Fire Ch. 12byEnithermon©
Thea wasn't quite sure what to do with herself. She was afraid to leave the room, yet after having seen nothing but those same four walls for days...the thought of a little fresh air and night sky was a welcome one. Or even simply a different room.
The first few days after the attack she'd done little more than sleep, so there hadn't been much to get worked up about, and thankfully nothing much to say. Jairus had stayed with her those days, leaving during the nights, no doubt to feed, then returning to what had become their bed. He seemed just as inclined as she to simply sleep the days away. He had said they'd talk later, but she was becoming anxious to get it over with. At some point the torture of waiting had begun to outweigh her fear of the conversation's outcome.
The turning had been unexpected and unnerving, but in the end it was not so un-thought of –or even disagreeable—as to account for the tight knot of panic still contorting her insides. She was able to suppress it well enough, but it hadn't left her entirely.
No, what truly troubled her was how he would react to the truth about May and Berin, that it was her who had caused their deaths. He had hinted briefly that he knew what had happened, but it had been so ambiguous that she still feared she hadn't understood him correctly, or he her. He said only that 'he knew.' What could that mean? It could mean anything.
She paced, biting her lip and accidentally drawing blood for the umpteenth time. Her control over her fangs was still spotty at best, and became more erratic when she let herself get upset...which was often lately.
She needed to go, to get out of this room, out of these lands. Hell, out of the empire for that matter. As far from here, from the memories...the pain, as she could. Or...she could stay, and he could go. Othwyn would let her. She'd have no where else to go now anyway, not once Jairus realized what she had done. He couldn't have known it was the Huroth, and that they'd come in search of her. She'd brought them there. Unwittingly, yes, but if she'd just listened to him...just gone when he'd told her to...
He would go. He would once he knew...whether she wanted it or not. She pictured his face, imagining his eyes when she explained it to him—accusatory...the pain and anger that lay almost hidden beneath that cold gaze. The fantasy tore at her cruelly. There was no way she'd survive the reality of it. No. He would have to go, forget her, and salvage what was left. She'd only make it worse. She be a constant reminder, and who knows what other mess she'd end up dragging him into.
Jairus frowned at the crumbling stone from his windblown corner of the battlements. It was the same corner he'd picked the last time he'd paid the fortress a visit, and the same one he'd frequented in his youth. 'The non-eternal kind,' he thought sourly. That was the catch, or course. You were only young on the outside. It doesn't sound so bad until you've gotten old enough to stop caring about all the things youth was ever good for. He smirked. Then again, eternal old age would be a much more potent sort of hell. He could think of at least one use for this body which still brought pleasure.
His thoughts drifted toward Thea and his frown crept slowly back. She hadn't come out and accused him of anything, or expressed her anger. Indeed, she accepted his presence next to her as they rested, and allowed him to provide her with blood without repulsion or disgust as he had feared she might. Yet, she avoided him. She was quiet, withdrawn, and had gone back to barely meeting his eyes when they spoke. He was unsure of what he should do next. He assumed patience was what was necessary, but he had never had an impressive supply of the stuff.
But, at least, she was recovering well and had taken to the change with surprising grace. Perhaps it was her previous exposure to him, but something seemed to speed the learning process and she was already adept in knowing when and how to feed, and when to stop. What's more she seemed to enjoy it, something which yet increased his hope that she could adjust fully, and when she was ready, open up to him once more. Until then he'd have to be patient.
His frown deepened. It was that or lose her to Othwyn. He wouldn't normally be so concerned, but the man was persistent though not foolish enough to challenge whatever claim Jairus had, not outright. Othwyn tread carefully on the subject of Thea in the few encounters he'd had with the man, but Jairus sensed that he was biding his time until he could speak with her and asses the situation for himself. He'd been deferring to Jairus, allowing him to look after her, though he'd still insisted she be seen by a doctor, and did so enough that He'd been forced to let the man in to see she was resting and looking well. Which she was. Better than well.
