It was a good thing that chase had happened so early in the morning, for the heatwave hadn’t finished with us. By the time Hal and Derrick had returned, not only had I started my period (which always made me ten times more tired than I usually would be), but I had the weight of my stupid, heat-vulnerable body. Needless to say, I had taken a seat at the bar and hadn’t moved for an hour as I ached and bled. I didn’t even care that Gus had to pick up my work moving like a mad man, which was made more difficult for him since he had to keep his eyes down as he took and gave orders. I excused my moment of lameness by the lesser-than-usual crowd. Our patrons from upstairs had left and we didn’t have any new ones yet.
“Did you get their rooms cleaned up yet?” asked Hal.
I gave a grunt in response.
Derrick, his heavily bandaged arm in a sling, had his expressive face doing all sorts of wiggles.
“You don’t look well,” he said.
I grunted again.
“Oh my, it must be that time of month,” said Hal with a mischievous quirk to his mouth.
I flinched. How in the—“You’re such a perv, Hal.”
“At my age, that’s a good thing. You should go lay down.”
“No,” I whined, more than actually spoke. “You give me too many breaks as it is.”
“I do not. The last time you got a day off was to visit the temple, a perfectly valid reason. It’s not like you’re going to do anything as it is, are you? Or have.”
I grunted, having lost the will for words again. I had sweat dripping in places I didn’t want to think about, and my uterus was getting into a fight with my hips, and losing.
It took a few seconds of Hal staring at me expectantly before I gave in with a sigh, oozed off my stool, and oozed back to the bedroom.
Inside, I caught the faint whiff of man musk. I blew air out my nose to clear it, not sure I hated it or liked it (you got use to BO here), staggered over to the bed, and fell face-first into it.
I heard Derrick enter in behind me. He seemed hesitant to close the door, though. The curtains were closed over the single window of the room.
“Pardon my intrusion,” he said, hashtag, all the awkward.
I grunted into my pillow.
I listened to him shuffle about for a bit for something to do, because he was technically supposed to be keeping up an act that he was recovering. After a bit, where I was nowhere near the sleep I actually wanted, but in a heat and period-induced haze, he spoke up.
“May I help you take off your shoes?”
I almost just grunted, but realizing that wasn’t a valid answer, a switched it with a half growled, “Sure.”
Shoelaces tugged. Boots popped off. I gave a happy sigh at the rush of cool air, that only increased as he peeled off my socks. A part of me told me I should be embarrassed to have someone so close to my sweaty feet, but since everyone was sweaty, I didn’t think it such a big deal.
“You…you have very pretty feet.”
I chuckled. Chuckle grunted. Grunt chuckled. Ugh, this sucked. Nehcor, couldn’t you give me some temporary A/C or something? Come on, man.
I was just falling back into my miserable, sweaty haze when another, stronger puff of wonderfully cool air dusted up my feet and onto my calves. It was like a freezer door had been opened right above them.
I frowned at first, confused, then pried open my sweat-stinging eyes.
Derrick had his unbandaged hand hovering above my lower legs, a look of concentration creasing a line between his eyebrows. I still had yet to see if I could figure out how grow back that half of his eyebrow. Cool air seemed to be coming from his large, hard palm.
…Wow…excuse me, brother god. You are not an asshole.
“I thought you did fire magic?” I said.
He seemed to have to stop making the wonderfully icy air before speaking.
“It’s an inverse fire spell. Rather advanced, so I’m not very good. The principal is about taking heat from the surrounding air rather than from ones magic capacity in their body to create the flame.”
“Then, if there’s no fire, where’s the heat going?”
He was so good at looking sheepish. “Um, just my hands. But they’re used to it, so you shouldn’t worry.”
“Whoa, hang on,” I pulled my legs away, despite the little whine inside me at the idea of not getting any more wonderful coolness. “Doesn’t that mean you’re burning yourself?”
“I work with fire. It will take a lot more than some summer heat to burn them. And I think you need it. I’ve seen what happens to people sensitive to the heat when they’re not kept cool. I’m surprised you haven’t gotten sick yet.”
Who said I hadn’t? But I didn’t say that, because I had my pride, and this was still the matter of this guy essentially taking on excess amounts of heat during blistering hot weather.
“It’s okay,” he said. “I won’t burn myself. I know how much heat I can take. And I’ll just do your feet.”
I thought about it. Heat escaped your body the most from your head and feet. Maybe just having cool feet could make all the difference.
And I really did feel utterly awful. Nausea was already becoming a good friend again, and my head hurt too.
“Don’t burn yourself,” I said, flipping my head around, if for nothing else than to hide my flushed, sweaty, and now embarrassed face as I once more showed how undignifyingly weak I was.
After a minute of my feet being wonderfully chilled, I mumbled out my relieved gratitude. I could have kissed him. Not long after that, I finally became comfortable enough to fall into a much needed sleep.
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