Blood Bonds Pt. 11

byphoenixphair©

"You're on Facebook? How come I'm not your friend?" Sarah mock-pouted.

Talera muttered something unflattering about social networking websites in general and floated up the front sidewalk.

Sarah looked around as Talera unlocked the front door, wondering morbidly if the kids in the neighborhood ran up to the windows on Halloween, looking for ghosts. She could see their terrified faces peering through the slits between curtains, whispering to each other.

"There aren't any," Talera said flatly. "Not that I can tell anyway."

"Sorry," Sarah sighed, chagrin in her dark features.

"Why?" the other asked, genuine confusion on her face. "Nothing to be sorry about. Come on."

Flipping on the foyer light as they entered, the demon stepped back to let Sarah in, her flame eyes peering at everything in sight. The girl blinked. It looked like a family was still living there. An incredibly neat family, but still, the house looked completely occupied. No dustsheets. No packed up boxes. Shoes were lined up military straight along the wall near the door. A man's coat hung on a hook above them next to a Spiderman backpack and a pair of pink and black Rollerblades.

"After I left, I had the place maintained," Talera explained, obviously catching the direction of Sarah's thoughts as she slid off her sunglasses. "Took me a while to find a housekeeper that would step foot in here once a week to dust."

The demon stepped into a large, open living room, DVDs lined up in a built-in entertainment center, Playstation with all the accessories waiting on a lower shelf, couch with a plush throw over the back.

"I figured I'd just keep it exactly as it was until I felt I could deal with it," she said softly. "That's morbid."

Unsure of what to say, Sarah just walked over and took her hand, squeezing those cool fingers tightly. Talera seemed lost in thought, eyes roving over the room and the open kitchen beyond.

Catching sight of a family portrait above the giant television, Sarah picked it up gently, peering down into the four smiling faces that looked out at her.

Talera's mother— Taylor's mother— had been a petite, curvy woman, with her daughter's dark grey hair. Her eyes were a stunning pale blue, her smile bright and inviting. She was holding the hand of a tall, lanky man with black hair, a rusty grin and Talera's green eyes behind a pair of glasses. His hand rested on the shoulder of a small boy with black hair, blue eyes and a massive grin with one tooth missing. The boy had obviously been forced to dress up for the picture, his hair mom-combed straight and clothes unnaturally wrinkle-free for a kid his age.

Next to him stood an early teen version of Taylor. Her face was fuller, eyes smaller, frame slightly heavier. She was darkly tanned, grey hair shot through with white-blonde highlights, wearing a pair of small glasses. Through her smile, it was obvious that she knew she had way better things she could be doing. Typical of the fifteen or so she must have been in the shot.

"Beautiful family," Sarah said softly, tears threatening at the corners of her eyes.

"I was so annoyed when my mom dragged us to the portrait studio," Talera said with a soft chuckle. "Look how tan I was. I'd just gotten back from a trip to Destin with one of my friends, and I was way too cool to be there. My mom was so pretty."

"You have your dad's eyes. What was your brother's name?"

"Tyler," Talera laughed gently. "He was so annoying. Loved, loved, LOVED Spiderman. I don't know how many times he watched that movie when I had to babysit him. We were going to Universal Studios in Orlando the next summer to see the Spiderman ride they have there. Ty had a little calendar beside his bed where he'd put an X on the day every night..."

The demon trailed off, face distant. A sparkle of blood red tears echoed in her eyes, but none escaped.

There was a tentative knock on the front door, which echoed eerily through the empty home. Talera sighed, shaking her head.

"Do you want them to know what you are now?" Sarah asked, stepping in front of her friend. "Because you're going to have a hard time passing for human if you don't."

"It's that obvious?" Talera grimaced. "I don't want to want to have any impact on these people's lives. They don't need to..."

"Can you make your skin warm? Like yesterday?"

"Not after being out in the sun so long," Talera answered with a slight shake of her head. "It's fine; I can stay in the shadows."

"Won't work," Sarah said, shaking her head emphatically. "Way too bright in here. Drink."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa—" the vampire started to protest before the girl clapped a hand over her mouth.

"Just do it," Sarah glowered.

With one last hard glare that wasn't in the least frightening to the girl, Talera leaned in close to her friend, going up on her tiptoes. The cool lips pressed against Sarah's neck, and the next thing she knew, her knees gave out, head falling back.

