As I’ve been whining about it everywhere lately, I thought it only fair to share with you a snippet of my newest and most all-consuming work in progress: Holy.
This bit comes from what is currently scene two of draft one!
Angel-face didn’t stir until Artemio had made his way almost a full block, past the screaming lights of a half dozen ambulances to the emergency tent that had been set up on-scene. Even then, it was only to press his face against Artemio’s shoulder, to sigh and breathe deeper, reach his arms around Artemio’s neck.
“You awake? I thought you’d gone out on me. Think you can stand?” There was a pause, and then he felt the head against his shoulder shaking no. “Don’t worry about it then, not like you weigh much.” It wasn’t far, anyway, just around to the other side of the tent where the parmeds were clustered together, speaking in low voices.
Female, all of them, but not women – not, definitely not women. What they were exactly, Artemio didn’t know. Taj would, always did, but it was enough for Artemio that they were Other, and therefore trouble. As much as he was capable of, he was…quiet with them.
“Hello, ladies. Got another patient for you.”
Six pairs of eyes turned to him at the same time, though he’d no doubt that they had noticed him long before he’d spoken. The murmuring was quiet, but only one stepped forward, peering at the Angel-face in his arms.
“This one is not like you, this one is Other – all the rest were human, had mortal mothers.”
He stopped. That was…interesting. “He was marked for a sacrifice, tied up, kept captive -” Their faces were growing darker with every word, and he took an involuntary step back at the sound of hissing, rattling, snake-and-shadow-sounds to which his most primitive instincts were vulnerable. “Yeah. I know – he’s cut up and bruised but I think the worst of it’s probably mental. I think…” He hesitated, then shrugged. “I think he’s been captive for a while.”
“This is not done -”
“It was, so take care of him, will you?” Artemio stepped forward, and the parmeds parted around him, let him into the tent. It was only when he tried to put his burden down on one of the medtables that there was trouble. The blond head snapped suddenly upright, and tight fingers clutched at Artemio’s duty vest, then at the sleeves of his jacket beneath it.
“Oh please no. Don’t let go.”
Artemio shook his head, lay him down on the table and unwound his arms, but he couldn’t get away. Soft fingers plucked at his jacket, tried to keep him close. “Angel-face you’ve gotta – you’re hurt. You need to let the parmeds look at you, they’ll bring you to -”
“No don’t send me away not back not anywhere not – no – Master – Master.” It was a babble of words on the edge of terrified hysteria, and despite himself Artemio took a step back toward him, reached out and lay his hands on shaking shoulders.
“Angel. You need -”
Artemio pressed the heel of his hand against his forehead, huffed out a breath. “Look I – I’ll stay while they check you over, all right? I can do at least that much.” He turned to get the attention of the parmeds again, finally, but they were standing by the wall, clustered together, staring not at Angel-face but at him. “One of you gonna help him, or -” He was interrupted by all of them in turn.
“He called you Master -”
“You, no king, no lord, no caster!”
“If we could we’d take him from you-”
But what has been done is not in our power to undo.
The last phrase was blazed only across his mind, not in his ears, and Artemio jerked himself away from clutching fingers, took a full step backward, angry, averting his eyes awkwardly. “Stop that, just – stop. This one’s one of you and I just pulled him out of that house, and you don’t want to help him?”
As he does not want us to, as he wants only you – and what a disaster! A servant of the Master – so mastered!
“Get the fuck out of my head!”
The lead parmed drew herself up and threw a scornful glare in his direction. “He is yours. We will not, cannot touch him. Go to the Council, if you’d make much of it!”
They streamed out of the tent past him in one unbroken line behind her, but his glare was tempered by the need to steady himself against the table as Angel-face crawled all the way out of the tapestry he’d been wrapped in and up into Artemio’s arms. “Master -”
“Oh, no. Don’t get comfortable, I’m going straight to the Council with you, I don’t care if it’s two in the morning, I’m not dealing with this -” But his arms were closing around the worn, warm body, drawing him close, and when Artemio looked down again, the coffeecream eyes were already shut, and his face was relaxed, and Artemio knew, knew, that he was doomed. “Fuck.”
Artemio lay him back on the tapestry, wrapped it up around him despite the sound of protest he got when he let go, and then picked him up again. “’S a damn good thing you don’t weigh much.”
“Yes, Master.” But it was more of a yawn than words, and in the five minutes it took Artemio to make his way back from the tent to where Taj had parked his car, the Angel-face in his arms had fallen asleep.
“Hey Art, you need a ride home, or -”
Artemio whipped around, knot between his brows. “Shh. And yeah, I need ride, but not home.”
Taj blinked at him when he came around the corner and saw his arms still full of blond, sleeping Other. “What are you still doing with him?”
“The parmeds wouldn’t take him. He’s – he keeps callin’ me master, Taj.” The word came rough and thick and hesitant off his lips, still quiet. Even if he was causing trouble, Artemio didn’t want to wake the poor bastard. He’d suffered enough.
“Master? The fuck did you do, pick up a -”
“I don’t know. But I’m not gonna keep him no matter what he calls me or what the parmeds think. You know I can’t.”
Suddenly bright with djinn-fire, Taj’s eyes met his gaze. “But you want to.”
“I -” The word came out loud, angry, and Artemio caught himself, stole a glance down at the sleeping angel-face. Fucking Taj. Fucking djinn. Knows too much for his own good.
“I don’t know what I want. He’s gorgeous, yeah. But he’s Other, and that means he’s trouble. Plus he was…fuck, Taj, you know what I like. I can’t do that to him. Not the way he was…not how he was when I found him.”
Taj’s brow knit into a dark maze of disturbance. “That bad, huh?”
“Worse. Let’s go – Council never sleeps, but I do – and I don’t wanna hold onto him for too long, might give him the wrong idea.” Carefully, groaning faintly as he bent, Artemio slid into the front seat and settled Angel-face on his lap, tucked his legs in so Taj could shut the door. There was a content murmur against his throat, lips and sound both whisper soft, and the arms around him tried to squeeze tighter. Artemio shook his head. He had never been a safe space for anyone, and now this Other was clinging to him like his life depended on it.
Well, maybe it had – but only for about five minutes. So why wouldn’t he let go now?