author's note: Heh, HEH? Did I actually do what I said I was going to, or what?
I appreciate your comments. It's always bothered me that in most paranormal romances, a major issue is often overlooked: two different species, especially if one is immortal, cannot feasibly end up together. And if this issue is addressed and corrected, almost always, the girl is the one who changes, not the boy.
Creation is a funny thing.
Before the Isle of Morpheus, I didn't realize how often humans were creating, or how much they created, but it's true: it's happening all the time. The human soul yearns to take unorganized matter into its hands and make. Even if all you're making is laughter, or a piece of earth with your particular footprint. Actual talent is irrelevant, same for education or backgrounds; most people have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.
Sometimes, we create the impossible.
I think about that, too. How do you make something you've never even conceived of before?
It's like those old science fiction movies from the 60s. Made with spaceships that could travel lightyears in an instant, and yet, the captain reads a hardbound book for data instruction.
Still, someone has the thought, eventually. Someone thinks the impossible. Sometimes strangers think the same impossible idea, and before you know it, the impossible is possible.
I put a lid on these thoughts before I enter Kai's personal apartments. The link between me and Alexander has morphed—not unlike Alexander himself. Before it was fluid and swift and open. Now it's cemented, like a solid bar linking our cores. I am weighted to him like iron. I can't quite read his thoughts like before, but there are . . . impressions. Hard to say if we understand what the other is thinking because of nudges from this connection, or because we know each other so well.
I key in the code and enter. My first thought is that we need to find somewhere else to stay. Somewhere that isn't so much . . . Kai's. So modern. So cold. For now, there's still the edge of the BlissMaxx turmoil to work through, but soon even that will die down. Then where will we go?
"Alexander?" I say, coming into the kitchen. He's standing near the counter, eyes riveted on the flickering flame of a candle. A burnt match lies shriveled beside 's clutching his wrist, and I see his fingertips are livid and red and pulsing. He burned himself. His expression is that of profound betrayal.
"Oh, Alex . . ." I get closer.
His eyes snap up to me. "Don't."
I press my lips together.
"I can't," he says. "Sometimes it feels so close, like maybe I can, but—this isn't my body. All the memories are gone, all the thoughts, but there are mental imprints. I catch myself doing little things that aren't me, that belong to this body." His breathing ratchets, grows thin. "And I feel so . . . unchangeable."
I try to put myself in his place. I try to remember how a part of me had wanted to become a Nightmare, but how ultimately relieved I was to stay human, because of my father, my friends, my life. "Listen, we've got some time. Your body isn't going to die tomorrow. We have years to try and figure this out. Once you've stabilized a little, we can go—"
"I don't want your help," he snaps.
For all his claim that he can no longer control fires, the way his eyes suddenly light and dance seems real enough, and the air in the room gets half a degree warmer. I see him so clearly in Kai's face; it's unnerving how he's both at the same time. He only has Kai's vocal chords to work with, yet his voice comes out husky and rough like his own.
"All of this is your fault," he growls.
My eyes narrow. "Really? Are you going to try and blame the global phenomenon of BlissMaxx on me?"
"Your mind trapped me, and it is your mind that continues to bend the rules of both of our universes, each time molding me closer and closer to what you need. I'm your creation, am I not?"
Crap. Apparently, my rambling thoughts on creation did leak through our link. "I didn't choose—"
"You grabbed me and have never, even when you're gone, let go. And you changed me. It's like—it's like you own me, Violet, and I hate that—I hate that I am this impossible thing because your mind keeps me alive, and keeps me alive so that you can have me."
"What? What? Kissing you wasn't even my idea, and are we really fighting about that, now, after everything else that's happened?"
"I didn't want," he hisses, "any of this."
"Yeah, I've heard that line too. Maybe you'd prefer death? Well, guess what, we're in the penthouse of a very high building. Why don't you jump out the window?" I storm out of the apartment, taking care to slam the door as hard as I can. Unfortunately, the elevator is right there, so there's no way to stomp down the hall in continued rage. I do, however, slam the down-button hard enough I'm surprised I don't break it, punching continuously like that might make it come faster.
Of course, when it does arrive, the little bell dings, and the doors slide open, I stare at the empty space and don't move. Eventually, the doors close again. With a long sigh, I turn around and go back into the apartment.
Alexander is sitting on the kitchen floor, leaning on his knees with his head in his hands. He looks up as I come in, eyes red. I sink down next to him and he clutches my arm. "Don't leave," he whispers, pressing his face into my shoulder.
But it's then I understand that I must.
I touch his cheek, still flushed from shouting. I keep my eyes on his, focus on the fire burning under the black, and not on the unfamiliar lips as I press a soft kiss on his mouth. Then, it's not so hard to pretend. I lean in as his lips tremble and part. I recognize him from the inside out. Our link warms and grows flexible, as usual, beneath the kiss.
I am the reason Alexander can live among humans, can consider even being human. I lend him my humanity through our bond. I am the reason he could create a portal into our world. And so, the best solution is to sever our bond.
