I blinked up at him. "But the test..."
He shrugged. "A rare, very rare, false positive. Anita, you're outside normal parameters on every other test we've run, why should we be surprised if a home pregnancy test gets a little confused with your internal chemistry?"
I stared up at him, not willing to believe it yet. "You're sure. I'm not pregnant."
He shook his head. He put the wand back on my stomach. He made a slow circle of a surprisingly small area. "We'd see it here. It would be tiny, but we would see it, if it were there to see. It's not."
"Then how did I come back positive for Mowgli and Vlad's syndrome?"
"I don't know for certain, but I would guess that the same enzymes the test looks for would come back positive if you yourself were a lycanthrope. It's designed to test human mothers, not mothers who are already lycanthropes."
"What about the Vlad's syndrome?" This from the female intern.
North frowned at her. "We'll discuss the case when the patient has had her questions answered, Dr. Nichols."
She looked suitably chagrined. "I'm sorry, Dr. North."
"No, she's got a point," I said, "what about the Vlad's syndrome?"
He touched my chin, moved my head so Requiem's bite marks showed. "Do you donate blood on a regular basis?"
"Yes," I said.
"We're testing for enzymes in the blood at this stage, Anita. I've never read a study on what regular blood donation does to blood test results. We know it can cause anemia, but beyond that, I don't think anyone's really studied it."
"May I ask a question, please?" It was the female intern, Nichols.
North gave her a cold look. "It depends on the question, doctor." He said the doctor part like it was an insult. I was seeing a whole new side of my doctor.
"It's not about the pregnancy, but about the bite."
"You can ask." He made it sound like he wouldn't if he were her, but Nichols was made of sterner stuff, and didn't back down, though she looked nervous bordering on scared.
"There's a lot of bruising around the bite. I thought it was just two neat puncture marks."
I looked at her. "You've only seen bite marks in the morgue, right?" I made it a question.
She nodded. "I took a preternatural forensics course."
"What are you doing in obstetrics?" I asked.
"Nichols is going to be one of the first doctors we'll graduate with a specialty in preternatural obstetrics."
I frowned at them both. "I'd think that would be a very limited specialty."
"Growing every year," North said.
I answered her question. "A vampire bite is like any other wound; if death results from the bite, then you don't get the same bruising. It can leave just two neat puncture wounds, because once the fangs go in, the blood flows easily from the anticoagulant in their saliva. It's drinking, not really eating. Some of the older vamps pride themselves on being able to leave no marks but the two puncture marks. Younger vamps will leave more impressions of teeth, but it's rare for them to break the skin, except with the fangs. The few times I've had vamps leave bite marks that involve more than the fangs, they were going for pain, not just feeding. They wanted it to hurt."
"We saw one body that they thought a vampire and a wereanimal had attacked, because they got impressions of fangs, but the collarbone and neck area were savaged."
I shook my head, and now that North had brought the wound to my attention, it ached a little. Requiem hadn't been a gentleman about this bite. In the heat of his need, he'd done more than just insert fangs.
"I don't know the case, but it could have been just a vampire."
She shook her head. "It was a lot of damage."
I held out my right arm with its mound of bite marks at the bend. "Vampire," I said. I pulled down the neck of my T-shirt, stretching the neck out a little, so I could show her the scars on my collarbone. "Different vampire. He broke my collarbone, and worried at the wound like a terrier with a rat."
She paled a little, but said, "I would love to contact the forensics program and suggest you come and lecture. I think just seeing your scars and talking to you in more detail might help coroners and medical examiners across the country in correctly attributing the damage on some of the victims." She started to reach out, then stopped herself.
I said, "You can touch the scars, if you want."
She glanced at North; he gave a small nod. She touched the collarbone scar, very tentatively, as if it were more intimate than it should have been. At the bend of my arm, she trailed her fingers over those scars like she was memorizing them. She trailed down to the claw marks lower on the arm. "Lycanthrope?"
"Shapeshifted witch, actually."
Her eyes got wide. "A real shapeshifted witch, with an animal skin object, not a lycanthrope?" She was excited about it, and I was impressed that she knew the difference; most people didn't.
She finally touched the cross-shaped burn scar, a little crooked now because of the claw marks. "This should mean you're a vampire, but you aren't."
Nice that someone was sure. Out loud, I said, "Some vampire's flunkies amused themselves by branding me while we waited for their master to wake for the night."
She gave me wide eyes. "I would love to talk to you at greater length. Thank you so much for answering my questions at a time like this."
"I fall into lecture mode pretty easy," I said. "I'm used to being the resident expert on the preternatural."
"Thank you," she said, and sounded like she meant it.
I finally turned back to North. I searched his face. "I'm not pregnant, you promise, your f**king word of honor, that I'm not pregnant?"
He smiled at me. "I swear, my hand to God, that there is nothing inside you but you. You are not pregnant."
I'd needed Nichols's distraction to give my mind time to process. I'd needed time to let it sink in. I turned to Micah and Richard. I looked from one to the other of them.
The other intern was using a towel to wipe the goop off my tummy. I let him do it. I stared up at two of the men in my life, and said, as if they hadn't heard, "I'm not pregnant."
"We heard," Micah said, smiling.
"Well, say something," I said.
Richard said, "What do you want us to say?"
"Are you disappointed? Happy? Relieved?"
"We're waiting for you to tell us what reaction won't piss you off," Micah said.
For some reason that made me laugh, and the laughter turned to crying, though I had no idea why. I curled on my side and wept, while they tried to hold me. Dr. North and the interns left us to it. Left me to cry away the stress and fear, and underneath that, a tiny, tiny piece of regret.
THAT MICROSCOPIC BIT of regret gave way to a planet-sized wave of relief. By the time we all left the hospital, I wanted to skip and shout to strangers that I wasn't pregnant. I didn't do it, but I was as close to giddy as I get; giddy with relief. It was like being on a happy drunk. It was so bad that Micah suggested he drive us back to the Circus. Two miracles occurred; I let him do it, and Richard didn't argue that he should drive. In fact, Richard was positively quiet. He slid into the backseat without a word, a look on his face like he was thinking very serious thoughts. I left him to it, because I wasn't thinking anything sad.
Claudia and Lisandro shoved themselves into the seat beside him. The three of them had such wide shoulders that I always wondered if they'd all fit, but they did. Noel got in the very back. Travis rode with Graham and Ixion in the second car.
I started to use the cell phone to tell Jean-Claude, then realized I didn't need the phone, not for this. I opened the marks, just a little, until I could feel him down the cool line of power.
"What are you doing, Anita?" Richard asked.
"Telling Jean-Claude the good news."
"Use a phone, please, with me this close in the car."
I looked back at him. His skin was running with goosebumps from what little I'd just done. I thought about ignoring him, but that seemed cruel, and I didn't want to be cruel. But I didn't have a chance to decide; Jean-Claude whispered through my head, "Ma petite ..."
Richard closed his eyes, as if it hurt him, but I knew that look. It wasn't that it hurt. It was the opposite, it felt good. He didn't like that it felt good.