By Kammy Gaffney
Mark was having a nightmare, and it brought Aerael awake. In all the times the incubus had watched him sleep, the vampire necromancer had never shown any sign of ever having dreams at all, bad or otherwise. Aerael paused to watch for a moment, studying him thoughtfully. When lost in a deep sleep, Mark's face always looked shockingly innocent, his long black lashes resting on high, pale cheekbones. It was still not a child-like face. It was far too sharply and finely chiseled for that, all lines and planes and angles. But there was a definitely no hint of the horrors this face must have presided over, no trace of guilt or of wrongdoing of any kind. It was the face of an angel, and it always made Aerael think that the Chaos Lord must have a rather odd sense of humor. Either that or he liked a pretty face just as much as the next all-powerful entity. But now Mark's finely chiseled porcelain features were twisted with some subconscious pain that had come bubbling to the surface. He moaned softly. Aerael briefly considered waking him, then decided the better of it. There was no telling how he would react, and Aerael had no interest in suddenly being turned into a smoking corpse.
Mark gasped, turned his head away, and brought up a hand as if to fend something off. He let out a sharp, choking cry - and then it cut off abruptly. The incubus didn't move. He must have woken himself up. He groaned again, softly, and sat up, trembling violently for a moment. Then he bent over abruptly, gagging, and buried his face in his shaking hands. Aerael decided that it was in his best interests to continue to feign sleep. He'd known Mark just long enough to know that he probably wouldn't appreciate being caught in a moment of such apparent weakness. The incubus wondered exactly what kind of dream could so disturb such a callous and predatory creature as Mark. Nothing he'd like to experience, he was sure.
Mark made a visible effort to control himself. He straightened, took his hands away from his face, and looked down at the black-winged incubus sprawled on the bed beside him. There was nothing angelic about his expression now.
"I know you're awake, Aerael."
Aerael sighed, rolled over, and sat up. "I was trying to be polite."
"You've already seen me giggling like a little girl. It simply doesn't get much more humiliating than that, I think."
Aerael fought back a grin. Just wait until you see the website.
"What?" The vampire glared at him suspiciously.
"Nothing." Aerael was doing his best to look innocent, but it was difficult thing to do with the corners of his mouth twitching that way. "I was just reminiscing."
"Ah, I see." Mark didn't quite believe him, but he also didn't feel up to pursuing the issue any further. He winced, and started massaging his temples.
"Headache?" Aerael asked sympathetically.
"It's probably stress-related. Here, this will help." The incubus started massaging his neck and shoulders with strong, sensitive fingers. Mark's knotted muscles started to relax immediately.
"You are a wonder..." Mark sighed.
"I know," agreed Aerael.
"And your ego is nearly as large as my own," Mark added.
Aerael laughed. "So... now I'm curious. What passes for nightmares in necromancing circles? Dreams of fluffy bunnies, singing flowers, rows of happy laughing children eating ice cream?"
Mark shuddered. "Even the Chaos Lord is not so cruel," he said. "No... there's another 'mancer in town. I dreamed of her."
"Her? Are you sure this isn't merely another one of your twisted little fantasies gone awry?" The incubus chuckled. "I've heard that too much snacking before bedtime leads to nightmares."
"If only that were the cause. No... she was very beautiful... but she's no - ah, that's good - " The vampire let his head fall to one side, so Aerael could work the muscles on the side of his neck. "...No figment of my imagination, I assure you." He sighed. "And let's just say our little subconscious encounter left much to be desired."
"Oh?" Aerael's hands were working their way down Mark's spine, between his shoulder blades. He then started back up around the base of one wing where it attached to Mark's shoulder, kneading the muscles there. Mark sighed again and leaned back into the rubbing.
"She killed me. She sacrificed me to Our Dark Lord. I could not resist her, and I died slowly, screaming, until I drowned in my own blood." He shook his head. "She's got talent. Rather crude in her choice of imagery, I think, but quite powerful, all the same."
"Oh." Aerael stopped rubbing. "So this new girl is picking a fight with you?" He could certainly not be accused of holding any of the gentler feelings toward the arrogant necromancer, but Mark had always proven to be a good reliable meal. The raven-haired vampire was a bottomless pit of lust, as far as he could tell. It would be a shame to lose him to a wizard's war.
"In all honesty, I don't know. This could simply be her way of getting my attention. It could even be a joke. We all tend towards rather interesting senses of humor."
Mark scowled, and turned completely around to face Aerael. "Well, she definitely got my attention. What she stands to gain from it, I suppose that'll remain to be seen. But in any case I don't think I'm all that anxious to go back to sleep again." He softly brushed a stray lock of dazzling snow-white hair out of Aerael's face. He'd always had a weakness for beautiful things, and incubus was every bit as gorgeous as he was skilled in the sexual arts.
