4: Growing Pains

"You look pensive," Garrett breathed in Sagira's ear, disturbing her loose locks.

She focused on the freckled face that hovered close to her cheek. She smiled for Garrett and snuggled closer to his thick shoulder, whispering, "I'm fine."

Truly she wasn't.

The dhampir dragged her from her thoughts by lacing his thick fingers through her loose hair. "I don't buy that for some reason, 'Gira."

She turned towards him as he propped himself up. Sagira ignored the cold of the metal against her shoulder blade as she rolled onto Garrett's hand. "It's home."

She hated home more and more every day. Since the boy, her mother and father had done a lot to lock down her free movement, increasing her resentment of them both. The idea only made her rebel harder.

Dad had stopped talking to her, trading it instead for increasingly heated arguments about her habits. The idea that he was restricting her appetites was bad enough, but he had added insult to injury by taking her prints off the identifier on the Mandalay, and setting up the exits to notify him when she left and how long she was gone. She thought he might try to simply keep her locked in the dome, but he hadn't pushed it that far. That he didn't lock her in surprised her – but she was still miffed by the idea that she was on a time-clock.

Mom, on the other hand, did her utmost to have intimate mother-daughter talks with her. It was some lame attempt to find a way to connect with her. Sagira thought she might prefer the yelling sessions to her mother's attempts to understand her better.

Eventually they gave even that effort up. Now, every day it was another fight, another long evening of silences and glares. Most times she found a way to get out to one town or another. And more and more often she stayed gone for nights on end.

Garrett had provided a little ease of travel since she had met him. But she would always have him pick her up out in the middle of the plains between her home and town. She knew better than to press her luck by bringing him home. She was pretty sure that Cabal would find a way to kill him – just on general principle.

Sagira kept wishing Garrett would ask her to run away with him – offer her the escape she'd been looking for, for years. He had yet to do it, much to her dismay. In fact, initially he had practically begged her to take him home with her. She had bowed out by offering to keep their relationship here in Jasper at the hotel room he'd booked. Garrett had extended his stay indefinitely, for her it seemed. The idea that he had halted his life to remain close to her made her feel giddy and loved and overwhelmed with emotions all at the same time.

Lately his requests to see her home had tapered off to almost nothing. In fact, now that she thought on it, he hadn't asked once in nearly a month.

"Same shit?"

"Different day." She sighed, allowing her eyes to slide shut. "My family is the shittiest."

Garrett managed to laugh at that, and she glared at him.

"Why do you laugh like that any time I tell you how craptacular they are?"

He shrugged and pursed his lips – which stretched the scar on his cheek and made furrows in the weaker sections deeper. "Put's my own in perspective a bit, is all. I'm not trying to downplay your troubles. At least you still have them – your family."

"Sometimes, I wish I didn't."

"I said that once. I regretted ever uttering the words. You will too." The face he made reflected that regret. "I think I'd rather still have my family."

Her mood was contagious it seemed. Sitting up completely, Garrett twisted his body until his feet were on the shag carpet. The room was entirely dark, heavy lined curtains keeping even a hint of the light from outside from slipping into the room. Her beau wasn't affected by the ultraviolet streaming through the atmosphere, but he had always kept her best interests at heart each time she managed to make it out here.

She would most certainly burn should she be exposed to it, and he seemed to understand it as well. After all, he still believed her to be a vampire.

Before he could stand and slip across the small bit of open space between the bed and the dresser, Sagira ran a hand along his back, her fingers finding the rumples of scars curling around his chest out of habit. He reached across his chest and grabbed her tracing fingers, squeezing them just a little before pushing them off his skin.

"That's irritating today, 'Gira, sorry."

"They bothering you again?"

He nodded and stood.

Garrett had confessed to her several weeks ago that he suffered periods where his nerves felt as if they were on fire all over again. He admitted that the pins and needles sensation was becoming more frequent the older the scars got. From what he said, the blast marks were older than she was.

This was the first time she'd seen him actually bothered by them, though.

Sagira rolled over until she was propped on her elbows, watching him as he moved. He was a thick man, power emanated from every inch of his muscular frame. His thighs had to be thicker than her waist, his arms were comparable to her thighs. His body had fascinated her from the beginning of this wild relationship.