I pull back. "We have time to figure this out. Armand has the Jewel of Imagination. The only reason your DNA is even slightly compatible with a human body is because of me." I sigh. "We need to separate." Even if separating will feel like lying side by side with Alexander while a team of doctors try to unthread all the ways our nerves and veins and bones are entwined.
. . . . . . .
By my own dictated rules, I sleep in Kai's guest room. Which is smaller and decidedly Alexander-less.
A hundred times I almost get up; a hundred times I think, Go! What are you waiting for? But every time, I remind myself of what will happen if I do. I can't sleep next to him, without wanting to kiss him. And I can't kiss him, without wanting to save him. So I fist the blankets up around my shoulders, and I bring a hammer to the solid link between us, chiseling at its edges with as much mental fortitude as I can gather. Separation. Separation from me, from the rest of the human world, from the body which holds him, and then . . .
Then maybe nothing. Hopefully, his own world calls him back. Armand can create the path that gets him there, somehow. Right?
Maybe . . .
My eyes droop. I drift into sleep. The walls disappear, fading into part of the dark.
I threw off the covers and left the circular king bed. I should be tired. These bodies, my body now, needs sleep. And I've barely slept since I woke up like this. I hate it, ironically. The dreaming. They always seem to be on fire. I run forever trying to catch something that slips out of my reach, and I remain hot. There is no relief. Even now, awake, magic is still alive and knocking pinballs inside my head; still there, but out of reach, too much, and nowhere to go.
I run from my own imaginings—I have one now, a proper imagination—and into the hall.
Naturally, I know what I'm looking for.
The moment she came back, I forgot I was trying to be angry at her because I needed to be angry at something. I wanted to press my face into her chest and breathe her in, human and blackberries and sweet darkness. I wanted to shut my eyes and have her put her arms around me.
I understand what she's saying, but I didn't mean what I was saying.
This is what must be done. My heart hammers with terror. My feet want to turn and run.
I don't run.
I know what I want, and I want many things—but there is one thing I want most of all. What are you willing to give up, I ask myself, in order to have what you want the most?
My hand finds a doorknob, cool metal against my palm. The door swings open silently. The room isn't large, the bed small and narrow. A single book on the table; a paperback of Dracula. Somehow. Did she bring it with her? A comfort at her side.
When I startle awake, my view has shifted. Alexander crouches, perching on the edge of the mattress. I prop myself halfway up. "Hey. I thought we said—" and Alexander's pushes me back down to kiss me. A kiss full of intention. I make a noise of surprise against his mouth—which is sweet and feverish-hot and wonderful—and grip his arms to hold him off. "Alexander," I say slowly. "Listen to me. You know what kissing does. More will do worse. You'll never—"
"Ssh, enough." He climbs right on top of me, pinning me down. "Do you want me to go?"
My heart bounces around in my chest. Flustered, I say, "That's not—that doesn't even matter—"
"No. Of course I don't."
He rolls us over in the bed and dumps me in the pillows beneath him. When he kisses me again, I think about arguing one more time, because what does he think is going to happen, and then—oh. His thumbs are pressing tight into my hips. I cling to him, breathless and thrilled and full of innocent uncomplicated terror. It was like kissing the darkness, with Alexander the warm shape inside it, and I was drawing him out, kiss by kiss.
. . . . . . .
I am curled snugly against his side because there's no room in this small bed, pretending like I'm not trying to catch my breath. I snap my head up to examine his mouth, the loosely curled lips. Did he . . .?"
—Not my face. My hand, dummy.
But I look at his hand, the orange glow building in his palm. "Ow!" he suddenly hisses, shaking it out. "Damn. Almost had it. But you saw it, didn't you?"
"I saw it," I say.
"My theory is," he continues, still completely casual, "that my presence in the body is mutating the human DNA."
"Like a mutant?"
"That's what I said."
"No, I mean, like, the X-Men."
"I can't keep up with centuries of pop culture for over hundreds of countries," he says.
"We'll watch the cartoon from the 90s. That's my favorite version." I look at his face again, seeing how he'll react to this suggestion, this open-ended future.
He glances at me. "I'll be here," he whispers. I don't know what to say. For a long minute, I go with nothing—and when at last I open my mouth, he cuts me off, "We should get married soon."
I laugh. Kind of. "What?"
"With the comas and possible medical decisions, with Kai's legacy over BlissMaxx. I don't want his brother to be the first number they call. Legally, a wife has ownership over my body, my property, etc., if that comes into question."
The after returns swiftly into the room with us, cooling, rummaging around, upturning old questions.
I release a slow breath. —Are you scared?
"A little," he says quietly; his eyes slide away.
Alexander. He would have never admitted such a thing—perhaps never felt such a thing—when I first met him.
"I'll be here," I whisper back his own words.
His eyes crinkle. "I know."
"I love you."
"I know that too." He turns over and kisses me again.