The morning air is cool and fresh along my heated skin, but I haven't the mindset to enjoy the slight breeze as every one of my shaky steps causes a new experience of pain. When the world begins to tilt against me, I reluctantly decide that a brief rest would be a good thing. Slumping under an aged tree too stubborn to die in this dusty plain, I press my hand harder against the cut at my bare side and hiss out a breath when blood slips from between my fingers. Well, this was rather stupid of myself.
"<Squa-all, you can't stop here.>"
I glare up at the young woman of long black hair, my annoyance faltering with a glance into her wide dark eyes misted with unshed tears. Rinoa is the only one who looks at me that way, showing true concern for my life and wellbeing. The rest of the tribe isn't exactly hateful toward me, but no one aside from this beauty would risk their life for mine.
Grabbing onto my injured arm, she gently pulls on it to motivate me to stand. "<Please, Squall. You got me this far, and I can't make it home on my own.>"
"<Rin...>" I shake my head, knowing that my strength was lost the moment I gave into the urge to rest. "<You can move faster without-->"
"<No, I can't leave you behind,>" she declares while pulling harder at my arm, forcing me to bite back a groan as my muscle shifts around the remaining piece of the broken arrow shaft lodged in my upper arm.
Before I can speak another argument, the sound of boot on dried earth steals my attention as I turn sharply to glance behind me. My eyes widen vaguely at the sight of the large man standing maybe ten steps away, amazingly unheard despite his hard-sole boots. The man wears the typical cowboy outfit with dark and dusty pants, a wide belt hanging off his waist with his holstered guns, a long tan coat made of an animal hide, and a white hat with a leather strap looping under his chin. Because of his clothing, little of the broad shouldered man is visible aside from the pale skin of his chin and the arrogant curl to his lips, just barely viewable from below the wide brim of his lowered hat.
I hate him before his first words are spoken.
"Need a little help there?"
My teeth clench at the words drawled in that horrid language. Why did these men have to travel beyond the land they originally claimed? Is nothing enough for them?
Despite the commonsense which should have told the girl to run, Rinoa kneels next to me and wraps her arms around my shoulders. "<Go away, devil. We have nothing to do with you.>"
The man cocks his head to the side, his white hat still revealing nothing more of his face than the widening grin.
"<He can't understand you,>" I tell Rinoa softly, my eyes never leaving the large man.
"<Then you tell him to go away.>"
I briefly consider refusing her request, but there is little I can deny this woman. "She told you to leave."
His smirk falters at my voice, but returns in full force, disturbing me for some unnamed reason. "Well, I'll be... Some of these so-called 'Injuns' do know English. That will certainly make things easier."
"Leave us alone."
He chuckles breathily, and then adjusts his hat to reveal his face and intense green eyes. "No, I don't think I will. But you don't mind if I stay, do you?"
My mouth dries at the question, my demands for his departure sticking in my throat. And worse, the insane urge to invite him closer occurs to me. I have to bite my tongue from speaking the words.
A vague frown creases the man's brow, but then vanishes instantly as he glances in Rinoa's direction. "What an exotic beauty you are," he states softly. Lifting a gloved hand, he motions for her to come to him, a ridiculous order which almost makes me laugh. That is, until Rinoa releases her tight hold on me and slowly rises to her feet.
I quickly grab onto her wrist before she manages more than a half-step in his direction, her dark eyes shifting down at me in an accusatory manner. But the irritated expression slowly shifts into one of confusion, Rinoa then looking sharply at the white man as she takes a wary step backward.
The man laughs deeply as he slowly closes the distance between us. "Let me guess, she called me a demon? Perhaps something more creative?"
"No closer," I say, but sensing the lack of confidence in my voice, the man doesn't halt his measured steps.
Without warning, Rinoa yanks her arm from my hold and runs toward the stranger in a foolish attempt to attack the far larger man. I cry out to her, but stubborn like any other woman, she ignores my call while rushing into obvious danger. The green-eyed man doesn't pause his approach, and instead lifts his hand with the palm facing forward. He whispers something, almost sounding like a mother quieting her child, and Rinoa reacts almost instantly as her steps lose steadiness until she collapses for no reason whatsoever. Swiftly, an arm prevents her from touching the dusty ground, and as if asleep, she moves limply when the man cradles her in his hold and presses a mocking kiss against her brow.
"Stop it," I hiss out, forcing myself to stand with the tree as my support. "We are not dangerous. Why this?"
Shifting his attention to me, the man smiles softly. "It's been a while since I've met someone strong enough to resist my... suggestions. Perhaps her safety will persuade you to be a good boy."
