BY : Rina76
Category: Final Fantasy Anime > Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children
Dragon prints: 1515
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII Advent Children or any of the characters from the film. I am not making money from the writing of this story.

Chapter 25. Energy Vampire

From that point on Kadaj acts like he hates me. Suits me fine because I hate him too for what he said about my parents, and about Loz. He doesn't even talk to me anymore, just ignores me whenever I'm around. If I'm lucky, I get a hostile glare. The young, vulnerable, caring boy that I saw that night in the lake doesn't exist anymore. Or if he does, he's not being allowed out. It's like he's got five different people living inside his body, five different faces that he wears, and it's hard to predict which person he'll be or which face he'll have on at any given time. There's the sweet little boy, the boldly cheeky brother, the smooth sexy seducer, the tough-as-nails gang leader and then this other terrible persona; this mad-minded, possessed, calculating creature with no morals, ethics or empathy. This persona has inhabited Kadaj ever since Jenova showed up and I don't believe it's a coincidence. She has brought it out of him, made it become the more aggressive personality – the one that's most like her. She's squashed all the decentness and niceness that he had and replaced it with madness and maniacal aspirations of world domination. His facial expression has even changed to suit the way he's acting. It's harder, meaner, and scarier.

One afternoon soon after Jenova's visit, Kadaj and I scowl at each other in the hall as our paths cross. I mutter under my breath as he goes past. With startling swiftness Kadaj turns on me, shoving me up against the stone wall, his hand on the base of my neck, fingers spread against my collarbones. His pupils are paper-thin which means he's either really, really pissed or really, really turned on.

Proving that it's the first emotion, he hisses angrily, "If you're going to curse me, at least do it to my face."

He's holding me to the wall with supernatural strength but is not actually hurting me. He's doing it to be intimidating but I'm not gonna let it work.

"Okay. You're an asshole," I say in bold defiance. "Want me to say it slower so you can understand? Ass…Hole. Anus. Rectum. Sphincter. Take your pick."

"You talk like a street-boy," he says disgustedly, removing his hand, much to my relief. "I can't believe Loz finds that attractive. That he finds YOU attractive."

"Well, he does." I glance pointedly to my belly. "Obviously."

He hmphs distastefully, looking me up and down. "The moron thinks he loves you because you're the first girl to screw him without having to be paid for it. And now he's got you pregnant. Gods. What was he thinking? Not much, probably, since he's only got two brain cells in his whole head. A brutish simpleton such as him shouldn't ever breed."

Warningly, I say, "Don't talk about Loz like that."

"I'll talk about him any way I want to. He's my blood so I have to put up with him and his stupidity. You on the other hand…I don't have to put up with YOU," Kadaj says, like I'm nothing but an annoyance in his life. "I'm simply tolerating your presence here because of the baby. When you have it, you're going to hand the newborn infant over to me. By then Mother will be with us and she will help me raise the child. It will become part of her new legacy. If you want to live, you will leave straight after the birth and never show your face around here again. I imagine Loz will be upset for a while but he'll eventually realise it's better for all of us if you're gone."

"The hell I will!" I exclaim, outraged by his casual dismissal. "I'm not giving my baby up to anybody. Especially not to a twisted lab-rat like you."

"When it comes to protecting my family, you have no idea what this twisted lab-rat is capable of," he replies coldly. "Do you want to know how quickly a person's wound can get infected after they've been cut with my sword? Even from one little scratch? Do you want to know horribly they suffer or how long it takes for them to die?"

Another death threat but I don't think he actually means to kill me or he would have done it by now. He's just trying to scare me.

Facing him head-on, I state, "I'm not afraid of you, Kadaj."

"You should be." His eyes are frosty as icicles and just as dangerously sharp. "The baby belongs here. It's one of us. But you're not. You'll never be a part of this family, Cate. You don't fit in here and you never will. You're not my sister. You're not anything. You're just some slut that my brother shoved his cock into."

