Maewyns prophecy a heart.., p.2

Maewyn's Prophecy: A Heart Aflame, page 2

 

Maewyn's Prophecy: A Heart Aflame
 


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  Roman’s lips were slightly pursed with concentration as he systematically removed Archer’s clothes, batting away his poorly coordinated attempts to assist. Archer got a flicker of his dad then, too. His mother, worn down to a haggard nub of the woman she might once have been, bathing him with a rag in the living room as he raved and twitched and his brain rotted away in his head.

  Roman got Archer into the wide shower booth; it had a small shelf he could kind of sit against to keep steady. The wide showerhead sent water steaming down on them in hundreds of needlelike streams. Archer put his hand over his face. He’d always had big, clumsy hands -- and big, clumsy eyes that leaked tears he hoped the water would hide.

  Roman pulled Archer’s hand away insistently. His finger lingered with a sting against Archer’s injured lip. Roman didn’t say anything. He passed Archer the mouthwash, which Archer took with ill grace. The smell of cigarette smoke had not gone unnoticed, then. Roman’s firm hands were slick with shower gel as he ran them over Archer’s body, over his chest and down his thighs, then thoroughly over his skin everywhere. Archer just turned his head away, but working up again, Roman’s sweet-smelling hands reached Archer’s neck, turning his face firmly.

  Archer felt the water stream over his face, diverted from his raw-feeling eyes by his brows and lashes. Roman looked at him solemnly.

  I’m never going to be good enough for him. Archer wondered if his father felt that way; if he knew he was a bad person, but was somehow helpless to stop it. It didn’t make him hate the old bastard any less.

  “Come to bed now,” Roman said softly.

  The bathroom was one of Roman’s areas, stocked with scents and lotions and enormous fluffy towels. He rubbed Archer down and ruffled his scrappy, collar-length hair. Archer glimpsed himself in the mirror, hair on end, upper lip cut, eyes red-rimmed and more yellow than white. Roman caught him looking and smiled, then took him to the big square bed.

  Archer had to admit that it felt good to be clean, beneath the covers. Roman slid in beside him. They were a similar size and build and fitted together in the slight sag in the middle of the old mattress. But Archer couldn’t help but compare the way every feature in his body seemed at war, gangly and flabby at the same time, hairy and generally uncouth beside Roman’s alabaster perfection. He sighed. In the dark it mattered a little less to him, even though he knew Roman could still see him.

  He was surprised to feel Roman’s hands roaming again, sliding down Archer’s stomach and nestling curled over his thigh in an obvious advance. Rolling towards Roman, he fell into a kiss. Roman was careful, gentle, but his tongue ran up the line of the cut on Archer’s lip, and his hands reached out for Archer possessively.

  In his lover’s arms, the chill on Archer’s heart relaxed its grip. Warmth began to build under the covers, and everything felt loose and right. He’d drunk far too much to get it up, but that didn’t stop him from wanting it. He hooked his thigh over Roman’s trim waist, urging him in close and pulling him up on top. Wordless in the night, Roman seemed a different man. His fingers kneaded Archer’s body like he was sculpting it from elemental clay. His mouth fell upon Archer’s neck and face as if to devour him.

  Archer lay lax, opening himself. Roman knew what he wanted, but took his time -- not teasing, just enjoying each stage of exploration as if there was any inch of territory left unexplored after their years together. Roman’s body felt so perfect, with planes of firm, muscular flesh and just the finest layer of fat that felt like it was just beneath his skin -- just enough to make every inch feel soft and hard at the same time.

  Archer’s palms slid over Roman’s skin, feeling the subtle topography of shoulder-blade, waist, and thigh. With one hand, he took Roman’s cock, feeling his balls with his fingertips, stroking down and feeling with satisfaction how his lover was firm and ready. He wanted Roman to take him hard, sudden -- but the elf just wasn’t that way. Always, always with his slender finger first. Surely he must have felt how soft Archer was, how ready he was.

