Consciousness came slowly. It felt different; waking was no longer a dreaded thing. He felt more like his old self than he had in a long time. Just the thought of that sweet boy who slept nearby and the promise of others, made him want to shout his joy from the rooftops. He would have to take his new one out tonight and pamper him. New clothes, a good dinner, perhaps a show, then maybe a nightclub where they could dance and he could woo Jason with shameless abandon.
*So you are awake, finally, and unbelievably full of yourself. * Azrael commented. The amusement in the older vampire's thoughts brought a chuckle from Michael.
*And hello to you too. Yes, I'm awake. I'll be down soon. I must go and wake my pet. I have such a night planned. It will be good to actually live again. *
*Bring him by before you leave. I did not get a chance to really meet him. I will have Valerie bring a light meal for him to the den. He is going to be starving. *
*Thank you. * He rose and stretched. The blood he had consumed the previous night was still potent. He felt the life within him glowing. A shower, then it would be time to care for his little friend.
* * *
Jason sat up blinking as the light came on.
"Up, boy," Michael commanded, bouncing into the room. "Come, you must be famished. I am so sorry I forgot to order you food, as I promised. I'll be more careful in the future. Quick shower and shave, and I'll have you fed. Azrael has asked one of his to fix you something." He tossed a pair of jeans and a T-shirt on the bed. "Come on, blue eyes, time to get cleaned up." He stopped the patter when he saw Jason's awed, surprised stare. "What is wrong?"
"It was all real," the boy said. "It wasn't some weird dream or fantasy." He showed honest surprise. "You're a vampire, and I'm here with you."
Michael threw his head back and laughed. "Yes, pretty one, I'm real and you are here, now hop." He held out a toothbrush and toothpaste. "Hurry, go bathe. I must not only get you fed, but you must feed from me."
Jason rose to head for the bath, when the clank of his chain reminded him. "Can I be free, now?"
"Oh," Michael pulled out the key. "I'm sorry, Jason. Now quick, we have a long night."
But instead of hurrying, Jason reached out to touch his arm. "Good morning," he blushed, "Master."
Michael brushed his lips against Jason's "Good evening, love, now go. I'm anxious to be off."
Jason moved in a daze. He had been ready to accept anything his master came up with, but the free, friendly greeting wasn't what he had envisioned. It was as if Michael had rewritten the
script. He was a 'vampire' , for Gods sake. He should be dark and mysterious, with a heavy Eastern European accent. But, no, he behaved, for the entire world, like a college student.
The water was hot and helped him to focus his thoughts. Sleep had helped to brighten his outlook. Okay, so he was really living with a vampire now. Maybe he was nothing more than a glorified pet, but he believed Michael, and knew he'd live longer and better here, than free anywhere. The very, thought, of Michael. And, their relationship created a pleasant tightness in his groin. No one had ever made him feel like that before. He smiled. His mind was definitely heading for the gutter.
"All right," Michael said, amused, "enough of that, later. I swear, is that, all you want me for? Now hurry pet. We won't always be so rushed, but I overslept and I don't want to miss a moment of my return to life."
Jason turned off the water. "Me? Let's remember who offered whom five hundred bucks." The shower curtain parted. "For future reference." He accepted the towel. "If you do that again, not so much. I was desperate. I'd have gladly taken a hundred dollars and let you do anything."
"And I would have offered more if I had had to." Michael thought about it. "But perhaps you are right. Too much makes people suspicious. I saw it in your eyes."
"Yeah well," he mumbled around the toothbrush. "You learn the hard way fast, the more money, the more they expect. When you're used to getting thirty to fifty dollars a trick--" he spat out the foam "--you see what I mean."
"I do. What decided it for you?" Michael enjoyed the view as Jason walked around naked.
"I don't know, really. Maybe it was because I really needed the money, and you looked so concerned." He smiled and shyly reached for Michael. "And you were clean. So many of them aren't, you know."
