Kyrian of Thrace
A Dark-Hunter one-shot. Takes place between Chapters 17 and 18 in Sherrilyn Kenyon's "Night Pleasures."
There were some days Kyrian of Thrace hated having a psychic fiancee.
It had begun innocently enough: a light tickle in his throat, a runny nose. At first he didn't even notice it. He'd been spending a few nights a week helping Acheron and Talon keep the Daimon presence under control until his replacement could arrive - whoever it was - and every day with Amanda planning the wedding, walking all over New Orleans, and replacing some of the things she'd lost in the fire.
He'd been tired, sure. A little run down. Not sleeping enough, erratic eating schedule. But he hadn't really noticed because he was 24/7 overwhelmed with happiness, heart practically bursting with joy and disbelief that he had his soul back after more than two thousand years, was free of his service to Artemis, and could spend the rest of his life with Amanda.
His human life.
That morning, he'd awoken to find Amanda already out of bed and dressed, brushing his blond hair away from his face to place a cool kiss at his temple. "Going shopping with Grace and Selena," she'd murmured, straightening. "Take the day to rest. You're going to need it."
He'd sniffled a little, quirking an eyebrow at her with a lecherous smile, groin tightening, thinking she meant she'd wear him out tonight. But she'd simply laughed at his expression and said, "No, babe. You won't be in any shape for that. Trust me." Then she'd left, skipping lightly down the stairs.
He'd frowned, hating when she did that. It reminded him too much of Ash - Acheron - the enigmatic leader of the Dark-Hunters. Ash stood 6'8 and looked like a 21-year-old goth kid, complete with long black hair streaked with red, black leather pants, studded belts, chains, and facial piercings. But Ash was in fact over eleven thousand years old with all kinds of freaky powers and a habit of saying cryptic things then refusing to answer any questions about them. Amanda's powers were growing stronger every day, and she'd been working with some of her family members to fine tune them.
Times like this he really hated that he'd relinquished his ability to read her thoughts when she'd asked him to.
Most of his Dark-Hunter powers were still fairly intact even though he was no longer bound to Artemis, so he still had strong telepathy. Once that power is given by the gods, it can't be taken back. But he was mortal now, like Amanda, and had to be more careful when he went out hunting Daimons: he didn't heal as quickly from injuries, and could get tired and sore much more easily. Oh, and he could die from more than sunlight or beheading.
His throat ached a bit as he swallowed. But he quickly dismissed it.
After Amanda left, he'd rolled over and stretched, feeling a slight ache in his joints. He must have slept too long, needed to get up and move around to loosen the stiffness in his limbs. Glancing at the clock, he was surprised to see that it was after 10. He was trying not to sleep this late anymore, trying to get used to living in the daylight hours with Amanda. Nearly four months after becoming human, though, it was still a novelty for him to be awake and outside at this time.
For over two thousand years, he'd feared the sun, avoiding its deadly rays. Then Amanda had given him back his soul. He could still remember that first morning after they'd defeated Desiderius, anxiety clenching his stomach as he'd stepped outside into the daylight for the first time in centuries. The feeling of the sunshine on his skin had been incredible. The warmth, the tingly early breeze. His heart pounding, he'd looked up at the light blue sky and seen the white clouds.
He'd scooped Amanda up in his arms and held her close, whispering, "All hail Apollo." And she'd smiled as she'd hugged him, replying, "No. All hail Aphrodite."
A slow, wide smile broke across his face at the memory. Swinging his legs off the bed, he moved about in a daze as he showered and dressed, light-headed from thinking about his fiancee - soon to be his wife - and punch-drunk on happiness and love.
Man, he was whipped.
The steam from the shower banished the slight congestion and opened his tight throat, further evidence that Kyrian just needed to move around a bit to get back to normal. He ran a comb through his wet hair, the water having darkened it from medium golden-blond to dark bronze, still unable to get over the sight of his vivid green-hazel eyes. Since he'd died in 147 B.C., his eyes had been Dark-Hunter black, pupils wider to give him excellent night vision for hunting Daimons. Daimons were a kind of vampire, turned Apollites who sucked the souls of humans to prolong their life. Apollo had cursed the children he'd made - the Apollites - when they'd killed his mistress and son, damning them to never walk in daylight, and to die a painful death at 27 years of age. To escape that death, many Apollites turned Daimon, draining blood from humans until they died and then sucking out their soul.
