Deprivation, Part 13.

Pain woke him, and he hissed in discomfort before opening his eyes. He was lying on his stomach, and someone was apparently bandaging his shoulder; they were trying to be gentle about it, but to little avail.

"I'm sorry," the familiar voice said contritely. "I'm almost finished."

Awkwardly, Devin craned his neck to look up at Allistair, who gave him a small, almost shy smile. The pale young man had a bandage on his own arm, and remembering the terrible sound he had made when he had been struck down by the Faerie, Devin suspected there were more bandages beneath his shirt, around his torso.

"... How are your wounds?" the mage asked quietly as Allistair taped the bandages securely.

"Not particularly good," was the hesitant answer. "The weapons seemed to have some sort of enchantment to them..." Done with his caretaking, Allistair sat on the edge of the bed.

"Hmm... That can probably be counteracted," Devin mused as he cautiously turned over, wondering how he might trace and pinpoint the poisonous magic. "It's a matter of—"

He was cut off as Allistair leaned down to kiss him with an intensity bordering on desperation. Though caught by surprise, he realized he was not at all averse to this, and managed to wrap his arms around his "attacker" without hurting either of them.

"I missed you," Allistair murmured as he pulled away slightly, looking deeply into the mage's eyes. Devin never thought he would miss being under such scrutiny, but the feel of the other man's amethystine eyes upon him was very... warming, like sunlight on a cold day.

"I... missed you too," he said softly, meaning it. Allistair stared at him for a moment in surprise at his candor, then smiled.

"I wonder if I should worry that you're some changeling in Devin's place," the vampire said lightly, laying his hand on Devin's cheek.

Devin rolled his eyes, not gracing that with a reply. "How long was I gone?" he asked, frowning as he remembered tales of time running differently between the two realms.

"A week," Allistair murmured, brushing some wayward locks of hair away from the mage's eyes. "It's seemed longer."

Well, that was as long as Devin had felt like he was in Faerie, so that seemed to line up properly. Good; he was worried he might have really been gone for a year, or something equally nonsensical. "Tell me about it. Time passes slowly for captives, I think."

"Mm... I was counting the minutes while you were away." Allistair leaned down for another kiss, then hissed in discomfort.

"Allistair? Where were you hit?" Devin asked in sudden concern. He sat up gingerly as Allistair pulled back.

"Here," the man said with a weak smile, one pale hand resting on the left side of his abdomen. "Damned thing went all the way through."

Devin winced in sympathy. He had seen those javelins up close during his time in Faerie, and while they were aesthetically pleasing, they could be ugly things to be struck with. "Here, let me see..." Gently, he moved Allistair's hand out of the way, pushed up his shirt, and placed his own hand over the faint bloodstain on the bandages there.

The enchantment from the javelin-point seemed to pulse in a counter-rhythm to the vampire's heartbeat, and showed itself as an ugly miasma overlaying Allistair's already peculiar life-force. Sinking into a half-trance, Devin prodded experimentally at the malignant magic, but it gave way and oozed back, like some weird gelatin. Undaunted, he sent a small ray of healing magic at it, but that caused Allistair to flinch in pain.

"All right," the mage said thoughtfully, pulling out of his trance and looking up at his "patient". "I suppose we might have to try this the usual way, first."

Allistair looked at him uncomprehendingly for a moment, then frowned. "Are you sure, Devin?" he asked quietly. Despite his hesitation, however, his eyes seemed lit from within, like violet stained glass. Devin didn't find that particularly comforting.

But... "I don't know what else to try right now. Some blood will at least help the physical wounds, I think. I don't... want to poke and prod at you like this if you're not in a good way, you know?" He avoided Allistair's gaze as he spoke; this was awkward enough without the vampire's feelings of "so you do really care about me" showing through.

Allistair nodded uncertainly, then took Devin's hand and slid his other arm around the mage's back, pulling him closer. "Are you ready, then?" he asked quietly, leaning to speak into Devin's ear.

"As ready as I can be," the mage said sardonically, leaning his head slightly to expose his neck. He no longer feared this, and if it took his blood to help Allistair heal, then so be it.

"Thank you," the vampire whispered, nuzzling Devin's neck gently before sinking his teeth in. Devin closed his eyes, for the first time letting himself relax while the strange ecstasy of Allistair's bite washed over him. So odd that something so life-threatening could feel so... exquisite, but that was part of the danger and the allure of a vampire, he supposed.

Falling under the blood-drinker spell this time around, Devin could understand even more clearly how Jason had completely enslaved Allistair, and how the younger vampire felt so powerless to escape. The mage felt as if he would quite gladly let Allistair do anything he wanted to him right now, regardless of injuries, mental blocks, or what have you. There was something deeply disturbing about that, but at the same time, he couldn't bring himself to care about it much. He did trust Allistair with his very life, and if nothing else, Luciel was nearby... Just this once, Devin could let his guard down.

It was rather strange, feeling himself losing consciousness and yet not fighting it. It was somewhat like sliding down a tunnel into the darkness, watching the light above recede. He knew, remotely, that he was grasping Allistair's shoulders weakly, and that the vampire was holding him close, but he couldn't really feel it anymore. He no longer seemed to have a sense of touch, except for the indescribable sensation of his blood being gently, but persistently, drawn away between sharp teeth and soft lips.

