Fire Ch. 06byEnithermon©
I'm sorry for the wait, but things have been rough, what with the things and the stuff, you know how it is. I made it extra long though, so I hope that buys some forgiveness. If you have comments or suggestions please feel free as always to post or mail them. I hope you enjoy this installment as well.
Thea swallowed a yawn as she stared thoughtfully, her hand tracing idle shapes over the chest she rested against. His breathing was slow and even, but the fingers toying with a strand of her hair told her he was awake.
"I still want to talk to them." She said softly, still watching her fingers. He let out a long sigh.
"It's too early."
"It's well after noon."
"like I said..." he muttered.
"It's going to make me crazy. So you'll just have to suffer."
He chuckled making his chest jump under her, making her smile. "Well you can't."
Her smile faded. "Why not?"
"I can tell you right now they won't listen, and even if they believed you, they'd still want to err on the side of caution. You'll just be admitting your existence and putting yourself in unnecessary danger." He was right. She let out her own long sigh. That's probably what she'd do in their situation. It was the smart thing to do.
"So what do I do then?"
He let out another low chuckle. "We'll give it a few weeks, during which I'll speak to the woman they gave me as a contact, then 'investigate.'"
"Apparently a camp follower who knew you're mother."
"I wish I could talk to her." Her grandparents were never forthcoming with information about her parents, and she suspected they knew little of her mother's life while she'd been gone. She was curious to know more. Not just curious, she needed to know, to know what she might have to face now that she was suddenly the unwanted heir to defunct lineage.
It was incredibly frustrating to know that she could do nothing but hide. Some things never seemed to change. Then again, shutting herself away from the world hadn't helped much in keeping her safe before either. "I don't like this."
"No. I don't imagine you do." He murmured into her hair. "I'll speak with her, and let you know what she tells me." She felt his hand slip from her hair to her arm.
"Thank you." He didn't answer, but he nodded against her hair. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on her surroundings instead of her thoughts: the warm sheets tangled around her waist, the solid flesh pressed against her body, the caress of fingers against her skin. How foolish of her to be afraid of this. She could have been enjoying it already. Well, she never claimed to be a great mind. She wondered how long she might have been enjoying it before she came here as well. That thought particularly irritated her. Why hadn't he told her? She'd been alone so long. To think she might have had this...or at least a friend, someone to talk to even, she would have taken what she could.
His hand came down over hers. She'd been tapping her finger in irritation on his chest. She looked up to find him looking down at her questioningly.
"Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
He frowned. "I just found out. There was no 'sooner'."
"No, no, not that. About you. How...how long had you...had you been, you know... before that night?" she noticed him flinch.
"Well, will you promise not to be too cross?"
"No" she replied archedly. He scoffed softly.
"Fair enough I suppose." He sighed. "Four...maybe five years. Not often at first of course." She blinked and sat up, turning to look down at him.
"Five years?" She asked in horrified amazement. Just after her grandparents had died. She had thought maybe it had been a year or so...maybe two...but...as long as five.
He grimaced up at her.
"As I said," he began softly, "I have a rule about not letting myself become known...and the first year it was only twice..." She thought he looked guilty, uncomfortable. He should be damn him. She felt cheated.
"Five years." She whispered again.
"I'm sorry, Thea. I should never have..."
"Do you have any idea how lonely I was?" she interrupted. "And for five years I could have been...we could have...augh." She shook her head in disbelief and frustration. She turned away and squeezed her eyes shut balling her fist in the blankets around her in annoyance. So much time lost...and at this rate there was so little of it left. He couldn't hide her forever.
"I wish I had." He whispered and placed a hand along her spine which she instantly leaned into. She was irritated, not idiotic, and she had no intentions of wasting what time she did have.
She lay back and curled against him, dragging the blankets over her. She should really be getting up, but it was so nice to stay there. He turned and wrapped both of his arms around her. 'Who would have thought that being caught in what felt like a cool steal vise could be such a pleasant sensation', she thought distractedly, as she pressed herself into his grip and returned the gesture with her own much warmer embrace.
"I don't want you going out." He said as he open the door to leave.
