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Lamia - Chapter 55

Published at 31st of August 2023 08:47:11 AM


Chapter 55

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Eric heard a cab pull in the driveway; he glanced at the clock on his computer. Probably Christian and Mark getting home—Mark had planned to stop at the library while Chris checked out a house near it. All pretty routine.

Something in the back of his mind told him that he shouldn't just go back to doing homework, he should go check. Since more often than not he regretted it when he ignored hunches, he saved and headed downstairs to the front door.

Both looked exhausted and rather battered. Christian had the dark shadows around his eyes and rather hollow look and faintly grey colour that Eric associated with witches overextending themselves; despite that, he was helping Alexandra very carefully out of her long black coat. Livid red wounds, still oozing blood, showed on one upper arm and her opposite shoulder, even more on both lower arms, and, oddly, some on her bare legs. Had Eric seen wounds like that on a human, he'd have been on the phone with 911 without hesitation, but liminals functioned by different rules.

Alexandra cooperated, but her expression was disturbingly flat, turned inwards completely. Christian glanced at Eric, as he started peeling her gloves off, baring blood staining her pale skin and under her long nails.

“Eric, this may not be the best time for you to be close to Lexa. This one was… bad. Some kind of nasty little things, whole house was infested with them. A few would have been no big deal, but there were just dozens of them, like rats or something. The woman who lived there just recently threw out a very abusive husband, so the little bastards weren’t just vicious, they were hungry.”

Eric hesitated, torn between taking Chris' advice and his loyalty to his friends. “What does she need?”

Golden eyes blinked, came into focus abruptly, and the flat expression came to life. Eric yelped in surprise as incredibly strong hands grabbed his wrists; Alexandra snaked a leg around his to trip him, took enough of his weight to keep him from landing hard, and pinned him to the hardwood floor, nuzzling at his throat. “Need. To. Feed.” It came out one syllable at a time, so low he could barely make out the words.

“Lexa,” Christian said, soothingly, coaxingly. “You can't feed from Eric, remember? Let him go, and you and I can go play. Okay?”

A growl rumbled, deep in Alexandra's throat. “You overextended. That could mean actual damage to you, right now.”

Eric very carefully didn't fight, somehow certain that any resistance would trigger instincts he really didn't want triggered. He couldn't help shivering, though, aware that he was breathing fast and his heart was pounding in fear. She'd come so close to killing him last time, and could do it so easily, despite the extra time he'd had to grow closer to Mark. And if it came down to a choice, his life mattered less to her than Christian's. The coppery scent of the blood streaking her skin was very strong, her wandering kisses tasted of it...

“You can't get anything from Eric,” Christian said steadily.

Alexandra hissed impatiently. “He’s linked himself into the shields and the heating spell. You need to break your connection so it doesn’t pull from you, just the lines.”

“What?” Christian blinked, and tilted his head, forehead furrowed. “Huh. You’re right.”

“Now! You’re at risk!”

Eric jerked involuntarily as her teeth broke the skin on his throat, shallowly; he felt a wet trickle, which she licked away.

“Um, Chris,” Eric said. “Break any connection you have with the static spells, would you? Fast? Because I think the longer she has to wait, the worse it’s going to get. Dark lady, could you ease up on my wrists just a little? I'm not going to try to get away, I promise. If this’ll get you back to safe ground, then I’m good with that.” The hard edge of terror was fading rapidly, against the realization that she wasn't going to kill him; she was fighting her own hunger, waiting until they had the last piece of the puzzle. If Chris could just move fast enough, before she lost control, anyway.

Alexandra raised her head to regard him measuringly, licking her lips. She must have decided she believed him, because she released his wrists, switched to bracing herself with her arms on either side of his head, still holding his gaze. Something about it made him swallow hard, squirming as his body reacted to the intensity of what he could see in her expression.

She said Chris' name pleadingly, with maybe a hint of desperation beneath it.

“Almost got it,” Christian said. “Messed myself up earlier during the fight, that’s making it harder, separating myself completely but keeping the spells intact.” Judging by the strain in his voice, it wasn’t just hard, it was painful. But Eric had dealt with overextended relatives before, and they could cope with that, just as soon as the more urgent crisis was over.

