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Second Time Around

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Thom opened his eyes and blinked upwards, waiting for his sight to re-establish itself, or should that have been Richard? His mind was a little muddled and he sat up slowly, allowing the sheet to fall off of his face, which made the whole sight issue much easier. He was lying on a wide table and to one side was another body and on the other, a third. Both were covered in sheets, both of which were stained with blood. His teeth itched at the very thought, but he did not react ,because he seemed to be having a bit of an identity crisis.

For a while he sat there: was he Thom or Richard?

Finally he did reach out to one of the other sheets and pulled it back to reveal a face that was familiar and his rather confused mind jumped into gear. The body was Frankie, the janitor of the Lair, and he was Thom, however, he was also Richard. When Jonathan had bitten him, his lover must have awoken his sleeping memories. That of course begged the question, how long had he been dead?

"It seems my progeny's family are a little dysfunctional," he said, using the sound of his own voice to centre himself.

In this situation, Richard's knowledge was far more useful than Thom's, but he needed Thom's memories of events to make sense of everything, so he made a conscious choice and he mentally merged the two. It could quite easily have driven him mad, but he had had centuries to perfect his cognitive abilities and, although he had to sit there for a while and put his mind back in order, it was not too difficult.

"If you are Frankie," he spoke to himself again, looking down at the body he had revealed, "then you must be Sheriff Trout."

He pulled back the other sheet to find that he was right, and it was then he heard it; the faintest of heartbeats.

"And not quite dead yet, Sheriff," he said, shifting down the table so that he could climb off it.

They were in some kind of storeroom and he could feel that the sun was up outside even though he couldn't see it. He also noticed a third body wrapped in a sheet and stuffed into the corner of the room. Clearly the residents of the Lair had yet to take out the trash, which was overall a good thing as far as he was concerned.

Children could be so problematic and his current predicament was entirely his own fault, so now it was time to start sorting it out. At least he had the fact that someone had finally gotten around to biting him to be thankful for, otherwise his previous life might never had reasserted itself. Reincarnation was a tricky business.

Walking along the side of the table, he pulled the sheet all the way off of Sheriff Trout and dumped it on the floor. The two bullet holes in the sheriff's torso were very obvious and he wasted no time in ripping the man's shirt open so that he could see them properly. The holes were small, given that they were entrance wounds, but they had clearly done large amounts of damage and he doubted the sheriff would live long without help. Given their current predicament, it would not be good for the sheriff to expire and the man might have been a little over bearing, but Trout had tried to help Thom and he did not forget things like that.

He allowed his fangs to descend and then skewered his thumb on one of them, reaching out as blood began to well from the wound and allowing it to drip on first one wound and then the seconds Little tendrils of smoke rose from the wounds as he concentrated on them, using his blood as a conduit for his power. Eventually Sheriff Trout groaned and moved and Thom pulled his hand back and waited for the man to open his eyes, which happened only a short time later.

"Welcome back, Sheriff," he said and smiled, "I would suggest you just lie there for a while."

He didn't really expect his advice to be taken and, sucking his finger, he walked around to the other side of the table and pulled the sheet off of Frankie, fully expecting the sheriff to try and move. It didn't take long and Trout tried to sit up and then collapsed back to the table with a loud groan.

"Your wounds are still healing," Thom said, considering Frankie's corpse; "lying still really is the wisest option at the moment."

"What the hell is going on?" was the unimpressed response.

"We are still in the Lair," Thom replied, placing his hand on Frankie's chest, "you were shot and I was bitten, but I have rectified the first issue. Frankie," he focused on the corpse under his hand, finding the taint of vampires that Frankie's position had given him and calling it forth, "it's time to wake up."

Frankie arched up under his hand, head falling back, mouth opening and long fangs descending as corpse became vampire under his command. When he had met Damian, he had never guessed where that association would lead him and he enjoyed the feeling of power being back in his veins. Like called to like, but it had been a close thing; Frankie had had only just enough vampire power within him to call him back. Damian had to have bitten Frankie at some point in the past, probably to cement his control of him.

Falling back on the table, Frankie collapsed with a gasp, opening dark eyes which immediately flicked to Sheriff Trout.

"No," Thom said, before Frankie could act on instinct; waking up the first time could induce the hunger, "we'll find you food later."

Frankie looked at him, frowning in confusion; it had to be difficult to understand what was going on, because he knew Frankie would be able to feel power coming from him which, as far as Frankie was concerned, he should not have had.

"My name used to be Richard DeVere," he said quite simply; "Damian was right. I have been bitten and reclaimed my power. Do you understand who is master now?"

The poor creature's eyes opened wide in what appeared close to abject terror, but Frankie nodded anyway and Thom smiled at him.

