So, today is pretty damn momentous – at least for me. This posts will mark the end of one of my serials, The Deal. I spent about a year working on it through Wendy Strain’s WOW555 flash fiction contest, and it hit a bit of a snag when the contest stopped. Luckily, it was fairly close to its end, so it only took a few more well-placed prompts to get it where it is today. I’m really excited to finally be done, since that means more time and brain power I can dedicate to my other two serials and Withered Legacy. Not to mention all the reading I can get done now. Huzzah!
The Deal‘s end comes courtesy of Our Write Side’s Master Class prompt this week. At first it was a bit tough, because I still wasn’t sure how I wanted to end the story. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure that it’s over – just that I won’t be writing about Emma and Malakai in serial form anymore. Maybe they’ll get a rewrite or a longer future story – who knows? Anyway, the prompt I chose to use for the piece is “Melancholy Occasions” and it serves as an inspiration for how Emma feels once she’s back from Sídhe with her mother.
Brace yourself, because this one’s probably longer than anything I’ve ever put on here, thanks to a lack of word limit on this prompt series. 🙂
Even though it felt great to be looking at my front door – to know that the whole ordeal with the faerie queen was behind me, at least for now – I couldn’t bring myself to put one foot in front of the other.
The lights in the house were out, and no one was home. Did Malakai get tired of waiting? How much time had passed? Behind me, my father bid my mother good-bye before calling out to me. Grateful for the distraction from the empty house, I turn around.
“If you need anything…” His words are awkward, and I knew he intended to be a steadier presence in my life from that moment on. Aedan struggled with what he wanted to say, though, and I couldn’t really blame him. It’s not like I had any idea what to say, either.
“You’ll be the first to know. Thank you – for everything.” I looked down at my hands, and it was like seeing them again for the first time. Despite the snow and frost in the air, I didn’t feel cold. My new abilities were still something I’d need to get used to. Looking back up at my father, I tried to muster a smile that was actually friendly.
He didn’t linger after that, but did say he’d be around soon. My mother seemed used to these kinds of good-byes, and I wondered how often he visited behind my back. She showed no hint of sadness at his departure, and I couldn’t help but contrast her appearance with how I felt. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt. I just wanted to see Malakai.
“Come on, Emma. I haven’t eaten in what feels like weeks – I’ll order us some dinner.” She walked past me, but paused to squeeze my hand encouragingly before walking the rest of the way up to the front door.
I followed after her only moments later, once she was already inside. Circe greeted us happily. Her food bowl was full and there was a note from Esther with a phone number.
Call me if you’re back. – Esther
A note from Esther, but not from Malakai. It was silly of me to think that he would wait. After all, he was free from Clara’s hold – our deal fulfilled. I was grateful he’d hung around long enough to help me with the phoenix, but of course I couldn’t expect him to just wait – to put his life on hold – for me to come back from a different world, with no guarantee that I would even make it back.
“I’ll call her.” At least my voice didn’t shake. It’d been a while since my last break down, and I wondered when the emotions would catch up to me. Pulling my cell phone from my pocket, I punched the number in and saved it for future reference before calling. It hardly rang twice, but it felt like an eternity.
“Hello?” Esther’s voice was cautious – of course, she wouldn’t have my number.
“Esther…it’s Emma. My mother and I are back.” My voice sounded hollow even to my own ears. “Esther?”
She was quiet for a while before she responded. “That’s great! You don’t know what a relief it is to hear your voice. How are you? How’s your mom?”
“We’re fine.” I let the words fall into the static of the phone call. “And you? How’s Malakai?”
“I’m good – getting back into the swing of things.” Her voice trailed off on the other end, and I could tell she was reluctant to continue. “Malakai…he’s been better.”
“Do you know how long you’ve been gone?”
“Three months, Emma.” Three months. I almost dropped my phone as my heart sank. “We stayed at your house for the first month, sure you’d be back as soon as the last time. But then-”
“Malakai got tired of waiting.” My throat constricted as the words left me.
“No – Emma, it’s not like that. He just-”
“It’s alright. Tell him I said ‘hi’ when you see him. Thank you for taking care of Circe.”
“Emma, wait- you don’t understand.”
“What?” I didn’t mean to snap at her, but I bit the inside of my mouth to stop from saying anything else.
“Malakai’s been trying to figure out a way to find you. He got restless waiting for you and left to hunt down Clara – to demand information.”
“He what…?” There was no way Clara would take Malakai to Sídhe – was there? And if she did… “Where is he now?”
“I don’t know. I met with Clara shortly after he went to her – she swore she didn’t help Malakai get to Sídhe. It would have been against the queen’s orders, anyway.” She sighed on the other end, clearly worried for her brother. “But she wouldn’t help me find him, either.”
“I have an idea. I’ll call you as soon as I’ve found him.” I hung up before she could protest or say anything else.
Before running up to my room, I gave my mother a brief explanation. She forgave me for skipping out on dinner almost immediately – even suggested a particular tracker spell I could use to find him. It was the exact same one I had in mind. Back when we were trying to figure out how to track Clara down, several of the spells we came across required a token or trinket belonging to the person in question. I just hoped I still had his enchanted collar.
