Fire Ch. 08byEnithermon©
Hi there folks!
I finally have the next installation, just in time for you all to have forgotten about me. ^^
for those of you still waiting patiently, a million thanks. I hope you enjoy this installation, and I've already started the next, so that won't take nearly as long.
As always feedback by way of votes, comments, and e-mails is always desired,particularly if you aren't feeling it and have some suggestions for me.
The instant he awoke, Jairus knew something was wrong. He turned his head on the pillow, his hand snaking across the cool sheets, his heightened vision soaking up every scant drop of light that could possibly be had.
It was barely after midday, and though that soft, warm, and wonderfully familiar scent still lingered in the air, on the linens, and even on his own skin, the sheets beside him were already quite cold. He'd been alone for hours.
It was possible she had just risen early, that she was still just annoyed with him after last nights mild argument, but something in his gut was twisting in a way he did not like. Not at all.
He rose to wash and dress, running through the events of the previous evening, his movements listless and preoccupied.
He smiled briefly recalling for a moment the way he'd found her in the kitchen, her fists clenched and her face a mask of intensity, and afterward how easily she'd softened to his touch.
His smile faded quickly enough. He'd been lucky that she'd given him his requested hiatus from her questions. He had taken quick advantage of that pause, afterward carrying her upstairs so that he might proceed to further reassure himself of her continued good health, particularly after he'd lost track of himself while feeding.
He wasn't surprised that he had, considering his chosen method. Even the brief memory of sinking his fangs into that soft sensitive flesh made his groin tighten and his mouth water. He shook off his arousal and called to mind the less pleasant aspects of the evening instead.
She had finally insisted she share her news, unwilling to wait until the next evening. Said news had unfortunately consisted of a 'genius' plan of looking for the idiot Huroth who wanted her dead and informing them that she was no threat. Apparently the first time he'd reminded her of the futility of that plan she hadn't been backed up with Huroth inheritance laws.
He'd laughed. He could admit feeling a little sorry for doing it, particularly after he saw the look that had shadowed her face, but it had slipped out despite himself. It was a ridiculously naive plan. He might have been simply amused and charmed by it, by her ingenuousness and innocence. But the fact that such a course would put her in very real danger, unnecessarily so, made it less endearing. His laugh, therefore, had been not so much one of amusement as it had been of incredulity. This had not been lost on her. She had been less than please with his response, and had made her displeasure known.
Her immediate reaction was to ask, rather shortly, if he could suggest a better course, and unsurprisingly he could. He informed her of his own plan to leave with her and head south through the mountains, away from the Huroth and away from the empire. At first she'd balked...had insisted that she could argue with them, and that she wouldn't need to leave. They had argued until finally he had asked her what she had left to leave, to tell him one thing besides hurt pride, or irrational stubbornness that could compel her to risk her life and he would happily take her there himself.
Again, perhaps in hindsight, he'd been rather more flippant than necessary. Now looking back he could see the darkness that had flashed across her features...and the sadness. Even then he had waited tensely, half expecting her to tear from the bed and sweep petulantly out the door.
She wouldn't have been the first to do it, though admittedly he'd never much cared one way or the other before. It had been a long while since he'd had a woman in bed that he actually wanted to keep there, so he'd winced inwardly at letting his usual sardonic tone slip out at that moment.
Contrary to past experiences however, she had merely looked at him a long moment before sighing and curling up next to him, tucking her head into his shoulder and wrapping an arm around his waist.
Thoughtlessly he had been pleased and contented himself with believing that he had won the argument, that her darkened expression had been one of defeat. Now as he entered her cold bedroom, and opened her little jewelery box, he could see it for what it had really been...disappointment. His eyes surveyed the box, noting what was left and what had been taken.
Foolish girl. Foolish stubborn girl. He slammed the lid back down, causing the wood along one side to crack under the pressure. There were still hours left until sundown.
