shipwreck_light: If you see it, you are either playing with me or snooping. (Tree)
Shipwreck Light ([personal profile] shipwreck_light) wrote in [community profile] rainbowfic2015-03-26 10:39 pm

Ember #8

Author: SWL feat. Kat
Story: Jealous of Roses, Arc X + Shine Like It Does = A Place I'll Return To Someday
Index: Click Here.
Colors: Ember #8- Candle
Supplies and Materials: Mosaic, Collage, Eraser, Portrait
Word Count: 6,900ish
Summary: Concerning what happens to sorcerer Claude Marcotte after he rushes home with such enthusiasm he manages to get himself drunk doing it.
Rating: PG
Warnings: None today.
The following are always welcome: comments, constructive criticism, collaboration inquiries, cake.



After the night in the tavern with Jack, Claude made his way back to Saints of Peace skimming and rushing and smiling at strangers.

The woman from the sorcerer's guild who met him at his last stop laughed when she caught sight of him, only to come rushing over through the cathedral spill of late afternoon. "That's a guilty face if I ever saw one!"

Despite cutting his venture short- at least, as far as his own sense of thorough would take him -Claude had still arrived within the last ten percent of the sorcerers taking part in the Flora Census. For this, he was awarded an embroidered patch which read "Late to the Party" besides a seat all but in the arms of a chubby pair of bakers. Well, he liked to cook and one of them at least had an interest in Aetherial beings. Their conversation was soft and friendly; so too, sleeping through the night.

The Shades mostly stayed in his cloak despite the sunny warmth coming in all along the tracks. He caught Pip chewing on the baker's dishwater curls as she and he and her partner drowsed about one another's rumpled clothes.

In the morning again, attentions shifted after them once more- glances and shifts, gentle longing, sometimes laughter. One Lith wept and it might not have been for who and what Claude carried. Majests swished their tails. No one spoiled a thing. Not even the moths fled from him when he came down to walking.

He didn't rush until he'd reached the outskirts of Saints of Peace. He wouldn't let himself. Rushing unfastened. That went for sorcery and for any kind of footsteps.

He went up the lavender overgrown byway shortcuts as if he marched his way to a queen. And no, he didn't blame anyone hiding in his clothes for giggling.

Hell, he stopped more than once to pet them and tell them, besides wondering where all of the public carriages had gone. At that point, he wouldn't have minded /too/ much if they'd come out, all discussions of surprising his family aside.

The way back lay lush with farmers calling their animals, sorcerers in their own precincts singing out to clouds of smoke and water and gold dust; all the people in the world (at least, his little world) to waylay in curiosity.

Also, Fernando, up to his ankles in waders, gathering duck weed from a bog that definitely wasn't his. Not that there was ever great call for duckweed even for the most eccentric sorcer-sorts.

Frankly, Claude wondered what in the world he'd be doing with it. But, he gave that up in favor of whistle.

The jelly lines of sunset wobbled around Fernando and: "Claude! You're back!" his voice broke on the words and he ran. His gloves came off and got hurled aside, but otherwise, he was still soak and dirt and scraps of leaves as he launched himself into Claude's arms, losing his hat in the process.

And Claude, being travel sooty himself, met him there with a rib-creaking hug that had them both swaying over the grass.

Clothes could be washed. Fernando's nippy welcome back kisses waited for no cheeks.

It was probably something more common for two women to have shared, but Claude couldn't muster up more concern for the gesture than the absent idea that his face probably didn't taste very good.

And that Jack was going to give him sass for this later.

/I look forward to it, Prince./

Anyway, Fernando tugged off, /only/ holding him by his shoulders. "Bet you're tired."

"No, not much. How about you?"

"Me?"

Claude nodded.

His companion held his victorious face for another long second before his sigh. "I'm still not used to managing the precinct myself."

"It hasn't been a year since you took over. I think it's normal to have to learn your way around someone else's handiwork."

Especially when that handiwork had a sorcerous bend, one left to it by a man who'd aspired to bureaucratic rank in his chosen guild and who had died as stubbornly as he'd lived. Which was to say with no preparations made for an heir to his precinct, his Aethies or his overenchanted abode.

"I mean, I have lots to do and I love doing it, but it's a /lot/ and ah, you don't need to hear about my problems."

"Yes, I certainly do."

"No, you don't."

"I insist."

"Well, you know, the trust thing."

