The sky grows dark in what feels like a matter of moments. We fell asleep so quickly and so easily after that intense experience. The growling of our stomachs woke us, even mine. After feeling sick for days, I finally feel hungry again. Maybe it was the stress after all.
Andrei decides to shower before dinner so he doesn’t reek of sex. I decide to wait. Unlike last night, I want to linger with the smell of him on my skin. I find my track pants, and deciding to be cheeky, I steal Andrei’s long-sleeve shirt from where I tossed it to the floor earlier. It’s a little loose on me, the sleeves slightly too long and the chest area is a bit tight. I wonder what he’ll say and it makes me grin.
Scoria lays curled up on my pillow. I’m guessing she jumped over from the dresser sometime while we were asleep. I sit on the bed below the pillow, reaching out to stroke her scales as I wait for Andrei to be done in the bathroom. I hear the creak of the door opening, and I frown as I still faintly hear the water running. Curious, I turn to look, but it’s not the bathroom door that’s open.
A tall, thin figure stands in the doorway, pushing the door closed quietly behind him. His dark blue eyes glowing with an eerie orange light glare at me from behind his messy dark hair and black framed glasses.
“You taunt me,” he growls, his eyes tracing over me, face twisted into a sneer. “You know I can hear everything from next door. You think this is a game?”
I scoff. “No, it’s not a game, but if it were, you’d be losing.”
“I won’t lose. Not this time,” his tone drips with ugly desire. He closes the space between himself and the bed alarmingly fast.
I crawl further up the bed, away from him. “What do you think you’re doing?” My voice cracks.
“Taking what is mine. I’ve waited long enough,” he growls, reaching a black hand for my arm. His grip is like iron squeezing tightly and I cry out in pain as he pulls me toward him.
I resist, kicking at him with my feet. “Let go! I’m not yours to take!”
His eyes flare orange as he suddenly shifts into full lava form, rippling molten red and black skin from head to toe. “You were mine first! He took you from me. Come back!” he shouts, a strange desperation in his voice. His grip tightens and he pins me down with both hands, straddling me on the bed so I can’t kick him. Scoria jumps away, disappearing under the bed.
I scream with surprise and panic as my clothes burn instantly from his heat, but the sheets, enchanted as they are, remain. He forces his mouth on mine, cutting off the sound of my cry. I summon all the strength I can, pushing against his chest with my free hand. With a growl, he catches my wrist and pulls it above my head, pinning my arms up. I fight against his grip, but he’s just too strong..
There’s a crash, and he grunts, rolling off the bed to my right, his grip slipping away. I scramble back, right off the other side of the bed, gasping to catch my breath as I see pieces of broken wood on the bed.
Andrei’s voice shouts, startling me. “What the fuck is wrong with you!?” As he appears beside me and pulls me off the floor, standing in front of me protectively. To my surprise, he’s naked and dripping wet.
“It’s the lava, not Heath,” I whisper to Andrei shakily. He spares me a quick glance as I grab the sheet off the bed and yank it toward me. I wrap it around myself as the lava form of Heath stands up, shaking his head.
“You hit me! You have the gall to hit me after you stole her from me!” he sneers, grabbing his head with his hand.
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. She’s not yours. She’s never been yours!” Andrei shouts back, his hand shaking behind him. “Where’s the sword?” he whispers to me.
“Heh, you don’t know. Well, Time never did have much of a voice, how could you know? All the things your flame and I have done. Oh yes, those jests in the training room, they weren’t a joke. We did all that, and more,” he gloats arrogantly.
“What’s he talking about?” Andrei glances at me sideways, confusion in his eyes while he glares daggers at Lava.
My eyes dart between them and I feel like I’m drowning. The longer I hesitate, the worse it will seem. My voice cracks as I try to make it seem innocuous. “I told you, the lava and the fire knew each other in a past life.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Andrei whispers horsley.
