He never stops provoking her, testing her. A part of him, the superstitious, romantic side he likes to play off as good common sense, believes the bruises on his body will reveal the key to her. But no matter how she breaks him, the morning after his bones only show hard-won regret.
Still, he never stops. Flying into her fists is the only way he knows. And so it's on her to learn how to pull her punches or else lose herself another pet.
He doesn't delude himself into believing she cares for him. He fascinates her, though; as much as she'd refuse to admit it, she finds him intriguing. Nine times out of ten, no matter the time or place, he's what her eyes settle on with that unblinking regard. He's gotten used to her eyes following him; too comfortable even. If he's her pet, then she's his shadow--only difference being he knows shadows can kill you when you're not looking.
"Your ritual is futile. You can never hope to contain the power of transformation. Your demon magic's been diluted to a whisper swallowed by the wind. When you would be still, you cannot help but grow. You are a mockery of immortality."
He lifts his head from the sink, his eyes peering over his shoulder, his fingers rifling through his wet locks. "Yeah, well I happen to think a little upkeep's not too much to ask."
"Your efforts are wasted. You cannot hide your weakness." With impossible control, she lifts one supercilious eyebrow while inhaling through her left nostril. "You reek of human corruption."
"It's called bleach. Besides, hiding's not the point. Well, I guess it is, but not in the way you mean."
"You're burning. Dead flesh sizzling under the poison you splash about your head." She's behind him now, her hand ghosting over his leather jacket tossed across the kitchen table. Her lip curls into a snarl. "More dead flesh. Is that all you are?"
He snorts before dunking his head back under the faucet for a final dousing. Thirty seconds under the cold water gives him too much time to think about her words and his burning flesh--though not in the way she means--so he whips his head up and shakes off like a wet dog.
Illyria hisses and recoils, her skin turning brilliant blue till the water falls from her body like shards of ice breaking off a winter roof. "You dare assault me with your dregs?"
He grins, wide-mouthed, flashing his teeth and wagging his tongue. Too far? he wonders, and then he's being ceremoniously tossed through the window. Lost in freefall, he marvels at her: everything she does carries a momentous grace.
His cheek smashes against the pavement; bits of dust and rock cling to his hair. Quite a picture, he's sure. And then her armored boots land inches from his nose, tossing debris into his eyes. He spares a moment in gratitude for her consideration--she could've finished that four-story jump by driving her heels into his skull--then he groans when she slams her foot on top of his ear. Not hard, mind you, just hard enough that he knows she wants him to groan.
Leaning over him, she tosses her head to the side, letting her hair stream across her shoulder, a curtain of blue so long it brushes against his temple. Her eyes are shining and her snarl's melted into a smile.
Straining to catch her gaze out of the corner of his eye, he works his jaw bone free from underneath her boot. "Happy now?"
Watching her smile broaden, he waits for the pressure to let up before he snakes around, wrenching her by the ankle and tossing her into the dumpster pressed against the alley wall. He's on his feet before the metallic echo fades, and a second later, she snaps to a standing position, spine elongated, forehead tilted towards the moon.
She's going to break him again, there's a promise in the way her armor slices across her knuckles, and damn if that doesn't send shivers down his spine. In a flash, he sees blood flowing, blood he's losing, blood he'll drink, it's all blood to him -- and no more dead flesh, not when there's blood pounding through him.
A howl breaks free as he leaps into the night air, anticipating the force of her fists, stinging sweeter than a lover's kiss, and they're dancing, flying, blue-tinged hair and black-slicked leather. Every wound sucks in her fists, rock armor and dead flesh, and he comes within a breath of knowing what's written in the bruises she leaves behind.