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This is the story of how I became a Bad Ass Vampire, emulated June Cleaver, and learned to appreciate the power of classic literature. AKA the story of my life.
So I've been informed that you're supposed to start your memoirs with the most exciting thing that ever happened to you, but personally I don't really get the appeal. I mean I could tell you about the awesome sex I've had with various Vampires and Hunters. Or about the time that I ended up in a fistfight with a vampire twice my size. Or about the time that I had to make 800 cupcakes in two days because somebody forgot to tell me about her bake sale until the day before we were supposed to bring the desserts to the school, but none of those is really a defining moment in my life. Awesome yeah, but they weren't what started me on the path to becoming the truly awesome Damphire I am today.
No, I think the thing that defines my life most is my name. I mean with a name like Hannibal King it was pretty clear from the very beginning that I wasn't destined for an average life.
It all started when I was a baby, got dropped off at St. Mary’s Orphanage with nothing in my possession but a threadbare blanket. The nuns were quite unimpressed by my nudity but being good people they took me in and began to discuss what proper Christian name they should bestow on me. There was a lot of discussion of such names as John and Peter and I would no doubt have been labeled with the moniker of an apostle had it not been for Mother Superior’s eccentricities.
The old woman hated having to call more than one child by the same name, feeling it made the orphanage appear lowbrow and so decided that I should have a name unlike anyone else at the orphanage, no mean feat considering there were over 120 children at the orphanage almost all of which had good, Christian, Biblical names.
Consequently, I wasn’t named for over two weeks, as Mother Superior was waiting for “divine inspiration”. Unfortunately, said inspiration came while she was teaching a class on history.
That is how I began my life as Hannibal King.
I can’t say my life at St. Mary’s was bad, or even sorrow filled. I didn’t live like Little Orphan Annie, forced to work my fingers to the bone. No I was more like a pet. I was rewarded for acting like a good Catholic boy and punished for acting like myself.
For a long time I sought to be what they wanted. I washed my hands when they said to and prayed when they said to. I was their greatest triumph; the child they thought would go into the priesthood, until I was eight years old and had enough.
It started small. A punch aimed at a boy who was picking on one of the nicer Catholic schoolgirls here, a stolen candy bar there. It was never anything to overt, I was too much of a charmer for that, but still I considered myself a great rebel.
In my rebellion, I made friends and learned things that the nuns would have shuddered at. I even got involved in a gang. I became the gang leaders messenger boy. was nothing special, a human boy only a few years older than myself but in my eyes he exemplified everything that I wanted to have and be.
I put him on a pedestal and when he fell off it I hated him. I doubt he ever suspected that I would be the one to betray him, the one who would list all his crimes to police. Even if he did, he wouldn’t have known how to stop me. I didn’t rely on chance and I wasn’t afraid to make someone else my scapegoat. I couple words to his second-in-command about I’d prefer to be with him instead of my current boyfriends and how he would be a better leader and he was spilling his guts to the nearest police officer, too stupid to realize that he was ratting himself out.
Both of them were stupid to rat me out. I survived without a problem and for years afterward, I contented myself to being the perfect Catholic schoolboy.
Until of course I met a pair of criminals who were actually smart enough to catch me and chain me up before I could run away. It was just my bad luck that they ended up being vampires. And my even worse they weren't particularly sane vampires. Their plans were around the level of crazy that you'd fine in a kid's TV show episode. In fact I'm pretty sure that they plagiarized their master plan from a Scooby-Doo episode
Now I know what you’re thinking, 'They can't possibly have been that bad. You just think they were boring because you stunk at being a vampire', but I assure you that I was a proper vampire. Not many men can pull off a fangs but I made it work!
Sure the people I stalked kept calling the police and telling them that I was a Peeping Tom, but that’s not my fault. If the media would stop telling people that “Vampires don’t exist” people would have been properly scared of me.
Anyway, like I was saying I worked for two of the biggest, baddest, and craziest vamps in the city, the Talos Siblings. I say there the craziest because they actually had this plan to resurrect Dracula and rule the world. (Scooby Doo flashback anyone?)
I mean when have rule the world plans ever gone well?
Despite their craziness, they were still a lot of fun to work for. I’ve never run into to more kinky and pretty vampires in my life, and considering my life that’s saying something. Asher in particular was a class act, mixing fangs and GQ fashion to become one scary dude, Dacina on the other hand looked more like a crazed poodle.
Between the two of them, I spent my two years as a vampire covered in bite marks and jet-setting off to exotic locations on scouting trips for Dracula’s tomb.
I hear they finally found it around six months after I got cured. Hmm-mm, I wonder who they celebrated with.
Maybe Jarko….BAD Thought, Really Bad thought, must go find brain bleach!!!
Anyway, they raised Dracula and true to form they gave their evil speeches, captured the 'Good guys' faithful sidekick and his pint sized companion, and got totally destroyed. I'm talking genocide levels, turning to ash and blowing away on the breeze levels of destruction.
Which was of course how I found myself once again playing the good catholic schoolboy ala Hunter and waiting in the car, while my current partner tried to get herself killed in a bar fight.
One with a few werewolves thrown in just to make sure she didn’t get bored. Sometimes I thought Abby had actually managed to surpass Dacina for craziest bitch in the Western Hemisphere. Then I remembered that Dacina was a pile of ashes last time I saw her. So Abby would totally win in a contest to figure out which of them was crazier.
The spattering pop, crackle of a machine gun cut through the night, and while I couldn't see the muzzle flair, I didn't really need to. I was leaning against our teams jeep, while Abby investigated a werewolf biker club. She said going in alone made her less likely to get killed by my big mouth.
I just figured she wanted all the weres for herself. Daystar might not have managed to wipe out all of the vamp population but it had destroyed enough of them that there wasn't a lot of call for full time Vamp Hunters anymore.
Even if there had been, the Nightstalkers weren't exactly a fighting force anymore. Two Hunters, didn't a high powered hunting posse make. Sure we could wipe out a pack of werewolves if we got lucky, but that didn't really prove anything. Were's weren't exactly more evil than your average human, so killing them pretty much didn't prove anything. Not that Mrs. Crazypants ever believed me. Thought that might have had something to do with the fact that I was dealing with the fallout of the Daystar virus' reaction to the vampire curing retrovirus. Which was pretty much up there in suckatude with the original vampire curing retrovirus. I'd been planning retirement in one of those nice Florida rest homes before Abby got it in her head to go wolf bating. Sure I'd have been bored out of my mind, but at least I'd have gotten some sympathy when I moaned about my aching muscles and strange food cravings. (Sure the intermittent bouts of vampire strength and blood thirstiness might have raised a few eyebrows, but you couldn't have everything.
Pushing myself slowly upright, I listened intently for the sound of more gunfire or a scream of 'Han'. I pulled one last lungful of smoke into my lungs and blew it out slowly through my nose, while using the bottom of my boot to stub the cigarette out.
My entrance into the club when either unnoticed or unremarked on, everyone's attention on Abby. Who was clearly in her element, ripping through the defenses of the pack Alpha's lead bitch.
That at least explained why she hadn't called for me after the first spat of gunfire. If they were letting her fight one on one then they must not know what exactly she was. That being the case, I decided to leave her to it and headed for the bar. No point getting my hands dirty before I had to. "A beer."
The bartender didn't react, even to absentmindedly wave me off, so I tried again wrapping my knuckles against the bar top in a manner that I remembered finding extremely annoying back when I'd been a bartender, back when I'd first played the good catholic schoolboy. Though the serving alcohol thing kinda ruined the whole 'good' thing I'd been going for.
My trick seemed to work just as well on this bartender, since her turned to me after the third hollow knock of my knuckles against the wood bartop. "What do you want?" He growled. Literally. His eyes shone gold and if he'd been any more annoyed or keyed up from Abby's fight he'd most likely have sprouted fur.
I acted like I didn't notice. "A beer, whatever you have on tap." It wasn't like I'd be drinking whatever it was anyway. Not when I fully expected him to spit in it, to get his revenge for my highly disrespectful method of getting his attention.
He didn't bother to verbally acknowledge my request, his attention already back on Abby's fight with the pack Bitch. At least that kept him from wasting time spitting in my drink. In fact it was one of the fastest beers I'd ever gotten, on the table almost before I could blink. A wast of supernatural power but one I at least found amusing. I risked a sip of the drink, just for authenticity sake. Piss water, just like I'd been expecting.
With a grimace, I dropped a couple dollars on to the bar top, enough for the drink and the bartenders crappy service. Then found myself an unoccupied table towards the back of the bar, with my back to the wall. Once I was sure that everyone had forgotten my presence, I slid my hand suspiciously under my jacket to pop the snaps on the four holsters I had strapped to my chest and under my arms.
Either way this fight ended things were going to get messy fast and I wanted to be prepared. I watched, pretending to sip at my drink, as Abby landed a hard uppercut to the Bitch's chin and followed it with a right hook to the woman's throat. I hid my smirk with the edge of the beer mug's rim. I'd taught her that move back when we first started sparring together.
The woman folded, but managed to keep her feet, something to be said for werewolf hardiness. But the smell of blood and desperation was strong in the air and everybody could tell that it would only be another minute at most before Abby won.
I set my mug down, unusually delicately. Using in my pinky to soften the sound of it hitting the table. No need to warn anybody that I wasn't playing dumb and oblivious hick, anymore. It really was amusing what tricks you could pick up from Saturday morning cartoons, particularly anime. Sliding my hands up under my open jacket, I wrapped them around the handles of my two most commonly used guns. The one's I kept strapped to my ribcage.
Settling forward so that I was barely perched on my chair, and my weight was on the balls of my feet, I waited.
Another uppercut to the jaw and the Bitch failed. The bar erupted with the roars of the werewolves that filled it and as the Alpha moved to grab Abby and attempt to make her his new head Bitch, I made my move.
I was up and around the table by the time the Alpha got within arms reach of Abby. And the next moment I was firing 16 silver bullets from my silenced gun. All of them found their targets in the legs, shoulders, or chests of the Weres who stood between me and Abby.
She'd be pissed at me for not killing them, but as far as I was concerned they weren't anything like vamps. They didn't attack, kill, and turn people indiscriminately. Sure there were accidents, but the majority of Weres had volunteered for the change and would go their whole life without changing another soul.
