Chapter 23

95 19 17

Someone came to stand at the window above him, looking out.

Leithan's heart pounded and he pressed himself against the wall like he wanted to melt in the bricks.

Then, an incredulous, "Leitan?"

His heart burst with relief. Teshin's voice.

Leithan looked up and saw him; pale-skinned with really nice priyon across his chest, collarbone, shoulders and down his arms, shaipi necklace dangling, wind softly blowing in his hair.

He wanted to ask Teshin if he was alone, but realized it was . . . difficult to talk.

"Tijin," Teshin said on amused tones. "What are you doing here?"

. . . Tijin. Hadn't Leithan's father called him that a few times?

"Come in through the back," Teshin said, casting a quick glance to their left, at the celebrating clan.

But now that Leithan was sat curled up on himself against the wall, it was really fucking hard to move away from there.

There was thirst, dizziness, his skin felt cold and sweaty, his heart beat wouldn't stop fluttering, his breathing was uneven, and he felt . . . confused. Unsafe.

What am I even doing here?

His breathing became very fast, for some reason.

"Okay," Teshin said, "stay there. I'm coming."

There was a thump as he closed the window shutter.

Leithan obeyed and didn't move. He wasn't sure he could've, even if he'd wanted to.

Teshin appeared from around the back of the house. He came close and put one knee to the ground. His movements were careful – Leithan thought there was something graceful about him, a stillness about the way he moved.

"What happened to you, aki?" he said with obvious concern.

"I was wondering if," Leithan said, and his own voice sounded odd – faded. "If I could buy some of that . . . that stuff from you again. I'll . . . pay you for it."

He wanted to reach for his wallet, but realized his arms were clasped around his knees, the right arm clutching the left, maybe holding it in place. Trying to move felt like attempting to push through something solid.

Teshin threw a quick glance toward the party again, then back at Leithan. His eyes looked big and dark in the night.

"Let's get you inside," he said finally.

It took some time.

First, Teshin tried to pull him up by holding his left arm. But Leithan, despite himself, uttered a pained moan and Teshin seemed to understand. He used Leithan's right arm instead, clasping it, helping him up to his feet.

As they traversed the short distance to the back door, Leithan leaned heavily on Teshin. His legs felt like they might suddenly decompose at any moment.

Once inside, Teshin helped him to the carpet, next to the stove, where he made him lie down.

Teshin sat beside him, legs folded under himself.

"Can you tell me what happened now?" he asked, gently.

"I got shot," Leithan said. Then, he realized something.

"Right. You don't know what guns are . . ."

"I do know," Teshin said. "It was explained to me."

"Oh," Leithan said. "Okay. Well, the bullet went through, so that's – I was hoping you'd have more of that stuff you gave me last night?"

Leithan closed his eyes momentarily, shuddering against a spasm of pain. When he opened them again, Teshin observed him. He seemed concerned, or conflicted about something.

"Like I said," Leithan panted. "I'll pay you."

But Teshin shook his head. "I don't need payment, aki."

"You can . . . buy stuff with it," Leithan said anyway. "Rengleam stuff. Lamps. A carpet . . . to replace the one I'm bleeding on. Oh, and matches. You can buy . . . so many matches. You love those."

Teshin gave a little laugh.

"I did, in fact, collect a little bit of tuly before I left Mikai's cave, yesterday," Teshin said slowly.

"That's good," Leithan breathed, his vision blurring.

Teshin unfolded his legs, got up, went to his shelves. Leithan closed his eyes. There was some warmth radiating from the stove, and it felt nice.

When Teshin sat with him again, Leithan reopened his eyes with some effort.

Teshin was wearing slim leather gloves, and held a small pouch. From this pouch, he, very carefully, plucked a tiny piece of what looked to be a sickly, yellowish leaf.

"Why the gloves?" Leithan asked.

"I'll tell you after," Teshin said softly. "Open your mouth."

Leithan did as he was told, and Teshin let the piece of leaf – the tuly – fall inside. Leithan closed his mouth again.

It wasn't long before he felt tingles on his tongue, and then, it was numb.

"Tuly is very capricious," Teshin explained, taking off his gloves. "Its active ingredient starts dissolving as soon as it comes into contact with skin."

Leithan listened to him, but then his attention pivoted, inward.

His shoulder – something was happening.

He didn't understand it, had never felt anything like it before. The tingles and prickles there were just so . . . brutal!

"I've never witnessed someone being awake for this," Teshin confessed, sounding intrigued. "Would you be able to tell me how it feels?"

He realized his tongue wasn't numb anymore. It hadn't lasted long, maybe thirty seconds.

"Um," Leithan said, shakily. "It's like . . . a thousand needles in my shoulder. It hurts but also . . . fuck, it also . . . itches."

The word came out as he felt it, and his right hand reflexively reached over, to scratch—

Teshin pinned both Leithan's arms down.

"Don't," he said, firmly.

"It's hard not to," Leithan panted. "It's so . . . fucked up."

His shoulder was home to hundreds of agitated little insects. Freaked out, he yelped and thrashed, he couldn't help it, but Teshin held on strong.

"Aki, I need you to focus. It'll be over soon. Breathe. Look at me," he said.

And that, more than the rest, helped.

His pupils were not dilated like last night, so the amber irises seemed vast and rich as he loomed over him. Leithan focused on that, tried to be still, to breathe. The fang pendant dangled and brushed Leithan's chest.

Relief flooded him when, a few seconds later, the tingles and prickles and insect-like sensations abated.

One last spasm rattled him as Teshin held him down, and then . . . it was over.

Just like that. 

Son of No CityRead this story for FREE!