"So you said 'Yes' because I bathe regularly." Michael's laughter felt freer than it had in years. "My, but you have such a small list of requirements."
"No, that just decided it. The money was the key. Between the insurance and Mom and Dad's Social Security, Jenny's medical bills are covered and she'll get all the care she needs. But rent, food, and nurses, for when I'm not there, add up. That takes money. We don't have much, and our place isn't large, but it's clean and in a good neighborhood. My folds didn't have life insurance, stupid of them, I know. But they were planning to go in a crash either. So, money like what I needed to keep her up I can't get even if I worked two jobs at my age. So I did the only thing I could; I made it the quickest way I knew that didn't involve drugs."
"Does your sister know?" Michael held out the jeans. They, were, an old pair of Azrael's--a gift--that had been too large, besides, denim was beneath him.0
"Yes." Jason pulled on the pants. "It didn't take long for her to figure it out. But what could we do? She's my baby sister."
"How are you going to explain where the money is coming from now?"
Jason stopped shirt halfway on. "I'll tell her as much of the truth as I can. I got myself a rich boyfriend. She thinks I'm gay anyway, because of what I let men do to me."
"Boyfriend?" It was so quaint; he was being passed off as this child's 'boyfriend' . "I personally prefer the word lover. I'm over eleven hundred years old. 'Boyfriend' is a term that really doesn't apply to me."
"She's sixteen; you say lover and she's gonna think boyfriend." He dropped and groped for his socks and boots.
Jason paused. That wasn't a question about Jenny. "Excuse me?"
"You have changed. You aren't terrified anymore."
Jason shrugged. "I'm a realist. I can't stop you; you've proven that. If I tried to run away or tell anyone, that is, if I could find anyone who would believe me, I'd probably be toast. You can read my mind. I started this so I could take care of my sister, and that's what I'm doing. Believe it or not, but the thought that you plan to use me as dinner is not near as scary as some of the things those guys did to me." He lifted his chin to lock stares with Michael. "I don't know about the hundred and fifty years or any of that. But I did feel something when you bit me, and then when I--you know, when you cut yourself--that was the most bizarre thing I ever felt in my life. So here I am." He didn't flinch when Michael pulled him close. "I gave my word. I'm yours, so I might as well come to grips with it."
"I'm glad." Michael gave him a light kiss. "Although I do hope that you decide later that there is more to your willingness than just your sister." It was too soon for true devotion or love. "Now come, you have to be starving."
* * *
Jason looked around him as they walked down the hall. He'd been too scared to see things clearly last night. The hallway was half-paneled in dark wood, with pictures that looked genuine and valuable. There were assorted knickknacks on wood tables or small stands. Nothing overly showy, but you could tell that the house's owner had money 'and' taste. "Nice place."
"Yes, Azrael is so fussy about the decorations. I'm not so picky. You'll have to change your living space to suit you, when we go home. Me I'm content with a bed in a dark room, and a big screen TV with an overstuffed chair in front of it. The rest does not touch me much."
Jason shook his head. He should have known. He would wager money that if he tried to hang a picture, his new master would hyperventilate over the hole in the wall where the nail went in.
Michael picked up that thought, and chuckled, to himself.
They entered the den, and Jason almost laughed. Azrael looked like a vampire poster.
"Good evening," the older vampire greeted. He sat on the couch, with a young black woman curled up against him on one side, a pale, elfin-looking girl on the other, with Maria on his lap and Nicole leaning against his leg. A large television was on. "Join us. I have just been catching up on the daily news with the girls."
"A sultan in his harem could not look as smug as you do."
"Smug, I? I am not the one who's pet kept my host up all night with erotic fantasies. Shield him or move him farther away from my resting-place. If you do not, I warn you that you shall end up sharing him."
"As long as you don't end up snatching him, I don't care. He's delightful and very giving. You will be as pleased as I am." He pulled Jason closer. "Pet, this is my Sire, the one that gave me the gift. My Sire, Azrael."
