Irresistible Hunger

Chapter 2

By Sukunami

[Squall]

Giving into weakness and frustration, I forcibly remove the tight and awkward shirt from my body and toss it to the corner of the dingy room.  Groaning in relief, I scratch at my skin and glare at the piece of clothing newly bought for me by the vampire.  I had argued against needing the change of shirt and pants, but Seifer had already taken advantage of my absence during a bath and stole away my clothes to send them out to be cleaned.  The bastard didnít even ask for my permission beforehand, and I am positive that he enjoys to watch me suffer in these horrid clothes which leave no room for proper movement.

With a defeated sigh, I scold myself for allowing my pent up anger to get the best of me.  Ever since stepping into this inn the night before last, I have felt eyes upon me.  Most are from those disapproving of my obvious mixed blood, and while the owner of this place seemed to share a similar viewpoint, Seiferís money quickly silenced the heavyset man.  But due to the uncomfortable situation, I havenít dared to journey far from this room, only leaving to have my meals under watchful green eyes and then this morning to take the bath which left me lacking clothes.  Trapped and stressed, I find myself acting out on my emotions more than usual, and I hate that I've lowered myself to such pathetic levels.

Moving to the bed, I sit down on the thin mattress and lean against the cool window to stare at my reflection in the glass darkened by the night sky outside.  My hand automatically moves to my hair, the feel of shortened strands still awkward despite over a week passing since I had sliced off my lengthy hair in a sign of shame toward my tribe.  They wanted me to go against my pledge to Seifer and kill him when given the first opportunity.  Rinoa's father was crude enough to suggest that I should lure the man with my body.  Full of anger and humiliation, I took my knife to the hair which I hadn't cut since my mother's death.  It was almost surprising how easily the dark strands were removed, and in an odd way, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

I would not return to those people.

Refocusing on my vague image in the glass, I finger the added bangs at my forehead which nearly fall into my eyes.  The night after leaving my tribe, Seifer had shortened my hair further to even the ragged cut, the blond man surprisingly skilled with the small knife he wears on his belt.  Despite the shame it should represent, I have enjoyed this shorter hair and the way I can feel the occasional breeze against my bare skin instead of the trickle of sweat.  I have yet to decide if I'll let my hair grow out once more, but I have a feeling I won't live long enough that such a decision would matter.

The sound of a loud strike against the door startles me, making me jump off the bed and to my feet in a prepared stance.  After the noise of fumbling along wood, the door opens wide as Seifer stumbles inside, his drop to the floor prevented as I rush to support the unbalanced man.  My first thoughts of the vampire being injured are quickly wiped aside when the large man chuckles and straightens to look at me with dark pupils thinly ringed by green.

"Well, hello there, lovely.  Did you wait up for me?"

I frown at smirking man, not understanding the reason for his odd behavior.  Before I have the chance think about the situation, his hands are suddenly at my bare side and back, stroking along my skin in an obvious manner and making me tense in surprise.

"Hmmm, were you getting to ready to seduce me, my little savage?" he asks, the last word spoken in a husky growl as he leans forward as if to kiss me.  Though avoiding his clumsy advance, I get a good smell of his breath and I'm quickly reminded of my father's drunken days when he had tried to forget the death of my mother.

"Have you had too much drink?" I ask, uncertain if a vampire could drink normal liquids if his body wasn't able handle solid foods.

He snickers.  "No, I only had a couple glasses of the aba... absa..."  After a moment of seemingly intense thought, Seifer shakes his head in defeat of finding the right word.  "Anyway, it was the worst wine I ever tasted.  But the lady I was with had faaaar too much of the house special and she was quite drunk."

"You took her blood," I state, not really caring about the loss of life as I should.

"A-aw, is the pretty Injun jealous that I drank another's blood?"  After flashing me a fanged smirk, Seifer nuzzles his face against my neck and licks my flesh.  "Don't worry, my lovely.  You are far sweeter than any whore."

Sighing in disgust, I manage to push the larger man away and step to his side in order to guide him toward the bed.  Aside from a disappointed huff, he doesn't struggle against my aid, but when he collapses on the thin mattress, Seifer pulls me along with him such that I lie on top of his body.  I quickly attempt to retreat, but a hand grabs strongly onto my upper arm and he easily stops me with his greater strength.

"Where you goin', lovely," he slurs in sudden tiredness, his entrancing eyes partly hidden by lowered eyelids.

"No where.  Go to sleep."

Though his eyes closed fully at my command, Seifer smiles with a boyish air and his free hand grabs my ass.  "We don' haveta sleep."

"You do," I state quietly, trying not to reveal my discomfort with his lustful state of mind.

He pouts.  "I don' wanna..."

I don't reply, and instead wait several minutes before I carefully remove myself from his loosening holds as sleep overtakes the vampire.  Once standing at the bedside, I stare down at the supposed demon who should be feared and respected.  Not for the first time, I think about how I could leave without much effort on my part.  I doubt Seifer would even bother to hunt me down since he obviously has other sources for the blood he needs, but I know that I can't leave him.  My honor won't allow it, and I think... well, he isn't terrible to be with.  I've suffered worse fates.