His body responded to the thought and he growled low in his throat. He was glad she let him stay with her without complaint, but he'd not touched her other than to hold or feed her—not even to taste her himself— and the restraint was beginning to wear his control a little thin. He wasn't in danger of doing something rash, not yet, but it was taking less and less to push him.
Point in case, after his last one sided conversation with Othwyn, he was obliged to come up here to this little nook of wind pitted stone in order to cool and order his thoughts before he returned to her with his news.
Othwyn, it seemed, was also growing impatient. After Jairus had put him off once more, Othwyn requested, rather insistently, that Jairus relay a message for him if he couldn't yet see her himself. A message regarding reinstating Thea as a member of the ruling house, and giving her both title and dues: read gold, as befits 'her rightful position.' The sly bit was that it wasn't something Jairus would want to withhold from her. How could he complain about Thea being given what was hers...and even if it wasn't hers how could he not want her to have anything which would benefit her. Ultimately he did want her to accept. The money would give her power and freedom, and she could go and do with it what she pleased. Yet this was the very reason why he didn't want her to have it. The reason why he lingered here on the wind eaten turrets instead of returning to her. He steeled himself for whatever would come of this. With the freedom to leave, she just might do so, alone. Or perhaps worse, she'd take the offer as the invitation it was. An invitation to remain as one of the ruling body, to begin a new house, allied with Othwyn.
She was free to do either. So he glared impotently at the crumbling stone. At least until an interruption gave him something more satisfying to glare at.
"Enjoying the view?" He called. The boy stepped out from behind a turret a few feet down the walkway. "I thought you'd left for the city already?"
Sil moved closer, wary, and nodded. "I did leave. Came back. My uncle wants to know if you'll be coming back as well." Jairus observed him a moment, then shook his head.
"Back to playing errand boy are we?" He murmured dryly. "No, to answer you question. One way or another, I'll be gone." He smirked. "Congratulations, again. Not only are you alive, but you get my job as well."
"You won't re-consider?"
Jairus arched a surprised brow. "Is this your uncle asking?"
The boy shrugged. "No."
"Why Sil, I'm touched." Jairus smirked. The boy glared. But the anger faded into something unreadable.
"What are you?"
The smirk widened to expose a hint of fang. "Nothing you'd like to meet in a dark alley, I'm sure."
The boy let out a laughing snort despite his obvious effort to choke it back. "You could say that about any of us."
"Hm. Especially you, certainly in regards to your bad habit of jumping people in them."
"Ah, yes. I don't do that anymore."
Jairus arched a brow in response and the boy smirked back, "Much."
Jairus cooled his expression and looked back out over the blackened landscape. Sil cleared his throat.
"She's what you are, isn't she." Jairus turned a slow glare back toward him to discourage his line of questioning, but he was undaunted, and stepped forward instead. "Did...did you make her that way? In the clearing? Can you make others that way...like you? You aren't human." Jairus said nothing in return, only stared back, watching with an odd mixture of amusement and annoyance as the boy pushed on, steeling himself against the silent glare.
"Make me as you are."
He raised a curious brow. "Do you have even the slightest clue what you're asking?" The boy's face lit up as the half-sardonic query confirmed for him his answer to all of his previously unanswered questions.
"No. Not really. Will you anyway?"
Jairus had to laugh at that. "Well," he chuckled, "at least you're honest." He turned away once more, giving the boy a sidelong glance. "I am a vampire." He admitted. "It isn't usually all that pleasant. I live a very long time, which can become a tiresome and pointless exercise if you haven't anything particularly important to be living for. Believe me."
"I do. I still want you to. I want to be able to do what you do."
"We all want something. Whether or not we get it is another matter." In the corner of his eye he saw the young man slump slightly then turn to look out into the darkness as well.
"Well, it was worth a shot." He murmured.
Jairus tilted his head in acknowledgment and turned away. He paused briefly at the top of a set of stairs that lead back into the courtyard. It was deserted save for one or two guards who stood watch at the gate. He remembered how busy it had always been during the day, loud and harried and vibrant...but at night...
"Give it some thought. If you're still alive in a decade or so, ask me again." He called over his shoulder.
