This is Issue #93 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘A Beginning’ and read from there, if you need to catch up.
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Jet lay in silk sheets, breathing in the scent of feverdreams. Beneath him, the Prince of Ilona writhed, but when Jet moved to pull away, Immanis’s arms closed around him, sliding a bloody streak over his shoulder. The kiss deepened, and Jet uttered a low cry against his prince’s mouth, pressing, shifting, feeling the roar of the inferno between them.
He fought, unable to give in to the fire, and they rolled and shifted and twisted on the bed, tangling in a sweatslick wrestle that Jet could feel building a tightness low in his belly. Immanis stretched in his arms, leaning into him, and when Jet could feel the friction of skin on skin growing ever more insistent, he pressed even closer, needing something he dared not name.
“My Lord, my Immanis,” Jet whispered, breathless and shaking. He lifted himself away, but only enough to look his Prince in the eyes.
The gaze was met with dark hunger, half-demanding, half-offering. “My Guardian, my Jet,” Immanis returned, leaning up to put his mouth against Jet’s once more. “Consume me,” he said. “Burn me. Save me.”
The time for turning away had come and gone; Jet nodded, no longer willing to hesitate. He laid himself against Immanis, hands and mouth and body seeking the answers to questions he did not fully comprehend, but had to ask.
Immanis received his searching, his longing, and surrendered to them both.
They were a hungry knot of skin-on-skin, mouth-to-mouth sensation when someone knocked on the door, and began to open it.
Secta stepped in, already speaking. “Lord, please forgive the interruption, but–” He froze, his eyes widening as he looked to his prince and his guardian in the bed. “Majesty!” Secta squeaked, obviously startled.
Immanis paused, but there was neither shame, nor fury in his gaze. He turned, looking to the door, as though interruptions were of little consequence. “Secta,” He said, his expression unreadable.
“You’re… well?” Secta’s voice cracked again, and the groom blushed, looking to Jet, and then back again.
Jet held quite still, his heart thundering, dizzying need whorling with sparks behind his eyes.
“I am now,” Immanis declared, slowly growing impatient. “Did you have a message?”
Remembering himself, Secta nodded. He looked to Jet, awed, and backed out of the way. “I… am… so sorry to have disturbed you. The, ah… the hall is ready, and your guests will arrive soon. I knew the Guardian wanted to get there before them.”
Finding his voice, Jet murmured “Thank you, Secta,” and nodded in dismissal.
Secta looked at Immanis, and then Jet, and he nodded in return, then backed out, moving to shut the door, his expression still shocked.
Even before Secta left the room, Immanis cupped Jet’s cheek in one warm hand and leaned up to kiss his mouth without hesitation. He pulled back, smiling faintly, and said, “This is twice now, you have saved my life. What will I owe you?”
“Nothing,” Jet said, “You have saved my life already, Immanis,” he promised, and then leaned in to kiss him once more before detangling to leave the bed, albeit reluctantly, and re-dress. He looked at himself in the mirror while adjusting his shroud, and touched his bitten lips, feeling the blush rise in his skin. To combat the feeling, to wash it away, he grimaced dramatically and rolled his eyes as he examined the blood and smeared lines around his mouth and chin. He sighed. Fixing the facepaint was going to be a pain in the ass.
* * *
Pleasantly warmed on cool wine, freshly washed and dressed, Acer Plaga wandered about the hallways of the moon wing until he’d gotten himself nearly lost. The magnitude of the palace itself was staggering. Ilona truly was the richest of the Eastlands. He kept walking in circles, looking to get to the feasting hall, when he finally stumbled upon a veiled palace girl.
“You–” he called to her. “I was told there would be feasting in my honor,” he chuckled, looking amused with himself. As he reached her, he looked her over and made no secret he found her pleasing. She was precisely of the right sort to rid himself of his jealousy for Lucida. He had reached too high in that imagining; the rumors of the entire city seemed to be that the princess would wed the Guardian. “Perhaps you shall bring me luck, as I am stunned by the beauty of this great place, and cannot find my way.”
“Lord Plaga, yes, there is to be a great feast, with the Prince himself,” the girl said, bowing her head.
“You know me? The Prince is well? I had heard he was quite ill,” Plaga said, narrowing his eyes and watching the girl shrewdly. He liked the look of her, but did not want to be too captivated by her dark eyes and shyly smiling mouth.
“How could I not? Your family is of legend, and you are the leader who will help unite all people within the light of the Luminora, yes? You will join with the brilliance that is our Prince, and you will see for yourself, when you come to the feast,” the girl said, smiling almost mischievously. “Do you wish an escort, my Lord?”
“I do,” Plaga murmured, offering out his arm. “Will you show me?”
Blushing, the girl nodded, and took Plaga from the Moon wing to the main halls of the palace, and led him toward the feasting room. “There will also be music. Dancing. Contests of skill. War games,” she offered.
“Which of these things sound like the most fun?” he wondered of her.
“I like dancing,” the girl said, blushing, after a moment. “And contests.”
“Then I will want to see you near me, when it is time for dancing, hmm?” Acer murmured, catching up her hand and kissing the tips of her fingers.
“Your Lordship is too kind,” the girl said, smiling giddily. “I will do my best; if I am ordered to serve elsewhere, I–”
“Ah, but you are to be my good luck charm, my pretty-eyed doe. I will not let them order you to serve elsewhere,” Acer Plaga declared. “For you are a beauty even among beauties, and I tell you I aim to put my hands on the richness of Ilona that is offered me, and the Guardian of Ilona himself has declared I should be pleased.”
“Truly, Lord, you are a venerable man, and I will do my utmost to please you,” the girl said, casting down her eyes, hiding her own shrewd smirk behind her veil.
“What is your name?” he asked, reaching to touch her chin, to make her look up at him.
She turned her face up to him, blinked her pretty doe eyes and said, “Gemma.”
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