Thea gritted her teeth and pushed on, stumbling through another deceptively high bank of snow. She was grateful that she'd had enough foresight to wear pants but after hours of trudging through the snow, the material had soaked through and was beginning the process of refreezing. Her cloak was faring little better, stiffening slowly under the constant barrage of rising and frigid winds.
This wasn't the best idea she'd ever had, but she'd been anxious to leave, to get on with it. So much so she neglected to note the signs of the coming storm on the horizon. It hadn't even been snowing when she left.
She had hoped Jairus would agree to help her, but it was clear he was too set in his own plans, and unwilling to understand her own need to deal with this head on. She needed to speak to them, these people of hers who wanted her dead. She'd been too stunned to say anything to the villagers, and when she'd finally recovered her tongue she'd had nothing left to chastise but the dark of the woods. This felt like a second chance...a second chance to face her accusers...or her would be murderers.
She glared sourly at the snow and darkness obscured woods ahead of her. He had called her irrational....stubborn...well maybe, but that didn't change anything. It certainly didn't quench this burning need inside of her.
A sudden gust, whipped at her cloak, tugging the hood back from her head. She raised an arm to shield her face and paused lest she stumble blindly into yet another drift and finally freeze herself for good and all. She whimpered involuntarily at the thought that, as the storm picked up and the temperatures dropped through the night, she might do just that. She backed up in the face of the wind, finding a tree trunk and huddling with her back against it, still using her arm as a screen from the worst of it.
'This will certainly be an embarrassing way to die, she thought morosely.'
Eventually the gusts died down enough for her to uncover her face and take a tentative look around. She was not prepared for the startled scream that ripped out of her own throat as a pale furious face filled her vision in place of the sleet she had expected.
"Jairus!" she gasped as a hand found her shoulder and roughly pushed her back up against the tree she'd been anchored to.
"Are you mad woman?" His voice was a snarl, his fangs bared, a flicker of white against red lips, and his face...his face was a twisted expression of fury she had never before seen.
He was normally so cool, so impassive, but right now as he loomed over her, his fingers digging into her arm, he was the very picture of wrath incarnate. She could only gape up at him in terrified astonishment, into a face she barely recognized.
"Well? Answer me!" he shook her, as if the movement would jostle the words from her. He didn't wait long enough for her to respond.
"Notwithstanding the idiocy of going to face those barbarians alone," he continued with another vicious growl, "what in god's name possessed you to go off into a storm in the dead of winter?" He grabbed both her shoulders and pressed her hard into the tree, leaning in over her, terrifying her in a way he had not since she'd first met him... or perhaps ever.
"Are you so anxious to die?" He hissed softly, his face just inches from hers. The sardonic note which laced those last words brought her back to herself, and reminded her of who he was and what he was to her. He was furious that she had not listened to him, perhaps, but he was not her enemy. Not him.
She pulled herself together and straightened up, tilting her face up to his and narrowing her eyes.
"No." She said firmly, anger lacing her own voice. "I'm not an idiot, and I didn't plan to get caught out in the storm." She returned his glare as best she could, resisting the urge to shiver from either fear or cold, not wanting to admit weakness, even the slightest. She feared if he saw it he would use it and break her resolve, which was already weakening rapidly as the cold crept deep into her bones and as his burning gaze ate into her.
He continued to glare down at her.
Even though it was not unexpected, he was still amazed by her show of nerve as she returned his glare. He wanted to yell at her, shake her, hell, even spank some sense into her. But all he could muster was a long speechless glare. He was so furious he couldn't even think straight.
For all of five minutes he had considered not coming after her, letting her lay in the bed she'd made, but the moment the sun set he'd been out the door, searching for her tracks and scent, elusive in the rapidly building snow.
As the winds had risen, and the snowfall had grown thick and heavy in the air, his irritation had turned rapidly to fear. Fear that she was already too far, that he would find her too late, that she had already given up to the cold, to death. His fear was only made more palpable by the fact that she hadn't taken everything with her. More than half her money, and all her belongings, including her grandparents rings still remained, clear indicators that for all her insanity she had planned to return, that she wasn't just suicidal...that she wasn't leaving him.
