Night time was the best time for Madison, she had always been an insomniac as long as she could remember. Burrowed down in a thick coat, she was protected from the elements as she walked down the streets while listening to some snippets of the people strolling as they left the restaurants; they were so wrapped up in their own worlds, oblivious to everyone else. Madison stepped around a stumbling couple, laughing at their apologies as she waved at them, wishing them a good night.
Their world was so innocent, Madison remarked as she watched after them.
She wished they would see.
“Got a light?” A thick and gravelly voice appeared at her shoulder, Madison jumped a bit, turning to look at the source. So much for being amused that people weren’t paying attention, she had just done the same herself. The man was scrawny, even while tall, it was as if his body was ready to fold in on itself; he looked like someone who had used meth for years – just withering away.
“Um,” Madison chuckled, “I don’t smoke.”
“I ain’t askin’ if you smoked,” he snapped impatiently at her, “you got a light?”
She shifted back on the heels of her feet, shaking her head, “no.”
“Look, lady,” he reached out to grab her arm, “you gotta have something.”
Her body tensed in alarm, she tried to remember what she was supposed to do when someone did this to her – she had joked that she would remember, but really, it was a big old blank as she felt his fingers digging into her arm. “Let go of me,” she managed to utter.
“Why?” He started pulling her in closer, “you’re a pretty little human girl,” he licked at his lips hungrily.
The streets were home, as much as anything else was. He'd grown up there, orphaned and alone, aside from the kindness of an old pub owner who took pity on him, and, eventually, taught him what he was and how to deal with it. Despite the dangers, especially in his world, the streets of Zion were comfortable, familiar... home.
Tonight, he was wandering the strange borderland mix of high class clubs and greasy spoons that loosely defined the unspoken line between the higher class, safer areas of uptown from the area that was darker, more dangerous, and so very familiar – known almost affectionately by those who lived there as the Pit. The borderlands between the area of the city populated by the humans, the innocents, the mundanes...and the area of the city that tended to attract the more unusual citizens of Zion.
Dmitri was restless, unwilling to give in to the exhaustion that was creeping up on him. Dreams had plagued him of late. And dreams, for his kind, were vivid, often terrifying things. Far better when he didn't dream at all. These dreams, as bad as his dreams normally were, were far worse. He sensed dark magic at work in them. Magic that sought to trap him. No, there would be no sleep this night, not if he could avoid it.
The street was still too crowded for him, and he was ready to duck off onto a side street, one with less of the popular clubs and restaurants, and therefore less people coming and going. Humans mostly, he noted absently. Not a threat, for the most part...but annoying all the same. Except...there was something nearby, a sense of malevolence, dark joy, something very much not human, and not playing nice with whatever prey it currently had cornered.
His eyes narrowed, his body tensing into hunting mode, as he made his way through the slowly thinning crowds. He was following that sense that tripped along his nerves, lighting them afire with a sense of wrongness. And it wasn't too long before he found the source, a sickly, twisted 'shifter with the scent of drugs and blood about him. This one was obviously looking for a fix...and it was as likely he'd take human as meth at this point.
The woman the 'shifter was threatening, holding close, was, to Mitja's senses, human. An innocent. He stilled the growl that fought to rise from his throat, but only so that it wouldn't give him away too soon. He could not stand the monsters, the dregs of his community that preyed on the innocents. And he had no regrets at all about using his fairly unique skills to utterly obliterate them, when it became necessary.
He moved in close behind the shifter, using the smallest whisper of his power to cloak the little signs that would give him away, scent, sounds, even the natural heat of his body. There was a twist of his wrist, another whisper of power, and a shining silvery blade dropped down into his waiting hand. Dmitri stepped up behind the shifter, and brought his blade up swiftly, until the tip of it rested against the shifter's throat.
“You heard the lady. Let go of her.” His voice was deceptively calm, even light. But, there was cold steel beneath the words.
The shifter froze, then pushed the woman away roughly. “Dmitri. Man, come on. I just...needed a fix.”
Cold blue eyes narrowed further, and Dmitri sighed. “I'm giving you one chance. You get the fuck out of here, and I don't want to catch you hassling the mundanes again.” He leaned closer, eyes fixing on the woman even as he whispered to the shifter. “She's the only reason I don't gut you like a pig and burn you to ash. I can smell blood on you. Human blood. Change your habits, or they'll be the death of you.” There was a smirk, and he pushed the shifter away, rather enjoying the thin line of red that appeared on his throat from the blade.
“That's a promise,” he finished as the shifter made a break for it. He made a note to himself to poke around and find out exactly who the shifter was, and check up on him later. Then, he turned his full attention to the woman, his entire bearing changing from that of a deadly hunter to...just a guy. It was something he was very practiced in.
“Hey,” he said, stepping carefully closer to her, trying to be as non-threatening as a strange man could manage while still holding a wicked blade grasped in one hand. “You okay?” He made a show of tucking the blade back up the sleeve of his coat, letting the little whisper of magic vanish it back to the nullspace he kept it in when he wasn't wielding it with deadly precision.
“Junkies, huh? Gotta watch out for 'em.” He wanted only to soothe her, whatever lie he could spin to protect her innocence. It was standard practice for him, when he managed to stumble across a mundane needing saving. But there was something...something about this woman, staring at him with wide eyes, that just made it feel more personal than usual.
Madison had to fight the rising fear as she felt him pull her in closer, digging her heels in just wasn’t working – he was strong, too strong for her. That was when it clicked, it was one of the those; she wasn’t sure which one he was, but he wasn’t human. Then his grip slacked on her, Madison looked up in time to see the man behind the thing. She gasped softly, unsure if it was a trick. She had heard stories about how tricky some of those things were.
She stumbled as she got pushed away, managing to recover her footing with some grace. Her eyes stayed trained on both of them until the thing ran away. Her eyes flicked over to the man as he stood there, her hand rubbing at where the thing had grabbed her. “What was he?” Her voice trembled a bit before becoming solid again. She stepped over to him while studying him. “He wasn’t a junkie,” her voice was soft as she kept rubbing at her arm. “Junkies are different,” she’d know, she lost her best friend to the stuff.
He'd moved to approach her again, wanting to be sure she was alright, that the shifter hadn't hurt her too badly. He'd escort her to a hospital or whatever, if he really had to. But he'd rather avoid it. Her words, however, brought him up short. “Nah, he...” He let the lie die away, unfinished. She was human, he was certain of it. He couldn't really detect any traces of magic use on her, so she wasn't a mage or a witch. She couldn't be part of the community, she was too uncertain. Yet, she knew...or thought she knew, anyway. Just enough to get her in trouble, and probably not enough to really be able to protect herself.
His shoulders shifted, rolling them as he considered her carefully. He couldn't just leave her here, and this...wasn't really the place to discuss what had just happened. It was getting later, and she would be a perfect target for the very same things he hunted in his spare time, things just like that crazed shifter.
He sighed, a soft, resigned sound, and stepped closer to her so he could speak without the people still coming and going nearby overhearing. “Shifter. Ah, shapeshifter. They have a name for themselves, but...that's what most of us call them.” In for a penny, in for a pound. He might as well let her know he wasn't quite what he seemed, either. Though, he certainly wouldn't be telling her what he really was. That was a secret he guarded with his life....literally.
Carefully, not wanting to scare her more than she already had been, he reached out to touch her arm lightly where the shifter had held her. Already, he could see the bruise starting to form. He ached to take that pain away from her, but...to do so would reveal things he didn't dare give away. He shook his head, pushing the surprising urge away. What the hell was it about her?
“You never answered me. You okay?” He just couldn't seem to take his eyes from her, genuine concern making him search her face for any sign of anything wrong. “I can..uh..take you somewhere, if you need? Walk with you?”
Only then did he realize how close he'd actually stepped to her, well within her personal space. Stupid, he thought to himself. Lovely mundane, probably scared out of her wits, and here he was being creepy. “Uh, sorry.” Taking a step back, he lowered his head, forcing his eyes away from her.
Madison’s eyes squinted when she heard him about ready to tell a lie, but then there he was, telling the truth. The squint faded away and was replaced with a smile, a shake of her head, “thank you for not lying.
“A shifter? My grandmother told me about those, they can imitate people at the most powerful or animals at the most weakest. Something like that, I know people call them different things in the stories,” she managed a brighter smile as she rubbed at her arm before dropping it. It wouldn’t hurt too much, only bruise like crazy then faded down the road – she preferred the bruising compared to what could have happened.
When he touched her arm, she moved it up willingly so he could look at it. “It’s fine,” she looked up at him through her eyelashes, “it looks much worse than it feels.” When he stopped touching her, she chuckled, “I just was walking. I don’t sleep much at nights,” she laughed as he stepped back, “you’re fine, really. You just saved me.
“I’m Madison, what about you? I heard… Dmitri? Is that really your name?” She tilted her head then took his arm, “come walk with me.” She didn’t think much about personal spaces, people tended to either love that about her, or hate it – depending on who it was.
“Yeah, sure,” he said in response to her thanks, shrugging. She might come to regret the truth more than the lie. Or...maybe not, he thought, as she continued on, explaining how she was far less surprised by what he'd said than he expected.
It was more complicated than whatever tales her grandmother must have spun for her, but it worked well enough as an explanation for now. More than anything, it just surprised him that she'd believed such tales. Most mundane humans, well...they'd rather spin their own wild tales than believe that things like shifters really existed, let alone lived side-by-side with them. With maybe some of the more insane humans being the exception to that. She was different, though. And that would serve as a good enough excuse to himself for why he found her so fascinating. Yep.
She showed him her arm willingly, and he hesitated, then let his hand drop away from her. So trusting, so...lovely. She had no business trusting so easily, especially trusting him of all creatures...or people. Sometimes, he wasn't sure which he should even think of himself as. “Yeah, well, you should find a new hobby if you're gonna be up all night. It's not safe around here for....you. As you saw.”
His eyes flicked back up as she gave him her name. Again, not always so smart. Then again, she wasn't really from his world, even if she'd grown up with stories of it. In his world, names could have power for those who knew how to use it. Then again, his was...well known, at least in his world. He supposed there couldn't be too much harm in giving it to her, too.
His thoughts stuttered to a stop as she took his arm, her touch gentle and...he wasn't even sure how to describe it, or how it made him feel. He had to blink a few times before he was able to answer her, so very conscious of her touch. “Yeah, my name's really Dmitri.” He made a face as though he hated the unusual name, but in truth, it was precious to him. It was, after all, the only thing he had of whatever – whoever – he had been before he'd become a street rat. “Nice to meet you, Madison.”
He could only incline his head in a slow nod, some distant part of him wondering what the hell he was even doing. She was fine, there were still people about, she didn't really need him to escort her anywhere. He'd saved her, he'd made sure she was okay, that was where it was supposed to end. And yet, here he was, willingly walking with her – letting her essentially lead him along, even – as though everything was perfectly normal, her arm laced through his, her scent, her warmth, everything about her driving him to distraction.
Madison made a face at his suggestion, “then I would be bored. I would miss all the exciting things,” she looked over her shoulder at him with a brilliant smile, “this is my first time being down this road, it’s fine. I’m usually much more aware of my environment, I got caught… “Her eyebrows lifted as her eyes sparkled with amusement, “daydreaming.”
