"It is no surprise the wolf hunts you. You are easy to follow," I state before closing the door the vampire had left open as per his habit.
Facing the bed, Seifer doesn't turn at my voice, and instead breathes a chuckle before finishing his movement of placing his heavy trench coat next to his white hat on the mattress. "You shouldn't be here."
I don't dignify the statement with a response.
He straightens vaguely, his eyes shifting to the window now covered with a heavy blanket to block out the sunlight. How he could forget to cover the single window is beyond me, but perhaps it is his age showing through that the vampire can be so utterly absentminded. With light steps, Seifer moves to the window and fingers the blanket as if he had never seen the material before.
His voice suddenly rough, the blond says, "Leave. I don't want you near me."
The lack of conviction in his words makes me sigh inwardly. "I am yours."
"Stop saying that!" Seifer spits out, tearing the blanket from its hangers as he turns sharply to face me with blazing emerald eyes. After a breath to contain some of his anger, the blond continues in a softly threatening tone to say, "I didn't save your life for you to follow me around like some starved mutt. I wanted you for your blood and nothing more."
"Then why not drink my blood?" I ask, overly tired of this game. I have no home to return to, and if the vampire doesn't want me anymore, then I have no other purpose in this life except to fulfill the deal between us. But with him trying to get rid of me like a piece of trash, I'm not certain which angers me more - Seifer wishing to break his promise or the lost chance to selfishly escape this life.
"Do you desire death that badly?" the blond asks quietly, the sunlight behind him giving the vampire an entrancing golden glow.
At my silence, the large man steps forward with long strides, the blanket slipping from his hold to lie on the floor as he approaches me. Not slowing his pace, Seifer thrusts his hand forward and captures my throat in a strong hold to force me back against the door. My head knocks hard against the solid wood, the strike dazing me for a time. Blinking away the fuzziness of vision, I stare into shadowed emerald eyes filled with hunger.
Sneering, Seifer asks, "Do you think I don't like the taste of your blood?"
"You do not want it," I find myself replying in a faintly bitter tone. And already my heart is beating faster at the close presence of the larger man, but not from fear despite his threatening actions and aura. I don't think I will ever fear this demon who occasionally whimpers in his sleep and reaches out as if needing bodily contact.
His smirk widens as the blond reaches up with his free hand and rips the bandages from my upper arm, painfully revealing the still healing gashes l had received from the werewolf. Seifer runs his fingertips over the wounds, his skin soon coated with the drops of blood seeping from opened scabs. His eyes never leaving mine, he brings his fingers to his mouth and licks the thick fluid with a throaty noise of pleasure, his lips then closing over the digits to clean them completely free of blood as they slip from his smirking lips.
"You know nothing," Seifer says in a rough voice. Without warning, he uses the hand around my neck to force my head at an uncomfortable angle to better expose my throat for his purposes.
I tense as he bends in close, not from wariness of his bite, but in readiness of another attempt by the vampire to coax me into a deep sleep. Though this time, it appears Seifer is serious about taking what he needs. Unlike times before, there's no warning feel of his tongue before his thick fangs penetrate my skin, the event more painful than I remember. With my lips tight to prevent any sound from escaping, I find my chest aching from the uncaring way he has chosen to take my last blood, his hands on my body only there to restrain me from escape, hurting me with their unbreakable holds.
Even so, I manage to relax with my growing lightheadedness and discover an odd source of pleasure caused by the drawing sensation at my neck. My hands automatically move to the back of the blond's shirt when dizziness briefly overwhelms my senses, but once regaining my balance, I clutch even harder at the soft material and press close to the large man. As my body grows numb to all pain, I smile faintly at this choice of death. My mother always spoke of vampires with a passionate gleam to her eyes, her words flamboyant and romantic while she talked about the dark and murderous demons. I had always found it strange and unreasonable to lust over those legendary fiends, but now in the arms of one such devil, I understand that passionate and irrational desire.
With the fleeting thought that my mother would probably be jealous of me at this moment, I smile wider and close my eyes to imagine her face one last time before surrendering to the ultimate darkness.
~ > < ~
Staring at the ceiling of dark wood with my eyes focused on a large water stain, I think of nothing for a long time as the sense of wrongness enters my mind. My entire body feels heavy and cold except for spots of tingling heat along my skin. Blurry memories of the long past come to mind of a time when I was left hurt and broken in the winter desert, but there isn't the feel of pebbles digging into my bare skin nor the sound of the coyote's howl which seemed to scorn the tainted blood spilt onto the desert floor.
