Hey guys! I thought since I didn't give you guys HFT yesterday I could make up for it by posting Taming Fire a few days early. I hope you all had a happy Easter and thanks for all the well wishes. :) Have a great day everyone!
THIS WEEK'S MUSICAL INSPIRATION:
TAMING FIRE: WEEK 7
By the time they left the small college theater, Emile was near tears. He wiped his eyes, laughing under his breath. “I didn’t know you were capable of smiling, much less laughing.”
Xavier flipped his hood up, giving Emile a dirty look. “I smile, all the time.”
“Oh yeah, is that before or after you suck someone’s soul out of them?” Emile elbowed him, shivering in the night air.
“That was low.” Xavier kept walking, hiding his smile.
“Come on, Xavier. I was just teasing. I only meant it was nice…to see you relax. And who the hell can keep a straight face during Animal House? It’s a classic.” Emile frowned when Xavier kept walking. He rolled his eyes, catching up to him. “Hey.” He grabbed Xavier. “Don’t be like that.”
Xavier stilled. “Like what?” He grinned, his back to Emile.
“All brooding evil villain…”
“I am evil.”
“Half is still half.”
Emile stepped back, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Whatever. I didn’t mean to make you have a good time. God forbid.”
“Yes,” Xavier murmured. “God forbid indeed.”
On a slow exhale, Emile stepped around Xavier and kept walking. “Sorry. I thought we were having fun. I’ll check myself the next time I think such.”
At first Emile thought he was under attack. His arm was yanked, pulling him into the dark woods next to the parking lot. A crack of lightning lit up the sky. Wind howled through the trees, calling to him like hundreds of ghostly whispers. He opened his mouth to scream only to have another’s lips devour his. He wasn’t being attacked, at least violently.
“It’s not safe out here.” His head rested on a tree trunk. His arms went to Xavier’s shoulders with the hybrid’s mouth hot behind his ear. “Xavier…”
Xavier growled, pushing Emile’s head to one side. “It’s never safe. Not even with me are you truly safe, Emile.”
“You’d never hurt me. I know it.” Emile’s fingers curled.
Xavier pressed into him, lips working over Emile’s fragrant skin. “You don’t know me. I could be working for…”
“No. You’re not.” Emile brought Xavier’s face to his. “You could have killed me a long time ago and you didn’t.”
“That doesn’t mean you know me.” Xavier put his hands under Emile’s hoodie, running them up his back. “If you did, you’d know I was messing with you back there.”
Soft skin under his hands, Xavier closed his eyes. He went for Emile’s neck, inhaling his scent again like an addict. “But I know you. You’re insecure. You think you’re hideous for some reason. You’re smart. I saw those books in your bag.” His teeth skimmed Emile’s neck. “You’ve got something to prove to your parents after they kicked you out.”
“I didn’t say anything about my—”
“You mentioned it.”
“That cross means something to you, which means you have faith, which also means you’ve been through a rough time and needed someone to lean on when no one else would help you. You’re all alone, trying to make something of yourself, but the only one stopping you is you. I see the way you hide your face from everyone as they walk by. You slouch in your seat to go unnoticed. You flinched three times before you let me touch you back there, like you couldn’t believe it was real.”
“You can tell all that just by spending the day with me?” Emile pushed Xavier away. He scanned the woods, letting his fear get the best of him. He had every right to be afraid.
“Then why are you still here? Sounds like I’m no catch. Oh right...you need me. And why aren’t you crumpling to the ground in agony? Aren’t you supposed to feel it when you’re a jerk?”
Xavier shook his head; his face hidden in the shadows. “I’m not being cruel. I’m telling the truth. The truth doesn’t hurt me. It hurts you because you let it.”
“Well thanks for that Obi-Wan.”
“You’re exhausting me. Can’t you just come back over here? You’re cold. I can feel it.”