As he fell into a comfortable half-consciousness, he wondered, almost idly, how much Allistair would take from him. They were both weak, but Allistair had been poisoned, after all, and there was probably no real alternative to this blood-healing. The question was, how much did the vampire need, and how much did he want...?

For a moment, Allistair thought he might faint. After days without so much as a drop of blood, let alone Devin's rich vitae, the taste was electrifying, and almost indecently pleasurable. It sang in his veins until he felt like a plucked harp string, reverberating with a single note: devinsblood devinsblood devinsblood...

There was nothing else to compare to this, blood willingly surrendered by one's lover. Right now, the entwining of lust and blood-lust did not seem so shameful, so monstrous. And right now, he had to restrain himself from taking this any further, any deeper. His rapidly healing body ached, with a very different kind of pain, to be closer to Devin, to press against his bare skin, but the mage did not have the advantage of a healing elixir, and his injuries were in rather inconvenient places. With some effort, Allistair stifled the more... titillating... fantasies dancing through his mind as the blood worked its magic.

He could feel Devin slipping into unconsciousness, but he couldn't bring himself to pull away, no, not yet, just a little more... Now the mage was going limp in his arms, his hands falling away from Allistair's shoulders to dangle by his sides. But the blood was still singing, still holding him as tightly as he was holding Devin. Just a little more...

The sensation of a hand grasping his neck from behind snapped him out of the blood-drunkenness like a splash of cold water. The fingers did not tighten their grip, but their cool presence was a warning in and of itself.

"No more, Allistair," Luciel said quietly. He did not sound angry, but the vampire thought he heard... disappointment?... in the velvety voice. Shuddering, he pulled away from Devin, licking at the small wounds on the mage's neck. They would disappear soon enough.

With unclouded eyes, Allistair saw now what he had wrought. Devin was pale, enervated, in his embrace, almost too still. Feeling an increasing sense of horror, the vampire very gently laid his lover down onto the bed again, then stared at him as if willing it alone would cause the mage to snap into acerbic wakefulness again.

"Luciel... I didn't mean to..." he whispered, aghast, hand raised to his mouth. Devin would never forgive this...

"I know, Allistair." The angel sounded tired, or resigned. "And he knows it, as well." Allistair heard a rushing sound, and suddenly Devin was outlined in a healing glow. He was almost afraid to turn and look at Devin's guardian, to see whatever expression was on the angel's handsome features. But turn he did, prepared for the pain.

Indeed, Luciel's face conveyed his dismay clearly. They had been working to free Allistair from the blood, after all, and here, given the slightest excuse, he had gorged himself. It didn't help matters that Devin was already injured; Allistair had probably just set his recovery back by days. With a quiet moan, the vampire turned away from both Luciel's bright eyes and Devin's wraithlike, sleeping form.

"He'll be fine," the angel said calmly.

"He'll be better if I can protect him from myself," Allistair murmured, rubbing his arms restlessly.

"Perhaps," Luciel agreed, though not unkindly. "Why don't you go for a walk, get out of the house for a bit?"

"... Yes, I suppose it can't hurt to get some fresh air," the vampire said with a sigh. He understood that Luciel didn't want him moping around the small house until Devin regained consciousness; that did no one any good. "I think I'll do just that. But..."

"I'll come get you if he wakes up," Luciel reassured him with a slight smile, "though I don't expect that to happen in the next few hours."

"All right... Thank you." Allistair tried to smile in reply before turning to leave.

"Ah... Stay away from any suspicious-looking ruins, hmm?"

The vampire snorted mirthlessly. "Of course."

As it turned out, Devin did not wake until the next day, still pale and somewhat subdued. Luciel had been correct; the mage wasn't angry, per se, but he was deeply concerned about what this meant for Allistair's transformation. The blood lust wasn't supposed to be that strong anymore, not if this "cure" was truly working.

Allistair feared that his biting and feeding off of Jason had been a fatal error; perhaps the older, stronger blood had made him irredeemable. He voiced this concern to Devin as he brought the mage a light breakfast-in-bed.

"It's possible," Devin mused between bites of crusty bread, "but Jason was what, around a hundred? Was his... degree... of vampirism that much greater than yours, really?"

Allistair considered it for a long moment. "I don't really know. I think he was more vicious, just by his own nature... But as for his powers, I don't know what to chalk up to his greater experience, what to count as sorcery, and what was actually raw vampiric power at work."

Devin nodded, as if he had suspected as much. "Well... How do you feel now?" he asked quietly, meeting the taller man's eyes.

This stilled the downward spiral of Allistair's thoughts for the span of a few breaths. He loved looking into Devin's eyes; he often wondered if his supernatural eyesight let him see that stormy-sky blue color and the tiny hazel flecks around the pupil that much more clearly than a human could. If so, everyone was missing out on so much...!

"I... Well, I'm healed," he said finally, looking down slightly to break his self-distraction. "The wounds are closed cleanly, and the burning pain is gone."

