This is Issue #59 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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“You let me sleep,” Secta said, looking almost wounded. He rubbed his eyes as he rolled out of the bed, looking confused. “Why would y–”
“You were exhausted.” Jet tried to keep his voice from being irritated. Now was not the time.
Secta did not flinch, but seemed faintly ruffled for being so dismissed. “I can hardly serve you, my Guardian, if you do not allow it.” Secta’s voice was not chastising, but instead wore an undisguised longing. Let me serve you. Let me love you. Let me do for you, so that I can show you the extent of my devotion. He dressed himself hurriedly, and went to get things ready for Jet, who was busily fending for himself, without any real struggle.
As the two tried to both do the same thing at the same time, they got in one another’s way more and more. Finally, Jet reached to put his hands on Secta’s shoulders and hold him still, saying, “You’re fluttering about is making me rather nervous, famulo.”
Jet raked the long dark waves of his hair back out of his face and sighed. “Nervous. What is on your mind?” He turned gold eyes to Secta, and watched him with earnest worry.
“Only what should consume the thoughts of a devoted servant.” Secta paused, frowning as he looked to Jet, turning his eyes rather than hold to the gold ones that tried to pin him down. “I worry I’ve done you a disservice. That I have failed you.”
Failed me. Jet tried not to make a face, but he couldn’t help it. One brow shot up while the other furrowed in. He stared, his mouth half open for a moment, until he was able to gather words enough to ask, “Is it that I do not show my gratitude enough? Is that why you are always so uncertain of my pleasure with you?”
Secta did not blush, but chewed his words for quite some time before finally saying aloud, “I… am not the one uncertain of your pleasure, my Lord.”
Those words were met with silence, and an expression that could only be described as hurt. Jet’s voice was quiet as he returned, “You know that isn’t fair.”
Emboldened, Secta said, “And yet, it is true. I live and die for you, my Guardian. I fight for you. I serve you. I would give anything for you.” His voice rose as he reached for the man he’d pledged himself to, entirely. “I will bleed for you as no one else ever shall. Even your Kieron.”
Stung, Jet pulled back. He closed himself off, and shuttered up his expression. Those were not the words to use. “Kindly check on Her Majesty. Make certain we are ready to depart. We require the carriage, a decent sized retinue of guards, and appropriate gifts of mourning.” He remembered the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of tokens of misery that had been delivered to him, to the Princess, upon the death of Immanis. He knew the showering of gifts in a time of grief was expected, and he did not wish to cause any stir by being ill prepared.
Secta’s shoulders sank; he bit his lip and turned away, blinking back tears. He glanced back, to see if Jet’s expression might soften, if he might relent. When there was no gentlness forthcoming, he nodded abruptly. “It shall be done,” he said, determined to prove himself, somehow.
* * *
The carriages that would take the Guardian, the Queen, and their retinue to House Aecus were sleek and dark, and moved through the city like drops of dark water, running quickly, easily over the stones of the street. People moved out of the way of the rolling wheels, though some of the children who might never have cause to ride in such a vehicle came right toward it, to slide their fingers over its glossy surface. Behind tinted windows, royalty hurried through the streets, ferried to the home of the grieving family in speed and style.
* * *
News traveled, as it does, and soon, the city was in shock and mourning. Because house Aecus was respected, banners of black were hung over nearly every appropriate surface. Nate shuffled and hunched along, listening to the news criers and the vid screens. It either meant the home he was about to get into was full of people and guards — or empty of them, perhaps. The longer he meandered the streets, the less he played his part to full affect — the people in the city hardly watched him. No one quite cared about any one particular stranger, it seemed, and there were occassional oddities much stranger than he.
He made his way to the house of Coryphaeus Aecus, and found he was able to slip over the wall, and into the home proper, without being seen.
No one was home.
He walked room to room, looking for signs of life, but found only emptiness. There was food left out, beds unmade, bloodstains, dirty clothes, and general chaos. The Legatus Coryphaeus Aecus lived without servants, apparently. Nate looked over everything, touched the pillows in the beds, and then finally–
“Got you,” he said quietly, bending low and picking up the flight suit. He could smell the blood as he examined the clothes, and he dropped them, backing away. A thorough searching turned up more evidence of Jules living in the house, from the particular way she arranged the books she was reading, at her bedside, to the way she left whorls of orange peel after she consumed them.
Signs and signatures of Jules all over the house.
But no Jules.
“You must be at his side,” Nate said quietly. “Are you friend, or prize?” He felt that groaning, that creaking, heard the strain and looked down, purposefully unclenching his fist, shaking his head. “Now what?” he wondered, talking to the Jules that wasn’t there. “Do I wait for you here, not knowing who might come home? Or do I seek you out?”
While he talked to himself, his stomach growled in response. He sat at Coryphaeus Aecus’s table and decided to eat. “If y’come home in the mean time,” he chuckled to himself, “so be it.”
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