Leaning over the bed to reach the window, I lower the curtains and cover the glass further with the same heavy blanket we used yesterday to block out the sunlight.  Not tired myself, I step lightly to the door foolishly left open by the drunken man and close it with hardly a sound.  Taking a seat next to the entrance, I lean forward on my raised knees and silently watch the sleeping man for the rest of the night.

Ignoring the side glances of the inn owner behind the bar, I continue my slow eating of the meal I had ordered with Seifer's money.  Knowing he was able to get little sleep on the road, I decided that the vampire deserved a late morning while the sunlight could be blocked from his body.  I myself didn't fall asleep until nearly sunrise, and then woke a short time later with a sore body from sleeping in such an awkward position on the floor.  While it first annoyed me to find Seifer sprawled in complete relaxation on the bed, I couldn't bring myself to wake the exhausted man, and so came down here to satisfy my hunger.

As I sip at warm water, the front door to the inn opens wide to let in the glare of sunlight, the event making several patrons of the bar quiet their talk momentarily as they observe person's entrance.  This being a frequent happening, I don't bother glancing to the side and instead continue eating my heavy meal of eggs, bread, and some kind of meat.  Boots sound on wood as the person walks casually to the bar, and once he asks for a shot of whiskey and a glass of water, the other people return to their discussions with the decision made that the newcomer held no obvious threat.

"Say, old man, I've been looking for someone in these parts.  You haven't happened to see a fairly large blond man with green eyes around here, have you?"

While I pause in eating at unintentionally hearing the question, the inn owner barks a laugh as he sets two glasses in front of the stranger.  "You just described about fifty men I've seen.  Have a name?"

"Yeah.  Last I've heard, he goes by the name Seifer Almasy."

"Hmm, sounds familiar, but I can't say for certain."

With some effort, I make myself continue eating my meal to avoid attracting the attention of the newcomer.  I can't imagine there being a good reason for anyone to search for Seifer, but hurrying to warn the vampire should only place him in more danger.  Instead, while taking another sip of water, I glance at the stranger so that I may be able to describe him later.  He appears the typical cowboy, his unimpressive clothing worn and dusty from his travels, and a large gun hangs by a strap over his shoulder.  His dark hat hides most of his face from my angle, but his long auburn hair is tied loosely at the base of his neck and falls softly over his sweat stained shirt.

After gulping down the undoubtedly horrid alcohol, the stranger flashes the owner a disarming smile.  "So, are you saying that he isn't around here anymore?"

The heavyset man shrugs.  "I'm saying that I'm not certain."

The longhaired man huffs a laugh before tossing a coin in the owner's direction.  "Right.  Thanks for your help."

Before my wandering eyes can be noticed by the stranger, I casually return to my meal and slowly chew on a piece of difficult meat.  The man eventually moves from his spot at the bar, but instead of leaving the inn, he walks in my direction with a confident stride.  I ignore the man's approach as long as reasonable, but when he arrogantly slides into the seat ahead of me without permission, I have to acknowledge his presence, which I do with a deep scowl.

"So, have you seen the man I'm looking for?" he asks, then tapping up his dark hat to reveal stunning violet blue eyes.  While I'm at first tempted to believe him another vampire, there's something wrong with the intense eyes as compared to Seifer's emerald gaze.  Something dark.  He smirks at my obvious staring.  "Well, have you?  He's a tall guy with short blond hair and green eyes.  Quite the bastard, too."

Choosing to play the ignorant savage, I return my attention to my plate, but before I can eat the selected forkful, a gloved hair reaches out to grasp my chin and make me look into the unusual eyes.

"Where is he?"

"... ..."

Pink lips form a lazy smile and he leans forward over the table to speak quietly.  "Protecting him won't do you any good.  Whatever he promised you, he'll just kill you in the end."

Realizing that my play at not knowing English is worthless without my long hair and native clothing, I knock away the man's hand and sit back in my chair.  "I do not know where he is."

Violet eyes widen slightly, the longhaired man probably surprised at my accent, but his easy smile quickly smoothes over his expression.  "But you were with him, right?  He'll be back for you, I imagine."

"He tried to have me last night," I say on the whim that this stranger may have seen me with Seifer yesterday and that was the reason for his persistent questioning.  "I did not like it."

Eyes narrowed, he states, "He wouldn't have let you go."

I shrug and make to return to my unfortunately cold meal.  The stranger doesn't move from his seat, his unusual eyes watching me intently as I eat at a natural pace.  With every bite, I plead with the gods that Seifer doesn't decide to wake and stumble downstairs to unknowingly face this violet-eyed man.  Of course it's unreasonable to want to protect the demon, but thus far, Seifer has only shown a kind hand towards me and I can't help but to respond to that after years spent within a tribe which held little love for a half-blood.

