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    Celian
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Ink and Flowers - 13. Emmett

The feeling of safety enveloped me like a blanket. Soft like the actual blanket covering me and warm like the living pillow beneath me. Finley's couch was clearly too small for two and I was lying half on top of him. He obviously didn't mind and neither did I. He was comfortable and warm.

The sound I had jokingly referred to as purring yesterday was actually more of a hiss and gurgle, accompanied by an irregular rumble. A bit like a steam boiler.

This comparison and the fact that the sound seemed to come from the middle of his chest, his warmth and a very subtle smell of smoke made me think of a golem. One of the most gruesome inventions of the dwarves ever, half living being, half machine.

Some of us don't need a weapon.

I shuddered.

After that I was too awake to just close my eyes again, I had to go to pee and my stomach wanted attention too. So I carefully climbed over Finley, who turned on his side with a sound somewhere between a sigh and a grunt and asked something that could have been a "where are you going?"

"Bathroom," I whispered.

"Mh-hmm..." he made and his eyelids fluttered but ultimately stayed closed.

It was mainly the light of a street lamp which revealed the interior of the small apartment, even though twilight was beginning to show in the sky. The open kitchen-living room reminded me of Dex' apartment, but it was smaller, and there were only two other doors - the bathroom and the bedroom.

The bathroom was a narrow strip and somehow oppressive due to its confined space. I did what I had to do and, for lack of alternatives, dried my hands on the only towel in sight after washing them. It didn't feel right. And it didn't feel right to open the small mirror cabinet above the sink either, but my curiosity won out.

A toothbrush in a light blue plastic cup, toothpaste, razor with canned foam and spare blades, nail scissors, mouthwash.

Sober and sparse was also my impression when I took a no less curious look into the bedroom - and yes, the door was open. On the double bed was a pillow, the blanket matching it was on the couch. A cable, presumably for a phone, glowed white on the bedside table. It could just as easily have been a hotel room.

From Finley on the couch came a soft snoring that could have been passed off as heavy breathing.

He'd said he wasn't staying anywhere for long, so he was probably carrying two suitcases from furnished apartment to furnished apartment. In fact, the only personal item I found as I looked around was a silver locket on a decorative wooden plate on a chest of drawers. It rattled softly as I picked up the locket to look at the engravings. Elegant curves and squiggles that might represent waves or flames, depending on what style this was supposed to be.

Sadness overcame me when I saw the initials on the back. F.S.R. These were not his. The medallion had probably belonged to a fallen comrade.

I carefully put the medallion back and stepped into the small kitchenette. I didn't want to take just anything to eat - although the peaches really looked good despite their supermarket plastic bowl - but at least a glass of water. The cupboard above the sink, where I thought there were glasses, creaked rather unpleasantly loudly when I opened it and Finley groaned.

"Sorry," I said quietly.

In response, there was a lot of grumbling, groaning and sighing. Definitely a morning grouch, who forced himself into an upright position and then blinked small eyes at me. "How are you?"

"I've been better," I replied, shrugging. "But I've been a lot worse, too."

With another grumble, he nodded and stood up, swaying for a moment like a drunk. "Gimme a minute," he mumbled, then shuffled into the bathroom.

A bit like an idiot, I stood in front of the open kitchen cupboard, so I took out two glasses. But before I could open the fridge or the tall cupboard next to it to look for drinks - the water from the tap here in St Beatrice doesn't taste very good - my phone vibrated.

It was a message from Jake. A cheerful message saying that he was leaving for a special shift for a party and that I should tell him about the date later.

It was just written words, with only one winking smiley face at the end, but the good humor in it made me shudder and I leaned heavily against the kitchen counter.

Beside it, two messages had come from Dom during the night.

"We've got him. The herd is in mourning. Two dead, several injured. Grandpa and the druid are discussing how and where he can be buried."

Tears came to my eyes and I began to tremble. Dex had killed, had caused sorrow. My own fear of him suddenly seemed unimportant, because now three families had to grieve.

Dom's second message had come later, a long text full of apologies and implied explanations, stiff and cool. Only at the end, his "I still wish my brother and my friend could have been happy" seemed sincere.