As a Dark-Hunter, his job had been to kill these Daimons who devoured human souls, for once a Daimon was staked the trapped soul was released.
And now...? He had no job. He was unfathomably wealthy, living on the interest of the money he'd made as a Macedonian general, so - to put it bluntly - he and Amanda were set for life. He'd never even kept the pay Artemis allotted all Dark-Hunters, donating every cent to charity.
And that left his days pretty empty when Amanda wasn't around. He had relished the freedom over the last few months to go out and about New Orleans with her, exploring parts of the city he'd never enjoyed at night: museums, art galleries, and the zoo. They were making plans to travel all over the world, visiting things he'd never thought he'd see in the light of day: white sand beaches, the pyramids of Egypt, the canals of Venice...
But right now she was having lunch with Selena and Grace. So he needed to find something to do.
He contemplated taking a drive in one of his cars - another newfound delight, to take his expensive sports cars out and drive them in the warm sun - but didn't really feel like it. He could always go for a run, but after the chase a group of Daimons had led he and Talon on last night he was kind of run out. He'd even started doing the yard work around the massive mansion himself, keeping his landscapers on payroll but hardly ever having them come do any work. But the idea of dragging all the tools out of the garage sounded exhausting. He could call up Nick Gautier - his former Squire - but wasn't really in the mood for the Cajun's biting sarcasm.
Heading downstairs, he flopped his 6'5'' frame down on his massive black leather sofa and turned on the big screen TV. He would take a day off. Several games were on and surely he could kill a few hours before Amanda would be home and he could get a head start on tonight...
If she didn't think he'd be in any shape for making love to her, she had another think coming. There wasn't any condition short of dead that could keep his hands from roaming over her soft, lush body, that could make him not want to sink himself into her tight, wet heat...
He closed his eyes and sighed, his jeans suddenly painfully tight, allowing her to fill his mind with delicious, wicked thoughts...
An hour later, he blinked his eyes open, staring blearily at the clock. Had he fallen asleep again? Man, he must be more tired than he thought. Even though it was almost noon, he wasn't really hungry. A raging thirst burned his throat, and a strange heaviness had settled in his head. Pushing to his feet, he crossed to the kitchen to pour himself a glass of iced tea. He was so thirsty he left the refrigerator door open as he gulped it down, pouring a second glass and downing it almost as fast. The third glass he decided to take back to the couch, wanting to catch up on what he'd missed in the game.
Halfway there, though, a strange sensation began between his eyes. It tingled... prickling ominously... and slowly built into a buzzing burn. Stopping mid-stride, his expression dropped open in helpless expectation, his eyelids sinking to half mast as his breath hitched.
"Hahh!... aih-hh-hhhHH!... heh-kgtTSCH'iu!" A powerful sneeze ripped through his sinuses, jack-knifing his body and causing him to spill his tea. Cursing, he got paper towels to mop up the mess, sniffling back the sudden flood of moisture that had filled his nasal passages. Pulling another sheet from the roll, he wrapped the rough paper around his nose and gave a hearty blow, startled when a stream of congestion tumbled out into the makeshift tissue.
Tossing the tea-and-snot-soaked pile in the trash can, he ran stiff fingers through his hair with a sigh and headed back to the couch, dismissing the incident and focusing on checking the scores.
Another hour later, the paper towel roll was sitting on the black, coffin-shaped coffee table in front of him, four crumpled-up balls lying nearby. The coffee table was something Nick had picked up at a goth furniture store and thought was hilarious. As his Squire, Nick had gotten him a lot of weird little vampire trinkets over the years, getting a real kick out of the fact that his bad-assed boss hunted the fanged things that went bump in the night.
Currently, though, said ex-Dark-Hunter bad-ass was slumped on the couch, nose red and chapped, one watery eye closed and the other half-open, chin drooping and nostrils flaring in a desperately comical sneezy expression, a fresh sheet of paper towel held loosely in one hand. Clearly struggling, he huffed and choked through a long, torturous build-up:
"ihkk... higk... ihh... hhhihhh!!... higk'YEIIiiSSH'iu!" his face snapped down, spraying the uncovered sneeze all over himself and the couch cushions, only bringing the paper up afterward to give a fierce, gurgling blow, followed by a few dry coughs. His throat had begun to hurt in earnest - the product of the scraping sneezes, he told himself - and he was growing more irritable and tired by the minute. A headache was beginning to squeeze his temples in its vice, his good mood gone out the door.
He was going to chew Rosa out but good for letting the house get so dusty; there was no other explanation for why he was sneezing so much.