When he'd found her, still alive, still whole, huddled so pitifully against that tree, his fear was swept away. In its place came a swift and uncontrollable anger that only seemed to feed off his relief.
"Take me or leave me Jairus...either way, I'm doing this. I have to do this."
She set her jaw, her eyes blazing defiantly, daring him to walk away. Her mouth was drawn in a tight bow, save for the tiniest of trembles, barely noticeable. He saw it. He saw it, and read in it the fear she refused to show, refused to let cow her. He knew the essence and vibrations of her emotions now as well as he knew the rhythms of her flesh and the taste of her blood.
The arousal those emotions bred, be they of frustration and anger, drew him just as insistently as everything else about her. Take her or leave her? What choice was there in that? He growled low in his throat, making no attempt to mitigate the displeasure he knew must show in his expression. She flinched, a subtle movement around her eyes, like a repressed wince. But she held her ground, his brave, stubborn little girl. He still hovered over her, his fangs partially bared, and with an air of menace he knew would make anyone other sane person cower instinctively in horror.
"I want to be excruciatingly clear about my feelings on this matter...as I'm not sure you've completely understood me." He grated out in a soft whisper.
She winced again, but did not draw away. Instead she steeled herself and shifted forward until he could feel the magnetic pull of her body hovering inches from his.
"I do." She whispered back, her voice hoarse. "I am not contesting that. You're right...of course, but this isn't about being right, or smart, or logical. I know I'm being foolish...but I Need to do this. You have to understand Jairus." she added softly, her voice becoming a plea.
They stood there a long time.
The winds continued to whip the snow around them, and he watched it catch in her hair and melt against her set lips as he waited for the determination in her eyes to dim. It did not. Her jaw began to tremble. It didn't shake with emotion but from the driving cold which was rapidly draining her of her precious warmth, warmth he had absorbed greedily so many times before and which she had given readily and willingly.
He let out a harsh sigh of exasperation.
"Come on." His hand snapped out and grabbed her wrist. He moved suddenly, striding past her and tugging her along behind. He heard her cry out in surprise and felt her stumble, her free hand grabbing his wrist as she tried, and failed, to pull away.
"Jairus! You can't..."
"If you keep walking in this you'll likely die." He interrupted, still pulling her along behind him. Her resistance lessened. "There's an emergency shelter I use nearby. It's dry at least. It will keep you alive." He did turn back then to glare at her. "Even if it is just delaying the inevitable."
Her expression softened and she looked momentarily forlorn. He wasn't feeling terribly sympathetic. He turned his hard glare away and back into the oncoming flurry of ice and snow. The unforgiving wind chose that moment to begin its howling, signaling the approaching height of the storm.
Thea was shivering uncontrollably by the time they got to the shelter. It was in fact an abandoned cave. The entrance was small, barely enough for a man to slide through sideways and blocked with a boulder which Jairus pushed aside with his shoulder. She was not entirely shocked that he could move such a thing on his own, but his superhuman displays never failed to unnerve her. It was even more intimidating having faced his anger only minutes earlier. He left her there to collect wood for a fire.
He was not gone long and in moments of his return had managed to start a small fire and shut the two of them in together, sealing them in for the from the storm that was just then blustering outside. She silently hoped they weren't getting buried in.
Silently because he hadn't said a single word to her since he'd first started dragging her out of the snow and she didn't want to be the first to speak. She sighed and shuffled closer to the flame, waiting as it slowly dried and warmed her.
She wanted to explain to him, somehow, why it was she had to do this. Why couldn't he just understand? She put another couple of pieces of semi dry wood on the fire. They hissed unpleasantly before settling in with a loud pop.
Jairus had moved to the other side of the fire, his back against the cave wall. He adjusted his cloak around him and sat, stretching his long legs out before him and leaning back with closed eyes. She shivered again and rubbed her upper arms a few times to warm herself.
"Come here." The sound of his voice, so unexpected, made her start. She stared at him. He remained still, save for one brow which arched higher the longer she stood staring.
