The other night, Dear, while I was sleeping
I dreamt I held you in my arms
But when I woke, Dear, I was mistaken
I hung my head and I cried
I ran to Dirg’s stuff and hid in a bush, hiding from anyone but him. My heart throbbed painfully in my chest as the minutes ticked by. He came soon, and I ran out and hugged him, breathing hard. He put his hand on my head.
“So you are not totally fine,” he stated.
“I- I guess not.”
“It’s okay. It will probably take longer for you to be comfortable alone. We will stay here until dark. Let go of me.”
I did as told and stepped back, blushing. He sat Indian style next to his things with his sword lying bare next to him and pointed in front of his lap. I sat, and he played with my hair for a while.
Eventually, he said, “I can’t get last night out of my head.”
He brushed the hair off of my neck and grabbed the back of it gently.
“The dance off.”
I remembered my embarrassment and felt heat crawl up my neck.
I tried to defend my actions. “I couldn’t let him win.”
He chuckled. “I know. Thank you.”
I froze. He just thanked me. He never thanked me. “I was just doing my job.”
He went back to playing with my hair. “Yes, but you didn’t have to try that hard. You could have quit when it got embarrassing.”
“I don’t quit.”
“You did once, but I had to push you to an extreme for that.”
I tried to remember what he was talking about. It took a few minutes before I realized he was talking about converting me. I nodded and silence reigned once more.
His hands stilled and left my hair.
“Face me, Sunshine.”
I did as told and turned to him, sitting on my heels with my knees together. He studied me for quite some time, his deep eyes not telling me much of what he was thinking.
Finally, he spoke. “Sunshine, I can get you a house and a job anywhere you would like to go. Be it Tulsa, Washington DC, Tokyo, New York City, London, anywhere. I could give you the life you dreamed about back in the orphanage.”
I tilted my head, confused. I opened my mouth to speak, but he made a gesture for silence.
“Or, you can stay with me. If you do choose to stay with me, things will have to change out of necessity. King Zinx and I talked about this while you were out. Since you are a pureline darky, even though it is only half, I cannot in good conscience keep you as my pet.”
A sense of foreboding gripped me and fear started to claw its way up from my stomach.
“I can even bring you to your father, if you wish.” He reached for me and put his hand on my face. “Things cannot continue as they are, Lucille.”
He only used my name to punish me, so that alone fed the fear within me. I tried to swallow it and keep his gaze.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because you are a pureline dark light and I am no longer betrothed.”
My jaw dropped open. “What? Why?”
“I used my favor with Mira because of what she said and what happened last night. We are not betrothed and she will bring no complaint against me, or else I will...” He trailed off, his eyes darkening as he envisioned whatever horrible act he had planned for her.
“So, you’re a bachelor?”
“Yes, and I will be until my mother finds me a suitable wife with mostly black wings.”
“Why does this mean that I cannot be your pet? I mean, me being a dark light did not deter you a week ago.”
“Yes, but you are a pureline, doubly so. I’ve been thinking long and hard on this, and I have concluded that the best thing would be for you to go back to being a human or killing you. I will not kill you, so I give you the choice. Be a human, live out your life in obscurity where no one hates you, no one fears you, and no one beats you. Or stay with me as my bodyguard, where everyone will soon know of what you are, what you can do, and will hate you more than they do me. Once the lightsies learn of you, which shouldn’t be too soon, they will demand either your head or your allegiance.”
“Why? Why is killing me such a large option? Why am I scary or an inspiration of hatred? I’m nothing. I was nothing when you claimed me, and the only thing I have ever done right was as your pet. All I am is your pet, Dirg.”
He sighed and rubbed his temples. “The last dark light had a darky father and leaned more towards the darkness, as you do the light. No one knows how, but he ended up nearly wiping out the lightsies. And, Sunshine, he was about a third human. You aren’t even a drop human.”
I played with some grass in front of my knees and thought this through as rationally as I could. Dirg wanted to get rid of me. He thought I was dangerous and out to kill the darkies.
“So, if I am no longer your pet, I can’t hold onto the name Sunshine?”
He sounded slightly relieved. “No, you can’t. If you wanted to use it as a nickname in your human life that would be up to you.”
“What do you want me to choose?” I asked, looking up hopefully into his eyes.
His face remained guarded and rather stoic. “I want you to choose without my influence. Human, bodyguard, or lightsy.”
I looked back down and felt a tear start to form at the edge of my eye. He no longer wanted me. Even in a human life, what would I do? He said he could get me a house and a job, but what about friends?