Thea sighed. "I can't stay indoors all the time. I don't know if you noticed, but there are no windows here. I'll go mad."
Jairus didn't look like he was willing to brook argument and shook his head no.
"I will go outside." She held up a hand when he opened his mouth to argue. "It's not going to happen. I'm upset enough as it is about having to hide here. Besides, what will you do? Lock me up?" She gave him a small smile. Small because his look said he'd contemplated it. He shifted in the door way, then wordlessly moved past her, disappearing into the library. He came back a moment later with a sheathed dagger -- not the pearl one mind you, that one he wore -- and held it out to her.
"If you must go out, stay close and take this with you."
"I don't know how to use that." She said eyeing the thing with a fair amount of trepidation.
"I've seen you skin a rabbit. You'll be fine. " She still didn't take it. He cocked a brow at her and sighed. "Here's a hint, if it you like the person, you point this end at them," he pointed to the grip he held towards her, "and if you don't..." he flipped the knife one-handed and pointed the still sheathed tip at her, "get it?"
She screwed up her face and held out her hand letting him lay it in her palm.
"I like to think so. Promise me?"
She nodded a little sullenly.
"Yes, if I must."
"If you like I can show you," he pointed to the blade in her hand, "when I get back. And don't go anywhere near a town." He added, pausing as he turned away.
She almost rolled her eyes. "I wasn't going to, but now that you've told me not to..."
His face was calm as always, but she looked for and saw his jaw twitch.
"A joke." She couldn't quite suppress her smile. "But really, we can't know how long this is going to take, and the thought that I could be holed up for..."He leaned in suddenly, catching her off guard, and stopped her mouth with his own, and very effectively. Buy the time he broke the long thorough kiss she'd completely forgotten what she was saying.
"Be careful?" He asked gripping her shoulders.
She nodded dumbly. He nodded once, satisfied, and was off and out through the door before the rest of her caught up.
"Why that..." she stewed when she finally did cotton on, smirking despite herself. Well at least she could argue with him now instead of just falling apart like some shrinking violet every time he looked at her, except when he did things like that of course. She was feeling much more her own self again, composed and self reliant. The whole fearful timidity thing had turned her into a wreck.
It was a little pathetic too. Though she felt she could cut herself some slack for it, she had been taken from her home after all, sentenced to death and promptly rescued by a vampire...a vampire assassin. If that wasn't overly dramatic, what was? If her life was novel, she have already dismissed it as the most melodramatic, unrealistic tripe she'd ever laid eyes on, and that wasn't even counting this new nonsense about being an heiress of some kind...and now here she was living it in it's ridiculous entirety. So if it had taken her a month or two to deal with that, then she was well within her rights.
But now she needed to focus, to be strong. She couldn't afford to be indecisive any longer. At least this time there wouldn't be any surprises. She could see her strange fate moving towards her, and she'd have time to prepare for it before it came. Acceptance was a beautiful thing.
A clatter next to her made her jump. She whipped around to see Tim giving her a suspiciously sardonic half smile.
"Oops." He drawled and picked up the tool he'd dropped behind her. "You gonna stare at the door all night?" she gave him what she hoped was a unimpressed look and walked past him to the kitchen.
She sighed heavily once out of range. All three of them had been like that since Jairus had come back early. None of them were remotely stupid, and she figured that they had a pretty good idea of what she'd been spending the last three evenings doing, and why she hadn't been getting out of bed until well after lunch. And now they were all having a good old time giving her knowing looks and chuckling when she started blushing despite herself.
She knew how to be guarded with people of course, but she only had two social settings, full and zero. Either she was as cold as stone, or completely exposed. Naturally she'd spent the last five years being the former, and her lack of a social life kept her from learning otherwise. It was nice to not have to shut down around people for once. Of course that meant they could torture her...which they seemed to delight in doing.
They probably thought that was why he came home early. She didn't tell them the real reason, there was no need to upset them and they were in a habit of keeping the place secret. She could only assume Jairus hadn't said anything either.
Thea was cutting carrots between sips of her afternoon tea (also known as breakfast these days) when May bustled in with an armload of linens taken down from outside.
