Hi hi, a shortish chapter again, and one I'm not thrilled with. I have tried to fix it as best I can but still...just not as happy with it as I could wish.I hope it's not too bad, and thanks go out to all the kind reviewers! Sandy

Then and Now

Chapter 15

By the time Lin and Tsin returned Taz was at the frazzled stage. He had been napping on the couch, and when he looked up to see Tsin he leaped to his feet and grabbed the rather worn looking man in a fierce alternated between insisting that Tsin tell all right now and kissing him so often Tsin couldn't have spoken if he had wanted to.

It took a while for Taz to remember that Tsin hadn't been arrived alone and he broke off a kiss to look for Lin. Lin was hovering in the entryway as though he wasn't sure he was coming in. Taz strode over,dragged him to the couch and more or less forced both men to sit down and wedged himself in between them. He turned to Lin and gave him a long look.

Lin returned the look for only a second, turning his eyes away and scanning the room as though he had never seen it before. Taz frowned momentarily, Lin appeared much too melancholy for a returning hero, had something gone wrong? Taz cleared his throat, drawing Lins wandering attention back to him before he spoke.

"I hope I'm correct in assuming the trip was a success?"

"Of course. And due in no small part to Tsin, I hadn't known he was trained as a warrior."

Taz turned to regard the young kitsune mix with a speculative gaze.

"Neither did I.I wonder what other talents he's hiding?"

Tsin colored and smiled at the same time. He leaned a little closer to Taz and Taz slipped an arm around his shoulders before continuing.

"I'll have to explore that later. Right now I have to talk to a man about a pet."

Tsin stirred in his arms.

"Should I go?"

Lin broke in:

"Not for my sake. Relax a bit, you've more than earned it."

Tsin leaned his head on Tazs shoulder with a sigh and closed his eyes.

Taz let the silence stretch and finally asked:

"You're not going to ask about Faun are you?"

Lin shrugged.

"I assumed you would tell me if there were something wrong."

"There's something very wrong. He's dying.I wish there were some tactful, sensitive way to sneak up on the subject but I don't think there's you do something for him?"

Lin looked away again,

"Why is he dying? Is he ill?"

"It's how he's made, how pets are made. They're the ultimate in planned obsolescence. It's natural for them to die very young. Which is what led to this whole mess. Lin, please tell me you're not just going to stand by and watch him die. "

Lin closed his eyes and shook his head slowly.

"Janet said something like that, I didn't want to believe it, Is he conscious?"

"Off and on. He seems pretty out of it most of the time."

"I'll go talk to him. Would you and Tsin give us a few minutes and then come in. We'll need some help. If he's that weak I'll need to share some strength with him and then go from there. Okay?"

Taz nodded and Tsin murmured agreement.

Lin walked softly to the bedroom and knocked at the door.

"Faun, can I come in?"

"Lin?"

The voice was so subdued and faint.

"Yeah."

Lin heard the rustle of sheets and quickly pushed the door open a bit.

"Don't get up, I'll come there."

Faun lay back down.

"I missed you! Are you okay? Oh, Lin, I'm so sorry."

Lin walked in and sat on the floor by the bed and took Fauns hands.

"I'm fine, it's you I'm worrying about. Taz tells me you're not well."

He certainly looked ill. His face was pale and drawn, his hair was iron grey, laced with only a few stubborn strands of red. His fingers felt like dried twigs in Lins pressed a gentle kiss to the back of one fragile hand before adding:

"I can help but it is going to have to be a two step process. First we need to help you get some of your strength back, then we can work on a more permanent solution to your problem. Do you want to do that?"

Faun nodded solemnly.

"I only know one way to get your strength back and I'm afraid that it's going to hurt. Just for a little while though. Can you stand that?"

"Yes. Lin are you sure you want to help me? I would understand if you didn't."

Lin looked down at Fauns hands and didn't answer right heart dropped.

When Lin finally spoke it was in such a low tone that Faun had to strain to hear him.

"I don't want to lose you. I don't want to lose us. We both need time to heal and I think we would heal best together. Does that make any sense to you?"

"Yes. But are you sure you can stand to have me near you, can you forgive me? I never meant for things to turn so ugly, I never wanted to hurt you like that."

"You've helped me far more than you've harmed me, all in all. I wish you could have trusted me, talked to me instead of trying to force me into the course you wanted. But I think I can understand why you did what you did. I still love you, I want us to have another chance."

He looked up and met Fauns gaze and Faun smiled and nodded. Lin let go of his hands and leaned forward to kiss him lightly.

