September 4, 2015 by Lyn
It’s not easy love
But you’ve got friends you can trust
Friends will be friends
Shahin laughed softly at Ayla’s joke. It was good to just be with her friend again, even if she did miss Vi. “Do you…”
She lost her thought, and the question, as her door swung open.
Emrys stepped in and to the side, revealing Yngvi behind him – an exhausted, worn-looking Yngvi with his chin still proudly up, even though his gait was unsteady. He looked like he’d been through several wars, all at once, his clothes a mess, his eyes bloodshot. She glanced at Emrys, letting her expression ask the question for her.
“I found him in the hall, didn’t think he should be out there by himself.”
She glanced at Yngvi, trying to stand proud when he was barely able to stand at all, and back to Emrys. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” He sat down in the room’s single chair, facing the girls on the bed.
Shahin diverted her attention back to Yngvi. “Vi!” She frowned. “Come, sit down,” she patted the edge of the bed, between Ayla and her. “What happened?”
He sat gingerly. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I was heading back after the dance, and something brushed past my legs. The next thing I knew, I was waking up and he was there.” He tilted his head at Emrys. “I feel as if I was run over by a truck full of bricks.”
“You just passed out?” Ayla demanded. “What, in the hall?”
“He was in the hall when I found him, at least,” Emrys supplied helpfully. Shahin spared him a brief glance before looking back to Yngvi.
“I guess so,” Vi admitted forlornly. “I suppose I had too much to drink.”
“Luke seemed to think there was something else afoot.”
Yngvi glowered, and Shahin considered hitting him, or both of them, with a pillow. “Afoot?” She glanced back at Emrys. “As in, a foul plot of some sort?” Ayla helpfully supplied the giggle to punctuate her question.
“Yeah, well, you wouldn’t be laughing if you’d seen his face.”
She couldn’t see Luke’s face, so she looked at Emrys’ instead. “Really?”
“Yeah. He looked… tired. Moreso than from the usual shenanigans.”. He seemed concerned, but there was an undercurrent of something else; amusement, perhaps? It usually was amusement with him.
“Interesting.” She glanced over at Vi, who was struggling to stay upright.
“Maybe the same thing as the girl fainting at the dance last night?” Ayla offered helpfully. “Food poisoning?”
“It wasn’t anything like that. I’m not sure what it was.”
She raised an eyebrow at him, and made an encouragingly inquisitive noise. When it came to the fucked-up messes that this place could inflict on people, he was far more an expert than any of them.
“There was nothing physically wrong with him, except he was tired. Like, seriously drained, exhausted. I’m not sure what would do that without him noticing.”
“Could it have been Aelfgar?” Ayla asked suddenly.
“Your… the man who said he was your father?” Shahin asked; Ayla nodded in response.
“Things started getting weird right when he showed up, remember? People were passing out. And poor Jamian freaked out…”
“Theoretically, but I got the impression he was tight enough with staff that they wouldn’t be surprised by what he does.”
“That would make sense, wouldn’t it?” Yngvi mused. He propped himself up on one elbow, looking at them all with a disapproving expression Shahin didn’t think was aimed at them. “If he is what he says he is – Aelgifu’s father. My father.”
“Which is likely. No reason to make that up.”
“Far too convenient.” Yngvi frowned deeply.
“But if it wasn’t him,” Shahin interrupted, “then what’s going on?” She glanced guiltily at Ayla. “I didn’t notice the people passing out. Or Jamian freaking out. Or, um, anything wrong at all.”
“You were rather occupied,” Vi pointed out. “I’m surprised you noticed Aelfgar showing up.”
Shahin blushed, biting her lip, then blushed hotter when she realized Emrys was probably watching her. “You’re my friends,” she murmured. “I couldn’t turn away completely.”
“We understand.” Ayla engulfed her in a tight hug that sent sparkles of angel-light across Shahin’s vision.
“Yes,” Yngvi agreed, joining in the hug awkwardly. His hand brushed across her eyes, and long silver spears, red-tipped with blood, danced with the angel-beams in her eyes. “We understand.”
She stayed still in their embrace for a moment, enjoying its novelty, ignoring Vi’s stab at Emrys; he probably deserved a couple. Her mind’s eye glittered with light and dripped with blood, and she was sandwiched between angels, brilliant in terrible in their glory. Behind her, war-drums beat, thudded with the rhythm of her own heart, got inside her breathing and took it over.
She brought herself back from the vision finger’s-width by finger’s-width, calming herself with a few deep breaths. She opened her eyes, looking over Ayla’s shoulder. Emrys was watching them; well, what else was he going to watch? Her bare walls?