While a couple of his words are unknown to me, the general meaning comes across crystal clear. It makes me want to laugh, actually. Bruised all over my body and freely bleeding from my upper arm and side, I hardly appear a daunting warrior in this state. It's no wonder he wasn't afraid to approach us and intimidate us into obeying his demands. And sadly, I won't refuse him anymore if it means saving Rinoa's life. I didn't rescue the young woman from our rivals for her to be killed by a white man.
Unable to move, I watch as the large man carries the unconscious woman closer and sets her down to rest against the other side of the tree supporting my exhausted body. He then removes his hat, revealing short golden hair which lacks the typical dirt and sweat of most white men. After placing the hat on Rinoa's bowed head, he stands up smoothly to turn and look at me with his bright green eyes, his intense gaze making my breaths more rapid.
"Now, what should I do with you?"
'Anything,' is the response I immediately want to give him, but I keep my mouth tightly closed and shift my eyes to the plains of sagebrush and dirt. He chuckles at my actions and closes the remaining distance between us. His gloved hand goes to my arm and pulls it away from the deep wound at my side. Thinking he was only curious about my injury, it startles me when rough wetness moves across my palm. I turn my head sharply to find the blond man licking the fresh blood from my skin. Noticing my returned attention to him, the man smirks before placing two of my fingers in his mouth and starts sucking on them.
Snapping out of my shocked state, I yank my arm away from his hold. "What are you doing?"
With a glazed look to his eyes, the blond man runs his tongue across his bloodied lips, revealing a thus far unnoticed fang.
Fear runs cold through my body as I remember the nighttime tales of my mother, ones I never believed. "Vampire..." I whisper, as if hoping that the man would laugh at me for the foolish assumption. Instead, curiosity brightens his entrancing eyes.
"You are truly an interesting creature. Was it your mother or father who was white?"
"My mother," I reply instantly though I never intended to answer the man.
"Hmm, and was she the one to tell you all about werewolves, zombies, and vampires?" he asks menacingly, pressing closer to me such that his hand lightly covers my side injury and his face is hardly a finger's length away from mine. "Did she tell you what to do if you ever met a vampire?"
Irritation flares through my body at my helpless state, motivating me to shove him away. But he easily anticipates the pathetic attack and grabs my wrist to promptly raise them above my head and press them against the rough bark of the tree. I can't hold back a wince at the strain placed on my injured arm, the sight of which making the blond smirk.
"You should take better care of this beautiful body," he states before licking at the blood slipping down my bare arm. "Mmm, I can taste your mixed blood, you know, how it is both sweet and bitter. Completely different in essence, and yet complementary in flavor."
Failing to free my arms from his grasp, I glare at him. "Kill me or not. Do not play."
He flashes me a final smirk before bending in closer, his larger body completely covering mine. Though panic threatens to take hold of me, I give into the man's overwhelming aura which easily lowers my defenses and makes me relax in his hold. He purposefully brushes his fangs against my skin, not piercing flesh with the taunting touch. Instead, he kisses the sensitive area and licks heavily, drawing blood to the surface and most likely creating a mark which anyone could see if I somehow survived this encounter. Hardness suddenly presses between my legs, his knee nudging forward and rubbing up against my groin. I can't hold back a whimper at the unexpected move, and with my defenses lowered, I can't stop my body's reaction at the hard but pleasurable touch. That added to the continued motions along my neck, I feel myself succumbing to the seductive spell of the vampire.
But all of that abruptly ends with the crack of gunfire, my eyes snapping open at the painfully loud sound. I stare at the large man, surprised to see him a couple steps away from me and holding a smoking pistol in hand.
"Tch, a waste of good food," he states, reholstering his weapon with a fancy twirl.
Confused and lightheaded, I lower my freed arms and place a hand against my temple. Looking to the area the blond man was facing, I numbly stare at the sight of the killed man revealed from his hiding spot behind a bush. I recognize him as the brother or cousin to the man who kidnapped Rinoa, so it was almost satisfying to see him shot dead.
"Was he the one who hurt you?" the vampire asks, not sounding overly interested.
With returned humor, his green-eyed gaze shifts back to me. "You are a difficult piece of work, aren't you?"
I place a hand on my reopened side wound. "Why shoot him and not us?"
"Because you deserve my attention and he was interrupting my fun."
Frowning, I glance down at Rinoa, the woman still unconscious despite the previous gunfire. A gloved hand then grabs my chin, forcing me to gaze directly into the captivating eyes of poisonous green flecked with icy blue.
"Let's make a deal, lovely. I'll help you take your lady home, and then you're mine in exchange for her life and the lives of your tribe mates."
"I do not understand. Why...?"
"Don't ask questions. All you need to know is that both you and the woman can die here," he states with a suggestive glance in Rinoa's direction, "Or she lives and you belong to me for a period of time."
"And then I die."
He smiles in an oddly affectionate fashion. "And then you die."
