Timeline: March 11th, 2008
It was a Tuesday and Lyla wasn’t working at the Blood and Brew that day. She’d been listless for the past two weeks, roving the territory, escaping Eldon Well entirely when she could. She’d even recently purchased a used car and had helped Ann-Marie with some business, followed by more entertaining time later. Concord was a good drive away, and the much larger cities of Manchester and Nashua even further than that. Those cities were certain to have a certain flavor of night life that she really wanted to sink her teeth into, but it meant a lot of time spent on the road with nothing but her thoughts to occupy her. And that was something she definitely wanted to avoid these days.
She wasn’t in the mood for a long drive today. What she was really interested in was art. Body art, to be more accurate. Many types of body art didn’t work well with the Uratha; their penchant for healing often meant that piercings tended to heal rapidly, forcing one to tear jewelry out of one’s own flesh. That was painfully inconvenient. But tattoos seemed to work well. In fact, they skin readily took pigment just as it did for humans. Even better, the Uratha regenerative ability made such work less painful and sensitive for a far shorter period of time. So, Lyla had decided she must have tattoos.
But nothing really suited her. Oh, there were “nice” tattoos that she thought really cool now, but none that she could be really sure she’d always like. She’d been having a hard time trying to decide what to do, right up until last night.
Last night she was hunting for a particular spirit from whom she hoped to learn a very special and to her, important, rite. She didn’t find the spirit, but she did find one of its relatives, one she knew quite well and who had decided it really liked Lyla. It had basked her in complements in hopes of earning chiminage or perhaps a cheap favor. One of them was how very sexy and stylish it found her spirit brands to be. Given that the spirit was a rather gaudy looking lust spirit, she took its sycophantic mewling for what they were for the most part. But, it did make her curious enough to examine them for herself. She did so by dragging a large mirror to the cavern, then with her into shadow. What she found both surprised and pleased her.
So it was this morning found Lyla at the Old Tree begging Grey for the use of his skilled hands.
“Oh please Grey, won’t you do me? I know it’s a lot of work, but I know you can do it,” she was saying in her soft, sultry voice. She had his hand in hers and was stroking it as she asked. It was a come on by most people’s standards, but for Lyla such contact was simply second nature; she really wasn’t even aware she was doing it most times. “I want them to match my spirit brands. Will you do it?”
Grey looked from where Lyla was stroking him to her eyes. His own reflected the pain he was feeling. “Yeah I can. Now stop that.” He said looking back at her hands.
Lyla followed his gaze. “Oh. Sorry,” she apologized. She’d thought it might be a lot harder to get him to do what was probably going to be an entire day’s work. She patted his hand and then let him be. “And thank you. I know you keep busy.”
“Yeah well it will give me something to do to keep my mind off things. Not to mention it will let brag to Ramiel about how I got to touch you. Where is it going, someplace naughty like his?” Grey finally smiled. Lyla could see that he had been couped up here for a while, adn something was obviously bothering him.
“A little bit naughty,” Lyla admitted. “But just where the brands appear on me in the Spirit World.” She knew he could see it whenever he wanted; it was a powerful advantage to be able to see into spirit and the real world at once, and his breed of Uratha were often very good at it. And in fact, the brands appeared on her body, starting near where her pubic hair would be if she didn’t shave, looping and wandering up her belly in one branch, while another branch curled up her side, around one breast, over her shoulder and down her right arm. It even made it’s curling, twisting way around her right side to her back. Despite being more concentrated on the right side of her body than her left, it seemed to have a symmetry all its own, making her stand out as unique.
She put her own thoughts aside for a moment, though. “Grey? Are you okay?”
“No, but I will be. At least I have experience in dealing with it. Though this time I just don’t know. Rey has pushed past a point that I just…” He paused.”You know there was a damn good reason I keep to myself a lot. Now I am begining to think I should not have let that go. Not even for her.” It pained him to say such a thing. “Though, I have to say it is funny how your markings will start in the same place as Ramiels. Not to change the subject I guess.”
It was unlike Grey to be so frazzled. A man who was the spiritual leader for the pack seemed very close to lost. Even his thoughts were staggering.
She tried to shock him back on track. “Well, he is my brother after all.” She smiled for a moment. “Anyway, his are all glyphy and such. I haven’t a clue what they say unless he tells me and even then he has to translate it.
“As for you and Rey, I think that maybe the too of you just got way to serious, way too fast. I don’t mean to criticize either of you. Despite what people might think, I’m not truly an expert in the matters of the heart — I really don’t have much experience in that, honestly. Sex yes. Relationships, not so much. But if you take just a step back you might see things a bit differently. I mean, you and Rey went from just friends to lovers. What about the dating part? What about going out for dinner, and seeing a movie, and taking a romantic ride on a boat in a lake? Stuff like that?