Claude's own expression probably turned a bit more sweet serious than the remark would have merited. So too, the glance between them lingered on. Fernando more or less righted himself, pointing subtly over his shoulder as he did so.

The leaves of the sycamore trickled brassy as the evening glow held over the sky. A small, white figure in the topmost boughs rustled along with the air currents. "Winged Cat" was the playful name for a Gust in their elemental state, although, such beings came out slinkier and more transparent than that, besides, in the case of this particular Gust, with a second pair of wings where his ears ought to have been.

Aethies heard as they drank scents, through all of their bodies. So, it didn't matter if any one had tipped his ears their way. His stance of "Why, I am most certainly not doing anything" just drove his eavesdropping home with a hammer.

Fernando shook his head, then shouted through the cup of his hand: "Yes, we're talking about you!"

"I know."

With that, the Gust vanished.

And Claude mused- trust thing /indeed/.

Since that same figure came back into being not an inch from Fernando's nose, neither sorcerer nor Aethie flinching. Well, not that he could see- there was no water to give them away this time.

Claude swung his pack around and rifled through his tools. "Would you like some candy, Vier?" he asked before he'd quite laid hands on any pieces.

The Gust vanished once more. He felt Vier settle before he ever showed himself- he had wrapped himself around Claude in the manner of a scarf, claws and pinfeathers prickling over his chest as he stretched.

Then lifted his head to remark: "Does your wife know?"

"I'm going to tell her as soon as I get home."

"I will know if you don't." He made a ruffly, grunt, mostly towards his sorcerer, this serving as question and answer and something almost cute, in its own thick-prickled way. Out of it, he spoke with sudden clarity: "/May/ I have my candy now?"

"Yes," said Claude, unwrapping a square and handing it over.

Vier held this first with his ear wings, then laid it on the shoulder which held him, snuggling in smaller to place more of his ethereal self against the savory resin.

And the bone behind which the Shades had tucked themselves, their presences bubbling with what certainly felt like amusement.

Claude turned back to his more human companion, offering: "I got a little carried away with the souvenirs."

"Only you would being souvenirs from a Flora Census," remarked Fernando.

"Four, as a matter of fact."

"You live with two other people!"

Several nonmaterial throats cleared around him.

"And two Aethies. I think. Roa, you know."

"Let's go with two."

"Two!" the bog sang out. Indigo and Vine had a particular sense of milder about their aura, besides a mildly mingled state which made them easy to mistake for one creature. If they crawled over the grass as mudskippers with their tails entangled, that made all the sense in the world.

Claude crouched to them, and made his offerings. "I didn't forget you little stinkers either."

"We don't want candy," said... well, it sounded more like Indigo.

"We want to sit on /you/," but, the second voice could have been her as well.

The reason why bubbled once more in the shadow of his cloak. "Next time, I promise. I know how long that takes you."

Their beady eyes shone human guilty, but only in a jot before the laughter began. The candy disappeared from his grasp, being sat upon very much instead.

Fernando snapped his fingers. Not to them, but very much at Claude. "That reminds me!"

"Ack," spat Vier. Well, as much as something with no breath or spit could manage. He did however grow immaterially /tighter/ when he did as much.

"I got the automobile started. It was the drive belt."

"That's great news!" Claude managed to recover. Meanwhile, the intruding Gust lolled down his (slightly damp) shirt sleeve.

As his sorcerer said: "Sooo, you want a ride?"

"That's a very silly question."

"Even after?"

"That wasn't your fault."

"You may be out-voted on that one. Anyway, come on!"

Claude probably knew better, but the prospect of home yanked him on. Not like how he'd come to the Shades, or so he filled himself. That had been curiosity in his purpose. This was just YES firing off in his senses.

Fernando's automobile had been had been glazed the color of very old ivory, fashionable and spotless. Oh, it /looked/ fine, until one unfastened the hood to behold the rusted cackles of its insides. It had no roof, only one of the older, low-set windshields with brass vacuum tube powered wipers for splashes off of the road. The thing was useless in the rain without a half a dozen passengers wielding umbrellas.

Most of its enchantments had gone to the seats- they were pale blue, difficult to stain; firm and smooth and only prone to losing a feather from their insides here or there when Fernando braked hard.

Claude sprang into the back and settled himself there. A sigh coursed over his entire frame.