"Hello, pet. Jason, correct?" The boy was adorable. 'Too bad I did not see him first' .
"Yes sir." Okay, what do you say to the next up in line? "It's good to meet you sir. Your house is really nice."
Azrael chuckled. "Oh, my, Megel, he is a joy. Relax boy. Call me Azrael. No need to stand on formality, unless your lord orders it. He is your master, not I".
"You are the master of this house and all within it," Michael said, tilting his head to Azrael. "For now, unless it is in the privacy of the bedroom, or in the world outside, he must learn the proper way of communicating."
"Oh, dear. Jason, you have me to thank for this. Megel, who you know as Michael, was my first. I wanted to do everything right back then. I have mellowed in my old age. He will, too, one day, but for now, he is somewhat younger than I am when I took my first. When you measure time in experiences rather than years, we were about the same age. So for now, he is going to follow the formula to the letter, even down to chaining you at night even though it is plain that you are completely his. I know it will seem cruel, but really he is only going by what he was taught. So, if you must be aggravated with someone over it, it really should be me."
"I understand, Master. Don't worry about it. I'll wait." He looked at Michael trying to get him to see how much he accepted this.
"I am glad. Now eat, and welcome to my house. Until you leave, treat it as if it were your home. Within its walls and grounds, you have all the freedom that Megel gives you." He indicated the women. "This is Maria and that is Nicole, I believe you remember them." He put an arm around the elfin woman. "This sweet thing is Jenna and my dark beauty is Valerie. They will become your friends."
"Is he going to be one of us?" Jenna asked, smiling at Jason. "Or is he off-limits?"
Michael pulled Jason close in mock protectiveness. "Get these women another man, Azrael, or start pleasing them more often. The boy is mortal and I'd like to keep him the way he is, and not worn down to a husk."
"Megel let the boy play. It would be good for him. Or do you plan to limit it to just the ones you choose?"
"Yes, for now, unless you call for him of course. It's a new life, let his adapt slowly." He pushed Jason towards the small table against the wall. "Go eat, love. You're safe here, surely you know that by now."
It was Jason who reached to pull him close, and it was Jason's mouth that demanded, tongue seeking the erotic play of his. "Know it, Master, I live it."
Michael cupped his face gently. "After you feed from me this evening, you will see your sister. I will allow you to gather some of your clothes. Not many, because we will go shopping tomorrow night. You can put her mind to rest. While you eat, I will make a few phone calls to get her moved into a nice place closer to here. She will have proper care at all times."
Jason's face lit up like a Christmas tree. "Michael." His voice choked with emotion. How could this man, who held his life the way he did, be so kind? He couldn't figure out what he did to get this so soon.
"You are yourself," Michael said kindly. "No matter how hard it is for you to live with this, no matter how frightened you are, I was once where you are now. I well remember the fear. You are yourself, and you respond to me honestly. For this I would grant you anything to see you smile."
'So this is what love feels like' . Jason held him, feeling the strength of Michael's arms around him. He loved this creature. How, or why, he couldn't grasp yet. Was it because Michael was the first person to really show him an ounce of kindness since his parents died? Was it because Michael seemed to understand, or because being owned hurt less if he loved his owner? There was so much there, but whether he understood it or not, he knew what he felt. "I--" He lifted his eyes raising them to meet the dark blue ones of the man who held his heart. "I love you."
Emotions so strong they were painful flooded Michael. The boy loved him. A mortal, one of the creatures that had hunted his kind for centuries, loved him. He lost all thought and sank his teeth into Jason's neck, trying to feed on the love
*Megel, NO! * Words a mental slap that knocked him away from Jason and to his knees. He saw red as his sight swam. *Control. *
"Michael?" Jason stepped towards Michael. What had happened? Had he done something?
Azrael grabbed him. "Do not move, boy." He pulled Jason back. "Maria, hold him."
"But," he tried to pull away, fear again. What did he do wrong? "Michael?" His voice was pain itself.
