30 – In Which Timothée Bargains for Blood
Timothée stumbled, caught himself on the wall. His vision was blurry from the pounding in his head. Get to the ballroom. That was his first priority. His heart raced wildly inside his chest, and every time he breathed in, he smelled the coppery tang of blood. He looked down at his shirt. The cuff of his sleeve was crimson.
No. Darius’s blood.
He rolled up his sleeve, then ran a hand through his sweat-streaked hair. Buttery orange light spilled out from underneath the ballroom doors, illuminating the dark hall. Night still clung to the winter morning.
He needed Val to come back to their room without anyone suspecting.
Or better yet, have them suspect the wrong thing.
He pushed open the double doors. Coloured lights sparkled above the tall pine, and the smell of cranberry and gingerbread ensconced the room. Everyone turned to look at him.
Alright then. He wasn’t trying to be subtle. A spectacle would keep the students’ minds occupied.
A smash broke the silence, and Timothée turned in the direction, found Val.
Val who was staring at him, a shattered glass and wine pooling around his feet, eyes wide as the moon.
Timothée sucked in a breath and started across the ballroom toward him. What a sight he must look: mussed hair and rumpled shirt, and the hems of his pants still snow-damp.
Unlike Val, who stood among other Dark Stars by the drink table. Who was sparkling and glamorous as ever in his purple tuxedo, hair braided back, and eyes darkly lined. Timothée had barely even had time to talk to him before they’d had to sneak out to the sentient castle’s chamber.
And now he was about to do something completely and ridiculously crazy.
And maybe the only thing that made sense at all.
He slammed to a stop in front of Val. Before the Dark Star boy said anything, Timothée gripped his arms, pulled him close, and kissed him.
His mouth tasted of nutmeg and spiced wine. He felt Val’s surprise melt away as Val’s hands knotted in his shirt and he deepened the kiss, sighing. Timothée tugged him further away from the crowd.
Finally, he pulled away with trembling hands. His breath caught on each inhale. He needed to ask…he needed… he needed…
Val reached up and tucked a loose strand of hair behind Timothée’s ear. “What’s wrong?” He rose on his toes, their foreheads pressing together. “Tell me what you need, Greywick.”
“I should have known there was something awry when you were releasing whiffs of skunk cabbage and corpse flower at the Yuletide Ball.” Val lifted a brow as he surveyed the room. “But I did not expect to see a dying prince on your bed.”
“He’s not dying,” Khalid said. “He’s—”
Val cut him off with a soft “Hmm” as he stepped into the room.
Vivian sat curled in the corner. She wore a dark purple sweater and loose black sleep pants. Marion must have found them in Timothée’s dresser. Her hair and face were still wet, but at least she wasn’t covered in blood.
But her eyes were still glassy, body trembling.
Marion stood like a mountain between Vivian and Darius on the bed, as if her presence could shield Vivian from the horrible sight.
And Khalid kept pacing, never able to stand still.
Timothée followed Val’s gaze as he took in the room. He hadn’t been able to explain anything on their walk from the ballroom, but Val had taken his quivering hand. Students murmured as they passed. An echo of All Hallow’s Eve, they believed.
With that thought, no one would come to their room to bother them.
But now that they were safe behind the walls of his room, he had to let one more person know his family’s most important secret. Can I trust you?
His heart ached because no answer sprung forth. “My sister is a vampire.” He sucked in another breath. “She’s never bitten anyone before, I promise. She only eats leech blood. We’re trying to find a cure for her, and she didn’t mean to bite Darius. It was an accident.”
Behind him, he heard Vivian’s whimper, Marion’s ragged breath. But he couldn’t look away from his roommate.
What are you thinking, Val?
Val didn’t scream out curses, didn’t run from the room to find a professor. He didn’t even look shocked. He just clutched his stomach and doubled over in laughter. A wicked, mocking sound.
“I’m all for humour at inappropriate times,” Khalid chimed, “but even I can’t see the joke in this.”
Rage grew hot inside Timothée. He could still smell the blood and Vivian was crying, and he could barely see the rise and fall of Darius’s chest. He stormed to Val and grabbed him. “Stop it.”
Val whipped his head back, lilac hair falling across his face. There were tears of laughter in his eyes. “Oh, that’s rich, Greywick. Of course, you’re trying to cure the vampires.”