He did know he'd been sitting for the better part of a week after hiking for more than that. His weariness curled close, more so than Vier, still slung about his neck. Meanwhile, the Shades stretched out to taste the upholstery. Indigo and Vine took the backwards-facing cushions and Fernando stripped.

His waders went into a tarp on the back seat while the duckweed he'd gathered got to sit up front in an old salad bowl. Humming and barefoot, he closed up and gave the engine a few loving cranks, shortly followed by a "Come along, my dear. Please? We have company." And a more forceful, but still affectionate, turns. The engine jittered. Fernando raced around to the front and, still shoeless, laid himself to the handles. There was smoke. Claude coughed. The car began to move. With a rat-tat-tat it climbed over the bank and onto the road, leaving black billows behind. Branches twittered in the breeze the left as they passed.

Vier watched them all, his candy shrinking and his ears turning. The Shades he did so much to ignore fairly buzzed with their own excitement.

"Not going to lie- this feels really good," Claude offered.

"Damn straight," Fernando gestured over his shoulder and only kind of maybe taking his eyes off of the way he was trying to drive. "So, there's some human candy under the seat. Adult human candy."

"You have moonshine in your car."

"What if I wreck it again and you're not there to comfort me?"

"Your moonshine is flammable!"

"I don't want any remains this time!"

Claude had no mood about him to argue with the laugh that surfaced in his chest. He let it be. And, while he was at it, toed (booted, rather) a case out from underneath the seat. This he popped open beside him, finding an amber bottle, a pale butter-colored bottle and a clear one. Now, if Claude remembered correctly, the clear cured and caused hangovers and the butter felled giants. So, he chose the amber and he drank deeply.

The oncoming evening passed into cherries and almonds with a shudder down his throat. Warmth and comfort and sweetness. All the things of home and before the alcohol snatched at his bearing.

Claude rubbed a little off of the bottle mouth and held his fingers under his cloak, playing as if he'd had an itch to scratch. Well, the Shades got after him such that he shuddered much the same way and would have after that, had Vier not shoved his head in the way.

He heard things from the Gust. Words and growls. The bristling now, immaterial or not, he very much felt that. It was not so deep embracing as the calm that came after "and that's just the way it is".

From Jack, accepted by a nosey Gust and exactly loud enough to get them all another careless look 'round from Fernando.

Who's eyes went all soft as he spoke after: "A friend in need shall be met with deeds when they are in need."

"If you say that one more time," snapped Vier. "I swear I will learn how to shit just so I can do it in your shoes."

"I love you too."

"Damn it."

Claude meanwhile finished off one more swallow of the moonshine, and leaned back to watch the clouds carry in their colors. Soon, he'd be with his family. His heart leapt at the thought- anticipation edged in booze. Him thinking he could have run this instead of taken the relaxing way up the road, but then... ah, what then?

"I put up a new mirror too, so I can see you smiling back there!" sang out Fernando. "What did you /get/ Nathalie?"

"I'm not telling you before her."

"Aww."

"I'm /not/."

The Aethies at hand agreed with this- all six of them bobbing along with his nod.

It wasn't more than a quarter of an hour Claude spent on the back seat of Fernando's car before his own precinct came into view, besides faded into focus on his sense of the Aether. Roa hit him first- he swore himself catching the scent of the ocean, if from the tips of his nerves rather than all of his breath. She washed in and she welcomed in her own way, deafening full of sea salt dreams. But, then again, he'd lived with her for a very long time. He accepted that she stunned him right smack into the contrast of Nene; rather than an allness such as an Aqua like Roa carried or a sweet nothing like the Shades made, Nene worked in tendrils and licks over what he knew; and when she found him again out of all of Saints of Peace and the birds chiming in their evening songs, she took him to her warmth and called him hers on the strings of all things.

And she /laughed/, gleeful and riotous, squeezing on his heart.

"Damn. She missed you," said Fernando. "I smelled that."

"She likes your car too, you know."

"Well," the auto didn't exactly stop under its own power- it rubbed up against the corner in the road all in the lilacs and skitters of insects burst out of the blossoms given the intrusion of anyone's head (besides Vier, slinking off for a smell and no one to blame him, candy or no). Fernando set the brake and jogged around, tugging the far door open and ushering out. He and Claude parted on one more embrace and promises that they would see one another soon, barely whole words to it, let alone sentences.

Ordinarily, Claude would have stood and waved after the departing piffs and pangs. For then though, he slipped into a run.