Her eyes studied his profile as they walked, he was such a handsome man. He did have a way with his expressions that made her curious, she wanted to talk some more just so he would keep talking and looking at her. “I like your name,” she nudged him with her hip when she noticed the look on his face, “it’s unique.” She stopped walking and tugged him to stop as well, “I’m sure you’re just as unique.” Her eyes studied his, “what are you?” She paused, “you don’t have to tell me,” she chuckled, “I’m told I ask too many questions.”
She stepped in closer for a second then changed her mind, scooting back a bit to settle at his side and lead the way. “We should find a little café, talk until the morning.” She smiled, “wouldn’t that be a lovely story to tell people?”
He could only shake his head at her, though he had to stifle an answering laugh. But, daydreaming? Really? It was like she was just asking to get herself killed, or worse. Things were stirring in the dark of late in greater numbers than ever before. Something was happening, something that the mundanes of course had no clue to, and that even he, with all his resources and abilities, hadn't quite been able to track down. Not yet, anyway. But it made it dangerous out here, and even more so for someone like...her.
Her nudge against him probably would have brought him to a stop if she hadn't tugged him to a halt before he could properly process it. “I'm...” Whatever he'd been about to say to being called unique – oh, she had no idea, really just no idea – trailed away. The one question he hated more than any other, made somehow both okay...and worse, by those eyes looking up at him so innocently. “What are you?” Sometimes, he could barely answer that question for himself, how was he supposed to answer it for some stranger? Even...if that stranger was as incredibly fascinating as Madison was.
And no matter how fascinating she was – and she really, really was, he just couldn't seem to stop either sneaking looks at her, or outright staring – he just...couldn't answer her question in the spirit in which it was asked. Not only could it mean his life – or worse, so much worse – it could even put her life in danger.
“No. It's okay.” And it really was. He should be annoyed with her. He knew he should. But...somehow, it really was okay. “I'm, uh, human.” It wasn't, after all, a lie, even if he gave in to the urge to glance away from her because of it – and when had he become such a terrible liar, he who could bluff a vampire and intimidate a werewolf without breaking a sweat. Besides, he was part human. That counted, right?
“I was just born with, uh...magic.” There was hesitation there. Magic, while not unknown to mundanes, was looked down on, scorned, and it went worse for those born with the ability naturally. It was a strange thing for someone to lay claim to. But...it was still so much safer than the full truth. For both of them. And wasn't that a kicker? He really did want to protect her. Which, while not unusual for him with the “normal” humans, seemed to kick into a whole new level with Madison.
His thoughts were derailed once more as she stepped closer, only to step away and back to his side once more, leaving him befuddled. He let her lead him off once more, wordlessly. Though, after a few moments, it finally occurred to him that he hadn't actually answered her question...even though it had seemed more like a request that he'd been helpless against. He wanted to say no. Or, more accurately, he thought he should say no. He wanted to follow right along with wherever she wanted to go, as long as she'd keep talking to him. And that thought was enough to finally give him pause, and re-examine his reactions to her.
“Ah...” He was going to tell her no. He'd set himself to it. Something about her, whatever it was, just fascinated him...and seemed to make him forget himself. That...was dangerous. Just...so dangerous.
“...okay. That sounds nice.”
Madison laughed, “you know that was funny,” she nudged him again, staying a bit closer this time as she listened to him. “Maybe I’ll just have to have you with me all the time when I go wandering.” Her eyes flicked up at him before she looked away to study her surroundings.
She looked up at him, tilting her head curiously as he spoke, “magic?” Some awe crept into her voice, “like honest-to-god magic?” Her lips curled up, “that’s so cool, I wish I had something like that. I’m just a plain old human,” she rolled her shoulders as she settled in near him. “Why are you so weird talking about magic?” She studied him for a moment before they continued walking.
Her hand slid down his arm to find his hand, “You do know you’re allowed to tell me no, right?” She grinned over at him over her shoulder, studying his profile. “People tell me I’m a bit too much,” she lifted her eyebrows, “but how can I not be? Life is worth living. People are boring.”
He paused – mentally, thankfully, so she hopefully wouldn't notice – then shook his head. But his lips may have twitched, just a bit. “Mmm.” It wasn't agreement. No, it wasn't. He was just acknowledging her words, that's all. He'd spend a little time with her at a cafe, he'd maybe escort her home safe, and...that was it. He'd never see her again. So, what harm could it do to maybe let her think he'd accompany her on further little adventures? Maybe waiting on him would keep her home, and safe.
“Mmhm,” he hummed, this time very much in agreement. Again, his lips gave a twitch that was almost, but not quite, a smile. Her enthusiasm was novel, so far removed from the usual derision. But, it made him wonder. Just how sheltered was she that she didn't know about magic, or that it wasn't generally considered a good thing for a respectable person to admit to? Who was she, really, and where did she come from?
Slowly, suspicion dawned, though it still struggled against his utter fascination for her. Instinct said she herself held no designs on him, and he'd long since learned to trust his instincts. But...that didn't mean she wasn't some sort of bait for him, something designed to catch his attention, to set him off guard. He stole a look down at her as they walked along, only to find her looking up at him, studying him. And he found himself answering her anyway, despite any suspicions that flitted through his mind insistently.
“You shouldn't say that. Most humans shun the mages, the witches. If you used magic, you could be cut off from most of your own kind.” There was a genuine regret to his tone, and something else, something almost bitter. And, of course, he didn't even notice his choice of words, letting himself forget for a moment that he wasn't supposed to be anything more or different from...human. “It wouldn't be quite so fun to be cut off from everyone. Trust me.”
He'd been ready to say more, when he realized her hand was creeping down his arm, until her slim fingers were entangling with his, and he did nothing to stop it from happening. “Yeah, sure. I can say no anytime.” He eyes were drawn back to her as he muttered the words, wondering just how true they really were. And there she was studying him again, as though he were the most fascinating thing in the world to her. What, he wondered, did she really see?
He laughed; a genuine, real, honest laugh. “Well, I can't argue that people are boring. The, uh, normal humans, anyway.” He hesitated, considering her, and then had to amend his words. “Most of them. Not all.” There it was, a flash of a real smile to match the laugh.
The amusement died away almost immediately, and he found himself studying her. Then, he came to a halt and pulled gently on her hand so that she would, too. Once she had, he stepped close, so that he was facing her, looking down at her, close enough to kiss. A sigh fell from his lips, and then he closed his eyes, though he made no move to shift away from her. Instead, he only whispered, both a longing and a suspicion filling the soft sounds, “Who are you, really? What are you?”
Her eyes flicked up at him again, she shook her head, “they are wrong to shun magic.” Her voice was soft, but not quiet, “everything has magic in it if people know how to look.” She watched him closer now when he spoke again, the sadness and bitterness in his voice mixed with those words. “Is that what happened to you?” She shook her head, “they’re missing so much. Humans and your kind,” she had picked up on that and really didn’t care much beyond her usual curiosity. The note in his voice told her not to ask this time, so she listened. For now.
Once she tangled her fingers with his, she felt secure, “you can,” she laughed brightly, “someone tells me no at least once a month. No one has told me no this month, you could be that person.” She tilted her head back up at him.
When he laughed, she thrilled, he had such a nice laugh. It was different from his guardedness. “Normal humans?” She lifted her eyebrows, “so I’m just an ordinary human.” She smiled, playing with his fingers a bit as she found herself content walking with him. When he stopped, she stopped as well, her expression curious as to why he had stopped them this time. Her lips bit at her bottom lip as he got close, her heart picked up the pace. Did he not understand what he already could do to her?
Her eyes closed on their own accord, was he really going to kiss her? Then he stopped, she could feel him stop, her eyes opened only to find that his own had closed. A soft laugh, almost unsure of herself, “I’m just Madi,” she reached out with her free hand to run a finger along his jaw. “Why?”
He made a scoffing sound, clearly amused at her outlook on things. It almost made him wonder how she was even still alive, especially in this city with her...particular little hobby of wandering. “What happened to me is...complicated.” He fought the urge to tell her more, to tell her everything. What was she doing to him? And why did he find himself having to fight to even care what she was doing to him, to stay on guard?
“You know nothing about my...kind. Trust me, be thankful for that.” The words came out harsher than he'd intended, but..it didn't seem to deter her. She just looked up at him, listening. Really, genuinely...listening. It really didn't help the urge to just talk to her, to tell her what he'd never told another living soul. Nor any dead ones, really.
Her laughter gave him pause. It was so clear, so bright, so filled with an innocent sort of joy. And her eyes, when she turned them back up to him, they just captured him, held him, until he just wanted to let himself sink in them. Damnit. “No, Madison. I...don't think there's much of anything normal about you.” Even he could hear the fondness in his tone, and it just made him sigh.
Whatever she was, whoever she was, he was so close to just giving in to it. But it was that very thing that set him on edge, sharpening his awareness again. Surely there had to be something very, very wrong here, to make him react as he was. Or, perhaps it was better to say not react as he should be reacting.
It was her soft, sweet laugh, filled with uncertainty that made him open his eyes to look down at her. Still, there was no warning from his instincts, nothing telling him this was a trap, nothing...but a strange longing that left him bemused and befuddled as her eyes captured his once more. “I don't know. There's something... You do something to me.” His lips twisted into a rueful little smile, and he gave into the urge to touch, reaching up to cup her cheek. “If someone created you to be a trap for me, they got it right.”
Madison frowned, “maybe I want to know, but not right now.” She shook her head, “I’d rather talk about rainbows, unicorns, and sparkly things. It makes you laugh,” she smiled ever so lazily as she ran her thumb along his hand. Her eyes danced over their hands, they fit so nicely together, it was a comfort. When she looked up again, she caught him looking down at her; her cheeks colored a bit at the steady gaze. It was…
Refreshing to be seen.
“I don’t think so either, no one could ever call me normal.” She smiled brightly again, shaking her head as she studied him, taking in all the little details.
“I do?” Her fingers slipped away from his jaw, settling on his chest, “no one created me to be a trap.” She laughed, “I just happened to walk down the wrong street and find a hero.” Her head tilted into his touch, it sent off sparks everywhere, her lips parted a bit, “oh,” her voice was soft. “Oh. Do you know what you do to me?”
Apparently it did, because he found himself laughing again. “Unicorns don't really exist, you know.” He hesitated, distracted by the brush of her thumb against his skin. “I...uh...I don't think they do, anyway.”
Her hand found its way to his chest and settled there, and he found the warmth surprisingly welcome. Normally, he didn't touch people more than needed, nor did he like to be touched. You never knew when the wrong person might be the one touching, or being touched, and might learn more about him than he wanted known. But, somehow, it seemed right with her, comfortable, easy.
He just couldn't bring himself to push her away.
He let his thumb stroke against the soft skin of her cheek, fascinated by the feel of it. “I'm no hero.” The denial came swiftly, tone almost harsh. Almost. It was hard for him to be too harsh with her, even with something he felt so strongly about. She leaned into his touch, and his eyes slipped closed. He let himself just feel, just experience the moment, just...be. But it didn't last. It couldn't last.
Vivid blue eyes opened to look down at her. “I don't,” he murmured, tracing the soft lines of her face with his eyes. Oh, he wasn't unaware of the effect he tended to have on women...and some men, too. Occasionally, he'd even felt a spark of interest in return, though it was rare that he acted on that interest. But this was different. This was...just so different from anything else he'd ever felt before.
