I thought we would talk, when everything was over. I thought we would have all kinds of things to say to each other. But you weren’t there when I woke up in my body, and when you did come in it was with a whole group of other people, and you barely came near me. When we were finally left alone, we hadn’t figured out how to talk to each other. The air between us was thick and awkward and the tension was just excruciating.
And then of course Ianthe Tridentarius came in.
She just barged through the autodoor, looking florid and greenish at the same time, somehow. “Harry,” she breathed, and immediately I said, “Don’t call her that,” but she just went and did it again, a breathy squealy “Hhhhaaarrryyy,” which she was very much not hot enough to pull off. So I put my hand on my sword—she’d insulted you, I have Instincts—but you said, “Stop, Nav,” without even looking at me. (And would it kill you to use my first name once in a while, really? Thought we’d made good progress there.)
Ianthe’s lips quirked in a smile that made us both queasy, I’m sure, and she said, “Miss me? I’ve missed you. Terribly.” She didn’t move any closer, though. She knew she was on thin fucking ice with me.
You drifted over to her. I followed, a half-step behind. Good cav. You know, I’d have been a better cav if I’d just done what I’d wanted and gutted that oily margarine Lyctor right there; but I respected your wishes too much, or something. She lounged there in the doorway like a malign beanpole and you barely came up to her shoulder, which was ridiculous. You said, as portentously as possible, “The agreement requires I verify—”
“Yes, yes,” she said, impatient. Her breath smelled like rotting flowers. Yeuch. She was so close we could smell her: vetiver, sweat, bad. “No one’s tampered with me, but paranoia always was one of your more attractive qualities.”
As I was busy trying to figure out, through my memories of your memories, what the fuck any of this could possibly mean, you seized a hank of that stringy diet-lemonade hair, pulled her head down, and—excuse me, again?—kissed her on the mouth.
I don’t mind telling you I blacked out for a microsecond. Could have been rage, or sheer surprise. Look, I was half a second away from pulling her whole ass off and stomping on it. But since you had um, initiated, I figured you had a plan up your sleeve. Which did not make me feel any better, by the way, knowing you did this for the second fucking time, licking some Lyctor lips on purpose. And you hadn’t gone in with the intent of just giving her a little peck and moving on, oh no. I was right there. I could see your parted lips as you went in. The perfect divot of your philtrum. The soft movement of your jaw. The way you kissed her as though she was delicate.
And let me be perfectly clear: this was very, very weird for me. I had a front-row seat to two necros playing tonsil hockey, and the psychic damage I was taking? Insane.
Then your other hand tangled itself in my shirt.
It was probably by accident that you pulled it up a little, grazing the skin on my stomach with your nails. You were still kissing Ianthe, really getting deep into it, to be frank. But you were holding onto me, secretly, where she couldn’t tell, like you needed me to get through it. My emotions were doing all sorts of weird flip-floppy things.
You could just as easily have turned your head and gotten me instead.
Kinda wished you would.
After about a myriad of unnecessary snogging—sorry, necromantic examination, is that what it was—you finally disengaged and pushed her head away. This didn’t do much, because she was still right up on you in your personal space, as if she expected more, the filthy opportunist. You wiped your mouth off on your sleeve and said, “Intact. Now, what was it you came to discuss?”
Ianthe said, “But what about your cavalier?”
Your hand twisted itself further into my shirt. “What about her?”
“Haven’t you checked her?” Ianthe said. Her horrible parti-coloured eyes flicked to mine, then traveled downward. “You haven’t. Or she wouldn’t be looking so…tightly wound.”
“I’m not compromised,” I managed to say. Ianthe Tridentarius was looking at me like she wanted to eat me—but you were there too, pressed back up against me, solid and warm, your hand hot where it touched my skin.
“My cavalier,” you said, “has not been compromised.”
“Oh, and how I am supposed to believe you,” Ianthe purred, “if I have not been allowed to examine any evidence myself?”