Abruptly, the longhaired man growls out a sigh and pushes up from the table.  He lowers his hat over his eyes and leaves the inn without a parting word.  Along with the other patrons, I stare at the stranger's sudden departure, but I figure that it is merely a feint and the man will probably find a position outside to lie in wait for Seifer's eventual exit from the building.  Pushing away my remaining food, I calmly finish my glass of water before moving to the bar to ask the owner for a refill.

Eventually I go upstairs to the rented room, and after opening and closing the door silently, I step to the bedside while my eyes glance over the sleeping form of the vampire.  Hardly moved from his previous position, Seifer looks at peace from his inner demons and plaguing darkness.  It's almost a shame that I have to wake him.

I dump my refilled glass of water on the man's head, the resulting effect immediate as the vampire is suddenly missing from the bed.  From behind me, a cold hand encircles the front of my throat and squeezes in an uncomfortable hold as I'm forced back against the larger man.

"What the fuck was that for?"

Despite the threatening tone of voice, I find myself unafraid of the demon.  "A man is looking for you."

Seifer tenses at my words, his hold then loosening from around my neck, though he still keeps me close.  "And what did this man look like?"

"A cowboy with long hair, purple eyes.  He knew your name."

After a moment of silence, the vampire chuckles softly while murmuring to himself, "That pain in my ass certainly knows how to make up for lost time."  With a hand placed on my shoulder, Seifer steps back and makes me face him.  "Did he harass you much?"

I frown at how casually the green-eyed man seems to be taking this.  "Who is he?"

The blond smirks with amusement before moving to the dresser to fetch a towel.  "That man is one Irvine Kinneas, a decent vampire hunter with a very annoying stubborn streak.  But you don't have to worry about him - he's good at saving his bullets for us demons."

"You met him before?"

"Too many times for my likes, but there's nothing much I can do about it."

Confused by a human causing the vampire such problems, I ask, "You cannot kill him?"

"Unfortunately not."

"Why?"

Seifer pauses at drying his hair, and then smiles softly.  "Because I promised to watch over him."

I stare at the vampire, once again bewildered by the man before me.  He's supposed to be a monster who lurks in the shadows, but aside from his inhuman abilities, I have yet to truly witness the demon hiding beneath the human skin.  And it troubles me that I can't hate this white man, this vampire.

Tossing the towel aside, Seifer begins to pack his meager belongings.  "Looks like you'll have to suffer in those clothes for a while longer since we're not going to be around by the time our other clothes are returned."

"He is waiting for you to leave," I remind the man, my frown returning at the thought of traveling in this outfit.

"We only have to keep ahead of him until nightfall.  And with you as my hostage, he shouldn't do anything incredibly stupid."

"But he knows I am with you."

Seifer snorts.  "Of course he does.  Probably smelled me on you from a mile away.  But you're still an innocent to him, so he won't try to fire that shotgun of his until he's certain that you're safe from the blast."

Coming to the conclusion that the vampire understands this situation better than I could, I move to the dresser and pack the few items I had left out from my bag.  After tying the leather straps to secure the pouch, I turn and find Seifer standing far too close for comfort.  Before I can move aside, a gloved hand is at my cheek and his thumb brushes along my lips.

"I'm sorry about last night," Seifer says softly.  "It's been a while since I've had blood tainted with alcohol, and... well, I'm a bit surprised that you chose to stay."

I can only stare at him in reply, confused once more by this quiet side of the vampire.

His hand removed from my skin, he smirks with amusement.  "Though, I have to say that you must be insane to wake a dangerous vampire like that.  I've killed people for less, you know."

"You are hard to wake," I state from experience, and then step around the man with the goal to remove his blanket from the nails holding it up against the window.

"Only when someone watches over me," he murmurs in reply.

I glance back at the odd comment, but Seifer has already turned his back to me while examining one of his pistols.  After briefly watching him remove the bullets to be replaced with other bullets which appear the same to my limited knowledge, I return to my task of retrieving the heavy blanket.  Once finished with my pack over my shoulder and the folded blanket under my arm, I face the large man and raise a questioning eyebrow at his eager expression.

"Ready to have some fun, lovely?"

[Seifer]

"Must you laugh so loud?"

The dry tone of the native makes me laugh even louder, the ears of my mustang twisting nervously at the noise.  "Did you see his face?  He had no clue why that barbarian was calling him out.  And when that dog of a wife ran out yelling, 'That's the one!  That's the one who seduced me!', I nearly lost it.  I almost feel bad for the bastard."

Squall shakes his head in exasperation, but he can't hide the hint of a smile from me.