"How will I find you?"
"If you want it enough, you will find a way."
She started and turned from the window. Jairus closed the door behind him and folded his hands behind his back. He seemed to be eying her cautiously, but then she was probably doing the same to him. She sighed and turned back to the window, flattening her hands against the sill and leaning on them for support. "I've been thinking." She whispered.
She swallowed hard and pushed forward. "It...I think it's best if I stay."
"I see. Alone?"
She clenched her jaw tightly. "Yes." She tilted her chin up. "I think it's for the best." He stepped toward her, and she removed herself from the window, putting herself back out of reach. A glance at his face let her see how his eyes darkened. "I will be fine on my own." She rasped, gripping her skirts tightly, hiding her shaking hands in the folds.
"You aren't ready. If you insist on staying here you will be a danger to those around you." His voice was calm, yet there was a timbre to it as deep and threatening as the look in his eyes.
"Whose fault is that?" She muttered darkly, her hackles raised against his glare. He ignored her but matched her tight sarcasm note for note.
"I will wait until you are ready, and then I will go and leave you be. I don't suppose you're so stubborn that you won't at least allow for that?"
Thea swallowed a knot forming in her throat. "And who decides when I am ready?" She had meant to sound cold, but her voice shook despite her efforts, and she was forced to swallow again.
Jairus narrowed his eyes at her. "Don't be childish. I am only speaking the truth."
Her anger flared, but her tongue remained tied. She searched for words...but he was right.
When she could think of nothing to say to that, she did what she always did and blurted the first thing that came into her head.
"You lied...you told me he wanted me dead."
He gave her a long look, his eyes searching her face, forcing her to turn her eyes away as she was once wont to do when she felt him searching her eyes for her thoughts. As before, she didn't need him to see her clinging desperately to the last vestiges of her shredded self. She clenched her jaw and burned a hole into a rug on the far side of the room with her gaze instead.
For a moment, in the past, she had thought— hoped...foolishly, that a new home would fill the gaps in her heart, mending the rends...and then all of this happened, and it was gone. It had happened again. Now there were more holes than than before...more hole than whole. She closed her eyes and sighed, feeling herself deflate slightly. What a time for puns.
He chose that moment to speak again. "I told you he was looking for you."
She dared a glance at his face. "You let me believe it, that he wanted me dead, you can't deny that...why didn't you tell me what was really going on? About Othwyn?"
He sighed and arched a brow at her. There was another long look, but she didn't look away this time. To her surprise a twitch of a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
She twitched back, she couldn't help it, and nodded.
"I didn't want to share."
She just stared at him. Share? Didn't want to...? she shook her head.
He gave her a grim smile. "I was concerned that if you knew, you'd choose..." he gestured to the room, "this."
She shook her head again, still trying to jostle free her thoughts. "Why would you think that?"
He shrugged and turned away, clasping his hands behind his back as he moved towards the window.
"You've been alone, the thought of family might have been appealing...a people to call your own." He gazed down out of the window. "Do you remember what I told you when you first asked me what I was?"
She frowned at the shift in topic.
"No...before that." She shook her head. He nodded, though she thought more to himself than to her. "I told you I was your alternative. I kept you with me...because you had no other choice. Here was another alternative." He arched his brow, but his face was a mask once more. "He seems like a decent enough sort: reasonable, educated....competent, and is more or less offering you a throne...who wouldn't say yes. Speaking of which, he has renewed the offer. He asked me to tell you so...you need not even marry. He is prepared to reinstate your title and fund your way, whatever course you choose.. It would be foolish not to accept the offer."
Anger flared in her. Why that...how dare he! Did he think her so shallow....did all those things she'd said mean nothing...did her words mean nothing? The same words he'd forced her to say over and over again, as she begged him, pleaded with him to love her back in every way she could think of without just coming out and saying it. How could he think...? and what right did he have to keep that from her...?
"Indeed. Why wouldn't I?" The words came out as half rasp, half snarl.
His jaw tightened visibly, his body rigid with tension. "You're angry."
