A color Cam had seen so much of for the past seven months he and Balint had been crashing at the Nocturne. Red was passion. Red was heat. Red was the color that stained Balint's lips and made them look like juicy cherries. Red coals smoldered in Angelo's eyes; passionate, ferally intense whether it was sexual excitement or animalistic arousal but always dangerous. Red like the roses in Weasel's flushed cheeks that usually meant his flesh wasn't the only thing that was hot.
Dark red filled the beer stein Cam lifted to his lips, taking a long swallow and fighting the urge to drain it. It went down smoothly, spreading a warm fire that settled deliciously in his belly and made Cam feel almost euphoric. But even though there was wine in this mixture, it wasn't the wine that made it taste so sweet. There were various herbs in it but they weren't what was giving him such a good buzz.
Amorette, the bartender, was mixing less and less wine in it, chiding him affectionately that he was reaching the point where he should just be drinking it from the bottle. Now it was five and five. Five parts wine. Five parts juice.
What a name for it! Juice. Juicing. Juiced. Juicer. Words that had become all too familiar to Cam now.
Juice. Juicing. Juiced. Juicer. Cam could comfort himself and say that he didn't need it. He didn't crave it with a desire that resonated deep in his bones. He could say he got used to the taste because he constantly tasted it when he kissed his lover, that like Pavlov's Dog, it excited him because he knew how hungry it made Balint. Hungry for sex after jucing. Hungry during sex. And when they started Sharing each other while Sharing pleasure, it brought Cam to a rapture that was almost orgasmic. So much so that Cam tasted it each time he made love. To Balint. Weasel. Angelo.
Cam could soothe himself with these lies but he was fooling no one. Especially himself. He might not drink it straight and it didn't sustain him and he had a choice in the matter. Unlike the juicers. Unlike the Nightchildren. Unlike Balint, Weasel and Angelo. But by drinking this ruby poison, Cam was only proving he was no better than they were.
On second thought, maybe he would drain the glass.
Cam was sitting at the bar in the Playground, a hidden part of the Nocturne where the lights were low because the juicers didn't need them - and at this point, neither did Cam - the sex was plenty and the drinks were nothing that any of the Norms would ever see served on the main floor of the club.
Shit, he was even starting to use their terminology. Norms was the polite word for fullblood humans with no Sangsue blood or any other type of blood for that matter. Weasel used that word most of the time, unless he was furious or disgusted by something a Norm did or said. When that happened, he used the same word as Angelo and even Balint always did.
When Angelo was feeling evil - which was quite often - he called Cam that slur. Balint never insulted Cam that way. First, because as far as Balint was concerned, Cam didn't fit that description. Second, because Balint loved him too much to be that offensive.
As much as he hated that word, Cam felt a sense of optimism whenever Angelo, Weasel or any of the other Nightchildren taunted him with that slur. It was the last hope that any of the rapidly vanishing humanity within Cam still remained.
And sometimes that humanity was damned inconvenient. Like tonight. There were only two ways to get to and from the Playground: either fly or phase out and pass through the floors. Neither of which Cam could do, of course. Since he and Balint slept in one of the Playrooms, Cam had to wait for someone to carry him and fly up to the main floor of the club. "Someone" usually being Balint, although if Cam could give up enough of his pride to ask, he knew he'd find some juicer who would bring him upstairs.
So now he was waiting on Balint and Cam HATED it. He hated being here. He hated that the only way he could see his lover was to wake and sleep on Balint's schedule. But what Cam hated more than anything was that he had to share Balint.
Weasel, Angelo, Balint and Cam had formed a polygamous circle and were all lovers who often Shared pleasure as a group. But the three of them shared something that Cam would never be a part of; or was even sure he would ever want to be a part of.
The kill. Which meant Balint was Sharing other things behind Cam's back.
Just the thought that Balint was probably doing that right now was enough to make Cam toss his head back and down the rest of the contents of the glass. Then he practically slammed it down on the counter; hoping that'd get Amorette's attention. Not that he'd ask for a refill, of course. But if she offered one, there was no fucking way he'd turn it down.
It got Amorette's attention alright. But not quite what Cam had been hoping for....
She ducked under the counter, reached into the cooler and brought up a bottle of beer. (Here.) Amorette placed it in front of him and picked up the beer stein.
Since everyone knew Cam could hear Nightspeech - the way juicers spoke when they didn't take the breath first - that was what he'd become accustomed to. To the point where Cam had gotten used to talking very, very softly because Normspeech was beginning to hurt his ears. He held up the bottle. "What the fuck is this?"