My room felt as empty as ever when I stepped foot inside. Even though we were gone for months, though, there wasn’t a speck of dust anywhere. I suspected Esther did more than just keep Circe fed. Silently thanking her, I scanned the room for the collar. It sat on my nightstand, and relief washed through me at the sight of it. Grabbing the book I knew the tracking spell would be in, I flipped it open and sat on the floor, collar held tightly in my other hand.
I read the spell and instructions quickly, feeling a sudden urgency. I closed my eyes, holding the collar to my chest and whispering the spell at first, trying out the foreign words on my lips. Once I was confident that the pronunciation was right, I said it with more feeling, imbuing the words with my magic. I couldn’t tell what magic I was using – witch or fey – but it didn’t matter. In the palm of my hand, the collar grew warm.
“Where are you?” I whispered the words, begging the spell to work faster. When I opened my eyes again, the collar in my hand turned into something of a beacon – a soft beam of glowing light pointing forward, like a compass. I placed the collar on my wrist before running down the stairs and calling out to my mother as I left the house.
He wasn’t that far away, I could feel it. I wanted to launch myself into the air to track him down, but that would only complicate things if someone saw me. The last thing I needed was to be slowed down. So I ran as fast as my legs could carry me, following the beam of light as it led me through the streets. It was late at night by now – the streets and roads empty save for the falling snow and the random passerby. A couple of miles from my house, there was a park. It was difficult to tell how long it had taken me to reach it, but when I did, I was panting to catch my breath. If it’d been before my transformation, I doubt I would have even made it past the first mile.
The park was bordered along one side with woods that spanned for some miles in that direction. Most people liked to use it as a hiking trail. Malakai was back there somewhere.
“Malakai!” The collar grew uncomfortably warm on my wrist – that and the tightening sensation in my chest told me he was definitely close. “Malakai!”
I ran into the woods, picking the nearest entrance to one of the hiking trails. The collar pointed straight ahead, so I followed the trail at a jogger’s pace, unwilling to risk missing him. Continuing to call out his name, I kept my eyes peeled for any hint of him. Even with my new abilities, seeing in the dark wasn’t the easiest of tasks. I’m not sure how long I wandered the hiking trails – the collar continued to lead me, and I paid attention to little else. Even so, I felt like I was walking around in circles. All the trees were beginning to blur together.
The collar started to dim, the glow flickering until it went out. I was about to re-do the spell when I heard a branch snap behind me. Before I knew what I was doing, I whipped around to face whatever was there, fireballs in hand. Before me crouched a large, black mountain lion, a snarl deep in his throat as it prepared to pounce. My flames danced in his blue eyes, and my entire body suddenly relaxed. I knew those eyes. “Malakai – it’s me.”
He stopped his advance, hesitating for a second before appearing to stand on his haunches as he shifted back into human form.
“Emma?” His voice was hoarse – sounding as if he either just woke up or hadn’t spoken in a long time. He walked into the glow my fireballs let off, and I had to bite my lip to stifle a cry. He looked so tired, so worn. There were dark circles around his wild eyes, his skin was paler than usual, and his facial hair had grown in some. Bruises and scratches riddled his body, and though I’d only ever seen him shirtless, I knew most of those scars were new.
I extinguished the fireballs and practically threw myself at him, wrapping my arms around his neck. For a moment he just stood there, frozen in place. Just as I was about to pull back, his arms came around me in a tight embrace, holding onto me like I was a lifeline. Burying my face in his neck, I couldn’t help but let out a small cry – of joy or what I wasn’t sure.
“I thought…I thought I’d never see you again.” He spoke into my hair, his body shaking. That’s when I remembered he was naked. In the snow.
“We need to get you inside. Now.” I stopped his protests. “Turn into a cat.” The order was sharp – I was angrier than I thought I was – but he obeyed without protest, falling into my arms in his familiar cat form. I unzipped my hoodie and placed him inside, zipping it back up to keep him warm while I made my way back to my house.
When I returned, my mother already had our food ready. She didn’t say much, simply giving me a small, encouraging smile before I made my way up the stairs again and to my room. Malakai remained in cat form – for my benefit or his, I’m not sure – while I rummaged through my things to find a pair of pajama pants that would fit him. Taking those and a towel, I led him to my bathroom. “Take a shower, we can talk after.”
I closed the door to the bathroom, but I hovered in the hall until I heard the water running.
“Is he alright?” When did she get up the stairs?
“I think so.” I looked down at my feet, worried about him all over again. “I hope so.”
Before I knew it, my mother drew me into a hug. “It’ll be okay, hun. Don’t worry.” I mumbled a thanks but didn’t pull away, simply letting my mother hold me for a while. “I’m going to turn in for the night after I talk to Esther – I’ll let her know you found him. There’s food in the microwave for both of you. Please eat something, and make sure he does, too.” She pulled back, gently cupping my face for a moment before retreating to her room.