"You have no need to fear, Frankie," he said and removed his hand, "I am not going to hurt you, I merely wish you to understand."

Sheriff Trout chose that moment to sit up, grimacing all the way.

"Sheriff, you would be more comfortable lying down," Thom said and shook his head.

"And easier to eat I suppose?" was the rather unsurprising reply.

"I have no intention of eating anyone, Sheriff," Thom replied, moving over to the body on the floor and pulling back the sheet to reveal the Sheriff's deputy. "Death is not a required consequence of vampire feeding; it was my curse which has caused all this death and I intend to rectify it. I created Damian, but in my enthusiasm I did not explain everything before I made him a vampire and he reacted badly and chose to slay me. In my last moments of life I cursed him, for which I am truly sorry, and his immortality came at the cost of other's lives. I forgive him; the curse will be lifted and I am sure we can arrange things so they are much more civilised from now on. I just hope he can forgive me."

Trout was sitting there clutching his side and looking very dubious.

"Deputy," Thom turned his attention to the other corpse; the vampire taint was not faint in this one, "come back; I do not believe you wish to die."

The deputy's eyes snapped open, staring straight ahead and then the man blinked once and twice and finally looked at Thom.

"Welcome back," he said and stood back up, "just sit still until you have adjusted."

"You really expect me to believe that crap?" Sheriff Trout clearly hadn't finished with him.

He sighed and turned back to the man.

"Sheriff," he said, taking a step towards Trout and then halting when the man shied away, "why would I heal your wounds if I intended to eat you or let anyone else eat you for that matter? You were mostly dead, but quite edible."

That shut Trout up for a little while as Thom walked over and tried the door. It was not really a surprise that it was locked. With a twist of his wrist there was a clank and the lock gave, allowing the door to swing open.

"Is this some trick?" the sheriff seemed to be in a quandary.

"Not at all, Sheriff," Thom said, turning around and looking Trout directly in the eyes. "I intend to put right what I caused as well as I am able, which includes allowing you to leave once you are in a fit state to drive. I have no quarrel with you, Sheriff, and I hope to demonstrate that you no longer need have a quarrel with us."

"People have been dying," Trout said pointedly.

"And if you persist in a quest against us, more will die as well," Thom replied, hoping that he could get his message across. "A truce from both sides would be far more useful, don't you think?"

The sheriff tried to stand up and almost collapsed onto the floor.

"Frankie, if you would be so kind as to help Sheriff Trout," Thom said, turning and checking outside the door.

"Don't touch me," he heard Trout hiss and he turned back, putting his hands on his hips and glaring.

The sheriff was all but falling over, only standing up because of a death grip on the table and Frankie was hovering, looking worried.

"Sheriff, you cannot walk," he pointed out, "and the only exit is through the bar, which from my brief stay here, I know is that way. I would suggest you accept the help which is offered if you wish to leave."

"Why would you let me do that?" Trout responded, still not letting Frankie get close to him. "I could come back with an army with stakes."

Thom had had enough and looked directly at Trout, allowing his full power to come to the surface.

"That would make me very angry," he said, allowing the magic he controlled to alter the timbre of his voice, "and you don't want to do that."

He let the power fade as quickly as it had come.

"I am not anything you could understand, Sheriff," he said, calm again, "and I make a much better friend than foe. I could pack up this coven and take them elsewhere, but that would be inconvenient. I will guarantee there will be no more mysterious deaths and you will keep our secret. Think how useful it would be to have friends like us."

The sheriff did not look convinced.

"It is up to you, Sheriff," Thom said, turning back to the door, "but, as I have pointed out before, if you return with a mob, people will die and it will not be us."

There was silence for a while and then the noise of the deputy climbing to his feet.

"How do I know you will, or even can, keep your word?" Trout finally asked.

"On that, Sheriff," he replied, "you will just have to trust me."

He took one more look out the door; he really would rather there were no confrontations on the way to do what needed to be done.

"Deputy," he said, looking back once more, "welcome to the family. This must be a shock, but I need you to do something for me. Would you help Sheriff Trout to the bar please?"

The new-born vampire still appeared dazed, but if there was one thing vampires recognised it was power and the deputy had to be feeling his. The deputy nodded and walked over to his former employer.

"Sheriff, please do not try to leave," Thom said, planning out his next move; "I do not want to have to pry your twisted corpse off the tree you have just driven into. You have my word you are safe."

The sheriff did not look as if he believed that for a second, but unlike when Frankie approached him, the man did let his deputy close.

"Handcuff him to the bar if necessary," Thom muttered under his breath, knowing that only the other two vampires would hear it. "Frankie, come with me," he said louder so the sheriff would understand as well.