Devin made a "hmm" sound and nodded thoughtfully. "Do you mind if I take a look to verify that the Faerie enchantment is completely gone?"

"Of course not," Allistair said with a smile, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. "But finish your food, or Luce will skin me."

The mage rolled his eyes rebelliously, but obediently continued eating. It wasn't that he wasn't hungry, Allistair knew; he was just too easily wrapped up in intellectual pursuits to remember, or even care about, the need for food. Not for the first time, the vampire wondered what Devin had done before Luciel came to stay with him and remind him to take care of himself.

In a few minutes, Devin had finished the bread, cheese and fruit, and half of his coffee. He looked up with a slightly chagrined expression at Allistair, who had sat there quietly the whole time.

"...Could you please take this?" he mumbled, meaning the lap tray.

"Of course!" Devin must have been feeling weak, indeed, to have to ask for that favor; Allistair hid his worry as he took the tray and set it on the floor, and then reclaimed his seat on the bed.

"All right." Devin reached over and slid his hand up under Allistair's shirt, his palm coming to rest above the vampire's heart. Allistair watched in fascination as Devin fell easily into some sort of trance, his eyelids fluttering as if he were dreaming. He thought he felt faint warmth under Devin's hand, the kind of heat one might feel radiating from a light bulb, but he wasn't sure that it wasn't simply his imagination.

Devin was quite still for a long moment, perhaps several minutes; Allistair tried his best not to move. Finally, the mage's eyes opened slowly, and he smiled ever so slightly as he looked up at Allistair.

"It's gone," he confirmed. "I can't feel any trace of it."

Allistair nodded, his relief probably clear in his expression. "...I think 'thank you' is insufficient for what I took from you," he murmured, looking down.

"Don't..." Devin withdrew his hand from Allistair's shirt and grasped at the vampire's cool hand. "Don't start thinking that way. Your body was in a weakened state, you needed to heal..."

It was heartbreaking to hear Devin trying to make excuses for him. Oh, days ago, Allistair would have longed to have the mage so totally with him like this, but now? Now he saw the danger — or more accurately, he had been forced to truly look at it. Jason had been all too correct, except that Devin didn't want to have to destroy him. Or would he find the resolve, if it came to that...? Right now, at least, he seemed desperate to see the situation with uncharacteristic optimism.

"I'm afraid," the vampire said softly, squeezing Devin's hand. They should have been having a joyful reunion after the mage's return from Faerie; instead, a nightmare scenario was unfolding.

"We'll fix this," Devin said with his usual confidence. "You were doing better, before... We've just got to get you back to that state."

Oh, no. Now it was time for the confession. Allistair closed his eyes tightly for a moment, then looked at Devin, the man for whom he had fallen so deeply that it hurt. He had thought Jason had ruined him forever — and to be sure, in some ways he had — but to be able to love someone so deeply, so blindly... Well, as painful as it was, was this a gift, as love was supposed to be, or a punishment? Because he was in agony right now.

"Devin..." he swallowed convulsively. "I never... I never stopped..." It was so hard to say this with those blue eyes on him!

"Never stopped what?" the mage prompted, his expression sharpening slightly in concern and wariness.

"Never stopped wanting blood," Allistair finally said in a near-whisper. "Your blood."

Devin looked at him, clearly stunned, but not afraid, not angry. At least, not yet. "This whole time... Have you been... fasting?"

The vampire had to smile faintly. Trust Devin to ask a relatively impersonal question, for knowledge's sake, rather than one of personal concern. "I don't think I need the blood... but I can still use it, like we've just seen," he murmured, referring to his accelerated healing. "But..."

"Why my blood, then?" came the question now, though Devin's tone was musing, not accusatory. "Because of its nature, or because of... how we are?"

Ah, you can't say it, can you? Because we're lovers? Allistair shrugged helplessly. "I imagine it's one of those two things, probably the latter, I think..." He looked down in shame. "Devin, I'm so afraid that the things Jason said will become true..."

When he glanced up, it was to see Devin looking at him in a sort of wide-eyed concern. As their eyes met, however, the younger man's expression hardened into a look of resolve.

"I won't let it happen, Allistair. Even if it's just to prove that bastard wrong."

Oh, how bold and lovely, that flinty look in his eyes. Allistair had to smile slightly. "Whatever we must do, I'm ready," he said quietly.

Devin nodded, his gaze holding the vampire for a long moment. "We're going to beat this."

Allistair smiled, despite the cold, tight band he felt around his heart. "If you say so, then I must believe." He leaned forward and kissed the mage softly before rising from the bed. "Do you need anything?"

"My pen, ink, and paper," Devin replied, frowning. For just a moment, he looked utterly exhausted, but when Allistair blinked, the illusion had disappeared. "It's time to start asking for help in earnest."

Part 12 Back to the Office Part 14

Well. Things are beginning to accelerate towards the finish, now... And the writing is starting to come a bit faster as of late. I don't know if I've purely been in a more writer-y mood, or if the approaching end is giving me some impetus. The rest of the writing should be easier for me from here on out; it's getting into events that I've had very clearly mapped out for years now, while some of the more recent chapters were never so clearly envisioned before. I think it won't be much longer now...