Characters are the property of Holly Black; no copyright infringement is intended.

Thanks go to my lovely beta Marcy!

This was written for the Yuletide Fic Exchange on Livejournal and is my first venture into this fandom, though I've loved the books for a while...Enjoy!!

Val took her time getting through the park. The sun had already hidden itself behind the towering buildings, casting a deep shadow over the city. Young families fled the park with their protesting children in tow. Probably for the best, she thought, I've seen the kinds of things that hang out in the dark corners of this park. She couldn't stop the tiny hint of a smile that crossed her face when she thought of the `monsters' that frequented this place; she was, after all, on her way to see one of them.

There was already a deep chill in the air, despite it being only the middle of October. She pulled her jacket tighter around herself as the wind picked up and sent her short hair whipping about her cheeks and over her eyes. The sword slung across her back under her coat made it impossible to close it. She turned her head down against the wind and picked up her pace.

She didn't get up town to see him as often as she wanted to, then again she could spend every minute of every day with him and still desire more. School and work took much of her time, and he was overly understanding of that. In fact, if she were to tell him that she was putting off studying for an exam in the name of this meeting he'd be furious...which was why she had no intention of telling him.

The thought of his well meaning but stern glare the last time she'd failed a quiz made her grin. Time was actually the base of most of their quarrels. She longed to be with him, around him, touching him; and he could get worse than a parent when it came to his constant nagging about work and her grades. They'd tried to compromise by studying together, but the only actual studying that resulted from that particular session was of each other...and, while beneficial in her opinion, it didn't exactly help the situation. So, she committed to a study group that met four times a week to make him happy; though, that compromise wasn't completely fair seeing as how it didn't get her any more time with him.

When she had crossed the park and was very near to his home, she slowed. The wind picked up from a different direction and sent a chill down her back that had nothing to do with the temperature. She stopped and spun around. Trees crowded the area, spilling their dying leaves on the ground. The dark became suddenly overwhelming--blanketing the area in a quiet that amplified the scuttling of crunchy leaves across the ground, lamenting the sad story of their untimely deaths to anyone that was willing to hear it.

"Who's there?" She asked aloud, though as she did she thought a more appropriate question might be `what's there.'

There was no answer. She reached over her shoulder slowly as she looked around. The entrance to Ravus' home was very close, close enough to see. She pulled the sword from its holder across her back and held it out in front of her. She turned her back to her destination and started walking backwards slowly, her weapon still held out in front of her.

"Ravus?" She questioned, but again there was no answer. She stopped and the wind died down a little. She took in her surroundings once more, it was completely dark now aside from the dim path lights. There was nothing there. She laughed at herself; short and bitter, as she let the tip of her weapon fall to the ground. "I'm being ridiculous." She rolled her eyes at her own unfounded fright.

That's when she felt the sharp slap of the side of a blade, flat against her back. Immediately she stood straight and still. Her own blade lifted off the ground, ready...but it was already too late. Whoever held that weapon against her back curved around and pressed themselves against her back, trapping his own sword between them. He leaned in and pressed his nose to the hollow at the base of her throat, inhaling softly. His scent crossed under her nose then, and she breathed a sigh of relief...Ravus.

Val felt the corner of her mouth try to turn up into a grin, but she stopped it. This was not a time for grinning, she needed to focus. She tried to clear her head, unsuccessfully, as he drew a line up her neck stopping at her ear.

"Val." He chided, "You know better."

He took the shell of her ear between his lips as he carefully drew the sword from between them. "Your senses," he let his tongue touch her ear, "Are your best weapon." He continued his work as he brought it around and tried to place it at her bare neck; she had enough sense to draw hers up and stop him. Her breath was coming quick and heavy and she felt him smile against her skin when she stopped the advance of his weapon. "Never," it was his teeth she felt now, "brush them off." He was cheating and he knew it. He hadn't expected her to be able to stop him. That thought cleared her mind and she drew in a lung full air, untainted by his clean stony scent, when a breeze passed.

