Gregor entered Anja’s room without knocking, as he usually did. His sister sat at her desk and was reading a book by the light of a single lamp. Her turned back and stiff frown was the reaction that Gregor expected upon his arrival and he was not surprised. She had been like this since her last ploy to get his attention had failed. Gregor had refused to acknowledge the jealousy that had raged within him when she announced her pregnancy by a servant, and he withheld his relief when she aborted the child. Anja had taken this as yet another sign that he no longer cared about her, and her coldness had replaced tantrums.

Anja continued to ignore him as he approached. The recognition he finally received once he stood by her was a sidelong glance saturated with resentment and contempt. Gregor laid a hand upon her shoulder, which she didn’t even try to shrug off.

"Don’t." he sighed, genuinely weary of this behavior. Anja’s scowl deepened and she turned back to her book.

"I said, don’t." he repeated, anger growing and his grip tightening on her shoulder. She gasped slightly and gave him another sideways glance, this one less sullen and one Gregor thought he recognized.

"I’m sorry if I angered you." she said finally, barely audible and barely contrite.

Gregor raised an eyebrow, as if even this minimal apology was unexpected. "You have angered me. You’ve been almost uncontrollable since I returned from Bucharest." He watched her expression carefully. "But that’s still no excuse for your behavior." Anja bowed her head a fraction of an inch and he was sure of the game now. It was an easy game, one they both enjoyed and he saw no reason why he couldn’t indulge in it before things progressed further.

He took her hand and led her to the tall mirror that stood adjacent to her bed. They stood there for a moment, regarding each other’s faces and the fine clothes they wore. Gregor finally smiled slightly and began to unbutton the back of Anja’s dress. She watched him in the mirror, her face almost blank, except for her eyes reflecting the minimal lamplight and something more.

Once Anja’s back was fully exposed, Gregor turned to Anja’s dresser and removed something from the bottom drawer. It was a leather strap designed and cut by Anja in such a fashion so that it would not cut the skin upon initial contact but could, as she put it, elicit a response from the toughest hide. It’s suppleness was noticeably lost to time and familiar stains, but it still served the purpose for which it was created.

Anja’s hands rested lightly on the back of a chair that she had moved to stand between herself and the mirror. She watched her brother’s reflection as he stroked her warm back gently, first with his cool fingers and then with the edge of the belt. Her breathing quickened and she wondered why she couldn’t hear her brother’s.

Gregor briefly glanced at Anja’s face in the mirror and struck her suddenly, two quick blows that raised livid welts upon her back. Anja flushed and yelped at the pain, but her flesh remained unbroken. Gregor knew how to satisfy their needs without causing lasting damage and he did not need to awaken the beast within him.

Gregor felt released and anger turned sour flowed out of him on onto his sister’s back as he fed his need to punish and her need to be punished. Anja’s grasp on the chair back tightened as she strove to remain upright while lost in physical sensation. She had feared that she had lost her brother, and now she knew that she hadn’t.

"I love you." she gasped as another stinging slap landed upon her.

She sensed his stillness and felt him move closer to her. His shirt tickled and irritated her bare back. His whisper was thick with his own turbulent emotions. "What?"

"I love you, Grisha." her quiet reply came between pained breaths.

Gregor raked his nails across the raised welts on her skin. She cried out and flinched away. "Always?" he asked. She stared at his reflection and nodded.

Gregor kissed her neck gently and pulled her away from the standing mirror. She followed his lead with outward docility but he could sense her energy, the vitality that only the living possessed. He sat her upon the bed, and then pushed her down, until she lay fully upon the covers.

She grimaced and tried to turn on her side as her bed covers abraded the tender flesh on her back, but Gregor firmly pushed her down. She could not disobey him and so she lay there, flinching and gasping at this new discomfort.

Gregor enjoyed this for a few moments, forcing her down as she tried to rise, but he soon sensed her impatience and it matched his own. Carefully, he undressed her slowly touched her with a surprising gentleness. He sat upon the edge of her bed, caressing her and admiring her attempts to maintain dignity and consciousness in a situation where the two were mutually exclusive.

His moving hands could feel her beating heart through every part of her body, blood pushing through her flesh, and it was an almost irresistible distraction. All in good time, Gregor reminded himself.

The moment was broken by Anja sitting up and taking her brother’s face in her hands and kissing him passionately, her hands twisting in his hair and pulling him down onto the bed. Gregor allowed this to happen and joined her, as they both removed his clothing.

Soon enough they lay together. Anja’s hungry hands and mouth upon his body satisfied Gregor that her display of pique had been only a display. Despite his confidence, he also feared that he might lose his sibling, and was reassured. Gregor briefly wondered why, as a Kindred, he still enjoyed some pleasures of the flesh or, at least, those partaken with his sister. It was something that could be contemplated later.

He held her gently and looked into her eyes, blurred with pain and pleasure. She tried to kiss his face, but he restrained her. Something had just occurred to him.

"You do love me?" he asked. "Forever?" She nodded, surprised that he needed to ask. "Good."

He moved into her slowly, enjoying the juxtaposition of her living flesh enclosing him and kissed her open mouth.

"Bite me." he whispered suddenly. Anja understood her brother’s own needs that sometimes mirrored her own and she sank her teeth into the flesh on his shoulder. He moaned and pushed against her. Willing blood to his skin, he urged her on with low, urgent whispers. He could smell his own blood and felt it filling her mouth. "Take it." he told her. He had realized that he couldn’t continue until her current wounds had been healed. With an eagerness and acquiescence that pleased him, she sucked on the bloody wound, taking as much as he allowed.

Gregor shuddered and touched her back, monitoring the swollen welts. Once the wounds were replaced by smooth skin, he resumed their movement together. He was sure she was unaware of what had just happened.

Their pace increased and Gregor sensed that the moment was close. Anja clung to him, gasping his name and her love as he bit deeply into her throat, the searing pain of his fangs and the pleasure of the Kiss mingling perfectly. Gregor feared for his self control as she moaned beneath him, aware that a slip might mean her permanent end.

He drank from her, taking more than he ever had from any human vessel. She was not aware of the nature of this particular kiss and only a low groan marked her passing as she faltered and died.

For a brief moment, Gregor contemplated existence without this woman and decided against it. In her blood her had tasted her life, her passions and fears and, through it all, her love for him. Eternity without her would be hollow, he knew. He needed her as much as she needed him, and they both knew it. Gregor tore open his wrist and returned Anja’s blood to her, and brought her into her new life.

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