Battle for Blood Ch. 04byEliya©
So no one seemed to mind the length of the last installment so here it goes. Enjoy the story. I'm a total sucker for positive reinforcement so tell me if you like this. Also, as a first time submitter I'd be in your debt for any tips or suggestions. Happy readings.
Shane began walking that evening. John and Greta beamed at her as she hobbled, clutching Cole's hand, to the dinner table. Shane was quiet through the meal though friendly. Cole appreciated her keeping up the act. They were in a very precarious position and he needed to make their exit as seamless and quick as possible. The doctor would not remember anything of her last meeting with him and would only be able to recall Cole or Shane vaguely, but there was no telling when John and Greta would speak to her next and when questions would start being asked.
At first John and Greta would hear none of it.
"The girl is barely on her feet. How can you think about leaving now?"
"You should really stay. Shelly will take care of you and you can head out soon."
Cole shook his head at them. "You are very kind but we have been gone from our lives for over a week and we must get back. There are plenty of doctors in Boston and Amy will be just fine." He didn't like calling her that. Such a silly name to give her. He didn't know why he'd picked it.
"I'm really okay." Shane decided to speak up. "I'm so grateful to both of you for all you've done. I don't know how to thank you. I need to get home though. Thank you for your concern."
Greta tried to argue but John gave in. The next day they said their goodbyes as the couple dropped them off in town. Greta gave Shane a great hug, the kind of hug she had never felt before. Something long lost or never felt pulled in her chest. It was a mother's hug. She turned away before they could see her cry.
Her body burned. The brief flashes of discomfort she had experienced at John and Greta's cabin were nothing to the prolonged misery of real withdrawal. It had only been one day since she and Cole had arrived at this safe house and already her body felt worse than she ever thought possible. She still wasn't sure why they had left so quickly from the cabin but the pain was the only thing on her mind now. Cole hadn't told her all the details of what he had found out from the doctor but it was clear her rescue mission had been part of something much bigger than she had initially assumed.
They borrowed money from John and Greta, who refused to hear of them returning it though she knew Cole had done just that when they had reached his house in Boston. It had taken them a full day's travel to make it back. Cole held her close but refused to talk details until they were alone Shane fairly itched with questions during those long hours on the Greyhound bus but she decided to let it rest. She watched as the woods gave way to rolling fields that seemed to stretch on forever and then, finally, back to great pine and maple forests. She curled her body in her seat, shifting the loose jeans and flannel shirt Greta had leant her. She wondered if she would ever wear her own clothes again. Only when they made their last transfer in Syracuse did Cole relax slightly. He still did not speak much. When she snuck peeks at him she could see his jaw flexing beneath his skin.
What was she doing kissing a vampire? She had never sought love or romance. She had watched it on television, read it in books, and when it came down to it all her experience told her that was fiction, plain and simple. Rugged, good-looking men did not appear out of nowhere to solve all the woman's problems. There were no fairy tale princes in her tiny little corner of the world. She had been brutally used by everyone she had ever come across and still that did not pain her, as she had been lead to believe it should have.
Life is a funny thing. One could get used to almost anything. And here she was, dependant on a vampire who had all but killed her and brought her back to life, the only one who had ever tried to save her or simply repay her for what she had done. He was the only person who ever said 'Thank you.' She went back to the scene outside, dreading the coming days. The sun dappled clearing where John and Greta had lived seemed like a haven compared to the unknown dangers ahead. They had been kind, strangers out of a movie, generous to a fault and so loving to her.
She was relieved that her body was picking up speed in the healing process. The bus ride had given her the time to reach out into her body and feel the hurts she hadn't had the strength to explore before. She focused on her body, reveling in the strength returning to her limbs. She closed her eyes and turned inwards, feeling every part of her, willing the bruises to heal and the damaged bones to rebuild. Her blood coursed through her veins again unimpeded. She pumped her heart faster, flexing her muscles and feeling life reach into every extremity.
"Stop that!" Cole whispered in her ear. She opened her eyes. He sounded out of breath. He looked at her with a mix of hunger and fear. "What are you doing?"
