For all intents and purposes, John was a man – at least, that’s what he kept reminding himself these days.
Just to make sure, John idly pulled open the front of his towel, nodding at what he saw. Yep, still a man, even after so many years with being dead and all.
A man has needs. Very demanding and often aggravating physical needs.
John idly rubbed the steam off the mirror in the bathroom, staring gloomily at himself in the misted reflection. He studied his figure in the mirror, reflexively sucking in his gut just a little.
Still had all of his hair – check. Hairline still holding strong, as it always would now, even if it were just a touch thin in the back. The gray was staying well within its limited borders, giving him a somewhat distinguished air - and he was sticking to that story until he was well and truly dead.
The fine lines around his eyes and mouth added an inestimable gravitas to his image – made him look like a man to take seriously, a man with experience.
Hunting kept him in shape – he took another deep breath – maybe not a six pack, but he wasn’t hauling a keg around on his belly.
Muscles – check. Could still tell they were there somewhere.
John sighed once more – he was a man with needs that were not being met, and his irritating blue shadow was not making the prospect of getting laid any likelier.
Pardon me, ma’am, would you like to have some sex? My…sister needs to stay in the room, if you don’t mind.
Oh, yeah, that was going to work – maybe if he shelled out a couple hundred bucks or visited one of those types of bars that Dean liked to frequent. John had to come up with a plan, and soon, or he very well may die again from pure sexual frustration.
When John exited the bathroom, he heard a heavy panting from the television situated across the room, Illyria apparently entranced by the rather gymnastic endeavors of the three or four people on-screen.
“Holy fuck, Illyria,” John growled angrily. “Turn that off!” He picked up the battered remote that was lying on the bed and clicked it towards the television, throwing the inoffensive device towards the trashcan when it failed to do what he wished. The remote rebounded off the wall, pieces scattering like spent shells across the dank brown carpet as the television screen went black with an almost plaintive hum.
“No more TV,” he ordered. “Possibly ever.”
Illyria glanced steadily from the television, to the broken remote, to the steam still drifting from the bathroom, and then to John, who looked rather peeved and still very damp clad only in his towel.
“Are you in heat again?” Illyria asked in her usual direct manner. “Should I call for ice?” She cocked her head, blinking up at him as amusement fought with irritation on his face.
“Nothing so extreme, Illyria. I’ll survive.” John absently ran a hand through his damp hair, tousling the loose black curls into wild disarray.
Illyria stood, gracefully gliding towards him with that odd swaying stalk that was uniquely hers.
“You should reconsider my offer,” she said as she stood at attention before him, her hands clasped behind her back in the attitude of a seasoned soldier. Illyria’s eyes scanned John from head to foot, as if assessing him for some sort of damage.
“I said no, Illyria,” John reminded her. “That’s the end of that.”
Illyria’s bold blue gaze burned into his bare back as he turned to change into his clothes – he could feel the weight of her eyes on his skin, his flesh pebbling at the eerie sensation. “You need to mate. We are bound. I am both a logical choice and conveniently located. Your ministrations will not offend me.”
“No,” John said again, his tone hard as he refused to even look at her. He irritably pulled his sweatshirt on over his head, his jaw tight with tension as a thousand recriminations remained locked behind the angry line of his mouth. John knew better than to try to explain; she could never comprehend, being incapable of emotion or understanding – she wasn’t human, after all.
After only a moment, his shoulders slumped and he added in an apologetic tone, “We’re…partners. Just partners. Sex only ruins things between partners.”
“Then find a human cow and be done with it,” Illyria ordered. “I wish to kill you in your sleep when you are in season. Things poke at me and it is very disconcerting.”
John awoke to find Illyria standing at the foot of the bed, her blue eyes bright in the early morning light seeping through the curtains. He caught his breath and clutched the sheets up under his neck, feeling very much the maiden protecting his virtue until he saw the quirk of Illyria’s lip indicating she had noted his reaction.
Illyria patted his leg under the covers, demanding curtly, “Awaken. We are moving.”
“What?” John asked, still half asleep. “Moving where?” He blinked up at her blearily, eyes still unfocused.
“Two doors down,” Illyria told him, throwing random clothes at him as she attempted to pack. John ducked as one of his shoes flew carelessly by his head, catching its mate as she tossed it aimlessly in his direction. A box of shells was thrown into a duffel bag with some lighter fluid and an uncapped tube of toothpaste, on top of which she deposited a pile of dirty clothes and several heavy demonic texts. John began to recall why he never let Illyria pack.
