you tell me?"
"We have a library with all the information you want," Alexis invited.
"Can we go now?"
Alexis knew that Xan needed a moment to calm down after that emotional story. He silently stood and held his hand out to Xion, who eagerly took it. Together they headed to the library.
Liam didn't want to admit that he was on the verge of rage; not because of the injustice done to Xan, but because she'd shared her stories about herself with his brothers. No, he didn't care if she bonded with his brothers, but he wanted her to share her life with him first. After all, he'd shared a bit about Ivelda...
Xan looked over at Liam when a warm sensation washed over her. Sure enough, he stared at her with an indecipherable look that burned her to her core. Those silver-blue eyes of his made her stomach quiver and her palms began to sweat at the intensity of his stare. A part of her wanted to go to him while another wanted to run. Sizzling electricity shot through her and she began to throb uncontrollably at the juncture of her thighs. Her heartbeat went insane, threatening to burst through her chest. But she couldn't look away.
"So it's been you and Xion since you were fifteen?" Draco asked.
"What?" Uh, yea," Xan said. She felt her cheeks heat and her tempter flared. Hijo de puta! How did he do this to her? Angry at the effect Liam had on her, she sharply turned her head away. "Us against the world."
"That's how Roman and I felt before we met our brothers," Draco replied, "We'd only had each other from the day we turned twelve until then."
Liam felt rage take over at the unconscious moment of familiarity shared between Xan and his brother. His rage forced him to do the only thing he could think of. "It's no wonder you're such a pain in the ass now. How did your precious Pogue ever tolerate your docile nature?" Liam felt his gut twist at the momentary flash of despair that glittered in her eyes. He'd forgotten that she'd known the pain of the loss of a good friend. He was tempted to take back the remark because she was vulnerable. Heaven knew that he never made things easier for the woman; if anything, he expected her to be even tougher than she already was. It was the only way to survive in his world.