Lava laughs. “Clueless Time. It’s okay. You don’t realise the fury you’ve brought upon yourself, but she can never truly be yours. You can’t really touch like we can. Isn’t that right, little flame?” Lava’s glowing eyes slide to me hungrily.
“No,” I find some confidence. “It’s not.”
He cocks his head to the side. “What do you mean, no?”
“Andrei,” I rest my hand on his arm, hovering behind him. “Tell him what you felt, earlier today.”
“Why? What does that have to do with now?” he asks.
“It just does,” I insist. “Tell him how you could feel the fire. How it protected you. How it loves you,” I speak deliberately, eyes on Lava as I hold onto Andrei. He nods slowly and turns.
“No, you’re wrong. I may not be as hot as you two are, but the flame, it doesn’t want to hurt me,” Andrei starts.
Lava laughs a throaty laugh. “Oh, you know nothing of what your little flame is capable of! She loves to hurt. It was a favourite past time of ours, isn’t that right?” He sneers in my direction.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” I snap. “I don’t remember anything from the last Guardian. I’m not him!”
“You may not remember, but you’re flame does. Even if it can’t use words. Think about it, all that excitement it feels when you’re angry, how you like it rough. Yes, all of that, they are the memories of your flame! Listen to it and you will see,” he hisses.
“Stop!” Andrei shouts. “She’s different now. She’s not subject to the whims of her element like you are. She doesn’t desire to hurt others. I know this, I’ve felt it. It wants to protect!” Andrei says forcefully. I’m surprised he hasn’t tried to cover himself yet.
“That’s funny,” Lava grins wickedly. “She wasn’t in control last night.”
“Last night?” Andrei’s resolve seems to falter. I gawk at Lava. I can’t believe he’s doing this…
“Oh you have no idea,” he cackles.
“Shut up!” I yell though it sounds more like begging.
“No! I won’t!” he yells back louder. His eyes slide to Andrei. “Your little flame likes to two time on you. I told you before, we’ve down everything I mentioned in the training room. Just thought it might be nice to let you know before you go and decide to protect her false innocence.”
Andrei’s hands shake at his sides, but he doesn’t turn around. “Kat… is what he’s saying… true?” he asks softly.
I fall back against the wall, my legs giving way beneath me. As I slide to the floor I feel hot tears slide down my face. I don’t want to lie anymore. I don’t want to hide. “I’m so sorry. Andrei… I’m so sorry,” I whisper. I don’t know what else to say. Sure, I could blame the fire, but that wouldn’t be true. My trembling fingers hook into my hair, pulling at the roots. What have I done?
Scoria crawls out from under the bed, clawing her way up to my shoulders, hiding beneath my hair. Her tiny gurgles of consolation do little to quell the rising panic and despair in my chest that threatens to swallow me.
“I see,” Andrei whispers, eyes locked with Heath’s. “I’ve clearly not been man enough, as Selene warned, but no more of that.” I look up at him, confused. What does that mean? His aura glows brighter, building with energy.
Lava smiles. “So, you finally see her for what she is, a little whore. You’re too good for her. You’re better off with someone else. Why don’t you just-” Andrei waves a hand to the side and everything slows around us.
“No, that’s not what it means at all. Don’t you see? If anything, I forgive her, because a scumbag like you could never make her happy. You had your time with whatever Guardian you had in the past. It’s not our problem if you let that fail. Don’t bring up dirt from the past that doesn’t involve us!” Andrei growls.
What? I stare at him bewildered. How could he forgive me? I don’t understand. He inches back toward me as he lectures Lava, then he spins, crouching down in front of me.
“The past is my domain,” He says, looking at me. “You better watch yourself, unless you want to suffer the wrath of time!” he yells over his shoulder, pulling me into him as the floor falls away.
We fall into the dark place with the ribbonous lights, the one he always describes. He looks around for a moment before he grabs hold of one. We hit the ground hard, tumbling on a patch of lush green grass. As we stop, Andrei groans beneath me. I push myself up from on top of him, hoping to give him space. I have no idea what he’s going to do and frankly, I’m a little scared.
