Lillian leaned over me. "How do you feel, Anita?"
I managed a smile, and knew it was probably goofy. "Doesn't hurt now."
"Good," she said, smiling. She looked at Richard. "I think you need to go back to your date, Richard."
He shook his head. "I'm staying here."
"You're Clark Kent tonight, Ulfric, not Superman. You have to go back to your date and pretend you're a mild-mannered science teacher. I'll take care of Anita."
Richard glanced at us all. "Are they staying?"
"One of them will be," Lillian said, "but they aren't hiding what they are, Ulfric. The price of hiding is that you must stay hidden. Now, go back before the woman starts to look for you."
He started to argue.
"Don't make me be cruel about this, Ulfric," Lillian said.
"Go," I said, and my voice sounded strange. "Go, Richard, go."
He gave me a look that was full of such conflict, even pain. But tonight I didn't have any time for anyone's pain but mine.
"I'm sorry," he said. I wasn't sure what he was sorry about. That he had to go? That he had another date? That he was still hiding in his Clark Kent disguise? Or, maybe, that it was his cross embedded in my hand. The cross I'd given him for Christmas once. Yeah, that might need a sorry.
They spread a tablecloth across me and another under my arm. Apparently, Requiem had "charmed" them out of the restaurant staff. He'd kept his eyes averted from me, as if he feared the cross would flare to life.
Lillian had Micah and Nathaniel distract me, though the drugs did a lot of the distracting for them. I was afraid it would hurt, but it was like the fear couldn't hold on to me, or I couldn't hold on to it. Jason pressed down on my arm. I started to protest. Nathaniel kissed me, hard. The kiss swallowed my small noises.
There was a sharp, abrupt tug on my hand. I cried out, and Nathaniel ate the sound as he did sometimes during sex. A scream lost in a kiss.
I could feel them doing something to my hand. Wrapping it in something. Nathaniel drew back from the kiss, his mouth smeared with my lipstick. He put a finger over my lips, and I fought to make only small whimpering sounds. It wasn't so much that it hurt, it was almost as if my body knew it was hurt, and wanted to react to it. But every time I tried to concentrate on the pain, it just slipped away. Maybe it seemed weird to try to concentrate on it. I guess I was trying to fight the drugs, stupid of me. But I couldn't just slip away. I couldn't not fight, even when it wasn't good for me.
Nathaniel smiled down at me, as if he knew what I was doing. He probably did. He moved his finger back from my mouth. I nodded at him to let him know I understood. We were trying not to attract attention. Sure.
I looked down and found that my hand was wrapped in gauze, like a pristine version of the mummy's hand. I got a flash of fresh blood on the tablecloths before they were bundled up. I tried to care about how we'd explain the fresh blood, but I couldn't finish caring, before it floated away. It should have felt good, to be so relaxed, but I knew that this was a night when Jean-Claude needed me, everyone needed me. The Mother of All Darkness was still out there. What would they do if she came back and I wasn't there? Fear tried to swell again, and it didn't last. I couldn't hold on to any one thought, or emotion. It was like trying to row a boat in the fog. You knew what direction you wanted to go. You'd get a glimpse of the shore, and row your hardest, then the fog slipped back over you, and when it cleared again, the shore was somewhere else. As much as the pain would have distracted me, I'd have been more functional with that than the drugs. But the burn had hurt so much, so very much. I'd wanted it to stop.
Someone picked me up, and it woke me. Though I wasn't sure I'd exactly been asleep, passed out maybe. Nathaniel was carrying me. The sleeves of his white shirt showed, and I was covered by a black tux jacket. His, probably. I was vaguely proud of myself for figuring it out.
I looked around for Micah and it was as if Nathaniel understood. "Micah is going to sit with Asher, so that neither box will be empty." He started down the steps with me in his arms.
Requiem appeared over his shoulder, following us. Lisandro was beside him. I looked down the stairs, and caught a glimpse of Doc Lillian, before the dizziness became too much. What the hell had she given me?
I lost some more time, because the next thing I knew we were all the way down and stepping out under the covered awning outside the Fox club's private entrance. I got a glimpse of Wicked standing beside the valet attendant. The attendant's face was blank and peaceful. Vampire mind tricks to make sure no one remembered us. One-on-one mind tricks were illegal, technically, partially because of shit like this. That a vampire could persuade a person that the bad things hadn't happened. It made witness testimony a bitch.
Fredo was holding the door to the limo as if he were a real chauffeur and not a walking weapons store. Nathaniel crawled inside with me in his arms. He laid me gently on the backseat, and lifted the tux jacket off me. Doc Lillian knelt beside me. She touched my face, and tried to get me to follow her fingers. I don't think I did really well at it.
She smiled at me. "I dosed you like you were one of us, and you're not. Whatever you are becoming, it's not lycanthrope."
I frowned at her. "What?"
"The morphine should have worked out of your system by now, and it hasn't. It won't be four to ten hours like a human, but two, at least two." She shook her head. "Sometimes we all forget that you are still mostly human."
"Morphine," I said.
She nodded. "Yes, Anita, morphine. If the master that tried to take us all renews his attack, without you, I don't think Jean-Claude can take him."
Did she think that all that happened had been Merlin's doing? Did she not know about the Mother of All Darkness? It seemed like I should explain it to her, but I couldn't hold all my thoughts in a row long enough to do it.
"We need you back with us now."
I nodded, then closed my eyes, because it made the inside of my head fuzzier for a moment. "Agreed," I whispered, "how?" I opened my eyes, and fought to focus on that lovely face, the gray eyes that looked blue tonight with the dress and the eye shadow.
"Call the munin, Anita. It will clear your mind, and heal much of this damage."
I frowned at her. I must have heard her wrong. "Call munin, now?"
She nodded. "Raina could heal this."
I closed my eyes and fought, fought hard to gather my thoughts and explain why this was such a bad idea. Munin were the ancestral spirits of the wolf pack. But they could be a lot more "lively" than just normal ancestor worship. Especially if you had psychic ability, or, most yummy, talent with the dead, the munin could be much, much more lively. Raina was the old lupa of the pack. I'd killed her because she was trying to kill me. The munin could "possess" people who had the talent for it. I'd become her favorite ride. I'd spent a long, long weekend in Tennessee with my spiritual teacher, Marianne, learning how to control the munin in general, and Raina in specific. Micah and Nathaniel had gone with me to "help" me deal with it. I'd asked Richard first, wolf business and all, but he had flatly refused. Raina was dead. He wanted nothing more to do with her. Neither did I, but I didn't have a choice.
She'd been a sexual sadist, but she could also heal with sex. It didn't have to be full-blown sex, she just liked it that way. I'd tapped into her power a few times to save lives, but the cost had been high. Her memories alone were worth avoiding. The ardeur wasn't normally a thing of healing, and Jean-Claude had speculated that the fact that I could heal with sex and metaphysics might be more because of Raina's munin than vampire powers. It was almost as if the more often I was used by, or borrowed magic from, someone else, the more likely it became that their magic would become part of my arsenal. Raina had played with me enough that it had somehow effected the ardeur, or that was the theory. Why not use the ardeur to heal the hand? Healing with the ardeur was catch-as-catch-can; sometimes it worked without your wanting it to work, and sometimes it didn't work at all. I did my best to explain it out loud. "Not sure I can control her, like this. Bad, if she's in charge."
"You are badly hurt, Anita. If you were truly vampire, then you'd need more blood. A lot more than normal. Jean-Claude thinks that the ardeur will rise and try to feed that need."
I frowned harder at her. "I don't..."