Silas’ eyes blink open. Swimming into clarity is a grey ceiling and Violet’s heart-shaped face looking down into his eyes.
He moves to say something, but his voice is like paper and his throat like dust. Violet waves her hand and a glass of water appears on the ground next to her. She slides an arm behind Silas and moves to help him sit up. He lets out a cry of pain that turns into a hoarse wheeze by the dryness of his throat. He squeezes his eyes shut and raises a hand to his shoulder, automatically moving to send healing magic through the wound, but he finds himself totally drained. Violet raises the glass to his lips and he drinks greedily. Someone else kneels down besides him to tend to his shoulder. He pays them them no mind, taking a deep breath and putting down the glass of water, finally taking a moment to think of his surroundings. He feels Valor’s soul inside his body sitting like a rock in his stomach. He had never felt Valor so exhausted before. The memory of the two of them felt like a dream. The pain in his shoulder assures it is real.
So does Valiant’s body. There are no signs of the damage they’d done to him in what Silas thinks of as the “white space.” He lies on his side, not face-down like he had been in the white space, yet he is perfectly still in the way only the dead can be. His head is lolled to the left and a single trickle of blood runs out of his left ear. A group of fiends stand around his body, staring down at him in disbelief.
Silas wonders what they saw from the outside, but doesn’t have the fortitude yet to talk about everything that had just happened. As the burning sensation begins to fade from his shoulder, the buzzing in his ears caused by the pain quiets, and he can hear whispers all around him, asking if Valiant is really gone. Silas cranes his neck, searching for the witches, but he cannot see any of them. He turns to Violet, who is still supporting him with her arm.
“Where’s River?” He whispers. Nobody answers him. The fiend tending his shoulder slowly pulled away, their work done. Violet just stares at him. Silas scans the familiar faces of other fiends in front of him, but the witches are all gone.
“They didn’t surrender when Valiant died?”
Violet shakes her head slowly, her eyes dropping to the ground. “They just…vanished. They all portaled out almost instantly.”
Silas stares at her and blinks, her eyes shine in the dim light and lift to his own gaze briefly. The witches are gone, and River is gone with them.
Violet shakes her head. “They are truly our enemies now. Let him go, Silas.”
Silas stands besides Violet looking up at the white building in front of them. The newness of it is obvious. It is the only building in the busiest part of the city that stands free of graffiti.
Silas leans against the brick wall of a building on the other side of the street. “It looks so…clean.” He mumurs, crossing his arms.
“Give it a couple years and it will look just as dirty as the rest of the city.” Violet replies, cocking her head to the side as if trying to get a better look at the building.
Silas snorts. “Yeah, the politics happening inside will soon be just as dirty too.”
Violet turns to look at him, sighing. “Try to be a little less cynical, Silas.” There’s an exasperated tone in her voice. This isn’t the first time she’s had to deal with Silas’ grumpiness recently.
Silas glares at her sidelong. “Fiends and secs can work together. I believe that. But witches? I don’t think they can really work with anyone.” He knows his tone is bitter, with a edge of hurt that has nothing to do with the current conversation. “You’re the one who said they are our enemy now.”
VIolet frowns, then lets out a sharp breath and rolls her eyes. “That was months ago.”
Silas stays silent, staring straight ahead at the building before them. Months. Has it really been that long? Months since River appeared besides his mother and behind Valiant, staring down at him from across that seemingly endless space between them. Months, since he’d gone into the white space with Valor and killed Valiant.
River’s betrayal still hurts, hurts him like it had just happened, but when he forces himself to think logically about all the things that have happened it’s obvious that it has been months. Feels like it could have been longer even, things had moved so fast.
As soon as Valiant had dropped dead, the secs had been quick to get back to fighting for their equality. Without Valiant’s need for destruction pushing them, and perhaps due some to their own sensitivity to how out-of-hand their violence had gotten before, they were much more civil about their negotiations with the witches. The fiends had isolated themselves. Silas had let them, partly knowing that the violence between witches and secs wouldn’t escalate and partly because he couldn’t bring himself to fight anymore.
The fiends had recognized where their weakness lie, after all this. It had become obvious that they needed to unify, or at create some sort of central authority to turn to in times of crisis.
The building that they are looking at is the new meeting house. As soon as Valiant had been killed, the secs had gotten right back to the business of assuring their own equality. The fiends, for the most part willing to get a fresh start after the tragedies Valiant had caused, had made an attempt to unify. They’d elected Malachai to lead them, unsurprisingly. He had been the head of one of the most important gangs, and everyone had looked up to the strength and swiftness with which he carried out necessary punishments. Electing Malachai had left Silas to take over his job. He likes to think he’d been an acceptable successor, although his personal issues and the struggles he’d had with his demon had gotten in the way.
