I walked back out and closed the door softly behind me, not that it would wake them, but just out of habit. I went to Jason's room. I'd bunked with him before. I didn't knock, because I expected everybody to be asleep, and I was right. Jason was curled up tight on the far edge of the bed, his blond hair showing just above the covers. Someone else was curled against his back, and for just a second I thought I'd goofed, and it was a woman, but I knew that spill of auburn hair. Nathaniel was bunking here for the night. Again, not the first time.
They'd left the bathroom light on, with the door opened a crack. I wasn't sure if it was for my benefit, or so Nathaniel would know where he was if he woke in the middle of the night. The first few times I'd woken in absolute darkness in one of these windowless rooms, it had been claustrophobic. I liked a little light.
I'd cleaned the mud off my face in the car with the baby wipes, and once I got my boots and hose off, I was going to be mud-free. It was nearly a miracle that I hadn't fallen down, wearing the heels in the mud. I took off the leather jacket and folded it nicely. There was no chair, so I sat flat on the floor and unzipped the boots and stripped off the hose, putting them against a wall, so no one would stumble over them. The skirt was stiff with dried blood. The fact that none of the vamps in the club had said anything about it said either that they couldn't smell it, or they thought remarking on it would have been too barbaric.
I left the skirt in a pile by itself. I wasn't even sure dry cleaning could save it.
I took off the white T-shirt and made a third pile for clothes that were actually clean. The bra went in that pile. I put the T-shirt back on and kept the thong underwear, too. I'd have slept better without the thong, but the T-shirt wasn't enough clothes. I'd never slept nude with Nathaniel, and I had with Jason only once, when I'd passed out that way. I needed jammies. What I wanted more than anything in that moment was to wrap as much of my tired body around Nathaniel's body as I could, and sleep.
I crawled under the sheets on the far side of the bed and moved until I touched Nathaniel's bare back. The moment I touched him, he stirred in his sleep. I slid my body along his, until I spooned him from behind, which was how we slept most nights at home. He wasn't wearing anything. It wasn't a comment on sexual orientation for Nathaniel and Jason. It was a comment about them both being wereanimals. Wereanimals just didn't see the point in clothes, not if they could go without them.
I settled in against Nathaniel's body, and he snuggled himself between my body and Jason. Who never so much as stirred. I put my face against Nathaniel's hair, and the vanilla scent of it was enough. I was home, and I slept.
Something woke me. I wasn't sure what. I was just suddenly awake in the dimness of Jason's bedroom. I was still curled against Nathaniel, and Jason was a dim blond shape on the other side of him. Nothing had changed, so what had woken me?
I lay there, straining to listen. There was nothing to hear. It was just the boys' quiet breathing, the rustle of a sheet when Jason moved in his sleep. The room was utterly quiet. Had I heard something? Then I did hear something--water. Water running in the bathroom.
I slid my hand under my pillow, and the Browning was there in its holster. If I wasn't at home with the gun in its bedframe holster, then I kept the gun holstered and snapped, just in case. It'd be a shame if someone's hand accidentally offed the safety, and another hand hit a trigger, and well, you get the idea. I unsnapped the holster, drew out the gun, and put a hand over Nathaniel's mouth.
He jerked awake, eyes wide. I motioned with the gun toward the crack of the bathroom door. He nodded and touched Jason's shoulder, as I slipped out of the bed and moved toward the bathroom.
I had the safety off, the gun held two-handed, pointed at the ceiling. It could have been one of the other shapeshifters come to borrow a shower. It would be like them, not to wake anyone and just assume it would be alright. It'd be a hell of a thing to kill someone because they used the wrong shower.
I crossed wide around the door, so my shadow wouldn't cross the light, though probably with the dark room behind me, that wouldn't happen. But better careful than not. I had to ball the black silk robe up over one arm to keep from tripping over it. I didn't remember putting on a robe.
