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  1. "Somehow I doubt I'll be welcome for many visits in the future." She glanced down at the therian, who was curled in on himself, hunched over in the seat with his arms wrapped around his midsection. She couldn't see his expression, so she leaned down slightly herself, and brushed some of the dissheveled hair back from his face so she could gauge his pain level. "Hey crazy, how're you holding up?" He glanced up at her with a grimace. "Crazy got us the car, didn't it?" "We won't argue the wisdom of the plan at the moment. How bad is it, one to ten?" she asked, as she tried to do a discreet check for blood or other obvious injuries. They were getting more rural, and the van had crossed over onto bumpier roads. Devon let out a low growl through gritted teeth. "About an eight." Puck glanced over his shoulder briefly. "Can you heal him at all?" "I can try." She bit her lip, looking apprehensive. "It's not my strong suit." "Can it hurt?" he replied, and she shook her head in response. Her eyes fluttered shut and she shifted in her seat, turning towards him and extending her hands, fingers spread and palms toward him. She concentrated hard, but at first Devon felt nothing. Her breathing grew deeper, and her brow furrowed as she squeezed her eyes tighter shut, trying to block out the distraction of the radio. The singing had faded away as the family watched, curiosity temporarily overriding fear as they waited to see an actual miracle performed. Finally, Devon began to shimmer faintly, and the pain receded just enough for him to catch his breath a bit. Jasmine wavered slightly before dropping her outstretched palms. She grabbed hold of the seat in front of her for support, and drew in a shaky breath as she fought back a wave of dizziness. You suck, girl. You can light things on fire, blow up a car, maybe even kill people, but you can't heal a couple broken ribs? It's absolutely pathetic. Puck glanced at her briefly in the rearview mirror, a frown on his face. "You okay, Cinnamon?" "Yeah," she replied bitterly, "but that's all I've got."
  2. Though the exterior of the building was incredibly similar, the interior of this building was a far cry from the cold, sterile walls of the monastery. Of course, this was a building for the daughters of Seth, revered holy women who had shed their baser inclinations in pursuit of a life devoted to honoring God. The monasteries were nothing more than holding cells for the morally corrupt and the spiritually (and oftentimes mentally) weak. These women had earned beautiful surroundings in the eyes of God, or at least in the eyes of whoever was managing the abbey's pocketbook. It was a fairly new building as abbeys go, as they all were in North America. After all, humans had only been in dominant possession here for a little over a hundred years. Nonetheless, it was built with beautiful marble and stone, pulled from the earth by miners and shaped by masons. It was a time-honored tradition that humans did not use the miraculous powers given to them by God to erect a church, not a single stone was to be lifted by magic. Instead they must be shaped by hand, much in the way God shaped Adam and the three women. This particular abbey was built mostly of limestone and stucco, and done in a combination of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, but on a smaller, more intimate scale. The main hallway they were walking down was beautifully carved, with beautiful arches and Corinthian-style columns that led up to cream-colored ribbed and vaulted ceilings. The hall lacked a clerestory, however, and the vaulting went no higher than the second floor roof of a traditional building. If it hadn't been for the paleness of the limestone and the tasteful, modernized lighting, the abbey would have been a dark and dismal place, with it's arched hallways off to the sides that made you feel as if you were about to be led down into a tunnel. Instead of a hallway however, the sister who had led Jasmine in took her to a room just off to the side, right before the large double doors that led into the sisters' private chapel that they abbey centered around. Only visiting high clergy, the sisters themselves, and the priests who took up residence nearby were ever allowed to see the inside. Even the sentinels that guarded the abbey attended services in the towns or cities nearby, for Jasmine had heard that the sermons for the daughters of Seth were very different than those for common people and regular clergy. They had, she supposed, different types of challenges and temptations than regular humans that needed to be spoken to, though it was not uncommon to see traveling nuns attending normal services when there was no abbey located nearby. The Abbey Hall The nun led Jasmine into the side room. It was obviously intended for the sisters to receive in, for it held a couple comfortable sofas as you walked in, and towards the back of the room there was a small table with four chairs circling it. The furniture was covered in fine fabrics, rich in texture and light in color, carrying the soft elegance from the main hall into the room itself. This room had the same limestone flooring, but was mostly covered in elegant rugs that left only small strips of tiled floor showing. The only real color in the room came from the rugs, and on the walls of the room where hung modern, museum-quality displays that held colorful statues and paintings, all scriptural in design or subject matter. Elegant arched windows that were meant to let in the light lined the wall opposite the door, but that day it was cloudy and overcast outside, as if a storm were brewing. As a result the room seemed cold for all it's beauty, and Jasmine shivered slightly despite herself. "Please, wait here. Sister Alicia will be with you shortly." She was an older woman, in her mid to late forties perhaps, and concealed her curiosity well, though Jasmine could tell from the woman's voice she was itching to know more about her fellow nun's mysterious visitor. She closed the door quietly behind her, and Jasmine was left alone in the room. She wandered around slowly, glancing at the paintings and tapestries stored in their temperature-controlled displays behind the protective glass. There was an old, tattered fabric weaving of Adam and his third wife, Eve, the one whom he had accepted and from whom all humans were descended. There was a statue of the Prophet Nosha, who had led the humans in revolt against the Nephilim Empire, and by organizing many miracle workers they had washed away their slavers with a wave that had flooded most of the world. Along the long section of wall to the right of the door, there were three pages from a Bible in the Middle Ages - Jasmine could tell by the ornate calligraphy of the first letter, and the elegant, handwritten text that followed. Such work had often been done by nuns in days of old, before the printing press had been invented, so Jasmine wasn't surprised to find some of it displayed here. She was still studying it when the door opened, and her sister Alicia walked in. Their eyes met, and Leesha's widened slightly in shock. She was seven years older than Jasmine, and had truly become an adult woman since the last time they'd seen each other. Her face had thinned out a bit where Jas's still held the softness of one's late teens and early twenties. And, of course, she had acquired the androgynous look of a nun. Her hair was cut short, about an inch in length, and worn natural. Her face held no makeup, and her figure was minimized (whether through bindings or surgery Jasmine couldn't tell) and concealed under the shapeless garments of a nun - in this case, a pair of loose trousers and a tunic top, all in shades of cream and brown. Of course, even without all the trappings, and despite the suppression of her femininity by the nunnery, Alicia was still beautiful. She had their mother's elegantly tilted eyes where Jasmine had gotten their father's sterner, almond-shaped gaze. They both sported the same shape of nose, and naturally curly hair, though only the barest hint of her sister's curls remained. Jasmine's lips were fuller, but Alicia's were generous as well, and made for mischievous smiles. Now, however, they were pressed together sternly, and the playful tilt of her eyes gave them a sharp look as they narrowed briefly and suspiciously at her younger sister. Jasmine forced a smile at the other nun, who was still standing in the doorway, watching curiously. "Thank you, I certainly appreciate it. If we could have a moment alone, so I could speak to Sister Alicia please?" The nun flushed a little at being caught watching, and nodded slightly, but Alicia held up a hand. "Please excuse me for one moment, Ms. Simons. Let me clear up my