“No. I’m fine where I am. Leave it to you to ruin the only fun I’ve had in years. Thanks for such a wonderful date. We should get going. Gotta face the music and possibly become a late night snack for the zombie princess.” Emile tossed his hood up. “This is such a mess,” he muttered.
“Emile.” Xavier stomped his foot. “Stop being a whiny baby.” He winced at the dull throb radiating from the base of his spine.
“Keep it up, Xavier. We’ll see if I help you this time.” Emile crossed his arms.
“You would let me writhe in pain?”
“If you deserve it then yes.”
“You and my mother would get along well.” Xavier spun on his heel. “She can be a bitch, too.”
Emile gasped and not because of the slanderous pet name. Xavier keened through clenched teeth, dropping to his knees. People were coming out to their cars. They’d see everything. Rushing to Xavier’s side, no matter what he’d said seconds before; Emile used every ounce of his strength to pull the guy back into the safety of the woods.
“Stop doing this. I know you’ve got this badass rep to maintain, but come on,” Emile hissed. He grunted, jerking Xavier over the leaf littered ground. “This is ridiculous. You knew what would happen if you called me that and here we are, or me rather, cleaning up your little mess. What would happen if I wasn’t here, Xavier? Huh?”
“I wouldn’t be like this is you weren’t here!” Xavier pounded fists into the ground, bringing his knees up to his chest. “Fuck, I think I’m in labor.”
Emile rolled his eyes. “No you’re not. You’re being punished for being an asshole. I should let you wait it out. Maybe then you’d get the picture.”
“There’s no picture to get.” Xavier rolled onto his side, squirming. “I am an asshole, Emile. You can’t change me.”
“There’s nothing to change, Xavier, except your attitude.” Emile got to his knees, pushing up his sleeves. His cross vibrated against his chest. “You have two halves. You only use one. That’s the problem. I say I don’t know you, but I kind of do now that I think about it.”
“Would you shut up and help me.” White hot pain twisted around his back. Xavier’s eyes burned as they rolled back into his head.
“Like I was saying,” Emile closed his eyes, “you’re like every other asshole I stay away from. They have the potential to be a good person, you know to actually give a shit what comes out of their mouth, and not because it would hurt, but because they care about people and their feelings. Only they don’t because they think they have to be this…I don’t know…jerk to keep up appearances. This isn’t high school, Xavier. This is real life. Suck it up and let go of your insecurities.”
“I’m dying,” Xavier slurred. His body jerked before something sliced through his back. He arched into the air, boot toes digging into the ground.
“Shit.” Emile rolled him over onto his stomach. He lifted Xavier’s jacket to see a black tip poking out from the skin. “What the hell is that?”
Xavier was slowly losing consciousness. His eyes were shutting. He still reached out in a last attempt to apologize to Emile. He did care. He really did, damn it.
Emile swallowed his fear. Xavier didn’t look so good. Once again, he placed his hands on the small of Xavier’s back, trying not to touch the piece of wet leathery flesh protruding from otherwise flawless skin. He closed his eyes, praying for help, and felt his prayer answered in the form of a hot rush of power slicing down his arms into his hands.
“Please work. Please work,” Emile chanted. He watched the black tip sink back into Xavier’s skin. Under his back, something moved, slithering around until it went back to wherever it had come from. A fresh scar, purple and red, knitted together, leaving Xavier completely still. “Xavier?”
The hybrid didn’t move. Wind cut across Emile’s cheeks. Paranoia seeped into his heart. The woods were so dark. He hadn’t heard voices or car doors slamming in over five minutes. He felt eyes on him. Did that shadow just move? “Xavier, get up.”
Xavier was down for the count. Emile couldn’t carry him all the way to the car. He knew they didn’t have much time. Whoever Bee had sent was here. They were unprotected except for his cross. Emile hoped it was enough for them both.