It's not a hard decision to make. I know that I'm currently helpless again this demon in human form, but by agreeing to his condition, Rinoa can be protected and I will have plenty of opportunities to escape this man. Even more probable, the people of our tribe could rid the world of this dark creature whether he is truly a vampire or merely an insane man.
I nod my acceptance to his terms. "My life for her."
Pulling my hat lower in the futile attempt to better shield my face, I silently curse the cloudless nature of this damned desert. Though I know my typically mild irritation against the sunlight is amplified by my hunger and exhaustion, I can't stop my pathetic whining. Finding little shade or shelter in the past week, I haven't dared sleeping more than a few hours at a time, not wanting to waste the hours of night I can appreciate. And I have never been some place so dead of animal life, not mention human life. It's pathetic when I can't even find some plump rats to feast on, if only to hold back the hunger. My craving have been so bad that I was tempted to use my mustang to satisfy me last night, but I learned my lesson centuries ago that horses are too skittish to fed upon.
And then my patience finally won out.
Glancing to the wounded youth, I can't hold back a grin at his stubborn nature as he moves with obvious effort, choosing to walk along side my mustang instead of joining his sleeping woman on top of the beast. But even battered and tired as he appears, the native has a natural grace about him which adds to his cold beauty. Who knew such a treasure existed in this wasteland of dirt, brittle sagebrush, and rock.
Feeling my gaze upon him, the Indian looks at me sharply, his eyes of blue-gray icy with their accusatory edge. Before tasting him, I should have know that he wasn't a pure blood. Though dark, the long hair tied tightly into a braid is shades lighter than his companion's raven strands, and the skin of his shirtless body seems darkly tanned, not his natural color if protected from the sun. Add in those intriguing pale eyes, and his different background should have been obvious, but then, I haven't met many Indians out here. There were two I fed upon before crossing the Mississippi, but they were drunk and their blood sour. This young native is far more satisfying to my tastes.
Unable to continue meeting my gaze, the dark-haired man returns his attention to the plains before us, somewhat disappointing me. But then he speaks in that quiet but firm voice of his. "You are not a vampire."
I smile at the accented voice and the slow way he speaks, the man not completely comfortable with the English language. But with time and practice, I imagine he could become fluent. A shame he won't have that opportunity. "Believe whatever you like, lovely. It doesn't change our deal."
"But you are... fine with the sun..."
I huff, tempted to point out this stifling outfit I'm forced to wear. "Young vampires can't handle the sunlight, but we become tolerant with age, and I haven't been a child for a very long time."
He frowns, not revealing his thoughts, though I wonder if he even knows what the word 'tolerant' means.
"Well, you got your answer, so it's now my turn to ask a question."
That makes him look at me once more. "What?"
I make a tsking noise at his bewildered tone. "It's unfair for you to learn everything about me without revealing anything about yourself. Now, how about a name?"
He hesitates before simply replying, "Squall."
"Squall... Interesting that you have an English name. I assume that your mother named you?"
The dark-haired man shrugs, wincing as his arm injury is pulled in the process.
Readjusting my hat once again, I sigh at the realization that my horse makes a better conversationalist than this dour man. It's a shame that he is too strong willed for my manipulations. He could experience so much pleasure by my hands, but instead, he chooses to be difficult. Then again, I haven't had a nice challenge in a very long time...
"What about yours?"
I blink at the unexpected question and glance in the brunet's direction. "Mine?"
"Your name," he clarifies without meeting my eyes.
"A-ah, it's Seifer. Seifer Almasy."
For whatever reason, he frowns vaguely at my answer, perhaps not expecting a dark being like myself to have a name. Sooner or later, I'll have to figure out how much this Indian knows about the legends associated with my kind. It would be an annoyance to wake up with 'holy water' splashed in my face or to have the stench of garlic following us wherever we go. Occasionally it is amusing to witness a human's surprise and disbelief when such tactics fail to affect me, but more often than not, it typically isn't worth the ruined clothing and the headaches from dealing with such nuisances.
The rest of our journey is fairly silent with this 'Squall' avoiding any small talk and his woman still asleep on top of the mustang. While that makes the day as dull as hell, it gives me the time to think through my unexpected gain. Only this morning I was wondering if I'd make it through this trip without suffering from starvation, which would have made me vulnerable for any attack, human or otherwise. That is certainly one thing I can't afford with this trip westward. I don't care what happens to me once I have completed this mission, but until then, I'll do whatever is necessary to survive.
With the eventual setting of the sun, I smile faintly in relief as I push off my hat and let it rest on my back, letting it hang by the attached leather strap hooked around my neck. Feeling more at ease with my full field of vision returned, I glance around at the changed scenery compared to this morning, the desert replaced with spots of plush grass, flowering bushes and thin trees. There must be a river nearby for such a dramatic change.
