For the second time in his life, Anton watched his world come apart - bursting at its seams and transforming into something darker and harder to rationalize, and infinitely more dangerous. He hadn't realized how much he'd gotten used to his routine, deadly and unpredictable as it might have been, before everything started to change and the fragile truce between Dark and Light came to an end.
Where he was once send out to arrest, he was now told to kill. No prisoners, no negotiations, no mercy. The Day Watch had stopped bothering with licenses; or maybe it was that the Night Watch had stopped bothering to hand them out in the first place. Anton wasn't sure which of them had been the one to start the war, or whether it had been a mutual decision. The latter, probably. In his more cynical moods, which threatened to become a permanent character feature, he pictured Geser and Zavulon sitting together and discussing the body count over a bottle of vodka or two.
The lines between Light and Dark were blurring. Once, a long time ago, Anton had foolishly believed that there was good and evil, and that by choosing the Night Watch, he'd committed himself to the side of the good. It hadn't taken him long to realize that they all existed in the shades of grey in between, one being just the flip side of the other's coin. And yet now the grey was turning into black. There were no rules anymore to be followed by either side, and he could no longer justify fighting the dark Others because what they did was 'wrong'. Not when he and his companions had ventured just as far away from the track of the 'right'.
Not that it mattered: it was fight or die, kill or be killed.
He had followed the vampire for the better part of the night now. They had tracked her down in a club downtown, but there were too many people and she was gone before Anton could make his move. He'd hunted her through the city, following the vibrant trace in the air and the tracks of blood and destruction she left behind her. It had brought him here, to this closed underground tunnel, where the air smelled of mold and decay and the cobwebs were thick and dusty.
Anton could feel her. She was somewhere nearby: a strange, dark presence in the air that gnawed at his senses.
He took a further step into the tunnel, and then, suddenly, there was the shimmer of a movement beside him, only not. Gritting his teeth, he slipped into the Twilight, embracing the peculiar sensation of otherness that washed over him at once even though every single fiber of his body and mind rebelled against the invasion.
There she was, amongst the whispers and distortions and flashes of light. Not so much poised for a fight as she was hiding, a frail, bloody creature looking at him with hollow eyes. She was not even a woman yet, barely older than Yegor; looking so very unlike the deadly creature she was. But the blood dripping from her mouth wasn't her own - Anton had seen the evidence for that at the back entrance of the club where they'd found her - and he told himself that she'd made her choice as he had made his.
He pointed the weapon at her, and she shrank back.
Just when he was ready to fire, there was a rustle in the air and he felt the presence of a second dark Other even before he spun around. For a second, he expected an ambush, but then Kostya's familiar figure materialized beside him and suspicion turned into confusion.
Kostya briefly looked back and forth between his friend and the girl, assessing the situation. In two steps, he moved to stand between the young vampire and Anton, facing him with the stubborn kind of determination that seemed to dare Anton to do something about it. Kostya used his body as a shield to protect the girl, the weapon trained on him now.
"Step aside." It should have held the force of a command - the implication of a threat, even - but Anton's voice refused to comply, weariness taking away the edge.
Kostya didn't answer. He half-turned his head; and while his eyes never left Anton (was it him or the weapon Kostya was watching? Anton wondered), his words were meant for the other vampire. "Get out of here."
Quickly, quietly, she did as she was told. Anton knew he should follow her, should probably have shot her over Kostya's shoulder in the first place, but the risk of injuring Kostya had been too high, even if his friend's sudden appearance hadn't startled him into motionlessness.
Kostya shouldn't be here. So far, his ways had never crossed Anton's when Anton was out on a hunt, and he was thankful for that. He didn't like this new turn of events.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"She's just a kid!" Kostya said. Unbelievably, he sounded pissed off. He had just ruined a night's work for Anton, and he had the fucking nerve to be pissed off.
Tired as he was, Anton found himself unwilling to argue. "She killed people," he reasoned. It rang false even in his own ears. Once, it might have been a valid point. Not anymore.
Kostya echoed Anton's objections: "So fucking what? She killed people. Well, yes. So did you. So did I."
The latter, in particular, was not something Anton wanted to know about. He'd known Kostya for such a long time now, had been his friend almost since the beginning, had been aware of what exactly the younger man was for years - and still, it was so easy to push aside and forget, and the rare occasions when he was reminded of it stung like acid.
"What are you going to do now, kill me?" Kostya asked, with the bold recklessness of someone assuming they were in no danger. He pointedly looked down at the weapon and raised an eyebrow. Anton dropped it and turned away.
"Go to hell," he muttered, slipping out of the Twilight.
It took a moment to get used to the static reality of the real world. The pulsating rumble of sensations ebbed away, leaving a splitting headache. Anton had screwed his eyes shut and rubbed at his temples in the vain attempt to drive it away when the cool weight of a hand descended on his shoulder. He jumped, even though he knew it was only Kostya. ('Only' Kostya. He sometimes wondered if that line of thinking would get him killed one day. Killed, or turned. What happened to one of the light Others if they were turned into vampires, anyway? They left out that chapter in the handbook. Well, actually, they left out the handbook...)
"Hey." Kostya's voice had lost the trace of anger and flippancy it had held before. Anton opened his eyes and tiredly looked at his friend. "You don't like the Twilight too much, do you?"
"Can't stand it," Anton admitted. And then, before he could stop himself, "Can't stand any of this." He expected a question like 'Then why do you continue?' He expected arguments that he would be better off with the Day Watch - that life was easier for them, that the grass was greener on the other side and that the Twilight didn't give them headaches.
Instead, Kostya said, "Let's get you home."
Home. His apartment had stopped being 'home' the moment Olga had shed her feathers and made herself a permanent houseguest. Anton shook his head. "They'd kill you in a heartbeat if you turned up there."
For a moment, Kostya's eyes flashed red and the hand on his shoulder tightened. But Kostya's voice was leveled and amused. "What, you're worried for me? Shouldn't your first concern be their safety, or rather yours, and not mine?"
"Kostya -" Anton began, a quiet warning, but the sudden pressure of Kostya's lips against his startled him into silence. It was every bit as disconcerting as the Twilight had been and, in a way, almost as raw. It lasted only a second; and when Kostya drew back, Anton stared at him in confusion.
Kostya smirked, and took a step back. "Go home, Anton. I'll watch your back"
Their eyes locked and once again, there was the briefest hint of red in Kostya's, another reminder of just whom Anton was dealing with here. Vampire. Friend. Enemy. Lover. Too many labels for just one person: too many lines that had been blurred. Anton couldn't help but wonder if Kostya had some other agenda, if this was some elaborate plot to draw him to the Day Watch. He wondered if it mattered.
"Stop brooding. Get some rest. The weight of the world will still rest on your shoulders tomorrow."
"Comforting," Anton muttered.
"Isn't it just?" Kostya's smile was strangely wistful. "I'll see you around." And then, in a blur, he melted into the Twilight again.
Anton stared for a long moment at the spot where Kostya had stood, before shaking himself out of his stupor. "I'm counting on it," he said to the empty room; and then he disappeared into the night.