Her mint-green eyes glinted with just a hint of amusement. (I believe it's called a beer, Cam.)
"That's not .." Cam began to sputter.
(No? What did you mean then? I don't speak "hint" and the only other drink you will get from me tonight is booze. ALL booze.) Amorette's cupid's bow mouth set in a tight line, all amusement gone. (You want something with more kick than that, go and tap it yourself.)
"Never said that," Cam mumbled, embarrassed at being busted. "This works." He took a pull on the beer.
Amorette's look was gentle. (Moping won't make Balint get here any faster.)
"I'm not moping!" Cam drank some more beer, idly wondering how many beers it would take to get him nice and drunk. Probably too damned many. His tolerance had already been high before but since his "adaptation" it had escalated even higher. In fact, as much as he loathed admitting it, Cam got more of a buzz from juice.
Shit, how long was it gonna be before drinking juice that way wouldn't work anymore?
(Cam,) Amorette told him kindly, (Angelo may have taught you how to mask your emotions but he never bothered to show you how to hide you're masking them. When you're projecting a blank slate, it's pretty obvious.)
Amorette was another young woman Cam wouldn't have minded going to bed with if he'd been wired that way. Sensually beautiful with curly black hair swept up in a barrette, her light eyes contrasted with the café au lait skin. Amorette was very easy going, even Dimitri got along with her. She'd taken Cam under her wing a while ago and was the one person's advice he was willing to listen to. "Okay, so maybe I am moping a little," he admitted. "I'm just bored out of my skull, Amorette."
Amorette laughed. (The Playground is filled with ways to ease your boredom, mon ami.) She cocked her head towards the direction of several pretty boys groping each other. (Take your pick.)
Cam took a cursory glance, barely interested. Three Stalkers - Norms who'd been Changed into juicers - were molesting each other. Norms who made the choice to be Changed. Dumbasses.
And Norms? Cam's already hyperactive libido had shot up tenfold but he didn't want to go anywhere near those pretty boys - those pretty human boys because not only was fucking them about as satisfying as jerking off, Cam now had the new temptation of using them to satisfy a whole other lust.
Sugar. The scent tantalized Cam, tempting him to drink from the vein he could feel pulsing under his lips as he kissed their necks. The sweet smell excited Cam and made him so hard, so aroused that he'd reached the point where he didn't know if it was lust or bloodlust and frankly, the two had blurred by now.
The last straw was when Cam found himself sucking at a boytoy's pulse point so hard that he'd broken the skin. Drops of blood sizzled on Cam's tongue, making his mouth water and before he knew it, his tongue was lapping at it and the only thing stopping him from biting down to make the boy bleed enough for Cam to be able to drink some was the realization that it would be no different than juicing him. A line Cam was unwilling to cross.
Besides, Cam had gotten very used to the extreme amplified pleasure that overcame him whenever he had sex with Balint, Angelo or Weasel. Norms just didn't do it for Cam anymore.
(How could you let him go, Angelo?) Cam suddenly heard Weasel demand. Where'd they come from?
(I could have hardly stopped him, dearheart. He can handle himself.) Angelo insisted.
Yeah, he could feel them now; they were on the other side of the room. Only for some reason, Balint wasn't with them and Cam was getting the feeling that was the "he" they were talking about. Keeping all of his senses locked in their direction, Cam eavesdropped.
(And what are you gonna do if he loses, Angel Boy?)
Cam could hear the shrug in Angelo's voice. (You know the deal, glike mou. I don't mess with his and he doesn't mess with mine.)
(But he is yours!)
(He was Radu's first and he needs to earn his place. You know how it works, Weasel. You did it yourself. Why would it be any different for Balint?)
Upon hearing Balint's name, Cam hopped off the bar stool and went over to where the two Nightchildren were talking. "What about Balint?" he prompted.
"Skase, Weasel," Angelo hissed. "Balint doesn't want him to know."
A sting of hurt resonated straight to his heart. "He's with Radu, isn't he?" he accused.
No answer. Damn them!
"I asked if he was with Radu," Cam snapped, more than a little pissed off that they were fucking with him yet again.
Angelo looked bored. (And?)
"Answer me you fucker!" Cam demanded.
Black eyes glittered. (One warning, Cam. Stop this. Now.)
Cam ignored Angelo's threat. "If something is going on with Balint, if he's in trouble, I have the right to know!"
Angelo laughed nastily. (As if you're concerned with anything other than whether or not the odogi is fucking your Gypsy lover.) He flashed an evil smile. (What do you think, sport?)