schedule so that we have some time." Jasmine nodded nervously, and Alicia disappeared back out of the door with the other nun, closing it most of the way. She could hear them murmuring softly, but she was mostly distracted by the changes in her older sister. They had always been the mischievous ones, unlike their brothers and their youngest sister, Tamara. Perhaps she had learned from watching her sisters get into trouble, but Tamara was growing up to be a proper young lady, happy with her role as pampered youngest child, future wife and mother, and favorite daughter. Of course, Jasmine and Alicia had been young when their father was doing his real ladder-climbing within the church, and their mother's attention had been split between her children and household duties, and her husband's pressing social engagements. Perhaps her oldest daughters had resented the lack of parental involvement, since their mother had only enough time and patience left after social obligations to meet their needs and chastise their wrongs, and very little time for affection or tenderness. Perhaps they had just been born strong-willed. But either way, Alicia and Jasmine had both railed against the wrongs of society against women, they'd come up with ideas to run away, and dreamed up tales of adventures they'd go on together. Until one day, when Jasmine was eleven years old, and her oldest sister, her idol, was packed up and shipped off to the nunnery. She'd been given a choice, her father had told Jasmine later - grow up and act like a proper young lady, or follow her ambitions within the confines of the nunnery, and in the name of the church. There were no other options, and Alicia had finally bowed to the pressure, and joined the nunnery. She had never cared much for the idea of a husband and children anyway, and had finally decided that given the options, the life of a nun would prove satisfactory. Jasmine had wept buckets that night, because she knew then that she was all alone in her dreams of ambition and family, in her desire to have it all. She wanted to have children, and to be a better mother than hers had ever had been to them. She wanted to do something she could be proud of herself as well, something that didn't revolve around the achievements of her husband and sons, and the successful marriages of her daughters. The Alicia that came back into the room a moment later was a changed woman - Jasmine could see that now. She swallowed nervously, but hurried over to her sister and hugged her anyway. Leesha stiffened - it had been a long time since anyone had dared to touch her, but she gave her youngest sister an awkward half-hug in return, then pulled back and looked at her critically, her hands still on Jasmine's upper arms. "Jasmine, what are you doing here," Alicia asked. "Calling yourself by another name, lying to a nun? The sentinals reported to Sister Leah, they saw the car you arrived in and the two men waiting in it. What sins are these you're committing?" Jasmine's hopeful expression fell, and she shook her head. "Leesha, I swear, it's not anything bad! I'm here looking for help, I didn't know who else to go to! I thought you would be willing to listen, to help me." Her sister arched a delicate eyebrow, looking a bit relieved. "You're here seeking assistance? I might be able to provide that. Do you need transportation home? Shelter from those men you're with? We can house you here until assistance arrives, the sentinels can take care of them--" Jasmine broke away, pulling back from Alicia and shaking her head firmly. "No, no - it's nothing like that! One of those men, he needs to talk to someone. Someone in the church who's willing to listen, there's a possible threat and--" "And he needs a woman to talk to a nun for him? What nonsense!" Her sister scoffed, shaking her head firmly. "What kind of a man doesn't just go to a priest with his concerns, why in Eden would he need a woman to--" "A man who's not a human, Leesha! He's--" She cut off for a second, and her voice dropped low. "Alicia, no human will listen to him alone, he's a therian, he needed me to--" "A therian?!" Her sister hissed, and then drew back further, looking horrified. She shook her head, and whispered softly, her voice cracking. "God, Father was right, you're truly corrupted." Jasmine stiffened, her eyes widening slightly, her cheeks flushing in anger and surprise. "Father was right? What do you mean, 'Father was right'?" "You think he didn't call when you were sent away? He had to tell us what to tell people, if we were asked. We had to know the truth, Jasmine. I know what you did, how far you've fallen." "What I did?" She spat the words out, her eyes flaring angrily at the stranger sitting across from her that looked like her sister, and her voice rose higher. "What I did?! I didn't do anything, Leesha, except pray for it to stop!! But God didn't bother to answer those prayers!!" "God doesn't answer the prayers of sinners, Jasmine! He gave you a choice, the same as me. You could have chosen a nunnery, you could have escaped a life of family servitude, like I did, but you didn't. You were selfish, you wanted to be a woman and to be important! You can't have both, girl!" She shook her head, her expression a combination of indignation and sadness. It infuriated Jasmine, and she could feel her temper burning hotter, deep inside her stomach, but Alicia continued. "Father's right, you need to go back to the monastery. I'd hoped and prayed you'd change your mind, but it's too late now. You need to be purged of your sin, you need to be cleansed. I've already informed the Sentinals, we'll keep you here until he arrives to get you." "What?" Jasmine went pale, the red flush of temper draining away from dusky skin until it held an ashen grey undertone. The thought of seeing her father and of facing those monastery walls again filled her with dread, and she shook her head slightly, her voice dropping to a whispered plea. "Don't do this, Leesha. Please. I'll go away, you'll never see me again. But I can't go back there! You don't know what it's like!!" "Girl, you don't have a choice. The Sentinels are waiting outside in the hall, don't fight it, just--" "No!!!" Jasmine pushed past her sister and slammed open the door. The other nun, Sister Leah, let out a cry of pain as she was shoved back in between the door and the wall as Jasmine exploded out of the room. True to Alicia's word, sentinals - the guardians of the church in all official capacities - were lined up in the hall outside waiting for her. She let out a cry as one snatched her arm, but managed to yank it away. Two of them stepped in front of the main doors, blocking the exit, but she flung her hand up sharply and for once, didn't resist the power she felt flowing through her. A burst of air slammed into them, throwing them through the main doors and sending them tumbling down the stairs leading up to the abbey. They landed in the courtyard but the others were right behind her, grabbing for her, trying to close the distance. A quick flick of her wrist and divine energy flowed through her in another powerful burst, sending them skidding away from her as she ran. But there were too many of them, they were surrounding her, and she felt the panic rise up higher in her throat. They circled her, trapping her between their threatening forms and the stairway leading back to the abbey. Panicked, she swung her arm around in an arc, and fire blossomed where she gestured, forming a protective circle around her to hold off their approach. Her sister ran out of the front door, but pulled back sharply as she felt the scorching heat from the circle of flames as they flared higher, warning her away. "Jasmine, stop!!! Someone get her, we can't let her escape!!" "Stay back!!" Jasmine screamed in reply, her breath coming fast, but they didn't listen. A truck screeched around the corner, carrying more of the church's holy guard, and drove straight towards the terrified young woman, hoping to frighten her into dropping her guard, but it had the opposite effect. Jasmine's eyes widened in terror as the truck veered directly towards her, and with another sweep of her arm and a quick, defensive flick of her wrist, she reacted. The circle of fire surrounding her swelled, and then swept forward, gathering together in a huge ball of flame the likes of which no one present had ever witnessed coming from a single human before. Then, with that flick, she sent it hurtling effortlessly towards the truck. It impacted against the front of it and exploded, sending the vehicle flying into the air with the men still in it. It flipped, and rolled as it landed, the front engine still burning with the remnants of the powerful young human woman's blast.. even as she stood there, looking terrified at what she'd done.
