The Fire in My Blood: Ch 23

I thought we would calm down, maybe gain a level head, on our way back to the warehouse. I was so very wrong. We were both on edge, and the distance was taking too long. I kept flicking glances Sanctus’s way, and he kept me sliding along that fine line. My fangs were becoming a fixation as I ground my molars. I was making everyone around me nervous at the same time. Black eyes and fangs. It’s a thing.

Tempestatis pulled the tank into the shop. The platoon of other transport vehicles pulled up outside to unload refugees. I was in no shape for this. Mater emerged from the hatch first. I squeezed Sanctus’s hand once before helping him up the ladder. A cheer pierced the air above my head when Sanctus emerged. I followed Tempestatis and Clavis out of the tank, closing the hatch behind me. The mass of Caeruleum littered the floor and were flowing out of the garage doors. Lines of tables were being set up outside, and Archimagirus was issuing orders to the cooking apprentices. The Rubrum victims would be cared for.

“You coming down, boss?” Cortex called up to me. I waived him off and descended to the floor.

“Is Gemma gone?” The call was loud on the floor. I couldn’t place where it came from. A clamour of the same question rippled in waves across the crowd.

Maria Mater held up a hand, and silence fell across the mass. “Rubrum has been dismantled. Lunam has taken care of Gemma. We will no longer suffer her sieges.”

“We won’t get oil in our waterworks?”

“We will see to the facilities and mend the canals. Mind you that will take time. Do not expect miracles overnight. It is on the high-priority list, and Caeruleum will draw up rosters. See to your workload with Tempestatis or Cortex by the last day of the week. We will get it mended as soon as possible. That will allow those living in that side of town to obtain clean drinking water.”

“We won’t have problems with our plants or our water tasting funny anymore?”

“It will take time to clean up the mess. Hopefully, in the coming months, we will fully remedy it. For now, let us see to those we brought home with us. Food and shelter. Consider, if you would, taking one or two into your home. Show them what safe is. Make them welcome. Before leaving, see that Medicus has documented their name and description. Each family who takes in will be assigned a number so that rotation can be placed for check-in.” With that directive, Mater dispersed the crowd to take care of the people we had brought home.

Sanctus shivered under his coat and watched the gathering move out of the building. I put an arm around his shoulder. He leaned into me, exhausted. “They were happy I came back?

Sounded like it.” I let him watch the people longer. He hadn’t made a move to leave, so I waited. The shake in his shoulders was slowing.

Why?” he glanced up at me.

You’re Caeruleum. We’re family.

We stood on the shop floor, him wrapped in my arms, for who knows how long. Someone lit a fire outside near the tables, and another cheer erupted from the crowd. Archimagirus was bringing out food to roast. It was an easy way to make people happy. Feed them. Put a roof over the heads. Put clothes on their back. Treat them with respect. It was the Caeruleum way.

“Why do I have Vestitor’s commission?” he asked as he shrugged the shearling fluff of his collar up around his ears.

“My commission.” I ran my fingers under the lapels to draw it closer around him.

“It would be too small for you; I can tell you that now, Lunam. I can remake it. I didn’t know the measurements were so far off.” His fingers held mine still on his coat.

“No, it fits perfectly.” I smiled down at him.

“You’re joking. It would never fit in the shoulders. Not in a million years.”

“It’ fits your shoulders just fine.” I brushed them and ran my hands down his arms before tugging him to me to wrap him back into a hug.

“It’s mine?” His voice muffled in my shoulder. His warm breath on my skin raised hairs along my arms.

“Specially commissioned for you.” I buried my nose in his hair and dragged his smell into my lungs, enjoying the slow burn.

“You didn’t have…no. I love it. Thank you.” He released his hold on the coat to wrap his arms around my back.

“I hope it will be of great use for you.”

“It’s warm for summer, but I will use it. Especially after all this.” He pulled his hands back in between us. “Can I find out about some other things you were promising?” Sanctus whispered into my shoulder. His fingers, hidden from view, found the waistband of my pants.

I strangled a note and buried my head in his shoulder. “You still want to?”

“Hades, yes.”

I turned him, if only to dislodge him for my own modesty and nudged him toward the other end of the shop floor. We walked around the fleet and came to face to face with a more intimate crowd.

Praesepe, Clavis, Cortex, Tempestatis, Flumen, Vestitor, Scriba, Maria Mater, Aurelia, and Paul stood at the bottom of the stairs, blocking our way. Blood drained from my face. “What’s with the intervention look, guys? Are Solis and Astrum okay?” I asked, my heart rate skyrocketing at the prospect the Accendium had come to harm.

