Chapter 32: A Death in the Family

"I didn't mean to bite you," Keel said sheepishly, from the bed. He'd wiped my blood off of his face with the off-white bed sheet, but somehow that just made the whole scene seem that much more macabre.

I was sitting in the wicker chair by the window in my panties and Keel's oversized hoodie. I didn't care that my blood was seeping into the fabric. He deserved it.

"It's not that you bit me. I let you bite me in the shower," I explained. "It's that you did it like that."

As first times go, it was apparently much more mind-blowing for Keel than for me, and in the heat of the moment, he'd torn a sizeable chunk out of my shoulder. I'd screamed so loud everyone at the motel had likely heard. I hoped no one had called 9-1-1. I had no idea how we'd explain the blood-spattered pillows and mattress to the human authorities.

"I told you I'm sorry. You know I wouldn't, not int–"

"Yeah, I do," I said wearily. I didn't need to hear anymore.

Everything had been perfect until the biting, and that ruined it all in a matter of seconds. It was like the universe refused to let me forget what he was.

Just once, I wanted things between Keel and I not to be completely screwed up.

"So does that mean you're going to stop bleeding on my sweatshirt now?" Keel asked.

"Do I have to?"

"No, but I can't keep buying us clothes either."

He had a point: we had nothing even close to resembling an income. If we were going to try to hold out until Keel's transition became inevitable, we were going to have to start figuring out some of the basics.

I unzipped the hoodie far enough that I could pull it off my shoulder and inspect the wound. It was raw, angry, and still seeping blood – though it looked gnarlier than it actually was. I focused my magic and began to repair it. Healing myself was almost second nature to me now. Like my shield and my fire, it was one of my strongest magics.

"Watching you do that never gets any less amazing," Keel said, as the heat began to dispel from the area around my mended flesh. There was awe and love in his eyes – and a terrible guilt. I stood no chance against it. I felt my angry resolve crumble away like so much dust.

I got up, crossed to the bed, shed off the hoodie, crawled back under the covers, and curled up beside him, Keel's skin warm against my own. He wrapped his arms around me and we talked without words for a while, using feelings and pictures and the psychic link of the bond instead. On that level, there was only honesty. Zero chance of miscommunication.

But when Keel's fingers began to trace a path along one of the scars on my stomach, it still took everything in my power not to recoil from his touch. Now that we were beyond urgent, feverish groping, I felt strangely self-conscious about my Frankenstein skin.

Keel's hand stopped moving, but it didn't retreat.

"They're not grotesque," he said. The bond kept no secrets.

"According to the guy at the gas station, they are."

"Well, he's an idiot," Keel said, dismissively.

"No, he's human."

"One more reason humans are inferior."

I frowned at him.

"Mills, you might not believe this, but these are beautiful." Keel's fingers started roaming again, leaping from scar to scar, until they reached my newly healed shoulder. "Each one is evidence of your strength, your will. You took on my father over and over again, and you lived to tell about it. I don't know who else can say that."

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