When the relative silence is broken by the sound of a bird cry, the call obviously fake to my hearing, I smirk broadly at the native. "I take it that you aren't going to reply?"
Squall looks at me sharply, his pale eyes hiding little of his surprise that I knew we were being watched. Then realization dawns in those stormy blues about how I may react to such a situation, but it's too late by that point.
With the sound of the first arrow being fired, I automatically drop into a slower time, everything around me appearing stopped in place, except for the incoming arrows flying at a sluggish pace. Avoiding the missiles, I walk casually to the other side of the mustang to where Squall stands. Turning, I glance at the approach of the arrows, my eyes narrowing when I notice one far off its mark, but aimed perfectly for the brunet's head. I place a hand around the man's shoulders and wait for the approach of the single arrow, not grabbing onto the wooden staff until it is mere inches from between his eyes. And at that moment, I switch back to normal speed.
Several things happen at once - the horse screams as a few arrows aimed for my original position hits the unlucky beast, the Indian woman finally breaks out from my sleeping spell as she falls from the bucking horse, and Squall tenses in my hold. Blue-gray eyes cross vaguely to stare at the arrow I still held, but his expression remains stony as he grabs onto my wrist and makes me lower the weapon.
He then yells something at the surrounding bushes, the language completely unknown to me. It's inconvenient to not understand a damned word of his language, that right now he could be telling them how to kill me with a well placed arrow. At least in Europe, enough of the languages are similar enough to assume a translation, but this native tongue is something entirely new to me.
No reply comes to the brunet's demand. Instead, I easily hear the soft clicks of reloaded bows. Fools. Do they think they blinked or something to convince themselves that they'll hit me this time? Readying myself to take Squall with me, my hold tightens around his shoulders, earning myself an odd glance from the native.
But before the first shot is fired, the Indian woman screams out something in both pain and anger, her hands grasping onto a most likely broken ankle. After a few deep breaths, she adds something in lower tones, her voice deadly in a way that only women can manage. Shortly following her words, several black-haired men step cautiously from their hiding places, their little bows still armed with arrows.
"Do they think they simply missed the last time?" I ask the man still in my hold.
He ignores the sarcastic question. "You said my tribe... you will not hurt them?"
"Your own tribe mates," I mutter while snapping the arrow in my hand, amazed that Squall doesn't care how one of those men almost killed him moments previously. But his issues are none of my concern. "A deal is a deal. Though if they push me too far, I may decide that you're not worth the trouble."
Squall nods, accepting the condition. Then, in a softer tone, he says, "You saved my life."
I stare into his cold eyes, wondering what type of rules his tribe may have about such an event, but I can't pretend that I didn't do it for my own selfish purposes. Removing my hand from his shoulder, I tell him, "Don't worry about it. You'll just have to save my life the next time."
Squall watches me silently as if judging my sincerity, but he is soon distracted by the call of his name from the raven-haired woman. Sparing me a final glance, he hurries to her side and questions her softly, most likely about her injuries. Her dark eyes glare at me with fury, the woman obviously displeased with my presence, and once Squall manages to explain the situation, her anger changes from rage to pure disbelief at the gray-eyed man. Lord, if I have to suffer through her whining for the rest of today...
Squall speaks a final sentence before leaving the woman to her wordless fuming. Ignoring the others and their glares, he approaches me and says, "You and I will die this night."
I laugh, not honoring the absurd statement with a true reply. If anyone will die tonight, it would be Squall alone, and he isn't allowed to die until I've had my fill.
The brunet stares at me for my reaction, those blue-gray eyes then shifting away with a soft gleam. "I thank you."
Smirking, I place my fingers at his chin and force him to look at me. "Never assume that I act for anyone's interest but my own. You are no use to me dead, and that is that."
He stares at me with an unreadable expression, seemingly unafraid of my touch as the glove stained with his blood brushes against his skin. Then, with no apparent reason, the corner of his lips curls into a vague smile before he slips out of my hold to walk in the direction of the injured mustang which hadn't traveled far after the attack. Though confused and curious about the brunet's reaction, I decide to push aside pointless question and follow him to help the poor dumb beast. After riding that flea bag all these weeks, I suppose I've gotten attached to the thing. A shame that it would be best to desert him come morning. I don't want to stay with these 'Injuns' longer than I must.
"<I still don't understand why you surrendered to that devil.>"
I say nothing to Rinoa, tired with explaining my actions when she refuses to see anything from my point of view.
"<You rescued me from that foul man and his kin by yourself, and you expect me to believe that you couldn't handle one white demon? And how could you let him mark your neck in such a... suggestive manner?>"
While tempted to remind her that she herself experienced the manipulative power of the vampire, I choose to hold my tongue and let her complain to her heart's desire. As she talks, my mind wanders to the attack, to the moment when I stared helplessly at the arrow which flew directly for me. I had felt resigned at that point, knowing that Nida and the others were waiting for any excuse to 'accidentally' be rid of me. Not like other 'accidents' haven't happened before. But then the arrow had stopped and I felt an arm tight around me, protecting me...
