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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 - 3. Emmett

The old walnut tree at the end of the garden gave me support. However, I no longer pressed face-first against the bark, as if to melt into it, when Tony joined me at some point. Instead, I sat on the ground and leaned against the trunk, looking up at the night sky between half-closed lids and the glow of the city.

"You okay?" Tony asked quietly.

"Yeah...", I drawled. Then I swallowed and blinked, looked at Tony. "What the hell is this guy?" I shuddered, and not just because the days had been noticeably crisper the past week, and the nights correspondingly so.

"You shouldn't swear at hell," Tony admonished, barely louder than before. "I don't know." he then added, raising his shoulders weakly.

I closed my eyes briefly, seeing the resigned look on Finley's face, feeling the wave of panic wash over me. "I almost pissed my pants." A matter-of-fact statement, to which Tony replied just as matter-of-factly:

"He warned you."

"I know." Suppressing a sigh, I ran a hand through my hair. "He smells like danger." Whereas earlier he had smelled more like Patricia's flowers and a little sweat.

Tony sighed as well and held out his hand to me. "Ron will be here in a minute. We'll talk later, okay?"

I let him help me to my feet. "Okay." Then I brushed the dirt off my pants and walked with him back to the house.

 

~

 

The smell of the steamed fish Tony had made for himself as a side dish to the ratatouille almost turned my stomach, but I said nothing. I didn't want him to realize how shaken I actually was. Fortunately, none of Finley's scent or aura had lingered in the parlor, or the rest of the evening wouldn't have gone so smoothly. I was nervous enough as it was.

We ate in silence for a few minutes, me poking at my food more than eating, before Tony clicked his tongue. "So... Are you still betting on mana users?"

Goosebumps ran down my arms. "If so, he must a born necromancer or blood mage. Those are the only mana users who have any kind of aura."

"I thought they smelled like vampires and the other undead stuff like blood and decay," Tony returned, popping a bite into his mouth.

"They don't." The goosebumps turned into shivers. I'd never knowingly encountered a necromancer or blood mage- after all, 99% of them were under government supervision and didn't just stroll through the county- but I'd studied the coven's library. There hadn't been much else to do in the damn village.

Tony noticed, and his normally stoic expression became softer, almost concerned. "He has an aura he hides behind shields. I couldn't have worked without a shield of my own."

By nature, I'm much more sensitive than most to anything that exudes danger, but this surprised me a little. And it threw my theory out the window. "Then he's not a mana user." Mana connected witches, sorcerers, and mages- or whatever they were called in other cultures- and didn't allow for instinctual fear of, say, blood magic.

"No.", Tony agreed with me, swaying his head thoughtfully. Silence reigned again for a moment, during which I listlessly took two bites before Tony exhaled strangely. "My money's still on a magical half-breed."

"A magical half-breed that has active self-healing, aura, and shields, but whose human form still breaks its mold?", I muttered skeptically around a bit of zucchini.

"Half-blood." he returned emphatically. "Human enough to look like one, magical enough to have those abilities."

Still skeptical, I sipped my water, then shook my head. "To possess such an aura, he would have to be half demon." The hairs on the back of my neck promptly rose at the thought, even as Tony shook his head.

We discussed for a while longer the possibilities of what Finley could and could not be, but we couldn't really come up with a coherent explanation. Just asking him was out of the question, it was rude and some species are very touchy about insults.

But when I went to bed later, I again had Finley's resigned expression in front of my eyes, as if he wanted to say 'I'm about to scare you shitless and I don't like it'. A half-breed who was anything but enthusiastic about his magical half and kept it vehemently hidden behind lock and key?

With a sigh, I curled up and pulled the blanket up to my chin, but my goosebumps weren't coming from the cool air blowing in through the tilted window.

 

~

 

For the next few days, I saw Finley only from a distance. My nerves calmed, but my thoughts did not. Having someone near me who smelled of danger and had such a strong aura made the question of what he was circle endlessly in my mind. Was I in danger?

Looking at the way Finley walked around with his shoulders slumped and his head down, or the way he looked like he would prefer to be invisible every time he stepped outside the flower shop for a cigarette, I was leaning toward no. A half-breed who struggled to come to terms with his magical side. A half-breed who had to have good connections and money to get a magic tattoo from someone with military clearance.

My spinning thoughts were broken when Finley, of all people, entered the parlor. It was Friday night, he was off work, but our list was still full.

"Hey.", I greeted, putting on a professional smile.

"Hey." He punctuated the greeting with a curt nod and stepped closer, taking a backpack off his shoulder and wedging it between himself and the counter. "I bring the bottles back."

