There aren't enough Mircea/Cassie fanfics on here, so I thought I'd start one. Rated M for later fun (teehee!). Normal disclaimer: This world and these characters are not mine but belong to the wonderfully talented Karen Chance. I just thought it would be fun to play with them. Forgive me if I give any offence.

The normal façade of casual distance that this centuries old vampire cloaked around himself was beginning to crumble like stones under the hands of time. He'd started the evening sitting comfortably looking out the penthouse window to the city that sprawled out around him, the twinkling lights and the norms bumbling about stories below him. Over the last few hours, he'd begun to pointlessly wander through the penthouse apartment and then flat out began to pace. Mircea hated it when Cassie ran off on her Pythia missions. Hundreds of years usually in the past and there was nothing he could do to protect her. Just that damned mage.

The bizarre western theme of the living room didn't give him much space to move and it seemed that all of his servants had sensed his mood and scattered to the wind. Probably for the best as one small thing and he'd probably send the poor bastard to Jack's tender mercies. It always made him on edge when he had no idea where Cassie was or if she was in danger. In his time, the women staid home and allowed themselves to be looked after. She was so independent and headstrong.

Stopping by the large window again, his dark eyes stared out sightlessly and his hand went to the back of his neck to rub the stiffness away. That woman was going to give him a stroke. She never listened and she never allowed him to look after her properly. She was such a small thing, so delicate and so damned irritating. She could wrap him around her little finger with a smile and then twist his gut with the slightest evidence of damage to her fragile frame.

"Damnit, Miss Palmer!" the mage screamed when the elevator doors opened in the hall. They were still fifty feet away, but Mircea's ears picked up the curses he slung as if he were standing next to him. "Get back here this instant! We have training to do!"

"I'm covered in blood, Pritkin," Cassie shot back while pushing open the front door. Instantly, Mircea was shooting through the distance, coming to a screeching halt once he saw her. "Can you at least give me time for a shower? Please?"

There she stood, her small frame dressed in her normal, absurd jeans and t-shirt combination, only there were gashes and tears throughout the ensemble. The jeans had once been light blue, the same color of the sky just before the sun began it's slow decent. Now it was a dark maroon, clinging to her curves wetly. Her shirt was green in spots, but mostly dark red and he could easily see dark gouges in the flesh of her side through the shredded cotton. Her blond curls where wilder than normal with little bits of debris and what could possibly be flesh stuck here and there. She looked like she'd been through a war zone and there that damned mage stood glaring at her from the hall.

"Marco," Mircea said calmly, and the bulky vampire appeared as if made from air itself. "Please escort Mage Pritkin to his rooms and make sure he is most comfortable there for a few hours." His accent was thicker than normal and he knew he was hanging onto control by his fingertips. The mage in question shot his green glare over Cassie's head and Mircea smiled slowly at him, letting him see the glint of murder in his dark eyes. His smile grew when the mage paled and stepped back.

"Certainly, Master," Marco said beside him, grinning as well. He knew Marco would take great pleasure in making sure that spiky haired war mage staid his distance.

Then Cassie turned and Mircea felt his throat close and his heart fall to his stomach. Her normal fiery features and bright blue eyes were dull, drawn and tired. She looked as though she was about to fall down. He used his supernatural speed again to gather her up into his arms and hold her close. Recently, she'd tried to keep him more at a distance, saying she wanted to get to know him more. He had no idea what that meant as she was the only person for hundreds of years that knew so much about him, but if it made her happy, he'd do anything. She would accept his touches and his kisses, but she wouldn't allow much more than that. This time, she seemed too drained to try and put distance between them and she melted against front and sighed. Mircea shot a deadly glare at the war mage still standing in the doorway. Obviously, Marco thought Cassie's appearance was worth pause as well.

"Rafe," Mircea called and again, he instantly stood within feet, his dark brow creased with worry. "Please take Cassie to the bathroom and help her into a bath. I will be there shortly." It tore at his heart to pass her to the other vampire, but he knew she was safe with Rafe. He'd been like a father to her since she was four and would protect her to a violent end. Cassie trusted him, too, which made it easier to see her wrap her dainty arms around Rafe's sender waist and lean her weight against him.

As soon as the two were out of easy hearing distance, Mircea turned. A wild wind whipped around him, tugging at his long brown hair to wave around him like some sort of living cloak. His lip curled into a feral snarl and his gaze dripped with rage. "You were supposed to protect her!" he hissed. "You're supposed to keep her safe. That," he indicated over his shoulder with his chin, "is not what I'd call safe. You have failed miserably, Mage Pritkin. Please give me a reason why I should not kill you where you stand."

