This is Issue #71 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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“I tell you, Sollerti,” Nixus purred, leaning into the man who had her pushed against the stone wall in the bath of her Legio-provided apartments. “You and I will make merry sport of the next few hours, but then it’s all seriousness until we rout those murderous beasts.”
Her lover said nothing aloud, but kissed her with all the hunger he had had to keep pent over the last few days.
She laughed, and bit his lip, pulling at his clothes; she helped him peel her own away, and was half naked when the banging on her door interrupted them.
“For the love of–fuck,” Nixus sighed, leaning forward and laying her forehead to the other soldier’s chest.
He laughed, kissing the top of her head, saying, “Impiorum no requies.”
Nixus quirked one brow and hungrily groped Sollerti, hands squeezing him, not at all gently. “Then maybe neither of us will sleep at all tonight, hmm?” She worked her hand against him, tilting her head to kiss him once more, and then pulled back, sighing, “Hold that thought.”
Sollerti turned and leaned back against the wall, laughing resignedly, shaking his head.
She stalked away, raising her voice, calling out to the fool who dared interrupt her. “I’m going to open the damned door, te stultum irrumabo tricinus, and you’re going to be so delighted I am still not entirely sober, for if I were, I would peel your–”
The opened door revealed Coryphaeus, with a bloodied lip, and a heart too broken to hold. “I am, in fact, a stupid, miserable fuck–” When he saw the state his sister was in, he shook his head, mortified. “You’re busy. I’m sorry, I–”
“Shut up.” Nixus pulled him inside, walking him to her bedroom. “Go. Go in there,” she said. “Sit. No, you can move the horsewhip. I’ll be right back.” She immediately returned to Sollerti, and kissed him soundly, then said, “Out. Go. Don’t ask.”
Sollerti knew enough not to. He nodded, accepting orders easily, and grabbed up his clothing, headed for the door. “Nix?” he said, looking back.
“Mm?” she wondered, hand on the knob of her bedroom door.
His eyes narrowed, and for a long moment, he steadied his breath as though readying himself for something. In the end, he smiled tightly and shook his head, saying, “Videbo vos latum alterum, Summus.” See you on the other side, Summus.
Nixus’s smile spread; it was a golden thing, the beauty that suffused her when she cared to show joy. “Sol?”
“Non me retinere expectare nimium diu,” she said, lifting her chin. Don’t keep me waiting too long.
His eyebrows rose, almost in shock, and then a ridiculous sort of blush hit his face, and he cleared his throat and hurried off, nodding gruffly. “Aye, Summus.”
She shook her head, smiling as he left, but then let herself back into her bedroom.
Coryphaeus knelt on the floor, holding his head — he was whispering something to himself that Nixus could not quite hear. She knelt next to him, and pulled him close. “What?” she whispered. “Cory — what’s happened?”
“Sum stultus; qua stultus sum!” His voice was high, pained, hiccuping — almost panicked. He sounded nearly like the night their father had burst in. I’m a fool. What a fool I am!
“Cory,” Nixus said. “Stop this. Coryphaeus, prohibe este instanti!” Stop this instant! She cupped his face in her hands and then grabbed his shoulders and gave him a rough shake. “Frater!”
“I was such a fool,” he whispered. “Such a fool to think she could ever–”
“Shh–” Nixus shook her head and moved to fold him up in her arms. “Don’t, Corymea. Don’t. It’s all right. Shh,” she promised. She gathered him up while he wept, kissed his cheeks and petted his hair. “You’ll be all right,” she whispered, her dark eyes bright. “Tell me what happened, hmm? Tell me w-”
Cory pulled back, looking at Nixus, searching her face as though for answers. His lower lip trembled, and he shook his head. “She has a husband! He was the one who went over the cliff. He was the Westlander who killed the Prince. He saved my life,” Coryphaeus whispered.
“And?” Nixus said, looking expectant. “What, you think you owe a dead man?”
“But that’s just the thing.” Coryphaeus laughed as he spoke, a bitter, barking thing. “He’s alive, Nixus. He’s alive, and he’s with her, and they are together, and I am an idiot who believed he could be more than a placeholder for a dead man, a thief for love that never belonged to him–”
“He’s alive?” Nixus looked stunned. “But how could–” She spared the briefest of moments for her Prince; grief touched her face — she had loved him, had served him fearlessly, would have died for him. But her love for her brother was greater. The only thing greater. “Don’t–” Nixus said, shaking her head. “Don’t say such things.”
“And why not?” Coryphaeus sounded bitter, pulling away from Nixus, moving to stand up, to pace about the room, a caged Panther, miserable, aching. “Why not speak the truth, hmm?” He looked at Nixus, fury on his face, wishing he could demand some kind of an answer from someone, anyone, as to why this happened.
“Because all this, all you’re doing right now? Es quarentes enim dolorem,” Nixus said, petting his hair. Seeking pain. All you’re right right now, my beautiful brother, is seeking pain, for pain’s sake.
“You should have let him finish the job!” Cory clenched his hands into fists, dug his nails into his palms so fiercely he drew blood.
“Frater–” Nixus looked shocked, staring at him from where she remained crouched on the floor. She stood, and immediately moved to pull him into her arms and hold him, fiercely.
Coryphaeus looked at Nixus, his own eyes matched to hers, glittered with tears. “You were right,” he said, shaking his head. “You were right.”
“Normally that’s cause for celebration,” Nixus said, gently wiping away his tears with her hands. “It’s wonderful when I’m right, isn’t it? Makes you know there’s order in the world.”
Coryphaeus laughed and sobbed at once, great gasping sounds as though he could not catch his breath. “I cannot do this. I cannot breathe,” Coryphaeus pled. “My heart — how can a thing made of flesh break? I can feel it, Nixus. It is broken inside of me, all jagged and sharp.”
Nixus felt tears in her own eyes as she swayed with him, grinding her teeth. “Shhh, I know. I know, love — I know.” I’ll kill her for this. Her and her husband, both. They want to be together, they can be together forever, in the earth.
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