They were just the unlucky schmucks who'd gotten between Abby and her revenge. Unsurprisingly, by the time I managed to reach Abby and get into an attack position at her back, she'd grabbed the Alpha and put him into a strangle hold, with a silver knife pressed up under his skin.
That stopped the rest of his pack in their tracks. Which was much better than anything I'd ever managed with my silenced silver bullets. Too bad it had to be at such a steep price.
If Abby did go through with this and kill the Alpha, I'd have to clean up her mess and kill the rest of the pack. Which I really didn't want to do. "You've had you're fun now Abs, so why don't you just let him go before you get both of us killed." I whispered, knowing full well that pretty much everybody in the bar could here me. They weren't weres for nothing after all. "I'd feel better if we were as far from here as we can be by sun-up." Not that the son would stop a particularly determined pack. They might be weaker when the sun blocked the moon wasn't in the sky. But weaker didn't mean 'as weak as a human' by any stretch of the imagination.
"Why should we leave. We've just started the fun. Right?" The last she directed to the Alpha, underscoring the point by pressing the knife into his throat hard enough to draw blood.
The other weres started grumbling and the hairs on the back of my neck started creeping up. This was going to end badly.
As much as I didn't want to attack these guys, I wasn't about to let them kill Abby. "Come on Abs, be reasonable and cut him loose."
"Whatever you say." She grabbed the Alpha firmly by the hair and slit his throat from ear to ear.
All hell broke loose.
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With shaking hands I forced down two of the little white pills that were supposed to keep the Daystar sickness at bay. I washed them down with a couple sips of water before I lost control of the shakes and it fell to the floor. Thankfully, I'd learned my lesson about using plastic water bottles when I got like. The thermos I'd purchased a few month's back wouldn't let any water out, unless someone was drinking from it. Which meant that I wasn't going to mop up a huge puddle of water whenever I finally felt well enough to do so. I'd have probably have just added to the mess, puking my guts up, if I bent over that far right now.
I stuck my hands between my thighs, pinning them there to stop the shaking which turned to trembles in my arm muscles and left me shaking like a addict going without their fix. Which wasn't that far from the truth. Back at the bar, I'd wanted to drink the weres' blood more than anything else. Self control and my unwillingness to get shot by Abby for going vamp was all that had reigned in my need, once I was surrounded by all of that gloriously rich smelling blood. "What the hell was that?" I croaked. Before leaning forward so that my forehead was pressed against the dashboard. I really needed to get out of this business before it got me killed. Adrenalin always made my blood thirst worse.
"I was thinking that he thought he could own me."
"So you slit his throat?" I risked an eye roll that let me see Abby's profile from the corner of my eye. "Yeah that's logical when you basically set him up to think he could own you. That's what fighting a pack's main Bitch is all about. And you damn well know it."
She didn't reply, though I could see her arm muscles bulge and she gripped the steering wheel extra tight. She was pissed. If I was a smart guy I'd keep my mouth shut and let her blow off steam on somebody else. Unfortunately I'd never been good at being smart. Unless you counted my smart mouth. "I get that you've got a thing against supernaturals, monsters, whatever you want to call them, but you're loosing it. This is the third pack I've had to help you wipe out in the last month and a half. They might not be as organized as the vamps were but the packs are going to notice something is up soon. Then we'll be dead meat."
"It won't come to that. We beat Dracula. There's not a lot a bunch of weres can do to us."
I wasn't sure if she was full of bravado or bat shit insane. Then I remembered the whole 'Craziest bitch in the hemisphere thing'. So bat shit insane it was, Though it wasn't like the distinction really mattered. Not if she'd already gotten this delusional. Still I could try to reason with her, insane person to insane person. Hopefully if I kept from being too insulting she wouldn't kill me for it. "Dracula was one man and he wiped out half our team, and Blade. You're talking about two of us against every pack in the South East. It's not exactly the same thing." Well so much for being tactful, I hadn't meant to mention either Drake or Sommerfield. Her father, father's student, and her lover wiped out in the course of one disastrous mission. It wasn't the kind of thing anybody was stupid enough to bring up in her presence if they wanted to keep their head.
The jeep's steering wheel creaked ominously in her grasp as she let loose an angry hiss. I wondered for a second if she was going to open the jeep's door and toss me out while the vehicle was still moving. Adrenaline coursed through my system and I tried to sit up so that I could defend myself against the oncoming threat, but the emergency dose of my meds left me weak and I barely made it halfway vertical before I was slumping back down to lean against the dash with a bone-deep moan.
The fact that I was so pitiful turned out to be my saving grace. With a put-upon huff Abby turned her attention back to the road. "Shut up Han, before your drugs make you say something even stupider. I'm fine to drive for another couple hours and I think it would be better for both of us if you used that time to sleep. I'd hate to have to explain killing you to Zoe."
Despite her threat, I found myself relaxing into a doze without even deciding to do so. Stupid drugs and stupid Daystar sickness for making me need the drugs.
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I next woke up when we pulled up in front of a roadside motel. Abby had to half drag to our room, I was stumbling so badly. The manager probably thought I was drunk. At least the shakes had stopped.
With Abby's help I managed to make it too one of the room's two double beds before collapsing on my face. Exhausted, I didn't bother moving into a more comfortable position, or even taking off my shoes.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to sleep myself out. My cell phone started buzzing at three in the morning. And kept buzzing when I tried to ignore. Finally, I had enough and forced myself to go rooting around in my pocket's to find the annoying device. I managed to locate it in my front, right pocket. The feel of it's corners digging into me really should have clued me into where it was.
Since it had stopped buzzing by the time I'd gotten upright enough to dig it out, I dropped it onto the bed and collapsed back into my earlier sprawl. I has almost back to sleep when it started buzzing again.
I grabbed it, and flipped it open with my thumb and growled a groggy, "What!"
I was awake and sitting on the edge of the bed almost before I fully registered that it was Zoe calling me. "What's wrong sugar-lump? It's a little late." I squinted at the hotel clock's glowing green numbers. "I mean early, for you to be calling."
"Ms. Maggie didn't come back home last night."
"Sorry, sorry, I'll put a dollar in the curse jar when we get there, promise." I started kicking Abby's bed to get her up. "Do you have someone staying with you now?"
"No, I was supposed to be asleep when she went out." It went unsaid that Zoe never went to sleep when her guardian's went Hunting. At least not if she could help it. Given the fact that it was three in the morning I was guessing she'd fallen asleep at some point during the night, while she waited for Maggie to come back.
"Did she say when she'd be back?"
"She's always back by twelve. Except that one night when she came back late." Zoe’s called us then, too. Luckily she'd just been in the hospital and it had been easy enough to locate her.
Hopefully it would be the same way this time. I didn't want to think about what would happen if she'd been turned into a vamp. It didn't seem likely, given how few vampires were still alive, but it was better to avoid taking chances. "Zoe, I want you to get into the panic room okay. I'll call your teachers and tell them that you won't be coming in tomorrow, but I don't want you going out alone. Abby and I will get there as quickly as we can."
Abby rolled over to glare at me for kicking her bed, but when I mouthed 'Zoe' too her, she got interested. Getting up, she started stuffing our clothes and weapons back into our duffle bags. "Abby's already packing so we should get there in the next Twelve." Abby held up ten fingers. 'Ten' I mouthed. She nodded before getting back to my packing. "Make that eleven hours, okay. So sit tight and we'll figure out what's going on when we get there."
"Alright, Uncle Han. Tell Aunt Abby I love her."
"I will, Butter-bean." I said, I mouthed 'She loves you' to Abby before jamming the phone between my chin and my shoulder so that I could get up and grab one of the duffel bags from Abby.
"Uncle Han! I'm not a baby, you don't have to keep calling me silly names." Despite her very grown-up complaint I could still hear her soft giggles from the shear ridiculousness of being called a lima been.
Which had been the entire point of calling her one in the first place. "But I like giving you pet names. Do you not like them anymore?" I used my best pitiful voice.
Zoe huffed an annoyed sigh that I could proudly say she picked up from me. "I'm hanging up now."
"And going to the panic room?"
"I know, I know, I'm being annoying again. Just humor me okay?" I held the door open so that Abby could carry he duffel bag full of weapons out of the room, before following her. Closing the door behind us and heading for the jeep.
"Stay safe, and I love you."
"Love you too, Uncle Han."
The call ended with a click and I had to keep myself from calling her right back. I had to trust that she would go to the panic room like she said she would.
"Did she say what had gone wrong?" Abby asked, from where she was busy loading up the trunk.
"Maggie didn't come back from a hunt and she's worried."
"Damn, did she know what Maggie was supposed to be hunting?"
I opened the car's back door so that I could dig around our cooler for a soda. The ice had melted and we didn't have time to refill it with the ice dispenser here, but caffeine was caffeine. Even if it was lukewarm. After a second, I grabbed a second can for Abby. She was more of a coffee person, but if she was going to try and make it all the way from the mountains of Tennessee to the city of brotherly love in six hours, she wasn't going to have time to take many coffee breaks. "I didn't ask. She was upset as it was."
"Too bad, it would have helped if we knew what we were going after."
"We're not 'going after' anything. Our first priority is getting to Zoe and making sure she's alright. Then we can worry about Maggie. If we're lucky she's stuck in a drunk tank for yelling about whatever supernatural being she was hunting." It wouldn't be the first time a Hunter ended up being held by well intentioned police. Particularly in a town without a lot of unusual activity. In New York the police had either been in the vamps' pocket or they just hadn't cared. Which was a large part of why we'd moved Zoe out to Pennsylvania in the first place. Funnily enough there weren't a lot of older vampires with Quaker or Moravian backgrounds and without a older vamp to keep things under control fledges didn't tend to last long.
"I don't like it." Abby growled, slamming her door for emphasis.
I slammed my own door to make the point that her door slamming hadn't impressed me. Childish, but I'd never claimed to be mature. "Well that's too bad. If you want to go after Maggie that's fine. As long as you drop me off at Zoe's house first."
"Fine" She slammed her foot down on the gas pedal and sent me flying before I had a chance to buckle up.
I gave her a dirty look and hid the soda I'd gotten for her between my leg and the door. "Fine."
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We managed to make peace with each other and the fact that we were on the road in the middle of the night by the time we hit highway 75. I even gave Abby her drink back.
