This is Issue #121 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘A Beginning’ and read from there, if you need to catch up.
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“Why do you delay?” Lucida wondered, standing at the balcony, looking out over the expansive gardens from on high. Guests wandered far below amidst the trailing lights. The lights glowed inside the labyrinthine hedges that whorled through the gardens. She looked back over her shoulder. “We have finally done as Immanis declared. We are wed. You are mine, and I am yours,” she said, her dark eyes curious. “Caro, you remember what Gemma said.”
“I am not ready,” Jet said to her. He, too, stood at the balcony, looking out over the gardens, his eyes unfocused, thinking of things far beyond then and there.
Lucida sighed, rolling her eyes, and continued pacing about the chambers, exploring all of what had been left out for them both. Gifts of cloth, of spices, jewels. She began to fuss with a container of aetheris resin and a magnificent, delicate huqqa. She ignored Jet for a bit, and let him dream, and had herself a smoke, blowing silverblue rings from her full lips, until she felt the muzzy sweetness she’d been hoping for.
Jet was still at the balcony, hands on the railing, and he watched the sky, as though it might tell him something. He turned to look at her, after a moment, as though able to tell she was looking at him. He untied the mask he’d been wearing, and took it off his painted face. The ferocious snarl of the Guardian unnerved nearly everyone… except her.
“You love me,” Lucida whispered, stalking toward him, bare feet, one after another, the trail of her wedding gown still leaving streaks of blood over the floor. She reached up and put both hands on his face, one on either cheek, and leaned into him, arching up to press her mouth to his. The kiss was long and slow, and Jet accepted it calmly; when it was finished, Lucida did it again. She kissed him, until his arms began to tighten around her, and then she finally pulled back, and looked pleased with herself. Her dark eyes shone, and she leaned up to kiss him yet again, but there was a knock at the door, and he carefully pulled back, gently rebuffing her advance.
Jet nodded, and his voice was low as he answered. “You’re right. I do.”
“Whoever that is,” Lucida hissed, “I shall skin them alive. Who would dare to interrupt–”
Jet laid a finger to Lucida’s lips, silencing her. “I love you, Lucymeabella,” he promised. “And that is why I have made certain to get you a wedding gift I knew you would truly enjoy.”
“I thought the huqqa was from you,” she said wryly, rolling her eyes.
“No, this is better,” Jet promised. “Come in!”
“You and I are supposed to–” Lucida looked exasperated as she turned toward the door. Her expression blossomed suddenly, however, when the door opened, revealing Secta and Gemma.
Gemma’s expression lit up, as well, and she ran through the door and threw her arms around Lucida, kissing her face, kissing her all over. “Meameamealucida,” she purred. She held the Princess close, and pressed her cheek to Lucida’s.
Lucida melted into Gemma’s embrace, laughing delightedly. They swung around together, briefly.
Secta’s face bore a look of joy, to see Lucida and Gemma so united, while Jet’s face wore both hope and wonder, watching Secta’s.
She turned to smile at Jet, and withdrew from Gemma’s arms only long enough to kiss Jet’s mouth suddenly, and then return to her lover. “Thank you,” she laughed. “You, caro, you are… perfect.”
Jet smiled even wider, saying, “I love you, Lucida. I do. And you are my wife. But it is Gemma who will give you the wedding night you deserve.”
“And what will you be doing?” Lucida wondered, quirking a brow.
Jet laughed, shaking his head. “Go. Concern yourself with your one true love, yes?” he whispered, touching her face, squeezing Gemma’s hand. “Enjoy.”
Secta let them both out, and Gemma’s face was a beatific smile as she locked the door behind them.
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“Tell me, my Lord,” Secta said, trying to keep his expression neutral, rather than knowing. “Where will you go, now?”
Jet looked tired, smiling sadly as he said, “My rooms, Secta. I have need of another bath. I am perfumed and painted more than I wish to be. I–”
Secta kept his eyes on Jet, kept watch of him, and echoed his master’s smile. He laid a hand on Jet’s arm as he interrupted gently, asking, “Will you remain there for the duration of th–”
“In the morning, in the small hours,” Jet sighed, looking down at where Secta’s hand touched the sleeve of the robes in which he’d recently been married. “I’ll need to go back to the wedding suites, and send Gemma away.”
I’m married now. I have a wife.
Jet’s expression was somewhere between confused and curious.
The young servant smiled up at his master, ever helpful. “Allow me to take care of that,” Secta offered. “Gemma belongs to the Princess, as I belong to you. We should be the only ones waiting on you — therefore, if Gemma comes or goes at any hour, it should not be of any import. If no one sees you come or go, they will imagine you are there, with the Princess, when you are in fact…” Secta let the sentence hang, watching Jet with curious eyes.
“…not,” is all Jet finished with, his voice without inflection. He nodded to Secta, dismissing him quietly, and walked quickly to his suites, where he washed and redressed in a manner of minutes, and then spent another thirty combing paint from his hair.
When he was finished, he dressed in long white braccae, and put a white hooded robe about his shoulders, then stepped from his rooms out into the hallway, bare feet padding on cool marble tile. The gold of his eyes shone from beneath the hood, but he kept them looking at the floor while he made his way from his own rooms, to the Prince’s suite.
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