I watch as Andrei sits up, rubbing his head with one hand while the other holds onto my arm gently. “Ouch… Are you okay?” he asks, almost normal.
I nod slowly. “I guess so…”
“Good, I’m glad,” he smiles at me.
“Are you?” I hesitate, nervous.
“I’m…” he looks down, his face flushing red. His head snaps up, eyes wide. “I’m naked!”
I blink. “Yes…”
He looks around frantically for something to cover himself, but we seem to be in a garden. I offer part of the sheet, still wrapped around me from before. He takes it, shuffling closer to me as he covers his manhood.
“Well, this is a first. I must say, I’ve never jumped naked before,” he turns his gaze to me and puckers his lips. “You are too,” he says flatly.
“Is that really what you’re worried about?” I ask in disbelief. “You should be yelling at me, hitting me, I don’t know… Something!”
He looks up at me, confused. “Why would I hit you?”
I drop my gaze. “Because… Of what he told you, What I did.”
“I can’t blame you or Heath for what your elements felt or did. Heath’s not acting like himself, I know that now. Just like you weren’t you when you were acting all dragon mother. So how can I blame you for something Lava and Fire did using your bodies? I know… I know you love me and I cherish that… so, I forgive you for what Lava and Fire have done, no matter what you’ve done.”
I feel the hot tears roll down my cheeks. I can’t believe what I’m hearing. It’s… more than I could have ever hoped for. He still… loves me. I scramble to find the words to explain myself. “I’m sorry. I should’ve told you… I couldn’t stop it. I thought… I thought you would hate me.”
“Don’t be sorry. I understand the position you were in. It’s okay, I love you,” Andrei says soothingly, pulling me into a hug and holding me close to his chest as he wraps his bare arms protectively around me.
“I don’t deserve you…” I hiccup, clutching him as close as I can get.
“Enough of that. We’ve been through this already,” he shushes me. “I know that what I felt earlier was genuine. You don’t want to hurt and neither does your fire. People can change and I suppose that goes for these strange elemental powers too.” I nod against him, too upset to speak.
“Well,” a male voice coughs. “This should be an interesting story.”
I look up as Andrei tenses. A tall, muscular man stands a couple feet away, arms crossed. He wears fine clothes and two female servants stand behind him with clothes folded in their arms.
“I meant to say, the reason why this is a problem is because… We’ve landed in the most modestly dressed period of history…” Andrei whispers. I feel my face turn beet red. Oh boy…
The man, dark eyes almost as dark as his hair, nods to his servants. They walk over, kneeling before us holding out the bundles of clothes. “If you don’t mind, it would be best if you didn’t walk around so exposed,” The man chuckles. “My girls here will get you dressed and then you’ll follow me back to the house.”
“That’s very kind of you. Thank you,” Andrei bows his head in a respectful fashion as he moves to pull me up, still hiding behind the sheet.
The man laughs. “Well, it’s not every day a pair of mages drop onto our doorstep; and Guardians, no less,” he nods toward Andrei’s chest. His gaze drifts to me slowly.
Andrei gawks at the man, his hand moving to the mark on his chest, clearly visible.
“You… know about magic?” I ask as one of the ladies pulls the sheet out of my grasp. She holds out a white slip for me to step into.
“Yes,” the man smiles. “Our family is quite blessed.”
The girl shrieks as she moves my hair to tie the collar at the back. Scoria squawks back at her, equally surprised.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” I gasp, reaching to grab the little dragon. “She won’t hurt you, I promise.”
“You brought the dragon?” Andrei gasps. “How are we supposed to explain a dragon?!” he whispers hoarsely.
“She was on me when you jumped,” I shrug. “It’s not like I had time to plan.”
“Relax, young Guardians,” the man waves his hand. “The creature is but a baby, yes? It is welcome here.”
“How are you so calm about this? Don’t tell me you have dragons here too?” Andrei frowns as the lady helps him step into a pair of trousers.