He sighed, fighting again against the fascination with her that was bordering on enthrallment. Even if he got no warning from his instincts, there was still something very wrong about this. There had to be. This was too good, too...perfect. And too swift.
“I'm dangerous.” He had to warn her. Since he couldn't seem to take the risks to heart with her right now, he...had to warn her. But he studied her as he said it, looking for something, though he wasn't even sure what it was he was looking for. “I could hurt you, far too easily. Madison, I'm dangerous to be around, to get close to. Don't, please,” despite trying to turn it into a request, a command, it came out more as a desperate, broken plea, saying even more than what he actually spoke aloud.
Don't get close to me.
Push me away, because I can't seem to push you away.
“They should. It’d be wonderful to have Unicorns running through the forest. Do you know of Narwhals? They’re kind of unicorns,” she smiled brightly up at him as she heard him laugh, he had the best laugh she had heard in a while.
“You’re my hero, that’s better than just any hero,” she returned his swift denial, not waffling under his harsh tones. “That has to count for something,” she smiled softly as she patted his chest ever so lightly before settling the hand back on his chest. She tugged lightly at his other hand, guiding it to her hip so at least she had a reason to be closer.
“It’s electricity everywhere, from the ends of my hair to the tip of my toes. It’s like… non-stop tingling,” she laughed, “it’s like being buzzed but without having drank at all.” She tilted her head up again, “you make me feel drunk, but a good drunk.” Her head lean into his hand, she shook her head ever so slightly. “You don’t know, do you?
“I walk on the dangerous side,” her eyes flicked up to him, her lips curled into a smile. “I’m a big girl, I can handle it.” She stepped in closer to him now, not bothering about personal-personal spaces anymore. “But, I can always leave,” she studied him, “I really don’t want to, though.”
Unable to help himself, he laughed again. “I know about Narwhals.” Of course, most of what he knew about them related to the uses of their various parts – especially the horn – as magical components. But, he wasn't about to ruin her fun with something so grim as that.
It was just on the tip of his tongue to speak against being a hero, again, even hers. He really didn't want her to see him that way. He wasn't quite the person she seemed to be imagining that he was. He just...wasn't any damn hero. His methods were far too often too bloody and violent for anyone to consider him a hero. But, of course, she had no way of knowing that, despite the earlier threat he made against her attacker.
The protest never left his lips, however. He was too distracted when she pulled at his hand, placing it against her own hip, apparently just where she wanted it. He should remove his hand. Yes. He should do that. It was just going to lead to trouble. Not so much danger, but trouble nonetheless.
His hand never moved, except to slip a bit further around her hip, gently tugging her just the tiniest bit closer without a thought.
He could only shake his head in answer to her question, at first. He didn't know. A faint, distant thrill of fear ran through him. Was this just a fanciful way of her describing a girl's crush, or...was it more? Was it something he should try to take seriously? Could it be that she was somehow, in some way, able to feel the power that he constantly kept a tight grip on, never able to relax it? Dear God, could it be that she, on some level, was able to sense what he actually was, beneath all the careful masks and lies?
So dangerous, if any of that was even close to truth.
So alluring, if any of that was even close to truth.
To be seen for what he really was? Yes, dangerous, and so. Very. Tempting.
He shook his head slowly, eyes caught by hers, held there, something he gave in to willingly. “You almost got yourself killed, and that was nothing compared to what getting close to me could do.” And yet, as counterpoint to his words, he welcomed her when she stepped even closer, shifting to wrap both arms around her, as though trying to hold her in place. But, it could be felt in the way he held her that he would release her immediately, should she do anything at all to indicate she wanted away from him. It would hurt, but he would do it.
“I... You should leave. You should run away and never, ever look back, Madison.” He sighed, his eyes slipping closed as his head dropped down. He nuzzled into her soft hair, murmuring as he did so. “But, God help me, I don't want you to. Whatever you've done to me, whatever you are...I want to hold on to you and never, ever let go.”
She knew he was thinking, she could see it flit over his face and the way he held himself, he was so wary. Her eyes studied him for a moment before she relaxed against his body as she settled both hands on his chest. “You worry too much,” she murmured as she studied his face, “it shows everywhere.” She slipped one hand off his chest to his face, her fingers tracing along forehead, trailing down along his cheekbone, “everywhere.” Then her hand dropped, returning to his chest.
When he put his arms around her, she thrilled again – sparks everywhere. He really didn’t get how she felt around him, he seemed to have been laughing a bit as she explained it. It was not usual for her to be like this, especially right after meeting someone. Sure, she embraced life and its darkness, but not like this. “I want to be around you even if it’s dangerous. I mean, you do something to me,” she murmured, “I want more.
“I mean, if it’s okay,” she chuckled softly, unsure for a moment as she flicked her eyes up, only to see him close his eyes. She felt him nuzzle into her hair, she shifted a bit in his embrace, her hands sliding down his chest to wrap her arms around his midsection as she rested her cheek on his chest. “I’m just me, like I told you. Plain ole human who’s always a bit too much.”
He shivered at her light touches, and it took him a moment after they were gone before he could muster any sort of response. “I have to worry. I have to stay on guard.” The irony of what he was saying didn't escape him at all, given that he was so close to just completely lowering his defenses with her. Well, the emotional ones, at least. “People can get hurt if I don't...or worse.”
She made him want. He wanted to be near her, to talk to her, to listen to her, to share things with her he'd never shared with anyone, things only one person in the entire city – the entire world – actually knew about him. This wasn't physical attraction – or rather, wasn't just physical attraction – but something completely different, something he'd honestly never experienced before. It shook him to his core, it excited him, it terrified him. And, like her, he wanted more.
“Yes, Madison. It's...okay. I want more, too. I want you, I want... I'm not even sure. You.” He said it like he was giving permission, like he was giving himself to her, like...a prayer. Her arms moved to wrap around him, and he just stood there for a few heartbeats, silent, burying himself in the feel of her much like he'd buried his face into her soft hair.
His head rose, tilting so that he could look down at her, nestled there against him, as though she belonged there. That thought gave rise to memories, old snippets of lore he'd mostly dismissed, as he'd found he'd had to so much of the supposed facts and myths both about his kind. But, apparently this bit had stuck with him, though he had no idea why. Now that the remembered bit of lore had resurfaced in his mind, he found it incredibly hard to push away.
Nephilim, unlike most other creatures that inhabit the world, are born with an imprint of a soul that, when they encounter this soul, draws them to the person who possesses that soul. No one knows why, or how it even works, only that it happens. The closest thing one might think of to describe this in humans would be the concept of 'soulmates' but this concept is, in truth, a pale comparison to what happens with nephilim.
It was too strange a thing for him to entertain. Or, it always had been. But now...
He pulled one arm away, only to reach up and run his fingers over her face, gently, at random, as though exploring her, memorizing her. “I have this feeling you're...not quite what you think you are.” It was said softly, reverently, filled with wonder. Maybe, finally, there could be just one good thing to balance out all the terrible weight he bore just by being what he'd been born. Maybe..he could let himself have this one thing, if he could believe it was, in some strange way, meant to be.
“I want to keep you, Madison. I want to be with you, and...” He let the rest remain unsaid, though it sounded within the silences of his mind, anyway. ”I want to be yours.”
“You shouldn’t have to be,” she lifted her head at him, “or is it more of the things I don’t understand?” She smiled somewhat, she did know she wanted to understand, even if it was just a little bit. Her grandmother’s stories could only get her so far – she had no idea of what he did except use magic. That alone kept her in such an awe of him.
Her heart expanded so much that she was afraid it would break from being unable to contain the feelings that rushed through her. Joy, fear, excitement, and something else she couldn’t quite put her finger on it; but she still entertained that feeling nonetheless. Everything shook her from head to toe, she trembled in his arms for a moment before burying her face into his chest to reset herself, breathing him in. It wasn’t like she wasn’t dizzy enough, the smell of him overwhelmed her, but in such a way that she wanted to wrap herself in his clothes until all she smelled was him. It was so weird wanting so much of him so fast.
But it worked.
“You have me,” she murmured against his chest before tilting her head up at him to study him. His fingers trailing over her face, a laugh bubbling past her lips as she tried to kiss at his fingers, stolen little pecks and nothing more.
“Why do you say that?” Her eyebrows furrowed curiously at him, “I am not a trap, do you still think that?” Her arms tightened a bit around him, unsure if he did believe her. Then he spoke again, the corners of her lips turned upward. “I want to be with you too.” She paused, looking a bit over her shoulder up and down the streets. “Shouldn’t we be moving? Maybe not the café, but somewhere else?”
He nodded slowly. “It's...more of the things you don't understand.” He paused, on the verge of saying more, uncertain. Then, he took a deep breath, glancing around. “I'm just dangerous, that's all.” Or...that was all he would say here, in public. The crowds may have thinned, dying down, unnoticed by him until now, but it was still too public for his tastes.
She trembled against him her delicate little body shaking, and he pulled her closer, wondering distantly if it was possible to just completely wrap himself around her, to keep her safe from everything, forever. But, no matter what power he possessed, he knew such a thing was impossible. And...possibly even unfair to her. All he could do was hold her so long as she let him, and try to keep the darkness at bay.
Her words and the delicate little kisses to his fingers both made him smile down at her, a deep fondness in his eyes that really shouldn't have been possible for what little time he'd known her. Then again, so much of his world was made up of things the largest part of the city's population would have considered impossible. The mundanes, the 'normal' humans...the very thing she believed she was. He, however, was beginning to believe differently, though...without the suspicion that had first coloured such thoughts.
“No, you're not a trap. Not...like I was afraid.” There was a slight pause, and then, surprising even himself, he laughed. “I think you've got me trapped, though. Not that I mind. Not a bit.”
He followed her looks around, again noting how there were less people...how much later it was getting. He hadn't even realized. In fact, he wasn't even sure how much time had passed since he'd tugged her to a stop. It might have been shocking, as he never lost track of time, not even while sleeping. But..this was different. He had the sudden amusing thought that he might have to get a watch to keep track of time the way most people did.
His lips twitched in response to his thoughts, settling into an easy, genuine smile. “I suppose we should. Being interrupted by someone else thinking to prey on you would make me very...cranky.” Again, he found himself laughing. She just...seemed to make everything so much different, and it was so much easier to laugh at the things that normally only became a further source of concern.
Reluctantly, he disentangled himself from her, stepping away. But only the barest amount to take her hand and bring it to his lips, brushing them softly against the back of it. When he'd done that, he lowered their hands, tangling his fingers with her, unwilling to completely lose contact with her. A mischievous gleam lit his eyes as he gazed down at her. “Where would you like to go? Anywhere at all.” It was a bold offer, and one he didn't make lightly, no matter the easy way in which he said it. If he truly had to, he could protect her from almost anything in the city, so long as he was willing to potentially give away hints as to his true power.
He found that, for her, to please her, to give her this...he was more than willing to take that risk.
“I have you trapped?” She laughed as she tugged him in closer, there really was no more room to take up, their bodies pressed up against each other. “No sir, you have me trapped,” she smiled up at him, “I ought to think you set up the whole thing to begin with.” She teased, dipping her head to kiss at his chest, over his heart, to let him know she was joking. “But if you did, I wouldn’t mind at all, it led me to you.”
Her voice was soft, full of awe.
