We are well into Bloodlines timeline territory now. Warning possible spoilers!!!!
Don’t forget to go show Riley some love!
Despite himself, despite knowing that Adrian wasn’t going to return until after his normal closing time of 6 p.m., Andrew closed early and spent the rest of the time pacing, trying to decide what he was going to do.
It was simply a fact that Adrian was capable of, and had used blood magic in the past. He’d seen the scars, after all. But Andrew had always sort of assumed, or maybe just hoped, that it had been more adolescent rebellion than anything else. Not something he’d return to recently. They were in their mid-thirties, for fuck’s sake and with the circle so suspicious of him now that Samantha had gone missing, it seemed reckless even by Adrian standards.
And now he had an apprentice, and while Andrew had been pleased and gratified that Adrian considered him a backup in case something went wrong and Ashley needed help. . . he kind of wished he’d asked him about it first. After all, he’d never wanted a child of his own and while Ashley was nearly grown, she wasn’t yet.
Andrew sighed, brewing a pot of coffee in his back room, waiting for Adrian’s arrival, which could be in the next moment, or not for hours.
Adrian took a deep breath before knocking on the door. The alley was dark and cold, the sun long since gone and no street lights lit the far corners of the narrow space. He considered just leaving. Andrew was not going to be good with most of what happened in the last couple months. It was why he had not been coming by.
He acknowledged that what they had was casual, he never felt even the slightest pang of jealousy or possessiveness when Andrew took other lovers. It wasn’t like he was monogamous either. However, the thought of Andrew looking down on him, or even being disgusted by him left a sick knot in his stomach.
He knocked again. Resolved to wait a little longer. If Andrew did not want to talk to him, then he would have to accept that.
Several hours and cups of coffee later, Andrew had settled into reading and checking the clock periodically, beginning to wonder if Adrian hadn’t just decided to stay away as he had been for the past several months. At first, he’d attributed this absence to his concern and search for his daughter, despite all the evidence to the contrary (continued videos for his blog, and now this suddenly showing up with an apprentice and zombies and who knows what else).
The last cup of coffee he’d poured had gone cold, and more caffeine was not what Andrew needed. Honestly, he wanted a drink but drinking and Adrian seemed an unwise choice. Though he was long past denying his own or Adrian’s desires, there was absolutely no way he was going to allow Adrian to distract him or charm his way out of this.
He heard the knock, and steeled himself. Waited, ‘til Adrian knocked again and Andrew went to the door, opening it but not yet moving aside to allow Adrian entrance. “I was beginning to suspect you weren’t coming.”
“I thought about it,” Adrian admitted. He couldn’t bring himself to look Andrew in the eyes. It was cold out, but Andrew still blocked the door with his body. Adrian shivered. He had been feeling worse for the past couple days. He never got sick, so he knew it was the bindings.
“I fucked up,” he started, then paused for a second before adding, “even worse than usual.”
It was obvious Adrian wasn’t well, or happy with himself, though Andrew couldn’t bring himself to be entirely sympathetic. He waited for a few more moments, merely watching the dejected man in front of him. Then, sighing heavily, moved out of the way.
“I don’t disagree with that,” Andrew said. “But you might as well come in because there are a lot of people who would be pretty pissed off if you froze to death on top of everything else. Myself among them.”
“It’s probably not what you think,” stepped in and shut the door feeling the relief of the cold air being cut off.
“Samantha‘s mother is definitely involved, “ he started, still not looking at Andrew.” and something big. Big enough that I’m worried. “
He rubbed his arm through the sleeve.” And I have no access to anything remotely useful. I needed someone she could go to if…. “
Adrian Shrugged helplessly. “I was hoping it would go a little smoother than today and that way there would be no risk of dragging you in, but you would be aware of each other.” He leaned against the door and closed his eyes.
“She a good kid,” he said. “Harmless as far as I can tell, unless you count her tongue.” He half smiled for a moment.”But it knows about her, and I have no way of defending myself now , much less her. “
Now that the words were out in the open Adrian felt worse. Not only did Andrew suspect the blood magic, he now knew Adrian was useless as a kitten in a dog fight.
Considering that Andrew really didn’t know what to think, this wasn’t staying much. He returned to retrieve his cold and unwanted coffee, only to have something to occupy his hands with while allowing Adrian to explain.
