While I was marching Mr. Spiky out to meet Fumiko, I surreptitiously spat the bits of broken teeth Mr. Spiky had given me into my palm. If Lewellan could make talismans for tracking me out of old bloody rags, I didn’t want to know what he could do with those — so I quietly pocketed them.
Trying to decide what to do with them naturally led to speculation about the tooth faerie, and what the fuck that particular fae was up to. Unfortunately, even that creepiness wasn’t enough to distract me from the desire to taste blood, to feel the warmth of it splashing over my tongue, to revel in the surge of life that accompanied it — and to banish the aching emptiness that gnawed at my emotions.
I shoved Mr. Spiky down on the ground a little harder than necessary once I reached Fumiko. I knelt by his head, grabbed a fistful of his hair — which had way too much product in it and just felt… ew — and yanked it back until his mouth popped open a little. I ended up holding his head in my lap to keep it steady despite his attempts to thrash around, and tried to ignore that, too.
“Bring that guy over here,” I told Fumiko. “Try to drip some blood in Mr. Spiky’s mouth.” While Fumiko lowered her thug I glanced over at Dad. He was tying a tourniquet around the left leg of the guy I’d taken out with the concrete bumper. There was already one around the guy’s right leg. Dad worked fast. Maybe I should’ve started with that guy. I hope he doesn’t bleed out through his pulped legs before I get Mr. Spiky over to him, I thought — but it wasn’t a very strong hope. Mostly I didn’t care enough to really regret whatever might come of him: he’d pulled a gun on Fumiko.
Apparently I’m a little vindictive.
Fumiko’s thug wasn’t really bleeding — he had a few scrapes, but nothing that was really conducive to ‘dripping’ blood down the gullet of Mr. Spiky. When she started to bring one of the thug’s abrasions toward Mr. Spiky’s lips I shook my head hastily. “We don’t want him to latch those fangs in,” I said. “I don’t know if I’d be able to get them out without breaking Mr. Spiky’s jaw.” I didn’t really want to immediately undo any healing that we got done — that would just set us that much further back from getting his hunger sated and his sanity — such as it was — restored. Honestly, in retrospect Mr. Spiky hadn’t really impressed me before he’d been psychopathically thirsty. But, I guess at least then he hadn’t been willing to devour the lives of people he thought were innocent.
Fumiko frowned, so after double-checking my grip on Mr. Spiky’s hair I slipped a hand free and into my pocket. I fished out a fang — long and unbroken except for the part where it had been smashed out of my mouth — and handed it to Fumiko. She looked at it, and then at me.
I shrugged. “I don’t have a pocket knife, but fuck: that’s what they’re for.”
Fumiko’s lips twitched like she was suppressing a laugh, and she used the fang to slash a rough gash down the thug’s unbroken arm. He cried out, but didn’t struggle. I wasn’t sure if that was because he understood what was going on and wanted Mr. Spiky to be sane as badly as we did, or if it was because he was afraid Fumiko would kick him in the face again if he gave her any grief. Frankly, I didn’t really care about that, either.
Mr. Spiky’s mouth gaped open when he realized we were actually offering him blood — much like I had been incapable of thinking of anything else when Melvin had held me at sword point while his own blood dripped into my mouth, I suspected Mr. Spiky was equally oblivious to the world while there was blood so readily available to sate his thirst. I let him drink until the gash healed along his donor’s arm. When Mr. Spiky struggled to sit up and bite into the man, though, I wrenched hard at my grip in his hair.
“Stop it,” I said. Mr. Spiky just growled in response and tried again, so I slipped my legs out from under his head and smacked his skull into the pavement. Not as hard as I could or anything, but enough to make my point: I was having a hard enough time restraining myself, and if he was going to make me restrain him, too, I was going to be pissy about it.
I mean, no. My point was that I wasn’t going to let him kill anyone just because he was thirsty. I was not being vindictive because he’d gotten to have that blood and I’d just gotten to watch. No.
“Cover him,” I said to Fumiko while jerking my head toward the thug she was still half supporting. “I’ll haul Spiky over to the next one.”
Fumiko nodded. She heaved the donor to his feet and then shoved him toward the building wall. “Sit down over there,” she ordered him. “And don’t get up unless you want that arm broken again. And your legs.”