And with that last offensive comment, he spins around and leaves. Having my whole existence here reduced to one cutting insult really gets to me and my eyes fill with sudden, swift tears. He's insulted me before, many times, and has intentionally provoked my ire and irritation but his spiteful words have never affected me in quite this way. Over the past few months Kadaj made me angry, aggravated, disgusted, exasperated and plain pissed off. But he's never made me feel like crying.

Until now.

I run into the bedroom and shut the door before bursting into helpless sobs. I don't know if it's increased pregnancy hormones or the traumatic encounter with Jenova that has shaken my confidence, but for all his meanness Kadaj is right - I don't belong here. If I wasn't swollen with child Loz and his brothers wouldn't have let me set one foot inside this lair and they certainly wouldn't have told me what they really are and where they came from. They would have killed me back in the forest and dumped my body in the lake. The only reason I'm here right now is because of the baby. That's the only reason I'm allowed to exist in their world. I'm not one of them. I'm not tall or beautiful or strong. I'm not elegant or graceful and I don't have special powers. I'm short, I'm ordinary, I'm clumsy and I'm weak. I'm a useless, fat nothing and I shouldn't even be here.

I sense the baby trying to reassure me that I'm more than that, but I don't want to listen. Entering the room, Loz finds me curled up on my side, sobbing on the bed and hugging a pillow, but I refuse to tell him what's wrong. He just sits there worriedly with me, patting my shoulder and holding my hand until I fall asleep out of mental and physical exhaustion.

I dream of exploding fire, of black materia, falling feathers, green blood cells, and glowing mako. It's the third time I've had this nightmare. Except, I know it's not just a nightmare because when I'm awake, I can still see and feel it all. I can still smell the smoke. I can hear gunshots and screams echoing in my ears, the clang of sword-on-sword, the roar of motorcycle engines and the chopping of helicopter blades. It's a vision. The baby is showing me snippets of events to come in the near future and while it's not clear exactly what those events are or what the end will result will be, I have a feeling it's gonna be something very, very bad. For all of us. I feel as though my child is trying to warn me of Kadaj's plan to find Jenova. I feel as if he will lead Loz and Yazoo straight into danger and that something awful will happen. I have this terrible premonition that one of the brothers will get hurt. Or worse.

And it could be Loz.

Because of my recurring vision/nightmare, I try to convince Loz not to look for Jenova. I have given up on trying to persuade Kadaj or Yazoo as they are too far gone to listen to me but with Loz, I still have a chance. I try to convince him that Mother is not what he thinks she is, and that she will ultimately disappoint him or betray him. I don't mention what Kadaj said about taking my baby from me because I don't want to upset Loz during such a volatile time but I try my hardest to convince him not to obey Kadaj's orders. I try to explain the baby's vision and my fear of something tragic happening but all my pleading falls on deaf ears. Loz keeps saying that he has to do this, that he has to find Mother and insists that they're so close, they can't stop now.

He promises that when all this is over, when both his Mother and Father have returned, we can get our own place in the forest, just the three of us – me, Loz and the baby. It will have high-tech security to keep us all safe. It will be near enough to the lair so that he doesn't suffer separation pain from his brothers, but it will be far enough away that they won't bother me. He says that he will still go visit his family, but promises that I won't have to see them if I prefer not to. I don't know if he's saying this just to appease me and stop me nagging or if he really means it but by then, when this whole Jenova/Sephiroth drama has played out, it might be too late.

The next morning, Loz informs me that he will be gone all day and not to call his phone unless there is an emergency but doesn't give me any more information than that. He seems at once very focused and very distracted. When he is in the shower, I sneak up to the garage. I don't normally go there because it's a long trek up the hallway and I'm just too heavy nowadays to go walking so far but the baby urges me in that direction, kicking me in the ribs if I stop. I believe the baby wants to show me what Loz and his brothers are up to today, since none of them will tell me. I know it's something big as they've all been awake since dawn, getting prepared, and their weapons are lying on the kitchen table, charged and ready for use.

