BW – Chapter 70   Leave a comment


Chapter 70

Izeri won the first game of Liar and Charias won the second, but only just. While Maika went to relieve himself, Jak shuffled through the trivia cards. There were six questions on each card, with the answers written on the flipside, each one asking easy questions like How many limbs does a kholdra have? and Where do dragon pearls come from?. Too bad Sticky couldn’t find the rest of the game they belonged to. He had said there used to be a game board and tokens…Jak glanced over at the pair of six-sided dice sitting beside an unopened bag of chips on Maika’s bed. Six questions, six sides–

“I have an idea,” he said, pushing himself up off the floor. When Maika returned, they took turns rolling a die, drawing a card, and reading the question that corresponded with the number on the die. The first person to answer the question correctly got a point. Jak started to get his notebook to keep score, but Maika suggested that the winner get the card and whoever had the most cards at the end won the game. A couple of shouting matches and an argument later, Jak amended the rules and placed the king of snakes from the deck of playing cards face up in the middle of the floor. Whoever could put their hand on the king first got to answer. This led to some good-natured shoving and hand-slapping, but that was okay.

“My turn,” Jak said, tossing the die. Four. He drew the top trivia card from the pile and cleared his throat. “Besides not finding a host, what is the only thing that will–” He faltered, his eyes darting to Izeri and Charias, their hands poised to slap the king. “…that will destroy a werespirit?” he finished. A long, heavy silence filled the room and Jak cursed himself for not reading the question to himself first. Charias was staring at Izeri, and after a moment he put his arm around the fey’s shoulders. Izeri pulled away from him and reached out, slapping his hand down on the king.

“Ghost Hounds,” Izeri said, and then he climbed to his feet. “Thanks for the party, Jak, but it’s getting pretty late and…and I need some air. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He grabbed his coat off the end of Maika’s bed and headed for the door. Jak glanced at Charias, waiting for the shark to get up and go after him, but Charias just watched him leave.

“Why didn’t you stop him?” Jak asked and the shark fixed him with a dark, cold stare.

“Sometimes, when someone says they need air, it’s because they want to be alone, not because they want attention.”

“Yeah, and sometimes it’s because they’re scared shitless about what they’re becoming and need comfort,” Jak said, tossing down the card in his hand and climbing to his feet. He started toward the door, but Maika grabbed his hand, stopping him.

“I think Charias is right,” he said. “Izeri isn’t going to do anything stupid–that’s not who he is.”

“Yeah, but he might try to run away from it, because that is who he is,” Jak said. When Izeri got scared, he ran. It might not matter that this was something he couldn’t outrun.

“I know where he’ll go,” Charias said, unfolding his long legs and rising from the floor. “His spirit will seek the ocean.”

“It’s a big fucking ocean,” Jak muttered, but he stepped back and let Charias leave. After a moment, Jak glanced down at Maika, who was gathering up all of the trivia cards each of them had won. “Do you really think Izeri is going to be all right?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Maika said with a shrug. “Probably.”

“Thanks, that’s real comforting,” Jak said, grabbing an empty shopping bag and starting around the room, cleaning up the empty soda cans.

“Well, what do you want me to say?” Maika asked. “Physically, he should be fine. Mentally, emotionally–I don’t know. He seems very upset, but then, I would be, too. The werespirit hasn’t had an effect on his personality that I’ve noticed. So I don’t know for sure, but he’ll probably be fine.”

“Was that so hard?” Jak said, the corner of his mouth twitching. Maika was right. Izeri hadn’t changed like Jak had feared he would; he was still the same guy Jak had grown to love like a brother. A few times, when they were all together, Jak had noticed Izeri staring at Charias, a heartbreaking mixture of worry, sadness, and fear on his face, but most of the time, being with the shark made him happier than Jak ever would have guessed.