“Leave him,” something whispered from above. Emile’s eyes shot to the wooded canopy. The stars burned through the branches, mingling with gray clouds in the distance. Something rushed across the open space, leaping from tree to tree. “He is nothing to you.”
“Save yourself,” a voice whispered right next to his ear. Emile almost screamed, whipping his head around. Nothing was there. His heart raced.
“Let us have the boy and you can leave…alive.” A wet tongue traced his earlobe. Emile batted away whatever had touched him. His hand cut through thin air.
“You can’t touch us!” He gathered Xavier into his arms. “The Creator protects us.”
“And where is he now, your precious Creator?” Lightning crackled in the sky, washing the woods in white. Dozens of bodies stood around them, each different in shape and size, but every one of them demons. Their red eyes flashed against the white before the woods went dark again.
Emile scrambled, dragging Xavier with him. His arms burned with the hybrid’s weight, but he had to get them out of there. “Help us,” he whispered. “Please, God, help us.”
“Your God is nothing to us.” Laughter filled the air, a chorus of wicked cackles that not even the scariest horror movie could reproduce. Emile clung to Xavier, keeping contact and hoping the cross would protect him too.
“Lim, I need you.”
The first scaly hand skimmed Emile’s hair. He couldn’t move. He was too scared. He closed his eyes, humming to himself. He had to rely on the cross. It was all they had. He rocked back and forth, silently praying. Claws slid down the back of his neck, raising goose bumps in their wake. The claw caught on his chain. He smelled the burning flesh before the demon cried out.
“I burn, you fool!”
“Beelzebub demands them both.”
“We are many. He is one. Eat its flesh.”
“He will eat you if you disobey again.”
Hisses went up around them. Feet scampered over leaves, crunchy then wet. Rain began to pour through the tree tops. Drop after drop pelted Emile and Xavier. He still held on.
“Burn it. Then take the cross. We shall destroy it. Beelzebub cannot deny us then.”
“Yes, we will burn it and take our brother back.”
“He is spelled.”
“We must separate them.” Something pushed against Xavier and Emile tugged him closer, trying to fit his body into his lap completely. Smoke rose from Xavier’s back. The demon scurried away. “Mustn’t touch our brother… He burns us as well.”
“Who will sacrifice themselves to pain to set our brother free?”
“He is not our brother any longer. You saw for yourself. He betrays us with mortal love.”
“Lust, brother mine, lust.”
“Be that as it may, he cares for the human.”
“Yes,” an echo sounded.
“Eat its flesh.”
“Lim,” Emile rasped. His shoulders shuddered. “Anyone, help us now. I can’t do this alone.”
“You aren’t alone.” Emile’s eyes flashed open, face to face with a toad looking demon. He screamed, burrowing his face in Xavier’s shoulder.
“He uses you for your body.”
“He wants nothing more.”
“Your love is forced. It is not real.”
“The Creator has used you for his war. You mean nothing to him.”
“You are a pawn in this game, Emile.”
“He isn’t who you think he is. If he loved humans so much, why is he not here to help you? Why does he let the sick die and the poor suffer? Why does he let war obliterate nations and money create happiness?”
“Yes, the Creator is a fraud and a coward.”
“He means to sacrifice you. Join us, Emile.”
“Your life will be exactly how you pictured it, dull and pitiful in the end. Join us now and end it all.”
“Your parents never loved you.”
“You were a mistake.”
“The Creator punishes you for your sexuality as did your parents.”
“End this now, Emile. Stop the pain.”
“He will never love you like you want.”
“No one will.”
Emile sobbed. The cross was losing its heat. His fingers slowly retreated up Xavier’s back. They were never going to be together. Who was he kidding? He was a buffer between the Creator and the devil. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Xavier didn’t want him. Nobody did.
“The power wanes.”
“He is giving up.”
“That’s it, Emile. Let go.”
“We shall end your pain.”
“Take this.” Something dropped next to him with a thud. Cracking an eye, he saw the blade glint in the rain. “End it, Emile. No more games. You can rest…forever.”