Eric wrapped both arms around Alexandra, drawing her against him. She didn't resist, resting her head on his shoulder, breathing so fast it sounded alarmingly like sobbing, every muscle quivering with tension. Eric hoped Christian finished fast, as much for her sake as his own.

“Got it! I’m clear!”

Alexandra sat up, studied Christian briefly—reassuring herself that he wasn't doing himself irreparable harm, maybe?—and turned her full attention back to Eric. She leaned down, kissed his throat where she'd already marked him, and Eric closed his eyes, arms still around her.

Pain flared, as she bit for real, made him gasp and tense, but it lasted only a heartbeat.

Alexandra twitched, once, a shudder running through her, which Eric suspected was that reversed transfer of power kicking in, but that was her only reaction. She raised her head and kissed him again, and it tasted of blood which somehow fit with the demanding ferocity of it, but she didn’t go past that, everything funnelling into that kiss. He could feel the fatigue and muscle tension from hours at his computer dissolving.

Stars were born and died, by the time Alexandra pushed herself upright still kneeling straddling Eric, and arched her back in a careful stretch.

“Done?” Christian asked.

“Mmm... for the moment, until I have a quick catnap. And a shower.”

“Eric? Please tell me you’re okay.”

“I’m fine,” Eric said. “All good and worth it since it worked, and we can figure out what the hell just happened later. Next priority is getting a snack into you and getting you into bed.”

“That... that sounds good. Gods, I hate what overdoing it does to my head.”

Alexandra gave Eric a quick kiss, and rocked to her feet in a single swift fluid motion, disregarding the still-livid wounds that showed—the bleeding had stopped, at least, and the angry red was beginning to fade. She stepped clear, and half-crouched to scoop Christian up like a child, wrapping her wings around him to steady him. He snuggled against her trustingly.

Eric sat up, ran his fingers along his throat, found no marks at all. Maybe that odd quirk to his gifts had advantages after all. Not even any side-effects from the adrenaline surge that moment of heart-stopping terror had given him. “How 'bout I go grab the Tylenol and something sweet, and I’ll meet you up in Chris’ room?”

Alexandra nodded. “Thank you.”

With the bottle of Tylenol, a large glass of fruit punch, and a couple of chocolate-covered chocolate chip and peanut butter granola bars, he followed them upstairs.

Christian's clothes lay in a pile on the floor, and Alexandra was just tucking him into bed gently. She glanced up when Eric came in.

“Eric's going to take care of you long enough for me to go get clean. I'll come lie down with you in a few minutes, okay?”

“'Kay.”

Alexandra leaned down to kiss his forehead, paused to startle Eric with another brief kiss, and left the room.

Eric sat on the edge of the bed, set the glass and food on the little table, and opened the Tylenol.

“This sucks,” Christian sighed. “Lexa's all better, but I get a massive hangover.”

“If I could make it stop, I would. So would she. Sit up a bit and take these.”

Christian sighed again, but obediently swallowed the pills, ate the bars, and drank the juice. Wearily, he curled up under the blankets again.

“Come cuddle?”

“Alexandra's coming back.”

“It's a big bed.”

Eric shrugged, shed his lamia-bloodied jeans and shirt, and joined him; Christian snuggled against him comfortably.

Before long, Alexandra returned. She stopped next to Eric and leaned down, her damp unbound hair tickling his shoulder as she murmured, “I'm sorry.”

“For what?”

“Downstairs.”

“It's okay. You needed it.”

“Yes, but I'm not sure I deserved it, after almost killing you before. Thank you.”

“'Welcome.”

“Quiet,” Christian mumbled.

Alexandra smiled fondly at her witch, and circled the bed so she could arrange herself on his far side. She slid an arm over him, found Eric's hand, and laced her fingers through his; he squeezed back.

All three fell asleep that way.

