This is Issue #91 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘A Beginning’ and read from there, if you need to catch up.
* * *
“Majesty. Guardian. A thousand pardons,” Secta said, buttoning down his shocked (and ridiculously amused) expression as quickly as he could. He cleared his throat, looking away and moved to get out of their way as quickly as possible.
It didn’t matter; the spell was broken. Jet withdrew from Lucida, panting. He stared at her for a long moment, then shook his head, and turned away to shut himself in his baths, calling back to her, “You should ready yourself. Dinner will be ready, before long.”
Stunned, Lucida stared after him, fury and heartbreak hardening her pretty face. She stomped her foot in impatience, and turned to go back out the door they’d tumbled in.
Secta was there, opening it for her, looking apologetic. “Majesty,” he said, looking pained. “Forgive him, he–”
“He does not love me, yes, I know,” Lucida spat. “The whole of the palace will know, Secta, if he does not learn to act, as I have had to.” She worked hard to cover her hurt with a mask of annoyance.
“My apologies, Majesty, I was going to suggest he simply needed more time. I imagine had I not startled him, he would’ve been content to… ah… act,” Secta said, clearing his throat.
“Perhaps,” Lucida sighed. “Watch over him, Secta. He is fragile, still, for all his invincibility, and Ilona needs him.”
“Yes, Majesty,” Secta murmured, shutting the door after her. He then went to the bathroom door and knocked. “My Lord–”
“Go away, Secta,” Jet rasped, his voice low, rough with distress. “I do not wish your services.” His head was pounding, and his blood roared in his ears; he gritted his teeth against a peculiar sensation, a tightening in his belly he could neither name or dispel.
“I could bring you a woma–”
“I do not want a woman!” Jet shouted in return.
Emboldened by the tone of his master’s voice, which bore far more misery than fury, Secta opened the door, and stepped in.
Jet was leaned over the washbasin, hands on the marble, his painted face bowed. Blood and tears ran tracks over the marks that had been so carefully done; he turned and looked at Secta, rage in his eyes. “I said–”
“I heard you, Lord,” Secta said softly. “And perhaps it is exactly that which pains you. I needn’t bring you a woman,” he said, his voice gentle in its offer. “If your blood cries for something else, perhaps–”
“Leave it be, Secta,” Jet hissed.
Secta stepped forward, and put his fingertips on Jet’s cheek. “Lord,” he whispered. “Forgive me, but it is my one duty to ease you,” he said quietly.
“You cannot help me, Secta,” Jet said, reaching up to catch the groom’s hand, even as he turned his cheek to it, desperate to lean into the touch.
In that instant, Secta too leaned forward, and pressed his cheek to Jet’s, whispering against his skin, close to his ear, “But I can, Lord, if you let me.”
The feel of Secta’s lips near his ear was an overwhelming rush of heat, of need, of confusing, conflicting desires. Jet’s eyes widened as he took in the meaning beyond Secta’s words. He shivered, standing quite close, his cheek against that of his groom, breathing raggedly for long moments, listening to his blood rush in his ears, an ocean of rage and desire, until he could finally say, “Leave me be. I cannot.”
“Jet,” Secta purred. “If I am not mistaken… it is in your blood. You must.”
“What I must do is my duty,” Jet snarled. “You overstep, and your offer, were it to anyone else, would see you executed.”
Secta pulled back, blushing hotly, and gave a quick bow. “As you wish, Lord. All apologies. I will remove myself from your presence until you have need of me. If you have need of me,” he said stiffly. “Your clothes and ornament are laid out. I will be outside your doors should you require me.” He left with all speed, his head down, bowed, his eyes looking away from Jet.
Jet watched him go, and locked the door behind him. He then paced, back and forth, for nearly a quarter of an hour, trying to calm himself enough to wash up so he could get ready for the evening’s feast. When he couldn’t find his own calm, when he remained in pure turmoil, he simply strode out, walking past Secta, refusing to look at him. All he could think of, all he could imagine, was the heat of skin on skin, the scent of aetheris, and the burning ache in his scarred hand.
“Lord?” Secta said, fearful and hopeful all at once.
Jet did not answer the groom, but ran, only one thought in his heart.
It is a gift of my blood.
* * *
Jet let himself into Immanis’s room; rushing past guards without comment — they had no need to stop him, and no curiosity as to the rush. The room had been freshened; it smelled cool and sweet — he strode to Immanis’s bedside, and pulled back the sheets, baring Immanis’s tattooed body. He pulled off his shroud, revealing his flawless skin, and the knives of black glass he now kept strapped against it. He crawled into the bed, touching Immanis’s cool skin with his own, took his brother’s hand, and straddled his brother’s hips, the fever of his body warming them both.
He sat up and took one of the glass knives, and put it between their joined hands. “Iuvo. Obsecro,” he pled. “I am begging you, my brother, come back to me,” he breathed, and with that, he cut their palms, and pressed the wounds together. The flat of the blade he first put to Immanis’s lips, and then his own, kissing it before putting it aside.
The searing heat of his reopened scar throbbed from his hand all the way behind his eyes as he leaned low and pressed his mouth to Immanis’s, tasting blood and aetheris and hope and pain all at once.
* * *