We hurried out of the club. On our way to the door I saw a bunch of people clustered around three guys — one of whom was Bob, and all of whom were sprawled out on the floor like rag dolls. The sight made my stomach lurch with a surge of guilt. Even if we got out of all the shit I’d gotten us into tonight, Fumiko was probably going to be facing charges for assault tomorrow. Worse still, from the unnatural way some of the limbs on those men were sprawled I was pretty sure they’d be facing physical therapy.
I turned toward them without even thinking about what I was doing. As I approached them the handful of patrons that had been clustered and crouched over them scurried back. Mark, on the other hand, detached from the group and hurried up to me.
“I’m sorry,” he babbled desperately. “I tried to stop her after she knocked down everyone else, but she just… I don’t even know! And then I think I passed out.”
“Uh,” I said. Unlike the other three guys, Mark looked fine. Symbiotic vampire healing, I realized. Mark had probably started to feel better the instant Bonbon pushed my aura back.
“It’s okay,” I said hastily. “I worked it out. Mark, I need you to get these patrons to back away from Bob and the others so I can check them over.”
Mark didn’t ask what I thought I could do, or protest that I was with the person who had done this to them in the first place — Fumiko had stopped and turned to watch me. Instead, he immediately turned around and started shooing the patrons away from the club’s injured. I hurried forward and knelt by the first one while the patrons were still being too distracted by Mark to think of asking the questions he hadn’t.
The first man was tall and broad shouldered — or he would have been if he hadn’t been laid out on his back with what looked like two dislocated arms. He was unconscious and I couldn’t blame him. I didn’t even want to try to imagine how much that would have hurt. I crouched over him so that my back was to the small crowd Mark was corralling and grabbed the guy’s arm. Fortunately, he’d opted to wear short sleeves. “Sorry,” I whispered hastily. I lifted the arm as though I were about to try to lever the joint back into place and used the moment to mask taking a quick nip out of his wrist.
It was a messy bite, because I was trying to keep it quick and not too obvious to anyone who might be watching. It was still enough for me to feel a connection form: even though I didn’t know the guy, his leyline suddenly leapt into focus in my mind. I also felt a brief surge of energy — if something as weak as the flicker that lit between us could be called a ‘surge.’ He was just a mortal.
“Fumiko,” I hastily called, “Get his other shoulder, okay?”
Fumiko hastily took up a spot opposite me and grabbed the guy’s other arm. She, at least, had been in a position to see me bite him. I was confident she’d understand what I was trying to do. Even so, she hissed: “What are you doing? We need to get out of here now.”
“Not if you don’t want to get arrested for assault when this is all over,” I hissed back. The sympathetic vampire healing had kicked in, and I feigned setting the guy’s shoulder when it popped into place of its own accord. On her side, Fumiko did the same. “We’re in enough trouble without legitimate cops chasing us too.”
Fumiko scowled like she wanted to argue with me, but I moved on to the next bouncer before she got the chance. As luck would have it, this one was Bob. He was laying on his side. His eyes were open but dazed. It looked like he had a broken nose: it was bleeding and crooked. His breathing came in ragged rasps. Broken ribs?
“I am so sorry,” I whispered fervently. It didn’t look like Bob was in the mood for apologies. His eyes glinted angrily, even though he couldn’t focus. It made him look crazy. Crazy and violent. I swallowed: it was a good thing I was low on essence or I wouldn’t have dared try to help him. As it was, I still felt a twinge of nerves when I took a hold of Bob’s head. I shifted it so I could look in his eyes and stretched his eyelid back as though I was looking for dilation or something. I don’t know: Dad’s the doctor, not me. In the process I let my fingers slip briefly and smear through the blood over his lip.
Bob wheezed and his mouth twitched like he wanted to yell or bite me or something, but I ignored it.
It had only taken a lick of halfway congealed blood for the sympathetic magic to take care of Megan’s concussion on the night that my home burned down. I hoped that was all it would take for Bob, too. I figured there had to at least be a chance that was all it would take: vampire magic kept corpses alive and walking. It couldn’t be all that difficult for it to patch up someone who actually was still alive, right?
I bit down on the knuckle of my thumb while looking at Bob, feigning a nervous habit that let me take a taste of Bob’s blood when I pulled my thumb away. This time the connection that formed was fainter than it had been with the first guy — but it was still there. And it was still enough for the healing to kick in. I could smell the change when Bob’s nose stopped bleeding. Seconds later his eyes regained their focus, and I heard his breathing ease.
I started to move on to the last bouncer, but at that point one of the patrons shoved his way past Mark.
“Hey,” the guy shouted. “What are you doing?” he asked suspiciously.
I stopped and turned to face him. He was of middling height but thin, maybe in his late twenties or early thirties. He looked pretty fit for all that his build seemed somewhat effeminate. He had long black hair that was tied back at the nape of his neck and a trim beard the covered just his chin — but wasn’t one of those narrow goatees that screams ‘villain!’ He was dressed as part of Club L’s goth crowd: his skin was extremely pale, and he was wearing a leather choker with a trio of crosses dangling off of it. On one wrist he wore a wide bracelet of thin chain links as a charm bracelet, decorated with keys and skulls. On the opposite hand he wore three ornate rings from his pinkie finger to his middle finger, with a heavy gothic finger cuff over his index finger. The rest of his clothes were all black but cut in a vaguely fantasy Victorian-esque style, all the way down to the high top boots he wore instead of shoes.