Timothée’s hands shook, but he refused to release Val. “Why are you laughing?”
“Not even Noctis himself could have broken such a curse.”
Timothée drew him closer. “You don’t know all the powers of the world, Val.”
“Maybe not,” he said with so much certainty. “But I’m right about this.”
“ENOUGH!” Marion yelled, storming between them. “Why did you even bring him here if he’s just going to laugh at us?”
Timothée dropped Val. “Because we do need his help.”
Val crossed his arms, surveyed them all, his laugher fading into deep breaths. “Go on.”
“Your Forget-Me potion,” Timothée said. “The one you sell to the students to make them forget. I need you to make one for Darius. He can’t remember what Vivian is, that Vivian…that she bit him.”
“What, you don’t think he’s going to wake up and join your happy little vampire sympathiser club?”
Khalid stepped forward, an uncharacteristic darkness to his eyes. “Most of the time, you are simply intolerable, Valentine. But today, you’re just cruel. Of course, he’s not. Everyone knows the Dark Prophet killed Darius’s family. His little sister, damnit.”
Val shrugged. “Maybe everyone’s wrong.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Khalid said. “Darius hates vampires, and he will not tolerate one to live in his presence, even if he loved her once.”
“Well, that’s it then,” Val said. “It won’t work.”
“What?” Timothée asked.
Val looked between Darius and Vivian. “Did the Prince truly love her?”
Silence hung thick as fog in the air, until Vivian whispered, “Yes, he loved me.”
“Although the scholars tend to disagree,” Val walked over to their makeshift potion station, tapped a vial, “love is the one external factor that can complicate a potion. If it’s really love, if it’s true love, then there’s no potion I can create that that will make him forget her.”
More silence spread across the room.
“Oh bother,” Marion said softly, sadly.
“Okay, okay.” Khalid scrubbed at his face. “We get her things. I’ll take her on my sky skiff. I know places—"
“No!” Timothée said sharpy. “I don’t buy it.” He rounded on Val, grabbed his shoulders. “You are the godsdamned most brilliant person I’ve ever met in my entire life. I hated you for it when I first came here. You were so annoying about it, and maybe that’s why I was so drawn to you. I learned more from you making potions than any of the professors. You said intention matters as much as the ingredients. I know you can make one strong enough to help us.” Timothée dropped his hand, stepped back. “Val...please. Please just try. For me.”
Shock rolled across Val’s features. “Okay…”
“Okay, I’ll try.” Val blinked up at him. “But you’re coming with me to replace the ingredients.”
Val shook him off then walked around the bed toward Darius. He looked uncomfortable with all the eyes on him. He grabbed the Prince’s wrist ad his eyes shuttered close. When he looked up, he said, “No Forget-Me potion is going to help him if he’s too dead to take it.”
“No,” Vivian said. One word laced with so much pain.
“We’re stopped the bleeding. We kept him warm.” Marion pushed her way up next to Val. “We…”
Val dropped the Prince’s wrist. “He’s lost too much blood. He needs more.”
“He can have mine.” Vivian clawed her way up the wall. “He can have all of mine.”
“Sit down, godling,” Val snapped. “Unless you’re determined to have a vampire rule Thraina.”
“Do none of you nitwits know how a vampire is made? You’re a vampire!” He gestured to Vivian.
Her grey eyes wavered. “I was…I was made?”
“You most certainly were.” Val’s eyes darkened as he looked at her. “What, do you think one of them just took a bite out of you for fun?”
Timothée exchanged a look with his siblings. They had never considered Vivian’s illness…her creation…had been purposeful.
“Listen, it’s a whole blood exchange thing.” Val waved his hand. “Which doesn’t matter now, as long as you keep your blood away from him.”
“He can have mine.” Timothée rolled up his sleeve.
“Don’t be dramatic, hero boy,” Val said. “You’ve got god’s blood. Who knows what will happen if we mix it with a mortal’s?”
Timothée stilled. “You actually believe I’m a god?”
Val turned away from him in a flurry. “Medihsan, you love to lick the royal’s boots. What’s the Prince’s blood type? Does it match yours?”
“That was extremely rude, even for you, Valentine.” Khalid tilted his head back, pinched the bridge of his nose, and let out long groan.
Marion grabbed his arm. “What’s wrong, Khalid?”<