"Damn right I am. You should have told me...you had no right to keep it from me. God damn it Jairus if I had known..."
His eyes narrowed. "What? What would you have done if you had known?"
She stalled, using her frustration to stare him down, but finding herself unable to manage a coherent thought. She let out a frustrated sound. "I don't know. I could have....I could have talk to them, settled this, changed it before..." she couldn't bring herself to finish the thought, to think the thing, let alone say it out loud. It was too horrible a thing. She trembled with sorrow and anger.
There was a long silence. Neither broke their gaze. His was dark...so dark.
"So...do you seek to blame me then?" she blinked, then gasped, realizing abruptly what it was he meant.
"No...no of course not." she stuttered out, her anger turning to fear.
"It certainly sounded that way."
"No." she let out a loud breath and turned away to hide the fresh tears that were blurring her eyes. Would she never stop weeping? "I'm sorry," she whispered towad the floor. "It's not your fault..." she felt the first trickle of tears run down her cheeks, "It's mine...I know that." She slouched down on the bed, suddenly too weak to keep standing. "If I had listened..." she breathed a shaky sigh, "I keep thinking of everything I've done wrong, everything I've ruined since you found me..." she wiped the tears from her cheeks and looked down at the blood that streaked her hand. She was crying blood.
The sight made her let out a broken sob.
"Thea...it's not your fault either." He murmured softly from where he stood by the window, turning to face her. She turned her face up to his.
"You warned me. Someone would die, you said. Those were your very words." Her voice was low but fervent. His face softened and he moved towards her. She stood, suddenly alarmed and held out a bloodstained hand to ward him off.
"No...I....I don't want your...I've no right to it...I don't need to be comforted." Her jaw trembled pathetically but she still took a step away. In truth she could hardly bear the thought of his comforting her, not after all the misery she had brought into his life. It would have been better if he'd never found her that night, if she'd been left to rot on that god forsaken pole. Then she could never have visited this hell upon him, then May and Berin would still be alive.
He stopped short, his face tightening again...not the mask though....it was something else...something she wasn't sure she recognized. When he finally spoke his voice was slow and as rough as gravel.
"Did...." He paused and let out a breath, "did you ever consider that perhaps I do?"
She had not.
She didn't know when she had done it, but she'd somehow crossed the room. Her hands were in his hair pulling him to her, and her stained cheek was pressed against his as she murmured incoherently, begging his forgiveness, her voice a litany of 'I'm so sorry,' 'please forgive me,' groaned and whispered in low and fervent tones against the shell of his ear.
His arms slipped slowly around her waist and held her tight against him and her own came down to wrap about his shoulders, the fingers of one hand still twined in his hair as he bowed his head into the crook of her neck.
She felt him let out a single shudder as she silently wept for both of them.
Jairus remained still as death, holding her carefully, afraid that a wrong move would send her away again. She cried silently, her fervent words dying quickly into soft panting breathes. He had not meant for his own words to slip out as they had, but it had been said, and they were not untrue. Her reaction was as startling as the words he'd spoken, so he could do little more than stand and wait, grateful to feel her in his arms, to feel her fingers caressing the back of his neck, and fearful that at any moment it would be taken from him again.
There was no answer after Othwyns first knock. Or the one after that. So he took the irritated "What is it?" after the third as an invitation to enter. He was greeted with an unnerving glare and the equally unnerving, though not entirely unexpected sight of Thea and the assassin, Jairus he'd learned his name was, standing with their arms around one another. Thea gasped and turned away hiding her face against the man's shoulder, but not before Othwyn saw what she was hiding. Blood. He'd seen a streak of blood across her cheek, he was sure of it.
He strode toward them unthinkingly, his own sudden spike of anger catching him off guard.
"What the hell did you do?" He growled at Jairus, still ignoring the pointed glare the man was aiming at him. He didn't quite make it close enough to fetch her away from the menacing figure when the glare increased the the point where is was significantly less easy to ignore. It was...almost physical. Othwyn was forced to come to a near stop, just to catch his suddenly short breath, before he could step forth once more.