James was home. I felt his presence, the heat from his body as he stepped out of the limousine. The flames around me intensified as where he had been came to mind again. Why had he gone on a date with Maxine of all people? What use did he have of her when I had vastly more resources? Wasn’t I enough company?
I took a deep breath and calmed the fires around me as I calmed myself. I needed isolation at the moment. An errant thought of annoyance could be enough to incinerate someone if I wasn’t careful. Every moment of every day needed to be cool and calm to avoid casualties, but the temper within me fought against my control.
James stepped into the ballroom where the others were at play. I fought the urge to cast a spell and listen to what they would tell him. I did not want to stoke my inner fire with more irritants. Ai and Mai could be more than a little vexing in their playfulness.
I took another breath and thought back to when I was a child, little more than an infant. Mother chided me for being unclothed, despite the isolation of the forest where I sat, floating in the air. Even then my temper was a problem, but I had run away without injuring anyone that day. She would not approve of finding me like this again. She never had, but she never commanded me to go inside after that day.
We had argued, which turned into a fight. I went nuclear, not even understanding what the term meant yet. The blast could have killed so many, including myself, but I hadn’t known. I was young, angry, and far too dangerous to be left unsupervised. Mother recognized what was happening as the heat’s intensity grew and created dozens of spells in an instant to save as much as she could. The shockwave still threw her with me cradled in her arms, but nothing save for a relatively small part of the forest paid the price.
James was coming, jogging toward me. He was so delicate, so very human. I knew part of my attraction to him stemmed from exposure to his magic, but I did not care. James was good in a way which made everyone around him check themselves, wanting to better themselves. No one ever wanted to do something which wouldn’t meet his approval, because disappointing James was too painful to bear. I knew firsthand.
I thought of running, knowing I shouldn’t let him see me like this. I knew he wouldn’t be able to see my body through the smoke and the fire, but he might be disappointed that there was fire. I failed to control myself well enough.
A quiet voice in the back of my mind wondered how he would react if I let him see me for a moment. I smothered it with all my might. Such a lapse of propriety would be far too inappropriate. We weren’t even dating, much to my dismay.
:Oh cousin, I noticed.: whispered Adelmar in my mind.
:Do be quiet!: I screamed at him, only to hear mocking laughter.
I sometimes wondered if he trusted me, so often he came into my mind.
:Cousin, you know I have faith in you. Just don’t destroy the poor boy.: he teased.
James was sprinting toward me now. Unfortunately, Adelmar’s teasing only made me more anxious. I needed to be calm. I carefully prepared spells to shelter James from the magic swirling around me and then unleashed them. He floated toward me, safe from the wind and fire. Part of me wanted to embrace his broad back, but I couldn’t, not now. Possibly not ever. The thought made my heart sink.
I took a breath and carefully said, “I apologize for catching you in a spell, james, but I am not currently fit to be seen. Please don’t turn this way.” I couldn’t risk having my sinking heart affect my voice as thoughts of losing him swirled through my head.
I knew he wouldn’t turn. James was completely trustworthy to his core.
“I was worried when I returned home and heard that you were upset.” he replied.
A smile touched my lips, and I felt elevated instantly. He really did care.
“I’m fine.” I assured him. “I just wanted to let loose for a bit.” He would forgive a little lie, wouldn’t he?
“Would you believe that Maxine spent the whole day trying to convince me of how just her actions were? I had a rather horrible day. Figure I might join the others at gaming for a bit to unwind. Care to join us?” he asked.
I had to fight back my fires the moment he said her name and felt unjustly satisfied when he admitted to a terrible day. He deserved better than this. I was supposed to be better, but the war inside me was being waged to the best of my abilities. What more did he expect of me?
Calm. I took a breath. Calm. Then I said, “In a bit. Do you ever let something minor get under your skin and have it grow and grow until you can’t think of anything else?”
I was feeling slightly more relaxed. Just being around James helped. The way he smiled could lift my day as easily as his anger could ruin it.
“I’m sure everyone experiences that from time to time.” he assured me.
He was so very kind.