Talera's moan was smothered against her warm skin, barely heard over the rush of her blood, the pound of her heart. Sarah fought to remain in the moment, her breath coming in short gasps, hands clutching at the backs of Talera's arms.

It was over in the space of twenty racing heartbeats. Sarah heaved a deep breath as her demon swept its tongue over the wound in her throat. Talera had to push back a smile as she smoothed Sarah's shirt, straightening the collar, sweeping a hand back through the girl's hair.

"Thanks," the vampire murmured, kissing Sarah's cheek softly. Closing her eyes, face the picture of concentration, she willed blood to her skin. Color flooded her snow-pale face, bringing a blush to her cheeks, warmth to her lips and hands.

"Much better," Sarah approved, reaching up and fussing with her friend's hair until it completely covered her elven ears. The doorbell rang again just as Sarah was motioning for Talera to turn in a slow three-sixty.

"Okay," the girl breathed, nodding. "You're good. Human as you've ever looked. How am I?"

"You look like you just gave blood," Talera snarked.

"Ha. Funny," Sarah shot back with a raised middle finger.

"God, I don't know if I can do this," the demon sighed as she went to the front hall. With one last deep breath, visibly resisting the urge to run a hand through her hair, she opened the door.

"Hello. Is Tayl—Oh! Taylor! It's you!" a reedy female voice came from outside. "I didn't recognize you at first!"

"Hey, Bai. Pete," Talera said, smiling warmly, though she kept her lips closed. "Come in, please. Meet my friend, Sarah."

Sarah stepped up, exchanging handshakes and pleasantries. The little Indian girl barely came up to her chest, the smallish redheaded guy topping out at about her chin.

Talera let Sarah lead them into the living room, probably hesitant to let someone who knew her before see how she moved now. The couple sat gingerly on the couch, Pete's eyes roving covertly, searching for bloodstains and bullet holes.

"Um, so... how have you been?" the little Indian asked, looking over at Talera, who'd taken a seat next to Sarah on a soft corduroy loveseat. "We were all worried about you."

"You just vanished," Pete put in, sounding almost hurt.

"Yeah," Talera said, voice almost a whisper, pitched much higher than usual, her eyes downcast, hands clasped between her knees. "I couldn't stay here. Anywhere near here."

"That's...understandable," Bhairavi said in a conciliatory tone, giving her boyfriend a sharp look. "What are you up to these days? You look...great—different—but great. And uh, is that a wedding ring?"

Talera glanced down at the platinum band on her left hand, fingering it for a second, black nails glinting. Sarah placed a hand on the demon's arm.

"Yeah, I got married to a great guy."

"Where is he? Is he coming too?" the Indian girl gushed, squeezing her boyfriend's hand ominously, wedding bells in her eyes.

"Ah, no. He's in Hokkaido. On business," Talera said with only a faint hitch in her voice.

"What's he like?"

"Oh, he's hot like you wouldn't believe," Sarah put in when her friend took a second too long to respond. She fluttered a hand near her neck for emphasis. Talera gave her a befuddled look for half a breath, then broke into genuine laughter, covering her mouth with a hand. "Tall, dark and all that. Built like a model."

"Wow," Bai laughed, face betraying only a tiny amount of jealousy. Pete sat stone-faced. The girlfriend scrambled to change the subject. "So, are you in school now? Or did you skip all that?"

"I graduated last year from Winecroft," Talera said. "Nothing special, just a BS major to get the certificate on the wall."

"What did you major in? Particle physics? Quantum theory?" Pete snorted. Seeing Sarah's expression, he clarified. "She was a genius in high school, but you never woulda known it with her obsession with the outdoors."

Talera smiled, but only shrugged.

"This chick would run out into a thunderstorm just to feel the wind," Pete continued, grinning when he saw Sarah's face light up with interest. "I can't believe you're so pale now. I thought sure you'd have skin cancer by now with all the time you spent in the sun."

"I spend a lot of time in the air," Talera informed them. Sarah kicked her lightly in the side of the shin.

"Oh, that's good," Bai put in, smiling broadly. "You always wanted to travel.-

"I certainly do that."

"Are you going to settle down? Have a couple of kids?" Bai asked, catching Pete's hand again.

"It's not on the to-do list at the moment," Talera said dryly.

The last ten minutes of the conversation passed uneventfully. With a few last good-byes and pleas to email soon, the two were headed back down the street, both looking back with curiosity and sadness in their eyes.

"That was fun," Talera sighed.