Another tickle wormed its way through his nasal passages, and he groaned, eyes squeezing closed and scrubbing the offending organ with the balled-up paper towel, trying in vain to alleviate the itch. His throat took up the tickle, causing him to cough some more and reach for the sixth glass of tea on the coffin-table. It was the last of the batch Amanda had made last night before they went to bed, and after this the choices were orange juice, water, or beer.
Come to think of it, he could really use a beer.
Some small voice in his head told him he should opt for the orange juice, but drinking orange juice would be strange since he wasn't sick, hadn't been sick in over two thousand years.
The light tickle ballooned into fierce need, and his head reared back into the leather cushions, upper lip curled in an irritated sneer. If he'd still been a Dark-Hunter, it would have exposed his fangs. "Hgk'YIihhTSCH'u!..." Momentary relief washed over him before another urge seized him. "hhhh...hk-XG'shHu!... ahh-kgg'YIIsHSHu!!" Some of the congestion in his head had been knocked loose by that wracking triple, and a steady drip of fluid was working its way dangerously close to the delicate ends of his nostrils. He snarled as he reluctantly reached for another rough paper sheet.
Most Dark-Hunters didn't get sick, unless some special contingency allowed it. Cin, for example, and Ravyn both could get colds, but that was due to their specific heritages. As a fallen god stripped of his powers, Cin was more human than not, and had come down with colds and the flu on several occasions. Ravyn was an Arcadian Were-Hunter-turned-Dark-Hunter, and retained the genetic inheritances of his cat form, including the ability to get colds and cancer. (Not that Ravyn had ever had cancer.) But as far as Kyrian knew, Talon had never been sick, and neither had Acheron.
But you're not a Dark-Hunter anymore, a small voice whispered in his mind.
Shut up, he told it, and went back to watching the game.
After another two hours, he was flat-out miserable, coughing and sneezing, throat raw, congested and achy. He dragged himself into his office to get his cell phone from his desk, wanting to call Amanda to find out what was taking her so long to come home. Surely five hours was long enough for a shopping trip. He wanted to feel her smaller hands on him, her soft palms stroking his lean, hard muscles and chasing away the aches. Needed to feel her warm arms around him, pull her body close and bury his face in her hair.
Get a hold of yourself, Hunter, he scowled. What was he, a child? Some sniveling little boy needing some sort of coddling for a case of the sneezes? Clearing his throat as he dialed, he took a deep breath and tried to pull himself together. After all, as a Macedonian general he'd faced a Roman legion with nothing but a sword in his hands, had defeated the Spathi Daimon Desiderius and kept Amanda safe. Even if it was a slight cold, it wasn't anything he couldn't handle.
"Hey baby," Amanda's voice came through the phone and he closed his eyes, heart melting to hear the lilting cadence of her sweet Southern drawl. Gods, he loved this woman. "What's up?"
Trying hard to keep the congestion out of his voice, he replied, "Nothing much. Just checking to see how you're doing." And when you're coming home.
"Oh, what time is it?... We ran into Sunshine and we're at Runningwolf's having a few drinks. Sorry I didn't call you earlier - I sort of lost track of the time. Don't worry, though, I'll be home for dinner."
"Okay," he replied, heart sinking to hear it. He wasn't about to let on, though, didn't want to admit that he was starting to feel like crap and wanted to have her home. Saying it out loud would make it true, and his ego just wouldn't let him do it. All you have to do is tell her, that small voice piped up again. Tell her you need her and she'll be home in a heartbeat. No, he resolved, lifting his chin. He didn't need her to come home. He'd been monopolizing her for the past few months and knew how important it was that she spend some time with her friends. Swallowing the fire in his throat, he said, "You girls have fun. Call Nick if you have more than a beer - I don't want you driving if you do. And I'll see you when you get home."
She didn't ask him why he said to call Nick instead of him to come get her if she needed. Didn't seem to notice that his voice was a little raspy and hoarse.
"I will. Love you, baby. See you soon!" And she hung up.
He closed his eyes and willed his chest to stop aching. He didn't need her running home to babysit him. After all, he wasn't sick.
Dropping the phone on the table, he flopped back onto the couch with a frustrated grunt, sniffling hard as the congestion began to accumulate. Another light tickle was teasing the very back of his sinuses, but it was going to be a few more minutes before it manifested itself into a sneeze. Until then, it would wax and wane, nettling and pestering him until he was thoroughly frustrated, welcoming the release when it finally came.