"Healing," she said quietly, not wanting to disturb the sleeping passengers near them. "I finally feel well enough to focus on it. It's fine. I used to do it all the time. What's wrong?" He was looking at her strangely again.
"This is another thing you didn't tell me about."
"Can't you do it?"
"Heal? Of course, but I don't have control over it. It happens when I get hurt. It certainly doesn't make my heart beat like yours is." She noticed a slight waver in his voice, as if he was holding himself back. She hadn't realized that being so close to her as she replenished her body would strain his control. The burning desire was still there in his eyes. Her flushed skin and pounding heartbeat must have be terribly enticing.
"Sorry. I didn't realize," she mumbled, looking back out the window.
"Shane," he said. She looked back at him. "Tell me about this. How do you heal?"
"My dad figured it out. He said that because I have vampire senses I must be able to know what is going on inside my own body. He taught me just to listen. One time, he broke my arm and talked me through understanding what was going on inside and I realized I could heal the wound by focusing on the process my body was already performing. It's easier once my body begins healing on it's own but I can do some of it instantly. The Teacher taught me how to do it during a fight. It came in handy when I came to get you." Shane shuddered, remembering her father's calm voice as he strapped her arm down. Unconsciously she began rubbing her right forearm.
Cole could feel the wave of hurt that radiated from the memory. He leaned over to kiss her cheek but the sound of her pulsing vein in his ears was too much. He jerked back. She looked over at him. About to reach out to touch him, she held herself back.
"I'm sorry. I didn't think."
He shook his head, gritting his teeth. He hadn't had human blood since the doctor two days before. He had been doing ok but the confined space and the multitude of warm human bodies beating around his head had worn him down over the last few hours. A young man walked by them, on his way back to the bathroom. Cole made a quick decision and got up to follow him.
"Cole!" Shane hissed. This was a dangerous game. Cole looked at her, eyes glazed in hunger. She realized he was not going to make it to Boston before he needed to feed. She crawled across his seat to watch as he followed the man. She gripped the armrest as the man opened the door to the bathroom. In a blur, Cole closed the distance between them and pushed the man into the tiny stall. In a second the door was closed tight and no sound emerged. Shane squeezed the armrest as she tried to quiet the panic rising in her throat. The bus stayed quiet, no one had noticed anything. Time seemed to slow down as she waited for some sign from the bathroom. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Cole appeared, closing the door behind him.
He returned to their seats looking cheerful. "Do you know what this means?" he whispered conspiratorially.
"What?" Shane said, still confused and reeling from what just happened.
"You might be able to use this to heal during the withdrawal process." He was excited. The blood had helped. He no longer looked drawn and shifty.
"What? Cole! I don't care! What just happened to that man? Is he okay? Are you okay? You can't just run off hunting and come back to the conversation like you just went to get some tea."
Cole chuckled. "It's fine. I'm not some baby vamp who can't control himself. The man will be out shortly and he won't remember anything. But we have more important things to deal with. I think this may be a brilliant turn of events."
Shane was looking at him strangely. "How old are you?"
Cole shrugged. "It's not that important. The point is that this could save you. Can you sense the blood cells that are dependant on the vampire blood?"
"You'll tell me eventually, right?" Shane asked. He hadn't been terribly forthcoming since they met. She had told him everything but she still knew very little about him.
"Of course, no doubt I'll entertain you for days with stories ripped from the history books. Now focus, can you feel it in your system?"
Shane gave him a skeptical look and settled into her chair. She closed her eyes and turned her gaze inwards to the darkness beneath her skin. When she 'looked' into her body she was actually feeling, with perfect precision, each function and process her body went through. She had gone down to the cellular level before, but never for very long, the focus it took to individuate the billions of cells in her veins was beyond her reach at this point. She shifted her focus to her heart and then moved on; the blood was moving too fast for her to capture. She tried the lungs but the oxidation process was too noisy.