By seven we were around a third of the way and Abby was willing to take a few minutes out of our mad rush up the east coast, to go through a Hardees drive through. She got a extra large coffee and I got a large tea with biscuits. Abby roller her eyes at me but didn't object to waiting the extra time for them to serve up our order. It was time for me to take my daily dose of the Daystar medication and there was no way either of us wanted me to take it on an empty stomach. Not after I'd already taken an extra dose the night before.
Having to stop every few minutes so that I could puke my guts up out of the side of the jeep, would only slow us down. Ten minutes after we pulled into the Hardees' parking lot we were back on the road and I was already busy scarfing down the food. While Abby sipped sedately at her coffee.
Once I'd eaten and my medicine had a chance to kick in I was ready to face the conversation I'd been dreading. At the very least Abby couldn't walk out on me when we were both stuck in the car. "This isn't working anymore."
"This whole leaving Abby with other Hunters so that you can run off and try to get yourself killed thing."
"I'm not the only one who's been going Hunting."
If that was an attempt to make me feel guilty it was a pathetic one. We both knew who exactly was responsible for our cross country werewolf hunting spree. And it wasn't me. "Somebody has to watch you back. As busy as you are trying to extract revenge from perfectly innocent shifters, it's not like you're paying attention to your own safety."
"You started a fight with a pack's head Bitch and slit their Alpha's throat right in front of them. That's not just reckless. It's downright suicide. So excuse me if I don't think you've got your head on straight."
"It's not like that." She gripped the steering wheel tightly enough to make it creak and stared resolutely out at the empty road stretched out in front of us.
"Then what is it like. Because to me it seems like you aren't willing to face your dead lover's daughter, so you've thrown yourself into the hunt to appease your guilt for both failing to save her mother and for abandoning her."
Abby clenched her jaw, rotating it slowly in an obvious attempt to hold onto her temper. I wasn't about to let her do so. She needed to admit the truth to herself and if that making her angry enough to burst then that was what I would do. "Or maybe you just never cared about Zoe. You were just willing to put up with her so that you could get it on with Sommerfield."
"It wasn't like that." She repeated. The sound of her creaking jaw just made the steering wheel's creaking seem louder.
"Then what the hell is it like? Because as far as I can tell you were like a second mother to Zoe, before you decided to run off and abandon you duties. And I've got to assume there's a reason for you to do so. So what is that reason if it's not guilt or a simple lack of caring?"
She didn't say anything. The only sign that I'd gotten to her was the fact that she stepped harder on the gas pedal, making the jeep jump forward and shudder as the wind beat against the vehicles frame. I didn't comment on either our conversation or the fact that she was going almost fifteen miles above the speed limit. She was thinking and that had been my main goal. Now I just had to wait for everything to work itself out. She'd start talking eventually.
I settled myself against the passenger side window for a nap, I'd need to take over the driving in a few hours and I wanted to be well rested.
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I woke up to someone throwing things at me. I froze, keeping my eyes closed while I tried to place where I was. I've been told that going still makes it obvious that I've woken up, despite my closed eyes but I've never put much stock in that.
You have to know me to know that I move constantly in my sleep. And in theory if you know me then I shouldn't have to worry about shoving a stake into your chest. Or going for your throat, depending on the situation. The slow side to side rocking of a vehicle going far too fast and the empty can of coke that impacting against my head was enough to jog my memory back to the present. And out of the blood ecstasy of my dreams. "What now Abby?" I groaned without raising my head from where it was pressed against my window. I was going to have a big red imprint and dried drool on my cheek whenever I straightened up.
"It's your turn to drive." She waited a moment before continuing. "And I guess we need to talk."
That was enough to get me to open my eyes. "Really?"
"So sure of yourself." I straightened up, rolling my neck to release the tension from sleeping smashed up against a window. "Just stop at the next rest area and we can switch." After I made a quick pit stop.
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"So what is it you want to talk about?"
"Like you don't know." She leaned against the window. "After all you were the one who was nagging me about talking."
"I don't nag." I set my jaw in a very manly fashion, meant to imply that I was completely incapable of being a nag.
Abby burst out laughing. I allowed myself a small smirk while she was busy wiping tears of mirth away from her eyes. It hadn't been that funny, but she'd needed to let off some tension, particularly if she'd been dwelling on our previous conversation for the entire two hours I'd been asleep.
With a few list hiccupping chuckles she finally regained her composure. "That was bad."
"Just a little bit. So you ready to talk now?"
"As ready as I'm going to be." She reached around the back of her seat to get a can of soda out of the cooler. She sipped at it slowly while staring out of the windshield. I left her too it. We still had over six hours before we reached Zoe. I could wait and knowing her lack of patience, it wasn't like I was going to have to wait for long.
True to my expectations, she started talking before she'd even made it halfway through her can of soda before she started talking. "It's not that I don't love Zoe. You know I do."
I nodded in acknowledgment.
"It's just. I don't know. I've never really had maternal instincts. If you know what I mean. I love Zoe, but I love her like an Aunt, not like a mother. And that was okay back when Gwen was around. She could look after Zoe and I could spoil her rotten. Now though, it's not like that."
"You have to be the bad guy."
"Yeah. I don't like being the bad guy. Or having to worry about getting her to school on time, or making sure she goes to bed by nine, or making sure she gets the right amount of nutrition. I just can't do it. I can't be one of those housewives who lives for their kids. It's just not in me."
"So what, you decided that your best alternative was getting yourself killed in a bar fight with a bunch of weres?"
"You're still pissed about Drake."
"I wish you wouldn't call him that."
"Why not, it's his name as much as Dracula was. The only difference is that it doesn't have the same negative connotations."
"He deserves everything negative he gets."
I couldn't really say that he didn't. He'd been bum fuck crazy and willing to slaughter pretty much any human he could get his hands on, back when he first woke up, but…."I know he's a bad guy, but we're not exactly saints and Zoe said that he wasn't the one to kill the others. Even if he was the one to kidnap both of us, and leave that message for you."
"Does it really matter? If he'd never woken up they'd have never been able to wipe our cell out."
Now that was a delusion. It had only been a matter of time before we got found out and killed. "It was a race to genocide. I'm hardly going to let the fact that the other side fought to survive ruin my entire life. Particularly when we've already had our revenge. It's not like the weres had anything to do with Drake or the Talos family."
"They're still monsters. They don't have the right to survive in our world."
I didn't agree, and I didn't approve of what she was implying. But I was knowledgeable enough about the way this kind of hate could poison a person that I didn't waste my time trying to reason with her. It wouldn't have worked any better than trying to reason with Dacina. I found myself almost grateful for her refusal to raise Zoe as her own. I didn't want Zoe poisoned by her hatred. "I'm thinking about giving the Hunt up."
I pressed down a little harder on the gas pedal making the jeep leap forward and slamming her back into the passenger side door. "You heard me. I'm thinking that it's about time for me to move on. My sickness isn't getting any better and I'm not as attached to wiping Monsters out as you are."
"What about me? Who'll watch my back when I'm out Hunting?"
"I'm sure you can convince Maggie to go with you." After all she'd taken to leaving Zoe alone almost every night so that she could go out Hunting. Despite the fact that there wasn't a lot to hunt around where they lived. "I'm thinking that I'll look into adopting Zoe and making a home with her. That way she's still with a Hunter but she'll have more security."
"Her life is secure enough now."
"No, it's not." This is the second time that Maggie has disappeared without warning. "That's not the type of behavior that's acceptable when you're supposed to be looking after a kid. If it was we'd be bringing her on the road with us instead of leaving her with one of the less active Hunters."
"Maggie is just doing her job--"
I took one of my hands off the wheel to wave for her to shut up. "That's right she's doing her job. And Zoe's paying the price. I'm not going to ask Maggie to give up Hunting. It's too important to her. But at the same time I'm not going to ask Zoe to put up with a Guardian who disappears every night and will most likely die within the next year or two. She's already dealt with enough shit as it is."
After our <i>conversation</i> Abby had stuck her ear-buds in and cranked her iPod up loud enough that I could still hear it from across the car. As a means of ignoring me it was remarkably affective. And annoying.
Still I could hardly blame her. We’d been partners since I'd first turned back into a human. It was only tnatural that she'd take my deciding to leave the Hunting life behind as a personal insult. Particularly now that Hunting was even more of a personal bandeta then hit had been back when we first started.
I took advantage of her giving the silent treatment and used the rest of the time it took us to get to reach Zoe's house to think about how I could make my plan work. It had started out as a spur of the moment idea, but now that I thought about it more it made perfect sense.
There was no way I was going to be able to keep hunting for more than another couple months with the Daystar sickness coursing through my veins. If I avoided high stress and bloody situations I'd probably be able to make it years before I started having any real And by that point there was a real possibility that they would have been able to find a cure.
Many of the past vamps who'd become Hunters after they'd been turned back into Humans so there was a real reason for people to look into the cure. And no matter how ahead of it's time as the Daystar virus had been, genetic manipulation was advancing by leaps and bounds. Even if it didn't advance fast enough for me at least I'd have the knowledge that I'd spent the last years of my life with Zoe. Helping her to become the young woman she'd always been meant to become.
We pulled up in front of the small house where Zoe and Maggie were staying a little after two in the afternoon. We'd made great time, even if that had required driving at 85-90 miles an hour when we were on the open highway with no one in sight to call the cops on us.
Zoe continued to ignore me throughout the ride, though that might have had something to do with the three hour nap she took, when she got bored of watching cow pastures pass by outside.
I'd have suggested a rousing game of count the cows, but I somehow didn't think that's she'd find it as amusing as I did. Well that, and the fact that she was ignoring me. Which would have really put a crimp in our ability to play the game.
The house was a small brick structure in a development that specialized in families that were just starting out. It was too early for the kids to be out of school, but you could see bicycles, little red wagons, and tea ball stands littering the yards. Maggie and Zoe's house wasn't an exception, housing the bicycled I'd purchased for Zoe's eight birthday and a soccer net so that she could practice her kicks. Because according to her 'tee ball was stupid'.
I wasn't sure that I agreed with her given the amount of useful ways I'd discovered to bludgeon vamps using a baseball bat, but that wasn't the sort of thing that I told her about. So I'd settled for helping Maggie pick out one of the sturdiest goals and teaching Zoe the trick to the snap kick. Leaving the part where I'd learned that move in order to subtly lob sunlight grenades. Thankfully, Zoe knew better than to ask me how I learned this sort of thing.
