BloodBorne Ch. 05bypurefire©
Liam was still smiling as he walked toward the kitchen. The mix of bewilderment and rage that contorted Xan's face after their interlude was one that he was sure to remember. After his last comment to her, she only pushed him away before walking out of the room. When he thought about it, Liam should have called her retreat a run; she was out of the room in less than ten seconds, tugging on the hem of her shirt on the way. It was then that they both realized that the door was wide open; any of his brothers could have walked by and saw the end result of their clashing personalities. Liam didn't care, but he knew that Xan would have been mortified; he wasn't sure if he should have been pleased or upset by that.
He had no idea what was going on between him and the fiery woman; as it was, he was barely doing any work in solving the problem that was Sherlaine. That only meant that his brothers took on more responsibility in their search for answers. Part of him didn't care; Liam was curious about the progression of his odd relationship with Xan. When he wasn't busy hating the ground she walked on and letting her know it, he wanted to know her. He wondered what her life was like and how she managed to keep herself together after all that had happened to her. He wanted her to confide in him, to depend on him above all others. He wanted her to forget about the Magori; he didn't know the dynamics of their relationship, but that didn't stop him from feeling as if he was competing with a ghost. Once Liam succeeded, then he would consider the deeper meaning of his attraction to her.
Liam rounded a corner and grunted when the lower half of his body knocked into something. It took him only seconds to realize that he'd run into Xion, and by the harsh flush that took over her tear-streaked face, he knew why. As he crouched, he dodged a panicked fist that flew toward his face and pulled the child to him in a tight hug. He remembered reading that pressure on the body helped autistic children when they had panic attacks and figured the method would work on Xion as well. "Listen to my voice, Xion," he soothed. Liam tightened his hold on her and managed to reach around to massage her ear the way he'd observed Xan in the workout room. Xion shook uncontrollably in his arms as she continued to fight his hold. She repeatedly cried out for her sister and pushed as his chest, but Liam held fast, rubbing her back until she began to relax. It felt as if hours passed before she began to take deeper breaths. "That's it, just breathe. It's all right; I'm here."
Xion felt awkward being engulfed in Liam's arms, but the heat of his body soothed her. She wished Xan was here, but that didn't negate the fact that he did a very good job at calming her down. The way he rubbed her back was a bit painful, but it was still worked in making her feel better. "Where is Xan?"
He wasn't about to tell a nine-year-old that her sister was probably off taking a cold shower because he made her hot enough to combust. "She's somewhere in the house. All better now?" Liam gave her a pat on the back when she slowly nodded. Her tiny body continued to tremble, but she was able to stand on her own without leaning into him. "I'll take you back to your room." Before she could say anything, he swept her up into his arms and carried her back to the room she shared with Xan. Her sister wasn't in there, which he figured since Xion ran passed the room in the search for her sister. He placed her on the bed and sat down on the edge, as he was unsure of the intelligence of leaving her on her own. "Did you forget to take your medication again?"
"No, I took it this morning."
Of course she did; Xan would have made sure of it. "Maybe you just need a few more days before it really starts to work." Xion only shrugged, which successfully made him uncomfortable unable to think of anything adult to say. "What's it like?"
"When I get scared?"
If that was what she wanted to call it. "Yes. What happens?"
Xion stared off into space for a few minutes before she spoke. "I get dizzy and I don't feel good."
"What do you mean?"
"I feel like I'm going to throw up and my skin feels strange." She paused for a moment, searching for the right description of her symptoms. "Like when your foot is waking up when you sit the wrong way."
"A tingly feeling."
Xan nodded before she continued. "And then I see them."
"I don't know."
Liam expected her to go on explaining her experience, but Xion remained silent and focused her attention on the far wall. "Talk to me, Xion."
"I don't know what I see. Sometimes different places. Dark places that scare me. Sometimes I see things. Demons I think."
"How do you know they are demons?"
"Xan doesn't know that I could hear her and Pogue talking some nights."