That Lilith was involved, in Samantha’s disappearance at least, wasn’t really surprising, but Andrew hadn’t ever expected to see Adrian so beaten – though all he was really saying was that he had not only gotten involved in something powerfully dangerous, he was dragging an extremely young and inexperienced woman into it, and now Andrew as well. Was Sofia also involved, or was she the only one Adrian protected?
“Why not let Rei train her?” he set his coffee down, tired of pretending it still interested him and irritable and headachy from what he’d had already. “She’s almost certainly not like us, not like Samantha. . .though my abilities had no effect on her.” this was off-topic. “Never mind. She’s already involved now.”
Andrew sighed heavily, glancing over at him. “But blood magic?”
“It wasn’t supposed to be like that,” Adrian said, still unable to look at Andrew. “ it was supposed to be a simple ‘haunted house’ down in the swamps. A friend… Oliver,” he hesitated saying Oliver’s name. He felt like he didn’t want Andrew to know about him. That was absurd of course. Oliver was an adult and Andrew would never do anything that would hurt him. Still, the feeling of possessiveness remained.
“Oliver knew the owner. I didn’t realize that a particularly nasty demon that had been following me was involved. I really didn’t. I would not have brought either of them,” he insisted, finally looking at Andrew, afraid of what he might find on his friend’s face.
“I’ve been trying to make sure you don’t get pulled in too, but now these, “ he said and held out his arm. “I can’t protect her, and he has attacked her once already. I need to know that when he does finally kill me that she has someone not in the circle she can trust.” He shrugged off his jacket and pulled up his left sleeve, showing Andrew the scars.
“He was going to kill them, Andrew. I didn’t know what else to do.”
Adrian was good at excuses, excusing himself, and Andrew watched him try to explain what had led him back to blood magic after . . . now he couldn’t really guess at how often the other man resorted to that. He managed to maintain an impassive expression, wondering how ‘simple’ any haunted house could be, especially in Louisiana, but raised an eyebrow at the mention of this ‘Oliver’ again. Neither of them had ever been jealous of the other, of anyone they slept with, but they didn’t really discuss it much either. It was just fact. Nor could he even be sure if Oliver was another love of Adrian’s, or just a friend that he didn’t want Andrew to know about.
Andrew sighed heavily. Adrian’s excuses probably made sense to him. Hell, they made sense to Andrew but he still thought there should have been another way to deal with it. The circle never would have made those vicious bindings if they didn’t suspect Adrian of doing exactly what he was doing, and sooner or later, he was going to get himself put down. And he couldn’t help but wonder, unfairly, if his friend was becoming more paranoid since his daughter’s disappearance, imagining dangers where they weren’t, ignoring the concrete threats.
But he nodded, assenting to watching Ashley. After all, he’d failed Samantha too, hadn’t he? Then Andrew winced at the scars on Adrian’s arm, not asking who it was that this demon was going to kill. Ashley and this Oliver, apparently.
“If you say that’s what happened, then I just have to trust that it is.” He looked at the scars, not ready to move towards Adrian. Restraining the urge to ask about Oliver. “That you didn’t have any other objects at that time. Just don’t make a habit of it, all right?”
“I won’t have a chance to once the circle finds out,” Adrian admitted. ”They didn’t see them this time, but eventually they will.” He wanted to go over to Andrew, but it was clear he was intentionally staying away. “Ashley and Oliver came to the conclusion that the bokor had done it. I didn’t actually lie to them about it.” He dropped the arm back to his side.
“I was trying to keep you out of it, Andrew.” He pulled up the other sleeve.
“You know I’m not trying to lie to you.”
If he was just even slightly less upset with Adrian, Andrew would have gone to him right then, would have offered to heal his scars. Even then, he would have done so if Adrian didn’t just admit to letting his friends believe the wrong thing. He couldn’t even judge him for it, Andrew was the master of lying by omission.
“The circle is exactly what you need to be worried about, right now” Andrew said. “After Samantha . . . I did try to find some sign of her, but my divinatory abilities are severely more limited than other talents.” Now he was trying to apologize, to make excuses of his own. “And I appreciate you trying to keep me out of it, but you really should let me heal you. I can do that, at least.”