Staring at the ceiling, he listened to the low sounds of the television, the louder tick of the clock as it burned the seconds between now and when Amanda would walk through the door. He coughed again, wincing as the spasms tugged at his raw throat. The tickle was building, teasing and coaxing him into a sneeze. He tried to watch the game, but his eyes were watering and he couldn't seem to make out the score.
"ah!... uh-ih!... Ugh. Hik... huh'HUH!!….hx'NGGgSCH'u!"
He growled, and got up for a glass of orange juice.
Amanda stood next to the couch with a soft smile on her face. Her fierce Macedonian general lay sprawled in front of her, wadded-up balls dotting the expanse of black - black leather couch, black jeans, and black t-shirt - like a field of white dandelions. His normally tan face was pale, two splotches of color high on his cheeks. The delicate skin around his nostrils was rimmed with savage red, light snores rattling from his congested sinuses. His mauve lips were open so he could breathe, his golden hair tangled and disheveled by sleep.
It was the same scene she'd seen as a vision in her dreams.
As much as she'd wanted to stay at home today - knowing he would be coming down with his first cold in over two thousand years - she knew Kyrian. Knew the warrior in him would have to experience every second of struggle, to fight the battle tooth and nail and then succumb in slow, agonizing defeat alone for hours with no distractions before he would admit he didn't feel well. Knew if she'd stayed and hovered he would have hidden every symptom - smothered every cough, stifled every sneeze - spent precious energy on the facade rather than simply allowing himself to lie down and be sick. It was what he was used to: the product of his service to Artemis. A Dark-Hunter never allowed anyone see him for what he really was, always slinking off alone to lick his wounds until they healed, dragging his body out of bed every sunset for another hunt no matter how tired he was, no matter how much he hurt. Any weakness or infirmity was met with staunch denial, whether it be injury, exhaustion, or grief,
Yes, Kyrian was human now. But habits forged over centuries are not easily forgotten.
Kneeling by the couch, she set the shopping bag on the coffee table and reached out to press a hand to his warm cheek. Instinctively he turned toward her palm with a shuddering sigh, releasing tension he probably wasn't aware he'd been holding. After a second, his brow furrowed, dark lashes fluttering, eyelids dragging open to reveal exhausted, bloodshot green eyes.
"Hey," she crooned softly, gracing him with a loving smile. She didn't ask how he was feeling, knew he wasn't quite ready for that.
"Hey," he responded, tone dull and lifeless, before sucking a deep breath and dragging himself upright. She waited patiently as he ran a hand over his face, trying to rub life back into it, pretended not to notice as his corded neck flushed when he saw the scattered evidence of his war: dark lap littered with balled-up, white corpses. Sweeping them up into his large hands, her heart pricked as he struggled to gather the shattered pieces of the mask, to fit in place that collected facade that projected toughness and strength.
And waited for it all to come crashing down.
It didn't take long.
His scarlet nostrils twitched, verdant eyes losing focus for the briefest of seconds before he gave himself a little shake and swallowed. Amanda saw his hands twitch in his lap, as if he wanted desperately to bring them up to rub at his itchy face, but knew that would betray his struggle, his weakness. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but the movement dislodged something and he let slip with one stammer of breath.
Still, he raised a hand, trying for casual, swiping roughly at his nose before passing the gesture off as a yawn. "Kgm," he cleared his throat, but that was the wrong thing to do because he coughed harshly, deep, dry sounds that rattled his chest. She winced. Her ears caught the barely-audible hitch of breath, keen eyes observed the way his lean, powerful body tensed, the way those vibrant green eyes struggled not to flutter shut.
She began to talk about her day, updating him on Julian and Grace and what the babies were doing, trying to give him some cover to surrender to his obvious need with dignity. She even turned a little away to give him some privacy, unpacking the shopping bag and spreading its contents out on the coffee table, keeping watch out of the corner of her eye as he was slowly conquered. Despite his clenched teeth, his breath hitched sharply, once . . . twice . . .
Finally, though, he simply couldn't help it.
Utterly wet and scraping, it dragged forth with exquisite slowness, completely uncovered. Amanda shook her head. They wouldn't have known about germs when he was alive, and the last time he'd been sick he probably would have sneezed exactly as he did now: free and uncovered without thought to the billions of microscopic organisms he'd just coated the couch with. At least he'd turned at the last second to sneeze off to one side so as not to catch Amanda with the crisp spray. Still, she made a mental note to wipe down the whole couch with Clorox before going to bed. She peeled open a box of lotion-rich tissues, pulling out three and pressing them into his open palm.
