I sat up, leaving the sheet at my waist and not caring that I was topless. Nathaniel sat up, too; we both reached toward them. I said, "Damian!" I reached for him with less-physical parts. His energy was weak, but it was more as if he hadn't woken up completely from his daytime torpor.
His legs gave out completely, and Richard carried him in his arms like a child the last few feet. He laid Damian beside me. The long, red hair hid the vampire's face. I moved the hair away so I could see his face. He blinked up at me, eyes a perfect bright green, green as summer grass. It was Damian's eyes that had raised the bar so high on green-colored eyes. No one else's eyes could compare. He tried to focus on me, but didn't seem able to do it.
I touched his face, and his skin was icy. "I fed the ardeur--why isn't he better than this?"
Jean-Claude came to lay his hand on Damian's forehead. Richard said, "I found him collapsed against the wall just down from the coffin room. When Remus called for reinforcements, all the guards came here. Damian was trying to crawl to you."
"What made you think to check on him?" Micah asked, still kneeling on the bed.
"I remembered how bad he got the last time his tie to Anita broke. I thought someone should check on him."
"Very good thinking, mon ami." Jean-Claude touched my cheek, then Nathaniel's while keeping his other hand on Damian's face. He finally stepped back from all of us, frowning. "I believe part of what is wrong is simply that Damian has woken too early. Only the very powerful masters among us wake before noon, even deep underground. Damian is no master. I believe you, ma petite, called him from his coffin, but even with extra energy it was too soon."
I held one icy hand in both of mine. "Will he be all right? Did I hurt him?"
"I'll be all right." Damian's voice was slow, heavy, as if he were drugged.
I smiled down at him. "Damian, I'm so sorry."
He managed a weak smile. "It would be nice," he took a labored breath, "if you'd stop almost killing me because you don't want to screw other people."
I didn't know whether to smile or be exasperated.
"I believe that Damian would feel better if Nathaniel touched him, as well," Jean-Claude said.
Nathaniel took Damian's other hand in his, and the power jumped between us. It made me gasp. It was as if a circuit had been completed. The energy hummed from my hand, through Damian's body, into Nathaniel's hand and back again.
Damian drew in a huge, gasping breath, almost like it hurt. He swore, softly.
"Does it hurt?" Nathaniel asked, looking worried.
"Wonderful," Damian whispered, "feels wonderful. You're so warm."
Strangely, I was almost certain he was talking to Nathaniel.
"Sir, excuse me, sir." It was Remus; nerves always made him default to military-speak. Of course, it worked. Jean-Claude and Richard both turned to look at him. We all looked at him, except for Damian, who had closed his eyes.
"Yes, Remus," Jean-Claude said.
He finally looked at me, sort of. He never liked direct eye contact, but he seemed unable to stare at my shoulder, like normal, because too much of my br**sts were in the way. "I owe you an apology, Blake." He said it in such a way that, apology or no, it was obvious he didn't want to be saying it.
I gave him as good an eye contact as he'd let me. "What apology do you owe me, Remus?"
He blushed, and it filled some pieces of his face with bright color, but lines in between paled, so that you could see where all the pieces of his face didn't quite match up. "I thought you were just a..." He stopped, seemed to think about it, and finally said, "Well, you know what I was thinking."
I could have been mean, and said nope, I didn't know, and tried to force him to say it all out loud. But truthfully, I didn't want to hear him call me a slut. Thinking it had been enough.
"It's okay, Remus, I might think the same thing if I were on the outside of it looking in."
He gave a small smile. "If it really is life and death for you and your people, then you need to talk to Narcissus about guards and food." He almost laughed. "Maybe give them a different color of shirt." He shook his head, and just stopped talking. He turned on his heel and left, as if whatever he'd been about to say, he wanted to stop before he said it, and leaving was the only solution. When the door closed behind him, and we were totally guard-free, Micah spoke for most of us, I think. "He's an odd one."
I just nodded. Odd one about covered Remus. I'd thought my not understanding him was because I didn't know him that well, but I was beginning to think that months from now, I'd have no more clue to why he did or didn't do things. Some people are mysteries, and knowing them well doesn't make them less mysterious. Less confusing sometimes, but not less mysterious.
Asher leaned against the post of the bed, near us. He had a look on his face that I used to think meant teasing, but now I knew meant worse and darker things. "Richard," he said, so pleasantly, "did you truly leave us because you worried for Damian's safety?"
Richard gave him narrow eyes. "Yes."
"Really?" Asher managed to put in that one word a world of doubt.
Richard shifted, uncomfortably, as if he didn't know what to do with his hands. "I didn't want to see Anita feed on Requiem. Does that make you happy, to know that?" he asked of Asher.
Asher leaned his cheek against the carved wood, and nodded. "Actually, yes, it does."
"Why? Why does my discomfort please you?"
Asher wrapped his hands around the post, using it like a prop, as if the scene were staged. Most of the vampires had a certain flair for the dramatic.
Belle's vamps had more than their share sometimes. He didn't answer Richard's question, but made a statement. "You could have stayed, Richard, because she didn't feed on Requiem."
"Stop it, Asher," I said.
"Stop what?" he asked, and the glint in his eyes let me know he knew exactly what and that he was angry about something. Angry with Richard, maybe, or maybe angry about something else entirely. Mysterious and confusing didn't apply only to Remus.
"If you're mad about something, say so. If you're not, then stop the whole angry teasing routine."
Damian's grip on my hand tightened. Maybe he was just feeling stronger, or maybe he was trying to remind me not to get angry. One of his jobs as my vampire servant was to help me fight off those angry impulses. His own iron self-control had been forged by she-who-made-him. Any strong emotion was eventually punished, horribly punished. I'd shared enough of Damian's memories to know that his creator made Belle Morte seem the heart of kindness by comparison. Damian had learned to control all his emotions, his urges, because to do otherwise had been disaster.
He gripped my hand, not as tight as normal. He wasn't well, by any means, but I felt calm flow from him to me. That calm not of gentle meditation and the modern ideal of peace of mind, but of the older ideal, when control was carved from pain and hardship, and painted in scars across your flesh.
"Is Damian whispering peaceful things in your head, Anita?" Asher asked. His tone was still teasing and light, but underneath was a razor's edge of spite.
"You know how wanting total honesty is just another way for me to be a pain in the ass," I said.
Asher looked at me, his eyes like winter sky. "Yes."
"What you're doing now is your way of being angry without being angry. Teasing with a bite to it."
He wrapped his arms around the post, letting his hair slide forward to hide the scarred side of his face. It was an old trick, one he rarely did when it was just Jean-Claude and me. He gazed at the room with the perfection of his profile framed by his glittering froth of hair.
"Am I angry?" He made the question winsome.
"Yes," I said, and it was a statement. "Question is, what are you angry about?"
"I have not admitted to being angry." But he kept that perfect profile, that shine of hair, so that he showed himself to what he considered his best advantage. He was breathtaking, but I'd begun to value the full-face view, imperfections and all, more than this angry coyness. This show meant he was uncomfortable, or trying to persuade us to do something. Asher seldom flirted without an agenda. Sometimes it was foreplay, or just to make us smile, but other times... well, I did not trust his mood.
"Asher wants me to know who you fed on, and you don't want me to know." Richard had summed it up nicely.