Adrian let himself slide down the wall until he rested on his heels. He thought about how much he should tell Andrew. He was in so deep already, but the less Andrew knew, the less the circle would have against him. He rubbed at the edges of the bindings idly, let the pain distract him from his emotions for a moment.
“I couldn’t,” he said. “Even if I had been able to physically get here, I was afraid you would refuse. You were never going to believe something as stupid as Ashley’s explanation.”
He pressed harder on the binding higher up, closer to the elbow and it was almost like he could feel the dead minds sliding against his again for a moment and his stomach suddenly turned and he had to swallow hard and breathe through his nose for a moment.
“And there is more,” He said once he thought he would not embarrass himself by vomiting. “I was wrong about the necromancy. It’s actually pretty strong.”
It was nearly final straw when Adrian nearly collapsed against the wall, but even then Andrew didn’t go to him. His anger was swiftly turning to concern, and the desire to comfort the other man. And that was exactly why he stayed away. It wasn’t the time for comforting, for where that would likely lead.
Andrew never felt he was highly empathic, nothing more than a slight intuitive knack for reading people. Yet he could almost feel Adrian’s sudden nausea and revulsion, and could only guess at what thought’s had caused that.
“Your own necromancy, you mean?” Andrew knelt beside him, resting his hand on Adrian’s shoulder. “Tell me what happened?”
THe sudden touch startled Adrian and he almost pulled away, but it was Andrew, so he leaned into it, resting his cheek against the hand. Andrew’s skin felt cool. Maybe he had a fever.
“He had turned magic users,” Adrian said. “This demon is very powerful.”
His arms were resting limply on his knees, but he held out the scarred left arm and continued. “Even this wasn’t enough,” He knew he sounded bitter, but there was no reason to be, everything that happened that night had been his fault to start with.
“13 magic users, raised as zombies, and he was ready to kill both of them.” He let his arm drop. “I was in a cemetery in the middle of nowhere Louisiana, the only people I had with me were about to be murdered, I didn’t have anything with me so I used what I had.” He rubbed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall.
“If you ever wondered, if you hit the big vein in our arm, you don’t have a hell of a lot of time before shit goes fuzzy. But I do remember him trying to tell me something about conduits retaining their powers after death. But I am pretty sure he is wrong about Ashley. She isn’t a conduit.”
“Oh, and the fucking enchanted crow. That bastard was mooching around talking about wanting to eat eyeballs or some shit.” He sighed. “I guess I haven’t seen you to tell you about the damned crow. For fuck sake, there are days I just want to give up.” The words just kept spilling out.
Andrew rested his hand on Adrian’s cheek. He was too hot, confirming Andrew’s suspicion that the other man was actually sick, from infection or overexertion, or both. The words coming out of his mouth brought a swirling array of images and glimpses of the events in Louisiana.
He winced again at the comment about hitting the vein, stroking Adrian’s cheek and moving his hand down around his neck, attempting to gauge whether or not he actually was feverish and delirious.
“I think you’d better sleep on the sofa, take a few aspirin and I’ll try healing you as well,” Andrew said, choosing to ignore the comment about the giant crow for the moment. The bokor and the zombies, his resorting to blood magic, all that seemed likely. This phantasmal bird might be the result of a high fever.
Adrian closed his eyes and leaned into Andrew. “I really should just go home,” he mumbled. “I should not have come here, it fucking follows me everywhere.” He did not want to go home, he wanted to stay here with Andrew, even if the other man would need to go to his own apartment later.
“And I really don’t know what would happen if you tried to use magic to heal these.” He gave his arm a lethargic shake. “They did something different this time. I don’t know if I will even be able to get rid of it.”
He gave the collar of his shirt a tug , pulling it down to show the one above his heart. “I actually thought he was trying to kill me outright this time,” he admitted. “It’s probably a good thing that I know they would look at me first if the bastard was killed.”
He turned his head and pressed his face against Andrew’s arm. He found only shirt, but gave it a quick kiss anyway. “I’m tired. I should go.”