  3. Jasmine blinked at him, looking a bit startled. There was a brief moment of silence, and as that moment stretched out, Devon's smile faltered a little. "Is that not enough? If you feel something else is in order..." ,, "Oh, no! No, that's fine! Your apology is fine." Jasmine flushed slightly, looking a little embarrassed. "I mean, that's not even necessary. The contrition part, that is. Although, it would be interesting... to see a man cook." ,, Devon furrowed his brow at her, looking a little confused. "What's interesting about watching a man cook?" ,, "Human men don't cook. It's not.. done, I guess. Women do all the cooking in the homes. Bachelors mostly eat out, or eat with their families. Head and sous chef positions in restaurants are held by nuns, since that's a profession. Lower-income women are sometimes employed as prep cooks or line cooks, but only if their guardian is unable to support them. Men are expected to support their women, whether wife, single daughter, spinster sister, or widowed mother. It's a bit shameful, to have to allow a woman under your care to earn an income." ,, The two men stared at her for a moment, and Puck rolled his eyes derisively. "That's retarded. So, your society has decided that half of it's population is incapable of caring for itself? How.. enlightened." ,, Jasmine considered his condescension for a moment, then frowned thoughtfully. "Wait.. what half of the population are you talking about? The men, or the women?" ,, "Mmm.. I suppose that depends on how much importance you place on cooking," he smirked. "Come on, we'd better get moving, or they'll sail back with us still on board." He held out his arm again, and this time Jasmine took it. They stepped off the boat together, looking every inch the respectable couple, with Puck's glamour in place and Devon following a short distance behind. But as they wound their way through the crowded docks, and cautiously made their way through the mess that was Canadian customs, Jasmine found herself silently marveling at the other thing a man had never done for her before.. none of them had ever apologized. ,, __________________________________ ,, ,, Three and a half hours later, the sun was rising behind them as they sped down the open roads outside Quebec. Puck had insisted on driving, and had driven fairly respectably within the city limits. Once they'd hit the mostly deserted backroads, however, he'd slowly opened up to a level of speed and easy recklessness that had both of his passengers clenching the handles, as if they were preparing to abandon the vehicle at the first possible opportunity. Jasmine in particular was biting her lip, and her normally dusky skin had taken on a bit of an ashen undertone. Puck glanced over at her briefly, even as he reached a curve and took it at a solid thirty miles per hour faster than the sign on the side of the road had suggested. "Something wrong, Cinnamon? You look a bit peaked." ,, From the back seat came a tense, snappy reply that reminded Puck of the plane ride from Ibitha. "Could be because you're tossing her around like a pebble in a tin can." ,, Jasmine shook her head and squeezed her eyes shut as they approached another turn, her voice voice sardonic and irritable. "No, it's because I'm scared for the human race. Who will warn them about a possible mystery invasion if you kill us with your driving before we get to speak to anyone?!" ,, "Spoilsports," he pouted, but slowed the car down to a speed that was, if not totally comfortable, at least close enough to the speed limit for his passengers to unclench. ,, Jasmine let out a slow breath, and tilted her head back against the headrest in relief. "Thank you. We should be there soon. You guys will probably have to wait outside, while I go in to speak with Alicia." ,, Devon scowled, looking displeased with this particular plan. "I'm supposed to be your bodyguard. I have to be near your body to guard it, Cinnamon." ,, She laughed a little, and shot him a little smile over her shoulder. "Thanks. But I'm in a nunnery, I should be fine. We'll announce ourselves by our aliases, I'll request a private audience with Sister Alicia on a private matter of the faith. That way we'll be alone when she sees me, so if she shows her surprise, no one will be there to observe it. I'm fairly sure she'll be willing to help us, I'm just not sure if she can. She may not know anyone who will listen, and if that's the case, we'll have to move on. But 'Lesha and I have always been close." ,, Puck nodded, taking the last turn-off at a sign that informed them Saint Benedictine's Abbey was two miles ahead. "Anything else we should know, Cinnamon?" ,, She was quiet for a moment, her gaze flickering out over the Canadian countryside. "Yes, I suppose there is one more thing. If she agrees to meet you, you shouldn't call me Cinnamon. She'll get the wrong idea." ,, "So what should we call you," Puck asked, shifting the car as the road underneath them turned from asphalt into gravel. ,, "Jasmine. My name is Jasmine," she replied quietly.
  4. She was, oddly, silent for the rest of the ride. Something about his final display of temper had shut her down, and she kept to herself for the remainder of the lengthy flight. And lengthy it was, lasting somewhere around the eight-hour mark. Once Devon had eventually collected himself and returned to his seat, he and Puck spoke a little more about Samael, and the situation at hand. But something about the way Cinnamon had pulled into herself, curling her legs up into her seat and wrapping her arms around them as she gazed out the window at the cloud-covered landscape, instinctively stopped either of the two men from addressing her directly. Eventually, Puck settled in for a nap, and suggested to the others that they do the same. ,, Several hours later, they reached Iles de la Madelane, and exited the little sea plane under cover of darkness. The nephilim spent a couple moments talking to the pilot, and then they caught a cab to another set of docks on the other side of the island. They purchased tickets for a ferry that was scheduled to depart a couple hours later, and then, after a grumbled suggestion about hunger on Devon's behalf, Puck wisely sought out a restaurant. The waitress was a rather plain-looking nephilim, in contrast to several of the ones Jas and Devon had been exposed to back on Ibitha, and especially standing next to Puck. She took their orders quickly and curiously, then hurried off with their menus to fetch them drinks. ,, "We're going to need new clothes," Jasmine said, breaking her lengthy silence. "Devon, your clothes seem fine. But no respectful woman, and especially not a priest's wife, would be caught dead wearing anything this short, or exposing her arms like this. And Puck, your clothes are just.. all wrong. They need to be simpler, more conservative. No leather, no studs, no jewelry. Plain pants, some color would help you look a little more human, too. We don't usually wear all black like that, unless we're going to a funeral. Or unless you're dressed in a priest's cassock, but that's usually reserved for formal occasions. We do need to get you a clerical collar. Even in their off time, holy men aren't usually caught without one in public, unless they're in some sort of exercise clothing or working on their car, or other messy stuff like that. So whatever you choose will need to button all the way to your neck. Oh, and no makeup. Though I'll need some."