Wadding up an empty chip bag, Jak glanced at the clock on the wall. Izeri hadn’t been sure exactly when the accident happened, but he figured it had been between six and eight in the evening. It was now almost seven. Jak felt the sting of tears in his eyes, a pressure forming in his chest. Izeri was almost out of time, and there was nothing Jak could do, either to stop it, or to comfort him while it happened. Both Charias and Izeri were adamant that he stay away. A newly changed Were often lost control of their spirit, becoming–for a time–little more than a frightened animal.

“He’ll be okay,” Maika said, stepping up behind Jak and wrapping his arms around Jak’s waist. Jak sighed and leaned back against him, savoring one of Maika’s rare displays of affection. “Charias loves him, you know. He won’t let anything bad happen to him.” Jak bit his tongue, swallowing his opinion that something bad was already happening and it was because of Charias. “Do you want to sleep with me tonight?” Maika asked suddenly, his breath warm on the side of Jak’s neck.

Jak faltered. Maika had never asked Jak to sleep with him before. That was a euphemism that didn’t seem to exist in faerie culture; sex was sex or screwing or fucking–Jak had never heard him refer to it as anything else.

“I’d like that,” Jak said, turning in Maika’s arms and planting a light kiss on the faerie’s lips. Maika smiled at him, and then let go and turned away, combing his fingers through his dark, teal green hair as he pulled it back in a long ponytail.

Standing on their chairs, they pulled the streamers down and recaught the dancing lights, shoving them back into their box. The spell was wearing off–their glow diminished and their movements sluggish, but it still took them a good ten minutes to rough up the last of the little magic lightning bugs.

“So, can these things be reused, or should I just toss them?” Maika asked, popping the last light in the box and climbing down off his chair.

“Keep them,” Jak said, glancing around for anything else that needed picking up before hopping down off the chair. “I don’t know how they work, exactly, but if it’s a fairly straightforward charm, I should be able to re-energize them. Unless their maker put a tamper-proof spell on them, of course.”

“And why would they do that?” Maika asked, pushing his chair back under his desk and setting the box down next to his text books. It shook and rustled as the lights inside it continued to bounce around.

“It’s what I’d do,” Jak said, unbuttoning his jeans and slipping out of them. “You’d sell more of them if they were a one-time-use thing.” As he pulled his T-shirt off over his head, he heard Maika gasp, and by the time he jerked the shirt off and turned around, the faerie was already heading for the door.

“What?” Jak said, taking a step after him. “Maika, what’s wrong?”

“Look out the window,” Maika said as he yanked the door open and disappeared into the hall. Jak’s blood ran cold. Izeri. Jak leaned across his desk and swept the curtain aside, his jaw dropping at the light of the small, sparkling snowflakes swirling in the amber light of the outside lamps.

Shoving his bare feet into his shoes, Jak grabbed his jacket and ran down the hall in just his blue boxers, pausing a moment inside the double doors to slip into his jacket before flinging the door open and stepping outside.

Cold, damp air wrapped around him, raising goosebumps on his bare legs as the dry, crystalline flakes stung his cheeks and settled in his hair. He glanced around, but between the fog and the snow, he couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of him.

“Maika?”

“Over here, Jak.”

Jak turned toward the sound of Maika’s voice and took a hesitant step, his foot falling into a faint rut worn in the ground, heading in the general direction that Maika’s voice had come from. Licking his lips, Jak hurried down the narrow track. It wasn’t like he couldn’t just follow it back if he was wrong. But he wasn’t wrong. As the amber glow of the outdoor lamps was swallowed by the fog, Maika’s slender figure appeared before him, the tiny white flakes clinging to his hair and clothes, but melting on contact with his skin, leaving him glistening like a rose sprinkled with dew.

“Aren’t you cold?” Jak asked, pulling his jacket tight around him. Little good it did, considering he wasn’t wearing any pants. At least he had paused to put shoes on. Maika was barefoot in just his jeans and T-shirt. Luckily, the snow wasn’t sticking.

