Free Fic Friday – Worth Waiting For

Inspiration photograph courtesy timeisjustanumber on tumblr

Worth Waiting For

 

Caden wasn’t out. I was.

Yet, I loved him more than life itself. My heartbeat fluttered at every little touch, with every last kiss; my soul seemed to sprout wings and fly whenever he was around, whenever he’d smile in that shy schoolboy way of his.

I wouldn’t lie—knowing that I was his secret, his hideaway lover, kept shrouded from the sunlight in his life? It hurt, but I understood why he did what he did. His home life was a hot mess. His father was a fly-by-night playboy who’d never paid a dime of child support and his mother was an angry drunk. I’d never seen Mona sober, honest to god, and I’d known Caden since we were twelve.

I’d loved him just as long.

For four years, I longed to tell him the truth. I ached to tell him how I felt about him. How I got lost in his whiskey-lullaby eyes. How the low bass rasp of his voice on the phone line, late at night, did all sorts of magical things to me. How I wished I could cradle his face in my hands, smooth back his floppily-unkempt brown hair and lay a gentle kiss atop his nose.

I wished I could promise him the world.

When I did finally confess my love for him, Caden didn’t say anything for several long moments. Our eyes locked together and in their dark amber depths, I saw my soul reflected back at me.

“I love you.” The word had slipped from my mouth, lonely spirits seeking refuge.

“I know.” He’d smiled, then, with a sorrowful tilt to his full lips. “But we… We can’t,” he’d said, ever so softly. He dropped his gaze to our hands, to where I’d flattened my palms against his to hook our fingers together. “I can’t. Not where people can see. I’m sorry, Ryder.”

I shook my head and stepped forwards, drawing our linked hands to my chest. “Then let’s be us where the people aren’t.” I bit my lip, worrying it between my teeth. “I can wait for you, Caden. I can wait until you’re ready.”

His fingers squeezed over mine. “It’s not fair to you.”

“I don’t care. I don’t. So long as we’re together, I’m happy,” I’d promised him.

It was mostly true. My longing was different these days. I wished with all my heart that Caden would be brave enough to step out of the shell that he’d built around himself. I knew it was a safe haven. A fortress where no one could hurt him, because how could they hurt him if they didn’t know the truth.

He told me I was lucky, because my family was the type that welcomed me and my newfound pride with open arms and tears of happiness. He told me that Mona wouldn’t understand, that his older brother would shit a brick. He told me that it wasn’t safe for him, but it didn’t stop me from wishing.

How long until I ran out of wishes?

I gazed up at the snowflakes that drifted down around me, lazy and slow. They settled over my coat and hat with the barest of noises in the silence of the night. My hands in my pockets, I strolled down the lane, void of traffic and people alike. The street lamps that lined the road glowed down over the sidewalk, catching the snowflakes in their yellow pallor.

I stood outside the elementary school playground. When I was seven, the swing sets and the slide seemed so much bigger, so much more vast… Now, I saw it for what it was: A small square of land with an ancient aluminum slide and a rickety swing set, its chains squeaking gently with each soft bluster of wintry air. The chain-link fence that surrounded the lot was old and rusty and peeled away at one corner where the neighborhood kids snuck in after hours. After so many repairs, the school finally gave up trying to mend the hole.

I smiled at that. How many evenings had we spent together out here, stolen away on a pair of swings, holding hands beneath the cover of darkness and talking without so many words?

I breathed in the crisp smell of winter—clean and fresh and untouched—and closed my eyes. I tilted my face back until I felt tiny snowflakes gathering in my lashes to melt against the warmth of my skin. My cellphone stayed eerily silent in the back pocket of my jeans. Where are you? 

Meet me at the school. I need you. That was the last text he’d sent. Two hours ago. I would wait for him. I promised him that I would. It didn’t matter that we had class in the morning, though we were only a couple weeks away from graduation now. Soon we’d don our caps and gowns and take the short walk into adulthood. After that?

They said that the world was our oyster, but could I spend the rest of my life, hung up on a boy who may never give me all of himself? Were we doomed from the beginning, undeserving of a happily ever after?

Ryder.”

I twisted around at the sound of my name, almost moaned from the busted lips of my best friend, my secret boyfriend, the guy who meant everything to me. In the dim glow of the street lights, I saw the dark smear of blood over his nose and mouth to drip down the front of his hoodie. He stood there with his arms wrapped so tight around himself, as if he was desperately trying to hold the broken pieces together.

Panic ripped through me, followed quickly by an overwhelming sense of concern.