  5. "I have an idea." Jasmine's voice was clipped, and irritation had shifted her normally warm brown eyes to disturbingly dark. "We can sit here, for the duration of the flight, and debate therian vs. human politics. We can have a rousing discussion regarding the fact that before humans went to war with the therians over North America, they were dying by the thousands during the Black Plague, since it was spreading through over-populated cities so fast not even the sanctified healers could keep up with it. That even though we were roughly forty percent of the world's population at the time, we were living on about twelve percent of the world's land mass, while therians were living on about eighty-five percent of it. Hell, I'm sure Puck here would even have something to say about the fact we both restrict his race nothing but piddling island blips scattered across the globe, based on something they did as a collective group several thousand years ago!" She held up a hand then, in a halting gesture, as if she'd just thought of something else. "No, wait. I have a better idea. We can all take turns, one at a time, and throw all the insults and assumptions our race has come up with out there on the table for the other two. That way at least it's fair. Or..." She sat back then, and arched an eyebrow at the therian, her flare of temper lessening then slightly. "You could remember the fact that you came to us for help, stop throwing out random insults, stop assuming all humans are exactly alike, and I can answer your question about how to pose as a human bodyguard. Which would you prefer?" The therian stiffened in his chair and his aura of inhumanness increased. He may have had human features--two eyes, two ears, two arms and two legs, and all of the rest, but no human could sit with such barely controlled menace. "Those weren't random insults, Cinnamon. They're random facts. The humans didn't ask if they could negotiate new territory. They just killed the people holding the land they wanted." He smirked nastily. "But it was okay to kill therian men, women and children, to burn them in their homes with bombs, because humans were dying. "But you're right - we're not here for a cultural exchange." He clapped his hands on his knees suddenly, the motion a sharp sign of his irritation. It didn't help; his fingers dug into his knees as he asked tersely, "So, tell me. How do I pretend to be a human bodyguard?" "Yeah, cause your people had been sooo willing to negotiate with us in the past over land rights. Why should I even bother to help you, if you believe humans are nothing but selfish monsters?" She snapped, her temper flaring back to life in full force. "Amongst other, less selfish reasons, you'll help because your master there agreed that you would." The disdain in his voice was palpable, and Jasmine's eyes widened with indignation and fury. Though the situation with Puck was complicated, he hasn't treated her like property, even if he'd warned her the other nephilim might. He hadn't wanted a Sumaya, and had only taken her as one to save her life.. and at great personal inconvenience, too. So far, her 'soulless master' had shown a lot more civility than this arrogant therianthrope, who dared to rub her supposed 'slave status' in her face. She turned away from them for a moment in an attempt to control her temper. Inside the little plane, loose items rattled slightly - seat belts, magazines and trays, the restroom door - as if they'd been jarred by turbulence. Stop it, stop it, STOP IT - you're in a plane, for the Father's sake! Jasmine's hand clenched tightly on the armrest, then loosened once the rattling stopped. She turned to Puck first, her voice brisk and business-like. "You should do fine as a priest. You'll want to be kind to people. They will call you 'Father', and you should act like one, preferably a gentle and caring one. The other kind exist too, but a gentle priest doesn't draw too much attention. People may bless you, or wish you a good day. You should respond likewise, calling them 'my son' or 'my daughter'. If anyone asks, we'll be from a new parish in Los Angeles. The city is so big, and it changes constantly, so that should keep people from asking questions. Do you have a gun on this plane?" He shook his head negatively, and she sighed, scowling at Devon as she turned to him. "Human guards do not act overly aggressive." If you see a possible threat, unless it seems immediate, you should tell lean in and whisper it to your employer. In act, you may want to do that on occasion anyway, or if we're needing to get out of a tense situation. It'll look good. Puck, if you can glamour him to make it look like he's carrying a concealed handgun once we've passed customs, that's better. More realistic. Human bodyguards, much like human women, are expected to be seen and not necessarily heard. So keep your muzzle shut, and we should do fine." If her own voice was a bit baiting, it was no worse than his smug expression, or the way he'd goaded her about her position.
  6. Jasmine settled back into her seat, looking pensive for a moment. She must've been used to flying, for she didn't seem disturbed by the takeoff, or even the bit of turbulence they were encountering during ascension - something else Puck noted with a bit of interest, though he was pretty sure there wasn't much Cinnamon could do to surprise him at this point. But she bit her lower lip a little and studied Devon carefully for several long moments before answering. "We'd have to have a good reason for having a bodyguard. A priest is a bit low of a position, unless you're from a very influential family with enemies. I'd rather not travel as anyone influential. The less attention we attract, the better. Can I see those for a moment?" ,, "You haven't even told us where we're going when we get there. Will we have to fool many people?" he asked, as he handed her the passports. ,, She flipped through them slowly, noting the lack of visa stamps, and other information. "These aren't filled in, they don't even have pictures. How do they help us?" ,, "I can glamour them to look like us, with the appropriate information. Just so long as they're not taken too far away, we'll be fine," he said, as she handed them back. He took the two men's passports, and motioned for her to keep the female one. ,, "Oh. Wow. I never even.. thought of that." She drummed her fingers against the armrest, then her eyes brightened, and she perked up. "I know! We're doing a Grand Cathedral tour, right? So could you glamour a couple visa stamps for contested territories? Like, maybe we started off in California, traveled through Mexico, then hit a few of the eastern European cathedrals, that sort of thing? That would explain the bodyguard, it's very common. And not something we would tie up Church resources for, if it's a personal trip." ,, He nodded, tucking one away and handing the other to Devon. "Yeah, that's easy enough." ,, "So, where are we going, once we get there?" Devon asked, glancing briefly at the passport as he stowed it in the inner pocket of his jacket. Unlike the other two, he was fidgeting a bit, and had glanced out the window more than once during takeoff. "You got someone in mind to talk to?" ,, Jasmine licked her lips nervously, the nodded faintly. "Yeah. I.. know a nun there. My sister." ,, Devon scowled, his brow furrowing slightly. "Why are we going to see someone in your family, if you're being hunted by your father?" ,, "We used to get along well. She didn't always agree with all the rules, either. I'm hoping maybe she knows someone we can talk to, someone who'll be willing to listen." She shrugged, glancing out the window as the island of Ibitha slipped away from view. "It's the best place I can think of to start."
