This is Issue #24 of DeathWatch, Book II: tentatively called Heart Of Ilona, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find DeathWatch, the first in the series, or start from the beginning of Book II!
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“How did it go?” Secta wondered, ushering Jet into his rooms, moving to take his mask, to peel away his bloodied robes. He did not allow himself to show overmuch concern; Jet did not appreciate fawning, in any case.
“It went well,” Jet said, leaning heavily against the door frame as Secta undid his robes and braccae. He uttered a low groan as his boots were taken off and he stood on the cool marble tile.
“You’re exhausted,” Secta said, his voice carefully neutral.
“Happily so,” Jet answered, closing his eyes. Even so, there were flickers of pain written over his brow, his lips. He shifted, turning, moving as he was bidden, allowing Secta to remove the straps holding the knives, the knives themselves.
Secta nodded, smiling faintly, and said, “You were gone quite some time. Did you find many to bring to justice?” His touch stuttered briefly as he was removing the bands of knives; a series of long gashes still laid open near Jet’s hip.
“I did,” Jet said, and pulled away from Secta’s hands, wincing. He opened his eyes and looked down, frowning slightly.
“Stay still,” Secta admonished quietly. “It is not healing.”
“I can see that,” Jet said, reaching to touch one of the cuts, only to have his hand slapped away by Secta’s.
The other man looked up at Jet, dark eyes pleading. “Hold still. I cannot help you if you interfere,” he murmured. Gentle fingers touched, explored one of the wounds carefully, delicately. Finally, the groom gestured for Jet to lay himself on the bench. Secta knelt over him, and said, “Next time, perhaps go through a door, not a window?”
“How did you–” Jet began, but his words broke off as he sucked in a breath, gold eyes widening.
Secta put his mouth to Jet’s cut skin, closing his lips around the wound. His cheeks hollowed, and then he carefully pulled back, reaching quick fingertips to grasp the slick, bloody end of the glass shard from where he held it in his teeth.
From there, he drew it forth from Jet’s wound, pulling a three inch dagger of window glass from the Guardian’s flesh. He set it aside, and moved to the next slash. That one came free, much as the next. Piece after piece, Secta drew forth the sharp shards, and when he was done, he sat back on his haunches, panting, his lips bloody, his cheeks dark and flushed.
Jet shifted, moving to sit up and swing his legs down from the bench. He stood, twisting, stretching, and brushed the ash from the wounds that seared themselves shut, then reached down and helped Secta stand.
On his feet, Secta swayed, his pupils yawning wide as he looked up at Jet. He whispered, “Sanguinus enim donum est,” and his knees buckled as he laughed, falling against Jet, clinging to him as though somewhere well past drunk, drugged, lost.
Jet gathered Secta into his arms and stood him up straight, cupping his face in his hands, looking at his eyes. “It is,” he hissed. “It is a gift. Of the Prince. Oh, my famulo. The blood can be poison, to some.”
Shaking off the dizziness, Secta blushed, and covered his smiling mouth with one hand. “Forgive me, Master,” he said, clearing his throat. “I was merely dizzied. I am well; I am sorry to have startled you.” He could feel his heart thundering in his own chest, his blood pounding in his ears. He could feel his own temperature rising.
He wondered if the gift present in his Lord’s blood would burn him to nothing but ash.
Then he wondered if he would mind it.
“I will finish running you the bath, Guardian,” Secta said, composing himself so neatly, Jet nearly could not believe the transformation from one instant to the next. He pulled back, nodding, and looked to the still-closing wounds on his flesh, flexing, shifting, wincing briefly. The scent of charred meat accompanied the brief sound of burning flesh. Within the bloodied gash, burning coals seemed to sear his skin shut. Ash fell away from Jet’s wound, and he turned, displaying his scarless back to Secta. “Any others?”
Secta reached out a hand as though to touch, to inspect, to confirm. Before his fingers touched Jet’s back, he paused blushed, smiling faintly, and said, “No, my Lord. You are perfect.” He dropped his hand, and swallowed roughly.
Jet first met Secta’s eyes in the mirror, and then his own, studying the man he had become, golden-eyed and sharp-toothed.
Secta drew a hot bath, quietly attending to a dozen little details, putting a bag of soothing herbs directly into the running water, lighting particular candles for their warm light and their gentle scents, pouring various oils into the tub. Soon, the room was perfumed, but not cloyingly so, and the clear, hot water shone with a shimmer of golden oils along the top, and Secta gestured to the tub, saying, “My Lord?”
Jet nodded, turned, and moved to get into the hot water, sliding down beneath the surface until the water lapped at his collar bones. He shuddered, skin flushing from the heat of it, and then sat up higher, letting the oil streak his skin as he rose to lean against his knees, sighing quietly.
“I shall attend you only a little longer,” Secta murmured, “and then I shall let you relax and have the privacy of your own thoughts.” With that, Secta leaned in and put his hands to Jet’s shoulders, digging his palms against the Guardian’s tense muscles, pressing, rubbing, slowly working out the knots and the tightness.
Secta moved without urgency, pressing, squeezing, kneading until Jet felt weak as putty, relaxing as he had not in weeks or more. He moved his hands from Jet’s neck to his arms to his shoulder blades, working each area in turn, quiet and without attempting to initiate conversation, without trying to vie for attention, or give him advice, or admonish him and it was, for Jet, one of the most singularly relaxing and blissful evenings he could remember.
“I needed this,” he admitted aloud, quietly. “Thank you, Secta.”
“You are most welcome,” Secta responded, smiling to himself. “I live and die to serve you, my Lord.”
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