Venus was asleep. She slept a lot of the time, drifting between consciousness and wild, thrashing dreams. Her face was drained of colour, pale as snow. A patch of sweat clung to her forehead. Her untamed hair lay scattered about the sheet beneath her. She was perfect, observed Jemima, her guardian, who leant beside her. Illness had been her companion for so long that it had become part of her anatomy; her body accepted the struggle as unalterable fact. So fragile, and yet so unyieldingly strong was Venus. Jemima couldn't help but stroke her forehead, and feel the burning heat that had swelled up there. She drew back her blanket and timidly caressed the rest of her body, which she found to be ice cold.

A freezing hand clamped around hers, and pushed it to one side. Venus had been roused by the sensation. Her eyes snapped open abruptly and locked onto her guardian. It was a look of disapproval. Jemima backed away, hurriedly readjusting her trimmed hair which had slipped forward over her shoulders.

"Oh, you're awake. I, I was...",

"Have you brought me something?" said Venus.

Jemima's eyes shifted around the narrow chamber uneasily, scanning the condensation on the walls.

"I'm afraid your body is...",

"Look at me when you speak,"

"Your body is becoming more resistant. I've had to increase the dosage," explained Jemima,

"Show me," said Venus.

Jemima produced a hypodermic needle and syringe, filled with liquid. At this, Venus's steel gaze gained a new power; her eyes widened, pupils dilated, fuelled by ferocious desire. Her speech came out broken and barely intelligible.

"But that's, that, it...",

"It could kill you," said Jemima.

Venus's breathing increased in intensity.

"You still want it?"

She didn't say anything, but nodded urgently. Her whole body was starting to tremble. Jemima approached cautiously, as though Venus was a wounded animal, that might lash out at any moment.

"You'll have to hold still," she advised.

With a deliberate effort, Venus held her extended forearm rigid, biting her lip in concentration as she did so. The hard metal of the needle penetrated her springy skin with ease.

Venus went tense. Her body contracted, arching forward as though forced together by elastic. It looked to her guardian like her bones would shatter at any moment, such was the visible strain on them. She continued to breathe. Deep, hard, heavy, breaths. Drawing in energy. A stream of blood ran across her cheek, mixing with the fresh sweat that was forming there. Venus had unwittingly cut her lip open through biting it so hard.

"That's beautiful," said Jemima.

Time became immeasurable, minutes blurring into moments, as Venus fought the fire inside her, coughing and moaning and writhing until vomit gushed from her mouth, followed by blood. Jemima watched, increasingly unable to contain herself.

"Please, let me share your gift," she pleaded at last.

Venus's predatory eyes diverted back to Jemima, and she involuntarily thrust herself at her guardian, who fell limp in her fierce, frenzied grip, overpowered by the smothering sensual onslaught of heat and sweat and moisture. Her hair slid forward again, hanging loosely, as Venus pulled her down, tightening her restraint until their mouths met, allowing the sticky solution to transfer between their lips.

Finally loosing consciousness, Venus's grip loosened and she sunk back into the sheet, her body defeated. Jemima was still breathing heavily. For another minute she stood still, immobile, before becoming aware of herself once more. She did her best to tidy her hair and then delicately covered Venus with the blanket, leaving her as she was when Jemima entered. Except, there was something different about her now. It wasn't just the fresh sweat and blood stains. Venus looked different, she looked, peaceful. Her guardian exited the chamber and went to wash her face.