  7. From the corner of the room, they heard a small, un-genteel sound - something in between a snort and a laugh. Both men turned and glanced at Jasmine in surprise, and she'd covered her lips with her fingertips, her eyes wide with embarrassment. She was pretty sure she'd just broken at least a half-dozen formal etiquette rules. "I'm so sorry - please. I didn't mean to interrupt." "I don't mind you interrupting at all." Devon was grinning like a wolf. Puck waved her over to join them. "What's on your mind, Cinnamon? And drink his bourbon, if he's not going to," his challenged both of them, his grin infectious. "I mean no insult," Devon assured Puck, even as he extended the glass to the human. "Strong alcohol smells make drinking strong liquor unpleasant." Jasmine studied Puck for a moment, and her lips twitched. She had been mortified, afraid she was making for a very poor Sumaya. But she was starting to get the feeling that her unorthodox methods might be just what her new 'master' would be able to tolerate. She shrugged slightly, then stood up and walked over, taking the glass from Devon. She sat down with them, and took a small sniff at the bourbon. She'd never had strong drink herself, but what the hell. "Well.. it's just that.. I don't know what humans you've met, but.. there's no such thing. Maybe Puck knows something I don't. But all influential human men have been afflicted with that.. aforementioned problem. So.. good luck with that." Devon slumped into his chair, scowling. "Is there one that would listen to a therian with a major issue? Something that concerns human interests?" Puck sat back, mulling that problem over in his head. "I guess it would depend on what the interest actually is..." The prompt wasn't subtle, but he couldn't really even point the Black Wolf in a better direction until he knew what was going on. Devon glared at his clasped hands for a moment. "Therians all over the world are being approached by a strange man. He's offering them friendship, but my uncle has come to believe that they are looking for soldiers for a war. Namely, front line soldiers." Devon looked up at Puck and Cinnamon as he added, "He calls himself Samael." Jasmine's brow furrowed slightly. "War? What kind of war?" Puck nearly jerked upright. No one, no one gave their children angelic names, except for the occasional touched nephilim. It was bad luck, like naming the child Death or as blasphemous as naming them God. "Samael? Are they nephilim?" Devon glanced at Jasmine, first. "He's promising to give us back the lands the humans took. All of them, from North America to Europe." When he glanced at Puck, he hesitated. "I haven't met him. But the therians I've spoken with didn't think they were. They..." Devon paused, the hesitation of a man who's expecting to be called a nut or a liar. "They didn't know what he was." Puck ran a hand through his hair and leaned forward. "Do they have any suspicians?" Again the Black Wolf paused, a motion that seemed unnatural to him. "Maria thought he was a nephilim at first. But she didn't know by the end of it." "Why didn't she know? Did he use human miracles?" He caught Devon's eyes, some of his glamour slipping just enough for his eyes to deepen into cereulean blue. "Did she describe anything useful?" "He glowed. Maria had heard that the neffs did that, so that's what she thought. But he arrived in a storm that left the moment he stepped foot on land, he glows brightly even in daylight, and he restored Maria's eye." Devon pointed at his own left eye as he explained, "She lost it to an attempted rapist years ago. The neff knew that, which he shouldn't since she killed the fucker, and he healed it. She can see out of it and everything. By the way, I'm talking about the First of the Americas. She's not a woman prone to making shit up." Puck stood up and started pacing nervously. "And she's certain he wasn't a human, just doing... something... to look like a nephilim? The glowing?" Devon frowned. "Can humans glow? I always thought that was a nephilm-exclusive thing." Puck glanced at Cinnamon and shrugged, "I've never met one that could without setting themself on fire or something, but... Cinnamon? Is that something a powerful human sanctified could do?" Jasmine bit her lip slightly. "I've never met a human who could do spells like that, not even a sanctified. That sounds very.. nephilim. Human miracles traditionally doesn't effect appearances - the Church calls it 'Altering the Intention of God'. More proof of nephilim ungodliness." "No. Several therians have heard about it. Word's getting around." His gray eyes narrowed. "What are you thinking?" He collapsed back into a chair, looking pensive, "That you're sitting on a mountain of powderkegs the moment this gets back to other nephilim. Look, I don't know any living influential humans, and even those that might still be around certainly wouldn't agree to a sit-down with a... therian. Even, well especially the Black Wolf. I doubt there even are any." "That might not be true." The two men turned to her, brows arched and expressions surprised. She took a tentative sip of the bourbon, and though she blinked slightly and grimaced a little at the taste, she sort of liked the slow burn that it left as it went down. As the two men watched her, she settled back in the sofa slightly, her mind quickly recalling all the important men of the Church she'd met over the years. Men she'd met at important sermons, with high-ranking family mingling encouraged at small soirees afterwards. Men she'd met at charity luncheons and promotion encouragement events. Men she'd met while she'd served dinner at her family's home in New Orleans, or at expensive hotel suites in various cities. She took another small sip, then straightened and sat the glass down. "Look, most influential men of the church are pure politicians. They're ambitious, they're in it for the power and the prestige. You're shit out of luck with those men, because even the risk of meeting with or speaking to a nephilim or a therian isn't worth the risk to their career." Her father was in this category, and her voice held the grim familiarity of one who knew that type of man too well. "Then there are the truly holy men - the ones who aren't going to listen to either of you because you're Beasts and Soulless-- foul creatures that speak nothing but lies. But.. there may be a few. A few of them who might listen, if the reason were important enough. There aren't many though, because human men who serve to truly honor God and protect his children rarely make it to the upper clergy. They're too busy doing God's work on the ground to worry about climbing the ladder." "But can they talk up the ladder?" Devon asked eagerly. Puck just watched her quietly while she spoke, reevaluating her once again. She drew in another deep breath, then let it out. Speaking with lower, more honorable men - priests, maybe a much loved deacon or two - that might be the way to go. "Maybe. Maybe they can. Such a priest can have great influence over a bishop, because they hold the love of the congregation in their hands. Common humans.. the non-clergy.. they don't care as much for the opinions of the bishops, or the cardinals. They care about their priests and their deacons, and if you could convince some of the priests of the legitimacy of your concerns, if they feel their congregations are in danger... it might work." "If." Devon said the word distastefully. She shrugged slightly, looking apologetic. "Look, human children are fed horror stories of your people from the moment they're born. You are their boogeymen, the monster under their bed. Disobedient children are threatened with being thrown out into the wilderness, and 'left for the wolves'. They're not talking about the ones who spend their whole lives on all fours. I've no doubt your people speak just as disdainfully of us - that there are things you believe of all of us that may not be true." "It's a better chance than just a 'n-" Puck was interrupted by a beeping from his phone; he pulled it just to glance at it. His eyes widened and color drained from his face. "Uh, Cinnamon," he said, his voice trembling slightly, "could you arrange that for Devon, here? Meeting someone he could talk to?" She looked at him, a expression a mixture of curiosity and concern. "Um.. I doubt it. I'd have a hard time getting one to even listen to him, much less travel here in order to do so." "Oh, no, no, I meant we'd go to them," he managed to glance up at her, then back down to the phone. "Yeah, we go to them. Would that work?" "Yeah, if that's what we got to do. Wait, we?" Devon caught the phase right as he spoke. Jasmine's eyes narrowed suspiciously, and she studied her new 'boss'. He seemed awfully anxious to jump onto this bandwagon, all of a sudden. "Yeah.. we?" Puck nodded again, tapping on the touchscreen of his phone while he spoke. "Yeah. Here's the deal. We help you out on this thing, until the situation with this 'Samael' is dealt with. In return for the assistance of myself and my Sumaya, you are our bodyguard. If we at any point refuse to continue assisting you, you are released from guarding us but cannot take retaliatory action against us for our refusal. Agreed?" It was a fairly direct deal, incredibly direct as far as