Given the bothersome abilities of the vampire hunter, I knew that slipping out of the inn wasn't a valid option, especially with several hours remaining before sunset.  By chance alone, the night before I had spent a decent amount of time gambling, and during the pathetic poker game, I was forced to listen to the grumblings of the apparent deputy of the small town.  He was positive that his wife was cheating on him, but he could never catch her and the mystery man in the act.  It was almost too easy to convince the big guy that Kinneas was the man he was looking for.  Though Squall and I stayed long enough to make certain Kinneas would be kept busy, we quickly escaped on our horses, nearly killing the poor beasts with the mad dash out of the dusty town.

"I thought you would not hurt that man."

My laughter back under control, I smirk at the native.  "I never said that I wouldn't hurt him, just that I won't get him killed.  And trust me, no human will ever be able to kill Kinneas."

"You said he was... decent," Squall says in a partly questioning tone.

"A decent vampire hunter, yes.  But against humans, he's a damn good gunslinger and very hard to kill."

The native glances at me with his stormy eyes, the examining hint to his pale gaze ever present as if he were staring at some puzzle to be solved.  While I certainly don't mind the attractive man studying my body with such intensity, I occasionally fear that he may find something I never knew existed within me.  After hundreds of years, a person should know everything about himself, shouldn't he?

"Why is moving until night important?"

I turn away from the sharpness of pale eyes and reach forward to play with the short mane of my mustang.  "He can't travel tonight, and he'll be delayed further come morning.  It will give us the chance to lose his trail for a couple weeks."

While my explanation is obviously weak, Squall doesn't call my bluff and continues to ride silently with me.  Our horses should need rest soon, but I want to cross one more river before sunset.  Though finding any source of water in this wasteland is near impossible compared to the lush plains of Europe.  Leave it to my mistress to chose a place that would irritate me the most.

"There is a river more north."

I look sharply at the brunet, surprised that he could guess what I was thinking.

Squall smiles softly.  "You were... muffling?  About no rivers."

I smirk at his attempt to get the right term, pleased that the native is less wary to try unfamiliar words.  "You mean 'muttering', and yeah, this damned desert is starting to get on my nerves.  Kinneas was never able to find me so quickly before."

"You do not understand the ways of the desert."  And with those words, he kicks his horse into a slow trot such that he takes the lead.

"Apparently I don't," I say distractedly, my eyes unmoving from the back straight with purpose.  The shortened hair of the brunet bounces with the jerky movements of his horse while his body seems to flow naturally with the beast, an unexpectedly intoxicating sight with the rocking motions.  Why did this beauty have to enter my life now?

Following Squall's lead over hard ground and eventually through a shallow river, I keep most of my attention focused behind us for any sign of the hunter.  He shouldn't be fooled for long by the Indian's tricks which would prevent normal men from following our trail.  But as the sun drops below the horizon, I breathe a sigh of relief that I can delay my meeting with the gunslinger for another day.  Soon after the welcomed sunset, we find a decent place to camp for the night in a small meadow near a murky pond of warm water.  The horses don't seem to mind the taste of the questionable liquid, and once satisfied, they are tied to thin trees in easy reach of long grass.

While I immediately slump down on plush grass, Squall takes his time to remove his shirt and then glare at it for a moment as if choosing between burning the hated piece of clothing or simply shredding it into potentially useful rags.  But in the end, he sighs in defeat and carefully folds the shirt into a makeshift pillow before kneeling to the ground.

"Are you going straight to sleep?" I ask, surprised by my disappointment that he would rather escape into sleep than deal with me for the rest of the evening.

He grunts out something in that language of his while lying down on the grassy ground.

Watching him stretch out that seductive body, I wonder why the hell I didn't take that beauty last night when I had the drunken courage to do so.  But another thought plagues me more, making me ask, "Why didn't you point Kinneas in my direction?  You could have easily gotten rid of me that way."

Squall says nothing for a long moment before rolling onto his other side such that his back faces me.  "You saved me.  Now I am yours."

Stunned into silence, I stare at the darkly tanned native, my sight adjusting with the decreasing amount of available light as the evening grows later.  Watching the easy rise and fall of his chest, I feel the never ending hunger grow within me, the need becoming enough to make my fangs ache with the desire to bite into his soft flesh and taste sweet blood.  Of course I won't let myself feed this night, but with the trusting fool asleep before me and completely vulnerable, baser instincts rise to the surface and taunt me with the knowledge that I can have whatever I want if I would simply take it.

And then suddenly I'm standing above the sleeping man, his skin appearing paler by the light of the moon.  Glancing at the healing injury at his side, I can nearly taste his blood at the memory of my first sampling of the half-blood.  He should have recovered enough by now such that I can feast longer on his sweetness and his strength.  And then, in a few weeks, I'll take him fully and satisfy my hunger with every last drop of his essence.  As my lips slip back into a sneer, I wonder at what point the native will begin to resist me as his very life is pulled away from him.

My musings are cut short by the sound of a piercing howl, the call far too close for my likes.  I promptly kneel down and place a hand at Squall's shoulder to wake him.  His eyelids snap open into full awareness with fear highlighting the pale orbs, but unexpectedly, as he studies my face in the dark of night, the fear slips away and he relaxes beneath my hand.