“I used to love the snow,” Maika whispered, his head tilted back, his eyes closed. Jak found himself unable to tear his eyes away from the faerie. “For the past ten years, I couldn’t bear to look at it, I couldn’t bear to remember…” He trailed off, falling silent, and they stood, shrouded in the faint whisper of the falling snow. Jak shivered, but he couldn’t being himself to break the spell. If he just waited, Maika would speak again.

“The winter before the attack,” Maika said finally, his voice taking on a distant, hollow sound, “food was scarce and people were hungry. I had heard my father talking about how miserable people were, how poor the province had gotten. It was cold, snowing heavily, and I, with all the wisdom an eleven year old could possess, rode one of my father’s horses into the nearby village. I was dressed in fine silks and furs, wrapped in a long cloak for the ride, and when I reached the village center, I threw off my cloak and climbed up on the edge of the well, for all the people to see.

“I was so beautiful,” Maika said, his voice trembling. “When I called my wings, I glowed, I shone, the light dazzling across the snow, the flakes shimmering around me. The people came and gathered around, staring, weeping, falling to their knees before me, in awe of my beauty, and I let them look at me, as my gift to them, the only thing I had to give…And then my father came after me and took me home. That was the last time I stood in the snow…”

Jak could see tears on his face, glistening tracks cutting through the tiny droplets clinging to his skin.

“I wish you could have seen me, Jak,” Maika whispered. “I wish I could show you.” Jak sighed and reached out, taking a hold of Maika’s hand.

“I wish you could, too,” he said, “but you know that wings don’t matter to me. I wish you could believe that; I would love you the same regardless.” For the longest time, Maika simply stood, the snow dancing around him, and stared at Jak, a softness in his expression that Jak had never seen before. He was usually so guarded, so reserved.

Suddenly, he raised his head, looking up at the sky. The snow had stopped. As abruptly as if a door had been closed, the sparkling crystals ceased to fall. Jak watched the last few flakes melt into crystal drops in Maika’s hair, and then he gave Maika’s hand a gentle squeeze.

“Let’s go in,” he said. “I’m freezing.”

“Yeah, all right,” Maika said, still staring up into the sky as he followed Jak back along the narrow, worn path. “That shouldn’t have happened,” Maika said as the amber glow of the university lamps appeared through the fog. “It’s still another month before winter sets in.”

“A freak storm?” Jak said, shrugging one shoulder. “Back home–” He stopped dead and turned, dropping Maika’s hand as he stared out into the mist. “Izeri.”

“Where?” Maika asked, stepping up beside him. Jak shook his head.

“No, I just remembered; Izeri is a ruith fey–a weather faerie.”

“I know what a ruith is,” Maika said, “but I thought he couldn’t use his glamour.”

“He can’t use it,” Jak said, eyes sweeping the darkness one last time before he turned toward the dorm building once again. “I’ve see it get away from him, though, when he gets scared or upset. When Akitra attacked us at that stupid party up at the empty manor, and when the bull elk tried to stab Charias, Izeri nearly hit them with lightning, and one morning he had a nightmare and woke up with half an inch of snow in his room. Charias wasn’t happy. He threw a snowball at him in the hall.” Jak’s lips quirked at the memory, but then he grew somber again. “He must have been really upset to make it snow on such a large scale.”

“Yeah, but the fact that he could is a good sign,” Maika said. “Faerie werefolk can’t use their glamour in animal form. The body chemistry is all wrong. And since it’s well past the time when he should have changed, it means he was able to change back.”

“That is something, I guess,” Jak said, pulling one side of the double doors open and stepping into the warmth of the hallway. “Do you think he’d want us to wait up for him?”

“He said he’d see you in the morning,” Maika said, taking Jak’s hand again and leading him down the corridor. “Now come on, let’s get warmed up.”

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Posted September 27, 2013 by katicalocke

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