"<Squall, are you listening to me?>"
I glance into concerned dark eyes, not replying the obvious that I hadn't heard a single word.
Rinoa sighs in defeat and her hand brushes aside dark strands of hair from her face. "<Don't go with him. Help us kill him.>"
I shake my head. "<He saved my life. I cannot take his life in return, and we made a deal.>"
"<There is something dark and malicious about him.>"
"<And yet, he let you and the others live when he could have easily killed us all.>"
"<Why are you defending him?>" she asks in frustration.
I scoff and turn around to face the exit of her shelter. "<He is a demon and a white man. I'm not defending him, but the honor of our contract.>"
"<Wait, don't go.>" I glance back at her and find Rinoa smiling sadly. "<You came to say 'goodbye' and I attack you like this. I'm sorry, but...>"
I nod, understanding that she hates the man who is stealing me away from her protection. I approach her bed of furs and kneel down so that she can reach me. Slim arms wrap tightly around my neck and she buries her face against my chest. I place one hand at her lower back and one on top of her head to stroke the silky black hair.
"<If I said I love you, would you still go?>"
"<You know nothing can happen between us.>"
Rinoa sighs and hugs me tighter. "<I could go with you.>"
"<With a broken ankle and bruised ribs?>" I pull back from her and kiss her forehead. "<Your father needs you here, and you should be married soon enough.>"
"<How can you be so cold about this? I may never see you again.>"
I bite back the words that I probably won't survive to see the next full moon, but I don't need to give Rinoa any other reason to worry about me. Instead, I whisper a final goodbye and stand up to leave her shelter, ignoring her soft sniffles. The night air is cool along my skin, not quite cold enough to require a shirt, but my skin shivers at the first brush of a chilling breeze. As I walk to the edge of village toward my shelter, my thoughts drift to the past, about all of the times Rinoa watched over me, a boy of mixed blood who lost his parents at a young age. It isn't surprising that she thinks she loves me when it's nothing more than a sisterly love for a weak friend. And with her father being one of the elders, Rinoa is too good for my impure blood, something that has been reminded to me time and time again.
"<Is our little squaw going back to his white master?>"
I glance up at the voice, unsurprised to see Nida blocking my path. Having no urge to argue with the man, I meet his gaze long enough to prove my lack of fear where he is concerned, and then move to step around the man. Suddenly my injured arm is grabbed by an unnoticed man, my limb twisted until I'm forced to my knees.
"<Now, why are you in such a rush to meet with that demon? Perhaps to plan something against our tribe?>
I glare at the dark-eyed man for his blindness. But even if I were to speak, neither Nida nor anyone else of his group would listen to me if I were to say that Seifer could kill them with hardly a thought. Only our verbal contract is keeping these people safe, and even that deal may not be enough if these idiots were to do something foolish.
A bare foot kicks against my bandaged side, making me see spots and gasp in unexpected pain.
"<Talk, you stupid woman. What are you planning against us?>"
"<Nothing,>" I hiss out. "<I'm leading him away from here in the morning.>"
"<Hn, the elders may have believed such lies because you saved Rinoa before we could, but I'm not fooled. Why lead him away when you could kill him tonight?>"
"<He saved my life.>"
Nida kicks my injured side again. "<Because you were too stupid to get out of the way. Are you deaf, squaw? Didn't you hear the signal?>"
The deep voice makes Nida turn sharply to glare at the white man for his intrusion. I glance up more slowly, my eyes widening at the sight of the shirtless man. Seifer had been wearing his heavy clothing all day, even his neck covered by the warm material of his shirt. I never imagine what his bare body would look like, and now I can't pull my eyes away from the muscular torso covered in pale golden skin, the contrast of his dark pants causing an illusionary glow around the man.
Standing in a casual pose, Seifer purposefully rests a hand on the pistol I witnessed him using earlier today. "Release him."
Though they shouldn't understand the words, my arm is freed and Nida's friends take several steps backward. Carefully, I move my injured arm to my chest and cradle it while I stand up. Without moving from my position, I look into green eyes and find them flashing with a cold energy. Meeting my gaze, Seifer nods at the entry to my shelter in a sign to move forward. I hesitate long enough to be certain I was under my own control, and then walk toward the large man, easily side stepping Nida's attempt to trip me.
"<Go pleasure your white master, squaw. Good riddance to you.>"
I ignore the taunt, and step in front of Seifer in the clear sign for him to move inside before me. Once in the dark comfort of my shelter, I step to the collection of furs and kneel down before carefully stretching out along the comfortable softness. The bed feeling warm against my bare skin, I wonder if the previous encounter woke the vampire from a nap. Bastard, assuming he could occupy my bed.