"Thea?" She started again and obeyed unthinkingly, mostly out of surprise.
He reached up and took her by the wrist, pulling her down next to him, his decisive movements brooking no argument. Still with eyes closed he further stupefied her by wrapping an arm about her waist and pulling her square into his lap and firmly up against him with her back to his chest.
She sat frozen, sitting stiffly until she felt him sigh again.
She turned slightly to glance into his face and thought for a second she saw a twitch at the corner of his mouth.
"I'm not going to bite."
She let out a breath and slumped against him.
"Very funny." She mumbled, and leaned her head back against his shoulder.
They sat like that for a long time, staring into the flames, thinking. Flames before her, as always. But this time, there was something between her and the cold stone. More comfortable yes, but far more dangerous as well. How dangerous she couldn't quite say, she was only certain that he was. She remembered that first night, and thought of his ghostly face gazing at her from across the fire with those glowing eyes. How they had frightened her then, but no longer...well, not often.
"I like the fire." She murmured.
"As do I."
She let out a long breath and frowned at the flames.
"What are you?"
"You know what I am."
"But what does it mean?"
"I mean, what else is there, besides the sunlight and blood? I know there are other things...that you can do other things."
"Such as?" His eyes were still closed and his head back against the stone wall.
"You moved that stone...you seem to move without sound...without tracks..."
He made a sound like a snort.
"Well you can."
He sighed softly. "Yes I can. You want to know what I can do? I can do everything you can do...just...more so." He let out another sigh. "There is nothing particularly mystical about what I do. I'm just... stronger and faster. Much stronger and faster, as you have noted. I can see, hear, and smell things that others can't."
"What about when you visited me, before, were you doing something to my mind? Controlling me?"
"No. I can exert my will over others, but it is not control. I can't make anyone do anything, but I can nudge them in a direction they are already going. I can turn nerves into fear and fear into terror."
She shifted in his arms. "What about desire?"
"Are you asking if I have done this to you?" She could feel his lips brush her ear. She said nothing. He chuckled. "I had encouraged you to remember me as a dream, if at all...nothing more. I have not illicitly fueled your passion...at least, not intentionally." She felt the whisper as if it were a caress running over her skin.
"Are you sure?" Her voice drawled out thickly, breaking under the weight of her sudden breathlessness.
"Yes. I am sure." He paused as his assurance wrapped unsettlingly around her.
"Other than that there is little I can tell you. I have known few others of my kind, and I lack the disposition to go out of my way to find out more simply for curiosities sake. I know what I need to survive."
"Were... were you born like this? A vampire?"
She turned to look back at him and he opened his eyes. He stared down at her and she felt the circle of his arms tighten momentarily around her waist.
"No." He paused again and she waited for him to elaborate. She wasn't disappointed.
"I was turned."
She continued to watch him expectantly.
"Ca..." He frowned and looked away. "My sire," he continued, though with a faint sneer twisting his mouth, "took my blood and gave me their own ...long ago...that is how someone is turned."
He didn't continue.
"You don't sound thrilled about it..." One corner of his mouth twitched up again.
"Not particularly, no."
"You didn't want to be a vampire?" She watched his face with open curiosity. These were questions she had long desired to ask.
"I wasn't given the choice."
"Did you know him? The one who turned you?" His face turned stony again.
"Her. And no, not really."
His jaw twitched and he looked back towards the fire. She knew she should drop it, but curiosity...and perhaps, she could admit, a twinge of jealously, got the better of her.
"Were you and she..."
"I'd rather not discuss it" He interrupted before she could finish the thought.
Yes then, she felt sure of it. She wondered if whatever had caused them to go their separate ways was strong enough to keep them apart. Maybe she died.
She frowned at herself...at the relief that the possibility gave her. She tried to push it from her mind.
"So you were once...I mean, you were born..."
He gave her one of his spectral smiles.
"Much like you. Very much like you." She frowned. There was an odd quality to his voice.