Behind me, the water stopped running, signaling the end of Malakai’s shower. The pit of my stomach twisted in on itself. Crossing my arms, I settled on waiting in my room for him to come out. A moment later, he opened the bathroom door and walked out, towel-drying his hair. He made his way down the hall and into my room, setting the towel to dry on the back of a chair. Again, I had to stifle a cry at the sight of how worn out he was. He looked infinitely better after a shower, but still.
I still didn’t know what I was going to say, but he didn’t give me much of a chance to speak. A second later he’d pulled me up off my bed and into a hug. Again, he held me like a lifeline.
“I’m-I’m sorry, Malakai. I…”
He pulled away suddenly, hands coming to cup my face as his eyes frantically searched it. There was worry in his familiar blue orbs, tinged with a million other emotions I couldn’t identify. “Are you okay? Is everything alright now?”
“Yes, we’re fine. But I’m more worried about you.” I placed a hand on his cheek. “This wasn’t here before…” I grazed my finger along his jaw, where a scar marred his skin. It looked like it had been a pretty deep cut. My hand trailed the rest of the way down, touching several of the new scars on his chest, too. “Neither were these.”
“It was nothing.” He grabbed my hand, bringing it to his lips and pressing a kiss to my fingertips.
“What were you doing out there? Esther told me you tried to get Clara to help you find me.” I let him continue to hold my hand.
His eyes darted away for a second, as if he were trying to figure out what to say. When he looked at me again, he spoke. “I…I was looking for a way to find you. Heard a rumor that there were faerie sightings there. It seemed fitting since it’s so close to your house.”
“So you’ve been looking for fey?”
“Do you have any idea how dangerous that is? If the queen found out you were going to such lengths to find me-”
“I don’t care how dangerous it is, Emma, I…” He looked away again. “I…”
“I care.” I pulled away completely, stepping past him. “How could you be so reckless? You could have been killed, or worse.” Unwilling to look him in the eye at the thought of him being under the fey queen’s control, I stared out the window. “Esther needs you. After everything we did to save her, it’s not worth the risk – I’m not worth that risk, Malakai.”
He didn’t respond, and for a while I thought he might have left the room. I was about to turn around when I felt him grab my elbow, turning me in place. Before I could say anything, he pulled me by the nape of the neck and pressed his lips to mine. Even though this wasn’t the first time he kissed me, I was frozen in shock. His hand left my elbow and snaked around my waist, pulling me flush against him. His mouth moved desperately on mine, and I found myself responding with equal fervor. My hands were trembling as they ghosted along his chest on their way up to his neck. I held onto him for dear life, the tightening in my chest getting worse.
When he broke the kiss, we were both panting. I leaned back against my windowsill, closer than I thought it was, as he leaned his head against the window behind me, his forehead resting on my shoulder. Trying to regain my senses, I took a deep breath. All that accomplished was a shuddering sigh, and I realized I was crying. Malakai mumbled something against my shoulder, and it took a moment for the words to sink in.
“You are worth every risk.” He drew back in order to look at me, his hands cupping my face, thumbs wiping my tears.
“Emma.” His voice was stern, maybe even angry. Definitely annoyed. Malakai’s eyes held me in place, the intensity of his gaze unlike anything I’d ever seen before. “You didn’t owe me anything when I came here asking for your help. Hell, all I did was make things worse for you…”
“Let me finish.” He sighed, his hands leaving my cheeks. One of his thumbs brushed along my bottom lip while the other hand took one of mine. His eyes went from my lips to our hands. “You could have refused me when I offered you that deal. You should have. I don’t know what I was thinking. And then I almost lost you.” His eyes clouded over, an edge of danger to them. “Twice. I needed to find you, Emma. Even if one of the fey ended up killing me, because I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t…” His voice trailed off, and the silence of the room engulfed us both.
“Don’t. Don’t apologize.” He brought his lips back to mine again, lingering in a sweet kiss before he pulled back.
“When…when I got back and saw that you weren’t here…” It was difficult to say how I felt out loud. Instead, I let the words hang in the air between us, sure he understood what I wanted to say.
“I won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.” Malakai pulled me in for yet another kiss, his arms going around me, one of his hands sliding into my hair. I allowed myself to melt into his embrace, sighing as he deepened the kiss. For the first time since returning from Sídhe, I let myself truly relax. Malakai and Esther were safe, my mother was safe. Everything would be alright. That hollow feeling in my chest was finally dissipating.
Suddenly, a low grumble interrupted the silence, and I couldn’t help the small smile as I pulled away. “I think you’re hungry.”
His cheeks were pink, but he returned my smile with a grin of his own. “Possibly.”
“Come on.” I took his hand, lacing our fingers. “You can tell me all about your faerie hunting escapades over dinner.”
It was tough writing this – even played around with the idea of her not finding Malakai. But I was feeling like a happy ending this time around, so there you have it! They’re together, they’re happy, all is right with the world. For now.
Let me know what you think in the comments!
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Also, I posted a review of my most recent read this morning! Take a gander here.
As always, think happy thoughts!