"I'll try to cause you as little pain as I can."

Tsin and Taz entered,both looking a little apprehensive. Lin smiled faintly at them and asked:

"Have either one of you been involved in sharing blood? "

Both shook their heads.

"It's an unseelie method of healing, blood magic basically. I'll need help with the first steps at least. After that it should be easier."

Lin handed Tsin a small dagger he had produced from some where on his person and began to take his clothes off. Tsin looked away politely while Taz and Faun both watched.

"Tsin, if you would help me prepare first so Faun can see what we have to do it would be appreciated. Have you any knowledge of blood magic in general?"

"I've read some. I gather you want to mingle blood with Faun?"

"Yes, I need you to make cuts while I concentrate. They don't need to be horribly deep but they need to extend from the chest to all extremities. I can do some of it myself it you need me too. Ready?"

Tsin nodded, looking a bit green. He rested the knifes point in the middle of Lins chest and took a deep breath. He began to draw the knife at an angle down Lins torso, cutting a line that extended down his left leg and continued along his foot and the length of each toe. He did the same from Lins chest down his right leg. He stood again and cut a line from his chest down the inside of each arm and palm and finally each finger.

When he had finished this he caught Lins eye and Lin spoke to him too softly for the others to hear. Tsin visibly started but nodded a moment later. He placed the knife back at the starting point and ran it up the center of Lins neck and lips, Lin extended his tongue and Tsin slit the tip of it. Tsin appeared to be sweating while Lin seemed preternaturally calm.

Tsin again rested the knife point in the beginning position and Lin nodded. He cut a quick line down the middle of Lins torso and then hesitated. He looked at Lin and Lin nodded again, looking more amused than anything else. Tsin gingerly continued with the slash, extending the cut between Lins legs. He stepped back and raised an eyebrow at Lin and Lin gave him a tight smile. None of the slashes was actively bleeding but all remained open.

Taz shivered and whispered to Faun:

"You okay with this? I hate blood magic, effective but creepy."

Faun looked more than a little worried but nodded in answer. He mainly wanted to get it over with at this point.

Lin took the knife from Tsin and approached the bed. Faun watched him wide eyed. He sat on the edge of the bed and used the back of one hand to stroke the side of Fauns face.

"You will need to have cuts in the same places I do. Tsin can do this or I can."

"You please, but won't it hurt your hands?"

"I'll be fine. I probably wont be able to talk much now, I have to concentrate on keeping my cuts open. Okay?"

Faun nodded and closed his eyes.

Lin peeled back the sheet and started the cuts. He worked quickly and deftly and Faun tried to stay still. When he got to Fauns tongue Faun quailed a bit and it took three tries before he could overcome the urge to withdraw his tongue from harms way. When he did manage that Lin leaned down to rub his face, catlike, against Fauns shoulder, in reassurance.

The last part was the worst and Faun was in tears when Lin was done. He felt like a baby but it hurt so badly. Taz moved in closer and patted Fauns shoulder in a consoling handed the knife wordlessly to Taz and lay down on top of Faun, matching the slits in their skins as much as he could given the height difference. It appeared that his cuts had remained fairly bloodless through concentration also for now they began to bleed freely.

There was a moment of quiet and then Faun screamed. He began to thrash and Tsin moved in and grabbed his ankles to help hold him in place. Taz crouched near the head of the bed and stroked his hair, murmuring to him in encouragement.

Lin managed to press his lips against Fauns and work his tongue in to Fauns mouth. Faun felt his mouth filling with a mixture of their blood and struggled to break free but couldn't. He swallowed convulsively and stilled a bit, tears running down his face. They stayed locked in place for what seemed to Faun like a long time. In reality it was perhaps fifteen minutes before Lin eased away and apologized softly to him. Faun felt dizzy and disoriented, he slipped out of consciousness in seconds.

Taz touched Lin on the shoulder.

"Did that go all right? He's still bleeding."

"It went well. I'll stop his bleeding and then he'll need to rest a bit."

Lins words were faint and Taz nodded.

"It sounds like he isn't the only one to need rest. Can I do anything to help stop his bleeding?"

Lin shook his head and slid to the foot of the bed. Before Taz could question his intent Lin began to swipe his tongue along the wounds on Fauns feet. The lines closed without leaving a mark and Taz began to ask a question when Tsin took his hand.

"We should go into the other room. They'll sleep after this."

Taz allowed himself to be led away but not without a backward glance or two.