When I finally climb up the endless-seeming corridor and reach the wide, sandy-floored garage where Loz keeps his tools and all their vehicles, I am puffing with exertion and an ache has begun in my lower back. I enter the cavernous chamber and the smell of oil and petrol fills my nostrils. As the room is a converted cave with stalactites still hanging on the high, arched ceilings, it's very dark in there, the only light source coming from a solitary industrial globe with a steel mesh cover around it. The lit yellow bulb is lying on Loz's workbench, its grey cord plugged into a nearby electrical outlet. I've seen him use it to check underneath the trio of massive motorcycles and peer into the depths of their engines. I stand there, wondering why my child wants me to go look at these rusty old bikes. I already know Loz has fitted new machine guns to the fronts of them so that can't be what I'm supposed to find. Nor is it the rickety truck parked nearby; there's nothing in the back of it. I look around the murky, shadowed space of the garage, trying to spot the switch for the much-brighter fluorescent lighting tubes mounted on the walls at head-height but then as my vision adjusts to the dimness, I spy what's lurking at the far end of the room.

I am shocked to see a large cage, full of young children. They are differing ages and heights, both boys and girls, dressed in plain, raggedy clothing. All of them seem to be afflicted with Geostigma, spreading black stains on their hands, or arms or necks like giant blots of ink. Rushing over past the three huge motorcycles and the truck, I pull on the door of the cage but it's locked with a large metal padlock. I try to speak to the kids, asking if they're okay, what their names are and how they got here, but not a single one of them responds. They're all just standing there like zombies, gazing vacantly at nothing. It's then that I notice their eyes, gleaming unnaturally in the dim light. The children all have slitted pupils and green irises. Alien eyes. But they don't have silver hair so they can't be clones. They just look like a bunch of street kids that have been drugged or possessed or something.

As I'm standing there staring at the children through the iron bars, wondering what the hell is going on and how I can get them out, I hear a soft footfall in the sand behind me and I whirl around to find Kadaj in the doorway, looking unimpressed by my discovery. He's dressed in his leather gear, gloves on his hands and boots on his feet, as though he's ready to go out.

"You shouldn't have come up here, Cate," he says, tilting his head so that his long metallic-coloured fringe slides over one aqua-jade eye. An eye that looks exactly like the ones the imprisoned kids have.

Standing in front of the cage door in a protective action, I ask, "What have you done to them?"

Kadaj shrugs. "Nothing that can't be reversed."

"Why? What are you going to do with them, Kadaj?"

"I don't have to explain my plans to you." He walks elegantly into the garage, sand crunching softly under his steps, his suit creaking as he moves, the pale-skinned teen absent-mindedly running a gloved hand over the fuel tank of his bike. "And don't bother asking Loz because he won't tell you either. We have a very big day ahead of us and you must not interfere."

"They've all got your eyes." I indicate to the unresponsive kids in the cage. "And they all have Geostigma. I don't know exactly what Geostigma is but what you're planning with those children has something to do with finding Mother, doesn't it?"

"Well, since you're so clever," Kadaj drawls. "Yes. Geostigma is Mother's creation. It's her mimetic legacy. When people afflicted with the 'stigma die, their Spirit Energy becomes dark and is able to be controlled. That's where Shadow Creepers come from; from the dark mist of this negative energy. Even while the afflicted are still alive, I can use them to my advantage. Like these children. They are going to help me find Mother. That's all I need them for and then I'll let them go."

Shaking my head, I say, "I don't believe you."

"I don't care what you believe. Your opinion doesn't matter to me," he returns indifferently.

"But they're just kids! How can you lock them up like this? Like animals?" I motion to the metal cell, devoid of any beds or chairs or even a bucket to pee in. "Do you not have any conscience at all?"

"Contrary to what you might think," he replies, "this actually wasn't my idea. It was Yazoo's."

I stare at Kadaj, finding that extremely difficult to accept.

"Oh, it's true," he reaffirms. "Yazoo saw the children with the 'stigma and came up with the plan of using them to seek out Mother's location. He spoke to them, told them we could heal their disease and then loaded them into the back of our truck. He's the one who brought them here and he's the one who locked them up. Not me."

