House of Frost

Chapter 13

By Dabeagle


The only certainty is change. - Magus Drost

“Before we get to that,” my grandmother said, “one slightly more urgent matter: Why the hell is there a steward here?”

I stared at her. “A steward? And that's more important that someone wanting to kill me?”

“It's slavery. Seems if you're willing to enslave, maybe you get what's coming to you,” she said, arching an eyebrow.

I rolled my eyes. “Abelard was captured by grandfather Frost. I'll release him as soon as I get the mantle, should he want that. I've already told him. In the meantime we're in the same boat, so he's playing his role.”

“What are you guys talking about?” Ty asked.

Grandmother explained how adepts were kept as slaves, more or less, because they have a minor affinity for magic and so can operate things like a larder and ordering and such for a home. In other words they can pull levers, but not create the machinery.

“That poor guy,” Ty said softly. “I had no idea.”

“Being a magus is no guarantee of not being an asshole,” my grandmother said. “Now. I need some rest. This murder business will keep until morning, assuming your wards are effective.”

“As far as I know, they have been.”

“Good. I'll need accommodations. Would you please call the steward in?” she asked.


“Yes, Sir?” he said, appearing quickly.

“Abelard was it?” my grandmother said, standing. “Your contract was with Wendell Frost?”

“Yes, Ma'am.”

“He is now messily deceased. I am the temporary head of House Frost until my grandson takes his rightful place. Unfortunately his cousin, who has a claim on the mantle, is still out there. I'm ashamed to ask, but would you please show me to an empty room? I will see to placing some furniture for sleeping.”

“Madam,” he said quietly. “If you will alter the terms under which Mr. Nicholas is to be accommodated, you may find I can do much more than simply guide you to a room.”

“And why should you? It's disgusting what the old goat did to you,” she said sadly. “I refused to have stewards in my home. I can't change the world, however.”

“Very well,” he said quietly. “If you'll follow me.”

Tired from the healing, I headed for our room, closely followed by Ty. Once in the room I stripped and simply fell onto the mattress, slipping under the covers.

“So. Your grandmother seems like a kick-ass kind of lady,” Ty said.

“Please. I'd rather you were naked and in bed with me than talking about my grandmother,” I said.

He turned the light out and I heard the whisper of his clothes sliding from his body. Then he was there – warm and vibrant.

He yawned and laughed at once, an odd sound. “How can you be so wiped out and still throw wood as soon as I touch you?”

“It's your fault,” I said drowsily. “So damn sexy.”

He laughed again, softly. “You did something wonderful today, Nick. My Nick.”

I wanted to say something witty, but filling my lungs with him, exhaustion from today and the thought that I'd have to talk about my murderous cousin in the morning were enough to drop me into sleep.


In the late morning I stirred, feeling Ty next to me like a personal heater. I climbed from the bed and went to clean up, feeling hungry from yesterday's exertions. I dressed in cotton pajama pants and a tee shirt, for the sake of propriety, and left Ty to sleep in.

My grandmother was sitting at the table with a cup of tea, blowing on the hot liquid. Looking up she said, “I hadn't expected you so early.”

“I need calories,” I said. “That spell yesterday really knocked it out of me.”

“It's not an uncommon spell for a life magus, but it's not exactly easy.” She sighed. “You know, when my daughter married your having lost my husband already...I thought it kind of your father to bring me into the family name. It was a courtesy, since my house had died out. Charles was a kind man, and he was good to your mother. You are such a mix of your parents – healing from your mother and compassion from your father. They would be so proud of you.”

I cleared my throat and set about getting some food together. “I find it hard to know what to say. I have no memory of them, only you. I was happy as a child, as far as I know.”

“Yes,” she said quietly. “It's an injustice you never knew them, nor they you.” She sighed. “We must talk about this situation, but before that unpleasantness...tell me about your bonded.”

Pleasure flushed my system. I told my grandmother about how we'd met and how we'd been part of the same group of friends. I told her how he'd tried to distract himself by dating another rather than asking me out and how I'd unexpectedly bonded with him at our dance.