And with that he walked out of the room, dragging up the memories of his time under Damian's thrawl to know where to go. It was very useful to now be able to see through the fog Damian's magic had caused in his mind; things were far less confusing.

"Frankie," he said as he walked and the new vampire scurried to keep up with him, "tell me everything that has happened between Colin and Damian and where Damian is now."

It was always better to have all the facts and he listened carefully as Frankie told him everything he knew. It was a sordid little tale and Thom had no trouble seeing the real motives behind it all. This little family was lacking balance and he was going to have to deal with that as well.

"Thank you, Frankie," he said, walking towards Damian's old chambers where he could all but feel Colin, "you stay here and wait for me."

He did not want the nervous vampire with him for this and Frankie looked unsure, but nodded when he smiled at his new child. Poor Frankie was in need of a little tender loving care, that much was obvious, and he was going to have to make sure that Frankie had what he needed once everything was settled. He had so much to undo.

Walking into the next room, he was not surprised to find Colin lying on the couch in peaceful repose, arms crossed and in the perfect imitation of death. Vampires always slept like the dead. On the floor in the corner of the room, curled into a ball and chained to the wall from a collar was Jonathan. Jonathan's shirt was gone and his jeans had been ripped and shredded, although there wasn't a mark on him thanks to vampire healing.

Thom went to Jonathan first, the feelings from his current life overtaking those from his past for the moment.

Jonathan cringed away the moment he touched his lover's shoulder and scared eyes opened instantly. Thom placed his finger on Jonathan's lips before his terrified boyfriend could utter a sound.

[Shsh,] he said, mentally projecting his voice straight into his lover's mind as he looked into Jonathan's eyes, [you are safe now.]

Jonathan looked so afraid and confused that all he wanted to do was wrap his lover in his arms and keep him safe, but he had so many other things to do before he could allow himself that luxury.

[The nightmare is almost over,] he told Jonathan silently and then lent forward and placed a gentle kiss on the other vampire's lips. [Trust me, Jonathan.]

There was still fear in Jonathan's eyes, but Jonathan nodded and Thom smiled at him.

With that settled, Thom stood up straight again and refocused on the reason he had come here in the first place. He knew what was under the cover on the easel and he pulled off the cloth to reveal the painting beneath. The decay on the face made him close his eyes and sigh. He could not believe he had made such a stupid mistake, but rage was a powerful motivator and death had been so close at the time. The curse was unforgivable, but the least he could do was undo it.

Holding out his hand he splayed his fingers over that which had once been a beautiful face and he summoned fire.

"Forgive me, Damian," he said quietly, "it is the only way."

The almost fresh oil paint took the flames instantly and yellow ribbons lanced all across the canvas as he urged it on. From the other side of the Lair there was an inhuman howl of terror and pain and Thom closed his eyes, sending his power out to embrace the soul in torment. As he took away the power and the life given by his curse, he replaced it with his own, as it should always have been and he felt the proper connection form. He sensed pain and shock along the link and then nothing as Damian's mind retreated into the relief of darkness.

It was done, the curse was eradicated, which left only the aftermath to deal with.

He opened his eyes and was not surprised to find Colin on his feet staring at the burning painting.

"What have you done?" Colin demanded, anger causing all his vampire traits to come out.

"Freed us all," Thom said simply, turning and looking at the enraged vampire.

Colin made to lunge at him, but he held up his hand, palm settling over Colin's necklace and, with a small burst of power, he had the other vampire frozen in place.

"Poor Colin," he said, feeling out the magic in the necklace which bound the coven together, "you have been neglected. Jealousy really doesn't suit you."

The power of the coven was strong; Damian had built his family well, but it was not strong enough to stop him. It was possible that Damian at full strength might have been able to oppose him, but not now, especially since he had just taken his vampire child back. He wound his own magic in with that of the coven, taming the dark edge he found there and then he pulled his hand back.

Colin collapsed to his knees, eyes wide and staring, full of shock and incomprehension. The necklace now had an extra scroll design right in the centre.

Thom reached down and lifted Colin's chin, making the other vampire look up at him, gently stroking the side of Colin's face with his thumb.

"Love and hate," he said with a small smile, "so close and yet so different. You love Damian so much don't you, Colin; more than you would ever admit to yourself? How betrayed you must have felt when he found me again."

"You're him," Colin said, voice barely above a whisper.

"Part of me is," he replied, releasing Colin's chin and knowing that the other vampire would no longer look away, "and part of me is Thom. When you encouraged Jonathan to bite me it released the part of me that was buried and it is time I righted the wrong I committed all those years ago."

