Tags: capricious, julie cox, serialized fiction
Welcome to Fox Pass, Texas, a small community where the people are friendly and the mythical creatures aren’t so mythical after all. Capricious by Julie Cox follows the adventures of satyr Luke and his fellow myth-folk in a town that borders a whole lot more than Mexico. (Do you need to start at chapter 1?)
August was still talking about rushing out to find the missing myth-folk when the adrenaline wore off and he seemed to begin to feel the deep gashes in his chest. In only a few minutes time, he gave up the idea and sank to the carpet, light-headed.
“We should take him to a hospital,” Charlie said. He was out of the bathroom and now lay curled up on the bed with his head in Sally’s lap.
“With wounds that look like a giant lamprey took a bite out of him?” Cormick jerked his head at Allison. “Patch him up, I’m going to make some calls. Orson, can you take the perimeter? If whatever magicked August felt the magic go, they might come looking for him.”
“Sounds likely.” Orson took the shotgun from Sally and went on patrol, while Cormick went phone-treeing in the kitchen at great volume and velocity.
“OK, the biggest egos in the room are out of the way,” Allison said, kneeling in front of August. “Lemme take a look, phantom boy.” She peeled the wet cotton towel away from his chest and winced for him. “We’d better take this outside, where I can see better. Luke, give me a hand? Sally—”
“I’m staying in here with Charlie,” she said. Luke could tell by her tone that this was not up for debate.
“Fair enough. C’mon, guys. Luke, maybe you can ground him out—this is not going to be fun.”
“This morning is full of things that aren’t fun,” August said, a boyish whine in his voice that was very unlike him.
“We’ll see if we can’t make it at least tolerable,” Luke said, helping August stand. He pulled August’s arm over his shoulders and let the larger man rest his weight on him. Slight concussion or no, he was currently in better shape than August. It seemed like a long walk down the hallway, past the gallery of photos of smiling people and a timeline of Sally pictures.
They got out the front door and across the lawn to a large bois d’arc tree. There was a chill in the air that Luke hadn’t felt when he first went out that morning; a cold front was blowing in from the northwest, a biting wind tinged with sand. Luke sat against the tree, and August sat against Luke. Allison sat beside them, arranging her supplies. She pulled the towel, now heavily soaked with blood, away from August’s chest and hissed.
“The bleeding has pretty much stopped. The cuts aren’t long, but they’re deep,” she said. “I’m going to have to stitch them. Don’t worry, I’m up to it. But, well, it hurts. Luke?”
“I’m on it,” Luke said. He looped his arms around August and leaned forward to nuzzle his neck, reaching out with his magic, like the butterflies in his stomach flying out. “August, relax. I’m all about earth magic, remember? Part of earth magic is grounding. I can ground out pain the same way you can ground out electricity. But you do have to let me in.”
August, who had gone stiff at Luke’s initial touch, loosed his shoulders and settled against Luke’s chest. Luke repressed a flutter of arousal; August had a wonderful back, smooth pale skin with rippling cords of muscle, broad shoulders, and a slender waist. Just aesthetics, Luke reminded himself. He didn’t have to like the guy to appreciate beauty.
“Any port in a storm,” August said.
“You’re welcome. Picture the pain going out of you, through me, into the earth. Being against a tree ought to help.”
“Okay,” August said, but he didn’t sound reassured.
After getting a gallon of water from the house, Allison put on a pair of plastic gloves and cleaned the wounds, pouring water slowly across August’s chest. After that, she cleaned the wounds with hydrogen peroxide. Luke focused on the ground beneath him, the tree behind him, on the roots running thick and wide and shallow, the grass sending little tendrils through the topsoil, and his own magic tunneling down deep, deep through the red clay to the bedrock far below. His headache was little better, but it seemed far away and unimportant. He felt the beginning rumblings of August’s pain, a burn in his own chest, and pushed it down, down, into the earth, out through the roots.
Allison was done cleaning. She dried the wounds thoroughly and daubed an antibiotic ointment on them. She threaded a needle, dipped it in hydrogen peroxide, and began to sew shut the gashes that Charlie’s teeth had left in August’s chest. August didn’t cry out, but he breathed fast and shallow, his back muscles tightening.
“Don’t hyperventilate,” Luke said. “Breath in deep and let it out in little puffs. Like a woman in labor. And concentrate on giving the pain to me, sending it away.”
August nodded almost imperceptibly. Luke closed his eyes as a wave of pain came through to him, hot and fierce as only a deep injury can be. He sent it down and away, down and away, pushing it down into the cool dirt. August pressed against him, leaned his head back on Luke’s shoulder. Luke tightened his grip, gratified by the show of faith. August’s neck was exposed, the clean line of his throat. Luke had the impulse to bite him, suck his neck, lick his ear—
He came back to himself in a rush and centered himself on his task. He didn’t like August. He was determined not to like him, not one little bit, and he would not indulge his satyr appetites with someone he didn’t personally care for. It didn’t matter that August’s hair was cool and silky on his neck, or that he smelled good, or that the faint, almost inaudible whimpers of pain from August’s throat sounded very much like the noises the man might make in bed, in the midst of pleasure. The two were so close.
“Done,” Allison said. She smeared a little more ointment over the top of the sutures, to keep them from catching, and put a square of gauze over the whole thing. “Hold that there, I’ll tape it down.”
Luke was glad for the interruption to his thoughts, even though it brought his headache back into focus and made him lose the grounding connection that had let him wick away most of August’s pain. He was entirely too close to enjoying himself. August looked back over his shoulder at Luke with something like new appreciation in his eyes.
“I feel so lucky, Luke,” Allison said. “This is twice in one twenty-four-hour period I’ve watched you work your magic with another hot guy.” She winked at him; she knew how uncomfortable he was and enjoyed pushing his buttons.
“Oh go to hell,” he said, smirking.
“Happily, I’ll never have to! Hahaha, I’m immortal!” she singsonged, and snipped the last piece of tape.
“Were you a nurse in a past life or something?” August asked.
“Nope. Shepherdess. You gotta know these things with livestock.” She applied the tape and motioned to his chest. “You, uh, might want to have that looked at by a real doctor sometime soon. Unless you’re a fan of the ‘chicks dig scars’ mentality.”
“You’re awfully chipper for a girl who just sewed up a guy’s chest,” August said.
“Humor: it’s the greatest defense mechanism ever. Besides. It was a nice chest.” She clapped August appreciatively on the shoulder. “Now go get some clothes on before we all start thinking too hard about you and Cormick sharing a bed in a state of partial undress.”
“It wasn’t like that,” August protested, but he allowed himself to be pulled to his feet and helped back inside.
As August dressed in the bathroom, Luke pouted at Allison. “He’s hot? Nice chest? C’mon, girl! Where’s the love?”
Allison took hold of Luke’s horn and shook it. “You have a thunderbird now,” she said. “I have needs; I won’t have you anymore to take care of business! So you can’t go getting jealous on me.” She tilted her head, studying Luke intently with renewed interest. “What gives on that? You never been jealous before.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “There is an element here I am missing. I can smell it. But you lot go on and keep your secrets,” she said with a wave of her hand. “I’m gonna go see if Cormick is done being dramatic at the world so we can go.”
Julie Cox lives in Texas with her husband, children, and ever-expanding menagerie of animals on their farm. She runs a small online yarn business and teaches yarn spinning. She has numerous stories published with Circlet Press and elsewhere. For her full list of published works, see her website at www.lazypifarm.com.