She smiled. “Normals are sometimes reeled in by the bonding faster than magi are. That's why he felt the instant attraction. Not that he was wrong – you've always been a handsome lad.”

I smiled. “Somehow it sounds better on his lips.”

“I'm sure many things do,” she said archly, “but tell me – is he intelligent? Is he kind? Are you both happy?”

“He's compassionate. He's considerate and very kind. He's also not a pushover, though we haven't seriously fought over anything.”

“You will, someday. Just remember what you're saying now.”

I told her about our interactions with our friends and how we'd finally ended up performing the web casting on Jay.

“They tried to kill you with normals? The stupid bastards.”

I shrugged. “A bullet through my brain would kill me just as dead as a normal.”

“Perhaps, but they don't know that.” She sighed. She opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by Ty entering the room. He'd dressed like me, stopping to kiss the top of my head and greeting my grandmother before looking for some food for himself.

“So. To bring you up to date. Your uncle turned up dead. Water magic. Someone yanked his brain fluid out of his eardrum.” She shivered. “Michael showed up at my house, ranting and demanding the mantle. Do you believe that little snot tried to set me on fire?”

“I believe it,” I replied. “Did you say a water magus killed Wendell?”

“Yes, why?”

“Wasn't it a water magus that killed your aunt?” Ty asked.

I nodded. Glancing at my grandmother I took a deep breath. “Wendell killed my parents. Then he organized a few normals into reviving the Defenders of the Divine. They've been killing magi.”

“How did you learn this?” she asked with concern.

“Ty's father and older brother were the ones Wendell manipulated into thinking they were magus killers. They had extra reason, as Wendell likely killed Ty's mom, so they were after revenge, not knowing it was Wendell who'd murdered her.”

She shook her head and looked sympathetically at Ty. “I'm so sorry this trouble has come to your door.”

Ty nodded and cleared his throat. “Nick's been a big help.”

To spare dwelling on his mother's demise I continued, “So we think Wendell created, or rather recreated, the Defenders of the Divine to kill magi, but I don't know for what purpose.”

“He murdered my daughter,” she said slowly. “I wish I could have killed him myself.” She nodded sharply. “That fits neatly. Wendell was never the strongest magus. I have reason to believe he was taking orders from someone stronger. As you know, stronger houses frequently control weaker ones. House Frost has been something of an outlier – a country lord, left to seed. Powerful houses started early creating and nurturing mantles; weaker houses are weaker because they didn't have the foresight. However, the mantle of House Frost is quite powerful, having been built subtly over generations. Wendell's key to any sort of power was through Michael having the mantle. He might have needed that in order to break free from whoever killed his wife and probably killed him.” She sighed. “We will likely never know all the particulars.”

“Why hasn't Michael shown up already?” Ty asked. “I mean if he's after you so much, why hasn't he showed up?”

Grandmother gave him an approving look. “It stands to reason that when Nicholas met with the Magisterium and started his test, Wendell planned to kill him. However, someone in the Magisterium must have had suspicions, because he disappeared right way. I don't know what his movements were, but when next I knew of him he was dead.”

I thought for a minute. “Well, he didn't have time to tell Michael where I was. But...I'm still not sure why...any of this. I mean, sure, Wendell wanted the mantle for Michael, but then why would someone kill him?”

Ty sipped his coffee and then grunted. He looked at me and said, “You know...if this is all about power...can anyone take the House Frost mantle?”

“No,” I said. “Only a Frost can wear it.”

My grandmother sipped her tea and watched us.

“Okay. But what if someone has the mantle. Can the power be taken then?”

I thought for a moment. “Well, the only way – oh. Odin's hairy ballsack, you have to be kidding me!”

My grandmother set her cup down. “Harvesting,” she said.

“What's that?” Ty asked.

“It's disgusting,” I said. “In essence, one magus steals the power of another to add to their own. It's usually fatal to the magus who loses their power.”

Ty nodded. “So. If Michael gets the mantle, this person would harvest him? So they didn't need Wendell anymore.”

“That is what I think,” my grandmother said. “Further, I think that person will use divination to find you, which is why I rushed here. The only fly in that ointment would be if they already knew where you were – but as far as I know, only Wendell knew.”