Faun drifted in a pleasant fog. He felt better than he had in quite a while. It added to the general glow that someone was licking his skin, slow swipes of a warm tongue leaving a slight tingle behind. He murmured happily and reached in the general direction of the action.

His hand encountered soft hair first and then strange ears. He came awake with a start, Lin was here. He opened his eyes and found Lin watching him with a small grin.

"Lin? What...oh, I remember."

"Are you feeling okay? I just need to finish getting these cuts closed and you can rest. I didn't mean to wake you."

Faun ran a hand through Lins lamentably short hair.

"It feels good. I missed you so much, I was scared for you."

"I'm fine, let me finish this, I hate to see you bleeding.I can still listen to you."

Lin went back to his task, he had dealt with Fauns feet and legs and moved to close the cuts on Fauns sex. Faun let his eyes slide shut in pleasure.

"Lin, it's been so long! "

"It seems to be getting longer all the time."

Faun giggled and when Lin tried to move up to Fauns belly he tried to scoot up to keep Lin between his legs. Lin grabbed Fauns hips and dragged him back into place.

"Behave for just a little while and I'll be done. Besides, think how frustrating it would be. I haven't officially taken you back from Taz."

Faun frowned.

"You will soon won't you? I like Taz a lot, he was real nice to me. But.."

"How nice was he?"

The question sounded muffled as Lin was speaking while continuing to run his tongue up Fauns chest.

"Real nice. You were kind to send him. I thought you would kill me. I wanted you to when I woke up after."

"I promised you I wouldn't, I keep my promises."

"I'm sorry for what I did, I can't say that enough. Lin, did Janet lie to me on purpose?"

"No, she really believed what she told you. She was a bit enchanted by Meg. And before you ask, I didn't kill Janet. She's okay."

"Thanks, Lin."

Faun squirmed a little. Lin had reached his right hand and the sensation of Lin gently sucking his fingers one by one was driving him Lin moved to the other arm Faun spoke again.

"What about Meg?"

"She's dead."

Lins tone didn't encourage questions and Faun fell silent. Lin finished with Fauns left arm and hand and moved to his neck and face ending with his lips. Lin dropped an extra kiss there and sat up.

"Good as do you feel?"

"Tired, horny, happy. Lin, how do I look?"

Fauns tone was anxious.

"You look beautiful. Much more like yourself than earlier today."

"My hair?"

"A vivid red."

Faun smiled.

"I was worried about it, it looked so awful."

"It wasn't that bad, just different. I like this better though."

"Lin, can I ask you some things now?"

"Certainly. Ask away."

"The cuts are gone now, you healed them. I thought you could only do stuff like that with cats."

"I can do small things like that for you now. I'll be able to do more for you later, after we forge a final bond."

"With your tongue?"

"You must be feeling a lot better, you're back to you're favorite subject. Yes, I can heal you that way, at least injuries, cuts and burns or scrapes."

"What about sickness?If I catch a cold or something."

"I can fix you chicken soup and keep you supplied with tissues. It shouldn't happen often though, you probably won't get sick often. You will have some of my resistance to those things. As well as a life span closer to mine."

"It will be wonderful!"

"Faun, there are some sorrows too. You'll see most of the people you know and care for age and die. You'll always be a little removed from humanity."

"But you'll be with me?"

"I'll be with you, the bond will mean I'll always be in your life, although it doesn't necessarily mean we'll have to be lovers. It's a tie of the heart and soul, usually of the body too but you can still make choices in that regard. Although I'm afraid that being elf struck will limit them in many ways."

"I've already made my choice, if you'll have me. I can't think of anything better than spending forever with you."

"You're very young and forever is a very long time. I hope you don't regret this. I'll try to make sure you don't."

Faun could hear tension as well as weariness in Lins voice.

"Did you have a hard time with Meg? You sound so tired."

"There was a lot of fighting and the healing wore me out a bit. You should rest some too, the next part, the bonding, is going to be hard on you."

"Will you rest too? With me?"

"Sure, I'ld like that."

"Could you take me back from Taz first? I really hate to ask but I need you so badly."

Lin could tell Faun was serious. He hated to do it but he shook his head.

"Just a little longer, than I'll take care of you. Can you try to wait?"

Faun nodded but he looked downcast.

"Faun, it isn't that I don't want you or that I'm being mean. I promise it'll be over soon and we'll be together. Right now we really need to sleep."

Faun sighed and closed his eyes. He wanted to hold Lin but he was a little nervous about doing that. He could sense a brittleness about Lin that worried and saddened him. He curled up close to Lin, not touching but close enough for their shared warmth to be a comfort and tried to sleep.