Now, as I saw it, I had two options: gut her right there, or let her explore my mouth for evidence of osteowhatevers. The former would have been less violent, but I’d have done the latter if you’d asked me to. It’d suck ass, obviously, but I am your sworn sword, my shadowy suzerain. For you I’d have submitted to most anything.
But you said, in an even higher-pitched voice than normal, “No. I’ll do it.”
Ianthe’s colorless eyebrow quirked, pervishly.
Your hand slid around my waist; you turned to face me. Ianthe was dragged along with you, clinging to your shoulders like a horrible disease, her bone arm glinting. You looked up at me, then, and I completely forgot about everything else. I was startled by the black of your eyes, the slope of your nose, the point of your chin, the perfection of your paintless face so close to mine.
“Gideon,” you said carefully, “I will need to examine your mouth. Various structures, primarily the jaw, but also the lingual muscles—the tongue—”
You stopped there. Your cheeks were going red, probably with indignity.
“Yeah,” I said, a bit too loudly, “yeah, sure. Do it.” What an ass I sounded like. A complete douchebag.
You were so close I felt a bit dizzy about it, and getting closer still, until you pressed your lips to mine.
It was an examination, I told myself. Just a weird necro thing. It meant nothing, because you couldn’t like me like that. You were into dead chicks and I was now alive, etc. Plus I was your cav and there were, like, rules about that. Also you were an evil nun. But an evil nun who tasted good, and who was very warm pressed up against me, and who was presently running her tongue along my lip—
I stopped thinking.
I forgot that this was strictly necro business, because your lips were much softer than I’d ever thought they would be, so wow, and no, neither of us were amazing at kissing, in terms of technique, but it didn’t matter because it was you, it’d always been you that I was coming back to.
And yeah, my mistake. I was too into it. Maybe I shouldn’t have put my hand on your waist, but to be fair your hand was sliding around under my shirt to the small of my back and you were pulling me even closer like you wanted to melt our edges together, and you made a little noise in the back of your throat which was just amazing, and I how could I not kiss you back? But when I did, you stilled.
Very gently, you pulled back, and my heart just about stopped. But you were smiling, softer than I’d ever seen you. I couldn’t believe it. For once you looked content, like you’d stopped thinking entirely. Your gaze drifted down to my lips and that was all the encouragement I needed to kiss you again.
But I only grazed your cheek.
Ianthe’s golden bone thumb was resting on your chin, and you’d turned your face a little toward her. Her nose was practically buried in your hair, and a low chuckle was rising from her throat.
“I never thought I’d see that kind of enthusiasm,” she said. “Wonders never cease.”
I hated everything about this. Couldn’t believe how stupid I’d been, really.
“Are you satisfied?” you said. “No one’s been tampered with here.”
“All right,” she said. “Honestly, it was staggeringly unlikely anyone would be, but seeing that happen was completely worth it.”
Gotta tell it like it was: pure lechery lurking there in her eyes. How you hadn’t thrown that bone arm off your shoulders, I did not know. It felt like we were all dangerously close to a horrible threesome, and if no one else was going to object to it I sure as hell would.
I stepped back, let my hand drop off of you. “Get out.”
Her eyes slid to you. “Harry, don’t you want to know what I came in here to tell y—”
“No,” you said. “Get out.”
Ianthe turned with languid reluctance toward the door, and though she was well on her way, two gigantic bone hands erupted from the walls and shoved her through it, which was extremely cool of you. My mouth dried up as the doors shut behind her, because you were turning toward me with a look in your eye that typically meant I was going to get attacked by skeletons.
You said, “I don’t want you to think—” at the exact same time I said, “Sorry for getting a bit—”
We stopped. Stared at each other.
“You don’t want me to think what?” I said, and you said, “Getting a bit what?”
I think maybe I zoned out a little, staring at your face. You did too, though. Sucker. Your cheeks were flushing and your mouth was slightly open and you had the mildly dazed quality of someone about to collapse.
“This is inane,” you said suddenly, and reached for me, and I barely got out a “Yeah” before your lips were on mine and your arms were around my neck and I was holding you so hard I couldn’t stop smiling.