“They come.” This time the whispers were urgent.
“No. We flee. Bee will have a plan.”
“Fine, we fight.”
“No.” A deep voice silenced them all. “We wait.”
Emile had to look up when the wind shifted. The smell of spring rain filled his nose. Every demon was focused on the trees lining the parking lot. They leaned forward as one.
“Good evening, boys and girls.” A woman stepped through the tree line. “Did we miss the party?”
The demons recoiled, slinking back into the woods without a sound. Emile’s cross began to hum again, recognizing the woman coming towards them. She was followed by two others, men that looked every bit human, but Emile could feel otherwise.
Lightning lit up the woods again. Not one demon remained. Whoever these people were, they were on the Creator’s side. His own sob ripped through the air. He looked at the blade, tears blurring his vision. He would have killed himself. He had doubted everything he knew that easily. He couldn’t believe he let them in his head. He had practically rolled out the welcome mat.
“You must be Emile.” The woman crouched down next to them. On instinct, he flinched, fingers biting into Xavier’s limp body. “It’s all right. We heard your plea.”
“I was going to…”
The blade disappeared with a swipe of her hand. “You wouldn’t have. You would have realized soon enough.”
“No. I’m not strong enough for this. You don’t know me.”
The woman stroked the side of his face. “I know everything about you, Emile. How could I not? You protect my son.”
“I am Elsanah, Xavier’s mother.” She sat back on her heels. “And it’s time to go home now, Emile.”
Emile shook his head. “No. We can’t go back there. Demons live in that house.”
“But only one is governed by Lucifer himself. The other is on the fence. You have allies, Emile.”
“Deumos was created by Lucifer for his own use, but Botis was not.”
“Why are you telling me this? Can’t you see he needs help? Lady, this is your kid!”
“Botis was conjured by a human long ago. She called herself a witch, but as you know, that sort of thing isn’t real.”
He wiped his eyes, anger replacing his tears. “Oh yeah, witches aren’t real. Bullshit. I don’t trust anything anymore. Stop messing with me and help him.”
“She called him up using words of the devil and trapped him here on earth. He had no choice, but to hate the humans for what she’d done. Only after her death did he ally himself with Lucifer because it was the only place he thought he fit in.”
“Help him!” Emile yanked on her shirt collar, bringing her to him. “Now!”
“He only sleeps off the pain, Emile. There is nothing more I can do for him until he learns to curb his tongue and explores his other half. Remember what I said, Emile. Remember Botis.”
“You are a bitch.” Emile spat to the side. “No wonder he hates you.”
Elsanah sighed. “He hates me because he isn’t in my shoes. My loyalties are split between him and the Creator and he doesn’t care to understand. I love my son with all my heart and I do this because it is what’s best for him. I never chose your path, neither of yours, because it was destined before I ever existed. I only serve my Lord as do you.”
“Not like this.” Emile slid Xavier’s hood down, soothing his hand through black and white hair. “Never like this.”
“Life is neither pretty nor perfect. No one ever claimed it would be. Who you are is based on how you survive. And you, my dearest Emile, are a true survivor. I only wish you would teach my son your grace and compassion.” She walked back to her companions. “Lim said to tell you he watches over you and he’s sorry he couldn’t take the call. He’s under restrictions at the moment.”
“Oh shit. No.”
“Everything will be all right, Emile. Sleep well.”
“You’re just going to leave us here?”
Elsanah smiled over her shoulder. “Really, what kind of mother do you take me for?” She raised a hand and Emile’s world spun.
Botis sat straight up in bed, claws tearing through his covers. He could still feel heat licking over his skin. Sweat ran down his face and chest. He could still hear the angel’s scream echo in his ears. Even the sound of Emile’s heartbeat lingered in his room.
“Have a bad dream,” Deumos spat, shaking her chained fists.
