I tried not to show how worried I was of course, since they say animals can smell fear. But that didn't stop me from mentally shouting, "NATHAN, I'M KIND OF SURROUNDED UP HERE!"
What I got back was, "Little busy right now..."
At that point my fear was instantly replaced with what I consider righteous annoyance. "FINE... just remember if I wind up as wolf chow, YOUR going to have to explain things to not only my parents, but Otto, Lisa, Richard, your sister AND Penny!"
At that point our friend let out a series of growls and barks, which were repeated all the louder by his mate. What happened next will be engraved into my brain for the rest of my life. The wolves who were all around me closed ranks and... I still can't believe this...
... they all curled up against me.
"Lay down, they'll keep you safe and warm," came Nathan's gentle reassurance, so I did as I was told. I have to admit the added warmth of those furry bodies was more than welcome. It also spared me watching the rest of the kill.
As expected, our friend and his mate, along with Nathan and the others made short work of the big bison. Now I'll say right up front, I felt sorry for the big animal, but I also understood that this was the way things were in nature. I've watched enough documentaries to know, this is how it goes in the wild. Hunting and killing were not for sport, but for survival. And today, with Nathan's guidance, they didn't go for a calf or a female. It was understood that they were needed to keep the herd's numbers strong. I had a feeling our friend would keep things that way in the future, provided of course this kill managed to help re-establish his leadership.
I'm pleased to say it did. After the kill and everyone took their turns at the carcass, including those who were keeping me warm. As each went to get their fill, one of the ones who had already eaten had come over to take the spot that had been vacated around me. Eventually, I risked a look and saw our friend and his mate were making up for lost time.
They had clearly missed each other. It is said some wolves mate for life, and with these two, I could believe it. But there was still the matter of the Sangui-Sapio, in the male. How was Nathan going to get it out of our friend, without alarming his mate or the rest of the pack?
"A very good question," Nathan replied aloud, not using our mental link.
Frowning I turned, expecting to see a talking wolf, but no Nathan was in his human form. He was sitting just on the other side of the pile of wolves that were surrounding me, with his arms resting on his drawn up knees. I noticed right away he was shirtless and his legs were bare, which meant he was stark naked. 'Duh,' I thought to myself, 'I still have his clothes.'
"Yes, you do but I don't want them right now," he said with a smile. "I may do a bit of running with some the of the more rambunctious younger wolves before morning."
I started to gesture at our friend and his mate, "But what about..."
"Oh they're fine, nothing to worry about," Nathan assured me.
"So you already pulled the Sangui-Sapio out of him?" I pressed.
Nathan looked at me and sighed, "Not really. It's been in him too long. He and it are... integrated."
I was shocked and immediately began worrying. After all, the Cannibal Killer only had the Sangui-Sapio in him for barely an hour and Nathan was able to call it out of him. But I'd already had it in me for at least three times as long.
"When you say it's been in him too long... exactly how long is too long?" I asked, trying to sound not the least bit concerned.
"Well," Nathan began, "In my case, the Sangui-Sapio fully bonded with me over the span of a couple of days. And..."
"It's been in him since January," I finished and shook my head. "So there's nothing you can do for him?"
This time he shot me a disappointing look. "If that were the case, neither you nor I would be here, now would we?"
I don't usually flip someone off, but this time I did it without thinking.
His reply took me by surprise. "A tempting offer but only one of us is naked at the moment, and the other could get undressed but wouldn't be able to take the cold for very long. Even with shared body heat. So I'll have to take a pass on that for the moment. Perhaps later. Besides, we don't want scare our friends off, especially not when a number of them are helping keep you warm."
Had... had he just propositioned me? Shaking my head, I focused my thoughts back on my original point. "But what about our friend? How is he going to keep from shapeshifting into a man..." That's when the penny finally dropped for me. "Wait a minute. You're in your normal form? And he's in his? But he kept changing whenever you started to shift back to human. How did you..."
"During our fight with the bison, I had a little mental chat with the Sangui-Sapio inside him. I convinced it to kind of go dormant so to speak," Nathan smiled.
"Meaning?" I pressed.
"It's still inside him, but it won't try to be in the 'driver's seat' if you get my meaning. It will do the usual things for him, help him heal quickly, keep him strong and even give him a little boost when he really needs it. But, it won't try to shift his shape and it will keep the other memories it possesses to itself. It's just going to be a helpful passenger, that's all."
"But what about the wolf's lifespan? Will it get extended?" I asked, uneasily. The idea of an animal living for over a century was not something I wanted to consider. Having shared the wolf's mind already, I knew it would drive the poor creature completely mad.
Nathan bowed his head. "No, it will let the creature live a good long life, but not too long. But he will be allowed to pass, and when he does, I'll be here to take back the Sangui-Sapio. It will need a host, and it will be happy to come back to me."
'So the wolf will have it's chance at a normal life and be able to one day leave this world. Unlike you, who have will keep walking it for God knows how long,' I thought, understanding his bowed head.
Lisa and I have talked about how even though Nathan has a very big "Extended Family", people who he's watched over for years even generations, he could also get lonely. Sure, he'd have those he loved around him, but eventually every one of them would leave this world and him behind. And while he would keep their memories alive, and I suspect a part of them alive within himself, it wasn't the same.
I cannot count the number of times Lisa and I considered asking Nathan to make one or both of us like him and share that long existence with him, so he wouldn't be alone. He's been married twice before. The first time was in the 1860's when he didn't know he could share his gift with her, so he never offered. By the time he'd married his second wife in the 1930's he did know, and they were planning on it, but Magda had married him at the age of 16 and they wanted to wait a while until she was closer to his apparent age. Only, since she and her family were gypsies they had been rounded up by Nazis and spirited away while Nathan had been gone helping others. Months passed before he finally found where she'd been taken and it was already too late.* (as told in "The Vampyre Blogs - One Day At a Time")
But where I still wasn't sure if I could handle such a existence, Lisa had already decided that it would happen in her case. It was just a matter of when. But now I had some of his Sangui-Sapio in me, and I was already learning firsthand some of what Nathan has been experiencing for over century. Where he couldn't retrieve the Sangui-Sapio from the wolf, there was still time for him to do so with me. The question was, did I want him to?
TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT TIME.... seriously, I mean it this time.