I swallow, glancing at the silent little prisoners lined up behind bars. "Yazoo lied to them?"

Kadaj smiles. "I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, Cate, but my beautiful brother isn't as pure and perfect as he looks."

I glance at the children again in concern. "How long have these kids been here?"

"Since last night. Don't worry," he adds, "they've all had water."

Something about the way he says that makes me instantly know what was in that water. "You made them drink the same black stuff that I did."

"I didn't make them. They did it because they wanted to." He spreads out his gloved hands, smiling wider. "Because they wanted to join me and become my new brothers and sisters."

"You're such a manipulative bastard," I tell him in disgust. "So, you're really going to find Jenova today?"

"Yes. The time for the Reunion has finally arrived. As such, I am in a generous mood and won't punish you for nosing around where you shouldn't." The Remnant leader motions to the hallway. "Now, come back inside the lair like a good girl and go read a book or something."

I cross my arms over my chest and say defiantly, "Screw you, Kadaj, you snake-eyed mutant. I'm not moving until you let these kids go."

"Hm. Let's take some of that fire out of you, shall we?" He gestures with his hand and a wave of weakness comes over me all of a sudden. I grip the bars of the cage behind me to steady my trembling knees.

"What…what did you just do?" I ask breathlessly.

"Oh, you mean this?" He smirks, making the same motion again. Green light flickers in the semi-darkness and I feel a pleasant numbness creeping down my legs and seeping into my head, making my mind foggy and my eyes heavy, like I've taken a few powerful painkillers. I feel kind of doped up and drugged. It's completely different to the shape-shifting feeling I got when I drank Kadaj's materia-tainted milk. Something about this situation seems really familiar somehow and I rack my muddled brain for what it is.

Suddenly remembering, my drowsy eyes spring wide open. "You…I saw you do this to a girl in the club."

Recalling that night on the dancefloor all those months ago, I remember trying to tell Loz about what I saw his little brother do to the girl with the pink hair and matching hotpants, how she fell into the crowd unconscious after Kadaj touched her. Now I know why Loz kissed me when he did, right in the middle of my sentence. He was shutting me up. He already knew what Kadaj had done and was attempting to distract me from thinking about it.

"You're draining my energy," I conclude accusingly. "You're a fucking vampire!"

"I'm not draining you," Kadaj says dismissively. "I'm just taking part of your life-force, only enough in order to make you more co-operative. If I wanted to feed from you, you'd be passed out on the floor already."

"Vampire," I mutter once again. "Siphoning other people's lives…it's like a drug to you, isn't it? Gets you high?"

"I think I'll take some more," Kadaj decides, using his power to suck a little bit extra out of my energy-field until I can't speak or make insults. Then he forces me to move, grabbing my sleeve and dragging me out of the garage and towards the hall. I would have fought but his little show of drain magic has done what it was supposed to and all I can do is feebly stumble after him. At least it's easier walking back down the sloping hallway than climbing up it. I have lost the motivation to climb anything; just putting one foot in front of the other is almost too much effort. Even blinking is almost too much effort for me. As I'm trailing after Kadaj, my lazy eyes are drawn to his rear view: his muscled shoulders and lean waist, not to mention his amazing ass. He's smaller than Loz but every inch of his body is shaped to perfection, I think absently as I'm gazing at him, especially in that skin-tight black outfit of his.

All of a sudden, my head spins and I sway giddily. "I feel dizzy," I manage to slur, and then topple forwards. Kadaj catches me, supporting my pregnant weight with arms made strong from wielding hefty guns and double-bladed swords. My legs have no strength in them whatsoever and, unable to stand anymore, I slide down his torso like a piece of limp pasta. Cursing at this inconvenience, he lowers me until both of us are on the floor, him kneeling and me sitting sideways between his thighs. He's holding me upright, or trying to anyway, but I keep leaning against the front of him, my hands on his chest. The top of his one-piece suit is unzipped down past his jugular notch and prominent clavicles, showing his pale throat and a triangle of flawless skin over his breastbone. That triangle of skin interests me greatly and suddenly I'm not feeling so faint anymore. My legs may be useless but my hands still work and so I can't help but reach up and touch that white triangle, needing to know if it's as smooth as it looks.