Yngvi was still hugging her. How had Emrys just happened upon him? “I thought you’d made other plans?” she asked him.
“Didn’t quite get there, actually. Someone would’ve come after this one if I hadn’t made him move.”
“Aah.” She glanced over at Ynvgi, wondering if there were actually people who would think of him as prey. He flushed uncomfortably and backed up from their hug. Well, he certainly thought he’d been rescued. She glanced back at Emrys, raising one eyebrow in question.
“What?” he sighed, looking between them.
The sigh sounded so put-out, and his expression such a good match for it, that she couldn’t help but chuckle a little at him. She extricated herself from Ayla’s arms and descended upon him in one swooping movement, sitting sideways on his lap to hug him before even she was sure what she was doing. “You’re priceless,” she giggled into his collarbone.
“Um.” He wrapped his arms around her, clearly somewhat befuddled by her spontaneity. That only made her laugh harder; she kissed him, briefly but firmly, on the lips. “I guess our girls-only fort has been stormed. Do you want to stick around, since you’re already here?”
“I may as well, in case anything happens.”
“Do you think it’s likely Vi is going to fall into a swoon here?”
“No, I just meant…” He paused suddenly, cutting himself off in mid-sentence, and blinked.
She didn’t laugh this time. She recognized that expression, even if he didn’t yet. “You meant…?” she coaxed softly.
“I meant if Ardell or his crew showed up here,” he said slowly, frowning. On the bed, Yngvi made a small noise, somewhere between a grumble and a cough.
“Is that likely?” she asked, instead of other questions she could have put forth. For one, it seemed the more urgent question.
“I’m not sure, with him. It probably depends on how much I wounded his pride.”
Yngvi made another uncomfortable noise, and Shahin began to put pieces together. “Just found him, eh?” she murmured very quietly into his ear. “No, I don’t need an answer to that right now. “
“What’s going on?” Ayla asked, looking between the three of them unhappily.
“It sounds like internecine warfare, gang battles,” Shahin sighed, feigning a put-out attitude, and lied through her teeth. “And because I’m connected with Emrys, we get connected with his oh-so-lovely crew. Why are you friends with them, anyway?” she demanded.
“They’re my crew,” he answered as if that explained everything. “They’ve been there for me. It’s never been easy here when you’re just getting started.”
“We noticed,” she answered dryly. ”‘Crew.’“ She tasted the word, looking over at Ayla and Vi thoughtfully. ”That seems to mean more than it suggests? More than just a bunch of friends or some clique?”
“Well, it’s nothing mystical, if that’s what you mean. But… friends, yeah. Loyalty. It’s different, down here, from the casual acquaintances you make topside.”
She nods. ”I’m getting that.” The few friends she’d had out there, she’d never had dreams about. Visions, yes, but not dreams. She didn’t want to explain that, though, so she just smiled at him. ”It would have to be something pretty special, to put up with Aggie.”
He laughed. “Well, she has her moments.”
“Dysmas is in your ‘crew?’“ Ayla asked, derailing Shahin’s next snarky comment.
“He was acting weird last night. He really is a vampire, isn’t he? I mean, not just pale-skinned and sharp-toothed, but really a vampire?”
“Well, he really does drink blood, if that’s what you mean…”
Shahin licked her lips thoughtfully. “For sustenance?”
“Yeah, basically. Even I don’t know exactly how it works, but he has to have it.”
“That’s kind of-”
“Disgusting,” Yngvi offered.
“-neat,” Shahin finished.
“A little bit, yes, on both counts. I hear it’s an interesting experience. It’s kind of sexual for him though, or at least he likes to link it that way, so I don’t know firsthand.”
“Might be fun to find out,” she mused.
“Um, did you hear all of what I just said?” He arched a brow.
She kissed his cheek, just barely suppressing a grin. “I did. But it’s still a fascinating idea.”
“Right. Well, I’d say you should talk to Nydia about it, but you’re not likely to get much of a conversation. And certainly not an unbiased opinion on anything related to Dysmas.”
“She’s his Renfield?”
“She’s his Kept, and he tends to go for a pretty heavy Stockholm syndrome.”
“But, about him,” Ayla cut in, interrupting an interesting train of thought, “Dysmas, I mean. What happens if he doesn’t get blood?”
“He basically starves, as best as I understand it.”
“He wasn’t acting starved last night. More like, well, not drunk. Everyone’s a little drunk there. But, as the night got on, loopy. Dizzy?”
“Sounds almost like the early stages of what happened to Yngvi here.”
Yngvi nodded mutely. Shahin bit her lip. “If there’s an epidemic going around, no wonder Luke looked worried.”
“Yeah. Well, we should be fine here…”
The sudden sharp rapping on the door interrupted him.