"Do you ever wonder what would have happened?" Sarah asked. "What you'd be doing right now?"

"No," the vampire stated flatly, shaking her head, flames returning to her eyes as she looked back at the pictures on the mantle.

"What are you going to do with the house now?"

"I can't keep it a shrine forever, can I?" Talera breathed, looking all around her. "Sell it, I guess. The neighborhood is still good. Nice, normal people. It could be a happy home once more."

**

Kevin stretched, yawning mightily, carefully disentangling himself from the disarray of bodies amidst the pile of giant pillows in the corner of the cabin. He shifted back to human form, popping the kinks out of his back as he made his way to the shower, stepping over sleeping Lycans in various states of form and clothing.

A pile of clothes lay on the counter when he stepped out of the hot spray, no trace of who'd put them there. He sniffed, but with so many bodies around, it was impossible to tell who'd been where recently. After dressing, he slipped out the back door, coming back around to the central area. Pershing leaned sideways against one of the massive boulders, talking to Sarah who sat four feet up, long legs swinging as she munched on a slice of watermelon, trying in vain to catch rivulets of juice with her tongue before they ran down her arm. Talera sat on the ground in the deep shade of the rock, elbows crossed atop her knees, head bent against her arms, though if she was asleep he couldn't tell.

Rustles and crashes in the woods told Kevin that a few other Wolves were awake and hunting or exploring, though most were out until nightfall. Without a watch, the big blonde guessed it was around five in the afternoon.

"...don't you just go lie down in one of the cabins?" Pershing was asking Talera, smirk on his face. "No one will bite."

"I bite," she huffed, words muffled against her legs.

"Showing off?" Kevin rumbled, grinning down at Talera as he hopped up to sit next to Sarah. The girl leaned into his side, letting him wrap his arm around her shoulders.

"What is the world coming to when a vampire rises before the Lycans?" the vampire muttered in response.

"All due respect, Lady Talera but it's... just wrong," Pershing noted, looking at her with renewed interest. "You really should be a torch by now."

She shrugged, but didn't raise her head. Pershing raised a hand and gave Kevin's a manly clasp, nodding at him. "Sleep well?"

"Yeah, actually," the boy said, grinning. "I was so beat at dawn I just passed out. Never thought I'd sleep so well with a big, hairy man using me as a pillow."

Sarah loosed a loud laugh before she could stop herself, cheeks coloring. Kev pecked a kiss on the top of her head, mussing her curls with one hand. She reached on her other side, her hand returning bearing two footlong subs on a big plate.

"Hungry?" she asked, beaming at him.

"Bless you," he sighed, taking it and tearing into the roast beef like he'd been starving for weeks.

"These two definitely earned their brownie points today," Pershing chuckled. "Ever wonder how much in the way of sandwich fixins' can fit into a Caddy?"

"The entire deli counter at the local grocery, plus all the packaged stuff," Sarah supplied. "Plus, if you let a supernatural creature flash back and forth, you can get half the potato chip aisle and most of the bread into the woods in less than five minutes."

"If you're looking for dinner suggestions," Pershing directed at Talera, who was still as a statue. "The sheriff made it a point to come out earlier. Mentioned in passing the trouble locals are having with a nasty bunch of drug pushers a few valleys to the west. Don't think he'd notice them going missing."

"Is that the catch of the day? Or the appetizer?" the vampire mumbled.

"They know what you are around here?" Sarah asked.

"Not officially," Pershing said with a shrug. "Locals know to stay out of the woods at full moon. And they've appreciated the lack of crime around here for the last two hundred years."

"I think the law may need to go check their information," Kev said through a mouthful of sandwich. "Their intelligence may be outdated."

"Damn, you got them already?" Pershing asked, turning on Talera, amazement and smug annoyance in his expression.

"Not all of them," the demon mumbled against her legs. "I have a surprise for y'all come dark."

With that, she melted back into the shadow and was gone. The black-haired wolf let out a chuckle that simultaneously made Sarah's cheeks heat and her skin go cold. Leaning over to see what her friend was doing, Sarah sighed when she realized Talera was vanished.

"Where do you think she goes?" Pershing wondered aloud.

"I don't wanna know," Sarah huffed, leaning back against Kevin, offering him a drink from her other side.

"She did bring us dinner," Kevin pointed out.

"Why do I get the feeling you're not referring to the sandwiches?" the girl half-scoffed, half-laughed.

"You wanna join us?" Kevin leered, flashing his teeth.