nephilim bargaining went, but there was certainly more to the situation than Puck was sharing. "Not until I hear why." Devon had his head tilted to the side; the gesture reminded Puck of a predator sizing up dinner. Puck stood up again, all nervous energy, and began fiddling with the phone, prying at the plastic case. "The short story is that I don't much like the people I grew up with. I left home, they don't think that should have been an option, and I just got an alert from a friend that some of them are headed to Ibiza because of the stir from last night. So I have to leave Ibiza. I can either go somewhere remote and utterly uninteresting, or you can agree and get my and her," he nodded at Cinnamon and the case popped open in his hands; he broke the SIM chip into small pieces, "help. Or you could shop around for another nephilim to help you. One that doesn't have any need you can play off of at the moment." "Am I going to have to fight nephilim to keep you safe?" Devon was as blunt as one would expect the therians to be. "That's not an objection, just a clarification of who you'll be expecting me to guard you from." "Nephilim, therians you won't like anyways, and humans." He ditched the useless phone on the table and looked around the room. "I really liked it here, too," he complained, "I got presents all the time...." "Wait!" She licked her lips nervously, looking a little twitchy herself. "Puck, I'm so sorry I got you into this mess - if you hadn't have stepped in like that, and saved my life, I don't know.. I mean, I'd be dead. But.. I - I can't promise anything! I don't even know if they'll listen to me, I'm a -- I'm a woman." "They just have to listen to me, and I do have a cock, so maybe that means something." Devon looked to Puck. "We're agreed. We leaving now?" "No, stop! Look, I'm - I'm being hunted too." She couldn't let this man agree to protect her, when it wouldn't be from something he'd agreed to in the terms. It felt wrong, and her inherent honesty refused to let her trick him like that. Puck put his hands over his face and tried not to scream. "Okay...are you being hunted in a particular country? What if we go somewhere other than Europe? America? Japan? We've got ten minutes to figure this out and get packed before we have to be on a plane that's being readied as we stand here and talk." "You two work this out. I need to call my hotel and get my stuff dropped at the airport." Devon stepped back from them and pulled out his phone. He'd known he might have to move fast, so he was ready. It was just annoying to not even get to sleep in that nice bed first. "Not the airport, here." Puck corrected him. "We won't be leaving by the airport." Devon nodded, even as someone answered and he started to talk to them. ,, "Europe, last I checked, but the only help I can probably be is in America. My father is hunting for me. I'm an embarrassment, and he's a very ambitious man. I haven't broken any human laws, but he checked me into a monastery so I wouldn't sully his name, and he won't just let me disappear on my terms, now that I've escaped. If I'm spotted in America, he'll hunt for me there." Jasmine ran a hand through her hair, looking as frazzled as Puck did now. "If you're spotted anywhere he'll hunt for you, from the sounds of it." he said. "Is there someone in America who will listen to you?" ,, "Maybe." She shrugged, looking unsure. "It's the only chance we've got." ,, "The pilot needs a city, so you'd better figure one out by the time we get to the plane." He was still shaken, but the nephilim seemed a little more relaxed now that they had a destination in mind to flee to. ,, Jasmine swallowed, picked up the drink, and downed the rest of it. She'd never had heavy liquor before, but she'd heard it had a dulling effect - there were many men who drank it to quench anxiety. She winced at the burn of it from one gulp like that, then glanced at Devon as he hung up the phone. "Are you sure you're okay with that part, too?" ,, "Killing for you.. killing for him.. doesn't make a difference to me," he said with a wolfish grin. She nodded, then glanced at Puck. "Do you have a bag I could throw some things in?"
  8. Jasmine couldn't help feeling a little heady. Since arriving here, she'd done little except for act in all the ways that she wasn't supposed to back at home, and this was the second person it seemed to impress, or at least amuse, instead of offend. Maybe it was due simply to the novelty, but she was willing to go with it. At least she wasn't quite as worried about the repercussions. She stepped in and held the door open for him, motioning him into the luxurious pool house. ,, "Puck, this is Devon Carson, known formally as Black Wolf. Black Wolf, this is... Puck." She put a slight emphasis on the 'Wolf', just so that Puck was clear about the difference. But when it came to Puck, she hesitated a brief moment before giving his name. He'd given her no formal name to call him by, and the only name she'd heard anyone else use was 'of no claimed family', which had sounded suspiciously like an insult at the time. Also, it's what he'd been called by Ndale, which didn't seem like a good person to take her cues from. If her new 'boss' wanted her to call him something more official, he'd have to tell her what it was. She stood between the two men, though off to the side so they could greet each other, however that was going to work. "Ser, would you like me to wait here, or in another room?" ,, "You can stay, Cinnamon." He nodded his head at the door slightly, and she caught his meaning and closed it behind Devon, so the two men would have privacy. Then she stepped off to the side of the room and sat down in one of the various accent chairs, alert and as curious as Puck was about what the nephew of the First wanted to talk about. She strongly doubted it had anything to do with nephilim breeding practices.
  9. Her eyes widened slightly, and then narrowed a bit as her nostrils flared slightly. Surely that wasn't -- anger? He'd never heard that human women were capable of the emotion, but this one looked as incensed as a felethrope about to take a swipe at him. She blinked the reaction away quickly though, and if it weren't for her rejoinder, he'd have almost thought he imagined it. ,, "No, I believe it's because I'm slightly bitter, and useful for driving away irritating pests. Thank you so much for waiting, Mr. Carson, I'll go find out if Puck wishes to see you." She turned and walked away from him, chin tilted at an impertinent angle. She opened the door to the pool house and stepped back in, trying to keep her voice smooth and the temper out of it. With luck, the therian wouldn't mention her little outburst, and Puck wouldn't be the wiser. ,, He was sitting on the couch, a fingertip moving slowly over the screen of a tablet. Access to the internet was a restricted privilege back at home. Jasmine, her sisters, and her mother had all been allowed access to certain devices, but with their own passwords and screen names that had heavily restricted their site allowances. Human women were exposed only to what media their husbands or fathers allowed them to be exposed to, and to what was deemed 'gentle enough' for female eyes and ears. Puck glanced up at her, and beckoned her over to where he sat. "Well, what does he want?" ,, "He wants to speak with you about a trade - knowledge for a favor. I tried to ask him more, but he told me he would say nothing else, except to you." She reached the sofa and took the electronic tablet he held out to her, glancing down at it. ,, There was a picture of the therian displayed on the screen, and Puck gestured to it eagerly. "Well, is that him?" ,, "Yes.. yes, that's him." She handed the screen back to him. "Who is he?" ,, "He's the Black Dog - nephew of Michael Carson, the First - leader of the therians." He tapped the back button on the screen, which took him back to a news article about the shape-changer waiting for him at the gate. "Well, don't just stand there, Cinnamon - bring him to me! I wonder what he wants." ,, Puck sounded intrigued, even a little excited. Jasmine on the other hand looked a little nervous, and didn't move immediately towards the door. "Oh God. I.. may have been a bit of a.. smart-mouth." ,, Puck blinked slightly, a little startled that she'd managed trouble quite so quickly. "Well, hrm. Let's hope he doesn't kill me, then." ,, Her eyes widened a bit and she stared at him, looking a bit afraid. It would have been soothing to the ego after that whole 'I won't have sex with you' incident from earlier, if he hadn't been fairly convinced she was more afraid of what would happen to her if he died so soon after accepting her as his Sumaya. He motioned towards the door again, his voice amused and only a little reproving. He was fairly convinced the therian wouldn't kill him this far into nephilim territory. ""Let's not keep the furry killing machine known as the Black Dog waiting, Cinnamon." ,, She started at that, and nodded again, looking a little less sure of herself this time. But she made her way back out to the gate again, and opened it for him this time, trying her best to maintain that smooth, unruffled attitude she'd used before. "Come in, Mr. Carson. Puck has agreed to see you. If you could please follow me."