In his cloak, the Shades spread their wings, rising out of themselves, scenting and being and reaching.

The garden overtook itself in flowers, the gate posts lost in bursts of pink and white and orange. The clematis had gone absolutely wild while the rough part of the land came up cosmos shoots and the /roses/ looked ready to consume spring itself, devouring everything in color and sweetness.

Claude paused only enough to breathe, leave himself remembering, share his heart with the eyes beneath his cloak. The Shades looked- he could feel them spreading softly at his shoulders.

As he laid his hand to the door though, they vanished in close once more.

"I'm home!" he called to the parlor, a soft glow lingering there from the silken-shaded lamps and also Lucian slung sideways in the cushy, old armchair.

The boy's book slid towards the floor. He caught it before it landed on its pages, slinging it onto a sideboard instead as he barreled to his father.

The two of them waltzed out their embrace. Lucian only took his nose out of his father's chest far enough to inspect the patch pinned onto his shirt; that before working his way back into the folds.

He wanted to tell him- that's dirty. But, what he managed instead: "You'll have your own someday."

"I know. I missed you!"

"And someday too, I'll miss you and your children will miss you."

Somehow, it didn't surprise him that the book Lucien had dropped was nothing from school, but a battered, old book on basic cloud working that belonged to his mother. He was looking at it, only half nodding in answer there.

With him distracted, Claude darted in, kissing him smackingly on his forehead. "How have you been?"

"I'm /great/! How..."

"We know that, dear," sing-singed Nathalie, striding in be-aproned. "Now, make Mama some room."

Lucien ducked to the side, but still got smooshed into his her pounce.

Which left the three of them entangled in the threshold, Claude's pack mixed up with their feet and the door still half-open, no one willing to close it.

He wondered if it might be a little much for his companions otherwise, how his heart melted. Still, he couldn't let go of that either. He couldn't, not any of it. There was tighter and longer and longing out of that. But no. No, letting go.

Nathalie pressed her hands to his cheeks, turning him to have a look over him. "So, the question is, just what are you smirking about, mister?"

"Didja bring me something, Papa?" piped Lucien.

Shortly treated to a bop on the back of his blond head, courtesy of his mother. "Child of mine."

The two of them stuck their tongue out at one another and Claude gave a little further himself. He laughed- slowly and softly at first, but soon enough he had listed into their embrace and one of the two- they finally pulled him the rest of the way into the house.

"Now, Papa's tired," Nathalie said. "And... squiffy. Claude?"

"I did bring everybody something," he managed. "Close the blinds."

"Ooh! Blinds? This sounds exciting."

Though, they didn't leave him at once, though they did look at each other and there, his grin wasn't only his own anymore after that. Only after his beckoning look to the sheers did they run off, slamming and yanking and turning the stove back. The house waned to a pale blue inside, still touched with the ends of the sunshine. Just odd enough to look like they were up to something, at least to each other.

Claude barely managed to get his cloak off and by then, he was only lucky that the Shades had ridden the inside seam rather than him.

He knelt on the floor by the coffee table. His family fairly jumped onto the couch, Lucien with his first balled up as Nathalie fairly gleaming.

He watched them watching him, going by touch for his own part of things. As he lifted his cupped hands over the rim of the table, threads of shadow leaked between his fingers. And it seemed besides that for all of the sideways glimpsing images they had of themselves in the lamplight grew subtly clearer against the warmth of the parlor.

Claude spread himself open on the glass and the three Shades tumbled out on the mirror below. Between what their presence had done to the lamps and the glass beneath them, their glows had a faceted clarity to them.

Nathalie's voice sounded the way it did when she'd just stepped out into the night after a long, tragic play. "You didn't!" Stunned beyond any heartbreak.

Frankly, it all but made him blush. "I did."

"Oh. Oh, Chou! Oh!"

Lucien meanwhile slung himself right off of the sofa. He said nothing, just made fingerprints across the table as he held himself there to /inspect/ this situation.

The boy knew what a Shade was supposed to look like. Nathalie's book that he'd borrowed was far from the first.

But, he also hadn't lived so long in the idea that Shades must be impossible. Seeing them didn't break his heart; didn't even startle his senses.

With no other scent right at hand, he put his forefinger in his mouth and offered that to the Shades.

