Halloween 2021 IF,  Interactive Fiction

Halloween I.F – “That Which Lingers” – Day 17

[ Please read the kickoff post before commenting! ] 

Webb took a seat in front of the fire next to Ariadne, stretching their legs out and resting their weight back on their hands. “Thanks,” they said. “It doesn’t surprise me that Faraday takes forever in the shower. I’ve seen that hair.”

Ariadne laughed. “I like to be supportive, especially because I do enjoy looking at him.”

“Fair enough,” Webb said agreeably. They let out a sigh after a moment, watching the fire rather than Ariadne, feeling the light heat on their face. “He’s… he’s an alright guy.”

“You two… seemed like you got off the wrong foot, a little,” Ariadne said hesitantly. “Though, I suppose—it’s been a bit of a stressful night for all of us.”

Webb’s lips twisted in a wry grin. “You noticed me barking at him all night, you mean. It’s alright. I… he just stirred up some memories of someone I didn’t want to think about, and I have, understandably I think, not been at my best tonight. It’s nothing personal.”

Ariadne exhaled. “Ah… that can be tough, I know. I’m… I mean, that doesn’t sound fun, but I’m glad it wasn’t anything more personal. He can be stubborn, and vain, and kind of cocky at times, but he really is the kindest, most wonderful person…”

Webb rolled their eyes, making a face and nudging her in the side. “You don’t need to sing his praises,” they complained. “I’m too single and stressed out to handle it. You two are fine. You’re remarkably good, beautiful people. The type that stories are written about. Adventurous romances with heaving bosoms and great hair. He’s a romance cover Fabio.”

Ariadne let out an indignant, hysterical giggle. “No!” she gasped, horrified.

Webb glanced over at her, grinning widely at the expression on her face. “Feel the power of his passion! Experience unforgettable ecstasy in his arms! With one look, he ignites the fire in your—!”

Ariadne grabbed a couch cushion and smacked them with it, still laughing. Webb joined in, sprawling backwards, letting her continue to weakly smush it onto their face. “Nooo,” Ariadne groaned. Then: “Wait, were those real taglines? How did you know those?”

Webb grabbed the pillow and swung it back, using it to prop up their head instead. “Such violence,” they sighed. “And then unfounded accusations…”

Ariadne rolled her eyes. She had a nice expression on her face, Webb thought—more relaxed, now, that little worry line vanished from between her brows. Without thinking, they reached up to lightly tug at her hair, earning a surprised blink in response.

“Webb?” she asked uncertainly, looking down at them.

Webb hadn’t thought that far in advance. They stared back at her, then dropped their hand again, turning over onto their side. “You’d seemed a bit… troubled, before I came to sit down. What’s… I mean, obviously there’s a lot on your mind, and I imagine I know the worst of it, but if there’s anything I can help with…”

Ariadne’s expression softened. “Oh. That’s… very nice of you.”

“I need you focused and in proper form so we don’t all die horribly at the hands of vampires or sword-wielding phantoms,” Webb muttered. “My niceness has nothing to do with it.”

“Uh huh.” Ariadne grabbed another pillow and flopped down beside Webb. “That’s true. I’m so sorry I accused you of altruistic intentions.”

“Well. Just don’t do it again.”

Ariadne laughed. It was a pleasant sound, light and airy, like it surprised her every time she felt that happiness bubble up. She sobered again after a moment. “I’m… fine. I feel like maybe to you it’s come across like I’m a woman with a plan, here to drag you into my noble and self-sacrificing quest, but I’m honestly just… a big scared idiot that tumbled into this by accident.”

“You could have just stayed out of it,” Webb pointed out. “Let me get apprehended by the Inquisitors, left me to my fate. Let the vampire clans sort out their own shit. You’ve clearly had a good thing going with Fabio for a while. Why risk it?”

Ariadne twitched a bit at the nickname, but managed to stay focused, which Webb found honestly impressive in its own way. “I could have,” she agreed quietly. “But I’ve still got quite a few years ahead of me, and that’s a very long time to have to live with being a coward.”

Webb whistled softly, draping one arm over their eyes. “Some of us manage,” they said lightly. “But yeah, I’m aware that’s a common sentiment.”

Ariadne was quiet for a moment. “Yeah,” she said eventually. “Anyway, I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a hero or anything, but… I’m going to do my best to keep you safe. And to do something about Grimm before more people get hurt.”

“I don’t need…” Webb started, then just trailed off uselessly. Who were they kidding? Of course they needed protection. They always had. “… I mean. I appreciate it. Try not to do anything stupid. I don’t want any of you getting hurt.”

They jumped a little when they felt Ariadne tangle her icy cold fingers with Webb’s, giving their hand a squeeze. They moved their other arm so they could peek at her with one baleful eye. She was leaning close, her eyes bright, one fang lightly indenting her full lower lip.

“I am so good at doing stupid things,” she said earnestly. “But I’m willing to do my best. For you.”

“Fuck,” Webb gasped. “Those are so cold. You were holding tea, under a blanket, in front of a fire, are you fucking Elsa? Please actually do let it go.

Ariadne let out a flustered noise, tugging her hand back. “Sorry! I’m—”

Webb dragged both of their hands down their face, already internally chiding themself for their impending decision, and rolled over to look down at Ariadne. “I said literally thirty seconds ago that I needed you in good shape to protect me from ravenous vampire hordes who have a specific bone to pick with me. You’re hungry, right?”

Ariadne’s eyes widened. “I… am running a little, a little light… I’m sure I can pick up, um, you can get blood from some of the corner stores, in little packages like a Capri Sun, I can just—” she rambled, looking flustered.

“And they probably taste like the equivalent of getting one of those horrible prepackaged cold hamburgers,” Webb said impatiently. “Also, who knows what’s in those? Besides,” they added, looking her over, raising an eyebrow. “You haven’t exactly been subtle.”

Ariadne whined, covering her face with both hands and stomping her feet against the rug. “You smelled good before only then you took a bath and now you smell like a cupcake!” she wailed softly.

Webb stared down at her for a long moment, then abruptly burst out laughing, collapsing back down, half on the pillow and half on top of Ariadne. They heard her let out a surprised little oof, before she started to tremble, then helplessly start to laugh as well.

“… okay,” she gasped after a moment. “Okay, okay. If you don’t mind—I won’t take a lot. I don’t want you being too out of it later, either.” She shifted slightly, hand skating lightly up Webb’s arm, touching at their jaw. They felt an impulsive desire to pull away, but forced themself to relax, letting out a heavy breath and trying to make themself more comfortable.

“I can promise you that this is not the first time that I’ve let someone bite me,” Webb said dryly, which was completely true. But this was the first time that it was with someone they actually planned to continue having some sort of meaningful interaction with afterwards, which had to be why they felt a little strange about it, their stomach fluttering, their heart beating a little faster.

Ariadne, of course, would have to have noticed that. She swallowed, licking her lips.  Her expression was more focused now, her ruby red eyes heavy-lidded as she eased Webb back, leaning over them, her pale hair sliding down like a curtain on either side of their faces. For a wild moment, Webb imagined closing the distance and kissing her; had to force their hands to grip the carpet to keep them from sliding down her waist.

She tilted Webb’s chin up with two fingers, leaned down, and pressed her lips lightly against Webb’s neck, letting out a warm gust of breath. Webb felt their heart hammering, their breath catching in their throat. They heard the crackle of the fire and breathed in the scent of Ariadne’s hair, sweet and freshly-washed.

“Are you nervous?” Ariadne whispered. “Should I stop?”

[Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.

As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, deeds, or curiosities!]

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