We used the spare key hidden on the windowsill above the door to get inside the house without drawing undo attention to ourselves. The place looked abandoned, dirty dishes were piled up in and around the sink and there wasn't the sound of anyone moving as we moved deeper to the house. Once we were out of sight from the main windows we both pulled out our guns, for safety sake. The house should still be secure if Maggie had gone out on the town to do her Hunting. Still, better safe than sorry."
We didn't find anything. The place was as deserted as a cremation chamber. "Do you want to stay and help me unearth Zoe, or are you going to go out and try to find Maggie?" I asked Abby.
She couldn't really refuse to answer. Even if she was still attempting to give me the silent treatment. Still she waited a suspiciously long moment before replying with a '"Fine!" and marching towards the houses door. A few minutes later her car screeched out of the driveway and onto the development's main drag. Hopefully she wouldn't try to illegally pass a school bus while she was out there.
We'd hidden the door to the Panic room behind the dryer. We could have gone with something more traditional like a shelf full of cleaning supplies or an oddly placed bookshelf. But I'd figured that if the monsters and ghouls on Scooby-Doo were using trap doors behind bookshelves back in the seventies, then the idea was way over done.
Abby had pointed out that they'd started out using the trick in Sherlock Holmes, but seriously how many vampires do you think actually bother to read Sherlock Holmes? Not many. Dacina and Asher had liked to think of themselves as the cream of the crop, the most cultured suck faces you were likely run into and they didn't even read Harry Potter much less the classics.
Still, bookshelf or not a hidden doorway was a must. So I'd come up with the idea for a trap door hidden behind a dryer. Everyone else had been skeptical until I'd put the thing on a casters and taught Zoe how to unhook the plug from the wall so that she could roll it out as far as the hot air hose could stretch. Which was more than far enough for her to get the panic room's door open and crawl in.
In my case things were even simpler, cause I wasn't really worried about ripping out the hose. I could repair it later. With a light shove I sent the dryer and it's hose sailing across the basement's cement floor to slam into the far wall. I stared after if for a moment, trying to figure out why it had gone so far when I'd only given it a little shove. Was it possessed. I moved cautiously towards it and poked at it with the toe of my boot. Prepared to jump away if it ended up being possessed or something. Because that would be just my kind of luck. When the it didn't move again, I moved a little closer and poked it again. A few steps closer and I could see dents where my fingers had been pressed against the metal. I rolled my eyes at my own stupidity. It was just my luck that I'd have a bought of super-strength when going toe toe with a dryer of all things. Putting the complete unfairness of intermittent superpowers out of my head, I turned my attention back to the panic room door.
With a ten number key pad and a recessed handle it looked more like a giant vault than a panic room. I'd never been able to figure out if that was a good thing or not. People tried to break into vaults, they usually didn't bother with panic rooms. But it had been cheap and easy to install so we'd gone for it.
I knocked on the door a couple times, just to see if she'd let me in. I despised the keypad. Of course, she didn't hear me. The room, and more importantly the door, were mostly soundproofed and unless she was watching the monitors she probably didn't have a clue that I was even in the house.
I glared at the keypad. "You are not going to beat me." I growled. Because I don't care what Abby, Sommerfield, or anyone else said, I knew that computers had minds of their own. I'd seen way to many computers take over the world movies, to fall for their tricks and think that computers were happy serving us.
The keypad proved me correct yet again. I entered Blade's birth date into the stupid thing and it still refused to open. It even had the gall to give me a cheeky cheep when it told me that I'd gotten the password wrong.
I was not amused and I made sure that the stupid piece of machinery knew it too. Stopping just short of cussing it out in a manner that would have had me paying enough money to the curse jar to buy Zoe a new bike. Biting my lip, I carefully tried to enter the stupid password again. Counting off the numbers under my breath as I went. It gave me another cheeky beep.
After that I am embarrassed to say that really lost it. REALLY lost it. I could have turned the air blue with my cursing. But I wasn't going to let a stupid hyped-up calculator get the better of me. I stabbed the keys as hard as I could, just in case it still hadn't gotten the idea that I wasn't amused by its tricks.
It remained resolutely closed. I was trying to figure out if I could shoot the lock off without getting killed by the ricochet, when the door swung open seemingly on it's own. Zoe popped her head out and asked. "What are you doing, Uncle Han?"
I shuffled my feet embarrassingly and stuffed my pistol back into the holster under my jacket. "Nothing."
She looked from me to the keypad. "Whatever you say."
I sighed, "How long have you been watching."
She gave me a cheeky smile to match the annoying cheeps of the keypad. "Around five minutes."
"Can we agree not to tell your Aunt Abby about this?" She'd never let me live it down.
Zoe raised her eyebrow at me. Which was totally unfair, I'd taught her that move over a marathon of Star Trek.
"What do you want?"
"Pizza, and you have to clean Shadow and Blackie's litter box."
I should have known. When she'd agreed to take care of her kitten's if we got them, Abby and I had seriously underestimated how manipulative she could be. I don't think she'd changed the litter box more than a couple times in the months sense Shadow and Blackie had come to live at the house. "Fine-" I rolled my eyes. "But just so we're clear this isn't what we meant when we said you had to take care of them."
She of course ignored me, heading back into the panic room to grab the cats, before skipping upstairs. I poked my head into the panic room to find it covered with food wrappers, blackest, and art supplies. A shoebox full of litter was shoved up in the corner. Where I left it. After all, Zoe hadn't said which litter box I had to clean.
"So where is Aunt Abby?" She called down the basement steps.
"She went out to find Maggie. I called back. I probably should clean out the panic room and set back up the dryer, but I really didn't fell like it. Maybe after we'd had dinner. "What did you want on your pizza?"
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She ended up picking a Cheese and olive pizza. While I got a Hawaiian special. We cuddled together on the couch eating it and watching Full House reruns.
She'd eaten two slices and I'd eaten almost half my pizza before her head started nodding and she slumped into my side. I rescued her partially-eaten pizza slice and tossed it into the pizza box that was open on the coffee table, before I cuddled her under my arm.
It was good to see that she had managed to calm down enough to fall asleep. From the number of soda bottles that had littered the panic room I doubted she'd gotten much sleep while she was waiting for us to make the drive back.
Hopefully she'd sleep for the rest of the night. Or at least until Abby came back with Maggie. I didn't want to think about how Zoe would react if she ended up dead.
She'd barely slept for a month after we'd rescued her from Drake. I didn't want her to have to go through that again. Not to mention the fact that I didn't want anything bad to happen to Maggie. I might not approve of how she was raising Zoe, but that didn't mean I didn't care for her. I was one of the Hunters who'd trained her and that built a bond.
I cuddled Zoe closer to my chest so that I could swing my legs up onto the couch, That way the two of us could lay out lengthwise. I turned the volume down until it was barely loud enough to hear, It wasn't like I really needed to hear what they were saying after the number of times I'd watched all of the episodes.
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I was dozing to the sound of infomercials by the time Abby got back. I'd gotten a good four hour nap in in the mean time and now I had Zoe, Shadow, and Blackie curled up on top of me. "Did you find her?" I whispered.
She shook her head. "Couldn't even find a sign of her. Nobody even had a clue what she was hunting."
"Nothing tried to attack you?"
"Nope, it was quiet as a grave. Not that that necessarily means anything. If Maggie was going out every night she must have had a bead on somebody."
'Could be an older vamp. Maggie was good, more that capable of beating fledges, but she wouldn't have had a clue how to handle someone on Frost or the Talos' level.
"True, but we're only a couple hundred miles from Daystar's original dispersal sight in New York city. Would they have been able to survive?"
"I don't know. I've been trying to keep up with the tests the scientists have been running on the Daystar virus. Mostly how it affects those of us that used to be vamps. But I've picked up a little information here and there. Mostly they just don't know, but they're hypothesizing that if a vamp is old enough and drank enough fresh, human blood after infection a vamp of sufficient power could survive the virus virtually unscathed."
"Why didn't they tell me about this?" She almost managed a full on shriek by the end of that statement.
I hissed a 'shhhhhh' between my teeth to get her to pipe down. The last thing we needed was to have Zoe wake up now. "Will you keep it down. They didn't tell you because you didn't ask. You've been so busy going after every Monster to cross you path that you haven't bothered to keep up with the research."
"Well then why didn't you tell me?"
Mostly I hadn't told her because I didn't want her to over react when she heard about my blood lust. I seriously didn't want to have to deal with her trying to behead me. It would put a real crimp in my day. "It didn't really matter what they found out about vamps if we were hunting weres."
"You know that I—"
I cut her off, not in the mood to hear her ranting about her right to feel good about committing genocide for the sake of revenge. "I know that you've got a problem with vamps and everyone you blame for contributing to your father and Sommerfield's death. Including the FBI, the police, and every vamp on the surface of the planet, but there is a reason the what remains of the Hunter community bosses put a nix on hunting vamps for the foreseeable future."
"And why is that?"
"Because we don't know what's happening to the vampires. Think about it. The Daystar strengthened the dormant vampire virus inside me to an all time high." In fact if it kept going like it was I'd either end up becoming a superhero or in the loony bin. "Just think what it could do to a vampire that managed to get infected without dying. They'd be more than a match for any hunter. Maybe even for any cell of hunters. We're talking Dracula on speed."
"That's impossible. We stopped them. We released Daystar and everyone who got a dose of the stuff is either ash or going to be ash."
"Let's hope you're right." Because the alternative was that we'd won the battle and lost the war. I'd seen genocide from the side of the winners. I didn't much want to see it from the side of the losers. And who knew if I'd even get the chance. Whatever I became it wasn't going to be human or vampire and I had my doubts that either side would allow any of us Daystar infected ex-vamps to keep living once we lost control of our blood lust or reached our full strength. If there was one lesson Saturday morning superhero shows taught you, it was that leaving the people who could kill you alive, was a supremely bad idea.
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"You couldn't find her, could you?" Zoe asked her bowl of Captain Crunch.
I should have known that she'd pick up on the fact that Maggie still hadn't come back, but I'd hoped that I’d at least have time to drink a couple cups of coffee before I had to deal with this. "No, Abby couldn't find any sign of her. If she's still alive she's done a good job of disappearing.
Zoe made a choked off sound, like a sob.
Maybe I should have tried to be a little more gentle when breaking the news, but I respected Zoe too much to lie. She needed to know what exactly to expect. After all the chaos in her life it was the least I could do for her. "Abby thinks that there might be an older vampire hiding out here. "
She looked up from her cereal to ask, "Are we going to have to move?"