"What is it, Seifer?"

The question breaking me out of my staring at the youthful man, I stand up and look to the south.  "Something may be coming this way and I can't afford to have you lying on the ground like fresh meat."

"Something?" Squall asks while standing, the closeness of his shirtless body horribly tempting despite the situation.

I nod, choosing not to clarify further.  "I suggest having a knife available to protect yourself, but leave it to me."

The piercing stare of icy eyes is easy felt, but Squall thankfully doesn't press the issue and moves quietly toward his pack to retrieve the weapons of his choice.  Ignoring the sounds of his movements, I focus my hearing outward to listen for any sign of an approach.  Time drags from that moment onward, the desert being horribly silent and dull as we are forced to wait.

At the first sound of snapping brush, I smirk and run forward at a fast pace to make certain that this fight will take place away from the vulnerable native.  Pistol drawn and held at the ready, I slow near the area I had heard the noise and scan across the plain of brush and dry grass.  At the sound of quiet growling, I turn quickly to face the beast, but then lower my weapon at the sight of the mangy coyote.  Meeting my eyes, it promptly turns and runs off into the desert with its tail hanging low in a coward's retreat.  A disappointed sigh escaping me, I holster my gun and waste a moment to gaze up at the sky already lightening with the coming sunrise.  Damn the summer and its longer days.

Turning around to go back to the meadow, I pause at the sight of the native standing in an entrancing pose with an arrow set in his bow and the string drawn back.  As I watch from too far of a distance, a large wolf of dark fur charges at him from the west, not from the south like I had expected the mutt to come.  The arrow is released with a familiar twang, the short flight of the shaft ending deep into the lower chest of the wolf.  Its advance thwarted, the beast lets out a pained howl as it drops to the ground and its lengthy fangs promptly attempt to remove the arrow.

The cry of the large wolf snapping me out of my frozen state, I hurry to place myself between the beast and Squall.  With my pistol drawn, I step in front of the native just as the mutt breaks the shaft of the arrow and quickly moves to its feet.  No time wasted, the wolf runs forward and lunges at me.  Expecting the obvious attack, I knock away the beast such that the butt of my gun lands nicely against the side of its face.  Landing on its side, the wolf whines in pain, but lifts up onto its feet once more to shake off the effects of the strike which could have killed a normal animal.  More wary this time, the large mutt snarls at me while stepping slowly to the side in a circling move.

I chuckle at the beast's persistence, and then raise my gun to aim between dark eyes.  "You should know better by now," I mutter, promptly lowering the weapon to aim for a less vital area.

As my finger squeezes on the trigger, there is an increase to the curl of snarling lips as the beast seemingly smirks at me.  Unexpectedly, the creature jumps up just in time to dodge the bullet I had aimed for his foreleg.  Surprised that the large wolf was showing intelligence for a change, I lose a spare second, of which the beast takes full advantage as it launches forward into a fast run.  There is the brush of fur against my leg as the dark animal rushes past me.  Turning sharply, I try to grab onto the muttís tail, but the appendage slips through my gloved fingers and the wolf is suddenly free to attack Squall.

A long forgotten sense of horror overwhelms me as I watch the unnatural beast leap to place its claws into the nativeís flesh, the legendary abilities of vampires worthless to me with the wolf being too fast and the distance between it and the brunet too short.  The large body of the beast blocks the view of Squall from my sight, and for that split second, I feel my heart aching at the loss of the man.  Itís too soon for me to feel such ache again.  But the moment of self-pity ends abruptly when the wolf cries out in extreme pain.  Mildly confused, I watch as the beast continues on an arching path, its hind legs soon lifting higher than its head.  Squall comes back into view beneath the creature, the man kneeling with his hands against the underside of the beast as he uses its momentum to flip the animal over his head.

Everything happening in mere seconds, the large wolf lands hard onto its back and reveals the knife Squall had driven deep into its stomach.  Smirking at the unrealized skill of the native, I walk up to the fallen mutt and fire a bullet into its ass, something the wolf will be feeling for days to come.  Already suffering, it yelps pathetically at the added insult to its injuries and promptly falls unconscious.

"Well, that was a bit unexpected," I say while grabbing the hilt of the crude knife and jerking out from the limp body.  Glancing over at the still kneeling form of the native, my smile is lost when I get my first smell of fresh blood.  Instantly Iím at the brunetís side, his knife dropped onto the ground forgotten.  "Did he bite you?"

Slowly, Squall raises his head and pained eyes meet my worried expression.  As he straightens, I can clearly see the blood running down both his arms, the thick liquid glistening in the moonlight.  With little thought spent on how the native may respond, I lean over and lap at the cooling blood, Squall only flinching at my touch when my tongue agitates the deep slash near his shoulder.  With the first taste of his sweetness, I know that the defeated wolf hasnít tainted this man, but I can no longer control my hunger after sampling what I have been craving for days.