I sighed. “Whoever killed him would have tried to get the information, but I'd imagine Wendell wouldn't say, as it was his one bargaining chip to stay alive. However they did kill him, probably assuming divination wouldn't be that difficult.”

“Or,” Ty said quietly, “maybe they just figured they'd check in with the Defenders...and they'll show up at my house.”

We mulled that for a bit as we finished our breakfast.

“Maybe we should check out your house,” I said.

“No. You need to stay behind wards,” my grandmother said. “We need to meet them on a ground of our choosing. I'd say your school has too many potential casualties.”

“Right,” I said. “Unfortunately it's the place I know best, and the longer Michael hunts me, the more damage he will do. We should use the school because it's large. There will be a wrestling tournament Saturday morning. We could go. We can map out the school ahead of time to plan where we'd be – far away from the crowd.”

“Which is fine. I can take Ty to see about his home; they won't be trying to use divination for him, since they aren't aware of him, and I have my own ways of avoiding detection.”

“Okay. I have the first ideas of a plan for facing Michael – oh, that reminds me. Does he know that his father is dead?”

“He was my first clue,” she said, shaking her head. “He showed up at my house, threatening me and demanding to know where you were because, according to him, this is all your fault.”

I stared. “Me. Someone has filled his head.”

“It was empty space,” she offered. “In any case he tried to set me on fire, but I took care of that.”

“How?” Ty asked.

My grandmother said, “Nicholas has told you how magi can be focused on one strength and have many other minor talents?”

“Sure. Like he can't throw fireballs, but he can still conjure a light.”

“Exactly. I'm what you call a null magus. I can shut down magic, and most magical spells slough right off me. So he started to cast, I snuffed his connection to the aether, and then I grabbed your father's sword off the wall display – it's dreadfully dull, like Wendell was, but Michael didn't know that. I told him I'd skewer his extremities and toast him like a kebab.”

Ty burst out laughing. “You are such a bad ass!”

Grandmother smiled lightly. “Your tone implies that's positive, so I'll accept it as such. Anyway, the little shit ran for his hide.” She placed her empty cup in the sink and said she'd be going to get herself ready for the day.

“Nick, what's aether?” Ty asked.

“It's the third part of the triumvirate that makes magic possible. First is the spark, which you know about. Then there is the blessing – the particular things a magus is talented with. The...fuel for that, if you will, is the aether.”

“So your grandmother's ability cuts a magus's fuel off?”

“In essence, yes.”

“Huh. So, what's this plan of yours?”

I sighed and started to sketch out my idea.


Later that day we teleported to Tess's home; since we were going from ward to ward I should be safe from divination. I was mildly annoyed that Ty's stomach wasn't nearly as bothered by the experience as mine was. The arch look from my grandmother was uncalled for.

Ty called Tess so she'd come out into the garage, which ended up bringing Jay and Brad as well. Tess threw her arms around me, which was unexpected. “Thank you,” she said softly. She let me go and Brad had his hand out, and when I accepted it to shake he pulled me to him and held me tightly with one arm.

“Anything I can do for you,” he said, not a question.

“If you'd asked me a few months ago,” I said, giving him a smile.

“It would have been yes,” he said without hesitation.

“Okay, okay,” Ty said. “Back off, you big hetero.”

Brad chuckled, and I went to Jay. “How are you feeling?” I asked.

“Tired, but not as bad as before. I was hungry this morning; been a few weeks since I felt that.” He glanced at me, eyes roving up and down. “I'm not really sure what happened, but I'm pretty sure my brother and sister are trolling me somehow.”

I nodded. “I can understand why. I'd like to check up on you, which means I have to be in contact for a few minutes. Do you mind?”

He shrugged and we sat on the couch. I placed a hand on his forearm and focused on his systems. The blood looked healthy and I wasn't finding the deformed cells I had before. Given the sheer volume there had to be some stragglers, but more importantly I needed to make sure that the marrow would no longer produce the deformed cells. It may have been that this was my first attempt or that I only knew what to look for when the cancer was deeply rooted, but I didn't find much of note in his system.

