That summer in New York {tm}


And I will keep your warm, if you keep me grounded

I have never asked for your loyalty.

Only then does he cast her a sideways, dismissive glance. ”Did you not?” he replies lightly, the upturn tainted with a insolence he hates but cannot stop. The very fact that she must question this is excruciating and he feels the blow to his pride as surely as she’d struck him. She had asked him for the unthinkable - to ignore a threat against her safety, one that he alone in his phantom state could control and destroy. In this shambling farce of a relationship there was so little they could share beyond these few and scarce stolen night encounters. No tokens of affection exchanged, no hungry touches to satisfy the craving for skin on skin contact. He cannot even whisper out loud the words that adequately tell her what she is to him, thought they’ve each and every one become patterned into his heartbeat, pulsing ever present as a replacement for blood. No good would come of it and then he’d be bled dry a second time for naught.

So instead he had absorbed her fear and turned it into an oath. A promise that he would do ask she ask and remain faithful to her whim, because it was all that he had to offer. He could not give her a lover, a suitor or even, Aura willing, a husband. So he gave her instead his devotion, his eternal fealty.

Which she now spits on.

And he does not have to elaborate further because he sees it - there - the moment she remembers what she has begged of him.

Jack smiles and it is flinty, deadened. He would later be repulsed by the satisfaction he gleans from the way she flinches, eyes glittering with a malicious justification. She’s figured it out. He watches her now, a dissecting, penetrating stare half hidden beneath dark brows. A spider watching the most recent trappings of its web. He’s taking in for the first time her relaxed appearance, the elegant drapings of cloth on her stringent form and how the tugging of a single lose thread will have it pooling around her feet if she’s not careful. And then there’s the flush at the apex of her cheeks now that her gile is up and the righteous indignation fills the metal of her eyes. She is so beautifully exposed. Unguarded. Something young and unprotected about her rage that washes away the painted mask of the political training takes refuge behind and bares her completely in the candlelight. He’s certain he can see the white-hot spark of her very soul trying to jump from panes of her eyes if he tilts his head a bit more.

Jack licks his lips. No one else gets to see this, he alone is privy to this outfit of intimacy. It’s unnerving, the rush it spurs, (too close to something uncomfortable...lust?) makes him feel predatory and powerful. Like he should mark his territory quickly and without hesitation, before another encroaches. He doesn’t know where it originates from, but it immediately flags as soon as she opens her mouth to hurl her incriminations at him from across the room.

Jack goes rigid before swaying underneath the weight of her accusations.

Then he growls, a retaliation to her cat-hiss and is triggered into motion. He spins to circumnavigate the bedpost though he could have drifted through it. It seems she makes it impossible to let corporeal things go. It takes him four purposeful strides to cross the distance between and stand looming over her. A smoldering wraith called forth by her denunciation of his character. He raises hands to her bare shoulders as if to shake her, but they halt, trembling ever so slightly from excess adrenaline, a paper-thin space above the glow of her skin.

Jack’s eyes flash dangerously. “Do not insult me so, madam, by suggesting I am not a man of my word,” he rumbles through grit teeth. It rises from the depths of his chest to vibrate along the stone walls like earthquake tremors, throaty and intimidatingly low. If possible, he steps closer, filling her personal space with his brawn enough to force her head back if she’s to maintain their electric eye contact through their difference in height.

”I have done everything you’ve asked and in doing so, placed my faith in your need for discreteness, for secrecy. I have spent a full year denying my better judgement and instinct merely because of its importance to you. And I did not badger you for more than you were willing to give because I trusted you and your reasons.”

Her flush has brought forth a rush of blood to her lips and it draws his attention, the burning coal of his glare flicking down to her mouth before returning to bore holes into her own.

”But you have not granted me the same courtesy and stand here now with accusations against my obedience, my character.” He presses forward further still, purposefully using the broad span of his shoulders as a means of intimidation, crowding into her and reckless in his hurt.

”I have protected your half-truths, Electra, and will continue to do so. There is no request you can make that I will not grant. Not one. But pray, do not slander my good name by declaring me false, when you cannot even be honest to a harmless ghost in the shadows who is your only champion.”

He exhales roughly, his ire burning down to no more than an ember now that it’s flared itself and waned. He is acutely aware of how close they are, standing nearly on top of her. He should step back, grant her space to breathe. But he is a soldier and utterly terrible at retreating. His eyes catch and hold on her mouth this time. He wishes it was a bit less deceitful, a bit better at telling him want she wanted. A bit less perfect in it’s shade of wine and evasion.

Jack sighs. ”You keep secrets from me still.” The revelation is no longer cold or embittered. Just tired and downtrodden.

”I wish you would not.”

We will never burn the light out
Luke Stackpoole


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