My eyes narrow at the thoughts of blood, the cloudiness of my mind clearing as I remember that I should be dead, not awake to stare at a damned ceiling while recalling my worst memories. The bastard had done it again. Seifer had stolen enough of my blood to make me faint like some woman and then must have left to escape his duty once more. But no matter. He is ridiculously easy to trail, especially when I know his ultimate destination. I refuse to have him break his promise to me. I can't take that from another person, especially not from Seifer.
Abruptly there is a sound from the far corner of the room, and when I turn my head to look upon the intruder, I inadvertently gasp at the feel of a pulled wound. Moving to my previous position, I close my eyes and try to breath through the hurt, and then discover my arms tied to the bed when I attempt to feel the injury which caused me such pain. Panic begins to seep through my numb state, but a warm hand is suddenly on my face and I'm overwhelmed by a smell, an aged scent similar to the fragrance of dried flowers. My eyes opening, I stare into the entrancing green gaze which always seems to drive away the fear.
Seifer frowns, his hand abruptly leaving my face as he sits on the edge of the bed. "Why did you have to be so stubborn? Didn't you think I had a reason to leave you in that damned desert in the first place?"
I glare at the blond, relaying the obvious message that he had made me a promise of death which he has thus far denied me twice.
"When is it going to seep into that dense mind of yours that I don't want you dead?!" he shouts, then turning his head away from me with his hand moving to cover his eyes as he sits hunched over in frustration. "I could have been satisfied knowing that you were safe with your tribe while enjoying your Indian princess, but instead, you had to follow me and push me, and give that darker part of me control..."
My anger slips away as I watch the obviously torn vampire, his words spoken with both grief and spite. Reflexively I try to reach for him, my halted action reminding me about my bound state. Looking to my body in frustration, I'm startled by the sight of blood seeping from rings of cuts in my skin, the deep circles containing odd shapes and covered with dark blood. The largest circle perhaps the size of my palm stands out on my chest, while smaller circles containing different symbols have been cut on my wrists and inner elbows from what I can see in this position. Though feeling no pain, confusion and panic overwhelm me as I look to the vampire for answers, my eyes widening at the recognition of dried blood under his fingernails.
Dropping his hand from his face, Seifer looks at me with pity. "You said my name before falling unconscious. It snapped me out of my feasting, but I had taken you too far." He laughs bitterly, "I should have let you die, but before I knew what I was doing, I had already cut the first symbol of 'life' on your chest. I couldn't stop after that," he says while placing his hand over my chest, just barely not touching the bloodied ring of cuts.
"What have you done?" I ask in a voice no louder than a whisper.
Seifer glances at me, his eyes the darkest green I have yet to witness of the captivating orbs. Not answering my question while meeting my gaze, he smiles slowly with a mischievous hint to the fanged smirk, as if he suddenly realized the humor in cutting me and making me bleed. And at that moment, I know I'm seeing the vampire and not the man whom I had come to know over these past weeks. But if the vampire doesn't want my life blood, it makes me fear what else he may desire of me.
Abruptly the large man stands from the bed and walks to the covered window with his long strides. He casually removes the hanging blanket from its nails and folds the thick material before setting it aside on a tall dresser. From around his large frame, I view the faded blue sky of the early morning, the sun not yet making its appearance above the hilly horizon. Walking away from the window, Seifer returns to the bedside, but pulls along a wooden chair instead of choosing to sit with me on the mattress. I want to question him further, to understand what he is planning with me and why he couldn't simply kill me as he promised, but I find myself without words as I stare at the silent man. Unhelpful to my overwhelming confusion, Seifer sits in the dilapidated chair with his arms crossed over his chest and his eyes closed with fake indifference judging by the anxious tapping of his foot.
My obvious staring of the blond ends when the tingling of my cuts grows stronger, the bloodied rings beginning to itch with an irritating sensation of heat. Looking down the length of body, my eyes widen at the faint wisp of smoke curling up from my feet and wrists. As I struggle with my bonds, I wince as the first bright rays of sunlight stream through the uncovered window and into my eyes. Then suddenly there is only burning, a white heat which sets my skin aflame and makes my blood boil. I must have been screaming, but I can't hear anything above the sounds of my heartbeats, loud and rapid while the life-giving organ deals with the burning blood. I have never imagine such pain with its intensity and searing heat, my reality becoming nothing more than dark agony.
