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Author's Notes I: The following is based very, very, very loosely on Bev's Sylum Clan Series. Thanks to Dru for the French translations, sometimes Babel Fish just doesn't cut it, ya know? It will be several parts long. I'm not sure how many and I'm still working on the second part. I will post as I get them finished. I learned several things while writing this one: 1) Male Highlanders didn't wear kilts in the 9th century. They wore a tunic-like garment called a léine. 2) If I actually put fingers to keyboard every day, the story will unfold pretty damn close to how it does in my head when I sleep at night. 3) If I don't want to write in a new fandom, I shouldn't introduce [personal profile] jetpack_angel to said fandom because she has a way of throwing bunnies at my head. 4) My muses are dirty, dirty, dirty boys. Okay, I already knew this but just thought I'd share it with all y'all. ;-P
Author's Notes II: Minor crossover with Stargate: Atlantis. For translations, hold mouse over the highlighted text.

Dean's POV:

The call from John Sheppard was very much a surprise. Last I'd heard he was off somewhere that I don't have the security clearance to know about, doing stuff that's 'need to know' and I so obviously don't need to know. Except that I do. Know, that is. I know where he's been and what he's been doing because there is very little that Nick Stokes, leader of Sylum Clan, doesn't know when it comes to government secrets. Secrets he shares with all the members of his clan, just so we’ll know who to trust.

So here I am, sitting on a tattered old couch in one of the few vampire friendly bars in LA, nursing a beer while I await the arrival of my clan brother. While it is no longer illegal to be a vampire, there are still some who think it should be. Normally I wouldn't care, I'm still passing so I don't have to worry about going to vampire friendly places, but I'm not sure if John's passing or not so I figure it would be best if we meet in a place where neither of us has to worry.

Looking around the bar I picked, I have to wonder if I have a thing for abandoned warehouses. Surely I should worry that not only have I chosen to meet John in a warehouse that has been transformed into one of the hottest places in LA, but that I live and work in an old warehouse.

The space still looks like the warehouse it used to be. The new owners didn't change much. The exposed cinder block walls have been painted with day-glo so that they'll glow in the black lights that are used during after hours, the furniture is junk yard specials, and yet they're very sturdy. One can indulge with a donor and not worry that the couch or chair will give out under you. But the bar, and the fixtures behind it, is brand spanking new, as are the tables scattered along the edge of the dance floor.

Being an eleven hundred year old vampire has its advantages and even bigger disadvantages. And if I know John Sheppard, and his Sire Nick Stokes, the biggest disadvantage is going to be discussed rather soon, whether or not I want to.

Before I can get too far into today's brooding session, a tall lanky figure in jeans, a well-worn t-shirt and an even more well-worn flannel shirt plops down in the chair on the other side of the small table in front of the couch I've claimed as mine. Using the bottle in my hand, I push its twin across the table's surface toward my 'guest' by way of greeting.

"I must admit, I'm surprised you agreed to see me," John begins after taking a long swallow of his beer. "Last time we spoke you sounded like you'd rather I never graced your presence again."

"Yeah, well." I shrug. "What can I say? Considering where you've been the past five years, I figured I owed it to you to put that little argument behind me."

He chokes on his next drink. "Little argument? You're serious?" The look on his face is priceless, and I don't even try to hide the smirk caused by my barb hitting its mark. His eyes narrow on my face. "I hate you, you know," he hisses.

"Yeah, I know," I chuckle, and eventually he joins in.

He even goes so far as to lift his nose into the air. "One would think that someone as old as you would be beyond such childish things," he scolds, but I can tell he thinks he’s being funny.

I, on the other hand, fail to see the humor. "Don't look now, Jean-Luc, but your nobility is showing," I growl. John and I are as different as two people can be. And not all our differences are because we were born over six hundred years apart and in two different countries. John was born into a noble family and became one of his king's personal guards. My parents were both common, and I had to fight for everything I ever got, even my position as a powerful laird's second-in-command. Especially my position as my laird's second-in-command.

He sets his bottle down on the table and settles back in his chair with a sigh. "And your prejudice is showing. We've been through this before. I do not think I'm better than you because my parents happened to be of the nobility. Despite their station in life, my parents were just as poor as yours. My father was never good with money, and after –"

I don't let him finish. "This is something we've discussed before and is something about which we will always disagree."

John’s face says that while he may have a lot of practice with argumentative people, it never becomes any more pleasant. "Seriously, Dean, why must you be so difficult?"

And if he thinks I’m going to let up on him, he’s got another think coming. "Carter asks that same question at least three times a day."

"Only three? You must be mellowing in your old age, Old Man." Finally, a smile from him.

"Nah, Carter's just finally getting used to me." The smile falls off his face when I don't take the bait.

John eyeballs me as he picks his beer back up. "Still haven't told him, huh?"

"This from the man who has a narcissistic, ego-maniacal prick for a Mate." I just can’t resist the jab. It's a low blow, but I'm still smarting over the whole Carter not believing in vampires thing. John's always been touchy about his Mate, and I've heard he's been even more so this time around.

He gives a one-shouldered shrug. "At least I told mine and then Bonded with him."

"Mine's a stubborn bastard that I think doesn't even like me some days."

"And Rodney isn't stubborn? You'll have to meet him sometime. I was positive he hated me for most of our first year out there."

Well, at least he knows where I’m coming from. I can’t help but be a little bit curious, or maybe I’m just hoping he’ll toss me a bone so I don’t actually have to ask him for advice. "So what happened to turn him around?"

"He realized that I wasn't going anywhere." He pauses to take another swig of his beer. "I have to admit that when I first looked up and saw Constance looking back at me from his face I was horrified. It wasn't until he almost drowned in a downed jumper that I finally decided to get over his annoying personality."

I just shake my head. I've heard stories about Rodney McKay and none of them show the man in a good light. "Don't see how you could. I know of Mates that hate each other so much they refuse to actually Bond and live as far from each other as they possibly can."

He nods his agreement, signaling one of the girls to bring us more beer. "So, does anyone on your team know you're a vampire?" It's the question I've been dreading since he asked if I've told Carter he's my Mate yet.

"One. Carter's latest stray. She saw me vamp-out at a scene and when she didn't run screaming from the room, I told her a bit of my story." As little as possible, actually. I don't like talking about my past, it's not pretty, and my Turning was just the icing on a very nasty cake.

"Then you slept with her, right?"

It never ceases to amaze me how prudish he can be. Considering he was born at a time when very few people actually went to their marriage bed a virgin. With a chuckle I ask “And you've never slept with a Chosen while feeding?”

"Not when my Mate was right there!" he counters.

I tilt my head in concession. "I don't think he sees me that way, though."

"And that makes it okay?" Again with the shock that I could be such a randy horn dog.

"John," I start with a chuckle. "You know as well as I do that a donor usually enjoys a feeding more if sex is involved."

He rolls his eyes in exasperation. "Stay on point, Dean."

I grin cheekily at him. "Why're you here, Jean-Luc? Last I heard you never were one to be at Nico's beck and call."

"And I'm not. I'm currently on leave and staying in San Francisco, and Nick called and asked me to see how you're doing. Seems you haven't stayed in touch like you're supposed to."

That's the worst thing he could have said. I jump up, fighting the urge to vamp-out and punch his pretty face. "I'm not one of his clan members. He can't order me around."

John stands much slower and shows just what he's learned in the past five years stationed in a galaxy far, far away where he has to play nice with people he would rather shoot. "He's aware that you've never made an official alliance with Sylum, but you did agree to the same terms as Riddick. You're to check in once a month, deep cover or not."