"Why let them treat you like that?" Seifer asks, standing directly above me.
I shrug, unable and unwilling to explain that it's pointless to fight when I'm already injured and I need to save my energy for the trip in the morning. Though I still believe we'll be lucky to see the light of day tomorrow. I earned a favor by saving Rinoa, but sheltering this demon could be asking too much of the elders.
With an exasperated sigh, Seifer kneels down and presses his hand against my chest to roll me over onto my back. "I see you had your injuries treated. How do you feel?"
He smiles softly. "Not surprising, but I'm not done with you tonight."
I stare into his bright gaze, easily recognizing his hunger as one of his fangs slips over his lower lip. And suddenly I realize why he wants me, that he needs a damned feedbag during his travels. While I still haven't an idea why he selected me specifically, I surrender to my choice to deal with the devil and turn my head to make my neck more accessible to the vampire.
Seifer hums with pleasure as he moves to straddle my body, his bare chest soon pressed against mine. He licks my neck, trailing upward to kiss behind my ear. "It has been a while since I had a willing donor," he says quietly before nibbling at my earlobe. "Try to relax. It'll hurt your first time, but I hear that it gets more pleasurable with time."
"You hear...?" I repeat, unable to calm myself completely. I'm trusting a murderer to feed on my body without killing me... Someone must have hit my head when I was rescuing Rinoa. There's no other possibility for me to be this senseless.
"You aren't my first donor, lovely," Seifer murmurs, his too sharp teeth scrapping against my neck.
As warned, the bite is painful as thick fangs pierce through my skin. As I try to not cry out, a quiet whine escapes my tightly closed lips, making me feel even more the fool. A calloused hand immediately goes to my waist and slips to my backside to rub with massaging motions in the attempt to soothe me. But that touch does little to calm me as I can't help but to focus on the drawing sensation at my neck. I've already lost too much blood today, and surely his hunger will make the vampire feed to his fill. I can't imagine myself surviving this...
Suddenly the fangs are gone, replaced by the touch of warm roughness as Seifer licks at the wounds. "You can breathe now."
I frown at his mocking tone and move to get away from him, but a hand goes to my chest and prevents me from moving anywhere.
"Stay there. You should be lightheaded for a while, even though I didn't take much."
I stare up into his eyes, surprised to find the man smiling softly at me and his hunger apparently sated for the time being. Seeing his pupils dilated with pleasure and his face showing a vaguely flushed appearance, I abruptly become very aware of his closeness. No one has laid down with me in such a familiar fashion before, and the demon seems far too pleased about the situation. And whether from exhaustion or otherwise, I find that my body no longer responds to my silent demands as I lie helplessly beneath the larger man and stare into his poisonous eyes.
"So innocent," Seifer whispers before kissing the corner of my lips. Before I have the sense to complain, the vampire moves off of me and stands with unnatural grace for a man of his size. "Go to sleep, lovely. We'll leave shortly before sunrise."
Though I feel his manipulative power wrapping around me, I can't resist the suggestion to sleep and to trust Seifer to keep us safe during the night hours. And considering the disastrous day I managed to survive through thus far, I decide that it isn't worth it to fight that power which can help me find sleep when my thoughts would keep me up otherwise. The decision made, I glare halfheartedly at the vampire in the clear sign that I know what he is doing to me, but I am allowing him this brief moment of control over my mind. And staring into those amused and interested green eyes, I fall directly to sleep.
Standing at a respectable distance behind the small gathering, I watch Squall speak with the apparent leaders of his little tribe. While I wanted to leave before the sun rose, I had forgotten about the human necessities the native would need while traveling. At least Squall was fast and efficient about gathering food, water, and small personal items which would fit in a saddlebag. We were about to leave when these older Indians appeared and demanded a word with the brunet.
Uninterested in the others, my eyes focus on the somewhat small frame of the native, regrettably dressed in loose clothing which does nothing to display his lithe figure. Perhaps he'll decide to go shirtless during the warmer hours of the day. But that musing is cut short when I see Squall remove a long knife from the sheath at his side. I briefly wonder if he has finally been ordered to kill me himself, but instead, I witness him cutting off his lengthy braid, which he then drops to the ground along with his knife.
Turning sharply on his heels, Squall walks toward me with his face downcast and his eyes hidden by his shortened hair. He tries to sidestep me and move for his horse, but I easily stop him and force him to meet my eyes. The sight of pale eyes hardened with cold fury makes me smile as I move my hand from his chin and finger the shorter dark brown hair.
"I'll have to fix this later," I say, purposefully not asking why he did such a dramatic thing.
He jerks his head away from me. "It is not..." Frustrated for words, he motions his hand in a dismissing manner.