She needed an advantage; she needed to interrupt his advances...both of them. She pushed herself back against him and let her body drop a bit, dragging against his. It was enough. She pushed her weapon out with both hands as hard as she could, and it was too much for the one handed hold he had on his own sword. She twisted around and put several feet between them, holding her sword out steadily.

Val forced herself to focus. She hadn't seen him in well over 48 hours and all she wanted to do was drink him in. His dark hair falling in wisps as the wind sent it flying around his face. His eyes--deep, rich, and flecked with gold that shone even in the dim light surrounding them. His lips, a welcome temptation as his tongue darted out to wet them.

He started moving, slow and cadenced--and she, on pure instinct moved with him. Every step she took mirrored his, every breath that filled her lungs matched his, and every beat of her own thundering heart mimicked his. She felt the adrenaline begin to flow; her veins buzzed with it, carried it all the way to her fingertips and toes. This is why she had come.

When he lunged at her, she was ready. She met his every move with a precise and calculated counter. The fencing classes had been paying off; that, and knowing your opponent did have certain advantages. Val had come to know what to expect when it came to Ravus, she knew when he was about to back off and when he was preparing to make a move. She could read it in his expression. This time, however, was different somehow.

He seemed more aggressive...unpredictable. Val wasn't sure what brought this on--she didn't care--it was just what she needed to clear her mind of the stress and worry from the week. She didn't have room in her thoughts for anything other than how to block his next move.

He was fast tonight, and when he came at her from the side she hadn't been expecting it. She let the tip of her blade fall to the ground and threw her arm up to block her face. He swore and pulled back just before his weapon hit her forearm. "Shit, Val. You know better than that."

Breathing heavy by then, she pulled her weapon back up and held it out to him. "I do." She heaved, and started back at him again.

She met his aggression this time, throwing as much force as she could into her attacks and blocks. It wasn't long before both were sweating and growing tired from the exertion. Out of the corner of her eye, Val saw Ravus miss a step--stumbling but not falling. The thought that maybe he was getting tired...that perhaps she might have the chance to not completely fail this time gave her the will to find a second wind. She forced herself to focus, to draw strength from within; to force her muscles to support her aching arms for just a while longer.

It paid off. Just a few minutes later he slipped up and her blade found its way past his guard, meeting with the skin of his shoulder. She knew she hadn't hurt him badly--there had been hardly enough force behind the hit to draw blood. She shouted her victory and spun around. When she made it back around to face him she discovered he'd fallen to his knees. His weapon forgotten on the ground and his hand clutched at his shoulder.

She stopped abruptly, rushing to his side. "Ravus, I haven't hurt you have I? I was sure there wasn't enough strength behind that to hurt you." She worried aloud.

He looked up at her and attempted a half smile. "No, it's nothing--not your fault."

"Not my...what?" She dropped to her knees beside him. "It's completely my fault, I hit you...I should have been more careful." She attempted to see the wound at his shoulder.

"No--that's not what I meant." He reached his free hand up and brushed the hair from in front of her eyes. "The wound is not bad; it's the iron from your sword."

Comprehension spread across her face, "Oh, what can I...Where--How can I?" She searched for some way to help him.

He smiled at her concern, "Help me inside and I'll tell you what to do."

She stood and gathered both of their weapons in one arm; then she helped him up, supporting him as much as she was able as they made their way inside. She helped him to a seat, taking notice of the fresh beads of sweat that were forming across his forehead. She reached a hand out, pushed his hair aside and laid the back of her fingers on the overheated skin.

"You're feverish?" She commented.

He nodded. "It's the iron, I'll be fine. In the small cupboard there, get me one of the jars from the back."

She immediately did as she was asked, without paying much attention to the jars contents. She set it on the table next to him, "Now what?"

He closed his eyes as if it took a great deal of concentration to get his thoughts translated into words. "I'll need a glass of water, and grab a spoon while you're over there." She nodded and headed over to the small sink. Once she'd returned he opened his eyes again and looked up at her. "You'll have to mix it in for me, please."