"Mind me, pet," Azrael said. "You are in no danger. Your master felt your words fully. He will cherish your love, but you are the first of your kind to show him this. For more years than you can imagine. I, and others of his kind, were the only ones who knew what he was and loved him anyway. He could hurt you in his ecstasy. Please step away. Go eat. I will help your lord. Trust me, little one. Do not fear so. I give you my word as master here, no harm will befall you or your beloved master."
"Go on, blue eyes, I'm fine." Michael picked himself up off the floor. "Thank you, Master."
"None needed. I know what it feels like. I only wish my Sire had been there the first time. I killed my first love in the heat of joy. I would never wish that on you, my first and most loved."
Jason didn't ask any more questions. Michael's reminder, 'Always remember what I am' , rang in his ears. But he couldn't believe Michael would hurt him. He just couldn't.
"Azrael." Maria grabbed a napkin and pressed it against the gash in Jason's throat. "Azrael, he's bleeding badly."
'And I didn't even know it' , Jason realized.
The Elder looked. "Oh, you poor thing." He went to Jason, held out a hand. "Come here, pet. Let me help you."
Jason looked at Michael, who nodded and smiled. "Okay," he half-whispered. He trembled as Azrael's cool mouth closed on his neck. The sweet sensations that accompanied Michael's feeding filled him briefly as Azrael drank for a moment, and then pulled away to lick the wound closed. He couldn't help it; he clung to the older man, guilt at what he saw as an unfaithful act to his lover paining him. But he had no will. His mouth opened freely under Azrael's. He held him, letting him do anything he wished.
Reluctantly, Azrael let go. "Guard this one, Megel. Mark him with your power. I have a few spare charms. Set one now. There are many of us in this town, and now that he has, been, Chosen, he shines like a beacon." He wiped the tears from Jason's face gently. "You will one day be Kin. There is no way Megel could deny you the gift eventually. You will be my First-Born's First-Born, a fine son. Know this always; as such, should you need help and Megel is not there, my domain is yours, my power and protection a right."
Jason's soul fought again. Not to resist horrors to great to imagine, but to keep from betraying the one person besides his sister that he loved. "Master?"
"Go on, precious, my blue eyed love. Azrael is such a part of me, and I of him, you would have to be dead not to feel the pull. There is no shame, no betrayal. I love him more than I do life. How could you not?"
Nicole took Michael's arm as Azrael held Jason. "He's going to be like Jenna," she whispered. "When Azrael brought her here, and she learned to love him, she gave him everything. I love him, we all do. We love him so much, but Jenna, if he died tomorrow, or cast us out, she'd die of a broken heart long before the wasting began." Her eyes were soft. "You are a kind man. I know this. I've felt you. Jason will do well with you."
Jason lost himself in Azrael's warm and passionate kisses. There was no shame, no cheating. He loved Michael, and Michael loved this man as much as, if not more, than him. Surrender was more than just his word, now. He had sworn to give freely, but compared to his submission now, the vow was a shadow.
"Oh, are you going to be a trial." Azrael murmured to him. "Your emotions are so strong. They will beckon Megel to you. I must be doubly vigilant till he takes his joy to a higher level and no longer tries to bleed you dry twice a night."
Jason went to answer him, when suddenly if felt like every nerve in his body was dipped in acid. Azrael's touch became agony. Whimpering, he pulled away.
Michael didn't need to be told what was happening. The boy needed more of his blood, needed it now; he tore at his wrist with his teeth, opening a vein as he snatched Jason from Azrael's grasp. "Drink. Hurry pet."
The agony stopped with the first swallow and a rush of pleasure and desire so great it was actually a physical blow swept over his as he clutched at his master's wrist. He sobbed. Mouth hot on, Michael's flesh teeth biting and gnawing, drawing the life from his master.
"All right, pet. Draw back, now." Michael urged Jason to let go. "Wait." He took the knife Maria presented, opened his shirt, and cut a deep gash into the flesh above his breast. "Now," he said, allowing Jason a full measure of both peace and pleasure.