Colin clearly didn't understand his motivation, but then Damian's children would never have known real love, only their creator's obsession. The part of him that was Richard remembered his love for Damian and his obsessive nature that he had passed on in the curse, and the part of him that was Thom knew his love for Jonathan and he regretted taking that away from Damian the most.

"It is time to change," he said smiling again. "The curse is gone, Colin, can't you feel it? There is room in this family for more than primal need, now. We must set everything to rights."

There was a cry of fear from the corridor and Thom looked up to see Frankie being pushed into the room by one of Damian's brood. Destroying the portrait had woken the rest of the family it seemed. The scantily clad vampire snarled at him instantly.

"Wait," Colin said as the newcomer went to attack him, and then Colin slowly stood up.

Colin still appeared confused and unsure, but something had clearly gotten through and the other vampire looked to him.

"Are you going to take him away from me?" Colin asked and it was obvious who 'he' was.

"That is the thought furthest from my mind," Thom replied and reached out to gently stroke down the side of Colin's face again. "There should be no room for petty jealousies in this family."

It would take time for things to settle down properly, but the situation was going well so far. The only variable left was Damian.

"What should we do?" Colin asked and actually looked kind of relieved to be asking.

Thom didn't think Colin really liked the role of alpha male; Colin was much more a beta, ready to stamp his authority, but not really right as pack leader. He had to wonder if Colin had realised that when he had made his power play; he doubted it.

"We should go and retrieve Damian," Thom decided quickly, "and then it is time for a family meeting. Sheriff Trout is in the bar; he is not to be touched in any way."

Colin looked shocked.

"He was dead," Colin said, confused again, "as in really dead."

"Not quite," Thom replied, feeling a little like a teacher in a kindergarten. "I am very old, Colin, far older than I ever led Damian to believe and I have studied many things in my life; I have abilities you have only dreamed of."

He turned and looked at Jonathan, who was kneeling up watching them, and snapped his fingers. The metal collar around Jonathan's neck snapped open and fell to the floor. It was only a simple parlour trick, but it made his point.

"Gather the others," Colin told his underling almost immediately, "we will meet in the bar."

"Frankie," Thom added and smiled at his very nervous child, "go with him."

Frankie's eyes danced across the room one more time and then he did as he was told. Thom held out his hand to Jonathan, who stood up and came to him straight away. He curled his arm around Jonathan's waist protectively and gave him a little squeeze. He had always known that Jonathan was fragile, not in a physical way, but as far as his insecurities went, and he did not want his lover thinking they were over. Jonathan was the jealous type, so it was not going to be easy, but vampires had a different outlook on life to humans and he hoped Jonathan would adjust.

"Lead the way," he told Colin and gave the other vampire a smile.

If this worked then the past would be forgotten and there would only be the future; but that relied on Damian now.

It did not take them long to reach the store room with it's barely dry, new wall and Colin sent anyone they met along the way to the bar where they would meet later. By the time they were inside it was obvious that Colin was nervous and worried and Thom slipped out of his hold on Jonathan and placed a calming hand on Colin's shoulder.

"We are all driven by our wild natures," he said, trying to keep his companion calm, "we will make sure he understands."

Colin looked him in the eye and nodded, but it was clear Colin thought Damian would not treat him kindly.

"Lend me the power of the coven," Thom said, facing the wall and this time Colin placed a hand on his shoulder.

Colin was not resisting him at all and he could feel the well of power that was the coven of vampires and he reached into it. He could have probably done what needed doing without it, but this was about the future and the future involved all of them. Holding out his hands, he focused the power on the wall and then simply let it go. The bricks began to shake, vibrating in place and slowly began to crumble. It took only minutes for the solid wall to turn into so much rubble, revealing Damian hanging from the manacles attached to the ceiling.

Thom stepped forward immediately, the moment the wall was demolished enough for him to do so, and took hold of Damian. With a thought he unsnapped the bonds on his one time child and took Damian's weight, lowering the other vampire to the floor. He could feel the turmoil in Damian's being and he reached out with his power and tried to settle the uproar that was still going on.

"Damian," he called to the unconscious vampire on a mental and physical level.

At first there was no response and he cradled Damian in his arms, brushing some of the brick dust off his one time lover.

"Damian," he tried again, putting more power behind the call.

This time Damian slowly began to stir and eventually confused, tired eyes blinked open and looked up at him.

"Welcome back, My Beauty," he said, smiling as he saw Damian recognise him.

There had always been something exotic about Damian, something which drew him, and he could see it clearly then. He had been drawn to paint and then to claim Damian as his own and he could still feel that.

"You remember," Damian said in a weak, unsure voice.

"I more than remember," he replied, looking into those wide, questioning eyes. "The curse is ended."

"You forgive me?" Damian seemed amazed.