“I don’t think you could ever get cranky, Dmitri,” her voice was a laugh now as she let him break the contact. Everything was cold again without his body to warm hers, but he was there next to her, which meted the separation some. Her heart skipped a beat at the gesture of his lips brushing her hand, it was such a simple move, but enough to make the girl swoon. Her eyes closed for a moment as she took in a deep breath, exhaling.
“Anywhere?” Her eyes opened, “do you not understand that it is a dangerous thing to tell me?” she laughed as she tightened her grip some on his hand for a moment before relaxing. “Take me to your favorite places, teach me about you.”
There was no worry at her teasing words, no tensing, nothing but a simple amusement. That, and the warmth that only grew in his chest with her simple, even innocent kiss. “We're trapped in mutual...uh..trapped...ness?” A laugh bubbled up, and he grinned down at her. “I'm really not sure where I was going with that.” Silliness, from him. He hadn't even realized he had it in him. It was...a pleasant feeling, this strange lightness. He...could get used to it. He wanted to get used to it.
“Oh, sweetheart, you really have no idea. I...hope you never do,” he said, thoughts drifting back to the shifter that had nearly attacked her, and how very close he'd been to just ending the miserable, twisted thing's life right in front of her. He was grateful he'd been able to avoid her seeing that, but...he wasn't so far gone that he thought he could hide that part of his life from her forever.
….forever. Could he really let himself think like that? Would she even want to have anything to do with him next week, let alone years down the line? It was a sobering thought, especially if she truly was nothing more than a mundane. She would age, grow old. He...if the lore were to be believed, would long outlive her. A sobering thought indeed, and one that made an ache in his chest.
He met her eyes, serious now, but...also still very serious about his offer. In some ways, it was even more dangerous than she could likely even imagine. But it was worth it. And he only felt more that it was worth it when he heard her surprisingly simple request. Or...maybe not so simple, after all.
“I have...my apartment. But it's...really nothing you'd want to see. And...there's a pub I go to, but...it's really not much, either.” He paused to think for a moment. Favourite place. It would imply he ever stopped to take pleasure in something as simple as just being somewhere. Oh. “There's one place I like to go, sometimes. Down by the lake. It's...actually not far from here at all.” He wanted this, he realized, looking down into her lovely eyes, shining with anticipation.
It was the perfect place to do exactly what she wanted, and what he'd found himself longing to do. He could begin to teach her about himself, about his world. If she could withstand what she might learn, then maybe this strange thing between them might have a chance.
“C'mon, Madison. Let me show you my world,” he said, flashing her a grin as he tugged at her to follow him.
Madison looked up at him and laughed when he grew silly, “it appears that I’m infectious!” A smile danced on her lips and in her eyes as she studied him, she could tell he was unaccustomed to the silliness, which made it all better.
“You are far away,” Madison laughed again, softer this time as she reached up with her free hand to touch along his jaw, butterfly light touches. She would love to keep touching him forever, it was electric every time her fingers touched his skin. Did he not know? Did he feel it? She wondered, but didn’t ask. Sometimes such questions were not meant to be asked. “Stay with me,” she smiled up at him, shaking her head a bit.
“Your apartment?” She gave a look of amusement, shaking her head a bit at him. Of course she wanted to see the apartment, his favorite pub, everything and everywhere that Dmitri went. She was curious, insanely curious. Then there it was, a lightbulb going off on his face, her lips curled into a content smile. “Anywhere with you,” she looked up at him soberly with her brown eyes, “for all of time.”
Then the moment of seriousness was gone, she laughed as he tugged at her, urging to follow. “I’m coming!” She caught up to him and settled at his side, following, she had meant it – she would go anywhere with him. It was a strange sensation for her to commit so readily, but it was the truth – her truth.
Feather-light touches that sent little thrills of pleasure through him – not sexual, not really, but no less powerful – drew him from his thoughts even more than anything she'd said. “I'm here. I'm with you. I'm not going anywhere.” He reached up to grip her hand, moving it gently away, offering her a reassuring smile. It wasn't that he didn't want her touching him. Just the opposite, in fact. He would love nothing more than to let her touch and explore him to her heart's content. All of him. But it was just so very distracting.
”Anywhere with you, for all of time.” Oh God, did she know what that did to him? He could...picture that, almost. He certainly wanted to. Only that little bit of doubt, uncertainty about what she really, truly was, kept him from allowing himself to dwell on the idea of spending her life with her. Because he was still very certain she wasn't entirely what she appeared to be. Oh, he believed her, believed that she believed what she told him. But there was something more there, something different about her.
When she caught up to him, he adjusted his long stride to accommodate her, though he still hurried her along a bit, eagerness in his every movement, lighting his eyes. He released her hand where their fingers had been intertwined, only to slide his arm around her shoulders, pulling her gently against him as they walked.
The action surprised him, how casual and right it seemed, but he didn't withdraw due to that surprise. He'd given up. He was done fighting this strange, intense attraction, and the comforting sense that she just belonged there, with him, and that he belonged with her. He only wanted to accept this thing, and...he found it so easy to allow himself to do exactly that.
“Madison,” he said, breaking the silence, “tell me something about you. Something you've never told anyone else.” He tilted his head to look down at her as he spoke, a gentle smile touching his lips. He knew it wasn't entirely fair to ask it of her, but he did it anyway. He would be repaying it soon enough, with secrets about himself he'd never imagined telling anyone else, ever. “I just...I know so little about you. I feel like I've always known you, somehow, but... I want to know. Everything, I just...I want to know.”
“You go far away from me sometimes,” she laughed as she let him take her fingers off of his face, relaxing with him. She knew they had just met, but it did feel like forever in that hour.
When she had caught up with him, her eyebrows lifted as he let go of her hand, only to tug her into his side. This was what they meant when they talked about love at first sight, well, it wasn’t quite love yet; but she was definitely intrigued. She wanted to know him more, she wanted to be with him. Her lips twisted into a smile of contentment as she shifted a bit to lean into his side, an arm winding around his midsection.
“Hmm?” She looked up at him as they walked, their speed slower now. “Something I have never told anyone else?” Her eyebrows knit as she walked. What was something she never told anyone? “It’s not a nice little secret,” her voice was soft as she lifted her eyes back up at him. “I don’t like to think about it much.”
Her fingers played a bit with his side before she gave a slight nod. “No one knows this, the scars have faded enough to say that I got it when I was running around. My parents were killed when I was young,” she looked away from him, looking ahead of her as they walked. “It was a grisly murder, I wasn’t even home – thankfully.” She takes a moment, thinking about what to say next, “then I,” she looked up at him with a chuckle, “I tried to kill myself. I would have made it too if I hadn’t made so much noise falling over,” she chuckled again, softer, weakly.
“Only a little bit. You...make me think. A lot.” Everything about his tone indicated he didn't consider it a bad thing. “I find myself...imagining things that...well, I never really thought about before.” Things like the possibility of a lifetime of not being alone, when before that hadn't even been a remote option.
Her arm slid around him, and he could only smile. Whatever this thing was, she felt it too. That much was certain, and allowed him to relax further into it. Some small part of his mind tugged at him, warning him, reminding him that relaxing opened him to danger, and even possibly to hurting those around him. But he found it so easy to shove away. He was alert enough for any danger they could possibly encounter on their way to his little hidden spot along the lake. And there was an even deeper instinct at play that told him he wouldn't hurt her, not even inadvertently. That whispering thought, he listened to.
Oh, the look on her face as she considered a secret to tell him. He'd never imagined it would be something that made her so sad, so hesitant. He wanted to take it back, and nearly did. But...curiosity stopped him, a need to know everything about her, every little detail. He wanted to know her inside and out, as he'd never known anyone before.
He quickly regretted that decision, however. He looked down at her as they walked, listening with a growing sense of shock, and even horror. How could someone so beautiful, so...pure have had to suffer so much? How could life have dealt her such a terrible blow so early? And to think, if she'd succeeded, if someone – he could only assume the grandmother she had mentioned so fondly – hadn't saved her...he would never have met her, never have saved her. She...wouldn't have been here to save him.
...and, he realized suddenly, that's what she was doing; saving him.
He wasn't even aware that the horror he felt showed on his face as he stared down at her, enrapt, and yet so terrified of what might have been. He reached to the arm around him with his free hand, that hand seeking out her wrist, finding it, rubbing his thumb over it. There, just ever so faintly, he could feel the scars of her failed attempt. If he hadn't known what he'd find, and if he wasn't so attuned to her her, he might not have ever noticed them.
“I'm...” He paused, unsure what to say. I'm sorry sounded so trite, so cliché, even if he truly was sorry for her loss, deeply so. The way his heart was hammering with the lingering terror just from the very thought that he might never have met her, might never have found her, might never have had this...whatever this really was...well, that spoke far more eloquently than he ever could. And it drove home to him the need that was burned into him now for her, for just her very presence.
“I'm sorry, Madi. But I'm glad you were saved.” He let his hand drift from her wrist to touch her cheek, the barest brush of skin against skin, and, if he hadn't been more intent than ever to get them where he was leading them – and they were so close now, he could smell the lake strongly enough that he knew even human senses should be able to pick it up by now – he would have stopped and just kissed her. It could wait, though. Not long, perhaps, but long enough.
Madison frowned a bit as she saw the look on his face, this was why she never wanted to talk about it – people were always uncomfortable when discussion turned to death or suicide. It was a messy affair and people didn’t like messy. Her lips turned downward for a moment, she was unsure if he would see her as broken now. That was one thing that she hated: being seen as broken. Life was meant to be lived, it was a lesson she had learned at a relatively young age. Many would have never believed that she had tried killing herself at ten years old. People always thought that was far too young.
But not when you were already such an old soul the moment you were born.
When his hands sought out one of her wrists, she wanted to hide them behind her back. It was her secret shame, that she was unable to tolerate living at one point in time. Her eyes flicked away, then back to him when she felt his thumb stroking the scar. It burned a bit under his touch, she almost wanted to jump out of her skin.
But he wasn’t being mean. No, he was looking for her in all this.
“It happened,” her voice was soft as she studied him before letting her lips curl upward. “That’s why life is worth living. My grandmother always told me I’d be the death of myself,” she shrugged with a chuckle. “So now you know my deepest and darkest secret,” the darkness already chased away from her eyes with a smile. “If it weren’t for her, I would have missed out on so much beauty.
“I would have missed out on you.”
She smiled as she looked away, “we’re close now, what has you so excited?”
“I would have missed out on you.” Oh, God help him, he was just so done for...and he really just didn't even care anymore. All he could do was smile down at her, at her enthusiasm, at how she hadn't let the darkness of her childhood destroy her...at how very precious she'd become to him in such a short amount of time.
“I...should be terrified,” he finally replied. And he should be. Revealing himself was dangerous, to himself more than anyone else. But.. “I should be, but I'm not. I'm excited because I'm going to share something of myself that I've never told anyone before.” And it was truth. One other person knew, but that...had been beyond his control, when he was too young to have been able to make any choice about it. Willingly, consciously telling someone? Showing someone? That was a different thing altogether.
“I'm excited because I'm going to share myself with you.”
And there it was just ahead of them, tucked between two warehouses, obviously long abandoned. It was a smaller warehouse, set back between the two larger ones. It looked in even worse shape than the two it sat between, as nearly impossible as that seemed. Perhaps two stories tall, made up of concrete – where the surrounding buildings appeared to be primarily metal sheeting – with a massive, heavy metal door as the only thing breaking the monotony of the solid wall.