And just as suddenly, it all ends. But unlike the instant onset of the pain, the remaining hurt fades gradually until I can breath normally and force open my eyes to view the blurry image of the ceiling. It's almost disappointing to see the solid proof that I'm still trapped in the human world and haven't been turned into ashes by the unexpected heat. How much more pain must I suffer through?
Coldness touches my leg, the iciness making me flinch before I quickly relax to savor the cooling contact. Glancing down the length of the bed, I remain unmoving as I watch Seifer untie the several ropes restraining me. His expression is too complex for me to understand, his lips twitching between a bitter smirk and a hungry smile.
"The pain will pass," he mentions quietly, guiltily, while brushing his fingertips along the inside of my ankle, directing my attention to the black design remaining there from the once existing cuts. Looking to my chest and arms, I find the same dark lines replacing the bloody lines of before, the odd shapes becoming defined symbols within the circles, but still meaningless to me.
Seifer doesn't look at my face while the bindings are removed with unhurried motions. My mind is void of all thought as I watch the gestures of his bare hands still stained with my blood. Every press of his fingertips against my skin seems to revive that part of my body, creating a stimulating rush of blood along with a deep throb of pain. But I remain motionless as Seifer removes the ropes which had created reddish marks on my bare skin from my earlier struggles.
Bright green eyes briefly glance at my face, the worry and uncertainty of the vampire obvious in the entrancing eyes, but I do nothing to relieve his concerns. He sighs quietly before stretching over me to undo the rope holding my hand close to the bedpost. I feel my heart rate increasing as I watch the rope slip off from my wrist and a vague thought pierces through the cloudiness of my mind - 'almost free'. Time seems to slow as I watch Seifer carefully undo the slipknot of the final binding, the rope then easily unwrapped from around my reddened wrist.
I move before I consciously decide on a plan of action. The blond caught unaware, I easily knock him aside despite the flash of pain it causes me from the still healing gashes along my upper arm and shoulder. My eyes settle on the old wooden chair the vampire had used so that he'd have a comfort position to watch my agony. Grabbing the chair, I throw it hard against the wall across from me, the aged wood breaking in several pieces with a loud crash. Without hesitation, I lunge forward to retrieve a broken leg of the chair, and then turn sharply to face the vampire with my makeshift stake held before me and my back facing the wall.
Seifer had moved in that short time, recovering from his surprise to now stand between me and the single door which leads to escape. His emerald eyes flashing with an energy I haven't seen since the first time we met, Seifer smirks amusedly with an elongated fang overlapping his pale lips.
"And what do you plan to do with that, lovely?"
While I hate the condescending tone of his voice, I know the vampire has every reason to be amused by my attempt to threaten him. No longer moving, I feel incredibly unsteady on my feet and I'm forced to use the wall more as support rather than the simple protection I had intended it to be. But despite my weakness, I tighten my hold on the stake and raise it higher with a surprisingly steady hand.
Humor fading from his expression, Seifer says, "Put it down, Squall. You'll only hurt yourself like this."
"No! You hurt me!" I state stupidly, unable to think straight and better explain the betrayal I feel.
The vampire's face darkens with anger. "Earlier you wanted me to kill you, which I almost did, you ungrateful shit."
"Death is not pain."
Seifer straightens at my statement, and then speaks in a calming tone, "I've hurt you before."
I shake my head, staring at him with a silent question of 'why?'. Why did he have to hurt me by first leaving me unconscious and alone in the open plains of the desert, and then by purposely inflicting such agony on me while watching on like some spectator? Was it for his sick enjoyment that he saved me from Nida's arrow? From the beginning, have I been some kind of toy to this immortal? But I'm so tired of pain, both the injuries of my body and the unseen wounds which make my chest ache. Why is it too much to ask for it to end?
After a tense silence, Seifer smiles bitterly. "And here I was trying to spare you from pain."
I glare at him for the baseless response, but when the large man steps forward to close the distance between us, I pathetically press back against the wall.
"Stupid savage, crawling back into my life after I tried to protect you from my dark world. And then you had to nearly die in my arms when I've become addicted to your scent and taste..." The vampire stops before me with an odd smile, purposely within reach as if to prove that I won't hurt him with the broken chair leg in my hand. "You forced me to do this to you, to draw you further into the darkness. And yet, marked as you are, you still haven't a clue what curse now ruins through your blood, do you?"