With my eyes closed, I breathed in and out deeply, recalling some of the good moments with Dex. That helped. The burning in my eyes and throat subsided and I slipped the phone back into my pocket.

As I blinked, I noticed that Finley had turned on the light and was now standing in front of the window right on the border between the living and cooking zones, cigarette pack and lighter in hand, eying me.

He looked much more alert as he returned my gaze. Then he opened the window and lit a cigarette.

I watched silently, finding it fascinating, almost frightening, how the cigarette alone changed the image of a tired, gentle man. There wasn't much missing, and the word 'spent' would have been fitting. I found my own thought unfair and averted my eyes.

"News from the deer?" he then asked quietly.

I nodded slowly, raising my gaze again, meeting his sympathetic one. "Two dead, several injured." The words tasted bitter.

And Finley sighed, his face taking on an 'I told you so' expression. "You should have let me do it," he actually remarked, tapping ash from his cigarette. "I have experience with tainted creatures. There wouldn't have been any collateral damage."

On the one hand that would have been desirable, on the other he would have had to leave me alone to do it (and I would probably have gone insane), and in addition he would have interfered in the affairs of the herd, even if that could be disregarded given the situation.

"Do you have a gun in the car?" The words were out faster than was good, sounded more bitter than was good, and when his face lost all expression, I got scared. Scared of him and of the answer.

His tongue darted across his lips. "I don't need a gun." The tongue twitched again as the fear of him crept up inside me, trying to displace the warm safe feeling. He licked his lips a third time, but this time like someone whose mouth waters at the sight of something appetizing.

I was standing cornered in the kitchenette, how convenient.

"You don't need to be afraid of me," he said quietly. It was almost a plea. "I... my inner being has decided we want to protect you. Being by my side is pretty much the safest place in the world."

That sounded strange and I frowned. "You're... powerful...?"

He shrugged, pushing the cigarette butt into an ashtray on the outside windowsill. "I am what I am. Dangerous, powerful, call it what you will." There was nothing boastful about him, he simply laid it on the table as a fact.

After a moment's thought, I was able to accept that. After all, I am what I am too. Precious and vulnerable. So I nodded weakly and it visibly relieved him.

He closed the window and, one hand still on the handle, looked at me indecisively.

The moment had become awkward, getting more awkward with every heartbeat we looked at each other.

Finally, I averted my eyes and took two glasses from the cupboard, as I had intended to do anyway. Had I even had a drink at Dex'? I wasn't sure.

Then Finley stepped up next to me and raised his hand as if to touch me, but he didn't. "Unless you're messing with my family," he said tonelessly, his cigarette breath brushing over me, "there's no safer place." His gaze was intense, as was his conviction.

"How many of your relatives would it take..." I couldn't finish the question, but he understood.

"Two, three..." A faint shrug. "Trained, of course."

"Of course." My smile was probably more of a grimace and, blushing, he took a step back. Cold air took his place and I shivered involuntarily.

He took a large bottle of non-carbonated water from the pantry. "Apart from water and the peaches, I probably don't have anything I can safely offer you," he apologized as he poured.

"The peaches look good," I replied, holding on to the glass of water.

Blushing once more, he took the plastic bowl of fruit. "I like peaches," he mumbled sheepishly and held it under the tap. But no water came out when he turned it on. He sighed.

"Does that happen often?" I wanted to know and sipped the water. I had the feeling that none of it was reaching my stomach because my dry mouth was soaking it all up.

"The couple in the apartment below me are renovating the kitchen," he said instead of a real answer.

A rumble and gurgle rose audibly through the pipes, then dirty water splashed out before clearing in a thin stream.

"Better than nothing." But just as he held the peaches in the water, it dried up.

A smile crept onto my face at his annoyed expression. The tap rumbled again, then the water suddenly shot out in three short bursts. My rather immature comparison to an ejaculating penis made me giggle silly. And then I giggled even more when I saw Finley's horrification.

Water dripped from his face onto his wet shirt, running down his arms.

"Could it be that you really hate water?" I asked innocently.