Understanding his meaning and not wanting to become the focus of his anger, I nod and allow him free passage to his horse. Meanwhile, I move to my poor mustang, the beast still feeling its wounds from the attack yesterday. I could have probably convinced one of the Indians to trade me horses, but this fleabag has gotten me this far and I hate the idea of leaving him behind. Most animals shy away from my smell, but this stupid beast doesn't care as long as I treat him to the occasional sweet. And as I feed him a couple small sugar cubes, I know that I've gotten horribly soft over the years.
"You're not going to say 'goodbye' to your woman?" I ask while rubbing my mustang's velvety nose.
"Rinoa is not mine, and I said 'goodbye' last night."
"Oh? For you to risk your life like you did, I assumed she was important to you."
Squall says nothing in reply as he grabs onto his horse's lead and begins our journey westward. I shake my head in resignation that I had chosen a lousy traveling partner, but at least a desirable one. With a light pull on leather reins, I allow my mustang to decide on his own pace while we follow Squall, the native eventually slowing his horse so that we walk side by side. With only the sounds of hooves and feet on dry ground disturbing the silence, we travel at a leisurely pace away from the small tribal village and return to the desert landscape of low hills and dry plants.
Eventually unable to hold my silence, I ask, "Your name is 'Squall', right?"
The native glares at me for the question. "Yes..."
"Good. I thought I heard those idiots calling you 'Squaw' last night and I was wondering if I had it wrong."
His face pales vaguely at my comment, and his blue-gray eyes move quickly to avoid my gaze.
"They did call you that," I guess after seeing his reaction.
He hisses something in that language of his before saying, "'Squaw' is a... bad word for 'woman'."
"Hmm, then I suppose you won't miss everything about leaving that place."
Squall lifts a hand to finger the dark strands his hair. "You will kill me?"
And being the odd person he is, the native relaxes at my confirmation. "Then it is not very bad."
"What about your family?" I ask, curious about not seeing another white person amongst the Indians.
"As simple as that, hn?"
Squall doesn't react, a cold force in the middle of a desert. And yet, I know the warmth of his body and the softness of his sun-loved skin. Even with the distance between us now, I can smell the dried blood on his bandages, which then reminds me of his taste. Instantly my cravings stir as I think about the mere sampling I had last night, but Squall couldn't afford to lose much more blood. The amount I had should last me the week, but with temptation walking at my side, the next several days are going to be too long for my like.
"Where are we going?"
I smile at the hesitant question. "I am going to 'Cisco. I'm not certain how long I will keep you around."
"Is that where you see the... big water?"
"You want to say 'ocean', and yeah. San Francisco is a port city, right up against the Pacific."
Squall hums out his interest, but nothing more. Not even to mention that he wants to live long enough to witness the vast salt waters which I assume his mother told him about. Seems like this woman told him plenty of stories in his past. Strange that he isn't much of a talkative person himself.
"So, what do you do for fun on a long trip?" I ask, lowering my hat further over my eyes. Damned sun. I wish I could sleep away the day in the safety of a windowless room and on a thick mattress fitted with fine silk sheets.
"Come on, lovely. Don't you know of something to make the time pass faster? We just left and I'm already bored beyond reason."
The dark-haired man looks over at me as if I were insane. "You got this far alone."
"Tch, and I spent most of that time talking to my horse for the sake of something to do beyond staring at dirt and rocks all day long." Receiving no response from Squall, I sigh out in frustration and suggest, "Perhaps I could interest you in a travel song? I learned one a few weeks ago called 'I've Got No Use for Women'. Have you heard that one?"
His pale eyes narrow further.
Though highly tempted to start singing to further irritate the native, I settle for a broad smile. "Fine, then you figure out how to keep me entertained."
Turning his gaze to the vague trail ahead of us, Squall mutters something under his breath, unintelligible to my hearing.
"What was that again?"
He sighs and then says more clearly, "If you have to talk, then talk stories."
Noticing that he was purposefully avoiding my gaze, I realize that the native truly wouldn't mind listening to some tales. "You're a listener, aren't you? You hate to talk or hear about random nonsense, but if a person has something interesting to say, you are all ears."
He huffs. "You want to talk. I am fine."
I breath a chuckle at his poor lie. "Alright, I'll play your game, lovely. Just don't mind me while I talk to myself."
The morning hours pass by quickly, random tales popping into my head as I go into them with obvious exaggerations, but no good story is completely truthful. Occasionally I drop into quieter tones, amusing myself as Squall subtly moves closer to better hear me, unintentionally taunting me with his scent. And once I return my voice to normal levels, he retreats to a safer distance. That is, until the fourth time I play that game, and for the rest of the morning, he stays closer to my side.
