This is Issue #30 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!
* * *
“You are most welcome,” Secta responded, smiling to himself. “I live and die to serve you, my Lord.”
“I would prefer, famulo, if you do not die at any point in the near future,” Jet smirked, laying in the bath with his eyes closed.
“As you insist,” Secta said. “Now, you soak, and I shall–” Upon rising, Secta paused his talking, somewhat abruptly. The dizziness he’d been fighting since dealing with Jet’s wounds rose again, and overwhelmed him. He looked down at Jet, and said in a small voice. “I fear I have made myself ill, please excuse–”
Jet rose from the tub and reached to steady the young man that had cared for him so intently, saying, “My Secta, what–”
“You were right, to be cautious that I had tasted your blood, I think,” Secta said, legs wobbling. “Please, my Master, I do not wish you to see me this way, so undignified.”
“Shut up, Secta,” Jet said, simply sweeping the other man up into his arms. “If you think for an instant I would think less of you for your service, you must imagine me a rather monstrous master.”
“I should be serving you,” Secta said, looking pained.
“Serve me by letting me do as I damned please, which is to lay you in this bed, Secta, and make certain you are well.” Though he meant it as a kindness, Jet’s voice came as a growl in the last of it; he did not want to be argued with any longer.
Secta nodded mutely, and laid in the bed without further complaint.
When the medics were summoned, they did their best to do their work while Jet hovered, but ultimately, Lucida was called for, in order to soothe the man who could so easily be more of a monster than his predecessor.
“Get well,” Jet ordered Secta grimly, and allowed Lucida to lead him away.
* * *
“What happened, caro?” Lucida’s voice was gentle, and her touch more so.
Jet leaned against his wife, breathing in the scent of incense and honey that clung to her. “Carelessness, my love, that’s all. I was wounded, and as he tended to me, he tasted my blood.”
Lucida tried to keep the smirk from her face, the amused smile as she realized what it was that was happening to Secta. She reached to cup Jet’s cheek, saying, “It is his novo, my Black Stone. Your blood is now the gift, to those you love.”
Jet blushed, but Lucida kept his face turned to her. “No — do not shy away from it. Love is not weakness. I chose him for you, knowing he would heal and soothe all damage to your heart, by filling it with his. He will be all right, darling.”
“How do you know?”
“He loves you.”
“And is that enough to save a man? Loving me?” Jet thought of Immanis, whose body had not been recovered, whose lips he would never taste again, and he felt his throat tighten, and his eyes sting.
“Shh. Rest. Those demons must sleep, caro, please,” Lucida whispered, all but begging. Do not apologize again. Do not. “Drink this.” Lucida offered out a glass of something shining.
“You know I can’t stomach aetheris.”
“It isn’t aetheris, caro. Drink it–”
Jet sat up, pulling the glass from Lucida’s hands, looking at it in faint frustration. “What is it?” He stared down at the liquid as he sat on the bed in her room, swirling the glass. It smelled dark and sweet, faintly of mint, heavily of molasses.
“Something to help you sleep, my Black Stone,” Lucida said softly. “Instead of setting fire to the streets with your blood.”
Jet raised a brow, saying, “Who told–”
“Gemma has been within the skin of the men you have slain. She sees your sleepless face and your rage as you cut them down,” Lucida said quietly. “The whole of Ilona is burning for you, my love. Please, drink. Please sleep. Let your famulo heal. He will be all right. I will be just down the hall, with Gemma.”
Jet nodded, and drank down the elixir, then laid back down, quietly surrendering, and sank into a heavy stupor.
Instead of a dreamless sleep, Jet had strange visions that made no sense to him. Moreover, the way it seemed he could feel during it left him bewildered. He’d never had such vivid dreams. When he woke, it took several minutes for him to realize he was finally awake. He then took a long, hot shower while he contemplated the odd images that visited him in the night, and all the things he’d remembered.
Priestesses had visited him — priestesses of the Guardian.
Priestesses who worshipped him as a god, who sacrificed to him, who prayed to him.
Priestesses with faces he thought he recognized as people from the palace, including Gemma. They prayed to him, begged him for blessings, anointed him with oil, and each in turn spoke of readying him for his consort, and then put their hands and mouth on him.
He woke aching, feeling on the edge of knowing, of discovering, but unable to ascertain if he was hoping to meet his consort, or dreading it.
The next night was the same, as was the one after that; Secta recovered slowly, and Jet waited impatiently.
* * *
Upon realizing the sun was up, Jet pulled away his blankets and moved to get out of the bed. He walked to the shower, the familiar routine of his mornings letting him lean against the marble with his eyes still closed, thinking over the dreams that had become normal, the strange night time visions that had replaced the horrors that had once awakened him night after night.
These dreams, these new dreams, were troubling of a different sort. He felt himself stiffen as the warm water rushed over his body, and groaned aloud as he put his hand there, finding himself tender, aching. He moved slowly, and thought of Immanis, as he so often did, until he grew breathless.
He glanced down, watching the frantic motion of his hand, biting his lip as he steadied his breathing, letting the warm water course over his skin. He shivered, and for a moment, his fantasies of Immanis were overlayed with something that felt like memory — but couldn’t be.
He looked down and could picture someone else’s hand there, her mouth, her tongue–
It was a sudden reaction; he felt his body tighten, his hips spasm, and then suddenly, the release washed over him, and he sagged against the marble wall, panting, startled.
Shame colored him; he had not thought that such a thing would happen — how could it? Why would it? Why would he fantasize this way?
As he leaned back against the tile, panting, he struggled to wrap his mind around what had just happened, and he could not help but ask aloud, “But why Gemma?”
* * *
Confusion, or shock?