Other places to find me:
-Love Me Like You Do, Ellie Goulding
The castle was abuzz with activity, and in the tumult, Djinn managed to slink away from its hub. Her mind was in a whirl of sensations and emotion, and eventually it became too much.
A small alcove in the castle was as good a place as any. She stood in the shadows for a time, listening to the distant murmur from the makeshift egg chamber, and the even further whispering of the spirits. They were not pleased by recent events disturbing their unrest, and would likely be causing a fuss for some time.
A hefty sigh escaped her. Despite the Mistress’s delight over Cynder’s and Pop Thorn’s children, she couldn't shake off the weight in her chest. The longing and ache lingered, making it nearly impossible to think about how happy she was alongside the Mistress. And the impending departure of the Skylanders came ever closer, bringing the loss of her dear friend.
Her ‘friend?’ Djinn grimaced, her heart pounding in a hard, quick best at the thought. John, her friend? Impossible. Highly unlikely, at best. He was only out for information on his ancestors through the Mistress, after all. The time they'd spent together had merely been a ruse to bring her in closer to get what he needed, and some kind of ego trip to prove to the others that he could…
Could what, exactly? Make her blush? Make her think he was her friend? Make her fall in lo—
The sound of the chamber door opening and closing stopped her thoughts with a screeching halt. Djinn didn’t need to look up to know it was him; she could feel him, hear the drag of his scales on the stone and carpet, smell the faint scent unique wholly to him.
When he found her, he stopped. Standing just out of reach, watching her. Clearly waiting for her to look up. She didn’t, for the longest time. And still he waited. Finally he spoke, his voice low, as though he were afraid they might be disturbed or overheard.
"You seem…lost in thought," he said cautiously. "I do not wish to disturb you, but…there is much I think we must discuss."
"You’ll find it hard to disturb me, John," she answered, with a soft sigh. She snapped her fingers, conjuring a bench, and sat on its far end with her tail draped over her knees. When he hesitated, Djinn finally looked up at him. For the first time since she’d returned to the castle, in fact. And was struck by how tired and desolate he looked. Alarm shot through her, and she stood up, frowning deeply as she closed the distance between them and pulled him to the bench. She sat down where and as she’d been, watching him closely. "You are not well."
"It is that obvious?" He asked, taking his hat off and looking down into its trough. "Hn. And here I thought Nikolai was only teasing me still." John tapped his fingers on the bill of his hat before he placed it on the bench between them, and turned his eyes toward the ceiling. "I have not been sleeping well. The spirits are quite loud here."
"What was left of the entire race died here," she said, "I am not surprised they are disturbed by so many guests."
"It is not only the ghosts that keep me up," he said. The words hung in the air between them, thick and heady in a terrifying way. Djinn looked away from him with growing dread, coiling her tail tight around her legs as if to shield herself for when the weight dropped. “Why can't you see dawn or dusk here?”
“The Veil,” she answered simply, her brow furrowed in confusion. “Why?”
“How many...days, have we been here?”
“Six.” Djinn glanced up thoughtfully. “Seven, in another two hours. Why?”
“So....that's six sunsets we've missed.” She looked round at him sharply, her ears snapping forward. Clearly, she hadn't heard him correctly. She was hearing things. When he looked at her, his eyes held enough sadness that it clung to her, weighing heavy on her chest and clawing at her gut from the inside. “Six sunsets that I have laid awake during, wondering when the sun would dip under the horizon, and I could see it's reflection in your eyes.” A heavy sigh left him, and she could smell the faint aroma on his breath from one of the Mistress's bottles of wine. “Damn. That sounded better in my head.”
“That is often the case when a mortal has had too much to drink,” she said, curling her lip at him. “And why should it matter so much to you to watch the sunset reflected in my eyes, hm?”
“I've never thought the sunset was something beautiful to watch, until the first time I watched you staring in awe of it,” he said, glancing at her with a mournful expression. It didn't falter even under her hard stare, and Djinn felt her heart kick violently in her chest; perhaps he had meant all of this. Perhaps his feelings WERE earnest.
“You...you were only interested in your ancestors,” she said suddenly, awkwardly. John winced, and she felt awash in guilt in an instant. She ground her teeth in barely hidden anguish, balling her hands into fists at her sides. “I am sorry, John. If I led you on...if I made you think there could be....something. But you used me. I cannot let that go.
“Queen Feuriah uses you all the time.