"A thousand times over, if you can forgive the terrible curse I laid upon you," Thom said, gently running his fingers through Damian's short hair.

Colin shifted behind him nervously, making a noise, and for the first time Damian's eyes flicked away from his face. Then the confusion was back.

"I don't under..." Thom place his finger on Damian's lips before the other vampire could say more.

"There is more than I who love you, Damian," he said, holding his vampire child gently, "not all motives are always quite what they seem."

Damian looked at Colin again, eyes still clouded.

"Think about what you were willing to do to me," Thom pointed out and Damian's eyes opened slightly in realisation. "We all do foolish things when at the mercy of our emotions and it is time to move forward, not backwards."

For a while Damian was silent, penetrating gaze moving over his face and gauging him.

"How?" Damian finally asked.

"Let me show you," Thom replied and did his best to convey his complete sincerity.

There was one way to pass on knowledge without fear of deceit, one way that vampires could give of themselves and Damian had to know what that was, even though Thom had never been there to teach him. That Damian had thrived and become so strong was a credit to the other vampire's character and Thom never wanted to see that character bowed.

Their tableau held for long seconds of complete stillness and finally Damian turned his head slightly to the side, exposing his neck. Damian had understood and Thom gathered his thoughts, putting them in order so that he could pass on what needed to be known.

He lowered his head and allowed his vampire nature to rise to the surface and then he bit down on Damian's neck. Damian tensed immediately, gasping and clinging to him and he used the connection between them to share his vision of their future. He needed Damian to understand how different things were now and he needed him to understand completely. Damian's fingers grasped at his shoulders in a painful grip even after he withdrew his fangs and it took long seconds for Damian to slowly begin to relax.

Eventually Damian's expressive eyes opened again and looked at him for what seemed like the longest time. Now Damian understood it all and the lie the curse had created would be obvious, but there was no condemnation in Damian's expression.

"I understand," Damian said eventually and Thom was surprised how much relief he felt at that.

"Then it is time to explain it to the others," he said, helping Damian to sit up.

Colin was still hovering and appearing anything but the confident vampire Thom had met on previous occasions. As beta to Damian's alpha Colin needed that confidence and Thom knew of only one way to give it back.

"We must be united," he said, looking from one to the other, "in all things. The past is gone now."

Then he turned his attention to Damian; only Damian's forgiveness would bind the coven together again. Damian understood immediately, he could see that, but it took a moment for instinct and reality to come into line, then Damian held out his hand to Colin. Colin moved immediately and Thom backed out of the way as Colin helped Damian to stand. Damian was still weak and Colin pulled the older vampire against him, taking most of the strain, but what pleased Thom more was that Damian allowed it.

Neither of the pair was completely comfortable with the new situation, that much was obvious, but they were accepting it. He hoped that what he had planned next would take them that final step to what they needed to be.

"The others will be waiting for us," Thom said, turning back to the door.

He gestured Colin and Damian to proceed him and then he followed them, stopping in the doorway and holding out his hand to Jonathan who had watched the entire scene without a sound. Jonathan hesitated before coming to him and he could all but feel the jealousy in his lover.

"You want Damian," Jonathan said in a tone that was only just off accusatory.

"Yes," he said; he was not about to lie to save Jonathan's feelings when it could be disastrous, "I loved him a long time ago, just as I love you. I am two people in one body, Jonathan and one of those people is very old. I have loved many in my life and because I love Damian does not mean I love you less. Human ideas of love are so limited and as you understand what you have become you will understand that jealousy has no place here."

Jonathan frowned at that, but did not pull away when Thom pulled him close and kissed him.

"We have eternity," Thom said as he moved back a little way, settling his hand in Jonathan's, "and in eternity there is an infinite capacity for so many things. I will never abandon you, Jonathan, but neither will I abandon Damian and the rest of the family. Now we have to put things back in their proper order."

There was a half formed pout on Jonathan's lips, but his lover followed him when he led out of the door to find Colin and Damian waiting for them in the corridor.

They stopped briefly in Damian's rooms to allow Damian to change into clothes that were not covered in brick dust and blood, and for Thom to pick up a few things and then they all went to the bar. The whole family were sat around the stage looking towards the bar where Sheriff Trout who was handcuffed to a bar stool. Their newest member and Trout's ex-deputy was standing somewhere between and did not seem to be sure which side he should be on.

"Hello, Sheriff," Thom greeted before anyone else could say anything, "feeling better I hope."

He released his hold on Jonathan and walked over to where the sheriff was sitting.

"Nice bullshit," was the snide response; "I almost believed you for a while there, until I ended up handcuffed to a chair."