I hauled Mr. Spiky up to his feet — smacking his head against the pavement hadn’t really stunned him for long, but it was enough for me to retain control over him. Especially since once he realized I was going to march him over to the next wounded man he became much more interested in being cooperative.
How much more blood does he need? I wondered. Maybe after this one I could have the last one. I mean, help heal the last one. I mean, maybe I should heal the last one so that Mr. Spiky didn’t get enough excess aura to be dangerous.
Oh, fuck it: Those were justifications. I just wanted blood.
Dad scrambled back when I brought Mr. Spiky over. I could tell by Dad’s expression that he was seriously worried about his recent ‘patient.’ I felt a little bit worse about not caring about that then I had felt about not caring about Fumiko’s thug — mostly because I did care about what Dad thought. This time I let Mr. Spiky press his mouth against the injured man’s bleeding flesh — I’d seriously pulped those legs. It was greusome enough that I would probably have nightmares about it once I did have some more blood in me. Well, if I ever had dreams again at all.
It only took a few seconds before the injured man’s mangled limbs started to straighten. I heard Dad’s shocked intake of breath under the injured man’s groan of relief. After a few more minutes, both of his legs were straight and Dad was scrambling to take the tourniquets off before the cut circulation started to do damage. There was no longer any risk that the man was bleeding out internally.
I nodded at the now-healed thug while Dad threaded his belt back through his slacks’ loops. “Keep an eye on him, Dad,” I said. “He should be fine now, so get him over with Fumiko’s and I’ll take care of the last one.”
Dad nodded jerkily. He hauled his no-longer-a-patient to his feet and marched him toward the wall with the other healed donor. I got Mr. Spiky back up to his feet, a lot more easily this time.
“How are you feeling?” I asked softly. “Sated?”
“Sane,” Mr. Spiky muttered back. “I wouldn’t say sated.” He hesitated. “I’ll understand if you refuse, but I ask that you let me heal my remaining man, regardless. I wouldn’t want to risk his well-being by letting his treatment depend on modern medicine.”
I snorted and started walking Mr. Spiky to the last goon — the one I’d thrown into a minivan’s back end. “Why would I refuse?” I muttered. “The whole reason I’m still here is so you wouldn’t go kill the first person you got hold of because you were too messed up to show restraint. And the only reason I didn’t just settle the matter by killing you into dormancy was that I didn’t want to leave any of these morons’ well-being to medical science, either. And I didn’t want any of them killing themselves trying to bring you back.”
I walked Mr. Spiky to the final thug. Mr. Spiky was a lot more cooperative than he had been. He was acting almost… meek, in comparison. It made my inner paranoiac wonder what the hell he was up to.
“Thank you,” Mr. Spiky said back softly, which just made me more uncomfortable with the whole situation. I mean, he had just tried to kill me so wasn’t it a little on the fucked up side that I was helping him and his groupies?
But then again, it wasn’t exactly like death was permanent for me anymore. It was weird, but I wasn’t even sure exactly how mad I should be at people for trying to kill me, now. I clamped down on that uncertainty so Mr. Spiky wouldn’t notice it and try to capitalize on it somehow. “No problem,” I said instead of ‘so, exactly how pissed with you should I be, anyway?’ “I figure if these guys are to you anything like my donors are to me, then it would be fucking tragic for you if anything happened to them. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
Actually, I thought, if these guys were to him what my donors were to me…
I was a little surprised my nose didn’t start bleeding from the mental images. Talk about Fujoshi heaven!
“Anyway,” I said a lot more shakily — I was trying hard not to envision Mr. Spiky in a vampire threesome with the two he’d just fed on — “Yeah. So, you still up for sharing that drink?”
“What?” Mr. Spiky asked in surprise.
“What?” I asked back. “I mean, nothing. Nothing! …what? I’m not thirsty. You’re crazy.”
I gave Mr. Spiky a shove toward the last guy instead of letting him answer me. Mr. Spiky gave me a worried look over his shoulder. Great, he thinks I’m crazy, I thought. But whatever Mr. Spiky thought, he didn’t say anything. Taking care of his people — or getting enough aura in himself to maybe think he could do something about me — took priority. Mr. Spiky knelt beside the last guy and delicately sank his fangs into the barely conscious man’s shoulder.
I watched with a sort of creeped-out fascination. Unlike when I fed, Mr. Spiky didn’t make a mess. He didn’t rend his donor’s flesh or look at the wound. There was no blood spilling. Mr. Spiky’s mouth formed a seal around the bite, and he drank with a rapturous expression that I belatedly realized he’d had when feeding from the other two, as well. Which made me swallow and feel flushed, because it totally synched with my recently imagined inappropriate scenes.