“Argenti’s letting them stay the night. Solis is excited to play with Magnus. They’re just fine. She’s got Rain too,” Aurelia told me.

“Oh, good. They’ll be excited to see Sanctus.” I breathed a sigh of relief. My heart rate dipped for a second until Scriba walked up to stand toe to toe with me. “You break Sanctus’s heart; I leave Caeruleum and take all the books with me,” she threatened. Adrenaline hit my system, and my fingers throbbed. A pit dropped into my stomach, and my ears rang. I had never been present for this ceremony before, but I had heard enough from others to get it. I flicked a glance at Mater who was surveying the group.

Vestitor was next. “You hurt my brother; I leave Caeruleum and take all of my business.”

“Stop,” I demanded. The congregation blinked at me in surprise.

“This is a bonding tie, Lunam. You do realize that, right?” Mater stepped forward, confusion and censure crossing her features.

“Astrum and Solis are my children and my family tie. They are here, or there is no bond tie,” I issued my decree. I would not have my children go without their own vote on this. Scriba and Mater exchanged surprised looked. A hand settled in mine. I looked down to a pair of cognac eyes. 

“All our family should be here for it,” Sanctus agreed. “As it is, Medicus, Hyacinthus, and Iocus aren’t here. Iocus will be really upset.”

“They’re a bit busy seeing to refugees. We were trying to make this happen as soon as possible,” Mater justified.

“I appreciate that, but unless all are here, don’t do this.”

“Medicus is going to be pissed off. You’re supposed to be in the medical ward.” Maria Mater folder her hands over her arms.

“Let him be pissed off. I’d rather have him pissed at my health than pissed at not being invited to his brother tie’s bond ceremony. They’ve been through a lot this year and deserve the choice of participation. You all might threaten me if I do something to Sanctus. Medicus really will walk out if we do this without him.” I knew, as the person being bond tied, I was not supposed to get a say in anything other than saying yes or no to this event. I had planned on taking Sanctus to our room for a couple hours of privacy before going and letting Sam and Abby know we were all right. I could have that selfish fantasy. But bond ties? My children were going to be here for this and have their say in how their lives would be affected, or else it was not going to happen.

“I’ll go get Argenti.” Scriba moved to leave the group.

“I’ll go with you. If Solis and Astrum are going to be here, I’ll have Rain come too.” Aurelia stepped over to join her.

“If you’re going to put up this much of a fuss, Praetemptura and Ambulatio will insist that they should have been invited.” Mater rubbed at her face as the implication of her actions piled up.

Clavis approached Sanctus, who swallowed nervously. “Whether you bond tie or not today, we’re going to get you free of Rubrum. Let’s get that stupid collar and cuffs off, son. No more coming back to me with these, got it?” Clavis demanded as he reached for the metal. Sanctus laid his hand on the crook of the old mechanic’s elbow as he worked, minimizing his Repercussion.

“Promise, father,” he told the man.

While Clavis worked, Mater eased up next to me. “This means putting this off. You know that, right?” Mater was displeased that her handiwork was getting shunned.

“Probably for the best. I want to see my children and let them know Sanctus is safe.” I wasn’t about to mention that I dearly needed to sit down. My stomach was burning, and it was all I could do to remain upright with a mask of wellness stapled to my face.

“Fine. You wait here then. We’ll round up the kids and be back, and we’ll figure out a good time for this after Medicus has finished with his work.” Maria Mater packed away her folio and pen into her bag.

I reached out a finger to stall her irritation. “Thank you for understanding, Mater. And thank you for the attempt. I do appreciate it. I know it’s not in Imperium tradition, but I do want this, as long as Sanctus is on board?” I turned the last question to him. He nodded, a blush staining the tips of his ears.

“All right. Everyone, back to work then. We’ve got a lot to see to with the newcomers.” Cortex delegated tasks. Scriba and Aurelia left with Maria Mater to go get Sam and Abby. The others dispersed to help pick up slack where needed.

Sanctus caught me as I slumped to the stairs when the coast was clear. “Lunam?” He steadied me until I could lean against the rail.

“I’ll be okay.” I tried to smile, but it was getting more difficult. My vivacious high was washing away in searing pain.

“You don’t look well.”

“Could be better.” I pushed against a spot over where my incision had been before Medicus had dosed me with coagulant. “How about you? Gemma took her time on you.” I feathered a thumb over the purple bruise at the corner of his eye. He rolled his shoulders. “You know you can say it hurts, right? We’ll get it looked after.” The black rings throbbing in my eyes were roiling my stomach.

“Says the guy who’s about to pass out on me.” He pushed a hand to my forehead. “Oh no, you have a fever, I think.”

“I’ll live.”

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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