Frozen into place by overwhelming confusion, I can only watch as Seifer mocks my unmoving state by closing his eyes with complete ease that I won't harm him. As he takes on an expression of deep concentration, I almost instantly feel an aching hunger, a dark need which I somehow know is not my own. My body reacts with an odd warming sensation and I have to resist the insane urge to approach the large blond and give him what he desires. And when his eyes open to reveal deep green irises, a whimper escapes my lips as the longing to give him my blood increases tenfold and clouds all my thoughts except the one to not move from my position.
"Stubborn to the bitter end," Seifer says with an oddly pleased smile. "I imagine you could fight off Death himself with a resolve like that."
"What have you done?" I ask in a bare whisper.
"Like I told you before, you were dying and I didn't want you dead." He reaches forward to lightly grasp my hand, and I don't resist as he turns my arm to reveal the dark circle on my wrist. "These runes kept you alive, but their purpose isn't exactly a good one. Well, for you, that is."
I stare at the vampire, suddenly wary of his explanation, but I don't dare stop him.
"Since the first time I saved your life, you have claimed that you are mine, but now... let's just say that I made it official." Seifer jerks on my arm, making me to stumble forward and break my resolve as I press close to the larger man and use him for support. He chuckles softly before bending down to caress my ear with his lips. "You are my blood giver, my donor."
I frown lightly, not understanding. "My blood was yours before."
"True, you were willing to let me feed on your blood, but now you will be driven to bleed for me." His hand caresses my neck, his fingers cool against my heated skin. "These runes trick your body into replenishing your blood faster while also allowing you to survive on little blood as compared to before. In other words, I can feast on you as often as I like and I won't accidentally kill you from overindulgence on my part."
I shiver at his purring tone, the blond obviously pleased with the idea of feeding on my blood with a greater frequency, but thus far I don't understand why Seifer feels guilt over what he has done to me. "Why not ask me?"
"You were unconscious, lovely."
I shake my head. "In the past, you did not ask me."
"Because I wasn't going to do this again," Seifer says quietly, almost unheard except for the fact that he was still nibbling on the top of my ear. He then steps back to meet my eyes, his hand still on my neck in a vaguely restraining manner. "As I already said, the need to lose blood will become a new priority in your life. If you chose to be stubborn and waste too much time without bleeding one way or another, you could potentially die from your veins breaking from the increased volume of blood. Although, long before your body could break down, you will suffer from an overpowering need to lessen my hunger, to keep me satisfied."
"Satisfy you...?" Not hiding any of my disgust, I ask, "You made me your slave?"
Seifer smirks, his eyes seemingly brighter with power. "I made you mine."
His admission sickens me, but disappointment surprisingly overwhelms my other emotions. "<Then, do you hold no respect for me? Am I that worthless in your eyes?>"
His gaze narrowing, the vampire frowns. "Care to repeat that in a tongue I can understand?"
"<Why should I?>" I knock away the hand gripping onto my neck and step back to find myself pressed against the wall with nowhere to go. "<Why should I bother to make the effort to speak in your language when my words obviously mean nothing to you? Perhaps I should bark like a dog and act like the loyal pet you apparently want. It'd certainly take less effort on my part.>"
"<Why speak my name, master?>" I spit out, unable to contain myself any longer. "<You might as well call me 'squaw' and really put me in my place.>"
Green eyes widen with surprise before quickly narrowing with a dark gleam. Never seeing the vampire move, I'm startled by the loud crack of wood next to my head and I stare momentarily at the fist partly embedded in the wall, finding reluctant awe in the demon's abilities.
A quiet snarl escapes the man before he states, "Don't use that word."
Though mildly impressed that Seifer caught the word 'squaw' in my ranting, I continue to say, "<I have no honor left. Why bother to pretend that I'm anything more than a whore to you? You already stripped me of my clothes. Did you miss your opportunity to fuck me before that ceremony, or were you waiting for me to regain consciousness so that you could hear me scream?>"
My mouth snaps close at the demand filled with the suggestive power of the vampire, forcing me to settle with a hardened glare at the man for controlling my actions. Silence follows as Seifer doesn't speak immediately, his look one of mixed emotions and great confusion. Eventually he settles on a hurt, disbelieving expression as he moves his fist from the wall and places the surprisingly shaky hand against my cheek.