I give in to the rage building at the audacity of Nico Meridius and punch the nearest wall. "Riddick has been tamed by his new Mate. He's grown weak in complacency." Luckily the patrons and employees of this bar are used to my explosive temper so no one does anything more than just look over at where John and I are standing. "I only agreed to those terms so I wouldn't have to worry about hunters coming after me."

John steps in close and whispers "I think we should take this somewhere more private." Then he takes my arm, and I allow him to pull me from the bar, across the dark parking lot, and over to the low-slung sports car he's driving that amazingly hasn’t been completely stripped while we were inside. It’s a very, very nice car.

Giving a low whistle, I climb into the passenger seat. "Tell me you're not just renting this 'cause I'd be very willing to take care of it for you when you head back to wherever the fuck you've been for the past five years."

He chuckles while starting the car with a quick twist of his wrist, and in no time we’re on the road and John’s reminding me how much he loves flying. "Sorry to burst your bubble, but it's a rental. I'm officially stationed in Antarctica, remember? No need for a car there."

"You have a car in storage, though, right?"

He rolls his eyes, downshifting to avoid rear-ending the idiot that just cut us off, causing the car to growl its displeasure at the lower gear. "You're older than me. Surely you have enough money for a car of your own." He glances at me before swinging the car sharply to the left and flooring it to get around the traffic jam so he can make a sharp right turn at the light, earning us some very pissed off honking and rude gestures from the cars waiting for the jam to clear, before getting hit by on-coming traffic. "Oh, I see," he laughs when I don’t say anything. "You just want to drive someone else's car. 'Drive it like you stole it, bone it like you own it', right?"

"Something like that," I mutter, impressed at how well he's handling the car.

With just a little direction from me, he's soon turning into the large freight elevator of the restored warehouse where I live. With a flick of his wrist, he kills the engine, and we both climb from the car. Stepping over to the doors, I pull them closed, then reach for the controls and hit the up button.

"Must be nice to be able to drive your car right to your front door like this," he quips.

I look back over my shoulder to find him leaning back against the car with his arms and ankles crossed. "It is. When we get to my floor, you're gonna have to pull the car into my space. The floor right below mine is the one we use as our base."

John's eyebrows climb his forehead. "Carter aware you live that close?"

I shrug, walking to the other side of the elevator in preparation of opening the doors. "If he is, he hasn't said anything about it."

He snickers a bit, while getting back in the car and starting it back up. As soon as the lower half of the door is out of the way, John slowly drives the car into my apartment. It's his turn to give a low whistle of appreciation when he steps from the car and gets his first good look at where I live. "Never would know this is in here based on the outside."

The first thing people notice upon entering my place is that everything is white, followed closely by the frosted glass brick wall separating the living room from the bedroom. To the right of the elevator is a 72-inch plasma mounted on the cinder brick wall. To the left, behind a bar, is the kitchen area. Two high-backed stools are set in front of the bar on the living room side. The sitting area is designed to encourage people to sit and get comfortable.

"Kinda the point," I say, purposely rubbing against him when I walk past on my way to the kitchen area.

He just sighs. "I'm Bonded, Dean."

"Does it really matter?"

"Does to me."

I want to sigh, but manage to restrain myself. "Oh, right. I forgot you're one of those guys."

"So were you, if I remember correctly."

"Low blow, Jean-Luc," I growl threateningly. But he has a point. When I was married, back before I was Turned, I was faithful to my wife. Something that very few men actually were. Heaving a deep sigh, I let it drop. "But point taken. Want something to drink?"

"You got any A-positive?" he asks, wandering around taking in the understated richness of my living space.

"Good one, John," I snicker, opening the fridge and pulling out two bottles of beer. I open both bottles and walk back to the living room. "So," I begin, handing one to John. "I thought you hated being Nick's errand boy."

“That’s Lieutenant Colonel Errand Boy to you,” John replies a little haughtily, then waits for me to snort before he tilts his bottle back and drinks deeply. "Normally I do, but like I said, he knows I'm in the area and since you've been ignoring the conditions you agreed to…" he trails off with a shrug.

I sit on the arm of one of the chairs nearest the kitchen area and do my best impression of a grumpy gargoyle. Talking about Sylum tends to do that to me. "And I told you, I only agreed to that to keep hunters off my ass. I'm a rogue vampire wandering around Nico's backyard. Having the 'protection' of Sylum comes in handy."

"So you thought being affiliated with Sylum would keep the assassins from coming after you? I've discovered it has the opposite effect."

I shrug and empty my bottle. "My job is harder if I'm constantly watching out for an enemy looking to end my miserable existence."

To give John credit, he actually looks chagrined and lowers his gaze to the floor. "Nick says that if you miss another check-in, he'll remove his protection."

I can't help it, the thought that Nico Meridius thinks he can bring me to heel with a threat like that has me laughing so hard, I fall off the chair arm I've been perched on.

John doesn’t share my amusement. "Seriously, Dean. I don't want to see anything happen to you. Although, based on what's happened to the ruling members of Sylum in the last several years, not being associated with Sylum just might keep you alive longer."

Picking myself up off the floor, I resume my place on the arm of my chair. "Aw, Jean-Luc. I didn't know you care."

He rolls his eyes and finishes his beer, and when it’s done he just stares at nothing, voice quiet and eyes far away. "If not for you, I'd most likely have killed Nick that day." And he would have, too.

The day in question happened back in 1673. He'd just found out that a soul can come back as the opposite sex when he bumped into a man on the street that had his wife's soul. While Nick had told him that Constance would return, he failed to tell him that part, and John didn't take it very well. He was raised in a time when homosexuality was starting to become taboo. With the help of Tim Speedle and Tony DiNozzo, I was able to pull John off Nick and get him upstairs where the three of us showed him that having sex with a man is just as wonderful an experience as sex with a woman.

I grab his empty bottle on my way back to the kitchen. After depositing the bottles in the trash, I lean against the counter while silence reigns for several minutes. I know he's gnawing on something and that it'll take him longer than I want to get it out. "Alright, Jean-Luc, spit it out," I mutter with a sigh.

"What?" He seems genuinely surprised that I can read him so well. Oh, how soon he forgets the hundreds of years we've known each other.

I raise one brow. "Whatever it is you're over there chewing on. Spit it out before you choke."

He shifts in his seat. "First off, stop calling me Jean-Luc."

"It is your name."

"Not anymore, it's not." The look he gives me proves just how he became a Captain of the Guard with the Musketeers and shows me how he's managed to keep all the Marines that serve under him in line. "Second, what's with the attitude toward Riddick all of a sudden? I thought the two of you were thick as thieves."

A derisive snort escapes. "Last time him and his pussy of a Mate came to town to see the Epps brothers, I called Riddick to see if he wanted to raise a little hell. He said he couldn't because his lame-ass Mate would stick out like a sore thumb and even if he didn't, he's one of those goody-goody cops that frowns on all kinds of law breaking."

John just about chokes on his laughter. "You're a cop too, Dean. You should be against law breaking as well."

"Yeah, well," I grumble, rubbing one hand across the back of my neck. "Sometimes I need to let off a little steam, ya know?"

"By breaking the law?"

"By coming close to breaking the law. But to get back on topic, have you ever met Riddick's Mate?"

I’m sure he notices my rather pathetic attempt to change the subject, but he lets it slide. "Once. Couple of years ago when we got kicked out of Atlantis. While we were back on Earth, Nick called me home so that Rodney could do the whole formal oath thing. Every member was called in for it. And everyone came, except you." Damn, was hoping he wouldn't have noticed my absence.