“OK, Illyria. Explain this to me. I’m a little lost.” John sat upright, his hair sticking up in all directions as he tried to focus on the busily rummaging Demon-God unintentionally destroying all of their worldly possessions. He rubbed at his eyes, yawning widely as he arched his back into a stretch.
John lounged against the headboard, the bedcovers puddled low around his waist, painting a rather incongruous picture of befuddled debauchery with the scattered clothes lending an intriguing implication to the scene.
“I telephoned the motel office manager while you were sleeping,” Illyria stated. “I asked if all the rooms were set up in a similar fashion and if they had the same dimensions. The human said yes. I paced off our room and the bed is well within a fifteen-foot radius from the center wall.”
John furrowed his brow, his head still hazy with sleep. “Still not gettin’ it.” He shifted a little under the covers, his regular morning…friend demanding more immediate attention as he was dragged into full wakefulness.
“But you will,” Illyria stated directly, a hint of amusement coloring her tone. “I have asked for adjoining rooms. We merely need to move the bed to the opposite wall and we will be able to maintain our thirty-foot perimeter without injury to your person.”
Illyria crawled languorously up the bed, alarming John – and incidentally intriguing his disappointingly undiscriminating friend - once more. “You will be able to relieve your tensions and not be such a thorn in my side. Having to kill you after the infinite period it took to train you correctly would be an incomprehensible waste of my hallowed time and resources.”
Illyria shoved his t-shirt towards his chest. “Now dress. We have work to do. I requested that the front desk provide a woman for you, but they hung up on me.” Illyria sat back on her heels with a dismissive sniff. “I am afraid you shall have to hunt one down on your own.”
She added with an almost pleased expression, “I know a good snare we could use – does very little harm to the creature.”
John groaned, hiding his face in his crumpled T-shirt. His downstairs associate, however, seemed to think it was a grand idea. “Can we just leave the state? Please?”
Thanks to Illyria, they now had a plan. It made John uncomfortable to think that his sex-life was being orchestrated by what appeared to be a nearly asexual former Demon-God, but it was his best bet for ever having sex again and he was going to take it before he went entirely insane.
Illyria wandered through the door connecting their rooms, perching herself in a bird-like fashion on the end of the bed, watching as he dressed. Something like relief flowed through John once she was back in the room – this separation thing wasn’t as easy as he’d hoped. He felt better if she were located somewhere he could still see her.
“Why do you bother to put on clothes?” Illyria asked with a hint of curiosity. “Would it not work more quickly to just walk around without the wrapping? The mortal on TV said you must advertise in order to sell your goods.” She glanced over at John who was staring at her in disbelief. “He was talking about used cars, I believe.”
John flushed, coughing uncomfortably into his hand. “We humans like to leave a little surprise for later, Illyria.”
“Inefficient,” she declared. “Why can we not order a female from the phone book? There are pages upon pages of them.”
John decided the wisest course might just be to ignore her. “Suit up, Illyria. Remember to keep close, but not too close. Think of it like hunting – unobtrusive, but keeping watch.”
“Don’t worry, John,” Fred chirped cheerily, her loose brown curls framing her delicate heart-shaped face – the picture of innocence. “Even if Aabrams, Eileen to Gonzalez, Kathy said no, I am sure we will find someone to amuse you tonight.”
“God, no,” John cringed, shoving her towards the door. “You didn’t.”
John collapsed atop the woman, panting heavily as she ran her nails over his back. “Oh, baby,” she cooed. “That was…,” her eyes widened and she squealed sharply, shoving him off and pulling the coverlet over her chest. “Who is that?!” she screeched dramatically, one lacquered nail pointed accusingly across the room.
John glanced over and groaned, covering his eyes with his hand before taking a breath and asking calmly, “What are you doing in here, Fred?”
Fred sat perched on the dresser, the door connecting their rooms open wide. Fred gave a cheery wave to the woman on the other side of the bed, swinging her feet till they thumped rhythmically against the wood.
“Fred,” John restated warningly.
“I was bored,” Fred whined piteously, “and I couldn’t fall asleep without you there.” She pouted, an absolute picture of blameless affront. “You said I couldn’t watch TV, remember?” John shook his head, too irritated – and frankly, too relaxed - to be embarrassed, as Fred continued, “She wasn’t as loud as the women on TV. Were you doing it wrong?”
