I forgot about holding Damian down. I forgot about why I'd dropped my shields. I forgot about everything. There were no thoughts. No words. There was just sensation, and impulse. The smell of fresh blood. The taste of our own blood in our mouths, bitter. Hands pushing us to the floor, crushing us. Hunger, hunger like fire in our gut, like something that would eat us alive if we didn't feed, and feed, and feed. The smell of fresh blood, the warmth in their hands pushing on us, all that was maddening. Pain, my body was just pain. Like a fire that was burning me up from the inside. I screamed, and the sound was loud and not loud enough. It didn't help. Only one thing would quench that fire, fill me up, stop the pain. Blood. Fresh blood. Warm blood.
My hands touched warm skin, and if it hadn't been Richard, I'm not sure I would have stopped. But the feel of Richard's muscled arm under my hands called something of me up through the hunger. I was staring into Richard's solid brown eyes from inches away, almost as if I'd moved in for a kiss, but it hadn't been his mouth I'd been aiming at. Even now, the long solid line of his neck beckoned to me. The smell of fresh blood overwhelmed the subtler scent of the blood that pulsed under his skin, but somehow lapping at the bloody wound wasn't enough. It needed to be fresh. I needed my teeth in flesh. I needed to make my own hole to tear at. Only that would satisfy. Only that would be enough.
I forced my gaze up to Richard's face. I looked into his wide eyes, made myself look at his face, trace the line of his jaw, the fullness of his lips. I looked on the face of someone I'd loved once, and I had to work harder than I'd worked at almost anything ever, to see him as something other than food.
Damian bucked, and Richard had to pay more attention to the vampire he and Nathaniel were still pinning to the floor than to me. A cool voice flowed through my mind. "I am helping you shield, ma petite. Forgive me, I did not understand what dropping your shield would do to you."
"He's a revenant," I said, and I don't think I said it out loud.
"How do I help him?"
"You must rebind him as you did when he came out of the coffin. Let him taste your blood and say the words over him."
"Are the words really important?" I asked.
I felt him shrug, where he sat on his silk-covered bed. "They are the words that masters of the city have spoken over their followers for thousands of years. I would not want to chance that the words are not part of the magic that will bind master to servant, by leaving them out."
I nodded. "Did Richard hear this?"
"Tell him." A moment after I said it, I was still cool and a little distant from what was happening, but I could hear it again, see it. I was sitting on my living room floor, not too far from the door, and Richard and Nathaniel were still trying to keep Damian on the floor. They were mostly succeeding, though it was hard to tell through the blood if there were any new wounds. They were all three covered in blood.
I stared down at myself and realized that the front of my body was covered in it, too. I didn't remember getting that messy. For a moment I wondered if I'd done something that I didn't remember, but I pushed the thought away. Time later for too much truth. Survive, keep moving, worry about what you did later. Yeah, that's the ticket. But after a peek inside Damian's mind, a ticket to the Situational sociopath express didn't look half bad. I knew now, for dead certain, that there were worse things.
Damian bucked so hard that he threw Nathaniel to one side. Richard's weight alone wasn't enough. Damian sat up, and Richard rolled off of him to keep the vampire from sinking fangs into him again.
I waved my arms and yelled, "Damian, here, I'm here!" I don't think it was his name that attracted his attention, I think it was the movement. I'd been in his mind, I knew he was past words.
He rushed toward me, so fast he was a blur of white and red, and his eyes like green streaks. Nathaniel ran for him. I yelled, "No, let him come!"
Richard hesitated still on the floor but with his hand outstretched toward the vampire's legs. They could have caught him again, but why? It was my blood he needed. I was calm, peaceful, it was like that quiet place I went when I killed. No fear. Nothing. I watched the vampire come at me like a comet streaking across the heavens, something elemental and otherworldly.
To say he smashed into me didn't come close to the impact of flesh on flesh. I was on the floor breathless, sightless, and only years of training on how to fall kept me from smacking my head against the floor, or breaking a bone. I caught my breath in time to scream. Damian plunged his mouth low in my neck, just above the shoulder. It had been a long time since I'd been vampire bit without head games or sex. It hurt.
A wereleopard appeared over us, standing on crooked, almost-human legs. He was yellow and pale gold and white, with beautiful black rosettes scattered over a body that was more than a foot taller than he was in human form. The color told me it was Gregory, because Nathaniel was black in leopard form. Gregory's chest was broader, his arms were longer, muscled, and tipped with talons like frightening knives. The face was leopard, but with something strangely different around the muzzle and the neck. He towered over us, snarling and reaching down for the vampire's pale back. He was going to pull Damian off of me, like Richard had pushed the vampire off of himself.
I wrapped my arms around Damian's shoulders and back, got one leg free to wrap around his waist. I held him to me and said, "No, Gregory!" If he pulled him off I'd end up hurt as bad as Richard. "You'll tear me up worse."
The leopardman hesitated, growling. He said in that thick voice they all had in half-human form, "He's hurting you."
Damian snuggled his mouth deeper into my flesh, forced a sound that was not happy out of my mouth. But I said, in a breathy voice, "When I need your help, I'll ask for it."
I could tell Gregory was puzzled even through the fur. I wasn't always good at facial expressions once my friends went furry. But this one even I could read.
"Damian," I said, my voice was soft. I wanted to see that he was in there before I said the words. His eyes were closed, but he relaxed against me by inches, until he wasn't so much pinning me to the floor as lying on top of me. It was more my arms and leg that held him pressed to me. "Damian," I said again.
I felt him come back into himself as if a switch had been thrown. One moment, monster, the next, Damian. Even before he opened his eyes and looked at me, I knew he was in there again. He was back from wherever he'd gone. Relief flooded through me until my arms and leg started to slide off of him. Weak with relief wasn't just an expression.
He was still sucking at the wound, but it was gentler now. It had stopped hurting. He drew, slowly, from the wound, his mouth crimson with my blood. I was suddenly aware in a way that I hadn't been before that we were both nude, and he was male, and he had fed. His body was thick and heavy against my thigh, where a moment ago it hadn't been. Blood pressure is a wonderful thing.
If I had not put a leg over his body to help hold him against me, it wouldn't have been quite so compromising. If Gregory hadn't tried to help me, I wouldn't have... oh, hell. I was suddenly afraid in a very different way. Afraid to move, afraid of making things worse, or better. Afraid of how my body pulsed in his arms. It was as if all the blood in our bodies was pulsing in time. It was hard to breathe. I was almost choking on... power. Magic. I'd bound him once before and it hadn't been like this.
His hand slid slowly, tentatively down the side of my body, and it wasn't so much a caress for sex, as just for touching. He used his whole hand, getting as much of his skin against mine as he could. I felt him marveling at the grace of our bodies so close, so completely without barriers. His skin hunger was there like some new kind of beast. A need so intense and so long denied that it was a kind of madness of its own.
I felt his loneliness like a great echoing thing. It brought tears to the edges of my eyes and made me want to fix it.
I moved my hands along his back, so that I was no longer holding him, but closer to an embrace. "Blood of my blood," and he moved upward to bring his mouth to mine for the kiss that would seal the words, but that small movement slid his body against the front of mine, so that the swell of him brushed against me, and that brief touch made me writhe underneath him, and it suddenly wasn't a kiss I wanted to seal this bargain with.
The thought helped me pull back. Helped me realize that what I was thinking was not entirely me. I gazed up into his emerald eyes and knew who was doing the thinking.