I sigh and try to come up with an excuse that won’t leave me feeling guilty. Riddick was my friend and fellow troublemaker, although nowadays I don’t know if I could still say that about him. "I was deep under. Couldn't get free." I can tell he sees it for the lie it is. Or rather, the half-truth. I was in the middle of a case, one that would have fallen apart if I had suddenly disappeared for even one day, let alone the four that a trip to Sylum Manor requires but if I had truly wanted to I could have found a way to go without jeopardizing the case. "But you see what a wuss he is, right?"

"Careful, Dean. Your jealousy is showing." He settles back in his chair and crosses one knee over the other.

"Jealous, my ass," I mumble, shifting nervously against the counter and rubbing one hand over my face.

"How long's it been, Dean?" His voice is quiet. Almost as if he's afraid I'll shatter into a million pieces if he speaks too loud. I won’t even try to pretend to not know what he's talking about.

With a heavy sigh, I admit, "Just over a thousand years."

With my hand over my eyes, I still don’t have to look at him to know that he’s wincing but then immediately trying to cover it up with some kind of sympathy. "Dean. I happen to know you've been counting the days, right down to the minute."

I sigh, push myself upright and walk back into the living area to drop down into the chair facing the one John's occupying. "One thousand ten years, six months, six days. I refuse to give you the hours."

The look on his face is nothing short of painful. "I'm sorry. Truly. I know how hard it was for me in-between each of Rodney's lives and to not see your mate for a thousand years…" he trails off with a shudder.

"Yeah. Now you know why I'm hesitant to tell Carter." I don't like to think about the last time I saw my Mate, the first time I saw him as someone else.

"You can't let that stop you, Dean. What if Carter gets killed? Huh? You ready to wait another thousand years to find him again?"

His words bring back memories of a case from a few weeks ago, but I do my best to school my reaction before he can see just how big of a nerve he’s struck. "I see your point. A few weeks ago there was a case. Carter went under with Jaimie. She was supposed to be the bait, but Ty overheard the suspects talking about raping her so Carter changed places with her. I was their driver, they were posing as a rich married couple. I had to sit by and watch as he got punched in the face and dragged off to somewhere I couldn't follow because I had no idea where they were headed." My eyes sting with tears I refuse to shed.

"If you won't tell your Mate who he is, then I suppose I should take you for a good feeding. How long's it been, anyway?"

I shrug. "A day. Maybe day and a half."

"Then let's go." He claps his hands, but before he can even begin to get up, his cell rings. He glances at the caller ID then shoots me the look of a man whose other half is tugging on their leash a tad too often, and I decide to not listen in. "Hey," he says into the phone, his voice soft and loving. "Yeah?" A pause. "Sounds good." Another pause. "No, still on clan business. And before you ask, it'll be a couple of days before I get back." The next pause is accompanied by a wistful smile, then he laughs out loud. God, I forgot how annoying his laugh is. "Not sure that's such a good idea." This pause is punctuated with him rolling his eyes. "'Cause he won't really fit in, that's why." Whatever is being said has his eyes opening wide. "In that case, yes, take him and Teyla with you. Just don't forget to mention –" The person he's talking to obviously finishes that sentence. "Je t'aime, mon coeur," he whispers before hanging up.

As deadpan as I can muster, I remind him, "You do remember I can speak French, right?"

"Yes. But Rodney doesn't know that." He stands, stretches with a satisfied groan, his spine cracking. "Shall we go?"

Nodding my agreement, I stand up just as my cell rings. Growling softly, I check the caller ID, then sigh when I see it's Carter. "Speak," I bark into the phone.

"I need you," Carter says just as sharply before hanging up. God, what I wouldn't give for that to be true.

It takes me several seconds to realize he just hung up on me, and when I lift my eyes to John's, we have one of those silent conversations that only people who have known each other a long time seem to have. "He needs to see me." I head toward the elevator. "C'mon, I'll show you another place where you can park the car."

We get the car moved with a minimum of fuss and head back up the elevator to see Carter, who doesn't appear to be happy to see us.

"What the fuck is the meaning of this, Dean?" he demands the moment we step into the light filled space.

I look around at John, both brows raised."Uh, he's just a friend." I turn back to Carter.

"What part of 'top secret base' don't you get, Bendis?" Wow, I haven't seen him this pissed in over eleven hundred years.

"Trust me when I say that his clearance level trumps yours."

"We. Don't. Exist. Or have you forgotten that?" He steps closer and is almost nose-to-nose with me, and it’s everything I can do to not grab his face with both hands and kiss him.

Instead I do what Carter expects me to do and I keep arguing. "He's Air Force. Stationed somewhere far, far away. So who the fuck is he gonna tell?"

"That's not the point!"

"It is the point!" He's always been able to raise my ire, and now is no different. I just wish I could end this argument the way I used to, with Adair. "He showed up on my doorstep just as I was leaving to come here. I couldn't just leave him to cool his heels at my place. That would've been rude."

"Then he should have stayed in the car!" When he gets angry his eyes sparkle like crystals and take me back to a time when it was my right to wrap my hand around the back of his neck and shove my tongue down his throat.

"That would have been just as rude, Carter. I haven't seen John in years." Close to fifty to be exact. "And when he called and said he was on leave stateside, I saw no reason to refuse to see him. We are between cases right now, aren't we?"

Carter presses his lips together and turns his narrow-eyed stare on John. "You willing to vouch for him?"

"I am."

Carter nods. "Fine. And yes. I called to tell you that we've officially got a couple of days of downtime."

I don't even stop the smile that lifts one corner of my mouth. "I knew we'd just finished a big case and there was nothin' pendin'. So, if that's all, I'm just gonna…" I let the sentence trail off, pointing over my shoulder with my thumb.

"No, that's not all," he says, reaching out to grab my arm when I take a step back.

The instant his fingers curl around my wrist, I feel the bond flash and I flare my nostrils to catch all his scent as a memory washes over me. The memory of the last time I had sex with him.

It was the night before I married our laird's sister. Highland Scots have a lot of rules about what makes a man, a man, and one of them is that while it's fine to have a male lover before you marry, once the vows have been taken, only women may grace your bed. Until your wife dies, that is.

It was traditional for the wedding night watch to be kept while in the company of one's male friends and family members with plenty of stout ale, hearty food and even heartier wenches for the married men. But for my wedding night watch, Adair convinced the men to let us keep the watch alone; just the two of us.

While our relationship wasn't a secret, exactly, it wasn't something that we felt comfortable letting others know about. Mostly because he was twenty years my senior and my better by birth.

Sex between us was never gentle. We had to grab moments when we could, so it was usually hard and rough, with both of us leaving each encounter battered and bruised. As Highland Scots, the bruises and scratches were never out of place. That said, that last night wasn't like the other times. We didn't remove our clothes, we never did except that one time by the loch, but we had been swimming and so were already naked, just raised our léinte up out of our way.

I always bottomed. I think it was because Adair was older, despite my being his commanding officer. That night, we started out with me on my back and then Adair rolled us so that I sat astride his hips, his large calloused hands squeezing my ass cheeks under my léine. After he recovered from his orgasm, Adair grabbed my face and while looking deep into my eyes said, "Tha gaol agam ort, Dean." He'd never said that before. Never even hinted he felt that way toward me. I said it back, we kissed some more and, while most definitely not snuggling afterward, talked about how we wished we could keep fucking each other after my marriage.