However, he didn't lead her to that door, but instead took her around the side of the building, where a smaller door was set into the wall close to where it nearly met the lake. Just like the front of the building, the door was the only thing breaking the solidity of the wall, not a window was to be seen, making the building appear very dark and grim – a contrast to the growing excitement he evidenced. He was really going to do this. He was going to show someone who should still be, essentially, a stranger, his secret.
He'd kept his silence during all of this, only shooting her grins now and again, feeling like he imagined a child might at Christmas. He didn't really know personally, but...he'd seen enough to imagine. He wanted this, wanted to give this to her. It was a risk, beyond the dangers of exposing himself, it was still a risk. Despite that she had inklings that there were things in the city most mundanes never even really imagined, she could still end up terrified of him. But...something deep inside told him she wouldn't be, so...it was worth the risk.
She was worth the risk.
He finally released her, though he was surprised to find that the lack of physical contact with her left an ache. He ignored it, though, telling himself it wouldn't have to last long if things went well here. One more grin was turned her way, this one tinged with a bit of the nervousness that was rising up to war with the excitement he felt.
The door itself was locked, but not in a way that any key would open. This building, this was his. This was the one thing he owned that he truly valued, a secret to go along with the secret of what he was, and he'd protected it with every ounce of skill and power he had. Only he – and anyone else he chose, but he'd never done that before – could open the doors to this building. He reached out to touch the physical – and utterly useless – lock below the door latch, letting the power that constantly swirled restlessly beneath his skin rise up briefly.
As soon as his flesh came in contact with the metal, he could hear the magic release, and the door unlock, a sound he'd always imagined to be something like the tinkle of broken glass falling onto metal. Curious, he glanced to Madison for her reaction, squinting a bit, his expression solemnly interested. What he saw gave him pause – a little tilt of her head and a faintly distant look, as though...well, as though she were trying to catch something she heard. It only confirmed his suspicions that there was more to her than she appeared...and more than she herself believed.
But..there would be time to deal with that; time later to discover just what was hidden within her. For now, he had something to show her.
Instead, he threw open the door and gestured grandly for her to enter, his grin softening now into a smile tinged with a touch of hesitancy. He was growing anxious, worried again that she wouldn't approve, that she'd reject him. And that thought, oh that thought hurt. But he had to trust his instincts on this, the ones that whispered how very right she was, and whatever was rapidly forming between them was meant, in some fashion.
Once she'd stepped onto the large, open space of the building, he closed the door behind them, another whisper of magic sealing it once more. The building, on the inside, was completely different from the impression it gave from the outside. Inside, instead of it being dark, light shone in from windows scattered high in the back wall facing the lake. That light was supplemented by globes of light scattered within the space, some against walls, some...simply floating, drifting in the still air.
Against the wall furthest from the door they'd come in through was a little area with a comfortable-looking, obviously well-used couch, and several shelves holding a varied collection of books. Close to this area was a table set against the wall, with an assortment of the tools he occasionally made use of in magic work. Otherwise, the space was empty, appearing unused. Yet it was immaculate, no signs of dust or dirt. Well, aside from a few scattered scorch-marks, worn and obviously several years old.
He grew still after he'd resealed the door, watching her as she took it all in, a muted sense of pride suffusing him momentarily. This was his. His apartment? He slept there, most nights. He used it to maintain a cover of being nothing more than a human sorcerer earning a living like every other guy out there. But this? This was his space, his retreat, a place that no one else had ever entered – not even Lexi, the only other being in existence that knew what he was.
“Welcome to my world, Madison,” he finally said, his voice soft, continuing to watch her with a mix of anticipation and anxiety. As amazing as he considered this place, as special and private as it was to him, the real secret was yet to come.
“Terrified?” Madison tilted her head with a chuckle, “you worry too much.” She nudged into him with her hip while tilting her head up at him, a smile dancing on her lips and in her eyes. She already adored that about him, he would be her rock while she was his kite. Something she liked the thought of, without even really hesitating because it meant forever – even if they had just met.
She went with him willingly, studying the warehouses with a curious quirk. This was where he wanted her to be? She wasn’t so sure about that, but decided there had to be a method to his madness. “You’re going to share you with me?” Her eyes lit up, “good. I want that,” she smiled as she tilted her head a bit, ready to ask about the warehouses when he led her on some more. He had fallen silent, and released her, which was weird.
But he was all excited too, so again, she would need to trust.
There was a door and he was doing something. Magic, she softly gasped as she realized what he was doing. Real magic, her head tilted in awe as she wrapped her arms around herself. There was a sound, something thrummed deep inside of her for a moment, then faded, slowly, like an echo. Then it was gone, almost like it never happened. She refocused as he gestured, a soft laugh spilling from her lips as she stepped over the threshold into the room and gasped.
She stood there, her arms slipping to her sides as she tried to take it all in. It wasn’t a crowded room, but at the same time, there was everything demanding to be seen.
“Beautiful,” she spoke softly, reverently, as if she was afraid of breaking a spell.
She turned to look at him, “this is you.” She tilted her head up at one of the floating globes of lights and laughed in delight as she clasped her hands to her chest, “I love those.”
He smiled softly, the fondness for her only growing as she took in the room and its contents with a sense of wonder. But when she turned to him, finally, he honestly wondered if there was something wrong with him, briefly, before he just started to laugh. This was what people meant when they said their heart would skip a beat upon seeing something beautiful, something precious, something....loved.
He...might actually love her, as impossible as that seemed. An hour. Two. Maybe three. He couldn't be sure, but...no more than that. And he was, somehow, incredibly, impossibly, amazingly...falling in love with her. Well, shit.
“Well, this is...where I come when I want to be me, yes.” His eyes flicked up, taking in the globes he'd begun to just take for granted now. “I'm glad you like them,” he said, finding joy in seeing them again, afresh through her eyes. “But this isn't really me, and, as happy as I am that you like it here, I... Well, this isn't really what I wanted to show you. It's just the safest place, the only place, really, that I could show you.”
He closed the distance between them and paused to place a brief gentle kiss on her brow. “Just...wait here, watch.” He hesitated just a moment longer, clear, vivid blue eyes searching her face for any sign that he should not do this thing, while gathering courage to do it – to do what he'd never even dreamed of doing before. Seeing nothing that discouraged him from his desire to share himself with her, he offered her a reassuring smile and stepped away from her, moving to the middle of the large room.
Once there, he turned to face her. “Madison, I... Just don't be afraid, okay?” He didn't wait for a response, if she even made one. Instead, he closed his eyes and turned his focus inward, chasing down the power that shifted under his skin and ran through his veins and even threaded through his very soul. What he was seeking to do wasn't actually all that hard for him. In fact, it was something he could do without much thought at all. If anything, it was the withholding if it that took concentration and power. But he wanted this to be special.
As much as it should have embarrassed him, he wanted to show off, to impress her.
He took a deep breath, and then another, and then relaxed himself entirely, retaining only enough tension to remain standing. And, as he did so, the air around his back shimmered faintly. Then, suddenly, where there had been empty air, there was now a pair of large wings, patterned in midnight black and a soft grey, highlighted with hints of shimmering gold and silver along the edges of each individual gleaming feather.
He opened his eyes slowly, seeking her out immediately. “Madison...you wanted to know before what I am. This... This is what I am.” He hesitated, finding it harder to speak the word for what he was than it was to actually show her. It was a forbidden word, for him. Or, nearly so. Words, after all, especially words to name something, had power. “Nephilim. Child of angel and human. This..is what I am.”
Madison looked away from the floating globes to him, a curious look skittering over her face, there was more? Her eyebrows lifted, “what do you mean?” Her voice was soft while it reflected her curiosity. “Then show me,” she watched him close in on her, a soft smile dancing on her lips, she wholly trusted him.
Her head tilted up to take him in, smiling at the feel of his lips on her skin. “Okay,” she slipped her arms around herself as she studied him, her eyes followed him everywhere. What was it that he wanted to show her? “I’ll stay right here,” she reassured him as he looked at her, she wasn’t even sure if she knew how to be afraid right now.
Her lips curled in an easy smile as she waited, then there it was.
He was leaving her, but not quite leaving, she could feel it. Her eyes flicked over him in a combination of awe and alarm, what was going to happen? Her hands tightened a bit at her elbows as she had to force herself to stay in her spot, he would tell her when it was safe.
“Ah,” her voice was soft as she saw the air shift around him, something akin to a mirage in the desert. It was as if she had blinked, her eyes were open, closed, then opened again – there were wings. She gasped loudly, her hands escaping the hold she had put on them, covering her mouth.
“Oh Dmitri,” she spoke with the same note of awe as she watched him, taking in the wings. “Can I…?” She waited for permission to come closer, she wanted to touch him and the wings – but mostly him. “You’re beautiful,” she looked at him, her hands still over her lips. “Nephilim,” her voice echoed him, “Nephilim. Beautiful.” Her hands slipped from her lips as she gave him a smile, she didn’t wait for his permission as she moved toward him.
Wonder filled her, he could see it as it lit her from within, somehow only enhancing her already considerable beauty. She wasn't afraid. There wasn't the slightest trace of fear in her. He could only stare at her, wings trembling with the rush of emotion. It was as though this was what his heart had been waiting for, her acceptance of him, her truly seeing him.
She was approaching him now, and only then did he realize she'd spoken, hesitantly asking his permission. Belatedly, he nodded, unsure if he could trust himself to speak to her just then. Just before she reached him, he flared his wings in what was meant, by instinct, to be a dramatic display of power, a delighted grin twisting his lips.
He was proud of his wings, after all. To those who knew how to read them, they displayed for anyone lucky enough to see them his power. The darker the wings a nephilim had, the more power they contained and could command. He'd only seen the wings of one other nephilim – not a surprise since they were incredibly rare, and those who did live guarded the secret of what they were as though their lives depended on it because it often did. The nephilim he'd seen had been dead, a twisted, broken thing drained of her power and then tossed away. And...she'd had wings of a nearly snowy white beneath the blood and muck. Only later, when the shock of seeing something other than black and grey had died away had he discovered she'd been more human than anything, several generations removed from her angel ancestor.
He pulled himself from thoughts that had turned musing and grim, to see Madison standing before him, staring at him in wonder. He pulled his wings back down, folding and pressing them against his back, ignoring the itch that always happened where, thanks to the magic that thrummed like a living thing through his wings, each and every feather of them, his wings passed through his clothing. “You...you're really not afraid of me. Of proof that I'm not...human.” It was very much a statement. He didn't need to ask, he could see that she had no fear of him at all. She was nothing but trust and wonder and enchantment.
God help him, he might truly love her.
Instead of saying it, for fear of her laughing at him and his presumption, he did the next best thing. Even though he knew she might not at all understand the gesture, he unfolded his wings again and brought them forward so that she was sheltered within their shadows...and within easy reach of her. “You...you can touch them, if you want.” Even as he said this, the soft, flexible feathers fluffed up, and he laughed at how easily his wings gave his feelings away, even if she wasn't able to read them. His joy, his contentment, they were there to be seen in those fluffed feathers, just as much as in his brightened eyes as he looked down at her.
He merely watched, then, to see what she would do, and to see how she would react. His wings were magical things, after all, all the way down to even the tiniest feather. Most of his power was stored in them, and even mundanes, should he ever let one touch his wings – something that was never likely to happen, as they were incredibly sensitive and private – would be able to sense something. Madison, though, he suspected might well feel more. He wasn't certain, of course, but he was so curious to find out what would happen when and if she touched them.