"Why are you doing this to me?" Seifer asks in a vaguely pleading tone.
Refusing to answer, I jerk away my head from his hand in a silent declaration that his touch is unwanted. But not one to be refused, the vampire grabs my chin and jerks my head back such that I'm forced to look into his emerald eyes shining with a faint golden color.
"Damn it, Squall, if you have something to say, then fucking tell me!"
I hesitate to determine if Seifer is trying to control me, but not feeling his taint within my mind, I sneer at the man. "Why do the words of a slave upset you?"
With wide eyes, the blond leans back at my question to stare at my face, but his surprised expression fades to be replaced by a condescending smirk and his eyes narrowed with amusement. I try to turn away from that look, but his hand on my chin restrains me. "So, you were being literal about that slave remark, were you?"
I glare at him for his patronizing tone.
Seifer chuckles before bending in close such that our faces are nearly touching. "You aren't my slave, lovely."
I scoff. "You said I live to... please you, now. How is that not a slave?"
"No, I said that you will have the desire to satisfy me, or rather, to satisfy my hunger. If anything, we are both slaves to this curse of mine. I'm driven to steal blood to appease that hunger, and you will have the urge to give me that blood, but nothing more."
"But you could... use that and make me your slave."
"You mean threaten to not drink your blood and make you crazy with need?" At my hesitant nod, Seifer laughs. "Trust me, you could last longer with not giving me your blood compared to me craving your sweetness."
I frown, not believing the man.
"You are such a difficult creature," the vampire states with amusement, his eyes taking on an odd gleam. "In truth, I could make you a mindless slave if I desired it, and it would be a worthy challenge to break your spirit... But no, I prefer your irritating way of resisting everything I want you to do. It would be disappointing to keep you as a mere slave."
Though fearing to be a fool, I ask, "Then, I am not without honor to you?"
"Of course not. I wouldn't waste my blood on someone I didn't respect."
"Didn't you notice the dark blood that I had placed on the seals before the completion of the ritual? It was necessary to make certain that you would be mine and not a... communal donor."
"What do you mean?" I ask, remembering the sight of the deep red blood covering the cuts on my body. I had assumed that it was my own blood darkened after drying overnight.
"I could have simply placed the runes on your body and let the sunlight mark you as a donor, inviting any vampire to feast on your blood," Seifer explains while moving his hand to my neck and caressing one of the dark circles. "But I'm a selfish man. By adding my blood, I have made yours bitter and sour to any other who dares to taste your essence."
Relaxing under the ministrations of the demon, I gaze into his eyes and realize the deeper meaning of Seifer giving me his blood, it being the one thing that the vampire values above everything else. And with my current curse, I can sense his hunger and understand its persistent natural. I can't imagine that it was easy for him to sacrifice his blood for my safety.
"Squall," the vampire says quietly, gaining my full attention. "I'm sorry, but I'm so hungry right now."
"You are always hungry."
He grins at my poor attempt of being exasperated with him. "Will you give me my blood back?"
I hesitate before nodding, the silent sign of approval prompting Seifer to grab my arm just beneath the healing gashes and pull me in the direction of the bed spotted with dried blood. He guides me to lie down on the thin mattress, something that is surprisingly welcomed given my dizzy state. The large man joins me on the bed, straddling over me in a way that makes me uncomfortable, but I can't put words to my anxiety as I stare into green eyes bright with conquest. To avoid those eyes, I tilt my head to expose my neck, but Seifer stops that movement and reforms our eye contact.
"Let's do this a bit differently, shall we?"
Confused, I watch as he bends down to lightly place his lips on my shoulder and then trails lower along my chest, sensitizing my skin with each heated press. He pauses at a nipple, his fanged teeth grazing around the responsive region and making me gasp at the sensation. Prepared for the pain of his bite, I'm overwhelmed by the absolute bliss of having his fangs sink into my vulnerable skin and draw out my blood. The forgotten stake falls out of my hand and onto the floor with a clatter, but the noise doesn't distract the vampire from his task as he hums in apparent delight.
"What have you done to me?" I whisper, trying to hold back a wanton moan at the sensations the vampire has forced upon me.
After a heavy lick at my nipple, Seifer leans up with a bloody smirk. "I made you mine."