He growled and placed the peach bowl roughly in the sink, then a shudder ran through him as if he was about to shake himself like a dog. "Just a little," he replied sarcastically.

"Are you actually showering?" I continued to ask, not entirely seriously.

He took off his shirt with a grunt. "I have to. I don't want to stink like a polecat." He dried himself off with the shirt, his expression still very grumpy.

When he gave me a look, I tried not to grin too widely and refrained from asking if he could swim. He had probably been forced to learn at the military academy. However, my gaze then lingered on the military tags. As far as I know, there are normally two, but there was a third, smaller piece hanging from his chain.

On impulse, I reached for it. At first he seemed to back away, but then he held still while I stroked the letters with my thumb. "Smoky," I read out. "Your call sign?" I looked up.

Pain flitted across his face and he nodded slowly. "Bomb and Smoky. Beta Destruction was formed around us."

I'd only known Finley a few weeks, but dangerous or not, he struck me as such a gentle man that the idea of him being part of such a unit was downright painful.

We were silent for a moment, then he mumbled, "I'm going to get a fresh shirt," and I mumbled back, "I'll wash the peaches in the bathroom."


 

When we both reached for our second peach, we were still silent. Instead of biting into mine, I just turned it in my fingers.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Finley asked gently, wiping peach juice off his chin with a napkin. "Or talk about Dex in general?"

"Hmm." I shrugged, continuing to twirl the peach.

"Just an idea." There was a crack as Finley bit into his peach.

"Hmm." I did again and then sighed, turning the fruit in my hands until the velvety skin felt unpleasant. "When I met the boys, Dex was still going to school," I finally started, and then stopped again because it reminded me that he had only recently turned 23. Far too young to face death in any way.

"A boy with big dreams." My voice was barely more than a whisper. "Stuck to his big brother, wanted to be a cop. Dom hated all that. Dex' drive for freedom, his desire to make the world a better place, his crush on me."

A soft sympathetic sound came from Finley.

"Dex is... was... a real stag. Proud and stubborn. Strong. You know, that kind of strength that some big prey animals have."

"Mmhhh. Cows kill more people a year than sharks. And hardly anyone willingly messes with a bull." Finley nodded.

I nodded back. Adolescent arrogance and hubris, along with an alpha's thirst for recognition honed into shape over the years in the process of growing up, had resulted in this kind of strength, as part of an overall package that honestly attracted me. Strong enough that I finally responded to Dex' flirtation and meant it.

"And Dex was always cheerful," I continued after a pause. "Dom was getting quieter and calmer, majestically detached somehow. But Dex was always in a good mood, always."

"The second-born prince.", Finley remarked.

"He was gone for a border-crossing case. Ugly business. So no one was surprised he came back exhausted and depressed. Dom did say to Jake yesterday that Dex wasn't doing so well, but..."

Finley let out a small sigh and then cleared his throat. "Tainting isn't something that happens overnight. It's a gradual process, it can take years."

"I know," I replied, picking a piece of peel off the peach. "His apartment was dirty, and not just since yesterday, but when we hugged, in the beginning I mean, my magic worked. It calmed him down, relaxed him. And then a little later it didn't. There were barriers that he shouldn't have had."

"May I say that he was probably just attracted to your aura the whole time?"

I sighed softly.

"I mean, I'm practically immune to auras, but there are many who are drawn to an aura like yours like moths to a flame."

"I know," I muttered. Meanwhile, I was practically peeling the peach with my fingernails. What Finley said, I had already been thinking. "I'm just wondering why no one noticed it sooner. Why I didn't notice it sooner. The taint, I mean. And what would he have gained from doing whatever to me?"

"The taint is like an intelligent disease capable of hiding," Finley replied seriously. "Many psychopaths and autistic people, for example, are so good at mimicking that they aren't even noticeable."

I'm not a mind healer and psychology has never been my field, especially not the abysses of possibility.

"And for people who have problems, a calming aura like yours can act like a drug," he continued. "And they usually need a higher and higher dose, more and more closeness. But as far as closeness is concerned, at some point you can't do any more."