Weasel turned to Angelo and spoke for the first time since Cam had approached them. (Give me five minutes alone with him, Angel Boy.)
(You've got to be fucking kidding!)
(Please?) Weasel kissed Angelo full on the mouth. (I'll make it worth the wait.) His hand slipped down between Angelo's legs and brushed lightly against the bulge that was rapidly developing. Then Weasel began to stroke him as his tongue ran down Angelo's jaw and his lips trailed to his throat .
Angelo growled and seized Weasel; his lips meeting the blond's in a bruising kiss, practically consuming Weasel's mouth for a few moments before he released him. "Five minutes, kaloz mou," Angelo breathed, "then I'm gone." He smirked at Cam. "So much for you getting any tonight, sweet thing," he whispered before phasing out.
Now that Angelo was gone, Cam was sure he'd get a straight answer. Angelo was like Balint in the way he never told anything he didn't want anyone to know. Balint changed the subject or focused on something completely different. Angelo just ignored the question.
Weasel was right, Balint and Angelo were a lot alike. In the worst ways.
Cam turned to Weasel. "You have something to say to me?"
Weasel smiled. (Balint loves you. That should be enough.) He cupped Cam's cheek. (Some things are better not to know, Cam.) He leaned forward and kissed Cam's mouth hard. (Come see us later, if you like.) Weasel's tongue licked teasingly along Cam's bottom lip but he phased out before Cam could do anything about it.
Another thing that got on Cam's last nerve. Both Angelo and Weasel were huge teases, tantalizing and tempting promised ecstasy if Cam just did what they wanted.
Fuck, Balint had been doing that from the first night they were together. The only difference was that he was more subtle and sneaky about it than the Terrible Two.
Cam stalked back to the bar and seethed. "Who the fuck do they think they are?"
Amorette walked over to Cam and stared at him as if he was crazy. (Who are "they," Cam?)
"Who the fuck else?" he muttered. "Weasel and Angelo."
Amorette smiled knowingly. (You mean Angelo.)
She shook her head in mock exasperation. (What has that Hellenic tomcat done this time?)
Cam realized that Amorette might know where Balint was but he knew from past experience that if he asked her directly, she'd never tell him. "You mean besides rubbing Radu in my face? Oh, nothing," he said sarcastically.
Amorette's expression darkened. (You knew Balint's history when you made the decision to remain with him,) she reminded him, obviously being careful with her words.
Cam forgot about not asking her directly. "He is in trouble!"
(Let's just say you'll know as soon as you lay eyes on him and leave it at that, cher.) Amorette snatched the half empty bottle of beer off the bar. (You're not even going to attempt to drink the rest, are you,) she said with resignation.
Amorette moved behind the bar and went through the door to the sink where Cam could hear her dump the remainder of the beer. (They came to get you, you know,) Amorette told him as she walked back towards Cam. (That was why they were here in the first place. And for your information,) she added, (it was Angelo's idea. Not Weasel's.)
Angelo's idea, eh? Not surprising. He and Angelo may have clashed like hell but the two of them had almost flammable chemistry that led them into bed quite often. Much more often than with Weasel. No wonder he left in such a snit when Cam hadn't played along. Well that was too fucking bad! When Angelo didn't play ball with Cam, Cam was not about to play ball with Angelo.
But Cam recognized that Amorette had been trying to distract him by dropping that little tidbit. It wasn't gonna work. Not at all. "Are you gonna tell me where Balint is?"
Amorette sighed. (I can't,) she answered sadly before moving on to help another customer.
Cam was about to leave the bar in disgust and just go back to his and Balint's room when he was suddenly assaulted with the pungent aroma of smoked cloves and the scent of fresh blood.
Blood had soaked through Balint's shirt and now Cam could see that it was still flowing, dripping all over the carpet. Blood oozed from gauges dug deep down his cheeks and his jeans were nothing but shreds of cloth; the dried blood being the only thing that kept them on his legs. His arms hung disjointedly, uselessly, and chunks of flesh had been ripped from his thighs, throat and shoulders.
Balint smiled wearily. (I'm sorry I'm
messing up your carpet, Amorette.)
(Cré!) Amorette swore, (He really did a number on you, didn't he, Child?)
Balint winced as he shrugged. (It happens.)
They all knew. Amorette. The boys. Everyone had known that Balint was getting the shit beat out of him tonight by Radu. And Cam could smell that wasn't all the bastard did.
"The fucker raped you!" Cam exclaimed.
Balint turned to face him woozily, coughing up blood. (Hi, Cam.)
Cam ignored him and stalked off to their room to get his gun.