Who were, for their own part in the matter, still taking in the parlor and the people there- they must have plotted this diffidence or been smitten by the attention. Something of both? They all flickered after the sudden nearness of any human, but it was Pip who nodded over. Her wings flared as she took in one vantage of the boy's offering, then another. Lucien held so still as he watched her do it. And then, they looked at each other a long while- the boy and the Shade who was only a girl herself, the gravity between them.

It wasn't really a surprise when Pip launched herself from the table. Her space expanded, shadow of her tail trickling down Lucien's back and her wings beating in his hair as she laid herself to his ear and chewed.

That made him shiver. And then laugh, the way he did when he'd been tickled.

"It's a shame they don't like each other," Jack mentioned, tail intruding on Nicholas.

"I'm so disappointed in how cute it is," Nicholas replied, dipping his own tail Jack's way and resulting in nothing short of a heart.

Upon this, or perhaps having simply passed any hope of holding back, Nathalie cried. "You are Shades and you understand sarcasm!"

Jack bobbed his wings, explaining as he did, "More or less. It's a required survival skill on Starside. Oh, and we're usually better with introductions. It's just- the cute. You're killing us."

Nicholas went over with a deflated squeak.

"Please tell me that was also sarcasm," came Nathalie's commentary.

"As far as I know, Miz Sorcerer. As far as I know." Jack unfurled his wings and glided from the table. He circled her, slinking sideways to see her this way and that way and skimming the shoulder of her dress. Nathalie wiggle when he did that. One more pass, and he alighted steady in her view. Her eyes on his glow. Her hand sinking closer.

Before she could touch him though, he darted behind the shoulder he had worried, there coalescing into his human form; translucent, though still leaving a shadow struck out brilliant over the living room.

To say nothing of the image of Jack himself. Nathalie scooted back twice, trying to take him all in. Her hand she'd been reaching towards him instead went to her mouth. "Oh. My. Gods."

"I like you too," answered Jack.

They had some nods between them before she thrust herself back to Claude, though there was only sweetness in the grasp of her words after. "I'll take this one, if you don't mind."

"What? I haven't even introduced myself. I'm Jack. Princes of Darkness. Scion of the Last Queen on Earth. You must be Nathalie."

"I'll take this one and you will not argue with me."

The liquor had enough hold of him to brighten Claude's laugh, honest though it was just the same. "Enjoy, my love." He did not bow in Jack's place, but he did kiss Nathalie's cheek an instant before she could quite dart that much his way. And so, she pinched his nose, explaining to the Shade lounging behind her: "But just so you know, I have a partner already."

"And she's also a bit much?"

"She's also a bit much."

"Well, I accept no less than a bit much, so there."

"So, you're cheeky too. This could get hinky."

"Hinky I know a thing or two about."

They went on jabbing like that. Honestly, it sounded to Claude like a pair of school children who'd only been sitting next to each other for a few too many years.

Meanwhile, Pip had taken Jacks distraction as a chance to pop herself into human figure, meaning that Lucien was currently chatting away with a naked girl all but on his lap. Perhaps, in a world without sorcer-sorts, they'd both have been a bit young for that. But, Aethies tended to forget their clothes. Especially when they were small themselves with tiny wings scurrying smoke over their backs. "Ten!" she was saying. "I could hardly even talk when I was ten. That's really windy."

"Windy? You've got Gusts for friends."

"Maaaybe."

"Well, that's windy too!"

Claude let himself slump to the table top, where Nicholas still lay- awake, but hopelessly spread out some cloud-watching sort of way. He gave his glow a poke. "So, I suppose that means..."

"I like your candy."

"And I like you. Here..." He offered his shoulder. It seemed to be the way of his family, after all.

Nicholas, however, got right into his hair, sliding down his braid and finally tumbling down the side of his shirt, where somewhere in the fall his human body returned to him.

He at least was dressed, not to mention in the very same way Claude had turned him at first- white tunic and a flower in his silvery hair. It might have been sweet on his part, or it might have been all he knew. Anyway, he basked in the shadows of the sorcerers and his companions, close to Claude but not quite near enough to touch.

Much as it did touch Claude, seeing such a young Aethie casting around and trying not to look self-conscious about it.

Nathalie too. "You're all just so adorable. Jack's still mine."

How it made Jack grin. The traces of darkness in the room rippled. His image did not- no, he sank straight down around Nathalie, crossing his arms 'round her chest as he offered. "So, how're we doing this? I haven't bonded in a few centuries, so I'm a little rusty."