“That is DIFFERENT,” Djinn snapped, surging to her feet and glaring at him. John rose up just as quickly, his blue eyes snapping with life and fire; he wasn't drunk at all. He was sober, and fully prepared to give her a tongue lashing that only a sober and frustrated man could give. As it was, she already felt the sting of the first strike. “The Queen needs me. Her family needs me.”
“What if I need you?”
In the distance, one might have heard the cries of elation as three eggs hatched, almost in unison. One might have heard the Queen sobbing with joy, a young father shouting as if to shake the very mountains surrounding them. A new mother singing to her children.
But in this hallway, it fell on deaf ears. The chorus of joy and new life went unappreciated, as the two stared one each other down, listening only to the sound of their own breathing and the thunderous pounding of their hearts.
“What if I need you, Jinnie?” he said, his voice shaking. Djinn flattened her ears, hoping she wouldn't hear him; but damn him, he was all she could hear. “I do not want you near me to use your powers to my own benefit or settle an old grudge. I do not care to know about how my grandfather died. You are a mammal, and I should not even want you beyond a quick tryst just to see how you might taste or feel on me. But I need to know. And I want to. I do not care about anything, so long as you're here, and I can be yours.
Her whole body shook from the effort it took not to speak; I want you. I need you. I have needed you since I woke up on those islands. Your happiness and affection are all I have ever wanted since I came to be. I need you. But she couldn't. She was needed here. She would always be needed here. After healing herself, she realized how desperately Feuriah needed her around to help The Mistress heal. She should not want John, or need him, or anything from him.
She had to stop this. Kill it before it began. Djinn turned from him, having to wrench her gaze away from his, and shut her eyes tight against the pain that bloomed in her chest. Something snatched her right wrist, pulling her arm taught and making her stumble with the momentum. Broad palms turned her until she was facing him again, and she felt the rough drag of his scales as he wrapped the last third of his tail around her clavicle and pushed against the back of her head.
He was kissing her. John was kissing her.
As best as a snake could, anyway. His attempt was tentative, his mouth obviously not used to the motions. Djinn opened her mouth to suck in a surprised breath and he leaned forward, tongue darting in and stroking against hers. Calloused hands held her to him with one pinning her own hand to his chest and the other around her waist. Heat rose to her hide, and as she watched him a blush rose to his angular cheekbones.
Without warning, all at once, something in her...snapped. The ancient weight that had kept passion and intimacy something alien and foreign from her lifted and released. And she was completely, utterly at it's mercy.
A sound she was not aware she was capable of uttering escaped her, and she tangled herself up in him, pressing back against John with her body and mouth. As something that burned and coiled tighter and tighter, until she was unable to contain it. Then she groaned again, and the snake in her arms let out a small grunt of surprise, fingers grasping and darting in a nervous flutter as he tried to catch up with her. Fingers twisted into Djinn's hair near the base of her skull, pulling her scalp tight enough that it forced a pleased growl from her throat. The release of pent up attraction and longing left them both breathless. When they finally pulled away from one another, it left both of them slightly bruised as well, lips alive with feeling.
“Hm,” Djinn said thoughtfully, licking her chops. John's eyes popped open, pupils flaring even wider as they tracked the motion of her green tongue sliding along her gums and teeth. “Delightful.”
“You're bleeding,” he swore after a pause, and attempted to push her away. “Dammit, this is why snakes don't do this at all.”
“You should try it more often,” she said with a dark, mischievous chuckle, all while refusing to let him out of her grasp. She licked the column of his throat, making him shiver and urging a pleased hum from her. “The poison tastes quite good. And besides that, I can't die from it. There's only one thing that can kill me, and rattlesnake poison is not that one thing.”
“I see,” John said softly. His tail had since unraveled itself from her throat, but now found its way around her waist, and jerked her into his arms again. “I hope it's really as good as you say it is. If I have my way, you will taste it much more frequently.”
“There is much to be discussed about this, but later,” she said, planting a finger gently on the flat front of his muzzle. “First, we should check on Cynder and Pop Thorn's children. Don't you think?”
“Madre de Dios, the eggs!” If a snake could turn pale, John was white as a sheet. Djinn laughed as he untangled himself from around her and turned to stare in the direction of the chamber with an expression that could only be a cross between embarrassment and horror. “How didn't I hear anything from here...?”
“We're good at distracting each other,” she said with a broad grin. “But I'm sure the others will forgive us.”
And they had, just as Djinn predicted. But the look Feuriah gave her, the knowing, smug waggling of her brow ridges told her that she was far from done with this John business yet. Feuriah would drag her kicking and screaming back into the thick of it, if need be.
Truth be told, Djinn wouldn't mind.