"You're up early." She could hear the laughter in May's voice and her shoulders slumped a little. May came up behind her and patted her in the middle of her back. She was a rather small woman, so it was the easiest place to reach on Thea without stretching. She chuckled. "You know we wouldn't tease you if we didn't like you dear."
Thea blew out a little breathe of disbelief and kept cutting carrots.
May went back to her laundry. "I hate this time of year. The linens freeze up half the time." Thea put down her knife and went over to the pile and poked the frosty sheets experimentally.
"I'll grab some twine, I'm sure we can make room in here somewhere." May nodded and poured herself some tea while she 'supervised' Thea's work.
Once that was done and the place was hung with defrosting bed sheets she went back to her work. She finished with the carrots and started peeling potatoes with a paring knife. She had the curling-off-the-rind-in-one-go trick down to an art. That went for apples as well. She paused and looked at the knife and thought about what Jairus had said about skinning rabbits. Maybe he had a point. She wasn't exactly delicate, and by no means clumsy.
Of course defending oneself from people was something entirely different than skinning game. She supposed he meant that she at least wouldn't accidentally skewer herself in the process.
"Thea?" May asked softly after a long moment.
"Would you come here and sit with me for a minute? Oh, leave that silly potato there, I'll come up and help you when I'm finished my tea."
Thea put her knife on the counter next to the potato she was peeling and sat down in a chair next to May and turned it so they were more or less facing one another.
"What's wrong? You sound serious all of a sudden." She asked smiling dryly. May frowned and looked anxiously down at her hands than reached out and took Thea's. Her hands were still warm from her tea cup. Thea frowned back. "Is something wrong?"
"That's what I wanted to ask." Thea smiled a little again.
"Oh, I'm fine. I've been in a bit of a snit, but it's past now. I'm sorry if I was upsetting anyone."
May shook her head. "No, no dear, you needn't apologize for anything, we understand you've been through quite a bit." Thea had told May about how she'd come to be there, though May had been kind enough to wait until she'd been ready instead of prying. "Now...I know how private and closemouthed you people are," May smiled blandly, for five individuals living in a closed space, it was a remarkably quiet household, "but I have to ask, because I'm worried you see, not because I want to stick my nose where it doesn't belong." She paused to look at Thea and waited for a comprehending nod before continuing.
"Well, I know you and the master...well he, he, ah..." she paused frowning, obviously looking for a delicate way to phrase what she was thinking and Thea bit down on her tongue in an attempt to control her rising embarrassment. "Well, truth be told I nearly walk in...in the library...ah."
Thea instantly racked her memories for anything that happened in the library...oh that's right, the night before he'd left. She did blush, and hard. She opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. How was she to respond after all, and which part had she walked in on? She prayed to no one in particular that it hadn't been the bit where'd she'd been on the floor. Oh dear, that would be awkward.
"Just after you arrived of course, that, that was a little while ago...but I assume it's continued...yes?" Thea met May's tentative glance with surprise. Nothing had happened in the library before, unless one included his drinking from her, or feeding, there wasn't a word for it that didn't sound funny to her ears. That must have been what she meant though, not that last time. She exhaled with some relief and felt her blush wane a little.
She nodded, she hadn't quite found her voice. It was less embarrassing, but it was still sort of an odd thing to admit to, and May didn't seem comfortable with the subject either.
"Well, now, I know this is a personal question, but you've not been looking well, in fact you look right worn out." Thea lowered her face to hide her smile, she really hadn't gotten much sleep the last few days, and truth be told she felt a little weak, but it had been completely worth it. "So, I must ask...have...when have you last had your monthly?"
Now that question she had not been expecting. Did she think...did she mean to say? Could she be Pregnant? Was that even possible; why had it never crossed her mind? She considered it and thought back.
"Oh my god." She looked up in surprise. "Not since I came here. You...you don't think...I, um, I'm...you know?" she stuttered slightly, involuntarily pressing her hand to her stomach.
May's own eyes widened and coloured a little herself, though not nearly as much as Thea had.
