Lindsey has no sense of Pack. Or of a Master's laws. And here he is in the middle of both.
The creatures deciding his future stand a mere five feet away. The leader of the Pack is a brawny man with a dark brown ponytail. Scholarly glasses he must've forgotten to take off sit on the bridge of a noble nose.
Richard is not happy. He is furious at being called back from Tennessee, being called away from some mountain trolls that evidently need his protection. And he certainly doesn't appreciate being at Jean-Claude's beck-and-call. The perks of being the third member of an uneasy triumvirate with a shared girlfriend.
But it is the only way. Rules exist. Protocol must be followed. The Lukoi don't do anything without the consent of their leader.
He thinks they don't even piss without asking at least their Lupa, Ms. Anita Blake, for permission. But you won't catch him saying that out loud. He can't. He won't blow this. Not this time. Because this is his chance...his only chance to feel human again. It's ironic, yes, that becoming a lycanthrope is the salvation for his humanity, but he is fairly certain he'll die without it. That he'll shrivel up in nightmares and phantom pain and all the 'might-have-beens'.
Does Anita really care if this works? Or does she just want him safely away from her on-again-off-again thing with Jean-Claude? Compassion or jealousy? Maybe she knows something he doesn't...? Maybe she knows he will not survive this? That Richard will say "no"? That he has run all the way from Los Angeles for nothing...for false hope?
Jason is far from flirtatious today. Behind the mask of the slender, elfin boy is a powerful wolf...one who awaits, just like he does, the handing down of a decision that will change everything.
"Yeah?" he wonders, feigning dispassion as he tries to tune out the faint noises that are filtering down from the Circus' busy midway.
There are no quips on Jason's tongue. "I hope this works out for you," he says with levity he has never shown in the past.
Lindsey can't find much of a joke either. Or a grin. "Me, too."
"*Mon homme*...why do you want this?"
Jean-Claude's rich laugh cut off his response, more effective than any objection ever raised in a courtroom. "I know what she said. She says a lot of things. Most of the time *she* does not know what she wants...whether that is me or Richard or no one at all. She hides from herself, Lindsey. Do not do the same. Why do you want this? To take this step?"
He arched an eyebrow, resting his chin on the back of the elegant desk chair. "Are you asking as a Master of the City or as my client?"
"Neither. As your friend, I would hope." From behind his curtain of dark hair, there was the amused indirect glare of Jean-Claude's hypnotic blue eyes. "Lycanthropy is not a matter to be entered into lightly."
Lindsey smiled faintly. "You sound like the preacher who told me not to marry SueEllen Peterson when I was fresh outta college."
The vampire matched his expression, did it one better by giving it a flash of fang. "Well, it appears he was right, *non*? *Pauvre* SueEllen did not end up shackled to a man not invested in women...or in life."
"Ah AM invested in life," he assured, swiftly. "And that is why I want this."
Reclining elegantly on the bed, Jean-Claude looked like a high-priced gigolo...or something out of a Renaissance painting. "*Vraiment*? Really?"
"The law firm I worked for ate away at me piece by piece. They were evil. They were inhuman in every way but skin and they tried their best to remake me in their image," he explained...for the first time really putting into the words the experiences that had haunted him for years.
"When Angel cut my right hand off, I thought he'd hurt me...but what he did was begin to heal me. He cut off a diseased limb...infested with evil. When Buffy Summers cut my left hand off, all she was doing was cutting out my heart the way hers had been. And, after that, it was easier to forget how to love...'cause it hurt too much. Now it's time for me grow again...to remember everything again." He took a deep breath, cutting off the rush of words as a full blush heated his cheeks.
He hadn't said so much at one time since his last summation for Wolfram & Hart some five years before. The silence hung heavy in the air for minutes on end. Allowing him the blessed chance to reclaim some semblance of dignity, of circumspection.
And the words that broke it were, unequivocally, the words of a Master, not a client or a friend. "Richard will come. And he will assent. I'll make sure of it."
"Do it," Richard says tersely before turning on his heel and walking out, walking away.
And the remainder of the Pack closes in. As does the Master's clan.
And it begins.
The transformation. The initiation. The welcome.
Jason's arms around him. The cool stone floor beneath them.
Teeth roughly scraping dead skin...a soft, pink, tongue gently caressing curves and edges that cannot appreciate the sensation. He stares, in fascination, at the coating of saliva and scratches that fangs and tongue leave on each stump.
Then, Jason's body moves over his and he can't stare at anything but bright blue eyes and an encouraging smile of elongated teeth. "Good things come to those who wait," the wolf whispers.
And then the pain comes.
And everything goes dark to the sound of Jean-Claude's musical laughter.
Pounding. Incessant pounding. He turns over and pulls the pillows over his head, but it doesn't stop the sound. *Answer the door, Jase,* he wishes, silently. But the wish remains unanswered by the huddled lump asleep next to him. And the noise seems to grow exponentially.
Loud enough to wake the dead. But not the undead. He knows the Master and the others still sleep. They could sleep through World War III.
"Fuck," he hisses, blearily rolling off the King-sized bed and reaching for his pants. He yanks them over his hips and fastens the buttons haphazardly as he stumbles towards the large antechamber, the doors that lead to up towards the Circus of the Damned. "All right...all right...I'm coming, I'm coming. Who is it???" he demands, reaching for the handles.
And it is when he yanks the offending barriers open that he stops and stares down at his hands.
Two. Perfect. Slightly tanned and lightly-haired. Hands.
He flexes his fingers. Fingers. Ten of them. Nails, knuckles, joints. Those silly little creases that his mama used to call "angel kisses." Two palms. Thumbs. Wrists! And something inside him is humming. Singing, really. Like notes surging through his veins. *Power*. It vibrates on the edge of his skin, sending every hair to strict attention...even his toes are suddenly tapping against the stone.
"Holy shit! I've got hands!" he gasps out at the person who dragged him unceremoniously out of bed. Not caring who they are...just reaching out and grabbing their shoulders as the giddiness continues flooding his system. "I've got hands!"
And dark cocoa-tinted fingers cover his own, pulling them down. "You've got somethin' all right, Bro'. What in the living *fuck* did you go and do?"
He registers the smooth, shaved head. The cynical dark brown eyes. The familiar twist of the full lips. But it is the voice that really hits it home. Breaks the spell. Wakes him up.
"Gunn!" he cries, clutching the fingers and pumping them up and down, marveling at the contrast of the intertwined brown and tan. "Hey, Gunn!"
"Yeah, Lindsey....*Gunn*. And I've come to take you home."