Blood Binds Us

They'd taken her again. Taken her out of the room without a word of explanation or any sort of warning. The lights had flared to painful brightness and before she'd even been fully awake the door had opened and the guards had marched in.

He knew damn well that they were still doing their experiments on her. Every time they took her away like this and brought her back a day later she smelt of anesthetic, transfused blood and pain. She'd be stumbling and confused, unable to focus her mind or her eyes until the drugs wore off.

And that was the easy part of a post experimental surgery.

When her mind woke up she'd be in such pain that he'd be cursing at the sharp scent of citrus that filled the air. The burnt cinnamon of her fear would twine with her pain until the animal inside him wanted to go mad and burn the world down around them.

He forced himself to breathe, to inhale through his nose and exhale through his mouth. He'd learned how to regulate his heartbeat long ago. The old snipers trick had served him well more than once during the war and since. She had taught him even more, ways to force himself into a trance, methods of concentration to bring back his earliest, most important memories.

He opened his eyes slightly and wanted to curse the still bright lights. If they were following the same routine as last time it would take another four hours before they brought her back. And unless he wanted to completely give away everything he and his partner had worked so hard to hide he'd better get going on his own regimen of exercise.

He was irritating the guards again, using his improvised exercise bar, a silent salute to the first day he'd seen her. She'd been marched down the hallway outside his cell, smelling exotically of burnt cinnamon, silk, blood and steel. He'd had no idea that she would change everything.

But his ignorance hadn't stopped the changes from coming. He'd killed, with a great deal of pleasure, in order to protect her before he'd even known her name. And she'd stood and trusted him in spite of the fears that had rioted through her scent. She hadn't even recoiled in fear at the sight of his very obvious, occasionally called freakish, difference from other humans.

This was the third surgery by his count.

The second time they'd taken her she'd come back and after her mind had cleared... Well, that was when he found out what they were doing, or trying to do. He'd been indulging his animal with a few (he thought) harmless thoughts of touching her, having her body under his and his mouth on her neck tasting her skin. The fantasy of her wanting him was only that but it helped control his animal side. He'd had those thoughts plenty of times before and so long as his physical reaction wasn't obvious she'd never known. The animal had wanted her from the first, had practically roared with it inside him. The man, however, was not comfortable with the idea of taking a not quite sixteen year old girl to mate.

His passions ran hot, like the rest of him but he'd learned over his lifetime how to control himself. Control was what kept him from being a complete animal. He'd promised the animal that if they ever got free that he would court her if she were willing. It was a compromise but it was one he could live with.

She'd never known about those thoughts. Never looked at him in shock and seen what was behind his eyes, the animal waiting to pounce. She'd never seen the wolf that was waiting for its mate. But that time, after that surgery...everything had changed again.

She'd slept in his arms, trusting as a child, her hands on his chest, her head tucked beneath his chin. And that morning after she'd woken she'd stared at him in surprise and he'd smelt honey, thick and rich, the sweetness of her scent like perfume to his nose.

She'd known then. Known he wanted her. That he desired her.

Needed her like no other woman in the 'Verse.

She'd known and her body had responded. God had she responded. And it had been all he could do to control his need at the realization. The animal she'd barely begun to embrace had found him worthy. But the girl...the girl was the one who mattered to the man. Much as he adored her animal side, the man wanted to girl to agree with her animal.

She'd explained how she knew. They were trying to turn her into a Reader. They wanted her to Hear thoughts and See into minds and hearts. And they were cutting on her brain to make it so.

Blood red had nearly dropped over his eyes and he'd plowed his fist into the metal tiled wall before he could get control of himself. It had only been the scent of her tears that had stopped him from tearing up the cell and his hands in a mindless animalistic rage of destruction.

He'd wrapped her up in the blanket then, to avoid the appearance of 'fraternizing' and they'd talked, her soft whisper unintelligible to the listening devices and his murmurs holding no meaning except to her. And at the end of it he'd agreed. He'd taught her a bit about the animal, his animal mostly. In an effort to help her deal with their situation he'd hoped she'd learn from his experiences. But after that...he'd agreed to teach her everything he knew.

She thought it was the animal part of her that was the Reader. She was afraid she'd go insane if she didn't learn to deal with that part of herself. She was a graceful, passionate, elegant creature and she'd been raised to be cool and polite, however badly she'd done at it. He'd had to teach her how to discard all but the veneer of civilization.

He guessed since they'd taken her away again that they weren't satisfied with her being able to Read emotions. She'd theorized that sooner or later they'd try to make her go the next step.

It looked like she'd been right.

He'd expected it to be bad.

He hadn't thought she'd be raving when she regained her mobility and her eyes cleared.

It was quiet as death in the cell, he'd even stilled his breathing as much as he could, kept his body motionless to help her concentrate and his eyes fixed on hers to give her something to see in the now dim room.