"Oh, well, I don't know...I hadn't meant..." she trailed off "Ah, what I was worried about was that you might have lost too much, well, blood. He hasn't been leaving as much as he used to, for those particular reasons I mean, and I'm worried it could make you very ill...or worse." She raised a hand as if to keep Thea from arguing with her. "Now I won't claim to know what's going on, but I can see the circles under your eyes, and how pale you've become. As I said, I can't claim to understand the arrangement, but perhaps...perhaps you might mention it? I'm sure he wouldn't want to see you ill. Perhaps you might ask him to take less? Or give you some time? Go out more like he used to?" She patted Thea's hand "You don't need to say anything to me, it's none of my business. I just felt I should mention it. Hm?"
Thea nodded weekly, feeling a little as if she'd been chastised. She hadn't of course, it was a silly thought. But still, part of her knew implicitly that May was right, and the other part also knew, and just didn't care. May got up and started bustling about, indicating that nothing more was to be said on the matter.
May cleaned her cup then started in with the rest of dinner. Thea mutely went back to her cutting board, her thoughts and mood not nearly as light as they had been a moment earlier. She was not unaware of the 'other' effects Jarius's feedings were having on her. But she'd ignored them in favour of the alternative. What was a little weakness and dizziness in the wake of heart stopping pleasure? She wasn't sure she was ready to give that up, not now that she'd just found it, and she still balked at the thought of him going elsewhere, though she knew the feeling was wholly unreasonable. Was there something wrong with her that she enjoyed it so much? That she seemed to crave it...even need it like she did? She stared down intently at the little paring knife in her hand.
Five years of being almost completely alone. Of course she'd throw herself at the first man, desirable as he was, who wanted her, and jump at the first opportunity for warmth and intimacy. Of course she'd respond with complete abandon to the heat and the desire, the raw hunger, she'd seen in his eyes or to the heat which course through her when he fed. Who wouldn't throw themselves on the pyre when they'd been frozen so long? And she was ok with that. She had already made this decision. It was easy to risk everything when everything never really amounted to much in the first place.
And if the pyre consumed her? Well...so much the better. It would solve her dilemma about what she would do when he bored of her. She just wouldn't give him the chance.
She sighed. It seemed like everyone was clamouring for her death these days. No. That wasn't right. Not Jairus. He didn't want her death, he wanted her life. 'And he would get it,' She thought, nodding faintly. Because he'd asked and given her a choice. Because unlike everyone else, he had offered her something else in return.
"Thea? Are you alright?"
"Hmm?" she asked looking up. She noticed suddenly she was still standing frozen staring at the knife. "Ah, yes, sorry. Mind wandering. I'm fine." She looked back down and thought a minute then smiled over at May. A sincere smile; a real smile. "I'm fine." She reiterated, only mildly surprised by the certainty and strength behind the words.
It took Jairus two nights to reach the border of the steppes moving at top speed. It hadn't drained him as much as it usually did, no doubt since he'd been so well fed these last few days at home. As it was, he barely felt the twinge of the hunger normally produced by such exertion. He pulled himself easily up onto a rocky overhang to get a better view of the distant weather worn battlements of the old fortress. It wasn`t quite his destination, he was headed for the village that overflowed around its base. The evening was still quite young, and thankfully they were growing longer with each passing day. With any luck he'd have the information he needed and could be home in another two days.
Then again, it might be best to do a little more digging. He had the impression that Darius trusted him about as far as he could throw him and if one took into account that he'd be dead the moment he tried...well that didn't make it very far now did it. There were other reasons for him to stall his return as well.
As much as it had pained him to have to go, it
was ultimately good he'd left when he did. He didn't like to admit it, but he was still having difficulty exercising moderation with Thea. It was even more difficult now that he knew she would readily welcome his advances. In truth, much to his delight, the little minx usually started it. But the sight of her looking so drawn and tired when he had left had been a sharp reprimand for his self-indulgence. He needed to give her more time between taking her blood, but it was so damn hard to say no when she'd begged him so sweetly and so erotically, not to stop. Especially when he really didn't want to stop to begin with.