So lost in my taking of his freely flowing blood, Iím startled when his head lightly rests against my shoulder.  Leaning back far enough to look at Squall without him losing his support, I lick my lips at the sight of his eyelids lowered such that dark eyelashes brighten his pale eyes.  Abruptly, a severe shiver racks the lean figure and Squall presses in closer to me, his free hand grasping at my shirt in a childlike way.

"Are you alright?"

Squall blinks slowly before replying.  "He was so fast.  I did not see him come, but my knifeÖ"

Realizing that shock has settled over the young man, my hunger is forgotten as I wrap an arm around his back and place my hand at his neck to caress the sensitive flesh.

"I am bleeding," the native mutters as if realizing it for the first time.

"It looks like the mutt buried its claws into you, but it could have been worse."

Continuing to stare at a bloodied arm, Squall says quietly, "It will waste like this."

I smile at being given the permission I never really needed before.  But returning to lap at the blood along his upper arm, I find it much more satisfying this way.  I clean the tanned skin of blood, reluctantly stopping with one arm when I retrieve his bundled shirt to tear off a piece of the fabric to use as a bandage.  Moving to his other arm, I take longer to remove the thick fluid from his skin and savor the taste of his sweetness mixed with the saltiness of sweat.  Eventually I hear the dangerous slowing of his heart, but once I wrap a makeshift bandage around his upper arm, I continue where I had left off along deeply tanned skin, trailing my lips and tongue up his shoulder until I nibble lightly at the base of his neck.

"Seifer..."

I smile softly at my sighed out name and then rake my unnatural teeth along his skin.

His hands grab onto the back of my shirt in tight holds, his voice whispering softly, "What are you doing to me?"

"Nothing you don't want," I reply against his skin at the point where his pulse can be best felt.  Receiving no resistance from the native, I run one of my hands down his back while my other hand continues to massage the base of his neck in a both calming and vaguely restraining manner.  As my fingers slip below the waistline of his pants, the lithe body jerks forward in surprise, the movement of untouched innocence making me smile before I tilt his head to give me more room to taste behind his ear.

With an abrupt gasp, Squall pushes against me and moves to stand, but my arms around him prevent his escape.  Though ready to speak a comment to suitably embarrass the youth, I'm silenced by the horrified look to his blue-gray eyes as he focuses on a sight behind me.  I sigh at the ruined moment, just now feeling the warmth of the rising sun at my neck.

"Don't tell me that you didn't wonder what a wolf of his size was doing in a desert," I say while removing my arms from the native's body.

Pale lips parted, Squall says nothing while continuing to stare with widened eyes.

"If you have spare medicines, it wouldn't hurt for you to treat him."

Startled by my words, the brunet looks at me briefly to judge my sincerity, and though confusion quickly replaces the suspicious gleam to his eyes, the native stands up smoothly to walk toward his pack.  Feeling tired, I sit down on the thin grass and turn enough to view the fallen body while avoiding too much sunlight from shining in my sensitive skin.  As typical during the morning after, Kinneas is a mess while lying down on his side, naked as the day he was born.  His lengthy hair looks greasy from sweat and dirt, his body being in a similar state with the addition of painful injuries and the smearing of blood.  But despite all of that, his expression is one of blissful peace which only the unconscious and dead can achieve.

Squall is soon by the man's side, his elegant hands rubbing some Indian salve into the deep knife wound.  "Why did you not kill him?"

"You know he's a fast one.  I missed."

Glancing over his shoulder, the native subjects me to his gaze of penetrating ice.  "You meant to hurt him, not kill.  Why?"

I turn away from his pale eyes, convincing myself that it was merely the sun in my eyes which prompted me to look away.  "I already told you - I promised to watch over him."

"But he hunts you."

"It's no concern of yours," I reply harshly, pushing myself up onto my feet.  As I walk to my saddlebags, I feel the pressure of observant eyes lessen, and I glance back to find Squall returned to treating the injured man.  Anyone else would have died from those wounds, but a wolf isn't allowed to die a simple death.  Not even the minimal amount of silver I had fired into his body should kill him, but it will keep him unconscious for the next day or so.  Just long enough to get him to a doctor to lessen his pains as his body will rapidly heal the deep injuries.  While practically immortal, Kinneas will always suffer from his wounds, especially those which should have killed him.

In the time it takes me to ready the horses, Squall removes the remaining arrow shaft from the unconscious man and bandages all of the wounds with the torn material of his shirts.  The hint of a smile that the native attempts to hide while destroying his shirts was not lost to me.  But through his quick breakfast and most of the morning, Squall doesn't speak a single word, proving to me his stubbornness at wanting real answers to his questions.  He even silences me with frigid glares when I attempt to win him over with tales of the ocean he has yet to hear.

Halfway through a horribly quiet lunch, I finally surrender to his greater obstinacy.  "What do you want from me, Squall?"

"The truth," he replies in a neutral tone, as if the truth was the simplest thing for a person to speak.