"All better now, Jay?" He asked, as Jason finished. When the boy nodded, he said. "From here on, at first waking, I promise."
"Is it safe to be held by you now?" He didn't want to move just yet.
"I won't harm you again, Jason. I swear it. No matter how much I want you, I will not hurt you, never again." He knew that he would keep his word. He could not betray the complete trust he had been given. It was too precious, too sweet. Hunting and wild feedings no longer lured him. He wouldn't have to kill again to end the stirrings. His darker side was a peace. True possession was his.
"I love you." Jason broke. "God, I love you."
"Are there any more like him at home?" Azrael asked as he dug up one of the many charms he still kept on hand. He was honestly amazed. He had not thought to see such surrender again so soon. "Here you go, Megel. Fix this with your blood and power. It should keep the Rogues and Renegades from daring to touch him."
"Only his sister, and the poor thing is dying." He commented as he did as he was bid, and set up a charm for Jason that would place him under his protection. It was such a shame too. For if she was anything like her brother. She would be a mortal worth possessing. Then the thought struck him. 'Megel, you are an idiot' . "Azrael, I have a thought. Do you think--? Could it be possible--?"
"Why not? Our blood cures everything, even AIDS."
"Jason?" He tilted the boy's head up, locking the charm around his throat. Could he give this? Would the boy accept his offer?
"I will take her." Azrael's voice was soft. "You can not, not and be with him, but I will."
"Jason, would you, would it hurt you if we offered your sister this life? It would grant her all the time it has given you. I haven't hurt you. Nikki, even though I punished her last night, can tell you that I am not brutal. Azrael is much the same. Could you accept this, without pain? If you cannot, I will not force it."
"She wouldn't die?" The thought of Jenny, living. Of her learning to laugh again maybe, find, love. "Who would--would it be Azrael?" His fingers locked around the charm at his throat. He could feel the power of the charm in his hand. He had been marked, he was protected now, and he knew he had nothing to fear, ever again.
Jason looked at the Elder vampire and his four women. "Michael, can't you take her?"
"No, Jason, I can't. I would if I dared, but it wouldn't be right. Remember how you felt last night? If there had been another with you, what would you have done?"
"Oh." He blushed, knowing full well what would have happened, and silently thanking Michael for being conscious of it, too.
But there were other considerations. "She won't be hurt, will she? Please, Master, she's only sixteen. She's never even had a boyfriend before. She's been fighting this tumor for over three years."
"Did I hurt you? Did Azrael when he held you?"
Jason shook his head, "No."
"Then know that she is safe." Michael caressed Jason's cheek. "Experience is what counts here. Mine. I didn't harm you. We won't harm her."
"Megel." Azrael placed a hand on the boy's shoulder. "If it will help, you can take her innocence. Surely the lad believes you to be incapable of rape."
"Azrael, will you come with us? As sick as the child is, I would rather not bring her by the Dark Paths in ignorance."
Jason was looking from one to the other. This was working out, much, better than he had ever hoped. Of course, Michael would be Jenny's first. He was gentle and kind. He would do everything to guarantee that her first was memorable.
"Megel, since you are giving me this child, I would like you to have Nicole. I do not need more than four. And, since Jason will one day be my Grand-Childe, I would give you this."
"Master?" The look of pain of Nicole's face as she threw herself at his feet was pitiful. "I'm sorry, I'll be good, 'please' , don't push me out. I love you. Why, what did I do? I paid for my wrong, I won't do it again."
"Nicole." Azrael dropped to one knee and lifted her face. "I can not give you what you need. I am older. I have mellowed much. You need a firmness that I simply do not worry about anymore. I felt you with Megel and you have not been that wildly free with pleasure in a long time." He brushed away her tears. "Now stop this foolishness. This is for the best, and we both know it. Go to him. You are rising in rank. Even though Jason is first, he will not be a pet now, but his slave. He us his Chosen. When he becomes one of us, then you will be first in Megel's house."