She set the cup down and opened the jar--her stomach dropped. She had gone months without it; the desire--the need--had drifted away long ago. So why suddenly, with it here in front of her, could she feel that too-familiar crawl in her veins? Her fingers shook and she dropped the lid of the jar, her eyes closed and she tried to avoid breathing in through her nose. Her hands shook and she grabbed the side of the table to steady them.

"Val? Are you okay?" Ravus asked, concern evident in his tone.

She attempted a breath, and was fine. Opening her eyes she said, "I'm fine."

"Alright, no rush or anything...but if I don't get that soon I'll likely go mad and probably eventually die." He said, only half joking.

She lifted her gaze to meet his, blinking. "What?" Her gaze drifted down to his hand still clutching his shoulder, "Oh! Right. Sorry." She went back to work, carefully scooping out the Never and dumping it into the glass, her hands continued to shake while she attempted to stir it until it dissolved into the water. She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth to keep that from trembling as well. Once she'd finished, she handed the glass to Ravus and went to work sealing the jar as tightly as she could. She lifted the jar and only once, and only for a brief moment, did she consider stuffing it in her bag.

Val put the jar on the shelf and shut the cupboard door with a hard snap. She fought with herself to was a struggle to step away from the small brown door.

"I--I have to go. Are you feeling better?" She said without meeting his eyes. She needed to get out and knew he'd beg her to stay; knew that if she looked into his gold-flecked eyes she wouldn't be able to go. They hadn't even had time to be together.

"You're leaving?" His voice was layered in disappointment. "Already?"

"Um," she fiddled with the loose strings on her coat sleeve, "Yeah, I have to study."

He was quiet for a minute. "Study? Val? That is the worst fake excuse you've ever come up with. A sick kid at home would have been more believable."

"I, I just have to get back."

"Why?" It came out as a whisper and she only heard it because he was suddenly right in front of her. The tips of his shoes bumped hers in her downcast gaze. Her heart rate responded to his proximity against her will--just like it always did. She didn't lift her head, if she did...she'd lose and she knew it.

Her fingers moved to the zipper of her coat, still zipped and resting high over her chest. "I need air...out, I have to get out."

His slim fingers were suddenly brushing hers out of the way. She watched as he took the zipper and pulled it down slowly. "You just spent the better part of an hour `out', Val." He let his fingers barely brush along her torso as he moved his hands back up to her shoulders, under her coat. He slid his fingers down her arms, taking the coat with them until it fell down off her. He tossed it over a nearby chair.

She still hadn't looked up. She could almost hear the Never calling for her from its dark prison...offering a release and freedom that she hadn't had in so long. His fingers didn't leave her once he'd relieved her of her coat; they lingered on her arms, her shoulders, her neck. They rested under her chin, lifting it lightly. She closed her eyes.

"Why are you leaving me, Val?" His breath washed over her face and reminded her of the dozens of kisses they'd shared. Warm. Sweet.

"I'm not leaving you." She said.

He leaned in close, his cheek resting on her; lips moving against her ear as they whispered, "Why don't you want to stay with me now?"

"I do...I have to, I can't be here with--I have to not be near it." She found some way to get out the words. It hurt to admit it to him, that weakness. It hadn't been an issue. She'd gotten control of the need long before she had the chance to visit him here again, and hadn't thought of it since.

"Hmm," he grunted against her ear, refusing to back away even after she'd told him how weak she was. He should have backed away in disgust...forced her to leave never come back for wanting such a thing. She held her breath. "Is it desire that has you attempting to flee me, Val?" His voice took on a different tone. It was deep now...drawing her in with its melting tenor.

"I--uh...I'm--" She couldn't force the words to come out right.

"Valerie. Open your eyes." She did, unable to deny him anything. He'd pulled back, but was still very close...mere centimeters separated them. His eyes were deep pools that she often found herself lost in; there was always something new to discover about them...something different that she'd never noticed before. "Is it desire that plagues you? Need?" His eyes searched her face.

She nodded.