  Archer craned his neck, pushing his hands down on the mattress. He felt his stubble scratch against the tender skin of Roman’s neck. His lips brushed hair. He reached out his tongue to trace the subtle slope of neck and jaw to the tucked-in lobe of Roman’s ear, and he bit gently. It drove Roman wild every time and should help hurry things up nicely. He felt Roman shudder and press down onto him. Roman’s hard cock pushed up between Archer’s legs, brushing against his thigh. Archer reached down and curled his fingers tightly over Roman’s butt, pulling him up. Nail me now, his fingers urged. Just for once, fuck me without worrying about me so damned much.

  Roman was in enough of a hurry not to go looking for the lube; he licked his own hand, putting it down to wet the head of his cock. Archer stilled. With his eyes closed, he heard illusory buzzing and felt dizzy deep inside himself. He held his breath and waited, waited, waited. All his senses spiraled into one sweet moment of penetration.

  Oh, God, it was hard to believe how much he loved this. Archer groaned as Roman’s cock pierced him. It was a feeling of total surrender, of giving everything up to his lover. There was just the faintest pain as Roman buried himself to the root. They lay pressed together, Archer pinned down hard against the mattress. Roman ground against him, every muscle taut.

  Archer felt his flesh ache; Roman pushed back and began to pound into him. It brought the beer-fogged world into sharp focus. He wanted to feel Roman come, want to grab that one moment when the beautiful but infuriating façade seemed to slip and, just for an instant, they were truly together.

  Lazy fire shifted within Archer; the elemental fire that was never far from his surface reached out and ran like liquid over his skin to merge with Roman’s paler flame. Archer’s eyes sprang open as Roman’s skin flashed with pale luminescence. The power pushed through him into Roman, and he felt his lover jerk with a hard, sudden climax.

  They lay together, panting as the fire guttered and died. Archer felt full and empty at the same time. Roman’s head lay against his shoulder, a reassuring weight. But in the end, it wasn’t Archer that had driven him over the edge. It was the fire.

  Chapter Two: Heron

  The next morning, they went downstairs together to the library, where the TV was turned up loud, playing the BBC news. Bear was busying himself in the kitchen, having left the door open so he could shout his commentary on the events of the world out to Wolfy in the library. Bear and his girl made up the rest of the happy little Scott House family. Roman went through to the kitchen, but Archer stayed behind.

  “Hey,” he heard Bear say. “No need to ask what you’ve been up to.” Bear was a big man, who picked up what people were feeling. It was a bit freaky, but Archer had pretty much got used to it. It was hard to imagine a man like Bear taking advantage of his talents, or even thinking worse of a person for their inner foibles.

  Bear was hooked up with Wolfy -- real name: Fennel -- an elven woman with jagged teeth and eyes that glinted gold. But she was all right, too. Archer smiled a muted hello to Wolfy as he kicked back on the sofa. It was good to be back at Scott House on whole; he liked it here better than anywhere else, at least. Although giving the matter some thought, he couldn’t say there was any one place in the world that really gave him the warm fuzzies.

  Giffen slouched in, wearing his usual muted punk get up, his hair carefully gelled in soft spikes. Archer noticed that Giffen’s Docs were fully laced, when he normally left the laces hanging, and he had his jacket on. Archer pursed his lips. He didn’t like Giffen much -- he was a bossy bastard prone to sarcastic quips that Archer often didn’t understand -- but the fact that he seemed ready to head out of the house on a lazy Sunday morning didn’t look good. Nine times out of ten, Giffen gave them some warning before the big-ass trouble hit, so he was worth putting up with.

  “Trouble in paradise?” Wolfy said in response to Giffen’s stormy expression.

  Bear poked his head around the door. “Heard you and Peter arguing last night,” he said.
Hope you sorted that out?”

  Everyone knew that Giffen and Peter got along pretty good most of the time. Even though Peter was with Veleur, it was plain to most people that Giffen ‘liked’ Peter. Not something you wanted to mention in his presence, however. Peter was never going to go for him, and Giffen hadn’t, as Bear would say, totally ‘made his peace with it’.

  “After a fashion,” Giffen said neutrally. “Heron is going to be staying with us a while. He’ll arrive by lunch. I’ve called a cab, and I’m going to the airport and maybe London House. I suggest that any of you who value your lives do the same.”