“Why would I be afraid?” Her voice was soft and full of wonder as she approached him, coming to a stop in front of him as she looked over his wings. She wanted to touch them, but wasn’t sure if it was okay. “You’re already something wonderful to me,” she gestured to the wings before he tucked them away from her view, “those just make you even more so.”
A delighted laugh came from her as she saw him unfold his wings, her hands fluttering onto her chest as she looked at the feathers. “I can really touch them? Are you sure?”
When he nodded his encouragement, one of her hands slipped from her chest to touch one of the feathers – just with the tip of her finger.
The moment her finger touched the feather, it was as if she was standing next to a freight train. All her senses were assaulted: everything was too loud, too fast, and too bright. The smells were too much, even if there wasn’t much of anything in the building for her to smell. Madi’s eyes closed, squeezing tight as to resist this. Once she pulled her fingers away, her eyes opened very slowly, one eye at a time.
Her eyes looked for his and once she found them, she let her breath out. “How did you do that?” She held up the hand that had touched his feather, her eyes studied both him and the hand. It wasn’t fear, but something had shifted a bit in her – not against him, but…
“Was that you?” She murmured softly as she moved the hand toward his feathers again; of course she had to touch again. She was one of those kind of people that didn’t care if the warning labels were there, she always had to find out for herself.
She asked if she could touch his wings, and he only nodded, still in awe of her outlook on the whole thing...on him. He watched her carefully, curiosity warring with concern, since he had no idea what would actually happen once she came in contact with his wings. It could be...simply nothing. But, it could be intense for her...and possibly for him. It all depended on what, exactly, she really was.
And then, that contact happened. For him, it was like a jolt of electricity ran through him, from the point where her finger came into contact with his feather. But, it wasn't painful, nor was it unpleasant. It was a heady rush of power, of like meeting like, and it left him with no doubt whatsoever now as to what she really was, even as unlikely and even impossible as it should have been.
He remained focused enough – though it was so, so hard to resist just getting lost in that feeling of power meeting power, of his inborn magic reaching out to her, seeking to pull out her own inborn magic, to free her – to watch for her reactions. His concern grew when he realized she was overwhelmed, and he had only himself to blame.
She was able to pull herself from the contact, slowly opening each eye one at a time, then seeking his out. That didn't stop him from cursing himself silently, berating himself for allowing it to happen. She could have been hurt, or worse. But...how could he ever have guessed? Out of all the scenarios and possibilities that had run through his mind, the one he'd never even considered had turned out to be the truth.
“Madison,” he breathed, jerking his wings up out of her reach as she moved to touch them again. “Wait, don't. I..it was, ah...” He wasn't sure how to explain it to her. It was something that shouldn't even be possible. The chances of him finding her, of her even existing, it was just...unbelievable. Except, there she stood, his power writhing under his skin, restless and unsatisfied, seeking contact with her, and with the power that lay hidden within her.
Finally, he took a deep breath, and huffed it out again. “It wasn't me. And it wasn't you. Not exactly. I mean, not... It was us.” He hesitated, reaching out to take her hands and hold them, as much because he wanted that contact as because he wanted to be sure she didn't touch when he relaxed his wings, allowing them to droop down into a more comfortable position behind him. And, even that contact seemed to now spark faintly with power, with...something that, if he only allowed it to happen, would change everything.
Suddenly, he forced himself to calm, for her sake if nothing else. He needed to explain this to her. And he felt the best way to do that with her was bluntly. He honestly believed she wouldn't accept anything but the truth, unadorned. “Madison, I think... No. That's not right. I know why I was certain there was something about you, why I kept asking what you are. I should have known. My instincts, they're...almost never wrong.” His lips quirked, just faintly, into a smile he could only hope was reassuring, despite his nervousness. “You're...like me. That's why what happened...happened. Somewhere, you have an ancestor that wasn't human. That was...ah...angel.”
Madison’s lips turned down a little bit when he pulled his wings away from her, she did understand why he did that, but she was curious. “It was what?” She let him take her hands, a curious tilt of her head as she watched him. Sparks again as they touched, she thrilled and shivered all at once, it was wonderful. “You still do it to me, you know?” Her voice was soft, still so full of wonder, as she looked up at him. She let him hold her hands, shifting them so she could tangle her fingers with his – they fit so perfectly.
“It was us?” She lifted an eyebrow, “what does that mean?” She did like the idea of them being an `us`, but she was also worried that it could be bad. Especially with what had just happened. It was dizzying still to think about the contact of her finger and his feathers; she could still remember what it was like – almost like standing in the middle of a hurricane, she’d imagine.
“So I’m like you?” Her voice was soft as she tilted her head up at him, her eyes dancing, “I’m not a plain old human?” She laughed, delight in her voice as she ran her thumb along his fingers. “I’m a…” She groped for the word, he had just said it earlier, “Nephilim.” Her lips twisted into a bright smile as she moved their hands so she could press herself up against him, she needed to touch and be touched at the moment. Holding hands wouldn’t do it.
“How did you know?”
Again, she just amazed him with her reaction. Dmitri basked in it. The wonder she showed, the amusement, the excitement, he just took it all in. He knew, eventually, he would have to take some of that from her. He would have to teach her fear, and caution. It was a wonder, really, that she hadn't been taken and drained of her power – or even worse – long before now. He suspected that whatever it was that had locked Madison's power away was the only thing that had saved her life. And he wondered at it, briefly, before he set it aside to think on later.
“Mmm. I...know. We're connected,” he replied distantly as she entangled their fingers together so comfortably, thoughts still racing. “Or..I think, just...we could be, if we really wanted it.”
Now...he had to deal with the situation, no matter how badly he wanted to merely lose himself in her. Inadvertently, he had unlocked her power, he'd destroyed whatever had been done to her to make her appear human, and even feel human to anyone that wasn't another nephilim. Madison would need to be protected until she learned to hide herself, until she learned how to deal with what she was, the reality of it. Dmitri would need to teach her, and stay near to her until she was as safe as he could make her.
Never once did it occur to him to just shelter her away for the long term. Nothing as free-spirited and joyful as she was should ever, ever be locked away from the world.
That laugh of hers, so full of wonder, of delight...oh, it did things to him. “Yes, you're nephilim.” And there she was, shifting herself, pressing up against him, leaning on him, and God help him but it felt so perfect, so right, and it nearly took his breath away. It took him a moment to recover himself, to continue on with what he felt she deserved to hear. “Not..quite like I am. One of my parents was an angel.” He didn't mention that he wasn't even sure which, as he couldn't really remember them. But he knew it to be true, nonetheless. “I suspect the angel in your family line goes further back.”
Dmitri disentangled one of his hands from hers, reaching to lay his palm against her soft cheek. He was looking down at her, caught for a moment just by the sight of her, even now showing no fear, that smile of hers bright with the joy she took in everything around her. He felt, briefly, a thrill of fear – for her, and even of her, of the ways he could suddenly see himself changing. But the fear was gone as quickly as it had come, leaving him with only wonder and the need to just be with her, always.
Which, it suddenly occurred to him, was actually a possibility, now. So many things were possible now, if he allowed himself to reach out for them, and...if Madison wanted them, too.
“I suspected something was different about you, Madison,” Dmitri said, pulling his wandering thoughts back to now, back to the situation that still needed to be dealt with. “Instincts, they're..uh..pretty powerful, for me.” He sighed, his thumb moving, stroking absently against her cheek. “I could tell you heard the magic when I unlocked the door. It meant you had to have a natural talent for it, even if you'd never realized it. I just... I didn't know, didn't even imagine...until you touched my wings. They, uh...they're basically pure magic. Powerful magic.”
Again, came hesitation, and he gave in to the instinctive need to let his wings drift forward and and enfold them both. It was only through an effort of will that he kept them from actually touching her. Though, he suspected the reaction a second time would be far different, and that her experience the first time had been purely due to whatever spell had locked her power away being broken. “And I just...knew. Like knows like. I've never even touched another living nephilim before. But...I just knew.”
There was another sigh, and his hand drifted from her cheek to stroke her hair softly. “Are you...uh...are you okay?”
“If we wanted it?” Her eyebrows lifted upward as she studied him with an amused expression on her face.
She rested against him, closing her eyes for a moment as he spoke, his voice rumbled deep in her chest – tickling her cheek. Her lips twisted in a smile, she knew he was doing all the worrying, even though he was trying to keep the mood light. She pulled her head away from his chest to look up at him, “so you’re directly from an angel. Hm, I wonder the angel was in my family…” She would have to ask grandmother when she called tomorrow, maybe grandmother would know. Or grandmother would know of a story to tell her; sometimes that was how grandmother answered her questions: with a story. The stories had some sort of purpose to them, she knew. Or else she would have never been able to encounter Dmitri without fear. She felt the world was always so afraid of what they didn’t know, even when they finally started knowing what they feared.
Her free hand settled on his chest, she leaned her head in his hand, shivering at the sparks his thumb was giving off. “Your wings are not just magic, they’re beautiful, Dmitri.” Her voice still had that note of awe and wonder.
Her lips curled in a smile, “then it was destiny?” Her eyebrows lifted as she looked up at him again. A pause, “you have never seen a living Nephilim before? Why?” Her voice was soft, she glanced over shoulder to his wings, smiling.
She felt oh-so-safe right here in the building, against him, under his wings. “I’m okay,” she looked up at him, knitting her eyebrows, “are you?”
He merely smiled awkwardly. Dmitri wanted to clarify, but he was too afraid of it turning into a proposal, begging her right then and there to accept, to let him have so selfishly what he'd never before even imagined he could. Hell, he'd known Madison...what, two, three hours? She'd grown up human, believing she was, anyway. And most of what he knew was passed to him from a scholar, and from his own research. It wasn't right to press his own wishes, his own desires onto her, not now, not like that. He'd messed up her life so much already at this point.
Her head was nestled against his chest, making a warmth bloom there far beyond just simple body heat. It was very distracting. Not that Dmitri minded that a bit, not really. There was a shrug, a slight lift of his shoulders, looking down to meet her eyes when she shifted to look up at him. “It doesn't matter, much. The further back it goes, the more the power gets diluted, the more the...uh...instincts and peculiarities we get from the mix of human and angel are diluted.”
Her hand settled onto his chest, replacing the warmth he'd already missed from her head resting there so trustingly.“They're, uh... They're just...part of me.” He wasn't sure how to handle his wings being called beautiful, but...at the same time, he couldn't really disagree. No matter that he had to hide them away, and had done so almost every moment of his life – or what he could remember of it – he was proud of them. They marked him as what he was – physically, tangibly – more than anything else about him. “But thank you, Madison,” he added after a moment, real gratitude in his voice.
“Destiny?” Dmitri repeated it, blinking a few times before meeting her gaze. “I don't know. It...sorta feels that way. Maybe?” He shrugged again, unconcerned. It was what it was. Maybe some sort of destiny, maybe just...like calling to like. Or, maybe just the wishful thinking of a being who'd believed his destiny was to remain alone for his entire life.