"A precaution only, Sheriff," he said and snapped his fingers, causing the handcuff on the sheriff's right wrist to unlock and fall away; "you were unfit to drive."

Trout looked honestly surprised, but then settled back into suspicion again. Thom let himself enjoy the view; the sheriff was a good looking specimen in his ripped shirt.

"You really expect me to believe that they aren't going to pounce on me the moment I try to leave?" was Trout's next play.

Thom rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"You are the most stubborn man, Sheriff," he said and almost laughed. "Do we really have to have the whole conversation about mobs and people dying again?"

"We could burn you out," the sheriff really was like a mule.

"I'm a sorcerer, Sheriff," he said and held out his hand, "I can control fire."

To demonstrate, he allowed a flame to dance on his palm for a few seconds. It actually took a lot more effort than he pretended, but he wanted Trout to believe he was all powerful.

"Now we," he indicated the residents of the Lair, "need to have a family meeting, but you are free to go. If you would deliver this to Laura, I would be most grateful."

He had written a very hasty letter to Laura while Damian changed and he was sure the sheriff would deliver it, even if the man read it first. All it did was offer help, but he wanted to make sure Laura knew she was not alone.

"Now I'm a delivery boy?" Trout was clearly in a very obstreperous mood.

"Sheriff," Thom said, beginning to lose patience, "Laura is my friend, I do not want her worrying. If you would be so kind as to help me with that I would be most grateful. Now clearly you will not trust us until we have proved ourselves, but please at least remember how dangerous we can be. The door is over there."

There was silence as the sheriff just glared at him.

"What about Rogers?" the man finally asked.

"He's one of us now," Thom said, reigning in his annoyance, he could understand the sheriff reluctance after all since, if had he not remembered being Richard, he would be in exactly the same position, "we will make sure he is looked after."

The deputy appeared worried and Thom gave him a smile to let him know he meant it. The new vampire was not really suited to residence in the Lair since all pointers were indicating that the man had been straight, but Thom was not about to kick him out to fend for himself. That was one of the reasons he wanted to speak to Laura as soon as possible.

"Sheriff, everyone you came to rescue no longer needs rescuing," he said simply, "and you have no proof anything is going on other than a shirt with bullet holes and no wounds to go with it. No one here will break ranks and if you mention vampires to a judge you will be the one locked up. All we ask is a truce. There will be no more bodies, no more disappearances. Please, go your way peacefully."

Trout did not look convinced, but the man had little choice and Thom hoped everything would go smoothly when the sheriff finally stood up. It was a very tense moment, but eventually Trout headed for the door.

"And, Sheriff," Damian said, taking Thom's lead as the sheriff went to leave and waited until Trout looked back at him, "if you come in peace, you are always welcome here ... for any reason."

Damian spread his hands and gave a quick glance at the other residents of the Lair to make his point.

"I'm not gay," Trout said, turning back to the door and away from him.

"Could have fooled me," Thom heard Colin mutter and had to agree.

"I'm sure Damian didn't mean to suggest you were, Sheriff," he said just as Trout reached the door, "but pleasure is pleasure when it comes down to it. The door will always be open."

The sheriff did not pause, but there was a slight falter in the man's step as Trout walked out and Thom suspected that they would be seeing the sheriff again, and not just for business.

Turning his attention back to what was more important he looked around the room and headed for where Damian and Colin were.

"How can you say there will be no more bodies?" one of the younger vampires demanded almost as soon as the sheriff was gone.

It was a valid question, since the hunger the coven had known could never be interpreted as anything but deadly. That was the problem with curses; they tended to be extreme and Thom wanted there to be no doubt that this one was over.

"Because we no longer need to kill," Damian spoke up before Thom had to, which pleased him no end.

He stepped up onto the stage where Colin and Damian were now standing, taking Jonathan with him.

"The need to kill was induced by a curse," he said, making sure he made eye contact with each member of the coven in turn; "the curse is now broken. There will be no more killing."

He let his power flair to make sure his message was understood. All vampires were capable of bringing about death, he would just no longer allow it.

"We will still use the lure of sex," Damian said, standing straight and tall, even though Thom could still see some of the weakness in Damian's eyes, "but no one must die. Our victims will leave as they arrived, but a little lighter on blood with their memories edited to remember only the sex."

"And the bite marks?" one of the others asked.

"Sex games," it was Colin who spoke up this time, but there were some unhappy faces around the room; clearly this had upset the balance within the coven.

"Until I teach you how to overcome that little problem as well," Thom added; it would take time, but he was sure he could pass on some of his talents.

"So everything just goes back to the way it was except for that?" one of the group asked.

Now Damian looked at Thom, as did Colin.