And that forced me to wonder: Had Melvin been watching me making o-faces the entire time he’d dripped blood into my mouth the other morning? Oh, god that was going to be awkward to think about the next time I saw him.
Mr. Spiky didn’t drink long. I wasn’t entirely sure if that was because he couldn’t hold much more aura, or because he didn’t want me to think he was hoarding energy in preparation for a counter attack. In either case, once he straightened I separated him from his donor.
“Go sit with the others,” I ordered the now-healed man. Dad had come over, and he was holding his gun. The once-injured man didn’t argue. I watched him join his fellows while Dad and Fumiko stood guard and swallowed.
“Do you know how many people they could save if they kept a vampire in every ER?” I heard Dad whisper to Fumiko in stunned amazement. I clearly hadn’t been meant to overhear.
“Not as many as we’d lose if the fae could operate freely because people believed in magic again, I bet,” Fumiko said back in a hushed tone.
For a second Dad was silent. Then he muttered to himself: “I hate wars,” before saying to Fumiko: “Why don’t you bring the car around? I’ll cover these three.”
I pretended I hadn’t been eavesdropping while Fumiko jogged toward the front lot. “So,” I said to Mr. Spiky. “Have a seat. I think we should talk.”
Mr. Spiky didn’t argue. He sat, and I sat across from him. “What do you want with me?” Mr. Spiky asked uncomfortably.
I had to physically restrain myself from closing my eyes so I could focus better. The scent of all the blood that had been spilt in the alley was horrifically distracting. All the more so because I wasn’t starving yet. But I could totally see how blood could become an addiction. “Hell if I know,” I said. “Wait, correction: you not wanting me dead would be nice. Wait, second correction: I’ll take that amulet. That can be the starter. But frankly, you owe me big. And that’s been working well for me lately, so I don’t think I’m actually in a hurry to balance our accounts.”
Mr. Spiky gave me a look that personified confusion. “Why did you help me?” he asked — in an attempt to elicit a sane response, I assumed.
“I already told you,” I shot back. I shuffled forward enough to ease the medallion over his neck. Fortunately, he bent his head forward to make it easier rather than trying to keep me from taking it. The whole thing seemed to tingle in my hands. “So, why did you try to kill me?” I counter-asked. “What the hell is Director Lewellan telling people about me?”
Mr. Spiky’s expression went from confused to uncomfortable. “He…” He swallowed. “We were told that you had abandoned a young woman, after draining her near to death and then feeding her your blood.”
“What?!” I yelped. “That’s Emma, my girlfriend,” I snapped. “I didn’t abandon her! I was run off because Lewellan started accusing me of being evil and trying to shove compulsions down my soul. I’m trying to save her.”
Mr. Spiky swallowed again. Nervousness began to replace discomfort. I was not sympathetic. If finding out that there were more stories going around than the one he’d been told by Lewellan made him nervous, then he should try being the one the Director was telling stories about and see that felt.
“And we were told that you drained at least one other victim,” he said. “A homeless man, who was found comatose in an alley from aura depletion.”
My eyes widened. Daniel? “Daniel?” I demanded. “But I didn’t! He was being drained by a faerie I was hunting. I drove Pipsqueak back into faerie land. I did save Daniel! Hell, I even gave back…”
Suddenly, my outraged protest died. Oh my god.
“Oh my god,” I whispered.
Mr. Spiky’s nervousness had transitioned to something that looked remarkably like dread. “What?” he asked. “What’s wrong?”
I even gave back the life force of Daniel’s that I pulled out of Pipsqueak’s aura when I’d fed on the faerie.
“Oh my god,” I repeated.
I pushed it back into Daniel exactly like I had Emma’s, when her aura had been drained to almost nothing. Exactly. Like. I. Had. Emma’s.
And he had been found comatose. Hadn’t Lewellan said that falling comatose was the last stage before either waking up — potentially as a ghoul — or never waking up again?
“Miss Abigail?” Mr. Spiky asked uncertainly. It pulled me out of my shocked reverie. I looked at him, and my mouth opened as I tried to explain.
I closed it without saying anything. Then I tried again.
But all that I could force out was: “Oh my god.”
What had I done?!