So it was entirely possible that deep-seeded fear of her sister's extracurricular activities was the root of Xion's panic disorder. It made sense; the child was too young to be exposed to the life they lived. While Liam was tempted to become enraged on the child's behalf, he couldn't completely blame Xan. She was doing what she could to provide for her sister and when living in a time where jobs were hard to come by for people lacking an education, she had to take any opportunity available to make money. Liam made a mental note to talk to Xan before the day was out. That was if he saw her, anyway; she might avoid him until the end of the week. "When I was your age, I used to have bad dreams all the time."
"What kind of bad dreams?"
"I used to see scary things too. I used to try to stay awake all night so that I wouldn't have to be scared in the dark."
There was something in the way he spoke that prompted Xion to listen closely to what he said. It didn't help that it was hard to believe that someone like him could be afraid of anything. "You had nightmares?"
"Oh yea," Liam replied with a far off smile, "Sometimes I would wake up so scared that I would hide under the bed." Not because of bad dreams, but that wasn't something the kid needed to know.
"How did you make it stop?"
"It took a long time, but I learned that the scary things I saw couldn't hurt me when I pretended I was somewhere else."
At that Xion sat up. "Where?"
"Anywhere," Liam answered with a simple shrug. "Someplace far away where I was safe and didn't have to worry about scary things."
"Like the park?"
Not quite. "Something like that. After a while, I didn't get scared anymore."
"Because you went to your happy place."
"Because I went to my happy place." He ran a hand over the back of her head in a show of comfort as he said, "It takes a lot of practice, but once you think of where you want to go and what it would be like, you can chase those bad visions away."
"I'm going to start right now." Xion closed her eyes and thought hard of the one place that made her happy. Greenery emerged in her mind's eye and soon an empty meadow became filled with climbing structures, swing sets and club houses for her to play in.
Liam sighed at the concentration that contorted Xion's face. She was so focused on her thoughts that she did not realize that she'd grabbed his hand in a near death grip. The simple show of her lack of physical comfort tore at his heart and yet again, he couldn't decide if he wanted to pity or hate her sister for her lax judgment of Xion's needs. Xan's responsibilities for Xion's physical being continued to conflict with the child's need for emotional nurturing, which no doubt resulted in her random fits of mental instability. Changes would have to be made in both of their lives and those changes needed to start now.
Liam hadn't realized that he'd lost himself in his mind until Xion poked his shoulder with her tiny finger. "Were you thinking about your happy place too?"
"Not really. I'm not the one who was scared."
Xion nodded quietly. "Will you take me to the library?"
"Alexis didn't show you how to get there?"
"He did, but he doesn't talk very much."
Liam allowed himself to smile at the half insult. "No, he doesn't."
"Well, I was reading those books he told me about and every time I asked him to explain something to me, he wouldn't tell me anything."
Which probably meant that the information was either too advanced for Xion's young years or had to be interpreted by her when the time was right. "And you think that I can help you?"
"You tell the truth, even if it's not so nice all the time."
A child who knew how to hit a nail on the head. "You're more observant than I realized."
Xion only smiled as she said, "Draco lied when he said you're a mean mother-" she stopped when Liam placed a large hand over her mouth.
"Mind your language," Liam admonished. Finally, he understood Xan's command to censor himself when she was around. Xion was a quiet child, but she learned by watching. He had to have a serious talk with his brother later on. "You sure you're better?" At her nod, he stood up and held a hand out to her. "Let's see what we can find in the library."
* * * * *
Sherlaine writhed on the ground as the consequences of his latest attempt at portal opening failed. As he lay on the ground gasping for breath he cursed himself. The pain was more unbearable than the first time he tried to open the portal door. He was weakened far more than he would have liked; had any of his enemies come upon him now, he would have had to endure the pain that came with rebirth. As much as this currently sucked, he preferred it to rebirth. "Saveena," he gasped.
Saveena's tall, sinewy figure misted into the room, holding a silver chalice encrusted with emeralds. She swirled the cup in her elegant hand slowly and walked forward to stand in front of Sherlaine's decrepit form. "Listening doesn't seem to be one of your strong suits."