"I claim leadership," he said in a tone that begged no argument. "I may have only just become a vampire as far as most of you are concerned, but you can all feel my power. I have lived before and that life was rekindled by my reawakening. I will protect you as Damian has, as Colin tried to do. My power is mingled with the coven's, all you have to do is accept it."

All eyes looked to Colin, which built Thom's confidence in the coven as a unit; they were loyal even in that face of what they had to perceive as danger.

"I have already accepted him," Colin said, sounding sure and confident, rather than as anxious as Thom knew the other vampire had to be.

"I failed you," Damian spoke next, "and you were right to question my leadership. My obsession blinded me to what this family needed and almost caused us disaster, but that is over now. We must remain strong and united."

Too many changes in such a short time had the whole group unsettled; they needed a sign and Thom knew what would speak to them the most.

"Colin," he said, turning to Damian's right hand man, "show them how much Damian means to you."

Damian looked a little surprised, Colin much less so and Thom finally saw the spark he expected in the blond vampire's eyes. Everyone was off balance, but when it came to vampires there were two levelling factors: blood and sex. At the moment sex was the order of the day.

Thom slipped his arm around Jonathan's waist and pulled his lover towards the back and side of the stage while Colin stepped round in front of Damian. The sexual energy in the room went up a notch just because of that and Thom could tell why the pair had made such a good partnership for so long. There was a definite spark between the two and, when Colin moved in for a kiss, Thom felt his cock twitch in appreciation.

The kiss was short and hard and Colin let Damian take control. It was almost animalistic in its intensity as Damian bit Colin's lip, drawing blood and stamping authority on the move. Every nose in the room flared at the smell of blood. Colin moved on quickly, kissing across Damian's jaw and down Damian's neck, leaving a tiny trail of red as he went. Damian just stood there allowing it. There was power in Damian's stance, power and dominance; exactly what the family needed to re-establish the lines that had been smudged by recent happenings.

Button by button Colin moved down Damian's chest, opening Damian's shirt and lavishing attention on the skin that was revealed. Damian's eyes fluttered just a little when Colin attached to one nipple, sucking hard, but Damian stood strong and in control. It was a powerful image and Thom could not take his eyes off the pair.

Eventually, after long seconds of Colin attacking his chest, Damian reached out, lacing his fingers in Colin's hair and pulling Colin's head back forcefully. For a moment it almost looked as if Damian was trying to hurt his second, but all Thom could feel from the pair was unbridled lust. It was a show of dominance, nothing more and Colin allowed himself to be pushed to his knees.

The implication was obvious and Thom saw Colin's eyes zero in on where Damian's erection was tenting Damian's pants. With a swift, simple move, Damian loosened his own belt and released his fly and then stood there, waiting for Colin to pay homage.

Colin appeared to want to look for a while, savouring the anticipation, just the tiniest hint of rebellion as a good second should have, but soon he reached out. Damian just stared down as Colin pulled Damian's cock from the confines of silk underwear and smart black dress trousers and Thom found himself holding his breath in anticipation.

At first Colin just darted the tip of his tongue over the head of the cock in his hand. Damian's expression barely changed, dark rimmed eyes staring down at the vampire at his feet, not until Colin relented and took Damian's cock into his mouth. That was when Damian's iron control wavered and Damian finally let his eyes close and his head go up and back as Colin swallowed him whole. No one could have doubted that Colin had had a lot of practice in the move and, from the expression on Damian's face, it was obvious the blond vampire was very good at it.

Thom shifted the way he was standing to relieve a little of the pressure on his own cock. The atmosphere of sex had him more than a little aroused and what he was watching spoke to the most primitive parts of his brain. Damian and Colin were made for sex in the most sinful way and Thom could feel the display putting right the feelings of confusion and upheaval that had permeated the coven.

Damian stood there, eyes closed, head back, legs slightly apart and hand resting on Colin's shoulder as Colin plied his art and drove Damian higher. The only encouragement from Damian was the occasional hitch in breath, but Colin seemed very apt at deciphering the quiet noises of success.

It was a beautiful and sexually powerful scene to watch and Thom was quite sure that Colin could have kept Damian going for a very long time, but that wasn't the point. He made a very small noise, attracting Damian's attention without disturbing what was going on and pushed the demonstration to the next level.

"Claim him," Thom said and threw Damian the other thing he had brought from Damian's rooms; a tube of lube.

Colin drew back and knelt there looking up, waiting, and Damian stared down. Thom could see the passion bubbling beneath the surface of both vampires, but this was a display and neither was letting their desires get the better of them. It was quite incredible to watch and he found himself pulling Jonathan closer to him, needing to touch. His erection was pressing against his jeans and he wanted relief, but at the moment it was his place to watch.

"Undress," Damian said simply; "everything off."