"Dean?" Carter's voice, with its sharp edge of concern, pulls me back to the present. I blink a couple of times, bringing his face back into focus. "Where'd you go?"

"Nowhere. Sorry about spacing out like that. Guess I'm tired." I twist my arm out of his grip, only mildly surprised when he lets me. "Is there anything else?"

"Don't bring strangers here. Ever again. Understood?"

"Yeah. Can I go now?" Not being able to tell him the whole truth makes my voice sharper than I intend.

"I suppose. You got something you want to say?" He lifts one brow, almost like he knows my secret and is just daring me to finally let him in on it.

Yeah. I was born in 877 and was your lover for twelve years until I married our laird's sister. In 910 we both died, but I was Turned into a vampire. I have been searching the world for you for over a thousand years because you're my Soul Mate. Of course I can't tell him any of that due to the fact that he doesn't believe in vampires. "No, I'm good."

He inclines his head in acknowledgement. "Then be careful with your friend there. He looks like he knows trouble intimately." A grin crosses my face at how easy Carter can read John.

I glance over my shoulder to where John has retreated a respectable distance. We share a grin that I turn on Carter. "Yeah, John seems to be something of a trouble magnet." I begin to walk away. "See ya Tuesday?"

"Dean?" His voice is surprisingly soft, and I stop and look over my shoulder at him. "You know you can tell me anything, right?"

Swallowing the lump that has formed in my throat, I nod and manage to say 'yeah' in a voice that sounds normal.

"Just reminding ya that my door's always open."

"Yeah, thanks, Carter." Once again I start to walk away.

Being a vampire sucks rocks sometimes. Like now. I can hear the sigh he releases when I don't send John on his way and turn around to spill my deepest, darkest secret.

John actually waits until we're in the elevator before saying anything. "You're a dumbass, Dean McGillis," he mutters. "You had the perfect opening."

"It's not the right time."

"Not the – Oh, for the love of God!" He reaches up and slaps the back of my head.

I turn to growl at him, and he just glares right back. "Now's not the right time, Jean-Luc! Trust me when I say I'll know the right time. You didn't rush into telling and Bonding with your Mate, did you?"

My barb hits home, and he narrows his eyes at me, his lips compressed into a thin line, but he doesn't say anything else about it.

When we get to the car, I hold my hand out for the keys. "I know the perfect place."

"Great. Give me directions."

"It's just easier for me to drive."

"It's a rental, Dean." He's growing annoyed with me, I can tell.

"What happened to 'drive it like you stole it'?" I just grin my most charming grin.

He rolls his eyes, slaps the keys into my palm. "If you damage it, you will be paying for it."

"Fine," I assure him, climbing into the driver's seat. "As you said earlier, I have more money than you so I have a feeling it won't hurt my account balance."

He buckles up; making sure the shoulder strap is nice and tight. "I don't know about that. Hazard pay for serving in Atlantis is crazy. And what am I going to spend it on way out in Pegasus where American money means nothing."

"Then how do you pay for the things you need?" When he doesn't answer, I turn to look at him and find him staring at me, mouth hanging open. "Barter system, right. How stupid can I be?" His response is a huff of humorless laughter.

I start the car, throw it into reverse, gun it out of the space and with a squeal of the tires, leave the garage, heading out of town.

"What time is your flight out?" I ask conversationally, at complete odds with how I’m trying to outdo his batshit crazy fighter pilot driving from earlier.

"I don't have a flight out."

I stifle a sigh at what that means. "Nico sent the jet to bring you down here." It’s a statement, not a question.

"Yeah," he answers it anyway. "Look, Dean. If you want him to lay off, you might want to consider swearing fidelity."

"What, so he can demand to hear from me every week instead of every month? I think not."

"Actually," he drawls, pressing back against the seat when I narrowly miss a semi while entering the 5. "He'd only require a call once, maybe twice, a year if you were to become an official member."

I can't stop the shit-eating grin from crossing my face at how he's trying to not let me see that my driving is scaring the shit outta him. Considering how much he loves going fast, the way he's acting now is a bit of a surprise.

"Still think I'll pass, but thank him for the offer, would ya?" I downshift to avoid a slower moving truck. "When does the car have to be back to the rental agency?"

"Late Sunday."

"Excellent. That gives us nearly two whole days." Out of the corner of my eye I see him throw me a confused look. "The place I want to go is a coupla hours outside the city."

The rest of the drive is made in silence, but it's the good kind, the kind that is only possible when the people involved have known each other for decades, or in our case, centuries.

Finally, we get to the club, and I see John's eyes widen for a second before he catches himself. His reaction is perfectly natural. The bar isn't in the best of neighborhoods, in fact it's in one of the worst I've ever seen and that's saying a lot. I park the car and have to nudge him to get out.

"Will it be alright?" he asks, swallowing audibly.

"Yeah, it'll be fine. Ya see those two punks over there?" I indicate a couple of troublemakers leaning against the hood of a car about ten yards away. "They know what I am and will keep an eye on the car, make sure nothin' happens to it."

He gives a nod of grudging assent and follows me across the parking lot toward the rundown building that houses one of the largest vampire bars in Southern California.

The foyer keeps one guessing as to what's behind the large stainless steel doors by being decorated in a very understated manner which makes one think they've stepped into a sophisticated club for the upper class. Perched on a tiny stool behind a podium, is a pretty girl wearing a simple black dress.

"Dean!" she squeals, sliding off the stool and bouncing over to give me a hug and a kiss that I normally would have allowed her to deepen.

Pulling back, I grin at her, showing my fangs. "Amanda, my dear. How are you?"

She giggles, blushes and ducks her head shyly. "Much better now that you're here. I get off at 4." She winks and bites her lower lip seductively.

John coughs softly behind me, reminding me of his presence. "This is Jean-Luc Shepard," I make the introductions.

She holds out her hand for him to shake, but he grips her fingers and turns her hand over to kiss her knuckles. "French?"

"Oui, Mademoiselle." John's voice is as smooth as butter.

Amanda giggles again. It’s perfectly obvious that John hasn't lost his touch in charming other people. "Comment allez-vous?"

"Je vais très bien. Et vous?"

"Bien, merci."

John gives her a grin that beats mine in the charming department. "Bien."

"I'm sorry but I have to ask," Amanda begins, but John doesn't let her finish, just shifts his grip on her hand, then lifts her fingers to his neck so she can feel that he doesn't have a pulse. When he releases her hand, she picks up a stamp and uses it on both our hands, leaving the word 'vampire' behind.

When we open the door, loud rock music bombards our ears. John shakes his head a bit and then seems to figure out how to turn down the volume on his hearing. I prod him to step over the threshold and chuckle at the way he gapes at the view spread out before him. The lights are down almost too low for humans but just about every surface has a high shine to it, which reflects what little light there is. There is a bar the length of the wall opposite the door we just stepped through. Between us and the bar are several tables, all occupied at the moment. To our left are booths and private alcoves. To our right is a dance floor. There is an upper level that can be reached via two staircases, one at each end of the bar.

John stiffens and growls low in his throat. "What?" I ask, stepping up close to see if I can figure out what has his hackles raised.

"Rodney's here," he answers just as a balding man leans over the railing to the upper level. From the way his eyes widen upon seeing John, I'm guessing he's Rodney McKay, John's Mate.

I can feel the anger pouring off John in waves. "He did tell you he was coming here, right?"

"Not exactly," he huffs, heading toward the stairs to our left. "He didn't say he was coming here, just that he was going to a rougher than usual club."