“Oh my god, Caden! What happened?” I was at his side in an instant. He threw his long arms around me and buried his face in my jacket, and I held on tightly. He began to sob in broken, jagged breaths. It broke my damn heart. “Cade. Talk to me. What happened? Did she hit you?” The idea of Mona, drunk off her ass and taking her self-destruction out on Caden made me ache.

He wiped snot and blood away with the sleeve of his sweatshirt. His eyes were wild, glancing back and forth, up and down—everywhere but at me. “Y-Yeah, I… I told her, Ry. I told her the truth and I shouldn’t have, ‘cause she was drunk, but I thought maybe, maybe she’d just hiccup and tell me to go out and buy her smokes, but she freaked. She really… Fuck. She’s so pissed.” He raked his hands through his hair, yanking at the nut brown locks.

“I’m sorry, baby,” I murmured with emotion thick in my throat. He’d come out. Isn’t that what I wanted? But he looked so broken, so scared. “Come here, Caden.” I pulled him closer and wiped the blood away from his face with the stray Kleenex I found stuffed into my left coat pocket.

He sniffed and closed his eyes. “What happens next?” he whispered. “I can’t go back home.”

“No. You’re not going back there. You’re coming home with me,” I told him firmly. “My parents adore you. They know, and it’ll be okay. I promise, we’ll get through this. Graduation isn’t too far away and then we’ll be free to get real jobs—not some dinky ass part-time burger flipping jobs, either. I’ve been saving money anyway, for an apartment. For us.”

His eyes went wide. “For us?”

I nodded with a small smile. “If you wanted.”

But instead of looking relieved, his expression crumpled like a torn page tossed into a waste paper basket. He swiped a hand over his face when tears began to fall once more. “Ryder… What the hell do you see in me? I don’t deserve you.”

“You’re wrong,” I said gently. I caught his hands in mine and drew us together, like I had the day I poured my heart and soul out to him. I kissed his knuckles and pulled them to my chest. “You deserve the world and if I could give it to you, I would in a heartbeat. I wish I could take away your pain and give you bravery instead. You are sweet and gentle and the kindest damn person I’ve ever known, okay, and I love you.”

He pulled his hands free, only to rest them on either side of my neck. His cold fingers trailed over my skin and I shivered, but it was soon forgotten as he kissed me. His lips brushed over mine with a tender sort of ferocity that made me reach for him, to drag him closer. “I love you, too,” he murmured against my mouth, voice hitching. “So, so much. I’m a fool and a coward and—”

“Shh.” I bit his lip, tugging it between my teeth. “You are not.”

“I don’t deserve you.”

“You do.”

He melted into my touch, wrapping his arms around me in a tight hug. I buried my face in the crook of his neck, breathed in his summer-sky smell, and listened to the rapid thud-thud of his heart. I clung to him and we stood there, under the snowflakes and the lamp light, for what seemed like forever until, finally, he let me go.

Caden dragged in a deep breath and let it seep back out between his teeth. “You think so?”

It took me a moment to realize what he was asking. I nodded. “I know so. Come home with me tonight, and tomorrow night, and every night after that. If anyone is undeserving, it’s your mom. She can’t see how great of a person you are through the vodka-induced coma she’s living in.” I snorted.

He cracked a small grin. “You’re right.” He reached his hand out to me, palm up and fingers waiting. “You think your parents will freak if they find me in your bed come morning?”

My own smile felt positively wicked as I leaned up and planted a swift kiss on his lips. “Probably, but who cares, right?” I took his hand in mine and squeezed. His laugh made heat bloom to the surface of my chilled skin, reverberating up my arm to swell inside of me. It felt like hope. It felt like love. “I think so long as we’re both wearing pants, we’ll be fine.”

“Aw. Where’s the fun in that?” He giggled soft.

“That’s why we’re gonna get an apartment together, remember?” I tugged on his arm. “It can be a pants-free zone. We just have to wait a little bit longer. I can wait for you, Caden. I told you that a long time ago.” I felt that truth deeper than the marrow in my bones. The smile that stretched across his face lit up my world.

“You think?”

“I know. Some things are just worth waiting for.”

Free Fic Friday – Amaranthine

These two are actually one of my oldest MM couples–a demon and an angel–who never quite could figure out how to come up with a book for themselves. Their story was never really a happy one, more bittersweet than anything. Today they spoke to me and I was able to give them the one-shot they deserved after years of sitting on the shelves of my mind, even if it doesn’t have a happy ending.

Amaranthine
Undying, unfading 

Where are you?

