Slight Hiccup -
A Patreon Story for
Special Patron LC Riccia
A quick gasp and then...
His head popped up, censure creasing his face as he stared at the bowed head of his dinner companion. Aeith Io sat across from him, not looking at him as he silently savored his soup. But no matter what they did, neither of them could ignore the tiny choking sounds coming from the other table.
Ty lay his fork on his plate. “Really, Aeith, here?”
The other man just shrugged, the outline of his shoulder looking more defined than it had a moment ago. “What? Would you rather I disappear mid-date?”
Ty’s lips thinned as he looked at the almost translucent man across from him. Not man. Not really. Sylph. An air elemental. Ty could watch every spoonful of soup travel through the sylph's body, across his tongue, down his throat, and pooling in his belly. But, as the restaurant patron hiccupped behind them, it became harder to see through the sylph as the unknown man’s breath fed Aeith more than the meal in his bowl, making his spirit-like form more solid.
Aeith blinked up at Ty, his blue eyes suddenly wide and vibrant, especially against his sheer skin. “What’s the big deal?”
“You’re stealing his breath!”
Aeith lifted a disinterested shoulder. “Just a little.”
Ty leaned in over the table, trying to keep his voice a low hiss. “This is a restaurant.” A nice one. “He could choke.” And wouldn’t that just make for a memorable date night? This was the first time they’d been able to get together in more than six weeks and Aeith was pulling this kind of crap; what was wrong with him? This was not how he’d planned for the night to go.
“He’s fine.” The sound of that sylph slurping his soup grated on Ty. “It’s just the hiccups.” It was so rude, the way he sucked in the savory liquid and stolen breath in a long, loud inhale. “Hardly anything at all.” He picked up his napkin and patted the corners of his mouth, his fingers distinct and tangible. “I’m barely taking enough to stay corporeal.”
But he was taking it all the same. “Could you just not do it here?”
Ty huffed. “Or at least take it from me.”
Ty’s fists clenched. “It’s rude to do it to strangers.” Strangers who had no say or control over it, who likely had no idea what was even happening. At least, if it was Ty, he would know what was going on and would be benefiting from it too.
Aeith rolled his eyes. “You really want to be hiccupping throughout the whole meal?” He harrumphed. “This is the first time we’ve seen each other in more than a month and you want to spend the entire time having a broken conversation?”
“I don’t want to.” He didn’t like having the hiccups any more than anyone else, but it was better than subjecting some poor stranger to it. “I wish you wouldn’t do it at all.”
Aeith pouted, his now full bottom lip jutting out. “Well, I wouldn’t have to, if we saw each other more than once every couple of months.”
Ty pursed his lips together. He knew that. They’d had that conversation a million times. But they lived far apart and both worked a lot. It was hard to find time to get together.
Aeith was only doing this for him. Ty could hear it in his voice, the reluctantly patronizing capitulation clear and aggravating. Ty could practically hear the fight they’d have later in the hotel echo in that single, salty word.
The man behind them took one more gasp, strong yet suddenly easier, before a beat of silence. A little awkward laughter tittered, easing into conversation behind them again.
Ty picked up his fork, sighing. “Thank you.”
Without looking up, Aeith brought his spoon to his mouth, the color and shape of his hand draining as he moved, and slurped.
Aeith cringed when Ty slammed the door behind him, the gust of air like a slap to the face. Well, great. Wasn’t that just great?
Aeith sighed. Humans, man, he just didn’t get them. As intemperate and unpredictable as they thought the wind was, they were worse. Aeith knew the wind. It was understandable, affected by the position and intensity of pressure systems and how they interacted with each other and the altitude and the world around them. Figure out the factors and it all made sense; it just flowed. It was natural. Rational.
But Ty. Aeith couldn’t figure him out, not even if he had every factor and knew every system. Ty never moved or acted or thought in rational, natural patterns.
It was half why Aeith liked him. The mystery of it all. The whirlwind, he guessed. The way Ty could sweep him off his feet and whip up all kinds of feelings inside him.