"Wow," I murmur in wonder, slipping my fingers further into his suit, feeling the flat firmness of pectoral muscle beneath the velvety warmth of his flesh. "You're really hard under there."

Kadaj glances down at my exploring hand, taken aback by my boldness. "Excuse me?"

"Have I ever told you how much I love your assassin outfit?" I reply with a lopsided grin. "Every time I've seen you wearing it, I always think to myself how damn delicious you look. I shouldn't think that about someone who's five years younger than me and still a teenager, but I do."

The Remnant blinks at me, seeming immensely surprised by my confession. I ought to be surprised with myself too but it's like I've had too much to drink and as such, I have no control over what's coming out of my mouth. I don't care, to be honest. Everything else in the world has faded into insignificance. I've forgotten where I am and what's going on. All I know is that I'm in Kadaj's arms and right now, I feel really, really awesome so fuck yeah, I'm gonna flirt with him.

"You're the craziest guy I've ever met, and most of the time you piss me off beyond belief, but secretly I think you're absolutely gorgeous," I state, just in case Kadaj didn't realise I was giving him a compliment before.

"Uh. Thanks?" He replies awkwardly, not used to me saying such things to him.

"It's probably those alien genes of yours but the silver hair/green eyes combo really works for you," I continue brazenly. "I mean, Yazoo is prettier than every girl on the planet but your hotness level is greater than his, in my opinion. In fact, as much as I love Loz and his huge muscles, you might even be a tiny bit hotter than… "

Realising what I'm about to say, I stop and narrow my eyes at Kadaj, suspiciously sniffing the air. "Waaaait a minute, are you using Allure on me?"

Sounding bewildered by my behaviour, he admits, "Not this time."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure. I know when I'm using my own power and I'm definitely not."

Briefly perplexed by the cause of my blatant babbling, I shrug, chalking it down to Kadaj just being such an irresistible badass and me being drunk or something. That would explain why I'm on the floor and he's propping me up. "Anyway, as I was saying…"

"Dammit, I took too way much," Kadaj mutters to himself as I continue prattling on about how hot he is. "Now, she's gone all delirious. Terrific."

I don't know what he's talking about or what he took but at that moment, I am only focused on the silver-haired slice of sexiness that is holding me up. His hands are around my ribs, since I don't have a waist anymore, and I'm perched in the spread 'V' of his kneeling stance, my numb legs curled up beside me. For some reason, I can't feel my feet but I don't care; I'm too occupied ogling Kadaj's body, since it's right there in front of me, just begging to be admired. The pants legs of his suit have pulled even tighter across both of his thighs, emphasising the toned muscularity of them, the two fastened belts above his knees straining at the buckles.

Naturally, I glance at his groin but can't see anything due to the top section of his suit branching off into two separate pieces, which then form the outer leg casings of his trousers. The long zipper that begins under his neck finishes over his groin and because of the way he has knelt, it has rumpled up into a few hills of metal teeth, like small rollercoaster tracks, therefore preventing me from glimpsing any kind of masculine bulge beneath. Pity.

"I love your cool ninja-star ink," I reveal, gazing at the spot on his uniform where it would lay underneath. I can't see it due to the stitched leather in the way but I recall exactly what the tattooed piece of artwork looks like: a three-spiked, circular, jet-black design sitting tantalisingly below his belly button, just above his pubes. It may as well be a sign with an arrow that says: SUCK HERE.

Still staring longingly at his lower abdomen, I propose, "Would it be okay if I licked your tattoo? I really wanna lick it."

"Oh, do you?" he replies with a quirked lip, beginning to sound interested and amused. "Please, tell me more about what you'd like to lick."

"Honestly, ALL of you," I confess hungrily, sliding my hands up both his thighs, the obliques above his hips and then the rippled abs of his stomach, able to feel each individual muscle due to the tailored leather costume fitting him so tightly. "Sometimes, when you take your shirt off in the training room, I just wanna lick your skin and taste your sweat."