"...Now?" muttered Claude. An automatic response on his part, drawn from his expectations of natural orders when it came to human meetings and ceremony and well...

"Yes, now," insisted, well, pretty much everyone else.

...moments staid exactly miles away from where he sat at that moment, leaving Nicholas to conclude. "Why dya think we followed you home?"

"You want to. Now." It was almost...

"We look tired?" Pip tried, gesturing with her wings.

"No," ...too much to carry in his heart. So, Claude reached out to share and offer and to be with it, all around as softly. "And some things haven't changed much in the past few centuries. What were we having for supper?"

The last directed to Nathalie and Lucien, who sang up, clapping as they did so: "Croques-monsieurs."

"Perfect"

They raced away, calling about pickles and wine to go with, the oven still being warm almost an afterthought; two shades and two Aethies to stir the drawn curtains along. The house tour already starting before them from the sound of it.

Although, they weren't the two Aethies Claude would have figured.

Jack lingered at his side. He took Claude's hand in the half-presence of his own, saying: "I do like your family."

Before he winked out. Not departed from the living room- the space still lay draped with shadows the lamps couldn't have thrown on their own- stirring, deeply cut things which seemed he could have lifted away if he'd laid his hands to them.

Shade shadows. In his home and his hope.

Claude picked himself up and went to the door of his study. In pressing his palms there, he found the panel warmer than it should have been. Not dangerously so, just toast touched and the weight changed some unspoken way behind. Someone else leaned there. He could imagine another pair of hands across the enamel from his own. "Nene? You know me too well, I'm afraid."

"'course I do. So. Yer doin' this thing?" from the sound of her voice, she really was right there, besides terribly amused.

"We're doing this thing, so you need to stay in there a little while longer."

"Fine. No contaminatin' the scene and all that jazz."

"I did bring you something too. It won't fit under the door, though."

"I said do that /if not friends/. Ya don't get to do both."

"Of course I do. I'll see you soon."

"Damn you! Hurry up."

He kissed the place between his fingers, stood. The Shade shadows caught violet at the motion, rippling at the presence on the far side. Or, perhaps the moonshine had bitten Claude once more. He waited for the swimming sounds in his head to die down. Then, he made his way to the kitchen, shedding at least some of his travel-dirty clothes in the back door hamper meant for gardening mishaps before he finished. And there were always spare shirts back there, his in this case a battered denim tunic.

This attracted Nathalie to his embrace. She hung on him as if they were dancing given that he took in the supper spread growing on the counter, not to mention a spoonful of bechamel.

"I guess Nene can't broil them?" Lucien remarked, stirring the spoon taste marks out of what was so clearly his pot.

"I bet I can make the oven behave tonight," Claude answered. "This is excellent, by the way."

The boy beamed, then dipped a slice of ham into the pot, one which he held up to his father and one which his father mostly devoured. The drop of sauce which caught on his cheek Nathalie chose to trouble herself with before she departed back to her cutting board.

While he had their attention, and before they could ruin his supper with more welcome home tidbits: "Just so both of you know, I think Jack and Nicholas are a couple. So, if you see them doing couple sorts of things."

"Mm. Like they are now?" suggested Nathalie. She flicked a knife towards the open window.

The two boys had both pulled to human form underneath the lilac bushes, where they sat, busily whispering at such closeness that of course their lips kept bumping. Why, unto the point Nicholas dipped Jack.

"Yes, exactly like that," said Claude.

On the sill, Pip squeaked, then went back to rolling on the nutmeg end Lucien had evidently given her.

There was enough of Nene's magic in Claude that the oven chose to obey him that evening. Either way, the sandwiches didn't take him and Lucien long to finish and they found themselves with a great, big dish of extra sauce. This, they placed in the center of the coffee table, candles in a triad around it. There were also fresh peas and an artichoke waiting for the sauce, besides wine- just a little glass for Lucien.

Nathalie had drawn welcome and stay in circles around the coffee table. Claude watched her burn her last leaf of white sage with more ordinary stuff plucked from their own garden. She held the leaves to do it, down to the last ashes which rose on a plume of Aqua magic at the last before they went out.

Their house was mostly pure besides, purer than the average grass, anyway. It being the official position of all but the strictest guilds that feline intrusion on sacred circles made for a non-issue. The ham had attracted a few of the precinct cats, most of whom kept their distance. Watching, as if the table might come to birds.