"Ah, hell, kids are up," Pershing sighed, and with a nod to them, was off in the direction of a far cabin, barking commands in Lycan.

A tidal wave of children rushed out the door at him, shrieking and laughing, stumbling over one another to be the first to kneel before him. He gave them a lecture in their language for a while, making sure each solemn face understood him. Then with a grin, he stripped out of his clothes, shifted into a massive black wolf and bounded into the woods. Scrambling to their feet, all the kids tore after him, many ripping out of their clothes as they shifted on the fly.

"I was actually serious," Kevin said after a long moment. "Not so much about the hunt."

"About joining you?" Sarah asked, surprise on her mahogany features. She looked up into his copper eyes, seeing pain there. "What is it?"

"I don't—I can't watch you die," the wolf said after a few breaths.

"Kev, I'm not going anywhere," Sarah said, smiling softly at him, reaching up to touch his cheek. "I'm not going to die."

"Ever?" he asked, lifting a brow.

"Well, I—" she started, then frowned. "I don't know what to do."

"Then let me do it," he rushed on. "Or let her do it. Or Ana. Don't waste your life."

"What right do I have to want it?" Sarah hissed back, tears pooling in her dark eyes. "What right do I have to want more than what I've been given?"

"What right?" the wolf asked, bewildered. "Whose permission do you need?"

"I don't know, Kev," she snapped, eyes roving as more and more people and wolves emerged, yawning, from the cabins. "I wanted a normal life. I always did. From the time I was a little girl."

She stopped, muffling a sob with one hand.

"But now...I just don't know anymore," she continued, tears rolling down her cheeks as her gaze moved to the sun setting through the trees. "I worry about my mom and dad. About all of you. And there's no one to tell me what I should do. There's no guide to life that I can read or study or learn from."

"Then wing it."

"It's not that easy. Look what happened with your family."

He sighed, looking down at his lap then back up at the moon as it rose a little higher against the crimson rays of the melting day.

"My parents know too much. Always have. And it wasn't to my benefit," he murmured. "I understand now why they always have a funeral, inform the former family that we've died. Death is easier than the truth sometimes."

"How could I do that to them? Let them think I died?" she asked, voice pleading.

He was silent for a long moment, looking down at her, though she kept her gaze on the sun.

"If you were to ask them whether or not you should pass through life like everyone else, or if you should take the opportunity, never grow old, never die, what would they say?"

"I don't know," she sighed.

"Sar, we can make it work," he whispered in her ear, leaning down to kiss her jawbone.

"Ooooh! Kissy-kisseee!" shrieked a tiny voice out of nowhere.

They both looked down, startled, to see a tow-headed little boy making an exaggerated kissy-face up at them, to great comic effect. Clearing her throat, Sarah turned, pecking Kevin on the cheek, wiping the tears out of her eyes. He gave her a smile, but the expression behind it said that the conversation wasn't over.

"Where's the demon?" the little boy asked, puffing out his chest with all the fearlessness he could muster at eight years old. The dark woods behind him teemed with animals and people, many carrying stuffed sandwiches on overwhelmed plates.

"Think you can take her, Alexander?" Kevin asked, arching a brow.

Sarah smothered a grin when she saw the movement behind the kid.

"I KNOW I can," the boy growled, clenching his little hands into fists and punching at the air in front of him. "I'm gonna be Alpha one day."

Sensing something behind him, the kid turned, only to shriek when he found Talera about two feet away, wings unfurled, all eight fangs bared in a grin. He skittered back, a scream still caught in his throat before he gathered himself, shaking a little.

He extended a hand, shivering when she slid her claws back in right before taking it.

"My mother told me to tell you thank you for bringing dinner, Lady Talera" he managed, then turned his head to Sarah, extending her an imperious nod. "And you as well, Lady Sarah."

"You're very welcome," Sarah returned in the same tone, giggling silently.

"Hey," the boy asked, looking up at Talera, then back down at her hand, which he hadn't released. "You're all warm. I can smell human on you too. Were you hunting already? I thought Blood Drinkers couldn't come out in the daytime."

"I'm special," the demon smiled, wings vanishing as she took a knee.

"Can I see your claws again?" Alexander asked, awe on his features now. "I wish mine looked like that."

She extended her talons to their full length, on the ready to pull them back if he went to touch, but the kid was too much the predator already to do anything so foolish. Grinning, he held out an arm to her, his blue eyes going solid red.

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