Finally she settled in her liver, focusing in deep on the blood coursing through the organ. She ignored the hum of the bus, the sweat that broke out across her skin and the headache that threatened to crash over her if she continued. Slowly, her blood cells began to differentiate themselves; she could feel the tiny vessels rush by the point of her concentration. Some of them felt different, she latched on to the stream and flowed with the cells. Some of them felt wrong She tired to focus on the bad ones, feeling the sinister little enemies out to poison her blood. Suddenly her head screamed; her breath caught in her throat making her choke. Her eyes flew open and she coughed hard. She felt a small trickle make its way down her nose onto her lip.
Cole pressed a cloth against her upper lip, catching the blood. She started breathing normally and took the rag from him. "I'm not that good yet," she said.
Cole swallowed the guilt that built up from watching her strain herself on his request. "Shane, I'm sorry. I didn't realize."
She flapped her hand at him, dismissing his concern. "Don't worry about it. Once the healing process starts up I may have more luck. Blood cells are slippery little guys. It's hard to get a hold on them. But yeah, I felt the bad ones." She pulled the saturated rag from her face. The nosebleed had stopped. She recognized the cloth as the cuff of the shirt Cole had borrowed from John. She saw the frayed edge of Cole's right sleeve where he had ripped it off a moment before. She smiled at him. "Thanks. You're probably right. It will help when the time comes."
Now the time had come but Shane couldn't focus. Each time she turned inwards the searing heat and nausea over came her. She could barely focus enough to keep breathing much less use huge stores of energy to focus on her blood cells.
Cole's safe house was in a large warehouse on the waterfront. The industrial neighborhood boomed during the day with shipping yards and laborers. But at night, the whole place was deadly quiet. The living area was below the main floor, accessible through several entrances, each one hidden and leading to a different escape route. The actual space was a large concrete room with little decoration. In one corner there was a refrigerator, stocked with blood bags and little else, a shelf with glasses and some other odds and ends. There was a standing sink with clean water, a small kitchen table and several mismatched chairs. The bed, on the other side of the room, was huge and set off the floor on a platform. Blackout curtains were folded up against the four posts of the bed frame and the canopy was made of the same dark material. The door to the bathroom was nearby. The bathroom was surprisingly bright; old tiles were clean and colorful. There was a large bathtub with a showerhead, no curtain but a drain in the floor to catch the water that splashed out. The tiles in the far right corner concealed an escape down to the sewer system.
Shane gazed alone the old patters of the tiles on the walls. The ice that surrounded her helped slightly as it touched her skin but it melted all too fast. She was dressed in one of Cole's large button down shirts and a pair of his underwear but they were soaked with water and sweat. The ice bath had cooled her for the time and she attempted to focus inwards to no success. The pain was more overwhelming than she could have imagined. Cole appeared in the doorway with a bucket. She could feel him there though she couldn't bring herself to move her aching body. He came over and knelt by the tub.
"Any luck?" he sounded so hopeful. She managed the smallest shake of her head. "Don't worry. You are doing great." His voice seemed overly enthusiastic. He began grabbing handfuls of ice from the bucket and placing them on her body. He could feel the heat radiating from her even as he placed more ice over her. The shirt clung to her skin. He could see the outline of her breasts, the small nubs of her nipples and the breath that moved her chest. He smoothed the ice over her, pushing it against her exposed neckline, watching as drips of water slithered down her skin. He brought an ice cube to her lips. She took it in her mouth, which burned with the heat of her body. He repeated the process until she had drunk her fill. She looked up at him as he rubbed ice down her long legs, blowing softly to cool the skin in its wake.
"Tell me a story," she whispered, the fiery breath burning her throat as she spoke. He brought another ice cube to her lips, rubbing it against the cracked skin to give her some relief.
"What would you like to hear?" Someone with as many years as he did should have been able to come up with something but he found himself at a loss. He couldn't focus on anything but her. Once again he was confronted with her mortality, the cruel way the world imposed itself on her body. He wanted her to be made of steel and diamonds, impossible to break.
"Tell me about the world when you were a man." Her eyes were closed but he could sense her alertness, the pain in her body keeping her all too conscious.