The girl had no doubt he could crush her without much effort at all. She had seen that power in operation – and she had seen how controlled he could be.

Never once had Garrett used that inherent power on her. It was a trait that surprised her, because it was obvious: he was made for violence, had lived in violence his entire life, and lived for it. There was a glimmer of savage joy in his eyes when he thought of such things.

That it didn't extend to domestic abuse and subjugation was the part she hadn't been expecting. While their courtship had been wild and highly experimental, he had always managed to treat her with respect. She was often the instigator of their wilder forays into all the ways sex could be performed.

The only thing he wouldn't let her do – ever – was bite him. She got off on biting, and being bitten – Garrett not so much. In fact, the one time she bit him in the heat of the moment was the time he came closest to violence with her. He'd torn his own shoulder open to get her off him. His aversion to being bitten bordered on irrational phobia. It was strange because she saw the bite marks still lingering on his skin. If he'd allowed himself to be bitten by vampires before, why did it set him off so quickly when she tried to heighten their experience.

Even her mom and dad did that.

Concern grew as Garrett's stance stiffened – at the way his right shoulder slouched and his elbow pinned itself to his scarred hip. He was a proud man, and he carried himself in such a manner, so it was unusual to see such weakness in his frame.

"You okay, Garrett?"

Grabbing his shoulder, the dhampir glanced back at her with those brilliant emerald eyes. Gently he rolled his shoulder forward and then back, swinging his arm in a slow short pendulum fore and aft. "It'll be all right. I'm tougher than I look."

"Well, you look pretty tough already, so that's saying something." She grinned, trying to lighten the severe expression on his face.

There was that charming grin – only, it lacked its normal enthusiasm. Sagira could feel an edge of something on his thoughts, but she had never been able to get a clear reading from him – no matter how hard she tried. She could only say it was something beyond his scars that was bothering him.

Remaining mute, Sagira watched him finally relax. Garrett pulled out a set of casual clothes from the dresser drawers and began to pull them over his handsome body. They were somber black, like most everything he wore. A simple pair of black jeans, and a muscle T just a bit more gray than black. The socks he drew over his feet were thick and cotton, and the only thing he was wearing that wasn't the thematic color. When he had stepped into his high-topped black boots, he twisted to peek over at her.

"You might want to make a head call, 'Gira. I've got to step outside to check in."

Which meant daylight would be allowed into their darkness. Sagira had never tested the idea that light might not hurt her, that she would be tolerant like her dad, and she wasn't about to start now. Her instinct had always told her "no" on that thought – and she had never pushed it.

Garrett did this on occasion while she was here, taking care of business by net set, never letting her hear the conversation, never letting her in on what was so important – other than it dealt with his job. On some level, it bothered Sagira that Garrett had only given her small hints and superficial details on his past. For all she knew he was the devil incarnate.

She could only tell herself that she wasn't interested in those details, because this wasn't love. The other part of her head would then turn around and tell her that she was living in the land of delusion – she was seriously smitten with this one.

"Sure," she purred. Making a show of it, Sagira stretched catlike across the top of the double bed, dragging rumpled sheets in her wake as she folded herself atop her long legs. Stretching up, hands above her head, the girl rolled over the opposite way from him and sauntered over to the door leading into the small bathroom. She peeked over her shoulder, knowing Garrett was watching, and catching the much more heartfelt grin that graced his pale, freckled face.

"I won't be long," he insisted.

"Good. There's more I want to do to you." She winked and watched as he raised a brow.

"Be right back," was all he added.

Sagira took the time, while she was waiting, to jump in the shower. She hadn't even finished shampooing her long brunette hair, when Garrett slipped in behind her. Before she could acknowledge his addition to the small shower stall, he pulled her soapy body against him, his large hands cupping both breasts and his erection pressed into the small of her back.

Her hands automatically found the skin of his thighs, pushing between her butt and his legs to get at his genitals. She leaned into the crook of his neck at the same time. Roughly he nipped at the edge of her jaw, the grip on her chest tightening and then relaxing again. She ran her hands up his inner thighs until she found his manhood and helped herself to stimulating him further. Not that it was necessary, he was always ready for her, but the feel of it in her hand always excited her further – and he didn't mind the extra attention either.