(Cam, don't get involved,) Balint called behind him. (It's not your problem.)
Cam whirled around, not knowing who he was more infuriated with, Radu or Balint. "The fuck it isn't! I thought we were a team, Balint!"
(We are! Just not with this, baby.)
Cam grabbed his gun and shoved it in his waistband. "And what is this, huh? I'm supposed to just stand by and watch Radu makes you his bitch and pounds you to a pulp?"
The quiet storm was starting to brew. (No. You're supposed to keep your nose out of what doesn't concern you, Cameron.)
"But it concerns Angelo? Weasel? Everyfuckingoneelse?"
(I never said that.)
"But you told them. Why do they get to know and I don't?" Cam glared at Balint, knowing he was being selfish as usual in that he was as enraged about Balint excluding him as he was worried about the state Balint was in.
(I didn't tell Angelo, Radu did, out of courtesy.)
Cam laughed at the ridiculousness of that statement. "Oh yeah, I could see that. 'Oh by the way, Angelo, I'm gonna fuck Balint so bad he can barely stand.'"
Balint didn't rise to the bait this time. (Challenge,) he croaked, leaning against the wall for support.
Cam stared at him. "What the fuck did you just say?"
Balint cleared his throat. (Challenge, Cam. Radu issued his Challenge and I answered. Angelo knew it was coming eventually, Radu just let him know it would be tonight.)
Cam suddenly remembered Radu's last words to Balint and the kisses on his cheeks. "You knew about this since your Change and you couldn't fucking tell me?!"
(You wouldn't understand, Cam and quite frankly, it's too late for you to suddenly decide that you're interested in anything about me besides the fact we're good in bed,) Balint said, his voice flat.
His words sliced deep. "When did you ever get the idea that all you were was a fuck to me, Balint? If that was the case, I wouldn't be here now."
(Why are you here, Cameron?)
The casualness of Balint's question startled Cam. "You're saying you want to break up, Balint?" he asked, his voice breaking uncontrollably. "Is that it?"
"No!" Balint hissed. "I'm saying you only want part of me, not all of me and I'm tired of it." His eyes glowed with barely concealed rage. "If that's not the case, then come with me."
Cam blinked. "What the fuck do you mean?"
Balint coughed again and spat out more blood. (It's going to take a lot for me to heal the damage Radu did. More than one kill. More than blood. I'm going to get it. Now. If you want to talk about us, I'll be glad to. After. And only if you're with me for all of it. Otherwise, pack your things and go before I kill you.)
Diamond hard ice crystals formed over
Cam's heart, freezing it. Not because of the matter of fact tone of Balint's
deadly words. Not because Cam had learned long ago that unless he was conning
someone or covering his ass, Balint never said anything he didn't mean.
No. It was because Cam knew he deserved every drop of the quiet venom Balint was spitting at him. Up until now, Cam had tried to pretend everything was still the same, that Balint was the same shifty and charming rogue Cam had thought he was.
And Balint had been. It was just that the whole time, Balint had never been fully human and all of those things that made him such a good assassin were all Sangsue traits. The speed, his hearing, his persuasiveness, his deadly aim and ability to track his target, all of those things Cam had always taken for granted, were the very things that he now knew were the dead giveaways of how inhuman Balint truly was and had always been.
Just like Cam's dead-on skill as a hunter, his unusual strength and of course, his Gift of powerful empathy were dead giveaways of how inhuman Cam truly was. Not to the extent Balint was, of course. There was so much more Balint had been capable of that he'd kept hidden from Cam from the very beginning and Cam's powers and abilities couldn't even come close to Balint's in a weakened state. But there was enough to make Cam want to be as far away from that part of Balint as possible; except during sex when instinct took over whether Cam wanted it to or not.
Sensitive and caring as usual, Balint had spared him, doing his hunting and juicing out of Cam's sight. But now Cam could see how much it'd killed Balint to do that. And for Cam to reject that part of Balint, that part of HIMSELF was the same to his lover as rejecting Balint period. The shock of that realization smacked Cam right in the face, bringing tears to his eyes. "Balint," he whispered, regretting that the only endearments he had for the blond were affectionate insults, "It's a rejection of me. Not you." He reached over, his finger gently touching Balint's lips. "Never you."
Balint was unmoved. (Then prove it. Meet me upstairs and put your actions behind your easy words, Cameron.)
Balint started to fade when Cam called out, "Wait."
He solidified. (I'm listening.)
"Don't you want to get cleaned up first?" Cam suggested. "I I can help you with that," he mumbled, suddenly feeling shy and uneasy. "Get you dressed and all."