I been thinking about, and dreading that question for most of the night. We probably should move, if Maggie had been killed here then we were at risk. On the other hand if we moved right after Zoe's Guardian disappeared it would raise all the wrong kinds of attention. Since Maggie had been taking care of Zoe for Abby and me, supposedly while we were away on business trips, people hopefully wouldn't think it was too odd for her to leave, once I started living with Zoe. But that could easily change if I acted suspiciously. "We're going to stay here at least until the end of the school year, but we're going to take some precautions."
"Like we did back at the Honeycomb Hideout?"
I thought about being stuck inside this house for pretty much 24 hours a day 7 days a week. "Nothing that extreme. We want to act as normally as possible. Whatever Vampire is hiding out here, they don't seem to be actively searching for Hunters. So as long as we behave like your average family and get inside before dark every night, we should be fine."
Her eyes were still red rimmed from crying over Maggie, but Zoe managed to give me a tremulous smile and a thumbs up with shaking hands. "Cool."
Yeah, cool. Right up until I had to explain my decision to Zoe. I somehow didn't think she'd approve of my decision. Though I didn't have a clue what she expected us to do. It wasn't like we could take Zoe with us, and being uprooted again was the last thing she needed.
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I was actually pretty good at the whole domesticity thing. Believe me that was as much of a surprise for me as it was for anybody else. But there was something soothing about having a schedule to arrange my life around. I hadn't had so much consistency since catholic school.
I got Zoe to school every day by seven, picked her up every day at four, and either went home to experiment with learning how to cook, went to the grocery store, or went job hunting between those two times.
Abby of course didn't have my levels of cool. She hadn't been kidding when she'd said she wasn't cut out to be a mother. Within the first four days of my taking over for Maggie, she'd managed to break the TV, burn something so badly that I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to use the oven again without having a repair man come in to replace the heating unit. (I eventually did get it clean after almost four hours of scrubbing) Abby paid for a nice dinner out that night, while I left the oven to air out from all the chemicals I'd used to clean the stupid thing.
Despite our very different ways of handling the quiet life, Zoe seemed to thrive under both of out attentions, and despite my worries nobody seemed to have noticed Maggie's disappearance. I'd been trying to figure out how to explain the fact she seemed to have been wiped out of existence by what we suspected was a powerful vampire. The best explanation I'd managed to come up with was kidnapped by aliens. Thankfully, nobody asked me about her. I wasn't interested in a trip to the loony bin while I was still <i>mostly</i> sane.
By the second week I'd managed to find a part time job at an car repair shop. The money wasn't great, but it was enough to supplement the stipend that the Hunter society was paying me and Zoe. Abby hadn't bothered to go in with us to help pay for the house and I hadn't asked her too.
I doubted she'd last another week before she ran off on a Hunt. I could only hope that she was smart enough to arrange for back-up before she did. She'd been crazy enough back when she'd played innocent victim to lure groups of vampires to come after her. Nowadays I doubted she'd even think to lure them anywhere, instead of attacking them head on and getting herself killed.
I tried calling one of the other Hunter cells to arrange backup for her, but was informed that I didn't 'have the clearance necessary to know what arrangements Hunter Whistler had made'. When I'd pointed out that all I'd asked was if she'd arranged for backup, the woman I was talking too, hung up on me.
Since I was pretty sure all that I wouldn't accomplish anything by calling back, I let it go. Annoying as the woman was, she did have a point. I'd downgraded myself to an armed civilian instead of a full time Hunter, that meant that I was pretty much out of the loop.
Except of course for the personal favors I could still call in.
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Blade pulled up in front of the house on some showy black motorcycle that had all of the housewives from the houses surrounding ours, to watch out of their windows, or come out onto their porches to <i>enjoy a nice cup of lemonade</i>
He of course didn't notice the stir he'd caused. All of his attention on me. "I don't appreciate being called like some dog."
Please, if anyone had the right to think they got treated like a dog. It was totally me. "Look, I don't want you here anymore than you want to be here. But we both owe some serious favors to Whistler Sr. and I figured we could help each other clear a bit of that."
Mrs. Hendricks across the street stepped out onto her front porch, and took a seat at the little decorative table she kept there. The other house wives seemed to take that as a signal, coming out in droves to hang out on each others porches or pretend to prune their roses. I wondered if it was the fact that I had what appeared to be a motorcycle tough at my house or the fact that Blade was built like a professional wrestler that had gotten their attention. Either way I didn't need any of them overhearing this conversation. "Let's move this inside. We don't need anyone hearing what we're talking about."
The implication of eavesdroppers made him tense and scan the area for threats. I recognized the move from back when I'd played part time body guard to the Talos siblings (when I wasn't tied to their bed.) He of course completely missed the fact that half the neighborhood was staring at him, since he was busy surveying the bushes and fenced in yards for threats. I couldn’t completely stifle a chuckle. Which drew his attention back to me. "I was talking about the neighbor's, Blade. They're not exactly aware of what exactly Abby and I used to do."
He scanned the neighborhood again, this time seeing to notice all of the staring women. He froze, staring back at them. A couple of the more submissive housewives suddenly started trying to act busy. Mrs. Hendricks and her crew of ladies just stared back at him. He shifted uncomfortably on his bike and I had to stifle my urge to laugh again.
Because seriously, the guy who could kill off Dracula without flinching was being intimidated by a bunch of suburban housewives. I decided to yank his chain a little. "Hey Mrs. Hendricks did you want to come over and meet a friend of mine." I called, waving at the woman across the street.
Mrs. Hendricks got up as if to take me up on my offer, and Blade made a break for it, pushing his bike into the garage and rolling the door down after him. I shared a laugh with Mrs. Hendricks and her friends, before sedately heading for the front door. Blade could afford to wait if he was going to act like such a chicken shit.
I found him leaning against the kitchen island, guzzling down one of my beers. "So what did you call me for?" He asked. Apparently he'd decided to forget about his cowardly behavior before. I decided to let it go. For now.
I was totally telling Zoe about it when she got home."It's about Whistler Jr."
"What about her?"
I went over to the fridge and grabbed a beer of my own. This wasn't the type of conversation that I liked to have completely sober. And as long as I only had one, I wouldn't have any problems going to pick Zoe up in a few hours. "You were with her after what happened at the Honeycomb hideout, right?"
He nodded and took another sip of his beer, which I mirrored before continuing. "Then, you saw how crazy she was right after." I didn't bother to wait for him to agree. I didn't need to. It had been almost a day and a half before I'd seen her and she'd been like a caged tiger, unable to sit still for even a second. Even after I'd stuck Zoe in her lap. "She hasn't gotten much better since then."
Blade slipped slowly at his drink, unwilling to contribute the conversation. Which I should have expected.
"She's been on a vendetta to kill every supernatural creature and Monster she can get her hands on. Lately It's been werewolves. A couple weeks ago she actually slit an Alpha's throat right in front of his pack."
That made Blade stop, his beer a few inches from his mouth. "How much of the pack has she killed first?"
"Did she get turned?"He set his bottle down on the counter and moved so that the island was between us. I could recognize the strategic move when I saw it. If he thought Abby had turned me, then it only made sense for him to get some extra room to maneuver if I tried to attack him.
I was kind of proud that he thought I was that much of a threat, even if he only thought that because of the possibility of me being a were. "No, I got her out of there before she could. Unlike her I'm not adverse to playing dirty. A few silver laced grenades and a half dozen clips of silver bullets and we were in the clear. But I'm sure you can see why I'm worried." Even if he didn't care about her connection to Whistler, I was sure that Blade could understand the problems with her behavior from a purely strategic standpoint.
"I'm not the person to tell her how to give up on revenge."
I had to agree with that. I'd heard some REALLY nasty stories about the time Whistler had been missing. A couple thousand dead familiars and fledges was the least of it. "Yeah, I'm not crazy enough to expect you to talk her out of her crazy vendetta. I want you to support her."
"Please, you might have tried to disappear but that doesn't mean that you stopped Hunting. How do you think I found you so quickly? All I'm asking you to do is to team up with Abby for a while. Make sure she doesn't get herself killed, doing something completely out of control."
"It's been almost a year since we took Drake down, why contact me now?"
"I've been acting as back up, keeping her out of trouble, but that's not an option anymore."
He slugged back a sip of his beer before raising an eyebrow at me. I couldn't help wondering if Whistler had done Star Trek marathons with Blade like I did with Zoe. The move was pretty Spockish.
Time to lay at least some of my cards on the table. "I'm sick, maybe terminally, but at least sick enough that I'm not comfortable being out in the field."
"How long do you have?"
I shrugged as nonchalantly as I could given the fact that I was talking about the very real possibility that I'd be dead within a few years. "Who knows, it has to do with the Daystar virus. It might not have ended up affecting you because you had a different strand of the vampire virus then the one it was targeting, but I wasn't that lucky."
I had his full attention now. I wondered if he had been affected and had simply chosen not to discuss it with the Hunter scientists. He was the Stoic type which according to most of the science fiction movies I'd seen meant that he had an undisclosed fear of Doctors. Then again, he could just want to forget all about the mess with Drake. "I assume you've been keeping up with the research on the long-term effects of the Daystar?"
He nodded, dropping his bottle of beer into the sink with an empty thunk. I took it as a sign to get him another bottle. I might not be able to get shit faced on a school day, but Blade could. It might even make this conversation less awkward.
"They're saying that if a vampire manages to survive the original infection, then they will probably end up even stronger than they were before due to the reaction between the vampire virus and the Daystar."
He nodded again. The way he grabbed the two bottles of beer from my hands was the only sign that he wasn't enjoying this conversation any more than I was. Stoic bastard.
"It's having a similar affect on the people who got cured of the original vampire virus. It was dormant but still present in our systems, in a pure enough form that the Daystar virus could react to it. I'm not exactly becoming a vamp again, but I'm not exactly human either. If I'm lucky I end up a hybrid similar to you. But that will only happen if the virus mutates in a certain way. More likely I'll end up crazy or dead as my body tries to purge the virus from my system."
He stared at me for a while and I left him to it. I doubted he was much more patient than Abby, which meant I only had to wait and he'd spill his guts. Well at least he'd come as close to spilling his guts as he was likely to get.
I took advantage of the lull in conversation to make lunch. A couple of chicken tenders found their way into the microwave to heat up, while I dug around in the cabinet trying to find a saucepan and strainer. I really had to start marking the doors, Abby never seemed to put the dishes back where she found them.