“Watching my temper is far more important for me than for most.” I admitted. Then I found myself explaining “Only my cousin seems to really understand, having to fight with his constantly as well. Our tempers are volatile and so, so fierce. My magic responds to mine, raising the temperature of my body. If I fail to counter it, I can set things on fire with a touch or incinerate someone who’s annoying me.” Was I getting through to him? “Magic like mine doesn’t care about reason. I feel, and the magic acts.” Something was off. What? “Sometimes, I need a moment to myself, so I can just let things burn. Don’t worry. I’ll pay Emma to fix this part of the yard tomorrow.” The soil was gone beneath me, a perfect dip made by the initial blast of my heat.
I still couldn’t put my finger on what was bothering me. James was fine. I started reaching toward him, and the fire simmered down to almost nothing around me as my foot touched the ground. If he turned, he’d see me wearing nothing but a thin, stylized fog before him; such an insubstantial barrier could never hold back desires.
“Oh, no. I’m so, so sorry, James.” I told him, realizing what I had done. The yearning for him was tremendous, and I was losing ground fighting it. “You can’t be around anyone for a while, especially not me. Find somewhere isolated to run.” The constant use of magic in this area had charged James with energy, the very energy his magic used to enchant people.
My arm was inching toward him even as I fought to keep it back. I wasn’t in control, but I was losing a war I had never fought before. I needed to find more strength. I felt so weak. I wanted to embrace him and… and…
“What? Why?” he asked, spinning toward me.
I bit my lip, fighting the words that wanted to come out. I fought against my arm, clenching my other fist. As I was now, I could kill him on accident by merely embracing him too tightly. I couldn’t trust myself, not with the wild thoughts taking over my mind. He needed to be away.
“James, please. Please, leave.” I begged, my voice trembling as I spoke. “I’ll explain later” I promised.
Just a little more, and I would touch him. I wanted to feel his skin and stare into those eyes. His lips might help quench the burning desire within me. I knew they wouldn’t be enough. With the last of my strength, I made a spell and threw James across the yard.
I was down on one knee, fighting for control. The urge to chase after him was so very intense. I feared nothing could keep him safe from me, and then anger flared within me once more. A naked girl seemed to appear out of nowhere, jumping into James and hugging him.
I almost killed her, but I resisted. My inner battles had merged now, anger and passion fighting for dominance. The girl was pulling him to the forest. Others were there. Dozens of creatures had stepped to the edge of the forest. Were we under attack? Move… I needed to move!
When I felt Aaliyah arrive beside James, I worried what had happened. Why was the Reaper here? I created a spell to protect my mind and ran to them, but no one else was in sight.
“What happened?” asked James as I approached.
“You’re looking scary today!” exclaimed Aaliyah, staring up at me.
“Where are they? Who are they?” I demanded.
“This is James. I’m Aaliyah. Is your memory gone?” asked Aaliyah.
I nearly lashed out at her, but I restrained myself. I was too close to James at the moment, too out of control. I felt his magic sweeping away the meager protection I had made. I didn’t have the will to reinforce it.
“There were others here. Many for that matter.” I told her. “We need to keep people away from James right now. Even now I feel my spell’s insufficient.”
Her gaze had shifted to James, and they stared and stared at one another. He started patting her head. What was happening. Think. My mind felt heavy, foggy. I was exhausted from the strain of my inner turmoil. No. No, no, no. I needed to make a spell, something to stop this, but my will was too weak. I could barely keep myself from embracing James.
“Please. Not you too.” I pleaded, realizing that James was even affecting Death herself.
“Don’t worry, Alpy. You don’t need to protect me. He can’t affect me now.” stated Aaliyah as a tear rolled down her cheek.
There was a sadness to her I couldn’t even comprehend at the moment. I believed her. James approached me, acting as if he was about to hug me. I imagined the feel of his hand against my skin and mustered all I could to move away from him.
“Please, James, keep your distance. Aaliyah, promise me that he’s safe with you.” I demanded.
“He’s safe, Alpy.” she assured me.
I ran and ran and ran. I didn’t stop running until I was out of the city and hiding in the nearest forest. Tears streamed down my face as I collapsed. I desperately wanted to go back there and find him, but I couldn’t. I knew I couldn’t trust myself any further. One more glimpse of him, and I’d have no will left. I was so weak. How could I ever face him again?