Choosing Malachai to lead them hasn’t changed their fierce streak of independence, and they still barely think of themselves as one people. The ghosts, deprived of magic by Valiant, continue struggling to search for a place in this society which, for all its attempt at unity, is still segregated so neatly between different peoples. The ghosts aren’t quite seculars, as they’d spent the majority of their lives with magic flowing through them, but they aren’t quite fiends. At least, they aren’t anymore. Most of them have banded together into their own sort of gang but they still tend to lay low. You can always tell them apart by the haunted look in their eyes.
Silas sighs. “I just don’t know if the witches can be trusted.”
Violet pierces him with a stare. “Silas, they know the consequences if they betray us. Again. Working with Valiant was serious.”
Since Valiant’s death, the witches had mostly laid low. Fiends were prone to letting their blood get too hot with anger for their brothers and sisters who had been reduced to ghosts. The city isn’t always a safe place for witches anymore. Silas hadn’t taken part in it, mostly because Valor had seemed perfectly content to lay unmoving inside of him since Valiant’s death. He would have probably taken a few witches down, if his magic had been working, just to pay them back for working with the enemy.
“All I’m saying is that there should be some sort of punishment or…something other than some angry fiends taking it upon themselves. Now that the peace has been made, there’s nothing.” Silas pushes off from the wall and turns to look at Violet.
Violet’s face softens, but the idea of her feeling pity for him only makes Silas angrier.
“We’ve talked about this.” She says. “Not all the witches worked with Valiant. We can’t just punish all of them, and it would be far too difficult to try and understand which ones are guilty. You just want to hurt River, to get him back for hurting you.”
Silas flinches. She’d told him before that punishing all the witches would be cruel, but she’d never said that about River.
After Malachai had become a tentative leader for the fiends, he had decided to try to form some sort of bond with the secs. He and Josa had known the only way for real progress was to talk to the High Priestess and offer her people a place in the new government or face punishment by that government for their actions.
Violet steps forward and puts her hands on Silas’ shoulders. “I know. This new council isn’t exactly a sure thing, there are secs, fiends, and witches who are going to cause problems in not too long. But you have to see that this is a step in the right direction. Hell’s flames, Silas, isn’t this what you were fighting for?”
Saying nothing, he pulls himself from her grip and walks away.
Silas is laying in the dark with his skin on fire. He has drawn the shades to keep out the beating sun, but he still sweats above the covers. His mind swims with images of River. It feels like it has been an eternity since the time they spent in each other’s arms. His skin still tingles with the feeling of River moving over him, and he can feel all the places River had put his lips. He is hard beneath his jeans, just from the thoughts of River after so many weeks alone. His heart has ached too much for him to bring himself to touch and be touched by anyone other than the blond-haired witch. Now the ramifications of that withdrawal are coming on full force.
There is a knock on the door, and he mutters something that he supposes is a greeting. He is glad that the lighting in the room is dim, because he is sure his arousal is apparent. Light shines into the room in a beam that frames Violet in his doorway.
“Silas.” Her voice is stern. Silas stiffens. He knows her “in charge” voice. “I need…what are you doing in the dark?”
“Leave me alone, Vi.” Silas mutters, drawing the blankets around himself. He’s sweating under them, but he needs to hide the state he’s in. It will do nothing to calm Violet’s constant insistence that he, as she’s put it a thousand times, “go out.”
“No.” She says stubbornly. “This is ridiculous. It’s been too long for you to keep spending your days in here alone. Honestly, Silas, don’t you remember how you used to be? You could barely keep your legs closed.”
Silas turns over so his back is to the door, trying even harder to block Violet out.
He hears footsteps, and just as he turns to look Violet is ripping the covers off of him. He cries out in surprise and curls up, afraid she’ll notice his clear physical need. If she does, she makes no comment about it.
“Silas. You need to move on.”
Silas sits up, shaking his head.
Violet frowns. “This is about River, isn’t it?”
Silas shrugs. She’s not just talking about his boner.
Violet sits down at the edge of the bed. The motion of it makes his skin tingle more than it should. His body is sensitive.
“Silas. This isn’t like you. You’ve been like a shadow of yourself, especially since you fought Valiant.”
Silas is quiet at first, avoiding Violet’s steady gaze on him. Then he sighs and responds.
“Things are different, with Valor, ever since then”
Violet nods, but says nothing. Silas rarely tells her about things like this, and he gets the sense that she’s afraid to disturb his sudden interest in talking by saying anything herself.