“You brag about bending my will to yours.” I whispered, half wanting him to hear it. “And then you want to throw me away without it.”
“It won’t be immediate. I still have to help you control your gift, and in the mean time I can give you your will back.”
I snorted. “What if I don’t want it back?”
“Then be my bodyguard. Swear fealty to me.”
“And things will continue as they are?”
“I cannot promise that. In fact, I am sure they will change, for better or worse, I do not know.”
I pulled up a long piece of grass, and he grabbed my hand, stilling it. I looked up into his eyes and saw a deep longing there before he covered it. I weighed my options, but the thought of leaving him scared me to death.
“I don’t think I am in the right frame of mind to even think of leaving you right now.” I said. “Can I have time to think on this?”
“Yes. We have a long flight to the desert. I want your decision by then.”
I nodded. It was dusk, and I couldn’t see very well. His face was blurry and undefined.
“Is dusk as blinding to you as it is to me?” I asked.
I was pretty sure he grinned, but I couldn’t tell.
“What, you mean you can’t see?”
“Not very well.”
“There’s still light.”
“Not enough, and not enough darkness either.”
He hummed a little. “Explode something tiny.”
I made a tiny one and exploded it in my palm. It did not make a dent in the dusk with either light or dark.
“So, your weakness is half-light. Good to know.”
I frowned and made a bigger one, this one the size of a marble. I threw it a foot away and exploded it. There was a loud pop, but nothing happened.
Dirg squeezed my hand, since he was still holding it. “I told you not to explode any unless I told you to.”
I flinched. “Right. I’m sorry, I forgot.”
He slapped my face but not very hard.
“Don’t forget again,” he growled.
I nodded and took my hand from his. “If I am no longer your pet, will you still hit me?”
I couldn’t see him at all because of the dusk, but he chuckled.
“No, I will not. Once you decide, I will treat you as I do any of the kind you wish to be. As a human, I will ignore you. As my bodyguard, when I don’t like what you do, I will come up with other punishments. As a lightsy... we probably will not see each other.”
There was silence for longer as I thought about that. To never be seen by him or even for him to ignore me both sounded painful. Maybe it was a pain I could get rid of.
He muttered so low that I almost didn’t hear him. “Oh, the things I can do to you right now.”
I gulped, imagining that leer he sometimes beheld me with. He said that he couldn’t stop thinking about my dancing, and that was some pretty provocative dancing. I shivered and backed up, hopefully conveying to him my discomfort at his statement. He moved, and I had trouble keeping track of him.
He grabbed my hand and put it on his shoulder. “Touch my spine.”
“Because I’m going to summon my wings, and it feels funny.”
I slid my hand down to between his shoulder blades and gasped as his back rippled and writhed under my hand. A bone came out on either side of my hand, and his skin seemed to stretch under it. After a minute or two, it stopped and I could vaguely see two giant black blobs in front of me.
All I could say was, “Wow.”
I could hear his smile. “It is a shame that you did not get your wings at a young age, as most darkies and lightsies do. I bet they are beautiful.”
“Do you think they are black or gold?”
“Some combination of both, I assume.”
I scrunched up my nose. “Like some patchwork quilt?”
He chuckled. “Probably more elegant than that. Can you see yet?”
“Sort of. You are a very large black blob.”
“We will be off when you can see.”
I nodded and ran my hands down his feathers, feeling the silky smoothness. He turned to face me again and ran the knuckle of a finger from my temple to my throat. As my vision cleared, I realized that he was not wearing a shirt. I sucked in a breath and looked away. He grabbed my chin and made me look at him and all his muscular glory.
“Am I attractive?” He asked
I just sat there, shocked, trying very hard to keep my eyes on his face. “Why- why would you even ask that?”
He smirked. “Because I want to know. I might as well ask while you are my pet and I can make you do anything.”
“Not anything.” I said stubbornly, tilting my chin up.
“Of course not. Answer me.”
“Are you kidding me? You’re smoking hot, and you know it!”
My eyes widened as I realized that I said that out loud. His smirk grew to a grin. “On a scale of one to ten, one being butt ugly and ten being the handsomest in the universe, what am I?”
I was blushing so hard it felt like my cheeks were on fire.
“I can see.” I stood. “Let’s go.”
He stood and put a hand on my shoulder. “C’mon Sunshine. It’s not that bad.”
“Okay, you’re at least an eight. Can you please put a shirt on?”