"Saveena, now is not the time."
"When is the time?" She crouched in front of him and pulled his head up to look at her. As she tipped the contents of the chalice into his mouth, she slowly shook her head. "I told you that you were not powerful enough to do this on your own. You need a key."
He waited until he'd downed the contents of the chalice before he spoke. "I thought I found one. A Garreon demon."
"I thought the High Council captured them all."
"There were some that went into hiding when the learned that they were to be cross-bred with vampires." Sherlaine slowly sat up to test his strength before standing up. He was still dizzy and didn't trust walking yet, but he would be damned if he allowed himself to remain on his back in front of Saveena. "I thought their abilities of time-jumping would help."
Saveena thought his words over for a long moment before she spoke. "You had the right idea, but as you can see, you were wrong."
"Why do I suddenly think you've known the answer to this problem of mine from the beginning?
"Because I have." She smiled slowly at the dangerous flash that brightened his blue eyes. "I am here to advise you, Sherlaine. Therefore I cannot give you the answers."
"So you'll stand back and watch me fail again and again?"
"No, I will advise you and when you refuse to listen to me and fail, I shall remind you why it is you should listen to me when I speak."
She was one lucky demon; had he been at full strength, he would have wasted no time getting what he wanted before he killed her. But Sherlaine was a practical man; if she wanted to play games, he would allow it. For now. "So advise me, great Saveena. What did I do wrong?"
"You are looking to open a door to another realm."
"Yes, we have gone over this repeatedly."
She fixed him with a look as she raised a hand for silence. This was the problem with dealing with upper-level demons; they all thought they could do everything on their own. "I told you that you needed a key to open this door and to my surprise, you found one that could have worked."
"If only you bothered to remember that you are looking to jump through realms and not through time. You found a key, Sherlaine, but you found the wrong one."
At the new information, Sherlaine teleported them out of the ritual chamber and into a medieval sitting room that had a blazing fire in the hearth. They were seated on plush velvet chairs that faced each other with two wine glasses filled with fresh blood hovering in front of them. "Enlighten me," he commanded.
"You must think of portal realms as hotel rooms." Saveena paused to take a drink from her goblet before she continued. "Each room has a different lock, and thus, a different key."
"So I'm to track down and try every potential key until I find the right one?"
To say that he was aggravated with the direction of the conversation was an understatement. "Saveena, what should this hotel room key analogy mean to me then?"
"Absolutely nothing if you manage to get your hands on a master key."
Finally, a bit of information he could use. "There is one powerful enough to open any portal?" Saveena nodded slowly, which prompted him to move to sit on the edge of his seat. "How do I find it?"
"You've already found it, Sherlaine. You simply need to acquire it."
Sherlaine sat back as he let her words sink in. He'd found what he was looking for, but The Brethren had stepped in and ruined everything as they usually did. It was time he stopped looking for alternate options. He had to get his hands on the key.
But he had to get rid of those annoying brothers first.
* * * * *
"Xion, you're spilling." Xan watched as her sister moved quickly to center the sieve she held over the large glass bowl as she prepared the gazpacho they would have for dinner. While it was customary for her to sit and watch while dinner was prepared, Xion felt the need to help. Xan figured it had something to do with the panic attack she had earlier. Her sister was having a lot of them these days, even with the medication pumping through her system. Whether it was the stress of their current situation or the change of environment, one thing was clear; they needed to solve this problem of theirs before things got any worse. "Use the spoon to help the soup go through the sieve faster."
Cooking seemed to help calm her sister down, Xan was happy to observe. Xion concentrated on her task, but she did find the time to tell her about the information she'd learned about their ancestry. Apparently they were the descendants of human/demon hybrids, bred specifically for strength and agility. Women were preferred as they were able to bring high levels of intuition into their duties. Men, while strong, had a tendency to become overly volatile and impetuous - traits that eventually forced the elders of the Esmali to send male children to foreign lands, lands dominated by men. These male descendants, who named themselves Spartans, used their abilities to gain the power and respect they were stripped of when they were cast out of the Esmali. Male and female Esmali converged for only three reasons; to visit their female family members, to breed with non-familial Esmali, and to retrieve all male children produced during breeding.