When Tony did a tattoo with magical ink, clients always got a healing salve and two bottles of a potion to help anchor the magic while the skin healed. He insisted that those with self-healing also get the stuff, even though I found that a bit unnecessary.

"Thank you." I accepted the bottles and put them somewhere in the background for now.

"I guess the scent masker is working properly again," he remarked quietly.

With a noncommittal nod, I turned back to him and took an unobtrusive deep breath. Flowers, cigarettes, sweat. A strange mixture, but nothing that tickled my instincts. Now, though, I noticed how wrecked he actually looked, and that in turn tickled my instincts, albeit different ones. "Are you okay?"

The question seemed to take him by surprise; his mouth dropped open and, sure enough, his cheeks turned pink. "I'm not sleeping well," he answered with a little delay.

"Looking at the dark circles under your eyes, I'm totally buying that." Without any effort on my part, a critical frown crept onto my forehead and in response, he lowered his gaze, his cheeks turning a little darker.

In the background, the hum of the tattoo machine began.

"I've been thinking about a sleep-well tattoo," Finley said then, his gaze still lowered. His voice had deepened a bit- was he nervous?

"Sounds like a good idea. Have you thought about the design, too?" I tried to sound encouraging, while wondering if it was lack of sleep that made his face look so bloated.

"Not really," he admitted hesitantly, but at least he raised his eyes.

This tall, broad-built guy who smelled of danger and had a strong aura looked pretty helpless at that moment.

I almost reached out and patted his arm, but I held back, even though I felt urged to do so, especially since he was wearing only a T-shirt despite the temperatures and skin contact enhanced already my passive magic. Instead, I nodded simply and pulled a folder from the shelf beside me.

"Here.", I said, and began to flip through it. "I mean, you can have any design you want, but most people do go with something that fits the theme." When I reached the moon designs and star constellations, I paused and pushed the folder a little in his direction.

Only now did Finley lower the backpack- or rather drop it, because there was a rather loud thud- and then reach for the folder.

Briefly I listened for the buzzing and low voices from the back room, but actually my attention was on Finley. The way his light brown eyes darted around. How his chest rose and fell under remarkably slow breaths. How his big strong hands gently turned the pages. Then I noticed that his lips seemed to be permanently open a tiny bit, and had to think of the merfolk. They were said to get breathing problems in human form eventually, and to move a little sluggishly on land- just as Finley did. But then I smelled the cigarettes again and dismissed the idea. The merfolk would hardly touch a smoke.

Finley, meanwhile, had reached the various drawings of dreamcatchers. His gaze twitched briefly to me before returning his focus to the pictures. "I might like that." Was he speaking so quietly because he was simply shy, or was he afraid his voice alone might cause anxiety?

If his mother was a siren, he had really had bad luck with his genes, it popped into my mind, then I dismissed the thought as well. Sirens didn't actually radiate danger like that.

"As it is there, or do you want to bring in your own ideas?", I wanted to know and questioningly he looked at me. "Well..." I flipped the pages a little further and showed him dreamcatchers that had been expanded to include all sorts of stuff. "To match your other lizard, you could put one on top," I suggested, because I liked the flowers and butterflies but thought they were a little too feminine for him.

He considered the suggestion with a frown and began to turn the pages again.

Slowly, his tight-lippedness was making me a little nervous. "If you want to get a new tattoo with us, you'll need to fill out this form here," I therefore said, pulling that very form out of a drawer before sliding it onto a clipboard.

He nodded simply. Leafed back and forth.

The phone in my pocket emitted the email tone and I was almost tempted to check it, simply so I wouldn't have to keep looking at a silent Finley, but that's when he started nodding thoughtfully.

"The base." he said, pointing to a dreamcatcher whose threads were strung in a star shape and studded with beads. "And the feathers." He flipped to another picture and tapped on it- five feathers of different sizes. Then he hesitated and seemed to duck his head a little. "Can you put a sleeping lion on top?"

"Sure." I nodded and shrugged. "Give me a few minutes." I took the folder and slid him the form instead.


 

Ten minutes later, I grabbed the first version of the template from the printer, pinned it to a clipboard, and walked over to Finley, who had sat down on the couch in the corner, his clipboard in his lap. As I approached, I saw him scrolling through what looked like a news app on his phone, but he quickly closed it and looked up at me.

"First draft.", I said more cheerfully than I felt, handing him the clipboard before dropping down on his left side.

Briefly, he looked at me as if to ask if I really thought this was a good idea, but then his gaze slid to the printout and a hint of a smile flitted across his face. A fingertip brushed over the lion resting on top of the curve of the dreamcatcher, its tail dangling casually downward. "I like it."