"Interesting," he murmurs, appearing more and more intrigued.

I reach under his criss-crossed chest-straps, taking hold of his zipper tab. Needing to see more of Kadaj's marble-white flesh, I manage to open the top of his close-fitting ensemble just far enough to pull it across to the side of his chest, exposing one of his nipples. It's a pinkish-blue colour, similar to the way his lips appear in certain light. The suit has pressed it flat. I unconsciously bite my bottom lip, wanting to bend down and rasp my tongue over that temptingly pale disc of flesh and feel it turn hard in my mouth. Before I can do that, Kadaj moves my hands away and zips his top back up.

"Don't," he says.

I look up at his face in puzzlement. "Why?"

"Once I've got my suit on, it's too difficult and time consuming to take off on a whim. I mean, look at it."

He's right. There are zips and straps and buckles and belts galore that would first have to be undone before he can start undressing properly and even then he can't just slip out of it, like Yazoo can with his coat. The top and the bottom parts are sewn together. What Kadaj is wearing is basically a one-piece jumpsuit and it has to be peeled off inch by inch because it's so ridiculously tight. I've seen him come home from a job in the heat of the afternoon and quickly try to take his outfit off to cool down, and it's no easy feat. The suit might look sexy as hell but ironically, it would hinder him from actually having sex, or at least sex when he's in a hurry.

"Yazoo designed it for looks, not to be practical. So, you see," he says, indicating to the complexity of his costume, "I don't want to start something I am unable to finish."

"Well, touch ME, then," I invite. "I know you want to. I've seen the way you've been looking at me lately."

He lifts a slanted brow. "Whatever do you mean?"

I make a scoffing noise. "Oh, come on. Don't pretend you don't know. That time you caught me dancing in Loz's room in my underwear? You were totally checking me out, before you turned back into a pompous dick and told me to turn the music down. And the night at the lake, when I took off my robe and was standing there in a bikini, you couldn't stop staring at my boobs."

His eyebrow rises even further but he doesn't deny it.

"If you wanna touch them that badly, go ahead." I help him out by taking one of his hands and placing it on my left breast. I frown, realising there are too many layers of clothing between us to really feel anything, so I peel his glove off and then shove his bare hand underneath the loose front of my long-sleeved shirt. I lift up one side of my stretchy maternity bra and place Kadaj's palm right on my naked skin, keeping my gaze boldly on his. You can't get more of an invitation than that. Accepting what I'm offering, he cups the rounded fullness of my breast. The warmth of his palm feels nice but it feels even nicer when he slides his thumb over my erect nipple.

I let out a low moan, shuddering at the sharply erotic sensation as it zig-zags down between my legs. I want to close my eyes to savour this moment but I don't want to miss any nuance of emotion that flits across Kadaj's face.

He's watching me too through half-lowered eyelids, his pupils thinning to black slits and his lips parting with arousal. His lashes are long and so dark against the paleness of his porcelain complexion. The curtain of his shoulder-length hair shines like polished metal and I reach up to stroke it, finding the silver threads thick and silken, slipping between my fingers like satin. Next, I move my tactile exploration to his youthful face, tracing the exquisitely formed features before me – a high cheekbone, the straight nose, the sweetly-shaped mouth with the soft, full lower lip and the little bow at the top. He doesn't pull away at my light, ticklish touching, but stays still, allowing me to caress him. He won't let me touch his body but he lets me do this. Now, I can smell his Allure, as if it's being coaxed out of his pores with each brush of my fingertips, like perfume from the petals of a flower. I used to be a florist and during my career I have handled many exotic blooms but I've never seen a single one that compares to this young man's otherworldly beauty.

"Fuck, Kadaj. You're so fucking beautiful," I blurt out in a drunken manner, impulsively leaning in to press my mouth onto his. His lips are even softer than they look. I pull back with a wet smacking noise, gazing inquisitively at Kadaj after the brief, clumsy kiss, gauging his reaction.