He leaned into her ear once more. "What if I could make you forget it?" He whispered. His hand threaded into the hair at the back of her head and she leaned back into it. Lips and fangs grazed her ear as he spoke, and she couldn't stop the shiver that ran down her spine. "What if..." He drew her earlobe between his teeth and then released it, "...I could show you a greater desire--a greater need?"

His free hand slid over her shoulder and down her back; slowly descending and stopping at the very last inch that could be considered back. He closed the distance between their bodies then, holding her to him. She struggled to control her breathing as he drew his face back, his lips running a hot line across her cheek and stopping just shy of her own mouth. "What say you then?" She could feel his breath coming in quick gasps against her lips, rushing into her open mouth and brushing across her tongue in a sweet promise of things to come.

The small sound that escaped through her lips then was almost embarrassing, and she would have lingered on it were it not for the momentary thrill of the sting of his fangs against her lips. The sound came again only deeper this time; he swallowed it when he sealed his mouth over hers. Her eyes fell closed once more and she knew that she'd lost. His lips were warm and her mouth opened under his without hesitation.

She loved kissing him. He'd once asked her how she could stand to kiss someone so different from herself. She'd had no answer for him beyond asking him another unanswerable question in return...after which he'd gone into exhausting detail explaining to her exactly why the sky was indeed blue. She'd shut him up and made her point all at once by leaning in and pressing her mouth to his.

There was a spark of something different behind it. It thrilled her. Reminded her that life wasn't boring and mundane and repetitive. Differences, she'd once told him, are what keep life interesting...what kept her waking up each morning eager to live.

Her hands sought out whatever bare skin she could find on him; resting one on his cheek, holding him to her, the fingers of her other hand fought their way under his tucked shirt, laying on the warm skin of his hip. He was always so careful with her, so gentle...she never felt less than loved when he was touching her. She bit down on his upper lip and pulled a groan from him. She smiled against his mouth, loving any sign she could get from him that she affected him the same way he did her.

His hand wound tighter in her short hair and he took several deliberate steps forward, forcing her to walk backward. Her rear came in contact with the very cabinet that she'd been trying to run from, the jars inside clattering with noise from being jostled. Its contents were the farthest thing from her mind. Her veins pulsed with a new need...a different desire, just as familiar and perhaps even stronger. Strong hands cupped her ass and lifted her up to sit on the sturdy cabinet. He remained close, never breaking the contact he'd set between them before. Lips and tongue traveled along her jaw as she heaved in gasping breaths, trying in vain to get enough oxygenated blood to her brain. She grasped at him where she could, his shoulders and the long dark hair that brushed them; his back and the tight shirt that was more a hindrance than anything else to her now.

She set to work on the buttons that ran down the front of it, getting frustrated in the end and pulling on the shirt until the stitching gave way--sending the buttons bouncing across the floor. She was sure she felt him pause and grin against her neck, but it didn't last long...wiped away with a deep sharp sound at the back of his throat when she placed her hands on his bare chest and let her fingernails graze the smooth skin there. His lips returned to hers with a renewed fervor, she wasn't the only one fighting desire anymore.

"Val." He mumbled against her mouth, hands pulling her to the edge of her seat so he could press himself to her. His need for her was evident and she moaned in response to it. "Val," He breathed again, "I need you."

"Ung," she ground against him, "Yeah." It was all she could manage. Her thoughts were clouded with her own want as she shoved his shirt over his shoulders and down his arms. She tore her mouth from his and pressed it to the hollow just below his jaw, and then up to his ear. She let her tongue dart out and taste the skin there before whispering, "yes."

He groaned and pulled her from her perch. His arms supported her without a problem as her legs wound around his waist. She didn't cease her work at his neck, pressing her nose to him there--taking in his stony, heady scent. It was nearly enough to drive her crazy with longing. He tossed her on the bed and covered her body with his own, bringing his lips back to her's once more. Her fingers wound tightly in his hair, offering him no chance of escape.

Never. Never had she felt this before. This need. This desire. This addiction he drew out in her. This high that only he could give her.