  Giffen grabbed a few things from the desk he used over by the windows and then headed back out. Coming past Archer, he added, “Especially you, kid.”

  What the hell? Archer swung his legs down onto the floor and followed Giffen out. “Hey, wait up.”

  Giffen wasn’t paying him too much attention as he grabbed up a backpack he’d left at the foot of the stairs and went out the main front doors. Archer knew Giffen didn’t like him much, but they managed to get on okay most of the time.

  “Giffen,” Archer pressed. “What the fuck did you mean by that?”

  Giffen kicked back against the balustrade of the big stone porch and looked over the gravel turning circle out front. He pulled out a crumpled packet and shook out a cigarette, offering it first to Archer. Archer put up a hand.

  “That’ll kill you for sure.”

  Giffen laughed. “I never though it would happen, but you’re starting to sound like Roman.”

  Archer grimaced and shoved his hands into his jeans pockets. It was chilly in the wind, and he only had a T-shirt on. He took one hand out to grab the cigarette and lit it with one bare fingertip, taking a sly puff before handing it back.

  Giffen nodded his thanks. “Tania and Peter can be as righteous about it as they like, but as soon as Heron steps over the threshold of this house, one thing becomes almost certain,” he said. “Someone living here will wink out before the year is out. I don’t know more than that except for an image, fire being put out and darkness spreading. I may be wrong, but that makes me think of you. Except it’s only one death, and if it was you, that should take out Roman as well -- bonds being what they are.”

  Archer stifled the urge to ask for more information; if Giffen knew more, he would have said more. Archer crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall of the building, feeling the rough slabs of stone through the thin material of his shirt. He took what Giffen said seriously; when the old punk made a firm prediction, it came true unless some pretty heroic efforts were made to avert it. It was probably Heron’s rep that made Peter brush the vision off. Heron had about as much mojo as any living elven mage -- and that was a hell of a lot. It would take a lot to get by him.

  Giffen stared out into the trees that straggled over the sweeping front lawn of the estate and blocked the view of the road. “The darkness is coming for us all,” he said. “Plans that were made long ago are beginning to seal our fates. Maybe if I can see Tania in person, or speak to her staff, she will see.”

  “She doesn’t listen to you.”

  Giffen turned. “You’ve noticed that, too, have you? I guess that means it’s fairly obvious.”

  “Fuck you, too,” Archer said as he turned away.

  “Archer, I didn’t mean ... Look.” Giffen caught him by the shoulder. “Prophecy is not immutable, but it does become more set with time. Once Heron arrives here, this path will become almost impossible to step off, and it concerns the both of us, all of us.”

  “Do tell.”

  Giffen didn’t look at all like himself. His expression was open, and something about it made Archer stop short.

  Giffen spat the words out with obvious difficulty. “Somewhere at the end of this road, I kill you. I’ve seen it for a while and done what I can to stop it from happening. But Heron’s arrival sets thing, makes the fates almost impossible to change. So, maybe if I stayed I would find a way to avoid the fate, but all in all it seems safer if I’m just not here. It can’t happen then -- I Hope. It’s the only plan I have left.”

  Archer didn’t get much of that after what felt rather like a death threat. “You, ah ... well, frankly, you never seemed to like me much.” He could have damn well said something before now!

  “Doesn’t mean I want you dead. Well, as yet. Try not to give me a compelling reason.”

  A yellow cab cruised up the drive with the infinitely refined sound of small-gauge gravel crunching beneath its wheels. Giffen hefted his bag.

  “And keep an eye on Heron, ‘mate’. Roman assures me that somewhere in there you keep a keen, if largely intuitive, intelligence,” Giffen said with some skepticism. “Work out what Heron is up to, and there might still be a way out of this.”

  Archer would have liked to hear a bit more about his own imminent death, but Giffen was already striding away. Archer watched him being driven away and then went back into the stuffy warmth of the house. It was hard to understand why Tania had started brushing Giffen off, though Peter was obviously following her lead. But as Giffen had so subtly implied, that was a little above Archer’s level.