“Fred, go back to your room,” John ordered, pointing his finger towards the door.
“I think it was working better when she was on top. She made quite a commotion when you were doing that. I know you’re certainly sufficiently sized, so that couldn’t be the problem….”
“Now,” John said intently, his eyes finally meeting Fred’s before she said anything more that might get him into trouble. Fred paused, considering, before hopping off the dresser and making her way sulkily towards the door. “Watch TV, but stay in there.”
As the door closed behind her, John sighed, “Sorry, my sister isn’t quite…up for company.”
“You’re sleepin’ with your sister?” the woman asked with a hint of drunken confusion, frowning thoughtfully at the now locked door.
“God, no,” John admitted truthfully. Fred wasn’t his sister, after all, and while they literally slept together…and showered together… and pretty much did everything together - Hell, alone time with his helpful right hand was difficult to arrange without Illyria barging in with questions or comments, leading to several lectures on personal space and propriety - they most certainly did not have sex together.
“Is she slow?” the woman asked more cheerfully.
“With some things? Most definitely yes.” John patted the bed beside him. “Now come back here. I think I’m up for a little more company.”
The connecting door creaked ominously, bowing inward and outward as if it were breathing before the loud crunch of the lock breaking let it swing open into the darkness of the next room. Fred stalked predatorily into the moonlit room, eyes flashing dangerously as she headed straight for the bed.
“What did you do?” Fred demanded, her light, flighty tone darkened with something that made the other woman’s skin crawl, her inner voice suddenly urging her to flee.
“I-I didn’t do anything!” she squeaked, backing up towards the wall. “He was asleep and then he started freaking out!” She pressed herself flat against the cool surface, as if hoping to somehow camouflage herself in the broad print swathing the walls.
Fred ignored her as something less than useless, crawling up onto the rumpled bed to settle near John. He was huddled into a ball, making soft keening noises as he whimpered, “Nononopleaseno,” against his fisted hands.
“John,” Fred murmured softly. “They’re not here. They can’t touch you.” She reached out a hand to stroke down his arm, cautiously brushing her skin over his as one would a wounded animal.
As her fingers swept over his wrist, John snapped into motion, rolling atop Fred and clamping his hands around her throat. “No,” he hissed, squeezing hard as he pressed his thumbs into the soft skin under her chin, his eyes muddied with a mix of anger and terror. “No!”
John’s grip tightened, bones protruding sharply from his clenched hands as his knuckles whitened from the pressure of his hold. Fred’s face reddened as her illusory pulse beat more slowly under his palms. She cupped her hands around his face and shifted, Illyria’s intense blue eyes staring up at him as she grabbed hanks of his hair in her fists and yanked sharply, making him cry out in unexpected pain. John’s grip lightened as awareness leached into his gaze, a look of horror slowly edging its way across his face.
“Illyria?” he asked hesitantly, hardly able to breathe. She unclenched her fingers from his hair, murmuring calmly as John’s face crumpled and he collapsed on top of her, his entire body trembling.
The woman stood dumbfounded by the door, her dress now on and only half fastened. “What in the hell are you people?” she asked in a shaky voice, turning to bolt out of the door.
Illyria lay still, continuing to whisper soft reassurances in John’s ear as the door slammed closed behind the stranger.
“That went well,” John muttered sarcastically the next morning, still curled tightly against Illyria’s side with his arm locked securely around her waist.
“I agree,” Illyria declared. “You were not nearly so restless when sleeping and nothing poked me while you slumbered. I say it was a successful venture.”
John groaned, rolling over and pulling the pillow over his head. “I tried to kill you,” he reminded her, his voice heavily muffled. “That’s the worst it’s been since we first left…um…Sacramento.”
They tried not to mention where they met – it tended to make outside conversations awkward whenever Hell was brought up in a casual exchange over pancakes. “I can’t even sleep without you nearby.”
“Better me than that weak-spined creature you brought home,” Illyria stated with something like disgust. “I cannot have my Guide breeding with such feeble stock.”
Illyria gracefully rose to her feet, armor melting away as she headed for the shower, pausing only when she realized John was not behind her. “Are you not coming?” she asked, cocking her head to the side.
“Not anytime soon,” John replied obliquely, still buried somewhere under the sheets.
Illyria straightened her spine until she reached her full regal height, stating in a tone that implied the matter should be obvious, “But you must. You shall amuse me with the tale of your conquest as you bathe me.”