I stare at the blond, my vision of him swimming in and out of focus. Perhaps sensing my weakness, the vampire leans forward to place a hand against my cheek and gaze down at my face with a fond look. Unable to resist, I lay limply as he takes claim of my lips in a softly kneading kiss. While my first instinct is to fear his closeness, I relax into the testing kiss and find comfort under the solid protection of his larger body covering mine. Perhaps it is my lightheadedness confusing me, but I think I begin to enjoy the unwanted touch and the taste of my blood as his tongue sweeps into my mouth.
Pulling back a bare distance, Seifer speaks breathily against my lips. "It's alright, my little native. Stop fighting the need to rest."
And as if receiving the permission I needed, I fall into the cool and calming void of sleep.
It is the overly loud sound of heartbeats which makes me open my eyes and I find myself in a darkened corridor which I have visited many times before. I sneer in disgust at this invasion of my mind and wonder briefly if I could simply turn around and somehow escape this dream, but I know that my Mistress won't release me so simply. After my first hesitant step, I move forward in a confident stride while trying to ignore the lit displays lining the shadowed walls. Like a warped museum, my worse memories are shown in graphic detail for my personal misery and my Mistress' amusement. I used to linger over the various displays - most revealing the grisly deaths of those few men and women who were precious to me, others showing the horrors I caused while in a darker period of my life - but now I pretend the images don't bother me.
That said, I still pause at the final display and stare into the pained, pleading eyes of my daughter. Her body naked of clothes, all of her wounds are revealed for anyone to see, especially the final injury of her split gut with her intestines wrapped around her throat like a scarf. Only my Mistress knows how long Quistis lived after such brutality, but I was there to witness her death, the only time the smell of blood made me feel ill. She saw me before taking her last breath, her shaky hand reaching out for the comfort she trusted me to grant her, and that is the image this twisted diorama shows me now. My hand pressed against the indestructible glass in a vague attempt to grasp her outreached hand, I apologize to Quistis and damn the fate which brought her to me.
After pressing a kiss against the cold glass, I turn to the exit of the corridor and wait as large metal doors open wide to reveal an expansive room lit faintly by candlelight and the moonlight which shines through the damaged windows of stained-glass. I stare forward into the room, unable to move as my eyes focus on the image of my Mistress sitting on a broken podium with one of her feet resting on the shoulder of a collared and chained man. Disgusted with myself for letting the woman learn of Squall this soon, I quickly school my expression in the worthless hope that she won't realize how important the native is to me.
"Don't make me wait any longer, boy," my Mistress states coolly, the voice seductive to those who haven't known her as long as I have.
"I believe that is your fault for not sending some notice first. I would have cleaned up the place if I knew you were coming."
The red-haired woman smiles at my sarcasm, her blood red eyes briefly scanning the ruins of a church. "I've always enjoyed this room. It's so... romantic."
Not taking the bait, I step forward while careful of the broken stone littering the main aisle, but stop once reaching the front row of aged pews. "What do you want?"
The pale woman laughs. "You used to be far more formal in your youth. I remember an age when you called me 'mother'."
"That was centuries ago," I say, reminding the woman that I no longer kill for pleasure and have no interest in her form of twisted love.
She scoffs. "You are like a sentimental old man these days, but I know you, my child. You will return to your former glory."
I shake my head as if pitying her disillusioned beliefs. "If this is all you have to say to me, then you have wasted your powers."
When I move to leave, the woman jerks on the chain in her hand, causing the image of Squall to choke and claw at his collar. "Don't turn your back on me, boy."
"Go ahead and kill him. I can find another to suit my needs for the time being."
Though surprise first appears on her face, her lips colored with dark purple soon curl into a frightful smirk. "I am your creator and mother - you cannot fool me. I know your mind, that you always attach yourself to one of these pathetic creatures to make you feel human. But you aren't human, and you never will be. Why can't you accept that?"
"It was boring to live the life of a demon, and I hated getting blood all over my favorite clothes."
The red-haired woman smiles with false sweetness as she moves from the podium and kneels next to the puppet resembling Squall. With her long fingers curling around the dark hair at his neck, she leans him closer such that their cheeks press together. "Perhaps you would enjoy your proper life if this one joined you in immortality, hmmm? Your lover for all of eternity."
"You can't," I state before catching my panicked tone of voice.