Pulling my hat lower over my eyes, I look at the unconscious man now wearing my trench coat to protect his body from the harsh rays of the desert sun.  "My daughter asked me to watch over Kinneas if anything should happen to her."

Wide blue-gray eyes stare at me with unhidden surprise, the sight making me chuckle weakly.

"She wasn't my blood daughter in either sense of the word if that is what makes you curious.  Quistis was an orphan I stupidly took in.  She was a pathetic sight, like a doll made of bones and skin.  And her blue eyes were so large, their color reminding of the midday sky..."  I pause, momentarily lost in the imagines of the past until I shake my head to dispel those thoughts.  "I probably should've put her out of her misery back then, but I never could stomach the blood of children."

His food forgotten, Squall watches me with unreadable eyes, which is quite bothersome given my greater ability to judge the emotions of humans.  But right now it doesn't matter.  I haven't spoken of Quistis since her death and despite my previous worry, it's somewhat reviving to remember the old times.  And the fact that I'm speaking to another person who has managed to get under my skin in some inexplicable way, it's somehow less painful.

"It was my fault for not turning Quistis away when she had followed me home like a stray kitten, and I made it worse when she eventually started calling me 'Papa' and I never spoke a discouraging word.  It was stupid for a demon like me to..."  I close my eyes at sudden images of her mutilated body, her eyelids still flickering with live when I had returned home that one night years ago.

Abruptly there is warmth at my side, and my eyes snap open to find Squall kneeling before me, his hands holding onto one of mine as his shadow protects my face from sunlight.  I find silent strength in his gaze, the same hidden power which I can taste in his rich blood.

Lightly squeezing his hands, I continue.  "For ten years it was just me and her, and then she began training as a nurse, as if she could atone for the sins I have committed.  Anyway, by that time, Irvine started poking his nose into my business just like every other Kinneas hunter before him.  Feeling creative, I lured the kid into werewolf territory with the intention of watching a beast tear him apart.  Unfortunately the boy was more skilled than I assumed and he survived the night, but not without receiving the bite of a wolf.  By fucking chance alone, he ended up in the hospital where Quistis worked as a nurse.  Long story short, Fate hates me and they fell in love."

Squall frowns vaguely at my bitter tone, but says nothing.

"She stopped seeing me as much as she used to, but I guess Kinneas loved her enough to have a truce with her 'father'.  Then after a couple years, Quistis visited me out of nowhere.  At first I was ecstatic to have my daughter home, but with that first hug, I knew about the life she held within her.  I was always upset that she willingly risked her life with a werewolf, but to add a child into the mix enraged me.  There was no telling until birth if the tainted blood would be passed along, and Quistis herself could have been infected at any point."  Sighing, I lower my hat further.  "Suffice to say, we didn't have good words that day.  If I had known it would've been the last time, I would have tried to restrain myself."

At my pause, Squall moves one of his hands to lift the brim of my hat, enticing me to look into his stormy eyes.

"Why am I telling you these things?" I say in a voice no louder than a whisper.  He had asked me a simple question to which I should have given a simple answer, and yet I had rambled on like any fool.

He frowns vaguely in thought before saying, "Some wounds must bleed before they heal."

"I've already bled more than you can imagine."

"Not in the way you need to heal."

I scoff and place my gloved hand on his cheek.  "So young and ideal.  I should kill you before you learn that this world doesn't let your wounds heal.  Instead, old scars are constantly ripped open while new wounds are poked and prodded..."  Gazing into his eyes, I find myself with the overwhelming desire to fall back onto the ground and pull Squall along with me to lie down with him, to momentarily retreat from the world while hiding in the brunet's natural warmth.

"Seifer...?"

At the soft voice, I instantly recognize this man as an unexpected source of weakness for me.  Standing up from the thin grass, I pull my hat low over my eyes.  "Go home, Squall.  I no longer have a need for you."

The native glances up into my eyes, his expression unreadable and cold.  "I have no home."

"Don't lie.  We both know that woman will take you back without question."

Squall frowns before standing confidently before me.  "My life is yours."

"And I'm saying that I don't want it," I state tersely.  "Go back to your tribe and live a full life."

"No."

I tap up the brim of my hat to better smirk at the brunet's defiance.  Gazing directly into his eyes, I say, "Get on your horse and go home."

Instantly, Squall takes a step in the direction of his mustang, but stops in place with a strained sneer for several seconds before abruptly facing me.  "Do not control me."

I inwardly curse at his innate resistance toward my powers.  "I'm not taking you with me."

"Then kill me."

I straighten at the obvious solution to his stubbornness, but I can't find the resolve within me to take this man.  He protected me from Kinneas' snooping, he sheltered me from the sunlight numerous times, and he gave his precious blood willingly.  And perhaps I'm tired of playing the monster after all of these years.