I was at the hinge side of the door, and I went to one knee, because if someone was on the other side with a weapon, most people aimed higher than my head was when I knelt. I kept as much of myself against the doorjamb as I could and began to ease the door open with my hands, which were still cupped around the gun. I was hoping to give my eyes time to adjust to the light, before whoever it was noticed the door moving. I knew better than to simply jump into the room from almost dark to bright light. I'd be blind for a second or two. If I'd been sure it was a bad guy, I'd have fired blind, but I wasn't sure.
There was water seeping out from under the door, the robe under my knees was wet with it. What I thought had been the shower running was the bathtub. I could hear the difference now. Someone had flooded the bathtub. What the hell was going on?
I had the door flat against the wall now, and there was no one to be seen. There was just the bathtub with water spilling over its sides and the water still rushing out of the faucet at full blast. The lower part of my legs were soaked. It was cold, so cold. Like they'd turned on only the cold. Who took a bath in only cold water?
There was just the sink area, a partial wall, the stool, and the bathtub/ shower. The room was small enough that I could see it all in one glance. There was no place to hide. Was this joke? Had someone crept in while we slept, plugged the bathtub, and turned on the water? Did they think we'd notice before it flooded? Did they care? Stupid joke.
I got to my feet and started wading through the water. It was ankle deep, and that seemed wrong. I mean, it shouldn't be that deep. The hem of the robe caught in the water, pulled in the current, like I was wading through a stream. It was like ice, so cold, so very cold.
I was standing over the bathtub now, and the water was cloudy. I couldn't see to the bottom of the tub, and that was wrong. It wasn't that deep. It was a white tub, and this was clear water. Why couldn't I see through it?
I kept the gun up, but reached to turn off the water. I half-expected something to grab my hand, but it didn't. The faucet just turned off, and the silence that followed was deafening. Small noises now, water sloshing, sliding around the room. The water cleared like a glass of water from a tap when there's too many minerals in the water. That milky stuff settling to the bottom, and there was something in the water. Something swimming out of the murk, coming into focus.
A pale hand, a spill of red hair, and I was staring down into Damian's face. His eyes were wide and dead, but it was daylight. He was dead. He didn't need to breathe. He could be under water. It wouldn't hurt him. But logic didn't help. Seeing him floating there, I did what I would have done if he'd been human--I reached for him.
I dropped the gun to the floor and plunged my hands into the tub. I touched him, grabbed handfuls of his shirt, and I started to pull him up, up through the water, but it was as if the water was heavier than it should have been. So heavy and so cold. He was almost at the top, almost when I realized it wasn't water, it was ice. He was frozen in a huge block of ice, and my arms were frozen with him, trapped with him.
"Anita, Anita," Nathaniel's voice, his hand on my shoulder, and I woke to Jason's bedroom. My pulse was choking me. I sat up and stared around. The bathroom door was open a crack but there was no sound of water. Dream, just a dream.
I started to shiver. Except that I was still freezing. So cold, so very cold. "I dreamed, dreamed of Damian. He was so cold, in ice."
"Your skin is like ice," Nathaniel said.
Jason was sitting up, his short blond hair tousled and his eyes heavy with sleep. "What's wrong?"
Nathaniel wrapped his arms around me, rubbing his hands against my cold arms. "When did you eat last, Anita?"
"With you, the drive-up."
"That was over twelve hours ago." He looked at Jason. "She needs food now."
Jason didn't ask questions, just crawled over the bed and dropped to his knees beside the mini fridge that acted as one of his bedside tables. He pulled out a bowl of fruit--apples, bananas.
"I don't like cold fruit," I said.
"Anita, you dreamed about Damian because you're eating his energy. Eat a banana," Nathaniel said.
I suddenly knew he was right. The cold was making me stupid. Jason handed me the fruit. But Nathaniel helped me peel it, because the shivering had gotten worse, and I couldn't peel it. Shit.