His bright green eyes snapped up in surprise, as if he'd truly expected her to ignore his predicament, but then his handsome features collapsed again into helpless irritation, one corner of his lip curling at the infernal itch.
"–IkGTSSCHu! . . . Hkx-gSSCHh'ih!"
His head snapped down with a shuddering flinch of his broad shoulders, not bothering to cover. He stayed hunched for a moment or two, his damp nostrils fluttering with near-constant sniffles as he struggled in the aftermath, refusing to disgrace himself further in front of her.
"Kyrian," she murmured gently, touching his wrist lightly and raising his large hand to his face. "Blow."
His face flushed scarlet, brilliant emerald eyes lowering to stare at the floor as he turned as far away from her as he could, shoulders curling in as he unloaded the heavy congestion.
Amanda's keen eyes saw the withering shiver of his shoulders when it was done, could almost feel his palpable relief at the soothing touch of the lotion, the slight lessening of the pressure in his skull. She watched as he bent his golden head to rest his temple against the back cushions of the couch, still turned on his side away from her.
She moved to sit behind him, wrapping one arm around his waist and resting her chin on his shoulder. He leaned back, melting into her embrace with a soft sigh, eyes closed. One of his hands began tracing circles on her arm, and she felt his breathing deepen, his body relax.
"Are you hungry?" she whispered.
He nodded, but didn't move from the shelter of her embrace.
Pressing a soft kiss to his neck, she pulled away and continued to sort through the various items she'd unpacked from the shopping bag: cough drops, Nyquil, three boxes of lotion-enriched tissues, Vicks rub, ginger ale, cans of chicken noodle soup, crackers, chamomile tea bags, and popsicles. Amanda crossed to the kitchen to put the popsicles in the freezer and opened the can of soup, emptying it into a bowl and putting it in the microwave. When it was warm, she brought it back to the coffee table and took up her former position against his back, shifting so her legs were bent up on the couch and giving her more leverage. She pulled his body until both her arms were around his chest, the bowl of soup and a spoon in her hands.
Slowly, she fed him spoonful after spoonful of soup, soothing his early tense protests with soft kisses to his cheek, his neck, light nibbles on his ear. When the bowl was empty, he took it from her hands and placed it on the coffee table, swinging his legs up to rest on the black coffin and leaning back into her arms with a shuddering sigh.
They sat there for almost half an hour, he simply drinking in the soothing presence of the woman who loved him.
Kyrian felt awful. Every swallow was full of shards of glass, his chest burned with coughs, his head thick with congestion. He was alternately too hot, then too cold, the vacillating sweats and chills only fueling the throbbing of his head. His body was sore, no position comfortable.
Leaning back against Amanda's soft body, her arms around him, made everything all right. He was warm, his head hurt less, and he drew strength from her care and love. When he began to cough again, she slid out from behind him and poured him a dose of Nyquil, ready with his glass of tepid orange juice when he hissed at the taste. Snatching up the tissues, Vicks rub, cough drops, and a can of ginger ale, she pulled him to his feet and led him up to their bedroom, stripping him of his clothes and holding open the thick covers for him to slide beneath. He groaned as his aching body sank into the softness of the bed, grateful when she laid her body on top of his when he shivered at the cold sheets. Within moments, he was warm and drifting, barely noticing when she spread the Vicks rub on his chest and opened the can of ginger ale, placing it on the bedside table.
Her hand rested on the crown of his head for a moment before tucking the blankets up to his neck. He felt her brushing his blond hair away from his face to place a cool kiss at his temple, and his lips curved up, remembering this morning. Suddenly, his earlier thoughts came back to him...
If she didn't think he'd be in any shape for making love to her, she had another think coming...
He chuckled to himself, sniffling heavily and coughing into the blankets. Damn. She'd been right. He felt like death warmed over and - no matter how much he wanted her - he just didn't have the strength for it. But she'd known this. Had known exactly what he would need: had fed him warm soup that soothed his aching throat, held him in her loving arms that chased away his chill, massaged the pungent rub into his chest so he could breathe easily enough to sleep.
There were days Kyrian of Thrace loved having a psychic wife.
He snuggled down into the warm blankets, picturing her beautiful face, imagining his hands running down her back, gripping her hips...
He'd have her in the morning.