Aerael 's brilliant golden eyes suddenly grew more intense, and he leaned forward and cupped the vampire's face in one hand. "There are a few more hours left to the night, beautiful," he murmured. "What would you like to do to pass the time?"
A slow lustful smile spread across the Mark's face. "I do believe I shall leave that decision in your very capable hands." he answered.
* * * * *
Mark swept through the main lobby of his company like a cold stiff breeze. As ever, only the techmages and higher ranking employees ever dared to speak to him, so only an occasional muttered "Morning, Mr. Sartain," followed him as strode past the fountain, the modern sculptures, the guard's desk and onto the elevator. No one was ever totally certain of his mood, fickle and ever changing as the weather in springtime, so it tended to be best to remain beneath his notice.
There was a young lady, Patricia McCauley from Accounts Payable, if Mark remembered correctly, who was sharing the elevator with him. He stopped it between floors, 15 stories up, and had a leisurely bit of breakfast. He dropped the young woman off a few minutes later, breathless, flustered, and trembling-kneed weak on her floor before continuing on his way. He was still licking his lips when he stepped out of the elevator and walked right past the secretary without acknowledging her. As usual, she did her best.
"Oh! Um... Mr. Sartain - I'll tell Mr. Sartain that you're coming."
But at this point Mark was already down the hall and at his brother's office door. He opened it without knocking.
Davy looked up, first startled, and then resigned, as he recognized his brother. The phone rang. He sighed and picked it up. "David Sartain," he said, wearily. "Yes, I'm aware of that Candice. He's standing right in front of my desk as we speak. Thank you." David shook his head.
"Why do you keep that woman?" Mark asked, straightening his cuffs.
"Pity. She's too air-headed to do anything else. Either that or I'm a total masochist. I can't decide. You grew out your hair. Does that mean you - "
"No, I haven't seen hide nor hair of that thrice-damned monster yet. I only grew it out because Aerael prefers it long. Lust fae can be very persuasive when they wish to be. But then again, I suppose you're already aware of that. Did I mention how nice it is to see you here not only on time, but an entire half-hour early?" Mark gave him a quick round of applause.
David blushed. "Um... yeah... uh, anyway, not to change the subject, but... what do you want?"
"I want to know why nobody bothered to warn me that there was going to be a rogue necromancer pissing in my personal space."
"Um, is this about the Delaware thing?"
"No, this is about some insane woman fucking around with my head at night. Why? What the hell happened in Delaware?"
David raised an eyebrow. "Well, I did get a report, dated yesterday, from Miss Hawthorne. It stated that Morgan's Hill, Delaware, population 523, was wiped off the map a couple of days ago."
"A couple of days? Why did it take so long for me to know this?"
Davy shrugged. "Sometimes things fall though the cracks."
Mark leaned over, put his hands on Davy's desk, and snarled in his face. "Listen to me, little brother. And listen very closely. Necromancers that can wipe out entire small towns Do Not Fall Through The Cracks." Davy cringed away from him a bit. "They are brought to my immediate attention, and then I send some people out to investigate. Frankly, there shouldn't be a crack large enough to hide this individual. Unless it's the Grand Fucking Canyon. Find her, and bring her in. I want her gagged, bound and on my desk tomorrow morning. Is that clear?"
"But - "
"But what?" Mark asked coldly.
"I can't stay tonight, I'm going - "
"To see Iolanthe? Forget it. This is a priority. You're in charge of the tangible search; I'm going to set up the supernatural channels. Between the both of us, we'll find her. And you'd better focus, dammit. Don't sit up here with a goofy-assed smile on your face, dreaming about your girlfriend. I'm sure she'll find someone else to keep her warm and well fed until you can go see her. "
Davy bared his fangs. "Iolanthe would never - "
Mark glared at him. "For the love of Chaos! Will you ever grow up? She's a succubus, Davy! I'm sure the concept of fidelity is a lost cause with her."
"She loves me, she'd never - "
"And Aerael loves that shifter of his. You don't see that stopping him, do you?"
"B-but s-she told me."
"She wouldn't want to hurt your feelings, I'm sure. I'll give her credit, anyone else she's with outside of you wouldn't mean anything to her but another meal, but she'd know that you wouldn't be able to accept that. Frankly, I think she's nuts for dating you. You take everything way too personally."
Davy stood up, fists and teeth clenched. "Get out."
Mark shrugged. "As you wish. Just do what I told you, okay?"
"Consider it done." Davy's voice was flat, emotionless.
Mark walked out the door without another word. His brother watched him go, glared after him for a moment, then grabbed the phone and hurled it across the office. It smashed against the wall and shattered. David Sartain buried his head in his arms for a while, then abruptly sat up, wiped his eyes, and grimly applied himself to his duties.
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Spider's Web © 2001 by KL Gaffney
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