Blade was a tougher nut to crack then I'd given him credit for. He made it all the way through watching me cook and eating the Chicken tortellini parmesanish meal without talking. I was actually washing dishes and considering trying to crack a joke at his expense to break the ice, when he took care of it for me, actually deigning to speak without provocation.
"Can the Daystar virus reanimate a corpse that used to be a vampire?"
Well that wasn’t what I'd been expecting him to say, but I supposed it was a logical enough question. It wasn't like it was hard to follow his logic. "As far as they can tell there isn't any precedence for that kind of thing. The viruses interacted because I had both live forms in my body. If an ex-vampire died first then they wouldn't have the necessary strain of live virus to make the transformation work. Even if they did, you're forgetting something. Whistler was in the middle of a building that exploded. There wouldn't be enough of his body to reanimate."
Blade didn't comment on that, and I really hoped that didn't mean what I suspected it meant. Surely he hadn't been crazy enough to dig up the remains of Whistler's body and preserve them. Then I remembered who I was talking too. Like he said he wasn't one to talk to Abby about being obsessed. "I suggest that you don't tell Abby anything about what happened to her father's body. If you know what I mean…" I let the comment trail off so that it was clear what I was implying.
He still didn't comment and I didn't have any choice but to let it go. Hopefully he'd at least take my warning about not telling Abby to heart. That would probably sink any chance they had of working together and I really wanted Blade to back Abby up. "Look, I don't want to know what happened. I'm just warning you." I hurried to continue before he could say anything that I couldn't ignore the implications of. "So are you willing to back Abby up on her missions?"
"I don't have any other plans for now."
"Thanks for this Blade. You don't know how much it means to me." Then again maybe he did. I doubted my bond with Abby was any more profound than the one Blade had with her father.
Abby still hasn’t forgiven him for what she considers his betrayal of her trust and leaves to hunt with Blade, only giving the most perfunctory of good-byes to Zoe. Scene’s of an everyday life lived by a young girl and a single father. Hannibal ends up starting to work full time at the car repair shop. He makes arrangements for one of Mrs. Hendricks, across the street, to watch over Zoe after school, when he’s still at work.
Abby left soon after that and Blade when with her. Which helped my state of mind. I might not like Blade on a personal level, but there was no way I could argue with his ability to Hunt. Abby would be safe as houses, or at least as safe as Buffy the Vampire slayer when she'd teamed up with Spike.
Which left me free to turn my full attention to trying to find a way to make the whole single Father thing work. I hadn't realized just how much I'd been relying on Abby's help until she left.
Now there was no one to pick Zoe up from school if I forgot or to make sure she got her dinner when I had to work late. It soon became obvious that there was no way I'd be able to continue on as I had been.
Thankfully, I had a neighborhood of stay at home Mom's and busybodies to help me out. Within days of Abby's leaving, Mrs. Hendricks from across the street, had taken the pair of us under her wing.
There was always a casserole or two in the freezer from when she 'accidentally' made to much, and she was always happy to pick Zoe up when she was in the area picking up her own kids. It somehow didn't matter to her, that all of her kids attended the high school, which was over three miles away from Zoe's middle school.
Don't get me wrong, I was pathetically grateful to her, but I felt horrible for taking advantage of her, but I didn't really have much choice. Even after my boss offered to let me start working full time I was still barely managing to keep us afloat. I didn't have money to pay for a full time nanny to make sure Zoe was taken care of whenever I couldn't be at home.
It would have been a bigger problem, but Zoe was a remarkably obedient child, for a twelve year old. I always knew that she'd wait for someone to pick her up from school, and make sure she and the cats were safely locked into the house before dark.
She was still refusing to clean the litter box regularly, but that was pretty much the least of my worries.
Eventually we managed to find an even keel. I made arrangements to work mornings and early afternoons and took a second job as a bar tender. Between the two jobs and the money we got from the Hunter's counsel we managed to make ends meet.
And more importantly I could always be home to pick Abby up and get her fed. She had to get herself to bed, but it all worked out and as long as I promised not to do anything stupid, like go Hunting she actually managed to fall asleep half of the nights I was out at work until the wee hours of the morning.
I wasn't going to tell Zoe or anybody else this, but I was actually finding myself more relaxed with the new set up. My body seemed to come alive at night and my occasional bouts of blood thirst and super-strength became just a part of my life. Not really anything to worry about and easy enough to ignore as long as I took the proper steps. Which wasn't that hard since I was an old hand at covering up my feedings. A five minute quickie in the bar's bathroom and nobody noticed if they were missing a few sips of blood. Between the occasional feedings and my medicine I actually felt pretty normal.
Things stayed that way for almost six months and the school year came and went without any talk of moving. Zoe and I were, if not happy, stable. She'd even managed to start sleeping through the night six days out of seven. A big difference from the days when I'd come home from the bar to find her sitting on the couch like a zombie, watching Nick at Night reruns or infomercials.
I didn't want to risk changing that by moving and with no sign of whatever had taken Maggie it was easy enough to pretend that we were going to have a normal life. Things actually seemed to be working out fine and it wasn't so bad acting the part of June Cleaver.
Then rumors started surfacing about something hunting the night, people disappearing. The bar I worked at was filled with whispers about a dark form one person or another had seen lurking. Some people claimed he was a new Jack the Ripper, others claimed that he was a vampire, but there were a few, more knowledgeable people, who spoke a name that made my blood run cold.
After the first few whispers of his name things just seemed to snowball. I didn't know whether whatever was haunting the city was actually him or just another vampire who was using his name, but I had no plans to stick around and find out. I was crazy, not stupid.
If people were disappearing then that meant they were either becoming food or being turned. Either way it wasn't the sort of thing I wanted to stick around to witness. Within a weekend of hearing the first rumors I was about ready to jump out of my skin and already making plans to get out of the city.
Unfortunately, I had underestimated what was coming. The day before we were supposed to leave Maggie showed up on our doorstep. In the middle of the afternoon.
I invited her in, because there wasn't anything else for me to do. It was still an hour before I was supposed to pick Zoe up and even with the power I'd gained over my strength I wasn't a match for a Daywalker. Even if I had been willing to fight her in full view of the neighbors.
She'd been missing for six months, and yet she looked exactly like she had when I'd last seen her. I stared at her fashionably ruffled green blouse and short, shorts. That at least was different, but it wasn't like she'd have to wear something that could hide weapons anymore. Not when she was a weapon herself. "What do you want Maggie? Or maybe I should ask what your Master wants." Because there had to be a mastermind behind this. Evil conspiracies required masterminds, that was just how it worked. Even if I hadn't known enough about pop culture to know that, I would have still known that something was up. At barely six months old Maggie wouldn't have been crazy enough to come after a Hunter of my level unless she knew that she had back up.
"He wants to talk to you."
" Who is He?"
She smiled at me, all teeth and blind confidence. So different from the sweet and self-conscious girl I'd trained all those years ago. "You know who."
"I know who he's claiming to be. " I acknowledged. "But I also know that we killed Drake, which leaves a couple possibilities for who's pulling your strings."
"How do you know you killed him? He is the one who created my kind. Do you really think it would be that easy to destroy him?"
"I lost over half of my Hunting crew, got kidnapped, tortured, and stayed alive by the skin o f my teeth and luck. That's not exactly what I call easy."
"A single arrow, no matter how well it was poisoned isn't enough to kill him. Haven't you read the book? You can stab him in the heart and chop off his head and he'll still come back."
No I hadn't actually read the book. I wasn't big on propaganda not to mention we already discussed my feelings on the classics. I'd read the comic books, and yeah I'd know that he didn't die in them. But that didn't really mean all that much. Nobody stays dead in the comics. "It wasn't exactly like we were shoving a stake into him and hoping we'd get lucky. We know the virus worked."
"Yes, it did. And he'd like to thank you for that."
"Then why doesn't he do that in person?" I might not be able to kill him if Maggie was to be believed, but that didn't mean I couldn't make him hurt.
"Because he's not in a hurry to get into a fight with you. He wants to make you and Zoe an offer. Eternal life at his side. You impressed him far more than you know."
Probably because I didn't want to know. I really didn't want to think about what it meant that the forefather of all Vampires was impressed by me. "Too bad, he didn't impress me."
Both of Maggie's eyebrows went flying towards her hairline. I remembered that look from the first time I'd showed her that you could dust a vamp with a well sharpened chopstick. It hurt seeing it on her face now. "Do you want me to tell him that you said that?"
"I'd say that you could go right ahead, but I don't know if I'm going to give you the chance to do so." I had the sword we kept tucked up under the coffee table in my hands and was leaping across the space between us before she could even react to my odd statement. She didn't get a second chance to react with my blade pressed up under her chin. "You see I take it pretty personally when Hunters I've trained get turned. It's a matter of professional pride." And the fact that I cared for every one of the people I had trained. "You understand right?" I gave her a smile of my own, showing off my fangs. Sure they were still the same size as an average humans, but smiling like that was a sure sign of a vampire
She stared at me in open shock. Which I took shameless advantage of, nicking the skin of her neck and bending down so that I nuzzle against it, worrying the cut with my teeth while I drained her life's blood away. She bucked against me trying to get away but between my teeth and my sword she couldn't go far.
I pulled away before I managed to completely drank her dry but she was still obviously drained, her skin pale and clammy and her breath coming in short gasps. I patted her cheek with the palm of her hand in a fake conciliatory gesture that made the palm of my hand burn like it had touched acid. Purely psychosomatic, but that really didn't matter.
I hated doing this to Maggie in a way I couldn't quite explain to her. Every instinct screamed at me to stake her and be done with it, but that wasn't an option. I needed to send a message to Dracula and she was the easiest way to do it. "You can tell him that I wasn't impressed by him or his offer. Anyone who couldn't figure out that Dacina and Asher were Batshit and actually thought their whole World Domination scheme was in anyway going to work, it too stupid to impress me."
I bent down to make sure she was looking me in the eyes for this last part if he wants me to agree to be turned, so that he can work some convoluted scheme to get his revenge on Blade or the other Hunters, then he has another thing coming. I'm not exactly human anymore and I'm not going to pretend like I am. He should remember that before he sends such a weak vampire after me again. Do you understand the message?"