"And you told him to bring someone with him, right?"

"Yeah." His gaze hasn't left the man who is still hanging over the railing.

"Well?" I prompt, poking him in the back.

He looks around and then points at a large man with dreadlocks sitting on a couch with a lapful of what appears to be a biker chick nibbling on his neck.

"Is he…?" I'm not sure how to ask if the man is human or not.

"Ronon's human. Well, actually, he's Satedan," John informs me with a shrug.


"The name of his planet. But he's just as human as we were before we were Turned."

I nod in understanding, even though I don't really and he can't see it. "I believe you also mentioned a name. Teyla, I think."

"I don't see her. I'm hoping she's upstairs with Rodney."

We climb the stairs and the man I'm guessing is Rodney, is standing by the railing giving off an air of defiance. If Teyla is a gorgeous warrior woman with warm honey colored skin, then she is indeed upstairs watching over John's Mate.

"You didn't tell me you were coming here." John marches up to the man and gets right in his face.

"I did too!" he doesn't back down.

"Wow, Jean-Luc. He has Connie's backbone, doesn't he?" I tease, not even fighting my laughter.

They both turn to glare at me. "I thought you were going to go to one of the Sylum owned clubs in San Francisco." John turns back to the man before him.

"This one isn't owned by Sylum?"

"Not exactly," I interrupt. "It is associated with the clan, but not owned directly. Members will visit but that's all." Now all three of them are staring at me. "What? It's not like this conversation is private since it's in a very public place."

"John, who is your friend?" the warrior woman asks, her melodious voice reminding me unexpectedly of my mother.

John remembers himself. "Dean Bendis, this is my Mate, Dr. Rodney McKay, and one of our Chosen, Teyla Emmagen."

Rodney, Teyla and I share a nod of greeting. I have always admired the human body, both male and female, and right now I'm admiring Teyla's body. John catches my admiring glances.

"She was fed from just recently."

Licking my lips, I run my gaze down her figure again, taking in the high firm breasts, her slightly rounded belly visible by the open lower halves of her shirt and the jeans resting so low on her hips I have a feeling one firm tug would have them slipping off. "Don't have to feed to have sex with her, Johnny-boy."

"She's married," Rodney informs me. I just shrug 'cause that doesn't bother me in the least. "And has a baby." That doesn't bother me either but the look she's giving me does.

While I'm fairly certain I could take her, I don't want to hurt her so I decide to look elsewhere for the companionship I'm craving. Looping one arm over John's shoulders I turn to Rodney. "So how about the three of us take this somewhere more private."

Rodney rolls his eyes, mutters something about 'Captain Kirk' and informs me in an extremely haughty voice "You're not my type."

I turn to blink at John. "I'm not his type," I repeat in a bland tone.

"You're not his type," John confirms.

Turning back to Rodney, I pout at him. "Why not?"

"I find you too arrogant." If his nose gets any higher, he'll be staring at the ceiling.

"I find that beyond funny coming from you."

Rodney's eyes narrow on my face. "And what the fuck does that mean?"

"Ooo, Jean-Luc. Your Mate has a dirty mouth!"

John chokes on his laughter. "Actually, Rodney's not into threesomes."

"Oh. Well. Why didn't he just say so?"

John shrugs, almost dislodging my arm. "He's always talking and yet he hardly ever says anything."

Rodney glares at John, clamping his mouth shut.

"Um, excuse me?" a young female voice interrupts from the direction of the couch.

"And just who are you?" I ask the young girl sitting on the couch. She looks to be about sixteen, seventeen at the oldest and is dressed very inappropriately for a girl her age; short black leather skirt that shows off way too much leg and a belly-shirt that is cut so low I can see the top edge of her areolas.

"I was feeding from her when I felt John enter the club." I look at Rodney, prompting him to give more information. "She's legal." He sounds like he's not quite so sure about that.

Turning my gaze back to the girl, I can smell her fear as well as see it plain as day on her face. Once you’ve been a cop, it sticks with you, and little lawbreakers like this one always seem to have a special talent for knowing if there’s a badge nearby. I do nothing to make her forget that notion and instead ask her, "Legal as in eighteen or twenty-one?"

She puts her nose in the air. "Twenty-one."

"Mmhm. Sure you are."

She gapes at me. "I am over eighteen." Her voice warbles, another sign that she's lying.

"Yeah. No. Get out before I arrest you as a minor in possession." I flick my head in the direction of the exit.

"But," she tries to argue. I raise my eyebrows at her, and she shuts her mouth with an audible click of her teeth before huffing to her feet and flouncing from the area. I turn to watch her leave and once she's on the other side of the front door, I turn back to my companions.

Rodney's staring at me openmouthed. "I can't believe you just did that!" he screeches.

"This is a twenty-one and over bar, McKay. She was breaking the law by being in here and you were breaking the law by feeding from her. The age restrictions on donors are there for a reason. Besides, since this is a vampire bar, I'm sure she wasn't the only one willing to provide you with a meal." The look that crosses his face tells me that he didn't approach the girl, she approached him. "You've never had a woman approach you for anything, have you?" The way he flicks his eyes over to John gives me the answer to my question. "From now on, don't agree to feed until you've verified the person's age." Rodney's eyes have gone wide, and I'm fairly sure the last person to yell at him like that was John.

But before I can say anything more, a new voice speaks from behind me. "Excuse me, Detective Bendis?"

Turning around I find myself face-to-face with a very pretty blonde wearing a skirt that stops just above her knees and a men's dress shirt, unbuttoned with the tail ends tied in a sailor's knot beneath breasts appear to be the exact cup size I prefer. "May I help you?" My voice has taken on the sultry note that usually yields the results I want, namely the person it's directed at being instantly willing to go somewhere private with me.

"I'm Lisa, Amanda sent me."

"Did she now?" She nods. "Did she send a message as well?"

"She did. 'Please enjoy this snack until I get off at 4.'"

While I realize that Lisa is indeed a 'snack', since I plan on gorging myself on Amanda, I still don't like the term. I find it very insulting. But Lisa doesn’t appear to be insulted by it. In fact she appears to be honored to call herself that. Stepping up to her, I scent her neck and extend my fangs. "Why don't we take this somewhere a hell of a lot more private?" I purr in her ear, nuzzling behind it.

She shivers when I trace her jaw with one fang. "As tempting as that is, sir, I don't have sex with strangers. Not even one who is feeding from me."

I give a one-shouldered shrug. "Very well." Plopping down on the couch behind me, I pull Lisa onto my lap. I may be horny as hell right now but I've never forced anyone, and I'm not about to start now. Arranging Lisa to my satisfaction, I lick a stripe up the left side of her neck before piercing her vein with my fangs and letting her blood flow over my tongue. The noises Lisa makes while I feed soon have me fully erect and throbbing.

Placing my right hand on her left knee, I slowly caress her thigh, intent on making sure she gets some pleasure from my feeding. Her hand lands on my wrist, stopping my advancement. "Not even that, sir," she whispers, her breathless voice going right to my groin.

Sooner than usual, I pull my fangs back and lick the wound closed. "Sorry. Just wanted you to get some pleasure from this."

"Being your snack gave me plenty of pleasure, sir."

I smile down at her. "Please don't call me 'sir'."

She returns my smile and pulls my head down to kiss me, her tongue playing with my canines until I get the hint and extend my fangs for her to explore. After about a minute, I sense her lungs are starting to protest so I pull back to let her breathe. She, of course, doesn't like this and tries to recapture my lips with a small noise of disapproval. "Easy, little one," I chuckle softly, gently caressing her cheek with my thumb. "Breathing is a good thing."

