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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 - 5. Emmett

"Emmett?"

I blinked and turned to face Rebekah. "Hmm?", I made questioningly, uncomfortably aware that they were all looking at me.

"Is everything alright? Your mind seems to be somewhere else."

What was I supposed to say to that? First of all, I put on an apologetic, if slightly crooked, smile. The circumstances under which I had met my now best friend Jake, his parents Rebekah and Jeremy, and Jake's best friend since childhood Mike, were definitely a wee bit crazy, but the couple had practically adopted me. Same for Mike, and so here we were, sitting in a fancy Chinese restaurant with live music, celebrating Jake's parents' wedding anniversary while their older son was absent.

"Come on, man," Mike, who was sitting to my left, elbowed me in the ribs, "you've been weird all week."

I sighed. "Patricia has a new aide-"

"Is he hot?", Mike immediately wanted to know, wiggling his eyebrows meaningfully, even though he was as straight as it was possible.

"Or straight?" Jake added cautiously.

"Or taken?" Jeremy struck the same note, while Rebekah merely shook her head with a smile.

"I don't know," I said honestly. As for Finley, I really had other things to worry about. "He was a soldier. Tony's getting him a sleep-well tattoo right now, and if I'm honest, he looks like he really needs it."

The good humor at the table fizzled immediately. Jake's brother Noah was absent for similar reasons. He was a SEAL and had lost his left arm in a mission six months ago, and reading between the lines of Rebekah and Jeremy's optimism, his recovery wasn't going very well.

"I saw his dog tags and thought about Noah." I hardly knew Noah, really, but my nature required me to provide comfort and heal wounds, although I really couldn't do that with mental wounds at all.

"Oh Emmett..." Rebekah dabbed at her eyes with her napkin and I felt terrible for spoiling the mood.

"Noah sent us a lovely voicemail earlier," Jeremy said softly, rubbing his wife's back reassuringly. "Don't worry, he'll be fine."

To that, I wrestled a smile from myself and then was relieved when the food arrived. Still, the silence was not simply due to enjoying the food and listening to the music. On the other hand- not saying anything was not something they would have let me get away with.

"Do you know how long he served?"

It took me a moment to realize that Rebekah was talking about Finley. "No." Weakly, I shook my head. "I just saw the tags for a second before I had to leave. He left practically all the personal information on the form empty." Except for name and phone number, but that was also the bare minimum.

"How old do you guess he is?"

A sigh escaped me. By appearance he looked to be in his mid-thirties, but first, stress could age a person faster- and the military was a whole lot of stress, in my opinion- and second, there were enough species, races, and the like who looked very young for a very long time. Or made their human masks look young. But especially the second point I didn't need to explain to the ones present here, they were humans who had little or no contact with the magical world and couldn't do anything with such details.

"Early mid-thirties.", I finally said, shrugging, while returning Rebekah's gaze.

"Then he's probably seen a lot." Jeremy waved his fork thoughtfully. "He's not from around here, I suppose?"

"No." It did surprise me a little that we were talking about Finley, a man no one knew but me. "I heard from Patricia that he's apparently been moving around for a while, sometimes here and sometimes there."

"Do you think he has a place he keeps going back to, like Dex?" This came from Mike, in an oddly thoughtful tone.

"Dex is a herd animal, Mike," I reminded him gently, "and he comes and goes because that's what young males do in most herds."

"Dom doesn't do that," he objected, and I sighed.

"Dom is destined to be the lead deer someday. He can't and shouldn't stray from the herd for too long." Actually, I thought, not for the first time, Mike of all people should realize that. He was the heir to a damn big company himself. That being said, the brothers Dominic and Dexter had no problem being open about them being deer shifters and had been friends with Mike and Jake since elementary school days as well. But hey. Humans can be pretty ignorant.

"I would highly doubt that peace-loving beings would fully join the military," Jeremy interjected. "I mean, a strong deer in the police" -he meant Dex, who was a cop in Vice- "is one thing, but the Army?"

"What is he?", Jake wanted to know before I could say anything else- I shrugged.

"Right." Rebekah nodded. "It's rude to ask."

"Yeah but is he human?", Jake curiously followed up and again I shrugged.

"Maybe half." As far as that went, I wasn't any further along in my thinking.

Mike gave that awful grunt that, with his mouth full, announced he was about to say something. His gulping could be heard loudly. "So... not a herd animal. A loner?"

"How should I know?", I asked back. "I don't know much more than his name." But that tired exhausted look of Finley had stabbed me right in the heart.

"Sometimes it's the complete strangers who touch us the most," Jeremy remarked softly. When I looked to him, there was an understanding smile on his face.

"And sometimes you just have to reach out to a stranger to make them a friend," Rebekah added. The two of them were very active in their church community, and even though I sometimes smiled at that, they were both not wrong in what they said.