John lifted the pillow from his face, glowering at her. “If you’re so fuckin’ curious, then go try it yourself. Just leave me alone.”
Illyria shrugged non-committally and turned for the door, melting into a still unclothed Fred as she reached for the knob.
John had buried himself back under the covers when he heard the creak of what sounded like the door opening and a sudden brightness illuminated the sheets over his head.
“I’ll take that one,” Fred said loudly, pointing at the only male figure in sight.
John cursed creatively, falling out of bed still tangled in the sheets as he tried to make his way to Fred standing so openly naked in the door, the bright light of morning highlighting the curves of her body as the soft breeze blew her hair back from her face like Venus arising from the sea.
The chosen one’s eyes widened behind his thick glasses and he dropped the bucket in his hands, scattering cubes over the asphalt in front the of the motel’s ice machine. The boy fell clumsily to his knees, flushing as he glanced up at the rather large and frightening naked man glaring at him as he wrapped a wrinkled coverlet around the woman, pulling her back into the room with what sounded like a rumbling warning growl in the boy’s direction.
“I’m not getting arrested for your curiosity, Illyria,” John explained grumpily as Illyria shifted form once the door swung shut. “That kid was probably fifteen, for God’s sake.” John ran a hand through his hair, wandering towards the bathroom as he muttered, “Would have been the God-damned luckiest day of his life, and probably would have scared the shit out of him.”
Illyria trailed to the bathroom after John, stating succinctly, “Then you shall select a human for me.” She slipped into the shower following him, the water quickly drenching her and making the blue of her features stand out in sharp contrast to the darkness of her wet hair and the whiteness of her skin. “One that does not break easily.”
“I’m not gonna be your pimp, Illyria,” John grumbled as he lathered the cloth along her outstretched arm, the ritualistic zen of bathing Illyria somehow soothing to his still troubled spirits - the pure normalcy of this definitely un-normal situation making everything seem like it would turn out all right.
“That one,” John decided with a resigned sigh, pointing at a harmless looking man across the bar. “I don’t see any tell-tale weapons hidden on him and you could take him if it came down to a fight.”
Fred grinned at John cheerfully, smoothly sliding off the bar stool before he grabbed her by the arm to delay her for a moment. “Take these,” he said, flushing slightly as he jammed a few condoms into her dress pocket. “Remember what I told you. Don’t take any shit from him. You need me, yell, OK? I’ll be right next door.” Realistically, he knew she could snap the man in two if he got out of line, but some instincts die harder than others.
“I got it, John,” Fred assured him. “We practiced on the shotgun!” She gave him a conspiratorial wink and sashayed her way over to the lucky gentleman.
“Don’t hurt him!” John called out as she walked away. “Don’t want to have to dispose of the body,” he mumbled under his breath. He took a swig of beer and silently gave thanks to the Lord for not cursing him with a daughter. Sons were hard enough, but a daughter might have driven him certifiably insane.
Fred grabbed the man by the front of his shirt, making John groan and close his eyes in dismay, yanking the man down and stating something John couldn’t decipher over the music. The man clumsily slammed his drink on the table and followed Fred out of the bar, John reluctantly trailing behind them.
John clamped the pillow around his ears more firmly, completely sure he didn’t want to hear anything of what was going on next door. A small spark of jealousy surged through John - Illyria belonged to him and his blood and soul sang with the knowledge, demanding to be heard - and was quickly overcome by surprise at that fleeting emotion.
Fucking bond. Mess with my head so I don’t know which way is up sometimes.
It had become so easy to blame these momentary whims on that intangible thing that tied him to Illyria rather than to examine any other possible meaning.
At the moment, he was wishing he hadn’t left the remote on the table across the room because it was several feet beyond the limit of his barrier. John glowered at the device taunting him from its supine position on the flat tabletop – it was laughing at him, God-damn piece of junk.
He wanted some noise to block out what was going on, not wishing to hear anything that might scar his brain forever.
The idea of Illyria, no matter what guise she was wearing, and sex was something he could not even begin to fathom – or even want to fathom. Some mysteries were better left to God and Robert Stack.
Illyria was naked next door – no, it was Fred. God-dammit, don’t fucking try to deny it, it’s still Illyria, asshole. Only I get to see her naked – that’s like, a Rule or something. He’s touching my Demon-God! Dammit!