I removed my hand and nodded to him. “You seem to be in good health. I should assess you from time to time because cancer is just one of those things – I can't be sure I got it all, but it looks good.”

He rubbed his forearm. “That felt weird.”

“Like how?” Tess asked.

“ and cold water landing in the same spot,” he said with a shake of his head. “Hard to describe.”

Zumibia and Cara arrived together, but unfortunately they were trailed by Bea.

“What is going – you!” she said, catching sight of my grandmother. “How did you get here?”

“I was home and then – poof – like magic, I was here.” My grandmother clearly didn't like Bea, but then I didn't know anyone who did.

“I'll call the pol- Sadie! Move!” Sadie, whom I hadn't seen much of on my recent visits, was shuffling sideways against Bea, edging her back toward the door.

“Sadie,” I called, squatting down. She hesitated just a moment and then came to me, sitting down. “It's okay,” I told her, pushing my blessing into her and soothing her.

“What are you doing to my dog!” she rasped.

I stood and crossed the room to her, and she recoiled slightly, looking as if she were ready to cry out. “I know we've been introduced, but I don't think we've officially met. My name is Nicholas Frost.” I held my hand out. She began to reach for it, but then pulled back. As quickly as I dared I touched her forearm and calmed her system, rushing a chemical change not unlike when I questioned Ty's father.

“Bea, don't you think a nap would set you right?” I suggested.

“I'm not...I want a nap. Don't tell me,” she said, sounding confused. She turned and headed inside and we could hear her yell at her son that she wanted a nap, as if he were to deliver such a thing.

“Okay, she's gone. Nick, we have a list,” Tess said.

I turned to look at her. “A list?”

She nodded. “Of questions.”

My grandmother stepped between me and my friends, facing them. “One of the lessons of old age is that we have seen many mistakes made. I must warn you all that while I respect my grandson's choices, asking questions may lead you down a very unhappy path. There have been magi in the past who have developed or cultivated a following because of an act of kindness or deliberate manipulation disguised as kindness. This would be seen by some magi as being too far in the open, and some may choose to take action against Nicholas. Be careful of your questions, and be more careful how you react to such information as he chooses to tell you.”

The room fell into silence and I moved to pass my grandmother.

“We don't want to hurt him,” Brad said quietly.

“Child, if I thought any of you posed a serious risk, none of you would be here now,” she said somberly. “The world of blessings and aether isn't for the faint of heart nor those that are weak in their blessings. Questions, once answered, cannot be unanswered. So be careful about what you think you want to know.”

Tess, Brad, Zumibia and Cara looked to each other as if having a silent discussion. Tess looked to me and asked, “Will you tell us if we're asking too much? Like something dangerous?”

I cleared my throat. “Some groups of magi would think you knowing anything is intolerable, but most feel that those who uncover our world will be dismissed as fools by the rest of humanity. The only thing I would ask of you, as my friends – as my only friends – is that you keep your knowledge to yourself. Donna will feel that I performed some sort of trick. She still convinced herself of that. Do nothing to change her mind.”

They nodded one at a time. Brad spoke first. “When I think of magic I think about people making gestures or their hands or eyes glowing. I didn't see anything yesterday, but I felt it. Like Jay was saying – hot and cold coming together. Is magic not visible?”

“Normally you only see the results, like fire or water. My blessing usually needs touch – like yesterday, it started by my touching you to establish the connection to the web.” I paused. “As the person casting it, I did see a green line that was attaching us all together – the web.”

Brad nodded, his expression thoughtful.

Tess asked, “Okay, this may be silly, but your eyes? They used to be kind of colorless, but now they are definitely a light blue. Is that part of your...blessing?”

I nodded. “It is. Magi lack color in their eyes until they bond. When two magi bond they get a combination of their family histories eye coloring. When it's a normal and a magus, the magus gets the normal's eye coloring.”

Tess and Cara looked at each other, then to Ty and back to me. “What's bonded?” they both asked.

