Sniff. Everything ached. Luz ached.
A cold sweat covered her entire body. The sheets clung uncomfortably to her overheated skin. Luz was miserable. She’d kick them off, let the chill in the air cool her skin, and then fumble to pull them back around her when the shivers racked her thin frame. Rinse and repeat. Hours of the same motions. She was so tired. But sleep, unsurprisingly, abandoned her tonight.
Her head felt heavy as it limply lolled to the side; her eyes blankly staring at the dark screen of her phone on the nightstand. She reached over and hit the home icon. Nothing. Not a single sign of life. Dead . Unsurprisingly, again . She hit it again -hoping beyond hope that something would change this time but disappointed all the same when nothing happens- sighed, and stared up at the ceiling. I’m sorry, mami. Lo siento, no pude estar allí.
Luz slowly sat up in bed. A dull throb was slowly building like waves in her head, which meant she needed to get up. Hydration, yes. Mami always said to stay hydrated when you’re sick. Drink lots of water. Take the prescribed amount of medicine. She twisted to set her feet on the floor and prop her elbows on her thighs, her head bent and held by the palms of her hands. They shook under the weight. Her body screamed to stay down.
Sniff. The floor was ice beneath her bare feet, and she just sat there in wretched defeat, the telltale sting of tears threatening to spill down her cheeks. Her mouth moved but failed to voice any of the words clogged in the back of her throat. Mami ?
She wanted to scream. But only muffled noises bypassed her dried, chapped lips. Mami, por favor, ayúdame!
Luz was running on pure instinct now. Find comfort. Find mami .
Lilith awoke reluctantly and hot.
The fog of unconsciousness began to fade slowly, and with it a single eye blinked open with sleepy effort, vision blurring in and out of focus. It was still quite dark in the room, the older woman observed. The only light came from the scattered rays of moonlight from the window. At least, until she noticed the single ball of light that hovered on its own over her bed. Wha -
Ugh, no. She immediately dismissed the light spell, dreading having to think on why it was there in the first place.
What was important -to her, at least- was the heat bearing down on her between her shoulder blades. It was hot and heavy and Lilith wanted it off.
When she tried to roll off of her stomach, her hands braced under her chest to lift herself up, a sudden whine cut through the silence of the darkened room. She froze midway up. More startlingly, the dead weight pinning her body down to the bed moved with her. Clinging tighter to her.
Entire body stiff as a statue, a myriad of thoughts ran unfiltered through her mind. King? Impossible. She dismissed that option instantly. The little demon always slept with the human at night, curled up at the end of her bed. Edalyn? Most likely. Her little sister loved throwing herself across Lilith’s back when they were kids, demanding Lilith spend less time buried in her books and more on her latest prank. It certainly followed her into her adult years, especially when she knows Lilith hadn’t slept well the night before. ("You can sleep when you’re dead, sis. We’ve got work to do.”)
Wait. She recalled her sister wasn’t even meant to be home until morning. One of her sister’s suppliers had mentioned a seller who might have concocted a stronger elixir to contain their curse somewhere in the Night Market and left earlier this evening with the little demon. Which leaves me with -
Sniff. “Lily ?”
It was Luz.
It came to her with startling clarity. The human was lying on her side upon Lilith’s back, one of her hands clutched desperately to Lilith’s hip; short nails digging into her skin through both her nightshirt and sheets due to the older woman’s attempt to dislodge her. A glance over her shoulder confirmed the other hand held the girl’s own blanket against her heaving chest. Her face was buried between the woman’s shoulder blades, her hairline drenched in sweat. The source of the unbearable heat, she thought absentmindedly.
“What’s wrong?” The older woman asked, smokey and sluggish. After all, it wasn’t like the human to come to her in the middle of the night.
The girl made a non-committal noise. She moved her face away from between Lilith’s shoulders, inched up toward her neck, and reburied herself in the crook between her shoulder and neck, a little hum slipping past her lips as she settled down in her new spot. Utterly content to sniffle her little heart out right there it seemed.
Lilith, on the other hand, was lost. Still.
Unaccustomed to affection, at least not with anyone who isn’t her sister, Lilith had little notion as to what the right move would be with the human. Luz isn’t Edalyn, and her interactions with the human were still awkward, even two years after the incident which resulted in Lilith living in the same house as the girl.
She’s tried. Still trying.
She’d argue they’re better at communication when the others aren’t around. Like late night conversations when sleep eludes them both. Like the occasional help with homework (Bump assured Edalyn that Luz would be safe at Hexside, not that fear and guilt didn’t still gnaw away in Lilith’s chest every time the girl leaves the house). Like trying to understand a certain stare Luz levels her way when she thinks the older woman doesn’t notice.
But this. Lilith isn’t prepared for this.
The trembling of her hands breaks her train of thought and reminds her she’s still halfway holding herself up. She lowered back down to rest on her elbows, her hands slipping back under her pillow. She kept her head held up as she plotted her next move.
Luz was a dead weight on her back, murmuring incomprehensible words right into the woman’s ear. Completely oblivious to the current panic Lilith was experiencing because of her. Breathe. Use your words, Lilith. If the human is broken, it shouldn’t be impossible to fix her. Because she knew something was wrong. She just didn’t know what.
“Luz,” she cooed softly, rolling the shoulder the human was resting on to get her attention, “you need to wake up for me.”
No helpful response. Just a soft mewl. Cute. But not cute enough.
A deadpanned, “I will roll you onto the floor if you do not get off of me,” drew some movement out of the girl. Finally . Although, to Lilith’s utter horror, it resulted in Luz shifting closer instead of away, her lithe frame twisting to rest her front on Lilith’s back and shove both her arms under the woman’s arms to settle them underneath her pillow, sweat slicked fingertips encircling Lilith’s wrists.
She settled into her new position like she belonged there.
Sniff. “No lo harás ,” came the soft response in her ear. If she hadn’t been so focused on the scratchy cadence of Luz’s usually smooth timbre, she might have picked up on the smugness dripping from the girl’s words. She knew damn well Lilith wouldn’t let any harm come to her, lest she wanted to be on the receiving end of her sister’s wrath. Which she didn’t, mind you.
Lilith closed her eyes briefly, trying again. “It’s fairly clear you are unwell,” she coaxed, gently. “And I can’t help you if you don’t let me up.”
“No quiero .”
For a long moment, Lilith just sat there and blinked, contemplating if it was even worth the effort to forcefully remove the girl from her. Luz seemed content to lie there, and Lilith was exhausted. And with that, Lilith pronounced, “You’re not moving, are you?”
“No. Eres tan blando.”
Lilith scoffed. “I am not soft.”
She wasn’t. Not even when she resigned herself as the human’s body pillow, sleep already drawing her back in like a siren’s song. She wasn’t soft when Luz clasped their hands under the pillow, a happy sigh slipping past her sleeping lips as she nuzzles her new favorite spot in the crook of Lilith’s shoulder and neck.
She wasn’t soft. Just accommodating.
The heat radiating off of Luz’s skin was still concerning to Lilith. Before sleep claimed her, she made a mental note to check on the girl when she awakes again. But, for now, she’d leave Luz be.