She glares at me. "I find breathing overrated."

Her response has me laughing out loud. "And yet it is still necessary for you to remain alive." She pouts prettily at me. Tapping her on the nose with one finger, I gently scold her. "None of that, now. Now, be a good girl and run along. Remember to tell Amanda I said thanks and I'll see her at 4." I set her on her feet, gripping her waist until she can stand on her own. With a pat to her plump ass, I send her on her way.

Once Lisa has left, I notice that John, Rodney and Teyla are still standing, watching me.

"C'mon, guys. Sit down."

Teyla sits gracefully on the edge of the armchair behind her, John flops down on the couch cushion to my left and Rodney just stands there, staring at me.

"Sit down, Rodney," John says.

"I'd love to, but he's gonna have to move over first."

"Yeah, not gonna happen." I wiggle deeper into the cushion, stretching my legs out in front of me and crossing my ankles.

John apparently still finds me somewhat funny as I can hear him stifling his giggles. "Then sit here," he says, tugging on Rodney's wrist until he's sprawled across John's lap.

"Mm, yes. I should have thought of this," Rodney murmurs before pulling John's head down so they can engage in some tonsil hockey.

"Get a room," I growl. John lifts his head, his fangs extended, hazel eyes glowing faintly. I am not impressed. "And I swear to God if you two start feeding from each other I will so kick your ass!"

With a shake of his head, John retracts his fangs. "Yes, right. Sorry about that." John pushes Rodney from his lap. "Why don't you take Teyla and remind Ronon to not let more than one person feed from him."

I stare down at my hands clasped in my lap until I hear Rodney and Teyla clomp down the stairs. I’m trying to think of something to say when abruptly there’s a strange feeling making itself known in my lower brain, an instant siren call on all my instincts, and it’s suddenly urging me to go, move, run! It forces me to my feet and over to the railing before my upper brain catches up. John gets to his feet much more slowly and approaches where I'm standing with a death grip on the rail. His hand touches my shoulder hesitantly, almost as if he's afraid I'll completely lose it if he moves too fast or if his touch is too firm.

"Dean?" John's softly spoken question has me biting back the keening wail that wants to escape. Now's neither the time, nor the place for that. It’s like all of a sudden, my inner beast has awakened and it’s all I can do to keep it from tearing loose and tearing this place apart.

"I'm hungry, Jean-Luc," I growl, my voice pitched low in an effort to keep the animalistic scream from slipping past my lips.

"You just ate."

A sharp shake of my head negates his statement. "That was a snack. And besides, it's not that kind of hunger."

"Then what kind is it?" The sympathetic tone of his voice is almost too much.

Hard to know exactly, but the question gives me reason to sort through the roiling urges and try to put it into words. "I'm hungry for a good fight. One that leaves the other guy, or hell even me, on death's doorstep."

"Hard to leave you at death's door, but I understand what you mean. You've got bloodlust."

I nod, pulling back on the railing until I'm bent in half and my arms are stretched out in front of me, my head hanging down between them. A tingling begins in the base of my skull and I look up in time to see a tall figure enter the club. He's wearing a pair of dark sunglasses, a black leather full-length trench coat and steel-toed biker boots. There's an aura of danger surrounding him and everyone in the place steps aside to let him pass, none looking him in the eye.

"Hey, John? You know that guy who just walked in?"

"No. Do you?"

"He seems familiar but I can't place him, nor do I know his name." I turn toward the stairs and John grabs my arm to stop me.

"You had better not be thinking of starting something with him," he warns.

I look over my shoulder at him. "Not gonna start anything. Just gonna leave. Since you're my ride, I figured we had better gather your Mate."

"Uh-huh. Like I'm gonna believe that load of bullshit. Besides, the car's a two-seater."

"So you're just gonna leave him here?" I jerk my arm outta his grasp and continue on my way toward the stairs, keeping my eyes on where the newcomer's standing charming a female donor.

"No, I'll send him, Teyla and Ronon on back to where we're staying. They're not expecting me until late Sunday so –" he trails off, lengthening his stride until he's walking shoulder to shoulder with me. John knows me, and he knows that in the rare moments I get like this, it is not a good idea to leave me without a rational friend to keep me from doing something I might regret later.

We start down the stairs and I know the newcomer is staring right at me. The sunglasses hide his eyes but I can feel his gaze on me. Just as John and I reach the last step, the newcomer extends his fangs, tilts his head and sinks them into the neck of the hot young woman he’s been trying his lines on. I'm shocked by the arrogance of this man, his utter audacity. This may be a vampire bar where feeding isn't that private an act, but most people will not feed while standing in the middle of the floor and when they know a stranger is watching. He keeps his eyes trained on me as he drinks, then pulls back without closing the wound. As I watch, two tiny trails of blood run down her neck. He smirks then leans in so he can run the tip of his tongue up her neck, collecting the blood and making the little pinholes heal up and disappear.

I really want to ask this vampire how I know him but I'm mindful of John pacing along beside me. While he has never backed down from a fight, and isn't about to start now, he's not even supposed to be here so getting into a scuffle would cause more problems for him than for me. And I want to fight this man. I don’t know how, I don’t know why. I just know that I know him somehow, and I want to beat the ever-loving crap out of him. Hell, I want to kill him. Who is this guy?

John and I continue on toward the exit and I maintain eye contact with the newcomer until I have to break it or start walking backward, and that would just be way too obvious.

Pushing through the door, I find Amanda reading a book while sucking on a lollipop. I groan mentally at the images that flit through my mind at the sight of her luscious lips wrapped around the candy. Her head whips around at the sound of the door opening and she bounces off her stool.

"You're leaving?" she pouts, placing one hand in the middle of my chest.

Lifting her hand to my lips, I suck her middle finger into my mouth. "Yeah, I got called into work." I put just a hint of regret into my voice. The regret is very real, Amanda is a wildcat in the sack, and I really need to burn off some energy, but I have a feeling that fucking her while feeding isn't going to get rid of the itch under my skin that's urging me to run, go, do something.

She actually whines a bit and deepens her pout. She knows exactly which of my buttons to push and how. Only thing is, I can't afford to let her get to me. Not tonight. "You will be back, right?"

"Of course, darlin'." And I will be back. It might not be for a week or more but I will be back.

Gripping her shoulders, I place a chaste kiss on her lips and then set her aside before exiting the club, John right behind me.

At the car, I don't even hesitate, just climb in behind the wheel and start it up. I want to say I wouldn't have left John if he had been just a second slower in getting into the passenger seat, but with the restless feelings increasing by the second, I can't. As it is, he's barely buckled his seat belt before I'm squealing the tires on my way out of the parking lot.

The drive back north is made in complete silence, for which I am beyond grateful, but I can feel his gaze on me like a physical touch. I chew my own tongue to keep myself from demanding he tell me what's on his mind because I know – I know – I don't want to hear it. He's had a one-track mind this visit and I'm tired of explaining myself to him. Tired of explaining myself to myself, actually. I know I need to tell Carter sooner rather than later, but damnit all to Hell, I just can't find the opening I need, that moment back at the loft notwithstanding.

I break just about every traffic law and enter the garage in record time, pulling into the spot next to my SUV with a squeal of brakes and throwing John forward hard enough against his seatbelt to force an 'oaf' from him. "Damn, Dean," he grumbles, fumbling with the buckle. I don't stay inside long enough to hear what else he has to say.