  10. Before Puck had a chance to answer, there was a distinct rap at the door. Puck sighed slightly, and leaned back in his chair. "So it begins. Come in, Geran." The servant entered, and stood politely at the door. ,, "There is a Devon Carson here to see--" The servant paused, realizing his mistake, and focused his attention on Jasmine instead, resuming as if he hadn't been about to make an insulting error. "--here to see Ser Puck. He is representing himself. A therian, Ser..." He trailed off, not knowing what to call the human girl. ,, Jasmine swallowed nervously, and glanced at Puck. He smiled at her reassuringly, and motioned towards the door. "Ser Cinnamon will do, Geran. Well, your first assignment. Do me proud, I'll wait here. We don't have your phone yet, so you'll have to come back and tell me what he wants." ,, "Alright." She stood up, and smoothed out her skirt a little nervously. Then she straightened her shoulders, and drew in a breath, heading out the door and down towards the gate. So what if she'd never met a therianthrope before? She could handle this. This was like.. a job. She never thought she'd get to have a job. And even if some rebellious part of her squirmed at the idea of being beholden to a nephilim, she did owe him her life. And it was a lot better so far than any of her other alternatives. It seemed she'd even have a measure of authority here. She knew she wouldn't be happy in this position forever, but it seemed like a good place to start trying to figure out who she was now, and what she was going to do. Puck had alluded to the fact that she would have to do this while in Ibiza.. nothing about whether he expected her to stick with him if he left the island. For now, she was going to try not to think about it too hard. She was safe, she wasn't vulture-meat, and she wasn't on her way back to the monastery. ,, Devon saw her before she saw him. She was an attractive young thing, dressed in a simple but attractive green dress and a fashionable but simple black belt that cinched her waist prettily. Her naturally curly hair was pulled up in a ponytail, but was still long enough to hand loosely down to the middle of her back. Her skin was the same dusty brown color that he had such a fondness for, and her feet were covered with a simple pair of black leather flats. It was not how he had expected a nephilim's servant to be dressed, much less a Sumaya. She saw him and hesitated for a brief moment, and he could sense that moment of hesitation, like prey startled before a predator. It was the beginning of the same reaction he'd gotten out of the few human females he'd encountered, before they ran screaming in terror. But then she squared those pretty human shoulders of hers, and walked straight over to him, meeting his angry feral gaze head-on with a polite smile and eye contact. She had eyes the color of dark-chocolate, so brown they were almost black, but with a warm richness to them that kept them from feeling distant. ,, "Mr. Devon Carson, I presume? My name is--" She started to move her lips in a certain way, as if she were accustomed to saying something, but had suddenly decided not to do so. "--Cinnamon. I am Puck's Sumaya. How may I help you?" ,, He took a longer look at her, interest flickering when she announced her new position. When he spoke, his voice had a deep rumble to it that was a near-growl. "I told the other guy - I'm here to see Puck." ,, Amazingly, she neither backed away, nor trembled in fear at the unfamiliar roughness of the therian's voice. Instead, her lips twitched wryly, as if she were amused by something. Then she tilted her head slightly, studying him. "I assumed. I hope you'll forgive me, but I'm a bit new at this. I must ask you what your business is with--" She paused as she realized she didn't know what she was supposed to properly call him in these formal situations, and bit back an exasperated noise. It was kind of like she were reading a script, and had suddenly forgotten her line. "--with him."
  11. She took a deep breath, and let it out slowly, her mind reeling from all the new information she'd just been given. This was even more complicated than human theocratic hierarchy. She took a small sip of her water, then closed her eyes in concentration, and began rattling off all the points that he had emphasized the firmest, with only a little bit of ironic inflection sprinkled throughout. ,, "Let's see.. blood purity is more important than anything else. Don't ever tell any of the stuff you're telling me to any non-nephilim not in the service of a nephilim, or I'm as good as dead, as is anyone I've so much as ordered a soda from ever since. I outrank the servants of other, lesser-blooded nephilm. However people treat me, it is as if they are treating you that way. Politely refuse all gifts of property and people. Asking nephilim about their age is even ruder than asking vain human women about theirs. I will be expected to meet with people who are representing people who want to meet with you. Families that don't send Firsts are trying to grandstand. You never intermingle with the help officially, that's my job. Never promise you'll do anything, only promise to speak with you about it. Humans and therians have to speak with me first, no exceptions, because of our inferior status. Make sure everything is dana, whether it's for you or me. Don't lose my temper." ,, He saw her falter slightly there, and bite her lip nervously. "Cinnamon? You can manage your temper, can't you?" ,, She nodded, but he could see her fingers twisting her cloth napkin nervously. "Yes.. most of the time. It.. it takes a lot to make me mad, anyway. All human women are taught to be mild and evenly-tempered. It's just that, sometimes.. if someone makes me really mad, I.." She swallowed, and cringed a little under his sharp gaze. "I lose it a little. But I'll do my best not to, I swear. It might be unnatural for human women to possess tempers, but that doesn't mean I haven't learned to control mine." ,, He sat for a minute, staring at her, then burst out laughing. "By the North Star, Cinnamon, if you can hold your temper for more than five minutes with these assholes, you'll be doing better than me." He chuckled for a moment more, then leaned in towards her, "Two tricks for you. One, imagine them covered in jam or mustard or something. They'll look ridiculous and then you'll be fighting off the giggles. If that doesn't work, go to two - check your phone and pretend I sent you a message. Step away and take a moment to compose yourself. If neither of those work, call me and I'll either give you a good reason to leave or walk you through calming down and finishing up." He reached out to squeeze her hand. "Don't stress too much about it, or you'll go into already half flustered. I'll get you a phone today and we'll make it through, okay?" ,, "Thanks." She breathed a sigh of relief, and relaxed back into her chair, glancing at all the little boxes mixed up with the cards. "What about those? Should they be returned, since they're not dana?" ,, He picked one up, plucking out a single earring in the shape of a robin's head in profile, glossy black obsidian with a diamond eye. "These? Nah, they're trinkets. From who they're from and to someone like me, they're not worth more than a smile and pleasant greeting in public." He grinned and put it on, flicking his right earlobe to make the diamond twinkle in the light. "Besides, it's shiny." ,, She laughed a little, and nodded. "Well, I think that was it then. Oh, wait! Don't tell anyone about your wattage." She flashed him a small grin, and between the laugh and the smile he got his first feeling that she wasn't just rolling with the punches.. she might even be enjoying part of the ride. "Did I forget anything?"