* * *

Christian moaned softly. Waking up with a pounding headache struck him as utterly unfair. Since opening his eyes would involve effort, he tried evaluating his environment with other senses. Witchy senses failed him, he felt weirdly disconnected from the house... oh, right, he’d broken that deliberately and would have to rebuild it once the thought didn’t make him cringe. His own bed, he was cuddled against Alexandra with his head on her shoulder, and Eric was coiled warmly against his back. That was nice, he felt safe and cozy in the middle. Other things could wait.

The other two were talking quietly, or rather, had been, until he moaned.

“Going to live?” Eric asked, blessedly keeping his voice low.

“I hope not. God, I feel awful.”

“You overdid it,” Alexandra said. “You'll be fine in a couple of days.”

“Please, just kill me now and put me out of my misery.”

“Hardly.” She sounded amused and sympathetic at once. “Sit up, take more Tylenol, and eat. Food will help. So will sleep.”

“Are you two okay?”

“I could stand to be thoroughly fucked, but otherwise I'm fine. So is Eric.”

“Huh. I don't want to move.”

“Eric went out to get you croissants and fresh rolls and oatmeal cookies. And there's cold meat...”

“Black Forest ham, and mock chicken, and that macaroni-and-cheese loaf you like,” Eric added. “And seedless green grapes. And chocolate milk.”

“Um. I guess I can sit up.”

They helped, and got him settled leaning against Alexandra so she could support him. Eric had all the food in easy reach, along with the Tylenol, and certainly provided attentive service, feeding Christian bites so he didn't have to move.

With a full belly, the possibility of survival seemed much less disagreeable.

“Um... are you two okay? Like, getting along with each other?”

Eric and Alexandra traded glances and smiles.

“Well,” Eric said. “Other than the fact that she scared the living shit out of me again...”

“You'll get used to it,” Alexandra said negligently.

“I very much doubt that. Whether I can learn to live with it is another matter. And I'm a lot less worried, given that I lived through yesterday.”

“I'm not going to kill you. Ever.”

“Yesterday?” Christian interrupted. Obviously they were getting along and he didn't need to find the energy to worry. “How long was I out?”

“We got you into bed a bit before six last night,” Eric said. “It's now eleven a.m., give or take.”

“Huh. Long catnap.”

“And I'm going to have to wait until tonight to find someone to have sex with,” Alexandra said, in feigned annoyance. “I don't want you alone until you're better, and you're in no condition.”

Christian thought about pointing out that she and Eric could play right here without leaving him alone, then thought about all the noise and the jiggling of the bed, and changed his mind. “Sorry,” he said meekly.

“I'll survive. Get better soon.”

“I'll try.”

* * *

Alexandra and Eric spoiled Christian all day, one or the other always with him, though Eric left for an afternoon class, and Alexandra took the time to go shopping for more light foods Christian felt like eating. Eric showed no trace of ill effects from the whole experience, physical or mental; Alexandra's wounds were healing rapidly, much more so than they would have had she switched to Mark.

By evening, Christian felt enough better to chase the pair away to someone else's bed, while he curled up with a book, munchies, more chocolate milk, and Sid for company.

With any luck, being able to complete what they'd begun, with no surprises this time on either side, would be what they both needed to fix the tensions between them properly.

The explanation for the previous day seemed obvious, in retrospect: Eric’s passive background witchblood couldn’t reach ley-lines directly, but attuning itself to magic that surrounded him every day was another matter entirely. It had probably happened at Margaret’s house, accounting for his persistent good health there, and had simply taken a little time to adjust once he’d moved. Christian hadn’t noticed because they were powered more or less entirely by the ley-lines these days, and Alexandra hadn’t been around Eric since Hallowe’en and even then had been distracted.

Which meant that if he could build something into the house specifically meant to support Eric, there’d never be any danger of complications with Alexandra, as long as they were here.

And if he did it quickly enough to allow for a good strong connection to form, that should even give them a highly effective counter to the possible effects of a baby kitsune. That seemed like a secondary benefit to all this that could maybe be worth how ghastly he felt.

They did come back to snuggle him on either side for the night, though. That was nice, he rather liked that, and hoped it was something he could look forward to a lot in the future.





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