When we meet at the rear of the car, him on his way to the driver's side, me to my SUV, he plants himself firmly in my path. A growl builds deep in my throat because I still don't fucking want to hear whatever the fuck it is he has to fucking say, but before I can give voice to it, he grabs my face and pulls me into a kiss. Since he's stated several times that he will not cheat on his Mate, I keep my lips closed until he flicks his tongue against them, gently demanding I open up. With a groan, I part my lips to let his tongue tangle with mine. Wrapping two fingers around two of his belt loops, I tug him closer. I'm pleasantly surprised when he doesn't pretend he can't feel the hard length of my erection running down my thigh but instead rubs his against my hip. It’s a little odd coming from him but I’m not going to complain, and he keeps rubbing, and soon enough we can’t stop and we just grind against each other and kiss like teenagers until I’m only somewhat surprised at the fact that the pressure is just right, it’s good, and I grab his hips and press against him just so and then suddenly we have liftoff.

Pulling back, I rest my forehead against his, shaking through my orgasm. "Damn, Jean-Luc. I haven't come in my pants… ever," I huff a nervous laugh.

He joins me in my laughter. "I haven't come in my pants in quite a while myself, but I felt you needed the release." And he's right. I did need the release that climax gave me but it's still not enough.

"Thanks," I whisper, stepping back out of his arms.

He just throws me a patented John Sheppard smirk, it's actually patented as a Jean-Luc Shepard smirk but that's not his name anymore, and steps around me. I climb up into my truck, I wish I had something more like the Corvette John had rented but being undercover means I can't dive something that flashy, and sit there gripping the steering wheel waiting for John to leave. As soon as he's out of sight, I start the car and point it in the direction of the seedy underbelly of LA's vampire society.

The building I end up at is just as unassuming as the one I live in but I happen to know that illegal bare-knuckle fights between vampires are held inside. The only humans allowed are used as food.

"It's invitation only, Bub," the bouncer informs me, putting one hand in the middle of my chest to stop me. I know he knows I'm a vampire because he's one and therefore he can hear that I don't have a heartbeat.

A swift right hook has him staggering back several steps. "There's my invite," I snarl, stepping around him and into the building.

The inside looks just like one would expect from an illegal fighting hall. It's almost totally no-frills, although everywhere one looks there are jewels sparkling in the low lighting and clothes made from expensive materials. The ring looks like, and probably is, an official boxing ring. The 'stands' are chairs placed around the perimeter of the ring, spaced so that everyone has a view. The only frills are in one corner where the humans are kept. The ratio of human to vampire is four to one. Not one single vampire present has to spend the evening without feeding. In the feeding corner, there are beds, couches and overstuffed armchairs. The vampires present are allowed to fuck their meal if they are so inclined. The cop in me is appalled because the humans really don't have a say. They're treated like nothing more than food by most of the vampires and quite a few of them are under the age of donor consent, which means that pedophilia is rampant. Every vampire knows that the blood of a child is sweeter and more powerful than the blood of an adult, something about their innocence or some shit like that. But it's thinking like that that was the impetus for the age restriction laws for donors. That, and more vampires than I like to think about don't stop before they take too much, and that leaves the donor on the edge of death, and some will counter that by Turning them, and who wants to spend eternity as a child?

While the fights are illegal because they're not regulated, not that anyone can get seriously hurt since only vampires are allowed to fight, if the place is ever raided the thing that most of those present would go down for would be the underage feeding.

"Can I help you?" A timid human girl of about twelve approaches. A glance down shows that she has her head lowered in respect, her hands clasped in from of her.

I frown at her head, not quite sure how to answer her. Turns out I needn't have worried because just as I open my mouth a female vampire comes rushing over from the feeding corner, her face a study in anger. "Stupid chit," she growls, backhanding the girl across the face. "What have I told you about approaching strangers?"

"Sorry, Mistress," the girl apologizes, tears streaming down her face, her abused cheek clutched in one hand.

The woman turns to me and smiles a smile that really creeps me out. If I hadn't've met her here, I'd probably end up in bed with her. She's one of the most beautiful women I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, her black hair is piled on top of her head with tendrils of curls framing her face. A pair of small, square sunglasses are perched on the end of her nose leaving her midnight blue eyes visible. A quick glance down shows she's wearing an oriental dress that shows a hell of a lot of both legs. "Please forgive her, sir. She hasn't been with us long and is still learning that she's just a food source."

Just a food source… That phrase right there sums up why laws had to be created to regulate feeding. Laws that basically require outed vampires to fucking register with the government. As if staying alive is a fucking privilege instead of a right. Humans don't have to register their status, nor do they have any laws regulating how and when they can eat. But that's an argument for another day because right here, right now, my main concern is to rid myself of the feeling that if I don't expel a hell of a lot of fucking energy I'll explode and take a lot of fucking innocents with me.

I'm not sure who is the bigger monster: the vampires who buy children for places like this, or the humans that sell their own children knowing that they're considered nothing more than a food source, and maybe a fuck toy, by the vampires who patronize these places.

The hostess is waiting for my response, her smile beginning to slip, which tells me I've taken too long. "Not a problem. There are some adults that still haven't figured out that the only thing they're good for is a quick feed and an even quicker fuck." The words taste like bile in my mouth but years of being undercover, first as a vamp disguised as a human, then as a cop playing at being a criminal, have me saying them without showing just how much I hate knowing that there are vampires in this world who feel that they are better than the humans they feed from.

"What can we do for an associate of Sylum Clan this evening?" the hostess asks next, and I can see her practically salivating at the prospect of having someone from Sylum in her establishment.

I swear if being affiliated with Sylum Clan wasn't good for opening certain doors, I'd tell Nick where to shove off and go it alone. "I wasn't aware that my association with Sylum was known outside certain circles. Especially since I haven't revealed myself as a vampire, publicly." My voice is sharper than it probably should be, but my being a vampire is as closely guarded a secret as my being a cop is during a case.

Her smile turns into a smirk. "I make it my business to know of each and every vampire in my city," she purrs, overstepping herself by getting in my personal space and running one manicured fingernail down the front of my shirt.

"I don't like it when people assume a closer acquaintance than they have," I admonish, grabbing her hand, mindful to keep my grip light so as not to give away my anger, and lightly pushing her back a couple of steps. "When I leave tonight you will forget you know anything about me. Am I clear?" While it's nearly impossible to tell exactly how long someone's been a vampire, it is possible to guess based on how strong they are. And she's not as strong as someone as old as me, while being slightly stronger than John, so I'm guessing she's been a vampire about 500 years. If she's as smart as I'm positive she is, she'll realize she can't beat me and it would be in her best interest to bow to my dictates.

"Crystal, sir." Her voice warbles a bit. She clears her throat before asking again what she can do for me.

"I'm here to work off some restless energy." Having stated my reason for being there, I give into the urge to do something and curl my hands into fists while bouncing ever so lightly on the balls of my feet. I feel just like I did that one time I fed from a junkie: jittery, jumping at every little sound, unable to stand still for more than a second.

"Well, then, you've come to the right place." She turns and begins to walk further into the room. "I'm afraid I can't put you on a card until later in the evening, all the other slots are full. Would you care for something to eat while you wait?" We've entered the feeding corner by this time and she swipes her arm out to encompass all the humans who are currently not being fed from.