He shrugged and went to the stuff, putting on a long sleeved shirt. I inwardly sighed with relief. He tossed me the pack that contained our things and I shouldered it before getting on his back. He flew for a long time, but I had no idea how long because I fell asleep.
“Imagine an explosion the size of a city.” He said.
I blanched. “But-”
“Now, Sunshine.” He growled
I sighed and closed my eyes, imagining an explosion the size of a city. I felt warmth in my hands and opened my eyes to a bowling ball sized explosive. He took it from me, and I made sure that it would definitely not explode. Ever.
He looked through it and then dropped it.
“What are you doing!” I yelled.
He crossed his arms. “Get rid of it.”
I started to reach down, but he grabbed my hair, keeping me up.
“Don’t touch it.”
I was shocked, again. “I need to touch it for it to melt.”
I imagined it gone and it started melting and flowing to my legs. It flowed up my shoe and went into my skin at my ankle.
He nodded. “Make an explosive the size of your fist and put it on the ground.”
I did as he said, and he grabbed my arm and ran. Once we were a good distance away he asked me if we were safe. I nodded, so he grinned and told me to dissolve it. I did, but then he said to explode it. I did as told, and sand reached to the sky in an explosion of light.
At night my explosions were light. In the day, they were of darkness. The light set things on fire. The dark set them on ice. Dirg called me bipolar, and I found it hilariously ironic that he used that specific word. He made me do several odd things, testing my control, range, and creativity. He had yet to ask for my decision, and that was fine with me. After a while, he had me stop and smirked in front of me.
“Slap me,” he repeated.
He slapped me across the face lightly. “Do that to me.”
I frowned at him. “Why?”
He did it on the other side of my face. “Slap me, Lucille.”
I slapped him across the face.
“Harder,” he growled.
I slapped him on the other side, harder.
“What is this for?” I demanded.
“Punch me in the gut.”
I stepped back and crossed my arms. “No.”
He nodded. “Yes.”
“Lucille,” his tone had a warning in it.
He stalked towards me and grabbed my neck. “Punch me.”
“Because I broke your ribs and gave you a concussion.”
I sighed and punched him. He let go and staggered back. He straightened with a grimace.
“Kick me right here.” He tapped between his legs. I felt my eyes widen and I shook my head.
“How many times do I have to hurt you before you hurt me?” He yelled.
“I’m not going to hurt you!” I yelled back
“Why not?” He asked quietly.
His sudden switch for commanding tone to soft confused me. “You’re- I mean- you’re my master.”
“Not anymore. I am the man that kidnapped you.”
“No, you claimed me,” I said, confused.
He switched again, “I kidnapped you! Kick me!”
He came close. Way too close. I backed up in fear, but he kept pace with me, towering over me and glowering at me.
“I torture you. I have seen you half naked. I lust for you. Kick me.”
“You feed me. That was an accident. You haven’t done anything. No.”
He put both hands on my face. “What makes you think I won’t?”
My heart jumped and adrenaline pumped into my system.
“Don’t,” I whispered, pleading with my voice and my eyes.
“Why? You are mine. Your body, from the tips of your hair to your toenails, is mine. I’m not betrothed. I can take full advantage of that.”
I shivered and tried to step away, but he held me firmly. I reached up and plucked a tiny feather, putting it in front of his eyes again. He snatched it away and kissed me on the lips. I yelped into his mouth as his lips pulled mine apart.
I kneed him, hard. He jerked back and cussed, doubling over.
“Again,” he groaned.
I could feel myself shaking. “No, Dirg. Stop it.”
He grinned up at me and straightened once more. “Make me.”
He jumped at me, and I turned and ran. He grabbed me and twisted me around, crushing my lips against his again. I screamed but he just ran his hands along my back sensually.
I kicked him again. He groaned but kept on, so I had to do more. I had to use every defensive technique in the book. That still didn’t do much to make him stop, so I exploded a small light near him. He finally disconnected and staggered back, holding his slightly burnt face.
He grinned and went to his knees in pain. “Do that again.”
“Because I will have you if you do not. You want to hurt me, Lucy.”
I flicked an explosive next to him, and he flinched away.
“No, I don’t.”
He stood and had that look about him. He wasn’t going to lose. It was either I beat him or he did as he said he would.
I tried to plead with him. “Dirg, please. You are not in your right mind.”
His smirk widened as he came closer. “Oh yes I am. Choose Lucy.”
I backed up, keeping at least two feet between us. “Choose what?”