I took back the clipboard and pulled out a pen. "So, what's this thing supposed to do?"

Puzzled, Finley looked at me. His body temperature must be higher than mine, because I could feel the heat emanating from him very clearly. His lips twitched.

"Hmm?", I did, and he nodded jerkily.

"Fast falling asleep. Continuous sleep. No nightmares. And if I have, forgetting them or not being awakened by them. Restful sleep." He rattled this off as if he was used to giving such short and crisp answers, but maybe he had just been thinking hard about it before.

I nodded and scribbled the information next to the picture. Nightmares were not to be trifled with.

"You're left-handed." he noted.

"Yeah.", I said simply, wanting to keep to the essentials, and then tapped the pen on the notes. "I don't know if I can get this translated into ink in that much detail," I then pointed out. "I mean, the basic black ink framework Tony will do completely in the sleep-well mix, that's a widely used standard. As for the nightmares and restful sleep, I'll research what's possible first." Most people were already fully satisfied with the sleep-good ink. Beyond that, while any bozo could learn how to give a tattoo, and magic ink worked even without anchoring magic to a greater or lesser degree depending on the wearer, making really good magic ink was an art that required flair as well as a lot of knowledge about plants and minerals. Or at least the right books for the subject.

Finley nodded. "Okay."

"Do you want to include the lion or just use it as a colorful gimmick?"

Murmuring an "I don't know yet." he handed me the other clipboard and rose, effectively ending the conversation in a way I hadn't expected. Did he think we were done already?

Maybe it was for him, but before he could disappear without another word, I skimmed the form. Finley Flint. The name made me smile briefly, then I rose as well. "Let me just check on an appointment."

"No rush," he said quietly.

I didn't see it that way. Sleep deprivation wasn't used for torture for nothing. I stifled the remark, though, and opened the computer terminal's appointment calendar instead. If I rescheduled a few appointments, he could come right back tomorrow night. And the way Finley was leaning against the counter with his eyes half-closed, looking like he was going to fall asleep at any second, I had no scruples about that. "Tomorrow night."

Surprised, he blinked.

"Your number is on the form, so once I put that in the computer, you'll get a message."

Still looking puzzled, he nodded. "Okay." He slung his backpack over a shoulder and nodded again. "Thanks."

"No problem." I smiled at him and then watched him first leave the studio, light a smoke directly, and then walk slowly up the street. He reminded me a bit of a bear as he did so, but a shifter he definitely wasn't, first of all they always smelled a bit like animals and secondly they had neither such auras nor shields.

He might be dangerous, but by all the gods, that exhausted expression on his face cut straight to my innermost being.

On the other hand... it was absolute idiocy to help a dangerous creature so that it could attack you with renewed strength.

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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Chapter Comments

Finley is still an enigma. Emmet was perplexed and very intrigued by him.  Time passed and Finley came into the tattoo shop.

Finley cannot sleep and wants a magical tattoo to help him sleep and fully rest. He decides after a careful review on a design and a date is set soon for the tattoo. Emmet considers more possible options for Finley;s true nature.. Should he be encouraged or worried?  Is Finley really a killer?

Emmet suddenly has a realization as things are progressing----"it was absolute idiocy to help a dangerous creature so that it could attack you with renewed strength."

Let us hope a rested up Finley is not really going to attack Emmet .

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I think a rested Finley will be a sexy Finley 😉

I'm curious to know more about Emmet's nature.

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11 hours ago, akascrubber said:

Is Finley really a killer?

Let us hope a rested up Finley is not really going to attack Emmet .

Finley did definitely kill, though he is a former soldier and dragon, so that's basically his nature.

Attacking Emmett on the other hand...? Nope.  He wouldn't.

10 hours ago, johnnyboy2285 said:

I think a rested Finley will be a sexy Finley 😉

I'm curious to know more about Emmet's nature.

Although "sexy" is a very personal definition, I would agree ;)

 

Thank you!

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Finley will get in a better humor perhaps will some good sleep.  Sleep deprivation is always a big concern for those in the military or those that come out of it.  

What exactly is Emmet?  Obviously witch centric but doesn't seem to be a typical witch at least.  

Flowed really well, and well written as well.  

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3 hours ago, centexhairysub said:

Finley will get in a better humor perhaps will some good sleep.  Sleep deprivation is always a big concern for those in the military or those that come out of it.  

What exactly is Emmet?  Obviously witch centric but doesn't seem to be a typical witch at least.  

Flowed really well, and well written as well.  

Emmett comes from a witch coven, but he is not a witch himself. It will stay a mystery for a while longer ;)

Thank you!

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