She looked at him, face wet with the tears that ran down her cheeks. "You don't want me?"
"It is not a matter of wanting you, pet; it is a matter of practicality. Think, Megel cannot take the girl. So I must or she dies. That means little to one of my kind. Death is a way in our lives. But what about you, you are mortal pet, and so is she. Would you doom her to an early grave?"
Michael motioned to the breakfast table. "Go and eat, Jason, and don't be too upset by all this." He indicated Azrael and Nicole. "Things will be fine."
Jason sat, trying not to feel guilty. He wasn't sure if he was going to be able to eat, but one bite of the sandwich convinced him otherwise.
"You do not have to do this Azrael." Michael protested for the girl's sake. "I can't take Nicole away. If you get a male or two, the ladies won't have to be ignored. You might have to feed a little more often, but I don't see how they would see it as a hardship."
He shook his head. "No, this is for the best. Will you take her Megel, treat her as well as you have your precious one, there?"
"If you are determined to do this, I will. That way I only have to train one more." He smiled at Nicole. "I trust her. She will behave."
"Then feed from her. Grant her your life's flow, and remember that she will be like Jason for a month or so. Be prepared to share your blood. If I get; a male or two', as you put it, to go with the new one, we will have enough bodies in this house to safely feed while we get past the first stages."
"Come here, Nikki." Yes, he would do this. To have not only a slave but a pet as well, opened up such wonderful possibilities. Could he sway her like he had Jason? Find out the most important thing she wanted, and help her to attain it?
"Will you have me?" She was crying softly. "I am not so good as you well know."
"I want you. And your fire will not anger me quite the way it does Azrael." He kissed her. "Offer me your throat. Let me make you mine. I shall rename you so that your life will start anew."
Her chin lifted. A new name, she would not be allowed even that one reminder of her years with Azrael. When Michael's fangs pierced her skin, however, she forgot her resentment and sadness. It felt so good. She locked her arms around his neck and gave in to it.
Azrael looked down at Jason, who was devouring his food. "I am sure Megel will see you fed again."
"Thank you," he said automatically, still thinking about Jenny. She would live. It would be hard for her at first. Maybe they'd let him help her to learn to accept this.
"I have a small request. When Megel takes her maidenhood, will you welcome me? It has been a long time since I was with one of my own gender. Time I got back into the 'swing' , as it were."
"If Michael says yes, I'd be happy to." And he would be, no questions asked, he'd love it. "Ya'know, Jenny is going to bust a gasket. She has all kinds of book about vampires, just loves them, err, you . . ." He floundered as Azrael chuckled. "Anyway, this will be a dream come true."
Nicole clung to Michael as she drank, reveling in the always-fresh vigor it gave her. She wanted to throw him on the floor and take him, but she knew she would have to wait.
It was so confusing. Azrael had turned her out. Even in her desire, it hurt so much. Would Michael do the same? Was, she destined to be passed from one to another because of her unruly nature? 'I must try harder. I must make my love as perfect as Jason's' .
"I will call you Amber, for the glow in your hair." Michael knew she would be touchy for a while. It couldn't be easy to go from one master to another in the same night. "After tonight, I will see to it that you get as much of my time as Jason does, but I must go now. You will stay in your room, for now, until I am certain that your pain is fading."
"Will you chain me, Master?" She cringed at the memory of cold iron on her skin. "Please. As Azrael said, I'm high-spirited, but I promise not to run. You have my word."
"No, Amber, you won't be chained, but for a while, I will lock your door. Not long, but for a short time."
No, chains 'thank God' . But would she be alone? She glanced at Jason. "May I stay with him? Please, Master. Don't make me stay alone. I'll be good, please."
He kissed her. "Yes, Jason and you may share a bed. Now go, I have to hurry. Tomorrow and from here on, I will take you both out when I go, and I will have not only my Chosen, but an adorable pet to show off."