I looked past them to Ty. “From what I have learned the bond is something like fate. There are a million things about people that can go right or wrong with their personalities, histories, attractions – the list is nearly endless. A bond is able to find your perfect match – and then it takes away the uncertainties that early relationships may have. It compresses the time where people are still getting used to the idea of someone in their life, removing your doubts and fears and letting you move directly to the devotion and the intimacy all living things need.”

Quietly Tess said, “That's some look you're giving Ty, Nick.”

I shrugged and smiled. “He's my bonded. My beloved.”

Jay looked to Ty. “And you?”

Ty adopted an evil smile and crossed his arms. “He's all right.”

The room erupted for a moment as Ty repeatedly said he was trolling, but the questions came for how he felt about the bond.

“Okay, okay!” he said with a laugh. “Honestly? What we found out is that normals – people without a blessing – get affected by the bond first. When I saw Nick walk into my classroom I was like...damn. Then he was good to Al and he stood up for package.” He grinned at me. “I was a goner before he even touched me.”

We continued to sit under my grandmother's watchful eye as my friends peppered me with questions about living with a blessing, teasing Ty and I about how quickly we fell for each other, but alternating into how romantic that was. I wasn't so sure about the romance. I felt that time to learn about our compatibility over time could be interesting, and I was sorry to have missed out on anything with Ty, but I wouldn't trade where I was now with him for anything.

“What about Michael? My dad?” Ty asked, leaving the group to look at me with curiosity.

“You know, I kind of didn't notice guys being together, did your dad have a problem with it?” Tess asked.

“It's more complicated than that,” I said. My grandmother towered above us as only she can while we sat to talk. I explained about the Magisterium, my test and how Ty's father had been both misled and greedy, though I didn't call him that. I explained Wendell's duplicity and that Michael was likely looking for me.

“What do we do if we see this guy?” Brad asked grimly.

“Stay away from him,” I said firmly. “This guy would turn you into bubbling fat so quickly I couldn't help you.”

Brad's eyes went wide.

“I mean it,” I said. “I appreciate what you're asking – offering – but it would be like sending you across a field with no cover with a team of snipers aiming for you. You'd have literally no chance.”

“So...what's the plan, then?” Tess asked.

“We have to discuss it,” my grandmother interjected.

“If we can help...” Brad said, leaving the statement dangling.

“You think he's going to risk his pretty hetero friend? No one wastes eye candy like you, Brad!” Ty said, trolling him.

“Shut it,” he replied.

Eventually it was time to leave and figure out how to deal with Michael. First I ported home while my grandmother ported to Ty's old home to see what was happening there. Of course I got sick after porting, but then I went to my room and touched the side of my father's ring, producing a copy of myself. I still found it odd to see myself this way, a complete copy that was like looking in a mirror, and yet not like that at all. I touched the skin of my copy and began examining the conduit that ran up my spine allowing me contact with the aether.

I'm not sure how long I'd been working, but I was snapped from my state when Ty came running into our room yelling.

“Nick! It's your grandma, come quick!”

“What happened?” I asked as I followed him back to the vacant living room that they must have ported into.

“My house was on fire and someone attacked her! I don't know!” Ty said loudly as we ran.

My grandmother was on her feet, but swaying. Her left arm was charred, and as I ran to her she slumped down to the floor. I reached into her system and shut off the pain, then pulled on my spark and hers to begin the healing. Burns – large burns – are more traumatic to the body than a gunshot, I quickly found. The skin is the largest organ of the human body, and not only was a large portion of it cooked, but it was beginning to send her system into shock. I glanced at Ty, who was standing beside us with a look of concern.

“Hand,” I said quietly, reaching for him. He placed his hand in mine without hesitation and I pulled on his spark, combining it with the power from mine and my grandmother's and pushed into the healing of her arm. Dead cells drifted from her body as I worked to reestablish nerves and build cells to replace her skin. This was all made far more difficult by her very nature as a null magus. My blessing felt like I was trying to grab jello and nail it to a wall. The best I could do, in keeping with the analogy, was cradle some of it and slap it against her, which wasn't nearly as effective.

“Nick. Nick, stop!”

I blinked and looked around me, feeling Ty's hand shaking my shoulder. “What?” I rasped, my throat dry.