He tilts his head at me, eyes wide. For a minute I think he's going to tell me that I shouldn't have done that. But he doesn't say anything. He just slowly removes his hand from my bra and pulls my shirt back down.

"Sorry," I mumble and drop my eyes, in case I've crossed the line with him somehow. His response is to grasp my chin, tip my face up to look at him again, and then lean in closer, kissing me back. He does it gently enough to show consideration but firmly enough to prove that he means it. My lips open to his, eagerly. I get an aroused jolt when I feel his tongue meeting mine, just a quick hot flicker and then gone but it's enough to make me gasp right into his mouth. He tastes like nothing I've tasted before; sweet, decadent and breathtakingly addictive at the same time, like finest red wine money can buy.

"Don't be sorry," he breathes against my mouth, grazing his lips across mine one final time and then drawing away, leaving my tummy atremble and me desiring more. "I just don't think the corridor is the right place for this kind of activity."

"So, take me to your bedroom then," I logically suggest. "Do you recall that night I came to your door, when you and Yazoo were keeping me awake with your non-stop lovemaking? You said I was welcome to join you. Were you just messing with me or did you actually mean that?"

"Hard as it is to believe, I meant it. Ask Yazoo – he'll back me up."

"I thought so. I wish I had joined you now," I reveal with a small, self-conscious laugh. "To tell the truth, Kadaj, I've wanted to sleep with you ever since that night in the club. I still remember your hand on my leg and how it tingled all the way up to my hip. I remember what you said to me, how you bragged about giving me a real orgasm unlike any I've ever had before. I said no because you were scaring me and I didn't know you. I didn't want you touching me at all back then."

Trailing my fingers along his jawline, I finish yearningly, "But I do now. Gods, you have no idea how much I want you to touch me."

"Oh, Catalina. You silly girl. Why did you have to choose TODAY of all days to tell me this?" Kadaj scolds, sounding somewhat despairing and frustrated. "I cannot afford to be distracted at the moment."

"Am I distracting you?" I smile wickedly, not caring if I am. I mean, what could he possibly have to do today that's so damn important? I shift forward and nuzzle his throat, smelling the sinful scent of his Allure, and push the hair away from his ear.

"I want you so bad, Kadaj," I whisper needily. "I want your hands on me, your mouth on me. Everywhere. I want you inside me. Make me feel good, like in a romance novel, the way you promised."

I flick my tongue over his earlobe and Kadaj momentarily closes his eyes, groaning. "I can't."

"Why not?" I glance down, belatedly remembering my bulging belly. "Is it because of this? Does me being pregnant turn you off?"

"No, of course it doesn't," he insists. "Even if I want to, I do not have time for this. Not today."

"Well, MAKE time," I urge, tugging at his suit zipper again, not knowing what else he'd rather be doing than getting naked. "I know we're supposed to hate each other but seriously, we gotta do something about all this sexual tension between us. Like, right now."

"I really can't," he repeats, sounding regretful and apologetic, clasping my hands in his so I can't keep trying to unzip him. "You're a very attractive woman and if it was any other day I'd take you to my bed in a heartbeat but this is the worst possible timing ever. I'm sorry."

Even though I'm quite let down by his refusal, I realise that he's treating me rather respectfully, as though I'm somebody different. Somebody he actually likes.

"It's not you, Cate. I just have to go somewhere," he explains in a kind and patient manner. "It's essential that I be there."

"How essential?"

"Never mind." He shortly shakes his head, silver hair swaying. "Just hold up your hand. I want to give you something."

Perking up, I ask, "What?"

"This." He uncurls his fingers and shows me a ball of shimmery light gathering in his palm. "Pure Life Stream energy. Better than any drug you can buy."

I squint at the swirling mist warily. I don't like magic. Never have.

"It's not gonna hurt, all right? It'll feel good," he says persuasively. "You want me to make you feel good, don't you?"

"Well, okay then. I suppose I could try it just this once," I relent, holding my hand up. I'd rather be getting into his pants but if pressing my palm against his can give me pleasure, then I'll accept it.

"I'm going to give it to you slowly," he warns me. "I don't know how much of it you can take at once."