Her mouth moved silently. I'd probably taken too much blood. Oh well there wasn't much I could do about it now. "Nod if you understand me." I had to wait for almost a minute, but she finally managed a slow nod. "Good. You won't like what happens if I have to explain it to you again."
Confident that she wouldn't be going anywhere for a while I headed upstairs to pack Zoe and my bags and get the cats into their carriers. If Drake was confident enough to send somebody directly to our house, then it couldn't hurt to get out of town a day early.
We only made it a few hundred miles out of town before we had to stop for the night. A consequence of starting out so late, but I felt better anyway. Even if it wasn't the original Drake who'd turned Maggie and sent her after me, it was somebody who knew far more about Zoe and me than I felt comfortable with and even a few hundred miles should have been enough to put us outside of his territory. The Talos' had been one of the strongest families around and they'd only managed to secure a territory that covered half of New York.
The hotel we stayed at was a tiny Holiday Inn that had definitely seen better days. The bathrooms were salmon and black and every wall in the entire building had some sort of ugly floral wallpaper. It looked like it belonged on the set of the Brady Bunch or something.
Still, I was tired enough that I didn't really care and Zoe had been asleep for hours before we even made it to the hotel so she didn't have an opinion. I tucked her into the bed farthest from the door, before collapsing onto the other bed. I was asleep almost before my head hit the pillow.
Zoe woke me up the next morning by jumping on the bed. Which was completely unfair since I'd barely managed four hours of sleep. I cracked one of my gummy eyes open to glare at her half-heartedly. She didn't notice. Too busy jumping. "You're going to crack your skull open falling off the bed if you keep that up."
She gave one last jump before landing on her butt. "I'm not five years old anymore, Uncle Han. That threat isn't going to work on me."
I stifled a curse before sitting up to glare at her properly. She still wasn't impressed.
"Why do you still have your shoes on?"
I lifted the blanket to look at my feet. Sure enough, in addition to my pants and shirt, I had also left my shoes on. "Who knows." I groaned, before falling back down to lay on the bed.
Crawling up so that she could lean over me and her hair tickled my nose, she asked, "Do you want me to go get you coffee?"
Coffee, the nectar of the gods. Did I want her to go get me a cup. Yes! Obviously. But I couldn't help feeling like there was some reason I wasn't supposed to let her go off on her own to get it. Oh yeah, vampires. The bane of early morning coffee drinkers everywhere. "Let me just brush my teeth and pee and then we can go down together and get some breakfast. Maybe they'll even have those cherry danishes you like."
She snorted. "We're at a Holiday Inn Uncle Han, we'll be lucky if they have fresh fruit to put on their mini boxes of cereal."
I couldn't really argue with that. "If it's too bad, we can always go find an IHop or something."
"Cool!" She bounced up and down on her knees until she reached the edge of the bed and could hop off. "I'll go get dressed. Did you pack my Hanna Montana shirt?"
"I don't know. It might have been in the laundry basket when I was packing. Had you worn it yet this week?"
"But I wanted us to match! You know like the Duggers."
It took me longer than it should have to remember who the Duggers were, and then even longer to try and figure out what Zoe's Hanna Montana shirt had to do with them. "I think the Dugger girls wear skirts when they go on road trips."
"Uncle Han!" She whined. "That's not the point."
It was official I really didn't understand little girls. "Then what is the point?"
"I want us to match so that we can't lose each other and so people know that we're going on a road trip." She had started digging through her bag now. I really hoped that she found the shirt she was looking for. I really hadn't been thinking about what to bring when I'd packed. Just jammed whatever I could get my hands on into the bags. "Here it is!" She held up the offending, and very wrinkled shirt for my inspection.
I stared at it. Still trying to figure out how she thought the whole matching outfits thing was going to work. I was pretty sure I didn't have a Hanna Montana shirt, and even if I did it wasn't going to be pink. "I really don't think I've got anything that matches that."
She rolled her eyes. Probably at my stupidity. "No Uncle Han, but you have a band t-shirt right? You always have band t-shirts."
Well that was true enough, but I really didn't think that my wearing an Metalocalypse shirt to IHop was going to give the waitresses the impression that I matched Zoe. Not that I was going to risk telling her that. "See if you can find me a shirt, while I take a quick shower." I said instead. Before rolling off the bed and heading for the bathroom. I seriously needed to pea and I stank from spending the night in the same clothes as the day before. Just before I shut the door, I called, "And see if you can find my medication too."
When I came out of the bathroom with one of the thin motel towels wrapped around my waste, Zoe was dressed up in her Hana Montana shirt and a pair of flowery jeans. The outfit she'd laid on the floor outside the bathroom door was ,thankfully not as girly. Though the shirt wasn't exactly a band t-shirt either.
Still I wasn't going to complain. The Happy Tree Friends might include a pink bear that somewhat matched Zoe's shirt, but nobody was going to mistake me for a teeny-bopper music fan because of it.
I was dressed and out of the bathroom in under ten minutes. "So what did you decide on for breakfast?" I asked right before I got far enough into the room to see what Zoe had been up to while I'd been in the bathroom. The entire contents of my suitcase was strewn across both of the beds and most of the floor. "What the he—" I cut myself off before I needed to pay money to the curse jar. "What the heck are you doing?"
"I can't find you medication, Uncle Han. I've looked everywhere. Even in my bag."
"Shit!" I went to help her look but had to admit that she was correct. My medication was nowhere to be found. Which should have been impossible. I always made sure to have multiple bottles with me. Just in case. I didn't know what would happen if I went without the medicine. And I really didn't want to find out. "I'm going to go out to the car. There should be a bottle in the glove box. Just stay here for now okay?"
She nodded vigorously. I still locked the room's door behind me when I left. There was probably a reasonable explanation for the missing pills. It wasn't like someone would go to all the trouble to break into our room only to steal my medication. I wished I didn't think it was possible for someone to sneak in without waking us up. Too bad I knew better.
I dug through the glove box. No pills. We were definitely way beyond the coincidence. I ran back for the room. Barely getting the door open before careening inside. "Zoe, get your bags packed. We're leaving!"
"I'm afraid that won't be happening."
I froze halfway into the room. I knew that voice. "Drake."
I went on high alert, grabbing for the gun I usually kept in the back of my pants. Only it wasn't there. Dreading what I would see, I slowly let my eyes move until I could see the nightstand. My gun and holster were sitting on top of it."
"Why don't you come in, King?" Despite being phrased like a question it was obvious that it was a command. It wasn't like I had any choice with my gun out of reach and the king of all vampires in the room with Zoe.
Of course that didn't mean I had to go quietly. I never went quietly. "I don't know I was thinking maybe we could go out for pancakes. You know Ihop traditional restaurant of the American road trip."
"King." The tone was threatening enough to get me moving, even though being in the same room as Dracula was pretty much the last thing I wanted.
I stepped fully in through the door. Drake was standing next to the second bed. The one closest to the wall. Where Zoe was laid out, seemingly asleep. "What did you do to her."
"A simple sleeping thrall. She'll wake up in a few hours, never knowing I was here."
Well that was nice. I guessed, though it would be kind of pointless if she woke up to find me dead or missing. "Why did you come here? I left your territory. That should have been the end of it."
He smiled, showing just enough of his real teeth to send a chill down my spine. "You underestimate me King. I own the entire East coast. You would have to run a lot farther to get beyond my reach."
Shit! The entire East Coast. That was a way bigger territory than any Vampire had managed to rule since the Dark Ages. "Look, I'm sorry that we're still in your territory. But we're leaving. There's no reason to waste your time on us." Except for the part where we helped Blade try to take him out.
"I'm not wasting my time. I'd have let you go, but you had to make yourself interesting." It felt like I'd barely blinked and then he was standing in front of me. Forcing me to back up until I hit the closed door. "I was interested in the girl. She was impressive when I first brought her to the lair of those foolish children. One day she will make a good heir to my kingdom." He moved closer until I could feel the chill of his body. "Bu you. You're something different. You drank my Childe. I want to know how."
I didn't even have a chance to blink before he'd moved again, pinning me against the door with an arm across my shoulders and a knee between my thighs. He used his spare hand to grab my hair and force my head to the side. His body rippled, then he was leaning over me his body fully transformed into its armored form. He opened his mouth, jaw bones splitting apart to reveal too many sharp teeth. I tried to wiggle away but I might as well have been struggling against steel chains for all the difference it made. He lowered his head, jaw moving inexorably towards my neck. Then his teeth were sinking into my flesh and veins. There was a feeling like burning and ice. Pain and pleasure swelled through my body in waves as he slowly sucked my blood away. Only a few swallows and my vision was fizzing out. A few more and I couldn't even keep my eyes open.
Then there was only darkness
I woke back up the next day in my own bed, at home. Like we'd never gone on a road trip in the first place. It was an ordinary day except for the fact that I had a livid bruise on my throat, from where Drake had bit me, and the taste of rich, intoxicating blood coated my mouth.
Grabbing one of my barely used turtlenecks out of the closet to cover my mother of all hickeys, I rushed to Zoe's room. She was asleep on her bed, still dressed in her Hanna Montana shirt and flowery jeans. I shook her awake, much to her annoyance, but no matter what carefully worded question I asked she didn't remember leaving the house or even planning a trip.
I called Abby later in the day after Zoe had gone off to her friends to play. I wasn't even surprised when she acted like we hadn't talked to each other in months. Instead of two days before, when I'd asked to meet up with her so that we could be protected from whatever Vampire was taking over our home town.
If Drake really did control the entire east coast it wouldn't be difficult for him to send someone to her too make her forget. Maybe he'd even gone himself. Whatever was happening it was obvious that I was on my own in facing it.
I said a hurried goodbye to Abby after coming up with a lame reason for calling her. Then I searched the house from attic to basement. There wasn't a single pill for my Day Star sickness in the entire house. Drake rather obviously wanted me off the stuff. I wondered what he'd do if I tried to get another prescription of it filled. I felt like doing it just to be contrary, but I was pretty sure I wouldn't like the consequences.
Remembering the message I'd given to Maggie, I had to admit that my perspective had changed over the last 48 hours. Drake might not have impressed me before but I was beyond impressed now. He'd actually managed to make me shut up and take notice. And after five years as Dacina and Asher's cabana boy-slash-bodyguard that was hard to do. Now I'd just have to wait and see what happened next.
At the very least it would be interesting.