The ache in my chest swelled. I gazed out at the barren city, its streets empty and lined with a thick layer of permafrost, leaving behind a frosty glow. As twilight descended over the world and snowflakes fell in an almost lazy dance to blanket the Earth, I was left looking out of the window of the abandoned library I’d holed up in to call my final resting place.

It was a two-story grave of brick and mortar, lined with shelves and shelves of bookcases. Fitting, in an odd sort of way, since this is where it all began. I drew in a deep breath and turned away from the window, setting my jaw. There was no use hoping. It was over. The world was all but cold now and I was alone once more.

I need you.

I slowly meandered down the aisle of bookshelves that stretched from ceiling to floor. The ancient tombs that sat upon them were musty, discolored and coated in dust, their spines bent and their pages tattered and yellow. They’d seen better days, but hadn’t we all? My boots scuffed over the old floorboards with a hollow thunk.

The library was dark, as was the city all around it. Not a single light glowed in the aftermath. They always told me that the world would end with a bang, but in all reality, life as we knew it would simply peter out. As the temperatures plummeted to subzero levels, one by one, our lights—the spirits fighting so hard inside of us—would blink out. Animals, humans, demons, and angels, we would simply cease to exist.

I dropped my forehead against the cold chill of the wooden shelves and closed my eyes. Heat billowed inside of me, the fever almost hot enough to suffocate me and steal my breath away.

I’d hoped… I’d hoped for so much, so damn much. I’d wished that it would’ve been different, that maybe we would’ve gotten a better ending than this. The human race was destined for extinction, but I always assumed that Heaven and Hell would march on. Immortal. Eternal.

Amaranthine.

But the gates were skewed, made of rusted metal and angry grudges, and in the end, hatred won. Humans turned on each other, vicious and filled with animosity. Angels took to the skies, their massive wings blotting out the last pallid beams of sunlight. Armed with weapons made of magic-imbued steel and cursed demonglass, we clashed. Blood spilled. Tears fell. Bodies slowly went cold.

But I don’t think Lucifer expected Earth to be our final battlefield. Our last hurrah. Our swan song. Cut down by my own kind, I fell, broken and battered, to the icy ground. Too exhausted to keep going as the world ended all around us, I dragged myself through the streets of bloodied corpses. Back here.

Back home.

Please…

Home was where the heart was, if demons truly did have hearts. I didn’t believe it, not before I met him. I thought that we were all just ruthless bastards with a penchant for violence. Funny how it was the touch of an angel’s innocence to breathe life back into me. This was home, but he was my heart. He was my fire.

I’m so sorry.

I sucked in a shaken breath. I knew that he’d fallen. I’d seen the pain in his eyes, his beautiful face smeared with gore as he was dragged away. I’d tried… I dropped my chin to my chest and pressed my eyes tightly shut. The tears burned and pricked at my eyelids, but they didn’t fall. He wouldn’t want me to cry.

“Keep your chin up, Dante. This isn’t how it ends,” he’d murmured, pressing a kiss to my temple in what would be our final embrace. His magnificent ivory wings curled around us in a feathery embrace. “Don’t let them get you down, my firebrand. You’re far too strong for that.”

I hadn’t felt strong. Not as I fisted my hands over the cold steel grip of my demonglass daggers. Not as I marched into the frozen expanse at his side, ready to wage war on those who threatened what little sliver of peace we’d made for ourselves. Not as he was ripped away from me, snarling and spitting angelic curses while demons cackled, painfully loud in the eerie quiet.

Definitely not now.

I stood in the empty hallway of the place we’d called our sanctuary, my throat raw and my chest tight. It felt as if my ribcage had been split open down the center, blood-washed bone torn free of muscle and sinewy tendon to expose a broken, mangled heart. What was left of me, was this.

“I can’t do this alone.” My whisper was hoarse in the silence of the building. It echoed off the metal shelving, bouncing back to strike me with a chill. This library had been our hideaway from the world, a safe haven from the Archangels who’d demanded my head, and the Blackbloods who’d declared me a traitor to my own kind.

Mizuki was wrong. There was no peace.

Hatred would always win.

I returned to the window and shuddered against a fresh wave of pain. I saw only white. Foolish. I knew it was stupid to hope that he’d find his way back home to me. My soul cried out for me to go search for him amongst the frozen remains of humans and enemies alike, but I didn’t have much time left in this world. I wanted to spend my last few hours here, surrounded by memories of him. Of us.

The Great Freeze wouldn’t be the end of me. It was the angelic poison licking through my veins, slowly but surely, that would be my undoing.

