Propane

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Date Written: 
02/22/2019

It was in the span of approximately two weeks that Sebastian Lee learned that all was not as he believed it to be in his home city of West Ashley.  At first he learned that he was one in a wide-branched family tree of wizards, expressing surprise at the existence -of- magic, further surprise at the person telling this to him revealing that he was a ghost in the employ of a council of Fair Folk which secretly governed the affairs of the supernatural in the city, and even further shock that the preceding council of vampires was voted out due to a joint coalition of werewolves and nymphs.  It was quite a bit to take in, all told.

"...and you," the ghost said, "have a great legacy to live up to."

The ghost spoke of Sebastian's unknown father - his true father, not his adopted one - and how he served as a detective to the supernatural world.  Sebastian was to follow in his footsteps, investigating crimes that the mundane world could not - or would not solve, in the dark recesses of the city, rife with corruption, each day a struggle to see justice done in a cynical world, knowing that the end might come at any moment and, as he lay dying, leave him wondering if it was at all worth it.

To which Sebastian replied, "I'd much rather keep painting."

So he did.

As far as art careers went Sebastian's turned out to be quite fruitful, thanks in no small part to him fostering his magical talents on the side.  Finding out that there were five additional colors in the spectrum did wonders for his paintings' compositions, even if he couldn't sell them on the ordinary market, and illusions of depth were much more convincing when you could apply an illusion -of- depth to it.

The main drawback was that he tended to attract attention from unusual places, some of which took up residence in his home.  The current semi-permanent fixture was a young fire elemental: Her eyes were embers, her hair a mane of flickering flame, and her body the color of molten steel, upper arms and thighs covered by cracked stone that grew cooler and more solid along her limbs before ending in obsidian hands and feet.  She was warm but not hot and, more importantly, didn't cause things to burst into flames around her, so Sebastian let her stay.  She mostly hovered around, watching him paint and asking him questions about the world every so often, subsisting on a modest and odd diet of charcoal briquettes.

As Sebastian prepared to head out one day the elemental floated towards him. "Where are you going?" she asked.

"Shopping." He pulled his coat on. "The old grill is starting to rust, and anyway I've been meaning to trade up to a newer one for a while."

She drew her legs to her chest, resting her hands on her ankles. "Why do you need a grill?"

"To cook things.  It's been ages since I had a good salmon steak."  As he walked to the door he added, "and it's probably a better idea to have one that doesn't run on what you eat."

"Couldn't -you- eat it too?"

"That... it doesn't work that way." Opening the door he stepped partway through, turning back to the elemental. "I'll be back in a bit.  Just remember..." He pointed to her.

"Don't open the door for anyone that isn't you," she recited.

"...and?"

"If it's that ghost you don't like, act like nobody's home."

"Good." With that, he left.



*****



Some time later Sebastian returned, unlocking the door and pushing it open before lugging in a stout metallic cylinder by the handle with both hands.  He set it down with a thud in the middle of the living room, flexing his hands to remove the indentations on his fingers.

The elemental drifted in, leaning over and inspecting it. "What's this?"

"It's a propane tank," he said over his shoulder as he departed again.

She didn't know what "propane" was, but lingering around the tank was a positively delicious scent, so whatever was inside had to be edible.  The coiled-up tube suggested some sort of liquid, maybe, and the knob on top was probably what let it pour out.  So, wanting to try some, she uncoiled the tube and placed the end of it in her mouth.  The knob was stiff, but with a little effort she managed to turn it a fraction of an inch, surprised when it was gas and not a fluid that came through.  It tasted as good as it smelled, but it was only a tantalizing trickle; she tried to force the knob a little more only to wrench it open when the friction suddenly gave way, the gas blowing into her full blast.

In a panic the elemental struggled with the knob, now finding it stuck open.  Her stomach, once flat, grew out into a rising curve, giving her the appearance of pregnancy but for how buoyant and weightless it was.  She pressed her hands against it, trying to force the gas out as she swelled, only causing the glowing bubble handing off her frame to shift and distend.  Little by little she could feel it growing firmer, her actions growing more frenzied as she heated up.  A painful tension spread across her belly's surface, and as she felt it throb she squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the inevitable...

...which never came as, nearly diving for the tank, Sebastian twisted the knob shut, tugging the hose from the elemental's mouth as he turned her upright again, holding her carefully against him. "It's okay, you're fine now, you're fine."

She let out hiccups and sobs as Sebastian gently stroked the flames of her hair with one hand, cradling her stomach. "It hurts!" she whimpered.

"I know honey, it's going to be okay."

"It really hurts!  It feels like I'm going to explode!"

"You're not going to explode," he said reassuringly.  He gently laid his other hand on the curve of her belly, swollen to the size of a beach ball, drum tight and glowing white.  She was much hotter than normal from her high emotions; he was genuinely worried that she really -would- explode from the gases heating up in her, but this was the absolute last thing she needed to know. "I know it hurts but you need to try and relax." He moved his hand, taking hers and giving it a light squeeze. "Then we can get all that out of you.  Do you think you can manage that?"

She gave him a nervous nod as Sebastian held her close, her expression pained.  Her hiccups trailed off and, little by little, she returned to a more comfortable level of heat, the glow of her gas-filled body fading to its normal hue.

Once he was sure she was calm he asked, "feeling better?"

She nodded. "It still hurts a little..."

"Alright, well." He moved away, slowly circling around behind her as he eased her into a vertical position. "Let's try this." Reaching around her, he rested both hands on the sides of her belly and began drumming against it.

The elemental gave him an odd look over her shoulder. "What are you doing?"

"Trying to get the gas out."

"How does that wo-URP!" Her words were cut short as a bubble of propane rolled up, escaping her lips and igniting in a spark of fire, causing Sebastian to reflexively pull his head away.

"Like that," he said. "Could you face forward, please?"

She nodded, looking ahead as her gut rumbled, and she let out a loud burp accompanied by a plume of flame, quickly followed by a second, longer one.  Bewildered by it all she simply floated there and let it happen as Sebastian thumped away, gas escaping in long, rolling, fiery belches punctuated by strings of staccato "urp"s, a minutes-long cascade of noisy expulsions as her midsection shrank down to a much smaller, yet still quite prominent size.

Sebastian lowered his hands and the elemental drifted away, turning to face him. "That was scary," she said.

"But you're better now, yes?"

She nodded, and her eyes lit up. "That thing you did was fun!  Can we do it again?"

As he went to speak the room was filled with a piercing series of beeps, and they jolted. "Perhaps later," he said hurriedly, rushing to a window and sliding it open. "When I'm not in danger of dying from carbon monoxide poisoning."

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