  Archer skirted the main lobby and took the narrow hall straight to the back of the house. He needed a little alone time. His main place for that used to be the deserted chapel at the back of the estate, but the arrival of their newest member, Peter, had rather ruined that. He’d started tidying the old place up, trimming the lawn and sweeping out the interior. There had even been talk of getting workmen in to fix the chapel roof and the many rotten boards.

  At least with Peter in the house, Archer would still have the old place to himself. He crested the hill. With the weeds and grass cut back, the old place looked vulnerable and naked. The buddleia was all gone. Sure it was a weed, but Archer rather liked the big purple flower-heads that the butterflies would come and ...

  At that moment he remembered another little tidbit about Heron. Way back in the Underhill, Heron and Roman had been together. Nobody said it was a big, serious thing. Elves understand that when your destined partner comes along, things change.

  Archer had come along. Things had changed.

  It looked rather like the next few days or weeks were just going to be barrel loads of fun. He’d never actually met the big guy before now. Heron, the pattern-master. They also called him Heron the Handsome in some parts, and he was reputed to have more refinement and scholarship even than could be expected in a centuries-old elf.

  Archer didn’t go into the chapel. It looked so ... churchy now. Not his clubhouse anymore, now that Peter was putting the Jesus back into it.

  He sat back against the patched-up fence, getting colder and colder. He could feel the last remnant of the ward that was on this old fence. It danced up over the back of his hand like pins and needles. Idly he raised his hand and moved it back and forth through the barely tangible barrier.

  It had an interesting texture to it. Smooth and cold on the side facing out into the estate, but velvety rough in the inner side. Rather on a whim, Archer swung his legs over the fence and peered at the inside of the ward. It was starting to fall apart, like knitting full of dropped stitches. Archer didn’t pretend to know all that much about complex magics, but it seemed like most of the threads came up from the base.

  Archer summoned his primal fire, red as molten rubies. He touched it.

  There was an instantaneous explosion of searing white light, and Archer felt himself thrown percussively through the air. He had just long enough to think that this was a real stupid way to die, but maybe with what Giffen had said, at least he wouldn’t take Roman with him.

  * * * * *

  Foggy mists parted. ‘Down’ seemed to be somewhere behind him. Up was ... oh, yes, a stooping figure of some sort. That sort being a very tall, slender form that was looking down at him. Even at that acute angle, the elf’s face was clearly etched with open, albeit mild, disdain. On that face, disdain managed to look quite good.

 
“You are Archer, I imagine.”

  Tall, gorgeous elfin mage in ivory-hued robes -- this would be Heron, then. So much for first impressions. Archer’s brain was still pretty much dead in the water; he just gaped.

  He heard Roman’s out-of-breath voice next. “Heron ... what?”

  “Your little man has been playing with fire.”

  Roman came into view, stooping over him. Archer experimentally shifted his limbs. But rather than any touching enquiry or endearment, Roman said, quite coolly, “He does have that habit.”

  Archer gave up on getting any sympathy and rolled carefully onto his side, hopefully as a precursor to standing up and not looking like quite so much of a wimp. Roman hooked an arm about him and hoisted him up. Veleur was there, too, he saw. All happy elves together. Charming.

  “You shouldn’t,” Veleur offered. “He might be hurt.”

  Archer’s chest ached; it felt a little like he was breathing underwater. He shook himself loose and was satisfied that he managed to stay upright.

  “I’m fine,” he snapped.

  “I’d forgotten he was an Australian,” Heron added. It rather sounded like he would have preferred to have said ‘it’ rather than ‘he’.

  “What the hell were you doing, Archer?” Roman snapped, sounding rather embarrassed.

  Archer turned gradually back towards the church pale. The grass was beaten down, and the near corner of the chapel was crumpled and scorched. Peter was going to be ... Well, any normal person would be pissed, but Peter was probably just going to be quietly disappointed.

  Archer took a slightly deeper breath, experimentally. It hurt, but manageably so. He looked at Veleur -- he seemed mildly concerned, at best. Heron, his face smooth and expressionless now, like a statue. And Roman. He could never just glance at Roman. Roman was looking at Heron.

 
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