“On the estate? Heavens no,” the man shakes his head. “But I have met a few in my time.”
“Who are you?” I ask, curiosity getting the better of me.
He smirks. “I am the Lord of this house. Lord Edward Halsey, at your service.” He bows deeply from the waist, hand held out toward me as if in offering. “What name does the lady go by?”
I think the colour drains from my face. “Lord… Halsey?” As in, Markus? Guild founder? “I- I’m Kaitlyn Ha…” I stutter. Andrei shushes me and I frown at him. He shakes his head in quiet warning.
“Just Kaitlyn?” The man raises an eyebrow. “They don’t have surnames in your time?”
“Hanganu. Kaitlyn Hanganu. And I’m Andrei Hanganu,” Andrei says quickly. I feel my heart skip. “Her husband.”
“I see,” Lord Halsey nods. “So, you’re married then?” I look to Andrei, not sure what to say as the shock at what he’s said sets in.
“Yes, it would seem we are,” he smiles awkwardly. “Newly married,” he adds quickly with a nod, giving me a sheepish smile.
“R- right,” I agree hesitantly. He expects me to lie convincingly?
“Congratulations,” the Lord smiles. “Perhaps we can celebrate with you then. Would you follow me back to the house?”
“Oh, that’s hardly necessary, but thank you. Your kindness is refreshing,” Andrei replies in a sophisticated manner.
The ladies bow and back away, finished dressing us. The dress they’ve put me in is tight around the waist and chest, making it a little hard to breathe. They give us nice shoes to put on and I struggle at first to adjust to the balance; I’ve always hated heels. They’re terrible for walking, running, and fighting.
Andrei frowns at his outfit. “The fashion sense leaves something…. to be desired.”
“Like air,” I mutter agreeingly. He cocks an eyebrow as his eyes take in my appearance.
“Yes, I remember now. This period was strangely focused on the figure despite being fully clothed. This should be fun now, hmm?” he gives a half-hearted smile.
I chew my lip. I don’t have any right to argue. He brought us here to get away from Lava. Andrei offers his arm to me and I gratefully take it. It’s hard to walk with all this fabric.
“So,” I lean closer to him as we cross the field, following behind the Lord, the maids trailing behind us. “When exactly are we?”
“Oh, right. 1536. Same month as home,” he whispers. “I’m certain this is England. The fashion and the gardens, well that’s all very English style,” he waves a hand at the surrounding gardens.
“Makes sense,” I muse. “That’s where I was born.”
“It was?” he asks.
I glance up from the side. “You didn’t know?”
“No, I just… I guess I thought you didn’t know. So you’re family is from England? Interesting. You don’t suppose, this Lord Halsey is one of your ancestors, do you?”
“I think he might be,” I glance at the strange man. “I mean, if he knows about magic… and we have the same last name. Wouldn’t it make sense?”
“I suppose it could, yes. Let’s just… be wary at first. First rules of time jumping, remember? We can’t cause a paradox and we don’t know how much they already know. So, don’t reveal too much at first. Let them do the talking,” he reminds me gently.
I nod and smile at him. “At least, being married, they won’t keep us apart.”
“That’s true,” he smiles mischievously, wrapping his arm tightly around mine and leaning in close to place a kiss on my cheek. I feel myself flush and I drop my gaze. I still can’t believe he’s not angry at me. It might take awhile for me to fully grasp the reality of it.
As we leave the maze of flowers and trees, a house comes into view. I use the word house lightly; It’s a massive mansion, the size of a whole townhouse complex, at the least, spread out as far as I can see. There are several people walking around, gardening, watering plants, or just walking from one area to another. They all stop to bow and greet the Lord as he passes. He smiles at each one, greeting them all by name. They look on at us curiously, but no one says anything. I hold onto Andrei with both hands, anxious under their pointed gazes. I don’t know how to talk to people from the past. This is nothing like the last time…
By Krystyna Yates