Claude escorted Lucien into the circle, and Nathalie followed, writing her last from inside to close them in the chalk lines on the rugs.

That evening, whispering on toward night now: it would never come again. And there would never be a more perfect 'tween time to bond with an Aethie; never a more perfect moment in the brief but tantalizing lives of the Croques-monsieurs.

The Shades had promised him on the way in that it was the same for them as every child, sorcer-sort or not, learned to sing in the nursery: Come and light the candles, dear friends.

Claude set the flames from his hands.

He would have expected a solemn quiet. But by then and the moonshine wearing away, he almost knew better. His family spoke on through the traditional waiting. How was school and had Nathalie sneaked one of the neighbor's last dogwood blossoms for her hair.

"They said I could have it for a special occasion," she promised.

He could have kissed her there, but for the soft way she lifted her head in the candlelight. "Would you come to share what is ours?" she asked the shadows in the corridor back to the kitchen.

The Shades stood there in their elemental forms, a glowing regiment in the breeze still slinking down that way from the open window. Together, they flew close, but it was one by one and primly they entered the circle, moving counter-clockwise to their places, while the humans gestured their offerings the other way around. For them, supper was burnt skin of the ham and tidbits of sauce, besides pools of elderflower liqueur clear enough to see themselves in.

They had not come alone though. The hallway and the air there filled with silent watching. In time, this distracted the cats and the cats distracted whoever had settled on the roof, looking in on their pull of the Aether.

Claude was almost sure it was Roa, the fond way Nathalie ignored the few wet thumps.

Lucien grinned, hands touched unsteady in his excitement.

All of Saints of Peace's Aetherial beings must have gathered there, or at least hung on their wings to listen.

It wasn't every day a sorcerer called a Shade.

Let alone that one answered.

That three drank from the hands of any humans.

Claude didn't mind an audience, not now. Let the town find out that way. It was their private settling that matter. After, they'd have that to fall back on, come what may. If the world knew.

He drank a little more on that idea.

"Have you taken your fill?" Nathalie asked Jack, who had perched on her finger.

"We take nothing," came the response.

/We?/ thought Claude. It wasn't unheard of in the language and ritual of bonding, but he had never heard it spoken. And yet, the other Aethies watching that night didn't stir any more at the sound of it. /We/. Just that simple, moving on besides.

"Taking is not the way. For this pleasure, and much, much more..."

OK, now that he knew as a flourish.

"We offer in exchange our loyalty."

"Your loyalty is worth much more than snacks," Nathalie teased, almost to the point of off-script. "And the sorcery bonds bring to our bodies ten-thousand times that. Why do you offer?"

"We want to."

"How would you promise?"

"By all things."

The candles at that passed into the hands of the humans. At his nearness, Claude's own thrilled with the traceries of Nene he carried. Rather than dip her hand to her glass, Nathalie merely traced out the signs for water- her fingers left a trail of dew behind. Lucien placed a tiny, tumbled ruby from his pocket, then a golden coin for Majests and a silver one for Shades. They had started to pass the myrrh for Gusts with the kitchen window sang softly to life, a breeze full of tiny leaves whisking about the circle. Nathalie let this in with a wave of her hand and so there came to be bits of green in the last of the bechamel.

Claude thought he saw Vier stick a wing out from the shadows of the hall, but he couldn't have sworn to it. Not as Nathalie lifted her hands for the last invocation.

"From this sacred space we call upon the Queen of the Shades. Be with me here and speak if you would not have this joining of my family and your people."

A long quiet settled after that, or as much quiet as there could have been in a home - rustles and heartbeats, tick-tocks of the hall clock. Claude counted them.

The required wait was a minute, but he gave Jack's mother twice that before he nodded.

He hoped the Queen had heard. That she knew. That the fact she hadn't blown the roof off of his house meant her approval and not merely her absence.

Anyway, the other Aethies. They'd given up watching skyward for her in that moment. All their attention settled on the circle.

"Shall we be one?" Nathalie asked Jack, the candle hovering between them.

"We are one," Jack answered with a bow.

"Shall we be as one?" Claude asked Nicholas.

"We're one," Nicholas answered, wings beating as he did so. The flame in his sorcerer's grasp swung back and forth.

"Shall we be one?" Lucien asked Pip. They were almost nose to nose about their candle.

Before the little Shade could answer, Nathalie blew out the flame.

The answer happened anyway. "I like you and I'll stay."