I nodded slowly. Felt Dex' hands on me, his mouth. Saw the jet-black antlers and his grin. Fear crept up inside me. Felt the heat of the boiling curry on my face and the cool air on my bottom. Dex' relentlessness. The certainty that he would have used my body without my consent. That he would have killed me afterwards.

"Emmett. How did you get out of there?" Finley's voice cut through the fear, reminding me to breathe.

"Magic. Raw magic." I almost choked on the words. My hands tingled from the unformed power. Horror at myself. "Twice. Then the threshold magic kicked me out. I ran. I'm good at running." The asphalt under my feet. The cold autumn air in my lungs. My flight instinct on overdrive.

"You're here now. With me. Safe and sound. I'll protect you, okay?"

Blinking through tears, I saw Finley crouched beside me, his hands outstretched. He carefully grabbed my wrists, pulled me up with him and into his arms, holding me tightly against him.

"It's okay. I'm sorry. I didn't want to - You didn't have to say anything," he mumbled into my hair as I wrapped my arms hard around myself. There was something soothing about the sound in his chest, like a indoor fountain, only the steampunk steam-boiler version.

I breathed in and out deeply. Detergent, sweat, cigarettes, smoke. Soft and warm. Dangerous to everything and everyone but me. I wanted to believe it, I really did, but as long as I didn't know what he was, my trust in him could blow away at any moment.

"I'm sorry." he murmured again after a while, loosening his embrace. "Do you regret leaving the coven?" he then wanted to know and I sighed.

His hug loosened further, as if he expected me to take a step away from him, but I continued to lean against him. If I could have, I would have soaked up his body heat. "No." I finally replied. "There was no place for someone like me."

"Because... gay?"

"Uh-huh. The coven has... a very elaborate marriage policy." To say the least. My mother usually bugged me about it every chance she got, and I wouldn't be surprised if she eventually introduced me to a girl. A witch, of course, ready to marry a stranger (because indoctrinated by her coven) and approved by all sorts of family members and elders.

"Sounds horrible." Indeed, Finley shuddered slightly.

"Well... my freedom of choice didn't help me either. The first one died in a ritual. The second is in prison for trying to kidnap and sell me. And the third... well."

"Maybe you should rethink your choice of boyfriends..." he suggested.

Because I couldn't tell how much encouraging humor was in his words, I replied dryly: "No shit."

He cleared his throat sheepishly. "Sorry."

"What about you?" I asked in a pitiful attempt to divert the attention away from myself.

The first reaction was an almost dismissive grunt. "The military is generally not the best place for relationships. Especially a MORRTIMER unit. Not to mention the no fraternization rule. I have a different kind of body count."

At first I snorted in amusement, then I shuddered slightly when I realized that he meant dead bodies. But then I leaned back to look at him as another thought occurred to me. Was he still a virgin?

The way he turned bright red told me this implied meaning was unintentional, but probably true.

He let go of me and stepped back with a clearing of his throat. "Do you want me to take you home? Or do you want to wait until Tony gets in touch?"

Biting my lip, I thought about it. Tony hadn't said anything about going anywhere, but he didn't owe me an account either. If he had spent the night with a woman, it could be hours before I got a reaction from him. And if something had happened - whether at home or somewhere else - I wouldn't be able to do anything here anyway.


 

A certain nervousness remained, so when Finley pulled up in front of the house, I asked, "Can you come up for a minute?" I sounded miserable and I felt miserable even as he nodded earnestly. An awkward silence had spread between us since his accidental revelation and slowly his strong presence became a little overwhelming.

Nothing seemed abnormal when I opened the front door. Tony's jacket, shoes and keys were all there. "Come in and be a guest," I said to Finley nonetheless invitingly.

A fine frown adorned his face. "I come as a friend and honor your home." Then he stepped over the threshold - and immediately a magical alarm siren went off. Not audible or visible, but perceptible on a level hard to describe. He raised a brow and I shrugged.

"No idea how to turn that off," I admitted. I hadn't even known we had such a thing.

In return, Tony came dashing out of his bedroom. Naked, disheveled, hands glowing green with magic and surrounded by a stale scent of sex. "Who or- huh?"

