This is Issue #60 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘A Beginning’ and read from there, if you need to catch up.
* * *
Silk sheets, down pillows. The lap of luxury.
The windows were open, and warm, dry air blew in, fluttering the curtains.
It was not yet morning, and the world was still silent; the market was not yet open.
Jet shifted in bed, muttering to himself, and rolled over. He curled into a warm body, and abruptly woke up, pulling back. “Lucy,” he said, looking shocked.
Lucida sat up, and the sheet fell away, baring her.
Jet turned away, raking his hair back from his eyes. “Why are you in my bed?”
“We’re still to be married,” she said, batting her eyelashes.
“Lucy,” he growled.
Laughing, Lucy flopped down on the bed next to Jet and tugged at his sheet, to expose him.
He reached out and slapped her hand away. “Stop it. What are you doing?”
“I came in to talk to you about something, but you were tired,” she answered. “I was tired,” she shrugged.
Sighing, Jet moved to wrap a thin blanket around his hips and get out of bed. He quickly padded to a small closet and rifled through it, frowning.
On the bed, Lucida watched Jet move, her eyes following him appraisingly. While he rummaged for clothing, she chuckled.
He poked his head back out of the closet and said, “…where… are my clothes?”
Lucida’s eyes glittered with amusement. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I need you to wear something… different, for me, today.”
“Different?” Jet narrowed his eyes, and watched her, trying to cross his arms over his chest but losing the blanket in the process. When Lucida laughed aloud, it only increased his frustration, and he snapped, “What makes you think I will do anything for you if you torment me?”
Lucida stopped laughing, and languidly slipped out of the bed, the sheet falling away, baring her in all her glory.
Jet looked away, immediately, his cheeks flushing hotly.
Crossing to him, Lucida showed no shame; she felt none. Knowing she was beautiful was one thing — what she knew was that her power and beauty was disarming, and she played it to her advantage.
“Please wear a robe?” he sighed.
“Why?” she murmured, looking amused as she chased his gaze.
“Because you’re naked,” he said, gritting his teeth. Jet walked away from her and went into the bath, rubbing his face, frustrated. “I was brought up to respect a woman’s body–”
“–not a man’s?” Interruptions were some of Lucida’s favorite things. “My body is sacred, Jet, yes, but not because it is a woman’s. It is sacred because it is mine. It is good of you to respect it, but you needn’t be shamed by it,” she murmured. “No more than I am shamed by yours.”
“But I was brought up–”
“You are no longer in that world, Jet,” Lucida said, not unkindly, looking almost apologetic. “You are here. You must do what is done here, yes? I have seen you adapt to many customs. I have seen you eat with your hands and bow your head in respect and pick up court customs and hold a huqqa and pass it without causing offense. You have already changed, caro,” she said, coming in to the bath, putting a hand on his shoulder.
“If I change every last piece of myself–” Jet stopped, his eyes pained, his lips parted but silent as though he were afraid to finish the sentence.
“You are afraid you will no longer be Jet?” Lucida wondered, cocking her head to the side. She stood behind Jet, just as tall as he, chin lifted, proud and watching him in the mirror’s glass. He met her eyes that way, looked only at her face, without flinching. She smiled for him, gentle, instead of predatory.
Jet swallowed roughly, and said, “I… yes? So much of the man I was is lost, but I had family. I had friends. I had… a friend. If I am not the man I was, Lucy, then I lose him.”
“You will be alone here if you cannot become yourself,” she said, sighing, playing with his hair. “Do not hold to old ideals that no longer fit you,” she whispered. “You must examine what you held, what held you, before, and see if it works for you, here in this new land, hmm?”
He nodded, turning to look at her, his lips pursed. “So you’re saying I should get used to you being naked in my room?” he wondered wryly.
“That is the shorter version,” Lucy laughed. “You are used to much. You can get used to much more — it needn’t distress you because it was a part of your old life,” she explains. “Now. On to the real reason I was here this morning,” she says, rubbing her hands together. “Insurgents.”
“You noticed awhile back when a group of men from Tenebrae tried to take the life of our Immanis?” she said, turning to look at him directly, rather than in the mirror. “Incapacitated us?”
“Killed me?” Jet murmured, one brow arched.
“Yes, killed you — that’s exactly what happened,” she said darkly. “And then what? You got back up again, didn’t you?”
“I did,” he murmured, frowning slightly. “I still don’t know how that all happened,” he said, reaching up a hand and rubbing his fingers over his bare chest.
“Nevermind that part,” Lucida said softly, reaching to put her hand with hers. “The point is, my Jet, caro, you… are unstoppable. You can put down anyone else who has those same ideas about harming our brother.”
Our brother. Jet could taste the words on the back of his tongue; he could feel the pulse of Immanis’s blood still in his veins. “Put them down? You want me to kill–”
“No. I do not want you to kill them — not at first, at least,” Lucida said, her eyes gleaming as she backed him out of the bathroom and right back to the bed they shared. Her hand flat against his chest, she pushed, insistent, and he backed up until he had to sit down, looking up at her. “I want you to let them kill you.”
* * *