(It's not necessary,) Balint answered curtly.
Cam was not a hearts and flowers kind of boy and had never claimed to be. Sex was easy. Affection. Love. Those were emotions Cam was far from comfortable with and was inept in expressing them. Instead, he handled things in his usual gruff way, hoping Balint would see Cam's true feelings. "Can't have you starving to death because you're scaring everyone away with your messed up self." Then Cam grinned suggestively. "And can't have you turning everyone on with your half-naked and sexy body."
For a few moments, Balint's expression was unreadable and Cam panicked, wondering if he'd just blown the last chance he had to keep the boy he loved. Then Balint's lips curled up into a whisper of a smile. (As long as I get to turn you on with my naked body afterwards, baby.)
Cam smiled back. "You always do."
Each playroom had an adjoining bathroom with a huge Jacuzzi for sensual bathing and lounging and a shower stall for more functional cleaning. Cam gently peeled the remainder of Balint's clothing off his skin and led him into the shower stall with whispered promises that when they got back to the Nocturne later he and Balint would take full advantage of the Jacuzzi. He took a wash cloth and gingerly cleaned the blood and filth away. Normally Balint's wounds healed pretty instantly but the wounds were so deep that they'd only just stopped oozing blood.
Cam tried to ignore the missing chunks of flesh that Radu had eaten.
Cam poured some shampoo into his hand and gently massaged and scrubbed Balint's scalp, cleaning and soothing him. When he was satisfied that Balint was as clean as he was gonna get, he turned off the water, grabbed a towel from the rack and carefully dried the Gypsy's body. Even with all the slashes and gauges, Balint's body never failed to excite Cam.
Keeping the promise about the Jacuzzi would be damned easy.
(No shirt,) Balint pleaded as Cam gently eased him down on the bed.
"No, shit Sherlock," Cam said, grabbing a pair of jeans from the closet and sliding them over Balint's torn up legs. "If it wasn't for public obscenity laws I wouldn't bother with jeans either.
Balint grinned impishly. (You just want easy access.)
Good. If he was joking, at least he wasn't angry at Cam anymore. "Always."
Easy was exactly what Cam was shooting for. Balint's jeans and his boots. Everything else was unnecessary.
(I can't carry you up there, Cammie,) Balint told him regretfully.
"Well, since your arms are broken, yeah, I kind of figured that out already."
(It's easier on me if I use as little energy as possible and passing through the floors is a more direct route to the main floor than the stairs are. See if Amorette can get someone to give you a lift and I'll be waiting,) Balint said before misting and vanishing.
Getting someone to help Cam upstairs wasn't hard. He wasn't happy about being thrown over the boy's shoulder like a sack of potatoes, but he couldn't float up there himself so he dealt with it. Within moments, they reached the door that led to the main floor of the club and he was hurled unceremoniously through it, landing painfully hard on his side. Still, at least he could get off the floor and stand. A Norm probably would have been paralyzed.
(Someone forgot to take out the garbage,) Cam heard a familiar voice taunt. Oh fuck, that was right. The door to the Playground was right near the bar. And right near the bartender.
Dimitri. And Balint was waiting on the other side of the bar.
Cam glared at who Weasel derisively called the "Greek Ice Queen." "I'm not in the fucking mood right now, asshole."
Dimitri laughed. (But I am.) Then he turned to Balint. (Lost to Radu, did you? How could you ever have thought you had a chance?)
(At least I accepted the Challenge,) Balint replied coolly. (And at least Radu thought well enough of me to offer me the chance.)
(A chance!) Dimitri snorted. (You consider it an honor for him to make mincemeat out of you? You're still his lapdog.)
Balint smiled, baring teeth. (And you're the dirt underneath my feet. To Challenge you would be beneath Radu because he'd tear you apart in seconds. And if you Challenged me, you'd never get the chance to lay a fang on me. And you know it.)
One of the first things the Gypsy boy had learned was how to put more power behind his will nudges, making them more like shoves, without the psychic backlash that had caused him the massive migraines before. With just a flick of his will, Balint could easily smack down Dimitri's, stopping him dead in his tracks before the fucker even got the opportunity to physically attack Balint.
Which was why Dimitri's eyes began to glow fluorescent red and his fangs unsheathed. "Go," he hissed, "before I shatter every bone that Radu didn't break!"
Balint didn't even bother to answer him, he just walked over to Cam. (Let's go, Cammie.)
Cam gave Dimitri the finger and he and Balint walked out of the Nocturne.
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