He'd been able to tell the instant the drugs wore off. Her eyes had sharpened and she'd taken a deep shocked breath.

And screamed.

He hated when she cried. Hated the scent of her pain and sorrow. The steel scent of her disciplined mind was eroded with rust. Every sob made his pulse jump and it felt like his heart was twisting in his chest. A sickening, maddening sensation he was powerless to stop. He had the sudden urge to reach up under his ribs and yank the fucker out so he couldn't feel like this anymore. Helpless to do anything but hold her while she shivered in shock and wept with pain.

He could smell the rust taking over, the silk of her strength fraying under the stress of whatever she was hearing. With whatever she was Reading.

"C'mon zi, try to concentrate on one thing, like I taught ya," He murmured. "Listen to my voice. Breathe in an' hear me talking to you. Just breathe."

Her sobs didn't cease, but they didn't grow any louder either. He frowned and rubbed her back, tried to think back to anything that would work to help her snap out of this. He tried to think clearly, to follow his mind's winding thoughts with deliberation. She'd compared his mind to a crystalline ruby labyrinth, curving and elegant. If she was hearing his thoughts hopefully they wouldn't bother her too much.

It felt like it took forever but he hit on something that he thought might work. It wasn't a binding ritual not like he'd done with one other. There would be no lasting bond or scar. He wasn't interested in making his partner into his sibling. She'd be his mate if she agreed. Eventually. That ritual was something very different. And it was nothing he could do without her consent or under the Academy's eyes.

He stroked her hair to get her attention and she looked up at him, her eyes still foggy with pain. But she nodded in response to his thoughts, "Yes." She nodded again as if the word might not be enough.

"Breathe with me Qīng Xiāng," He coaxed her gently. "A deep breath, look at me. Breathe with me. In and out."

While she'd gotten her breathing under control tears still streamed down her face and he knew they'd have to do the next part of the ritual for her to completely center herself again. He bit down hard on his lip, the tiny pain sharp and clear in his mind and she gasped and nodded.

He looked at her and watched until she did the same, blood welling up from her lower lip. He could taste his, hot, coppery and salty on his tongue and hers in the air, sweet to his senses. "Blood to blood," He took his thumb and dipped it in his own small wound, covering the wide digit with red before he pressed it to her upper lip. "You do the same Qīng Xiāng," He instructed. "Breathe in and say the words on a slow exhale."

She nodded and imitated him, her small white thumb covered in her blood before she rubbed it over his upper lip, "Blood to blood." Her voice was a little squeaky towards the end, she'd almost run out of breath.

"Your blood on my lips," He intoned quietly. A quick swipe of his tongue over his lips; he tasted her blood and the animal wanted to rejoice. It wasn't the binding he wanted but it pleased the animal all the same. "Your life within me."

She took a deep breath and spoke more carefully this time, "Your blood on my lips." Her little kitten tongue flicked out to lick his blood from her lips and she gave him a trembling smile. "Your life within me."

He watched her breathe, long, deep and slow careful breaths until she'd found the place inside herself where she communed with the animal. He could feel her, smell it in her scent, as she grew calmer, found her balance again. It took hours, stillness of thought and body before it was complete. Finally she looked up at him again and there was no quiver to her smile this time. "How did he know? That blood would help?"

"The animal side, the side you need to reach, blood's what reaches the animal. Blood in life, blood in death. In birth and in dying," He shrugged. "Blood is what animals live by." He guessed she'd have to do something like meditation every day until she grew accustomed to what her mind could do now. She'd have to learn control and test the extent of her abilities but he'd help as much as he could.

She studied him a long time before she sank back into his embrace. He barely felt the kiss that brushed over his pulse. "Thank you my Riddick. Thank you."

She was asleep in his arms again. Where she belonged. They were finally safe.

Well as safe as wanted fugitives from a secret government laboratory ever could be.

Riddick pulled himself out of the memory and looked down at his sleeping woman. They would never go back. They'd never cut into her brain again. He'd spent too many nights sleepless at the Academy wanting to protect her to let anything happen to her now.

River stirred against him and her dark eyes opened. Silver moved in their depths, her animal peering out at him. "My Riddick, rest now. Safely behind locked doors in the middle of the Black. Crew is trustworthy. We will hear anyone who may attack. Rest now my bàng jiār ."

"Yeah," Riddick sighed and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Rest up for the job."

"All will be well, he will soon see," River's gentle voice was fading with sleep even as he succumbed to the depths of slumber himself.

Soft hands stroked his chest and he pulled her closer to his body. They were safe on Serenity.

As safe as they could be.

Author's Note: So this was something that occurred to me as I was trying to get going on Animals. Writing it helped put me back in that mindset so I hope it's enjoyable.

Chinese Translations:

nī zi - little girl

Qīng Xiāng - Sweet Scent

bàng jiār - lover / partner