  12. She took the card and slid off the ribbon, then flipped it over to see what it said. It was about the size of a human wedding invitation, and written on delicate vellum paper backed by heavy, expensive-feeling card stock. She skimmed it quickly, and he saw her cheeks flush again. She sat it down and picked up another, scanning it briefly as well. Then she sat it down too, trying to suppress the confusing flush of heat that the illicit and obvious letters had made her feel, chalking the confusing sensations up to embarrassment. ,, "These women all want to be your.. lovers." She hesitated, and he could tell it was the first time she'd probably ever spoken the word. ,, "That implies they care about cuddling or the morning after. They just want me to get them pregnant." ,, She picked up the one he'd handed her again, her gaze flickering over it to the bottom. "But.. this one is from a man." ,, "Yes, well, he actually does care about cuddling the morning after, which is why I'm accepting. You're welcome to come along, if you'd like." His lips curved seductively, and she responded with something other than a blush, for the first time. ,, She tossed the letter down onto the pile with a slight huff, and then looked up at him, meeting his gaze straight on. "Look, I want to make this clear. I appreciate your help last night. I appreciate.. all this." She motioned towards the food, and the room, encompassing all the things he'd arranged for her in one graceful gesture of her hand. "Really. But I want to be very clear about something. I am not going to sleep with you." ,, "So you left because you're a lesbian? Mikal has a cousin.. she's pretty hot." It was somewhere in between a statement and a question, and Jasmine's brow furrowed in confusion. ,, "What is a lesbian?" she asked. "Why would I care about his cousin?" ,, He arched a brow, now becoming a bit confused himself. "A lesbian means you like having sex with women, but not men. And Mikal's cousin is hot, and female!" ,, Her eyes widened slightly, and she shook her head, looking a bit overwhelmed again. "No! I mean - I don't even know how that would work! I just don't want to sleep with you." ,, "I don't understand." He blinked back at her, looking utterly confused now. ,, "What's so hard about it? I don't know, or care, what you want to do with other people. I'll send out your responses, if that's part of my duties. But I do not want to have sex with you!" Something inside her felt a little off saying that, the way one might feel if they tried to convince someone the sky was green. She swallowed it back, not really understanding, but willing him to listen to what she was trying to say. ,, He leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers together, looked down at himself briefly, then back over to her. "Why not?" ,, It was his tone of voice that caught her short. It didn't sound accusatory, so much as bewildered. "Does everyone want to have sex with you?" ,, "Yes! Constantly!" He motioned to the pile of letters with an impatient wave of the hand. "Annoyingly so! That's what all of these are about! And those are just the ones that came while we were sleeping! Don't get me wrong, sex is fun. But it's nice to cuddle sometimes too." ,, She blinked, a bit confused, and shook her head, looking just as bewildered as he did. "How about we just leave it at I don't, okay? If you're sick of everyone begging you to have sex with them, surely finding the one person who doesn't should be a relief, don't you think?" ,, He sat there silently for a minute, trying to figure that out, and she decided it was time to move the conversation forward.. hopefully to a far more comfortable place. "So what else are my duties, as your First?"
  13. She glided forward without realizing it, drawn to the luminous creature like a moth to a flame. It was as if she were in a haze, and everything around her had just drifted to the edges. She reached the edge of the bed, her gaze locked on his sleeping form. Slowly, her hand reached forward, and then -- she stopped. She blinked, looking down at her hand, and then pulled it away and stumbled backwards. The movement jarred his nightstand, knocking over a lamp, which proceeded to crash to the ground and shatter. Puck jerked awake to the sound, and to his new parijana's startled cry of distress. "Oh God, I'm sorry!!" ,, She moved her hands in swift gesture over the lamp, fingers spread out at first, and then brought together and intertwined. Nothing happened, and she blinked, and tried it again, and then a third time. Each time the pieces shook slightly, and then the third time, they started to pull together, but in a way that didn't match up properly. ,, "Damnit!" She bit her lip sharply, and made the gesture again, this time angrily, and with more force. Finally, the lamp came back together, pieces sealing back as if they'd never broken in the first place. She picked it up and put it back on his nightstand, her hands shaking slightly and her pretty, cinnamon-colored cheeks flushed with embarrassment. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have come in here. I didn't mean to disturb you, I--"
  14. She savored that hour, too. She hung the dress up on the back of the door first, and then set about filling the bathtub with hot water and bubble bath. She hadn't had a proper bath in so long, and her mother had never let her daughters use expensive products like these. They were intended for wives, or young women who were courting, and even though Jasmine was past the proper age, her parents had yet to allow her to begin the elaborate human courting rituals intended to help her find a husband. It was because, she remembered bitterly, she wasn't deemed "ready" for such interactions. She had to learn to behave more womanly first, so that she wouldn't be rejected out of hand. As soon as word were to get around that Jasmine wasn't the docile, gentle daughter her parents were expected to have raised, it would become exceptionally difficult to attract suitors. She was twenty years old, and there was already plenty of speculation as to why Cardinal Gentian's daughter hadn't starting courting at the age of seventeen, like most young human women. ,, Once the tub was filled, she slipped off the detested clothes, and slid slowly and carefully into the bath with a sigh. She could feel the heat soaking into her body, pulling the stress out of her very pores. She picked up a pouffy purple bath sponge, poured a generous dollop of shower gel on it, and lathered it up in her hands. Then she proceeded to take her time, enjoying the soft floral scent of honeysuckle and roses, running the sponge over every inch and crevice of her body - between her toes and fingers, across the insides of her elbows and behind the backs of her knees and every other hidden spot that you usually skimmed over during five-minute long showers . After that she washed and conditioned her hair - proof that the bathroom had been stocked for needs as well, since they'd even purchased an organic, sulfate-free shea butter shampoo perfect for her curly hair, and a conditioner to match. Somehow, she thought with an amused smirk, she doubted her perfect-looking host needed to worry about his moisturization routine. ,, Once she had finally finished indulging herself (and mostly because her stomach was starting to constrict painfully at the thought of food), she toweled off, dressed, and brushed out her hair carefully. She pulled it up in a ponytail - impressed with the extent of thoroughness exhibited by Puck's personal shopper for purchasing everything down to a package of ponytail holders - and made her way into the kitchen. ,, That was followed by a half-hour of fruit and coffee, which she savored, and a more thorough examination of the small guest house. She examined the living room and the clothes in her wardrobe. She made her bed, tossed the dirty clothes in the hamper (though she considered the trash, too), and slipped on a simple pair of black flats. Finally, the only unexplored area was Puck's bedroom. There was a light shining out from underneath the door that look like he had left the light on, and so for awhile she thought perhaps he was just occupying himself with a book or something. She ignored it for awhile, curling up paging through a magazine or two he had laying on his coffee table. But eventually, curiosity overwhelmed her. She made her way to the bedroom, and quietly tapped at the door.. but there was no response. ,, This is stupid. He's probably not even home, he probably just left his light on. ,, So, finally, she worked her courage up, turned the knob, and peered into his bedroom.
  15. "What? Oh - clothes. Yeah.. that's about--how did you--oh, never mind." Her cheeks flushed at that devious grin, and she turned around again, inspecting the house. She had felt an immense sense of relief when he mentioned the other bedroom, it had been almost palpable. She still didn't understand what she was supposed to be to him exactly, and needed him to explain it, but she was exceedingly thankful he wasn't expecting her to share his bedroom. She knew that he had claimed her somehow, and she knew she should be railing against that idea viciously. But she was too tired to rail at anything, and he had saved her life, so she owed him something there anyway. And it wasn't like she had any better options.. at least not any obvious ones. She sank down into a chair, her fingertips running over the soft fabric of the throw pillows. "How long since you've had anything to eat, Cinnamon? Since you got to the island? You want some water or something?" Puck stepped into the small, open-concept kitchen area as he spoke. He pulled out a glass, and pressed it against the ice machine built into the fridge. The clink of ice was followed by the flow of filtered water, and then he stepped back out into the living room. "Maybe I can rummage up something for you to eat, and then--" He stopped, and an amused smile flickered across his lips. The human girl - she hadn't even given him her name yet, he realized - was curled up in a large, overstuffed chair, fast asleep. Her uncomfortable looking shoes had slipped off her feet, and he could see the painful red spots on the backs of her ankles and near her toes where the obviously new shoes had rubbed at her skin and started to form blisters. She must have been walking in them for several hours after having acquired them. And now that they were in the indoor light, he could see a soft darkness under her eyes that indicated severe exhaustion. But she didn't snore... he'd always heard that humans snored.
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