But I let none of my inner conflict show as I approach the smaller man while removing my gloves.  Placing my bare hand on his cheek, I wonder at the lack of fear Squall holds toward me.  Casually, he leans into my touch to better expose his lengthy neck, the sight of exposed pulsing point making my fangs ache in sudden thirst.  I bend down to kiss his warm skin, but instead of biting the soft flesh, I focus my energy on coaxing the man into a deep sleep.  Squall flinches, and then tries to escape my closeness as he mutters something in his language.  But I don't release him, already feeling the strength leaving his body.

Eventually his body surrenders to my wordless demands and slumps to the ground before I catch him.  Lifting him up, I take him to where Kinneas is resting unconscious beneath the shade of trees.  I kneel for a time and stare at the peaceful form of the native, my bare hand unable to stop touching the warm skin.  But reminding myself that I can't afford such distractions, I draw back my hand to remove my hat and place it lightly over his face to block out the moving sun.

"If only this world were different," I mutter, and then promptly scoff at my wishful thinking.  Life simply isn't meant to be fair.  Why haven't I come to terms with that yet?

Sitting in a hard wooden chair, I smirk at the sour expression being directed at me by Kinneas, the bedridden man not pleased in the least by his wounds or company.  In a rough voice, he asks, "Why are you playing these games with me?"

"Quistis--"

"Don't lie, demon, and don't speak her name," Kinneas interrupts in a hiss.  "You killed her, and you expect me to believe that you're following some pledge you made with her?"

Some time ago I would have gotten angry at his words, but these days I'm too tired to care.  "I didn't kill her."

"I witnessed it with my own eyes, Almasy.  You can't deny your crime when I saw her blood on your hands and lips."

I shake my head, refusing to continue this endless line of discussion.  "Whatever you say, Kinneas.  Listen, I stuck around for one reason and that's to ask a favor."  I hold up a hand when he attempts to interrupt.  "I know you don't owe me anything, but all I'm asking for is a few month of time.  After that, you can hunt me all you like."

Violet eyes narrow with suspicion.  "What are you planning?"

"While it's none of your concern, it has to do with an unsettled score between me and another of my kind."

Kinneas straightens, in the process pulling one of his wounds.  "And how many humans are you planning to kill in those three months."

I shrug, not denying that I'll need to keep up my strength as I travel further west.

"Where's your companion?" he asks with a sneer.

The reminder of leaving Squall behind a few days back makes me frown.  "He's no longer here."

"I'm certain."

The thus far absent rage overwhelms me at the suggestion that it was obvious I would kill Squall, but once standing, that anger leaves me with a bitter laugh.  I was going to kill him.  I shouldn't kid myself into thinking that I wasn't planning to fed on him from the start of our 'relationship'.  "I take it that you aren't going to leave me alone, then?"

Kinneas frowns in thought before settling back into the pillows of the hospital bed.  "That protector of yours messed me up pretty bad.  I doubt I'll be moving before the week is up, and then I'll have to find where I stashed my Exeter and clothes..."

I stare at him, surprised that the hunter is going to give me the time I need.

"I made a promise, too, you know.  She wanted me to give you the benefit of the doubt."  He pauses for a moment of silence before saying, "Tell me again that you didn't kill her."

"I didn't."

Kinneas huffs, then looks out the nearby window.  "I still don't believe you, but a few months won't change anything.  Especially if you intend to rid the world of another vampire."

I smirk softly at the single-mindedness of the hunter.  "Maybe Quistis wasn't completely wrong about you having decent qualities."

"Get out of here, demon.  If I see you again, the truce is off."

I nod, but I can't resist asking a final question.  "How is my grandson doing?"

Kinneas shifts his eyes of hard amethyst in my direction.  "You have no grandson."

Realizing that I had pushed our conversation too far, I leave the shoddy excuse of a hospital and wince once subjecting my eyes to the afternoon sunlight.  My steps are slow and heavy as I return to the inn where I had rented a room for the week, not knowing when Kinneas would regain consciousness from the silver poisoning he suffered from.  I also didn't expect the longhaired man would quickly agree to a temporary truce, but now I can find my Mistress without the need to constantly look over my shoulder.

With thoughts and plans of the future months clouding my mind, I walk into the inn and pass through the bar without looking at the patrons for a suitable victim for the night.  I'll need the blood before traveling, but I can focus on that later.  Walking upstairs, I enter my room and quickly shed off my heavy trench coat to drop it on the bed.  But standing there, I pause in mid-motion of dropping the coat as my eyes settle on a white hat with a wide brim resting on the stained sheets.

"It is no surprise the wolf hunts you.  You are easy to follow."

 

{Continued}

 

Author's Whining -- Yes, yes.  Bad Suk for having a mild cliffhanger.  Frankly, after this part is a fairly long scene, so it was a choice between updating with a chapter or leaving everyone hanging for another couple weeks or so.  Just so you don't completely hate me, yes, Squall followed Seifer to the new town.  No surprise there, I'm certain.  Looks like this story should be another couple chapters, so I hope it stays enjoyable for you all.

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