There was shock and fear etched into Pritkin's pale face and Mircea grinned in deadly triumph. "She-she shifted without me," he stuttered. "I tried to reach her before she had the chance, but she left without me. We had been training on how to control her powers to protect herself easier, but she was just suddenly gone. I thought surely she'd been summoned by Jonas, but when I contacted him, he told me she was not there." The blond man had backed into the hall while he spoke, swallowing hard when his back came up against the wall by the elevator. Mircea shadowed his every move. "I cannot be touching her the entire time we're together," Pritkin shot out in a last-ditch effort.

Mircea's lip curled. "No," he said slowly. "That would be much too distracting – for you." He clenched his teeth, feeling the sharp fangs pressing into his bottom lip. He tried very hard to bring himself under control. "Of course," he said after a few moments, closing his eyes. "If she will not take you on her shifts, there is little you can do to protect her. This is something that Cassie and I must discuss." He opened his eyes and smirked when Pritkin actually jumped as if slapped. The power had faded, no longer blowing around them like a hot tornado, but there was still anger in Mircea's dark gaze. "Go now, let me attend to her."

Mircea turned on his heel, knowing that Marco would take things over from there. He had more important things to worry about. It took less than a second or Mircea to enter the bedroom, still shaking a head at the cowboy-esk decorations with various animal heads that adorned the walls. A line of wet, ruined and bloody clothes started at the foot of the bed and reached the bathroom doors were soft voices murmured. For a few moments, Mircea just stood at the bedroom door, trying desperately to keep his wild emotions from escalating out of control while he listened to the soft conversation in the other room.

"Mia stella," Rafe crooned. "Why did you not take Mage Pritkin with you? He could have helped you."

"I'm tired of always having a babysitter," Cassie replied, trying her best to sound scornful but it only came out tired and drained. "I'm a big girl, Rafe. I shouldn't need to have someone hold my hand every time I have to do something. It's bad enough that people only want me to control my power. I don't need someone actually standing over my shoulder every time I try to do anything." There was a sharp hiss of air between clenched teeth and a slight sloshing of water as a body lowered into the tub.

"No one wants you to control you, Cassie," Rafe whispered soothingly. No doubt he knew Mircea was listening in the other room, but Cassie had no idea. She gave a soft snort and Mircea couldn't help the smile tugging at his lips. Such a rude noise for such a pretty woman.

"You're not honestly trying to tell me that the Consul doesn't want to control me?" Her tone was incredulous and taunting and when Rafe didn't answer, she made another delicate snort. "That's what I thought. And let's not even mention Mircea."

The mention of his name perked his ears and very slowly, he began to move forward. Rafe made a soft gasp and the rustle of clothing told Mircea that he'd sat down along the edge of the large tub. "Mia stella, what on earth do you mean? Lord Mircea does not want to control you. He cares a great deal for you."

"No, he cares a great deal for his girlfriend," she sighed and Mircea frowned. Again with this "girlfriend" person. He had no idea to whom or what she was referring to. "Me he just wants to keep under his thumb. He doesn't even trust me enough to tell me what's going on with his own court!"

"Who is this woman you refer to?" Rafe asked for him. "To my knowledge, you are the first woman in over two hundred years that Lord Mircea has laid any kind of claim to and - "

"Exactly," she interrupted. "To your knowledge. And this woman has been in his life for much longer than two hundred years if the pictures are anything to go by." Pictures? Mircea thought to himself, his frown deepening.

A soft sound of pain made him snap out of any kind of thought and his knuckles rapped gently on the solid door before he pushed it open slowly. "Dulceata? May I come in?" he asked politely before stepping inside. His dark eyes took in every detail in seconds, listing every injury he could see or smell. She had a cut on her neck within inches of his mark that was shallow and but bloody and still oozing. There was a bruise in the shape of a hand around the slim column of her throat, indicating that someone had attempted to strangle her. Her left arm that hung over the edge of the tub had gashes and cuts from shoulder to wrist, some still dripping blood to the cool, white tile of the floor. The water was already bright with blood with her hair pulled up off her neck so it didn't dip in the red water. Her face was shallow with her cheek bones prominently pronounced and her thick lips slightly chapped and split. To say there were dark circles under her eyes would be as pathetic a description as explaining that the earth was flat. She was a mess. Something tightened in his chest and he couldn't fight the crease in his brow.

"Lord Mircea," Rafe sighed and rose to his feet. His face was, of course, pinched with worry and his dark eyes filled with what could have been tears if he allowed him to fall over his cheeks. "She is quite tired and her injuries are deep but not life threatening. Should I send for a healer?" With Mircea's nod, Rafe relaxed and drifted out the door, leaving the two of them in heavy silence.

"Are you just going to stand there all night?" Cassie asked softly, again trying to sound scornful but too tired to put much effort into it. Her eyes were closed and her body was relaxed while the steam carried the scent of blood and pain to Mircea's nose.

"No, dulceata," Mircea said softly. "I think it is time we had a talk."