A sigh escaped her lips as he pushed her shoulders forward. She slapped both hands on the opposite wall, arched her back and made ready for him. She gasped in pleasure as he entered her, one slow, smooth stroke that left her aching for him to hurry up. His hands wrapped around her hips, his left slipping around to the front to provide her extra stimulation on top of the feel of him inside her as he moved.

Water cascaded down over the both of them as the act moved forward. The disparity between the heat of their bodies and the shower seemed miles apart, and Sagira's hands curled into fists on the smooth surface as it intensified the feelings building low in her gut.

Then something went wrong.

When Garrett slowed, she thought he might be coming close to climax, and faster than he wanted. She thought he was slowing his tempo purposely. His hands fell away from her hips followed shortly by a clatter of his body impacting the plastic of the stall, and Sagira wheeled in surprise.

Garrett had made an attempt to catch himself, but had only managed to open up his arm on the spout on the way down. Blood leaked from a four inch gash just above his elbow and swirled into the water going down the drain. Garrett tried to simultaneously clutch at the cut and his right side at the same time.

Sagira shut the water flow off and knelt next to him, lifting his injured arm and licking the wound. Quickly, the thing stopped bleeding, and began to knit. She wiped her mouth clean of his blood and peered into Garrett's slack face. There was blood drooling out of his nose and across the start of a mustache back into his mouth. He didn't even seem to sense it was there.

"Garrett are you…?"

Before she could say or do more, he vomited all over the both of them.

She leapt to her feet without thought, growling, "Okay, I've done some kinky shit, but that is not on my list of things to try."

Sagira refused to look down and see what part of his breakfast she was wearing, and actually fought an urge to puke in sympathy. She turned the shower back on again before she could think too hard on it, rinsing them off and washing the remnants down the drain.

"Fuck…" he uttered – a low sound that almost didn't qualify as a word. His body began shivering.

"Dude, seriously, what's wrong?"

"Dunno." There was a weak head shake to emphasize.

"Can you get up?" She could carry him if she had to. She was just hoping he could get to the bed under his own power.

Making a valiant attempt, Garrett finally struggled to his feet, Sagira providing support for him as his shaky legs threatened to dump him back into the basin of the tub. It took the two of them nearly fifteen minutes to make it the ten feet between bathroom and main, and Sagira practically dumped Garrett onto the sheets.

He laid down immediately, not needing any coaxing from her to relax. She pulled the covers up over his shoulders and then knelt next to the bed.

"You don't look good." She tried to make that nonchalant, but the worry strung her voice higher. There was a gray pallor to his skin and dark rings had formed around his eyes.

Garrett peeled an eye open. Shaking his head, he let the lid slide shut once more.

Sagira watched him for a few moments, scared because of the tremors that were moving through his body. Leaping gracefully over the top of him to land in the middle of the bed, she slid her body in behind him, doing what she could to make him warm. Little good it would do, her body was colder than his on a good day.

"When it gets dark, you're coming home with me, Garrett," she said.

Cold metal met her bare thigh, the cybernetic fingers squeezing gently. "No," he muttered. Even his voice was weak and tainted with a tremor.

"Seriously, Garrett, I've never seen you like this. I'm worried."

"Overtaxed…" the single word was wrapped in cotton, like he'd spent the day drinking.

"Doing what?" Sagira levered herself up to look at the side of his face. When he didn't answer her, she stroked his upturned arm and tried again to convince him. "There's a medical station there. I'm no doctor… but mom… she could help."

"I'll… b'fine." His body started to roll away from her. "Just lemme sleep."

"You're not fine," Sagira insisted.

Still he didn't answer her, and his hand slowly pulled free of contact with her flesh.

Sagira laid her chin down on his shoulder, atop her fingers, watching him.

She didn't sleep for the rest of that day, fearful that whatever was wrong with him would overcome his dhampir genetics and kill him in his sleep. She was bound and determined that she was going to drag him, if need be, home.

Somehow, she knew that sleep wasn't going to fix whatever was ailing her man.

A/N: Hrmmmm... seems someone is off the reservation with his plans eh?