“Whether you want what I want or you want what you want.”
Then it dawned on me. In his own twisted, darky way, he was trying to give me my will back. He knew I was trying to save myself for marriage. He knew that my biggest fear was rape. I assumed he knew me better than I knew myself. I knew that he wasn’t making this up. He actually wanted to bed me. I could see it in his eyes. He wanted me to choose, and either way he would get what he wanted. One way, he would have my body. The other, I would have my will.
He stopped and stood there. I put ten feet between us and thought about it. The choice should have been easy. I didn’t want to have sex. I should choose to defend myself. But… he wanted to have it. He ignored the feather thing. He kissed me. I could feel a longing for him.
He gestured. “Come here, Sunshine. Lie with me.”
I took a step towards him. He called me Sunshine. I wanted his acceptance, but to get it I had to give away the most precious thing I had. He had taken everything else from me; why not give him this one last thing?
I took another step, and his eyes lit with an animal-like hunger.
“That’s it Sunshine. I want your body. We will say that you are my bodyguard, but we will both know that you are really my toy. Come, be with me.”
A tear rolled down my cheek and popped on the ground. I didn’t know. He wanted me, but I didn’t want him, not like this. He had taken everything from me and replaced it all with him. He was a selfish, rotten jerk. If I gave him what he wanted, he wouldn’t treat me the same. He wouldn’t respect me the same. He would own me more than he already did. I could never leave him if I did as he said, but he could be rid of me easily.
I mustered all of my courage and opened my mouth. No words came out. He walked to me and I remained frozen in place. He put his hand on the side of my face, looking deep into my eyes with that pre-storm warning in his eyes.
“If you do not want to, just say no. If you don’t say anything...” He traced my lips with his thumb as he trailed off.
I told him no I wouldn’t hit him, but he made me do it anyway. If I told him no I wouldn’t lay with him, he could still try to make me do it. If I said no, I would have to stick with my guns and possibly beat him away.
I whimpered, and his arm went around my waist.
“No, I will not be your toy, Dirg.”
He smiled wanly but his eyes looked disappointed. “So, you choose Lucille over Sunshine?”
I shivered and pushed away from him. “Yes. I do.”
“Who do you belong to?”
I knew what he wanted me to say. I knew what I was supposed to say. I wanted to say something else. I choked on the words as I said them.
“I belong to Lucy.”
He nodded and put his hands behind his back. His response came out more of a sigh.
“Good girl. That will work for today.”
I hugged myself and sat down, making myself as small as possible. He came and sat next to me, gently putting his wing around me. He changed moods with the flip of a switch, and it was freaky.
*You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Oh please take my sunshine away,* he sang softly. For all his talents, singing was not one of them, but he continued, *the other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamt I held you in my arms, but when I woke, dear, I was mistaken. I hung my head and cried.*
I put my head on my knees and knew he meant every word.
“Dirg, you are all I have.”
He let out a long breath. “I know. I can fix that. With a house and a job, friends should come quickly, especially with your portion of sweetness. I am also sure your father would love you to pieces.”
“If he doesn’t kill me,” I stated flatly.
“I don’t know. What do you want, Lucy?”
I sighed. “I want things to be as they were.”
He chuckled dryly. “That’s not an option. I’m too attracted to you.”
“So that’s the real reason behind this change.”
His wing pulled me in closer. He grabbed my chin and made me look at him. “No, Lucille. This change is necessary.”
“So, if I choose bodyguard, I am really choosing toy.”
He hesitated. “No. I will only push myself on you like that for a week or so, to concrete what you want in your mind. After that, there will be no physical contact between us.”
His finger stroked my face, and I realized what he was doing, inching closer to me. He was trying to get what he wanted the sneaky way.
“Dirg,” I warned.
He smiled, a dazzling smile that made me melt. “You know you want some.”
He leaned in, and I yanked out of his embrace and stood. I paced, pulling frantically at my hair.
“What, I can’t comfort you?”
“You caused it! You can’t help me get over the distress you put me in!”
“Distress? Yes I assume you are a bit stressed. You have to stand up for yourself, something I have been doing for you since I kidnapped you.”
“How do I even sleep around you?”
He smirked. “You will sleep in my arms, Sunshine.”
“No! I will not!”
“Then come up with a better solution,” he insisted.
I groaned in dismay and pulled my hair down.
“Stop pulling your hair. It will fall out.”
I shot a glare at him and yanked at a few hairs, tossing them over my shoulder.