“Rey’s just a girl, you know? She hasn’t had a lot of experience with serious relationships. She’s still growing and learning about her own body. A few months ago, she barely even knew how to use a vibrator properly,” Lyla pointed out.
She shook her head somberly. “I might be off base here, Grey. Maybe you guys did start light and work your way into the heavy duty part. I really have no idea what goes on between the two of you. But if I were you, I would try hard not to overreact. It’s easy for us Uratha to do, you know? Just take a deep breath, take a step back and look at what you really have. Then decide where you need to go and what you need to do.”
“Nice try but I know about you and Ramiel.” He smiled. looking over her body on the side the tattoos would be going. “You are also right in that you don’t know about Rey and I. I made sure things were not rushed between us. It was more than a couple moths before it became physical. I even tried to get her to go after somone more suited for such things like Ironclaw. Someone who doesn’t have my history.
“What can I say, after ten years I was lonely.”
“Ten years is a long time to be alone,” Lyla remarked. She looked around. “I don’t mean to change the subject, but do we need to go someplace to get to your tools for tattooing?”
“We will go to my place.” He stood up and packed his things.
Lyla rose gracefully to her feet and waited quietly. Her thoughts drifted slightly drawing her own cloud of quiet despair about herself.
“Okay so your turn then. We are going to be spending a lot of time together might as well open up a little.” Grey headed for his room back at the house.
Lyla trailed quietly along behind the older Uratha. “My turn?” she murmured.
“Your turn to say what is bothering you.” He quickened his pace.
She stopped and it was a moment before he realized she wasn’t next to him. When he turned back to her he found her lumped next to a tree, her face buried in her hands as her shoulders shook. “My baby is dead,” was all she managed to say.
Grey stopped his movements and took her in his arms. “It grieves me to hear that my Lupa.”
“I can’t stand it,” she said brokenly. “I can’t stand the emptiness inside me, inside my heart.”
For comfort he ran his hands over her hair.”It will pass my Lupa. The pain will pass, you have a strong spirit and a brave soul. You have the strength to endure this pain and become wiser and stronger from it. I know this because I went through it too.”
She took a shuddering breath and took a moment to recover herself. “I have to move past this, Grey. I just don’t know quite how.”
“Time,” he said.
Grey’s room was simple but filled with Iroquois artifacts. Once inside he grabbed a box and set it on the floor. He walked around the room lighting nearly a hundred candles. Then he put a “do not disturb” sign on the door and locked it. Incense was lit and he looked at Lyla. “Okay. Take off your clothes.” He went to the corner and removed his own. Lyla could see his brands were tattooed on his skin as well. Taking a pair of shorts out of the closet he slipped them on. For the first time, Lyla got a good view of the full Grey.
“You can leave your underwear on if you like.” He said with a smile.
She gave him a wry smile. “Thanks.” She stripped down to her panties, but removed her bra. There was no sense in being bashful about this, she decided. “Would you like me to lie down? Or kneel?”
He had arranged all the needed supplies out on his bed. Then he placed a bed roll and pillow on the floor. “Lay down.” He took out a towel and a bottle of alcohol. Once Lyla was in place he cleansed her right side. His hands covered her body without it being sensual.
Using his gift he traced the spirit brands onto her body.”Do you need to pee before I start?”
She chuckled a little as she lay down. The older shaman hadn’t caught her little innuendo, but that was all right. She didn’t mean anything by it. It was just habit.
“I’ll be fine,” she told him.
“Then we start here.” He said sliding his hand down her stomach and lowering her underwaer until he traced the sensative skin nearest her vagina.
“Ooo,” she sighed. “Be careful. That’s sensitive.”
“Yeah, and what if I did?” He said with a smile. “Anyway this is gonna hurt in this area. Ready?”
She nodded and smiled. “Let’s do it.”
Grey worked steadily for twenty minutes before he let her up for a healing break. It stung and burned at the same time. But for a Uratha it healed quickly enough to be only a minor annoyance.
These sessions repeated until it was supper time. Then there was a food break. As Lyla looked around the room she could see several native american artifacts.
During the break Grey took time to get cleaned up a little, get out some new candles and incense. He also gave Lyla a towel to dry off with. The room had become very hot, almost like a sweat lodge.
“So you doing okay?” he asked with a smile.