Giggling, I reply, "That sounds so dirty."

His lips twitch. "It wasn't meant to be. Now, hold your hand still."

He places his bare palm against my own. I watch in fascination as coloured light begins to seep out of his fingers and into mine, absorbing into my hand like water into a sponge. The light is greenish-blue, with pink and purple tones. It's pretty and reflects off the angles of his face, shining in his eyes like a mini-universe. It feels tingly and warm, all the nerves in my fingertips sparking to life. As the transferred energy curls around my wrist and starts infiltrating my bloodstream, it makes me shiver pleasantly.

Appearing as though he enjoys seeing my sensual reaction, Kadaj asks with a small smile, "How's that?"

"Nice," I sigh, gazing in enthralled captivation at the multi-coloured light-show swirling around our connected palms. "Just like you right now, Daj. You know, under all your sharp edges and split personalities, there's a really sweet, considerate guy trying to get out."

"You think so?"

"I know so," I reply with certainty, resting my head trustingly on his chest. "That's the part of you that I like the most. We have a great vibe when we're not fighting. I wish things could be this way all the time."

"Yeah," he answers quietly, stroking the short brown hair at the nape of my neck softly with his other hand. "Me too."

I close my eyes, enjoying his gentle caressing and the lovely magic bubbling through my veins. Dreamily, I deduce that this hand-to-hand joining must be some kind of alien foreplay but then, without warning, Kadaj increases the juice. A bolt of pure power shoots up my arm and through my whole body like an energising whip-crack, kick-starting my befuddled brain, making me instantly sober and clear-headed again and bringing feeling back to my legs.

Jerking my hand back as if from an electric shock, I scoot myself away from Kadaj, wondering why we're huddled on the floor together and why our hands were touching.

"What the fuck were you doing to me?" I exclaim in confusion, rubbing at my tingling fingers.

He drops his arm, frowning. "You don't remember?"

I shake my head, overwhelmed and disoriented. I feel as if I've been asleep for twenty four hours and then got abruptly woken up. The last thing I recall was standing in front of the caged kids in the garage, and now here I am halfway down the corridor, sitting on the concrete floor right next to the one person I do not trust at all.

"We were coming down the hall and you fainted, probably because you shouldn't be walking around so much in your condition," he surmises, putting his glove back on. "I caught you and injected a shot of Life Stream energy into your hand. And now you're conscious again. You're welcome."

"Oh," I return dumbly, not knowing he could do that.

"I can also transfer energy via mouth-to-mouth contact but I didn't think that would be a good idea under the circumstances," he adds dryly.

"Hell, no," I hastily agree, imagining how horrified I would have been, returning to my senses with Kadaj kissing me. "Thanks for not doing it that way."

Kadaj is staring at me in an intensely unnerving manner but I don't know why. "What?" I ask him uneasily.

"Nothing," he mutters, sounding slightly disappointed as he rises to a standing position. "Come on, get up. I have things to do."

"What, like tricking more unsuspecting children into drinking your black squid-ink?" I suggest sarcastically. "That's not creepy at all."

"You know very well it's not ink. And if that's some kind of reference to Mother's true form, I don't appreciate it."

"Well, she DOES have tentacles."

"Stop stalling; I'm going to run late. Get up."

He goes to take my arm but I pull it out of his reach, snapping, "I don't need your help!"

"Fine," he retorts, crossing his arms over his chest and watching me struggle to get to my feet, my huge belly making that a challenging task. "You weigh a ton. If you faint again, I'm not going to catch you this time."

"Great. Don't," I grunt in irritation. Using the carved corridor wall to finally push my swollen self upright, I brush sand off the backside of my jeans and glare at Kadaj. "I don't want you touching me anyway. Gaia knows where your filthy hands have been."

He affords me another weird look.

"What?" I snap again, impatiently. "Why do you keep looking at me like that?"

"No reason," Kadaj says ambiguously and then sweeps his arm out in a dramatic and mocking gesture, inviting me to continue down the hallway on my own. "After you, Miss Independent."

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