“Babe, it's been hours. You need to recharge, and I think I do, too. I feel like I'm about to pass out.”

Alarms went off in my head as I stumbled to the floor, unable to support my own weight. I breathed slowly as Ty asked after me in concern, but he wasn't in any better shape than I was. I'd drawn too deeply on my spark and his as well. I'd need to recover. I moved sluggishly, homing in on Ty, made contact, and instantly felt more at peace. I moved toward him until we were cuddled together and then exhaustion claimed me.


I woke slowly, feeling fuzzy in my brain. My body was sore and I had a headache, which was unusual by itself. I sat up to find Ty sleeping beside me on the living room floor. I glanced to one side and noted my grandmother wasn't there – so that was good. Abelard appeared and handed me one of those vile protein drinks that contain tons of calories. I mumbled a thanks before sipping the liquid to wet my throat first and then drank more deeply, tapping into my spark to ease my fatigue and banish my headache.

“Where is my grandmother?” I asked after a moment.

“Resting in her room, Sir. She said it was important not to disturb you, else I'd have placed you in your room, Sir.”

“No, no, that's fine,” I said, waving his concern away. “I'm sure there must have been a reason. Do you have more of these drinks?”

As if he'd been waiting he produced one from a pocket of his coat and I drank it down, turning off my taste buds to make it more tolerable. Even the texture was disagreeable. After a quick assessment that showed my body was in good health and my spark was near normal levels, I turned to Ty. He would be sore on waking, but his spark was steady and strong – like him. I pushed my blessing into him to ease the fatigue from him, and he stirred.

“Nick? Why are we on the floor?” he asked quietly before sitting up.

“Healing a burn ended up taking a lot more than I realized it would,” I said just as quietly. “Seems I drew deeply on us both.”

“Where is your grandmother?”

“In her bed, Abelard said. If she moved on her own, then she is likely just recovering.” I touched his hand. “You helped me to save her.”

We climbed to our feet, and Ty said he wanted to eat. I agreed, detouring to check in on my grandmother. I found her sleeping. A quick touch to assess her let me know how much I'd pulled on her spark as well; its energy level was lower than normal. I assumed she might take longer to recover due to her age. Her body seemed healthy otherwise, the skin on her arm a pink color that might need help to steady into a normal pigmentation for her.

I joined Ty in the kitchen, where he'd already set food out. We made sandwiches and ate in silence. Once those sandwiches were gone, we made more and added chips. Our bodies both needed the fuel – and I stopped as that thought went through my head. When I'd checked on Ty when we'd woken up, I hadn't had to touch him to know what condition he was in. I now knew what his body needed without physical contact. Was that due to the bond? Because I was a life magus? Both? Neither?

A wave of finality rolled through me, and I looked up at Ty. His lips were lightly pressed together, the tip of his nose slightly upturned and his eyes steady. He was wearing his standard outfit of hoodie and shorts, even in the winter, and his hood was up. His brown-gold hair peeked out, and his skin tone was striking against the white of the cloth. He tilted his head, his chin jutting slightly toward me.

“This screws up your idea,” he said.

“For Michael, you mean?” I asked, but I knew before he replied.

“Yeah. I mean your idea was pretty basic and could have gone wrong any number of ways, but now...I don't see how it works.”

I nodded slowly.

“Why am I getting a feeling like I'm not going to like what you're going to say next?” he asked.

I sighed. “My first idea was that my grandmother would level the playing field by nullifying Michael's blessing. But now....”

He frowned. “There's no need to rush, right? We're safe here?”

I hunched down and tilted my head side to side. “That depends.”

He sighed. “Babe. What are you thinking?”

I put a chip in my mouth and crunched, searching for a good way to say what I was afraid of, but I couldn't think of one. “Well. Michael found out about the Defenders of the Divine, or at least enough to find your home. I have to wonder how he did that. His father is dead, which leads me to think....”

“That water magus,” he said thoughtfully.

“Exactly. So he points Michael to your home. Now as much as I don't care for Michael, he's not an idiot. He could do the research to find out who owned the home, and if he finds out you were there, it could lead him to the school or to Tess and our friends.”