“Yes. You’re a wonderful artist,” she said. In truth, some of the areas that needed to be covered with the tattoo were pretty sensitive, and she’d had to grit her teeth to keep from saying “ow”. But she also very much enjoyed the pain on a personal level. It wasn’t necessarily because she was a masochist, she knew, but rather it kept her mind sharply focused on the physical and that was something she could handle right now.
The heat made her leave her top off during the meal. He hadn’t asked her to put her clothes back on anyway so she assumed he was fine with it.
It was also nice to see Grey’s room. She had often wondered how it must have been for him to have to leave his tribe — or maybe he was never a reservation Indian. She really didn’t know and couldn’t think of a tactful way to ask.
Her own room was rather spartan in contrast. Whereas he had things precious to him proudly displayed where he could see them and remember why they are important, she had no personal items lying about. Dirty clothes were in the hamper, the bed was always made (if a bit rumbled from frequent naps), makeup was always put away. She had some jewelry, but the most expensive had always been pawned for quick cash. The only jewelry she had that ever meant anything to her was from Ramiel, such as the ring she’d made into a necklace so that she wouldn’t lose it when she shifted.
She decided she liked Grey’s room. It was… homey.
“Do you need to do my back now?” she asked
“Not yet. Unless you need a rest from the front. I should have explained how long this is going to take. Probably a couple days.” He retrieved more materials needed.
“I understand,” Lyla replied. “And I owe you on this one. I know the ink isn’t cheap either. I really want this, so I can take it as long as you can, but if you need to get to other things we can spread these into as many sessions as you need.”
“Actually this is exactly what I need. My mind on something else, and getting back to the way things were for a while.” He sat back down and motioned for her to do the same.
“I never should have left the safety of isolation. Sure I had some lonely nights. But they passed and I could always find things to do. But now all I can think about is her.” He inhaled slowly and exhaled the same way. “I really was stupid to let her do it.”
His hands touched Lyla and he began the needlework once again.
Lyla tried to lie perfectly still for him. “What happened?” she asked.
Grey paused for amoment then told her the entier story. Morgan, what he did, how they handled it, the baby. Then he proceeded to tell her about Rey and her little experiment. How Ramiel and Ironclaw helped out, and what happened to her.
Pausing to give Lyla a rest he said.” How can I go back and see the terror and disgust in her eyes again?”
She put a reassuring hand on his arm. “Grey. Are you so sure that’s what’s really there in her eyes and her heart? Or is it just what you are afraid you might see?
“I know Rey. I guess I’m not her closest confidant or anything, but I do know her pretty well and I would be very surprised if that was what she was really feeling right now. If she is, I’d be very sorry but if that’s really how she felt, then maybe she isn’t the right mate for you.
“But I don’t believe that.” She gave his arm a squeeze for emphasis. “What I believe is that Rey is feeling like a fool right now. Ashamed of herself, not you. She has no right to play around with your feelings like that. Even more than feeling a bit foolish, I think she would be feeling just awful that she made you relive it like that. That clearly wasn’t her intend. She just wants to be closer to you, to make you feel more comfortable with her. I believe Rey very much loves and misses you right now.”
“That doesn’t help, and I know you are right. But the way she collapse in the kitchen when the reality of what she experienced finally hit her. I have a feeling she expected I lost control becasue of the prey thing. That Morgan screamed and my beast kicked in. But it wasn’t that. I just did what felt good, but in Dalu we are so much stronger. Normal things we do can have bad effects. I think that is what scared her about it.
“This may sound cruel, but she needs to miss me. I need time if I am going to continue this.”
With that he continued the lines around her breast.
Lyla closed her eyes and bit back the pain. It took a great deal of will not to move and ruin his work. He had to move her breast a little to get the angle he needed, but given the ouch-factor, it was not at all any kind of erotic sensation. That was just as well for both of them for a whole pile of reasons.
When he paused to reload the ink, she rose upon one arm and said. “I can see it from your point of view, too. And if you need a friend to talk to, go on a hunt or just someone to be near, I can shut up and just be supportive, too. I know you and Ironclaw are good friends, but don’t forget you’ve got lots of people who care about you.” He finished his reload, so she laid back down for him.
“Yeah well don’t rule out Ramiel. He always finds ways to entertain both of us. Ironclaw and me. But I am fine really. I just need the time to let things pass.”
The work continued for hours. After a long stretch of silence throught the sensitive areas they took another break. “Well I think we can get some rest, or go hunt if you like, then rest. Then we will get started again.”
The work continued in a healing quiet that helped begin to salve emotional wound that each of them carried. The sound of the quietly buzzing tattooing needle went on through this night, then after a rest all the next day and late into the following night. When he was done, the sore but excited Lyla was both proud to see the work in the mirror, and very grateful.