Jake sighed. "Do you think he would come if you invited him to the Tempest with us next Saturday?" He gave his mother an almost annoyed look, as if he didn't like having to translate for her.

"It's worth a try," I said slowly, trying to imagine Finley's reaction. Nothing more than a polite refusal came of it, though.

"Well, I am a little curious.", Mike admitted and grinned, a sesame seed stuck between his incisors. Then he winked at me and I couldn't help rolling my eyes. Another one who thought I was a little desperate.

 

~

 

The new week brought new sunshine, which definitely helped my mood. The sun had set by the time Finley stepped into the parlor on Monday night, but that didn't change my good-humored smile. "Hi!"

"Hey..." Finley didn't smile, instead merely nodded. "I'll bring the bottles back." he said quietly as he stepped up to the counter.

"I take it the tattoo has no effect yet?", I wanted to know as he pulled said bottles out of his backpack.

"Not a noticeable one. Always takes a few days though, doesn't it?" There was something a bit off putting about his growl in response, and my smile shriveled.

"I'm just asking."

Now there was a brief hesitation in his movement and his cheeks took on a little color. "Tony makes the potions himself?"

"I make them." It would have been silly not to use my healing skills for healing potions as well. Basis was still a recipe of the witches- and why not? I had grown up in a coven, been taught by some, and lived under the same roof as one. Tony gave everything that sounded like alchemy a wide berth. In return he did 90% of the paperwork, which I would have hated - win/win.

After this answer, a tiny smile flitted across Finley's lips, but it probably didn't surprise him. "Tastes significantly better than the stuff in the military."

Whether he gave that compliment deliberately because he'd been rude before, or whether he'd meant to say it either way didn't matter to me- I was pleased to hear it and grinned. "You know what else tastes good?"

He raised a brow and slung his backpack over his shoulders.

"The drinks and fries at Tempest. You want to come on Saturday?" Short, direct, and painless.

Completely taken off guard, he blinked at me. "Excuse me?"

My first response was to shrug and dim my grin once again, this time to a more cautious smile. "My guys and I usually go somewhere on Saturdays, like the Tempest. Good drinks, good fries, comfortable atmosphere." A bit more gently, I added: "I thought you might like to come along. You're new in town."

Again he blushed a little- had he perhaps thought I was asking him out on a date?- and then made a visible effort to smile. It failed thoroughly, but his whole attitude clearly said 'I can't believe someone would think of me'. Pretty sad, actually. "I, um..." he then brought out and hurriedly I said:

"You don't have to. It's just an idea. And you don't have to decide right now either. Just get back to me." The next moment, I scolded myself for not even giving him time to think.

"I... okay. I don't have your number." His words were little more than a low murmur, then he licked his lips.

"Ah. Right." I fished a business card of the parlor from its tray and scribbled my own cell phone number on the back. "Here. And before you run off right away"- he was blushing again- "one more thing."

Slipping the card into his pants pocket, he nodded.

"I was doing research on dream ink. Forgetting dreams could be done, but I am certainly not playing around with it," I explained seriously. A mind healer might be able to make the right ink for it, customized to the individual, and properly stake out the conditions, but I'd keep my hands off it.

Finley sighed faintly. "I'd have been surprised if that had been easy."

"Our brains may be a pretty greasy, electrified mass, but they're surprisingly sensitive." I gave him an apologetic gesture. "Anyway. Suppressing dreams is significantly easier, but it's next to impossible to distinguish between good and bad dreams in the process."

"So it's all or nothing," he summarized.

"Yeah. Do you still want this?"

Without hesitation, he nodded. "Yes."

Jeremy's comment that Finley must have seen a lot came to mind, and I shuddered slightly. His subconscious probably had tons of nightmare material if he so easily threw even nice dreams out the window. "Okay." I nodded back. "Do you want to keep the dreamcatcher black and white or add color?" Since the lizard, wings, and even the runes were colored, adding colorful feathers and stones to the dreamcatcher wouldn't stand out, but rather blend in. At least that was my opinion.

Finley, however, made a surprised-thoughtful sound.

This time I gave him a moment before saying anything. "Besides color or black and white shading, you could also use colorless ink. That is, colorless in the sense that you can only see it under special light or with use of magic."

"Sounds complicated," he admitted with a frown- he wasn't wrong.

"It's expensive, first of all," I returned.

To this he merely shrugged as if he didn't care at all. I'd like to have a bank account like that, too. "I don't know," he then said slowly. "That would be for the feathers, right?"

I nodded.

"Dreamless sleep would merely fill one."

"You wanted restful sleep, too, so that would be a second one." I smiled encouragingly. "It's pretty simple, but some people don't tolerate it well, or at least it takes a long time to get used to."