Of course my being impressed didn't actually help me out long term. Within a few hours my hands were shaking and my vision was tunneling out with bloodlust. I took as many Advils as I could and crashed on the couch until they kicked in. They weren't going to be as effective as my usual pills, but at least they'd take the edge off. If I'd had to leave the house right then and had to deal with the resulting migraine of dealing with the sun, I'd have been overcome with a serious case of blood-lust.
I was pretty sure that chomping down on some jugulars would get me kicked out of the PTA so I clenched my eyes shut and did my best to stay calm
The pain killers worked better than expected and I didn't find myself waking up until the middle of the afternoon. Which would have been find if I hadn't woken up to find Drake sitting in the arm chair across from me. I didn't enjoy the thought of him watching me as I slept and I had no problem telling him so. "You do realize that move is totally Edward Cullen right?"
He didn't seem impressed by the insult. Surely someone had told him about the Twilght saga. He couldn't possibly have been lucky enough to avoid running into a single minion with a sense of humor that involved teeny-bop perish romances?
"If you were attempting to impress me with your witt, you failed."
"Personally, I think it's your failing. That joke was great and I delivered it perfectly. It's hardly my fault if you've been planted in the ground so long that your sense of humor rotted."
That was enough to get a snort out of him. "I see that living in this." He flicked a dismissive look around the living room. "Hovel… hasn't taught you to hold your tongue."
"What made you think it would? Five years under Dacina's thumb and you thought this would make an impression on me?" PTA meetings and bake sales weren't nearly bad enough to make me regret getting turned back into a human. Even if the sickness I'd gotten from Daystar did make me regret helping with the Hunter's attempted genocide.
"I would have been displeased if it had been enough to break you. Though I had hoped you would learn to bend to another's interests."
That was actually a smart plan. I had learned to sacrifice what I wanted to appease Zoe. The difference being that I was only bending on the little things, like sugary cereals and how many episodes of My Little Pony I could be forced to watch. "Yeah, I'm not really the type who gives into anything."
"So I see." I barely had time to register his toothy smile before he was on me. His body pressing mine back down into the couch cushions and his golden eyes locked with mine and hand against my cheek. "But that just means I haven't tried hard enough."
I considered turning my head to bite him, but what sense I had kicked in and stopped me. It wasn't like I would have managed it anyway, no matter how much my blood lust urged me to take the risk. Drake did smell tantalizing.
He bent down to nuzzle my neck. "Don't worry, you'll bend soon enough." Then he was up, off the couch, and gone. And before I had a chance to change my mind about biting him he was out of the door. Which was probably a good thing seeing as if he'd stayed I'd have laughed in his face. It was pretty obvious that he didn't know me if he actually thought I'd bend. I'd made it through turning into a vampire, turning back into a human, my Hunting cell being wiped out, and the first few months after Daystar was released I wasn't about to give in just because the King of all Vampires thought I should.
I might have felt like dog food but that didn't mean I was going to give in and spend the rest of the night on the couch. I wasn't going to give into Drake's little plan.
Over the next week I managed to prove both the strength of my will and my stupidity. I spent almost all day, every day crashing on the couch. Only getting off to get things ready in the morning for Zoe, and to make sure she had dinner to eat at night.
I was even past the point of sleeping at night. Spending the time I should have been asleep, watching infomercials. I didn't dare fall into drug-assisted unconsciousness until Zoe was gone for the day. I didn't want to sleep through one of Zoe's nightmares, or have her figure out just how bad off I was.
It didn't help that all my attempts to call Abby and get her to pick Zoe up were met with the same lack of answers. I couldn't tell if it was just Abby being pissed at me for picking Zoe over Hunting, or more of Drake's interference.
Either way it was pretty obvious that Drake's plan to make me bend was in full effect.
I finally managed to get a call through to Abby after a week. It took borrowing Mrs. Hendricks' phone with a flimsy excuse about trying to set up a surprise party for Zoe, but I was willing to take what I could get.
It wasn't like I dared to talk for more than five minutes anyway. I didn't want Drake knowing what I was up to.
Abby and Blade came roaring into the neighborhood barely two days later. Abby looked like a wreck, hair stringy and in an uneven bunch just above her shoulder. Blade was as cool as ever, right down to his pissed frown.
"What did you do?" Abby asked, as soon as we were in the door and outside of the neighbor's gawking range. "You're pale as a ghost, you're hands are shaking." She jerked my chin up and twisted it to face the window that took up the top half of the door. It was all I could do to keep from wincing. "And your pupils are contracting to pinpricks. Don't tell me you were stupid enough to go off the pills. You know what happens to people who do."
"They become Damphires." And were immediately staked by their fellow Hunters. "I know, I know."
"Then why the hell did you decide it was a good idea to stop taking them? Particularly with Zoe in the house. You could hurt her!"
"I wouldn't!" I snapped. Much angrier than I should have been. My gums itched and body twitched with the urge try and claw her eyes out for claiming that I would hurt my Childe. Biting my lip I forced my body back under control. "I didn't go off the pills by choice."
"Of course not. You just forgot to take them for a few days." She snorted. "Do you think I'm stupid? You wouldn't be this bad off if you hadn't been off of them for almost a week and a half."
"It's not like that." Why had I even thought she'd be willing to listen? "Drake took them, and when I tried to get them refilled the pharmacy had been burned down."
She and Blade shared a look. My body tensed, instincts screaming that they were a threat. "What's going on Abby?"
She didn't reply.
I let my control lapse, just a little. Enough to stolk forward a step, edging into Abby's space. Blade had a crossbow pointed at my chest before I could move another inch."Abby?"
"Did you really think we wouldn't find out?"
"What do you think you found out?" I should have known Drake was up to something as soon as I managed to get in touch with Abby.
"The Hunter who was running the pharmacy pinned you as the culprit." Blade said.
"I suppose it would be pointless to point out that Drake can change his form?"
"Drake is dead."
Of course he was, which was why he was stalking me. "Why are you here if you think I've gone roge?" I asked, backing away from Abby and using the motion to hide the fact that I was edging to the table next to the door. There was a gun full of hollow tipped wooden bullets there. OR there had been last time I checked. I'd put it there to deal with Drake, but it would work just as well on Blade.
"We came for Zoe."
"What makes you think I'm going to let you take her?" I blocked the drawer from view with my body, quietly sliding it open. The gun wasn't there. Which was just the luck I'd been having lately.
"We're not going to give you a choice." Abby replied.
I considered try to tough it out and fight back, but there was no way I'd win if I went head to head with Blade. I'd been off the drugs for a week and a half but unless I started drinking blood again I was still months away from becoming a Damphire. As it was, I was barely stronger than a Fledge.
"Don't try to stop us, Han. I don't want to kill you."
"And you think taking Zoe away from me is better?" If she was gone I wouldn't have any reason to keep resisting Drake.
"Once you get back on your meds we'll see about arranging for her to visit you."
I didn't let the threat of Blade's crossbow stop me this time, stalking forward until I was face to face with Abby. "I said no. I'm not going to let you take her."
"I wasn't planning to give you a choice."She punched me in the face, sending me stumbling back. Straight into Blade's waiting arms. He had me in a chokehold before I could react.
They locked me into Zoe's panic room. Thankfully, without her kitten. Abby promised that Blade would let me out once she and Zoe were gone. I didn't believe her, so it wasn't a surprise when hours passed and the door stayed locked.
I was so hungry. I'd been eating thousands of calories a day, just to keep up with my new, partially-vampiric metabolism. Now, with only Zoe's 'secret' stash of Skittles to keep me going, I was fading fast.
The hunger started taking over. Knowing at my backbone and my sanity. If somebody didn't let me out soon I was going to end up as crazy as Abby thought I was.
I'd eaten all of the skittles, had a nervous breakdown, and ended up curled up in the back corner of the panic room, by the time the door finally opened.
The first glimmer of light from the crack in the door my inner beast was fighting to escape my control. To go out and feed. Killing everyone that got in my way.
Despite its urging I was too weak to even raise my head more than a few inches off of the floor. My vision faded in and out.
There was an angry hiss, then cool arms wrapped around my shoulder and lifted me up.
"Drake?" I croaked out through my dry throat.
"Yes my consort I'm here. Do not worry they will pay for this."
"When you wake up she will be at your side, I give you my word."
He lifted my higher, my head swam and my vision faded out. I slid into the darkness with the taste of hot, rich blood on my tongue.
When I woke up the hunger was still there, but it was manageable. I felt stronger. Stronger than I had felt since I'd first taken the vampire cure.
Forcing my eyes open I looked around the room. It was my living room. Which don't get me wrong, was a good thing. I'd just expected something a little more exotic than waking up on a couch covered in stains from various movie nights and sleepovers, with Blackie curled up on my chest.
I gave him my newly super-charged vampire death glare. He wasn't impressed, pausing to lick disdainfully at his paw, before hopping down and heading for the kitchen with a plaintive meow. Habit had me following him, knowing that if I didn't get him his food he'd just come back. Only he'd sit on my face this time.
The last thing I was expecting to find, when I got into the kitchen, was Drake in my 'Kiss the Cook' apron. The sight of him flipping pancakes short circuited my brain for a second and gave Zoe a chance to make a flying leap onto my back. "Are you feeling better Uncle Han?"
I flipped her over my shoulder and put her into a tickle-hold until she screeched for mercy between giggle fits. It was just an ordinary day, except for the fact that the King of all Vampires was playing June Cleaver in our kitchen.
"So Drake, what brings you back to our neck of the woods?" I asked, doing my best to sound casual, despite the fact that I still hadn't let go of Zoe. Though I had stopped tickling her.
"I decided to stay here for now, since you're obviously incapable of looking after yourself."
"Do not bother trying to deny it, my consort. Both times I have met you , you have managed to get yourself captured, abused, and imprisoned. I do not plan to let that happen again."
That actually didn't sound too bad, having a smoking hot bad ass looking after me. Still, it was the principle of the thing. "I can look after myself."
"Of course you can Uncle Han." Zoe replied for Drake, before wiggling away. I only had a moment to wonder how she'd managed to escape me, despite my increased strength, before she smiled up at me. Fangs in full view. "Drake and I can just do it better."
With that disturbing statement, she skipped off to get plates out of the cabinet and a pitcher of blood out of the fridge.
"Sit down and eat your pancakes." Drake ordered.
And what could I do but listen? He'd successfully managed to force me to become his consort. There was no way I was leaving Zoe behind. I'd just have to learn to make the best of my new vampiric family.