"I wish I could say life was quieter back then. Alas it was not to be. I was born in the fading years of the Western Empire. Rome had been quite a power. It did not die quietly. I was born in a tiny village cut into the coast of the Italian peninsula." He told her about the smell of the sea and the vast stretches of land without the touch of human hands. He told her of the marvels of indoor taps and bathhouses in the big cities. He explained the religion of old and the gods they prayed to. His voice seemed to sooth her so he continued.
"I was born at a time when the word was changing. Rome was becoming Christian and in our little seaside village, sheltered from the outside world by steep cliffs and harsh tides, we remained ignorant of it for a long time. My mother used to say, 'the rule of man changes but the rules of the mother of the earth remains constant. Now get to work.'"
Shane smiled and tried to speak. "I know," Cole said to sooth her. "You can't imagine me with a mother. I wasn't always like this you know. Anyway, eventually I became a man, a husband and father, more or less unaware at the tides of history changing at my doorstep. They came for soldiers and took the fishermen, farmers and craftsmen. We sailed across the sea to fight an enemy we did not know. The result was brutal. An emperor slain, the Roman army from both East and West empires defeated, and I lay on the ground, injured from I know not what, waiting to die with the screams of dying men in my ears.
"I don't know how long I lay there, unable to walk or move. I know they slaughtered the injured and it became dark, my silence had spared me the quick death of a sword and I wasted there. As the light of morning crept into the sky, my maker came to feed. He, and many other vampires were taking full advantage of the human upheaval. He was alone, drawn by the soft beating of my heart. After he fed I was not dead. I don't know what made me hold on but I felt it fiercely important not to die, to keep going. He looked at me and laughed. For a human, he said, I had a fighting heart. He gave me the choice to join him or die a mortal death. I chose the unknown. In all my years that was the greatest mistake I ever made."
Shane shifted in the pool of water, spotted with the last shreds of melting ice cubes. "Please, don't stop. Talk to me about anything."
"My maker kept me with him for over a decade, pillaging the outskirts of the Visigoth camps. They would turn to Rome, he said, and it would all be over. He was not so old. He was made only a few decades before, still within the life span of a mortal. But he was bored with his lot and he kept me to be his companion, hunter, whatever he wanted. My human life as a fisherman did not prepare me with suitable skills but I knew, soon after I was turned, that I would be more powerful than my maker. Some people just take to this life. I took to it very quickly." He told her of his first years, hiding from the sun and traveling overland back to Italy. He spoke to her about his maker, the insignificant vampire who had given him this life like someone adopting a puppy. He told her things he had long forgotten, things he hadn't told anyone before. He spoke to her for hours, talking her through the worst of the pain, holding her when her body threatened to shake her consciousness free.
Finally her body began to cool. She shuddered with relief and began to nod off in the tub. He lifted her out, ignoring her soaking clothes and wrinkled skin. She woke when he laid her on the foot of the bed.
"I have to change," she said quietly.
Cole handed her a large t-shirt but she had no strength left. Her fingers slid uselessly around the wet buttons of his shirt. He helped her. She blushed as he helped her sit up and pulled the drenched shirt from her breasts. He tried to be as gentlemanly as possible though he longed to cup her firm breast, rolling her small puckered nipples between his fingers. He slid the dry shirt over her head and pulled the wet boxers from her bottom, yanking the shirt so she was covered. He could feel her embarrassment at having to be dressed. He picked her up and laid her on the bed, covering her with the soft blanket. She murmured something as she nodded off. He smoothed her wet hair from her face. This was only day one. The worst was yet to come.
He woke with a start. Shane was awake, her eyes burning with fever. She had bit her lip till it bled to keep from screaming. For a split second he considered giving her his blood again, anything to keep her from this pain, but he held back.
"Shane," he whispered, smoothing her hair from her face and stroking her fiery cheek. "Shane, are you with me?" Her eyes seemed far away, glazed with heat and pain. It took a few seconds for her to focus on his face. Tears trickled from the corners of her eyes. He kissed them away as they made their way towards her hair. "It's okay. I'm here. How about an ice bath?"