He shakes his head. “I guess, after everything happened, I assumed he and I would be closer. I thought maybe I’d be able to hear him speak in my head or something, like I know some other fiends can.” It sounds stupid as soon as he says it, but Violet doesn’t give any reaction other than nodding.
“But…right after we killed Valiant, when we first woke up, I could feel him like a dead thing inside me.”
Violet puts a hand to her stomach protectively, low down, almost like a pregnant woman putting a hand over her womb. Silas knows some women feel their demons there, and he is both interested and oddly embarrassed to know something so personal about Violet.
“And now, he just feels heavy. I don’t feel cravings from him or feelings or…” His voice cracks and fades away.
“Nothing?” Violet asks, finally speaking and unable to hide the concern in her voice.
Silas shrugs. It has been bothering him, sure, somewhere in the back of his mind. But he’d distracted himself with missing River, and all the politics.
“It’s bad, right?” Silas asks, his throat tightening.
Violet puts a hand on his arm. “Not necessarily. What happened with you and Valor…nothing like it has ever happened before. I think you just need to do something to get your mind off of it.”
Silas looks at her blankly. He’d assumed she’d understand. He’d assumed any fiend would. He thought that she would know how it would feel to have everything about your demon change, the one thing that spends your whole life with you, that cannot leave you.
At least, that’s how it was before. After Valiant, perhaps everything is different.
Violet sighs and puts a hand on his knee. He still jumps, even though he’s lost the fire that had come with his earlier thoughts of River.
“You’re tense, Silas.” Violet says. “You should go out.”
Silas laughs, oddly amused that they’d somehow come full circle to this point.
“Is that a yes?” Violet asks.
The music pounds, the deep beat of it thumping in Silas’ chest. Perhaps by force of old habits, times when Valor had pushed him to lose himself in alcohol, he finds himself bouncing between the bar and the dance floor all the night. The bartender had recognized him, even though he rarely came here even in the height of his partying days. Each time Silas approaches the bar, he serves him right away. He’s been giving him something clear but strong that burns like fire in his throat. Silas gets another and kicks back the drink quickly. He puts his money on the counter and is rewarded with another of the same drink. His head swims as the alcohol settled in his system. He turns back to the dance floor, feeling the music thrum through him and watching others dance. With a fresh glass of something clear that burns like fire in his hand, he pushes his way through swaying bodies. Sweat from their exposed limbs rubs up against his bare arms. He breathes in the scent of sweat and alcohol, begging Valor to stir within him and return. He misses the way his magic had been, the feeling of companionship that he never knew he would miss with Valor latent within him.
His eyes sweep the dance floor, watching everyone around him grind up against each other. He’d come here to find that closeness with someone. He knows that, but it doesn’t really make it any easier. His gaze catches on one of the dancers. He has deep brown skin and dark hair cut close to his head in tight curls. He must have noticed someone staring. His gold eyes find Silas’ and hold. He’s not as slender as Silas usually likes, but there’s a subtle power in the way he swings his hips back and forth to the music that makes Silas’ temperature rise.
Silas can’t help but notice that he’s the furthest thing from River. He hates that about him. He loves that about him. Either way, his body burns.
Silas downs his drink and moves to put it back on the bar. The other fiend moves through the crowd slowly to watch him. Silas leans back against the bar with sprawling limbs. The fiend’s eyes wander over him lazily. His eyes come back up to Silas’ and stay there. The eye contact is prolonged, and eventually Silas pushes himself off the bar and moves through the dance floor towards him.
His hands find Silas’ hips, resting lightly there as they move back and forth to the music. Every part of Silas’ body is heated from the alcohol and the atmosphere, his senses primed. He feels drawn to the other fiend, their bodies growing closer together as they dance. He can see the beads of sweat on the other’s forehead, breath between his parted lips hot on Silas’ neck as they move close. They are dancing pressed against each other now, and Silas feels something hot and hard pushing against his thigh, mimicking his own need. He presses closer as they move together. Skin touches skin as his hands pushes under Silas’s black sleeveless shirt, moving over his lower back and pressing into his hip bones.
Their lips meet in fierce and desperate harmony. Silas grabs the fiends bare upper arms, feeling the corded strength beneath the skin. He doesn’t think of the elegant lines of River’s body. He doesn’t think about River’s shyness and how strongly it opposes the need and anonymity of this encounter.
They dance like this for a while, bodies rubbing up against each other futilely, Silas’ lips moving down to leave a purple mark on the other’s neck.
“Let’s get out of here.” The fiend whispered in Infernic, his breath hot on Silas’ ear. Silas leans back and nods his agreement, grabbing his hand and pulling him out of the club.
You can read the next chapter here. Be sure to comment with your thoughts, questions, or criticisms! How do you feel about Silas sleeping with someone else?