It made him feel out of control and he loved it.
And he hated it.
Because how did you live like that? Love like that?
He winced again when he heard Ty stomp into the bathroom, the muffled impact of his feet ruffling the carpet, and twist the faucet. The sound of screeching metal fixtures and rushing water filled the hotel room. Aeith sighed and sat down on the bed. Well, tonight was going great!
Closing his eyes, Aeith kicked up his legs and laid down on the bed. He could already feel himself start to fade. He could feel the current from the air conditioner, pulling and pushing at him, more strongly than the bed beneath him. He lifted an arm to his face and looked right through it, seeing the barest outline of the limb before he let it fall over his eyes.
He didn’t even turn when he heard—felt—Ty open the door. “You’re still here?”
Where would he go? His opened eyes stared at the ceiling fan whirring above him through his forearm. “As much as I can be.”
He could hear Ty’s feet shuffle on the bathroom’s tile, feel the shift of it in the air. “I’m sorry.” He coughed, the harsh puff of air hitting Aeith hard. “About all that at the restaurant.”
Aeith wanted to laugh. “Are you? Really? Or do you just want to not fight right now?”
There was a still, expectant pause. “Do you want to fight?”
Did he? “Kinda.” He sat up, practically floating upright, his weightless body not even making a dent in the duvet. “I don’t get what got you so upset in the first place.” Ty knew what Aeith was, knew how he lived.
He was a sylph. A Breath Thief. An elemental brought to being by the literal breath of life. The way he saw it, the air—any air, from the thinnest mountain breeze to the garlic-scented hiccup of some diner who really should brush more often—was more his kind’s than anyone else’s. And it wasn’t as if he ever took more than he needed. Barely took even that.
He shook his head. “It was just hiccups.” A nuisance for them. An uncomfortable nothing. But, for Aeith, it meant that he could sit across from his boyfriend and have a nice meal. Like a real couple. Be out in public. Be seen and heard and felt. Like a real person.
Hell, he hadn’t even been able to finish his dinner! Without the pasta-eating patron’s breath, his fingers had faded too much to pick up the spoon by the end of the meal. It’d taken everything he had to stay visible and stationary at the table. To not completely fade and float away.
It was taking effort now.
“Just do it already.”
Aeith looked at Ty. “Do what?”
“Steal my breath.” He took a deep breath before letting it out resignedly. “You need it; I can barely see you. So just do it.”
Just do it.
Aeith winced. “Is it that terrible?” Ty never seemed to mind before. Had seemed, in fact, to enjoy it. But, the way he talked about it now...he made it sound like such a burden. Aeith never wanted to be a burden, some chore or obligation weighing on Ty.
Just do it.
Well, how could he now?
Aeith let go. Let the room’s stale, artificially circulated air take him, disappearing and dispersing within it. He let his voice be all that was left of him. “Maybe we should just call it a night.”
“Aeith!” Ty bristled. “You’re going to go?”
He should. It’d be for the best.
“Of course you are!” Ty stomped around the room, waving his arms, trying to disrupt the air in the room as much as possible. “That’s what you’re good at. Fading away. Flying off to who-knows-where, instead of just dealing with the hard stuff.”
Aeith stubbornly stilled, holding himself heavy as Ty’s words washed over him. That wasn’t fair. Aeith always figured it was better, smarter, easier, to rise above his troubles. To let them sink down to the ground, where he couldn’t be dragged down by them.
From the ceiling, he looked down at Ty, who was still thrashing about the room like a wild thing. Was Ty trouble? Would Aeith really be better off leaving him behind?
Did he want to?
He didn’t know. But he didn’t want to leave things like this. So he let out his last breath, letting it carry his voice. “Do you really want me to do it?” To take his breath.
Ty stopped and stilled, looking up at a random spot on the ceiling. “I told you you could.”
Which wasn’t the same as wanting him to. Aeith felt the difference distinctly. But, welcome or not, wanted or not, what else could he do? So, even though permission wasn’t quite the same as approval, Aeith inhaled...
Read Part Two Here