I touched my fingertips to the soiled bandages I’d swathed over my gut wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Had I been human, the blow alone would’ve killed me. I wasn’t lucky enough for that. Instead, my body would continue to try and heal itself while the toxin that had coated the blade slowly ate away at me. I’d managed to crawl home with my tail between my legs, to climb the steps without bleeding out into the snow.

Here, I would die alone.

I swallowed hard around the lump lodged in my throat. My gaze lingered over the frozen landscape, the buildings crusted with frost. Snow continued to fall, soft and silent. It was oddly beautiful, the end of the world. I climbed up to sit on the small ledge of the window and rested my cheek against the cold glass. It fogged up with each breath and I drew a path through the condensation with one finger.

I saw him then—a figure cloaked in black, stumbling through the snow. My pulse skipped a beat and I sat up straighter. The only feature I could make out was the mop of ruby red hair, a single flame burning in the night.

Please. 

My heart pitched. I didn’t bother with my coat as I stumbled down the steps. The heavy wooden doors swung open and I was blasted with an arctic chill that stole my breath away. The figure drew closer and I could tell now that he was limping. I couldn’t wait; despite the weakness ringing through me in protest, I ran.

“Mizuki!” I screamed, crunching a wild path through the snow. The figure froze and so did my heart. It was him! He’d come back to me. How, I wasn’t sure, but I wouldn’t question it. I couldn’t breathe as I forged my way through the snow, slipping and sliding on the icy ground. My stomach wound throbbed with each beat of my heart, but fuck it.

“Mizu.” I gasped his name as I buckled over.

“Dante?” His voice was a rasp. I collided with his chest. He let out a soft sob as his long arms curled tightly around me, cradling me with his warmth. I clung to him like a lost child, shaking violently now. I couldn’t stop. “Shh, love. It’s okay. Everything is okay,” he whispered, his warm breath tickling my ear. The tears fell free now, leaving damp streaks down my cheeks that turned icy. “Dante.”

“I love you,” I managed to say, holding my stomach. His gaze dropped to the bloodied bandages and what little color was in his cheeks washed white. His forehead crumpled, but he only held me tighter. One wing hung pendulous, broken and tattered, its snow white plumage stained with gore. I reached out and touched a bent feather. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” he murmured. I groaned low in my throat and sagged against him, exhaustion settling over me once more. Weakness laying claim to a body that was once strong and virile. “Let’s go back inside.” His hand at my back guided me forward. By the time we made it to the doorway, I’d collapsed with a cry and he had to carry me up the stairs. My mind was fuzzy, the world spinning circles around me.

This was it, then. I was really dying.

“Please stay with me.” I held tight to his neck.

His blue eyes, always so crystal clear, darkened with sorrow. “I’m not going anywhere, Dante. I’ll be right here, until the end.” He knew. It was written across his face. He cradled my trembling, fevered body to his chest. We lay in the bed we’d made love in, far too many times to count. He’d awakened that gentleness in me. He’d made me happier than I thought was possible in times like these.

“I love you, Mizu. You made life not suck so bad.” My lips didn’t want to form the words, so they came out slurred on my tongue. I laughed at the absurdity of it and he peppered my face with kisses. When I closed my eyes, his lips caressed each lid. I felt his teardrops on my skin; I wondered if he could taste mine. I breathed shallow now, the pain consuming me. “Don’t let me go.”

“I’m here, love. Right here. I love you. You are my fire, my phoenix, rising from the ashes of this broken, beautiful world. You gave my life light in its darkest days, and for that, I will forever be thankful. Just relax now.” He nuzzled his nose against my cheek, his breath warm and comforting. His arms embraced me close to him, holding me so tender, as if he let go, I’d slip away.

I was leaving him alone. He would die alone. No one would hold him as his light flickered out. The realization of it made me whimper, but he kissed my words away. “Don’t apologize, Dante,” he said, as if he knew what I was about to say. “Close your eyes, firebrand. Shall I sing you a song?”

I swallowed around the glass in my throat. “Yes.” It was barely a whisper now. My heart was fighting to keep beating. It was becoming hard to breathe. He dropped his lips to my hair, kissing me atop the head, and his voice came out soft and deep.

I didn’t understand the words, spoken in another tongue, but it felt like a lullaby. It felt like a goodbye. His voice broke on the next verse and he held me all the more tighter, but he didn’t stop singing, not until the very end.

And when I died, it was in his arms, safe and warm, wrapped in love and sung to sleep.

If there was an afterlife for us, when the world stopped turning and the last few breaths had been taken, I hoped that he might find me again. Maybe, in another life, it wouldn’t have to end like this. Maybe next time, love would win instead.

Our love was amaranthine.

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