“Really?” He said.
“You want me to do what I want. I belong to Lucille.”
He was still grinning. “Yes, you do.”
He looked so stinking sexy with his arm propped up on his knee and his wings spread out. His eyes never left me, which felt awkward. I played with a marble in my hand and then had an idea. I imagined an explosion and made hundreds of the tiny marbles. They scattered around me and I snapped my fingers, sending an explosion of light everywhere.
Dirg jumped back and cussed. “What was that for?”
“Trying something. I can sleep quite easily, thank you very much.”
I lay down right there and scattered my explosives around me. “I’m sleeping while it’s dark so my explosives still work on you. Goodnight.”
I settled my face into my arm and listened. I heard him move and set the explosives to go off with pressure. One of them exploded, and he cussed under his breath. “Good job. I’ll leave you alone.”
I mumbled into my arm. “Good.”
So the days passed. I said what would keep him away, and each time I cringed, knowing that I was lying. I still wanted what he wanted. I still preferred if nothing changed. I started insulting him again. He took it with a smile and tried to get in my space. I blew him away with tiny bombs, and our lips never touched again. Sadly, I started to miss him. I missed the way he would comfort me. I missed him petting my hair. He couldn’t do that anymore without letting his hands go elsewhere.
That ache for him made me think seriously about what I wanted. I didn’t want to let him have me, not without some type of commitment, and not if he wasn’t willing to call me his wife. I don’t think he realized just how much it hurt me to be continuously called a slut. He didn’t understand that every time he said I was not worth it he tore at the strings holding my heart together.
My heart broke again and again; every time a family decided they didn’t want me I had to re-stitch it together. Every time I did, the holes got bigger and the string got rougher. Every time I wondered if it was worth it. Would it be better just to leave it in pieces? Up until recently, he had strung the pieces he tore apart back together. People called me a slut and he stood up for me. He said I wasn’t worth it but also said I was worth my weight in gold as his pet. Now, he was tearing at the strings and not repairing them.
He asked me to give myself to him, and when I wouldn’t, he resorted to name calling or trickery. I bested him at every turn, but every time he called me beautiful or breathtaking or gorgeous, I would cringe. I may have been pretty on the outside, but he didn’t think what was inside was good enough to actually cherish.
I decided that I couldn’t leave him, so after a week of will and explosives training I told him that I wished to be his bodyguard. He nodded and deadpanned.
“I think we are done here. It’s about time I start on my challenges.”
I sighed. “What challenges?”
“The ones the king gave me.”
“I know that!” I snapped. “Which one specifically?”
He seemed to think for a minute, not looking at me. “Well... I think I will start with crossing the Atlantic with weight on my back.”
“That’s a challenge?”
“Yes. These things are insane. One of them is: find the gates of Hell. The kings really don’t want their sons taking the throne.”
“Taking the throne means killing them, dumbbutt.”
He shrugged. “I know. I am well aware of what is expected of me. Thank you, Lucille, for not letting me lie with you.”
I sighed and looked down. “So, it’s over?”
“Yes, it’s over. From now on, the physical contact will be as it was before and less in frequency. I miss getting to pet your hair.”
“And who said I will let you?”
His eyes finally met mine and he smirked. “That is one of my terms as your employer. You protect me and let me pet your hair.”
“I’m going to need a contract stating that you won’t touch me anywhere else.”
He nodded and retrieved his notebook and pen from the pack. He sat and started writing.
“How much do you want to be paid?”
“Um...” I had no idea. He was going to pay me for doing what he claimed (sorry, kidnapped) me for? Pay wasn’t even on my mind. He looked at me with impatience.
“C’mon, Lucille. It’s not a revolutionary idea.”
“I know, but I’ve never been paid before. I have no idea what you should pay me.”
“So, 200$ a week minus room, board, and traveling expenses?”
“What traveling expenses?”
“My back pain.”
“... Okay. Sounds reasonable.”
He smirked slightly at his paper and continued writing. He handed it to me with a flourish.
“Read and sign.”
It was not long but detailed. He made sure to say that I could quit at any time with full pay. I saw no clause that stated he was allowed access to my body, so I signed it and handed it back. He stood.
“Good. To the Atlantic we go.”
“We are in Nevada, aren’t we?” I asked.
“Yeah. It’s a long flight, so I’ll fly at night and rest in the day. We might as well start right now, so get on.”
I grabbed his bag and hopped on. We flew off into the night, changed by the desert more than either of us would admit.