"Are you referring to these little doodles?" she asks while running her free hand along the largest ring of runes placed at the center of Squall's chest. "You forget, child, that we share blood - these markings won't protect him for long against me. I will simply need to find a stronger demon to purify his blood and mind."
I bite my inner cheek to stop myself from speaking out. Ever since my rejection of my former life, she has taunted me with the death or transformation of those I have kept close to me. But she wouldn't dare turn Squall once meeting the willful man face-to-face. He would never believe her lies and follow her every command as I had in my youth, and thus would be worthless to her. I suppose Squall may get the death he has desired after all.
"What, no feeble attempt of a response? No adorable outburst of anger?" she asks while her hand moves lower and long fingers caress Squall's nether regions, enticing a moan from the native. "Do you not desire to protect your newest pet?"
"That isn't the man currently sharing my bed."
"Oh, so you have chosen to take on a lover this time. Tired of pretending to be a father? Or does this human cry out 'Daddy' when you pleasure him?"
The woman finally going too far, I rush forward with all of my speed to steal the image of Squall from my Mistress, and then move to the broken window of stained-glass. Pausing there, I hold the native close to my chest, but my eyes are focused on the neutral expression of the woman, the elder vampire not completely hiding her surprise in my ability to retrieve what is mine.
"What are you planning, child?"
I smirk at her raspy voice no longer hinted with amusement. "Only to better my life."
The woman narrows her eyes with suspicion, but I don't give her the chance to question me further and draw out answer from my weak mind. Clutching Squall tight against my body, I leap backwards through the large window and happily drop into the void of escape.
~ > < ~
Without opening my eyes, I'm very aware of my surroundings with every scent, noise, and touch giving me the necessary details to know that I'm awake and pressed comfortably against a warm body smelling of the desert rain. Resettling my arm around the lean waist of the native, I hold him tighter and hide my face against the back of the brunet's neck to block out the remaining sunlight of the ending day. Squall grumbles in protest, but doesn't deny me the need of bodily comfort. Then again, the brunet is fast asleep and probably dreaming of his Indian princess.
I'm not certain why that bothers me more than it should. I imagine I'm still grieving over Quistis and I desire the somber strength of the native, but that isn't my normal pattern. I tend to reject any new relationships until several decades after the previous failure to protect a person I loved, my heart too sore to want another person in my life. But how could I predict finding Squall, a man who numbs the pain and helps me to forget.
I smile at the sleep-drunken tone of the native. "Sorry to wake you."
Squall shifts slightly and places a hand against his temple. "My head hurts."
"Not surprising - you haven't had much water since yesterday. There's a pitcher on the dresser if you want me to get you some."
He shakes his head and proceeds to crawl out of bed, soon stumbling towards the dresser across the room. I could help the proud man, but judging by his exaggerated steps, he probably needed to stretch out his poor body after all the stress it had been put through in the past week. From the bed, I make no attempt to hide my examination of the lithe form, enjoying the moment of muscle and bare flesh. Despite his tan skin, the two dark circles at his lower back stand out and gives a more exotic look to the native. Thirteen circles in all line his body - the largest on his chest, two at his neck, four on his arms, two on his back, and another four on his legs - every one important in keeping the man alive and filled with sweetness.
His first glass emptied practically the moment after it had been poured, Squall paces himself with the second glass of warm water. Choosing to recognize my blatant staring, he glances in my direction and lowers his glass to reveal a deep frown. I suppose the native has finally wakened from his nap.
"Where is your shirt?"
I smile at his uncertainty. "It got too stuffy in this damned place, so I took it off and went back to sleep."
Perhaps realizing his nudity, or else feeling uncomfortable about it for the first time, Squall turns enough to hide his manhood, but his icy gaze remains directed at me.
My smile widening, I say, "I've already had a good look at your body - no use hiding it now."
Offense burns coolly in his blue-gray eyes, but he doesn't respond to the taunt and chooses to pay more attention to his glass of water.
Sighing, I sit up on the mattress and decide to be serious. "I'm certain I don't need to tell you this, but I know very little about your culture. Is it a sin for you to lie with another man?" I ask, wanting to know why this man can be receptive one moment and disgusted the next.
After a moment of thought, Squall shrugs. "Not a sin, but also not talked about. My mother, she did not agree with our... 'savage' ways with sex. But you not the same?"