He nodded, but it seemed indecisive. "I'll think about it," he murmured. "Thanks. For the effort and..." lowering his gaze, he licked his lips, "and the invitation."

"You're welcome." My smile went out into the void. However, it also faded as soon as he turned and stomped away, shoulders drooping. Like a discarded teddy bear.

 

~

 

There are those people who look a thousand times more dangerous in a posh suit than in real combat gear. Finley was one of them. Not that he was wearing a suit, but at least he was wearing a black dress shirt. Jeans and sneakers were also black, and yes, despite the love handles, he did have a certain charisma.

"Hi!" I beamed at him, pleasantly surprised. On Thursday, when Tony had finished the basic framework of his dream catcher, he had asked for the address of the Tempest, but hadn't really confirmed.

"Hey..." His neutral expression gave nothing away, so I preferred to introduce him.

"Guys, this is Finley. Finley, this is Jake, Mike, Ben and Mo. I fear we may have lost Dom to duty and his girlfriend."

While the others laughed at my words, Finley nodded to them. "Pleased to meet you."

"Me too," Mike said cheerfully, winking at him. I had told the others- but Mike in particular- not to ask Finley about his past. Especially not at the first meeting. I honestly hoped they stuck to it.

"Ignore the idiot," I said with a sigh, turning to Finley. "He loves to make people nervous with his comments."

"Or sending the wrong signals." Ben grumbled, pulling the door open.

"Yeah, that too." I sighed again, Jake and Mo laughing.

"Sounds dangerous," Finley remarked quietly. Loud enough, though, that Jake and Mo could still hear him and snorted amused, but too quiet to pick out any emotion in his deep voice over the ever-present little growl.

"Idiots always live dangerously," I returned, giving him a quick grin over my shoulder before following the others inside the Tempest.

Finley merely gave an approving hum to that, but followed me as well.

The Tempest was pretty crowded, space limited, and so we slowly meandered our way to the table Jake had reserved. Just as I kept coming to a halt right behind Mo to let someone pass, Finley was right behind me- his noticeable body heat was at first reassuring and then a little oppressive.

Oppressive enough, in any case, that I was actually relieved when he chose the seat across from me instead of next to me. On the other hand, I was now perfectly in his sight.

My barely suppressed flight instinct from our first encounter came to mind. The faint scent of danger. His overwhelming aura in the parlor.

A certain nervousness began to dance in my stomach and all predator, Finley seemed to notice, his gaze sliding over me scrutinizingly.

Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to invite him after all.

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

Do not you like Emmet? He has a good heart and great friends who encourage and center him. They speak openly to each other. As a result of Emmet mentioning Finley he agreed and realized he wanted to invite Finley to meet with them at their favorite bar.

He saw Finley at the tattoo shop and made the offer to meet friends at the bar. After delaying and thinking about it  , Finley agreed to meet. His friends will keep the conversation neutral and not ask about his past which could be touchy. He has not mentioned it, yet but has  nightmares. He wants to be able to forget it all-good and bad times.Emmet wlll help him with his skills after being raised by witches.

Unfortunately, Finley sits across from Emmet ai the table with other friends and  Emmet senses a predator and is ill at ease. Can Finley make him more comfortable? I hope things do not go downhill.

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Let's hope the night at the Tempest doesn't turn into a storm.  It is often hard for new people to mesh well with a group that has known each other for a while, they all have that secret code that they can talk in if they aren't careful.  

Emmet seems to have a complicated past, and I for one would like to know more about it.  His friends seem to be an interesting mix of people as well.  Hate to hear that his close friends are dealing with what is happening to their son/brother, always hard to deal with something like that.

Don't have any tattoos at all, but to get something like what these seem to be able to do, I might consider one or two, or ten.  

Truly interesting story can't wait to see what happens next; but still would like some background on several of these characters.  

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6 minutes ago, centexhairysub said:

Let's hope the night at the Tempest doesn't turn into a storm.  It is often hard for new people to mesh well with a group that has known each other for a while, they all have that secret code that they can talk in if they aren't careful.  

Emmet seems to have a complicated past, and I for one would like to know more about it.  His friends seem to be an interesting mix of people as well.  Hate to hear that his close friends are dealing with what is happening to their son/brother, always hard to deal with something like that.

Don't have any tattoos at all, but to get something like what these seem to be able to do, I might consider one or two, or ten.  

Truly interesting story can't wait to see what happens next; but still would like some background on several of these characters.  

You're absolutely right on the first part. Especially if you're a shy/silent type.

Yes. Emmett and his uncle had their reasons to leave the coven, apart from "being the outsider-gay" and "wants to use his rare talent better".
We will hear a bit more about those friends :) And if you tell me if there is someone in particular interesting you, I can work it into the story :)

I have only one small tattoo and it was painful as hell and told myself never again. But this magical possibilities... oh boy, yes, I take some!

Thank you!

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