When the sun eventually reaches its highest point, I point out a rocky hillside where a collection of dead trees seem to be providing decent shade. When Squall doesn't protest to my suggestion of a rest, I know that I made a wise choice to break for lunch. Even if the injured native wouldn't admit he is tired, I'm certain that my mustang could use the rest and I was prepared to use that excuse.
Seated against a fallen boulder, I sprawl out in the shade and wish that I could wear something less stuffy than this damned shirt with its high collar. Squall chooses a spot in front of a tree, far enough to be safe from my reach, but not too far to prove his distrust for me. From a small pack, he removes a piece of flat bread and begins nibbling on the dry looking food. Purposefully placing my hands behind my head to still them, I watch him chew carefully and follow that first bite with a drink of warm water.
Noticing my eyes on him, Squall frowns slightly. "Did you want food?"
I smirk at the idea of him offering food to his eventual executioner. "Solid food doesn't agree with my body."
His gaze shifts downward quickly, the native probably remembering that I'm a fearsome vampire who survives on the blood of the living, and not the simple white man who had been telling tall tales all morning. And sadly, it disappoints me that I lost that moment of being human in his eyes.
Lifting his hand to lightly finger the remaining bruise on his neck, he asks, "Are you... hungry?"
"Always. But don't worry, I'm going to wait until you're refreshed and better able to satisfy me."
Squall shakes his head. "Why me?"
I shrug, still not certain myself why I chose him as a temporary donor. Probably because of his strong blood and his weakened body, not to mention the possibility of my half-starved mind making poor decisions. Discovering that he is a man of strict honor was a nice bonus, ensuring that he won't betray me since I resisted feasting on the people of his tribe, but Lord, it was tempting. Not for my hunger, but to get rid of the bad taste in my mouth that I got while saving Squall from an arrow fired by his own people. And he did nothing to them... I can't decide if that makes the native stronger or weaker than me.
He looks up from the meager meal he had returned to eating.
"What would it take for you to kill a man?"
Pale eyes shift down to the dry ground as he sips more of his water. "If my people are hurt bad."
"Or if your woman is taken?"
"Rinoa is not mine."
"So you said before," I mention, and then ask, "What would you have done if you found this Rinoa killed by those men?"
Lifting his head, Squall looks at me with an unreadable expression. "I do not know."
"Come on, lovely. Surely you imagined it beforehand, that if you found her beautiful skin bruised, her body violated, her throat slit... Would you have killed them all silently from a distance? Or would you have slaughtered them and left them in the middle of the desert for everyone to see? Maybe bring a present home to her father?"
He considers my words for a moment. "She was safe. I did not need to do that."
I chuckle at his cautious response. "When I put your princess to sleep, I swore that you were about to kill me though you were injured and weaponless. I was surprised and maybe a bit disappointed that you gave up so quickly."
Blue-gray eyes flash coolly, but Squall doesn't offer any comment.
"Tell me. What would you have done to them?"
After a short pause, he smirks softly in a vindictive manner. "A long death. I wanted them to feel fear."
"Like Rinoa's fear..."
The native straightens at my quiet words, and then nods. "Like her fear."
I sigh, annoyed with myself for starting the string of questions which makes me think about my own loss. I should have known better. Noticing Squall's examining gaze on me, I move my hat to cover my face. "Finish your meal. We should leave shortly."
While hesitating, the native returns to his lunch without further comment aside from a quiet huff. Trusting the man to hold his silence, I try to purge darker thoughts from my mind and sift through my memory for brighter tales about foolish pirates and fair maidens, hoping that the dark-haired man would be later distracted by stories concerning the ocean. The last thing I need is for him to stare at me with those sharp eyes of his and question why I'm heading westward. I don't want to dwell on the future when it will only make me think of the past, and nothing can be gained from thinking about my waste of a life. Nothing but pain.
Author's Whining -- And this is for those of you who feared the vampire request being too cliché - a Western vampire story. *laugh* Yes, I'm a nutcase. Actually, I have never read a western, so I know that this chapter doesn't have the Western twang, but since Seifer is technically European, he doesn't have the 'cowboy' background. That said, I can also see him enjoying that type of culture far too much. That 'I've Got No Use for Women' song does exist, btw. While the song is dark, the title made me laugh. =P
For those interested, the original request was for: "It's basically set in a small village, when a plague hits, or so people believe. They don't understand why a vast number of people are dying. Curious to this reason one would search in an old library, only to find the cause of it all. Instead of a disease it would be a vampire. (Hopefully played by Seifer. >>;) Who finds it quite amusing that the people around him panic over such a small thing. In exchange for the remaining people in his village the boy offers himself to the vampire......" Well, that was obviously too easy for me, and after watching a documentary on Billy the Kid, I got the urge to do something set in the Old West. Luckily Vinnie no Neko was nice enough to indulge me and agreed to this silly idea. I hope you won't be disappointed by this fic, Vinnie. =P