There was no hesitation in Colin's movement, no rebellion and Thom watched every move as Colin quickly removed every garment he was wearing. Colin did not even try and stand up, just shucked off his pants, sat on the stage and pushed them off. When Colin was naked apart from the necklace around his neck, the blond vampire stilled and waited for the next instruction.

"Knees," was all Damian said and Colin turned, lifted onto hands and knees and offered Damian what Damian wanted.

Thom's dominance was virtual; he was from a different time, a different place, but Damian's was very physical and this was the epitome of it. Alpha wolf and beta wolf, neither cowed, but one submissive to the other; the most primal of instincts and it excited Thom to see it. Ultimately he had caused this; through him Damian had come to be and through Damian the coven had been formed. It was beautiful to perceive.

Damian did not take time to prepare Colin slowly, merely drizzled the lube onto the crack in Colin's ass and then slicked himself. There were no more clothes shed; Colin was naked, Damian was still half-dressed, clothes in place, but open, yet another sign of dominance.

Thom realised that his fingers were playing with the top of Jonathan's jeans as he watched the scene playing out before him and he knew what he wanted first. He was going to have to be careful with the balance between Jonathan and Damian, neither would take well to being second in his affections, but he wanted Jonathan writhing beneath him first; of that much he was sure. It would have to be soon as well, since the show in front of him was stirring up passions that had been buried a long time.

Damian slowly knelt down, one hand resting on Colin's hip and Thom had the perfect view of the other lining up cock and hole. This was not about slow, gentle love making, it was about claiming and Damian pushed into Colin slowly, but firmly. Vampire bodies were tuned to feeding and sex and Colin moaned low and loud as Damian slid into him. It was like sliding the puzzle pieces back into place as Thom felt the atmosphere in the room change. The air had been sexually charged before, but now it was alive with desire; the whole coven was focused on their two leaders.

Thom could see several of the younger vampires leaning out of their seats; they wanted to touch as well.

He watched Damian began to move his hips, sliding out and then back into Colin. Not far at first, but with enough force to make the submissive vampire groan and brace himself more firmly. Colin did not move, did not push back, just remained as still as possible given what Damian was doing to him. Thom could see the passion, could feel it and yet both Damian and Colin kept it controlled. Colin was hard, long thick cock hanging below his body, begging for attention, but Colin never made a move to help himself. As Damian continued to thrust, Colin seemed to accept his position, acting as a vessel for Damian's pleasure.

There was so much need and want just below the surface and Thom knew that every vampire in the room could feel it. Even Rogers was watching, fascinated, and there was not a male in the room not sporting a significant erection.

Damian's movements were smooth and hard, but slowly the signs began to show and Thom could tell that Damian was climbing closer to orgasm. The sex was carrying power, the power of the coven and Thom knew it was almost time for the most important part of the demonstration.

"Touch them," he said, letting the power moving through the room tinge his voice.

Surprisingly it was Frankie who moved first, slipping forward, hand raised, running it along Colin's back towards Damian. Colin gasped as soon as he was touched and Thom could feel the sex magic growing in the air. The others joined in quickly after that, all moving forward and reaching out their hands to touch Colin or Damian, building the power in the room with their acceptance.

Apart from him and Jonathan, the deputy was the last to move, but the new vampire was drawn in as well, called by the raw power moving through the room. That just left them and Thom urged Jonathan forward, letting his lover go and waiting for Jonathan to be drawn in. It was irresistible on so many levels and Jonathan went without fighting, joining the pack of enrapt vampires.

Damian still moved against and inside Colin, but Damian's rhythm was erratic now as hands touched both of the lead vampires. The rest of the family were touching them and each other adding to the arousal running through everyone in the room. It was time and Thom finally stepped forward. His primal instinct was to join the pack of writhing bodies, but he pushed that aside, instead reaching out one hand to place it on the back of Damian's neck.

He let his desire and passion flood out of him through that touch and Damian cried out, feeling his power as only his true child could. It pushed Damian on into the orgasm that had been building and with that outrush of sexual energy into the whole coven went his power as well. His magic interlaced properly with that of the coven's for the first time as they all opened and accepted it and it was like pouring his being into a bottomless pit as they took everything he had to give.

He heard Colin's matching cry to Damian's and the moans of the rest of the coven, but he could not react himself as he felt his mind being swallowed by the power around him. It was something of a shock to realise that he had underestimated the family quite considerably, but he did not resist what he felt. He opened that part of himself that was sure of the unity they needed, sure of what they all needed to be and he shared it, baring that part of his soul. In doing so he relinquished his connection with the real world and felt himself beginning to fall forward just as darkness reached up to claim him.

End of Part 1