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Grave Peril, Page 35

Jim Butcher

Chapter Thirty-five

  Susan let out a whimper and a groan, moving fitfully. By chance, her mouth brushed against my forearm, still stained with drying blood. She froze, completely, her whole body shuddering. She looked up at me with those dark, huge eyes, her face twisting with need. She moved toward my arm again, and I jerked it back from her mouth.

  "Susan," I said. "Wait. "

  "What was that?" she whispered. "That was good. " She shivered again and rolled to all fours, eyes slowly focusing on me.

  I shot a glance toward Justine, but only saw her feet as she pulled them back to her, slipping back into the tiny space between the washing machine and the wall. I turned back to Susan, who was coming toward me, staring as though blind, on all fours.

  I backed away from her, and fumbled out to my side with one hand. I found the bloodstained towel I'd been using before, and threw it at her. She stopped for a moment, staring, and then lowered her face with a groan, beginning to lick at the towel.

  I scooted back on all fours, getting away from her, still dizzy. "Justine," I hissed. "What do we do?"

  "There's nothing to do," Justine whispered. "We can't get out. She isn't herself. Once she kills, she'll be gone. "

  I flashed a glance at her over my shoulder. "Once she kills? What do you mean?"

  Justine watched me with solemn eyes. "Once she kills. She's different. But she isn't quite like them until it's complete. Until she's killed someone feeding on them. That's the way the Reds work. "

  "So she's still Susan?"

  Justine shrugged again, her expression disinterested. "Sort of. "

  "If I could talk to her, though. Get through to her. We could maybe snap her out of it?"

  "I've never heard of it happening," Justine said. She shivered. "They stay like that. It gets worse and worse. Then they lose control and kill. And it's over. "

  I bit my lip. "There's got to be something. "

  "Kill her. She's still weak. Maybe we could, together. If we wait until she's further gone, until the hunger gives her strength, she'll take us both. That's why we're in here. "

  "No," I said. "I can't hurt her. "

  Something flickered in Justine's face when I spoke, though I couldn't decide whether it was something warm or something heated, angry. She closed her eyes and said, "Then maybe when she drinks you she'll die of the poison in you. "

  "Dammit. There's got to be something. Something else you can tell me. "

  Justine shrugged and shook her head, wearily. "We're already dead, Mister Dresden. "

  I clenched my teeth together and turned back to Susan. She kept licking at the towel, making frustrated, whimpering noises. She lifted her face to me and stared at me. I could have sworn I saw the bones of her cheeks and jaw stand out more harshly against her skin. Her eyes became drowning deep and pulled at me, beckoned to me to look deeper into that spinning, feverish darkness.

  I jerked my eyes away before that gaze could trap me, my heart pounding, but it had already begun to fall away. Susan furrowed her brow in confusion for a moment, blinking her eyes, whatever dark power that had touched them fading, slipping unsteadily.

  But even if that gaze hadn't trapped me, hadn't gone all the way over into hypnosis, it made something occur to me: Susan's memories of the soulgaze hadn't been removed. My godmother couldn't have touched those. I was such an idiot. When a mortal looks on something with the Sight, really looks, as a wizard may, the memories of what he sees are indelibly imprinted on him. And when a wizard looks into a person's eyes, it's just another way of using the Sight. A two-way use of it, because the person you look at gets to peer back at you, too.

  Susan and I had soulgazed more than two years before. She'd tricked me into it. It was just after that she began pursuing me for stories more closely.

  Lea couldn't have taken memories around a soulgaze. But she could have covered them up, somehow, misted them over. No practical difference, for the average person.

  But, hell, I'm a wizard. I ain't average.

  Susan and I had always been close, since we'd started dating. Intimate time together. The sharing of words, ideas, time, bodies. And that kind of intimacy creates a bond. A bond that I could perhaps use, to uncover fogged memories. To help bring Susan back to herself.

  "Susan," I said, forcing my voice out sharp and clear. "Susan Rodriguez. "

  She shivered as I Named her, at least in part.

  I licked my lips and moved towards her. "Susan. I want to help you. All right? I want to help you if I can. "

  She swallowed another whimper. "But I'm so thirsty. I can't. "

  I reached out as I approached her, and plucked a hair from her head. She didn't react to it, though she leaned closer to me, inhaling through her nose, letting out a slow moan on the exhale. She could smell my blood. I wasn't clear on how much of the toxin would be in my bloodstream, but I didn't want her to be hurt. No time to dawdle, Harry.

  I took the hair and wound it about my right hand. It went around twice. I closed my fist over it, then grimaced, reaching out to grab Susan's left hand. I spat on my fingers and smoothed them over her palm, then pressed her hand to my fist. The bond, already something tenuously felt in any case, thrummed to life like a bass cello string, amplified by my spit upon her, by the hair in my own hands, the joining of our bodies where our flesh pressed together.

  I closed my eyes. It hurt to try to draw in the magic. My weakened body shook. I reached for it, tried to piece together my will. I thought of all the times I'd had with Susan, all the things I'd never had the guts to tell her. I thought of her laugh, her smile, the way her mouth felt on mine, the smell of her shampoo in the shower, the press of her warmth against my back as we slept. I summoned up every memory I had of us together, and started trying to push it through the link between us.

  The memories flowed down my arm, to her hand - and stopped, pressing against some misty and elastic barrier. Godmother's spell. I shoved harder at it, but its resistance only grew greater, more intense, the harder I pushed.

  Susan whimpered, the sound lost, confused, hungry. She rose up onto her knees and pressed against me, leaning on me. She snuggled her mouth down against the hollow of my throat. I felt her tongue touch my skin, sending an electric jolt of lust flashing through me. Even close to death, hormones will out, I guess.