Her next questions were harder. Known the answers and being able to put them into words? Two entirely different things. But, as Dmitri had been nearly from the moment he met her, he was compelled to answer her honestly. “Because most never survive. Die in the womb, or in infancy. The very rare ones who survive.. Well, many are unable to reproduce successfully, except with another nephilim. And...” Oh, he didn't want to admit the last part, the worst part. She deserved to know, however, and that was what gave him the courage to go on. “Nephilim are hunted, used – as magical batteries or enspelled into slavery and used that way.”
He stopped then, a tremor running through him. He'd been incredibly lucky to have escaped his brush with exactly that scenario, and it still made terror spark within him just thinking about it. He clutched at Madison, remembering himself enough to be gentle, but desperation clear in his actions nonetheless. Burying his face into her hair, he nodded slowly. “I'm okay,” he mumbled, as the shuddering eased and he breathed in her unique scent. “And I'll make sure you stay safe. I promise.”
“So… I’m diluted Nephilim,” she chuckled softly as she tilted her head up at him, “it’s weird thinking I’m finally one of the magical things that my grandmother always told me about.” Her lips twisted into a content smile as she ran her fingers idly over his chest. “I wish she was still alive so I could tell her, get more information, I mean… everything.” She laughed somewhat, rolling her shoulders, this was a bittersweet moment. Her grandmother had been the person she went to for everything, and now…
She mentally gave herself a shake as she studied his face, she could see he wasn’t comfortable with her compliment of his wings. “Dmitri,” she slipped her hands off of his chest to his sides, “they’re beautiful.” Her eyebrows furrowed a bit, “they’re who you are and what you are is beautiful.” She grunted a bit, “don’t argue with me, you won’t win. I have been told I am very stubborn sometimes,” she grinned.
“Destiny. You were called to come in and save me, my hero.” She smiled as she tilted her head back against his chest, relaxing again. She listened to him as he spoke, his voice deep in his chest tickling her cheek. “Is that why you worry? That they will hunt me?” She tilted her head back away from his chest to study him, “then why haven’t they found me until now?”
She blinked, then sighed, “I’ve been safe so far, I can still be safe.” She frowned a bit before brightening, “wait, are you going to my bodyguard? Are we going to do the Whitney Houston and Bruce Willis thing where they end up falling in love and…” She squinted, “I will not sing the song though.” She was going to step away but he wrapped her up tightly, she cleared her throat softly, “Dmitri,” she chuckled, “we’re both okay. I know I’m safe with you.” She slipped her arms from his waist to tangling them loosely behind him, melding herself into him.
“Does that mean I have to stay with you all the time?”
“Not...quite how I'd put it, but..yeah, I guess, 'diluted' nephilim works.” He couldn't help but smile at her ability to take joy in even this thing. While he, too, felt some joy – primarily in having such an incredible explanation for the nearly instant attachment he'd felt for her – he was also afraid for her. She'd been protected, and, in a moment of weakness and pride, he'd destroyed that...all because he'd wanted to let her touch his wings as much as she'd wanted to do it.
He laughed, kindly, gently. “You...do have access to some information here, you know. And...what I can't tell you, we might be able to find in the books.” He flashed a cocky grin, looking down at her. “Hi, Dmitri Romanov, paranormal investigator, sorcerer, and well-known obsessive collector of all information about nephilim,” he said, in an amused tone. “At least, that's what the rest of the city knows me as. But...not a one of them, no one in the city, knows me as well as you do.” And it was true. Not even Alexi knew as much of Dmitri as he'd already shown Madison. “There are a couple of good books on nephilim ancestry. Maybe we can find something in there.”
He opened his mouth, only to close it almost immediately. Instead, he only nodded slowly, accepting her compliment. He just...didn't want to argue with her. He wasn't even sure he could argue with her.
When her hands moved to his waist, he shifted his wings again, carefully drawing them back in. It ached, after all, to hold them outstretched behind him as he had been, to keep them out of her reach. Besides, he fully believed that the damage was already done, and anything she might feel if she touched them again wouldn't be so terrible as what had happened at first. That, he was sure, was the spell breaking. So, he brought them in, curling them around the two of them once more. It was instinct he gave in to, the desire to shield her from everything that might harm her, both physically and magically, even though it wasn't needed, not in this place, where they were both safe from everything.
He head dropped back to rest against his chest, and he just basked in the feeling of her warmth and her trust for a moment before answering her. “I'm not a hero, Madison. I'm really not. But...for you...I can try to be as close as possible.” He huffed out a sigh. As much as he loved her trust in him, treasured it even, that same trust extended to others now could get her killed – or a fate even worse, as he knew all-too-well. “You...were safe. I ruined that. I... I think it was a spell, the same that kept you from knowing what you are, it kept everyone else from knowing. Even I couldn't quite figure it out, until that spell broke. But, now...? You're safe here. It's warded, no one can detect us here.” He let the rest go unsaid, believing she was smart enough to figure out what he couldn't quite bring himself to say aloud.
Startled, he laughed. How to explain to her that, thanks to magic and biology and just...her being exactly who she was, he was quite sure he was already falling in love with her. No sappy movie plot required.
Her reassurance was welcome, and more than. It grounded him again, forcing him to remember that the past was exactly that, the past. And when she leaned against him, pressing herself to him gently, fitting perfectly against him, he sighed and relaxed. He'd escaped, and he would lay down his life, if he had to, to make sure nothing like it ever happened to Madison. “I...don't know,” he admitted honestly, raising his head from where it'd been buried into her soft hair so that he could look down at her, . “You're safe here, in this building. You're...mostly...safe with me.” He hesitated. “I..don't want to chain you down. But... Yeah. I won't hold you here, or anywhere. I...can't do that to you. But I think my primary purpose in life just became protecting you until you're able to protect yourself...or until I can find a way to fix the spell I broke, and replace it.” He hated to think of doing that, because it would lock away everything that made her nephilim again. But...if she wanted it done, he would do it.
Then again, he thought, looking down at her nestled so trustingly in his arms as though she belonged there, he'd do <i>anything</i> she wanted.
“So you’re a walking encyclopedia on everything magical,” she grinned, “my walking encyclopedia. I think I can deal with that,” she stood up on her tiptoes to kiss along his jaw idly. “I’ll have to make use of you,” she paused, “I might ask a lot of questions. I’m inquisitive,” she grinned as she dropped back down on the heels of her feet. “So I can look at any book in here and you won’t be mad?” she peeked around his building before settling against him again, a soft laugh tumbling out as she felt his feathers around her; this was magical. She had always dreamed of meeting someone made of magic – but it was really happening.
There were no words to explain the feeling inside, it was almost like riding a roller coaster and being on the very top of a big hill.
“Then we’ll figure out the spell,” she rolled her shoulders, “I think it’s good that I finally know who I am before I go rushing into something stupid.” She paused, squinting up at him, “more stupid than usual.” Madison chuckled, “I’m always getting into scrapes, so you’re going to have a time with me, my good sir.” She tapped his back a little bit before tracing random designs at the small of his back. “I know you’ll do whatever you can to protect me, but you can’t forget about you.” She frowned a bit, tilting her head back so he could see her face, “what about you? If I’m a new baby Nephilim, they’re going to want me then having you with me… they’ll figure it out.”
She shrugged a bit before nestling her head against his chest, “if I need to roam, I will. I told you, I always go for walks. I can’t just…” she rolled her shoulders, “I’m going to have to be safer, until I figure things out.”
A pause, “but I can always sneak into your apartment,” she teased with an impish grin thrown up in his direction before she stood on her toes to steal another kiss along his jaw. She didn’t know why she was so loving, but she had to be, it felt right.
He squinted at her, ready to deny that he was quite as knowledgeable as she seemed to think. Even if he was probably one of the most knowledgeable outside Alexi himself, he just couldn't even really think of himself as anything special, at least outside of the one thing that did make him truly special. But, she managed to distract him quite effectively from any protests with two simple tactics – made all the more effective because he knew they weren't really tactics at all, but just Madison being herself. She called him her walking encyclopedia, and then, while he was still processing that, there came the brush of her lips against the skin of his jaw.
He huffed out a sigh, mostly with amusement at how easily she manipulated and distracted him, without even doing so maliciously – and often without even realizing it. “I've noticed you are,” he said with a chuckle. “I don't mind. I...like teaching what I know.” He grew thoughtful, then, an idea beginning to form. “Yeah, sure. You can look at whatever you want in here. Except the table with the spellworking tools. Don't touch it without me. Some of it can be dangerous.” As he spoke now, his voice was a bit distant, a faint frown touching his brow. He did, however, loosen his hold on her. He couldn't bear to let go and step away from her quite yet, but he made it clear that she was free to go look if she wanted to.
Her taps against his back pulled him from his thoughts with an idea half formed. Still, he waited to speak of it, thinking it better to hold off until he could figure it all out. But, if it worked, it might be the perfect solution...without having to lock away what had only just been discovered. He bristled at the thought, anyway, unable to help it. She was nephilim and she deserved to have the chance to explore what she truly was, instead of being forced back into being something she wasn't.
Okay, so...maybe he didn't want to lose what he'd just discovered in her, as well.
“It wouldn't be the first time I've played bodyguard. Though, never for someone quite so beautiful. Or interesting. Or...” He let it trail off, not quite ready to say what he'd been thinking. Or, perhaps, just afraid of how she might react if he did say it. It was crazy, right? Love at first sight was human silliness. Or...a nephilim thing, a little voice deep inside whispered unhelpfully.
He just let her speak, working out in his mind the details – scant though they may be – of his budding plan as she spoke. There was that warmth in his chest again as she nestled herself against him head against his chest. Her trust continued to leave him in awe. And, every display of her trust in him only made him fall a little bit deeper, each and every time. He knew by now it was hopeless, that he was hopelessly caught by her. And he couldn't even bring himself to regret it, no matter how it turned out.
Again, feather-light kisses to his jaw distracted him. But that was alright, his plan – meager though it was – was as formed as it could be. As was his decision to finally, completely submit to whatever it was that was happening to him, between them. He was hers, as much of him as she wanted. It had gone too far, whatever bonding was taking place, it had gone too far to be stopped, or for him to even want to stop it. “You can. My apartment,” he said suddenly. “Whatever I have...is yours. You have access to all of it. Though...I'll be honest. My apartment? It's nothing, really. A front to distract anyone looking from this place. This is as much a home as I have.”
He finally turned his full attention back to her, turning his head to place a gentle, chaste kiss to her cheek before pulling back just a bit to look at her closely. “But I do know how to keep anyone from suspecting you...and me. And without forcing you to lock away who you really are, like was done to you before.” He hesitated, only briefly, then pressed on, an impish grin playing on his lips that was a match to hers. “Most sorcerers take an apprentice, eventually. Many, more than one. I...never have. Always told people I never found anyone powerful enough, or interesting enough. I...think you qualify. No one will suspect me being with you, or you with me, if I let it get around that I've finally taken an apprentice.”
There was a pause again as he let her digest this. “Besides....I hope...maybe...it won't be a lie. Not really. I...would love to teach you....everything, Madison.”
Madison peeked over her shoulder again to affirm the location of things around here, “but you have no bed.” She crinkled her nose as she turned her head and tilted it up to look at him, “how am I supposed to sleep with you if there’s no bed?” She blinked at him, the question asked rather innocently enough. She already had decided she would keep herself tucked into him as often as she could, he was safe, he was as if she was finally coming home. “And you should teach me everything,” she bobbed her head in agreement, “I will try to remember everything, I forget sometimes, especially when there’s so much going on all at once.” She grinned, “so you’ll have to remind me a couple times.”