"Hi." Finley and I said at the same time, a little dumb.

Tony blinked, puzzled, then flicked a spark of magic at the ceiling and the magical alarm went silent. "Why on earth are you taking Emmett home like a cop would a prowler?" Then it obviously dawned on him. "And where is the cop who was supposed to take you home?"

"Dead," I said tonelessly.

Tony's jaw dropped.

Finley cleared his throat and nodded at me when I looked at him, then saw himself out.

"Emmett, what happened?" Tony wanted to know in alarm when the door was closed again.

Shaking my head, I shrugged. I honestly didn't know where to start. Admittedly, I didn't care that he was naked, what might still be sticking to him or that there might be a woman waiting in his bed, I threw myself into his arms.

"Emmett, son, what's wrong?" he whispered softly, but still audibly distraught.

Instead of an answer for him, I had a meltdown.

Copyright © 2024 Celian; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Well at least Emmett is getting more accustomed to Finley. He also found out that "they" have decided to protect him 😉

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Emmett felt safe with Finley, until it became uncomfortable.  And I think that was on both of their parts.  

Finley was right, if Emmett had allowed, he could have taken out Dex without any issues; of course, Emmett was probably right that Dom and the others might not have appreciated it.  Although I will bet that Dom was the one that had to end him, and that could not have been easy on any level.

What caused the taint?  Did someone do it on purpose or did it just slowly occur?

Why exactly did Finley set off the alarm, is it predator based or what?

Interesting chapter, but I need more information...

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Emmett remained safe. What a horrible trauma wascaused by a tainted Dex.

 

Finley was the hero and saved Emmett, He promised to continue protecting Emmett.

 

Emmett returned home and had a meltdown. His recent pressures brought him down . What is next?,

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Emmett needed the time to decompress from what happened, and then learning that Dex is dead, and reliving the experience telling Finley about it.  He still doesn’t know what Finley is, but feels safe with him. Then totally breaks down when he gets home.  And what was that with the alarm going off there when Finley enters?

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24 minutes ago, VBlew said:

Emmett needed the time to decompress from what happened, and then learning that Dex is dead, and reliving the experience telling Finley about it.  He still doesn’t know what Finley is, but feels safe with him. Then totally breaks down when he gets home.  And what was that with the alarm going off there when Finley enters?

I guess Tony has very well organized wards (and we kinda got from Finley that housewards build power over time).    

 

Argh  I caught up right at another cliffhanger!

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8 hours ago, centexhairysub said:

Emmett felt safe with Finley, until it became uncomfortable.  And I think that was on both of their parts.  

Finley was right, if Emmett had allowed, he could have taken out Dex without any issues; of course, Emmett was probably right that Dom and the others might not have appreciated it.  Although I will bet that Dom was the one that had to end him, and that could not have been easy on any level.

What caused the taint?  Did someone do it on purpose or did it just slowly occur?

Why exactly did Finley set off the alarm, is it predator based or what?

Interesting chapter, but I need more information...

 

3 hours ago, VBlew said:

Emmett needed the time to decompress from what happened, and then learning that Dex is dead, and reliving the experience telling Finley about it.  He still doesn’t know what Finley is, but feels safe with him. Then totally breaks down when he gets home.  And what was that with the alarm going off there when Finley enters?

The taint can be spread like a disease. The source can be a) an evil being "corrupting from above"; b) tainted beings/objects rubbing off (though this kind of taint can be rinsed off, so to speak, mostly it doesn't last) or c) self-taint. This can happen when creatures do things against their nature. Vegans eating too much non-vegan food, peaceful creatures resolving to violence.
For Dex, it might have been a combination of all three options, with him being a cop in Vice. A deer-shifter amongst humans and probably more powerful beings, trying to fit in.

The magical threshold sets itself up, even for humans, slowly over time. Most creatures able to do so will inforce it however and shape it to their needings. So Tony setting up special wards to keep Emmett safe after his ex tried to kidnap him? Definitely!

Thank you all!

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Beautiful, but get to the dog house, you're grounded. Dang nab heart strings and evil artists. 

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