The whims were getting less transitory and far louder. John didn’t quite know what to think since he had no interest in having sex with a demon of any flavor, but the disturbing feeling that some stranger was playing in his metaphorical sandbox was starting to set him more than a little on edge. He felt like a fucking two-year old ready to throw his Tonka truck at a rival.
John started to wish he had some coffee. He couldn’t risk falling asleep without Illyria nearby, but with the absence of TV, the muffling silence of the pillow nearly suffocating him, and the jumble of thoughts currently occupying his brain, he was beginning to feel like taking a nap.
Maybe she’ll kill him accidentally, came the oddly pleasing thought.
John yawned widely, slumping back against the headboard to get just a little more comfortable. It wouldn’t hurt to close his eyes just for a min-…..
John awoke when the bed shifted beside him. He opened one eye to see a tousled Fred staring at him curiously. She dropped a wad of money on his lap. “He left me a gift,” she told him with a tilt of her head. “Is this usual?”
John’s jaw dropped and he glanced from the wad of twenties scattered on the sheets to Fred, who kept her wide-eyed gaze trained on him when John suddenly exploded, “Where is he?!”
Without waiting for her answer, John bounced off the bed and slammed through the connecting door, the echo reverberating through the flimsy wall. The man, who was still trying to pull on his pants, looked startled, nearly tripping over the fabric tangled around his ankles. Without even bothering to take a breath, John pounced, slamming his fist into the man’s nose and knocking him to the floor.
“How dare you,” John seethed, smashing the man’s head repeatedly into the carpet between punches. “You only wish….”
John felt a heavy weight on his back, slowly coming to feel Fred’s delicate hands gripping his arms. “John,” she said calmly into his ear. “You’re making him bleed all over the floor. We won’t get the security deposit back!”
John sagged back against her, leaving the man wheezing through his broken nose, his face smeared with blood. Still shaking from the rush of adrenaline, John panted for breath, getting unsteadily to his feet and aiming a spiteful kick at the downed man’s ribs before heading back into their room.
“Pack up, Fred. We’ve got to get out of here before he comes to.” John kept his face immobile, not even daring to guess at the motives behind his actions, disguising his discomfort behind a wall of pure outrage.
As Fred started throwing their things into bags, John gathered up the money and left it scattered over the man’s chest where he lay unconscious and bleeding on the floor.
“That was a remarkably bad idea,” John stated succinctly, driving steadily through the darkness encased in the familiar comfort of their car – seemingly the only two people left in the world on the black and empty road stretching before them.
“Indeed,” Illyria agreed. “I do not understand what you humans find so fascinating about sex. It is far more invigorating to gut a Lin’fe’kat than to engage in relations with a mortal creature.”
“Your Guide is making an executive decision. No more sex for you – ever.” John’s jealous inner voice stood up and cheered with enthusiasm. John ignored it, telling it quite firmly that this was business so it should shut the fuck up. Then he locked it away with those other strange thoughts he chose to ignore, like his odd attraction to leather goods, aprons and string cheese.
Illyria, looking as ruffled as she could with her implacable features, told him, “You cannot dictate my actions, Guide. I will do as I wish. I once ruled….”
A sly look slid over John’s face and he pasted on an overly pleased expression, sitting straighter in his seat as if he’d just had an epiphany before cutting her off. “I guess that means I’ll have to keep myself occupied while you’re off amusing yourself. Just think - maybe I could have a few kids that we can cart around, maybe with one of those women just like that last one you liked so much. Good breeding stock – wasn’t she!”
A horrified, melting quickly to calculating, expression set itself firmly on Illyria’s usually placid visage, and she turned her face away from John in an attempt to conceal her thoughts as she said, “I will barter with you. I will refrain from carnal relations if you do so, as well.”
“As you wish, Illyria,” John said with an oppressive sigh, as if he were giving up something beyond measure.
“I shudder to think of the spawn you might bring home if I allow you to breed indiscriminately,” she muttered loudly towards the window.
John’s grin reflected white against the darkness of the windshield, and he manfully held in his snicker as Illyria regained her composure after the appalling notion of the low-quality Guide-stock she could potentially be cursed with. Illyria wasn’t exactly adept at hiding her inner-thoughts.
“I find it far more pleasurable when you bathe me,” Illyria stated firmly, as if their recent conversation had not happened.
John laughed, his features lightening. “It’s a deal. I’ll even wash your hair when we stop to seal the bargain – you’re past due for a grooming, anyhow.”