I smirk with part relief and part amusement. "I'm from a different era than those of my race, so I probably share your same barbarian tendencies to do whatever feels good. But if that's the case, then why are you afraid of me? Do you hate it when I touch you?"
"No," the native states in a hushed voice while avoiding my eyes. "It feels... good, but I have not liked it in the past."
"Are you talking about our past or your past?"
Though hesitant, Squall glances over to meet my eyes and the bare emotion in the irises of dark gray is enough for me. Someone hurt him in an unforgettable way and I have a pretty damned good idea about whom that someone may be. Picturing the smug face of the man who constantly insulted Squall, I grip the edge of the mattress and squeeze tightly as I imagine strangling the bastard for using such a horribly cheap trick to plant fear in Squall while stripping away his dignity. And I know exactly how efficient rape can be used to subjugate someone and destroy their spirit.
At the wary call of my name, I realize that I had been snarling in anger. I promptly relax my tense pose and force a smile to relieve the brunet's concern. "Sorry. I got lost in some old memories for a moment there. But enough about that - how is your headache?"
Squall frowns at my poor attempt to change the subject, but then sets down his empty glass. "Better."
"Good." Glancing to the window, I say, "There is only another hour or so of daylight left, so if you get more rest now, we can travel come morning. If you will let me, I can place you into a deep sleep so that you'll feel more refreshed when you wake."
His frown deepening, the brunet looks about to argue before demanding, "Promise to not leave me."
"Trust me, lovely, I've learned my lesson that I won't be able to leave you behind. It'll be easier on my nerves to keep you close."
His eyes hard, Squall steps forward to stand before me without a sign of the shier man of before. "Promise me."
Smirking at his determination, I push up from the bed and stand bare inches in front of the smaller man. "Very well. Then I swear that the only thing which may separate us is death."
His confidence lost by my pledge, Squall slips a half-step backward. "That is too much."
"It's all or nothing, lovely. I've already explained that I don't share, and if you expect me to promise to not leave you behind, then that means I will always keep you close, even beyond the day you grow sick of me."
The native gazes at me with disbelief, his eyes then lowering to stare at my bare chest. Hesitantly, he raises a hand to place his palm over my long dead heart. "It would be good to not die alone," Squall states softly before renewing our eye contact.
I wince inwardly, thinking of Quistis and how it meant nothing that I was there with her when she died. "Don't say such things."
Gazing at me with those piercing eyes, the native says nothing more while pulling away his hand as if I had rejected his touch.
I quickly grab that hand and place it back onto my chest. "I'm tired of seeing people I care for die," I admit softly, for the first time out loud.
"That is your curse."
Of course the bastard would state it so simply, as if I didn't know already that immortality isn't the great benefit most humans would like to believe. But still, he is right. There's no use in crying over spilt blood. Releasing his hand, I tell the brunet, "Lie down and then I can help you sleep. You'll feel better afterwards and we won't have to postpone our trip another day."
Squall nods his understanding, but once sitting on the thin mattress, he looks up at me with a firm gaze. "You will rest as well."
I smile at his demanding way of showing his concern. "Yes, lovely. I will, but you first."
Accepting my answer, the brunet lies down on the bed and stretches out close to the wall, either purposefully or subconsciously leaving enough room for me to join him on the narrow mattress. Placing my hand at his cheek with my fingertips pressed gently at his temple, I speak silently to the man, coaxing him into sleep. Even now, he resists me, reluctant to close his eyes while staring up into my gaze, but he eventually surrenders with a soft sigh and slumps into sleep.
Carefully, I move my hand to the mattress to support me as I lean over the unconscious man. With no reason to hold back, I place my lips against Squall's, the limp response unsatisfying, but his unique taste is enough for now. Lifting up to stare down at the beauty, I'm surprised by a forgotten hunger of mine, the desire to have this man and feel mortal if only for that brief amazing moment. Pathetic how much sharper that hunger is felt compared to my cursed need for blood.
Placing my hand on warm skin, I trail my fingers down his side and along his thigh before I lean over to kiss the man's branded chest. "Welcome to my nightmare, my naive savage. May you escape it with a peaceful death."
Author's Whining -- While this chapter is shorter than my latest chapter lengths, I'd like to remind everyone that this is a 'normal' chapter length for me. Yep... that's everything of note. I think there is only one or two more chapters left in this story, depending on how long my chapters decide to be. I have an ending in mind - it's the writing part that is killing me. =P