  I kept struggling against Godmother's spell, but it held in place, powerful, subtle. I felt like a child shoving fruitlessly at a heavy glass door.

  Susan shivered, and kept licking at my throat.

  My skin tingled pleasantly and then started to go numb. Some of my pain faded. Then I felt her teeth against my throat, sharp as she bit at me.

  I let out a startled cry. It wasn't a hard bite. She'd bitten me harder than that for fun. But she hadn't had eyes like that then. Her kisses hadn't made my skin go narcotic-numb then. She hadn't been halfway to membership in Club Vampire then.

  I pushed harder at the spell, but my best efforts grew weaker and weaker. Susan bit harder, and I felt her body tensing, growing stronger. No longer did she lean against me. I felt one of her hands settle on the back of my neck. It wasn't an affectionate gesture. It was to keep me from moving. She took a deep, shuddering breath.

  "In here," she whispered. "It's in here. It's good. "

  "Susan," I said, keeping the feeble pressure on my godmother's spell. "Susan. Please don't. Don't go. I need you here. You could hurt yourself. Please. " I felt her jaws begin to close. Her teeth didn't feel like fangs, but human teeth can rip open skin just fine. She was vanishing. I could feel the link between us fading, growing weaker and weaker.

  "I'm so sorry. I never meant to let you down. " I said. I sagged against her. There wasn't much reason to keep fighting. But I did anyway. For her, if not for me. I held onto that link, to the pressure I had forced against the spell, to the memories of Susan and me, together.

  "I love you. "

  Why it worked right then, why the webb
ing of my godmother's spell frayed as though the words had been an open flame, I don't know. I haven't found any explanation for it. There aren't any magical words, really. The words just hold the magic. They give it a shape and a form, they make it useful, describe the images within.

  I'll say this, though: Some words have a power that has nothing to do with supernatural forces. They resound in the heart and mind, they live long after the sounds of them have died away, they echo in the heart and the soul. They have power, and that power is very real.

  Those three words are good ones.

  I flooded into her, through the link, into the darkness and the confusion that bound her, and I saw, through her thoughts, that my coming was a flame in the endless cold, a beacon flashing out against that night. The light came, our memories, the warmth of us, she and I, and battered down the walls inside her, crushed away Lea's lingering spell, tore those memories away from my godmother, wherever she was, and brought them back home.

  I heard her cry out at the sudden flush of memory, as awareness washed over her. She changed, right there against me - the hard, alien tension changed. It didn't vanish, but it changed. It became Susan's tension, Susan's confusion, Susan's pain, aware, alert, and very much herself again.

  The power of the spell faded away, leaving only the blurred impression of it, like lightning that crackles through the night, leaving dazzling colors in the darkness behind.

  I found myself kneeling against her, holding her hand. She still held my head. Her teeth still pressed against my throat, sharp and hard.

  I reached up with my other shaking hand, and stroked at her hair. "Susan," I said, gentle. "Susan. Stay with me. "

  The pressure lessened. I felt hot tears fall against my shoulder.

  "Harry," she whispered. "Oh, God. I'm so thirsty. I want it so much. "

  I closed my eyes. "I know," I said. "I'm sorry. "

  "I could take you. I could take it," she whispered.

  "Yes. "

  "You couldn't stop me. You're weak, sick. "

  "I couldn't stop you," I agreed.

  "Say it again. "

  I frowned. "What?"

  "Say it again. It helps. Please. It's so hard not to . . . "

  I swallowed. "I love you," I said.

  She jerked, as though I'd punched her in the pit of the stomach.

  "I love you," I said again. "Susan. "

  She lifted her mouth from my skin, and looked up, into my eyes. They were her eyes again - dark, rich, warm brown, bloodshot, filled with tears. "The vampires," she said. "They - "

  "I know. "

  She closed her eyes, more tears falling. "I tr-tried to stop them. I tried. "

  Pain hit me again, pain that didn't have anything to do with poison or injuries. It hit me sharp and low, just beneath my heart, as though someone had just shoved an icicle through me. "I know you did," I told her. "I know you did. "

  She fell against me, weeping. I held her.

  After a long time, she whispered, "It's still there. It isn't going away. "

  "I know. "

  "What am I going to do?"

  "We'll work on that," I said. "I promise. We have other problems right now. " I filled her in on what had happened, holding her in the dimness.

  "Is anyone coming for us?" she asked.

  "I . . . I don't think so. Even if Thomas and Michael got away, they couldn't storm this place. If they ever even got out of the Nevernever. Michael could go to Murphy, but she couldn't just smash her way in here without a warrant. And Bianca's contacts could probably stall that for a while. "

  "We have to get you out of here," she said. "You've got to get to a hospital. "

  "Works in theory. Now we just have to work out the details. "

  She licked her lips. "I . . . can you even walk?"

  "I don't know. That last spell. If there was much left in me, that spell took it out. "

  "What if you slept?" she asked.

  "Kravos would have his chance to torture me. " I paused, and stared at the far wall.

  "God," Susan whispered. She hugged me, gently. "I love you, Harry. You should get to hear it't - " She stopped, and looked up at me. "What?"

  "That's it," I said. "That's what needs to happen. "

  "What needs to happen? I don't understand. "

  The more I thought about it, the crazier it sounded. But it might work. If I could time it just right . . .

  I looked down, taking Susan's shoulders in my hands, staring at her eyes. "Can you hold on? Can you keep it together for another few hours?"

  She shivered. "I think so. I'll try. "

  "Good," I said. I took a deep breath. "Because I need to be asleep long enough to start dreaming. "

  "But Kravos," Susan said. "Kravos will get inside of you. He'll kill you. "

  "Yeah," I said. I took a slow breath. "I'm pretty much counting on it. "