Mark tried to hold the patron back, saying: “Sir, you need to stay back.”
The goth guy looked at Mark in surprise and then shouldered past him. Mark tried to grab him, but the guy yanked his arm free and spun. “Back off Mark,” the patron snapped. “Don’t make me fire you.”
Oh. Not a patron.
“It’s okay,” I said hastily. “I’m a doctor,” I lied. “Your employees got in a scuffle, so I’m looking them over. They should be fine, though. Just some bruised egos: nothing physical that a good night’s sleep won’t get them over.” I smiled as pleasantly as I could. “If you’ll give me a moment to check this last fellow, we can get out of your hair. I am terribly sorry about this altercation. My friend thought I was in trouble, and things got out of hand.”
The owner — or at least the HR manager — of Club Luminescence narrowed his eyes at me. “Bullshit,” he said angrily. “I’ve known Bob for years. Anything that puts him on the floor isn’t something you get over with a nap.”
Fortunately, at that point Bob managed to sit up. He looked at me as he did and blinked a few times, then shook his head as though to clear it. “It’s alright, Kel,” he said. Bob glanced at me again and a flicker of confusion passed over the face. He quickly rallied, however, and it was gone when he stood and turned back to his boss. “The lady’s right. I just got rattled — I must be getting old sooner than I thought,” he added with a chuckle.
Kel’s lips thinned and turned down in something between a frown and a scowl. Before he could say anything, however, the first guy I’d bitten stepped toward him.
“She said she needs space to work, boss,” he said. “You need to back up and let her take care of Aaron.” He put a hand on Kel’s chest and gently pushed him back. Kel smacked the hand away and recoiled as though he’d been shoved.
“What the hell,” Kel started to ask — but this time he wasn’t interrupted by one of his employees.
“Let it go, Kelvin,” Bonbon said. I snapped around to look at her. She was still in shadow form and still cowering with only her head peeking out from behind Fumiko, but her voice was firm. “This is all my fault, okay?”
For a half second I wondered what she thought she was doing — and then I snapped my attention around to Kelvin. He wasn’t looking at Bonbon, but he was looking at me, and his expression had changed. It was more composed, though no less angry. He heard Bonbon, I realized. And he saw me look at her, which means he can see her too. Or at least knows where she is, somehow. “Alright,” Kelvin said. “Do what you have to to make sure that Aaron is okay.” He shifted his attention then, glancing at his employees and making sure they knew he was addressing them. “And then you guys get back to work.” He looked at me again, except this time his glare encompassed Fumiko and Bonbon, too. “And the rest of you can come back to my office to explain yourselves — and let me impress upon you how very, very little tolerance I have for ‘scuffles’ in my establishment.”
I felt a shiver of nervousness. I don’t know what this guy is yet, but if he can see faeries then it can’t be good. The two possibilities that leapt to mind were a changeling or possibly a very powerful warlock, since it was supposed to require a whole coven to hunt down a faerie that was hiding. Or, worst case: he was something else entirely. Just like I didn’t fit the typical mold for a vampire, maybe he was the product of extraordinary circumstances, too. I was distantly glad that so much of my aura had been lost when Bonbon tried to push it back. Had I been more alive-Abby than I was, I would’ve been freaking out.
As it was, I almost jumped when I noticed Bob, Mark, and the first bouncer I’d healed all tensing up like they were getting ready to tell Kelvin to back off again. But of course they were defensive of me: I’d bitten them. Or at least tasted their blood, in Bob’s case.
I hastened to forestall them. Anything someone did while they were enthralled was going to be my responsibility, and I didn’t want to have even more things on my mind when I was alive enough to be really bothered by it. “Okay,” I agreed loudly. “That sounds good. Thank you for understanding.”
Bob and his friend hesitated and then subtly relaxed. Mark wasn’t even subtle about it: he just looked relieved. None of it was lost on Kelvin, though, whose glare narrowed to focus on just me again. Dammit, I silently berated myself. What a mess. I’ll just have to explain to him that I didn’t mean to enthrall his night staff, later.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t at all sure Kelvin would be understanding, and it would probably be even worse once I healed — and enthralled — the last guy, Aaron. Still, there was nothing I could do about it at the moment. I gave Kelvin what I hoped was a moroseful smile. His glare didn’t waver. Then Bob and the other bouncer joined Mark in assuring the actual patrons who were watching that everything was alright and they could go back to enjoying their evenings.
I turned around to take care of Aaron so we could go and get things sorted out with Kelvin. I chuckled quietly to myself. Any other time and I probably would have been freaking out or trying to figure out how to kill everyone in sight. As it was, I wasn’t even that upset about how the conversation with Kelvin was going to go. If I had to be in any state when dealing with someone new who had reason to be pissed with me, this was probably it: I was right in what I had considered ‘the sweet spot’ of emotional balance — although now, in retrospect, I could tell that at the time I hadn’t realized how hungry I actually was. Having actually been full made a huge difference in how intolerable creeping up on being thirsty actually was. Now I did really want to feed again, even if I wasn’t being psychotic about it. But I could worry about that in a little bit. First, I had to take care of Aaron.
After all, there was no point in delaying the inevitable — and if Kelvin did react poorly to my explanation of what had happened, that would just mean I could have a drink from someone who was more potent than a regular mortal that much earlier.
I couldn’t help smiling at the thought. Then, after glancing around to make sure no one was looking too closely — other than Fumiko, Bonbon, and Kelvin — I knelt next to Aaron and leaned in for a nibble.