Madison let out a laugh, “I’m beautiful and interesting?” She paused, tapping at his back, “or?” There was no way in hell she would let him crawl into himself again, not when she had just found him. “Or what? You know you said it, so tell me.” She chuckled as she watched him think, he was so… it was interesting to watch things dance across his face.
“Then you’ll have to make a copy of your key,” she nodded with determination, “ I will give you a copy of mine.” She grinned, “there, it’s official, we have taken it to the next level,” she rolled her shoulders with ease before settling against him for a second.
“An apprentice? Am I going to wear a cool hat and everything like Mickey?” She laughed then lifted her eyebrows, “everything?” Somehow, she had dropped her voice a bit softer, huskier.
“Uh.” Seriously, what the hell was he supposed to say to that? “I...could get a bed.” He blinked, feeling somehow like he was lagging behind in a conversation he only half-understood. Though, he had a sudden feeling it was something he should try to get used to. Quickly. “I..sleep on the couch. There was never...any reason for a bed. I like my couch.”
He shifted a bit, avoiding looking right at her then. “No one's ever been here before. Just...me.” There. He knew he'd sort of said it before, but...he couldn't make it any clearer than that, really. She was the first he'd ever brought here.
And, well...if she thought there should be a bed here, who was he to argue that? Or..to argue much of anything else she wanted. He'd basically just turned her life upside down. It was the least he owed her. And that was why he'd do it. Right?
Yeah, he couldn't even fool himself about that.
“Or...someone I think I...love.” There. He said it. He still couldn't make himself look at her when he did, desperately afraid of her reaction. But, he managed to say it. But there she was, just...so accepting, rattling on about keys and... Wait, what? Next level? Oh.
“Uh. No?” He cleared his throat, lips twitching, wondering when his life got so out of control. Of course, he knew the answer to that. She was there, nestled up against him, looking up at him with that mischievous expression on her face that had become so familiar and so dear so very, very quickly. And he just couldn't regret it.
But, oh, god help him, when she shifted her voice lower, it just did something to him. “Everything,” he whispered in reply, meaning it with every fiber of his being. He would teach her everything she wanted to learn, give her everything she wanted, do anything she wanted. But that was what finally got him to look at her again, meeting her eyes, searching them. And all fear was just gone, all worry that she was going to reject him, reject the bond that he had no control over.
“Madison.” He reached up to cup her cheeks, thumbs stroking her soft skin as he regarded her silently for a few moments. “Stay with me.” It was probably a silly thing to say at this point, when she'd made it clear she wanted to be with him. But, he still had to say it. Something compelled him to say it – instinct at play again, instincts he hadn't even been aware of until she'd come into his life. “Stay with he,” he repeated, almost breathlessly. “Let me be yours.”
“I’m sure it’s a comfortable couch,” Madison nodded, “but it’s not going to be comfortable for two people for long.” She smiled at him, “unless you’d rather sleep on the couch by yourself,” she chuckled softly as she reached up to him, getting him to look at her by running her fingers along his jaw. “Thank you,” her eyes flicked around the place, “it’s perfect. It’s you and that’s all I want and need.” Her voice was soft, full of wonder, she tucked her hands back down around him.
Then he looked away again when she demanded that he continue his thoughts, her lips parted to protest his looking away when he spoke again. A thrill shot through her, she trembled in his arms and wings. “You love me?” her voice was soft, “you love me?” She would ask why, but she didn’t need to ask. She already kinda knew. It was the same reason why she loved him. Her lips parted in surprise, the surprise rippling over her face. A smile settled on her lips as she held onto the new-found knowledge, she just shifted in closer, not wanting any space between them, not even air.
“Aw, I liked the hat. Stars and all,” she chuckled as she settled in.
Then he broke the contact, only to move his hands and get her attention, she looked up at him, a curious look in her eyes. An eyebrow lifted when he said her name, curiosity in her eyes. What was it he wanted to say? A soft laugh, “I was already going to stay with you even if you didn’t ask.” She moved her hands to find his, wrapping her fingers around his wrists.
“Only if you let me be yours, Dmitri.”
“No!” Okay, maybe that came out a bit more forcefully than he'd intended. He even had the grace to look a little tiny bit ashamed by it when she got him to turn his eyes back to her by the simple means of the light touch of her fingers against his jaw. “Ah, no. I think we're safe enough to go somewhere else tonight, if you really don't want to stay here. My...crappy apartment. Or...whatever.” He was actually fairly certain of they'd be safe somewhere else – though he would much rather stay here – at least for the one night, because he knew damn well he wouldn't be getting any sleep anyway. Either he'd be away from her – which he fully intended to do everything in his power to prevent – and he wouldn't be able to sleep. Or, he'd be with her, and he just knew he'd be far more interested in watching her than in actually sleeping.
Besides...sleep was something he only did the bare minimum of since his escape. There were some things you just didn't bounce back from very quickly. That ordeal...was one of those things. It made him thankful that he didn't require as much sleep as humans did, or...he guessed, as much as Madison was likely to need. The idea of watching over her as she slept was one he was finding to be very soothing.
“I do. I...love you.” He said it with only the slightest hesitation this time, and in a voice filled with wonder. “I love you, Madison.” He really did. It made no sense, but he couldn't deny the truth of it. Biology, magic, just the instinct of like calling to like – he didn't care anymore why he felt the way he did, the feeling was just as real no matter the reason for it. The bond he was sure he'd never be able to have with one of his own kind was forming, and he could only treasure it, and hope to nurture it...and hope that she wanted it as well.
He could only hold her trembling body close, grateful when she only made it easier by leaning that much further into him. He bent his head, placing a soft, light kiss onto the top of her head, nuzzling into her hair a bit. He couldn't even identify the scent that was uniquely hers, but he breathed it in as though he couldn't get enough of it, knowing as he did so that he'd be able to identify her, or anything of hers, without hesitation now. It was a soothing thought.
His eyes searched hers, looking for the truth behind her words. He had to be absolutely certain of her, of this. Something in him told him this was the last chance to back out, to sever what was forming between them before it took root too deeply for him to survive it being torn away. He couldn't even be sure she felt it to the same degree he did; the differences between them might mean nothing, or it might mean a world of difference. He had no way to know, not until it was too late to matter anymore.
But, there it was. Whether she felt it the same way he did or not, she certainly felt something and she wasn't backing away from it, or from him. “Yes,” he breathed as though the world depended on it, “yes.”
He shifted his hands from her cheeks, slipping out of her grip so that he could take her hands in turn, only to place them on his hips. Then he slipped his own around her, pulling her that tiniest bit closer. Like she had, he wanted no space between them, wanting to feel every inch of her, to be as close as he possibly could be. Only, unlike her – at least, until he could teach her how – he had a way to get even closer to her. He closed his eyes, pulling his wings in closer around them, shutting out the rest of the world, until not even the faintest sound from beyond the two of them intruded.
“Madi... Madison. I don't know if you feel it, or if you understand it, but... I think... Well, I have to be sure you really want this...my love. I have to know...” He huffed a sigh, frustrated at trying to find the words to tell her what he needed to. “Nephilim...we bond, for life. We can. I... I think it's happening. Or could happen. I want this. I want you. But....I can't... I need to make sure you understand, and that you want it. I...wouldn't...couldn't, not without your permission, your understanding.” Finally, he gave it up, and just stood studying her, hoping that she could somehow understand what he was failing so badly at trying to say.
Madison blinked at his quick response, a lift of her eyebrows as he backpedaled, then she understood. A soft chuckle as she shook her head, “we can stay here. I’m okay without a bed, for tonight.” She looked up at him, “I just need a blanket since floors tend to be cold,” she smiled a bit. “Then we’ll figure it out from there, as long as I’m with you.”
Her lips twisted, the smile continuing to grow, “good. I love you too,” she laughed, “you make me feel safe. Like I’m always on a rollercoaster, on top of that hill… You’re excited, scared, dizzy, and so ready.” She laughed, shaking her head as she looked away from him for a moment, blushing during that time. Then her eyes flicked up to his, and he was looking… for what? She knew he’d find it somehow, that much she trusted.
“Then I’m yours,” she shivered at another thrill coursing through hers, it was electricity. “Do you know what you do to me?” She repeated her question from earlier, a soft laugh as she let him move her hands to his hips, one hand tracing along his side as she debated within what to do.
Her eyes flicked up to him as she listened to him fumble through his words, it made her swoon as he seemed to debate within himself as well. It was good to know she was not alone in this. She closed her eyes for a moment while turning his words over in her head, as if she was savoring a favorite candy. Her eyes opened, she laughed, “I told you it was destiny that we meet.” She lifted up on her toes again, her fingers curling into his sides as she sighed against his jaw, “just kiss me. I’m yours for life.”
Just like that, she threw caution to the wind.
He laughed softly, jerking his chin toward a large chest serving as a sort of coffee table in front of the couch. “I...like blankets. I sorta nest.” He laughed again, knowing full well how amusing that could sound as he stood there with wings on display. “The chest is full of comforters and pillows. We can make a cozy nest for tonight. And...feathers are actually very good insulators,” he offered, with a grin. And the idea amused him, being able to sleep with her, even possibly be intimate with her, without fear of displaying them. He could be with her as himself, all of himself, in ways he'd never been with anyone before.
She surprised him when she admitted she loved him, too, even though he knew he shouldn't have been surprised at all. But, it was words he'd never heard directed at him before, not going back as far as the blank spot in his memory that was his time before he'd lived on the streets as a small child. He knew he should say something, make some sort of response as she continued describing how he made her feel, but...he could only listen in wonder.
Shaking his had slowly, he finally found words again. “No. I...well, maybe? The same thing you do to me.” It was a pitiful answer, he knew it even as he said it. But, it wasn't any less sincere for lacking in grace. It was, at least, honest.
When she closed her eyes, a thrill of dread ran through him. Was she about to deny him? He would accept it if she did, no matter how much it might wound him. She was that important to him, and doing the right thing was that important to him. It wasn't fair that this thing was happening to her as it was to him. He understood, vaguely, what was happening. He'd had to take the risk that she'd refuse it, because it was only right that she knew <i>what</i> she was accepting before she accepted it.
But then, her eyes opened again, shining up at him. The laugh that fell from her lips told him all that he needed to know, even if her lovely eyes, shining with love and acceptance hadn't already. She was accepting him, accepting the bond, accepting....everything. He tilted his head to meet her, fingers curling into her side briefly before his hand slid around her waist, pulling her close. “Mine,” he murmured against her lips, voice lowering into a possessive growl before he let go of caution, let go of care, and just let himself take what she was offering.
And it echoed again in his mind, 'mine', even as he felt something within shift, almost like a place he hadn't even been aware was empty was now filling to overflowing.
Her eyes followed where he jerked his chin to the chest, a soft laugh tumbled from her lips, “good. Then we can nest in here for a while until we get a bed.” She lifted her eyebrows with amusement before she settled against him, it had already been decided it was `we` now.
Before she could even murmur her assent, her lips were claimed with a growl, she lifted up a bit more, pressing all of her against him as she responded hungrily to the kiss. Her hands moving from his sides to the buttons on his shirt, she was tugging at them, not quite caring if she broke them off.
She muttered something in the kiss about how the shirt needed to go, now. But her hands also said other things needed to go as well.
1 post • Page 1 of 1