For the first time, all six of them spoke together. "So is it done."

The bonds did not come into place at once, but rose slowly, water blooming on the edge of a cool glass. Through them, he felt the place where Lucien's oath snagged and fell away, fireworks down into ashes invisible. For Claude, he felt something in the warmth of his very breath /move/. The magic he shared with Nene was not diminished, as much as it has made room for this something else. The hold that took him inside was /dark/ as Nene's was bright, but in the way of a clear night sky, as the sheets of a lover; clear in its thoughtfulness, steady and /out/ and peaceful in a way.

Claude's connection to Nicholas was new, and not uncomfortable for more reasons than that. It needed broken in, he could have said. But, he liked it. And he knew Nicholas did too- as the lines settled into him to, he swayed back to human outline, wings and arms wrapping around Claude, getting into his clothes.

Not in a sexual way. His glow showed through his chest, that rather than wonder in his eyes. It meant the same thing, though edged with a raw intensity only children truly knew. At least, as far as Claude had experienced.

Nicholas hadn't ever studied human sorcerers and Nicholas had never bonded before. Even for ancient Aethies, the experience could be heart-swallowing intimate.

Claude got to his knees, coaxing Nicholas along so they stayed wrapped together. He laid his palms slowly to the Shade's cheeks, tipping him so that they rested with their foreheads together.

One of them tingling chill and weightless, the other sold and breathing.

Roa had done this for Nathalie when the two of them had finished their agreement. Again, it wasn't anything he'd bought or read. Just what he knew in his own life.

Now, Nicholas knew it too.

This little something which was from Claude's life, but had come down from an Aqua as ancient as sea beds.

That was what sorcerers and their Aethies inherited, moreso than any magic: that cosmic commonality.

From the quiet words and shifts behind him, he knew the rest of his family must he having their own soft blown moments. So that went as well.

Lucien began to chuckle. Soon after, Pip swiped an out in the circle and the two of them took right off through the front door.

Where the evening was quiet by then- not so many eyes beneath the first hints of moonlight, though some lingered, curiosity and all.

Nicholas didn't worry after Pip. He hadn't said anything, but Claude knew it to his bones, there holding him close. His new partner felt content, somewhere underneath.

He knew it even as the study door banged on its hinges.

Speaking of Nicholas, he darted off at that. Not away from the door, but straight towards it. There he knelt beside one of the precinct cats.

Of course Claude unfastened the locks. Behind, a fire danced cheerfully in the hearth. The cat went there, bouncing right over the enormous salamander which occupied the doorstep otherwise. This drummed its tail on the slate behind, sparks scattering off at first whack.

"Nene, this is Nicholas," Claude introduced, gesturing as he would have for any two speaking creatures. "And Nicholas, this is my partner Nene. She's..."

"BABY!" squeaked the salamander. "And where's my treat? C'mon, I was good."

Claude had to think about that. What /had/ happened to his bag in the meanwhile? It couldn't have gone too far. The laundry room perhaps?

Neither of his Aethies were much help. One crawled onto the lap of the other. They both wiggled in the discomfit this caused, and yet, it was only in determination they looked up to him.

They smiled, lizards or not.

"You really wan us," Nicholas whispered. Soft stunned, moonshine drunk and utterly, utterly sincere.



Last Ember! Although, I have tentative plans to redo Fire.

Previous installments of this AU: 1, 2, 3. LSS is that in this AU, some characters are sorcerers and some are their elemental spirits. Because that has so much to do with assassins.
bookblather: A picture of Yomiko Readman looking at books with the text "bookgasm." (Default)

[personal profile] bookblather 2015-03-28 05:38 am (UTC)(link)
I have not yet read this because it is my reward for catching up on RF.

*clings to you*
novel_machinist: (Default)

[personal profile] novel_machinist 2015-03-31 03:19 pm (UTC)(link)
This was cute, and it totally has so much to do with assassins.
novel_machinist: (Default)

[personal profile] novel_machinist 2015-04-01 03:15 pm (UTC)(link)
Old fashioned activist carpet bombing?
bookblather: A picture of Yomiko Readman looking at books with the text "bookgasm." (Default)

[personal profile] bookblather 2015-07-15 01:44 am (UTC)(link)
*flails and squeaks with wordless happiness*

oh my god this is just so PERFECT OH MY GOD

(Miranda's gonna smack Jack for this but I don't care this is so sweet omg perfect OMG)