As generations progressed, genetics came into play; while there were many Esmali who carried the desired traits of their specific job descriptions, there were few who were born with average human strength and agility. While these few were not cast out of their homes (as the Esmali were hesitant to abandon their females), they were never selected to partake in the activities of the supernatural world. As time went on, these "normal" descendants took it upon themselves to create a society that allowed them the use of their training without the burden of their human strength. This new society focused on cunning and the ideals of familial loyalty. They did not cast out their male children, and did not keep them from the privileges of their lineage. These human women, who took on the title of Amazon, were quick to become one of the fiercest clans to ever exist.
Heavy family tree. Xan wasn't sure which bit of the story was most unbelievable; that she was the descendant of demons, or that she was a distant cousin of Amazons and Spartans. No wonder she was addicted to the movie 300. Sure, then men were ridiculously hot, and the movie was a wild distortion of the actual story, but she'd always been fascinated by the Spartan way of life. "What else did you learn about our history?" she asked when Xion became too quiet.
"There is more than one kind of Esmali," Xion replied as she stirred the Gaspacho in the bowl. She set the sieve in the sink and grabbed a knife from one of the drawers to cut the bread left on the counter.
"How many kinds?"
"Lots. Some protect regular people and some protect other demons." Xion frowned when her sister plucked the knife from her hands. "I can cut the bread."
"I know you can kid, but you're still shaky from your last panic attack."
Xion shuddered at the memory of the frightening images that overloaded her senses. "Some of them protected treasure or really powerful weapons. I can't remember the real name for it but I think that one is you."
Xan paused in her task of cutting the bread and half turned to glance at her sister. "You think I'm supposed to protect treasure?"
"Or a really powerful weapon," Xion stated on a nod. She walked over to the stove where Xan had left the Paella she'd been preparing. As she plucked a bit of green pepper off of the paella, she asked, "Where do they get all this stuff?"
"I guess they had the young ones of the newest generations memorize the stories before a really smart person decided to start writing everything down."
Xion laughed as she said, "No! Where do Liam and Alexis and Draco get all of this stuff?"
"You mean the food?"
"And the pots and pans and stuff."
"Well, kid, when you have a lot of money, I guess you can get whatever you want, even if you don't need it sometimes."
"And leave it to sit around."
"I guess so." Xan remained quiet as she deftly halved each of the bread slices. She wouldn't show it, but it hurt her to see her sister in such awe of simple things. The way she looked at the shining silver pots hanging from the rack above the center island almost made her regret her financial decisions. Dymos' were a lucrative business, especially for winners. Xan and Pogue decided early on to only bet what they could afford to lose, which meant that at the end of each fight they rigged, they were looking at an easy thirty thousand reward. But that was slashed ten percent because of the betting fee created by the host of the fights. Cost was further slashed in half after their shares were divvied out. After that came budgeting the costs of living plus expenses of Xion's medications and doctor visits. Not to mention the very expensive private school she was enrolled in to ensure a safe, normal and successful future. Add in the money used to keep social workers from taking Xion from her, and there wasn't much left to put into the bank account Xan created to ensure Xion's financial independence.
Shiny pots and pans were out of the question.
Well not really, considering she and Pogue left everything to each other in the event one of them died. All of his worldly possessions were now hers and Xion's, which meant that the balance of his bank account would be transferred to Xion's account, sans the annual cost of living on their own. Xan was also going to need to figure out how the hell she would make money from now on. Either she started training hardcore to ensure victory at the demon fights she participated in, or she find someone else to cheat with. Life would become a lot easier once Xion was in college. "Turn the burner off before the paella burns."
Xion complied with the request before moving to slather garlic oil over the bread halves. "Xan, do you think about mommy?"