The story I mentioned in my last entry. W00t. A number of brilliant things (like a title! A real title, on a level with Mischief Managed!) came together at once, and it was fantastic.
Other author notes: Betaed by the excellent givemethechild. I've missed her as a beta. The story referenced is The Man-eating Tree by Phil Robinson.
Feedback is such love.
Integra lay in bed on her side, propping up an anthology of vampire literature pre-dating Bram Stoker. She was recovering from another nasty cold and reading was currently all Dr. Trevellian and Walter permitted her to do. Fortunately, at the moment her energy level was such that she didn't really mind the confinement.
Her door clicked open, and she didn't need to look up to recognize Walter's quiet footsteps across the carpet. "Your bedtime tea, Sir Integra. It's a new herbal blend that only arrived today, of burdock and jasmine." He set the tray on her bedside table.
"Thank you," she said indistinctly.
Walter laid his hand on her shoulder; she didn't jump, but her eyes stopped on the page.
"How do you feel?" he asked, gently.
She finally closed the book on her fingers, looking up at him. "Better. I can sit at a desk tomorrow, at any rate."
"There's no need, sir." He pressed her shoulder lightly. "Do be careful with the tea, it's very hot."
The door shut quietly after him, and Integra extended a finger to see how hot the tea was. She touched her fingertip to the surface – bearable, though she didn't want to linger there – and brought the drop to her lips. It wasn't enough to detect a taste, but she thought she would give it a sip after finishing The Man-eating Tree.
She had only turned a page, however, when she felt a familiar shift in the balance of the room, accompanied by a weight pressing the mattress down directly behind her. She was too used to him hovering around her these days, however, and her attention didn't leave the book until she felt his fingers sink through her hair to reach the back of her neck.
At another moment she would have immediately ordered him to desist, but the short story had finally reached its rather interesting climax.
"It strained, shivered, rocked, and heaved. It flung itself about in despair. The boughs, tantalized to madness with the presence of flesh, were tossed to this side and to that, in the agony of a frantic desire. ...I felt the vile dew spurting from the tense veins fall upon me."
Good God, even vampire trees are sexual, Integra thought, not entirely to herself. His silent laugh answered her, tickling in the back of her mind, before where his fingers still lightly caressed the skin at the nape of her neck.
Oh yes, shoot the thing, she thought, pleased, as the narrator reloaded his gun and took aim at the limbs. Plant or animal form, that's the way to go. Yes, cut it to pieces. I hope that knife is silver.
"...we buried the body with a hundred animal leaves still clinging to it."
Integra closed the book, rolling onto her back to look thoughtfully up at him. Had you heard of that one before?
I recall your great-grandfather discussing it. A moment of silence, his fingers still working against the back of her neck, but she found she had lost her motivation to tell him to stop. Aren't you going to drink your tea?
She looked over at it, and could still see thin steam rising from the cup. It looks too hot still.
His fingers slid from her scalp. She looked back, surprised, to see him drawing his glove off his right hand. She didn't often see his bare hands, and for a moment was too distracted taking in the bone-white pale of his fingers, how they tapered and were thinner than they appeared gloved, to realize what he was doing: reaching over her to dip his index finger into the teacup.
He swirled it around once, then lifted it to her lips. The first warm drop hit them; she licked her lips to take it in, and instinctively kept them parted for another. But he surprised her by lowering his finger to slip between them, pushing between her teeth. Integra was too startled to stop him, but her tongue reacted apart from her, winding around his finger for every trace of tea.
She looked up into his eyes, very still apart from her tongue moving inside her mouth; his gaze was fixed on hers, no longer smiling but his eyes burning in a way she recognized from how he often looked at her. Of course she knew she should stop, should have pushed his hand away immediately without reacting, ordered him out for going too far; but always, always she had felt lurking the dangerous temptation which she had never dared to give much thought to until now: how much, and how easily, could she tease and taunt this ancient, powerful monster?
Looking directly in his eyes, Integra closed her lips around his finger and sucked.