He pushed his tongue against his teeth and said, “So you're saying we can't wait for your grandmother.”

“I think going to the school tomorrow is the best plan. I know the layout, and he doesn't. It's not the best advantage, but I'll take what I can get.” I shook my head. “ you remember that cut-glass marble my grandmother handed me when I did the web casting?”

He nodded.

“It's an imbued device – an amplifier by nature. When I used it I was able to amplify my blessing, but also to use it as a focus. I connected my spark to it, then pulled yours and so on until I had everyone, then pulled that back down my connection to use on Jay. I can use this imbued item to withstand Michael. All I need is to get close enough to touch him.”

He pressed his lips together and shook his head. “I don't like it. It's not that I don't trust you, but....”

“You're afraid.”

He let out a shuddering sigh. “I'm more than afraid, Nick.” He shook his head. “When we first got together, I was thinking this is too fast. It's too perfect. I mean I'm a senior in high school, almost an adult legally, but I'm moving in with my boyfriend – my bonded – of less than a day. All those things people do when they get together got all rolled into one big emotional ball, and we skipped some stuff – you know, time apart because we didn't live together and making time for each other. Sending sexties. Cuddling with a good movie while it snows outside. I don't know.” He shook his head. “The idea of not having you's not just fear. It's like ripping my guts out through my balls and then going back in for my heart. I don't feel like I'm being dramatic when I say I can't live without you anymore.”

I nodded and placed my hand over his.

“I won't say anything trite like I won't die. I will say you can and should live a long life without me. Eventually I'll fade and-”

“No,” he said, his tone low and deadly. “Don't you fucking say it. I will beat you senseless, Nicholas Basil Frost.”

A chill ran up my spine.

“Then, I guess I'd better not die,” I said quietly.

Finished with our meal and tired of the conversation, Ty said he wanted to shower before we went to bed. I knew I was going to need him tonight to have any chance of finding sleep. Normally I'd have showered with him, but he usually made it so we showered after we'd been intimate. If anything it was puzzling that he was showering first.

Shaking the thoughts away I went to my grandmother's room to check on her. The night stars were visible outside her window, and I crossed by their light to touch her arm. Her spark was stronger now, rebounding slowly, as I'd assumed. In a few days she'd be back at it, a force of nature – but even nature needs a break once in a while.

Closing the door gently behind me, I went to our room. Tiredly I began to shed clothing, leaving a trail behind me to the window, where I stood looking out into the night. I wasn't sure of the time, but it was late – most homes were dark in the distance. The neighbors couldn't really see me due to the warding on the house, but I could see their darkened windows, though there were a few with lights on upstairs.

I wonder if that was Ty before he met me? Up late with a light on in his room, sending messages to guys during 'hey season' and hoping to find someone worthwhile. Did anyone really succeed that way? You sent messages out into the ether of the internet, hoping that the person you were interacting with treated you like a person and that you found happiness together? Or was it all about the sex? It might be, considering all you saw was an image and perhaps some text. It was a world I'd never fit into.

The door opened behind me and then closed softly. “You know,” he said quietly, “if we'd dated, I'd have sent you pictures of me like this. Eventually.”

I turned. He was fresh from the shower, towel held in place just below his waist. His right hip was exposed, the towel over his middle and left hip. It was...enticing. Provocative. Alluring. Seeing his skin run uninterrupted down his shoulder and chest, over his hip and down his thigh to his foot while also blocking part of his body left me...wanting more.

“Of course if I'd sent the picture,” he said with a smile, the beginnings of a blush on his cheeks, “I wouldn't get to see the way you're looking at me I'm-”

“The most perfect thing I've ever seen,” I said as if in a trance.

He took a few steps forward and dropped the towel, revealing the rest of him. I met him, kissed him and filled my senses with Tyler Flexen. He pushed me back to the bed where I sat on the edge. He looked down on me, and I wondered if the feeling I had was the way a normal felt when magic first appeared before them, as if the magus were a deity.

Ty pitched his voice low. “Tomorrow I may lose you, but tonight...tonight you're mine.”

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