Botis threw the covers off his body and planted his feet on the floor. “Shut up.”
He rose, stretching out the kinks in his neck. Ignoring the chained demon, he grabbed the bottle of clear liquor on his nightstand and chugged.
“That won’t make you forget what you’ve seen.”
“I said shut up!” He threw the bottle at her head, missing by an inch. Glass rained across the floor, sparkling in the moonlight pouring through his window. “I have good mind to kill you right here right now.”
“But you won’t. If you did that…Bee would toss you out on your ass and where would you call home then, Botis? You can only play the part for so long.”
His hand clamped over her throat before she could utter another word. “I was not born of the same fire, but I am just as deadly as any of you.”
Deumos choked, smiling. “Liar.”
The open window carried in the scent of smoke. Botis stiffened, cutting his eyes back to Deumos. “Be a good girl now.” He released her, going to the window. Down on the lawn, Emile looked around. His heart raced. Botis could hear it even from far away.
“You like him, don’t you?”
“I said shut your mouth, Deumos. Do not make me tell you again.”
“You care for Xavier’s new pet. You care for his livelihood.”
“I do not love a human. I hate humans.”
“But you care for this one because Xavier does. That’s such a risky feeling, Botis.” She cocked her head, amused. “What did you see in your sleep?”
“The end,” he whispered.
Deumos blanched. All the color drained from her leathery, decaying face. “What?”
Botis couldn’t bring himself to crack a smile due to her fear. He simply passed her, walking out of his room, and down the hall. He stopped when he got to the front door and listened to soft cries coming from outside. His turning point had come back to haunt him. Stuck on this earth forever, doomed to carry a deep seeded hatred for humans, he’d only wanted to belong to the dark side, his family. But were they really? Would they care to know of his love for Xavier, his brotherly affections? Would they kick him to the side for his weakness and impure bloodline? Would they really abandon him to the humans for all time, to be hunted as they were?
But since the moment Bael and Elsanah had brought their infant son to walk among the mortals, compromising on his home, Bael had tasked him with Xavier’s care while he went off to fight. Angels and mortals aside, Botis still felt responsible for Xavier. Bael had trusted him when no when else did. Bael had given him hope. And now it was time to return the favor by fulfilling his duties, even if that meant caring for a mortal because Xavier cared for Emile.
Botis opened the door, walking into the cool night air. Before he could think, he was running across the lawn, wind blowing through his shoulder length hair. “Xavier!” he called to the lifeless body.
He stopped short when Emile lifted a cautioning hand. “You can’t touch him.”
“I want to help. He is…he is my friend.”
“No. I mean you can’t touch him or you’ll burn. If you’re supposed to help us,” Emile looked up with teary eyes, “then I can’t have you dead, now can I?”
“Help you? You mean help him.”
Emile shook his head. “You aren’t one of them, are you?”
“I am a demon.” Botis leaned forward, baring his teeth to prove his point. His vision went red, but Emile didn’t flinch.
“Not his demon, though.” Emile looked down, stroking Xavier’s hair.
“How do you know—”
“Not important. He’s important though, Botis. He’s all I have left.”
Botis ground his fangs together, shutting his eyes for a second. “Then we have that in common.”
“If I let him go, will you promise not to hurt him?”
“What have they done to you? Tell me.”
Emile hugged Xavier tight before letting him go. “They came for us. And now I’m done fucking around. Will you help us or not?”
Botis swallowed, eyes bleeding back to black. He took a shuddering breath, knowing his decision would change his existence forever. “Yes. I will help you both.” He slowly gathered Xavier into his arms, free of the cross’s power now that Emile wasn’t touching him. “Come inside before they decide to make a second appearance. The house is protected from those who don’t live here.”
“Blood.” Botis took the steps up the porch, willing the front door wide open.
Neither of them noticed the package leaning against the porch step as they went inside, a package from the law offices of Sandra Florentine.
TO BE CONTINUED…