It sickens me that the adult to child ratio is so low and I want nothing more than to pull my badge, which I don't have with me, and arrest everyone present and get the victims the help they need. I want to say no right away but force myself to look over what's being offered. There are a few adults, both male and female, that prick my interest, sexually, but they appear to be on the brink of exhaustion so I force myself to turn back to the hostess and say "I've already eaten this evening, but thank you."

"Very well. Could I interest you in a toy?" Yet another term I hate. A 'toy' is a human that a vampire has sex with without feeding.

This time I decide to accept. "Yeah, I'll take… her, him and those two." I point out the four adults that look like they're the closest to dropping.

A gleam appears in her eyes. "I had heard that Sylum members were horny bastards." She gives me a once over, and I can see her trying to figure out how to get me into her bed. "You happen to have excellent taste, sir. Those are four of our best toys. Trained them myself, I did." She motions them over and gives them a few simple instructions then starts to walk away.

"Hostess," I call her back. "I require more privacy that you provide here," I say when she turns back to look at me.

"Of course. Follow me." And she leads us up a flight of stairs to a room that has a floor to ceiling window overlooking the area below. "Enjoy. I'll send someone to fetch you when it's your turn in the ring."

I nod my acceptance, showing her out and then locking the door behind her. When I turn back around all four adults have begun undressing. "Stop," I order and they all look at me in varying degrees of horror. "I'm not going to feed from you and I'm not going to fuck you." Their faces fall at that. "I asked for privacy so that the four of you could get some uninterrupted sleep. The hostess hinted that it'll be hours before my card is called so please, get some much needed rest."

One of the women falls to her knees at my feet, tears streaming down her face. "Bless you, sir. I had heard that Sylum was the gentle clan; that members of Sylum aren't like other vampires."

I help her to her feet and over to the bed. "I remember being human, it really wasn't that long ago. But even if I didn't, without humans us vampires would starve to death. I see no reason to treat you all like a herd of cattle; here for nothing more than to feed us and provide for our sexual needs."

I know my speech sounds a little uncharacteristic in my own ears, but I’ve been needing to say it ever since I walked in here and these people do need to hear that not all vampires are sick, soulless… I honestly can’t think of enough vulgar words for them. Instead, I tuck the two women into the bed then turn to assist the older of the two men. He grabs my arm when I begin to step back. "Will you help us? What they're doing with those children –" he trails off with a bone deep shudder of revulsion.

"I'll do what I can. Now sleep, all of you." Once they're all settled, curled around each other, which makes me wonder if they're related, I turn off the lights and sit down in a chair in front of the window to watch the fights before mine, sizing up my competition.

Several hours later, the hostess enters and she can't quite hide her surprise to find me sitting in a chair while the humans are sleeping in the bed. "They weren't to your taste, sir?"

"On the contrary, they were very enjoyable. I just didn't see the point of keeping them awake once we were done." I stand and stalk over to where she's standing by the bed staring down at the sleeping humans. "That a problem?" I put just a hint of malice into my tone.

She gets what I'm trying to say, that if she doesn't back off right quick I can, and most likely will, bring the wrath of Sylum down on her skanky ass. "Not at all, sir. They were yours to do with as you saw fit for the time you had them." Reaching out, she roughly shakes them awake. "Get up," her voice is curt brooking no argument. "It's time to go." She doesn't even let them come fully awake before she's shoving them out the door.

Downstairs, I'm lead to a corner of the ring where a pretty female vampire helps me remove my jacket and shirt. She gives me a kiss for luck and I climb into the ring.

My competition is a bald vamp with tattoos up his neck and on his head. His eyes are wild and I'd bet donuts to dollars he's not only older than me but he lost his Mate right before he was able to Turn him so that they could Bond. A vampire lost in the grief-madness of losing a Mate pre-Turned is a vampire that has lost a lot of reason, common sense, conscientiousness, and the ability to give a fuck, and it usually stays that way until they find their Mate again. A vampire that manages to Turn his or her Mate but then loses that Mate in the delicate stage before they can Bond, on the other hand, is little more functional than the animals that so many humans compare us to, and a lot more dangerous. I know I’m one of the lucky ones, since I managed to somewhat recover after losing Adair; of course he was dead before I was Turned so that helped. But I’ve heard the stories about families, small towns, and even whole vampire clans that don’t exist anymore because they happened to be in the path of an older vampire who had lost their Mate before the Bond could be completed. Thankfully this one seems to be in the first category, since otherwise even I would have second thoughts about going up against him.

An older male vampire enters the ring and stops when he reaches the middle. With a wave of his hands he motions us closer. Pointing at me, he begins to speak. "I've never seen you before so I'll go over the rules." My competition snickers. "One rule: anything goes." He steps back and out of the ring.

I twist my head from side to side, cracking my neck, then rotate my shoulders to loosen the muscles in preparation of the coming fight. We fall back to our respective corners before charging each other and letting fly with the punches.

There’s no finesse here beyond the easy skill of men who learned to fight centuries ago. We’re not flashy or showy, we’re just pounding the ever-loving shit out of each other. Every rock-hard fist that slams against my cheekbone just fuels the primal fires, makes me bare my bloody fangs and return the favor, and I don’t count it as a solid hit until I hear more than just a grunt when I connect with his ribs. It doesn’t take me long to categorize our strengths: I’m a little faster and I put a little more effort into making my blows count, while my opponent has both the single-mindedness and the physical impact of a sledgehammer. But he’s got stamina, and he wants to brawl just as badly as I do, and I show him just how happy I am to have an opponent that can last as long as I can by doing my best to show him how much he fucked up by thinking he can take me on.

The fight is fast and furious and by the end we're both bloody and bruised, and the crowd loved every fucking minute of it. My ribs ache, my knuckles ache, my jaw aches, hell even my fucking eyelashes hurt but I win. My last punch is a haymaker that leaves my competition flat on his back on the mat, unconscious.

I stumble out of the ring just as the doors burst open and a SWAT team comes storming in yelling “FBI! Don't move!”

"Fuck!" I mutter, grabbing for my shirt and jacket so I can beat a hasty retreat. Somehow I manage to make it to a few turns away from the back door with almost no interference from the cops. Almost.

"And just where do you think you're going?" a familiar voice demands from behind me.

I turn slowly and grimace when I see Don Epps, FBI and Sylum Clan member, standing there, rifle resting against his shoulder and looking for all the world like he owns the place. I don’t know him very well, but well enough to know that I just might be in too much shit for Carter to dig me out of. And that makes me think of the many reasons why I dearly don’t want Carter to hear about this. "Don, I can explain," I begin. And I can already tell that he has a pretty good idea of why I look like I just went twelve rounds with the entire cast of all the Rocky movies, but I haven’t exactly forgotten that there are other criminal charges to be had here.

Which is why I’m happy as fuck when he holds up a hand to stop me. "No need. John called before he headed back to San Francisco. Warned me you might be in a place like this."

I nod. "So…?"

With a sigh, he lowers the rifle. "Get out of here. Last thing I need is for Nick to discover I arrested you for being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

I refuse to let my relief show, and begin to waltz out that door to sweet freedom like I hadn’t just been in danger of losing it. With a smirk, I give Don a friendly slap on the shoulder as I pass. "Thanks man. I owe you one."

"Yeah, you do. And I know just how you can pay up, too." I don't even need to ask, nor do I need him to spell it out for me, but he does anyway. "Call Nick. Agree to swear fidelity."

I stop, hang my head, release a deep breath. "I'll think about it." I finally decide to concede the point so maybe I can get some peace.

"I'll tell him," Don calls out to my retreating back. I hope to God it's enough.

part two

Or read it on my website.


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