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Where I Live (Part 6)
The next thing I knew, someone was shaking my shoulder. I opened my eyes slowly to see Ethan hovering over me.
“Wha’ ‘appen?” I asked groggily.
He smiled. “You fell asleep.”
“Oh . . . for how long?”
He turned and looked at a clock. “About half an hour.”
“Half an hour? Oh, man,” I stretched with my arms above my head. “We should get going.”
He nodded and stood. We left the book there on the little table and walked back to the house. When we got there, I walked into my room and he stayed in the living room. It was the middle of the day, but I decided to take a shower since Dad and I had searched for so long and I hadn’t had a chance to do it earlier. When I was dry and dressed, I walked back out into the living room.
I almost had a heart attack.
A Cat was there.
Ethan was face down on the floor.
He had four long slashes in the back of his shirt and a crimson flower was spreading out around them.
“What . . .” I couldn’t find the words. “What did you . . .”
“What is this Bird doing in your house?” My Dad’s associate asked angrily.
“I . . . I . . .” I took a deep breath. This was it. I knew it had to happen. I just wished it would have been later rather than sooner. “I let him in.”
“I let him in. I found him hurt in the parking structure down the street. He couldn’t remember anything. I helped him, Dak. I couldn’t just leave him there to die.”
“You could and you should have. Or better yet, you should have made sure he wasn’t a threat anymore.”
“Don’t use that cliché on me! Why should I hate him just because he’s different, huh!? Explain that to me!”
“Do not raise your voice at me, child.”
He raised his arm up and I closed my eyes, anticipating the blow, but it never came. I pried my eyes open again and saw Ethan, both of his arms wrapped firmly around Dak’s.
“Please . . .” He said, sounding weak. “Don’t do it. . . It’s not her fault. . . Don’t hurt her.”
Dak grabbed him by his hair, viciously pulling him forward, but he still held on. “Let go, Bird.”
“No . . . It’s not her fault. . . It’s not –”
With one hard throw, Dak sent Ethan flying. He landed hard, his shoulder slamming into the wall.
He struggled to sit up. “You want to beat me? Go ahead. You want break my bones? So be it. But don’t touch her. It’s not her fault. I should never have stayed. . . I accept whatever consequences this may bring down on my head. But you shouldn’t blame her.” He got slowly to his feet. “So if you need to work through some anger . . .” He spread his arms wide, looking like he was having trouble standing. “Here’s your target. . . I won’t fight . . . I promise.”
Instantly, I knew Dak was going to take him up on his offer. He turned and took two long, quick steps towards Ethan, one arm pulled back, ready for an underhand blow, claws unsheathed. I didn’t think about what I was going to do. I just did it. I ran faster than Dak did and slid in between him and Ethan. I felt something hit my stomach and jerked forward, bending over it, hands instinctively wrapping around what had hit me. I looked down slowly and saw that four of Dak’s claws had gone through my shirt. He pulled away slowly.
His fingers were bloody.
Somehow, I didn’t feel much pain, but I couldn’t stand any longer. Dak barely caught me and fell to his knees as my legs gave out.
“Why, Kryn?” He asked quietly, in shock. “Why would you put yourself at risk . . . to protect him?”
“To tell . . .” I said as it got harder to breath, “You the truth . . . I have . . . no idea.”
Ethan pushed Dak lightly and pulled me away from him.
“What are you doing?” Dak asked urgently.
“Unlike you, I’m going to help her.”
Ethan was sitting on his knees and pulled me up into his lap, just like he had when I had woken up outside the parking structure. I didn’t have the energy to keep my head up and just let it hang back over his arm, closing my eyes. I just . . . want to sleep.
“No, no, no, no, no,” Ethan said quietly, giving me a gentle shake. “Don’t fall asleep.”
But I’m tired. . . And it’s cold in here.
“I really hope this works.”
His wings curled around me. I hadn’t even noticed him unfurl them. The feathers were comforting, forming a big pillow around us and I wondered how I’d not felt their softness before. The arm that went under my back came around and he rested his hand on top of the puncture wounds I knew were there. Eyes barely open, I looked up at his worried face and realized that with his bright white wings and light colored hair, he looked like an angel. Then, as he pressed his hand down onto my stomach, the illusion disappeared.
My head jerked back involuntarily and I cried out in pain, squeezing my eyes shut tight. I could feel the wound now and what might have been an added pain. Simple claw marks couldn’t hurt that much.
“I know, I know,” Ethan said quietly. “I know it hurts, just bear with it. It’ll be over soon.” I couldn’t tell what it was, but something settled in front of my mouth. “Bite down.”
I clamped my jaws down hard against the pain, feeling my canines pierce whatever it was. At the moment, I didn’t care, barely noticed the warm liquid I felt seeping into my mouth. I heard a small noise from Ethan, but he fell silent after that and I forgot about it quickly. Biting down didn’t help the pain much, but it stopped me from screaming and I tried not to squirm against him. What is he doing to me? Why does it hurt so much? And how . . . how is he using his wings? I thought . . . I thought Dak sliced through them.
True to his word, the pain didn’t last for too long and I slowly unclenched my jaws, leaning against his chest, hearing a comforting heartbeat. I stayed there for a few seconds before, barely having the energy to be curious, I ran my tongue over my teeth. When it came back with a warm liquid on it, I tensed in Ethan’s arms. The liquid was thick and warm.
And it tasted like iron.
I lay there in shock for a long time, a million things going through my head at the same time. The worst part wasn’t that I had unknowingly bit Ethan. It wasn’t even that I had caused him pain and actually drawn blood. No, what I knew was the worst was more horrible than those things put together. The worst part . . .
Was that I liked it.
In all the fights I’d been in, I had tasted blood before, had even bitten down on Ran’s tail before, but it hadn’t been the same. The taste had been bitter in my mouth, but this was different. It was a Bird of Prey’s blood, but I had bitten Kakali’s wing before. This tasted different.
It tasted good.
My father and other, older family members had told me about some who had been forced to revert back to hunting because of what tasting enemy blood had done to them. They called it Bloodlust and said it was a dormant part of Jungle Cat physiology but should still be avoided at all costs. Once you let yourself get caught up in the Bloodlust, it’s nearly impossible to stop yourself. When it happened to one Jungle Cat – I couldn’t remember his name – he had run off to a part of the state that had forests and national preserves. Many animals had been found dead or went mysteriously missing.
Now I understood. I understood why some Jungle Cats felt the urge to kill. I had to close my eyes, stop myself from looking at Ethan. I knew that if I saw him, I would start thinking about wanting to bite him again, wanting to taste fresh blood in my mouth, but I knew I couldn’t do that. If I did . . . if it came down to it . . . I would have to leave. I wouldn’t send him off somewhere where he would get no help. I would let him stay at my house for as long as he could and I would be the one to leave.
As I lay there, consciousness started to fade. I couldn’t tell if it was because of the bleeding or the shock as I realized what the old Jungle Cats had been talking about. It didn’t really matter. My eyes fell closed as I felt Ethan standing up, carrying me easily. I heard the door open and close, tried my best to swim back towards awareness, but it didn’t work. I gave up and let the darkness claim me.