Was there some way to know if there truly was some powerful demon after Adrian? It wasn’t impossible, but it could also just be Lilith tormenting Adrian, or something else. Andrew frowned, watching Adrian show the new binding on his chest, the one meant to kill him should anything go wrong. It was every bit as red and inflamed as the ones on his arm. Even without demon possession, it just might kill him.
“Jesus Christ, Adrian.” Andrew only ever swore like that, like he had in childhood, when he couldn’t think of anything else to see. Adrian’s fumbling kiss to his shirtsleeve still touched him and he swore again. “Dammit, Adrian, I meant heal the scars you gave yourself, but something has to be done with the bindings.”
“I don’t know that anything can be done with them,” Adrian said. “I probably need to just leave it alone for a while. But if you think you could make these less obvious… “ He frowned at the heavy keloid scars on his left arm. “I doubt anything could get rid of them.”
Being honest with himself, Andrew doubted his own ability to heal Adrian. Had been doubting his own abilities a lot since failing to divine even a hint of Samantha’s whereabouts. . . and while he persisted in reminding himself that he simply wasn’t that talented a diviner and also unpracticed, it didn’t make him feel any better. And if that was how he was feeling, then it was no wonder Adrian was so dejected. No wonder he was trying everything he could, but the bokor and the demon seemed unrelated to Adrian’s daughter, and so Andrew couldn’t help but worry that his desperation where Samantha was concerned was bleeding over -Andrew winced at his own inadvertent pun- into every other aspect of his life. Even when others, like Andrew, were more than capable of taking care of themselves.
“You may be right,” Andrew conceded. “I’m really more concerned with lessening this fever of yours. And then I’ll let you go if you really want to. Now come sit on the couch.” He placed his hand on Adrian’s arm, trying to get him to his feet. Andrew was not trying to lure Adrian into bed with him, if for no other reason than Adrian was in no condition, but he needed him to rest for a moment so he could at least try healing him.
Adrian pushed himself back up. Andrew was significantly shorter than he was so it felt strange to accept his help standing up. “I really just need some sleep,” he said. “It’s just been a little hard to do that lately.” He sat down on the sofa and leaned his head back against the wall. It really wasn’t that uncomfortable, he’d slept on it many times in the past.
Usually when he was here, he would be in a much better mood, but tonight he did not even try to tease Andrew or pull him into his lap. He was serious when he said he was tired. That alone made him wonder if he had finally just gone too far and this was it. He did not remember being this tired before ever. Of course, between Samantha, the dolls, the demon, and now the new bindings, he had never really fucked up this badly before either.
That Adrian accepted his help standing, and went to the sofa without protest or attempts at sex only confirmed that he was sick. Or too depressed and exhausted to care, which was even more worrisome. Andrew sat beside him, studying him thoughtfully, before focusing his healing energy toward the infections around the new bindings, trying to keep the inflammation separate from the bindings themselves, stroking lightly over Adrian’s tattoos and frowning as all he got was some nasty feedback from Gerard’s spell, like some sort of barrier his healing couldn’t break through, even calling on Ra-Horakhty . . .
Finally pulling back, flushed from exertion and wishing for a few aspirin himself. “Whatever Gerard did, I can’t do anything about it. I’m sorry.” He just wasn’t strong enough. “At least I can give you some aspirin and a place to sleep, unless you’d rather a ride home?”
“I’ve probably been here too long already,” Adrian sighed. He had not held out much hope that Andrew would be able to do much for them.
“You need to get home, I’m sure.” He pushed himself up. He felt embarrassed now being so weak in front of Andrew. He was just too tired to do much about it. “I still have some work to do tonight before I go to bed.” Courtnay was supposed to be looking for a rune stone he needed to work on Jezabelle, but as always he was making it hard to track him down again.
He noted that Adrian had not actually answered him, at least about the ride home. Andrew was exhausted, and had had two overlapping headaches, from the coffee and his failed attempt at healing Adrian, he did want to go home and crash into his bed. He’d just feel better if Adrian was there with him, to keep an eye on him. “You really intend to work in this condition?” Andrew sighed, rubbing his head. Of course Adrian was, why was this a surprise. “I can’t force you to take a break . . . actually, I probably could, but I won’t. Just, try not to die, will you?”
“There’s a first time for everything,” Adrian said opening the back door and wincing as the cold air rushed in. “Maybe I’ll surprise us both. “